Book Review: The Roly-Poly Baby, by Catherine Foreman

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_roly-poly_babyCatherine Foreman has written a number of children’s books with her first one The Cat’s Pyjamas (2011) winning the Children’s Choice Award at the 2012 NZ Post Children’s Awards. She is also the author, illustrator and designer of the popular ‘Machines and Me’ series (Boats, Planes, Tractors, Trains) and the illustrator of Chris Gurney’s Madison Moon and the Hot-air Balloon. 

The roly-poly baby rolled on the floor. Then she rolled and she rolled and she rolled a bit more. She rolled under her grandfather’s chair, into the kitchen and finally out the back door.

I read this book to 15-month-old granddaughter Quinn. She was totally captivated by the illustrations and listened carefully to the story, grabbing the pages to turn over quickly to find out what happened next.

The illustrations are gorgeous, with the text tying in beautifully. If Quinn’s reaction was anything to go by I think we can consider this book a total success and one that would be a lovely addition to the growing pile of presents under the Christmas tree.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

The Roly-Poly Baby
by Catherine Foreman
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775433217

Add these authors into your popularity stakes this Christmas

While approximately half of all international book sales are made up by sales of books for Children and Young Adults, less than 1/3 of NZ book sales are in the Children and Young Adult category. Why is this? The talent is certainly here – perhaps it is a matter of name recognition?

Looking at the bestsellers charts for international Children’s & YA, parents and kids buy based on author name. Right now, Andy Griffiths is hovering at the top of the charts for his Treehouse series. David Walliams also sticks on the chart like glue: I didn’t even realise he’d written seven books until his visit to the Auckland Writers’ Festival made that clear. In the domestic market, names like Lynley Dodd, and Kiwi story author Bob Darroch stick around, with backlist sales being incredibly strong.

With this in mind, here are a whole load of still-living, possibly-overlooked amazing NZ authors that you should bring into your child’s reading world as early as you can.

Picture Book Authors

Donovan Bixley
cv_little_bo_peepDonovan is New Zealand’s king of expressive illustration. His sheep in Little Bo Peep and More (Upstart Press) are hilarious, and his illustrations of kid’s classics Wheels on the Bus and Old MacDonald’s Farm (Hachette NZ) are brilliantly original. With several original stories under his belt now – the award-winning Monkey Boy (Scholastic NZ, 2014), for one – I can’t wait to see more.

cv_ghoulish_getupsFifi Colston
Home costume creation must-have Ghoulish Get-ups (Scholastic NZ) is just the latest in a great range of books that multi-talented creative Fifi Colston has to offer. Her award-winning Wearable Wonders (Scholastic NZ)  is essential for any young creative soul, and she has illustrated more books than I can count, in a career spanning 30 years. The Red Poppy, written by David Hill (Scholastic NZ), was just gorgeous, and Itiiti’s Gift, with Melanie Drewery (Puffin), is another classic.

Juliette MacIver
cv_yak_and_gnuWith her latest picture book, Yak and Gnu (Walker Books), being her 12th picture book in 5 years, Juliette MacIver and her flawless rhyming verse have become one of the perennials of the NZ book world. Her first book, Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam (Scholastic NZ), is the boys’ favourite; my personal favourite from her backlist is Toucan Can (Gecko Press). Most of her books are illustrated by the equally wonderful Sarah Davis.

cv_trainsCatherine Foreman
Catherine Foreman has a way with words for the younger kids in your family. Her 2015 book, The Roly-Poly Baby (Scholastic NZ), is a lovely short tale for your adventurous baby. Her 2013 series ‘Machines & Me’ still comes out most nights in our family – Trains in particular. Take note, writers of NZ – we need more good books about trains!

Ruth Paul
cv_stompRuth’s latest is the third in a group of dinosaur books, What’s the Time, Dinosaur? (Scholastic NZ) Not only are Ruth’s illustrations delightful, she can even rhyme! Our family favourites are Stomp! (board book just released), Two Little Pirates , and The King’s Bubbles (all Scholastic NZ).

