Friday, December 17, 2010

Top Five Christmas books for children and young adult

Are you looking for an entertaining children's or young adult book to give as a Christmas present, if so check out these books:

Five entertaining books for 3-6 year olds.

  1. Hannah Bandanna's Hair by Nikki Slade Robinson
  2. Daisy's Maze by Kyle Mewburn
  3. The Fidgity Itch by Lucy Davey
  4. Witchy Goes Shopping by Dianne Boles
  5. The Moon & Farmer McPhee by Margaret Mahy
Plus any of The Kiwi Corker series books (by authors Chris Gurney and Sher Foley)

A great book for bedtime: The Rain Train by Elena de Roo, illustrated by Brian Lovelock

Non-fiction books for this age group - I am a ... series (seals, dolphin, penguin).

Want to give a book that gives back? See Quaky Cat by Diana Noonan - all proceeds going to Christchurch Quake Relief Charities.

Five entertaining books for 7-9 year olds:

  1. Boy Zero: Wannabe Hero by Peter Millet
  2. Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot
  3. Finnigan and the Pirates by Sheryl Jordan
  4. Hollie Chips by Anna Gowan
  5. Organ Music by Margaret Mahy

Plus Victoria Azaro's series for Saffron.

Non-fiction books: The Naughty Kids Book of Nature by Des Hunt, and 'Sensational Survivors' by Sandra Morris, House by A. Machowiak

Five entertaining books for 10-12 year olds include:

  1. The Shadow of the Boyd by Diana Menefy
  2. Tussock by Elizabeth Pulford
  3. Ebony Hill by Anna MacKenzie
  4. Dreams of Warriors by Susan Brocker
  5. Jonty & Choc by Vince Ford

Non-fiction books include:

'It's my turn to cook' by Margaret Brooker, The Kiwi Fossil Hunters Handbook by J. Crampton & M. Terezow, 'Brave Bess & the Anzac Horses' by Susan Brocker

Five entertaining books for teenagers (13 years +) include:

  1. The Project by Brian Falkner
  2. The Heir of Night by Helen Lowe
  3. Ruined by Paula Morris
  4. Into the Wilderness by Mandy Hagar
  5. The Limping Man by Maurice Gee

A non-fiction book for this age group: 'Who's Cooking Tonight?' with Claire Gourley

Books for Teeagers

Who's Cooking Tonight? with Claire Gourley (Penguin)
ISBN: 978-0-143-20542-5 RRP$36.00

Hungry teeangers will find plenty of scrummy recipes to cook up quickly and scoff down with siblings and friends. Claire's mother Glenda supplied the recipes and teenage author Claire has written the recipes in a way that makes them appealing and talks the language of her peers. Teenage cooks will find snack recipes such as omelette for one, Tuscan chips with guacamole, seafood chowder; dinner for the family - chicken and tomato wedges, vegetable slice, beef fried rice, rapid ratatouille with lamb chops; classic dishes - meatloaf with scalloped potatoes, cheesy pasta bake, cottage pie, creamy fish pie; quick meals - butter chicken with the trimmings, burritos, spaghetti and meatballs, chilli chicken; and not forgetting sweet things - chocolate brownie, berry nice cupcakes, chocolate cake and berries, fresh fruit platter with toffee caramel drizzle. Teenagers can see how things are done by going to her website: (she's also on Twitter, Facebook and You Tube). Claire's nine year old brother William edited the video clips and downloaded them on You Tube. Claires other brother and friends helped with the taste testing, and photography. The book is packaged to catch the eye of teenagers with bright colours and lots of photographs. An excellent Christmas present for teenagers who enjoy cooking (or for mothers to buy for their teenagers to give them a hint 'it's their turn to cook tonight').

Claire says she wanted to collect favourite recipes together in one place before she left home, and while she was doing this she started to think she could make them available so that other teenagers could benefit from it too. She imparts a healthy eating message throughout the book but reassures teenagers they had to taste and look good too. This is one media savvy teenager - expect to see more of her in the future.

Cor Blimey, Mate: Action Stories for Young Hunters by Marion Day
ISBN: 978-0-9864680-0-1 RRP $

I'd been waiting a long time for this hunt. Been harassing my old man, begging him to take me, and all I ever got was, "You're too young. You'll be a nuisance. Maybe next year."

I even resorted to showing him some underarm fuzzy bits of hair to prove how ready I really was.

"That's bum fluff, boy," he'd said, throwing his head up like one of those ugly laughing hyenas.

"Cor, Dad. Cor blimey. When can I go then? Please?" I asked straight back, determined.

Cor Blimey, Mate is written for young hunters; full of gory stories of pig hunts, being out in the bush with dogs, riding helicopters and using guns. Marion based many of the 18 short stories on true events and has used the language of the hunter (so expect to see some swearing) to make it realistic. The book is illustrated with colour photographs and black and white cartoons. Would suit boys who are reluctant readers and come from the farming community.

I just want to be ... Me! Building resilience in young people by Timothy and Sandra Bowden (Exisle Publishing) ISBN: 978-1-921497-47-6 RRP$22.99

I Just want to be ... Me! is a self help book for teenagers teaching them the principles of ACT (Acceptance and Commitment therapy). Helpful for teeagers with low self-esteem or depressed. It gives them the tools to deal with their demons and how to get back onto the journey of life. It is told in graphic cartoon style making it appealing to teenagers. It would be a helpful resource for the Health programme for Years 6 upwards. Teachers and parents can download free resources to go with the book on the website:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

An assortment of books for children

Pick 'n' Mix assorted Kiwi stories, illustrated by Jenny Cooper (Scholastic) ISBN: 978-1-86943-956-9 RRP $24.00

Dip into this assortment of 16 short stories. You'll find stories by some of New Zealand's award winning and established writers: Elizabeth Pulford, Joy Cowley, Moira Wairama, David Hill, Janice Marriott, Melinda Szymanik, philippa Werry, Kathy White and Bill Nagelkerke and talented new comers: Tania Hutley, Jaqualine Chapman, Feana Tu'akoi, Jill Brasell, Vicki Hall, and Heather McQuillan. Read about a donkey's revenge, how to get your smarts for a math's test, how to dodge space pirates, go back in time with a sugar-baby boy, find out if Hugo keeps the mutts or ditches the girl, and whether Mike gets his dog-walking business off his sister. There's even some unlikely fairy stories ...

It's my turn to cook by Margaret Brooker (New Holland Publishers)
ISBN 978-1-86966-169-4 RRP $24.99

This book will be very popular with aspiring cooks. They'll read about food safety rules and are given tips on how to do things like peel garlic, grate food, chop an onion, separate an egg, chop herbs, beat egg whites stiff and most importantly melt chocolate. In It's my turn to cook there are recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, desert and yummy treats. My daughter snatched the book on its arrival (the cover invites children to turn its pages) and has already trialed several of its recipes. I can defintely recommend the peanut butter cookies, chicken nibbles and chocolate cake. I've got my order in (for my daughter to cook - no ulterior motive here at all - all in the interests of testing whether the recipes are good or not) for strawberry ice-cream, Moroccan Lamb, and for breakfast French Toast, oh and chocolate mousse and some chocolate truffles ...

An excellent Christmas present for 8-12 year olds (Mothers and Fathers - it is in your interest to buy this book).

