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 Great New Zealand Robbery, by Scott Bainbridge

Available nationwide from Wednesday 26 July.

cv_the_great_New-Zealand_robbery.jpgWho knew this robbery even happened? Certainly not me, true crime reader that I am. In this page turner Bainbridge unfolds the story of the so-called Waterfront Payroll Robbery which took place in downtown Auckland in 1956. A well executed robbery for that time: other than a smoke filled office and an empty safe, there was no indication whatsoever  who the robber/robbers were.

A cast of characters straight from the pages of a crime novel are brought to life here in a realistic and believable way, back stories are fleshed out, questions are asked and the reality of the criminal element that populated Auckland at that time is unraveled. Then there is the Police Force, who wished nothing more than to be rid of this element and have them all locked behind very strong bars, methods and modus operandi be damned: the procedures book made reasonable reading but did anyone really expect they would follow it? In the Auckland of the 1950s, crime was very much under the radar, in fact generally Auckland was pretty crime free and most of it featured the activities of the “Underworld” of whom Joe Average would have no knowledge.

In this book Bainbridge excels at digging, chipping away and unearthing a story that is little known. He paints a vivid and gritty picture of 1950s Auckland, the story flows, there are twists and turns in the tale, and each character – good, bad or indifferent – gets his moment in the sun. By the end of the book, we know that a certain gentlemen served time for the crime – but we don’t know if it was a solo or group effort, and we don’t know where the money ended up, here or over the ditch. This, however, does not detract in any way from the books effectiveness or the readers enjoyment of it.

I have read earlier work by Scott Bainbridge and have always enjoyed it. This book simply adds to his reputation as a very good writer of non-fiction crime and those who pick it up, will enjoy it.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

The Great New Zealand Robbery
by Scott Bainbridge
Published by Allen & Unwin
ISBN 9781877505768


Book Review: Torty and the Soldier, by Jennifer Beck and Fifi Colston

Available in bookshops nationwide.

Torty and the Soldier is a finalist in the Non-fiction category of the 2017 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. 

cv_torty_and_the_soldier.jpgThis beautifully illustrated book tells the story of a tortoise who was found in a rather forlorn condition by a young New Zealand Soldier in Salonika during WW1, the developing relationship is told delightfully. It is a gentle, caring and nurturing relationship with a well-depicted backstory.

The real twist is Torty coming home with Stewart and settling into life in New Zealand, a life of adventure that lasted 60 years, the illustrations combined with a wonderful array of rich and vibrant language tell a beguiling story that will keep children’s attention, no matter what the setting. To say that the illustrations  are realistic and evocative of a time and place is to understate it: they are first class!

This book is a wonderful addition to our national collection of war stories, ensuring that those who served this country will not be forgotten. Inspired by a true story, it is clear that a lot of research has gone into this book and this makes it even richer.

Readers aged 10 upwards will thoroughly enjoy this, as will any adult who shares it with a younger child.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

Torty And The Soldier
by Jennifer Beck and Fifi Colston
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775433651

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: 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

Book Review: Marmaduke Duck and the Christmas Calamity, by Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_marmaduke_duck_and_the_christmas_calamityAnother adventure in the series featuring the much loved Marmaduke Duck, this book continues in the same delightfully humorous vein as it’s predecessors and like it’s predecessors this book will make a terrific shared reading experience.

With Christmas in the title along with the word Calamity, one can guess that something unwanted may be about to happen and that the day of the year loved by children may be threatened… and when Santa and his Reindeer find themselves buried in the snow, a hero is needed. Who else but Marmaduke Duck could save the day?

With it’s cast of characters, delightful illustrations, rhyming words, exclamation marks and  neat little story, this book has it all: Adults and children alike, will love it!

A wonderful edition to the growing catalogue of New Zealand-written Christmas stories, Author and Illustrator have worked together to produce a book that will be welcomed everywhere, especially on every child’s bookshelf.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

Marmaduke Duck and the Christmas Calamity
by Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775433903

Book Review: Lecretia’s Choice, by Matt Vickers

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_lecretias_choiceThis certainly is a story of love, death and the law as it stands in New Zealand in our right to choose when we die and to surround our death with dignity. At this point in time, it isn’t for us to choose, that is out of our hands.

Lecretia and Matt Vickers were trailblazers: raised in down-to-earth homes where education was valued, they took their opportunities and made the best of them. After meeting and marrying, the world really did appear to be their oyster but life can have twists and turns, some kind and generous, others not so much. Matt and Lecretia wanted children and when it didn’t happen naturally, they turned to IVF, to no avail. A series of nasty headaches sent Lecretia on the path to what turned out to be the diagnosis of Brain Cancer, and the terminality of this cancer opened a door that many wished would stay shut.

Lecretia had seen death, it wasn’t pretty, and more than anything Lecretia wanted to die with dignity, she wanted to make her own choices, without depending on others. Her choices would allow her to say goodbye to her loved ones as she wished, Lecretia didn’t want to suffer unnecessarily. Dependence on others for pain control and the basics of life was, to Matt and Lecretia, a ghastly way to end ones life; and so they began to fight, not just for themselves but for others who might find themselves in the same position. It was a hard battle, one taken to the High Court, to seek a pathway for herself and others to die with dignity. The Ethics of Assisted Dying are complicated and rigorous in their application. It doesn’t matter if you are a doctor, a mother, father or husband – if you help someone to die in New Zealand, you can be prosecuted.

Sadly Lecretia did not win her battle, and the fight continues.

This book is a marvellous example of what love can do and a testimony to the spirit of resilience. It isn’t always an easy read but it is a great retelling of a life well-lived and of the courage that allowed Matt and Lecretia to step outside of themselves at the most difficult time in their lives, and stand tall for their beliefs.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

Lecretia’s Choice
by Matt Vickers
Published by Text Publishing
ISBN 9781925355598