Storytime with Child’s Play Picture Books

Red Reading Hub welcomes the opportunity to catch up with some recent Child’s Play picture books

Astrid and the Sky Calf
Rosie Faragher

This is a truly magical story about a young doctor and a very unusual, special hospital. The doctor’s name is Doctor Astrid and she runs The Hospital for Magical Beasts. Thus far there’s not been a single untreatable patient or incurable illness at her hospital but that changes when a new patient suddenly arrives, a sky calf no less.

Doctor Astrid does her very best to diagnose the problem but none of her usual methods are any good at all. She’s bemused and frustrated, doubting her own skills, and her patient is far from happy. Surely there must be something she can do to restore the sky calf to her usual healthy self.

Happily there is, but it’s not sticky tape, potions or bandages: rather, the successful treatment involves showing empathy and friendship.

Full of heart, this is a sweet story beautifully illustrated by Rosie the author in a delightfully scribbly fashion. Adorable!

King Leonard’s Teddy
Phoebe Swan

Wealth and consumerism reign in King Lion’s world of use once and throw away; life is peachy so he thinks, merely sending his servant out to buy a replacement for anything that breaks or even gets dirty. Not once does he consider the idea of the environmental impact of his lifestyle.

But then his beloved teddy bear is broken one night. This is something irreplaceable so what can he do? The toyshop can only sell him a new one, the toy factory only manufactures brand new bears and all the repair shops have long since closed down.

Back home a further accident happens and this gives King Leonard an idea: perhaps he can fix the bear himself. It’s not an east task for sure but eventually determination wins through and what’s more the king has learned a host of new skills that he can use for the good of the whole community.

A delightful story that has a strong and very important environmental message that is never too soon for young children to hear. To that end King Lion and his trusty helper Max have compiled a final spread of ideas for reducing, reusing and recycling items to help the environment. Love the bold mixed media illustrations that really help increase the impact of the telling.

The Things
Petronela Dostalova

This is a somewhat surreal tale about  Thing. Thing has a best pal, Cactus, actually make that two best friends; the other is Moose the shadow puppet. Thing loves spending time with these two; he even talks to his prickly friend in bed.

Life ticks along well in its uneventful way until one day Thing discovers another Thing nearby. Thing 2 also has two friends Mitten and Mitten. But Thing starts to worry about the Other Thing: could it be dangerous?

Then Moose suddenly disappears and guess who suspect number one is. Nevertheless perhaps working with Thing 2 might help work out what has happened to the shadow puppet.

Young readers and listeners will definitely enjoy being in the know in this quirky tale of tolerance and friendship

The Lost Homework
Richard O’Neill and Kirsti Beautyman

This is the latest of the author’s stories set in a traveller community and features young Sonny.

Sonny loves school and usually gets his homework done on a Friday so he has the entire weekend to spend helping his family and fellow travellers with all manner of tasks.

On this particular weekend there’s to be a wedding – one of his cousin’s is getting married and there’s a huge amount of preparations even before the family leaves for the venue which is 180km away. Over the weekend Sonny uses a great many different skills that involve maths, music making, story telling, ICT and painting. Pretty well the only thing that doesn’t get done is Sonny’s homework.

Happily though despite Sonny’s fears, when he tells the class about his weekend, his teacher shows considerable insight and understanding.

A super story showing that school isn’t the only place where important learning happens; it’s illustrated by Kristi Beautyman whose artwork is truly captivating.

Milo and Monty
Roxana De Rond

Monty and Milo are two new canine additions to the McKenzie family but they’re very different dogs.

Monty is a sociable animal whereas Milo prefers being quiet and on his own. This behaviour worries the latter dog’s new family.

One Sunday afternoon some cousins pay a visit and Milo goes off to his favourite quiet place but when he gets there, it’s already occupied – by cousin Henry. It seems that Henry and Milo have much in common – both are tactile sensitive, have special toys that go everywhere with them and like a regular routine.

With new understanding, perhaps if the McKenzie family make some adjustments both Monty and Milo can be happy family members.

A sensitive, warm-hearted tale of differences and learning how to accommodate them with super equally warm-hearted illustrations by the author.

The Missing Bookshop

The Missing Bookshop
Katie Clapham and Kirsti Beautyman
Stripes Publishing
This smashing story from debut author, bookseller Katie Clapham took me back to my days working in a children’s bookshop on Saturdays and during school holidays, a job I loved and which always made me want to own a bookshop just like the one Katie has written about. It never happened though: I’ve stayed in education, albeit with a house full of as many books as some bookshops.

Mrs Minty is the owner of the one here, a place young Milly loved to visit especially for the weekly story time sessions when she’d sit transfixed on one of the cushions on the rainbow carpet listening to Mrs Minty read from a book, often in response to Milly’s ‘one with … in’. Times when Milly has saved sufficient pocket money to buy a book of her own were especially exciting.

On one such day Milly notices that both Mrs Minty and her shop have lost some of their sparkle, particularly whens she compares Mrs M. with the picture hanging on the wall behind the counter.

As she sits with her mum in a café after their bookshop visit, Milly expresses her concern, asking, “What do you do if something is old and creaky?”
Mum’s response about careful treatment and the possibility of replacing it with something new upsets the girl who considers Mrs Minty irreplaceable despite her “You’d make a wonderful bookseller,” words to Milly.

The next week, having watched the bookseller at work, Milly’s fears grow: the woman is a veritable encyclopaedia when it comes to knowledge about books – nobody could do better and after the session as she and her mum sit together they talk further about the bookshop’s future. So worried is Milly that she then runs back to tell Mrs Minty about her bookshop’s irreplaceability.

After the weekend the shop is closed when MIlly and her mum pay a visit. It remains so for the rest of the week until a sign appears in the window ‘CLOSED DUE TO UNFORSEEN CIRCUMSTANCES’ followed the next week ay the even more concerning ‘CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE’. What on earth can have happened?

Another week passes and a van appears outside the bookshop full of items from inside; then a woman gets in and drives away before Milly has a chance to question her. Doom and gloom descend upon Mllly and deepen when a FOR SALE sign appears soon after.

It’s time to launch operation Save Minty’s Bookshop decides Milly and she gets busy right away.

A few days later her mum returns from a supermarket visit with exciting news …

As a lover of local independent bookshops, especially those specialising in children’s books, my heart went out to Milly and Mrs Minty in this smashing story that flies the flag for such establishments. I loved Milly’s resilience and determination as well of course, as the fact that she’s a bibliophile at such a young age.

Kirsti Beautyman’s expressive illustrations portray so well, young Milly’s changing emotions as the story progresses towards its thoroughly satisfying finale.

Another cracking addition to Stripes’ series of full-colour fiction for newly independent readers; it’s bound to be devoured by book and bookshop lovers especially.