Thursday, August 20, 2015

Rugby books for Rugby kids

Rugby Fever

Piri’s Big All Black Dream by Jared Bell and Jimmy Diaz, Penguin Random House NZ
Obviously Penguin Random House got the contract to publish children’s books on behalf of the NZ Rugby Union, and no doubt sales will be good as long as the current rugby fervour continues. This particular piece of merchandise provides a picture-book look at the childhood determination of Piri Weepu to become an All Black. “Piri never gave up working towards his dream, and years later it came true. Piri and his team became champions of the world.” The book finishes by exhorting readers to follow their own dreams. The friendly cartoon-type illustrations will appeal to young rugby fans, but the page I like best has an engaging photo of Piri himself. Best for primary school-aged rugby enthusiasts.
ISBN 978 0 34 350701 7 RRP $19.99 Pb

All Blacks Sticker Activity Book, Penguin Random House NZ
I browsed through this sticker/activity book with more interest than usual, because I have two grandsons playing rugby, Rory aged 6 and Lachlan aged 7. I’m always on the lookout for books and presents to give them. It’s pretty much the usual format – a double page of stickers in the middle, and the rest of the pages are a combination of sticker pictures and puzzle activities (jumbled words, code cracking, missing words, word find, crossword, maze, quiz). The last page provides the Answers. There are also a few sections conveying information, eg. rugby jargon, ball handling skills. So who would enjoy it? Youngsters will definitely need reading and language skills to do the activities, so it’s best for mid to upper primary ages. That means the 7-year-old will get the book (plus some adult help), rather than the 6-year-old. Now to find a present for the 6-year-old…
ISBN 978 0 14 330838 6 RRP $9.99 (released 26 August) Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Pile of Picture Books...

The Three Cattle Dogs Gruff by Chris Gurney, illus. Myles Lawford, Scholastic NZ
This is the latest title in Scholastic’s long-running and popular picture book series called Kiwi Corkers: Great New Zealand Yarns. We don’t need any hints about which story inspired this New Zealand version – you just need to look at the title, and the cover which shows something nasty lurking under a bridge… Chris’s bouncy rhyming text takes us through the traditional format, providing a local version of the chorus: “Cross my bridge, you silly mutt, I’ll suck you with a slurp, up my tongue into my gut and finish with a burp!” I won’t give away what exactly is hiding under the bridge – children will enjoy the moment when they finally see the owner of the very long tongue. Myles Lawford’s crisp and colourful Adobe Photoshop illustrations catch the New Zealand rural landscape and the frisky natures of the three dogs. This would make a good read-aloud for a preschool or junior primary school class.

ISBN 978 1 77543 340 8 RRP $12 Pb

I Am Doodle Cat by Kat Patrick and Lauren Marriott, Beatnik Publishing
It’s hard to resist the bright red face of Doodle Cat smiling out from the front cover. Further investigation reveals that Doodle Cat likes lots of unusual things, not just cat-type things as you might expect. Doodle Cat loves dancing, noise, the ocean, maths, lentils, baths, fractals and small animals, to mention a few. In fact, the chosen objects and activities could easily be the favourites of a young child… The end papers offer a kind of explanatory text on why these particular objects were chosen: eg. “A fractal is a never-ending pattern that looks exactly the same at any size. These guys are everywhere! Don’t believe me? Go and investigate a cauliflower.” The stylised illustrations are strong and bright, with an emphasis on red. Teachers and parents need to be aware that this is more of a concept book than a story book, and would probably be best used to stimulate discussion with children of about 4 to 7 (who may even want to draw their own Doodle Cat)… This book won the 2015 Best Children’s Book in the PANZ Book Design Awards.

ISBN  978 0992 264826 RRP $24.99 Hb

Tyranno-sort-of-Rex by Christopher Llewelyn, illus. Scott Tulloch, Scholastic NZ
The first pairing of this author and illustrator produced Scholastic’s engaging picture book How Does the Giraffe Get to Work? Reviewers, me among them, agreed it was an inspired combination. They’ve now come out with this rhyming story that’s bound to appeal to the thousands of young dinosaur fans out there. Some recently dug-up dinosaur bones get mixed up on board the ship during a wild storm. The courier company dumps the bones outside the museum, and it’s up to the poor old curator to sort them out. This strangely fishlike gentleman doesn’t do too well. “Whizz went the drill, and his hammer went Whack! Checking his work, the curator stepped back… The bottom resembled a Tyrannosaur… but the top of the neck had one major flaw. He knew for a fact that he’d definitely read that all dinosaurs had only one head.” The muddled-up sets of bones presented to the public on the last page are amusing, but personally I’d have like a bit more of a funny twist at the end of the tale (pun intended!). However dinosaur fans (mainly small boys) will follow the curator’s efforts with fascination, and will appreciate the puns in the names. Scott Tulloch’s illustrations, mostly double-spreads, are expansive, complex, and reward closer examination. This will work well as a read-aloud for 4 to 7 year-olds.
ISBN 978 1 77543 311 8 RRP $19 Pb

Ta Daniel Hakari Matariki by Rebecca Beyer and Linley Wellington, illus. Christine Ross, Duck Creek Press
This appealing story was first published in English in May 2014, and many teachers and parents will welcome this release in te reo. Amidst worries about Maori being a dying language, resources such as this book need to be supported so I hope it goes into every public and primary school library. Follow this link for KidsBooksNZ’s review of the English version:
ISBN 978 1 927305 02 7 RRP $19.99 Pb (distributed by David Bateman)

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Thursday, August 6, 2015

WW1 story from a voluntary nurse aid perspective

Evie’s War by Anna Mackenzie, Longacre (Penguin Random House NZ)

Speaking personally, the best thing about the centenaries associated with World War One is the surge of historical books coming on to the New Zealand market. I was looking forward to reading Anna Mackenzie’s YA novel about a (fictional) New Zealand nurse, and I wasn’t disappointed. Anna has proved herself an expert in writing fantasy – and her skills have carried over into this vivid diary-style story. At the end of a book is an Acknowledgements section – which I read first, and would recommend other readers to do the same. It details the background to the writing of the book and describes the extensive research Anna undertook.
Evie is a spirited New Zealand teenager who has just finished school and is about to do a tour round Europe with her family (it’s 1914). However war breaks out while they are staying with family in England, and their plans fall apart. Evie is caught up in the nationalistic fervour of the early war period and eventually becomes a nurse. As she cares for scores of badly injured young men she realises the true horror of warfare. She eventually travels to France and does a stint as an ambulance driver and a frontline nurse.
The story is grim but the author brings Evie and her Edwardian contemporaries to life, despite the limitations of the diary format. The reader virtually smells the stench of injured and mud-covered men, at the same time worrying about the fate of Evie’s brother and fiancĂ© who are both soldiers. Through it all Evie bravely struggles on, determined to do her bit to support the soldiers in her care. By the end of the war she has truly grown up.
Recommended for all public and secondary school libraries – and to YA readers who want to know what it was REALLY like.

ISBN 978 1 77553 765 6 (also available as an e-book) RRP $19.99 Pb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman 

I read 'Evie's War' too, and highly recommend it.
Maria Gill