Book Review: La La La, by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Jamie Kim.

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_la_la_la.jpgLa La La is a somewhat unique and quirky book and a very modern take on the power loneliness has on children. Rather than text, the book uses illustrations of the natural elements in our environment to fine effect in telling its characters’ story. La La La being the only words that are used. To most the using of these words is generally an expression of joy, but in this book their contextual use is a little less joyless, and a little more plaintive. A desire for a response threads through the book and motivates the character to keep persevering.

A rather remarkable book for it’s powerful message and unique style and setting, it offers the opportunity for thoughtful and nuanced conversation and would be most suited to the 7 upward age group. It could be very well used as a shared reader introducing the topic of loneliness to children in a classroom setting. In it’s own quiet way this book offers it’s readers an opportunity to reflect on loneliness and the skills that can be developed to counteract it.

Review Marion Dreadon.

La La La
by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Jamie Kim
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406378009

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Book Review: Wolfy, by Gregoire Solotareff

cv_wolfyAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

After the sudden death of his old uncle, Wolfy has found himself in somewhat dire circumstances and he has too figure out what to do. Seeking help, he comes upon the very chilled Tom, a rabbit who had never seen a wolf before. United in a sense of adventure, the most gorgeous friendship between the pair develops, each having something to offer the other. Until things hit a speed bump when Tom and Wolfy play ‘Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.’ Fear takes over and Tom decides that the friendship is over. But is it?

This book hooks you in from the cover onwards, and uses vibrant, colourful illustrations to great effect, complementing the text and engaging the reader in the story. The story is well paced with a great dollop of humour that will make both adult and child reader alike laugh. It is poignant in it’s emotions but never heavy.

This is a great book for the 4 year old upward reader. I suspect older children will enjoy it and as a shared reader it leaves a lot of scope for interaction. A focal point is the need for understanding in friendships and this book could easily lend itself to teachable moments.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

Wolfy
by Gregoire Solotareff
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571567

Book Review: The Big Block of Chocolate by Janet Slater, illustrated by Christine Dale

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_big_block_of_chocolateAn oldie but a goodie, this book has sold over 250,000 copies and it really is no wonder.

Beautifully illustrated, easy to read, it tells the delightful tale of a block of chocolate and it’s journey from a shopping basket to a group of delighted ants. Along the way we meet a group of characters, whose one desire is to gobble up the chocolate all by themselves – until the Sun makes it’s appearance and changes everything…

This book has a number of lessons to share with it’s readers, the most decisive being the joy of sharing and not wanting something all for yourself.

This is a book that makes a great shared read and a great independent read, the words are descriptive and rhyme beautifully, the book flows and there is a delightful twist, children from preschool on will love it.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

The Big Block of Chocolate
by Janet Slater, illustrated by Christine Dale
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434900

 

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