Thursday, August 11, 2016

Edward's Magic Paintbox by Sue Robinson and Helen Leach

Another interesting tale from Sue Robinson who grew up in the Blue Mountains. This beautifully illustrated book by award winning artist Helen Leach not only deals with bushfires but the rebirth of nature after the devastation. Edward can't believe no-one is making a fuss of him on his seventh birthday. Why all the rushing around and why are they going to Grandma's when he could be celebrating his birthday with his friends at school? His initial disappointment is quickly abated after he receives a special set of water colours which Edward immediately puts to good use. Everyone is intrigued by the painting, could it really be magical?

  1. Edward at work

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Rosie and Mack Head Outback: an Adventure in the Kimberley by Celia Shelmerdine

What a fantastic book for children to learn more about the Kimberley region, its geographical marvels and its fascinating flora and fauna. Rosie and Mack who have visited big cities around the world such as New York, Rome, Paris and London decide to explore their own country more and head off to the far north of Western Australia. They land at a terminal where there are bulls grazing on the airstrip and they are warmly greeted by Jackaroo Jim who has all sorts of activities planned to fill up their days. From the aboriginal rock art to the starts in the skies, as children accompany Rosie and Mack they will emerge from this book with a greater awareness and understanding of this beautiful part of Australia. The end papers show a map of El Questro Satation and Wilderness park and there is a detailed glossary at the back explaining the many aboriginal words in this text.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Clown Said No by Mischa Damjan and Józef Wilkoń

The unexpected defiance of a clown who would prefer to tell stories than alternate between laughing and crying despite the ringmaster's pleas, quickly becomes a rebellion against the constraints of circus life. The donkey, who no longer wants to be stereotypically stubborn, the Dancing Pony who is wearisome of dancing, Louise the Giraffe who is tired of just being known for her neck, Gus the homesick Lion, and Otto the Dog who resents being shackled by a chain, all decide enough is a enough. One night they simple leave...but how will they survive by themselves whilst they raise the necessary finances and recognition to begin their own circus where they can all call the shots and be happy? Read it and find out if they can eventually follow their dreams.

This book was originally published in German as Der Clown sagte Nein. Extra informations about the amazing polish  illustrator/artist, Józef Wilkoń, can be found on
on Pinterest:

No Such Thing as Far Away by Laura Langston and Robert Amos

This  Canadian picture book explores a child's attachment to place and could quite easily be set in any major Australian city with a China Town. It is in fact set in Vancouver's Chinatown which I had the pleasure of exploring some years ago. Michael loves his Chinatown home, its smells, its interesting alley ways, and the dragons from the nearby neon sings which cast their golden and red images through his bedroom window upon his wall during the night. He is very upset when he hears from his mum who runs a second hand shop of their impending move to another suburb. Michael's acceptance of the situation comes largely through the counsel of his Chinese friend, Grandpa Doc. 

In summer Michael would go into the little store where Grandpa Doc straightened his jars of herbs and boxes of powders. Michael would sit on a high stool and sniff the air. The smells of star anise, ginger and sweet licorice mingled with the conversation as Grandpa Doc talked about the old country. Once Michael asked Grandpa Doc how he could be happy when he was so far away from the China that he loved.

"There's no such thing as far away when you carry a place in your heart," Grandpa Doc said, laughing at Michael's frown. "In here." The old man lifted both hands to his heart.
 who tells him, "There is no such thing as far away when you carry a place with you. In here." (Your heart.) 

Robert Amos, a water-colour artist, well-known for his depictions of inner city streets, captures the detail and colour of the scenes in Chinatown beautifully. 

The result is a well-written appreciation of Chinatown and a satisfying, reassuring look at the heartache of leaving a loved places and loved ones.

Friday, June 17, 2016

School Yard Jokes by Hinkler Books

Laugh and the class laughs with you.
But you get detention alone.

What do you get when you cross a kangaroo with a skyscraper ?
A high jumper. 

Where do elephants come from?
Very big storks.

