The Water Princess

By Susan Verde

Illustrated by Peter H Reynolds

ISBN9780399172588

G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

download

What a beautiful thought-provoking picture book. Princess Gie Gie must endure the daily grind of walking long distances to fetch water and walking back again, day in day out. It is time-consuming and monotonous but water is essential for life and so it must be done. Gie Gie wishes so much that water was at her fingertips. She has dreams that one day water will be plentiful for everyone.

This book deserves so much more than a cursory read. Indeed, it needs to be read again and again. We have the cultural aspects of what it is like to live in such a harsh environment and the desperate need for water, something most of us take for granted. We simply turn on a tap and water flows. The closest experience I have to this is after the devastating earthquakes here in Christchurch in 2011 and having to collect rainwater from an old tarpaulin draped over the clothesline and having to dig holes in the backyard to go to the toilet. We were lucky and we had water within a week. Other people here went without water for so much longer. Water was brought in to the city by trucks. There are no trucks where Gie Gie lives.

Gie Gie, despite her reluctance to walk yet another day to collect water, continues to remain hopeful. She is quite frankly, delightful and her love of the land and wide open spaces is heart-warming.

“My kingdom…the African sky, so wide and so close. I can almost touch the sharp edges of the stars.”

The burnt-orange and browns are perfect colour choices for the wonderful illustrations which show just how harsh it is to live in a land with very little water. An environment so different to our own that it is difficult to understand but the illustrations here really create Gie Gie’s world for us.

Gie Gie’s expressions are honest. We see it when she stamps her feet annoyed at having to fetch water yet again, and in her love of the land and family. Overwhelmingly, we see it in her resillence and hope. Gie Gie is strong and detemined and such a wonderful role model for young readers. Love this book to pieces.

A must-have for all school libraries.

The singing dolphin: Te Aihe i Waiata

Written and illustrated By Mere Whaanga

ISBN 9781775434023

Scholastic NZ

5

Between 2007 and 2009, the dolphin Moko lived and played in the sea near The Pathway of the Whales at Mihia. The singing dolphin: Te Aihe i Waiata was inspired by Moko’s time there.

This a traditionally told bilingual picture book about a grandmother and her three grandsons. Tahi knows the land, Rua knows the waters but the youngest one, Potoki spends his time singing. He badly wants to join his brothers catching fish but they always tell him he is too little.  One night Potoki hides under the fishing net in the canoe but the following day something terrible happens. Like many traditional stories there is a lyrical quality to this story and I can just imagine sitting around listening to a grandparent sharing this story with grandchildren.

Beautifully illustrated with the the most natural of colours. Earthy browns, forest greens and deep sea blues, interwoven with many Maori motifs make this a very special picture book.

I especially love the double spread with the wood pigeons, and pukeko as well other native birds.

singing-dolphin-the_pb_p10-11

The colours are stunning.

A good choice for all school libraries.

 

Nee Naw the little fire engine

Words and music by Deano Yipadee

Illustrated by Paul Beavis

ISBN 978177543

 

fire

 

Poor Granny is trapped inside her burning house with flames shooting through the windows. The big fire engines come racing to put out the fire but find themselves in trouble. It is up to the little fire engine Nee Naw to save the day.

Another funny tale from Deano Yipadee with bright bold illustrations from Paul Beavis. You can read on its own or singalong with the CD. I shared this today with some student librarians who thought it was a great choice for younger children.

 

Sometimes you just have to deviate from your normal posts and this is one of those times. 

At school today I disposed of a rather dead and smelly hedgehog. Sadly, she left an orphan, a wee baby hedgehog roaming around looking very lost and forlorn in the middle of the day. So I have rescued the wee thing and it has been rustling around in an old box by my desk. It has not long gone to sleep now and is so cute. The Animal and Bird Hospital will look after it and make sure it is looked after until a little older and able to fend for itself. Children have come into the library for a little look too. Very quietly of course. He or she really is very little and adorable.

img_1785

 

img_1788

 

The lost kitten
By Lee
Illustrated by Komako Sakai
ISBN 9781776571260
Gecko Press

the-lost-kitten-cover-491x600

Author Lee tells the sweet story of a young girl’s apprehension at taking in a little kitten in need of help and a home. At first Hina isn’t too sure what to make of the little gooey-eyed kitten that arrives on her doorstep but soon her curiosity gets the better of her and she starts taking care of the small bundle. When the kitten goes missing, Hina is desperate to find it and keep it safe. She hunts everywhere even risking her own safety. Little by little, Hina falls in love with the kitten. The story is told with simplicity and warmth.

The illustrations are beautiful. I love the first illustration where Hina and her mother open the door to a mother cat and her kittens, their backs turned to the reader allowing the kitten to be the focus of the story. The mother pleads with Hina and the reader and so we are hooked  right from the start.

There is a lovely softness about the illustrations that captures the pure innocence and honesty of children. I absolutely adore the illustration where Hina is sitting on the floor, her legs folded and spread under her, exactly how young children sit. Gorgeous. This is bound to be a favourite with lots of children.

 

100 Hugs

By Chris Riddell

ISBN 1509814305

Pan Macmillan

9781509814305100-hugs

 

I am going to end up with a very bleak retirement if I don’t stop buying books. When you see 100 Hugs you will  know why I couldn’t resist buying this to add to my Chris Riddell collection. It is just as well for him that we live on opposite sides of the planet as I think I would follow him to every book signing he does or every talk he gives. Not just an amazing illustrator and author, he is  a wonderful supporter of all things library. Being a librarian I agree with everything he says. Libraries are in danger of being closed down (many have already gone) and schools without libraries just breaks my heart. 

Anyway, I digress.  This latest book is adorable. Perfect size to fit in the hands of anyone and perfect to give to someone special. The illustrations are simple yet moving. Some pull at your emotions, draw you in and leave you all happy inside. Page after page of people, animals, book characters and more, all being hugged. The illustrations would make wonderful prints for any bedroom or library wall. Simply beautiful. I can’t share the pictures here because of copyright but seriously, check out the links above and see for yourself. This is one I will carry around with me, pull out and show everyone. Small and gorgeous.

I heard the news today and like so many other people was saddened to read that Babette Cole had passed away. Only 67 and still so young with many books no doubt, still to come.

I was so fortunate to see and listen to Babette when she was here in Christchurch not so many years ago. Babette was quirky, funny, talented and just adorable. I even forgive her for spelling my name wrong when she signed my copy of Two of everything.

img_1763-1

 

It is wonderful to have something so special from someone so special. Babette knew how to reach readers. She knew what made them laugh even when talking about important things like making babies, or divorce. She did it with style and humour.

I recall some years back that a parent came to see me in my school asking me to remove Two of Everything from our library. I was dumbfounded. It was a simple but much-needed picture book on divorce. The parent complained that it made divorce normal and said it shouldn’t be allowed. Okay, he was very religious and that is totally fine. I pointed out that some children needed to know that even though they had to go to two different homes, they had parents who loved them and that was so important. Anyway, we agreed to differ and as he handed me back the library book, I pointed out that it was actually wet. Soggy wet! And so I asked him to pay for the damage – which he reluctantly but thankfully did. So he actually paid $20 for a book he wanted removed.   A little ironic and a little funny and I am sure Babette would have laughed at the irony.

News of Babette Cole’s passing can be found here.

The some from somewhere else

By A F Harrold

Illustrated by Levi Pinfold

ISBN 9781408853368

Bloomsbury 2016

 

9781408853368

What an absolutely perfect collaboration of author and illustrator. A.F. Harrold weaves the most moving story about Frank, a young girl who is tormented by bullies. On one occasion, trapped by the bullies,  she is rescued by Nick, the class weirdo. At first Frank is reluctant to have anything to do with Nick, the big, smelly strange boy but she is also intrigued by the most beautiful strange music coming from somewhere in his house. Frank is determined to find out what secrets are held in Nick’s house and just where the music comes from.

Frank is also scared of what people will think of her if they knew she had even been inside Nick’s house. It is after all full of fleas, or so everyone tells her.

So begins a story of friendships, betrayal, bullying, fear and a need to right wrongs. The need to fit in and find a sense of belonging is strong at any age. Heck, we struggle with this as adults but here, the author has portrayed the realities of this struggle thoughtfully while bringing us hope at the same time.

I was totally drawn in by the characters and their vulnerabilities. Even though the story has dark undertones at times, there is a gentleness that makes the story real and easy to connect with.

The illustrations are simply beautiful. They are haunting and dark and perfectly match the mood of this novel. The cover is just stunning. A beautifully produced book.

This is ideal as a read aloud for years 5 up but also great for students who just want a good story to read on their own.

For those who might use this book as part of a book club, it is good to see teacher notes here to extend the depth and understanding of this wonderful story.

The impossible boy

By Leonie Agnew

ISBN 9780143309062

Penguin Random House, New Zealand

 

boy

 

This is one of those books that draws you in, keeps you going and makes you believe in the impossible.

                          Vincent Gum finds six-year-old Benjamin moments after an explosion and leads him through wrecked city streets to the children’s shelter. Vincent isn’t interested in hanging around to babysit, but by the time they arrive he knows that Ben, with his crazy ideas and weird imaginary games, won’t survive ten minutes there without someone to look out for him. For one thing, something sinister lurks in the dormitory cupboard, waiting to get out.

