Thursday, February 26, 2015

Nikki Slade Robinson as author and illustrator

Muddle & Mo by Nikki Slade Robinson (Duck Creek Press)

This is Nikki's sixth book (she also wrote one of my favourite's 'Hannah Bandana's Hair' - just because the main character has hair like mine and I've lost things in my hair too) and illustrated 60 other children's books. This little book is rather gorgeous. It reminds me a little of Rowan and Mark Sommerset's successful books.

Nikki has gone for pared back illustrations and text, with the focus on faces with lots of expression. She's used recycled paper as a backing and two illustrations on each double page spread - the duckling and the goat.

The duckling called Muddle (very appropriate name) talks to Mo the goat. First he tells Mo he's a funny colour, his beak is too hairy, he's eating the wrong foods, his wings are on his head ... Of course, you soon realise that Muddle thinks Mo is a weird looking duck and it's not until he sees a herd of goats that Muddle realises he's got it all wrong.

The story comes in a different angle from most 'accepting differences' stories. Little kids are often faced with prejudice about looking different. This clever book suggests to the reader in an underlying message to accept different species/cultures, as not everyone is the same. Let's face it - that's what makes life interesting. Read the book to find out what Mo says back to Muddle at the end.

A rather cute book that will be popular with 3-6 years old children. Teachers and parents can generate lots of discussion about accepting others/differences etc.

I'm pleased Duck Creek Press has gone back to this size format and printed it in paper back and hard back. It is practical for schools and kindies - so the books last long enough and can be read aloud in group settings. This book is sure to be popular in those settings so needs to last long!

ISBN: 1927305003 hardback $29.99 paperback $19.99

A counting book with a story

Little Kiwi Counts the Chicks by Bob Darroch (Puffin)

I love kiwi books; understandably since I help release kiwi chicks on Motuora Island during the breeding season. And I've loved Bob's series of kiwi books with their humour and cartoon drawings ever since the first one came out quite a few years ago. This time Bob's written a counting book with kiwi chicks but it's a counting book with a difference - it actually has a story. I can see this being very useful in the classroom. It's just a shame Penguin didn't make the book bigger so that it can be seen by all the 4-5 year olds sitting on the mat
learning to count.

What's the story? Two little kiwi chicks ask Morepork where everyone is in the forest because it is so quiet. Morepork tells them all the birds will be home getting ready for their new families. When the two kiwi chicks hear some noise they go and investigate. First they find one little kakapo chick, then two little moreporks, and three baby silver-eyes, and four kaka ... but it doesn't just end with counting - there's a little surprise ending.

Bob's cartoon like characters fill the page with bright colour. This book will sure to be popular with 3-5 year old children (and their parents). The small book can easily be held by small hands but as I said above it won't be easy to share with a class. It would be great if they made some big size ones, and perhaps a Maori version. (If enough teachers requested it perhaps Penguin would.)

RRP $15.99
ISBN: 978 0143506621

Saturday, February 21, 2015

An early reader for 3-7 year olds

The Little Kiwi Book of Months by Frances Chan

In The Little Kiwi Book of Months 3-7 year olds will discover exciting activities to do throughout the months of the year. In January - head for the beach, in February it's back to school, in March stomp on autumn leaves, and in April fly a kite ...

Children will enjoy the rhyming text and learn not only about the months but also the seasons. Bright full page photographs complement the story written in white or black text.

Readers 6-7 years old could read the book during the holidays. Research has shown that children who don't read during the breaks slip back a few reading ages. Parents could read to their 3-5 year olds and get them to guess what month it is. It will help them learn the months and corresponding seasons.

Frances Chan is an editor with 25 years’ experience in publishing, including writing children’s educational books and sub-editing a parenting magazine. This is her first self-published book – the result of Frances’s 100 Days Project for 2014. She wrote the book for her young daughter.

