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

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