Vincent’s tough and smart. He can walk through walls and make a dead tree flower. But to the rest of the world he’s invisible — non-existent. That’s because, in his moment of need, Ben invented him.

At the children’s shelter Ben is mixed in with other children and orphans. Some accept him straight away but a few suspect he may be a little crazy, especially when he keeps talking to his invisible friend Vincent. While the children struggle with Ben and Vincent’s antics,  I found myself totally believing in him. In fact, by the time I had finished this delightful, creative and imaginative book, I was feeling very motherly and proud of young Vincent and what he had to overcome in order to protect Ben and his companions.

I think we all need a Vincent in our lives.

I do suspect this will find itself on award lists. This is a top-notch book, wonderfully written, with intriguing, believable and lovable characters. With war always in the background of everything the children see and do, this work of fiction offers much more to think about than just an imaginary friend.

I do think this would be an ideal read-aloud and perfect for book clubs.

Saving Red

By Sonya Sones

ISBN 9780062370280

Epic Reads

 

bk_savingred

 

I love how verse novels have the ability to pack a punch using few words. Saving Red, Sonya Sones latest verse novel packs many punches. The old saying that less is more is never more true than in Sone’s novels.

Molly is almost 15 years old and filled with guilt as she begins suffocating in a family on a down-hill slide to nowhere. Molly’s guilt eats away at her and it is this guilt that compels her to help Red, a teenage runaway with problems of her own. The unlikely pair form a strong friendship.

Red is quirky yet delightful, brave yet fearful, alone, yet not alone, as she has the Duke and Lana for company. Molly soon realises the truth about Duke and Lana and so begins a gutsy, determined effort to help Red and return her home to her family for Christmas. And of course there is a boy in there too, for good measure. I must confess, if I was quite a bit younger, I too would be very keen on the cute Cristo.

The characters are real, their dilemmas are real, creating an honest and thought-provoking novel which I couldn’t put down. So caught up in their world, I just wanted to hug them both and make sure they were okay. 

 

Carve the mark 

By Veronica Roth

ISBN: 9780008157821

HarperCollins 

This is one I am looking forward to when it is published next month. A well-produced and atmospheric book trailer has me already intrigued.

Surely just reading the publisher’s blurb below and knowing how successful the author’s Divergent, Insurgent and Allegent books have been, then it is safe to bet this will be fantastic too.

On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favoured by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not – their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power – something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.Akos is from the peace-loving nation of Thuvhe, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Though protected by his unusual currentgift, once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get his brother out alive – no matter what the cost.When Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive – or to destroy one another.

The night before Christmas

By Rose Collins

NurseryBox Books

xmas-2

This age old story by Clement Moore has been a favourite for many generations of children.

This latest version by Rose Collins is very much aimed at younger children with a cutesy almost Disney-like quality to it’s illustrations. Bright, bold and very cheerful.

As the creative director of NurseryBoxBooks says,

We wanted to tell a familiar tale in a new way, the reading of this picture book can be a great family tradition, read and passed down over the years. Young kids will love the pictures and –of course– the bears, while their parents will enjoy reading a poem that was read to them in childhood.

So if you want a version with animals rather than children then this could be the one you are after.

Coming home

By Michael Morpurgo

Available at Waitrose

robin

A plucky little robin sets out on an epic journey. Through dark forests, driving rain, clapping thunder and flashing lights.

I am a huge fan of Michael Morpurgo and buy his books all the time. I love how his new book also helps Crisis a UK charity for homeless people. This is so needed, especially at Christmas time.

I have already ordered my copy and can’t wait until it arrives in the post all the way over here in New Zealand.

Do sit back and enjoy Michael reading his new book. Copyright of course to  Waitrose.

 

Last night was a disastrous night here in New Zealand with multiple earthquakes and aftershocks. Sadly two fatalities and lots of damage. We are strong, having been through these before but it is still horrible to endure. SO I want to bring some cheer to those who are feeling shattered and on edge (like me).

I am sharing a video for Christmas. Copyright of course belongs to John Lewis.

Enjoy and for those in affected areas, please stay safe. Kia Kaha.

This is a difficult post to write but one I must. 

This is not about the history of the shop, or the owner’s experiences or even the fate of the shop (although I am ever hopeful a buyer will be found). None of that is my story to write. This is about my ten years experience working in one of the most wonderful bookshops ever.

I worked every Saturday and many of the school holidays for the last ten years. The best holiday to work was the build up to Christmas where everyone was full of excitement and book chat.  We had the perfect location, right in the heart of Victoria Street in a quirky building with lots of nooks and crannies. The big earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 changed all that but we dusted ourselves off and started again in a different part of town.

