Book Review: Dear Donald Trump, by Sophie Siers and Anne Villeneuve

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_dear_donald_trumpThe premise of this delightful picture book (for older readers!) is that Sam is over sharing a bedroom with his brother and would like to block out the irritating behaviour (playing on a phone!) which keeps him awake at night. Having heard that Donald Trump has an idea which might suit, he suggests to his parents that he build a wall in his bedroom. Unsurprisingly, they are not convinced. So he writes to Donald Trump to sound him out.

The particular genius in this story is that each time Sam writes a letter, there’s a corresponding illustration of DT determinedly avoiding receiving said letters. You can tell who it is, because of the yellow hair, but you never see his face – he’s always with his back to you, or with the face obscured. Brilliant politicial commentary right there, for the observant reader!!

Sam does try hard to get his point across to his parents, who counter his arguments with more reasonable suggestions which don’t involve structural alterations of their sons’ bedroom. As the story goes on, he gradually concedes that there may be more than one way to solve his problem, and by the end of course it all works out extremely well, but you’ll have to read it to find out how.

Sophie Siers has done a great job with this book. The language is reasonably sophisticated and very believable. The throwaway comments from Sam’s mum are spot-on, and it’s easy to see how Sam got so irritated with his brother.

The illustrations are very clever, and also very un-Kiwi. Anne Villeneuve is a Canadian illustrator/author, and her work is much more Quentin Blake than Gavin Bishop; the style works very well for this story.

All in all, highly recommended.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

Dear Donald Trump
by Sophie Siers and Anne Villeneuve
Published by Millwood Press
ISBN 9780473432812

Book Review: Do you want to gallop with me? by Sophie Siers, with illustrations by Judith Trevelyan

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_do_you_want_to_gallop_with_me.jpgBeing horse-mad as a child, I would have loved this book. Beautifully illustrated by Judith Trevelyan, Do you want to gallop with me? features horses every time you turn the page, along with tui, rabbits, and hedgehogs.

The story is about Nibbles the pony, who loves to gallop but on this day he has trouble finding anyone to play with him. The tui, hare, hedgehog and fellow horses all say no, and he’s thinking he’s going to be all alone in his prancing…

But then across the paddock comes a friend who is certainly keen to go galloping with Nibbles. They gallop and trot and splash and prance – past Tui, past Hare and past Hedgehog.

This book has plenty to keep a child enthralled as the pages turn, and the delightful illustrations are colourful and full of detail.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

Do You Want to Gallop With Me?
by Sophie Siers, with illustrations by Judith Trevelyan
Published by Millwood Press
ISBN 9780473408541

Book Review: Arlo and The Ginkgo Tree, by Sophie Siers, illustrated by Kate Twhigg

Available in selected bookshops nationwide.

cv_arlo_and_the_Gingko_treeThis is the first book I’ve read recently from small publishers Millwood Press, an award-winning publishing company established way back in the 1960s. They are known for producing high quality specialty productions. They cherish books, especially those that touch individuality. They currently focus on children’s books illustrated by contemporary artists in a fine arts tradition. So, as the daughter of historian Judy Siers and photographer Jim Siers (and controller of the company), it seems only right that Sophie Siers should show her hand with the pen.

Sophie has spent plenty of time on a Hawkes Bay farm, so it’s natural that her story should revolve about a boy and a tree – nature in it’s purest form and its most simple. And the story is simple too. It follows little Arlo as he climbs his favourite Ginkgo tree to watch the circle of life revolve around him. In this case, it’s a family of piwakawaka, who come to nest, lay eggs, raise their young and fly off.  Then after autumn and winter, the birds return, to begin the whole process again.

I loved Kate Twhigg’s simple watercolours. She has painted throughout her life, but has never previously been published.  She’s done a pretty good job.  For me, I would have like these images to have been a little sharper – the images are rendered in coloured pencil and watercolour, making them a little blurry.  But they are still very good.  The endpapers with flying birds and butterflies are delightful.

However, both of my girls, the real critics, loved this book. They related to the story, and to the images.  They wanted to go outside in their dressing gowns and hunt for birds’ nests – at 8.30pm! On a school night.

Kate, who sometimes writes in this blog did add one question for Sophie – ‘where’s the backstory about Arlo? Who is he? Why does he climb the tree. Where’s his iPad?  Why does the book he reads have no words on the cover?’  She was disturbed by Arlo’s anonyminity.

Overall, though, this story was a winner.  A perfect bedtime story, and uniquely local, too.

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

Arlo and The Ginkgo Tree
written by Sophie Siers and illustrated by Kate Twhigg
Published by Millwood Press
ISBN 9780473410940

Book Review: Rosie Joy: Here, There And Everywhere, by Sophie Siers, illustrated by Judith Trevelyan

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_Rosie_joy_here_there_and_everywhere.jpgRosie Joy: Here, There And Everywhere, is a sweet story about a young girl named Rosie Joy who dreams of being an explorer. Rosie finds herself embarking on an exploration sooner than she expected when she decides to take on the responsibility of hatching her own ‘tiny, yellow, fluffy and cheepy’ chicks. Along with her family and her best friend, Polly, Rosie makes all sorts of new discoveries about nature, knitting and things that are of paramount importance!

The soft pencil and water coloured art displayed front gives you a glimpse into the feel of the story to come. It is easy to see that the author, Sophie Siers is a farm girl at heart as this heart-warming story portrays the hard work, satisfaction and joy of family-farm life.

Siers has also done a wonderful job of capturing the thoughts and feelings of how we expect a 9-year-old girl might experience life: overwhelming excitement, big dreams, impatience and frustration and an insatiable curiosity about the world. This story includes all the ups and downs of Rosie’s journey into hatching chicks. As well as getting an insight into how to hatch chicks the natural way and a lesson in female explorers, the reader will also learn the definition and use of some big words, like paramount and circumnavigate!

Rosie Joy would be a great inspiration and source of information for any young person thinking about hatching their own chicks or someone who just loves a good feel-good story about farm life and growing up.

Reviewed by Alana Bird

Rosie Joy: Here, There And Everywhere
by Sophie Siers, illustrated by Judith Trevelyan
Published by Millwood Press
ISBN 9780473402402