Showing posts with label Magabala Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Magabala Books. Show all posts

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Lucky and Spike


Lucky and Spike written and illustrated by Norma MacDonald (Magabala Books) PB RRP $17.99 ISBN: 9781921248177

Reviewed by Vanessa Ryan-Rendall 

Through the eyes of two cute hopping mice, young readers will see what they get up to each night as they search for food and escape from hungry predators!

Every night Lucky and Spike enjoy the spinifex seeds leftover from the local women who grind them to make bread but as we find out, they are not the only ones who are in search of food. Lucky and Spike need to use their quick legs to escape a hungry feral cat and a barking owl but with the help of the camp dog and the sharp spinifex grass, they escape.

Norma Macdonald's illustrations highlight the colours of the desert and the people who live there. The animals are full of life and we can see their movements over the pages as they hop, fly and run throughout the night. 

There is so much to enjoy about this book and so much to learn: it is a must for anyone interested not only in the diverse landscapes, people and animals of Australia, but also the need for better solutions for native species. 

Lucky and Spike is a fun book to read for younger children but also one which can be used for older readers to explore further into different desert animals.


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.


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.



Sunday, 14 June 2015

The Toast Tree

The Toast Tree by Corina Martin, illustrated by Fern Martins
(Magabala Books)
PB RRP $17.95
ISBN 978-1922142689

Reviewed by Francine Sculli

In The Toast Tree writer Corina Martin has passed on the wildly imaginative and rich oral Aboriginal storytelling history of her own family, and in its pages she has carved a magical world where believing is everything. Inspired by her own childhood memories, Corina honours her grandparents in the most wonderful of ways. In much the same way that they kept Corina and her siblings believing the toast tree was real, Corina will have generations to come searching for the toast tree after reading this precious tale.

And who wouldn’t want to believe something so special?

Everyday Ella and Mia’s grandfather comes home from work with a special treat. They wait eagerly for him at the gate, itching to see what he pulls out of his lunch box. Without fail, he takes out two golden-brown pieces of toast, dribbled in honey and with a taste like no other. They beg him to tell them the story of the toast tree. He speaks of its magic resting and growing in the sand dunes, and its bright green leaves from which the toast hangs, setting alight the girls’ imaginations.

The next day, curious and wild with adventure, the girls go in search of the tree. In the sand dunes, they find nothing but a bush with beautiful green flowers shaped like birds and filled with a cream that tastes just like honey. But when their grandfather sees the girls picking the flowers, he is very sad and explains to them that there will be no honey left for the birds. It is only he who can pick toast from the tree or the magic will stop. Not wanting the magic to stop, the girls agree to let the toast tree grow and leave it in the hands of their grandfather. Their curiosity remains, but never do they find the tree, only its gifts their grandfather brings for them.

This beautiful story is made even more magical by the by Fern Martins’ watercolour illustrations, which vividly evolve with each turn of the page. Their deeply rich colours and details give life to this story and life to the family that share it.

The Toast Tree is a deliciously sweet and simple tale that will have anyone, of any age, pleading to have it read to them over and over again. This book weaves themes of family, memories, childhood, storytelling and imagination, and a little of its magic will go a very long way.


Thursday, 15 January 2015

The Girl from the Great Sandy Desert

The Girl from the Great Sandy Desert by Jukuna Mona Chuguna and Pat Lowe, illustrated by Mervyn Street (Magabala Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 978-1-922142-05-4
Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Known by her white name Mona, Jukuna Chuguna, a Walmajarri woman from the Great Sandy Desert in Western Australia, worked with a white Englishwoman, Pat Lowe, to relate stories about the life of desert dweller Mana and her Walmajarri family. In the book’s introduction, Lowe tells of her experience with Jukuna who would visit her house, sometimes painting; together they co-wrote this children’s book. Jukuna also wrote her autobiography in Walmajarri language; it was translated in English and published in 2004, alone with the story of her sister, Ngarta, in a single volume titled Two Sisters.

This book, however, is for children aged 8 to 12 years. It is a series of short stories about Mana who was born under a tree and raised in the desert. A child reading this book would learn much about tribal life – how desert families hunted and camped, and about tribal relationships.  They would also learn about spirits such as spirit babies, known as wurrawurra’. Mana’s spirit is jarriny, named after a desert nut tree oozing with gum.

There are stories here about Mana’s extended family, for instance her aunty Lilil and uncles Yinti and Kana. Mana has two mothers; her own mother was her father’s first wife; his second wife was blind; thus the book is a great way of showing young readers how disabled Aborigines are treated by their own people. The stories are episodic and have self-explanatory titles such as ‘Nearly Buried Alive’, ‘The Fight’, ‘Mana the Hunter,’ ‘A Trick’ and ‘Mana Loses her Father.’

There are a number of break-outs throughout the book with headings such as ‘Fire’, ‘Food and Fasting’, ‘Dogs’, ‘Dying in the Desert’ and ‘Digging for Water.’ These mini-articles provide factual information relating to the stories accompanying them. The break-out on ‘Body Scars’ relates to a story wherein Mana and her friends Tili and Kayi and three young boys are cut on their bodies so ‘the bad kukurr spirit’ won’t bother them. ‘Body Scars’ tells how desert people who were cut rubbed ash and ochre into the cuts to raise the scars into ridges.

The Girl from the Great Sandy Desert is a very interesting account based on events in Jukuna’s own life. Elucidating the rich cultural lives of pre-contact Aboriginal Australians, the book is a valuable resource for educators and young readers, and is accompanied by beautiful black and white wash illustrations by Gooniyandi artist Mervyn Street from the Kimberley’s Fitzroy River region.

In the 1950’s Jukuna Mona Chuguna left the desert with her husband to live and work on cattle and sheep stations in the Kimberley’s Fitzroy Valley. In middle age, she became a well-regarded artist, holding exhibitions of her work around Australia and overseas. She was a natural teacher and great storyteller. She died in 2011.

It should be noted that these authentic Indigenous Australian stories include notes that complement main text, glossary and pronunciation guide. There is a set of teachers’ notes linked to the new Australian Curriculum



Saturday, 6 November 2010

Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna

Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna by Cathy Goonack, illustrated by Katrina and Marlene Goonack and Myron Goonack (Magabala Books)
PB RRP $12.95
ISBN 978-19221248160
Reviewed by Lillian Rodrigues-Pang

As a start I have to say I love this story and the book. Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna is the story of how the possum became scaly-tailed and how echidna got his spikes. It is a story told by the Goonack family from the Wunambal people – living in the remote Mitchell plateau region of the Kimberley, Western Australia.

Like the majority of Aboriginal stories it involves a wrong-doing, violence, drama and consequence. These are great stories for children, youth and adults as it involves all the elements we know and enjoy!

The book contains a strong sense of voice. I can hear the depth and lilt as I read. The personal photos at the front and back of the book aid this. In particular the photo at the front of Wilfred Goonack teaching his grandson to cook up crocodile is both personal and beautiful and allows the reader to feel a connection to the people for whom this story is a part of their dreaming.

The beginning of the book also describes the artistic process, which was very interesting. The children, with the support of Janie Andrews produced them. They are all silk-screen images. It made me take a closer look at the art and I wish I could view the original silk screens.

This book is not only a dreamtime story it is also an instructional tool. Until reading this I had no idea that a scaly-tailed possum existed in the far north-west of Western Australia. There is a page of information regarding the scaly-tailed possum, the echidna and the Kandiwal mob and their region at the end of the book. It is refreshing to have a reminder about the broad nature and biodiversity of the land we live in and the people whilst reading a lovely dreaming story.