Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise review

Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise, David Ezra Stein, Walker Books, 2018, isbn 9781406378061, Hb, $24.99

Chicken has been learning at school about the elephant of surprise in every story she will read.

Her Papa quickly explains that the teacher must have meant the element of surprise in every good story which is when something happens that the reader did not expect.

Not to be disappointed Chicken is certain that the three stories she needs to read with her Papa for homework will have an elephant in them! Although her Papa does not agree.

And so the first story Chicken chooses from their bookcase is the story of the Ugly Duckling. As far as most people who know this fairytale there are no elephants in this story, and so it seems to be the case here as we begin to read the story along with Chicken and Papa. Stein has inserted the scene where the Ugly Duckling is accepted by the swans…and then we turn the page and sure enough there is a massive element, eh, elephant of surprise for us and I think for Papa too!

The next story Chicken gets down from the bookcase is the tale of Rapunzel and the scene we begin to read is when the Prince climbs Rapunzel’s hair up the tower wall. Will there be another element of surprise here? And what of the third book Chicken needs to read for her homework? You will have to read this hilariously original book to find out.

There is one more story that after the three fairy tales Papa decides to tell Chicken. Chicken offers to draw the pictures to this one even though Papa assures her there will be no elephants in his story.

The resulting new story by Papa and Chicken is a delightful elephant of a surprise!

This book written and illustrated by Stein is such a fun book to read. It does however require a certain knowledge of fairy tales for the full humour to be appreciated, although in saying this children are not stupid and will still see the fun side to the stories within the story.

I love the illustrations that are whimsical and warm and make you want to sit down and read the book cover to cover. I am not sure why there are roses at the beginning and end of the story, maybe they are Chicken’s favourite flower? I would like to have known the significance for my own curiosity.

Highly recommended

Sharon Greenaway

November 2018.

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BEWARE THE DEEP DARK FOREST, Sue Whiting, Annie White, Walker Books, 2018, ISBN 978 1 742032 34 4, hardback.


Everyone knew the forest was deep and dark. Rosie’s grandma knew there were carnivorous plants, and Rosie’s dad knew there were venomous snakes in there.  Rosie told her pup Tinky this, but still he went in.

What was Rosie to do? She couldn’t just leave him in there, so she goes in too.

Rosie is brave as she creeps further into the deep dark forest, past something worse than carnivorous plants and venomous snakes – a wolf!

She is still brave when she comes across a deep ravine that was far worse than what she had ever encountered. She knows she has to go on to rescue her little dog.

Finally Rosie sees her little dog Tinky but she has to defeat an even worse threat to what she has already endured – a troll!

Will Rosie defeat the troll and save her little dog? I won’t tell you here as you will need to read this adventure story for yourself.

This book has lots of repetition in it, something younger readers enjoy listening to and older readers enjoy reading out loud. It reminds me of the well known book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt with its repetition of dangers as well as desire to keep on going. However here there is only one hero.

White’s illustrations are sumptuous and enhance the text; I particularly liked the double page spread where Rosie is twisting vines in readiness for her ravine crossing.

It is good to see a female heroine in a children’s book, but I must admit to wondering about Dad and Grandma staying back while their daughter/granddaughter goes in all alone to the forest.

Sharon Greenaway


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GIRAFFE PROBLEMS, Jory John, illustrated by Lane Smith, Walker Books, 2018. ISBN 978 1 4063 8316 4, hardback.


Edward the Giraffe hates how his neck is so long and so high compared to all his fellow animals where he lives. He roams around his home and compares his neck to the other animals; he loves the stripes on the neck of the zebra, the strength and power of the elephant’s neck and the mane on the lion’s neck. Edward has tried so many times to be invisible, even wearing heaps of bow ties to try to camouflage his neck, to no avail.

When he sadly lies his long neck down onto a patterned rock in order to hide until nigh time he discovers that instead it is actually a tortoise with its head tucked away. This encounter is the beginning of both a friendship and an appreciation for each of the creatures own abilities.  The tortoise, whose name we learn when the two introduce themselves is Cyrus, (this is also the first time we find out Edward’s name, none of the other animals seemed to want to know his) actually hates his short neck and its limitations.