If you like jokes that make you chuckle out loud or even on the inside or maybe even groan, you will enjoy this book. It has some of the old standard jokes but there are many refreshingly new ones as well. It is a pocket size book with modern colourful illustrations; one of the better quality joke books I have seen around. It was published in 2010 so the jokes are not too corny.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Dimity Dumpty; The Story of Humpty's Little Sister by Bob Graham

Now Dimity Dumpty knew what was about to befall her somewhat egotistical brother Humpty, but few know the real family story. I am a sucker for the other perspective, be it fiction or non fiction, and this book was destined to adorn my shelf along with those entertaining gems of one of my favourite authors, Jon Scieska.  Dimity predicted that one day Humpty would come a cropper, and a right one at that! Illustrator/author Bob Graham certainly dishes up just desserts! So what was the life of Humpty's unknown, shy, and somewhat timid sister like? Interesting to say the least.  No-one knew of the circus-orientated Tumbling Dumpties clan. Humpty Dumpty has a much better outcome including chocolates and  a full recovery. A fun read!

The Butterfly by A. Delaney

It was the tiny and humble splash of orange flitting amongst the fine line ink drawings inside the covers that drew me to this totally unpretentious little book. Not only does the story tell about the flights of a lone butterfly on a summer's day but it also illustrates the story of the energetic and fun-loving dog and a troupe of close friends as they gamble through the daisy and grass fields encapsulating life itself. It is a book about really enjoying the little things in life and appreciating the moment for whatever it may be. The energy and joy is captivated so well in the illustration and the  rhyming flow of text. The warmth and absolute joy of the day is ever present. 

Mean Max by John Peterson and Syd Hoff

An interesting retro read on dealing with bullying. In the picture book Mean Max by John Peterson, first published in 1970, Toby struggles to deal with the ongoing bullying he receives at the hands of Max who lives close by and attends the same school. Tony's best friend, Eddy, is more undermining than helpful and Tony ends up becoming a bully himself. Build up your muscles and train to run fast are the main pieces of advice in this little book as well as learning to stand up for yourself. Certainly an unusual addition to the Little Library of Rescued Books and also smelliest book in the collection. This book was originally called Mean Max Chickens Out. Read it and smell it for yourself and you decided how helpful this book could be. What mainly drew me to buying this book for the grand sum of twenty cents was the illustrations by cartoonist Syd Hoff as I have a lot of respect and admiration for his work. Sadly for us he is no longer around to create, but you can appreciate his works at:

Bolton Road Spy Catches by Margaret Pearce

Bolton Road Spy Catches by Margaret Pearce starts off a little slowly for my liking but soon picks up momentum, Akin to a Famous Five novel, but much more sophisticated in terms of history and dialogue, the story is set in Victoria after the bombing of Darwin by the Japanese. A group of five children, Nancy, Mabel, Janet, Fred and Lennie have created a group to raise money for the war effort but also to track down informants and saboteurs. The story really has much more to do with the adventures of Nancy, Janet and Mabel in these efforts as Fred has nicked off with close friend Bill Owen with ideas of joining up at only thirteeen! As for Lennie, well his character is scarce. The reader is given insight into the life of ordinary families and the hardships which were endured on the home front in terms of rationing, clothing coupons, sharing housing, and just plain making do with what one has. The cooking teacher in the story really brings back memories of some of the home economics teachers I had as a child with their lack of sympathy and bullying ways. To read this book is to truly witness the life of students during the second world war, you step back in time, wear the uncomfortable and restrictive school uniforms and step into the authoritarian and suffocating school environment, and even clean the outside dunny. You ride the public transport, interact with soldiers and sailors and witness the bonds between neighbors during difficult times.

In order to read this book I had to continually cut open cojoined pages as this novel obviously wasn't cleanly cut during the publishing process. Overall, though it was an enjoyable read and I shall be keeping my eye out for more of her books.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Goose in a hole by Judith Kerr

Goose in a Hole by author/illustrator Judith Kerr is a gentle story revolving around a missing pond that has mysteriously disappeared down a hole. The main protagonist of the story, Katrina the goose, leads gander Charlie and their goslings on a convoluted search for it underground popping up in some quite disturbing places. Meanwhile, Millie Bushwell is concerned for Katrina's safety whilst the people from the township are more occupied with  the reestablishment of a new pond than they are about the wildlife that used to inhabit the missing one. Judith Kerr's famous cat, Mog, makes an appearance in a few of the illustrations. This is a sequel to Judith's first book about Katrina the goose entitled The Other Goose.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Mouse and the Potato by Thomas Berger and Carla Grillis

