Book Review: Bastion Point: 507 days on Takaparawha, by Tania Roxborogh

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_bastion_pointErica Tito thinks she’s going to spend the summer training her new horse (and also working to pay for it) but her parents suddenly have quite a different plan.

In 1977, the Muldoon government announced a housing development on Ngāti Whātua reserve land. This land had been reduced in size over time, by compulsory acquisition, despite having once been declared absolutely inalienable.

Many of the Ngāti Whātua iwi quickly returned to Auckland, and set up camp on Takaparawha, in what turned out to be a very long protest which ultimately saw more than 200 people arrested, and the buildings destroyed. However a subsequent Waitangi Tribunal determined that the land was indeed owned by Ngāti Whātua and much of it was returned. (source: Nzhistory.govt.nz)

So, to return to Erica’s story – her parents decide that it’s most important that they join Joe Hawke and the other Ngāti Whātua leaders, and despite Erica’s protests, that’s what happens. However what is intended a summer break turns into almost 18 months of living in leaky tents, on Bastion Point as the family become immersed in the struggle to retain their land.

Tania Roxborogh has created a compelling and entirely credible story, told through the diaries which Erica (who loves reading and writing) keeps throughout this time. The difficulties of living in such conditions are occasionally startling in their description; one which sticks with me is Erica’s note about her clothes smelling of smoke and damp, and trying to get rid of that before going to school so that she would not be embarrassed. But there are also the high points – an understanding and challenging teacher, Erica’s eventual ability as a top debater being drawn out, friendships made and kept despite enormous differences.

The importance of whānau is well-defined, and will resonate with young readers, as will the strength of character of the Tito family, determined to fight for what they know to be right.

The occupation of Bastion Point was not an easy time for Ngāti Whātua, and Roxborogh alludes in a very gentle way to the difficulties between the occupiers and the tribal elders and their advisors on the marae. She has more to say (through Erica) about the politics and the government of the day, and that is a good reminder to those of us who are old enough to remember Bastion Point and the challenges which were thrown out to all New Zealanders.

In all this is a very accessible, engaging and thought-provoking book. I’d recommend it to anyone, but particularly to teachers as a terrific resource either as a read-aloud or a text for study.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

Bastion Point: 507 days on Takaparawha
by Tania Roxborogh
Part of the My New Zealand Story series
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434795

Review: Tāwhirimātea: A Song for Matariki, by June Pitman-Hayes, illustrations Kat Merewether

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_TawhirimateaMatariki is the Māori name for the cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades, and for many Māori it heralds the start of a new year. This title has been released just in time for 2017’s Matariki celebrations.

Māori mythology and Matariki are woven together to tell a story of the seasons. Each page is dedicated to celebrating our Earth, sky, seasons and whanau. The text flows and rhymes its way across each page, moulding with the illustrations effortlessly. It’s a beautiful waiata and June Pitman-Hayes has been perfectly matched up with Kat Merewether to illustrate. Kat’s drawings are vibrant and full of meaning.

‘Tawhirimatea, blow winds blow. Ra, warm us up with your sunshine glow’.

Having Maori words integrated with English in the first half, and then the whole story retold in te reo in the second half is a great way to encourage young readers to explore both languages.

This book doesn’t disappoint and there is lots to look at on every page. My daughter and I spent ages pouring over each page, exploring them. It was fun to read aloud – or sing aloud rather – and a bonus that you can listen to the CD too, which is a beautiful addition to the book.

Reviewed by Nyssa Walsh

Tawhirimatea: A Song for Matariki
by June Pitman-Hayes, illustrations by Kat Merewether
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434139

Book Review: Torty and the Soldier, by Jennifer Beck and Fifi Colston

Available in bookshops nationwide.

Torty and the Soldier is a finalist in the Non-fiction category of the 2017 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. 

cv_torty_and_the_soldier.jpgThis beautifully illustrated book tells the story of a tortoise who was found in a rather forlorn condition by a young New Zealand Soldier in Salonika during WW1, the developing relationship is told delightfully. It is a gentle, caring and nurturing relationship with a well-depicted backstory.

The real twist is Torty coming home with Stewart and settling into life in New Zealand, a life of adventure that lasted 60 years, the illustrations combined with a wonderful array of rich and vibrant language tell a beguiling story that will keep children’s attention, no matter what the setting. To say that the illustrations  are realistic and evocative of a time and place is to understate it: they are first class!

This book is a wonderful addition to our national collection of war stories, ensuring that those who served this country will not be forgotten. Inspired by a true story, it is clear that a lot of research has gone into this book and this makes it even richer.

Readers aged 10 upwards will thoroughly enjoy this, as will any adult who shares it with a younger child.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

Torty And The Soldier
by Jennifer Beck and Fifi Colston
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775433651

Book Review: We’re off to Find a Kiwi by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Kate Wilkinson

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_were_off_to_find_a_kiwiEveryone in New Zealand dreams of seeing a kiwi, but very few of us in fact have seen one. In this delightful picture book Louie and his older sister set off to find a kiwi.

The author uses an excellent rhyming method to carry the children from their street into the city where they meet a tui who offers advice.

From there they go to a farm, then up a mountain, where a kea tells them to look in a dimmer place.

