Hello, and a warm welcome to the Children’s Round-Up, featuring book reviews linked to the AWW database during July 2019.
August is my favourite time of year for children’s books. The Children’s Book Council of Australia brings children and books together for the CBCA Book Week (17 – 23 August), and during this time schools, libraries, booksellers, authors, illustrators and children celebrate Australian children’s literature and you will often see children’s book character parades and talented librarians creating amazing displays. #CBCA2019
The CBCA Book of the Year Awards winners and honour books for 2019 were announced on Friday, 16 August. Congratulations to the authors and illustrators! Please click this link for detailed information about the prize winners – there’s a great selection of books there which will inspire readers of all ages.
With Father’s Day just around the corner, why not gift a book from this month’s round-up, to be read with the dad, granddad, uncle, or special someone in your child’s life.
And now on to July’s reviews:
Brona @ Brona’s Books wrote a comprehensive blog post featuring beautiful indigenous picture books for children. I’ve given a summary of some of her reviews here, but I highly recommend clicking this link to read her complete article.
Black Cockatoo by Hakea Hustler and Carl Merrison. For ages 10+.
Mia is a 13-year-old girl from a remote community in the Kimberley. She is saddened by the loss of her brother as he distances himself from the family. She feels powerless to change the things she sees around her, until one day she rescues her totem animal, the dirran black cockatoo, and soon discovers her own inner strength.
Black Cockatoo is a short story that oozes themes of connection, standing up for yourself, freedom (for birds, animals and humans), family, totem, animal rights, respect and complicated family relationships.
The story includes evocative black and white paintings, mostly of the cockatoo. There is a glossary of indigenous terms used in the story at the back of the book.
This was an honour book in the 2019 CBCA Children’s Book of the Year: Younger Readers.
Sorry Day tells two stories told side by side – a modern story set on the lawns of Parliament House on the day that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised for the Stolen Generation. The older story provides a window into what it felt like to be stolen.
Dub Lefller is from the Bigambul and Mandandanji people of SW Queensland. His illustrations include a sepia style for the historic story, while the modern story is in full colour. A double page spread opens up at the end to combine the two styles. A timeline with the relevant facts and figures about the Stolen Generation and the events leading up to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology are provided at the end.
This book won the 2019 CBCA Eve Pownall Award, and was winner of the Speech Pathologist Book of the Year 2018.
Brona says that Welcome to Country is one of her favourite picture books of the moment, and that it not only feels worthy (of awards and recognition) and timely, but it’s also sensitively and beautifully executed.
The initial ‘welcome to the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri People’ is presented in both English and Wurundjeri language, with a reminder to ‘only take from this land what you can give back.’ The book celebrates Indigenous language, culture and art and is another example of a book naturally introducing the local language to a wider audience.
Aunty Joy Murphy Wandin AO is an Elder of the Wurundjeri People of Melbourne and surrounds. She is a storyteller who ‘is passionate about using story to bring people together and as a conduit for understanding Aboriginal culture.’
Lisa Kennedy is a descendant of the Trawlwoolway People on the north-east coast of Tasmania.
This book has won many awards, which are listed in Brona’s article.
Little Bird’s Day is a gorgeous picture book about a day in the life of a bird. For Brona, the main attraction of the book was Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr’s stunning illustrations. Malibirr is a Yolgu man from the Ganalbingu clan who has recently been awarded the Inaugural Kestin Indigenous Illustrator’s Award. His bio on Magabala Books also says that he is known for his paintings of Ganalbingu song lines as well as his mother’s Wägilak clan stories. Along with other members of his clan, Johnny keeps culture strong through painting, song, dance, and ceremony. Johnny lives in the remote East Arnhem Land community of Gapuwiyak, where he is Chair of the Gapuwiyak Culture and Arts Aboriginal Corporation.
The illustrations have a strong connection to nature, using a traditional colour palate and styles. The sense of movement on each page is gracefully achieved, with a pleasing balance of details and open space.
The author, Sally Morgan, belongs to the Palyku people from the eastern Pilbara region of Western Australia and is best known for her 1987 autobiography, My Place.
Aunty Joy Murphy and Andrew Kelly use traditional language to name many known animals and natural things (like rain, tree, creek, river etc) in a beautifully illustrated story about the water cycle.
Kennedy has merged scenes of modern life into and around her central images of the natural environment. Gorgeous end papers bookend the story.
A glossary at the back provides definitions for all the Indigenous words used throughout the story.
Brona says she loves the trend of embracing and sharing Indigenous languages in a natural way. ‘We should all be growing up, hearing and using Aboriginal words, not just in the names of our country towns and rivers, but in songs and everyday speech.’
Brona’s blog post (which also reviews other indigenous children’s titles), can be found at http://bronasbooks.blogspot.com/2019/07/indigenous-picture-books-for-children.html
Veronica says, “This is a book to keep and cherish that is completed by your own child. There are activities to share; colour the fish, complete dad’s story, connect the stars, play noughts and crosses, decorate a castle, draw a picture of you and your dad. Thirty two pages of fun colouring and activities for you to share and keep as a lasting reminder of your little one’s thoughts and dreams.”
Brenda says, “With activities to create and share with that special Dad in the child’s life, and “D” as that child’s favourite letter – a fish to draw, noughts and crosses to be played, magical journeys to the moon and beautiful pictures to draw, I Love My Dad Because by Aussie author Petra James has once again hit the nail on the head for children.”
Heather says, “If your kids (or you!) love history and science and all things Stone Age, then this is the book to read. It’s got danger, adventure, friendship and a diverse set of characters. It’s got mammoths, too.
The things that work so well in this book are the basic building blocks of any great read: world-building, narrative and character.”
Heather loved how Sandhu built the world for her book, with historical gems like reindeer hide and flints and boots with stuffing, and then added magic. The authenticity of the world is what really drew her into this story.
She says, “If the world-building made it for me, the dual storyline was a close second. Sandhu cleverly tells two tales of people we know must meet, but we’re left waiting to figure out how and when they’ll bump into each other. And why – even though they are so similar – the lives of Tarin and Kaija have some evident differences.”
A great one for middle readers!
Jess @ The Never Ending Bookshelf reviewed two books by Alison Lester.
Tricky’s Bad Day is a sweet story about how a bad day can be instantly brightened with some one-on-one quality time with Dad.
Alison Lester has packed so much into this short and sweet picture book. The illustrations are perfectly positioned and accompany the text to bring true family heart and soul on the pages. On every page, you can feel the characters frustrations, anger and love for one another. The text is relatively simple, consisting of roughly four-plus lines per page.
All in all, Tricky’s Bad Day is a brilliant book about bad moods, well-intended-mishaps, family and the way our moods and mindsets can be changed for the better with a hug from a loved one. It’s a brilliant teaching tool for young children on how to cope when things don’t necessarily go their way and a story full of hope, love and family drama.
Winner of the 2019 CBCA Children’s Book of the Year: Early Childhood.
Noni the Pony Rescues a Joey is a sweet and simple tale about a lost joey looking his family, and the various Australian animals Noni the pony, Dave the Dog and Coco the Cat find along the way while looking for Joe the Joeys’ family.
Alison Lester’s narrative is simple, sweet and to the point. As our gang of animals undertake their adventure, we are introduced to a variety of Australian animals in their natural habitat. Each animal is introduced with an accompanying piece of information about their personalities (shy platypus etc) or their chosen habitat (sleeping koala high in the trees). The text is presented in rhyme with no more than two sentences on each page. The font size is large and the language simple, making it perfect for children learning to read to recognise letters and words, and hopefully read along with their parent.
Lester’s illustrations are iconic. Featuring thick bold outlines, her realistic cartoon style shapes the character of the book.
Another of Alison Lester’s books, Kissed by the Moon was reviewed by Jonathan Shaw. For ages 0-4.
A very beautiful little book featuring a baby and a tranquil night in the natural world, with a baby – ‘my baby’ – in the middle of it. Pragmatically speaking, I guess it’s a bedtime read, but Alison Lester knows how to put words together, and how to make images, that reach in and touch your heart.
Jonathan Shaw also reviewed Ten Little Fingers And Ten Little Toes by Men Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. For ages 0 – 3.
Jonathan believes this would have been a slightly preachy book asserting our common humanity if it wasn’t so very well done. Mem Fox’s rhyming text feels effortlessly simple (and anyone who’s tried to do that sort of thing knows that the effortlessness is the reader’s, not the writer’s). It essentially lists a lot of babies and says they all have ten little fingers and ten little toes. The illustrations pick up the cultural diversity of the babies / toddlers, and the fingers and toes are gorgeous.
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 17 September 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.