Book Review: The Stolen Stars of Matariki, by Miriama Kamo, illustrated by Zak Waipara

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_stolen_stars_of_matariki.jpgIn a magical, wild, windy place called Te Mata Hāpuku there’s a beach made up of as many stones as there are stars in the sky. When Te Rerehua and Sam stay with at Te Mata Hāpuku with their Grandma and Pōua they love to scour the beach for the gleaming, bright, white stones called agate. One night as they gaze up at the night sky their Grandma exclaims that there are stars missing from the Matariki cluster. Grandma knows exactly what has happened to those stars; the patupaiarehe have snatched them from the sky and will hide them amongst the stones unless they are stopped. Will Te Rerehua and Sam be able to hatch a plan clever enough to trick the naughty patupaiarehe into releasing the stolen stars?

The Stolen Stars of Matariki was a new Matariki Story for me and I found it to be a very amusing tale. It was great that all nine stars of Matariki were included in this story as many stories only include seven of the stars that make up the Matariki cluster.

Kamo’s descriptive language has a magical quality to it fitting with the theme of the story, and I enjoyed the Te Reo Māori that is woven through the English version.

The patupaiarehe were also new to me and I was delighted to be introduced to another piece of Māori mythology, albeit a very mischievous creature! A story between “right and wrong” or “good vs. evil” always makes for an interesting read and it’s made all the more better for young children when the hero triumphs over the villain using non-violence.

It is obvious that Te Mata Hāpuku holds a special place within Kamo’s heart, and she paints an evocative image of it’s landscape and atmosphere through her words. The rich illustrations of Zak Waipara saturate each page; mixing thick, bold lines and geometric patterns with delicate and vibrant watercolours which compliment Kamo’s words perfectly.

Miriama Kamo’s debut The Stolen Stars of Matariki is a wonderful tale that introduces new kupu and Māori mythology to readers. It’s magical words and haunting illustrations will amuse and delight many young children and adults who read it, while also familiarising them with Matariki. I will definitely be on the lookout for a copy of the te teo Māori addition and waiting semi-patiently for more books from Miriama Kamo.

Reviewed by Alana Bird

The Stolen Stars of Matariki
by Miriama Kamo, illustrated by Zak Waipara
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775435341

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Book Review: Myths and legends of Aotearoa, retold By Annie Rae Te Ake Ake

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_myths_and_lengeds_of_aotearoa.jpgNew Zealand school children for many generations have read and studied the many myths and legends of our land which form part of our history and knowledge. Fifteen Māori myths and legends are presented in this newly reissued book, alongside stunning artworks by senior students from throughout the country.

Annie Rae Te Ake Ake is a writer and storyteller with tribal affiliations to Ngāti Tūwhareto, Ngāti Ranginui and Ngāti Maru, and recorded 29 legends as audio readings in 1993. Myths and Legends of Aotearoa was first published in 1999 when it was a finalist in the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards.

Author Annie Rae Te Ake Ake says in her introduction, ‘Legend has it that the Māori  made an epic journey from their ancient homeland of Hawaiki on seven sea-faring waka, in search of new land. This long and arduous journey tested their faith, courage and endurance.’

It is appropriate that she began the collection with the creation story of Ranginui, the Sky Father and Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother and how their son Tane Mahuta  pushed them apart. I enjoyed reading the Pania of the Reef story again, and there are a number of stories about Maui, who has always featured strongly in the myths and legends of New Zealand.

Although recommended for age ten plus I read the stories to my younger grandchildren and they loved them – there is plenty of interaction and discussion with the illustrations. My four-year-old grandson who lives near Totara was especially interested in the Rata and the Totara Tree story and he was fascinated with the acrylic and ink illustrations by Nick Sydney, lots of birds to count and he even found the toadstools.

The inclusion of a map of New Zealand with places marked where the legends originate adds to the learning experience, as does the glossary at the back of the book which includes Māori words and phrases with their English translation.

This well- written hard cover book with its eye catching illustrations deserves a place in public libraries, school libraries as well as New Zealand homes. The stories are short, most only two pages long, making it an ideal book for bedtime reading or classroom activities. I have enjoyed reading again the Myths and Legends I read at primary school, and believe this would be an excellent resource for new immigrants coming to New Zealand to give them an insight into our background history.

