Book Review: Hush -A Kiwi Lullaby By Joy Cowley and Andrew Burdan

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_hush_a_kiwi_lullabyWe are so blessed in New Zealand to have writers such as Joy Cowley. She has continued over the years to provide appropriate, beautiful texts to share with our children. Hush is the latest addition and I think this book and song will quickly become a Kiwi classic.

The traditional lullaby by Brahms is given new words and a Maori translation. We have sheep and Mums, stars and tui, pāua and kauri in place of the traditional English images. The words fit the tune in a natural way and the illustrations use a soft palette to create an harmonious, restful scene.

I was delighted to see the book has an additional Māori text and even a glossary of Māori words. The next generation of Kiwis will be familiar with a bi-cultural approach at pre-school and school, so it is timely to see New Zealand publications acknowledging this.

This book would make a wonderful gift for a newborn, a toddler birthday or even to a Grandparent. It is a delight of word and image. As the final line states:
‘And when that silver fern’s no more….
You’re still the best baby in Aotearoa.’

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

Hush: A Kiwi Lullaby
by Joy Cowley and Andrew Burdan
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775433125

Book Review: The Harmonica, by Dawn McMillan, illustrated by Andrew Burden

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_harmonicaWhen Carlos finds Uncle Jack’s harmonica ‘in a dusty old box tucked back against the wall shadow’ of the attic, he knows he has found a very special thing indeed. His mother has told him about the music Uncle Jack used to play with it, and it seems the harmonica is waiting to be played: ‘He heard the music, barely a sigh but it filled the attic with a promise.’

Carlos begins to teach himself how to play using the sounds of nature as his guide. He starts off quietly at night in his bed and slowly learns the song of the moon, the storm and the wind and rain. Keeping the harmonica a secret for now, he draws more inspiration from the grasses and crickets ‘he sat up and added the sway of the trees’ until one day he is ready to share his secret with his mum. She is delighted to see the harmonica and says she wishes he had been able to get to know his Uncle Jack; to which Carlos replies that he has met him in the music – a beautiful and poignant message. The story comes full circle as he plays his harmonica to the hills beyond, just as Uncle Jack did.

Set in New Zealand’s rural landscape and featuring a boy and his faithful puppy, Andrew Burden’s natural and almost dreamlike illustrations work perfectly with Dawn McMillan’s gentle lyrical prose. Carlos’s connections to nature and his Uncle are reinforced through the harmonica, as Carlos breathes life into it, so too does he bring Uncle Jack’s memory to life. The music imagery is presented so well in the text and illustrations that you can almost hear the harmonica playing.

The subject matter of a soldier who has been killed in service is a serious and important one to tackle for a children’s picture book, and The Harmonica has handled it respectfully and sensitively at a level that is appropriate for young children. Uncle Jack’s death is implied without the need for detail that could be unsettling. While we can guess at where he was serving, more important is the scene showing Uncle Jack sharing his music with his troop; this moment of bonding and closeness is surely what the ANZAC spirit embodies.

The Harmonica will be a welcome addition to school resources, linking history to current day for ANZAC learning. Dawn and Andrew have created a moving modern day ANZAC story which gently reminds us all that our service men and women continue to do their duty and serve our country. And that not all of them come home.

Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen

The Harmonica
By Dawn McMillan, illustrated by Andrew Burden
Scholastic NZ, 2016
ISBN: 9781775433446

Book Review: Tamanui the Brave Kokako of Taranaki, by Rebecca Beyer & Linley Wellington

cv_tamanui_brave_kokakoAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

Rebecca Beyer and Linley Wellington are two New Plymouth authors helping to bring back the Kokako to Taranaki.

There was a time when Kokako had no predators and could fly freely, but then the rat and possum were introduced. Numbers were severely affected with this native bird species nearly being wiped out to the point of extinction.

This is a story of Tamanui, a Kokako who tries to fly to the top of the tallest tree and is always showing off. His brother Poutama defended him telling the others that Tamanui was clever and brave. The only time the young birds were still was when they were listening to Nanny Kokako. She would tell them stories of their heroic ancestors who came from far away to make their home in the Taranaki bush.

Rats and possums came to New Zealand on boats and as a result there were less and less birds. The Kokako numbers drastically declined because they couldn’t fly well and built their nests on low branches so they were easy prey. The rats ate the birds and possums ate the eggs. Both having sharp teeth and strong claws they made short work of the birds. The birdsong of the forest was quieted.

Further into the story, we learn of how man intervened to save this wonderful bird before it became lost forever.

Reading this to 4-year-old Abby I had lots of questions about why the rats and possums came to New Zealand and why they liked hunting and eating the Kokako. We had a long discussion on why we needed to protect native birds from predators. “What does predator mean Grandma?” My explanation seemed to satisfy her.

Royalties from this book will go towards the Tiaki Te Mauri o Parininihi Trust. This Trust was set up by Ngati Tama and aims to catch predators and re-establish the native bird in the White Cliffs area.

This is a great book to introduce young readers to the idea that as New Zealanders, we need to do everything in our power to protect our surviving native bird species. The illustrations by Andrew Burdan are wonderful and work well with the story.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Tamanui the Brave Kokako of Taranaki
by Rebecca Beyer & Linley Wellington
Illustrated by Andrew Burdan
Published by Huia Publishers
ISBN 9781775502067

Book Review: HAKA, by Patricia Grace, illustrated by Andrew Burdan

Available now in bookshops nationwide.cv_haka

Flicking through HAKA is like flicking through a picture book illustrated by C. F. Goldie. Andrew Burdan has used all of his considerable skill in bringing this story to life, sending the great Ngāti Toa chief Te Rauparaha fleeing across the pages as you are drawn into Patricia Grace’s tale of the composition of ‘Ka Mate’.

While I will admit we don’t watch very much rugby in our house, we have watched a good number of haka on YouTube, as our children adore watching this display of fierce resistance, in whatever context. My 5-year-old, Dan, gets caught up in the theatricality of it, and both of my boys like to try and perform.

Reading this book with Dan has given me a way to talk with him about Maori traditions and the way that they are honoured in everyday life here; and how unique we are in having this rich history. While I was aware of the legacy of Te Rauparaha, I wasn’t aware that he was the inspiration for, and composer of ‘Ka Mate’. The story of him hiding in a friendly tribe’s vegetable pit was fascinating for both of us.

The build-up of the actions as Te Rauparaha returns to his tribe to tell them about his narrow escape is beautifully rendered; and shows clearly that every member of the tribe was involved, not just men, but women and children. The development of ‘Ka Mate’ into something we recognise now is simply portrayed by a series of shadows across the spread, with the simple words ‘They taught it to their children, who taught it to their children’ repeated across the pages.

This book is necessary, and pertinent, with the Rugby World Cup currently at the front of many people’s minds. Please buy this book for your whanau, and spend time with the younger members to teach them about this important part of their history.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

by Patricia Grace, illustrated by Andrew Burdan
Published by Huia Publishers
ISBN 9781775502074

A version of this title is available in te reo Maori
Whiti Te Ra!
ISBN 9781775502098

Book Review: Meariki: The Quest for Truth (the Matawehi Fables), by Helen Pearse-Otene, illustrated by Andrew Burdan

cv_meariki_the_quest_for_truthAvailable in bookstores nationwide.

This book has come a long way since its first inception. First it was published in Maori in 2013, then in 2014 it was translated and published in English, and now in 2015 we are so incredibly lucky as it comes out as a graphic novel.

For those not in the know, today’s graphic novel is akin to comic book styles of the past, pictorially anyway. It isn’t just words and accompanying pictures. The pictures, or, graphics to use the correct terminology, are an integral part in telling the tale.

We are introduced to Meariki, an unfortunate slave to the Kuwai Village Chief’s daughter, Hineamuru. Meariki is forced to follow Hineamuru and her warrior boyfriend Pehi to the river, where the ignorant young warrior insults the poor slave and then loses Hineamuru to the evil Tanekikiwa who intends to make Hineamuru his reluctant bride. Thus begins Meariki’s adventurous journey to rescue Hineamuru from the clutches of the black magician. As a small and unadorned heroine she meets influential characters along the way, travelling with the transformed trouble-maker Pehi, and ultimately discovering her own unique destiny.

Graphic novels are new to me, however, I found myself quickly turning pages in order to discover Meariki’s fate. I found the story and how it was woven very attractive. The graphics are stunning and well-executed, making me want to carry on and read more of the tale when I closed the cover at the end. I want to read more of these Matawehi Fables, having enjoyed the modern interpretation of a myth, complete with cleverly depicted ghoulish creatures.

I thoroughly recommend Huia Publishers’ latest offering by the collaboration of writer Helen Pearse-Otene and graphic artist Andrew Burden. It is a graphic novel that would make great reading for readers of all ages, especially those who are never keen to pick up wordy tomes to read.

Reviewed by Penny M Geddis

Meariki: The Quest for Truth (The Matawehi Fables)
Written by Helen Pearse-Otene,  Illustrated by Andrew Burden
Published by Huia Publishers
ISBN 9781775501718

Book Review: Hush: A Kiwi Lullaby, by Joy Cowley & Andrew Burdan

cv_hush_a_kiwi_lullabyAvailable in bookstores nationwide.

Joy Cowley is a much-loved New Zealand writer of adult and children’s books. She has written this rather delightful version of a well-known children’s lullaby.

Andrew Burdan is a Wellington based illustrator and speaker of Maori.

When I first flicked through this book I was rather drawn to the illustrations. They are fresh and rather beautiful – you could almost see them as art work adorning your walls. To have a book that New Zealand children can identify with is rather special. My singing is rather abysmal and so instead I more or less read it in a reading voice!

Hush little baby, and go to sleep,
Mama’s going to give you a woolly sheep

Are the opening words to this version with –
And when that silver fern’s no more ……..
you’re still the best baby in Aotearoa.

The second half of this book has the same lullaby in Maori. I did attempt to sing this, but again not being a singer or a student in Te Reo Maori my attempts were appalling. When I made this comment to 4-year-old Abby, she was very kind saying – “you’re doing it Grandma,” with total admiration in her voice. 4-year-olds aren’t always the most discerning of creatures. When Pa was reading this book to 7 ½ month old Quin, and then got to the Maori version, she leaned over to me and whispered “He’s actually rather good.” It was all I could do to keep a straight face.

This book would make a fabulous addition to any child’s library. The age range recommendation is 2 – 4 years, Quinn at 7 ½ months enjoyed having this book read/sung to her.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Hush: A Kiwi Lullaby
by Joy Cowley & Andrew Burdan
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775432968