Book Review: Nostalgia, Great Mums, and the Black Wolf

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

Nanna’s Button Tin, by Dianne Wolfer, illustrated by Heather Potter

cv_nannas_button_tinWhen I was a child my mother had an old willow-pattern biscuit tin half-filled with buttons. I loved to plunge my hands into the tin and let the buttons run through my fingers.

Just by looking at the cover of this book made me smile because it brought back memories of hunting through that tin, looking for just the right button to replace one that was missing off a treasured item of clothing or toy.

The little girl in this book has a nanna with a button tin and the pair tip them out in the hope of finding a button to replace poor teddy’s missing eye. Of course not just any button will do; it has to be the right size, shape and colour.

The book’s first line reads: “I love Nanna’s button tin, it’s full of stories.”

This sets the scene for the search, as each button they pick up reminds nanna or the little girl of where that button came from. The accompanying illustrations are delightful and will no doubt bring back memories of similar occasions for readers. I instantly recalled buttons from my grandmother’s dressing gown, my mother’s evening gowns, father’s shirts, and some of my own creations. You could make this book interactive by starting a tin filled with buttons that represent your own memories.

Whether the child is old enough to read the book out loud or not, the illustrations alone make this a winner. There are so many things to look at in the background that adults and children alike will love this book. It’s like a printed hug!

The Best Mum in the World, by Pat Chapman, illustrated by Cat Chapman

cv_the_best_mum_in_the_worldFollowing on from the popular book The Best Dad in the World, The Best Mum in the World would make a great birthday, Mother’s Day or Christmas present for any mum.

Beautifully illustrated by Cat Chapman (no relation to the author), the book explores all the reasons why we love our mums.

The book has a similar theme to dad’s version, with the child starting out by saying their mum loves it when they wake her up. The illustration shows a chaotic bed with children and animals crowding out the parents – dad has given up and is sleeping on the floor!

Any mum who has had her hair ‘done’ by a child will smile, as will those who have been served a mud pie. And hide-and-seek may give mums an idea – pretend to hide behind the couch and snatch a quick nap instead!

All different kinds of mums are shown in the illustrations – mums doing the shopping, driving tractors, playing with the children, saving them from scary insects (even if she doesn’t look that thrilled by it), or just smiling on as her children ‘decorate’ the walls.

Blankeys are retrieved from dogs and owies are fixed with sticking plasters, helping to make each mum the best mum in the world.

This is a great read-along book and there are so many things in the background that can be used to entertain a child along the way. There is even space at the front to draw a portrait of your own mum.

Mother’s Day may have been and gone, but this book is a perfect gift for any mum in your life, to remind her of the things that make her so great.

Virginia Wolf, by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

cv_virginia_wolfBased loosely on the close relationship between the writer Virginia Woolf and her artist sister, Vanessa Bell, Virginia Wolf is an unusual but imaginative children’s book that deals with depression.

Beautifully illustrated, the book starts with Vanessa’s sister, Virginia, feeling a little ‘wolfish’. She doesn’t want to talk to anyone, gets upset when Vanessa tries to paint her, and even tells the birds to stop making so much noise.

Vanessa says she was a very bossy wolf, and her mood started affecting everything else in the house, taking all the colour and enjoyment out of life. Nothing Vanessa could do would cheer her up and nothing pleased her – not even the cat or making faces at their brother. She just wanted to be left alone.

Vanessa lies on the bed with her, saying there must be something she could do that would make things better. Virginia says if she were flying she might feel better, but she rejects all the cities Vanessa suggests.

“No. No. No!” cries Virginia, saying she wants to be in a perfect place with iced cakes and beautiful flowers and trees and no doldrums – she wants to be in Bloomsberry.

Vanessa is confused as she has no idea where this magical place is and Virginia is no help. She decides to paint a garden and create a place called Bloomsberry that looks just the way it sounded.

When Virginia wakes, she is still acting like a wolf, but slowly notices the garden her sister has made. She becomes involved in making the magical Bloomsberry even more fantastic and all of a sudden down becomes up, dim becomes bright, and gloom becomes glad again.

The book ends on a lighter note, with the sisters heading out to play. It takes a sensitive look at depression and could be used to discuss the topic and the things that could change how a person feels and acts.

Reviews by Faye Lougher

Nanna’s Button Tin
by Dianne Wolfer, illustrated by Heather Potter
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781922077677

The Best Mum in the World
by Pat Chapman, illustrated by Cat Chapman
Published by Upstart Press
ISBN 9781927262801

Virginia Wolf
by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Published by Book Island
ISBN: 9781911496038

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Book Review: When We Go Camping, by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Cat Chapman

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

when_we_go_campingSally Sutton has written a number of popular children’s books, including Roadworks and Construction, and the Diary of… series that features a range of animals, such as a frog and a pukeko.

When We Go Camping follows a family camping trip and the trials, tribulations and excitement of a holiday in the outdoors. A great book to read out loud to young children, it contains rhymes and onomatopoeia that evokes what’s happening on the pages.

When we go camping, we bang in the pegs,
Bang in the pegs, bang in the pegs.
Guy ropes are tricky; they trip up our legs!

Smacketty tappetty bopp-io.

Each page has a version of that phrase, keeping continuity throughout the book – zippetty zappetty flopp-io; slappetty whacketty swash-io, etc, ending with hushetty shushetty snore-io as they sleep off their adventures.

