Book Review: Dig, Dump, Roll, by Sally Sutton, with illustrations by Brian Lovelock

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_dig_dump_roll.jpgFrom the bestselling creators of Roadworks, the series of books that feature all sorts of trucks and earthmoving equipment, Dig, Dump, Roll is sure to please.

With its bold illustrations and made-to-be-read-out-loud text, Dig, Dump, Roll is a joy. For example – ‘bang-a-shudder, clang-a-judder, what’s at work? Here’s a clue: it will dig big holes for you.’ Turn the page to find ‘Digger! Digger! Coming through!’

There are bulldozers, diggers, dump trucks, rollers, concrete mixers and builders – and what are they building? Somewhere you can learn and play – a school!

This will delight younger children if whoever is reading the book puts a bit of effort into making the noises that go with each piece of machinery, and for those a little older, a page at the back of the book shows different parts of the items featured.

Dig, Dump, Roll is filled with bright, colourful illustrations that bring the machinery to life for all ages. A nice touch is the fact the illustrations show both men and women driving the machinery.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

Dig, Dump, Roll
by Sally Sutton, with illustrations by Brian Lovelock
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781760650803

Book Review: Kiwicorn, by Kat Merewether

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_kiwicornThis is such a cute, positive book. It celebrates individuality of all types, with a tiny bit of toilet humour thrown in to stop it from being saccharine.

The Kiwicorn is a unique creature, part Kiwi-part unicorn as the name implies. The illustrations present a cuddly, cheeky little creature that would make a great soft toy. Each double page spread has three descriptions and opposite a summary sentence, kind of like a value statement. For example, the left hand page asks, ‘Who is gentle, gutsy and good-hearted?’ The right hand page answers with, ‘Kiwicorn! I care about others and they care about me.’

Kiwicorn would be a great book for families to share to encourage self-acceptance and to celebrate the personality of their child. A wide range of attributes are included in the story, from politeness to rebelliousness, with a lot in between, so there will be something for everyone. The illustrations are delightful and engaging, with extra little details to spot.

I can imagine this book being a lovely shared book for children as young as two, and I will be using it with my class of 6-year-olds this year to build acceptance of differences and individual strengths. And also, just because it’s rather charming.


Reviewed by Rachel Moore

by Kat Merewether
Published by Illustrated Publishing
ISBN 9780994136428

Book Review: Summer Days – Stories and Poems celebrating the Kiwi Summer

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv-summer_daysSometimes a very special book comes in to my possession. Summer Days is one of these. I love the feel of it, the weight of it, the colour, the size, the blue ribbon bookmark and especially the sun-golden page edges. The inside is just as wonderful. Here is summer packaged for Kiwi kids. There are Pohutukawa trees and buzzing bees, jandals and sandy seashore, Jesus in the cowshed and Grandpa on the beach.

Puffin have published this collection for young Kiwi kids just in time for a family Christmas present. Every poem, story and illustration reminded me of the special nature of summer in New Zealand. This is the very best of the very best. Joy Cowley gives us the Nativity in a cowshed with a collection of animals beloved by New Zealanders. Gwenda Turner was a wonderful artist who captured the reality of beach time. She even included the named creatures found on the rocky shore. Margaret Mahy makes a special Christmas Cake, while Brian Turner watches the bees.

It is not easy to select a collection such as this. Keep it simple, keep it local, keep it varied and keep it manageable. Every page was a delight as I found there was enough variety to enjoy the short poems between the longer picture stories. This is a sturdy publication with an embossed hard cover and just the right size to pack for the holiday. It is the details which so delighted me. There are ice-cream cones on the end papers, a bookmark attached, a stitched spine and the final touch is the sunshine yellow edges to every page. Truly, it is summer in a book.

I see this being the perfect family present. It will become a classic treasure on the bookshelf creating heated debate when it has to be passed on to the next generation. My copy is already wrapped and under the tree for my granddaughter. Maybe I need a copy to keep for myself?

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

Summer Days: Stories and Poems celebrating the Kiwi Summer
ISBN 9780143771593

Book Review: Dragons Under My Bed, by Kath Bee, illustrated by Lisa Allen

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_dragons_under_my_bedWhen I was a child, I was sure once the light went out in my room that strange creatures lurked under the bed and in my wardrobe. If I’d been given a copy of Kath Bee’s book, Dragons Under My Bed, I’m sure I would have slept better!

Illustrated beautifully by Lisa Allen, this book tells of the adventures of a family of dragons who come out to play under a young boy’s bed once his mother turns out the light.

First of all he hears giggling, then sees glowing red eyes… followed by puffs of smoke and deep breathing. He hasn’t got just one dragon under his bed, oh no, he’s got a whole family!

