Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Save Kiwi Month books

Kuwi's Huhu Hunt by Kat Merewether (Illustrated Publishing)

I've written a few kiwi (non-fiction) books myself so have a soft-spot for them. This is Kat's second book in the series about Kuwi and her little kiwi chick. In the first book Kuwi's First Egg, Kuwi is pregnant and waiting for her egg to hatch. When it starts to crack she tries to mend the egg. Then one day a gorgeous wee chick hatches.

In the second book Kuwi's Huhu Hunt, Kuwi takes her kiwi chick Huwi hunting for some kai. They find 'mouth-watering weta', which she dreams of making weta wontons and weta waffles. Next they find scrumptious snails, then moreish moths, and enticing eels ... Only, little Huwi turns down these treats - she only wants huhu. Children will notice something else going on in the pictures too, and can empathesise with little Huwi. Read on to find out what Huwi will eat.

Many parents will nod their heads and know all about fussy eaters. I certainly did. My daughter had a list of things she wouldn't eat when she was a toddler. When her friends came over to play - they were even worse! The book might encourage your toddlers to eat their vegetables, and parent and toddler can probably have some lively discussion on eating healthily.  But I'd be buying this book for its entertainment value ...

There's alliteration, repetition, and assonance - it's a delightful book to read aloud. The children (and parents) will enjoy poring over the illustrations too. Parents/teachers will pick out the little nods to ...'Weta with the Pearl Earing' painting, 'Anika the Moa' CD, and Huhu Beetles and other references to historical and popular culture. While children will laugh at the antics of the animals and insects featured in the book.

Kat is giving $1 to 'Kiwi's for Kiwi Trust' during Save Kiwi Month (October), and a portion of the proceeds for the months following.  Buy the book from your favourite book store or buy direct from www.kuwi.co.nz

ISBN: 9780-0-473-32527-5
RRP $19.99

Operation Nest Egg Chick by Maria Gill, illustrated by Bruce Potter (Long White Cloud Books)

If you want your children to understand how we're saving kiwi you might want to read this book after/before reading the above entertaining book. Operation Nest Egg Chick is written in creative non-fiction style (non-fiction but in story format) about a father incubating two kiwi eggs and resulting chicks. One will go into the Operation Nest Egg programme. Carers raise the chick in a kiwi centre then release it into a kiwi creche until it is an adult. Find out where those centres are, who the predators are, and what you can do to help our iconic kiwi.

For a look inside go to www.mariagill.co.nz

Buy from your favourite book store, conservation centre or zoo or buy direct: www.longwhitecloudbooks.com

ISBN: 978-0-473-28404-6
RRP $25

Quaky Cat sequel

Quaky Cat Helps Out by Diana Noon & Gavin Bishop (Scholastic)

Quaky Cat was written after the September 4th 2010 earthquake in Christchurch. It tells the story of how Tiger the cat responds to the quake and how he finds his family. Diana Noonan and Gavin Bishop donated their royalties and 50% of the publisher's proceeds were given to several Christchurch charities helping the people in the affected regions after that earthquake and the subsequent shakes on February 22nd, 2011. The book was a huge success raising over $150,000 for Christchurch charities.

It has taken a few years (with lots more work to be done) to help rebuild Christchurch. Many people and animals were affected emotionally by the quakes. Diana Noonan and Gavin Bishop have followed Quaky Cat with Quaky Cat Helps Out. This book shows how the animals are rebuilding their lives ... with the help of Tiger. It's also about showing kindness to others and sharing what you've got.  It is written in rhyme and illustrated with Gavin's rich colours. I am sure this book will be a great success too! This time the author, illustrator and publisher are donating proceeds to Orphans Aid International, who help homeless animals in disasters.

I love how the last page has words from kids on how they are rebuilding their lives. For example:

"I was like one of Quaky Cat's friends. I had to settle into a new school, new house and new friends. It was really hard at first but then I found my place and it wasn't bad anymore. It was good." Tom, age 9

Teacher resource for Quaky Cat.  Teacher resource for Quaky Cat helps Out.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

For Bernard Beckett fans

Lullaby by Bernard Beckett, Text Publishing

This multi-award-winning author continues to challenge readers with his provocative YA novels. Fans of Genesis and August won’t be disappointed with this exploration of scientific ethics and fraternal love. Rene’s twin brother Theo is on life support after a freak accident nearly destroys his brain. Rene has a chance to bring his brother back by allowing his own brain function to be extended into Theo’s mind – in an experimental procedure. Rene is assisted in his agonising decision by a young hospital psychologist, Maggie. As Maggie and Rene talk the reader learns the history of the twins’ relationship. Once Rene makes his decision, surprising (and even shocking) events unfold.
The back-story-by-conversation technique means that not a lot of action takes place, but in compensation the reader becomes involved in a high degree of emotion and suspense, with a powerful punch at the end. I suspect this story will appeal mostly to thoughtful teens of about 14 to 16, especially boys.

ISBN 9781922182753 RRP $26.00   Pb (also as an e-book)
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

I read it too, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Probably my favourite book for the year. 
Maria Gill

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Two books from Book Island...

