Book Review: Feel a Little: Little Poems About Big Feelings, by Jenny Palmer, illustrated by Evie Kemp

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_feel_a_little_NZSharing our feelings is not only important for adults. The benefits of emotional literacy can be seen in children of all ages. This book is a collaboration by two people who addressed the need for this. It began as an online project where an emotion was featured each week. The poem for each emotion combines catchy rhymes with beautifully vibrant illustrations. There are 14 emotions in the book, a rainbow of expressions and images, that use colour to reinforce ideas. Following the success of the venture, the poems were gathered into this hard cover book which is best suited for 7-11 year olds.

While the poems are quite long and complex, they would make a useful starter as an educational focus. I could see myself in teaching, using a poem each week and basing activities on these. Movement, music and art would flow naturally from discussions about, “When I feel Sad”. In the home, the book might be read over a number of weeks allowing for family discussions about times when we have felt that emotion. I would struggle to read the whole book in a sitting, but do not feel this was the intended purpose of the authors.

Feel a Little is an exciting collaboration because it addresses the emotional needs of children in words and images. By choosing to publish these poems they will access a wider audience and be useful in many situations. My copy has already gone to my Grandaughter’s preschool who intend to use it in their programmes. That must be a sure sign of a successful book.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

Feel a Little: Little Poems About Big Feelings
by Jenny Palmer, illustrated by Evie Kemp
Published by Little Love
ISBN 9780473384456

Book Review: Grandma Forgets, by Paul Russell, illustrated by Nicky Johnston

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_grandma_forgets.jpgDementia is a very real issue for many families these days and younger members of any family would find it a very difficult thing to cope with. Grandma Forgets tells the story of a young girl, who has a outlook and wisdom that belie her years, dealing with her Grandma’s dementia. Instead of focusing on the negatives of the situation, the book is built on memories of earlier times, shared experiences and strategies cleverly inserted into the story that would benefit any family dealing with this issue.

Particularly appealing about this book is it’s attitude of kindness and gratitude for what once was and how much value is placed on a Grandma who can’t remember their names, love for Grandma is weaved like a thread throughout the story.

The story is illustrated with a fine hand, one that was able to match the words, feelings and unspoken thoughts in a way that brought a poignancy to the story, soft pastels, dark greys, everything fitted beautifully. This book needs to be in every library and on every bookshelf, it is so relevant in this day and age where so many struggle to guide their families through this issue, it is a enjoyable read and a great resource.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

Grandma Forgets
by Paul Russell, illustrated by Nicky Johnston
Published by EK Books
ISBN 9781925335477

Book Review: Ori the Octopus, by Anne Helen Donnelly

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_ori_the_OctopusOri is an Octopus who loves to help his friends out. Having eight tentacles he can multitask but this gets him into all sorts of trouble. Ori’s friends are Sally Starfish, Harry Seahorse, Peta Pufferfish, Cathy Clownfish and Reginal Stingray.

Ori decides to make Sally Starfish a cake for her birthday, but then Harry Seahorse rushes into Ori’s home and asks him to look after her baby. Cuddle the baby, mix, mix, mix but then there was a knock at the door. Peta Pufferfish had hurt herself and needed Ori to plaster her cuts. More friends turn up asking Ori to help, and this is when the confusion starts. Poor Ori.

This is a great book using interactive activities and is suitable for children aged 2 – 5 years of age. I read this book to our 2-year-old granddaughter. She got right into the swing of wanting to do all the actions. What I particularly liked was that at the back of this book are all characters to cut out with the suggestion that once cut out you glue or tape them to sticks – we used ice block sticks. Once that is done we acted out the story with much hilarity, mixing up the characters and their actions.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Ori the Octopus
by Anne Helen Donnelly
Published by Anne Helen Donnelly
ISBN 9780646962207

Book Review: Bastion Point: 507 days on Takaparawha, by Tania Roxborogh

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_bastion_pointErica Tito thinks she’s going to spend the summer training her new horse (and also working to pay for it) but her parents suddenly have quite a different plan.

In 1977, the Muldoon government announced a housing development on Ngāti Whātua reserve land. This land had been reduced in size over time, by compulsory acquisition, despite having once been declared absolutely inalienable.

Many of the Ngāti Whātua iwi quickly returned to Auckland, and set up camp on Takaparawha, in what turned out to be a very long protest which ultimately saw more than 200 people arrested, and the buildings destroyed. However a subsequent Waitangi Tribunal determined that the land was indeed owned by Ngāti Whātua and much of it was returned. (source: Nzhistory.govt.nz)

So, to return to Erica’s story – her parents decide that it’s most important that they join Joe Hawke and the other Ngāti Whātua leaders, and despite Erica’s protests, that’s what happens. However what is intended a summer break turns into almost 18 months of living in leaky tents, on Bastion Point as the family become immersed in the struggle to retain their land.

Tania Roxborogh has created a compelling and entirely credible story, told through the diaries which Erica (who loves reading and writing) keeps throughout this time. The difficulties of living in such conditions are occasionally startling in their description; one which sticks with me is Erica’s note about her clothes smelling of smoke and damp, and trying to get rid of that before going to school so that she would not be embarrassed. But there are also the high points – an understanding and challenging teacher, Erica’s eventual ability as a top debater being drawn out, friendships made and kept despite enormous differences.

The importance of whānau is well-defined, and will resonate with young readers, as will the strength of character of the Tito family, determined to fight for what they know to be right.

The occupation of Bastion Point was not an easy time for Ngāti Whātua, and Roxborogh alludes in a very gentle way to the difficulties between the occupiers and the tribal elders and their advisors on the marae. She has more to say (through Erica) about the politics and the government of the day, and that is a good reminder to those of us who are old enough to remember Bastion Point and the challenges which were thrown out to all New Zealanders.

In all this is a very accessible, engaging and thought-provoking book. I’d recommend it to anyone, but particularly to teachers as a terrific resource either as a read-aloud or a text for study.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

Bastion Point: 507 days on Takaparawha
by Tania Roxborogh
Part of the My New Zealand Story series
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434795

Book Review: The Secret of Black Rock, by Joe Todd-Stanton

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_secret_of_black_rockErin is desperate to go to sea in her mum’s fishing boat, enthralled by the tales she hears of the mysterious and dangerous Black Rock. Her daily attempts to sneak on board the boat are thwarted by her dog Archie, who sniffs her out every time. She’s very determined though, and one day her wish comes true, but disaster awaits.

At first I wasn’t sure which age group the book was pitched at – with environmental themes woven through the adventure plot, I thought it might be aimed at the more sophisticated picture book reader, aged about 9 or up. The plot is somewhat surrealist, and I wasn’t sure if younger readers would get it.

I needn’t have worried. My class of 5 and 6 year olds were transfixed from the first page, and it is honestly the most still they have been while I’ve read to them in a while. They hung off every word. When I finished they started a robust debate on whether the story was true or not.

The illustrations are detailed, with a subdued palate and little pops of colour. There’s lots to look at, and it would be a perfect book for an adult and child to snuggle up and explore. After reading it with my class, many children asked if they could have another look at it during the course of the day.

The publisher’s website recommends the book for 5-7 year olds, but I think it would be of interest to older children; the weaving of an environmental theme through what might otherwise be a relatively straightforward adventure story gives it more depth and would likely keep their attention.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

The Secret of Black Rock
by Joe Todd-Stanton
Published by Flying Eye Books
ISBN 9781911171256

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