Book Review: Feel a Little: Little Poems About Big Feelings, by Jenny Palmer, illustrated by Evie Kemp

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_feel_a_little_NZSharing our feelings is not only important for adults. The benefits of emotional literacy can be seen in children of all ages. This book is a collaboration by two people who addressed the need for this. It began as an online project where an emotion was featured each week. The poem for each emotion combines catchy rhymes with beautifully vibrant illustrations. There are 14 emotions in the book, a rainbow of expressions and images, that use colour to reinforce ideas. Following the success of the venture, the poems were gathered into this hard cover book which is best suited for 7-11 year olds.

While the poems are quite long and complex, they would make a useful starter as an educational focus. I could see myself in teaching, using a poem each week and basing activities on these. Movement, music and art would flow naturally from discussions about, “When I feel Sad”. In the home, the book might be read over a number of weeks allowing for family discussions about times when we have felt that emotion. I would struggle to read the whole book in a sitting, but do not feel this was the intended purpose of the authors.

Feel a Little is an exciting collaboration because it addresses the emotional needs of children in words and images. By choosing to publish these poems they will access a wider audience and be useful in many situations. My copy has already gone to my Grandaughter’s preschool who intend to use it in their programmes. That must be a sure sign of a successful book.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

Feel a Little: Little Poems About Big Feelings
by Jenny Palmer, illustrated by Evie Kemp
Published by Little Love
ISBN 9780473384456


Book Review: A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness, Illustrated by Jim Kay

Available in bookshops nationwide.Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_a_monster_calls_special“He heard the creaking and cracking of wood again groaning like a living thing, like the hungry stomach of the world growling for a meal.” Fourteen-year-old Conor O’Malley isn’t entirely surprised to wake up one night and discover a monster at the window. He has been expecting it for years and quite frankly, it is not as terrifying as the nightmare that has been plaguing him. The one he refuses to think about.

And now the Yew tree on the hill has somehow come to life and has grabbed him… and yet Conor is not afraid: “Shout all you want,” Conor shrugged, barely raising his voice. “I’ve seen worse.”

The next time the Yew tree monster returns, It and Conor meet in the dark where the monster reveals Its purpose. It will return to tell Conor three tales from Its vast and ancient history. In return, on the fourth visit, Conor must tell It a tale – the tale of his Truth. Conor is rightly incredulous – surely stories are not what monsters come after you for? However, this is no ordinary monster and a story is what it demands. ‘Stories are wild creatures,’ the monster said. ‘When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?’

To get to Conor’s truth, we follow a beautifully written coming of age story of a young boy trying to come to terms with his mother’s grave illness and the impact it has on him. With an absent father and a cold and aloof grandmother, Conor has no-one to help him deal with the inevitable. Instead he chooses to fervently believe she will get better and refuses to talk about it, secluding himself from friends and sympathetic teachers at school.

And what of the monster’s stories? Three clever fables that strive to show Conor that life can be unfair and things are not always as they appear; good and evil is not always easy to determine; good people do bad things, and bad people can do good things.

Powerful and gripping writing, accompanied by dark and vivid black and white sketch illustrations propel you through the story, reading faster to get to what is going to happen next. To see how Conor is faring, to see if he is going to be all right. And to see what the monster is going to reveal to him: (*ever so slight spoiler alert) “You do not write your life with words,’ the monster said. You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.”

This wonderful story was first published in 2011 and this re-release is a beautifully presented hardback edition complete with colour photos and interviews with the author and the actors who are bringing this story to life. The extra goodies complete the whole background to the story and bring extra depth to the tale.

Author Patrick Ness has said of this book: ‘A Monster Calls (is) never solely a book for children. A good story should be for everyone.’ And it is.

Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen

A Monster Calls (Special Collector’s Edition)
by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Jim Kay
Published by Walker Books
ISBN: 9781406395771

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

Book Review: The Volume of Possible Endings, by Barbara Else

Available now in bookstores nationwide.cv_the_volume_of_possible_endings

The third book in Barbara Else’s award-winning children’s book series, Tales of Fontania, The Volume of Possible Endings will continue to enthral and intrigue New Zealand bookworms both young and old.

It tells the unusual tale of twelve-year-old Dorrity, the only child in her village, and Metalboy, the runaway experiment created by a king. Dorrity and Metalboy embark on an adventure that will take them from Owl Town to the Fontania palace; on the way they discover an enchanted book that claims to know the five possible endings to Dorrity’s life story. As she struggles to discover what her future holds, the secrets of her past begin to reveal themselves.

As everything Dorrity thought she could rely on forever vanishes, she begins to realise that the five endings of her story are one by one coming true – even when she doesn’t want them to. But can Dorrity change the future that is written for her in The Volume of Possible Endings? And do the endings really mean what they seem to?

While the evil Count Bale tries to cause great amounts of trouble for Dorrity and Metalboy, the two friends must trust each other as they work together to learn the truth about their pasts and avoid the Count. Without each other’s friendship, there is little chance that they will get out of this mess in one piece…

The Volume of Possible Endings introduces many new quirky and quaint characters into the Tales of Fontania universe. With rich prose, magic, adventure and a metal boy with a heart of red jasper, Barbara Else’s storytelling skills have reached a new level of total and utter brilliance. The fantasy world of Fontania is one that children will be visiting for many years to come.

Reviewed by Tierney Reardon

The Volume of Possible Endings
by Barbara Else
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781927271377

Book Review: Hey Mum, I love you, by Corinne Fenton

Available in bookstores nationwide. 

Corinne Fenton is an Australian children’s cv_hey_mum_i_love_youauthor living in Melbourne. She has written a number of books – Curious Charlotte, Mum and the Blowfly, being a couple of them. She also writes under the name Corinne King.

Hey Mum, I love you is a beautiful book with large photos accompanying the text. ‘Hey Mum, I love you more than the prickliest tickle, the softest sigh, the best kept secret.’ The photos are mainly of female animals with their young showing affection (a monkey having a cuddle with its Mum).

The text is simple and would absolutely appeal to very small children. I can imagine Mum’s reading this book and doing some of the actions with their children. It would make ideal reading for bedtime.

The photos are quite stunning. I can’t wait to read this to my little grandson Logan (2) in Queenstown when we visit in a couple of months.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Hey Mum, I love you
by Corinne Fenton
Published by Black Dog Books
ISBN 9781922244581



Book Review: The Weasel Puffin Unicorn Baboon Pig Lobster Race, by James Thorp and Angus Mackinnon

Available now in bookstores. cv_the_weasel_puffin_etal

This is a quirky, funny picture book, obviously about a race. The animals involved all have their own ways of trying to win, but you’ll be happy to know that cheats are defeated in the end!

The double-page arrangement of rhyming text on one page, with illustrations on the facing page, is cleanly set out, and the artwork is witty and more complex than it first appears. Very small kids might need some help with locating some of the characters in each picture, but the adults will take great pleasure from some of the weirder illustrations – the queen gets a look in, and the unicorn seems to be channeling Eeyore!

I thought it was a delightful book, and it has the added advantage of being hardback on good paper. Beatnik is a publisher to look out for. They only publish things which they like, so if your sense of humour is a little off-beat, and you like things which are well-designed and presented, you might like to hunt down other books from their list.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

The Weasel Puffin Unicorn Baboon Pig Lobster Race 
by James Thorp and Angus Mackinnon
Published by Beatnik Publishing
ISBN 9780992249311

Summer Reading Catalogue: Children & Young Adult

Welcome to our final dispatch from the front line about the Indiebound Christmas Summer Reading catalogue.

toucan_canOur top pick in the Children & Young Adult section for summer is Toucan Can, by Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis. My glowing review of this can be found here – and when I bumped into Juliette at a launch of another book on the list (A Book is a Book) she said that Sarah had emailed her ‘we made somebody cry! How cool!’

Most of our suggestions for younger readers have been on the bestsellers’ lists for weeks and are all worth looking at. Since they were released, the two Scholastic titles, My Daddy ate an Apple by Craig Smith and She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain, featuring a CD of the Topp Twins singing the eponymous song, have been jostling for top spot on the Poppies NZ Summer Cat 13_sml_Page_6_smlChildren’s and Teens Nielsen bestseller list. Another great suggestion is the Donovan Bixley-illustrated edition of Dashing Dog, by Margaret Mahy (HarperCollins NZ).

Junior fiction offerings include A Book is a Book (Gecko Press), by Jenny Bornholdt and Sarah Wilkins, which is a perfect celebration of reading for children and adults of any age. Donovan Bixley’s sophisticated picture book The Weather Machine (Hachette NZ) has also been reviewed favourably here, by Sue Esterman. And The Boring Book, by Vasanti Unka is a delightful dance of words, beautifully designed and illustrated by Vasanti, and published by Penguin.

It is difficult to go past Mortal Fire (Gecko Press), by Elizabeth Knox, for older readers, particularly those who enjoy magical realism (as I do). Set in the same world as the Dreamhunter duet, the story carries us on into a world post-dream palaces. Neil Gaiman also has a bit of magic in his bestselling Fortunately, the Milk…(Bloomsbury), which has received rave reviews worldwide.

John Boyne’s Stay where you are and then leave (Random House) is destined to be a classic, and is based on a boy’s search for his missing father during the First World War – perhaps something to heighten your teen’s awareness of the coming centenary?

The Divergent series of books (Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant)cv_allegiant by Veronica Roth are going to be selling out all over the country in the lead-up to the release of the first movie based on these books on 10 April 2014. The final story in this trilogy, Allegiant, has now been published, and we encourage you to pick up all three as a great gift for your teen reader this summer.

Our other top pick is by an author vaunted as the ‘next Roald Dahl’, David Walliams. High praise! Demon Dentist is ‘a hilarious and teeth-chatteringly thrilling tale about an evil dentist who has an over-the-top devotion to teeth extractions…’ This sounds like a perfect book for the Jeff Kinney and Andy Griffiths-loving child in your life.

The staff at Booksellers NZ wish you and your families all the best for the Christmas period. We look forward to carrying on reading, reviewing and recommending fantastic books in the New Year.

P.S.  We ran out of time to cover the final two pages in the catalogue which feature, respectively, Kitchen, Home & Lifestyle (hint, try our article in The Read about cookbooks for tips in this category), and Travel & Sport. Whether you are a bit of Bear Grylls or one of life’s cruisy armchair readers the Christmas Catalogue has something to tickle your fancy. We hope some books from within are winging their way to a Christmas tree near you.

by Sarah Forster