Welcome to Children's Corner book reviews from 4MBS Classic Radio FM in Brisbane. Here you will find short annotations of the children's books reviewed by Kerry Neary in Children's Corner on 4MBS, together with the details you need to find them at your favourite bookstore. Any prices shown are the publisher's Australian recommended price and may vary depending on where you shop. You are welcome to use these reviews for newsletters and the like with appropriate acknowledgement.

Aug 22, 2014

Books reviewed 24.07.14

Last week’s research touched on Benjamin Britten’s work The young person’s guide to the orchestra. If you are looking for classical music in book and CD sets for children, here are a few suggestions.
Carnival of the animals by Camille Saint-Saens

There are several versions, some with the original Ogden Nash verses, others with an adapted commentary.

Michael Leunig wrote poems about Australian animals included Australiana sketches; the commentary is by Peter Garrett and the music played by the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

Jack Prelutsky poems (America's first Children's Poet Laureate); he also recites these on the CD. The rollicking illustrations are by Mary Grandpre who also did the Harry Potter covers for Scholastic US. Music played by the Wuerttemberg Chamber Orchestra conducted by Joerg Faerber.

Illustrated by Sue Williams, narrated by Barry Carson Turner, with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, conductor uncertain. The text not only tells the story of each movement but explains how the music tells those stories; this delightful version would be accessible to confident beginner reader.
Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev (mostly books or CDs).

It’s surprising how many luminaries have narrated this piece over time.

This book and CD set retold by Janet Schulman and gloriously illustrated in Tsarist Russian style by Peter Malone. Music is by the Cincinnati Pops orchestra with Erich Kunzel.

Anna Harwell Celenza with various illustrators and orchestras

... and now for something completely different

Happy birthday, Royal baby!

Martha Mumford, illustrated by Ada Grey
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
ISBN: 9781408854822          RRP: $15 (pbk)

You may remember a book about one year ago on the impending arrival of a right royal baby. The same team now has a book to celebrate his right royal first birthday, with the same respectful dose of British satire as the original. It’s all-
star royal smashing fun but one thing surprised me: George is already shown as a right royal toddler. Considering at least three months lead into this book, how did they know about that? No doubt another royal leak from the palace! If you have the original, you must have this companion.

Aug 7, 2014

Books reviewed 17.07.14

Children relate to stories about their play, for real or in fantasy; very often they can recognise themselves or their imagination in the story.
Come on, let’s play

[In-house author/s?], illustrated by Cheryl Orsini
Hachette Australia
ISBN: 9780734415516           RRP: $24.99

This catalogues a day in the life of a family. It’s a day off, no school, no work, and bouncing quatrains relate the events of the day, each across a two-page opening: sleep-in games; after-breakfast play outside; family games later inside; quiet reading time before bed. The illustrations are simply drawn in a catchy cartooned style with lively colours and playful line in this ideal book for the playroom collection, for showing that a day in can be just as much fun as a day out.
Too hot for spots

Mini Goss
Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 9781743435410           RRP: $19.99

Barry and Stella first appeared in Too cold for a tutu (2012). Here they are pretending to be Doctors, alternately taking care of each others’ pretend ills - Barry has the weasles while Stella has chicken pops. The charming twist is that Barry and Stella are hand-knitted soft toys, so you can view their stories as children setting up their toys for a game; or the toys actually representing children playing. This book, with its unique illustration, joyful colours and authentic text sparkles like the original and still feels as fresh as a new idea. Highly recommended for the under 5s.
Snail and Turtle are friends

Stephen Michael King
Scholastic Australia
ISBN: 9781743620236           RRP: $24.99

Snail and Turtle could well be nick-names for two children but they are indeed two small creatures doing people-like things. They like doing things together and given their common habit of not rushing into things, this comes easily. They also like doing different things but being good friends they are comfortable with this. The text is absolutely minimal while more detailed illustrations take the story further; these are wonder-filled, in all their colour, detail and humour.  
Let’s play

Gabriel Alborozo
Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 9781743316283           RRP: $22.99

This book is like Britten’s Young person’s guide to the orchestra, without the opus; a grand, expansive score compared with this minimalist gem of a book. Quirky pen and ink cartoons show Maestro taking a group of children around the orchestra. Dabs of colour occasionally highlight a child or delineate an instrument; more dramatically, splashes of colours in abstract shapes stream from the instruments to represent their sounds. This delightfully but deceptively simple book will, dare I say, strike a chord with young readers. Perfect for the music room.

Aug 2, 2014

Books reviewed 3.07.14

Not all children’s stories are fun and games; some take up quite serious themes. Usually these involve very private emotions which need to be discussed in the secure setting of adult and child together.
The stone lion

Margaret Wild, illustrated by Ritva Voulita
Little Hare (Hardie Grant Egmont)
ISBN: 9781921894855           RRP: $24.95

The lion rests on its pedestal, long wanting to overcome its rigidity and run through the park. Sara and her baby brother sleep at its paws in the winter snow. Overcome with compassion for their plight the lion is granted its wish to take on breathing life; but it uses the short opportunity available to drag the baby and the girl into the library, where they will be saved. Majestic illustrations, rendered in oil pastels, reflect the tone of the story and the period of the setting. In this fable for our times, kindness reaps its own rewards and its magic transforms those that it touches.
Chasing shadows

Corinne Fenton, illustrated by Hannah Sommerville
Ford St Publishing
ISBN: 9781925000153           RRP: $26.95

Beautifully spare text is written haiku-like in this nostalgic family story. Something has happened to Beth that distracts her from day-to-day happenings. She hasn’t noticed the new little puppy playing and growing in the household. Beth’s life has been in shadows. Then another traumatic event draws her out of her detachment. Soft watercolour illustrations suit the mood of the story, at once portraying Beth’s solitude and the puppy’s free-spirited vitality.
Here in the garden

Briony Stewart
University of Queensland Press
ISBN: 9780702250101           RRP: $24.95

Also dealing with loss, this time grief is resolved early and memories are more joyful. Against a backdrop of changing seasons, a young boy visits places where he shared time with his lost companion, and remembers. The tenderness of the poetic text is matched by the delicate illustrations of watercolour and gouache with pencil outline and shading. Always there is movement, if not in the wind then in what the boy is doing or in the words of the story – time moves on. This gentle book is a sensitive exploration of feelings of loss.