Archive for September, 2019

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.

 

The Gobble Degook Book

By Joy Cowley

Illustrated by Giselle Clarkson

ISBN 9781776572588

Gecko Press

This Joy Cowley Anthology is full to the brim with stories and poems to make you laugh out loud. Joy plays with language creating words of her own that will delight children of all ages. There are classics in here such as Niceketty-Nacketty, Noo-Noo-Noo and Greedy Cat. These and many more, have been around for years and loved for just as many years by children all over. The poem Goggly Gookers is a great example of her word creations. How can you not smile at lines like this;

The clop is in the fizz-bustle eating all the grimlings.

The illustrations in this collection add another level. From the bright yellow front cover with the big bold red title, to the giraffe on the back and everything else in between, this is a wonderful combination of story and pictures.

I feel very lucky to have had a chance to ask illustrator Giselle Clarkson some questions.

  1. The cover of this anthology is bright and immediately eye-catching.  How did you decide on which story to use for the cover?

We left the cover until very last. Vida Kelly (the book’s designer) and I had lots of back-and-forth discussion about it and went through heaps of different options before settling on the one we’ve got. In the end it just seemed like the character of the jumbaroo perfectly captured the spirit of the book. Exuberant, joyful, playful, brilliant nonsense. Because it’s an anthology we added characters and elements from other stories, my favourite bit is the tiny woman and her snail on the barcode.

  1. Were you a keen artist as a child and was this something you wanted to always do? What sort of pictures did you draw as a child?

I wasn’t particularly big on toys or sports, I liked climbing trees, computer games and art. I was really fortunate to grow up in a home with art supplies always there for me to use. I always knew I wanted to be some kind of artist, but it didn’t dawn on me that illustration was my dream job until I was about 25. It was a real “oh yeah, duh” moment for me.

When I was very young liked drawing happy people, flowers, and jewel-bright birds and fish. When I was about 10 I started reading things like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and King Arthur and got really into drawing dragons, elves and enchanted woods.

  1. What is your process for drawing and which medium do you like to use best. 

I do all my illustration digitally – I use a Wacom drawing tablet and Photoshop. What I like best about drawing on a computer is that I can experiment endlessly and never waste any paper.

  1. There is a childlike quality to the pictures which is perfect for this collection. Was it a deliberate choice to do this and how hard was it to achieve?

This is pretty much my most natural way of drawing! Coming up with a good idea can take hours, but the final drawing can often be done very quickly. A lot of the time (for other work) I have to go back over my first versions and make them much more polished, but for The Gobbledegook book they were intentionally kept sudden and loose and un-fussed over. It was wonderful to work that way. Some of my favourites are unchanged from the first quick ideas I did to show the publishers, like the tiny woman standing under the falling leaves, or the wee wishy woman facing off the ogre in Nicketty-Nacketty Noo-Noo-Noo.

  1. How do you relax, or what do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to go outside. I love to garden, and walk in the bush or on the beach. I usually have my nose to the ground looking for interesting stuff, like insects or feathers or unusual fungi. My walks on the beach are always very slow because I inspect everything that’s come in on the last tide.

  1. If you could have dinner with any character from any book, who would it be and why?

A quiet meal with Mog the cat from Judith Kerr’s books. I love Mog, and I miss my own cat who died recently and was a lot like her. I could rub Mog’s belly and I’d let her sit on the table, and we’d both have soft boiled eggs for our tea.

  1. What advice would you give to someone wanting to illustrate children’s books.

Persistence and practice and a lot of honest, constructive criticism of your own work! Having 32+ blank pages to fill can be extremely daunting, you don’t want to go into that unprepared!

I didn’t study illustration, so I spent several years getting experience by building up a portfolio of commercial work, always with children’s book illustration as a goal in mind. Long before I had anything published I went to a conference in Wellington for children’s authors and illustrators, and things I learnt back then are still useful to me now – about storytelling, contracts, and publishing in general. There are also so many wonderful and kind people working in illustration who are happy to offer advice if you just ask.

