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.

Jan 18, 2017

Books reviewed 7.07.16

There aren’t many Australian picture books about the cold – probably because we don’t have much of it! But it does happen.
The snow wombat

Susannah Chambers, illustrated by Mark Jackson
Allen & Unwin

A young wombat goes walkabout on a snowy day, enjoying the tickling snowflakes. His excitement is in meeting other Australian snow inhabitants, as it is for his young readers; there’s a lot to discover along the way in this unusual landscape. The simple rhyming text is like a ballad at walking pace while the high-country is captured realistically in watercolour with lots of white space and blueish shading to give the appearance of snow. A sharp blizzard sends wombat back to his warm burrow, snug like children in their beds waiting for this charming bed-time read.
Bear make den

Jane Godwin and Michael Wagner,
illustrated by Andrew Joyner
Allen & Unwin

The cold weather is coming; time for Bear to make his den. But there’s more! He needs furniture for the very empty space– so he makes it. He needs a sofa to read on – so he makes it. He’s a handy kind of bear. Electricity? Cooking facilities? No problem! Painting? Consider it covered! The den is done out in his favourite style - but there is still something missing. The text, written in clipped language, has echoes of children at play. The retro-style illustrations bring liveliness to the tale. And the friends who join Bear at the end make it all worthwhile in this cheerful book for under eights.
A bump in the night

Amberin Huq
The Five Mile Press

The night-time knocks and bumps have been annoying Matilda for a week; time to do something about it – if it weren’t so cold out there. It can’t be pirates or giants; and little angry gnomes don’t exist – do they? Carefully she opens her door and there is... Mr Snuffles! The monster living under her bed all this time! Returning with a midnight snack! Suddenly there’s more knocking and bumping. This is a lively night-time story – though not a bedtime one. Under fives will enjoy the twist of the monster under the bed having special night-time duties.

Jan 14, 2017

Books reviewed 23.06.16

Children are thrilled when their names appear in stories, more so if they are in the titles. Today’s books have eponymous tiles; finding a child with the same name could be the problem.

Leila Rudge
Walker Books Aust
ISBN: 9781925081695
RRP: $24.99

Gary is a racing pigeon with a difference – he wears a beanie... and he can’t fly. He keeps a fascinating scrapbook filled with travel stories told by the other pigeons. This is very helpful when he falls into the pigeon basket and the next day and ends up a long way from home. Luckily his travel diary fell with him so he finds the way home. When Gary tells his stories the other pigeons realise that flying is not the only way to have adventures. The wash-and-pencil technique with its soft colours lends itself to warm emotions of friendship and charm.
Milo: a moving story

Tohby Riddle
Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 9781760111632
RRP: $29.99

Milo is an unremarkable dog who enjoys the company of his unremarkable friends living in an unremarkable part of town. After an unremarkable argument with one of his friends Milo is swept out of his comfort zone, into a surreal one. From here he learns it is a big world that holds many remarkable things. This ever-present other world appears in the illustrations as collaged photographs of cityscapes that contrast with the simple sketches that represent Milo’s surroundings. Yes, it’s enigmatic; you'll just have to read the book to plumb its philosophical depths.
Baxter's Book

Hrefna Bragadottir
Nosy Crow

Baxter would like to be the star of a book, not just see his name there. But he is not the right kind of creature – in fact it’s difficult to tell just what he is! And his name is just too unusual. Then he sees a sign for an audition for a book character. Is this his chance? Or do the other candidates already have too much experience in stories? It just doesn’t work for Baxter. But what is that book the small owl has been reading? The illustrations are simply but boldly drawn in wash and crayon, with direct appeal to children – as is Baxter, whatever he is.

Jan 12, 2017

Books reviewed 16.06.16

I should be doing number patterns with today’s date as it is but I have only one counting book in my reviewing pile. So I thought we would go with some stories about people – for a change – family stories. Coincidentally they are all stories about big sisters.
Too busy sleeping

Zanni Louise, illustrated by Anna Pignataro
Little Hare Books [Hardie Grant Egmont]

Where is this bundle of endless play that Eleanor expected? Most of the time, new baby Reuben is too busy sleeping. If not, he is too busy feeding. At least the adults in the family have ways to keep Eleanor distracted. But when story time arrives, Reuben won’t go to sleep. When will Eleanor get her turn? Maybe if she plays with his feet; kisses his forehead; tickles his fingers. Who is too busy sleeping now? This is such a typical family scenario and the soft watercolour illustrations with fabric collage perfectly match the warm domesticity of the tale.
Hattie helps out

Davina Bell and Jane Godwin,
illustrated by Freya Blackwood
Allen & Unwin

Just how helpful can a big sister be in looking after the new baby? Poor Mum is exhausted already – sleep-deprived, busy with housework and trying to get everything ready for Dad’s birthday. It’s time for Hattie’s nap but Mum goes to sleep! Luckily Mum told Hattie about all the things that had to be done; it’s just that she has a different idea of what some of those things mean... and the rest of the family arrives for the birthday to a house with a different Hattie-inspired charm. It’s another very familiar family dynamic with endearing illustrations showing family from many perspectives.
My sister is a superhero

Damian Young, illustrated by Peter Carnavas

First Nana was a ninja, then Pop was a pirate and now it’s big sister’s turn. The same rollicking pattern shows various sisters in random fanciful activities; none are as spectacular as our sister. It’s refreshing that Big Sister is the one that earns little brother’s admiration for her daring. The rhyming text sparkles with rippling riffs that surprise: lions sipping tea by silver lakes; dwarves digging chocolate inside cakes; and ultimately she reads me stories in the skies. Words pique the imagination while illustrations embellish with boldness, adventure and unfeigned enthusiasm. Be alert for brief cameo appearances. What a family!

Jan 7, 2017

Books reviewed 9.06.16

Bears have been transformed to gentle, cuddly, wise creatures in children’s stories. When and why, did that all begin? One thing we know cuddly, kind bears still flourish in children’s culture.
A beginner's guide to bear spotting

Michelle Robinson, illustrated by David Roberts
Bloomsbury Children’s
ISBN: 9781681190266
RRP: $22.99

To be a bear spotter you have to go for a walk in bear country. We’re told that chances are you won’t even see a bear, but our intrepid adventurer is actually one of the lucky ones; one of the doubly lucky ones, in fact. What follows is a chuckle-filled revelation of the differences between these species as the boy tries to find a way out. The problem is what works for one often doesn’t work for the other. Finally the boy has one last trick up his sleeve - backpack that is. The illustrations use mixed techniques in an upbeat comedic style that is visually playful, with lots of contradictory humour and tongue-in-cheek appeal for early readers.
Poles apart

Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Peter Jarvis
Nosy Crow
ISBN: 9780857634924
RRP: $22.99

When a polar bear meets a penguin family there must be a nonsense story behind it. The Pilchard-Browns take a wrong turn on a picnic and end up at the North Pole. Mr White, a polar bear, agrees to lead them home, passing through exotic places of cosmopolitan adventure and tourist fame along the way, including bonzer Australia. Though Mr White has always wanted to visit the South Pole, there is no place like home, and he soon returns north. But now they can visit each other – if they want. The lively text is amusingly peppered with the p sound, matched by brightly coloured and loosely drawn illustrations that fill the pages. Pure fun and
No place like home

Ronojoy Ghosh
Random House Australia
ISBN: 9780857988461
RRP: $24.99

This book takes the theme of the previous more seriously and also features a polar bear. George’s instinct tells him the city is not the place for him. He sets out to find his place. Not the trees of the jungle; nor high mountains nor dry deserts. The sea tingles with familiarity but not on Kanagawa-like waves. Then he sees a cold white land and knows he is home. The spare text gives this story poignancy; there are undercurrents of refugee displacement. Hope shines through the illustrations which are bold in shape and colour, washed by the blue of George’s mood. Understated and provocative at once.

Jan 2, 2017

Books reviewed 2.06.16

The early childhood years pass very quickly; up to 5 years? 8 years? Not a lot of time to establish those important attitudes which will give children the reading confidence they need for the rest of their lives. Even in that short time the reading needs of children change rapidly.

< Alphaprints Words
Alphaprints Numbers >

Jo Ryan, Natalie Munday and Amy Oliver
Priddy Books (PanMacmillan)
< 9781783410842
978178341083 >

Alphaprints ABC
Sarah Powell
Priddy Books (PanMacmillan)


In the early months, books need to be chunky to hold and safe – no sharp edges or corners – as well as brightly coloured, with high contrast, bold images and simple design. Alphaprints, a newly released range of concept books on traditional themes, meets these requirements ideally. Some books, for the earliest of readers, have single words as the text, to identify the pictures above them; two examples are Words and Numbers. For older children, books have more words, like ABC with a simple rhyming text that links the images. As a quirky point of tactile interest each image is built around embossed fingerprints. The pictures are completed using recognisable everyday items, like leaves for horse ears, pipe cleaners for jellyfish tentacles and carrots for rhinoceros horns. Adults need to share these books with the very young with drama and flair, modelling the kind of enthusiasm that shows reading to be fun!

Irene Dickson
Nosy Crow
ISBN: 9780857635686
RRP: $19.99

Ruby has red blocks; Benji has blue. They enjoy building alone with their blocks – for a while. I think you can guess where this story is going, and it does. Poor choices lead to bad consequences; but Ruby and Benji do see that there is another way, which leads to brighter and bigger block building. Then along comes Guy with his green blocks. Bold and generous illustrations fill up the page, in poster colours and crayon outline, with clever endpapers. Perfect book for toddlers just learning how to share.

Among a thousand fireflies

Helen Frost, photographer Rick Lieder
Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780763676421
RRP: $19.99

How do fireflies find a mate amongst all those blinking lights? Close-up photography exquisitely sets the scene in the blue-black background of a warm Summer night, a bioluminescent glow lime-lighting the stage where the magical action takes place. The text is spare, fluently lyrical with an undertone of mystery that two fireflies would find each other amongst a maze of flashing lights. This is a joyful book that transcends its factual foundations.