Book Review: Wake Up, Bear by Lynley Dodd

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_wake_up_bearI have to make a disclosure here – I have actually read Wake Up, Bear before. More times than I can count, in fact. First released in 1986, it was on my daughter’s bookshelf during her early years in the mid-late 1990s. Lynley Dodd was always a huge favourite of ours – we both loved the luscious language, the pace and humour, and the gorgeous illustrations. That was 20-some years ago, and while I still think Lynley Dodd is fabulous, do today’s six-year-olds still revel in her stories in what feels increasingly like a device-driven world?

The short answer is, yes. Children still love a well-written story, and I’ve yet to read a Lynley Dodd story that doesn’t qualify. My class were learning about seasons and life cycles at the time I read this story, so they were full of shared knowledge about bears hibernating and were actively predicting where the story might go. They loved joining in the refrain and were delighted and surprised by the joke at the end, which caused Bear to wake up.

Wake Up, Bear might be 32 years old but it is still as fresh and lively as the first time I read it. The illustrations are still delightful, the language is still rich and vibrant, and like all of Dodd’s books it is absolutely perfect for reading aloud. In an era when junior school teachers are in despair about the increasingly low levels of oral language of children starting school, I offer the following prescription: Some Lynley Dodd, daily. At least one book, more as demanded by the child. It would go a long way.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Wake Up, Bear
by Lynley Dodd
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143772569

Book Review: Puffin The Architect, by Kimberly Andrews

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_puffin_the_architectEveryone wants different features in a new home and Puffin is an architect who takes pride in designing the perfect home for clients. But the pufflings seem hard to please even when Puffin takes them on a journey to all the recent builds the architect has designed.

Puffin the Architect is a delightful read by Wellington author Kimberly Andrews whose first picture book Tuna and Hiriwa was a 2017 Storylines Notable book.

The exquisite illustrations in her latest publication will capture children’s attention and they will find interesting topics for discussion each time the book is read to them. Suitable for ages 3-7 years, I am sure these children will have as much fun looking for the 19 snails hidden among the pictures as I did.

The pufflings visit Platypus’s bakery, Otter’s fishing boat, Detective Hound’s home, Pig’s tool shed, Painter Goose’s studio, as well as the homes for a moose and giraffe , but none of the features in these unique homes appeal to the pufflings. ‘Can’t you make a puffin cottage?’

The resulting cottage by the sea is just what the pufflings want and we see in the final page Puffin the Architect is moving into the home with her two young pufflings and their toys.

Lots to stimulate children in this book, the rhyming text on each double page, the intricate details in the different illustrated homes, as well as finding out where puffins are living in world.

It is a good sized book for sharing with a group of children, and will certainly create wonderful discussion and stimulate ideas for a new generation of designers and architects.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

Puffin The Architect
by Kimberly Andrews
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143772187

Book Review: Little Hector and the Big Blue Whale, by Ruth Paul

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_little_hector_and_the_big_blue_whaleHector was a small but daring dolphin. But Hector was too small to go anywhere. One day Little Hector decides he had had enough of being told he’s too small to venture past The Point so he decides to follow the bigger dolphins out into the open ocean where he quickly gets left behind. Little Hector learns about the dangers of boats first hand and why his mother warned him to never trust an orca! Lucky for Hector he meets a friend who safely escorts him back to The Point and teaches him a valuable lesson; being the littlest is just as special as being the biggest! And size definitely doesn’t matter when it comes to friendship.

Author-illustrator Ruth Paul introduces us to her latest character Little Hector in Little Hector and the Big Blue Whale. The softness of the illustrations compliments the ocean setting of the story and the characters are charming with their friendly expressions, especially, Little Hector!

This story includes enough suspense, possible dangers and problems to be solved to keep young children captivated as well as putting a spotlight on New Zealand’s Hector’s dolphin. I especially enjoyed the ‘All about the Hector’s dolphin’ facts included at the end. The health of our oceans and the creatures within it is very important and it’s something that children should be aware of from a young age.

Little Hector and the Big Blue Whale is a wonderful new book that teaches children about the rare Hector’s dolphin. Children will love reading all about Little Hector’s big adventure into the deep sea and meeting all his marine friends. I can’t wait to read about Little Hector’s next adventure!

Reviewed by Alana Bird

Little Hector and the Big Blue Whale
by Ruth Paul
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143771524

Book Review: Badjelly the Witch, with audio CD, by Spike Milligan

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_badjelly_the_witchIn the interests of full disclosure, I grew up on this story. I used to listen to Dick Weir’s radio show for kids on weekend mornings (morning TV wasn’t a thing until I was a bit older), and it was always a great day when he played Badjelly. I also raised my now-adult daughter on the story of courageous siblings who are searching for their lost cow, and meet a cast of interesting characters along the way. I am, as you can already tell, a fan.

What I wanted to see was if today’s kids would still appreciate Badjelly in all its un-PC, analogue glory. So, roll on up, my 5-7 year-old students: welcome to a piece of your teacher’s childhood.

I read the book in chunks. Milligan helpfully broke the text into sections, so I stuck with this and read the story over a couple of days like a mini-novel. The kids loved it. They laughed at the funny bits and gasped at the tense bits. They enjoyed the pictures (in colour, no less!) and were impressed that Spike Milligan had actually handwritten his story, just like they do.

