Book Review: Waiting for Goliath, by Antje Damm

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_waiting_for_goliath.jpgIn this sweet but not saccharine story about true friendship, Bear is waiting patiently for his best friend Goliath. The seasons slowly change and still Goliath doesn’t come, but Bear keeps his faith, and is rewarded at last.

A gentle but not simple story, Waiting for Goliath celebrates the virtues of patience and loyalty, and the extraordinary illustrations will delight readers both young and old.

Gecko Press describe Antje Damm’s method as creating dioramas out of cardboard then photographing them, giving them ‘a special lumosity and depth’. I can’t think of a better way to describe the illustrations; they’re captivating, and have little details that will entrance younger readers. I feel rather like I could get sucked into the pictures, and keep returning to the book time and again to look at them.

I read Waiting for Goliath to my class of 5 and 6 year olds, who enjoyed the illustrations as much as I did. They loved that genuine surprise when Goliath was revealed, and it lead to conversations about friendships, and being a good friend.

Highly recommended for children from 3 upwards.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Waiting for Goliath
by Antje Damm
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571413

Book Review: Helper and Helper, by Joy Cowley

Available in bookshops nationwide.

Helper Helper is shortlisted for the Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. 

cv_hleper_and_helper.jpgI am almost ashamed to say that I had not read any Lizard and Snake stories before this collection. In my defence, my work was mostly with older teenagers, so I think I can be forgiven!

However, what quirky, credible characters these two are. A bit slippery, on the one hand, but good friends working mostly together. Sounds familiar? Joy Cowley has a very accomplished way of working a little morality, a lot of humanity and a great understanding of human behaviour into each story in this collection. There’s also much clever humour, and occasionally a small measure of sadness.

The fabulous illustrations by Gavin Bishop contribute a great deal to the book, picking up on small details and bringing the characters to life in a delightful way. The endpapers are particularly worth a look!

It’s a wonderful collection and brings to mind the gentle fables of Aesop. It also brought to my mind the less gentle Cautionary Tales by Hilaire Belloc. I wonder if they are still popular, with their grim punishments for bad behaviour? I imagine that modern children will prefer Snake and Lizard.

It’s another great publication from Gecko Press, and I hope that there are more stories still to come from Joy Cowley about these unlikely best friends. Most deservedly a nominee for the NZ Children’s Book Awards.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

Helper and Helper
by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Gavin Bishop
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571055

Book Review: My Dog Mouse, by Eva Lindstrom

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_my_dog_mouseIf you’ve ever owned a dog and watched it grow old, you will love My Dog Mouse. Lindstrom has captured the essence of a chubby, elderly dog perfectly in her illustrations and accompanying text.

The little girl in the book is allowed to take Mouse for a walk whenever she wants and it’s obvious how much both of them enjoy their time together.

There’s no rush, they walk slowly and take in the sights, Mouse gets to sniff lampposts and fences and they even stop in the park for a picnic.

Aimed at children aged about two to five years, My Dog Mouse is a charming book. The little girl is patient with the old dog, talking to him softly and feeding him meatballs. At the end, when she takes Mouse back to his owner, she stays looking back at him until she can’t see him any more and says, “I wish Mouse was mine”.

The watercolour/ink illustrations are simple and the focus is on Mouse and the little girl – other things are seen around the edges, but they don’t intrude on the pair and their walk.

This is a lovely book that will make you feel warm every time you read it.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

My Dog Mouse
by Eva Lindstrom
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571482

Book Review: My Pictures After the Storm, by Éric Veillé

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_my_pictures_after_the_stormThis has become a repeat read bonanza in our household. It’s clever, hilarious and subversive. It also has the most pick-up appeal of almost any book we own. The lion after the storm is rumpled and grumpy – just as we all are after being out in the Wellington wind.

Each spread is a set of identical groups of objects, tied by the simple language at the top, where the verso page of each is simply ‘My Pictures’, while the recto page says… After the Storm; After the elephant; After the hairdresser. Sometimes the changes aren’t obvious – at one point we are encouraged to find the changes ‘After correction’.

So while reading it to your child you are building language and encouraging their understanding of change and the different things that can cause it – no matter how far-fetched. One of the changes is ‘After the Baby’, showing the disarray a life (and a page) is thrown into as baby arrives, to the horror of the older child.

Each spread is also a found poem, occasionally rhyming across the page. So before/after the hairdresser we have ‘a lion-tamer unconcerned / a lion-tamer nicely permed; a seal having fun / a seal with a bun.’

