Book Review: He Wāhi i te Puruma, by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, and translated by Karena Kelly

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_he_wahi_i_te_purumaThis is a delightful story about the exploits of a witch, her broom and how friends help each other. However, it is a version with a difference. While I have been the proud owner of this story in English, it took my daughter to encourage me to get the te reo Māori version. Why? Because she is raising her daughter (my Granddaughter) to be fluent in te reo. Her pre-school, like most educational places, makes use of bilingual labels, conversation and waiata. Having books to support this is the next step.

Unlike some of the earlier books in te reo, this one does not include an English version or a glossary of words. This indicates a coming-of-age for bilingual books. I know the beautiful rhyming tale of the Witch on her broom and the helpers who want to join her. Like all good stories, there is a little lesson to be learned. When misfortune befalls her, the friends step in to save the day.

Julia Donaldson has a natural way with rhyme and the story hums along in Māori as in English. It reminded me of the Snail on the Whale and What the Ladybird Heard. She has a great ear for sounds and I know my audience loved joining in with, “Ka eke ra te kuri, whuuu! Ka rere runga hau.”

Axel Scheffler provides entertaining illustrations that add visual details to the melody of the story. I love his eyes, which have that surprised expression, “What? Me?” The colours are bright and clear and by placing the smaller illustrations beside each block of text, there are visual clues to help the reader. I noticed one student found the English copy and was turning the pages with a friend as they looked at the translation. What a great way to explore language.

I was hoping to keep this title in my Nanna bookshelf, but a visiting niece asked politely if she might take it back with her daughter to Australia. How could I resist a bit of Trans-Tasman re-education. I am now looking forward to seeing other titles by Donaldson translated and available to all.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

He Wāhi i te Puruma
by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, and translated by Karena Kelly
Huia Publishers
ISBN 9781775503293

Book Review: Home, by Carson Ellis

Release date in NZ not specified.cv_home

Home is a beautifully produced, hard-cover book. The paper stock is exquisite, and the illustrations on each page are divine.

Carson Ellis has previously only illustrated other authors’ works, and this is a wonderful, simple first book, which tells a tale of difference based on the types of homes that people can live in. It has a hint of some of the more fantastical Little Golden Books – Mister Dog is the one it put me in mind of. Not in the writing style, more in the unexpected directions each page goes in.

The illustrations are done in watercolours reminiscent of the style of vintage colour picture books from the late 1970s. The shapes are simple yet evocative, and Ellis is a master of adding depth with a single stroke. The colour palette of the book is limited to greys, browns, peaches, brick reds, greens, and cornflower blues. The textures and patterns throughout are gorgeously detailed – the image of the flat is a wonderful spread, complete with graffiti and the different coloured curtains.

My 4-year-olds favourite spread, naturally, was the one with “pirates” and Indians – which could simply be seen as conquerors and the conquered unfortunately, as they are mainly white folks docking on Indian land. The Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria? The evocation of race throughout is slightly uncomfortable I felt; with this, along with the Arabic thieves counting their money in underground lairs, with a woman atop the treasure, not as well-considered as other spreads.

My favourite spreads were where reality was suspended – the multitudinous family in the shoe (with a cheeky bare bummed boy on the top of the shoe), and the Moonian, Sea homes, and Atlantian homes. The Norse god’s home made me laugh with delight, at the goat perched atop a roof, nibbling a twiny tree.

The author asks questions of the children reading this book, in her beautiful script – whose home in this? Why does somebody live here? An imagination-building exercise that brings your readers along with you, this is well-executed.

The author’s final page invites you in to see her working away in her home, where there are images and symbols of all of the other homes she has drawn surrounding her. This is a favourite story-telling technique of mine, and is the reason for my admiration of Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book, illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

All in all, this is a beautiful book, and one that deserves a good discussion with your child. I strongly believe that authors of picture books in particular must be careful about how they depict race, so I will say talk about this with your child as you read, but certainly don’t leave it off your reading list!

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

by Carson Ellis
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406359428