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.

May 30, 2015

Short Lists for the CBCA Book of the Year Awards

It's short listing time for Australia's best books for children from 2015. Here are the listed books I have already reviewed, suitable for beginning readers - in some cases best shared. If you would like to view all of the shortlists go to the CBCA website page.

Early Childhood Readers

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!
Scary night

Lesley Gibbes, illustrated by Stephen Michael King
Working Title Press
ISBN 978192150463           RRP: $24.99

Friends Hare, Cat and Pig are taking something special
to Goat on the other side of the dark and dangerous forest. They crouch along, ducking shadows, past the creepy trees; through the dark cave and then the cemetery; wide-eyed and alert, very wide-eyed, all the way to the rhyme of a foreboding, alliterative verse. At goat’s house there awaits a big surprise. The illustrations are in brooding colours but the quirky outlines give a clue that not all is what it seems. Scary and funny – just what the under 8s adore.
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.
Noni the pony goes to the beach

Alison Lester
Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 9781743311141           RRP: $24.99

In her second story, Noni and friends Coco the cat and Dave the dog are joined by the ladies next door – a herd of cows from a neighbouring farm. While the others play beach games and splash about in the water, Coco likes to keep dry. Dave on the other hand becomes too adventurous and needs rescuing! The signature illustrations with simple execution of outlined watercolour drawings in glowing colour as always add a touch of warmth to the story. Plush toys of Noni are already available!

Picture Book of the Year

(Unfortunately I can't find my review for this book. Still looking.)


Jackie French, illustrated by Bruce Whatley
Scholastic Australia
ISBN: 9781742838175           RRP: $24.99

Following on from the success of Flood here is another book by this partnership on natural disaster, about the bushfires that plague much of our land. The text is a powerful poem of staccato rhythm that attests to the power and unpredictability of the rage of bushfires. The words give the fire its own life, not the embodiment of a monster choosing its way on a path of destruction, bringing pain to landscape and people alike. The illustrations are rendered in watercolours, capturing the fluidity of moving fire; quickly changing shapes that last for just a moment in time; and later the grey curtain that hangs after the fire is gone. The mesmerizing impact heightens the realisation that we can all be in danger.
One minute’s silence

David Metzenthen, illustrated by Michael Camilleri
Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 9781743316245           RRP: $29.99

One of the best books of the year, this picture book is clearly directed towards older children, teenagers and adults. The words lyrically and fluently tell the Anzac story by drawing on some well known incidents but portraying them from both sides. These incidents are presented as reflections for that contemplative minute observed each Remembrance Day. In sepia sketches the illustrations feature the members of a contemporary year 12 class, disinterested presences at their desks. wondering what all this has to do with them. Then they are transformed as characters in the story, sometimes in historic scenes, sometimes contemporary. It is a dramatic effect and its impact shows on the class and the reader alike.
The duck and the Darklings

Glenda Millard, illustrated by Stephen Michael King
Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 9781743312612           RRP: $24.99

Something has happened in the world and these are dark times. Grandpapa never mentions the bright olden days but his grandson’s stories of his ventures outside return a glimmer of remembering to his eyes. Then the boy encounters a duck outside with a broken wing; gradually Grandpa’s memories emerge into the light as he helps her to heal. Instinctively the duck must return to her wild but in the end, like the pigeon to the ark, she returns with friends and the hope of a renewed world. The text is lyrical - not at all dark, always uplifting. Randomly patterned shapes of black are gradually replaced by colourful abstract shapes as luminosity returns to the world. A deeply thoughtful book.
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.

Eve Pownall Award for Information Books


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.


May 13, 2015

Books reviewed 16.04.15

Dr Seuss certainly made an impact on children’s literature over his more than 60 years of writing. His popular mixed rhythms and mid-sentence rhymes have proved a successful model for many zany books for children. Like these...
How big is too small?

Jane Godwin, illustrated by Andrew Joyner
Penguin Viking
ISBN: 9780670070756           RRP: $24.99

Big brother, as big brothers are wont to do, won’t let little brother join in his games because he is too small. Little brother sulks but a little philosophy and science - and an ant – convinces him that ‘small’ should not stop him joining in the games. He meets another small boy who changes his day, saying: You’re just the right size for yourself. Things can only get better from there. The jolly rhyme wraps the story in enjoyment while the retro style of the illustrations and the inherent humour of their line, add to the fun.
Yak and Gnu

Juliette McIver, illustrated by Cat Chapman
Walker Books
ISBN: 9781922077684          RRP: $24.95

Two good friends like to go rowing on the river together, Yak in his kayak, Gnu in a canoe. They own the river! Then they meet: Goat in a boat, Calf on a raft, followed by Snail setting sail and – well, the flotilla just grows. By the time a cruise ship full of yaks and gnus arrives, our Yak and Gnu have changed their tune. The rhythms of the text give a lively account of the growing river crowd. The cartoon-style of outlined watercolours with breezy colouring, complements the humour and early readers will be amused by the quirky detail of the drawings.
The worm who knew karate

Jill Lever, illustrated by Terry Denton
Penguin Viking
ISBN: 9780670077922           RRP: $19.99

Bound to become a children’s cult classic! Brian is a happy worm living without a care in his window box garden. Then he spies a sign: The early bird catches the worm. His world trembles. He takes action. He joins a karate school. Worms are a little karate-challenged, not being built for kicks and chops; but his determination wins through. Pity the next bird that flies in. Ee-ya! Bright colours and quirky drawings only add to the craziness. We must see more of this worm!

May 8, 2015

Books reviewed 19.03.15

A successful book will soon beget a sequel. If the book is very successful, it may generate a whole industry around it or its character. Here are some sequels of recently successful Australian books. How far they will grow?
Noni the pony goes to the beach

Alison Lester
Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 9781743311141           RRP: $24.99

In her second story, Noni and friends Coco the cat and Dave the dog are joined by the ladies next door – a herd of cows from a neighbouring farm. While the others play beach games and splash about in the water, Coco likes to keep dry. Dave on the other hand becomes too adventurous and needs rescuing! The signature illustrations with simple execution of outlined watercolour drawings in glowing colour as always add a touch of warmth to the story. Plush toys of Noni are already available!
I’m a hungry dinosaur

Janeen Brian, illustrated by Ann James
Penguin Viking
ISBN: 9780670078103           RRP: $19.99

Just two years ago we were splashing around in the mud with this dinosaur. Now he has cleaned up his act and is having a go at cooking a chocolate cake. The dinosaur has as much success getting grubby with cake ingredients as he did with mud! Cake ingredients add flavour to the illustrations, with cocoa, flour, sprinkles and icing brushed around and outlined with magic pencil, which gives a rainbow-coloured line. Same recipe - same success. In fact Dinosaur has so much fun he decides to bake another cake. Oh, dear!
My Pop is a pirate

Damon Young, illustrated by Peter Carnavas
ISBN: 9780702253614           RRP: $24.95

Companion to My Nana is a ninja - in the interest of gender justice – but it features different characters. The same very distinct pattern of telling introduces a cross-section of Pops, who do different things in different ways – mostly hilarious and eccentric. One of them is a real pirate! The rollicking rhyme gleefully romps along, with an underlying reminder of the significance of Pop’s role in the modern family. Watch the comical and vigorous illustrations carefully and catch a glimpse of Ninja nanna. More of the unexpected pops up all through the book to keep young readers chuckling.