Wow! April sure was a great month for new picture books! We have been neck-deep in new releases (which, frankly, is just the way we like it!). And it’s not just the quantity that has been amazing this month. There has been an abundance of brilliant books – stunning images and clever stories have been the order of April. Settle in for the April Picture Book Roundup!
Red House Blue House Green House Tree House! – Jane Godwin and Jane Reiseger
We thoroughly enjoyed Jane Godwin’s The Silver Sea last month and she has certainly drawn us in again with this new release, Red House Blue House Green House Tree House! The text has a rollicking, rhyming rhythm. The pages are filled with bold, vibrant colours, making it fresh and fun. The illustrations have a distinct child-like quality that give a youthful energy and make it instantly relatable. It is the perfect book for reading aloud and sharing with young children as they learn to identify colours. There are little tasks for readers to engage in throughout the story, including spotting a little mouse, hidden on each pair of pages.
I was fascinated to learn that Jane Godwin was inspired to create a children’s book about colour after raising two children with very different experiences of colour – her son, Wil, is colour blind while her daughter, Lizzie, has synaesthesia – a condition where she sees colours in numbers and words.
Red House Blue House Green House Tree House! Is a bright and fun picture book and a new favourite in our house. Enjoy! Remember to keep an eye out for that mouse!
Sophie Johnson: Unicorn Expert – Morag Hood and Ella Okstad
Sophie Johnson is a unicorn expert. She is just bursting with knowledge about all things unicorn. Luckily Sophie has a house full of unicorns – toys, pets and even her baby brother have been endowed with a horn and promoted to unicorn status. But in amongst her messy adventures a real unicorn seems to have slipped in unnoticed!
A comical little story about an endearing little girl and the magic of unicorns.
Cannonball Coralie and the Lion – Grace Easton
A beautiful story or friendship and affection between a talented, adventurous little girl and a kind-hearted circus lion. Coralie is “funny and brave and silly and strange” She lives in to woods and can do all sorts of wonderful things like juggle five squirrels and stand on her head. When the circus comes by she thinks it may be just the place for her. What’s more, Coralie and the lovely circus lion become instant friends. But the circus master is nasty. “Your tricks are not good enough”, he said. When the circus master sends Coralie away, Lion is so sad and angry he lets out a ROAR that blows the circus master away. The circus folk rejoice and join Coralie in the woods to swing and do handstands and juggle together.
A heart-warming tale of being brave, beautiful friendship and discovering you are perfect just the way you are.
When I’m Older – Isa Flory, Neil Flory and Somak Chaudhary
When I’m Older is a unique and warm take on the classic theme of wondering what you might be when you grow up. Full of quirky, funny rhymes, each sentence is accompanied by a representative form constructed from modelling clay.
“I can be a head. I can be a bed. I can be a crocodile playing dead”. A wonderfully silly celebration of wondering who you might become and being happy with who you are. The authors’ and illustrator’s comments at the end of the book are a fun addition.
The Lost Penguin: An Oliver and Patch Story – Claire Freedman and Kate Hindley
Oliver and Ruby and Ruby’s dog patch are the best of friends. Together, the trio go on lots of adventures, but their favourite place to go is the zoo. On this day, the zoo has a new addition, a little rescue penguin called Peep. When Peep goes missing the trio make it their mission to find him. It’s not easy and there are some disagreements along the way, but the friends pull together to bring Peep home.
This picture book is packed with delightfully busy and engaging illustrations. It is a beautiful story of friendship – with its ups and downs – and working together as a team.
This is the second book featuring this wonderful trio. We’ll be sure to check out the first book – Oliver & Patch.
Dig, Dump, Roll – Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock
I’m pretty sure this book is Hannah’s idea of picture book perfection. Big, bold illustrations. Repeated exclamations. Onomatopoeia abounds. Vehicles galore. What a delight! (Hannah is obsessed with vehicles. If there is a garbage truck three streets away, she will have heard it and announced it to everyone in the room.)
The book is filled with engaging, interactive text that asks readers to guess what type of vehicle is at work. The vehicles are illustrated in bold primary colour, so Hannah gets a kick out of not only telling us the vehicle type but each of their colours too. The text itself is a lot of fun to read and repeat – “slam-a-tippa wham-a-slippa What’s at work? Here’s a clue: it will dump out earth for you.” The large font is likely to make it a good early reader for older toddlers learning to read too.
