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.

Jun 27, 2016

Books reviewed 31.03.16

Dr Seuss – what more needs to be said. The children of the world – and their parents - are eternally grateful.

What pet should I get?

Dr Seuss
ISBN: 9780008170783
RRP: $19.99

This story explores the classic childhood quandary of choosing a pet. Children will enjoy the caricature style – Seuss is not very kind to cats and birds – and his exploding imagination as the pets become more and more extraordinary. Twice, four of his creatures – they are what you want – parade across the pages imploring the children with placards that say: Make up your mind. The text is written rhyming couplets with his favoured anapaestic beat; occasionally, for the fun of it, this breaks into another rhythm. The vocabulary is simple but rich with nonsense words and tongue-twisters. What a happy way to learn how to read!


The publishers let readers into the back-story of the discovery of this text. One of the interesting facts revealed is that Seuss rarely completed his manuscripts to a coloured version; he used black line drawings and colour notes – ironically using a number code system.

Horton and the kwuggerbug: and other lost stories

Dr Seuss
ISBN: 9780008131272
RRP: $19.99

The four stories in this collection were written for magazine columns in the early 50s; they have never been published in book form before. In the story of the title, loveable Horton is convinced by a kwuggerbug (with a name like that it has to be a nuisance) to carry him to the faraway beezlenut tree. Said bug has duplicitous mischief in mind but is not counting on the versatility of Horton’s trunk. The second story reprises Marco from And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street. In Marco is late his teacher asks for his excuse: Well, it’s like this... Something happened to me. And so the story grows, and grows... and grows. Children will find the nonsense hilarious. The third story also returns to Mulberry Street and accumulates exaggeration. How Officer Pat saved the town begins with the friendly officer spying a trivial incident which grows to a catastrophe by a series of embellishing what ifs? Luckily Officer Pat takes the initiative. The final story is very short: The Hoobub and the Grinch with that notorious trickster trying to sell a piece of string to a hoobub. Apparently it happens more commonly than we think! More gold to add to the Seussian treasure chest.

Jun 23, 2016

Books reviewed 10.03.16

I’d like to revive the campaign to replace bunnies and chicks with Australian animals as a cuddly focus for Easter gifts. Remember the chocolate bilbies?
Dance, Bilby, dance

Trish Oktober
Ford Street Publishing
ISBN: 9781925272130
RRP: $22.95 HC and $14.95 PB

A cute bilby wishes he could dance because then, other magical things would happen, including eventually a dancing bunyip. The text is straightforward, in short sections that caption each page. Colourful illustrations dance and prance around entertaining the reader. Trish Oktober is noted for a hyper-realistic style but here she has lent a comical touch which enchants her images into a child’s playful imagination.
George the Bilby Chef and the raspberry muffin surprise

Jedda Robaards
The Five Mile Press
ISBN: 9781760067113
RRP: $14.95

George, a charming child-like bilby, decides to make raspberry muffins for Betty Echidna’s birthday; from there, ambitions just grow and grow. The writing style is reminiscent of earlier classics like Thomas the Tank Engine, and Beatrix Potter’s stories. It should be read with the same jolly rhythms and optimism. Gentle watercolour sketches in pastel tones add to the make-believe feeling of the tale. At the back of the book is a collectible recipe card for making raspberry muffins. There will be more to collect in a promised series about George and his friends and their cooking adventures.
Once I heard a little wombat

Renee Treml
Random House Australia
ISBN: 9780857987396
RRP: $14.99 [Board book]

If not bilbies then why not wombats; especially if they are as appealing as this little fellow. Just as appealing are his Australian mates that make their way into this nursery chant based on Once I saw a little bird. Toddlers are invited into the book to join in the action and make the sounds. All of this joyful behaviour is recorded in scratch-work style illustration
which gives movement and character to the drawings; in black and white, they contrast strongly against coloured backgrounds. 

Jun 19, 2016

Books reviewed 25.02.16

Animals have a major presence in children’s stories – cats, dogs, bears, rabbits and mice are the most popular. It’s always fun when something different comes along.
The skunk

Mac Barnett, illustrated by Patrick McDonnell
The Five Mile Press
ISBN: 9781760067823
RRP: $19.99

A skunk follows a man in a tuxedo around town – everywhere. Creepy. The man shakes him off – but soon starts to miss him. He races back the way he came, sees the skunk wandering alone. In the ultimate irony the man says, I think I will keep an eye on him/ And make sure he does not follow me again. This is a hilarious story. The text is droll, the illustrations minimalist in an all-round pokerfaced delivery. Adults will love to read it aloud and children will love to listen in.
Archie – no ordinary sloth

Heath McKenzie
The Five Mile Press
ISBN: 9781760067892
RRP: $19.95

This is a masterly ironic story of a sloth that saves his friends because he is different. He is full of vitality, always on the go - and the other sloths can’t take any more! Archie finds other animals with a difference - a zebra without stripes, a grumpy hyena and the arborous hippopotamus. Then along comes a tiger, to sneak down beside them and Archie’s unusual talents chase him away. Comical, zany illustrations are filled with Archie’s zeal. And yes, all talents are special. (Apparently there is no collective noun for sloths because they are solitary – too slow to keep up with each other I guess. Just joking!)
Spot and Stripe

Anna Shuttlewood
The Five Mile Press
ISBN: 9781760401405
RRP: $16.95

This bright and bubbly friendship story features Spot, the leopard and Stripe the zebra. Best friends, they do everything together; they especially enjoy sharing their different ways of doing things. When they try to look like each other though, it doesn’t work out. They lose their individuality and this is made obvious in the illustrations. Charming watercolours in pastel colours are enlivened in places with touches of fuller pigment adding warmth to the tale. The social references are easy to recognise; children won’t miss them. Spot and Stripe are so comfortable in each other’s company I’d like to think there will be more stories from them. We can only hope.

Jun 11, 2016

Books reviewed 18.02.16

No big stage musical today - just equal airplay for dogs and great books to boot.
Me, Teddy

Chris McKimmie
Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 9781760291334
RRP: $29.99

Teddy is a real black Labrador belonging to the author-illustrator’s family. Teddy likes to chew and has eclectic tastes. He likes his walkies and Brisbane locals will recognise some of his favourite places. Then there is the unabashed, unconditional loyalty and love from all sides of the family. The illustrations are chaotic and quirky, much in the style of Teddy’s outlook on life. Multimedia scraps, some contributed from the McKimmie family, scatter across the pages something like the parts of a room once a big dog has tail-wagged through. Perfect reading for a dog family.
My dog Bigsy

Alison Lester
Penguin Random House
ISBN: 9780670078936
RRP: $24.99

Bigsy is an adorable dog somewhere between a corgi and a Jack Russell. He’s a farm dog that loves to hear the noises of the animals as he races around on his stumpy legs. Is he chasing them or rounding them up? The rest of the time Bigsy is hanging out with Slinky, the other dog, and Mr Cat the... cat; and all of this before his young owner is out of bed. Then it starts over again. The simply drawn illustrations are upbeat and joyful, with cut-out figures collaged onto a colourful fabric background and open white space. No wonder Under 5s will want a Bigsy frolicking in their lives.

Jean Jullien
Frances Lincoln
ISBN: 9781847808189
RRP: $19.99

Ralf is without doubt a sausage dog though not a usual one, being in the size long range. He doesn’t have to go to any lengths to end up in trouble – he naturally gets tangled in mischief. One day he gets tangled in the electric cord of the iron. Quel disaster! That night the iron is left on – smoke! Quel another disaster! He must save his family and in a significant stretch of imagination he does. This is giggle-rich humour for young readers who won’t be surprised that Ralf’s family still loves him after all – even if he now has to coil up like a python to sit on their laps. The illustrations are comical and stylised, in flat colour with heavy black outlines. Their simplicity is a foil to the madness of the tale.

Jun 4, 2016

Books reviewed for 11.02.16

There’s a big stage musical performing in town at the moment so here are some books about cats.

Remarkably Rexy

Craig Smith
Allen & Unwin
RRP: $24.99

The endpapers of the book show how Rexy’s presence dominates the neighbourhood – at least, that’s how Rexy sees it. But he needs to keep up with Pamela the pure-bred Siamese; she is so obviously trying to become the centre of the children’s attention. One day, Towser, the angry pug mix, chases poor Pamela straight down the street. Is this Rexy’s chance to regain his top-kid’s-cat status? An outrageously humorous text pokes fun at Rexy, building his ego and subverting it at the same time. The vigorous and comical illustrations audaciously appeal directly to a child’s sense of humour.
Lara of Newtown

Chris McSkimmie
Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 9781760112325
RRP: $29.99

Lara is a cat of a different cut. She is moved from owner to owner at first; finally she is dumped in the middle of nowhere. We all feel so sorry for her. Then the Kafoops from Newtown pass by, take her home and name her. They are a little eccentric but that is perfect for this cat. She has unusual surroundings to explore, and unusual characters to love. Children are drawn immediately to the signature child-like illustrations – it’s like reading their own drawings but more fascinating. There are plenty of visual jokes along the way; the image on the last page is recognisable to everyone, as Lara sleeps atop four folded fluffy towels, just as a perfect princess deserves.
Apocalypse Miaow Miaow

James Proimos III, illustrated by James Proimos Jr
Bloomsbury Books
ISBN: 9781408868157
RRP: $11.99

Finally, the promised sequel to Apocalypse Bow Wow and it is just as bizarre. Our intrepid survivors of the apocalyptic holocaust have made good use of the super-market they claimed. Now they are out of food. It is said that the abandoned Twonkies factory nearby is being guarded by a cat. If only it had been said what kind of cat it was! How this ragtail gang blunders into a solution to gain control of the Twonkies is absurdly hilarious. Read this book in one sitting – zany one page illustrations with madcap speech bubble captions shouldn’t be too hard. Survival reading for anyone worried about the end of the World.