Book Review: Freedom Song, by Emma Farry, illustrated by Ewan McDougall

Available in selected bookshops.

cv_freedom_songWhat began as a poem drafted during the night, twenty-five years ago, after a particularly difficult meeting with a young mother while working on a documentary, has resulted in a stunning hardcover book with a simple message – love conquers all.

In the preface Farry says, ‘The sadness of this woman’s life and lack of love that it illustrated affected me deeply. The poem has been a kind of a touchstone for me ever since’.

Living in Manhattan when the planes flew into the towers on September 11 2001, Farry again turned to the words of the poem to make sense of the disaster.

Back home in Dunedin in 2010 Farry saw Ewan McDougall’s art in an exhibition at the Gallery de Novo and felt he could produce the appropriate works of art for her poem.
The colourful oils compliment the words on each page and I am sure they will even appeal to children, and offer tremendous opportunity for thought provoking discussion in homes or schools.

At the rear of the book all the paintings are named and listed in order with the finished size and painting medium.

Emma Farry chose her birth town Dunedin to launch her book Freedom Song during August 2018, which seems fitting as she received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Otago University before gaining a Diploma in Journalism from Canterbury University.

Freedom Song is a wonderful book of hope for the future which will sit nicely on my coffee table ‘And safe in the knowledge, true love would abide, United and balanced, our spirits could glide’.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

Freedom Song
by Emma Farry, illustrated by Ewan McDougall
Published by Be Loved Press
ISBN 9780473410131

Book Review: Dear Donald Trump, by Sophie Siers and Anne Villeneuve

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_dear_donald_trumpThe premise of this delightful picture book (for older readers!) is that Sam is over sharing a bedroom with his brother and would like to block out the irritating behaviour (playing on a phone!) which keeps him awake at night. Having heard that Donald Trump has an idea which might suit, he suggests to his parents that he build a wall in his bedroom. Unsurprisingly, they are not convinced. So he writes to Donald Trump to sound him out.

The particular genius in this story is that each time Sam writes a letter, there’s a corresponding illustration of DT determinedly avoiding receiving said letters. You can tell who it is, because of the yellow hair, but you never see his face – he’s always with his back to you, or with the face obscured. Brilliant politicial commentary right there, for the observant reader!!

Sam does try hard to get his point across to his parents, who counter his arguments with more reasonable suggestions which don’t involve structural alterations of their sons’ bedroom. As the story goes on, he gradually concedes that there may be more than one way to solve his problem, and by the end of course it all works out extremely well, but you’ll have to read it to find out how.

Sophie Siers has done a great job with this book. The language is reasonably sophisticated and very believable. The throwaway comments from Sam’s mum are spot-on, and it’s easy to see how Sam got so irritated with his brother.

The illustrations are very clever, and also very un-Kiwi. Anne Villeneuve is a Canadian illustrator/author, and her work is much more Quentin Blake than Gavin Bishop; the style works very well for this story.

All in all, highly recommended.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

Dear Donald Trump
by Sophie Siers and Anne Villeneuve
Published by Millwood Press
ISBN 9780473432812

Book Review: The penguins are coming!, by Meg McKinlay & Mark Jackson

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_penguins_are_coming.jpgThe zoo is expecting some penguins to arrive and a squirrel is confused – what exactly is a penguin?  This begins a crazy story where all the animals contribute their preposterous ideas which become more absurd with each turn of the page.

The illustrations perfectly capture the cheerful nature of the story.  They are full of life and colour.  The animation of the animals creates a playful scene for the silliness.  There is even a kiwi to spot for the eagle eyed!  Little dream bubbles accompany the animals as they imagine what a penguin is.

Children will love becoming the expert to correct the zoo animals and share their knowledge.  And they don’t need to know much about penguins to be the expert – according to the otters they travel south to get away from the snow but stop for pizza on the way.  Later on the pelicans tell us the penguins don’t like water!

Each animal has an opinion but nobody knows what to expect.  Eventually the zoo keeper steps in and contributes knowledge by correcting the animals.  This is a great way to introduce facts into the fictional book.  But wait for the twist at the end when the penguins arrive!

This is a great book to share out loud and a hilarious addition to any young child’s bookshelf.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

The penguins are coming!
by Meg McKinlay & Mark Jackson
Published by Walker Books

Book Review: Do you want to gallop with me? by Sophie Siers, with illustrations by Judith Trevelyan

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_do_you_want_to_gallop_with_me.jpgBeing horse-mad as a child, I would have loved this book. Beautifully illustrated by Judith Trevelyan, Do you want to gallop with me? features horses every time you turn the page, along with tui, rabbits, and hedgehogs.

The story is about Nibbles the pony, who loves to gallop but on this day he has trouble finding anyone to play with him. The tui, hare, hedgehog and fellow horses all say no, and he’s thinking he’s going to be all alone in his prancing…

But then across the paddock comes a friend who is certainly keen to go galloping with Nibbles. They gallop and trot and splash and prance – past Tui, past Hare and past Hedgehog.

This book has plenty to keep a child enthralled as the pages turn, and the delightful illustrations are colourful and full of detail.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

Do You Want to Gallop With Me?
by Sophie Siers, with illustrations by Judith Trevelyan
Published by Millwood Press
ISBN 9780473408541

Book Review:  One House for All, by Inese Zandere, illustrated by Juris Petraškevičs

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_one_house_for_all.jpgA Latvian book now translated into English, One House for All asks what happens when three close friends find that their needs are different, and have to learn to compromise?

Crayfish, Raven and Horse want to live together as friends, but are also ready to get married and have children.  They soon realise that their wants and needs are not the same, and have to make a hard choice – not get married at all, or think of a creative solution that works for them all.

Aside from the repeated focus on marriage (it’s 2018, after all – and the original only dates to 2014), this is a very sweet story of good things coming in threes, be it three friends, 3 acres of grass, or three-metre-high bedrooms.

The story follows a pattern – each friend has the same idea, but in their own way.  I haven’t read it with my class yet but I’m prepared to wager that, if I stopped reading the story at the crisis point, the kids would come up with a very similar solution to the main characters; like the friends, kids are often great at thinking outside the square if given a chance.

The illustrations are saturated with colour, and appear simplistic or childlike at first glance, but are layered and richly detailed on a closer look.  This would be a great read-aloud for children aged about 4 – 8 years old.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

One House for All
by Inese Zandere, illustrated by Juris Petraškevičs
Published by Book Island Ltd
ISBN 9781911496069

Book Review: Gentle Giant – Wētāpunga, by Annemarie Florian & Terry Fitzgibbon

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_gentle_giantThis non-fiction meets poetic story about New Zealand’s largest insect is an amazing insight into the history and life of a wētā. It begins with some intriguing facts about the enormous size of wētā and how it came to make its home in Aotearoa before exploring its breeding, eating and survival habits, and taking a look at how human activity and the introduction of mammals has affected its way of life.

Young children are curious about the living world and seem to have endless questions about the many creatures that inhabit the earth. Annemarie Florian has created an amazing source of reference for children and adults with this book and it is clear that a lot of research and passion about New Zealand’s creatures has gone into Gentle Giant. The poetic narrative paired with the rich illustrations makes it a versatile teaching tool as it can be used as a story book as well as in-depth research tool.

If you were a fan of Florian’s award winning book KIWI: the real story or you have a young class or little explorer of your own who is curious about the wētā, you need to get your hands on a copy of Gentle Giant: Wētāpunga.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Gentle Giant: Wētāpunga
by Annemarie Florian
Published by New Holland Publishers
ISBN 9781869664817

Book Review: Dream Ayla Dream, by Mikyung Song, translated by Soona Song Wylie

Available in selected bookshops nationwide. 

cv_dream_ayla_dream.jpgInside this delightful picture book are six short stories, introduced as ‘stories that make you happy’. They feature a little girl called Ayla who has fun exploring the world around her and we get to see that world through her eyes; this is a celebration of the simple joys children find in their everyday lives.

In Sunflower Parasol, Ayla decides it is too hot. And what is missing from the picnic table? A sunflower will do the trick, so she plants a seed underneath the umbrella hole. All she has to do now is wait.

Drawings Alive serves as a cautionary tale for distracted parents. Ayla’s mum is busy and without time to find paper for Ayla to draw with asks, ‘Is there anything else you can use?’ Uh-oh… Yes there is but it’s not what mum had in mind.

A hot summers day is not what Ayla’s toy friend enjoys. So she helps by creating a cold artic winter for him; a cool pool complete with ice is just the thing for a polar bear and Ayla immerses herself into the game by donning a winter coat and scarf. Red faced she declares ‘Mummy, it’s not hot here at all. Can’t you see Poley and I are at the North Pole?’

The last story is my favourite. In this one Ayla shares the secret of rainbows – they come from the bubbles she blows. She has to blow lots of bubbles to make lots of rainbows, because rainbows make people happy.

Ayla is quite a character, full of curiosity and imagination. She is generally well behaved, with a few moments of mischief (like most young children), which make her appealing and natural. I also got a chuckle out of the illustration of her mother gazing at the mess left in the kitchen – so much is said in just a few quick sketched lines. Pared back text and minimal, childlike illustrations pull your focus into the stories which are somehow powerful in their simplicity while remaining approachable and engaging. These are stories that young children will relate to and enjoy as they will see themselves within the pages – they certainly are ‘stories that make you happy.’

Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen

Dream Ayla Dream
by Mikyung Song, translated by Soona Song Wylie
Walking Book, South Korea
ISBN: 9791196124817