Saturday, September 9, 2017

Two more Te Reo Singalong Books

Te Taiao by Sharon Holt, photography by Rachael McKenna (Te Reo Singalong Books)
Ngā Āhua by Sharon Holt, illustrated by Josh Morgan (Te Reo Singalong Books)

Sharon Holt and her creative team have produced two more Te Reo Singalong picture song books. These books are super handy for teachers who aren't confident with te reo Maori and need all the resources they can get to help implement it, but also a great resource for Kohanga reo schools for tamariki to read themselves, and kindergartens for children to sing along to the songs. The books have English translations, follow up ideas, guitar chords so you can strum along to the song, and a CD for you to play so the kids can join in too. Added bonus - it helps those just learning te reo Maori to pronounce the words correctly.

Sharon got the idea for Te Taiao after reading about a Raglan kindergarten that encourages children to have unstructured play in nature. She spent a morning with the children and it inspired the story. It's about all the fun things kids do outside: playing hide and seek, crossing bridges, running freely through the forest, feeding eels, walking across wobbly ropes, etc. Photographer Rachael McKenna spent a day with a group of kindergarten kids playing outside to take the beautiful photographs.

In Ngā Āhua children can learn how to make geometrical shapes with their body and learn the English and Maori words for it, too. Here's an example:

He manawa ōku matimati. Me kaute ngā manawa.
(My fingers make a heart. Let's count the hearts.)

He porotītaha tōku waha. Me kaute ngā porotītaha.
(My mouth makes an oval. Let's count the ovals.)

This book would be a great entry into a new unit in maths for shapes and number. It'll help children to kinesthetically learn the names of the words (in English and Maori). This will help the words go into their long term memory. Add the CD song into the mix and you're encouraging children to use three senses (see, feel, hear), which will help them learn it even better. So as well as being an awesome resource for learning te reo Maori it would be very useful in your Maths curriculum.

Te Taiao ISBN 978-0-994-11715-1 $24.99 (includes CD)
Ngā Āhua ISBN 978-0-994-11715-1 $24.99 (includes CD)

Go to the website to see inside and hear the songs.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Two More “Proudly New Zealand” picture books…

Whose Feet Are These? By Gillian Candler, illus. Fraser Williamson, Potton & Burton

Gillian Candler has written numerous factual books for children, some of them award-winners. Her recent book Whose Beak Is This? was so successful that she has followed it up with a book in the same format. Each right-hand page has a peep-hole picture of feet belonging to a native bird, insect or animal. There is only one line of text, eg. “Whose feet are these, covered in spikes, climbing in the trees?” Turn the page, and the left-hand page provides a bigger picture of the relevant creature, with a small paragraph of explanation. Note that Maori names are given precedence over European names. There’s a double-spread of all the creatures near the end, and also a general fact page about feet.

Fraser Williamson’s art works are well-known both nationally and internationally. He has illustrated many books for children, using different styles that are all very idiosyncratic. In these nature books his colours are muted and sometimes dark, while the backgrounds are rich and dense and have a tactile quality. The creatures themselves, finely drawn, glisten and glow and almost glide off the page.

Pre-schoolers, especially young ones, will be fascinated by both the interactive format and the beautifully realistic pictures. Primary schools will find this book useful for their native fauna and flora studies.

ISBN 978 0 947503 32 1 $14.99  Pb (also available in hardback, $24.99)

Tawhirimatea: A Song For Matariki by June Pitman Hayes, illus. Kat Merewether, Maori lyrics by Ngaere Roberts, Scholastic NZ
Matariki is due to begin on 25 June, so libraries, schools and pre-school centres need to gather up their Matariki books. Here is a delightful new picture songbook to add to the collections (it includes a CD). It’s a lilting song that weaves together aspects of Maori mythology, nature, and family life. It begins with “Tawhirimatea, blow winds blow, Ra, warm us up with your sunshine glow,” and ends with “Marama, moon, rises big and bright, Matariki star sisters light up the sky.” The first version in the book and on the CD is in English (with many Maori words), and the second version is in Maori.

June Pitman Hayes is a well-known singer, producer, writer, songwriter, and poet. Her previous work for Scholastic NZ was the music to accompany Joy Cowley’s Hush: A Kiwi Lullaby. Her voice on this CD is pure and melodious, and children will love it.