Thanks Giselle for sharing your thoughts with us. I love your self-portrait and the one of Joy. Just delightful. I love the look of contentment on both of your faces.

This has got to be one of the best tours for an intern, ever. What an awesome place to work. A super introduction to the world of books by Penguin Random House.

Adorable, cute, informative, friendly, the list goes on. Do take note that at the end of the video there is the assurance that these beautiful penguins were always very well treated, with the right people on hand to assist them on their internship tour of the company.

Just so adorable!

The Scarecrow

By Beth Ferry

Illustrated by the Fan Brothers

ISBN 9780062475763

HarperCollins

 

All the animals know not to mess with old Scarecrow. But when a small, scared crow falls from midair, Scarecrow does the strangest thing.…

He saves the tiny baby crow.

Soon a loving bond grows between the two unlikely friends. But is it strong enough to weather the changing of the seasons?

 

There is something magical about scarecrows. I have always secretly believed they are a little bit human, in that they each have their own personality and perhaps, when no one is watching, climb down from their posts and spring to life. I always thought there was something sad about them too. I have just ordered a copy of The Scarecrow for my school library but I can see I will probably be buying a second one for myself, as this just looks so beautiful. We need more feel-good stories for children, with subtle little messages that will leave them feeling happy, but also just a little more thoughtful.

I am a huge fan of the Fan Brothers and have a number of their books already. I love this trailer for its warmth, its quietness and beauty.  The illustrations are just gorgeous, and there is a softness that is so heart-warming.  Can’t wait for this to arrive. 

Click here for some activity sheets to accompany this picture book.

The Iron Man

By Ted Huges

ISBN 

Allen & Unwin

The Iron Man came to the top of the cliff.
Where had he come from? Nobody knows.
How was he made? Nobody knows.

WOW!

This new edition of Ted Hughes’ classic The Iron Man is simply stunning.

The story is still the familiar one where a gigantic iron robot turns up out of the blue, all smashed up. A young boy named Hogarth finds him, helps fix him and the two become firm friends but not everyone is so keen on the iron man. It doesn’t take long before there is mayhem. Adventure, friendship, and tolerance, are all messages within this classic story.

Chris Mould’s illustrations are simply stunning. This is a full-colour hardback, portrait sized book for everyone. From the choice of colours; earthy browns, rusty orange, blues and lots of green, to the format which is novel, chapter book,  part graphic novel, the whole production is stunning. The end papers have a retro feel to them, almost like wallpaper.

An absolute winner. Love it. When my copy arrived yesterday, I sat in the staffroom sharing it and everyone was impressed. They described it as; beautiful, gorgeous, a real treasure and all agreed, it would make a beautiful gift for any age. I held my copy hugging it tight, before putting gently in my bag to take home and read last night. This is a much-loved classic for a new generation to love.

Check out the trailer as illustrator Chris Mould discusses his new book.

How Māui slowed the sun

Retold by Donovan Bixley

Illustrated by Donovan Bixley

Advised and translated by Dr Darren Joseph and Keri Opai

ISBN 9781988516202

Upstart Press

 

I had the great pleasure yesterday of meeting author and illustrator Donovan Bixley and yes he was wearing his famous top hat. He was taking a workshop for young students as part of the ReadNZ, (formerly the New Zealand Book Council ) Speed Date an Author program. He was great with the students and I loved how he shared his ideas about illustrating, with the main concern that children should not sit there, pen in hand, and wait for perfection. Children were encouraged to start with squiggles and see where it took them. Lots of discussion took place and everyone was engaged, so if you get the opportunity to have Donovan at your school, then go for it.

His latest book is eye-catching. There is no way you can miss the bright, vivid cover or Māui’s cheeky smile.

Donovan’s retelling adds a touch of humour to the traditional tale of Maui and how he slowed the sun. Māui is upset that he cannot do all he wants to do in a day because the sun rushes across the sky so fast there is not enough light left to accomplish everything. He comes up with a plan and organises everyone to work together to trap the sun Tama-nui-te-rā.

