Under the Christmas Tree Part 3 – Self-help for kids

Self-help titles are normally in high demand following the glut of Christmas overindulgence we adults tend to experience at this time of year. Children, thankfully do not time their greed or any other dilemmas for that matter so predictably. Therefore, it’s comforting to know there is an ever-available selection of fantastic kids’ books allowing little ones to explore their emotions, temper their fears, and make themselves feel a whole lot better about themselves and the world they live in. Here a few in picture book form.

Pickle & Bree Guide to Good Deeds by Alison Reynolds and Mikki Butterley

This is a divine picture book series featuring two unlikely companions, Pickle and Bree that centres around sound values and the importance of friendship. Romi Sharp discusses thethe-decortating-disaster various nuances and inspirations behind these demonstrative tales with author, Alison Reynolds, here. Visually exuberant, each title is crammed with subtle etiquette, positive attitude and enough storyline to keep kids tuned in and listening to the messages behind Bree and Pickle’s occasional the-big-snow-adventuredisagreements. How this delicious sounding pair work their way through The Decorating Disaster and decorating The Birthday Party Cake are the first two in the series and reviewed, here. The Playground Meanies and The Big Snow Adventure follow early next year. Supportive, fun learning for 5 – 8-year-olds.

The Five Mile Press October 2015

dingo-in-the-darkDingo in the Dark by Sally Morgan and Tania Erzinger

I adore Erzinger’s playful organically hued illustrations in Morgan’s timeless tale of overcoming your fears, in this case, of the dark. It’s impossible for Dingo to sleep because of his aversion to nigdingo-in-the-dark-illos-dingoht. In desperation, he believes that if he can catch the Sun who watches over him by day and keep it with him by night, he will be safe. His nocturnal bushland friends are quick to come to his aid, gently helping him discover another guardian angel, one who watches over him each night. The value of listening to your friends in times of trouble and doubt are gingerly brought home in this simple and enjoyable tale. Great for frightened pre-schoolers.

Omnibus Books November 2016

agatha-in-the-darkAgatha and the dark by Anna Pignataro

Agatha is one little lassie who also finds it hard to face her dread of the dark. When her fellow pre-schoolers tease and taunt her about it, her imagination threatens to spill into her real world until she realises with a little bit of help from the adults around her, that everyone has doubts and fears about something and that it is all right to admit this. Once Agatha allows her fear of monsters a bit of free reign, she discovers they are something she actually enjoys spending time with, sharing tea parties and sprinkle biscuits with them. Pignataro’s delicate narrative and soft, welcoming illustrations invite calm and help alleviate those pesky fears that follow us about. Highly recommended for shared pre-school reading.

The Five Mile Press 2016

the-fabulous-friend-machineThe Fabulous Friend Machine by Nick Bland

Move over Cranky Bear, there’s a new gal in town and her name is Popcorn. Popcorn is ‘quite simply, the friendliest chicken at Fiddlesticks Farm’. She’s your consummate over-sharer, adjective exploiter, and spreader of good cheer tonic, whose heart of gold is bigger than the henhouse. Every circle of friends has a Popcorn.

One day, Popcorn happens upon a fabulous friend machine, known in human circles as the cursed smart mobile phone. Popcorn is so enamoured by its captive glow and entreating way of connecting to others, that she becomes  obsessed with messaging and soon completely forgets about all her old friends. It turns out her new cyber friends are chicken lovers too but for reasons more sinister than friendship. Will Popcorn’s true friends stand by her and save the day? Or is Popcorn’s goose cooked?

This is my pick of the bunch cautionary tale. Bland deals with cyber-safety and social media mindfulness in a comical yet completely relatable way that is sure to make little kids squirt with laughter and understanding. Highly recommended as an engaging read for 4-year-olds and above and primary schoolers who may be toting their own fabulous friend machines about.

Scholastic Press October 2016

Find more fab reads for your kids this Christmas, here.

kids-reading-guide-2016-2017

 

 

 

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

 

SOME DADS

Nick Bland’s new picture book, Some Dads has been released just in time for Father’s Day.

It heralds the return of the star of the best-selling, The Very Cranky Bear.

This is another story about why Dads are special. Whether Dads are naughty, careful, in a hurry or loud, they are special to their children no matter what.

Every spread in this colourful picture book features a Dad from the animal kingdom doing fun things with their children, just like human Dads. There are bears and elephants, peacocks and giraffes plus an assortment of other animals frolicking with their kids.

Some Dads features vibrant illustrations and clever humour. Each spread shows a father-child relationship that will make kids giggle and Dads smile proudly.

This is a great book for Dads to read to/with their children.

Best-selling picture book creator, Nick Bland, brilliantly captures the simple joys all dads bring to everyday life.

Some Dads is published by Scholastic.

THE AUNTIES THREE

As you’d expect from bestselling and popular Australian picture book creator, Nick Bland, his latest offering, The Aunties Three is a riot of colour and fun.

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK.

Pack up your games, dismantle your toys,

practise your manners and muffle your noise.

Straighten your face, where your smile used to be,

for coming this way are The Aunties Three!

Although I have to admit those Aunties Millicent, Alma and Ingrid are downright scary, Nick Bland still manages to bring hilarity into the picture – replacing fear with awe.

Even as adults we can relate to visitors you have ‘behave’ for – the ones you don’t smile in front of, “burp or sniffle or sneeze.”

Speak when you’re spoken to, never before,

take a deep breath and open the door.

The kids in this book are full of fun until the aunties arrive. As soon as there’s a knock on the door they try and put on their best manners, but no matter how much the children try to impress, it’s just not going to happen.

These Aunties are not just scary looking, they’re bossy and demand tea, shoe polishing, foot rubs and sweets.

First the cat steals Aunt Millicent’s hat, then Aunt Alma sits on the broken chair, then there’s the cooking accident that puts paid to Aunty three who is determined to stay for tea.

I loved the hilarious and expressive illustrations The Aunties Three. There’s so much movement and liveliness in these full colour pics. I loved the facial expressions on the characters – the fear of the children, the arrogance of the aunts. There’s the quirkiness of what the kids are wearing – the toddler dressed in a pig’s outfit, the boy with the colander on his head. Added to that are the background details; the flying books, the cat drinking from the milk jug.

The rhyming text is engaging and hilarious and moves the story along at a frantic pace that will keep young readers mesmerised.

I also love the way this book ends. Nick Bland builds up the tension with the Auntie’s arrival but the ending has an optimistic resolution that would allay the fears of any child who might have been worried about fierce aunties like this turning up at their front door.

The Aunties Three is published by Scholastic for ages 4+

 

 

PERFECT PICTURE BOOKS FOR BEDTIME

I know from watching my own kids growing up that there are definitely books for different occasions.

There are books full of fun and action to start the day and there are books that are more mellow, that leave small readers feeling warm and snuggly and ready for sleep – the perfect bedtime stories.

These are the books that gently lead them into the land of nod – books like Samuel’s Kisses and the runaway Hug. Both are tender funny stories for young readers about family and being loved.

Samuel’s Kisses

Written by Karen Collum and illustrated by Serena Geddes

Published by New Frontier publishing

Samuel loves going shopping but he notices that the people around him don’t share his happiness and sense of fun.

He decides to brighten up their lives by blowing them kisses.

This is a beautiful book depicting how a small child can find a simple solution to adult grumpiness.

There is movement and a gentle rhythm in this story as the kisses find their way around all sorts of obstacles to reach their mark.

Serena Geddes expressive and colourful illustrations show the affection and happiness that surrounds little Samuel and how he makes such a positive difference to the world around him.

This uplifting story is full of light-hearted fun but has a strong message and a satisfying ending for the reader.

the Runaway Hug

Written by Nick Bland and illustrated by Freya Blackwood

Published by Scholastic

This book is a collaboration between two of Australia’s favourite picture book creators, Nick Bland and Freya Blackwood.

‘Mummy’, said Lucy. ‘Can I have a hug before I go to bed? I promise I’ll give it back.’

As Lucy discovers, a hug can go a very long way. It can be shared with Mummy and Daddy, it can be shared with the twins, it can even be shared with Annie the dog. The secret to sharing a hug is for it to be given back.

This hug seems to go especially far and along the way it becomes softer, sleepier, bigger and even peanut-buttery.

But when the hug runs away, Lucy doesn’t know what to do. How will she keep her promise to Mummy?

the Runaway Hug is a gentle, charming story with a perfect ending for bedtime reading.

Freya Blackwood’s beautiful illustrations are full of action and the sort of telling detail that young readers love.

Samuel’s Kisses and the runaway Hug will leave readers feeling snug, safe and ready for sleep.