Wednesday, January 21, 2015

2014-2015 New Zealand Children's Non-fiction Books

 Activity Books

Ghoulish Get-ups by Fifi Colston (Scholastic)

Maori Art for Kids by Julie Noanoa & Norm Heke

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


Jammin' with Steven Adams  by David Riley (
New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame by Maria Gill, illustrated Marco Ivancic (New Holland)

Offloading with Sonny Bill Williams by David Riley (

Steppin’ with Benji Marshall by David Riley (

Teddy One-eye by Gavin Bishop (Gecko Press)

The Story of a New Zealand Truck Driver by Mary Kelleher (

Taratoa and the code of conduct by Debbie McCauley (Mauao Publishing)


Creative Non-fiction books

Best Mates by Philippa Werry (New Holland Publishers)

Grasshopper’s Week by Tania and Chris Norfolk (Craig Potton Publishing)

The Last of Maui Dolphins by Maria Gill (New Holland Publishers)

The song of Kauri by Melinda Szymanik (Scholastic)


Digital Books

Go to for Rangitoto and Operation Nest Egg Chick books digital version

Go to for David Riley’s books digital version


Information Books

Hello Boys & Girls: A New Zealand Toy Story by David Veart (Auckland University Press) *Because of its $65 price tag – it might be targeting adults but would suit High School

Waitangi Day: The New Zealand Story by Philippa Werry (New Holland Publishers)



KCC Wild Things magazine (


Nature Books

Draw New Zealand Birds by Heather Arnold (

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

Operation Nest Egg Chick by Maria Gill, illustrated by Bruce Potter (

Rangitoto by Maria Gill, illustrated by Heather Arnold (

Under the Ocean by Ned Barraud & Gillian Candler (Craig Potton Publishing)


Poetry Books

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

The Letterbox Cat & Other Poems, by Paul Green (Scholastic)


Sport Books

New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame by Maria Gill, illustrated Marco Ivancic (New Holland Publishers)

Jammin with Steven Adams  by David Riley (
Offloading with Sonny Bill Williams by David Riley (

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

Steppin’ with Benji Marshall by David Riley (

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Gavin Bishop's Autobriography from a teddy bear's view

Teddy One-Eye: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear by Gavin Bishop, Random House NZ

This handsome hardback book is a fascinating hybrid. The sub-title makes the shape of the story obvious, but there are other elements carefully woven in. And like any challenging book, questions come to mind but don’t get answered – probably deliberately. The story is written from the point of view of a somewhat philosophical teddy bear who belonged to the author when he was a boy. Through the teddy’s eyes (eye?) we learn about Gavin’s family and childhood in the 1950s – including all sorts of interesting details that leave me in awe of the author’s memory.

But the story is more than just a study of a childhood in New Zealand. This is a very long-lived bear who also belonged to the author’s daughters in their turn, an experience that involved some interesting cross-dressing. A hint of mystery throughout the text eventually results in readers learning about a tragic previous owner before Gavin actually laid hands on the bear.

There are times when Teddy is abandoned in a cupboard or trunk for many years. He hibernates, but to keep the reader’s interest from waning Gavin has included rolling graphics that mark relevant historical events during those years, eg. in 1969 Neil Armstrong took a teddy bear to the moon.

This book will be bought by all New Zealand public libraries, also primary and intermediate schools. I suspect it will be enjoyed most by keen readers of about eight or nine, but all school-age children will be able to appreciate it if parents make it a family read-aloud book, adding explanations and discussion when needed.

ISBN 978 1 77553 727 4 RRP $34.99 Hb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman   

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Four Picture Songbooks with CDS

 Have You Seen a Monster? By Raymond McGrath, Puffin NZ

This one is slightly different to the other three because it has a proper picture book story and the CD is an extra. The well-shaped story focuses on Elliott and Emma-Jane Rose who have a knack for finding things. They are hot on the trail of something very big and hairy that’s left a terrible trail of destruction in the town. A delightful double-spread illustration shows what they’re tracking – a big red hairy monster who’s LOST! I won’t tell how the children solve the problem of what to do with a miserable monster… The illustrations are the best part of the book – they’re colourful, quirky, and packed with interesting detail. The CD contains three songs and a read-aloud version of the story. (Oh yes, parents can now park the children on the sofa with the book, play the CD on the laptop, and walk away – but I hope they won’t!) It’s a fun book to share with children of about four to six.

ISBN 978 0 143 50599 0 RRP $19.99 Pb

 Square Eyes, words and music by Craig Smith, illus. Scott Tulloch, Scholastic NZ

The words of the song have a heart-felt message for children – “Come on, let’s exercise, don’t get square eyes”. It offers various alternative activities – listen to music, dance, read, swim, bake, ride a bike, play a board game, etc. Scott Tulloch’s bright friendly illustrations of animals doing different activities are excellent. The bouncy song on the CD is sung by Craig Smith, who is well-known to every New Zealand child for his entertaining local and school performances.

ISBN 978 1 77543 269 2 RRP $21 Pb

The Farmer in the Dell, sung by the Topp Twins, illus. Jenny Cooper, Scholastic NZ

If you liked There’s a Hole in My Bucket, Do Your Ears Hang Low, and She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain, then you’ll like this one! Jenny Cooper’s hilariously inventive illustrations enliven a fairly repetitive song. The good ol’ hound dawg on the front cover is priceless. The song is rendered in jovial fashion by the Topp Twins, and it certainly encourages children to get up and sing and dance (just as Craig Smith recommends!).

ISBN 978 1 77543 195 4 RRP $21 Pb

We Wish You a Kiwi Christmas, Lynette Evans and Myles Lawford, sung by Pio Terei, Scholastic NZ

I’ve missed the deadline for posting overseas, but this book would be great for grandparents to send to grandchildren living in other countries. It’s a Kiwi take on the classic Christmas carol, in which Santa unfortunately breaks down and loses his reindeer – only to be rescued by Little Kiwi and her bird friends. Myles Lawford’s Adobe Photoshop illustrations cleverly combine a traditional and a New Zealand flavour, with cheery big-eyed birds and a forlorn gnome-like Santa. There’s a Maori version printed in the book and sung on the CD, and a useful glossary provides meanings for some of the Maori words.

ISBN 978 1 77543 267 8 RRP $21 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman