Book Review: The Singing Dolphin / Te Aihe i Waiata, by Mere Whaanga

Available in bookshops nationwide.
The Singing Dolphin / Te Aihe i Waiata, by Mere Whaanga is a finalist in this year’s Picture Book Award in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

cv_the_singing_dolphin.jpgInspired by Moko the Dolphin’s visit to Mahia over the seasons between 2007 and 2009, Mere Whaanga’s beautiful story The Singing Dolphin is a new tale told in the style of a traditional magical legend. Presented in te reo Maori and English, the story tells of Potiki, his brothers, and their wise woman Grandmother.

Reminiscent of Maui, Potitki has a sense of wonder and a touch of magic about him, while his brothers Tahi and Rua are expert in the more immediate workings of the land and sea. Their focus is set on their hunting and fishing, and they refuse to allow Potiki to help, telling him ‘No, you’re too little, you’re too noisy and you don’t know what to do.’ Determined to join them, Potiki follows and when he tires, rests and sings songs that draw the birds and eels.

His determination to join his brothers out at sea sees him hiding in their waka and in their anger at discovering him, they throw him overboard. Potiki’s song transforms him into a dolphin and the brothers return home, denying any knowledge of what happened to him. The birds and eels can’t tell Grandmother where he is either and it is a whale who tells her of a new dolphin that sings. In grief at what Tahi and Rua have done, she turns them to stone and sets them to guard the Pathway of Whales, where they must forever sing a song for Potiki to learn, one that will transform him once again into human form.

The lyrical text and rich illustrations draw you into the tale and invoke familiar legends and songs; so much so that in your head you can hear strong kuia calling, and stirring waiata mixing with sounds of the forest and shore. The purple and green watercolour landscapes and pencil sketch combination illustrations work well to enhance the mystical quality of the tale, and reinforces the strong and important connection of the people with the land and sea.

The mention of the land failing and the wetlands choking with weeds towards the end of the tale, acting as a cautionary note to look after the land and sea, slightly alters the flow of the narrative, if only for a beat, however the book remains a lovely addition to New Zealand’s treasure trove of unique stories and will be a welcome addition to many a bookshelf and classroom. It is a more than worthy finalist in the 2017 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults where it is a finalist in the Picture Book category.

Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen

The Singing Dolphin / Te Aihe i Waiata
by Mere Whaanga
Scholastic NZ, 2017
ISBN 9781775434023

 

Book Review: Torty and the Soldier, by Jennifer Beck and Fifi Colston

Available in bookshops nationwide.

Torty and the Soldier is a finalist in the Non-fiction category of the 2017 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. 

cv_torty_and_the_soldier.jpgThis beautifully illustrated book tells the story of a tortoise who was found in a rather forlorn condition by a young New Zealand Soldier in Salonika during WW1, the developing relationship is told delightfully. It is a gentle, caring and nurturing relationship with a well-depicted backstory.

The real twist is Torty coming home with Stewart and settling into life in New Zealand, a life of adventure that lasted 60 years, the illustrations combined with a wonderful array of rich and vibrant language tell a beguiling story that will keep children’s attention, no matter what the setting. To say that the illustrations  are realistic and evocative of a time and place is to understate it: they are first class!

This book is a wonderful addition to our national collection of war stories, ensuring that those who served this country will not be forgotten. Inspired by a true story, it is clear that a lot of research has gone into this book and this makes it even richer.

Readers aged 10 upwards will thoroughly enjoy this, as will any adult who shares it with a younger child.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

Torty And The Soldier
by Jennifer Beck and Fifi Colston
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775433651

Book Review: My Dog Mouse, by Eva Lindstrom

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_my_dog_mouseIf you’ve ever owned a dog and watched it grow old, you will love My Dog Mouse. Lindstrom has captured the essence of a chubby, elderly dog perfectly in her illustrations and accompanying text.

The little girl in the book is allowed to take Mouse for a walk whenever she wants and it’s obvious how much both of them enjoy their time together.

There’s no rush, they walk slowly and take in the sights, Mouse gets to sniff lampposts and fences and they even stop in the park for a picnic.

Aimed at children aged about two to five years, My Dog Mouse is a charming book. The little girl is patient with the old dog, talking to him softly and feeding him meatballs. At the end, when she takes Mouse back to his owner, she stays looking back at him until she can’t see him any more and says, “I wish Mouse was mine”.

The watercolour/ink illustrations are simple and the focus is on Mouse and the little girl – other things are seen around the edges, but they don’t intrude on the pair and their walk.

This is a lovely book that will make you feel warm every time you read it.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

My Dog Mouse
by Eva Lindstrom
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571482

Book Review: Wave Me Goodbye, by Jacqueline Wilson

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_wave_me_goodbye.jpgOn the Guardian book pages, among a whole range of comments about books on the evacuation of kids from London during WW2, there’s a comment : ‘I wish Jacqueline Wilson would write a novel about this, it would be brilliant’. Prophetic words, apparently!

There have been zillions of books written about the experiences – real or fictional – of wartime evacuees. Some of them have been wonderful, and have stood the test of still being read and in print – Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian is one which is frequently mentioned as being outstanding.

