Showing posts with label Brook Tayla. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brook Tayla. Show all posts

Friday, 16 November 2018

Little Spiral

Little Spiral by Pat Simmons, illustrated by Patrick Shirvington (Little Steps Publishing) PB RRP $16.95 ISBN 9780648267324

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

Little Spiral is a beautiful poetic journey that explores the life cycle of a snail.

The whole book has an air of mystery and intrigue.  Right from the first page you wonder which little pearl coloured circle could be the actual snail forming on the forest floor.

And then the journey begins that leads us through growth, life and a new generation – a circular narrative.

The text is written simply but meaningfully with words that evoke re-reading and pondering. The ink/watercolour illustrations are a perfect visual match and give depth of meaning to the story.  The edge-to-edge pictures pull readers right into the forest scenario, so that you feel you are actually there and feel an empathy with the snail, ‘Little Spiral’ – what a clever, delightful name!

This is a picture book that will be enjoyed by all ages and returned to often, not only to ponder life but also to check back in with this now familiar and cute little snail.

Brook Tayla writes a picture book review blog at [email protected] and would love you to drop by, read
some reviews, leave a comment, and subscribe.  Brook also offers editing services for beginning and emerging writers.

Sunday, 14 October 2018


Billie by Nicole Godwin, illustrated by Demelsa Haughton (Tusk Books)
HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 9780994531414

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

The author’s intent is very clear in this book – to show the beauty of the natural world in which all animals should live happily and peacefully, compared to the hardships that they actually face every day because of humans.

‘Billie’ presents readers with many scenarios that underwater sea creatures face.  The protagonist is Billie, a bottlenose dolphin, who just wants to spend her days playing joyfully in the surf, but instead, sets about helping animals affected by human intervention.  She does things like free animals from nets and releasing them from fishing lines. 

There is something new to discuss on each page, even after multiple readings – Demelsa Haughton’s illustrations are part of the reason for this.  Although the illustrations are bold and clear, they are layered with extra visual information.  The colour palette used is beautifully calming and maintains a sense of peace that everything is under control. (Even if as adults we know the truth is problematic)

Nicole Godwin is both an author and an animal activist. She is on a mission to save the animals suffering that we currently have on the planet and she is doing this by writing books that start the conversation with children.  Her books introduce children to facts and encourages them, as not only readers, but as people, to think differently about all creatures in the hope of a better more conscious future. Her mission statement reads:

                     ‘We create children’s books that give a voice to those who
                     yelp, roar, moo, oink and trumpet.’

There is a double-page spread at the back of the book that gives readers facts about dolphins and the hardships faced by creatures living in the ocean – a lot of food for thought.

Brook Tayla writes a picture book review blog at [email protected] and would love you to drop by, read some reviews, leave a comment and subscribe.  Brook also offers editing services for beginning and emerging writers.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Jacaranda Magic

Jacaranda Magic by Dannika Patterson, illustrated by Megan Forward (Ford Street Publishing) HB ISBN:9781925804003   RRP $24.95 PB ISBN: 9781925804010   RRP $16.95

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

The flowers falling from the jacaranda tree sparks the imagination of five bored friends with nothing to do in this newly released picture book.

 The story, written in rhyming verse, weaves its way through a multitude of scenarios that the children imagine as they play on and around the jacaranda which is in full bloom. Childhood freedom and fun is presented, reminding readers of all ages of the simple joys of life that can be created just by using your imagination.

Award winning illustrator, Megan Forward, has portrayed the story in watercolours that give off a day-dreamy feel - inviting readers into the imaginary worlds that the children make up and explore.

This is a great book to read to children to remind them that we have the best time when life is simple, creative, spontaneous and playful – especially when we share those times interacting with family and friends - and often the best times are in the outdoors. It’s also a great book to have on hand if you hear the ‘bored’ word.

Brook Tayla writes a picture book review blog at [email protected] and would love you to drop by, read some reviews, leave a comment and subscribe – you can do that here: Brook also offers editing services for beginning and emerging writers.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Pig in a Wig

Pig in a Wig by Chrissie Krebs (Omnibus Books) HB RRP $16.99 ISBN 9781742762654

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

This is a delightfully funny story of a pig that finds a wig, and although he is very smitten with himself and his new look, it actually sets him up for lots of trouble and danger as the other farmyard animals do not recognise him.

Chrissie Krebs has created a fun-filled adventure that children will enjoy reading over and over again.

The text is composed of well-written rhyming couplets, in comedic but mature language that will surely engage children.  Her illustrations are hilarious - enriching the whole story with a cast of interesting and expressive characters …and the end-papers are imaginative and adorable.

Well done to the talented author-illustrator Chrissie Krebs.

P.S. Looking forward to seeing her version of The Cat in the Hat. (You’ll need to read the book to see what I’m talking about!)

Brook Tayla writes a picture book review blog at [email protected] and would love you to drop by, read some reviews, leave a comment and subscribe.  Brook also offers editing services for beginning and emerging writers.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Girl on Wire

Girl on Wire by Lucy Estela, illustrated by Elise Hurst (Penguin Random House Australia) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 9780143787167

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

This picture book is exquisite – delicate and graceful, yet piercingly intense. It tells the story of a young girl facing a personal inner turmoil. We don’t find out what that is for her, but we don’t need to know. Life puts us in the darkness in many ways during our life and when we are there in that dark place it is just dark, for whatever reason, and finding the way out is very often hard.  Not knowing the girl’s personal dilemma leaves the story open for our individual darkness’ – whatever they may be or have been.

‘Turning her face from the wind, she sees for the first time how high the wire is and how far she could fall.’

This book shows that we must be strong even though it appears too difficult and that we have a support network. The interpretation of this is also left open – the network could be your higher-self, or God, or a parent, or the community in which you live.  It’s the thing you grasp on to, to get you through, the hope that wants you to succeed.

‘She stands up, ignoring the storm still snapping at her ankles and raises her arms out wide again.’

Finally, the girl takes the steps that start her warrior heart beating, and begins the journey, step-by-step, that leads her out of the darkness. There isn’t a full resolution at the end, but she is moving ‘forward.’

The interplay of meaning painted on to each page, both in words and illustrations, will make you read this book over and over again – not to understand it but because it has touched your soul.

We are all ‘girl on a wire.’ This is an important story.

Brook Tayla writes a picture book review blog at [email protected] and would love you to drop by, read some reviews, leave a comment and subscribe.  Brook also offers editing services for beginning and emerging writers.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

My Mum is a Magician

My Mum is a Magician by Damon Young, illustrated by Peter Carnavas (UQP)
HB RRP $24.95  ISBN 9780702259944

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

This book is filled with fun and frivolity from beginning to end and is sure to delight pre-school children. It is full of amazing Mums in diverse and unusual roles who get up to all sorts of antics both in the workplace and at home. The main Mum is a magician and will keep children wondering how mothers just seem to know what’s going on – even when you think they’re not looking!

The rhyming text is well written, making the flow an easy out-loud read. The illustrations are funny and will have children laughing.  There are a lot of animal characters to discover on each page and they are placed in very comedic situations.

This is a light-hearted, fun book that is the latest release in the family series: My Sister is a Superhero, My Pop is a Pirate, My Brother is a Beast and My Nanna is a Ninja. I predict that Dad will be next and wonder what he will get up to !

This would be a great book to share with young children. I can imagine teachers using this for Mothers Day prompts or discussions about mothers.

Brook Tayla writes a picture book review blog at [email protected] and would love you to drop by, read some reviews, leave a comment and subscribe.  Brook also offers editing services for beginning and emerging writers.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Not So Scary Bear

Not So Scary Bear by Ruth Waters HB RRP $25.99 ISBN 9781922081728 (Windy Hollows Books)                                               
Reviewed by Brook Tayla
The clues begin with the title on the cover – the bear in this book is really NOT that scary. He does try to be scary.  He has a traditional role to fill after all! – but he is lonely and wants to be friends with the other animals in the forest.  He cleverly solves this dilemma by using his own interests whilst staying true to his inner self.
Ruth Waters’ story is cleverly encoded – it is a meaningful story told with such delight and warmth.  Just a purely inspiring story that will be read over and over again.
Her completely handmade collages of paper, wool, ‘acrylic, glue and mess’ are warm,inviting and show mastery.  The use of collage creates tension between the individual parts as a comparative representation of a whole scene and fit perfectly into the concept of this book. They are also modern with clean-cut lines using a gorgeous palette of colours.
Brook Tayla writes a picture book review blog at [email protected] and would love you to drop by, read some reviews, leave a comment and subscribe.  Brookis a CBCA BOTY judge who also offers editing services for beginning and emerging writers and is

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Pepsi the Problem Puppy

Pepsi the Problem Puppy by Sandi Parsons, illustrated by Aska (Faraway Nearby Ink) PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 9780987615701

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

Every child wants one!
Every parent thinks twice!
                     .......and then somehow, in one way or another they arrive!

This book is all about the ‘settling-in’ phase and how that is viewed very differently by each member of the family.

Rosie is the protagonist who has long wished for a puppy. Her little brother Jacob always seems to say the wrong thing – especially when Mum’s around. Dad is the parent who finally gives in and finds the puppy, although his research wasn’t so good.
Mum is the reluctant parent who is nit impressed with all the upset and happenings that Pepsi the dog is causing. Granny can see the funny side of everything Pepsi does and it is ultimately because of her that the dog gets to stay.

Children will laugh at the funny scenarios presented in this early independent reader novel.

The author has a real dog called Pepsi with his own web page that you can look up here:

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Message in a Sock

Message in a Sock by Kaye Baillee, illustrated by Narelda Joy (MidnightSun Publishing) HB RRP $27.99 ISBN 9781925227383

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

This very touching and true war story is special. It doesn’t just depict a time in history -- it transports you right there. Unlike most war stories, this story focuses on the women left at home during WW1 and homes in on one aspect of how they supported their men – the soldiers.

Author Kaye Baillie tells the story of a little girl placing messages into the toes of socks that her mother has knitted during a war appeal to assist Australian soldiers serving in France. She includes other features in her story, including a poetic ‘Knitter’s Song’ that encapsulates the whole premise of this tale and the words of the original letter that sparked this book into being. Her story is underpinned by excellent historical research that makes this tale even more touching.

Narelda Joy’s collage illustrations perfectly compliment not only the story but the era of war. The colours and materials used have very vintage muted tones in hues of brown, green and blue. Another interesting aspect is that all the people in this story, including the child protagonist, Tammy, are always looking down, but the soldier looks you straight in the eye – a very open for interpretation move on the part of the illustrator.

This beautiful book and its unusual perspective will be treasured for not only it’s uniqueness but also for it’s truthful historical interpretation.
I feel very special to have known about this book for quite a long time. Kaye Baillee told me about it on the first day I met her, and I have been anticipating it’s release since 2016! Congratulations Kaye – it was worth the wait!

There is a very special Book Launch happening for ‘Message in a Sock’ for those who would like to attend on Anzac Day, 25th April, 2pm – 3pm at The National Wool Museum, 26 Moorabool Street, Geelong, Victoria. Here are the details: MidnightSun Publishing together with author Kaye Baillie and illustrator Narelda Joy are proud to launch their picture book, MESSAGE IN A SOCK at the National Wool Museum with FREE ENTRY to the Museum all day.

Join Sue Lawson, writing teacher and young adult author of books including FREEDOM RIDE and PROTEST IN AUSTRALIA as she discusses MESSAGE IN A SOCK with Kaye Baillie and Narelda Joy. Listen to a reading from the book then handle replica World War 1 socks knitted by a talented Red Cross volunteer. Enjoy a hot drink and Anzac biscuit then view the Museum’s sock knitting machines and the collection displaying the full story of wool.  National Wool Museum volunteers will demonstrate ‘casting on’ and signed copies of MESSAGE IN A SOCK will be available for purchase.

Brook Tayla writes a picture book review blog at [email protected] and would love you to drop by, read some reviews, leave a comment and subscribe.  Brook also offers editing services for beginning and emerging writers.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

My Dog Socks

My Dog Socks by Robyn Osborne, illustrated by Sadami Konchi (Ford Street Publishing) HB RRP $24.95 PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781925272826

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

Sometimes the most simple of stories can portray the most depth and My Dog Socks is a testament to this.  The interplay of story, illustrations and concepts all have layers that give depth of meaning to this beautiful story of a boy and his dog – some obvious, others quite subtle.

Firstly, the story, written from the boy’s perspective, is penned in poetic prose, which flow seamlessly from one page to the next in an enticingly fun and totally intriguing style.  The emotions attached to strong relationships are explored, showing the unconditional love and acceptance of the many sides of all living beings – the ups and downs of life and being there to support each other through the good and not so good times and also the acceptance of differences that comes with such a strong bond.

The abstract elements of the watercolour illustrations cleverly convey the author’s words and add depth by the use of an extremely clever shadowing technique that depicts each stage of the story.  The dog is painted in a deep navy blue-purplish colour to make it stand out from the natural settings – I learnt this from the illustrator herself.  It adds to the layers I mentioned at the start – stunningly so!

