Archive for February, 2018

The ANZAC Violin: Alexander Aitken’s story

By Jennifer Beck

Illustrated by Robyn Belton

ISBN 9781775433910

Scholastic NZ

 

 

“A true story of a rescued violin and an extraordinary musician, Otago’s Alexander Aiken”

Author Jennifer Beck and illustrator Robyn Belton have previously worked on a number of picture books before. Each book has been first-rate and their latest collaboration is no exception. The story based on the true accounts of New Zealand solider Alexander Aitken, take us through his time in the trenches during World War One. They were harsh and difficult times, full of danger, death and desperation. In 1915 a former schoolmate of Alex’s won a cheap violin in a shipboard raffle. Unable to play music himself, he gave the violin to Alexander who had some musical ability. It didn’t take long before Alexander was playing everyday and getter better and better. Amid the chaos of war Aleaxander Aikten brought music to fellow soldiers and gave them hope for better times ahead. As the story unfolds  we soon learn more about Alexander and his violin. 

 

The violin becomes important to all the soliders, many help to hide it from authorities, protecting it from harm and damage. 


I love this double-page spread. The reflection of the soldiers in the sea has a haunting, almost mourning quality to it . The violin in its black case stands out, reminding us that despite the dark days there is always hope.

“The violin was my companion in this dug-out; I slept with it by my side.”

The end pages with their photos, maps and writing are very much in journal form and it feels familiar, like we are sharing the diary of an old friend. The colours have a warm yet earthy feel with sepia tones reminiscent of the times. The layout with all its details brings us closer to Alexander and supported with photos Alexander becomes very real to the reader.

Having the real life story of people played out in picture book format makes them and their history accessible to a younger reader.  The sophistication of the story, the historical facts and the wonderful illustrations make this a must have for any library or home collection. A truly wonderful, thought-provoking picture book set during World War One where the focus is music and hope and not just the war itself.

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Myths and Legends of Aotearoa : 15 timeless tales of New Zealand

Retold by Annie Rae Te Ake Ake

ISBN 9781775435235

Scholastic NZ

 

This is  stunning collection of New Zealand myths and legends has been re-released which is wonderful to see. Retold by Annie Rae Te Ake Ake, the tales are immediately accessible and accompanied by bright and vibrant illustrations from young New Zealanders.  In fact I would go as far as to say that each of the illustrations could stand proudly in any art gallery. The tales are indeed timeless, and can be told again and again, generation after generation, such is the power of their story.

Myths and legends, whichever culture we belong to, are what gives us our history, our knowledge and our creative and mythical sense of being.

We begin with the creation story of Raginui, the Sky Father and Papatūānuku, the Earth Mother and how their son Tāne Mahuta  pushed them apart. There are stories about Pania and the Reef and Rona and the Moon. Of course, a book of myths and legends from New Zealand couldn’t exist without  stories of Māui so they have been included here too. This well-written collection is one of short, sharp and very readable stories which will stand the test of time.

The book includes a map with places marked where certain stories originate. This helps us create a bigger picture of the myths and characters so we can make connections. There is also a very useful glossary with Maori gods, place names and translated Maori phrases.  While this book is perfect for schools and libraries, it is also ideal in any home. A book to cherish.

 

Dinosaur Trouble book 4 : The secret hunt

By Kyle Mewburn

Illustrated by Donovan Bixley

ISBN 9781775433699

Scholastic NZ

Cave boy Arg is back for another rollicking adventure with his pet dinosaur Krrk-Krrk. This series continues to be a hit with children reading their first chapter books. Large font. short sharp chapters, and heaps of humour. Even a little danger is thrown in to capture the reader’s attention. The illustrations are full of character, personality and humour and author and illustrator are perfectly matched.

A friendly game of hide and find goes a little wrong thanks to Arg’s best friend Shlok. However, Shlok with his drippy, snotty nose, helps stop the bleeding of his dad’s wound. Who knew you could use snot for things other than just wiping it off your nose? Gross! But this is just what many young readers enjoy and just why this series remains so popular.

Poor Little Rabbit

By Jorg Muhle

ISBN 9781776571772

Gecko Press

Oh no, Little Rabbit has hurt his arm. And there’s blood! Can you help him? 

I first met Little Rabbit a few years ago in the board book Tickle my ears. He was adorable then and adorable now.

In Tickle my ears little rabbit needed help getting ready for bed but this time he appeals to the reader to help him after he falls over. He stares out from bright, colourful pages, pleading with young readers to blow on his ouch, help put on a band-aid and make him feel all better. Sweet and interactive which is perfect for babies and toddlers. Little rabbit’s facial expressions are totally believable, from his tears at the beginning to his big smile at the end.

Baby board books have a special place when introducing books and reading to babies. Babies and toddlers will often have their favourites which they will listen to over and over. Little rabbit is a wee series with a delightful character who will become a firm favourite with oung readers as they explore little adventures in each of his books. A gorgeous book to add to a baby’s first collection.

Tickle my ears

Bathtime for Little Rabbit

Poor Little Rabbit

 

Snake and Lizard

By Joy Cowley

Illustrated by Gavin Bishop

ISBN 9781776571994

Gecko Press

 

Ten years ago we were introduced to two adorably funny characters.   Snake and Lizard are friends, although perhaps not the most likely of companions considering they started arguing from the moment they met. It didn’t take long however, to realise that having each other’s company was much better than being on their own.

This very special 10th birthday edition has a lovely embossed cover where the shiny new title and characters pop up from the cover. It proudly displays its gold Book of the year award in the top right corner where you can’t miss it. An award it certainly deserves.

I loved the stories back then and I love them now. Quirky, funny but also caring. There is a naive tenderness to their friendship too, which makes them even more lovable. Great as a read-aloud, but just as great for newly independent readers who will love the short, sharp stories with the wonderfully earthy illustrations.

This trailer is a perfect introduction to the stories for new readers.