Super (not so) Scary Halloween Reads

If you haven’t already consumed your friends or scared the pants off yourself after reading Romi’s recommended Halloween reads,  then whip out your witch’s hat and strap on your bat wings; here are a few more scary reads guaranteed to bring out the ghoul in your little monsters.

Scream! series by Jack Heath (Dimity’s perennial Halloween favourite)

This is a seriously spooky series of stories for middle grade readers. All types of whacky scary and wonderful; youngsters will devour these offbeat tales beginning with The Human Flytrap, progressing to The Spider Army, The Haunted Book and finally slithering to The Squid Slayer. This series gets better and better the more involved you get. Spine chilling tension focuses on a different member of a team of four young sleuths and erstwhile mystery magnets who live in the creepy town of Axe Falls, a place teeming with unusual, nightmarish realties and reoccurring reasons to scream, often.

Josh, his sister and their friends encounter weird creatures and endless dubious going-ons, which they have to battle violently against in order to survive.  This series promises un-put-downable excitement and thrills guaranteed to increase the heart rate of 8 – 14-year-olds. The first book will have you screaming well into the night! Highly recommended.

Scholastic July 2015

Continue reading Super (not so) Scary Halloween Reads

Double Dipping – Save our Trees!

With National Tree Day just around the corner (28th to 31st July) what better way to celebrate the importance of sustaining and enriching our environment than by honouring earth’s life source, the tree.

Here are two picture books that appeal to the younger end of the market. There are many more, that showcase the magnificence of trees and nature: Jeannie Baker’s marvellous works, Tree by Danny Parker and Margaret Wild’s Tanglewood, for instance. Hunt them down and enjoy, but for goodness sake, leave those trees standing!

Barnaby and the Lost Treasure of BunnyvilleBarnaby and the Lost Treasure of Bunnyville by Robert Vescio Illustrated by Cheri Hughes

Barnaby is a gardener who loves to rove and gather. With his assorted stash of seeds, he dreams of transforming his home, Bunnyville into a verdant wonderland of fruit and veg. The major of Bunnyville, however has other ideas. He believes bunnies are designed for one thing and one thing only, to dig. Faced with this opposition, Barnaby devises a way to turn the mayor’s stony greed into positive action.

Barnaby illos spreadWhen a treasure map promising to reveal the lost treasure of Bunnyville turns up, the mayor enlists every paw and claw of Bunnyville to find it. Enthusiastic excavation ensues but the only ‘treasure’ unearthed is an rusty old key by Barnaby. While the rest of the township concedes defeat, Barnaby utilises the myriad of holes created by the hunt and with some luck and patience, Bunnyville is transformed into a lush productive garden.  The townsfolk are delighted, the mayor impressed by what Barnaby reveals is indeed the ‘lost treasure of Bunnyville’. The concept of 2 and 5 a day as never looked so delicious!

Robert VesicoThis ambrosial little tale about bunnies and treasure hunting neatly encapsulates Vescio’s subtle plea for perseverance and preservation in a way that will appeal to under 6-year-olds. It gently emphasises that ‘a tree is a treasure’ and that from little things, big things, important things really do grow – into ‘growing treasures’.  A playful and useful way to introduce young readers into food production and conservation. (I love Hughes pumpkin bright illustrations and amazing seed-studded end pages, too!)Take it with you as you head out to plant something this weekend!

Big Sky Publishing July 2016

The Gobbling TreeThe Gobbling Tree by Mark Carthew Illustrated by Susy Boyer

An oldie but a goodie, this classic picture book by Mark Carthew and Susy Boyer depicts what happens to the seeds we plant and the consequences of our interaction with them.

The gobbling tree situated on a rise in the local park is never named but becomes the focal point of concern for the neighbourhood kids when one by one they lose a precious plaything to its arboreal clutches. Kites, cricket bats, balls, sticks, boots, even Jacob’s ladder (Ha Ha) are gobbled up as each attempt to get their objects back results in more lost items. Soon most of the town’s treasures are stuck within the tree’s grasp including, Simon! It’s not until nature shimmies to her own dance that normality is restored…until the next cricket match that is.

Mark CarthewAnyone who has ever had a Frisbee stuck in a tree and failed to dislodge it with a variety of other thrown items will relate to this hilarious lyrical misadventure. (I’m putting my hand high up, here!) Carthew’s ability to bring song into story is well loved and in this case, worthy of receiving the Speech Pathology Book of the Year 2009 Award. Boyer’s drawings capture the colour and comedy of the situation beautifully. This favourite never grows old and underlines my deep-rooted respect for trees evermore.

