Book Review: Hedgehog Howdedo, by Lynley Dodd

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_hedgehog_howdedoThis classic by Lynley Dodd is set in the depths of winter as a young girl goes searching for all the hedgehogs hibernating in her garden. We count along with her, ‘two are on a ledge, I even saw three white ones in a hole behind the hedge’Finally the little girl sets down on her back door step and imagines what will happen when spring arrives and the hedgehogs wake up.

This gem of a book has everything we have come to expect from a Lynley Dodd book. It will bring adults back to their childhoods and introduce young readers to the delights of Lynley Dodd’s brilliant story-telling.

The text is sparse and perfectly targeted for the young reader. It contains her playful alliteration and parcels everything up in lilting melody. There is also her whimsical imagination – have you ever heard of a pizza plant before or dreamed about the noise of windywhistle grass?

This book would be wonderful to read on a cold winters night when the pictures mirror the cold view out the window. It carries the promise of warm spring days very soon as colour slowly emerges when the young girl dreams of the hedgehogs waking up.

Lynley Dodd is a national treasure for her contributions to young children’s literature – and rightly so. This book is the perfect bedtime story with her poetic text a joy to read aloud. The illustrations and gentle pace will lull young readers into a peaceful slumber with a smile on their face.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

Hedgehog howdedo
written & illustrated by Lynley Dodd
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143773023

 

Book Review: Everyone Walks Away, by Eva Lindström

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_everyone_walks_awayThis is an eloquent picture book for children of all ages that deftly touches upon subjects of loneliness and exclusion.  We meet Frank who is standing alone while three friends are having fun. Frank goes home, cries into the pot and begins to cook. We don’t know what Frank is cooking and it is delicious to see the story emerge.

What is unique is the way the author has not made the hard topics soft and cuddly. Friendships are hard work and children know this. This book honours these emotions and children’s experiences by being honest about the sadness Frank feels. The ending wonderfully suggests the beginning possibilities of belonging, but doesn’t guarantee instant friendships.

The language is emotive; it provokes wonderful imagery and opens up conversations about how we experience emotions. Frank goes home and cries into a pot” is a sad statement to make about a sad event. I wonder how older children might also imagine the sadness our characters are feeling? The words are just enough to tell the story and gives space to talk about the issues the characters face.

Eva Lindströmis a comic artist and the illustrations wonderfully mirror the sparse text. At the beginning, there is only one scooter, one seat, even the leaves seem to be drooping. There is loneliness in the pictures. But, as the friends join Frank, we can find three bowls, three chairs and three pieces of toast. Every detail is thought about, including colour. Frank is seemingly downcast compared to the sunshine and brightness used to portray the three friends. Hope appears in the pictures as the characters begin a new, tentative friendship.

It is a quiet story that will touch the reader.  Everyone walks away is a real portrayal of friendships and belonging that deserves to be read aloud.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

Everyone walks away
by Eva Lindström
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571864

 

Book Review: Keep an Eye on this Kiwi, by Scott Tulloch

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_keep_an_eye_on_this_kiwiA young kiwi sets out to find his dinner but some clever insects are determined to not be on the menu and trick our kiwi. With each turn of the page, the silliness increases, along with the laughs from young readers!

A series of comical anecdotes are told through interactions between the narrator and the kiwi. While it is set up as a chapter book it is intended to be read as a whole with the story all connecting together. The focus is on toilet humour, taboo words and practical jokes, which young children love.

The illustrations are pencil sketches and become part of the text. There are little speech bubbles and characters which speak directly to the reader. The line drawings are a refreshing change from busy pages. They are full of life, with the kiwi seeming to jump off the page as he attempts to talk to the reader.

Adults might get to the end of the story and wonder about what just happened.  But that seems to be the point. It is a nonsensical story which gets crazier and crazier – until you might just believe that a kiwi can fly.

It is best suited for 4 to 7 year olds – or even those children who are reading independently who will be scaffolded with the pictures. The antics of the kiwi make this story a funny read which will engage the most hesitant of readers.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

Keep an Eye on this Kiwi
by Scott Tulloch
Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775435310

Book Review: The Clay Woman, by Xoё Hall

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_clay_womanThe Clay Woman is a beautiful retelling of how the first woman came to be and the beginning of human life on Earth. The story begins when Tāne Mahuta has created the birds, insects and trees of Aotearoa but feels something is missing. He turns to our Earth Mother, Papatūānuku for help. In turn, she takes him to the scared place of Kurawaka. There he sculpts a women from the red clay earth, Hineahuone, and breathes life into her.

Xoё Hall uses her vibrant, pop art style to illustrate the story. She brings a modern take to Māori art and the illustrations are simply stunning. The artist captures the strength and power of the important characters of Tāne Mahuta, Hineahuone and Papatūānuku. I particularly love the little forest friend fairies with their monarch butterfly wings and Māori ancestry!

Xoё treats our ancestor’s story with reverence, she has not retold the legend but woven it anew. The sacredness is passed on through the beautiful words to the reader. I found myself slowing down and becoming quieter as I read it aloud to my class, and the children responded in turn.

The author does an amazing job describing the breath of life that brings the clay woman to life. However, even with my limited te reo Māori, I kept waiting for the author to include hongi to describe the action and the important words tihei mauri ora. Perhaps a glossary at the back would allow this cultural knowledge and language to be passed to all readers.

