FOR THE VERY YOUNG
To develop a taste for books, let your tinies sink their gums into the range of Indestructibles—vibrantly coloured cloth books that are nontoxic, chew-proof and completely washable. Choose from a range of simple images, nursery rhymes, and first concepts. As they are also rip-proof, you can save them for later additions to the family. Prices range from $8–$11.95.
Magic Beach by Alison Lester At last, one of past Laureate Lester’s best-known classics is in a toddler-durable format, with a world of imaginary adventures plus rockpools to peer into, and plenty of everyday beachside objects to spot and recognise.($15, BD) Lynndy
Penguin Problems by Jory John (ill) Lane Smith ($25, HB)
From the very front cover we grasp that one particular penguin is different, and that distinction continues throughout the book, with this individual becoming increasingly irritated with his lot. It’s too early, too cold, his flippers ache, the sea is too salty, the others are constantly squawking… The endless complaining is rendered even funnier by Smith’s deadpan illustrations, tipped by a curve of beak and contrast with the other penguins into hilarity. The grouchy young penguin eventually capitulates to advice from a walrus, accepting there are wonderful things in life. But snarkiness has the last word. This should resonate with all, from littlies through to the very oldest reader. Lynndy
The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots by Beatrix Potter (ill) Quentin Blake ($25, HB)
Beatrix Potter originally wrote this tale in 1914, but it seems she abandoned it when her publishers weren’t particularly enthusiastic about it. Manuscripts of the story were discovered in 2013, and it has now been published to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth. Quentin Blake has illustrated it—an illustrator whose style is a real departure from Beatrix Potter’s naturalistic, sensitive watercolour illustrations. Ostensibly that is, but underneath Mr Blake’s wonderfully scratchy pictures lies the same vivacity and tight composition that Beatrix Potter achieved throughout all her books. Kitty is an unusual cat, with a double life—her nocturnal habits are dashing and a little bloodthirsty, and most charmingly, she thinks of herself as Miss Catherine Saint Quintin, a fact that clearly amuses her contemporary illustrator. All care has been taken with this book—it is a larger format than the other Beatrix Potter books (they were designed to be held in a child’s hand), but still has a substantial dust jacket, similar use of large margins, clear type, and a familiar palette. Most endearingly, some of the beloved characters make an appearance, Peter Rabbit and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle most particularly, in a lively reinterpretation of the beloved characters. Highly recommended for 4–adult. Louise
My Brother by Dee, Oliver & Tiffany Huxley ($25, HB)
A book like no other, My Brother was written by the Huxley family to honour their late son, and brother, Morgan. A gentle creature has lost his brother, and he goes on a journey to find him. Wistful black and white pictures depict this journey, with wide white borders, and nearly empty pages with one line of text. The mood is quiet, searching and full of yearning, and the reader looks into the pictures, and watches the little creature’s quest. But something happens after he sleeps, and ‘the darkness is going away’. A band of colour on one page heralds pages suffused with golden, warm light, and a last illustration full of colour and happiness; and the reader becomes part of the pictures, no longer just looking into them. This is a profound book that reflects the difficulty of its subject matter, but it also transcends it, with both its sincerity and the beauty of the book itself—the illustrations and the design of the book are both extraordinary. Very highly recommended. Louise
I Will Not Eat You by Adam Lehrhaupt (ill) Scott Magoon ($25, HB)
Lehrhaupt, award-winning author of Warning! Do Not Open This Book! returns with another crowd-pleasing picture book. Lurking in his cave, Theodore the dragon contemplates the meal possibilities of each passing animal (depicted by Magoon’s clever cartoon-like art). Not until an intrepid boy challenges him with a roar and unexpected reactions does Theodore emerge; then dragon and boy-knight engage in energetic activities. Humour abounds, especially through Magoon’s textured digital art that is suitably dark and bright in turn, and if the story is reminiscent of Joel Stewart’s Dexter Bexley books, we can forgive the homage as this is a fun dragonphile romp. Lynndy
The Lost Property Office by James R. Hannibal ($20, HB)
For this, with no advance copies, I trust our rep’s effusive description. This is an action-filled fantasy adventure through history, complete with mysteries, secret items, codes, and a touch of magic. 13-year-old Jack Buckles is great at finding things, things normal people have long given up on ever seeing again. If only he could find his father, who has disappeared in London without a trace. But Jack’s father was not who he claimed to be. It turns out that he was a member of a secret society of detectives that has served the crown for centuries and his own membership into the Lost Property Office is Jack’s inheritance. Jack will never see his father again unless he uncovers what the nefarious Clockmaker is after: the Ember, which holds a secret that has been kept since the Great Fire of London. Anna
Stories from Stella Street by Elizabeth Honey ($20, PB)
It’s great to see the complete collection of Stella Street stories: 45 + 47 Stella Street, Fiddle-back and The Ballad of Cauldron Bay all back in print. This 21st anniversary edition brings to a new generation the mischief, adventure, and realism of a neighbourhood group of friends, both adults and children. If you’ve not encountered them yet, come and join the gang – you’ll be swept up in their enthusiasm, slightly dangerous exploits, and greatest joys. Lynndy
The Unforgettable What’s His Name by Paul Jennings (ill) Craig Smith ($15, PB)
At the time of writing this no copies were available, so we rely on the publisher for this blurb: ‘Even before all this happened I had never been like the other kids. I tried not to be seen. If I climbed a tree or hid among the bins, no one could find me. ‘Where’s What’s His Name?’ they’d say. Then, one weekend, I got what I wanted. First, I blended in with things. But on the second day I changed. I mean, really changed. The hilarious story of a boy with an unusual problem, from children’s book legend Paul Jennings. Includes fantastic look-and-find colour illustrations.
