Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Two more kiwi stories

Little Kiwi has a Forest Feast by Bob Darroch (Puffin)

Little Kiwi has a Forest Feast is the 12th book in the successful Little Kiwi series. These books are often on the bestseller list.

Little kiwi has a cold and is not feeling well. He's also hungry but his blocked nostrils are not helping him find worms. Later, his sister enquires why he hasn't gotten up for the day. She misinterprets 'coldt' for 'colt' and spreads a rumour around the forest that kiwi is getting a horse. Perhaps to ride away ... The forest animals crowd around his burrow to see if it is true. When they realise he has a cold ... find out what they do next.

An animal story about friendship and supporting your friends when they need help. Young children (4-6 year olds) will enjoy the humorous colourful illustrations and the positive ending.

Bob Darroch has been drawing cartoons for most of his life. His work has appeared on
toys, jigsaws, souvenirs and postcards and in newspapers and magazines worldwide. He
started writing and illustrating his own books for children in 1999. In 2001, the first of the
popular Little Kiwi stories were published. Little Kiwi is Scared of the Dark has since been
awarded the Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award for a Much-Loved Book. Bob has illustrated
books for other authors, including for his wife, Ruth

ISBN: 978-0-14-377095-4

Kuwi's very shiny bum by Kat Merewether (Illustrated Publishing)

Okay, I confess, I'm very late with this review. I should have typed it up end of last year in time for Christmas, but I figure people are probably already looking for Christmas stories and this book can stand alone, as well. Plus Kat has two more books, floor puzzle, and baby cup and plate set coming soon ... so thought I better get this out, better late than never.

Kuwi's very shiny bum is the third book in the Kuwi the Kiwi series (with more coming soon - see above). The series has been hugely popular and is flying to happy children's homes all around the globe. Kat donates a portion of her profits to Kiwis for Kiwi Trust and has so far raised $10,000. The Trust has made Kat Merewether an Ambassador for Kiwis for Kiwi Trust.

This book is a story within a story. Mama kiwi reads a Christmas story about paying it forward in a xmas setting. A little kiwi finds a red ball and attaches it to its bottom and then makes, builds, and bakes presents for all its friends. Find out their response. And the lovely surprise for Kuwi at the end.

The illustrations are full of humour and reference kiwiana in many different ways including the King of Kiwiana Dick Frizzell himself (as a kiwi).

Go to Kuwi the Kiwi's website for more information and other kiwi goodies.

RRP $18.99 Te Reo Maori versions available too.

ISBN: 978 0 994 136404

Cooking for Kids Recipe books

I Quit Sugar: Kids' Cookbook by Sarah Wilson (MacMillan)

When my son was six years old we noticed he never stopped jiggling. His teacher said it was like he wanted to go to the toilet all the time. He didn't, in desperation she drew a small circle around his body and told him he could not move out of it. We took him to a Naturopath and he told us we had to take sugar out of his diet.  So began the scrutinising of every label on packets of food while at the supermarket. I found the amount of sugar in food quite shocking. Foods that I thought were healthy were loaded with sugar. It meant I had to do more baking and use stevia instead of sugar. And yes it made a huge difference taking sugar out of his diet.

I wish this recipe book had been around 15 years ago (my jiggly son is now 21 years old). It begins with reasons why parents should consider taking their kids off sugar. Sarah says it is not about 'bad' foods and banning certain items. Instead, parents should try to encourage them to fill-up on other sugarless snacks, treats and meals. She says it's about eating like our grandparents did; less packaged food and with the least number of ingredients.

The World Health Organisation recommends children aged 4-8 years old shouldn't be eating more than 3 teaspoons of sugar a day. Yet some foods such as a glass of apple juice, bowl of cereal or toast with jam can blow that count in one serving. You can read about what too much sugar does to young children and advice about what we should be feeding our children. There's a very helpful allergy substitution guide and advice on how to navigate the book.

The recipes are then organised into the following categories:

Simple staples that get kids to the table - 10 pages
Breakfast for brain power - 12 pages
Vegetable dishes (and the art of disguising they're vegetables) - 14 pages
Classic dishes but with the IQS makeover - 14 pages
Creative fun sweet dishes - 10 pages
Lunchbox ideas - 20 pages
Grab'n'Run dishes - 10 pages
Party dishes - 22 pages

One hundred people responded to Sarah's plea for sugarless recipes, as well as specialised contributors such as Kate Burbidge; registered psychologist who is also a health nut in the kitchen, Bree Hateley creator of, a website dedicated to providing healthy and wholesome tips for feeding kids; and Lee Holmes author of multiple cookbooks; and others.

