How to make a bird

By Meg McKinlay

Illustrated by Matt Ottley

ISBN 9781925381894

A girl sets out to make a bird. First she plans it, works out what she needs and begins her creation. We see her creative process working through language that is rich, poetical and thoughtful. Her thought process is almost a lesson for life itself.

Breathe deeply

and take your time.

The making of a bird

is not a thing

to be hurried.

The illustrations are stunning with a subtle sophistication that adds even more to the story.

I think this is one of those special sophisticated picture books that gives more and more on each re-reading. I read it to a group of 10 and 11 year old students today and it was wonderful to see their reactions when they realised that the book had many meanings. They all began to discuss their own creativity and what they felt they were good at and how some liked to draw and some liked to write poems and stories. A lovely discussion born out of reading this book.

The students are part of a year six book club and most of them are keen writers so when they discovered this book could be a metaphor for their own writing, they were delighted.

I love this. I confess readily, that reading a good sophisticated picture book or a good verse novel leaves me very contented, no matter the state of the world.

How to make a bird is an excellent book to unpack and think about. It’s not just about making a bird, but making a difference and not being afraid to try new things. It’s about bravery too, to let go and be proud, no matter what our creations.

Highly recommend at any level at school, including secondary.

The Little Yellow Digger Saves Christmas

By Peter Gilderdale

Based on the characters by Betty and Alan Gilderdale

Illustrated by Fifi Colston

ISBN 9781775436232

Scholastic NZ

The Little Yellow Digger is a New Zealand favourite. He has been around for many years and experienced many adventures. He’s saved a whale, been to school, and even visited a zoo. This time his job is to help Santa.

Santa is busy on his way to watch a school performance but oh dear, things go wrong. The reindeer are sick and tucked up in bed so he uses a truck to get to the school but that gets stuck on the way. Who will help Santa? Will the Little Yellow Digger help save the day so Santa can see the play and hand out presents to the children. Little Yellow Digger, as always, is ready and willing to help.

Another fun adventure for our favourite Little Digger.

Fifi Colston has done a wonderful job illustrating this latest adventure. I love the cheeky kea who seems to have befriended Santa. I feel pretty sure that children reading this book will love the page where Rudolf the Reindeer has a gooey, green nose rather than a traditional red one.

A lovely Christmas story to share all around.

Which? What? Why? New Zealand Seashore Wildlife

By Dave Gunson

ISBN 9781988538310

Bateman Books

Which? What? Why?

New Zealand Garden Wildlife

ISBN 978198538303

These books are not just full of facts, but full of fun facts. They are books to dip into again and again and come out knowing something more about our wildlife here in New Zealand.

The books are great for sharing with family and students in classrooms. Children love sharing strange and weird facts with their friends and these books certainly provide lots of strange information. For example, did you know that sharks can go through over 50,000 teeth in their life time? I certainly didn’t know that.

I didn’t know that some large starfish can live over 40 years. That’s amazing.

If we look at the garden book we see amazing facts like the fastest flying insect is the dragonfly and it can reach speeds of 60 kilometres an hour. That is incredibly fast.

The information is in bite sized bits within coloured blocks. The bright illustrations surround the blocks of information making the pages colourful, informative and easy to read. There is also lots of humour which makes learning fun.

Great for children who love their non-fiction books.

Will you be my friend?

By Sam McBratney

Illustrated by Anita Jeram

ISBN 9781406351606

Walker Books

Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare are back. Reading this beautiful picture book is just like reconnecting with old friends. You know that feeling you get when you haven’t seen old friends in awhile but the minute you do, you just carry on as if no time has passed at all. That’s the feeling I got when I read this book. And like true friends, they haven’t changed at all. Both are the same wonderful hares that they were then, and are now.

With a bit of growing independence Little Nutbrown Hare goes off for a wander and exploration by himself. He discovers his own reflection and his shadow, but also something else, something very special. Little Nutbrown Hare discovers another Hare. A new friend to play with.

This is just as sweet and beautiful as when we first met the Nutbrown Hares and no doubt at all, this book will also become a classic. A perfect book to give to families with toddlers.

Anita Jeram’s illustrations are delightful, warm and just adorable.

Check out the trailer and then go get yourself a copy of this gorgeous book.

Ballet Bunnies

By Swapna Reddy

Illustrated by Binny Talib

Oxford University Press

Millie loves dancing and is so excited to begin ballet classes. Unfortunately things don’t go quite as smoothly as she hopes and one girl in the class makes it difficult for her. Her confidence plummets and before the end of the day Millie wants to give up.

