Book Reviews

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Books

Even babies love books and there are wonderful ones available for them, with thick pages and bright pictures. Books will become companions for life if introduced in the earliest years. Here are some children will want over and over again.

Knock, Knock – David Bedford

Illustrated by Bridget Strevens-Marzo

ISBN 187700380-8

From the green front pages to the hot pink end pages, Knock, Knock is a delight.  There are repetitive and sound-sensitive words just right for toddlers, and the colourful pictures are captivating.  Each double page shows the same part of the house but with subtle changes – the birds with a nest outside the window, and the things hanging on the peg inside the door.  These remind us who has arrived.  Just a hint is given of each visitor who is knocking.  I love the mouse struggling into his clothes between interruptions.  The final joyous picture invites the reader to join in the fun.  Congratulations David and Bridget.

Books by David Bedford and Bridget Strevens-Marzo have been published around the world.

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All over the world cookbooks are top sellers. Cooking is a skill that we can develop early in our lives and children love be involved. This month I have chosen a book
that will help parents and carers to introduce children to interesting food preparation.
You can even sit back and let the kids cook a weekly meal for you.

Cool Kids Cook - Donna Hay,

Illustrated by Danielle Holden

ISBN 1-74045-548-7

Murdoch Books

This colourful cookbook for kids is the best I’ve seen.  It is well organized and easy to follow.  Each recipe is on a separate page with a catchy name.  The steps are shown by three small pictures and the facing page has a full size illustration. 

Twenty savoury recipes come first then twenty sweet ones.  I particulary like this idea as there is a need for more emphasis on healthy food.  Several other cook books for kids that I looked at in the bookshop, only included sweet or party food.

There are clear safety guidelines and tips for success.  The good quality paper will be durable.  My only criticism is that the pages do not lie flat.  A spiral backing would have allowed this. 

Upper primary school children will be able to use the book independently.  Parents and carers will find this book a joy to use as they introduce children aged 4 to 10 to cooking activities.

Max Meets a Monster – Tracey Hawkins

Illustrated by Chantal Stewart

New Frontier publishing

ISBN-10:1-921042-36-2

ISBN-13:978-1-921042-36-2

This picture book will be a great success with children 4 to 7 years of age.  Max is excited about sleeping over at Grandpa’s house especially as Grandpa serves up all the food he likes best.  However, there is an awful sound in the middle of the night that surely only a monster can make.  Max bravely grabs his teddy bear and, using his torch, goes on a monster hunt.

The sounds made by Grandpa as he snores will delight any child who listens to this story.  The clever pictures of objects and clothes Max sees on his search help the tension to build to just the right pitch.  Well done Tracey and Chantal.

Tough Boris – Mem Fox

Illustrated by Kathryn Brown

Puffin books

ISBN-0-14-056453-5

I’ve only just discovered this wonderful picture book although it was published in Australia in 1998.  I’m sure it will remain a favourite for many years to come.  Boys in particular love pirate games and books and this one will appeal to children who are beginning to read alone, as well as those who love to hear a story.  The carefully chosen words capture the essence of the rollicking pirate’s life and will add colourful words to a child’s vocabulary too.  Through Kathryn Brown’s marvellous illustrations a secondary story about a violin unfolds.  The pictures are rich in colour and movement and invite discussion.  This is a book children and adults will return to again and again.

Summer June Factor

Illustrated by Alison Lester

ISBN 1-877035-54-8

This is a delightful book that captures the essence of a hot Australian bush Christmas.

The simple rhyming text is fun to read.  Alison Lester’s wonderful detailed pictures about the farm will have children asking questions and talking about their own experiences.  This is a book the whole family will love.

Doodledum Dancing – Meredith Costain

Illustrated by Pamela Allen

ISBN0-670-02822-3

This is a delightful book of rhythm and rhyme for 3 to 7 year olds.  Some rhymes would make wonderful knee-bouncing rhymes for an adult to say while bouncing a baby, or playing baby-tickling games.  Many rhymes can be used in hand clapping or skipping games by school-aged children.  The book begins with dinosaurs stomping, clomping, munching and crunching and is ideal for four year olds who usually know lots about dinosaurs.  It contains rhymes about being sick, losing a tooth, the weather, etc.  The poems and rhymes cry out to be spoken aloud, and children will soon master the almost tongue-twisters that are a special feature of the book. 

Pamela Allen’s clever illustrations capture the mood of the verses perfectly.

A must have book for every junior grade teacher, and one lucky children who have their own library should have on their shelf to look at often.

We honestly CAN look after your dog - Lauren Child

ISBN0-141-38210-4 (Puffin)

This book is a winner in every way.  Three year olds who want a dog or have one in the family, will relate to Lola and Lotta.  Seven year olds will love the humour in the situation.  The words and phrases are tumbled around the pages in an amusing and effective way and the simple pictures will appeal to everyone.  For children learning to read, there is lots of repetition.  The use of several types and sizes of script, will encourage word recognition in even the younger children.

Blossom Possum – Gina Newton

Illustrated by Kilmeny Niland

ISBN1-86504-794-5 (Scholastic)

Blossom Possum has a subtitle – The sky is falling down-under.  It is a delightful story based on the traditional story of the sky falling on Henny Penny’s head, but all the animals are native to Australia.  Each animal has its own expression of amazement at the possum’s news.  The animals trot, strut, bounce etc in a cavalcade until they meet By-Jingo Dingo.  The story is resolved in a most satisfactory way, so no child will be upset.

Blossom Possum is rich with colourful and descriptive words and the superb illustrations reflect the spirit of the story.  Children from three to ten will love it as a book to listen to or one to read alone. Grandparents will want to buy it for small grandchildren.  Teachers will love it as a text on which to base drama.  Go out and buy it today.

Mrs Wiggins’ Wartymelons –Glenda Millard

Illustrated by Stephen AxelsenI

SBN 0-7333-1380-9

Mrs Wiggins, and nearly everyone in Korweinguborra, grew potatoes.  Nobody grew watermelons; people said it couldn’t be done.  Mrs. Wiggins and her remarkable goat, Ralphie, set out to prove everyone wrong.  This is an amusing story and Mrs Wiggins meets her challenge in a surprising way.  The humorous illustrations that accompany the text, tell us a great deal about country life.  Children from 5 to 8 years, will enjoy this book and it will be a valuable addition to classroom libraries.

Nursery rhyme favourites

Play School (ABC 2005)

ISBN 0-7333-1607-7

My grand daughter received this book for her second birthday in September and it is ideal for toddlers.  It is a collection of fourteen well known rhymes including Hey diddle diddle, Rub-a-dub-dub, and Ring-a-ring-o’ roses.   Big and Little Ted, Humpty, Diddle, Jemima and other toys from Play School are dressed to illustrate the rhymes.   As Estelle was also give a Play School DVD, she loves to see the familiar toys in her book.  From their earliest days, children love nursery rhymes and will continue to want them all their pre-school years.

If you know a baby or toddler, put this book on your list of must haves.

Gordon’s Biscuit Kerry Millard

Puffin 2006ISBN 0-14 350 158-5

This story is fun with a capital F.  Kids love biscuits and Gordon, the dog, does too.  Every illustration is crowded with amusing and interesting details.  The park is a riot of amazing equipment for people and animals of many shapes and sizes.  When a new rule bans dogs from the park, Gordon, a big, bouncing, scruffy dog, becomes depressed.  His friends, Ella and Sam, have a great idea to cheer him up.  Children will pore over the joyous pictures and learn heaps of words from the text. I was a little disappointed that the ‘No Dogs’ rule wasn’t overturned but this can be a point for discussion with older children.  Parents and teachers will find this book is a favourite with the 3 to 9 age group.

I Think I Just Saw Santa

Howard Rees

ISBN 1-86282-106-2 (Allan Cornwell  1990)

This is book cleverly uses a smaller page in the centre of every double page, to partly reveal what is coming next.  The children are waiting at the window for Santa to arrive but each time the door opens, the picture revealed is a complete surprise.  Children will laugh at the amusing pictures and enjoy spotting Santa who is actually hiding in each picture. The book is ideal for three year olds but older children will love it too. The scenes are set in a snowy climate, so some hot climate people may be disappointed.

Bud’s Pirate Adventure

Odette Ross

ISBN 0-14-350163-1 Puffin Baby

This book is one in the new series of Puffin books for babies and toddlers.  The pages are tough glossy card and each illustration is simple and bright.  The sentences in this book are on the left hand page while the illustrations are on the right.  Bud is a small bilby who sets off in a boat with his treasure map but meets a pirate along the way.  I wondered at first if the 12 to 24 month age group would relate to a pirate but those with older siblings certainly will, and the pirate in this case is another animal. 

Toddlers will love the clear drawings, and the story is simple enough for them to follow when read by an adult who knows the child and is alert to his/her interests and what may need explanation.  My two year old grand daughter giggled at the story and wanted it read to her three times without a break.  She loved the page where the spade went Clunk

This series of books will be an ideal way for parents to introduce their babies to books and imaginative play.

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As a child my personal library was small but I loved my books and most of them have stayed with me always.  Books are very precious belongings in my family and I hope books are precious for you and your children too.

In *The Reading Bug by Paul Jennings, he says that when you read to your child you start ‘a lifelong love affair between a child and reading.’ He explains that by sitting to read, you are giving your child your full attention, ‘sharing the fun, the fears, the fellowship of this magic moment.’ This reminds me at once of my two year old grandchild.   When I visit her, or she comes here, one of the first things she says is ‘Read a book, Nanna, okay?’ When I settle and she brings a book, she sits spellbound to the end of the story even if it is one she has heard many times and knows by heart. Then I talk to her about the pictures and relate them to her own life. She is totally immersed in the book and the conversation. If I don’t take up her suggestion of reading a book and turn instead to speak to other family members, she will stand beside me saying ‘Nanna, Nanna,’ over and over again because she wants my attention and is trying to think of a way to capture it. Estelle already owns a whole bookshelf full of books and has access to books that have been handed down by her older sister and brother.  There is no doubt that she loves books and this is the first stage of loving to read.

If you want your child to read well, help them to love books by reading to them, not sometimes but every day. Your life is busy, maybe hectic, but squeeze in time for reading to your child each day.  You and your child will be rewarded in so many ways for years to come.

