Book Reviews

The Bottom Shelf

Review of 'Billie' by Barbara Braxton
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The Canberra author of Ella has made it her mission to be a voice for those creatures of the wild who don’t have their own voice to bring attention to the destruction of their habitat.  Many young  readers will be familiar with the sight of dolphins surfing the waves and develop a fascination for these beautiful, intelligent creatures from a young age.  But they are unaware of the issues that dolphins face as the human world encroaches more and more on their environment and so it is books like this that carry a critical message of conservation as well as a charming story that inspire them to action.  Rather like the little wave that forms and is then apparently lost in the vast ocean, but in fact becomes part of a larger wave, so the voices of authors like Godwin and illustrators like Haughton who has created such vivid images become bigger and bigger and louder and louder as both Ella and Billie are shared with our young students as part of the sustainability perspective of the Australian Curriculum.

Read the full review here.

Educate. Empower

Review of 'Billie' by Vanessa Ryan
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This picture book is told through the careful collaboration of illustration and words. Nicole Godwin has told this story in a careful way, that without looking at the illustrations, you might just think is about Billie catching waves in different places around the ocean. But with the addition of Demelsa Haughton’s illustrations, we see what Billie is really swimming through – and these illustrations tell the awful truth.

Nicole Godwin has shared this message in a gentle way – showing the reader that despite the current conditions of the oceans, we can still make a difference if we join with our friends, family and community.

Read the full review here.

Stephanie Owen Reeder

Review of 'Billie' by Stephanie Owen Reeder

In Billie (Tusk Books. 32 pp. $24.99), Nicole Godwin and Demelsa Haughton tell the story of a surfing dolphin in search of the ultimate wave. Her search takes her on quite a different path, as she rescues sea creatures along the way, and ultimately has to be rescued herself when she gets caught in a drift net. While the best-ever wave eludes her, Billie does make lots of friends along the way. Written by local Canberra author Nicole Godwin, a passionate supporter of animal rights, the text lyrically brings to life the sounds, patterns and movement of the sea, while the digitally created illustrations, with their paper-engineering vibe and endearing characters, graphically show the reality of life under the waves amidst the dangers to sea creatures created by human activity. Information at the end of the book describes the plight of dolphins in the wild. Billie communicates an important message through an engaging story paired with attractive, well-designed images, strong design concepts and high-quality production values.

Tell Tales to Me

Review of 'Billie' by Brook Tayla

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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.

Read the full review here.

Kids Book Review

Review of 'Ella' by Jo Burnell
Kids Book Review - Ella review

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Ella dreams of finding her mother and of having a full stomach. With only one friend in the world, Ella she manages to escape. Her journey is fraught but it is worth hanging in for the upswing. Although young children will find the ending a satisfying relief, adults will dwell on the deeper truth that not all elephants are as lucky as Ella.

Ella is an important pioneer tale for young children, who are never too young to become champions for justice. I hope Nicole continues her crusade with many more irresistible books to join Ella on our bookshelves.

Read the full review here.

THE BOTTOM SHELF

Review of 'Ella' by Barbara Braxton
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Written to give a voice to elephants and all other creatures held captive for the tourism market, this is a touching story that tugs at the heartstrings as the reader is given an insight into what really happens behind the scenes of what seems like an innocuous activity. Despite the charming illustrations that suggest a story for the very young, the front cover gives a clue that this is not a happy, sweetness-and-light story and despite its uplifting ending readers are bound to have questions they want answered.  Some of these are provided on the final pages of the book while  others might need some research.  

Along with Elizabeth Stanley’s The Deliverance of Dancing Bears  and Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan  it would make an ideal springboard into the use and treatment of animals as tourist attractions and spark a lot of debate about the ethical issues and changing attitudes towards animals in captivity.

Thought-provoking and worthy of a place on the library’s shelves. 

Read the full review here.

TELL TALES TO ME

Review of 'Ella' by Brook Tayla
Tell tales to me book review - Ella by Nicole Godwin and Demelsa Haughton

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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.

I recommend that every household, pre-school, kindergarten and primary school keep a copy of this serious but beautifully told story on their shelves.

Read the full review here.

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