Sunday, March 29, 2015

A new Scholastic Picture Book

Little Hoihoi by Stephanie Thatcher, Scholastic NZ

Stephanie’s first picture book The Great Galloping Galoot was published by Scholastic NZ in 2012. It’s a jolly, bouncing story – fans will find this second book is quite different in tone but just as satisfying. On her first foray out of the nest, a little penguin finds that not all birds are the same. Kotuku struts on beautiful long legs, Toroa flies on big wings, Tui can sing. Little Hoihoi can’t do any of these things. Of course, as soon as she falls into the water she finds there is something she can do much better than the other birds… The pencil illustrations are a delight with their gentle watercolours, uncluttered scenes and good use of white space. Little Hoihoi’s expressive face takes centre-stage and delicately conveys her emotions. The book includes a small amount of information about yellow-eyed penguins, but its true value will be as a group read-aloud to children of around 3 to 7.

ISBN 978 1 77543 249 4 RRP $19 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Happy Commonwealth Day

Recently I received two gorgeous books from the Commonwealth Education Trust for a project I am working on.  I want to share them with you because of their multi-cultural nature and also the vibrancy of the artwork. And today - 9th March 2015 - is Commonwealth Day - enjoy!

A river of stories: Tales and poems from across the Commonwealth compiled by Alice Curry
illustrated by Jan Pienkowski

I really like that the book has been organised from an indigenous context. You won't find themes like Water, People, or Animals - you'll find 'Down by the Water Hole' and 'Why a Rainbow Follows Rain' and 'Ghosts, Giants and Mermaids of the Deep' and 'Water Gods and Ice Kings'. It sets the tone of the book.

You will find poems, retold myths, and stories from many of the Commonwealth countries including New Zealand, Australia and United Kingdom, as well as Trinidad and Tobago, Kiribati, St Kitts and Nevis, Cyprus, Grenada, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and Bangladesh.  Many children won't even heard of some of these countries. Teachers can show where the country is on a map or globe before reading the story aloud.

The poems and stories capture the essence of the countries the authors have come from. For example, in 'Prescription' by Emma Krus Va'ai

"Gather some sunshine
and warm rain
one cicada
and a pocket of air from your kitchen
a pot pourri of frangipani, sandalwood, mosooi
and gardenia
into a parcel
with a long letter
to me
from you
home in Samoa"

You can imagine the poet missing home and all the scents that represent their country.

In 'Nkalimeva' a Swaziland story retold by Tom Nevin:

"The elephant was a good-natured and kindly animal. He was very big, and because of his size he was very clumsy. Not that the other animals were very much bothered by this, although they became annoyed when he kept knocking things over. They understood this was because of his size and made allowances for him.
But the elephant had another problem which was to be his downfall: he was very, very inquisitive."

You can imagine where this story is leading - its inquisitiveness resulting in a very long trunk.

Each of the stories have Jan Pienkowski's silhouette art juxtaposed with vibrant illustrations. They're perfect for the stories and poems. On the front cover two Islanders are silhouetted in black gloss laminate in their waka-like boat, behind them is a large yellow moon, and in front a swirly blue sea.

At the front of the book is a positive message from His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and Jan Pienkowski talks about how he drew inspiration from his many trips abroad for the pictures, Alice Curry says the stories and poems are like rivers "they flow from country to country. Tales flowing from ear to ear might change style or length or form, but they will always retain the flavour of their origins". At the back of the book you will find a very handy glossary giving the meaning to unfamiliar words from each country. There's also information about the Commonwealth Education Trust.

Teachers could use the book to introduce students to the Commonwealth countries in Social Studies, or for a unit on myths, or poems. The average classroom has children from all over the world. They could make their own anthology of multi-cultural stories and poems inspired by this book.

Though compiled overseas New Zealand's Learning Media created the education package to go with this wonderful book. You can visit to buy their teaching resource and the Anthology.

South Pacific Press is running a special deal on 'A River of Stories'. You will receive a 20% discount if you mention 'Commonwealth Day Blog Post' with your order. Read their post for ideas on how to celebrate Commonwealth Day too.
Give the Ball to the poet: A new anthology of Caribbean Poetry edited by Georgie Horrell, Aisha Spencer and Morag Styles, illustrated by Jane Ray

I personally can't get enough of poems written for children. I love their honesty, use of language, and representation of culture. In 'Give the ball to the Poet' you will find a wonderful mix of poems in this anthology from the Caribbean. From a chant for a cricket hero, to poems about the delightful fruits of the Caribbean, to the beating of the drums - they are poems that reflect the culture of these people.

