Ori’s Christmas by Anne Helen Donnelly

Ori is preparing for Christmas and asks each of his friends what they would like to do on Christmas Day – but when the day comes the choices made by others are not liked by everyone.  The solution is compromise and everyone ends up having a great day.

This picture book is suitable for pre-school and kindergarten groups. It contains two special features:

1. There are actions to do as you follow along with the story that will delight small      children.

2.  There are Christmas decorations to colour-in, cut out and hang on the Christmas tree.

3.  Anne Helen Donnelly includes notes for Parents and Teachers to further engage      participation with this book.

She has also published another book called Ori the Octopus in the same vein that includes colourful characters and scenery to do story re-enactments with.

Ori the Octopus

In this story Ori the Octopus is very helpful to all his friends but becomes overloaded one day when they all require his help at the same time. The solution is that they all end up helping Ori by helping each other.  There are also actions to make up and follow in this book and at one point Ori becomes so overwhelmed that he muddles up all the actions too – I can imagine that children will really enjoy this part.

You can also take a look at Anne’s website that includes extra activities to do with both books : http://www.annehelendonnelly.com

So if you are ready for some Christmas shopping be sure to add Ori’s Christmas and / or Ori the Octopus to your list.







On the Way to Nana’s House written by Frances and Lindsay Haji and illustrated by David Hardy

On the Way to Nana’s House is about a family road trip to go and visit a grandmother – seen through the eyes of a small girl.

The book which is set in the Kimberley Desert, the North-Eastern desert of Western Australia, is a repetitive verse counting story – counting backwards from 15 to 1.

David Hardy’s illustrations are insightful and perfectly capture the cultural and physical aspects of this interesting area. He has unique illustrative interpretations for each double-spread page in this book. My favourite one shows the little girl looking out the window of the Jeep at some cows, but we get the perspective from the outside looking in, with the cows reflected upon the vehicle’s window. He also cleverly represents the second line of the verse as road signs which mark the countdown.

Also featured in this picture book and on the front cover is the deciduous Boab tree that is distinctively unique to this area. These ancient bulbous trees have a multitude of interesting uses – you can find out more about them here : http://www.outback-australia-travel-secrets.com/boab_tree.html

This picture book will invite readers to count everything on each page whilst also counting backwards until we finally get to Nana’s house where she is waiting with open arms – children will also relate well to going on a journey to get to the final destination.

Another lovely Magabala Books publication.







Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

Ducks feature predominantly in children’s books and this book is truly a classic.

Both written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey (1914 – 2003), using sepia ink drawings that perfectly characterise ducks. The eight little ducklings shake their cute little tail feathers and waddle along in a line behind the proud mother duck throughout the story.


This book takes me back to my own childhood and reminds me of the many beautiful books of days gone by that were beautifully written and illustrated – and probably out of print. This book, however, has never been out of print, since first being published in 1941, and is also credited as one of the first picture books to win The Caldecott Medal.

The story begins on the front endpaper with one little duckling making it’s way out of it’s egg and into the world in an eight stage process that ends with him ready to waddle in to the book – proud as punch ! The story begins, however,  before he was born with the mated pair of Mallard ducks looking for the perfectly, safe place for the mother duck to lay her eggs. They choose the Boston Public Garden which turns out to be a perfect but problematic place to raise their young. Luckily there is a network of happy policemen who guide Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings through town and safely back home again when she decides to take them on an outing.

There is a strange little twist at the end – that pulls the reader out of past-tense, ending the story in present tense making the reader feel as if the ducks and their ducklings are still there today! And they actually are ! Local sculptor, Nancy Schon, was commissioned to make a set of eight bronze ducklings following the mother duck – immortalising the story.

After reading this story, set nearly eighty years ago, I feel reminded that although we can note changes over time in this book with things like cars, ‘highways’ and the size of the city – the basics of the human spirit are timeless. We love nature, respect and fight for green spaces in our cities and teach our children values through the excellent examples that are set by animals – most often in picture books !


The World’s Worst Pirate by Michelle Worthington and Katrin Dreiling

The World’s Worst Pirate is a must have book in your library. It is full of fun and adventure that will entice re-reading – and when you do, you will be surprised at all the extra clues, information and elements of play that you missed the first time.

