Kids’ Holiday Reads that Make Great Gifts

Books are the gift that just keep on giving, aren’t they?! They’re worth so much more than the latest toy that lasts a whole five minutes. Here’s a small roundup of some great books for kids that make for beautiful gifts and can be shared over the festive season and well into the holidays.

Picture Books

All the Ways to be Smart, Davina Bell (author), Allison Colpoys (illus.), Scribble, October 2018.

This is the fourth time this superlative duo have come together, following the successes of The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade , Captain Starfish and Under the Love Umbrella. Bell and Colpoys will be winning awards once again with this stunning picture book that is so intelligent in its own way. For all children wondering what their kind of smart is, this energetic rhyming guide reinforces a confidence that there is certainly more than one. From artistic endeavours to scientific explorations, using your imagination to skills in building, retaining important facts to showing compassion and empathy are all but a few. Coordination and music abilities, polite manners, ‘feeling scared but taking chances.’ The list is endless and these book creators have absolutely nailed it with their verve, humour, versatility and diversity. The language rolls off the tongue to perfection, whilst the neon colours draw your eye just the way an artist should. All the Ways to be Smart – adding much brightness to any child’s mind – in more ways than one.

What Do You Wish For?, Jane Godwin (author), Anna Walker (illus.), Penguin Random House, October 2018 (Paperback).

What Do You Wish For? puts a smile on every face and a glow in every heart. It’s that all kinds of fuzzy warmth, peace and togetherness that Christmas time really represents. Godwin’s intention for this book is for readers to understand that this time of year is, and should be, one of gratitude. The combination of her inspiring, tender words, and Anna Walker’s beautifully dreamy, intricate illustrations, is simply divine. 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. 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. What Do You Wish For? is the most magical treasure for any young reader and their family to cherish this Christmas.

It’s Not a Scribble to Me, Kate Ritchie (author), Jedda Robaard (illus.), Penguin Random House, 2018.

I always love books that encourage exploration of the imagination. In this one, it’s the walls, floors and windows that get to discover what the bear child is conjuring up in his mind – much to his family’s dismay. The little bear speaks a lyrical tongue as to what his crayon and pen scribbles represent. A red Santa makes an appearance above the fireplace, a green frog on the toilet, a black witch inspired by broomsticks, a blue frothy sea and yellow splotchy bumbley bees. It’s amazing what each colour of the rainbow can be turned into, and where they happen to turn up! But somehow, this cheeky bear is able to win over the family with his colourful, magical, whimsical, wonderful charm. A beautifully alluring, absolutely sweet, vivacious and child-centred book in its words and pictures. It’s Not a Scribble to Me is ideal for children from age three as a facilitator of self-expression, creativity and boundless possibilities.

Australia Illustrated (2nd Ed.), Tania McCartney (Author, illus.), EK Books, October 2018.

I absolutely adored this book when it was first released back in 2016. Now I (we all) get to relive the magic once again with this much anticipated 2nd edition recently re-published. Australia Illustrated is a visual festive celebration, the ultimate pictorial encyclopaedia of our beautiful land. Tania McCartney’s expansive array of detail and design, even if only a snippet, takes us on a wonderful journey around the country exploring major attractions to pockets of hidden gems we may have otherwise missed. My kids loved traveling around Australia; spotting familiarities, discovering new mysteries of the unknown, and giggling along at the cute and quirky nuances. Vivacious watercolours and a mix of media showcase the well-known to the unique. From the BIG and beautiful Queensland Mango and Big Banana in Coffs Harbour, the diverse native animals, bush tucker, sports, slang and weather, and a taste of idiosyncrasies from State to State. A gloriously scrumptious edition to pore over with the kids at home or away.

