Book Review: La La La, by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Jamie Kim.

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_la_la_la.jpgLa La La is a somewhat unique and quirky book and a very modern take on the power loneliness has on children. Rather than text, the book uses illustrations of the natural elements in our environment to fine effect in telling its characters’ story. La La La being the only words that are used. To most the using of these words is generally an expression of joy, but in this book their contextual use is a little less joyless, and a little more plaintive. A desire for a response threads through the book and motivates the character to keep persevering.

A rather remarkable book for it’s powerful message and unique style and setting, it offers the opportunity for thoughtful and nuanced conversation and would be most suited to the 7 upward age group. It could be very well used as a shared reader introducing the topic of loneliness to children in a classroom setting. In it’s own quiet way this book offers it’s readers an opportunity to reflect on loneliness and the skills that can be developed to counteract it.

Review Marion Dreadon.

La La La
by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Jamie Kim
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406378009


Book Review: Wolfy, by Gregoire Solotareff

cv_wolfyAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

After the sudden death of his old uncle, Wolfy has found himself in somewhat dire circumstances and he has too figure out what to do. Seeking help, he comes upon the very chilled Tom, a rabbit who had never seen a wolf before. United in a sense of adventure, the most gorgeous friendship between the pair develops, each having something to offer the other. Until things hit a speed bump when Tom and Wolfy play ‘Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.’ Fear takes over and Tom decides that the friendship is over. But is it?

This book hooks you in from the cover onwards, and uses vibrant, colourful illustrations to great effect, complementing the text and engaging the reader in the story. The story is well paced with a great dollop of humour that will make both adult and child reader alike laugh. It is poignant in it’s emotions but never heavy.

This is a great book for the 4 year old upward reader. I suspect older children will enjoy it and as a shared reader it leaves a lot of scope for interaction. A focal point is the need for understanding in friendships and this book could easily lend itself to teachable moments.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

by Gregoire Solotareff
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571567

Book Review: I want to be in a Scary Story, by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Jean Jullien

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_i_want_to_be_in_a_scary_storyHello, Little Monster.
What do you want today?
Can I be in a story?

Imagination is a great thing and most children role play making up their own stories.  I witnessed this over a weekend recently with two of my grandchildren, aged 6 years and 3 years.

Monsters feature in most children’s imagination at some time or another. This monster wants to be in a story – but does it want to be a scary monster scaring other people or be the one being scared? The play around these concepts is wonderful. 3-year-old Quinn liked this idea, often playing hide and seek: a “boo” is always the goal, surprising the person trying to find you.

The illustrations are bold but use simple colours. You can’t have a scary story without a witch – or perhaps a ghost?

A very much enjoyed book, highly recommended.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

I want to be in a Scary Story
by Sean Taylor  Illustrated by Jean Jullien
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406363463

Book Review: A Gift for Ana, by Jane Va’afusuaga

Available in selected bookshops.

This book is a beautifully written narrative which gives insight into a Samoan family saying goodbye to someone they love. Ana is a young girl who is returning to her family’s homeland in Samoa because her family member had passed away. It is a book which tells a story from the Pacific so our children can see themselves in what they read.

It is a great teaching resource to help children understand what they might experience in a similar situation. The author quietly explains Ana’s story in a no-nonsense, straight-forward manner from the first page. It provides answers to many questions about what might happen when a child returns home and will also provoke many questions which can be talked through together.

The rich story is accompanied by stunning coloured lithographic prints which boldly sit alongside the text. We are excited that this book is also available in Samoan so our families can read this at home in their mother tongue.

The author has explored the delicate family relationships which develop when families live apart when Ana begins to know her grandmother. Ana’s grandmother tells Ana the stories of her family and you are left with hope and peace dispute the tough issues the book raises.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

A Gift for Ana
by Jane Va’afusuaga
Published by Little Island
ISBN: 9781877484247




Book Review: Ten Pound Pom, by Carole Wilkinson and Liz Anelli

Available from 1 October in bookshops nationwide.

cv_ten_pound_pomCarole Wilkinson and her family emigrated from the UK to Australia under a scheme known officially as The United Kingdom-Australia Free and Assisted Passage Agreement. Post World War II, Australian industry was thriving and the Australian Government decided to encourage immigration, particularly from the UK. Ex-servicemen came free, others paid ten pounds, with children under 18 coming in free. These immigrants became known as Ten Pound Poms. The scheme continued until 1982.

The book is written in the present tense, from Carole’s perspective (of course!) and illustrated brilliantly by Liz Anelli. All of the experiences of long-distance ship travel are captured delightfully and will resonate with many older readers. For the younger readers, and I hope there will be many, it’s a great personal story, and the child’s voice comes through clearly. It has great appeal – there are lots of points of interest, and because of the episodic nature, it can be taken in small doses and thus enjoyed over a longer time.

It would be a great addition to school libraries and could be used successfully in social studies classes, I think.  It would suit able readers in the middle school years, or it would be a happy addition to home libraries.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

Ten Pound Pom
by Carole Wilkinson and Liz Anelli
Published by Walker Books

Book Review: The Curious Ar-Chew, by Sarah Grundy

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_curious_ar_chewThis is a hilarious romp through the jungle which encourages children to engage with and challenge the story as it is told.

The animals in the forest have found a strange creature in a tree and nobody knows what it might be. A hedgehog, goose and rabbit work together to solve this mystery. Each page gives a new clue about what the ‘ar-chew’ might and children can be encouraged to guess.  Of course, each time the woodland animals guess wrong and the crowd gets bigger as they think about what the ‘ar-chew’ might be.  The story asks children to come along on the adventure, taking them into the world of the book.

Eventually the ‘ar-chew’ leaves the tree, and while it is never said, we see a young child head home from the forest.  The ending cleverly allows the reader to be left in the imaginative world the author has woven through her deft story-telling.

It is a delightful story which young children find funny as they begin to wonder, along with the animals in the story, just what an Ar-Chew might be.  It has become a favourite at group time at my kindy, and the rhyming prose is enjoyed by the reader and listener. The clean pictures accompany the story beautifully.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

The Curious Ar-Chew
by Sarah Grundy, illustrated by Ali Teo and John O’Reilly
Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434375


Book Review: The Big Block of Chocolate by Janet Slater, illustrated by Christine Dale

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_big_block_of_chocolateAn oldie but a goodie, this book has sold over 250,000 copies and it really is no wonder.

Beautifully illustrated, easy to read, it tells the delightful tale of a block of chocolate and it’s journey from a shopping basket to a group of delighted ants. Along the way we meet a group of characters, whose one desire is to gobble up the chocolate all by themselves – until the Sun makes it’s appearance and changes everything…

This book has a number of lessons to share with it’s readers, the most decisive being the joy of sharing and not wanting something all for yourself.

This is a book that makes a great shared read and a great independent read, the words are descriptive and rhyme beautifully, the book flows and there is a delightful twist, children from preschool on will love it.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

The Big Block of Chocolate
by Janet Slater, illustrated by Christine Dale
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434900