The text written by Michelle Worthington is simple but rich. She knows how to develop plot and introduce twists and turns to make this a well-crafted story. She also introduces readers to the legendary, Norwegian based sea-monster – the Kraken. This adds a little non-fiction to the story and would surely entice further investigation given its unusual name, given that readers most probably will not have heard of it before.

This gigantic squid / octopus like, historical creature dates back to the early 1700’s. It has been referenced in many stories, including Moby Dick and Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea.

 Katrin Dreiling ‘s mixed media artistic interpretation of the story is nothing short of amazing. Her style is complementary to the story and adds depth of meaning. This is an artist who knows how illustration works in picture books – and even places a silent, intriguing, visual narrative about a relationship between the ships cat and bird. The facial expressions and body language of all the characters draw you into the story. She is a serious artist with a wicked sense of humour that will delight all age groups.

Congratulations to both author and illustrator – I love this book – arrggghhh yeah !!!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

This book was released on the 3rd of June, 1969 and has been a favourite with every generation ever since – that’s 48 years and still going strong.

We generally accept it for what it is and I wonder if it would get published in the same format today.  There is a big push for scientific perfection and this story has been criticised for the use of the word cocoon (which is theoretically incorrect) over chrysalis – the proper name for a butterfly pupa. I guess you could also criticise it for all that human food which caterpillars would never eat – but which employs such fun !!


But anyway, this book is such a favourite and who would have thought that there would be so much merchandise and so many associated activities to do at kinder and school. I’m a fan!  Here is a gorgeous reading of the story by Eric Carle himself – who will turn 88 by the end of the month:

Digby and the Yodelayhee…Who? by Renee Price and Anil Tortop

This picture book is pure joy and total happiness.

Renee Price has a sense of humour and that comes across clearly in this book. There is adventure and fun on each and every page – in both the story and also in the illustrations that were done by Anil Tortop.

On the opening double spread the protagonist, Digby Fixit, wonders about noisy noises – I totally relate to that being quite a noise sensitive writer, so it had me intrigued straight away, and also… there’s a picture of a cat on a roof top, wearing sunglasses whilst sitting under an umbrella – so I was totally in.  Here it is:

Renee’s words move the story along at quite a fast pace – adventures are like that! And Anil has plenty of fun surprises to find on each page – watch out for that cat I mentioned earlier!

At the end of the book there is a music song sheet for a song that accompanies the story, which would be very handy for smart parents, carers and/or teachers who can play a musical instrument ! but, what I think is even more amazing is the QR code that links you in to listen to the song…but beware!!… it is a very, very catchy song and you will be singing it all day long.

What a talented woman Renee Price is: She wrote the story, she wrote the lyrics, co-wrote the music with Aaron Hipwell, sang the lyrics along with some very cute children… and she is even available for visits to anywhere children hang out, like libraries, kinders, schools etc. to do a stage show – amazing !! I guess you can say you get the whole package with this book.

I totally recommend this story to everyone and I’m confident that Renee Price’s stage shows would be fun and entertaining for all.

You can contact her at www.createitkids.com.au


Mrs White and the Red Deset by Josie Boyle and Maggie Prewett

Mrs White and the Red Desert is the story of some children who live in the desert. Their homework is always dirty, so they invite their teacher home to show her why and end up getting caught up in a typical red sand storm that is the source of their problem.

There are some really well written sentences in this story – the type that you re-read twice, just to feel the loveliness all over again. I particularly liked, ‘We lived in the desert in a corrugated iron house that was wavy, buckled and bent, just like our grandmother’s hair.’ It speaks metaphorically to the reader in a child-like wondering way.

Josie Wowulla Boyle’s words really come alive with Maggie Prewett’s illustrations. These crows on the roof are a very imaginative example of her work:


Anthropomorphic representation has been criticized lately in favour of realistic representation, but I must say that I have loved it since my own childhood and it has an extremely useful place, particularly when dealing with more emotional issues.

On a more serious note, I must say Mrs White, in her white dress and her underlying preference for clean, white sheets of homework kind of left me feeling awkward. Josie Boyle is an acclaimed historical storyteller and although not totally obvious, this is an historical story. I understand her perspective completely, but as an adult reader, I was left questioning the representations in the story – and perhaps this was a very clever authorial intention. I’m still wondering…..

Overall, a great book with great illustrations, some very funny moments and a story line that all children will enjoy. Children will also relate to the story on a personal level – we have all handed it messy homework !