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: Yackety Zac, by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Ross Kinnaird

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_yackety_zacWhen Booksellers sent out an email recently with a photograph of children’s books to be reviewed, and an instruction to ‘choose 3’, it was a classic case of judging a book by the cover – or title, in this case. The title and cover illustration Yackety Zac pretty much tells you everything you are going to need to know about this book, and I HAD to have it.

Don’t think you won’t be surprised by Yackety Zac though.  Yup, Zac talks A LOT, but I wasn’t expecting his talk to be so precociously early, or in rhyme. The rhymes scan well, and trip of the tongue with ease. The language is also rich, and exposes children to words they might not otherwise use, in the best traditions of Lynley Dodd and Margaret Mahy – this is always a very good thing.

The illustrations are hilarious and vibrantly coloured. The expressions on the other character’s faces convey exactly everyone’s reactions to Zac’s incessant talking, while Zac is joyfully oblivious. I also love the subtle messages on the doctor’s clinic wall – a good reminder for everyone about the reason why we have two ears and only one mouth.

The solution to Zac’s problem is funny and clever, and a nice play on an old idiom.  It ties up the story in a satisfying.  It was school holidays when I reviewed Yackety Zac, so I enlisted the help of my friend Lucas, who is 7, to give me his opinion. He thought it was very funny, and liked the conclusion as much as I did.

Lucas and I highly recommend this book for children from 3 years and up, and I think it will be a useful resource for teachers in particular (despite the rather unflattering portrayal of a teacher in the book!), to raise the issue of taking turn while talking in a humourous and fun way.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Yackety Zac
by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Ross Kinnaird
Published by OneTree House
ISBN 9780995106451

Book Review: Stories of the Night, by Kitty Crowther

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_stories_of_the_nightI’d seen a lot of positive media for Stories of the Night and had been hoping that it might cross my path for review, so I was delighted to be able to receive it and judge for myself. I resisted opening it until I was with my 7 year-old friend Lucas, who loves books and stories as much as I do. It was well worth the wait.

Lucas was utterly transfixed by the story, he was highly interested in both story and illustrations, and we had lots of discussions as the book went on. He loved that the stories came to life for Little Bear at the end of the book. I loved the way that the stories left plenty of room for imagination, individual interpretation, and conversation. When Lucas’s mum Louise came into the room halfway through the story, Lucas was excited to share Stories of the Night with her too, and they more or less read it again.

There are so many studies that validate reading to children as being the perfect launch pad for school-readiness, but I think there is much more to reading together than that. The safety and security of snuggling up to a loved one while they read to you has got to be important for brain development and mental health. Decades later, many of my strongest childhood memories are of my dad reading to me at bedtime, and it was a special time of day two have two songs and two stories at my own daughter’s bedtime. Stories belongs to that canon of treasured shared books.

Stories of the Night makes total sense as a bedtime story, but will be great to read at any time. In something I hadn’t noticed, Louise pointed out that by washing the illustrations with a pink palette, it takes the scare factor away from “night time stories”, which would be children who might be afraid of the dark.

It’s highly recommended by all three of us for reading to children from 4 or 5 years of age.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Stories of the Night
by Kitty Crowther
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571970


Book Review: The Clay Woman, by Xoё Hall

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_clay_womanThe Clay Woman is a beautiful retelling of how the first woman came to be and the beginning of human life on Earth. The story begins when Tāne Mahuta has created the birds, insects and trees of Aotearoa but feels something is missing. He turns to our Earth Mother, Papatūānuku for help. In turn, she takes him to the scared place of Kurawaka. There he sculpts a women from the red clay earth, Hineahuone, and breathes life into her.

Xoё Hall uses her vibrant, pop art style to illustrate the story. She brings a modern take to Māori art and the illustrations are simply stunning. The artist captures the strength and power of the important characters of Tāne Mahuta, Hineahuone and Papatūānuku. I particularly love the little forest friend fairies with their monarch butterfly wings and Māori ancestry!

Xoё treats our ancestor’s story with reverence, she has not retold the legend but woven it anew. The sacredness is passed on through the beautiful words to the reader. I found myself slowing down and becoming quieter as I read it aloud to my class, and the children responded in turn.

The author does an amazing job describing the breath of life that brings the clay woman to life. However, even with my limited te reo Māori, I kept waiting for the author to include hongi to describe the action and the important words tihei mauri ora. Perhaps a glossary at the back would allow this cultural knowledge and language to be passed to all readers.

Peter Gossage’s retellings of Māori legends have been the go-to books for teachers in recent years but Xoё Hall is making a name for herself in bringing a modern take to the stories of our land. We hope she continues to weave the stories of our ancestors with her unique illustrations. This book enchanted us from the front cover and is now very much loved by all.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

The Clay Woman
Woven and illustrated by Xoё Hall
Published by TeacherTalk
ISBN 9780473422509

Book Review: The Taniwha in Our Backyard, by Malcolm Paterson, illustrated by Martin Bailey

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_taniwha_in_our_backyard.jpgMost New Zealand children are familiar with going on a road trip to visit family and friends so they will enjoy the adventures of Tui and Jennifer and their families when they visit their Uncle and Aunt in south Kaipara.

