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