Book Review: The Cat from Muzzle, by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Scott Tulloch

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_cat_from_muzzleDwayne is a cat who made a 5-week trip from Kaikoura back to his original home of Muzzle Station in Southern Marlborough. While this story is based on a true story, what and who he encountered can only be imagined, in this case by Sally Sutton and Scott Tulloch.

Dwayne is a tough tabby cat with sharp claws.  He loves living at Muzzle Station. The bleating sheep, the gentle cows and the clucking chooks. Moving day comes around. They leave the farm, flying to their new home. Dwayne does not cope. He howled and howled as he doesn’t want to move to Kaikoura. The new house is big and bright but all he wantsis to be back at the Station, so off he goes, one determined cat to start his journey back to Muzzle.

Off Dwayne leaves walking and walking until his paws were sore. He walked for hours and days, eating what he could along the way. A friendly hunter shared his fire, inviting Dwayne to come and live with him but this Muzzle cat had somewhere else to be.

This is a wonderful story of tenacity and courage. I read this to my 4 ½ year old granddaughter Quinn who is the proud co-owner along with her older sister Abby, to two cats. One is called Gus, who is a tabby and a big fluffy puss called Rocky (so named to give him mana among other cats!). Quinn wanted to know why Dwayne wanted to go back to Muzzle Station and not stay with his owners. She can’t imagine Gus or Rocky ever leaving her. She told me she loves them this much………………………………..!

The Illustrations by the wonderful artist Scott Tulloch are simply beautiful. This is a great book. This would make a wonderful present.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

The Cat from Muzzle
by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Scott Tulloch
Published by Puffin NZ
ISBN 9780143773085

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

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_keep_an_eye_on_this_koalaIn this short comic-like chapter book narrated by a smart-mouthed cockatoo we meet a “dozy” Koala who we are told to “keep an eye on”. Koala is the butt-end of all the jokes amoungst his fellow Aussie creatures. He gets tricked into hilarious situations and creates trouble for the others. However they are made to eat their words when Koala uses a clever idea to help them escape from The Dreadful Drop-bear.

Scott Tulloch has created another amusing comic with humorous dialogue in Keep an eye on this koala. His cute pencil illustrations add to the comedy with their highly expressive faces and movements.

I love when characters break the fourth wall in children’s books which is exactly what the main character and narrator of this book does. Talking directly to the audience helps engage young readers and gives the feel of being apart of the story.

Keep on eye on koala is a lighthearted book that’s perfect for beginner readers. It’ll have children chuckling at Cockatoo’s wisecracks and Koala’s dozy misfortunes. A great introduction to chapter books!

Reviewed by Alana Bird

Keep an Eye on this Koala
by Scott Tulloch
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775435426

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: Titan the Truck by Joy H. Davidson, illustrated by Scott Tulloch

Available in selected bookshops nationwide.

cv_titan_the_TruckTitan is a large truck driven by Baz, who clearly loves both his job and his personified vehicle. I found the beginning of the story strongly reminiscent of Tony Mitton/Ant Parker books: ‘The trailer could have bolsters, for hauling logs or poles, Or maybe even tipper bins, for gravel, rock or coal.’ However, it soon drives off in a different direction while maintaining the same pattern of rhyme, as Baz and Titan make various stops along the road.

The repetition of the phrase ‘the load just can’t be late’ suggests it’s inevitably going to be late somehow, and thanks to a stray cow, the somehow turns out to be fairly catastrophic. Such an accident is a bold move in a book for small children, but I think it’s mild enough that most should cope with it. Nothing a bit of mechanical work, panel-beating, and bone-setting can’t fix!

The accompanying song (with some nice jazz saxophone) is long at six minutes, but quite catchy, and it shouldn’t make the teachers groan if it’s added to the playlist on the kindy stereo. The song adds a chorus and uses several pages from the text but doesn’t match it exactly. That would be a problem for a read-along book and comes across as slightly unprofessional, but I don’t think it matters for preschoolers.

