The February 2020 Children’s Book Roundup is a cracker! There is everything from beautiful narratives to entertaining chapter books to some of the most intricately detailed factual history books – all designed to captivate young minds. Truth be told, this (slightly older) mind was just as engaged as I had the pleasure of reading through these wonderful books, to bring them to you!
Disclosure – these books were provided to Blog of Dad free of charge for the February 2020 Children’s Book Roundup. For further information, please visit my disclosure statement.
A Perfect Little Monster – Penny Morrison
Fang and Iris are off to school, but Iris is very worried about her twin brother. He’s just not a very good monster. He does strange things, like smiling at everyone and sitting quietly during story time. Frankly it is a little embarrassing. Iris tries to teach him how to behave, but he just won’t listen. At least the teacher recognises that Iris acts like a perfect little monster. But at the end of the day, as Iris watches Fang play politely with his new friends, Iris realises that perhaps she could learn a thing or two from Fang.
Heart and Soul – Carol Ann Martin and Tull Suwannakit
Great picture books come in many different forms. Some are funny, some are silly, some are full of wild adventure and some are extraordinary beautiful.
Then there are those which take challenging themes and present them in a way that is respectful and comforting to the young audience. Last month Waiting for Wolf managed to coax a tear from my eye as it tackled loss and death, and now this month Heart and Soul had me chocking back the tears as Hannah and I read it together.
Themes of friendship, loss, aging and difference have been skilfully crafted into this wonderful picture book. Tull Suwannakit’s artwork beautifully conveys emotion and commands the attention of the reader. Heart and Soul is yet another treasure of a picture book that I am thrilled to have on my kids’ bookshelf.
Beetle and Boo – Caitlin Murray
Beetle says she is not scared of anything. She’s not scared of monsters, spiders or the dark. Not ghosts, or bad dreams, or storms. Surely everyone is scared of something. Can Beetle’s bear friend Boo find what she is scared of?
With sweet characters and illustrations, Beetle and Boo is lovely, gentle exploration of fears.
Old MacDonald had a Farm – Matt Shanks
This is another picture book in the series that Matt Shanks illustrates (and Aussie-fies) well-known and well-loved nursery rhymes. Here we have an increasingly frazzled farmer with roo boing-ing, a koala munching, a wombat diging, a cockatoo screeching, a platypus diving, and when the emu is done pecking, well the poor old farmer can only collapse into his comfy chair for a snooze.
Another fun, brightly illustrated addition to the nursery rhyme collection.
Lola Dutch I Love You So Much – Kenneth and Sarah Jane Wright
Lovable Lola is back. When her friends arrive at the breakfast table with a bad case of the grumps, Lola knows just what to do to make each of them feel better. In a flurry of activity she soon has snuggly pyjamas sewn for Gator. She puts together a cosy nook for Crane to read his much loved books. A trip to the park, with snacks, a kite and a wagon, cheers Pig up no end. Everyone is happy. But Lola has forgotten one special friend: Bear. Whatever shall she do for him? What is it that Bear loves most of all?
Lola Dutch I Love You So Much is a beautiful, happy celebration of friendship and great friends.
The Wonderful Wisdom of Ants – Philip Bunting
Philip Bunting has done it again! His picture book repertoire spans both fiction and non-fiction but are always witty, beautifully illustrated and a delight to read. The Wonderful Wisdom of Ants is all of these things and also informative. Did you know that ants love being caught on camera carrying stuff way bigger than they are and do not love kettles? They live in colonies and rely on other ants to gather food, build the nest and raise the next generation of baby ants. We also find out exactly how ants use pheromones to make the most of a patch of donut sprinkles they happen across.
We have a lot we can learn from these marvellous creatures. Love your family. Waste nothing. Recycle whenever possible. Always do your best for those around you.
Wheels – Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock
“Zoomy wheels, vroomy wheels, racing-to-a-fire wheels.
Wheels go fast, wheels go slow. Shout what’s coming, if you know!”
With its fun rhyme and catchy refrain, it is hard not to be drawn in to the simple joy of this book. The style of the bold, bright illustrations complement the text perfectly.
None of this is surprising, if you have already read any of the other books in this construction and vehicle-themed series. We are Dig, Dump, Roll fans from way back!
A is for Ant – DK
This bright little board book is perfect for our family right now. Mr Almost One loves the colourful pages, big pictures, and the chunky board pages (for his chunky hands). Ms Almost 4 loves the big writing, the interesting ant facts, recognising the letter ‘a’ on each page and reading/guessing the ‘a’ word with help from the pictures and telling her brother. Suitable for both our kids in different ways, this book has become a quick pre-bath routine favourite to read with them both.
