Category Archives: Picture Book Month

Audrey Hepburn: The Illustrated World of a Fashion Icon – Megan Hess

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Hardie Grant Books

October 2022

ISBN: 9781743798362

RRP: $39.99

I guess in the traditional sense, this is not a picture book but given it’s my blog and I can do what I like *grin* – I’m calling it as my last post for Picture Book Month because it IS a picture book and it is just utterly enchanting. I go as far as to say, it is an exquisite jewel of a book and, hands down, the most beautiful book I’ve held this year.

I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting when I requested this but simply did so because it’s Audrey – who wouldn’t? But when it arrived I was simply blown away.

Yes, it gives some pertinent details about the life and career of one of the greatest icons of the 20th century – her childhood, the war years, her education, her dancing dreams, her career and, more importantly, her legacy but it is not vast chunks of text enlivened with perhaps photographs or other visual ephemera.

This is a work of art in itself and the subject would, I feel, greatly approve of it. The incredible artwork which is offset by the delightful short bursts of information is one of the loveliest concepts I’ve seen in a book about a person. Most people know I give away the great majority of my review books – particularly to school libraries who might struggle at times with budgeting – but the very rare one I might keep and truly, this is so beautiful, it will likely be one of those treasures. With it’s beautiful artwork, the sumptuous binding, the gilt-edged pages!! – from every angle this is just a pleasure to behold.

For any school library it is a gorgeous edition to your bio collection but can I suggest, that with Xmas approaching at rapid speed, if you have a young person interested in fashion or movie icons, this would make a superlative gift – for anyone from as young as ten or so.

I’m in love with it – and CANNOT wait to see the Grace Kelly one coming out next year!!

Ella and the Useless Day – Meg McKinlay/Karen Blair

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Walker Books

August 2022

ISBN13:9781760653095

Australia RRP:$25.99

New Zealand RRP:$28.99

Imprint:Walker Books Australia

Even though many of us have been banging on about Reduce/Reuse/Recycle and being more sustainable for years, dare I say since the arrival of the dread pandemic a slower, more thoughtful approach to being waste-free has become more evident. Perhaps it was a side-effect of the having to do without many things for sustained periods or maybe because our customary lifestyles seemed so threatened, whatever the reason I feel many people have turned again to slow living, cottage lifestyle – call it what you will.

Children will happily enumerate countless ways to save the environment but it’s not always so many ways to re-purpose they can imagine. This fun book with its very practical meaning will be a super adjunct to any classroom, or home, discussions around this topic.

Ella and her Dad realise they have just too much stuff and lots of it is USELESS so together they have a big clear-out and all the jumble goes into the trailer, destined for the tip. Along the way however, friends and neighbours spot various pieces of the ‘junk’ that is just the thing they have been looking for. By the time the pair get to the tip, they have nothing USELESS left at all.

There is much to love about this book. For a start, I love that it’s Ella and her father doing the clearing out – we don’t see a mother, perhaps there isn’t one but I do like that it suggests that fathers are equally as good at organising and de-cluttering. I love the colour palette used by illustrator, Karen Blair, the soft pastels evoke a real sense of homely-ness and comfort, peace and emotional warmth. Along with that the neighbourhood houses are so cottage-y and the entire setting like a traditional village, that immediately one feels the sense of connectedness and community. Everyone in the neighbourhood puts their piece of junk to creative and imaginative use from giant decorative flowers to a terrarium, and a scarecrow to fairy garden. It’s just a lovely, feel-good way to spread the word about re-purposing, upcycling and reducing landfill.

If your school, like so many, has a program in place to encourage sustainable living this is a must-have and even without that it is definitely a valuable addition to your classroom curriculum program or home school.

Highly recommended for children from Prep upwards.

If you live in Brisbane – check out Reverse Garbage where you can not only source great materials for upcycling but book presenters for workshops. I feel sure that other localities will have similar co-ops.

Dancing with Memories – Sally Yule with Professor Ralph Martins & Maggie Beer. Illustrated by Cheryl Orsini.

