Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

It’s full-on May. Green swathes the earth, tulips paint gardens, socks and shoes lie discarded. Time for some fresh, glad picture books for hammock and lemonade time. Every one of these is guaranteed to be a juicy pleasure for thirsty, curious minds.

Everybunny Dance!, written and illustrated by Ellie Sandall
originally published in Great Britain; published in the U.S. in 2017 by Margaret K. McElderry Books, and imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

Oh, these darling bunnies! Plump bottoms. Jovial splotchy fur. Cheerful capering. Just…irresistible.

How merrily they dance, play, and sing! UNTIL!! Egads! It’s a fox! Everybunny run!

When these worried-yet-sensitive bunnies see a tear trickle down that fox’s long nose, however, they respond with the sweetest bunnywarmth of all. There is so much gladness and good will in this book, you’ll feel your heart expand a couple of sizes. A gem for ages 18 months and up.

Under the Umbrella, written by Catherine Buquet, illustrated by Marion Arbona, translated by Erin Woods
originally published in French; English edition published in 2017 by Pajama Press

A sodden day brings out the grumpies for one curmudgeonly fellow, striding down the avenue under his black umbrella, scowling, dashing, spluttering…

Meanwhile, a lemon-yellow bakery window shining out upon the grey day attracts a little boy like a moth to lamplight, those mouthwatering mousses and razzledazzzle tarts beaming sunshine into his soul.

What happens when a gust of wind whooshes these two people together? A smile. A kind gesture. A spilling over of sweetness. This dynamic book will gladden you, not to mention precipitating a trip to the local patisserie! Striking illustration work emotes the changing moods of this story with tremendous pizzazz. A joy for ages 2 and up.

Round, by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
published in 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Roundness. Such a simple concept, carried out brilliantly by Minnesota poet Joyce Sidman, illustrated with tender warmth by the talented Taeeun Yoo.

This ambling exploration of round things gently unfolds in Sidman’s pristine text.  Words reflecting the incisive wonder of a child are pared down to those quiet, perfect few that resonate within the reader, stimulate more wonder.

Yoo’s print-like illustrations are impeccable, gracing every page with physical and emotional beauty that stops us in our tracks.

I adore this book — timeless, thoughtful, curious, warmhearted. Perfect for sharing with ages 18 months and up.

Mr. Postmouse Takes a Trip, written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc
originally published in French, 2016; English language edition 2017 by Kids Can Press

Mr. Postmouse stole my heart with his first round of deliveries, reviewed here.

Now he’s off for a whirlwind, ’round-the-world vacation with his family. Ever responsible, Mr. Postmouse brings along a cartful of parcels to deliver along the way.

Whether on a volcanic isle or at a desert oasis, the Postmouse family enjoys meeting new friends. What a jolly treat to visit these places with them! Best of all are the peeks into many, tiny, clever homes and shops along the way. Home in a cactus or a tiny yellow submarine. Home on a cloud or in a dragon’s lair. Darling wee furnishings and details make this a treasure to pour over with ages 2 and up.

Arthur and the Golden Rope, written and illustrated by Joe Todd Stanton
published in 2016 by Flying Eye Books

Welcome to a fabulous Norse tale about young Arthur of Iceland, a lad destined for epic quests from his earliest days.

When the brutish wolf, Fenrir, blots out the town’s great cauldron of fire, plunging them into icy darkness forever, it’s Arthur who’s chosen to venture off to Valhalla, track down Thor, and urge him to use his thunderbolt to rekindle their flame.

But oh! this is much easier said than done! Incredibly appealing panels of illustrations carry us into a legendary Nordic world as Stanton spins this wildly adventurous tale. This appears to be the only title available in the Brownstone’s Mythical Collection. I’m definitely hoping for more. Fantastic storytelling for ages 5 and up.

This House, Once, written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman
published in 2017 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

The door in this house once was part of “a colossal oak tree about three hugs around and as high as the blue.”

Now there’s an intriguing thought. What about the foundation stones? The red bricks in the walls? Or these glass window panes?

What were all the things that make up this house, before they turned into our house?

Quietly thought-provoking, this dreamy book will spark ideas and questions and wonder about not only houses, but all manner of objects we take for granted. What were they once? How are they made? Who made them?

An immensely clever, ethereal prod towards wondering, for ages 4 and up.

Bob the Railway Dog: The True Story of an Adventurous Dog, written by Corinne Fenton, illustrated by Andrew McLean
published in 2015 in Australia; first U.S. edition 2016 by Candlewick Press

If you’re a dog lover, you’ll warm to this engaging story about a homeless dog adopted by a railway guard back in 1884 Australia.

It took no time at all for this shaggy dog named Bob to attach himself to Mr. Ferry, to learn how to hop aboard the caboose and ride the rails, to switch trains at will in order to see a sizable stretch of the Australian countryside.

Bob was welcomed everywhere, and you’ll welcome him into your hearts, too, as you steam along from Adelaide to Kalangadoo! Sweet story, handsomely illustrated with gentle watercolor illustrations that bring the era and the land to life. Ages 4 and up.

Tony, written by Ed Galing, illustrated by Erin Stead
published in 2017; a Neal Porter Book from Roaring Brook Press

If I handed you this book and you didn’t know it was new, you would likely guess it was a vintage picture book from, say, the 1940s. A velvet soft, yesteryear quietness breathes out from every ounce of it.

The poem which comprises the text was written by Ed Galing just prior to his death in 2013. It’s a reminiscing poem about a sweet-tempered white horse, Tony, who pulls the milk wagon for driver Tom on their early morning rounds. Straightforward, free of soppiness, rich with adoration for this beloved horse, Galing’s poem narrates the routine, cherished interactions between Tony, Tom, and a customer.

Erin Stead’s dove-soft pencil drawings sweep us into a sweet relationship with these three. Her palette of grey-green whispers, while patches of lamplight cast a welcoming glow in the cool dawn shadows. Every element is just so quiet.

I love quiet books, in a world too often dominated by loud, frenetic offerings for children. Soak in the beauty, the stillness, the human pace of Tony. A treat for ages 2 to 100.

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School breaks are coming up soon. If your kids are looking for something to read, here are 3 titles I’ve recently enjoyed. None are brand new, so you should be able to nab them from the library shelves easily:

audrey of the outback cover imageAudrey of the Outback, by Christine Harris, illustrations by Ann James
first published in Australia in 2008; this edition 2013 by Little Hare Books

Audrey is a magnificent character, a spunky middle child living in the Australian Outback around 1930. If you have read any of Sara Pennypacker’s Clementine books, Audrey reminds me a bit of her. Well-meaning but impulsive, highly inquisitive, and quite game to attempt things that are probably better left alone. All of which leads to a series of misadventures.

These tales have an extra dose of intrigue because of the curiously exotic Outback setting complete with emus, skinks, swagmen, bunyips, and an exploding dunny. Have no fear, a glossary of Interesting Words is here to guide us through the Aussie lingo.


Whether Audrey is deciding to become a man, a teacher, or a swaggie, she’s always got her faithful friend Stumpy by her side, and she always keeps one eye open for her dad’s return from his roaming days as a dogger. Good thing her heart is huge, plenty big for numerous loyalties and a nonstop series of dreams. Her funny, warm story will win your heart in a flash.

159 pages long. It would make a sterling read-aloud for ages 5 and up, or a good solo read for ages 8-10. There are two sequels. If my girls were this age, I’d just go ahead and get them all. They’re that good.

the turtle of oman cover imageThe Turtle of Oman, by Naomi Shihab Nye, illustrations by Betsy Peterschmidt
published in 2014 by Greenwillow Books

I am late to the party reading this one but my goodness, am I ever glad I finally settled in with this masterfully-written book about home.

Aref is a young boy living in Muscat, Oman, the spot in the world stitched so durably into the fabric of his life that he cannot imagine ripping out those threads and moving elsewhere. 

But in fact, that is what is on the docket for him. With both of his parents set to study at the University of Michigan, there is no choice for Aref but to say goodbye to his home for several years. How is it possible to do that?

Qantab Beach, Oman

Qantab Beach, Oman

For anyone who has had to leave home and journey to the unknown, especially when it involves crossing long distances and huge cultural divides, you will be stunned by how Naomi Shihab Nye captures the wrenching emotions of good-bye, how she articulates the all-encompassing womb of home as well as the shadowy, minute details of homeness, so hard to pin down but so piercingly a part of us. 

She manages to do this via a quiet flow of thoughts, honest conversations between Aref and the dearest grandfather who ever lived, and a number of poignant scenarios all taking place in just one week. And she manages it without manipulation, without maudlin emotion, with just enough wink and a smile to keep us floating on top of Aref’s struggle rather than sinking with him.

Highly recommended for ages 9 and up. Family members of TCKs — you really should read this book for a window on the separation process experienced by kids transitioning between cultures. It’s an incredible read.

wild wings cover imageWild Wings, by Gill Lewis, illustrated by Yuta Onoda
published in 2011 by Atheneum Books for Young Children

Gill Lewis is a UK author whose  background as a veterinarian and worldwide adventurer informs her writing. This middle-grade novel was her first, and was published in the UK as Sky Hawk.

The story takes place in Scotland and follows a young boy named Callum as he navigates several friendships that are pulling him in opposing directions. His new friendship is with Iona McNair, a raggle-taggle gal with a murky background. Not

photo by Tom Webzall

photo by Tom Webzall

really the sort of person he’d normally spend time with. But Iona has spotted a nesting pair of osprey on Callum’s family farmland, and that’s an extraordinarily rare sight. They’ve bound themselves to protecting these endangered birds by keeping the nest a secret, but neither of them can foresee the way events will unfold.

It’s a dramatic, page-turning, eco-adventure that incorporates some darkness, tragedy, and grief, so be aware of that for younger readers. It also brings in a connection with fellow osprey-lovers in The Gambia which I loved. Ages 9 and up.


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Today I’ve got three beautiful books, all coming our way from Australia in 2015,  acquainting us with some of the unique creatures trundling about down there. Prepare to be intrigued!

emu cover imageEmu, by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Graham Byrne
first U.S. edition published in 2015 by Candlewick Press

In the open forest, where eucalyptus trees fringe tufty grasslands, honey-pale sunshine seeps to where Emu sits on a nest.

Take a look at that shaggy, giant emu with such a dynamic hairstyle. Isn’t he spectacular?!

There are “eight granite-green eggs” to keep warm, and that’s entirely a job for Mr. Emu. Mama Emu is nowhere to be found. That’s the way it’s done in emu circles.

Once the eggs are laid, female emus have nothing further to do with the hatching or rearing of their young.

emu claire saxby and graham byrne

Follow along with this fellow and his brood and you’ll learn the curiosities involved in hatching emus, which enemies long to snatch emu eggs and hatchlings, how emus fight back!, what they like to eat, and more.

Scratchy, highly-textured, bold illustrations add a marvelous sense of strength and the raw, wild world of nature. An excellent introduction to such a unique bird for ages 4 and older. 

21965585Bilby: Secrets of an Australian Marsupial, by Edel Wignell, illustrated by Mark Jackson
first U.S. edition published in 2015 by Candlewick Press

With it’s long pointy nose, rabbitty ears, and gleaming eyes, the bilby looks like such a cute little fellow.

However, he’s also equipped with sharp teeth, powerful back legs, and some serious claws, so…don’t mess with him!bilby illustration mark jackson

Like all marsupials, Mama Bilby carries her babies in her pouch. They are about “as long as your little toe” when they’re born.