Wave Me Goodbye is going to take its place among the best books of this type, I think.
Jacqueline Wilson writes with humour, insight, compassion and understanding. Her characters all are credible and engaging.

When Shirley’s mum says she’s going on holiday, at first Shirley is excited – but then the reality of what kind of a holiday it will be hits home, and she is by turns reluctant, scared and angry about having to leave her mother in London. But off she goes, in her red patent leather shoes (!) with her suitcase too heavy to manage because instead of packing one book, she packed her whole library. What a heroine!

However the reality of being billeted in a country village hits home when the residents are asked to select the kids they are willing to take in. Of course there are more kids than available beds and it all gets quite dramatic as Shirley and the two remaining – and unprepossessing – boys are virtually forced on to an unwilling ( and reclusive) hostess.

I don’t want to give away the plot, so will confine myself to saying that despite an ill-advised escape (complete with gun!) all turns out well.

Many themes run through this excellent story, but what develops very strongly is Shirley’s ability to understand the perspectives of others and to be aware of how circumstances can shape us. The librarian in me wants to link this to the fact that she’s a reader … but maybe she’s just smart.

The friendships made across class, age and educational barriers are poignant and well-developed and build in the reader a wish to see how this all turns out.

It’s a story which will please many readers, and is a great addition to the books written about the Blitz and its repercussions. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

Wave Me Goodbye
by Jacqueline Wilson
Published by Doubleday Children’s
ISBN 9780857535177

Book Review: A Kiwi Year, by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_a_kiwi_yearThis book celebrates the seasons in New Zealand as a Kiwi kid. Each month looks at the festivities we associate with that time of year. Forget Santa, snow and sleighs in December: here, we have holidays, sunshine and Pohutakawa trees.

The story introduces us to some Kiwi kids who represent a cross-section of our population. The science nerd, the sports kid, the artist, dancer, Lego lad, kapa haka performer, cricketer and reader. They feature in the double page spread for each month. The focus is on the simple, bright illustrations by Tina Snerling. These include a sentence, which explains how they are part of this month. Included on these pages are some familiar objects such as Buzzy Bee, Kiwifruit, Paua shells, Milo and the Cable Car.

Tania McCartney is an experienced author and many of the ideas for this book came from her 52-week Illustration Challenge. The chosen images are relevant and important to today’s kids. I know that my granddaughter loved finding the details on each page as we discussed what they were.

This book is part of a series introducing countries through seasons and events. It is a great way to explain culture and identity to young children. I enjoy the way that we are now comfortable in our own place and able to adapt such seasonal festivities as Christmas and Easter to our Southern climate and Kiwi ways.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

A Kiwi Year: Twelve Months in the Life of New Zealand’s Kids
by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling
Published by Exisle Kids Publishing
ISBN 9781925335446

Book Review: The Chalk Rainbow, by Deborah Kelly and Gwynneth Jones

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_chalk_rainbowIt is exciting to see so many books for children, which deal with diversity. As a teacher, I have always found that stories are the best way to approach the challenges of difference in our world. By sharing and discussing through stories, we are able to introduce a more open attitude as well as dealing with how to respond. Wonder, (Pelacio) did this brilliantly for older readers.

The Chalk Rainbow leads us into the autistic world of Zane through the eyes of his sister. She explains the everyday difficulties faced by her brother: his made-up language, fear of black, his meltdowns and the way he lines things up. We see the frustrations of his parents as they try to help. Finally, it is Zane’s older sister who helps us to see differently, through her chalk rainbows.

This story is simply told, and the illustrations support the text with detail and colour. We are led out into the streets the rainbows and Zane follows. Here is a story of trust, where we learn that unconditional love can help us to view things differently.

I would love to read this story to my classes as we discuss difference and prejudice.
There are many ways of solving problems and sometimes it is important to follow that rainbow.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

The Chalk Rainbow
By Deborah Kelly and Gwynneth Jones
Published by EK Books
ISBN 9781925335453

Book Review: We’re off to Find a Kiwi by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Kate Wilkinson

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_were_off_to_find_a_kiwiEveryone in New Zealand dreams of seeing a kiwi, but very few of us in fact have seen one. In this delightful picture book Louie and his older sister set off to find a kiwi.

The author uses an excellent rhyming method to carry the children from their street into the city where they meet a tui who offers advice.

From there they go to a farm, then up a mountain, where a kea tells them to look in a dimmer place.

They try a forest and hear,
A scratch – a rustle – something close …
I feel the need to wee-wee!
It’s coming near! I freeze in fear!
And then we see a … KIWI.

It’s a wonderful story for the 3-7 age group: my 3-year-old grandson loves it. The week before this book arrived we had been walking in the Orokonui Sanctuary looking for birds, kiwi included, and other wildlife, so this book continues our adventures.

Juliette MacIver has created a wonderful New Zealand story, introducing children to some of our finest native birds and with the subtle illustrations by Kate Wilkinson, children can learn about the special places which are home to these birds.

The last page includes facts about kiwi, good discussion points for parents and teachers.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

We’re off to Find a Kiwi
by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Kate Wilkinson
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775433750