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Harper Collins

July 2022

Imprint: ABC Books AU

  • ISBN: 9780733342578
  • ISBN 10: 0733342574

RRP: $24.99

The length of time I’ve been sitting on this is certainly no reflection of its quality or value so please don’t think it is. Given my rather tumultuous year, there came a point where I just thought – save all these PBs for November so now you are getting the benefit of them all in one 30 day extravaganza *grin*.

I’d venture to say that there would be very few families who have not been touched by dementia or Alzheimer’s in some way. I know that often when I talk to kiddos, younger or older, there are numerous anecdotes regarding family members who are affected and we talk about how difficult and sad it can be.

My own beautiful Mum slipped further and further away from us for nearly ten years before we lost her altogether and it was heartbreaking. We talked to our little people about what was happening with Nanny but a sensitively written book such as this is a godsend to families faced with the same situation.

Lucy has dementia and knows it. She knows she forgets things and that she remembers things but there is no predicting which. Fortunately she has family and friends looking out for her to help her and when she remembers her granddaughter’s wedding but forgets that her daughter is picking her up, a solo bus trips turns into a worrying and anxious time. With good fortune, all ends well but it is certainly a timely reminder to those of us in this situation to always be mindful of what can happen.

This is Sally Yule’s first foray into writing and is based on her long years of experience working with Alzheimer’s patients and families, as well as her own parents. This first-hand experience was her impetus to share with families and children to help them understand more about living with dementia. The additional material from Professor Ralph Martins [Foundation Chair in Ageing and Alzheimer’s Disease at Edith Cowan University WA, and Professor of Neurobiology at Macquarie University NSW.] and Maggie Beer, [much-loved cook, author and former Senior Australian of the Year] is a wonderful bonus. I know, I’m going to try out some of Maggie’s recipes for sure.

Highly recommended for your readers from Prep upwards and I would strongly suggest sharing the information on this one with your community via newsletter or socials as well as ensuring your guidance officer/counsellor has a copy to hand. Extensive teaching materials available as attached.

Thank You, Teacher from The Very Hungry Caterpillar

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  • Penguin Australia
  • August 2022
  • ISBN: 9780241585566
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $12.99

They tell me Xmas is rapidly drawing closer – but what is even closer than that is the end of the school year. Most of us are now mid-term so that dreaded moment of finding a gift for your child’s teacher is nigh, and while, of course we don’t mind endless scented candles, bath bombs, potted succulents and so on, what would be really appreciated is a generous voucher to the nearest bottle shop -ok ok, so maybe not everyone wants that.

If you do have a small person and want to show your grateful thanks to their teacher, this is just the sweetest gift with Eric Carle’s inimitable artwork and some simple text that will resonate. Not having a small person any longer – The Kid is gearing up for her final year of school, and as her teacher is me, it would be quite redundant really – this is a gift for a special friend who just also happens to be one of the most superlative teachers I’ve ever had the privilege to know.

And really – for the small price of $12.99 – you could afford to bung it in with a bottle of something to enjoy as well.

Don’t miss out on getting this – and though I say it makes a lovely gift, it certainly won’t hurt to add it to your library or classroom collection as well. I think the kiddos will love reading it and telling their own teacher what it is they love about her or him.

Frankie Stein – Kylie Covark/Shane McG

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Ford St Publishing

September 2022

ISBN: 9781922696120

RRP: $16.95

It has been fantastic in recent years to see the growth in girls becoming more interested in science disciplines. I know I have loved running my Geek Girls groups and hosting events from Tech Girls and the like. And it is equally pleasing to see more and more schools including state primary schools having dedicated STEM specialist lessons. While we may not (many of us) have a whole heap of time in classroom programs to divert to spontaneous topics of interest, this is a book that will easily springboard into these areas.

I road-tested this one this week with a fairly rambunctious Year 2 class I was with (they were out of sorts after a couple of disruptive days and one not-so-effective relief teacher the day before me) but they were all, even to the ‘liveliest’ really engaged with this and it was a very effective read-aloud to settle them after a break. We didn’t have much time to spare in the program the teacher had provided but I stole some to have them ‘monster-fy’ one of their own toys and draw the result. FrankenToys (example) is a really fun activity I have run in library lunchtimes and both littles and bigs enjoy it and all you need is some old toys and some constructions material like hot glue guns.

Frankie is a truly dedicated young scientist, always researching, hypothesising and testing, with her much-loved partner, Bear, always on watch from the shelf. But Frankie really wishes that she and Bear could really talk to each other and that he could become more than just a silent partner. After much experimentation, she comes up with a formula that she’s sure will work – and it does! – only not quite in the way she anticipated. Suddenly, instead of cute, fuzzy Bear she has a great, green, angry monster Bear, intent on eating everything and wrecking a lot as he goes along. Time to come up with another potion – and fast!! It’s certainly a nice twist on friendship and also, arguably, being satisfied with our friends, just as they are. It is also an apt lesson in perseverance and resilience – two qualities high on every school’s values list.

With its rhythmic rhymes and the vibrant illustrations, this will be a definite hit from Prep upwards to around Year 3.

Why not make a point of sharing it with your STEM teacher/coordinator as well as your kiddos?

Highly recommended for 4 years upwards (and don’t forget to stock up on the glue guns, screwdrivers and pliers!)

Busy Betty – Reese Witherspoon. Illustrated by Xindi Yan

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Penguin Australia

October 2022

Imprint: Puffin

ISBN: 9781761047480

RRP: $19.99

Oh, I’m a huge fan of Reese!.. and I can easily imagine her as a little girl just like Busy Betty. This is pure good fun and kids will love the joyousness of it as much as they relate to the getting into scrapes – albeit, with the best of intentions.

Betty has been busy ever since babyhood and her exuberance and spontaneity can often lead her astray. When she realises her much-loved dog, Frank, is smelly and in need of a bath, she just has to get it done before her bestie Mae arrives for their playdate. But the bath plans are de-railed by one problem after another until both Betty and Frank are in a shocking mess. Luckily best friend Mae, is a little more practical and can see the bigger picture and pretty soon the two girls have turned the disaster into a complete success story.

It’s a delightful exploration of enthusiasm, teamwork and accomplishment to which small children will immediately make connections to their own adventures, mishaps and successes.

I think I speak for a lot of people who are a bit sceptical of the plethora of ‘celebrities’ turned authors but Reese’ association with literature, promoting reading and story-telling have established her credentials for now branching into her own writing. The colourful cartoon style illustrations pick up beautifully on the joyful tone throughout the book and kiddos will enjoy discovering the details in these.

Highly recommended for your youngsters from around Prep upwards.

The Rabbit’s Magician: Shae Millward/Andy Fackrell

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Ford St Publishing

August 2022

ISBN: 9781922696083

RRP: $16.99

From firsthand experience, I can assure you that having a sensitively written, beautifully crafted book to help a child deal with loss is a very valuable commodity. I used several when we lost The Kid’s mum but this one is a very welcome addition to that specific genre.

I am not at all scientfically minded so if you are like me and need a reminder of The Law of Conservation of Energy, by which this is inspired, you can check it out here. Accordingly, sharing this book will not only help your young readers come to terms with the concept of grief and loss but will enable some fascinating experiments into this scientific principle.

The animals are concerned for Ziggy, who is sadly looking up at the moon. Eventually the rabbit explains that his magician, Alby, The Amazing Albertino, has gone missing after (as Ziggy thought) working long and hard on a new trick. Finally, it is wise Owl who shows Ziggy how Alby has performed his greatest disappearing trick ever and how, despite his disappearance, Ziggy can still keep him close.

It is a beautifully and poignantly written and illustrated story of loss, sorrow and comfort and even your smallest of kiddos will grasp the intent of its magic.

Highly recommended for your little peeps from around Kinder upwards to around Year 3 or 4.

