Book Review: Maui and other Maori Legends: 8 Classic Tales of Aotearoa, by Peter Gossage

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_maui_and_other_maori_legendsThis bind-up collects eight classic Maori myths, the original picture books of which form some of my most visual memories from when I was a child. Six of the books that are reproduced here were published between 1975 and 1985, with the others from the early 2000’s. I remember clearly, sitting on the floor of the library at St Brigid’s Primary School, poring over these potent celebrations of Maori mythology, spellbound by the swirling style of the art within.

The first six of these stories are based on the mythology of Maui, arguably our most famous cultural ancestor. Many wonderful authors and illustrators have ensured our Maori mythology has endured, but Gossage’s bold, colourful art is the real joy of this collection, while his lyrical tellings are a pleasure to read aloud.

But Maui was still alive!
The wave children of Tangaroa and Hine-moana bore him on their backs.
The clouds shielded him from the fierce sun,
and Tawhiri the wind cooled him.

This collection is published beautifully by Penguin, and the handy bookmark ribbon has been a source of entertainment to my son Dan, who has happily started reading it to himself, making sure to keep his place with the ribbon provided.

My family is Pakeha, and my children’s main access to Maori myth is in essential books like this. It is a joy to re-read these old favourites and share them with my children. Please make sure you have this book in your library; it is still relevant and important.

Maui and other Maori Legends: 8 Classic Tales of Aotearoa
by Peter Gossage
Published by Penguin NZ
ISBN 9780143309291

Book Review: Who sank the Boat? and other stories: A Pamela Allen treasury

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_who_sank_the_boat_and_other_storiesThis could be subtitled Pamela Allen: a treasure. Her books have delighted preschoolers, parents, early childhood educators and others for generations now. I remember the laughter from preschool groups at Brooklyn Library years ago, when they worked out who really sank the boat!

It turns out that I had missed several of these stories so it has been enchanting to discover the licorice-allsort-eating dog, the difficulties of having four baby siblings and feeling unwanted, like Cuthbert, the absolutely frightening Share, said the rooster, which has as nasty an ending as you’d want and certainly is a true cautionary tale.

There’s also that archetypal Kiwi happening – a duckling falls into a drain. Of course someone has to rescue it and reunite it with its mum, and of course it’s the policeman who comes to sort it out when everyone else fails. More of a social commentary on life in the 80s than just now, perhaps!

Through all the stories, Pamela Allen’s illustrations give life to the words; the characters spring out of the colourful drawings and make you want to keep reading so you can SEE the stories as well as hear them. They do really have the power to enchant and delight.

This would make a fabulous gift for littlies, but it will give the adult who reads to them just as much pleasure.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

Who Sank the Boat? and other stories
by Pamela Allen
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143770329

Junior Fiction Shorts #3: Dragon Knight #6: Barbarians!, and Barking Mad

Dragon Knight #6: Barbarians!
by Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley

cv_dragon_knight_barbaraiansThis is the sixth and final book in this frequently hilarious series about Merek, a dragon who wants to be a knight, so spends his days in boy-form, attending knight school with his best friend Brin at Lord Crumble’s Castle. Together, Merek and Brin fight bullies, regularly prove that smart beats big, and discover together that being a knight isn’t quite all it is cracked up to be.

In this episode of their story, the Barbarians are at the gate. But when Merek and Brin discover they have actually breached the castle walls, and are looting treasure unexpectedly carefully, they follow them out of the castle. When they are discovered, things go from bad to worse, until help comes from an unexpected quarter. Each of the Dragon Knight stories have occasionally factual inserts, and fantastic illustrations from Donovan Bixley. I recommend the full series as a must-read for anyone who likes the Horrible Histories, or the tales of King Arthur.

Dragon Knight #6: Barbarians!
by Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775433972

Barking Mad
by Tom E. Moffatt, illustrated by Paul Beavis

cv_barking_madIf you have the kind of kid that cracks up at absurdities, have I got a book for you! Granddad is behaving like a dog, so he’s being taken to hospital. Fingers doesn’t believe it at first – Granddad’s a tough old inventor who has been known to sew a gash in his leg up with needle & thread rather than go to the hospital for any reason – but when he and his sister get to his house and see Granddad being carted away, he knows something is definitely the matter. Fingers and his sister Sally are baffled, until they realise Granddad’s dog DaVinci is acting a little more sensible than usual.

So while Granddad gets committed for licking the postman and growling like a dog, Fingers and Sally are trying to put the world to rights. A trip to the dog pound for DaVinci doesn’t help matters any, and by the end of the book your head is spinning with how many identity-swaps there has been. This is a well-paced, ably-written book, with the round-about storylines nonetheless staying within their own rules & making for a satisfying read. Paul Beavis’ brilliant illustrations add to the fun. For ages 7-12.

Barking Mad
by Tom E. Moffatt, illustrated by Paul Beavis
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775433743

All reviews written by Sarah Forster
This is the third in a series of reviews of Junior Fiction, here are number one, and number two, for your reading pleasure.

Book Review: Did You Hear a Monster?, by Raymond McGrath

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_did_you_hear_a_monsterWhat do you do when you hear a thing go ‘bump’ in the night? A very good question, especially if you are Clarice Caroline who is afraid of EVERYTHING. No kidding, this dear wee girl is scared of a mighty list of things ranging from the usual spiders, wasps, loud noises, heights and snakes to the not so usual broccoli, balls, carrots, and bicycles.

That Clarice Caroline is a ‘shy and timid little girl who is neither courageous nor adventurous’, is nicely built up with examples of her reactions to scary things and serves to draw us into questioning just why she is up in the middle of the night. In the dark. This tension is further drawn out with spooky illustrations and word imagery: floorboards c-r-e-a-k-i-n-g and tall, whispery walls and echoey halls. The scenes and book design add to the building drama – she’s going down the dark hall… she’s opening the door… she’s peeking into a dark, dark room… you get the idea.
She reaches for the light…

And here we see just why this scared, timid girl has braved the night. To say more would spoil the surprise. Suffice to say it turns out that Clarice Caroline can indeed be brave when she needs to.

This is a great story to read aloud together; lots of opportunities for shrieking, squealing and screaming along with Clarice Caroline (apologies if it gets too loud!) as well as pauses for dramatic effect. I also enjoyed the vocabulary introduced here, words young readers wouldn’t often see these days: woozy, nor, mettle, pluck (as in courage), bottle (as in brave), and chutzpah.

Most kids enjoy a bit of a scare and Did You Hear a Monster? delivers them a monster story with just the right amount of drama and spookiness, well balanced with comic relief in the form of funny facial expressions in the illustrations and the surprise ending. This edition comes with a CD which includes a read-along version of the story, as well as two songs from the author. Pitched at littlies, they are cheery and catchy ditties that tie in with the story.

A lot of young readers may relate to Clarice Caroline and her numerous fears. How reassuring for them to know that others are also scared of things which may seem silly to our friends. And how reassuring to see that even though we might be scared of things, we can still be brave when it really counts.

Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen

Did you Hear a Monster? 
by Raymond McGrath
Penguin Random House 2016
ISBN: 9780143309130