Book Review: Kakapo Dance, by Helen Taylor

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_kakapo_danceI read this book to my 3 ½ year old granddaughter Quinn. The illustrations are captivating and marry in beautifully with this rather delightful story.

Kakapo is a rather large clumsy bird. The forest is alive with all the birds singing and dancing, all except Kakapo.

‘Because Kakapo DON’T sing or dance,
We’re just not made that way!’

The Bellbird has a melodious song, but all Kakapo can do is Thud! Thud! Thud! We then have the Keruru who loves to coo and glide and the Bellbird loves to hop and chime. Whio likes to whistle and waddle. Pukeko like to strut and shriek, Fantail likes to chirp and twirl but all Kakapo can do is Boom! Boom! Boom! They also Ching! And they can Tuuuumble! Shuffle! Shuffle! Shuffle!

This is quite a funny book as it highlights how even a clumsy bird has its attributes.

Quinn had a faraway look on her face at one stage – her own singing and dancing is a bit like Kakapo’s. Perhaps she was imagining herself in Kakapo’s shoes and wondering how she could improve her own singing and dancing.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Kakapo Dance
by Helen Taylor
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143506010

Advertisements

Book Review: Most Wanted, by Donovan Bixley

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_most_wanted.jpgIn the spirit of Geronimo Stilton, but with less in your face puns and colourful text, comes the Flying Furballs series, written and illustrated by Donovan Bixley. Taupo-based Bixley, is a very productive writer and illustrator and launched the Flying Furballs series in 2017.

In Most Wanted, the CATs squadron is again up against the DOGZ, and this time the hero is Claude D’Bonair, who is in pursuit of the fearsome Red Setter. The Red Setter’s very name strikes fear across catdom, with 43 confirmed strikes.

With the imagery of World War One, and illustrated pages of newspapers and comics, this is a visually attractive book and my children found it very engaging. Breaking up the text this way makes progress through the book very quick for young readers. Both children enjoyed the cat and dog puns.

While this is the fourth book in the series, with recurring characters, it is not necessary to read the books in order. These books are ideally suited for children aged 7-10 who will  really enjoy the animal puns and pictures.

Reviewed by Emma Rutherford

Most Wanted (Flying Furballs #4) 
by Donovan Bixley
Published by Upstart Press
ISBN 9781927262993

Book Review: DUCK!, by Meg McKinlay & Nathaniel Eckstrom

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_duckIt was a quiet afternoon on the farm, when suddenly… DUCK! The farm animals are disturbed by a loud and obnoxious duck shouting his own name at them. When the other animals try to explain to the duck that they are not ducks the duck only grows louder and more insistent. Is the duck not listening to his fellow farm animals or are they not listening to his warning.

Meg McKinlay’s DUCK! Is a funny story that explores the unfortunate consequences of a bunch of animals who misunderstand their fellow farm friend’s warning. The repetition and exclamations of DUCK! invites young children to participate and the humorous descriptive language is very appealing to this audience. Nathaniel Eckstrom’s charming illustrations which set the farm in the middle of autumn include subtle foreshadowing of the disaster that is about to strike and a clever reference to a well known movie.

If you’re looking for a great read aloud book then DUCK! is the book you’re looking for. Children will find themselves joining in shouting “DUCK!” and having a gasp and a giggle at the slightly shocking ending!

Reviewed by Alana Bird

DUCK!
by Meg McKinlay
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781925381535

Book Review: Aspiring Daybook – The Diary of Elsie Winslow, by Annabel Wilson

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_aspiring_daybookIn Aspiring Daybook by Annabel Wilson, Elsie Winslow returns home to live with her father, Simon, and help care for her terminally ill brother, Sam. Her former lover Frank lives nearby. We share in Elsie’s life for a year through this book, her diary, which includes poems, yes, and also photographs, Facebook chats, emails and newspaper clippings. This is what Elsie chooses to record from her day, her month, her year. This structure means the reader is glimpsing small moments, gathering up character and events but has to let them go, not knowing how they might return.

Because of the form, Wilson’s characters, and perhaps most importantly their relationships, are slowly revealed; there is a cryptic, uncertain nature to them. This is powerfully used as the story unfolds. But it can get confusing – reading an email on page 69 I suddenly wasn’t sure who had cancer (I worked it out). This isn’t a book which can be dipped in and out of while expecting to keep track. It is better to be immersed in its images.

When I say images I mean both the photographs and the poetic imagery. I enjoy the mixed-media elements of the book but the strongest images are created in the poems. About her brother’s cancer treatment Elsie writes, ‘This is what they call burning down the house to get the mouse in the basement.’ Later she creates Ibiza with words – the people, flavours, scenery – and ends with ‘sunsets everyone claps for.’ Elsie remembers mountains ‘which bite the sky like a deathly incisor.’ My mind can see these teethy mountains extending into the sky just as I can look at the photograph of a mountain on page 40.

Aspiring Daybook is experimental, adventurous and mysterious. It’s a mixed-media narrative. And it’s the kind of thing I love; I’m predisposed to like this work. If you like experimental narratives or mixed-media storytelling than I think you too will find it’s a wonderful, moving, surprising read.