Aussie Kids: Meet Taj at the Lighthouse – Maxine Beneba Clarke and Nicki Greenberg
Aussie Kids is a new series designed for emerging independent readers. In the eight books there are eight characters, eight stories from all eight states, written by eight pairs of some of Australia’s most loved storytelling authors and illustrators. Each book features a girl or boy from diverse backgrounds celebrating a special day or a visit to the unique place where they live. The books give a peek into other Aussie kids homes and neighbourhoods, meeting their families and friends and exploring the experiences in the lives of other children.
In Meet Taj at the Lighthouse we follow Taj as he moves from overseas to settle in Australia; his excitement and his apprehension. Everything is different and new for Taj in Australia. The sun was a different kind of hot. Even the birds squawked differently. They sound like his aunties and uncles back home, laughing and joking and arguing.
When Taj’s dad gets a job at a small Victorian town’s lighthouse, Taj and his parents move to their new-new home – the lighthouse. As Taj settles in to another new school and joins the surf life saving club and becomes a part of the small town community, the place really does feel like home.
Aussie Kids: Meet Zac and Zoe at the Zoo – Belinda Murrell and David Hardy
Zoe and Zac are twins. Well, not really, but they were born on the same day in the same hospital in Dubbo and now they live next door to each other inside the zoo. Today it’s their seventh birthday and Zoe’s mum is taking them to help at the zoo. Now seven, they are finally old enough to help with the animals! When they feed the lions, the lioness, Amali, is not hungry. After feeding the giraffes and meerkats and mucking out the elephant barn (boy, that’s a lot of poo), they go back to check on Amali. Amali is nowhere to be seen. In to the lion enclosure they go! Finally they find her and she has a surprise – two tiny little lion cubs!
Peppa Pig: Where’s Peppa’s Magical Unicorn? (A lift-the-flap book)
Peppa can’t find her magical unicorn anywhere. Ever helpful, Daddy Pig and Peppa set out to find her. They start with the toy cupboard. (Seems a good place to start.) Not there. Where shall they look next? At a fairy-tale castle! (Not a place we usually look, but then again we haven’t lost a magical unicorn, so I’m not going to judge.) When Peppa spots a rainbow tail poking out of a dragon bush, things are looking up, but, alas, it is just a kite. Next they check at the beach…but find only a mermaid. They follow a rainbow…and only find a pot of gold. (So sad.) It’s time to go home. Magical unicorn will not be found today. Then the doorbell rings. It’s Grandpa Pig with Peppa’s Magical unicorn. She was hiding at their house. Huzzah!
The Bat Book – Charlotte Milner
This is a great series. Each book focuses in depth on a different animal with extensive and engaging illustrations and fascinating facts galore.
In The Bat Book we find out why bats are important and why they are in decline. We sort through some myths and misunderstandings. This is definitely one for Emma to read (with Hannah, I suppose). Perhaps she can overcome her dislike of these incredible creatures.
Eureka! A Story of the Goldfields – Mark Wilson
Australia’s colonial history is fascinating. Unsurprisingly, the goldrush period is particularly abundant with interesting tales. Eureka! draws from some of these real people and events to tell the desperate and brutal story of the Eureka stockade from a child’s perspective. Eureka doesn’t shy away from the death, violence, desperation and racism of the Ballarat goldfields, but it does present it in a way that older children can digest. It is a tricky balance to get right and Mark Wilson has done an admirable job.
Humanimal: Incredible Ways Animals Are Just Like Us – Christopher Lloyd and Mark Ruffle
As humankind relentlessly marches forward, we find ourselves more and more disconnected from the natural world. One only has to look around Sydney at the vast high-rise construction sites to know that children don’t have the same proximity to the natural world that they once did. All that development and disconnect can make us feel a little… different.
Humanimal teaches children that we aren’t so different from animals after all. It cleverly draws parallels between humans and other species in a range of traits that we sometimes regard as uniquely human. Bats form communities, ants farm and milk aphids, ravens play roly-poly down snow-covered hills for the fun of it! There are many, many more surprising and interesting revelations in Humanimal that are sure to stimulate curious minds.
You can find Humanimal: Incredible Ways Animals Are Just Like Us on the Walker website.
The Big History Timeline Wallbook – Christopher Lloyd and Andy Forshaw
I don’t even know where to begin. The title says “big”, but that’s a bit of an understatement. Inside you find a two-metre removable timeline that is so gloriously covered in tiny details that it could take hours of exploration to fully appreciate. The Big History Timeline Wallbook helpfully comes with a magnifying glass, which (I probably don’t need to tell you) is enough to blow the mind of a young reader and quickly immerse them in the act of exploring the timeline. Another fantastic book to engage those wonderful, curious minds!