Lopini the legend by Feana Tu’akoi. Pub. Scholastic 2023.

June 8, 2023 Comments off

Reading should be about fun and enjoyment and this short novel for primary and Intermediate pupils fits the bill.

It is often said that success breeds success but is the reverse true that failure breeds failure? This is one of the themes of this entertaining Tongan-Palangi novel.

Lopini is a year 8 student and is a legend in his school. He has a good friend in Fi and he is successful in everything he does until he is replaced in the kapa haka group by a Maori boy who speaks Maori and by Lopini’s own admission is better qualified for the job.

Lopini doesn’t handle it very well and feels a failure which he is not used to. His friend Fi tries to bring him round but Lopini decides it is because he is not used to failure ‘I need to get better at failing and the only way to get better is to practice”.

He gets Fi to suggest things for him to do that he hasn’t got a chance to succeed at like asking a germ conscious girl to change lunches with him, to dance in public and in front of the school etc etc. Surprise surprise he becomes a success and enhances his reputation and gets involved in community projects. But is he neglecting his best friend? Read it and find out.

Very easy to read with chapter numbers in Tongan and English. There is a dour school Principle Mrs Pepper to contend with and some cool stuff that Pasifika and Maori students in particular will enjoy. I enjoyed it so it is not exclusive.

After reading it I thought gee I wish school was as cool as this when I went.

The winner of the Tom Fitzgibbon Award for 2022.

Toku Whanau Rerehua. My Beautiful Family by Rauhina Cooper. Illus. Isobel Joy Te Aho-White

May 31, 2023 Comments off

This is a lovely, positive picture book about the difference in family structures and celebrating them all.

Huia is a shy girl “like the kiwi who hides in it’s hole“. When saw is asked, along with her classmates, to bring a picture of her family to school, she feels nervous about it.

Her mother helps her choose a photo but when Huia goes to school she leaves it behind. I wonder why?

When her friends are showing their photographs to each other Huia makes herself scarce.

As all her classmates show and talk about their families the teacher is very supportive and Huia starts to feel better. Then her other mother shows up at school with Huia’s photograph and Huia feels much happier talking about it.

Huia is lucky she has two mothers.

Excellent illustration show the children in the classroom with smiling faces and happy to talk about their families. Great for juniors, primary and even up to intermediate aged children.

Rauhina Cooper said she wrote the story “so that tamariki from different whanau groups could see themselves in the pages of a book and feel included“. She succeeds.

Text is in both Maori and English language.

Pearl in a Whirl. How one fluffy cat braved the floods by Catherine Robertson, Illus. Fifi Colston. Pub. Puffin, 2023.

May 29, 2023 Comments off

Cyclone Gabrielle was one of the worst storms to hit New Zealand and every living creature in the Hawke’s Bay region of New Zealand was affected and is still affected.

This is the story of how Pearl the fluffy cat survived the storm and it mirrors the feelings and fate of so many people in the Hawke’s Bay region. The proceeds from this book are being donated to The Hawke’s Bay Foundation which makes it doubly important that people read and purchase this fine picture book.

Pearl loves her home and her life just as humans do. She swats, slurps, sleeps and hides but it is all about to change. Outside the storm hits and rages for twelve hours. The water rises and the humans must escape but Pearl is left behind. “Will someone please save me!” she thinks.

What will happen to Pearl and will she find her family again? Read it and find out.

Superb illustrations by Fifi Colston. The double page spread as the storm hits is striking and her characterisation of the results of the storm and of Pearl the cat and other animals is mind blowing.

In the back is the story of the real Pearl with pictures of the real family to whom she belonged.

One of the best New Zealand picture books of the year. Don’t miss it you will kick yourself if you do.

Matariki by Gavin Bishop. Pub PenguinRandom House, 2023

May 27, 2023 Comments off

A superb bilingual board book from the doyen of New Zealand picture book writers.

Gavin continues on his journey of promoting the Maori language and culture with a story about the eight star sisters that make up Matariki.

Each sister has a meaning and role to play in bringing life to our planet from bringing rain to the soil, to helping us remember how good we have it.

A simple way to show pre school and juniors the meaning of Matariki in a board book format that can take the wear and tear.

