Thursday, December 1, 2016

A great Christmas book for 4-6 year olds

Hare by Deborah Hinde (PictureBook Publishing)

I showed this book to my writers’ group and they all oohed and aahed over it. Illustrator Heather Arnold thought the art work very captivating and said it was an excellent example of artwork and white space, as well as contrasting pages. She also liked the creative way Deborah incorporated speech bubbles. We thought Deborah had cleverly introduced extra story into the art and speech bubbles for the adult reading the story to the child too. For example, the tortoise worrying the lost idea was going to be a race referring to the fable ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’, and the rabbit being indignant that the hare was taking over his/her job and then being delighted when it is presented with its first Easter egg.

The story premise is that Hare has lost his idea. [How many of us can relate to that?] The animals in the forest ask for descriptions but the Hare has no idea. The animals help him look for it, but they only come back with things they’ve found littering the forest. In frustration the hare goes back to where he lost his idea and finds it. Read on to find out what his harebrained idea is.
Pre-school and Junior school teachers will use the book as a great lead-in to discussions about direction and opposite words: high low, big small, etc. Also teachers can talk about the saying ‘hair-brained ideas’. And how many parents have said – go back to where you last had it - when you’re looking for something? There are lots of discussions that can come out of reading this book to pre-schoolers and 5-6 year olds. It’s going to be a family, kindy and new entrant favourite!

Deborah has illustrated over 60 books for mainstream publishers Scholastic and independent publisher Sharon Holt. This is the second book Deborah Hinde has published herself; she recently released her and Kyle Mewburn’s book The Hopplepop. Hare is the first book she has written and illustrated, and she’s done a fabulous job. I wish her good luck in her marketing and I hope it sells well.

ISBN:  978-0-473-36294-2
RRP $19.99
Buy it at all good shops or here

Reviewed by Maria Gill

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Heather Hunt's latest book

The Cuckoo and the Warbler: A true New Zealand story by Heather Hunt and Kennedy Warne (Potton & Burton)

The Cuckoo and the Warbler is an excellent example of creative non-fiction writing. It tells the true story of the two species relationship in a way that will engage young readers. The language targets readers 4-8 years old, but could be used in the classroom for children up to 12 years. Teachers will be keen to use this resource for their native bird study, but the story is interesting enough for teachers and parents to use it as a read aloud story. It will lead to interesting discussions afterwards about why the cuckoo doesn’t incubate its own egg. The author has also included a Maori proverb and greetings that the teacher can use as a teaching point.

The story introduces us to a pair of warblers building their nest in a forest in Aotearoa. On another double page spread we meet a female cuckoo who is filling up with insects before it makes its long journey from Papua New Guinea to New Zealand. On the next page, we see a map outlining its trip and how the trade winds will help the cuckoo on its journey. From then on, we find out what happens when the cuckoo arrives in New Zealand. It finds a warbler’s nest and lays its own egg, chucking out one of the grey warbler’s eggs so that when the warbler returns it doesn’t notice it has an intruder in its midst. When the cuckoo chick hatches it gets rid of the other eggs and hungrily calls out for food. The warbler mother and father are kept busy feeding the greedy bird until it fledges to make its journey to the Pacific.

Children might feel outraged on behalf of the grey warblers but Kennedy Warne talks about the birds unique relationship in a way that helps them understand the bond between the two birds. On the last two pages, readers discover more information about the grey warbler and shining cuckoo.

Author Kennedy Warne co-founded the New Zealand Geographic magazine in 1988 and served as editor for 15 years. He now writes for the magazine and for National Geographic, as well as giving a fortnightly report on the environment on Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon programme. He has written several books for the adult market before.

Heather Hunt is an illustrator and exhibiting artist. Her first book Kiwi: The Real Story shortlisted for the New Zealand Post Book Awards. She also developed the ‘Backyard Kiwi’ character for kiwi recovery projects.

A highly recommended buy for schools and for children who are fans of nature. It’s a beautiful book that invites children to read several times.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Jane Bloomfield Queen-of-Humour-for-kids NZ style

Lily Max: Slope, Style, Fashion by Jane Bloomfield, illustrations by Guy Fisher (Luncheon Sausage Books)

Jane Bloomfield and Guy Fisher collaborate again for the second book in the Lily Max series. It’s not surprising Jane has set this book mostly on the slopes – she lives in Queenstown and spends most of her winter skiing at Wanaka. Her son is a champion skier competing at the Nationals and in America. However, Jane didn’t learn to ski until she was an adult and can remember the feeling of being a beginner skier amongst all the skilled skiers around her. She uses those memories for her main character Lily Max.

Lily Max has told her classmates she can ski; an absolute porky – she’s like a pre-beginner. She hopes to distract everyone with her customised ski suit; only problem is, it's a school ski suit and she was told to NOT LILY MAX-IMISE IT. That's just waving a flag at Lily Max. Her sister Angelica sums it up when she finds it hiding under the bed, "That's ex-trah-eeem-ly OUT-RAY-JUSS, Lily Max".

It's not a Lily Max story without a fashion show. Lily goes into hyper-drive with fashion ideas, while trying to work out the family mystery with her grandma. Find out whether Queen-of-mean Violet gets the better of Lily Max this time, and whether she can go from Klutz to Klammer-wannabe ...

This book is even better than the last. You'll be laughing-out-loud on every page. I loved the precocious child voice of Lily Max, the antics she gets up to, and the sub-plots that run along with the day-to-day dramas of being a left-of-the-field student in a square-box world.

For young girls who loved Jane's first book 'Lily Max: Satin, Scissors, Frock'. If your daughter or student hasn't read any yet but enjoyed Victoria Azaro's Saffron series, or Lauren Child's Ruby Redfort's series - then this is the perfect book for quirky creative kids. Adults will enjoy it too.

Great cover, too!

ISBN: 978-0-908-689934

RRP $22

Buy it here or at your local store

Friday, November 18, 2016

More Christmas Goodies ...

The Kiwi Hokey Tokey, illus. Stevie Mahardhika, Maori lyrics Ngaere Roberts, Scholastic NZ

It wouldn’t be Christmas without another Kiwi-themed picture song book from Scholastic. The cartoon illustrations are bright, repetitive, and very in-your-face. The jolly-looking birds and animals involved in the familiar dance range from kiwi to sheep. Most of the book is taken up with the English text, with the Maori version on the last seven pages. There’s also an accompanying CD with popular Pio Terei singing the song. This is a good pre-schooler present for under the Christmas tree, especially if you think you’re going to suffer from Christmas carol overload… Also excellent for pre-school centres where the young ones can dance and sing along.

