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

by Dawn McMillan Illustrated by Ross Kinnaird
Oratia Books
ISBN 9780947506117

Book Review: We Found a Hat, by Jon Klassen

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_we_found_a_hatTo me, the maxim “less is best” applies to picture books and Jon Klassen has got it so right. On the surface this is a simple tale of two turtles who find a hat in the desert. Both try it on, both want it, but what can they do?

Klassen has already entranced us with two previous books on the topic: I Want my Hat Back and This is Not My Hat. Here the story continues with minimal text and simple illustrations.

The book is in three parts. The hat is found and tried on in Part One. Both agree the hat looks great, while we the reader can see it looks silly having a huge white hat on a tiny turtle head. They decide to leave the hat in the desert.

In Part Two, we see sneaky turtle deciding he needs to go back. The sideways eyeballs say it all. In Part Three ,the decision is made.

The conclusion is not what you might expect but it underpins the message of justice. The importance of a decision and the moment when we decide what is right and just, is clearly illustrated in this tale. It can be enjoyed on many levels. While a child will love the simple text and delightful illustrations, older children and adults can appreciate the subversive illustrations and the underlying message. My class of 14-year-olds had a lively discussion after part Two. They had all sorts of suggestions, but none came up with Klassen’s ending.

This is a book-lovers book. My copy will not be in anyone’s Christmas stocking.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

We Found a Hat
by Jon Klassen
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406347517

Book Review: Dance with Me, by Penny Harrison, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones                         

Available in bookshops nationwide.Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_dance_with_meThis story of a music box ballerina and her changing relationship with the girl who owns he is an exquisite story, simple and delicate in its telling, yet threaded through with childish joy and the warmth of the things that cause us to form memories.

There is disappointment,change, adventures, there is scary stuff, there is resilience, then a most delightful twist. The introduction of the outside environment gives a whole lift to the story and takes it out of what could have been ordinary and gives the story a whole new dimension.

I very much liked how the story traveled along. The illustrations complimented the story perfectly, the colours fit with what was happening, they added an almost musical effect.

A delightful book that would make a wonderful gift, ballet fans would be enchanted but so would almost everyone else who picked it up.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

Dance with Me
by Penny Harrison, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones
Published by EK Books
ISBN 9781925335231


Book Review: A Child of Books, by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_a_child_of_booksWhat a remarkable piece of creativity this book is. I have admired Oliver Jeffers since I read the Crayons books [The Day the Crayons Quit, and The Day the Crayons Came Home], and think his work is wonderful.

However I could NEVER have imagined something like this. It’s a picture book, but it’s not. It’s maybe for kids, but really not. It’s really for adults, but also for kids…. The storyline is deceptively simple, and will appeal to all those who know just how important stories are in our lives, from birth to our final destination whatever that is.

But it’s in the actualisation of the words of the story on each page that the magic lies. Every two page spread is illustrated – it’s a picture book, after all – but beside, over, under, around the child of books, part of every page is composed of text from wonderful stories. Gulliver’s Travels, the Swiss Family Robinson, Peter Pan and Wendy, fairy tales and many more are woven, drawn, imagined into amazing backgrounds. It’s a delight. It’s also nearly impossible (for my eyes, any way) to read the background illustrations, but I think it’s the effect of these illustrations which is so wonderful. They support the text of the storyline brilliantly and I really, really hope that Jeffers and Winston create other books together.

Meanwhile, I encourage you to buy this book, borrow it from your library, give it to your teenagers and your granny – it’s indeed a book for all ages.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

A Child of Books
by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406358315

Book Review: Who sank the Boat? and other stories: A Pamela Allen treasury

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_who_sank_the_boat_and_other_storiesThis could be subtitled Pamela Allen: a treasure. Her books have delighted preschoolers, parents, early childhood educators and others for generations now. I remember the laughter from preschool groups at Brooklyn Library years ago, when they worked out who really sank the boat!

It turns out that I had missed several of these stories so it has been enchanting to discover the licorice-allsort-eating dog, the difficulties of having four baby siblings and feeling unwanted, like Cuthbert, the absolutely frightening Share, said the rooster, which has as nasty an ending as you’d want and certainly is a true cautionary tale.

There’s also that archetypal Kiwi happening – a duckling falls into a drain. Of course someone has to rescue it and reunite it with its mum, and of course it’s the policeman who comes to sort it out when everyone else fails. More of a social commentary on life in the 80s than just now, perhaps!

Through all the stories, Pamela Allen’s illustrations give life to the words; the characters spring out of the colourful drawings and make you want to keep reading so you can SEE the stories as well as hear them. They do really have the power to enchant and delight.

This would make a fabulous gift for littlies, but it will give the adult who reads to them just as much pleasure.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

Who Sank the Boat? and other stories
by Pamela Allen
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143770329

Book Review: If I Was a Banana, by Alexandra Tylee and Kieran Rynhart

Available now (and on NZ Bookshop Day) in bookshops nationwide.

