Book Review: Watch out for the Weka, by Ned Barraud

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_watch_out_for_the_wekaWatch Out for the Weka is the latest superb children’s book from independent publisher Potton & Burton, adding to their list of high quality, informative books which highlight New Zealand’s many natural treasures. Although primarily an entertaining story based on a campfire yarn heard by the author back in the day, there are plenty of details within it that tell you a bit about our cheeky weka – for instance, I had no idea they liked to steal shiny things!

Set in the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park, the illustrations showcase the colours and textures of the New Zealand bush and coastline. The story features Alf, a DOC ranger who spends his summers looking after the tramping hut and visiting trampers. While cooling off in the stream, a weka takes off with the watch his dad gave him. Alf leaps out of the water giving chase but to no avail (cue lots of giggles at that particular illustration). Later that evening, the moonlight on the water gives Alf an idea of how to get his watch back.

Author Ned Barraud spent many childhood summers camping in the Abel Tasman National Park and his love of it is evident in this book. Many young New Zealanders don’t get the opportunity to encounter the weka (or other native birds for that matter) in its natural habitat which makes books such as these so important, as they help bring children closer to their environment, and an understanding of the unique flora and fauna which they share the country with.

The text is well balanced with the illustrations and reads well. Coupled with some weka facts at the end, the book would make a great resource to add to any classroom. Potton & Burton seek to share stories that ‘inspire and matter’, and with Watch Out for the Weka, I would say they and Barraud have got it spot on.

Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen

Watch Out for the Weka
by Ned Barraud
Potton & Burton, 2017
ISBN: 978091450354


Book Review: From Moa to Dinosaurs, by Gillian Candler and Ned Barraud

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

From Moa to Dinosaurs is a finalist in the Elsie Locke Award for Non-fiction, part of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. 

cv_from_moa_to_dinosaurs.jpgPotton and Burton have really taken on the task of ensuring quality nature texts are available in New Zealand for adult and child alike. This book is another in the explore and discover series.

Here we travel back in time to view the beginnings of life in New Zealand. The first section explains the formation of New Zealand from Gondwana. Clear diagrams and text lead us to the following chapters where we look at different habitats and their inhabitants.

Each section includes delightful illustrations that are bright and simple. I liked the separation of facts into boxes with easy bullet points. Likewise, there were boxes called How do we Know? These gave the scientific basis for the information presented. This is a successful format used in the previous titles and ensures that fact and fiction are distinguished.

The language is easy to follow but a useful glossary is included at the back for the more difficult ideas. An index also allows easy retrieval of information. Quality texts like this are essential in the classroom and allow research away from the Internet in manageable chunks. The format means the text is useful right across the primary levels. It provides a starting point for more detailed study but a good overview for a lesson.

This book would be an essential for a school library, but I think the whole series provides a great wealth of information for a family. Sometimes it is as easy as buying the set to start a love of the natural world in your kids. After reading From Moa to Dinosaurs I went and found my geologist’s hammer, grabbed a grandchild and headed off on a fossil hunt in the foothills.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

From Moa to Dinosaurs: Explore and Discover ancient New Zealand
by Gillian Candler and Ned Barraud
Published by Potton & Burton
ISBN 9780947503109

Book Review: In The Bush, by Gillian Candler & Ned Barraud

Available now at bookshops nationwide.

cv_in_the_bushMy two are keen bird watchers, and they have a good smattering of local bush knowledge, thanks to their excellent early childhood education. So when I gave them this book to mull over, they discarded it. “We already know about the birds,” they told me. But on visiting Rainbow Springs and the Redwoods in Rotorua during our Christmas break, the book was all too popular. “It was a Tui, no, a Saddleback, a Grey Warbler…. Daa-ad?” I found myself adjudicating with the help of the bird-identification card from the book, which features illustrations of 20 common local birds. Candler and Barraud’s book is not a revelation in our household, more an affirmation of our knowledge. But for others who are not so familiar with our most common birds and wildlife, it would be a great starting point.

For instance, did you know that a giant snail (Pupu) can live up to 40 years? Or, that not all bees are imports. We have a local, the Ngaro huruhuru, that lives in the ground and has no stripes, unlike the immigrants. Did you know that Grey Warblers unwittingly feed Shining Cuckoo chicks? Cuckoos lay their eggs in other birds’ nests so they don’t have to feed them – sneaky! And the creepy vine that hooks onto Supple Jacks and Birch is known as Bush Lawyer, though the reason for the name is still unknown. There are many more super-interesting facts to be found within these pages.

