I See, I See

I See, I See
R. Henderson
Allen & Unwin

This seemingly simple, playfully clever book is a great way to introduce the idea of perspective/different points of view to youngsters. Two readers need to sit facing one another, one either side of the book and take turns to read aloud the rhyming text, in a ‘call and response’ type activity.

Each of the pictogram style images offers two interpretations – there’s no right or wrong: a curved mouth is a smile from one direction and a frown from the other; the face belongs to dad or mum depending from which side it’s viewed;

you can see a whole forest or a single tree – both are possible.

In his presentation of the notion of looking at things from another’s viewpoint, debut picture book creator Robert Henderson (with gentle echoes of Hervé Tullet) offers a starting point for conversations on important, possibly controversial, topics,

I look forward to seeing what comes next.

One Runaway Rabbit

One Runaway Rabbit
David Metzenthen and Mairead Murphy
Allen & Unwin

One pet rabbit.
One tiny mouse.
One broken fence.
One dark night.
One hungry fox.

Uh oh! The chase is on. Surely this night of freedom and exploration isn’t to be rabbit’s last.

Using minimal text David Metzenthen has created a suburban adventure full of suspense. In combination with Mairead Murphy’s splendid illustrations that manage to capture both the endearing nature of the rabbit and its curiosity the book becomes a real page turner that has pretty much everything one could ask of a book for the young: a thoroughly satisfying story that helps develop visual literacy as well as being one that beginning readers can read for themselves after an initial sharing with an adult during which they can make predictions.

In addition there are changes of pace and a variety of viewpoints including a bird’s eye map

and things to make youngsters laugh

as well as hold their breath. Make sure you read from endpaper to endpaper too.

A must have for anywhere – home or educational setting – where adults want to help youngsters develop as real readers.


Alison Lester
Allen & Unwin

This is a special sparkly covered 30th anniversary edition of a book that is superb for developing youngsters’ imaginations as well as introducing them to a whole host of animals by transporting them to a variety of different settings. There’s the jungle, the depths of the ocean, a polar ice cap, a farm, a swampland full of dinosaurs, an African plain and finally, the Australian bush. This adds a search-and-find element to the experience.

Each location is prefaced by a scene of two suitably attired children engaging in creative play opposite which are seven lines of rhyming text inviting readers to ‘imagine if …’.

After this comes a panoramic double page spread simply teeming with animals, bordered by the names of the creatures depicted.

Helpfully in this new edition, there is a key to the animals found in each location on the last page and back endpapers; there were some, particularly from the Australian bush, that I couldn’t identify without it.

Alison Lester is spot on in the way she shows how young children create their own imaginary worlds as they play, plunging themselves right in and becoming part of the action. The final spread brings them back closer to reality as they’re shown engaging in domestic small world play.

I still have my original 1991 copy and am happy to find the book has lost none of its allure.

Argh! There’s a Skeleton Inside You! / A Cat Called Trim

Allen & Unwin offer some unusual ways of presenting information in these two non-fiction books

Argh! There’s a Skeleton Inside You!
Idan Ben-Barak and Julian Frost
Allen & Unwin

Quog (a blobbly armless thing) and Oort (a gas cloud) are in their spacecraft going to a party but mechanical issues hold things up. They need to get out and fix the problem but without hands or arms, opening the door isn’t possible. Or is it? That’s when the narrative becomes interactive – the reader turns the page and … out they come.

‘Give Quog and Oort a wave,’ we’re told and a page turn reveals Quog has grown arms and hands. That’s a good start but there are further issues.

Little by little youngsters are then introduced to the bones,

muscles …

and nerves of the hand – their form and function.

With simple, bright, lively illustrations, this, zany mix of fact and fiction is enormously engaging: little humans will love the idea of helping the little aliens reach their destination, and in so doing learning some basic human biology – anatomy and physiology – as presented by the clever human team Idan Ben-Barak (author/scientist) and illustrator Julian Frost.

A Cat Called Trim
Corinne Fenton and Craig Smith
Allen & Unwin

‘Trim was a cat born for adventure.’ That he surely was having been born aboard the sailing ship Reliance bound for Botany Bay and then not long after, finds himself hurtling over the side of the ship into the inky depths of the Indian Ocean.

Happily for the kitten and his saviour Matthew Flinders, a special relationship is forged, with Trim accompanying his master on all his expeditions until the fateful day when Flinders was accused of spying, his precious books, charts and journals confiscated and he became a prisoner on the Isle de France (Mauritius).

After a while Trim disappeared and his master never saw him again.

Both educative and entertaining, Corinne Fenton’s telling of this true story is compelling and accompanied by Craig Smith’s dramatic, detailed illustrations, and maps, makes for an absorbing starting point for primary readers interested in Australia and its history.

What I Like Most / Goodbye House, Hello House

What I Like Most
Mary Murphy and Zhu Cheng-Liang
Walker Books

A small girl narrator takes us through the day sharing the favourite things in her life.

Assuredly she has much to like – the window through which she watches the comings and goings, apricot jam to spread on her toast, her trainers with the flashing lights,

the tree-lined river, her red pencil, chips, the storybook she knows by heart, her teddy bear.

