Book Review: The Kiwi Cyclist’s Guide To Life, by Jane King

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_kiwi_cyclists_guide_to_lifeI’ve been meaning to review this one for a little while. It’s been sitting on my coffee table glaring at me. ‘Read Me’, it beckons. But it’s been a great summer and I’ve been out on the road, peddling away through some great trails – on road, off road, town and country.

And every time I reached out to pick it up, a visitor would arrive. So, instead, they are the ones to pick it up a and peruse its chapters. They often drift away to another part of the house to finish a chapter. They are not long, complicated or overwritten. Quite the opposite. King writes with a journalist’s eye. She wants to capture the full flavour, not just the essence of her subjects.

When I found time, I discovered that King’s book is a taste treat for anyone who loves cycling; but it’s much more than that. Over 25 chapters, she introduces us to a varied selection of cycle fiends from literally every walk of life. She covers every popular style – GT factory racing, track, BMX, triathletes, cycle builders, historians, off-roaders and inventors. There’s eccentrics, lifestyle cyclists and hippies. There are some of the pioneers like Graeme Pearson (a racer, rebellious innovator and bike designer who pushed the boundaries of conventional cycle racing in NZ). Or Aaron Gate (World Champion and Olympic Medalist) and Sarah Walker, whom we all know as a top BMX rider and pioneer for the sport in New Zealand.

Mountain biking gets a mention, with a look at Wyn Masters (see image from his Instagram below) who’s won some big events like last year’s Enduro World Series and competed in the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Leogang. If you’ve ever been up the Gondola at Rotorua then you would have seen the  Crankworx track. That’s where he raced.

A post shared by Wyn Masters (@wynmasters) on


If biking has an unsung hero of Arthur Lydiard proportions it could well be Phil Gibbs, who nurtures new talent. And don’t forget another legend, swimmer Moss Burmester – double Olympian, Commonwealth Games Champion and World Champion – he’s eternally on two wheels as well. In training, racing and, as proven in a great photo double spread, in bed sleeping with his Giant training bike. He’s taking a fear of stolen bicycles to a new level!

There’s a profile on Graeme Simpson, who operates out of his Oamaru garage making, believe it or not, Penny Farthing Bicycles! We also get an intriguing inside into journalist and presenter Mary Lambie who is a keen competitive cyclist, racing in the Taupo Cycle Challenge, the K2 around Coromandel Peninsula and even doing the Coast to Coast race.

There is a profile of Drew Duff-Dobson, who runs a Cycle Shop-cum café in Auckland. Now that’s my kind of cycling. And then there’s a High Country Heli-biker (yep, it’s a thing), tour operator Dan McMullan. His piece is accompanied by a stunning photo of he and his bike perched on a lonely precipice surrounded by an endless mountainous backdrop, with another inside of him leading a group down the snowy slopes of Mt Burke. You could not ask for a better work story!

Not everyone in this book is an over-achiever, though. One of my favourite stories is that of Ana Steele and her adventures on her electric bike, leather jacket and vintage flying goggles. She’s done her OE differently, riding across Europe, instead of hitching or bussing it. Brett Cotter doesn’t just ride, he organises biking film festivals and couple Sandra Jensen and Mark Vuletich have embraced the new trend for wearing vintage clothes and riding ancient Velos from the 1930’s.

Jane King was originally from the UK but it’s clear that she has a love of our outdoors and she travels widely to source material for her books. She knows about quality publishing being a digital producer and content writer for TVNZ, NZME, Tourism NZ and a number of other digital agencies. A lot of her photos definitely look like they belong in a brochure – in a good way!

King’s book is thorough, as she covers every aspect of cycling, from racers to innovators to fashionista to cycle tourists to electric users to zen riders and planet savers. Cycling is as diverse as the people that sit in the saddle and this book proves it. She has drawn on a wide range of photographers to illustrate her book, including herself. The image of Dan McMullen off-loading a bike from a helicopter in the snowy back country is one of my favourites. It has the promise of a great ride in amazing terrain. It sparks the imagination but is also a familiar scene, of which every Kiwi is proud of. It sums it all up superbly: the spirit of adventure; entrepreneurship; risk taking; ecology and green tourism and, best of all the invitation to have fun.

On the other extreme is Sandra Jensen and Mark Vuletich riding alongside an old tank dressed in their finest tweeds and muslin, expressing their overt eccentricities and quirkiness. They want to be alternatives to a life in front of a screen, breathing in recycled office air and drinking bad coffee. To be on a bike is the freedom you can never get from any other pursuit. It offers something more than the daily grind of the crankshaft. This is what this book embraces.