H.O.U.S.E. by Aleksandra Machowiak and Daniel Mizielinski (Gecko Press)
ISBN: 978-1-877467-66-0 RRP $ 39.99 hardback

This is a fascinating book for children, and adults who are interested in unusual architecture. The book is colourful, laid out with symbols, maps and drawings of houses from all over the world. There is a huge house with big spikes in Denmark, a burrow house in Switzerland, a bubble house in France, a sail house in Spain, a moon house and butterfly house in England, a pear house in the Netherlands, a starry house in Italy - and that's just Europe. In America there's an upwind house, a house of building blocks, a shipping container house; in Chile a house at the edge of the world, a sand house in Iran, a suitcase house in China, a caterpillar and egg house in Japan, and a zig zag house in Australia - and plenty of other unusual houses. It's the sort of book you can dip in and out many times and find something you missed the last time you read it. The book invites you to find the location for each house, meet the architects, think of the house's ideal name then compare it with the original name on the top right hand corner. You can see what the house is made of, what type of furniture it has (bed, kitchen etc.), whether it is in the country, city, mountains, forest or by the sea. There are 23 icons for the reader to identify what type of house they are looking at. Not surprisingly, Ibby put it on their Honour List - it is a gem of a book.
The authors Aleksandra and Daniel graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Poland in 2008 - this is their first book.

It's a Book by Lane Smith (Walker Books)
ISBN: 978-1-921720-14-7 RRP $29.99 hardback

What do you have there?
It's a book.
How do you scroll down?
I don't.
I turn the page.
It's a book.
Do you blog with it?
No, it's a book.

Jackass asks chimp whether it can text, blog, scroll, wi-fi, or tweet? "No ... it's a book," says Chimp. This is a book for all book lovers who stubbornly hold onto the hope that there will be paper books in the future. In fact, give it to someone young so they can see the funny side of book vs. e-book argument. All that aside ... it is a very clever, simple book with humour. The artwork and design is pared back; there are close-ups and different angles of the three main characters (Jackass, chimp and book). I love the look on Chimp's face as he becomes frustrated with the many questions. The last line is a doozy. An absolute delight. (And yes, I do confess this is not a New Zealand children's book - but as a book lover I had to sneak it in.)

Lane Smith is a gifted picture book writer and illustrator. Several of his books have been on bestseller lists and won awards: Madam President; John, Paul, George & Ben; James and the Giant Peach; Princess Hyacinth; Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!

Reviewed by Maria Gill

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Book for Earthquake Charities

Quaky Cat by Diana Noonan, illustrated by Gavin Bishop (Scholastic) ISBN: 978 1 775 43 0292 RRP $ 19.50
Released 9 December 2010

On a cold Christchurch morning, while the city was sleeping,
before the birds roused him with twitters and cheeping,
curled up on the end of his friend Emma’s bed,
Tiger woke with a start ... and a feeling of dread.

Tiger fled from the house with a leap and a bound
as, louder than thunder, from deep underground,
came a roar and a shudder and terrible shaking!
Around him, the city was rolling and quaking.

Quaky flees through the rumbling rolling city and shoots up a tree to safety. He is joined by many other terrified cats until the city stops rocking. Then Quaky cat returns home to find Emma but what does he find instead ...

Author Diana Noonan and illustrator Gavin Bishop experienced the terrors of the Christchurch earthquake themselves. This is their tribute to help children who were traumatised in the Christchurch region and to help other children around the country understand what it was like. Quaky Cat is an uplifting, heartwarming tale for children, written in rhyme and illustrated with bright colourful pictures. It also includes a note to readers from both the author and illustrator about their personal reactions to the quake, as well as contributions from Mayor Bob Parker, Margaret Mahy and Jason Gunn - who all live in Christchurch. The author and illustrator have generously donated their royalties, and Scholastic has contributed 50% of net proceeds from the book to Christchurch charities. The book was produced using all Christchurch businesses and one free copy will be given to all Year 1 and 2 children in the Christchurch area.
Award-winning Diana Noonan has written over two hundred publications including young adult novels, picture books, non-fiction, poetry, radio stories, television material, feature film treatments, and short film scripts. She lives on the remote Catlins Coast of the lower South Island.
Multi-awardwinning author/illustrator, Gavin Bishop is arguably NZ’s best-known children’s book illustrator.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Picture Books for Christmas

The Moon & Farmer McPhee by Margaret Mahy and David Elliot (Random House)
ISBN: 978-1-86979-406-4 RRP$36.99 Hardback

Farmer McPhee is too busy to stare at the wondrous moon. At night he just wants to sleep without being woken up by partying farm animals. The animals believe he is missing out and lure him out into the night to do less frowning and more frisking ...

A picture book story about letting go the mundane and embracing the fun in life. From the special cut-outs and fold-outs, humorous faces on the animals and Farmer McPhee, clever use of shadow, space and colour and of course, wonderful use of language comes a winning combination between Margaret Mahy and David Elliot. Sure to be a popular Christmas book with 4-6 year old children and a book to treasure and show the next generation.

Margaret Mahy is New Zealand's most famous children's writer. Two of her books were awarded the Carnegie medal, she also won the Hans Christian Andersen award and many other international and national awards. David Elliot has written and illustrated five award winning picture books and illustrated many other popular books such as the 'Redwall' series and Margaret Mahy's book of poetry The Word Witch.

The Indigo Bird by Helen Taylor (Penguin)
ISBN: 978-014350471-9 RRP $19.99

Before you even start reading the story you are given an invitation: At the very edge of our world, hidden in mist, is a land where the birds dress in iridescent cloaks of purple and red. Turn the pages, come in and find us ... Fantail is searching for his friend the Takahe. He asks different birds throughout the book if they have seen him. The illustrator is also inviting the reader to find the Takehe hidden on each page. Helen's illustrations are stunning; with a clever use of white space and panels of bright colours with 1-2 birds centre-stage.

Helen Taylor was inspired by the history of the Takehe - the bird that in myth and reality had a tendency to get lost, a loner that throughout time has a habit of making dramatic exits and entrances. On the last page she tells the story of how Dr. Geoffrey Orbell rediscovered the throught-to-be-extinct Takehe. Helen Taylor is an award-winning children's book illustrator and an exhibiting artist. She has illustrated several of Ben Brown's - her partner - books. She has twice been shortlisted for the LIANZA Children's Book Awards and won the Best Picture Book in the New Zealand Post Book Awards with their book A Booming in the Night.

Alf Red's Broccoli Rocket by Simon Clearwater & Andrew Dopheide (Penguin)
ISBN: 978-014350472-6 RRP$19.99

Alf Red liked to invent things with food and strings. He also wanted to travel to the moon so he fashions a rocket from vegetables from the fridge. His brother Ted finds the rocket late at night and speeds to the moon. On landing hungry rabbits gobble up his rocket - he has no way of returning. Fortunately, for him his brother comes to his rescue ...

Simon Clearwater has used rhyme to tell the story and it has probably dictated his choice of words at times. The illustrations look computer generated with a colour-scheme of purple and yellow. The designer has slightly skewed the text and encased pictures in white borders. It is busy-looking but the reader will find plenty of interesting images to view. Four to six year old boys will enjoy the unlikely adventures of the two brothers in the story.

Simon Clearwater is a primary school teacher who lives in Mapua with his wife and two young children. This book was inspired by resourceful children with wild imaginations, and the fantastic voyages found in science fiction literature. Illustrator Andrew Dopheide grew up among the trees, wetas and possums of West Auckland. He has always been interested in drawing, photography and art, as well as nature and science. He has studied design, film-making and science, and is a keen tramper and an occasional snowboarder and volcano climber. He has traveled fairly widely to parts of Southeast Asia, Europe, West Africa, and New Zealand's Subantarctic Islands, and has lived in Dunedin, South Korea and California. He currently lives in Auckland, where he works as a science researcher doing difficult things involving molecular biology and microbial ecology, writing research papers, and also using photography, digital imaging and computer animation to produce illustrations of scientific processes.

A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree adapted by Kingi M. Ihaka, illustrated by Dick Frizzell (Penguin)
ISBN: 978-014350479-5 RRP$ 25.00 Hardback includes CD

On the first day of Christmas
my true love game to me
a pukeko in a ponga tree

A reprint in hardback with CD of the popular New Zealand version of The Twelve Days of Christmas. Bound to be popular under the Christmas Tree and no doubt performed in many school Christmas concerts. Music score with lyrics and chords is printed on pages 31 and 32. First published in 1981 by Heinemann Reed.

Young MacDonald goes to the Show by Anna Crosbie, illustrated by Scott Tulloch ISBN: 978-1-86950-889-0 RRP$ 20.00

Young MacDonald goes to the show and enters lots of competitions; many of which he fails at miserably but he does bring home one trophy (each show) ...

The second in the series of Young MacDonald stories. The first introduces Young MacDonald and his family and was very popular staying on the bestseller list for many weeks.

Children will enjoy reading/hearing (depending on whether they can read or not) aloud the familiar rhythmic story and also looking at Scott's amusing illustrations. Check out the added humour in the extra prize labels.

Anna Crosbie has returned home after living in the UK and now lives in Nelson with her young family. Scott Tulloch is an artist, author, father and book illustrator, living in Martinborough. This is their second collaboration, after the success of their first book, Young MacDonald Had a Farm.
Reviewed by Maria Gill

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Noisy Book by Soledad Bravi, Gecko Press
This handy-sized boardbook provides plenty for your money – 112 pages – which means around 50 double-spreads. Originally published in French, it simply goes through the sounds made by various things (“the cat goes meow”) with a sketchy, childlike cartoon illustration for each object or concept. I was able to test the book on my nearly three-year-old grandson, and he sat still the whole time – a definite recommendation. The adult reader needs to put plenty of effort into making the appropriate sounds – and occasional interpretation might also be needed. Noises from objects such as blocks, wolf, monkey, cuckoo, door, baby and cow are fine - and Mummy going “Kiss, kiss” is also likely to produce a laugh. But a snail not making any sound at all takes a bit of explaining, and a tin of spinach going “Yuck” is not a familiar object to a New Zealand child. Nevertheless, this could easily become a favourite carry-round item for your toddler, and would be a great book to go under the Christmas tree. Released in November.
ISBN 9781877467523 RRP $24.99
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Shadow of the Boyd by Diana Menefy, HarperCollins NZ
Like most New Zealanders, I knew about the burning of the Boyd in Whangaroa Harbour in 1809, but knew nothing of the details. Diana Menefy’s book casts a clear and accurate light on this notorious event. It’s written from the point of view of one of the four survivors, a cabin boy called Thomas, aged about fifteen at the time. The slaughter of the crew is generally regarded as utu for the cruel flogging of a chieftain’s son on the journey to New Zealand, and Thomas’s life was spared because he smuggled food to the stricken Maori after the flogging. The story unfolds on two levels, because Thomas is writing his account of the Whangaroa event aboard the ship that rescued him – the City of Edinburgh – as it sails back to Britain. The City of Edinburgh is nearly wrecked off the coast of South America, so Thomas’s adventures continue for some time. Thomas is a clear-headed and observant narrator, and I enjoyed the interesting historical details of shipboard life at the time. There is an Author’s Note and a Glossary at the back. This story would appeal to readers of about 11 to 14 who like reading historical adventure.
ISBN 978 1 86950 860 9 RRP $19.99
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chapter Books for 7-11 year olds

Boy Zero Wannabe Hero: The attack of the Brain-dead breakdancing zombies by Peter Millett (Faber Kids) ISBN 978 0 571 25323-4 RRP

General Pandemonium intends to take over the world with the power of song this time. His rap tunes turn everyone into breakdancing zombies. The only two not buying it are Charlie and his best friend Josh. Oh, and there's Grandpa but he's half help and half hindrance, if you get what I mean. Charlie becomes Boy Zero to stop the General's master plan but is foiled by one tiny thing - which just so happens to scamper around on eight legs - arghhhh.

Another humorous story from Peter Millett. Boys will love the puns and Peter's allusions to music shows and celebrities are very funny. It's a laugh-out-loud every page type of book. Hopefully we'll see lots more in this series.

Peter Millett's a kiwi whose gone international. This is the second book in the Boy Zero series. Peter has a passion for zany English humour and says Spike Milligan is one of his all-time heroes. Peter's written several picture books and many educational books - check them out on his website. Hey kids, the site includes games too! Also check out Boy Zero and the General's twitter pages.

Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot by Anna Branford, illustrated by Sarah Davis
ISBN: 978-1-921529-17-7 RRP $ 22.99 Hardback

Violet Mackerel is a young girl on a mission. She wants to buy a blue china bird at the market but she can't play the violin like her brother (he's saving for a camera), or make earings like her sister (she's saving for an expensive haircut) or knit jumpers like her mother. She has to think-outside-the-box to find a special thing that she can do at the market. Violet employs several theories to help her come up with an idea; some are not very successful but her last plan might just do the trick.

This is a delightful story about a little girl and her family surviving after their father has left the family. It is very realistic; brother and sister squabble, they don't have much money and each family member has their own way of dealing with their grief. That's the back story - the real story is how Violet uses thinking skills to achieve her goal. Sarah Davis's black and white sketchings are detailed, warm and full of character. It's a heartwarming story that leaves you hoping that you'll see more of Violet Mackerel and her family.And you will - this is the first of four books in the series and I'm pleased to say that Sarah Davis will also be illustrating the other three too. The next book Violet Mackerel's Remarkable Recovery comes out April 2011. Bound to be a huge success with 6-9 year old girls.

This is Anna Bradford's second book; her first came out August 2010 called Sophie's Salon. She has two more coming out in 2011 Violet Mackerel's Remarkable Recovery and Neville No Phone. Anna teaches sociology at University and makes things like dolls and other crafty things. It is well worth going to Anna's site and Violet's site (yes, they have one each) because you'll find lots of crafts to make and you can even learn how to make poffertjes (very similar to pikelets or drop scones - depending on where you come from). Anna was born on the Isle of Man and lived in many countries until she settled in Australia.

Sarah Davis has also had a very successful year; this is the third book she has illustrated for 2010: Marmaduke, The Fearless Little Woman and the Wicked Pirate, and this one. Her first two books were: Mending Lucille and Fearless (expect to see a sequel to this book next year). And we'll be seeing lots more of Sarah. Her artwork is gorgeous and any book with her illustrations are keepers. New Zealand born Sarah lives in Australia.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Early childhood Picture Books

Slinky Malinki's Christmas Crackers by Lynley Dodd
ISBN: 978 014 350462 7 RRP$ 21 Boardbook

Christmas was coming.
Out came the tree,
dressed up in finery
splendid to see.
Trinkets and tinsel
with baubles and bows,
a mouse with a hat
and a very red

A reprint of one of Lynley Dodd's classic stories featuring Slinky Malinky. If you own a cat you will identify with this story - just when you've got the christmas tree dressed in its finery along comes a meddlesome cat to cause havoc... Lynley's stories are a joy to read; the rhythm and rhyme encourage you to recite the story in a sing song voice to young children. Toddlers will delight in the illustrations of that mischevious Slinky Malinky and the sparkles of the Christmas Tree. After reading the story parents can point to different shapes in the story and introduce new Christmassy words to their toddler. I can see this being a favourite with parent and child.
Lynley Dodd's picture books are sold around the world and it's not surprising - they have the right formula of fun, fantasy, rhythm and rhyme - Lynley is a master at the craft.
Hetty's Day Out by Pamela Allen
ISBN: 978 0 670 07447 1 RRP $30,00 Hardback

Once upon a time there was a cat called Hetty.
One morning Hetty woke up,
yawned, washed behind her ears,
then squeezed through her little
door flap into the bright sunlight.

Hetty in sauntering cat fashion goes off for a walk to the neighbours and is given breakfast by seven neighbours and this is where the counting comes in... The first neighbour gives Hetty one plate of baked beans, the second neighbour gives her two pork pies, the third gives her three barbecued lamb chops - you can see where this is leading ... one very fat cat.

