Book Review: Up the Mountain, by Marianne Dubuc

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_up_the_mountain.jpgMrs Badger lives at the foot of a small mountain, and though she is very old she walks all the way up to the top of that mountain every Sunday. The story begins with Mrs Badger setting out on her walk just like any other Sunday but today she gets the feeling she is being watched… Leo, a little cat, would like to climb the mountain too but he is full of self-doubt and announces that he is “too little”. Curiosity eventually gets the better of Leo and he follows Mrs Badger, who is more than happy to introduce her young friend to the many wonders of the mountain. Along the way, Mrs Badger generously shares her wealth of knowledge about the animals and plants that live on the mountain. When Mrs Badger becomes too old and tired to explore the mountain with Leo, Leo begins to adventure up on his own but he never forgets his friend Mrs Badger. He returns at the end of each trip to share his discoveries and bring her gifts from the mountain. In the end we see that Leo (older and stronger now) makes a new friend; a younger friend much like himself in the beginning of the story for whom he can share his now bountiful fund of knowledge about the mountain with.

Being curious is a wonderful thing that should be encouraged in children and Up the Mountain does just that. It is a beautiful and heartwarming story about trying new things, seeking adventure and enjoying nature. Lovely messages of kindness, caring and friendship are woven through this story as it explores the importance of helping others, sharing the beauty of nature with a friend and stopping to take in the world around us. As the main characters make their way up the mountain we also learn interesting facts like, what mushrooms are delicious in a stew, the perfect walking stick and what we can make with sumac leaves!

The vibrant watercolour illustrations are just as sweet as the story and emphasise all the different aspects of nature from tiny insects flitting about the trees to long grasses and peaceful bodies of water. Children will enjoy searching the pages to unearth all the different animals and plants.

Passing knowledge on to our younger generations – especially about the natural world – is so important and Marianne Dubuc illustrates just that in this touching story with along with its charming artwork. Up the Mountain encourages curiousity and kindness and promotes the message that you can achieve anything that you set your mind to if you’re willing to work for it!

Reviewed by Alana Bird

Up the Mountain
by Marianne Dubuc
Published by Book Island
ISBN 9781911496090

Book Review: A Kiwi Day Before Christmas, by Yvonne Morrison & Deborah Hinde

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_a_kiwi_day_before_christmasWe all know the classic story about Santa Claus living at the North Pole along with Mrs Claus and of course not forgetting those wonderful reindeer, but now we have our very own Kiwi version.

Santa was down at the bach fishing when Mrs Claus comes along and reminds him that he needs to get cracking as the big day isn’t far away. He then remembered that it was Christmas tonight so he had better get himself organised. He packs up his gear and heads up the hill at full speed on his quad bike after a quick brekkie of toast and yeast spread (maybe marmite??). Santa’s helpers were having lots of fun and all the gift wrapping was almost completed.

All the finished pressies were stuffed in a sack and he got out his tractor. It needed a spruce up first, so Santa took it to the petrol station taking it through the car wash. With everything organised it was now time to get the team together. Where were the sheep? The last time he’d seen them was on Main Street at the Christmas parade. They’d all gone off to have a break before the big day. Santa was starting to feel a bit concerned. Shaun had gone diving and swimming with the seals while Buffy had gone shopping to find the best deals. Jason and Flossy had gone wine tasting while Bossy went zorbing and onto a zip line.

This is one heck of a story and one that will be received with a bit of trepidation by young ones, as they know that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole and it’s reindeer, rather than sheep, involved in getting the sleigh through the night, delivering presents all around the world.

I read this story to 4-year-old Quinn. A look of disbelief on her face with lots of questions forthcoming. Where are the elves in this story Grandma? ‘I don’t believe this one’ – clapping a hand over her face very dramatically. ‘Are you telling porkies Grandma?’ Who knows, I might be, but then I may well not be!

A fabulous story and one that I think will be a hit this year with young ones. The illustrations are just great, capturing just the right tone, and bringing the story together.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

A Kiwi Day Before Christmas
By Yvonne Morrison, illustrated by Deborah Hinde
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434108

Book Review: World’s Strangest Predators – Lonely Planet Kids

Available at bookshops nationwide.

cv_worlds_strangest_predators.jpgThis new book by the team at Lonely Planet Kids is a Top 40 of the world’s strangest predators, ranked in order and scored on a scale of strangeness, danger, cunning, and ferocity.

From Arctic foxes to Venus flytraps, this collection includes plants, insects, and larger creatures, all weird and wonderful in their own way. Full colour photographs, fact boxes, a decent glossary, and clear text make this an easy and informative reference book for primary school-aged children. The maps on each page showing the homes of all of these weird and, in some cases, frankly terrifying creatures are a handy inclusion – and a great reassurance that New Zealand is blessedly free of most of these beasts. (There are a couple of critters that you can find in Aotearoa; see if you can spot them.)

This backpack-sized paperback will be a fun boredom buster on any long car trips over the school holidays. But be prepared to have to listen to all sorts of facts that you may not want to know about. I bet you don’t know how long an anaconda can hold its breath underwater for… This is a handy resource for animal-loving readers.

Reviewed by Tiffany Matsis

Lonely Planet Kids: World’s Strangest Predators
Lonely Planet
ISBN 9781787013032

Book Review: Spirit, by Cherri Ryan, illustrated by Christina Booth

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_spiritWith beautiful illustrations and rich vocabulary, Spirit is an analogy – a little boat that embodies a little girl’s spirit, tackling bigger challenges, and dusting itself off when things go wrong.

Told in first person, a little girl describes how she made a little boat, and took it to see if it could float. When it did, she aimed higher – could it traverse the creek? Could it traverse the river? She dreams of it every night, looking after it and getting it ready for the next challenge.

The boat Spirit is supported by gorgeously illustrated carp on its adventures – I’m choosing to interpret this as a visual metaphor for all the people who support each of us on our life journey.

When things go wrong, the girl is sad, and allows herself to feel sad for a little while, before making Spirit stronger than ever, and trying again.

I can see Spirit being very popular with teachers. There’s a big focus in education on helping children to develop their grit and resilience, and this book, with some guided discussion, could definitely pave the way for encouraging children to think about how they meet challenges and cope when things don’t go their way. It’s also simply a lovely book, and for that reason it should find a place on bookshelves in homes too.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Spirit
by Cherri Ryan, illustrated by Christina Booth
Published by Black Dog Books
ISBN 9781925381771

Book Review: Kiwi One and Kiwi Two, by Stephanie Thatcher

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_kiwi_one_and_kiwi_twoThis is a joyful book about two young kiwi waking up at night ready for a playful adventure. When Kiwi One and Kiwi Two emerge from their burrow into the night sky but their feathered friends are all asleep. So our kiwi begin the fun by rousing their friends from their beds. There’s time for running races, kite-flying and a game of hide and seek. But not all animals are designed for night-time antics. What happens when the nocturnal kiwi outlast their friends who are starting to tire?

The upbeat and energetic mood carries throughout the story until dawn rises in the sky.  Kiwi One and Kiwi Two happily head back to their burrow sleep, along with their tuatara friend who has joined them all night long (our eagle-eyed readers loved finding him on each page!).

Stephanie Thatcher has included all the elements for a great picture book for young kiwi children. The rhyming poem dances along just waiting to be read and the illustrations speak the story by themselves. The two cheeky kiwi celebrate the joys of childhood and little ones will want to join in the fun.

There is no big moral or adventure in this story, but it doesn’t need one.  It is a deliciously simple bedtime story, perfect for reading at the end of a long day as a little one snuggles down to sleep!

Reviewed by Sara Croft

Kiwi One and Kiwi Two
by Stephanie Thatcher
published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434962

 

Book review: Bonkers about Beetles, by Owen Davey

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_bonkers_about_beetlesIf you have a young coleopterist (beetle scientist) at home, you need this book! Owen Davey has created a book that is aesthetically pleasing, practical and exactly what the title says – it’s bonkers about beetles!

The book is structured so new concepts are introduced on each double page spread with lots of visual information to help young readers interpret what they read. It follows a non-fiction book structure, so there is a contents page and index for older readers to search for specific information. On the first page, the author shares the definition for a beetle (I’ll be honest, this is when I started to learn!). Our children at daycare particularly love the Guinness Book of Records-style pages at the end. It shares beetle highlights, including, which beetle is the heaviest, fastest and who has the best facial hair!

Owen Davey has perfectly pitched the text and explains complex ideas in a way that young children will understand. The book is filled with scientific knowledge and facts that will intrigue, amuse and amaze. Did you know the Bombardier beetle shots an explosion of burning liquid from its bottom? This is the information young children really want to know! Welcome to the beetle eat beetle world of poop, parasites and ladybirds.

This is a non-fiction picture book that wouldn’t look out of place on the coffee table. There are no photos, instead the beetles are computer illustrations which highlight the pattern and beauty of each insect. These are not cartoons but works of art! We google searched several of the illustrated beetles to see how accurate the graphic recreations are and were amazed at the dopplegangers in the book! The teacher in me sees so many opportunities for creating our own art pictures and talking about the patterns we can see.

Bonkers about beetles is our new favourite reference book to satisfy our curiosity about beetles. Any young child curious about the natural world will enjoy this treasure that dives deeply into the beetle world and it will spark many more insect hunts in the backyard.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

Bonkers about beetles
by Owen Davey
Published by Flying Eye Books
ISBN 9781911171485

Book Review: Hero of the Sea – Sir Peter Blake’s Mighty Ocean Quests, by David Hill and Phoebe Morris

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_hero_of_the_seaRemembering where you were when you heard the tragic news that Sir Peter Blake had been killed is one of those iconic Kiwi moments. It came as a truly awful shock to those of us who had grown up idolising this epic New Zealander and following his fabulous achievements on the water. It doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to call him a hero and one very worthy of a children’s book.

Hero of the Sea by David Hill and Phoebe Morris is a welcome addition to their wonderful series about extraordinary New Zealanders. Starting from his early days learning to sail in Auckland, the book follows his adventures in yachting, his love of his family, and his efforts to bring attention to important environmental issues before his life was cruelly cut short in 2001. ‘Remember,’ he wrote, ‘this is the most beautiful world, and it’s the only one we’ve got.’

Hill and Morris are a great team. The story and the illustrations are perfectly balanced. With gorgeously simple lines, Morris accurately captures that well-known rugged, friendly face – moustache and all. The picture of Sir Peter taking a phone call in the bath is utterly adorable. The book has some truly beautiful double page spreads with ocean scenes, true testament to Sir Peter’s love of the environment.

Younger readers will love the brightly coloured illustrations; I predict that Kashin in her red socks will be a favourite . And, although a picture book, there is more than enough information in this biography to appeal to older readers as a great introduction to Sir Peter’s life. The inclusion of a detailed timeline is very useful for young researchers.

This book will be an ideal Christmas gift for aspiring yachties and conservation-minded kids. It is also a lovely reminder for us adults of what a special human being Sir Peter was and how lucky we were to have him. His legacy lives on through the Sir Peter Blake Trust’ helping a new generation of kiwi kids to explore and value our marine environment.

Review by Tiffany Matsis

Hero of the Sea: Sir Peter Blake’s Mighty Ocean Quests
by David Hill and Phoebe Morris
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143771654