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

The Kiwi Cyclist’s Guide To Life
by Jane King
Published by Bateman
ISBN 9781869539795


Book Review: The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have (Timmy Failure #5), by Stephan Pastis

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_timmy_failure_the_book_you're_not_supposed_to_haveThis is book number five of a popular series that mixes ‘scribbly’ illustrations with first person narratives. It’s been created in the style of the equally, if not even more popular, multi-story treehouse books and Diary of A Wimpy Kid.

Timmy and his mates this time remind me a little of those characters like Dennis The Menace from the old Beano comics – short, squat, simply drawn but instantly recognizable. Their characters arrive fully formed because they are based on every cartoon that gone before them. They, and Timmy, are instantly recognisable as subservient but rebellious kids who want to buck convection and the adult world – ‘because they say so!’.  It’s an age-old ploy trick, used from everyone from Enid Blyton to RL Stine and the author of Captain Underpants.

The storyline picks up from number four – Sanitized for Your Protection (they all have names stolen from the adult world and repurposed). Banishment from Timmy’s calling as an amateur sleuth can’t keep this comically over-confident detective down. ‘This book was never meant to exist,’ claims the strapline.

No one needs to know the details. Just know this: there’s a Merry, a Larry, a missing tooth, and a teachers’ strike that is crippling Timmy Failure’s academic future. Worst of all, Timmy is banned from detective work by his over-protective mother. Not that that stops him! It’s a conspiracy of buffoons. He’s recorded everything in his private notebook but then his manuscript was stolen! So if this book gets out not only will he will be grounded for life but there could be even more dire consequences – beyond Timmy’s mom marrying Doorman Dave.

This is a great series, especially for getting new readers into chapter books.  I recently read an essay by Neil Gaiman that argued that kids just need to read. Just give them everything you can get your hands on. Don’t judge the content for the maturity or the language. Just get them reading. I’d have to agree. This is a great ‘gateway drug’ into the bigger novels and it is superb, silly fun. I suspect Pastis might be a secret Monty Python fan because here and there are theses little surrealist moments.

So, if your child likes Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or any of the books of that ‘genre’ then I think they will love the Timmy Failure books. My 6- and 8-year-olds love them. That’s why it took me so long to write this. They’d read them and passed them around the classroom!

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have (Timmy Failure #5)
by Stephan Pastis
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406373653

Book Review: Johnson, by Dean Parker

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_johnsonWhen I was at school we were given a book to read for UE English. It was John Mulgan’s Man Alone. Published in 1939 and regarded as a classic of Kiwi Literature it was the story of Johnson, an ex-soldier who escapes the devastation of the Great Depression back in the Home Country by emigrating to New Zealand to start a new life. Arriving first in Auckland, he becomes entangled in the labour and watersider riots that are prevalent at the time. At one of these he is accused of assaulting a policeman and so he flees south to the central North Island to work as a farm hand. Whilst there he has an affair with his boss’s wife. Then there’s the accidental killing of his employer which turns him into a fugitive, on the run across rough hill country. By the novel’s end, he is contemplating leaving the country to fight in the Spanish Civil War.

For us students, we were taught to contemplate how the economic state of the country was juxtaposed with the antihero mythology of the novel. Johnson, with his existential presence, has no close bonds to others and is determined to live by his own means. It’s the birth of the great Kiwi Bloke. The strong silent type who goes bush at the first sign of trouble. He doesn’t vote, he runs away. He’s John Wayne ‘cowboy’ of Aotearoa. A man who answered only to God and himself. You see this archetypical character emerge again and again – most recently in Sam Neil’s portray the cantankerous ‘Hec’ in Taika Waititi’s Hunt For The Wilderpeople – itself, an interpretation of writings of another great bushman, Barry Crump. And there’s plenty more – Roger Donaldson has made a career out of these men – remember Vigil, Sleeping Dogs? Incidentally, the prominence of the novel and the nature of Johnson have led to the term “Man Alone”, which became a description of a particular archetype in New Zealand and Australian fiction. I believe Mulgan actually took the title for his novel from a line in Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not.

Still, what happened after Johnson left for Spain? Playwright Dean Parker attempts to fill us in. Our story begins with the cover, Lois White’s wonderful painting War Makers, rendered as almost ceramic figures, like the famous Lladró – strong, beautiful but ultimately fragile and brittle. Johnson is like one of those figurines. But he’s also a warrior. He fights the bloody battles in Spain, brawls with facists in London at the start of WWII, serves in Greece and along the way meets the cop that pursued him back in New Zealand in the high country. He’s also a guerrilla for a time in Crete, where he comes across an exhausted and deluded Kiwi officer called … Mulgan. It’s almost too much. How can he be part of so much history.

Something calls him back here and upon returning to our shores after the war he takes up his life of hard living. He mixes again with his old crowd and eventually joins the Communist Party. It is now 1951 and New Zealand is gripped by post-war class politics. The embers that will eventually fuel CK Stead’s Smith’s Dream have started warming. It’s the Labour movement versus the Employer and the Industrialists. It’s year of the great Watersider’s Lockout. More history to cram in.

It’s literally one event after the other. At times, it’s almost unbelievable how much living one man can do. But this is apparently typical of Parker’s writing. He enjoys putting his procrastinators right in the middle of a staunch political and historical narrative of class warfare. And there are plenty of regulars drifting in and out of each scene. Like Hillary, a green eyed left-wing lass who seems to pop up everywhere. Especially all over Europe. This all seems just a little too unlikely. I’ll admit, it’s a bit of a challenge but if you suspend your belief and your relish the ways she finds a way finally manages to tame Johnson then you can see this through to the natural conclusion. The Man Alone no longer, as it were. This is not so much in the typical romantic fashion but as a long-term calming interest. How that happens ends up being just a little bit fantastical but don’t let that put you off. Perhaps this is just a comment on the way we all grow and mature. We all have our wildness and as we age, we need security and chose to settle.

It’s always a bit of challenge when a writer of one particular takes on a different genre and platform. As a playwright Parker is familiar with the power of economical, clipped writing, with no additional waffle or floral prose to fill the pages. I appreciated this as it fits almost seamlessly with Mulgan’s original material. I also hope that Parker might one day consider this as a play. It would be a great accompaniment to Mason’s End of The Golden Weather. While that was a positive and nostalgic reflection of mid-century New Zealand, Johnson is more of a darker, proletariat interpretation. Almost like the other side of the coin. But both have a similar style, feel and language.

Okay, so it’s loaded with plenty of coincidences, the cinematic and theatrical implications are large. But best, it does justice and perhaps enhances that original old craggy story of Mulgan’s. It was a little odd going back to a book I was effectively forced to read. I wouldn’t have chosen it back in my school days. Mainly because, despite the potential of the plot, the writing was just too dry and tedious for a 16-year-old. Parker must have realised this and makes sure that his book rockets along. Part of the reason he can get away with smoke and mirrors so convincingly.

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

by Dean Parker
Published bt Steele Roberts Aotearoa
ISBN 9780947493530

Book Review: Our Future is in the Air, by Tim Corballis

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_our_future_is_in_the_airOur Future is in the Air is Wellington author Tim Corballis’ fourth novel. He’s a past winner of Creative New Zealand’s Berlin Writers’ Residency (2015) and a holder of a PhD in aesthetic theory. In 2015 he was Writer in Residence at Victoria University. Oh, and he’s a father of twin daughters – probably the best qualification for this particular project – a project of future and hope. Sort of, anyway.

It’s 1975. A time of protest and upheaval is ending. A few years earlier, the world was in disarray. There are protesters in the street and change is everywhere. Meanwhile science is making leaps and bounds into unknown territories, off the back of the Space Race and Nuclear Armament development.

The book opens with a dry and technical account of the experiments that led to the discovery and development of a new technology that would alter how we think, plan and govern going forward. There is whispered talk of the lead scientist, only known by his, or her initials. It seems that sometime in the 20th Century it was discovered that it was possible to receive information from the future. And then it was possible to send people into the future as well. And then, for a short time in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s, visiting the future was possible. But this had some pretty monumental consequences.

Time Travel, like recreational drugs, was big in the counter-culture. Hippies found a way to trip out without acid. Personal time travel became popular. But there were also some dark discoveries. Some of the visions of the future had extreme impacts. The 9/11 attacks in New York were witnessed and so, because of that the building of the Twin Towers were put on hold. Building was cancelled to prevent future catastrophe. Investment into airlines and mass airline travel was literally stopped in its tracks: the Boeing 747 was shelved as an idea, the Dreamliners of today were never developed, and as a result everything in the travel space stagnated. There was no crash landing on the Hudson or bombing over Lockerbie.

