Book Review: The Kiwi Go Marching One by One, by Peter Millett, illustrated by Deborah Hinde

Available in bookshops nationwide.

The Kiwi Go Marching One by One is a Kiwi take on the nursery rhyme “The Ants Go Marching”. It follows five kiwis pals as they embark on a camping trip and partake in the many exciting adventures New Zealand has to offer; from building bivouacs in the forest and sea fishing to sledding down snowy mountains and bungee jumping from trees. It begins with five excited kiwis marching off to set up camp and ends with five very tired kiwis marching home to a well deserved rest.

Hinde’s illustrations are lovely and manage to capture the tranquility of the New Zealand’s outdoors. Each time I read through the book I noticed more and more little details and each kiwi appears to have their own personality. Children will love scouring the pages to find familiar creatures and plants that are unique to Aotearoa.

The lyrics fit seamlessly into the tune and my preschool students and I enjoyed singing along with Jay Laga’aia. Singing is very important towards language learning and I always love finding new sing-a-long books to share with children. The te reo Māori translation is brilliant and books that promote the use and learning of te reo Māori for young children and adults alike are a great resource to have.

I would recommend this book to any child that loves a sing-a-long! It is thoughtfully illustrated and wonderfully written and children can enjoy singing along with an adult or the CD or just explore New Zealand nature and wildlife through the illustrations.

Reviewed by Alana Bird

The Kiwi Go Marching One by One
by Peter Millett, illustrated by Deborah Hinde
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775435129

Junior Fiction shorts #1: Frankie Potts, and Johnny Danger

I have spent a very enjoyable week reading through the most recent NZ-written junior fiction to land on our shelves. We have some amazing authors writing books that deserve an international audience. Here are just a few of them, from Puffin (Penguin Random House). Keep an eye on this blog today, because there are two more posts to come – a great resource for those unsure of what to get their new readers next. All reviews by me, Sarah Forster.

Frankie Potts and the Sparkplug Mysteries
by Juliet Jacka, with illustrations by Phoebe Morris

cv_frankie_potts_and_the_sparkplug_mysteriesFrankie Potts is a girl detective who solves mysteries large and small in this, the first of the series by Juliet Jacka. This book has broad appeal, and Frankie is a very relatable character, a not-girly girl who kicks ass when she has to, and has the best dog in the world to help her. Her grandma is one cool character, and her parents are easy-going without letting her get away with too much. Phoebe Morris adds some great touches with her page and small character illustrations.

The biggest mystery in this book centres on Grandma M, her fierce maternal grandmother, whom Frankie learns has more to her than she may have guessed. This is one for every kid who sees the world as a series of mysteries to be solved, who can’t wait for the next one to come around the corner. A Harriet the Spy character for the modern age – with an ultra-clever skateboarding dog. Great for kids aged 6 – 10.

Frankie Potts and the Sparkplug Mysteries
by Juliet Jacka, illustrated by Phoebe Morris
Published by Puffin
9780143309185

Frankie Potts and the Bikini Burglar
by Juliet Jacka, with illustrations by Phoebe Morris

cv_Frankie_potts_and_the_bikini_burglar.jpgThis is the second in the Frankie Potts series, and does a fantastic job of widening Frankie’s world, bringing in friends (and enemies!) from school to help her solve a hot pink mess. The book opens with a job ad – Frankie has decided with all the mysteries around Tring, she needs a sidekick. And in the first couple of pages of the book, her wishes are answered, with a boy who might be from Borneo, or Tasmania…or then again he might not.

And just in time. There’s a thief in town, and they are stealing anything pink they can get their paws on. Frankie and her friends come up with a plan of attack, but can they get all their pawns in play in time to save the diamond-encrusted pink bikini at the centre of the mystery? Phoebe Morris’ illustrations add to the fun, and I like the repetition as we carry on trying to solve our mysteries. This is a solidly commercial, well-written mystery series, which I sincerely hope will be published into the UK and US.

Frankie Potts and the Bikini Burglar 
by Juliet Jacka, illustrated by Phoebe Morris
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143309192

Johnny Danger: Spy Borg
by Peter Millett

cv_johnny_danger_spyborgIf you like your spy mysteries fast-paced and full of toilet humour, Peter Millett is your man. Johnny Danger is an undercover superspy for the MI6 – his cover being, um, that he is a terrible spy. This is the third in this new(ish) series from Millett, who is best known for his UK-published series Boy Zero Wannabe Hero.

No bodily emission is left unturned as Johnny Danger once again fights his mortal enemy Dr Disastrous, who has a new partner in crime – Yuri BoomBoom’ovic, a deranged master puppeteer who controls realistic cyborgs he has named…Yuri-nators. While I was a little old to laugh aloud at the jokes, I found myself engaged in the action nonetheless, which bounds along swiftly, with enough character quirks to make it interesting without loading up on emotion. Recommended for ages 6 – 10, I’m definitely going to be putting this forward for my 6-year-old to consider when we finish our current read-alouds.

Johnny Danger: Spy Borg
by Peter Millett
Penguin Books Australia
9780143309079

Book Review: The Anzac Puppy, by Peter Millett and Trish Bowles

This delightful picture book will engagcv_the_anzac_puppye children and adults alike; beautifully illustrated and with just the right amount of detail for a younger audience, it is a timely publication as the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I approaches.

Based on true events, The Anzac Puppy tells the story of a New Zealand soldier, Sam, and Freda, the puppy he takes with him to the Western Front. Both Sam and Freda endure the hardships of trench life over a long period of time, and grow into adulthood together. The story has a lovely ending that brings things full circle.

As I’m a teacher, I asked my class of new entrants to help me review the book. They enjoyed it very much, thought the pictures were beautiful, they appreciated the ending, and they liked that Freda was a brave dog who helped Sam to be brave too.

Wondering if slightly older children would gain more from the book, I read it to the class of 6-and-a-half-year-olds next door. They were much more interested in the depiction of war than the younger children, and were keen to start conversations about the war, why it happened, and their own family experiences of WW1. Some of the boys were less appreciative of the ending (one went so far as to pronounce “bleuch” very loudly!), but again, the children were impressed by the bravery of Freda, and they were fascinated by the true origins of the story.

The Anzac Puppy stands on its own as a lovely picture book to share with children aged 5 to 10, as themes of courage and bravery always appeal. It also serves as an excellent starting point for conversations about the many commemorations that will take place in New Zealand and overseas to mark the significant anniversaries of WW1, and helps to convey a little of the sense of horror that our servicemen and women must have endured in the trenches. Recommended – on both counts!

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

The Anzac Puppy
by Peter Millett and Trish Bowles
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775430971