At the moment, we are so lucky to have many children’s books that tell our stories, sights and sounds of Aotearoa New Zealand. This book is another much-loved addition to our book shelf that is proudly kiwi.
The focus, of course, is birds, as each number shares a new bird. What makes this book different is it doesn’t just focus on native birds (which we do not see everyday). Instead, it includes the birds our children see in our backyard, at the beach or at the park too. It makes the book really relatable – especially with the illustrations which include smart phones and other objects which clearly represent the world our children live in.
The text is simple and short, written in rhyme and moves quickly along. This allows the readers to talk about the illustrations which contain so many prompts for conversation and discovery. It is a picture book that allows the pictures to tell the story. We love the emotion and scenes of what the birds get up to!
At the end of the book, the reader is encouraged to head back into the story to look for extra characters hidden in the pages. This is a great extension for older children to explore further the numbers within the book. This story can be revisited over and over again by readers of all ages.
Reviewed by Sara Croft, ECE Teacher
by Dave Gunson
Reviewed by Scholastic NZ
Great picture books have either a wonderful story and illustrations, or a profound message. The very best picture books manage to do both and Grace and Katie falls easily into this category.
Grace and Katie are sisters with totally different perspectives on art. While Grace enjoys using straight lines and order, Katie prefers colour and creativity. When they both decide to draw a picture of their home and the local park, the results are very different. The final results are not quite as satisfying as they would like. By sharing their skills and working together they create an artwork which combines accuracy with creativity.
Susanne Merritt is a passionate advocate for children’s literacy and as a Mum of 3 she has plenty of experience with the differences between siblings. Combined with the bright illustrations and detail of Liz Anelli, this book is a treasure.
I teach tolerance and difference to a Year 11 class, and asked if they would like me to read to them. They willingly sat on the mat as I shared Grace and Katie. The following discussion was wonderful as they picked up on the visual clues in the pictures. We talked about stereotyping and working with others. One girl explained that it could have been about her own experience as she was the creative one with a very orderly sister. This led to a sharing about gender stereotypes and the importance of being ourselves.
As a teacher, I see this as a great resource for starting discussions from pre-school level up. It is also a really lovely book to read and enjoy for the satisfying story, the wonderful pictures and the happy ending.
Reviewed by Kathy Watson
Grace and Katie
by Suzanne Merritt and Liz Anelli
Published by EK Books
The blurb on the back of this large picture book reads: Aotearoa is home to many marvellous gods. They are special. They are unique. They are awesome. It’s a pretty good description of the book itself – special, unique and awesome.
Many New Zealanders will be familiar with some of the Māori Gods such as Tāne, Papatūānuku and Ranginui. There are many more (not all covered in the book), and even people well-versed in Māori lore may discover new information in Kahukiwa’s book. Gods are introduced to the reader with their realm of influence, and a small amount of additional information to add flavour and interest. The amount of information is well balanced for a picture book – there was enough there to keep my class of 6 years engaged and interested without overwhelming them, and for older readers who want to find out more, it gives you a starting point.
The star of the book is Robyn Kahukiwa’s illustrations. They are just as stunning as you would expect from one of New Zealand’s top artists. They are colourful, powerful and vibrant, and convey the mana and fierceness of the gods.
This is one of those essential books that every New Zealand home, school and public library should have. Whether or not you’re Māori, it speaks to our shared heritage as New Zealanders, the stories that underpin our special part of the world. It would make a great gift for children up to the age of about 9 or 10 (Kahukiwa has dedicated it to her six year old grandson), and as a teacher I can definitely recommend it as a gift for an early childhood or primary teacher or library. Go buy it.
Reviewed by Rachel Moore
Ngā Atua Māori Gods
by Robyn Kahukiwa
Published by Oratia Books
I got rather excited when ripping open this package. Stink-o-saurus is another wonderful book from this great team – Deano Yipidee and Paul Beavis. Our 3-year-old granddaughter Quinn’s great favourite is one of their previous books – Nee Naw the Little Fire Engine. She chucks it at her Mothers and says “read it”.
All 3-year olds love toilet humour so this was bound to be a winner.
“Stan was a rare dinosaur,
a one of a kind.
Most roared from their front,
his roar came from his behind.”
Nobody wanted to play with poor Stan, but one day Tommy T-Rex thumped into town. Stan was just as scared as everybody else but from somewhere came courage.
This is a stunning story with beautiful illustrations from Paul Beavis. I think what appeals to children with this story is the constant sounds made by the story teller and how Stan reacts – funny stuff and very appealing to 3-year-old Quinn. Her eyes lit up with amazement when Stan shook in his boots and “farted”. Quinn is also known for her smelly ones.
One little girl gave this book the thumbs up – so one book that won’t be coming home with me. The real bonus with this book is that it also comes with a CD – “play it again Grandma”
Reviewed by Christine Frayling
by Deano Yipadee
illustrated Paul Beavis
Published by Scholastic
Like many 6 year olds, Petra wants to be a fairy princess. Unfortunately, she becomes ill with the cancer neuroblastoma, and has to become a warrior princess to survive the disease.
Written when she was 7 and published at 20, I’d Rather Be a Fairy Princess is Petra Kotrotsos’ own story of her battle with cancer. It shows her strength and determination to overcome her cancer with the support of her family and friends. Told with a mixture of innocent imagination and matter-of-factness, the story explains the diagnosis, the treatments and the reality of living with cancer.
The pictures in I’d Rather Be a Fairy Princess are lovely, with a softness to them which belies the hard topic that the book deals with. They suit the word beautifully, by matching the hope of the text perfectly.
I’m not sure how to recommend this book. It would definitely be a good book for a family trying to explain cancer to a younger child, or even within a classroom setting if it were relevant. The tone of hope and determination is a useful one, and the descriptions of x-rays, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and the helpful and caring nurses would help to take some of the fear away that a child may have about themselves or someone they care about following a diagnosis. I don’t know about recommending it as a general book for bedtime reading or the like – I think it would depend on the child. As the adult who knows your child best, have a read through first, and see what you think.
Reviewed by Rachel Moore
I’d Rather Be a Fairy Princess
by Petra Kotrotsos and Christina Irini
Published by Makaro Press
After the sudden death of his old uncle, Wolfy has found himself in somewhat dire circumstances and he has too figure out what to do. Seeking help, he comes upon the very chilled Tom, a rabbit who had never seen a wolf before. United in a sense of adventure, the most gorgeous friendship between the pair develops, each having something to offer the other. Until things hit a speed bump when Tom and Wolfy play ‘Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.’ Fear takes over and Tom decides that the friendship is over. But is it?
This book hooks you in from the cover onwards, and uses vibrant, colourful illustrations to great effect, complementing the text and engaging the reader in the story. The story is well paced with a great dollop of humour that will make both adult and child reader alike laugh. It is poignant in it’s emotions but never heavy.
This is a great book for the 4 year old upward reader. I suspect older children will enjoy it and as a shared reader it leaves a lot of scope for interaction. A focal point is the need for understanding in friendships and this book could easily lend itself to teachable moments.
Reviewed by Marion Dreadon
by Gregoire Solotareff
Published by Gecko Press
Ori 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