Monday, 29 July 2013


STORYLINES Free Family Day

The Storylines Festival of New Zealand children’s writers and illustrators is nearly here.

Dunedin Saturday 10th August
Christchurch Sunday 11th August
Wellington Saturday 17th August
Kaitaia  Saturday 17th August
South Auckland Saturday 17th August
Auckland Saturday 18th August

Google for details of venues and times.

I had a good idea under the shower this morning  - a place conducive to ideas!
As many of the New Zealand viewers of this Blog will remember I have, for the past four years, produced a bulletin - Too Good to Miss - profiling children’s writers and illustrators in this country. The last one (Volume 3) was in November last year and in it I promised Volume 4 would be published in May 2014. However, as the weeks have gone by (and I have already been accumulating material), I have been getting more and more anxious about how I was going to finance this. With the winding up of the hard copy of Around the Bookshops, no money comes in to that side of the business. Then, the idea?  What better place to do this than the Blog? So, over the next couple of weeks (no, probably months) I will be downloading the first three volumes into a new page Too Good to Miss   - New Zealand Writers and illustrators for Children and Young Adults.  Of course much of it will have to be updated, as the people on the pages haven’t stood still. When that is done I will begin adding the new people and that will then be an ongoing project as more wonderful writers and illustrators appear and I hope it will build up into a useful resource. .
For a while it will have be a page Under Construction.

 I am just off for a very short R and R break up the coast in the Rangitikei  - I may not have time to add any books to the Blog before I go. However, I will have more time in the three days to read a lot of them.

(Well - maybe!)

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Picture Book

UK Writer and Illustrator
Martha Mumford, illustrated by Ada Grey
Shhh! Don’t Wake the Royal Baby
Bloomsbury    2013   $18.99pb   32 pages
ISBN 978 1 4088 4463 2

Themes: Royal family/ Spoofs

The Royal Baby is home at the palace and everyone looks delighted  - the Queen, the parents, the corgis, the relatives - including Red Haired Harry. There is just one problem though – the Royal Baby (gender at this stage not given) simply will not settle to sleep and fills the air with loud cries of protest. Everything is tried – the Queen takes him up in a plane and floats to earth with him under a large parachute, his father give him a helicopter trip, his mother rocks him gently. Although there is no real resolution to the story,  it is so charmingly told and illustrated that even the most ardent Over-The-Royal-Baby-Protesters will smile in appreciation.

Preschool up/ Age 4 up

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Picture Book

Japanese Writer and Illustrator
Komako Sakai
Hannah’s Night
Gecko Press   2013   $19.99pb   32 pages
ISBN 978 1 8775 7955 4

Themes: Cats/ Family life/ Nighttime

Hannah, obviously the youngest child in the family, comes into her own very early in the morning, when, with everyone else asleep, there is nobody around to tell her what to do. With the family cat for company she explores the house, helps herself to the most delicious items in the fridge, and stares out the window at the setting moon. Then, she takes her sister’s treasured music box plus her colouring pencils and notebook back to her own bed to play with. Hannah is in control! Exquisitely illustrated in nighttime colours, this story shows the power of being alone.

Preschool up/ Age 4 up

Friday, 19 July 2013


PANZ (The Publishers Association New Zealand) have just announced the award winners for 2013
In the children’s section the winner of the Scholastic New Zealand Award for the best children’s book goes to Melu designed by Ali Teo and John O’Reilly, written by Kyle Mewburn and published by Scholastic, 2012.
This book was awarded the Children’s Choice in last month’s New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards

Big congratulations to Ali, John and Kyle – that’s exciting news. 

Photo of Ali and John 
acknowledgement to Ali Teo (2009)

The PANZ judges said this in their comment about the title:
From start to finish, this book exudes a quiet confidence indicative of designers in full command of their craft. As reviewers have pointed out, Melu contains a lot of words for a picture book, but nowhere does it look cluttered. Good taste, a sure touch and a fine sense of balance rule throughout.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Fiction - Age 10 up

NZ Writer
Susan Battye
Cup Magic
My New Zealand Story series
Scholastic   2013   $18.95pb  224 pages
ISBN 978 1 7754 3028 5

Themes:   America’s Cup Challenge 1995/ Diaries/ Grandparents/ Peter Blake/ Takapuna, Auckland/ Team New Zealand

Eleven-year-old Mike cannot understand why his parents have sent him away from home to stay with his grandparents  - especially as this is his first year at intermediate.  However, the reason they needed him ‘out of the way’ was not what had seemed to him the possible disintegration of their marriage but the beginning of a totally exciting and adventurous experience. His parents, both enthusiastic sailors, have become involved in preparations for Team New Zealand’s America’s Cup Challenge 1995, are about to go to San Diego for the race and, at the last moment, Mike is to go with them. The first half of the book tends to drag a bit where Mike and his friend, Hone, learn to sail and we read about the many preparations needed for the challenge. However, the second part has some very exciting pieces and would read aloud well.

