Hello, and a warm welcome to the Children’s Round-Up for April 2019.
Last month’s round-up wasn’t published as I was away. A lot has happened since February’s issue!
It’s certainly made a tricky task of selecting just a few titles from the twenty-five excellent reviews in front of me, but I’ve given it my best go.
Amanda @ Mrs B’s Book Reviews was this month’s star reviewer. Not only is she a prolific reviewer of Young Adult and Adult novels, Amanda also contributed eight children’s reviews to this round. Here are some highlights:
Amanda says this is a beautiful ode to one of Australia’s most loved creatures, immortalised in the form of a cute picture book; a new story chronicling a special event through the eyes of a wombat! She guarantees a few belly laughs and many smiles when you read this truly delightful children’s book.
Happy Birthday Wombat details a day in the life of a cuddly wombat, Mothball, as she celebrates a very special occasion – her birthday. For young children, nothing tops their birthday. So the decision to feature a wombat’s birthday will be sure to completely appeal to young children, the target audience of this picture book. There are comical moments, surprising events and many relatable experiences. All in all, it is hard not to resist the charms of the dear wombat at the centre of this new story, she is utterly adorable!
Tilly Maguire and the Royal Wedding Mess by Emma Grey. For ages 12+.
Amanda believes this book has a gorgeous cover, and title to match! Tilly Maguire and the Royal Wedding Mess is a book for the teen market. It is light and fluffy in the right places, and revolves around the colourful life of eighteen year old intern, Tilly Maguire.
Tilly Maguire is a young Australian girl who longs to be a writer. When Tilly is given a lucrative six week internship based at a prestigious PR firm in London, her world changes.
We watch on as Tilly navigates her new world of celebrity crushes, drama, publicity, gossip, rumour and innuendo. It is a tough gig, especially being so far from home, but Tilly receives support from the unlikeliest of sources. Tilly will go where she can never have gone before in her professional and personal life, but it will bring her personal satisfaction.
Tilly Maguire and the Royal Wedding Mess is a book that has broad appeal. It contains plenty of gushing fairytale-like moments, but at the same time, provides a good sketch of life as a teenage girl in today’s society. There is a real ‘here and now’ feel to Tilly Maguire. These points include self doubt, confidence, anxiety and resiliency. Grey seems to have it covered, so her book is both relevant and relatable.
The Book That Never Ends by Beck & Matt Stanton. A ‘games & activities’ book for ages 4+.
The fifth instalment of the Books That Drive Kids CRAZY series, this is a challenging, interactive and fun tale that will be sure to grab the attention of young readers.
It is a book about navigating your way through a hilarious, mind boggling and puzzling tale, in the hope of reaching the illusive end. Along the way there are different paths and choices to be made. The end is in sight, or is it?
Amanda really liked the concept of this book; it was original, fresh and stimulating. There is a sense of ownership handed over to the audience as they control the pathway of the book. If you are lucky enough to read to the end, a sense of accomplishment also washes over the reader.
If you are looking for an active and quirky book that promotes high engagement within a text, look no further than The Book That Never Ends. This is an amusing and playful book that Amanda recommends to all families.
Ashleigh Meikle @ The Book Muse is another prolific reviewer, and strong supporter of the Australian Women Writers Challenge. It was hard to choose from the five reviews she provided this month!
Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show by Delphine Davis, illustrated by Adele K Thomas. For ages 6+.
Ashleigh believes that the start of a new series – for any age group – is always an exciting thing as a book reviewer, and getting to review the very first book is something she loves doing, especially when it captures the imagination and proves itself to be magical and exciting.
This series is about four best friends who are mermaids. Sophia Seashell takes a starring role in the first book as she convinces her friends to participate with her in the local talent show during their school holidays. When Sophia decides it will be a mess to showcase all their talents, not just singing, they might never make it to the show at all. Can Sophia and her companion seahorse, Smedley, find a way to make it work for everyone, so they have a chance at the prize?
Ashleigh thought this was a fun read, exploring friendships; the ups and downs of having friends, ultimately showing that having fun is more important than winning. And that sometimes, doing things you’re unsure about can be as much fun as doing the things you are familiar with.
The new school term isn’t off to the best start. Zelda has a broken arm, her magic isn’t working as well as she’d like, and her cat, Barnaby, is being snarkier than ever. He seems to take great pleasure in watching her struggle with magic and everyday things, unlike Melvin, Briony’s cat, who is always kind and helpful. At school, Zelda has to contend with Principal Melody Martin, and her niece, Phoebe. Melody and Phoebe are also witches, and Zelda needs to follow her own rules to ensure the rest of the class doesn’t find out.
The second book in the Zelda Stitch series follows the same diary style format as the first one – a style that shows the world through Zelda’s eyes, and the story is told just as effectively and as enjoyably as if it were a straight narrative style.
Ashleigh really enjoys these books. She says they are a quick read, but also filled with fun and whimsy. Zelda is a very entertaining character, and also very caring. She wants what is best for her class, especially Phoebe, and does whatever she can to follow her own rules and stay out of trouble. The plot follows this struggle very well, and captures the challenges of peer pressure and school – which even if you’re not a witch, can be very tough things to deal with. Showing how children cope with these issues in fiction, and through the lens of a young witchling shows children that it’s okay to be scared, in an entertaining and accessible way using humour and sensitivity.
Ashleigh also reviewed three books in the Deltora Quest by Emily Rodda, which were highlighted in April’s Speculative Fiction Round-Up (thank you Claire Holderness – you always provide a great Round-Up!). Click here to read more.
Louise @ A Strong Belief In Wicker reviewed George and the Great Bum Stampede by Cal Wilson, illustrated by Sarah Davis. For ages 7+.