ISBN: 9780473 299231
RRP: $8.99 plus postage
24 pages

To order The Little Kiwi Book of Months please email with your postal address.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Poetry book for the very young

The Letterbox Cat & Other Poems by Paula Green, illus. Myles Lawford, Scholastic NZ

Printed in striking black and red on white, this book of poems should appeal greatly to primary teachers planning a class called “Fun With Poetry”. Paula runs NZ Poetry Box, a useful blog for children and schools at The poems in this anthology are an intriguing mix of words, design and illustration, using shape to enhance meaning. For example, the poem about a kite is laid out in the shape of a kite with a long winding tail, while the words in Nice Ice are arranged in the shape of an icecream cone. The book offers perfect examples for children to follow with their own poetry and design. Myles Lawford’s illustrations are minimalist and quirky, befitting the light tone of the poems.
Could this book be used at home? Yes. If a parent was determined to introduce a pre-schooler or young primary-aged child to poetry, this would be an interesting place to start because of the extra visual elements. BTW, the poem about the Letterbox Cat is on page 24. I wonder why it wasn’t printed on the first page…
ISBN 978 1 77543 223 4 RRP $12 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A cute picture book with a sad back-story

Ethan The Incredible by Jacqui Simpson, illus. Philip Webb, Alcora Book (

Sadly, this picture book is written in memory of a New Zealand boy called Ethan who died from a brain tumour in 2012. Parents can decide whether to share this with children – but if they don’t mention it, the story and the illustrations will still make for a happy reading experience for everyone. Jaunty rhyming text tells how the Kingdom of Forests is infested with pesky dragons. But Ethan the Incredible arrives on his trusty motorised scooter and vanquishes the pests. After that, there are a few princesses who need rescuing… But eventually Ethan has fixed all the dragons and helped all the princesses – so he roars away on his scooter to find new adventures. Philip Webb needs no introduction as an illustrator – and his zany cartoon pictures give added life to this warm-hearted book. It would be fun to read aloud to an individual child or to small groups in pre-school centres and new entrant classes (boys should enjoy it).

ISBN 978 0 473 28129 8 RRP $23.00 (from website) Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Children's Books for Sea Week

Sea Week is coming up and teachers and parents might be looking for great books that fit the marine theme. I've included new books, books that might be out of print but they should still be in your library, and mostly NZ and Australian titles. You'll also find some online resources that you can download for free:

All about NZs Sea Life by Dave Gunson (New Holland)
All about NZs Sea Shore by Dave Gunson (New Holland)
At the Beach by Gillian Candler & Ned Barraud (Craig Potton)
Dolphins Down Under by Liz Slooten & Steve Dawson (Otago University Press)
I am a dolphin by Barbara Todd & Helen Taylor (New Holland)
I am a Penguin by Barbara Todd & Helen Taylor (New Holland)
I am a Seal by Barbara Todd & Helen Taylor (New Holland)
I am a Whale by Barbara Todd & Helen Taylor (New Holland)
Know your NZ Fishes by Jenny & Tony Enderby (New Holland)
New Zealand Shore & Sea Life by Dave Gunson (New Holland)
Real-size guide to the New Zealand Rocky Shore by Gillian & Darryl Torckler (Random)
Save our Seas by Maria Gill, illustrated by Vivienne Lingard (New Holland)
The Kiwi Fossil Hunter's Handbook by James Crampton & Marianna Terezow (Random)
Under the ocean by Gillian Candler & Ned Barraud (Craig Potton)

Picture Book
Gilbert in deep by Jane Clarke & Charles Fuge (Koala Books)
Marmadule Duck and the wide blue seas by Juliette MacIver, illo Sarah Davis (Scholastic)
Sea Secrets by Dawn McMillan, illo by Julia Crouth (Reed)
Sydney and the Whalebird by David Elliot (Random)
The Fierce little woman and the wicked pirate by Joy Cowley, illo Sarah Davis (Gecko)
The Last of Maui's Dolphins by Maria Gill, illustrated by Bruce Potter (New Holland)
The Three Fishing Brothers Gruff by Ben Galbraith (Hodder)
The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera, illo Bruce Potter (Penguin)
The House that went to sea by Melinda Szymanik, illo Gabriella Klepatski
The man who loved the sea by Tracy Duncan, illo Jonathan Huntley

Creative Non-fiction
Big Blue Whale by Nicola Davies, illo Nick Maland (Walker)
Cat on the island by Gary Crew, illo Gillian Warden (Angus & Robertson)
Meet Captain Cook by Rae Murdie Illo Chris Nixon (Random)
Motiti Blue and the oil spill by Debbie McCauley
One Small Island by Alison Lester and Coral Tulloch (Penguin)
The Fantastic Undersea life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino (Knopf)

Animal Planet Series (Weldon Owen)
Nature Storybooks (Walker Books)

Myths and Legends

More resources here: