Monday, December 22, 2014

An assortment of books for the holidays

Doodle Bug by Bruce Potter (Draconis Publishing)

Bruce Potter lets his pen take over his imagination and doodles creative characters and scenes in this picture book for children. There's a little story to complement the pictures about Doodle Bug walking through the doodles and finding all sorts of characters - it encourages children to find him in the pictures.

The illustrations are a mix of pencil drawing and computer art with black and white, and colour illustrations. At the back of the book, Bruce shares where he got the inspiration for the book. He says that he has always loved doodling and finds it helps him think more clearly and often that is when he creates something new. He encourages children to do the same.

When Bruce gives talks to schools he draws the doodles in front of the kids; first asking what they'd like to see. Bruce can draw anything.  Kids get so excited they yell it out when they've found Doodle Bug.

A fun book for 3-6 year olds. Could be used in the Junior school art programme to encourage children to doodle and create characters from their imagination.

Hear Bruce sing the Doodle Bug song:

ISBN: 978 0 473 28113 7
RRP $25.00
Bruce has just released an e-book version too.
To find details go to his website:

The Bumper Book of New Zealand Wildlife: to read, colour and keep by Dave Gunson (New Holland Publishers)

Dave has collected 90 wildlife species he's included in the New Zealand Birds, Garden, Shore and Sea Life Books into one bumper edition. You'll find birds, fish, insects, and marine life. Kids can draw them; noting their colours from the colour editions also in the book, then pull them out and hang them on the wall or fridge. Teachers could use them as templates for their Junior classes.  Also included are facts about the featured animals.

Will be useful for the holidays, as it will keep kids occupied and also increase their wildlife knowledge of New Zealand species.

Dave Gunson is a prolific writer and illustrator of children's books. He's written seven titles in the 'All About' series, four board books for young children, and written and illustrated many picture books and activity books.

ISBN: 978 1 86966 427 5
RRP: 19.99

No cover available at time of writing blog.

The Story of a New Zealand Truck Driver by Mary Kelleher, music by David Parker

For something a bit unusual (in a delightful way) and on subjects little boys are bound to what to know more about ... have a look at the this book.  For starters it's a fold-out mural book that you can hang on a wall or sit on a table.  The artist has created the pictures from a collage of raw materials such as sacking, felt, buttons, string, photographs and material. (I hope she holds an exhibition one day so we can see the originals!) The story is embroidered onto woven material and are snatches of conversations between the truck driver and the people he meets. If you play the CD these words have been transformed into a song from the tune 'Baa Baa Black Sheep'. On the other side of the mural are fact boxes about the journey Truck driver Bertie Williams has when he travels over the hills and valleys of Banks Peninsula from 1920 to 1960. Kids will learn about wool bales, cocksfoot, Indian motor cycle and Side car race, vehicle author licences, snow blizzards, kerosene, and the hills of Bank Pensinsula. On the back page is a map of the journey and the CD.  Other books in the series include 'The Mill is Kaiapoi' with more to come. Go to to find out more and see their other murals.

After reading the book, teachers could encourage children to make a class mural about the history of their area.  A great resource for schools when studying local history.

ISBN: 978-0-473-28703-0 
RRP $39.99

Release the Beast by Romy Sai Zunde, illustrated by Cinzah Merkens (Beatnik Publishing)

A little boy is feeling naughty and unleashes his inner beast. 

"When I get mad, the beast boils in my bones. He stomps in my feet and roars in my mouth. He does anything he wants, and no one can stop him, not even mummy. He can make anything he dreams happen, and the beast never, ever gets into trouble."

When baby wants to play with the blocks the inner beast stomps and kicks down the blocks and shuts mummy in a box and eats baby Noah for breakfast.When his father tells him to hurry up, again his inner beast wakes up. Same when he's told to eat up all his vegetables, and go for a bath. His inner beast does whatever he wants. Or does he?

Read this delightful story with clever artwork - stylised in mix of black ink pen and water colour paint - about how kids and grown-ups can feel rage and can express those feelings through imagination rather than carrying it out. Kindergarten and Junior Primary teachers could read the story and use it as an introduction to a unit about feelings and anger management.  The book will let children know that anger is normal; adults and kids feel it too.

"A fun and quirky reminder that there's a beast in all of us - and why wouldn't he come out when you've been told to do something you don't want to do again! Being able to recognise your frustration for what it is, is what counts.'  Karyn Henger, Editor, Little Treasures Magazine

ISBN: 978-0-9922648-1-9
RRP $24.99

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Three Picture Books for the Christmas Tree

Go Home Flash by Ruth Paul, Scholastic NZ

I loved Bad Dog Flash, and this sequel is just as much fun. Ruth Paul uses minimal text to convey the feelings of the little dog, cleverly including rhyme and repetition. Here’s an example: “Sniff smell, find smell, strong smell, p-o-n-g smell! Wrong smell?” The story is simple – Flash wants to go out and run and play, but every time he does someone says, “Go home, Flash!” The pencil and watercolour illustrations are light and bright with plenty of white space, and Flash is particularly appealing with his black button eyes, cheeky grin, and puppy-fuzz fur. The simplicity of the words and the uncluttered illustrations make this book suitable for both one-to-one sharing and reading aloud to a group in a pre-school centre. Recommended.

ISBN 978 1 77543 245 6 RRP $19 Pb
Kakapo Dance by Helen Taylor, Penguin NZ

Helen Taylor’s distinctive artwork is the first thing to catch the eye, with the brilliant green kakapo staring beadily from the front cover. The inside illustrations offer excellent renditions of New Zealand native birds in all their colourful splendour – bellbird, kereru, whio, pukeko, and so on. The story uses accumulated verse and onomatopoeia to compare the birds’ movements and songs with kakapo’s thudding and booming. This book has uses over and above the standard reading aloud situation, especially for parents and teachers of pre-schoolers. Children can be encouraged to join in with the chorus and make noises to match the birds’ songs; adventurous adults can encourage children to imitate the movements of the birds – hopping, gliding, waddling, etc. The book will also be useful as a school resource to support the study of New Zealand native birds.

ISBN 978 0 143 50601 0 RRP $19.99 Pb

 My Aunt Mary Went Shopping by Roger Hall, illus. Daron Parton, Scholastic NZ

This is another entertaining text using accumulated verse and rhyme to encourage preschool children to join in and have fun with words – and it’s an old favourite. It was originally published in 1991. Here’s an example of the text format: “My Aunt Mary went shopping and she bought a giraffe, a scarf for the giraffe, a goat, and a coat for the goat.”  And so on. The unlikely pairings of animals and gifts allows the illustrator to come up with some hilarious pictures. Try to imagine pigs in wigs… The style is quirky, the colours are smooth and bright, and children should enjoy the way-out cartoon animals.

