• Children's & Young Adult Books

    From stormy to calm: 4 new picture books for frazzled kids (and parents)

    In what is perhaps a response to the alarming rise of diagnosed anxiety conditions in young children, here are four new picture books to assist parents and kids find moments of calm and peace.

    Two are especially aimed at soothing bedtime dramas and creating a quiet space conducive to sleep.

    From ABC Kids and HarperCollins, these sweet little books are all about sleep.

    Tjitji Lullaby, by Michael Ross and Zaachariaha Fielding, brings to a board book the lyrics and illustrations of the lullaby story, set in Central Australia. Meaning ‘child’ in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) languages, in Tjitji we have a mother kangaroo guiding her joey (baby kangaroo) to sleep – ‘sleep is a present after a day that was gorgeous.’
    Here is the lullaby as seen on ABC TV. Lovely, isn’t it? And so simple – a perfect addition to parents’ repertoire of lullabies. The board book format is robust enough to withstand chewing, sticky fingers, and anything else a baby can throw at it.

    The second sleep-themed book is by Byll & Beth Stephen: the Teeny Tiny Stevies, back again with their wry humour and charm, hitting the mark for sleep-deprived parents. In Sleep Through the Night, we explore the world of sleep – how other creatures (like dolphins, albatross, walruses, bats…) sleep in different ways – but always coming back to what we humans need. There is a touch of wishful thinking which adds to the humour:

    Some species can sleep standing up straight,
    but human beings need to be in a lying-down shape.
    Some species can sleep
    with their eyes open,
    but most human beings
    need to close them.

    The illustrations by Simon Howe are just gorgeous and add to the fantastical feel of this sleepy world: it’s a sweetly funny hymn to a good night’s sleep.

    Now that sleep has been dealt with, how about those stormy feelings? The next two new releases are here to help.

    The new Play School ‘Mindfully Me’ series helps to soothe troubled emotions in the very young, by exploring how friends – and taking a moment to Breathe In and Out – can make things right again. Written by Jan Stradling and illustrated by Jedda Robaard, we see Big Ted trying to deal with troublesome emotions. His friends come to visit, but Big Ted just doesn’t feel like playing. One by one, Jemima, Little Ted, Kiya and Humpty show Big Ted the different ways they calm their own stormy feelings. The beloved Play School characters will be instantly recognisable for small Aussie kids and the book uses simple text and gentle pictures to tell the story of how Big Ted learns to relax and enjoy his day.

    Finally, we come to Sarah Ayoub’s new picture book, Nice and Slow. It’s all about how a family rediscovers the joys of a slow day:

    Let’s take today nice and slow,
    have a break from the go-go-go.
    Spend some extra time in bed,
    release the worries in our head.
    Let’s make our breakfast a special treat,
    banana pancakes cannot be beat!

    Hopefully most parents can remember those days as children, in school holidays or on a weekend, when we didn’t have ‘be somewhere’ or ‘do something’ – school, dance class, Saturday sport, music lesson. When we could hang about in our PJs until lunch, chatting to our family, playing a card game or riding our bike, making something or baking a cake. Just – because. That’s what this book is about. Recapturing that wonderful sense of freedom, connection and quietness, for ourselves and our younger generation. The illustrations by Mimi Purnell show a family doing just that. Nothing special or out of the ordinary: but actually, in contrast to the sometimes-frenetic pace of life, quite extraordinary.

    So, four picture books to suit youngsters from babies to early primary age. And three of them just in time for Christmas – published by HarperCollins in late November 2022. Breathe In and Out will be released in January 2023.
    My thanks to the publishers for copies to read and review.

  • Children's & Young Adult Books

    Picture books for Christmas: ‘A Very Play School Christmas’ & ‘The Christmas Bum Book’

    I love giving books at Christmas and these two new picture books arrive at a perfect time for people wanting to squirrel away a few gifts in readiness for the big day.

    For little fans of the long-running ABC series ‘Play School,’ A Very Play School Christmas takes readers on holiday with Jemima, the Teds (Big and Little), Kiya, Humpty and Joey. There are all the delights of a Christmas holiday: a gift treasure hunt, decorating a tree, crackers and Christmas hats, Christmas crafts and a Lucky Dip.

    It’s a gentle tale of fun with friends; the soft illustrations by Jedda Robaard add to the sweetness of the story by Jan Stradling (who was an Executive Producer for the TV show.) Littlies will love spending time with their Play School friends at Christmas time.

    The Christmas Bum Book by Kate Mayes is described as ‘a book for anyone who has a bum or anyone who likes Christmas or anyone who has a bum AND likes Christmas.’ Okay, so that likely includes most preschoolers – bums and toilet jokes are a mainstay of this age group. I must confess, though, that this adult is a little bit tired of the trope.

    What saves this one from being tiresome are the clever illustrations by Andrew Joyner, which creatively take Christmas motifs (a chimney, a manger, turkeys and nuts, glitter and carols, for example) and incorporate a charmingly depicted ‘bum’ somewhere in the mix. Kids will probably love this book for the opportunity to say ‘bum’ multiple times (or even better, to hear adults say it.)

    These two picture books are published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in October 2022.
    My thanks to the publishers for review copies.