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.

Dec 30, 2014

Books reviewed 18.12.14

Here are three specials books which would please the most discerning young readers and serve as wonderful gifts at any time of the year.
Please Mr Panda

Steve Antony
Hachette Children’s Books
ISBN: 9781444916645           RRP: $24.99

What a delightful way to impress on children the importance of good manners. Mr Panda holds a tray of doughnuts. While he politely offers to share with other animals, their responses are unacceptable. Then lemur arrives, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, with manners so perfect that he is given the whole tray – but there is another reason for that. The whole of this book utters pleasant simplicity but the effect is quite assertive. The illustrations are mainly black and white crayon on a soft grey background but they are bold and perky. Readers will smile as events unfold because they know what is happening – at least until the very end. Something special for the under 5s and anyone who cares for them.
Something about a bear

Jackie Morris
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
ISBN: 9781847805164           RRP: $27.95

Word-vignettes give insight into the natural lives of about eight different kinds of bears from around the world. The text has the lilt of poetry but underscoring this is the wild nature of the bears – they are strong, fierce and dangerous. Nature notes at the end of the book emphasize this. The watercolour illustrations evoke bear spirit, echoing this from the words. It is impossible to skim through this book; the drawings are arresting and powerful, the words lyrical. The reader is fascinated by both. At the end, a connection for children – the very best bear of all. This beautiful book
would make a special addition to a family collection.
On the wing

David Elliott, illustrated by Becca Stadtlander
Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780763653248           RRP: $27.95

Almost 20 different species of birds, each illustrated in its habitat with gorgeous gouache paintings as lyrical as the words, are shown in their busy day. The verses are short and witty, using light-hearted word play in some instances and majestic esteem in others, according to the spirit we attribute the subject. Readers of all ages will enjoy the playfulness of the poetry and the verve of the illustrations in this magnificent book.

Dec 13, 2014

Books reviewed 13.11.14

Quirky coincidences can happen with the release of children’s books on similar topics. Two books with crocodile characters may not be so unusual, but two books about snails?

Christine Sharp
ISBN: 9780702253140           RRP: $ 24.95

What a perfect name for a snail. It conjures up images of the silver thread a snail trails upon. Simon Green, vegetable gardener extraordinaire, only notices Sylvia’s damage to his vegetable leaves. Sylvia wants to change that. This offbeat tale with an organic gardening message plays with word sounds and has a silly side that will appeal to children’s imaginations. The illustrations are done in a distinctive graphic style, blossoming across the pages in delicious vegetable colours. It just goes to show that gardeners and garden snails can share gardens together.
Snail and Turtle are friends

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

Snail and Turtle are almost inseparable, having acknowledged their differences and enjoying their similarities. The text is quite spare, with emphasis on sound words that match the action in the illustrations where a lot of wordless story is happening. The colours and shapes in bold page designs, along with the artist’s singularly intimate style, draw the reader into the pictures to appreciate the warmth of the friendship. Children will return to this book to browse the joyful illustrations more closely and take in the quiet acceptance that Snail and Turtle share.
The croc and the platypus

Jackie Hosking, illustrated by Marjory Crosby-Fairall
Walker Books Australia
ISBN: 9781922077608           RRP: $24.95

By the second page the reader can recognise that this is a version of Edward Lear’s The owl and the pussycat. It’s a thoroughly Australian version as well, set in the outback, a rusty old Holden ute for a pea green boat, looking for a rock to camp near - where could that be? The words are narrative rather than nonsense in this version and the story is quite possible – given that it is a fantasy. The illustrations are skilfully drawn and designed, in a semi-realistic style using colours true to the red centre. This thoroughly entertaining book will appeal to Under 8 readers but please share Lear’s original as well.
Once a creepy crocodile

Peter Taylor, illustrated by Nina Rycroft
Five Mile Press
ISBN: 9781743467282           RRP: $16.95

A crocodile creeps towards a riverbank where a young brolga is playing with some bush animal friends. Crocodile invites her for afternoon tea. Oh, the irony! Along slithers a spotty snake to distract Brolga – and I really can’t tell you more because that would truly spoil the story. Based on Waltzing Matilda, I think it is very clever to disguise such a well-known meter with an almost unrelated storyline like this. The robustly drawn cartoon style illustrations gleefully bounce along with the playfulness of this tale. For those of us who are not of fine voice, there is a CD included to help. A great gift idea for everyone to enjoy!

Dec 6, 2014

Books reviewed 6.11.14

Grandparents Day is celebrated around the world. In Australia it is on the last Sunday of October, which was 26 October – I didn’t know that. Then, we only started in 2011. There’s no need for a special Grandparents day in children’s literature; they have always been celebrated for the special role they play in children’s lives.
How to babysit a Grandma

Jean Reagan, illustrated by Lee Wildish
Hodder Children’s Books [Hachette]
ISBN: 9780385753845            RRP: $14.99 (pbk)

A companion book to How to babysit a Grandad, here children learn how to take care of grandmothers on babysitting visits – to her house. Greet Grandma warmly, perhaps with a little surprise; keep Grandma busy, with a visit to the park and dressing up and other essential activities. When getting ready for bed, turn the pages of the bedtime book s-l-o-w-l-y so that Grandma has time to read the pictures. Choose the best sleeping place like the warm, cosy big bed – in Grandma’s room. Next day, when it’s time to go, give her a big cuddling hug; that way she will want you to babysit her again! Comical illustrations in sun-shining colours accent the delightful irony of this book for young and old alike.
What happens next?

Tull Suwannakit
Walker Books Australia
ISBN: 9781922077561           RRP: $27.95

Little Ellie is on her way shopping with her Granny and asks for a story to fill in the time. Granny invents a Grandma Bear and a Baby Bear – who just happen to be out shopping. As Granny’s story grows Ellie (and the reader) can see what Granny can’t – bears following, doing just what they are. Then Ellie and Granny play a game of hide-and-seek and a world of imagination comes tumbling in, wonderland-like. Gentle illustrations with a delicate line create a quietly secretive mood, which could be startled at any moment in this charming book for readers under 5.
Lucas and Jack

Ellie Royce, illustrated by Andrew McLean
Working Title Press
ISBN: 9781921504662           RRP: $24.99

Lucas comes to the nursing home with his mother to visit his Great Grandpop, bringing a soccer ball to play. Jack, another resident, quickly assesses the situation when he says: Not much to do in there with all the oldies, I suppose. Gently, Jack reminisces about his younger years; and then those of other residents who had achieved surprising things. Lucas begins to realize that ageing is not just about getting old; there are memories to be shared that connect a family. This is quite an extraordinary book, well-realised and thoughtful. The writing is spare but the sentences are evocative, suggesting more than the words say. Brilliantly, the illustrations seize on these suggestions and give them shape to fire Lucas’s growing awareness that life was not always old for these people.