Nostalgic about Aussie Summer – Picture Book Reviews

There’s nothing like an Aussie Christmas than the fresh scent of Summer mixed with a fragrance of fond memories and the savour of new ones. That’s how the following picture books will entice their readers, both young and old – with peace, unity and joy as we pleasure in the warmth of the festive and summery holiday season in Australia.

Corinne Fenton and Robin Cowcher return with another stunning ‘Little Dog’ story. From the iconic Melbourne in the previous, magical Christmas tale, Little Dog and the Summer Holiday takes Jonathan, Annie and their precious Westie, with caravan in tow, on holiday to the idyllic sites of Sydney. Immediately, Fenton paints a gloriously detailed adventure full of evocative language that is sure to bring about that nostalgic cue of wonderful family trips of yesteryear. Passing legendary landmarks such as the Dog on the Tuckerbox and Sydney Harbour Bridge, paddling at Bondi Beach and rattling “down the mountainside on the steepest scenic railway in the world” all make for an exciting, memorable holiday with family, friends, and of course, beloved pets.

Cowcher’s whimsical illustrations add a pleasurable sense of romanticism that capture the beauty and evocation of holidays like this. Parents and children will equally delight in Little Dog and the Summer Holiday, either reminding of the good old days, or enthusing a predilection for future family vacations. A beautiful book.

Black Dog Books, Walker Books, November 2017.

Summer – peaceful, tranquil, cheerful and contentment. Words that describe that special feeling of rest, fun and togetherness during the sunny season. And words that describe the special feeling emanating from this book by June Factor and sublime creator Alison Lester. Thirty years in print and Summer still feels as good as a homemade steamin’ puddin’ on a balmy Christmas Day.

Factor’s simple, silky and smooth Aussie voice shines through with robust rhyming character as we are swept up in a temperamental mix of family antics, Summer nuances and changing weather during the hot festive season. Lester’s legendary scenic art and winsome characters keep us occupied throughout with all the glorious combinations of farmyard outlooks and high-spirited busyness, respectively. From flies a gatherin’ to early morning rises, kin gatherin’ and present opening, pork a cracklin’ and raising glasses, clouds gatherin’ and making a bolt for cover, and finally napping and playing ‘til the stars are gatherin’ in the night sky.

Summer is a book of leisure, affection and ambience that will remain a classic to treasure and indulge in all the year round.

Viking Penguin Random House, November 2016. First edition 1987.

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

Hey Corinne Fenton, What’s Your Christmas Wish?

Corinne's Launch of Little Dog-5842Corinne Fenton is established as one of Australia’s treasured authors of beautiful picture books. They often contain an element of social history, and her knowledge and passion for writing is regularly shared in schools, libraries and workshops.  
This Christmas, there are TWO Corinne Fenton picture books that are unmissable and will have children from birth to eight feeling enriched and cherished for all of the holiday season; Little Dog and the Christmas Wish and Hey Baby, It’s Christmas! Let’s find out a little more about Corinne Fenton and her books!  

What do you love about writing children’s books?
I love being taken away with the words, those times when in my head I’m spinning and flying on a carousel horse, but really I’m at my desk staring into space.  

queenieMuch of your writing involves a great significance to social history. Is there an element of personal meaning when incorporating these topics?
Yes, in a way I believe I write about animals whose stories must be told – for me there’s a certain responsibility to tell them. When I visit students in schools it gives me a great feeling to share information with them through my stories. I strongly believe that children are learning this information in an enjoyable and almost effortless way. This is another reason why I feel so strongly about picture books.
Queenie: One Elephant’s Story came about by accident (I was actually writing a story about sparrows) but when I found her I knew immediately her story had to be told. Her story raises many issues about animals in zoos today, compared to what zoos were like back when elephants were giving rides not only here in the Melbourne Zoo but in zoos all over the world. Queenie walked for almost 40 years through the depression and through two world wars carrying up to 500 people a day.
The Dog on the Tuckerbox tells of a dog called Lady and her loyalty to her master, but there is also a host of information about bullockies, bullocks, wagons and pioneers and what it was like to live in the days when it took a bullock team up to 4 months to travel a journey which today takes a truck only 4 hours!
Flame Stands Waiting is a fictional story about a carousel horse called Flame, set in a real place – on the carousel at Melbourne’s Luna Park. This story takes place in the years of the depression, the bright lights and happiness of the carousel contrasted strongly with the drab clothing worn by the children. The discussion about this story centres on being different but students can take it further by comparing carousels throughout the world and their differences and by studying further about the depression.  