Bilby illustration2 Mark Jackson

Learn about these intriguing, endangered, desert-dwellers in this brief, well-written account. Mark Jackson’s vivid illustrations bring us nose to nose with those bewitching little faces, tuck us into Mama’s burrow, and trot us about the nighttime desert landscape. Ages 3 or 4 and up.

sand-swimmersSand Swimmers: The Secret Life of Australia’s Desert Wilderness, written and illustrated by Narelle Oliver
first U.S. edition published in 2015 by Candlewick Press

Australia’s center is mainly desert, a rusty-red, cracked, parched land. As far as you can see, it looks devoid of life.Sand Swimmers illustration2 narelle Oliver

But it holds many secrets, if you know where to look.

Fairy shrimp eggs lie in wait by the millions, waiting for rain so they can hatch.

Water-holding frogs snuggle in waterproof cocoons deep, deep in the ground, waiting for years and years, perhaps, until rain water trickles its way to them.

Sand Swimmers illustration Narelle OliverMulgaras and gibberbirds, earless dragons and kultarrs — have you ever heard of these guys?! I had not, until I read this fascinating account of the amazing creatures that make their homes in such a perilous environment.

Oliver’s illustrations entice us to pay close attention as she camoflauges the creatures into their habitats, then guides us towards spotting them. Fabulous book for ages 7 and up.

[Note that the title on the image I’ve used is the Australian title. Apparently “dead heart” did not have a nice enough ring for us Americans!]

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Are We There Yet? story and illustrations by Alison Lester

Heading to the Land Down Under, this book is a grand geography lesson by popular Aussie author, Alison Lester.

Eight-year-old Grace and her family — Mum, Dad, and brothers Luke and Billy — decide to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip around the whole of Australia, visiting family and friends, and seeing all of its widely-varied people, terrain, and attractions.  It’s going to take them out of school for a whole term!  What could be better?!

After entrusting their pets to the care of Nan and Poppa, and hitching the camper trailer up to the Land Rover, they set off for 3 months of adventures.  Grace narrates the whole trip in this scrapbook-type account which is jam-packed with pictures and sprinkled with helpful maps.  We see bizarre sand formations and boab trees, Bungle Bungles and the Three Sisters, Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef, Thorny Devils and penguins.  Grace munches on fish and chips, as well as witchetty grubs.  She views Dreamtime drawings…and fireworks over Sydney Harbor.  Her family surfs, snorkels, camps, hikes, markets, fishes, rides horses, and goes sledding.  And they drive and drive and drive.

I love this fabulous, insider’s guide to Australia, and the happy, active, agreeable family we tour it with.  Lester’s colorful, warm illustrations of Grace’s family and her outstanding “snapshots” of Australia, are immensely attractive.  The only problem is:  Australia is so very far away!

Tap-Tap, by Karen Lynn Williams, illustrated by Catherine Stock

The small, impoverished island country of Haiti has been much in the news since the devastating earthquake in January 2010 and the subsequent slow  recovery and cholera epidemic.  This story gives us a sunnier view of rural Haiti through the eyes of one small, determined, eight-year-old girl.

Sasifi is going to market with her Mama, something she has done often, but never as the stout, responsible girl carrying her own basket-load of oranges on her head as she is today.  As Sasifi walks along, she looks longingly at the brilliantly-colored tap-taps — the truck taxis of Haiti — and recommends to her Mama that they ride one.  Mama is too frugal, though, and they continue on foot all the way to the bustling market.  What a lot of intriguing things for sale!  Brooms and chairs, hats and sugar cane. 

When Sasifi’s Mama leaves her to tend the oranges while she does her marketing, Sasifi works hard and manages to sell all the rest of the oranges herself!  When Mama returns, she is so pleased with Sasifi, she gives her some coins to spend on whatever she pleases.  What will Sasifi choose?  Peanut candy?  Icy cold juice?  No, siree.  Sasifi buys two spots in a tap-tap so she and her Mama can have a thrilling ride home.  It turns out to be quite a squished ride…but a happy one, nonetheless.   And…along the way we learn why the trucks are called tap-taps!

Catherine Stock is one of my favorite illustrators.  Her watercolors are brilliant.. beautiful…well-conceived.  The landscapes and people and markets and tap-taps of Haiti are vividly brought to life on these pages, perfectly complementing this sweet, respectful story. 

Monsoon, by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Jamel Akib

In northern India, the days are oppressive with heat.  Heat that shimmers in the air, and blisters the land, and weighs in the minds of the people like a heavy blanket.  And that is why the coming of the monsoon season is watched for and waited for like a gift from the gods.

The hot winds blow strong.  The noisy koel birds sing out their wild rain-welcoming songs.  The weathermen track the movements of the clouds.  But still the rain delays.  The tensions grow as the people wait.

Then, with wondrous, refreshing vitality, one day the clouds burst, and torrents of rain drive down from the skies onto the dusty earth and rejoicing people.  The monsoon has come!

This book is a brilliantly colorful portrayal of one modern Indian girl’s days anticipating the arrival of the rainy season — monsoon.  Her life is an intriguing mixture of what is familiar to us — TV, busy city streets, hopscotch, stories with Grandma — and what is foreign to most of us — tea stalls, spice merchants, statues of Ganesh, and Bollywood stars on billboards.  The bright illustrations, and the vivid details in the text, work together fantastically to transport us to this striking corner of the world.

Mama and Papa Have a Store, story and pictures by Amelia Lau Carling

Mama and Papa are Chinese immigrants, living in Guatemala City, and running a dry goods store where they sell everything from buttons and cloth,  to firecrackers, perfume and soy sauce.   Their lives are woven with threads from several cultures.  Papa does his accounts with an abacus, while Mama chats with customers in Spanish.  Mayan-Indian families come to purchase gloriously-colored thread for their weavings, while the Chinese bean curd seller brings fresh tofu for lunch, which also features corn tortillas.  It is a multi-lingual, multi-cultural life.

This story is narrated by a little girl, the youngest in her family, who keeps herself busy at the store, feeds the goldfish in their patio pool, coasts down her waxed tin roof on a cardboard sled, and buys sweets from the candy lady, whose wooden box is loaded with goodies.  It is a lively and very joyful look at her life, her family, and her neighborhood.  The text is deliciously sensory, and the watercolors are bursting with color and intriguing details. 

Amelia Lau Carling writes this as a Guatemalan-born child of Chinese immigrants.  Her parents fled China in 1938 when the Japanese invaded their village, and settled in Guatemala to run a general store.  These stories of her own childhood delighted her own children so much that she wrote them down for us, which is good news!  Because this is a gem of a book.

My Little Round House, written and illustrated by Bolormaa Baasansuren

Jilu is a little Mongolian baby, born into a nomadic family,  in his family’s ger.  This story follows Jilu through his  first year of life, a very ordinary year for a Mongolian nomad perhaps, but an unusually fascinating year for the rest of us!

Jilu is surrounded by love from his father and mother, grandfather and grandmother.  He grows up in the midst of the animals of the household — dogs and sheep, goats and camels.  These are the constants in Jilu’s life.  However, with each change in season, his parents pack up the household belongings, load them onto camels, and move on to another location — autumn camp, winter camp, spring camp and summer camp.  Just imagine moving house four times every year! 

In each place, Jilu’s mother and father set up the family’s ger, erecting poles and wrapping them in felt, leaving a hole at the top to let blue sky in, and cooking smoke out.  These homes are radiant with color — burning orange, magenta, emerald green.  Jilu is surrounded with dazzling color and patterns in his warm cocoon.  Inside the ger, the family eats their dinners of dumplings and fermented milk, cares for new lambs born in wintertime, and celebrates holidays together.  Outside, the vast grassy plains stretch to the sky.  In summertime, the warm sun invites Jilu to play, but in winter, the long, cold darkness means the family spends lots of time just sleeping.

This short, simple book by a Mongolian author/artist, describes Jilu’s life with interesting, though sparse, text.  The pictures, with their vivd, jewel-like colors and intriguing, authentic details, make the story pop with appeal and wonder.  An intriguing look at an unusual, hidden culture.

Amazon links are below:

Are We There Yet?
Mama and Papa Have a Store
My Little Round House

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