Hippity Hop – Picture Books for Easter

No, you won’t find cute, fluffy chicks or even prettily decorated eggs in these books, but you will find rabbits and some very funny antics! Rather than teaching Easter traditions, we’re going for more of an entertainment-inspired approach to play with your kids over the break. From a pencil playing hide-and-seek to a can-you-guess game of heads and tails, and a hilarious round of Chinese Whispers / Secret Message, these picture books will keep your little ones guessing til the very end.

If you want to see a bunny ‘crack it’ at Easter time then look no further than Rodney Loses It! With Michael Gerard Bauer’s rhyming narrative that enthrals, enlightens and ensnares the emotions, plus Chrissie Krebs’ boisterous cartoons, it’s no wonder this book has made the 2018 CBCA Book of the Year Shortlist for its winning qualities.

A lesson in how NOT to panic, how NOT to dramatically overreact, and certainly how NOT to lose your cool when you’ve lost something precious. This book is a prime example for children around the 4 to 6 year old mark that tantrums, tears and thumping of feet don’t always solve the problem. Rodney and his exacerbated exasperation doesn’t fail to excite and the longer he searches for his beloved pencil the more it makes us laugh. Especially because we know where it is all along!

Colourfully entertaining, full of action, frustration and utter delight, Rodney Loses It! will have its readers begging to relive this bunny’s meltdown time and time again.

Scholastic Australia, September 2017.

Starting off the hunt is the furry-eared, fluffy-tailed rabbit, on a mission to uncover the truth behind its missing other half on the following page. Heads and Tails by John Canty is a beautifully illustrated, interactive game of prior knowledge, prediction and classification that will have its young readers engaged from head to tail!

Each page delivers three colour-coded clues about a certain creature’s characteristics, accompanied by a watercoloured painting of its behind. “I have long furry ears and a small nose. I live in a burrow in the ground. I have a white fluffy tail. I am a…” Then cleverly, upon turning the page, the answer is revealed in bold black text with a more detailed, textured watercolour and black print image showing the front part of its body. Featuring a menagerie of animals, including a tiger, fish, rhinoceros, turtle, crocodile, plus more, the book continues with its repetitive, clues-and-answer format. Not to say there isn’t a little trick or two in there to keep readers on their sharp-witted toes!

Educationally fun, lively to read aloud and play, with a variety of vocabulary and animals to learn, young children will adore Heads and Tails for its spunkiness and rhythm.

Berbay Publishing, May 2017.

Everyone knows that the game Chinese Whispers or Secret Message (Broken Telephone?) usually ends up in a linguistic mess! And this one involves a highly important message about what to bring to a friend’s surprise birthday party. In What the Fluffy Bunny said to the Growly Bear, what DID the fluffy bunny actually say to the growly bear? P. Crumble and Chris Saunders send us along this whacky line of mixed-up messages that keeps us gasping for breath, and squirming with unease at the confusing, amusing calamity that unfolds.

Immediately we are drawn in with Fluffy Bunny’s valiant call for Growly Bear’s attention, and the digitally masterful prominence of the illustrations. But as soon as the characters speak the tone becomes light, and the pictures, airy and sweet, sealing the story’s playful mood and innocence. The bunny’s original instructions were to wear a hat and bring a cake for Zebra’s party. As each animal passes this on, the message becomes more and more woolly with other similar sounding words for ‘hat’ and ‘cake’, such as ‘cat’ and ‘steak’, ‘mat’ and ‘plate’, ‘acrobat’ and ‘snake’, and so on. And when the animals finally come together to deliver their surprise to Zebra, he is not the only one who is surprised…and totally confused!

The illustrations stand out with big, burly characters, just like Growly Bear, accenting a gorgeous backing softness, just like Fluffy Bunny. What the Fluffy Bunny said to the Growly Bear is a gigglicious combination of fun, rhyme, language, short-term memory awareness… and chaos, that will be ‘well-received’ by preschool-aged children these holidays.

