Book Review: Parakeet in Boots, by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Myles Lawford

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_parakeet_in_bootsThis is a hilarious Kiwi version of the fairy story Puss in Boots. There was once a farmer, who fell ill and died, leaving three sons and a farm to divide. The eldest received all the buildings and land, the next got the tractor and cash in the hand. But there in the will, to his youngest son Pete, all the farmer had left was his pet parakeet!

“What good’s a dumb parrot?” Pete cried in dismay.
“Don’t worry!” the bird squawked.
“I’ll see you’re okay.”
“Get me some ugg boots to warm up my feet,
plus a flax kete, and all will be sweet!”

The story continues on with the parrot “helping” Pete get what he needed in life including perhaps, the “girl of his dreams”.

A rather unique take on a classical fairy story. Both our 2 granddaughters were mesmerised by the idea of a parakeet taking charge of Pete’s destiny. I kept thinking of the parrot wearing ugg boots and wondering how on earth he could fly in such cumbersome things.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Parakeet in Boots
by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Myles Lawford
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434382

Book Reviews: My First Board Book – Colours, and Animals, by Donovan Bixley

Both are available now in bookshops nationwide.

My First Board Book – Colours

cv_colours_bixley.jpgThis is a brightly illustrated board book perfect for a small child getting to grips with Te Reo. Colours are illustrated with clear pictures of a swan, a digger, a caravan and other objects and things that are all associated with being a small fascinated child. The swan is white (ma), the digger is red (whero) – going along the familiar words of the colour song many of those who grew up in the 1980s sang at school.

This is a fabulous book and Sarah our daughter-in-law with her perfect pronunciation reading it to little Quinn, saw Quinn firmly clutch it in her hand, “mine”!

This is a wonderful book to introduce young children to Te Reo, as is Animals, for which my review is below.

cv_animals_bixley.jpgOn the surface, Animals looks like a standard board book for small children but on opening and going through it you realise it is much more.

Starting with the cow, then the horse, sheep, goat, pig and a range of other farm animals all with their Maori names under them.

The pictures are clear and easy for a small child to follow – the trick is in the pronunciation.

It’s really good to see books celebrating the Māori language.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

My First Board Book – Colours
by Donovan Bixley,
Published by Hachette NZ
9781869713447

My First Board Book – Animals
by Donovan Bixley
Published by Hachette NZ
9781869713430

Book Review: The Lost Kitten, by Lee, illustrated by Komako Sakai

Available in March from bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_lost_kittenThe Lost Kitten is Lee’s first story, but Sakai has over a dozen books on offer, with most of them on initial release in Germany and the UK. She has won awards around the world, including the Japan Picture Book Prize, a Golden Plaque at the Biennial of Illustrations in Slovakia, and a Silver Griffin in the Netherlands. Her style is a cross between photographic realism and messy charcoals. A sort of soft focus treatment. It’s a delightful way of approaching what is really a very simple tale.

This thirty-six-page book is the simplest of stories, so readers must inject their own personality and interpretations between the words. Lee offers no background or clues about the identities of these characters. They are as thin as the chalk and wash on the page. To make them three dimensional you have to add your own personality. Sometimes, it’s what’s missing that gives you the substance.

The plot is: a small kitten, the runt of the litter, is abandoned at the door of Hina and her mother. They slowly fall in love with the kitten who is not expected to get well, but she does. Then mother leaves and the kitten runs away. Hina sets out to find her new little friend. It was here that my five-year-old, reading the story for the first time, started to add her own interpretation of the facts. What if she can’t find the kitten? Or…? And so, the magic unfolds slowly over the next pages as we read further, discussing scenarios and discovering more of the plot on every page.

The book’s simple language works well for early readers – about year 2 – and for caregivers who love to read out loud. It’s the kind of simple hardback that will make a wonderful gift for a young child. But remember, it’s not just the book you’ll be giving: you must also be around to read it, to make it more than just words and pictures on the page. Then you’ve found something really special.

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

The Lost Kitten
Written by Lee, Illustrated by Komako Sakai
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571260

Book Review: Gwendolyn!, by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_gwendolynHow many penguins do you think there are in the jungle? You’d probably say none, because we all know penguins live in cold climates, but you haven’t met Gwendolyn! She is the only penguin in the jungle and she’s there because she loves the heat, the gorgeous flowers and the other jungle animals.

We get to meet a jaguar, monkeys and a parrot, and she points out all the good things about the jungle. Gwendolyn is always upbeat and she makes all her jungle friends realise how lucky they are to live in such a beautiful place.

But then her friend Parrot asks a simple question – has Gwendolyn ever been to Antarctica, where all the other penguins live?

A tear rolls down Gwendolyn’s cheek and she admits she hasn’t, and that starts to make her pine for the place she really belongs, where she can be a real penguin. Nothing her friends say can cheer her up, and she sets off on a really long journey to Antarctica.
She meets other penguins there and has the time of her life, but after a while she starts to notice the cold, and the fact she’s very hungry… and decides there is no reason why a penguin can’t live in Antarctica AND the jungle!