My Dog Socks is based on a real dog that belonged to the author before he moved on from this world.  It is, no doubt, the invisible layer of love that undertone Robyn’s words.  Socks lives on posthumously on Facebook and avid dog lovers would enjoy this site:

This book is not only for lovers of ‘man’s best friend,’ but for those of us that love all animals - and you just might be surprised at how many other animals you can actually find throughout this book!

Brook Tayla writes a picture book review blog at [email protected] and would love you to drop by, read some reviews, leave a comment and subscribe.  Brook also offers editing services for beginning and emerging writers.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017


Meeka by Suzanne Barton, illustrated by Anil Tortop (Bluebell Books)
HB RRP $22.00   ISBN 9780648099307

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

Meeka is a sweet blue bird that regularly visits all the stalls on market day.  He samples everything on offer but his gluttony leaves him feeling unwell, so the girl at the Moroccan Stew stall puts him in a tagine to sleep off his over indulgences.  Her father mistakenly sells the tagine and so begins the chase to find Meeka before he ends up as bird stew.

This story by Australian Suzanne Barton is told in a gentle but humorous way. Her plot is fun to follow and becomes increasingly suspenseful when everyone realises the error that has been made.  Her descriptive words are fun and will be very relatable to children and parents who naturally delight in explaining the world in rhyming words, like ‘sticky, licky toffee.’ Suzanne does not overuse this technique, however, and explains other things in a normal, but informative way.

Readers will love the story that Suzanne created for Meeka, and illustrator Anil Tortop must be highly commended on enhancing this story and bringing it to life visually.  Anil’s characters are full of expression that connects the reader with the emotions and feelings being portrayed.  Anil also has fun with illustration, breaking up the ways she interprets the text and by adding visual extras that are a joy to find and to ponder.

This delightful story is guaranteed to be read over and over again. It will be available in bookstores soon but if you just can’t wait and want a copy now, you can contact Suzanne Barton personally at:

Brook Tayla writes a picture book review blog at [email protected] and would love you to drop by, read some reviews, leave a comment and subscribe.  Brook also offers editing services for beginning and emerging writers.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Ori’s Christmas

Ori’s Christmas by Anne Helen Donnelly (self-published) PB RRP $17.99
ISBN 9780646962207

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

Ori is preparing for Christmas and asks each of his friends what they would like to do on Christmas Day – but when the day comes the choices made by others are not liked by everyone.  The solution is compromise and everyone ends up having a great day.

This picture book is suitable for pre-school and kindergarten groups.  It contains two special features:

1.     There are actions to do as you follow along with the story that will delight small children.
2.     There are Christmas decorations to colour-in, cut out and hang on the Christmas tree.

Anne Helen Donnelly includes notes for Parents and Teachers to further engage participation with this book. She has published another book called Ori the Octopus in the same vein that includes Christmas decorations to colour and cut out.  You can also take a look at her website that includes extra activities to do with both books:

So if you are ready for some Christmas shopping, be sure to add this book to your list.

Brook Tayla writes a Children’s Literature blog called [email protected].  Drop by to subscribe and read some reviews.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

The 12th Dog

The 12th Dog by Charlotte Calder, illustrated by Tom Jellett (Hachette Australia) HB RRP $24.99  ISBN 9780734416919

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

The delightful memories that this book brought up make me smile.
The 12th Dog is the classic Aussie kids’ street or backyard cricket match story – simple but fun.  Charlotte’s words take us on a sweet journey of the annoying ball thief who is finally recognised for his great cricket playing skills. Tom Jellett’s illustrations are adorable – especially the expressive, realistic faces the dog pulls throughout the book.

When I was growing up there were many games of cricket played in the street and dogs made really good fielders – but occasionally one would take off with the ball and there would be a stream of kids chasing the dog down the road to get the ball back.  From memory the dogs always outsmarted and outran all of us, which ended the game unless another ball could be found!  

At one stage we had a ball crazy dog named Snoopy that the neighbours used to borrow for their backyard cricket games.  They put him to the test one day in a match that lasted five hours – he didn’t let them down!

This is a really great book that both children and adults will enjoy and hopefully it will get lots of you playing cricket with your dog – they make the best players…..and the best memories!

