'The Dream of the Thylacine', Margaret Wild & illustrated by Ron Brooks (2011), Allen & Unwin
Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks are a master team that has produced a number of wonderful picture books. It was a deserving Honour Book in the 2012 CBC awards for best picture book
'Let the Celebrations Begin!', by Margaret Wild & illustrated by Julie Vivas (1991), Omnibus
'When the Wind Blows' by Raymond Briggs (1983), Penguin
Raymond Briggs uses a comic or graphic novel format to powerful effect in this challenging book. Like many of the books Briggs writes, it is just as relevant (sometimes 'more' relevant) for adults as for children. It tells of the impact of an atomic blast on an elderly British couple who approach the impending disaster as if they were simply trying to survive the Blitz of WWII.
One afternoon they hear a message on the radio about an "outbreak of hostilities" in three day's time. Jim begins the construction of a fallout shelter just like they did during WWII. Their pointless preparations are almost comical as the horror of a nuclear holocaust descends on them as they cheerfully and stoically await what is inevitable death. This is a story with political and ideological messages that many won't young children to address, but which older children will find challenging.
The book was later made into an animated film.
'Where the Forest Meets the Sea' by Jeannie Baker (1987), Julia MacRae
This wonderful book is a narrative account that makes a powerful statement about humanity and the natural world. As always, Jeannie Baker is the master of collage, but in this work demonstrates a new complexity in her clever use of overlaid photographic images to portray different time periods. The story itself is simple, but it has many layers. A boy and his father go out in their boat to fish along the coast of the Daintree Forest in far North Queensland, a place where the tropical rainforest meets the sea. As the story unfolds the boy is confronted by echoes ('ghosts') of what this place was once like - an age of dinosaurs, a time when Indigenous people lived here and so on. It ends with an eerie look at the future of a place that humanity has degraded and destroyed.
'Fair's Fair' by Leon Garfield & illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain (1981), Hodder & Stoughton
'Counting on Frank' by Rod Clement (1990), William Collins
'Counting on Frank' in which Frank spends his life trying to solve problems to do with area and capacity. Frank speculates about many things. How many dogs identical to his own would it take to fill his room? How many of his Dad could he squeeze into a television? How long it would take to fill his entire bathroom at bath time? Frank one day puts these skills to a very practical use with a good outcome. Here is a book that teaches us about mathematical problem solving, estimation and prediction.
'Mr Archimedes' Bath' Pamela Allen
Mr Archimedes' Bath' as each animal hops into his bath. Mr Archimedes climbs in with a goat, a wombat and a kangaroo. In amazement he observes that the water continues to rise and eventually ends up on the floor.
"Can anyone tell me where all this water came from?"And of course eventually, "Eureka!" he cracks the mystery. He exclaims with joy:
"We make the water go up."'All About Poop' by Kate Hayes & illustrated by Brenna Vaughan (2012), Pinwheel Books.
'Aranea' by Jenny Wagner & illustrated by Ron Brooks (1975), Puffin
'George and Ghost' by Catriona Hoy & illustrated by Cassia Thomas (2010), Hodder Children's Books
Catriona Hoy is a science teacher (read my interview with her HERE) who has written a number of wonderful books that teach something of science through engaging stories. 'George and Ghost' is a great example of a well-told story that teaches as well. George and his friend are inseparable, but George isn't sure he believes in Ghost any more. He asks Ghost to prove he is real using classic scientific evidence. Show me the evidence, what does it mean? Can I trust it? He asks Ghost to weigh himself, have his photo taken and showing that he takes up space. But the scales don't move, Ghost can't be seen in the picture and the water in the bucket doesn't spill when Ghost stands in it. Ghost can't be real. Or can he?
'The World that Jack Built' by Ruth Brown (1990), Andersen Press
'Simpson and his Donkey' by Mark Greenwood & illustrated by Frané Lessac (2008), Walker Books
Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. This was one of the greatest of all defeats for the forces of Britain, France and of course the Australian and New Zealand armed forces (the ANZACs). In the midst of the massacre of thousands of allied troops and the eight-month siege of this isolated beachhead, a man and his donkey were responsible for saving many lives, before Simpson was eventually killed on yet another mission.
Mark Greenwood offers a moving story of John Simpson Kirkpatrick and how he and his donkey, Duffy, rescued over 300 men during the campaign at Gallipoli. It traces his life from his home in South Shields in Newcastle (England) and his journey from the Tyne Dock to Turkey. Informed by detailed research, the text includes a brief biography of the man, details of his work at Gallipoli and also the little known story of how one of the many he rescued was actually a childhood friend.
Frané Lessac's illustrations are a wonderful complement to the story and have strength of colour that is not controlled by conventions. There are skies of yellow, orange, aqua, purple and all shades of blue. Her unique style draws your eye deep into each plate; no details can easily be missed.
'Queenie: One Elephant's Story' by Corinne Fenton & illustrated by Peter Gouldthorpe (2012), Black Dog Books
'Sweethearts of Rhythm' by Marilyn Nelson
The story is told through a set of rhythmic poems that are written in the varied voices of the instruments. Jerry Pinkney's illustrations add further richness with brilliant collages.
'All the Way to WA: Our search for Uncle Kev' by Roland Harvey (2011), Allen & Unwin
Roland Harvey is one of Australia's best-loved illustrators. This new book is a companion to its wonderful predecessor, 'To the Top End' that was shortlisted in the 2011 CBCA Children's Book Awards. The book takes the reader on a journey across the vast territory of Western Australia. It is written as a travel log in narrative form. From Kalgoorlie to the Bungle Bungles it will take the reader, amusing, informing and captivating them along the way. Uncle Kev, a former professor of hydraulics is reported missing on a mission to find the fabled Bearded Night Parrot. We travel along as we find the clues to the Bearded Night Parrot, and hopefully Uncle Kev. The first single dropping from the 'extinct' parrot, a cooking pot and the remains of scorpion curry... and so it continues. There is no better way to traverse WA than with the wonderfully detailed images and amusing narrative, woven into the journey across this wonderful part of Australia. RRP is $AUS 24.99 with an eBook version available.
Note: I will interview Roland Harvey in a post later in the month
'Bilby's Secrets' by Edel Wignel & illustrated by Mark Jackson (2011), Walker Books
'Glasses, who needs 'em' by Lane Smith (1991), Viking