Torty and the Soldier- a Story of a True WW1 Survivor by Jennifer Beck, illus. Fifi Colston. Pub. Scholastic, 2017.
Torty is a tortoise from Greece and is New Zealand’s oldest survivor of the Great War 1914-1918. He was rescued by a New Zealand Ambulance Corps volunteer named Stewart who preferred to save lives rather than fight.
Torty was crushed by a gun carriage, rescued and nursed to Health by Stewart at the Salonika field hospital for wounded soldiers. The hospital was bombed during the war and off the coast the Marquette was torpeoed with over 100 nurses and medical orderlies lost.
Torty’s tale is told in conjunction with the war history and his trip back to New Zealand as an illegal immigrant. He still lives in Dunedin with the relatives of Stewart and is estimated to be over 200 years old.
Jennifer Beck sensitively tells the story and Fifi Colston’s illustrations of the War, the soldiers the Greek landscape and of course Torty to whom she gives life, are terrific.
Just in time for ANZAC Day and a reminder of a war story that is unlike any other.Valuable for every school library and in the home, for primary and intermediate school students but adults will love it too.
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.
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.
Bathtime for Little Rabbit by Jorg Muhle. Pub Gecko Press, 2017.
I love board books for pre- schoolers because they can be thrown around, chewed and even read-a-loud to youngsters.
This covers familiar territory for both parents and children and what’s better is that it is interactive. It allows the reader to help give Little rabbit a bath.
Get the bath ready with shampoo, towel and blow dryer.put the rabbit in, wash behind his ears, keep the soap and water out of his eyes, dry him off then blow dry his ears – if the dryer works.
Simple and expressive illustrations in primary colours.
Good fun and a huge seller in Germany and Europe as a whole. Get into it New Zealand it is brilliant. Also check out Help Wolf is Coming elsewhere on this blog.
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.
Kuwi’s Very Shiny Bum by Kat Merewether. Pub. Illustrated Publishing, 2016.
This is a Xmas picture book. A Kiwiana Xmas as Kuwi wants to give gifts to all her forest and seashore friends like seal, kakapo, hoihoi and ruru. Plus she wants her growing chick Huwi to have a good Xmas.
Kumi is inspired by a red ball that falls from the sky and looks exactly like a red nose day nose. She gets it tangled around her body and lodged on her bum.
Put the word bum in a picture book and you have kids attention immediately. Good positive story.
The illustrations are excellent and are filled with kiwiana detail. Kuwi and Huwi’s burrow is the opening scene in strong acrylic like colours. There is a buzzy bee hanging from the ceiling and a couple of new books on the shelf – James and the Giant Kumara and The very Hungry Huhu. Look for other surprises in the illustrations.
Relates well to Kat Merewether’s other books reviewed on this blog.
Maui – Sun Catcher by Tim Tipene, Illus. Zak Waipara. Pub.Oratia Books, 2016.
The strength of any culture is how it changes and evolves with the changes in the modern world. Every New Zealander knows the story of how Maui and his brothers capture the sun and stop it moving too fast across the sky. I have known it for over 60 years and it was always a favourite.
This hard cover bilingual picture book retells this story in an urban setting with references to a different kind of struggle in a world where Maui his mum and his brothers have lived in the darkness too long.
Maui and his brothers are in modern super hero suits and Maui is still referred to as a trouble maker. Superb modern illustrations from Zak Waipara that will appeal to modern children .
The story ends with Maui deciding to go fishing. I wonder what he will catch?
Primary and intermediate in appeal but older students and adults could do with looking at this classy picture book. Good for studying the Maori language too.