Sally Suttoncv_zoo_train
All aboard the Zoo Train (Walker Books)! Sally is another fantastic picture book writer that isn’t anywhere near as well-known as she ought to be. Every child needs a copy of Roadworks (Walker Books). Be ready to hide it when it becomes a must-read Every Single Night. There are two follow-ups too – Demolition, and Construction.

Junior Fiction & Non-fiction

Kyle Mewburn
cv_dragon_knightKyle Mewburn has collaborated with Donovan Bixley for both of his recent junior fiction series’, Dinosaur Rescue (8 books, Scholastic NZ), and Dragon Knight. Begun early in 2015, this series is already 4 books strong. Both of these series are full of silly laughs for lovers of Captain Underpants and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, with a bit of Horrible Histories for good measure. He also has a 24-title-strong picture book list too: Duck’s Stuck (Scholastic NZ) and No Room for a Mouse (Scholastic Aus) are family favourites.

cv_cool_nukesDes Hunt
Cool Nukes author Des Hunt specialises in action-packed, environmentally-conscious writing. He has written about glaciers (Shadows in the Ice), mining (Frog Whistle Mine) and treasure-hunting (Cry of the Taniwha). There is something in his 22-book strong backlist for every adventure-loving 8-12-year-old.

Elizabeth Pulford
cv_sanspell‘Bloodtree Chronicles’ author Elizabeth Pulford is an incredibly diverse writer, writing for every age range. Her Scholastic fairy series Lily was published worldwide, and her most recent picture book Finding Monkey Moon (Candlewick Press) is being feted all over the globe. Junior Fiction series ‘Bloodtree Chronicles’, beginning with Sanspell, is perfect for the magic-loving kids in your life.
Philippa Werrycv_anzac_day_the_new_zealand_story
Author of non-fiction titles Anzac Day and Waitangi Day (New Holland), Philippa is another multi-talented author, writing ably across age ranges. Her most recent books have focused on war, and the New Zealand experience of war, but an old favourite of mine is junior fiction title The Great Chocolate Cake Bake-Off.

WW1 series, Scholastic NZ
cv_1915_wounds_of_warScholastic has a current book series commemorating New Zealanders’ wartime adventures. This began last year, with 1914: Riding into War, by Susan Brocker (another great underrated writer), then 1915: Wounds of War, by Diana Menefy (you guessed it, another). It will go for another three years, and is good reading for kids who enjoy Michael Morpurgo and other war-focussed writers.

Ned Barraud & Gillian Candler
cv_in_the_bushNed and Gillian have paired up on four books about New Zealand nature so far, and each of them have been extraordinarily good. In the Bush is the latest from this pair, but there is also On the Beach, In the Garden, and Under the Ocean. All are published by Potton& Burton. So, no matter where you are going this summer, there is a book in this range for you. Another kiwi author who writes and illustrates in the same area is Andrew Crowe.

cv_new_zealand_hall_of_fameMaria Gill
Most recently, Maria is known for her ‘Hall of Fame’ books – New Zealand Hall of Fame and New Zealand’s Sports Hall of Fame; but she has also got a huge backlist of nature publishing under her belt. If it explodes (Rangitoto, Eruption), has feathers (Call of the Kokako, Bird’s Eye View) or indeed fins (Save our Seas), she is bound to have written about it. Get your eco-ranger onto her books now!

Young Adult Fiction
David Hill
cv_first_to_the_topMy Brother’s War and The Deadly Sky (Penguin NZ) are just the most recent in a very long list of books for young adults that the wonderful David Hill has produced. He has recently branched into picture book writing, with Red Poppy and First to the Top (Penguin, 2015). In his YA list, his sensitive portrayal of awkward teendom, and his wit, is what sets him apart from others.

cv_evies_warAnna Mackenzie
Author of the recent release Evie’s War, Anna Mackenzie has been an essential part of the YA scene in New Zealand for many years. The Sea-Wreck Stranger was the first in a series exploring the fate of a stranger in a close-knit community. Cattra’s Legacy and Donnel’s Promise took us back into history, and reminded me a bit of Tamora Pierce’s books, with their fierce heroine.

Brian Falkner

cv_recon_team_angel_vengeanceRecon Team Angel (Walker Books) is the most recent series from Falkner, and it is a must-read for lovers of the ‘Cherub’ series. He began his writing career with junior fiction, incorporating the Warriors (The Flea Thing) and Coca Cola (The Real Thing); then moved into future-tech YA, with Brain Jack and The Tomorrow Code. He is a master of fast-paced action-packed adventure fiction.

Finally, a few you ought to know by now: Kate De Goldi, Elizabeth Knox, Fleur Beale, Mandy Hager, Bernard Beckett, and Ella Hunt. Introduce your teens to them, and they’ll read all of their books. They are brilliant. See my post from a couple of years ago for more about teen fiction writers in NZ.

by Sarah Forster

Finalist interviews: The origin of Boats, by Catherine Foreman

If you have ever wondered where authorscv_boats get their ideas, this is your chance to find out. We have asked our fantastic finalists for the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults all about their work, and they have been very generous in their responses!

Machines and Me: Boats is a finalist in the picture book category of the awards.

Thank you to author/illustrator Catherine Foreman for her responses:

1. As an author, you must have a lot of ideas floating around. How did you decide to write this book?
When my oldest son was two, like a lot of toddlers, he was obsessed with planes, (helped by the fact that we lived in a very noisy flight path!). This led me to write Planes, which I submitted to Scholastic.

Years later, they suggested resurrecting the manuscript and we thought it would be a great opportunity to do a series, for all those plane, train, boat and tractor loving pre-schoolers out there.

2. Tell us a bit about the journey from manuscript to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in publishing this book?
It was actually all pretty smooth sailing! (Pun intended.) When it was determined I would also be adding Boats, Trains and Tractors to the existing Planes, I knew I’d have to now come up with three extra manuscripts that would all follow the same format for the series, but could also stand alone as a good read. I locked myself away in a room for a day to write the other manuscripts, and they all came relatively easily. With Boats it really helped that I by then had another toddler who was obsessed with boats!

3. Did you tailor this book to a particular audience – or did you find it found its own audience as it was written?
Aside from the fact that I don’t think there’s any upper age limit on picture books, I believe Boats is a great preschool book. When I received my own advance copies, my youngest was 18 months old and he wouldn’t let me stop reading them! I’ve had a lot of feedback from parents saying the same sort of thing, which from my point of view is probably the best bit of the whole process.

4. Can you recommend any books that you love, that inspired or informed your book in any way?
I have lots of books that inspire me, but for this series in particular I was inspired by Hooray for Fish by Lucy Cousins. We’d been reading it at the time I wrote Planes. It is a big celebration of fish, and it’s this celebration of a topic, with lovely rhymes, lots of pictures and a simple nicely resolved ending, that I wanted to achieve with Planes, and subsequently Boats, Trains and Tractors.

5. Tell us about a time you’ve enjoyed relaxing and reading a book – at the bach, on holiday, what was the book?
Last year I couldn’t believe my luck when I found about a dozen Trixie Belden novels in The Piggery Bookshop in Whangarei. I took them home to read and was instantly teleported back through time to when I was maybe ten or eleven, reading on my bed after school with a pile of Mum’s biscuits whilst I solved crimes with Trixie, Honey and the other Bob-Whites! So while I’ve enjoyed many a book in all sorts of relaxing places, my favourite book-reading days were when I was a lot younger and I could lie in the sun all afternoon and read.

6. What are your favourite things to do, when you aren’t reading or writing, and why?
Hanging out with my family. And though I’m not much of a gardener, I love being outside in the garden, pulling out weeds where I’m told to, pushing a wheelbarrow around, picking up (and eating) fruit or feeding the chickens. Boring, but true!

