Tag Archives: Animal stories

Catvinkle and the Missing Tulips – Elliot Perlman

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Penguin Australia 29 September 2020

ISBN: 9781760894382

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $19.99

If you, like me, loved the first Catvinkle book and couldn’t wait to share it with your kiddos, you will also love this new hilarious episode with all the crazy animal characters of the first plus some equally quirky new ones!

Catvinkle and Ula love their human children friends, Anja and Ferdi, and are very excited that the children are visiting the cosy home they share with Mr Sabatini but the kidsare distracted and unable to fully enjoy their catch-up with their animal besties. The two sheep who live at Aunt Beehive’s place are suspected of eating prize tulips and under threat of being sent away out of Amsterdam.

The children and the animals, of course with help from their other wise friend Lobbus the brave dog, are able to establish that the two sheep might be quite silly but cannot possibly have eaten the tulips.

The evidence they secure is no help however when nasty Twinkiepaws, still madly jealous of Catvinkle, incites the cats and kittens of Amsterdam to put the sheep on trial for ruining the beauty of the city.

It’s going to take more than the information the group has gained from the human scientists and certainly more than Catvinkle’s dubious skills as a defense lawyer so it’s a quick trip to Russia to seek out the legally-minded bears, Grisha and Sivka, to help out. In an adventure that involves a very powerful and rather cranky wolf, some visiting Australian koalas, the glamorous Ketzington D. Kitten and some fancy footwork side-stepping various problems the trial reaches a very satisfactory conclusion for all – well, except for Twinkiepaws.

Aside from the humour there is a lot to think about around fairness and justice, compassion and loyalty and the critical endangered status of riverine rabbits (gotta love a story with bunnies in it!).

Catvinkle continues to delight with her very obvious self-admiration but her innate compassionate nature, ably encouraged by the far more placid and sensible Ula.

Don’t miss out on this one – and of course pick up the first if you missed it – your kids from around 10 years upwards will love the introduction!

The Silver Arrow – Lev Grossman

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Bloomsbury

September 2020

ISBN 9781526629418

RRP: AU $14.99 NZ $16.99

In my opinion it’s a rare middle-age novel that can transcend reading interests, age groups and genders but this is most definitely one that can. Certainly your middle grade readers will love it but it is just as appealing for older readers, including adults, as well as competent younger readers with its blend of whimsy and fantasy, strong conservation theme, friendship and family, humour and adventure.

Kate’s wealthy estranged uncle is considered ridiculously eccentric and irresponsible by her parents and really she knows very little about him. Certainly when she writes to him on a whim and asks for a birthday present she doesn’t expect to receive one. She definitely doesn’t expect the gift of a full-sized steam locomotive which appears in her back garden.

While her parents wrangle over what to do with such an unwanted and cumbersome gift, Kate and her younger brother Tom ignore parental doubts and distrust and board the engine in the middle of the night. The journey that ensues is both a revelation and a test of the children’s resilience, initiative and bravery.

To their complete astonishment the locomotive takes off through the night and guided by the engine’s own ‘voice’ they soon arrive at a station where a curious assortment of animal passengers wait patiently with valid tickets to board. The children do not take long to realise that their job is to ensure that each of these creatures, endangered due to various impacts on their natural habitats, are safely delivered to new homes where they can have some certainty of survival of their species. From the sweetest baby pangolin to a very cantankerous porcupine, a beautiful mamba to a sad and lost half-starved polar bear, the Silver Arrow has a mission – one that is filled with moments of danger and near-misses but ultimately the trip of a lifetime for all.

Readers will be thrilled by the excitement of the adventure and adore the laughs to be had but will also learn a great deal about the plight of many of the world’s most threatened animals. Like Kate and Tom, one might hope that they will also take action to do what they can to preserve and conserve the wonders of nature against loss of habitat, introduced invasive species and of course, humans.

I cannot recommend this highly enough for your readers from around 7 or 8 years upwards. It is both a joy and an inspiration and, in my opinion, destined to become a modern classic.