Brook Tayla writes a blog called [email protected] and would love you to drop by, read some reviews, leave a comment and follow by email so you get to receive all the latest reviews.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

At the Zoo I See

At the Zoo I See by Joshua Button, illustrated by Robyn Wells (Magabala Books) HB RRP $9.99   ISBN 9781925360455

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

I have a newly acquired attraction to board books.  From a literary viewpoint I have seen them evolve and become much more focused on the importance of both visual and written language and At the Zoo I See by Joshua Button and Robyn Wells displays this.

In this book we are introduced to nine animals that could be seen at the zoo – a mix of native and exotic animals; a macaw, a quoll, a jaguar, an anteater, a wombat, an elephant, a lion, a gorilla and a cassowary.

What makes this book work is the combination of the adjectives used for each animal and the expressive illustrations -- they just made me smile and enjoy this book so much more. Written text is extremely important because it introduces children to infrequently used words and word combinations and the visual text confirms this and gives a secondary view of the meaning – Joshua and Robyn have synergized this well.

And all this is contained within a few pages of a board book suitable for children from newborns up to kindergarten age.  

Brook Tayla writes a blog called [email protected] and would love you to drop by, read some reviews, leave a comment and follow by email so you get to receive all the latest reviews.

Thursday, 2 February 2017


Ella written by Nicole Godwin and illustrated by Demelsa Haughton (Tusk Books) HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 9780994531407

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

Nicole Godwin’s story is based on her real life experiences with elephants in Thailand, where she experienced both sides of the elephant industry, from cruel and harsh training for the purpose of tourism, through to volunteering at an elephant sanctuary, where the best is done to give mistreated rescue elephants a dignified place to live out the rest of their days.  ‘Ella’ takes us on a quintessential representation of this experience.

It is a brave journey that presents the truth.  Children want to know the truth and as adults we have a responsibility of care to teach facts in an open and accurate way, ensuring that we are contributing to empathetic and compassionate future generations.  Of course, we don’t want to frighten children, and that is a tender balance that Nicole Godwin masters with her words and Demelsa Haughton supports with her beautiful illustrations. Ella, the baby elephant in this story, has a sad, heart-rending story to tell - but she has strength, courage, persistence and determination that lead her towards an ending with a happy outcome.

Picture books need to engage adult storytellers and this book will definitely do that and will initiate conversations with children on different levels depending upon their age.

I feel saddened at the amount and extent of animal cruelty in the world – which is why more books like this are needed.  I recommend that every household, pre-school, kindergarten and primary school keep a copy of this serious but beautifully told story on their shelves.

Congratulations Nicole and Demelsa  - you handled the difficult with tender tenacity xx

Brook Tayla writes a blog called [email protected] and would love you to drop by, read some reviews, leave a comment and subscribe.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Return of the Dinosaurs

Return of the Dinosaurs by Bronwyn Houston (Magabala Books) HB RRP $17.99 ISBN 9781925360370

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

There’s a lot to really like about Bronwyn Houston’s latest picture book. The first thing is that she addresses the question we have all contemplated at some time: ‘What if dinosaurs still roamed the Earth today?’  Dinosaurs may have died out but our curiosity about them never has. This ‘factional’ book presents a fun story based on the prehistoric creatures that actually inhabited Broome, Australia in the Cretaceous Period and places them back in our time where they get to do things like go to the movies!

The opening page brings readers right into the story and sets up enough intrigue to make one want to read on. The balance between visual and verbal text works well; the narrated text feels like a casual conversation and Bronwyn’s extremely detailed and bright collages, and on edge-to-edge double-paged spreads which engage readers to be participants. There are extra bits and pieces to find in Bronwyn’s artwork and she interplays a dual text element with dinosaur comments and questions.  Observing the scale of the dinosaurs and their surroundings is intriguing, too.

I think there was an opportunity to present more interesting end papers with this book and sometimes the main text and the extra ‘dinosaur dialogue’ felt misplaced as I prefer primary text to always prelude secondary text, however these are small factors that do not take away from the book’s appeal.

The book ends with an information page about Bronwyn Houston and the dinosaurs that lived in Broome, including a map, which ties this factional story together neatly and gives readers plenty to think about and perhaps research, and of course there has been plenty of fun and mischief along the way.

Brook Tayla writes a blog called [email protected] and would love you to drop by, read some reviews, leave a comment and subscribe.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Cheeky Animals

Cheeky Animals written and illustrated by Shane Morgan (Magabala Press)
HB RRP $9.99 ISBN 9781925360431

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

This board book for very young readers is narrated in a simple and happy way. The protagonist is a traditional, indigenous Australian who finds himself in funny and playful scenarios with a variety of Australian animals.

The text uses rhyme and repetition to engage readers, with couplets that begin with ‘Look at the....’ which introduces the reader to each animal and ‘See the....’ which shows the protagonist engaged in a funny way with that animal. 

The illustrations bleed from edge to edge and on each double spread there is a scene which is boarded. I would have preferred it to be more consistent with the left side that introduces each animal, but this does not take away from the story. Shane Morgan uses a simple, desert colour palate with simple but expressive drawings.  The animal smiles when they trick the protagonist are cheeky while at the same time endearing.  The illustrations have a cartoonish feel about them and could be seen as a child’s very first and basic introduction to comic books and graphic novels.

I love the size of Magabala board books because they are perfect for little hands and laps and they are also light weight and durable enough for multiple re-reads.

This board book will bring smiles to those who read it and I’m sure will lead to discussions about what other animals would do. This is a great book for extended adaptations.

Brook Tayla writes a blog called [email protected] and would love you to drop by, read some reviews, leave a comment and subscribe.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Animals in My Garden

Animals in My Garden written and illustrated by Bronwyn Houston (Magabala Books) HB RRP $9.99 ISBN 9781925360448

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

In this board book readers are introduced to counting from one to ten in numbers and words with corresponding pictures and names of Australian animals.

The front cover is appealing with a selection of animals amidst fauna, but it is upon turning the first page that you are really drawn into a very tactile and engaging counting adventure.

Bronwyn Houston’s illustrations lure you to touch the pictures: I have run my finger along the snake on page one many times (and I don’t like snakes!) She presents semi-camouflaged animal groups of various sizes, against very bright garden backdrops, which works really well.  It encourages touching, pointing and finding the right amount of animals. It is the interplay of these techniques that encourages learning and makes it fun at the same time.

The first thing I noticed about this board book was its design.  The size is perfect and it is light - yet sturdy enough for the repeated and rough use associated with very beginner readers.

This board book is suitable from birth to pre-school level and I can see it being read over and over again. It would appeal to all children in this age bracket and be a favourite with parents, early childhood carers and kindergarten teachers. 

Brook Tayla writes a blog called [email protected] and would love you to drop by, read some reviews, leave a comment and subscribe.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Fabish the Horse that Braved a Bushfire

Fabish the Horse that Braved a Bushfire by Neridah McMullin, illustrated by Andrew McLean (Allen and Unwin) HB RRP $24.95
ISBN 9781925266863

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

Fabish the Horse that Braved a Bushfire is an outstanding picture book. It is a true, mysterious, intriguing and emotional story of an ex-racing horse which took seven yearlings under his wing during ‘The Black Saturday’ bushfires that swept through Victoria during 2009. Nobody knows where Fabish went to escape the fire, but he returned home with the other horses the following day – every one of them completely unscathed.

Neridah McMullin has horses in her heritage and totally fell in love with Fabish when she heard his story.  She described him as intelligent but also as having warmth not always associated with race horses. The words she uses in her story are heartfelt and compassionate, but strong too – as strong as Fabish, as strong as those that live on the land and deal with the harshness of bushfires.

There is something else I admire about Neridah’s writing: the way she incorporates ‘horse’ and ‘fire’ associated words into her story.  She incorporates words not typical in everyday language but does not shy away from using them, simplifying them, nor does she explain them.  An example of words used are: clods, yearlings, pranced, flighty, tack, whinnied, and billowing, embers, ablaze, doused, charred, desolate.

Children learn words from context, and often it is through the words in picture books that they first encounter and work out the meanings of words – sometimes on their own, through implied meaning, sometimes through discussion with adult story readers. There is a lot to talk about with this book.

The words and story come alive, too, with the illustrations of gifted Andrew McLean.  He has used a combination of watercolour paintings and sketches. Although he has stated that this is the first time that he had to draw and paint horses, you get a real sense of the emotional and personality traits of Fabish and all the horses throughout the story.  The colour palettes he uses make every page come alive so that you feel totally immersed in the world he creates.

I would recommend this book for readers 6+ years as a maturity level is needed to comprehend the complexities of the story.

The book evokes the need to re-read again and again, and also, to tell everyone you know how amazing this story about Fabish the very brave horse is.

Brook Tayla writes a blog called [email protected] and would love you to drop by, read some reviews, leave a comment, and subscribe.