The Mouse and the Potato, which is now out of print, was translated from German by Polly Lawson and was printed in Belgium in 1990 by Floris Books. This is a book about a potato, obviously and it makes for an unusual protagonist. It starts out with a little girl called Maggie deciding to plant a rather large potato with the mindset that is will produce more potatoes.  A plant appears and it grows prolifically, the problem is, when it comes to harvest time the gigantic plant won't budge. Maggie's father, a farmer, tries to uproot the plant, is shortly joined by his wife, then a farmhand, a milking maid and then Maggie; all to no avail. Then it's time for canine, felines and rodents to partake in the what is now proving to be a very challenging harvest. Well, I wonder  what could possibly happen? The farm horse even ends up with a job. A straightforward little plot with gentle water colour illustrations by Belgium illustrator Carla Grillis.   It is certainly a beautiful addition to my children book collection.

The harvest

The Dutch version

The German version

Monday, April 18, 2016

Daddy Lost His Head by Quentin Blake & Andre Bouchard

Loved this book, Daddy Lost His Head, before I even read the first page. What kid wouldn't pluck this one right off the shelf?  I found the book very amusing.  If your Dad lost his head you would fashion him a new one of course. Newspaper, paint and a potato for a nose and voilà...there it is a new functioning head with many advantages. You see, he doesn't snore or shout, he readily agrees with you and is quite happy to do the vacuuming. Even better, take him shopping and he will buy anything you ask for. But...will Daddy ever find his real head and just how did he lose it in the first place? This is certainly a very absurd story but also very inventive and funny.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Little Cat and the Greedy Old Woman by Joan Rankin

The story revolves around a little cat who one day is unceremoniously shooed out into the pouring rain after he attempts to gain a taste of a special roast dinner the "greedy old woman" has prepared. The anger which grows inside him causes him to grow into a great jungle tiger tyrant and he reenters the house hell-bent on revenge. The moggy is a lovable villain and the  muted softer watercolours used for the house and the old woman are contrasted with the vibrant oranges and browns used for the terrifying tiger cat. An amusing read.

Dragon by Wayne Anderson

If you love dragons then surely this is a book you will enjoy. One day, a mother dragon accidentally drops an egg from the sky into the ocean. When the newborn emerges, he spends  many months trying to find his place amongst animals such as fish, insects, birds, snakes and even a crocodile.  He is desperate to find his mother and despairing after his many encounters with other creatures...until he finds a special young boy who happily lends a helping hand. This is a warm and reassuring story about a magical creature's search for his identity and his home.Wayne Anderson is a respected English author/artist who has received the Society of Illustrators Gold Medal for best children's book, as well as many other accolades. The misty, mysterious illustrations greatly enhance the story and make it something  very special.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Another Custard Pie by Roger McGough & Graham Percy

Another Custard Pie by Roger Mc Gough and published in 1993, is written in rhyming couplets and tells the story about a boy who dreams of running away to join the circus and awakes to find that the circus chaos has come to his house instead. The living room houses the big top, a baby elephant is playing the piano and his little sister is checking out the inside of a tiger's mouth. 

There is a lion in the wardrobe
And it's trying on my clothes.
There is a seal in the bath
With a potty on it's nose.

About ever kind of circus act is given some kind of reference or recognition, including a bear on a pogo stick and a kangaroo and a camel playing "Catch-the -Ball."

In the end the boy has had enough and changed his mind completely.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Stolen Mealies Lesley Whitwell and Mario Sickle

The Stolen Mealies  is an African folk-tale retold by Lesley Whitwell and illustrated by Mario Sickle. This book was published in 1989 in Cape Town and tells the tale of Squirrel who works hard to grow mealies (corn). Unfortunately his field is discovered by an unscrupulous hare who deviously manipulates others into believing he is the owner of the new harvest. However, justice prevails. This a great book to teach the values of honesty and integrity to students. The double page colourful linocut illustrations by Mario Sickle are both detailed and exquisite. It is one of the most beautifully illustrated book in my children' collection. I will certainly be keeping an eye out for his other books The New Fire, The Hare's Rope, Sangura's Tug of War and Love David.

