Bird to Bird, by Claire Saxby & Wayne Harris

Deep in the forest where sundrops spill
a bird sends seeds to the floor.

Over the seas, a bird drops a seeds which sprouts and, slowly, grows into a tree. When that tree is felled it becomes, in turn, part of a ship bearing convicts, then a frame for a weaving loom and, eventually, part of a lean-to. When the lean-to is abandoned the wood lies dormant until a crafter finds it and from it carves a wooden bird.

This beautiful story shows the journey of one tree, with the use of the bird at the beginning and end drawing an elegant circle which even young children will connect with. The repurposing of the wood from convict bunk to loom to building material to carving material connects history with the growing contemporary re-awakening of the importance of recycling and upcycling.

The poetic text is simple, and a delight to read aloud, and Harris’s illustrations make stunning use of light and perspective.

A delight for a home library as well as a useful classroom read.

Bird to Bird, by Claire Saxby & Wayne Harris
Black Dog, 2018
ISBN 9781925381122

A House for Donfinkle, by Choechoe Brereton & Wayne Harris

Up high in the grasslands
where Wooble Beasts roam,
Donfinkle Vonkrinkle
is building his home.

Donfinkle Vonkrinkle is happily building his perfect home, with the walls door, windows and porch all just the way he likes them. Everything is fine – until first a Flooble, then a Mooble, a Gooble and finally a Blooble all arrive to tell him what is wrong with his house. Donfinkle quickly gets to work fixing and changing his house – till he realises that his house is no longer perfect. Fortunately, his contrite friends help him to set it to rights.

A House for Donfinkle is a delightful rhyming picture book by début author Choechoe Brereton. The text has a simple message about self-belief, told in a joyful, whimsical way. The rhyming text scans beautifully, making it perfect for reading aloud and for multiple rereadings. The digital illustrations, by seasoned illustrator Wayne Harris are filled with whimsical detail and rendered in a pastel palette which serves as a wonderful complement to the gentle message of the text.



A House for Donfinkle, by Choechoe Brereton & Wayne Harris
Walker Books, 2014
ISBN 9781921720536

Available from good bookstores and online.

A Bit of Company, by Margaret Wild & Wayne Harris

No one rang the doorbell. No one came to play.
Sometimes Christopher felt so lonely he wanted to scream…
and scream…

Christopher is lonely. His mother is busy with baby triplets, and Christopher is left to his own devices. Sometimes he peeps through the fence at his neighbour Molly MacNamara and wants to say hello. Little does he know that Molly is also so lonely she could scream – until the day that she does just that. Her scream brings Christopher running and soon the pair has become firm friends.

A Bit of Company is a wonderful story of friendship, capturing the feeling of being left out that many older siblings feel when new babies arrive. Fist published in 1991, this classic has been rereleased by Walker Books, making it available for a new group of youngsters.

With gentle text by maestro Margaret Wild, and gorgeous illustrations by Wayne Harris, this is a book that kids will ask for over and over, and adults will enjoy reading aloud.


A Bit of Company

A Bit of Company, by Margaret Wild and Wayne Harris
This edition Walker Books, 2009

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

Captain Clawbeak and the Ghostly Galleon, by Anne Morgan

I had been waiting and waiting for the school holidays to begin, but now the first day had arrived, I was still waiting:
• waiting for Captain Clawbeak to fly home,
• waiting for Mildred Marlinspike’s eggs to hatch
, • waiting for Dad to launch his little pirate ship,
• waiting for Mum to have her baby,
• and waiting for rain.

Jack is sick of waiting. Mum and Dad are there but somewhat distracted by the imminent arrival of a new baby. Parrot Mildred, sitting on her nest has plenty to say about her absent mate, and most of it comes from a pirate ship. So when it seems that something has happened to his parrot, Captain Clawbeak, Jack and his friend Joey decide that it’s up to them to do something. Then a note arrives on the leg of a petrel and they know just what to do. Joey’s keen to use Dad’s pirate ship that Dad has banned them from boarding. Jack is swept along into an adventure on the high seas where pirates appear and disappear, parrots pale and he must deliver a secret letter. The sense of urgency increases as they discover just how much danger Captain Clawbeak is in. When Jack is cautious, Joey takes the lead. When Joey is scared, Jack steams full ahead. Along the way there are good ‘uns and bad ‘uns to meet and learn from.

