Welcome to the Children’s Round-Up for December, 2018.
I’ve throughly enjoying curating the children’s reviews this year, and look forward to continuing on in this role in 2019.
It’s been a bumper month for children’s reviews, with thirteen books linked to the AWW blog. Thank you for your continued support of Australian Women Writers throughout the year – the time taken to review books and linking them to this blog is appreciated.
I hope you enjoy an abundance of reading over the summer break, and wish you a happy and safe holiday season. And now, onto the reviews… (Please click on the highlighted links for further information.)
Archibald the Naughtiest Elf in the World Visits Santa by Skye Davidson, and illustrated by Agnes Rokiczky, was reviewed by Ashleigh Meikle @ The Book Muse.
Living in Bland Land is very boring for Archibald, a young elf who always seems to be getting into trouble, even though his cheeky deeds are always done with the best intentions. This is the second book in the series, and Ashleigh says it is just as charming as the first. It makes for excellent Christmas Eve reading alongside classics such as The Night Before Christmas. Ashleigh has fallen in love with Archibald and his adventures, and says this Christmas one is full of heart, and very touching – Archibald uses his cheekiness for good this time – and through these stories, he shows children how they can take care of each other and the world around them in a fun, educational way – all with a touch of magic from an elf!
Six-year-old Clementine Rose lives with her mother, step-father, step-bother, aunt and grandparents. It’s school holidays, and Clementine has all kinds of plans for lots of fun. But her family home, Penberthy Hall, has been chosen to host the Great Village Bake Off – and all Clementine’s activities are put off. Disheartened to find out she is too young to participate in the bake-off, Clementine convinces those in charge to run a mini junior bake-off, and sets about finding the perfect cake. But Clementine and her brother stumble across nefarious activities and goings on after they notice all the other contestants’ bakes are always going wrong – but who, or what, is behind it and why? It is up to Clementine and Will to find out – and to stop cheating in the junior bake-off as well!
Clementine Rose is a series aimed at younger readers who are just starting to read alone, and gain confidence in their reading abilities. This is book fourteen in the series, and Ashleigh found it utterly charming (my own daughter was a huge fan of the series too).
Clementine Rose is the kind of character that shows children of all ages and genders that they can do whatever they want if they put their mind to it – she doesn’t let anything stop her, but she still knows to ask for help when she needs it. That’s what makes her great – she knows what she can do on her own, and knows what her limits are, and this shows kids that they can be just like her.
Ashleigh Meikle @ The Book Muse also reviewed the classic, Mary Poppins by P. L.Travers, illustrated by Lauren Childs. For ages 6 – 12
In 1934, Australian author, P.L. Travers (a pen name for Helen Goff) wrote and published Mary Poppins, the first in a series of books about a magical nanny who looked after the Banks children, Jane, Michael, and their twin brother and sister, Barbara and John (Barbara and John do not appear in the 1964 Disney movie).
When Katie Nanna up and leaves the Banks family at the beginning of the book, Mary Poppins appears out of nowhere to take charge, flying in on the East Wind on her parrot-handled umbrella with her magical carpet bag. Throughout, she goes on adventures with Bert, the Match Man, and takes her charges, Jane and Michael on outings, and shares the secrets of talking to animals with the twins. She has promised to stay until the wind changes to the west – at which point, her work will be done and she will have to depart the Banks family.
This latest edition (illustrated by Lauren Childs) has come out in anticipation of the upcoming movie, Mary Poppins Returns, which sees Mary Poppins (played by Emily Blunt) return to Cherry Tree Lane to a new generation of Banks children. The story is simple, but at the same time, filled with a sense of reality, where a family must learn to be a family again, and this is done through the magic of Mary Poppins – though in the book, she is much less saccharine than in the Disney version.
It is a delightful edition, and the illustrations are whimsical and fun, but still capturing the essence of the original story that P.L. Travers intended for her characters. It is an Australian classic that has endured for over eighty years, and will hopefully, continue to charm readers for years to come, both child and adult.
Deborah Wheeler has self-published a loving tribute to her grandfather in the children’s picture book My Pop was a Kangaroo ANZAC (2018). In 1915, her grandfather, William (‘Bill’) James Wheeler, set off from Wagga Wagga on the Kangaroo March, almost 600 kms to Sydney to prepare to fight overseas. They set sail in April 1916 for France, via England. There were other such recruitment marches around the country, including the Kookaburras (from Tooraweenah to Bathurst), the Waratahs (Nowra to Sydney) and The Men From Snowy River (Delegate to Goulburn).
This book would be an ideal resource for primary school students studying the ANZACs and Australia’s World War One history. It is brimming with well-researched information and contains many interesting anecdotal facts and stories about the Kangaroos, and about what life was like for people of Bill’s generation, and facts and statistics about the reality of their situation. This is also a personal story about one man and his family, and about the sacrifice he undertook by serving our country. It includes photographs, a poem, copies of correspondence, lists of men who served, and a useful glossary of terms (great for younger readers). The book features illustrations by the author and by Lauren Hakala.