The first poem is very appropriately about a Rastafarian:

Goodmornin Brother Rasta

"Good-days wash you mi brother
a-make peace possess you
and love enlighten you
e-make you givin be good
and you everymore be everybody
a-make Allness affect you always
and you meetn of eye to eye be vision
and all you word them be word of wonderment"

by James Berry, Jamaica

These poems are meant to be read aloud. Children will enjoy rolling the words off their tongue. They could include music to help with the rhythm.  You'll also find some cricket poems - how very handy for our World Cricket series!

Keeping Wicket

"When they were young,
She kept wicket for her brothers,
They batted,
Padded up
And ratcheted up the score.
She crouched behind the stumps
keeping wicket. ..."

by Valerie Bloom, Jamaica

Every poem has an illustration by Jane Ray. They're colourful with added gold to make them even more vibrant - like the Caribbean countries.  A must-have Anthology for your classroom reading library, and to use in a poetry unit.

Buy from online bookstores such as Book Depository, or ask your local bookseller to get it for you.

128 pages, ISBN: 978-1909931008  $17.48 (discounted at present from Book Depository)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

New multi-national company on the scene

New Picture Books from Starfish Bay Publishing

These picture books (for ages 3+) are distributed by David Bateman, according to the website  The website is worth checking out. It provides the following descriptive statement: “An Australian and New Zealand-based independent publisher specializing in children’s books with imaginative and intriguing illustration. Our aim is to capture children’s imagination and hold their interest while entertaining them with a thoughtful story.”

The Pear Violin by Bingbo, illus. Gumi (RRP $14.99, ISBN 9780994100245 Pb)

This a translated edition of a picture book by a Chinese author who’s published more than 370 children’s stories, with more than ten million copies sold and over 50 awards. It’s a whimsical story of a squirrel who creates a violin out of a pear and mesmerises the whole forest with his beautiful music – and eventually all the animals end up playing beautiful music on their pear instruments… The illustrations are bright and cheerful.

Two Unhappy Fish by Bingbo, illus. Gumi (RRP $14.99, ISBN 9780994100269 Pb)

As above, this is a translated edition. Two fish hide because they hate their looks – until one day they meet each other and realise that everyone is different – not ugly, just different. The seascape scenes are colourful and should hold the interest of pre-schoolers.

The Cowardly Lion by Bingbo, illus. Jianming Zhou (RRP $14.99, ISBN 9780994100238, Pb)

An unfortunate lion keeps running away from other creatures, getting physically smaller and smaller each time – until he’s the size of a mouse. But one day his mouse friend is attacked, and the lion suddenly gets his courage (and his size) back. The bold eye-catching illustrations have an Asian flavour that pre-schoolers should enjoy.

The Moving House by Bingbo, illus. Huangying (RRP $14.99, ISBN 9780994100252, Pb)

A gentle story about a rather foolish squirrel who built his new house on what he thought was a large rock – but turned out to be something quite different! The illustrations have a soft tone and wide perspectives that would make the book useful for reading aloud to groups of pre-schoolers.

Snowy Night by Tilde Michels, illus. Reinhard Michl (RRP $14.99, ISBN 9780994100221, Pb)

This is a translation of a book published in Germany in 1985. It’s a heart-warming fable about trust, in which a hare, a fox and a bear arrive in turn at the door of Peter’s warm and cosy house, asking for shelter from the storm. But can they trust each other? The illustrations have a distinct European tone, mostly presented in formal, boxed shapes providing a sense of security.

The Ogglies of Smelliville by Erhard Dietl (RRP $19.99, ISBN 9780994100207, Pb)

This is the first in a series of editions translated from the German originals, with this story originally published in 2004. This award-winning author and illustrator has published over 100 children’s books. Children of four upwards should enjoy the revolting habits of this unusual family – such as making bootlace soup, drinking shampoo, and decorating the lounge with rubbish. The cartoon-type illustrations are similarly full of disgusting scenes which youngsters will enjoy studying to find the awful bits. Better for reading to an individual rather than a group of children.

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman
Who is Star Fish Bay Children's Book Publishing? It says on their website:
The company director, Luke Hou, has been a professional book publisher since 1999. In 2007 he completed an MA in Publishing from the London College of Communication, University of the Arts London. In 2011 he was awarded a Corporate General Management qualification from the Australian Institute of Management.
It looks like Luke Hou partners with small publishing hous

es in countries around the world. They distribute his books from China and other partnered countries, and he distributes their books in other countries. It's a new publishing model and one to watch.