Archive for October, 2021

The sun is a star : a voyage through the universe

By Dick Frizzell

ISBN 9780995146563

Massey University Press

After a conversation with his granddaughter, artist Dick Frizzell (one of New Zealand’s most well-known painters) was inspired to write this book. It is a book about the universe; the stars, space, moon etc. He says the universe and everything in it, and how it came about, how it works, is;

More magic than magic. Magic, mysterious and beautiful.

On each double-page spread, one side with a bold heading holds a paragraph or two of explanation about the universe, stars, moon and more, and the opposite page is a work of art. Beneath each painting is the artist’s name and a description of the art media used.

He includes paintings he has done himself, but by his own admission, he cleverly conned his fellow painters and artists to contribute some of their works for this wee treasure.

The ideas about space are easily explained so that the book is suitable for any age. The artwork is a diverse collection from some of the best artists out there.

At the back there is a glossary, seven pages with a bio paragraph about each artist, and an index page. All this is very helpful when taking a closer look at the paintings.

There is a link here to take a closer look at the book and its colourful pages.

The author both asks and answers questions, such as how does the sun’s energy work or how hot is the sun. To answer, he tells us that the sun’s core is 15 million degrees celsius.

This is a the kind of book that suits sitting on a child’s bookcase, a school library shelf or even a coffee table book in any home.

The following books are written and illustrated by Dave Gunson, and published by Bateman Books. Gunson’s speciality is non-fiction and I have read many of his books over the years. These are just the latest ones to be published.

New Zealand Country Wildlife: Which? Why? What?

By Dave Gunson

ISBN 9781988538884

Bateman Books

Part of a series of non-fiction books about New Zealand wildlife, Gunson manages to provide interesting facts about the animals in the countryside. He does this with careful research and his usual tongue-in-cheek humour.

We learn about lizards, birdlife and goats. We learn there are many different types of butterflies in the mountains. We learn the collective nouns for many of the animals. I particularly like the words for a group of kea; a prattle, a company or a pandemonium. I love the kea birds and their beautiful colours and cheeky personalities, so I do think these are good descriptions.

New Zealand Forest Wildlife: Which? Why? What?

ISBN 97819885388877

Similar to the country book above, this book focuses on forests and the wildlife within. The language is aimed at primary school aged children, but for quick facts this will suit older readers too. The layout is in small bite-size blocks of information with the same humorous cartoon-type illustrations spread over the pages. The information is fun and clear.

Here we learn about the trees, snails, kiwi, morepork and even centipedes. Lots to look at, discover and learn about.

Inside New Zealand Wildlife

ISBN 97819885388860

This book is aimed at older readers as it has more text, a smaller font size and language a little more sophisticated than the two books above. It has an awesome lenticular cover so that front-on you see the illustration of the takahe but if you move the book side to side, you have a 3D cross-section picture of the inside of the takahe’s head. Very cool.

This is a book of cross-sections with a very good look at the insides of the bodies of many animals, birds, insects and even dolphins. The information in this book is more in-depth. I particularly enjoyed reading about the little blue penguin. So tiny and cute.

There is both an index and content page which makes finding information easier than the previous two books reviewed here. As mentioned, this one is best for older readers. An excellent addition to a school library.

One of the best things about holidays is the chance to slow down and catch up on some reading. As a school librarian I don’t get to read many adult books as I spend my time reading kids and young adult books so I can make honest recommendations to my students. I don’t believe in giving bad reviews as I want to focus on what I do enjoy reading. Also, these are reviews, and not critiques like what I used to have to do at university. Besides, I actually really enjoy reading children’s books. They offer so much and the stories and world-building for many of them are just wonderful. So some quick reviews of what I have been reading these holidays.

Inside the suitcase

By Clotilde Perrin

ISBN 9781776573431

Gecko Press

Clotilde Perrin is amazing with her illustrations and paper engineering.

A young boy packs his red suitcase with all manner of things and sets out into the world. We get to open his suitcase and bit by bit, flap by flap discover what is inside. Each flap has multiple layers to lift open, each revealing something different. We begin with large illustrated flaps which reveal smaller flaps to lift. Each reveal turns out to be part of an overall puzzle on how to get back home again. Perrin’s stories always have a certain quirkiness to them that engages the reader and keeps them guessing what will happen or be revealed inside the next flap to lift. The boy goes over the sea, ends up in the mountains, and even a monster makes an appearance. What else is in the suitcase? You’ll have to discover that yourself.

Her illustrations are quirky too, and that adds to the humour and story. The animals, cat and insects are certainly cute, especially the wee snail. I think it is my favourite. It turns up on several pages as well as the front and back covers.

This the third book of hers that I own but my favourite is Inside the villains. Look out for that one too.

The tiny woman’s coat

By Joy Cowley

Illustrated by Giselle Clarkson

ISBN 9781776573424

Gecko Press

This story has been around since 1987 but here it is a bigger format, and wonderful new illustrations.

This is a sweet, short text with a repetitive line The tiny woman wanted a coat. Her desire to make a coat from leaves, sees animals and birds offering their ideas and support as they recycle bits and pieces to help her make a coat, just in time to protect her from the bad weather.

The trees offer her their leaves, the goose helps her cut the cloth, and so it goes that eventually she has her coat. The story is about friendship and how friends help each other.

Joy Cowley has a wonderful way with language that engages the reader. Repetition, alliteration, and onomatopoeia add to the fun. Simple, fun and bound to be read over and over.

The illustrations by Giselle Clarkson, have lots of natural colourings, very wintery on some pages so that I can almost feel the cold. There is also a cute snail in this book who appears on every page, too.

Lovely to see this story out there in a new picture book format for a new generation of readers.

