Sunday, September 30, 2012

Topp Twins release second children's book

The Topp Twins have once more teamed up with publisher Scholastic New Zealand and illustrator Jenny Cooper to release their second children’s book, the popular Do Your Ears Hang Low?

If you don’t already know the words and actions to this favourite in schools and preschools, then get ready to learn them! Sing along to The Topp Twins’ energetic rendition of the song, while Cooper’s animals with their hard-case ears are sure to bring a chuckle to children and adults alike. Two pages of little-known facts about ears complete the package.

The book follows on from the success of There’s a Hole in My Bucket, which became an instant bestseller when it was published in 2011.

Lynda and Jools had so much fun doing the first book they couldn't wait to do another. "If we're having fun and the kids are having fun AND it helps them to learn to read, then it's all good," says Jools. "It's another classic that everyone knows the words to, but this time we hope people will do a little jig too!"

Illustrator Jenny Cooper’s original artwork for both books will be on show at an exhibition in Christchurch from October 24, where it will be possible to see the amount of work that goes into a book like this, with character sketches and detailed pencil drawings.

Publishing Manager Diana Murray says that Scholastic New Zealand couldn’t be happier with the response to the book from those who have already seen it. “The Topp Twins bring a jaunty energy and presence to their music which combines so well with Jenny Cooper’s characterful, hilarious illustrations. You can’t help but love these books, and loving these Kiwi icons all the more for helping to bring the songs to life.”

With the launch of Do Your Ears Hang Low? at the Nelson Arts Festival on October 28 already sold out, and anticipation building about its release, this is a book to watch out for this Christmas.

To find out more about Do Your Ears Hang Low?, visit


Friday, September 28, 2012

A new Slinky Malinki!

Slinky Malinki, Early Bird by Lynley Dodd, Penguin NZ

Preschoolers love stories about animals behaving badly, so this is bound to be a winner for most families – and especially for those who are already Slinky Malinki fans (me!). In her usual impeccable rhyming verse, Lynley Dodd shows us the naughty black cat waking up his family very early in the morning. After being yelled at, purred at, pounced on, and whisker-tickled, they are driven from their beds – and then the black devil slinks into his favourite human bed and goes to sleep! Good old Slinky Malinki.

ISBN 978 0 143 50546 4 RRP $24.99 Hb

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A new book from Ken Catran

Dead Harry by Ken Catran, Scholastic NZ

Along with the title, a pair of suspended eyeballs and a set of false teeth on the front cover give some idea what to expect. It’s a ghost story mixed up with a thriller, but I suspect the author had his tongue firmly in his cheek the whole time so you could also call it a spoof. Sam’s friend Harry suddenly ends up dead – and naturally he comes back to haunt Sam. Initially this is very disconcerting for both parties, but as time goes by Harry discovers some of the joys of being supernatural – such as detaching your eyeballs. However there are suspicious things going on, and Sam and Harry eventually discover a dastardly plot involving war criminals and heaps of money, not to mention a few people who aren’t what they seem (I can’t say more without giving away the plot). Okay, it’s all pretty far-fetched, but it’s good fun and intermediate-aged boys should enjoy it, especially the ghostly bits.

ISBN 978 1 77543 051 3 RRP $19.50 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A new boardbook from Harper Collins

Mangu & Ma by Megan Bowers-Vette, HarperCollins NZ

This is the first title in an intended series of sturdy board books for babies (0 to 2 years). The subtitle on the cover is: A real-life first-focus book for little Kiwis. It consists of (mainly) black and white high-quality photographs of kiwiana and other interestingly-shaped objects. So we have pictures of shells, flowers, china sheep, piano keys, buttons, stones, etc. The photographer is a New Zealander, and she suggests that the series of books are used to improve concentration and eye focus in babies. There is a hole in the spine so the book can be attached to a pushchair or playpen.

ISBN 978 1 86950 995 8 RRP $14.99
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A new junior fiction from Scholastic

Rabbit by MargaretBeames (Scholastic NZ)

Jack has always wanted a dog and when he overhears his parents whispering about his upcoming birthday, he knows this year it’s finally going to happen. Or so he thinks. What is waiting for him in the cardboard box on the back lawn is not a puppy, but a rabbit.

He is disappointed, until the rabbit speaks to him. At first Jack is shocked but it soon sinks in and they decide on a name together. The rabbit is to be called Henry.

But Jack isn’t the only one who hears Henry talk. The girl next door is listening on the other side of the fence and she rushes to tell her family. No one but her older brother believes her – who sees an opportunity to make some money.

When Henry disappears from his hutch, Jack, his best friend Nick and the little girl who started it all end up in a dangerous adventure to get him back home and safe.

A junior novel from the author of forty books for children, including ‘Oliver’, ‘The Shearwater Bell’ and ‘Duster’. ‘Rabbit’ is another story young readers will enjoy, which deals with friendships and family, and explores the topic of animal testing.

 ISBN 9781775430919  RRP $20.00

Teacher Notes:

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Brain Sucker by Glenn Wood (Walker Books Aust)

Callum McCulloch has just turned 13. He wakes to find the present he’s always wanted – a Thunderkit wheelchair from his grandmother. Paralysed from the waist down, this wheelchair will let him go places he hasn’t gone before. After trying it out he returns home elated with it. That’s until his Gran receives a letter from the Welfare Department questioning her ability to continue to care for him. They have to go to the city for a meeting.

Meanwhile, another story is being told of a man called Lester Smythe. From very small, Lester has been ignored or misunderstood causing him to become bitter and evil. He has grown to hate any goodness he sees and has built a machine called The Brain Sucker. This machine is connected to a victim’s ear which then sucks out the goodness from their brain. (A few adjustments had to be made along the way as the first machine he invented took out a little more than he’d planned). He plans to dispose of all this goodness so it cannot return to its owner.

Back to Callum who travels to the city with his best friend Sophie and Gran. This is where the two stories collide with terrible results. Gran become Lester’s latest victim of The Brain Sucker and she changes into a rude, nasty woman. Can they get her ‘goodness’ back before their Welfare Department interview?

With Sophie’s gadget expertise and their friend Toby (nicknamed Jinx because of all the terrible things that happen to him), they embark on their dangerous mission, facing Lester, his henchmen and his terrible machine.

A great story for 8+ with firm friendships, gadgets, guns and all the action young readers love. The age old concept of good vs evil filled with humorous characters both imaginative and some closer to people we may know...
Listen to comedian Jeremy Corbett read the story:
New Plymouth born author Glenn Wood is an ex cop, copywriter, screenwriter, actor, and full time writer. He's had two books published for adults about his hilarious experiences in the police force. This is his first book for children. His second follows June 2013. 
ISBN – 9781921977633           RRP$19     248 pages  

Reviewed by Adele Broadbent

Friday, September 7, 2012

Books for kiwi babies

If you're looking for books that babies and toddlers can look at, and you know they'll survive baby gums, teeth and dribble - then Puffin have brought out three funky boardbooks:

ABC: Little Frond Series by Fraser and Matthew Williamson (Puffin)

Open up the board book and you'll see quite a funky design; lots of bright colours (not the primary colours though, more the colours in between) and Fraser Williamson's distinct illustrations.  'A is for Aroha' and you'll see a Pakeha boy with his arm around a Maori girl (or a boy with long hair - you cannot tell nowadays). The print is white block and the background is caramel. 'B is for Bungy' and an Indian girl is doing a bungy jump. The backdrop is white with burgendy print. This style of design continues throughout the book with one page full colour, the other white with coloured print. The alphabet objects are very kiwi: 'H is for Haka',  'J is for jandals', 'N is for Nikau'.  A baby is not going to grasp these abstract ideas but the more you expose your baby to books, language, pictures - the more brain synapsis you are helping your baby's brain to create. Apparently, babies from one years of age can identify stylised art as representing real life things so this book is not just for babies. It will last to 3-4 years but you'd be using the book in a different way by then.  At that age, you might use it to encourage your toddler to identify the first letter with the sound of the word or pointing to the real life objects out in your garden, on TV, or when you see them for real out in the real world.

Colours: Little Frond Series by Fraser and Matthew Williamson (Puffin)

Again you're not going to get traditional colours and objects in this book.  The word 'red' is printed in white with a burgendy full cover page. On the opposing page is a pohutukawa flower and the word 'pohutukawa' printed in the burgendy colour. The flower offsets the white background. The other colour matches are with very New Zealand objects:  'blue' with 'blue penguin', 'green' with 'flax', 'black' with 'rugby jersey', 'brown' with 'kiwi' and etc.  Again the word matches are quite complex but one day your toddler is going to name the object without being told and it will be because he or she had the board book read to them hundreds of times.

Counting: Little Frond Series  by Fraser and Matthew Williamson (Puffin)

There's more going on this book compared to the other two - those are simple and stark. This book has a design element behind the number, a bold colour background, the number in numerals and written out as a word and the label for the scene on the opposing page.  On 'one' is the phrase 'midnight morepork' (words written out on the left side) and on the right side is a stylised morepork (its head on one side), sitting on a branch, with a silhouetted tree in the background, bush, leaves and a 3/4 moon. On the next page is '2', 'two', 'cool kingfishers' and on the opposing page: two kingfishers sitting on bleached branches in a lake (or river) and on the other side of the water is bush and sand dunes. All the numbers correspond with our native birds. It is all very attractive. It is a lot for a baby take in but I can remember holding my son in front of a tapa design and watching his eyes tracking all the lines and shapes. He's now a big strapping 16 year old but has always been good with form and line drawing - I believe that early exposure helped. 

These are sophisticated board books but as I've said I believe you're helping your baby's brain develop when you show them this type of artwork in books. Instead of giving the books away once they're toddlers - hold on to them and use them to identify sounds of letters and identify the objects in real life. These books will also make great presents for overseas relatives with toddlers.

Fraser Williamson is a well-known illustrator of children's books. His illustrations are throughout Learning Media's school journals, Anthologies, and Kiwi Bite books. His brother Matthew Williamson (from Halycon Design) has supplied the words and design for the series of books.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Memoirs of Africa

An African Scrapbook written by Cherryl Burger (self published)

Cherryl has written a picture book story about her experiences of growing up in Kruger National Park.  Throughout the book are stories about adventures she had such as meeting an angry elephant while on the road at dark, Hollywood crew filming crocodiles, being trapped in a rondawel with a green mamba snake, lunch with baboons, chasing off hippos, meeting buffalo bull on a fishing trip, and a black mambo on a driving trip. Interspersed throughout the book are facts about the animals mentioned in the stories. There's also a history of Kruger National Park page and an excellent map to show where the park is in South Africa.

The design work of this book is its stand-out feature.  PinkSoda (name of designer on back of book) has used sepia photographs, artwork and aged paper features to create a stunning scrapbook-look for the book.  Children will spend ages looking at all the different photographs, which are most likely the author's own photographs. (In the credits she does thank Sue Musto and Memories of Africa - some of the photographs may have come from this source.)  Illustrator Candice Case has drawn sketches of some of the animals (some of which I'm not sure are photographs or sketches).

The author says this is the first book in this series. Children whose parents originally came from Africa, kids who like to know about other countries, and schools will find this a treasure to read. I'd like to see in the next book a front title page, and a page at the end drawing the book to a close. Go to the webpage: to find out more information and order your copy of the book. The author is donating $3 from the sale of each book to Starship Foundation; raising funds for the national children's hospital.

ISBN: 978-0-473-15000-6  RRP $30 including postage.
Order the book here:

Read Waikato Times article about the book and author here.

Reviewed by Maria Gill

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Activity Book for little boys

I'm going to post more regularly but only put one book up at a time, so that publishing houses can put it on their Facebook sites.

The Little Yellow Digger: Activity Book (Scholastic)

Wow, The Little Yellow Digger book celebrates twenty years this year. I can remember reading the first book to my son when he was four years old. He is now a strapping 16 year old. Back then, there were no other digger books for boys. My son loved it.

This book is for those little boys who cannot get enough of diggers. They've probably got all the digger books, might sleep in a duvet with diggers on it (if there is such a duvet) and they've possibly got digger posters on the wall.  I know how insatiable those boys get for diggers. In this wonderful little resource they'll find wordfinds, mazes, a digger race, pictures to colour in, matching activities and colouring in by number activities.  Some of these activities will be too hard for little four year olds (unless they're really bright and can recognise alphabet letters and numbers), which is when their digger interest peaks but there are enough activities in the book to keep their interest: colouring-in, spot the difference, little yellow digger to the rescue, and find the diggers. The other activities would suit 5-6 year olds and could be used in the classroom. A good book for grandparents to buy for their grandchildren. They've got the patience to help the little boys make the cookies and paper chains.

ISBN:  978-1-77543-11-4  RRP $10