Book Review: Zigzags and Leapfrogs, by Maris O’Rourke

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_zigzags_and_leapfrogsBorn on a small island in Scotland to a local girl and an Australian serviceman, Maris O’Rourke was raised in a working class, dysfunctional, often violent household, around the UK and Europe. She went on to become the secretary for education for New Zealand, the director of education at the World Bank, an international education consultant, and an author.

Her memoir Zigzags and Leapfrogs introduces the reader to her first grandchild and the excitement of being called Nan in the opening chapter, before taking a step back to Scotland and delving into her early years.

At aged nineteen Maris obtained a passport and set off to see the world, beginning with Canada, then Hawaii, and on to New Zealand, where she met her husband Philip.

Settling in the North Island the couple became involved in skiing on Mount Ruapehu and even after her children arrived, Maris spent many hours with them in the snow, as well as continuing to study and work.

The inclusion of poems, photographs, short stories and paper cuttings together with vignettes of her life make this a fascinating read as we come to understand how O’Rourke juggled her personal life with professional responsibilities.

In 2008 Maris attended a poetry course and introduced herself to the group saying, “Each year I like to do something completely different, something challenging, something risky that gives me what I call a frisson of fear….. I’m a complete novice about poetry-  so I’m here to learn.”

These thoughts are reflected throughout her memoir and I gained the impression O’Rourke has had a life well filled and well lived. She has skillfully written of her joys and disappointments but through this inspiring read, her determination and ambition shine through as she juggles motherhood, high powered jobs, as well as continually re-educating herself.

It is a good read, flows well and her humour helps to lighten some of the darker patches in her life, so this book is a great example how perseverance brings success and would be of value to people at all stages of their life .

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

Zigzags and Leapfrogs
by Maris O’Rourke
David Ling Publishing
ISBN 9781927305515

Book review: The Little Kiwi and the treaty, by Nikki Slade Robinson

Available at bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_little_kiwi_and_the_treatyThis is another gem of a book in the Little Kiwi series by Nikki Slade Robinson.  Little Kiwi’s Koro tells the story of their ancestors coming from different lands.  Koro’s ancestors were the best food finders in the land and the ancestors of Kuia were known as the best nest builders.

They settled on the same land and a fight broke out before the chiefs stepped forward to find a resolution to the conflict. The author talks through the tense negotiations, staying true to the high emotions we all feel when we need to compromise! Te reo Māori is woven throughout the text – and many words are quietly translated as you read along (perfect for introducing new vocabulary).

The text is beautifully accompanied by Nikki’s illustrations. We are transported back in time by the clever use of black and white pictures when Koro is remembering the past. I still love all the emotion Nikki can portray with Little Kiwi – and the little details which distinguish each character (especially the pounamu being worn by the chiefs).

The familiar characters of Little Kiwi and her family introduces ideas about family history and identity to young children. Through Koro’s story we also come to understand what a treaty is. It is a gentle reminder for all children about friendship, conflict resolution and learning from each other.

It is a picture book that can be a wonderful teaching tool to talk about co-operation or simply enjoyed for the wonderful story-telling within.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

The Little Kiwi and the Treaty
by Nikki Slade Robinson
Published by David Ling Publishing
ISBN 9781927305485

Book Review: Sam and the Dog from the Sea, by Judy and Dick Frizzell

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_sam_and_the_dog_from_the_sea.jpgSam is an old sailor who still wears his captain’s hat with a seagull’s feather stuck into the band. He lives in an old tramcar decorated with treasures sourced from his scavenging among the flotsam and jetsam that the tides bring in.

A storm is on the horizon and Sam, lying in bed can hear the roaring of the winds and the lashing of the rain against his windows. He gets up early the next morning walking along the beach looking for possible treasures. He finds what he thinks is a dead seagull or an old towel but as he picks it up he sees it is a dog, probably dead, but then a little brown eye opens. Taking it home wrapped up in his woollen jersey he hurries home. Putting the dog in front of the fire Sam towels the poor animal dry, fluffing up his soft white fur.

This is a beautiful story of love and friendship between a dog and an old man. Gorgeous illustrations, and the accompanying storyline is delightful.

Dick Frizzell is well-known to most New Zealanders as an artist. His wife Judy had written the story with Dick using his talents to compliment what is an already wonderful story.

This book was first published more than 30 years ago in 1988. On some friends urging, Judy and Dick Frizzell released this book once again. A fantastic decision as I haven’t read it before to any of my grandchildren. This story was received enthusiastically by my 3 ½ year old granddaughter Quinn.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Sam and the Dog from the Sea
by Judy and Dick Frizzell
Published by David Ling Publishing
ISBN 9781927305416

Book Review: Dragons Under My Bed, by Kath Bee, illustrated by Lisa Allen

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_dragons_under_my_bedWhen I was a child, I was sure once the light went out in my room that strange creatures lurked under the bed and in my wardrobe. If I’d been given a copy of Kath Bee’s book, Dragons Under My Bed, I’m sure I would have slept better!

Illustrated beautifully by Lisa Allen, this book tells of the adventures of a family of dragons who come out to play under a young boy’s bed once his mother turns out the light.

First of all he hears giggling, then sees glowing red eyes… followed by puffs of smoke and deep breathing. He hasn’t got just one dragon under his bed, oh no, he’s got a whole family!

He’s quick to say they don’t hurt him, but they do seem to be responsible for making one heck of a mess on his bedroom floor. Strangely enough, they seem to do all the sorts of things little boys do in their rooms, like throwing clothes, books and toys on the floor.

When his mother comes along the hall to see what’s making all the noise, wouldn’t you know it, the family of dragons disappears back under the bed and you can imagine who gets the blame for the mess!

This book is great as a read-along as well as a picture book for younger children. There are lots of things to spot on each page – especially the one with all the books, as it features a book titled How to Build a Dragon-fired Pizza Oven!

The simple, colourful illustrations will delight children and can be used to help them identify different objects. The book has a downloadable link to an accompanying song, providing even more fun and value.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

Dragons Under My Bed
by Kath Bee, illustrated by Lisa Allen
Published by David Ling Publishing
ISBN 9781927305355