Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Finding Picture Book Treasures - Book Week 2018



by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com


Further to my articles last week, Ideas for Children’s Book Week 2018 and Book Week Activities for Kids 2018, I’ve gathered a list of picture books I think might suit this year’s Children’s Book Week theme: “Find your treasure.” I’m not just recommending books that have won awards this year, or any year. I believe that it’s important to consider all of our readers, to offer them fiction and non-fiction, different genres, different styles, and a huge range of subjects. But above all, if we want kids to love reading, we must let them own their book choices, and choose what they want to read.


Some of the picture books below mention treasure, searching and pirates. Others may well be just the book treasure a young reader is searching for. Where possible I’ve linked to my reviews, but I’ve also included books that have been recommended to me. When looking for treasure, one must cast a wide net!


The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild and Freya Blackwood explains in a gentle yet dramatic way that a book can be a treasure to prize, and never forget.

From the publisher:

When the enemy bombed the library, everything burned.

As war rages, Peter and his father flee their home, taking with them a treasure box that holds something more precious than jewels. They journey through mud and rain and long cold nights, and soon their survival becomes more important than any possessions they carry.

But as the years go by, Peter never forgets the treasure box, and one day he returns to find it.

Look, A Book! by Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood is a good picture book to share with kids when discussing why so many of us do treasure books.

From my review:

Gleeson's message here is a wonderful one: books truly can transform lives. Isn't it heartening to realise that, regardless of children's birth circumstances, learning to read can open so many doors for them? No wonder the author wants us to:
“hold (books) close, free from all
the dust and the dog and the rain.”

Tough Boris is a fun pirate story in picture book format by Mem Fox and Kathryn Brown. Although first published in 1994, according to Penguin’s website, it’s still available.

Boris von der Borch is a mean, greedy old pirate – tough as nails, through and through, like all pirates. Or is he?

1, 2, Pirate Stew is a children’s picture book by Kylie Howarth and is a CBCA Notable for 2018.

From the publisher:

1,2, Round up the crew. 3,4, Now grab an oar…

Take one large cardboard box, two imaginative kids, add a splash of pirate pets…and you have a recipe for adventure! Count along from 1 to 22 to discover the secret of the missing treasure and some very special pirate stew.

Ollie’s Treasure by Lynn Jenkins and Kirrili Lonergan is a children’s picture book published by EK Books 2017, and is another treasure-themed story.

From the publisher:

Ollie’s Treasure is tale of mindfulness for young, developing minds. Ollie’s grandma sends him a treasure map that promises to lead him to ‘something that will make him happy always’.

Of course, Ollie thinks this ‘something’ will be a toy of some sort, but he gets both a rude shock and a big surprise when his treasure turns out to be him!

Aquatica: A Beginner’s Field Guide is a picture book I would recommend to all ages but perhaps not the very young. It makes a great companion to Mechanica. It’s also a CBCA Notable for 2018.

From my review:

While Mechanica are creatures of the land and skies, Aquatica are their seaborne relatives. They pose a danger to any human brave enough to venture onto the ocean. Again we meet up with Verity Crisp, and realise that unless she can intervene, there is likely to be a war between Earth’s Militia and all Mechanica, a war that will lead to the annihilation of the human race and destroy Earth’s remaining atmosphere. What follows is not a narrative devoted to this tale, but again exactly what the title describes - a field guide where we read about and see various forms of Aquatica.

Tales from Outer Suburbia is a picture book for older kids, created by Shaun Tan. I recommended it for the theme, Escape to Everywhere, and am doing so again because I truly believe any of these unusual stories could lure a child to reading more!

From my review:

It’s not just exotic locales we can escape to via books. Tan makes us look at our own lives with new eyes. Readers will love to peek inside the kitchen pantry at what Eric the foreign exchange student left behind, and perhaps check their own homes for little treasures.

A Soldier a Dog and a Boy is a children’s picture book by Libby Hathorn and Phil Lesnie about finding a treasure where it’s least expected.

From the publisher:

A moving story, told completely in dialogue, about a young Australian soldier in the battle of the Somme. Walking through the fields away from the front, he finds what he thinks is a stray dog, and decides to adopt it as a mascot for his company. Then he meets Jacques, the homeless orphan boy who owns the dog. The soldier realises that Jacques needs the dog more - and perhaps needs his help as well.

Bear Make Den is a children’s picture book written by Jane Godwin and Michael Wagner, and illustrated by Andrew Joyner that still makes me laugh, and kids love it. Sometimes a “book treasure” needs to be funny, and this really is!

From the publisher:

Bear is great with his hands, but not so smart when it comes to relationships. If he fixes up his den, will everything else follow?

Bear loves to get things done. He can make just about anything! He even builds a wonderful den. But something is missing. What could it be?

From this talented trio comes a warm, playful picture book about what truly makes a home.

This is Captain Cook is a children’s picture book by Tania McCartney and Christina Booth. It stars young James Cook who sets sail to seek, if not treasure, then probably new lands and fame. The book cover alone of this book would make a great focus for a Children’s Book Week display.

From my review:

I loved that this children’s picture book is also a celebration of that marvellous institution, the school play. (And chooks!) Parents and teachers will be hard pressed not to giggle as they read this one aloud. Children who’ve spent any time at school will recognise the enthusiasm and the chaos inherent in a school play, and enjoy the many visual jokes as well.
Rockhopping is a picture book in graphic novel style by Trace Balla. I recommended it when we had Australia: Story Country, and hope it may be treasure for new readers, or re-discovered treasure for older readers.

From the publisher:

Join Clancy and Uncle Egg on a rambling, rockhopping adventure in Gariwerd (the Grampians), to find the source of the Glenelg River. A story about following your flow, and the unexpected places you may go.

Cyclone is a children’s picture book by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley. I think it’s a wonderful book and I know kids appreciate its drama.

From my review:

Cyclone truly is a stunning picture book. It’s amazing that something as devastating as a cyclone can be so beautifully and clearly depicted by both writer and illustrator. French’s lyrical language brings the reality of Cyclone Tracy’s effect on Darwin to life for children. We read of wind that snarls but is pretty much ignored as the kids dream of Santa’s arrival and Christmas day. Snarls turn to groans and growls, shrieks and howls, then when their house is destroyed and the small family tries to flee, they are “Slashed and bitten by debris” while the world around them is only storm.

Adelaide’s Secret World by Elise Hurst is a children’s picture book that reminds us that treasure will come.

From the publisher:

Set in a mysterious city inhabited by a rich cast of characters, this enchanting and superbly illustrated story celebrates creativity and friendship. Adelaide leads a quiet life in the midst of the city. At night she listens to the song of the stars, but during the day she watches over the others like her: the still ones, the quiet ones, those who dance and dream alone. Little does Adelaide know that her secret world will soon be transformed into something unexpected and full of joy.

Du Iz Tak? is a quirky, enigmatic children’s picture book with few words by Carson Ellis that may appeal to a child having difficulty with finding a book to treasure.

From the publisher:

In her follow-up to the internationally acclaimed Home, Carson Ellis invites readers to imagine the dramatic possibilities to be found in the natural world ... even the humblest back garden! With gorgeous, exquisitely-detailed illustration that will appear to children and art-lovers alike, and a wonderfully playful invented language, we soon find ourselves speaking "Bug" ... Du iz tak? What is that?

(Find other recommended wordless children’s picture books in my list. Ask children to discuss what might be happening as you share a wordless picture book. What characters can they identify? What is the setting? What action seems to be taking place? How might characters be feeling? What might happen next? Why might a book with no words be somebody’s treasure?)

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark! is a children’s picture book by Katrina Germein and Janine Dawson, and and is a CBCA Notable for 2018.

From my review:

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark! brings a children’s AFL game to life for the reader - we are part of the kids’ excitement and enjoyment, we witness to the dog running onto the field and someone losing his mouthguard in the mud. Germein creates vivid, active word pictures for us, with lots of sport-specific exclamations like Perfect Play! and reinforced by special fonts for words like Squelch! She is ably abetted by Dawson’s detailed, cartoon-style illustrations. These perfectly capture the chaos and the triumph, the struggle and the sheer unmitigated fun of children who love to play team sport.