New Frontier Publishing first published 2008

So whether you intend to plant a tiny parsley seed or the beginnings of something large and magnificent, encourage your children to honour nature this weekend, indeed every weekend. They can enjoy books like these as they wait for their treasures to grow.


Five Favs from Afar – Picture books a plenty

Time to feature a few (plus a few more) stories that originate far from our shores but possess buckets of charisma worth sharing with the small people in your lives.

Found by Salina Yoon Found

I am fast becoming a fan of Salina Yoon thanks to her beguiling Penguin picture book series. Her latest (if you don’t count the penguins! –  Penguin and Pumpkin), is Found, a story personifying selfless friendship and sound morals, as anthropomorphically depicted by Bear and Bunny. Crisp, clean narrative accompanies solid simple illustrations that utilise perspective well and convey emotion in a supremely stripped-back honest way. Kiddies 2 – 5 years-old will adore Bear’s attempts to re-home a lost bunny, undoubtedly relating to his consequent heartbreak when he discovers how deeply attached he’s become to Bunny when forced to give him up. May 2014

ThThere's a Dinosaur in My Bathtubere’s a Dinosaur in My Bathtub by Catalina Echeverri

Remember Mr Snuffleupagus, Big Bird’s unerring buddy who never revealed himself to Sesame Street folk? Well, Amelia has a secret too. She has a French dinosaur named Pierre in her bathtub who is even more apt than Snuffy at remaining surreptitious. Unbeknownst to the rest of the family, she and Pierre have terrific fun together. They share galactic hot chocolates and tour magical lands of candyfloss trees; but only during the summertime. Come autumn and it’s time for Pierre to move on. Echeverri paints a fantastical world more enormous that Pierre himself. Bubbling with whimsy and colour and the occasional French phrase, this picture book is manifique for pre-schoolers and dinky di dinoWhale in the Bathsaur lovers. February 2014

(and if you want more great bathtub yarns, check out Whale in the Bath by Kylie Westaway and Tom Jellett . A similar tale about dealing with disbelief and wild imagination whilst trying to dislodge a gigantic sea mammal from the bathtub before all trouble breaks out. Massive fun from Allen & Unwin September 2014)

The Dawn Chorus by Suzanne BartonThe Dawn Chorus

This one positively hums with heart. Charm flits effortlessly from page to page. A true tactile delight; from the sumptuous cloth cover to the beautiful collage and painted illustrations. Peep is a little bird with a modest yearning to be part of a greater whole, The Dawn Chorus. However, despite his best efforts, he never makes the morning shift in time and despairs his singing dreams are at an end until he meets someone who sings as sublimely as he does. She too is not part of The Dawn Chorus, for a very special reason. An uplifting fresh look at fitting in and self-discovery. Glorious for 3 – 5 year-olds and those not-so-early birds. June 2014

On My Way to School

On My Way…series

Sarah Maizes and Michael Paraskevas are one of those picture book writing teams that ‘work’. They have created a rollicking series of visually yummy picture books spotlighting various reluctant-child-vs.-pressured-parent situations beginning with On My Way to the Bath. These two, On My Way to Bed and On My Way to School follow the familiar pattern: child asked to do something by ubiquitous unseen parent; child presents argument against request; child (and her companion Froggolini) embark on a series of madcap adventures endeavouring to delay the inevitable for as long as possible. Every double page in each of these books is saturated with bold, zany colourful fun. Mundane is aptly transformed into marvellous with clever child-typical twisty endings. Exasperated On My Way to the Bathparents will find it hard to wipe the smiles off their 2 – 5 year olds’ faces with this one. Hijacking a child’s imagination has never been such silly fun. February and August 2014

There’s a Lion in My Cornflakes

Sticking There's a Lion in My Cornflakeswith another slice of silliness, we end today with the first time collaboration of Michelle Robinson and Jim Field and There’s a Lion in My Cornflakes. Ever wanted something so bad you’d do just about anything to get it? Eric and his brother, Dan make the ultimate sacrifice spending a whole year’s pocket money on one hundred packets of cereal so that they have enough vouchers for a free lion. They endure cornflake overload until Mr Flaky finally delivers their prize, but it’s not what they expected. A quirky, laugh-out-loud tale about the dire consequences of wanting too much and not always getting what you want. It encapsulates the magnetic attraction kids possess for things often out of reach with a wildly whacky style. And, it comes with thirty vouchers to get them on their way! Brilliant. I am in love with Field’s exuberant illustrations too. Suitable for consumption by 2 – 6 year-olds and those who don’t buy breakfast cereals for the taste but for the toys! July 2014There's a Lion illos

All these titles by Bloomsbury Publishing Australia and available now through Boomerang Books.