11 Words for Love – Randa Abdel-Fattah/Maxine Beneba Clarke

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Hachette

September 2022

Imprint: Lothian Children’s Books

ISBN: 9780734421203 

RRP: $24.99

In the Arabic language, there are over 50 words describing the degrees of love. That’s 50 stories, 50 life-worlds. This lyrical and heartwarming book takes you on a journey through 11 of these Arabic expressions for love

While this deceptively simple text focuses on the journey of an Arabic family seeking refuge, it is most definitely a book for all children, regardless of their family history or culture. Each Arabic expression (in Arabic symbols/script as well as words) is accompanied by a lyrical one-sentence definition and both are pinned against the backdrop of glorious double spreads full of life and indeed, love. Maxine’s illustrations are gloriously rendered in watercolour pencil and collage, and vibrantly reflect the liveliness of the child who is offering up the words of love.

The child’s family find friends in their new home, along with much joy with nature, pets, neighbours and school, although they do miss their old home and remember it with love as well.

In a world increasingly beset with ugly hate and conflict, we know we must continually reinforce empathy and compassion in our youngsters and, in my opinion, the most effective strategy in our toolbox is through quality literature which is thoughtful and sensitive. Sharing this book will provide a perfect entrée into rich discussions on refugees, migrants, different cultures and languages, kindnes, and ways to make people welcome.

It is a book full of hope as well as love and I would love to share this with children and have them create their own artworks with their depictions of love in its many forms.

Highly recommended for little people from Kinder upwards.

The Big Book of Exhibits – Joan-Marie Hargreaves & Marita Bullock. Illustrated by Liz Rowland.

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Hachette

Septemember 2022

Imprint: Lothian Children’s Books

ISBN: 9780734419996

RRP: $24.99

We absolutely know that kiddos love information books and, certainly in my experience, the quirkier the better really. This marvellous book is described as a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ and indeed it does appear to be exactly that in a written and illustrated form. For example: The Disgusting Food Museum (Sweden), Questionable Medical Devices (Minnesota, USA), Madame Tussaud’s, Banksy art, the Poo Machine (our very own MONA in Tasmania) all is grist for the mill in this panopoly. Of course, there are more pedestrian examples such as the Louvre or the Galileo Museum but it is bound to be the more bizarre by which children will be fascinated.

Museums and private collections, the serious, the playful, the wacky and the wonderful – over 50 exhibitions from around the world and drawn from various time periods. The objects span a wide range of topics which are more than relevant to curriculum including history, natural science, STEAM, medicine, inventions and cultures and the extensive teaching notes will be a huge asset to any teacher, whether clasroom, home or library.

I know that it will find an audience in any setting and with Christmas rapidly approaching, it would make a splendid gift for an inquisitive youngster in your circle. I intend to use it in my relief teaching days as dipping in and out will be perfect for those odd moments in a program to segue from one activity to another.

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.

Gaia: Goddess of Earth – Imogene Greenberg. Illustrated by Isabel Greenberg.

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Bloomsbury Publishing

July 2022

ISBN9781526625700
ImprintBloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP: $29.99

The Greenberg sisters have taken the ancient myth of Gaia and updated it with a strong environmental message for young readers in this striking graphic novel/picture book. Following the success of their earlier collaboration, the pair continue with their theme of bringing the Greek goddesses to life, this time with clear parallels to modern circumstances.

Gaia, is revered as the creator of Earth and the universe and all of the natural world held within both: She raised trees from their roots to the sky, sent waterfalls tumbling over cliffs and created the tides that sloshed on the shore. She gifted her creation to animals and mortals, and watched as they made it their home.

But as time went on Gaia was unable to control the power wielded by the warring gods who used their wiles to corrupt and orchestrate the events of mortals such as Achilles and Hercules. Helplessly, Gaia had to watch much of her beautiful creation destroyed by thoughtless and greedy mortals, just as happens today. Despite this, she never gave up trying to save her world and the clear message here is that we too must never give up fighting for the preservation of our planet.

A terrific and very different book to include with any unit of work that is environmentally focused and one that will arouse much interest with readers from around middle to upper primary.

Read an interview with the sisters at Edelweiss