It is then that she meets four little ballet bunnies who make all the difference. Her new bunny friends are a secret but they offer her the best advice and that is just what Millie needs.

Throughout the series Millie confronts her fears and lack of confidence with the help of her bunny friends; Dolly, Fifi, Pod and Trixie. They encourage Millie to dance, try new things, even learning how to take deep breaths to help her keep calm, especially when there is a bit of bullying going on. They happily and willingly offer their helping paws.

Short chapters, decent sized font and gorgeous illustrations make this series ideal for newly independent readers. As first chapter books go, this is going to be a hit with many girls I know in my school library. Lots of pinks and purples, and bright glittery covers make this a series that will be read again and again.

A sweet feel-good series in time for Christmas and all that holiday reading, especially for those that like dancing, just like Millie and the bunnies.

Check out the ballet step illustrations at the back of the book. In Millie’s Birthday, there are instructions to make your own bunny ears.

Swapna Reddy also writes under the name Swapna Haddow and writes the wonderful Dave the Pigeon series.

My personal thanks to Swapna.

Dog gone

By Rob Biddulph

ISBN 9780008317928

Hapercollins

“A wonderfully waggy adventure”.

Do you own pets or do they own you? That’s the important question. In Rob Biddulph’s new picture book we find a dog who proudly declares that he has his own pet human. He’s not too much trouble as far as keeping humans for pets goes. He plays ball, keeps things tidy and most important, his human is loyal.

But then comes the terrible day when human and dog are separated. Lost! What is a dog supposed to do when he loses his pet human, you might wonder. Facing his fears and full of determination Edward Pugglesworth goes in search of his human. He thinks carefully as he retraces his steps in his search which shows he’s quite a clever dog.

This is a delightful story, with well-worked out rhymes and rhythm making it a perfect story to read aloud. The illustrations are bright and sharp with a glossy finish. Take the slipcover off and you have a gorgeous dog-filled second cover. A bonus, although as a librarian, it does make it hard as I hate covering up the beautiful covers hiding under slipcovers.

I love this and highly recommend you find a copy soon. Great for home, families, pre-schools and lower primary. Actually a delight, no matter what your age.

Rain before rainbows

By Smriti Halls

Illustrated by David Litchfield

ISBN 9781406382358

Walker Books

Rain before rainbows. Clouds before sun. Night before daybreak. A new day’s begun.

Simply put, this picture book is beautiful. A girl and a fox are friends and do everything together. They face the beauty of each day but also face worries together too. They discover that there is always a silver lining to every dark cloud. In order for flowers to grow, we need sunshine and rain. When meeting dragons, we need courage and good friends. When facing anything new in life, there is always hope. There is always balance and opportunities to find happiness.

The illustrations are stunning in their glorious, rich and shiny hues. In fact, if hope was a colour, it would be the beautiful colours on the pages of this gorgeous picture book.

Love it. Absolutely, love it.

Black Flamingo

By Dean Atta

ISBN 9781444948608

Hodder Children’s Books

I loved this book and the verse novel format is just perfect for telling Michael’s story. It begins with Michael as a very small child and progresses through his childhood and into his teens.

There is a sweetness to Michael which makes him likeable. He values his friends and loves his family, although his father in not part of the equation. At school, his best friend is Daisy and they spend so much time together. Daisy understands him and listens to him as he talks about his crushes but there comes a time, when even best friends fall out.

This is not just a book about his realisation and acceptance of being gay, it is about his courage and being honest enough to stand up for himself and be who he wants to be. Michael is a poet and through his poetry he is able to share his thoughts.

One of my favourite parts is the poem titled I come from which is in part, a summary of everything he has experienced, felt, seen and heard. It is his past and his present with hope for the future. It is powerful and an excellent insight to Michael and his internal thoughts.

It is also an excellent look at the LGBT life and we can see how difficult it is at first for Michael who is not just gay, but black and gay. Michael is British, black, Cypriot and Jamaican and this adds so many aspects to his life and his identity.

There are so many themes running through this book; gender identity, racism, sexuality, homophobia, self-acceptance and Drag queens and they are all part of this very good, realistic, authentic coming-of-age story. The significance of the black flamingo becomes clear as you read through this novel and when you see Michael and how far he has come, it leaves you smiling.

Tales of Aotearoa

Maui and the secret of fire

Retold By Donovan Bixley

ISBN 9781988516929

Upstart Press

Donovan Bixley’s Tales of Aotearoa series is special. He retells the stories of Maui for a new generation. His artwork is bright and cheery but equally dark when it is needed. This is Bixley’s third book in the series and just as delightful as the previous two.

