Sunday, September 27, 2009

Eight new Picture Books

Cowshed Christmas by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Gavin Bishop
ISBN 978-1-86979-073-8 RRP $24.99

The jersey cow came mooing, mooing, mooing.
The jersey cow came mooing to the cowshed door.
The collie dog came barking, barking, barking.
The collie dog came barking to the cowshed door.

All the animals come to the cowshed door in time for Christmas. Inside the shed they see... Hint - it's a Christian Christmas story.

The sort of tale that parents will enjoy telling as a song or with lots of rhythmic chanting. Children will delight in Gavin Bishop's colourful prints - parents make sure they name the gift each animal brings to the shed. A Christmas tale with a New Zealand edge bringing two of New Zealand's top children's writers/illustrators together.

Tiny Miss Dott and her Dotty Umbrella by Michelle Osment, illustrated by Sarah N. Anderson, ISBN 978-1-86943-898-2 RRP $18.99

When tiny Miss Dott trotted off down the lane,
she took her umbrella in case it might rain.
Miss Dott volunteered at the charity store.
She left her umbrella outside by the door.

Mis Dott gets busy with her volunteering and doesn't notice when Martin Maloney steps out into the rain and borrows her umbrella. He leaves the umbrella outside the Keys Music Store, just as Emiline Pink steps out of the store and borrows the umbrella to go to...
And so this delightful story goes on depicting each character borrowing the umbrella, "I'll be back, just as soon as I can."

Now some of you might wonder why Michelle Osment's name rings a bell - she is the author of 'Perky the Pukeko' a book (and its subsequent series), which always seem to stay in the top five New Zealand bestseller list. Michelle won the Joy Cowley award with this rhythmic tale and you can see why. Five years and under will love this jaunty story.

Greedy Cat and the Goldfish by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Robyn Belton
ISBN 978-1-86943-689-6 RRP $18.99 (Scholastic)

When Grandma went on holiday,
her little goldfish came to stay,
Katie said, "I'll goldfish sit.
I know how to look after it."

Katie's mother warns her to watch out for Greedy cat because he can be rather partial to fish. Of course, Katie won't believe that Greedy Cat would ever do such a thing. Greedy Cat sidles up to the table and before Katie can jump out of her chair, has his paw in the fish bowl trying to grab the fish...

A gorgeous tale that kindergarten children will love. (In fact, I can remember seeing one of these stories being read as a big book when my daughter was at kindy seven years ago.) These stories last the generations. Children delight in seeing the mischief that Greedy Cat gets up to.

Robyn Belton's artwork is full of expression - you can tell what Greedy Cat is thinking just by the expression of his mischevious eyes. Robyn has won many awards for her illustrations. It looks like she has used pencil and water colour paint to create the delightful illustrations for this book.

Joy Cowley is a seasoned professional writing stories for this age group (and older, of course). The Greedy Cat series has been published in the U.S.A. and in educational books but this new series of Greedy Cat stories are fresh to the market.

The Little Yellow Digger and the Bones by Betty and Alan Gilderdale
ISBN 978-1-86943-899-9 RRP $18.99 (Scholastic)

It started to rain on the Monday,
it rained on the Tuesday as well,
it bucketed down on the Wednesday,
and rivers were starting to swell.
There was thunder and lightning on Thursday,
bridges and roads swept away.
By Friday the hillsides had crumbled,
and traffic was held up all day.

The torrents of rain have left a terrible mess, which requires - of course - the little yellow digger's helping hands. Whilst clearing away the rubble the digger finds a bone in a cave. Experts from the museum come to take the precious find away and they have to wait until the big unveil at the museum to find out to whom the bone belonged...

Four year olds just love this Yellow Digger series. I can remember my own son begging for the first book in this series to be read over and over again. Back then (nine years ago) there weren't many books with diggers as the main character. Anyone with a 3-4 year old child - knows how important diggers are to this age group (well, to boys anyhow). This book will be another favourite for this age group.

When we were alone in the world by Ulf Nilsson, illustrated by Eva Eriksson
ISBN 978-1-877467-34-9 RRP $18.99 (Gecko Press)

One day at school I learned to tell the time. Nine o'clock, ten o'clock, one o'clock, two o'clock.
At three o'clock Dad usually came to get me. But hewasn't outside. In the end I went home by myself. Our house is just down the road. But why hadn't he come? What had happened?

The little boy decides his parents must have been knocked over by a truck and he must take care of his little brother by himself. He builds them a house replete with television and bedding, out of things lying around in their back yard. They even manage to procure cake (albeit uncooked) from their neighbour until...

Parents will identify with their worst nightmare - their children going missing. Children will see their worst fear - being left alone in the world - being played out in this story. The main character (we never get to know his name) must be only 5-6 years old and he rather bravely takes on the task of looking after his little brother. The illustrations are full of expression; it's amazing how dots for eyes and a line for a mouth can say so much. The artwork looks like it is coloured pencils.

The illustrator and writer are two of Sweden's finest. Eva received the Astrid Lindgren prize and the prestigious August award. Ulf is a winner of the August and American Batchelder awards.

'A bittersweet tale of brotherly love and imaginations gone wild' John McIntyre, Radio New Zealand, Nine to Noon

When Findus was Little and Disappeared by Sven Nordquist
ISBN 978-1-877467-32-5 RRP $18.99 (paperback) $29.99 (hardback)

Old man Pettson sat in the kitchen with his cat Findus, doing the crossword.
'Tell me the story about how I disappeared,' said Findus.
'You haven't disappeared; you're right here,' said Pettson.
'I mean when I was little.'
'That story! You know that one already. I've told it hundreds of times.'
'Tell me again,' said Findus.
'I suppose I could,' Pettson said. 'It was like this...'

Farmer Pettson tells the story of when he lived in his little cottage all on his own. His neighbour sensing he was lonely gives him a little cat; which he calls Findus. They do everything together and Pettson feels like he has something to live for. Then one morning he wakes and senses something is wrong...

Farmer Pettson tips the house upside down looking for Findus and with the help of two little mice finally finds him. A sweet tale about never being too old or young to find friendship. A story to be enjoyed in the kindergarten and Junior school.

Sven Nordqvist's Pettson and Findus books have sold over four million copies in more than 40 countries. His stories have been adapted for TV, film and theatre. He has won many awards such as the Swedish Literature Award, the German Yough Literature prize and the Elsa Beskow medal.

Good for You, Good for Me by Lorenz Pauli, illustrated by Kathrin Scharer
ISBN 978-1-877467-36-7 RRP $29.99 (Gecko Press)

In the distance, there was music. Bear was sitting out on his favourite red cushion.
He pricked up his ears. The music made him happy.
Then along came Dormouse with his flute.
'Dormouse, I'd like to try that,' said Bear. 'Shall we swap?
I could give you my cushion for your flute?
Then you can rest after all your walking, and I'll play you some tunes.
That's good for you, good for me.'

Beer and mouse play swapsies with music, dance, pebbles then the colours of the day. Bear begins to realise that he doesn't need possessions (his favourite red cushion) - giving gives him more pleasure. Dormouse agrees and they talk about all the other delightful things they can give each other.

The gorgeous illustrations (a mix of pencil and paint) with white background, emphasises the limited use of colour; sometimes just browns and reds, which hones the reader onto the two main characters. The text tells a delightful story about the enjoyment friends get from giving; it's a powerful message. Teachers could use this book for a springboard for a Health unit on 'making friends' or 'sharing'. Highly recommended.

Piggy Pogget by Scott Tulloch (Harper Collins Publishers)
ISBN 978-1869507398 RRP $18.99

Piggy Pogget was born on a Friday.
Just in time for the weekend.
Piggy Pogget has 3 black spots
2 floppy ears
97 fleas
and one gigantic family.

Piggy Pogget is one small pig with enormous ears. We get introduced to his family, favourite things, and not-so favourite things. Then one day Farmer Pants leaves the gate open and Piggy Pogget climbs his way to freedom and to a field of his favourtie food - corn. Of course, eating too much corn can give you... andbeing chased by a barking dog, and a bull, and a tractor, and a colossal, creaking tree can make you very scared; terrified even when confronted with a big dark shadow that turns out to be...

Four year olds will love the adventures of Piggy Pogget; identifying how scary the big wide world can seem when you're only small.

Scott Tulloch's illustrations are colourful and endearing - a book to be treasured by the under-five set. Scott also illustrated V.M. Jone's Hush books, and written and illustrated Willy's Dad, and Willy's Mum.

Reviewed by Maria Gill

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Brian Falkner's latest thriller

BrainJack by Brian Falkner (Walker Books Australia)
ISBN: 978 1 921150 95 1 RRP $19.99

Okay, I had to wrestle this book off my ten year old daughter, hide it from my 13 year old son and not even tell my husband it had arrived - to be the first to read this book. Brian Falkner has a following and his stories get more exciting with each one - and I'm pleased to say this book lives up to the exciting trailer. In fact, I was quite spooked after finishing this book - I can never look at my computer in the same way.