I’m Australian Too is a children’s picture book by Mem Fox and Ronojoy Ghosh and is a CBCA Notable for 2018.

From my review:

I loved the emphasis in I'm Australian Too on celebrating Australia’s cultural diversity, but doing it in a matter-of-fact way that avoids the tub-thumping kids don’t need to hear. Instead, we meet a range of kids who share their backgrounds with us.

Feathers is a children’s picture book by Phil Cummings and Phil Lesnie, and is a CBCA Notable for 2018.

From my review:

Cummings has used vivid, poetic language to show us the flight of a sandpiper to its breeding grounds. We see the sandpiper fly “through whirlwinds of tumbling leaves that fluttered like butterflies”. We watch as some of its feathers fall, and are caught by children living in very difficult environments. We see Mia, who catches the final feather, and agree with her that she is lucky not just to catch a feather but to live in a peaceful, un-ravaged place.

The Thank You Dish is a children’s picture book by Trace Balla and is a CBCA Notable for 2018.

From my review:

It’s so lovely to find children’s books that encourage kids to think about how much they have to be grateful for. Balla shows us a dinnertime conversation between Mama and Grace, where Grace mentions those who in some way contributed to the meal, and thanks them. There’s lots of repetition, meaning younger readers can predict some of the text.

The Sloth Who Came to Stay is a children’s picture book by Margaret Wild and Vivienne To, and is a CBCA Notable for 2018.

From my review:

Sloths are slow. So slow, plants grow on them. When Amy brings one home to stay with her family, who spend their lives rushing, you wouldn’t think it would be a good fit. And yet, from being a family with no time to play or talk or even laze, they adapt not just to Sloth’s presence, but to his pace. Wild deftly tells an entertaining tale with a satisfying conclusion.

Gus Dog Goes to Work is a children’s picture book by Rachel Flynn and Craig Smith, and is a CBCA Notable for 2018.

From my review:

Flynn shows us what it’s like to be a dog, and kids will nod and laugh over things like Gus rolling in something stinky, and rounding up someone else’s sheep. This is a realistic story, with tension, humour and a happy ending.

Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros is a children’s picture book by Meg McKinlay and Leila Rudge, and is a CBCA Notable for 2018.

From my review:

I loved the language McKinlay uses in this lovely children’s picture book. We read of “the woolly wild of winter and the smooth sweep of summer”, and delight in the poet’s voice so much in evidence. Rudge’s illustrations fill in so many details for us. Her use of colour and pattern is brilliant, underscoring the change from familiar to exotic as the little rrhinoceros travels. My favourite scene is a double page spread of the conservative rhinos still wallowing but bedecked in finery brought from overseas, while the small rhinoceros strums an instrument and we meet an even smaller rhinoceros who also dreams.

Mopoke is a children’s picture book by Philip Bunting and is a CBCA Notable for 2018.

From my review:

Mopokes are Southern Boobook Owls. Apparently they love peace and quiet but like most of us, they realise you can’t always get what you want. Using one or at most a few words to a page, Bunting reveals his mopokes, inviting us to share his obvious joy over playing with words. We meet lots of pokes, including a fee-fi-fo-poke, a moustachioed mo’poke and even a wombat - wait, what’s that doing there?

The Great Rabbit Chase is a children’s picture book by Freya Blackwood and is a CBCA Notable for 2018.

From my review:

Like most rabbits, Gumboots is a skilled escapologist. More and more people join in the Gumboots recovery team as it winds its way through the town and we get to know a little about each one. At last they reach the park and suddenly everyone’s cares and frowns seem to fall away. There’s a final delightful twist, and readers are left with that from-the-boots sigh which comes at the end of every fantastic picture book.

I would love to recommend every picture book I have ever reviewed - I only review the wonderful ones! But I am running out of space. Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar. Find a list of all the CBCA Notables for 2018 here.

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