Having a baby? You’ll need (kiwi) books!

By books, I don’t mean books telling you what to do when you have a baby, though a couple of them might be a good idea early on in the pregnancy. Really, don’t look at them later though as it’s a sure way to convince yourself you’ll never be good at this parenting gig. I’m not going to suggest titles of pregnancy/ parenthood books, but Kaz Cooke is amazing and I keep seeing stuff around about Constance Hall’s Like a Queen, and um did you know Emily Writes has a book coming? Anyway.

What is really important, is starting your new bump’s very own library. Your first stop is going to be school fairs – think Spot, Dr Seuss, the eponymous Golden Books. And make sure you have plenty of board books – not only are they tear-proof for destructive-minded toddlers, but they are easier to hold with one hand while breastfeeding. And your second stop – bookshops, of course. Perhaps for Bookshop Day this Saturday 29 October?

All of these essential first kiwi books are available in board book format.

cv_the_noisy_book1. The Noisy Book, by Soledad Bravi (Gecko Press)
Nothing beats it. My boys have destroyed two copies of this – the only notable change in the second edition being a PC-ism of Spinach – it was just ‘Yuk’ now it goes ‘Yuk Yum’. Possibly for the American market?
2. Hairy Maclary Touch & Feel, by Lynley Dodd (Puffin)
Your baby will love touch & feel books, and be disappointed with any books that don’t have this function, right until they are around 2.5 years old. This is a favourite, with lots of fuzzy, soft and velvety dog fur.
3. ABC, 123 and Colours, by James Brown and Frances Samuel (Te Papa Press)cv_my_NZ_ABC_book
These books are gorgeous and genuinely inventive. A may be for Apples, but they are big, shiny Billy Apples – we get relevant letter-meanings, gorgeous countables and the most wonderful artwork in Colours. Just brilliant.
4. Duck’s Stuck, by Kyle Mewburn and Ali Teo (Scholastic NZ)
So you don’t believe that a tiny baby discovers their literary taste literally on the boob? Think again! This book was my bedside book while I fed my little baby to sleep, and is still now a fallback when every other book is rejected. Thank you, Kyle – this is a gift he gave me when still pregnant with number 1, and it’s still going strong.
construction_crew5. Roadworks, Demolition and Construction, by Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock (Walker Books) – available now in a box set.
These are must-haves for the machine-mad child. This was so popular with my older boy when he was 2 there were thoughts of “losing” it for awhile…
6. The Wheels on the Bus (Hachette), The Great Kiwi ABC Book (Upstart Press) and Old McDonald Had a Farm (Hachette), by Donovan Bixley
Okay, you may think once you’ve seen one version of these classics you’ve seen them all, but Bixley’s richly detailed, characterful illustrations make sure this isn’t the case with these books.
cv_the_big_book_of_words_and_pictures7. My Big Book of Words and Pictures, by Ole Konnecke (Gecko Press)
My first child, age 2, insisted that we made up stories based on the pictures on each of the pages of this book. Every Single Night. It was wonderful, most of the time. But seriously, this is a top-of-the-line word learning book, with a bit of a story on each page to help the tired parent’s mind. This could, admittedly, be a first birthday present.
8. Stomp! By Ruth Paul (Scholastic NZ)
Ruth Paul’s Stomp! is a great first dinosaur adventure, where small turns the tables on big when it’s their turn to lead the pack. Subtle, effective illustrations make sure there’s something to discover on every re-read. And there will be plenty.
9. Piggity-Wiggity Jiggity-Jig, by Diana Neild, illustrated by Phillip Webb (Scholastic NZ)
One of the best rhythmic books out there, this is the first in a series about Piggity, with the slightly awkward name. A huge favourite with no 1 kid, it didn’t really work for no 2, and fair warning it is a little long when you have a small baby; maybe one to jiggle the cot to for a night-time read.cv_kakahu_getting_dressed
10. Kākahu – Getting Dressed; Kararehe – Animals; and Kanohi – My Face, by Kitty Brown and Kirsten Parkinson (Reo Pepi)
Essential first Te Reo titles, teaching the very young some essential first words in Te Reo to begin their understanding of New Zealand’s own language.
11. Colours, and Animals, by Donovan Bixley (Hachette NZ)
A similar concept as above, including Te Reo first words, with Bixley’s usual cast of animated characters, which will be familiar to anybody who has read his Old McDonald’s Farm or Wheels on the Bus stories.
12. Mrs Wishy-Washy, by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Elizabeth Fuller
Mrs Wishy-Washy is an enduring favourite for my youngest boy, though I will admit that sometimes when he has nightmares they appear to include Wishy-Washy and Grandma (possibly related to that one time we left him to go to sleep with Grandma: the trauma!) The words trip off the tongue, and you’ll have it memorised in no time. Joy Cowley is a national treasure.

Now, a disclaimer that will be familiar to anybody who has had the pleasure of being at The Children’s Bookshop in Kilbirnie when John McIntyre hosts a parents night. Before you buy your library, go to the library – with your child, if they are already born! Every child is different – my boys have very few of their preferred books in common – but all of these books are quality. Writing, production & everything: brilliant.

So here’s the sell: It’s NZ Bookshop Day on 29 October: what better chance to go out and get your little ones some quality kiwi (and translated, in the case of the Gecko Press) books! Most of the bookshops participating will be giving out books to kids who come in-store dressed up, and there are children’s authors popping up in bookshops all over New Zealand. Here’s the event calendar, so get your skates on!

by Sarah Forster

Book Review: Construction, by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Lovelock

Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock will be at the Wellington Storylines Family Day this Sunday 24 August. The Children’s Bookshop will be selling this book there, but it is not released into other stores until Monday 1 September. 

A few years ago I knew nothing about pre-school construction books, but since having my son – a serious collector of anything to do with diggers – I feel I can claim expert status.cv_construction

Construction is the new children’s book by Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock, the pair who created the award-winning Roadworks and its followup, Demolition. Sutton has been quoted as saying, ‘For me, language is music. I want my books to sound good!’ This is certainly the case with Construction, which is noisy and energetic. Aimed at ages two to five, the story follows the construction of a library, from a digger first breaking the ground, to the building’s roof going on. At the end of the story a group of children visit the new library: ‘Ready … Steady … Read!’

Construction uses a similar structure to that of Roadworks – a description of the action followed by onomatopoeic words – and while this isn’t original, it’s certainly effective. The repetition and rhyme allows pre-schoolers to easily learn the story, and they will be excited to make these sounds along with the reader. As a parent, the book is fun to read aloud. For example, the first page: ‘Dig the ground. Dig the ground. Bore down in the mud. Shove the piles in one by one. Slip! Slap! Thud!’

Brian Lovelock has created the book’s illustrations with pigmented inks, and the bright colours and paint splatter effect are textural and interesting. While both my son and I enjoyed making the loud noises, it was Lovelock’s illustrations that held our interest. My son asked about many of the details and this allowed me to talk to him about the different aspects of the construction process. Through the illustrations Lovelock brings concrete mixers, diggers, trucks, powertools, and a pair of very splattered painters to life. The painters page is probably my favourite: ‘Glug! Glop! Gloop!’

Lovelock’s style is three dimensional and technical, and he often uses perspective to create interest. We see the library roof being fitted from a bird’s-eye-view, while the illustration of the skill-saw is a closeup. These are wonderfully open and generous illustrations. One of the most positive aspects of the book is the female builders, some of who are in charge of the action. This is a change from other picture books about heavy machines or building sites, which often have all male characters. The book’s final message, that “the library’s here for everyone” and kids can “borrow all you need,” is also different from other building books, which often focus on the machines and noise. It’s a sweet reminder that it was a book that let us see into the world of construction.

Written by Sarah Jane Barnett

Written by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Lovelock
Walker Books, 2014
$15.99 RRP, hardback
ISBN 9781922077301