Archive for July, 2021

Aotearoa lost Worlds

By Dave Guson

ISBN 9781988538662

Bateman Books

Aotearoa Lost Worlds is a non-fiction delight for readers of all ages. Children, and those in particular who love dinosaurs, will love dipping into this book. Looking back at 120 million years of New Zealand’s natural history is quite amazing.

The land, animals, and climate has changed so much over millions of years but author and illustrator, Dave Gunson, brings many of the changes to our attention in his latest book.

I have always been fascinated by the long-extinct Haast’s eagle; the worlds largest bird of prey, so it was very interesting to read. It was so big and it was believed its wing span was 3 metres wide. That is incredible.

I never knew that over 230 million years ago, New Zealand had its own crocodiles. While they are magnificent creatures, I’m very glad we don’t have them around today as I wouldn’t want to run in to one by a river or swampy rest area.

Or you can read about the largest NZ Gecko that grew to over 60 centimetres in length. That is so much bigger than the ones we have today. And of course, you can read about dinosaurs too.

Obviously there are no photos, but Dave Gunson’s illustrations are colourful, detailed and realistic. His research is well-founded and written clearly. This is full of interesting and informative facts. A great book to dip into and again and again.

Just remember

By Donna Blabler

ISBN 9781927229729

Lighthouse Media Group

After a tragic car accident, grief, loss, and guilt are now part of Em’s life. Her mother’s breakdown and inability to care for Em has meant she now lives far away with her nan. A new school, new friends, and a mermaid are all part of her new life but it is the old life and guilt that is eating away at her.

A detention kept her late at school and when her family came to collect her, there was an accident. Em’s father was one of the people killed in the accident and she blames herself. But is Em really to blame, is her guilt necessary? The author Donna Blabler weaves a story about loss and how we take on guilt, real or misconceived.

Em struggles initially at her new school. With the wrong uniform, shoes, and jumper, everything seems to be a total misfit, including Em herself. She puts up barriers but slowly, with the help of some new friends, the barriers come down. Em also has a secret. Em finds the tree that she and her dad used to sit under during holiday times and while she sits there remembering him and happier times, she discovers a mermaid. As the two build up a friendship, truths are revealed but there is also trouble lurking by, with an elderly man who demands Em keep away from the area.

It is not a long novel and there is lots happening but the story flows smoothly. For all its mysteries and sadness, and fantasy, it is a gentle and warm story dealing with real issues.

Great for 10 – 14 year olds.

My New Zealand Story : Stop the tour

By Bill Nagelkerke

ISBN 9781775437178

Scholastic NZ

Forty years ago the face of New Zealand Rugby Tours changed forever. The Springbok Tour of 1981 was held in different cities in New Zealand. The tour included the team from South Africa, and its presence in New Zealand created so much conflict, that it is still talked about today. In South Africa there was a racist apartheid system, where people were treated differently because of the colour of their skin. Black people were segregated from white and not allowed to attend the same places or events, or have the same rights as white people.

When it was known that the South African team; the Springboks, were coming to New Zealand people immediately took sides. Many people thought that sports and politics should not mix and that the tour should go ahead. Many others thought that the apartheid system was so wrong, that the tour should be banned. The nation was divided.

Bill Nagelkerke has given us an insight to this terrible time in our sporting history, through his character Martin Daly.

Martin sits on the fence, not knowing what to think, or who is right. Through a series of incidents, Martin finally takes a side and his life changes. The tour is splitting friends and families. Riots are happening, people are getting hurt and tensions are incredibly high. It is not just adults who are marching against the tour, but students too became involved. Martin’s initial ambivalence is believable but then we see him grow and take responsibility for his choices. Growth in a character is always an indication of a good writer, and a good story, which is exactly what we have in this book.

First published in 2007, this retitled and redesigned version is perfect for a new generation of readers. In time to mark the 40th anniversary, this book is a great reminder that sometimes, you have to learn that sitting on the fence and not taking part, is not good enough. Sometimes, you have to take sides.

My New Zealand Story :Journey to Tangiwai

By David Hill

ISBN 9781775436386

Scholastic NZ

David Hill brings us the diary of Peter Cotterill, a teen Scout who is working hard to attend a major competition for first aid. He studies hard, works a paper round and spends time with his Uncle, recently back from a war that left him sad and angry.
It is 1953 and a year for all New Zealanders to remember. It is the year Edmund Hillary climbed Mount Everest, the same year that the Queen had her coronation, but it is also the same year as one of New Zealand’s worst disasters.

Peter is determined to win the local Scout first-aid competition. Winning the locals will mean he could get to the Nationals and that is what he has his heart set on. There is much happening in the background of all his tests and learning. His Uncle Hugh is not well and getting worse all the time. Peter and his uncle are close so this causes lots of concern. While everyone is looking forward to the Queen’s coronation, Uncle Hugh is very much against anything to do with the royals.

