Sunday, November 25, 2012

Some Llama Drama

Llama Drama by Yvonne Morrison, illus. Neroli Williams, Scholastic NZ

Pam is a llama who’s not content to just sit in the field and eat and sleep. She likes exciting things to happen. Which is why the other llamas are always saying, “Stop making a fuss. Stop making a scene. You’re just a llama drama queen.” But Pam continues to make a fuss over a green apple, a pretty daisy, a bee-sting – and being called an alpaca. Fortunately for Pam, she’s spotted by an animal talent scout and whisked away to star in a TV commercial... The rhyming text tells an amusing story, and the illustrations capture the emotions on Pam’s face as she acts up – big, brown eyes, long lashes, and a toothy smile. The pictures are done in watercolour pencil, using soft, cheerful colours and fine lines. I would recommend this as a read-aloud for slightly older children, about 5 to 7.

ISBN 978 1 77543 053 7 RRP $19.50 Pb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Barfoot & Thompson Book written by Kids

The Miracle at Gull’s Bay by Auckland Primary & Intermediate Students

Edited by John Parker and Illustrated by Keven Mealamu (Published by Barfoot & Thompson)

With seven new stories for readers to enjoy, The Miracle at Gull’s Bay is the new anthology of children’s stories from Barfoot & Thompson’s Young Author’s Challenge. With themes of helping one another, tackling pollution, perseverance and a funny story about too much bacon, this collection of stories has been illustrated by rugby hero Keven Mealamu and edited by children’s author John Parker.

With a story written in diary format, one in a bird’s point of view, another in a dog’s, these stories will delight young readers and inspire budding authors to take up their pens.

The past four story books have helped Barfoot & Thompson raise a combined $90,000 for Starship. Through the Barfoot & Thompson Magic of Reading programme, copies of the books are also provided to Starship Children’s Hospital and Whangarei Hospital’s Children’s Ward where they are given to young patients to read and take home.

All proceeds go to Starship Hospital

Each copy costs $15 and can be ordered online from


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Eruption! Discovering New Zealand Volcanoes

I have been so busy reviewing other people's books (and other writing) I forgot to promote my own on this site:
Eruption! Discovering New Zealand Volcanoes by Maria Gill (New Holland Publishers)
Enter the explosive world of New Zealand Volcanoes. You'll discover how they are made and whether they'll go off any time soon. If you're studying volcanoes or just crazy about them - you'll find: diagrams illustrating how volcanoes form, Maori creation stories linked to each volcano,  links to video footage and animations online, and flash facts for extra knowledge.  Volcanica, a reporter for Magmatic Press, pops up throughout the book to report on historic eruptions and expand your volcanic knowledge. She also has an investigation at the beginning of the book for young readers to engage with the text. 
The book is ordered around the type of volcanoes New Zealand has.  At the back of the book is information on how to get to volcanoes around New Zealand. Plus there are tips on how to be safe if a volcano erupts near you.
The book is bright and colourful with volcanic templates in the background, photographs and Volcanica's character with her roving reporter newspaper articles. 
Look at reviews for the book on Maria Gill's website, Facebook page, book pulse page or blog.
See an interview here.
ISBN: 9781869663629  RRP $21.00  48pages

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

New Non-fiction book

Kiwi: The real story by Annemarie Florian, illustrated by Heather Hunt (published by New Holland Publishers)

I help organise kiwi releases for the Department of Conservation so I was quite excited about receiving this book to review - and it doesn't disappoint.

This beautifully produced children's non-fiction book operates on two levels. Across the middle of the page interacting with the illustrations is a verb-driven poem. "muckracker, stem-shaker,/ nosy parker, mud-larker, dashing darter /cricket-cruncher, mantis-muncher/ eavesdropper, clodhopper, show-stopper!..." Each page also has a paragraph explaining kiwi information.  We learn about how kiwi came to New Zealand; how they are different to other birds; information about what they eat, their senses, voice, breeding, egg formation and how predators are a problem for kiwi.

Teachers could read the poem aloud to junior and middle school-aged children. Senior Primary and Intermediate-aged children would use the interesting facts for research for projects.  A middle-grade teacher I showed the book to said she would pick out the difficult words such as monogamous, conspicuous, functioning ovary etc - and investigate them more fully. Independent readers would probably have liked a glossary so they could find out what these words mean on their own. Read to children 6-8 years, read poem independently 8-10, read facts independently 11 years plus.

Heather Hunt's artwork is quite unique.  It has been drawn on the computer and is a mix of black and white 'loose slightly wild feel' lines for the kiwi, and definite colour shapes for the environment.  The artwork and text draws your eye across the page like a 'musical score'.  John McIntyre on National Radio said that it has a real beautiful luminosity to it - and that explains it well. I believe illustrator/designers often produce books that are quite stunning - and Heather Hunt has certainly done that. The book was inspired by the character developed by Heather for the Whangarei Heads Landcare Trust.