He’s quick to say they don’t hurt him, but they do seem to be responsible for making one heck of a mess on his bedroom floor. Strangely enough, they seem to do all the sorts of things little boys do in their rooms, like throwing clothes, books and toys on the floor.

When his mother comes along the hall to see what’s making all the noise, wouldn’t you know it, the family of dragons disappears back under the bed and you can imagine who gets the blame for the mess!

This book is great as a read-along as well as a picture book for younger children. There are lots of things to spot on each page – especially the one with all the books, as it features a book titled How to Build a Dragon-fired Pizza Oven!

The simple, colourful illustrations will delight children and can be used to help them identify different objects. The book has a downloadable link to an accompanying song, providing even more fun and value.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

Dragons Under My Bed
by Kath Bee, illustrated by Lisa Allen
Published by David Ling Publishing
ISBN 9781927305355

Book Review: Tui Street Tales, by Anne Kayes

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_tui_street_tales.jpgWinner of the Tom Fitzgibbon award in 2016, Tui Street Tales is a fun and slightly fantastical collection of interconnecting stories, starring the children of Tui Street and taking a modern and quirky twist on traditional fairy tales. With short chapters and quirky stories, this collection should readily engage the junior reader (ages 8-10). I also enjoyed the New Zealand flavour, which incorporated wildlife, and the occasional phrase in Te Reo.

The collection opens with Jack and the Morepork, introducing us to the first two children, Jack and Tim. The boys begin by discussing their teacher, Mr Tamati’s latest assignment, the fairy tale project, in which they have been challenged to find fairy tale themes in their own lives. Scientific research is the key, and the two boys begin seeking evidence to prove some extraordinary theories – including the possible existence of a giant living in the enormous tree at the end of Jack’s drive. In not-too-subtle terms, the nature of using fairy tales to solve difficult situations is explored, and the traditional outcomes challenged.

Ella’s mother died, and she has difficult relating to her new stepmother and sisters. Instead, she spends her time alone, sorting out the recycling from the rubbish (and the dead river rats from the rest), whilst clinging tight to her grief. Her fairy godmother comes from an unlikely source, but can she help bring Ella out from herself, and teach her better how to relate with her new family and friends?

Harry and Gemma live a life divided between their mother, and their father and his new partner, Lula. When they are forced to change schools, into the very upmarket and prestigious “Visions”, the children struggle to adapt. Harry is pushed just a bit too far, and the two children begin a dangerous journey – making their way back to their “true” home of Tui Street. However, Lula has her wicked eye on them…

As a school project, Ella, Tim and Jack, vow to rejuvenate Waimoe, the dried-out creek behind their house, and appease the angry Maero that haunts the neighbourhood. Before they can plant the trees to bring Waimoe back, however, they must face Mr Thompson, the grumpy old man whose family were responsible for the creek’s disappearance.

Louie is lonely, all but trapped inside his neat and tidy house by a mother wrought with worry for his well-being. His only friend, Cloudbird, the tui who sings to him from the tree outside his window. When issued with Mr Tamati’s challenge: for every kid in the class to walk to school for an entire month (thus cutting down the traffic congestion and danger of accidents around the school), he is faced with a terrible dilemma: to disobey his mother, or to let his entire class down.

A story-teller and a dreamer, Lucy learns about topiary, and helps her father by trimming their hedge into a shaggy dog. But topiary is for royalty, and soon the children of the street find themselves visited by an unruly princess in a madcap, wild and weird ride that does, indeed, contain some elements of a shaggy dog tale.

Soccer-playing Terri is the star of the final story. Her aspirations at her sport make her the envy of another player, who takes her jealousy to social media and gossip. Will the support of her new friends, the wheelchair-bound soccer team she is coaching, give her the confidence she needs to beat the bully and succeed?

Tui Street Tales is cleverly executed, allowing children to experience the familiar and adding in a touch of magic, whilst also offering them solutions for their own fairy tale-esque dilemmas. An enjoyable read, that I would also recommend as an easy collection for tales for both parents and teachers to read aloud.

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

Tui Street Tales
by Anne Kayes
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434726

Book Review: The Little Yellow Digger Treasury, by Betty & Alan Gilderdale

cv_the_little_yellow_digger_treasuryAvailable at bookshops nationwide.

As well as being the award-winning author of the Little Yellow Digger series, Betty Gilderdale is a scholar of New Zealand children’s literature, in fact, her ground-breaking study A Sea Change: 145 Years of New Zealand Junior Fiction (1982) won the PEN Award for best first book of prose. She has been a winner of the Margaret Mahy Medal and Lecture Award and is a Life Member of the Storylines Children’s Literature Association of New Zealand There’s even an annual Storylines Betty Gilderdale Award for writing. But to my 4-year-old, she’s just that ‘nice lady who wrote about diggers’. And that’s how it should be.

