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


Book Review: Grandma Z, by Daniel Gray-Barnett

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_grandma_zOn an ordinary day, in an even more ordinary town, it was Albert’s birthday. But his Dad did not like mess so there would be no cake or piñata, and there wouldn’t even be musical chairs because his mother didn’t like noise.

‘Albert closed his eyes and imagined himself at a birthday party, holding a piece of chocolate-cherry-ripple cake. Then he made a wish.’

Answering a knock on the door to his Grandma Z, Albert soon finds himself on an adventure on the back of her motor bike as they have a fun filled ‘very un-ordinary’ day, celebrating his birthday.

Author /illustrator Daniel Gray-Barnett has created his debut book for three- to six-year-olds and my four-year-old grandson was just enthralled as we turned the pages. Using just three bold colours and strong brush strokes in the illustrations, Gray-Barnett has produced a magical visual treat, but his choice of words is also appealing to the young. Our grandchildren particularly liked the exquisite drawings of Monarch butterflies as they are regularly checking our Swan plants to monitor the progress of the butterflies and chrysalises. And the sentence, ‘Albert got a fluttery feeling in his stomach like one hundred Monarch butterflies coming out of their cocoons’ is a wonderful way for children to understand the feeling of excitement building in their body.

Daniel Gray-Barnett is a self -taught illustrator based in Sydney, Australia. The illustrations from Grandma Z were chosen from thousands of international entries for the prestigious Society of illustrators Book exhibition held in New York in February 2018. The hard cover book is a quality publication which will be loved by young children, who have a vivid imagination and especially enjoy magical adventures with their grandparents.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

Grandma Z
by Daniel Gray-Barnett
Published by Scribe Publications
ISBN 9781925322156


Book Review: Arlo and The Ginkgo Tree, by Sophie Siers, illustrated by Kate Twhigg

Available in selected bookshops nationwide.

cv_arlo_and_the_Gingko_treeThis is the first book I’ve read recently from small publishers Millwood Press, an award-winning publishing company established way back in the 1960s. They are known for producing high quality specialty productions. They cherish books, especially those that touch individuality. They currently focus on children’s books illustrated by contemporary artists in a fine arts tradition. So, as the daughter of historian Judy Siers and photographer Jim Siers (and controller of the company), it seems only right that Sophie Siers should show her hand with the pen.

Sophie has spent plenty of time on a Hawkes Bay farm, so it’s natural that her story should revolve about a boy and a tree – nature in it’s purest form and its most simple. And the story is simple too. It follows little Arlo as he climbs his favourite Ginkgo tree to watch the circle of life revolve around him. In this case, it’s a family of piwakawaka, who come to nest, lay eggs, raise their young and fly off.  Then after autumn and winter, the birds return, to begin the whole process again.

I loved Kate Twhigg’s simple watercolours. She has painted throughout her life, but has never previously been published.  She’s done a pretty good job.  For me, I would have like these images to have been a little sharper – the images are rendered in coloured pencil and watercolour, making them a little blurry.  But they are still very good.  The endpapers with flying birds and butterflies are delightful.

However, both of my girls, the real critics, loved this book. They related to the story, and to the images.  They wanted to go outside in their dressing gowns and hunt for birds’ nests – at 8.30pm! On a school night.

Kate, who sometimes writes in this blog did add one question for Sophie – ‘where’s the backstory about Arlo? Who is he? Why does he climb the tree. Where’s his iPad?  Why does the book he reads have no words on the cover?’  She was disturbed by Arlo’s anonyminity.

Overall, though, this story was a winner.  A perfect bedtime story, and uniquely local, too.

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

Arlo and The Ginkgo Tree
written by Sophie Siers and illustrated by Kate Twhigg
Published by Millwood Press
ISBN 9780473410940

Book Review: Little Truff and the Whales, by Ann Russell and Lara Frizzell

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_little_truff_and_the_whalesThe gorgeous Little Truff returns for another adventure, this time in a setting that will teach readers about the importance of sea/ocean life and the responsibility we all have to look after it and ensure its future. The book also creates awareness of the immense damage that equipment designed for use in the sea can cause, to those it wasn’t intended to impact.

Little Truff, a Blenheim Cavalier is out on a boat with her family, when she senses something isn’t right and tugs on her masters shorts and barks to get his attention. A humpback whale has become entangled in a fishing net and needs help. The family needs to make choices and wise ones at that.

This book which is endorsed by DOC is simply brilliant, it’s message resonates in a very real and practical manner, there is a serious side to it but a lightness also so it isn’t weighted down. The illustrations are fabulous and fit the setting in a way that catches the eye and enhances the story.

Both author and illustrator have worked very hard to produce a book that shares an important message in a child friendly way, Little Truff is already well known to children and she is very popular with them. Every home and library should have a copy of this.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

Little Truff and the Whales 
by Ann Russell and Lara Frizzell
Published by Ann Russell
ISBN 9780473367756