The recipes are fun, healthy and original. Take this recipe for example:

Nutty Teeth
1 red or green apple cut into thin wedges.         1-2 tbsp nut butter
2 tsp silvered almonds or pumpkin seeds

1. Spread the nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew) over half of the apple slices and stick on another slice at a 'jaw-like' angle.
2. Spike the almond slivers or pumpkin seeds into the nut butter to form teeth.
3. Serves two or three as a snack.

Author Sarah Wilson is a New York Times bestselling author and journalist. Her site an online wellness site featuring the latest news, science and nutritional support for anyone wanting to ease their sugar load in their diet.

RRP $29.99 paperback
ISBN: 978-1-925479-50-8

Weekday Meals in Minutes by Simon & Alison Holst (Hyndman Publishing)

Okay this book is for all the busy parents who rush home from work, scratch their heads wondering what nutritious meal they can whip up quickly. I think there are plenty of parents who need help at those bewitching hours.

The book gives you hints on what to stock in your pantry, weekly meal planning, and then divides the recipes into the following: salads; sandwiches, wraps & burgers; pasta, noodles & rice; curries & chillies; vegetarian meals; main meals with fish & seafood; main meals with meat. You can also find more recipes on their website and find it with a q-code.

The meals have been chosen for their quickness to prepare. Each recipe has from 3-5 steps and it should only take 30 minutes to make. You'll find delicious meal ideas like Chinese-style chicken salad, Greek-style lamb burgers, Mediterranean meatballs in pita pockets, seafood laksa, Chicken & Chorizo Jambalaya, Pad Thai ... they've mined the globe for culinary delights. They haven't taken up unnecessary room with cakes, biscuits and desserts recipes you're never going to make when you're in a rush; they're all lunch and dinner menu ideas. Just what busy parents need.

Dame Alison Holst and her son Simon Holst have written over 40 recipe books together. They've all been bestsellers and have sold over 2.1 million copies to date.


ISBN: 978-0-908319-07-7

Monday, August 21, 2017

More off-the-wall picture books from Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones

If I Had an Elephant by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones, colouring by Tara Black, Scholastic NZ

The two previous two picture books by this trio (My Grandpa is a Dinosaur and That’s Not the Monster We Ordered) were published by Penguin NZ. This latest book is with Scholastic NZ. All have the same distinctive graphic style – which I’d like to call Almost-a-Comic-But-Not-Quite. All have the same quirky theme of taking the impossible and pushing it even further.

“I wish I had an elephant,” says the boy. “If I had an elephant we’d win every water fight!” Then the idea takes flight: “If I had an elephant, we’d build a time machine together. Then we’d travel back in time to meet his great, great [many greats] grandfather.” Who just happens to be a mastodon wearing spectacles. It’s always hard to end a flight of fancy story, but I’m happy with this ending: “But this year, for my birthday, I got a gorilla and a dragon.” Just think what you can do with a gorilla and a dragon…

The book design is impressive, with an eye-catching cover picture, cute end papers, and edgy comic-style illustrations (fine pen and ink) that happily enhance the story. Mention must be made of the Photoshop colouring which is done with unusual but effective colours.

My copy will be going to my 5-year-old grandson who spends a lot of time imagining and pretending – he’ll love it.

BTW, there’s an interesting article at The Sapling.

ISBN 978 1 77543 476 4 $19.99 Hb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

That's not the Monster we ordered by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones (Penguin)

Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones are on a roll. Their book 'My Grandpa is a Dinosaur' recently shortlisted for the 2017 New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults. They're now published with Scholastic and Penguin; the two biggest children's book publishers in New Zealand. Their latest book 'That's not the monster we ordered' has the same 'off-the-wall' quirky type humour , as the others, and is printed in foolscap portrait size with their distinctive illustration style.

'That's not the monster we ordered' starts off with a family observing a neighbour receiving a monster that they'd ordered online. The whole neighbourhood piles into that family's house to check out the monster. It can do tricks, make loud noises, run down stairs faster than anyone else. Of course, then everyone wants one.

The narrator of the story, a young boy, has trouble convincing his family they need one. His parents tell him he'd never get his homework done, it'll be too expensive ... the usual parent-excuses. Will the parents give in and will they get the type of monster they want ... a super-duper monster that will be the envy of the neighbourhood or will they get what they need?

A fun picture book that will delight kids 4-8 years old either read aloud in a classroom (it's big enough for every kid to see), or read to a child on your lap. Afterwards you could ask children if they've ever pined for something and got it and did it live up to their expectations? And which monster did they prefer in the story and why?

What is even more extraordinary about these books is that Richard Fairgray is classed as fully blind. He says that he sees everything flat and in order to illustrate he holds the paper up close to his face. Richard knows what he wants to draw before he starts and then approaches it mathematically. See an interview of him talking about it here.

I particularly like that Richard gets away from stereotypes of what is 'family'. He has drawn mixed cultures; the main character and his family is either Maori or African American (the book does have an American feel to it), and the mother fixes the car.  There's lots of extra humorous bits that kids will enjoy noticing on second, third, and more readings. Will be a favourite in the home or classroom.

Reprint of a Classic…

The Great White Man-Eating Shark: a Cautionary Tale by Margaret Mahy, illus. Jonathan Allen. Hachette NZ

Apparently Hachette NZ have obtained the reprint rights to some of Margaret Mahy’s classic picture books. They’ve already produced A Lion in the Meadow and The Man Whose Mother Was a Pirate. These stories scarcely need describing to most teachers, librarians, and parents. But there are always tatty old copies lying round that can be replaced with a bright new reprint; and there are always more pre-schoolers coming along who haven’t yet had the stories read aloud to them. These new generations will love Norvin’s forays as a fearsome shark, as well as Jonathan Allen’s sneaky-eyed pointy-toothed portrayal of Norvin as he terrorises the beach.

Recommended for every age from three upwards.

ISBN 978 1 86971 361 4 RRP $19.99 (not released till 29/8/17) Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Featuring Pacific Island heroes

Preview of a Magpies article…

The July issue of Magpies (an Australasian children’s book review magazine) will contain an article about David Riley, Reading Warrior (visit him at Many New Zealand teachers, librarians and young readers will already know David and his passion to get teenagers reading, particularly boys from Pacific Island backgrounds.

David sent three self-published books as examples of the main strands of reading material he’s currently creating and marketing. The first category covers books about Pacific Island heroes and achievers. The book he sent is Samoan Heroes (Reading Warrior, 2015, a Storylines Notable Book). It’s a solid, glossy book packed full of information and graphics about mythological heroes, sporting stars, and achievers in areas such as literature, politics, science and music.
The second category consists of books about sporting stars written for teenage readers, including well-known athletes such as Steven Adams, Sonny Bill Williams, and Benji Marshall. Again, the books in this series are packed with personal and professional information about the star, along with numerous action photographs. The supplied example of this category was Jammin’ With Steven Adams (Reading Warrior, 2015, a Storylines Notable Book).

The third category is the Reading All Stars series, which are smaller, shorter books about local sports stars written for younger readers (and unconfident readers) of around intermediate age. The example is Joseph Parker (Reading Warrior, 2017), which has a bigger font and lots of interesting coloured photos.

Watch out for the Magpies article – it will also include a Selected Bibliography of David’s works. They can all be bought from

Lorraine Orman

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A happy ending…

I’d Rather Be a Fairy Princess by Petra Kotrotsos and Christina Irini Arathimos, Makaro Press

Petra Kotrotsos
This picture book is a labour of love for a lot of people. Petra Kotrotsos was only six when she had a playground fall and doctors investigating her sore back discovered she had a neuroblastoma in her chest. So began weeks of treatment involving operations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The story describes Petra’s high and low moments as she copes with the time in hospital, the treatments, and the side effects. She’d always wanted to be a fairy princess, but when her hair falls out she realises she’s better suited to being a fairy warrior in the battle against cancer. The story ends when her hair starts to grow back, but in reality Petra’s neuroblastoma recurred four times until she was fifteen.

Christina Irini Arathimos
The story was originally written by Petra when she was seven, and sympathetic editing has turned it into a straightforward, easy-to-read account of a brave little girl’s battle against cancer. The illustrator Christina Irini Arathimos was mentored by Fifi Colston and together they have produced appealing child-focused pictures, full of life and common sense, that show what Petra is going through – but at the same time they’re not frightening or overwhelming.

The printing of the book was funded by the Wellington Hospitals Foundation, and the list of thank-you names on the last page includes family members, friends, and medical professionals. As I said, a labour of love for many people.

The book would be particularly welcome for families with an ill child, but I can also see a firm place for it in hospital libraries, public libraries and primary school libraries.

ISBN 9780994137944 $25.00 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

2017 NZ Book Award winners

Congratulations to all the winners!

Recent picture books from Scholastic NZ…

The Curious Ar-Chew by Sarah Grundy, illus. Ali Teo and John O’Reilly, Scholastic NZ

This is the winner of the 2016 Storylines Joy Cowley Award for an unpublished picture book text. My heart sank slightly when I saw the rhyming text, because I read an awful lot of not-very-good rhyming text. But I’m delighted to say this is excellent – it flows beautifully, there aren’t any bumpy bits, and the rhymes are fresh and unforced. Congratulations to this first-time children’s book author.

It’s a friendly, uncluttered story about three forest creatures spotting a strange animal sleeping inside a hollow tree. It’s got big orange feet. Is it a goose? It’s got long ears. Is it a rabbit? It’s got a thick woolly coat… What is it? Of course the creature wakes up with a big sneeze – and soon we see exactly what it is. But I’m not going to tell.

The illustrators have used a clean-cut straightforward style that matches the simplicity of the story. Swathes of green convey open, rolling countryside; black shadows and silhouettes provide drama; and the tall straight tree trunks reflect the comfort of a forest full of sunshine. The illustrations also offer a pleasing array of sizes and viewpoints.

This is an excellent picture book for preschool centres and early primary classes; it would be great fun to read aloud to a group.

ISBN 978 1 77543 437 5 RRP $17.99 Pb

Too Much Poo by Scott Tulloch, Scholastic NZ

Author/illustrator Scott Tulloch’s previous picture books include one of my all-time favourites I Am Not a Worm! I’m saying this first, because I’m now going to admit that I don’t like scatological stories. However other professionals may not have the same qualms, so I’ll try to gloss over the “poo” aspect of this book. The promotional material says that the author’s observations on human greed were the inspiration for the story. 

It focuses on a blowfly (looking rather like an electrocuted pompom) who spots ever-larger animals defecating on the ground – until the piles of poo he investigates are too big for him to cope with. What is a poor blowfly to do?

The illustrations get more and more outrageous (I’m not going to describe the elephant scene!). Which prompts a warning about these types of story – any ambitious teacher trying to read this book aloud in a preschool or classroom environment would probably provoke a class riot.

Note that the book mentions a link to “for a hilarious free audio reading of this book.”

ISBN 978 1 77543 408 5 RRP $17.99 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Friday, August 11, 2017

Augmented Reality … or Augmented Fiction?

The Dragon Defenders: Book One by James Russell, animations by Yongtao Zhang, Dragon Brothers Books

Warning – I am discussing a multimedia experience here, more than reviewing a book. Most children’s lit enthusiasts will be aware of James’ earlier picture book series, The Dragon Brothers Trilogy. These were very popular, and the first one was reviewed on this blog in 2013.

This new series confronts us with some massive changes. Same two main characters, but different genre and format (it’s a junior novel, not a picture book), a total change in illustrative style, and the introduction of a digital characteristic popularly known as augmented reality.

Flynn and Paddy live on a remote island with their parents. For entertainment they read books, play games, go exploring, ride their horse, train their falcon, fish and hunt for food. They haven’t even heard of smartphones. But they do know that a colony of dragons lives on their island. When a boatload of thugs arrives on the island intent upon stealing a dragon’s egg and killing an adult dragon, the two boys know they have to foil the evil plan. The story is fast-moving and will keep young readers eagerly turning the pages.

The author says, “As far as I can tell, The Dragon Defenders is one of only two or three novels in the world to have ‘augmented reality’ content, accessible via a free app downloaded to your smartphone or tablet.” Once you have downloaded the app, you follow a few simple instructions and point your device camera at indicated pages to view the augmented reality. There are five of these pages throughout the book, showing extras such as a video of the evil guy being gross, and the decoding of a coded document, and an instructional map of the island. BTW, if you don’t have access to the app, the next page in the book tells you what you missed.

Having downloaded the app on to my Samsung Galaxy tablet, I did the camera bit and studied the extra segments. Then I thought about what it would be like to share this experience with a grandchild.
Firstly, to operate the app you have to be connected to the internet. Unless you have an incredibly trustworthy child, you will probably want to keep a close eye on what’s going on. Secondly, I didn’t have enough hands to hold the book open, clutch the tablet, get it centred on the GO arrow, and tap the screen (a grandchild would have been useful at this point!) Thirdly, I had a few problems with the app not doing what I expected it to do and booting me back to the beginning (though this might be the fault of my ageing tablet).

Lastly, I found the augmented reality segments a tad disappointing. Having seen many popular computer games full of action, noise, explosions, surprises and suspense, loud theme music, etc, I would like to see more of these features in the app segments - particularly more exciting sound effects to fill in the blank-page bits. And I’d love to see an enormous dragon swooping past, blasting out fire… 

As for the phrase ‘augmented reality’, aren’t we just adding an extra layer of fiction to something that is already fiction? Why use the word reality?

Buy the book, use the app, read the story (preferably with children), consider the potential of the augmented reality (ie. fiction?) aspect – and
plenty of encouragement to James and his crew to come up with MORE! You can visit them at

ISBN 978 0 473 37621 5 $22 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman 

Three very different picture books from Duck Creek Press…

Nina’s Phantom Friend by Andy Conlan, Duck Creek Press
Andy Conlan is a man of mystery – I couldn’t find out much about him. But his website at says “Author and Illustrator of Books for the World’s Luckiest Children,” as well as identifying him as a professional photographer and filmmaker. The website also introduces two previous picture books – Mr Gloomingdale’s Downpour, and Portrait of a Waiting Pig. I suspect these are written in the same wry (some would say blackly humorous) style as Nina’s Phantom Friend.

The book is certainly a departure from the usual Duck Creek Press publications – good on them for venturing out of their comfort zone. This story is best regarded as a sophisticated picture book – it’s definitely not for the littlies. Nina’s cat, Masaccio, has died, and she misses him terribly. But his ghost visits her, and tells her that she must retrieve his remains and bury them. To do this, Nina must venture into the underworld where she meets and outwits the Ferryman and the Bone Counter, both very spooky characters. Definitely shades of Orpheus in the underworld here, also Garth Nix’s Sabriel series. The artwork is stunning – as well as being challenging and unsettling. Picture in your mind a mountain of skulls…

Recommended for readers of intermediate age and older. It would also be of interest to art teachers and students – it’s really cutting-edge stuff.

ISBN 978 1 927305 32 4 RRP $19.99 Pb

So Special by David Hill, illus. Nikki Slade Robinson, Duck Creek Press

David Hill needs no introduction – as one of New Zealand’s most prolific and recognised children’s writers. He’s recently turned his hand to writing picture book texts – he received the 2016 Children’s Choice Non-Fiction Award for First to the Top: Sir Edmund Hilary’s Amazing Everest Adventure.

Nikki Slade Robinson has illustrated over sixty children’s books and readers as well as writing and illustrating her own stories, with several having been published by Duck Creek Press.
This latest picture book was created in collaboration with the New Zealand Defence Force. It addresses the difficult issues faced by children when a parent is deployed overseas. The story is suitably low-key, with an easy-to-read text featuring a boy called Oscar. People keep telling him he’s special because he comes from an Army family, and his Dad is special too because he’s helping out in war-ravaged countries. But all Oscar can think of is how much he misses his Dad. The story is probably most suitable for primary-aged children, particularly those with parents away from home for long periods of time.

The illustrations are done in a straightforward style with clean lines, calming colours, and plenty of white space. The book will be available in September, and there will also be a Maori language version available for the same price – He Tino Taonga.

ISBN 978 1 927305 33 1 RRP $19.99 Pb

Dragons under My Bed by Kath Bee, illus. Lisa Allen, Duck Creek Press

Here’s one for the littlies, pre-schoolers and early primary age. It’s the first picture book from Kath Bee, an award-winning children’s songwriter who has travelled all over New Zealand since 2002. Her most popular and requested song, Dragons Under My Bed, which won the 2014 APRA Children’s Video of the Year, has been turned into a book - with the song downloadable. I also found a version of the song on Kath’s YouTube channel.

As always with picture song books, the words are at their best when being sung. Any glitches in the rhythm of the words are miraculously ironed out when there’s a musical background. It’s a bouncy light-hearted tale told from the point of view of a little boy who has a bunch of pesky dragons living under his bed. It’s amazing how often they come out and create chaos after lights out!

I can see this book being welcomed by children’s librarians, pre-school and primary teachers, and musically-minded parents – anyone who likes to combine music and singing aloud with a popular song.

ISBN 978 1 927305 35 5 $19.99 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman