Winning Pets – Picture Books of Animals

From egotistical and obnoxious, to intelligent and in desperate need of affection (and food), our furry pals have differing needs and talents but we just love them no matter what! The following picture books are bound to surprise and delight your little ones with their humorous, sweet and heart-warming antics that only our beloved animals can offer.

imageRemarkably Rexy, Craig Smith (author, illus.), Allen & Unwin, 2015.

Rex is the proudest, most majestic and self-absorbed cat in town. For years he’s owned the streets – well, Serengeti Street. His incessantly groomed appearance, captivating dance steps and poses have been the biggest attraction amongst the kids passing by. That is, until Pretty Pamela steals his thunder with her elegant prancing. What follows for Rex is just like a series of unfortunate events that leaves him looking a bit less than perfect. Has he come to the realisation that maybe the fuss isn’t worth all the effort?

Craig Smith‘s watercolour and pen illustrations are characteristically warm and hilariously energetic. And in his debut as an author, he also successfully brings us a charming and skittish story. There’s something very visceral and real about this vain yet likeable cat, and the other irritable animals, that makes this book so relatable.

‘Remarkably Rexy’ is a fun, delightfully comical and engaging story that preschoolers will be giving prominence to over and over again.

imageOur Dog Knows Words, Peter Gouldthorpe (author), Lucy Gouldthorpe (illus.), Lothian Children’s Books, 2015.

Some pets are brilliant and shine in their own way. From cats to dogs, in ‘Our Dog Knows Words’ this clever family pet can definitely impress. From simple commands like ‘sit’, ‘shake hands’, ‘stay’ and ‘come’, to more complex tricks like ‘roll over’ and ‘scratch’, this playpul pup always obeys. Well, maybe not always! I love how this dog is such a loved and integral part of this household. From bed jumping to car rides, cat chasing and beach time frolics, this pup is having a ball.

This is a beautifully simple, and ‘waggish’ story of a word- and fun-loving canine companion. The equally endearing and uncomplicated line drawings and coloured patterns make ‘Our Dog Knows Words’ a clear, light-hearted book. It’s also terrific for encouraging young children to value and appreciate our faithful furry friends.

imageWombat Wins, Jackie French (author), Bruce Whatley (illus.), Angus&Robertson, 2015.

Speaking of champions, two in the children’s literature field are the superlative Jackie French and the prolific illustrator, Bruce Whatley. They have teamed up again for the next winning wombat book in the series; it’s ‘Wombat Wins’.

While Mothball is up to her usual cheeky capers of wanting (and demanding) carrots, she also happens to be competing with a group of small, athletic humans to be the first to reach her prize. This determined, robust character takes us through an energetic, fast-paced and amusing romp. I love how she speeds across the uncluttered landscape pages in her characteristically melodramatic style. The simple, punchy language is the perfect match for this fiesty but adorable creature.

Preschool aged children will no doubt be racing to savour ‘Wombat Wins’ as much as humanely (or wombately) possible. It really is a winner!

imageI Need a Hug, Aaron Blabey (author, illus.), Scholastic Australia, 2015.

From winning wombats to winning hearts, Aaron Blabey once again seduces us with his charming story and its theatrical satire. Although not your common type of pet, this sweet little hedgehog starving for a cuddle is certainly irresistible. Unfortunately, this is not true for Lou the rabbit, Ken the moose and Moe the bear who don’t fair kindly to this poor, prickly creature. But when hedgehog feels all hope is lost, the story closes in a satisfying way…with a bit of a twist!

Blabey presents this story with his typically expressive rhyming couplets, farcical scenes, tongue-in-cheek humour and intense-looking characters. Always a winning combination throughout his books.

‘I Need a Hug’ oozes tenderness and kindness. It shows us literally (check the endpapers) that negative feelings can be turned into positive ones by perhaps taking a risk and offering a gesture of peace. Even towards the most unlikely of friends. It’s an adorable book of learning compassion and receptiveness in a cute and funny way, as well as being the perfect bedtime story when you can steal a few extra hugs and kisses!

And for more reviews on amazing animals check out Dimity‘s recent line up of picture books here.

QUEENIE – One Elephant’s Story

There was a time when for tuppence you could ride on the back of an elephant at a zoo. Queenie was one such elephant.

In Queenie, One Elephant’s Story, award-winning team of author Corinne Fenton and illustrator, Peter Gouldthorpe tell the remarkable true story of this special elephant.

Until her death in 1945 Queenie carried up to 500 passengers a day. She trod the Trail of Elephants around the Melbourne Zoo, and many visitors came to see, touch and ride this famous elephant.

Queenie, One Elephant’s Story tells the story of the elephant’s birth in a jungle in India more than one hundered years ago and how she became an icon at the Melbourne Zoo.

Clearly a huge amount of research has gone into this book and the sensitive telling of Queenie’s story reflects how much she touched author, Corinne Fenton’s heart.

In her dedication at the start of the book, Corinne says,

Why did the life of one majestic elephant keep drawing me back to investigate the story further?

Perhaps the answer is simple, in that Queenie gave of her heart, performing a tireless task for almost 40 years. She was loved and remembered by generations of children and adults and was an icon in the days when a visit to the zoo was often the most important event in a child’s social calendar.

Queenie, One Elephant’s Story has just been released in paperback and this authentic Australian story was an Honour Book, Eve Pownall Award for Information Books, CBCA Awards in 2007.

What’s extraordinary about this book is that it’s not just a historical account. It’s a moving story about a real animal who clearly found her way into the hearts of both Corinne Fenton and the illustrator of Queenie, One Elephant’s Story, Peter Gouldthorpe.

Between them, Corinne and Peter have poignantly brought Queenie’s story and her place in history to life.

The beautifully illustrated picture book is for readers aged 5+ but it can be enjoyed by adults and older readers too. It is published by Black Dog Books, an imprint of Walker Books