Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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 life and art of Lynley Dodd by Finlay Macdonald. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2022

August 5, 2022 Comments off

The thing that I liked about dame Lynley Dodd’s picture books was that the names of the characters Hairy MacLary, Bottomley Potts, Hercules Morse, Slinky Malinki, Scarface etc all looked and acted like the sound of their names. And what I like about this tale of Lynley Dodd by Finlay Macdonald is that it is the portrait of one a the best artists and writers of children’s picture books ever.

It tells the story of Lynley Dodd’s growing up, the people and animals in her life, her education, the people who influenced her and of course how she got her ideas and set about her work. Anyone who wants to be a writer or just learn about the life of Lynley Dodd will get a great deal out of this superbly written and construct book. I might say it is one of the best portraits of anyone i have ever read and a true New Zealand success story.

Rather than rabbit on about what else is in the book I thought I would write a few quotes to show the character of this great woman and her approach to her work;-

Being a Dame can sometimes seem a strange fit for someone who essentially “just writes doggerel and catterel”

Of her technique she writes The line length, the positioning on the page, how much white there is around it – it’s all very carefully done.

Of her characters I like to think that by looking at their faces you can tell what’s going on in their heads

The key to all great children’s picture books lies in the ability of the author to establish and convey character

If you want to know more you will have to read it yourself and you will not be disappointed. My favourite bit was when she met Dr Seus when receiving the Esther Glen award for My Cat likes to Hide in Boxes.

An exquisite publication,

Categories: Uncategorized

Lost in the Museum by Victoria Cleal. Illus. Isobel Joy Te Aho-White. Pub Te Papa Press, 2022.

February 16, 2022 Comments off

This is a multi cultural picture book about the taonga or treasures of New Zealand stored within the Te Papa museum of New Zealand and open for all to see.

When papa goes missing in the Museum his whanau or family get worried. With the host they gather around a large pounamu (greenstone), touching it and thinking which taonga papa visited. The Stone contains iho or life force that can identify your hononga or connection with any of the taonga.

They try a number of taonga from many cultures that live in New Zealand including Maori , Pasifika, European and Chinese represented by an eel trap, the Britten motorcycle and a cheongsam or Chinese dress. Papa was not in any of them but he liked paintings and trees so guess where they find him?

Excellent illustrations by Joy Te Aho-White which enhance Victoria Cleal’s original multi cultural story. taking each person back in the past to the taonga’s source is a superb way to show our connection to our national treasures.

A great acquisition for any school library and for the home

Why is that Spider Dancing? The Amazing Arachnids of Aotearoa by Simon Pollard and Phil Sirvid. Pub. Te Papa Press, 2021

November 21, 2021 Comments off

This excellent non fiction work on spiders and other Arachnids begins with a photograph from the point of view of a fly that is about to be eaten and announces how important photographs are going to be in this book. And they are. Every type of spider is photographed as are their body parts and habitat.

Spiders have been around for about 400 million years and in Aotearoa 1200 species of spider have been identified and there are at least a further 800 others. This book concentrates on NZ spiders and the Avondale spider has become a film star after appearing in the film Arachnophobia. Spiders have also appeared in children’s literature eg Robyn Kahukiwa’s Kuia and the Spider and Charlotte’s Web.

The spiders NZers are most familiar with are the poisonous Katipo and the white tail which lives around and in our homes. Although many people have a fear of spiders they are extremely important in the environment because they eat nearly 800 tons of insects per year.

You will meet many different spiders in this publication but the weirdest is the Bird-dropping spider which looks like a bird dropping on a leaf but smells like a perfume from a female moth. Male moths are attracted and devoured.

A very classy publication for spider freaks and others. Primary, Intermediate and senior students have much to learn and enjoy from this book.

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The Last Bear by Hannah Gold, illus. Levi Penfold. Pub. HarperCollins, 2021.

March 23, 2021 Comments off

This excellent novel is one of the main reasons I keep on reading and reviewing children’s books. Michael Morpurgo called it “unforgettable” and he is not wrong. This is probably the best novel that explains to children the reasons why global warming has to be countered by positive steps from humans. We are not the only ones on this planet.

Eleven year old April and her academic father have lost a mother and a wife. They are grieving and the father decides to take up a job monitoring temperature and the effects global warming is having on the Arctic region. They are to spend the Arctic summer in two huts on the isolated Bear Island inside the arctic circle and a boat ride from Svalbard, a journey that once could be made across the ice sheet.

Bear Island was named because it was populated by polar bears who could walk across the ice to Bear Island and then back again. No longer can that happen, the ice has gone and no bears allegedly reside on Bear Island, but April finds one.

After being assured by her father that no bears are on the island on the first day April is sure she sees one in the distance as the midnight sun sets over the island. Next day she is out looking in spite of warnings that polar bears are aggressive and not to be tampered with. April finds him and he stands up and roars and she roars back.

April calls him Bear and realises he is in poor condition, in fact almost skin and bone. The next day she brings him food consisting of oat cookies and peanut butter. Bear loves it and over the next three months of summer April feeds him up to mint condition and their relationship develops. April is determined to find out why he is the only bear left and she talks to Bear who seems to understand in his bear like ways.

Pretty soon the food runs short but bears need ice sheets to help them hunt. Bear keeps looking north and April understands that is where his home is. How is she going to help him back? read the novel and find out you will not be disappointed.

Crunch time comes when father tells April they are leaving the island.

A totally believable relationship develops between Bear and April who is a feisty girl and describes herself as “I might be short but at least I am not a crybaby” neither is Bear but both are grieving and need each other.

Superb illustrations by Levi Pinfold give character to the Arctic environment, April and Bear.

A wonderful story if you miss this you will kick yourself. The best of the year.

Categories: Uncategorized

My Bum is So Noisy! by Dawn McMillan, Illus by Ross Kinnaird. Pub. Oratia, 2021.

March 14, 2021 Comments off

This is the sort of picture book that kids will pick u immediately they see the title particularly boys of primary and intermediate level although not exclusively so.

These authors have done it before and their picture books are reviewed elsewhere on this blog. Dawn McMillan’s text will help increase children’s vocabulary especially the use of descriptives while the illustrations particularly the behind ones inject much humour into the situation.

But the best part is how the boy takes an embarrassing situation and finds a good use for it.

A sound-system backside! Great fun.

Categories: Uncategorized

Grandkids by Des Newton. Self published 2020.

January 2, 2021 Comments off

This is a picture book that can be enjoyed by both the young and the old. It is only 13 pages long but says so much about the relationship between grandparents and grand children.

Why do we have grandkids? Tell me what they’re for…..swinging on the curtains and messing on the floor.

They eat us out of house and home, leave their toys all over the floor and backyard and test our patience to the full. But we love them and wonder what they will become and we know that when it comes to technology they have the better of us.

The illustrations reflect the reactions old people have to their grandkids and our happiness when they are in bed for the night.

I would like to see this story spread over 26 pages to give more power to both written text and illustrations.

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NEANDS by Dan Salmon. Pub. Onetree House, 2020.

October 6, 2020 Comments off

Pru, Ivy and Charlie are all 14 years old and their parents are all scientists or archeologists who knew each other and they have disappeared.

The World they live in is hostile to science and it is changing as people are turning into neanderthals. They are getting hairy, their skulls are thickening they are losing language and their knuckles are starting to drag along the ground. Worse still they are hostile to other humans.

The cause for change seems to be viral but is it true? and can it be stopped? or is the whole human population destined for extinction?

Charlie tells the story after his parents disappear and school friends start the change to a NEAND as he calls them.

Pru, Ivy and Charlie look for safety and survival in this new World.

The science is interesting and the prose is very descriptive. Ivy says a very interesting thing “I spent my whole life trying to be Maori and now I’d just settle for staying human”.

Has everybody got a Neanderthal gene in them and can this under certain circumstances be triggered turning humans into NEANDS.

An interesting read especially since the Covid 19 virus is currently playing havoc with the Globe.

Categories: Uncategorized

Nikau’s Escape by Kate S. Richards. Pub. Green Room House 2020.

September 17, 2020 Comments off

This is the third book in a series about Jabu a black African from South Africa who lived pre Nelson Mandela when Sth Africa was under Apartheid.

In this novel for teens Jabu comes to New Zealand to snow board in the volcanic area of the central North Island. There he meets Pania and her brother Nikau and becomes quite fond of Pania.

Pania and Nikau had an abusive father who has been in prison for 10 years but is now released. Nikau has fantasised about his father and imagines having a cool but meaningful relationship with him. Nikau is being drawn into the world of drugs and crime and his sister Pania is determined to save him from it. Nikau has other ideas but when his father turns up Nikau rapidly learns that his criminal and drug life is not for him

Things come to a head at a skiing and snowboard trip to Ruapehu when the volcano erupts sending out a lahar and it is a question of survival.

An easy to read book with good values and plenty of action.

Categories: Uncategorized

My Little Book of Bugs. Pub. Te Papa Press 2020.

September 14, 2020 Comments off

My Little Book of Bugs. Pub. Te Papa Press 2020.

This bilingual board book in English and Maori is for pre schoolers.

It talks about all the bugs children will see in their environment from bee to weta in alphabetical order.

Butterflies have wings covered with thousands of tiny scales and cockroaches can live for a long time without food and water. Wetas wave these spiky legs to frighten enemies.

The Maori text follows the English and gives readers an appreciation that there are two major languages in New Zealand plus sign language of course.

being a board book it is very hardy and can be chewed and thrown without damage. A valuable

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