Book Review: Wolfy, by Gregoire Solotareff

cv_wolfyAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

After the sudden death of his old uncle, Wolfy has found himself in somewhat dire circumstances and he has too figure out what to do. Seeking help, he comes upon the very chilled Tom, a rabbit who had never seen a wolf before. United in a sense of adventure, the most gorgeous friendship between the pair develops, each having something to offer the other. Until things hit a speed bump when Tom and Wolfy play ‘Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.’ Fear takes over and Tom decides that the friendship is over. But is it?

This book hooks you in from the cover onwards, and uses vibrant, colourful illustrations to great effect, complementing the text and engaging the reader in the story. The story is well paced with a great dollop of humour that will make both adult and child reader alike laugh. It is poignant in it’s emotions but never heavy.

This is a great book for the 4 year old upward reader. I suspect older children will enjoy it and as a shared reader it leaves a lot of scope for interaction. A focal point is the need for understanding in friendships and this book could easily lend itself to teachable moments.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

by Gregoire Solotareff
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571567


Book Review: Today in New Zealand History, by Atkinson, Green, Phipps and Watters

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_today_in_new_zealand_historyOne of the joys of aging is picking up a book like this and recognising that nearly half of the events happened in my lifetime. I remember most of them too. This is not a highs and lows, shockers and disasters type of  book. Instead, we have a wonderful collection of events which include the quirky (introduction of Jockey Y fronts), the disasters, the political triumphs, cultural firsts (Anna Pavalova dancing here) and plenty of sports. My husband enjoyed the sports clips as they were often the lesser-known events. Interspersed with the events, are the birth of a variety of New Zealanders on this day. These little vignettes could be a book on their own, but included in the text and photos of the main items, they add another layer of enjoyment.

The collaboration between the Ministry of Culture and Heritage and the Alexander Turnbull Library has resulted in a book that is both informative and visually captivating. There is a photo of Michael Joseph Savage on the steps of the Social Security building. It is all art deco and serious but captures the amazing introduction in 1938 of the Social Security Act. The photo of the opening of the Christchurch Town Hall also made me nostalgic, for I sang at the opening and attended a meeting there on the morning of the quake.

By uniting two such esteemed groups, this team have produced a book that rises above the usual coffee table pretty. I found the clear and easy to read text gave me enough information without boring me through detail.

As a teacher, I am constantly saddened by the lack of historical knowledge shown by my pupils. I feel that a knowledge of the past enables us to truly face the challenges of the future. As New Zealanders we have travelled a long way in a short time. This book would be a useful aid to help students focus each day, on an event. My husband commented that he would be able to do this using just sports as there are often 2-3 stories for each day, and sports feature often. There is a pupil like this in every class.

Add to all this a hefty hard cover and wonderful photos. What a great Christmas present for those baby boomer parents who can relive their childhood and educate the grandchildren at the same time.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

Today in New Zealand History
by Neill Atkinson, David Green, Gareth Phipps and Steve Watters
Published by Exisle Publishing
ISBN 9781775593003

Book Review: A Gift for Ana, by Jane Va’afusuaga

Available in selected bookshops.

This book is a beautifully written narrative which gives insight into a Samoan family saying goodbye to someone they love. Ana is a young girl who is returning to her family’s homeland in Samoa because her family member had passed away. It is a book which tells a story from the Pacific so our children can see themselves in what they read.

It is a great teaching resource to help children understand what they might experience in a similar situation. The author quietly explains Ana’s story in a no-nonsense, straight-forward manner from the first page. It provides answers to many questions about what might happen when a child returns home and will also provoke many questions which can be talked through together.

The rich story is accompanied by stunning coloured lithographic prints which boldly sit alongside the text. We are excited that this book is also available in Samoan so our families can read this at home in their mother tongue.

The author has explored the delicate family relationships which develop when families live apart when Ana begins to know her grandmother. Ana’s grandmother tells Ana the stories of her family and you are left with hope and peace dispute the tough issues the book raises.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

A Gift for Ana
by Jane Va’afusuaga
Published by Little Island
ISBN: 9781877484247




Book Review: The Rejects, by Ali Foster

Available in bookshops nationwide.

Garden Gnomes are still around in suburban gardens and children always delight in discovering them hiding in the undergrowth. Ali Foster has taken the world of Garden Gnomes and created a delightful story of mischief and adventure.

This group of discarded Gnomes (We’re ginomees, it says so right here. Look! G-N-O-M-E-S), are not content to stay still as stones in the garden. They plan to liberate all Gnomes from the boredom of the fishpond or pathway. This adventure is aimed at 8-10 year olds but can be fun for older readers too. Even me.

IWFG is an Australian publishing house but want to include New Zealand authors and audiences. The Rejects is the first title in an intended trilogy and I am sure we can expect more adventures from these not-so-statuesque Gnomes.

I suspect that while a good reader will manage the text alone, it would make a great read aloud for willing ears. My copy is off to school for a trial run.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson.