Edward learns that Cyrus admires his long neck and the things that he can see and do as a result of it. After a long speech from Cyrus Edward realises he can help his new friend taste a fruit that he has only ever dreamed about before – a banana! This scene also cleverly illustrates the difference in height between the friends by adding an extra fold out page.

The illustrations are in warm jungle tones and while cartoon like are easily identifiable as real animals. I like the endpapers that are illustrated like a delightful close up of the patterns of a giraffe’s hide.

Love the final use of the bow ties!

The book would make a wonderful base for teachers to discuss acceptance of one’s own self no matter what you look like as well as acceptance and welcoming by others.

Sharon Greenaway


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GOOD ROSIE Kate DiCamillo

GOOD ROSIE, Kate DiCamillo/Harry Bliss, Walker books, 2018, ISBN 9781406383577, $24.99 hardback.



Rosie lives with George who takes really good care of her. They eat breakfast together and go for walks in the fields together. Still Rosie is lonely even though she has George. She craves for a dog friendship.

When George senses this he takes Rosie to a local dog park but she does not know what to do. There are so many other dogs and she doesn’t know them. When a large dog named Maurice comes up to say hello Rosie growls at him. George calls her a bad dog which she isn’t but she just doesn’t like him (or perhaps is really afraid of this huge beast).

When a really tiny dog, Fifi, bounces up to say hello Rosie is so unsure of what to do, she just wants to go home.

Suddenly Maurice picks up the tiny dog and starts to shake her like his stuffed toy. Rosie knows this is wrong and knows what to do; she defends the little dog and saves her from being hurt.

In turn Fifi (who becomes Fif but you will need to read the story to find out why) saves Rosie from loneliness by asking her to be her friend.

This story is an analogy for how many children and probably adults feel when they are lonely. They want to make friends but don’t know how. Do they stay safe with their family or things that are familiar to them and don’t try or know how to fit in?  Or do they rough up other children because they too don’t know how to behave (as is the case of Maurice)?

The resolution is both educational and satisfying.

The illustrations by Bliss serve to enhance the story incredibly well. The opening page where we see Rosie and George asleep, books strewn on their bed, a ball on the bed and steps by the side for Rosie to climb easily onto bed, sets the scene of friendship the human and dog have. The scenes at the park where the main action takes place are well laid out, almost comic book style, which will help a younger reader follow the storyline. The final page is just lovely and shows that not only are the dogs making friends.


Sharon Greenaway



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Skyward, the story of female pilots in WW2, review

Skyward: The Story of Female Pilots in WW2, Sally Deng, 2018, Flying Eye Books, Hb. $27.99, isbn 978 1 911171 51 5

This fictional story is based on the true events of women becoming pilots at a time when planes were very different to what they are now in the 21st Century. Not only were planes different the thought of women wanting to fly them was not a common idea and those who wanted to become pilots faced many obstacles.

Written in the third person and from the viewpoint of three women from different countries, this book delves into how Hazel (America), Lilya (Russia) and Marlene (Great Britain) fell in love with flying from an early age and strove in their own way to achieve their goals.

The book starts in 1927 and introduces each girl and how they first encounter an aeroplane. As the girls grow up it is the onset of the second world war and an eventual shortage of male pilots that eventually give each woman a chance to fly.

Marlene learns to fly from her brother, whereas Hazel has lessons when she could afford it and reads about flying with the encouragement of her father. Lilya on the other hand keeps her flying dreams a secret from her family until she turns 18.

On the publisher’s website it states that this book is for ages 7 and up, I would like to add that without the well presented illustrations a seven year may struggle at times to maintain interest, for example I had to look up the definition of ‘strafed’.

The book looks and feels like it has been written in an earlier era that 2018, the paper type and illustrations remind me of books I had as a child; I am not sure will appeal to its intended audience.

There is a great deal of information in this book, as any good non-fiction book should, except this is meant to be a work of fiction based on facts.

