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.

Feb 22, 2016

Books reviewed 26.11.15

Music is something we instinctively want to share. It is part of our great storytelling tradition. There are several picture books based on these stories of music.
The Nutcracker

Retold by Margrete Lamond, ill. Ritva Voutila
Little Hare Books [Hardie Grant Egmont]
ISBN: 9781742977782
RRP: $24.95

This retelling focuses on the romantic storyline between Marie and the Nutcracker King and reduces her wonderland journey across his kingdom almost completely. The writing is elegant; the illustrations are lavish, richly detailed and colourful, strongly reminiscent of Victorian style in a bejewelled setting. This is a truly beautiful book.
Peter and the Wolf     Sergei Prokofiev

Adapted and illustrated by Ayesha L. Rubio
The Five Mile Press
ISBN: 9781760067816
RRP: $19.95

This version has a twist
which goes beyond the duck’s demise in the original and its rescue in Disney’s version. Children identify strongly with Peter’s mischief in this tale. Without the music, the story here allows the moral to stand clearly apart from the entertainment. The strongly coloured illustrations with their clean lines sit dramatically against a stark white background, giving the book a classic contemporary look.
Ketzel, the cat who composed

Leslea Newman, illustrated by Amy June Bates
Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780763665555
RRP: $24.95

Composer Moshe Cotel meets a stray kitten on an afternoon walk through his noisy neighbourhood. There is instant attraction and Ketzel joins Moshe in his jumbled musical apartment. One day Moshe learns about a competition for piano compositions shorter than 60 seconds. He is without inspiration until Ketzel steps from the top of the piano, onto the keys and across to his lap to comfort him. The written text is straightforward with an undertone of Yiddish tradition; while the freshness of the loose watercolour illustrations mirrors the serendipity of the tale.

Feb 13, 2016

Books reviewed 12.11.15

Except for the war memorial books, I have unwittingly neglected informational books for a while. This is an important part of children’s reading because, very simply, they have to learn the difference between fact and fiction in stories.

Sue Whiting, illustrated by Mark Jackson
Nature Storybooks, Walker Books Aust
ISBN: 9781922077448
RRP: $27.95

One of the best information book series ever published for younger children is this one. Books in the series are identified by two text threads, one of which is narrative, the other factual. Here the story tells of a day – or more specifically, a night – in the life of a platypus. It slips from its well-concealed burrow, into the adjacent stream and on to a routine of hunting in its depths – always looking for a meal. The narrative text is lyrical, the factual text direct. They elaborate each in fascinating ways. Wet watercolours fit the setting, with gloomy forest greens and the muddy colours of riverbanks and stream beds. More than clever.
I don’t like snakes

Nicola Davies, illustrated by Luciano Lozano
Walker Books
ISBN: 9781406342833
RRP: $24.95

A similar format with two parallel texts, but both provide factual information. In one text, in script lettering, an unnamed girl in a family that keeps snakes as pets, describes her dislike of them (the snakes, I mean) – for the reasons that most people are wary of snakes. A response, always in block lettering, explains the importance of these ophidian characteristics. The illustrations are mainly in wax crayon, brightly coloured and boldly featured. Those about the girl’s story are cartoon in style, while those clarifying the factual text are realistic. The crossed out don’t in the title reveals to the reader where the story is heading.

Danny Snell
Working Title Press
ISBN: 9781921504815
RRP $24.99

Seagull lands on the beach but after a few strutting steps is tangled in some discarded fishing line. This is still attached to a sinker so she can’t lift off. Various beach animals come by but they aren’t equipped to help. In the meantime a young boy has been watching proceedings – he knows he has the solution to Seagull’s problem. The acrylic illustrations show the bright fresh colours of the seaside with brushstrokes reflecting Seagull’s desire to escape and fly. Children learn clearly of the hazards to wildlife from people’s careless attitudes to littering our shared landscape in this wise book by one of Australia’s best tellers of stories about animals, real or imaginary.

Feb 4, 2016

Books reviewed for 29.10.15

Animals in children’s literature - it’s hard to avoid them. Whether they be for real or caricatures for human characters they are everywhere.
A number of animals

Kate Green, ill. Christopher Wormell
Creative Editions
ISBN: 9781568462226
Price: ~$15 online

An assured, clean and uncluttered lino-cut style, with dramatic black outlines back-filled with bright colours, creates the images in this attractive and artistic counting book. A farm chick goes wandering through the farmyard asking if other animals know where Mother hen is. This grows into a counting story along the way. Readers will engage with the chick’s tale and admire the striking illustrations as the story moves around the farm. One of the better counting books.
The race to the beach

Anna Shuttlewood
The Five Mile Press
ISBN: 9781760067168
RRP: $14.95

This boisterous book is about children playing at a favourite day-trip destination except that the children are portrayed by animals – it’s safer that way. The zoo animals have a day off and are soon spreading across the beach on their beach-chairs or playing games on the sand. The day drags on and a race and a swim is started. As they say, a good idea at the time. Someone is soon out of his depth – but who will be able to save him? Splashy watercolour illustrations are colourful but slightly washed by the beach sunlight. A reminder to young readers to make careful choices and play safely within your abilities.
Get out of my bath!

Britta Teckentrup
Nosy Crow
ISBN: 9780857633323
RRP: $19.99

Why are elephants such favourites in children’s stories? They are hardly cute and cuddly – more clumsy and cumbersome! Maybe that’s the attraction? Here is another one, Ellie who cavorts in her over-sized bath which is nevertheless too small. Her uninvited friends join in to play but quickly there is an overcrowding problem. Colourful collages and splashing water levels create humour and big-size entertainment.