Book Review: A Kiwi Day Before Christmas, by Yvonne Morrison & Deborah Hinde

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_a_kiwi_day_before_christmasWe all know the classic story about Santa Claus living at the North Pole along with Mrs Claus and of course not forgetting those wonderful reindeer, but now we have our very own Kiwi version.

Santa was down at the bach fishing when Mrs Claus comes along and reminds him that he needs to get cracking as the big day isn’t far away. He then remembered that it was Christmas tonight so he had better get himself organised. He packs up his gear and heads up the hill at full speed on his quad bike after a quick brekkie of toast and yeast spread (maybe marmite??). Santa’s helpers were having lots of fun and all the gift wrapping was almost completed.

All the finished pressies were stuffed in a sack and he got out his tractor. It needed a spruce up first, so Santa took it to the petrol station taking it through the car wash. With everything organised it was now time to get the team together. Where were the sheep? The last time he’d seen them was on Main Street at the Christmas parade. They’d all gone off to have a break before the big day. Santa was starting to feel a bit concerned. Shaun had gone diving and swimming with the seals while Buffy had gone shopping to find the best deals. Jason and Flossy had gone wine tasting while Bossy went zorbing and onto a zip line.

This is one heck of a story and one that will be received with a bit of trepidation by young ones, as they know that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole and it’s reindeer, rather than sheep, involved in getting the sleigh through the night, delivering presents all around the world.

I read this story to 4-year-old Quinn. A look of disbelief on her face with lots of questions forthcoming. Where are the elves in this story Grandma? ‘I don’t believe this one’ – clapping a hand over her face very dramatically. ‘Are you telling porkies Grandma?’ Who knows, I might be, but then I may well not be!

A fabulous story and one that I think will be a hit this year with young ones. The illustrations are just great, capturing just the right tone, and bringing the story together.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

A Kiwi Day Before Christmas
By Yvonne Morrison, illustrated by Deborah Hinde
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434108

Book Review: Lonely Planet Wellness Escapes

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_wellness_escapesWellness escapes have been around for quite a number of years but most of us only dream of escaping everyday life to kick back and relax for a while. These escapes come in many forms. Many more than most of us could even imagine. They’re in many countries with some having a big price tag and others more affordable.

To help you along the way to choose an escape to fit your time frame and budget this book by Lonely Planet is divided into different sections. Active – yoga – outdoor adventure – fitness classes. Calm – yoga – nature – meditation. Healthy – nutrition – nature – spa treatments. Indulged – spa treatments – food & drink – luxury. Inspired – creative classes – personal growth – culture. Some are just destinations where you can stay elsewhere and attend classes during the day as often as you want or go and enjoy a day spa, while others are live in and all inclusive. The latter rather appeals to me, but then that would depend where you go and how much you can afford. Some are quite reasonable while others sound as though you need to mortgage your life away. The destinations are as exotic or as remote as you like – close to home or in some wonderful island destination.

New Zealand has a number to choose from. Aro Ha in Glenorchy just out of Queenstown. At one end of the price scale, a 5-night wellness adventure with gluten-free and vegetarian cuisine will set you back $NZ5200, or you can go to Split Apple Retreat for a Taste of Wellness package from NZ$6700, while at Solscape in Raglan you can get a  double tipi (tent) for $NZ87 per night with organic plant-based meals (or bring your own food to prepare in the communal kitchen.) Split Apple Retreat offers meditation, spa treatments, hikes in the beautiful landscape finishing the day off with an evening meal with multiple courses leaning heavily towards locally sourced vegetables and fish. As a bonus at this retreat you are given a complimentary cookbook to take home as a memento of your visit.

If you fancy somewhere more exotic you could travel to Costa Rica to Blue Spirit. This is perched on a hilltop overlooking white-sand beaches and the Pacific Ocean. This retreat offers an all-inclusive retreat with prices starting at $AUS1500. Local, organic, gourmet, mostly vegetarian food with some fresh fish is offered. It offers simple rooms that take advantage of the ocean or nature views or you can choose to stay in an eco-cottage or glamping style tent pitched in the lush rainforest. Spa treatments, a salt water infinity pool and an inviting ocean via a lush walk through coconut palms. You can also add a “longevity” programme to your visit, taking advantage of the opportunity to thoroughly cleanse and detox during your stay.

I enjoyed fantasising about which retreat I would like to travel to and stay. But when I really thought about it, I know that I am quite happy to indulge myself every now and then in a few spa treatments at a local beauty salon near home. I have the choice of one across the road (a spa business run from home) or going through to Rotorua which is only a 45-minute hop from home to a day spa at the Polynesian Pools. Neither of these are featured in this book – mores the pity!

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Lonely Planet Wellness Escapes
Published by Lonely Planet
ISBN 9781787016972

Book Review: The Lonely Little Tree, by Moya Kirby

Where once grew a forest near the sea,
One tree was left – one tiny tree.
Her forest friends had been cut away,
and she was left, alone to stay.

cv_the_lonely_little_treeThis is a uniquely New Zealand Christmas story about a tree that was all by itself wondering how it was going to survive and what it’s future held. The lonely little tree thought perhaps he could become a Christmas tree. Birds gathered around with the fantail deciding that all the birds around would help make the poor little tree their Christmas tree.

Pukeko wasn’t so sure. He wondered where they were going to get a star to crown the tree or Christmas lights or tinsel to decorate. Ruru thought that two huge, round eyes in his head at night would gleam like stars. Clematis blossoms will glow in the trees leaves at night.

So, between all of them the Lonely Little Tree was duly decorated. This is a beautiful story that will resonate with children of all ages. We all know of a tree standing on its own somewhere whether it be in our garden or on the coast by the sea or on its own on a farm. Decorating our trees in a uniquely Kiwi style could well set a style all of its own. The only obstacle is our imagination.

I read this story to 4-year-old Quinn. As I was reading this book she was eyeing up a tree standing all on its own in her garden – a rather dead one I must confess! I can see a project coming.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

A New Zealand Christmas Story: The Lonely Little Tree
by Moya Kirby, Illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775435297

Book Review: We’ve Got a Boat, by Jay Laga’aia and Donovan Bixley

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_we've_got_a_boatThanks to New Zealand’s recent history of America’s Cup challenges, most Kiwi’s are well-versed in our collective yachting endeavours. The cup has captured the heart of the nation and been at times extremely exciting. When it came to light the late Sir Peter Blake wore his lucky red socks in the final push for our first win, we all donned them to wish him well the next time.

We’ve got a boat that flies across the water,
We’ve got a boat that flies across the sea.
You know this boat, it’s sailed from Aotearoa
It stays afloat because it’s carried by Kiwis.

This is a great book with the America’s cup campaign starting in the next couple of years, and with New Zealand defending the cup. The illustrations by Donovan Bixley are bright and clear, and include native birds and farm animals filling in for the crew. The crews from other countries are depicted as a variety of other hilariously depicted animals.

At the back of this book are photos and facts about crew and the boats used in previous campaigns. Also accompanying this book is a CD, sung by Jay Laga’aia, who also authored this book.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

We’ve got a Boat
by Jay Laga’aia and Donovan Bixley
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775435303

Book Review: New Zealand Adventures by Rail, by Denis Dwyer

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_new_Zealand_adventures_by_railWhen I first received this book my first thoughts were ‘what do I know about trains? I’ve hardly ever been on one,’ but how wrong could I be. This is an extremely entertaining account of Denis Dwyer’s fascination with all things trains and the amazing train journeys around New Zealand. And as it turned out, I actually have been on quite a number of the train journeys that Denis writes about in this book.

This book is divided into chapters detailing the different train journeys that Denis, and occasionally his wife Dale, have traveled on around the country. I have experienced the Capital Connection, Wellington suburban from the Kāpiti coast into Wellington, and I agree that it is a great journey with such contrasting scenery.

