Clancy the Quokka by Lili Wilkinson

Published: 1st October 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Allen & Unwin
Illustrator: Alison Mutton
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Here’s Clancy the quokka. So friendly and charming.
His innocent face is truly disarming.

Clancy the Quokka is super cute, but also has a super cheeky habit of raiding picnic food, so when he spots a magnificent birthday cake, how can he resist? After the mayhem he creates, will Clancy learn his lesson?

Clancy is a tiny adorable quokka and his thieving proclivities are the main focus on this book but Wilkinson also manages to highlight his charming and adorable nature. I liked the direction this story took, we’re introduced to Clancy and his world initially but as the story goes on we see the wider world and the bigger picture and his role within it. There’s humour and laughs from both story and illustrations, not to mention a recognition about many traditional Australian party pastimes that Clancy inadvertently takes part in.

I enjoyed this story because it makes Clancy a little villain which is hilarious and so enjoyable to read about. The rhymes are lovely and flow really well as you read them, plus the devilishly adorable illustrations show exactly what is going on alongside the words.

Mutton’s illustrations take up the entire page and are realistic but have a fun cartoonish quality as well. The colours are natural and depict the real world, the Australian bush as well as people and other surroundings. They are beautiful addition and they help bring our Clancy’s personality and his expressions show us how he’s feeling.

This is an absolutely adorable story that is filled with fun and cheekiness, with a few lessons learnt along the way. It is simple but fun and it’s a great celebration of one of amazing native animals.

You can purchase Clancy the Quokka via the following

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 Fishpond | Amazon Aust

 

Meerkat Choir by Nicki Greenberg

Published: 27th September 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Allen and Unwin
Illustrator: Nicki Greenberg
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

The meerkats are excited. They’re ready for their very first rehearsal with their meerkat choirmaster. But just as they’re about to sing their very first note, they’re interrupted by a steady stream of other animals who want to join in.

The meerkat choirmaster insists his choir is only for meerkats. And he gets grumpier and grumpier at each interruption.

There is a lot of humour throughout this story which is a marvellous feat considering how few words there are. There is a lot of enjoyment to be gotten from the illustrations and the reactions of those involved too.

The story starts as the meerkat conductor is about to begin rehearsals only to be interrupted by others who wish to join. After rejecting a few animals who ask, the conductor starts sending away animals that come and start singing unprompted. I thought this was incredibly clever because it breaks up the monotony of “Can I join” “No” through the whole book, and demonstrates how different animals make sound.

Seeing the conductor get crankier with each interruption is delightful. Greenburg’s illustrations add a lot of emotion and frustration when there are few words to the story. The traumatised faces of the meerkats as each animal joins in is funny, especially when they are of the more dangerous kind.

There is a wonderful message to be learnt too that excluding others is not only mean and discriminatory but may also be detrimental to your ambitions.

You can purchase Meerkat Choir via the following

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The Sidewalk’s Regrets by Kate Larkindale

Published: 1st February 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Evernight Teen
Pages: 304
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Seventeen-year-old Sacha McLeod isn’t looking for someone to rock her world. But when she hears the boy in the music store play the guitar, the music thrills her and she falls hard for Dylan and his sound.

Sacha finds herself spending less time with her violin and more time with this guy. Her plans for her violin-virtuoso future—and her self-confidence—are shattered when she screws up the audition for a summer music program. Failure isn’t something she’s had to face before, so when Dylan asks her to spend her vacation with him in the city, she lies to her parents, pretends she won a place in the summer school, and secretly moves in with Dylan.

She’s expecting romance, music, and passion, but when she finds herself playing second fiddle to Dylan’s newly acquired drug habit, she realizes despite what the songs say, sometimes love isn’t all you need. 

Note: I received a copy of this book from the author for review

CW: Drug use

I was pleasantly surprised by the direction this story took. It wasn’t the rock and roll summer story I was expecting, though there were a few tropes like instant love which was convenient, but from a “first love at seventeen” approach the infatuation and impulsiveness makes sense. The narrative starts off slow as we are introduced to Sacha and her world of classical music. Her sheltered music life gets a jolt when she hears the music of Dylan for the first time and she is thrown into this rock and roll world. From there the story starts rolling and soon it has a nice flow which is maintained through the rest of the story. It was quite fascinating because the story doesn’t follow the typical route I was expecting, but there are still great moments of tension and drama you come to expect from this kind of story. It’s a story of a band trying to hit the big time, a girl whose dream might not happen, and the lure of fame and the rock and roll life. The three of those things together sound like a story already told but Larkindale adds a new approach and it makes for an engaging story.

