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.

Sep 27, 2014

Books reviewed 11.09.14

It’s amazing how many children’s books have the word amazing in some variation in their titles. An online bookstore listed nearly 600. So, what is it that’s so amazing in so many books?
The amazing A to Z thing

Sally Morgan, illustrated by Bronwyn Bancroft
Little Hare Books [Hardie Grant Egmont]
ISBN: 9781921894190           RRP: $26.99

This is an alphabet book in which an echidna called Anteater makes an exciting discovery which he wants to share with a parade of animals, all Australian, some uniquely so. The illustrations are richly coloured in indigenous dot-style; they glow, jewel-like, as the reader moves from page to page. At first none of the animals want to join Anteater in his exciting discovery but once they see his bubbling enthusiasm, that changes. As to what it is, the reader is never told and but is given plenty of clues at the end.
A-maze-ing Minotaur

Retold by Juliet Nix, illustrated by Juliet Snape
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
ISBN: 9781847804310           RRP: $24.95

This is a version of the Greek myth about Theseus and the Minotaur; maze is a reference to the Labyrinth below the palace of King Minos of Crete, where the monster Minotaur was kept. The telling is straightforward, focussing on the courage of Theseus rather than the horror of the Minotaur and the cruelty of Minos. The illustrations are inspired by the artwork of ancient Knossus, on Crete, using stylised forms and bright colouring. It includes a maze game that leads Theseus to the place where he will encounter the Minotaur which later shows the golden thread leading back to the door where Ariadne awaits. This version is suitable for 5 to 8 year olds and an exciting initiation to the thrilling stories of ancient mythology.

Jonny Duddle
Koala Books [Scholastic Press]
ISBN: 9781742761015           RRP: $14.99

This amazing title promises huge and overpowering things, continuing through the racing rhyming text, right up to the climax. Four little dinosaurs are warned by their parents not to stray into the company of the feared Gigantosaurus, a prehistoric bogeyman. Their games become a boy-cries-wolf story and one little dinosaur finds himself in dire trouble. Bold and lush acrylic illustrations evoke steamy dinosaur jungles of the past. Notes at the end describe the real dinosaurs of the story and the inspiration for the Gigantosaurus is explained.

Sep 24, 2014

Books reviewed 4.09.14

This morning we have some picture book stories in which the animal characters are neither Australian nor, generally speaking, domesticated. In most cases such animal fantasy books are about children and their friends, with themes about being fair and thoughtful.
Boa’s bad birthday

Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Tony Ross
Koala Books [Scholastic Australia]
ISBN: 9781742760957           RRP: $14.99

Boa’s friends bring along excellent birthday presents - in their view - but have they thought it through? What can Boa do with sunglasses, mittens, a hairbrush, even a grand piano? Think about it. Then Dung Beetle rolls in his gift and it proves to be perfect. The illustrations are slap-dash watercolour with ink outlines, colourful, deceptively spontaneous and filled with vitality and humour. There’s a surprise twist in the tail which readers will find amusing.
The skunk with no funk

Rebecca Young, illustrated by Leila Rudge
Walker Books Australia
ISBN: 9781922179012           RRP: $27.99

The title promises fun and entertainment from the beginning! When Woody was born he seemed perfect with his white racing stripes, spiky fringe and tail that stood upright. Only one thing was missing – and you know what that was. There is rhythm and rhyme, word play and curiosity – how can a skunk get through life with this… affliction? Funky he is, but funk he has not. The pencil and coloured ink illustrations are drawn in comical style with a whimsical charm that echoes the nimble text. Cut paper collages accent the serendipitous in this delightfully different book.
That’s what makes a hippopotamus smile

Sean Taylor, illustrated by Laurent Cardon
Frances Lincoln
ISBN: 9781847804556           RRP: $27.95

How to entertain a house guest: open the door very wide; a warm, welcoming hug; some energetic, splishy-sploshy play; then a warm bath; finally a scrub – well, more like a vigorous broom! Lots and lots – and lots! - of crunchy salad will satisfy a big appetite. If it works with a hippo, why not others? Inks and computer art have been used to create the hilarious drawings, which generously fill the pages with hippopotamuses from top to bottom and side to side in this happy book.