What I gained from my years of working as a retail assistant was a growing confidence in myself. I had to approach customers and begin conversations, something I was always intimidated by before. Over the years, these customers have become friends. I know their children, I know their likes and dislikes. I have hugged customers as they cried when telling me why they are buying a special book for a wee child. Stories about a young dad dying or siblings who have died. I remember helping a young mother with book choices for her children and wrapping them for Christmas presents, knowing she had cancer. Sadly she died a few weeks later.

Then there are the grandparents who religiously come in every birthday, Easter and Christmas. They are all like family. We don’t just sell books and gifts, we listen. We listen and even on occasions look at their family photos.

I have attended many publishers Road Shows which I will miss. I loved finding out what new books were coming out and felt I was privy to special secrets. I have had the privilege of meeting so many fantastic authors and illustrators from New Zealand and internationally. I’ve had wonderful conversations with Margaret Mahy, Andy Griffiths, Derek Landy and so many more. I have chatted with Michael Morpurgo (my absolute hero) and even been kissed on the cheek by him. Years later, my right cheek is still unwashed.

I was so fortunate to have my own book launch at the shop. A wonderful setting, a fantastic night with wine and nibbles, and an amazing cake. I felt like royalty, thoroughly spoiled by so many friends all thanks to the support of staff at the shop.

What saddens me about the closing of this wonderful shop, is not just a personal loss of a job I have loved, but what it means to the city of Christchurch and children’s literature in general.  We were specialists and while other bookshops sold much the same as we did, we also sold those books that were unique, beautiful and sophisticated. We were not afraid to come out from behind the counter and talk with our customers.

I will miss my wonderful colleagues, Jane, Louise, Pru and Mary, my boss, and Jamie who had recently moved on to another job. I will miss having somewhere special to go every Saturday. I will miss our wonderful customers. I miss my old friend, The Original Children’s Bookshop more than I thought I ever could. I feel like I have lost an old friend and am grieving for that friend. 

A few Saturdays ago when news became public about our liquidation, the shop was so full with customers coming in. Many of them cried, sad we were closing.  Customers just hugged us openly and in shock. Emotionally it was an incredibly tough day but I feel so proud to have been part of this very special place and to have travelled with them for as long as I have.

Is it the end? I hope not. Will it be bought? I hope so. Will I stop crying? One day!

As they say, never say never. I live in hope. And please, please, shop local. Keep our bookshops alive.

A great selection of new picture books from Scholastic NZ . Great for toddlers through to about six years old but really, you are never too old for picture books.

 

Parakeet in boots

By Chris Gurney

Illustrated by Myles Lawford

ISBN 9781775434382

boots

The latest in the Kiwi Corkers series is just as funny and quirky as others in this popular series. The traditional stories take a journey through New Zealand shores. Here we have a new take on the familiar Puss in Boots with a parakeet collecting paua in his kete. Bright, colourful illustrations add to the humour of this story. He really is a very confident and somewhat manipulative Parakeet but he does what he does for all the right reasons and we share delight in the happy ending.

 

 

Dinosaur hunting

By Lucy Davey

Illustrated by Kirsten Richards

ISBN 9781775433958

hunting

Dinosaurs are hiding everywhere, behind trees, and even in the clouds if you look closely. A fun story of a little boy going for a walk with his dad and enjoying the world of imagination. A sweet circular story where the ordinary becomes a little more interesting thanks to a vivid imagination. Dad offers fun and support, especially when it seems the dinosaurs might be getting just a little too close for comfort.

 

Hush : a kiwi lullaby

By Joy Cowley

Illustrations by Andrew Burdan

Maori lyrics by Ngaere Roberts

Sung by June Pitman-Hayes

ISBN 9781775433125

Includes bonus CD in English and Maori

lullaby

This is an old traditional song but with a very kiwi feel. The illustrations are soft and warm creating a very gentle mood and feel to the book. It is matched beautifully with the sweet tones of the singer on the bonus CD. It is nice to see a glossary of Maori terms at the back of the book to encourage listeners and readers to take pride in our Maori language.

As baby is lulled to sleep we are introduced to kunekune pigs, paua, tui, silver ferns and much more. This is a perfect book for new parents who want to spend some gentle time with their precious  wee ones

 

 

The Kiwi Hokey Tokey

Illustrated by Stevie Mahardhika

Sung by Pio Terei

Maori lyrics by Ngaere Roberts

ISBN 9781775434115

Includes Bonus CD in English and Maori

 

kiwi

The Kiwi Hokey Tokey is a very catchy song which children will love dancing to and performing the different actions. Lots of fun and of course introduction to Maori words make this a good one to add to any junior library or home collection. My favourites are the farmyard flash mob, the dancing kunekune pigs and the cheeky fantails.  The illustrations are full of character and humour. Another very Kiwi book to delight young children or to send to friends overseas.

Save