They try a forest and hear,
A scratch – a rustle – something close …
I feel the need to wee-wee!
It’s coming near! I freeze in fear!
And then we see a … KIWI.

It’s a wonderful story for the 3-7 age group: my 3-year-old grandson loves it. The week before this book arrived we had been walking in the Orokonui Sanctuary looking for birds, kiwi included, and other wildlife, so this book continues our adventures.

Juliette MacIver has created a wonderful New Zealand story, introducing children to some of our finest native birds and with the subtle illustrations by Kate Wilkinson, children can learn about the special places which are home to these birds.

The last page includes facts about kiwi, good discussion points for parents and teachers.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

We’re off to Find a Kiwi
by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Kate Wilkinson
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775433750

Musical Book Reviews: Angel Star, by Chris Sanders, illustrated by Kat Merewether; Nee Naw the Little Fire Engine, by Deano Yipadee, illustrated by Paul Beavis

Angel Star, by Chris Sanders, illustrated by Kat Merewether
Chris Saunders and Kat Merewether have teamed up to create this wonderful book.

cv_angel_star‘She looked up, into the sky,
to pick an Angel from the stars.
A shining light,
stood out that night,
so she reached out
to give it life.
And as her hand it touched the light.
it flickered down towards the Earth.
Just as if it was, all meant to be,
Like picking apples from a tree.’

This book comes with the added bonus of a CD with Chris Saunders singing and playing his guitar. The illustrations by Kat Merewether lend a whimsical and mythical air to a rather lovely book. A really wonderful way of introducing the idea of a new baby into a family with a small child.

My 2 ½ year old granddaughter Quinn was read this book and immediately grasped that this was about a new baby in a family and gave herself the role of the baby and the little girl as her big sister Abby, which I found incredibly cute.

Nee Naw the Little Fire Engine, by Deano Yipadee, and Paul Beavis
The idea began as a spark when Deano’s friend mentioned her son was always saying ‘Neeee-naw w w‘ and pretending to be a fire engine. I think a lot of children are fascinated by the sound of sirens, copying the sounds they hear.

cv_nee_naw_the_little_fire_engine‘There was a dinky little fire truck
hidden away,
with a dent on his bottom
and a door painted grey.
The new fire engines thought
he couldn’t help at all
because he wasn’t very shiny
and he wasn’t very tall.’

The newer fire engines may have been flasher, with shiny bodies, but Nee Naw saves the day when one of the big engines gets stuck in the mud.

This book also comes with a CD with music and lyrics by the author Deano Yipadee, along with rather fun illustrations by Paul Beavis.

I had to play the CD twice to my 2-½-year-old granddaughter as she rather liked making the fire engine siren noises.

Reviews by Christine Frayling

Angel Star
by Chris Sanders, illustrated by Kat Merewether
Published by Chris Sanders
ISBN 9780473356026

Nee Naw the Little Fire Engine
by Deano Yipadee, and Paul Beavis
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775433927

Book Review: If I Had an Elephant, by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_if_i_had_an_elephantThe front cover of this delightful picture book, tells its own story. Small boy, BIG elephant looking at each other. Here we enter the wonderful imagination of a child- asking “What if…”

Wanting an elephant is a perfectly normal desire for a small child. I always wanted a monkey. The possibilities are endless if you actually have an elephant, and the illustrations are expressive and easy to follow. It is the way the elephant’s eyes respond to each scenario which I loved best. The story takes us through many suggestions but what the boy actually gets for his birthday is not revealed until the final page.

This book was a treat for my granddaughter who asked lots of questions about the mechanics of owning an elephant. She very quickly noticed the expressive eyes and told me sad, or scary or happy from each page. The pictures have quirky additions which lead to deeper discussions and the final page allows further flights of imagination. The detail in the pictures is superb. The colourist, Tara Black, brings the images to life. Even the front and endpapers of the book tell part of the story. I am always delighted to see excellence in the presentation of children’s books.

As a teacher, this would be a great starter for a technology unit, or pet care, or even the poetry starter…What if?

For my birthday ( or even for Mother’s Day) I think I’d like…

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

If I Had an Elephant
by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434764

Book Review: Parakeet in Boots, by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Myles Lawford

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_parakeet_in_bootsThis is a hilarious Kiwi version of the fairy story Puss in Boots. There was once a farmer, who fell ill and died, leaving three sons and a farm to divide. The eldest received all the buildings and land, the next got the tractor and cash in the hand. But there in the will, to his youngest son Pete, all the farmer had left was his pet parakeet!

“What good’s a dumb parrot?” Pete cried in dismay.
“Don’t worry!” the bird squawked.
“I’ll see you’re okay.”
“Get me some ugg boots to warm up my feet,
plus a flax kete, and all will be sweet!”

The story continues on with the parrot “helping” Pete get what he needed in life including perhaps, the “girl of his dreams”.

A rather unique take on a classical fairy story. Both our 2 granddaughters were mesmerised by the idea of a parakeet taking charge of Pete’s destiny. I kept thinking of the parrot wearing ugg boots and wondering how on earth he could fly in such cumbersome things.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Parakeet in Boots
by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Myles Lawford
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775434382