Jess says this is an adorably cute and innocent picture book celebrating life and everything that is in it.
When Mabel and Robert set out one day in the park with a brown paper bag, they are hoping to find some hidden treasures for their collections. With a heaving bag of sticks, stones, leaves, flowers and the rest of their precious finds, the pair find themselves in a sun shower. Despite an innocent attempt to collect the rain as well, the pair refuse to be disappointed and choose instead to collect memories, and the sensory feelings of the world around them.
Collecting Sunshine truly is a breath of fresh air and just generally a happy picture book. Tasmin Ainslie’s illustrations are bright, bubbly and simply divine in their childhood innocence and the memories they alone will invoke in readers of all ages. Rachel Flynn’s text is simple and sweet, with no more than two or three lines on any given page; but through the combination of Flynn and Ainslie’s work, a seamless and beautiful story of a happy childhood and the simple wonders of everything that is around us every day, is brought to life.
From the creators of the early 2000’s series Netball of Nothing, comes a new netball series for young readers, The Netball Gems. This is a new and revolutionary series aimed at younger readers who are just learning to play and live and breath netball. Consisting of eight books in total (all of which are now out), The Netball Gems series focuses around the under 13s Marrang team, with each player on the team getting their own book. In Hooked On Netball, the first book in the series, the focus is on Maddy Browne, a young player who aspires to play for Australia’s national netball team, the Diamonds, one day.
Themes of friendship, teamwork, and the reminder that sometimes playing isn’t everything – you need a balance between that and family – are universal, and will resonate with readers and players of all ages.
As well as giving a few neat tricks and technique reminders expertly worked within the story itself, Hellard and Gibbs have created character bio’s, game tips and even a basic breakdown of the game and its positions at the back of the book, which is a unique and welcome surprise. There is even a surprise cameo from Australian Diamond’s player Madi Robinson.
Jess says this is an adorable picture book about favourite belongings, bad decisions, lost items and learning to share.
Go Go is a fiercely independent little girl who walks to the beat of her own drum. With three older brothers, and all their hand-me-down clothes, she has learnt to embrace her own style and second hand clothing. When given the most amazing pair of silver shoes she has ever laid eyes on, she never wants to take them off – even when venturing on epic adventures with her brothers and against her mother’s advice.
Jess loved the strength of character and resilience Go Go displayed. Bullied at school for her unusual clothing style, and her decision to wear different (non-matching) shoes, she shows real value and stands out as a shining example of the juxtaposition between the values we place on everyday items.
The text and narrative is simple and easy to understand, while the illustrations are engaging, making this an ideal picture book for young children, and those young at heart.
Amanda @ Mrs B’s Book Reviews reviewed Bruno the Boisterous Blue Dog from the Bush by Robyn Osborne, and Illustrated by John Phillips. For ages 4 – 8.
Amanda says this is an exuberant tale of mateship, which is centred around the heart-warming friendship between Bob and his loveable rogue of a dog, Bruno. This is a dinky-di story that works hard to deliver a tribute to Australia and our way of life.
These two are inseparable and when we first meet them, life in the heart of the bush is all smooth sailing. But things change when Bob hits the jackpot and decides to move to the city. In the city, the friends get into a few binds, and they learn that their hearts well and truly belong to the bush.
The lively cartoon-like illustrations of John Phillips work perfectly, delivering an eye-catching treat for readers. The splash of colour helps to illuminate the animated characters of the book.
With a strong focus on traditional slang words, along with a few Aussie bush euphemisms, Bruno the Boisterous Blue Dog from the Bush would make the perfect gift to send overseas.
Brona says this is a fabulous time-slip story set in country Victoria.
Nic has been left by her dad at her Grandad’s old homestead property while he goes off with his band to play the cruise ship circuit. With no wi-fi, no friends and loads of attitude, Nic starts exploring the big old home one room at a time. Eventually she discovers a locked room with no key in sight.
A fortuitous toe-stub whilst swimming in the dam, and an old letter in a copy of Pride and Prejudice, changes everything. Nic discovers dark secrets about her family history that have carry-over effects onto today’s local history, and her own family story.
Wilkinson weaves in indigenous issues, women’s rights and early settler history into this engaging yet thought-provoking time travel story.
Additional children’s book reviews featured in recent AWW Round-Ups include:
Until next year, happy reading!
In awe of words from an early age, reading, writing and banter have become an obsession of mine. As a mother of two (who are growing up faster than I’d like), I am passionate about instilling a long-lasting love of reading in children. I am excited about joining the AWW team and sharing my love of children’s literature with you.