Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Stunning Picture Book about Grief


Maia and What Matters, Tine Mortier and Kaatje Vermeire, Book Island Ltd

As well as being beautiful, this is a very brave picture book. It’s the latest offering from Book Island, who brought us Sir Mouse to the Rescue and Bernie and Flora. It was originally published in Belgium, and has been translated from the Flemish by David Colmer. Its extra-large size, sturdy hardback cover, and richly detailed cover picture make it stand out from the rest. Maia is a headstrong little miss, just like her grandmother. They make a good pair, running round and eating cake. But Grandma has a stroke (not stated, but obvious to the adult reader) and the little girl can’t understand why her grandmother has changed so much. She does her best to entertain Grandma - but when Grandpa dies an extra special effort is required from Maia... The illustrations are breathtaking. According to the blurb, the illustrator combines etching techniques with found materials such as lace, string and wire. The pictures are hard to describe - every one offers a panorama of people, portraits, backgrounds, motifs, and abstract design. Each one deserves to be studied and appreciated in its own right, and this book could easily be used in secondary-level art classes. I can see it being bought by families where a loved grandparent is ill or has died; and it will also be useful in libraries and primary-level classrooms to support studies of illness and loss.

ISBN 978 0 9876696 6 7 $29.99 Hb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Saturday, January 11, 2014

THE THREE MATRIARCHS OF NEW ZEALAND CHILDREN'S LITERATURE

Whenever I ask children who is our most famous children's author they say Margaret Mahy, Joy Cowley, or Lynley Dodd in equal measure; depending what part of the country we're in. Here are three delightful books for children and adults about these three literary treasures:
 
The Life and Art of Lynley Dodd by Finlay Macdonald, Penguin Group (NZ)
The Life and Art of Lynley Dodd gives readers a glimpse into Lynley Dodd's life and the creation of the series of picture books that made her world-famous. From the end papers and throughout the book there's photographs, sketches, full colour spreads from books, copies of journals, storyboards and notes.  Every page has at least one large colour illustration or several black and white/colour pictures and photographs. It is a feast for the eyes.
We find out when Lynley first collaborated with her cousin on a book, to writing her own, and submitting her first sketch of Hairy Maclary to her publisher Ann Mallinson. Read snippets of information about Lynley's character that give an understanding of what helped create her wonderful books. Such as Lynley is a perfectionist and doesn't like to show anyone her stories until she is absolutely happy with it.  We're also introduced to the full gamut of characters that Lynley has drawn and written about. And discover how Lynley has been careful to limit spin-offs that invariably happens to a product when it becomes famous.
The language is pitched for adults but it would sit comfortably in a high school library and would be read by students who wish to be the writers and illustrators of the future. All children's book collectors (librarians, teachers, booksellers, authors/illustrators) will want to own this book, as it begs continual readings and poring over of the pictures. Highly recommended.
ISBN 978 0 143 567967 $50 hard copy
Reviewed by Maria Gill
Magical Margaret Mahy by Betty Gilderdale, Penguin Group (NZ)

This useful book was originally published by Penguin in 1987; this is a updated edition. It provides an easy-to-read discussion of New Zealand’s most well-known children’s author - and what made her tick. It looks at Margaret’s childhood, adult life, writing career, and last but not least, her amazing imagination. It’s packed with interesting anecdotes about Margaret and her unique way of seeing the world, and interspersed with interesting little black ink drawings of Margaret Mahy knick-knacks - done by Alan Gilderdale. It’s a very accessible book aimed at children of about 10 to 14 who are researching the author for a project. Teachers will also find it a useful tool for providing background facts for a study of Margaret’s enormous output of stories. Heartily recommended.
ISBN 978 0 143 56881 0 $19.99  Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Navigation: A Memoir by Joy Cowley, Penguin Group (NZ)



This book came out in 2010 but I thought I'd put it in because Joy Cowley is one of the three matriarchs of children's literature in this country. Joy's book targets adults but she also has a creative writing book that children serious about their writing would find an interesting read: Writing from the Heart, published by Storylines.

Navigation shares Joy's story from her childhood in Foxton in the 1940s, to her family life, and international fame as a children's book writer. We find out that Joy as well as being a very talented writer has turned her hand to many creative and adventurous pursuits such as riding motor bikes, learning to fly, wood turning, fishing, bungy jumping at 65 years old, giving workshops and touring the world. We also discover that Joy is a very spiritual person and how it influences her life.

A wonderful insight into one of our most successful authors.

ISBN 978 0 143 205715  $45

Reviewed by Maria Gill