Julia Donaldson: Counting Creatures

Illustrated by Sharon King-Chai

Published by Two Hoots, Pan Macmillan, 2020

This is a glorious picture book. There are so many ways to enjoy it, there are so many things you can learn from it, there is so much to visually feast upon.

From the first page and first flap, we are drawn into a magical world of flora and fauna, created from paint, ink, leaves, sticks, fruit, vegetables, collage and Photoshop.

It’s a counting and rhyming book, beginning with a mother bat and her one baby and the constant question, “Who has more babies than that?”

It’s an information book, did you know that owls have babies called owlets? And do you know the names of all the creatures featured?

It’s an interactive book, every page has at least one flap and sometimes more, opening up to the side, or down or up the page. There are also smaller cut-outs that you can use to peek through to the next page or look back at the page you have just turned.

It’s a seek-and-find book, where are all those little spiderlings that you missed when you read the book for the first time?

A companion to Animalphabet, also written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Sharon King-Chai, these are treasure books that could be read again and again.

I highly recommend this picture book for children 2-4 years and below I have more of my favorite stories by Julia Donaldson, and one of my favourite poems written by her:

Animalphabet
Illustrated by Sharon King-Chai

The Gruffalo
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

The Gruffalo’s Child
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

Stick Man
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

A Squash and a Squeeze
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

Where’s My Mom?
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

The Paper Dolls
Illustrated by Rebecca Cobb

The Ugly Five
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

The Smeds and the Smoos Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

The Magic Paintbrush
Illustrated by Joel Stewart

The Further Adventures of The Owl and the Pussy-cat
Illustrated by Charlotte Voake

The Everywhere Bear
Illustrated by Rebecca Cobb

Night Monkey Day Monkey Illustrated by Lucy Richards

The Go-Away Bird
Illustrated by Catherine Rayner

The Detective Dog
Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie

The Hospital Dog
Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie

Room on the Broom
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

The Snail and the Whale
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

I Opened A Book….

I opened a book and in I strode
Now nobody can find me.
I’ve left my chair, my house, my road,
My town and my world behind me.

I’m wearing the cloak, I’ve slipped on the ring,
I’ve swallowed the magic potion.
I’ve fought with a dragon, dined with a king
And dived in a bottomless ocean.

I opened a book and made some friends.
I shared their tears and laughter
And followed their road with its bumps and bends
To the happily ever after.

I finished my book and out I came.
The cloak can no longer hide me.
My chair and my house are just the same,
But I have a book inside me.

From Crazy Mayonnaisy Mum, first published 2004 by Macmillan Children’s Books, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers International Limited. Text copyright © Julia Donaldson 2004

Claire Saxby: Kookaburra

Illustrated by Tannya Harricks

Kookaburra  by Claire Saxby at Abbey's Bookshop,

Published by Walker Books, NSW, 2020

Magpies and kookaburras are my favourite birds. Why?

Because they sing!

There is something about their song that brings me joy, knowing that they are calling to one another, conversing and living in their environments and following the familiar rhythms of the seasons.

This picture book about kookaburras has been beautifully illustrated by Tannya Harricks using oil paints. You just want to touch the pages, because the medium is so tactile even on glossy paper. Deep green gum leaves, rough brown tree bark, fanned feathers and brilliant blue sky all combine to place you right in the middle of the Australian bush.

The text is simple, but informative too. With almost poetic language, we follow the life of a kookaburra and her mate, as they search for food, find a nest, defend their territory and lay eggs. Accompanying the story, each page has italicised text with extra facts about kookaburras, explaining in more detail why the birds behave as they do, how they choose a nest, how they defend their territory and what they like to eat.

At the end of the book, there is more information for older readers about where you would find kookaburras in Australia, how many species there are and how long it takes for baby kookaburras (chicks) to mature and leave the nest.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 2-8 years and all bird enthusiasts. Below are more suggestions for picture books about kookaburras:

I See a Kookaburra by Steve Jenkins Illustrated by Robin Page

Cheeky Kookaburra
by Rebecca Johnson
Illustrated by Steve Parish

Kookaburra Kookaburra
by Bridget Farmer

Kookaburras Love to Laugh
by Laura and Philip Bunting

Who is Laughing?
by Eva-Marie Welsh

The Butterfly Garden
by Michael Torres
Illustrated by Fern Martins

Kookoo Kookaburra
by Gregg Dreise

Jeremy by Chris Faille
Illustrated by Danny Snell

My Mum’s Special Secret
by Sally Morgan
Illustrated by
Ambelin Kwaymullina

The Story of Kurri Kurri the Kookaburra by Leslie Rees Illustrated by Margaret Senior

We All Sleep by
Ezekiel Kwaymullina
and Sally Morgan

Kookaburra School by Jill Morris Illustrated by Heather Gall

Backyard Birds by Helen Milroy

Sarah Allen: Busy Beaks

Illustrated by the author

See the source image

Published by Affirm Press, South Melbourne, 2020

Over the past few months, I have had the unexpected joy of leaving seeds for three magpies that visit my backyard. Most mornings I find them foraging for food in the garden, and it is almost like they are waiting for the lady of the house to get up and notice them. When the magpies hear the click of the back door being opened, they wing their way to the balustrade and start singing. What a privilege it is to hear them and gain their trust in this new relationship.

In the early days, we kept our distance, but lately the magpies have been edging closer and closer. When they are so near, it is hard not to miss those long, sharp beaks. When they fly over my head or hop beside me as we wander down to the feeding dish together, I wonder about their connection to each other, how they manage to survive the elements and just what they are trying to communicate to me and each other.

All birds have beaks, but not all beaks are the same! Sarah Allen recently published a beautifully illustrated picture book about Australian birds and their beaks. Gentle rhyming text introduces the reader to something significant about that bird: cockatoos screech, magpies warble, swans bob for food, lorikeets gather in mobs, fairy wrens strut their beautiful tails, brolgas dance and leap.

Twenty-five Australian birds are illustrated, and their species named. At the back of the book, a small paragraph about each bird gives the reader more detail about their habits and habitats. The drawings are instantly recognizable and a helpful guide for anyone interested in doing a bit of bird spotting in their own backyard, at the beach, in forests, or water reserves. The endpapers are covered in bird nests…it is not clear which egg belongs to which bird, but if you are curious, there is nothing to stop you discovering that information for yourself. Silver spoons are highly overrated.

I can happily recommend this picture book for children 2-4 years and below is a long list of other picture books about birds. I have so many favourites, it was hard to know which ones to leave out!

Kookaburra Kookaburra
by Bridget Farmer

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell Illustrated by Patrick Benson

Windcatcher by Diane Jackson Hill Illustrated by Craig Smith

George Flies South by Simon James

Circle by Jeannie Baker

Nest by Jorey Hurley

A Busy Day for Birds
by Lucy Cousins

I Spy in the Sky by Edward Gibbs

Olga the Brolga by Rod Clement

That’s Not My Robin…
by Fiona Watt

Edwina the Emu
by Sheena Knowles
Illustrated by Rod Clement

Liarbird by Laura Bunting

Waddle Giggle Gargle!
by Pamela Allen

Birds by Carme Lemniscates

Katrina Germain: Let’s Go Strolling

Illustrated by Danny Snell

Published by Little Book Press, 2018

One of the great pleasures of life is going for a walk. Whether you do it in company or alone, with music or without, in the sunshine or rain, all rugged up with coat and hat or cool and easy in shorts and t-shirt, there is something special about slowing down and following the rhythm of your own footsteps. The minutiae of the things around us call out for our attention as we wander by: blades of green grass, hovering butterflies, waving wattle on sturdy branches, lengthening shadows, busy birds and the different textures of bark on trees. We breathe more deeply and feel more connected to the world around us.

Let’s Go Strolling takes us on a walking expedition following a young dad and his small daughter. There is the wonderful routine of just getting out the door. Check the weather, yes, the sun is out. Shoes, bag, hat, teddy, tick! Into the stroller, out the door, let’s go! There is so much to see and name: a pussy cat, blue letterbox, butterfly, aeroplane, a cloudy sky, traffic lights, a mother duck and her babies.

Two big double page spreads wordlessly announce their arrival in the park and look, there’s mum with the little girl’s older brother. Together they explore the simple wonders of being outside: playing in the sand, swishing through the grass, catching the falling leaves, discovering a spider’s web and bird’s nest, counting rocks and resting quietly with mum. Soon, it’s time to go home and we notice all those things we saw on the way to the park, but this time in reverse!

When you read this story aloud, there is a gentle rhythm and rhyme to the words, much like the rhythm and rhyme of walking! This simple experience makes a great learning experience too. A trip to the park enriches vocabulary, relationship and sensory awareness.

The illustrations are simple and uncluttered, making it easy for young readers to match the text to the picture. And there is green grass everywhere, even on the end pages!

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 2-4 years and below are more suggestions for picture books that explore the joys of walking:

I Went Walking by
Sue Williams
Illustrated by
Julie Vivas
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
by Michael Rosen
Illustrated by
Helen Oxenbury
Rosie’s Walk by
Pat Hutchins
Mr. Grumpy’s Outing
by John Burningham
Maisy’s Nature Walk
by Lucy Cousins
When We Go Walkabout
by Rhoda Lalara
Illustrated by
Alfred Lalara
A Walk in London by
Salvatore Rubbino
A Walk in Paris by
Salvatore Rubbino