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

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Book Review: Bird to Bird, by Claire Saxby

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_bird_to_bird.jpgDeep in a forest a bird drops a seed. The seed grows into a tree and that tree is taken by men into a busy city and across the wide ocean to a foreign land where it is reused, recycled and repurposed many times before it can return to a forest.

Bird to Bird is an aesthetic circular narrative. Claire Saxby’s poetic and repetitive words paired with Wayne Harris’s dreamy illustrations make this brief journey through nature, history and time a pleasant read. Though minimalist, the narrative is still able to tell a huge story and that’s what I enjoyed most about this short tale.

I’ve found myself reading Bird to Bird over and over, appreciating both the words and the illustrations. It’s a very cleverly written book and I enjoyed the many layers of the story.

Reviewed by Alana Bird

Bird to Bird
by Claire Saxby
Published by Black Dog Books
ISBN 9781925381122

Book Review: The Stolen Stars of Matariki, by Miriama Kamo, illustrated by Zak Waipara

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_stolen_stars_of_matariki.jpgIn a magical, wild, windy place called Te Mata Hāpuku there’s a beach made up of as many stones as there are stars in the sky. When Te Rerehua and Sam stay with at Te Mata Hāpuku with their Grandma and Pōua they love to scour the beach for the gleaming, bright, white stones called agate. One night as they gaze up at the night sky their Grandma exclaims that there are stars missing from the Matariki cluster. Grandma knows exactly what has happened to those stars; the patupaiarehe have snatched them from the sky and will hide them amongst the stones unless they are stopped. Will Te Rerehua and Sam be able to hatch a plan clever enough to trick the naughty patupaiarehe into releasing the stolen stars?

The Stolen Stars of Matariki was a new Matariki Story for me and I found it to be a very amusing tale. It was great that all nine stars of Matariki were included in this story as many stories only include seven of the stars that make up the Matariki cluster.

Kamo’s descriptive language has a magical quality to it fitting with the theme of the story, and I enjoyed the Te Reo Māori that is woven through the English version.

The patupaiarehe were also new to me and I was delighted to be introduced to another piece of Māori mythology, albeit a very mischievous creature! A story between “right and wrong” or “good vs. evil” always makes for an interesting read and it’s made all the more better for young children when the hero triumphs over the villain using non-violence.

It is obvious that Te Mata Hāpuku holds a special place within Kamo’s heart, and she paints an evocative image of it’s landscape and atmosphere through her words. The rich illustrations of Zak Waipara saturate each page; mixing thick, bold lines and geometric patterns with delicate and vibrant watercolours which compliment Kamo’s words perfectly.

Miriama Kamo’s debut The Stolen Stars of Matariki is a wonderful tale that introduces new kupu and Māori mythology to readers. It’s magical words and haunting illustrations will amuse and delight many young children and adults who read it, while also familiarising them with Matariki. I will definitely be on the lookout for a copy of the te teo Māori addition and waiting semi-patiently for more books from Miriama Kamo.

Reviewed by Alana Bird

The Stolen Stars of Matariki
by Miriama Kamo, illustrated by Zak Waipara
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775435341

Book Review: The Holidays, by Blexbolex

Available in bookshops nationwide

cv_the_holidaysThe Holidays written and illustrated by Blexbolex is published by Gecko Press, who publish and translate children’s books from around the world. Blexbolex is a French comics artist and illustrator, living in Berlin.

This is a very unusual children’s book for one used to books with words! The story is set out and told entirely by illustrations.

The Summer holidays are nearly over and our protagonist had the whole place to themselves to explore until Grandpa came home with an elephant.  That event in itself changed the rest of the Summer holidays – making life a lot more interesting. But where could Grandpa possibly have gotten an elephant?  And where did it go at the end of the holidays? We have no idea.

This book encourages a child and perhaps a grown up to concoct a story to fit the pictures. This is a great way to encourage a child to use their imagination.

A charming book with beautifully crafted illustrations.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

The Holidays
by Blexbolex
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571932

Book Review: Do you want to gallop with me? by Sophie Siers, with illustrations by Judith Trevelyan

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_do_you_want_to_gallop_with_me.jpgBeing horse-mad as a child, I would have loved this book. Beautifully illustrated by Judith Trevelyan, Do you want to gallop with me? features horses every time you turn the page, along with tui, rabbits, and hedgehogs.

The story is about Nibbles the pony, who loves to gallop but on this day he has trouble finding anyone to play with him. The tui, hare, hedgehog and fellow horses all say no, and he’s thinking he’s going to be all alone in his prancing…

But then across the paddock comes a friend who is certainly keen to go galloping with Nibbles. They gallop and trot and splash and prance – past Tui, past Hare and past Hedgehog.

This book has plenty to keep a child enthralled as the pages turn, and the delightful illustrations are colourful and full of detail.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

Do You Want to Gallop With Me?
by Sophie Siers, with illustrations by Judith Trevelyan
Published by Millwood Press
ISBN 9780473408541

Book Review: Splish, Splash, Ducky! by Lucy Cousins

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_splish_splash_duckyThis large format picture book is great to read along to young children. With its simple illustrations and cute little Ducky Darling, this book is sure to become a favourite. (And as it’s quite short, adults shouldn’t groan when it’s pulled out again at bedtime!)

Ducky Darling loves to find all the things he can do with his friends when it’s raining, such as playing with frogs, worms bugs and slugs (which he loves to hug). He plays in the pond with the swans, swims with the fish, and shakes his feathers with the other birds – all the while going quack, quack, quack.

The simple rhyming text is kept to a couple of lines per page opening, and there’s lots of words for young ones to repeat – drip, drip, plip, plop, etc.

But then the rain stops – oh no, what will Ducky Darling do now? He goes to see his Dad and he tells him not to be sad, because all the butterflies get to have fun in the sun.

Simple and colourful illustrations on every page will put a smile on everyone’s face.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

Splish, Splash, Ducky!
by Lucy Cousins
Published by Walker Books Ltd
ISBN 9781406376791

Book Review: Weka’s Waiata, by Nikki Slade Robinson

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_wekas_waiata.jpgI picked up this book and immediately recognised the illustrations of Nikki Slade Robinson from her award-winning The Little Kiwi’s Matariki.  Her illustrations and story-telling continues to enchant our young readers with this story about young weka welcoming their kuia and koro for a visit.

Five young weka go off in search of different musical sounds to create a waiata to welcome their grandparents for a visit.  Children love predictable text and, so, with five vowel sounds to find, the author creates a repetitive pattern.  However, each weka finds a different sound in a different location to make it unique.  Together the weka use their sounds to make a waiata to sing when their grandparents arrive.

As a teacher, it can be difficult to find books which introduce concepts of our culture to our children.  This book will find a permanent place on our bookshelf as it is a perfect introduction about mihi whakatau and the importance of showing manaakitanga to our manahuri.

The illustrations are what make this book special.  Nikki Slade Robinson layers mixed media to create depth and story-telling through her pictures. The musical sounds swirl about, little wisps that might just float away!  The little weka are illustrated with black ink to create movement and character.  We fell in love with these little guys!  Little Kiwi also makes a star appearance.

At the end of the book includes a song which the weka sing.  Although the music score is written, it would have been good if a CD was included too.  With or without the song, this book is a delightful story to read.  I only wish we had some weka living in our backyard!

Reviewed by Sara Croft

Weka’s Waiata      
by Nikki Slade Robinson
Published by Duck Creek Press
ISBN 9781927305386