Friday, July 28, 2017

Sophisticated Picture Book

Grandad’s Guitar by Janine McVeagh and Fifi Colston, Makaro Press

Both author and illustrator are well-known in the New Zealand children’s book world. Janine has published stories for both adults and children, and this is her first picture book. The story is based on true family history. Fifi has illustrated over 30 picture books written by others, as well as writing and illustrating her own books for children.

This is a gentle, family-focused story best suited to older primary-aged children. Kahu’s nana gives him a battered old guitar for his birthday. When he criticises its condition, he is told that it belonged to his grandfather and went all round the world with him. As Kahu learns to play, he also learns about the travelling adventures of his grandparents in the 1960s or 70s. Fifi’s realistic illustrations capture the mystical, musical, freedom-loving atmosphere of the era, and will appeal to many of today’s grandparents.

It’s probably better to call this a sophisticated picture book – it’s not suitable for pre-schoolers or younger primary-aged children. Young readers will probably get more meaning from it if they’re beginning to learn a bit of history and geography.

Teachers’ Notes are available at  They contain some interesting ideas about using the book for music activities in the classroom.

ISBN 978 0994137968 $25 Pb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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