Ballerina Monkey by Nicole Madigan

This story begins with Malik the monkey’s dilemma – he wants to be a ballerina. He watches curiously as the pink flamingoes dance in the river every morning and longs to be able to dance in the same way.

His other monkey friends don’t understand his obsession and tease him but when he goes and talks about it with his Mum, she assures him that he can do anything he wants to do and can be anyone he wants to be.

He decides to get lessons from the flamingoes, which he loves, but again he wears the wrath of the other monkey’s jeers – that is until the King of the Jungle and his pride of lions pay a visit and love his dancing so much that he gets to deliver a special performance and his friends now clap and cheer for him. In the end Malik has fulfilled his wish and his friends are happy for his accomplishments too.

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This book will entice conversation and discussion about all the above scenarios and issues.  It is suitable for 3 – 7 year olds and I am sure they will also enjoy the bright illustrations.

 

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Big Fella Rain by Beryl Webber and Fern Martins

The words in this story take us on a journey set in northern Australia.  The story begins in the dry season and takes readers right through the monsoonal changes and into the lush and long awaited wet season.

The illustrations will capture you as soon as you look at the front cover with three cheeky frogs climbing up water lily fronds.  Fern Martin’s mix of indigenous art, collage, ink and watercolour make each double-page spread inviting.  She envelopes the story and makes the reader feel part of the scenery using a pastel based colour palette.

You really feel like you’ve been taken on an adventure after reading this picture book and at the end you feel a contented happiness as the order of life flourishes.

Baby Band by Diane Jackson Hill and Giuseppe Poli

The founding message in this book is the disconnectedness of the modern world and how small things can turn things upside down and unify us all as one.

The story is set in an apartment block with all the occupants going about their solitary lives. This all changes when a baby is born and breaks the silence with a lot of crying. The neighbours are brought together when the baby eventually finds something that makes him happy and in their own special way, they all join in!

I certainly can relate to this picture book as I was living overseas when my first child was born and I felt quite isolated – and he sure did cry a lot!

This book also makes me reflect on the joy babies bring to the World – how people stop and talk to you and want to look at the warm, snuggly bundle in your pram.

Babies are miracles and as this book shows they can perform the miracle of uniting people of all ages and interests to form a common friendship.

Giuseppe Poli’s illustrations are happy and playful and work well with the text. He has a sense of humour that will delight readers young and old.

Be sure to take a look at the illustration only page just after the story ends and also at the endpapers that depict the story in a nutshell.

A happy, uplifting read for all ages.

 

 

 

 

 

Lizzy’s Dragon by Melissa Gijsbers

Lizzy’s Dragon is a fantasy adventure story set in a countryside town.

There are elements in this story that children are going to love, beginning with Lizzy’s wish for a pet. She actually wishes for a lizard but ends up with a much larger reptile when she finds an egg and ends up raising a dragon.  Lizzy then has to problem solve just where to keep it as it grows larger and larger – and all this in secret!

Together Lizzy and her pet dragon ‘Bubbles’ become superheroes when the area in which they live becomes threatened by a natural disaster. United they save the area and the lives of the people who live there.

The relationship developments in this story are interesting. The most distinct is the sibling rivalry between Lizzy and her younger brother, Joey – it actually made me smile in reflective memory! Their problems are solved in the end as a result of the maturity that Lizzy gains from her experience. The relationship with her parents also changes as Lizzy takes on a huge responsibility and proves that she has what it takes to make responsible decisions and as her parents realise that they can place their trust in her.

There is the possibility that Lizzy and Bubbles could go on many more adventures as the story sets up the pretext for a series.

This book is suitable for independent younger readers or a great introductory read-aloud chapter book for parents to share with their children – either way a very enjoyable book.

 

 

My Dog Socks by Robyn Osborne and Sadami Konchi

Sometimes the most simple of stories can portray the most depth and ‘My Dog Socks’ is a testament to this. The interplay of story, illustrations and concepts all have layers that give depth of meaning to this beautiful story of a boy and his dog – some obvious, others quite subtle.

Firstly, the story, written from the boy’s perspective, is penned in poetic prose, which flow seamlessly from one page to the next in an enticingly fun and totally intriguing style. The emotions attached to strong relationships are explored, showing the unconditional love and acceptance of the multitudinal sides of all living beings – the ups and downs of life and being there to support each other through the good and not so good times and also the acceptance of differences that comes with such a strong bond.

The abstract elements of the watercolour illustrations cleverly convey the author’s words and add depth by the use of an extremely clever shadowing technique that depicts each stage of the story. The dog is painted in a deep navy blue-purplish colour to make it stand out from the natural settings – I learnt this from the illustrator herself. It adds to the layers I mentioned at the start – stunningly so!

‘My Dog Socks,’ is based on a real dog that belonged to the author before he moved on from this world. It is, no doubt, the invisible layer of love that undertone Robyn’s words. Socks lives on posthumously on Facebook and avid dog lovers would enjoy this site: https://www.facebook.com/Sox-The-Philosophical-Pooch-Osborne-162936030398385/

You can see a picture of the real ‘Socks’ and get some great teaching ideas on the Publisher’s website – Ford Street Publishing – here: http://www.fordstreetpublishing.com/ford/images/stories/teachers_notes/My_Dog_Socks_Teacher_Notes.pdf

This book is not only for lovers of ‘man’s best friend,’ but for those of us that love all animals – and you just might be surprised at how many other animals you can actually find throughout this book!

Congratulations to Robyn Osborne and Sadami Konchi – I see more depth and fall in love with this book just a little bit more every time I read it.

 

 

 

We are Different by Jodie McMahon and Mark Curnow

Jodie McMahon’s premier picture book celebrates diversity. It makes a point in setting out that we are all unique but we all have things in common.

Jodie does this by exploring friendships and showing that we relate to people by what we have in common, and that can be as unique and individual as each person themselves, and is not particularly dependent upon personal attributes.

This picture book covers many different types of diversity and each scenario is handled in a caring and fun way. Mark Curnow ensures this through his happy-go-lucky illustration style.

At the end of the book Jodie makes a point of connecting everyone together – emphasizing that at a basic level we are all the same.

This book needs to be in all homes, kindergartens and early years classrooms. It is sure to entice rich and meaningful discussions about this extremely important topic.

Meeka by Suzanne Barton and Anil Tortop

Meeka is a sweet blue bird that regularly visits all the stalls on market day. He samples everything on offer but his gluttony leaves him feeling unwell, so the girl at the Moroccan Stew stall puts him in a tagine to sleep off his over indulgences. Her father mistakenly sells the tagine and so begins the chase to find Meeka before he ends up as bird stew.

This enchanting story by Suzanne Barton is told in a gentle but humorous way.  Her plot is fun to follow and becomes increasingly suspenseful when everyone realises the error that has been made. Her descriptive words are fun and will be very relatable to children and parents who naturally delight in explaining the world in rhyming words, for example – ‘sticky, licky toffee.’ Suzanne does not overuse this technique, however, and explains other things in a very normal, but informative way.

Readers will love the story that Suzanne created for Meeka and illustrator Anil Tortop must be highly commended on enhancing this story and bringing it to life visually.   Anil’s characters are full of expression that connects the reader with the emotions and feelings being portrayed. Anil also has fun with illustration, breaking up the ways she interprets the text and by adding visual extras that are a joy to find and to ponder.

This delightful story is guaranteed to be read over and over again.  Enjoy this sneak peek book trailer:

Meeka will be available in bookstores soon but if you just can’t wait and want a copy now, you can contact Suzanne Barton personally at: bluebellbooks.org

Congratulations Suzanne and Anil – I love this book !