Lauren Child: The Goody

Illustrated by the author

Published by Orchard Books, Hachette Children’s Group, 2020

I have read this picture book many times now and I still don’t know where to start. It’s not that I don’t like it, because I actually love it. And it’s not that I don’t have any thoughts about it, because I probably have too many, long after reading it.

Chirton Krauss (what a name!) is the main character and he is the very goodest goody. He is obliging, always eating his broccoli, even though it is his least favourite food. He has good manners, never picking his nose, even when he knows for sure that no-one is looking. He is kind, cleaning out the rabbit’s hutch once a week, even though his sister Myrtle should do it every other week.

Chirton’s parents are so happy with him, that they give him a Goody Badge. Now everyone knows and can never forget that Chirton is a goody. And then in red letters, like a commentary, we read:

If people have decided you are good, do not disappoint them by being bad.

So instead of this feeling of lightness that being good should bring, there is now an unsettling undercurrent of doubt. Where does goodness come from and should we continue being good for our own benefit or because of the expectations of others?

Myrtle, Chirton’s sister, seems to have things all worked out and is riding the wave of life on the back of her brother’s goodness. Myrtle is not invited to parties because she is not a good child, she isn’t made to eat vegetables she doesn’t like, and she is not expected to do her share of the cleaning of the rabbit’s hutch. And in red letters, we are informed:

That is lucky, isn’t it?

So instead of accepting the status quo, we are now thinking that life can be unfair for those who least deserve it.

When Chirton discovers his sister staying up late one night eating choco puffs and watching TV, simply because the babysitter can’t convince Myrtle to go to bed, it feels like that is one straw too many for a Goody to accept. Chirton finally asks himself:

What is so GOOD about being a Goody?

So, you see, the story is complicated, and it is not even finished! It throws up questions about why we do what we do, how our behaviour impacts others, why expectations are so hard to live up to, what is fair and what is not fair, and that sometimes you can be kind and nice just because it feels good when you are kind and nice. And the world needs more people who are trying to be good, don’t you think?

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 4-8 years, it could be the starting point for long talks about what being good means and that could be applied to children and adults alike. Below are more suggestions for picture books which explore the themes of good and bad behaviour:

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller Illustrated by Jen Hill

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
by Judith Viorst
Illustrated by Ray Cruz

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson Illustrated by Tara Calahan King

Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak

Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild!
by Mem Fox
Illustrated by Marla Frazee

Words Are Not for Hurting by Elizabeth Verdick
Illustrated by Marieka Heinlen

Llama Llama and the Bully Goat by Anna Dewdney

Don’t Want To Go!
by Shirley Hughes

It’s Okay to Make Mistakes
by Todd Parr

Leonardo the Terrible Monster
by Mo Willems

Should I Share My Ice Cream?
by Mo Willems

What Have You Done, Davy?
by Brigitte Weninger
Illustrated by Eve Tharlet

No, David! by David Shannon

Erandi’s Braids
by Antonio Hernandez Madrigal
Illustrated by Tomie dePaola

Piggybook by Anthony Browne

When Mum Turned Into A Monster by Joanna Harrison

Rose Meets Mr Wintergarten
by Bob Graham

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

Because Amelia Smiled
by David Ezra Stein

Briony Stewart: We Love You, Magoo

Illustrated by the author

Published by Puffin Books, Penguin Random House, 2020

The engaging cover of this picture book just begs you to pick it up, and when you do, the story begins dramatically with no end papers to rustle through. Magoo, the silliest dogoo, is already into mischief on the first page. Lapping up eggs that are just waiting to be eaten, chewing teddy bears that should only be cuddled, scratching up doors that are barring his way in, drinking toilet water in the bowl…well, why not? It’s a pretty colour of blue! Like a cheeky toddler, Magoo manages to cause mayhem and mischief everywhere he goes, in the most endearing way.