And another exquisite book from Tania McCartney that is a piece of art in itself is Mamie. Published by HarperCollins, November 2018. With her large, round gumnut eyes and angelic face, Mamie shares her story of adapting to change, fairies, pixies, elves and friendship. Celebrating the life of renowned and much-loved Australian icon – author and illustrator, May Gibbs of the Snugglepot and Cuddlepie fame, McCartney takes readers on a historical yet imaginative journey. She gently and expertly showcases the exceptional creativity, inspiration and achievements of Gibbs absolutely beautifully and with bunches of natural charm. Mamie is sure to win hearts abound, just as she has done over the past 100 years.

Chapter Books

The First Adventures of Princess Peony, Nette Hilton (author), Lucinda Gifford (illus.), Walker Books, 2018.

The attitude and tenacity of The Little Princess mixed with a quintessentially unique dialect like Lola (Charlie and Lola) together brings about this charming new face to the bookish world, Princess Peony. Partner that with the perfectly scruffy tomboy/girl-looking character in grey tones with pops of hot pink and you’ve got yourself a popular new series for girls (and boys) in the junior reader market. Princess Peony, the name which must be reminded to the audience every now and then, begins her fairy tale in front of her house, erm, Castle with her dog, no, Dragon; Totts. Her mission: to be Obeyed. But things take a wrong turn and her story is interrupted by Prince Morgan the Troll (aka, her big brother). Attempts to outsmart each other lead to some pretty hilarious events and a new mission to avoid child-eating bears. The text and pictures work brilliantly together providing plenty of visual literacy opportunities for readers to laugh about. And there is a remarkably True Princess Information and Quiz Sheet for all Princesses in Waiting to absolutely study and swear by. Just gorgeous! I will be buying The First Adventures of Princess Peony for my nearly six year old and all her friends!

The Tales of Mr Walker; a hotel dog with a nose for adventure, Jess Black (author), Sara Acton (illus.), Penguin Random House, 2018.

The Tales of Mr Walker is inspired by a real-life Labrador named Mr Walker who is a Guide Dog Ambassador and helper at the Park Hyatt Melbourne. This is an adorable book containing four enchanting stories about life working at the grandest hotel in town. Targeted at independent readers from age eight, we are delighted with the adventures this canine companion takes us on, viewed from the dog’s perspective. ‘Tracy must like parks as much as I do’. With his Guide Dog training behind him, Mr Walker is very well disciplined and loyal. But naturally, he has certain things on his mind, such as chasing balls, and food. Romp along on the fun adventures with Mr Walker. He doesn’t disappoint. Fluid and bright illustrations bounce in and around the text. The cover is appropriately high-end with its linen bound spine and gold trimmings. Royalties going to Guide Dogs Victoria is just another excuse to pick up this book as a gift for someone you love, and someone who loves dogs.

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Even more great gift ideas for kids can be found at Boomerang Books here.

Aussie Appeal – Picture Book Reviews

Worrisome wombats, bouncing bilbies and even talking gumnuts may not be your de rigueur when it comes to picture book characters. Yet their antics make up a substantial percentage of picture book storylines and provide vital introductions and links between Aussie kids and our rich, endemic Australian flora and fauna.

Look around and you’ll find dozens of titles touching on everything from spoonbills to fruit bats, puggles to possums and jacanas to joeys. Many are by authors you know and trust offering true works of art worthy of coveting and collecting. Here is a tiny selection of some of the more recent releases.

One Woolley Wombat ReadersPerennial author illustrator, Kerry Argent, has a tatty new First Reader series out now tailored for pre-schoolers. Small colour-popping paperbacks perfect for little hands and new readers feature old mate, Woolly Wombat, his bestie, Bandicoot and a swag of other Aussie birds and beasts in easy-to-read adventures. Beautiful introductions to counting, colour, rhythm and language conventions. Scholastic Australia March 2014

The Bush Book ClubBook club nuts along with reluctant readers will adore Margaret Wild’s and Ben Wood’s The Bush Book Club. It has a little bit of brilliance on each page; rhyme, comedy, cuteness, colour and galahs! Bilby sorely needs to slow down and smell the ink but he is too busy and bouncy to read let alone actually enjoy a book until one fateful night he discovers what it’s like for his head to be ‘full of words and stories’. A marvellous look at what it takes to appreciate the wonderment of stories and a must in the classroom and home. Modestly adorable. Omnibus Books March 2014

Possum's Big SurpriseRhyming picture books are not always easy to digest (when produced badly), but done well they glide across our palates as smoothly as birthday cake frosting. So it comes as little surprise that Possum’s Big Surprise by celebrated duo, Colin Buchanan and Nina Rycroft, is a feast for 4 + year-olds and above. Fun, frisky, teasing verse coupled with super-rich, eye-pleasing water-colour illustrations, an Aussie bush backdrop and a perky possum named Flossy, give kids plenty of reasons to keep page turning. Scholastic Australia May 2014

Karana EmuSlightly more serious but quietly impressionable is Karana: the Story of the Father Emu, by Brisbane and Wakka Wakka leader, Uncle Joe Kirk and Sandi Harrold. In spite of the unwieldy title, this cyclical story is written in simple rhyming verse which unfolds easily leaving the reader fulfilled, enlightened and emphatic towards father Emu as he assumes the role of parent, nurturer, and chief educator for his chicks; just as father figures in many indigenous cultures do. An enjoyable tale to share with children because of its simplicity and heart but it was the emus’ eyes that clenched it for me; cute and clever! Scholastic Australia May 2014

 A Feast for Wombat features another Aboriginal author, Sally Morgan and first time picture book illustrator, Tania Ezinger.

A feast for WombatWombat is your typical underground slumber-champion with a strong predilection for his burrow. He rarely surfaces. When he does he encounters the goodtime antics of his friends, Goanna, Magpie and Dingo but is slow to join them in play until their persistence and kind-hearted surprise re-instates how much they value Wombat’s friendship.

Sounds a little trite and ordinary I know, however Morgan attempts to balance Wombat’s self-depreciating, woe-be-gone attitude with a questioning optimism that he displays by complimenting his friends’ various talents and by trying to replicate them albeit with little success.

I was pleased Wombat’s self-doubt is finally conquered and replaced with a greater sense of self-worth however felt a little muddled by the oscillating attitudes of Wombat’s friends towards him; sometimes generous and grateful, sometimes hurtfully frank. Four year-olds are unlikely to dwell on this (it is after all how true friends can be) gaining immense pleasure instead from Erzinger’s spirited acrylic based artwork. Keep an eye out for the hapless little spinifex mouse on each page too. Gorgeous! Omnibus Books April 2014

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie's Underwater AdventureWhether these titles stand up alongside such favourites as May Gibbs’ Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Narelle Oliver’s Don’t Let a Spoonbill in the Kitchen! and Fox and Fine Feathers, Yvonne Morrison’s The Emu that Laid the Golden Egg or Jackie French’s Diary of a Wombat to name a few, time will tell. But like the tiniest creature in the Aussie bush, there is bound to be a spot for them in your heart and on your book shelves.

 

Review – Lilli-Pilli’s Sister

Lilli Pilli's SisterNot another Zombie story! Well, not that I don’t mind a dose of eye-bulging, brain-slurping fun now and then, but, “When was the last time you read a really nice story about fairies?”, so asked my other half when reading Lilli-Pilli’s Sister for the first time.

“It’s full of heart and joy,” he added. “And I really like the illustrations.”

What else is there to say? End review. But wait, there is more.

Lilli-Pilli’s Sister by Anna Branford and Linda Catchlove is one of Walker Books Australia’s first, new sparkly picture book releases of 2014. And how it shines.

Anna Branford Anna Branford of the adorable Violet Mackerel series has spun and woven her word-magic into a beautiful tale about a strawberry-blonde haired young fairy named Lilli-Pilli, who is eagerly anticipating the arrival of a new sibling. Lilli-Pilli is convinced the new family member will be a sister, because she ‘can feel it in her wings’.