Consequently, New Zealand was affected. Tourism as we know it today was affected. Our economy was still buoyed up by shipping and Lamb sales but our sense of isolation and the access to the great OE was greatly impacted. Our connection to the world never grew to the levels it is today. The internet never happened.

And now? When time travel was made illegal, it moved underground – servicing a demimonde of addicts, spies, bankers and activists. In amongst this, there’s a mystery. One character, Pen, is missing. His friends and family start to wonder where he’s got to. He’s known to go on benders in the past but somehow this is different. So much of the book is around the search for him. It transpires that he’s been sneaking around behind his wife’s back time travelling. In his case, it becomes addictive. He can’t stop. The book becomes a sort of mystery search and rescue, of a man who doesn’t realise he’s missing.

Written from the perspective of the 1970’s, Corballis intentionally sets out to write this book as realism. He wanted something of a documentary truth to it, like a book that accompanies a series or film. He lays out the evidence with a number of devices including an array of voices, pseudo-documents, blog entries, etc. If you look at the current documentary on Stuff called The Valley, about Afghanistan, you’ll see how investigative journalists have painstakingly tried to construct the full story from fragments of evidence, conscious that the main players, like the NZ Defence force, choose to remain silent. And in a similar way, Corballis puts his findings before us in an attempt to tell the story.

He’s on record as arguing that this is a Sci-Fi novel due to the geeky references to technology and the general concepts of time travel. In other ways, though, it’s not Sci-Fi because it’s not really about our future because it’s set in our past. A recognisable but alternative one at that.

One of the delights of this story is that, in the future, it is understood that it is possible for ghosts to exist. You get this communication and cohabitation between the parties. In a similar way to how we react with virtual people on our devices and real people in the room.

This is not entirely new. Many cultures walk alongside ghosts and spirits. When I was recently in the Cook Islands I was told how people bury the dead in their front gardens so that they can include then in their everyday affairs like eating with them during social occasions. This appreciation and assimilation is similar in Corballis’ book.

His ghosts are echoes of the past. He wraps his story around specific dates. 1975 wraps into 2008. 1968 turns into 2001. He does this to see if history can be collapsed in a little, if two different time periods can plausibly coexist. It may be his comment on the acceleration of time – or our perception of it.

To make it more real he references the politics, land rights, fashion, of a 1970’s Labour Government run New Zealand, a place which is just sufficiently far back in our memories to be a little fuzzy around the edges but still close enough to be instantly recognisable. There was hope for the future. Utopian dreams. Investment in environmental causes. Many of the protest movements of that time were to do with the future, such as human rights. Extrapolate that out and it’s possible to see that they may have impacted events, indirectly or even unintendedly in the future.

Interestingly, we don’t have that same relationship with the future that we once did. Mainly, it seems, because the rate of change is so face the future is almost in the past. Imagine the future, crowd fund the idea and it’s happened. That’s the dream. So, to make his point he looks at how he can play with the future – albeit in the past. So much of our sci-fi is apocalyptic and negative. Our future is doomed – movies, books etc all set us in a time when humans, the environment and other factors have almost destroyed us. Dreadful dystopian stuff. Is there really a future for us humans?

It seems Corballis wants to find the future in our past, that 1970’s was the last time we looked hopefully into the lens with positivity. And that is the lesson he gives us. The dystopian lens paints a black future, informed by religious beliefs and myths of woe. He doesn’t want to follow that direction. For him, as a writer, defaulting to an Armageddon theme is all to easy and perhaps a little passé. There are times in our past that we need to get back to learn and plot the next steps objectively, for a change. There’s got to be better ways of thinking about what comes next.

The Future is in the Air is an exploration of an alternative history. A what if? There’s no lesson here, except maybe to think in parallel about the decisions we made. We often think it would be great to jump in a time machine and leap forward to get the answers we want. This might just be the cautionary tale that accompanies that thinking.

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

Our Future is in the Air
by Tim Corballis
Published by Victoria University Press
ISBN 9781776561179

Book Reviews: Dinosaur Trouble: The Lava Melt Shake & Dinosaur Trouble: The Great Egg Stink, by Kyle Mewburn, illustrated by Donovan Bixley

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_dinosaur_trouble_lava_melt_shakeIf you are trying to get girls or boys interested in reading and they just won’t budge, then have a go at these. Short, punchy and full of gross references like farts, dinosaur poos and eating vomit this series is about as kid-friendly as it comes. Better still the plots are mind numbing and dumb and completely without morals, scruples or any hint of a message of any kind.