The One and Only Bob – Katherine Applegate

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Harper Collins Australia

  • ISBN: 9780008390662
  • ISBN 10: 0008390665
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – GB
  • List Price: 14.99 AUD

For all of us who fell in love with the story of Ivan and his friends, this is such an exciting new release – and all I can say is if you haven’t read The One and Only Ivan – what are you thinking?! Get to it now before the long-awaited movie adaptation comes out!

Ivan and baby Ruby are happily living in the zoo that is their new home. Ruby is the darling of her adopted elephant herd and Ivan even has a girlfriend while Bob, the indomitable little dog who is their best friend, is living with Julia and her parents. NOT that he is a pet you understand – but he does accept the regular feeding, cuddles and being looked after without too much complaint. Luckily, Julia’s dad now works at the zoo and Bob is able to visit his friends regularly – with the keepers all turning a blind eye to the general rule that dogs are not allowed in.

It would seem that all is smooth in the lives of this strange but tight animal trio but when their town is hit by a hurricane that becomes a tornado all is chaos. The zoo suffers much damage and they are caught up in the destruction and the subsequent consequences. Added to this drama is Bob’s discovery of his long-lost sister whose life has been both scary and traumatic, though she brushes it all off with seeming carelessness.

Bob may be small but his spirit is huge – something already demonstrated in the earlier book – and again, this canny canine proves his worth as a hero of epic proportions.

Once again Katherine Applegate has written a tale that epitomises the true meaning of friendship, loyalty, family and home. Readers, young and old alike, will revel in the continuation of the story of this extraordinary animal and human family.

My highest recommendation for this new sequel to a truly amazing story, which was inspired by the true story of Ivan, the magnificent silverback, who became the most famous resident of the Atlanta Zoo.

BumbleBunnies #4: The Balloon – Graeme Base

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Harper Collins Australia

February 2020

ISBN: 9781460754030

ISBN 10: 1460754034

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

List Price: 16.99 AUD

Graeme Base’s whimsical illustrations are always a joy and combined, as they in this series for very small humans, with a simple plot and engaging text are a total winning package.

There’s a bit of a panic in the garden when Wuffle the puppy, Lou the kitten and Billington the duck are disturbed in their quiet afternoon by a huge rogue balloon headed straight for the rose bushes. In their mad scramble to avoid the impending catastrophe they don’t even notice that the three residents rabbits observing from their hutch are suddenly transformed into the superheroes they truly are.

A little bit of quick thinking and some handy tennis racquets ensure that disaster is averted and peace returns to the garden – and the bunnies resume their quiet bystander status back in the hutch.

These are such cute stories for little people who will giggle at the antics of the hiding animals who are rather hysterical about the imagined ‘big bang’.

Utterly perfect for your early learning centres or Prep classes make sure you have the whole series because there will be many fans of these as well as much opportunity for the concept of helping others without expecting recognition.

Highly recommended for littlies from around 2 years upwards.

Easter Goodies – hopping your way!

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This is a swag of lovely titles for little people just in time for Easter gifts. When my girls were little – and then with my grandies – their Easter gift was always heavier on the book gifts than the chocolate. (Of course a little bit of chocolate is always necessary at any age!). So if you are of a similar bent these might suit your purpose from tiny ones to slightly bigger ones – enjoy!

First up from the Baby Animal Tales series:

Walker Books Australia

March 2020

Goodnight Little Duckling

1572990772458

ISBN: 9781916180543
Imprint: Magic Cat Publishing
Distributor: Walker Australia-HEDS
Australian RRP: $18.99
New Zealand RRP: $22.99

Goodnight Little Bunny

1572990771782

ISBN: 9781916180505
Imprint: Magic Cat Publishing
Distributor: Walker Australia-HEDS
Australian RRP: $18.99
New Zealand RRP: $22.99

 

These are such sweet and simple books perfect for some soothing reading sessions with little people. The illustrations are digitally manipulated combining photographic images of each little animal with glorious watercolour-like enhancements. The overall effect of this simply shouts sunny days and happiness.

