Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Recently Published Children’s Picture Books 2017

by Susan Stephenson,

Looking for some wonderful recently published children's picture books? Let's go!

Guff by Aaron Blabey, published by Penguin Random House (2017.) RRP: $Au 16.99 HB

From the publisher:

This is my Guff.
He’s really nice.
I’ve known him since I was little.
And I still know him even now I’m big…

Have you ever had a little fabric friend? This one’s name is Guff, a simple little one-eyed, one-eared soft toy, and we see Guff in all sorts of everyday but smile-worthy situations. There’s the time Guff gets washed into the river and Mum (complete with overcoat, beanie and a less-than-impressed look) has to go in to retrieve him. There’s the time Guff goes missing and in our young narrator’s imagination, Guff is made to walk the plank on a pirate ship, with shark fins circling below. Whether Guff is stinky and needs a wash, or boringly drying on the clothes line, the important thing is Guff is loved.

This is a great picture book for sharing with pre-schoolers because they understand love of a toy, and will relate to the incidents in the book. The illustrations are beautifully large and quirky in trademark Blabey style, making the book perfect for a read-aloud. Kids will be keen to share their own toy-ventures, or even create and draw adventures for a class teddy!

Are You Sitting Comfortably? by Leigh Hodgkinson, published by Bloomsbury (2017.) RRP: $Au 14.99 PB

From the publisher:

Hello there!
Are you sitting comfortably?
Are you sure?
Have you found the perfect snuggle-up-and-lose-yourself-in-a-book place?
Somewhere comfy, NOT itchy-fuzzy?
Somewhere quiet, NOT buzz-buzzy?
You have? Great!

Unfortunately the little chap in this book isn't having quite as much luck as you are ...

It’s always delightful to find children’s picture books that are celebrations of the sheer joy of sharing and enjoying books. In Are You Sitting Comfortably? we witness a young reader who is almost desperate to find a “just right” place to read. It’s no good if the place is buzzy or stinky or stompy or soggy. A star is too far and the sun? Well, apparently heat is out too. As the often rhyming story proceeds, our young reader gathers more and more creatures who are keen to share the story, until they finally all work out it’s not the place but the sharing that’s so important. And so it is! Hodkinson’s illustrations have many gorgeous patterns and prints to explore, and kids will love the character expressions depicted in them.

If I Had a Little Dream is a children’s picture book written by Nina Laden, illustrated by Melissa Castrillon and published by Simon and Schuster (2017.) RRP: $Au 22.99 HB.

From the publisher:

Nina Laden’s warm and lyrical picture book sees and appreciates through a child’s eyes how fortunate we are to live in the world we do.

Celebrate the wonder of the world in this reassuring picture book about the joy, love, and beauty that is part of each and every day. Our world is full of possibilities if you look for them.
The “I” in the book is a young girl who shares aspects of the life she dreams about with us e.g. “If I had a little garden, I would name it Whole.” She goes on to explain, “Whole would be filled with roots and seeds, and feed my heart and soul.” “If I had a little …” is the pattern that holds the book together and we read of a cat, dog, brother sister, and finally a bed named Nest. The choice of words for the rhyming scheme seemed a tiny bit contrived to me, but I don’t think this will matter at all to kids.

Castrillon’s illustrations are in what I found to be quite a naive, appealing and decorative style. We see a fanciful landscape depicted in striking orange, red, white and blue. There’s a round, shingle-roofed cottage with a dormer window, a matching dog kennel, and a chimney from which a heart shape peeps. The garden is bursting with happy mice, bunnies and birds among unusual trees and plants. There’s an activity sheet available on the publisher’s website.

Where’s My Jumper? is a children’s picture book by Nicola Slater, published by Simon and Schuster (2017.) RRP: $Au 16.99

From the publisher:

Rudy is looking for his jumper. He’s searched everywhere - indoors, outdoors, upstairs and down. In the kitchen, in the bathroom—round and round and round. Wherever can it be?

A super-cute, super-fun book with flaps, die-cut pages, and a counting element too.

Here’s a new alliterative counting book. It is set up with a problem kids will immediately understand - Rudy has lost his favourite jumper! As he runs through and outside the house, we encounter various quirky characters, starting with ten tumbling cats, moving on through nine jiving llamas in fancy-pants pyjamas etc. Each encounter gives kids a chance to count, to practise their sounds, and to have fun with words. The brightly-coloured pages are loads of fun, and many include flaps young hands will itch to open. I loved the surprises and humour in the story.

My Dog Mouse by Eva Lindstrom, published by Gecko Press 2017. RRP: $NZ 26.98 HB

From the publisher:

Friendship, humour and heartbreak in one dog walk: for anyone who knows what it is to love an old, slow dog with ears as thin as pancakes.

I have a confession to make. As a read-alouder, I tend to avoid books that make me swallow a lump in my throat, and blink a lot. This is just plain wrong, because I do believe kids should be exposed to a range of stories, not just hilarious ones. This story is gentle, almost understated, but packs an emotional punch just the same. There is something so evocative about that description of the dog, Mouse: old, slow and with ears as thin as pancakes. You can almost feel those ears as you fondle them while the dog leans against you.