Each time Magoo does something he shouldn’t, his adult owners show him what he can do. But being good is never quite as fun! The repeated refrain, “No, Magoo. This is for you,” is easy to learn and young readers will delight in yelling it out when Magoo is especially naughty.

The gentle rhyming text, the thick glossy paper, the wonderful illustrations and the charming character of Magoo himself all combine to make this an easy, breezy read. The end of the story is a happy one too, there is finally a YES for cheeky Magoo!

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 2-4 years and below are more of my favorite picture books featuring dogs:

Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton

My Dog Bigsy by Alison Lester

Bark, George by Jules Feiffer

Angus and the Cat
by Margorie Flack

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd

How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Dogs? by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Mark Teague

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp

Charlie Star by Terry Milne

Kipper and Roly by Mick Inkpen

Mr Scruff by Simon James

Dog on the Tuckerbox
by Corinne Fenton
Illustrated by Peter Gouldthorpe

Spot Goes to the Farm
by Eric Hill

The Hospital Dog
by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Sarah Ogilvie

Perdu by Richard Jones

Raymond by Yann &
Gwendal Le Bec

My Little Golden Book About Dogs by Lori Haskins Houran

Philip Bunting: Who Am I?

Illustrated by the author

Published by Omnibus Books, Scholastic Australia, 2020

I wish someone had given me this book to read when my children were young and wondering about concepts that were difficult to explain. Asking simple questions and giving thoughtful responses, Philip Bunting tackles some of the most profound questions we can ask ourselves at any age, starting with: Who am I?

This picture book begins and ends with rainbow end papers, and in the middle we discover that human beings are more than just their names or the stuff they own or their gender. We are even more than the colour of our skin or the way we think and feel. All of us are just people, one of many “pootling around” on a vast earth orbiting a sun in an infinite universe.

That could be scary for some, but ultimately our uniqueness, individuality and humanity can be the stuff that helps us to connect with one another, across all the things that outwardly make us feel different.

Each question is posed on a different coloured background on the left page with a corresponding answer underneath. On the page opposite there is an illustration to help explain the idea. As always with Philip Bunting, there is gentle humour in the text, with a “humourless jellyfish” appearing on the skeleton page and a note in the small print about guts and stuff suggesting that the bladder is not the organ of consciousness!

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 4-8 years, it’s a thoughtful introduction for discussions which promote philosophical ideas about identity, self-love, self-perception and inclusivity. Below are more suggested picture book reads that cover similar themes, both humorously and seriously:

Avocado Asks by Momoko Abe

Be More Bernard by Simon Philip Illustrated by Kate Hindley

I am NOT an Elephant
by Karl Newson
Illustrated by Ross Collins

I Am Enough by Grace Byers Illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo

We’re All Wonders by R.J.Palacio

Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal

I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont Illustrated by David Catrow

It’s Okay to be Different
by Todd Parr

The Day You Begin
by Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrated by Rafael Lopez

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

Under My Hijab by Hena Khan Illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel

Thelma the Unicorn
by Aaron Blabey

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox Illustrated by Leslie Staub

Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival

10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert Illustrated by Rex Ray

Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt Illustrated by Selina Alko
and Sean Qualls

Mary Wears What She Wants
by Keith Negley

Neither by Airlie Anderson

Moira Court: At the Dog Park

Illustrated by the author

Published by Fremantle Press, WA, 2020

My son and I have been going for long walks in the morning just about every day of the week. Our goal is to visit the lakes nearby and say hullo to the ducks and satisfy ourselves that all is well with them and their babies. On the way we pass two big parks, sometimes home to cricket, football or soccer games, but mostly we see people with their dogs. Fortunately, the parks are enclosed, and the dogs make the most of this by running around wildly chasing balls and each other. Like liquorice, there are all sorts, shaggy and smooth, fast and slow, black and white.

This picture book has an abundance of dogs in all shapes and sizes. They are wonderfully crafted out of paper. Moira Court is an artist who works in print making, creating her images using her own prints. The result is so life-like that you could name all the breeds if you were that clever.