Gillian Candler has a teaching and educational publishing background, a keen tramper and pest trapper, so she knows her subject. Ned Barraud is a keen natural world illustrator and trapper. He might not be Raymond Ching but his work still paints believable, empathetic pictures that lead each page. It’s his brilliant watercolours that create each scene. Even for those who can’t read yet, it’s important that the colours and scale are right. Children know this and will very quickly dismiss anything inferior.

This is the fourth book in the Explore & Discover series by Candler and Barraud, many of which have been shortlisted for national book awards. For a readership aged from around 5 years to  10 years, it’s a simple, effective book that will remain valuable as a reference book in the homework library.

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

In The Bush: Explore & Discover New Zealand’s native forests
by Ned Barraud & Gillian Candler
Published by Potton & Burton
ISBN 9781927213544

Add these authors into your popularity stakes this Christmas

While approximately half of all international book sales are made up by sales of books for Children and Young Adults, less than 1/3 of NZ book sales are in the Children and Young Adult category. Why is this? The talent is certainly here – perhaps it is a matter of name recognition?

Looking at the bestsellers charts for international Children’s & YA, parents and kids buy based on author name. Right now, Andy Griffiths is hovering at the top of the charts for his Treehouse series. David Walliams also sticks on the chart like glue: I didn’t even realise he’d written seven books until his visit to the Auckland Writers’ Festival made that clear. In the domestic market, names like Lynley Dodd, and Kiwi story author Bob Darroch stick around, with backlist sales being incredibly strong.

With this in mind, here are a whole load of still-living, possibly-overlooked amazing NZ authors that you should bring into your child’s reading world as early as you can.

Picture Book Authors

Donovan Bixley
cv_little_bo_peepDonovan is New Zealand’s king of expressive illustration. His sheep in Little Bo Peep and More (Upstart Press) are hilarious, and his illustrations of kid’s classics Wheels on the Bus and Old MacDonald’s Farm (Hachette NZ) are brilliantly original. With several original stories under his belt now – the award-winning Monkey Boy (Scholastic NZ, 2014), for one – I can’t wait to see more.

cv_ghoulish_getupsFifi Colston
Home costume creation must-have Ghoulish Get-ups (Scholastic NZ) is just the latest in a great range of books that multi-talented creative Fifi Colston has to offer. Her award-winning Wearable Wonders (Scholastic NZ)  is essential for any young creative soul, and she has illustrated more books than I can count, in a career spanning 30 years. The Red Poppy, written by David Hill (Scholastic NZ), was just gorgeous, and Itiiti’s Gift, with Melanie Drewery (Puffin), is another classic.

Juliette MacIver
cv_yak_and_gnuWith her latest picture book, Yak and Gnu (Walker Books), being her 12th picture book in 5 years, Juliette MacIver and her flawless rhyming verse have become one of the perennials of the NZ book world. Her first book, Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam (Scholastic NZ), is the boys’ favourite; my personal favourite from her backlist is Toucan Can (Gecko Press). Most of her books are illustrated by the equally wonderful Sarah Davis.

cv_trainsCatherine Foreman
Catherine Foreman has a way with words for the younger kids in your family. Her 2015 book, The Roly-Poly Baby (Scholastic NZ), is a lovely short tale for your adventurous baby. Her 2013 series ‘Machines & Me’ still comes out most nights in our family – Trains in particular. Take note, writers of NZ – we need more good books about trains!

Ruth Paul
cv_stompRuth’s latest is the third in a group of dinosaur books, What’s the Time, Dinosaur? (Scholastic NZ) Not only are Ruth’s illustrations delightful, she can even rhyme! Our family favourites are Stomp! (board book just released), Two Little Pirates , and The King’s Bubbles (all Scholastic NZ).

Sally Suttoncv_zoo_train
All aboard the Zoo Train (Walker Books)! Sally is another fantastic picture book writer that isn’t anywhere near as well-known as she ought to be. Every child needs a copy of Roadworks (Walker Books). Be ready to hide it when it becomes a must-read Every Single Night. There are two follow-ups too – Demolition, and Construction.

Junior Fiction & Non-fiction

Kyle Mewburn
cv_dragon_knightKyle Mewburn has collaborated with Donovan Bixley for both of his recent junior fiction series’, Dinosaur Rescue (8 books, Scholastic NZ), and Dragon Knight. Begun early in 2015, this series is already 4 books strong. Both of these series are full of silly laughs for lovers of Captain Underpants and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, with a bit of Horrible Histories for good measure. He also has a 24-title-strong picture book list too: Duck’s Stuck (Scholastic NZ) and No Room for a Mouse (Scholastic Aus) are family favourites.

cv_cool_nukesDes Hunt
Cool Nukes author Des Hunt specialises in action-packed, environmentally-conscious writing. He has written about glaciers (Shadows in the Ice), mining (Frog Whistle Mine) and treasure-hunting (Cry of the Taniwha). There is something in his 22-book strong backlist for every adventure-loving 8-12-year-old.

Elizabeth Pulford
cv_sanspell‘Bloodtree Chronicles’ author Elizabeth Pulford is an incredibly diverse writer, writing for every age range. Her Scholastic fairy series Lily was published worldwide, and her most recent picture book Finding Monkey Moon (Candlewick Press) is being feted all over the globe. Junior Fiction series ‘Bloodtree Chronicles’, beginning with Sanspell, is perfect for the magic-loving kids in your life.
Philippa Werrycv_anzac_day_the_new_zealand_story
Author of non-fiction titles Anzac Day and Waitangi Day (New Holland), Philippa is another multi-talented author, writing ably across age ranges. Her most recent books have focused on war, and the New Zealand experience of war, but an old favourite of mine is junior fiction title The Great Chocolate Cake Bake-Off.

WW1 series, Scholastic NZ
cv_1915_wounds_of_warScholastic has a current book series commemorating New Zealanders’ wartime adventures. This began last year, with 1914: Riding into War, by Susan Brocker (another great underrated writer), then 1915: Wounds of War, by Diana Menefy (you guessed it, another). It will go for another three years, and is good reading for kids who enjoy Michael Morpurgo and other war-focussed writers.

Ned Barraud & Gillian Candler
cv_in_the_bushNed and Gillian have paired up on four books about New Zealand nature so far, and each of them have been extraordinarily good. In the Bush is the latest from this pair, but there is also On the Beach, In the Garden, and Under the Ocean. All are published by Potton& Burton. So, no matter where you are going this summer, there is a book in this range for you. Another kiwi author who writes and illustrates in the same area is Andrew Crowe.

cv_new_zealand_hall_of_fameMaria Gill
Most recently, Maria is known for her ‘Hall of Fame’ books – New Zealand Hall of Fame and New Zealand’s Sports Hall of Fame; but she has also got a huge backlist of nature publishing under her belt. If it explodes (Rangitoto, Eruption), has feathers (Call of the Kokako, Bird’s Eye View) or indeed fins (Save our Seas), she is bound to have written about it. Get your eco-ranger onto her books now!

Young Adult Fiction
David Hill
cv_first_to_the_topMy Brother’s War and The Deadly Sky (Penguin NZ) are just the most recent in a very long list of books for young adults that the wonderful David Hill has produced. He has recently branched into picture book writing, with Red Poppy and First to the Top (Penguin, 2015). In his YA list, his sensitive portrayal of awkward teendom, and his wit, is what sets him apart from others.

cv_evies_warAnna Mackenzie
Author of the recent release Evie’s War, Anna Mackenzie has been an essential part of the YA scene in New Zealand for many years. The Sea-Wreck Stranger was the first in a series exploring the fate of a stranger in a close-knit community. Cattra’s Legacy and Donnel’s Promise took us back into history, and reminded me a bit of Tamora Pierce’s books, with their fierce heroine.

Brian Falkner

cv_recon_team_angel_vengeanceRecon Team Angel (Walker Books) is the most recent series from Falkner, and it is a must-read for lovers of the ‘Cherub’ series. He began his writing career with junior fiction, incorporating the Warriors (The Flea Thing) and Coca Cola (The Real Thing); then moved into future-tech YA, with Brain Jack and The Tomorrow Code. He is a master of fast-paced action-packed adventure fiction.

Finally, a few you ought to know by now: Kate De Goldi, Elizabeth Knox, Fleur Beale, Mandy Hager, Bernard Beckett, and Ella Hunt. Introduce your teens to them, and they’ll read all of their books. They are brilliant. See my post from a couple of years ago for more about teen fiction writers in NZ.

by Sarah Forster

Book Review: Under the Ocean: Explore and Discover New Zealand’s Sea Life, by Ned Barraud & Gillian Candler

Available in bookstores nationwide

cv_under_the_oceanUnder the Ocean is a beautifully-illustrated children’s reference guide to New Zealand’s oceans and the creatures found there. It is by the clever duo who also wrote and illustrated At the Beach and In the Garden.

Under the Ocean is split into sections which tell you about a certain area of the ocean, such as reefs or the deep ocean. The book then goes further and shows you the sort of sea life and plants that live in that habitat, with lots of detailed information.

This book is filled with loads of interesting facts about life under the sea and amazing realistic illustrations. Did you know that King Crabs can grow up to 1 metre and live up to 1.5 kilometres below the ocean’s surface? This book would be helpful to classrooms around the country, but would also make a useful guide for tourists.

I would recommend this book to teachers, and children aged 6+. This wonderful book is a finalist in the non-fiction category of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults.

Review by Elisabeth Matsis (9), with a little bit of help from Tiffany Matsis

Under the Ocean: explore & discover New Zealand’s sea life
by Ned Barraud & Gillian Candler
Published by Craig Potton Publishers
ISBN 9781927213087

Book review: In the Garden, by Gillian Candler, illustrated by Ned Barraud

Available in bookstores now.cv_in_the_garden

I have an embarrassing lack of knowledge about the birds that hang out in my backyard. It was my preschooler who called attention to it as we feed the flyers toast crusts each morning. Referring to them as either black birds or brown birds didn’t really cut it for a young, enquiring mind. But now thanks to a gorgeous wee book by Gillian Candler and Ned Barraud, we can learn the differences together. Our post-breakfast ritual need no longer be a reminder of my inabilities.

In the garden is a great introduction to the diversity in your own backyard. It looks at what you can find living underground, on the plants or in the trees before introducing us to the most-sighted creatures found in New Zealand backyards. Aimed at 4-8 year-olds, the very clear, concise descriptions and amazing drawings are very engaging at any age.

I’m such a sucker for beautifully illustrated kid’s books. It’s kind of hard to go past a book with such a glorious illustration of a tui on the front cover. Barraud is a texture artist for Weta, so you do expect some top quality stuff here. And he delivers – the images are lovely, with such excellent attention to detail.

Too often nature books are about idyllic landscapes, the type a kid might get a field trip to a couple of times a year, if they’re lucky. I love this book because you can walk out the door and you’re there, able to see these natural systems in action and meet the characters doing their thing. “Let’s find one of those,” or conversely, “What’s that?” makes this book immediate, relevant and a must-have for Kiwi families.

In the garden is great, a follow-up to the equally wonderful At the beach by the same crew. (I’ve been buying the set as Christmas presents). Dear Publishers, can we please have more?

My family has spent a lot of time poring over this book. I’m sure yours will too.

Reviewed by Anna Butterfield

In the garden: Explore & discover the New Zealand backyard
by Gillian Candler, illustrated by Ned Barraud
Published by Craig Potton Press
ISBN 9781927213025

Behind the scenes At the Beach

At the Beach cvr 300dpi_websiteAuthor Gillian Candler describes how she came to write At the Beach, which last week was announced as a finalist in the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.

“At the Beach: explore and discover the New Zealand seashore, is the book I always wished I’d had when my son was growing up. At that time the books around on the subject seemed to be for adults or older children. We spent a lot of time at the beach and had a lot of fun, I hope that this book will encourage other families to do the same.

When we were developing the idea of the book, we realised that it was important to show animals in the context of the ecosystem, so children could see how living things depend on their environment, and of course find out ‘who eats who?’. So we came up with the ‘cross-section’ pages, which show a rock pool, the mud flats and the sandy beach ecosystems.

Keeping things short and sweet, meant that some living things didn’t make it into the book, there were some hard choices to make about what was in and what was out. The team working on the book each had their particular animal that they lobbied for. Mine was the ray, I think they are beautiful animals. We see them at our beach in the late summer feeding around the rocks in the shallows.

Our publishers came up with the idea of the identification card in the inside backcover, this is such an inspired idea and has got a lot of praise from people using the book.”

At the Beach: Explore & discover the New Zealand seashore
by Ned Barraud & Gillian Candler
Published by Craig Potton Publishing
ISBN 9781877517747