Toddlers will love the illustrations of the very fat cat and enjoy counting the meals Hetty is given by her neighbours. Pamela Allen's pared back writing and illustrations are just perfect for the under three year old. They are designed to be read aloud and shared between adult and child. Pamela has been enchanting generations of children for over 30 years - her books have won many awards here in New Zealand and Australia.
Reviewed by Maria Gill

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Picture Books

Hill & Hole by Kyle Mewburn, illustrated by Vasanti unka (Penguin)
ISBN 978-0-143504535 RRP $18.99

Hill and Hole were best friends
Hill likes being a hill,
and Hole likes being a hole.
But sometimes they dream of swapping places...

Have you ever had that feeling that it might be fun to be something or do something else? Kyle Mewburn's wonderfully original story explores that theme with two very unlikely characters - Hill and Hole.

Kyle has produced another excellent philosophical book that will encourage 4-8 year old children to think about wanting what you don't have. Teachers could use it to explore the Health theme of being happy with who you are. The illustrations are a perfect fit for this picture book.

Kyle Mewburn has been a full-time writer since 1997. His book Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck! won the Picture Book and Children's Choice Awards at the 2007 NZ Post Children's Book Awards. In 2009 he was a finalist with Duck's Stuck and in 2010 is the winner the Picture Book category with Old Hu-Hu.

Vasanti Unka is a graphic designer and illustrator who works from her home office. In 2006 she won the Best Educational Book Award from BPANZ for her design of the book set, Frontier of Dreams and in 2008 one of her illustrated books The Bean's Story was a Storylines Notable Book.

Kei hea a Spot? na Eric Hill (Penguin)

Ka kino a Spot!
Ko te wa kai.
Hei hea ranei ia?

A classic Where is Spot? book reproduced in Maori. Kohanga reo classes will find this a very useful resource in their classrooms.

Hannah Bandanna's Hair by Nikki Slade Robinson (Scholastic)
RRP $19.95

Fruffled and frizzled,
teased and tizzled,
knotted and knitted,
whorled and whizzled,
is Hannah Bandanna's hair.

Hannah Bandanna has wild hair that keeps getting tangled and tied into knots. She gets rather fed up with her out-of-control hair until Aunt Tallpoppy gives her some advice that changes her outlook...

Having wild hair myself I can totally identify with Hannah and her problems. Lots of curly headed 4-6 year olds will also. Nikki has used mixed media: coloured pencil and gouache on brown paper combined digitally with photographs and digital illusration.

After Nikki Slade Robinson graduated from Wellington’s Visual Communication and Design course she set up as a freelance illustrator in 1989. She has illustrated over 60 titles including children’s books and readers, including award-winning The Puriri Tree/Te Puriri. "The Seven Stars of Matariki" has been a finalst in the Sir Julius Vogel Awards. "That's not Junk!" was one of three titles Penguin has chosen to release internationally as a Q-Book in 2010.

Little Red and the Cunning Kuri by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Sarah Anderson
RRP $18.50

Little Red was a happy and sweet little girl,
and her hair was a mop of crazy red curls.
She was called 'Little Red' from when she was small,
as red was the colour she loved most of all.

Another book in the Kiwi Corker series - this time a retake on Little Red Riding Hood story. This bouncy red headed girl meets not a fox but a cunning kuri. But this dog gets more than he bargained for when he tries to trick Little Red.

Chris Gurney is an expert on writing these rhyming traditional stories with a kiwi twist. Sarah Anderson's illustrations are vibrant and stunning (and very red). Sarah has created the illustrations by combining digital painting and digital collage.

Chris Gurney has had seven picture book titles published in the space of two years. She writes with a faultless sense of rhyme and rhythm and shows great humorous talent. Auckland based illustrator Sarah Nelisiwe Anderson brings a fresh look to picture books with quirky artwork that literally glows on the pages.

More wonderful tales in the Kiwi Corkers Great New Zealand Yarns series are The Tuatara and the Skink, Cindy and the Lost Jandal, Wacko Kakapo, The Ugly Hatchling, Trev and the Kauri Tree, The Little Blue Duck, The Three Little Lambs, The Mayor's Flash New Clothes and A Kiwi Christmas Carol

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Joy Cowley

One week after releasing the following two books, Joy Cowley received the Prime Minister's Award for her contribution to children's literature. Joy Cowley has given an incredible amount not just in this country (giving proceeds for 'Writing from the Heart' and writing workshops to Storylines and volunteering much of her time over the years) she has also travelled the world giving workshops in poor countries so that children, teachers and authors can benefit from her experience and hear her stories - at her own expense.

Navigation: a memoir by Joy Cowley (Penguin)
ISBN: 978-0-14-320571-5 RRP$45.00

When Joy Cowley was asked several years ago to write an autobiography - she said no. Penguin came back and suggested she wrote her memoirs. Joy Cowley quite liked the idea of focussing on a collection of anecdotes. "I'm like a riverbed trying to identify all the stones that make it what it is."

Her life's journey is situated in place: her father's wish to not live far from the sea left an imprint on Joy, she too longed to live near it and by chance found an idyllic place in Fish Bay. She brought her four children up there, and now visits it with her grandchildren. She has written many of her stories there. "I relax in a hot tub and think, 'Wishy-washy, wishy-washy'... An albino eagle ray follows my dinghy. A pet pig develops a taste for tobacco and eats visitors' cigarettes, packets and all. In a screaming nor-wester, a willy-wall picks up two kayaks from the beach and shoots them high in the air like missiles, dropping them in the bush halfway up the hill. On a calm day, I stand in shallow water and small fish, soft as feathers, lie on my bare feet to warm themselves. Stories, stories; and not just the inspiration, either, but also the energy to create them."

In 1958, Joy began writing after her two little ones were put to bed. Her first two stories were published in the New Zealand Daily Exporter. Then stories were published in the Home Journal and School Publications. She also joined a writers group and was given feedback. She continued sending stories to The Listener and after 40 rejections was finally published in 1961.

Joy says stories were everywhere, like the fruit in her orchard. "All I had to do was pick it up and use or preserve it for a later date." It was while trying to find stories that would interest her son Edward that she became interested in writing early readers. She found that the word lists she was supposed to include in her stories contained words that children rarely used. She suggested a change at the International Reading Conference in America. She also engaged with children to find out what interested them. She wrote their stories and discovered that children who experienced failure with reading needed to have text that built up their self esteem. She made them the heroes, included humour and often put a small surprise at the end of the book.

You'll read about how Joy Cowley had her first adult novels published, how she entered a picture book competition and won with The Duck in the Gun, and later tried to rescue a turtle from death in Fiji and though wasn't able to save it, was inspired to write her first junior fiction novel called The Silent One.

If you love Joy Cowley's books - teacher, librarian, mother, or student - you will enjoy reading the many anecdotes she has chosen to share with us. My favourite: she stayed with Roald Dahl in England (coincidentally, his biography 'The Storyteller is out in the same month) while he made a film of her first book Nest in a Falling Tree'. It is a fascinating book: reading how Joy Cowley shaped our early readers in New Zealand and America; her dedication to children's literature globally; and how her connectness to children, family and land were the inspiration for many of her books.

Writing from the Heart: How to write for children by Joy Cowley published by Storylines, ISBN: 978-0-43-17515-3 RRP$ 25.00 Buy online

Joy Cowley shares her 40 years of experience writing for children in this 'how to' book. However, instead of writing it as a 'dry' instructional book, Joy has shared her long experience as writer, editor and facilitator of writing workshops, as a series of warm and witty anecodotes. On the way, learn about plot writing, writing interesting dialogue, about how to be a disciplined writer, using humour in your stories, writing for different genres (earlyreaders, novels, picture books, plays, poetry), using different editing techniques and presenting your manuscript the best that you can.
All proceeds for this book go to Storylines.

Highly recommended for beginning writers.

Picture Books for Christmas

Brian Saves Christmas by Yvonne Morrison and Deborah Hinde, Scholastic
Well, who’s Brian? Answer: he’s the main character of Brian the Big-Brain Romney, which is what this story was called when it was originally published in 2008. This version has been re-titled and re-jacketed, and is a sequel to the bestselling A Kiwi Night Before Christmas. Brian is the sheep equivalent of a nerd – he’s scrawny and brainy and a great disappointment to his father. But when Santa the Farmer is stopped from delivering presents by bad weather, guess who invents a GPS to show him where to drive his flying tractor...? The story is told in rhyming text, and the illustrations are done in cheeky cartoon style – the curly-haired thin-limbed Romney sheep take a bit of getting used to. If you’re looking for a picture book with a Christmas theme, this is one that should appeal to most New Zealand youngsters.
ISBN 978 1 86943 889 0 RRP $19.50

The Boy With Two Shadows by Margaret Mahy, illus. Jenny Williams, Puffin
This is just one of the titles in Puffin’s A Margaret Mahy Classic series – there have been six reprints so far, including old favourites such as The Witch in the Cherry Tree and A Summery Saturday Morning. This story was originally published by Dent in 1987. It’s a bit hard to know what to say about a classic Margaret Mahy story – but it’s an intriguing and imaginative tale about a boy who shadow-sits for a witch and ends up in a lot of trouble. The illustrations have a definite English flavour – which is not a drawback because they are quite beautiful – but wouldn’t it be nice to see Margaret’s stories reprinted with a New Zealand setting? A great buy for libraries wanting to update their Margaret Mahy picture book collection, and for parents wanting a gentle tale to share with their primary-aged children.
ISBN 978 014350440 5 RRP $19.99

A Kiwi Christmas Carol by Chris Gurney, illus. Philip Webb, Scholastic
This is the latest in the handsome hardback series called Kiwi Corkers: Great New Zealand Yarns. Actually, it’s a Charles Dickens yarn retold with a New Zealand setting. Jerry is the skinflint who owns the Kai Corner Dairy, dreadfully underpaying his assistant, Danny Devine. Jerry is accosted in his sleep by a series of ghosts who show him Christmas Past, Christmas Today and Christmas To Come. The last scene shows Jerry his own lonely, neglected grave. This precipitates a complete change of heart and Jerry becomes the good-hearted favourite of the neighbourhood. The story is told in rhyming text and is excellently illustrated in characteristic style by Philip Webb. It’s fun to spot the New Zealand icons in the pictures. This would be a good addition to a library or personal collection of Christmas picture books – children of about six to eight will have fun with it.
ISBN 978 1 86943 942 2 RRP $18.50

20 Winning Kids’ Stories, Scholastic
The Scholastic Short Story Competition for children generated over 1300 entries. The judges (Jill Eggleton, Kyle Mewburn and Charlie Panapa) had the difficult task of whittling this number down to twenty stories across three age groups, choosing a winner, a runner-up, and several highly commended entries for each level. Section 1 was ages 5 to 7; Section 2 was ages 8 to 10; and Section 3 was ages 11 to 13. The judges were impressed by the wide range of subjects tackled by the young entrants – topics included a unicorn’s ball, a terrorist attack in India, the loss of a sister, the effects of war, an escaped budgie, a captured cheetah... This book will be welcomed by teachers who want to encourage their students to write – because it shows that if you learn to write top-quality stories you have a chance of getting your work into print. Each story is accompanied by an entertaining black pen illustration by Sarah Nelisiwe Anderson.
ISBN 978 1 86943 995 8 RRP $19.50

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Three new Picture Books

Daisy’s Maze by Kyle Mewburn, illus. Michaela Sangl, Scholastic

Daisy the mouse lives in a tower, surrounded by a maze. Whenever she invites her friends to tea, they are grumpy and exhausted by the time they navigate the maze and climb the tower. Unfortunately Daisy doesn’t realise this and decides to cheer them up by making the maze more difficult and the tower higher. This results in her frustrated friends failing to arrive. Daisy goes down to look for them – guess what happens to her? In the end, of course, the friends are able to once again enjoy each other’s company – but Daisy has learned a lesson. This light, entertaining story is considerably enhanced by the imaginative illustrations done in watercolour, pencil, acrylic and collage, using Adobe Photoshop. The pictures offer a whole new layer of entertainment if the reader studies them carefully. There are lots of appealing little extras to be spotted in the backgrounds – such as the penguin sailing past Rangitoto in a boat made out of paper with German text on it. Best for sharing with children of about four to six.

ISBN 978 1 86943 960 6 RRP $19.50

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Dear Toby by Diana Noonan, illus. Linda McClelland, Scholastic

Teddy bears are extremely important to a great number of people (I have actually lost count of how many teddy bears live with me!). So Diana Noonan taps into an almost universal theme with this picture book about coping with teddy bear disasters. Toby the bear runs a kind of teddy bear agony column, and replies to children who write, email, or phone with some desperate question about their bear. Toby reassures anxious inquirers that teddy will definitely survive the spin in the washing machine, and that teddies don’t really need clothes because their thick fur keeps them warm. The illustrations are done in pencil and warm pastel watercolours, and their friendly style reminds me a lot of Shirley Hughes’s classic picture books. This will be a favourite with any teddy-bear fan aged about four to seven.

ISBN 978 1 86943 946 0 RRP $19.50

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Time For Bed Little Kiwi by Bob Darroch, Puffin

Most New Zealand children will be familiar with the Little Kiwi series. This new title in the series has the added advantage of being a lift-the-flap book. However I will put on my librarian’s hat here and say that lift-the-flap books are VERY hard to keep undamaged by eager little fingers. The story is simple – Mother Kiwi can’t find Little Kiwi, so she seeks him all through the bush. Each double spread illustration shows a different bush scene with a flap, and under the flaps we find creatures such as weta, morepork, kakapo, and so on - but no Little Kiwi. I won’t give away the story, but of course Little Kiwi turns out to be perfectly safe. Bob Darroch’s cheerful illustrations are true to the bush environment, and the book could be used with a classroom nature study. I can also see it as being useful as a bedtime story for two to five-year-olds.

ISBN 978 014350430 6 RRP $15.99

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Heir of Night by Helen Lowe
In the far north of Haarth, the Derai people garrison the mountains known as the Wall of Night against their powerful eons old enemy, keeping darkness from the rest of their world. But the Derai's Nine Houses are divided: warrior against priest, and House against House, and they have been further weakened by the subversion and loss of their great magical powers. Powers that are now viewed with suspicion. We start the story with Malian, young Heiress of the warrior Earl of Night. She is being trained in the ways of a leader, but has known little of real danger until the enemy attacks her fortress home. Her dormant powers are called forth to protect her people when her home becomes a bloodbath - as women, children, warriors and priests alike are slain. And although Malian saves the keep, her new abilities are anathema and she must choose between exile and escape to find her way in the world beyond the Wall. There, Malian must accept that she has the power to defeat her people's ancient enemy. And that this power comes at a price.

Meet the author in Auckland at Armageddon over Labour Weekend—on Saturday 23. She will be be joining the Whitcoulls team (Stand 45) at 11.30 am to talk about the genesis of The Heir of Night and why I love—and most particularly write!—epic fantasy. So if you live in Auckland or are visting over the Labour weekend break, she would love to see you there.

ASB Showgrounds: Saturday 23 October
Whitcoulls, Stand 45
11.30 am

Here's a pic of Helen so you can recognise her.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Two birdies in the hand ...

The Very Important Godwit story and song by Jenny Pattrick, Music by Laughton Pattrick, Illustrations by Jez Tuya (Random House) ISBN: 978-1-86979-348-7 rrp$36.99 HARDBACK

The Very Important Godwit book is a mix of song and story. In the story Will walks down to the beach and sees many Godwits. "Why are they so hungry?" He asks his mother. She tells him they need to be fat. Will tries to count all the Godwits but there are too many of them to count until the day they all fly off and there are none left. Will's mother is a scientist and she has attached a transmitter to Pipi - the Very Important Godwit. Will and his mother track his journey around the world. Will soon finds out why they eat so much and where they have their chicks.