Each double spread has an image of two dogs which have opposite attributes: one is noisy and the other is quiet, one is clean and the other is grubby, one is idle and the other is busy. They are placed on a green grassy background, but each double spread has a different kind of green texture, pattern and hue. An added reading bonus is that each couplet rhymes and you can hear the gentle rhythm of the text as you read it aloud.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 2-4 years as well as for anyone who loves dogs and paper in equal amounts! Below are some of my favorite picture books about dogs:

Dogs by Emily Gravett

Charley’s First Night by Amy Hest Ilustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion Illustrated by Margaret B. Graham

It’s a Dog’s Life
by Michael Morpurgo
Illustrated by Patrick Benson

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka

Fetch by Jorey Hurley

The Detective Dog
by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie

Dogger by Shirley Hughes

Bob the Railway Dog
by Corinne Fenton
Illustrated by Andrew McLean

The Pocket Dogs by Margaret Wild Illustrated by Stephen M. King

Dog on a Train
by Kate Prendergast

The Perfect Guest by Paula Metcalf

McDuff and the Baby
by Rosemary Wells
Illustrated by Susan Jeffers

My Friend Fred by Frances Watts Illustrated by A. Yi

Charlie and Lola: A Dog with Nice Ears by Lauren Child

‘Let’s Get a Pup!” by Bob Graham

If You Give a Dog a Donut
by Laura Numeroff
Illustrated by Felicia Bond

Cheyney McDonnell: Thank you for feeding Freckle

Illustrated by the author

Published by Five Mile, 2020

While the children were growing up, we had a variety of small pets that became part of the family. Hermit crabs, goldfish, guinea pigs and one very large dwarf rabbit called Muffin. She was white, fluffy, adorable and not very smart! Having them looked after while we were on holidays was always on the list of things to do before we headed off to distant hills.

More recently I have had the privilege of looking after a young friend’s strawberry plant (Uncle Barry) while he was on holiday with his family. I was impressed when I received a short note explaining how to care for Uncle Barry. Plants, like animals, need water, sunshine, attention and just the right amount of water and food.

This interactive picture book by Cheyney Mc Donnell is all about looking after Freckle the cat and the reader is the care giver. The dates are marked on the calendar and the house is at the end of a windy road you can trace with your finger.

The key to the house is under the flowerpot and you use it to open the green door. It’s so dark inside that the reader has to clap their hands two times to turn on the light. Freckle’s food is in the cupboard and with the help of some clever flaps and folds, it goes into the bowl for Freckle to eat. Freckle needs a sleep after lunch and afterwards it’s time to play with toys before putting them all away again. Before you go, you just might see where Freckle’s freckle is! And don’t forget to clap two times again to turn off the lights.

The format of this picture book is just right for little hands and the pages are made of thick, durable paper that won’t tear easily while all the flaps and folds are investigated. The illustrations are clear and uncomplicated, complimenting the text and reinforcing the written instructions, which are expressed with kindness and care.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 1-4 years and below are more suggestions for picture books that encourage physical and imaginative interactivity which is especially helpful for young readers with lots of energy:

How Many Bugs in a Box? A Pop Up Counting Book by David Carter

Tap the Magic Tree
by Christie Matheson

Press Here by Herve Tullet

Wiggle by Doreen Cronin Illustrated by Scott Menchin

I Spy Little Bunnies Jean Marzollo Illustrated by Walter Wick

This Book Just Stole My Cat
by Richard Byrne

The Game of Finger Worms
by Herve Tullet

Plant the Tiny Seed
by Christie Matheson

Mix It Up by Herve Tullet

The Pop-Up Dear Zoo
by Rod Campbell

Don’t Wake the Dragon
by Bianca Schulze
Illustrated by Samara Hardy

Good Morning Yoga: a Pose by Pose Wake Up Story
by Mariam Gates
Illustrated by Sarah Jane Hindler

