If I Had an Elephant by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones. Pub. Scholastic, 2017.
The imagination of a child is limitless and this team of Terry Jones, Richard Fairgray and colourist Tara Black exploit the desire of a young boy to have an elephant to the fullest.
A young boy hanging upside down from his bunk bed looks at a picture of an elephant on his wall and proclaims “I wish I had an elephant”. If he had one he would never have to ask for a cookie again and he’d win every water fight. he would get the best seats at the circus and could build a time machine and visit elephant’s grear great great….grandfather.
But he doesn’t get an elephant for his birthday but what he does get inspires his imagination further.
Simple text in large black font make easy reading but it is the illustrations that blow your mind. The elephant has expressive eyes and the boy has bewilderment and joy all over his face.
The colouring is superb and not a page is wasted.The front inside cover has the shadow of an elephant hanging over a pit of peanuts and it finishes on the back cover with a contented elephant who clearly has had his fill.
A joyous and imaginative picture book for everybody.
Spy Toys by Mark Powers, illus. Tim Weeson. Pub. Bim UK imprint Allen&Unwin, 2017
I am very impressed with this new series that is designed for reluctant readers both boys and girls of primary/intermediate age.
In a phrase it is like the cartoon network without the cartoons. Bizarre, witty with a tight and sharp dialogue exchange between the highly imaginative characters.
The plot and characters revolve around rejected and defective high tech toys from the Snaztacular Ultrafun toy factory. Dan is a cuddly bear who is so strong he can crush a tractor with his cuddles, Arabella, a rag doll with an attitude to burn and sympathy for no-one and Flax a highly aggressive rabbit with a down beat wit.
The toys are all discarded because they are defective but escape into the World and are captured then hired by Auntie Roz from the Department of Secret Affairs to bodyguard the Prime Ministers son from Rusty Flumptrunk a very bad half Elephant half human nasty.
Brilliant stuff with Tim Weeson’s animation filling in the gaps.
I was spellbound and read the short book in one sitting with a smile all over my face. It is great.The first chapter about Dan is called If Hugs Could kill and it sets the tone of the book immediately. Big font makes reading easy.
If you want your reluctant readers particularly boys to read, these are a great start.
My New Zealand Story: Bastion Point, 507 Days on Takaparawha by Tania Roxborogh. Pub. Scholastic, 2017.
Imagine you are a young girl who has just been given a horse that she adores then her dad and mum decide to go and live in a tent on a piece of land jutting out into Waitemata Harbour Auckland called Takaparawha or Bastion Point.
Erica Tito finds this is happening to her and she keeps a diary of what happened in the next 507 days during the Ngati Whatua occupation of Bastion Point that divided New Zealand under the Muldoon Government.
It is a stunning account of a confrontation between Government and Maori that set the pattern for the next 40 years and asked the crucial question of “Are we as New Zealanders a racist society”? and “have the Maori got a fair deal in their land deals with the Government?”.
Tania Roxborogh examines these questions through the eyes of Erica and her experiences and her relationships with those on Bastion Point and the children at the school at which she attends during the occupation.
The burning question for Erica is – those that want to develop the land say the land is theirs but do they have a receipt to say that is so, and why do her tribe the Ngati Whatua say it is theirs? One thing is for sure ” no-one laughs at Maoritanga”
Conditions on Bastion point were primitive. No running water, no electricity, a long drop for a toilet and tent accommodation that was exposed to the elements. A child could be excused for hating this situation and wanting to be back home with the horse that she loved. But when mom and dad say we stay what can you do? Over the next 507 days Erica’s opinions and resolve change.
As time passes to over a year and nothing is resolved the eviction of the occupiers at the end,is a traumatic and moving occasion. Read this excellent account and find out why.
Another gem from the My New Zealand Story series many of which are reviewed on this blog.
For primary, Intermediate and junior secondary readers.
The Little Cloud by Beverley Burch & Elspeth Nicol. Pub. Makaro Press, 2017.
A blast from the past in terms of style of writing, presentation and illustrations. It was written in 1959, forgotten, rediscovered in 2014 and revamped for today’s market. A jolly good job too.
It is very much a story book that you could read to a class of juniors or individually read by years 3 & 4.
It is a story of a little cloud who is part of a big storm cloud that is bringing wind and rain to Wellington. The little cloud longs to be on his own in fine weather and when he gets his chance and goes further up the North Island he finds a parched land in need of rain.