Peter Gossage’s retellings of Māori legends have been the go-to books for teachers in recent years but Xoё Hall is making a name for herself in bringing a modern take to the stories of our land. We hope she continues to weave the stories of our ancestors with her unique illustrations. This book enchanted us from the front cover and is now very much loved by all.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

The Clay Woman
Woven and illustrated by Xoё Hall
Published by TeacherTalk
ISBN 9780473422509

Book Review: Keep fit kiwi: Head and shoulders, knees and toes

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_keep_fit_kiwi.jpgOur children love Row, kiwi, row your boat so we were excited to get the next instalment from Lynette Evans and her team. The three kiwi friends are back and ready to get fit. This time we are at the farm, stretching up and preparing to move.

The three kiwi invite their farmyard friends to join in dancing to Heads, Shoulders, Knees & Toes. The familiar nursery rhyme is tailored to their animal friends, for example, kiwi points to her wings, beak and nose; and lamb finds his hooves and tail. Finally, our kiwi and friends are ready for a nap as the music winds down.

The focus is on being active and this is reflected in the illustrations. There is so much movement, colour and vibrancy! From the moment we see the kiwi in their aerobic sweatbands pumping and dancing, the pages come alive with action. We used the pictures as inspiration for other fitness ideas too – skipping, yoga and kick boxing.

There are so many kiwi sing-along books available for young children but they are a popular format for a reason. Connecting language to music helps us learn vocabulary and are a lot of fun! Children will fall in love with the upbeat tune. It’s like a catchy Jump Jam song and could easily be sung alone at group times when young children need to get their wriggles out.

This is a toe-tapping, body-stretching feel-good book that makes us smile and dance every time we turn on the music.  Don’t read it at bedtime because it is sure to wake up any sleepy reader!

Reviewed by Sara Croft

Keep fit kiwi: Head and shoulders, knees and toes
by Lynette Evans, Pictures by Stevie Mahardhika
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775435464

Book Review: Tane Mahuta has a Forest / He wao tā Tāne Mahuta, by Rebecca Larsen

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_tane_mahuta_has_a_forestRebecca Larsen is back with another sing-along kiwi adventure. Following on from her debut book, Row, row, row your boat, Kiwi, Hoiho & Pukeko are heading off for a walk through Tāne Mahuta’s forest.

Set to the tune of Old MacDonald had a farm, the three friends walk through the forest and spot different creatures as they go (including Tāne Mahuta himself!). The lyrics encourage readers to move their bodies as we meet each animal – can you crawl like a weta or stretch as tall as Tāne Mahuta?

There are two things which make this sing-along book special. Firstly, Rebecca Larsen’s beautiful pencil illustrations which are bright and full of life. All the textures and shading can be seen and admired and the birds are delightful characters to follow through the story. We laughed at the kiwi flying like a pekapeka with a little help from her friend!

Secondly, the text incorporates te reo Māori throughout the song. It provides lots of opportunities to practice vowel pronunciation for new speakers, but also weaves Māori kupu into the verses too. There is, of course, a fluent Māori version at the back, but for beginner speakers it is a great way to learn and use new vocabulary.

With so many sing-along books now available, Rebecca Larsen has developed something a little more funky that makes it stand out from the crowd. With vibrant illustrations, beautiful lyrics and music which will get all readers wriggling and jiggling along, this will surely become a favourite on your bookshelf.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

Tāne Mahuta has a forest / He wao tā Tāne Mahuta
Written & illustrated by Rebecca Larsen
Published by Imagination Press
ISBN 9780995103283

Book review: Bonkers about Beetles, by Owen Davey

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_bonkers_about_beetlesIf you have a young coleopterist (beetle scientist) at home, you need this book! Owen Davey has created a book that is aesthetically pleasing, practical and exactly what the title says – it’s bonkers about beetles!

The book is structured so new concepts are introduced on each double page spread with lots of visual information to help young readers interpret what they read. It follows a non-fiction book structure, so there is a contents page and index for older readers to search for specific information. On the first page, the author shares the definition for a beetle (I’ll be honest, this is when I started to learn!). Our children at daycare particularly love the Guinness Book of Records-style pages at the end. It shares beetle highlights, including, which beetle is the heaviest, fastest and who has the best facial hair!

Owen Davey has perfectly pitched the text and explains complex ideas in a way that young children will understand. The book is filled with scientific knowledge and facts that will intrigue, amuse and amaze. Did you know the Bombardier beetle shots an explosion of burning liquid from its bottom? This is the information young children really want to know! Welcome to the beetle eat beetle world of poop, parasites and ladybirds.

This is a non-fiction picture book that wouldn’t look out of place on the coffee table. There are no photos, instead the beetles are computer illustrations which highlight the pattern and beauty of each insect. These are not cartoons but works of art! We google searched several of the illustrated beetles to see how accurate the graphic recreations are and were amazed at the dopplegangers in the book! The teacher in me sees so many opportunities for creating our own art pictures and talking about the patterns we can see.

Bonkers about beetles is our new favourite reference book to satisfy our curiosity about beetles. Any young child curious about the natural world will enjoy this treasure that dives deeply into the beetle world and it will spark many more insect hunts in the backyard.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

Bonkers about beetles
by Owen Davey
Published by Flying Eye Books
ISBN 9781911171485