Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts. Ten Tales from the Deep Dark Woods by Craig Phillips. Pub. Allen & Unwin, 2017.
The telling of stories of myths and legends was the reason the storyteller had the best seat by the fire. Here are ten myths legends and fairy tales from nine different cultures that talk about all the mythical creatures mentioned in the title.
Most of the stories you will know already although there was one I hadn’t heard of and it is a beauty. From Sweden is The Boy Who Was Never Afraid. He goes looking for his cow that was stolen by a an old Troll. Who hasn’t? he can’t afford to be afraid and after confronting bravely some formidable opponents he gets his cow back and becomes a hero at the same time. Brilliant.
You get Irish giant Finn McCool, Russian with Baba Yaga and Momotaro the peach boy plus others. You can’t beat that.
What makes these tales more accessible than they were before is the fact they are written in wide screen comic book illustrations that bring life to the tales. Visual readers will really get into these and so they should.
Less than 30 bucks will get you this impressive book that will appeal to reluctant readers and good readers alike. High boy appeal.
Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear & Isabelle Arsenault. Pub. Book Island, 2017.
This is a sophisticated picture book that is multi level, it is disturbing but ultimately hopeful and the topic is depression.
Many people get depressed but when a child gets depressed that is upsetting and needs investigation. When Virginia gets depressed she turns into a wolf and everything in the house turns upside down and dreary for her sister Vanessa.
Vanessa cares and tries to jolly Virginia up. It is a hard row to hoe. Virginia mentions Bloomsberry and so Vanessa paints her view of Bloomsberry with flowers and a garden in which she and Virginia can wander safely and happily.
The names of the children and the situation mirror that of writer Virginia Woolf and the name Bloomsberry is a name associated with her, although you don’t need to know that to enjoy the book.
Isabelle Arsenault’s illustrations are superb. The black wolf, the brightly dressed Vanessa and the black and white images depicting depression are magical. The garden scenes painted by Vanessa fill the reader with hope that depression will pass.
A picture book for everyone.
A Different Dog by Paul Jennings. Pub. Allen & Unwin, 2017.
Fans of Paul Jennings will not be disappointed in this long short story. Just over 80 pages of writing that will keep you on edge and keep you guessing to the end.
The boy who narrates the story is known only as the boy. He never speaks but once owned a dog called Deefer whose fate is crucial to the story. The boy lives with his mother and they are very poor but both want to break that poverty thing.
Although the boy never talks you know what he is thinking. He has no friends and is harangued at school but an adventure in which a vehicle leaves the road and kills the owner leaving another dog, is to change the boy’s life. Read it and see how.
The illustrations by Geoff Kelly in black and white pen are a critical part of this story
Superbly constructed by a master storyteller for reluctant readers of intermediate and secondary school age.
Waiting for Goliath by Antje Damn. Pub. Gecko Press, 2017.
The surprise factor in a children’s picture book is a big plus as far as I am concerned and this book from German author Antje Dam has it.
When one considers Goliath, certain giant like images come to mind. Wait till you see him.
Bear is loyal, trusting and patient. He knows Goliath is coming and is prepared to wait a year for him to come. So bear sits on his bench, hibernates then wakes to greet Goliath. As he does so the seasons pass.
Unique diorama like illustrations with rich coloured backgrounds show the seasons passing. The written dialogue as other animals tell bear that Goliath isn’t coming is short and sharp. Bear will not be deterred.
Good read-a-loud for juniors and pleasurable for newly confident readers. Adults will have a smile or two as well. A quality publication.
Moa by James Davidson. Pub. Earths End, 2017.
A comic book story in 5 parts concerning two Moa Rangers Possum von Tempsky and Kiwi Pukupuku. Both ride Moas and are sort of watchdogs cum cultural police cum super heroes who wander round NZ’s bush and seashore sorting out the bad dudes including tough looking pigs, stags and lizards. All the local population are kiwis.
Their adventures fringe onto Maori legends including Hatupatu and the Birdwoman and of course Maui. There is a story of the largest Kauri tree that bushmen want to cut down. Everytime they try it is restored again as it is protected by a Mauri stone.
The last story which is not finished is a serial story concerning the theft of Maui’s magic jaw bone by Otto who wants to use it to fish for his own land and conquer the World. You will need to get the next part to find out how it ends.
Comic book illustrations with speech bubbles from the characters. Lots of action and tongue in cheek humour without offending the cultural aspects.
Another example of the changing way Maori legends and culture are proceeding to appeal to modern kids. I like the movement.
Tinui – The last Post by Michelle O’Connell. Pub. BMS Books, 2017.
This is as moving, accurate and powerful picture book about Gallipoli and those who have fallen in war, as I have read.
Tinui is a small town in the Wairarapa with a reputation as being the first town to remember ANZAC day on 25 April 1916. On the hill above Tinui is a large cross and every year people come from all over New Zealand to remember the fallen.
This story was inspired by Linda Morgan who played the Last Post and Reveille at the 100th remembrance day in 2016. The illustrations in pen and ink and watercolours of her playing are some of the most moving in this book.
The memorial service is shown with 3 tiger moth bi planes flying over head. All those that fell from Tinui are featured as is Mary Innes the only woman to fall.
At the back of the book are suggested project ideas for teachers and portions of writing from Wairarapa students on what ANZAC Day meant to them. The one that got me was by Mathew Byl who wrote “if I was in war I would hate to see my friends shot and dying right beside me”. Me too Mathew.
This book has wide appeal for everybody but particularly valuable in schools. The illustrations and written text are moving.