Book Review: Twinkle Twinkle Matariki, by Rebecca Larsen

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_twinkle_twinkle_matarikiRebecca Larsen continues to write and illustrate picture books with a true New Zealand flavour. She has already delighted young audiences with Row Row Your Waka and Tane Mahuta Has a Forest. In Twinkle Twinkle Matariki, we enjoy another musical tale. The appearance of Matariki, the Southern Cross, in our skies, has become the centrepiece of celebrations across the country. In Christchurch, we had a whole week of events. This book supports pre-schools and Junior classes in their activities. My own grandaughter already knew the story and song from her daycare centre. She was able to explain the ideas using the illustrations to help read the text.

Larsen uses simple illustrations based on New Zealand plants and animals. Her pictures are colourful and quirky. The text is in Maori and English so allows for a bi-cultural Reading. The inclusion of a CD song track allows the less musically inclined to enjoy the song. I found the music at a good pitch and speed to play to a class of 5 year olds.

Twinkle Twinkle Matariki is a new take on an old favourite. The pleasure of setting the song in Aotearoa allows an inclusive celebration of Matariki. This is a great addition to any family bookshelf.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

Twinkle Twinkle Matariki
written and illustrated by Rebecca Larsen
Published by Imagination Press
ISBN 9780995114227

Book Review: I Love Tomato Sauce, by Nicky Sievert

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_i_love_tomato_sauceMost children love tomato sauce, and will enjoy this fun story of how this family enjoys their tomato sauce. The boy in the story likes his sauce on most of the food he eats, even on party food. But there are issues in the family as his parents can’t decide which bottle is the best to use, his dad prefers the upside down bottle, while Mum likes the old squeeze bottle shaped like a tomato. The small pots in the fish and chip shop are preferred by big sister Ariana, but Aunty Kirsty makes her own tomato sauce, as does Nan’s neighbour Cyril.

When the family go on a picnic they have to pack everyone’s preferred tomato sauce, but they are so busy organizing the sauce they forget the food to go with it.

The day is not ruined as Nan has brought a loaf of bread to feed the ducks, and the family enjoy their sauce on the bread.

The simple story will appeal to most children, the script has words highlighted in bold which emphasize key points, and there will be lots of talking points in the colourful illustrations.

Supplying Aunt Kirsty’s recipe is a nice addition, which could lead to a fun activity for a family to do if they have surplus tomatoes growing.

A page at the back discussing some of the sign language used in the illustrations is quite unique and should generate discussion with children and adults reading the book. I liked this inclusion as it would enable children with hearing impairments to be more included in the New Zealand classroom.

Nicky Sievert grew up in Hawkes Bay, studied art in Wellington and lives in Lower Hutt. I Love Tomato Sauce is the first book she has written and illustrated, although in 2018 she illustrated Our Dad, written by David Ling.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

I Love Tomato Sauce
by Nicky Sievert
Published by Duck Creek Press
ISBN 9781927305560

Book Review: The Girls in the Kapa Haka, by Angie Belcher, illustrated by Debbie Tipuna

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_girls_in_the_kapa_hakaThis is a delightful picture book in the tradition of The house that Jack built – a story which builds up rhyme by rhyme until it’s complete. There’s enough in the brief text to let the reader understand how much work goes into making a piupiu, and also that it’s probably not easy!

There’s good use of Te Reo, enough for you to learn something and the rhymes are good.

I have one or two issues with the metre and continuity in the text, but overall the story builds up well.

The illustrations really to me are the stand-out – well, that’s what you do want in a picture book, after all. But the clever use of side panels on the left of each double-page spread gives a hint as to the next component of the rhyme, and would certainly keep kids looking.

It’s good also that the girls in the Kapa Haka group are diverse, and although Koro seems far too young I think that’s my eyesight and not any other kind of issue!

All in all it’s a delightful little book which should appeal greatly to preschoolers.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

The Girls in the Kapa Haka  
By Angie Belcher, illustrated by Debbie Tipuna
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143773870

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