Book Review: Witch’s Cat Wanted – Apply Within, by Joy H. Davidson & Nikki Slade Robinson

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_witchs_cat_wantedJoy H. Davidson is from the Hawkes Bay. Davidson recieved the 2015 Joy Cowley Award for the unpublished manuscript of this book. Nikki Slade Robinson lives in Opitiki, and has written and illustrated a number of children’s books. Slade Robinson won the Picture Book award at the 2016 NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults for her book Little Kiwi’s Matariki.

There was once a very pleasant witch. She looked exactly as a witch should look, except for one small, furry detail. No cat! She had a broom and a tall black hat but her spells wouldn’t work without a cat! She stirred her cauldron and with a rumble and a hiss, the cauldron spat out a sign!
Witch’s Cat
Apply within

Knock, knock, tiddly-ock knock (don’t you love those words? – they drip off the tongue) on her front door. Outside sat a fluffy Persian cat. “I’ve come about the job” she purred. “Please come in,” the witch said. Unfortunately on further questioning the fluffy Persian couldn’t possibly ride on her broom as he’d get broomsick and cough up fur-balls into her cauldron. Whoever heard of a broomsick cat?

The story continues with an elegant Siamese cat applying for the job – he too was unsuccessful as he couldn’t possibly eat animal gizzards and live with toads and lizards. He was far too fussy with his food to be a successful witch’s cat.

I read this book to nearly 2-year-old Quinn. She sat attentively listening to the story with us both stopping and admiring the different cats. Quinn’s vocabulary is fairly limited, but she really enjoyed this story. I was told to “read it” Grandma again and then again. Quinn then took the book from me and said “mine”. So one little girl was captivated by poor witch trying hard to fill a job vacancy for a full-time companion and assistant. The ending is rather wonderful with the solution so obvious, it’s a wonder we all didn’t think of it!

This is a beautiful story with such lovely illustrations. Quinn has a birthday shortly so this book will join others as part of her 2nd birthday presents.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Witch’s Cat Wanted – Apply Within
by Joy H. Davidson & Nikki Slade Robinson
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775433729

Book Review: Fuzzy Doodle, by Melinda Szymanik and Donovan Bixley

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_fuzzy_doodleThis book is one to treasure. From the first squiggle to the final page, Fuzzy the doodle leads you on a playful word adventure as he grows…and grows…and grows.

This is The Hungry Little Caterpillar redux, but instead of fruit & picnic treats, Fuzzy craves writing, ink and colour. And as fuzzy eats, he is redefined. The fonts change, the words shine glossily from the page, and eventually the metallics see a royal tinge added to Fuzzy’s fur.

As well as the growth of Fuzzy the caterpillar, this flawlessly rhyming story tells us about the growth of a book, the growth of a writer and artist, and the growth of a reader. The story grows in confidence as Fuzzy ‘hoovers’ up words, sentences and paragraphs. It took me a few reads to understand the brilliance of this book, and I was grateful for this. I do like a good book about books and booklovers, but that story is being worn out: telling it in this way was fresh for me, with a familiar transformation story for the kids to hang on to.

The style of the illustrations is walking a fine line between brilliance and chaos, but of course, Donovan Bixley is one of our most adaptable illustrators – and with him designing the book as well, every splash, whoosh and nibble has been carefully designed to sit on the page just so. Fuzzy Doodle displays flawless interaction between an author and illustrator, and good on Scholastic for putting the money into the printing to make this book shine.

Parent, buy this book and read it to your kids as they learn to read, write and squiggle.
Just remember:

‘Fuzzy started as a scribble,
just a scrawly little doodle,
a smudgey sort of ‘something’
at the bottom of the page.’

He’s been through a lot since, and now he is splendid.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

Fuzzy Doodle
by Melinda Szymanik & Donovan Bixley
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775432500 HB / 9781775434061 PB

Book Review: The Empire City: Songs of Wellington

cv_the_empire_cityAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

The Empire City: Songs of Wellington acts as a perfect representation of the New Zealand capital, from past to present. A collection of songs by Andrew Laking, paintings by Bob Kerr, and various historical photographs of the city, this book spans the city of Wellington from Willam Wakefield’s arrival in 1839 through to the end of the 20th Century.

Simply, it is a book of song lyrics, with paintings and pictures, and a few historical notes. Each song is preceded by information about the subject. ‘This is the Time’ tells of the first three decades of the 20th century and the effect of the First World War on Wellington, ‘Red Stands for The Cuba’ gives life to the well-known Cuba Street and where the name originates from. The Empire City stands as a historical notebook for Wellington, wrought through history and song.

It opens up with a painting reminiscent of ‘Wanderer above the Sea of Fog’ by Caspar David Friedrich, composed just a decade before Wakefield’s arrival in Wellington. This starting point places the book in a historical context and begins by evoking the early 19th Century. The book then moves forward from there, covering major historical points in Wellington’s past. Each section, through a combination of song, pictures and words, evokes a specific point in the past, rendering it visible to the reader through a beautiful combination of art.

Once the accompanying CD is played, and one follows its songs through the book, a new world is opened up. The paintings and photographs tell the history just as much as the words, they move forward in time along with the music. The paintings of Bob Kerr that surround the first song, ‘The Colonist’, picture Willam Wakefield moving through the landscape before the city sprung up. The instrumental introduction helps this movement along with its subdued guitars and folksy atmosphere. Similarly, the photographs that span ‘At the Wharves’, ‘This is the Time’, and ‘Mayor George Troup’, perfectly recall Wellingtons physical past. Alongside this, the music evokes the feeling of the time. At some points jazz themes move into the songs, at others a more folk style takes over. Even the 60’s and 70’s come through in songs like ‘After the War’ and ‘Wide Open Street’.

The music, alongside the paintings and photography, helps to evoke the historical time referenced in the songs. The words themselves also begin to feel more lyrical. The written song words turn poetic, the rhythm clear and inviting, and they move you through the book to the pace of the songs. Even the instrumental bookends to the songs give plenty of time to read the historical notes and gaze at the art on the page.

The three different elements, the words, the pictures, and the music, all combine perfectly with each other to create a single, multifaceted experience. They feel like a perfect representation of the history of Wellington, working together to evoke the art that fills the city.

Reviewed by Matthias Metzler

The Empire City: Songs of Wellington
by Andrew Laking
Published by Victoria University Press
ISBN 9780864739902