What I was really looking forward was watching the children listen to the CD. I didn’t own a copy of the book until I was an adult, so my memories are aural. I’ve probably listened to the story about a hundred times … I’ve heard it so many times that when I read it aloud, I can’t help but read it in my best Spike Milligan imitation.

The kids enjoyed the CD, but couldn’t listen to the whole thing in one go … I’m not sure if it’s the “attention span of today’s yoof”, or just that classroom floors after lunch don’t foster the same cosy feelings as my childhood lounge floor in my PJs.

In hardback and in colour, with the CD, this has got to be the definitive version of Badjelly the Witch. If your household has small people in it, you need a copy. If you know small people, they need a copy. If you’re like me and grew up in the late 70s, you probably need a copy too, for nostalgia’s sake.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Badjelly the Witch, with audio CD
by Spike Milligan
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143772286

Book Review: Kakapo Dance, by Helen Taylor

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_kakapo_danceI read this book to my 3 ½ year old granddaughter Quinn. The illustrations are captivating and marry in beautifully with this rather delightful story.

Kakapo is a rather large clumsy bird. The forest is alive with all the birds singing and dancing, all except Kakapo.

‘Because Kakapo DON’T sing or dance,
We’re just not made that way!’

The Bellbird has a melodious song, but all Kakapo can do is Thud! Thud! Thud! We then have the Keruru who loves to coo and glide and the Bellbird loves to hop and chime. Whio likes to whistle and waddle. Pukeko like to strut and shriek, Fantail likes to chirp and twirl but all Kakapo can do is Boom! Boom! Boom! They also Ching! And they can Tuuuumble! Shuffle! Shuffle! Shuffle!

This is quite a funny book as it highlights how even a clumsy bird has its attributes.

Quinn had a faraway look on her face at one stage – her own singing and dancing is a bit like Kakapo’s. Perhaps she was imagining herself in Kakapo’s shoes and wondering how she could improve her own singing and dancing.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Kakapo Dance
by Helen Taylor
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143506010

Book Review: Bobby, the Littlest War Hero, by Glyn Harper, illustrated by Jenny Cooper

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_bobby_the_littlest_war_heroNow, 100 years after the Great War, stories are emerging about people and events previously unspoken of. I know with my own family, the stories were not recounted for over 50 years and it was the Grandchildren who became the listeners.

Bobby, the littlest War Hero is just such a story. For me the best part is that the tale comes as a picture book and so is available to an audience for whom the Great War is  distant history. This book makes it real.

Glyn Harper is a war historian and he uses a real event to tell the tale of a canary and his best friend Jack. The use of canaries in mining is well know, but their work during the war with the tunnelers was a revelation. Jenny Cooper brings the story of Bobby to life with the bleak browns of the battlefield and the yellow canary.

As a teacher I find a resource such as Bobby enables wonderful discussions and research. 30 years ago, such books were a rarity and it was difficult to engage my students. This book has been around many classes and I included my World War 1 entrenchment tool, to add another level to their understanding. This came back with my Grandfather and shows the fragility of life in the trenches.

As Anzac Day approaches, Bobby would be a wonderful way for a family to share ideas on war, peace and the importance of friendships.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

Bobby, the Littlest War Hero
by Glyn Harper, illustrated by Jenny Cooper
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143771876

 

Book Review: Showtym Adventures: Dandy, the Mountain Pony, by Kelly Wilson

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_dandy_the_mountain_ponyThe Wilson Sisters, Vicki, Kelly and Amanda are well known in equestrian circles having also appeared on a television programme about capturing and training the wild Kaimanawas horses.

Dandy, The Mountain Pony is Vicki Wilson’s story. Vicki was nine years old when the owner of her lease pony Cardiff, decided to sell him. She was broken hearted but was realistic that her parents didn’t have the money to buy him.

A month after Cardiff had been sold Vicki was still without a pony. All the pony’s advertised for sale were far too expensive – her parents had managed to scrape together a couple of hundred dollars which was just not enough. Her parents surprised her one day with a visit to some wild ponies. There had been an advertisement in the local paper for a herd that runs wild on a mountain just fifteen minutes from where the Wilsons live. Vicki had always dreamed of taming wild horses. It appeared that perhaps her dream was about to come true.

The Welsh ponies had been bred on the mountain for generations but of recent years the lady and her family had been unable to keep up with training them so the herd was running wild with some of them never having been touched.

The Wilsons ended up buying three of the ponies. They had budgeted for $200 so at $50 each they could afford to buy all three, but with proviso that one be trained and then sold to offset the costs of feed and training.

Vicki starts training her pony Dandy. Gaining Dandy’s trust is the first hurdle she has to overcome. This proved to be a difficult and challenging project. After many months she is able to enter into competitions with him but not without a lot of challenges along the way.

I came to the conclusion after reading this book aloud to 6-year-old Abby that you don’t necessarily have to be a horsy person to enjoy it. Abby loved it asking lots of questions as I read it to her. There are lots of training tips at the back of this book for the serious owner.

The Wilson sisters also run Showtym Camps for young riders, which is hugely popular, helping them get the most from their ponies while having a lot of fun and adventures along the way.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Showtym Adventures: Dandy, the Mountain Pony
by Kelly Wilson
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143771494