Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Reviews: Interesting New Children’s Picture Books of 2016

by Susan Stephenson,

There are so many wonderful new children's picture books being published! Here are just six among the many that have caught my eye. More coming soon! 


Written and illustrated by Tohby Riddle, and published by Allen and Unwin (2016) Milo is a children’s picture book with a difference.

It’s obvious Riddle loves word play from the subtitle of this book - a moving story. And who can blame him with a name like Riddle? Nominative determinism strikes again perhaps? The result is a glorious romp in the form of a narrative about Milo and his friends.

From the publisher:

A sweet and funny story about a city-dwelling dog, a day when everything goes wrong, a curious rescue and a surprising gift.

Milo's life is almost entirely unremarkable. He lives in a solid kennel in an okay part of town. Every other day he has a job delivering parcels.

Then Milo's life is turned upside down by an argument with his friend Snombo, followed by a strange wild storm that leaves him and his kennel in a precarious place.

So begins Milo's surprisingly remarkable journey back to his friends.

Although young school age kids will certainly enjoy the story, I think it’s a great one to share and discuss with kids 7+. There are so many quirky and humorous bits they will appreciate. One of my favourites was that the dog friends seem to like Barbershop, and sing lines of Give My Regards to Broadway across the city to each other as their way of staying in touch! I know that parents and teachers will appreciate the way Riddle doesn’t dumb down, but uses interesting vocabulary and images that work seamlessly together. I really like the way he touches lightly on friends falling out and getting back together - something kids will certainly relate to, and perhaps take comfort from.

Do look out for this one - it’s special!

Pig the Winner

Written and illustrated by Aaron Blabey, Pig the Winner was published by Scholastic Press for Scholastic Australia (2016).

Pig was a pug and I’m sorry to say if he didn’t come first it would ruin his day. Won’t he ever learn?!

Pig, the world’s greediest Pug, won’t play fair. He’ll do anything to win!

Alas, Pig is back to his old tricks. Carrying on from Pig the Pug and Pig the Fibber, this third book in the series sees Pig, our favourite pop-eyed pug, proving himself to be a cheat and a very sore loser. Will a near-death experience change his flawed character, or does Pig still have a trick or two up his sleeve?

Blabey’s illustrations are energetic and zany, complimenting the hilarity of a rollicking rhyme of a tale that’s bound to please.

This is a Circle:

Written and illustrated by Chrissie Krebs, this hardcover children’s picture book was published by Random House Books Australia (2016).

From the publisher:

A 'name the object' book that gets completely out of hand and is all the more fun for it

This is a wonderfully educational ‘name the object' book to help children learn about their environm–

Oh. Oh dear. Look at that.

I beg your pardon. This is a very silly book about a wild-looking one-eyed bear, a big-bottomed cat and a pants-wearing fox and the havoc they can wreak with a few simple objects. That sounds like much more fun.

Never has a simple name the object picture book become so zany! It starts out simply enough, introducing two shapes and the main characters who seem, different but not yet displaying the mayhem to come. Then…the bear, cat, goat and fox begin interacting with shapes and their environment, displaying lots of emotions all the while. Finally Bear uses his wits to climb up and reach the others….or does he? The illustrations are alive with colour and character, the rhyming story speeds along at breakneck pace, and there are so many great educational opportunities for discussion and language activities. Where else can we see squares? Who is on top? Who is below? How does this character feel? How do you know?

Teacher Notes available at the website. Oh, and I forgot to mention the circular cut-out in the middle of the front cover, perfect for framing young faces. This one’s a winner!

The Pocket Dogs and the Lost Kitten

Written by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Stephen Michael King, this charming children’s picture book was published by Omnibus, an imprint of Scholastic Books (2016). RRP: $Au24.99

It’s a sequel to The Pocket Dogs and The Pocket Dogs Go on Holiday - who could resist a story about Biff and Buff, little dogs who ride around in Mr Pocket’s coat pockets? This time though, a bedraggled and needy kitten comes into their lives. Kids are sure to recognise someone they know when jealousy rears its head!

With a creative duo like Wild and King, do I need to say more? The story is heartwarming, and makes us grin ruefully when we recognise our own feelings and behaviour in the two little dogs. Many kids will “get” it and perhaps think over the story and take something important away from it. The lesson about acceptance and sharing isn’t preachy though. There’s lots of humour in the text, and the whole is enhanced by King’s energetic and colourful artwork. There are Teacher Notes available at Scholastic’s website.


Written by Libby Hathorn and illustrated by Gaye Chapman, this lovely children’s picture book was published by Little Hare/Hardie Grant Egmont (2016).

It tells us of Little Georgie and her two older siblings. Harriet and Max are busy with their own games and often forget about Georgie. She tries to explain about her own game, one that involves “seeing” and “hearing” messages in the world around her, but the older kids though kind, are still involved in their own activities. When Georgie begins to gather things from the garden to play Incredibilia, Harriet and Max are curious and ask to join in. They agree to collect things and run off. But this time they remember, and all the children go to a special place and play Incredibilia together.

Such a deceptively simple yet profound story! There is nothing there to tell children explicitly of the benefits of sharing, or of collaboration. Nonetheless, children may well think about the power of imagination, playing together, and acceptance of each other after reading it. Hawthorn has gifted us with a picture book that children will delight in listening to, and poring over each page as they read it to themselves.

Incredibilia is also a visual feast. Chapman uses so many interesting techniques. Child-like scratchy sketches show us the magical messages Georgie receives, bleeds of watercolour provide more solid splashes, and the children themselves are beautifully depicted. Little Georgie has a riot of red hair which becomes wilder as the story progresses, and her two older siblings show their change by becoming freer and more decorated. Children will love identifying different repeated elements and I hope they will be inspired by Chapman to go on and experiment with line and colour themselves. From the cover, through the endpapers, to the gradually developing depiction of the Land of Incredibilia, each part of this picture book book is a testament to the power of creativity and imagination. Grab it!

Space Alien at Planet Dad

Written and illustrated by Lucinda Gifford, this children’s picture book was published by Scholastic Australia (2016).

The dramatic and colourful cover certainly gives kids an idea of the determined space-loving kid the story is about! Jake loves going on intergalactic missions to his dad’s place on Saturdays. He and Dad build things and have space battles, as well as eating spaghetti and meteorite sauce. But one Saturday, things change. When Jake arrives, there’s an alien at Dad’s place, one who ignores Jake’s high glare laser beam and sips wine with Dad during a candle-lit dinner. Can our young hero learn to cope with the interloper?

The message is one kids will pick up and hopefully apply. Jake’s perspective on the change in his world is portrayed with striking comic-style special words and vibrant colours, making his hurt and anger almost palpable. We never see the alien as anything other than a one-eyed, two-toothed green blob, but that blob and Jake find common ground by the end of the narrative.

Lots of fun!

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