All these are favourite things but the girl knows that while the view through the window changes, the jam is finished, her feet outgrow her shoes, the river changes,

her red pencil is all used up, her plate empties, the book is no longer interesting, there is someone there whom no matter what, she’ll always, always love and that someone is what she likes ‘the very, very most in the world.’

What a lovely way to express one’s love for a mother while also showing that maternal love is constant. Mary Murphy’s lyrical text combined with Zhu Cheng-Liang’s richly coloured illustrations with their unusual and varied viewpoints offer a wonderful demonstration that it’s not the flashy, expensive things in life that make us happy but the everyday ones we could so easily take for granted.

Goodbye House, Hello House
Margaret Wild and Ann James
Allen & Unwin

Endings and beginnings can be challenging for anyone, but here in this story the little girl narrator appears to be embracing change bravely.

She spends a while on ‘last times’, bidding farewell to things she has loved to do – fishing in the river, running through the trees;

swinging on the gate.

Inside she embraces domestic last times before saying goodbye to the rooms in the country house. Then Emma (only now her name is revealed), changes the writing on the wall to the past tense …

and it’s time to leave.

At the new city house, there are exciting first times

and hellos to be said, new writing to put on the wall and anticipation of things to come.

Yes the landscapes may be very different but with a positive attitude familiarity can be found. . Emma’s body language says much about her emotions, but no matter the location Emma is still Emma.

Margaret Wild’s minimal text combined with Ann James’ muted story-telling illustrations leave plenty of room for the reader’s imaginations.

This heart-warming book offers a great starting point for opening up discussion about change whether or not children have had an experience similar to Emma’s.

My Friend Fred / Pip Finds a Home

My Friend Fred
Frances Watts and A. Yi
Allen & Unwin

An unseen narrator (mostly), dachshund Fred’s best friend tells of the doggy things he gets up to. He loves dog food (disgusting!), chasing balls, sniffing trees and digging holes.

However he doesn’t like stairs unlike his pal; he loves baths, (his friend hates them)

and Fred does some rather odd things like howling at the moon and turning around thrice before sleeping.

Youngsters will delight in guessing the nature of Fred’s best friend (there are some visual clues in A. Yi’s adorable watercolour illustrations) so may work it out before the final reveal. Whether or not they do, with its themes of friendship and difference this is an engaging book to share with your little ones.

Pip Finds a Home
Elena Topouzoglou
New Frontier Publishing

Due to a case of mistaken identity Pip undertakes a long journey to the South Pole for that’s where those that look like him live.

He’s met by four friendly Adélie penguins who want to know what kind of penguin Pip is.

They attempt to identify him but he doesn’t have feathers on his head like a Macaroni penguin, is too short to be an Emperor Penguin and lacks the orange beak of a Gentoo.

Perhaps he isn’t a penguin after all.

Nonetheless he’s made welcome by the Adélies until another black and white bird approaches and then Pip learns his real name.

It’s time to go home …

This simply told, beautifully illustrated in watercolours, tale of friendship, similarities and differences and belonging gently informs young listeners too; and the final three pages give additional facts about the four kinds of penguins and the species to which Pip belongs.

Baz & Benz / Mannie and the Long Brave Day

Baz & Benz
Heidi McKinnon
Allen & Unwin

Owls Baz and Benz are best friends: Baz is small and blue; Benz is big and green.

One day while sitting together Baz decides to check if their friendship really is for ever and ever.

He puts forward a series of possibilities – a colour change; a colour change with a spotty pattern? So far so good.

Constant ‘Meeping’? – not at all a good idea.

A scary bat with sharp claws? Err! Rather frightening, but the friendship bond would remain intact … no matter what.

Little humans will delight in Baz’s ability to annoy, and to push the boundaries but remain loved, and they’ll especially relish the way he gets the last “Meep!’

Comforting and reassuring; Heidi McKinnon gets right to the heart of true friendship in this simple, enormously enjoyable story for the very young. The bold, bright illustrations are captivating and the characters with their matching coloured lines immediately endearing.

A book I envisage being demanded over and over.

An altogether different celebration of friendship is:

Mannie and the Long Brave Day
Martine Murray and Sally Rippin
Allen & Unwin

This is a sweet story about a little girl Mannie, her toy elephant, Lilliput and her doll, Strawberry Luca.

Together with a special box of useful things, Mannie takes her friends on an exciting adventure … down the rocky road, through the tall, tall trees, across the winding river

and up the high hill for a picnic.

Suddenly the sun disappears, the sky darkens, thunder starts to rumble and Mannie feels scared.

Now it’s Lilliput’s turn to say the words, “What’s in the box?’

and before long all is well once more.

A truly magical book  that celebrates the boundless imagination of young children. Both author and artist capture the way in which the very young can transform almost anything and everything into the ingredients for their fantasy play.
Sally Rippin’s gorgeous illustrations took me right into the nursery classroom where I taught for a number of years, as did the ‘special box’ in the narrative. We too had a similar item not pink but battered and brown with a hole cut in the top, into which I’d put various items and we’d all sit around it and sing, “What’s in the box, what’s in the box, let’s think, let’s see … what’s in the box” before somebody would put in their hand and extract an item as the starting point for storying.