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Dinnertime,

Dinnertime- Ann Weld

Illustrated by Kerry Argent

ISBN 1 876288 30 2

Working title Press 2001

This is a story in rhyme about a fox who is trying to catch a rabbit for his dinner. The simple two lines of text on each page and the catchy refrain make this story ideal for the very young. The illustrations are appealing and apart from the rabbits, there is a scarecrow and sheep, ducks and mice on each page. The animals and scarecrow have expressive faces and the scene and actions change from page to page so that there is plenty of interest for older children too. The rabbits disappear one at a time.  As with all books it is best for the adult reader to study the book first or you may mistakenly think that fox does catch these fat rabbits.

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Clancy's Long, Long Walk - Libby Gleeson

Illustrated by Chantal Stewart

Puffin Books -Aussie Nibbles- 2007

ISBN 978 0 14 330288 9

Most of the books I’ve reviewed for the E-zine have been picture books but Clancy’s Long Long Walk is for children who are reading themselves. The story should appeal to readers of 8 to 10 years.  I’m sure all children can relate to getting really tired like Clancy. He sets off determined to complete the challenging walk but gradually his spirits sag. I like the way his sister and brother as well as the parents, encourage him so positively to keep going. Big brother Sam, comes up with an excellent idea when Clancy is about to give up.

The illustrations, in soft grey, show interesting detail of the bush and will help to keep readers turning the pages as this is quite a long book.

Even when kids are independent readers, they like a parent to read the odd page to them and this is a good book for an adult to get involved in. I can imagine conversations after the book is read, where parents and kids recall similar situations in their own family. It is also gives opportunities to discuss safety in the bush and at the beach.

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Black Dog  by Pamela Allen

Puffin 1991

ISBN : 978014054957

I take a particular delight in books by Pamela Allen and when I found this one, I was surprised to find it had been published in 1991 yet I’d not seen it before. It has been reprinted recently. The story of Christina, a small girl and her black dog, reminded me a great deal of the book John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat by Jenny Wagner that was published by Puffin in 1979 and has also recently been reprinted. Both are stories about love. In both, the human’s companion is a dog and problems arise when another creature enters the environment–a blue bird in Christina’s case, and a cat in Rose’s case. The dogs try to resolve the problem, John Brown by shutting out the cat, and Black Dog by trying to become a bird.

Both these books are more meaningful for children five and over. To adults the meaning is clear –tell those about you that you love them. Don’t take them for granted. The stories tug at the emotions and I find it hard to read them without shedding a tear or two. Children, however will probably not have this problem. A discussion about the people and animals we love, and why we love them will help children relate these two stories to their lives.                                                                           

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Flashing Fire Engines by Tony Mitton

Illustrated by ant Parker

Kingfisher Publications 1998

ISBN 9780753 402986

The red fire engine on the cover of this book with its animal firemen looks ready for action. The text is in verse that is easy to read and describes the action clearly and should prove a favourite with both girls and boys. There are descriptive words that convey the urgency of a fire fighting task and every page has information that helps children to understand what is happening. The final page has more sketches of fire fighting gear and clear explanations of each piece of equipment.

Tony and Ant have two more books in this series. Terrific Trains and Cool Cars. They are written in the same informative, racy verse style and will prove winners if you get all three for your Child Care Centre.

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Clancy the Courageous Cow Written and  Illustrated by by Lachie Hume

An Omnibus Book – Scholastic 2006

This book has been short listed for the Crichton award for New Illustrators in the Children’s Book Council of Australia annual awards.  The illustrations are striking with a childlike simplicity. Every beast shown has expressive eyes and subtle differences in the way the horns are drawn.  Primary aged children looking at these drawings, will feel encouraged about their own art work.

In  In the story, Clancy, a Belted Galloway with a difference, tries to fit into the herd without success until he is recognised as an animal of remarkable size. He becomes a hero to the other Galloways. The happy ending is especially appropriate as Clancy helps former foes to become friends.  A note from the publisher explains that although Clancy is actually a bull, Lachie wrote the first draft of the story when he was still a child and Ommnibus  felt it would spoil the story to change the title.

Look for Clancy the Courageous Cow  in your library today.

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The Tiger Who Came to Tea - Written and illustrated by Judith Kerr

Harper Collins

ISBN 978-0-000-721599-7

This book was first published in 1968 and is a wonderful tale for pre-schoolers. Millions of copies have been sold, and it great to see it re-printed for another generation of children to enjoy. When the doorbell rings, Sophie and her Mummy are not expecting anyone so when they open the door and find a tiger waiting, anything could happen. The tiger has no manners, just what one would expect of a tiger. When he leaves, the house is in a mess. Daddy arrives and solves the problem of what to do about dinner. The whole family will love this tiger story.

Cherubble Magazine

This is an online magazine for four to 10 year olds produced in Queensland by editor Jenny Melnik. It hasn't been going long but has a good range of stories and deserves to thrive. This month one of my sewn pictures is on the home page and my story Football Fever for 6 to 8 year olds is included.  Some pictures take a while to load but the words load quickly. There will also be things kids can do each month and ideas for parents and teachers and a guest book to comment in. Check it out at www.cherububble.com

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Maisy, Charlie and the Wobbly Tooth

Written and Illustrated by Lucy Cousins

Walker books, 2006

ISBN 978-1-4063-0532-6

Charlie, the crocodile has a wobbly tooth and visits the dentist. This book will be a winner with children. The text is large and extra black and invites beginning readers to read it for themselves. The illustrations are bright with just the right amount of detail, and many of the pages have coloured backgrounds too. Wobbly teeth and going to the dentist are experiences that every six and seven year old will relate to. For younger children this book is an excellent way to encourage tooth care and introduce the dentist.  I imagine even toddlers will be looking in the mirror to see if their teeth are dazzling like Charlie’s

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The Goat Who Sailed the World by Jackie French

Angus and Robertsons (Harper Collins, Australia) 2006

ISBN 978 0 207 200779

Unlike the books I usually review here, this is not a book for the littlies. I’ve been reading books for the late primary school/ early secondary school kids lately. Families often have such a big age range of kids to cater for, including nephews and nieces who may be much older, so I thought it appropriate to include this one. As an eight year old I loved reading a series of books about boys who had sailed with the great discoverers such as Vasco Da Gama. My own sons became very interested in history about the same age and have retained their interest into adulthood. I think this book is one to whet the appetite of budding historians.

The goat was famous. She did exist. She had already sailed around the world before being chosen to accompany Lieutenant James Cook on his voyage in the Endeavour to watch the transit of Venus in 1769 and go on to search for the Great South Land. Isaac Manley was 12 years old when he joined the crew for the three year voyage. Through his eyes we learn about life at sea; the hardships, dangers, routines, food, and discoveries at ports of call and the mapping of the east coast of Australia.  Jackie French has researched meticulously thus enabling her to mix fact and fiction in a way that will engage both child and adult readers.

This book was a pleasure to read.

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Mrs Honey’s Glasses

Written and illustrated by Pam Adams

ISBN 0-85953-757-9 Child’s Play (international) Ltd. 1998

Mrs Honey receives a letter while her grandchildren are staying with her but she can’t read it because she has lost her glasses. The children help her to search in many unlikely places. In the process both Mrs Honey and the children get very dirty.

This book is ideal for pre-schoolers and also for a child who is learning to read. The script is clear and there are not too many words on each page and at the foot of each page there is a refrain. The situations are amusing and the pictures are simple but attractive. Luckily there is a series of books about Mrs Honey.

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The Smartest Giant in Town Written by Julia Donaldson, Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

ISBN 36461442X Koala books 2002

This book was recommended to me by a four year old at the local library. He was eagerly choosing books to borrow and picking up others he recognised as ones he’d taken home on previous visits. He liked stories about giants and he liked the bright illustrations in this book.

The story is about a kind giant who buys new clothes but gives them all away. The book appeals because of the silliness of the story, the repetition, and the rhyme and rhythm of the words. Julia Donaldson’s picture books are delightful and will become favourites with your children, especially four to eight year olds.

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Slinky Malinky's Christmas Crackers

Written and illustrated by Lynley Dodd

Puffin

ISBN 978-0-141-50109-3

2007

Ideally I should have written about this book before Christmas, but supplies were short as everyone, who is familiar with Slinky, wanted a copy. Slinky Malinky is every cat-lover’s favourite mischief-maker and he is up to tricks with the Christmas tree. It never fails to amaze me that Linley Dodd can come up with such deliciously expressive words for each of her books. Slinky acts with mischievous glee and causes chaos by knotting, swatting and batting the decorations. The illustrations match the words so well. Slinky is one expressive cat. A cut-out Slinky appeared at the top of my granddaughter's Christmas tree, much to her delight. If you didn’t see this book before Christmas, buy it now. You’ll be so glad you did.

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Things to Make and Do with Paper written by Amanda Gulliver and Stephanie Turnbull

Illustrated by Molly Sage

ISBN 9780746058503

Usborne Books 2007

There are days of fun ahead for both boys and girls who have access to this book. There are 18 projects explained in simple instructions with clearly illustrated steps. Some of the projects, such as the fairy castle and the patterned houses, can be made by pre-schoolers with little help from adults. Older children will have no trouble following instructions by themselves. Scissors and glue are needed but paper can be used from coloured magazines or recycled scraps. Many stickers are provided for decoration. Once children have started making projects they will be inspired to make more cards, pictures and games.

I bought this book as a gift for children aged four, seven and ten and I am sure they will enjoy it. I would like to keep it myself as it has inspired my storytelling mind. It is really useful for holidays or rainy days.

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Maisy, Charlie and the Wobbly Tooth written and illustrated by Lucy Cousins

Walker books 2006

ISBN9781406305326

Charley is a crocodile and his mouse friend, Maisy, suggests he go to the dentist because he has a wobbly tooth. The simple, colourful illustrations and well chosen words give children a lot of information that is relevant to all five and six year olds. The bold text that accompanies the amusing pictures will encourage beginning readers but it is also a book for pre-schoolers.

A great addition to libraries at centres and schools.