The Rejects
by Ali Foster
Published by IFWG Publishing, Australia
ISBN: 978-1-925496-25-3

Book Review: Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover, by Markus Motum

Available in bookshops nationwide.

motumIn August 2012, Nasa succeeded in landing the Curiosity rover safely on the surface of Mars. But who, or what is ‘Curiosity’? Glad you asked. Curiosity is a car-sized rover, or robot vehicle, designed to explore Gale Crater on Mars as part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission (MSL). Curiosity was launched from Cape Canaveral on November 26, 2011, at 15:02 UTC aboard the MSL spacecraft and landed on Aeolis Palus in Gale Crater on Mars on August 6, 2012, 05:17 UTC. The Bradbury Landing site was less than 2.4 km (1.5 mi) from the centre of the rover’s touchdown target after a 560 million km (350 million mi) journey.

Part of Curiosity’s mission is to investigate the make up and behavior of the Martian climate and geology and, more importantly collect evidence that Gale Crater may have been suitable to foster microbial life. Essential to that, of course, is the presence of water. Now, the question arises: could Mars be suitable for human exploration?

Curiosity’s early efforts were so successful that in December 2012, the original two-year mission was extended indefinitely. On the 5th of August 2017, NASA celebrated the fifth anniversary of the Curiosity rover landing and related exploratory accomplishments on the planet Mars.

To celebrate Markus Motum has created a wonderful book aimed at kids, but not exclusively. Parents who enjoy clean, vibrant graphics and short punchy bites of information will also enjoy this book, although their eyes may glaze over with some of the facts. But don’t worry, their kids will get it. Motum is clever. He personalizes Curiosity, possibly using other models like Wall-e. Curiosity talks directly to you, the reader and takes you on the journey with him. Along the way Curiosity explains about space travel and the development of space exploration, especially of the rover series. We learn about the labs, the experiments and the Kennedy Space Centre. When I was a kid, one of my favourite books was Mike and the Modelmakers, about the making of Matchbox toy cars. This book reminds me of that one. The art is the same and the way the facts and the information are presented is the same, too.

One of the tools Mokum uses is space. He ensures there’s plenty of gaps between his planets or paints a large sky that dominates the page, giving a feeling of awesomeness across the universes he’s painting. This is also emphasised by the size of the book – it’s about 30x25cms, so not a small package. One of the best images is the NASA control room, with an illustration that covers both pages – 60cms across. It gives a real widescreen feel. And another is a two-page spread of a rocket taking off. The art is clean and simple but very effective.

Later in the book there’s a time lapse image of Curiosity landing, with comments to help understand the stages as it descends through the atmosphere to the surface of Mars. The accompanying information tells us that the pod that delivers Curiosity used a ‘sky crane’ to lower the vehicle safely. This is just one example of the level of detail Mokum includes. It’s details like this that show that Mokum never compromises or patronises his readers. He wants them to use this book as a source book for their own projects. I tried Googling these facts and really had to search them out. It wasn’t easy, so for the keen reader the value in this book is endless. This is a really special book and a bit of a treasure. The internet is not always the solution. Sometimes books are better. Here’s a great example of that.

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover
by Markus Motum
Published by Walker Books Ltd
ISBN: 9781406374681


Book Review: Ten Pound Pom, by Carole Wilkinson and Liz Anelli

Available from 1 October in bookshops nationwide.

cv_ten_pound_pomCarole Wilkinson and her family emigrated from the UK to Australia under a scheme known officially as The United Kingdom-Australia Free and Assisted Passage Agreement. Post World War II, Australian industry was thriving and the Australian Government decided to encourage immigration, particularly from the UK. Ex-servicemen came free, others paid ten pounds, with children under 18 coming in free. These immigrants became known as Ten Pound Poms. The scheme continued until 1982.

The book is written in the present tense, from Carole’s perspective (of course!) and illustrated brilliantly by Liz Anelli. All of the experiences of long-distance ship travel are captured delightfully and will resonate with many older readers. For the younger readers, and I hope there will be many, it’s a great personal story, and the child’s voice comes through clearly. It has great appeal – there are lots of points of interest, and because of the episodic nature, it can be taken in small doses and thus enjoyed over a longer time.

It would be a great addition to school libraries and could be used successfully in social studies classes, I think.  It would suit able readers in the middle school years, or it would be a happy addition to home libraries.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

Ten Pound Pom
by Carole Wilkinson and Liz Anelli
Published by Walker Books

Book Review: The Curious Ar-Chew, by Sarah Grundy

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_curious_ar_chewThis is a hilarious romp through the jungle which encourages children to engage with and challenge the story as it is told.

The animals in the forest have found a strange creature in a tree and nobody knows what it might be. A hedgehog, goose and rabbit work together to solve this mystery. Each page gives a new clue about what the ‘ar-chew’ might and children can be encouraged to guess.  Of course, each time the woodland animals guess wrong and the crowd gets bigger as they think about what the ‘ar-chew’ might be.  The story asks children to come along on the adventure, taking them into the world of the book.

Eventually the ‘ar-chew’ leaves the tree, and while it is never said, we see a young child head home from the forest.  The ending cleverly allows the reader to be left in the imaginative world the author has woven through her deft story-telling.

It is a delightful story which young children find funny as they begin to wonder, along with the animals in the story, just what an Ar-Chew might be.  It has become a favourite at group time at my kindy, and the rhyming prose is enjoyed by the reader and listener. The clean pictures accompany the story beautifully.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

The Curious Ar-Chew
by Sarah Grundy, illustrated by Ali Teo and John O’Reilly
Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434375