My Mum's the Best, by Rosie Smith & Bruce Whatley

My mum’s the best because she gives me big hugs…

This delightful hardback offering is perfect for bedtime or cuddletime reading with the very young. The minimal text explains that ‘my’ mum is the best because of the things she does every day – giving hugs, tucking in, feeding breakfast and so on. The illustrations show a range of animal babies with their mums doing these things – a bear cub being squashed in a big cuddle from his mum, a young fish being gently nudged into the school by mum, a frog dancing with mum and so on.

The design is also simple, with each spread offering text of just a few words on one page and the matching illustration on the other , with background colours in warm pastels and the animal characters gently colourful .

Simple yet beautiful, this would make a lovely gift for a newborn.

My Mum's the Best

My Mum’s the Best, by Rosie Smith & Bruce Whatley
Scholastic Press, 2011
ISBN This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Riley and the Grumpy Wombat, by Tania McCartney

Riley was making mud pies when he first saw the hole.
Curious, he poked his head inside and this is what he saw…
Riley didn’t know what it was. But he knew that it was grumpy.

Riley is a small boy with an amazing array of gizmos and gadgets. So when he discovers a grumpy wombat in Nanny’s back yard and it flees, he’s able to follow it in his little red plane. Using a combination of black and white photos of inner city Melbourne and computer images, Riley and his friends search the city for the grumpy wombat. He zooms high and low, in the city and the gardens. He even digs burrows along St Kilda Beach. But there’s no sign of the wombat. When he does eventually find her, the wombat is no longer grumpy, but happy and ready for a snooze.

Tania McCartney began this series while she and her young family were living overseas. The books link images of iconic landmarks in Beijing, Hong Kong and Sydney with Riley and his adventures. The use of a similarly iconic animal in each story helps small children relate to the familiar and unfamiliar in their worlds. This new title is published by Melbourne-based Ford Street Publishing. Recommended for pre-school and early primary children and children living in/or visiting a new country or city (or visiting interstate/international family or friends).

Riley and the Grumpy Wombat

Riley and the Grumpy Wombat, Tania McCartney Kieron Pratt
Ford Street Publishing
ISBN: 9781921665486

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

The Last Viking, by Norman Jorgensen & James Foley

Young Josh is very brave.
He’s not afraid of anyone or anything – except maybe the dark and the sound of ghosts whistling in the trees at night.
Pirates worry him a bit, of course, and so do boy-eating dinosaurs, and monsters under the bed. He’s also just a little afraid of dragons and vampires.
But other than those few things, Josh is as brave as a lion.
Sort of.

Josh is scared of a lot of things – including going to stay at Nan and Pop’s house by himself. But once there, his Pop gives him a book about the wonderful world of Vikings and, as Josh reads, he decides that he, too will become a Viking. No longer is he timid Josh – now he is bold, brave Knut, Prince of the Vikings. Now he’s ready to face anything.

But when he encounters a bunch of bullies in the local park, Josh/Knut isn’t so sure he has what it takes to be a Viking. Only by digging deep – and perhaps with a little intervention from some Viking Gods – will he find his inner strength.

The Last Viking is a beautiful new picture book offering from the pairing of award winning author Norman Jorgensen and talented debut illustrator James Foley. The story is a lovely blend of gentle wisdom and fun, and the illustrations (a blend of pencil, ink and digital watercolour) are full of detail and layering that reveal more on each reading. The darkness of some of the Viking illustrations is cleverly offset by bright colours and humour in other illustrations, proving a satisfying blend.

A wonderful offering for pre and lower primary aged readers – and their adults.

The Last Viking

The Last Viking, by Norman Jorgensen & James Foley
Fremantle Press, 2011
ISBN 9781921888106

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

No Bears, by Meg McKinlay & Leila Rudge

I’m in charge of this book so I know everything about it – including the most important thing, which is that there are NO BEARS in it.
I’m tired of bears. Every time you read a book it’s just BEARS BEARS BEARS – horrible furry bears slurping honey in grotty little caves.
You don’t need BEARS for a book.

