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

Two Bad Teddies by Kilmeny Niland

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

Gruffy Ted and Tilly Ted loved Mollie-Sue. And Mollie-Sue loved her teddies. They did everything together. One day, a present arrived from Grandma. It was Bendy Bill. Mollie-Sue showed Gruffy and Tilly. “Isn’t he handsome? Look at his long stretchy arms,” she said. “And listen . . . ” She pressed Bendy Bill in the middle. “Oo-oo,” he squeaked.

“I don’t like his silly smile,” said Gruffy. “I don’t like his silly arms,” said Tilly. 

“Mollie-Sue still loves us best,” said Gruffy.

Niland’s warm, affectionate story explores a theme familiar to all—sometimes we only get what we want when we stop trying so hard.

My favourite pair of teddies are back! After we left them in Two Tough Teddies I was surprised to find them again because I didn’t know there was a sequel.

Niland brings us back to the teddies to see how they are faring after the end of the last book and all is not well. With the arrival of a new toy, Gruffy Ted and Tilly Ted become jealous and start plotting on how they can rid the house of this intruder.

With a plot similar to Toy Story, the teddies try different ways to get Molly to stop loving the new toy, fearful that she will no longer love them.

The illustrations are as cute as before, the personalities of Gruffy and Tilly wonderfully explored through their faces and their behaviour. I liked that the new toy Bendy Bill doesn’t become animated, he remains silent and ever-staring. This makes the two teddies’ actions even funnier because Bill continues to stare out blankly.

This a great story about accepting changes and making new friends. It shows that love is shared and while there may be new things, it doesn’t push the old things aside, or make them any less loved.

If you have read the original book there are valid reasons why Gruffy and Tilly may worry they are no longer loved, but Niland doesn’t recap any of that, instead focuses on their jealousy.

I am glad I got to see the continuing adventures of the two tough teddies and as much as I enjoyed this one, it doesn’t quite tug at the heartstrings like the first book does.

You can purchase Two Bad Teddies via the following

QBDBook Depository

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Two Tough Teddies by Kilmeny Niland

Published: 29th June 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Puffin
Illustrator: Kilmeny Niland
Pages: 32
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

When two teddies, Tilly and Gruffy, are abandoned in a box of unwanted toys, they decide to face the world and find someone else to love them. Kilmeny Niland’s warm, affectionate story explores a theme familiar to all—sometimes we get what we want only when we stop trying so hard.

The saddest and sweetest and most beautiful book ever!

This is a book that sends you on an emotional roller coaster. Two darling teddies are abandoned in a park and on the hunt for someone to love them. They try to be loud so people can hear them, and try to be brave despite their scruffy appearance. This is the kind of situation that got me bawling in Toy Story 2 and 3 and I think having it in book form is just as heartbreaking.

“They can see us and hear us but still no one wants us.”

Just crush my heart, Niland. Crush. My. Heart.

They realise they do have someone to love them because they have each other and that was the end of me because that was the sweetest thing possible and my heart broke for these teddies. I wanted to love them. I wanted to take them home because it was so adorable that they were trying so hard to be tough and brave for people but that scared them away instead.

What makes it sweeter/sadder is that Niland’s illustrations portray these teddies in a way that you can’t help but love them. They are scruffy but they also look lost and unsure. They try their hardest and seeing their crestfallen faces only adds to the narrative. The illustrations are both full page colour and single images on a blank background, both of which help express how big a world the teddies have become lost in, and how out of their depth they are. Niland also cleverly uses the teddies perspective in the use of angles and point of view regarding the nature that surrounds them and the animals they attempt to interact with.

There is a happy ending so it isn’t all bad news, and Niland reinflates my heart and by soul because there is a beautiful ending and goes to show you can be loved even if you aren’t always brave and loud and tough.

You can purchase Two Tough Teddies via the following

Book Depository | Amazon

Amazon Aust | Wordery

Fishpond | QBD | Dymocks