Author Annemarie Florian is a bookseller and educational librarian. Annemarie and Heather have collaborated on books for babies in the past.

Hardback $29.99, ISBN 978-1-86966-378-0

Reviewed by Maria Gill

Thursday, November 8, 2012

New book from Duck Creek Press

Yucky Mucky by Melanie Drewery, illus. Trevor Pye, Duck Creek Press

A father and his daughter play a game of make-believe as bathtime approaches. She pretends to be a variety of animals, and paints herself accordingly. Towards the end of the book she’s got a black nose, a tangled mane of hair, green-painted skin, sticky fingers, pink ears, dusty knees and frog legs. But none of the “animals” is allowed to participate in the final surprise until they all come together and get dumped into – the bath! An extra dimension is given to the story by frequent mention of the surprise waiting at the end of the book (ie. the bath). Trevor Pye’s crisp pastel-coloured cartoon illustrations have a slightly retro feel to them, especially the round-eyed, solid-teethed faces. Preschoolers will enjoy the juxtaposition of pictures of real animals (puppy, lion, snake, money, pig, camel, frog) with pictures of the girl pretending. This cute story should appeal to littlies who like make-believe – and to parents who have trouble getting their offspring into the bath! The hardback version has patterned end papers and feels nice to touch; note that it’s also available in paperback.

ISBN 978 1 877378 71 3 RRP $29.99 Hb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Young Adult E-book

Demons [e-book available on Amazon], by Bill Nagelkerke, Achukabooks, 2012

This short novel, with its reflective tone and cerebral themes, is very much a crossover novel between YA and adult literature – probably best tackled by readers in their late teens. Andrea, aged 22, is about to set off from New Zealand on her OE. She looks back on the events and revelations that shaped her personality during her adolescent years: her uneasy relationship with the Catholic Church, her love for her strong-minded grandmother, her changing attitudes towards her parents, and her teenage love affair with Christopher. The focus of the story moves backwards and forwards through time, examining significant moments in Andrea’s life. It’s interspersed with quotes from Christopher’s diary (he’s a dedicated intellectual, a self-styled classics geek). The prose is polished and readable, and the author handles the non-linear timeframe with aplomb. Fans of popular mainstream YA literature would probably find it too analytical, but young adults who like intellectual challenges (Why can’t women be priests? Is there life after death?) will find it interesting and thought-provoking.

Read an excerpt here.

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Monday, November 5, 2012

Activity Book for the Road

Kiwi Kids Road Atlas & Holiday Activity Book by Hema Maps

Do your kids get bored on long car or plane journeys? Do they constantly ask, 'Are we there, yet?'  Well, help is at hand.  Hema Maps have produced an activity book that has been thoughtfully made on plastic paper so children can draw their masterly creations with the attached whiteboard pen then wipe-off to start again.  There are instructions on how to read a map, puzzle games, mazes, maps so you can follow your own journey, join the dot activities  and lots of interesting facts such as, 'Did you know that the kiwi bird has nostrils at the end of its beak?' and questions like, 'Do you know the world's longest name?' which can easily be spotted on the map. They've even left space for children to draw their own squiggles, and make their own coat of arms.  There are several pages of activities listed in their areas - so kids can nag their parents to take them there too. 

An excellent resource for impatient kids and frazzled parents.  Could even be used in the junior and middle school classroom as a reward activity that is fun but also educational.  I wish this book came out when I was a child travelling in a caravan, or when I had my own kids and visited relatives around New Zealand.   Recommended for ages 4-8 years.

A4 size, paperback $12.99, ISBN:  978 1877 302 824

Buy it here or at your local book store.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Book Launch Coming Up Soon

Picture Book

Bernie And Flora by Annemie Berebrouckx, Book Island Ltd
Book Island Ltd are launching their first three titles, including this one, on Sunday 11th November at the Raumati South Memorial Hall, Kapiti Coast. Visit their website at for more details. Bernie and Flora is the first book in a series called The Adventures of Bernie and Flora, focusing on love and friendship. First published in 2011 in Belgium, and translated by Laura Watkinson, it is a gentle story about “saying it with flowers.” Flora the duck visits her friend Bernie the bear and is shocked to see that all the flowers have gone from his garden. She checks out the neighbours, to no avail. But when she sadly returns home – you guessed it – Bernie is waiting there in a room full of flowers. It’s smart-looking paperback production, with cover folds and illustrated end papers, and the illustrations are fresh and appealing. I enjoyed the strong images with their bright colours and lots of white space. There’s a free colouring-in sheet included, and an interesting page at the end provides information about the language of flowers (daffodils ask, “Please love me too”). The publishers say it’s suitable for 3+, and given the subject matter I imagine it will probably be more popular with girls than with boys.