As Mum’s belly swells and the day draws nearer, Lilli-Pilli helps her be-speckled Dad make a crib for the new baby fairy. Regardless of their time shared together, Lilli-Pilli is impatient for her sister’s arrival. She can’t wait to have someone new to play with. She is also a tad concerned that the crib will be too wide for one little fairy baby, so on her Mum’s suggestion, she flies off in search of soft things to put inside the crib.

Kookaburra, the painted apple moth and the white-winged triller all come to her aid but each adds to her growing uncertainty about the new baby for each of them ‘feel a brother in their wings’, and their wings are seldom ever wrong.

Crestfallen and laden with doubt, Lilli-Pilli returns to her red-gum home with her bounty of soft things just in time to discover a tree-full of squeaking and squawking. It’s exactly what she has been waiting for, or is it?

Lilli-Pilli’s Sister is an appreciatively longer picture book than we’ve become accustomed to in recent times. However each of Branford’s carefully crafted word-images creates a pleasing sense of homeliness, warmth and fun. It is hard not to be swept along by the melodious narrative all the way to the delightful twist at the end. Primary aged readers will find the story full of allure but it’s the luscious illustrations that will captivate the very young (and 50 somethings as it turns outs).Linda Catchlove

Linda Catchlove has created a collection of water-coloured mini-masterpieces, each oozing with soft dreamy detail, reflecting all the charm of the Aussie bush and its characters in much the same way May Gibbs managed to capture their very essence with her pictures and stories.

Lilli-Pill’s Sister is definitely a picture book the whole family can and will enjoy and a cracker of a way to start off the New Year, unless you’re still more into zombies than fairies.

Available here from February 2014.

Walker Books Australia February 2014.

 

 

Review – Meet Snuggle Pot and Cuddlepie

So lovely to see classic characters from a classic Aussie author, consistently revised and updated and brought into the current kid consciousness. And how can anyone resist these adorable May Gibbs icons – let alone kids?

This large format, hard cover book opens with a wallpaper of character endpapers, then introduces the reader to Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, high in a gum tree, resplendent in their gumnut hats and loin cloth leaves.

Through the book, readers will be treated to an abridged version of the tale, introducing us to Mrs Kookaburra, Mr Lizard, Ragged Blossom and a trapped possum, who needs help from his new friends.

Minimal text makes this an introduction children aged 2 and up can thoroughly enjoy – and Gibbs’ gorgeous images have been zoomed in on and enlarged – with each image washing over double page spreads. I love how the book ends with a beginning – ‘And so began the adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie … ‘

Meet Snuggle Pot and Cuddlepie is published by Scholastic Australia.

Number 3 – Most Popular Aussie Kid’s Books

Advent Calendar Christmas Countdown

Most Popular Aussie Kid’s Books #3

The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs

We surveyed our customers to discover the Most Popular Aussie Kid’s Books of all time – we’re counting down the Top 24 Kid’s Books between now and Christmas Eve…

 

65.3% of all respondents have read this book themselves, or read this book to their children.

No. 1 – Most Popular Aussie Novels of All Time

We surveyed our customers to discover the Most Popular Aussie Novels of all time – we’re counted down the Top 24 Novels between 1 December 2010 and Christmas Eve…

At #1 – The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs

47.2% of all respondents have read this book

Synopsis for The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie is a series of books written by Australian author May Gibbs. The books chronicle the adventures of the eponymous Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. The central story arc concerns Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (who are essentially homunculi) and their adventures along with troubles with the villains of the story, the “Banksia Men”.

The first book of the series, Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: Their Wonderful Adventures was published in 1918.

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, the gumnut babies, are the protagonists of the story and are modelled on the appearance of young Eucalyptus (gum tree) nuts. The female gumnut babies, however, have their hair, hats and skirts modelled on Eucalyptus flowers.

