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

Book Review: The Scariest Thing in the Garden, by Craig Smith, illustrated by Scott Tulloch

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_scariest_thing_in_the_gardenBig scary eyes stare out of the cover of the latest book created by Craig Smith and Scott Tulloch as the pair take children on a journey around the garden to find The Scariest Thing in the Garden.

The opening pages show a very scared Brussels sprout! What scared the Brussels sprout?
The simple repetitive lyrics build up the suspense in the read aloud book as the children meet an aphid, a spider, a ladybird, a bird, a cat, a dog, and a child.
Nothing has scared the child. Or has it?

Kids will love the surprise twist in the tale at the end of the book.

The author of the number one best seller The Wonkey Donkey, Craig Smith lives in Queenstown and performs around New Zealand and Australia, and says ‘There’s something about eating food that you have grown or made yourself that is very special.’

The book includes a CD which children will love as Craig sings his way through the book accompanied by his guitar, and children screaming in the appropriate places.

Scott Tulloch is based in Wanaka and has illustrated numerous Scholastic titles creating wacky cartoons, but also enjoys illustrating realistic wildlife. ‘I was too scared to paint a real-looking spider at first. but the publishing team at Scholastic told me I had to.’

The drawings are delightful, with big eyes staring out from all the animals, and children will love hearing this book over and over.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

The Scariest Thing in the Garden
by Craig Smith, illustrated by Scott Tulloch
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775435051

Book Review: 1-2-3 Bird!, by Dave Gunson

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_123_birdAt the moment, we are so lucky to have many children’s books that tell our stories, sights and sounds of Aotearoa New Zealand.  This book is another much-loved addition to our book shelf that is proudly kiwi.

The focus, of course, is birds, as each number shares a new bird. What makes this book different is it doesn’t just focus on native birds (which we do not see everyday).  Instead, it includes the birds our children see in our backyard, at the beach or at the park too.  It makes the book really relatable – especially with the illustrations which include smart phones and other objects which clearly represent the world our children live in.

The text is simple and short, written in rhyme and moves quickly along.  This allows the readers to talk about the illustrations which contain so many prompts for conversation and discovery.  It is a picture book that allows the pictures to tell the story.  We love the emotion and scenes of what the birds get up to!

At the end of the book, the reader is encouraged to head back into the story to look for extra characters hidden in the pages.  This is a great extension for older children to explore further the numbers within the book.  This story can be revisited over and over again by readers of all ages.

Reviewed by Sara Croft, ECE Teacher

1-2-3 Bird!
by Dave Gunson
Reviewed by Scholastic NZ

Book Review: Row, Kiwi, Row Your Boat, illustrated by Stevie Mahardika

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_row_kiwi_row_your_boat.jpgThis book has become a firm favourite in our audio story collection.  It is a cheerful, fast-paced musical telling of a kiwi going on an adventure to find a taniwha.  Along the way kiwi meets many New Zealand native animals and birds who join kiwi on the adventure.

It is beautifully written in rhyming prose and has a clear storyline of the kiwi following a river out to the sea to find a taniwha.  The story includes a repeating stanza so children can quickly join in the story-telling.  Also the storyline can be re-created in magnetic puppets or dramatic play so children can recreate it in their play to build early literacy skills.

A picture tells a thousand words and these illustrations are bright and perfectly match the text. Children can easily follow along with the visual representation of the story.  We particularly love the page which locates the adventure by showing a birds-eye view of the path the characters have taken.

Our children love to join Kiwi on her adventure to find a taniwha.  The suspense builds throughout the story as the animals work together on their mission.  It weaves messages of friendship and co-operation.

The book also includes the music and words for the story in te reo Māori.  It is possible to listen to the story in te reo Māori, and as your confidence grows it is easy to insert words into your reading in English – beginning with the names of many native birds and animals.

Reviewed by Sara Croft, ECE Teacher

Row, Kiwi, Row Your Boat
illustrated by Stevie Mahardika, sung by Pio Terei
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434931

Book Review: Old MacDonald Had a Farm, sung by the Topp Twins, illustrated by Jenny Cooper

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_old_macdonald_had_a_farm_topp_twinsHow do you make an old favourite in to a new favourite? You invite the Topp Twins to record it with their yahooing enthusiasm, and you invite Jenny Cooper to provide expressive and explosive illustrations. I will admit that my previous Topp Twins story and song combination has been so well used that I would willingly have used the CDs as targets. There is something infectious about the enthusiasm they bring to what could be a tired old song. A little bit of creativity in changing the end of the song, allows for even more chaos in illustrations and sound.

It is appropriate that the American twang is clearly part of this song and the Country and Western style is well-suited to the farmyard antics in the book. I have to admit that the Alpaca was a new one for me. Hmmmmmmm? Not an easy sound to sing but they do it in style.

Jenny Cooper is not just a gifted artist, she is a superb children’s book illustrator. She has such energy in the pictures with action in the smallest details. The Swanndri and Skellerup Redbands, the vintage tractor and the banana skin. These are the extras which keep the audience coming back, over and over again.

I think Grandparents would do well to get a copy of this wonderful book and CD and get it gift-wrapped and ready to roll. After Christmas dinner, this is exactly what you need to get the whole family singing and dancing. No wonder my kids were always terrified about what I had planned for Christmas afternoon. Watch this space!

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

Old MacDonald Had a Farm
sung by the Topp Twins, illustrated by Jenny Cooper
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434986