Book Review: Yackety Zac, by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Ross Kinnaird

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_yackety_zacWhen Booksellers sent out an email recently with a photograph of children’s books to be reviewed, and an instruction to ‘choose 3’, it was a classic case of judging a book by the cover – or title, in this case. The title and cover illustration Yackety Zac pretty much tells you everything you are going to need to know about this book, and I HAD to have it.

Don’t think you won’t be surprised by Yackety Zac though.  Yup, Zac talks A LOT, but I wasn’t expecting his talk to be so precociously early, or in rhyme. The rhymes scan well, and trip of the tongue with ease. The language is also rich, and exposes children to words they might not otherwise use, in the best traditions of Lynley Dodd and Margaret Mahy – this is always a very good thing.

The illustrations are hilarious and vibrantly coloured. The expressions on the other character’s faces convey exactly everyone’s reactions to Zac’s incessant talking, while Zac is joyfully oblivious. I also love the subtle messages on the doctor’s clinic wall – a good reminder for everyone about the reason why we have two ears and only one mouth.

The solution to Zac’s problem is funny and clever, and a nice play on an old idiom.  It ties up the story in a satisfying.  It was school holidays when I reviewed Yackety Zac, so I enlisted the help of my friend Lucas, who is 7, to give me his opinion. He thought it was very funny, and liked the conclusion as much as I did.

Lucas and I highly recommend this book for children from 3 years and up, and I think it will be a useful resource for teachers in particular (despite the rather unflattering portrayal of a teacher in the book!), to raise the issue of taking turn while talking in a humourous and fun way.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Yackety Zac
by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Ross Kinnaird
Published by OneTree House
ISBN 9780995106451

Book Review: Parakeet in Boots, by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Myles Lawford

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_parakeet_in_bootsThis is a hilarious Kiwi version of the fairy story Puss in Boots. There was once a farmer, who fell ill and died, leaving three sons and a farm to divide. The eldest received all the buildings and land, the next got the tractor and cash in the hand. But there in the will, to his youngest son Pete, all the farmer had left was his pet parakeet!

“What good’s a dumb parrot?” Pete cried in dismay.
“Don’t worry!” the bird squawked.
“I’ll see you’re okay.”
“Get me some ugg boots to warm up my feet,
plus a flax kete, and all will be sweet!”

The story continues on with the parrot “helping” Pete get what he needed in life including perhaps, the “girl of his dreams”.

A rather unique take on a classical fairy story. Both our 2 granddaughters were mesmerised by the idea of a parakeet taking charge of Pete’s destiny. I kept thinking of the parrot wearing ugg boots and wondering how on earth he could fly in such cumbersome things.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Parakeet in Boots
by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Myles Lawford
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434382

Book Review: Esau the Paw, by Chris Gurney, illustrated by John Bennett

This book is available in bookstores nationwide.

Esau the Paw is a cat – cv_esau_the_pawhe is like a big bloated fur ball. He struts and stalks as he checks out his domain. He often arrives back home to his Very Tall Mother in a bit of a mess. She patiently brushes out the knots and bothersome bits.

One day, unfortunately the administering from his Very Tall Mother isn’t enough and so Esau the Paw ends up at the vets. He wakes up BALD – all scrawny and skinny. Poor Esau the Paw cannot cope with this state of affairs – all sad and embarrassed.

What follows is a gorgeous story that my 3-year-old granddaughter was captivated by, asking all sorts of questions. Having two cats herself, she “knows” all about vets and stuff.

Chris Gurney is a New Zealand author. This is her 14th book for Scholastic. The illustrations by John Bennett are just wonderful and I’m sure this book will become a favourite in many households with young children.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Esau the Paw
by Chris Gurney, illustrated by John Bennett
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775431855

Book review: The Frog Footy Player by Chris Gurney

This book is in bookstores now.

Tucked away in a pile of cushions and beanbags on a chilly winter‘s afternoon in a busy school holiday programme was where I donned my test pilot gear to review this book.

Fifty four, 5 – 13 yr olds with their humour and honesty would be a pretty good guide.

Judging the book purely by its cover the majority vote from the group was that it was likely to be a story that perhaps the 5 -6 yr olds would love and not cool for anyone else. By the time the first three pages were read, wider appeal was obvious with a drop in the noise level, a decrease in the jiggling and wriggling of bodies and some older children, snuggling in closer to get a good look at the illustrations.

It was proving to be a story that related well to children who already had an interest and connection in their own lives to rugby, nature, farms, mud, food, fishing, family and our mighty All Blacks. Such strong connections creatively threaded together in rhyming, witty words are this book’s real strength.

At the end, when we had all munched on our own chocolate fish that I had tucked in my bag, the votes were in. 53 children scored it 8 or more out of 10 and it would probably appeal mostly to 5 – 9 yr olds.

The one other vote was a zero, as there was a determined opinion that the main character should have been a boy…

Reviewed by Julie King

The Frog Footy Player
Written by Chris Gurney, illustrated by John Bennett
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775430575