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.

Jul 19, 2015

Books reviewed 14.05.15

Books that show sophisticated creativity are alive and well in children’s picture books – and children deserve this artistic and aesthetic richness in their reading.
Stories around the World [series]

Cari Meister, various illustrators
Capstone Books [through Hardie Grant Egmont]
ISBN: 9781479554416           RRP: $16.95

Wandering minstrels who first told their magical tales of lore are likely to have spread them across counties and cultures; so it is very common to find similar tales from different lands. This is the theme of this new series. Each book contains four versions of a well-known tale. This Cinderella collection includes the European version attributed to Perrault; the wonderful version from the North American First Peoples called Little Burnt Face; a well-known version from China, called Yeh-Shen; and an Ancient Egyptian version, Rhodopis. While the plots are consistent, the details vary and the comparisons will intrigue children. The illustrations are upbeat and modern, yet richly imbued with the cultural origin of each variation.
A river

Marc Martin
Penguin Viking
ISBN: 9780670077441           RRP: $24.99

Like a lesson in Geography, describing the changing landscapes that the river courses through, but much more. The text is spare and poetic, with a deep fondness for Nature’s works. The illustrations are painted in watercolours and gouache in naive style which is at the same time very sophisticated. They arrest the eye with details that will reward the patient reader. It turns out that the child narrator has been daydreaming and the graphic (as in drawing) resolution of her waking up is compelling. This book will please the confident beginning reader.

Carson Ellis
Walker Books
ISBN: 9781406359428           RRP: $24.95

Essentially this is a book on the different kinds of houses people live in. It is arranged for comparisons, which piques the interest. For example, a Kenyan blacksmith’s house faces the home of a Slovakian duchess. There’s a peculiarity in the choice of house – they include a shoe – but it all has purpose as the houses drift to the fanciful and back to the ordinary again. Elegant in its simplicity, each page of the book has fewer than six words; but together with the illustrations this makes a striking impact and readers will be drawn into browsing the page for several moments as their curiosity is aroused. A very intriguing book, it will capture the attention of readers of all ages and engage inquiring minds for lengthy spells at a time.

Jul 5, 2015

Books reviewed 7.05.15

Folktales – the myths, legends and fairy tales of yore – are the foundations of children’s literature, even all literature.
Alice’s adventures in Wonderland: the Little folks’ edition

Lewis Carroll [abridged text]
Sir John Tenniel [original ink drawings]
Macmillan Children’s Books
ISBN: 9781447277781           RRP: $24.99

Released for the 150 year anniversary of Carroll’s fantasy adventure Alice’s adventures in Wonderland is this facsimile edition, with digital enhancement, of the second abridged edition from 1907. One-sixth the length of the original, in large print, it features 32 coloured illustrations from Tenniel’s originals. It retains the ring of Carroll’s voice and includes all the episodes of the original, just more condensed. In pocket size hardcover format, with gilt-edged pages, this is an ideal Alice starter for young readers, or a charming gift for anyone who has a collector’s interest in Alice’s story.
The three little pigs

Retold by Margaret Lamond, illustrated by Jonathan Bentley
Series: Once upon a timeless tale
Little Hare Books [Hardie Grant Egmont]
ISBN: 9781921894916           RRP: $12.95

The modern versions of traditional fairy tales bear passing resemblance to their originals, being softened and sweetened for children’s consumption over time. In this series there is a hint of the gruesome, cautionary stuff that the originals once bore. For example, in this version the little pig of straw and the little pig of sticks fall foul of the wolf’s gustatory intentions for their foolishness. The chronicle of Wolf’s efforts to snare the brick-laying pig is spirited and witty, these final mischievous words summing up Wolf’s fate: And quite nice he tasted, too, though most people wouldn’t think so. Seek out this series when introducing children to their quintessential literature.
The princess and the pea

Lauren Child, photographer Polly Borland
Penguin Picture Puffin
ISBN: 9780141343662           RRP: $12.95 (pbk)

The signature chatty style of the author brings a modern resonance to this favourite; throw away lines and asides to the reader are amusingly effective. The illustrations are miniature stage settings, using doll’s house furniture and miniature knickknacks for the accoutrements around the scene; peopled by paper cut-outs dressed in fabrics; with cut out trees, even real branches and scattered vegetation. The set has then been photographed (by internationally regarded Australian photographer) to bring originality and entertainment to early readers - and their reading partners.

(Incidentally, there is a version by Mitch Vane of The Princess and the pea in the Once upon a timeless tale series should you happen to be browsing the bookshops.)