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