little-dog-and-the-christmas-wish[Little Dog and the Christmas Wish is a truly charming book. It is a story of loyalty, love and family belonging. This gentle, beautifully written tale is set in 1957, with Corinne Fenton’s own nostalgic memories evident, as is her love of dogs!
Little Dog, a white West Highland Terrier, escapes from home in a thunderstorm on Christmas Eve and finds himself in the heart of the city. He passes familiar Melbourne landmarks, scouring through the tall buildings, watching people bustling around, searching for his best friend and owner, Jonathan. With the hope of finding his way back home, will Little Dog get his Christmas wish? With stunning drawings by illustrator Robin Cowcher, appropriate for this setting and era, readers will enjoy the soft watercolours, smooth lines and textures of every scene.
Little Dog and the Christmas Wish is a heartwarming, engaging story that will have children from aged three, as well as older generations, in anticipation of the ending’s reveal and for future readings every Christmas.
Black Dog Books 2014]  

Your current story, ‘Little Dog and the Christmas Wish’ is set in Melbourne in the 1950s. What does this time and place mean to you? What was your inspiration behind the story?  
This book is special to me for many reasons. A child of the 50’s, it was actually nice to know, first hand, what I was writing about – to remember the enormous Foy’s Santa on the corner of Swanston and Bourke Streets, calling children toward him like this . . .. (finger) and to remember coming into the city on the green and cream rattly trams to marvel at the Myer windows every year – and walking under the portico of the Melbourne Town Hall. I also remember the clip-clopping of the Clydesdale horses as they delivered milk or bread to our front gate.
I believe I am privileged to have such precious Christmas memories and to be able to tie that in with a lovable ‘Little Dog’ character was a special Christmas gift for myself.  

The illustrations by Robin Cowcher are simply stunning. How much of the artistic content is based on your own ideas, and how much came from Robin?
As with all of my books I did a lot of research on this particular book, which Robin was able to refer to. The story is set in 1957 so the Myer windows that year displayed The Nutcracker Suite and on Christmas Eve that year the Regent Theatre were screening An Affair to Remember (one of my favourite old movies) so I imagined all of this when I was writing. Yes, Robin did a magical job on telling the other half of the story with her superb illustrations.  

hey-baby-it-s-christmasA love letter became ‘Hey Baby!’, dedicated to her own babies. ‘Hey Mum, I Love You’ was written for her own special mum. ‘Hey Dad, You’re Great’ was released in time for Father’s Day and is dedicated to her ”dad, grandpa, pop, great grandpa, all of whom I was privileged to know, and to my husband for being such a great dad.”
”This final book (‘Hey Baby, It’s Christmas’) is dedicated to my sister and brother who shared with me wonderful and precious childhood Christmases, which are printed on our hearts.” – Corinne Fenton.
Hey Baby, It’s Christmas includes an adorable array of animal images, accompanied by equally beautiful text by Corinne Fenton about enjoying the exciting lead up to Christmas.
”Hey Baby. Hang on tight, count the sleeps. Christmas is coming.”
This book touches the heart with tender moments between mother and baby, with cute, cuddly ducklings and a ‘quiet as dreaming’ sleeping puppy. There are also moments that make you giggle. Hey Baby, It’s Christmas is perfect for those calm, soothing times, when you can steal plenty of sneaky kisses and cuddles with your little one, whilst teaching them the true meaning of Christmas… Love!
Black Dog Books 2014]  

Congratulations on the release of your most recent book, ‘Hey Baby, It’s Christmas’! How did you celebrate the launch?
This launch was celebrated on Sunday November 9 at the Watsonia Pre-school with readings, books, babies, small children, cake, Christmas crafts, face painting and lots of laughter. It was the perfect place to launch such a book.  

What has been your favourite part of creating this book, and all the ‘Hey Baby!’ books in the series?
In all picture books I believe each word must earn the right to be there and in these short books (the original Hey Baby is only 53 words long) it’s even more important that each word is as perfect as it can be and that’s my favourite part, finding that perfect word, no matter how long it takes.  

Did you have a long term plan to publish all your titles in the series when writing the first ‘Hey Baby!’ book?
Not at all. I actually wrote the first one, Hey Baby! as a dedication in another book, which is not yet published. It was one of those happy accidents that grew.  

What is your favourite thing about the festive season?
Christmas memories and making more and being with the people I love. This Christmas will be special writing-wise as I have many book signings and readings in the lead up to Christmas (see my website under events – and my regular Wednesday blog post.) http://corinnefenton.com/blog    

Thank you so much for sharing, Corinne! Wishing you a safe and joyous holiday season!  
And the same to you Romi. Thank you for this opportunity. Corinne  

Connect with Corinne:
http://corinnefenton.com/  
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Corinne-Fenton-Author/

Book it in! Sunday 30 November  – 11.00 a.m. –
Little Dog and the Christmas Wish Window Launch Event at The Little Bookroom, 5 Degraves Street, Melbourne –

Check dates for other appearances by Corinne Fenton on her blog: http://corinnefenton.com/blog  

Interview by Romi Sharp
www.romisharp.wordpress.com
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