Ruby is the boss of this book and if she says there are no bears then there will be no bears – or will there? Ruby is determined to create a tale which is scary, exciting and pretty all at once – and contains no bears. So she tells a delightful story which meets all her requirements – except perhaps one. While she makes no mention of bears (except to say that there’s none of them) the young reader/viewer will love spotting the bear lurking in the book – and contributing to the action.

Author Meg McKinley’s clever text is gorgeously complemented by the quirky digital illustrations of Leila Rudge for a whole which is whimsical, humorous and, simply delightful. A fun bedtime read full of gentle giggles for younger readers, with perhaps a bit of a message about inclusivity and friendship for older readers.

No Bears

No Bears, by Meg McKinley & Leila Rudge
Walker Books, 2011
ISBN 9781921529924

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

Piglet and Granny, by Margaret Wild & Stephen Michael King

Although Granny was soft and squishy, she was a lively as a family of leaping frogs. And she had such good ideas for things to do.
One morning Piglet waited and waited by the gate for Granny to arrive.
She waited and waited.
But Granny didn’t come.

Piglet loves Granny, and the things they do, but waiting for Granny to come and play is hard. Luckily she has her friends – Cow, Horse, Sheep and Duck – to reassure her and keep her company until Granny finally arrives. And with Granny’s arrival, the fun can begin!

Piglet and Granny is the third picture book featuring the delightful Piglet and various of her family members, as well as the other farm animals. Whilst each features Piglet and her farm animal friends, the three tales do manage to be different so that readers find them familiar but not repetitive. Stephen Michael King’s adorable illustrations bring the story to life with deceptively simple watercolour and ink outlines.

Piglet and Granny is an adorable offering, suitable for bedtime reading – or any time reading! First released in 2009, and now rereleased in paperback.

Piglet and Granny

Piglet and Granny, by Margaret Wild & Stephen Michael King
Working Title, 2011
ISBN 9781921504204

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

Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam, by Juliette MacIver & Sarah Davis

Down in the woods, not far from the sea,
Marmaduke Duck found a grapefruit tree.
“What luck!” cried the duck.
“How lucky I am!
I’ll take some and make some
marmalade jam.”

When Marmaduke Duck makes marmalade, everyone wants some – and chaos ensues. Everyone comes to the river to see what is happening – a cat, a rat, a ram named Sam, a lamb named Pam, even Farmer Palmer’s llama – all hoping for a taste of the marmalade.

With silly text, smooth flowing rhythm and lively rhymes, youngsters will love the sheer silliness of the story, which is teamed with bright illustrations. Using gouache and pencils, the facial features of the various animals are especially endearing.

Laugh out loud funny, this will make for wonderful reading sessions and will withstand repeated readings.

Loads of farmy fun.

Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam

Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam, by Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis
Scholastic, 2011
ISBN 9781869439286

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

The Bush Concert, by Helga Visser

It hadn’t rained for a very long time.
Food and water were hard to find.
Everyone was feeling low.
What could they do? Where could they go?

The land is parched and the birds struggle to find food, water and shelter from the relentless summer. A committee of galahs is determined to find a way to cheer everyone up. And that means a concert. The call goes out for singers, dancers, players. All are needed. And they come. So many birds together, so much noise! Maestro Linguini helps to concert-prepare some of the enthusiastic performers. Others do their own thing, while a city-slicker sparrow encourages his choir to sing faster and faster. And then it’s Concert Night. There are singers, dancers, players, acrobats, magicians and more. As the successful concert draws to a close with fireworks, the sky turns on its own fireworks and a storm breaks over their heads. Illustrations are ink and pastel on pastel paper, richly-hued, both fantastical and real.

The Bush Concert tale is told in rhyming couplets. There has never been a gathering of Australian birds quite like this! There are wrens and quail, waterbirds and penguins, pelicans and swans. All are united in their need to survive the drought with humour intact. Beaks are shown smiling, eyes are bright. Jesters wield saws, parrots walk with stilts in this imaginative romp through the bird world. The final opening offers names for all the birds appearing in The Bush Concert. Recommended for preschool and early primary children. Would be useful in introducing the wide range of birds who call Australia home.

The Bush Concert

The Bush Concert, Helga Visser
Omnibus Books 2011
ISBN: 9781862918863

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

Rabbit's Year, by Melissa Keil

It’s Rabbit’s year on the Chinese Zodiac, but Rabbit is feeling sad. He has no friends. He knows he’d make a great friend, but that’s not much use if no one else seems to know that. His favourite thing is music but he’s too shy to join with the other animals in making music. So he played his music alone. Other animals hear his music and are drawn to follow it. From having no friends, Rabbit discovers there are many animals happy to help him celebrate his special year. Illustrations are in soft watercolours.

Rabbit’s Year is a gentle exploration of the personality of Rabbit, and those born in this Chinese year. It describes Rabbit’s personality but also the personalities of the other animals of the Chinese Calendar. A final spread provides more information about each of the Zodiac animals, their personalities and the birth years they inform. This is a lovely gentle way to introduce the world of the Chinese Zodiac and will sit nicely with companion title ‘The Race for the Chinese Zodiac’ written by Gabrielle Wang and illustrated by Sally Rippin.

Rabbit's Year

Rabbit’s Year, Melissa Keil ill Jedda Robaard
Black Dog Books 2011
ISBN: 9781742031750

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

The Great Expedition, by Peter Carnavas

It was the morning of the great expedition. Robert gazed at the country before him.
He met with his senior officer
Final instructions were given.
The parcel was handed over.

A group of explorers are charged with a mission to deliver a parcel. They set out with all the supplies necessary for their journey. But the expedition is beset by challenges and not all the group will reach their destination, achieve their goal. Loosely based on the expedition of Burke and Wills, this group of intrepid explorers embark on their journey with sincere intent. But some obstacles are harder than others to overcome, and one by one, they fall. Only at journey’s end, can their trek be reviewed in its entirety and its success measured. The story is accompanied by Peter Carnavas’ trademark simple lines and delicate watercolours surrounded by plenty of white space and simple font. And watch out for pesky flies!

The Great Expedition is a gentle exploration of child’s play. Carnavas has clearly spent time watching small children and their side-by-side play as well as their on-again-off-again cooperative play. Here is an urban expedition that is as fraught with danger (in a small children way) as can be. First there is a plan, then an introduction of all the characters and their roles in the expedition. For children who are interested, there is the opportunity to introduce the story of other explorers and the challenges they faced. The illustrations contain a number of stories, that will encourage rereading. Will Henry, the biologist, manage the wildlife? Will Ivy, the botanist, find new and undiscovered plants? But perhaps the most important of all, how will they work together to reach their objective? Recommended for pre-school and junior-primary children.

The Great Expedition, Peter Carnavas
New Frontier Publishing 2011
ISBN: 9781921042812

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

The Cocky who Cried Dingo, by Yvonne Morrison

Cocky is a young Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and he’s rather proud of his snowy white feathers and his fine yellow crest. He likes a party and a joke and really isn’t taking much account of others around him. When other birds around him are keen to settle in to sleep, he wants to party on. When they ignore him, he decides to play a trick that will wake them for sure. So he pretends he is being attacked by a dingo. Well, that certainly wakes the flock and they hurry to his aid. A great joke! It works so well that he repeats the trick the following night with similar success. The other birds are now seriously cross with him and when on the third night, as in ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’, his call for aid is real and urgent, they are reluctant to respond. He’s in a bind and only narrowly escapes, sacrificing some of his prized crest. He is suitably chastened, and has a temporarily diminished beauty to remind him of his near escape.

The Cocky Who Cried Dingo is a new take on a traditional tale and brings Australian birds into play the roles otherwise played by a boy, a village and a wolf. But the message loses nothing in translation. Yvonne Morrison’s rhyming yarn rolls easily off the tongue as the story moves to a familiar conclusion. Heath McKenzie uses torn paper as his backgrounds, using different shapes and depths of colour to convey emotion. His slightly manic but beautiful birds look capable of most anything, particularly as their sleep is yet again disturbed. Children will join in the refrain with Cocky, waiting to see what will happen when the dingo is real. Cocky is taught a lesson, and is duly chastened, but less the reader think he is totally reformed, McKenzie provides a final cheeky image. Recommended for early-primary readers.

The Cocky Who Cried Dingo

The Cocky Who Cried Dingo, Yvonne Morrison, ill Heath McKenzie
2010 ISBN: 9781921541421

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.