Monday, November 18, 2013

12 Great New Picture Books

Here the latest picture books that have come across my desk for review. There are some wonderful books here that will be of interest across some wide age ranges. They are a mix of books from Australia, Britain and the USA.

'Figaro and Rumba and the Cool Cats', by Anna Fienberg and illustrated by Stephen Michael King (Allen & Unwin)

Popular Australian author Anna Fienberg has produced a new Figaro and Rumba book. The story follows the two key characters we first met in 'Figaro & Rumba and the Crocodile Cafe'. In this adventure they make new friends, two cool cats from Cuba who run the 'Cool Cats Cafe'.

Customers come from everywhere to try their chicken empanadas, and to swoon beneath the spell of their singing and steel guitars. But the Cool Cats top singer can't rehearse while Figaro is howling out of tune. But Figaro would rather be exploring than singing, and Dora the ginger cat, has the keys to the singer's classic Catmobile! Figaro had thought he'd seen a monster in the car, but when he sniffed inside he could only smell polish, leather and fish. They head off to explore in the classic Catmobile.

This fun 83-page book is beautifully illustrated by Stephen Michael King and would be a great read for independent readers aged 7-9.

'Send for a Superhero!' by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Katharine McEwen (Walker Books)

Michael Rosen is one of Britain's most popular writers for children. This latest offering will delight children aged 5 to 8 years. A basic bedtime story turns into a very funny superhero adventure for two children in this picture book in comic book format. 'Send For a Superhero!' is an excellent and satisfying introduction to later graphic novels on this innovative book

It's time for bed and Dad is reading Emily and little Elmer a story..."Danger! Filth and Vacuum, The Terrible Two, are trying to destroy the world!" Who will save the day? Steel Man isn't strong enough; Flying-Through-the-Air-Very-Fast-Man isn't fast enough and Incredibly-Big-Strong-Green-Man isn't big, strong and green enough. Who can help? Clever young Brad 40 has a brilliant idea: he calls on a most unlikely superhero: Incredibly Boring Man, who sends the villains - and everyone else - to sleep! Filth and Vacuum are captured by the army, Brad is a hero, and Dad thinks Emily and Elmer have fallen asleep too. But he's wrong...

'How to Make Small Things With Violet Mackerel', by Anna Branford and illustrated by Sarah Davis (Walker Books)

Anna Branford has given us a series of wonderful 'Violet Mackerel' books that I first introduced when I interviewed Anna and reviewed her work two years ago (here). Her first book 'Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot' was named as an Honour book in the Children's Book Council of Australia's annual awards in 2011.

There are now four books in the series plus this wonderful companion book that encourages readers to make 'small things', which is one of Violet's key interests. Violet loves to make things - small things! Violet takes the reader through a wonderful series of fun ways to make your own small things.  When I reviewed her first book I shared how one of my granddaughters loved the book so much that she made her own box of small things, in her words, '...just like in the book'. Children who love the books will get many hours of enjoyment from this new book. The books are perfect reading for girls aged 6-8 years.

'Too Many Cheeky Dogs' by Johanna Bell and Dion Beasley (Allen & Unwin)

This is a wonderful collaboration between educator Johanna Bell who works in the Northern Territory of Australia and Dion Beasley is an up-and-coming Indigenous artist whose Cheeky Dog brand is already widely known and loved. This wonderful concept book for young readers (aged 2-5 years) introduces colours and numbers in an amusing and innovative way. Dion's illustrations are delightful and have a unique style. But it is no dry concept book. Rather it teaches while it amuses and engages young readers with a cheeky and charming story about naughty camp dogs funny almost naive illustrations. It is refreshing, original and wonderful. Young readers will enjoy this story set in a remote Indigenous community, that moves us through colours, numbers and days of the week to the final dog-packed.

'On Monday I went to my auntie's house and guess what I saw? ONE yellow cheeky dog sleeping on the floor.'

'Sticky Icky Booger Bugs' by Sherry Frith and illustrated by Carol Newell Walter (Archway Publishing)

This is an interesting picture book from a minor publisher in Bloomington Indiana (a town I actually lived in almost thirty years ago). It addresses the challenges of the estimated 30,000 children who each year are diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. There is no cure for this progressive disease. Sticky Icky Booger Bugs is the tale of a boy's battle with cystic fibrosis as he attempts to avoid the hospital.

Kory is just like any other child. He loves recess, playing soccer and exploring his neighbourhood with his best friend. With every puff, cough, and sneeze, Kory keeps the sticky icky booger bugs away so he can have fun every day!

As the grandfather of a little girl who has to face the daily challenge of a nebuliser due to a different Genetic Disorder (see my daughter's blog), I know how challenging this ritual can be. While I wondered whether the book is almost too explicit with the details of the 'icky booger bugs' that are expelled each day, it is an excellent introduction to the challenges children face every day when they have Cystic Fibrosis.

'Jandamarra' by Mark Greenwood and illustrated by Terry Denton (Allen & Unwin)

I love Mark Greenwood and Terry Denton, what a team! This wonderful picture book is based on a traditional story of the Bunuba people of the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

This is the story of the young warrior born to lead, Jandamarra. To the settlers, he was an outlaw to be hunted. To the Bunuba, he was a courageous defender of his country. He had an uncanny ability to escape any attempt to capture him. His escapes from troopers were legendary amongst his people. 

Mark Greenwood's text and Terry Denton's watercolour illustrations bring to life this story of conflict and divided loyalties - giving a unique insight into an extraordinary man and a tragic but important part of Australia's frontier history.

The book has been shortlisted for the 2013 Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards.

'I Wonder What it's Like to Be' by Mark Darlow and illustrated by Juan Rodriguez (Wolrad Press)

This picture book is based on a song composed by the author Mark Darlow who is a New York singer, writer and poet

The story and song feature a boy named 'Wonder' who considers what it would be like to be...a bird, a fish, or even a flea! The little boy, who is the story's narrator, introduces the book with the words:

I walk around and wonder,
I have a hat that says I do.
As I see new things I wonder,
DO YOU wonder too?

Wonder thinks about many things, including different places, animals and things to do. The story follows along with a song that you can listen to online for free (here). It is a catchy song that children will enjoy and the colour drawings by Juan Rodriguez will delight young readers, listeners and singers aged 2-6 year. It's available in Kindle edition for $2.99 and paperback for $7.47. 

'Dandelion' by Galvin Scott Davis and illustrated by Anthony Ishinjerro (Random House Australia and digital media company Protein)

This a wonderful picture book that focuses on the theme of bullying. Galvin Scott Davis explains its genesis:

The story for Dandelion came about when my son experienced bullying at school. As a parent, you are supposed to have all the answers, right? But as we all know, that is not necessarily the case. What to do? I needed to put myself in my son's shoes, draw on my own past experiences and offer him a solution to help him feel comfortable at school again. Being a writer, the idea for Dandelion sprang to mind and I immediately pitched it to my team at Protein.

This is an exciting project, starting out first as a concept by a Dad whose son was bullied which was then funded by people who like him wanted to say something about bullying to encourage those experiencing it. First there was the idea, then an app before finally a hard covered book. The illustrations and animation are beautiful. In both formats the unusual sepia tone illustrations of Anthony Ishinjerro capture the reader/viewer and the white, block-letter text stands out from the black pages to support text in the form of rhyming couplets.

Whatever form you experience it, (app or book) it is a story that will encourage parents, teachers and children to talk about bullying and look at whether some problems can be solved with a little imagination.
'One More Candle' by Merry Susiarjo and illustrated by Emmeline Pidgen (Twelve Elves Books)

Based on a number 1 bestselling children's- book app on iTunes.

Benjamin Brewster is a very particular little boy. He attends the School for the Misguided, a place for never-do-wells and bullies. A place where happy thoughts are quick to run and hide. A place where dreams and thoughts are squished. Until one day dandelions appear by Benjamin's side and he finds the courage and imagination to force the bullies to take flight. Bullying, after all, is for people with no imagination.

This magical interactive book for children is based on a bestselling children's iTunes app and came about when Galvin Scott Davis's son experienced bullying. The story encourages parents and children to discuss bullying and discover whether some problems can be solved with a little imagination.

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Nola is just over a year younger than her sister Betty, and they decide to have one big, shared birthday party every year rather than each having a smaller one. But poor Nola gets upset that Betty always has one more candle than her, and fruitlessly seeks help from all the light-giving things she finds in the world outside. But just as she begins to accept the reality of their different ages, the solution comes as an enchantingly simple surprise. Emmeline Pidgen's authentic and imaginative illustrations bring this sweet and gentle picture book story magically to life.

This is a sensitive book that tackles an issue that is known by every adult who was once a child. The desire to do what older siblings are able to do. The story is also a lovely model of love between two sisters and the wisdom required to be a parent. Children aged 3-7 will enjoy this book.

'Once Tashi Met a Dragon' by Anna Fienberg & Barbara Fienberg and illustrated by Kim Gamble (Allen & Unwin)

Ever since he could remember Tashi had been told stories by his grandmother and uncle about a dragon who lived on the mountain in a palace of gold. They were certain it was the dragon that brought the rains. No one had ever seen the dragon, but once a year it would send smoke and thunder down the mountain, and soon the rains would follow. But one year, the skies were always blue, the creeks were drying up and the people were hungry. What had happened to the dragon? One day when Tashi and Lotus Blossom were walking they met a white tiger who offers to help them find out. When Tashi reaches the dragon's golden palace, he meets an angry young dragon that is upset because his mother is under the spell of a demon sleep and he can't wake her up.

This is a delightful tale from the well-known Australian author Anna Fienberg and her mother Barbara Fienberg who devised the plot. Kim Gamble's delightful illustrations complement this original fantasy.

'Lizzy Bennet's Diary' by Marcia Williams (Walker Books)

'Lizzie Bennet's Diary' was published to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice. It is a wonderful retelling of Jane Austen's most famous novel from the point of view of Lizzy Bennet, its feisty heroine. This is Lizzy Bennet's story of Pride and Prejudice, revealed through her secret diary. The narrative and delightfully illustrated diary beautifully echo and illustrate 'Pride and Prejudice'. Marcia Williams has managed to provide a fresh take on this well-loved story.

My nine-year-old granddaughter Rebecca devoured the diary at a single sitting and said to me, "It reminded me of the all the great things in the book". The diary takes you into Austen's world, and is enlivened with Lizzy's drawings, pressed flowers, ribbons, notes, dance cards, invitations, and a letter from Mr Darcy!

Lizzy Bennet's diary is a wonderful introduction to Jane Austen and also an engaging companion to Pride and Prejudice.
'This Little Piggy Went Dancing' by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Deborah Niland (Allen & Unwin)

 With a team like Margaret Wild and Deborah Niland this book was bound to be a winner. This is a delightful simple playful take on the traditional 'This Little Piggy' nursery rhyme. I've already enjoyed reading it many times to my two-year-old granddaughter and she loved it! But of course this little pig did so much more than simply heading off to market.

This little piggy went dancing
This little piggy stayed home
This little piggy had porridge
This little piggy had none
And this little piggy went hop, hop, hop, all the way home.

But it doesn't stop there; this little pig goes visiting, swimming, travelling, riding, splashing, sliding, shopping, sailing, and even reading. And as you'd expect, there were all sorts of unexpected things along the way!

3 comments: said...

Love all these suggestions! I adore Violet Mackerel by Anna Branford....I did not know there was a craft book out, I will have to check it out! I, like Anna, am a children's book author with my debut children's picture book due out Fall 2014! Would love to get a review from you once published! In the meantime, please feel free to visit my blog!

Trevor Cairney said...

Hi Angie, thanks for dropping by. Congratulations on being published soon.

Kelsey McBride said...

Great list! Thanks for including Sticky Icky Booger Bugs by Sherry Frith.