Walking Your Human – Liz Ledden

Illustrations – Gabriella Petruso

If you’ve ever had the honour of being owned by a dog, you will find every page of this book relatable. There’s so much we can learn from our canine fur babies, like taking the time to slow down to appreciate the little things and learning how to relax.

Whether your arm has been permanently lengthened from one too many vigorous leash yanks or you’ve been protected from a horde of dangerous pigeons, you’ll find it here.

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Gabriella Petruso’s illustrations feature a diverse range of dogs and humans. They highlight the loveable quirkiness of dogs and how expressive they are in communicating exactly what they want.

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Kids will love this book but adults are the ones who will truly appreciate all of the ways dogs take care of us. It’s probably not what the author and illustrator had in mind but I’m all for the unconventional; I’d buy this book for anyone who’s recently been adopted by a dog.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Have you ever wondered what your dog is thinking? It turns out they know just what humans want – to be walked! And once they’re on their way, these dogs will share exactly how to do it.

Walking Your Human is a light-hearted look at the very different ideas dogs and humans have about what makes for a good walk. A picture book for dog lovers everywhere! 

Find Fergus – Mike Boldt

Fergus the brown bear is learning how to hide, only he’s not very good at it. Yet.

When we first meet Fergus, his attempts at hiding are pretty much equivalent to a child putting their hands over their eyes and assuming that means you can’t see them anymore. Or hiding behind the curtains but forgetting that their feet are still visible. Actually, maybe Fergus hasn’t quite reached that level yet.

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You’ve got to give him credit though. Fergus listens to instructions and applies what he’s learned to his next attempt. With perseverance, he gradually gets better at hiding until he finally masters it.

This book would not be nearly as entertaining if the animals weren’t so expressive. Fergus is absolutely adorable but you’ll also meet a duck and a fox, and a whole bunch of rabbits, squirrels, elephants, moose and bears (of course).

My favourite finds included a polar bear who’s just heard a joke, a bear hug and “an elephant with a squirrel problem”.

After you finish reading you can go back to the fold-out pages to search for the things (other than Fergus) that there are to find.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The hilarious mind behind I Don’t Want to Be a Frog and Bad Dog brings picture book fans the super-funny, interactive story of Fergus the bear, who loves to play hide-and-seek with the reader … but can’t really seem to get the hang of it. 

Children will giggle from start to finish as they follow huge, loveable Fergus and see all the silly ways in which he is TERRIBLE at playing hide-and-seek such as hiding behind a VERY tiny tree (“Found you, Fergus! That was too easy!”) or hiding in a giant crowd of bunnies and squirrels (“Try bears, Fergus. Bears!”). 

But wait the game isn’t over yet! The last two pages fold out into a giant panoramic look-and-find scene, where Fergus is well and truly hidden, and young readers can have fun looking for him and lots of other silly details in the the crowd.

Oliver the Curious Owl – Chad Otis

Oliver’s family are quite happy staying very close to the big tree they call their home. They’re also only concerned with “Who?” questions. But Oliver is different. Not satisfied with knowing “Who?”, he also wants to know “What?”, “When?”, “Where?” and “Why?”. His quest for answers leads him to wonder about “life outside the big tree”.

Fortunately, Oliver meets a bug called Bug, who shares his curiosity. Although he’s worried about getting lost if they were to go on an adventure, something unforeseen happens and soon Oliver and Bug are exploring a whole new world. Along the way they meet new friends and enjoy new experiences.

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Oliver’s family are a lot more cautious than he is and I expect parents reading this book to their own owlets will probably want to make it clear that it’s not okay to wander off without their family knowing where they are. Having said that, this is an adorable book that encourages kids to be open to new who’s, what’s, when’s, where’s and why’s.

I’m not sure how well this book would go down with family members who already hear “But why?” several hundred times each day but I love Oliver and Bug and their boundless curiosity about the world around them. The illustrations are full of personality and Bug, in particular, is really cute.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Oliver the owl questions anything and everything!

The only question Oliver’s family ever asks is “Who? Who? Who?” But he wants to know more:

WHO lives in those faraway woods?
WHERE does the river go?
WHY can’t I leave our tree?

When his curiosity gets the better of him, Oliver – and his best buddy, Bug — travel far from the safety of home to get answers about the wonderful world they live in. But after a day of exploration, how will the friends find their way back?

In this charming story of discovery, an inquisitive owl inspires those around him to let their curiosity take flight! 

Santa Jaws – Mark Sperring

Illustrations – Sophie Corrigan

“Merry Fishmas!”

Shelly the shark has something special planned this Christmas. She makes a sign for her front door welcoming everyone to Santa’s Grotto. The only problem is that none of the other fish trust her, so they quickly make themselves scarce. Fair enough, too. I’m pretty sure I’d be questioning Jaws’ motives before willingly stepping foot inside their home.

The exception is one inquisitive squid named Sid. Maybe Sid doesn’t know who lives behind this driftwood door or maybe they’re just so excited about meeting Santa Claus… Soon Sid finds himself face to face with Santa Jaws, not Santa Claus.

This book is so cute! The rhymes flow well and the repetition isn’t overused. The highlight of this book for me, though, were Sophie Corrigan’s illustrations. They use bright colours, the fish are all quite expressive and there are plenty of details to enjoy.

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I particularly loved the coral Christmas trees with shell decorations, the snowman made of sand, the angler fish finding love beneath the mistletoe and the stingray wearing a Santa hat.

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I hereby decree that stingrays must wear Santa hats at all times from this day forth, so we may never forget how adorable they make them look.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Today’s my LUCKY, LUCKY day.

Golly, whizz and gee!

For GUESS WHO’s meeting Santa Claus …

Yes, me! Yes, me! YES, ME!

Ho-ho-ho! It’s Christmas Eve and Sid the squid is SUPER-excited. He’s going to meet Santa Claus AT LAST!

But as he enters the dark underwater grotto, all is not as it seems …

Will there be a happy ending? Let’s hope so. It IS Christmas, after all!

Let’s Go, Little Roo – Renée Treml

Little Roo wants to play with the other joeys and she would love to have a friend but she’s scared. It’s all new to her and she’s shy.

But Little Roo wanted to stay hidden even more.

With her mother’s encouragement she is brave enough to peek outside of the pouch. It’s then that she realises she’s not the only one who’s afraid of new things.

This is such a sweet picture book, with Little Roo discovering that when she is brave enough to try new things, they’re not as scary as she first thought.

The illustrations are beautiful and Little Roo is very expressive (when she’s not hiding in her mother’s pouch). The grayscale of the animals set against the soft pastels of the backgrounds makes the book itself feel non-threatening.

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I can easily imagine other shy joeys borrowing some of Little Roo’s courage and taking the leap into some fun new experiences.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

‘Come along, Little Roo!’ called Mummy. ‘It’s time to go.’

Deep down, Little Roo wants to play, but everything here is new and different … and a little bit scary. With Mummy by her side, will Little Roo be brave enough to venture out?

Favourite Australian picture book creator Renée Treml is back with this gentle, comforting story of a shy kangaroo joey.

There’s an Alien in Your Book – Tom Fletcher

Illustrations – Greg Abbott

It’s time for another Who’s in Your Book? book. This book’s Who is an adorable little alien whose spaceship has crashed through its pages.

I managed to find an excerpt at Penguin UK so prepare yourself for image overload!

The interaction begins almost straight away because we need to find out just Who has invaded our book.

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No! Don’t be mean to our potential intergalactic friend. What would Mulder think if he saw you being anything less than welcoming?

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See what you did? Poor little guy.

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I’ll help! May I come with you, happy Alien friend?

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Oh, no. Our travel plans have been delayed. [I will not make a comment about 2020. I will not make a comment about 2020.]

It’s now up to you, dear reader, to keep following the instructions to help Alien. Along the way we’re reminded that diversity is wonderful, with a message of inclusion. And there’s a bonus cameo from Monster so I’m a pretty happy camper.

I really enjoy how interactive this series is. As usual, Greg Abbott’s illustrations bring our new little Who to life, with all of their emotions clearly depicted, and the colours are as vibrant and fun as I’ve come to expect.

I just hope there’s room on the spaceship for me.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott have created a new interactive adventure, this time featuring an adorable alien who has crash-landed in YOUR book!

You’ll have to help Alien back up into space, because aliens don’t belong on Earth … do they?

This sequel to bestsellers There’s a Monster in Your Book and There’s a Dragon in Your Book is packed full of interactive fun, with a gentle message about openness, acceptance and inclusion that will speak to the very youngest readers.

There’s a Superhero in Your Book – Tom Fletcher

Illustrations – Greg Abbott

Superhero is trying to save this book from their nemesis, The Scribbler, who is “scribbling all over your book with her crayons!”

But Superhero can’t do it alone.

Readers can help Superhero by completing various activities, including tapping and lifting the book.

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Fans of this series will find some familiar faces along the way, all of whom need help from the reader. Kids will love the interaction and parents will love the message, because the strongest superpower isn’t strength or speed; it’s something we can all do.

I love Greg Abbott’s illustrations. They’re colourful, the expressions are easy to read and there’s something so cute about a superhero sticking out their tongue to help them concentrate.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Whoosh! A superhero has landed in your book! A new interactive adventure from the team that brought you There’s a Monster in Your Book and its companions.

Use the power of your imagination to unlock Superhero’s superpowers. But you’d better act fast before The Scribbler ruins your book completely! Readers will enjoy interactively tapping, stretching, and whizzing this book around as they help Superhero defeat the villain and save the day! As he did in all of the companion books, Tom Fletcher invites interactive fun while delivering a satisfying twist that celebrates the power of kindness and the true meaning of being a hero and a friend.

Simon and the Big, Bad, Angry Beasts – Ian De Haes

Simon’s anger is big and it’s only getting bigger. Beasts begin to appear whenever Simon is angry and they chase everyone away. For a while Simon enjoys feeling like his anger is powerful but eventually, when his anger comes without a specific reason, he notices how lonely he is.

No one wants to be around him anymore but he doesn’t know how to get rid of his anger. Finally Simon learns to take responsibility for his feelings and to manage them in a calmer way.

I really liked the illustrations, which clearly showed Simon’s anger.

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While plenty of time was spent watching Simon’s anger getting more and more out of control, there wasn’t much page time dedicated to explaining how he could learn to manage it.

I would have liked to have seen more of a learning curve for Simon once he recognised that anger was a problem for him. Although it made for a neat ending, it wasn’t overly realistic that the first time Simon tried mindfulness his anger simply floated away.

There are resources at the end of the book for parents and caregivers, explaining how to talk to children about their anger and ways they can manage it.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Flyaway Books for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When Simon gets mad, he gets REALLY mad. So mad that big, bad, angry beasts appear. At first Simon loves having the beasts around to help scare off anyone who upsets him, but over time he realises that no one wants to be around him or the beasts. This makes Simon sad, so he decides to try to still his mind and practice being calm. And the beasts disappear!

Featuring colourful and expressive illustrations, this insightful book helps children ages 4 to 8 learn how to handle their anger. A guide for parents and teachers in the back of the book features strategies for talking to children about their emotions along with various exercises they can use to cope with anger. 

Love Your Body – Jessica Sanders

Illustrations – Carol Rossetti

Every so often I stumble across a book I wish I’d had the opportunity to read when I was a kid. This is one of those books.

While acknowledging that all bodies are different (and this is okay!), the focus of this book is appreciating what your body can do rather than what it looks like. Examples include using your hands to create, your eyes to watch television or read and your nose to smell the sea or flowers.

Self care ideas for showing your body kindness are included and seeking help from others is normalised. What you can do for your body and what it does for you are addressed but you are also reminded that you are more than your body. You are kind, curious, passionate and so many other wonderful things.

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I absolutely adored the message of this book but it was Carol Rossetti’s illustrations that sealed the deal for me. So many different bodies are represented. Bodies of various colours, shapes, sizes and abilities are included. There’s even cellulite, body hair and stretch marks, and I love that!

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I’ve lost count how many times I’ve read this book so far. Although the target audience are children, adults who didn’t receive this message as kids will also be able to use this book to challenge the stereotypes they’ve internalised about their own body.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

What if every young girl loved her body? Love Your Body encourages you to admire and celebrate your body for all the amazing things it can do (like laugh, cry, hug, and feel) and to help you see that you are so much more than your body.

Bodies come in all different forms and abilities. All these bodies are different and all these bodies are good bodies. There is no size, ability, or colour that is perfect. What makes you different makes you, you – and you are amazing!

Love Your Body introduces the language of self-love and self-care to help build resilience, while representing and celebrating diverse bodies, encouraging you to appreciate your uniqueness. This book was written for every girl, regardless of how you view your body. All girls deserve to be equipped with the tools to navigate an image-obsessed world.

Featuring a special surprise poster on the jacket, this book will show you that freedom is loving your body with all its “imperfections” and being the perfectly imperfect you!

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost – Flavia Z. Drago

I have to be brave.

I have to let the others see me!

Gustavo is such a sweetheart!

This lonely ghost desperately wants to make a friend but he’s too shy to talk to them. Even when he’s near the other monsters, no one sees him.

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Finally, Gustavo comes up with a plan. Even though he’s filled with self doubt in the lead up to the Day of the Dead, Gustavo is determined to be brave.

I love that Gustavo’s plan involves an activity that he enjoys, that he doesn’t try to become someone else in order to get the other monsters to notice him. His courage is rewarded and this little spectral introvert finds not just one friend but many.

The illustrations are so cute, clearly showing the way Gustavo is feeling throughout the story. There are a variety of monsters and plenty of background details to enjoy.

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I’ve already read this book so many times that I’ve lost count. I only wish I had a little monster to read it to.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for introducing me to such an adorable kindred introvert.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

This winning debut picture book from Mexican artist Flavia Z. Drago about finding the courage to make friends is perfect for the spooky season – or anytime.

Gustavo is good at doing all sorts of ghostly things: walking through walls, making objects fly, and glowing in the dark. And he loves almost nothing more than playing beautiful music on his violin. But Gustavo is shy, and some things are harder for him to do, like getting in a line to buy eye scream or making friends with other monsters. Whenever he tries getting close to them, he realises they just can’t see him. Now that the Day of the Dead is fast approaching, what can he do to make them notice him and to share with them something he loves? With fancifully detailed artwork and visual humor, debut picture-book creator Flavia Z. Drago’s vivid illustrations tell a sweet and gently offbeat story of loneliness, bravery, and friendship that is sure to be a treat for little ghouls and goblins everywhere.