Sam's Bush Journey, by Sally Morgan and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

Sam loved staying with his nanna, except for one thing.
Her house was surrounded by bush.
Nana liked to take Sam for long walks. But when they got home, Sam’s legs and arms would be covered in scratches from the spiky shrubs that grew in the bush.

Sam and his grandmother, Nanna, go for long walks in the bush. Nanna tells him all about the bush, about safe foods and shelter. But for Sam, the bush is full of danger and annoyance. There are gum trees that might drop their branches on him, and mosquitos and pesky mosquitos at the waterhole. But while his conscious self focuses on the things he doesn’t like, perhaps he is absorbing the teaching Nanna offers. In a dream, he is in the bush and lost. Piece by piece, he recalls Nanna’s words. When he wakes in his bed the next morning, extra-hungry, his view of the bush has begun to change. Bronwyn Bancroft’s colourful illustrations show a wonderful bush, full of colour and life.

Sam takes two journeys in this beautiful picture book. The first is the physical one through the bush, where he sees only the dark things, the potential for danger, the scratchy branches and the itch-making mosquitos. Nanna expresses no disappointment, just keeps providing information that Sam appears not to appreciate. But his dream takes him back into the same country and the reader discovers that Sam has learned more than seemed apparent. Knowledge is passed on and Sam begins to see beyond the obvious and to develop his own relationship with the bush. The message is simple and clear and the illustrations are bright and colourful. In the background are dark figures, perhaps suggesting that the wisdom imparted by his grandmother has come from the land itself. Recommended for junior primary readers.

Sam’s Bush Journey, Sally Morgan and Ezekiel Kwaymullina ill Bronwyn Bancroft
Little Hare 2010
ISBN: 9781921541728

Sam's Bush Journey

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews. review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Slowcoach Turtle, by Kyle Mewburn

Tilda scrambled up the steep, overgrown bank towards the apple orchard. It was hard work. her fringe was plastered to her sweaty face. But her eyes were shiny with excitement. She could see the frame of the old flying fox peering over the top of the bank.

Slowcoach Turtle is book three in the Pop Hooper’s Perfect Pet series for newly confident readers. Main character Tilda lives life at a breakneck speed and is a little annoyed that her best friend Nat doesn’t seem to want to play at her pace. They have an argument and Tilda goes off on her own, wishing she had a monkey to play with. Cue the arrival of Pop Hooper and his wonderful road train full of pets. He promises her a monkey if she will look after a turtle for 24 hours. Tilda is less than enthusiastic about the turtle which although slow, keeps wanting to escape. She can’t wait until the 24 hours are up and she can get her monkey. The wait seems even longer because she’s still not friends again with Nat. Heath McKenzie’s humourous illustrations add to the fun.

Pop Hooper is very good at matching pets with children…much better than the children initially think. He gently encourages the children realise that the pet they thought perfect may not be their perfect pet after all. Not by telling them, but by giving them a pet that seems to bear little resemblance to their expected perfect pet. Tilda discovers that being slow isn’t such a bad thing, in fact it’s the very characteristic that made Nat such a good friend. Chapters are short and most openings are illustrated, perfect for young readers.

Slowcoach Turtle (Pop Hooper's Perfect Pets)

Slowcoach Turtle Kyle Mewburn ill Heath McKenzie
Little Hare 2010
ISBN: 9781921541230

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Scratch Kitten and the Ghost Ship, by Jessica Green

Scratch was a ship’s cat. He had found Mrs Captain’s diamonds and he’d found his Paa. But instead of being happy, he was sad and frightened. Paa and Mrs Captain had sailed away, leaving Scratch alone on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean.
Scratch prowled along the beach.
He hoped his friends would come back for him. But all night long, the only sound he heard was swishing waves.
Just as the sun rose, Scratch heard voices. He pricked up his ears.