I found the book punctuation-heavy, with too many exclamation marks especially. The rhyme and metre are mostly smooth, but they falter on the emergency/urgency page.

The lively illustrations capture the various New Zealand settings well – my favourites were the one by the lake and the one with the railway crossing. (My kids noticed that the placement of one of the carrots at the accident scene makes the cow look like a unicorn!)

The rhyming and illustrations will make it a firm favourite with under-fives who are obsessed with large vehicles.

Reviewed by Esther Kiernan

Titan the Truck
by Joy H. Davidson, illustrated by Scott Tulloch
Published by DHD Publishing
ISBN 9780473403119

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: The Ugly Kiwi, by Scott Tulloch

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_The_ugly_kiwiA delightful retelling of the classic The Ugly Duckling using New Zealand characters and drama.

A kiwi egg hatches in a duck nest, and out pops a bird which doesn’t look like, sound like or act like the other baby birds.  A cat appears and drama begins as the feline foe catches a tui … but, of course, our hero – the kiwi – saves the day.

The text is full of descriptive language, a rich treasure trove of words to extend children’s vocabulary and explore creative storytelling.  However, children can still confidently follow the story with the rhyming melodies of the text.  There are lots of opportunities to slow down and predict what might happen next.

The story is beautifully accompanied by watercolour illustrations.  The pages are not cluttered with background, and focus on the key elements of the story.  They clearly convey movement, emotion and anticipation as the plot thickens.

We also love how the author has been true to how birds react.  As a teacher it is hard to find picture books that share scientific knowledge with children within a narrative tale.  However, in The Ugly Kiwi, our hero uses her claws to kick away the predator.  It will be used when we are exploring kiwi to provoke conversations about predators and protection.

The story weaves in the moral of being true to who you are under your feathers in this refreshing spin on a classic tale.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

The Ugly Kiwi
by Scott Tulloch
Published by David Bateman Ltd
ISBN 9781869539764

The blog to end our 20-day blog tour!

BookAwards_CC_900x320_v3_bannerWe have just finished a fabulous four-week tour around our authors inspirations, aims and achievements with their Children’s Choice finalist books. Now it is time for you to help your kids to vote their favourite book and author to win: they will be in to win a selection of finalists for themselves and their school if they do! Kids can select a winner in each category; the winning book of each category will win a prize at the Book Awards ceremony on Thursday 13 August. Thank you to all of the other blogs who have hosted these interviews!

Children's_choice_ya_fic_V2jpgDuring the first week of our tour, we heard from the Young Adult fiction finalists. We heard from Ella West (who, like any good super author, writes under a pseudonym) who dedicated Night Vision to Trish Brooking, because she still takes her out for lunch, after looking after her as Otago Education College Writer in Residence in 2010. We learned that Natalie King has not one but three pseudonyms, and was inspired by a dream of a lake to write the book Awakening, which begins with a mysterious necklace drawn from a lake. While Jill Harris sadly passed away in December, Makaro Press publisher Mary McCallum told us that she published her book The Red Suitcase because the opening chapter inside a Lancaster bomber had her riveted. I Am Rebecca was a return to a character that author Fleur Beale had written about before, in I am not Esther. She told us that the secret to her amazing characters is simply to “walk in the shoes of the character so that what happens to the character informs the story.” Our final YA author was Nelson-based Rachael Craw, who had two interviews in two different places! Spark was also inspired by a dream, which took 5 and a half years to come to fruition: she had to learn to write first! She was inspired by the power of DNA when she met her birth mother.

Children's_choice_picbook_v4Week two saw us jump back a few reading years to the Picture Book finalists. Scott Tulloch ran I am Not a Worm past fellow Children’s Choice finalist Juliette MacIver and her kids, and her oldest son Louis suggested what became the final line in the book: “I like butterflies.” Yvonne Morrison, author of Little Red Riding Hood…Not Quite, told us she was about to leave NZ for a new job in Vietnam, living on a jungle island and managing a centre for endangered primates! Donovan Bixley covered two finalist books in one interview, Little Red and Junior Fiction book Dragon Knight: Fire! and he said that working with the same authors again and again means he can just do a messy scribble at the early stage of illustrating, and they will trust him to flesh it out!  Jo van Dam wrote doggy rhymes for her own children when they were young, and this became Doggy Ditties from A to Z. This is illustrated by Myles Lawford, who had to do a lot of research to make sure he illustrated each breed accurately. Peter Millet answered his own question about pets in the army with The Anzac Puppy, illustrated by Trish Bowles, who used to get in trouble at school for drawing: she now gets rewarded for it! Juliette MacIver likes to feature things in her books that children see in their everyday lives – “monkeys, old wooden galleons, pirates, for example, things that children encounter most days on their way to kindy or school.” Marmaduke Duck and the Wide Blue Seas was the third in the series by her and Sarah Davis, who reckons Juliette sometimes writes things in just to annoy her: ”52 marmosets leaped on board”?!? Seriously!!? Do you know how long it takes to draw 52 marmosets? Much longer than it takes to write the words “52 marmosets”, that’s for sure.”

Children's_choice_JUNIOR_V4We began the Junior Fiction category with an interview with Kyle Mewburn, author of Dragon Knight: Fire!, the first in a new series for the younger Junior Fiction age-group, and a finalist in both the children’s choice and the judges’ lists. Kyle doesn’t let his ideas float around “in case they escape, or some sneaky author steals one.”  The lead character in 1914 – Riding into War, by Susan Brocker, was inspired by her grandfather, Thomas McGee, who served as a mounted rifleman in WW1. Desna Wallace lived through the Canterbury Quake, and the character of Maddy popped into her head on the way home from work as a school librarian one day. “It was a bit crowded in there, so I sat down and wrote it out,” she said. Stacy Gregg‘s story The Island of Lost Horses began when she fell in love, with a picture of an Abaco Barb horse, the breed featured in this story; which is inspired by real events. Suzanne Main won the Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon award for the manuscript for How I Alienated My Grandma. This came with an offer of publication from Scholastic NZ, which enabled her to keep backing herself and her work to succeed.Children's_choice_NON_FIC_V3

The Non-fiction category tour began with the double-nominee (in judge’s and children’s choice lists) Māori Art for Kids, written and illustrated by the husband and wife team, Julie Noanoa & Norm Heke. Their aim was “to create something for families to connect with and appreciate Maori art.” Poet Sarah Jane Barnett featured poetry title The Letterbox Cat & other poems by Paula Green and Myles Lawford on her blog The Red Room. Paula says, “When I saw the way the zesty illustrations of Myles Lawford danced on the page, I cried!” Maria Gill followed up her New Zealand Hall of Fame of 2011 with New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame: 25 Kiwi Champions – she says the toughest task was to decide who to leave out. Gorgeous illustration guide book A New Zealand Nature Journal, by Sandra Morris, was featured next on NZ Green Buttons. Sandra’s favourite thing to do when not drawing or managing her illustration agency, is tramping, unsurprisingly!  Philippa Werry was in last year’s awards with her great Anzac Day book, and this year she was a children’s choice finalist for Waitangi Day: The New Zealand Story, featured on Barbara Murison’s blog. Philippa focused this book on the day itself, as opposed to the treaty, and she enjoys doing cryptic crosswords while contemplating writing.

While this tour is ending, we will be carrying on our celebration of the book awards, promoting the judges’ list in the Book Awards for Children and Young Adults in the run-up to the awards announcement at Government House on 13 August 2015. There will be giveaways and reviews, and fun besides, so watch this space!

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For the full links list for the Book Awards, please head here.

Other blogs involved were: NZ Booklovers blog, Booknotes Unbound, Around the BookshopsThrifty Gifty, My Best Friends are Books, NZ Green Buttons Blog and The Red Room.