Book Review: Simon Said and Other Cautionary Tales, by Pamela Allen

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_simon_said_and_other_cautionary_talesMost children know the game Simon Says, but this book puts a different spin on the game.

‘Simon said,
I am taller than you.’

And he was.

He can pull harder than you, jump higher than you, run faster than you, climb higher than you, throw a ball further than you, finally finishing with ’I can eat more than you.’  It does not end well!

The second story in this wonderfully funny book is ‘Simon Did’. This story also does not end well for Simon.

The third and fourth stories; Watch me, and Watch me Now have slightly better endings.

This is a fun book with wonderful illustrations and sitting down with 4- year–old granddaughter Quinn made this a great experience for both of us.  We were laughing our socks off at Simon’s antics and what we really shouldn’t do in life.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Simon Said and Other Cautionary Tales
by Pamela Allen
Published by OneTree House
ISBN 9780995106499

Book Review: Yackety Zac, by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Ross Kinnaird

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_yackety_zacWhen Booksellers sent out an email recently with a photograph of children’s books to be reviewed, and an instruction to ‘choose 3’, it was a classic case of judging a book by the cover – or title, in this case. The title and cover illustration Yackety Zac pretty much tells you everything you are going to need to know about this book, and I HAD to have it.

Don’t think you won’t be surprised by Yackety Zac though.  Yup, Zac talks A LOT, but I wasn’t expecting his talk to be so precociously early, or in rhyme. The rhymes scan well, and trip of the tongue with ease. The language is also rich, and exposes children to words they might not otherwise use, in the best traditions of Lynley Dodd and Margaret Mahy – this is always a very good thing.

The illustrations are hilarious and vibrantly coloured. The expressions on the other character’s faces convey exactly everyone’s reactions to Zac’s incessant talking, while Zac is joyfully oblivious. I also love the subtle messages on the doctor’s clinic wall – a good reminder for everyone about the reason why we have two ears and only one mouth.

The solution to Zac’s problem is funny and clever, and a nice play on an old idiom.  It ties up the story in a satisfying.  It was school holidays when I reviewed Yackety Zac, so I enlisted the help of my friend Lucas, who is 7, to give me his opinion. He thought it was very funny, and liked the conclusion as much as I did.

Lucas and I highly recommend this book for children from 3 years and up, and I think it will be a useful resource for teachers in particular (despite the rather unflattering portrayal of a teacher in the book!), to raise the issue of taking turn while talking in a humourous and fun way.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Yackety Zac
by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Ross Kinnaird
Published by OneTree House
ISBN 9780995106451

Book Review: Rafferty Ferret: Ratbag, by Sherryl Jordan

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_rafferty_ferret_ratbag.jpg‘Rafferty was starving. He was also homeless, motherless, fatherless, penniless, and (if he wasn’t very careful) on his way to being lifeless as well.’

So begins Rafferty Ferret: Ratbag, a rollicking tale of a courageous orphan boy. Homeless and hungry, Rafferty Ferret is desperately looking for a way to earn a living.

Set in medieval times, Rafferty has been living rough ever since his forced removal from the monastery he called home. The story begins with Rafferty in a pickle: he is stuck in a hazardous Leper Hole. Soon rescued by a kind baker and his (rather unkind) wife, Rafferty stumbles upon the unlikely occupation of bakery ‘rat catcher’. Before long, his rat-catching fame spreads throughout the village of Spickernell and his skills are in demand. Often meeting unsavoury characters involved in the business, Rafferty is pleasantly surprised to make friends with a young boy named Wyll. The rat-catching pair use their crafty natures to save themselves from the perils of homelessness.

Rafferty is a strong, clever and cunning protagonist who looks out for everyone (and every rat) around him. With few adults willing to help him, his adventures are brought about by his own determination to survive. Hearts will ache for Wyll, who, falling seriously ill, has only one hope – that Rafferty will be able to find him help in time.

Renowned award-winning New Zealand author and illustrator Sherryl Jordan has published extensively since the 1990s. Now published by independent children’s publisher OneTree House, her latest novel Rafferty Ferret: Ratbag will appeal to all children who love historical adventure – or simply a good story.

An effortless read, this book will quickly charm readers. A well-researched story which draws the reader into a medieval world of danger, illness, hunger and corruption, Jordan brings the setting and characters to life with vivid and lively prose.

Her beautiful writing reflects her artistic talent: ‘Thunder rolled and lightning sizzled across the moor making trees stand out stark and black in the lurid glare, and lighting the distant house with its streaming thatch and stone walls. When there was no lightning the darkness was complete, and there was only the fury of the wind and the tumultuous lashing of the rain.’

The seamlessly introduced historical language and delicate illustrations heighten the powerful emotional atmosphere of this adventure story.

Reviewed by Rosalie Elliffe

Rafferty Ferret: Ratbag
by Sherryl Jordan
Published by OneTree House Ltd
ISBN 9780995106437

Book Review: Seeking an Aurora, by Elizabeth Pulford, illustrated by Anne Bannock

Available in selected bookshops nationwide. 

cv_seeking_an_aurora.jpgSeeking an Aurora is one of those books which at first glance, seems just a light read with pictures. And for a child it probably is, with the beautiful pictures holding the interest more than the story.

