Sunday, February 28, 2010

New Picture Books for 2010

Bedtime Countdown by Raymond McGrath (Puffin)
ISBN 978-0-14350-421-4 RRP$ 18.99

Twelve slinky skinks,
lurking under leaves.
But who do you see hiding, too,
playing make believe?

Young readers will find little kiwi pretending to be eleven different animals as he counts his way down to bedtime. He encounters:
12 slinky skinks
11 flighty fantails
10 timeless tuatara
9 fine black stilts
8 fluffy fruit-bats
right down to one sleepy kiwi bird tucked up tight in bed.

Raymond McGrath has used alliteration, rhyme and a bit of visual humour to bring this familiar tale with a twist. It is the artwork that really stands out in this book; each page has its own colour palette: brown/orange/yellow for the skinks, purple and greens for the bats. Young readers will enjoy finding the animals amongst all the detail. Some pages are packed to the rafters others he has paired it back. Raymond has used a mix of styles; stylistic shapes and print background juxtaposed with patterns and lines. Full compliments to the designer of the book, the text sometimes meanders across the page and sometimes its vertical or horizontal. Parents and toddlers will enjoy this book at bedtime.

Raymond McGrath is an award-winning animation director, animator, illustrator, designer and writer. He has illustrated over 45 children's picture books.

Fly Pie by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Philip Webb (Scholastic)
ISBN 978-1-86943-924-8 RRP$18.99 Recommended Reading age: 3-6 years
Once there was a frog who had been a prince.
He knew he could become a prince again
if he was kissed by a princess,
and that would not be difficult.
A princess lived in a large stone castle,
a few hops down the road.

The frog is happy in his 'fine old lily pond' and rather delighted when the cute frog from the lily pad next door proposes marriage. However, frog also feels he is destined for bigger things; kissing princesses for example so off he goes 'slippity-slop' to a castle down the road. Like all fairy tales (with frogs in them) things don't always go to plan and in the end he realises he is better off...

Joy Cowley has based the story on a well known fable 'The Frog Prince' and taken the story one step further; what if the princess isn't so nice and what if he has more chance for 'true love' with the cute frog next door. Joy Cowley is commonly acknowledged as one of the 'grandes dames' of NZ children's literature, along with Margaret Mahy.

The artwork is a delight with pastel shades, attention to detail (insects buzzing about in the foreground) and humorous undertones. I like the way he has used different angles; close-up, mid and far range, left and right to tell the story with pictures. Philip Webb is a Wellington-based illustrator, with two of his illustrated titles receiving Honour Awards at the NZ Post Children's Book awards for Dragor and Piggity-Wiggity Jiggity Jig.

Maori edition also available.

Jonah's First Day by Feana Tu'akoi, illustrated by Samantha Asri
ISBN 978-1-86943-920-0 RRP$18.99
Jonah was excited. Today he was starting kindy.
He had everything he needed. He had a drink,
some food to eat, a hat to wear when he was
playing outside, and a bag to keep it all in.

Jonah's is looking forward to his first day at kindy. When he arrives he can see lots of children having fun with their friends then Jonah realises he doesn't know anyone and begs to go home. The next day his Grandfather takes Jonah for a walk and when they arrive at the kindy the Grandfather asks if they will let him play in the sandpit. Jonah is a bit shocked but goes with him to see if he is allowed. The two of them have a fun afternoon playing in the sand and later build a large tower with another boy. Jonah looks forward to coming the next day to see his new friend and play in the sandpit.

Kindergarten children will recognise the fear of starting something new, especially when you don't know anyone. Parents will find reading this book to their three year old will help reassure them that they will make friends and there are lots of fun things to do at kindy.
Feana Tu'akoi wrote the popular 'What is a ... series' for kindergarten children.
Maori edition also available.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Brave Bess and the ANZAC horses

Brave Bess and the ANZAC horses: A true story of courage and loyalty by Susan Brocker (Harper Collins) ISBN:9781869507916 RRP $19.99 Release date: March 2010

At the outbreak of war in 1914, the New Zealand troops left for the battlefields with more than 3,700 horses. The horses were the first of over 10,328 that were sent to war between 1914 and 1916, serving mainly with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade in the Middle East.

Of all the horses that departed at the start of war, only one ever returned home. Her name was Bess, and this is her story.

Read how Bess acclimatises to the heat and sand in Egypt and fearlessly goes into battle with her rider Major Guy Powles. They survive skirmishes in the Sinai, battles at Beersheba and Ayun Kara, troop through the Mountains of Moab and endure the Valley of Death. She withstands bombs, machine gun fire and injuries outliving horses that have been by her side throughout the whole ordeal.

Susan Brocker has brought to life this seldom told tale of the brave horses who fought and died alongside New Zealand troopers in World War One. Susan has researched extensively the history of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles in the Middle East campaign. She read diaries, memoirs and letters of soldiers from New Zealand and Australia. Told in the narrative form readers will: be carried along the nail biting journey; stifle a few tears when the main characters Bess, Flame and Jack and their riders are hurt; admire the courage and loyalty of all involved. There's something for both genders: horses for horse-mad girls and battles for boys. A tragic but poignant story - highly recommended for 12 years onwards.
Susan Brocker lives with her husband and many pets, including horses, on a small farm near Tauranga. She has written numerous books for children, including RESTLESS SPIRIT and the bestselling SAVING SAM.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A new non-fiction for 2010

Lost in the Bush: Keeping yourself safe in New Zealand's great outdoors by Lindy Kelly, illustrated by Pauline Whimp, RRP $24.99 (Harper Collins)

Lindy Kelly, with the help of New Zealand Land Search and Rescue, teaches bush safety through three different genres: a story about a boy called Sam and what happens to him when he gets lost in the bush; some important facts to help you when you go tramping including guidelines to help you stay alive and how to help rescuers find you; and group activities you can do with your teacher or with trained people such as Search & Rescue officers.

This book imparts important information - that could save lives - in a fun and informative way. The colourful illustrations enhance the story and are repeated in the factual segment of the book, which will help aid recall of these tips. If teachers use this book in the classroom they could use all the learning styles: by reading the story out loud for audio learners; visual learners could read the text and pictures and kinesthetic learners could be engaged with the activities - which would encourage greater retention of these survival tips for more students. A great resource for the classroom. Recommended for 6-8 year olds (being read to) and 8 - 10 year olds (reading themselves).

Lindy Kelly is a journalist and author of 20 children's books. Pauline Whimp is an Auckland-based artist and designer.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The first books from Gecko Press for 2010

All About Food by Michele Mira Pons, illustrated by Marion Puech and
The Adventure of Life by Jean-Benoit Durand, illustrated by Robin Gindre

These two books are handsomely packaged with humorous comic-strip style colour illustrations. The two books are part of a 'Step by Step' series following on from Ecology and the Environment and Rubbish and Recycling published in 2009.

All About Food takes you on food's journey through your body; its role, its history and why healthy eating is important.

The Adventure of Life covers all aspects of life on Earth - from when the universe was born, the beginning of life; cells to dinosaurs to human's time on earth.

At the end of both books are quizzes, a mini dictionary and useful websites. The food book also has some recipes 'to tempt your tastebuds'.

From a teacher's point of view; these books are going to be invaluable in the classroom. Parents will find it useful to help explain those difficult questions coming from their children's enquiring minds. Most importantly, children will enjoy them; for their knowledge, humour and to satisfy their curiosity. Highly recommended.