Little Duckling ignores his mother’s instruction not to leave the nest while she goes off to find him a juicy worm and inevitably gets into a little pickle when his solo adventure on the water leads him to following first a darting dragonfly and then a friendly frog. Naturally this leads him well away from the nest and he gets a little anxious. Fortunately, he discovers he has paddled around in a complete circle and when he hears some quiet ‘peep peep’ sounds he realises his brothers and sisters have hatched and he is home safely

Little Bunny is very wary of leaving the safety of the burrow but her good friend Mouse is excellent at teaching important safety skills like using her twitchy whiskers and velvety ears and most of all her strong back legs. All of these come in very handy when she accidentally runs into a fox and despite her fright is able not only to escape but also to warn her bunny family in the burrow.

These are just truly delightful and would make a beautiful gift for any little reader from around toddler up to Prep age.

I’m Ready series – Jedda Robard

Penguin Random House Australia

March 2020

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $1299

I’ve shared some from this series before so many of you will already know how adorable these are for little kiddos around 2- 4 years old. Each title deals with those significant events in childhood featuring Australian animal families in a sturdy board book format.

I’m Ready for the New Baby

9781760891626

ISBN: 9781760891626

Quite possibly the most significant life event for a little person – especially if they are the first-born little Wombat is excited about the forth-coming arrival of a new brother. Mother and Father Wombat are very on top of involving the little one in all the preparations including helping to decorate the nursery, handing over her old cot (because she’s way too big for it now!) and choosing a gift (and one for herself as well). All of this ensures a happy and calm time for everyone and the joy in welcoming new little baby brother wombat is evident.

I’m Ready for Easter

9781760891596

ISBN: 9781760891596

 

There is great excitement all round as little Platypus and his friends prepare for an Easter celebration. All the familiar rituals are here for the little readers to recognise – bakers with their hot cross buns, colourful treats appearing in the shops, making Easter hats for the parade, as well as making a basket to hold treats and of course the fun of an Easter Egg hunt and special lunch with family and friends. Given our current circumstances and most if not all little ones missing out on all this shared fun, this would be a fabulous read to share and perhaps plan ahead for the next Easter

Peter Rabbit 2 tie-ins

Penguin Random House

February 2020

Peter Rabbit Movie 2 Novelisation – Beatrix Potter

9780241415290

ISBN: 9780241415290

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $12.99

The first Peter Rabbit was a runaway (hop away?) success and the sequel released this month has been hotly anticipated. Sadly children will not get to see it just yet with all the cinemas closed but the next best thing would surely be sharing the new adventures by reading the book. Then they will even more hyped up for when they eventually get to see the movie!

Based on the Beatrix Potter’s original stories of Peter but with a modern twist to contemporise for new audiences, these new adventures will be just as popular in this sequel.

Peter Rabbit 2: Bunny Trouble

9780241410875

ISBN: 9780241410875

Imprint: Puffin

$9.99

And not to be forgotten the emergent readers have this very cute easy reader to add to their reading repertoire. Peter’s new adventure in the big city is illustrated with photographic stills from the movie making a great connection between film and text. Level 2 in Penguin Young Readers for ‘progressing readers’ this one would be perfect for little ones from around Prep- Year 2 as the tackle more complex sentences, simple dialogue with picture and context clues.

Also look out for the Peter Rabbit Quiz Book, Peter Rabbit Sticker Activity book and the Peter Rabbit Colouring Sticker Activity book.

This Easter is not the one that any of us expected. The Kid and I were meant to be going on our first joint overseas adventure for a week in Phuket but instead we are going to be grateful to be safe at home and enjoy some sunshine, gardening, walking and reading. I hope all my readers will also be feeling as blessed in their homes and don’t forget to add a bit of chocolate to your reading!

Just So Stories for Little Children: Rudyard Kipling’s stories retold. Illustrated by John Joven.

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Harper Collins Australia

ISBN: 9781474938051

ISBN 10: 1474938051

Imprint: Usborne – GB

October 2019

RRP $24.99

Astute readers of this blog may have suspected that I have affection for the writing of Rudyard Kipling – yes, very old-fashioned I know – but it is what it is.

Therefore I was rather delighted to have this lovely new revamp of his stories arrive and to note that they are intended for younger children. The simplified narrative and colourful illustrations will be well-received by little people, who are invariably very engaged with animal stories.

This collection presents six of Kipling’s best: How the Camel got his HumpHow the Whale got his ThroatHow the Elephant got his TrunkHow the Rhino got his SkinHow the Leopard got his Spots and Why the Kangaroo Jumps.

The pages are alive with the simplistically styled illustrations with minimal text on each, allowing for plenty of perusal time for little ones as each story unfolds. With loads of onomatopoeia there will also be much fun to be had with joining in a read-aloud. I love that the various writers have retained Kipling’s device of authorial intrusion speaking directly to the ‘dear reader’ (albeit in different terminology to those he used himself).

All in all, it is always wonderful to see timeless classic stories being introduced to contemporary children with modifications that appeal to today’s child without losing any of the flavour of the originals.

I can highly recommend this to you for either your Junior shelves or your own.

 

Flamingo Boy – Michael Morpurgo

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Harper Collins Australia

ISBN: 9780008134648

ISBN 10: 0008134642

Imprint: HarperCollins – GB

On Sale: 26/02/2018

RRP $19.99

With his expected flair Michael Morpurgo takes some history and transforms it into a fascinating and poignant narrative blending modern day and World War II.

Young Vincent is about to take his final exams and is finding it difficult to focus and be motivated. In an effort to do so he promises himself he will visit the location of his favourite picture given to him by his grandparents. It is one of another Vincent’s works – boats on a beach in the Camargue, in the south of France. Duly with exams behind him Vincent takes himself camping but becomes seriously ill. Taken in by a kindly though odd older couple from a farm he recuperates slowly and is the audience for their combined story. Autistic Lorenzo and Romany Kezia first became friends at age eight when Kezia’s parents set up their carousel in the marketplace of Aigues-Mortes. There the two met; the boy who could not communicate well and the girl despised as a filthy gypsy – neither of them fitting the ‘normal’ social mode.

When the war came to Vichy France and the Nazis swarmed there was danger for both of them so Lorenzo’s family farm became a refuge for both. War breaks many things as does nature and when the carousel, the last remnant of joyful times, in the little marketsquare is destroyed, life seems very bleak indeed. But dark times bring out the good in many – families, communities and even some soldiers. A kind sergeant with a knack for carpentry becomes an unlikely ally as the children and the families heal.

Morpurgo’s beautiful descriptive writing and the almost lyrical nature of his narratives do not fail readers yet and this is another of his novels destined to become a classic read.  Rather than focusing on the evils of the war he chooses to highlight the humanity and hope that prevails in difficult circumstances.

Highly recommended for readers from around eight years upwards.

The Adventures of Pipi the Pink Monkey – Carlo Collodi. Retold and expanded by  Alessandro Gallenzi and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

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pipi

Bloomsbury Publishing Australia

Alma Classics

ISBN 9781847495594

RRP $19.99

July 2016

 

What’s that I hear you ask? Carlo Collodi? You mean the Italian guy who wrote Pinocchio? Yep, that’s the one I mean. And no, I didn’t know he wrote anything else either! By the way, if you have never read the original story but are only familiar with the contemporarised versions (like Disney) you should!

 

For the first time ever Collodi’s ‘other’ story for children has been translated into English and has also been tweaked by Alessandro Gallenzi. Alessandro is the co-founder of Alma Books (Alma being the Spanish for ‘soul’). This independent publishing company produces around seventy titles a year, many of them translations of classics in languages other than English.

 

Aside from the fascination of all of this (and I do mean fascination) the story of Pipi is quite charming. With definite overtones of the world’s most famous marionette, Pipi is very different to his brothers not only in his silky pink fur but also because he is the naughty one.

From stealing a peasant’s pipe to losing his tail while tormenting an old blind crocodile to meeting a little boy named Alfred and then being captured by an infamous brigand, Pipi adventure’s are thrilling.