It is on his way to the finals, that Peter finds himself in one of New Zealand’s deadliest disasters. How he survives, you’ll have to read yourself.

I love how David Hill has dropped lots of historical moments in this book. One was the six o’clock closing of the public bars.

Redesigned with a fresh new eye-catching cover, having first been published in 2010, this book will appeal to a new generation of readers, too.

Both books have photos and historic notes to support their time in New Zealand’s history.

World Folk Tales

Retold by Elizabeth Kirkby-McLeod

Illustrated by Brent Larsen

ISBN 9781877535666

Giltedge Publishing

World Folk tales is a richly illustrated collection of folk tales from all over the world.

Each tale has its own two-page spread, so the retellings are short and easy to read in just a few minutes. This makes it a delight to open up and dip into whenever you want.

The contents page is handy if you want to know the titles of the tales and which country they come from.

My favourites are; Rata’s Disappearing Waka from New Zealand (of course), Arachne and Athena Compete (Greece) and The Eagle and the Wren (Scotland). There are many more but each and every one is unique and so interesting. The mix of stories offers a variety of myth, legend, folk and fable and each deserves its place in this collection.

There are tales of strength and cunning, tales of kindness and giving thanks. Tales that are at the heart of history.

The illustrations are rich and vibrant and have been well thought out to match the setting of each story. The endpapers have their own tales too. A map of the world and a compass.

I would love to see a second book with even more tales being told.

Mrs Chippy the Cat

By Susan Brocker

Illustrated by Raymond McGrath

ISBN 9781775437086

Scholastic NZ

In 1914, Captain Ernest Shackleton led an expedition to Antarctica on the ship Endurance. Our very own New Zealander, Frank Worsley, was part of this famous exploration too. There was also another very special member on board; Mrs Chippy, the tomcat and his owner, Harry McNeish, the ship’s carpenter.

Mrs Chippy was useful as a good mouser, catching all the mice and rats. The crew came to love the cat and when it accidentally fell overboard one day, they rescued it from the icy, Antarctic waters. When the Endurance became stuck in the frozen ice, Mrs Chippy took turns keeping the crew cosy and warm at night time by curling up beside them. Cats are wonderful for keeping you warm on cold winter nights, so this must have been extra special for the crew, as they slept on the freezing ice floe in their flimsy tents.

Susan Brocker brings Mrs Chippy’s story to life, and Raymond McGrath adds to it with his more natural, retro-looking illustrations. There is a sense of ruggedness to the pictures which works well with the historical aspects of the story.

At the back of the book there is a page of historical notes with photos of the real Mrs Chippy, which adds a lovely bit extra to the story.


By Melinda Szymanik

Illustrated by Isobel Joy Te Aho-White

ISBN 9781775437116

Scholastic NZ

Melinda Syzmanik’s latest picture book, Batkiwi, is just delightful. A heartwarming picture book about teamwork, even if that team is made up of just two members.

Kiwi loves helping his fellow forest creatures and friends. Whenever one of them needs help, he gets his legs running as fast as he can, but it is just not quite fast enough. Feeling sad about not being able to help, he carries thoughts with him that he just can’t be a hero. One night, when feeling extra sad, and hiding in a dark cave, Kiwi hears a voice. The friendly voice of a Bat, offering the best advice, that together they can help in emergencies. Together, Bat and kiwi can be heroes. Batkiwi “A dynamic duo.”

This picture book is supercool. The illustrations totally fit the story. This is a wonderful, visual introduction to New Zealand’s wildlife with colourful pictures of kunekune, ruru, weta, skink, and many others.

It is lovely to see a Te Reo Maori edition also available.


By Glenda Kane

Illustrated by Lisa Allen

ISBN 978 1988538716

Mangrove is a picture book focusing on the life cycle of a mangrove. It shows the destruction of a habitat as bulldozers and builders move in, with the result that they destroy the mangrove and some of the surrounding wildlife, like fish and crabs. It is a timely reminder to us all of our need to look after our environments, animals, and planet.

The survival of our ecosystems is essential, but it is also up to each of us to make a difference. The amount of plastic rubbish which ends up in the sea or along shore lines, has a disastrous effect on our environment. Books like Mangrove, show us there are simple things we can do to help our ecosystems to survive.

The story takes us through the mangrove and its destruction, through to the final stages, where we have hope, as a new mangrove begins to grow. The artwork is full colour with excellent use of natural colours and images. The text is gentle rhymes with clear messages that we need to help. We need to make a difference now, if we want to save our mangroves and all other ecosystems.

‘If you take the track past the big white shack
to the tidal flats where the mud is black
If you sneak to the left between the tides
you’ll find the place where mangrove hides.’

Mangrove was originally published in paperback some years back; this hardback edition is one to keep.