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Ernie Dances to the Didgeridoo

Written and illustrated by Alison Lester

Hachette Books 2001

ISBN 9780733621055

From cover to cover this book is a feast of colour, fun and information. Ernie goes to Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory for a year, while his parents work there in a hospital. The simple sentence about the season at the top of each page is in the form of a letter to one of Ernie’s six friends. The book is skilfully designed with six small pictures on the pages that show Ernie’s six new friends. The pictures show details of the interesting lives of the Indigenous children in this remote part of Australia. A full page picture follows each season to show a special activity. The reader will be impressed with the richness of the culture of Indigenous families.

I always admire Alison Lester’s work and this is superb. She includes help with pronunciation and dedicates the book to the children in Gunbalanya who shared their stories with her. In this year when the Government has at last said ‘sorry’ to the Indigenous people, this book has special meaning. It is a book to read over and over for enjoyment and for information including how to structure a successful picture book.

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Lofty’s Mission by Krista Bell

Illustrated by David Miller

Lothian 2008

ISBN 978 0 7344 0981 2

Lofty is a homing pigeon and his owner, Harley, is reluctant to let his pet go to the army to be trained as a carrier pigeon during the war. Harley’s Dad explains that sacrifices must be made for the war effort and after special training, Lofty is sent to New Guinea. Lofty has a dangerous mission to fly one day, and if he fails a whole platoon of soldiers will die or be captured. Although this story is fiction, it is based on the story of real birds. I like the way the wartime era is presented and while Lofty is facing danger in New Guinea, Harley is battling to overcome polio at home. The release of this book is timely too as every April Australian schools focus on Anzac Day and this story fits well into the Anzac tradition. Beautiful illustrations enhance the story. I recommend the book for children from 5 to 12.

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Grandpa’s Shed by Joy Watson

Illustrated by Wendy Hodder

Scholastic 2003

ISBN 1869435621

I was delighted to find this book in my local library recently. Joy Watson has written two other books about Grandpa and all capture his personality beautifully. In this book we find out how industrious he is as he works at some gardening project every day. He mows, cleans his tools, fixes the fence, plants seeds etc. but puts off cleaning out the shed each time until the next day. Grandma’s personality shines through too as she offers to help. When she finally gets her chance, Grandpa discovers what a big shed he has and we discover that Grandma hasn’t changed from when we met her in Grandpa’s Slippers.

Adults as well as children will have a good chuckle at this book. The illustrations suit the text perfectly. If it isn’t available to buy, look for it in the library. Ideal for 3 to 8 year olds.

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Come in and Look Around

by Lone Morton

Illustrated by Louise comfort

B Small Publishing 1997

ISBN1-874735-44-1

Angus, a boy who lives in Scotland, has friends all over the world and we are invited to meet six families in their homes. The right hand page of each opening shows the outside of a house and by lifting the flap we see inside the home. The reader must concentrate in order to find the listed items in each home. Each home shows the lifestyle of the family, pets, sports played and items common to the different cultures as well as differences. The home of the Malaysian family shows that they live above their shop that sells a variety of baskets and lamps. The Australian child obviously loves sport and lives close to the beach as there are surfing boards and a variety of balls in the house. Three and a half to four year olds will be engrossed in this book while helping an adult to search for the objects. At this age they like detail and remembering where things are. The illustrations are bright and the book encourages conversation, and memory.

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Mrs Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile by Won-Ldy Paye and Margaret H Lippert and Illustrated by Julie Paschkis

Published by Henry Holt & Co. New York 2003

ISBN 0-8050-7047-8

This engaging traditional story was told to Won-Ldy by his grandmother when he was a child. Chicken looks at her reflection in a puddle but wants to see a bigger picture so goes to the river. There crocodile is waiting for her breakfast and she grabs Chicken by the leg. Chicken, however, very cleverly outwits Crocodile.

I am always pleased to find stories from other cultures and this one is great entertainment especially for 4 to 6 year olds. The simple illustrations match the text well.

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Bush Babies written and illustrated by Kim Dale

Published by Lothian 2003 reprinted 2006

ISBN 0-7344-0875-7

This book is written in verse. Each verse is on the left-hand page and is printed over the top of a delicate watercolour that extends across the whole double page. The watercolour suggests the environmental habitat of the baby animal that is hidden behind a large flap on the right. A great deal of thought has gone into the verses so that they hold clues to the identity of the hidden creature but the name isn’t given here. The names are written in small type under each Australian native animal picture. There are fifteen pictures, some of lesser known Australian wildlife. At the end of the book there is a double page of information about the animals with a small map of Australia above each to show the distribution throughout the continent. Kim Dale is a wildlife carer and this book reflects her knowledge and love of the animals to which she devotes her life. The book is beautifully produced on high quality paper and would be a valuable addition to any library for infants or primary school children, as well as a wonderful gift to any child.

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The Worry Tree

by Marianne Musgrove, illustrations by Cheryl Orsisi

Random House 2007

ISBN 978 1 74166 231 3

Juliet, the ten year old character in his paperback is a girl who worries about almost everything. Her many problems cause her to break out in a rash and there is nowhere she can get away from her annoying younger sister. She has been promised a room of her own and it is in that room that she discovers the Worry Tree painted on the wall. Long ago the room belonged to her Nana who explains to Juliet that the animals under the tree will look after any worries that are hung on the branches. Juliet moves into the room, and begins to put her worries on the tree each evening but she isn’t the only one with problems. Dad and Mum are always arguing and even Nana is unhappy. At school there is a bully and Juliet seems to be the reason her friends are fighting. It takes her some time to discover that she isn’t to blame and she doesn’t have to fix everything either.

Children will relate to the realistic problems Juliet, her friends and family face. The chapters are short and the action is well paced for children who can read alone. The small illustrations  at the start of each chapter are attractive.

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Bread Comes to Life – A Garden of Wheat and a Loaf to Eat by George Levenson Photography by Shmuel Thaler

Tricycle Press 2008

ISBN978-1-58246-273-8

This splendid non fiction picture book is all about bread from sowing the seed to eating your slice. The photos are really works of art as well as being clear and informative. Some small pictures are grouped on a page, others are large, taking up the whole page with the words written onto the picture. Rhyme is used but never forced. The text is in minimal words but very expressive.

For example with seven pictures on one double page, there are the words:

“Dump it. Thump it.

Dust it. Knead it.

Squash it. Stretch it.

Toss it.”

This is a book that children from toddlers to senior primary school will enjoy. Many different types of bread are shown. There is even an easy recipe at the end that children will delight in using. A must have book for schools and a delight for any family.

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Big Book of Things to Make and Do  by Anna Milbourne and Rebecca Gilpin

Illustrated by Stephen Cartwright and Molly Sage and photos by Howard Allman

Published by Usborne Publishing 2008

ISBN 978074608971-2

This is an ideal gift for the child who asks what can I do today? There are 34 things to make and do here and once started, children will extend the ideas to make more. Many of the projects need paper, pencils, paint, scissors and glue. All items are commonly found in the home and some projects use re-cycled items such as plastic bottles and egg cartons. Projects range from growing bean seeds and making decorations for Christmas, to cooking biscuits and making birthday cards. The book has tough, glossy paper pages that will be easy for a child to turn and I like the spiral binding so that pages will lie flat at each turning of the page. The illustrations are bright and childlike in form so that no project looks too difficult. The projects will be ideal for children 8 to 10 who are independent readers as instructions are simple and brief and set out in numbered sequences. Younger children will need adult help, although I’m sure they will follow the illustrations to construct many things without adult help. Cooking needs adult supervision and it would have been a good idea to include safety rules. In the centre of the book there are over 400 attractive stickers for the children to use. Small yellow ducks are hidden on some pages, giving younger children an incentive to study the pictures and reward themselves with a sticker. This book will give days of fun to children from 4 to 10 years and be an ideal one to take away on summer holidays.

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Maisy Bakes a Cake Lucy Cousins

Walker books 2009

ISBN 9781406314786

This is the most appealing book I’ve seen this year. It is a Maisy first science book, and it sets out to involve children in the full process of cooking, from weighing and measuring the ingredients, to the eating of the cake that we see rise in the oven. There are tabs to pull and flaps to lift and side bars showing items that are necessary but not mentioned in the story eg. cooking gloves and timer. The text is just right for beginning readers as well as those pre-schoolers who simply love to help in the kitchen. In this book they even get to sprinkle the icing sugar on the cake. Charlie the crocodile is there at the end to taste it. You just must look at this book. It will be hard to walk away from the book shop without a copy in your hand.

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Room on the Broom Julia Donaldson illustrated by Alex Scheffler

McMillan children’s Books 2001

ISBN 9780333903384

This story, in rollicking verse, will be loved by children of 4 to 8 years and their parents too.

The witch and her cat set off on the broom but it is stormy weather. Soon the witch must come down when her hat, and other important belongings blow away. A dog, a frog and a bird politely help her search and then join her in her adventures until the broom snaps with almost disastrous consequences.

There is plenty of movement as the animals bound, clamber, wail, shriek, flutter, tumble and splutter while the friendly witch keeps calm. The bright illustrations are full of details that will have the children eagerly scouring the pages.

On the surface this is a poem full of movement and surprise but on a deeper level, it is also about good manners, sharing and cheerfulness. A song on the accompanying CD  makes a perfect ending to a delightful book.

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The Big Bug Search

Written by Caroline Young, illustrated by Ian Jackson

Usborne 2005 ISBN 9780746067727

I went to the book shop in search of a book about insects and this book more than filled my wishes. Each double spread page deals with insects in a different part of the world. The reader learns about creatures from Britain, Mexico, Madagascar, South America, Australia, North America, France, South East Asia, Florida, and South Africa.

Each page is arranged with insects named and illustrated around the edge. The reader is invited to find a designated number of that insect in the picture contained in the centre of the page. The colourful central pictures show the insects in their habitats and there is a brief explanation about the habitat at the top of each page.

Four year olds like detail and will study each picture many times without tiring, and learn names of some of the creatures there. 8 and 10 year olds will learn much more from the pictures and will be interested in the facts given. Adults will be fascinated too. At the back of the book there is an index and outline pictures with numbers showing where each creature occurred. This is very helpful.

The book is one in a series of Search books that includes The Great Dinosaur Search and The Great Undersea Search. My only criticism is that the pages don’t open easily – a spiral backing that allowed the pages to lie flat would have made studying the complex pictures much easier.  