This book will be enjoyed in our household again and again.
Zoom – Sha’an d’Anthes
“Scout is an inventor. An explorer. A dreamer.”
Zoom is a lovely story of Scout’s adventure through space. After breakfast, Scout travels past each of the planets in our solar system. When running low on rocket fuel, Scout calls out for help. Pluto is close by, but before Pluto can respond, the freezing dwarf planet’s sneeze shoots Scout and the rocket all the way back home!
Zoom is a great introduction to the names of the planets (and a recently re-classified dwarf planet!) The illustrations in Zoom are a delight to behold. A mixture of fun and fresh down on earth, contrasted with bold and mysterious in space, the watercolour illustrations in this book are spectacular. The representation of the planets as animals is bound to capture the imagination of young readers.
Sha’an d’Anthes is a talented, young fellow Sydney-sider. (Note the judicious placement of the work “fellow”!) We look forward to seeing more from this young creative.
Kookaburras Love to Laugh – Laura and Philip Bunting
Kookaburras Love to Laugh is a unique take on the age-old theme of finding one’s place. A rather serious kookaburra decides that there is too much tomfoolery amongst his peers. The only logical choice is for him to head out into the world and find the flock to which he truly belongs. That proves to be more challenging than he originally thought…
What I particularly like about this story is that both the kookaburra and his kookaburra friends realise that they need to compromise in order for everyone to feel comfortable and welcome. The importance of compromise and understanding the world view of others is something that can sometimes be missed in these kinds of stories.
Laura and Philip Bunting obviously have great sense of humour. The pictures and words are engaging for both toddlers and their parents. I had a good chuckle at some parts. For Hannah, a book full of pictures of birds is some kind of paradise – she is a little bird obsessed right now.
Drought – Jackie French and Bruce Whatley
Two words – French and Whatley. That should tell you all you need to know about this book.
…You want to know more? Fine.
These two heavyweights of the Australian Children’s book world have once again combined to do what they do best – tell the story of Australia’s harsh environment.
Australia is a beautiful country. Frankly, there is nowhere else in the world that I would rather live. But the reality is that it is also a harsh land and catastrophic natural events are a part of our reality. That can be scary and confronting for children, and it can all seem hopeless and overwhelming, especially when the suffering such events causes is so visible in our media.
What Jackie French and Bruce Whatley do so well is tell the story of these natural disasters in the most beautiful way. The best way that I can describe the whole series is that they are completely respectful of their child audience. They confront the sadness and desperation of the situation, but also show the resilience of people and the best of humanity. The underlying messages are that humanity is kind and generous, and that hope springs eternal – two really powerful points for a child to gain from a book about Australian adversity.
Few picture books leave me with tears in my eye, but I’ll freely admit to welling up at one particular point. Give it a read and you’ll know what I mean.
Like I said – French and Whatley. I knew it was a gem before I had even opened the cover.
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes – Matt Shanks
You know the song. It’s an oldie, but a goodie, and toddlers love it.
In this extended version, children are invited to find some more… unusual body parts. Tails, scales, claws and paws all play a part in this fun take on a well-known song. The pictures are full of joy and feature a variety of native Australian animals.
Just one word of warning, this is definitely a get-up-and join-in kind of book. There is no sitting calmly in a chair and reading together when this one is pulled out. Be prepared to find your scales.
What’s at the End of This Piece of Rope? – Tania Cox and Jedda Robaard
A little girl is curious: “What’s at the end of this piece of rope?” One by one the jungle animals join her to help find out. They pull, tug, humphff and heave until finally – CRASH! So what was at the end of the rope? Join in the jungle fun and find out!
A simple text with a fun repeated refrain. Let your imagination run wild as you look at the cute watercolour illustrations and wonder – what’s at the end of this piece of rope?
Stuff to Know When You Start School – DK
Stuff to Know When You Start School is a guide for toddlers as they prepare to start school, this bright and colourful book addresses topics such as ‘how to be a really good friend’ and ‘ squeaky clean from head to toe’ in a series of engaging, brightly illustrated double-page spreads. It is a lovely book to read with your toddler, to compliment conversations about starting school or preschool and what to expect. Penguin describe it as A survival guide for the busiest job you’ll ever have: being a toddler!
Science Squad – Lisa Burke and Robert Winston
This book is a lovely introduction to the concepts of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Maths). The book starts with a great introduction to STEAM and is followed by a series of fresh and colourful double page spreads about a range of engaging STEAM topics including the water cycle, microlife, simple machines and floating and sinking. Best suited to children aged five to seven years old, Science Squad covers many topics found in a primary school science curriculum is an engaging way. It also includes a glossary of terms that may be new to young readers. That said, Hannah already enjoys this book. The topic-per-double-page format means that we can easily just look at a few topics each time we read it. She enjoys looking at the pictures and many of the topics, such as the weather, plants, animals and using numbers, fit well within her (an many other two-year-old’s) favourite past time – making sense of her surroundings.
What the Fluffy Bunny Said to the Growly Bear – P. Crumble and Chris Saunders
What the Fluffy Bunny Said to the Growly Bear is a cautionary tale of the dangers of poor communication, as demonstrated through the inability of a bunch of furry mates to adequately organise a surprise birthday party for their zebra friend…
With all the confusion caused by the miscommunication, Zebra’s birthday party is bound to be a hilarious event! But you may not see the final twist coming.
Where does a Giraffe go to Bed? – Craig MacLean
Where does a Giraffe go to Bed? No, seriously? When we received this book, I actually had to go and google the answer. Turns out giraffes barely sleep at all. Occasionally they lie on the ground and curl up into the cutest little giraffe ball. That information has nothing to do with this book, I just found it really interesting.
Where does a Giraffe go to Bed? is not a factual exploration of the mysterious sleeping habits of these majestic beasts. It is a fun bedtime book that takes the junior reader through the tried-and-tested format of seeing lots of animals settling into bed for a nice, long sleep. The pictures are cute and Craig Maclean’s answer to the constant question throughout the book “But where does a giraffe go to bed?” is a sweet way to end the story.
Blast Off! – Shelly Unwin and Ben Wood
Blast Off! is an action-packed, fast-paced exploration of our solar system. Shelly Unwin and Ben Wood use a mixture of rhyme, kid-humour and comical pictures to engage young readers in learning the fundamentals of our solar system.
The main characters (including a slightly manic dog) engage in a whirlwind tour of the eight planets of our solar system (does anyone else still feel a bit sorry for Pluto?). They start closest to the sun and work their way out to the great gas and ice giants. Basic facts mixed with plenty of child-centric humour makes Blast Off! an appealing early introduction to the concepts of space.
Bird to Bird – Claire Saxby and Wayne Harris
Bird to Bird is a sweet story of change and reuse. It follows the life of a tree, initially from a seed dropped by a bird, to “forest high”. The tree is then cut down for its wood, and we see the different incarnations of that wood throughout its life.
The wood leaves (what is presumably England) on a convict ship as bunks for convicts. It is then repurposed once it reaches the colonies. The wood from the tree goes on to be reused time after time. As it is reused, it becomes smaller and smaller, until it is eventually, many generations later, crafted into a child’s toy that beautifully replicates the tree’s origin.
Lovely artwork helps young readers to engage with aspects of history, and concepts such as reusing materials – something that they may not be very exposed to normally.
Hide and Seek with Mum – Ed Allen and Laura Wood
Hide and Seek With Mum is a celebration of the pure joy that can be found in the simple act of play between mother and child. This adorable story of hide and seek with mum is a fun one to read with a toddler, who will undoubtedly be a lot better at spotting the mother penguin hiding than the child in the book.
With Mother’s Day just around the corner, Hide and Seek With Mum could make a handy book to have on the shelf.
Grandma is Precious – Laine Mitchell and Alison Edgson
Don’t forget Grandma this Mother’s Day! She deserves a nice book about the special bond between grandmas and their grandchildren. After all, there is no doubt about it – Grandma is precious!
Grandma is Precious shows a variety of different anthropomorphised young animals interacting with their grandmothers in ways that may be familiar to toddlers. The story is simple and the message is just as it should be – I love grandma and grandma loves me!