Book Review: Nostalgia, Great Mums, and the Black Wolf

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

Nanna’s Button Tin, by Dianne Wolfer, illustrated by Heather Potter

cv_nannas_button_tinWhen I was a child my mother had an old willow-pattern biscuit tin half-filled with buttons. I loved to plunge my hands into the tin and let the buttons run through my fingers.

Just by looking at the cover of this book made me smile because it brought back memories of hunting through that tin, looking for just the right button to replace one that was missing off a treasured item of clothing or toy.

The little girl in this book has a nanna with a button tin and the pair tip them out in the hope of finding a button to replace poor teddy’s missing eye. Of course not just any button will do; it has to be the right size, shape and colour.

The book’s first line reads: “I love Nanna’s button tin, it’s full of stories.”

This sets the scene for the search, as each button they pick up reminds nanna or the little girl of where that button came from. The accompanying illustrations are delightful and will no doubt bring back memories of similar occasions for readers. I instantly recalled buttons from my grandmother’s dressing gown, my mother’s evening gowns, father’s shirts, and some of my own creations. You could make this book interactive by starting a tin filled with buttons that represent your own memories.

Whether the child is old enough to read the book out loud or not, the illustrations alone make this a winner. There are so many things to look at in the background that adults and children alike will love this book. It’s like a printed hug!

The Best Mum in the World, by Pat Chapman, illustrated by Cat Chapman

cv_the_best_mum_in_the_worldFollowing on from the popular book The Best Dad in the World, The Best Mum in the World would make a great birthday, Mother’s Day or Christmas present for any mum.

Beautifully illustrated by Cat Chapman (no relation to the author), the book explores all the reasons why we love our mums.

The book has a similar theme to dad’s version, with the child starting out by saying their mum loves it when they wake her up. The illustration shows a chaotic bed with children and animals crowding out the parents – dad has given up and is sleeping on the floor!

Any mum who has had her hair ‘done’ by a child will smile, as will those who have been served a mud pie. And hide-and-seek may give mums an idea – pretend to hide behind the couch and snatch a quick nap instead!

All different kinds of mums are shown in the illustrations – mums doing the shopping, driving tractors, playing with the children, saving them from scary insects (even if she doesn’t look that thrilled by it), or just smiling on as her children ‘decorate’ the walls.

Blankeys are retrieved from dogs and owies are fixed with sticking plasters, helping to make each mum the best mum in the world.

This is a great read-along book and there are so many things in the background that can be used to entertain a child along the way. There is even space at the front to draw a portrait of your own mum.

Mother’s Day may have been and gone, but this book is a perfect gift for any mum in your life, to remind her of the things that make her so great.

Virginia Wolf, by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

cv_virginia_wolfBased loosely on the close relationship between the writer Virginia Woolf and her artist sister, Vanessa Bell, Virginia Wolf is an unusual but imaginative children’s book that deals with depression.

Beautifully illustrated, the book starts with Vanessa’s sister, Virginia, feeling a little ‘wolfish’. She doesn’t want to talk to anyone, gets upset when Vanessa tries to paint her, and even tells the birds to stop making so much noise.

Vanessa says she was a very bossy wolf, and her mood started affecting everything else in the house, taking all the colour and enjoyment out of life. Nothing Vanessa could do would cheer her up and nothing pleased her – not even the cat or making faces at their brother. She just wanted to be left alone.

Vanessa lies on the bed with her, saying there must be something she could do that would make things better. Virginia says if she were flying she might feel better, but she rejects all the cities Vanessa suggests.

“No. No. No!” cries Virginia, saying she wants to be in a perfect place with iced cakes and beautiful flowers and trees and no doldrums – she wants to be in Bloomsberry.

Vanessa is confused as she has no idea where this magical place is and Virginia is no help. She decides to paint a garden and create a place called Bloomsberry that looks just the way it sounded.

When Virginia wakes, she is still acting like a wolf, but slowly notices the garden her sister has made. She becomes involved in making the magical Bloomsberry even more fantastic and all of a sudden down becomes up, dim becomes bright, and gloom becomes glad again.

The book ends on a lighter note, with the sisters heading out to play. It takes a sensitive look at depression and could be used to discuss the topic and the things that could change how a person feels and acts.

Reviews by Faye Lougher

Nanna’s Button Tin
by Dianne Wolfer, illustrated by Heather Potter
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781922077677

The Best Mum in the World
by Pat Chapman, illustrated by Cat Chapman
Published by Upstart Press
ISBN 9781927262801

Virginia Wolf
by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Published by Book Island
ISBN: 9781911496038

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Book Review: The Best Dad in the World, by Pat Chapman & Cat Chapman

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_best_dad_in_the_worldThe Best Dad in the World would make a great birthday or Christmas present for any dad.

Beautifully illustrated by Cat Chapman (no relation to author Pat Chapman), the book explores all the reasons why we love our dads.

Any parent of young children will smile at the illustrations as they have a little more meaning than the words suggest. Dad may be loved because he likes to get up early – but the illustration shows the time is 5.59am and some little person is trying to open a sleeping dad’s eyes!

The animals in the story are taking advantage of dad’s attempts at cooking, licking up the spilled milk and dropped food, and there are some truly kiwi fathers shown throughout. Farmer dads, truckie dads, dads who make paper planes, animal-loving dads, dads with earplugs in who pretend they like the music their children play, dads who are as tall as the sky and dads who never get tired and know ice cream fixes everything.

This is a great read-along book and there are so many things in the background that can be used to entertain a child along the way. There is even space at the front to draw a portrait of your own dad.

Father’s Day may have been and gone, but this book is a perfect gift for any dad in your life, as it will remind him of the things that make dads so great.

The Best Dad in the World
by Pat Chapman, illustrated by Cat Chapman
Published by Upstart Press
ISBN 9781927262740

Book Review: ‘Tis the Month before Christmas – The True Story of Santa, by Patricia Chapman, illustrated by Richard Hoit

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_tis_the_month_before_christmasPatricia Chapman has written a number of non-fiction books, including the bestselling Dunmore Book of New Zealand Records, and Strange Facts about New Zealand, as well as several novels. Richard Hoit is a freelance illustrator working full time on children’s books, with his work appearing worldwide.

With Christmas not that far away it was fortuitous that I was sent this book to review. It has a rather unique way of approaching the “true” story of how Santa became Santa. There is one story to be read for each day starting on 25 November and finishing on 25 December. Most of us are familiar with advent calendars (usually with a chocolate treat behind each date), so this is a great alternative if you want to avoid sugar overload leading up to Christmas.

Chapman tells the story of Nicolas Klaus, who lives with Grandfather Klaus in a farmhouse built of heavy logs, deep in the forests of Lapland. Grandfather Klaus had a herd of reindeer and Nicholas helped on the farm every day. We also find out how the reindeer got their names – from Prancer, Dancer  Vixen and even Rudolf.

I read this book to Abby aged 4 ½ in one sitting, which is not ideal, but I was keen to see just how much she would retain and what her views were on the conclusion of this story. When Mummy came home from work, one very excited little girl proceeded to tell, in her own words, the story about Santa, proving to me that she definitely had been listening.

The illustrations are fabulous and match the story with ease and with, flowing along gently engaging the listener and reader alike. This is a wonderful book keeping alive the magic of Christmas for children.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

‘Tis the Month Before Christmas – The True Story of Santa
by Patricia Chapman, illustrated by Richard Hoit
Published by Upstart Press
ISBN 9781927262344