Kids don’t care about a writer’s pedigree. They only care about the story and the characters. What really gels with this story, and the other four subsequent tales, is the ordinariness of them. They are all the kind of events that could really be going on in the paddock next door. Or on the neighbour’s section. In fact, “one dismal, wet August afternoon,” writes Gilderdale in her introduction, “we were babysitting our two grandsons…a digger was working in the garden but it got stuck in the mud and another digger had to be set for.” So begins the first tale, which begins the series.

The reason it works is that it mirrors rhymes like ‘The House that Jack Built’ – layering absurdity upon absurdity but never straying from the plausible. Of course, Gilderdale would have known that, being a pupil of great children’s literature. The original came out in 1993 and almost instantly became a classic, because it was simple, had a strong narrative and had the type of twist that appeals. It also appealed to boys and girls. Mud. Diggers. Dilemmas. Problems. Solutions. More mud. What’s not to like?

Twenty-three years on from the original release, Gilderdale’s language doesn’t feel dated, like many other children’s classics: the likes of Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, or Enid Blyton’s books. The Little Yellow Digger series belongs to no era. The books’ illustrator, Alan Gilderdale, Betty’s husband and an accomplished scholar himself, has created pictures that don’t chime with any particular artistic movement. The pictures in this first story also go on to create the stylistic atmosphere of all five books. For their audiences – 2-6 year olds, the style is perfect.

My favourite of the stories in this bind-up is The Little Yellow Digger Saves The Whale. Kids like things told straight, so this one doesn’t beat around the bush. Interestingly, the Orca that was saved by the digger while creating a channel to reload is named ‘Joe’ by the assisting beach-goers, but the digger and driver are never named. Yet both have very strong personalities, entirely recognised through their actions, which are well-intentioned, though sometimes a little reckless.

This collection represents a real ‘gold treasury’ of brilliant, simple and entertaining stories for pre-schoolers and first readers. Each of the Gilderdale’s books, compiled here, have a slight lean towards the educational – one has an archaeological theme (The Little Yellow Digger and The Bones); one is about animals and conservation (The Little Yellow Digger At The Zoo); and another about the misadventures of digging up unknown plumbing without proper checks (The Little Yellow Digger Goes To School); and of course, the aforementioned whale saving. They all stand alone as individually brilliant in their own way, but together create a fantastic package.

The Little Yellow Digger series has stood the test of time because the books are fun, imaginative and vibrant, with simple, clean art. With a slight Kiwi touch, not obvious but still there in the ordinary and familiar like whales and school pools, zoos and sheep and Mayoral visits to schools. All things that might actually happen – and that’s why this bind-up is a welcome addition to our classics.

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

The Little Yellow Digger Treasury
by Betty Gilderdale and Alan Gilderdale
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775433736

Book Review: Grasshoppers Dance by Juliette MacIver, Illustrated by Nina Rycroft

Available in bookstores nationwide.

I had the pleascv_grasshoppers-danceure not so long ago of reviewing another one of Juliette MacIver’s books, Yak and Gnu, which has become a firm favourite of some of the younger members of our family. Juliette has written numerous children’s books, and was a finalist in the 2011 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards with Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam and also in 2014 with another wonderful book Toucan Can. She is based in Wellington, and is a mother of four. Juliette majored in Linguistics at Victoria University and has a diploma in teaching English.

Nina Rycroft is an award winning illustrator and lives in Auckland with her husband and two children. She is also a director and co-founder of the Illustration School in Auckland.

On fun, sunny summer days
One bunny drummer plays.
On the big bass drum……..
A somersault bunny
In the summer-sun-sun!
And the grasshoppers dance
To the summertime hum.

The story is a simple one with the bunny beating the drum, while others dance and frolic around. The grasshoppers dance while others play instruments a beat that we can only imagine. We have a hawk playing an organ, a husky playing a tin whistle and so on.  The rhythm and style of the writing lends itself to singing and dancing. Sadly, I did neither while reading this wonderful book to our 4-year-old granddaughter – she was under the weather, lying lethargically on a beanbag. She did perk up though as the story progressed, making lots of comments about what might also be going on. A child’s imagination can be pretty spectacular at times.

Grasshoppers Dance is a wonderful book and the illustrations are amazing, I just couldn’t get over the detail of them. They are quite stunning.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Grasshoppers Dance
by Juliette MacIver, Illustrated by Nina Rycroft
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775432241

Book Review: Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite), by Yvonne Morrison, illustrated by Donovan Bixley

Available in bookstores nationwide.
I will admit to being a little dubious about sequels to popular books (or movies), but this book runs the risk and comes out alongside The Three Bears (Sort Of) in pure brilliance. Both books feature a true and ingenious interaction between illustration and text, thanks to the talents of Yvonne Morrison and Donovan Bixley.

Vote for this book for Children’s Choice here (you must be 18 or under).

I have extolled the virtues of Donovan Bixley previously, and the joyful feel of this book leads me to do so again. He is fine illustrator working at the top of his field in this style of illustration. Cheeky people and animals absolutely bursting with character set this story up beautifully, while his” child’s drawings”, encyclopaedia entries, wolf forms and even the map to grandma’s house show his breadth as an illustrator.

As with The Three Bears (Sort Of), this is the story of an adult telling a traditional fairy tale to their endlessly questioning child. This is the type of child who will not go straight to sleep after a story because they are still trying to place everything in their mind and make sense of it all. The fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood is tested to its limits of veracity, and many of the points this child picks up on are ones I used to wonder about myself as a kid, before putting them down to the need to tell a good story!

I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to read this aloud alongside me, as my ‘questioning child’ voice sounds a little too much like my ‘I have just got home from work why hasn’t a wine materialised yet’ voice! I was particularly pleased to see at the end, the child ensuring the wolf is safely rehabilitated in a ‘sanctuary for wolves where he made a lot of friends and lived happily ever after.’ Poor old wolves, they do get a bad rap in fairy tales. My 4-year-old also loved this ending.

My pick for the next book? Please, Yvonne and Donovan, do Jack and the Beanstalk – there are so many elements of that story that deserve a good questioning.

A highly recommended take on the traditional fairy tale, for ages 4+.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite)
by Yvonne Morrison, illustrated by Donovan Bixley
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775432630

Book Review: Yak and Gnu, by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Cat Chapman

Available in bookstores nationwide.
Juliette MacIver is a New Zealand children’s author – Marmaduke Duke on the Wide Blue Sea, The Moose and the Goose and Toucan Can being just a few of the books she has written. She lives in Titahi Bay, Wellington with her husband and four children.

Cat Chapman grew up in the Waikato but now lives in Auckland. She worked for a number of years at a design company, but in 2010 attended a night course in children’s illustration. She now works full-time as an illustrator for Walker Books. Cat loves working with ink, pen and water colour.

I have to start right off by saying that this is a very funny book. The style of it brings to mind the work of Dr Seuss, and even Roald Dahl to some extent. Both authors are of course great favourites of all members of our family.

This is a story about two friends Yak and Gnu who both love to row down the river.

Off they go.

Yak in a kayak, blackberry-black,
Gnu in a blueberry-blue canoe,
sing a song that’s sung by two:
“Yippee-ai, Yak!”
“Woo hoo, Gnu!”
“There are no other beasts
like me and you”
“No one else
but you and me
can float a boat
or sail the sea”

They meet a goat in a boat, a snazzy snail setting sail, a laughing calf aboard a raft, a nasty stingy on a rusty dingy. Others follow in this lovely story which enraptured the four-year-old I read this to. The illustrations are stunning and I can truthfully say that both of us were laughing at the antics of Yak and Gnu.

A wonderful, must-buy book for any child’s library.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Yak and Gnu
by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Cat Chapman
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781922077684

Book Review: Teddy One-Eye, by Gavin Bishop

cv_teddy_one-eyeAvailable in bookstores nationwide.

Telling the story of a boy’s life using his Teddy Bear as the narrator takes the reader on a rather unique and magical journey. This book is a warm and engaging tale that shows just how very special our childhood ‘friends’ are and the role they can play in our lives, especially when change and growth seem rather scary and frightening. Although he his rather battered and tatty and has only one eye, Teddy is a much-loved companion and this is reflected in the warmth of this story.

Life might not always be easy, but Teddy is brave and courageous. He might sometimes be forgotten and even left outside overnight, but in his special Teddy way he is always needed. Teddy, of course, is the heart of this story. He is the friend we all need when things are not quite right and who better to tell the story of this author’s life than Teddy: after all, there is nothing he doesn’t know about him.

This is one of those books that will become a favourite, one of those special books
that is recalled with love and passed down through generations. As usual, Gavin Bishop has done a fabulous job, and like his other books, this one will create precious memories and bring magic into its readers’ lives.

I thank Random House NZ for this lovely book.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

Teddy One-Eye
by Gavin Bishop
Published by Random House NZ
ISBN 9781775537274