Koala Books, Scholastic, March 2018.

Reviews – Little Elliot BIG…

It is special holidays like Easter that remind us to appreciate one another and of our need for togetherness. Easter Bunny and Chick may be the renowned chocolate-giving pair this holiday, but Elliot and Mouse find their own kind of sweet goodness in this loveable series of friendship and hope.

imageWhen I first read Little Elliot Big City I thought, “This is me.” No, I’m not a tiny, polka-dotted elephant, but I am a quiet type, and quiet types tend to go unnoticed at times. I also moved to this fabulous country as a child, which at first felt like an overwhelming experience. So I can relate to Little Elliot.

Being miniature size in a big, bustling city for this elephant is like being an ant in a sea of giants. Attempting regular-sized people’s everyday activities is challenging, to say the least. But you know what? He always manages, and his eyes are open to the brighter side of life. Helping out a littler one than he (Mouse) not only gives him the confidence boost he needed, but he also wins a physical boost to finally be able to purchase that much-desired cupcake he was craving. A new treat and a new friend…what else could you ask for?


imageThe story of Elliot and Mouse continues in Little Elliot Big Family when the compact elephant finds himself in another quandary; feeling alone and empty when Mouse is away at a family reunion. In the streets, Elliot notices the special bonds between family members; brothers, sisters, fathers with children, mothers with sons, grandmothers and even cousins skating together. Elliot longs for connection, for a place to belong. Upon chance, Mouse finds him in the snow and takes him to celebrate the joyous attic-party with all the mouse generations. And they couldn’t document this auspicious occasion without including EVERY member in the precious family portrait!

Mike Curato has brilliantly written both books with such simplicity that is so full of meaning. The minimal text conveys depths of emotion and sensitivities, particularly in Little Elliot Big City, that carries the stories forward at a perfectly timed pace. What also feels accurately portrayed and supportive of the words are Curato’s illustrations’ moodiness, softness, atmosphere and old-world charm. Look to be set in New York in the 1940s, both books convey gorgeously rich history and spirit within their sepia-toned, rendered images.

image‘Little Elliot Big City’ and ‘Little Elliot Big Family’ are a complete set that complement the purpose of the other and warm our hearts. Same could be said for the two inseparable characters that show us how to love, and are truly, larger than life. Perfect for anyone from age three, and in particular those who need reassurance of their value in this world, and those who can appreciate the small things.

Look out for more Little Elliot books coming soon.

The Five Mile Press, November 2014 and October 2015.

Purchase Little Elliot Big City and Little Elliot Big Family.

Hippity Hoppity – Easter’s on its way!

You may be surprised as I to learn that Easter is just two and a half weeks away. Well, maybe not with all those buns and eggs on the shop shelves to remind you. If filling your Easter break with more than just chocolate and egg hunts and spiritual appreciation is important to you, then perhaps these new picture book releases will appease the persnickety Peter Rabbit within (and entertain your younglings to boot!)

We're Going on an Egg Hunt Laura HugesWe’re going on an Egg Hunt, by Laura Hughes amply satisfies young tastes with easy-to-read, boldly laid out text that echoes the perennial favourite, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt verse. Being instantly recognisable means small eyes can concentrate on Hughes’ foxy little illustrations, only there is not a fox in sight, thank goodness. The Bunny Family are the ones on the hunt…for eggs naturally, and they are super excited about it, too.

As they traverse their way through woods and across farmyards, they encounter obstacles at every twist and bend. Armed with nothing more than an egg-swiping net and a barrow-load of perseverance, they figure out the best course of action until they hit the jackpot and a whole lot of trouble. Did I mention there were no foxes?! Perfect Easter action-based fun for pre-schoolers demonstrating positive rewards follow tenacious effort with dinky flaps to lift and treasures to accumulate.

