Baby wombats, underpants and Ancient Greece

Cover imageJackie French is one of Australia’s most prolific children’s authors.  She puts out at least 2 books a year for a range of different age groups, from picture books to young adult novels, and she writes on all sorts of topics.  Historical novels for children are her speciality and she always includes some of her research at the end of her novels so that you can see where her ideas have come from.  She has written 3 brilliant books lately – Baby Wombat’s Week, Queen Victoria’s Underpants, and Oracle.

Baby Wombat’s Week is the hilarious follow-up to Diary of a Wombat, illustrated by long-time collaborator and one of Australia’s best illustrators, Bruce Whatley.  Baby Wombat’s Week follows a week in the life of a baby wombat who (much like his mother) likes to sleep, eat, and generally create havoc.  He destroys the garden, tunnels into the house and makes friends with a human baby.  Parents will sympathise with the mother wombat and kids will love the cute baby wombat and his silly antics.

Queen Victoria’s Underpants is Jackie’s latest picture book collaboration with Bruce Whatley.  This charming and witty tale is the story of how the very first pair of royal underpants were made for Queen Victoria.  During Queen Victoria’s reign, few women wore underpants, but the Queen requests some to be made for her.  But what sort of underpants would she want? Silk or linen, lace or frills, long, short or knee-length?  The story is witty and the illustrations are stunning.  I particularly like the expressions of the characters that Bruce Whatley always does so well.

Oracle is Jackie French’s latest novel and once again, it’s a historical novel, but set in a very different time and place from her earlier novels – Ancient Greece.  Nikko and his sister Thetis live in a small village in the mountains, but one day they are taken from their hard life into a world of luxury.  They are trained as acrobats to perform for the King of Mycenae and soon forget their old life.  But Nikko’s sister is both cursed and blessed – if she speaks she must tell the truth.  When Thetis tells the King a truth about his future, their world comes crashing down around them.  Jackie’s historical detail is amazing and her descriptions of life in Ancient Greece (the sights and smells) were so clear in my mind.

Great new picture books

Here’s just a small selection of some great new picture books that have arrived at the library lately:

Fearless is a new picture book by Colin Thompson who has written some very funny picture books for older readers.  It’s a book about how the names of people (and animals) sometimes don’t quite match their personality.  A family called the Claybourne-Willments, who should have been called the Smiths, get a little puppy called Fearless. “It seemed like a good name for him.  Except Fearless wasn’t.”  Fearless is a bulldog who has a “tiny, nervous brain” but a huge heart and loves everyone he meets. However, when a burglar breaks into their house can Fearless live up to his name and protect his family?  The story is hilarious and I loved the illustrations, especially the one when a fly lands on his nose.

I know there are plenty of fans of Jackie French’s fantastic picture book Diary of a Wombat, where we follow the life of Mothball the wombat over the course of a week.  Most of the Mothball’s week involves sleeping, eating, and looking for food but Jackie French’s words and Bruce Whatley’s illustrations make for a funny read.  I was excited to discover that they have just written a sequel called Baby Wombat’s Week which is just as good as the original.  This new story is told in the same format as the original, where we follow Mothball and her baby over the course of a week.  Baby wombat gets bored very easily and goes off in search of food while his mother sleeps, and he bumps into a human baby who becomes his friend and they play together.  The text is very simple and so a lot of the story is told by the pictures, making this a perfect picture book.  Much like Diary of a Wombat, this book will appeal to both adults and children.

Spot It! by Delphine Chedru is a new look-and-find book that is great for young children.  Each of the pages in the book is a colourful repeating pattern (flowers, trees, swirls) similar to a wallpaper design, but hidden in each page is an animal or object to find, such as a leaping dragon, a lost chick, and a butterfly with five spots.  There is only one thing to find on each page making it easier for younger children, but they are cleverly hidden amongst the pattern.  I like it because it’s something different from the  I-Spy books, but still challenging for younger children.