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Maisy Goes to the Museum by Lucy Cousins

Walker books 2009

ISBN 978-1-4063-1960-6

This is another book in the First Experience series by Lucy Cousins. The Maisy books are winners with children and adults alike in their attractiveness and simplicity. Facts are presented in an appropriate way – just enough to start children asking questions - and the bright, stylised images are very appropriate. The double spread pages have just the right balance of text and illustration and I can imagine children setting up their own museum after reading this book. The ideas presented, would be easy to set up in child care settings and would stimulate play. I think this book will become another favourite with boys and girls alike.

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The Magic Shoebox Farm by Ian Whybrow and Paul Howard

Harper Collins Children’s books 2007

ISBN978-0-00-782696

When Art is unwell, his Dad gives him a magic shoebox to play with. Art isn’t interested until a little horse followed by a toy cat, come out. The cat teaches Art the magic song he needs to go into the shoebox farm. Children should enjoy the simple story and way the magic words are swirled across the page. The illustrations are attractive and children of three to four will like repeating the magic words and acting out the story with their own toys.

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Everyday learning about storytelling  by Helen Evans 

Early Chil;dhood Australia

I suppose it seems a bit strange reviewing my own book but it has just been published and this is the perfect place to tell you about it.

The book is one of four books that will be published this year in the Everyday learning series by Early Childhood Australia. In each book, the language is simple, the material clearly organised, and the photographs are gorgeous. The series is designed to help parents and child carers provide creative experiences for young children from birth to 8 years.

In my book I explain how important stories are to children, how to find stories and how to tell stories effectively. There are many other books in the series.  Two recent ones are Everyday learning together in the garden, and Everyday learning about how things work. The books are $14.95 each but people can subscribe for all four issues of the series at a lower price. Go to http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/lah0902

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Lancelot the one-armed Kangaroo by Adrian Plitzco,

2 CD Audio Book, Read by David Tredinnick and Anne Phelan

This is the first CD book that I have reviewed. Lancelot is orphaned when his mother is killed in an accident. He is rescued and cared for by a farmer and his wife but later wants to join the mob of kangaroos he has seen. After a freak accident with a horse, one of his arms is amputated and he sets off to find the kangaroo mob. A female kangaroo, Rosebush, befriends Lancelot showing him how he can cope with just one arm. The leader of the mob however, will not accept him. Drought brings dangers but also the chance to prove that Lancelot is worthy of a place in the mob.

The story is really one about the importance of friendship and about encouraging positive attitudes to injury and disability.

Any wild animal that has been reared in captivity must be carefully prepared for release into the wild and this does not happen in the story. Most animals with a disability such as a missing limb will have to remain in care for life. This aspect of the story can be discussed by teachers and classes in primary school and also by parents and their children.

I can imagine this story being enjoyed by families travelling on long distances in the car. There are plenty of pauses when the CD could be turned off and resumed later. It will particularly appeal to children from 8 to 10. The voices used are clear and the music and other sound effects add to the enjoyment of the story.

You can order the attractively packaged CD’s from a bookshop or buy it online at www.plitzco.com      

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I am NOT sleepy and I WILL NOT go to bed  by Lauren Child

Orchard Books 2007

ISBN 978184668840

I’m sure most adults who are familiar with Charlie and Lola books cannot resist picking up a new title or one they have not read before. This one is just as special as the others. Lola is hard to persuade to do anything and she finds many reasons to delay going to bed but Charlie gets around all the obstacles in a diplomatic way. It is not only the imagination Lauren Child uses to create Lola, but the illustrations that are so eye catching, that give enjoyment. They look so simple at first, with Lola and Charlie’s faces made up of only a few lines but there is precise detail in the wallpaper, the patterns on the clothing, the bedspread etc. 

This book is ideal for four year olds who have vivid imaginations, enjoy words, and like to think up reasons for everything. those who have just learnt to read will love it too.

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The Magic Shoebox Farm by Ian Whybrow and Paul Howard

Harper Collins Children’s books 2007

ISBN978-0-00-782696

When Art is unwell, his Dad gives him a magic shoebox to play with. Art isn’t interested until a little horse followed by a toy cat, come out. The cat teaches Art the magic song he needs to go into the shoebox farm. Children should enjoy the simple story and way the magic words are swirled across the page. The illustrations are attractive and children of three to four will like repeating the magic words and acting out the story with their own toys.

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Alphabet Soup Magazine

Spring Issue

Alphabet Soup, the magazine for kids who love reading. Issue 4 spring 2009

This very affordable magazine comes out four times a year and is a welcome addition for teachers and parents who want to encourage their children to both read and write.   Stories and poems for children from 6 to 12 years are printed on good quality paper with attractive coloured illustrations. In each issue there is an interview with an Australian writer. This issue it is Mark Greenwood. Stories range from a retold fairy story to one by Hazel Edwards about children making a garden. There are also tips on writing. There are a number of book reviews written by both children and adults, a crossword puzzle and competitions. Children are invited to submit stories, poems or pictures for publication and there is nothing more exciting for them than to see their work in print.

The production team is to be congratulated on producing an attractive magazine. You can read more about it and the magazine team and how to order at www.alphabetsoup.net.au I hope that it will continue to flourish and increase its readership.

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Big Book of Australian Backyards by Kerry Kitzelman and Steve Parish

ISBN 9781741932898

Steve Parish Publishing2008

This 48 page book is filled with photos of Australian native life that are found in many backyards in rural areas or even in the cities. Wildlife ranges from insects to birds to furred creatures and scaly ones. There are warnings about which ones shouldn’t be touched. I asked my five year old granddaughter to look at the book and tell me what she thought. She spent a long time looking, asking questions about what the writing said, and searching for the creatures on the pages where a search was intended. Her verdict was ‘This book is cool, Nanna.’ she asked to look at it again next day. In true Steve Parish style, the photos are stunning, the colour bright and the paper quality excellent. This is one of a series of kids Nature Learning books, all very affordably priced. My granddaughter studied the back of the book where the others in the series are pictured and asked me to buy the one about magpies. These books would make excellent Christmas presents and it is time to think about such things.

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BABY BOOK BEHAVIOUR (Part 1) by Virginia Lowe

One of the first places to start is with a nursery rhyme book, a full-colour one with large pictures. These make wonderful long-lasting baby presents too! Do babies really need another 00 jump suit? But a nursery rhyme book is guaranteed to last for at least four years, and then longer with siblings.

You’ll remember at least some of the tunes, and singing them with the pictures to hold their interest as well, is a great start with books. Start about ten weeks, or before! My daughter was thirteen weeks when I noticed she was following over the pages of a big atlas that I was leafing through at her father’s library, so I knew she was ready. She loved books from then on. However, when I brought my son home at ten days, she (three by now) had arranged his bassinette with books, all with pictures facing for him to see. And she took it upon herself to ‘show him the pictures’ (as Lucy does in Lucy and Tom’s Day – Hughes) so he had book contacts even earlier.

Cognitive psychologists know that babies, almost from birth, can recognise pictures of their mothers, so it is no surprise that at five months they can show clearly that they recognise a pictured face as a face. In my son’s case we knew this by him ‘putting’ his finger into the mouth, as he loved doing with actual people. At five or six months they will have favourite openings, shown by their physical excitement.

And it’s not just the pictures. Sing some of the nursery rhymes, but read the others. Babies don’t need to understand the words – the rhythm is enough, and the vibration of your voice. They are becoming familiar with the process of listening to a book’s words, too.

Virginia’s book Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two children tell is a study of her two children and books from birth to eight, based on a reading journal she kept throughout their childhood and adolescence. She helps authors for children through Create a Kids’ Book (www.createakidsbook.com.au).

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Books BABY BOOK BEHAVIOUR (Part 2)

by Virginia Lowe

This month instead of a book review, here is the second part of Virginia Lowe's article.

You can move on from nursery rhymes to simple stories, with your infant. Dick Bruna’s bright colours and clear outlines are always arresting for the little one, and the stories are very short.

I would also urge you to read the words, not just talk about the pictures. Yes, that’s fun too – ‘look at the birdie’ up to ‘which one is the magpie?’ This is good fun, and teaches vocabulary and visual literacy. But do read the words as well. Stories are for pleasure, not teaching.

The earlier infants experience a story with a beginning, a middle and an end, with logical connections between them, the sooner they can move on to longer stories with more complex plots, characters and vocabulary. They gain from this an early understanding of how other minds work (most stories are about a character who has been deceived or is mistaken in some way).

There is also the cadence and completeness of the written word read aloud. Even if you don’t read with drama (different voices for different characters) you will use more expression than you do in your usual speech. The little one may then start to take this on as their speech model, when they begin talking and may also learn to relish the new words as they appear (you don’t need to simplify or explain unless asked).

When they eventually begin the difficult task of learning to read, the literary language will not be foreign but quite familiar.

Don’t underestimate your infant – their understanding is phenomenal!

You are giving them the gift of loving books, a pleasure which will last them a lifetime. It’s a wonderful journey for you both – begin on it at once.

Virginia’s book Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two children tell is a study of her two children and books from birth to eight, based on a reading journal she kept throughout their childhood and adolescence. She helps authors for children through Create a Kids’ Book (www.createakidsbook.com.au).

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Tashi

by Anna and Barbara Fienberg

Illustrated by Kim Gamble

Publishjed by Allen and Unwin

Tashi’s adventures have been delighting children for years now and continue to be as popular as ever. In fact they have been included in a list of books for children voted to be classics. If you haven’t discovered Tashi, and your child is 4 or older, have a look in your library for the series.

Tashi is an imaginary friend of Jack’s. Jack relates Tashi’s latest adventures to his Mother and Father who ask questions as the tales proceed. Tashi, an elf, is so clever that he can outwit dragons, thieves, unfriendly barons, ghosts etc. in the most amazing ways. The books are ideal for reading aloud to youngsters who like goodies and badies, as well as being excellent for 8-10 year olds to read alone. Every page has a wonderful, detailed illustration by Kim Gamble that enhances the story. There are not many words on each page so that early readers are encouraged. The stories all end well so that children who may be afraid of the badies see that good triumphs.