Interspersed amongst the story are short stanzas of song. Children can play the CD and join in with the 17 original songs. Teachers could use this book in their Native Bird study. Junior and Middle school will understand the ecological message. Younger children will enjoy the pictures and story. Suitable for 5-7 year old children.

Jenny and Laughton Pattrick's songs for children are sung in schools throughout New Zealand and Australia. They have also written children's musical shows: Capital E, National Children's Theatre and regular tour shows for young children. Laughton was formerly a Primary and Secondary school teacher, a music advisor and College of Education lecturer. More recently he has been a singing tutor at Toi Whakaari NZ Drama School.

Jes Tuya is a freelance illustrator. Her colourful illustrations look like they might be computer generated.

Come along to the book launch of 'The Very Important Godwit' 4pm, Saturday 16 October 2010, Capital E National Children’s Theatre, Civic Square, 101 Wakefield St, Te Aro, Wellington
To be launched by Jack Lasenby, Some songs from the book will be performed; family members are welcome.

Ria the Reckless Wrybill by Jane Buxton, illustrated by Jenny Cooper (Penguin)
ISBN: 978-1-14350-450-4 rrp$30.00 HARDBACK

From the moment that Ria hatched her parents knew she was special - her bill pointed the opposite way to everybody elses. Ria soon learns that it is not so easy being different. It makes it difficult for her to find mayfly eggs but it is her feisty attitude that also makes her stand out too. When her parents give her a lesson on what to do when predators fly down instead of staying still like her brother Rua she jumps up and shouts, 'Look out, predator!' and 'I'm Ria the wrybill and I'm coming to get you.' As you can imagine her attitude gets her into plenty of trouble ...

An enjoyable story complemented with beautiful water colour pictures. Children 4 - 8 years will enjoy this story with an environmental message. Teachers could also use it when studying native birds with the class.

Jane Buxton was born in Otaki in 1947 and grew up in Wanganui. Her first children’s book was published in 1976 and she'se been writing for children ever since. For many years she was a primary school teacher and wrote part-time. She now earns her living as a writer and has had more than 200 stories, plays, poems and articles published both in New Zealand and overseas, mainly by Learning Media and Wendy Pye for the education market.

Jennifer Cooper is a children’s book illustrator with a background in graphic design. She has illustrated numerous picture books, including Rugby for Rosie, written by Frances Adlam, The Mad Tadpole Adventure by Melanie Drewery and Duck Walk by Joy Cowley. Cooper has spent time in Western Samoa, and she enjoys producing illustrations relevant to Pacific Island and Maori children.

Reviewed by Maria Gill

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Two new books illustrated by Katz Cowley

The Fidgety Itch by Lucy Davey, illustrated by Katz Cowley (Scholastic)
ISBN 978 1 86943 967 5 RRP $19.50

the fru-fru trees,
Timpkin was gleefully
gobbling his cheese,
when something began to
bother his knees.

Twas only a niggle ...
the teensiest titch ...
but that fidgety feeling grew to an ITCH!

What is a mouse going to do with an itch? He calls out feverishly for someone to give him a scratch.Thankfully for him Feather McDoo comes to the rescue but then he develops an itch, and so on it goes on down the line - everyone scratching someone elses' scritch - but who is going to scratch the last person at the back of the line?

Lucy Davey's text is playful and rhythmic. A joy to read aloud. Children will delight in her made-up words and names. For example, "Now I've got an itch, a terrible twitch, a bubbly, fizzly, twinge-y, twizzly, horribly hiffle-ish, howlish patch ..." The designer has added emphasis to some of the text by changing the size of the words. The illustrations add charm to the story. Katz Cowley has used water colour to paint the scenes and characters; depicting characters you might find in real life with fantasy characters such as Feather McDoo and the Fru-fru trees. The embossed cover ensures the book is going to be picked up by its target audience 4-6 year old children. Junior and Middle Primary teachers could use the book as an example of team work in action.

Lucy is currently based at home in Auckland with her three young children who provide her with first-hand knowledge of the current preferences and interests of young readers (and their
parents). Her other books include: Pandora's Potato Romp, Fifi la Belle, Fifi la Belle Takes a Bath, Fifi la Belle Ship's Cat, Mr Mayor s Pavlova Palaver, A Right Royal Christmas. In March 2010 she was awarded the Storylines' Joy Cowley Award for her story, “Out of Bed, Fred!” (due out in 2011). Lucy has a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and a Bachelor of Technology in Biotechnology and Bioprocess Engineering.
British-born Katz Cowley has a degree in Illustration from the University of Northumbria. She spent a year and a half travelling around SE Asia and living in Australia before arriving in NZ in
2000, where she has been ever since. Winner 2010 NZ Post Children s Book Awards Children's Choice Award with Wonky Donkey.
Children go here for some printable activities.
Reviewed by Maria Gill

Willbee the Bumblebee by Craig Smith & Maureen Thomson, illus. Katz Cowley, Scholastic New Zealand
Following on from the runaway success of The Wonky Donkey, we now have this production in a similar format – a picture book with rhyming text, accompanied by a CD of Craig Smith singing the words. I imagine the hordes of parents and teachers who bought (and are still buying) The Wonky Donkey will be delighted to find this new book. It will be interesting to see if it is as successful as its predecessor.

I found the story cute, the illustrations appealing, and the song catchy. Children of about four to seven will enjoy the striking, close-up pictures of the insects involved in the story (Willbee loses his yellow and black jumper and friends provide a new one), especially the wide-eyed, slightly goofy bumblebee. However the text works much better in a song than it does as a rhyme for reading aloud. The scansion does not flow well in many places, and I found myself tripping up as I read it aloud. My advice is to play the CD and sing along to the song as you turn the pages and follow the text. One small word of warning for teachers – the word “bum” is used a couple of times in the text.
ISBN 978 1 86943 943 9 RRP $26
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Two new non-fiction books

The Naughty Kids Book of Nature by Des Hunt and Scott Tulloch (Harper Collins)
ISBN: 9781869508029 RRP$29.99

I would have loved to have been in the editor's office when Des Hunt and Scott Tulloch pitched this idea. I imagine it went like this:

"We want to write a nature book for kids," said Des.
"Not a nature book for nice kids, though," said Scott.
"No, one for naughty kids," said Des.
"Ahh, I'm not getting your drift," said Ed.
"Exactly, we want to take kids down another track, altogether," said Des.
"What track?" said Ed.
"We'll take kids on a road journey and examine squashed animals on the road," said Scott.
"Yeah, road kill," said Des.
"Eww," said Ed.
"The gorier the better," said Scott.
"And answer all the questions a naughty kid would ask," said Des.
"Like what?" said Ed.
"Why did the toad cross the road?"
"Isn't that a joke?" asked Ed.
"Yep, we'll tell jokes and explore the scientific reasons why animals do cross the road," said Des.
"And look at the bludgers in nature," said Scott.
"The lovers, the stuffed ones, the living dead ..." said Des.
"And pretty it up with lots of illustrations," said Scott.
"Well, it's highly original ..." said Ed.

Kids - naughty and nice - will love this book. It has lots of humour, gory pictures, and it de-mystifies information children have been told and wondered whether it was true or not and haven't liked to ask. Like, is it true that Daddy Long Legs' venom is very poisonous but they can't bite humans because their fangs are too short? Or how did tuatara end up in New Zealand and nowhere else? And talks about stuff you won't find in other nature books such as, 'Spiders, pee and poo' and 'What has more sense, a pukeko or a rabbit?' As it says on the back blurb: 'Nice kids learn about the life-cycle of the monarch butterfly and tadpoles turning into frogs. Naughty kids want to know about squashed hedgehogs and dead pukeko. Nice kids like to look at books with pretty pictures of puppy dogs and kittens. Naughty kids would rather see blood and guts and maggots. And rats. Lots of rats. Don't forget the rats.' Extensive index and glossary included.

