Book Review: Hedgehog Howdedo, by Lynley Dodd

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_hedgehog_howdedoThis classic by Lynley Dodd is set in the depths of winter as a young girl goes searching for all the hedgehogs hibernating in her garden. We count along with her, ‘two are on a ledge, I even saw three white ones in a hole behind the hedge’Finally the little girl sets down on her back door step and imagines what will happen when spring arrives and the hedgehogs wake up.

This gem of a book has everything we have come to expect from a Lynley Dodd book. It will bring adults back to their childhoods and introduce young readers to the delights of Lynley Dodd’s brilliant story-telling.

The text is sparse and perfectly targeted for the young reader. It contains her playful alliteration and parcels everything up in lilting melody. There is also her whimsical imagination – have you ever heard of a pizza plant before or dreamed about the noise of windywhistle grass?

This book would be wonderful to read on a cold winters night when the pictures mirror the cold view out the window. It carries the promise of warm spring days very soon as colour slowly emerges when the young girl dreams of the hedgehogs waking up.

Lynley Dodd is a national treasure for her contributions to young children’s literature – and rightly so. This book is the perfect bedtime story with her poetic text a joy to read aloud. The illustrations and gentle pace will lull young readers into a peaceful slumber with a smile on their face.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

Hedgehog howdedo
written & illustrated by Lynley Dodd
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143773023

 

Book Review: Everyone Walks Away, by Eva Lindström

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_everyone_walks_awayThis is an eloquent picture book for children of all ages that deftly touches upon subjects of loneliness and exclusion.  We meet Frank who is standing alone while three friends are having fun. Frank goes home, cries into the pot and begins to cook. We don’t know what Frank is cooking and it is delicious to see the story emerge.

What is unique is the way the author has not made the hard topics soft and cuddly. Friendships are hard work and children know this. This book honours these emotions and children’s experiences by being honest about the sadness Frank feels. The ending wonderfully suggests the beginning possibilities of belonging, but doesn’t guarantee instant friendships.

The language is emotive; it provokes wonderful imagery and opens up conversations about how we experience emotions. Frank goes home and cries into a pot” is a sad statement to make about a sad event. I wonder how older children might also imagine the sadness our characters are feeling? The words are just enough to tell the story and gives space to talk about the issues the characters face.

Eva Lindströmis a comic artist and the illustrations wonderfully mirror the sparse text. At the beginning, there is only one scooter, one seat, even the leaves seem to be drooping. There is loneliness in the pictures. But, as the friends join Frank, we can find three bowls, three chairs and three pieces of toast. Every detail is thought about, including colour. Frank is seemingly downcast compared to the sunshine and brightness used to portray the three friends. Hope appears in the pictures as the characters begin a new, tentative friendship.

It is a quiet story that will touch the reader.  Everyone walks away is a real portrayal of friendships and belonging that deserves to be read aloud.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

Everyone walks away
by Eva Lindström
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571864

 

Book Review: Oink, by David Elliot

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_oinkSometimes all you want is some quiet time. Time to not hear your name, to have no one in your personal bubble, time for just yourself. I know it’s not just me!

Pig is in the same boat – er, bath. The bathroom is free. The water in the bath is the perfect temperature. Silence is golden. Until there’s a knock on the door …

David Elliot has a gift for expressions. Pig’s face runs the gamut from blissed-out, to puzzled, to concerned, then annoyed, then heartily fed up. Everyone else in the story is in various stages of delight at the shared bath time experience. It’s a great time (except for Pig), until someone forgets their manners.

I enlisted the help of my trusty side-kick, 7-year-old Lucas, to help me review this book, as my class were enjoying their summer holidays so I couldn’t read it to them. Lucas LOVED being able to read the limited text all by himself (the only text is pretty much animal vocalisations), and as a teacher I loved that he used the punctuation to add expression! He thought it was very funny, but interestingly, didn’t pick up on the subtleties of the illustration, especially the bath went wrong.

It’s always one of those things I wonder about when reading to children – should I point out detail in the pictures if the children don’t see the joke? I don’t know if there’s a right answer to that question, I think it depends if it’s going to be one of those stories you read over and over again, so there are opportunities for children to discover the joke for themselves. And Oink definitely deserves to be enjoyed over and over again. It’s a wonderful book for all ages, and a perfect gift for parents of toddlers, who will totally get it.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Oink
by David Elliot
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776572144

Book Review: Oh No! Look What the Cat Dragged In, by Joy H Davidson, illustrated by Jenny Cooper

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_oh_no_look_what_the_cat_dragged_inAnyone who has a cat knows they love to bring the wild life they catch to show you, and let it go for a run around if they have the chance!

Joy Davidson’s new picture book tells the story of Grandma’s big black cat as it explores its back yard and brings his loot back through the flap in the door. The grandchildren holidaying with Grandma experience first hand the chaos in the house and are almost too frightened to come down stairs as the week progress’s as there are ‘creepy crawlies everywhere, and rubbish piled up high.’

Wonderful descriptive sentences tell the story, familiar to many cat lovers, which will have children laughing out loud, and the repetitive phrases will encourage the children to join in.

It is a fun book and Jenny Cooper’s illustrations add an extra dimension, to involve the children to seek, find and identify the creepy crawlies the cat dragged in. The facial expressions on Grandma and the children convey vividly the tension in the house with each day. But I love how she has captured the cat’s expression sitting half asleep with almost a smirk on its face, I have seen it many times as I have chased a mouse around the kitchen with the cat wondering what the problem is.

What a fun way to learn the days of the week, identified in a larger font, and with the use of capitals Davidson ensures the reader will emphasize the more dramatic sentences. This book will be loved by children and adults as they turn the pages to find out if Grandma solves the dilemma of ‘what the cat dragged in.’

Winner of the 2015 Storylines Joy Cowley Award and the 2017 Notable book award for Witch’s Cat Wanted, Apply Within, Auckland based Joy Davidson, is also the author of The Tree Hut and Titan the truck.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

Oh No! Look what the Cat dragged in
by Joy H Davidson, illustrated by Jenny Cooper
Published by DHD Publishing
ISBN 9780473448318

Book Review: Keep an Eye on this Kiwi, by Scott Tulloch

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_keep_an_eye_on_this_kiwiA young kiwi sets out to find his dinner but some clever insects are determined to not be on the menu and trick our kiwi. With each turn of the page, the silliness increases, along with the laughs from young readers!

A series of comical anecdotes are told through interactions between the narrator and the kiwi. While it is set up as a chapter book it is intended to be read as a whole with the story all connecting together. The focus is on toilet humour, taboo words and practical jokes, which young children love.

The illustrations are pencil sketches and become part of the text. There are little speech bubbles and characters which speak directly to the reader. The line drawings are a refreshing change from busy pages. They are full of life, with the kiwi seeming to jump off the page as he attempts to talk to the reader.

Adults might get to the end of the story and wonder about what just happened.  But that seems to be the point. It is a nonsensical story which gets crazier and crazier – until you might just believe that a kiwi can fly.

It is best suited for 4 to 7 year olds – or even those children who are reading independently who will be scaffolded with the pictures. The antics of the kiwi make this story a funny read which will engage the most hesitant of readers.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

Keep an Eye on this Kiwi
by Scott Tulloch
Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775435310

Book Review: Outside, by Sarah Ann Juckes

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_oustide.jpgHow do you know there’s an Outside if you’ve never seen it?

Sarah Ann Juckes’ haunting debut novel was twelve years in the making and I can see why as you become deeply immersed in this scary world encapsulated within the walls of a well-planned and written novel.

Outside is the story of Ele. We meet Ele inside her tower. Just like Rapunzel, Ele has been trapped and living ‘Inside’ for almost as long as she can remember, only she doesn’t have a window to escape from, even if her handsome prince from the fairytale were to come rescue her. Is there an Outside? From the few books Ele has read, she thinks there is but the ‘Others’ trapped with her don’t agree. Inside Ele shares her world with Cow, Queenie, Bee and through the taps next door from Jack. Ele is determined to find proof that there is an Outside, after all, her brother Zeb used to say that there was one when he was alive. There’s one big problem: Him. To find this Outside, Ele has to get past Him to escape. Zeb was unsuccessful in his own attempt to do so, Ele has the stain of his blood on the floor as proof of that.

To say that this book is hard to review is an understatement. It isn’t because it isn’t any good, quite the opposite, this work is seriously a literary masterpiece. Outside is hard to review because having completed this fast-paced page-turner, I know the ending. I am  scared that I could give too much away and ruin what is an amazing and thought-provoking read.

Imagine being an alien in your own country, to have never seen the outside of the room you live in? How would you imagine the Outside to look like? I can tell that the author has spent many many painstaking hours working through this scenario. What would Outside food taste like? What would grass feel like under your feet?

Outside is the journey of one young girl’s escape from Inside to Outside and all the obstacles she has to overcome along the way. From the very first page you feel as if you are Ele yourself, experiencing the world through her senses. You are engulfed in Ele’s world and it’s language. I haven’t read a book that has engulfed me in an otherworld so much since I first read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood back in the late 1980s. Pretty impressive, considering that for years Ms Atwood’s book itself has been rated in my top ten books of all time. Juckes’ manipulation of language to convey what we consider everyday items through the eyes of a human devoid of human society is an example of this amazing otherworld construction and life-observation: ‘extra-skins’ for ‘clothes’, ‘sun bars’ for lights, etcetera.

This otherworld exploration isn’t pleasant, it isn’t meant to be, but it is so satisfyingly thought-provoking and clever. All I have left to say is ‘reading is believing’. You have to read it, and once you’ve read it, you’ll know exactly what I mean by understatement and clever. I look forward to Sarah Ann Juckes next work!

Review by Penny M Geddis

Outside
by Sarah Ann Juckes
Published by Penguin Random House, UK
ISBN: 9780241330753

Book Review: The Fire Keeper’s Girls, by L P Hansen

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_Fire_keepers_girls.jpgAs a teenager I loved reading and all my pocket money went on books. I had a few favourite authors, and if L P Hansen had been around back then, I’m pretty sure she would have been one of them.

The Fire Keeper’s Girls tells the story of cousins Gemma and Alice who are sent to spend summer with Samantha, an unusual woman that neither of them know very well.

The two girls resent being sent away and at first remain closed to everything Samantha suggests. Like a good role model or mentor, Samantha slowly draws the girls in, treating them as equals, and they reluctantly realise they’re enjoying themselves.

During their stay Samantha sets the girls a series of tasks that form part of something called The Game. Little by little the girls reveal more about what led to them being sent there for the summer, and are taught ways to overcome their rebellious pasts and create brighter futures.

The book features a number of pioneering women, including some New Zealanders. At the back there is a section with more information on these women, some of whom Gemma and Alice were inspired to research as part of The Game. Some I was familiar with, but I very much enjoyed reading about many others and marveling at what they achieved.

This exactly the kind of book I would want a young adult to read. Quite aside from the fact it’s well written and a damned good read (I started it in the morning and only had a few of the profiles at the back to finish off the following day), it’s a New Zealand book and its treatment of girls and women is inspiring and respectful. It illustrates the importance of finding your passion and following the path that is right for you and not necessarily the one others are pushing you towards.

I’m far from being a young adult, but I really enjoyed this book. L P Hansen was the winner of the Jack Lasenby Senior Award for Children’s Writing in 2012, and also wrote Bad Oil and the Animals, and An Unexpected Hero. If The Fire Keeper’s Girl is anything to go by, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she became one of New Zealand’s most popular authors.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

The Fire Keeper’s Girls
by L P Hansen
Published by Onepoto
ISBN 9780473444723