Kat Merewether is probably best known for her award-winning picture book series about Kuwi the Kiwi. In this book her illustrations celebrate the New Zealand environment. The colours are light and bright with much use of appealing sea shades. Maori motifs decorate the faces of the wind, the sun and the moon, while New Zealand icons are everywhere – a tui, a kereru, a pohutukawa tree. This book/CD combination will be great fun for preschool centres and early primary classes.

ISBN 978 1 77543 413 9 $19.99 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Friday, September 1, 2017

New Junior Fiction Title

Snails, Spells & Snazzlepops by Robyn Cooper, Makaro Press

This is Robyn Cooper’s first published book for children, though she has proved her writing skills with previous publications and stories. It’s a whacky tale written for junior readers aged about 8 plus – and I’m glad to see it because not many books are published in New Zealand for this level.

Charlie is sick of feeling poor. He decides to make money by becoming a TV chef, and his first attempt at haute cuisine finds him gathering, feeding, cleaning, and cooking a bunch of garden snails – with some very funny problems along the way. When that meal is not a success, he fortunately gives up the idea of cooking frogs’ legs and tries some magic spells instead. The spells are meant to make a local bully see the error of his ways.

Finally Charlie and his sidekick, Millie, cook up a batch of Snazzlepops (biscuits) for the school fair – and these are a great success because they include popping sugar (which really exists) and Fumovanadix granules which produce blue smoke (and don’t exist, according to Google).

The story is humorous, fast-moving, and full of action, and should keep the interest of readers, especially boys. My only criticism is of the middle portion of the story where Charlie and Millie (and, strangely, Charlie’s granny) set up spells to reform a bully called Ivan. This portion of the story introduces a puzzling fantasy element which doesn’t integrate well with the light-hearted, realistic tone of the first and last sections of the story.

But the book is not aimed at picky adult reviewers like me, and I’m sure keen readers will be attracted by the goofy cover and will devour the story quite happily.

PS. There are useful Teachers’ Notes at

ISBN 978 0 9941379 3 7 RRP $25 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

A bit of Auckland history…

Ivan and the Lighthouse by Grant Sheehan, illus. Rosalind Clark, Phantom Tree House (

The lighthouse on Bean Rock is a familiar structure to Aucklanders. This well-presented and attractive picture book is loosely based on events in the life of Ivan Anderson and his father James, who was the lighthouse keeper at Bean Rock from 1909 to 1911. Ivan goes to school in Devonport, but he spends a lot of time daydreaming about going out to Bean Rock and helping his father. Finally – as a birthday present – he’s allowed to row out with his father for the two-night weekend stay. Ivan enjoys watching the birds, and he’s lucky enough to see Halley’s Comet in the night-time sky. He also watches as a steamer temporarily runs aground on a rock some distance away. Of course, Ivan vows that he also will become a lighthouse keeper.

The author is a photographer and publisher with a lifelong interest in lighthouses. The illustrator is a graphic designer and illustrator specialising in narrative graphics; she uses pencil, collage, pixel and ink. Phantom Tree House is an offshoot of Phantom House, a local publisher that produces good-quality non-fiction books for adults.

The text is straightforward and interesting; the stylised illustrations are fresh and simple; the design of the book is excellent. There’s not a lot of action or excitement, but the publisher pretty well sums it up: “Aimed at readers aged 5-7 who like history, science, astronomy and a sense of adventure.”
Best for early primary-aged children who will be attracted by Ivan’s cheerful cartoon face on the cover – and, of course, Bean Rock Lighthouse itself.

ISBN 978 0 9941285 1 5 RRP $25 Pb (with flaps)

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Two more kiwi stories

Little Kiwi has a Forest Feast by Bob Darroch (Puffin)

Little Kiwi has a Forest Feast is the 12th book in the successful Little Kiwi series. These books are often on the bestseller list.

Little kiwi has a cold and is not feeling well. He's also hungry but his blocked nostrils are not helping him find worms. Later, his sister enquires why he hasn't gotten up for the day. She misinterprets 'coldt' for 'colt' and spreads a rumour around the forest that kiwi is getting a horse. Perhaps to ride away ... The forest animals crowd around his burrow to see if it is true. When they realise he has a cold ... find out what they do next.

An animal story about friendship and supporting your friends when they need help. Young children (4-6 year olds) will enjoy the humorous colourful illustrations and the positive ending.