Reviewed by Libby Kirkby-McLeod

Aspiring Daybook: The diary of Elsie Winslow
by Annabel Wilson
Published by Submarine
ISBN 9780995109230

 

 

 

Book Review: Valdemar’s Peas, by Maria Jönsson

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_valdemars_peas.jpgValdemar LOVES fish fingers but he HATES peas! But Papa says ‘The peas go in the tummy. Then ice cream. Chocolate ice cream!’ Valdemar may be a little wolf but he’s a clever little wolf. He hatches a cunning idea to get the peas in the tummy without having to eat a single one.

Valdemar’s Peas is a tale about an all too familiar dinner time dilemma that I’m sure many young children and their parents have experienced. The back and forth between Valdemar and his Papa is all too relatable and both children and parents will find humour in Valdemar’s determination and trickery to get chocolate ice-cream. Although, I don’t think my own parents would have shown as much appreciation for such a cheeky and quick-witted response as Valdemar’s Papa!

Maria Jönsson’s adorable, black and white illustrations which are accented with reds, browns and greens suit her playful story perfectly, portraying well Valdemar’s distaste for peas, smugness at his own successful trick and Papa’s exasperation. I think Valdemar’s Papa will be more specific about which tummy the peas need to go into next time!

Reviewed by Alana Bird

Valdemar’s Peas
by Maria Jönsson
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571963

Book Review: Afternoons with Harvey Beam, by Carrie Cox

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_afternoons_with_harvey_beam.jpgIf we listen to talkback radio, we form a relationship with the host, love them or hate them, and Afternoons with Harvey Beam is a book which takes the reader into the life of a talkback host, his problems, his loves and his family.

Harvey Beam left his small home town of Shorton to work in talkback radio in Sydney but after many years his popularity is waning and he is facing redundancy.

When the head of HR says, ‘What I see is a man no longer making connections, a man who is not happy in himself, a man who is not playing nicely with the other kids, and all of that equals bad radio,’ Harvey believes his biggest mistake is ‘not sleeping with the head of HR’.

Being called back to Shorton because his father is dying gives Harvey time to think and reflect on his life and where he is going in the future.

Beam’s entire family still live in Shorton and the reader is introduced to his mother, brother, and two sisters as well as his father Lionel .He still has a good relationship with his ex wife and his daughters as well as his mother but finds his sisters behaviour challenging and his brother Bryan is not at all welcoming. But it is his father’s hostility which is at the heart of the book and the reader is never fully informed what has caused the dysfunction between the male members of the Beam family. As Harvey takes time to reflect we learn about his divorce as well as his parents split, but a talkback session reminds him ‘it all starts and ends with family.’

I enjoyed this book. It was well written with pockets of humour, and the author is able to write with great clarity to reveal the strength and emotions flowing amongst the characters. There is hope for the future as new relationships develop and family ties are strengthened but I was disappointed more was not revealed about what had caused the hostility between Harvey and Lionel.

An interesting Australian family drama, the book will appeal to a wide age group both male and female.

Carrie Cox is a journalist , author, tutor and mother who lives in Perth Australia This is her first novel but she has written two non fiction books, Coal , Crisis, Challenge and You Take the Road and I’ll Take the Bus.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

Afternoons with Harvey Beam
by Carrie Cox
Published by Fremantle Press
ISBN  9781925591088

Book Review: I’m the Biggest, by Stephanie Blake

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_i'm_the_biggest.pngSimon is now so big he has his own self-named Netflix series! This little rabbit has taught our household how hilarious the words Poo Bum are, how brave you can be when wearing a cape, and how to negotiate swapsies with friends. He even went to school at around the same time as my youngest son.

So now it’s time for sibling rivalry. Simon has grown – but he hasn’t grown as much as Caspar (alias: Gaspard), and he’s not happy. The catch-phrase in this title is ‘No Way’. He accuses his mum of feeding Caspar more, then gets sent to his room for being cheeky, where he swears revenge.

They go to a park, where Simon is asked to keep an eye on his brother. He spots a big kid from his class trying to bully him, as he scores a goal in soccer.  Will he let it keep on happening? Or is he going to pretend like nothing is happening?

As a self-appointed connoisseur of Simon books, this one fell flat for me. First – modern parenting doesn’t look like this. I don’t send my kids to their room for saying ‘No Way’. If I did, they’d never be in the lounge (they say much worse, at times). And ‘No Way’ just doesn’t have the shoutability the previous catch-phrases have had.

That said, the rivalry between brothers certainly rang true, especially in the area of height. My youngest recently lost his 8th tooth, so they are now even in the number of teeth that have fallen out, to the chagrin of the elder brother! And they have the same size feet. And I could totally see the eldest seriously considering letting his brother be menaced, to get him back.

If you are a collector of Simon books, add it to the collection! But if you haven’t started on them yet, start with Poo Bum, and don’t forget A Deal’s A Deal. And if you want your kids to learn a bit about empathy, try 2017 title, I Can’t Sleep!

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

I’m the Biggest
by Stephanie Blake
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776572021