Book Reviews: Brachio, by Jill Eggleton, illustrated by Richard Hoit; Don’t Think About Purple Elephants, by Susan Whelan, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

Brachio, by Jill Eggleton, illustrated by Richard Hoitcv_brachio

Jill Eggleton will be familiar to many New Zealand teachers and parents for her literacy programmes and her huge catalogue of poems. Brachio is a picture book for up to 7 year olds which showcases Eggleton’s rich writing style.

Brachio is much bigger than the other dinosaurs and mouse lizards, so there’s bound to be a few problems when he heads out to join in a dance party. Being a kind and thoughtful kind of dinosaur, Brachio has a few solutions in mind.

Eggleton’s language is full of poetic language, with onomatopoeia, alliteration, rhythm and rhyme, and simile dripping off the page. This is helped by clever text design, which gives the reader lots of clues about where the emphasis should be, and adds visual interest for young readers. Not that visual interest is lacking – Hoit’s illustrations are vivid and colourful, full of the joy of dancing with your friends, and the problems that occur when dancers get a little too enthusiastic!

My class of 5 and 6 year olds love listening to the language as I read to them, and the book was in high demand afterwards, because, dinosaurs! This book also comes with a CD, read by Eggleton, with loads of expression and a fun backing track of dinosaur noises.

Don’t Think About Purple Elephants, by Susan Whelan, illustrated by Gwynneth Jonescv_dont_think_about_purple_elephants

Sophie is a busy, happy girl. She likes school, enjoys her loving family, and has good friends. The problem starts when she’s not busy. At bedtime, as she tries to go to sleep, worries crowd in on her, keeping her awake. All of the suggestions to help her sleep – a special book or teddy, or a drink of warm milk – just give her new things to worry about.
Children’s worries are often dismissed by adults; adults often don’t consider the things children worry about as important when compared to adult concerns. Most children do have worries, however, and to them they feel very real. A quick survey of my class of 5 and 6 year olds showed up common themes: not having someone to play with, someone being mean to them, something bad happening to a loved one, forgetting a book bag or lunch for school, not making it to the toilet on time, not being picked up at the end of the school day.

Whelan and Jones have put some thought into Don’t Think About Purple Elephants; they clearly know children, and they don’t dismiss Sophie’s worries, but try to resolve them. The illustrations are lovely – brightly coloured and happy when Sophie is busy, and grey and ominous with oversized objects when she is worried. The resolution to Sophie’s worries is relatively simple and one of those “why didn’t I think of that?” moments that parents and teachers have.

This is an enjoyable picture book to read together for children up to 8 or 9 years old, regardless of whether or not the child worries – but it would be a particularly good book to read with a child who is suffering from anxiety, it might just do the trick.

Reviews by Rachel Moore

Brachio
by Jill Eggleton, illustrated by Richard Hoit
Published by JillE Books
ISBN 9781927307809

Don’t Think About Purple Elephants
by Susan Whelan, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones
Published by EK Books
ISBN 9781921966699

Book Reviews: Maisy, Max and Moo and Moo

cv_maisy_goes_swimmingMaisy goes Swimming, by Lucy Cousins

How does a picture book become a classic? It is loved to bits by the little people who read it, and remembered across the years. So when they have children, they want a new copy for the next generation. Well, that is my theory because that is what happened in our family.

Maisy goes Swimming is a revamped, reissue of a classic Lucy Cousins title. It was such fun using the flaps to jiggle and juggle the clothes off to help Maisie prepare for her dip. The images are simple and bold with matching text.

This book lends itself to repeated readings, which is the very best way to encourage literate kids. My granddaughter not only enjoyed naming and removing the clothes, she also practiced the colours and even demonstrated her own undressing ability.

What a great idea to re issue this classic. I can see it entertaining another generation of Maisie fans.

cv_max_and_his_big_imaginationMax and His Big Imagination: The Sandpit, by Chrissy Metge

What a wonderful thing imagination is, especially in childhood.

Chrissy Metge has continued her stories of Max at the beach and the safari, with an adventure in the sandpit. She takes a simple setting, Max digging in the sandpit, and adds a flight of fancy.