These two are the first in the series, with plenty more to come I expect. They are short ‘incident’ stories featuring Arg (a very clever cave boy); Hng (his teen-dumb sister); Shlok (Arg’s BFF); and his mum and dad.

The Lava Melt Shake: When the ground begins to shake and volcanoes spew flames, Arg’s tribe is in danger! Arg is confined to barracks (i.e. his bedroom) to sit out the lava-storm. But does he listen? Of course not. After all there’s dinosaurs to fight and triceratops snot to content with. Plus a heap of other gooey and sticky situations. Against the dumb advice of the adult, Arg and his friend Shlok save the day, but in a very messy way. I Really enjoyed the way that Mewburn stacks gross event upon gross event. They wants us to bring up our lunch! Throwing in something cringeworthy and icky at every turn they can. After all living in the dinosaur age was pretty ‘basic’ and er, ‘base’. I think the boys of my 6 year old’s class would be rolling upon the carpet after listening to this one. My little one was too!

cv_dinosaur_trouble_the_great_egg_stink.jpgThe Great Egg Stink: This one is more of the same. Arg our smart wonder kid discovers his breakfast when mum brings home a dinosaur egg. His food is too cute to eat. But saving his new friend gets mega-messy! And so we get to meet Krrk-Krrk, a cute and loveable microceratops, who has all the charm and manners of a new puppy. Arg has to hide the critter from his family so he won’t get eaten. But that’s not an easy task. Sticking him down his top the lil’ dino farts, wees and even eats vomit – eeeew! Cool, eh? Not exactly the way to stay inconspicuous. You’ll have to read the book to find out how Arg gets away with it.

Both of these books fit the Scholastic Books template to a T – they are designed to get kids, and I suspect mainly boys, reading. Even if they are giggling over the gross bits it’s better than burying their nose in a tablet or XBox game. With Bixley’s trademark cartoon humour and Newburn’s short snappy sentences these short chapter books are good gateways to other material like Andy Griffith and Terry Denton’s XX-Story Treehouse series, which in turn could lead toward David Walliams and even Roald Dahl. Who knows. Either way, it’s a good thing.

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

Dinosaur Trouble: The Lava Melt Shake
by Kyle Mewburn
illustrated by Donovan Bixley
Published by Scholastic
ISBN 9781775433675

Dinosaur Trouble: The Great Egg Stink
by Kyle Mewburn
illustrated by Donovan Bixley
Published by Scholastic
ISBN 9781775433668

Book Reviews: Unfolding Journeys Series – Secrets of the Nile and Following The Great Wall

Available in bookshops nationwide.

The Unfolding Journeys series is a hands-on, tactile exploration series. Aimed at year 3 and 4-year school kids it encourages them to open up a new world – literally. Both books are made of card, with 6-fold, 7- page, double-sided maps.

cv_secrets_of_the_nile.jpgThe book, Secrets of The Nile starts at Alexandra and trails back through 55 points of interest to the ‘source’ of the Nile. Illustrated like a kid had drawn it – albeit a gifted and well-informed one – the book gives us soundbite-sized insights into key geographic and historical landmarks like Cleopatra’s palace in Alexandria, the position of the Rosetta Stone and Amarna, the city of the sun god. Famous faces like Nefertiti, Lady of Grace and the famous Nile crocs put in an appearance. There’s even a reference to a 3,500-year-old port of Al Quseir, which has taken on new life as an inland beach resort. Not all the references are to ancient worlds. There’s a nod to tourism (river boat cruises), Tunis’ pottery and comments about Fava bean growing and agriculture.

On the back of each page is a two-paragraph legend explaining more about each numbered location. These are short and snappy but avoid being patronising of dumbed down. My daughter became a bit of an expert on the Nile lickety-split by tracing each fact from its map number to the detailed explanation. Then she quizzed me. I failed!

