Woo-hoo! It’s Children’s Book Week again! Woo-hoo!

Australia! Story Country 110mm masthead

Artwork by Shaun Tan © copyright The Children’s Book Council of Australia.

It’s just like Christmas … without the presents … and the pudding … and the uncle who’s ‘napping’ in the corner, on the floor, behind the lounge because he’s had too much Yuletide ‘cheer’. [Yeah, just not like that – Ed.] It’s even better-er because it has books! That’s right, lots and lots of new and wonderful Australian children’s books; aimed at kids ranging from the very young to the very old, who I think we’re supposed to call ‘young adults’ these days.

As part of the lead up to Children’s Book Week your faithful library servants in Youth Services have been posting reviews of books that have made it on to one (or more) of the lists of nominees for Book of the Year 2016. Today I am reviewing an entrant for the Crichton Award 2016 (for recognising new talent in the field of Australian children’s book illustration):

Fish Jam by Kylie Howarth

Fish Jam - cover

Fish Jam is a quirky little story about a fish that likes to scat sing. Before you start to think I’m talking about something completely different, scat singing is a style of jazz singing in which real words/lyrics are replaced with non-words, or onomatopoeic sound-words, using the voice rather like an ‘instrument’. Fortunately, there is a nice little explanation on the last page.

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So, our little fish likes to scat sing. Unfortunately, it turns out nobody else likes it to scat sing!

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Everywhere it turns it is being shushed and shooed away. I guess scat singing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea; maybe if it sang traditional jazz standards like Billie Halibut; or smooth crooner jazz like Frank Finatra and Tony Benito; or cool contemporary jazz like Dianna Krill –

[O-K … you’re done. That’s your quota of bad puns! – Ed.]

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But then, “something unexpected happened.”

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I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice to say, the little fish finds a suitable place to ‘jam’. And, well I don’t want to spoil that bit either, but it really is in the most unlikely of places. [That’s no exaggeration. In fact, that’s an understatement – Ed.]

Fish Jam is a nice, simple little story with an interesting additional layer: the imparting of a bit of knowledge about an old and relatively uncommon part of jazz music. Given the musical nature of the story, my only little critique would be to say, it would have been great if the book contained a jazz music CD in the back, or was perhaps made as an interactive JK book with some of the different scat singing sounds playable on the different pages. But that’s a minor, personal, opinion.

Overall, it is quite enjoyable and it has a positive message to tell: whatever your hobbies or likes, don’t get discouraged if others don’t like them, just stick with it and you’ll find that there are always others who share your passions. You just need the right place to find them!