Scratch has had many adventures in his life as a ship’s cat. In Scratch Kitten and the Ghost Ship, Scratch hitches a ride in a new ship, hoping to find his way back to his friends. The Captain is happy to have him on board, but others are not so excited. Scratch and a thin man called Sir Peter Petall seem to get off to a rough start. Sir Peter is keen to find new animals and plants, and to name them all after himself. Scratch tries to be helpful but is dismayed to find an unusual animal called Toopo, locked up in a cage on deck. Scratch spies a ghost ship and tries to warn the sailors, but all he seems to do is get into one scrape after another. By the time the Captain and others see the ghost ship, the petulant Sir Peter is ready to pitch Scratch overboard.

Scratch is a curious and sometimes misunderstood cat. And if Sir Peter has his way, the little cat is going to need all of his nine lives to survive. Scratch tries to talk to the humans on the ship, but all they hear is miaow. He can, however, understand what they are saying and he can also talk to Toopo, the other animal on board. The captain and crew welcome Scratch aboard but are prone to superstition. Sir Peter’s search for new plants and animals seems motivated by self-promotion and a need to best his father. There are loose associations with the voyages of Captain Cook and the discoveries of Joseph Banks, and these provide opportunities for discussion beyond the adventure. Young readers will enjoy Scratch’s escapades.

Scratch Kitten and the Ghost Ship, Jessica Green ill Mitch Vane
Little Hare 2010
ISBN: 9781921541070

Scratch Kitten and the Ghost Ship (Scratch Kitten)

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This bokc an be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Itsy-Bitsy Babies, by Margaret Wild & Jan Ormerod

This itsy-bitsy baby sucks her thumb.
That itsy-bitsy baby bangs on a drum.

Itsy Bitsy Babies is a delightful read aloud offering perfect for the very young. With a simple rhyme and repetitive, patterned text, this is a quick, gentle read ideal for cuddle time or bedtime reading.

The illustrations feature babies of different ages from new born to toddler, and from differing ethnic groups, romping, resting, eating, playing their way through the pages.

From the talented, award winning pairing of Margaret Wild and Jan Ormerod

Itsy Bitsy Babies

Itsy Bitsy Babies, by Margaret Wild & Jan Ormerod
Little Hare, 2010

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

A Belt Around My Bum, by Martin Chatterton

Eric the ox was going as fast as he could.
Eric didn’t believe in doing things quickly. Especially not pulling heavy carts filled with actors, singers, musical instruments, props, costumes and everything else that made up the Black Skulls, the most exciting theatrical performers in England. Eric’s cart was heading south towards Richmond Palace where the Skulls were due to perform for Her Most Glorious and Majestic Queen Elizabeth. Eleven-year-old William Shakespeare, known as Willy Waggledagger to his friends, was the driver. He had been a member of the Skulls for little over a week and was looking forward to this performance ore than anything he’d ever looked forward to before. But right now, all he could think about was his aching bum.

Willy Waggledagger is the newest member of the Black Skulls, a touring band of players. Willy is on the run from his overbearing and very smelly father and the threat of life as a hide tanner. The Black Skulls are en route to perform for the Queen and her sycophantic court. The players set up camp within Richmond Forest, slightly unsettled by the stories about it being haunted. There, after a misunderstanding with a bear, they meet the King of the Faeries. The wildfire plot loosely follows the story of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Mayhem, misunderstanding, and misdirected love cause Willy all manner of anguish. At times, he considers a return to the horror of his father’s wrath as being less troublesome than his present circumstances. Gregory Roger’s full page illustrations add to the humour as Willy and his friends try to retrieve a golden girdle and prevent war.

Shakespeare’s texts can be very dense to young readers, even where the story is full of almost slapstick humour as in his comedies. Martin Chatterton doesn’t pretend to follow the texts closely, but he does suggest that such stories may have provided inspiration to a young Shakespeare. Chatterton concocts a wild and funny adventure with a million absurd twists and turns. He pokes fun at the more pompous members of the court and suggests that every world has it’s share of buffoons. Clothed as it is in humour, ‘A Belt Around My Bum’ readers may not really notice that they are also being introduced to history and the world in which Shakespeare lived. There’s the very fragile grace and favour system of the English Court, the superstitions and jealousies of the theatre, and more. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.