I mentioned that the illustrations seemed like a kid had produced these. They were actually done by Argentinian Vanina Starkoff. Bright, colourful and immediately accessible, they are easy to digest, along with Stewart Ross’ clean, punchy text. He’s an expert on travel facts, having produced over 300 titles. He might just know a thing or two about the world.

cv_following_the_great_wallWith the same formula, Hong Kong illustrator Victo Ngai provides the pictures for Following The Great Wall. Again, it’s a trip by numbers starting at the Turpin Basin – an enormous hole “the size of Wales”, 155m below sea level and the fourth lowest on Earth that’s not under water. This is one fact I definitely did know the Wall. The other facts like the Recumbent Buddha of Zhangye, the City of Xi’an and, of course the Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an. The Wall is the only man-made structure that can be plainly seen from the Moon, they reckon. It stretches across the country to the coast. So naturally, there’s a mention about the Black-faced Spoonbill and the magnificent Young Lady’s Gate, which is beautifully rendered. Again, the art is short and cleverly simple. The text is also simple, but again, factual and easy to digest.

Both books are multi-returns. A reader can dive in and out or event fold it out and use a dice to count spaces to each location. How you go about it is entirely individual. Either way, it’s great to see a learning tool that doesn’t require charging, uploading or it’s screen cleaned for sticky finger prints. The heavy card construction makes this series ideal for classroom use, too. A great learning tool. Old skool!

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

Unfolding Journeys – Secrets of the Nile
by Stewart Ross, illustrations by Vanina Starkoff
Published by Lonely Planet
ISBN  9781786575371

Unfolding Journeys – Following the Great Wall
by Stewart Ross, illustrations by Victo Ngai
Published by Lonely Planet
ISBN 9781786571977

Book Review: Mr Postmouse Goes on Holiday, by Marianne Dubuc, translated by Greet Pauelijn

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_mr_postmouse_goes_on_holidayWhen I was a little boy I used to read (or at least I had read to me) Richard Scarry’s wonderful series, especially What Do People Do All Day? and the Huckle stories. These were fantastic books with animals, dressed as humans, at the heart them. In every tale, they lived, dressed and talked just like we did but the most wonderful part was Scarry’s exploded and cut away drawings, which allowed you to see inside buildings, cars, firetrucks and even submarines. Coupled with exquisite details but a relaxed style, you really got inside the lives of these characters – to dream and imagine what they were like and let your mind wonder beyond the stories.

Reading French Canadian author/illustrator Marianne Dubuc’s new book, Mr Postmouse goes on Holiday, I felt just the same way I did reading Mr Scarry. Along with my six-year-old daughter, we poured over the brightly coloured, charming and detailed water colour illustrations, almost forgetting to actually read the story. Actually, it’s not hard because Dubuc has intentionally placed the text, single sentence blocks, in amongst her drawings, as if she wants you to discover them. Perhaps those who are a bit eye-sight challenged may have to grab their specs but the learner-readers in my house hold took great delight in picking their way through the 10-point font size, as if there were treasures to uncover. And on that point Dubuc’s language is simple enough for new readers, years 1 & 2, especially. The translation from French is clean and intelligent. No clunky sentences or odd phrasing to stubble over. It remains compelling enough to move the story along and keep the pages turning.

The plot is very simple. What does Mr Postmouse do when he goes on holiday? He continues to deliver the mail of course. Sound like a few parents you may know, who just can’t switch off their work phones when they go to the beach? This a return of Dubuc’s characters, the Postmouse family, this time as Globetrotters bouncing around the planet dropping off packages to their friends on the way; sailing on ships with opera shows on board; toasting marshmallows over a volcano; flying in hot air balloons and visiting Eskimos at the Pole. In amongst the narrative illustrations, Dubuc drops in a few visual jokes which the adults and caregivers will appreciate. For example, there’s a scene where they all stay at a campsite. While family pitching tents in the foreground, two children are dropping bread crumbs as they approach a house made of candy. In the trees, there’s a squirrel with sunglasses and a troupe of Boy Scouts on a trek. In the desert scene, there’s a snake living in a palatially appointed four room cactus apartment, whilst another serpent is sneaking around in the branches of an apple tree and a little Postmouse is taking a luxurious a dip in the hotel’s oasis, blowing water spouts like a Blue Whale.

I’d not come across Montreal based Dubuc before but I’d be keen to explore here repertoire further now. She has books, including Here Comes Mr Postmouse and the Lion and The Bird, in over 20 languages for many different age groups but, clearly, she really enjoys producing material like this. You can feel the joy in every page. You can see why she won the 2014 Governor General Award, a Canadian literary award for English-language fiction, for outstanding illustrations for her book The Lion and the Bird.

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

Mr Postmouse Goes on Holiday
by Marianne Dubuc, translated by Greet Pauelijn
Published by Book Island
ISBN 9781911496045