Book Review: Flight of the Honey Bee, by Raymond Huber, illustrated by Brian Lovelock

Flight of the Honey Bee is a finalist in the non-fiction category of the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. It is available in bookstores nationwide.

A beautifully told, deliciously renderedweb_Flight of the Honey Bee cover book about a day-in-the-life of a young bee is a finalist in the
New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Flight of the Honey Bee, by Raymond Huber and Brian Lovelock should be on your child’s book list.

Grand swashes of colour with lovely attention to detail fill the pages. Usually that’s enough in a children’s book to have me enamoured. But it’s the well-crafted story that impresses me the most. This is a creatively fact-filled affair that gives my kids a great impression of just what a bee’s life is like.

“She settles on a velvety petal and plunges her head into the flower. Here is the sunken treasure: a cup of sweet nectar. The tip of her tongue shaped liked a miniature spoon, sips the syrup ”

It really does thrill me to find a book that gives an accurate picture of what happens in the natural world and steers very clear of anthropomorphism. I do regularly get irked by animals exhibiting human emotion and behaviours.

My 3-year-old loves the book. Older children will too. And parents, I’m sure you’ll be learning a whole lot too about one animal our lives are so dependent upon.

Review by Anna Butterfield

Flight of the Honey Bee
by Raymond Huber, illustrated by Brian Lovelock
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781921529665

Book review: In the Garden, by Gillian Candler, illustrated by Ned Barraud

Available in bookstores now.cv_in_the_garden

I have an embarrassing lack of knowledge about the birds that hang out in my backyard. It was my preschooler who called attention to it as we feed the flyers toast crusts each morning. Referring to them as either black birds or brown birds didn’t really cut it for a young, enquiring mind. But now thanks to a gorgeous wee book by Gillian Candler and Ned Barraud, we can learn the differences together. Our post-breakfast ritual need no longer be a reminder of my inabilities.

In the garden is a great introduction to the diversity in your own backyard. It looks at what you can find living underground, on the plants or in the trees before introducing us to the most-sighted creatures found in New Zealand backyards. Aimed at 4-8 year-olds, the very clear, concise descriptions and amazing drawings are very engaging at any age.

I’m such a sucker for beautifully illustrated kid’s books. It’s kind of hard to go past a book with such a glorious illustration of a tui on the front cover. Barraud is a texture artist for Weta, so you do expect some top quality stuff here. And he delivers – the images are lovely, with such excellent attention to detail.

Too often nature books are about idyllic landscapes, the type a kid might get a field trip to a couple of times a year, if they’re lucky. I love this book because you can walk out the door and you’re there, able to see these natural systems in action and meet the characters doing their thing. “Let’s find one of those,” or conversely, “What’s that?” makes this book immediate, relevant and a must-have for Kiwi families.

In the garden is great, a follow-up to the equally wonderful At the beach by the same crew. (I’ve been buying the set as Christmas presents). Dear Publishers, can we please have more?

My family has spent a lot of time poring over this book. I’m sure yours will too.

Reviewed by Anna Butterfield

In the garden: Explore & discover the New Zealand backyard
by Gillian Candler, illustrated by Ned Barraud
Published by Craig Potton Press
ISBN 9781927213025

Book Review: The Essential Audrey Eagle, by Audrey Eagle

This title is available in bookstores now. A good present for the gardener in your life?

There needs to be more people like Audrey Eagle. AudreImagey trained as a draughtsperson and then applied her professional skills to something she was really passionate about. The work that came out of is beautiful and important, significantly contributing to the understanding of New Zealand’s incredible plant life. People who use their professional skills to do great stuff for causes they are passionate about are awesome. And Te Papa Press has been hard at work to let us all know just how awesome Audrey is.

In 2006, a two-volume collection of all of Audrey Eagle’s work was published and won the Montana Book Award for Non-fiction. This has now been followed up by an elegant, slimmed down version The Essential Audrey Eagle. A very manageable size for picking up and admiring, this one is refreshingly light and affordable. Thankfully not another book for my overly subscribed coffee table.

Botanical illustration is alive and flourishing despite a world full of gadgetry. We expect photography would have rendered the process irrelevant but these carefully drawn works are as important and sought after as ever. Why? Firstly, they are an important resource for identifying plants as they contain a vast amount of detail and information. Characteristics of a plant that may be really difficult to photograph can be pulled out and shown in incredible detail and the different developmental stages shown next to each other. Secondly, these kinds of images can be breathtakingly beautiful and are still popular as works of art.

So of course, this book is gorgeous. Audrey Eagle is a master of translating the great natural beauty of plants to the page. The pp_audrey_eagleEssential Audrey Eagle shows off 163 illustrations selected from 60 years of work. It has covered the hit list of NZ plants, the household names — kowhai, pohutukawa, rata, manuka, cabbage trees, flaxes. But it also pays tribute to the huge variety by showing a representation of each woody species. This makes the book an excellent primer.

Out in nature, overwhelmed by the whole, it can be difficult to get up close and see the finer points. This book provides the opportunity to drink in the details. I have grown NZ spinach for years but plate 26 made me aware of detailing of the tiny flowers that I had simply overlooked. I’ve spent a lot of time admiring and learning from the side by side comparisons of manuka and kanuka, or the Metrosideros pohutukawa and ratas or the miro and totara. And I’ve been completely won over by the beautiful arrangement of three very different Clematis (plates 13-15) and the detailed leaves of the hutu (plate 18).

Fine craftsmanship is a wonderful thing to behold, and this book displays a true artist’s love and dedication to NZ plants and their conservation. The Essential Audrey Eagle is a book you’ll learn so much from by simply looking at the pretty pictures.

Reviewed by Anna Butterfield

The Essential Audrey Eagle
by Audrey Eagle
Published by Te Papa Press
ISBN 9781877385902