Bloomsbury Children’s Books March 2016

The Wonderful Habits of RabbitsEver wondered what rabbits get up to when they are not fighting off wolves and hunting for eggs? Well, wonder no more for The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits will delight every lover of lapins and addresses all those tricky rabbit questions. Written in gently loping verse, author, Douglas Florian invites us to spend a day with a colony of rabbits (otherwise known as a fluffle) as they leap and laze The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits illos spreadabout the meadows. Actually, life with this family of cottontails stretches poetically across several seasons until it’s time to snuggle down with a goodnight kiss. Sonia Sanchez’s winsome pencil line drawings bound with colour and charm depicting the energetic spirit of bunny in the most Watership Down-dream-like way. The end papers are particularly appealing, especially for kids who love to quantify and establish ownership (of things) with plenty of rabbits to choose a favourite from. The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits is a fetching addition to your Easter reading.

The Five Mile Press February 2016

George BilbyIf Easter equals a chance to chillax with your loved ones and whip up a few dozen hot cross buns as it can for me, then you’ll appreciate George, the Bilby Chef and his insatiable quest to cook. This sweet new character hailing from the pens and paintbrushes of Jedda Robaard features in the first of a new picture book series about enterprising epicurean marsupial, George and because bilbies like George are Australia’s preferred kind of egg-delivering icon, he fits snuggly into any Easter basket. In this debut instalment, The Raspberry Surprise, George is intent on surprising his best friend, Betty Echidna on her birthday with a special sweet treat. Raspberry muffinsGeorge Bilby illos spread are his dessert of choice but locating and then harvesting said raspberries proves to be near impossible until George enlists the services of some of his very obliging and thoughtful friends. By the time Betty arrives, the cakes have been baked and readers are gently aware of the benefits of working together towards a shared goal. Robaard’s soft easy to digest illustrations compensate for a slightly longer text but one that young readers will enthuse over thanks to the lovely sense of expectation and logical explanation. Best of all; a handy Bilby Chef Recipe card is included to keep and use. I wonder what other scrumdelicious adventures George will encounter. Ideal for three-year-olds and above and budding junior Masterchefs everywhere.

The Five Mile Press February 2016

Dance Bilby DanceFor many, Easter is a time of reflection, renewed hope and of life moving forward. For most of us, dreams represent the impetus to continue. In Tricia Oktober’s latest picture book, Dance, Bilby, Dance, our favourite Easter marsupial, Bilby is no different; ‘he wishes he could dance.’ In what appears to initially be a one-man show, Bilby is surrounded by white space, alone with his desires while all those in the world around him appear to revel in what he regards is unobtainable, until one day, after closely observing his dancing shadow, his innermost yearnings leap into existence. But, has Bilby unleashed a passion too big and scary to control? Oktober’s bright expressive illustrations are king in a quietly impressive picture book that imaginatively introduces readers five years old and above to some curious critters, stirring language, and the possibilities that can lead to new friendships. I especially appreciated the gentle notion that overcoming ones fears can free one for moments of ecstatic expression and reward; an approach to life that should never be underestimated. And perhaps one of the soundest Easter messages of all.

Ford Street Publishing March 2016

Aussie Easter Hat ParadeNow it just wouldn’t be a notable time of year without a cheer-filled, colourful contribution by Colin Buchanan and Simon Williams, and if you have primary aged children you will instantly sympathise with the Easter Hat Parade tradition performed at many schools. What I love about Aussie Easter Hat Parade is the outrageous tribute to not only a swag of Aussie creatures but also the brilliant flora that constitutes their homeland (and ours). From the bright red desert pea that Billy Bullant crowns himself with to Wombat’s Gymea lily lid, each little mate adorns themselves with feathers, flowers, gum nuts and more resulting in a fantastic Easter bonnet brouhaha and the very first Aussie Easter Hat parade (just in case you were wondering how all this craziness started). Sensational fun, bewitching illustrations and a singalong CD to boot, with a neat little ending reminding us that sometimes the biggest brightest ideas can originate from the most minute situations…or ants.