Try to begin with Tashi but if it is not available, any in the series is delightful. After hearing a few of the stories, you will probably discover that your own child is creating Tashi like adventures too.

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Queenie the Bantam by Bob Graham

Published by Walker books 2008

ISBN978 1 4063 1648 3

This is a delightful story about an adventurous bantam rescued from a lake. After taking the bantam, Queenie, home to dry and feed, Mum, Dad and Caitlin, successfully search for her real home. Queenie, however, returns to lay an egg each day for Caitlin. This is a story about sharing and giving, and babies and changes. The illustrations are delightful - Mum thinking in the bath, Dad knitting, Queenie pecking seeds on newspaper by the fire, Bruno sharing his basket and taking on a new and surprising role. The pictures are simple at first glance but tell us many details about the lives of the family. This is a book to treasure. 

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The Pear in the Pear Tree by Pamela Allen

A Puffin book

ISBN9780140564976

John and Jane go out walking and talking and see a pear they just have to have. It is up too high and the fun comes as they try to pick it. In true Pamela Allen style, the rhymes are fun, the science is fun and the pictures are fun too. While three and four year olds will love this, those learning to read will too. The pages have just the right balance of text with easy words and some more difficult, and of course humour. I’m a Pamela Allen fan and I hope you are too.

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Dogs Never Climb Trees

by Lynley Dodd

Published by Penguin books 2003 ISBN  9780140569438

This week I told children in my story groups about Fluffy the cat who was frightened up a tree by Gyp the dog. We talked about why cats can climb trees and dogs can’t. Later I wandered into the bookshop and my eye fell immediately onto Lynley Dodd’s book. It is a story about Schnitzel von Krumm, a dog with a very low tum. He has featured in some of Dodd’s stories about Hairy Maclary a mischievous cat. As usual the illustrations add to the hilarity of the verse story. We learn all manner of things that dogs can do and are reminded every few pages that

‘they can hustle and tease

with the greatest of ease

but everyone knows

they can NEVER climb trees.’

At the two centres I visited today, children didn’t know about Hairy Maclary but if your child hasn’t met him and the dogs in his neighbourhood, find the books in your library or bookshop. You’ll be delighted with their antics.

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Noah’s Garden - Mo Johnson illustrated by Annnabelle Josse

Walker books 2010

ISBN 9781921150159

The story is set in the garden at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. Noah plays there each day hoping that his tiny sister Jessica will soon come into the garden too. For Noah, the garden is crowded with planes zooming, pirates swishing swords of steel, penguins bumping on the ice and helicopters that blast through the air. Sometimes Dad and Mum are there with him, sometimes it is Gran or Grandad. When will Jessica come? Perhaps she will come if Noah wishes at the fountain in the garden.

Mo has chosen words that suggest exuberance and the lively, colourful images painted by Annabelle, bring the imagined scenes to life perfectly. But also I felt the worry, the uncertainty of the family over Jessica.

The story is based on the experiences of a family whose tiny daughter had a life threatening condition and Mo Johnson has generously donated her royalties to the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation in Melbourne.  This is Mo’s first picture book and I hope there will be more to come.

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Born to Read

I’ve just been away to Manilla, a rural town in northern NSW,  to take part in a special day called Born to Read. Every child in the school came dressed in a special way to reflect their interest in reading. Special activities were on all day that encouraged reading, storytelling, writing digital stories using props and cameras, and watching an aboriginal Dance Group. Parents were involved too and I was impressed with the time and effort so many volunteers had put into making the day a resounding success. The media attended thus giving the broader community a chance to see what their young people are doing. I attended as a storyteller to junior age groups and I was honoured to be part of the event. Days like this, Literacy week, and Book Week are important days for all communities.

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Queen Victoria's Underpants

Jackie French, Illustrated by  Bruce Whatley

Published by Angus and Robertson 2010

ISBN 9780732288228

In Queen Victoria's time women didn't have underpants. Instead they wore layers of petticoats to keep themselves warm. when the Queen heard about underpants, though, she had to have them. Just as in today's world it was popular people who set fashions, and of course it wasn't long before all ladies followed the Queen's example. Jackie French, in her typical style, has taken an unusual bit of history and created a book that will delight those of us who enjoy humour, history and fashion. You will chuckle over the ideas the sewer's family had as they considered the style the royal undies should be sewn in. You will love the way the Queen's dogs carry on. the first pictures show other inventions that will interest all readers too, perhaps sparking a visit to a museum. Children of five and upwards will love this book as will their mothers and grandmothers.

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Kidz-fiz-biz by Marlene Rattigan

Illustrated by Jennifer Rawlinson

ISBN 978-0-9752096-1-5

Published by Marlene Rattigan 2007

This is a multicultural book of music and movement for children from two to twelve years. It includes two discs. The first section is rhymes, chants and finger plays in French, Italian and German with English translations. The music and movement sections take up most of the book and include songs from many countries with movement ideas for each. Most songs are sung in English as well. Marlene also mentions the skills that children can learn with each activity. The activities in the book will help children in all aspects of development – physical, social, emotional, language and cognitive areas. Marlene suggests that teachers and parents use their own ideas to the music, as well as those outlined. For the very young it is best to keep movements and instructions very simple.

In movement groups, rules are necessary. Rules such as everyone moving in the same direction, stopping when the music stops etc. When teaching, I followed similar rules to those outlined in this book. I always did warm up movements with the children and slow-down ones at the end. Marlene mentions the benefits of joining in with the children. I always began the session with the children and demonstrated any new movements. There is a much better response from children if adults show they can do it too and enjoy it. Simple aids add to the enjoyment of music. The tunes are catchy and there is plenty for everyone to enjoy here. The book is available from Marlene’s website at www.kidzfizbiz.com

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Bushfire by Elizabeth Mellor

Published by The Awakening Network Inc.,Victoria 2010

This book tells of a family’s defence of their farm home as bushfire approaches. Ruby, her parents and their dog survive inside their well prepared house, while outside everything is destroyed.  The author describes vividly what happens when fireballs explode and the fire moves on, and she describes the feelings of terror and uncertainty both during and after the event. The family is cut off from contact with neighbours and friends, but hear the radio news which reports huge loss of life. It is several days before they are able to drive to town to join others who have lost everything and find out about friends some of whom have died. Once there they begin together to face the future.

Although this story is about fictional people and places, it describes what happened in the disastrous Victorian fires of 2009 and people all over Australia will relate to it. Elizabeth Mellor has herself experienced bushfire as well as having acted as a counsellor to others who have been through fire. She knows the thoughts and feelings of both children and adults affected and the difficulties of coming to terms with such loss.  

Elizabeth has prepared a download resource to help teachers use the book with their classes. I recommend that the book be used that way, or by families reading it and discussing the events together and the reactions and feelings of the characters. It is suitable for children in upper primary school and will be welcomed by many who are still trying to help others re-build their lives.

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The Mummy Book by Todd Park

ABC books 2006

this simple, colourful book is ideal to read to three year olds or for beginning readers to read for themselves. Each description of the 26 Mummies begins " Some Mummies..." todd Park describes clothes that mothers wear, occupations they may follow, games they play with their children, and a diverse number of hobbies and situations that children will enjoy. the simple child-like drawings are most attractive. a real celebration of Mummies.

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   Nature Watch Outdoor Activities

Published by Steve Parish Text by Kerry Kitzelman

2010

ISBN978174193546 2

Summer is just beginning and kids love to be, outdoors. This book is full of information and ideas for activities that will keep children occupied in weekends or in the Christmas holidays. Activities are diverse from making plaster casts of animal tracks and taking rubbings of scratch marks on tree bark, to preparing an ant farm or a kite. There are lists of materials required for each activity and safety hints as well. All are illustrated with clear, attractive photos. The steps in instructions are clearly numbered and the pages of the book stay open easily. I’d have loved this kind of book when I was a child. Parents who don’t feel confident when it comes to supervising their children make and do things, will appreciate the book too. It will also be a great addition to a class library.

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Why I love Christmas

Illustrated by Daniel Howarth

Harper Collins 2007

ISBN 13978 000 725920-5

I hope that you will give and receive some books this Christmas. A book is a perfect gift as it stimulates the imagination, encourages conversation, lasts almost for ever and can be returned to again and again. There is surely a book to suit every age from birth onwards and for our very youngest children, there are some exceptional picture books available.  I have just come across Why I love Christmas and this is a book to warm any heart and it will help us to talk to our children about the things that make Christmas special to us. Children have provided the words for the book. They like Christmas because there are cuddles, good food, games to play, warmth, they make decorations, sing songs, hide presents, and for many more reasons. Daniel Howarth has illustrated these reasons with delightful animal pictures from around the world. We see Polar bears, penguins, birds, wombats, koalas, even mice. This is a book to treasure.

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The Barking Kookaburra

Adrian Plitzco

ISBN 978-0-646-54287-4

$24.95

This story, about a baby kookaburra that has been blown away from his home, is in the form of two CDs. Catchy tunes and sound effects separate the chapters which are read by well known actors. These musical breaks make it ideal for holiday car trips as the CD can be paused and restarted without interfering with the flow of the story.  Pirate, the baby kookaburra, has landed in a garden where three dogs and a cat find him. He is unable to remember where he came from and has not yet learnt to laugh. The dogs, Stelza, Hoover and Ajax, and Buddah the cat, decide to help him find his memory, and to teach him to laugh. They set off to show Pirate around, hoping that he will recognise a place in the bush environment. As they go Pirate imagines himself as a real pirate, and his new friends join in his games of fighting imaginary foes, searching for treasure, having a pirate party and telling jokes.

Adrian has included many different elements in this story. There is information; there is humour; there is descriptive language and the story encourages using the imagination. There is an underlying message of kindness and helping one another to solve problems including bullying. I suggest the story is ideal for families with children of about seven plus. Younger children would listen to short sections but a lot of the story would go over their heads. I really liked this set of CDs. The time length is about 2 ½ hours which is rather long for one sitting for children even when travelling. 

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The Island of Dinosaurs by Charlie and Farley, illustrated by Petra Brown

ISBN 978 1 7418 34109

Published by Hinkler Books 2010

Children of all ages are interested in dinosaurs and books about them.  In this book Charlie sets off with his Grandfather in a hot air balloon, to visit the mysterious Island of Dinosaurs and readers are set a special challenge. They are invited to search for 99 hidden dinosaurs. The dinosaurs are cunningly hidden on every page but while Charlie fails to find any, I’m sure that children will find plenty both large and small. The illustrations are particularly attractive with embossed areas so that the feel of the pages is interesting as well as the images themselves. This will also help children find the hidden creatures. This book is a great addition to any child's library.

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Pocketful of Posies: a treasury of nursery rhymes collected and illustrated by Salley Mavor

Houghton Mifflin books for children 2010

This delightful book is a collection of 64 traditional nursery rhymes. The illustrations made my heart sing and I had to buy it at once for the latest baby I knew of. Each page is a wonderful feast of hand-sewn and embroidered pictures - of plants, people, animals, houses etc. It must have taken Salley many, many months to complete. The pictures look very tactile as such a variety of fabrics as well as other articles have been used. The heads of people seem to be tiny wooden beads with carefully painted faces. The end papers too are beautifully decorated. 

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From Head to Toe

by Eric Carle

Puffin 1999

ISBN 978140563788

This is an action book that will delight everyone. It begins with a picture of a penguin and the words “I am a penguin and I turn my head. Can you do it?” On every left hand page a different animal is doing a simple movement while on the right hand page, a child is copying the action while saying “I can do it.” Children will love the giraffe moving his neck, the buffalo shrugging its shoulders, the gorilla beating his chest and all the other colourful, friendly looking animals that encourage us to copy them. Children will quickly learn the names of twelve animals and the body parts that each one can move. The simple text will get beginning readers reading it for themselves, and the pictures are in the true Carle collage style that children love.

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My Pet by Jeanette Rowe

ABC books 2006

I can just imagine a six year old beginning-reader sitting proudly reading this book to a younger sister or brother. The book is the right size and weight for small hands to manage, and the words are bold and large enough for a beginning-reader to follow. Every left hand page has the words My pet on it. The reader turns the flap to see what the pet can do. There are seven different children each with a pet. Simple words describe what the pets can do.

The pictures are bright, attractive and full of action. The paper is good quality and will withstand many readings. The end papers are covered with the names of pets in different languages – a useful feature for a multi-cultural child care centre.  

A good addition to a personal library or a child care library.

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I Love My Mummy

by Giles Andreae, Illustrated by Emma Dodd

Published by Orchard Books 2011-05-04

Just before Mothers’ Day, I saw a display of books all about Mums. I Love My Mummy had an eye-catching cover of a Mum hugging a toddler. It was the first book I picked up. The rhyming couplets on each double page spread, describe the fun that Mums and toddlers have together, as well as all the ways Mothers care for their kids. The illustrations are big, bold, and expressive. The paper is excellent quality for toddlers to handle and the end papers are attractively decorated with hearts. I had to buy it for my 21 month old granddaughter and I think it’s a book she’ll love for years to come.

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The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas by Tony Wilson and Sue de Genran

Scholastic 2009

ISBN 1-74169-337-9

This story is based on the folktale about a princess who is turned black and blue because a single pea is hidden under her mattress; the bruising proves beyond doubt that she is of royal blood.  In this modern version, Prince Henrick, (all the girls go wild about him), wants to fall in love with a princess, but can he find one who will share his interests of camping and playing hockey? The only princess he knows is his brother’s wife who is much too sensitive. Princess Eva complains about everything. Then Pippa, an old school friend of Prince Henrick comes to stay.

I like the modern twist to this story and five to eight year olds will really appreciate it. The illustrations didn’t appeal to me, but the simple line drawings of people in pastel colours, have plenty of details to appeal to children of this age.

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The Children’s book awards

On the 19th of this month the winners of the children’s book awards will be announced. Librarians and other people who are passionate about literature for children have already been reading the short-listed books. One that I think everyone who has read it will want to own is:

The Tall Man and the Twelve Babies by Tom Niland Champion, Kilmeny Niland and illustrated by Deborah Niland.

Publisher: Allen and Unwin 2010
ISBN: 9781742371153

This is a very funny story about six girl babies all called Charlene and six boy babies all called Alistair who live with a Tall Man. Parents, as well as pre-schoolers, will love this book and go back time and time again to see what the babies are doing and to laugh at the Tall Man. The story itself as well as the illustrations are so simple ( at first glance)yet the Niland team has really captured babies’ and parents world in this book. I’m sure that many sole parents feel at times that they have 12 babies but here are 12 that we can adore. This is a must have book. It should be given to every pregnant, or longing to be pregnant woman!

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A Mother’s K.I.S.S by Julie Vigor

Produced by Julie Vigor

This book of ideas and activities has been produced by a mother who understands the importance of play in the formative years of a child’s life. Julie says in the preface,

Children need to develop in all areas including imagination, physical activity, creativity, music and language. The early years are a vital time for a child’s brain to make lots of connections for learning…” She hopes her book will be of help to parents, grandparents and all people who are involved with caring for children.

Included in the book are many ideas to stimulate dramatic play, inside and outside activities, and craft. Many of the ideas are simply listed but there are several pages of recipes that are easy for children to help prepare in the kitchen, as well as recipes for adults to prepare for sensory play. There are helpful sections about resources to save and inexpensive things to buy. Words of songs and titles of popular children’s books are also included.

This book will be a most helpful resource to mothers and carers who want ideas at short notice. Inexperienced carers may want more information about the preparation and presentation of some activities. Sketches and small photos illustrate many activities. The book is spiral bound so it stays open easily. A section on safety should be included in later editions. Although page numbers are given in the contents, they have been omitted in the copy I received.

It is good to see a mother so involved in play activities. Well done Julie.

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The things I Love About Friends by Trace Moroney

Five Mile Press 2009

ISBN 978174216594   Price $7.99

When going on holidays there is so much to pack that we often neglect to take more than a couple of books for the children, but books are perfect to fill in gaps in the day and to calm down tired children. Buying an inexpensive book at a supermarket in your holiday town can be a good solution. I looked for such books today at my local supermarket and was impressed with the series The Things I Love. There are six books - about families, school, play, me, bedtime and friends.

Each story is illustrated with attractive rabbit characters although the situations are ones that children know well. There are several things that appealed to me about these books:

  • They can be enjoyed on a number of different levels as you read to your children or discuss the ideas shown.

  • There are opportunities to relate the story to real people and familiar situations

  • There are ideas about comfort and solutions that children can try out

  • The attractive illustrations have plenty to talk about and for children to explore, on their own.

The books are ideal for reading one to one or in small groups with your children as you can encourage memories of similar situations and talk about the friends in your lives. At such a reasonable cost the books are well worth looking out for.

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Flower Fairies of the Summer

Cicely Mary Barker was born in 1895 and died in 1973. Her flower fairy books begun in 1925 are still iavailable and the illustrations are amongst the most beautiful that any child could imagine. She wrote eight fairy books and those were reprinted in 2008 by Fredrick Warne group of Penguin. I was looking at Flower Fairies of the Summer  (ISBN 9780723248279)in a local bookshop this week. Each fairy has a poem about the flower the fairy is with on the accompanying page. These books are treasures to have for life.  The books are also available as The Complete book of the Flower Fairies.

Heather the Violet Fairy by Daisy Meadows.

Rainbow Magic Books (Orchard Books) ISBN978-1-84362-022-8)2003

As fairies are a part of most girls’ imagination, I also picked up this modern fairy book. This is one in a series of seven stories about the rainbow fairies and is ideal for seven or eight year old girls to read by themselves. The text is broken up with pen drawings of fairies and entails an adventure of two girls who are transported to fairyland.

If you were enchanted by fairy stories when you were a child, these books are ones to get for the small girls in your life.

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Christmas Cooking for Kids by Fiona Hammond

Five Mile Press 2011-11-27

This hardcover book priced at only $7.95 at Big W is very good value. There are twenty recipes including savoury and sweet ones, that children will enjoy making or helping to make. The steps for each recipe are set out clearly with illustrations for each step and photographs for many of the completed recipes. There are templates at the back of the book also. My only criticism is that there is not a section on safety measures and for children this should be standard practise. However, the book would be a valuable addition to any family that wants to encourage their children to cook.

I also noticed a boxed gift pack called Cook With Dora. This box contains dress ups such as an apron and cooks hat, for small chefs, and also a book of recipes. I’d have liked to look inside but that wasn’t possible.  If I’d been able to look inside I may have bought it for my little granddaughter who loves all things to do with Dora. It was priced at about $33.

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Stick Man by Julia Donaldson

Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

ISBN 978-1407108827

Alison Green Books  2009

This amusing story in rhyming verse is about the day a Stick Man loses his way. Will he ever get home to his family tree, his Lady Love and his children three? The stick is in great demand by both animals and birds but everyone fails to see that he is a man. He is fetched by a dog, used as a Poo stick by children, put in a nest, becomes an arm for a snowman and finally ends up in a fireplace. But all is not lost. There is a wonderful end to the story.  This book quickly became a favourite of my two year old granddaughter and she enjoyed looking for Stick Man in the garden and out in the bush. The illustrations have just the right amount of detail and the board pages in the version I saw, make it ideal for the very young to handle. Children of two to 7 will love it.

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Felix

by Pamela Allen

ISBN-13:9780143504801

Picture Puffin 2011

Another delightful story with illustrations to amuse everyone. Felix, the cat, is suspected of raiding the larder but in the middle of the night when everyone else is asleep Felix creeps downstairs to find the real thief. Pamela Allen can convey so much in just a few well chosen words. Anyone with a cat or who wishes to have a cat, will love Felix’s tussle with the mouse in this story.

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If I Were the Easter Bunny

Illustrated by Louise Gardner

Published by Harper Collins 2009

ISBN978-0-00-730982-5

There is no author’s name given, so the publishers must have provided the words for Louise Gardner to illustrate. This brightly coloured book is ideal for two and three year olds. Each time the words, ‘If I were the Easter Bunny…’appear, two ideas of what the bunny would do, are given.  The bunny hides eggs, makes Easter bonnets and plays games which are all familiar activities to most children who have seen Easter Eggs. The simple, full page spreads have the words written in the sky. The book can also be used for counting, colour recognition, and conversation.

