Archive for the ‘Everyone’ Category

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo

Written by Marlon Bundo with Jill Twiss

Illustrated by E. G. Keller

ISBN 9781452173801

Chronicle Books

 

What a wonderful picture book.

Marlon Bundo is a rabbit who meets and falls in love with Wesley, “a big, fluffy bunny with the floppiest floppy ears and the bushiest bushy tail” Marlon has ever seen. They love hopping everywhere together and most of all they love each other. All their friends are keen to see them marry but the Stink Bug is in charge and says that boy rabbits can not marry boy rabbits. The Stink Bug (with more than a passing resemblance to President Trump) is a nasty bully who makes all the decisions for the people.

However, one friend decides to change things. Friendships and loyalty are strong themes in the book too.

Yes this book has a political point but it is so funny.  It is also about diversity, it’s about being able to love whomever you want to love and that no one can tell you how to live. It is delightfully funny, has absolutely the cutest illustrations ever and it is a very important picture book for children, and many adults too. Love it. Love the trailer here too.

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Selma

By Jutta Bauer

ISBN 978177652120

Gecko Press

 

Julia Marshall publisher at Gecko Press says Selma “is a small book about a big question! A mini hardback for all ages that celebrates a good life”. And indeed it is wee celebration of the good things in life, which sadly, we often take for granted.

 

A wise ram is asked the question, “What is happiness”. and his answer is to tell the story of Selma, a sheep who is happy and content with her life. 

Selma loves the day to day things: eating, sleeping, spending time with her children, talking to the neighbours and getting a little exercise as well. Selma is asked if she would do anything different if she had a million dollars. I’m not going to tell you what she decides but I will say, it is a timely message for us all. Life is too short and sometimes we need to forget about the busyness of the day and just take the time to relax and be with friends and family.

This is lovely new edition gift book, full of happiness to share, is available now.

The Visitor

By Antje Damm

ISBN 9781776571888

Gecko Press

This is the second book from Antje Damm that I have had the pleasure to read. Waiting for Goliath was totally delightful and so is her new book  The Visitor will be published in July.

             Elise was frightened—of spiders, people, even trees. So she never went out,
             night or day.

            One day a strange thing flies in through the window and lands at her feet. And then there comes a knock at the        door. Elise has a visitor who will change everything.

This is a very special picture book about the beginning of a new friendship between an old lonely woman and a curious young boy.

The young boy Emil accidentally flies his dart inside the open window of Elise’s house. When he goes to collect it he finds Elise, a shy old woman who reluctantly lets him into her house. His curiosity and innocent questions are honest and realistic. I certainly found myself smiling as he looked at everything in her house and began asking lots of questions. Elise slowly begins to answer and it is not long before she finds herself opening up to him and a new friendship is formed.

Inside the house is dark, with lots of browns and shady colours but glimpses of bright light shine outside the windows. As they begin to feel comfortable with each other, the light, bit by bit, enters the house. Even Elise’s cheeks begin to glow. This is truly a delightful book to share with children of all ages.

The art work is a mix of diorama, card cut-outs, and photography with a focus on the use of colour. It is quite simply, a wonderful work of art and a story to treasure. There are so many older people out there who could all do with a little Emil in their lives.

Earthquakes! New Zealand

By Maria Gill

ISBN 9781869664862

New Holland Publishers

If you have ever wanted to know anything about earthquakes in New Zealand, then this new book from award-winning author Maria Gill has it all. The production is a perfect example of what a quality non-fiction book should be. It has all the features we expect with contents pages, glossary, bibliography, credits, headings and subheadings, photographs, graphs, symbols and timelines all sandwiched between a shiny, colourful, glossy cover. Maria Gill is well-known for her dedication and determination to research her subjects to provide readers with the best and most accurate information.

Maria Gill explains what earthquakes are, why they happen and the damage they can cause.  The timeline goes way back in time to some of the first earthquakes and marks many of the strongest ones that occurred. She also explains what to do in an earthquake and how to keep yourself safe which is something everyone in New Zealand needs to know. Having lived through the tragic Canterbury and Christchurch earthquakes, this book brought back many memories but it is good to see everything explained and know that while we cannot predict or stop earthquakes; we can be prepared and that is most important.

The language is easy and informative without being too formal or wordy, making it a suitable choice for everyone. The book is informative and shares links to videos on the internet for further research or explanation. There is also a friendly helper throughout the pages. Maria introduces us to  Rūaumoko the Maori god of earthquakes and volcanoes who helps explain things as readers move from page to page. A lovely addition to this quality book.

Primary schools through to secondary schools will certainly benefit from having this book in their school libraries.