And did I mention it is funny? Every page has something to chuckle at. Sometimes it’s a discovered element you didn’t notice the last 10 times; sometimes it’s simple slapstick. I mean, what does a pig look like after being stomped by an elephant? Of course it’s a piece of ham!

Éric Veillé is a French writer and illustrator, with only one title previously translated into English (The Bureau of Misplaced Dads, which sounds brilliant). I hope to see more from him translated by Gecko Press.

Both of my sons love this book and request it regularly: it’s one of the very few that will hold both of their attention equally, though the older one gets frustrated when his brother doesn’t get it in the same way he does! It is a valuable book in the same way The Big Book of Words and Pictures is: it takes a couple of well-worn concepts, and plays around with them, resulting in an unexpected, brilliantly executed book with humour and heart.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

My Pictures After the Storm
by Éric Veillé
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571048

Book Review: Bathtime for Little Rabbit, by Jorg Muhle

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_bathtime_for_little_RabbitPublished by Gecko Press, this is a board book suitable for 0 – 3 years.

This is an interactive book with a simple story. Little Rabbit’s bath is ready. Can you call him? Hoppity-hop. He’s in! We’re washing his ears today too. Can you put some shampoo on him? Wonderful. You made a lot of bubbles. Say swooshswoooshhhh.

I read this book to 2-year-old Quinn after she’d had her bath and was all ready for bed. She loved interacting with the story trying to help Little Rabbit shampoo his hair, wipe his nose when he got water up his nose and was keen to blow him dry at the end. A kiss good-night, tucked down in her bed with Sheepy, Quinn was happy to snuggle down and go to sleep.

What a lovely story – simple but very effective. A great story to read during bedtime routines.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Bathtime for Little Rabbit
by Jorg Muhle
Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571376

Book Review: The Lost Kitten, by Lee, illustrated by Komako Sakai

Available in March from bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_lost_kittenThe Lost Kitten is Lee’s first story, but Sakai has over a dozen books on offer, with most of them on initial release in Germany and the UK. She has won awards around the world, including the Japan Picture Book Prize, a Golden Plaque at the Biennial of Illustrations in Slovakia, and a Silver Griffin in the Netherlands. Her style is a cross between photographic realism and messy charcoals. A sort of soft focus treatment. It’s a delightful way of approaching what is really a very simple tale.

This thirty-six-page book is the simplest of stories, so readers must inject their own personality and interpretations between the words. Lee offers no background or clues about the identities of these characters. They are as thin as the chalk and wash on the page. To make them three dimensional you have to add your own personality. Sometimes, it’s what’s missing that gives you the substance.

The plot is: a small kitten, the runt of the litter, is abandoned at the door of Hina and her mother. They slowly fall in love with the kitten who is not expected to get well, but she does. Then mother leaves and the kitten runs away. Hina sets out to find her new little friend. It was here that my five-year-old, reading the story for the first time, started to add her own interpretation of the facts. What if she can’t find the kitten? Or…? And so, the magic unfolds slowly over the next pages as we read further, discussing scenarios and discovering more of the plot on every page.

The book’s simple language works well for early readers – about year 2 – and for caregivers who love to read out loud. It’s the kind of simple hardback that will make a wonderful gift for a young child. But remember, it’s not just the book you’ll be giving: you must also be around to read it, to make it more than just words and pictures on the page. Then you’ve found something really special.

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

The Lost Kitten
Written by Lee, Illustrated by Komako Sakai
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571260

Book Review: A Day with Dogs, by Dorothee de Monfreid

Available now in bookshops nationwide.Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_a_day_with_dogsWell, what do dogs do all day? A very good question indeed and one that this book answers with a fine and encompassing touch.

Set around a group of doggie friends of different breeds, these distinctive guys take their readers through life in a lively, humorous and very colourful way. Nothing from a human life is missed here, it’s just done slightly differently and with a somewhat different emphasis, four legs instead of two and with a daring sense of adventure.

A wonderfully colourful book, the range and breadth of this book when coupled with the extensive language makes it ideal both as a learning tool and as a book that will keep a child engaged for quite sometime. You could happily leave your child to look through/read this book and know that their mind and senses will be well catered for, equally shared reading between adult and child would enrich the experience offered by this book.  As dogs living life, Omar, Pedro, Popov, Nono, Zaza, Jane, Kipp, Alex and Misha have it nailed!

A lovely book, brought to life with wonderful characters and illustrated beautifully, this is a book for children of all ages from toddlerhood through to Y2/3. This book will end up as a favourite with many of it’s readers and it won’t be forgotten.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

A Day with Dogs
by Dorothee de Monfreid
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN  9781776570980