Picture books for beginning readers
1. 'Demolition', by Sally Dutton (illustrated by Brian Lovelock). Published by Walker Books (2012).
Swing the ball. Swing the ball. Thump and smash and whack.
Bring the top floors tumbling down. Bang! Clang! Crack!
Work the jaws. Work the jaws.
Bite and tear and slash.
Dinosaurs had teeth like this!
Rip! ROAR! CRASH!
What rollicking action, fun and wonderful play with language as busy workers and noisy machines demolish a building and build a new playground. This book is a great follow up to Sally's wonderful book 'Roadworks', which won the Picture Book category at the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards in 2009. Brian Lovelock brilliantly illustrates this book with bright, bold and rugged illustrations to match the excellent text.
2. 'Dotty Inventions and some real ones too', by Roger McGough (illustrated by Holly Swain). Published by Frances Collins Childrens Books (2005).
3. 'The Greatest Liar on Earth' "A true story" by Mark Greenwood and illustrated by Frané Lessac. Published by Walker Books (2012).
HERE). I've reviewed many of their wonderful books on this blog; two recent notable examples were 'Simpson and his Donkey' and 'Ned Kelly and the Green Sash'. 'Simpson and his Donkey' was CBCA Honour Book for the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books in 2009. This latest book is the story of Louis de Rougemont, a man who turned the world upside down in the 1800s with tales of great adventure. This book brings to life the rise to fame and eventual fall from grace of perhaps the greatest liar of them all. It is a story in which truth and fantasy become horribly confused. It is brilliantly told by Mark Greenwood and as usual Frané Lessac's bright, simple and unique illustrations engage child and adult readers alike. The book ends with a wonderful postscript that shows how some of Louis de Rougemont's stories were not quite as far-fetched as people might have thought. Plain coincidence, or was there some truth to his stories?
A picture book for older readers
4. 'In the Beech Forest' by Gary Crew and illustrated by Den Scheer. Published by Fordstreet Publishing (2012).
"He was an ordinary boy, nothing special, and he went into the forest alone. He had no particular purpose other than to look, as adventurers do, or to slay imaginary monsters, as children do, so he held his head high, and gripped his toy sword, in case".As the boy wanders into a beech forest, he remembers the words of his father who no doubt experienced this forest in his way - 'Antarctic beech; ancient, primal. The oldest of trees.' It was here that the images spun their magic, helping to bring something of the fears of a child when alone flooding back to me as reader, five decades after they were experienced.
Chapter books for younger readers
5. 'Little Witch' by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Cat Chapman. Published by Walker Books in the Walker Stories series (2012).
6. 'Come into this poem' by Tony Mitton and illustrated by Caroline Holden. Published by Frances Collins Children's Books (2011) and distributed in Australia by Walker Books.
7. 'The Language of Cat and other poems' by Rachel Rooney and illustrated by Ellie Jenkins. Published by Frances Collins (2011) as a companion to the Tony Mitton collection.
7. 'The Windvale Sprites' written and illustrated Mackenzie Crook. Published by Faber and Faber (Nov 2011).
The Office' as Gareth, or as one of the pirates in the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' movies. This debut novel is wonderful. How can a 40-year-old crazy man write such a sensitive story about a young boy who sets out to discover if fairies exist? The fantastic line drawings sparingly used are also his work. The book was nominated for the 'Waterstones Children's Book Prize' in the fiction section for children aged 5 to 12 years.
A great storm sweeps through the countryside and Asa Brown wakes to find an unrecognisable town. Trees and power lines are down and houses have collapsed. As he explores the debris he sees something remarkable in his own garden. Floating in a pond face up, is a creature he'd only ever seen or heard of in storybooks. Not more than 6 inches long with large black eyes and four transparent wings - it was a fairy! A mission begins that leads him to the lost journals of an eccentric, Benjamin Tooth, and a quest to discover what he could about fairies. He sets out on a secret trip to Windvale Moor, where he discovers much more than he could have expected.
Books for older readers
8. 'Other Brother' by Simon French. Published by Walker Books (2012).
Cannily, Cannily' published first in 1981 but released again just recently by Walker. This was Simon's first novel, that won Book of the Year in 1982 in the CBCA awards and was made into a very successful film as well. Of course, Simon has written many books since and all have been well received and he has won many awards. His latest offering will not disappoint devotees and new readers.
This is a story about an ordinary boy, in an ordinary family, in an ordinary town. But like every Simon French book, in the ordinariness of life he manages to find telling stories. Kieran is an unremarkable kid in a family that loves him. He meets a cousin on the day of his father’s birthday - an unhappy 'meeting' - and things are changed. It will be two years until he sees Bon again. This boy, who is different to Kieran, turns up in his life again at an inconvenient time. Kieran seeks to be part of the in crowd, and then Bon turns up at his school, on the same day as an 'interesting' girl named Julia. And so begins a struggle within him as he tries to work out where he 'sits' in life and, what type of person he really is. What is most important to him? Will the need for popularity win out, or will he stand with his cousin in the face of bullying and other challenges? This is an excellent novel for readers aged 10+ who like Kieran need to deal with issues of identity and acceptance and the negotiation of complex relationships and how to judge others. All this, while they are trying to grow up.
The author was born in Edmonton, Canada, and spent her childhood in various places across Canada, France and the USA, but she now lives in Australia, on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. She is the author of a number of award-winning books for children, including 'Nim's Island', 'Nim at Sea', 'Mokie and Bik', 'The Princess and her Panther', 'Raven's Mountain' and for teenagers, 'Peeling the Onion'.
11. 'Metro Winds' by Isobelle Carmody. Published by Allen & Unwin (2012).
Isobelle Carmody is one of Australia's most loved fantasy writers who also has a big following in Europe and North America. She is perhaps known best internationally for her brilliant 'Obernewtyn Chronicles', however, she has been prolific and has won many awards for her work. For example, 'The Gathering' won the Children's Literature Peace Prize (1993) and the CBCA Book of the Year Award (1994) and 'The Red Wind' (first book in 'The Kingdom of the Lost series') won the 2011 CBCA Book of the Year Award (for Younger Readers). The back cover blurb alone is interesting enough and promising:
'In this stand alone novel for young teenagers and young adults (ages 16+) a girl is sent across the world to discover her destiny in the dark tunnels of the Metro. Another seeks a lost sister in a park where winter lasts forever. A young man fulfils a dying wish. A mother works magic to summon a true princess for her son. A man seeks an ending to his story. An old man goes in search of his shadow.'
But the first lines have a hook that will get most readers. It begins:
‘So there was a girl. Young but not too young. A face as unformed as an egg, so that one could not tell if she would turn out to be fair or astonishingly ugly. She was to be sent to a city in another land by a mother and father in the midst of a divorce.'
As a postscript, let me add that Isobelle Carmody's previous collection of short stories 'Green Monkey Dreams' (1996) has been released again by Allen & Unwin in 2012. Two great collections for older readers to enjoy (16+ to young adult).
12. 'Sea Hearts' by Margo Lanagan. Published by Allen & Unwin (2012)