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

Book review: The Little Kiwi and the treaty, by Nikki Slade Robinson

Available at bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_little_kiwi_and_the_treatyThis is another gem of a book in the Little Kiwi series by Nikki Slade Robinson.  Little Kiwi’s Koro tells the story of their ancestors coming from different lands.  Koro’s ancestors were the best food finders in the land and the ancestors of Kuia were known as the best nest builders.

They settled on the same land and a fight broke out before the chiefs stepped forward to find a resolution to the conflict. The author talks through the tense negotiations, staying true to the high emotions we all feel when we need to compromise! Te reo Māori is woven throughout the text – and many words are quietly translated as you read along (perfect for introducing new vocabulary).

The text is beautifully accompanied by Nikki’s illustrations. We are transported back in time by the clever use of black and white pictures when Koro is remembering the past. I still love all the emotion Nikki can portray with Little Kiwi – and the little details which distinguish each character (especially the pounamu being worn by the chiefs).

The familiar characters of Little Kiwi and her family introduces ideas about family history and identity to young children. Through Koro’s story we also come to understand what a treaty is. It is a gentle reminder for all children about friendship, conflict resolution and learning from each other.

It is a picture book that can be a wonderful teaching tool to talk about co-operation or simply enjoyed for the wonderful story-telling within.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

The Little Kiwi and the Treaty
by Nikki Slade Robinson
Published by David Ling Publishing
ISBN 9781927305485

Book Review: Paraweta, by Stephanie Blake

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

Paraweta-cover-451x600This is a te reo Māori version of the well-known picture book Poo Bum. Little rabbit is rather rude and from the moment he wakes up little rabbit answers every question with ‘paraweta (Poo Bum)’ – until he meets a wolf who likes to eat rabbits!

Te reo Māori is growing in strength as we all see the importance of sharing our indigenous language with our little ones. Translations of classic stories that young children already know and love are a perfect way to introduce te reo Māori. Children can hear natural language patterns as they follow the familiar storyline and illustrations. It won’t be long before children will start shouting out ‘paraweta’ in all the right spots!

For nervous readers, you could start by changing out ‘poo-bum’ for ‘paraweta’ – however children tend to be a very forgiving audience when it comes to practicing a new language.

This book shows how much fun language can be. It will draw in the most book-shy child who will enjoy laughing at a parent or teacher saying ‘taboo’ words. The bold illustrations use blocks of colour and black lines to continue the absurdity – who has ever seen a green wolf or a rabbit in a suit?!

As an adult, you will either love or hate the storyline but young children are almost guaranteed to love the silliness! A book filled with toilet humour, familiar characters and a witty punchline – what is not to love? Just be prepared to read this book over and over again.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

Paraweta
by Stephanie Blake, translated by Karena Kelly
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776572182