ISBN 978 1 77543 215 9 RRP $19.50 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Librarian publishes two children's books

Motiti Blue and the oil spill by Debbie McCauley (Mauao Publishing)

There have been several educational articles in school journals about the Rena disaster but this is the first children's book that is related to the subject. Debbie has cleverly told the story from the perspective of Motiti Blue - a little blue penguin. When the container ship called Rena becomes stuck on the Astrolabe Reef Motiti Blue had been diving deep for his dinner. When he swam upwards "he found himself in the middle of a black sticky ocean". We're also introduced to a Kaumatua who watches silently; tears of sadness rolling down his face, as he looks at the sticky goo. He then sees something move on a rock - it's Motiti Blue. Find out how he rescues the blue penguin and Motiti's road to recovery.

Written alongside the creative non-fiction story is the story told in Maori (in italics so you're alerted it's not part of the story).  On each double page spread there are also text boxes which give more information about what is happening. For example, on page 15 we find a timeline of what the National Oiled Wildlife Response team do to help the oily wildlife; on page 16 there's a diagram showing how the oil spill affects penguins; on page 20 we find out what they feed the little blue penguins.

On each page there are vibrant large and small photographs. At the back of the book is a timeline of the Rena disaster, a large map showing what parts of the coastline was affected, and a diagram showing how the Rena grounded onto the reef. On page 32 there are extra penguin facts, and a text box on how you can help. Use your q-code finder at the back of the book to go straight to the website.

The front cover artwork - understated but striking - was created shortly after the accident by Elliot Mason. The endpapers show 365 little blue penguins that were returned to the wild.

This book is going to be a very useful resource for the classroom. Social Studies teachers could use it when studying 'disasters' and Science teachers could use the book when looking at the affects of oil spills on wildlife. Children will want to read it for enjoyment too. Young kids could have the story read to them or read it themselves. Older children will enjoy reading the extra facts. It could be used in kura kaupapa schools too, as it has Maori translations on each page.  Tamati Waaka translated the story into Te Reo Maori.

A well thought out book that is packed with lots of interesting facts. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 978-0-473-26869-5
RRP $28.95 (hardback)

Taratoa and the code of conduct by Debbie McCauley, illustrated by Sophie McCauley

Prior to a battle in 1864 between Tauranga Maori and British, a young Maori leader wrote a Code a Conduct for the battle. He wished that mercy be shown to those wounded during the fighting, that unarmed women and children be not harmed; along with two other rules. Find out who won the battle and whether they stayed true to the Code of Conduct. Read how a similar code of conduct was later signed at the Geneva Convention. 

As well as reading about this important piece of history, young readers will find out about other famous peace keepers around the world.

Each double page spread has the creative non-fiction story told in English and Maori. Each page also has several other fact boxes and a central illustration. A Q-code will take you straight to a webpage that tells you more about the book and extra information about the topic. The artwork was painted by 15 year old Sophie, the translation by Tamati Waaka, and Sarah Elworthy designed the book.

Social Studies teachers could use the book when studying peace keepers, and the history of New Zealand. Kura Kaupapa schools will find it a handy te reo resource.

ISBN: 978-0-473-26895-4
RRP $24.95 (hardback)

Find both books at the following companies: Academy Book Company, Arts Centre Bookshop, Books A Plenty, McLeods Booksellers, Paper Plus Blenheim, Tauranga City Library, Total Library Solutions, Tourism Bay of Plenty, Trade Me, Wheelers Books.

Debbie McCauley also wrote 'Motiti Blue and the oil Spill' and when she isn't writing children's books she works as a librarian at Tauranga City Library.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Two new non-fiction titles from New Holland Books

Playing Rugby League with Benji Marshall, co-written with Lynn McConnell (New Holland)

Benji Marshall shares rugby league tips and lessons in this 206 page book filled with description, photographs and quotes. Benji speaks directly to his audience of 10-18 year old boys (and adult rugby enthusiasts) in a conversation tone inspiring teenagers how to improve their game and also get the most out of their life. For all rugby enthusiasts and fans of Benji Marshall at the back is a description of Benji's 10 favourite games. An example of subjects covered include: the object of the game; how to pass, kick, goal-kick, tackle; and captaincy, leadership and coaching; fitness; and the right approach to league.

The book would appeal to rugby enthusiasts who also enjoy reading. However, even if they aren't readers you can tell your rugby fan the great thing about non-fiction is you can start anywhere in the book, where you want and just dip in and out whenever you want.

It's more than a how-to book about rugby it is also Benji sharing his knowledge and wisdom about growing up as a male in New Zealand, how to overcome mistakes and struggles, and to rise to be the sports person you want to be. Also recommended for High school and Intermediate school libraries.

Benji Marshall is a professional rugby league footballer currently with the St George Illawarra Dragons and ex-captain of the New Zealand national team - the Kiwis. 

Co-writer Lynn McConnell is a freelance writer/editor at NZ Sport Daily with 14 years of internet sport journalism, and 27 years of newspaper journalism, and author of over 15 books for adults.

ISBN: 9781742574387
RRP $34.99

For younger children ...

The New Zealand Nature Activity Book by Dave Gunson (New Holland)

An activity book that parents will want to buy for their bored 6 -12 year olds in several weeks time. It's got quizzes, activities, cut-out masks and mobiles, science experiments, spot the bugs, book plates, mazes, craft activities and lots more. Kids could take it away on holiday or use it on wet inside days at home (or the caravan/tent/bach) or do the activities outside in the sunshine.

For the parents - kids will learn scientific terms and get to know place names, and names of bugs while they're having fun; without even realising they're learning something.

The book follows on from the 'The New Zealand Wildlife Activity Book' by popular illustrator Dave Gunson. Dave has written and illustrated the 'All About' series which includes Birds, Insects, Plants, Seashore, Sea Life, Garden Wildlife; as well as the 'Read, Colour and Keep' colouring-in books; the encyclopaedic 'Big Book of New Zealand Wildlife'; and even board books for the very young.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Books by Nicholas Rumble

Kaki: A living Treasure by Nicholas Rumble

Kaki and his friend are minding their own business when Poaka comes along and threatens them with 'nasty words'.  Tara Piroe sticks up for Kaki and gets his revenge on Poaka. Will Poaka learn his lesson?

Sam's First Swim: A photographic adventure by Nicholas Rumble

Sam's hungry but his mum just wants to sleep. He dives off the rocks but he can't swim in the rough waters. Will he drown or will a friend come to his rescue?

Kim the Greedy Kingfisher: A photographic adventure by Nicholas Rumble

Emma the egret flies to New Zealand and is happily fishing in a swamp when along comes Kim the kingfisher, who snatches Emma's fish out of her mouth. Penny the pukeko is not impressed and has words with Kim. Will Kim learn to share?

Published by Nicholas Rumble under the imprint Beautifully Brilliant Books (I might add you've got to have a lot of confidence to call your company that name). The stand-out feature of the books is the photography; the images are close-ups of rare birds in nature. Nicholas crawls through streams and waits long hours - often under camouflage netting - to capture the right pictures. They are stunning photographs.

Nicholas combines his love of photography with a desire to teach children the skills of: perseverance, sharing, compassion, anti-bullying, and following your dreams. The stories are fictional with a moral lesson. Other books in the series include: Sheer luck: the Junior Detective; Mr Penguin and the rainbow stone; A beautiful song; Finding Dottie the Dotterel.  Could be read to, with or by 5-7 year old children.

ISBN: 978-0-473-21830-0
RRP $14.99 or buy the set for $79.99 with free shipping
Buy direct from his website:

Friday, November 14, 2014

Three environmental books for children

Operation Nest Egg Chick by Maria Gill, illustrated by Bruce Potter, designed by Heather Arnold

Deep down in a dark burrow
a father kiwi snorts and snuffles in his sleep.
Underneath him, a large creamy egg lies
snug and safe from pilfering predators.

Soon the kiwi chick hatches and has to fend for itself. Will it meet a fateful end or will the kiwi chick become part of the Operation Nest Egg programme? A creative non-fiction story about two kiwi chicks; one that becomes part of the Operation Nest Egg programme and the other ... you'll have to read it to find out. Each page includes photographs and text boxes about how kiwi are being saved.

The story has been written to appeal to young children with a story and for older children who want to know more with fact boxes.

Bruce Potter has drawn his illustrations on the computer using a mix of photographs and cartoon-like figures.  When asked why he drew the kiwi with large eyes, Bruce said he wanted children to be empathetic with the kiwi.

Heather Arnold and Maria Gill have included a video and photographs of kiwi releases Maria has organised for the Department of Conservation on Motuora Island:

Anne Whalley in Magpies magazine said: "Operation Nest Egg is a perfect balance of picture book and nonfiction. The narrative reads aloud well, introducing young readers to the life of young kiwi and the dangers they face... Although I found the eyes of the caricature kiwi and some predators somewhat manic in appearance, Bruce Potter's illustrations are well crafted and add atmosphere to the 'story'. Highly recommended."

Rangitoto by Maria Gill, illustrated and designed by Heather Arnold

In the middle of the Hauraki Gulf bubbles begin to appear. Soon there are explosions and fire fountains. Maori on Motutapu and the mainland watch in awe, as a volcano forms in front of them. This is a creative non-fiction story about the birth of Rangitoto and what happens when humans interact with the island.

Along with the creative non-fiction story are fact boxes, diagrams, and glossary boxes to help the emerging reader become familiar with volcano facts and terms.  The story can be read to or by younger children of 5-7 year olds, and older children 8-12 years old can read the accompanying facts.  This book is very useful after visiting Rangitoto Island to satisfy the curiosity of young minds and very helpful for volcano studies.

Rangitoto was originally published in 2009 with Penguin New Zealand. It was shortlisted for the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards and was reprinted twice.  In 2013, the book was updated and made into a digital book with Pixel Book.  In October 2014, it was republished under the imprint Long White Cloud Books. It's bigger, it's been updated, and it has some different design features.  You'll notice that the white space has gone and the narrative now merges more with the artwork. Scientific knowledge about Rangitoto had advanced since the book had originally been published and  therefore Heather Arnold has updated several of the diagrams. 

Associate Professor Ian Smith from the University of Auckland fact-checked the book. Emeritus Professor Kenneth D. Collerson PhD, FAusIMM endorsed the book:

It is a richly annotated book that contains an excellent glossary of geological terms about volcanoes. Facts about volcanoes, the interior of the Earth and the formation of magmas, although described in lay terms, are nevertheless scientifically sound.
I believe that Rangitoto is an excellent educational book that could be used as a resource by teachers in elementary schools.
As an earth scientist, I am happy to fully endorse this book for its geological content. It makes great reading, even for a professional geologist.

See links and teaching resources here.

Draw New Zealand Birds by Heather Arnold (DragonSauce Books)

Draw New Zealand Birds shows children and adults how to draw eight different native birds in pencil, gesso, and coloured pencil.  You will learn what equipment to use, how to use it, and also learn interesting facts about each of the native birds.  Heather shows how to draw each bird step-by-step and also how to advance some of the pictures into coloured artwork.

The book was originally published by Reed Publishing in 2007 and reprinted several times. It won the LIANZA Esther Glen award and was a 2008 Storylines Notable Book (non-fiction category).

It has been republished under the Dragonsauce Book imprint.

Reviewers in the past have said:

It is great to see rel­ev­ant draw­ing sub­jects; the New Zealand Birds. This lovely book encour­ages appre­ci­ation and facil­it­ates the need to look in detail and provides a for­mula to ensure success.
Good Teacher, 2007

This intriguing book, by Heather Arnold, (published by Reed, 2007) showing how to draw nine of New Zealand’s native birds will captivate any budding young artist. Each bird is introduced by describing where it lives, its feeding and breeding activities.National Library, 2007 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

'A Treasury of New Zealand Poems for Children' to treasure

I'm away in Australia for two weeks researching an ANZAC book from this Sunday so will put up a few reviews before I go - to make up for the time lost. Here's one that you'll want to get for your kids or classroom for Christmas.

A Treasury of New Zealand Poems for Children edited by Paula Green, illustrated by Jenny Cooper (Random House)

Paula Green has been busy - this is her second book of poetry this year!  Paula also started a poetry blog for children and toured around the country giving performances with other poets who featured in A Treasury of New Zealand Poems. She's a woman on a mission to promote poetry in this country! She's doing a great job.

Back to the book ... Wow, this book sure is a treasure. Jenny Cooper's colourful and humorous illustrations adorn every page.  Each poem has its own page (some several pages; depending on how long it is). You'll find poems from well-known adult poets such as James K. Baxter, Peter Bland, Jenny Bornholdt, Jacqueline Crompton Ottaway, Brian Turner, Siobhan Harvey, Apirana Taylor, Sam Hunt, Glen Colquhoin, Hone Tuwhare, Apirana Taylor, Elizabeth Smither and Lauris Edmond; and children's poets such as James Norcliffe, Elena de Roo, Paula Green ;  and well known children's authors such as Margaret Mahy, Joy Cowley, Tessa Duder, David Hill, Elizabeth Pulford, John Parker, Kyle Mewburn, Melinda Szymanik, Peter Millett, Fifi Colston, Melanie Drewery; and adult authors such as Bill Manhire, C.K. Stead, Emma Neale, Janet Frame, Albert Wendt; and even some from children such as 8 year old Laura Ranger and Sofia Pawley, 10 year old Adam Scammell, and 12 year old Caleb Stewart; and more. Some were written long ago, some were published in school journals, and some were written especially for this Treasury.

