• Books and reading,  Life: bits and pieces

    A picture book for all of us: ‘The Great Realisation’ by Tomos Roberts

    Tomos Roberts (‘Tomfoolery’) wrote the poem The Great Realisation and launched it on his YouTube channel in March 2020. It’s a poem of simple hope, and a plea for all of us to use the lessons and perspective of ‘2020 hindsight’ to create a better, more loving world once the global pandemic has receded.

    Here’s Tomos and his brother and sister with the poem on his ‘Tomfoolery’ YouTube channel.

    He has now brought his beautiful and encouraging words to book form with the addition of watercolour illustrations by Japanese artist Nomoco.

    Roberts wrote The Great Realisation for his young siblings while in Covid19 lockdown. But I think the poem is for all of us. Its simplicity allows us to put aside our doubts, fears and cynicism and, perhaps just for a moment, imagine future possibilities for the whole world.

    The book would be a perfect addition to school libraries and classrooms.

    Other videos on the Tomfoolery YouTube channelhttps://www.probablytomfoolery.com/ are worth a visit, for a dose of what I think of as ‘sensible optimism’. I highly recommend A Tale of Two Mindsets for a few minutes of poetry that will help to deter the cynicism and doubts!

    My thanks to HarperCollins Children’s Books for a copy of this wonderful book to review.

  • Books and reading

    Gorgeous celebration of love: ‘Aunty’s Wedding’ by Miranda Tapsell & Joshua Tyler

    I purchased this beautiful new picture book for my granddaughter and can’t wait to give it to her for her 4th birthday! Picture books are such a joy, aren’t they?

    If you have seen the delightful romcom movie Top End Wedding, you will have had a taste of the writing duo Miranda Tapsell and Joshua Tyler, who created and co-wrote the screenplay for this movie all about love and weddings, culminating in a colourful and wonderful celebration on the Tiwi Islands, off the northern coast of Australia.

    Aunty’s Wedding is a snippet of that colour and joy, a gorgeous feel-good story for young ones. Beautifully illustrated by Samantha Fry, it captures the things that make a top-end wedding just like any wedding on the mainland – dressing up, special flowers and jewellery, family and friends – and the things that make them that little bit different – the vibrant indigenous designs, the tropical flowers, and the traditional decorations and dances.

    I just adore this book and I hope many youngsters will get to share in the joy of it’s simple text, sweetly affirming story and luscious pictures.

    Aunty’s Wedding is published by Allen & Unwin in September 2020.

    #AussieAuthor20
    #AWW2020

  • Books and reading

    Droll new series for babies – and parents: ‘Sleep 101’ & ‘Whine Guide’ by Beck & Matt Stanton

    I had to consider the question of whether these books (no’s 1 & 2 in the Self Help for Babies series by husband and wife team Beck and Matt Stanton) were written for babies or adults. The answer, I’m certain, is both. A bit like the Shrek movies, these are humorous messages of support for stressed-out parents, cleverly disguised as short, read-aloud stories for the very young.

    Other titles to follow in the series help to prove my point: Dummies for Suckers, One Ingredient Cookbook (for infants still breast or bottle feeding, I assume), and Baby Goes to Market. The first books explore two of the frustrations that parents of a baby will experience day to day: the challenges of getting an infant to sleep, and how to interpret your new baby’s cries.

    Illustrated with very simple line drawings that manage to capture real life scenarios every new parent will recognise, they are tongue-in-cheek reassurance to hollow-eyed, exhausted parents wondering ‘Is it just me? Am I a terrible parent? Why won’t my baby sleep? What am I doing wrong?’

    Here’s an example, from Whine Guide (Find your voice and start sweating the small stuff):

    Do you have something to say but no voice to say it?
    Do you have trouble matching the right whine to each occasion?
    This whine guide is here to help.

    The Whine Guide by Beck & Matt Stanton

    Each double page spread then analyses, in a simple sentence, the various permutations of a baby’s cry, grizzle, whine or full-throated bellow, and pairs each one with the appropriate life occasion. For example:
    ‘The bubbly. An open-mouthed, gassy whine, requiring attention.
    Best served with bicycle legs and a tummy massage.’

    You get the idea. It’s a delight; something that could be read aloud to a baby while giving a wrung-out parent a much-needed chuckle.

    These first two in the Self-Help for Babies series are published by HarperCollins and ABC Books in September 2020, with more available for pre-order.

    My thanks to HarperCollins Children’s Books for copies to review.

  • Books and reading

    Absurd and whimsical story kids will love: ‘The Tindims of Rubbish Island’ by Sally Gardner & Lydia Corry

    I love the fact that the creators of this book series for early readers (5 – 8 years) are a mother and daughter team: Sally Gardner and Lydia Corry. How perfect to have a writer and an illustrator in one family package, ready to delight young readers.

    The Tindims are tiny folk who have lived on Rubbish Island for centuries, retrieving items discarded by the ‘Long Legs’ (humans) and making useful, wearable or fun stuff from them. Lately, though, there is far more plastic in the sea than even the Tindims know what to do with.

    The main character Skittle and her furry pet Pinch, enjoy life to the full and laugh a lot, just like human children do. In their world, everything they find in the sea is a possible treasure. This first book in the Tindims series introduces readers to the characters and colour of the tiny island on which the Tindims live, and how they use the rubbish they find.

    Skittle and her friends and family are looking forward to Brightsea Festival, a yearly event filled with fun, when the progress of their island gets blocked by Bottle Mountain and they can’t see which direction they need to go. Adventures and absurdities follow, until all is well by the end of the book.

    Children will have fun with Lydia Correy’s jaunty black and white illustrations, identifying all the items of rubbish which the Tindims use: as hats, a cable car, houses, a fish hospital, furniture, to name just a few.
    The narrative has a slightly ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ feel to it as it explores the simple things in life that can bring us joy.

    The Tindims of Rubbish Island is a sweet and engaging way to introduce very young readers to the idea of conservation and recycling, while having a lot of fun in the process.

    The Tindims of Rubbish Island is published by Head of Zeus, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books, today (2nd September 2020.)

    My thanks to the publishers for a copy to read and review.

  • Books and reading

    Sweet and colourful: ‘The Polar Bear in Sydney Harbour’ by Beck & Robin Feiner

    Kids (of all ages) enjoy incongruities and humour and this is definitely a feature of the new picture book by Sydney-based husband and wife team Beck and Robin Feiner.

    ‘When Hannah spots a polar bear in Sydney Harbour, she knows something isn’t right…But even worse, none of the adults seem to notice him at all.
    Can Hannah help her new friend find his way back home?

    The polar bear in Sydney harbour

    There is the obvious humour in the text – a polar bear in Sydney? – but the clever illustrations by Beck Feiner add another layer, as only Hannah can see the polar bear as they visit well known and beloved Sydney locations. Her parents don’t even notice the bear riding on the roof of their car!

    Kids will love pointing out the absurdities in this gentle book that, below it’s humour, is a child-friendly invitation to consider some of the possible effects of climate change on the animals most affected.

    The illustrations are stylised with gorgeous blocks of colour, portraying places like Bondi Beach, the Opera House and Sydney ferries, all very familiar to many Australian children.

    The brief friendship that develops between Hannah and the bear is heart warming and Hannah is a clever girl to work out a solution to the polar bear’s dilemma.

    The Polar Bear in Sydney Harbour is a welcome addition to picture books that introduce children to environmental themes, with humour and a child’s eye view throughout.

    The Polar Bear in Sydney Harbour is published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in September 2020.

    My thanks to the publishers for a copy to read and review.

    #AussieAuthor20
    #AWW2020

  • Books and reading

    Wild magic: ‘Havoc! The Untold magic of Cora Bell’ by Rebecca McRitchie & Sharon O’Connor

    Havoc! is the second book in the Jinxed! series by Rebecca McRitchie, all about the magical adventures of Cora Bell and her fairy friends Tick and Tock.