This book made me smile, as the illustrations are simply beautiful. There is so much to look at on every page that younger children will enjoy this book even if they can’t read the words. I think it will delight children and adults alike and become a treasured favourite. It’s a great tale about friendship and how we don’t have to be the same to get along.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

Gwendolyn
by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton
Published by ABC Books (HarperCollins NZ)
ISBN 9780733335174

 

Book Review: Hush -A Kiwi Lullaby By Joy Cowley and Andrew Burdan

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_hush_a_kiwi_lullabyWe are so blessed in New Zealand to have writers such as Joy Cowley. She has continued over the years to provide appropriate, beautiful texts to share with our children. Hush is the latest addition and I think this book and song will quickly become a Kiwi classic.

The traditional lullaby by Brahms is given new words and a Maori translation. We have sheep and Mums, stars and tui, pāua and kauri in place of the traditional English images. The words fit the tune in a natural way and the illustrations use a soft palette to create an harmonious, restful scene.

I was delighted to see the book has an additional Māori text and even a glossary of Māori words. The next generation of Kiwis will be familiar with a bi-cultural approach at pre-school and school, so it is timely to see New Zealand publications acknowledging this.

This book would make a wonderful gift for a newborn, a toddler birthday or even to a Grandparent. It is a delight of word and image. As the final line states:
‘And when that silver fern’s no more….
You’re still the best baby in Aotearoa.’

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

Hush: A Kiwi Lullaby
by Joy Cowley and Andrew Burdan
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775433125

Maui Sun Catcher, by Tim Tipene, illustrated by Zak Waipara, translated by Rob Ruha

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_maui_sun_catcher.jpgRe-working a traditional and much loved myth is a big challenge and requires ensuring the familiar story features are finely balanced with new ideas and fresh imagery to retain the essence of the original while engaging new audiences. Award winning New Zealand author Tim Tipene took up this challenge with Maui – Sun Catcher and has hit that balance perfectly, delivering a Maui who is both mischief-maker and cheeky fella.

Bringing Maui into the 21st century sees him cajoling his brothers to help him capture Tama Nui Te Ra, the Sun, and force him to slow down so that all can get their work done and enjoy a full day. The brothers are modern day blokes and the dialogue between them is as Kiwi as it gets: ‘You think too much, said Roto, rolling his eyes and turning on the television. ‘Sit down and watch the rugby, man.’ The striking cartoon like illustrations depicting them in familiar clothing (jeans, mechanic’s overalls and school uniform), coupled with mentions of sunscreen and gassing up the car brings the myth well and truly into modern day.

In keeping with the magical capabilities of Maui the trickster, he is depicted in what looks suspiciously like a superhero outfit, complete with emblem on his top, fish hook slung low across his hips, and… is that a cape or a hoodie? Also setting him apart and adding to his mystery, is Maui’s speech which, in rhyming couplets, is the only rhyme found in the text; a feature acknowledged by one of his brothers: “Maui the poet, eh, always out to be the hero,’ Waho grumbled.”

When he and his brothers find the sun’s pit, they prepare to trap the Sun in a net made of magic flax. Maui steps up to challenge the Sun to slow down and, in this version, beats the Sun not with his fists but with his words – tricking the Sun into slowing down using flattery: ‘The Sun was quiet, He looked around. He liked Maui’s words of magnificence and greatness. They made him feel special.’

Presented in both te Reo Maori and English this bi-lingual modern retelling of a myth unique to Aotearoa is equally accessible to all young readers. It is beautifully presented in hardback with bright colours and bold illustrations and I do hope it is the first of many such re-workings presented by the Tipene, Waipara and Oratia Books team.

Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen

Maui: Sun Catcher
by Tim Tipene, illustrated by Zak Waipara, translated by Rob Ruha
Published by Oratia Books, 2016
ISBN 9780947506148

Book Reviews: The Hamster Book, by Silvia Borando and Dog on a Digger, by Kate Prendergast

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_hamster_bookIt’s a little while since I was deeply immersed in preschool or picture books, so it was great to get these two from Booksellers NZ for a bit of an update!

The Hamster Book is a cute little number, with bold pictures and unfussy layout. However there is a lot of text compared to illustrations and I think it’s this that I am not quite so sold on.

I think the story – let’s wake up the hamster and encourage her to do her trick – is fine; but the two-colour text (one colour for the actual story, one for the instructions to the kid as to what we should do next) to me feels just a bit heavy-handed.

I’ll be interested to see what readers with pre-schoolers to test this on think.

cv_dog_on_a_diggerDog on a Digger, however, grabbed me from the first drawing. It helps that I do love dog stories, but this is a real delight. Not a word, only pictures. I love this kind of book as it’s wonderful to share with littlies who can put their spin on what happens, and who often see things we might miss.

The dog in this one is just like my dog – at first light, it’s clearly time to move! The digger dog gets his owner, the digger driver, up and off to work, and before they get on the digger they have to put on their safety gear – yup, the dog as well!

The story moves along nicely, and the pencil drawings are enlivened by one colour – yellow – for the digger cab, and the safety gear, and mostly importantly for extra clues as the tricky incident develops. It’s a lovely story and the second by the author/illustrator about this clever, unnamed dog. I hope she writes more.

The dog of course is the hero of the hour – and I won’t give spoilers, but I do thoroughly recommend this book to parents, caregivers, uncles, aunties, teachers…you won’t go wrong if you buy this one. You could even keep it for yourself; that’s what I intend to do!!

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

The Hamster Book
by Silvia Borando
Walker Books
ISBN 9781406367720

Dog on a Digger – the tricky incident
by Kate Prendergast
Old Barn Books
ISBN 9781910646144