Book Review: Doodle Bug – written and illustrated by Bruce Potter

Available at selected bookstores nationwide.cv_doodle_bug

The author, Bruce Potter is a musician and composer of both adult and children’s songs. He also tours schools with his shows. He is also an illustrator and author.

This is a very unusual book. We’ve all doodled at some point in our lives, but I can honestly say I have never in my life managed to produce doodles that are in this book. The idea behind it is to foster children’s and adults imaginations, and it does this very cleverly.

Doodle Bug is a green frog dressed in orange overalls. The illustrations on the first few pages show a frog, a mug of tea/coffee and a biscuit and then a hand holding a ball point pen. The fun then starts with the pen and hand doodling – some incredible doodles. Doodle Bug dives into the swimming pool that Bruce has doodled. .

“Doodle Bug was walking through the doodles one day.
He saw a scary dragon and tried to hide away.
We’ve all got to find him.
Oh where can he be?
Where’s little Doodle Bug?

The small person I was reading this to spent a lot of minutes with me trying to find Doodle Bug. Abby’s Pa was a lot cleverer than Grandma or Abby – he found it in quick smart time. When Abby and I found him, we thought – oh yes, of course.

The illustrations are quite stunning. While I think Abby at 3 years of age is a tad young to really appreciate this book, I know of children in our family over 4 years of age that really would love it.

Well done Bruce Potter. To inspire and encourage children with their imagination is quite a tall order, but I think you have “cracked it”.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Doodle Bug
by Bruce Potter
Published by Draconis Books
ISBN 9780473281137

How to Choose a Book*, by Jenna Todd

*at your local independent bookstore.

Prepare yourself
Put away your phone! Fill up your parking meter! Your bookstore is ready and waiting for you.

Are you ready to have a conversation? Are you ready to be led down the path of the unknown? It’s time to stand shoulder to shoulder with your literary comrades as you take part in one of the most precious and personal tasks known to man: choosing a book.


An inviting Time Out Books window

The Great Good Place
As you step into your local store, you will feel something quite powerful. That’s the power pp_Ray_oldenburgof words. These books are written and published with you in mind and this bookstore is filled to the brim with titles chosen by booksellers, for you.

Sociologist Ray Oldenburg (right) believes that alongside your home and work, you need a place where you can gather and be part of a community. He has coined this The Third Place.

This bookstore opens its doors everyday just to be your Third Place. It wants to be a part of your routine, a place of comfort and discovery.

2-22 unity 4

A mere corner of Unity Books Wellington – start here and work your way out!

Judge a book by its cover
Start big.

I recommend you make a round the whole store at least once. This is where unexpected surprises may come your way.

Narrow down.

Choose your section – Fiction! History! Cooking! Cultural Studies! Scan the covers or spines. Let the fonts and colours tell you to grab them. Let’s be honest, there are so many books with terrible covers. Covers where you know the stories’ protagonist would despise their outer skin. But don’t let this deter you.

Something will lead you to pick up a book and it’s hard to explain how and why this happens. The best way to think of it is as a fateful match.


Time Out Bookstore staff in 2012. They may not be dressed in evening wear in-store…

Ask the experts
Floating around the bookstore, will be some very happy people. These are your booksellers.

They have been hired because they, like you, love to read. They have towering piles of books, surrounding their sleeping heads, hoping to absorb the words so they can pass on their opinion to you.

Your bookseller will probably ask you a few questions. What are some of your favourite books? What have you read lately? Watch them carefully after you answer, as you will see their brain calculating and eliminating. Then follow them around the store as they mumble to themselves, putting together a curated pile for you.

IMG_1498[1]Making the final decision
By now, you may have gathered quite a pile of books and, unfortunately, these choices just may exceed your budget. (Ed’s choices from her review pile to the side!)

This is where you will have to a) thinking about your upcoming reading spots and b) get in touch with how you’re feeling.

