Monday, 29 December 2014

Picture Books - Preschool up

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Ned Barraud
Craig Potton Publishing 2014 $19.99pb 38pp
ISBN 978 1 9272 1327 8
Themes:  Fantasy/ Space travel/ Wishes  
Moonman is a lanky, caretaker with a crescent shaped head whose job it is to sweep the moon and keep it sparkling clean and able to reflect the mysterious blue planet he longs to visit. An amazingly imaginative story, in text and image, that nearly all children will relate to and appreciate it’s tantalising open-ended ending. Older people who share the story with them will be sure to get the point of the importance of sometimes seeing where you have come from, from a different perspective and to be able to return to it  - wiser and more content. Nick Barraud is the illustrator of Under the ocean, At the beach and In the garden written by Gillian Candler. He works at Weta Digital as a texture artist and is hopefully already creating his next picture book for younger childen. 
Preschool up/ Age 4 up

Friday, 26 December 2014

Historical Fiction - Young Adult

NZ Writer

Catherine Mayo

The Bow – Win or Lose?

Walker Books 2014 $24.99pp 362pp

ISBN 978 1 9250 8101 5

Themes: Bronze Age Greece/ Odysseus/Sequels

The Bow is now available as an eBook – (there are too many links for me to list them here but you might try this for starters: Amazon Australia:

For a full review use the Search Box.  

Year 9 (good readers) up/ Age 13 up

Picture Books(with an NZ flavour) pre School up

(Note: No, I hadn't forgotten I had a Book Blog  - Christmas just caught up with me!  BM) 

NZ Illustrator
Little Bo Peep and more… illustrated by Donovan Bixley
Upstart Press 2014 $19.99pp 24pp
ISBN 978 1 9272 6208 5
Themes: Sheep/ Traditional nursery rhymes
Four traditional nursery rhymes (Little Bo Peep/ Baa Baa Black sheep/ Mary had a little lamb and Little Boy Blue) are brought to life here with Donovan Bixley’s inimitable illustrations. He manages to give what are essentially English rhymes a unique New Zealand flavour.  Little Bo Peep’s sheep were not really lost  - they were away enjoying some outdoor pursuits  - tramping/ fishing/ flying a light plane… no wonder they are wagging their tails behind them.  
Preschool up/ Age 4 up (but much older children will find this hilarious)

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Te Reo picture books

NZ Writer & Illustrator  Sharon Holt, illustrated by Deborah Hinde  Whai Mai!

The Writing Bug Limited 2014 $24.99pp 24pp  ISBN 978 0 4732 9456 4 Themes: Books in Te Reo/ Playgrounds/ Series

This new book in the Te Reo Singalong Books is just what we would expect from this award winning collection of colourful, engaging and truly helpful titles. Whai Mai – Follow Me calls the leader (who changes on each page) as he/she leads the small gang of children through a familiar looking playground of slides and swings, tunnels and swinging bridges and finally to the lunch table. Here the children unpack wonderfully healthy looking meals of sandwiches, fruit and packets of raisins. Bright illustrations by Deborah Hinde give the childen really recognisable additions to their clothes (fairy wings/ batman capes and back to front baseball caps) – plus the accompanying CD, the guitar cords, the English translation and list of ideas for bringing it all to life make the whole production a pleasure to look at and to use.

If you can’t find the book in your local store try:

Preschool up/ Age 4 up
Sharon shares the book at the 
Kihikihi Kindergarten Te Awamutu
Photo: Acknowlegdments to Central Kids Kindergartens


Tuesday, 16 December 2014

UK Writer & Illustrator
Russell Brand, illustrated by Chris Riddell (born Cape Town – lives in the UK)
Russell Brand’s Trickster Tales –The Pied Piper of Hamelin
Cannongate 2014 $24.99hb 128pp
ISBN 978 1 7821 1456 7

Themes: Greed/ Rats
Don’t expect the classic story in verse of the Pied Piper, who, after he had been tricked out of his money by the town councillors, lured all the village children to their fate through a doorway under the hill. All the elements are here but the villagers and their children are now utterly, completely, totally over the top – disgusting! And as for the rats. I predict children will love this and if anyone is offended by Chris Riddell’s technicolour interpretation of Russell Brand’s words they can always go back to the Robert Browning’s original – possibly the one illustrated by Kate Greenaway. They both have a great deal going for them.   It is a ‘lovely’ piece of quality book production with sturdy smooth covers, good paper and eye-pleasing colour illustrations.  
Year 4 up/ Age 8 up

An early version of the tale with illustrations by Kate Greenaway

Young Adult Fiction

NZ Writer
Sarah Costelloe
Publishers Distribution Ltd NZ 2014 $24.99pb 351pp
ISBN 978 0 4732 5553 4
Themes: Action stories/ Fantasy/ Love stories/ Murder/ Piha NZ /Surfing
Say the name Piha and for most people a vision of surfing/ dramatic rescues/ summer days full of endless sun appears in their mind. However for 16-year-old Holly Armstrong, fresh from London where we begin to understand something very distressing happened to her, Piha turns into a place of murder and unexplained mystery. She tries hard to be ‘normal’ but that is something that is completely out of her control as more and more frightening events unfold and New Zealand teeters on the brink of war.
The writer, for whom this is a first book in the Young Adult genre, lives in Auckland and has recently completed the sequel to Forecast
Year 10 up/ Age 14 up

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Rugby League for young people ten years and up

NZ Writers and Photographers
Benji Marshall and Lynn McConnell, photographs by Rob Cox
Playing Rugby League With Benji Marshall
New Holland Publishers NZ 2014 $34.99pb 206pp
ISBN 978 1 7425 7438 7
Aiming at players of ten years and up Benji Marshall covers the basics of the game of Rugby League with chapters on fitness and getting the right gear, leadership and mental attitude and his ten greatest games. The book is filled with high quality colour images which will be enjoyed even by ‘non’ readers who will learn much from them.   
Year 6 up/ Age 10 up

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Swedish Writer (lives in Germany) and Illustrator
Ole Könnecke
You Can Do It, Bert!
Gecko Press NZ 2014 $19.99pb 206pp
ISBN 978 1 9272 7143 8
Themes: Bravery/ Courage/ Risk Taking

Bert, a young, tan coloured bird of unidentifiable breed is about to take a plunge into the unknown from the very spindly branch of a high, high up tree. It takes several attempts before he makes it but encouraged by the positive shouts and remarks from his friends down below he finally and boldly JUMPS. Is he flying?  So much can be read into this seemingly simple story told with a subtle sense of humour. The more you look at it the more applications to everyday life and experiences you will find. Teachers Notes are available (and helpful). Google You Can do It Bert Teachers Notes. Also Google the writer’s name for details of his other books many of which will already be familiar to you. Remember Anton?

Preschool up/ Age 4 up (useful too in secondary collections).

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Picture Books for Christmas


NZ Writer and Illustrator Lynette Evans, illustrated by Myles Lawford, Maori translation Ngaere Roberts We Wish You a Kiwi Christmas Maori and English Lyrics sung on a ‘bonus’ CD by Pio Terei Scholastic NZ 2014 $21.00pb 32pp ISBN 978 1 7754 3267 8

Inconsiderately Santa’s reindeer hold a sit down strike on Christmas Eve and withdraw their services for delivering presents. However, here is Little Kiwi about to put paid for ever to the much quoted saying ‘Kiwis can’t fly’ as she and her many feathered friends from the forests hitch up to the sleigh and go off into the night. A really cheerful book full of good humour and a definitely sing-along song on the CD sung enthusiastically by Pio Terei.     

Preschool up/ Age 3 up

Australian Writer and Illustrator Penny Matthews, illustrated by Stephen Michael King One Night Omnibus, Scholastic Australia 2014 $29.00hb 32pp ISBN 978 1 7429 9027 9

It’s the animals turn to tell the story this time and they bring to life the old folktale that on Christmas Eve, on the minute after the striking of the hour, to celebrate the birth of Christ, all animals can talk. This tradition is believed widely in Poland and Germany, in parts of the United Kingdom, in Scandinavia (and in my house where every Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember I have tried to be there at that magic moment but something else always seems to happen.) This is such a gentle story with pictures that match the feeling of the book completely. 

Preschool up/ Age 3 up

Welsh Writer, UK Illustrator Elena Pasquali, illustrated by Sophie Windham The Story of the Nativity Lion Children’s Books 2014 $14.99pb 32pp ISBN 978 0 7459 6541 3

Although the text sticks to the familiar story there are some appealing extra touches in this Nativity presentation. A mother cat also give birth in the stable and the kittens (very advanced for newborn) are there to greet the Wise Men, Mary cradles a laying hen on the journey to Bethlehem and there is a rare look at Jesus as a young boy, curly haired and thoughtful, growing up with the other children in the village.  Both the text and the warm, glowing illustrations will make children want to ask  questions. It is a book for many readings    

Preschool up/ Age 3 up

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Fiction Young Adult

NZ Writer Linda Hansen An Unexpected Hero Create Books 2014 $15.99pb 143pp

ISBN 978 0 9941 1027 5 Themes:  Archibald Baxter/ Conscientious Objectors/ Pacifism/ Rural Schools/ Speech Making/ Stuttering

Matt, a twelve-year-old city boy goes to the country to stay with his grandparents for a term and is plunged into the unfamiliar world of a very small rural school and a community where everyone knows (or thinks they do) all about everyone else. When he is involved in the school project of researching and making a speech about someone he considers a local hero, Matt’s worst fears are realised because he suffers from a bad stammer when under pressure and the person he has chosen to talk about is Archibald Baxter, New Zealand’s World War I Pacifist. There are people in the community who consider Archie Baxter far from being a hero and feelings run high.

Linda in her role as Shadow the Storyteller Image: Porirua  Public Library
This is one of those books where you only have to read one page and you are hooked. The story is set in the present but the reader ends up knowing a great deal about what happened to so many New Zealanders one hundred years ago. A teachers’ resource kit is available from a free download from

An Unexpected Hero will be launched on Tuesday evening, December 9th at the Children’s Bookshop Kilbirnie (04 387 3905)  and at Porirua Public Library (04) 237 1533) on Thursday December 11th 

Year 8 up / Age 12 up

Archie Baxter

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Tours at the National Library of New Zealand


This is the time of year when book treats come thick and fast! On Tuesday I went to a gathering at National Library of the Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection and, after a truly festive ‘spread’ and matching wine we were taken in groups to see a small but in-depth exhibition showing the experiences of New Zealand children in World War I.  
Mary Skarrot
Mary Skarott, the DNW librarian is the curator of the exhibition and was able to bring it to life for us in all its poignant detail. She has collected letters, books and clippings and detailed photos from the time backed by a slide show. There is also a chance to knit a row of a grey balaclava – I haven’t knitted for many years and found it quite addictive.
Book jackets from books of the time (sorry - a bit hard to see!)
Then on Thursday I had another chance to see the exhibition again plus a larger one in the main foyer in which there are many diaries from soldiers and airmen (who flew in the Royal Flying Corps). This had been organised for about 30 teachers and librarians from several cluster groups around Wellington by Katrina Young Drew, the Wellington Regional Library Adviser. More wonderful food appeared.  The tour ended with a visit to the ‘basement’ where the National Children’s Collection (books published after 1940) is housed plus the Dorothy Neal White Collection which concentrates on much earlier books. Ring Mary Skarott for details of the War through Children’s Eyes (04 4704488) and for the other exhibition I haven’t got a contact but just ring National Library of New Zealand  +64 4 474 3000 (Freephone 0800 474 300)
Several local schools have been through both exhibitions since they were mounted a few weeks ago.  They will still be on at the opening of Term One 2015…

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Non-Fiction All Ages


NZ Writer & Illustrator
Maria Gill, illustrated by Heather Arnold
Rangitoto Te toka moana – the rock standing in the ocean
Long White Cloud Books and Dragonsauce Books 2014  (2009 Puffin Books) $19.99pb     32pp
ISBN 978 04732 3914 5
Shortlisted for the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards 2010

This updated version of the story of Rangitoto tells in text both simple and more advanced, plus quite amazing illustrations that cover every page, the story of the familiar Auckland landmark, its beginnings, the importance of the kaka to the island and the human intervention. This later has been both devastating but now most positive thanks to the Guardians of the Island – The Department of Conservation with guidance from the tangata whenua Ngai Tai and Ngati Paoa. The illustrations have been created by photographs and acrylic painting that have been layered together in Adobe Photoshop.

This should be available through your local bookshop but if not go to:

From page 4-5
Year 2 up/ Age 6 up

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Fiction 8 years and up

Dutch Writer and French Illustrator
Toon Tellegen, illustrated by Marc Boutavant
The Day No One Was Angry
Gecko Press 2014 $27.99pb 82pp
ISBN 978 1 9272 7160 5
Themes:  Anger/ Being grumpy/ Short stories

There are twelve short stories here and all may be appreciated by different levels of understanding.  It may be read as simple stories of animals trying to deal with their anger from a mouse to a rhinoceros or by much older people who will think ‘why that’s just how I feel sometimes’. The important thing about the book is not to try to read too much into it – just enjoy it and its magnificent illustrations for what it is – a gentle but subtle look at the nature of human emotions.  
Don’t let this get lost in the picture book boxes – it is definitely a book for the fiction shelves even if it is tall  (perhaps shelve it sideways?)  
Year 4 up/ Age 8 up

Picture Books Preschool p

NZ (born in Wales) Writer and Illustrator
Christopher Llewelyn, illustrated by Scott Tulloch
How Does the Giraffe Get to Work? 
Scholastic NZ 2014 19.00pb    32pp
ISBN 978 1 7754 3246 3
Themes:  Commuting/ Stories in rhyme/ Zoos

It may come as a surprise to some readers to find that the animals, like the zookeepers, only work at the zoo and actually go home every night. Writer and artist have had a lot of laughs and fun imagining this situation as the animals set out for another day’s work - the emu and rhea jogging along the motorway, a family of wolves snarling and yawning on the train (best left alone first thing in the morning) plus the tiger jacketed and helmeted on a tiny moped. The giraffe is the last to arrive – riding, rather uncomfortably, a very old and rusty bike. A great read aloud and one to which children will enjoy adding their own means of transport for other animals.
Preschool up/ Age 3 up

Monday, 1 December 2014

Non-Fiction 8 years up

NZ Writer, Illustrator and Photographers Heather Arnold writer and illustrator with photos of birds from Geoff Moon and Rod Morris Draw New Zealand Birds – A step-by-step guide

Dragon Sauce Books 2014 (2007/ 2008/ 2013)   $24.99pb 32pp
ISBN 978 0 4732 3700 4

Open any page in this award winning book  (LIANZA Elsie Lock Non-Fiction Award 2008) and you are faced with a cornucopia of ideas and with enough stimulation to want to begin drawing at once. This is a reprint (by Dragon Sauce Books) and was first published by Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd in 2007. At that time I was working with a group of 8-12 year olds in the Kiwi Conservation Club (Forest & Bird)  and I remember how much pleasure and help we had from it. I feel this is the most handsome edition of the book to date and who could resist page 7 with its details and photos of the materials the artist is going to need – pencils and brushes/ rubbers/ sanding blocks/ the ‘heavy, stable water jar’? 
This should be available through your local bookshop but if not go to:
Year 4 up/ Age 8 up (but younger children will have much pleasure from it with an adult’s guidance).

Look! It's done it again!  See earlier post.

Fiction - Age 8 and up

UK Writer and Illustrator A. F. Harrold, illustrated by Emily Gravett The Imaginary Bloomsbury 2014   $24.99hb 221pp ISBN 978 1 4088 5246 0

Themes: Imagination/ Imaginary friends/ Love/ Memory

Like many children, Amanda has an imaginary friend in whom she confides and with whom she hangs out. His name is Rudger and in her heart Amanda knows of course he doesn’t exist. Then one day a sinister man, Mr Bunting, comes knocking at the door looking for Rudger and Rudger is forced to run for his (non existent) life. In places the story is quite spooky and scary. There is a lot to ponder over in this handsomely produced book which would read aloud well.  Both writer and illustrator lead colourful lives and it is well worth looking up the details through Google. 

Year 4 up/ Age 8 up

Help! I seem to have no control on this Blog on the way postings turn out!  For several days all works well then suddenly we revert to having unsightly gaps in the bibliographic details and for all my going back to the edit mode it remains like that.  The Blog doesn't seem to have a manual... Barbara M