Book Review: Around the World Fashion Sketchbook, by Jenny Grinsted & Eva Byrne

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_around_the_World_fashion_sketchbook.jpgFashion, travel, colouring-in, and design – courtesy of the creative team at Lonely Planet kids. The Fashion Sketchbook is a very fun and educational trip around the world in traditional costumes.

Divided into six geographic regions, the book features twenty-seven countries from Mexico to Ghana to our own New Zealand. It’s always a source of parochial glee to find Aotearoa in a book.  Each country has a double-page spread outlining traditional clothing, patterns, fabrics, and jewellery.

Part fashion fact book, part atlas, part activity book, this A4-sized book has plenty of information and photos but also leaves room to draw in your own designs. You can customise a Herero-style hat from Namibia with your own patterns and colours, or follow the steps to draw your own quadrille dress for a Jamaican dancer. Fun, educational, and creative.

This is a great activity book to keep your design-minded, wannabe young travelers busy over the school holidays. My twelve-year-old has already stolen my review copy.

Review by Tiffany Matsis

Around the World Fashion Sketchbook
by Jenny Grinsted & Eva Byrne
Published by Lonely Planet Kids
ISBN 9781787014442

Book Review: Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow, by Siobhan Curham

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_don't_stop_thinking_about_tomorrowStevie and Hafiz are two fourteen-year-olds from very different backgrounds. Stevie is a talented guitarist who is passionate about music – but she has a difficult home life, living with the challenges of her mother’s unemployment and crippling depression after the recent death of Stevie’s father. Hafiz is a gifted footballer, new to England after a gruelling journey on his own from his war-torn home in Syria, desperately missing his parents. The one thing Steve and Hafiz have in common is that both of them are struggling to fit in at school – until they find each other.

This is a fabulous book about diversity, mental health, the plight of refugees, and overcoming prejudice. But mostly it is a story about friendship. The book unfolds in chapters alternating between Stevie and Hafiz’s perspectives. Slowly we learn more about their backstories and the events that have led them to the moment where a well-meaning teacher instructs the new boy to sit next to the lonely girl. This is a very contemporary tale, with its empathetic and tactful discussion of mental health issues and the refugee experience. Stevie and Hafiz’s voices are unique and genuine and the author carefully avoids slipping into a schmaltzy treatment of some very tough topics.

My daughter and I were both big fans of Curham’s earlier books, The Moonlight Dreamers and its sequel Tell It To The Moon, so I was very keen to read this new novel. To my surprise, I think I like this new book even better than the other two; no mean feat. Both of the characters are endearing and extremely likeable. And how can you not love a book that includes a Spotify playlist? This is a thought-provoking and extremely enjoyable read for anyone twelve and over.

Reviewed by Tiffany Matsis

Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow
by Siobhan Curham
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406387803

Book Review: Welcome, by Mo Willems

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_welcome.jpgWe absolutely adore Mo Willems in our family. He’s the bestselling creator of the hilariously mad Elephant & Piggie series, as well as Knuffle Bunny, and the brilliant Pigeon picture books; all of which have brought much glee to adult and child readers alike. Welcome: A Mo Willems Guide for New Arrivals is the newest book from this talented former Sesame Street writer and animator.

Aimed at parents and caregivers of new additions, this gorgeous book is a life instruction manual for little ones, designed to be read aloud to your new baby. The message of the book is gorgeous: ‘This is you, you are you, you are loved. No restrictions apply.’ It is a delightful, loving, life lesson to share with your little person.

This book will last well into toddlerhood with its heavier than paper, reinforced pages for durability, a fun mirror inside the front cover, and very simple pictures on coloured pages. This book is sure to be a hit at baby showers, christenings and any other gift-giving opportunities to celebrate a new arrival to your community. And as always, the Pigeon makes a sneaky cameo appearance in the book.

Review by Tiffany Matsis

Welcome
by Mo Willems
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406383584

Book Review: Promising Young Women, by Caroline O’Donoghue

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_promising_young_womenJane Peters is twenty-six and newly single after getting out of a comfortable but unexciting long-term relationship. Her advertising agency job isn’t exactly scintillating but it pays the rent, more or less. And there’s a cute colleague she’s had her eye on for a while. Jane’s secret side hobby as an online agony aunt gives her an outlet for her snark and provides a nice ego boost whenever her advice goes viral.

Irish writer Caroline O’Donoghue’s debut novel begins as an enjoyable, relatable read about a young woman fresh from a break-up, plodding away at her mediocre corporate job.  Fun, light, and rather formulaic you’re thinking.  But things take a surprisingly dark turn: Bridget Jones’s Diary this is not.  After a drunken encounter with her charismatic boss at a work party, Jane finds herself quickly out of her depth and struggling to maintain a hold on reality.

In the #MeToo era, where the news is (rightly) full of horrendous stories about the likes of Harvey Weinstein and the Old Boys Club of some local law firms, this is an exceptionally timely novel. Reminiscent of Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter, this is a story about power and sex, and gender politics in the workplace.

‘Our company is teeming with women under thirty, and men approaching or over fifty.  That is how the food chain works. Dozens of attractive young women do the grunt work for a handful of men, and the women get filtered out by motherhood. It’s the corporate version of natural selection.’

This novel is dark and cuttingly funny. That I, a reasonably busy working parent, made time to read this book over just two days is testament to how compelling a story it was. This is a book that you will want to recommend to your bookclub, just so that you have friends to discuss it with afterwards.

Review by Tiffany Matsis

Promising Young Women
by Caroline O’Donoghue
Published by Little, Brown
ISBN 9780349009919

Book Review: Brain Teasers, by Sally Morgan

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_brain_teasers.jpgYou only need to see that familiar Lonely Planet logo to know that, between those paperback covers, adventure awaits.  This time, it’s not a guidebook, but rather a fantastic book of travel-related puzzles and games to keep young travellers occupied on the journey.

On a long car trip or flight, when you’re out of mobile phone coverage or want to give the kids a break from staring at screens, this handy backpack-friendly-sized puzzle book will be a welcome change to playing I Spy and counting yellow cars.  With 145 pages of matching games, mazes, guessing games, and so much more, there is plenty in this book to keep travellers aged 5-10 busy for hours.  Handily all of the answers are at the end of the book in case the adults in your travel group are equally stumped.

The games are travel- and geography-themed, as you would expect from a Lonely Planet publication so it’s bound to prove popular even on a rainy day at home in the school holidays as you imagine you’re off travelling the world instead.

Review by Tiffany Matsis

Brain Teasers
by Sally Morgan
Published by Lonely Planet Kids
ISBN 9781787013148

Book Review: Bruce Finds a Home, by Katherine van Beek

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_bruce_finds_a_home.jpgThe tiny grey kitten on the front of this colourfully illustrated book elicited an immediate cooing “awwww” from my school-age children. I thought they would be much too old for picture books by now but Bruce Finds A Home was snatched up immediately upon sight, the combination of cute cat plus delicate artwork proving a winning combination.

Bruce the Cat was found as a day-old kitten, lying helpless by the side of a road in central Auckland. Now two years old and living in Dunedin, he is an internet star with thousands of followers worldwide. This is his first foray into books, with the help of writer Kathryn van Beek.

This beautiful hardcover book was the result of a Kickstarter campaign backed by over 300 keen Bruce fans, eager to see his story in print. The result is a lovely rhyming tale about how a tiny newborn found his forever home – and his name. This would make a great read-aloud for kindergarten-aged children and a handy conversation starter for a gentle discussion about caring for animals.

I am sure this won’t be the last we see of the gorgeous Bruce or his clever “mum” Kathryn.

Reviewed by Tiffany Matsis

Bruce Finds A Home
by Katherine van Beek
Published by Mary Egan Publishing
ISBN 9780473391737

Book Review: Through My Eyes – Lyla, by Fleur Beale

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_lyla_through_my_eyesThirteen-year-old Lyla, her family and friends are trying to get back to normal life in Christchurch after the terrifying September 2010 earthquake that shook their beautiful city in the middle of the night. Buildings were damaged but importantly, everyone is ok. Life is starting to return to some semblance of normality, despite the repeated aftershocks. Then, 22 February 2011, the big one hits.

Through My Eyes: Natural Disaster Zone is a powerful fiction series from Allen & Unwin about children living in contemporary natural disaster zones. Their stories range from war-torn Kashmir to the cyclone-ravaged Philippines. And now we have our very own New Zealand addition, written by the wonderfully talented Fleur Beale (of the I am Not Esther and the Juno series). Lyla is the story of a young girl, her family, and friends coping with life after the devastating 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

Although this is fiction, it is most definitely a New Zealand story. From the slang to the touches of Māoritanga, to the Student Army and the broken spires of the Christchurch Cathedral, the story is rooted firmly in reality. I am not from Christchurch myself and only experienced the terrible 6.3 quake from afar, but my experience of living in Wellington through the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake gave me a true appreciation for Beale’s realistic depiction of the terror such an event creates. She also accurately captures the ongoing exhaustion of living with aftershocks: ‘But I was sick of being resilient. In my opinion, the resilient-sayers should try living here in Christchurch, City of Shaky Ground.  … It’s February now and you’ve been shaking us for five months. Enough already!’ The book deals compassionately with the issue of post-traumatic stress and the ongoing mental health challenges this brings. Lyla puts up a very brave front but the constant state of hypervigilance takes its toll.

For some readers, this book may be all too real and not something they want to delve into. But for those who did not live the experience, Lyla is a fantastic and moving insight into the life of an extremely resilient (yes, I said it), albeit fictional, young woman. This is another compassionate, engrossing read from one of New Zealand’s best young people’s writers.

Review by Tiffany Matsis

Through My Eyes – Lyla
by Fleur Beale
Published by Allen & Unwin Australia
ISBN 9781760113780