Just Because

By Mac Barnett

Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

ISBN 9781406388763

Walker Books

Just Because is one of those special books for curious minds. Children love a good story at bedtime and even more than that, they love prolonging the final lights-out before sleep. The young girl in this book keeps asking her father questions and he gives her the most wonderful answers.  Are they the right answers? You will have to find out for yourself, but they will make you think, and smile. 

She asks “Why is the ocean blue?” 

He answers “Every night, when you go to sleep, the fish take out guitars. They sing sad songs and cry blue tears.”

Great imagination and a beautiful moment for dad and daughter to share.

The illustrations reflect the night until the last double page spread where her dreams and imagination take over while she sleeps and they become alive with colour.

What I think makes this book extra special, is that while it is a lovely picture book to snuggle up and share with a young child at bedtime, it is also a good book to use in class and get students writing. I can see them asking all sorts of questions and coming up with unusual and imaginative answers. They could create their own drawings to accompany their questions too. I have this book in my school library and I will be sharing it with every teacher.

I love this book, just because!

Where’s Kiwi Celebrating?

Written by Lynette Evans

Illustrated by Miles Lawford

ISBN 9781775436157

Scholastic NZ

Our loveable Kiwi is back for another adventure. This time he is wandering in and out of different celebrations. Full-page colour illustrations with quirky cartoon-like characters focus on the many different, yet wonderful celebrations in New Zealand. This is an ideal book to share in classes and libraries in schools, and of course, in home collections. It celebrates different cultures and different occasions that make us special. There is Chinese New Year, Matariki, Waitangi Day, to name just a few.

Kiwi is hiding somewhere on each page and it is up to us, the reader, to find him and his many friends; like Tricky Tuatara, or Mystery Moa and more importantly, Kiwi’s Girlfriend.

There is a double page spread at the back of the book with lists of lots of other things to find. In fact there are over 800 things to spot.

Lots of bright, colourful and busy pictures to keep readers searching for hours.

 

Stink-o-saurus saves Christmas

By Deano Yipadee

Illustrated by Paul Beavis

ISBN 9781775435907

Scholastic NZ

 

 

 

The dinosaurs are back for another funny adventure and this time it is Christmas.

Bright and cheerful with lots of opportunities to use a big loud voice when you come to words like “Toot, Toot, Toot” or “chomp, Chomp, Chomp”. A good story to read aloud.

This picture book comes with a bonus CD so little ones can sing-along and enjoy the fun. Great for car rides or just listening to in the comfort of your own home.

Stormy: a story about finding a forever home

By Guojing

ISBN 9781524771768

A story about patience, kindness, and trust.

I want this dog. I am jealous of the woman in this book who befriends this beautiful lost dog. This absolutely, most beautifully illustrated book is a wordless one BUT you don’t need words in this story. Every page is stunningly detailed with emotion and story. A little dog is lost, maybe abandoned, but certainly hungry and homeless. A young woman sitting in a park notices him and bit by bit, day by day she encourages the dog to trust her. It follows her home one stormy night and in the pouring rain it finds an old box near her home to shelter in. Meantime, the young woman runs out in to the rain searching for the wee dog back in the park where they first met.  My heart aches for this dog, but I know he or she will be loved and totally wanted. What happens next is so heartwarming, tissues may be needed.

This book definitely has that sad, puppy dog eyes, extreme cute factor but the story is ultimately so hopeful and uplifting it leaves you feeling warm all over.  I’ve read it many times and I really love this dog. The artwork is superb. Each and every picture could hang in any art gallery anywhere.

I have never been able to draw even a straight line, so I struggle to comprehend how the illustrator creates such moving, emotive pictures and in colours so realistic I feel as though I am sitting there in the park with the dog and young woman. The story is told in frames on many pages and then full-colour spreads during the storm highlight the tensions and emotion. Gorgeous technique. There is a softness to the artwork that adds so much warmth.  Did I mention, I want this dog for myself.

 

As a family picture book to share, this just beautiful. In a classroom there is so much to discuss. Patience, kindness, trust and love are most important features here, and any chance to remind children of these basic human needs is one we must share.

