Book Review: Ori the Octopus, by Anne Helen Donnelly

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_ori_the_OctopusOri is an Octopus who loves to help his friends out. Having eight tentacles he can multitask but this gets him into all sorts of trouble. Ori’s friends are Sally Starfish, Harry Seahorse, Peta Pufferfish, Cathy Clownfish and Reginal Stingray.

Ori decides to make Sally Starfish a cake for her birthday, but then Harry Seahorse rushes into Ori’s home and asks him to look after her baby. Cuddle the baby, mix, mix, mix but then there was a knock at the door. Peta Pufferfish had hurt herself and needed Ori to plaster her cuts. More friends turn up asking Ori to help, and this is when the confusion starts. Poor Ori.

This is a great book using interactive activities and is suitable for children aged 2 – 5 years of age. I read this book to our 2-year-old granddaughter. She got right into the swing of wanting to do all the actions. What I particularly liked was that at the back of this book are all characters to cut out with the suggestion that once cut out you glue or tape them to sticks – we used ice block sticks. Once that is done we acted out the story with much hilarity, mixing up the characters and their actions.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Ori the Octopus
by Anne Helen Donnelly
Published by Anne Helen Donnelly
ISBN 9780646962207

Book Review: It’s My Pond, by Claire Garralon

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_its_my_pondIn It’s My Pond, a duck finds a pond and claims it, but then another duck comes along and also claims it – so they split it in half and share it. But then… another duck comes, and another, and another… chaos and boredom ensues while all the ducks try to stay within their little portion of the pond, until yet another duck makes a very good suggestion and they discover how much more fun the pond is when they start sharing and playing in it together.

UNTIL, a hippopotamus appears…

This is a beautifully made book. Thick, creamy stock, Bright but simple illustrations with a clever story. It features a great theme of sharing, equality, and playing together which creates some really good conversations with young children.

Reviewed by Nyssa Walsh

It’s My Pond
by Claire Garralon
Published by Book Island
ISBN 9781911496021

Book Reviews: Unfolding Journeys Series – Secrets of the Nile and Following The Great Wall

Available in bookshops nationwide.

The Unfolding Journeys series is a hands-on, tactile exploration series. Aimed at year 3 and 4-year school kids it encourages them to open up a new world – literally. Both books are made of card, with 6-fold, 7- page, double-sided maps.

cv_secrets_of_the_nile.jpgThe book, Secrets of The Nile starts at Alexandra and trails back through 55 points of interest to the ‘source’ of the Nile. Illustrated like a kid had drawn it – albeit a gifted and well-informed one – the book gives us soundbite-sized insights into key geographic and historical landmarks like Cleopatra’s palace in Alexandria, the position of the Rosetta Stone and Amarna, the city of the sun god. Famous faces like Nefertiti, Lady of Grace and the famous Nile crocs put in an appearance. There’s even a reference to a 3,500-year-old port of Al Quseir, which has taken on new life as an inland beach resort. Not all the references are to ancient worlds. There’s a nod to tourism (river boat cruises), Tunis’ pottery and comments about Fava bean growing and agriculture.

On the back of each page is a two-paragraph legend explaining more about each numbered location. These are short and snappy but avoid being patronising of dumbed down. My daughter became a bit of an expert on the Nile lickety-split by tracing each fact from its map number to the detailed explanation. Then she quizzed me. I failed!

I mentioned that the illustrations seemed like a kid had produced these. They were actually done by Argentinian Vanina Starkoff. Bright, colourful and immediately accessible, they are easy to digest, along with Stewart Ross’ clean, punchy text. He’s an expert on travel facts, having produced over 300 titles. He might just know a thing or two about the world.

cv_following_the_great_wallWith the same formula, Hong Kong illustrator Victo Ngai provides the pictures for Following The Great Wall. Again, it’s a trip by numbers starting at the Turpin Basin – an enormous hole “the size of Wales”, 155m below sea level and the fourth lowest on Earth that’s not under water. This is one fact I definitely did know the Wall. The other facts like the Recumbent Buddha of Zhangye, the City of Xi’an and, of course the Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an. The Wall is the only man-made structure that can be plainly seen from the Moon, they reckon. It stretches across the country to the coast. So naturally, there’s a mention about the Black-faced Spoonbill and the magnificent Young Lady’s Gate, which is beautifully rendered. Again, the art is short and cleverly simple. The text is also simple, but again, factual and easy to digest.

Both books are multi-returns. A reader can dive in and out or event fold it out and use a dice to count spaces to each location. How you go about it is entirely individual. Either way, it’s great to see a learning tool that doesn’t require charging, uploading or it’s screen cleaned for sticky finger prints. The heavy card construction makes this series ideal for classroom use, too. A great learning tool. Old skool!

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

Unfolding Journeys – Secrets of the Nile
by Stewart Ross, illustrations by Vanina Starkoff
Published by Lonely Planet
ISBN  9781786575371

Unfolding Journeys – Following the Great Wall
by Stewart Ross, illustrations by Victo Ngai
Published by Lonely Planet
ISBN 9781786571977

Book Reviews: Triangle, by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, and Rock Pool Secrets, by Narelle Oliver

Triangle, by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

cv_triangleTriangle lives in his triangle house amongst triangle mountains. Square lives in a square house amongst square mountains. One day Triangle goes on a mission to play a trick on his friend Square. But then Square gets his revenge.

