Author Archive

EMMA. Emma Twig’s inspirational journey to Olympic gold by Jessica Lawry. Pub. Upstart Press, 2022

October 3, 2022 Comments off

If you add the old adage “never Give up” with the title of this excellent picture book biography, then you have captured the theme of this story.

Emma Twig had a dream to win Olympic gold after following her idols and role models in rowing while still a teenager in Hawkes Bay. She was selected to row for New Zealand at 3 Olympic Games and success did not come easy.

This is the story of her road to success full of pain, disappointment and hard work but she got there and joined her heroes and role models on the winners podium listening to our national anthem.

She acknowledges the contribution of her friends and support staff in this easy to read picture book with very good illustrations that reflect her hard work in training along with disappointments and final triumph.

Emma is not finished yet and took silver at the latest World championships.

A classy and heart warming story of a NZ hero.

Out of the Egg – Ka Puta Mai I Te Heki and Fofoa Mai Le Fua Moa by Tina Matthews. Trans. Na Kiwa Hammond I Whakamaori (Maori)and Tafu Nicole Maynard (Samoan). Pub OneTree House 2022.

October 1, 2022 Comments off

I have known the story of the Little Red Hen for about 70 years and the essential theme of sharing, in order to benefit all, is still there, but with a strong conservation theme as well. A sign of the times.

An additional difference is that there are now two books one in English and Maori and the same story in English and Samoan. There is only room for one image in this review.

The story revolves around the Little Red Hen, who plants a tree and seeks the help of Fat Cat, Dirty Rat and Greedy Pig, to assist her in planting and caring for the tree as it grows. They decline of course. When the tree grows and there is now a little cat, a little rat and a little pig who want to play in the tree, what will little Red Hen do? Read either book and find out for yourself.

Excellent illustrations with lino type black and white pictures with the little Red Hen and green plant standing out. Fat Cat, Dirty Rat and Greedy Pig are classic.

Paramount to the conservation and sharing themes are the two languages Maori and Samoan. These books are great for learning either language for primary and Intermediate students. The story is the key though and it hits the spot. Essential purchases for any multi cultural primary and intermediate school.

Flying Furballs Bk10. Take-Off! by Donovan Bixley. Pu. Upstart Press, 2022.

September 29, 2022 Comments off

Dull would he or she be of soul who could not find enjoyment out of this comic book adventure that is a parody of World War 1 flying aces with a bit of WW2 thrown in.

Europe is divided between countries that are either cats or dogs. It is Katdom verses DOGZ and the battle is in the air with Sopwith Camels and Fokker triplanes. It’s sort of Biggles with cats and dogs.

It is full of characters like Syd Fishus an ex flyer who is father of new ace Claude D’Bonair, plus Major Ginger Tom the best dogfighter in Katdom and Manx a no nonsense mechanic. On the DOGZ side we have Alf Alpha a Hitler type leader who is known as the Furrer, plus The Red Setter the most famous pilot in the Woof Laft.

The DOGZ have planned to divert Katdom with a phoney raid while plotting an armed invasion further south. Katdom is duped and set out in the air “to give those DOGZ a jolly good licking”. Mean while erstwhile potential hero Claude D’Bonair is declined permission to take part in the battle and sent south on reconnaissance. What will be the outcome? Has katdom gone to the dogs? or will the cats make a purrfect response? read it and find out.

Told in three different ways. Firstly the air war is in comic book style and episodic with each episode divided by an heroic episode on the life Major Ginger Tom called Tom Foolery and involves an Ancient Chinese Ming vase. Also between episodes of this story we have detailed drawings of the aircraft used in WW1 plus flying tricks used in air combat. But wait there’s more. Check and see what it is.

Amazing detail and some references from songs such as Cats in the cradle with a silver Spoon which is an autobiography of Major Tom and this gives this picture book sized story great appeal for adults and older readers.

I missed the first 9 books about the Flying Furballs and intend to go back and read them and so should you. One of the most readible and entertaining stories I have read for some time. Donovan Bixley’s illustrations and written text are superb. An award winner in the making.

Pipi and Pou and the Raging Mountain by Tim Tipene, illus. Isobel Te Aho-White. Pub. OneTree House, 2022

September 27, 2022 Comments off

A short easy to read novel for 6-12 year olds, with large font and only eight chapters with a strong environmental message and all within the context of Maori myth and legend.

Pipi and Pou are cousins who have the same Nana with super powers and wisdom in the natural world of the Maori. Pipi can transform into a Pouakai or giant eagle and Pou can transform into a strong Taniwha who likes being in water. All three are guardians of the environment.

When earthquakes start shaking down south Nan knows that a mountain, Maungatinonui, is distressed, and she takes Pipi and Pou with her to sort it out. It seems that Maungatinonui is upset about the treatment visitors are giving to the environment of the mountain. Our three guardians set about finding a solution to the problem. Read it and see how they get on.

Maori language is used throughout the English language text and helps familiarise the reader with important terms and concepts. Some knowledge of Maori is required.

A good read with Book 2 Pipi and Pou and the River Monster already published too and soon to be reviewed on this blog. Illustrations by Isobel Te Aho-White enhance the text and provide understanding of the characters and issues of the novel

Granny McFlitter. The Knit before Christmas by Heather Haylock, illus. Lael Chisholm. Imprint Picture Puffin 10 October 2022

September 26, 2022 Comments off

Granny McFlitter is a big time knitter “does she stop? no she does not. She keeps on knitting, like it or not”.

Its the night before Christmas and things are hotting up down at the zoo where granny has knitted stockings for all the animals. Expectation is huge until calamity. A Tufted Tweetlebird has dismembered the animals stockings and built herself a nest for her four eggs.

What to do? get granny McFlitter to sort it out. Christmas is threatened. Will she do it? She is the fastest knitter around when all said and done. Check this fabulous picture book out and see what happens.

Heather Haylock’s clever rhyming text is enhanced by Lael Chisholm’s colourful expressive illustrations that feature animals from the zoo, a Tufted Tweetlebird and multiple balls of wool. I loved the knitting needles in granny’s hair bun and the giraffe with a square bend in his neck. Lots to look at.

Great as a Christmas present for pre school and junior readers.

Categories: Picture book Tags: , ,

The 156-storey treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton. Pub. MacMillan, 2022

September 23, 2022 Comments off

It had to happen, Andy and Terry’s treehouse now has another 13 storeys and this isn’t the end of the matter as 169 Storey Treehouse is planned.

This episode is about Xmas and the usual scenario of exploring the new 13 added storeys of which the best is the one inhabited by Quizzy the quizzical.

When Santa Claus crashes into the treehouse and his reindeer are caught up in the branches, Xmas is threatened. Then to make matters worse Santa falls into a cloning machine and there are Santas all over the place. Which one is the true Santa? Well having a quiz is a good way but will this reveal the true Santa? read it and find out.

The usual bag of madness and mayhem is superbly illustrated by Terry Denton and half the fun of reading these stories is looking at the illustrations. Then there are the observed public holidays of which “underpants on the head” day is my favourite.

Sure to be a favourite of reluctant readers especially boys but girls have a heroine with Jill. Don’t miss this it may be the second to last with 13 to the power of 2 a likely end. The Santas having an hilarious belly fight is a highlight of this novel.

My Real Dog by Emily Joe. Pub. Beatnik Publishing 2022.

September 22, 2022 Comments off

Dogs can be wonderful devoted pets and many children long to have one, but parents often have excuses why they don’t want a dog – fleas, barking, smell, hairs, the house is too small.

These are minor things for a child unless they have an imagination like the little girl in this delightful picture book. This little girl has a soft toy dog that gives her all the fun and attention she wants because she is her real dog.

Excellent illustrations with the parents portrayed only from feet to knees. The dog is a real cutie and the little girl features as an ink outline at the edge of the action. Doggie behaviour is well presented and the text is rhyming.

A neat package for pre school and juniors.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Zebra’s Great Escape by Katherine Rundell, illus. Sara Ogilvie. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2022.

September 6, 2022 Comments off

This is a story that you wish was true. It deals with the Dr Doolittle philosophy of talking to the animals. What if we could? what would we learn? and what could we achieve? Well the obvious answer is understanding, and that’s what we get with this superb hard back picture book.

Mink is a feisty young girl who doesn’t believe in rules or in bedtimes but she has a good heart and is brave. While swinging in her yard she meets a baby zebra who s very distressed because he has lost his parents. Mink senses this and they touch heads upon which colours stream out that tell a story and start a communication between the two that leads to great adventure.

Zebras parents have been captured by an evil cruel man with a moustache and black boots called Mr Spit. He has imprisoned animals in his gated home from Aardvarks through to Zebras and all the letters of the alphabet. Mink and the baby zebra called Gabriel along with a dog called Rainbow, a squirrel called Rodentia who can all communicate with the same colour scheme, set out to find and free Gabriel’s parents and the other animals.

Read the rest yourself and see what happens. It is brilliant and as I said earlier you wish that it was true.

Excellent illustrations from Sara Ogilvie who portrays the characters especially Mink, Gabriel and Mr Spit, very well and enhances the text by making the colour communication believable.

One of the best of the year. Katherine Rundell’s novel The Good Thieves is also reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

The Smidgens Crash Land by David O’Connell. Illus. Seb Burnett. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2022

September 3, 2022 Comments off

A Smidgen is a small human like creature, no more than 7 centimeters tall and they live in the spaces that humans don’t know about and their culture is much like ours. Smidgens keep their existence secret and there are two clans of known Smidgens and a suspected third clan.

This is the second book in an easy to read, short chapter adventure story.

Gafferty Sprout is a risk taking adventurous girl who in the first book acquired a knife made from the shard of the Mirror of Trokanis, a magic mirror that has powers to keep away ghosts for one thing. humans and other Smidgens know about it and want it.

When a rascal of a Smidgen, Crumpeck, steals the magic knife and sets out to find the suspected third Smidgen clan in a golf course the action starts. Gafferty and her friend Will set after Crupeck in the human world where there are cats and other dangerous things to contend with. Will they be successful? Read it and see.

Well illustrated by Seb Burnett, the cat is a gem.

Not the last from this series. Appealling characters and good values. Lots of adventure.

The Grizzled Grist Does Not Exist by Juliette MacIver, illus. Sarah Davis. Pub. Gecko Press, 2022.

August 30, 2022 Comments off


A gem of a picture book from a NZ writer who has won the picture book award before with That’s Not a Hippopotamus, also reviewed on this blog.

Ms. Whiskersniff who prefers Ms Whisk takes her class of daredevils on an outdoor trek up the Dismal Hills. The children are excited and not worried about The grizzled grist that loner and hider Liam insists exists and that Ms Whisk insists does not exist.

The trip up the Dismal Hills is eventful with Liam hiding and seeing things the other children do not see. Then catastrophe as Ms Whisk and the children except Liam are captured by a large net put there by the grizzled grist. What is going to happen and what will Liam do? You will have to read it yourself to find out.

Superb illustrations with the characterisation of Ms Whisk and the Grizzled Grist brilliant. The language and text is rhyming and very witty making this picture book one of the best of the year.

Check the picture of the grizzled Grist at the end of the book and also the class photo at the start. Wonderful story.