This year I’m giving books as Easter gifts instead of chocolate eggs. There are a number of activity books with stickers, available in the chain stores and a book will last much longer than a chocolate egg. Have a look in a store near you.

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Scarf Magic

Creative scarf play for children by Marlene Rattigan

Illustrated by Sergio Drumond

Published by www.kidzfizbiz.com 2012

ISBN 978-0-9752096-2-2

This book is a delightful addition to resources for early childhood teachers of movement, as well as providing parents of young children with easy to follow ideas. It is well set out with a new idea on each page with a clear and attractive illustration on the facing page. Activities are suitable for toddlers as well as pre-schoolers and there is a special page for introducing babies to movement with a scarf. When the book arrived at my place, my seven year old granddaughter was immediately captivated with the feel and colours of the scarves. She is reading well and read for herself the instructions and tried out each activity before turning the pages to find more. She spent hours that day playing with the scarves and inventing her own activities and often returned to consult the book. Congratulations Marlene on this useful and attractive book.

The book comes with two large, colourful scarves and a DVD as well. See www.kidzfizbiz.com to purchase your copy.

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One Gorilla by Atsuko Morozumi

Published by Doubleday 1990

ISBN 0 86824 424 4

I like to look back at favourite books sometimes and One Gorilla, a beautiful counting book, has never lost its charm. It begins with “Here is a list of things I love, One gorilla…” Each double page illustration shows loved objects, as well as the gorilla. Sometimes the gorilla is in the distance, sometimes close. The watercolours show delightful views of nature including spring, winter, and underwater scenes. There is detail here to entrance children as well as counting practise up to 10.

Look for this book in second hand book shops, online book suppliers, as well as libraries. It is well worth buying.  

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We’re Going on a Picnic by Pat Hutchins

Published by Random House group Ltd. 2002

ISBN 9

As it is such a beautiful day, Hen, Duck and Goose prepare a basket of their favourite fruits and set off across the fields for a picnic. This delightful story is written and illustrated by Pat Hutchins. 

I love the illustrations which are clear, colourful, detailed and in every drawing, Pat has managed to capture the happiness and carefree feeling of the occasion. Despite the detail and patterning in each drawing, the overall effect is one of simplicity. This is aided by the white background on each page and the well placed words.

The three animals sing as they go, but they have difficulty in choosing a place for their picnic. Each time they stop, they change over the job of carrying the basket. The author has left it to the readers to notice the other animals that appear along the route. The real fun of the book is in our observation of what is happening to the food. There is a great opportunity for conversation and discussion at the end of the story. Four year olds will no doubt enjoy the joke, but three year olds may think the animals have come to the right conclusion. Children will love studying each picture and I suggest following up with Handa’s Surprise, by Eileen Browne - another story on this theme.

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For all Creatures by Glenda Millard. Illustrated by Rebecca Cool

Walker books 2011

ISBN 978 1 921529 81 8

This book is a visual and verbal delight from cover to cover. The end papers also are part of the story as they form a visual feast of colour, animals, people. Each page is a double spread with the words incorporated. Glenda Millard is a master of words. She has chosen words that will be unusual to children, as well as well known ones. Kids love to find out the meanings and use new vocabulary so they’ll learn much from this book. For example the page about butterflies uses chrysalis and camouflage while on another page we learn about excavators and eccentrics. Often, Glenda has selected groups of words that begin with the same sound and I can see why this book was shortlisted for an award by the Speech pathology of Australia  group.

Rebecca Cool's illustrations appeal for they are in brilliant colour and each page has both large pictures and fascinating small details.

I am sure For All Creatures is a book both kids and adults will return to over and over again for its emotional and sensual appeal.

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Kisses for Daddy by Frances Watts and illustrated by David Legge

Published by Little Hare

ISBN978-1-92154-63-6

It is time for little bear to go to bed but in typical toddler fashion, his favourite response is ‘No’. After at first refusing to kiss Mum Bear, Little Bear does kiss her, and Daddy Bear whisks him away to prepare him for bed. Dad Bear makes it all fun with giraffe kisses, koala kisses, crocodile kisses and many more, as he washes and dries his little son. It ends happily with little bear volunteering a special kiss himself.

Children will love the familiar routine that Little Bear follows at bed time. This book won an honour book award in the Children’s Book Council awards and it certainly is a quality picture book and a lovely one to read to young children as Fathers’ Day occurs on September 2nd.

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Early Childhood Publications

Early Childhood Australia publishes some excellent books that will help every parent of children between birth and 8 years, understand their children. Two of these that I recently read are Everyday learning about responding to the emotional needs of children and Everyday learning about managing angry feelings. These books, priced at only $15 are affordable for almost everyone. They don’t take long to read so are ideal for busy or tired parents. They contain a lot of easily understood information. You will find out how children develop feelings of worth, how to respond to your child’s angry feelings and much more. Anger is natural but adult responses are important and children need respect. The way in which we speak to our children can help build strong emotional relationships and help them to be secure and to manage their feelings. The books outline strategies to help parents inn positive ways. Go to www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au to see catalogues.

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I Wish I Had a Pirate Suit by Pamela Allen

Published by Picture Puffin 1991 ISBN -13: 978014050988

Peter has a pirate suit and his younger brother aged three, wishes he had one too. Peter has wonderful adventures using his little brother as the only crew on his ship. They sail the Seven Seas searching for treasure, fight battles and overcome enemies. The illustrations are full of action and will give boys of four and five wonderful ideas for dramatic play. There is a lovely twist at the end of the story. I highly recommend this story for all pre-school boys. For five and six year olds, it is easy reading with repetitive text.

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Queen Victoria’s Christmas Jackie French,

 Illustrated by Bruce Whatley

Published by Harper Collins 2012

ISBN9780732293574

I was keen to see this book as I’d been so delighted with Queen Victoria’s Underpants and the same team has produced this book. The dogs, the bird and the children are up to tricks and having fun with cooking, paper dress-ups and Christmas crackers as the preparations get underway. The dogs certainly don’t think much of the tree until it is decorated. Everyone will enjoy the humour in the book, from the antics of the dogs to the display of the gifts. Simple text accompanies the pictures and an author’s note at the back tells us more about Prince Albert and the way the Christmas tree became so popular. Add this book to your library of Christmas stories.

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Tell Me About Your Day Today by Mem Fox

Illustrated by Lauren Stringer

Scholastic 2012  ISBN 9781742835785

This is a bedtime story of a small boy going to bed with his toy animals and thinking back to the games and events of the day. The illustrations are colourful, detailed and warm and it is through the pictures that the reader learns about, or rather interprets the events of the day. The goose, the blue horse and the rabbit tell about the who, the  what and the why of their adventures.

I always look forward to a Mem Fox book and this one should be popular with three and a half to four year olds.

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The Doorbell Rang

                                by Pat Hutchins

    • Published by William Morrow 1989
    • ISBN 13: 9780688092344

Ma has made a big dish of cookies and the kids are delighted as there will be six cookies for each of them. However, the doorbell rings again and again and more people come. Will there be enough cookies for all the visitors?

This book, written a long time ago, will still be enjoyed by kids today. The illustrations also done by Pat Hutchins, have details that kids love, for example counting the chairs to see how many are left when new visitors arrive. There are opportunities for children to join in with a refrain and to predict what will happen when the doorbell rings once more.

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 Maisy Makes Gingerbread by Lucy Cousins

Walker Books 1999 ISBN 978-1-4063-3475-3

This colourful book with simple language is perfect for two year olds and the younger three year olds. Maisy finds all the ingredients and mixes everything together. This procedure will be familiar to many young children because there are a number of cooking programs on TV now that are especially for pre-school children. The text is very clearly written on a white background on the left hand pages, while the bright pictures fill the right hand pages. The perfect ending  shows the friends enjoying the gingerbread.

There are at least 10 Maisy books and they would make a fine collection for any toddler’s library as each title deals with a routine or familiar activity.

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The Busy Mothers' Guide to Happy Babies

by Helen Evans

Amazon kindle publishing

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BTCA2VU

I’m writing a series of books to help parents this year. As well as this book about babies, there will be one about toddlers and the third will be about pre-schoolers. Here is a review of the book by someone who has read it. This review appears on Amazon. My Amazon author page is at https://www.amazon.com/author/helenevans

Robyn’s review: Helen Evans is a former pre-school Director of many years' experience - and it shows. This is a wonderful book for new parents who want a happy, secure baby. It begins with basic information about how babies communicate in the critical first months, how you should comfort an upset child and how to respond to your baby and his or her needs before they can explain what they want. The treasure in this book, however, is in the descriptions of the sensory activities from birth to 18 months that will help your child to talk, communicate and be confident around adults and other children. As an added bonus, Helen provides a list of resources and recommends specific books for particular ages. The chances are that any child raised using Helen's advice will be happy, communicative, physically confident, able to problem solve and play happily without needing constant attention. What more could a parent want?
I thoroughly recommend this book.

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Guess the Baby

by Simon French and Donna Rawlins

Published by ABC Books 2002

This is an engaging book about babies and their bigger brothers and sisters. For children who don’t have a baby in the family, it gives simple information about what babies need, and for those who are familiar with babies, it will have them nodding their heads in agreement. Guessing the pictures of the babies to go with the older children is fun in itself. The illustrations of children from a variety of ethnic groups are charming and give the reader plenty of opportunity to talk and laugh about what babies can do and what it is like to be a baby.  Highly recommended for two to six year olds.

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The Big Jungle Mix-Up

by Gareth Edwards and Kanako Usui

Published by Hodder children’s Books  2012

ISBN 978 1 444 903041

This lift the flap book is suitable for two to five year olds. Dad Bear and his son set off for a walk in the jungle but Dad’s descriptions of the animals are always muddled up. At two years old children will know something about each animal and will be able to tell the reader what parts of each animal shown in the illustrations don’t belong. Three, and four year olds will see the humour of it and will quickly learn the refrain that Little bear repeats to his father. For five year olds the rhyming words will appeal and it is an easy book to read together with an adult.

The illustrations are big, bold and colourful and reflect the text perfectly and the tough paper will stand up to many children turning the flaps and the pages.