 

I’m a fan for life. I also loved Guojing’s first book, The Only Child

The Tiny Star

By Mem Fox

Illustrated by Freya Blackwood

ISBN 9780670078127

Penguin Random House

Post dedicated to my dear friend Allison

No doubt making beautiful quilts using the stars in the night sky.

 

 

Once upon a time, although this happens all the time, a tiny star fell to earth . . .  

And so begins a heart-warming story of a journey through life. The full circle is portrayed here just perfectly.

I read this beautiful picture book on the same day I got the news that a lovely friend had died. I was incredibly moved by this book and the beautiful illustrations and yes, there were tears. While I spent the day thinking about my friend, I could, as the book suggests, imagine her up in the heavens watching down on us all. Life comes and goes, memories stay and this book totally understands that idea. My friend loved children’s books and often bought them for her daughter who happens to be a teacher.  We would have discussed its beauty in depth, the story, the journey, the whole thing. She would loved this book.

Stunning. A book for everyone, especially parents for when they may need to try and explain the loss of a grandparent. While the book does deal with loss, it also offer hope.

 

Mem and Freya discuss this stunning picture book. 

The House of Madame M

By Clotilde Perrin

Translated by Daniel Hahn

ISBN 9781776572748

Gecko Press

This large format picture book is top quality and pure delight. Not just for children, but adults too will be entertained by this latest wonder from Clotilde Perrin. I certainly know I have spent ages lifting and pulling every flap to reveal hidden creatures and secret messages.

The House of Madame M is haunted and there are monsters, ghosts and other creatures lurking on every page. We are invited in, told to take our shoes off but we must be quiet and “very, very careful” and we must not “touch a thing”. And of course, that is exactly what we do when we open each cupboard or draw. Even the toilet lid can be lifted, if you dare! Gorgeous, yet scary illustrations completely cover every inch of every page. Every tiny detail has been carefully thought out. A real treasure and a good choice with Christmas just around the corner.

Paper engineering is an art form and Perrin does it perfectly. The last page, with the large monster arms, and the phoenix rising from the ashes is pretty cool.

 

 

 

Boy Giant: Son of Gulliver

By Michael Morpurgo

Illustrated by Michael Foreman

ISBN 9780008347925

HarperCollins Children’s Books

Those that know me, know that Michael Morpurgo is hands-down my favourite author. His ability to weave stories from serious situations and make them accessible to young readers, is legendary. He is never afraid to tackle the hard truths, such as war, in War Horse, or even environmental issues like the impact of deforestation as in his book Running Wild.

In Boy Giant Son of Gulliver we are introduced to Omar and his mother as they leave war torn Afghanistan. They are on a boat headed for England when it sinks. Omar wakes to find himself on an island, tied up and surrounded by the tiniest, littlest people you can ever imagine. The little people eventually realise he is no danger and take him in, caring for and helping him to learn English. English will good for him, he thinks, for when he can finally find a way to be reunited with his Mother in England, if she is in fact, still alive.

There are several levels to this novel and they all deal with the issues of war and learning to trust one another. The story is inspired by the classic story of  Gulliver’s Travels. Omar, or Owzat, as he later becomes known as, learns to love being with these tiny people and their kindness but everyday he misses his mother, and pines for her and the England they were heading for as asylum seekers.

Omar has strength and patience. He is determined to keep peace at all costs but most importantly, he refuses to give up hope.

Another top novel for middle grade readers from award winning author Michael Morpurgo.

The Little Yellow Digger A B C

A lift-the-flap book

By Peter and Alan Gilderdale

Based on the stores by Betty Gilderdale

ISBN 9781775436133

The Little Yellow Digger has been a household name for many years now. There have been a number of books in the series where our loveable little digger has exciting adventures, like starting school and even meeting a whale.

The latest is an alphabet picture book based on the stories about him. Each letter of the alphabet is hidden under a flap encouraging little hands to open them and discover the different letters. Lots of nice alliteration with words that begin with the featured letter from under each flap. A fun rhyming text helps the story flow. I love peeking under flaps in books.

This is a great introduction to the alphabet with fun, characters that children will recognise from the many stories about the loveable little yellow digger.