ISBN 978 1 77543 411 5 RRP   Pb $21

Parakeet in Boots by Chris Burney, illus Myles Lawford, Scholastic NZ

This is the latest title in Scholastic’s well-known Kiwi Corkers series (Great New Zealand Yarns). It’s a local-flavoured version of the old Puss in Boots story, delivered in humorous rhyming text: “There once was a farmer, who fell ill and died, leaving three sons and a farm to divide.” The digitally-created cartoon illustrations feature a cheeky and very cunning parakeet wearing ugg boots. This would be great for reading aloud to groups in pre-school centres because of the expansive and colourful pictures.

ISBN 987 1 77543 438 2 RRP   Pb $14

A Is for Aotearoa: a Lift-the-Flap Treasure Hunt by Diane Newcombe and Melissa Anderson Scott, Penguin Random House NZ

It’s not long since these two produced a similarly formatted picture book called A Is for Auckland, though the first one did not contain an interactive lift-the-flap feature. This story starts with Girl and Bird discovering a message in a bottle that sets them off on an alphabetical jaunt round the country. At each location, the reader must study the clues in the double-spread illustrations, and also lift the flap to read more clues about where they are. Some of the locations are easy to identify, but others are more challenging. Fortunately there is an informative list of solutions in the back. The illustrations are done in a complex style that combines collage, speech bubbles, black-pen outlines and subdued watercolours, so there’s a lot going on in every picture. I think pre-schoolers wouldn’t appreciate all the elements in the pictures  without an adult’s assistance. But younger primary-aged children would cope with the challenge of the location puzzles, and should enjoy spotting the subtle humour hidden on every page.

ISBN 978 0 14 350730 7 RRP $25 (not published till 28 November) Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Monday, November 14, 2016

For Brian Falkner fans

Shooting Stars by Brian Falkner, Scholastic NZ

Brian Falkner has written successfully in several different genres – here’s another work from him that’s different to anything he’s written before. With my librarian’s hat on, I’d say this is a mix of adventure/survival and social issues, written mainly for teenage boys (although book-addicted girls will read it too). Egan Tucker is the 15-year-old narrator who has lived all his life in a remote hut in the Coromandel bush, with only his mother to raise him and books to educate him. When his mother vanishes while on a trek to the nearest grocery shop, Egan must emerge into society to find out what has happened to her.

Armed with a bow and arrow, Egan makes his way to Auckland. The reader is made uneasy by seeing through Egan’s eyes the dangers and cruelties of 21st-century urban life. Egan meets a group of street kids – meanwhile trying to locate the friendly deer culler whom he’d met in the bush months beforehand.

Egan finds there is plenty he doesn’t know about his own family background. He ends up living with his sports-star father – but be warned, it’s far from a happy ending. This story is an absorbing read with an unforgettable hero, packed with action and emotion, but it poses many uncomfortable questions about the ethics of our modern lifestyle. You’ll still remember Egan’s story many years later.

ISBN 978 1 77543 360 6 
RRP $21 Pb
Ages: 12 years +

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman    

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Des Hunt's latest junior fiction

Deadly Feathers by Des Hunt, Torea Press (

Des is still being published by Scholastic NZ, but he has set up his own imprint to publish a range of shorter novels (eg. Crown Park and Skink Gully). He’s found his niche with stories that have a strong environmental theme, wrapped up in plenty of action and adventure. This novel is set on Stewart Island (and probably based on ideas given to Des by the children and teachers at Half Moon Bay School). The hero is 11-year-old Noah, recent and reluctant arrival on the island with his parents. He’d much rather be enjoying his old life in Auckland.
Noah stumbles across a weird situation – a glimpse of an exotic parrot in the bush, along with a dead kaka. Even a city boy like Noah knows this is not normal. His friend Hailey is not quite sure what to make of his descriptions. But then they discover a lone ocean-going yacht anchored in a quiet bay. And everyone knows that soon one of the most endangered birds in the world is coming to Stewart Island – they have to find out if there really is a disease-carrying parrot loose in the bush…
It’s an easy and interesting read that should appeal to boys of about 8 to 11 who like stories of adventure with an outdoor setting.

ISBN 978 0 9941226 2 9 
RRP $12 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman   

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Christmas Goodies From Scholastic New Zealand ...

The Little Yellow Digger: Book and Jigsaw Puzzle by Betty and Allan Gilderdale, Scholastic NZ
Every pre-schooler in New Zealand should have a copy of this classic picture book about diggers getting stuck in the mud. If you know someone small who hasn’t got a copy, this handsome book and 48-piece jigsaw boxed set would make an enticing present for under the Christmas tree. Note that the jigsaw is not recommended for children under 3 years.
ISBN 9781775434313 RRP $25 Pb

A Kiwi Night Before Christmas by Yvonne Morrison and Deborah Hinde, Scholastic NZ
This is a re-jacketed 2016 limited edition of the first version published in 2003. The back cover proudly states, “New Zealand’s best-selling Christmas book”, and I’m happy to believe it. In case you don’t already know it, this picture book offers a New Zealand version of the old English classic poem: “’Twas the night before Christmas, and all round the bach not a possum was stirring; not one we could catch. We’d left on the table a meat pie and beer, in hopes that Santa Claus soon would be here.” Naturally, New Zealand icons abound – my favourites are the sheep standing in as Santa’s reindeer. It’s illustrated in bright bold multi-coloured double-spreads, so pre-schoolers will enjoy poring over the pictures.
ISBN 978 1 77543 427 6 RRP $21 Hb

Marmaduke Duck and the Christmas Calamity by Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis, Scholastic NZ
This is the fourth title in the popular series about Marmaduke Duck and Bernadette Bear and Co., and fans of the whacky rhymes and action-packed illustrations won’t be disappointed. Santa plus elves plus reindeer have accidentally fallen down a snowy crevasse – so who’s going to deliver all the presents? The answer is easy – just imagine Bernadette Bear dressed as Santa, while the magic sleigh is pulled by an ox, an orangutan, a pig, a polar bear, a dog, a lamb, a frog and a ram! The Duck is standing in as head Elf, naturally. Great fun for reading aloud any time of the year, but especially enjoyable at Christmas.
PS. Santa and friends do get rescued at the end!
ISBN 978 1 77543 390 3 RRP $19 Pb

The Topp Twins Treasury of Sing-Along Stories, illustrated by Jenny Cooper, Scholastic NZ
This is definitely a “WOW!” book. It looks fabulous with its glossy hardback format and an arrangement of Jenny Cooper’s cheeky song characters on the front cover, along with fancy gold lettering for the title. The five rollicking songs inside have already been published separately: Do Your Ears Hang Low?, There’s a Hole in My Bucket, The Farmer in the Dell, She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain, and Dingle-Dangle Scarecrow. But this is a great chance to keep your favourite songs in one convenient volume (the CD is packed inside the front cover). Jenny Cooper’s illustrations are delightful, and having them all in one big book makes them even more hilarious. This picture song book would be great to help families with their long summer drives to the beach… 
ISBN  978 1 77543 430 6 RRP $30 Hb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Bill Nagelkerke - Recent Works

A few years I wrote an article about Bill (a prolific New Zealand children’s author) for Magpies, which summarised his writing career to that time. Three years later it’s interesting to re-visit Bill and find out what he’s been doing lately in the indie market.