Will you be carrying this book on a plane? Or will it sit firmly on your beside table?
Do you feel like delving into a new author? Or would you little to settle into a familiar voice?

The elimination process is a difficult task, but you will make the right choice. Read the first paragraph of all your finalists and, somewhere amongst their text, one of them will whisper the strongest, “I’m the one!”

Heck, you may just give up and say, “I’ll take them all!”

wonka_golden_ticketCongratulate yourself
You have not only just gained a precious item for your bookshelf. You now have a ticket to any time or place. Your imagination will be stretched and you will discover something you would not have known before.

This book will sit upon your shelves for years to come. Its cover will become a memory trigger for this exact moment of purchase and the unfolding moments in which you absorb its tale.

Conservations will be sparked as future guests to your home approach your bookcase, tilt their head sideways and finger its spine.

This new book is yours, but its story will be shared. And that’s pretty special.

by Jenna Todd, Manager of Time Out Books, Mt Eden

Book Review and author Q & A: Ghoulish Get-Ups: How to Create Your Own Freaky Costumes, by Fifi Colston


Available in bookstores nationwide.

Fifi Colston is the Jamie Oliver of the costume world. Give her a cupboard of recycling and art supplies, or even a bag of them, and she is certain to come up with something incredible-looking, at pretty well zero cost. This book, which is the second of its kin after the bestselling, award-winning Wearable Wonders, has truly got something for everybody.

I am not a great crafter. In fact, though I have been involved in Storylines Family Days since 2007, I have never once put my hand up to manage one of the craft stands. This book has costumes at my beginners’ level (I managed to make ladybird tights from red stockings with holes over black tights), but it also has costumes that somebody who sees a fancy dress party as a chance to strut their crafty stuff, can make and be proud of. It is the perfect book for desperate parents, as well as older school kids who are discovering their own creative abilities.

costume fyna arteryThe layout of the book sees several ideas for full outfits, combined with ‘quick costume’ hints; followed by techniques to use to achieve these looks. I particularly liked the ‘quick costume hint’ to hang a name tag on yourself saying ‘Book Awards Judge’. My favourite full costumes were Fyna Artery (left) – wonderful and very simple-looking to achieve, and Fundorsaurus, which looks great but may well be beyond my painting abilities! I passed this to 4-year-old Dan to tell me which he would like me to make for Halloween, and he put it down and said a ‘Skeleton’. There is no skeleton in there. Kids, huh.

One of the most useful sections of the book is ‘Get Creating’. This gives you handy tips on what to save. Egg cartons are a no-brainer. Fifi recently posted a photo on facebook of her towering stack of them (below). I have now become obsessed with washing and saving all of our recycling – yoghurt pots being a particular nuisance for my husband, whom I need to remind not to throw them out.

In ‘Look in the Laundry’ I learned how egg_cartonsmany ways you could tie a T-shirt, how many ways you could use stockings (I donated a very bright stocking to Fifi’s collection which is used in the ‘Terrifying Tightacle’), and how many different things could be created from rubbish bags. And if the costumes aren’t enough, there are even some recipes for gross-looking snacks for Halloween parties. I have just today been invited to one and asked to bring a themed snack: zombie fingers should hit the mark, I think.

Fifi also gives good tips for some gruesome make-up. The grossest thing in the book, to my mind, is the ‘Bursting Boils’ made using a large bubble wrap bubble and some natural yoghurt. Ick.

I am looking forward to future Halloween parties, as a chance for me to dress my boys in some nasty-awesome creations, based on this essential book. This needs to be part of every mum’s secret box of essentials. Perhaps you could even get a second copy for the kids to use.

Ghoulish Get-ups
by Fifi Colston
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775432470

Q & A with Fifi Colston, author, illustrator, creator of wearable arts…

  1. Did your kids fully appreciate that they had a genius mother when they asked for difficult dress-ups for parties and Halloween? What was your proudest dressing-up your kids moment?
    I don’t think they truly appreciated my efforts − I have a son who refused point blank to dress up at all, although he did request a full scale Furbee head for a school production the day before. I still have it and take it to schools − kids love it. It is probably my best effort and my son actually wore it − so that’s my coup! My daughter totally had her own style and still does − she appreciated that I had a large resource (read attic) of clothes and props and still raids it. On holiday, my sarong doubled as all kinds of costumes, from hippy outfits to hula girl and she let me dress her up in that when she was a kid. I spent hours making an Cherokee outfit for her once when she was at kindy but she absolutely wouldn’t wear it. I was so cross I sort of threw it at the teacher and said ‘good luck with International dress up day!’ and stormed off to find coffee.

    Fifi's Attic

    Fifi’s Attic

  2. In terms of crafting costumes, do you have an absolute favourite thing to do?
    I have this dress that I wore pre motherhood to a family wedding about 30 years ago. That dress has since become a 17th century milkmaids outfit, a pirate gals dress, a vampire dress and now currently a steampunk dress. It has been added onto, bleached, dyed and repurposed so many times and what’s more it still fits! (because it has elastic in the waistline!) So upcycling rocks!
  3. Talofa_lavaTell us about your most recent ‘Eureka’ moment when looking at a pile of craft materials / recycling!
    Probably my 2014 wearable arts entry where I looked at painters drop sheet made from felted recycled material and thought…that’s cool, I bet I could make something out of that. And I did − it became lava flows on a dress inspired by lava fields in Samoa. (Left: one of Fifi’s entries to 2014 Wearable Arts, Talofa Lava, credit: World of WearableArt)
  4. How do you keep your studio organised?
    I have a big clean up after each project before I start the next one but it’s a running battle to keep organised. I actually have many studios- they are my messy place studio in Owhiro bay at Nautilus Creative Space; this is where I do splattery paint and smelly glue stuff, my home office where I do my computer graphics and writing, my kitchen table where I do my sewing, the attic in our house where I store things and my family say, everywhere else in the house too because I’m always making stuff!

    studio messy

    Featuring part of the steampunk costume, as well as some terrifying tightacles

  5. What do you love most about working with students on crafts and costumery?
    Their unparalleled enthusiasm for cutting, glueing and experimenting, without being afraid that something isn’t good enough. They just get stuck in and we all have heaps of fun. Recently we made fake wounds from my recent book and they wore them home to terrify their mothers!
  6. What books or website do you have near you at all times?
    My sketchbook and google images. With those two resources, I can make anything!

Review and Q & A by Sarah Forster

Fifi Colston will be promoting the book on What Now on Sunday 26 October, and Good Morning on Wednesday 29 October- keep your eyes peeled!

Book Review: The Children Act, by Ian McEwan

Available in bookstores nationwide, and worldwide

Ian McEwan is a truly masterful, elegant writer. When I read the blurb for his latest novella, cv_the_children_actThe Children Act, the only question in my mind was ‘how much am I going to love this book?’. I have yet to find fault with anything he has written. And he did not disappoint.

Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge, well-respected by her peers for her intelligence, sensitivity and exactitude. As head of the Family Court division, she presides over the difficult cases – whether to separate Siamese twins when to do so means certain death for one, whether to grant a mother’s request to allow her teenage daughters to be educated in a mainstream school against the wishes of her ultra-orthodox Jewish ex-husband, and whether to force a teenage boy to undergo life-saving chemotherapy treatment in opposition to his devoutly religious parents.

It is this last case that occupies Fiona for the majority of the book. Adam is three months short of his eighteenth birthday, three months short of being a legal adult able to decide for himself whether to refuse to accept medical treatment which involves a blood transfusion, something that is forbidden by his family’s church. His time is running out. Before reaching her judicial life-or-death decision, Fiona visits Adam in hospital, and both of their lives are changed because of it.

At the same time, Fiona is struggling with domestic difficulties of her own. After thirty-five years of marriage, her husband has announced his intention to have an affair: “I need it. I’m fifty-nine. This is my last shot. I’ve yet to hear evidence for an after-life.” His betrayal and abandonment leaves Fiona reeling – and re-examining the choices she has made in her career and personal life. “[T]he fertile years slipped by until they were gone, and she was almost too busy to notice. … she belonged to the law as some women had once been brides of Christ”.

Fiona is flawed, vulnerable and achingly human. In an act of spite, and against her better legal judgment, she hastily instructs a locksmith to change the locks on her marital home. “A professional life spent above the affray, advising then judging, loftily commenting in private on the viciousness and absurdity of divorcing couples, and now she was down there with the rest, swimming with the desolate tide.”

McEwan thanks several legal experts in his acknowledgments and it is clear that he has done his homework. As someone who has been part of the legal fraternity, I found the legal arguments and explanations authentic and utterly fascinating. I desperately wanted to read more. This is a short book, more a novella like On Chesil Beach than a full novel like Sweet Tooth. It is brief but brilliant. It is testament to McEwan’s talent that such a rich story with well-rounded characters can be told in such an economic form.

Reviewed by Tiffany Matsis

The Children Act
by Ian McEwan
Published by Jonathon Cape Ltd
ISBN 9780224101998

Reading group notes from Random House NZ’s site

Book Review: Mistory, by Philip Temple

Available in selected bookstores nationwide.

I don’t read a huge amount of dystopian novels, mostly on the basis that the really good cv_mistoryones scare me. You can see how the circumstances could come about. Easily. I’m thinking of classics like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and John Marsden’s Tomorrow When the World Began.

MiStory, by Philip Temple, definitely passes the scare test.

Here’s the setting. New Zealand, sometime in the not-too-distant future. Multiple catastrophes have occurred – climate change and coastal flooding, invasion of Australia, threats to New Zealand’s own security, other wars on other continents, pandemics, possibly some sort of nuclear attack. The government has created a state of emergency that has lasted more than a decade, and now actively monitor the minutiae of citizens’ lives through pervasive technology. Democracy is dead. The only form of news about events within New Zealand and from around the world is heavily edited propaganda.

Told entirely via the entries in a “paperbook” – part personal journal, part documentary – written by siblings John and Sophie, MiStory covers themes of loss, awakening, resistance and justice. The entries crack along at a great pace that keep you turning the pages – I devoured the book in three short sessions, and would have liked to have finished it in one!

John is trying to rebuild his life after the sudden death of his partner Annie, and still mourning their child who had died in a pandemic five years earlier. His sister Sophie is mysterious and unavailable, appearing and disappearing unexpectedly over the years. Why was Annie quickly cremated without an autopsy? What is Sophie really up to? And why has John been offered a new job?

MiStory isn’t perfect. Prime Minister John Locke and a Minister Brownleigh would appear to be thinly veiled digs at the current government, and regardless of your politics, the joke wore a bit thin. The English language has evolved a bit in MiStory’s world, and it can be hard to keep track of some of the new lingo, and some of the new spellings (although Temple’s play with words is very clever, once you get the hang of the new vernacular). The ending is a bit too neat – but it’s the journey to the ending that will have you turning the pages.

Recommended. Go buy it.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

by Philip Temple
Published by Font Publishing
ISBN 9780473282042

Book Review: Catch That Plane! By Sally Sutton, illustrated by Sylvie Currin Korankova

Available in bookstores nationwide. 

Catch That Plane! is a picture book that combines a rhythmic text-style with high energcv_catch_that_planey illustrations to create a fun book that has been enjoyed by every child I have shared it with.

The book follows the journey of a family who are heading to the airport to catch a plane – and they’re late. The text is filled with wonderful descriptive words that create a sense of urgency: chasing, hustling, dashing, flurry, puffing, scooting. Fans of Margaret Mahy and Lynley Dodd will appreciate the rich language.

The illustrations are just lovely. Initially they look very simple, but they cleverly catch the wide range of emotions and situations you might see at an airport, and again, that sense of urgency is everywhere with subtle line emphasis. Each picture is worth closer examination – while the main family are getting swiped and scanned through security, at a distant desk an officer frowns while examining a bag, while the passenger radiates frustration and impatience.

The children in my class of 5-year-olds who enjoyed the book the most remembered their own trips, particularly if they had travelled recently overseas, because they remembered the bio-security beagles. They loved being able to relate their own experiences to the book and share what they knew. I can also envisage Catch That Plane! working really well as a pre-travel primer for children who haven’t experienced air travel before, to give them a sense of all the things that will happen before and after they board their plane.

My favourite 2- and 4-year-old boys also enjoyed the book; Mr 4 was all eyes as we read through the story, taking it in, while Mr 2 loved the pictures, pointing to things he wanted to know more about. For the child who is really into the story and wants to know more, there’s a great child-friendly glossary at the end of the story.

Highly recommended as a read-aloud book for 2 – 7 year olds.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Catch That Plane!
by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Sylvie Currin Korankova
Published by Walker Books AU
ISBN 9781921720680

Book Review: The Dwarf who moved and other true stories from a life in the law, by Peter Williams QC

Available in bookstores nationwide. cv_the_Dwarf_that_moved

The remarkable title comes not from some sordid tale of gnome stealing, although I’m sure Williams has probably defended a fair few of drunken, pilfering students in his day. No, the tale is of an attempted murder on a circus performer, by his wife no less. A tale of intrigue, with humorous twist, trials and tribulations.

This is the lighter side of the anecdotal memoir of one of New Zealand’s most pre-eminent criminal barristers. Like Mike Bungay and David Baragwanath, Williams looms large in the public mind. And rightly, too. In his time in criminal defence Williams has seen it all and everyone. From early days when abortion, homosexuality and even fortune telling were offences to the more sensational cases of wrongful imprisonment and police corruption, Williams has witnessed the defining moments in our legal evolution.

This is Williams’ chance to spill the beans on some of his biggest and most public moments with a rich and wise collection of memoir, anecdote and forensic analysis of the trials of Ronald Jorgensen, Arthur Allen Thomas, Mr Asia, James K Baxter, Winston Peters and many more cases (both celebrated and obscure). Whilst he was always fearless, astute and compassionate, Williams does not shovel the proverbial muck. The temptation to draw a line, now he’s retired, and to slash out at our legal system or reveal the real truth behind might be there but it’s kept in check. Williams, ever the gentleman, is perhaps fading slightly as his battle with cancer takes some of the edge off the blade, but he is still fair.

This is more an insight into our past more than a Nicky Hager-style assault. In a country as small as New Zealand it would be hard to get away with a true Legal Babylon anyway, and who would read it? Williams leaves a legacy of anecdotes that remind us why we need lawyers like him − fair and fearless. From a tale of a stolen red bicycle, his student days boarding, a mysterious fist through the Judas hole, to the dynamiting of the High Court in Wellington, many of the stories are both tall and true. In some cases truth is stranger than fiction, so an open mind also goes a long way.

Williams, now 79, has a keen legal mind but also empathy for justice, for all. He questions the growing length of sentences and to what end this has occured. He writes about the erosion of restorative justice in favour of the conservative hard line that bails up the serial criminals with the first timers and asks how this will rehabilitate anybody. Behind the wig, Williams has trod the same streets as us and he thinks like us, although his gaze has come across many sights more unseemly than we should bear, and he wonders if we are becoming dehumanised to the aims of our justice system. Perhaps we are more agnostic or complacent or dismissive.

In his own words, “My fond hope in writing this book is that it may have at least a tendency to humanise its readers by granting a deeper understanding of the legal process and the characters involved.”

It’s not Rumpole of the Bailey, but it is a good and thoughtful read. Court adjourned!

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

The Dwarf Who Moved And Other True Stories From A Life In The Law
by Peter Williams QC
Published by HarperCollins NZ
ISBN 9781775490845