Bob Darroch has been drawing cartoons for most of his life. His work has appeared on
toys, jigsaws, souvenirs and postcards and in newspapers and magazines worldwide. He
started writing and illustrating his own books for children in 1999. In 2001, the first of the
popular Little Kiwi stories were published. Little Kiwi is Scared of the Dark has since been
awarded the Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award for a Much-Loved Book. Bob has illustrated
books for other authors, including for his wife, Ruth

ISBN: 978-0-14-377095-4

Kuwi's very shiny bum by Kat Merewether (Illustrated Publishing)

Okay, I confess, I'm very late with this review. I should have typed it up end of last year in time for Christmas, but I figure people are probably already looking for Christmas stories and this book can stand alone, as well. Plus Kat has two more books, floor puzzle, and baby cup and plate set coming soon ... so thought I better get this out, better late than never.

Kuwi's very shiny bum is the third book in the Kuwi the Kiwi series (with more coming soon - see above). The series has been hugely popular and is flying to happy children's homes all around the globe. Kat donates a portion of her profits to Kiwis for Kiwi Trust and has so far raised $10,000. The Trust has made Kat Merewether an Ambassador for Kiwis for Kiwi Trust.

This book is a story within a story. Mama kiwi reads a Christmas story about paying it forward in a xmas setting. A little kiwi finds a red ball and attaches it to its bottom and then makes, builds, and bakes presents for all its friends. Find out their response. And the lovely surprise for Kuwi at the end.

The illustrations are full of humour and reference kiwiana in many different ways including the King of Kiwiana Dick Frizzell himself (as a kiwi).

Go to Kuwi the Kiwi's website for more information and other kiwi goodies.

RRP $18.99 Te Reo Maori versions available too.

ISBN: 978 0 994 136404

Cooking for Kids Recipe books

I Quit Sugar: Kids' Cookbook by Sarah Wilson (MacMillan)

When my son was six years old we noticed he never stopped jiggling. His teacher said it was like he wanted to go to the toilet all the time. He didn't, in desperation she drew a small circle around his body and told him he could not move out of it. We took him to a Naturopath and he told us we had to take sugar out of his diet.  So began the scrutinising of every label on packets of food while at the supermarket. I found the amount of sugar in food quite shocking. Foods that I thought were healthy were loaded with sugar. It meant I had to do more baking and use stevia instead of sugar. And yes it made a huge difference taking sugar out of his diet.

I wish this recipe book had been around 15 years ago (my jiggly son is now 21 years old). It begins with reasons why parents should consider taking their kids off sugar. Sarah says it is not about 'bad' foods and banning certain items. Instead, parents should try to encourage them to fill-up on other sugarless snacks, treats and meals. She says it's about eating like our grandparents did; less packaged food and with the least number of ingredients.

The World Health Organisation recommends children aged 4-8 years old shouldn't be eating more than 3 teaspoons of sugar a day. Yet some foods such as a glass of apple juice, bowl of cereal or toast with jam can blow that count in one serving. You can read about what too much sugar does to young children and advice about what we should be feeding our children. There's a very helpful allergy substitution guide and advice on how to navigate the book.

The recipes are then organised into the following categories:

Simple staples that get kids to the table - 10 pages
Breakfast for brain power - 12 pages
Vegetable dishes (and the art of disguising they're vegetables) - 14 pages
Classic dishes but with the IQS makeover - 14 pages
Creative fun sweet dishes - 10 pages
Lunchbox ideas - 20 pages
Grab'n'Run dishes - 10 pages
Party dishes - 22 pages

One hundred people responded to Sarah's plea for sugarless recipes, as well as specialised contributors such as Kate Burbidge; registered psychologist who is also a health nut in the kitchen, Bree Hateley creator of, a website dedicated to providing healthy and wholesome tips for feeding kids; and Lee Holmes author of multiple cookbooks; and others.

The recipes are fun, healthy and original. Take this recipe for example:

Nutty Teeth
1 red or green apple cut into thin wedges.         1-2 tbsp nut butter
2 tsp silvered almonds or pumpkin seeds

1. Spread the nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew) over half of the apple slices and stick on another slice at a 'jaw-like' angle.
2. Spike the almond slivers or pumpkin seeds into the nut butter to form teeth.
3. Serves two or three as a snack.

Author Sarah Wilson is a New York Times bestselling author and journalist. Her site an online wellness site featuring the latest news, science and nutritional support for anyone wanting to ease their sugar load in their diet.

RRP $29.99 paperback
ISBN: 978-1-925479-50-8

Weekday Meals in Minutes by Simon & Alison Holst (Hyndman Publishing)

Okay this book is for all the busy parents who rush home from work, scratch their heads wondering what nutritious meal they can whip up quickly. I think there are plenty of parents who need help at those bewitching hours.

The book gives you hints on what to stock in your pantry, weekly meal planning, and then divides the recipes into the following: salads; sandwiches, wraps & burgers; pasta, noodles & rice; curries & chillies; vegetarian meals; main meals with fish & seafood; main meals with meat. You can also find more recipes on their website and find it with a q-code.

The meals have been chosen for their quickness to prepare. Each recipe has from 3-5 steps and it should only take 30 minutes to make. You'll find delicious meal ideas like Chinese-style chicken salad, Greek-style lamb burgers, Mediterranean meatballs in pita pockets, seafood laksa, Chicken & Chorizo Jambalaya, Pad Thai ... they've mined the globe for culinary delights. They haven't taken up unnecessary room with cakes, biscuits and desserts recipes you're never going to make when you're in a rush; they're all lunch and dinner menu ideas. Just what busy parents need.

Dame Alison Holst and her son Simon Holst have written over 40 recipe books together. They've all been bestsellers and have sold over 2.1 million copies to date.


ISBN: 978-0-908319-07-7

Monday, August 21, 2017

More off-the-wall picture books from Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones

If I Had an Elephant by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones, colouring by Tara Black, Scholastic NZ

The two previous two picture books by this trio (My Grandpa is a Dinosaur and That’s Not the Monster We Ordered) were published by Penguin NZ. This latest book is with Scholastic NZ. All have the same distinctive graphic style – which I’d like to call Almost-a-Comic-But-Not-Quite. All have the same quirky theme of taking the impossible and pushing it even further.

“I wish I had an elephant,” says the boy. “If I had an elephant we’d win every water fight!” Then the idea takes flight: “If I had an elephant, we’d build a time machine together. Then we’d travel back in time to meet his great, great [many greats] grandfather.” Who just happens to be a mastodon wearing spectacles. It’s always hard to end a flight of fancy story, but I’m happy with this ending: “But this year, for my birthday, I got a gorilla and a dragon.” Just think what you can do with a gorilla and a dragon…

The book design is impressive, with an eye-catching cover picture, cute end papers, and edgy comic-style illustrations (fine pen and ink) that happily enhance the story. Mention must be made of the Photoshop colouring which is done with unusual but effective colours.

My copy will be going to my 5-year-old grandson who spends a lot of time imagining and pretending – he’ll love it.

BTW, there’s an interesting article at The Sapling.

ISBN 978 1 77543 476 4 $19.99 Hb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

That's not the Monster we ordered by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones (Penguin)

Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones are on a roll. Their book 'My Grandpa is a Dinosaur' recently shortlisted for the 2017 New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults. They're now published with Scholastic and Penguin; the two biggest children's book publishers in New Zealand. Their latest book 'That's not the monster we ordered' has the same 'off-the-wall' quirky type humour , as the others, and is printed in foolscap portrait size with their distinctive illustration style.

'That's not the monster we ordered' starts off with a family observing a neighbour receiving a monster that they'd ordered online. The whole neighbourhood piles into that family's house to check out the monster. It can do tricks, make loud noises, run down stairs faster than anyone else. Of course, then everyone wants one.

The narrator of the story, a young boy, has trouble convincing his family they need one. His parents tell him he'd never get his homework done, it'll be too expensive ... the usual parent-excuses. Will the parents give in and will they get the type of monster they want ... a super-duper monster that will be the envy of the neighbourhood or will they get what they need?

A fun picture book that will delight kids 4-8 years old either read aloud in a classroom (it's big enough for every kid to see), or read to a child on your lap. Afterwards you could ask children if they've ever pined for something and got it and did it live up to their expectations? And which monster did they prefer in the story and why?

What is even more extraordinary about these books is that Richard Fairgray is classed as fully blind. He says that he sees everything flat and in order to illustrate he holds the paper up close to his face. Richard knows what he wants to draw before he starts and then approaches it mathematically. See an interview of him talking about it here.

I particularly like that Richard gets away from stereotypes of what is 'family'. He has drawn mixed cultures; the main character and his family is either Maori or African American (the book does have an American feel to it), and the mother fixes the car.  There's lots of extra humorous bits that kids will enjoy noticing on second, third, and more readings. Will be a favourite in the home or classroom.