Friday, November 14, 2014

Three environmental books for children

Operation Nest Egg Chick by Maria Gill, illustrated by Bruce Potter, designed by Heather Arnold

Deep down in a dark burrow
a father kiwi snorts and snuffles in his sleep.
Underneath him, a large creamy egg lies
snug and safe from pilfering predators.

Soon the kiwi chick hatches and has to fend for itself. Will it meet a fateful end or will the kiwi chick become part of the Operation Nest Egg programme? A creative non-fiction story about two kiwi chicks; one that becomes part of the Operation Nest Egg programme and the other ... you'll have to read it to find out. Each page includes photographs and text boxes about how kiwi are being saved.

The story has been written to appeal to young children with a story and for older children who want to know more with fact boxes.

Bruce Potter has drawn his illustrations on the computer using a mix of photographs and cartoon-like figures.  When asked why he drew the kiwi with large eyes, Bruce said he wanted children to be empathetic with the kiwi.

Heather Arnold and Maria Gill have included a video and photographs of kiwi releases Maria has organised for the Department of Conservation on Motuora Island:

Anne Whalley in Magpies magazine said: "Operation Nest Egg is a perfect balance of picture book and nonfiction. The narrative reads aloud well, introducing young readers to the life of young kiwi and the dangers they face... Although I found the eyes of the caricature kiwi and some predators somewhat manic in appearance, Bruce Potter's illustrations are well crafted and add atmosphere to the 'story'. Highly recommended."

Rangitoto by Maria Gill, illustrated and designed by Heather Arnold

In the middle of the Hauraki Gulf bubbles begin to appear. Soon there are explosions and fire fountains. Maori on Motutapu and the mainland watch in awe, as a volcano forms in front of them. This is a creative non-fiction story about the birth of Rangitoto and what happens when humans interact with the island.

Along with the creative non-fiction story are fact boxes, diagrams, and glossary boxes to help the emerging reader become familiar with volcano facts and terms.  The story can be read to or by younger children of 5-7 year olds, and older children 8-12 years old can read the accompanying facts.  This book is very useful after visiting Rangitoto Island to satisfy the curiosity of young minds and very helpful for volcano studies.

Rangitoto was originally published in 2009 with Penguin New Zealand. It was shortlisted for the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards and was reprinted twice.  In 2013, the book was updated and made into a digital book with Pixel Book.  In October 2014, it was republished under the imprint Long White Cloud Books. It's bigger, it's been updated, and it has some different design features.  You'll notice that the white space has gone and the narrative now merges more with the artwork. Scientific knowledge about Rangitoto had advanced since the book had originally been published and  therefore Heather Arnold has updated several of the diagrams. 

Associate Professor Ian Smith from the University of Auckland fact-checked the book. Emeritus Professor Kenneth D. Collerson PhD, FAusIMM endorsed the book:

It is a richly annotated book that contains an excellent glossary of geological terms about volcanoes. Facts about volcanoes, the interior of the Earth and the formation of magmas, although described in lay terms, are nevertheless scientifically sound.
I believe that Rangitoto is an excellent educational book that could be used as a resource by teachers in elementary schools.
As an earth scientist, I am happy to fully endorse this book for its geological content. It makes great reading, even for a professional geologist.

See links and teaching resources here.

Draw New Zealand Birds by Heather Arnold (DragonSauce Books)

Draw New Zealand Birds shows children and adults how to draw eight different native birds in pencil, gesso, and coloured pencil.  You will learn what equipment to use, how to use it, and also learn interesting facts about each of the native birds.  Heather shows how to draw each bird step-by-step and also how to advance some of the pictures into coloured artwork.

The book was originally published by Reed Publishing in 2007 and reprinted several times. It won the LIANZA Esther Glen award and was a 2008 Storylines Notable Book (non-fiction category).

It has been republished under the Dragonsauce Book imprint.

Reviewers in the past have said:

It is great to see rel­ev­ant draw­ing sub­jects; the New Zealand Birds. This lovely book encour­ages appre­ci­ation and facil­it­ates the need to look in detail and provides a for­mula to ensure success.
Good Teacher, 2007

This intriguing book, by Heather Arnold, (published by Reed, 2007) showing how to draw nine of New Zealand’s native birds will captivate any budding young artist. Each bird is introduced by describing where it lives, its feeding and breeding activities.National Library, 2007 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

'A Treasury of New Zealand Poems for Children' to treasure

I'm away in Australia for two weeks researching an ANZAC book from this Sunday so will put up a few reviews before I go - to make up for the time lost. Here's one that you'll want to get for your kids or classroom for Christmas.

