The Littlest Yak by Lu Fraser

Published: 1st October 2021Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Peachtree Publishing Company
Illustrator: Kate Hindley
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

On the tip of the top of a mountain all snowy, where the ice-swirling, toe-curling blizzards were blowy, in a herd full of huddling yaks, big and small, lived Gertie . . . the littlest yak of them all.

Gertie is the littlest yak in her whole herd, and she’s feeling stuck in her smallness – she wants to grow UP and have bigness and tallness!

But when it turns out that there are some things that only Gertie can do, might she come to see that she’s perfect, just the way she is?

I was immediately won over by the cute cover, it basically sealed the deal and I am so glad the story held up to the same standard.

Being the smallest in the herd and feeling like she needs to be bigger, Gertie is a great character for all those kids who wish to grow up faster. They are tired of being small, and they feel useless and just too small to be of any help. Gertie is told numerous times that she will grow up eventually but of course she doesn’t listen and seeing her montage of activities to get big was fantastic. I love Fraser’s rhymes and accompanied by adorable pictures this book could do no wrong.

I loved the illustrations so much, Hindley’s pictures are beyond adorable and the contrast of Gertie and the bigger yaks is wonderful. I loved the detail and colour scheme of her surroundings and the little knitted hats the yaks wear are delightful. I could easily steal a few of these pages and put them on my wall they are so cute.

The story is told with wonderful rhyme and there is a great flow that keeps you engaged and turning the page. The story itself has a great message about being yourself, not wishing to grow up too soon and that bigness can come in all shapes and sizes. Seeing Gertie try and grow up and be big is endearing but it’s wonderful when she learns that she is just right the size she is now.

You can purchase The Littlest Yak via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Mini Rabbit Must Help by John Bond

Published: 25th June 2020Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Harper Collins Children’s Books
Illustrator: John Bond
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Mini Rabbit has a VERY important letter to post.
Mini Rabbit is being VERY helpful.
Mini Rabbit will NOT lose the letter, WILL be very careful, and definitely will NOT be late…

This was an absolutely adorable book. Bond’s writing captures Mini Rabbit’s desire to help, as well as the innocent child logic that tries to problem solve and can end up creating more issues than solutions.

The illustrations are beautifully coloured and detailed, the colours are strong but not distracting from the story and Bond creates an entire world around Mini Rabbit with background detail and people for them to interact with.

It was the perfect length, with multiple problems and solutions for Mini Rabbit to explore and I loved how there is actually suspense on whether the letter will be posted. The humour is fantastic and is subtle in both the illustrations and the text, and I loved going on this journey with Mini Rabbit on the Very Important Job.

You can purchase Mini Rabbit Must Help via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The Boy Who Tried to Shrink His Name by Sandhya Parappukkaran

Published: 18th August 2021 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing
Illustrator: Michelle Pereira
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

When Zimdalamishkermishkada starts a new school, he knows he’s got to do something about his long name. ​

When no amount of shrinking, folding or crumpling works, he simply settles for Zim—but deep down, it doesn’t feel right. It’s not until a new friend sees him for who he truly is that Zimdalamishkermishkada finds the confidence to step boldly into his long name. ​

A warm and uplifting picture book that encourages young readers to celebrate their individuality, and shows how no-one should ever have to shrink themselves down to fit in.​

This is a wonderful book. It is sweet and lovely but at the same time has an important story about being your true self.

The story is filled with metaphors but they don’t distract from the story instead it allows you to see similarities, something helpful for younger readers who might understand the reference better. The comparison of practising skateboard and slowly learning the name is beautiful and while it would be easier for people to have a short name (easier for who I would argue), it is unfair to make people change who they are to make things simpler for other people.

The illustrations are a great mixture of muted colours without making it dull and lifeless. Pereira does a wonderful job illustrating each page so we see a visual of what is happening with the story and see the progression of learning Zim’s real name.

The book is told compassionately and with no judgement which is excellent. There is no criticism of not being able to pronounce Zimdalamishkermishkada instead it becomes a place to learn.

You can purchase The Boy Who Tried to Shrink His Name via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Adventure Zone: Petals to the Metal (#3) by Clint McElroy

Published: 14th July 2020Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 First Second
Illustrator: Carey Pietsch
Pages: 272
Format: Graphic Novel
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Star

START YOUR ENGINES, friends, as we hit the road again with Taako, Magnus and Merle, the beloved agents of chaos from the #1 New York Times Bestselling books The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins and The Adventure Zone: Murder on the Rockport Limited.

Our boys have gone full-time at the Bureau of Balance, and their next assignment is a real thorny one: apprehending The Raven, a master thief who’s tapped into the power of a Grand Relic to ransack the city of Goldcliff. Local life-saver Lieutenant Hurley pulls them out of the woods, only to throw them headlong into the world of battle wagon racing, Goldcliff’s favorite high-stakes low-legality sport and The Raven’s chosen battlefield. Will the boys and Hurley be able to reclaim the Relic and pull The Raven back from the brink, or will they get lost in the weeds?

Based on the beloved blockbuster podcast where three brothers and their dad play a tabletop RPG in real time, The Adventure Zone: Petals to the Metal has it all: blossoming new friendships, pining for outlaw lovers, and a rollicking race you can root for!