Exploring the area down to Muriwai, they learn about moa, kauri dieback, Maui dolphins, kaitiakitanga (stewardship), geology as well as the history of the area.

The children also experienced freshly cooked seafood and heard some local tales about the taniwha.

Malcolm Paterson has included te reo Māori throughout the text with translations at the bottom of each page while a few Malay words are highlighted in a different colour.

This new work in the Sharing Our Stories series includes a map of the area as well as information about kauri dieback, a disease which is causing great concern in New Zealand with the death of many large trees.

Most suitable for the 7-9 age group this beautifully illustrated picture book will be a wonderful teaching tool in the classroom as well as being a great book to send overseas. I loved the book and feel very envious of today’s children who can learn history and environmental issues with such a colourful publication.

Malcolm Paterson belongs to Ngati Whatua of Auckland and the Kaipara, and represents his iwi in heritage and environmental issues. He is author of the previous Sharing our Stories books The Castle in our Backyard (2010) and The Tunnel in our Backyard (2016)

Martin Bailey is a well-known illustrator living in Muriwai, who has created numerous children’s books over a long career.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

The Taniwha in Our Backyard
by Malcolm Paterson, illustrated by Martin Bailey
Oratia Books
ISBN 9780947506469

Book Review: Tane Mahuta has a Forest / He wao tā Tāne Mahuta, by Rebecca Larsen

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_tane_mahuta_has_a_forestRebecca Larsen is back with another sing-along kiwi adventure. Following on from her debut book, Row, row, row your boat, Kiwi, Hoiho & Pukeko are heading off for a walk through Tāne Mahuta’s forest.

Set to the tune of Old MacDonald had a farm, the three friends walk through the forest and spot different creatures as they go (including Tāne Mahuta himself!). The lyrics encourage readers to move their bodies as we meet each animal – can you crawl like a weta or stretch as tall as Tāne Mahuta?

There are two things which make this sing-along book special. Firstly, Rebecca Larsen’s beautiful pencil illustrations which are bright and full of life. All the textures and shading can be seen and admired and the birds are delightful characters to follow through the story. We laughed at the kiwi flying like a pekapeka with a little help from her friend!

Secondly, the text incorporates te reo Māori throughout the song. It provides lots of opportunities to practice vowel pronunciation for new speakers, but also weaves Māori kupu into the verses too. There is, of course, a fluent Māori version at the back, but for beginner speakers it is a great way to learn and use new vocabulary.

With so many sing-along books now available, Rebecca Larsen has developed something a little more funky that makes it stand out from the crowd. With vibrant illustrations, beautiful lyrics and music which will get all readers wriggling and jiggling along, this will surely become a favourite on your bookshelf.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

Tāne Mahuta has a forest / He wao tā Tāne Mahuta
Written & illustrated by Rebecca Larsen
Published by Imagination Press
ISBN 9780995103283

Book Review: Why is that Lake so Blue? by Simon Pollard

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_whay_is_that_lake_so_blue.jpgIt is fascinating to read that it is rock flour which gives some of the South Island lakes such as Pukaki and Tekapo their brilliant aquamarine colour in a new book by Simon Pollard. He explains, ‘as glaciers move down the mountains they grind the rocks beneath them. This grinding can turn the rock into a fine dust -rock or glacier flour….. Because it reflects light, the rock flour in the water makes the lake look extremely blue.’

The 130 page volume Why is That Lake So Blue?, published by Te Papa Press is divided into eight chapters all beginning with a question which the author sets out to answer, with a variety of methods such a text, photographs and maps, as well as small pop ups which will be sure to capture children’s interest.

Pollard has succeeded in producing an entertaining and informative children’s guide to New Zealand’s natural world and his passion for the topic shows through in his discussions which are written for 9 to 12-year-olds. However younger children would find lots to interest them as well, with an adult alongside them to assist with the text.

At the rear of the book the question is asked, ‘What can you do to help keep Aotearoa New Zealand magic? Children are directed to check out the Kiwi Conservation Club Hakuturi Toa and conservation activities on the Department of Conservation website, to see how they can ‘keep the magic alive.’

There is also a couple of pages of trickier words which the author has provided excellent explanations, titled ‘what does that word mean?’, to help the children  understand the meaning where it is included in the book. The map of New Zealand is an ideal reference for children to find where a particular topic is located in the country.

Simon Pollard has written a number of children’s books in New Zealand and the United States and he has twice won the Elsie Locke non –fiction book of the year, while it was within the LIANZA awards.

I love this book and have picked it up a number of times over the last month to browse the colourful pages. I wish I had had access to this publication when I was at school, and I am sure it will be a valuable asset to any school or home library.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

Why is That Lake so Blue?
by Simon Pollard
Published by Te Papa Press
ISBN 9780994146014