Des Hunt and Scott Tulloch say at heart they're still a pair of naughty kids. They want to show you how exciting, smelly, amazing, revolting and wonderful the world of Nature can be. Des Hunt, a school teacher for forty years, has written 8+ books for children. All his books weave ecological messages into adventure stories for boys (and girls like them too). Many of his books have been shortlisted and won awards in the New Zealand Post Children's Book and LIANZA Awards.

Scott Tulloch has a Bachelor of Science degree from Victoria University, and writes and illustrates children's books. His books: Willy's Dad, Willy's Mum, Piggy Pogget and books he has illustrated: Echo and Hush, and The Naughtiest Puppy; have all been popular with children and adults. Willy's Dad was shortlisted for the BPANZ and LIANZA awards.

Tui: The NZ Kids' Garden by Diana Noonan and Keith Olsen (Penguin)
ISBN: 978 0 14 320498 5 RRP$ 30.00

This kids guide to growing fruit and vegetable in New Zealand covers the basics such as: how plants work, how to start a garden, how to protect plants; grow plants from food you find in the kitchen such as avocado stones, old onions, sprouting beans and lentils; the different ways you can grow plants; dealing with plant diseases; and information about worms, compost, companion planting; and tips on designing your own garden. The second half of the book gives you the low-down on different plants, how to grow them, what you can cook with them and interesting facts about that particular vegetable or fruit. For example, did you know that long before cowboys were cooking their favourite meal of baked beans American Indians were sweetening theirs with maple sugar. Today haricot beans have a little sugar and a lot of tomato sauce to make baked beans. The book is brightened with lots of beautiful photographs and covered in a plastic jacket so you can take it outside when you're in the midst of your gardening. Index included.

A great resource for Enviro schools and Primary schools growing their own fruit and vegetables, as well as any budding gardeners in the home.

Diana Noonan has published over 100 titles for children, from young adult novels to picture books for learner readers. Noonan has won several national awards and has had four titles shortlisted for New Zealand children's literature prizes. Keith Olsen is an illustrator and writer with an interest in the outdoors. He has also worked as a teacher, outdoor instructor and potter. He has illustrated many books for his wife Diana Noonan and the pair co-wrote The Know, Sow & Grow Kids’ Book of Plants, which won the non-fiction category of the 1998 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. In 2004 his Pick Up a Pack: A Guide to Tramping and Camping The New Zealand Way was a finalist in the non-fiction section of the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New Non-Fiction from New Holland

New Zealand's Wildlife of the Past by Dave Gunson
(New Holland) ISBN 978-1-86966-282-0 RRP $24.98

This is the fifth title in the New Holland natural history series 'All About...' Other titles include: All About... Birds, Insects, Plants and Seashore. The book follows the same format; 1-2 drawings per double page spread with text on white space. Includes contents, introduction and index pages.

In this title, students will read about the history of earth including a timeline; and information about the many species of animals and plants that have become extinct in New Zealand and possible reasons for their demise. Children 6-10 years will enjoy reading the fascinating facts - a great resource for topic study or students could pick one of the animals to research for their speech topic i.e. What if... Moa were still around...

Dave Gunson is a prolific writer and illustrator of children's books. Dave has also produced NZ Birds to Read, and Colour and Keep with New Holland.

Ice Ages: When the World Chills Out by Russell Ferrett
(Young Reed) ISBN 978-1-921073564 RRP $ 24.99

This is not a New Zealand authored book but I thought I'd briefly describe the book because it has tackled a subject that no one else has written about for children. Instead of a book on global warming this is about what happens when we go into another ice age. It poses and answers questions like: What would it be like at your home? Will it would be too cold? Where you could move to? It also provides fascinating facts about glaciers, human and animal migrations, and where ice comes from. Readers will find an extensive glossary, some activities and websites to look up further information. A useful resource for science-based topic studies - Primary level.

Reviewed by Maria Gill

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Three new Picture Books from a new imprint

The Mountain who wanted to live in a House by Maurice Shadbolt, illustrated by Renee Haggo (Duck Creek Press)
ISBN: 978-1-877378-42-3 RRP$29.99

Once there was a mountain who lived all by itself.
Sometimes people came to climb it. In winter they came to ski and make snowmen.
In summer they came to have picnics and watch the birds in the trees.
But did anyone ask the mountain how it liked living high in the sky?
No one ever did.
As a matter of fact the mountain wanted to live in a house.

Mountain with a 'woho woho' kind of laugh walked towards the town. Of course, in the process it made a rumbling tumbling sound and scared all the town people away. Lucky for Mountain a sensible little boy stayed behind. He listened to Mountain's wish to live in a house and helped to make it possible.

Well, this is the first time I've read a story about a 'mountain wanting to be a house'. Maurice Shadbolt successfully creates a story arc; the two main characters make three attempts to achieve their goal, and the story ends with a satisfactory resolution. It's a story about 'thinking outside the square'. Teachers could use it to launch their thinking skills or health programme. Primary aged children will enjoy reading the story and exploring the illustrations. It might lead to discussions about whether New Zealand has a similar looking mountain and town - possibly, Edgecumbe...

Maurice Shadbolt (1932-2004) is one of New Zealand's best-known writers and the author of twelve novels, four collections of stories and a number of works of non-fiction. This is his only known children's book and it is published here for the first time. Publisher David Ling says he was given the script by Maurice Shadbolt fifteen years ago but up until now he hadn't found the right illustrator for the book. He came across Renee Haggo by chance. David gave a lecture to students at AUT University in Auckland and gave them the task to illustrate two children's books. He was so impressed with Renee's illustrations it inspired him to publish the book with her illustrations.

Renee Haggo primarily illustrates with pen and ink, watercolours and acrylics. She has a keen eye for realism in her characters and is an avid sketcher and life drawer. This is her first children's book. It wouldn't have been an easy brief to bring a mountain to life but Renee has brought character to the mountain. Like a face with expressions it changes; sometimes Mountain sports a tear, a smile, and an expression of pain, horror, sadness and even exhaustion.

A dog like that by Janene Cooper, illustrated by Evie Kemp (Duck Creek Press)
ISBN: 978-1-877378-41-6 RRP$29.99

Uncle's dog is clever.
He does what he's told.
'Dogs should be like that,' they said.

My dog's not like that.
He does what he likes.

We learn that the narrator's dog is not obedient like other dogs - he does what he likes - which just so happens to fit perfectly with the owner. Her dog sleeps in her bed, he's friendly and licks everyone, he waits for her, eats her dinner when no one is looking, and licks her tears when she's sad. He's her best friend.

A book for preschoolers - a simple story with pared back text and illustration. Bound to be popular with 2-4 year old animal lovers.

Janene Cooper has a background in education and is currently working as an Education Consultant based in Auckland. Her writing is influenced by the experiences she has shared with the many children who have touched her life.

Evie Kemp is a recent graduate of AUT University in Auckland where she studied Graphic Design and illustration. Evie used collage for A Dog Like That! as part of a graphic design/illustration project set by David Ling. David thought Kemp’s concept work was so exceptional, he contracted her immediately.

Kindy teachers could read the book as inspiration for collage art activities with the children. You could even read the story and show the pictures to babies; they won't understand it but they'll like the bright colours and one figure per page illustrations.

Farmer Beetroot's Birthday by D. Butler, illustrated by Lyn Kriegler (Duck Creek Press)
ISBN: 978-1-877378-43-0 RRP$29.99

Molly Muffin was going to Farmer Beetroot's birthday party.
She had bought a present for him.
It was a lovely red bucket.
The sun was shining and Molly Muffin was hot and tired.
Huff-puff, huff-puff, down the road she went and onto the bridge.

Farmer Beetroot's two guests come brandishing gifts but unfortunately fall through the hole in the bridge and into the stream. Instead of being bothered - they're delighted. It's cool in the water and they can use the farmer's present - a bucket - to wash water over themselves. Farmer Brown is tired of waiting for his guests to arrive so goes looking for them...

A story about accepting the unexpected and going with the flow. Preschoolers and junior Primary students will enjoy the story and its brightly coloured illustrations.

As with all three Duck Creek Books, this book is hardback, colour co-ordinated with endpapers and back covers. Some pages are full colour illustrations and some are half page (right) illustration with text on white pages (on the left).

Dorothy Butler is an internationally recognised authority on children's books and literacy. She is a graduate of Auckland University and was awarded an OBE in 1993 for services to literature. She has won numerous New Zealand, British, American and Japanese awards.

Lyn Kriegler is an American-born graduate of Victoria Commonwealth University and holds an honours (BFA) degree in Fine Art and Illustration. She settled in New Zealand in 1974 and formed a happy working partnership with Dorothy Butler in 1978. They have since collaborated on many books together.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Non-fiction books for Young Adults

Together Alone: The story of the Finn Brothers by Jeff Apter
(Random House) RRP $42.00 ISBN: 978-1-74166-816 336pp paperback

The unauthorised biography of the Finn brothers describes Tim and Neil's middle class upbringing - with parents who were always supportive of their musical ambitions. The brothers began playing instruments from a very young age in an exciting time musically: Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Bob Dylan. After school Tim formed Split Enz with school friends and Neil was invited to join him several years later. The roles were reversed when Neil set up Crowded House and asked his brother to join them. We read about the brother's struggles with fellow band members, sibling rivalry, their world tours and inspiration for their music.

The book is targeted towards the adult market and teenage musos who would enjoy reading about Tim and Neil Finn's musical journey. The book does mention drug usage but does not glorify it or dwell on it. At the back of the book is a discography and historical photographs of the brothers .

Jeff Apter based the book on interviews, extensive research and more than 30 years of watching the Finn brothers performing. Jeff was a journalist for Rolling Stone and Vogue and has written about popular culture for more than 20 years.

Available in Australia and New Zealand. Go to Crowded House's website.

Blue Adrenalin: Life in the New Zealand Police by Bill O'Brien
(Longacre/Random House) ISBN: 978-1-877460-50-0 RRP $34.99

A non-fiction chapter book for teenagers who are interested in joining the police. Find out about the structure of the police, their training, communications centres, emergency responders and see behind the scenes. You'll also read about the other branches of the police such as armed offenders squads, dog handlers, criminal investigation branch, serious crime, traffic, maritime and air support, and search and rescue. At the end of some of the chapters is a problem-solving scenario. You get to decide what you would do if you were a police officer. It helps you to see that for every decision you make another set of options can confront you. The book design is pared back (text and photographs only) with a contents page only (no index). A no-nonsense book for those interested in the police force.

Author Bill O'Brien was with the New Zealand Police for 35 years and has written numerous fiction and non-fiction books for children and adults. He was a finalist in the New Zealand Post Book Awards with his junior fiction novel 'Castaway - the diary of Samuel Abraham Clark' and has held a Fellowship at the University of Otago College of Education. He has also written educational publications on a wide range of topics for the New Zealand, Australian, U.S. and Canadian markets.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Picture Books

Legends of the Cook Islands by Shona Hopkins, illus. Bruce Potter, Penguin NZ
There never seem to be enough books published for children about the Pacific Islands, so it’s good to see Penguin producing this one. It’s an attractive paperback that looks a bit like a picture book but is aimed at an older readership, probably children of primary-school age. It includes eight legends briefly told, usually four pages per legend. Titles include The Pearls of the South Seas, Ati and the Water Fairies, and Ina and the Shark. There is a Glossary of Cook Island words at the back. Each story has one main illustration by Bruce Potter, done in his uniquely realistic style. The peaceful design of the book and Bruce’s beautiful seascapes imbue the book with a true Pacific feel.
ISBN 978 014 35 0407 8 RRP $19.99

Magpie Mischief by June Peka, illus. Jo Thapa, Scholastic NZ
This lively story was the Joy Cowley Award winner for 2009. It is based on a true story – about the disasters caused by Pie the cheeky magpie. Pop is very proud of his vege garden, so when Pie gets up to her tricks, Pop is devastated. Pie pulls out the seedlings, undoes important knots, and pecks holes in the prize pumpkin. But Pop refuses to put her in a cage. Eventually desperation forces him come up with an unusual but effective solution. The bright, eye-catching illustrations offer some unusual perspectives and interesting textures. This warm-hearted story about the battle of wills between Pop and Pie should be fun to read aloud to children of about five to seven. Also available in a Te Reo edition.
ISBN 978 1 86943 932 3 RRP $18.99
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Three new chapter books

Organ Music by Margaret Mahy (Gecko Press)
ISBN: 9781877467479 RRP$ 19.99

'Watch the road! Watch the road!' screamed David. 'I don't have to,' Harley replied in a strangled voice. Slumping back in his seat, he took his foot off the accelerator and held his hands away from the wheel. The soft hum of the car's motor did not decrease. The car did not lose speed. If anything, it seemed to move even faster than before. 'It's driving itself,' Harley said. A thrilling tale of danger, ghosts and secret experiments hidden deep in the forest.

Margaret Mahy has written a chilling (read scary) story about taking risks and having to suffer the consequences. David and Harley are taken on a journey into hell, which they can only survive if they trust their instincts and a girl they've never met before. Margaret's masterful play on words comes to the fore in this slim chapter books for 8-12 year olds. An enjoyable read for those who liked to be spooked.

Boy Zero, Wannable Hero: The petrifying plot of the plummeting pants
ISBN: 9780571252473 RRP $15.99
Casey Applejack's career as a superhero might be over before it's even begun. His mother wants him to choose a safe job as a TV game show host and the Super School has rejected him because his super powers aren't super enough. However, when the evil villain and wannabe rock star General Pandemonium captures all of the world's superheroes, and threatens to vaporise every pair of pants on the planet, it's up to Casey to save the day. Will he be a superhero - or will he be a superzero?

Peter Millet has written a hilarious tale for Captain Underpant fans. This is the first in the series - published by Faber & Faber - where school boy with no prospect of qualifying for superhero school saves the day. I love Peter's play on words, and if you're a parent reading to a younger child - jokes aimed for parents. It is the funniest book I've read all year.

This is Peter Millet's fourth book for the retail market (plus he's also had 30 educational books published with Cengage Publishing). He knows how to engage 7-9 year old boys (and girls will like his humour too) with fun easy to read chapter books. Highly recommended for boys who've finished Captain Underpants and want something just as good (if not better).
Download a colouring-in picture

A crack in the sky by Kyle Mewburn (Scholastic)
ISBN: 9781869439347 RRP $ 17.99

When is a sofa not a sofa? When it is the entry to another world ...Nine-year-old Conor's day doesn't start well. His right arm seems to be missing! Then he appears to have grown horns. But it's the next event that proves fateful. His mum catches her skirt on a loose spring in the sofa. It's time to replace the sofa ...obviously. But money is tight. So when Conor sees an old sofa bobbing in the tide as he walks to school, about to strand itself on the muddy shore, it seems like fate is working in his favour. But there's something very strange about this particular sofa ...Kyle Mewburn's imagination runs riot in this humorous novel for young readers, with shades of The Borrowers.

Kyle Mewburn has won numerous awards for his picture books, including Kiss, Kiss, Yuck! Yuck!, The Hoppleplop, No Room for a Mouse, Old Hu-Hu, and Duck's Stuck and written three chapter books before ( Pop Hopper Pet set). He wrote 'A Crack in the Sky' under the New Zealand Society of Author's mentorship scheme - when he wanted to branch out into a new genre.

We find Kyle's quirky sense of humour in this book - with diverse range of characters veering into a highly original fantasy environment - behind the back of a sofa (but children won't know that until they're more than halfway through the book). An engaging read for 8-12 year boys (but again girls will enjoy it because they can handle lead male characters).
Download a teaching resource. Go to Kyle Mewburn's website