His characters, especially Māui, have personality which shines through. The first endpaper has a selection of small illustrations with both English and Te Reo words which will assist readers. On the last page Māui addresses the reader with a “Ka kite anō Catch you next time” which gives us hope that there will be another book in this Tales of Aotearoa series.

The first in the series is How Māui Fished up the North Island and is also a must-have for school libraries. Great resources for schools looking at Maori myths and legends.

Here he is hard at work.

 

And here is my own gorgeously signed copy. Thank you Donovan!

Rugby 1 2 3 : Whutupōro Tahi Rua Toru

By Tahlia Kehoe Rowden

Illustrated by Myles Lawford

ISBN 9781775436089

Scholastic NZ

 

The release of these two picture books is perfect timing for Te Wiki o te Reo Māori Week. Rugby 1 2 3 is a bilingual picture book about one of New Zealand’s favourite sports; rugby.  The story shares some of the regular happenings at a rugby game such as; forwards, backs, reserves, and officials, among others. There is a simple counting structure encouraging children to learn their Maori numbers. For someone beginning to learn a little bit of Te Reo this is a great incentive as the words will soon become familiar and easily recognisable. Great for preschoolers and children up to about age 7.

It is wonderful to see publishers producing more bilingual books, especially as there is a growing interest in learning Te Reo and learning about Maori culture.

 

 

My Kiwi Gumboots

By June Pitman-hayes

Illustrated by Minky Stapleton

Maori Lyrics by Ngaere Roberts

ISBN 9781775435808

Scholastic NZ

Another bilingual book for children with a very New Zealand setting. Gumboots, farms, cheddar cheese, it’s all here.
Every child loves their gumboots, especially the young girl wearing her yellow boots and matching raincoat. She visits a farm where there are even more reasons to wear her big yellow gumboots. Lots of puddles to splash in and mud to splosh in, a delight that most children can relate to, even if they haven’t visited a farm. Bright, cherry illustrations offer lots of things to look out for adding extra value to the story.
There is also an accompanying CD to sing along. The end page has a glossary Te Papākupu to help with translation.

Scary Tales: Rhymes for Brave Children

By Judi Billcliff

Illustrated by Deborah Hinde

ISBN 9780473483043

PictureBook Publishing

Judi Billcliff has taken traditional rhymes and given them a makeover; a scary makeover.

The blurb on the back of this picture book asks if you are brave enough to look inside and meet the scary creatures and there are plenty of them. You just might need to be brave! There are witches, goblins, and ghosts too. Even Count Dracula makes an appearance in these reimagined  rhymes with a twist of scariness and lots of laughter.

 

 Scary Mary

Scary Mary quite contrary

How does your garden grow?

With wailing moans

And rattling bones

All hanging in a row.

You’ll have to to read the book to find out what else she has in her garden.

Deborah Hinde, as always, provides gorgeous illustrations; cheeky, funny, quirky, but also with a warmth which leaves us feeling safe after our journey into the spookiness of scary tales. This is a great book to use when thinking about Halloween, too.

Starbird

By Sharon King-Chai

ISBN 9781509899562

Twohoots Books

 

If I could use only one word to describe this beautiful picture book, then I would use exquisite.

It is a beautiful work of art with intricate illustrations, many which are painted with silver foil so that the birds wings are shiny like jewels. Written very much in the form of a fable, we learn of the most beautiful Starbird, the only one of its kind who is captured by a King and kept in a cage for his daughter. His daughter, however, realises that a cage is no place for such a beautiful creature and lets it fly free. The father is angered and searches everywhere until once more, the bird is caged.

The message becomes clear and reminds us that captivity is not okay and the consequences are shameful. This is a sophisticated picture book about freedom and love and can be read on several levels.  This is one to keep and treasure or equally, a beautiful gift to give to someone special.

Starbird’s songs weave the richest dreams and delight all who hear him, but when the Moon King traps him in a cage as gift for his daughter, the colour and life in his voice begin to drip away. 

I adore it. Highly recommend it for all school libraries and lots of homes too.