Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev

Published: 27th October 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Simon and Schuster
Illustrator: Taeeun Yoo
Pages: 32
Format: Paperback
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Today is Pet Club day. There will be cats and dogs and fish, but strictly no elephants are allowed. The Pet Club doesn’t understand that pets come in all shapes and sizes, just like friends. Now it is time for a boy and his tiny pet elephant to show them what it means to be a true friend.

This book is a combination of adorable and heart-warming and will totally break your heart before putting it back together with sticky tape. It is an incredibly sweet book about being excluded and finding a place to belong.

The story is filled with morals and lessons about being a good friend and a good person told through an engaging narrative. It is a wonderful comparison to the beginning of the book where the young boy and his pet elephant are discriminated against. As you read you see how not to behave and then Mantchev reinforces the correct behaviour all in a wonderful story about a boy and his love and friendship for his pet tiny elephant.

Yoo’s illustrations are so adorable. The colours are bright and realistic and they fill most of the page, leaving just enough room for the text. Seeing the tiny elephant go for walks is the cutest thing and I loved the illustrations how they matched the text adding that extra bit of storytelling. Yoo’s use of colours is also fantastic because different tones are used to highlight things and single things out on the page, drawing your eye to their significance.

The ending of the book promotes kindness and acceptance and makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. It’s also humorous because the pets the other children have are not your typical pets but they are all welcome nonetheless. This is also where Yoo shines because seeing his illustrations of these unique animals is a fantastic ending to the book.

You can purchase Strictly No Elephants via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Thanks, Mum by Matt Cosgrove

Published: 1st April 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Scholastic Australia
Illustrator: Matt Cosgrove
Pages: 23
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Snuggling up for a bedtime story. Kissing a sore knee to make it better. Pushing the swing as high as the sky. 
There are a million different reasons to say… thanks, mum!

This Sunday is Mother’s Day here in Australia and to celebrate I am looking at Matt Cosgrove’s new book all about the wonderful things mum’s do for us.

What I love about this story is it goes a bit beyond the simple “I Love You Mum” kind of stories you see around Mother’s Day. I love this one because it is funny, relatable, and one that shows off just how much mum does for you all with humour, rhyme, and adorable illustrations. It is sweet without getting sappy and shows appreciation without being too serious.

In true Cosgrove style the illustrations are bright and colourful, with absolutely adorable characters. There is a mix of Australian and other animals and there is even a sneaky cameo of our friend Macca the Alpaca.

The story is lyrical with fantastic and creative rhymes and whether reading out loud or to yourself it’s hard not to get swept up in the melodic tone.

This is a must for all Macca and Cosgrove fans and it is an ideal book for everyone because it’s a great story and one that is easily read and appreciated every day of the year but especially around Mother’s Day.

You can purchase Thanks, Mum! via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon Aust

Once by Kate Forsyth

Published: 1st April 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Wombat Books
Illustrator: Krista Brennan
Pages: 32
Format: Paperback
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Once, a long time ago
My grandmother’s grandmother
Travelled far, far across the seas

Kate Forsyth tells tales of her ancestors’ lives in Australia in this beautifully illustrated picture book. From the first perilous journey to a new land, to the great wars and civil rights movements, readers live through key moments in Australia’s fascinating history.

This is a beautiful story about the power of stories and the impact they have on those who listen. Forsyth tells us the story of her family and the stories they passed down as they lived through all the important moments in Australia’s history, not to mention the strength of the women who experienced them. It is a beautifully simple tale about telling your own story, and the power your own story has.

Brennan’s stunning illustrations accompany Forsyth’s words with colour and vibrancy. The full page, complex scenes are beautiful and filled with rich colours, each page telling its own visual story as well.

There are not many words or rhyme, but there is a repetition and a pattern that becomes more powerful the further the story progresses. It makes you realise that in a few generations the world can change, but it also is brought to life through those who remember it.

Forsyth’s words are simple but impactful and evoke a lot of meaning. I loved that we see the generations of now and long ago, cherished and remembered through a connection of stories.

You can purchase Once via the following

Dymocks | Amazon Aust

Booktopia | Angus & Robertson

The ANZAC Day Parade by Glenda Kane

Published: March 29th 2010Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Puffin Books NZ
Illustrator: Lisa Allen
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

On Anzac Day an old man, a former member of the 18th Battalion, and a young boy meet – the young boy wide-eyed and wanting to hear the glories of war and death – the old man quietly sad to remember the reality of what was faced.