Maui is a bit of a trickster, especially with his brothers, but he is also clever. As Maori myths tell us, it is because of Maui and his cunning ways that we have fire. Bixley’s retelling brings humour and adds a freshness that younger readers will love. Maui is cheeky and full of personality which shines through in Bixley’s gorgeous illustrations. You just can’t help but like him, no matter what he does.

The front end papers act as a glossary with images from the book labelled in both English and Te Reo Māori. The back inside cover provides further information about Maui. It is Maui’s curiosity that causes all his trouble, but also changes things, often for the better. Without questions, there would be no change and no improvements to life. We need people who are curious and willing to challenge and experiment things.

It is great to see that the author and illustrator Donovan Bixley has worked with Dr Darryn Joseph and Keri Opai to ensure he has retained respect and understanding of the cultural aspects of the Maui stories.

Another very good book to add to any school collection. Perfect for sharing with young ones at home too.

The Great realisation

By Tomos Roberts

Art by Nomoco

ISBN 9781460759806

HarperCollins Children’s Books

This thought-provoking picture book began its life as a poem written during the early days of the Covid 19 Pandemic. It was initially shared on Youtube and was viewed millions of times. In fact it has had well over 60 million views, so it is wonderful and very well-deserved to see this in picture book format.

It is very much a timely message to us all; children and adults, that if we work together, if we make changes, then we can make a difference.

The Pandemic has changed the world as we know it. Millions of people have been infected and over one million people have died. It is a scary world with repercussions which will be felt for years. What Tomos Roberts offers us in his book, is hope. Hope will help and lead us to make changes, and hope will get us through.

A son asks his dad to read him a story at bedtime. The same story he has heard before. The one about a virus. The story talks of a world where waste and greed were common. The same world where millions of people lived lives of hunger and poverty. The world was noisy and polluted. A virus came along and the only way to stop it spreading was for people to hide away. While the world hid from the virus, the people came to realise there was another way to live. Another way for the world to care about each other, protect its planet, its animals and keep everyone safe. The world remembered how it used to be, and how it wanted and needed to go back in order to move ahead. To make change and find the peace within, we need to look at journey we have already taken and do things better.

The Great Realisation is a lovely book and Nomoco has created some sweet, simplistic, art work. It has a retro feel to it which works well with the overall theme. If you remove the cover off the book the actual cover is a cleaner, greener world. The sky is free of planes and the bird life and fish in the sea are coming back. The back cover shows the world we need to leave behind, a world where we need to reduce the waste, noise and pollution. I certainly know which world I prefer.

This is a book for everyone, young and old alike.

Go away, Worry Monster

By Brooke Graham

Illustrated by Robin Tatlow-Lord

ISBN 9781925820393

EKbooks

Archie is about to start school but he is having trouble sleeping because the Worry Monster is in his room and getting more vocal and closer to his bed. The worry monster taunts Archie with all the things that might possibly go wrong, including not making any friends.

As the Worry Monster threatens to take over Archie’s thoughts, he realises that it doesn’t have to be this way. He remembers what his mother has taught him, and he takes control.

This new picture book encourages children to find ways to cope and work through things that cause them stress or anxiety. It’s about encouraging resilience and believing in oneself. A very relatable book for many children.

The world is facing some serious concerns at the moment and life is difficult for many people. Perhaps by reading picture books like this one, we can help alleviate children’s fears, and that is a good place to start if we want to make changes and create less anxiety for all.

Sleep Little Kiwi, Sleep

Written and illustrated by Deborah Hinde

ISBN 9780473515201

PictureBook Publishing

Kiwi birds are mostly nocturnal, so when Little Kiwi wakes up at night time he is naturally feeling hungry and goes searching for food. Children will enjoy learning a little Te re Māori as other night creatures are introduced to us as he forages among the forest floor in his search for kai.

After a long night Little Kiwi is ready for bed again.  The sun is about to come up and the birds are starting to sing ready for a new day.

This is a fun, informative picture book with gorgeously cute illustrations.

There is a double-page spread at the back of the book with images of the many creatures, birds, insects and animals he meets along the way. They are nicely labelled in both English and Te re Māori.

Great for pre-schoolers and early primary school aged children.

The Skeleton Family

By Ian Chapman

Illustrated by Cheryl Smith

ISBN 9781988538563

Bateman Books

 

We all have skeletons and we all have skin covering our skeletons but this particular family just happen to be skinless. Even the family pet cat and dog are just bones. They do everything other people do, like baking, going to school and singing. Everyone just accepts them as they are; a family of skeletons. Well, that is until a new family move in next door and they find the whole skinless skeleton family, quite frightening. The skeleton family have to come up with a plan to try and let their new neighbours know that they are just like everyone else and are in fact, just a normal family.

A little bit lesson and a little bit fun. Checkout the downloadable song which goes with this picture book. There is also a page all about skeletons for those eager readers who love learning facts.

 

Kylo Kitty moves to the city

By Chantal Venter

Illustrated by Katerina Kalinichenko

ISBN 9780473528553

Kylokitty Books

Kylo Kitty goes searching for friends. He meets creatures big and small on his journey. Just when he is about to give up, he meets a special cat who offers him help and friendship. Pre-schoolers will enjoy the cute illustrations.

Sometimes we don’t really need to go looking for friends as they are already there in front of us, or in this case, just behind.

Migrants

By Issa Watanabe

ISBN 9781776573134

Gecko Press

Migrants is a stunning wordless picture book. Wordless books are also known as silent books, which is a nice way of thinking about this format, particularly as this beautiful book did leave me speechless.

Throughout the book, including the end papers and imprint page, the background is blackness. Darkness hovers over everything our characters endure, yet they themselves are full of colour, a sure sign of hope. There is definitely sadness and death in this book and some extra sensitive souls may find it confronting, but it is done with respect and beauty. It is a book which will encourage discussion about what it means to be a refugee and the terrible journey many people have had to endure.

Animals gather in a large group leaving behind their belongings and their homes. Their faces are serious, their eyes hold a sadness that is almost palpable. Together they travel over rough seas, searching for a new place, a new home, where they might find peace and somewhere safe to lay their heads.

It is powerful. The artwork is nothing short of stunning and each and every page could hang in a gallery and perhaps it should, so we are reminded just how lucky we are. I love how the stronger animals carry the younger and weaker ones, showing just how much they care for each other and more importantly, work together as a whole.

This book deserves to be in every school library; primary and right through secondary. There is so much to discuss and unpack that it would be great as a class study.

Stunning.

The wheels on the truck

Sung by The Topp Twins

Illustrated by Jenny Cooper

ISBN 9781775436409

This adapted classic with its familiar tune has a good old Kiwi farm feel to it, both in story and pictures.

Beware! Once you play this CD to your children you are going to have to play it again and again. It certainly won’t be a problem as you’ll find yourself happily singing along with the Topp Twins, quite possibly at the top of your voice. It is definitely fun and very catchy. Even a group of 10 and 11 year old children got right into the swing of it when I played it at school last week and we were all singing along loudly in the library.

Jenny Cooper, once again brings the characters and animals to life with her beautiful, yet quirky illustrations. Twin farmers are travelling in their truck with three dogs piled on the back. Their personalities shine through with warmth and humour.

This will make an ideal addition to preschools, as well as any home with youngsters. Great book to share when reading.

 

Mini Whinny: Bad day at the O.K. Corral

By Stacy Greg

Illustrated by Ruth Paul

ISBN 9781775436249

 

 

The adorable, yet out-spoken Mini Whinny, is back. Left at the O.K. Corral pony day care, Mini Whinny tries dress-ups. At first she tries out the pink tutu but after finding herself in trouble and facing some bullies she changes for another dress-up. What could it be?  It becomes clear that it is up to Mini Whinny to sort things out. Mini Whinny is stubborn, strong-willed, but also likeable, cheeky and cute.

I love Mini Whinny’s friend, the gorgeous tabby cat, who is found on almost every page. Ruth Paul’s illustrations have the cute-factor which will appeal to young children.

Another one to add to the Mini Whinny collection of picture books.

 

Ernie and the magic kennel

By Robert Rakete & Jeanette Thomas

Illustrated by Kimberly Andrews

ISBN 9781775436331

 

 

Ernie is a corgi and Benny is a street dog and they find themselves inside a magic flying kennel and whisked off all over the world. They stop in different countries just long enough to collect additional dogs. There is Fleur from Paris and Blu from Uluru and even more to collect along the way until finally the kennel is full of dogs. Their destination is a special surprise for them all.

Ernie and the Magic Kennel is a humorous story with a wee message about family, friends and what it means to belong.  The rhyming text and a mix of different characters makes this fun to read aloud.

Award-winning illustrator, Kimberly Andrews, brings the characters to life with her delightfully comical illustrations.

Ernie and Benny are based on real dogs, although I’m not sure they’ve been on a real magic kennel ride.