I love Jon Klassen books and this partnering with Mac Barnett is spot on. Giving personalities to shapes is genius and its executed flawlessly. The illustrations are classic Klassen and fit in with the story seamlessly. The book brings up questions about trust, and just what it is to play a trick on someone. It’s got humour and quirkiness while still being simple and clever. AND it’s the first of a (shape) trilogy!

Rock Pool Secrets, by Narelle Oliver

cv_rock_pool_secrets‘At first glance there’s nothing much to see. But the rock pools are full of secrets.’

Some of my best memories are of windy, salty Wellington days spent exploring the rock pools around Lyall Bay. There is always something interesting to find and this book is the same. Each page is full of detail and hiding creatures. Almost every page has a large flap for extra exploring – my daughter especially loved opening the flaps to see what was hiding underneath.

The text is informative yet softly flowing over the pages, fitting in well with the watercolour linocut artwork. This is a good introduction for young kids to a non-fiction style of book as it feels like you’re learning something along your journey through the rockpools.

Reviewed by Nyssa Brown

Triangle
by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406376678

Rock Pool Secrets
by Narelle Oliver
published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781922179357

Book Review: Kuwi’s Very Shiny Bum, by Kat Merewether

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_kuwis_very_shiny_bumForget Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – here in New Zealand we have Kuwi the Kiwi and her shiny red bum instead!

The book starts off in Kuwi the Kiwi’s burrow, with her reading a festive story about a round red ball falling from the sky to young Huwi. In the tale, Kuwi is thrilled at the gift and promptly attaches it to her bum before setting off to make presents for her friends in the forest.

She bakes and paints and builds until she has something for everyone, then sets off to deliver her gifts, with her tail-light twinkling. We travel with Kuwi as she visits Florence the fantail, Sharon the snail, Bruce the bat, Herb the hoiho, Tash the tui, and a host of other friends who are all so excited about their gifts that they forget to say thank you.

This makes Kuwi a little sad as she doesn’t know if her friends liked her gifts… until they arrive to say thanks in their own way. The book ends with Huwi waking up and opening a very special present – a familiar shiny, red bum!

This is a delightful book, beautifully and colorfully illustrated by the author. It would make a great Christmas book and is likely to become a favourite read-along Kiwi classic.

This is the latest of Kat Merewether’s Kuwi books. Money from each purchase is donated to Kiwis for Kiwi, so there’s an added incentive to pop this book under the tree this year.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

Kuwi’s Very Shiny Bum
by Kat Merewether
Published by Illustrated Publishing
ISBN 9780994136404

Book Review: The Three Little Lambs, by Sher Foley, illustrated by Deborah Hinde

cv_the_three_little_lambsAvailable now in bookshops nationwide.

Scholastic New Zealand’s Kiwi Corkers series features traditional children’s tales given a very New Zealand twist. The Three Little Lambs is a new take on the familiar story of the three little pigs, with cute fluffy lambs and a wolf instead of a weasel.

In the traditional tale, the three pigs build houses out of straw, sticks and bricks, which are then targeted by a wicked wolf, who threatens to blow their houses down. In the kiwi tale by Sher Foley, delightfully illustrated by Deborah Hinde, the first lamb chooses silver ferns, but they are no match for the wicked weasel, who blows his house down and stuffs him headfirst into a rabbit hole.

The second lamb chooses paua shells, but unfortunately they aren’t any more resistant to the weasel’s attack than the ferns, and her house suffers the same fate as her brother’s, and she joins him in the rabbit hole.

The third lamb decides to build his house of out hangi stones, a good substitute for bricks, and the weasel is foiled when he tries to blow his house down. But he doesn’t give up, instead coming up with cunning (and very kiwi-themed) schemes he hopes will lure the lamb from his home. Lambs are a bit brighter than weasels and each time the weasel misses out on lamb for lunch. You’ll have to read out to find out the end!

This book is a lovely take on a traditional tale, featuring things kiwi kids will understand, like the wop-wops, kiwifruit and hokey-pokey ice cream. Children will enjoy reading along, especially the repeated “Not by the wool on my skinny-skin-skin” and “I’ll wheeze and I’ll sneeze and I’ll blow your house down” parts.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

The Three Little Lambs
by Sher Foley, illustrated by Deborah Hinde
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434153

Book Review: Squeakopotamus, by Dawn McMillan, illustrated by Ross Kinnaird

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_squeakopotamusWho’s this in our house, munching toast and cheese? Squeakopotamus! Is he a hippo that looks like a mouse? Or is he a mouse too big for this house?

What will Squeakopotamus do when he has run out of things to eat – will he eat us? Is he a hippo? Or is he a mouse? And will the children be able to keep him?

This is such a gorgeous book with stunning illustrations. Quinn, my youngest granddaughter is 2 ½ years old. I read this to her before she had her mid-morning nap. Her eyes got wider and wider at Squeakopotamus’s reactions and of course she wanted one just like him. No such luck – she’ll have to be content with her dog Mini, a rescue greyhound and her cats, Gus and Rocky.

Dawn McMillan as the author and Ross Kinnaird as the illustrator of this book are already know to our family through their wonderful collaboration in, I need a New Bum, Doctor Grundy’s Undies and Mister Spears and his Hairy Ears –all great favourites.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Squeakopotamus
by Dawn McMillan Illustrated by Ross Kinnaird
Oratia Books
ISBN 9780947506117