Scholastic Australia March 2016

 

 

A hunting we will go – Easter basket fillers

It wouldn’t be Easter without a bit of a hunt. Whatever your predilection, chocolate eggs, fairies, time spent with loved ones; this small but sweet selection of Easter inspired treasures are perfect to pop into your Easter baskets this year.

For the very young bunnies:

Little Barry Bilby Little Barry Bilby by Colin Buchanan and Roland Harvey, including bonus CD for those inept at carrying a tune like me, starts us off. Modelled on Little Peter Rabbit, this Aussie version is chockers with charm and ‘bizzy, buzzy, bush bugs’. Barry Bilby and a cast of awesome Aussie characters are subjected to the typical insecticidal onslaught familiar to us all, especially those on their annual Easter camping trips. Mozzies, cicadas, bees, ticks and even a Bogong moth, harass our lovable cast until they find a better-than-Aeroguard solution to their ‘itchy-twitchy’ dilemma. Eye catching, sing-along fun.

Scholastic Australia March 2015

Beach HolidayOne of the latest in the Ella and Olivia series, Beach Holiday is great Easter-time-away reading for those weaning themselves onto their first chapter books. When Ella’s little sister, Olivia, gets lost on holiday, adventure follows. But can Ella save her and the day? Penned by Yvette Poshoglian and illustrated by Danielle McDonald.

Scholastic Australia January 2015

The very Cranky Bear PuppetsEaster Bunny is prone to leaving the odd stuffed likeness of himself behind on Easter morning, but why not leave instead a fluffy lamb, a curious moose, or even a cranky bear? Nick Bland’s classic, The Very Cranky Bear has been bonsai’ed into a divine little board book rendition of the nursery rhyme, Five in the Bed, with finger puppets! A sure bedtime, anytime crowd pleaser for under three-year-olds.

Scholastic Australia November 2014

For the maturing bunnies:

Those Pesky Rabbits Those Pesky Rabbits is the stunning picture book debut by author illustrator, Ciara Flood and another story that paints bears as slightly grumpy, inhospitable creatures that prefer to live on their own, just the way they want.

Bear is no exception so imagine how his forbearance is tested when a hoard of do-gooding rabbits set up camp, right next door.

They pester him with annoying requests and invitations until the full force of his impatience is unleashed. Fortunately, those pesky rabbits persist and their charity finally triggers a delightful change in Bear.

Pesky rabbits illos spreadHighly recommended for its attractive illustrations and messages of selfless kindness, community spirit, and perseverance.

Koala Books March 2015

Virgil and Owen Virgil and Owen tells the tale of burgeoning friendship in a slightly different light. As Easter values echo acceptance, new beginnings and understanding, so does Paulette Bogan’s picture book tale about Virgil, the penguin who finds a lost polar bear, Owen and immediately claims ownership of him. However, Owen has other ideas and divides his time between just about everyone else on the iceberg but Virgil. Slighted and alone, Virgil eventually learns that friendship is not merely about possession. A lovely example of tolerance and fair play.

Bloomsbury Children’s March 2015

For the bigger bunnies:

The Fairy who Wouldn't FlyWhat is Easter without a mad dash around the garden, seeking out hidden treasures: eggs, maybe even the odd fairy or two? Released last year, The Fairy Who Wouldn’t Fly retold by Bronwyn Davies, is a beautifully presented hardcover copy of Pixie O’Harris’s classic tale.

O’Harris’s exquisite illustrations adorn each page with the same tender beauty I find so captivating in May Gibbs’s work. Bush flora and fauna melt seamlessly together into fluttering, ethereal scenes.

Fairy NLA illoDavies’ retelling of the fairy who is banished to Woodn’t, a place where indignant creatures are exiled to for refusing to do as they should, takes a subtly different path from the original. Davies’ fairy assumes a more girl-power attitude, showing courage and thoughtfulness, which in turn encourages readers to embrace the possibilities of differences between them and nature more openly.

Valuable for confident readers aged six years and above or as a gorgeous shared bedtime read.