A Fish Out of Water by Helen Palmer and P.D.Eastman

A Fish Out of Water was one of my favourite books as a  child and this  edition was published in 1963. How excited was I when I found this today?  A little boy buys a fish he calls Otto from Mr Carp and is promptly given the instruction:"Never feed him a lot. Never more than a spot! Or something may happen. You never know what." Yet straight away after landing home, the lad is being more than generous with the feeds. The rhyme drives the story along as Otto quickly outgrows one watery habitat after another. Pretty soon the local policeman is involved and then the fire brigade, and eventually Mr Carp makes a return appearance to make for a very satisfying ending to the story.

Friday, January 8, 2016

When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs

When the Window Blows  by Raymond Briggs is a very dark book really aimed for children over maybe eleven and it could really be appreciate and more fully unpacked by adults. According to Briggs in an interview, he never intended it to be a political comment. I've also watched the movie which is just as disturbing and sad, a complete turn around from the light-hearted Snowman, and Father Christmas books which won him so much fameI've  also seen the movie and that doesn't change just how horribly sad the book is with its many moments of black humour. The bleak adult subject matter serves to underline the absurdity of the situation lived through by elderly James and Hilda Bloggs as they somewhat cheerily set about preparing their house for the nuclear strike using the ludicrous "The Householder's Guide to Survival" and continue with their banter and attempt at normality even after the devastation of the "fall out." The last two pages left me feeling sick to the stomach. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Teeny Tiny Woman retold and illustrated by Barbara Seuling

The Teeny Tiny Woman retold by Barbara Seuling is about a very small woman who finds a teeny bone in a church yard and takes it home in order to make soup for her supper. After she stores it in her cupboard, the trouble begins. Everything in the book is teeny tiny except for one thing which the reader discovers at the conclusion of the story. Simply written with repetition, this is a great book for readers beginning to find their own feet. The drawings were done in pencil and preseparated. 

Barbara Seuling was born and grew up in Bensonhurst in Brooklyn. She attended Colombia University and studied art and illustration with Don Bolognese, Uri Shulevitz and Robert Quackenbush. Ms Seuling was a children's book editor for many years and has written and illustrated several other children's books incuding Winter Lullaby and Oh No It's Robert.  She wears many hats and is also a teacher. Barbara lives in Manhattan and spends summer in Landgrove, Vermont.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Boris the Riverbank Artist by Bruce and Anne Riddell

Boris the Riverbank Artist was first published in 1986 and is like a comic and a picture book in one. Boris is a hare and enjoys a pretty good life on the riverbank really, a very comfortable home, good friends and a hobby he loves, painting. He doesn't earn a lot despite his paintings being in demand so sets out to find his fame and fortune in the city. Despite his optimism and his immaculate personal presentation  things don't go so well. Then he meets Garth from "Almost Originals" company and the work comes flooding in...but is this what Boris really wants?

Author Bruce Riddell  was born in Cape Town South Africa, in 1944. He studied graphic design at St Martin's School of Art in London. He has worked as a book designer and art editor, an art teacher and lectured  in graphic design at the University of New South Wales and the Sydney College of Arts.  In 1982 he was appointed Head of Department of Graphic Design at Canberra College of Technical and Further Education. He also wrote a book, Art in the Making, for secondary students which was published in 1982. 

Coauthor, Anne Riddell was born in Glasgow in Scotland in 1941. She trained as a speech therapist and practised in both Scotland and Barbados before changing careers to become an editorial assistant. When the family moved to Sydney in 1979 she became a publications editor in a New South Wales government department. She also worked as a journalist with the Australian Public Service in Canberra.

Safari A Photicular Book by Dan Kainen and Carol Kaufmann

This would have to be one of the most enchanting and beautiful books in my ever-growing collection. Purchased in 2012, the year of its publication it contains magnificent examples of photicular images, wherein individual video frames are sliced into very thin adjacent strips to create one master image. Below is an example of an African lion moving effortlessly towards you as you turn the page of the book. The book contains the story of the authors' safari through Kenya whilst they fielded the photographs and video footage to make this book. It also contains beautiful ink illustrations provided by Dover Publications. There are moving images of a cheetah, a lion, a gorilla, a rhinoceros, a zebra, an elephant, a gazelle and a giraffe, eight in all.