Podkin One-Ear by Kieren Larwood (ill) David Wyatt ($20, HB)
Described as The Hobbit meets Redwall this first volume in a new series also shares similarities with Erin Hunter’s vast opus The Warriors, here substituting rabbits for cats. Opening with a sensory-laden description of a venerable Bard visiting a rabbit community to celebrate Bramblemas Eve, and share the excitement of little ones awaiting the Midwinter Rabbit’s gifts, the story soon has the Bard succumbing to demands for the story of their rabbit hero, Podkin One-Ear. Decorated with occasional intricate drawings that add a more sinister tone, it’s a tense, adventuresome tale of the rabbit world struggling to maintain their peaceful lives when confronted by mechanised soulless ex-rabbits. The breathless pace of this heroic fantasy is balanced by the dignity found in Tolkein’s stories, and the twist at the end is a slyly playful surprise. Lynndy
FICTION FOR YOUNGER READERS
Sharratt brings the distinctive humour of his many picture books to his first novel: here’s hoping it won’t be his last! In his privileged royal life the king excels at duties such as walking on red carpet and balancing his crown on his head, but it is his twelve servants who do all the castle work, and his cat who supervises absolutely everything – except the dragon-related Unfortunate Incident, which renders them all homeless. The cat and the king go house-hunting, and gradually the ingenious cat adapts their everyday life to mirror the king’s favourite activities in the castle, with varying success. When entrusted with shopping, the king buys only items with ’king size’ or ‘royal’ in the description; and the cat still has to attend to the king’s bath as his majesty knows nothing about taps, or turning them, or bathplugs. And surely there’s something familiar about the villagers who help them… Half text, half illustrations, this is easy enough for newly independent readers and cheeky enough for older readers to enjoy as well, with abundant visual and verbal humour. This debut is a right royal delight, highly recommended. Lynndy
Erica’s Elephant by Sylvia Bishop (ill) Ashley King
From start to finish I loved this book and had I read it as a child, I’d fondly recall it as an adult and track down a copy. Erica is surprised on her 10th birthday by the arrival of an elephant on her doorstep. A gift from her travelling uncle Jeff, the elephant presented many difficulties, yet resourceful Erica did as she always did in trying circumstances: she Got On With Things. Bishop unleashes plenty of humour and glimpses into the mind of the confused pachyderm in this chaotic tale. ($13, PB/ $20, HB) Lynndy
A Pandemonium of Parrots by Kate Baker (ill) Hui Skipp ($30, HB)
An ambush of tigers, a troop of monkeys, a bouquet of hummingbirds: this is a fascinating collection of collective names for each creature, and a fun picture book for the very young. Louise
Because of an Acorn by Lola M Schaefer and Adam Schaefer (ill) Frann Preston-Gannon ($30, HB)
This beautiful book captures all the colour and life of a forest, with warm illustrations full of texture and movement. Close-up pictures of the plants and animals eventually give way to the bigger picture of the forest itself, and well placed die-cut holes provide tantalising glimpses from one page to the next (much like peering through leaves). Simple poetic text shows the connection between the smallest to the biggest things, starting with a single dropped acorn, and ending with a whole forest. Louise
A First Book of Animals by Nicola Davies (ill) Peter Horacek ($30, HB)
Wonderful, colourful illustrations of animals—from butterflies to elephants, and a lively text with interesting vocabulary that’s written to be read aloud. Louise
The Butterfly Garden by Laura Weston ($27, BD)
Another lift-the-flap book, this one with strong black and white illustrations of a garden full of butterflies. Lift the discrete flaps and monarch butterflies lie underneath, depicting the whole of their life cycle.
How Do Flowers Grow? by Katie Daynes (ill) Christine Pym ($20, BD)
Part of the Usborne Lift-the-Flap First Questions and Answer series, this is a charming, detailed book that uses illustrated flaps to answer all kinds of questions. It’s as imaginative as it is informative, especially designed for younger children, with sturdy card pages, and lots of sweet, colourful pictures. What’s more, it was shortlisted for the 2016 Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize. Louise
It Starts With a Seed by Laura Knowles (ill) Jennie Webber ($19.95, HB)
Starting with a tiny seed floating onto the page, we watch as it transforms into a tree. Lovely, naturalist illustrations depict not only the tree, but its roots, and its inhabitants. Louise
Chronologica: The Incredible Years That Defined History by Whitaker’s Almanack
From the foundation of Rome to the creation of the internet, this illustrated compendium focusses on 100 years critical to our history—through individuals, events and inventions. Far from predictable, it’s packed with facts about Alexander the Great, monkeys in space, explorers and rulers, and lesser-known folk such as sculptor Gutzon Borglum. Fascinating! ($35, HB) Lynndy
Atlas of Oddities by Clive Gifford & Tracey Worrall
A splendid companion to Chronologica, exposing some of the weirder elements of human society. The more standard features of an atlas, like geography and population, are enlivened by facts such as the location of the world’s largest photographic studio; Iceland’s banana plantation (who knew?) atop a volcano; desert sand dunes adjacent to snow-topped mountains; and a plethora of other intriguing data. As for underwater pursuits—ice hockey championships and a hotel are just the start. Irresistible to the trivia-hound! ($35, HB) Lynndy
Once again we have a dazzling assortment of spinning tops, handmade in Austria. These do require varying degrees of spinning skills, so try them out first. Prices range from $7–$20.We also have a range of French novelty toys: story torches, miniature click-clack televisions, shadow puppets, footpath chalk, French skipping elastics, mini villages in a box, and kaleidoscopes. Again prices vary from $5–$25.
The very popular Bocchetta Australian animal plush collection is back, with hand size miniatures around $8.
We are keeping up our colour pencil supplies, despite the decline of the colouring book in popularity. Colour pencils never really go out of style, and we stock pencils from Lyra, E-Boo and Micador, each one chosen specifically for its unique properties, whether it’s the durability and creaminess of Lyra’s coloured ‘leads’($1.95 each), the size of the E-Boo Jumbo colours ($14.95), or the versatility of Micador’s paint pens ($19.95).
We have a spectacular flock of hand carved wooden birds, from the German toy company Osterheimer. Ranging in size from the tiniest chick ($8.95) to stately owls ($16.95), the birds are nice on their own, or in a flock on the Osterheimer wooden bird tree ($79.95).
The Colouring Book of Beautiful Gift Boxes: Christmas by Sarah Walsh ($40, HB)
For a truly personal touch, colour the Christmassy designs, remove one of the 48 perforated pages and fold it into a special box to contain surprises and treats. Or the box itself could be a gift—just use pencils or sharpies to decorate it and you have a colourful gift unlike any other.
Australia All Wrapped Up by Alice Oehr ($25, Pack)
Renowned Melbourne designer and graphic artist Oehr has created this great pack to give an unmistakeable Australian touch to your gifts. Our flora and fauna adorn the 12 sheets of wrapping paper; and the pack also includes 12 greeting cards, 12 self-folding envelopes, 2 sheets of stickers, and 24 gift cards. Brilliant value, and suitable for all occasions!
Make Your Own Mini Erasers by Klutz Editors ($27, Pack)
Making mistakes has never been this much fun! Sculpt your very own creations with eraser clay, and then bake them in the oven to make absolutely adorable, slightly squishy erasers that really work. With 8 bright colours of clay and 35 eraser designs to choose from, you’ll never have to worry about making an error again. This kit is fun for the whole family, and gives you scope to create individual gifts that are functional too.
LEGO Pop-Up by Matthew Reinhardt ($40, HB)
Exciting the interest of not only the younger crowd, but also fans of pop-up art, this first LEGO Pop-Up book contains a LEGO adventure, miscellaneous facts, and a whole world of interactive elements as well as the pop-ups created by famed pop-up creator Reinhart. Lynndy
Finally, we always have a collection of delightful advent calendars (with not a chocolate in sight), but don’t forget they need to be on the wall and ready for December the first, for the beginning of Advent. Happy Christmas and happy reading!