A Treasury of New Zealand Poems for Children edited by Paula Green, illustrated by Jenny Cooper (Random House)

Paula Green has been busy - this is her second book of poetry this year!  Paula also started a poetry blog for children and toured around the country giving performances with other poets who featured in A Treasury of New Zealand Poems. She's a woman on a mission to promote poetry in this country! She's doing a great job.

Back to the book ... Wow, this book sure is a treasure. Jenny Cooper's colourful and humorous illustrations adorn every page.  Each poem has its own page (some several pages; depending on how long it is). You'll find poems from well-known adult poets such as James K. Baxter, Peter Bland, Jenny Bornholdt, Jacqueline Crompton Ottaway, Brian Turner, Siobhan Harvey, Apirana Taylor, Sam Hunt, Glen Colquhoin, Hone Tuwhare, Apirana Taylor, Elizabeth Smither and Lauris Edmond; and children's poets such as James Norcliffe, Elena de Roo, Paula Green ;  and well known children's authors such as Margaret Mahy, Joy Cowley, Tessa Duder, David Hill, Elizabeth Pulford, John Parker, Kyle Mewburn, Melinda Szymanik, Peter Millett, Fifi Colston, Melanie Drewery; and adult authors such as Bill Manhire, C.K. Stead, Emma Neale, Janet Frame, Albert Wendt; and even some from children such as 8 year old Laura Ranger and Sofia Pawley, 10 year old Adam Scammell, and 12 year old Caleb Stewart; and more. Some were written long ago, some were published in school journals, and some were written especially for this Treasury.

There's poems about animals and aliens, homework and hangi, books and birthdays, love and libraries, weather and washing, plants and pets, food and family, computers and creatures - such a diverse range of topics sure to please every reader.

This is a perfect book for grandparents to buy for their mokopuna; kids will want to keep it to give to their children (alongside Margaret Mahy's collection of poems in 'The Magical Verse of Margaret Mahy: The Word Witch). And if you want children in your classroom to love poetry then this book will have the kids arguing over whose turn it is to read it next.

ISBN: 978-1-77553-356-6 RRP $37.99

Paula's earlier poetry book was:

The Letter Box Cat and Other Poems (Scholastic)

The Letter Box Cat and Other Poems released in August, 2014, illustrated by Myles Lawford, contains Paula's poems, as well as poems written by children. The book has a Dr Seuss feel to it with zany lyrics and shape (also called concrete) poems. There are poems about cats, dogs, birds and snails. Some have made-up words and some just look great.

Myles illustrations are in striking red drawn on the computer. I love the cover! His artwork has featured in two other books published by Scholastic: The 12 Days of Kiwi Christmas and the humorous Doggy Ditties from A to A.

There haven't been many poetry books published in the past - Paula is making sure poetry comes back in fashion! This is Paula's seventh (the eighth is above) book. Her other books include: children's poetry books 'Flamingo Bendalingo' and 'Macaroni Moon' and adult poetry collections '99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry' and 'Dear Heart: 150 New Zealand Love Poems'; a picture book 'Aunt Concertina and her niece' and a junior chapter book 'The Terrible Night'.

Another poetry book you'll want for your classroom library. Great for getting kids interested in writing shape poems.

RRP $12

Three excellent anthologies for children

The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales, edited by Peter Friend, Eileen Mueller, and A.J. Ponder, illus. Geoff Popham, Phantom Feather Press (

Short story anthologies for children are rare beasts in New Zealand these days, so congratulations to the team who put this one together. With a bright, attractive cover, this book offers 31 stories with a Christmas theme written by authors ranging from some very well-known names (such as David Hill and Joy Cowley) to writers who are still working on getting that first novel published. As always with an anthology it’s a real pot-pourri of stories with something for everyone – humour, fantasy, animals, and family-themed stories being the favourites. There’s a moving retelling of the nativity story; several funny tales about Santa and his helpers; a handful of spooky stories with ghosts and other nasties; and a whole bunch of plots revolving round Christmas trees, fairies, and presents. My favourite is Darian Smith’s Albert and the Christmas Fairy. Greedy Albert puts his name on the labels of all the presents under the tree – but someone magical is watching him and he learns his lesson the hard way…

Some of the stories have a more advanced style and/or theme, so I’d recommend this book for children of about 8 to 12, both girls and boys. It’s a good holiday read that deserves a place under the Christmas tree… Sales will support the Muscular Dystrophy Association of NZ. It’s available from good New Zealand bookshops and from Amazon, and is also published as an e-book.

ISBN 978 0 9941155 0 8 $22 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

You Tube Book Trailer here

Other Anthologies that have been published this year include:

New Zealand Bedtime Treasury

Find much-loved stories and poems by New Zealand's well-known authors and illustrators. Delve between the covers to find classic stories by Lynley Dodd, Bob Darroch, Margaret Mahy, Gwenda Turner, Patricia Grace, Pamela Allen and Peter Gossage; charming illustrations by Robyn Belton, Carl Bland, Jenny Williams, Robyn Kahukiwa and Gabriella Klepatski; plus gentle bedtime poems from James K. Baxter, Peter Bland, Ruth Dallas, Joy Cowley, Katherine Mansfield and Rosalyn Wyatt.

ISBN: 9780143308379 $45 Hb

Stories for 6 Year Olds

Especially chosen for 6 year olds, this is a light and fun collection of excellent children's stories. They are written by some of New Zealand's leading writers for children such as Margaret Mahy, David Hill and Barbara Else, as well as other seasoned and up-and-coming writers. These stories are perfect to read aloud, plus they are also great for those children who reading on their own. With a variety of topics and an emphasis on humour, this will become a much-loved collection for New Zealand children as well as those from further afield.

ISBN:  9781775536123  $19.99 Pb

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Book Island publishes two new gorgeous picture books

The Big Question by Leen Van Den Berg and Kaatje Vermeire (Book Island)

Elephant has a difficult question - he needs help to answer it. The animals gather at the annual meeting to find an answer for: "How do you know when you love someone?" Ant has the very important job of presiding over the meeting - first time ever, and believes it is up to him to keep the meeting moving along and write down all the suggestions. A wide collection of beings, for example: mouse, Snow White, tramp, explorer, Polar Bear, Grandma, a little girl and non-beings such as: Stone, Sea, Stars etc, say what love means to them. Mouse says it is as big and strong as an elephant. Snow White says it helps you forget about all your troubles. Cloud says you know when you're always floating in the same direction. Lovely poignant comments are said by all those gathered. When the meeting ends, everyone goes home feeling better than when they came; except for Ant who knows he is missing something. 

This book and its predecessor: 'Maia and what matters' by Tine Mortier but the same illustrator Kaatje Vermeire - would have to be the two most beautiful books you'll ever come across.  They are visually stunning and their stories can be read on two levels: for the young it is about what is happening; for older kids or kids with enquiring minds it'll keep them thinking and asking questions for hours, perhaps even days, later.

I'd use this book in the classroom and home to start children talking about relationships and the different forms of love: love of a parent, love you have for an animal, love for a friend etc. Children will surprise you (and make you laugh) with their comments. Also encourage children to think about why the author included some of the characters such as Snow White, the inanimate objects and also the girl and Grandma from 'Maia and what matters'.

A sophisticated picture book that ponders a big question. A must-buy for every school and home library. Also would make a great present at end-of-year prize-giving events.

Leen van den Berg is the daughter of a Belgian publisher. She writes mainly for children, while teaching creative writing in Flanders and the Netherlands.

Flemish illustrator Kaatje Vermeire uses an experimental approach to printmaking. She combines etching techniques with found materials such as lace, string and wire. With each new work she finds subtle and delicate ways to portray difficult subject matter.

Published in New Zealand by Book Island, translated by David Colmer, edited by Frith Williams, and typeset by Jo Houvenaghel (the Europeans are very creative with their type-set). The Flemish Literature Fund helped make publication of this book possible.

ISBN: 978 0 994 1098 42
RRP $29.99 hardback

You can buy at all good bookshops (especially Children's Bookshops) but if they don't have it buy direct at

For something completely different but by the same publisher:

Follow the Firefly by Bernardo Carvalho (Book Island)

There have been picture books with no words before but I haven't come across one that has two stories - one that you read from the front, the other you read starting from the back. It is cleverly done; I had to look twice before I realised what was happening in the back-story.  If you start at the front you'll read (view) a story about a firefly flying through a forest to a city to help solve a problem. Animals point the way along the journey. When you've finished that story go the back and read 'Run, Rabbit, Run'. A white rabbit escapes from a cage during an accident. A dog chases it through the forest ... Read it to find out what happens when it catches up with the rabbit.

A picture book that children will pick up and flick pages back and forth to read/view the story many times. Every time you look at it you'll discover something in the pictures you hadn't noticed before. Bernardo has used water colour paints in a child-like style.

Bernardo Carvalho is one of the founding illustrators of Portuguese publishing house Planeta Tangerina which was the recipient of the Best European Children’s Publisher Award at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in 2012.

ISBN: 978 0 9941098 2 8
RRP $19.99 paperback

You can buy at all good bookshops (especially Children's Bookshops) but if they don't have it buy direct at

Friday, November 7, 2014

Humorous Illustrated chapter books for little girls

Victoria M. Azaro wrote the Saffron series for Penguin Books NZ. Just recently she has combined the three books into one and called it 'Super Saffron'. Also, Saffron's sister Sage wanted to have her own book and Victoria relented and wrote one for her too. Read about these two excellent books below.

Sage: I am the middle sister by Victoria M. Azaro (W4 Publishing)

You'll find more of the quirky hilarious adventures that Saffron has but Sage's adventures centre around her family and school. Sage hasn't long started school and the big excitement is bringing home the class teddy. Sage is quite a bright 5 year old and not one to let her big sister Saffron get one over her. Find out how she solves a tricky wee problem ...

Victoria has written the illustrated chapter book for 5-7
year olds. Each page has black and white illustrations and big print. Little girls are going to thoroughly enjoy reading the book and many girls can identify what it is like to have an older sibling.  Teachers can use the book in their Health programme to talk about how to solve problems, responsibility and sibling rivalry.

Paperback: $16.00
ISBN: 978-0-473-28953-9

Super Saffron by Victoria M. Azaro (W4 Publishing)

Older sister Saffron is so excellent at solving problems ... well, in her mind she is but in actuality everything she does ends in disaster. While on trips abroad in America, Spain, South America and France with her business dad and meditating mum, annoying younger sister Sage, and baby; Saffron has to navigate big cities, deal with a nudist beach, find a toilet, and speak different languages. This results in Saffron creating chaos in every situation she finds herself in. Young girls will enjoy reading the very funny adventures of Saffron and her family.

Teachers could use the book in their Health programme to talk about cultural diversity; what it feels like to be a minority, learning a new language, sibling rivalry, and problem solving. The books makes an excellent read aloud; and though boys wouldn't pick the book up themselves they will definitely enjoy hearing the story read aloud to them.

Combines books 1 - 3 in one super edition!

Paperback: $24.99
ISBN:  978-0-473-27066-7
Buy from all good bookshops (Paper Plus, Indie stores, Children's bookshops) and Victoria's website:

How does the giraffe get to work?

How Does the Giraffe Get to Work? By Christopher Llewelyn and Scott Tulloch, Scholastic NZ

Congratulations to Christopher Llewelyn on his first picture book with Scholastic – he starts off with one imaginative concept (animals only work at the zoo, not live there) and develops it into a riotous poem which must have delighted (and challenged) even this experienced illustrator. The excellent rhyming text introduces us to a myriad of animals making their way to work in the morning, using an extraordinary variety of methods. Imagine a lion doing a crossword on the bus, an emu jogging along the footpath, the wolf family quarrelling in the train carriage, a squirrel riding a motorbike, and a howler monkey hanging from the handrail in the metro… and you’ll get the idea. The pencil and watercolour illustrations of the animals are stunning – and I love the subtle interactions between the human commuters and the animals. I also love the sub-textual story of the poor sloth trying to get to work – adult readers can have fun nudging children into spotting the sloth in the illustrations. This book will be very popular as a read-aloud both at home and at pre-school and early primary levels; smart teachers will also use it as a resource for classroom studies of animals. Recommended.

ISBN 978 1 77543 246 3 $19.50 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman     
Scott Tulloch is the illustrator of the recent Scholastic titles Square Eyes, My Daddy Ate an Apple, On the Road to Tuapeka, Tom and the Dragon, and the Joy Cowley award winner Wooden Arms
Scott also wrote and illustrated the hilarious I Am Not a Worm!, and The Silly Goat Gruff.

Christopher Llewelyn was born in Wales, but now lives in Christchurch next to the beautiful Banks Peninsula. Chris is a natural storyteller and has enjoyed sharing his visions of the weird and wonderful with people since childhood. How Does the Giraffe Get to Work? is Chris’s first book with Scholastic NZ.