ISBN 978 0 9876696 1 2 RRP 19.99 Pb
Illustrated Story Book

Sir Mouse to the Rescue by Dirk Nielandt and Marjolein Pottie, Book Island Ltd
This is another one of the titles being launched by Book Island Limited on Sunday 11th November. It was also originally published in Belgium and translated by Laura Watkinson. It’s an interesting choice for a new publisher, being aimed at newly-emergent readers – who are often still focused on educational series. It’s a good-looking book, hardback, with quality paper and illustrated end pages. It offers six short interconnected stories about a female mouse who is a knight (Sir Mouse), and a female dragon called Dragon. This unlikely pair are friends – Sir Mouse is the stroppy one and Dragon tends to be more conciliatory. The stories contain more conversation than action, though there’s lots of talk of chopping up and blood – and general waving of swords in the air. The illustrations are intriguing, created using collage and paper-cutting techniques. They look simple, but they reward close study, particularly the monotone paper-cut silhouettes.  Overall I’d say the book is definitely quirky, noticeably different to the usual style of early readers, and probably better enjoyed by girls than boys (because the two main characters are female). The recommended age level is 6+.

ISBN 978 0 9876696 2 9 RRP 24.99 Hb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman  

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Duck Creek Press Picture Book

Big Mac by Karen Lane, illus. Samantha Lane, Duck Creek Press
An appealing first book by this mother and daughter pair. I always tell writing students not to submit artwork to a publisher along with their picture book texts – but every rule can be broken, and here’s an example. Samantha Lane’s colourful and minimalist illustrations add a distinct charm to the story. Readers will be fascinated to learn that Big Mac is a real cat, homeless and hungry when he was rescued from a MacDonalds’ carpark. The story recounted in this book is based on hard experience when the author was house-sitting for her sister. Big Mac likes to get up early for his breakfast, so he starts his wake-up campaign at 4.30 am. Several disturbances later, Mrs Brown goes to the window to shut him up, and realises that it’s a beautiful morning and she should be enjoying it (and feeding the cat). The illustrations are enlivened by the portrayals of the big, fat, smiling ginger cat – he will appeal to cat-lovers everywhere. This would be great fun to read to a group in a pre-school setting or in the new entrants’ classes. Note that it’s hardback, and is a top-quality production.

ISBN 978 1 877378 73 7 RRP $29.99 Hb

Friday, November 2, 2012

Children's E-book for 7-9 year olds

Milly and the Chittens by Julie Scott (published by Pear Jam Books)

Milly and the Chittens
Milly McGinty is the first to say she is not bedroom-proud. There's dirty clothes, rotting potatoes, chip packets and discarded toys on the floor. Milly soon discovers that under the chaos is hiding an even bigger surprise: a trio of mysterious creatures. The half-kitten, half-chick fluffies are so strange she's not even sure they're real. She nicknames them the chittens and tries to rear them without her mum knowing at first, and other people who might wish to harm them. Milly realises it is not easy hiding chittens when they're feisty and full of mischief but soon finds out there's an extra bonus looking after chittens.
A story about believing in yourself and persevering with your dreams. A delightful chapter book for 7-9 year olds.  Young girls will fall in love with the chittens, chuckle with the humour and want to keep reading until the end to see how Milly solves the problems.

Julie Scott has been writing for most of her life. She has a collection of degrees from various universities, Julie Scottincluding a Ph.D. in Vision Science and a Master of Creative Writing. She lives in a very messy house with her husband, three kids and an excessively bouncy Irish terrier called Finn. But, unfortunately, no chittens.
Read an excerpt here.
For sale as an e-book for Kindle and other e-readers for $3.99 here, and for sale as a paperback at all good stores for $19.99 or buy online here.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Roger Hall Play for Kids

The Three Little Pigs by Roger Hall, illustrated by Errol McLeary (Scholastic)

The Three Little Pigs is a story and play in one book.  Roger Hall takes a well-known fairytale and modernises it for today's kids.  The three little pigs are lazy little sods.  They expect their mother to do everything for them. However, mum is fed-up - she threatens them if they don't help she'll turf them out. They laugh. But the next day when they go to turn on the TV they find it gone - they sob their hearts out. Their mother then kicks them out.  Of course, you can guess who is laying in wait for them and the huffing and puffing scenario that plays out, with a little twist.

Once you've read the story, kids can then act it out.  Teachers will love this resource. Kids can understand the text first by reading the story, then perform it as a play.  I imagine many school assemblies will be featuring The Three Little Pigs. Kids will also enjoy it, as the humour and language is aimed right at their age level.  The cartoon artwork enhances it further.

Roger Hall is one of New Zealand's most successful playwrights. He has also written scripts for radio and television, and for children. His plays have toured widely and have been performed at international venues and won awards.  This is his second book for Scholastic (My Aunt Mary Went Shopping).

New Zealand born illustrator Errol McLeary now lives on the Gold Coast where his zany sense of humour continues to bring his illustrations to life.