In 2015 he self-published three junior novels in print and e-book format. Cauliflower Ears is a quirky story about teamwork and fair play within the setting of a juniors’ rugby tournament (reviewed in Magpies vol. 31 no.1, March 2016).

The next book was Emily’s Penny Dreadful, reviewed in the same issue of Magpies. It’s another quirky story that works on several layers – as a story-within-a-story, and as a humorous examination of the joys (and problems) of being a writer. When Emily is forced to give up her bedroom to her temporarily homeless aunt and uncle (who’s a writer), she is most upset. Her uncle’s old and valuable Penny Dreadful magazine inspires her to write her own story about a feisty Victorian girl who’s kidnapped and forced to work in a match factory. The two girl heroines, the playful language, and the large blocks of dialogue would suit intermediate-aged girls more than boys, particularly those who have their own interest in writing stories.

The third novel was The Houdini Effect which draws on Bill’s interest in prestidigitation. Athens (another self-confessed young writer) is drawn into helping her younger brother with his Houdini-like escape trick. But she is far more concerned about a supernatural event – the old mirrors in her parents’ house (a renovation project) keep showing spooky photos of the couple who used to own the house. Athens vows to figure out what’s going on. This apparently light-hearted mystery carefully blends in several serious themes, such as relationships within marriage. Its clever girl protagonist and the cunning wordplay make it most suitable for intermediate-aged girls.

Bill’s most recent publication is an easy-read print book called Egghead and Other Surprises. It’s an anthology of poetry and humorous short stories for primary-aged children (7 and up). Most of the works were originally published in the School Journal, the New South Wales School Journal, and an assortment of anthologies.

The books are available from online retail shops such as Amazon, Createspace, and Wheelers, and most also come in e-book format.

Emily’s Penny Dreadful: ISBN 978 1530284689 RRP US$6.75 Pb

The Houdini Effect: ISBN 978 1530498628 RRP US$8.50 Pb

Egghead and Other Surprises: ISBN 978 1535371292 RRP US$6.10 Pb

Written by Lorraine Orman     

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A book for little monsters

Did you hear a monster? by Raymond McGrath (Penguin)

I'm rather a fan of these monster books written, illustrated and sung by Raymond McGrath. The other two books 'It's not a monster. It's me!' and 'Have you seen a monster?' have also been popular with little monsters, I mean children. Raymond's storytelling, humour, artwork, and songs work really well. I love the expressions on the monsters and little children's faces.

To say Clarice Caroline is a little scaredy-cat, is an understatement. She's frightened of loud noises, cracks in the pavement, grown-ups ... in fact, she is scared of everything. To help her deal with her fears she wears a helmet (just in case). However, one night she ventures out of her bed alone, tiptoeing across creaking floorboards, along dark and echoey hallways, right up to a bumpity thumpity noise ... Find out what she discovers and why she's stepped out of her fears to help someone, or should I say something ...

Wonderful fun, children will want it read again and again. Might help some children deal with their own fears. Will be a favourite in the house or classroom. As a bonus you get to play the CD and hear several songs:  Monstomping; Did you hear a Monster? read along, I am not afraid of the Dark, and The Friendship song.

ISBN: 978-0-14-330913-0
RRP $19.99
Due for release 3 October 2016

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Scholastic Christmas Titles

Dinosaur Hunting by Lucy Davey, illustrated by Kirsten Richards (Scholastic)

Just about every boy goes through a crazy-about-dinosaur phase; some more than others. Those that are fanatic can reel off the names of a dozen dinosaurs and tell you all sorts of interesting facts about them. This book is meant for them.

Father and son decide to go on a dinosaur hunting expedition in their backyard ...

Down to the garden,
tiptoe tracking.
Dinosaur hunting, Daddy and me.
Following footprints,
twigs snap-cracking -
which kinds of dinosaurs can we see?

Their imagination sees all sorts of dinosaurs ... Stegosaurus, Shamosaurus, Segisaurus, Ammosaurus, Spinosaurus, Supersaurus ... and T-Rex! I had to look up google to see if they were real dinosaurs or not; I only recognized the first and last one. Father and son make dinosaurs out of the washing, while playing at the playground, and while splashing in puddles. Observant little boys will see a real dinosaur hiding in each picture. But oh-oh, the little boy loses his dinosaur plush toy; they have to backtrack to find it. Teachers and mothers could ask who is hunting who?

The story reminds me of the classic 'We're going on a bear hunt', which was hugely popular in our house when the kids were small. Lucy's clever use of alliteration, onomatopoeia and rhythm will make this a favourite to read aloud to young audiences.

Lucy Davey is a very talented lady. She's written a number of popular picture books including The Fidgety Itch, Fifi la Bell series, A Right Royal Christmas, Pandora's Potato Romp, Tarantula Boo! and Out of Bed, Fred!  As well as being a skilled children's book writer, she is a children's song writer, has a PhD in chemical engineering, and can paint. This is her third book published this year - which is a feat in itself, coupled with raising three teenagers and a baby is a miracle!

Kirsten Richards is new to the New Zealand scene, but she's illustrated books for Scholastic US, Oxford University Press, Hodder Children's Books, Thomas Nelson and Top That! Her book 'The Littlest Pilgrim' spent three weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers list. Kirsten grew up in England but now lives in Auckland. Her artwork is expressive, colourful and enables young readers to find something new they hadn't seen the last time they read the book. Kirsten created the artwork using acrylic inks and finished it in Photoshop.

ISBN: 978-1-77543-395-8
RRP $19
Ages: 3-7 years

Jingle Bells, Rudolph Smells by Deano Yipadee and Paul Beavis (Scholastic)

We've had farting donkeys and cows ... and now we have a farting Rudolph - one of Santa's reindeers. It was bound to happen sooner or later. Kindy kids who love this type of humour are going to laugh their heads off.

Santa and all the reindeer set off on their trip, and then oops, they hit a bump and one of the reindeer did a trump. The chorus follows:

Jingle bells! Rudolph smells
from eating carrots and hay,
went over a bump and he did a TRUMP,
and it went in Santa's face - hey!

Four year old kids are going to run around and sing that stanza all morning.

In the end, Rudolphs' failing helps get Santa and the sleigh out of a sticky situation. A free CD is attached at the back of the book; kids will want to play it again and again ... teachers and parents might take a contract out on the author.

Musician Deano Yipadee takes his musical show all around English schools. He's originally from New Zealand but has been living in England for a few years with his young family. Deano says Wonky Donkey's Craig Smith inspired him to write musical picture books.

You'll know Paul Beavis from his Mrs Mo's monster picture books, which are a favourite amongst young children. He's managed to capture different personalities for each reindeer while giving the main character - Rudolph - his starring role. The pictures are fun, colourful and encourage young readers to inspect each page closely for new details. 'Jing Bells, Rudolph Smells' is bound to sell well around the Christmas period for years to come.

ISBN: 978-1-77543-385-9
RRP $21
Ages 3-7 years

The Kiwi Hokey Tokey by Lynette Evans, illustrations by Stevie Mahardhika, sung by Pio Terei, Maori lyrics by Ngaere Roberts

I'm not sure if schools still teach the Hokey Tokey dance, but I sure remembering dancing it at school. It was great fun. I'm not surprised Scholastic thought of doing a kiwi version. I bet teachers will be grateful for this story/song and will be using it for their next performance; they're always looking for songs with actions to do for their classroom performance.

Here's how it goes:
a clan of kiwi put on a dance display,
invited friends to join, one sunny day,
to do the Hokey Tokey,
and here's how to play!

You put your pokey beak in,
Down in the gully on a farm far away
you put your pokey beak out,
you put your pokey beak in,
and you shake it all about.

You do the Cool-as Kiwi
and you turn around, that's what it's all about.
Ka Pai!

The little kiwis in the pictures demonstrate the moves. Next, the pukeko put their lanky legs in, then tuatara put their spikey tail in, and the kea put their scratchy feet in ... We then have farm animals having their turn: sheep, horses, ducks, pigs and fantails, until they all join in together for the finale. I can see kindy kids and Junior Primary kids wanting to jump up and sing and do the actions again, straight away. Luckily for the teachers the song is sung in English and Maori on the CD attached, and the Maori version is written at the back. Will bound to be a great success in kindergartens and Junior Primary School.

Lynette Evans is the publishing manager at Scholastic. She's quietly penned a few children's books with her Scholastic team.

Illustrator Stevie Mahardhika was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia and moved to New Zealand to study at AUT. Stevie works with the Watermark group of illustrators. His illustrations are bright and colourful and drawn digitally using Photoshop.

Pio Terei is one of New Zealand's most popular and personable entertainers. He is also a positive parenting advocate and spokesperson and has presented 'No Sweat Parenting' shows around the country for many years, helping to write and present a series of the same name for Maori TV.

ISBN: 978-1-775543-411-5
RRP $21
Ages 3-7 years

Kiwi Corkers Bag of Books: Five evergreen children's stories with a kiwi bent (Scholastic)

Can't think of what to get your son, daughter, grandchildren ... then buy them this gorgeous set of Kiwi Corker books in a cute little bag. You'll get :

The Little Blue Duck by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Stevie Mahardhika
The Frog Footy Player by Chris Gurney, illustrated by John Bennett
The Three Cattle Dogs Gruff by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Myles Lawford
The Tuatara and the Skink by Yvonne Morrison, illustrated by Donovan Bixley
The Ugly Hatchling by Yvonne Morrison, illustrated by Dave Gunson

They are all stories that lend themselves to being read aloud; their rhythm, rhyme and familiarity make them popular with 3-7 year olds.

The Little Blue Duck loves to cook but needs someone to help her. All her friends are too busy until it comes time to eat the pavlova.

In The Frog Footy Player Kiri is happily playing with her rugby ball until she kicks it into the pond. Frog offers to help but only if she grants him a wish. However, once she gets her ball back she's reluctant to carry out his wish ...

Kids will recognize this tale straight away in The Three Cattle Dogs Gruff, but instead of old billy gruff its a taniwha that hides under the bridge and three young cattle dogs need to cross the bridge. Will they get across?

In The Tuatara and the Skink its vain Sammy the Skink who represents the hare, and Old Tom who stands in for the tortoise. Old Tom wants to put Sammy Skink in his place so suggests a race. Will it be smug and speedy Sammy or clever Old Tom who will run the competition?

Instead of the ugly duckling we have a rather misfortunate looking kiwi hatchling in The Ugly Hatchling. Stoat has captured a large juicy egg but in his haste to get away with his prize he drops it and it rolls out of the forest and lands beside mother Pukeko, who thinks it is one of her clutch of eggs. Out hatch 1, 2, 3, 4 fluffy black chicks and one strange little chick. Kids will recognise it is a little kiwi. When the pukeko fly away, the little chick goes looking for his own kind.

Chris Gurney and Yvonne Morrison are rhyme and rhythm masters and the stories are a joy to read aloud. Little kids are going to enjoy slinging the bag over their shoulders and then curling up to look at the pictures, and then beg their parents to read them aloud to them. Great holiday reading!

ISBN: 978-1-77543-426-9
RRP $25
Ages 3-7 years

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Latest from Leonie Agnew

The Impossible Boy by Leonie Agnew, Penguin Random House NZ

Award-winning Leonie Agnew’s previous two junior fiction titles were Super Finn and Conrad Cooper’s Last Stand. This new story is so different to the first two that I asked Leonie about its origins. Interestingly, it is already an award-winning story, having won a prize presented by British publisher David Fickling Books, called the 2015 Master of the Inkpot. There were over 1000 entries specifically from authors working without agents.

Leonie’s previous two titles are generally known as humorous stories – but it might be better to call them serious stories wrapped up in a humorous exterior. The Impossible Boy combines several dramatic themes but without the sugar coating. It’s a tough story which required a big leap of imagination. Leonie herself believes that it’s not suitable for readers of Year 5 and below – but says she has had good responses from students of Year 6 and upwards.

The impossible boy, Vincent Gum, is the invisible companion of a 6-year-old lost child named Benjamin Grey – only Ben can see Vincent. The boys are wandering in an unidentified war-torn city.

Vincent takes Ben to shelter in an orphanage, but stays with him to ensure his safety. Ben comes under the protection of a group of orphans who teach him survival skills, but nobody except Vincent can protect him against the nightmarish Hanger Man who lives in the closet. As the plot develops and the children fight to stay alive, reality and non-reality swirl together – the question “Who is Vincent?” becomes predominant, and readers need to piece together the clues to produce their own interpretations.

There are definite allegorical elements in the story. The devastated city where the children live has to be representative of any war-ravaged city. Syria comes to mind, but the city is not obviously middle-eastern. The children are the same as children anywhere, getting through their lives as best they can. Vincent, the invisible boy, is more than just a traditional imaginary friend – he’s an entity called into physical existence by Ben. In one challenging part of the story, Vincent is denied by Ben and finds himself helplessly sucked back inside Ben’s brain, only to emerge later when the monstrous Hanger Man must be defeated. Surely this is an allegorical look at the power of human imagination and determination. As for the Hanger Man himself – he is representative of a million childish nightmares, the ultimate monster in a million closets.

When I asked about the inspirations for this story, Leonie said she actually wrote the first draft of the book before Super Finn was published. The complete story came to her about seven years ago, one Christmas morning after she’d been to mass the evening before. But she also believes the inspiration came from many sources – books about the power of faith, movies about the power of imagination, ponderings on the foundations of religion. Interested adults and keen young readers will find this book riveting, challenging, startling - and ultimately inspiring.  It will haunt readers for a long time, and I’m sure we’ll hear a lot more about it. 

ISBN 978 0 14 330906 2 RRP 19.99 Pb (also available as an e-book)

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Picture books for four year olds

Jack's Castle by Brett Avison, illustrated by Scott Tulloch (Bateman)

Bateman hasn't published many children's books.  Brett Avison's prior books were published with an Australian publishing company. Obviously, the publisher couldn't resist this digger story.

Jack uses his sit-on digger to make a castle in the sand. His dog Toby digs too. Kids ask if they can join in and together they build a majestic castle with turrets, a moat, and tower with flags and flowers. But, oh no, the tide comes in and washes it away. Do they build a new one everyday or find another solution for their castle. Read it to find out how Jack problem solves this dilemma.

Scott Tulloch's illustrations are rich and expressive with full colour illustrations on every page.

My son was digger-mad - many four year old boys are too.  If you've helped your son or daughter build sand castles, you'll remember their disappointed faces when the waves washed their castles away. Parents and teachers could talk about what they could do to save their sandcastles and the bigger issue of not feeling frustrated when something happens - instead, look for ways to solve the problem. Bound to be popular with little boys and girls who love to play in the sand.

I've just discovered that Bateman also published another of Brett's stories 'A hippo lives in Havelock', which was also favourably received. Magpies review: The text rollicks along in jaunty rhyme and children well beyond Havelock will be captivated by the hippo's heroics." Magpies, Vol. 31, 2016

ISBN:  978-1-86953-943-6
RRP $24.99 Hardback

Tiny Owl on the Ramshackle Farm written and illustrated by Lotte Wotherspoon

A tiny owl snoozes in the branches of an old macrocarpa tree on a ramshackle farm. He can hear the
babble of a brook in the midnight calm, until pigs come crashing through the trees, a bull swishes his tail and snorts in his dreams, a chicken noisily lays eggs ... and other animals disturb the silent night air. Each time Tiny Owl imagines some great monster thrashing around the farm. His parents realise his fears and take him flying to show him the majesty of the farm and the sunrise. Will it help him overcome his fears ... read to find out.

The real star of this book is the black pen sketch drawings with pops of red colour. My favourite pages feature the family of owls on the farm, the crashing pigs, the night sky with twinkling stars, cat on the verandah, the pohutukawa trees, and the sunrise - they are stunning. The endpapers are rather gorgeous too. The artwork is quite different to anything else on the market.

Will be enjoyed by young children 3-7 years, and emerging young artists. It will most likely encourage some to experiment with their own black pen and red drawings. Parents and teachers can also use the book as

a springboard to talk about their own fears and how to overcome them.

This is Lotte's third book for children (that I can find). Her second book 'Pukeko dancing on the old dirt track' shortlisted for the Scholastic Best Children's Book Awards at the 2016 BPANZ Awards. She also illustrated David Hill's book 'Black Day' several years ago.

ISBN: 978-0-473-35329-2
RRP $29.95 Hardback, $19.99 Paperback

Reviewed by Maria Gill

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Inspirational sport book for boys

Bruce wants to go faster by Dreydon Sobanja, illustrated by Murray Dewhurst, (Inspired Kids)

Dreydon Sobanja brought out two inspirational picture books several years ago. This time he is targeting a slightly older age group and developed his story into an illustrated junior fiction title. He's also published it in hardback, and I think with the higher production values and the message he is giving out - he has struck the mark, this time.

Sir Colin Giltrap (of Giltrap Motors) introduces the story in the foreword. He talks about how Bruce McLaren was an inspiration throughout his life and ends with, if you aspire to Bruce's principles and believe in yourself - you can succeed in your life too.  A nice positive message to begin the story.

Chapter One begins with Bruce McLaren's love of anything with wheels. Unfortunately, after 11 year old Bruce hurt his leg he developed a limp - a limp that wouldn't go away. Doctors discovered he had Perthes syndrome and would have to rest ... for two years. You can imagine how awful that would be for a young boy. However, imaginative Bruce found ways to occupy his time and one of those hobbies was carving objects. One day he carved a motor car and showed the nurse. He told her when he grew up he would build that racing car and then build another that would be faster. That's evidence of someone who believes strongly in their destiny. Read the rest of the story to find out if he achieves his dream. You'll also discover other interesting facets of his life.

At the back of the book, you'll find the secrets of Bruce's success. Dreydon writes a paragraph about each virtue. For example, adaptability - he adapted his dream of racing motorcycles to being a Formula One race car driver. The message being, your dream now will change and grow as you get older, and you must change and grow with it.

I really liked the visual timeline on the last few pages, too. It shows the different cars Bruce drove and other titbits about his life.

Boys (and girls who like cars) aged 6-10 years old will thoroughly enjoy this book. It has an interesting life story with positive messages that young people can apply to their life - to achieve their dreams.

Dreydon Sobanja decided to put his dream of writing inspirational books for children, and competing in endurance sporting events into reality in his early thirties. This is his third book in the series, and he's represented New Zealand at the ITU Age Group World Triathlon Championship in Canada in 2014.

Illustrator Murray Dewhurst approached author Dreydon Sobanja with the idea for this book. Murray had always enjoyed drawing motorcars and his Uncle Keith Madgwick had also overcome a disability to fulfil his dream of competing in motor sport. Murray is a published urban artist, graphic designer and illustrator.

RRP $24.99 Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-473-36062-7

Monday, September 26, 2016

Trans-Tasman promotion

the Shark Caller by Dianne Wolfer (Penguin)

I've met Dianne Wolfer several times at SCBWI conferences in Sydney. She's a very kind and thoughtful person, who is much loved by her fellow authors. This book is a break away from her other books, which have been three children's war books (Lighthouse Girl, Light Horse Boy, Photographs in the Mud), one picture book (Granny Grommet and me), and several junior fiction books. Dianne told us in a talk at The Children's Bookshop in Sydney that she wrote it after visiting Papua New Guinea and hearing about the island tradition of calling sharks. Dianne told us it took six years to write; the story started in one direction and ended up in another. I read it in one sitting on the plane home to New Zealand and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The main character, Isabel, and her mother return to their birthplace in Papua New Guinea to grieve, after the heartbreaking loss of Isabel's twin brother. Her relatives welcome her back into the fold, as if she had never left. However, she notices quickly that a lot has changed. Someone has sold the rights to log the forest on the small island, and it's having a devastating effect on the community.

Isabel's brother was supposed to learn the secret ways of calling sharks, but he died before given the chance. Instead, Isabel's cousin teaches her how to dive and her Uncle tells her stories about her ancestors. It's her destiny to undertake a long dive through underwater caves on her own. She puts aside her fears to carry out the traditional ritual to see if she can save her brother. What she finds is beyond whatever she could have imagined. Does she have the courage to complete the journey or will she succumb to the horrors within?

It's a coming of age story, with a fantasy element. Dianne weaves folk lore into the story and gives it a twist. A gripping tale with beautiful imagery

Highly recommended for young readers 10-14 years old.

RRP NZ$23, A$17.99
ISBN:  978-0-14-378055-7 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

New publishing house on the block EK Books

I attended the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators' Conference in Sydney last weekend. On one of the panels illustrator Gwynneth Jones talked about illustrating three books at once, Anouska Jones spoke about writing her first book as well as being the publisher of the new Sugar and Spice series for young girls, and Susan Whelan shared her writing process.  Imagine my surprise when I returned home Friday to find these three beautiful books in my mail box.

Patch and Ruby by Anouska Jones, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones

Patch and Ruby is the tale of a lonely pony. It chats with the chickens, hangs out with the lady birds, eats dinner with the mice family and nuzzles up to his special friend Sam. However, everyone is busy and have their own family. Sam realises Patch is lonely and does something about it. Guess who comes to play with Patch. Life is never the same.

The images are bright and colourful ensuring that young girls fall in love with the characters. The hardback books have eye-catching spines, and the endpapers introduce the main characters.

A sweet story about caring for animals and making sure they're not lonely. Horses are pack animals and like to share a paddock with other ponies, horses or other animals. The story is also about friendship and being thoughtful of other people/animal's needs. Young children will enjoy this gentle story.

ISBN:  978-1-925335-22-4
RRP $19.99 Hardback

Dance with me by Penny Harrison, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones

A little musical box ballerina enjoys twirling and whirling to the boxed music and calls to a young girl to dance with her. And she does. But one day the young girl grows up and ignores her. The ballerina jumps out of the window and waltzes around roses and asks a bee, then turtle, and a tiger to dance with her but they just shoo her away. She returns to her little box and beckons the girl to play with her. Instead she closes the box for a very long time. Is she destined to stay squashed and bent in the box or will someone else come along who'll appreciate her ballerina moves and music?

A sweet tale about a bored ballerina who longs to dance with someone else. Little dancers will empathise with her and get them up dancing and twirling with her.

ISBN: 978-1-925335-23-1
RRP $19.99 Hardback

The Great Sock Secret by Susan Whelan, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones

EVERY household has a pile of lost socks and probably EVERY family has a child whose imagination wonders what happens to those socks.

Sarah's mother wants to look for lost socks. Sarah tries to distract her. When her mother looks in the wardrobe, Sarah checks the fairies are okay playing with socks under the bed. While her mother checks the bathroom, Sarah hides the fairies bathing in the sink. Together they check the whole house, even Sarah's messy brother's bedroom. Luckily Sarah's mother doesn't notice the fairies and the lost socks. But then she wants to look for all the lost pens ...

A story about the power of imagination. A young girl imagines fairies are using lost socks for sleeping bags, towels, and hammocks. Parents and teachers can read this story and encourage young children to imagine what they think happens to lost socks. Could produce some wonderful artwork and stories!

ISBN:  978-1-925335-24-8
RRP $19.99 Hardback

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Two little Scholastic books

The Three Little Lambs by Sher Foley, illustrated by Deborah Hinde (Scholastic)

There hasn't been a Kiwi Corker tale for a while so I was delighted when I unwrapped 'The Three Little Lambs' from the Scholastic box today.  Instead of three little pigs building houses we have three little mischievous lambs.

Once upon a time, out in the wop-wops, there were
three little lamb living happily with their mother.
But one muddy, grey day she was taken away in a big
truck. The little lambs feared the truck might come
back for them, so they decided it was time to leave.

Of course the first two little lambs aren't very successful with their flimsy houses and a ferocious weasel blows their house down and captures them. The oldest lamb is much brighter than his siblings and he builds his house from much stronger materials. Three times the weasel tries to trick him outside but the wily lamb outwits him every time. Children will love how the lamb finally gets rid of the pesky weasel. The story lends itself to parents and teachers talking to their children about how mustelids are a pest in New Zealand and the best way to get rid of them.

A fairy tale with a twist and an environmental message! Teachers can also talk about the iconic New Zealand symbols/objects in the book. Will be a much loved book in the home or school library.

Deborah Hinde's bright and colourful illustrations complement the book. I've just realised this is a reprint with a new cover.

ISBN: 978-1-77543-415-3
RRP $19

The Bee's Sneeze by Lucy Davey, illustrated by Katz Cowley (Scholastic)

I had been wondering what had happened to Lucy Davey because we hadn't heard from her for a while. I contacted her while I was in Wanaka and I discovered why ... Her family had grown to six! We had a coffee and a chat and she said - unbelievably - she had written three books and they were all coming out in 2016. When my children were under one years old, all I ever achieved was a  food shop and housework done about once every two weeks. She's an amazing woman! And here's her latest offering.

A great read aloud story for young children (3-7 years) about a Tootletuff fig seed planting itself in Willowomp Wood. When Buzzy McBee flies closer to the Tootletuff fig flower to check it out he sneezes, and is shot into the arms of Monkey Minx. When each animal tries to help Buzzy McBee they too sneeze and are blown smack bang into another creature, but, oh-o, what happens when they're shot towards Crocodile ... read the book to find out.

Katz Cowley illustrations add to the humour of this rollicking tale. Sometimes small pictures with a white background with the occasional one-two page full colour pages. Early childhood and Junior Primary school teachers could read this aloud to the enjoyment of their students, and then follow-up it up with a talk about the cycle of seeds and plants. It could also lead onto a discussion about pollen causing hay fever for some people.

ISBN: 978-1-77543-298-2
RRP $19

Friday, September 9, 2016

Singalong with Sharon Holt and her two books

Kia Ora by Sharon Holt, illustrated by Deborah Hinde

Learn how to greet your friends, father, mother, granddad, nana, and uncle in Maori and English:

Kia ora, e hoa. Kei to pehea koe? Kei te pai ahau.
Hello, friend. How are you? I am well.