Right now, as you read this prologue, I am sifting through the contents of your computer. Yes, your computer. You. The one holding the book.

I am reading your emails, looking at your digital photos and images you have downloaded off the Net, opening your most private documents and having a good read, or a good laugh, depending on the content...

So now, while you're reading this, I'm looking through your computer and having a great old time. You could race over and turn your computer off, but you'd already be too late.

That scary prologue sets the scene. Sam Wilson, a brilliant teenage computer hacker, can crack the computer systems of any computer - even the White House. His daring - genius skills - lead him into a dangerous world. A world of espionage and intrigue; of cybercrime and imminent war.

Brian Falkner's style reminds me of Anthony Horowitz - his sentences paint pictures and you can imagine them as scenes in a film. Brian's latest 'Brain Jack' is fast paced, exciting and hard to put down once you start reading. I'm not giving anything away when I say that I like that Brian takes risks with his endings - they are not predictable. This is Brian Falkner's fifth chapter book for children. The Tomorrow Code was a finalist in the 2009 New Zealand Post Book Awards and the LIANZA Children's book awards: Esther Glen award.
Reviewed by Maria Gill

Fifi's latest book

Glory by Fifi Colston (Scholastic)
Florence Bright fumes when she is passed over for the computer award - the only award she ever had a chance with. Instead it is given to Miss Perfect, along with all the other ones she wins at the assembly. In fact Florence thinks she might just get even - she devises a plan to help her best friend to take the starring role in the ballet from Miss Perfect but it all goes horribly wrong...

Fifi's sense of humour is liberally sprinkled throughout the book; making this a voice that fills a gap in the New Zealand market. Eight to Twelve year old girls will chuckle, while some will perhaps identify with the injustice of being passed over for an award. A laugh-out-loud enjoyable read for Years 5 - 8.

Fifi Colston is one talented gal. She paints, illustrates books (26), has constructed a few craft books and written three chapter books for children. When she isn't working in her studio she does stand-up comedy (so now you know why she does humour so well), makes craft on television and enters wearable art competitions.

A new picture book set in Samoa

Talia by Catherine Hannken, illustrated by Trish Bowles (Mallinson Rendel)
ISBN 978-1-877423-30-7 RRP $25.00

All of a sudden, someone grabbed her and caught her up in a hug.
"This is your Aunty Maina," said Dad, after he too had hugged the laughing woman.
"Hello," said Talia politely.
Her aunty replied with a rush of words that Talia didn't understand.
"She doesn't speak much English," said Dad as they walked across the car park, "but you'll soon get the hang of it."
Talia nodded but her stomach felt tight.

When Talia first arrives in Samoa she is overwhelmed by the language and the customs that seem strange to her. Her father tells her he felt the same way when he first came to Samoa. At first Talia responds to the people around her by hanging her head but after playing in the water with Leilani, her cousin - she realises there are no barriers and realises it is going to be fun staying in Samoa after all.

A heart-warming picture book about a young girl connecting with her relatives and getting past the culture shock of being in a country that is unfamiliar to her. Children in Junior school will identify with Talia; remembering their first day at school, a move to another school or country.

Catherine Hannken and Trish Bowles are the author and illustrator of Selafina, shortlisted for the 2004 New Zealand Post Book awards and Fiapule. Catherine says she thought of the idea for the story while she was on an aeroplane. She says that many of our children in New Zealand have strong ties to another culture either through their own or their parents' or grandparents' place of birth, her own daughter included. She wanted to tell these children's story.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A new gardening book for children

Yates Young Gardener: growing things to eat by Janice Marriott
ISBN 9781869507947 RRP $24.99
Find out how to make a garden, what tools you will need and how to make seeds grow into fruit, flowers or vegetables. Designed in a bright format with colourful diagrams, step-by-step instructions including interesting facts, activities, jokes, games, puzzles and experiments. You'll learn how to make a bean teepee, grow a cucumber in a bottle, make a green-haired monster, and homemade bug spray.

Janice Marriott lives and works in Wellington, is an award-winning children's writer and a keen gardener.

Kiwi Dads

Kiwi Dads by Yvonne Morrison, illustrated by Ross Kinnaird, Scholastic ISBN 978-1-86943-918-7 RRP $18.99
A Kiwi Dad, he likes the bush,
likes going for a tramp...
It's such a shame it takes all day
for him to set up camp.

The quintessential dad BBQ's, plays cricket, does a spot of DIY, driving, fishing and other blokey activities and he's not always very successful at it either. Written in rhyme, this tongue-in-cheek picture book celebrates fathers - just in time for Father's Day.