The illustrations by Cat Chapman are charming and will keep young ones (and those reading the book to them) amused for ages, hunting out all the things needed for a successful camping trip. Older children can read along, while younger ones can help point out certain things like the family dog (who gets a look-in on almost every page), a teddy bear, sunhat, jandals, sausages, flies – and even a possum in the loo (that page includes a hilarious rhyme about the long drop).

With good weather fast approaching, this book would make a great Christmas gift for those heading away on a camping holiday this summer.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

When We Go Camping
by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Cat Chapman
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781921977787

Book Review: The Best Dad in the World, by Pat Chapman & Cat Chapman

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_best_dad_in_the_worldThe Best Dad in the World would make a great birthday or Christmas present for any dad.

Beautifully illustrated by Cat Chapman (no relation to author Pat Chapman), the book explores all the reasons why we love our dads.

Any parent of young children will smile at the illustrations as they have a little more meaning than the words suggest. Dad may be loved because he likes to get up early – but the illustration shows the time is 5.59am and some little person is trying to open a sleeping dad’s eyes!

The animals in the story are taking advantage of dad’s attempts at cooking, licking up the spilled milk and dropped food, and there are some truly kiwi fathers shown throughout. Farmer dads, truckie dads, dads who make paper planes, animal-loving dads, dads with earplugs in who pretend they like the music their children play, dads who are as tall as the sky and dads who never get tired and know ice cream fixes everything.

This is a great read-along book and there are so many things in the background that can be used to entertain a child along the way. There is even space at the front to draw a portrait of your own dad.

Father’s Day may have been and gone, but this book is a perfect gift for any dad in your life, as it will remind him of the things that make dads so great.

The Best Dad in the World
by Pat Chapman, illustrated by Cat Chapman
Published by Upstart Press
ISBN 9781927262740

Book Review: The Mystery Box & Finnigan Flynn, by Lucy Davey and Cat Chapman

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_finnigan_flynnThe Mystery Box & Finnigan Flynn is a fun picture book for children aged from three to six.

The tongue-twisting rhyming text is sure to enthral young listeners and give adults a chance to test out their story time voices.

When a box arrives on Finnigan Flynn’s doorstep, the label warns that it shouldn’t be opened. Does Finnigan take any notice of this advice? Of course he doesn’t!

Then rumble-a-jumble bam-boomed in the box… a couple of toe-nibbling crocs leap out and head straight for Finnigan’s feet. When he trips trying to get away from them, the ‘uh-oh!’ of the text sets up the next piece of magic.

The repeated ‘rumble-a-jumble bam-boomed in the box’ and ‘uh-oh!’ leads the reader and listener on a whimsical journey of nonsense, with socks, a fox, an ox and some frocks being just some of the crazy things that leap out of the box to help or hinder Finnigan.

The story ends with the box appearing on the doorstep of a little girl with a note that gives the same instructions Finnigan had. This can lead to some guesses as to what happens next – does she, like Finnigan, open the box? Will the same things be in the box or will she be treated to some more magical nonsense?

Author Lucy Davey was inspired by Dr Seuss to begin writing children’s books and her resume includes The Fidgety Itch and the Fifi la Belle picture books. Cat Chapman’s beautiful ink and watercolour illustrations perfectly complement The Mystery Box & Finnigan Flynn and will ensure the book is a hit with young children, as there is so much to look at on every page.

The book is a good physical size for children to sit alongside whoever is reading to them and follow the story by looking at the illustrations. I have a feeling some of the lines in this book will end up in everyday vernacular, in particular “uh-oh!”

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

The Mystery Box & Finnigan Flynn
by Lucy Davey and Cat Chapman
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775432999

Book Review: Yak and Gnu, by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Cat Chapman

Available in bookstores nationwide.
cv_yak_and_gnu
Juliette MacIver is a New Zealand children’s author – Marmaduke Duke on the Wide Blue Sea, The Moose and the Goose and Toucan Can being just a few of the books she has written. She lives in Titahi Bay, Wellington with her husband and four children.

Cat Chapman grew up in the Waikato but now lives in Auckland. She worked for a number of years at a design company, but in 2010 attended a night course in children’s illustration. She now works full-time as an illustrator for Walker Books. Cat loves working with ink, pen and water colour.

I have to start right off by saying that this is a very funny book. The style of it brings to mind the work of Dr Seuss, and even Roald Dahl to some extent. Both authors are of course great favourites of all members of our family.

This is a story about two friends Yak and Gnu who both love to row down the river.

Off they go.

Yak in a kayak, blackberry-black,
Gnu in a blueberry-blue canoe,
sing a song that’s sung by two:
“Yippee-ai, Yak!”
“Woo hoo, Gnu!”
“There are no other beasts
like me and you”
“No one else
but you and me
can float a boat
or sail the sea”

They meet a goat in a boat, a snazzy snail setting sail, a laughing calf aboard a raft, a nasty stingy on a rusty dingy. Others follow in this lovely story which enraptured the four-year-old I read this to. The illustrations are stunning and I can truthfully say that both of us were laughing at the antics of Yak and Gnu.

A wonderful, must-buy book for any child’s library.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Yak and Gnu
by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Cat Chapman
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781922077684