Book review: Bonkers about Beetles, by Owen Davey

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_bonkers_about_beetlesIf you have a young coleopterist (beetle scientist) at home, you need this book! Owen Davey has created a book that is aesthetically pleasing, practical and exactly what the title says – it’s bonkers about beetles!

The book is structured so new concepts are introduced on each double page spread with lots of visual information to help young readers interpret what they read. It follows a non-fiction book structure, so there is a contents page and index for older readers to search for specific information. On the first page, the author shares the definition for a beetle (I’ll be honest, this is when I started to learn!). Our children at daycare particularly love the Guinness Book of Records-style pages at the end. It shares beetle highlights, including, which beetle is the heaviest, fastest and who has the best facial hair!

Owen Davey has perfectly pitched the text and explains complex ideas in a way that young children will understand. The book is filled with scientific knowledge and facts that will intrigue, amuse and amaze. Did you know the Bombardier beetle shots an explosion of burning liquid from its bottom? This is the information young children really want to know! Welcome to the beetle eat beetle world of poop, parasites and ladybirds.

This is a non-fiction picture book that wouldn’t look out of place on the coffee table. There are no photos, instead the beetles are computer illustrations which highlight the pattern and beauty of each insect. These are not cartoons but works of art! We google searched several of the illustrated beetles to see how accurate the graphic recreations are and were amazed at the dopplegangers in the book! The teacher in me sees so many opportunities for creating our own art pictures and talking about the patterns we can see.

Bonkers about beetles is our new favourite reference book to satisfy our curiosity about beetles. Any young child curious about the natural world will enjoy this treasure that dives deeply into the beetle world and it will spark many more insect hunts in the backyard.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

Bonkers about beetles
by Owen Davey
Published by Flying Eye Books
ISBN 9781911171485

Book Review: Ping vs Pong, by Mauro Gatti

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_ping_v_pong.jpgEdamame beans may not be what you first think of when you want to explore themes of turn taking, resilience and empathy, but bear with me – you might find yourself as pleasantly surprised as I was.

Ping and Pong, the aforementioned edamame beans, were born on the same day, and share the dream of becoming world champion table tennis players. With hard work and perseverance, they achieve their goal, but then decided they need to go one further – which one of them is the best?

Of course, when someone has to be the winner, someone has to be the loser, and feelings get hurt. This is not the end of the story, of course …

With vibrant, engaging illustrations, my class of 5-7 year olds enjoyed the story, and were able to see the lessons in it. This isn’t a hard-hitting moralising story, quite light in fact, but it’s always a good thing when young children can see to the heart of a story.

Recommended for 4-8 year olds who are learning to take turns and mind other people’s feelings.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Ping vs Pong
by Mauro Gatti
Published by Flying Eye Books
ISBN  9781911171386

Book Review: Hugo Makes a Change, by Mauro Gatti and Scott Emmons

cv_hugo_makes_a_change.jpgAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

In this brightly illustrated book we are introduced to Hugo the Vampire. Hugo, just like any vampire, wakes at night and is feeling hungry. We find out that Hugo’s favourite food is “red, juicy, MEAT!” and it’s all he craves for every meal. As Hugo eats his way through hot dogs, turkey, roast, jerky, steak and salami each night he soon discovers his diet is making him feel sluggish and he grows tired of eating meat every night. Seeking variety her ventures out into the garden; but Hugo doesn’t like the look of the fruits and vegetables at all and decides he will never eat them.

However, a round, red apple catches his eye and after the first bite he decides that he will give fruits and vegetables a try. Now Hugo thinks fruits and vegetables are delicious and he eats them for every meal (along with his favourite meats of course). Nuts and raisins become Hugo’s favourite snacks and as he finds himself growing stronger and having more energy he is pleased he added fruits and vegetables to his diet.

This is an excellent book for promoting healthy eating in young children. Hugo the Vampire is easy for children to relate to if they find trying new food a bit daunting as he is hesitant to try fruits and veggies at first too! This book came at the perfect time as our preschool is currently exploring healthy eating and how to build strong muscles. The children responded positively to Hugo’s choice to try new foods and were quick to share that they were going to eat more fruits and vegetables to “get strong” like Hugo. I’m sure the very last page will leave children wondering about the little holes they might find in their fruit.

I also appreciated that Hugo didn’t entirely give up his favourite foods and decided that he could still eat meat as part of a balanced diet. The descriptive language paired with great rhyming made the book informative and fun to read. Emmons does a brilliant job of making different cuts and styles of meats into rhythmical rhymes while Gatti’s bold and colourful illustrations let us see how Hugo was feeling about his all-meat diet and his adventures in trying new foods.