    Aimed at independent readers eight years and over, these are chapter books that will enchant and engage, with enough action to please and a focus on the themes of friendship, belonging and being brave.

    Havoc! picks up from the first book, with Cora realising that the magic within her has been ‘syphoned’ from magical beings and threatens to get out of control. If she is not able to do something soon, she runs the risk of turning into a Havoc, and no one wants to be around one of those…

    She sets off in search of other syphons, in the hope that by finding others like herself she will finally have found a family and a place to belong. On the way, she encounters dark magic, powerful enemies and danger.

    Her friends Tick and Tock add some humour into the mix. Forget about sparkly, delicately fluttering ‘Tinkerbells’ – these fairies are bald little men with rather large bellies, and plenty of gumption to help their friend.

    The black and white illustrations by Sharon O’Connor bring characters Cora, Tick, Tock and others to life.

    The world-building in this story is lovely, with riffs on familiar creatures like mermen, warlocks, trolls and vampires. Some of the scenes are a little dark so possibly not suited to very young children – though with the popularity of Harry Potter among even the youngest of tots, perhaps there is not so much cause for concern nowadays?

    Havoc! and the Jinxed! series will appeal to young readers who like their magic fast and colourful, and who enjoy stories about friends facing the odds together.

    Havoc! The Untold Magic of Cora Bell is published by Angus & Robertson (an imprint of Harper Collins Children’s Books) in September 2020.

    My thanks to the publishers for a copy to read and review.

    #AussieAuthor2020
    #AWW2020

  • Books and reading

    Cute new titles for younger readers: ‘Marshmallow Pie’ by Clara Vulliamy

    These are the first in a new series by UK children’s writer and illustrator Clara Vulliamy, featuring a fluffy cat called Marshmallow Pie and his owner Amelia Lime.

    Aimed at early independent readers, these are chapter books with simple storylines, relatable settings and plenty of humour.

    The books are narrated by Marshmallow Pie himself and this is where much of the humour comes in, because as cats tend to do, he takes a rather one-sided and egocentric view of his world. His human, Amelia, lives with her dad in a small apartment and is shy, but dotes on her fluffy cat. When she suggests that Marshmallow Pie auditions for TV and movie roles, he is very reluctant at first, but soon comes to enjoy the limelight, though not before mishaps and escapades provide some good laughs for the reader.

    Children will enjoy the mismatch between the cat’s view of events and how they are portrayed in the charming black and white illustrations on each page. I also enjoyed the way in which even the supremely self-centred kitty had small moments of enlightenment about how to be a good friend.

    These are sweet stories of friendship, family, and the joy that pets can bring, in bite-sized books perfect for ages seven and up.

    Marshmallow Pie: The Cat Superstar and Marshmallow Pie: The Cat Superstar on TV are published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in August 2020.


    My thanks to the publishers for copies to review.

  • Books and reading

    A jolly little tale of friends: ‘Pea and Nut Go For Gold!’ by Matt Stanton

    Every young child knows that friends can sometimes be… well, annoying. Pea (the panda) and Nut (the pink flamingo) are great friends and occasionally, as in this new picture book for readers 3+, great rivals.

    Pea likes nothing more than lazing in the shade, but when Nut challenges her to a race to the end of the pool, she is ready! The only problem is that Nut can be sneaky sometimes.

    A jolly story of friends who are sometimes also in competition with each other, Pea and Nut Go For Gold! explores the pleasures and occasional frustrations of friendships. The clean, bold and colourful illustrations perfectly complement the story. Little readers will find themselves barracking for both Pea and Nut as the pages turn.

    Pea and Nut Go For Gold! is the second in the series by Matt Stanton (best selling author of the very popular Funny Kid books) about two mismatched but firm friends. It will be published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in August 2020.

    My thanks to the publishers for a copy to read and review.

    #AussieAuthor20

  • Books and reading

    A celebration of us all: two delightful new picture books

    I adore picture books. I loved to read them aloud to my son and continue to do so with my grandkids. There is a special magic that happens when the text and pictures work together; sometimes quirky, sometimes joyful, occasionally wistful. Always beautiful. And we are so fortunate to have in Australia such talented authors and illustrators of children’s books.

    Margaret Wild was a favourite read-aloud for me, with books such as Mr Nick’s Knitting and Going Home. So I was pleased to see a new offering from her, with illustrations by Judith Rossell. Pink! is all about a young dinosaur who loves being pink – until she realises that she is always the first to be found in games of hide-and-seek with the other little dinosaurs. Then she longs to be brown or green, so she can hide in the forest like her friends.

    Mum suggests: ‘Perhaps try being brave and smart about this…Try being happy with who you are.’ One afternoon Pink discovers that being a little bit brave – and a little bit different – can be a big advantage.

    Margaret Wild’s simple text allows plenty of space – visually and metaphorically – for Judith Rossell’s gorgeous illustrations, full of the lush greens of the forest, soft blues and greys of the sky, pops of yellow, and of course, pink.

    Pink! is a delightful story with a positive message that will appeal to youngsters as a read-aloud or to very early readers – especially those who love dinosaurs (and which pre-school or kindy kids don’t?)

    What do you call your grandpa? by Ashleigh Barton is an affectionate love letter celebrating grandfathers and the special relationship between grandpa and child that can be found the world over. It also introduces youngsters to different cultures and languages and the various ways that children enjoy time with their grandads.

    Each double page spread features a child, their grandfather and a special thing they love to do together. The four lines gently rhyme and this assists in the pronunciation of each name for ‘grandpa’, as that is always the final word and rhymes with the last word of the line before it.

    We see children and grandpas playing hide-and-seek, star gazing, splashing in rain puddles, racing boats on a stream and enjoying a bedtime story together, among other fun activities.

    The illustrations by Martina Heiduczek are soft blends of colours, with plenty of movement and things to spot and name on each page. On the last page, is an opportunity to learn the language and culture in which the different names for ‘grandpa’ are found.

    What do you call your grandpa? and Pink! are delightful celebrations of diversity, special relationships, and the things that bring us together.

    They will be published by Harper Collins Children’s Books in July 2020.
    Thanks to the publisher for copies of these titles to read and review.

  • Books and reading,  Life: bits and pieces

    Local treasures

    It’s not too often I get a thrill from reading my local newspaper, Blue Mountains Gazette. I did last week, though,when I came across an article about the awarding of an honorary doctorate degree by Western Sydney University, to Blue Mountains author Jennifer Rowe.

    Blue Mountains Gazette 1/5/19

    At first Ms Rowe’s name didn’t register, until I read on further and realised that she is also known as Emily Rodda.

    Now, if you have children who like to read, that is a name you’ll recognise. When in primary school, my son and his friends loved her Rowan of Rin books, first published in 1993. She is also the author of the very popular Deltora Quest series. Emily Rodda has written over 50 books for children and young adults and is a five times winner of the Children’s Book Council of Australia Younger Readers Award. And this year, 2019, her most recent book His Name was Walter, was shortlisted for the Children’s Book of the Year.

    So, quite a writing career. You can learn more about Emily Rodda here:http://www.emilyrodda.com/about

    And as Jennifer Rowe, she writes crime novels for adults.

    The WSU Honorary Degree was awarded in recognition of that significant career and her contribution to Australian literature. In January 2019, Jennifer Rowe was also made a Companion of the Order of Australia for her services to literature.

    And until last week, I had no idea that she lived in the Blue Mountains, just up the road! Of course it matters not where she lives. But I did get a little thrill. There is something about stumbling across someone you admire, in whatever field or pursuit, and finding out that you are almost neighbours.