There's poems about animals and aliens, homework and hangi, books and birthdays, love and libraries, weather and washing, plants and pets, food and family, computers and creatures - such a diverse range of topics sure to please every reader.

This is a perfect book for grandparents to buy for their mokopuna; kids will want to keep it to give to their children (alongside Margaret Mahy's collection of poems in 'The Magical Verse of Margaret Mahy: The Word Witch). And if you want children in your classroom to love poetry then this book will have the kids arguing over whose turn it is to read it next.

ISBN: 978-1-77553-356-6 RRP $37.99

Paula's earlier poetry book was:

The Letter Box Cat and Other Poems (Scholastic)

The Letter Box Cat and Other Poems released in August, 2014, illustrated by Myles Lawford, contains Paula's poems, as well as poems written by children. The book has a Dr Seuss feel to it with zany lyrics and shape (also called concrete) poems. There are poems about cats, dogs, birds and snails. Some have made-up words and some just look great.

Myles illustrations are in striking red drawn on the computer. I love the cover! His artwork has featured in two other books published by Scholastic: The 12 Days of Kiwi Christmas and the humorous Doggy Ditties from A to A.

There haven't been many poetry books published in the past - Paula is making sure poetry comes back in fashion! This is Paula's seventh (the eighth is above) book. Her other books include: children's poetry books 'Flamingo Bendalingo' and 'Macaroni Moon' and adult poetry collections '99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry' and 'Dear Heart: 150 New Zealand Love Poems'; a picture book 'Aunt Concertina and her niece' and a junior chapter book 'The Terrible Night'.

Another poetry book you'll want for your classroom library. Great for getting kids interested in writing shape poems.

RRP $12

Three excellent anthologies for children

The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales, edited by Peter Friend, Eileen Mueller, and A.J. Ponder, illus. Geoff Popham, Phantom Feather Press (

Short story anthologies for children are rare beasts in New Zealand these days, so congratulations to the team who put this one together. With a bright, attractive cover, this book offers 31 stories with a Christmas theme written by authors ranging from some very well-known names (such as David Hill and Joy Cowley) to writers who are still working on getting that first novel published. As always with an anthology it’s a real pot-pourri of stories with something for everyone – humour, fantasy, animals, and family-themed stories being the favourites. There’s a moving retelling of the nativity story; several funny tales about Santa and his helpers; a handful of spooky stories with ghosts and other nasties; and a whole bunch of plots revolving round Christmas trees, fairies, and presents. My favourite is Darian Smith’s Albert and the Christmas Fairy. Greedy Albert puts his name on the labels of all the presents under the tree – but someone magical is watching him and he learns his lesson the hard way…

Some of the stories have a more advanced style and/or theme, so I’d recommend this book for children of about 8 to 12, both girls and boys. It’s a good holiday read that deserves a place under the Christmas tree… Sales will support the Muscular Dystrophy Association of NZ. It’s available from good New Zealand bookshops and from Amazon, and is also published as an e-book.

ISBN 978 0 9941155 0 8 $22 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

You Tube Book Trailer here

Other Anthologies that have been published this year include:

New Zealand Bedtime Treasury

Find much-loved stories and poems by New Zealand's well-known authors and illustrators. Delve between the covers to find classic stories by Lynley Dodd, Bob Darroch, Margaret Mahy, Gwenda Turner, Patricia Grace, Pamela Allen and Peter Gossage; charming illustrations by Robyn Belton, Carl Bland, Jenny Williams, Robyn Kahukiwa and Gabriella Klepatski; plus gentle bedtime poems from James K. Baxter, Peter Bland, Ruth Dallas, Joy Cowley, Katherine Mansfield and Rosalyn Wyatt.

ISBN: 9780143308379 $45 Hb

Stories for 6 Year Olds

Especially chosen for 6 year olds, this is a light and fun collection of excellent children's stories. They are written by some of New Zealand's leading writers for children such as Margaret Mahy, David Hill and Barbara Else, as well as other seasoned and up-and-coming writers. These stories are perfect to read aloud, plus they are also great for those children who reading on their own. With a variety of topics and an emphasis on humour, this will become a much-loved collection for New Zealand children as well as those from further afield.

ISBN:  9781775536123  $19.99 Pb

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Book Island publishes two new gorgeous picture books

The Big Question by Leen Van Den Berg and Kaatje Vermeire (Book Island)

Elephant has a difficult question - he needs help to answer it. The animals gather at the annual meeting to find an answer for: "How do you know when you love someone?" Ant has the very important job of presiding over the meeting - first time ever, and believes it is up to him to keep the meeting moving along and write down all the suggestions. A wide collection of beings, for example: mouse, Snow White, tramp, explorer, Polar Bear, Grandma, a little girl and non-beings such as: Stone, Sea, Stars etc, say what love means to them. Mouse says it is as big and strong as an elephant. Snow White says it helps you forget about all your troubles. Cloud says you know when you're always floating in the same direction. Lovely poignant comments are said by all those gathered. When the meeting ends, everyone goes home feeling better than when they came; except for Ant who knows he is missing something. 

This book and its predecessor: 'Maia and what matters' by Tine Mortier but the same illustrator Kaatje Vermeire - would have to be the two most beautiful books you'll ever come across.  They are visually stunning and their stories can be read on two levels: for the young it is about what is happening; for older kids or kids with enquiring minds it'll keep them thinking and asking questions for hours, perhaps even days, later.

I'd use this book in the classroom and home to start children talking about relationships and the different forms of love: love of a parent, love you have for an animal, love for a friend etc. Children will surprise you (and make you laugh) with their comments. Also encourage children to think about why the author included some of the characters such as Snow White, the inanimate objects and also the girl and Grandma from 'Maia and what matters'.

A sophisticated picture book that ponders a big question. A must-buy for every school and home library. Also would make a great present at end-of-year prize-giving events.

Leen van den Berg is the daughter of a Belgian publisher. She writes mainly for children, while teaching creative writing in Flanders and the Netherlands.

Flemish illustrator Kaatje Vermeire uses an experimental approach to printmaking. She combines etching techniques with found materials such as lace, string and wire. With each new work she finds subtle and delicate ways to portray difficult subject matter.

Published in New Zealand by Book Island, translated by David Colmer, edited by Frith Williams, and typeset by Jo Houvenaghel (the Europeans are very creative with their type-set). The Flemish Literature Fund helped make publication of this book possible.

ISBN: 978 0 994 1098 42
RRP $29.99 hardback

You can buy at all good bookshops (especially Children's Bookshops) but if they don't have it buy direct at

For something completely different but by the same publisher:

Follow the Firefly by Bernardo Carvalho (Book Island)

There have been picture books with no words before but I haven't come across one that has two stories - one that you read from the front, the other you read starting from the back. It is cleverly done; I had to look twice before I realised what was happening in the back-story.  If you start at the front you'll read (view) a story about a firefly flying through a forest to a city to help solve a problem. Animals point the way along the journey. When you've finished that story go the back and read 'Run, Rabbit, Run'. A white rabbit escapes from a cage during an accident. A dog chases it through the forest ... Read it to find out what happens when it catches up with the rabbit.

A picture book that children will pick up and flick pages back and forth to read/view the story many times. Every time you look at it you'll discover something in the pictures you hadn't noticed before. Bernardo has used water colour paints in a child-like style.

Bernardo Carvalho is one of the founding illustrators of Portuguese publishing house Planeta Tangerina which was the recipient of the Best European Children’s Publisher Award at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in 2012.

ISBN: 978 0 9941098 2 8
RRP $19.99 paperback

You can buy at all good bookshops (especially Children's Bookshops) but if they don't have it buy direct at

Friday, November 7, 2014

Humorous Illustrated chapter books for little girls

Victoria M. Azaro wrote the Saffron series for Penguin Books NZ. Just recently she has combined the three books into one and called it 'Super Saffron'. Also, Saffron's sister Sage wanted to have her own book and Victoria relented and wrote one for her too. Read about these two excellent books below.

Sage: I am the middle sister by Victoria M. Azaro (W4 Publishing)

You'll find more of the quirky hilarious adventures that Saffron has but Sage's adventures centre around her family and school. Sage hasn't long started school and the big excitement is bringing home the class teddy. Sage is quite a bright 5 year old and not one to let her big sister Saffron get one over her. Find out how she solves a tricky wee problem ...

Victoria has written the illustrated chapter book for 5-7
year olds. Each page has black and white illustrations and big print. Little girls are going to thoroughly enjoy reading the book and many girls can identify what it is like to have an older sibling.  Teachers can use the book in their Health programme to talk about how to solve problems, responsibility and sibling rivalry.

Paperback: $16.00
ISBN: 978-0-473-28953-9

Super Saffron by Victoria M. Azaro (W4 Publishing)

Older sister Saffron is so excellent at solving problems ... well, in her mind she is but in actuality everything she does ends in disaster. While on trips abroad in America, Spain, South America and France with her business dad and meditating mum, annoying younger sister Sage, and baby; Saffron has to navigate big cities, deal with a nudist beach, find a toilet, and speak different languages. This results in Saffron creating chaos in every situation she finds herself in. Young girls will enjoy reading the very funny adventures of Saffron and her family.

Teachers could use the book in their Health programme to talk about cultural diversity; what it feels like to be a minority, learning a new language, sibling rivalry, and problem solving. The books makes an excellent read aloud; and though boys wouldn't pick the book up themselves they will definitely enjoy hearing the story read aloud to them.

Combines books 1 - 3 in one super edition!

Paperback: $24.99
ISBN:  978-0-473-27066-7
Buy from all good bookshops (Paper Plus, Indie stores, Children's bookshops) and Victoria's website:

How does the giraffe get to work?

How Does the Giraffe Get to Work? By Christopher Llewelyn and Scott Tulloch, Scholastic NZ

Congratulations to Christopher Llewelyn on his first picture book with Scholastic – he starts off with one imaginative concept (animals only work at the zoo, not live there) and develops it into a riotous poem which must have delighted (and challenged) even this experienced illustrator. The excellent rhyming text introduces us to a myriad of animals making their way to work in the morning, using an extraordinary variety of methods. Imagine a lion doing a crossword on the bus, an emu jogging along the footpath, the wolf family quarrelling in the train carriage, a squirrel riding a motorbike, and a howler monkey hanging from the handrail in the metro… and you’ll get the idea. The pencil and watercolour illustrations of the animals are stunning – and I love the subtle interactions between the human commuters and the animals. I also love the sub-textual story of the poor sloth trying to get to work – adult readers can have fun nudging children into spotting the sloth in the illustrations. This book will be very popular as a read-aloud both at home and at pre-school and early primary levels; smart teachers will also use it as a resource for classroom studies of animals. Recommended.

ISBN 978 1 77543 246 3 $19.50 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman     
Scott Tulloch is the illustrator of the recent Scholastic titles Square Eyes, My Daddy Ate an Apple, On the Road to Tuapeka, Tom and the Dragon, and the Joy Cowley award winner Wooden Arms
Scott also wrote and illustrated the hilarious I Am Not a Worm!, and The Silly Goat Gruff.

Christopher Llewelyn was born in Wales, but now lives in Christchurch next to the beautiful Banks Peninsula. Chris is a natural storyteller and has enjoyed sharing his visions of the weird and wonderful with people since childhood. How Does the Giraffe Get to Work? is Chris’s first book with Scholastic NZ.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Time-slip away with Adele Broadbent

Trouble in Time by Adele Broadbent, Scholastic NZ

This is an exciting time-slip story in which 12-year-old Ben travels back in time to meet his great-grandfather in 1935. Ben is having a few problems – he doesn’t like his crotchety old great-grandfather coming to stay, and his best friend seems far too impressed by a new boy at school called Connor who’s got criminal tendencies. But one day Ben finds his great-grandfather, Charlie, sleeping like the dead, and when he touches him Ben zooms back to the unfamiliar and frightening world of 1935. It takes a while for him (and Charlie) to realise that Ben is travelling back in time via Charlie’s memories. Young Charlie and his friends are also having trouble with a mean schoolmate, and eventually everyone realises the bad guys in both time eras are related. How are Ben and Charlie going to stop Connor and his great-grandfather destroying something important and thus drastically changing the course of future events? The twin plot strands are nicely woven together, with the present-day and historical stories gripping the reader’s interest until they combine - and the problems are solved in both past and present. This would make an absorbing read for intermediate ages (especially boys) who like a comfortable blend of reality-based adventure with a light touch of fantasy.

Adele Broadbent's teen novel 'Too Many Secrets' was nominated for the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards in 2011 and 'Just Jack' was a finalist in the 2012 Awards. Adele has also written a number of chapter books and articles for the educational market. She lives in Napier with her husband and two teenage sons.
ISBN 978 1 77543 226 5 $19.50 Hb

Monday, October 27, 2014

A delightful new kiwi story

Kuwi's First Egg by Kat Merewether

Find out how Kuwi the Kiwi looks after her newly laid egg. She knits a scarf, sings a waiata and takes it out to play but Egg doesn’t seem too impressed. When the egg begins to crack Kuwi thinks she has not done a very good job  – what can she do?
Read this delightful imaginary story about a clueless kiwi looking after her egg.
Note, in real life the male kiwi incubates the egg - parents can start a discussion with them about that. Children will enjoy the pictures, as the burrow expands and new insects make their own little homes around it, and the little kiwi’s expressions are rather gorgeous. A book that will be asked to be read again and again.

Kat has illustrated many books for authors before but this is the first book she has written and illustrated and published herself. I spoke to Kat about her book and she said that her father had worked for the Department of Conservation for many years and now works as a volunteer at Maungatautari Reserve with Kiwi Conservation so she had talked a lot about the father/egg incubation. 
"In the story there is a bit of the background that I hoped parents might pick up on… Why is Kuwi alone? (maybe the father/mate has succumbed to a predator?).  That is why she doesn't know what to do with the egg either, as it is not in her nature to be the nurturer.  

I couldn't add the gatefold 'flaps' to the digital book, but on the back cover 'flap' it has facts about the brown kiwi and a link to the website to find out more about them.  On the website I have explained more about the background of the story and about the father being the caregiver in most scenarios.  I wanted to tie in the more factual and important side of Kiwi conservation with the fun/funny story that appeals to very young children." 

On Kat's website she says:
THE IDEA BEHIND Kuwi's First Egg.

I first came up with the idea behind Kuwi's First Egg when I was surviving through the perils of life with a newborn. I felt a little like we were learning to be parents through trial and error! I made mistakes, had to ask for help, and learned so much. Kuwi is me, and any parent who feels a little like they were thrown in the deep end (and totally clueless) when they became a parent.

I had 2 year old Willow and was pregnant with my third daughter Florence, when I actually put pen to paper to write and storyboard the book. I had been reading very basic and un-stimulating books to
Willow, aimed at her age group. I wanted to write something I could read to a child of that age, that
they would enjoy as much as the parent reading it.

In my research, I discovered that the male Kiwi typically cares for the Kiwi egg. I thought that was quite interesting, and so the character Kuwi, being female, turns that idea on its head. She is a confused first-time mother Kiwi, who has found herself alone with her new egg.  The Kiwi population is so fragile, I imagine Kiwi often lose their partners to predators.  And what would happen if a pregnant Kiwi lost her mate?

I added very basic Te Reo Māori words into the story, to introduce children to a little Te Reo at a young age. The story is simply written to suit the 1-5 year age group, but it has a broader appeal due to it's sense of humour and subtle iconic New Zealand feel.

RRP $19.99
Buy back order here
Due in all good book shops mid-November

Kat's website goes live this weekend:  

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Two Picture Books for Little Girls

Auntie Ellie’s Beach House by Raewyn Caisley, illus. Lisa Allen, Duck Creek Press

This gentle, thoughtful story will strike a chord with New Zealand families – many of us have fond memories of time spent at a bach or beach house somewhere on our beautiful coastline. Leyla loves spending her summer holidays at her aunt’s house – so when Aunt Ellie says the city is moving too close and she’s decided to sell up, Layla is devastated. But a big bonfire and a sparkling moonbeam painted on the sea manage to cheer her up. “The moon will always know where we are,” said Auntie Ellie. “No matter where we go or what we do…” The last double spread illustration leaves us in no doubt about the truth of this wisdom. The style of the illustrations, done in fine black pencil and watercolour, matches perfectly with the tone of the story. The pictures are soft, subtle and dreamy, with many painted in a range of sea colours – green, blue, turquoise, lavender. I see this book being enjoyed by girls of about four to seven – especially those who are celebrating Christmas at the seaside!

Hardback, ISBN 978-1-877378-95-9, RRP: $29.99
Paperback, ISBN 978-1-877378-96-6, RRP: $19.99

Bye! Bye! Bye! By Juliette MacIver, illus. Stephanie Junovich, Scholastic NZ

People who love Juliette MacIver’s Marmaduke Duck books (like me) will find this charming picture book is totally different. It will probably appeal more to the little girls in your family. Written in rhyming text with assonance and escalating repetition, the story uses a first-person point of view to show a child’s sadness at going on holiday and leaving her numerous pets behind. There’s a pleasant surprise for the narrator at the end – which is more like wish fulfilment than reality, so parents planning Christmas holidays may need to do a bit of explaining… The illustrator (twice short-listed for the Storylines Gavin Bishop Award) has produced lush, realistic illustrations using watercolour and watercolour pencils. Everything about the pictures is soft and gentle, with much use of calming white space. The publishers say the book is suitable for age three to seven - but I would tend to recommend it more for the younger end of the scale. Book-loving two-year-olds will enjoy it, and I think it will be especially useful in pre-school centres that include younger children.

ISBN 978 1 77543 225 8 $19.50 Pb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Saturday, October 18, 2014

First of the Christmas picture books

The Toy Fairy by Stephanie Thatcher, Duck Creek Press

My grandchildren thoroughly enjoyed Stephanie’s two previous picture books, Great Galloping Galoot and The Quiet Pirate. This story is a bit quieter and more contemplative than those two, and I have a sneaking suspicion it may appeal more to the (only) granddaughter because of the fairy aspect. Parents will have a secret chuckle to themselves because the plot begins with Joe “forgetting” to put away his toys at bedtime. He’s convinced Dad is removing the toys, despite Dad telling him they’ve been taken by the Toy Fairy. But when Joe lays a trap and stays awake, he ends up with a huge surprise. The Toy Fairy takes a lot more than just a few toys… There’s a handy little moral peeping through at the end of the story. Stephanie’s pencil and watercolour illustrations are done in calm muted colours that match the homely setting of    the story – and make it an excellent book for bedtime reading. However pre-school centres and early primary classes may find it useful as a “settle-down” read-aloud for groups. (Also available in hardback).
ISBN 978 1 877378 99 7

210 x 255, 32 pages
Hardback, ISBN 978-1-877378-98-0, RRP: $29.99
Paperback, ISBN 978-1-877378-99-7, RRP: $19.99
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Monday, October 13, 2014

Another great junior fiction book for boys

The Deadly Sky by David Hill, Penguin NZ

There’s always a lot to learn in David Hill’s books – I actually enjoy the information as much as the stories. This YA novel is set in 1974 and looks at French nuclear testing at Mururoa. I should remember many of the events described in the story – I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t until I read about them in this book. The story is written from the point of view of Darryl, who’s in the fourth form at school (Year10). He’s been watching some TV programmes about nuclear bombs and has managed to get himself thoroughly confused about the ethics of nuclear testing. His dilemma is temporarily put aside when he travels with his mother to a beautiful island called Mangareva in the same archipelago as Mururoa. But violent anti-nuclear protests in Tahiti increase his unease, especially when he meets some of the young people involved. The plot winds inexorably towards a situation where Darryl, his mother, and a planeload of people are put in extreme danger…

As with all of David’s books, the style is straightforward and easy to read, the characters are homely and believable, and the plot gallops along. It makes an excellent read for teenage boys – and I hope a few girls read it too. It’s also available as an e-book.

BTW, congratulations to Penguin NZ for the eye-catching cover, and for their brainwave of designing similar covers for David’s latest three books. They look like an unofficial series, and will hopefully encourage young readers to read them all.

ISBN 9780143308157 $19.99 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman     

Friday, October 3, 2014

A book to help you prepare for Halloweeen

Ghoulish Get-ups by Fifi Colston (Scholastic)

If you enjoyed Fifi Colston's last book 'Wearable Wonders' you'll be wanting this new book too.

Kids (and parents) are often invited to fancy dress birthday parties, school book week parades and Halloween trick or treating - all which require a costume. Most invitees approach them with trepidation - what to wear ... gasp! In the past, I took my children to The Warehouse for cheap costumes, or helped with rough get-ups that neither my children or I have been satisfied with. 

That's the beauty of this book - there's nothing expensive you need to buy. Fifi gives you tips on how to make 16 different outfits including elves, fairies, punk rockers, vampires, zombies, murderous butchers, aliens and creatures. If those costumes don't appeal Fifi shows you how to turn recycled objects such as egg cartons, paper bags, sheets, t-shirts, pants and tights into numerous outfits. She also gives tips on how to transform your face, hands, feet, ears, hair, and how to make wings, foundation, warts, boils, facial hair, guts and broken bones, wounds, stumps and bumps, and horns.  She even gives recipes for ghoulish food such as zombie fingers, and eyeballs.

It is written in an easy-to-read writing style, with colourful photographs, and designed (text boxes, captions, fonts and examples) to hook the intended audience in - children 8-14 years (though, parents will find it really helpful too). It also includes three pages on materials and techniques, and an index.

So the next time you get an invitation to a fancy dress, you can take a breath, sit down, and open 'Ghoulish Get-ups' and you'll find something that will suit, or it will inspire you and give you the tools to make your costume out of materials you have at home.

Fifi is well qualified to write such a book, she has been a finalist and award winner at Wearable Art competitions for over 18 years, and has worked in the film industry as a costumier and illustrator for Weta Workshop. She has written junior fiction novels and illustrated other people's books, and has been a long-standing presenter of arts and crafts on TVNZ's What Now and recently Good Morning. Her book 'Wearable Wonders' won the LIANZA Elsie Locke Award, was a finalist at the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards, and was awarded a Storylines Notable Book Award.
Ghoulish Get-ups is a must-have resource for families, and school libraries.

ISBN 9781775432470
RRP $19.00

Reviewed by Maria Gill


Thursday, September 25, 2014

A gorgeous lyrical tale

Singing Home the Whale by Mandy Hager (Random House)
Whenever a new Mandy Hager novel comes out I’m excited to read it – she never disappoints.  I also know my heart and soul is going to connect with whatever topic she is going to explore in her story. Like her journalist brother Nicky Hager, Mandy is a deep thinker and believes in standing up for issues that affect her; each book tackles a different theme. In her latest Mandy has cleverly interlaced with an excellent story the relationship between a sensitive teenager called Will and Min, a young orphaned orca, with the plight of orca around the world.
Will and Min tell their story in their own voice, every second chapter. Will is learning to trust again in a small town after an incident that has left him scarred. While out sailing he sings an operatic song and is so shocked when a dorsal fin glides past his yacht that he trips and falls overboard. Two lonely beings look into each eyes and connect; a bond so strong it lasts one of their lifetime. When Min’s life is threatened by a greedy businessman, Will fights to save Min. He cannot do it alone though – to be successful he needs the help of his whanau and more. Can he put his past behind him, and be strong enough for Min?

I highly recommend you read it to find out.  Be warned that you’ll need tissues on hand; at times my eyes watered so much I could barely read the text. You’ll also thoroughly enjoy the beautiful lyrical language Min uses when telling his story. It’s stunning; with use of alliteration, imagery, metaphors – and it’ll have you bonding with the little orca too.  I have to confess I was a little afraid of orca – I’d heard stories of them attacking humans and after all they do eat cute seals and penguins. But after reading a story written in the point of view of an orca (every second chapter) it has you falling deeply in love with them (or is that just me). However, I won’t be jumping off a boat to swim with them in a hurry – the message that they are wild creatures and give them space is tactfully given too.
A great conservation story for High School students to read for enjoyment, as well as explore issues around endangered species and what one person (with the help of their whanau) can do to help them; it is also about: healing; acceptance; and being okay with who you are. Adults will thoroughly enjoy it too. If you like a little romance there's some of that as well ...  An extraordinary tale that you will want to revisit again and again.

ISBN: 978-1-77553-657-4
RRP $19.99 also available as an e-book

Reviewed by Maria Gill

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Two new swash-buckling picture book adventures

Dragon Island by Martin Baynton, illus. Terri Rose Baynton, Scholastic NZ.

Martyn Baynton needs little introduction for those who have been around a while, but for newbies to the scene he’s the author of Jane and the Dragon and Fifty the Tractor, and the producer of the TV series The Wot-Wots. His daughter Terri Rose has also worked on The Wot-Wots and was shortlisted for the 2013 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards. This talented pair have produced a thoughtful picture book that will strike a chord with many teachers and parents. The partially-rhyming text introduces us to a dragon called Norman who tries to stop the other dragons from fighting and wrecking. He prefers to make useful things – but is ridiculed by the others for his peaceful activities. When he builds a hot-air balloon, wins the big race to Coconut Island, and is granted three wishes he asks for no fighting, no breaking, no burning. But do the other dragons take any notice…? It’s a slightly bittersweet ending that will generate discussion between adult and child. The delicately-coloured fine line and watercolour illustrations provide plenty of detail for study, and the dragons themselves are quite intriguing with their physiological hints of different animals and birds. This book will be popular with pre-school dragon-lovers, and can also be used as a resource for classroom studies of tolerance and socially-acceptable behaviour.

ISBN 978 1 77543 191 6 $19.50 Pb

Marmaduke Duck on the Wide Blue Seas by Juliette MacIver, illus. Sarah Davis, Scholastic NZ

This latest story about Marmaduke Duck and his friend Bernadette Bear is just as much fun as the first two (MD and the Marmalade Jam, and MD and Bernadette Bear). As always, the rhyming and the rhythm can’t be faulted, although they do demand a lot of stamina from the adult reader. Our intrepid duck decides to go to sea, so buys a galleon and outfits it with a motley crew (rat, dog, cat, llama, lamb, bull). But someone’s missing. Poor old Bernadette Bear is feeling lonely at home, so she sets off to find Marmaduke. While Marmaduke sails the seas - and ends up captured by the scary pirate gang calling themselves the Marmoset Monkeys and Orangutan Fang - Bernadette is slowly following his trail. Her quest is detailed in sub-pictures scattered throughout the main double-page spreads. Of course, Bernadette appears in the nick of time to save her friend from walking the plank...  The inventive, bouncy text is enhanced by Sarah Davis’s fabulous illustrations.  Children will love the rollicking shipboard scenes, but the stunning depiction of the arrival of the Marmoset Monkeys (all 52 of them!) will be the most popular of all. This book would be great fun for reading aloud to both small and large groups of children aged from 3 to 7 years. It is also available in hardback.

ISBN 978-1-77543-125-1 $19.50 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Two Fabulous Picture Books

Construction by Sally Sutton, ill. Brian Lovelock, Walker Books Australia
The long-awaited third picture book by this talented pair (after Roadworks and Demolition), this handsome hardback volume will be greeted with joy by children and parents alike. It’s the same format as the previous two: “Build the frame. Build the frame. Hammer all day long. Make the stairs and floors and walls. Big! Bang! Bong!” And what are the busy workmen creating? Why, a library, of course. Some Aucklanders will recognise the completed building as the flash Birkenhead Public Library. Brian Lovelock’s expansive illustrations (done with pigmented inks) are full of busyness and interesting construction features. You’ll find the traditional Facts page at the end that offers information about cranes, trucks and construction workers, and readers will also notice the endpapers with their photograph of assorted nuts (not edible). This is the kind of book that pre-schoolers will ask for repeatedly – because of the irresistible rhythm, the clever onomatopoeia, and the bright, spacious illustrations. Heartily recommended for pre-school centres and junior primary classes.

ISBN 978 1 922077 30 1 $29.99 Hb

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox, ill. Brian Floca, Schwarz and Wade Books (dist. Random House NZ)

This delightful and good-looking picture book is based on fact, set in Christchurch, and written and illustrated by Americans. I love it – but crikey, why wasn’t the story of Elizabeth the elephant seal turned into a book by a New Zealand author? Anyway, congratulations to the enterprising Lynne Cox for her excellent story (her first children’s book). She was walking on the banks of the Avon when she met two children who asked her if she was looking for Elizabeth. Once she was told that Elizabeth was an elephant seal who lived in the Avon river and liked to sunbathe on the nearby roads, Lynne knew she had a great story to tell. It doesn’t take much research to check Elizabeth’s history, and to realise that the book sticks closely to fact. Elizabeth lived in the Avon and Heathcote rivers from the late 70s till her death in 1985. She was hugely popular with the people of Christchurch.

The text of the book is straightforward, suitable for pre-schoolers and early school-age children. The illustrations are done in pen and ink and watercolour, using different perspectives to provide light, bright pictures featuring the smiling seal. The illustrator has done his homework too – I can’t fault his rendition of Christchurch in the 1970/80s.

My review copy is going to my two preschool grandchildren in Christchurch for Christmas. They’ll love it.

ISBN 978 0 375 85888 8 $29.99 Hb 
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman      

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Comprehensive conservation book for High school students and adults

Paradise Saved by Dave Butler, Tony Lindsay & Janet Hunt (Random House)

Janet Hunt is well known for her award winning books 'A Bird in the Hand', 'E2 Call Home' 'From Weta to Kauri' and 'Wetlands of New Zealand'. For this book she has collaborated with two other conservationists - Tony Lindsay and Dave Butler - to bring us the remarkable story of New Zealand's wildlife sanctuaries. 

I live near three wildlife sanctuaries: Tawharanui, Motuora Island and Little Barrier Island, of which two I've visited several times and I am involved with kiwi releases on Motuora Island every September - March over the last eight years so I was keen to see what the authors would write about these islands and other sanctuaries. I showed the local DOC (Warkworth) office the book and they oohed and aahed over it. They were pleased to see their work being recognised in a beautiful book.

The book starts when Aotearoa separated from Gondwana super-continent and became a natural lifeboat thereby creating a unique range of fauna and flora.

"If you wanted to establish the particular ecological features of New Zealand, you might start by casting adrift a piece of land carrying a small crew of plants and animals - with not a mammal to be seen. You would float it over hot-spots, generating volcanoes. More plants and animals would come aboard by flying, swimming or drifting alongside on ocean debris. Eventually you would anchor it at between 35 and 47 degrees south ..."

The three writers use this storytelling style to show why we needed sanctuaries, how they were first set up,  and then take us to each (130) sanctuary one-by-one from the island sanctuaries, mainland sanctuaries, fenced sanctuaries, open sanctuaries, to the community sanctuaries, kiwi sanctuaries, and sanctuaries with a species focus. We also read about the organisations who are involved with the sanctuaries movement such as DOC, Forest & Bird, regional and local councils, Landcare Research, Native Forests Restoration Trust, etc. The book covers issues the sanctuaries face and how they are being solved or faced, and looking to the future of how they are going to control and perhaps get rid of the predators that are causing so much trouble for our natives in New Zealand.

Janet Hunt is a trained graphic designer and I'm sure she would have had a bit of say in the design (designer is Kate Barraclough); to the placing of the gorgeous photographs and maps, attractive headings and subtitles, and page number tab identification (a Janet Hunt feature). At the back of the book is an extensive index and list of sanctuaries.

It is an ambitious book and probably took a few years to research, write and gather photographs. I believe the book is long overdue and will be of interest to not only conservationists and people who work in the above organisations but also to people who visit these sanctuaries regularly to see our unique fauna and flora that New Zealand is so lucky to have.

The book targets adults but High School students and schools will also find it a useful resource for studying endangered species for natural history/science assignments.

ISBN: 9781869796860
RRP $55

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Exciting new author

Spark by Rachael Craw (Walker Books)

For most teenagers having your mum die, having to live with your mum's twin sister in another city, and having your body go all strange on you (massive growth spurt, tingling all over body, visions and nightmares) would send you in a depression - not Evie. She's feisty and motivated even when thrown a curve ball on top of everything else ... When she meets up with her childhood friend Kitty it sparks a desperate desire to protect her friend at all costs.

Find out who is trying to harm her friend and why Evie feels so compelled to rescue her. Throw in a potential romance, intrigue, and you have an exciting Sci-fi thriller for YA.  Okay, so I love science fiction but even people who do not have Dr Who or Star War leanings will love this book. There's no other world, or planets, or aliens but an ordinary girl mixed up in an experiment gone wrong two generations ago.

I literally couldn't stop reading this book (until the early hours of the morning); the twists and turns in the plot had me turning page after page. When I finished the book (matchsticks propping up my eyes) and tried to find out when the next book in the series was coming - I read the author's bio and was really surprised ... The story is set in USA and it reads like an international bestselling book - I was not expecting it to have been written by a first time author from a provincial town in New Zealand.

Rachael Craw has a great support team: agents Barbara and Chris Else, her writers' group, and the Walker Book team, and she has been an English teacher at High School - needless to say, this is a writer to watch. Her writing is taut, the plot is gripping, and her characters are very likeable.  I can't wait for the next two books in the series: Stray (book two, 2015) and Shield (book three, 2016). If you're a Divergent or a Viral fan - you'll be hooked on this new exciting series.

Author interview here and here

Discussion guide here