 

Mini Whinny: Goody four-shoes

By Stacy Gregg

Illustrated by Ruth Paul

ISBN 9781775435389

 

 

Mini Whinny is back. This time, she is upset at the arrival of a new pony who just happens to be very good at everything. Mini Whinny is jealous of Goody Four-Shoes, right from the start, even before she gets to know the other pony.

Mini Whinny’s friend, the grey and black tabby cat Berenice is back too, and she is the voice of wisdom as she makes helpful and kind suggestions for Mini Whinny to learn to accept change, and new friends.

There is definitely a lesson in there about not judging others, especially before we get to know someone but sometimes children (and adults, too) need a reminder to take time to get to know one another and be less judgemental. 

Ruth Paul’s illustrations are just as cute and adorable as ever.

 

 

The Crayons’ Christmas

By Drew Daywalt

Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

ISBN 9780008180362

 

 

 

I cannot resist books with envelopes and hidden letters. There is something very tactile and sort of secretive about slowly pulling a letter out from an envelope, even more so when the letter isn’t really for you. The Crayons are back for another adventure and this time Duncan and the Crayons share their Christmas celebrations in this delightful new picture book. Inside there are letters, a race game, Christmas decorations, even a pop-up Christmas tree and so much more. I love everything about this book.

Daywalt and Jeffers are a wonderful team and their Crayon stories are incredibly popular. The Crayons’ Christmas is a funny, interactive picture book reuniting characters we have grown to love. An ideal Christmas present.

 

The Dinky Donkey

By Craig Smith

Illustrated by Katz Cowley

ISBN 9781775436065

A fine sequel to the infamous Wonky Donkey picture book. Wonky Donkey now has a child and she is cute and small. She is in fact a little dinky donkey. In the same format as Wonky Donkey, this story brings humour and familiarity which young children love.

Illustrator Katz Cowley brings her to life with her cute illustrations. There is certainly a family resemblance and it is clear to see that dad donkey and Dinky Donkey love each other very much. Look out for Dinky Donkey’s very cute little humming bird friend.

You can go online to Craig’s website and purchase the song to add to your own collection.

 

 

The Wonky Donkey and other stories

By Craig Smith

Illustrated by Katz Cowley with Scott Tulloch

ISBN 9781775436096

To help celebrate ten years since the first publication of The Wonky Donkey, Scholastic have produced a collection of five of Craig Smith’s picture books in a quality hardback format. There is a CD included to help you enjoy the stories even more. Good for travelling in the car. A nice collection for fans of The Wonky Donkey.

I adore Chris Riddell and his talent for storytelling and creating the most amazingly gorgeous illustrations. I continue to add his books to my school library but also to my own collection. I shall die poor! Today I have a guest reviewer with her views on his latest book. Hannah is 8 years old and loves his books too and we have neat discussions about his books.  This is a new series and we are already keen for book two. No pressure Chris! Thank you so much Hannah for your review. You did beat me to reading it first.
Three children, three objects, three places that results in to a thrilling story of mysteries and magic. This story has made my imagination fly because of its characters creative thoughts. It’s the most mesmerising book I have ever read because it’s full of surprises. It has taken top place of my Chris Riddell list because it’s a different structure to his other books and I prefer this type of structure. As soon as I opened this book my eyes fell in love with it. You have to read this book.

        “ A magical story awaits your eyes”.

A book review by Hannah H age 8

I go quiet

By David Ouimet

ISBN 9781786897404

Canongate Books

David Ouimet and his publishers have produced a stunning, imaginative sophisticated picture book. It deals with a girl who is extremely introverted. Shy and unassuming she doesn’t even have a name. She goes through life feeling overwhelmed and struggles to find a place where she can fit in. She longs to be heard. This is her journey.

I adore the fact that this solitary, nameless girl finds solace in books. 

“When I read

I know there is

a world beneath

my branches.”

Books and reading helps her and gives her courage. The illustrations are dark and moody but they are also beautiful and hopeful. It is for the more mature reader but this would be a great book to unpack with a class and delve into the depths of its beauty and meaning. Love it.

 

 The Invincibles: Short Circuit (Book 2)

By Peter Millett

Illustrated by Myles Lawford

ISBN 9781775436003

Scholastic NZ

 

Book two in this adventurous series by author Peter Millett is just as much fun as the first book. The Invincibles; Tana, Scotty, Zinnia, Andrea and Muzza still have their super powers but this time there’s a problem and the children have all shrunk to tiny insect-sized versions of themselves. However, it does not stop them from getting into trouble or from trying to save the day against Tricky Ricky. More adventure, mystery and fun, although trying to escape magpies when you are very tiny morsel sized humans can be a little on the dangerous side.

A good series with short chapters and funny illustrations to break up the text making this ideal for readers who are just enjoying their first chapter books.

 

Miniwings: Moonlight the Unicorn’s High Tea Hiccup

By Sally Sutton

Illustrated by Kirsten Richards

ISBN 9781775434887

Scholastic NZ

Clara and Sophia have a secret and readers are encouraged to keep that secret safe. The girls have a small herd of miniwings, tiny little live horses. Guess what? They can fly and when they fly they always create a mess and cause trouble for the sisters who do everything they can to keep them hidden.

The miniwings are all back in this latest book and still up to their naughty ways. This time they get up to mischief at a high tea and get stuck into destroying all the fancy food. Watch out for some flying teeth. Yes, teeth!

The illustrations have lots of pinks and purples, greens and blues and they are definitely cute and certainly funny.

A little bit naughty and lot of fun. If you like this one, there are others in the series just as funny.

Eekily, sneakily

By Anne Hunter

Illustrated by Dave Gunson

ISBN 9781869665036

New Holland Publishers

Simple poems introduce young children to some of New Zealand’s smaller wildlife.

We meet frogs, snails, stick insects, worms, spiders, butterflies and others and even a lizard. Lots of alliteration and made up words make this a fun learning read. Dave Gunson’s illustrations are bright and cherry yet well detailed.

There is a section at the back with facts for each creature to add to their poems.

Eeekily, sneakily is a simple non-fiction book in picture book format. Many of the insects are found in our own backyards so this is good to help children identify them when they see them flying around.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

By J. K. Rowling

Illustrated by Jim Kay

ISBN 9781408845677

Bloomsbury

 

This is another beautifully illustrated collectors edition from Bloomsbury Publishers.

It doesn’t matter that I already have the set in paperback and hardback, this is something I just have to have, especially as I have the others in this beautiful format. Actually the original copies in the house belong to my now adult son, these illustrated ones are mine. The story is still the wonderful world of magic and mystery, although in this particular book the series takes a more dramatic turn and becomes darker and scarier, and sad too. It doesn’t really matter how old you are because if you are a fan of Harry Potter, then you are a fan for life. It also doesn’t matter how many times you read the books, there is always something new to discover that makes you suddenly think, so that’s why such and such happened.

Jim Kay brings a whole new element to the stories with his magical illustrations. There are stunning illustrations both in colour but also black and white which add mood and mysticism. Stunning.

Play around on the Wizarding World website to see much more.

My cat Dusty protecting my copy bought yesterday, one day after publication day.

Made by Maxine

By Ruth Spiro

Illustrated by Holly Hatam

ISBN 9780399186295

Penguin Young Readers Group

Maxine is a thinker, she’s intelligent, imaginative and creative, but most importantly she’s a maker. Maxine tinkers for fun but also when faced with problems, she thinks things over and rethinks again and again, until she finds a solution.

Maxine loves making new things out of old, even making music out of vegetables. Her dilemma is to try and find a way to take her pet fish, Milton, to the school pet parade. I love how persistent Maxine is and even though there are times when she wants to give up, she doesn’t. Instead, Maxine keeps trying different ideas to see what will work best. With the right attitude, a difficult situation can be seen positively.

She had already discovered a million ways that would not work. Which meant she was getting closer to finding a way that would.

This is an ideal picture book to use when thinking about STEM (Science, technology, science and mathematics) lessons.

The illustrations are sweet, and busy with lots of things happening, just like Maxine. A good pairing of illustrator and author. A great trailer for this book too.