In fact, reading it to the child in my life, we found that examining and discussing the pictures was a story in itself. We talked about the way the cold air made our breath puff out like little clouds, and the way frost on the ground crunched beneath our feet as we walked on it. We wondered how the artist had produced such vivid colours from what looked like crayons or pastels and we thought we might try to make some art work ourselves.  The depictions of the Aurora woke in us a fervent desire to witness one ourselves and we discussed how we could set about achieving this desire.  We really really liked the book on lots of different levels.

The main one for me was enjoying the company of my grandchild as we talked together about the book and the thoughts it brought up. For a child, reading it with an interested adult is the ideal, but I can imagine them reading it over by themselves afterwards, thinking their own thoughts, and enjoying the memories.  A lovely wee book.

Reviewed by Lesley Vlietstra

Seeking an Aurora
by Elizabeth Pulford and Anne Bannock
published by OneTree House
ISBN 9780995106444

Book review: Te Whare, nā Ngaere Roberts, rāua ko Christine Dale

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_te_whare.jpgTe Whare is a book aimed at children learning to speak te reo Māori.  It is written in te reo Māori with pictures providing the other part of the meaning.

Te Whare follows a baby crawling through a house introducing the words for common everyday things associated with having a small child in the house. From pushchairs, bottles to keys to cots and everyday household furnishings. Even the household pets, the dog and the cat are involved in this simple but rather wonderful book.

There are very few trade books written solely in te reo Māori that haven’t been translated from English. This book is a welcome addition to an already slim selection written for New Zealand children by New Zealand authors.

I am not a te reo speaker but found I could easily understand what this book was trying to convey.  If I had any difficulty I resorted to an on-line Māori to English translation.  The joys of modern technology.

The illustrations are in black and white, with different coloured backgrounds portraying the various rooms in the house to show a normal New Zealand household. They are simply done, but help the reader get to grips with te reo Māori.  I think that this would be a welcome addition to any Kōhanga reo, primary school or young child’s library.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Te Whare
Nā Ngaere Roberts
Rāua ko Christine Dale
Published by OneTree House
ISBN 9780473397074

 

Book Review: Of Course You Can! | Ka Taea Tonu e Koe! by Karen Hinge, illustrated by Nicky Sievert

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_of_course_you_can.jpgJust like any child starting a new school, Jeremy was nervous. Kowhai Street Primary school looked nice and his teacher, Whae Kath was welcoming. He waved good-bye to his mother. Jeremy sat back watching the activities the other children were engaging in. After eating some of his lunch he participated in some of the activities – making a colourful fish picture to add to the class display. His first day was over but his enthusiasm was a bit mixed which is how a lot of children feel in a new environment.

On Jeremy’s second day he was invited to join in some of the activities. He was convinced he wouldn’t be able to participate but with words of encouragement and a bit of ingenuity he was able to join in. Jeremy was making new friends and finding ways to participate in all the games and the rough and tumble of a school’s playground.

This book is very cleverly put together, encouraging children to have empathy for those who aren’t able-bodied, and helping them to find a way to join in children’s every day activities.

What is also wonderful with this book is the accompanying text in Te Reo. Many schools are teaching Te Reo, so this book is a great addition to a school’s library or class text.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Of Course You Can! | Ka Taea Tonu e Koe!
by Karen Hinge Na Ngaere Roberts i whakamaori
Illustrated by Nicky Sievert
Published by OneTree House
ISBN 9780473421854

Book Review: Sticking with pigs, by Mary-Anne Scott

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_sticking_with_pigsWell this book gets off to a high-intensity start. In the first chapter we have a kid with Addison’s disease, an alcoholic uncle, a disenchanted teenager and a vague, cello-playing mother (she does not have a great part in this book).

Add to the mix that the uncle is a pig-hunter who is not hugely favoured by his brother (our hero’s father) because of an earlier incident, and you have quite a lot going on.

Wolf the disenchanted teenager does, to be fair, have a bit of an axe to grind, what with his brother being so ill and his parents taken up with that. So when his uncle offers to take him pig-hunting he decides to go. He even gets fit before the big event.

It starts out okay; Wolf copes and despite himself, seems to get a kick out of pitting himself against nature. But of course, it turns to custard when uncle’s knee gives out – after sticking the pig, otherwise it would be a really sad story!

The parts about Wolf’s resilience are well-done, as he struggles to carry out his uncle’s instructions. There are a LOT of difficulties for him to deal with, possibly too many for my taste, but I am sure other readers will thrill to the challenges overcome!

While I didn’t enjoy the book, I think it will very likely appeal to younger male readers and the design of the book is such that it will be appealing to dyslexic kids – double-line spacing, off-white paper, both good things.

So, personally it’s not my sort of read, but I can see it going quite well with younger male readers.

by Sue Esterman

Sticking With Pigs
by Mary-Anne Scott
Published by OneTree House
ISBN 9780995106406