Sam McBratney: Mindi and the Goose No One Else Could See

Illustrated by Linda Ólafsdóttir

Published by Walker Books, London, 2021

The goose on the front cover of this picture book caught my eye, mostly because my son affectionately calls me a silly goose sometimes! In my mind, a goose could never be anything to be feared, mistrusted, or avoided, unless of course that goose was nibbling my hand or chasing me around the farmyard. But that’s just it, isn’t it? The things that make me feel unsafe, worried, or anxious might not be the same for everyone. My worries and anxieties might take the shape of clawing ogres or dark looming shadows, but for someone else it just might be a big goose.

That’s the way it is for a little girl called Mindi. She’s such a sweet character, small and cute, with her yellow sweater and matching yellow gum boots. She is afraid of the goose that comes to her room unbidden and uninvited, that no one else can see. Her dad can’t find it, so he can’t get rid of it. Her mum can’t see it, so even threatening to smack it’s silly bottom won’t help.

Mindi’s parents have a problem, how can they help their beloved daughter?

Luckily for them, there is a wise old man called Austen who lives in the village nearby, perhaps he can help. When Mindi’s dad visits him on Shelling Hill, Austen gives some thought to the problem and says:

“I think you should bring Mindi to see me. Make sure she knows I live a long way away. Make sure she knows that she is going on a journey.”

Mindi and her dad make the short ‘long’ journey to Austen’s farm. Mindi greets all the animals, even two geese! But she makes a special connection with a young goat that Mindi names Black-and-whitey. This young goat has a special talent: if you give her a stone fruit, she will eat it and give you back the stone.

Herein lies the kernel of the story. Sometimes, we have to give something in return for a gift. Austen gives the young goat to Mindi, but in return, she must give Austen the Big Goose that no one else can see. It’s a decision-making moment for Mindi. As heavy as our fears and anxieties may be, their weight is familiar, and it can be hard to let go of them. What will Mindi do?

This is a wonderful story for children who might be experiencing anxiety or fear, real or imagined. It gives them a chance to read about what happened to Mindi, how she described her worries, how her family tried to help her and how they turned to the wider community for advice. It’s encouraging to know that solutions can be found, and that problems don’t have to remain as permanent features of our lives.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 4-6 years and below are more suggestions for picture books that explore what it is like to feel anxious, worried or fearful:

Charlie Star by Terry Milne

Lena’s Shoes are Nervous
by Keith Calabrese
Illustrated by Juana Medina

Willy and the Cloud
by Anthony Browne

What If…? by Anthony Browne

The Worry Box by Suzanne Chew Illustrated by Sean Julian

Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival

Be Brave, Little Tiger!
by Margaret Wise Brown Illustrated by Jean Claude

Me and my Fear
by Francesca Sanna

Thank Goodness for Bob
by Matthew Morgan
Illustrated by Gabriel Alborozo

Anxious Charlie to the Rescue
by Terry Milne

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell Illustrated by Patrick Benson

Oliver and his Alligator
by Paul Schmid

Wemberly Worried
by Kevin Henkes

The Huge Bag of Worries
by Virginia Ironside
Illustrated by Frank Rodgers

Hannah Carmona: Anita and the Dragons

Illustrated by Anna Cunha

Published by Lantana Publishing Ltd, UK, 2021

In the early 1950s, when my father was 17 years old, he left his small village at the foot of the northern mountains in Italy and ventured alone by boat to Australia. I can’t imagine the kind of bravery that takes. To leave all that is known and loved and take steps towards all that is unknown and unseen, is a lesson in understanding oneself and finding courage to face whatever dragons come your way. For my father, everything was new: the language, the food, the culture, the work, the people and the place. But despite the hardships and the challenges, he made a life for himself here, taking the best values from his home in Italy and his home in Australia to forge something good for his long life.

Anita, in this story, is leaving her village in the Dominican Republic and travelling with her family to America. She refers to the planes that will take her away as the dragons which look like large, winged beasts. Anita is a brave and feisty princesa in her village but as she thinks about what the future will look like and what she will be leaving behind, she compares the reality of what she has with the opportunities that are yet to come. Hot water, reliable electricity, and fancy restaurants all sound exciting, but Anita’s abuela is not coming and no longer will Anita breathe the salty air or dance in the blue waves in the spicy heat of the day. No longer will she be the adored princesa, the centre of life in her village.

As Anita and her family board the mighty plane, humming in readiness for departure, she cries aloud all the thoughts that are unspoken but threatening to overwhelm everyone:

“I won’t let this horrible beast take me away from everything I love! What if I hate it? What if I’m lonely? What if I get scared? What if I’m sad? What if I’m NOT brave at all?”

Despite the unanswered questions, despite the anxiety and not knowing what is ahead, the family bravely face the dragon of the air and whatever adventures await them on the other side of this momentous flight.

This is a story of courage and bravery during immigration, the rending of a heart torn between the known and the unknown and the emotional and physical upheaval of leaving one’s country for another. The illustrations are tender, and imbued with soft colours, creating a sense of place and helping the reader to visualise the bonds that tie us to our family and our home.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 4-8 years and below are more stories that explore the idea of immigration, moving house and home, and what that might feel like in different situations:

Migrant by Maxine Trottier Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

A Kiss Goodbye by Audrey Penn Illustrated by Barbara L.Gibson

The Keeping Quilt
by Patricia Polacco

Moving Molly by Shirley Hughes

The Journey by Francesca Sanna

I Dream of Popo
by Livia Blackburne
Illustrated by Julia Kuo

I’m an Immigrant too! by Mem Fox Illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh

A Different Pond by Bao Phi Illustrated by Thi Bui

The Dress and the Girl
by Camille Andros
Illustrated by Julie Morstad

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Bad Bye, Good Bye
by Deborah Underwood
Illustrated by Jonathan Bean

The Matchbox Diary
by Paul Fleischman
Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

Ten Pound Pom
by Carole Wilkinson
Illustrated by Liz Anelli

Eureka! A Story of the Goldfields
by Mark Wilson

King of the Sky by Nicola Davies Illustrated by Laura Carlin

The Color of Home
by Mary Hoffman
Illustrated by Karin Littlewood

All the Way to America
by Dan Yaccarino

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

I’m New Here
by Anne Sibley O’Brien

Waves: for those who come across the sea by Donna Rawlins Illustrated by Heather Potter
and Mark Jackson

Gene Zion: No Roses for Harry

Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham

First published by The Bodley Head Children’s Books, 1961

I think this would have to be my favourite story about Harry the dog. I remember reading it as a child and I still love the illustrations and the way the story unfolds, with gentle humour, awkward moments, and a quirky ending.

Harry, a white dog with black spots, has been given a birthday present from Grandma. Unfortunately, it’s a green knitted woollen jumper patterned with roses and Harry definitely does not like it. Despite the jumper being quite cosy to wear, Harry decides to lose it at the very first opportunity. But after a few clever attempts to lose it, leave it, and drop it, the jumper keeps finding its way back to Harry.

Alone at last in the park, Harry notices a loose stitch in the jumper and a nearby bird does too. Before Harry knows what is happening, the bird has flown down, picked up the loose strand of wool and zoomed away again. Before long, the jumper has unravelled altogether.

This is where the story gets really interesting! Harry knows where the bird has gone, but the reader doesn’t. What happens when Grandma comes for a surprise visit and no one at home can find the special jumper that she knitted for Harry?

The ending will make you smile, if you are not already smiling. The illustrations are gorgeous and tell the tale with so much flair using only black, green and orange for colour, in the style of Dr Seuss. The characters are endearing, and the streetscapes are filled with all the everyday things we know, similar to the art of Anna Walker and Serge Bloch.

If you like this story, there are more titles in the series, Harry the Dirty Dog (1956), Harry and the Lady Next Door (1960), and Harry by the Sea (1956) – all created by Gene Zion and his wife and collaborator Margaret Bloy Graham.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 3-6 years and below are more suggestions for picture books which explore the idea of gifts and gift giving, some welcome, some thoughtful and some altogether unexpected:

Strega Nona’s Harvest
by Tomie dePaola

The Spiffiest Giant in Town
by Julian Donaldson
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

What is Given from the Heart
by Patricia C. McKissack
Illustrated by April Harrison

The Gift of Nothing
by Patrick McDonnell

The Gift by Penny Matthews Illustrated by Martin McKenna

Harold Loves His Woolly Hat
by Vern Kousky

Mr Nick’s Knitting
by Margaret Wild
Illustrated by Dee Huxley

You won’t like this present
as much as I do!
by Lauren Child

Thankyou, Omu! by Oge Mora

A Chair for Mother
by Vera B. Williams

The Gift by Michael Speechley

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett Illustrated by Jon Klassen

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

The Thank-you Present
by Jane Martino
Illustrated by Anne White

The Anzac Billy by Claire Saxby Illustrated by Mark Jackson & Heather Potter

My Name is Lizzie Flynn
by Claire Saxby
Illustrated by Lizzy Newcomb

The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen
Illustrated by Dan Hanna
A Present for Mother Bear
by Else Holmelund Minarik Illustrated by Chris Hahner

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Give and Take by Chris Raschka

Alfie Gives a Hand
by Shirley Hughes

If you give a mouse a cookie
by Laura Joffe Numeroff
Illustrated by Felicia Bond

The Little Drummer Boy
by Ezra Jack Keats

A Christmas for Bear
by Bonny Becker
Illustrated by
Kady MacDonald Denton

Hazel Mitchell: Sweet Pea Summer

Illustrated by the author

Published by Candlewick Press, 2021

I have come to love the garden later in my life. These days I am happiest when I am outside in my pink gumboots, with grubby overalls on, and tending to the myriad of plants that are growing in the good brown earth.

I love flowers the most and sweet peas are one of my favourites. In Melbourne, sweet pea seeds are best planted in March and with some tender care, rain, sunshine, and compost, you should be rewarded with scented flowers by November. So much about gardening is waiting and watching. This year, the sweet peas in the garden are growing up the brickwork of our chimney and in June they are almost 3 feet high.

So, it was with some joy that I picked up this picture book with that wonderful title and read about a young girl staying with her grandparents for the summer holidays while her mum is in hospital. It’s a sad beginning, because even when we are young, we are already learning that life is not all about honey and crumpets. Some days are hard, there is much uncertainty, and we have to figure out how to keep going.

Luckily for this young girl, her grandparents live in a cosy home on a large block of land not too far away. Very soon, she is in the garden and her grandpa thinks it might be a good idea if his grand-daughter looks after the sweet peas. He even suggests that she could enter some blooms in the upcoming flower show.

There is a lot to learn: how to tie up the growing tendrils, how to remove old seedpods, how much to feed and when to water, how much sun and how much shade, and lots of waiting and watching. But even with all that care and attention, the sweet peas fail to thrive. What could be the problem?

Grandpa’s watering technique needs some tweaking it seems and with that mystery solved, the sweet peas begin to thrive and flower. The hard-to-grow blue sweet peas are picked and put in a vase for the flower show. Will mum be there to see her display? Will her blue sweet peas win a prize?

This is a lovely story developing the ideas of perseverance, holding on to hope, and finding your inner strength. The illustrations are bright and colourful and filled with the sense of all that is good about family and the bonds that keep us connected and motivated.

At the end of the book there is more information about the beautiful sweet pea, its history from humble beginnings in Italy, its introduction into England during the late 17th century and competitions which celebrate its current diversity in form, colour and fragrance. If you haven’t grown these gorgeous flowers before, grab a packet of seeds and give it a go, you will be rewarded by bunches of sweet smelling flowers in just a few months.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 4-8 years, and below are more suggestions for picture books which explore the themes of gardening, gardens and growing plants:

In the Garden by Emma Giuliani

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

Up in the Garden and
Down in the Dirt
by Kate Messner
Illustrated by
Christopher Silas Neal

A Seed is Sleepy
by Dianna Hutts Aston
Illustrated by Sylvia Long

My Garden by Kevin Henkes

Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert

And then it’s Spring
by Julie Fogliano
Illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Isabella’s Garden
by Glenda Millard
Illustrated by Rebecca Cool

Yucky Worms by Vivian French Illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg

Florette by Anna Walker

Emily’s Green Garden
by Penny Harrison
Illustrated by Megan Forward

A child’s garden: a story of hope
by Michael Foreman

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle

The Garden of Hope
by Isabel Otter
Illustrated by Katie Rewse

Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!
by Candace Fleming
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Sunflower House by Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt

And the Good Brown Earth
by Kathy Henderson

The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin

Bumpety Bump! by Pat Hutchins

Errol’s Garden by Gillian Hibbs

Plant the Tiny Seed
by Christie Matheson

The Last Garden by Rachel Ip Illustrated by Anneli Bray

Maisy Grows a Garden
by Lucy Cousins

The Selfish Giant
by Oscar Wilde
Illustrated and abridged
by Alexis Deacon

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

Family
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

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

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

Jane Godwin: Don’t Forget

Illustrated by Anna Walker

Published by Puffin Books, Penguin Random House, 2021

We all need to be reminded about so many things in life. Sometimes it’s the to-do list for the day, other times it’s the long-term plans for months in advance, and just occasionally it’s the reminders about what we need to make time for in the busyness of living.

Like a mum calling out to us as we leave for another day out in the world, Jane Godwin reminds us about all those things we need to remember; making our beds, finding socks that fit, brushing our teeth, and bringing our coats. We also need to remember other things like smiling, caring, playing, helping, and listening. And not forgetting the power of dreaming, hoping, adventuring, and celebrating.

The illustrations by Anna Walker beautifully reflect the text and bring each reminder to life with gentle clarity and thoughtful insight. The settings will be familiar to everyone, children splashing in puddles and climbing trees, running through long tall grass, and enjoying a solitary moment in front of a wide-open beach. Our collective achievements are amazing when we remember the ties that bind us together.

“Don’t forget that life is long, you’re not alone, that you are strong, and don’t forget that you belong.”

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 5-8 years and below are more award-winning picture books by this dynamic duo:

Go Go and the Silver Shoes

What Do You Wish For?

All Through the Year

Today We Have No Plans

Starting School

Little Cat and the Big Red Bus

Tilly

Sonya Hartnett: Blue Flower

Illustrated by Gabriel Evans

Published by Puffin Books, Penguin Random House, 2021

This is a very gentle, honest, and thoughtful picture book about not fitting in and what that feels like. It’s good to be reminded that, for some of us, life is full of challenges.

For the young girl in this story, some days just getting out of bed doesn’t feel like a good option, and making friends is not easy. Going to school requires more stamina and grit than she can imagine and feeling that her best is never enough can haunt all the hours of her day. Sometimes, all she wishes for is to be rescued from the place she should be and taken back to her comfortable home, cuddled up in bed under soft doonas with her beautiful tabby cat, quiet and peaceful. That wonderful place where the world can be shut away behind a closed door and all the failings, mistakes and challenges never faced or bravely tackled.

But life isn’t like that, even when you feel like you don’t fit in.

In this story, her mother gets to the heart of the matter. She understands the pull of hiding away and staying behind closed doors. She also acknowledges that being different can be life-changing and wonderful if you accept it:

“Being different isn’t easy, until you decide it’s a good thing to be.”

As the young girl thinks about this and wanders outside with her beloved cat Piccolo, she sees that many things in nature are different: birds, trees, clouds, and flowers. In a field of yellow flowers, there are a few blue ones too, and realisation dawns:

“No one wants everything to be the same. Things being different is what makes the world wonderful.”

So, let’s celebrate the things that makes us different and not hide our talents and gifts under doonas and behind closed doors, let’s allow all of our differences to make life more wonderful and a little easier for those of us who struggle with it.

The text by Sonya Hartnett makes this story easily accessible and the illustrations by Gabriel Evans beautifully reflect the emotional journey of figuring out how to find your place in the world. I can highly recommend this picture book for children 4-8 years and below are more suggestions for books that explore the idea of being and feeling different:

Colour Me
by Ezekiel Kwaymullina
Illustrated by Moira Court

The Glump and the Peeble
by Wendy Meddour
Illustrated by Rebecca Ashdown

Max by Bob Graham

All About Families
by Felicity Brooks
Illustrated by Mar Ferrero

All Bodies are Good Bodies
by Charlotte Barkla
Illustrated by Erica Salcedo

All Except Winston
by Rochelle Brunton
Illustrated by Nicoletta Bertelle

All Sorts by Pippa Goodhart Illustrated by Emily Rand

Brian The Brave by Paul Stewart Illustrated by Jane Porter

Egg by Sue Hendra
Illustrated by Paul Linnet

Hugo: The Boy with
the curious mark
by Yohann Devezy
Illustrated by Manuela Adreani

I Feel…Different by D.J.Corchin

My Friend Fred by Frances Watts Illustrated by A.Yi

Be Exactly Who You Are
by Laura Gehl
Illustrated by Joshua Heinsz

Chee-Kee: A Panda in Bearland
by Sujean Rim

Edward the Emu
by Sheena Knowles
Illustrated b y Rod Clement

How To Be a Lion by Ed Vere

The Story of Ferdinand
by Munro Leaf
Illustrated by Robert Lawson

Rufus by Tomi Ungerer

Antoinette by Kelly DiPucchio Illustrated by Christian Robinson

Elmer by David McKee

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

Philip Bunting: Wild About Dads

Illustrated by the author

Published by Little Hare, Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing, 2020

If you know someone who is about to become a father, or if you are thinking about your own father, or even if you are wondering about what attributes make a father particularly good in that role, then pick up this book, buy it or borrow it, and enjoy reflecting on all the shapes, sizes and ways of being a dad.

There is a lot to be learnt from animals in the wild and the way they naturally and inherently behave. Philip Bunting has picked out a few species and highlighted the best behaviours that fathers can model.

Did you know that gorilla dads teach their babies how to find food, play and look after each other? A desert dwelling sandgrouse makes a big effort to keep his offspring well hydrated by dropping water into their mouths from his water-soaked feathers. The giant water bug has the responsibility of carrying the eggs, laid on top of his back by his dear lady, for weeks until they hatch. Flamingo fathers regurgitate food for their baby chicks, sounds gross, but not if you are the baby flamingo chick! The Australian magpie is well known for defending the nest of his young by swooping on anyone or anything that comes too close. Chinstrap penguin fathers have even been known to team up and incubate abandoned eggs, help them hatch and grow into maturity.

The lesson we learn from all these examples is that dads can come in all shapes and sizes, temperaments, and skills. All of them show their children how to live, by action and deed. Whether you are a father, mother, grandmother, grandfather, sister or brother, in a family of any description, we can all benefit from this simple concept, that sometimes our love is better expressed by doing than by saying.

Most animals in this picture book have their own page and colour palette, and some lucky ones are illustrated across a double page spread. All critters are easily identifiable, the text is short but informative, and there are a few humorous asides on some pages, making it hugely accessible and interesting for younger and older readers.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 3-8 years and below are more suggestions for some of my favourite picture books about fathers:

My Dad Thinks He’s Funny
by Katrina Germein
Illustrated by Tom Jellett

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

I Love My Daddy
by Giles Andreae
Illustrated by Emma Dodd

Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me
by Eric Carle

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by John Schoenherr

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems

Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear?
by Martin Waddell
Illustrated by Barbara Firth

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
by Michael Rosen
Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Mitchell’s License by Hallie Durand Illustrated by Tony Fucile

The Big Honey Hunt
by Stan & Jan Berenstain

My Dad is Brilliant
by Nick Butterworth

Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle

Nelly Gnu and Daddy Too
by Anna Dewdney

My Dad Used to be So Cool
by Keith Negley

Father Bear Comes Home
by Else Holmelund Minarik Illustrated by Maurice Sendak

My Daddy is a Giant by Carl Norac Illustrated by Ingrid Godon

My Dad by Anthony Browne

Molly and Her Dad by Jan Ormerod Illustrated by Carol Thompson

Now One Foot, Now the Other
by Tomie dePaola

Every Friday by Dan Yaccarino

My Dad by Jeanette Rowe

Sam and his Dad by Serge Bloch