Kiwis and Koalas

By Sarah Milne

Illustrated by Laura Bernard

ISBN 9780473573959

Little Love an imprint of Mary Egan Publishing

Like the author, I too lived in Australia for a number of years. I still think of those years, the people and lifestyle with fondness. I returned to New Zealand many years ago but my memories are still vivid. Sarah has pulled together a sweet story about the love between living in Australia and New Zealand.

Many kiwis will relate to this story, many will have family across the ditch and will enjoy the comparisons between the two countries. Part tour guide, part fun with our language differences, this book is a reminder of the love that exists between the countries, although when it comes to sport, the rivalry is palpable.

The story is about Lily and her dog, Woof, who go in search of a bridge between the two countries. After a short, imaginative adventure, Lily remembers the things she loves, the places she has seen, and the animals and even the food she has eaten, which help celebrate the differences between Australia and New Zealand. It is a reminder that home is a place in your heart.

For young children, I feel the story is very wordy, but for older children who still enjoy a picture book this will have appeal.

The illustrations are sweet with a softness and lots of focus on the greenery of natural environments.

What do you need Little Rhino?

By John J. Lewis

ISBN 9781990003134

Upstart Press

Little Rhino is angry but she has no idea why. Her frustration keeps building and she runs around getting angrier and more upset. Her rhino parents ask lots of questions to try and find out why she is upset but Little Rhino has no answers. Eventually, they find a solution to clam her down.

Little Rhino is like many young children who find themselves overwhelmed with frustration and unable to communicate why they feel the way they do.

The illustrations are full page colour with lots of red and pink, highlighting the sense of how overwhelming and out of control her frustration feels.

A great wee book to read to preschoolers and let them know that frustration and anger is ok but that there are ways to deal with our feelings and sometimes, a hug is all we need.

Torn apart : The Partition of India, 1947

By Swapna Haddow

ISBN 9780702300417

Scholastic UK

I love Swapna’s books and have read quite a number of them now. What I love is the humour. Swapna’s latest book however, is so different from her other works but I love this too. Her ability to make readers laugh is evident to anyone who reads her work, but here, her ability to make readers cry, is equally a strength.

A short novel for older readers and intermediate aged children, this novel tells the story of two boys who are thrown together after India gained independence from the British Crown. What happened after that day in October 1947 was devastating for so many people. India became partitioned and the country was split into India and Pakistan. Muslims were forced to live in Pakistan and the Hindus and Sikhs were to stay behind in India. As people tried to hide or tried to escape, violence broke and out and hundreds of thousands of people died.

The two boys who meet are Ibrahim, a Muslim, who lives in relative luxury, and Amar, an orphan living in the streets. Amar is out for revenge over the death of his friend, and Ibrahim, suddenly separated from his family, is trying to find them. He meets Amar and asks him for help. The soon realise they need each other to survive. There is danger and chaos to be fair, as the recent news of Independence has terrible consequences. The boys share their accounts and points of view in short alternating chapters which works very well. I was able to understand why they made the decisions they did and the fears they felt. Amar is used to the streets, while Ibrahim though bright and studious, is quite naive, but they soon become friends. Street life, unrest, violence is all part of their daily lives now but Ibrahim is ever hopeful of being united with his family. I’m not going to share anymore here as I really don’t want to give away what happens. I will say, I was moved to tears. It is a short but powerful read and I hope to see more of this serious writing style from Swapna. Of course, I still want her funny books too, as they make me smile.

This is most suitable for upper primary and intermediate school readers.

I’ve actually just read another of Swapna’s books and I’m adding a wee review here because there is a bit of a connection with Hinduism, and the Diwali festival.

All about Diwali

By Swapna Haddow

Illustrated by Aditi Kakade Beaufrand

ISBN 9780702309595

Scholastic UK

This is a fun activity book to make and do things during the Diwali Festival. Well, you actually can do the activities anytime, but it is a nice way to focus on the celebrations during this festival.

The first few pages deal with the reasons why people celebrate Diwali and how they spend their time during the festivities and the special food eaten at Diwali time.

There are things to make such as buntings, lanterns, rockets, and heaps of recipes; some I will have to try myself.

The last few pages are nicely decorated with borders around blank lines so that you can write your own notes about how your’e spending your time, who with, or any other special notes you want to write.

A lovely way to record your celebrations.

There’s a ghost in this house

By Oliver Jeffers

ISBN 9780008298357

Harpercollins

I love Oliver Jeffers books and have quite a collection of them. His latest book is simply delightful.

A young girl lives in a haunted house, but has never seen a ghost. Are they white with holes for eyes? Are they hard to see? She’d love to know!

The book has a tracing paper dustjacket with two peepholes where we can see the young girl standing in front of the door, and a little ghost peeking out from the attic window. It is a perfect way to highlight our main characters and entice the reader to pick up the book.

The story begins with the young girl opening the door and inviting the reader in.

Hello.

Please come in.

So we enter the world of a haunted house but the girl there just can’t find any ghosts, even though she is sure there must be some. She searches everywhere, every nook and cranny but still cannot find any.

Between some pages there are tracing paper pages that when turned over, very cleverly reveal ghosts that only the reader can see. Children and adults too, will giggle over this funny play.

There are definitely ghosts. They are hiding behind old furniture, swinging from a chandelier, even rattling chains. The ghosts are playing hide and seek, though she has no idea. I love the ghosts giggling in the bedroom.

The illustrations are black and white with an authentic look and feel to the historical layouts. It adds atmosphere to the story. The ghosts are white sheet figures with peephole eyes. The girl herself, in green and yellow, is the only colour, apart from the front and back cover, which matches the girl’s clothing.

This is interactive, it is unique in many ways, but mostly, it is fun. I love it. Absolutely!