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

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

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

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

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