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: 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: 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

Book Review: We’ve Got a Boat, by Jay Laga’aia and Donovan Bixley

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_we've_got_a_boatThanks to New Zealand’s recent history of America’s Cup challenges, most Kiwi’s are well-versed in our collective yachting endeavours. The cup has captured the heart of the nation and been at times extremely exciting. When it came to light the late Sir Peter Blake wore his lucky red socks in the final push for our first win, we all donned them to wish him well the next time.

We’ve got a boat that flies across the water,
We’ve got a boat that flies across the sea.
You know this boat, it’s sailed from Aotearoa
It stays afloat because it’s carried by Kiwis.

This is a great book with the America’s cup campaign starting in the next couple of years, and with New Zealand defending the cup. The illustrations by Donovan Bixley are bright and clear, and include native birds and farm animals filling in for the crew. The crews from other countries are depicted as a variety of other hilariously depicted animals.

At the back of this book are photos and facts about crew and the boats used in previous campaigns. Also accompanying this book is a CD, sung by Jay Laga’aia, who also authored this book.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

We’ve got a Boat
by Jay Laga’aia and Donovan Bixley
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775435303

Book review: The Little Kiwi and the treaty, by Nikki Slade Robinson

Available at bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_little_kiwi_and_the_treatyThis is another gem of a book in the Little Kiwi series by Nikki Slade Robinson.  Little Kiwi’s Koro tells the story of their ancestors coming from different lands.  Koro’s ancestors were the best food finders in the land and the ancestors of Kuia were known as the best nest builders.

They settled on the same land and a fight broke out before the chiefs stepped forward to find a resolution to the conflict. The author talks through the tense negotiations, staying true to the high emotions we all feel when we need to compromise! Te reo Māori is woven throughout the text – and many words are quietly translated as you read along (perfect for introducing new vocabulary).

The text is beautifully accompanied by Nikki’s illustrations. We are transported back in time by the clever use of black and white pictures when Koro is remembering the past. I still love all the emotion Nikki can portray with Little Kiwi – and the little details which distinguish each character (especially the pounamu being worn by the chiefs).

The familiar characters of Little Kiwi and her family introduces ideas about family history and identity to young children. Through Koro’s story we also come to understand what a treaty is. It is a gentle reminder for all children about friendship, conflict resolution and learning from each other.

It is a picture book that can be a wonderful teaching tool to talk about co-operation or simply enjoyed for the wonderful story-telling within.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

The Little Kiwi and the Treaty
by Nikki Slade Robinson
Published by David Ling Publishing
ISBN 9781927305485

Book Review: Cook’s Cook (The Cook who Cooked For Captain Cook), by Gavin Bishop

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_cooks_cook.jpgChristchurch based author and illustrator Gavin Bishop is one of New Zealand’s top writers for children right now. He’s also won a ton of awards for his books, has been honoured with a NZ Order of Merit for Children’s literature and most recently, took out the top prize at the Children’s Book awards (The Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award) for his project Aotearoa: A New Zealand Story.

Over the years he’s illustrated Mahy’s books along with those of Joy Cowley and many other Kiwi authors. If you browse through his work you’ll notice his penchant for bringing history, particularly Colonial, to life. Aotearoa was not only an opportunity to bring our own past to life but to make it shine with elegant, personal , sparkling artwork that almost borders on a cartoon style. That, in turn, really appeals to children and lets them feel at ease with the stories he’s telling.

Carrying on the template he created for Aotearoa and also for an earlier successful book The House That Jack Built (the Kiwi retelling), Bishop places the reader as close to the action as possible. He knows that kids will relate to history if they can wear the clothes, taste the flavours and smell the aromas of history.  And so he’s chosen to write about Captain James Cook, not in the usual way but from the point of view of his cook, the one-handed John Thompson.

Thompson is not a man of airs and graces. He’s completely the opposite. Though he may not mind his Q’s he certainly knows his Pease Porridge – a sludgy soup made of split peas, favoured on alternate days to make the provisions of fresh food go further. This is just one fact we learn along the way. Bishop loves to throw in nerdy facts such as how many pigs, bottles of vinegar or sacks of flour are taken on board the Endeavour during its famous journey through Pacific waters in 1768. He relishes in providing these fantastic little details, information drawn from extensive research. Naturally, he also adds a bit of colourful sailor-talk and few sordid recipes like what to do with an albatross and how to serve sheared shark fins, Goose Pie (with a seabird substitute) or make Yorkshire pudding during a heavy storm.

Cook was determined to keep his crew and passengers fit and healthy so Thomson has his work cut out. His stories alone are worth the price of admission but this book is really more of a vehicle to tell the overall narrative around Cook’s famous voyage. Actually, the book tells multiple stories, of social class, hierarchy and race; stories of explorers and the people of the land (we are there during the first encounters with Maori, for example); the story of one of the world’s most famous explorers told through a fresh new lens – just in time for the 250th anniversary of the Endeavour’s journey.

This is a short but surprisingly heavily -packed book. There may only be about 40-odd pages but everyone deserves a re-read, as there are many little jokes, facts or secrets hiding in the illustrations. Children from 8 to 80 will love exploring this book and maybe even trying out a recipe or two – at their peril.

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

Cook’s Cook (The Cook who Cooked For Captain Cook)
by Gavin Bishop
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776572045

Book Review: Wake Up, Bear by Lynley Dodd

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_wake_up_bearI have to make a disclosure here – I have actually read Wake Up, Bear before. More times than I can count, in fact. First released in 1986, it was on my daughter’s bookshelf during her early years in the mid-late 1990s. Lynley Dodd was always a huge favourite of ours – we both loved the luscious language, the pace and humour, and the gorgeous illustrations. That was 20-some years ago, and while I still think Lynley Dodd is fabulous, do today’s six-year-olds still revel in her stories in what feels increasingly like a device-driven world?

The short answer is, yes. Children still love a well-written story, and I’ve yet to read a Lynley Dodd story that doesn’t qualify. My class were learning about seasons and life cycles at the time I read this story, so they were full of shared knowledge about bears hibernating and were actively predicting where the story might go. They loved joining in the refrain and were delighted and surprised by the joke at the end, which caused Bear to wake up.

Wake Up, Bear might be 32 years old but it is still as fresh and lively as the first time I read it. The illustrations are still delightful, the language is still rich and vibrant, and like all of Dodd’s books it is absolutely perfect for reading aloud. In an era when junior school teachers are in despair about the increasingly low levels of oral language of children starting school, I offer the following prescription: Some Lynley Dodd, daily. At least one book, more as demanded by the child. It would go a long way.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Wake Up, Bear
by Lynley Dodd
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143772569