– Catherine Foreman’s website has more information about herself and her work. 


Book Review: Boats, and Trains, by Catherine Foreman

These books are available in bookstores.

These two books are a continuations of the ‘Machines and Me’ series released by Scholastic NZ in mid-2013, reviewed here.  Each of the books has an explanation of different types of machines and what they do, with a simple message about using your imagination at the end.

cv_boatsBoats has some great illustrations, particularly that of riverboat and the hulls of different boats. It introduces different types of boats and their parts to youngsters, and widens their minds as to what constitutes a boat. My 3yo particularly liked the idea of whale-watching in boats, and I love the illustration on this page, showing the whales cheekily hiding directly underneath the boat. It is missing one favourite boat however – a submarine.

While Boats relies largely on the diversity ofcv_trains types of boats, Trains has to get a bit more creative, as there isn’t the simplicity with train types that exist with boats. The explanations are limited to steam trains and electric trains, mini trains and underground trains – also fair and zoo trains. This widening is good, as Foreman has added counting games and colour games within the story as well, adding further depth to the toddler-focussed series.

Overall, this is a well-designed and written series which will find a market wherever it is picked up. There can never be too many books about modes of transport, or indeed, machines.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

by Catherine Foreman
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775431596

by Catherine Foreman
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775431626

Book Review: Tractors, and Planes, by Catherine Foreman

Both of these books are available in bookstores now.

I was delighted to get these two new releasescv_planes from Scholastic NZ, both part of a new series called ‘Machines and me’. As a mother of two boys, I consider myself something of an expert on books about machines, and these did not fail to delight. Catherine Foreman won the Children’s Choice award for her book The Cat’s Pyjamas in the 2012 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards, and she was a good choice for this series.

Catherine has written both books in an easy, smooth rhyme, which trips off the tongue when reading aloud, and is not in the least contrived. Each book has also got an aspirational ending, which makes them slightly different from other books of their ilk, as the child is encouraged to use his/her imagination actively.
Planes begins by explaining what a plane does in easy words, then describes different types of planes. Planes with stripes and planes with lips, and planes that even land on ships is my favourite line from this one. The illustrations are clear and obvious, reflecting exactly on the words, with just enough flourishes to keep it interesting for a toddler. My nearly-3-year-old adored this, and the backgrounds on each image kept him asking questions, which is fantastic.

I really enjoyed the illustrations in Tractors, with the Fred Dagg and Andy Capp-like characters driving their tractors with their hats pulled over their eyes. While Catherine’s technical skill isn’t good enough to pull off an interior view of a tractor, the character of the books as a whole carries over this factor.

Both books would lend themselves well to baby board books, as early introductory readers, and I am certain they will sell well into the international market. A great couple of books, recommended for ages 1-5.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

by Catherine Foreman
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775431602

by Catherine Foreman
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775431619

Book review: The Cat’s Pyjamas by Catherine Foreman

This book is available in bookstores now and is a finalist in the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.

As soon as I saw the cover my kids and I were drawn to the book. My 4 year old couldn’t wait to sit down and have a look at his new book.

I love how colourful this book is, but was a bit put off by how it was ‘the cat’ and not simply ‘cat’. For me I felt that it would have flowed better without the ‘the’, at least for the first page and the pages where we were told what pyjamas he was going to wear each night. Other than that it is a great book.

Nice and easy to read, with great rhymes, I had to watch myself to make sure that I didn’t read it too fast.

And there are so many pictures for each night, that half the joy from reading the book came from pointing out everything that we could see on the pages.

When it comes to my monster sensitive son, I felt that the ending did not suit him, and would have been better if Cat had stayed awake all night to scare the monsters away. But still, a fun book, and well worth a read even if just for the pictures.

An 8 out of 10 from me.

Reviewed by Miriam Matthews, Facebook fan and her son.

The Cat’s Pyjamas
by Catherine Foreman
(Scholastic New Zealand)
ISBN 9781869439798