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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Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Audible

It’s Not Scribble to Me by Kate Ritchie

Published: 29th October 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Penguin Random House Australia
Illustrator: Jedda Robaard
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Have you ever had so many wonderful, wild and beautiful ideas that paper isn’t enough to hold them all?

Bear has. Upstairs and downstairs, outside and in, the whole house is covered in Bear’s colourful art – even Bear’s little sister. Can Bear convince her parents that she’s creating more than just ‘scribbles’?

All families will relate to this funny story of toddler cheekiness and charm, written by Kate Ritchie, author of I Just Couldn’t Wait to Meet You and illustrated by Jedda Robaard.

This is a very sweet book and I quite enjoyed this. I like seeing Ritchie come out with more picture books as they are filled with love and emotional connections. I picked this up because of Jess’ review over at Never Ending Book Shelf and I agree it is a lovely book and certainly filled with heart.

This story is a wonderful reminded that what looks like a blotch or a random scribble on a page is a picture perfect image to a child. They can see exactly what it is and it’s always a little heartbreaking not to understand what they have drawn.

The story is told through the voice and perspective of a child and the innocent voice is strong because it brings out the purity in their actions and the heart behind their intent. You feel their pride when the little bear talks about what they have drawn, and the disappointment when they are chastised for their art. It is a story that explores both sides of the situation but gets deep into your emotions about crushing the soul of this tiny artist.

The narrative is lyrical with rhymes as each page flows seamlessly to the next, accompanied by pictures that suit the words. There are only a sentence or two on each page but they explain the story remarkably well and you get easily caught up in the flow and rhythm of the tsory.

Robaard’s illustrations are adorable and I think her style choice is ideal. The cartoon depictions make the story cute without making it silly, but doesn’t make it too serious either. There is humour in the drawings, something for both the adult and the child to enjoy. Plus having a family of bears separates it from being a child and a fault on a child, but there are common themes and scenarios which can be drawn upon when reading.

I think this is great book for kids and parents because it helps to understand one another in a small way and this is a great stepping stone to help drive creativity but in welcomed places. Ritchie is writing about an area that you don’t often see and I think it is wonderful how she keeps putting these stories out that help to appreciate and understand children.

You can purchase It’s Not Scribble to Me via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Book that Made Me edited by Judith Ridge

Published: 1st September 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Walker Books Australia
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Genre: Anthology/Non Fiction
★   ★ – 2 Stars

The Book That Made Me is a celebration of the books that influenced some of the most acclaimed authors from Australia and the world. Inspirational. Affecting.

A perfect collection of personal stories for book lovers!

Personal stories by fantastic authors such as Markus Zusak, Jaclyn Moriarty, Shaun Tan, Mal Peet, Ambelin Kwaymullina, Simon French, Fiona Wood, Simmone Howell, Bernard Beckett, Ursula Dubosarsky, Rachael Craw, Sue Lawson, Felicity Castagna, Benjamin Law, Cath Crowley, Kate Constable, James Roy, Alison Croggon, Will Kostakis and Randa Abdel-Fattah. Also features black and white cartoons by Shaun Tan!

I picked up this book because there were stories from authors that I love to read and the premise sounded really interesting. There’s always a risk with anthologies that a reader won’t enjoy all the stories equally and unfortunately this was the case for me. Sometimes it is only a few but I found with this collection I couldn’t engage with a lot of the stories. I wanted to enjoy them, I wanted to read about what books had an impact on these writers but I struggled to get through many of the stories. This may be my own personal issue and perhaps it was because they were personal essays and not fictional stories, but I kept putting the book down and finding reasons to skim.

I shouldn’t be too harsh, there are 32 stories in this anthology and some certainly were engaging; they were humorous and fascinating stories about how a single book, whether it was a massive dislike or a fascination with a concept, changed how the author saw the world and shaped who they wanted to be. Will Kostakis told how his hatred of a set book in primary school inspired him to write his own story, Benjamin Law wrote how he fell in love with Roald Dahl and reading things ten year olds probably shouldn’t be reading, while so many more mentioned that books were their treasures and offered them an escape. There were stories from indigenous authors and how their culture and stories impacted them, and there’s also voices from minorities in Australia who talk about never seeing themselves in books and how the culture of their parents affected the books they were exposed to.

