Everybody Loves Cheeky Animals in Picture Books

What is it about mischievous, strong-minded animals that make them so irresistible? Is it because they are so entertaining, or that we can see ourselves in them, or both? Here are some of the latest picture books that fit the bill in the ‘cheeky-animal’ category. Get your paws on them now!

imageHeath McKenzie whets our appetites with the introduction of his sweet little rumbly-tummy dragon. But ‘This Hungry Dragon’ doesn’t stay little or sweet for long! Each page turn will have you in stitches as the red beast grows hungrier, and rounder, with every humungous gulp. Now bigger than a house, perhaps there’s room for one last little mouse, and a doctor to make him feel better! But it’s the dragon’s undoing when the doctor comes up with a ‘rockin” plan to escape from the animal-gorged belly.
This fabulously hilarious, rhyming read-aloud story encapsulates all the goodness of a buffet feast, from its choice vocabulary to its rollicking rhythm and exuberantly playful line and watercolour illustrations. Delightfully delicious for preschool-aged children.

Scholastic Press, May 2016.

imageI love the child-like energy in the whimsical pictures by disabled Indigenous illustrator Dion Beasley that accompany the satirical, first-person perspective written by Johanna Bell in Go Home, Cheeky Animals!’ (sequel to highly acclaimed ‘Too Many Cheeky Dogs’). Arms are a-flapping when goats, donkeys, horses, buffaloes and camels invade the property at Canteen Creek, but the naughty canines simply stretch and go back to sleep. When the family have finally had enough, the lazy dogs come to the rescue and growl in their loudest, angriest voices, “GO HOME, CHEEKY ANIMALS!” And they do…or do they?
This author and illustrator combo marvellously bring a sense of familiarity and understanding to a most inconvenient, yet comical situation based in the Northern Territory. Recommended to all lazy dog lovers out there.

The amazing story of the collaboration between the creators can be read here.

Allen & Unwin, May 2016.

imagePuppies are adorable, aren’t they?! If you could pick any breed what would you pick? In ‘My Perfect Pup’, it’s all about the puppy selection process, with a twist. Sue Walker and Anil Tortop brilliantly pair up to produce a heartwarming story that every child, and dog it seems, dreams of. When Milly and Max decide that Tiny will be their perfectly pampered and proficient pup, they don’t quite get what they planned for, and promptly return the hairy, not-so-tiny pooch to the pet shop. Which is actually to the delight of Tiny, because he needs a chance to make his own ‘friend selection’. And that’s when Joe arrives…
With all the fun of caring for a new pet, with the added bonus of humour, what makes a real friendship, and adorably energetic illustrations, ‘My Perfect Pup’ is the perfect book to select for your young reader.

New Frontier Publishing, June 2016.

imageNow here’s a pet with personality; it’s the red cat in ‘I Am Doodle Cat’ by Kat Patrick and Lauren Marriott. Doodle Cat, seen full-focus in a series of animated positions on plain backgrounds, is not shy to let us know about all the things he loves. Dancing, the ocean, farts, friends, maths, lentils, fractals, difference and doodling are some, to name a few. But most importantly, Doodle Cat loves himself, in the best way possible.
Simple, visually friendly red and black on white illustrations suitably marries with the message of loving the simple things in life. ‘I Am Doodle Cat’ is also witty, candid and thought-provoking, making it a engaging read for preschoolers and beyond.

Scribble / Scribe Publications, March 2016.  

imageIt’s cuteness overload in Susannah Chambers and Mark Jackson’s The Snow Wombat’. Wombats are well-known for their cheeky, playful personalities, and this one is no different. Fun, rhyming couplets allow its preschool readers to make predictions and interact with the story. The wombat ventures through the ice-laiden countryside, lapping up all snowy goodness around him, and ‘on’ him. Finally, he finds a dry, warm place to snuggle in for a snow-free sleep.
The illustrations portray breathtakingly beautiful scenes and precisely depicted human and animal characteristics. ‘The Snow Wombat’ captures a wonderful preview of recreational fun in the snow and an Australiana feel.

Allen & Unwin, June 2016.



Bilby Secrets is Australian author, Edel Wignell’s latest book and it’s part of the acclaimed Nature Storybooks series from Walker books.

The bilby is an endangered Australian marsupial and Bilby Secrets reveals how it manages to survive the harsh desert environment. Readers discover so much about the bilby – where it finds its food, where it sleeps, who its predators are.

One of the things I liked about this book is the way that the true story of how a bilby lives is presented in narrative so the reader is carried into the bilby’s world.

The reader gets to take a peek inside Mother Bilby’s burrow as she gives birth to her baby and keeps him safe inside her pouch.

The young Bilby grows and becomes independent and finally gets to leave the burrow, cantering behind his mother. Young bilby is introduced to the desert and taught how to find his own food and about the dangers lurking there.

Alongside the bilby story are lots of great facts – the bilby secrets that Edel Wignell reveals. The fact that bilbys have around four litters of young a year but the number varies depending on the food and water supply.

Bilbies have sharp teeth. As they hunt, they store food in their cheeks.

A bilby may have up to twenty tunnels in its feeding area.

Bilby Secrets, the story of mother and baby bilby’s journey is beautifully illustrated by Melbourne-based artist, Mark Jackson. His pictures depict the rich colours of the desert and reflect the busy but perilous life of a bilby.

Edel Wignell’s fluent narrative is accompanied by well-researched facts to engage the curious young reader.

Bilby Secrets is published in hardback for readers aged 3+





Two New “Laugh Out Loud” Picture Books

I wasn’t going to blog today. I have some serious rewrites to do on my YA novel and author visits to prepare for later in the week. But I couldn’t help myself.

I had to share two wonderful new picture books that had me giggling uncontrollably in the car, (parked of course) attracting suspicious looks from other parents while I waited for my son at school pickup.

Rufus The Numbat

They say a picture tells a thousand words, and this is definitely true of Rufus The Numbat, David Miller’s new book from Ford Street Publishing.

There are very few words in this beautifully illustrated book, but they combine with the pictures to tell a big story about a very small numbat. And roles are reversed. Instead of man causing havoc in the numbat’s environment, Rufus manages to cause complete chaos in town.

Apart from the simple text and humour, readers will love the amazing illustrations and engage with the tiny Numbat who is “Just passing through”. Rufus The Numbat, is David Miller’s fourteenth picture book and the fifth that he has written. He makes intricate, colourful 3D paper sculptures and then photographs them for his pictures.

This lively picture book introduces young readers to the fragile relationship between humans and animals.

The Truth About Penguins

Another  new “Laugh Out Loud” picture book is The Truth About Penguins, written by Meg McKinlay and illustrated by Mark Jackson

The animals at the zoo are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the penguins. None of them have actually seen a penguin before so they speculate about what the new inhabitants might be like.   It’s like an exaggerated game of Chinese Whispers as the animals share their ‘knowledge’.

They are soon convinced that penguins fly south for the winter, eat pizza and wear cool bathers. The humorous text and detailed illustrations work in perfect harmony. I think my loudest guffaw was when the elephant declares, “My mother was a penguin”. Not only was the text hilarious, but the sight of the elephant leaning up against the tree  ‘hand on hip’ and legs crossed added a new level of humour.

Fortunately, the zookeeper sets the zoo animals straight on what penguins are ‘really’ like. I love the way this book teaches readers so much about penguins, but in a funny and entertaining way.

The Truth About Penguins is published by Walker Books Australia.