Sacha’s mindset and her goals are explored quite well through this and you see how her reasoning and her justifications change with each new experience. It’s one way to see it as her constantly changing her mind, but it makes more sense that she justifies things to herself, especially given her situation and her desire to stay with Dylan. The depiction of drug use is well done and a very apt description from what I have read elsewhere. It is a key part of the story and there are moments where using drugs is described in action and character reaction. Larkindale also shows the gradual descent of usage, the way it starts off small and soon grows into something bigger. It also shows how easy it is to actually fall and how you can go from top to bottom fairly fast.

Even though the perspective is always through Sacha, the rest of the characters felt real. Larkindale has given them a lot of depth into their passions and desires and you understand their motives and actions, even if they seem foolhardy at the time. This is a story revolving around one summer, but Larkindale takes it beyond that as well and you see the characters grow and find out who they are. I loved how the story ends up, the experiences of the characters makes this story and seeing how the story ends is satisfying once you have gone on this journey with them.

You can purchase The Sidewalk’s Regrets via the following

Book DepositoryDymocks

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Celeste The Giraffe Loves to Laugh by Celeste Barber

Published: 25th October 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Scholastic Australia
Illustrator: Matt Cosgrove
Pages: 24
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Celeste was a friendly, happy little giraffe. She had a kind heart and she made others laugh. But Celeste sometimes worried that she wasn’t enough. It seemed like other animals did much cooler stuff. Join Celeste the Giraffe on her hilarious journey as she finds out what it is that makes her unique.

Barber’s story is about Celeste the giraffe who is happy and friendly but worries she isn’t enough. Thus starts her journey trying new things to become cooler. It reminded me a lot of Macca’s Makeover, which I am going with it’s ok since Matt Cosgrove actually illustrates this book so he must not mind.

Celeste tries all the things her friends do in order to try and become cooler including roaring like a lion, running fast like a cheetah, or making a splash like a hippo. Barber’s story flows with a steady rhythm and the rhymes are creative, but the story is completely enhanced by Cosgrove’s accompanying illustrations.

The illustrations are typical Cosgrove – adorable, brightly coloured, and whimsical, but there is still a unique feel that doesn’t look like his typical Macca design. This gives Barber a look of her own and a style unique to her book while still being utterly adorable.

I love Cosgrove’s work so the illustrations are the real winner here. I enjoyed the story too, it’s fun and clever, not to mention great to read aloud. The formatting helps with tone and emphasis as well; the varying font styles and different sized words help get the right tone and humour across to gain the full effect.

This is a great story about using your own unique skills and talents to help other people and not to want what others have because you think they’re better. A good message for kids and told in a fun and colourful way.

You can purchase Celeste the Giraffe Love to Laugh via the following

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That Christmas Feeling by Lili Wilkinson

Published: January 1st 2018 by Allen UnwinGoodreads badge
Publisher:
January 1st 2018 by Allen Unwin
Illustrator: Amanda Francey
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Dottie is waiting for the Christmas feeling to arrive—that fizzy, excited feeling, where everything is a bit magical. But this year, Dottie, her brother, Jem, and their dog, Shortbread, are staying with Grandma and Grandpa. Grandma and Grandpa are trying hard, but Christmas just isn’t the same . . . A gorgeous, heart-warming story about misplacing the Christmas spirit, and finding it again.

Wilkinson has created a sweet story about the hunt for the “Christmas feeling”. When Dottie and her brother stay with grandma and grandpa on Christmas Eve she can’t help but compare it to the Christmas last year which feels a lot of magical.

It’s initially unclear why the pair are at their grandparents, but by the end it’s evident and seeing Dottie go through her Christmas worries and how Jem tries to help is incredibly touching. The sibling relationship between Jem and Dottie is so adorable. The affection between them and the older/younger sibling relationship is beautiful. Jem comforts Dottie and tries to ease her worries as they make the best out of being at their grandparent’s house.

Francey’s illustrations add a lot to this story too, they are realistic pencil drawings with wonderful detail. The style she has used brings out emotion and heart which is perfect for the story Wilkinson is telling. There’s lots of colours but suitably subdued and not overbearing. The bright scenes and the beautiful scenery add a wonderful feeling of a special night and anticipation.

This is a beautiful story about how different Christmases can be just as wonderful as past Christmases and that the Christmas feeling can be found in the most unlikely of places.

You can purchase That Christmas Feeling via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Wordery

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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