“Age won’t weary him, he said, but boy, it’s wearied me”

This is a solemn story that has heart but also packs a punch with importance. The ANZAC Day parade brings out the young and old, to honour those who fought in the war, those who came home, and those who did not.

The perspective is of a young boy who has attended the parade, whose eye catches an elderly man, a straggler after the ceremony. He asks for him to tell of the glory of the war, what it was like to fight. The answer the man gives is not one filled with glory, but it is one filled with truth and heartache.

The innocence of a child is a naïve but ignorant voice against the veteran. This was a story I was not expecting; it shoots down the idolisation of war and what those who have never been expect. I was surprised that there is not much of a narrative, but each page has beautiful words about the pain and suffering, but eloquently expressed.

The education of the boy is the perfect framework for this story, but it isn’t the focus either. As the veteran gets lost in his memories so do we as a reader looking at illustrations of the age, the youth, and the memories.

There is no violence shown, there are beautiful drawings by Allen as she captures the gravity of Kane’s words. I liked the solemnity that the boy depicts, a contrast from the spark before, not to diminish him, but to show that the conversation with the veteran has had an impact. Understanding of the day.

There is as much emotion in the illustrations as there is in Kane’s simple words. I found myself impacted by Kane’s words, as well as Allen’s illustrations. Knowing what ANZAC Day means to Australians and New Zealand and the marches that grow yet diminish each year. The beautiful drawings accompany the powerful words and you can see the tone Allen is conveying. The realistic depictions of the man and boy, as well as the surrounding areas puts you there with them. At the memorial, in front of the list of names. It is a reminder of being at these parades and the meaning they hold.

There is information about a WWII battle in Crete at the back which reminds readers it isn’t just WWI that ANZAC honours. It is every war, every war and battle Australians and New Zealanders fought in. As depressing as it can be to read these stories, I enjoy that there are still so many beautiful ways we can tell the stories of these brave men and women of history. How they are not just names on a wall, not just people who march. They have had a huge impact on our world and to honour them, even in a picture book, is simply wonderful.

You can purchase ANZAC Day Parade via the following

QBD | Booktopia

Digger by Mike Dumbleton

Published: March 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Allen & Unwin
Illustrator: Robin Cowcher
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

The poignant story of a toy kangaroo that goes to war with a young man who doesn’t come back.

When her brother, James, went to war, Annie stitched the name Digger onto her toy kangaroo and gave him to James as a farewell present.
‘A Digger for a digger,’ she said, hugging her brother.
‘I’ll keep him safe,’ James promised.

Digger is the story of one toy kangaroo, one Australian soldier and two girls, in two countries on opposite sides of a world at war. It’s a quiet reminder of the casualties of war, and a tribute to the French schoolchildren who once tended the graves of Australian soldiers who died on the Western Front in the heroic battle for Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918.

I think these kinds of picture books are absolutely fantastic. Based off true stories, photographs, or personal family histories are beautifully pure and honest, even if they are a bit heartbreaking. From reading the dedication alone I teared up.

Crowcher’s illustrations are roughly sketched but beautiful watercolours that match the tone of this story incredibly well. The subdued colours and the outlines capture the story without needing to be finely detailed. They express beauty and peace, and show the chaos of the battlefront without ever needing to show anything traumatic.

Digger’s point of view conveys a lot of the actual conflict, his experience of the noises and the sensations. But Dumpleton doesn’t stick with this perspective as it shifts from Annie, the James, to Collette on the other side of the world. This was incredibly clever because it flows seamlessly and fits in not only with history, but with engaging storytelling.

Even though you may know the outcome, it remains a touching story because it is based on truth. It is based on these boys who went to fight in a war, who were far from home, found care in unexpected places, and the importance memories of home were.

There is nothing explicitly mentioned about injury or death, but the implications are there through other characters. I really liked this approach because it actually felt more impactful to have a different soldier bring Digger to be sent home, to have a simple sentence saying James had given instructions that had to be passed on. It felt real, it felt suitable, and it was heartbreaking.

This is a timeless book because while it focuses on WWI, it still is about soldiers who fought for this country and who are still fighting, as well as those who never got to come home.

You can purchase Digger via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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