Book Review: Reena’s Rainbow, by Dee White and Tracie Greenwood

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_reenas_rainbowReena’s mother hits the nail on the head when she tells her: ‘We are like the colours of the rainbow. We are all different. But when we stand together, we are one’.

For Reena, her difference is that she cannot hear. Most of the time this doesn’t matter – she plays with lots of kids and is the best at finding the others when they play hide and seek. Although deaf, she sees and notices the little things the others miss: ‘she saw the leaves shimmer and dance in the breeze.’

Sometimes, though, her difference makes her feel left out and alone. Mum offers words of comfort but Reena still feels ‘periwinkle blue’ – a colour that doesn’t belong in the rainbow.

Kind-hearted and recognising that he needs a friend, she makes friends with the scruffy brown dog hiding in the shadows. Thanks to Reena and Dog’s sharp eyes and quick action, an accident is avoided. Dog is hurt and in helping him, Reena sees how he fits perfectly into her life ‘at the end of her bed, in the space under her chair, on the park bench next to her.’ Now sporting a cute rainbow collar, Dog becomes her best friend who helps her when she needs to hear; like when her friends are calling her to join their game.

Filled with engaging and colour filled illustrations, Reena’s Rainbow brings an important message of kindness, understanding and inclusiveness. It highlights the need to think of other’s needs to ensure all can participate in their own way, and helps show that everyone has individual strengths and differences that are valuable and are to be celebrated.

Dee White and Tracie Grimshaw have created a heart-warming tale of friendship which encourages empathy in a way that will appeal to young readers. It can open up conversations about diversity and acceptance; encouraging us to look past differences to really see the unique individual. This kindness and acceptance is beautifully portrayed in the last illustration – the group of children under a rainbow, learning sign language with Reena.

Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen

Reena’s Rainbow
by Dee White and Tracie Greenwood
EK Books, 2017
ISBN: 9781925335491

 

Advertisements

Book Review: Grace and Katie, by Suzanne Merritt and Liz Anelli

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_grace_and_katieGreat picture books have either a wonderful story and illustrations, or a profound message. The very best picture books manage to do both and Grace and Katie falls easily into this category.

Grace and Katie are sisters with totally different perspectives on art. While Grace enjoys using straight lines and order, Katie prefers colour and creativity. When they both decide to draw a picture of their home and the local park, the results are very different. The final results are not quite as satisfying as they would like. By sharing their skills and working together they create an artwork which combines accuracy with creativity.

Susanne Merritt is a passionate advocate for children’s literacy and as a Mum of 3 she has plenty of experience with the differences between siblings. Combined with the bright illustrations and detail of Liz Anelli, this book is a treasure.

I teach tolerance and difference to a Year 11 class, and asked if they would like me to read to them. They willingly sat on the mat as I shared Grace and Katie. The following discussion was wonderful as they picked up on the visual clues in the pictures. We talked about stereotyping and working with others. One girl explained that it could have been about her own experience as she was the creative one with a very orderly sister. This led to a sharing about gender stereotypes and the importance of being ourselves.

As a teacher, I see this as a great resource for starting discussions from pre-school level up. It is also a really lovely book to read and enjoy for the satisfying story, the wonderful pictures and the happy ending.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

Grace and Katie
by Suzanne Merritt and Liz Anelli
Published by EK Books
ISBN 9781925335545

Book Review: Grandma Forgets, by Paul Russell, illustrated by Nicky Johnston

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_grandma_forgets.jpgDementia is a very real issue for many families these days and younger members of any family would find it a very difficult thing to cope with. Grandma Forgets tells the story of a young girl, who has a outlook and wisdom that belie her years, dealing with her Grandma’s dementia. Instead of focusing on the negatives of the situation, the book is built on memories of earlier times, shared experiences and strategies cleverly inserted into the story that would benefit any family dealing with this issue.

Particularly appealing about this book is it’s attitude of kindness and gratitude for what once was and how much value is placed on a Grandma who can’t remember their names, love for Grandma is weaved like a thread throughout the story.

The story is illustrated with a fine hand, one that was able to match the words, feelings and unspoken thoughts in a way that brought a poignancy to the story, soft pastels, dark greys, everything fitted beautifully. This book needs to be in every library and on every bookshelf, it is so relevant in this day and age where so many struggle to guide their families through this issue, it is a enjoyable read and a great resource.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

Grandma Forgets
by Paul Russell, illustrated by Nicky Johnston
Published by EK Books
ISBN 9781925335477

Book Review: The Chalk Rainbow, by Deborah Kelly and Gwynneth Jones

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_chalk_rainbowIt is exciting to see so many books for children, which deal with diversity. As a teacher, I have always found that stories are the best way to approach the challenges of difference in our world. By sharing and discussing through stories, we are able to introduce a more open attitude as well as dealing with how to respond. Wonder, (Pelacio) did this brilliantly for older readers.

The Chalk Rainbow leads us into the autistic world of Zane through the eyes of his sister. She explains the everyday difficulties faced by her brother: his made-up language, fear of black, his meltdowns and the way he lines things up. We see the frustrations of his parents as they try to help. Finally, it is Zane’s older sister who helps us to see differently, through her chalk rainbows.

This story is simply told, and the illustrations support the text with detail and colour. We are led out into the streets the rainbows and Zane follows. Here is a story of trust, where we learn that unconditional love can help us to view things differently.

