Thursday, August 30, 2012

Picture Book on Christchurch gone

Moon Tour of Christchurch by Heley-Bee, illustrations by Sigrid Jokschus (published by Heley-Bee Productions)

Safely I'm dreaming in bed with my toys,
When outside our house I heard a strange noise.
Lifting my curtain I looked out to see,
The full moon was rising and beckoning me.

The moon encourages the young boy to show him Christchurch city. The boy takes him to Cathedral Square (how it used to look like), and they see some pigeons sleeping there. Next, they ride on a tram, walk along the Avon River through Hagley Park to the Botanic Gardens, up to the Port Hills, through Lyttelton Tunnel down to New Brighton Pier, passing a Crusader game to Willowbank Farm, then onto Antarctic Centre and Orana Park, finishing at the Gondala before heading home.

On the last page, is a fact sheet about the animals featured on the different pages, which children will enjoy looking for. A nostalgic book on how Christchurch used to look. Illustrations by Sigrid Jokschus appear to be computerised artwork cut-out and put on top of photographs or illustrations of Christchurch.  Could be used in the classroom as a study of 'then and now'. For ages 4-6 years.

ISBN: 978-0-473-19772-2 soft cover, 14 pages, RRP $15

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Two new Junior Chapter Books

Diary of a Bat by Sally Sutton (Scholastic)

Diary of a Bat is the second book in the series following on from 'Diary of a Pukeko'. Little Bat desperately wants to be accepted by the bat gang; even accepting three dares to enable him to join.  Along his dare journey he finds out some of life's biggest secrets. It's a story about accepting who you are - even if your incessant questions get you into trouble.

Author Sally Sutton has written in the first person again -- this style makes the diary format more real even if it is about a humanised bat. Boys and girls will love the puns and Dave Gunson's humorous artwork. A nice touch having the text upside down in a few places. A fun story for 6-8 year olds.

ISBN:  9781775431015  RRP $16.50

My Happy Life by Rose Lagercrantz (Gecko Press)

Dani cannot wait to start school - though when the big day arrives doubts creep into her mind. What if she made no friends? Across the playground she sees another girl who is lonely too. They become the best friends until her BFF moves away. How will she cope?

When Dani falls asleep she counts all the happy moments in her life. Most of the time she is very happy; until she begins school with all its uncertainties.  A sweet little story that young girls will enjoy. It deals with issues like 'change', solo parenting and lifelong friendships. 

Interestingly, the author and illustrator have been friends for over 30 years. This book is like a homage to their friendship.

ISBN:  9781877467806  RRP $19.99


Reviewed by Maria Gill

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Two new children's non-fiction books

THE STORY OF SIR PETER BLAKE by Tessa Duder (published by Libro International)

Read about world renown sailor and environmentalist Sir Peter Blake's life from when he was born in Auckland to his tragic death in South America. Author Tessa Duder documents Sir Peter Blake's first experience of sailing, to his adventures on the high seas in five Whitbread Round the World races, his team's exciting win of the America's Cup in 1995 and defending it in 2000. She also recounts his last great adventure; sailing to Antarctica and South America to raise awareness of endangered marine environments. Duder includes quotes from Sir Peter Blake, his colleagues, friends and family.  Her meticulous research involved reading several biographies written for adults and communicating with the Blake family, the Sir Peter Blake Trust and the sailing community (of whom she is familiar since she has a sailing background herself).  The book also includes fact boxes about topics ranging from the Hauraki Gulf, America's Cup, leadership, catamarans, fractional rigs etc., as well as an extensive glossary and medal tally.

Intermediate and High school aged children will find it an interesting read about an inspiring leader. Teachers will find it a useful resource for marine study topics in Science, leadership study in Social Studies and biography writing in English. Sailing kids will love the sailing terminology and reading about their hero. A must for school and home libraries.

Tessa Duder is the award-winning author of 40 books including the Alex quartet, biographies, anthologies and plays. She enjoyed sailing in dinghies, classic yachts and as a volunteer in the youth ship Spirit of New Zealand. Her awards include the Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal, an OBE, and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Waikato.

ISBN:  978-1-877514-42-5
RRP $21.99

ERUPTION! DISCOVERING NEW ZEALAND VOLCANOES by Maria Gill (New Holland Publishers)

Join Volcanica, reporter for Magmatic Press, and enter the explosive world of New Zealand volcanoes.  You'll find out about why there are volcanoes in New Zealand, what type of volcanoes we have, how they erupt and learn about some of the well known and lesser known volcanoes around New Zealand. 

The design team at New Holland have made the book colourful with volcanic backgrounds, diagrams, and photographs.  Author Maria Gill has included an investigation for 8-12 year old readers to engage in while reading the book.  Each volcano has a status report including symbols that readers need to match with a visual glossary at the beginning of the book.  Readers will enjoy reading the Magmatic newspaper articles about historic volcanic eruptions. At the back of the book is information on how volcanoes are monitored, where you can go to see volcanoes (and how you can get there) and tips on what to do if a volcano erupts. Lastly, there is a bibliography, websites and an extensive index. Note the volcanic map on page 48.

A book for children who love science topics. Another must-have for schools and libraries.  If you've got children who are worried about volcanic eruptions (after three volcanic explosions in New Zealand in the same week) - this book will explain the volcanic concepts in an enjoyable way.

Maria Gill has written 28 non-fiction books for children. Two have been shortlisted for the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards, three were finalists in the LIANZA awards, and four are Storylines Notable Books. Maria Gill is an ex Primary school teacher who writes full time.

John McIntyre from The Children’s Bookshop in Wellington said on Radio Nz the book is a fine example of how to do it [write non-fiction] properly. It grabs the attention of the the passing child, sucks them into reading the whole book …
“It is a really comprehensive look at the whole world of NZ volcanoes.”
He said that children (and adults) won’t realise how much information is packed into it because of the way it is designed. Children will read the whole book and tell you they don’t read.
John says that Maria has become an expert at writing quality non-fiction and he suspects she not only researches it she is heavily involved in the design and it shows.

ISBN:  978-1-86966-362-9
RRP $21.00

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Three new picture books


The Best Singer in the World by Ulf Nilsson, illus. Eva Eriksson, Gecko Press
This is another title from the Swedish pair who produced All The Dear Little Animals (Gecko Press, 2006). It’s timely to remember the statement from Gecko Press that they specialize in English versions of curiously good books from around the world. I tend to use words like offbeat and quirky when I’m talking about their books, and this story is no different. It’s written from the point of view of a six-year-old boy who is stricken with stage fright when he plays a part in the class performance. He’s only saved by the appearance of his little brother who comes on stage and encourages him to sing their favourite song which goes, “My little brother’s a wriggly piglet, kiss ‘em, tickle ‘em ... FART!” Many children will identify with the excruciating symptoms of fear – and most will no doubt go into fits of laughter whenever the offending word is repeated. Teachers beware. The illustrations are appealing and have an interesting fuzzy texture – they’re done mainly in pencil, crayon and watercolour, I think. It’s definitely not a story for a preschooler, so I was glad to see Gecko recommending it for 5+. Note that it’s available in hardback ($34.99) and paperback.
ISBN  978 1 877579 13 4 $19.99 Pb 

That Dog at the Beach! by Janine Cooper, illus. Evie Kemp, Duck Creek Press
This is advertised as a sequel to the first picture book by this pair, called A Dog Like That! The latter title was a finalist in the 2011 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards, and also won a Storylines Notable Book Award. It’s an attractive book, well presented in hardback with semi-glossy paper, and the design is excellent. As far as the story goes, it’s somewhat more of the same: the narrator (a young girl) takes her disreputable dog to the beach. The other dogs there behave themselves and gain the constant praise, “Dogs should be like that.” But “my dog” keeps on getting into mischief. Till the end, of course... The illustrator is primarily a textile artist - this is evident in the style of the pictures, which look three-dimensional. The colours and textures invite the reader to touch. I read the book to a four-year-old. I felt compelled to change “they said” to “people said” because I didn’t think my listener would understand the use of a disconnected “they”. But we had fun with every other part of the text. This book would work well as a class read-aloud for four to six-year-olds.

ISBN 978 1 877378 55 3 $29.99 Hb
Lillibutt’s Big Adventure by Maris O’Rourke, illus. Claudia Pond Eyeley, Duck Creek Press
This story has to work on two levels – the one understood by the adult reader, and the one understood by the child. It was written after the author walked El Camino Santiago (The Way of St James) in France and Spain. Lillibut is a little pig living near the pilgrim path. She longs to go with the people she sees walking past. One day a girl stops and Lillibut begs to go with her. The two of them walk the Camino together, across mountain and plain, and reach their destination after 40 days, arriving with much acclaim. Whereupon Lillibut says she’s ready for another adventure. The adult reader will understand the significance of their journey, but young listeners probably won’t until it’s explained to them. There’s a preface at the beginning which would need to be shared by the adult reader before starting the story. 
I enjoyed the quality of the book’s presentation and the strong, bold illustrations with their slightly retro look. Heavy black lines and swathes of muted colour emphasise the spiritual importance of the theme. Now, who would really appreciate this story? Probably teachers who are specifically looking for picture books with a religious theme to read in junior classes. I don’t see it as being suitable for preschoolers because they would miss so much of the story’s heart.

ISBN978 1 877378 58 4 $29.99 Hb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman