Blossom Possum by Gina Newton

Published: March 2007 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Scholastic Press
Illustrator: Kilmeny Niland
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Early one morning, Blossom Possum gets such a fright she thinks the sky is falling down! She has to tell someone, so she sets off with her news. On the way she meets her bush mates. But she also runs into trouble. This retelling of a favourite folktale has a delightful Aussie twist and a refreshingly positive ending.

I found this for a storytime at work and was actually genuinely in love with this by the end. I was curious how the story of Chicken Little would go being adapted for Australian context but Newton did a great job.

There is great pacing and the use of repetition is great as you fall into a natural rhythm as the story progresses. The story is filled with fun characters with great tongue twisters and rhymes for characters like Rocky Cocky and Toey Joey. It works well for most of them, some are a slight stretch but are in the spirit of the fun tone of the story. With the repetition the kids know what to expect and each page is left hanging as to who Blossom will find next which allows anticipation and gives them a chance to guess who will be on the next page.

There are some familiar Aussie phrases like beyond the black stump and round the back of beyond and it was the little details that made me smile. It wasn’t a giant flashing banner that tried to be Too Australian because that is cringey and it is tiring to read, but the inclusion of the Australian landscape and wildlife was nice.

There is a shift towards the end where it becomes a bit more perilous and a minor threat of being eaten, but the animals all escape with a small bit of animal violence and a boxing of the ears. I wasn’t expecting this and it alters the story a bit as it changes direction. Newton brings is full circle though in the best way and it makes for a delightful surprise ending.

The illustrations are both adorable and admittedly strange but I enjoyed how Niland has portrayed the Australian animals and has incorporated their environment in beautiful scenery. She also matches the illustrations to the mood: when there is danger the scene becomes black and when all is well there are stunning landscapes the animals traipse across.

There are surprises and it’s a cute story that brings the well-known story to a new audience with a wonderful Australian twist. It’s funny and a delightful tale that I really enjoyed.

You can purchase Blossom Possum via the following

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Franny’s Father is a Feminist by Rhonda Leet

Published: 28th February 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 POW!
Illustrator: Megan Walker
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Star

Franny’s Father is a Feminist. It’s simple, really! He knows that girls can do anything boys can do, and raises Franny to believe that she deserves all the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities to fulfill her dreams that he had. Through sweet, straight-forward prose, Franny’s Father portrays the loving bond between a young girl, and her father who isn’t afraid of bucking gender norms in order to ensure that his daughter grows up smart, strong, and full of self confidence. From teaching her to fix her own bicycle and splashing in the mud, to cheering at ballet recitals and supporting Franny’s mother in her career, Franny’s Father displays what it means for a man to be a Feminist, and how male Feminism can play a vital role in the empowerment of young women. 

The narrative is simple and the sentences are short and to the point. There is an educational style in the writing but it still flows like a story. Leet manages to directly explain what feminism is as well as showing it in everyday circumstances. Franny’s father cries openly and unashamedly, he helps Franny with anything she wants to do whether that is ballet or playing with tools, and he is all about empowering her.

It’s a wonderful move that more picture books are having these kinds of messages and I love that Leet is so obvious about it. She breaks down what being a feminist means and the fact she uses Franny’s dad, a man illustrated to be a big, burly, bearded man who some might think can be nothing but “manly” and “masculine” is even better.

This story breaks down the notion that there are boy jobs and girl jobs, girl interests and boy interests. It also promotes equality in housework and reminds kids that there’s nothing stopping them from being anything they want when they grow up. Leet uses storytime to educate the reader as well as Franny about real life feminie heroes from history and show the importance representation has on Franny and her friends.

This is an excellent book that everyone should read because while it is simple and uncomplicated, I think that is a great starting point in taking away the fear some people have of the F word and help them understand what it actually means.

You can purchase Franny’s Father is a Feminist via the following

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Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

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And All The Stars by Andrea K. Höst

Published: 30th September 2012Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Self-Published
Pages: 204
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult/Science Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Come for the apocalypse. Stay for cupcakes. Die for love. Madeleine Cost is working to become the youngest person ever to win the Archibald Prize for portraiture. Her elusive cousin Tyler is the perfect subject: androgynous, beautiful, and famous. All she needs to do is pin him down for the sittings. None of her plans factored in the Spires: featureless, impossible, spearing into the hearts of cities across the world – and spraying clouds of sparkling dust into the wind. Is it an alien invasion? Germ warfare? They are questions everyone on Earth would like answered, but Madeleine has a more immediate problem. At Ground Zero of the Sydney Spire, beneath the collapsed ruin of St James Station, she must make it to the surface before she can hope to find out if the world is ending.

This is an amazing story about friendship, aliens, and Australians. I loved it from start to finish; I read it in one sitting and I couldn’t put it down. From the start I was engaged as I, alongside Madeleine, try to work out what has happened. One reason why I loved this story was because I easily recognised these places and that I could visualise where the story takes place which was a great experience. The other was because I was genuinely enthralled by this story; there were surprises, there was mystery, there was a brilliantly executed story that was unlike anything I had read before filled with characters I instantly liked and connected with.

I loved the concept Höst has conveyed because it’s grand but simple at the same time. Don’t let the sci fi nature deter you if that isn’t your thing, there is a lot more focus on people and their situation that anything outlandishly science fiction. This was also a great dystopian story without it being a complete dystopia. The fact there was the Spires, the mystery dust and their consequences and not a full on apocalypse meant that things like the internet and television still operated. I was a bit confused about how television and internet was working originally before I realised that the Event doesn’t take out any technology and that the aftermath only affects the human population. Without giving too much away, I loved how the aftermath played out. It was engrossing and thrilling and there were wonderful moments of downtime where you got to intricately know the characters and see them unite.

Madeleine is a great character. I loved her determination for winning the Archibald Prize and she is a strong person but still has vulnerabilities. She isn’t quite a leader, but she isn’t a follower either. She is bright and determined and with all the strange and fearful things around her she remains strong and compassionate. Each of the characters felt unique and I could picture them easily as the story plays out. You become attached and invested and Höst uses that to her advantage with all her secrets and surprises.

The resulting mystery was so satisfactory. It was a unique answer to why what was happening was happening and I loved that sometimes the answer doesn’t need to be overly complicated or extreme. I loved the action and the unexpected but despite all that was happening it never escaped feeling plausible, grounded and real. I would certainly recommend giving this a read if you want a fresh story not only set in Australia, but a great take on the apocalypse.

You can purchase And All the Stars via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Tales of Mr Walker by Jess Black

Published: 29th October 29th 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Puffin Books
Illustrator: Sara Acton
Pages: 192
Format: Hardback
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Introducing Mr Walker – a hotel dog with a nose for adventure!

On a brilliant autumn’s day, Mr Walker arrives at the grandest hotel in town. While things get off to a wobbly start, this charming labrador is determined to put his best paw forward. And it’s just as well because the most unexpected adventures await…

There are four tales included in this omnibus and it explores the adventures of Mr Walker and his life at the Park Hyatt. Black makes Mr Walker act and behave like a dog, but he also has his own thoughts and understanding about what is happening around him. The story is entirely through his perspective and it was heart-warming to see how he loves and adores the people he works with and lives with.

Having these tales be based on the real Mr Walker who has been living and working at the Park Hyatt in Melbourne since 2017 is even better. As a failed guide dog he is a wonderful ambassador and Black includes a bio at the back of the book so you can get to know the real Mr Walker.

The four tales included are filled with mystery and drama, Mr Walker gets to investigate and solve problems, help out and help people by being himself. There is real heart in the stories and having Mr Walker be at the centre of it you get to see all these stories and see people interact with a dog they may not with another human.

There are wonderful dog moments like seeing Mr Walker manoeuvre on marble floors, seeing him play in the park with his dog friends, as well as a great representation of how he uses his nose and tracking to understand the world around him and using that to find things.

Acton’s illustrations are adorable. The simple water colour drawings are scattered throughout and depict Mr Walker in many delightful and humorous ways. They are mini inclusions amongst the text and it gives off a great storybook feel.

There are many more tales of Mr Walker but having four in this first book gets you invested in his story and I’m certainly looking forward to reading about more of his adventures.

You can purchase The Tales of Mr Walker via the following

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 Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Audible

Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman

Published: 11th March 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Candlewick Press
Illustrator: Laura Cornell
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Heather’s favorite number is two. She has two arms, two legs, and two pets. And she also has two mommies. When Heather goes to school for the first time, someone asks her about her daddy, but Heather doesn’t have a daddy. Then something interesting happens. When Heather and her classmates all draw pictures of their families, not one drawing is the same. It doesn’t matter who makes up a family, the teacher says, because “the most important thing about a family is that all the people in it love one another.”

This is the book. The book that everyone talks about, mainly because in 1989 when it was published it was one of the only books of its kind and no doubt was a smidge controversial. Thankfully there are a lot more out now and we have a little variety. My copy calls it a modern classic which it probably is, but I’m glad there are a lot more variations out there now.

The story isn’t actually focused on Heather’s two mummies, instead Heather is the main theme as we learn all about her. Newman tells us about how Heather’s favourite number is two and all the two things she has and does. It just so happens one of those twos is two mummies. As a whole it is also a great book about the different families there are: single parent, grandparents, step parents, same-sex parents.

The story doesn’t focus on how Heather copes with her two mummies, or the “controversy” of having two mummies. It is a perfectly sweet story that only happens to have two mummies in it. It is a wonderful book about being loved, new adventures, and the wonderful diversity of all family.

The illustrations are painted pictures with lots of colour by Cornell. There are full and double page pictures with lots of detail to keep little eyes busy. Cornell’s style is clear but also a lovely style of painted figures and backgrounds with no solid edges. The variety of colours is admirable and it highlights her great skillset. The text is simple and there is a rhythm but no rhyme, and Cornell illustrates Newman’s words with realism but with her own interpretation as well.

I was surprised because I had only heard mention of this book, but having found a copy I am glad to say I have read it. As I say, I am glad there are so many more out there now to read, but this one hasn’t aged and certainly isn’t dated. At its core it is about Heather and it is about family, something that never changes.

You can purchase Heather Has Two Mommies via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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