Book Review: Song of the River, by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Kimberly Andrews

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_song_of_the_river.jpg‘I wish I could see the sea’, Cam said to his Grandfather, who promptly replies ‘One day we will go there’.

But curiosity gets the better of the young boy and when he sees a trickle of water on the hillside among the trees he sets off to follow it down the mountain to see where it leads.

Cam takes us on a journey through the forest, farms, into towns, and past factories until he reaches the sea which ‘was wild and blue and beautiful.. and it went on forever.’

Song of the River is beautifully illustrated by Kimberly Andrews, who grew up in the mountains of Canada, and this is clearly reflected in the muted colours as well as the details among the pages. We see owls and squirrels hidden in trees, a sleeping bear, as well as beautiful forest flowers.

The story was originally published 25 years ago but this exquisite hard cover edition will bring joy to another generation of children as they learn how a trickle of water becomes a creek, a rushing stream, growing into a river which flows into the sea. Andrews’ art shows the reader where frogs and fish live among the rocks in the water, and the variety of boats included increases the children’s understanding of the importance of water transport.

Kimberley Andrews lives in a converted shipping container tiny house in Wellington. She illustrated Explore Aotearoa, and the first book she wrote and illustrated Puffin the Architect published in 2018, won the inaugural NZ Booklovers Best Children’s Book 2019.

Joy Cowley’s story is a wonderful tale which children can relate, and Andrews’ illustrations have breathed new life into all the pages, and I can imagine children and adults spending time exploring the details. The graphic map showing the river flowing from the mountains to the sea is also a nice inclusion on the inside front and back cover.

My grandchildren and I have loved this book, being drawn into the adventure as the voice of the waterfall sang, ‘Yes, yes. Come with me. I will take you to the sea.’

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

Song of the River
by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Kimberly Andrews
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776572533

Book Review: Bambi the Blind Alpaca, by Jan Lummis, illustrated by Jenny Cooper

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

Bambi the Blind Alpaca HR.jpgBambi the alpaca loves his brother Charisma and they enjoy each other company as they eat together, play together and sleep together. But Charisma is also Bambi’s support, as Bambi is blind and relies on his brother to guide him around the paddock so he avoids banging into fences and gates.

When Charisma is shifted out of the paddock Bambi finds it difficult to fend for himself, becoming sad and stops eating. Even the sheep which are put in the paddock for company don’t bring Bambi out of his misery. But when Renaldo another alpaca arrives, Bambi is thrilled and before long, ‘Everywhere Renaldo went, Bambi went too.’

This is a heart -warming book all the more so, as it is based on a true story which author Jan Lummis was encouraged to write after the report of the two alpacas on her property made headlines in the media.

The illustrations by Jenny Cooper are an absolute delight, the facial expressions on the animals will be loved by children and adults alike, and each time I have read the book I have chuckled at a different animal’s face.

Having two alpacas in a neighbouring paddock has seen my interest in these animals develop, but I still found the two pages at the rear of the book fascinating, and I am sure the facts about alpacas will provide valuable discussion points for children at school or at home.

This simple tale of friendship and love, as well as supporting someone with a disability, so will be of value to a wide age group, and with the repetition of words throughout, will soon have children repeating, “Munch, Munch, Munch, Cuddle, Cuddle, Cuddle”.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

Bambi the Blind Alpaca
by Jan Lummis, illustrated by Jenny Cooper
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775435877

Book Review: Kōwhai Kids, by Marion Day and Anna Evans

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_kowhai_kidsThe frosts are over and the warm, spring weather has finally arrived in New Zealand which means the native kōwhai trees are in full bloom. Amongst the branches, the kōwhai kids with their classy costumes sway in the breeze and show off their golden colours. Kōwhai girls love to chat, dance and cuddle while kōwhai boys love to tease, throw and tackle. They care for the birds that help with pollination, show kindness to the animals that seek protection and chase away the pesky critters that strip their branches. After their busy bloom seed pods begin to grow from the branches of the kōwhai and when the time comes the kōwhai kids say goodbye and let the seeds drop to the ground to grow new trees. But that’s not the last you will see of the kōwhai kids, because next spring, new kōwhai kids will bloom and start the cycle all over again.