A Belt Around My Bum (Willy Waggledagger)

A Belt Around My Bum (Willy Waggledagger), Martin Chatterton ill Gregory Rogers
Little Hare 2009

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This title can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Send Simon Savage, by Stephen Measday

The 15th Century,
Simon Savage sucked in big gulps of air as he ran swiftly down the cobbled street. As he wondered if he should have taken the left turn and then the right, he heard shouts from a chasing patrol of soldiers. But a quick look over his shoulder showed no sign of them.
In the dim moonlight, Simon stumbled through a mound of putrid rubbish and reached the end of a row of rotten old houses with thatched roofs. He lifted his left arm, pressed a finger to the touch-screen on his wrist pilot and activated a series of yellow grids. A red locator dot and a set of figures flashed in the right hand corner.
‘Wrong freakin’ street!’ he gasped. He was close to the timeline that would take him home, but not close enough…

Simon is living a normal life in Sydney when his scientist father disappears from a beach. As if that wasn’t unsettling enough, he’s offered the opportunity to join an elite group of young teenagers. They will train at a secret facility for a mysterious organisation called The Time Bureau, and then travel to other times. Simon is both excited and apprehensive, still trying to adjust to the loss of his father. He discovers that his father had secrets of his own and a new mission joins those he’s assigned – to attempt to discover what happened on the day his father disappeared.

Send Simon Savage explores the idea of time travel, without getting too caught up in the technicalities. There are references to the idea that travelling to another time carries the risk of altering the time to come, and to the possible effects on time travellers. But Stephen Measday isn’t attempting to explain the theory to his readers, he’s setting them off on a grand quest backwards and forwards in time. He explores the changing dynamics of family as children transition away from childhood. There is a strong theme of caring for our world, and the consequences if we don’t. But mostly, it’s pure adventure, pitting Simon and his friends against a range of enemies. Simon’s world is a complex one, but Measday keeps his readers close with the ties to family and friendship. Recommended for upper primary readers.

Send Simon Savage, Stephen Measday
Little Hare Books 2010
ISBN: 9781921541339

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Possum and Wattle, by Bronwyn Bancroft

Subtitled My Big Book of Australian Words, Possum and Wattleis just that – a big, beautiful book of words from throughout Australia, illustrated in eye-catching colours by talented illustrator Bronwyn Bancroft.

Including words unique to Australia, such as didgeridoo, boomerang and echidna, as well as words for things which come from other parts of the world, but which are found in Australia, and words for things found in other parts of the world, but with special Australian features, the book contains over a hundred words and illustrations, as well as a glossary explaining some of the words, and providing interesting extra information.

With an introduction by author and artist Sally Morgan, Possum and Wattle will delight very young children with its bright colours, but will also prove absorbing for older children and lovers of Australian art, who will appreciate the detail in the illustrations.

A visual delight. First released in hardcover in 2008, Possum and Wattle: My Big Book of Australian Words has now been rereleased in paperback format.

Possum and Wattle: My Big Book of Australian Words

Possum and Wattle: My Big Book of Australian Words, by Bronywn Bancroft
Little Hare, 2008 , this edition 2010

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Hush, Hush! by Margaret Wild & Bridget Strevens-Marzo

Baby Hippo couldn’t fall asleep.
He rolled and wriggled.
He stood on his head. He waggled his legs.
He grunted and groaned. “Oh, ah, oh!”
“Hush, hush!” said his mum softly and sleepily.

Baby Hippo can’t sleep, so he goes for a walk. Wherever he goes through the jungle he hears mothers telling their babies to ‘hush, hush.’ Eventually, feeling tired, he trudges back home where – eventually – he manages to fall asleep beside his own mum.

Hush, Hush! is a delightful sequel, or companion, to Kiss, Kiss! by the same wonderful pairing of author Margaret Wild and illustrator Bridget Strevens-Marzo and has a similar patterning to the text, whilst being different enough to be able to enjoy both. Strevens-Marzo’s art, with the purples of the dusky sky and the deep greens and browns of the jungle, along with the jungle animals, is beautiful.

This would make an excellent bed time sharing story and is sure to be as well received as Kiss, Kiss! which has sold over 200, 000 copies worldwide.