Reviewed By Lesley McIntosh

Myths and Legends of Aotearoa
retold By Annie Rae Te Ake Ake
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775435235

Book Review: 1918 Broken Poppies, by Des Hunt

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_1918.jpg1918: Broken Poppies is the latest (and final) book in the Kiwis at War series, where well-known New Zealand authors write fictionalised accounts of the war for the YA market. It marks a departure from Des Hunt’s other books, which are usually modern-day, dealing with topical issues (such as bullying etc), and with a strong ecological or scientific bent to them. However, all of the trademark characteristics are there: short chapters, lots of action, and a wry sense of humour, designed to appeal to boys. It is based on the experiences of two of his uncles.

Henry Hunt starts life as a farmer’s son, working the land in the North Island of New Zealand. He’s hard-working, diligent and has a penchant for exploring. One day, he and his cousin George are exploring a cave on their property, when the roof collapses. Henry is buried, and almost dies, and only his cousin’s quick actions save his life. The fear of being buried alive, however, never quite leaves him. Then World War I happens, and George enlists. Henry follows him a year later, determined to fight by his side, but finds himself assigned, not to the Wellington group, but to the Otago. Here he makes friends, and catches the eye, and ire, of a superior officer, who seems determined to prove him a coward.

Whilst passing a group of refugees in France, Henry’s regiment pass a cart bearing a young girl and a small terrier. With little warning, bombs start raining down, and the child and dog become separated. After the shelling has stopped, Henry finds the dog – but is unable to return her to her owner. Poppy soon becomes a mascot for his squad, and her ratting skills earn her infamy. She provides comfort to the soldiers, keeps their tents free of vermin and delivers fresh meat to the cook (in the form of rabbits). Despite tragedy, the hardships of war, and suffering several life-changing injuries, Henry never forgets the promise he made to Poppy and her girl: that he would see them reunited.

The First World War was an horrific affair, and 1918: Broken Poppies spares few details on the unpleasantness of the terrain, pitted with crater holes, corpses and mud – a lot of mud – as well as the rats, the lice and many other obstacles the young soldiers had to endure even before facing off against the enemy. It truly brings the war to life, painting a vivid mental picture in the mind of the reader, without getting bogged down on descriptive prose. Brutally sad and undeniably engrossing, the easy language and fast moving plot should immerse anyone with any interest in military history, and should especially appeal to fans of Michael Morpurgo. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

1918: Broken Poppies
by Des Hunt
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775432821

Previous books in the series:
1917: Machines of War, by Brian Falkner (not on our site)
1916: Dig for Victory , by David Hair
1915: Wounds of War,
by Diana Menefy
1914: Riding into War,
by Susan Brocker

Book Review: Anzac Animals, by Maria Gill, illustrated by Marco Ivančić

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_anzac_animalsEvery Anzac Day, our family gets up in the cold and the dark to attend a dawn service to commemorate those who have served our country. Standing there in the dark, with the sun just beginning to whisper its arrival over the horizon, I always stop for a moment to think about all of the animals who have likewise served our country and paid the ultimate price for that service. The dogs, horses, carrier pigeons, and donkeys, who did their small part, perhaps unknowingly, to help our soldiers. So when I saw that Maria Gill had written a new book recording the stories of some of those animals, this animal-lover was delighted.

Gill and Ivančić are the same award-winning team that brought us Anzac Heroes (2016), New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame (2014), and Abel Tasman: Mapping the Southern Lands (2017). They are a great team; their combination of text, facts and artwork makes for a beautifully presented and extremely educational book.

This lovely treasury joins the likes of Jennifer Beck and Fifi Colston’s Torty and the Soldier in celebrating and remembering the animals who either fought alongside our soldiers or did their part for the war effort by bringing some small moments of happiness and compassion to an otherwise joyless place.

The book features Bess the war horse, Caesar the Red Cross dog, and Murphy the stretcher-bearing donkey, among more than a dozen others. There are facts, dates, maps and photos interspersed among the stories, followed by a very handy bibliography for those readers who need to know more. This is a great example of non-fiction for children done well; bite-sized parcels of information and facts, surrounded by fantastic illustrations and colourful diagrams.

Anzac Animals is another fabulous book from Gill and Ivančić. It will be a worthy addition to any school library or animal lover’s bookshelf. This is a fine memorial to our animal friends who deserve their moment in the Anzac Day spotlight as we give thanks and pay tribute to those who fought for our country.

Review by Tiffany Matsis

Anzac Animals
by Maria Gill, illustrated by Marco Ivančić
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434740

Book Review: How Not to Stop a Kidnap Plot, by Suzanne Main

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_how_not_to_stop_a_kidnap_plotAward-winning Wellington author Suzanne Main has revisited her funny, mishap-prone characters Michael and Elvis from How I Alienated My Grandma, in another fast-paced adventure.

In How Not to Stop a Kidnap Plot, Michael and Elvis get themselves in a load of trouble by tampering with the school play. In the course of serving their punishment, the boys uncover a plot to kidnap a student from their school and decide to thwart the kidnappers before they can carry out their dastardly plan.

Helped along the way by uber-popular Angus and school journalist Natalie, the boys lurch from near miss to near miss, making assumptions and deductions that lead them on cross-town bike adventures and top secret stakeouts. But is everything as it seems?  And who is the mysterious and malevolent Mr C?

I’m 30 years too old to be the target audience for this book, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it immensely. The pace is snappy, the humour is genuine, and you can totally imagine some kids of your acquaintance jumping to the sorts of conclusions that Michael and Elvis jump to, and the scrapes they get in as a consequence.

I can see this book being a hit with students from about 8 -12, and would be a great read-aloud for parents and teachers. Get yourself a copy, and buckle up for a great time.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

How Not to Stop a Kidnap Plot
by Suzanne Main
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434801

Book Review: The Whale and the Snapper, by Jo Van Dam, illustrated by Richart Holt

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_whale_and_the_snapperThe Whale and the Snapper is part of the Kiwi Corkers collection published by Scholastic NZ. I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing previous titles Parakeet in Boots and Wacko Kakapo, and each of these books have been received well by my grandchildren. Three-year-old Quinn had me read this title to her over and over.

‘Once upon a time, in the deep blue and dark blue sea, lived a tiny shiny snapper, and her sisters thirty-three.’

Quinn stopped me at this point, asking ‘has she got thirty-three sisters, Grandma’ – I had to explain that snappers lay a lot of eggs and, yes, they were all her sisters. Only having one sister, Quinn thought about that for a minute and said – “I don’t think I’d like to have thirty-three sisters”.  I  think she is right, one sister is plenty.

The tiny snappers had all been nagged by their mother to ‘stay hidden in the weed, as whales and people fishing reckon you’re a tasty feed.’  Generally, they obeyed her but of course being young they were curious and ventured beyond where they should go.

Of course, a good story has to have a villain and in this case, it was a whale. The tiny snapper appealed to the whale to not eat him up but to let him go. If he did, he would sometime in the future repay the kindness. So, the villain turns out to be a good guy and let the snapper go. The snapper never forgot that kindness and was able to return the favour.

The moral of the story is if you do a good deed you will be repaid sometime in the future – well you hope so!

After reading each page I stopped and asked Quinn what she could see in the illustrations. The language alongside each one just made me laugh with the amount of Kiwi slang – ‘sweet as! Fresh kai for me,’ being just one example.  A truly delightful book.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

The Whale and the Snapper
by Jo Van Dam, illustrated by Richard Holt
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434948

 

Book Review: The Kiwi Go Marching One by One, by Peter Millett, illustrated by Deborah Hinde

Available in bookshops nationwide.

The Kiwi Go Marching One by One is a Kiwi take on the nursery rhyme “The Ants Go Marching”. It follows five kiwis pals as they embark on a camping trip and partake in the many exciting adventures New Zealand has to offer; from building bivouacs in the forest and sea fishing to sledding down snowy mountains and bungee jumping from trees. It begins with five excited kiwis marching off to set up camp and ends with five very tired kiwis marching home to a well deserved rest.

Hinde’s illustrations are lovely and manage to capture the tranquility of the New Zealand’s outdoors. Each time I read through the book I noticed more and more little details and each kiwi appears to have their own personality. Children will love scouring the pages to find familiar creatures and plants that are unique to Aotearoa.

The lyrics fit seamlessly into the tune and my preschool students and I enjoyed singing along with Jay Laga’aia. Singing is very important towards language learning and I always love finding new sing-a-long books to share with children. The te reo Māori translation is brilliant and books that promote the use and learning of te reo Māori for young children and adults alike are a great resource to have.

I would recommend this book to any child that loves a sing-a-long! It is thoughtfully illustrated and wonderfully written and children can enjoy singing along with an adult or the CD or just explore New Zealand nature and wildlife through the illustrations.

Reviewed by Alana Bird

The Kiwi Go Marching One by One
by Peter Millett, illustrated by Deborah Hinde
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775435129