Saturday, January 14, 2012

Books for the Holidays

I've seen from the activity on the blog that people are looking for great reads for kids for the holidays. Here are some of my recommendations from the books that I've read lately:

Mind your Gramma! by Yvonne Morrison, illustrated by Nikki Slade Robinson (Scholastic)

Gramma asks me about my day,
and I say,
"Me and my friend played soccer."
She says,
"My friend and I played soccer."
I say, At your age?"

This is a laugh-out-loud picture book for school-aged children about grammar.  A little girl goes to stay with her 'gramma' and misconstrues her grandma's speech corrections. In fact, she doesn't realise her grandma is correcting her at all but is amused by the funny things she says to her. 

Parents and teachers will enjoy reading it to children for its entertainment value but can also use it as a teaching tool to improve their own children's grammar. Highly recommended!

Hardback $21.00

Out of Bed, Fred! by Lucy Davey, illustrated by Harriet Bailey (Scholastic)

Every morning, at 7 a.m.,
our alarm clock goes off.
When we hear it,
my brothers and I
sink into the sheets
and snooze.
We never even stir until our mother calls ...

You can guess what the next line is, "Out of bed, Fred!" and she calls the rest of the motley crew of brothers.  However, she does not have to call the youngest in the family - their sister who "appears with her golden curls gleaming; all dressed, brushed, washed, fed, cleaned and ready to go." Her brothers are not impressed and decide to trick her into being late. Of course, their plans are foiled and their little sister is not fooled...

An enjoyable read at face value but also to get your children thinking about school again and being organised.  I found it takes years of preparation to get children independent so they can catch their bus on time.  'Out of Bed, Fred!' will encourage discussion amongst family members and perhaps a few households will start the new school year organised because of it! I might even read it aloud to my children - even though they are now teenagers (and still not school trained).

Violet Mackerel's: Natural Habitat by Anna Branford, illustrated by Sarah Davis (Walker Books)

Violet Mackerel is at the shopping centre with her mum.
It is Friday late-night shopping and they have been there for a very long time, buying violin strings for Violet's big brother Dylan, and an Encyclopedia of Natural Science for her big sister Nicola, who is doing a school project for a special Natural Science display. They have not been buying anything for Violet, unless you count grey school socks. Violet does not count grey school socks.

Little girls (6-8 years) will totally connect with Violet. They know what it is like to wait ages for your mum to finish her boring shopping, or her chats with friends. They also know what it is like when older brothers and sisters don't want them to help. And when you try to HELP and it goes wrong that it is not your fault even if you really feel sad about it. 

Violet lives in a family with a solo-mum, and two older siblings. She gets things wrong sometimes and she has a quirky take on life. In this book (second in series) she takes a ladybird out of its NATURAL HABITAT and is crestfallen when she realises that she has caused its death. With the help of her sister she learns an important lesson.

Anna Brandford has created a charming character and I'm not surprised the series is now being sold in England and America (soon) as well as Australia and New Zealand. New Zealand illustrator Sarah Davis has complemented the quirky tale with her gorgeous black and white drawings (using Derwent Inktense pencils).  Fans of the series can go to www.violetmackerel .com site and learn more about the character, check out the competition page, and make things on the activity pages. Highly recommended for girls learning to read on their own (and those who like to be read too).

Hardback $24.99

Two Little Bugs by Mark and Rowan Sommerset (Dreamboatbooks)

Two little bugs sitting on a leaf,
One on the top...
(turn over a leaf)
one underneath.

Said Little Bug Blue, "Poor little me,
It's dark down here in the shade of this tree,
I wish I was up, not underneath,
Watching the world from on top of this leaf."

Will Little Bug Blue join Little Bug Red on top or will he be too scared to take that big step?...

If you loved 'The Hungry Little Caterpillar' you will thoroughly enjoy this insect tale.  There's lift-up leaves, cut-out holes, curved page-edges, creative fonts, colour used to great effect and a great story. It also reminds me of Kyle Mewburn's award winning book 'Hill and Hole'.  It is about being discontented with what you have and thinking that the other side is going to be better. In this tale though, the bugs don't swap places but instead arrive in the same place with a happy outcome for them both.

Parents and teachers could use this story as a nature lesson about the different stages insects go through, and also about being positive and enjoying the little things in life such as a sunny day...
This is Mark and Rowan Sommerset's fifth highly successful self-published book.  Their 'Baa Baa Smart Sheep' book was the 2011 Children's Choice winner and their 'Cork on the Ocean' and 'Cork and the Bottle' books are very popular (and often in the bestseller list).

Hardback $29.99

One Lonely Kakapo: A New Zealand Counting Book by Sandra Morris (New Holland)

One lonely kakapo dancing to the moon
Two shy bitterns booming out a tune
Three tired tuatara soaking up the sun
Four crusty crayfish marching one by one

This book when first published won the Russell Clark Award for illustration and went on to sell 10,000 copies. New Holland have republished it and added more counting fun. The colourful pictures fill double page spreads and readers can look closely for other animals in the scene. Sandra has made the rhyming text even more enjoyable with clever use of alliteration.  Great for pre-schoolers (who can point out the animals and with help count them aloud) and early Primary children (who need to practise their numbers during the holidays so they haven't forgotten them by the time they start school again).

Sandra Morris has worked as an art editor and illustrator for School Journals and Maori language publications. She has written and illustrated five books of her own and contributed illustrations to many more.

Paperback $16.99

The House that Jack Built by Gavin Bishop (Gecko Press)

This is the house that Jack built.
This is the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.
This is the rat that ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.
This is the cat that killed the rat that ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built...

A familiar story and some of you might even have seen an earlier print of this rendition by Gavin Bishop now reprinted by Gecko. This would have to be my favourite Gavin Bishop book and I'm thrilled it is back in print again. It's a book that you treasure because of its important historical content. It tells the story of Jack Bull, who travelled to New Zealand from London as a new settler in 1798. The illustrations show the landing of Europeans in New Zealand - along with their pests - and settling alongside Maori.  As the book progresses, you see the urbanisation of the colonials and Maori and the destruction they've caused along the way.

Gavin has told the story from a Maori perspective beginning with the myth of creation 'Papatuanuku the earth mother, Ranginui the sky father and their children as guardians of the land. As the story goes on and Jack's house grows, papatuanuku is shown in the illustrations to weaken and fade.' This new edition is larger than the original, showing the illustrations as they were intended to be seen, and is printed on heavy, high quality paper. A limited edition hard-back copy will follow and will include the original storyboard Gavin drew before the book was published. The first Te Reo Maori edition will also be printed.

When it was first published it won NZ Children's Picture Book of the year in 2000, as well as the NZ Children's Book of the Year. It also won the Spectrum Print Award for best use of illustration in a New Zealand book in 2000, and it was a Notable Book of the Year.

Paperback with flaps $19.99, Hardback with dust jacket $34.99

Release date 3 February 2012 to coincide with Waitangi Day on 6th February.

If you want something to do with the kids - take them to the Bloom Family Festival coming up on the 20th - 22nd January at Matakana Country Park.  They can meet some of their favourite authors there:  Brian Falkner, Kyle Mewburn, Fifi Colston, Melinda Szymanik, Tim Tipene, Craig Smith, Chris Gurney, Sally Sutton, and many more.  As well as hearing them speak they can participate in workshops with these writers and illustrators!  For more info about Bloom Family Festival go to the website

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