Glenbrook Vintage Railway is another that Dwyer describes his experience of, talking to the volunteers that happily give up their leisure time to spend hours talking to people and taking people on the wonderful railway that has been re-built and maintained by many volunteers over a lot of years. Thomas the Tank Engine weekends have been a great drawcard to families, including my own. My grandchildren absolutely loved the whole experience. Well worth a trip out there.

Driving Creek Railway is another wonderful rail trip. Travelling up to the Coromandel, Barry Brickell started this railway as a means to transport potting clay to his workshop. The bush had all been decimated by Kāuri logging. Barry had a vision of replanting and restoring the native bush. The railway was later developed to carry tourists. Brickell made sure his vision would carry on without him by putting the entire operation into a trust so that it will continue on into perpetuity.

One of my very favourite rail journeys, which Dwyer describes, was the TranzAlpine from Christchurch to Greymouth. This is a wonderful journey with so much incredible scenery to enjoy.

I really enjoyed this book with Denis’s various anecdotes about people working on the rail lines, on the trains during the journeys and the passengers. In an era where everything is about rushing and getting places in record times it’s wonderful to be able to kick back and enjoy a more leisurely way of travel. It is a great way to see a country.

This book would be a great present for Christmas for someone in the family that you know enjoys train journeys.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

New Zealand Adventures by Rail
by Denis Dwyer
Published by New Holland Publishers
ISBN 9781869664916

Book Review: Where’s Kiwi NOW? Illustrated by Myles Lawford

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_wheres_kiwi_now.jpgWith more than 800 things to spot this will keep the younger ones in your family occupied for an hour or two.

Kiwi is in his flying egg time-travel machine. Can you spot him?  Where is he?  Stegosaurus, Tyrannosaurus and Who-saurus? An you spot some of his mates; Sporty Sheep, Gumboot Guy, Wacky Wizard, Tricky Tuatara or Mystery Moa? They are all there. Are they visiting the Ice Age Rage or are they in the time of the taniwha and mystery moa or are they in the battle of the beasts – a riot in Rome where swords clash and chariots race? They have to be there somewhere.  What about the medieval upheaval in the dawn of dungeons and, dragons. Exploring across the high seas with cannons on pirate ships, plundering jewels and gold and so much more??

A book designed to keep the reader on their toes, seeing which character they can find out of Kiwi and his mates.

The attention to detail in the illustrations is staggering and having a Kiwi version of Where’s Wally is an added bonus for fans.  Suitable for all ages big and small, this is a great book to engage with the younger members of your family.

My granddaughters Quinn (4 years old) and Abby (7 years old) were both leaning in to me to see who could spot one of the characters the fastest. Great entertainment.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Where’s Kiwi NOW? 
Illustrated by Myles Lawford
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775435266

Book Review: Pathway of the Birds – The voyaging achievements of Māori and their Polynesian Ancestors, by Andrew Crowe

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_pathway_of_the_birdsAnthropologist Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter Buck) described ancient Polynesians as supreme navigators of history. Their double-hulled, sewn plant canoes propelled by woven mat sails explored the far reaches of the Earth’s greatest ocean.

Captain James Cook between the years 1769 and 1779 visited more Polynesian islands than any other European explorer before him.

Andrew Crowe in Pathway of the Birds explores the history of movement among the islands of the Pacific and the means of transport with the development of boat designs and the possibilities and archaeological finds of some of the various remote islands in the Pacific and the deep ocean voyages that were deliberate and planned. He also notes the different species of native birds and lizards and how they differ between the islands, and the tools used by the inhabitants and the purpose for what they were used.

This covers a subject of great interest to many readers with over 400 photos and illustrations breaking up the text.

While I found this book extremely interesting I did struggle at times to take in the information. As a New Zealander whose ancestors come from other places this highlights to me the courage and tenacity of Polynesian inhabitants and their desire to travel and explore the Pacific.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Pathway of the Birds: The voyaging achievements of Māori and their Polynesian
Ancestors
by Andrew Crowe
Published by David Bateman Ltd
ISBN 9781869539610