Little cloud learns to cry and bring rain, chases an aeroplane and falls on top of Mt Taranaki happy to know he has become a real cloud.
The illustrations are in both black and white and colour, presenting the New Zealand landscape as it was in 1959. The picture on the cover is totally different from the others looking very much like something Bob Kerr might have done. The effect is extraordinary and enhances the book.
Check this little gem out you might never see another. A short history of the authors in the back makes for interesting reading.
Helper and Helper by Joy Cowley and Gavin Bishop. Pub. Gecko Press, 2017.
There is an old adage about relationships that goes “it is not the similarities that make a relationship but the differences”. Well Snake and Lizard or Helper and Helper put this to the test in this excellent sequel to Snake and Lizard.
Firstly they haggle over business when a rival helper in the form of a grey rabbit starts stealing Snake and lizard’s clients. A new sign is needed but whose name should go first?
Lizard is fairly easy going and feels that Snake is taking advantage of him with his more ruthless attitude. The dialogue between them is like a marriage.
Then Lizards bludging relatives call and clean out the larder. Snake has to break a vow to ensure that they don’t come back but does lizard work this out? Does he want to?
The old pass the message through a number of characters to see how it ends up trick, is then used to make Snake understand what his relationship with lizard means to him.
Lots of little surprises and scenarios understandable to everyone are acted out and as always Gavin Bishop’s superb illustrations enhance the characters and the story line.
Great read-a-loud for primary schools. Lots of wisdom here and justly called modern Fables in the Aesop mould.
The Lost Kitten by Lee. illus. Koma Sakai. Pub. Gecko Press, 2017.
Very impressive picture book that begins with this line “When Hina and her mother opened the door, there was a skinny, scruffy kitten”. Makes you want to read it doesn’t it, well it did me.
A good first line sets up a book but the illustration on the opposite page nails it. Mother and daughter stare out at a sickly looking cat while mother cat and sibling look on. Watercolour picture in grays, browns, whites and shades of blue portray a moving yet sad scene.
Mother cat knows her kitten is unwell and needs human care to recover. The mother cat’s head bobs as if saying “please look after my baby” .
I am not going to tell you any more , read it for yourself it is brilliant. There is drama that the kitten may be lost and tears of joy as it recovers. Illustrations throughout are outstanding.
Juniors will love it read to them and new and confident readers will love to read it.
Frankie Potts & the Postcard Puzzle by Juliet Jacka, illus. by Phoebe Morris. Pub. Penguin, imprint Puffin, 2017.
Part three in this mystery and detective series for 7-10 year olds. Frankie Potts has red hair, a super dog called Sparkplug and a very good friend called Mac. They love mysteries and with a family like Frankie has there is always a mystery.
The family has hidden secrets and when Frankie finds a postcard sent to her mother saying “dearest Tania I do think we should give it another try, don’t you? Gideon xxx” Frankie’s methodical brain goes into over drive.
Frankie and her friends take a bus to Giggleswick to search for Gideon and what they find is going to unleash a hoard of family secrets.
All is revealed at a family dinner with the Marvellous Mildred, Frankie’s grandma and an array of animals including a parrot called Firefly who says “Potamus-otamus-hippo-whatamus”
There are other mysteries too. Great reading for newly confident readers.
Frankie Potts & The Wicked Wolves by Juliet Jacka, illus. by Phoebe Morris, Pub. Penguin, imprint Puffin, 2017.
This is part 4 and since the above part Frankie has found her long lost grandad, Sparkplug’s girlfriend has had 7 puppies, The Marvellous Mildrid has entered a competition with her dogs and Frankie’s mother is expecting twins.
Frankie doesn’t want the puppies to be sold so she sabotages her mum’s attempts at selling them. Then a group called The Wicked Wolves let people know that they are coming to get them.
Who are the Wicked Wolves? Is Frankie’s arch enemy Ralph Peter- McGee behind it all and will the puppies go to good homes?
There is much to ponder in this part which as always is superbly illustrated by Phoebe Morris. Her pen and ink drawings of all the characters and the animals enhance the stories.
These two parts are released on February 1st 2017 and reviews of parts 1&2 are also on this blog.
They really are great reading for young readers and are a must for primary school libraries.