The third graphic novel of The Adventure Zone podcast adaptation is as wonderful as the audio episodes it’s representing. This was my favourite arc of the podcast and seeing it come to life on the page with stunning illustrations and the humour and charm of the character dialogue is fantastic.

My favourite thing is at the start of the book there is a fantastic game board where you can catch up on what happened previously. With +1 and -1 consequences for certain events and a fun and informative way of reminding readers what has happened it is an incredibly clever addition that doesn’t take away from the incoming story but it adds a whole lot of extra entertainment.

The story combines Petals to the Metal arc as well as Moonlighting episodes once more. It’s a great way to combine the interlude episodes because they have a lot of important plot, and it’s a great frame for the narrative to have. Once again Pietsch is a master at including visual references from the podcast as well as creating incredible illustrations for the spectacular and creative narrative Griffin has created.

The standards of the novel series remain, each time a character is introduced they have a mini ID chart telling us about their race, class, and proficiencies like a Dungeons and Dragons character sheet but my favourite thing is the proficiencies change each time and are relevant to the scene at hand or are used to tell you a bit more about their character, always with the Pietsch humour attached.

The depiction of the battle racers and the action of the entire race was full of drama and action, often no words were needed as Pietsch captures facial expressions, and action incredibly well. It’s not all action though as the McElroy humour and the hilarious, weird, and sometimes strange moments from the podcast are included. There are also heartfelt moments that are beautifully conveyed and the alterations to the podcast are fantastic as it brings a more bittersweet moment of hope and rectifies previous miscalculations when it was a more free form storyline.

There’s the usual mystery and intrigue around the B.O.B and the mystery Red Robes which furthers the larger plot and it all fits together seamlessly for a well-rounded story and fantastic addition to this series.

What I love most about these adaptations is that the smallest thing reminds me of the magic of the podcast and it resurfaces my desire to relive it again for the first time because Griffin created such a beautiful and creative storyline and the boys as a group made a fantastic story. Seeing it transported into this graphic novel shows that while a few things have been changed and adapted for the format, the essence of the story is there, and these characters I’ve grown to love over the years come alive on the page. It’s a wonderful feeling to read these stories and be brought back to those moments alone listening to the audio and creating the story in my mind. The fact the book provokes the same feeling and emotion is a test to Pietsch and the McElroy’s skill.

You can purchase The Adventure Zone: Petals to the Metal via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

 Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Birthday by Meredith Russo

Published: 31st May 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Usborne Publishing Ltd
Pages: 300
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Meet Eric and Morgan.

Born on the same day, at the same time, in the same place. They’ve always shared this one day together, but as they grow up they begin to grow apart.

Everyone expects Eric to get a football scholarship, but no one knows he’s having second thoughts.
Former quarterback Morgan feels utterly alone, as she wrestles with the difficult choice to live as her true self.

Both of them are struggling to be the person they know they are. Who better to help than your best friend?

Told on one day every year, over six years, this is a story about how change pulls people apart… and how love brings them back together.

This book. Oh my gosh, this book. Birthday is an absolutely beautiful story that in part broke my heart and moved my soul.

I am not going to lie, it was heart wrenching and painful to read at times but Russo does a superb job getting you inside the minds of Eric and Morgan, especially Morgan. We feel their pain and anguish and the discovery of self when not a lot was being said and anything LGBTQIA was a punchline or a flippant insult. The same is said for the sexism because there is plenty of that as well. It’s full of the harm of toxic masculinity and the pressure and heartbreak boys are put through in order to live up to what they are “supposed to be”. It was incredibly sad, even in fiction, to read about how these characters were told off for saying they loved each other and weren’t allowed to cry.

Russo captures the derision of a town obsessed with football coupled with the reality that it is the only way out of a place that is dying. The dead end existence of their small town is well explained and the catch-22 of hating football but knowing it’s the only opportunity you’ll have to get into a good university and escape was a refreshing approach to other US novels where football is simply the town obsession for no reason (I mean it is a bit of that too). At least Russo makes it evident there is no real escape otherwise and the way this plays into both character’s choices and mentality is amazing.

Structurally I love how this story is laid out. With one day each year we see the lives of Morgan and Eric, their alternate views on same experiences and different lives as they start to grow up. Every year that passed for Morgan made me hurt, but every year that passed I saw how much Eric was still a loyal friend. Even with this one day we still discover how the rest of the year has been, it never felt like we were missing information of chunks of time. It was incredible how through one day over many years we get to see the whole lives of these characters and see their lives unfold.

I cannot praise this story enough. It is full of pain and sorrow, the confusion of being a teenager and the failure of the adults, but it is also about the power of friendship – especially friendship struggling under the damaging rules of society, bigotry, and ‘being normal’. There are many content warnings obviously such as parental death, self harm, homophobia, depression and bullying, but there are also moments of pure joy and the love, exploration and value of true friendship.

It’s a brilliant book because being inside Morgan and Eric’s head makes you angry and sad, and this isn’t even the distant past – there’s no exact year stated but with references to VHS video cameras, YouTube, and getting Netflix in the mail it’s not that long ago. It’s relatively recent in the scheme of everything and the story does an amazing job in showing how damaging this whole mentality can be while also showing there is always hope and there will always be people who love you and surprise you. I loved this book even though it made me hurt and I think even though it covers some tough subjects it’s an important story to tell and being an #OwnVoices story I think there is even more power and importance in these words.

You can purchase Birthday via the following

QBD | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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