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

Book Review: The Feel Brave Series, by Avril McDonald, illustrated by Tatiana Minina

Available in bookshops nationwide.

feel_brave_septemberThese beautifully illustrated books are designed to lead children through issues that they may find challenging, especially from an emotional point of view.

There are 5 books, listed below, plus a guide that helps the adult/adults work through different issues with activities that are designed for specific areas such as craft activities, physical exercises and drama games. The books’ reach is broad but everything is neatly tied together.

The story books that accompany the guide book are simply gorgeous, the illustrations perfectly fitting the text. Finding Calm, Self Confidence, Making Relationships, Anxiety and Fears and Change, Loss and Grief cover a lot of ground but it is ground that can often be a part of a child’s life on a daily basis and not in a good way. These books step in and provide support, comfort and solutions that are relatable and reasonably easy to make a part of a child’s emotional thinking. Changing our thinking is really what it boils down to when we face an issue that grips and won’t let go, and these books are an excellent tool/resource to help us do so.

Designed for the 4-7 year age group, this resource could be a great at-home resource and a very valuable resource for any Primary School.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

The Feel Brave Series
by Avril McDonald, illustrated by Tatiana Minina
Published by Crown Publishing

This series is comprised of the following books: 
The Wolf’s Colourful Coat
ISBN 9781785830204

The Wolf is Not Invited
ISBN 9781785830174

The Wolf and the Shadow Monster
ISBN 9781785830181

The Grand Wolf
ISBN 9781785830198

The Wolf and the Baby Dragon
ISBN 9781785830211

Feel Brave Teaching Guide
ISBN 9781785830167

Book Review: A Soldier, a Dog and a Boy, by Libby Hathorn, illustrated by Phil Lesnie

cv_a_soldier_a_dog_andAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

This is an engaging, beautifully crafted story of a young Australian soldier who goes off to do battle at Somme.

His journey takes a twist when he comes across what he thinks is a stray dog and decides to keep him only to come upon the dog’s owner, a homeless orphan, and so begins a rather heartwarming journey.

It turns out that young Jacques roams because the Orphanages will not allow him to keep his dog Victoire and although Jaques says “No” when Albert offers to adopt Victoire, giving him a home and food, a change of mind brings a change of fortune.

This book was wonderfully illustrated, the attention to detail was just perfect and fit so well with the story. Easy to read, children will love the warmth of the story and they will love Jacques and Victoire in particular. Ideal for children 7 and up, this is just a delightful book.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

A Soldier, a Dog and a Boy
by Libby Hathorn
Published by Lothian Children’s Books
ISBN 9780734416377

Book Review: Anzac Heroes, by Maria Gill


Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_anzac_heroesIt is books like this one that will keep the spirit of the Anzacs alive for the generations to come.

30 Anzacs who served during WW1 and WW2 are featured, their stories told and illustrated in a manner that brings them alive before the readers eyes. The stories told are accompanied by detailed maps, timelines and photographs that all enhance the reader’s experience and help to show exactly where something took place.

The heroes’ stories are told in a very relatable manner, ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the most extraordinary places and in a timeframe that simply doesn’t leave time to ponder ones actions. Each branch of the services is represented, male and female.

If there is a particular standout in this book, it is the layout and illustrations, they are so well done and a lot of thought has gone into it. The book flows well from page to page, making it very easy for any young person using the book for a classroom inquiry to find exactly what they need.

This is the type of book that lends itself to being picked up and read from cover to cover, equally as an inquiry resource. Finding the information you need is quite easy, it’s all there waiting.

This book should be available in every children’s section of the library and every school library both here and in Australia, it is a very valuable slice of our history.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

Anzac Heroes
by Maria Gill, illustrated by Marco Ivancic
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN  9781775433637

Book Review: Please Enjoy Your Happiness, by Paul Brinkley-Rogers

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_please_enjoy_your_happinessThis is a love story, a fine romance but there is nothing mushy about it. Mills & Boon it is not.

Instead, it is a beautifully written snapshot of the authors’ First Love, based on his time spent in Japan as a serviceman, which still resonates today with the author.

Just 19 years old when he is sent to serve in Japan, Paul and the older, more sophisticated Kaji Yukiko are an unlikely match. She is on the run from very unpleasant circumstances, and he is a very young serviceman. It is a shared love of poetry, music and the theatre that draws them together, unleashing a love that will continue to have an impact on the rest of Brinkley-Rogers’ life. This all happened during a time when there was no email or social media, and there was limited telephone access. People wrote letters – and it was a rediscovery and rereading of Kaji’s letters to him that enabled Brinkley-Rodgers to realise that after all he had been through, Kaji was still the love of his life, and that the love had never died.

This is really quite a special book, Brinkley-Rogers’ story is beautifully written and very engaging and without artifice. It is honest and warm, there is plenty of room for thought, especially with regards “lost” love – love that may in fact not have been lost, but has been forgotten, where only hindsight can remind us of the impact that these loves have had on us. Brinkley-Rogers invites us to look back, acknowledge and celebrate our loves and honour them, and he does so in a very readable book which keeps the reader turning the pages.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

Please Enjoy Your Happiness
by Paul Brinkley-Rogers
Published by Macmillan
ISBN  9781509806089

Book Review: The Plays of Bruce Mason, a survey by John Smythe

cv_the_plays_of_bruce_masonAvailable at bookshops nationwide.

It would be very easy to dismiss this book on sight as of interest only to ‘theatre types’, but it has a much broader interest than that. This book is a snapshot of a time and place and the growth and change, that resulted in the New Zealand we now know. Seen through the ideas, plays and writings of Bruce Mason, it is a fascinating journey.

The End of the Golden Weather and The Pohutukawa Tree are play titles most New Zealanders who grew up in the 50s, 60s and 70s will find familiar. While these two and Awatea were very successful and popular with the public, there was a whole body of work by Mason that has not had wide recognition, for example, Mason wrote four teleplays, none of which saw the light of day until after his death – and one never made it into production.

A gifted individual, Mason wrote with empathy, understanding and compassion, a great deal of humour and a dose of self-depreciation. He captured the essence of the New Zealand experience, he understood the nuances that made his characters come alive on stage. His characters were believable, because he wrote them as he saw them, ordinary people living ordinary lives, struggling within the bounds of a tight-knit society. He made big things out of small, and he gifted to theatre-lovers everywhere a rich body of work, that probably needs to be picked up, dusted down and reinvigorated for the next generation to enjoy.

An engaging read, with well chosen illustrations, this book defies genre and would really appeal to anyone wanting to read about New Zealand life as seen through the eyes of a playwright. Mason’s life is fleshed out by the skilled hands of John Smythe, who gives the reader great insight into the duality of Bruce Mason, the man and the playwright.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

The plays of Bruce Mason: A survey
by John Smythe
Published by Victoria University Press
ISBN 9781776560554

Book Review: The Lion and the Bird, by Marianne Dubuc

Available in bookshops nationwide.LionAndTheBird_Cover_WEB (2)

From Book Island, this is a gorgeous book which has its narrative brought to life by the finest of illustrations.

Lion, while out doing a spot of gardening, finds a very unwell little bird whom he befriends and helps to restore back to good health. The birds’ birdie friends leave and a delightful friendship unfolds, every facet of life shared in the cutest possible way.

This isn’t a book of words, they are sparse, unnecessary; the illustrations do the talking, leaving the reader to expand and explore if an adult, and their imagination to run wild if a child.

Day turns into night, seasons come and go and the inevitable happens and we the reader are left to shed a tear and experience grief and loss with the golden-hearted lion, followed the next year with the joy of reunion.

This book is simply delightful, not heavy even in loss. It has been put together with an eye for detail. Just holding this book is a tactile experience, and I can’t think of an adult or child who wouldn’t love it. For both, it is just an ideal experience which will help foster a love of books in any child who is lucky enough to come across it. Like Shirley Hughes with Dogger, this is a book that will live on.

Add it to your collection, give it as a gift.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

The Lion and The Bird
by Marianne Dubuc
Published by Book Island
ISBN 9780994109873

Book Review: The Scene Of the Crime, by Steve Braunias

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_scene_of_the_crimeI have read a lot of True Crime books over my reading life, though the number has slowed over the years as the American market has been flooded by what could only be described as repetitive trash. I would be lucky to source three or four books from there in a year; the Australian and New Zealand market, however, gets better and better, and from this market comes the brilliant The Scene of the Crime.

Braunias has put together a very good slice of our crime pie in this compilation… everything from the now notorious hit and run banker, the sword-wielding Antonie Dixon, the ghastly Rolf Harris to Mark ‘Lundy Hundy’ Lundy, who probably has a category all of his own, for convictions related to the same crime. In fact, Braunias does such a good and fair job with Mr Lundy that for a moment there I almost had doubt but no, I woke up, and Lundy is still guilty as.

Clint Rickards and Antonie Dixon get a very fair and engaging hearing as does the poor Guy Hallwright who wrecked a number of lives via his hit-and-run antics, his once-glorious bankers’ life a little shabbier these days. He also covers Brad Murdoch, who is serving a hefty sentence for the murder of Englishman Peter Falconio, who some people still feel is alive and well and out there somewhere, possibly with Lord Lucan.

This is a very well-written book, the choice of tales told is spot on though eclectic, and each chapter flows on from the next: you simply want to keep reading. The people who populate this book, no matter how ghastly their crime, are quietly fascinating and each stands out in some way, sometimes even just for the ordinariness of their actions and the motivation for their crime. Braunias is very good at digging into the background of the tale, the ‘what came before’, which gives an enhanced picture of a situation and tells the reader why it evolved into something else. In particular the Lundy case stands out but so does the Hallwright case, I haven’t read better on Antonie Dixon or Clint Rickards either.

Fair and balanced, a very good read indeed for anyone with an interest in this genre or the particular cases it covers, this is a book that will be passed around and will undoubtedly lead to some heated discussions.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

The Scene Of the Crime
by Steve Braunias
Published by HarperCollins NZ
ISBN 9781775540830

Steve is in Wellington this week, promoting this book:
18 November, at Unity Books Wellington, 12 noon – 12.45pm
18 November, at Marsden Books, Karori, Wellington, 6 – 7pm

Book Review: Atmospheric: The Burning Story of Climate Change, by Carole Wilkinson

cv_atmosphericAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

The topic of climate change is one of those contentious subjects that gets people so puffed up they can literally blow their stacks during what started out as a gentle discussion on changes in the weather pattern.

The central points of reference in Wilkinson’s book are the atmosphere’s importance to us and the way we have treated it. It is Wilkinson’s contention – backed up by a truckload of evidence – that we use our atmosphere like a rubbish dump, putting into it whatever we feel like, without thought of consequences: treating the atmosphere as we would a sack of recycling rubbish. Once we can no longer see it, we don’t give a poke.

This is not new behaviour, as Wilkinson points out: humans have been polluting the atmosphere for a very long time, especially in an industrial sense. Damage has been done and we need to take responsibility for cleaning it up and changing our behaviour, as individuals and as a society, whether in a home/school or work situation. The atmosphere so affects the quality of the life we live, we would be foolish not to care.

We need to educate and we need to start that educating from the get go. Preschools and Primary Schools are introducing and teaching ways and means right across the curriculum to do this throughout New Zealand, we need to support this as much as possible and introduce the lessons the children can teach us in our home/work space.

This is a well-written, easy-to-read-and-understand book, with great illustrations. While directed at the YA market, there should be a copy of this book in every School and Public Library as it is an excellent resource for children from Primary School onwards and for adults as well.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

Atmospheric: The Burning Story of Climate Change
by Carole Wilkinson
Published by Black Dog Books
ISBN 9781925126372