Thursday, December 26, 2013

Picture Books for the Christmas holiday season

A Perfect Chirpy Christmas by Kyle Mewburn, ill. Patrick McDonald, Random House NZ

As one of New Zealand’s most well-known picture book writers Kyle Mewburn needs little introduction, but the illustrator of this book is a newcomer to the children’s book market. In 2013 he won the Storylines Gavin Bishop Award for Picture Book Illustration by submitting illustrations for this particular text. Previously he graduated from Massey University with an Honours degree in Design. Together the text and the pictures introduce us to Flit, an earnest little bird who longs to experience a white Christmas. He flies north rather than south, finds a snow-bound city, and builds a sturdy nest so he can enjoy the festivities in comfort. But when the Tomtit family lose their nest, Flit says they can move into his. He gives up his next nest to the Lark family - and is reduced to living in an old tin. His kindness is repaid by the local birds, and he ends up enjoying the splendours of a genuine white Christmas. But next year - guess where Flit decides to enjoy Christmas...? The illustrator uses colour, texture and perspective to create unusual backgrounds, and Flit himself is an appealing character with his plump oval shape, shiny eyes and expressive eyebrows. If you’re looking for a cute Christmas story for pre-schoolers, check out this one.

ISBN 978 1 77553 495 2 $19.99 Pb

Rosie to the Rescue by Kyle Mewburn, ill. Flux Animation, Random House NZ

This is more than just a picture book. Rosie is the New Zealand dairy industry’s Cowbassador, and her job is to educate kids about dairy farming. She has her own Facebook page, blog, and website ( which includes games, movies, competitions and giveaways. There are even some teaching resources for years 1 to 7 at The cheeky rhyming text of this story tells a tall tale about how Rosie manages to get the milk delivered to town despite the surrounding floods. Think buckets of milk, a massive kite, and a flying cow... The illustrations are an ultra-modern computer-assisted mix of photos and drawings that should appeal to today’s young electronic gaming addicts. Primary school teachers will probably be glad to use this as a light-hearted resource for curriculum-associated projects on New Zealand industry (and I suspect kids who live on dairy farms will be quite intrigued...).

ISBN 978 1 77553 573 7 $19.99 Pb

Phylys the Farm Truck by Christine Fernyhough and Susan Elijas, photography by John Bougen, Random House NZ

Friends and fans of Christine Fernyhough will recall this trio’s previous picture book, Dart of Castle Hill. Dart the dog is pictured in this story, but not as the main character. That role belongs to Phylys (based on the author’s Toyota Hilux) - who arrives at the farm sporting immaculate, gold-painted bodywork. After several typical farm incidents Phylys is dented, scratched and stained - but the good old girl is still going strong! The rhyming text is added to the page inside stitched boxes - these in turn compliment the busy, multi-textured mix of photos, collage, pencil and paint. There’s certainly a lot going on in these illustrations, and children of about 4 to 7 (and their parents) will enjoy examining the details for quirky motifs. Probably best for reading aloud one-on-one or in a small group so the adult reader can comment on the pictures.

ISBN 978 1 77553 509 6 $19.99 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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