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.

Oct 26, 2014

Books reviewed 16.10.14

Perhaps sharing stories about other cultures from a young age has a part in resolving the problems of social and cultural intolerance that plague the world. It must be worth a try.
The lost girl

Ambelin Kwaymullina, illustrated by Leanne Tobin
Walker Books Australia
ISBN: 9781921529634           RRP: $24.95

A young girl’s curiosity tempts her from camp and she becomes lost. In vain she calls for help. She survives because she has been taught well that the land will provide. Then a crow calls and she follows it until she finally sees her people’s camp fires, home to a joyful reunion. The writing is direct and unembellished as is the style of Aboriginal storytelling. The acrylic paintings are richly coloured in landscape colours; they show many of the bush animals on which survival may depend. Her land is sacred, trusted and respected; it is not just a resource.
Our Island

Written and illustrated by the children of the Gununa of Mornington Island, with Alison Lester and Elizabeth Honey
Penguin Viking
ISBN: 9780670077687           RRP: $24.99

An original short text provided inspiration for words about the Gununa children’s island place. At the same time, the illustrations were developed, using the wax resist technique – watercolour washes splashed over wax crayon drawings. The mentors stepped in before illustrations were overdone, so the images capture a spontaneous and fresh feeling of a heat-hazed location. Thus this picture book was created, revealing the love and pride these children have for their place in the world. Some of the proceeds from sales of the book are returned to the Mornington Island State School to fund further art projects.
Our village in the sky

Janeen Brian, illustrated by Anne Spudvilas
Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 9781743318140           RRP: $24.99

Now we are with the children of a Himalayan village. It is summer and school is closed. Their days are marked by the chores they do, which are important for the survival of the whole village. The lyrical text is in blank verse and moves from child to child, sometimes in groups, describing their integral work – collecting fresh water; washing clothes and the monks bed sheets; carrying mud for mud bricks. But children being children, duty soon gives way to play and we see the joy in their faces routine is broken and distraction takes over for a short while. Elegant watercolour illustrations capture these moments and children look out on the reader to show they are happy in their lives.

Oct 17, 2014

Books reviewed 9.10.14

Children’s books can be very playful. Some are just like toys with their novelty bits and pieces. Many play with words; some play with other stories; a few play with stereotypes and unravel them.
Oi Frog!

Kes Gray, illustrated by Jim Field
Hodder Children’s Books [Hachette]
ISBN: 9781444910858 (hbk) RRP: $24.99
ISBN: 9781444910865 (pbk) RRP: $12.99

Lots of wordplay in this ‘rule book’ for Dr Seuss rhymes. Cat – yes, sitting on a mat - tells Frog he should be on a log. Frog protests but Cat insists, and regales him with other rhyming imperatives for – lions on irons, indeed; parrots on carrots, unlikely; and cows on ploughs, barely imaginable. Some more plausible pairings – like foxes and boxes – are scattered amongst the outrageous if only for children to catch their breath from laughing. Then, what should be on a frog... ? Bright colours and a sharp cartooning style augment the humour as the nonsense grows
Mike I don’t like

Jol and Kate Temple, illustrated by Jon Foye
ABC Books [HarperCollins]
ISBN: 9780733333255           RRP: $19.99

Two classic children’s stories intertwine in this about Young Mike, a thoroughly unlikeable chap. When offered a share of a sandwich Mike snaps back that he doesn’t like it. What follows is a rattling rhyming rant of all the things Mike doesn’t like; he even acknowledges that he is known as Mike I don’t like. His friend is quite convinced and when he has a sprinkle ice-cream he doesn’t bother to offer a share. Mike changes his tune – but it is all too late. It’s The boy who cried wolf rolled in with The little Red Hen in this hilarious tale of egoism. Children will enjoy the expressive cartooning, the changing, bouncing page layout and the emphatic lettering style that matches Mike’s categorical contrariness.
Top Dog

Rod Clement
Angus & Robertson [HarperCollins]
ISBN: 9781460702130           RRP: $24.95

So this is a day in the life of a modern CEO? The cover is a give-away; a well-trimmed poodle in a smart suit coat. Beyond that Samson is a typical top dog business executive - or is he just a pandered to pet? Poodle is boss and dog is to be obeyed. Is it like this in your house? This wonderful satire couches some clever lines in canine references: Samson loves to chew over these things in meetings; and reward good staff with a good pat on the head. The contradictory humour in the illustrations is hilarious; playful mockery at its best for all readers above three.

Oct 12, 2014

Books reviewed 25.09.14

From a call for new picture book manuscripts:

But here is what we DON'T want stories about:
cute dogs/cute kids
how an animal/child/creature of any kind discovers it is different and that's okay
how much anyone loves anyone else.

As if these aren't popular themes…
Butterfly and Oscar

Tricia Oktober
Ford St Publishing
ISBN: 9781925000511           RRP: $24.95

Oscar, one of six family dachshunds, befriends new-comer Butterfly. Their encounters are both endearing and a tad sentimental, with one particularly amusing. Butterfly sees a strange dog at the window and her barking sets off all the dackels. An unhappy owner shows Butterfly to herself in a mirror; for the first time she realises she (a pug) is different from her companions and other quaint identity problems arise. The text drifts into a little anthropomorphism at this point, but devoted pet lovers will forgive that. The marvellous hyper-realistic illustrations are done in coloured pencils and watercolours; but not photographically so, leaving room to develop the warmth and affection between the protagonist pets, and the reader. Pet loving children will adore this story.
Pig the pug

Aaron Blabey
Scholastic Australia
ISBN: 9781743624777           RRP: $16.99 (hbk)

Here is another sausage dog (as described) and pug story. As all dog lovers know, dogs have personality and are filled with mischief. The trouble with Pig is that he doesn’t like to share. When Trevor approaches to share Pig’s toys in a game, Pig gets carried away – almost literally! With Pig all wrapped up - literally! - Trevor gets his wish. The scene at the end where Pig has to share his toys is hilarious in its surprise. The illustrations are done in acrylic with pen and pencil outlining, having a boldness that underlines the different personalities of the dogs. A definite hit for the under 5s!
Big pet day

Lisa Shanahan, illustrated by Gus Gordon
Lothian Books [Hachette Australia]
ISBN: 9780733620997           RRP: $26.99

Lily’s class is hosting a bring-your-pet day. The principal will be visiting as judge; the teacher quickly learns that a pet day is not the way to keep things tidy for him. A catalogue of chaos follows the pets on their random wanderings through classroom and schoolyard, not always on their best pet behaviour. There are
dogs and parrots and chickens, as well as an unusual few like hermit crabs and ferrets. But Lily’s pet is the most special of all; all the children think her pet drawing is the best; and when her pet roars the chaos into order they are all so impressed that Lily’s pet wins the gold trophy for best pet. The cartooned illustrations are quirky, lively and chaotic and scatter the pages with humour and fun. Too funny for a bedtime read!