Illustrations are simple and classy. Add it to E Hoa anothe board book reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

Told first in Maori then in English. Even Christopher Luxon could understand this.

Nga Atua. Maori Gods by Robyn Kahukiwa. Translated by Kiwa Hammond. Pub. Oratia, 2023

May 24, 2023 Comments off

This excellent picture book about some of the important Maori Gods is a bilingual book with outstanding illustrations of all the Gods.

It is aimed at a wide audience from primary through to adults and it explains in simple terms all the important gods and their attributes. It starts with Tane the most powerful atua or god and tells of the creation when he pushed his father Ranginui upwards from his mother Papatuanuku which gave us light.

I knew some of the gods but the one that impressed me was Mahuika who has the power of fire. That’s her on the cover. Each of her fingers has a name and she carries fire in these fingers.

Maui the demi god and shapeshifter gets plenty of mention as does the beautiful Hine-Titama the legendary beauty. I was stunned that the powerful Ruaumoko the god of earthquakes was still breastfeeding from his mother.

Robyn Kahukiwa is a legendary illustrator herself, I have been reading her books since the 1980’s and she does a classy job here too.

Check it out yourself to see who is who in Maori legends.

Para Pukeko and the Stupid Time Thingy by Book Ruffell. Pub. Penguin Random House 2023.

May 23, 2023 Comments off

While scrounging around in a fresh load of rubbish at the dump, Para Pukeko finds a box with a red button which he presses and it takes him back 200M years New Zealand in geological history. He then uses the time machine to go back and forward in New Zealand

He meets a tuatara called Heahea whom he drags with him on a time travel journey through NZ and some important incidents from the past. The most interesting is the arrival of Abel Tasman in what is now called Golden Bay but Tasman called Murderers Bay. Read it and see why.

On the journey we meet extinct species like the Moa and even travel to the future where a very desirable situation in New Zealand exists. I wonder what it is?

A graphic novel which is essentially madcap humour that will appeal to reluctant readers especially boys.

The illustrations are comical with Abel Tasman looking like Capt Hook from Peter Pan. Heahea the tuatara is a grumpy green thing and para is a comical version of the long striding and screeching swamp hen that is a pukeko.

Very entertaining nonetheless and worthy of a place in every school library.

Part one of a new series.

Dusty the Digger, Nee Naw and Friends by Deano Yipadee, illus. Bruce Potter. Pub. Scholastic, 2023

May 14, 2023 Comments off

When Nee Naw the fire engine fills the school pool for the annual picnic Plinky and Plonky the goats steal Granny’s jelly powder and jump in the pool. Guess what happens.

Yes yopu are right the pool turns to jelly and Plinky and Plonky start setting in the jelly and Ploppy the cow gets in strife too.

Nee Naw has to call on his friend Dusty the Digger to sort things out but Dusty has never dug up jelly before. What is going to happen. read this book and join the fun.

Typical silliness from Deano Yipadee and well illustrated by Bruce Potter who enhances the fun. The goats in a pool of jelly with the cow is worth a look.

A good read-a-loud for pre schoolers and juniors particularly boys who like diggers trucks and things.

Categories: Picture book Tags: , ,

Nanas With No Manners by Justin Christopher, Illus. Minky Stapleton. Pub. Scholastic 2023

May 13, 2023 Comments off

This very amusing picture book has all the ingredients that make kids want to read. It is silly, it is funny and it has old people acting badly and irresponsibly, all the things that children are often accused of being.

Nana Martini wears a bright pink bikini, Nana Bonita is a noisy eater and Nana McCartan can’t hold a fart in. Three brilliant characters who love chocolate nachos with cheese.

They lick their plates, use cell phones at the table and never say thank you or please. Then a disguised doctor advises them to eat at a dubious restaurant with iffy water and their lives get a bit awkward. Read it and see what happens.

Justin Christopher’s rhyming text is clever , funny and great for reading aloud while Minky Stapleton’s characterisation of the three nanas is highly entertaining and enhances the silliness and the humour.

There is a message of good manners in there and good reasons to be considerate with others, but if you like chocolate nachos with cheese all hell can break loose.

I loved it and you will too.

Charlie’s Good Tonight by Paul Sexton. Pub. Mudlark 2022.

May 12, 2023 Comments off

If you like rock music and it’s history then the Rolling Stones have got to be in there. I have read many books about the Stones and Charlie watts rarely gets mentioned. That is why this book is so special because in my opinion and the opinion of many others is that Charlie Watts was one of the best drummers ever, but it has taken his death for many to come out and say it.

Born during wartime Charlie had a happy childhood and early photographs show that his like for dapper clothes was instilled as a child. He always dressed up had impeccable style that befits Savile Row. He bought suits and shoes at 4000 pounds a go and always bought his friends and fellow Stones expensive and appropriate presents at Christmas and on their birthdays.

His music passion was for jazz and he never played or listened to the Stones music although his wife Shirley did.

He was a collector of many things from classic cars, jazz music, American Civil War memorabilia, antique guns etc etc.

He detested cell phones, something we have in common.

Although a jazz man he respected the blues greats and enjoyed playing their music.

With Bill Wyman he was at the heart of all the Stones music and the last song he played live with the band was in Miami in 2019 and that song was Satisfaction.

He was great friends with many rock drummers like Ringo Starr, Ginger Baker and Keith Moon. He was devastated when Keith Moon died

He died aged 80 leaving his wife Shirley, Daughter Serafina and granddaughter Charlotte.

This is one of the great rock biographies as it is really the history of the Rolling Stones with Charlie in the centre.

Forewords by Mick and Keith. Some of the oddities of The Rolling Stones are in there but you will have to read the book to find out what they are.

The Sparrow by Tessa Duder. Pub. Penguin Books, 2023

May 11, 2023 Comments off

This historical fiction novel is the best I have read about the European settlement of New Zealand aimed at any level.

It is well researched and stresses a fact that is often overlooked by historians – that without the Maori early New Zealand settlement would have been impossible. The Maori provided the settlers with food and shelter without which they would surely have starved.

This novel concentrates on the Auckland settlement in the 1840’s with many of the characters who are associated with Auckland’s and New Zealand’s history such as Governor Willian Hobson, John Logan Campbell, and interpreter Edward Williams featuring.

It also shows that the early settlers brought with them the prejudices of the English class system that is to be a feature of the relationships between the Maori and the settlers and indeed be a feature of the chances of lower status settlers to get a fair chance especially when it came to buying land. Then as now the price of land in Auckland is outrageous.

The central character in the story is Harriet/Harry who is 10 years old when she is wrongly convicted of stealing an apple and transported to Australia in horrific circumstances that would have killed many. Harriet is a survivor and an admirable role model for any you human being. She is strong, resourceful, caring and inciteful and the reader is with her all the way.

Harriet decides that it would be easier to survive as a boy than it would be as a girl because of the male attitudes at the time and this helps her escape the cruel and barbaric conditions at the Cascades prison in Tasmania. She escapes on the immigrant ship Platina to New Zealand and ends up in Waitemata Harbour in a pristine New Zealand.

From the beginning the settlement follows class lines. The poor are at Mechanics Bay next door to the Maori Pa at Orakei. Government is at Official Bay and business at Commercial Bay. Nothing is done for the settlers at Mechanics Bay but the Maori are commandeered to build raupo huts and bring vegetables and food to Commercial bay.

The lot of Harriet and her friend Tillie and family is miserable indeed. The funeral of a young child is moving because the Maori come to pay their respects and are rejected as natives. Even at this early stage all classes treat the Maori as savages but Harriet is different and pays the price. She decides after being a girl that it is safer to be a boy and resumes as Harry until the end of the book which is nerve wracking and exciting.

Harriet’s early days from age 10 to 14 are covered in a segment at the end of each chapter from 1836 to the settlement in 1840 and it shows the reasons why people chose to immigrate rather than live in England but you will have to find these things out by reading this superb novel.

Harriet at one stage looks back to when she landed and observes “those three pretty bays, three unspoiled beaches” and “over the spring we’ve turned them into dirty squabbling villages of too many frightened, suspicious and greedy people with something to hide and nowhere to go”. Is it any better now I asked myself.

The best book I have read this year and Tessa Duder’s first novel in 20 years. Keep writing Tessa.