Ernest Rutherford. Just an Ordinary Boy by Maria Gill, Illus. Alistair Hughes. Pub. Upstart Press, 2023

February 2, 2023 Comments off

An easy to read picture book on the boyhood life of arguably New Zealand’s finest scientist Ernest Rutherford.

Aimed at primary and intermediate age children the picture book part of this publication looks at an ordinary boy growing up in small town New Zealand in a family of 14 children.

Young Ernest played rugby was fascinated by lightening and the world of science and failed early exams as he sought scholarships for higher learning. He persisted and was ultimately successful and became one of the mist revered scientists alongside the likes of Einstein, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday and Marie Curie.

He was Knighted, appears on the NZ$100 note and has a statue in Shanghai showing him holding two parts of an atom apart in recognition of his achievement of being the first man to split the atom.

In the back is a time line of his achievements, his experiments with radiation and a glossary of scientific terms..

Alastair Hughes illustrations paint a picture of a bygone era in which young Ernest grew up and show the wonder he had for science..

Excellent cover.Maria Gill on the money as usual.

Farewell Anahera by Vanessa Hatley-Owen. Illustrated by Scott Irvine. Translated by Kanapu Rangitauira. Pub. Duck Creek Press 2023.

January 23, 2023 Comments off


What happens when you Die? is a question often asked by children. This explanation from the world of Maori culture is sensitively told and illustrated in this picture book for everybody.

Anahera has died and as she lies on the marae she wakes from a deep sleep but feels like” she was there, but not there at the same time”. She sees her whanau and friends celebrating her life and she remembers “all the things she had done and the moments she shared”.

After three days she is away skimming over the land to Te Rerenga waiua or Cape Reinga. This is a place of spirit and believed to be the place where the Wairua or spirit returns to after death.

Beautifully illustrated by Scott Irvine who translates the spirit of Anahera and her journey beautifully into eerie images.

The text is in both English and Maori. Very deep and reflective of life and death.

Be My Baby by Ronnie Spector with Vince Waldron. Pub. MacMillan 2022.

January 11, 2023 Comments off

The history of Rock ‘n roll is a gateway into how society has changed over the years. This autobiography of Ronnie Spector not only tells her story and that of the Ronettes but throws light on what was happening in society especially the civil rights movement from the early 1960’s onwards. It also tells the story of one of the greatest rock ‘n roll songs ever Be my Baby.

Ronnie Bennett was born of Afro Cherokee mother and white European father and grew up in Spanish Harlem New York a mixed race community and home of the great Apollo Theatre. She was neither black nor white and struggled with this in the early part of her life but all barriers break down when it comes to music.

She formed a group with her sister Estelle and her cousin Nedra and they watched American Bandstand in the morning and practiced routines and harmonies with all the popular songs. Her first influence was Frankie Lymon a 13 year old singer whose hit was “Why do fools Fall in Love” a great song. They got their first job as dancers and backing singers with Joey Dee and The Starlighters at the Pepperment Lounge in New York and Miami and after an unsuccessful attempt at fame contacted the man she was to marry Phil Spector.

The profile of Phil Spector is one of the highlights of this book and you will have to read it yourself if you want to know more and if I were you I would do it. It does discuss the “wall of Sound” technique developed by Spector and it’s influence on rock music.

It is written in easy style and you can flow through it with ease. At the back is a timeline and a discography and there are photographs as well.

There is more to the book than that as Ronnie bedded a number of high profile artists as you would guess and there is the music. Suitable for anyone with an interest in rock ‘n roll and the social development that resulted from it.

The New Zealand Seashore Guide by Sally Carson & Rod Morris. Pub. Potton & Burton, 2022

December 24, 2022 Comments off

This comprehensive guide to the plants and animals of the New Zealand seashore will become the definitive work on this subject for use in schools and for those interested in this subject.

It is a quality publication with a strong cover and is designed for study and just flicking through because it is fascinating. Every plant and animal portrayed has its anatomical name plus Maori name where available and the information is simply displayed and very readable for primary children to adults.

New Zealand has over 15,000kms of coastline, some inaccessible but most available to people. The study of the seashore and inter tidal zone is one of the most studied subjects in the School curriculum and this makes this book an essential purchase for every school.

Most NZers live less than 10km from the coastline whether it be a sandy beach, a mudflat or a rocky shore and each environment will have a splash zone, a high tide zone, a mid tidal zone a low tidal zone and a sub tidal zone. All these environments are different and the animals and plants have adaptations suitable to these different zones.

Of all the animals studied my favourites were the star fish. There are twelve different star fish on the NZ coast and their body parts are arranged around a central axis because they have no head or tail. The Seven-armed sea star is bright orange in colour and they are covered with short white spines. It lives mostly near Kaikoura and has a preference for intertidal snails. Yummy.

Rod Morris’s photographs are outstanding. he captures not only the environment but the characteristics of each plant and animal.

There is a full and comprehensive Index and all information is logically presented and easy to find.

This is surely an award winning book. Don’t miss it, it is brilliant.

Mischievous Milly by Nadia Lim, illus. Fifi Colston. Pub. Scholastic 2022.

December 8, 2022 Comments off

A delightful picture book about an orphan baby goat that comes to stay on Nadia Lim’s South Island farm and causes all sorts of fun and mischief.

Based on a true story by this famous TV chef there is also a recipe for strawberry jellies which would make a great dessert for Xmas dinner.

Fifi Colston’s illustrations enhance the fun and mischief of Milly’s antics and of life on the farm with a stroppy rooster and a pair of lovely lambs who become Milly’s friends.

There are also real life pictures of Milly around the farm and facts about goats and growing strawberries. Its a very classy package that would be a treat in any home with young children

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Who Took the toilet Paper? by Amy Harrop, illus. Jenny Cooper. Pub. Scholastic, 2022

December 2, 2022 Comments off

If you have ever been asked the question Does a bear shit in the woods? then the answer to it is in this delightful picture book that will have children laughing and many adults too.

Papa bear is caught on a very small toilet having done the goods but no paper to finish the job. Whose responsibility is it for not replacing the toilet roll? very awkward indeed.

An investigation is carried out and the culprit is at hand. Who is it do you think? read it and find out.

Amy Harrop’s rhyming text tells a good yarn but it is Jenny Coopers illustrations that steal the show. The bewildered looks on Papa bears face and the response of the other animals, will have you in stitches.

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There Are No Moa e hoa by Melinda Szymanik. Illus. Isobel Te Aho-White. Pub. Scholastic, 2022.

December 2, 2022 Comments off

One of the things I wish was still around in New Zealand is the Moa. It must have been an impressive bird. But hey in literature we can bring it back and that is what this picture book does.

That dynamic duo Batkiwi answer a call from the forest that suggests something weird has returned. tuatara is convinced of it and feels afraid that it will eat him. Batkiwi are not sure about it and wonder if tuatara has been eating mushrooms but he assures them not. He knows what he has seen.

The moon is big and shining could tuatara be seeing things. Read it and find out.

Excellent illustrations of New Zealand forest life with the ghostly moa memorable.

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Meanwhile Back on Earth by Oliver Jeffers. Pub. HarperCollins 2022.

November 26, 2022 Comments off

This spectacularly illustrated picture book about the history of the World and human’s place in the Universe,

is one of the best picture books of the year.

Sub titled Finding our Place Through Time and Space and A Cosmic View on conflict this picture book sums up the smallness and insignificance of humans in the Universe.

A father takes his children on a car ride through space traveling at the average driving speed of 37 mph. The kids as always fight in the back just as humans have fought with each other through their whole time of existence on this planet.

Theoretically if they drove to the Moon it would take a year to get there, withour a toilet stop. To get to Saturn it would take 2,400 years, to Mars 170 years. At the edge of the solar System the next stop is Alpha Centauri just a 77 million year drive away

At the attainment of reaching the planets Jeffers takes us back to Earth to see what humans were doing at the time and you have guessed it they were fighting each other. Have we changed at all? Make up your own mind but it looks grim to me.

A picture book for everyone which simplifies our place in the Universe albeit in a very downbeat fashion. Kids will always fight in the backseat of a car and humans will always fight over territory but as Neil Armstrong said when he returned from the Moon “No matter where you travel. it’s always nice to get home?

Hare & Kunekune’s Moonlight Mission by Laura Shallcrass. Pub. Beatnik Publishing, 2022.

November 25, 2022 Comments off

A lovely picture book with superb illustrations and a message for us all in a World that has gone heartless.

Hare and Kunekune are friends and on the opening two page spread they are sleeping together beneath a fruit tree. They are so close that their bodies have merged in contentment.

Fruit is going missing at night and they seek advice from owl and other animals as to who is taking it.

What they discover is a wider problem that can only be solved by community action. And it is. read this superb picture book and find out what is going on.

From the author of award winning Hare & Ruru the portraits of the animals will leave you breathless with awe especially hare and kunekune but owl is pretty special too.

In hard cover with an illustration that says pick me up. Good read a-loud and good values that the world needs right now..

Tide’s Out. Tai Timu by Frances Plumpton. Illus. Stephanie Thatcher. Maori translation Na Darryn Joseph. Pub. Mary Egan Publishing, 2022

November 25, 2022 Comments off

Every child will study the seashore some time at school and this is a very good one for juniors and pre school children.

Set at Huia beach on the Manukau harbour, the water colour illustrations are superb and give life to the beach and the lifeforms that children can easily find if they search.

Narrated as a counting book and a bilingual English and Maori picture book this publication serves more than one function.

Each illustration is a two page spread with the harbour and hills in the background and the children and life forms easy to identify. Crabs, seaweed, scallop shells, driftwood sea anemones etc.

In the back are other creatures that can be found.

An excellent resource for school libraries and for home reading.