Captain Clawbeak and the Ghostly Galleon is a rompin’, rollickin’ ripper read. The story breaks like a downpour after drought, sweeping from one challenge to another. The two main characters complement each other and demonstrate just how powerful a friendship can be. Captain Clawbeak’s personality looms large in his absence and his mate Mildred is no less impressive. Told in first person, Jack reveals his quite eccentric world and shares with the reader his family, friends and environment. Large print and monochrome illustrations from Wayne Harris on almost every page facilitate access to this humourous and fast-moving story for less confident readers. Pirate humour infects the story from start to finish, providing laughs for adults who might be reading to a child. Highly recommended for 7-9 year old readers, or younger children being read to.

Saving Captain Clawbeak

Captain Clawbeak and the Ghostly Galleon, by Anne Morgan ill Wayne Harris
Random House 2008

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

The Postman's Dog, by Lisa Shanahan

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

Lisa Shanahan’s Gordon’s Got a Snookie was probably one of the funniest children’s books I’ve ever read (I still chuckle reading it to my children), so I looked forward to Shanahan and Harris‘s latest book The Postman’s Dog with considerable anticipation. The humour in The Postman’s Dogis a lot more muted than that of Gordon, and there are no laugh outloud moments (like gorilla nitpicking or hospitalised hyenas), however, the book makes up for it with its tender prose, and rich sense of community and humanity. The story follows gregarious postman Charlie, who loves meeting the people he delivers mail to each day. Part of his pleasure is sharing the stories he hears with his wife every afternoon, but when his wife dies, he stops being gregarious. The neighbours rally together and convince him to get a dog, but his dog, who is otherwise happy and charming, doesn’t like his postman outfit, and the barking is driving the neighbours wild.

The story is ideal for preschoolers and there is just enough conflict to keep the plot moving forward. Although the story is sad at the point of Charlie’s wife’s death, the way the community rallies around him is moving and warm. Wayne Harris’ digital illustrations convey the strong and different characters of the multicultural community that Charlie lives in, including Mrs Zielinski, Mr Tran, Francesca and Mr Kumaradeva. Between the pictures and the text there are a lot of absorbing sub-stories and opportunities for discussion including the gelato shop and deli, Mrs Zielinski’s opera, Mrs Montague‘s violin, Mr Tran’s tricky immigration journey, Francesca’s ballet classes, and lots and lots of dogs. Children will love identifying the different ones, and helping Charlie choose a dog at the pound.

Adults will appreciate the positive messages, the camaraderie, the opportunity to ham it up–barking with Charlie’s dog or pointing out the detail in each picture, and above all, the gentle poetry of Shanahan‘s narrative:

And before long,
Charlie felt hope tingle
across his skin
like soft, summer rain.

Although there are no nits in this book, there is plenty of food for thought. This is another fine book by Shanhan and Harris, full of drama, pathos, and a very subtle humour.

The Postman’s Dog (Hardcover)
by Lisa Shanahan, Wayne Harris (Illustrator)
Allen & Unwin
Hardcover: 32 pages, October 2005, ISBN: 1741142520, RRP$A22.95

This review first appeared on Preschool Enetertainment. It appears here with permission.

Gordon's Got a Snookie, by Lisa Shanahan

The animals in the zoo are so excited that Gordon is coming. Gordon is the new silverback gorilla being brought in from overseas to take care of the girls. Of course, the girls are more excited than anyone – they hope Gordon will be big and strong and hairy.

When Gordon arrives he looks to be all that they hoped for – until the young gorillas notice something funny. Gordon has a snookie! Now all the animals are scornful and highly amused – how can Gordon live up to his strong image if he needs a comforter? The girls are embarrassed to be seen with him.

Poor Gordon – left alone, the snookie becomes more and more important, until a young gorilla unwittingly offers a chance solution.

Gordon’s Got a Snookie is a hilarious story sure to appeal to children and to their adult readers. Shanahan’s text is a delightful blend of humour and gentle message about the acceptability of snookies, or blankies or other comforters. The illustrations of Wayne Harris perfectly complement the text, capturing the range of emotions from ethusiasm to loneliness with a delightful colour range and skillful portrayal of the characters’ facial expressions.

A delightful book!

Gordon’s Got a Snookie, by Lisa Shanahan, illustrated by Wayne Harris
Allen & Unwin, 2002