Young learners can find out how to answer with different replies. I am hot, tired, fed up, happy. Read the story in class or at home, and then play the accompanying CD song.  Sharon includes follow up ideas, and the guitar chords.

Early childhood and Primary school teachers will find this an excellent resource to use when learning taha Maori, and to keep in the classroom library for recreational reading. I recommend schools get class sets - great for teachers who want to teach taha Maori but feel nervous doing so. It's all done for you

Taku Mokai by Sharon Holt, photography by Sophie Holt

This book and the book above introduce 3-4 sentence conversations. In Taku Mokai young learners talk about their animals and how they take care of them.

He manu taku mokai. Ko Ruby tana ingoa.
Whakatika ai au I tana whare, ia ra, ia ra ... ia ra, ia ra.

My pet is a bird. Her name is Ruby.
I clean her house every day.

At the beginning of the book are curriculum links, a pictorial glossary in Maori and English, follow up ideas for the book, and instructions on how to use the book. At the back of the book are guitar chords and a CD song.

Colourful photographs of young children with their pets accompany the text.

These two books are part of  a 12 book series, with more to come. In 2015 the series was the winner of the CLNZ Educational Publishing Awards, and the 2013 Maori Language Awards.

Maori Legend still in print

Tangaroa's Gift by Mere Whaanga (Scholastic)

Tangaroa's Gift was first published in 1990 and received the Gaelyn Gordon Award for a much-loved book in 2011 - it's so popular it is still in print!

Author illustrator Mere Whaanga wrote the legend of how paua received its beautiful colours of blue, green, pink and purple after collecting pieces of paua shell from a beach. She tells how paua first felt lonely; so drab no one noticed him. Tangaroa asked Paua why he was sad and he replied he wasn't fast or clever or pretty like other marine animals. Tangaroa thought about how he could make life better for paua, but at first his gift brings unwanted attention.  Read this delightful tale of how Paua became the most beautiful shellfish in all of New Zealand. An excellent resource to go with your books of Maori legends.

The artwork complements the gentle tale with its water colour blues and greens. Mere has swirled colours to mimic the curve of waves and the koru. Also complementing the text is the Maori version on the left and the English version of the story on the right.

RRP $19.00
ISBN: 978-1-77543-412-2

Reviewed by Maria Gill

Two fabulous junior fiction books for boys and girls

Dragon Knight: Barbarians! By Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley, Scholastic NZ

This is title no. 6 in the series, and I’ve heard it will be the last – although there’s no actual indication on the book itself that it’s the final one, so I’ve got my fingers crossed there may be more... The story follows the usual format by beginning with Merek and Breena in terrible trouble, then backtracks to tell us how they got there – and what they do to rescue themselves. In this story the plot involves a bunch of barbarians stealing Lord Crumble’s treasure, but when Merek and Breena begin investigating they find appearances are deceiving. Are the barbarians really as bad as they smell?

The value of series such as this is how well they target their intended audience – primary-aged boys. Kyle’s joke-filled and action-packed stories (laced with plenty of revolting stuff) together with Donovan’s exuberant cartoon pictures on every page offer a good alternative to computer games. Literature they ain’t, but they are very entertaining.

There’s a special thrill in handing the latest Mewburn/Bixley title over to a grandson and seeing his face light up – and then he plumps down on the sofa and instantly begins reading – long may it last.

ISBN 978 1 77543 397 2 RRP $12 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Barking Mad by Tom E. Moffatt, Scholastic NZ

This is the 2015 winner of the Tom Fitzgibbon Award for a previously unpublished writer, awarded by the Storylines Trust. The previous winner (How I Alienated My Grandma) was a funny story for younger readers, and I’m delighted that this new winner falls in the same category. New Zealand needs a strong market in junior fiction books like this so we can compete with the well-known, well-publicised humorous series from overseas that flood our bookshops.

Finn’s grandfather seems to have gone crazy. He keeps on barking and he even licked the postman. Finn’s family are distraught. But the clue lies in the fact that Granddad is a home inventor. Finn and his sister Sally soon figure out that he’s invented a machine that swaps brains – and he’s managed to swap brains with his dog, DaVinci. Chaos ensues - and this amazingly breathless pace is kept up right to the end. At one stage Finn ends up accidentally swapping brains with his sister – the worst thing in the world for both of them. Melodrama, mix-ups, humour, confusion and even desperation are expertly juggled by the author until all comes right and everyone’s brains are back where they belong.

Readers of around 8 to 11, especially boys, will chuckle their way through this madcap story, aided by black pen cartoon illustrations by Paul Beavis. Heartily recommended, and I hope the author is working on his next book.

ISBN 978 1 77543 374 3 RRP $17.00 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

For all dinosaurs; human kind and animal kind

My Grandpa is a Dinosaur by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones, colouring by Tara Black, Penguin Random House

The people behind this quirky picture book are better known as the producers of comic books, including the Blastosaurus series (you can visit them at They took some steps a while ago towards traditional picture books with their series about a boy called Morgan. Now they have found a traditional publisher and have adopted some standard picture book conventions. The humorous heart of the story is revealed in the title phrase: old people are often called dinosaurs, and in this book the phrase is taken literally as well as figuratively. Wanda can’t understand why nobody will accept that her grandpa is an actual dinosaur. The fact that her big sister shreds chippies in an electric fan, while her parents fish for their dinner in a glass of water is irrelevant (but keen-eyed youngsters will find these pictures hilarious). The trope is continued till Wanda goes to her grandfather’s retirement village and finds many more dinosaurs.

The sophisticated humour and the very modern, edgy style of the illustrations prompt me to say that the book is probably more suitable for children of primary-school age rather than pre-schoolers.

ISBN 978 0 14 350719 2 RRP $19.99 Pb

Reviews by Lorraine Orman

One Junior Fiction, one Young Adult Fiction…

The Road to Ratenburg by Joy Cowley, illus. Gavin Bishop, Gecko Press

The story in this junior novel is narrated by Spinnaker Rat, husband of Retsina and father of four little ratlets. The family lose their nest when a city building is demolished and they vow to travel to Ratenburg, known by all as a kind of rat heaven where life is easy. They begin their perilous journey with a train trip, accompanied by a single rat called Jolly Roger (who’s generally regarded as an annoying fellow). Following a memorised map, they have to get across Sunsweep Lake with its killer eels, navigate the Bottomless Bog, and keep safe through meadows, forests and a mountain range. Inevitably, the end of their journey is not what they expect.

The plot is action-packed, with our intrepid band of rats facing one life-threatening danger after another. But the subtext of the story works away quietly underneath – the family dynamics change as they travel, relationships develop, youngsters mature and take responsibility – and at the end they all realise what is most important to them.