These stories opened my eyes to how different people had access to different books, some read the same books I had read as a kid, and certainly the age ranges between these authors offered a wider range of books again. The reasons how and why these books made an impact were interesting in themselves. I’ve certainly felt this way about books I’ve read. My book was Checkers by John Marsden. I read that when I was in high school and it cemented my decision to want to write so I understand why these essays exist, I only wish I enjoyed more of them.

The format was not only essays, there were lists, comics, dot points, poems, and a few people had more than one book that shaped them. A nice surprise were the Shaun Taun illustrations sprinkled throughout. Tan asked random strangers why they read and seeing the responses sprinkled throughout with an accompanying sketch was an adorable and entertaining way to break up the stories.

Even though it wasn’t my favourite anthology, I still enjoyed seeing how so many books, especially ones I had read myself, had such an impact on these authors. Just shows you the true power of reading and how people can read the same book in so many different ways.

You can purchase The Book that Made Me via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Amazing Babes by Eliza Sarlos

Published: 1st November 2013Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Scribble Kids Books
Illustrator: Grace Lee
Pages: 56
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Star

A unique picture book for young and old that celebrates inspirational women from around the world and across generations. You will recognise some and be delighted to meet others.

Amazing Babes was originally written as a gift from a mother to her son. It introduces women such as Gloria Steinem, pioneer of the American women’s movement; Kathleen Hanna, lead singer from 1990s seminal punk-rock act Bikini Kill; Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s pro-democracy leader; Miles Franklin, 20th-century Australian writer and feminist; and Malala Yousafzai, a passionate advocate of worldwide access to education. All the women in this book had the ideas, determination, and creativity to bring about change in the world, and in learning about their stories we honour their achievements. 

This is a beautifully simple but empowering book that is an ideal start for children to discover history’s greatest women as well as start them on a path to strive and be the best people they can be.

The women in this book include Hedy Lamarr, Bertha Lutz, Leymah Gbowee, Edith Cowan and Mum Shirl. The 20 women highlighted are from around the world and from a range of eras. The words are simple and the illustrations from Lee are beautiful painted portraits. Sarlos does not provide a page long biography of these women like other books of this kind, instead the focus is on their attributes like determination, bravery, dedication and curiosity. At the end there is a mini biography of each of these amazing women which highlight their achievements but the inspiration initially comes from the main story.

The cover says “for kids and adults” which is important because there are lessons and goals for everyone to take with them and live their life by. The story starts with a simple prompt “As I grow…” which has much more impact than “As I grow up…”, limiting this to a child’s aspiration. Sarlos reminds us that we are always growing and there is always time to start striving to be better people.

What I loved about this book was it wasn’t just a focus on these women and their achievements, because that doesn’t come until the end. Sarlos wants the reader to aspire to be wonderful just like those in the book. Their commitment and fortitude that made them change their world and the world around them and it’s letting the reader know that they can do the same too.

You can purchase Amazing Babes via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon Aust

I Want to Be in A Book by Narelle Oliver

Published: 1st July 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Scholastic Australia
Illustrator: Narelle Oliver
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

For most of his life, Cecil waited patiently on a pinboard, dreaming of being in a book, like all the other creatures he saw come and go. Cecil is only a sketch, but he has a name, and he wonders, if just maybe, he might be destined for greater things. 

Cecil is the reader’s eyes as we see books created in front of us. Cecil’s imagination soars as he dreams of what book he might land in. And then one day, he does land in a book. And a new, exciting, and even dangerous, adventure begins. 

There’s a lot to enjoy with this story. It’s clever, very meta about the author process where they might create a character but not have an idea yet where to put them. I liked Cecil’s awareness and the illustrations are great because it mixed the real with the drawn.

It wasn’t as good as I thought it might be story wise but it has appeal. It’s a different type of story, very creative and Cecil is a unique character who has dreams and aspirations which were fun to explore. Cecil makes the adventures sound fun and exciting and you can certainly picture the little sketch exploring Oliver’s desk and understand how there are numerous other drawings and stories to interact with.

I liked the contrast between the illustration styles. Aside from the photos, the “in progress” iguana interacting with finished drawings shows the process of illustration and how beginning sketches become completed illustrations. The pages are filled with notes and drawings and the collage style is creative and enhances the crowded desk notion.

Overall a good story, certainly a different type than I’d seen before and it shows that there are many different and unique ways to tell stories that play with formatting and structure and still be cohesive and entertaining.

You can purchase I Want to be in a Book! via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Fishpond

Angus and Robinson | Amazon Aust

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