Kōwhai Kids uses an imaginative world with adorable fairy-like characters to explain the reproductive process and secret life of New Zealand’s own kōwhai tree. Cleverly written, the kōwhai boys and girls represent the dioecious nature of the trees needing both a female and a male tree to reproduce while teaching young children about the important symbiotic relationship between the birds, particularly the tūī, and the kōwhai that are also needed in order for the tree to propagate.

The illustrations flood each page with the rich colours and the vibrant wildlife of spring time in New Zealand and capture the bright golden glow of the kōwhai. Kōwhai Kids is a wonderful introduction to one of the most beautiful trees in the world with factual information about the native beauty included on the first page as well as a ‘How to Grow a Kōwhai Tree’ guide in the back. This book is the perfect tool to start a growing project with your children if you are fortunate enough to have one of these beautiful trees growing near you!

While the kōwhai is spectacular on its own the thought of the tiny kōwhai kids playing amongst its branches makes the magnificent tree a little bit more magical. Giving appreciation to our native flora and fauna, Kōwhai Kids is imaginative and informative, making it a great addition to a child’s home or classroom library.

Reviewed by Alana Bird

Kōwhai Kids
by Marion Day, illustrated by Anna Evans
Published by AM Publishing
ISBN 9780473459000

Book Review: Polly does NOT want a cracker!, by Stephanie Thatcher

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_polly_does_not_want_a_crackerSo first of all, why do we call parrots Polly, and why are crackers associated with them?

It seems that as far back as Ben Jonson (17th century) or even before, there were literary references to parrots being named Poll or Polly. That name is a derivative from Moll, or Molly, in turn an abbreviated or alternative form of Mary, which was just a hugely common name and also one give to parrots generally. But asking “Mary want a muffin?” while alliterative, does not seem to carry the same feeling!

So why the crackers? Apparently this can be traced, if you believe Google, to the fact that parrots were common on board ships, and biscuits (hard tack) were a staple in the diet of sailors, so they’d get offered to parrots.

Well, there you are. It’s one explanation. Parrots, as we know, are amazing imitators of sounds including human speech, and are apparently smart enough – at least in one case – to differentiate between asking for morning and afternoon tea at the appropriate time of day.

Now, our Polly absolutely does not want crackers and is so forceful in her refusals that she is turned out of her own home. Okay, she lived in the zoo and the keeper thought she was just too rude to be kept on. So, she’s sent off to a pet shop. This did not go so well, as every visitor asked Polly the same silly question, and she responded in her normal way, at the same time terrifying all the small animals waiting to be chosen for their ‘forever homes’.

Now, I won’t give all the story away; you need to do some reading for yourselves!

The illustrations, also by Stephanie Thatcher, are delightful; who knew you could put an expression on a kitten’s face (which is about the size of an old threepenny bit)? Stephanie can!

It’s a lovely book which I think will delight readers of all ages.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

Polly does NOT want a cracker!
by Stephanie Thatcher
Published by Upstart Press
ISBN 9781988516592

Book Review: There’s a Hedgehog in my Pants!, by Amy Harrop and Ross Kinnaird

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_theres_a_hedgehog_in_my_pantsAlways remember to keep an eye on your pants the next time you’re on a hike and desperately need the loo. In this crack-up tale a young boy finds out the hard way that he should never have left his pants unattended when an unfortunately prickly pal moves in. His poor bottom gets a particularly raw deal and no amount of jumping, dancing or shaking to and fro can extract the little fella. It seems only taking his pants back off will relieve his burning botty but leaves both him and the hedgehog shivering in the breeze. Luckily, the boy thinks of a solution that will suit the two of them just right.