Louise says she’s been reading and listening to quite a lot of fairly heavy duty nonfiction lately – all great, interesting, and important books, but when she saw Cal Wilson’s first children’s book, she knew it was for her, having enjoyed seeing Cal on the tele, and as part of the Sydney Comedy Festival Roadshow.
George and the Great Bum Stampede is the first in a series about the Pepperton family. The Peppertons are zany and fun. Mum is Professor Pippa Pepperton, a crazy scientist type who is always making wacky inventions (she has already shrunk George’s brother Poco to the size of a lemon). His sisters are Pumpernickel, Paprika and Pilates. Pepperton Perfection.
The book tells the tale of The Worst Week Ever. This involves ghastly new neighbours – the rich and super snobby Finleys – including their son Princely Farnsley Finley, and an incident with one of Professor Pipperton’s best inventions, The Pepperton Replicator.
The whole book is chock full of bums, and when there are this many bums then the fart jokes can’t be too far behind! Louise especially loves the notion of the startle fart, or fartle, and every 8 year old in existence will too. She laughed out loud and chortled more than is seemly for the middle-aged.
There are great illustrations by Sarah Davis that really add to the humour. The layout is fabulous with interesting fonts and use of space.
This is a beautiful story about the power of stories and the impact they have on those who listen. Forsyth tells the story of her family and the stories passed down as they lived through all the important moments in Australia’s history, not to mention the strength of the women who experienced them. It is a beautifully simple tale about telling your own story, and the power your own story has.
Brennan’s stunning illustrations accompany Forsyth’s words with colour and vibrancy. The full-page, complex scenes are beautiful and filled with rich colours, each page telling its own visual story.
There are not many words or rhyme, but there is a repetition and a pattern that becomes more powerful the further the story progresses. It makes you realise that in a few generations the world can change, but it is also brought to life through those who remember it.
Forsyth’s words are simple but impactful, and evoke a lot of meaning.
Jess @ The Never Ending Bookshelf reviewed two easter picture books by Nette Hilton, illustrated by Bruce Whatley. The Smallest Bilby and the Easter Games (2008), and The Smallest Bilby and the Easter Tale (2012). For ages 3+.
What Jess loves about both books is how uniquely Australian they are. Not only do they feature Australian animals heavily throughout, but the landscape and overall feeling of each book is clearly recognisable as simply Australian. By featuring and highlighting animals such as the Bilby, Hilton and Whatley are doing their bit in educating young Australians about our own flora and fauna, while opening discussion with their parents about Bilbies, and their endangered species position. They are also super cute and just a delightful twist on the overdone, traditional Easter picture book.
Jonathan Shaw is also a regular contributor to the AWW Challenge, with a strong focus on books he reads to his granddaughter, Ruby. Whilst his reviews are usually shorter than others, they are always entertaining and I love that they often include Australian classics. Jonathan has reviewed four books in this round, and he writes:
Edwina the Emu by Sheena Knowles, illustrated by Rod Clements. For ages 0 – 5.
This is the sequel to Edwin the Emu, which I remember from the distant past. It was read to us in the marvellous Kidspace in the Australian Museum. (An actual emu egg was accidentally smashed by one of the young scientists soon after the reading.) I think it went right over Ruby’s head, being a story of how Edwina, having laid ten eggs, goes out to get a job, while Edwin stays home to look after them. No one will hire Edwina because, well, she’s an emu. It’s total nonsense, and Rod Clements’ illustrations are supremely silly.
I Went Walking by Sue Williams, illustrated by Julie Vivas. For ages 0 – 3.
This lovely little book has been read to us twice at Rhyme Time at Leichhardt Library. Who wouldn’t love Julie Vivas’s images? ‘I went walking and what did I see? I saw a [xx] looking at me.’ Parents can join in the recitative, as the librarian takes us through a series of charming animals. Until the end, where all the animals and the child are frolicking together. There’s an art to writing text for picture books, and Sue Williams makes it look effortless.
Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer. For ages 1 – 4.
This was another Rhyme Time read. It’s exactly what it says in the lid, showing lots of combinations of adults and small children dong things that families do together. It was read to us without any heavy-handed pointing out that the families included people of different skin colours, that on some spreads were two adults of the same gender, and so on. That is to say, it’s a book that might make some culture warriors cranky, but it’s a sweet mirror held up to our times.
Possum Magic by Mem Fox, illustrated by Julie Vivas. For ages 0 – 5.
Possum Magic is one of the children’s books I have been most looking forward to revisiting. It was published the year Ruby’s father was born and we enjoyed it together many times over.
Julie Vivas’s images – the tiny possum Hush and elderly grandmother, the miscellaneous Australian native birds and animals who follow their adventures, and the round-bottomed children whose discarded Vegemite sandwiches are crucial to the plot – are as freshly witty and whimsical as ever. And if my experience is anything to go by they still play well with the target audience of 2019.
Reading it this time, it struck me that in the hands of a lesser illustrator it would have become a travelogue draped over an implausible narrative, with panoramas of the cities visited, close-ups of the ‘iconic’ white-Australian foods, and so on. Julie Vivas has lifted it to a whole other level, made the magic alive and central, and ensured the book’s longevity.
Brenda says this is a perfect little hard cover book for a toddler/child to share and interact with his or her Mum. Set for ages 3-7, the younger children would need to work with an adult on each page (reading the instructions) while the older children could work with only a small amount of supervision. The pages are colourful, and would be made more so by the child’s drawings. A delightful addition to a child’s education by Aussie authors Petra James and Alissa Dinallo.
That was certainly a bumper of a Round-Up! Thank you for continuing to link your reviews to the AWW database (please click on this link if you haven’t already signed up to our 2019 challenge.)
I look forward to bringing you the next children’s round-up on 18 June 2019. Until then – 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.