Archive | April 2016

Let’s Play!

Let's Play!

Let’s Play!









Let’s Play!

Hervé Tullet

Allen & Unwin, 2016

60pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99



If your very young children have not yet discovered the magic of Hervé Tullet, then they have missed out on the most marvellous reading experience for this age group.   This time, Tullet takes the reader and their fingers on an adventure with a yellow dot, following lines, twisting, turning, tip-toeing, making friends with new colours and just having so much fun with their imagination.  Like most littlies, getting started is everything so there is no title page, just an invitation to press here and off they go with the author talking directly to the child as though he were the parent.

This is interactivity through imagination –no bells, whistles, electronics, sound effects or other whizbangery, although there is an enchanting introduction to it on YouTube

It’s fabulous for getting little ones to follow instructions and talk about what happens when they do  They are in charge of their fingers so they are empowered to follow (or not) consolidating that vital message that reading is fun and can be done by anyone.  Even though she is a little old for them now, Miss Just-Turned-5 loved his other books that I gave her – Press Here  and Mix It Up and many times I found her re-telling herself the story and marvelling at her magic finger. Time for another little one to discover the thrill so this is going north to Miss Nearly One.

Cannot praise this imaginative, innovative author too highly for his ability to make the written word delight!

Squishy Taylor (series)

Squishy Taylor (series)










Squishy Taylor and the Bonus Sisters


Squishy Taylor and a Question of Trust


Squishy Taylor and the Vase that Wasn’t



Ailsa Wild

Ben Wood

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016

Sita Taylor (aka Squishy Taylor based on her hero. gangster Squizzy Taylor) is an 11 year-old “solver of problems and mysterious mysteries with a daredevil flair for anything ninja-esque, [and] a big heart with a soft spot for anyone needing help” Reflecting the lives of .many of the target audience of young independent readers, Squishy is also from a mixed race background, and is part of a blended family and the first book Squishy Taylor and the Bonus Sisters deals with the familiar situation of children from different families being blended into one. An absent mother whom she chats with each night via Skype while trying to connect with another female adult mother-figure; sharing a room with two strangers who are her new sisters; a noisy baby who is her half-brother are tricky issues in themselves and initially the situation is difficult and prickly but as time (and adventures) go by things become more positive until she seems them as her bonus sisters. Trying to discover who is living in the basement of their apartment block (and shouldn’t be) is an extra conundrum.

The new sisters really gel in Squishy Taylor and a Question of Trust when they realise each hates their neighbour Mr Hinkenbushel and form a club dedicated to making his life as miserable as possible, particularly if they can get him arrested in connection with some stolen diamonds!

She is of that new breed of literary heroes for our girls – smart, independent, curious and imaginative – who faces real-life issues calling for real-life decisions that her audience can relate to because she lives in today’s world and is undaunted by those who think that she should behave in a certain way while still having all those doubts and issues that girls of this age do.  Yet she still has those mysteries to investigate that her audience would love to have in their own lives and so this serves as a sound introduction to that genre. Discussion of the elements of a quality mystery (and perhaps a comparison with Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series and why it has endured for nearly 75 years despite its ‘old-fashioned’ setting) could open a whole new world of reading for middle-primary girls who still need the support of larger fonts word art and generous illustrations to enrich and enhance their reading.

Like many of her age group, Miss 9 is right into reading series – preferring to binge read all episodes in one continual session – and she has already earmarked this collection for these school holidays. Tempt your young ladies with the book trailer 



Where’s Jessie?

Where's Jessie?

Where’s Jessie?









Where’s Jessie?

Janeen Brian

Anne Spudvilas

NLA Publishing, 2015

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Strange things are happening to Bertie, Jessie’s beloved teddy bear.  One minute he is in Jessie’s arms as she sits on her trunk at the start of the family’s move into the unknown territory of the Outback and the next he is bundled into a squishy, smelly box!  There is no room for him in the family’s cart and poor Bertie is bewildered.  Even moreso when he is bumped along – badoumph, badoumph, badoumph –  as part of the cargo on the camel train. 

Night brings starlit skies and cold air rather than the warmth of Jessie’s arms as the cameleers shelter around their desert fire.

“Where’s Jessie?”

One of the camel drivers takes him up onto the camel but in a fierce sandstorm which whistles and screams and stings, Bertie topples off unnoticed – and then his real adventures begin.  Will he ever find his beloved Jessie again?

Author Janeen Brian first met Bertie in an exhibition of toys, books and games in Kapunda, South Australia.  Being rather old, he was a bit battered and bruised and looked like he had a story to tell – which he did.  The information on the accompanying card said that he’d been sent as a gift to little Jessie May Allchurch who lived at the Telegraph Station in Alice Springs and after a lot of research, Brian discovered Bertie’s real story was full of riches and she needed to let him have one more adventure.

Told through Bertie’s voice and feelings it is both a heart-wrenching and heart-warming story that evokes all the emotions of being separated from a loved one. Bertie is frightened and bewildered at being alone, scared by the unknown noises and strange creatures as Brian openly acknowledges those feelings that readers have, almost giving them permission to experience and express them.  They are real and natural and nothing to be ashamed of. Accompanied by illustrations that are full of the colour of the outback and rich in detail in a landscape often viewed as a vast nothingness, Bertie’s aloneness and apprehension become palpable and the reader is willing for a happy ending.

I adore these stories from NLA Publishing which combine the great imaginations of our foremost authors and illustrators with real-life objects and pictures of the NLA’s collection to tell the stories of our past and our heritage. They bring the past to life suggesting that everything in a library, a gallery or a museum has its story to tell and it is just up to us to take the time for our imaginations to roam and to gather the information to discover that story and add a little more to our own.  As always, there are pages of background information showing that this, like others I’ve reviewed recently, are very much part of Australia: Story Country.