From Head to Toe by Eric Carle

Animal Alphabet: Slide and Seek the ABC’s by Alex Lluch

Don’t Wake Up the Tiger
by Britta Teckentrup

Pete’s A Pizza by William Steig

Bunny Slopes by Claudia Rueda

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

Captain Sir Tom Moore: One Hundred Steps

Illustrated by Adam Larkum

Published by Puffin Books, Penguin Random House, London, 2020

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” Christopher Reeve

This wonderful picture book is about Tom Moore and his pledge to walk 100 lengths of his garden before his 100th birthday to raise funds for all the NHS health workers in the UK. I remember seeing him on TV being knighted by the Queen and thinking that here were two people facing each other, similar in age, having witnessed and lived through almost 100 years of world history. One was royalty and the other an ordinary individual. Both, in their own ways, making and leaving their marks on the world.

Simply by walking, and declaring his intent to raise money, Tom Moore garnered the attention of the world, and reinforced the idea that you are never too old to have an adventure, make a difference and be the change that you would like to see.

In this picture book, the story of Tom’s life is told humbly, and with a sense of humour, and reflects a time gone by when the world was quite a different place. We learn about his love of cooking with his beloved mum and Tom’s passion for racing and riding motorbikes. Tom was 19 when WWII was declared, and he was sent to Burma when he joined up. Fortunately, Tom came home from the war and met Pamela, together they began the next stage of life’s adventures and soon had children of their own. There were many ups and downs, but family and love sustained him through it all. Even in his 90s, Tom made the trip to see Mt Everest, a long-held dream that finally became a reality for him.

Adam Larkum has illustrated this story with gentle humour and grace, enhancing the text and giving us an almost photographic glimpse of the world that Tom knew and lived. Scattered through the story are Tom’s pearls of wisdom:

“The first step is always the hardest, but unless you take that first step, you’ll never finish.”

You can do and be anything you want.”

“For those finding it difficult: the sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away. Remember that tomorrow will be a good day.”

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 4-8 years and below I have suggested other picture book biographies that have inspired me:

The Watcher by Jeanette Winter

On a Beam of Light
by Jennifer Berne
Illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky

One Plastic Bag by Miranda Paul Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

Born to Fly by Beverley McWilliams Illustrated by Timothy Ide

Wednesday is Jim Day
by Catherine McLeod
Illustrated by Andrea Radley

So She Did: the Story of Mary Wirth by Simi Genziuk
Illustrated by Renee Treml

Miss Franklin by Libby Hathorn Illustrated by Phil Lesnie

Anne Frank by
Ma Isabel Sanchez Vegara Illustrated by Svetlana Dorosheva

The Little Stowaway by Vicki Bennett
Illustrated by Tull Suwannakit

Ada’s Ideas by Fiona Robinson

What Miss Mitchell Saw
by Hayley Barrett
Illustrated by Diana Sudyka

Brush of the Gods by Lenore Look Illustrated by Meilo So

Marco Polo by Demi

Marie Curie by Demi

Ned Kelly by Mark Greenwood Illustrated by Frane Lessac

24819508. sx318
Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Philip Bunting: Give Me Some Space!

Illustrated by the author

Published by Omnibus Books, Scholastic Australia, NSW, 2020

A dear friend recommended watching a short YouTube video of Carl Sagan talking about The Pale Blue Dot. In less than 4 minutes, while listening to Carl’s mesmerising voice, the enormity of the universe and our miniscule place in it overwhelmed me. Our vast, diverse world is so small compared to the infinite universe in which we move, spin and exist.

Bringing all of that largeness into a picture book, Philip Bunting has focussed on the cosmic details, the planets in our solar system and how space affects our individual lives, all through the character of young Una.

Una loves space. While she waits to become an astronaut one day, Una makes plans for her first imaginary mission into space to find life and maybe a planet better than Earth! When Una rockets into space, we journey with her through the Solar System learning fun, interesting facts about the planets, travelling all the way to Pluto tucked away in the Kuiper Belt. It is only when Una is as far from Earth as she can be, that she realises the shimmering blue dot in the far distance is actually Earth and that there is no place like it. This unique planet contains all the elements which sustains life: air, water, space, food and living organisms.

“We are all travelling through space, right now! The Earth is our spaceship and it’s the only home we’ve got. It is our mission to take care of the Earth so that we can explore the Universe for light years to come.”

You are so right Una.

Stop Press! Here is some information that I found on Philip Bunting’s website, if you are keen, register for this free event:

On May 19th 2021 (11am AEST), this book will be read simultaneously to over 1 million children across Australia and New Zealand. Better still, Give Me Some Space! will be read live… by an astronaut… from the International Space Station!

For those of us on the ground, I can highly recommend this picture book for children 4-8 years and space enthusiasts of any age. Below are more suggestions for picture books about space:

Life On Mars by Jon Agee

The Way Back Home
by Oliver Jeffers

Toys in Space by Mini Grey

Astro Girl by Ken Wilson-Max

Let’s Go into Space!
by Petr Horacek

Pete the Cat Out of This World
by James Dean

Eight Days Gone
by Linda McReynolds
Illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke

Tiny Little Rocket
by Richard Collingridge

Field Trip to the Moon by John Hare

The First Hippo on the Moon
by David Walliams
Illustrated by Tony Ross

Maisy’s Moon Landing
by Lucy Cousins

There’s No Place Like Space!
by Tish Rabe
Illustrated by Aristides Ruiz

Charles Santoso: Happy Hippo

Illustrated by the author

Published by Scholastic Press, Scholastic Australia, NSW, 2020

You have probably heard that the grass grows greener on the other side of the fence, and you may have also been cautioned to be careful what you wish for. In a world where upended turtles can grant you nine wishes, it would be wise to keep these nuggets of wisdom in mind.

While looking at his reflection in a pond one day, Hippo wishes that there was quite a lot more to what he could see there. I can relate to that! Our reflections don’t always add up to the sum of who we think we are or how we would like to look. When Turtle grants Hippo nine wishes, Hippo eagerly makes the first change and adds a vibrant green shell to his back. Soon, there’s a gorgeous yellow mane, then a handsome long neck, throw in a handy terrific trunk and many more clever and useful additions…and you have a problem! Hippo has gone too far, and he finally realises that all these wonderful attributes on one body are too much trouble. Hippo just wants to be himself again. Fortunately for Hippo, he has one wish left, but what will he do with it?

This is an easy story for younger readers, the illustrations are bright, cute and enhance the text. The story has multiple themes that might help begin a discussion about what it means to be you, appreciating strengths and weaknesses in yourself and others, acceptance and self-love, being open to change and imagining what could be different in your life.

Here are a few more suggestions about picture books where animals take on the characteristics of other animals and become all mixed up. As well, I have included a few stories where animals change as they grow and even become more than what they thought they could ever be:

Crocopotamus by Mary Murphy

Giraffes Can’t Dance
by Giles Andreae
Illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees

The Mixed-Up Chameleon
by Eric Carle

Now You See Me Now You Don’t
by Patricia Hegarty
Illustrated by Jonny Lambert

A Colour of His Own by Leo Lionni

The Ugly Duckling by Jerry Pinkney

Picken by Mary Murphy

Cock-A-Doodle Moooo!
by Keith DuQuette

Animals with Tiny Cat
by Viviane Schwarz

Corinne Fenton: One Lone Swallow

Illustrated by Owen Swan

Published by New Frontier Publishing, NSW, 2020

I have been fortunate to visit Italy and stay a few days in Florence. Standing on the rooftop of the hotel one night, we saw great plumes of birds weaving, swirling and soaring in the dusky, velvet afternoon sky. The birds were flying swiftly, and as one, with choreographed elegance over rooftops, dome and piazzas. They reminded me of the great shoals of fish in the ocean, but these birds were pirouetting not in the deep water, but gracefully flying in the autumnal air.

Corinne Fenton’s picture book about one lone swallow has taken me straight back to that magical moment. Beginning with the peel of bells, one lone swallow embarks on a search for her mate who has not returned to their shared nest. Over Brunelleschi’s dome, through cobblestoned streets, under bridges, through arches and over piazzas, the lone swallow searches for him. Finally, at the feet of the massive statue of David, the swallow finds him tangled in shoemaker’s twine. But can she save him before danger arrives?

Using a limited colour palette of browns, greys, purples and blues, Owen Swan has evoked the magic of Italy in this beautifully illustrated picture book. The story itself is elegant and poetic, giving the reader an insight into the drama that can beset a bird, or anyone, on any given day. The lone swallow’s bravery, persistence and ingenuity in this story makes the ending a happy one.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 2-6 years and below are more suggestions for my favourite picture books about birds:

The Story About Ping
by Marjorie Flack
Illustrated by Kurt Wiese

Birds by Kevin Henkes
Illustrated by Laura Dronzek

White Owl, Barn Owl
by Nicola Davies

A Nest is Noisy by
Dianne Hutts Aston
Illustrated by Sylvia Long

Bluebird by Bob Staake

Bring on the Birds
by Susan Stockdale

King of the Sky by Nicola Davies Illustrated by Laura Carlin

Angleo by David Macaulay

Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares

Silly Birds by Gregg Dreise

Bird to Bird by Claire Saxby Illustrated by Wayne Harris

There is a Bird on Your Head
by Mo Willems

The Go-Away Bird
by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Catherine Rayner

Just Ducks! by Nicola Davies Illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino

Make Way for the Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell Illustrated by Patrick Benson

On the Wing by David Elliott Illustrated by Becca Stadtlander

The Lion and Bird
by Marianne Dubuc

Alexander’s Outing
by Pamela Allen

Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet: No-Bot, The Robot’s New Bottom

Illustrated by the authors

Published by Simon and Schuster, 2020

This is the second story about Bernard the robot by UK authors and artists Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet, and once again Bernard is having trouble with his bottom!

It’s a simple, fun and colourful story about friends helping a friend who is in a fix. On the way to the park, Bernard’s bottom starts throwing out sparks and smoke. It’s also making funny noises and might just explode! Monkey, Bear, Bird and Dog all try to find a replacement bottom for poor Bernard, the robot with no-bot.

The bottom they are all looking for needs to be red and small, not too soft and not too hard, not too big and not too smelly. Along the way, Bernard’s friends come up with some silly and inventive suggestions but in the end it’s Bear who saves the day.

This is a fun, light, read aloud story with two very attractive elements…robots and bottoms, which is sure to appeal to almost every pre-schooler! Below are more suggestions for picture books that delve into the fascinating world of bottoms, bums, tushes and poo:

No-Bot: the Robot with No Bottom! by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

Everybody Poos by Taro Gomi

What do they do with all the POO from all the animals at the ZOO?
by Anh Do

The Queen with the Wobbly Bottom by Phillip Gwynne
Illustrated by Bruce Whatley

Funny Bums by Dr Mark Norman

Whose Poo? by Jeannette Rowe

Are You My Bottom?
by Kate and Jol Temple
Illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh

Cinderella’s Bum by Nicholas Allan

The Bum Book by Kate Mayes Illustrated by Andrew Joyner

Bums by David Bedford
Illustrated by Leonie Worthington

Bums and Tums by Mandy Foot

Animals Brag about their Bottoms by Maki Saito

Bottoms Up! by Jeanne Willis Illustrated by Adam Stower

Rudie Nudie by Emma Quay

Loo Queue by Nicholas Allan

Busting! by Aaron Blabey