Christmas is Coming – Picture Books this Season

What does Christmas mean to you? Is it the sound of excited squeals on Christmas morning? Is it the smell of freshly baked cookies? Is it the sight of twinkling fairy lights around your Christmas tree? Or perhaps that satifying feel of a bloated belly after you’ve tasted every gourmet delight! Here are a few picture books for this coming Christmas to help elicit all those fond memories, create new ones, and enrapture all the senses.  

imageWhat Do You Wish For?, Jane Godwin (author), Anna Walker (illus.), Penguin Random House, 2015.

This one is a little bit special. Perhaps even more so for me because I attended the book launch, and met the superlative duo, Jane Godwin and Anna Walker, whose winning books always put a smile on every face and a glow in every heart. And ‘What Do You Wish For?’ is no different. It’s that all kinds of fuzzy warmth, peace and togetherness that Christmas time really represents. As Jane Godwin said herself, a ‘wish’ signifies more of a statement of fear of loss or of something that will not happen, and her intention for this book is for readers to understand that this time of year is, and should be, one of gratitude.

There is an excited buzz in the air every Christmas. Ruby and her friends always put on a special show in the park, and write a wish to hang on the tree. This year, all the children imagine the most wonderful sentiments, including hopeful dreams of teachers getting married and lego coming to life! But Ruby’s wish is too big to write on a little piece of paper. Her wish is of spirit; it’s made of smells of baking, candlelight amongst the dark, wonderful surprises and quality family time. But most of all, her Christmas wish is one of complete serenity, and a warm sparkle in the sky.   
                                                                                            
imageThe combination of Godwin’s inspiring, tender words, and Anna Walker’s beautifully dreamy illustrations is simply divine. I adore the gentle features and cool colour palette with touches of red, and the intricacy of the individually cut paper, watercolour and print spreads. (See Anna’s process here).

‘What Do You Wish For?’ is the most magical treasure for any young reader and their family to cherish this Christmas.  

imageSanta Claus is Coming to Town, Haven Gillespie and J. Fred Coots (authors), Nathaniel Eckstrom (illus.), Scholastic Australia, 2015.

The Christmas song ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’, written by Haven Gillespie and John Frederick Coots became an instant hit in 1934. Still widely played to this day, it is a tune that families know and love. Including a CD track performed by our Aussie talent, Human Nature, and the retro tones and classic-look illustrations by Nathaniel Eckstrom, this is a warm book reminiscent of the good old times, and just being good.

Five cheeky jungle animals are getting ready for Christmas Day. Organising cards and presents for one another isn’t always so simple. Neither is riding their bikes to the jubilee. But if the young ones can remain cool, calm and happy, and remember the all-important event, Santa Claus will come to town and distribute gifts to those most deserving.  

Parents will definitely appreciate this timely reminder to their kids, but particularly will enjoy the lyrical melody and smooth voices of Human Nature. And the humorous, playful illustrations will certainly be absorbed by any preschool-aged child. ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ is a must-have for your stocking this Christmas!  

imageWe’re Going on a Santa Hunt, Laine Mitchell (author), Louis Shea (illus.), Jay Laga’aia (performer), Scholastic Australia, 2015.

A sure-fire way to get kids engaged in a story is to add a dash of jingle, a splash of rhyme and the ‘presence’ of familiarity. In this jolly Christmas adventure, the bonus music CD with the voice of Play School’s Jay Laga’aia, and the structure of Michael Rosen’s ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’, (see similar titles by Laine Mitchell), all mixed with the gaiety of the festive season makes for a guaranteed hit with its readers / listeners.

‘We’re Going on a Santa Hunt’ takes five adorable arctic animals on a mission to deliver their letters to the ‘jolly one’. They bound through dark train tunnels, tinsel and swishing trees, herds of reindeer, the elves workshop, and sooty chimneys, because of course they couldn’t go over or under them! But upon catching a glimpse of the figure in black, white and red, it’s a frantic bolt back through the elements and straight into bed!

Energetic, vivacious, fun and full of thrill, ‘We’re Going on a Santa Hunt’ is a preschooler’s literary and musical delight that is bound to create excitement (and perhaps some havoc) this Christmas time.  

imageChristmas For Greta and Gracie, Yasmeen Ismail (author, illus.), Nosy Crow UK, 2015.

Greta is Gracie’s older (and bigger) bunny sister. She is also extremely chatty, a little bit bossy and a lot impatient. The girls love everything about Christmas, but especially Santa. Gracie is meticulous, quiet and little, but she has a big curiosity. When she asks her sister all about Santa, Greta always has the answer (or so she thinks!). On Christmas Eve, whilst Greta catches zzz’s, Gracie creeps out of the room – slowly, quietly, sneakily. Who does she find busily working in her living room? And how does she silence her normally loud, talkative sister?

I love the casual, quirky feel with its watercolours and rough edges, and the handwritten dialogue in pink and yellow speech bubbles to represent each character. I also love how the language used clearly identifies the ages of these children; being curious in nature, with an element of egocentricity and brutal honesty.

‘Christmas For Greta and Gracie’ is gorgeously engaging, witty and sincere, perfect for young readers from age three. There are clear themes of sibling relationships, self expression, differences and acceptance, all the while including the magic and imagination of Christmas and its related traditions.  

For more great titles to explore this Christmas, check out Boomerang’s Kids’ Reading Guide 2015 – 2016, and Dimity’s Stocking Stuffer Suggestions.

Give Daddy a Cuddle – Picture Books for Father’s Day

We’ve seen some wildly adventurous and hilarious new release picture books available for Father’s Day, now it’s time to celebrate with some more tender, but just as lively, titles that will melt your heart with their precious innocence and charm.  

imageDaddy, You’re Awesome, Laine Mitchell (author), Renée Treml (illus.), Scholastic Australia, 2015.

It’s the simple things that make Daddy awesome. Spending time together chasing a ball, swinging on the swing, looking up at the stars and sharing tickles are the kinds of memories children will treasure most. Laine Mitchell follows on from her Mother’s Day beauty, ‘Mummy, You’re Special To Me’ with this ‘awesomely’ imaginative rhyming gift to Dads this Father’s Day.
Here is another joyous collection of amazing animal parents, this time with fathers doing fatherly things. Plenty of action and adventure, building, exploring, camping and creating marvellous inventions, and always completing the verse with the phrase ‘Daddy, you’re awesome to me.’ But of course, no loving story about the paternal bonds between parent and child can end without an affectionate kiss and snuggle to soothe little ones after such a busy day.
With the characteristically stunning trademark style of Renée Treml‘s scratch art, vivid colours and simply adorable hand-drawn creatures, ‘Daddy, You’re Awesome’ oozes warmth, fun and adoration for those special people in our lives.  

imageDaddy Cuddle, Kate Mayes (author), Sara Acton (illus.), ABC Books, 2015.

Little Bunny wakes even before the crack of dawn (sounds familiar!) to the sound of the milkman’s truck. To Bunny, it’s time to get up and play. In cute, toddler two-word sentences, Bunny attempts to wake Daddy by any means. ‘Daddy ball?’, ‘Daddy bike?’, ‘Daddy kite?’. Bunny raids the house offering toys and accessories to a blissfully unaware, snoring Daddy, until enough is enough. In an oh-so-sweet ending Bunny is finally treated to a storytime snuggle and cuddle that sends them both back into a cosy slumber.
I love Kate Mayes‘ gorgeously simple text that will appeal to toddlers’ vocabulary and cheeky natures. And beautifully complimented is Sara Acton‘s energetic and adorable line and watercolour sketches on white backgrounds, making ‘Daddy Cuddle’ the perfect book for little ones (and their dads) to relate to the mischievous actions of this Bunny on a mission.    

imageDaddies Are Great!, Meredith Costain (author), Polona Lovsin (illus.), Scholastic Australia, 2015 (first published by Koala Books in 2013 as Daddies Are Lovely).

Daddies are there to make you feel safe, loved, cherished, proud and adventurous. And don’t dogs make you feel these things, too? That’s why this next book contains the ideal combination for tugging on our heartstrings.
It’s a book full of doggy daddy deliciousness, with its tongue-panting kisses, tail-wagging games, romping, rolling and digging goodness. You’ll also find caring poodles and border collies who soothe pups to sleep, boxers that raise a helping paw, and cavaliers and chihuahuas inviting close affection.
The illustrations are fantastically realistic and playful, beautifully supporting Costain‘s gentle rhyming text with its sweet ode to the fun and protecting fathers out there.
‘Daddies Are Great!’ exudes devotion and induces intimacy in this book of unconditional love and special relationships.  

Wishing all Daddies, Granddaddies and other special people a sweet and snuggly Father’s Day with your loved ones!

Kim Fleming Draws on Her Experience as Illustrator of ‘Mummy, You’re Special To Me’

Kim_Fleming_2010Kim Fleming knows how to tell a great story. She tells stories through pictures. Kim’s art creates a sense of affection, warmth and joy. Born in Canada, this now Melbournite has found her calling in illustrating children’s books. She has previously illustrated such picture books as the gorgeous True Blue Santa written by Anne Mangan, Cherish Your Skin by Amy and Jenifer Kuykendall, and Surprise! by Karen Andrews.