NLA May 2014

Like to save the best egg until last? I do.

Where's the Easter Bunny Where’s the Easter Bunny? by the perennial, Louis Shea is the ultimate Easter fun picture book. It’ll have your primary aged-bunnies engrossed for longer than it takes to hop down the bunny trail (and back up again), or in this case, the magic burrows.

Easter Bunny, aka EB, aka Uncle Bun, has got himself lost in the Magic Burrows. His young nieces and nephew head the rescue party, embarking on a zany mission to find him before the feckless bunny-hungry Foxy does. There’s not a minute to lose as Delivery time draws near.

This humorous ‘look and find’ romp through out-of-this-world places like Cloud Castle, Fairy Forest, and Mars Mine is brimming with joyous colour and delicious titbits about Easter egg creation. Perfect for consumption this Easter!

Scholastic Australia March 2015

 

Here Comes Peter Cottontail – Easter Reviews

Is your freezer full of hot cross buns? Are you feeling bilious after over-eroding the stash of chocolate eggs you’ve had hidden for weeks from the kids? If so, you may already be over Easter. But wait. There’s more! While you won’t find a great deal of religious meaning in the following titles, they do bubble and burst with frivolity and interactive verve, perfect for sharing with your family, which for me, ticks at least one of my Easter boxes.

Easter Egg expressFirst egg out of the basket – Easter Egg Express by Susannah McFarlane and Caroline Keys, is part of the cute and clever Little Mates A-Z series. Unashamedly Australian, abundant with alliteration and more colour than you’d find in a rainbow, Little Mates rarely fail to deliver. Fortunately, thanks to the help of their bush mates, Easter bilbies Ellie and Eric deliver as well, just in time for an Easter extravaganza. Easter Egg Express epitomises Easter eggactly; egg hunts, egg painting, egg eating and eggceptionally tasty hot cross buns. Eggcellent! (Sorry for the lame yolks)

10 Hopping bunnies10 Hopping Bunnies by winning team, Ed Allen and Simon Williams, serves up more frantic fun for 3 year olds. As with other titles in the series, including 10 Smiley Crocs, this is a zany rendition of the popular ditty, Ten Green Bottles. Counting to ten has never been so energetic and hilarious. William’s illustrations race, hop, bound, swing and bounce across the pages in a riotous countdown that is never boring but plenty bonkers. There’s a touch of Graeme Base on every page too, as readers are encouraged to spot hidden numbers. Practical, merry good fun.

There was an old Bloke who Swallowed a BunnyHow about another well-known tune, now that your vocal chords are all limbered up? There was an Old Bloke who Swallowed a Bunny! by series duo P Crumble and Louis Shea, will keep you singing. It seems incredible that, that old bloke and lady are able to look at another morsel after stuffing themselves silly with stars, thongs, chooks, mozzies and spiders. But these non-sensical characters in this nonsense nursery rhyme appear to have plenty of life and room in them yet.

Our old bloke finds himself famished whilst on the farm. The usual gastronomic gobbling ensues until ‘kapow!’ farmyard calm is restored. Again, it’s the in-your-face, brighter than day illustrations that steal the show. Simultaneous bonsai stories blossom on every page guaranteeing repeated readings and plenty of contemplative pausing and pointing out. But that’s okay because ‘Crikey!’ it’s funny.

We're going on an Egg HuntFinally, because Easter is slightly prone to exploitation, We’re Going on an Egg Hunt by Laine Mitchell and Louis Shea, is included in this fun and frivolous round-up for pre-schoolers. You’ll recognise the rhyme from the title and appreciate the vibrant illustrations accompanying the playful text as you sing along with the kids.

The look on our big-eyed, baby animal friends’ faces as they finally end their hunt in a choc-egg induced stupor is priceless; one we are all familiar with I’m sure. High energy plus high interactive potential = very morish. (There’s even a CD by Jay Laga’aia)

Bounce over here for more great Easter titles for young and old.

Scholastic Australia March 2014