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The Busy Mothers' Guide to Happy Toddlers

by Helen Evans

Published by Amazon Kindle edition www.amazon.com/dp/B00DJJ27SM 

July 2013

$3.99

Reviewed by Robyn Collins

This is an invaluable book for families with a toddler. The commonsense advice seems simple but sometimes it takes someone like Helen Evans to remind us that bringing up a happy toddler is all about love, consistency and commonsense. I found useful the information about the changes you can expect in your child from month to month, child safety tips and ideas for inexpensive play equipment. The real value of this book, however, lies in the chapters on how specific play activities help develop your child's gross and fine motor skills, social interaction, emotional and cognitive development and imagination; and the chapter on how to prepare your toddler for a new brother or sister. Follow the excellent advice in this book and not only will your child be confident and happy, his or her teacher will bless you every day.

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Maisy Goes on a Sleepover

By Lucy Cousins

Walker Books 2012

IBSN 978-1-4063-4489-9

This is another delightful book for preschool children. Lots of children of four will have been on their first sleepover usually at a grandparents house, but will feel a bit nervous about sleeping at a friend’s place. This story is complete fun from the time Maisy gets the invitation, through packing, playing familiar games, eating the party food, and the bedtime routine all children are familiar with. It is a great way to introduce the idea of a sleepover. Lucy’s illustrations are perfect with lots of details children will enjoy finding, e.g. finding the pyjamas in the cupboard. I like the way the text is placed and that some pages are all coloured while others are white. The black text is clear on all pages.

I absolutely LOVE animals  Two extremely good stories

by Lauren Child

published by Puffin 2012

ISBN 978-0-718-19916-6

I’m a real fan of Charlie and Lola on TV and I’m familiar with these stories so I was delighted to see both printed together for the price of only one book. Lauren Child conveys exactly the way a three to four-year-old child thinks so perhaps her books and the TV shows based on them are most appealing to parents. However, my own just four- year-old granddaughter loves to watch Lola and she will be excited to get this book. The first story, I completely KNOW about guinea pigs has just the right amount of information about guinea pig diets and appearance to make a small child feel that he/she is an expert too. The second story, I will not ever never forget you Nibbles, is told by Charlie and after a long and happy life the extremely clever Nibbles dies. Charlie, being older, helps Lola to realise that Nibbles is never going to wake up, but they hold a special ceremony for him. 

The detail in the pictures will keep children looking for quite some time to check that they match the text. Those children who know the TV series, will love having the book to examine over and over again. Lauren Child captures the unique turns of phrase that children come up with and this book is one to treasure.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Maisy goes Camping

by Lucy Cousins

Walker books 2005

ISBN 978-1-84428-711-6

Maisy and her four friends are off on a camping trip and putting up the tent needs lots of time and patience. The fun really begins when they go into the tent one at a time. The pictures are cleverly done so that as each one goes into the tent, you see their shadows and the animal still half outside the tent. Making room for Eddie the elephant is tricky and the problem is solved very happily.

I read this story to my granddaughter after she saw a playschool episode about camping and then she decided to play camping too.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

When Frank Was Four

by Alison Lester

Hachette, Australia 2000

ISBN 978-0-7336-2108-6

This story follows seven children as they grow from age one to seven. I particularly like the format with six simple pictures on each page with a sentence under each that reflects what is happening. Then a full page picture on the following page of the seventh child. There is lots of humour for children to chat about, for example Tessa at three is pictured making a very messy pudding, while Clive at five got an alligator doona. The final double page is a counting activity as each child is shown with a number of things they own.

This book is idea for a a family of several children including a four-year-old as it can be used to talk about what your children did at each age, what the others in your family did and what they may do in the years ahead. It is also a good book for beginning readers.

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Are We There Yet by Sam Williams  Illustrated by Manja Stojic

Koala Books ISBN 978-1-74276-056-8

2013 Australian edition

I loved the bright, colourful illustrations in this book about four ducklings who go for a long walk with their mother. Each illustration goes across a double page and there are things for children to count and to talk about. The author has given each duckling something different to say about the animals they meet on their journey, while Miney asks each time ‘Are we there yet?’. I feel that some of the text could well have been left out or altered e.g. Mother duck always just says, ’Look’ and I got rather bored with phrases such as ‘they saw some pigs… they saw some sheep… they saw some horses…’It made me think back to the wonderful variety of words used by John Burningham in Mr Gumpy’s outing and Mr Gumpy’s Car.   Are We There Yet  is suitable for three year olds.

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Mrs Pepperpot and the Treasure

By Alf Proysen, illustrated by Hilda Offen

Published by Red Fox 2013

ISBN 978-1-849-41866-9

This delightful story was first published in 1960. Alf Proysen was a Norwegian author, and musician who died in 1970 and his Mrs Pepperpot stories have become classics. I was looking for chapter books for young children and came across a series of Pepperpot stories that I remembered had been favourites of my daughter years ago. Not only are they available in their original form with black and white illustrations but now also as lovely picture books with illustrations to delight children on every page.

Mrs Pepperpot shrinks to the size of a pepperpot at unexpected moments. While shrunk she can talk to and understand animals and is often taken on adventures by her cat. There are many dangers and challenges that such a tiny person has to face, but she manages to overcome them and to arrive back home before her absence is discovered. Children of four are usually ready for longer stories as their concentration is good and stories like this picture book are an ideal way to introduce storybooks. You can follow up by finding other Pepperpot storybooks such as Mrs Pepperpot’s Year in which there are 12 stories.

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Two Selkie Stories from Scotland

Retold by Kate Forsyth, illustrated by Fiona Mcdonald

Christmas Press Picture Book 2014

ISBN9780992283827

These two traditional stories of enchantment are beautifully set out with decorative borders of entwined seals, shells and sea creatures on every page. Some illustrations are black and white but most are in colour and it is obvious that the artist found great pleasure in creating so many lovely pictures for this book.

The first story, The Selkie Bride, is the sad and well-known story about a Selkie who is captured and kept against her wishes by a young Laird in his castle, until she finds her seal skin and is able to return to her home beneath the waves.

The second story, In the Kingdom of the Seals, is not as well known as the first. It tells of a seal hunter who is captured by a Selkie and taken below the waves. It is a good choice as, with its happy ending, it balances the sadness of the first. Both stories are suitable for the 7 to 10 age group and form a good introduction to folk tales from other cultures.

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Chapter books for preschool kids

Preschool kids love picture books, listening to the simple story while concentrating on the illustrations. Between four and five years of age though, it is a good idea to move onto story books which have only a small picture on each page with a lot of words, or only a picture every few pages. If the story is right, the child will be engrossed in the action and will imagine a picture for him or herself. Every child is different of course. My own children loved the A.A. Milne books -The House at Pooh Corner etc. but I’ve just realized that traditional fairy stories are what my granddaughter will enjoy. She’d been given a lovely edition of fairy stories, Best-Loved Fairytales –The Classic Collection published by Hinkler 2011 ISBN 978 1 74185017-8 It had been put aside as early in the year she was too young for those stories. Now she is ready and was enthralled by the story of Snow White. I have just bought her Cinderella, a version by Paul Galdone, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2013 ISBN 978-0-5470-98867-2 The illustrations are not so appealing to me, but Maria liked the cover of that one more than another version. It looks as if fairytales will be a big part of our book reading over the next part of the year.

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When I see Grandma by Debra Tidball

Illustrated by Leigh Hedstrom

Wombat Books 2014

This is a gently story of love and memories and how a family helps a loved one who lives in a nursing home. The words, spoken by a child of about six years old, are simple and link her interests to what her Grandma likes. Family life is cleverly linked to activities in the nursing home too. We see Dad going away to work, Mum helping at school, music practise and little brother never far away.

The illustrations, though simple in style, are complex in the ideas they successfully present. It is through the illustrations that we glimpse Grandma’s life as a young wife and mother. We see her dancing, at the beach, and her delight at holding her newly born son many years ago. Indeed so long ago that hospital regulations were strict and the nurse we see in the background does not approve of father kissing his wife!

These cameos of Grandma’s dreams of the past as well as her present life at the nursing home, are meaningful for all of us. They make the book suitable for all ages. Families who know someone in a nursing home will find When I See Grandma especially helpful. Use it to help children enjoy visits to a grandparent. Use it to see the delight toddlers can bring into hospitals and nursing homes. Use it to chat to people with failing memories. Their memories of the past are often very good.

This is a book that needs careful examination. At first glance it is a simple picture book for the very young. The reader who goes back again and again, will be rewarded. Both the author and the illustrator have combined to make a book that can both move and delight one. Congratulations Debra and Leigh.

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The Croc and the Platypus 

 by Jackie Hosking

Illustrated by Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

Walker books 2014

Jackie Hosking’s rhythmic rhyming text and the wonderful pictures by Marjorie Crosby-Fairall make this a picture book to treasure. Although the story is based on The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear, this story is completely Australian in flavour, from the platypus and the croc’s serenade on the didgeridoo, to the shearers’ shed and the lamingtons eaten in the moonlight near Uluru. The book is lots of fun and the detail in the pictures brings so much more to the story. I love the end papers too. I look forward to other picture books by this talented team.

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Copyright 2009-2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Born to Read
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Kidz-fiz-biz
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Nature Watch Outdoor Activities
 
Why I love Christmas
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Pocketful of Posies

From Head to Toe

My Pet
I Love My Mummy
The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas
The Tall Man and the Twelve Babies
A Mother’s K.I.S.S
The Things I Love About Friends

Flower Fairies of the Summer

Christmas Cooking for Kids
Stick Man
Felix
If I were the Easter Bunny
Scarf Magic
One Gorilla
We're going on a Picnic
For All Creatures
Kisses for Daddy
Early childhood Publications
Wish I had a Pirate suit
Queen Victoria’s Christmas
Tell Me About Your Day Today
The Doorbell Rang
Maisy Makes Gingerbread
The Busy Mothers' Guide to Happy Babies
Guess the Baby
The Big Jungle Mix-Up
The Busy Mothers' Guide to Happy Toddlers
Maisy Goes on a Sleepover
I absdolutely LOVE animals

Maisy goes Camping

When Frank was Four
Are We There Yet by Sam Williams 
Mrs Pepperpot and the Treasure
Two Selkie Stories from Scotland
Chapter books for preschool kids
When I see Grandma
The Croc and the Platypus