It can be tricky to explain to young children why it’s important we eat a balanced diet with a variety of different foods but I think Hugo Makes a Change does this wonderfully. This book would make great tool for any teacher or parent who is trying to help their child make healthy eating choices.

Reviewed by Alana Bird

Hugo Makes a Change
by Mauro Gatti and Scott Emmons
Published by Flying Eye Books
ISBN 9781911171218

Book Review: The Secret of Black Rock, by Joe Todd-Stanton

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_secret_of_black_rockErin is desperate to go to sea in her mum’s fishing boat, enthralled by the tales she hears of the mysterious and dangerous Black Rock. Her daily attempts to sneak on board the boat are thwarted by her dog Archie, who sniffs her out every time. She’s very determined though, and one day her wish comes true, but disaster awaits.

At first I wasn’t sure which age group the book was pitched at – with environmental themes woven through the adventure plot, I thought it might be aimed at the more sophisticated picture book reader, aged about 9 or up. The plot is somewhat surrealist, and I wasn’t sure if younger readers would get it.

I needn’t have worried. My class of 5 and 6 year olds were transfixed from the first page, and it is honestly the most still they have been while I’ve read to them in a while. They hung off every word. When I finished they started a robust debate on whether the story was true or not.

The illustrations are detailed, with a subdued palate and little pops of colour. There’s lots to look at, and it would be a perfect book for an adult and child to snuggle up and explore. After reading it with my class, many children asked if they could have another look at it during the course of the day.

The publisher’s website recommends the book for 5-7 year olds, but I think it would be of interest to older children; the weaving of an environmental theme through what might otherwise be a relatively straightforward adventure story gives it more depth and would likely keep their attention.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

The Secret of Black Rock
by Joe Todd-Stanton
Published by Flying Eye Books
ISBN 9781911171256

Book Review: Boo!, by Ben Newman

cv_boo.jpgAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

This is the kind of book youngsters love; short and pithy with graphic pictures, and a narrative that even the littlest child can sense is going to end in a bang.

Ben Newman has his audience in the palm of his hand from the start, from the garishly coloured cover with its cut out eyes spelling “Boo” through to the ending which is funny and expected but also not expected, by an audience of the littlest. The five- and seven-year-old loved it and the older ones pretended not to, while looking over the shoulder of the reader and trying not to laugh at the unabated mirth of their siblings after each rendition.

I have to confess I enjoyed it too. Books like this one build a foundation for an ongoing love of reading in children, as well as developing in them a desire to discover things. The words and pictures may be simple but the message they teach is that it’s fun to learn, and that something unexpected is just around the corner if we keep on going.

Reviewed by Lesley Vlietstra

by Ben Newman
Published by Flying Eye Books
ISBN 9781911171058

Book Review: My Dad Used to be So Cool, by Keith Negley

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_my_dad_used_to_be_so_coolThis is a pretty special picture book that I’m sure will appeal to many dads, regardless of what their children think of them!

The narrator of the story is a young boy, observing that his dad had had an interesting youth, but now seems pretty “normal”. He wonders what has happened, and why his dad changed. While some parents manage to hang on to all their passions despite the pressures and realities of parenting, many parents will see something of themselves in this story.

As the story progresses, the boy acknowledges that his dad is still fun, if in a different way than he might have been in his pre-child life.

There’s a lot of truth in this story –children often see the adults in their lives one-dimensionally, and that dimension is solely within the child’s experience of their relationship. I was asked by a five-year-old yesterday if I slept in the office at school (they were surprised to learn that I lived in a house) – and I have had children freeze when they see me in the supermarket then run away, because they were so surprised to see me out of context. And there are many stories from life before being mum that my daughter has no idea of – and I’m sure the same is true for my own parents.

The illustrations use a bright colour palette, and are quite engaging. They work on a level for both children and adults, pairing well with the narrative, and the fold out surprise pages are a wee treat.

I read this to a class of 5-and-a-half year olds, wondering if the story was a little old for them. I needn’t have worried, as they were really engaged and told me lots of stories about their dads, particularly the tattoos their dads have!

I also sought the input of Rosa, an 8-year-old who I love sharing books with as she’s always got an interesting perspective. She enjoyed the book, and promptly told me a surprising fact about her dad that I hadn’t known. I’m firmly of the belief that any book that gets children engaged and talking is a good one – and I can promise all the dads whose secrets got revealed in the making of this review that they are safe with me!

With Father’s Day coming up, this would be a neat gift for the dad in your life, as well as for children aged 5-9. It’s a lovely book for sharing.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

My Dad Used to be So Cool
by Keith Negley
Reviewed by Flying Eye Books
ISBN 9781909263949