Saturday, February 23, 2019

12 Wonderful New Picture Books for Children Aged 3-7

I've had a number of wonderful picture books arrive recently. Here are 10 that are perfect for bedtime, reading to classes or groups of children, or also as great new self-reading for children aged 3-7 years.

1. 'Queen Celine' by Matt Shanks


Matt Shanks’ latest picture book introduces us to Celine Beaufort. Celine lives a fairly ordinary life, doing ordinary things, but sometimes she gets to be the queen of a very special place—her very own kingdom by the sea. But when Celine claims the land for her own and builds a fortress to keep everything else out, the kingdom starts to lose its magic and Celine realises she’s made a terrible mistake.   

 I love this simple but subtly complex tale. It's water colour plates are a joy in themselves (hope you enjoyed the video of our artist at work). But like any great picture book, 'Queen Celine' has many layers of meaning. It can be read as a funny story about an ordinary little girl, who messes up badly in trying to protect and claim her own bit of paradise. She was an ordinary little girl, who did pretty ordinary things. But she has the chance to make herself a Queen with a kingdom by the sea!

This picture book can also be read as a book with significant ecological messages. And if you consider it for a little longer, you might just see another layer that has political messages about a self-proclaimed ruler - Celine! It was her kingdom, she had 'bagsied' it for herself! She was to control the boundaries of her special kingdom. This reading could imply that there is another political path that doesn't keep all things to ourselves in order to protect and enjoy them. Is it possible to share good things with others without losing out ourselves? Indeed, might this generosity of spirit be better.

A brilliant book that combines delightful water colour illustrations with a well-crafted text that packs strong messages with a minimum of words. Wonderful stuff! 

Suitable for children 3-7 years.

2. 'Mallee Sky' by Jodi Toering &amp and illustrator Tannya Harrick

I just love this book. Tannya Harrick's wonderful oil paintings with rich almost extravagant brush strokes bring the Australian countryside to life as few books manage to do. Each plate is so authentic I was transported to many rural locations that I've experienced. The rich beauty of trees in sometimes barren landscapes, the colour of Australia's amazing birds and the authentic images of remote towns. Tannya understands this landscape and helps us on the journey which Jodi Toering has beautifully crafted in words. The beauty and harshness of remote Australia is so well described by the author. As well, the life is captured so subtly by the images of milk urn letterboxes, showers in the paddock, dust storms, harsh drought and the glorious excitement of long awaited rain.

Jodi was born in the Mallee at Hopetoun and grew up on a wheat farm outside a small town called Beulah, and it shows! No doubt this is why she had deftly written a moving account of the effect that drought has on families and communities. But she also enjoys in her spare time creating artworks based on her bush block. Tannya on the other hand lives in the city, but her love of the Australian landscape shines through in the joy and exuberance of her art. It won't surprise you to know that she is an award-winning visual artist/painter based in Sydney. Her paintings are derived from sketches done out in the landscape and brought to life in the studio. The book is a veritable gallery of stunning paintings worthy in their own right. Together, writer and artist have created a wonderful book. Don't miss it!.

Suitable as a self-read for children aged 5-7 and a read aloud for children aged 3-10.

3. 'The Box Cars' by Robert Vescio and illustrator Cara King

Liam and Kai are the best of friends. They do everything together. Each day in the park they race around in their box cars, pretending to be everything from policemen chasing down bad guys to chauffeurs driving around movie stars! One day they notice a little girl watching them -- she's keen to join in and they're happy to be her friends too, but with only two box cars to play with it seems someone's going to be left out. The Box Cars is a fun-filled story of friendship, sharing and creative problem-solving that will appeal to boys and girls everywhere!