It’s beautifully written, and Gavin Bishop’s black ink illustrations convey a lot of meaning with a minimum of clutter. Because it’s narrated by an older rat, I think the story would be best enjoyed if an adult reads it aloud to a group or to an individual child aged about six to nine. I imagine many children would then want to read it again for themselves.

ISBN 978 1 776570 75 1 RRP $19.99 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Milk Bar Warriors by Brent Leslie, Brent Leslie Books (

During World War Two New Zealand played host to thousands of United States GIs and Marines. These troops were either training for the forthcoming invasions in the Pacific, or enjoying some rest and recreation. Their time here was a memorable experience for the young American troops and the New Zealanders who came into contact with them.

This story is narrated by 16-year-old Aucklander Bruce Bickerton who befriends a group of GIs and looks after their flashy car, a Studebaker President called Mabel. Bruce and the Americans go on lots of drives to local milk bars, dances, and sly-grog dens, as well as sightseeing tours to nearby beaches. It sounds idyllic, but trouble is brewing. Bruce discovers racism is alive and well in his Air Raid Precaution Unit, while the GIs run up against racism in their own ranks – and make an enemy of a vicious and violent MP. When Bruce sees this MP strike a fatal blow to one of his American mates, he fights desperately to bring the man to justice.

The voice of the narrator seems to be that of an older man – so I decided the point of view is that of an adult Bruce looking back on his experiences. The historical setting of the story is interesting and very authentic, the style is economical and easy to read, while the plot picks up speed about half-way through the book, pulling the reader on towards a bitter-sweet ending where some problems are resolved but others aren’t. It’s a book that deserves a place in all New Zealand secondary school libraries.

ISBN 978 0 473 34861 8 RRP $28 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman (author of My Story: Here Come the Marines, Warkworth, 1943)   

Two Picture Books From Scholastic NZ

Rasmas by Elizabeth Pulford, illus. Jenny Cooper, Scholastic New Zealand

Both author and illustrator are experts at their craft, and their skill is evident in the light touch they use for this gentle and appealing story. Danny and his father go to live on Gran’s farm. Danny makes friends with a stroppy young goat, and soon the pair are inseparable. One day Dad introduces Danny and Rasmas to Rona – and soon after that Dad and Rona get married. But Danny now has to leave the farm – and Rasmas. He’s heartbroken. Of course there’s a happy ending, but I’m not going to tell how it’s reached.

The text is straightforward and beautifully written, and the illustrations are done in a soft, realistic style with pencil and watercolour paint. The focus on the high spirits and smiling expression of the goat promise the young reader that all will be well. I was particularly impressed with the integration of text and illustration – many self-published picture book authors could learn something from the layout of this book. Heartily recommended for group and one-to-one reading for four to six-year olds. Note that there is also a Maori version available entitled Ko Rama.
ISBN 978 1 77543 310 1 RRP $19 Pb

The Other Brother by Stephanie Thatcher, Scholastic New Zealand

I think this is Stephanie’s sixth picture book, and she’s really developing her own brand now. Think appealing animals, bright colours and child-focused stories. Bertie McQuerty is a little pig with a big problem. He has three brothers who are BRILLIANT. One is sporty, one is arty, and one is clever. Bertie is just “the other brother.” He’s tried being brilliant, but he’s always distracted by someone needing help. Eventually Bertie discovers his strength – and can proudly take his place on the podium. The illustrations are done in pencil and watercolour, with friendly animal faces, plenty of relaxing white space, and a variety of layout formats. Look out for the repeating motif in the illustrations ie. a little yellow chick. Integration of text and pictures on the page is excellent.

The message behind the story will be of comfort to many young readers who don’t excel at anything – in a society where there is a lot of pressure, even on children, to do better than one’s contemporaries. Recommended for group and one-to-one reading for three to six year-olds. The Maori version is entitled Ko Tera Atu O Nga Tama.
ISBN 978 1 77543 382 8 RRP $19 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Olympic Sport Book

Apologies for taking so long to post. It has been such a busy year, and I've just moved house, and don't have internet consistently on in our new house ...

I meant to post David Riley's latest book review for 'Golden Kiwis' weeks ago, but have somehow lost it on my iPad (and then the move ...). So here's my second review (the first never seeing the light).

Golden Years by David Riley (Reading Warriors)

David gives the history of the Olympic Games before launching into each Olympian Gold winner's profile.  He begins with Leonard Cuff's story, who represented New Zealand on the revived Olympic Games committee and then the first Olympic gold medal winner Malcolm Champion (how apt). All the legends are included such as Yvette Williams (first woman award winner), Peter Snell, John Walker, Russell Coutts, etc., including the single gold medal winners and the multi award winning medalists, as well as the Paralympians. At the back of the book the gold medals and their winners are written in a chart showing where and when they were won.

On each double page spread David has included q-codes, which young smart phone readers can wave their phone over and watch a video of that sports person in action. He has also included quotes, interesting facts and photographs. Young sport fans will enjoy reading about their sporting heroes.

Other sporting books by David Riley:

  • Olympic Islands
  • Jammin with Steven Adams
  • Offloading with SBW
  • Steppin with Benji Marshall
  • Rugby: The History
  • Rugby: The players, skills and the style
  • Read & Achieve with the All Blacks
  • Reading All Star Series: Gold

ISBN 978-0-473-34010-0
Soft cover, 92 pages,190 x 250mm
$25 (exc GST)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Helping kids deal with anger

The Horse and the Hurricane King by Loretta Crawford, illus. Ra Savage, Four Seas Books (

Four Seas Books is a new enterprise set up to publish children’s books which will help children manage anger and similar negative emotions. Loretta was inspired to write the book by her son who needed ways to manage his angry feelings. Ra Savage is an artist, photographer and qualified life coach.

The text begins, “Once there was a boy who was always angry. He fought with his friends. He battled with his brother. He protested to his parents. He even shouted at the sun for shining.” One night the boy goes for a ride with a dream horse who provides him with a magic net in which to blow all his angry hurricane breaths, then the horse sinks the net into the river. At the end the boy’s negative emotions are washed away and he finds peace.

The illustrator uses a combination of media including photography, sketching and Photoshop to create an appealing dreamscape. Text appearance, page design, and background colour themes are skilfully used to convey the boy’s emotional journey from anger to acceptance to joy.

The book is written for a niche market, but its serene text and calming pictures have enough appeal to enable it to be sold in the general children’s book market. I can see it being of interest to primary school teachers and child therapists as well as to parents wishing to introduce their children to breathing therapy and meditation. There is a QR code and a reference to an internet site where children can listen to a meditation about finding their special animal friend.

For availability check the website given above. The book is also available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats; Wheelers have the printed book for sale for $19.99.

ISBN 9780473353384 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman