Amy McQuire: Day Break

Illustrated by Matt Chun

Published by Little Hare Books, Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing, 2021

I remember sitting at the kitchen table the day before Australia Day this year and asking my daughter how she would be spending that annual holiday. Her response was to go to work as usual and take the holiday any other day but that one. It made me pause for a moment and think again about what I had gained at the expense of what others had lost. When we reflect upon Australia Day from the perspective of those whose land this has belonged to for so many tens of thousands of years, then our response to it must also be challenged.

Day Break confronts this uncomfortable truth and tells the story of how one family from three different generations approaches Australia Day.

At school, a young girl learns that January 26 marks the day “that white men discovered our country.” At home, her father tells her that his ancestors were already here for many thousands of years. And Nan says that they will not be celebrating the day by sleeping in or eating fish and chips or going to the beach, instead they will be going back to Country and remembering those who died and lost everything when British settlers came to this land.  

Amy McQuire is a Darumbal and South Sea Islander mother and journalist from Rockhampton in Queensland and in this picture book she has written a narrative not only for her two young children, but for all Aboriginal children so that they can see themselves and their place in Australian history.

The story is a gentle but forceful reminder of what happened more than 200 years ago, the survival of the Indigenous people and their continuing fight for recognition as custodians and owners of this land in the past, present and future.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 4 years and above, and below are more suggestions for picture books which help us to understand Country and what it means to be an Indigenous person in Australia:

My Culture and Me
by Gregg Dreise

I Saw, We Saw
by Yolnu Students of
Nhulunbuy Primary School,
with Ann James and Ann Haddon

Took the Children Away
by Archie Roach
Illustrations by Ruby Hunter

Welcome to Country
by Aunty Joy Murphy
Illustrated by Lisa Kennedy

Sea Country
by Aunty Patsy Cameron
Illustrated by Lisa Kennedy

by Aunty Fay Muir and Sue Lawson Illustrated by Jasmine Seymour

My People by Eddie Betts

Coming Home to Country
by Bronwyn Bancroft

Wilam: a Birrarung Story
by Aunty Joy Murphy
and Andrew Kelly
Illustrated by Lisa Kennedy

Walking in Gagudju Country: exploring the Monsoon Forest
by Diane Lucas and Ben Tyler Illustrated by Emma Long

Baby Business by Jasmine Seymour

Finding Our Heart: a story about the Uluru Statement
for young Australians
by Thomas Mayor
Illustrated by Blak Douglas

Cooee Mittigar:
a story of Darug Songlines
by Jasmine Seymour
Illustrated by
Leanne Mulgo Watson

Sorry Day by Coral Vass
Illustrated by Dub Leffler

My Story by Shirley Purdie

Main Abija: My Grandad
by Karen Rogers

Michael Foreman: Noa and the Little Elephant

Illustrated by the author

Published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2021

Michael Foreman has dedicated this picture book to “all creatures great and small and to the children of the world who will look after them.” It is a wonderful story about conservation, friendship and hope for the future.

In association with Tusk, an African wildlife conservation charity, the story is prefaced by Julius Obwona, a Ranger who works in Uganda protecting wildlife in the Murchison Falls National Park. There is a small photo of Julius and, underneath this, he talks about how he became a ranger and the work being done to protect all the animals in the park. Poaching has had a huge impact on elephant survival, but thanks to constant patrolling within its borders, there is hope for the future with increasing numbers in elephant herds.

In this picture book, Michael Foreman weaves a tender tale about little Noa, a young boy who takes his small boat out on to the river every day after school to catch fish for his family’s supper. Along the riverbanks, Noa encounters an amazing array of wildlife, but he especially loves watching a mother elephant with her baby. One day, Noa discovers the baby beside her mother, lying on the ground, unmoving and with her tusks removed. It is a poignant scene, illustrated in pencil and without colour.

Noa decides to take the baby elephant back to his village and they adopt it as their own, feeding and caring for it, and naming it Tembo.

One night, a terrible storm ravages the village and little Noa finds himself floundering in the river trying to save his boat from the floodwaters. Desperate to reach the safety of land, Noa feels something solid in the water bumping him towards safety…it’s Tembo!

And then little Noa makes a promise, just like Julius the Ranger:

“When I’m older, I will join my dad and the other villagers to make sure that no more elephants are shot. You are my brother. We are all one family living under the same sky, sharing the same world.”

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 3-6 years and below are more picture books about elephants, some are about conservation, most are fictional, and all celebrate this amazing animal:

As Big as You by Sara Acton

Babar the King by Jean de Brunhoff

Elmer and Wilbur by David McKee

There is a Bird on Your Head!
by Mo Willems

I Feel a Foot! by Maranke Rinck Illustrated by
Martijn van der Linden

Ernest the Elephant
by Anthony Browne

Five Minute’s Peace by Jill Murphy

A Piece of Cake by Jill Murphy

A Quiet Night In by Jill Murphy

Have You Seen Elephant?
by David Barrow

How Big Is An Elephant?
by Rossana Bossu

Mr McGee and the Elephants
by Pamela Allen

Mouse in the House by Russell Ayto

A Parade of Elephants
by Kevin Henkes

One Step at a Time by Jane Jolly Illustrated by Sally Heinrich

Where’s Ellie by Salina Yoon

If Elephants Disappeared
by Lily Williams

The Elephant and the Bad Baby
by Elfrida Vipont
Illustrated by Raymond Briggs

My Elephant by Petr Horacek

The Elephant by Jenni Desmond

A Sick Day for Amos McGee
by Philip C. Stead
Illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Strictly No Elephants
by Lisa Mantchev
Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

The Saggy Baggy Elephant by Kathryn Jackson and Byron Jackson Illustrated by Gustav Tenggren

Where’s Baby Elephant?
by Ali Khodai

Horton Hears a Who! by Dr Seuss

I Am Not an Elephant
by Karl Newson
Illustrated by Ross Collins

You Can’t Take an Elephant on the Bus by Patricia Cleveland-Peck Illustrated by David Tazzyman

That’s Not My Elephant
by Fiona Watt
Illustrated by Rachel Wells

In the Shadow of an Elephant
by George Donaghey
Illustrated by Sandra Severgnini

Kate Gordon: Amira’s Magpie

Illustrated by Krista Brennan

Published by Wombat Books, 2021

You can be lucky in life when wild creatures freely come to you. A butterfly might land on your shoulder and rest for just a moment, an echidna might shuffle and snuffle close to your feet looking for food, a rosella might come to the seed bowl you have on the balcony table and feed from it, knowing you are just there. And when we see these creatures up close, it’s hard not to wonder what they are thinking as they go about their business, are we communicating, is there a connection, will they come back?

In this picture book, we meet Amira and she has a magpie that comes to her railing just outside the door, and she has a beautiful description for it:

“His eyes are black pearls. The white on his feathers makes her think, perhaps, he has daubed his wings with paint, to write messages in the sky, love letters to her, because she is his friend.”

The illustrations are soft, mostly black and white and grey, and on one page we see the magpie’s eye magnified, as if it is really seeing Amira and her dreams and hopes. Amira wants to imagine her beautiful magpie soaring through the skies and flying all the way to her home and her grandfather. Amira wants to imagine her grandfather recognising the magpie as a messenger from Amira herself, letting him know that she is okay, that she is growing, that she is thinking of him and can’t wait to see him again one day.

But for the moment, these are all dreams because it seems that Amira is far from her homeland and that her days are closed in by wire fences and dark shadows of detention. So for now, Amira’s favourite colour will be blue, she will dream that her magpie is free and that it will fly back and forth between her homeland and here, singing a song of hope and freedom.

This a wonderful story about hope when days are dark and the future is unclear, Amira, with her black and white cape and soft blue hijab, bravely faces her confinement by holding on to her dreams.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 4-6 years and below are more suggestions for picture books which explore what it means to be a refugee, seek asylum, hope for a better future and hold on to your dreams:

The Red Tree by Shaun Tan

The Wooden Camel
by Wanuri Kahiu
Illustrated by Manuela Adreani

Mia’s Story by Michael Foreman

Spirit of Hope by Bob Graham

The Garden of Hope
by Isabel Otter
Illustrated by Katie Rewse

The Happiness Box
by Mark Greenwood
Illustrated by Andrew McLean

Greta Thunberg
by Isabel Sanchez Vegara Illustrated by Anke Weckmann

Little Lion by Saroo Brierley Illustrated by Bruce Whatley

Little Mole Finds Hope
by Glenys Nellist
Illustrated by Sally Garland

Lost and Found Cat
by Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes Illustrated by Sue Cornelison

Reach for the Stars by Serge Bloch

The Lion and the Bird
by Marianne Dubuc

The Peasant Prince by Li Cunxin Illustrated by Anne Spudvilas

Ziba Came on a Boat
by Liz Lofthouse
Illustrated by Robert Ingpen

Four Feet, Two Sandals
by Karen Lynn Williams
and Khadra Mohammed
Illustrated by Doug Chayka

Refugees and Migrants
by Ceri Roberts
Illustrated by Hanane Kai

My Name is not Refugee
by Kate Milner

The Day War Came
by Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Rebecca Cobb

Running with the Horses
by Alison Lester

Room on our Rock
by Kate and Jol Temple
Illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton

Gleam and Glow by Eve Bunting Illustrated by Peter Sylvada

Alison Binks: 9 things to remember (and one to forget)

Illustrated by the author

Published by Berbay Publishing, Kew East, Victoria, 2021

In the busyness of life, we should be mindful of all those things that are easy to overlook and take for granted, to be still for a moment and think about the small but mighty truths that surround us in our shared world.

In this picture book, we are urged to raise our levels of consciousness and be aware of the complex and connected wonders of life. Whittled down to nine things, we are taken on a slow moving and thoughtful journey to familiar places to look again and see the extraordinary in the ordinary.

If you sleep outside remember that birds wake up very early to sing. Except for the big, swooping kind who’ve been hunting all night. They are just going to sleep.

Remember to watch a pelican as it flies low to the water, never touching the silky waves. Remember to think of the moon pulling the tides in and out as you jump the frothy surf. Remember that there are frogs living deep in the ground waiting patiently for rain even when the ground is hard and dry. Remember that trees can live for more years than we can and be so wide that it takes many hands to reach all the way around them. Remember that the night-time stars can help travellers find their way home.

And the one thing to forget? Your shoes of course, because we all need to take them off sometimes and revel in the feeling of the good green grass beneath our feet.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 3-6 years and below are more suggestions for picture books which encourage us to stop, think and be mindful about the wonderful natural world around us:

Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies Illustrated by Mark Hearld

Bee by Britta Teckentrup

The Big Alfie Out of Doors Storybook by Shirley Hughes

A Butterfly is Patient
by Dianna Hutts Aston
Illustrated by Sylvia Long

My Country by Dorothea Mackellar Illustrated by Andrew McLean

Maisy’s Nature Walk
by Lucy Cousins

Caterpillar Butterfly
by Vivian French
Illustrated by Charlotte Voake

Grandpa’s Gift by Fiona Lumbers

We Are the Gardeners
by Joanna Gaines and kids
Illustrated by Julianna Swaney

Today We Have No Plans
by Jane Godwin
Illustrated by Anna Walker

In The Park by Clare Beaton

The Rainy Day by Anne Milbourne Illustrated by Sarah Gill

Here and Now by Julia Denos Illustrated by E.B. Goodale

Now by Antoinette Portis

Life by Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel

Quiet by Tomi dePaola

Perfect by Danny Parker
Illustrated by Freya Blackwood

Outside In by Deborah Underwood Illustrated by Cindy Derby

Slow Down, World by Tai Snaith

When the Sakura Bloom
by Narisa Togo

Matt Goodfellow: Shu Lin’s Grandpa

Illustrated by Yu Rong

Published by Otter-Barry Books, Great Britain, 2021

Language is so important for communication. If I can’t understand what you are saying to me, then we have to find other pathways to make a connection. That was my experience growing up in an Italian family. I mostly understood the language I was hearing but had difficulty with conversation. My father’s parents did not speak English. I spoke very little Italian. How did we engage with one another? A lot of smiling, a lot of cheeks being pinched, a lot of food being eaten and a lot of card games at the kitchen table. Somehow, we found a way. This picture book has taken me back to my childhood and my relationship with my grandparents.

Shu Lin doesn’t speak English very well and has started school. Not being confident or fluent with the language, Shu Lin finds it hard to make friends and join in the playground games. The other children are not sure about her either, because she’s not talking much and her lunch time food looks different from what they are having for lunch.

One day, the classroom teacher tells her students that Shu Lin’s grandfather would be coming to school to show his paintings. When he comes to the classroom, he does not speak, but he holds everyone’s attention as he reveals a scroll of Chinese painting. In the picture book, the reader also opens up a double page spread, replete with mountains, trees, a river, fields and an awe-inspiring dragon in the clouds. No words are needed. The art itself has transcended the need for verbal communication.

After Shu Lin’s grandfather leaves, the students make their own pictures, inspired by what they have seen and Shu Lin finds a way to communicate without words too, as she expertly holds her brush and draws her own images.

This is a wonderful story about empathy, imagination and the power of art as a medium of expression without the need for words. I can highly recommend it for children 5-8 years and below are more picture books about great artists, art and its potential to cross all boundaries:

Portrait of an Artist: Claude Monet by Lucy Brownridge
Illustrated by
Caroline Bonne-Muller

Who’s in the Picture?
by Susie Brooks

A Canter Through Art History:
Dr Seuss’s Horse Museum
by Dr Seuss

My Name is Georgia
by Jeanette Winter

Edward Hopper Paints His World by Robert Burleigh
Illustrated by Wendell Minor

The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle

Beatrix Potter and Her Paintbox
by David McPhail

Degas and the Little Dancer
by Laurence Anholt

Brush of the Gods by Lenore Look Illustrated by Meilo So

A Splash of Red: The Life & Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse
by Patricia MacLachan
Illustrated by Hadley Hooper

Emily’s Blue Period
by Cathleen Daly
Illustrations by Lisa Brown

It Looked Like Spilt Milk
by Charles G. Shaw

Portrait of an Artist: Frida Khalo
by Lucy Brownridge
Illustrated by Sandra Diekmann

Meet…Sidney Nolan
by Yvonne Mes
Illustrated by Sandra Eterovic

The World is not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid
by Jeanette Winter

Willy’s Pictures by Anthony Browne

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

Katie and the Sunflowers
by James Mayhew

Leslie McGuirk: If Rocks Could Sing – a discovered alphabet

Rock styling and props by the author

Photographs by Denise Ritchie

Published by Tricycle Press, Random House, 2011

“This is a book born from the sea. Some people walk the beach searching for shells, all the while passing by the little rocks that make up this book. This collection began more than 10 years ago, as I discovered rocks on the Florida seashore that looked like letters. It became a real passion of mine to complete the entire alphabet…Finding these letters, and rocks that looked like objects to match them, was a process of believing that anything is possible.”

I love the idea that life has serendipitous moments. Sometimes we are in the right place at just the right time, and what was a dream becomes a reality.

For Leslie McGuirk, it has been her dream to create an alphabet using only the sandstone rocks that she could find by fossicking on the Florida seashore. It’s astonishing that she did! All the letters of the alphabet have been discovered, the end papers revealing the complete set.

We begin with A for addition and move on to B for bird and C for couch potato. Cleverly selected rocks resemble the objects that begin with that letter. There is a ‘rock’ bird in a nest, ‘rock’ numbers for addition and a ‘rock’ couch potato resting on a pink satin chaise lounge.

In some ways, it is just another alphabet book. But in other ways, it is the result of so much looking, patience and hope, and a tribute to one person’s perseverance, perspective, and belief that the project could be completed.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 2-4 years and below are more suggestions for picture books which explore the twenty-six letters of our amazing alphabet:

Eating the Alphabet: Fruit & Vegetables from A to Z
by Lois Ehlert

A is for Angry: an animal and adjective alphabet
by Sandra Boynton

Eric Carle’s ABC by Eric Carle

The Wiggles: Emma’s Ballet Alphabet by The Wiggles

Letters from Australia
by Maree Coote

F is for Fox by DK Publishing Illustrated by Marc Pattenden

Flora Forager ABC
by Bridget Beth Collins

A-Z of Australian Animals
by Jennifer Cossins

A is for Atom: a Midcentury Alphabet by Greg Paprocki

A to Z Story of Australian Animals by Sally Morgan
Illustrated by Bronwyn Bancroft

Alpha by Isabelle Arsenault

Black and White Rabbit’s ABC
by Alan Baker

An Alphabet of Stories
by Oliver Jeffers

Lucy & Tom’s ABC
by Shirley Hughes

Once Upon an ABC
by Sophie Masson
Illustrated by Chris Nielsen

A by Paul Thurlby

ABC Alphabet by Chihiro Takeuchi

Alison Lester’s ABC by Alison Lester

M is for Mutiny: History by Alphabet by John Dickson Illustrated by Bern Emmericks

Mog’s ABC by Judith Kerr

Lucy Cousins: Let’s Play Monsters!

Illustrated by the author

Published by Walker Books, Great Britain, 2020

The colours are so vibrant in this gorgeous picture book. Little Gabriel is three years old and he wants to play a game with monsters. We meet his family one by one as Gabriel grabs them by the hand and calls out in a repeated sing-song refrain:

Come on, Josie, I WANT TO PLAY! You chase me and I’ll run away.

Young Josie, wearing a green polka-dot shirt and green trousers, becomes a hungry beast who is green and scary (but not really!) with sharp pointy teeth. Like the gingerbread man, little Gabriel runs away as fast as he can, that munching, crunching monster won’t catch him!

Uncle Rufus is next, wearing a broad rimmed hat and pink swirly shirt, soon to become a rampaging monster, with a big grin, horns like a cow and a pink twirly tail like a pig. Watch out Gabriel, he might catch you!

Nonna might play if Gabriel tugs her hand just right, and she becomes a schloping, schlurping pink monster made of jelly and laughs with enormous round eyes, all the better to chase Gabriel as he runs away.

Kitty Cat and Flower join the chase too, but it’s Mummy with her woollen jumper and zig-zag stripes who becomes a gobbling monster with spikes on her back and jaggedy teeth that likes to eat little boys, especially their toes and noses, and she joins the chase.

You can just hear little Gabriel’s infectious laughter as all his family joins in the fun, pretending and imagining, chasing and growling, with smiles and love. It’s bedtime all too soon and monster mum does what no-one else can do, the tables are turned:

Now you be a monster with a funny green head, who is tired and sleepy and ready for bed. Monster kisses, one, two, three, I love you and you love me.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 2-4 years old, the illustrations are endearing, the rhyming text bounces the story along, and little Gabriel will steal your heart away!

Below are more suggestions for picture books about monsters, in all shapes and sizes, some scary and others not so much, some familiar and some new, some funny and some cute, but all of them imaginary, because there are no such things as monsters, right?

Not Now, Bernard by David McKee

Blue Monster Wants It All!
by Jeanne Willis
Illustrated by Jeni Desmond

The Color Monster,
A Pop-Up Book of Feelings
by Anna Llenas

That’s Not My Monster…
by Fiona Watt
Illustrated by Rachel Wells

Quit Calling Me A Monster!
by Jory John
Illustrated by Bob Shea

The Wardrobe Monster
by Bryony Thomson

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

Alphonse, This Is Not Ok To Do!
by Daisy Hurst

Monsters Love Underpants
by Claire Freedman
Illustrated by Ben Cort

The Giant Jumperee
by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak

Beware the Monster!
by Michael Escoffier
Illustrated by Amandine Piu

Big Sister, Little Monster
by Andria Rosenbaum
Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

Leonardo the Terrible Monster
by Mo Willems

Go Away, Big Green Monster!
by Ed Emberley

Bedtime for Monsters by Ed Vere

Shrek by William Steig

Glad Monster, Sad Monster
by Ed Emberley
Illustrated by Anne Miranda

If You’re Monster Won’t Go To Bed by Denise Vega
Illustrated by Zachariah Ohora

If You’re a Monster
and You Know It
by Rebecca Emberley
Illustrated by Ed Emberley

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Illustrated by Ron Dias
and Ric Gonzalez

Jack and the Beanstalk by E. Nesbit Illustrated by Matt Tavares

Goodnight, Little Monster
by Ian Whybrow
Illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max

Gabby Dawnay: If I had an Octopus

Illustrated by Alex Barrow

Published by Thames & Hudson, London, 2021

Anything with eight legs is bound to capture the imagination. Octopuses are one of the marvels of the animal world with a swathe of fascinating features to amaze, impress and scare us, just a little bit.

The front cover of this picture book is very inviting. The cute little girl reminds me a bit of Madeleine with her blue dress and jaunty yellow hat. One half of the smiling orange octopus has four tentacles that curl around her and if you check out the back cover, the rest of its body curls around the blurb. Not scary at all.

The opening lines require some mental gymnastics as you replace pictures with words, which is great for young ones who cannot yet read because they can jump in with their own general knowledge and fill in the textual gaps.

The rhyming text bounces along quite merrily making it easy to learn that an octopus can do amazing things, like squeeze into tiny spaces, squirt black ink, camouflage itself, and that it has three hearts. Of course, it can do other things too, like cook, paint, play the drums and ball games, but perhaps that would be the start of another conversation sorting through fact from fiction.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 3-6 years and below are more picture books which feature this amazing creature, some are fun, some are fictional, who knew there were so many?

Octopuses: One to Ten
by Ellen Jackson
Illustrated by Robin Page

Fourteen Animals That Are Definitely Not an Octopus
by Gabe Pyle

No Place for an Octopus
by Claire Zorn

An Octopus Came for Tea
by Nadia Mulara

Octopus Socktopus
by Nick Sharratt

Could an Octopus Climb a Skyscraper?
by Camilla de la Bedoyere Illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff

Emile by Tomi Ungerer

Octopus Alone by Divya Srinivasan

Leo and the Octopus
by Isabelle Marinov
Illustrated by Chris Nixon

The Mermaid by Jan Brett

Miss Kraken by Nicki Greenberg

O is for Octopus by DK Publishing Illustrated by Kaja Kajfez

Octopus Shocktopus!
by Peter Bently
Illustrated by Steve Lenton

Thank you, Octopus
by Darren Farrell

Do You Really Want to
Meet an Octopus?
by Cari Meister
Illustrated by Daniele Fabbri

Oswald by Dan Yaccarino

Melissa’s Octopus and
Other Unsuitable Pets
by Charlotte Voake

An Octopus Followed Me Home
by Dan Yaccarino

Wiggle Like An Octopus
by Harriet Ziefert
Illustrated by Simms Taback

The Octopus’s Garden
by Dr Mark Norman

Octopants by Suzy Senior

Margaret Wise Brown: The Runaway Bunny

Illustrated by Clement Hurd

Published by Harper & Row, New York, 1991

Some of us accomplish so much in a lifetime. Margaret Wise Brown was only 42 when she died, an artist and teacher from Brooklyn, New York. Fortunately, she left behind many manuscripts, some published in her lifetime and many published posthumously. This story by her, written in 1942, is one of my favourites.

The edition I have is a small board book, just right for reading, snuggled up on the couch with a little bunny of your own. You know it’s going to be an adventure because the little bunny in this story wants to run away from his mother. The mother, however, is prepared for the challenge and you can soon feel the enormous love she has for her bunny, a love that will span and overcome all kinds of distances and obstacles.

Each time the little bunny talks about how he is going to run away, the mother explains how she will find him again. We see their conversation with black and white illustrations and then, turning the page, we see the mother bunny in glorious colour becoming and doing all the things she needs to do, to find her bunny again.

The push and pull of childhood independence and motherly unconditional love gives a wonderful rhythm to the story and ultimately a sense of security and trust in the never-ending and powerful bond between mother and child.

It’s all quite majestic until the very last page when the little bunny admits that he will never really be able to run away from his mother because she will always find him. How he responds always makes me laugh…food fixes everything!