Sep 13, 2014

Books reviewed 14.08.14 (posted from Killarney)

It’s refreshing to see a nonsense verse well done. Children’s literature has a rich tradition of nonsense writing, with the verses of Lear, Belloc and Dr Seuss, for example; and Alice’s escapades in the curious world of Wonderland.
A house for Donfinkle

ChoeChoe Brereton, illustrated by Wayne Harris
Walker Books Australia
ISBN: 9781921720536           RRP: $24.95

When a Flooble, a Mooble, a Gooble and a Blooble offer suggestions for creative improvements to the house that Donfinkle Vonkrinkle has built, he is unimpressed. He is proud of its divine door and pine porch – and wants it all back. The rhyming text bubbles along with musical tongue trippers: A bothersome taunt full of troublesome talk. The illustrations are done digitally, in colours that are sunny but subdued. The imaginary creatures will tickle the humour of young readers.

T S Eliot, illustrated by Arthur Robins
Faber & Faber
ISBN: 9780571312122           RRP: $22.99

Macavity, the mystery cat which may have special powers of escape, from Old Possum’s book of practical cats, makes a whimsical entry to picture books. The poem is reproduced in its entirety, no ‘adaptations’ for children – which would have spoilt the wonderful rhythms and witty rhymes anyway. Macavity is typically represented as a ginger tabby with dubious bloodlines, in a style with quirky, scratchy lines and bold colour splashes perfect for the character of this, the Napoleon of crime. This book has been published to celebrate the first publication of Eliot’s collection on practical cats 75 years ago and has loads of modern appeal.
Hey Dad, you’re great

Corinne Fenton, with stock illustrations
black dog books [Walker Books Australia]
ISBN: 9781922244864           RRP: $18.95

This book pays tribute to some of dads’ most endearing qualities – telling tall tales, giving squeezy hugs and snoring like a thunderstorm - using stock photographs of animals with their young to illustrate. Most appealing about this book is its greeting card nature, and while I’m not a fan of giving children’s books as gifts to parents and grandparents, its sentiments would give dads that specially loved feeling on a special day.

Sep 5, 2014

Books reviewed 07.08.14 (posting from Dublin)

Here are some recently released information books of interest to young readers including one about music appreciation.
Tiny: the Invisible world of microbes

Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton
Walker Books
ISBN: 9781406341041          RRP: $27.95

Every home should have a modest microscope with its own light source. There’s a whole new world of discovery down there for young naturalists – a drop of pond water, a drop of blood, human hair, the wings of a fly, onion skin dipped in food colouring, a strand of pond weed; the possibilities are endless and fascinating. This book describes part of this world – microbes, the tiniest of the tiny living things in and on and around our world. Their multiple roles are revealed in a straightforward text accessible to most 6 year-olds. The watercolour illustrations are clearly drawn in a retro-cartoon style, with appealing bright colours that are true to the subject.

Claire Saxby, illustrated by Graham Byrne
Walker Books Australia
ISBN: 9781922179708          RRP: $27.95

This most recent Australian addition to the captivating Nature Storybooks series is another that discusses how the male hatches and rears the chicks, a popular topic of late (see Karana in older posts). As is characteristic of this series the combination of parallel texts provides entertainment and information, as they tell of emu behaviour in this early phase of their lives. The illustrations are outstanding, done by computer but having a multi-media effect of watercolours, acrylics, inks and prints. They dramatically portray the harshness of the environment and the difficulty of raising several chicks under hazardous conditions.
Can you hear it?

William Lach; Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
Abrams Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780810957213          [various prices online]

One of the best music appreciation books for the whole family that I have seen in some time. There are three sections. The first describes instruments of the orchestra by sections, using unique historical examples from the museum’s collection. In the second part a number of well-known musical pieces have been matched with works of art held by the Metropolitan Museum. Questions guide the reader into the musical imagery of the works. The artworks provide inspiration to hear what is pictured in the music. The final section of the book describes the artwork in more detail, giving reasons that it was chosen to match the various musical works. A CD is included with all of the pieces played by various international orchestras. Six stars out of five for this marvellous book.