Book Review: Death Expands Us: An Honest Account of Grief and How to Rise Above it, by Stephanie Harris

cv_death_expands_usAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

On 6 April 2009 Stephanie Harris’ life was turned upside down when her thirty-three-year-old brother Brendon suddenly and mysteriously died. The first Stephanie knew he was ill was when her mother rang to tell her that he had been hospitalised during a business trip to Buenos Aires. The next morning she got phone call from her older sister Teresa to say he was dead.

The sudden death of a much-loved family member or friend brings all sorts of emotions to the surface – emotions that seem at times illogical and at times frightening with the intensity of these feelings.

I have read a number of self-help books the years where a close family member has died – sometimes expected and other times suddenly. I thought this book was well laid out with the grief process explained. Every person reacts differently to death and grief. No way is the right or wrong way. One book I read a number of years ago sprung to mind, Elizabeth Kulber-Ross’ On Death and Dying. The message is more or less the same but from a different perspective – of someone actually going through it. It bought all sorts of emotions back for me as I was reading it. I was able to rationalise how I had grieved at particular times through the sudden death of a much-loved family member.

I recommend this book as a tool in the grieving process. What I really liked about it was that even though Stephanie is a Grief Coach, she still sought help with her grieving. None of us like to think that perhaps there are times in which professional help is necessary.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Death Expands Us: An Honest Account of Grief and How to Rise Above it
by Stephanie Harris
Published by Lioncrest Publishing
ISBN 9780473388171

Book Reviews: Te Reo Singalong Series: Kōrero Mai, Taku Mōkai, and Whai Mai, by Sharon Holt

Available in bookshops nationwide.

These three stories continue Sharon Holt’s successful Te Reo Singalong series. They are much loved by our kaiako and tamariki alike. Our teachers love the simple, repetitive te reo Māori to help them learn and use new phrases with our tamariki. Our tamariki love the music and stories about their childhood.

cv_korero_maiWe use the series in our classroom to support learning because they tell the events and interests of our tamariki growing up in Aotearoa New Zealand. Each picture is uniquely kiwi – the people, landscapes and activities provoke lots of kōrero from our tamariki about their own experiences that they can see!

We particularly like the diversity represented on each page of the different cultures and lifestyles of tamariki. For example, in Kōrero Mai, three young tamariki share their pepeha reflecting their unique family and home so everyone can connect with the book.

cv_taku_mokaiIn Taku Mōkai, photographs accompany the text as you visit different tamariki at home with their pet. As an adult, it is great to see the simple text doesn’t talk ‘at’ the reader, it feels like a conversation as each friend in the book proudly shares their pet and how they look after it.

Whai Mai introduces many simple phrases of te reo Māori but you don’t need to be fluent to understand the story about some friends playing follow-the-leader on a playground.

cv_whai_maiFor new te reo Māori speakers, there are translations at the back of each book, however the simple and useful phrases will soon become part of your kōrero with your tamariki. Additionally, the author has included some great ideas about how you can practice the reo.

Each book is accompanied by a CD. The stories are designed to be sung along to the music. Our tamariki can be heard singing the waiata in their play and love to read these books independently with the CD player. The music is peaceful and relaxing; these books are perfect for calming down before bed and reflecting on the day.

The te reo series by Sharon Holt is a great teaching tool for both tamariki and adults. More importantly, each book can be enjoyed by all as kiwi story-telling at its best too.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

Kōrero Mai
By Sharon Holt
Published by The Writing Bug
ISBN 9780994117113

Taku Mōkai
By Sharon Holt
Published by The Writing Bug
ISBN 9780994117144

Whai Mai
By Sharon Holt
Published by The Writing Bug
ISBN 9780473294564

Book Reviews: Colours for Kiwi Babies, and Counting For Kiwi Babies, by Matthew Williamson and Fraser Williamson

cv_colours_for_kiwi_babiesAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

It is refreshing to read board books for young babies which represent the world they are growing up in through beautiful pictures and simple text.

In Colours for Kiwi Babies, each double page spread focuses on one colour. One page is filled with the colour with the colour’s name in both te reo Māori and English. Opposite, a stylized kiwi image represents the colour. With each turn of the page, the pictures show New Zealand proudly – a rugby jersey, pohutakawa, pavalova; all things your child is likely to grow up knowing in real life.

cv_counting_for_kiwi_babiesIn Counting for Kiwi Babies, the focus is on New Zealand native birds from across the country – kiwi, tūī, ruru and kea for example. The text includes the numeral with te reo Māori and English names for each number. This is great as your child grows for number recognition.

In both books, both English and te reo Māori are valued equally – and it is fantastic to see some bird and plant names are not translated because these kupu are part of our kiwi dictionary!

The books are robust enough for your child to love but designed for adults to enjoy too. I really enjoyed the muted colours which were pleasing to read and the pictures could hang on my wall!

We shared these with a young child who has just had a baby sister join her whānau. The simple format allowed her to read to her new sister independently and for her sister to enjoy the story-telling.

Both these books are a beautiful addition to any new-borns’ library and as your baby grows, these books will provoke lots of kōrero about the images and text.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

Colours for Kiwi Babies
by Matthew Williamson and Fraser Williamson
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143771142

Counting for Kiwi Babies
by Matthew Williamson and Fraser Williamson
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143771135

Book Review: Never Say Die, by Anthony Horowitz

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_never_say_dieAfter reading the first few chapters of Never Say Die I got the distinct impression that Alex Rider is a bit of a young adult version of Ian Fleming’s James Bond – tied to MI6, frequenting exotic places, going up against formidable enemies, the odds being seemingly unfavorable, but of course eventually saving the day. However, the similarities end there between James Bond and Alex Rider. Despite being an asset in some capacity to MI6, Alex Rider is just 15 years old, making the novels just a bit more younger-person friendly. There is an element of unrealism because of the main character’s lack of years, but it was still a really enjoyable story.

As the latest addition to the Alex Rider series, Never Say Die sets the scene with an elaborate crime in Sullfolk, England, with seemingly no real motive or explanation, and the main character thousands of miles away in San Francisco. In the following chapter the crime is then suddenly pushed aside and focuses on Alex Rider, who is struggling to recover from experiences in the novel previous. Those traumatic events are progressively given more detail as Alex takes steps to reconcile the past and solve the mystery that still remains, all the while crossing paths with dangerous criminals not only seeking revenge but also plotting an act of terrorism.

Never Say Die includes plenty of action that go along with a typical spy novel but there are also more complicated elements within to back up the plausibility of the situation. It was at times a bit young but it was understandable given the audience the Alex Rider series is aimed at. That being said it could have easily been a lot more corny but Anthony Horowitz is successful as a whole in the balance he has maintained for such a series – innocent enough to be a young adults novel, but still exciting to actually be worthwhile reading; in my opinion any age group will enjoy Never Say Die.

Reviewed by Sarah Hayward

Never Say Die
by Anthony Horowitz
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406377040

Book Review: It’s My Pond, by Claire Garralon

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_its_my_pondIn It’s My Pond, a duck finds a pond and claims it, but then another duck comes along and also claims it – so they split it in half and share it. But then… another duck comes, and another, and another… chaos and boredom ensues while all the ducks try to stay within their little portion of the pond, until yet another duck makes a very good suggestion and they discover how much more fun the pond is when they start sharing and playing in it together.

UNTIL, a hippopotamus appears…

This is a beautifully made book. Thick, creamy stock, Bright but simple illustrations with a clever story. It features a great theme of sharing, equality, and playing together which creates some really good conversations with young children.

Reviewed by Nyssa Walsh

It’s My Pond
by Claire Garralon
Published by Book Island
ISBN 9781911496021

Book Review: Play, by Jez Alborough

cv_play_jez_alboroughAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

Play is another fantastic Bobo the monkey book, companion to Hug, Yes and Tall. This time follow Bobo as he resists bedtime to play with his jungle friends. The sun is still up and Bobo wants to play. He sneaks away after being put to bed to join Giraffe, but Mum finds him again and returns him to bed. Bobo can’t resist temptation though and swings away to find Tortoise. Suddenly the sun is going down and Bobo is left alone in the dark, far from his Mum! Thankfully a welcome friend shows up to help him home.

This was such a good book to read to a 1.5 year old. It’s filled with beautiful full page illustrations and just a handful of words, which was perfect for someone with minimal vocabulary. A simple story told through illustration but cleverly done so you could interpret what is going on as much or as little as you wanted as you read it. Perfect for little ones who are just starting to interact more with books.

Reviewed by Nyssa Walsh

Play
by Jez Alborough
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406373073

Book Review: The Dragon Hunters, by James Russell, illustrated by Link Choi

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_dragon_huntersWhat would you do if a dragon snatched up your beloved chocolate-coloured Lab? Mum is not much help saying “Please stop telling tales.” Brothers Paddy and Flynn have no other option but to rescue Coco the dog themselves. They pack their bags and make some sandwiches (not as good as the ones mum makes though) ready for their quest. Off they set across their island home, scaling the mountain and looking for the Dragon’s lair.

Once they find it, Paddy keeps watch outside while Flynn creeps in and finds Coco next to the sleeping dragon. All is going well until Coco’s excited barking wakes the dragon and the boys have to run for their lives. And, just as it seems the dragon is about to get them: “Paddy felt its fiery breath warming up his bottom…” they are saved by Paddy’s clever thinking.

This is an adventure story that kids will love. It is written in an easy to read rhyme that works well, with a good pace and the action steadily building up over the course of the story. There are moments of humour and the fact that Mum doesn’t believe the boys have bested a dragon, telling them “That’s nice my darlings, now off to bed” gives the readers a sense of closeness to the brothers: even if mum doesn’t believe, the reader is in on the secret, making them part of the team.

Link Choi’s solid, earthy toned illustrations fit well with the story and earned him a finalist placing for the Russell Clark Medal for Illustration. His dragon is wonderful, and Coco the lab is very cute too I might add.

Russell and Choi have created a wonderful book, ensuring all elements: text, illustration and design, are of a professional quality, and they have gone a step further in producing an AR (Augmented Reality) reading app which brings the Dragon Brothers world into 3D life. This is so easy to use and adds another exciting element to the appeal of the book. The gorgeous end papers feature a map of the Dragon Brothers World, which when using the AR app, appears in 3D complete with sounds and even a dragon or two flying in and out and the boys themselves; very clever and very cool!

The Dragon Hunters is a fun to read, good old adventure tale that is easy to read again and again. It is the first story in a trilogy featuring the brothers, and with the other two titles continuing their dragon adventures – The Dragon Tamers and The Dragon Riders, this set will be a worthy addition to any bookshelf.

Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen

The Dragon Hunters
by James Russell, illustrated by Link Choi
Published by Sourcebooks, Inc
ISBN 9781492649854