The illustrations by Dmitry Chizov use animation style characters which contrast nicely with the soft focus backgrounds. Faces are expressive and details add to the story. The dinosaur skeletons are used cleverly in front and end papers of the book. The text is designed to be read aloud by an adult and is kept to the bottom of the page.

Children are born with amazing imaginations and we have a responsibility to encourage their development. Creativity as adults often stems from the daydreams of childhood. I loved joining Max and the dinosaurs in his sandpit. I think you will too.

cv_Moo_and_moo_and_the_little_calf_tooMoo and Moo and the Little Calf Too, by Jane Milton, illustrated by Deborah Hinde

Sometimes we are captivated by an image and want to know more. This was certainly the case in the conception of this delightful true story.

While the powerful Kaikoura earthquake of 2016 caused devastation and fear, it also gave rise to some amazing stories. When the quake struck around midnight, large earth slides resulted in two cows and a calf becoming stranded high on a section of hillside. While the small plateau moved down the hill, these three remained high and dry above the mud. By the next morning a passing helicopter spotted and photographed the trio. This story tells of their stranding and eventual rescue.

The media quickly adopted the photo of the cows and it spread around the world.
Jane Milton, on whose farm this happened, has written a lovely rhyming tale of the stranding and rescue of the fearless trio. The Kiwi ” can do” attitude is reflected in the colourful illustrations by Deborah Hinde. Her simple images with expressive faces, Kiwi touches in the detail and a little bird hiding on each page, are sure to delight children. Similar artwork was seen in her Kiwi Night Before Christmas.

I would have loved a reproduction of the original photo to show young readers the reality on which the story was based. Perhaps copyright prevented this.

As Quaky Cat told the Christchurch earthquake story, so Moo and Moo tells of the Kaikoura event. What a positive and gentle way for children to remember the Kaikoura quake.

All three books reviewed by Kathy Watson

 

Maisy Goes Swimming
by Lucy Cousins
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406374049

Max and His Big Imagination: The Sandpit
by Chrissy Metge
Published by Chrissy Metge
ISBN 9780473387297

Moo and Moo and the Little Calf Too  
by Jane Milton and Deborah Hinde
Published by Allen & Unwin
ISBN 9781877505928

Musical Book Reviews: Angel Star, by Chris Sanders, illustrated by Kat Merewether; Nee Naw the Little Fire Engine, by Deano Yipadee, illustrated by Paul Beavis

Angel Star, by Chris Sanders, illustrated by Kat Merewether
Chris Saunders and Kat Merewether have teamed up to create this wonderful book.

cv_angel_star‘She looked up, into the sky,
to pick an Angel from the stars.
A shining light,
stood out that night,
so she reached out
to give it life.
And as her hand it touched the light.
it flickered down towards the Earth.
Just as if it was, all meant to be,
Like picking apples from a tree.’

This book comes with the added bonus of a CD with Chris Saunders singing and playing his guitar. The illustrations by Kat Merewether lend a whimsical and mythical air to a rather lovely book. A really wonderful way of introducing the idea of a new baby into a family with a small child.

My 2 ½ year old granddaughter Quinn was read this book and immediately grasped that this was about a new baby in a family and gave herself the role of the baby and the little girl as her big sister Abby, which I found incredibly cute.

Nee Naw the Little Fire Engine, by Deano Yipadee, and Paul Beavis
The idea began as a spark when Deano’s friend mentioned her son was always saying ‘Neeee-naw w w‘ and pretending to be a fire engine. I think a lot of children are fascinated by the sound of sirens, copying the sounds they hear.

cv_nee_naw_the_little_fire_engine‘There was a dinky little fire truck
hidden away,
with a dent on his bottom
and a door painted grey.
The new fire engines thought
he couldn’t help at all
because he wasn’t very shiny
and he wasn’t very tall.’

The newer fire engines may have been flasher, with shiny bodies, but Nee Naw saves the day when one of the big engines gets stuck in the mud.

This book also comes with a CD with music and lyrics by the author Deano Yipadee, along with rather fun illustrations by Paul Beavis.

I had to play the CD twice to my 2-½-year-old granddaughter as she rather liked making the fire engine siren noises.

Reviews by Christine Frayling

Angel Star
by Chris Sanders, illustrated by Kat Merewether
Published by Chris Sanders
ISBN 9780473356026

Nee Naw the Little Fire Engine
by Deano Yipadee, and Paul Beavis
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775433927

Review: The Day The Costumes Stuck, by Toby Morris

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_day_the_costumes_stuckIggy leaves a costume party with his Mum, but something weird happens. He can’t take his costume off. Mum and Dad don’t believe him, and it looks like he might be stuck as the Boogie Monster forever. Iggy decides to investigate and wanders down a figurative rabbit hole. The other kids are stuck in their costumes too – but they don’t seem to realise it. What on earth is going on?

Toby Morris is an Auckland-based illustrator and writer, most familiar to me for his political cartoons for The Wireless.

The Day The Costumes Stuck is a whimsical picture book, with a non-traditional story arc. More like an independent art house movie than a Hollywood block-buster, the ending is open-ended and not at all what the reader might expect. This allows your own imagination to keep the story going on your own terms. The illustrations are wonderful, with a limited colour palette. The children are in colour, and everything around them is grey. The faces of the characters are really expressive, and convey beautifully the adult situation that each child has found themselves in.

I read this to my class of 5- and 6-year-olds, who had plenty to say about the book. There was debate over whether costumes could really get stuck, which transformed into a conversation about what they would do in Iggy’s situation, and what sort of costume would be fun or awful to be stuck in. Any book that promotes conversation amongst children is all right by me – recommended for up 8 year olds.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

The Day The Costumes Stuck
by Toby Morris
Published by Beatnik Publishing
ISBN 9780994138309

 

Book Review: Tui Street Tales, by Anne Kayes

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_tui_street_tales.jpgWinner of the Tom Fitzgibbon award in 2016, Tui Street Tales is a fun and slightly fantastical collection of interconnecting stories, starring the children of Tui Street and taking a modern and quirky twist on traditional fairy tales. With short chapters and quirky stories, this collection should readily engage the junior reader (ages 8-10). I also enjoyed the New Zealand flavour, which incorporated wildlife, and the occasional phrase in Te Reo.

The collection opens with Jack and the Morepork, introducing us to the first two children, Jack and Tim. The boys begin by discussing their teacher, Mr Tamati’s latest assignment, the fairy tale project, in which they have been challenged to find fairy tale themes in their own lives. Scientific research is the key, and the two boys begin seeking evidence to prove some extraordinary theories – including the possible existence of a giant living in the enormous tree at the end of Jack’s drive. In not-too-subtle terms, the nature of using fairy tales to solve difficult situations is explored, and the traditional outcomes challenged.

Ella’s mother died, and she has difficult relating to her new stepmother and sisters. Instead, she spends her time alone, sorting out the recycling from the rubbish (and the dead river rats from the rest), whilst clinging tight to her grief. Her fairy godmother comes from an unlikely source, but can she help bring Ella out from herself, and teach her better how to relate with her new family and friends?

Harry and Gemma live a life divided between their mother, and their father and his new partner, Lula. When they are forced to change schools, into the very upmarket and prestigious “Visions”, the children struggle to adapt. Harry is pushed just a bit too far, and the two children begin a dangerous journey – making their way back to their “true” home of Tui Street. However, Lula has her wicked eye on them…

As a school project, Ella, Tim and Jack, vow to rejuvenate Waimoe, the dried-out creek behind their house, and appease the angry Maero that haunts the neighbourhood. Before they can plant the trees to bring Waimoe back, however, they must face Mr Thompson, the grumpy old man whose family were responsible for the creek’s disappearance.

Louie is lonely, all but trapped inside his neat and tidy house by a mother wrought with worry for his well-being. His only friend, Cloudbird, the tui who sings to him from the tree outside his window. When issued with Mr Tamati’s challenge: for every kid in the class to walk to school for an entire month (thus cutting down the traffic congestion and danger of accidents around the school), he is faced with a terrible dilemma: to disobey his mother, or to let his entire class down.

A story-teller and a dreamer, Lucy learns about topiary, and helps her father by trimming their hedge into a shaggy dog. But topiary is for royalty, and soon the children of the street find themselves visited by an unruly princess in a madcap, wild and weird ride that does, indeed, contain some elements of a shaggy dog tale.

Soccer-playing Terri is the star of the final story. Her aspirations at her sport make her the envy of another player, who takes her jealousy to social media and gossip. Will the support of her new friends, the wheelchair-bound soccer team she is coaching, give her the confidence she needs to beat the bully and succeed?

Tui Street Tales is cleverly executed, allowing children to experience the familiar and adding in a touch of magic, whilst also offering them solutions for their own fairy tale-esque dilemmas. An enjoyable read, that I would also recommend as an easy collection for tales for both parents and teachers to read aloud.

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

Tui Street Tales
by Anne Kayes
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434726

Book Review: My Pictures After the Storm, by Éric Veillé

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_my_pictures_after_the_stormThis has become a repeat read bonanza in our household. It’s clever, hilarious and subversive. It also has the most pick-up appeal of almost any book we own. The lion after the storm is rumpled and grumpy – just as we all are after being out in the Wellington wind.

Each spread is a set of identical groups of objects, tied by the simple language at the top, where the verso page of each is simply ‘My Pictures’, while the recto page says… After the Storm; After the elephant; After the hairdresser. Sometimes the changes aren’t obvious – at one point we are encouraged to find the changes ‘After correction’.

So while reading it to your child you are building language and encouraging their understanding of change and the different things that can cause it – no matter how far-fetched. One of the changes is ‘After the Baby’, showing the disarray a life (and a page) is thrown into as baby arrives, to the horror of the older child.

Each spread is also a found poem, occasionally rhyming across the page. So before/after the hairdresser we have ‘a lion-tamer unconcerned / a lion-tamer nicely permed; a seal having fun / a seal with a bun.’

And did I mention it is funny? Every page has something to chuckle at. Sometimes it’s a discovered element you didn’t notice the last 10 times; sometimes it’s simple slapstick. I mean, what does a pig look like after being stomped by an elephant? Of course it’s a piece of ham!

Éric Veillé is a French writer and illustrator, with only one title previously translated into English (The Bureau of Misplaced Dads, which sounds brilliant). I hope to see more from him translated by Gecko Press.

Both of my sons love this book and request it regularly: it’s one of the very few that will hold both of their attention equally, though the older one gets frustrated when his brother doesn’t get it in the same way he does! It is a valuable book in the same way The Big Book of Words and Pictures is: it takes a couple of well-worn concepts, and plays around with them, resulting in an unexpected, brilliantly executed book with humour and heart.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

My Pictures After the Storm
by Éric Veillé
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571048

Book Review: Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor

Now available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_strange_the_Dreamer.jpgThe most beautiful books are always the hardest to review, and whatever I write, it is difficult to capture the sheer beauty that is Laini Taylor’s prose, while embracing the mesmerising surreality of the worlds she conceives. Her style is lyrical, evocative, and rich with imagination. Strange the Dreamer is unlike any tale you may read this year, but suffice to say it is an immersive, magical read with a taste of romance and tragedy. Add this to your reading list this winter.

They say that the dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around, and Lazlo Strange has always been a dreamer. A war orphan and a librarian, Lazlo has always been fascinated in fairy tale and myth, particularly that concerning the lost city known as Weep. But what happened to the city 200 years ago, when it was cut from the world? And why – how? – did it lose its name, 15 years ago? Lazlo has always wondered, but feared he would not be the one to find it. For he is just a librarian, no hero, no golden alchemist, no legend in the making. However, when a living legend, the man they call the Godslayer, suddenly appears on the doorstep – together with a band of unusual beasts and heralded by a great white bird – Lazlo realises he cannot let this opportunity slip through his fingers.

But Weep is not the city he has dreamed of. It is buried in sadness and burdened with a past that haunts even those that can no longer remember it, hidden in the shadows of the mysterious “gods”. These gods may have been destroyed, but their presence still lingers on in the darkness and the flicker of a moth’s wing, and in the shattered hearts of those touched by the tragedy of their reign.

The prose is exquisite and rich, the characters wonderfully real. Between these pages there is heartbreak and hope, both bittersweet and beautiful. Taylor has taken the traditional tale: the orphaned underdog rising to become the hero, but given it a fresh twist and an exotic taste. It will entrance you, surprise you, and haunt you long after that final page is turned.

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

Strange the Dreamer
by Laini Taylor
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
ISBN 9781444788976