Saturday, August 20, 2011

Goodnight Pumpkin by Belynda Smith, illus. Marie Sanders, Duck Creek Press (distributed by David Bateman)
Belynda Smith has lots of experience as a children’s librarian, so she knows what works in a picture book and what doesn’t. Her first book is based on a true family event. It’s a peaceful, repetitive story about a little girl who won’t stay in her bed. Her long-suffering and increasingly tired mother carries Polly back to bed several times. But the last time it happens, Mum is so tired she gives in and lifts the bedclothes for the visitor to slide in – but a twist in the tale reveals that Mum is sharing her bed with someone other than Polly... Marie Sanders’s pastel illustrations are obviously intended to be calming and non-eventful – as befits a bedtime story – but I think I would have preferred more variety in the format rather than having very similar pictures for each repetition of the text. However congratulations go to Duck Creek Press for choosing a sturdy hardback format. This book is best for the littlies, aged about three to five.
ISBN 978 1 877378 49 2 RRP $29.99
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Phoebe and the Night Creatures by Jenny Hessell, illus. Donovan Bixley, Scholastic NZ
This quirky tale picks up the age-old theme of monsters in the dark. Phoebe needs to go to the toilet – but she can’t get out of bed because there’s a wolf under it. “Take the wolf with you,” calls her nonchalant mother. So Phoebe sets off, wolf in tow, but then they bump into a smelly troll at the end of the bed. Phoebe decides he needs to come to the bathroom too, for a wash. And so the story proceeds until Phoebe reaches the bathroom door with an amazing procession of creatures behind her. But when she turns on the bathroom light ... well, I won’t give away the plot twist. Parents might need to explain the fate of the monsters and the moral of the story to very young readers. Donovan Bixley’s computer-generated cartoon illustrations are striking and colourful and very contemporary – they will appeal hugely to children familiar with modern TV cartoons. Should be suitable for children of about five to eight, though Scholastic thinks four to seven.
ISBN 978 1 86943 976 7 RRP $19.50
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

There Was An Old Woman Who Swallowed a Weta by P. Crumble, illus. Errol McLeary, Scholastic NZ
Scholastic are on to a pretty good thing with their Kiwi Corkers hardback series (Great New Zealand Yarns). This one is based on a perennial favourite. Of course it will be a joy to read/sing aloud, as the intrepid old lady swallows a bat, jandal, stoat, tuatara, hawk, sheep ... and a kiwi. This pedantic reviewer found a couple of hiccups in the scansion (tuatara just doesn’t fit) and the final throw-away line isn’t quite as satisfying as, “She’s dead, of course.” But adult readers (especially teachers) should read it with heaps of enthusiasm and verve – and they’ll get away with it. Gentle souls will be pleased to see the animals all escaping on the last page. The black ink and watercolour cartoon illustrations are suitably gross and over-the top – and those previously mentioned gentle souls will appreciate the addition of a window on each double spread which shows the consumed animals still alive and kicking. Fun for kindergartens and primary school classes.
ISBN 978 1 86943 992 7 RRP $18.50
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Grandma McGarvey Surfs the Net by Jenny Hessell, illus. Trevor Pye, Scholastic NZ
“Celebrating 20 years!” announces the cover – wow! Grandma McGarvey is starring in her 11th book and she’s still going strong. How does she do it? Maybe it’s her ability to get in and out of scrapes, leaving everyone gasping in her wake. In this rhyming text story, Grandma receives a flyer saying, “Surfing for seniors”. She drags out her surfboard, diving suit and flippers, and turns up at the computer classroom. Grandma has her own special spin on Googling, going on the Net, using a mouse, and consulting a Blackberry. But when Grandma finds that the internet comes up with pages and pages of info about her, she’s suddenly the keenest surfer in the class! Trevor Pye’s wild and whacky cartoon illustrations are the perfect vehicle for this irrepressible grandmother. Best for youngsters who use the internet, but these days that probably means pre-schoolers...
ISBN 978 1 86943 993 4 RRP $19.50
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Milly Maloo and the Miracle Glue by Melanie Koster, illus. Sarah Nelisiwe Anderson, Scholastic NZ
Imagine a monkey “with fashion and flair, and gardens as wild as her frizzy red hair.” Milly the monkey is invited to a posh garden party and has to wear a hat. Woe, she has nothing suitable – so she borrows one from her plain and prim neighbour, Penelope. She jazzes it up with feathers and flowers – but when it’s time to return the hat, she can’t remove the decorations – woe again! But Penelope loves the refurbished hat – and it becomes the catalyst for her to break free of her prim and proper ways and become just as outgoing as Milly. The illustrations, created with digital drawing and painting, are as over-the-top as Milly herself – using fine lines, rich detail, a range of candy colours, speech bubbles, and unusual perspectives. The rhyming text bounces along with gusto, and would be fun to read to pre-schoolers.
ISBN 978 1 86943 965 1 RRP $19.50
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Sunday, August 7, 2011

New Picture books from Duck Creek Press

Duck Creek Press have three new hardback books:
The House that went to Sea by Melinda Szymanik, illustrated by Gabriella Klepatski
Isbn: 978-1-877378-51-5 HB $29.99
Granny Gale's house smelt of fish, and
rocked with the booming of the waves.
Built out of timber taken from old
boats, the cottage leaned towards the
sea, as if at a moment's notice it would
leap into the water and sail away.
And sail away it does with Michael Mariner and Granny Gale. At first Michael is reluctant to try anything new and spends all this time watching TV. Granny Gale unsuccessful tries to get him to race paper boats and pick pipis with her but he's not having a bar of it until the day Granny upped anchor. A delightful story about a boy finding himself (as well as his parents along the way). Gabriella's European-style drawings give the story a lovely old-worlde feel to this beautiful book. Will be cherished by 4-12 year olds. Some boys may recognise themselves in Michael and perhaps may up anchor themselves... A very relevant story for our technology-mad kids.
Melinda Szymanik is the award winning author of The Were Nana. She's also written other picture books, short stories and novels for young people including Jack the Viking. She lives in Auckland with her family, a cat and a dog, and blogs/facebooks in her spare time.
Gabriella Klepatski has been sketching and drawing for as far back as she can remember. In her twenty-five years in New Zealand she has been illustrating books and filling her life with other interests.
Whetu: The Little Blue Duck by Jennifer Beck and Renee Haggo
ISBN: 978-1-877378-52-2 HB $ 29.99
In the beginning, he didn't have a name.
The little Blue Duck was just lucky to be alive.
Even before he'd hatched in the nest beside the river,
the other eggs were washed away in a spring flood.
While growing up little Blue Duck manages to survive other near disasters such as being snatched by a stealthy stoat and being drowned by a white water raft. Lucky for him his parents stuck by him and taught him how to hide, find his food, and swim through the swift mountain river. Then comes the day he must find his own territory and mate...
At this point in the story the little Blue Duck's life intercepts with a lost traveller's life. He helps her find the river unwittingly with his call, and she helps save his river.
Six to Ten year old readers will enjoy this conservationist tale. Teachers could use it as a lead-in to a native bird study in the social studies curriculum. Renee Haggo's artwork is stunning in this picture book; she manages to capture the movement of the water, whilst also the characters of the blue ducks.
Jennifer Beck has written numerous picture books; many of which have won awards including The Bantam and the Soldier, and Nobody's Dog.
Renee Haggo is a graduate of AUT University in Auckland where she majored in Graphic Design. Renee primarily illustrates with pen and ink, watercolours and acrylics. She recently illustrated Maurice Shadbolt's The Mountain who wanted to live in a house.

Activity Books

2011 seems to be a year for activity books - perhaps cheaper to publish than non-fiction books.
The Great Animal Puzzle Book by Barbara Telfer (Scholastic)
A great activity book for the holidays. It contains 100 puzzles including wordfinds, true and false statements, dot-to-dots, codes, crosswords, clue boxes, alphabet animals, colouring-in puzzles, unscrambled letters and lots more. All done in black and white, in an A4 sized book.
The Great Rugby Activity Book by A. Barry (Scholastic)
An activity book for all those rugby fans (boys and girls). First, you put your family into the Family Sports Tree, enter your own player profile and record, play a few puzzles, codes and wordfinds, draw a tackle, exercise your brain, and end with a bit of rugby trivia.
The What Now Big Book of Fun by the What Now Team (Scholastic)
A colourful activity book that includes photographs of the What Now team, a play to act out, tips on how to draw, pictures to colour-in, info on behind the scenes, puzzle activities including mazes, sudoku, things to make, and a joke on each page. Will be popular with children 6-8 years.
501 Great Kiwi Jokes illustrated by Donovan Bixley (Scholastic)
Proceeds go towards CureKids.
There's jokes from New Zealand: What kind of letters do you send to Wellington? Capital letters.
There's sport jokes: What can you serve but never eat? A tennis ball!
Foodie jokes: What's a sheep's favourite thing to eat? A baaaanana.
Animal jokes: Why did the dairy farmer ride his horse? Because it was too heavy to carry!
Music jokes: What kind of music does your father like to play? Pop music.
And lots of other types of jokes (actually 501 of them).
109 pages, black and white. For everyone who likes a good laugh.