This is a lovely book for younger readers aged 4-7 years to read or as a read aloud book at home or school. Cara King's quirky and delightful illustrations will captivate your readers and listeners. Robert Vescio offers a sensitive exploration of how children can learn that relationships with friends don't always need to be between two special best friends. There can be a generosity in friendships that might just enrich the existing relationships that you have, if you're prepared to open your lives to others. This is a wonderful exploration of how we can deal with the old 'problem' of two's company, but three's a 'crowd.' A beautifully crafted text from Robert Vescio and wonderful illustrations from Cara King work so well together. This is another wonderful book from a small publisher (Exisle Publishing) punching well above its weight! This new book is also a wonderful celebration of creativity, ingenuity and simple fun that children can make for themselves, if given the opportunity, time and access to basic things.

4. 'Flat Cat' by Hiawyn Oram & illustrator Gwen Millward

Sophie absolutely adores Jimi and smothers him with treats. She thinks he has everything a cat could possibly desire. And Jimi does ... but he doesn’t ... because secretly Jimi longs to explore the bright and bustling world outside. So, when Sophie rushes out one day forgetting her keys, there’s only one thing for it: Jimi slips on his coat and skedaddles out of there, too! Where will he go and who will he meet on those wild and exciting streets? And what on earth will Sophie say? Children and parents alike will rejoice in this funny, stylish and heart-warming celebration of freedom, adventure, friendship and love.

Flat Cat is a very creative exploration of a basic human reality; in life at times we need to take a few chances, and break a few rules. Gwen Willard is a clever illustrator who takes a 'one-dimensional' cat and turns him into a risk taker who changes the direction of his life. Willard's simple crayon line drawings are simply captivating and work perfectly with Hiawyn Oram's clever story.

A perfect read aloud for children aged 4-7, or a fun read for younger readers.

5. 'Clever Crow' by Nina Lawrence & illustrator Bronwyn Bancroft

Clever Crow is an endearing and witty tale that follows the exploits of a hungry and very clever crow. Crow searches in the bush for food but he can find none. It is only when he comes across people preparing for a ceremony that his luck changes. Crow spots a big turtle egg waiting to be cooked, and he cries out, 'Yummy, food for me!' But it is not an easy task stealing a turtle egg - even for a clever crow. Crow has to be more clever than he has ever been before!

I'm a big fan of Magabala Books, and Indigneous Publisher located in the beautiful town of Broome located in the remote North West coast of Australia. Nina is a descendant of the Yidinji people of Far North Queensland and Bronwyn is a member of the Djanbun clan of the Bundjalung Nation. This telling of a traditional Aboriginal story is presented with English and Indigenous languages complete with a wonderful glossary included.

Children will love Bronwyn Bancroft's colourful and evocative illustrations, and the way the Djambarrpuynu language translation (Yolnu language from North East Arnhem Land) is woven into the design of this wonderful book.

6. 'Dinosaur Day Out' by Sara Acton

Sally and Max love dinosaurs. They can’t wait to see them at the museum, but today the dinosaur exhibition is closed. Where will the dinosaurs go on their day off? A whimsical story with humour and heart from author and award-winning illustrator Sara Acton.

They visit their favourite museum where they love to look at the dinosaur skeletons, but this day the exhibition is closed. The dinosaurs have a day off! Outrageous. But as the children explore the city and the museum they gain a glimpse of just what dinosaurs might do on their day off. Sara Acton's crayon and watercolour are stripped back as is her beautifully economical text. Sara of course is the Crichton Award-Winning Author/Illustrator of 'Ben and Duck'. Sara grew up in The Cotswolds, England, and trained to be an art teacher in London. After teaching stints in London and New Zealand, she moved with her family to Australia.

This fun book would be a perfect read aloud book for any group of 4-6 year old children.

7. 'Good Rosie!' by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Harry Bliss

Rosie is a good dog and a faithful companion to her owner, George. She likes taking walks with George and looking at the clouds together. But the closest she comes to another dog is when she encounters her reflection in her empty dog bowl, and sometimes that makes Rosie feel lonely. One day George decides to try taking Rosie to the dog park, but the park is full of dogs that Rosie doesn’t know, which makes her feel lonelier than ever. So, when big, loud Maurice and small, yippy Fifi bound over and want to play, Rosie’s not sure how to respond. Is there a trick to making friends? And if so, can they all figure it out together?

Kate DiCamillo is a legendary story teller. The author of 'The Magician's Elephant', a New York Times bestseller, 'The Tale of Despereaux', which was awarded the Newbery Medal, and 'Because of Winn-Dixie', a Newbery Honor book. Harry Bliss is a cartoonist and cover artist for the New Yorker magazine. He has illustrated many picture books, including illustrated many picture books, including the New York Times bestselling series by Doreen Cronin: 'Diary of a Worm', 'Diary of a Spider', and 'Diary of a Fly'. Bliss makes a wonderful visual contribution to this work. Together they have created a memorable picture book, that looks a bit like a graphic 'novel' or comic book. But it is essentially a picture book.

This is a picture book that many readers aged 5 to 7 years will read over an over again.

8. 'Maddie's First Day' by Penny Matthews and illustrated by Liz Anelli


It is Maddie’s first day of school and she has everything ready – her uniform, shoes, socks and hat. But there is one special thing that Maddie can’t leave behind – her blanky! 

This is a perfect book for children aged 4-7 who still have some insecurity in new situations. It tells of the insecurity that can creep in during the early weeks of school, whether kindergarten or simply the start-up of a new year. 

Penny Matthews and Liz Anelli team up to tell this sensitive story of a little girl who sneaks her favourite 'snuggle' toy into her bag on the first day of school. While some classmates are surprised to see her 'Blanky' at school, Charlie understands because he had his 'blanky' too. A rich friendship develops as they adjust to school life together.

This would be a perfect book to share in the first weeks of Kindergarten or in the lead up to those first days at 'Big School'.

Penny Matthews has written more than thirty books for children and young adults. She writes in a variety of genres and has won a number of awards, including the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award and the Davitt Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature. Her delightful illustrations bring this story to life with expressive characters to whom young readers can relate. Liz is from England but now lives in Newcastle, NSW (my home town!). In 2017, her book 'Desert Lake: The Story of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre' (written by Pamela Freeman) was named as a CBCA Notable

9. 'Me and my Fear' by Francesca Sanna

When a young girl has to travel to a new country and start at a new school, her Fear tells her to be alone and afraid. How can she hope to make friends if she doesn’t understand their language?
This is an intriguing picture book. Sanna is the author/illustrator of 'The Journey' which was a 2017 Amnesty CILIP Honour book and recounted a family's dangerous flight from their home in a war zone to a new country. This book is similar in artistic and literary style. In fact, they are unmistakably related. It is a heart-warming tale that grapples with the importance of dealing with your fears, and in particular, the importance of sharing them with others. Sanna understands that we all have fears within us, even this unnamed little girl. The little immigrant girl might well be Francesca herself, for she shares in the author's note at the back of the book that she is an anxious person, and that she has needed the help of many people to deal with anxiety.

Fear shows itself in many forms and can be debilitating. But fear leading to anxiety, can also be our "friend" that seems to sit 'in our pocket' 'keeping us safe'. Fear might not be all bad, if we know how to deal with it. And if we are given support in doing so, it can be controlled in positive ways. Our fears might seem to get bigger and BIGGER by the day, but the can be our friends if they can be kept in perspective. Fear can take many forms; fear of a new neighbourhood, playtime at school, not understanding others, mealtime and plates that seem too big' dreams' or not having friends.

This lovely book, with distinctive illustrations created with a simple subdued colour palette, allows the reader to identify with this unnamed little girl and the emotions portrayed. And our 'cloud-like' friend 'fear' is drawn in an appropriate non-scary way, suggesting that it can help not just hinder.

Francesca Sanna is an Italian illustrator and graphic designer based in Switzerland. Following her studies in Cagliari (Sardinia), she moved to Germany and then Switzerland, in order to follow her dream to work as an illustrator.

10. 'Circle' by Mac Barnett & illustrated by Jon Klassen

The dynamic, 'dream team' of Jon Klassen (illustrator) and Mac Barnett (author) has come together again for the final instalment in their hilarious 'Shape' trilogy. They have made six books together: 'Sam and Dave Dig a Hole', 'Extra Yarn', 'The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse', 'Triangle', 'Square' and this their latest book 'Circle'. Jon was the creator of the much-acclaimed 'Hat' trilogy, which includes 'I Want My Hat Back', the Kate Greenaway and Caldecott Medal winner 'This Is Not My Hat' and 'We Found a Hat'. They both live in California, USA, but in different cities. Jon is originally from Canada.

Jon Klassen in Shape trilogy, almost seems to echo the famous Swiss sculptor Giacometti who sought to represent the human head (and later bodies) with as little detail as possible. And yet, his plaster heads still unmistakably represented heads. Klassen's incredible geometric shaped people of course sit within illustrated backgrounds, but the 'reader' is always drawn to the head.


In this third book of the trilogy, Triangle and Square are visiting Circle, who lives near a waterfall. One day they play hide-and-seek, and Circle gives them just one rule, 'no hiding behind the waterfall'. Why? Because "it is dark back there". But where do they go? Square stays behind because he's afraid of the dark. But Triangle hides behind the waterfall. Circle goes to find him, there is no answer. He goes deeper in and it is VERY dark! Only his eyes are now visible. Circle finds Triangle (and he is glad), but there is a third set of eyes! Who could it be? No, not Square, he's outside. So, who is it? What shape do you picture?

Brilliant as usual, you will be left wishing that this trilogy didn't have to end. I just live these books, which will always be seen as picture books that have helped us to rethink just what they might be. Every child should have access to this series. Suitable for readers 1-99 years! But also, perfect for a read aloud to children aged 3-6 years.

11. 'Let me Sleep sheep' by Meg McKinlay & illustrated by Leila Rudge

It’s bedtime for Amos, who smiles as he closes his eyes and counts some fluffy sheep trotting away in the grass. Until suddenly . . . THUD. And then another. “Not again!” says the first sheep, now on Amos’s floor. “I was having my wool clipped,” grumbles the second. None too happy at being interrupted, the woolly pair fire a battery of questions at Amos, most importantly: "Where’s the fence?"

The fence!? The sheep has a name Felix, not "one" and he the two sheep will be there until they find the fence. Amos will need to build one. But what can he use? The shelves? No, it's too high and Felix's friend Walter has a bad knee, and Judith, who is as yet un-arrived sheep 7 hates heights.

Amos sets out to build one to their specifications, then of course he'll need to test it. This is a very funny and clever book that readers or listeners aged 3-7 will find hilarious!

Meg McKinlay is a wonderful writer and Leila Rudge is a brilliant illustrator. Her soft and colourful crayon illustrations are 'delicious'! This great team has created a very special book.  It follows on from the previous success of this partnership with 'Duck for a Day' and 'No Bears'. 

12. 'I Do Not Like Books Anymore' by Daisy Hirst

Natalie and Alphonse REALLY like books. Picture books with Dad, scary stories with Mom, and especially stories they remember or make up themselves. So, when it’s time for Natalie to learn to read, she thinks it will be exciting — she can have all the stories in the world now, and even read them to Alphonse. But when Natalie gets her first reading book, the letters look like squiggles and it isn’t even a good story; it’s just about a cat that can sit. “I do not like books anymore!” Natalie declares. But she still wants to make up stories. With Alphonse’s help, can she find a way to turn a love of telling stories into a love of reading stories? With her one-of-a-kind voice and wonderfully droll artwork, Daisy Hirst captures the familiar frustration of struggling to learn something new — and the particular pride that comes when you finally succeed.

Hirst's cartoon-like style will be endearing to younger readers, with simple brightly coloured stylistic figures and bright colours they seem just right for this quirky tale. The story will parallel the experience of many children who start out loving the joy and closeness of being read only to struggle when they need to learn how to do it for themselves. A touching story about life's simple challenges as you grow up.








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