The warning given on the front cover definitely fulfilled its promise as this story certainly contains multiple words for ‘bottom’ and we all know how much young children enjoy saying that! There’s a HEDGEHOG in my PANTS! had my preschool class giggling away and feeling highly entertained at all the different ways to say ‘bottom’! Silly stories give children an appropriate time and outlet to enjoy a laugh about the funniest part of our anatomy and this one sure delivered.

Children love when they know something that the main character in the book doesn’t and There’s a HEDGEHOG in my PANTS! ends exactly like that, leaving room for discussion about what could happen next. Ross Kinnaird’s fun and comical illustrations and Amy Harrop’s amusing and wonderfully rhyming story is sure to draw a chuckle from little ones as well as broadening their vocabulary for one particular part of their body.

Reviewed by Alana Bird

There’s a HEDGEHOG in my PANTS!
by Amy Harrop, illustrated by Ross Kinnaird
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775435655

Book Review: The Cat from Muzzle, by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Scott Tulloch

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_cat_from_muzzleDwayne is a cat who made a 5-week trip from Kaikoura back to his original home of Muzzle Station in Southern Marlborough. While this story is based on a true story, what and who he encountered can only be imagined, in this case by Sally Sutton and Scott Tulloch.

Dwayne is a tough tabby cat with sharp claws.  He loves living at Muzzle Station. The bleating sheep, the gentle cows and the clucking chooks. Moving day comes around. They leave the farm, flying to their new home. Dwayne does not cope. He howled and howled as he doesn’t want to move to Kaikoura. The new house is big and bright but all he wantsis to be back at the Station, so off he goes, one determined cat to start his journey back to Muzzle.

Off Dwayne leaves walking and walking until his paws were sore. He walked for hours and days, eating what he could along the way. A friendly hunter shared his fire, inviting Dwayne to come and live with him but this Muzzle cat had somewhere else to be.

This is a wonderful story of tenacity and courage. I read this to my 4 ½ year old granddaughter Quinn who is the proud co-owner along with her older sister Abby, to two cats. One is called Gus, who is a tabby and a big fluffy puss called Rocky (so named to give him mana among other cats!). Quinn wanted to know why Dwayne wanted to go back to Muzzle Station and not stay with his owners. She can’t imagine Gus or Rocky ever leaving her. She told me she loves them this much………………………………..!

The Illustrations by the wonderful artist Scott Tulloch are simply beautiful. This is a great book. This would make a wonderful present.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

The Cat from Muzzle
by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Scott Tulloch
Published by Puffin NZ
ISBN 9780143773085

Book Review: Granny McFlitter: A country yarn, by Heather Haylock, illustrated by Lael Chisholm

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_Granny_mcflitter_a_country_yarnThe A & P show was finally here. We find Granny McFlitter at the best Vegetable Knitter display. Woolly tomatoes, onions and leeks, courgettes and carrots, broccoli, beans, radishes, rhubarb and watercress greens, Granny had knitted them all. Trophies, sashes and ribbons awaited the winners for sheepdogs and show jumpers, scarecrows and more. There were rosettes for the fanciest and fluffiest of lambs and a tent full of prize-winning cakes and jams.

Granny sat down under a tree to drink a nice pot of tea. Then the great excitement started – THE BULL HAD ESCAPED! He smashed through the show-ring and the gate, shattered the show jumps, scattered the hens and piglets. He toppled a stand and then rushed to the tent full of sponges and cakes. Pavlovas and lamingtons flew all around, jam tarts, cupcakes, pikelets and fudges rained down on the terrified judges.

Granny McFlitter knew what to do. She got her knitting needles and some wool and knitted a cape with some wool from a lamb, dying it bright red with strawberry jam, knitting a long, braided woolly Lasso.

Granny is the hero of this fabulous story, which I read to 4 ½ year old Quinn. She looked at me in a strange way, wondering what I could do to save the day if something like that happened while around he – perhaps a marauding dog snarling behind a fence, or a naughty cat eating a bird, or a diving magpie. I think I would run for the hills taking her with me at great speed!

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Granny McFlitter: A Country Yarn
by Heather Haylock, illustrated by Lael Chisholm
Published by Puffin NZ
ISBN 9780143773238