Year 6 up/ Age 10 up   

Monday, 15 July 2013

Picture Book

UK Writer and Swedish Illustrator
William Bee, illustrated by Cecilia Johansson
Digger Dog
Noisy Crow   2013   $28.99hb  32 pages (includes fold out poster)
ISBN 978 0 8576 3128 2

Themes:   Dinosaurs/ Dogs/ Machinery/

Digger Dog, a benign looking canine with good driving skills, is not deterred when his first attempt to unearth what he knows is a really juicy bone is foiled. From spades he advances to a small digger, then a bigger digger, then the biggest digger in the whole world. A very satisfying book to read aloud with no unfamiliar words to trip over. Any child based audience will be bound to join in with enthusiasm.

Preschool  - Age 3 up

William Bee, the author of Digger Dog, writes his books on his various typewriters – including a classic Royal Sabre and a pair of Smith Corona Super Gs. His work has been displayed in museums in the UK and in Japan.
Source: Noisy Crow website

Picture Book

Australian Writer and Illustrator
Blaze Jake Kwaymullina, illustrated by Sally Morgan
Helping Little Star
Walker Books   2013   $27.99hb         24 pages
ISBN 978 1 9219 7777 0

Themes:   Australian animals/ Night sky

A deceptively simple story for the youngest listeners and lookers about the fate of Little Star who inadvertently falls off the edge of the night sky into a swimming hole.  Here he encounters a group of (eventually) helpful animals including a dingo, a python and a kangaroo. One of the charms of the story lies in the bold illustrations that have been created with acrylic gouache showing the rich colours of the Australian Outback. 
Blaze Jake Kwaymullina is the son of the illustrator, Sally Morgan – Google their names for a really interesting story of a very creative Australian family.
Preschool  - Age 3 up

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Non-Fiction and some Storylines News

Australian Writers and Photographers
Laklak Burarrwanga and others
Welcome To My Country
Allen & Unwin   2013   $23.99pb         209 pages
ISBN 978 1 7433 1396 1

Themes: Arnhem Land/ Australian Aboriginal rights/ Australian Aboriginal life and culture/

Laklak Burarrwanga and her large family are Yolnu people. They live in a thriving community at Bawaka in Arnhem Land in a place rich with story in the rivers, the trees, the hills and the rocks. Laklak’s story (she is now an elder in the community) has been built up over the years with the help of interpreters and includes her long walk across Arnhem Land as a child and her people’s fights for their children to have quality schooling. The book is illustrated with excellent colour photographs which could be the basis for many spin-offs for younger children.

Year 8 up/ Age 12 up

STORYLINES 2013 is nearly here!

(This is part of the Storylines new logo) 

Dunedin Saturday 10th August
Christchurch Sunday 11th August
Wellington Saturday 17th August
Kaitia Saturday 17th August
South Auckland Saturday 17th August
Auckland Sunday 18th August
(Google Storylines 2013 for details of programmes and venues)

I am on the Wellington planning committee and at our latest meeting this week we discussed a special deal on extra large  teddy bears that were being offered by The Warehouse. We are not totally sure how we are going to use him in the programme yet but I was detailed off to buy him this afternoon. He is a big bear and he seemed so intelligent and companionable as I drove him home that I felt I should actually be engaging him in a little small talk. He is now lying on the bed in the rather cold spare room – I just hope he doesn’t expect to come out and watch TV tonight in front of the fire…I am sure there are some scary stories (including adult) about Toys That Come to Life. I will be waiting for the soft pad pad of large paws.


Sunday, 7 July 2013

Picture Books and Fiction Age 6 up


Belgian Writer and Illustrator
Annemie Berebrouckx
Bernie (and) Flora
Book Island, Raumati, Wellington   2012   $19.99pb    36 pages
ISBN 978 0 9876 6961 2

Themes: Flowers/ Friendship/ Love

The friendship between Bernie the bear and Flora the duck goes back a long way as does their love of the beautiful flowers in Bernie’s garden. Then one morning Flora arrives at Bernie’s house to find all the flowers have vanished – who could do such a thing? A gentle and colourful story that explores the nature of friendship and love with subtle touches of humour.  

 Preschool up / Age 4 up

Irish Writer and Belgian Illustrator
Lorraine Francis, illustrated by Pieter Gaudesaboos
Sammy and the Skyscraper Sandwich
Book Island, Raumati, Wellington   2012   $24.99hb    16 pages
ISBN 978 0 9876 6960 5

Themes: Board books/ Food preparation/ Healthy food

Sammy is so hungry that although he begins by making a very large sandwich it is just not enough to satisfy him. He goes out into the city to find more and more delicious ingredients and to make the sandwich grow and grow. There is much to look at and the laminated pages encourage much touching as well.  With an emphasis on healthy foods, a wide age range of children will enjoy the idea of making their own skyscraper sandwiches (and, depending on the ingredients, eating them).

Preschool up / Age 4 up

Dutch Writer and Belgian Illustrator
Dirk Nielandt, illustrated by Marjolein Pottie
Sir Mouse To The Rescue
Book Island, Raumati, Wellington   2012   $24.99hb    52 pages
ISBN 978 0 9876 6962 9

Themes: Friendship/ Funny stories/ Short stories 
Mouse is dressed in armour and carries a sword. She is a knight.  Dragon doesn’t have any of these things – she is just Dragon and she and Mouse are friends. This is a very clever look at stereotypes, at how opposites often attract in friendships and how we all (mice, dragons and human beings) are a combination of many personalities. Great to read aloud and to follow up with some of the suggested activities on the website. (See below) Also perfect for emerging readers to enjoy on their own.  

Year 2 up/ Age 6 up

I have only just come across Book Island, a new publishing firm based in Raumati South, their first three titles published in November last year and their publisher Greet Pauwelijn. Greet has created many spin offs to accompany the books and you can find out about them, the publishing firm and the publisher by visiting
I will most certainly be looking out for further titles published by this firm.

Note to new writers:
Yes, I know the idea of another source to which to send material is really exciting (and especially when you see the high quality of the first three titles), but I have to tell you that, because all the books published by Book Island are translated, they do not accept any unsolicited manuscripts. 


Saturday, 6 July 2013


NZ Writer, Illustrators and Photographers
Fifi Colston, illustrations from the author and various other sources
Wearable Wonders
Scholastic    2013   $21.00pb    88 pages
ISBN 978 1 7754 3158 9

Themes: Crafts/ Wearable art

The annual show of the World of Wearable Arts is famous the world over and the creator of this book, Fifi Colston, has been involved in it from the beginning. In this colourful and very easily accessed book (good index, table of contents and banner headlines), Fifi shows how to make an amazing number of many forms of wearable art - nearly all achievable even by bumble-fingered people like myself.  There is a real emphasis on recycling and the ideas can be expanded and used again and again in a classroom situation. The style of the text is friendly- almost like having a cheerful conversation with the writer.     

 Year 6 up/ Age 10 up (to adult)

The book was launched out at Kilbirnie at the Children’s Bookshop last night and here Fifi, suitably dressed for the occasion, signs copies for Susan Price (The Susan Price Collection.)
For detailed information about Fifi and her achievements just Google her name and also see her Facebook Page:

A Happy 30th Birthday to Hairy Maclary
(see today's The Dominion Post (Wellington) for  an interesting article about him and his creators - page A15) 


Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Young Adult Fiction

NZ Writer
Catherine Mayo
Murder at Mykenai
Walker Books   2013   $17.95pb    389 pages
ISBN 978 1 9220 7794 3

Themes: Agamemnon/ Ancient Greece/ Friendship/ Horses/ Mycenae / Odysseus/ Treachery

Set around 10 years before the Trojan War, this is a story of Ancient Greece. It concentrates on Menelaos who is the son of the recently assassinated Atrius, the high king of Greece and on his friend Odysseus. In a volatile atmosphere of treachery and action Odysseus, while he tries to be helpful often only succeeds in making things worse.  An attractive, ‘modern’ looking book, easy to read with plenty of humour and one that will be enjoyed by a large audience, including readers who up until now may have thought stories about Ancient Greece were just not for them! 

 Year 9 up/ Age 13 up

The book was launched this week at the Ellerslie Racecourse in Auckland and Cath sent me this photo of herself and her family before the event. For more info about Cath, for whom this is a first book, go to:

Monday, 1 July 2013

Fiction Age 6 up

NZ Writer & Illustrator
Sally Sutton, illustrated by Dave Gunson
Diary of a Sea Lion
Scholastic   2013   $16.50pb    50 pages
ISBN 978 1 7754 3153 4

Themes: Auckland Islands/ Fish nets/ Hooker’s sea lions/ Sealers

She’s a cry baby, a bit of a wimp, scared to go into the water – even a rock pool – but this young sea lion pup can tell amazing stories to her cousins and to all the other pups gathered on the beach on one of the Auckland Islands. This is such an endearing and entertaining story
(I’ve woken five minutes early every morning for the past four days just to finish it) and while the readers are laughing and sympathising they are also taking on board much about the life of sea lions living around the Auckland Islands back to the hunted days of the 1800s. This is a book that will make adults laugh just as much as the children at whom it is aimed – often for quite different reasons.
We need more New Zealand books like this for this age group.
Also just recently published (and written in the same format and in the same breezy style) is Diary of a Frog ISBN 978 1 7754 3152 7
And in 2011 Diary of a Pukeko ISBN 978 1 8694 3975 0 and last year (2012) Diary of a Bat ISBN 978 1 7754 3101 5  

Year 2 up/ Age 6 up