And just as the Fairy with the Turquoise Hair (you know D’s Blue Fairy) promised Pinocchio that he could become a real boy, the rabbit with the turquoise fur makes good on the promise that Pipi will regain his beautiful tail, if only he keeps his word.
I truly love that I can hear Collodi’s turn of phrase and expression in this translation. The story is followed by a wealth of extra material for readers with a glossary of monkey language, biographical information about the author including a letter to his child readers, details of the characters and even other ‘literary’ apes/monkeys.

 

All in all this is a delightfully different addition to any primary library collection. Not least of all because the message it provides to young readers holds just as true today as it did in 19th century Italy.
Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.

Malkin Moonlight – Emma Cox

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Bloomsbury

September 2016

ISBN 97881408870846

RRP $12.99

I actually finished reading this a couple of weeks ago and the writing of this review has taken so long because this is so different and so charming I have found it difficult to find the right words.

I could just say it’s an animal adventure story but it is so much more than that. It really puts me in mind of such titles as Watership Down or even Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. Rarely does one read an animal story which truly projects the protagonists as completely sentient thinking creatures.

A small kitten loses one of his nine lives when he narrowly escapes drowning along with the rest of his litter. Little does he know but he is destined to become a hero. The Moon recognises this and blesses him with her naming of him – Malkin Moonlight. This small feline with a huge and magnificent tail has an acute sense for the distress of those in need and quickly loses another life in the first of many rescues.

On his third life, he is rescued in turn by a Domestic named Roux. Together this two form an unbreakable bond and fall in love. Roux chooses to abandon the comforts of domestic living and runs away with Malkin. As they search for a new home they come across a recycling centre populated by cats who are divided into two warring camps. Those on the ‘good’ side of the centre where they have accommodated themselves comfortably and are cared for by the workers; and those who lurk on the toxic dump site over ‘the wall’.

Only Malkin can unite these two factions and create a peace that will last forever. The adventures and dramas along the way are gripping and tense but the love, respect and true compassion of this singular cat and his friends are a remarkable lesson for all readers.

This first novel is destined to become a modern classic in my opinion.

Highly recommended for readers from around 9 years up.

Fabish: the Horse that Braved a Bushfire – Neridah McMullin/Andrew McLean

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ISBN: 9781925266863

Allen & Unwin

Imprint: A & U Children

August 2016

RRP $24.99

 

When we read of the most calamitous events in history it is the displays of courage and heroism that lift us up from despair and provide us with hopefulness for the future. In many cases it is the bravery of humans that so inspire us but at times it is an exceptional animal.

Fabish was not a very successful racehorse during his days on the racetracks but he had a big heart and smart sense which he put to the very best of use during the horrific Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria.

Following his retirement from racing, Fabish became a ‘mentor’ for yearlings at Tampirr Farm not far from Healesville. He proved perfect for the job as he kept them steady and showed them what was expected of potential champion racehorses.

When the raging bushfires began their deadly encroachment across the district trainer Alan knew he would be hard-pressed to keep the stabled horses safe and decided to risk saving Fabish and the yearlings by releasing them from their paddock.  He had no idea just how ferocious those fires would be and when at last the danger passed and he surveyed the wreckage of the property he despaired of ever seeing Fabish or the yearlings again. Yet miraculously as the smoke cleared and the ash drifted down from the hills came Fabish leading his seven young charges, all of them without even a singed hair.

An amazing true story which has a powerful impact and is so beautifully illustrated by Andrew McLean, whose talent for portraying the Australian landscapes is unsurpassed.

Highly recommended for readers from around seven and up and would certainly earn its place in any learning situation focused on natural disasters or Australian history.

Below is a photo and extract from the Let’s Go Horse Racing website in 2010 when Fabish was honoured before the start of the Healesville Picnic Races.

A year ago this Sunday fire roared through the township of Narbethong, approximately 21 kilometres from Healesville, and across Tarnpirr Farm, a 500 acre horse property owned by trainer Cliff Brown and his father Don.

Amazingly, none of the valuable racing stock on the property was lost, nor injured, thanks to the bravery of trainer and farm manager Alan Evett and the instincts of Fabish.

The 14-year-old grey gelding, who was prepared by premier trainer Mick Price during his racing career, sprung into action to save seven yearlings he was ‘mentoring’ in an outer farm paddock.

famish and the yearlings