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July 2015

My literary inheritance

The Bobbsey Twins on a Houseboat

I have a very soft spot for beautifully illustrated, hardcover editions of books. Paperbacks are lovely for a quick read or to tuck into your bag to read on the tram.  But a gorgeous hardcover book with its colourful dust jacket, is a thing of beauty in itself.  An item to be treasured and handed down through the generations.  The best kind of heirloom - one that can be used, loved and enjoyed.  And I really believe that beautiful design and illustration are just as important as good writing.  After all, you think what you read.

I still have all the books my mum owned when she was a girl.  I read and reread those books, cover to cover.  The Cat and the Fiddle by Mollie Chappell.  The Bobbsey Twins by Laura Lee Hope.  Sarah Gay, Model Girl.  Mates at Billabong by Mary Grant Bruce.  I don't have to look them up because I know them off by heart.  And all the Little Women books by Lousia May Alcott.  My favourites were always Little Men and Jo's Boys.  I didn't have much time for the prissy sisters but I loved feisty, determined and independent Jo March.  My mum often only had one or two books in a series and that is what got me hooked on collecting books.  (This is how I got hooked on reading.)  I wanted to read every book that the characters I fell in love with were in.  Often I also wanted to read every book by an author I liked.  

And now my nine year old is beginning to do the same with the books I loved as a child.  Most of them are still at my parents and she loves visiting them and getting lost amongst the pages.  Luckily I have lots of gorgeous hardcover books in my collection.   I'm afraid, a paperback would not have lasted nearly so long.  It certainly wouldn't have survived so many readings (or all the lollies I used to eat while I read!).


My Big Barefoot Book of Wonderful Words by Sophie Fatus

My Big Barefoot Book of Wonderful Words

Barefoot Books, Bath, 2014

Hardcover, 48 pages

ISBN: 978-1-7828-5091-5

Suggested reading age: 3+

Reviewed by: Indrani Perera

Rating: *****

My five year old daughter loves this book and so do I!  It is a great picture book / first reader.  The book takes us through a day in the life of Felix, Sam, Maya, their parents, grandfather and pets.  The gorgeous illustrations are labelled with descriptive words so little readers can start to connect word with meaning.  Think of it as a step up from flash cards with a story to boot.  Interspersed with the story are pages asking questions like, "What kind if home would you like to live in?" and "Which story characters would you like to meet".  On these pages are gorgeous illustrations and descriptions of different options the reader can choose.  These pages fit neatly into the overall story.  A brilliant book to share with your budding young reader, In would highly recommend it.


Meet Captain Cook by Rae Murdie and Chris Nixon

Meet Captain Cook

Random House Australia, Milsons Point, 2013

Hardcover, 32 pages

ISBN: 978-0-8579-8017-5

Suggested reading age: 8+

Reviewed by: Indrani Perera

Rating: ***

This book is one in a great new series featuring famous Australians who helped create Australia.  I'm really excited that there are such fabulous books available for young Australians to learn about their history.  As a kid I can remember being frustrated by the emphasis in books on the northern hemisphere experience.

In Meet Captain Cook, we learn about the famous explorer's life as well as his epic voyage to discover and map the east coast of New Holland.  Did you know that 58 animals went on the trip along with the rest of the crew and their supplies?


Daisy Saves the Day by Shirley Hughes

Daisy Saves the Day

Walker Books, London, 2014

Hardcover, 40 pages

ISBN: 13 digits

Suggested reading age: 8+

Reviewed by: Indrani Perera

Rating: *****

Shirley Hughes is another of my favourite author / illustrators.  Daisy Saves the Day is a good picture book for older readers curious about what things used to be like for children.  As well as a glimpse into the past, it is also a great story.  Daisy Dobbs is sent far from home by her mother to be a scullery maid.  Although Daisy works very hard, she isn't very good at housework and longs to be able to go to school again.  This could be a good book to read to kids who are having a hard time at school.  Perhaps things aren't so bad for them after all!


The Worst Witch and the Wishing Star by Jill Murphy

The Worst Witch - Wishing Star

Puffin, London, 2013

Hardback, 200 pages

ISBN: 978-0-141-38339-6

Suggested reading age: 5+

Reviewed by: Indrani Perera

Rating: ****

Long before Harry Potter and his friends took the world by storm, there was another boarding school for sorcery - Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches.  First published in 1974, the Worst Witch series of books are written and illustrated by the supremely talented Jill Murphy and feature the accident prone Mildred Hubble.

In this book, Mildred Hubble is given the job of being lantern monitor.  Can she manage to fly around the castle on her broomstick every evening to the light the candles and again every morning to douse the candles without causing a mishap?  The bite size chapters and gentle story make this a perfect bedtime story for little folks.  There is also enough adventure and excitement to keep older readers entertained.


A Bus Called Heaven

A Bus Called Heaven

Candlewick Press US, Cambridge, MA, 2012

Hardcover, 40 pages

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5893-9

Suggested reading age: 5+

Reviewed by: Indrani Perera

Rating: *****

I have only just discovered Bob Graham and I love his books.  They are quiet, gentle and inspiring.  Reading them makes me want to be a better person and leave the world a better place.  A Bus Called Heaven is no exception.

In A Bus Called Heaven, an old abandoned bus is left on the street.  Stella finds it and everyone helps to push it into her front yard.  It quickly becomes a meeting point for her community as the adults clean up the bus while the children play underneath it.  People bring donations for the bus, street gang The Ratz paint it, and Mrs Stavros brings a bus cake.  Until one day, a tow truck arrives to tow the bus away because it is obstructing the footpath.  What will Stella and her friends do?


The Quiltmaker's Gift by Jeff Brumbeau and Gail de Marcken

The Quiltmaker's GiftPfeifer-Hamilton Publications, Duluth, 1999

Hardcover, 48 pages

ISBN: 978-1-5702-5199-3

Suggested reading age: 5+

Reviewed by: Indrani Perera

Rating: *****

The Quiltmaker's Gift is a modern fable of a greedy King and an old woman high in the mountains creating quilts for the poor people in the towns below.  What happens when the greedy King demands a gift from the Quiltmaker?  Will she give him one?

This book is filled with visual detail and is a perfect accompaniment to the text.  The endpapers of this book are decorated with quilts and their names.  The discerning reader will spy these quilts scattered throughout the story.  This book became a firm favourite with everyone in our family.


Let's Eat by Ana Zamorano and Julie Vivas

Let's Eat

Scholastic, New York, 2003

Paperback, 32 pages

ISBN: 978-0-4390-6758-4

Suggested reading age: 3+

Reviewed by: Indrani Perera

Rating: *****

Julie Vivas is one of my favourite illustrators and in Let's Eat she has teamed up with Ana Zamorano to create a gorgeous tale about Antonio and his family.  

Every day at 2pm, Antonio and his family gather at the big wooden table his Papa made to eat their lunch.  There are seven people in the family, soon to be eight as Antonio's mother is going to have a baby any day now.  I loved the family mealtimes with Alicia asking a thousand questions and Salvador wriggling off his chair to hide under the table.  This book is full of Spanish phrases and has a glossary at the back.


Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge

Fly By Night

Macmillan Children's Books, London, 2006

Paperback, 448 pages

ISBN: 978-0-3304-1826-3

Suggested reading age: 14+

Reviewed by: Indrani Perera

Rating: *****

 This book is a rare treat, filled with jewel like prose and a cracking tale.  I was torn between savouring every word and racing ahead see what happened next.  Fly By Night is the tale of young Mosca Mye, an orphan who burns down her uncle's mill and runs away with a mysterious stranger who has a way with words.  She lives in a world where every day belongs to a Beloved.  If you are lucky enough to be born on the day of Goodman Boniface you are a child of the sun and can be called Auroa or Solina.  If, however, you are born on the day sacred to Goodman Palpitattle, He Who Keeps Flies out of Jams and Butterchurns you are named after an insect.  And that is how Mosca was named.

Ms Hardinge has created a rich, believable and fresh world.  Her imagination is incredible and the plot kept me guessing to the very end.  I didn't want the story to end but had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen to Mosca next.   I only hope that Frances Hardinge has written more books for me to devour and savour.


An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Aston and Sylvia Long

An Egg is QuietAmicus, Mankato MN, 2013

Hardback, 36 pages

ISBN: 9781607533511

Suggested reading age: 5+

Reviewed by: Indrani Perera

Rating: ****

Another gorgeous book about the natural world from the fabulous duo of Dianna Aston and Sylvia Long.

The front end papers of this book have beautiful illustrations of all different types of eggs. The back endpapers show the creatures that hatch out of the eggs. In between we learn all about the different characteristics of eggs. Their size, shape and texture. How they are colourful shapely and clever.  Where they are kept until their owners hatch– on feet, in nests or balanced precariously on rocky ledges.  We even get to peep inside the egg and see just what os going on.

Other books in this series: A Seed is Sleepy, A Rock is Lively, A Butterfly is Patient