Azizi and the Little Blue Bird by Laila Koubaa and Mattias De Leeuw, translated by David Colmer, Book Island
There is a genre of picture books which seems to be aimed more at adults who like and work with picture books rather than at children. That’s fine – as long as potential buyers know what they’re getting. The blurb with this book says that it explores ideas of freedom and justice and meets the demand for more culturally diverse picture books in an increasingly multicultural society. It also says that it’s a contemporary fairytale inspired by the Tunisian Jasmine or Twitter revolution.
I consulted Wikipedia and read about the Tunisian revolution (which ousted a corrupt regime in early 2011); the significance of the use of jasmine in the story (it’s Tunisia’s national flower); and the connection to Twitter (many events of the revolution were announced and discussed worldwide on Twitter).
Having read the story before I consulted Wikipedia, I was rather flummoxed. I felt like a five-year old, needing to ask, “Why is he doing that? Who are those people? What’s happening? What does it mean?”
After reading Wikipedia, it all fell into place. This is an allegory, with the hero, Aziz, representing Tunisia’s youth; two gross and greedy rulers representing the ousted regime; and the bluebirds and garlands of jasmine representing the power of freedom and democracy (possibly via Twitter?). It will be up to teachers and parents to decide how much of the allegory they will explain. It’s certainly a book to use with children of primary-school age, not pre-schoolers – in fact, I would go so far as to say that I’d prefer to recommend it for intermediate ages and up, so that students can understand the cultural and allegorical aspects.
The illustrations certainly have a similarity to the work of Quentin Blake, with a rich exuberance that is both childlike and vaguely old-fashioned at the same time. The usual rules of illustration relating to perspective and proportion have been banished – leaving wildly idiosyncratic pictures that had me poring over them in fascination. This is surely a book with a difference.
ISBN 978 0 9941098 6 6 RRP $29.99 Hb 340 x 235 mm (released October)

The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc, translated by Sarah Ardizzone, Book Island
This minimalist and low-key story has allegorical elements but is more traditional than the book reviewed above. It comes with a stellar provenance – it boasts award-winning illustrations, has received rave reviews in Canada and the US, and has achieved sales over 25,000 copies since original publication in 2013.The French-Canadian author/illustrator comes from Montreal and has been published in over 15 countries. Put simply, it’s a story about friendship. Lion finds a migrating bird on the ground with a damaged wing. He takes it home, cares for it, and then the snow comes. “But the cold isn’t so bad when you’re together.” Spring arrives, the birds migrate the other way, and Lion’s friend must depart. “Hey-ho,” says Lion sadly. But the seasons roll on, autumn comes again – and Lion’s secret wish comes true. The text is a masterpiece of brevity – a perfect example of text and graphic integration that shows aspiring picture book writers how it should be done.
The illustrations are rendered in fine line and coloured pencil, using sparse, stylized backgrounds and muted pastel colours to convey a sense that there’s a lot going on under the surface of the story. Many pages have no text at all, and there’s even a totally empty double spread to show the white-out effect of winter.
The blurb says it’s for ages of 4 and upwards, which I agree with. I can see parents reading it to youngsters as a shared experience, possibly with a bit of discussion about what the characters are feeling (in the absence of text explaining this). Teachers could do the same with small groups – but I don’t see it as being suitable for reading aloud to a whole class: the size is slightly smaller than standard picture book size. Finally, I can see children picking up this book on their own - children who haven’t quite developed their reading skills yet, but as they follow the story in the pictures and study the words, they just might find themselves reading…
ISBN 978 0 9941098 7 3 RRP $24.99 80pp Hb (released October)

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Joy Cowley Award Winner

Stan the Van Man by Emma Vere-Jones, illus. Philip Webb, Scholastic NZ

Yes, it’s written in rhyming text, but it’s very GOOD rhyming text, so good in fact that it won last year’s Storylines Joy Cowley Award. Try this: “The names are perplexing. The addresses are vexing,” said Stan, who was shaking with fright. “It’s all a big mess. I’ll just have to guess, and hope I get some of them right.” The text fairly bounces along without putting an accent wrong.

According to her website Emma Vere-Jones is a journalist, author and copywriter – with this presumably being her first book in print. I hope she’s working on her next book. The story of this one doesn’t need much explanation – Stan takes on the task of delivering parcels, but he hasn’t told anyone that he can’t read. So the parcels all go to the wrong recipients. Fortunately everyone likes Stan so much that they band together to teach him to read. Children will enjoy the rollicking text and the humour of the parcels going to the wrong people.

Philip Webb needs no introduction – his cheerful cartoon illustrations are known everywhere. Done in scanned pencil line and Photoshop, they perfectly match the good-hearted nature of the story. This book is ideal for reading aloud to small groups and individual children of about 3 to 7 years old.

ISBN 978 1 77543 307 1 RRP$19 Pb
Reviewed by Lorraine

For Sarah Davis fans!

Be Brave, Pink Piglet! by Phil Cummings, illustrated by Sarah Davis (Hachette NZ)

Little pink piglet ventures away from his mother for the first time. When he meets various animals on the farm they nearly scare him to death. After a little playtime with mud, worms, berries, and pond grass he struts home and has an altogether different reaction to the animals he met earlier.

A wee gem of a story about a child becoming independent and self assured for the first time. Kids will love the pictures - the little pig is adorable, we can see him being tentative, scared, having fun, oblivious to the chaos he is causing, and proud. Sarah knows how to skilfully draw emotion out of every animal in every situation.

A great story to read aloud to kindy kids and junior school students; especially to newbies who are starting their adventures for the first time. Though there is a lot of pink in this book it is not just for girls - boys will enjoy it too. (Pigs are pink after all.)

Have a look on Sarah Davis' website to see inside the book. She'll have some extras attached soon too.  Also have a look at Phil Cummings' website to see all the other books he has written.

ISBN: 978-0-7344-1592-9
RRP $19.99
EBK $13.99

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman