Book Review: Best Mates, written by Philippa Werry, illustrated by Bob Kerr

Philippa Werry is a children’s writer and author of Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story, which is a finalist in the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Bob Kerr is a painter and illustrator living and working in Wellington.

Best Mates is a story of comradeship and endurance in the face of adversity.cv_best_mates

Three young boys, Harry, Jo and the narrator are best mates. They all lived on the same street and all went to the same school, playing and growing up together. They joined the New Zealand Army at the same time to fight for their country. They were being sent to Gallipoli. They saw it as a “big adventure.”

They sail by ship from New Zealand to the other side of the world. They then sail in the early morning out of Lemnos Harbour and then on to Anzac Cove in Gallipoli, where they are met with gunfire as soon as they landed on the beaches, with many being wounded or dead. They dug trenches to defend the peninsula from the Turks but conditions were very primitive and as a result, Joe got sick. He was then removed by stretcher to a hospital ship. Harry is then hit by enemy fire and ends up being wounded, but died a short time later of his injuries. He is buried by his comrades on the hill overlooking the sea.

Many years later the three friends are reunited, when the two surviving men fly from New Zealand to lay poppies on Harry’s grave in Gallipoli.

It is fantastic to see the numbers of young people attending parades increasing. It is heartening to know that the story of ANZAC has been preserved for the younger generation, to read and learn.

Bob Kerr the illustrator has done a wonderful job. The illustrations are simply drawn, but show the ugliness of war; the carnage, the reality, the grief and comradeship.

To all young people who read this book, think about what war really means, how families are broken forever by their young men never returning home.

Age range 5 – 12 years.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Best Mates
Written by Philippa Werry, illustrated by Bob Kerr
Published by New Holland
ISBN 9781869664114  

Book Review: The Last of Maui’s Dolphins, by Maria Gill and Bruce Potter

cv_the_last_of_mauis_dolphinsAvailable now in bookstores nationwide.

As a resident of Raglan, one of the last places Maui’s Dolphin can be found, I was keen to get this book for my five-year-old daughter, to help her understand the importance of protecting these unique and beautiful animals.

The book consists of two parts: a fictional story about a young Maui’s dolphin, Hiriwa, and a couple of reference pages at the end with factual information about the dolphins.

Hiriwa’s story was easy to read and follow, and thankfully the writer did not fall into the trap of trying to rhyme, which many educational children’s books do, usually poorly. This is not one of those children’s stories that is a particular delight to read – the sentences are short and prosaic and the vocabulary basic. The story is also basic, and there are no real surprises or twists in the tale. However, it does what it sets out to do – it explains in an engaging and age-appropriate way the plight of the Maui’s dolphins, and the reasons for their being endangered.

The illustrations are appropriate and interesting, and help tell the story well. The dappled effect of light coming through water is particularly well captured.

My daughter enjoyed listening to the story, and asked lots of questions about the dolphins and how we could help them. It helped that we recently had “Maui’s Dolphin Day” in Raglan, so it tied in nicely with that experience, and helped me to explain to her what the day is for and why it is important. It’s not a book she has reached for over and over again, but she is happy to listen to it whenever I offer it.

Hopefully one day we won’t need books like this, as our waters will once again be teeming with plenty of beautiful native species, but until then I applaud the efforts of the writers and illustrators writing environmentally themed children’s books. Maybe my daughter’s generation will get the message and do something before it’s too late.

Reviewed by Renee Boyer-Willisson

The Last of Maui’s Dolphins
by Maria Gill and Bruce Potter
Published by New Holland
ISBN 9781869664107

Book Review: Fuss-Free Suppers, by Jenny Kay and Elinor Storkey

This book is in bookstores now.

When I was growing up, my mother used to tell me that the hardest thing about cooking for a family of four was not the actual cooking, but deciding what to have for tea in the first place. As a parent working full-time, I know now how right she was. Jenny Kay and Elinor Storkey offer solutions to that problem with Fuss-Free Suppers, designed to provide quick and relatively easy inspiration when takeaways or beans on toast are beckoning.

This is a South African book, with some of the recipes having being published previously in the Angela Day column in The Star, so some of the terms and ingredients may be unfamiliar to New Zealanders. Don’t let it put you off though, I quickly worked out that brinjal is aubergine, and Wikipedia taught me that bobotie is a traditional South African dish, usually made with spiced mince and an egg topping, although a lentil version is offered here.

Generally all the ingredients will be familiar and easily accessible to New Zealand cooks with a well-stocked supermarket, with the possible exception of hake, which is generally caught in New Zealand as a by-catch to hoki – if buying from a fish shop and it’s not available, ask what a good substitute might be; it’s described as having moist, white flesh.

The book has a helpful “what to keep in your pantry” section at the beginning, so that you have everything on hand to get creating. Recipes are divided by meat type or vegetarian, with pizza and pasta having its own section.

Most recipes have their own photograph, and the food styling is much more “decent home cook” than Michelin-starred chef, which is helpful when you’re time poor and low on ideas – the food looks accessible, rather than intimidating. Having cooked the lentil cottage pie and the chicken breasts stuffed with goat’s cheese and herbs, I can attest to the tastiness and ease of preparation.

I’m inclined to use this book for last minute weeknight dinners, and it sits alongside Alison Holst and Donna Hay on my cookbook shelf for those nights when I simply can’t think of what to cook that we haven’t already had a few times in the last month. If that sounds a bit like you too, I recommend it as a useful addition to your kitchen arsenal.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Fuss-Free Suppers
by Jenny Kay and Elinor Storke
Published by Struik Lifestyle, Capetown (New Holland)
ISBN 9781431700073

Book review: New Zealand Hall of Fame by Maria Gill, illustrated by Bruce Potter

This book is in bookshops now and is a finalist in the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.

A couple of years ago I tried to find a book on famous New Zealanders that my children could use for school projects. I failed miserably as there seemed to be a real gap in the market, so I was thrilled to come across Bruce Potter drawing caricatures for a new book on famous New Zealanders at the Storyline Festival.

I had to wait for it to be published and it was well worth the wait. Maria Gill has identified an interesting mix of 50 New Zealanders, both living and dead, who’ve all done something remarkable in their field.

The table of contents is split into sections: adventurers, leaders, pioneers, scientists, inventors, artists and sportspeople, so when my daughter was looking for a scientist to do a school project on, it was easy to identify four likely candidates.

I like the way that the four people are all quite different and specialise in different areas so there is bound to be someone of interest to all readers. My daughter chose Steve O’Shea (world-renowned squid expert) for her homework assignment and found plenty of information in the book.

Each page has some specific sections – Trophy Board, Timeline and Passport (with a photo and facts like name, date of birth and place of birth). All information is written in a very child-friendly way and includes information that children would find interesting.

Bruce Potter has drawn a caricature of each person and this takes pride of place on each double-spread. These are complimented by smaller photos and other drawings. One thing I don’t understand is why small drawings have been made from photographs on some of the pages. I don’t think these drawings have been done very well (poor Dave Dobbyn looks like Shrek in the picture on Tim Finn’s page), and the original photos are easily found on the internet.

My daughter has enjoyed flicking through the book and reading snippets of information. She declared she likes the book because ‘it tells you lots of interesting things about people.’
The book includes web addresses, and references to documentaries and films that can be found online.

I think this book is a ‘must have’ for any family with young children and I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by Niki Bailey, Facebook fan

New Zealand Hall of Fame: 50 Remarkable Kiwis

by Maria Gill and illustrated by Bruce Potter
(New Holland Publishing)
ISBN 9781869663124