Her latest creation is the absolutely lovely Mummy, You’re Special To Me (Scholastic Australia) written by Laine Mitchell. Although released early this year for Mother’s Day, this book is on my gift list for Christmas.  

9781742839813Throughout the book, we meet a range of animal babies who give a sweet example of their extraordinary mummy. And each rhyming verse ends with the same ode, ”Mummy, you’re special to me.”  

”My mummy is kind. She makes hurts alright.
My mummy is brave. She’s as strong as a knight!
Mummy, you’re special to me.”
 

As we follow the little giraffe on its’ journey around the world, we encounter varied species of super-mums who are patient, entertaining, playful, artistic, smart, teachers, jokers and nurturers.
Kim Fleming so lovingly captures all the care and adoration between mother and child. From soft watercolour tones to gentle brush strokes, dabs and flicks, to the cutest of animal drawings, Kim’s illustrations are just magical.  

I’ve had the pleasure to be able to find out her perspective on being an illustrator; the talented artist behind Mummy, You’re Special To Me – Kim Fleming.     

You have illustrated many texts from picture books to chapter books, as well as educational resources. What do you love about illustrating children’s books? Which book type do you find the most rewarding, and why?
The majority of the books I have illustrated are picture books, which I definitely find the most rewarding as an illustrator. Whereas in chapter books or educational books the illustrations are adding to the story, in picture books the illustrations ARE the story. Building a visual narrative which augments the text, or subverts the text, or adds in a sub story not even mentioned in the text is incredibly fun and exciting to conceptualise. I love it when I can really sink my teeth into a project.        

Your illustrations are simply beautiful. Do you have a specific style or subjects that you prefer? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
First of all, thank you so much! I’d have to say that I most enjoy illustrating animals and themes stemming from nature and our surrounds. I also really enjoy travel in my own life so illustrations of different cultures where I need to do some “research” into different environments is always stimulating. Inspiration comes from all over – my collection of ephemera from travels and magazine flipping, a particular collage paper, an interesting billboard, a unique window display, and of course fellow artists and illustrators. Pinterest is dangerous!  

What is your favourite medium to use?
Definitely watercolours. I also add into that coloured pencils, collage, sometimes acrylics, and occasionally hand-carved stamps as well!  

Who is your favourite artist/s?  
I find it very difficult to come to a decision on my ‘all-time favourite’ artist, so instead I talk about my CURRENT favourite artists, because they are always changing:  
I love Pamela Zagarenski’s beautiful textures and evocative compositions.
I find Catherine Rayner’s fabulous characters and style are so charming.  
Fabulous surface designer (and friend) Rebecca Jones has a wonderful style and sense of colour, and her characters are so sweet.  

Octo-mama_cropWhat was your favourite part of ‘Mummy, You’re Special to Me’ to illustrate?  
The editors came to me with the idea of having a different animal mother and child for each page, so I think the best part was coming up with all of the different animals to illustrate each verse. The octopus mother enacting a stage play with puppets on each tentacle was a particular favourite. I also really enjoyed coming up with all the cheeky actions for the giraffe in the background.    

What was the hardest part?
This will sound trite, but there really was no hard part. Normally a book will have SOME challenge in creation, but this one truthfully flowed from start to finish and was a real joy to work on. I wish every book was like this one!  

Mummy-You-are-Special-to-Me_24_giraffeWhich animal is your favourite to draw? Why?  
Funnily, I do love a giraffe. The giraffe has been a mascot of mine for many years, he appears on my business card and website and always has. So the fact that Mummy You’re Special To Me’s main character was a giraffe was perfect. I think they are just such funny animals. Natural selection is a curious thing!  

What was the highlight for you in 2014?  
The release of Mummy You’re Special To Me was definitely a highlight. I have also been getting back into animation for the first time in years, animating a children’s app which has been loads of fun!    

Are there any special milestones or events that you are looking forward to in 2015?
The announcement that Mummy You’re Special To Me will be released as a board book version in English and French by Scholastic Canada next year is such a joy for me, because I was born in Canada and speak French!   I’m also working on another book for Scholastic Australia at the moment, and I’m looking forward to the launch of the app I mentioned, with hopefully another app in the pipeline.  

That’s great! I look forward to seeing more from you! Thank you for your time, Kim! I really appreciate you talking with Boomerang Books!  
Thanks so much to you Romi and to Boomerang Books!