GIVEAWAY: Comment below or on this post on Facebook telling us what type of banana, mountain, bird or cow you would be…if you were one. Closes 12 noon 26/10/2016.

cv_if_i_was_a_bananaAs a child, I used to imagine tiny worlds in the cereal bowl; that with every spoonful I might be separating families of rice bubbles. I also thought that musicians on the radio were performing live in the studio. I wondered, if you stepped on an ant, would its friends be sad? If I Was a Banana was written for children like me.

Whimsically written and gorgeously illustrated, If I Was a Banana will appeal to anyone with a modicum of imagination. What if you were a banana, or an elephant, or a spoon? If you were a ladybird or a mountain, what might the ramifications be?

I read my review copy to a class of five-year-olds, and it took much longer than a “regular book”, because the children were so engaged and so keen to talk about each idea and share their responses. As a teacher, anything that gets children talking and thinking is alright by me. They particularly loved the illustration on the last page, and the book was in hot demand after I’d shared it, so that they could explore the cloud drawings in more depth.

Gecko Press continue to produce high quality books that deserve to be on the bookshelves of all children, teachers and in libraries. I’ve written many reviews of Gecko Press for this blog, and read many more of their books than I’ve written about, and I am aware that I probably sound like a total Gecko fan girl by now. But it’s not my fault. Julia Marshall and her team are doing extremely good, and important work. Long may they reign.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

If I was a Banana
by Alexandra Tylee and Kieran Rynhart
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776570331


Book Review: Super Rabbit, by Stephanie Blake

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_super_rabbitI am always impressed by books published for children by Gecko Press and this latest offering does not disappoint.

Super Rabbit is a hero – well in the world of make believe, he is. His mother keeps calling him her little rabbit which really upset our super hero. He is capable of great things but jumping out of bed and landing on the cat isn’t one of them. In fact the cat is most unimpressed. Chasing down villains is his next task, but again this didn’t meet with much success. He jumped into the hollow of a tree which was very cold and dark. This super hero is scared and wants his mummy. Being scared and in pain is not a nice feeling but with his Mummy right there to make everything right for our little super hero, he is soon off on another adventure.

This is such a gorgeous book with wonderful illustrations with bright colours, simply constructed giving the little person being read to no doubt as to what the story is about. Quinn (2) was totally absorbed in the story, giggling at Super Rabbit landing on the cat and nodding when Mummy was there to comfort him in his hour of need.

The world of pretend, dressing up, fighting villains with swords but having the comfort of loving arms of Mummy when things don’t go according to plan is an excellent way to fire up a child’s imagination.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Super Rabbit
by Stephanie Blake
Published by Gecko Press
ISB 9781877579578

Book Review: Don’t Cross the Line, by Isabel Minho Martins, and Bernado P. Carvalho

Available in bookshops nationwide (and internationally).

cv_dont_cross_the_lineThis superb picture book encapsulates an entire collection of short stories, spurred on by the actions of one dictatorial General, who believes the book and all its pages belongs to him. The cast of characters is displayed in the front- and end-papers – which also tell the progression of the characters’ stories with their subtle differences.

Our dictator shouts at his guardsman on the title page, ‘This is how it’s going to be. I give the orders around here!’ The first character to enter the narrative is a dog, watched with a simple shift of the guardsman’s eyes. Then Nuno comes strolling along, obliviously heading for the edge of the page – “STOP! I’m very sorry, but no one’s allowed onto the right-hand page.” Nuno questions this, only to be told that the General requests that the page remain blank in case he wants to join the story.

Our cast of characters starts growing exponentially, and as each recognise the state of the story, they react in different ways, each with their own distinct personality – perhaps the best example (short of an entirely wordless book) that I have seen recent of showing, not telling, in a picture book. All we have is shouted, whinged and grimaced words. We have an irate granddad, an ET-esque Alien with a familiar narrative (he needs to make a phone call…), a happily dancing couple, a floating astronaut, a rock band, and a couple of escaped prisoners, among others.

As pages turn, our prisoners move urgently to get away from their guard, pregnant Clara gets irate, grunf grunfs and a ghost gets frustrated by his need to get to his frightening appointment. And our dancing couple carries on, oblivious.

The illustrations are so basic as to be child-like, and the eyes are huge, with irises the size of glasses and tiny pupils. But this adds to the joyful tumult of the page – if each detail was drawn with delicate penstrokes, you would lose the feel of the story, of the imperfect human characters and their reactions to another imperfect human, who just thinks he has to follow orders…until a couple of boys lose their red ball across the line. The entire cast follows the ball with their eyes, including our guard.

As he allows them across, the bank bursts and he allows everybody who has been waiting to go, for whatever reason they give, with a gracious smile on his face, and presumably to the disappointment of the ice cream seller who has only just arrived (but of course follows the crowd.) But of course this is not the end of it… the general returns. And the reactions of those who have been allowed through – even those who are nearly off the page, is genius.

This is a book for now, inspired by then. It is one for those kids that love to tell a piece of the story themselves – it reminded me a little of Mamoko in that sense – and those that just love to pore over a complex world of characters. And of course, it is one for adults who love curiously good picture books. And after a few tricky questions from my school-kid, I can definitely see it coming in useful the next time world events take us over. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

Don’t Cross the Line!
by Isabel Minho Martins, illustrated by Bernado P. Carvalho
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776570744