Possum’s Big Surprise by Colin Buchanan ill Nina Rycroft

Flossy the Possum was running alone,

Scurrying, flurrying, hurrying home.

On over rock, past eucalypt tree,

Flossy the Possum was quick as can be!

When all of a sudden …

Flossy the Possum was running alone,

Scurrying, flurrying, hurrying home.

On over rock, past eucalypt tree,

Flossy the Possum was quick as can be!

When all of a sudden …

Flossy the Possum is in a big hurry to get home and she’s a tad skittish. She spies a big wrinkly claw and skitters on. Then a tall pair of fluff-covered ears. Each encounter has her skittering and flittering on until she reaches the safety of her home. When she arrives though, the biggest surprise is waiting there for her. Possum’s Big Surprise is told in rhyme with ‘When all of a sudden … ‘ set on the right hand side of openings cueing the next stage in her adventure. Illustrations are soft watercolour and reveal the animals that Flossy is spooked by.

Colin Buchanan’s experience as a songwriter is evident in Possum’s Big Surprise. The language trips and flows effortlessly across the pages, escalating the tension until Flossy is safely home. Nina Rycroft’s gentle colours and soft outlines dance across each spread. Together they have created a beautiful picture book for the very young. It introduces the Australian landscape and some of our iconic animals, in a lyrical story about things that twitch in the day. Possum, usually a night dweller, is startled by some of the creatures she encounters, providing an explanation for her skittishness. Young children love a surprise, and Possum’s Big Surprise delivers this deliciously! Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Possum’s Big Surprise, Colin Buchanan, ill Nina Rycroft Scholastic Australia 2014 ISBN: 9781742839271

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller


Now I Am Bigger, by Sherryl Clark & Nina Rycroft

look, there’s someone
just like me

hands on head
arms out wide
touch my nose
tickle my ears
that baby does
everything I do

From the moments after birth, to a birthday party, Now I am Bigger captures the big and little moments of a baby’s life. Similar in format to a verse novel, this picture book offering consists of a series of free verse poems each focussing on one of baby’s experiences – being wrapped in a light cocoon after birth, floating in a bath, looking in a mirror, learning to crawl and walk – and brought to life in gentle water colour and pencil illustrations.

The poems can be read separately, but together create a lovely exploration of the world of a baby. Perfect for read aloud to the very young, the gentle rhythm of the text could be used as a bedtime story, but will also appeal to older children who have babies in their lives.

Now I am Bigger

Now I am Bigger, by Sherryl Clark & Nina Rycroft
Working Title, 2010
ISBN 9781921504174

This book can be purchased in any good bookstore, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

No more Kisses! by Margaret Wild & Nina Rycroft

With a squeak and a squeal, Baby ran off and away.
“No more kisses!”

Baby has had enough of a game of kisses and cuddles, so he runs away, pursued by his laughing friends, until he turns the game back on them.

With rhythm and repetition, the lively text of this gorgeous offering will delight youngsters, who will join in the repetition and love to experiment with words like roly-poly and wriggle-squiggle. With text by queen of the picture book format, Margaret Wild, complemented by the lively watercolour illustrations by Nina Rycroft, this hard covering offering will appeal to toddlers and the adults who read to them.


No More Kisses!

No More Kisses! by Margaret Wild & Nina Rycroft
Little Hare, 2010
ISBN 9781921541520


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

Boom Bah by Phil Cummings & Nina Rycroft

Shhh! Listen!
What’s that sound?

A mouse tings a teaspoon against a cup. Then a cat tongs a spoon against a tin. And the show is on. Other animals hear and want to join in. First they listen, then they warm up. Then they play. Out into the farmyard they go. Now everyone’s joining in, including mother hen and her chicks, dancing and making music. They are joined by more and more animal musicians and Boom Bah! the music becomes louder and culminates in a final joyous crescendo. Illustrations show smiling, celebrating animals caught in the joy of music and performance.

Boom Bah! is written for the very young. The story is simple. The illustrations are gentle watercolours. Boom Bah! starts with a single sound and ends with the ‘Tah-Dah!’ following the cacophony of the animals. Beautiful watercolour animals dance through each opening, sharing and spreading joy. Their simple music is reinforced and extended by the arrival of a liveried band, complete with band leader on bike, and a wide variety of instruments. Lock up your kitchen drawers and cupboards – little musicians everywhere are going to be being inspired to create their own sounds! Ideal for 3-5 year olds.

Boom Bah!, Phil Cummings ill Nina Rycroft
Working Title Press 2008
ISBN: 9781876288907

Elephant Dance, by Sue Whiting

Nervously, Hugo’s trunk began to sway.
His middle jiggled.
Then he bobbed…
and bounced…
and sang out loud!

Hugo and Millie, two young elephants, are the best of friends. They do everything together, and when they first hear music, they dance together. But Millie gets sick of dancing, and Hugo wants to do nothing else. They argue and separate. But when Hugo finds himself in trouble, Millie uses music to help him out.

Elephant Dance is a beautiful picture book about friendship and compromise. The repeated refrain of ‘boom-boompa-chee’ will delight youngsters who will echo it during and after the story – when I read it to a class of year one students they wanted to boom-boompa-chee around the school for the rest of the day.

The illustrations, by Nina Rycroft, are in beautiful pastels with the browns and greys of the elephants offset by rich orange and blue skies and green grasses. The music weaves through the illustrations on coloured ribbons, symbolising the way it drifts through the air and carrying the tune from page to page and across spreads.

This is a beautiful picture book offering.

Elephant Dance, by Sue Whiting and Nina Rycroft
Koala Books, 2007

Tricky Little Hippo, by Jane Bowring, illustrated by Nina Rycroft

‘What is it, little one?’ said Egret.
‘Well,’ said Holly, ‘Honey was best at staying under water, and Heath was best at chasings. I want to be best at something too.’

Holly has fun playing with her hippo friends Heath and Honey, but she is never the best at anything. No matter how hard she tries, one of the others always outdoes her. Each night her wise friend Egret reassures Holly that she is the best at something, but Holly has no idea what that something is. When she does figure it out, she is finally the best.

Tricky Little Hippo is a gorgeous new picture book from the team of author Jane Bowring and illustrator Nina Rycroft. Youngsters will delight in the gentle humour of the tale, which has a subtle message about hidden talents and the notion that every child has unique abilities.

The design of this book is a treat. The watercolour illustrations are in rich pastels – with the browns of the hippopotamuses contrasting with the greens and blues of their surrounds. The two double page spreads of Holly swimming underwater, surrounded by golden fish and with the legs of her unsuspecting friends in the background, are especially clever. Another nice touch is the presence of Egret at times when Holly seems unware that he is there, suggesting that he is looking out for her, without interfering.

This is a lovely story for shared reading and would make a good bedtime story, suitable for two to five year olds.


Trciky Little Hippo, by Jane Bowring, illustrated by Nina Rycroft
Koala Books, 2005