My Dog Mouse is perfect for those little ones who know what it is to love a dog - whether it may be their own pet, the dog-next-door or even a dog they “borrow” and pretend is theirs. I was doing my blink routine as I read it, because I too have loved dogs - more recently a big-hearted goofy canine called Mieke who trained me to throw sticks for her. The little girl in My Dog Mouse does all sorts of things with Mouse. They walk together and there is time for Mouse to do lots of sniffing, waddling and yawning. They even share 2 meatballs, only Mouse gets the lion’s share - both! Grab this one for your book collection with a friendship theme - there’s something very special about being friends with a dog. I'll be adding this to Picture Books that Focus on Friendship.

Muddle and Mo’s Worm Surprise by Nikki Slade Robinson, published by Starfish Bay Children’s Books (2017.) RRP: $Au 25.99 HB

From the publisher:

Muddle and Mo are the best of friends. Muddle is a loveable, slightly confused yet enthusiastic little duckling. Mo is a long-suffering, not very adventurous goat with lots of patience. Today, Muddle is preparing a surprise picnic for Mo. Mo doesn’t like worms, so will he like what’s in the basket?

I told you about Muddle and Mo in Introducing Starfish Bay Children’s Books. Here’s another adventure starring the lovable duo. This is a perfect picture book for reading aloud, where adults can have lots of fun with their duck and goat voices. It also doubles as a book that encourages kids to read it for themselves - the text is minimal and all in dialogue. The expressions on the animals' faces are very cute, and we can’t help but feel for Mo the goat, who is going along with, but dreading a lunch more suited to ducklings.

The Perfect Thing by Sally Morgan and Ambelin Kwaymullina, published by Omnibus Books (2017.) RRP: $Au 24.99 HB

From the publisher:

Lily’s grandpa can solve any problem. He always knows the perfect thing. Grandpa suggests a walk in the park, but Lily has other ideas - and lots of weird and wonderful objections. But no problem is too great for grandpa - he has weird and wonderful solutions. Grandpa always knows the perfect thing!

It’s lovely to see another children’s picture book that celebrates the special relationship between grandparents and children. Apart from the fact that Grandmas and Grandpas love to buy children books and encourage them to read, it’s important to share literature with kids that helps them make connections with their own lives. Lily’s Grandpa is the tricky kind. When Lily makes excuses because she doesn’t want to walk to the park with him, he comes up with imaginative solutions that blow her excuses away. When they finally do make it to the park, Lily and Grandpa share fun and creative ideas about what they might be doing as they play.

Of course these creative ideas are beautifully portrayed by Kwaymullina with brightly coloured “cut-outs” on plain, strong primary-coloured backgrounds. This means they stand out clearly, making this an ideal story for sharing with kids in a read-aloud. I think children will really respond to the bright colours and the simplicity of the story. There’s a lovely underlying message about the importance of imagination, about play and being playful. The loving relationship between Grandpa and Lily will certainly prompt kids to describe their own grandfathers, and the tricks they play.

Supertato Run Veggies Run is a children’s picture book by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet, published by Simon and Schuster (2017.) RRP: $Au 14.99 PB

From the publisher:

It’s Sports Day in the supermarket and all the veggies are in training. Everyone has been practising hard and is ready and raring to go. However, a new competitor joins the event, accompanied by The Evil Pea, and is determined to win all the prizes. Things don’t seem quite right… but will Supertato be able to foil his nemesis’ plan in time?

There are always high-jinks in a Supertato book, and this one’s no exception. Kids will love that vegetables train at night when the supermarket is closed by running along the conveyor belt, “going for the burn”! The Evil Pea and his robotic watermelon, Gloria, look like they’re going to win every Vegetable Sports event, but just in time Supertato uses his super brains to think up a plan. Kids will delight in the vivid colour, the action, and the triumph of good over evil. Luckily, as with most super-powered vegetables, there is always a next time… And luckily for kids who enjoy these books, there are more!

Silly Lily and the Flower Girl Adventure by Jedda Robaard, published by Five Mile Press, 2017. RRP: $Au 16.99

From the publisher:

Lily is creative and resourceful and isn't scared of anything!

But Lily doesn't always understand new situations. Which means Lily is often in trouble. Today Lily has a very important job – she is going to be a flower girl at her first wedding! There is so much happening at a wedding, and lots of things for Lily to explore. And Lily is so excited that she forgets she has a job to do!

Luckily Lily is clever, too. She may sometimes be a bit naughty – but in the end, she always does the right thing!

This is a children's board book, meaning it is very robust and will stand up to lots of reading and maybe even the odd chewing. The publishers recommend it for kids 1+. While I’d share it with very young kids, I would be far more likely to talk about the pictures and make up my own story with them as I think the text is not aimed at children so young. The story however will strike a chord with kids 3+, especially those who have had the experience of being part of a wedding. The illustrations are delicate and rather sweet.

Froggy Green is a children’s board book by Anna Walker, published by Penguin Random House, 2017. RRP: $Au14.99.

From the publisher:

Joe's favourite colour is froggy green, and all his friends at the park like different colours. But which colour do you like best?

I believe our youngest readers need the very best we can offer them in terms of illustration, writing and physical quality in a book. Anna Walker is a firm favourite of mine and has created a whimsical and fun book that is also, but so much more than, a book about colours. The colours themselves are something little ones can relate to, but they’ll also delight in the colour qualities - like froggy green, polka-dot orange and fairy pink. There are also opportunities for counting and identifying things kids will know.

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