Hush, Hush!

Hush, Hush! by Margaret Wild & Bridget Strevens-Marzo
Little Hare, 2009

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Funny Little Dog, by Kyle Mewburn

Flyn hung upside down from the oak tree, with his limbs wrapped tightly around a branch. He held his breath and carefully turned his head so he could scan the park. The boys were standing directly below him. Flyn could have dropped an acorn down Toby Downer’s collar. But that was the last thing Flyn wanted to do.
He just wanted to get to school without a fight.

Flyn is not having fun. His route to school involves passing the school bullies and they delight in tormenting him. What he needs is a big, tough dog to do all the things he can’t. Then the bullies would leave him alone. Enter Pop Hooper and his amazing collection of pets. On the side of each wagon, Pop Hooper’s Pet Express promises ‘Perfect Pets Guaranteed’. Flyn stops running away from the bullies and chases after Pop Hooper. He knows exactly the sort of dog he needs, a dog called ‘Chomper’ who will be brave where Flyn is not.

Funny Little Dog is the second title in the ‘Pop Hooper’s Perfect Pets’ series from Little Hare. The magical Pop Hooper seems to appear where he is needed, with the perfect pet. But he can’t find the pet Flyn describes so asks him to look after Pumpkin. Pumpkin has none of the attributes Flyn is sure he will need, and lots of characteristics sure to make his life worse. Poor Flyn! But Pumpkin allows Flyn’s nature to shine through his anxieties. Although it is Pop Hooper who chooses Pumpkin for Flyn, it is the boy who shows his true character and ample reserves of bravery when necessary. Funny Little Dog is a lovely mix of humour and seriousness, complemented by Heath McKenzie’s black and white illustrations on most openings. Recommended for newly confident readers ready for a slightly longer story.

Funny Little Dog (Pop Hooper's Perfect Pets)

Funny Little Dog (Pop Hooper’s Perfect Pets), Kyle Mewburn ill Heath McKenzie
Little Hare 2009
ISBN: 9781921272769

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

By the Picking of My Nose, by Martin Chatterton

Anyone who has ever worn a false beard, especially a big, furry ginger one, will know there’s one thing about them that is rather annoying.
They tickle.
A lot.
Deep in the middle of the audience, eleven-year-old William Shakespeare’s false beard was tickling like crazy.
Willy was wearing it because he was in disguise. And he was in disguise because Sir Victor Vile had ordered that only grown-ups were allowed inside Stratford Theatre for that night’s big show. Which might not have been a problem for Willy…except that the headline act was the Black Skulls, the most exciting travelling theatre group in all of England.

By the Picking of My Nose is the first in a new series from Martin Chatterton about the adventures of William Shakespeare as a child. Willy Waggledagger, as he comes to be known here, is mad keen on the theatre. But it’s a passion not shared by his tanner father. And the theatre owner isn’t that excited by children at the theatre. So Willy pops on his disguise and he’s safe. Or not. His adventures begin with tickling the Queen’s bottom and continue through booger fortune telling by the hags in the kitchen, friendship with yorick, good-luck-charm status with the understudy to a crescendo conclusion. Scattered thickly throughout are references to characters, settings and happenings from Shakespeare’s plays. Each chapter includes a full-page black-and-white illustration.

By the Picking of My Nose takes the reader on a wild romp through Shakespeare’s England. Although very tongue-in-cheek, Chatterton has included some of the sights, smells and culture of the times in his adventure. It’s history, but not as it’s commonly seen. It’s debatable whether the target audience will pick up all the Shakespeare references but it doesn’t really matter. The grand adventure, includes envy, revenge, skulduggery, witchcraft (or is that just the cooking of the time) and nose-picking fortune-telling, as the plot twists and turns and then twists again. Villains are given villainous names but also show their softer side. Seemingly innocuous characters reveal deeper, darker personalities in a fast-moving plot. The font size is large. Recommended for confident mid-primary readers and beyond.

By the Picking of My Nose (Willy Waggledagger)

By the Picking of My Nose, Martin Chatterton ill Gregory Rogers
Little Hare 2009
ISBN: 9781921272837

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author