At the end of the book there is an author’s note giving some background to her reason for writing and illustrating this work, also a bibliography for those reader who would like to know more.

The book opens the eyes for those people who did not know about the role of women as pilots in WW2 and as a starting point for further research it is a good stepping stone.

Sharon Greenaway

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Inheritance by Carole Wilkinson

Inheritance, Carole Wilkinson, black dog books, 2018, isbn 978176650360, softcover, rrp $17.99.

Being a fan of Wilkinson’s Dragonkeeper series I was thrilled when I read of her new book in my reviewing list. Inheritance differs as it is set in modern day Australia but does delve into the past with a time travelling poignant twist.

14 year old Nic is left in the care of her grandfather who lives on the remote country property Yaratgil. Once the home of her mother and her grandmother, it is now a shadow of its past.

The loneliness and isolation of her new home underlines Nic’s desire to find out about her mother who died the day she was born. While her grandfather tends to his cows, Nic begins exploring her home. There is one room that is locked and Nic can’t find a key, that is until her fingers find it in the nearby water hole. This leads to an extraordinary discovery – Nic can time travel. (You will need to read the book to find out how!)

She learns that only the females of her family can time travel and each time she does she meets her ancestors. In so doing she also discovers a terrible secret.

During this time Nic also has to deal with starting at a new school, the last in a long line of new schools, but unlike others, she finds it difficult to settle in and make friends.

Gradually this changes when she meets Thor and the two develop a friendship through their school projects. Thor is a descendant of the local Aboriginal people, the Djargurd wurrung people. While he is researching his family’s connection to the land and the massacre of his people, Nic researches her female ancestor, both with time travel and more regular means such as library visits. The two projects link up in a profound and satisfying end.

The story is told mainly through the eyes of Nic in the first person, but there are also chapters that tell the story in the third person. These are when the lives of the people from the past are told. Each chapter that changes to third person has a title and date to help the reader understand where the story is set. In fact the book commences in the past in 1839 with Elspeth Mitchell, where she is seen lying in bed, sleepless due to the sound of gunshots that ‘…jolts her with a shiver of sadness and shame.’ Such a poignant and intriguing beginning to a novel will encourage a reader to go on. It was not until sitting down to write this review that the full significance of her getting out of bed and reaching for a shawl that was missing struck me. Such a clever connection to what happens later in the story!

This story is well written and covers a topic that many people may not be aware.

Highly recommend it.

Sharon Greenaway

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My Grandpa is Amazing, Nick Butterworth, 2018 (first published 1991) Walker Books, board book, ISBN 978 1 4063 8097 2

my grandpa is amazingMy Grandpa is Amazing, Nick Butterworth, 2018 (first published 1991) Walker Books, board book, ISBN 978 1 4063 8097 2


The title of this story really says it all. The story teller’s grandpa can do so much that anyone reading this book would want him in their life too.

From being a terrific driver, dancer, flower arranger, drink maker and first aid person, this Grandpa is so well loved and can’t do anything wrong. Such is the viewpoint of at least three children who feature in the illustrations of this story.

While the text is lovely, it is the illustrations, as is the case with any good picture book that flesh out and enhance the story so well. My favourites (all on double page spreads) are the dodgem car ride where the cars mirror the feelings of the drivers; the first aid pages that show both teddy and child being cared for, and finally part where Grandpa is very patient. I love the nervous look on Grandpa’s face!

This book is a delightful homage to everything a good grandpa can be, the only downside is that not everyone has such a grandpa in their lives, but perhaps we can all learn from his role model.

Recommended for your children’s bookshelf.

Sharon Greenaway.


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Backyard, Amanda Braxton-Smith & Lizzy Newcomb, 2018, Black Dog books, Hb, ISBN 978 1 925381 17 7

Backyard, Amanda Braxton-Smith & Lizzy Newcomb, 2018, Black Dog books, Hb, ISBN 978 1 925381 17 7


The first thing I noticed with this book is the lush acrylic illustrations that begin on the cover and continue from end paper to end paper. The only exceptions are the title pages that are largely white, with some pale blue flowers and green and brown foliage at the bottom enticing the reader to turn the page.

Double page spreads are created for each part of the story. From the opening scene of a child and dog who look out on their backyard at night; a backyard located in a city that is like other cities...right to the end when the story comes full circle back to the child and dog.

The language is rich with poetic descriptions of creatures that are active in the evening. I particularly like the tale of the spider making her web with …fussy knitting legs…

And the page with the Tawny Frogmouths is gorgeous both in text and illustrations.

Some of the language I found to be complex and I had to read a couple of times to get the full gist of what was being said, especially the tale of the mosquito…singing of sweet blood.

I feel this book really has two audiences – for the younger reader the illustrations are so rich and complex that a story can be gleaned without text. While the complex, poetic language would suit an older audience that takes the time to read it


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The Happiness Box, a wartime book of hope, Mark Greenwood & Andrew McLean, 2018, Walker Books, Hb, isbn 978 1 925081 38 1.

The Happiness Box, a wartime book of hope, Mark Greenwood & Andrew McLean, 2018, Walker Books, Hb, isbn 978 1 925081 38 1.


In 1942, Sgt. ‘Griff’ Griffin became a prisoner of war when he was stationed at Singapore and the Japanese army invaded. He was taken to a military compound located near to Changi Prison.

As Christmas was coming up the soldiers in the compound decided to make toys for the children who were imprisoned in Changi Prison. Griff felt he had not the skills to make toys so he decided to write a children’s book as his contribution. Captain Greener was an artist and painted the illustrations to go with Griff’s story, ‘The Happiness Box.’

Ultimately it would be up to the Japanese camp commander to give the okay for the children to receive the gifts. His response to the book and subsequent gifts would have been heart wrenching to the imprisoned soldiers of the time, and the order to destroy Griff’s and Captain Greener’s book would have been terrible.

Exactly how the soldiers were treated as prisoners as the war drew on is also succinctly explained with text and true-to-life illustrations so that the reader is made aware without being forced to see the real horrors of these events.

As is the case with most of my reviews I don’t like to reveal how this story ends, even though this one is based on real people and real events. Suffice to say this book is worthy of a read and there is plenty of between-the-lines hints that older readers can research or teachers can use as a basis for further discussion.

At the end of the recount there is further information of what happened to Griff and Captain Greener, which I felt gave a worthy summing up of the subtitle of this book a wartime book of hope.

I was left with a feeling of sad calmness if that makes sense.


Sharon Greenaway

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Duck! Meg McKinlay, illustrated by Nathaniel Eckstrom, 2018, Walker Books, ISBN 978 1 925381 53 5, Hb.

Duck! Meg McKinlay, illustrated by Nathaniel Eckstrom, 2018, Walker Books, ISBN 978 1 925381 53 5, Hb.


With an engaging duck on the front cover this book will entice a young child to open the book.  The fact that the duck is looking a tad worried and wearing a metal bucket on its head will only serve to encourage an older reader to find out what is going on.

In contrast to the covers the end pages set a peaceful tone to the book with illustrations of aqua blue skies and white fluffy clouds. Why such a difference?

As the reader turns the page a peaceful farmyard setting is presented in both text and verse. A horse is eating, a sheep is resting and a pig is wallowing in mud, but where is the hero of the story? The reader needs to turn the next page to find Duck excitedly flapping his wings, crying out Duck!

And so the story begins its full tale, where the farmyard animals take it in turn to berate Duck for calling them each a Duck! Then they join forces to berate him as a group, not stopping to consider there may be another reason for Duck’s exclamations. For the astute reader the illustrations begin to form clues as to why Duck is constantly calling Duck! Did you see the flying house or barn?

An interesting story that has layers for further discussion: there must be many children who find themselves in similar circumstance where they can’t express themselves well while those who are listening don’t always take into account body language and other clues (for example a metal bucket and anxious expressions) to take the time to try to understand.

The illustrations and text layout add interest to the story and serve to emphasise the pomposity of the characters in the story compared to Duck who is doing his best to alert him farmyard friends.




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