Have a look at Kim’s stunning website at:
http://www.kimflemingillustration.com
Follow Kim Fleming at:
https://www.facebook.com/KimFlemingIllustration
twitter: @lilkimfleming

Interview by Romi Sharp
http://www.romisharp.wordpress.com
http://www.facebook.com/mylittlestorycorner
twitter: @mylilstorycrner

Magical Moments for Mum – Mother’s Day Reviews

Dear Mums, whether you begin it with burnt offerings and flowers in bed or embark on a 24 respite from the usual onslaught of bickering and demands, you are celebrating Mothers’ Day because you are part of one of the most magical clubs in the world. The following assortment of picture books, all out now, encapsulates that magic. They are in equal parts cute, absorbing, whimsical and funny.

 

How I love youYoung children under five are well catered for. How I Love You by Anna Pignataro (Scholastic Press, March 2014) oozes tenderness and charm. What it lacks in narrative depth is more than compensated for by the understated beauty of Pignataro’s glorious illustrations. Children will enjoy mimicking the high-lighted prose as they visit a diverse collection of Aussie animals at bedtime, each revealing by their actions just how they love their mummies. Sweet and perfect for bedtime togetherness.
Mummy You're Special to MeSimilar in design and content is Laine Mitchell’s and Kim Fleming’s, Mummy, You’re Special To Me. (Scholastic Australia, April 2014). Again this is less of a story and more of an exploration of the divine diversity and uniqueness of mummies all over the planet.
Little Giraffe thinks his mummy is super special because she’s ‘kind’ and ‘strong as a knight’. As he navigates through life, he discovers a universe of other mummies each with their own special qualities. My favourite encounter was sipping tea with Little Camel’s hip and groovy Gran.
Some of Mitchell’s rhyming verse felt a little off key at times but Fleming’s adorable, multi-technique illustrations were special enough to send me right back to the beginning to enjoy it all over again.

Hootie the CutieHootie the Cutie (New Frontier Publishing, April 2014) by Michelle Worthington and fresh newcomer to the children’s book scene, illustrator Giuseppe Poli, could as easily be enjoyed by dads and grandparents but deserves special mention here, because what mum does not welcome a little dragon magic in her day?
Worthington weaves a winsome, whimsical woodland tale about an owl, small in stature but large in heart and spirit, and brave beyond all measure as it turns out. Poli completes the very pleasing tapestry with illustrations that will enchant the pants off you.
Hootie the Cutie reminds us that sometimes loving (our children) is about allowing for growth and letting go while simultaneously showing pre-primary aged children that independent thought and actions are qualities that can shape and strengthen who you really are. Highly commendable.
Jam for NanaNanas are high-profiling a lot these days and little wonder when grandparents make up the highest proportion of informal childcare in Australia according to (AIFS)* statistics; so Deborah Kelly’s and Lisa Stewart’s, Jam for Nana (Random House Australia, April 2014) is destined to be a generational crowd pleaser.

This picture book delights on many levels; from its dustcover-covered, recipe-book shape and size to its comforting unrushed rhythm and wholesome narrative. It is a book you’ll want to treasure, or at least share with your little one and their significant grandparent. Told from a little girl’s point of view, it highlights the special bond between her and her grandmother and centres on her desire to recreate ‘real jam’ for her nana.
It reminded me of a time in my childhood when backyard apricots tasted like ‘the warmth of a hundred summers’ too and life was full of substance so pure and thick and wonderful, you could ‘hold it upside down and shake it’. Stewart’s divine illustrations and Kelly’s shared pancake ritual make this one very special picture book.
Nurturing and snuggling are all well and good but bringing a smile to mum’s face is perhaps the best thing you can give her. My Mum says the Strangest Things, (Black Dog Books, April 2014), is guaranteed to have her LOL in no time flat. In fact, I can barely get through it (with my Miss 8) without crippling waves of laughter washing over me.
ThMy Says the Strangest Thingse Katrina Germein and Tom Jellet team that gave us My Dad Thinks he’s Funny and My Dad Still Thinks he’s Funny, train their humorous cross-hairs on mum’s idiosyncratic refrains this time, with deadly accuracy. For adult readers, the sweet irony of mum’s idiomatic expressions is difficult to ignore and impossible not to relate to: ‘when mum’s tired she says everyone needs an early night.’ Love, love, love it! There is something here for every member of the family. Older primary aged kids will be rolling their eyes and trying not to laugh. You’ll be taking stock of the next ‘strange thing’ that falls out of your mouth.

 

So, however you end up spending Mothers’ Day, make sure you take a moment or two to share it with the little people who gave you the reason to read picture books again in the first place (and linger longer in bed for at least one day of the year). Happy Mothers’ Day!

* AIFS.gov.au viewed Feb 2014.