Clackety Track

Clackety Track, poems about trains, Skila Brown, illustrated by Jamey Christoph, Candlewick Press, 2019.

Isbn 9780763690472,hb, $24.99

Older readers who love trains is the target of this poetry book about trains.

The opening double page spread introduces the reader to a wide selection of trains, all ready to depart on the respective rail journey.

The book then goes into detail on each subsequent set of double pages to describe or highlight the role each train will take as well as other things rail related.

Just as each type of train is different to another, so are the poems and text layout that accompany them.

Probably my favourite poem is actually about the tracks that are so important for all the trains, no matter how large or small. This poem, when read out loud, is reminiscent of the movement and sounds one would feel when riding onboard a train.

Christoph’s illustrations add an extra depth to the text and on most of the pages feature a child or two that the reader can relate to. The colourful zoo illustrations are a delight.

At the end there are some rail definitions to help those who are unfamiliar with words such as ballast as well as further train information.

My one concern is that this book is really geared to the readers of the U.S.A. and so some of the information such as comparing the laying of transit train tracks end to end to the distance of New York to Chicago would not mean a lot to an Australian child.

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A Cat Called Trim, Corinne Fenton, Craig Smith

A Cat Called Trim, Corinne Fenton, illustrated by Craig Smith, Allen and Unwin, 2019, ISBN 9781760631840, HB.

Continuing on with her love of animals and a love of history, Fenton has retold in her own unique way another real life story, this one is about the famous explorer Matthew Flinders’ cat, Trim.

Trim’s life of adventure began when he was born on board the sailing ship ‘HMS Reliance’ in 1799.

Fenton weaves a story of an individual, much likes his master, that is “…more courageous, mischievous and fearless…”than his siblings and as such took the eye of the famous explorer, or as Fenton infers Flinders took the eye of Trim!

While sailing between Botany Bay and Moreton Bay Trim is taken care of by a kind Aboriginal Australian Bongaree, but overall Trim is looked after by Flinders.

Trim experiences many things in his life: from falling overboard, surviving a shipwreck, living in a house for a time and then finally sharing Flinders’ imprisonment at the Isle de France.

Trim’s tale mirrors that of his master with the added perspective from a mischievous cat whose job it was to take care of the mice found on board the ships he sailed upon.

Smith does a wonderful illustrating job, fleshing out Fenton’s text, adding humour as well as excellent detail; perhaps my favourite double page spread was the afternoon tea at the home of the ‘…kind lady.’’

I like the vignettes Smith has put in the corners of pages that indicate what ship or other vessel Trim is travelling in, I found it helped when following both the written journey and the detailed maps found on the end papers.

There is a great deal of history recounted in this book. I did go to Google to flesh out one of the pieces, the reference to Bongaree as I wanted to know a little more about who he was and found a reference to him here.

Once again a terrific retelling of a true story. Children, particularly older ones, will get a lot from this story.

Sharon Greenaway.

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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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