I would love to read this story to my classes as we discuss difference and prejudice.
There are many ways of solving problems and sometimes it is important to follow that rainbow.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

The Chalk Rainbow
By Deborah Kelly and Gwynneth Jones
Published by EK Books
ISBN 9781925335453

Book Reviews: Brachio, by Jill Eggleton, illustrated by Richard Hoit; Don’t Think About Purple Elephants, by Susan Whelan, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

Brachio, by Jill Eggleton, illustrated by Richard Hoitcv_brachio

Jill Eggleton will be familiar to many New Zealand teachers and parents for her literacy programmes and her huge catalogue of poems. Brachio is a picture book for up to 7 year olds which showcases Eggleton’s rich writing style.

Brachio is much bigger than the other dinosaurs and mouse lizards, so there’s bound to be a few problems when he heads out to join in a dance party. Being a kind and thoughtful kind of dinosaur, Brachio has a few solutions in mind.

Eggleton’s language is full of poetic language, with onomatopoeia, alliteration, rhythm and rhyme, and simile dripping off the page. This is helped by clever text design, which gives the reader lots of clues about where the emphasis should be, and adds visual interest for young readers. Not that visual interest is lacking – Hoit’s illustrations are vivid and colourful, full of the joy of dancing with your friends, and the problems that occur when dancers get a little too enthusiastic!

My class of 5 and 6 year olds love listening to the language as I read to them, and the book was in high demand afterwards, because, dinosaurs! This book also comes with a CD, read by Eggleton, with loads of expression and a fun backing track of dinosaur noises.

Don’t Think About Purple Elephants, by Susan Whelan, illustrated by Gwynneth Jonescv_dont_think_about_purple_elephants

Sophie is a busy, happy girl. She likes school, enjoys her loving family, and has good friends. The problem starts when she’s not busy. At bedtime, as she tries to go to sleep, worries crowd in on her, keeping her awake. All of the suggestions to help her sleep – a special book or teddy, or a drink of warm milk – just give her new things to worry about.
Children’s worries are often dismissed by adults; adults often don’t consider the things children worry about as important when compared to adult concerns. Most children do have worries, however, and to them they feel very real. A quick survey of my class of 5 and 6 year olds showed up common themes: not having someone to play with, someone being mean to them, something bad happening to a loved one, forgetting a book bag or lunch for school, not making it to the toilet on time, not being picked up at the end of the school day.

Whelan and Jones have put some thought into Don’t Think About Purple Elephants; they clearly know children, and they don’t dismiss Sophie’s worries, but try to resolve them. The illustrations are lovely – brightly coloured and happy when Sophie is busy, and grey and ominous with oversized objects when she is worried. The resolution to Sophie’s worries is relatively simple and one of those “why didn’t I think of that?” moments that parents and teachers have.

This is an enjoyable picture book to read together for children up to 8 or 9 years old, regardless of whether or not the child worries – but it would be a particularly good book to read with a child who is suffering from anxiety, it might just do the trick.

Reviews by Rachel Moore

Brachio
by Jill Eggleton, illustrated by Richard Hoit
Published by JillE Books
ISBN 9781927307809

Don’t Think About Purple Elephants
by Susan Whelan, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones
Published by EK Books
ISBN 9781921966699

Book Review: Dance with Me, by Penny Harrison, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones                         

Available in bookshops nationwide.Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_dance_with_meThis story of a music box ballerina and her changing relationship with the girl who owns he is an exquisite story, simple and delicate in its telling, yet threaded through with childish joy and the warmth of the things that cause us to form memories.

There is disappointment,change, adventures, there is scary stuff, there is resilience, then a most delightful twist. The introduction of the outside environment gives a whole lift to the story and takes it out of what could have been ordinary and gives the story a whole new dimension.

I very much liked how the story traveled along. The illustrations complimented the story perfectly, the colours fit with what was happening, they added an almost musical effect.

A delightful book that would make a wonderful gift, ballet fans would be enchanted but so would almost everyone else who picked it up.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

Dance with Me
by Penny Harrison, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones
Published by EK Books
ISBN 9781925335231

 

Book Review: Patch and Ruby, by Anouska Jones, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_patch_and-rubyA pony, a flock of gossipy chickens, a mouse couple with their children and a gardening ladybug and her family live happily together on a farm, along with Patch’s special girl, Sam. However, as the only pony amidst the groups of animal friends, Patch sometimes feels lonely. The first page says it all: “It wasn’t that he didn’t have friends. He did. But sometimes he felt like he didn’t quite fit in.” The illustration on this page rather cleverly enhances this feeling by showing only Patch’s leg – the other characters are there but poor Patch really doesn’t fit in the page.

Despite enjoying spending time with his friends, Patch feels something is missing. It is Sam who hits on an idea to help him… and along comes Ruby. After an initial stand-off, the two ponies become friends and “now life is different.” The daily routine remains the same, but is all the more enjoyable now that it can be shared by someone special.

The text is written to suit very young readers and its sentences, though simple, convey an important idea of friendship and belonging. There is also a gentle example of being a kind and thoughtful friend by watching out for and caring for others – Sam notices Patch is unhappy and thinks of a way to help him.

Gwynneth Jones’ illustrations work brilliantly together with the text. The characters are soft and friendly, and there are wonderful funny moments to look out for in the scenes (chooks with curlers and mice drinking tea – love it!).

Young readers will be drawn to the cute pony on the cover (as was I), and the story will appeal to those who love animals. Parents may find Patch and Ruby helpful for little ones who are still in the process of finding their special friends.

Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen

Patch and Ruby
by Anouska Jones, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones
EK Books
ISBN 9781925335224