May Gibbs based some of the characters and scenery on the plants found in the bushland of Bunbury, Western Australia, where she played as a child. The “big bad” Banksia Men are the villains of the story and are modelled on the appearance of aged Banksia “cones”, with follicles for eyes and other facial features.

Source: Wikipedia

About May Gibbs (Books by May Gibbs…)

Cecilia May Gibbs MBE (17 January 1877 – 27 November 1969) was an Australian children’s author, illustrator, and cartoonist. She is best-known for her gumnut babies (also known as “bush babies” or “bush fairies”), and the book Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.

Cecilia May Gibbs was born in Kent, in the United Kingdom, to Herbert William Gibbs and Cecilia Rogers, who were both talented people. She was their second child, and as she was named after her mother, had the nickname “Mamie”. The family moved to South Australia to set up a farm in 1879 due to Herbert’s failing eyesight, the result of a boyhood injury. However, as May had caught the measles, her father and uncle went to Australia, leaving her mother in England to care for the children. On 1 June 1881, the Gibbs brothers arrived in South Australia, and began to look for the land arranged for them by a relative of theirs. Over the next few months, the brothers became disillusioned with the land. Cecilia discovered that she was pregnant again, and decided to make the voyage to Australia with her children. Despite her parents’ dismay, Cecilia and the children left, and her third child, Ivan, was born at sea. A drought in the area caused the family to move again, to Norwood. In 1885, the family moved again to a farm property in Harvey, Western Australia. When May was eight years old, she was given a pony by her father.

May enjoyed exploring the bush riding her pony, Brownie,and began to paint and write about the bush at this time. This period of her childhood, and her imaginative interpretation of the bush, was formative in the development of the anthropmorphic bush setting found in her work. When May was 10, the family moved to Perth, and in 1889 May was published for the first time – in the Christmas edition of the W.A. Bulletin. A number of return trips to England found her absent from that state, but in 1905 May was working for the Western Mail. After finishing school, Gibbs spent seven years studying art in the UK. While overseas, she published her first book, About Us. In 1913 she returned to Australia, and took up residence in Neutral Bay, in Sydney, New South Wales.

1913 also marked the first public appearance of the gumnut babies, on the front cover of The Missing Button, by Ethel Turner, which Gibbs had illustrated. Gibbs’ first book about the gumnut babies, appropriately titled Gumnut Babies, was published in 1916. It was soon followed, in 1918, by her most famous work, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. Gibbs wrote many books on the theme of the gumnut babies. In addition to her work illustrating and writing, Gibbs also maintained two comic strips, Bib and Bub 1924-1967 and Tiggy Touchwood 1925-1931. The comic strips were published in newspapers in most Australian states and also in New Zealand.

Gibbs married Bertram James Ossoli Kelly, a mining agent, who she met in 1919 during a visit to Perth. May Gibbs died in 1969, but her legacy to children lives on. Gibbs bequeathed the copyright from the designs of her bush characters and her stories to Northcott Disability Services (formerly The NSW Society for Crippled Children) and The Spastic Centre of NSW. The residue of her estate was left to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund.

Source: Wikipedia

The Full List

#1 – The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs

#2 – The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

#3 – Storm Boy by Colin Thiele

#4 – Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

#5 – The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

#6 – Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

#7 – Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden

#8 – I Can Jump Puddles by Alan Marshall

#9 – Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park

#10 – A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

#11 – Puberty Blues by Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey

#12 – A Fortunate Life by A.B. Facey

#13 – Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

#14 – Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner

#15 – April Fool’s Day by Bryce Courtenay

#16 – The Harp in the South by Ruth Park

#17 – My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin

#18 – Jessica by Bryce Courtenay

#19 – My Place by Sally Morgan

#20 – For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke

#21 – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

#22 – Dirt Music by Tim Winton

#23 – Breath by Tim Winton

#24 – So Much to Tell You by John Marsden