“Shucks,” said the bunny, “I might just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.” And so he did. “Have a carrot,” said the mother bunny.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 2-4 years and below are more suggestions for books about mothers, their children and the bonds that tie them together:

by Emma Dodd

Mama, Will I Be Yours Forever?
by Anna Pignataro

Hand in Hand
by Rosemary Wells

Say It!
by Charlotte Zolotow
Illustrated by Charlotte Voake

I Promise
by David McPhail

I Want My Mum
by Tony Ross

I Would Dangle the Moon
by Amber Moffat

The Kiss Box
by Bonnie Verburg
Illustrated by Henry Cole

Loving Hands
by Tony Johnston
Illustrated by Amy June Bates

Tell Me the Day Backwards
by Albert Lamb
Illustrated by David McPhail

Mummy Time
by Judith Kerr

There’s No One I Love Like You
by Jutta Langreuter
Illustrated by Stephanie Dahle

by Alison Meghee
Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

No Matter What
by Debi Gliori

Like the Moon Loves the Sky
by Hena Khan
Illustrated by Saffa Khan

Guess How Much I Love You
by Sam McBratney
Illustrated by Anita Jeram

The Kissing Hand
by Audrey Penn
Illustrated by Ruth E. Harper
& Nancy M. Leak

Wild About Mums
by Philip Bunting

Counting On You
by Corinne Fenton
Illustrated by Robin Cowcher

Lynley Dodd: A Dragon in a Wagon

Illustrated by the author

First published by Puffin, 1988

Today is one of those days for lying down on the grass and looking up at the clouds and imagining what all the shapes could be. I can’t remember the last time I did that. Lynley Dodd’s little board book has nudged me in that direction this afternoon and I find myself looking out of the window and letting my mind wander around wishes and things that might be. 

In this little board book, Susie Fogg has taken Sam her dog for a walk along Jackson’s Stream. While she is there, with the lead in her hand and the grass and trees all around, her mind wanders and she wishes and imagines just what it might be like if Sam was something more than a dog.

“Sam,” she said,

You’re very good,

you never bark or bite.

The holes you dig

are not TOO big,

and you’re always home

at night.

But just this once

it might be fun

if you changed from dog,” she said.

“To something HUGE

or something FIERCE

or something ODD


After these lively, bouncing, rhyming words we follow Susie and all her various imaginative transformations of Sam. He is a dragon in a wagon, a bat with a hat, a whale in a pail, a chimp with a limp, a shark in the dark and more!

But after tripping over a mossy log, Susie is glad to find her beloved Sam right there beside her. After all, we could wish our lives away and never truly appreciate what we have already.

Lynley Dodd is best known for her award-winning picture books about Hairy Maclary and his friends: Slinky Malinki, Scarface Claw, Schnitzel von Krumm and others. From New Zealand, her picture books have been loved and celebrated around the world and have sold millions of copies.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 3-6 years, and below are more suggestions for picture books which explore using your imagination, making wishes, and asking yourself the intriguing “What if…?” question:

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
by Laura Joffe Numeroff
Illustrated by Felicia Bond

All I Said Was
by Michael Morpurgo
Illustrated by Ross Collins

A Bear-y Tale
by Anthony Browne

Captain Jack and the Pirates
by Peter Bently
Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Not A Stick by Antoinette Portis

Gerald the Lion by Jessica Souhami

I Am A Tiger by Karl Newson Illustrated by Ross Collins

I Wish That I Had Duck Feet
by Dr Seuss, Theo LeSieg Illustrated by Barney Tobey

Imagine by Alison Lester

Would You Rather
by John Burningham

If I Had a Raptor
by George O’Connor

Not Just a Book
by Jeanne Willis
Illustrated by Tony Ross

Journey by Aaron Becker

The Something by Rebecca Cobb

Harold and the Purple Crayon
by Crockett Johnson

Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak

If I Had a Horse by Gianna Marino

My Elephant by Petr Horacek

If I Had a Unicorn
by Gabby Dawnay
Illustrated by Alex Barrow

If I Had an Octopus
by Gabby Dawnay
Illustrated by Alex Barrow