 

 

The old man

By Sarah V

Illustrated by Claude K. Dubois

Translated by Daniel Hahn

ISBN 9781776571918

Gecko Press

Published April 2018

 

It doesn’t matter how hard we try to pretend, we can not ignore the fact that homelessness is real. It happens and it is everywhere. It is confronting but unless we face the issues, we cannot change them. In this simple picture book we meet a little girl who doesn’t walk past an old homeless man living on the streets. She doesn’t ignore him and most importantly, she doesn’t judge him. While adults walk past and pretend to not see him, the little girl stops and talks to the old man. She sees him, cold and lonely leaning against a wall and wrapped in an old blanket. In her innocence, her acknowledgement of the old man as a person, means more than anything. It means hope and hope is everything.

The watercolour illustrations are beautiful. There is a haunting quality to them but at the same time there is a softness, an innocence about them. As we move through the pages yellow tones soon break through the darkness bringing light, warmth and hope. The day-to-day trials of being homeless, of being moved along, of being ignored are so hard that the old man even forgets his own name. It is the honesty of a young girl that gives him hope and helps him find a voice. This is truly a beautiful book and an important one to share.

There is a sneak preview of more images from this picture book here.

There are also teaching notes to make the most of this book and help children understand the plight of the homeless. If we cannot ignore it then we need to learn more about it and help make a difference, just like the young girl in this book did.

What a fantastic series of books. First Words in other languages presents a snippet of some of the most common everyday words. Perfect for young ones and not so young. I love the simple but clear illustrations of items. I really love how each word has its country of origin word, the English words and in brackets, a very clear pronunciation guide. I have shared these books with teachers and other librarians and they are proving a hit. They are already in our school library. As many of our students are learning Mandarin, the Mandarin one will be in high demand. 

They are also interactive and if you download a free QR code scanner on your phone or iPad you can scan the code on the back of the book and be zipped off to Lonely Planet website for a free audio pronunciation guide for every word. Very cool indeed.

First Words Italian            

ISBN 9781787012677

First Words Mandarin

ISBN 9781787012714

 

 

First Words Japanese

ISBN 9781787012691

 

 

 

The holidays

By Blexbolex

ISBN 9781776571932

Gecko Press


The summer holidays were almost done. I had the whole garden, the fields, the lake and the sun all to myself! Until Grandad came home with that elephant.

 

A young girl is happily enjoying her holidays with grandad but it is a short-lived feeling because grandad brings home an elephant and she is not pleased at all.  At one point she very unkindly takes out her frustration on the elephant, even being mean to him. 

The illustrations are quite unique in this wordless book. They have a lovely vintage feel about them. I love the little illustrated vignettes in the corners of many pages where we see moments in time. There is no white space on the pages, every part is coloured and full to the brim with what is happening. The pages are thicker than most and have a linen type look and feel about them. A unique book indeed.

The magic of wordless books is that readers can put themselves into the stories and interpret them anyway they want. The story then belongs to the readers. The sequence of events are well-played out and the wonderful illustrations take us on a journey with a young girl as she slowly learns some of the simple lessons in life. This is one of those books to read over and over and still see something different everytime.

It is well worth checking out the question and answer interview with Blexbolex here. Not only will you find out more about the artist but you will  see more images from the book which will show you just why this is so special.

 

Grandma forgets

By Paul Russell

Illustrated by Nicky Johnston

ISBN 9781925335477

EK Books

 

This picture book is the gentle story of a young girl dealing with her grandmother’s dementia and trying to come to terms with the fact that grandma forgets so much these days. Grandma even forgets her granddaughter’s name. Memories are one of the most beautiful and cherished things we have as humans. Memories make us and keep us alive. The tragedy of dementia is the loss of those memories people once held dear.

Father is struggling with the fact that his mother is not the mother she used to be. She is forgetful but still active, still very much part of the family. The granddaughter is determined to help her grandma remember things. The sweet and warm coloured illustrations take us through many cherished memories. Lost jackets, games, climbing trees, and the smell of Grandma’s baking. The most cherished memory is the regular reminder that no matter what, Grandma is loved. A lovely and special book to share, especially for those dealing with dementia. The book trailer is gorgeous and supports the book by adding a little extra touch by bringing the family closer to the reader.

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.

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.

 

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.

That time of year again when the big stores share their messages for Christmas. Sometimes it is just nice to be reminded that the true meaning of Christmas is about love, family, friendship and caring.

 

Paddington Bear is a winner every time. M & S and their warm and funny Christmas advert.

 

I am so thrilled I had the opportunity to interview both Jenny Bornholdt and Sarah Wilkins for their new children’s picture book The longest breakfast (previously reviewed here). I want to thank them both so much for taking the time to talk and sharing their ideas. Writing a story and having it illustrated demands so much in terms of collaboration and sometimes it doesn’t quiet work out but I am very pleased to say that in this case, the collaboration is perfect.

I will start with Jenny.

As a poet, language and words are so important especially with the less is more kind of theory. The longest breakfast follows this well. Did you start off with a busy but brief plot in your mind or did it work out this way because of your love for poetry?

          When I began thinking about the book I didn’t really have a plot, more a collection of things that I felt went together somehow. There was the fact of our youngest son’s early speech, which was very difficult to understand – we did, but no one else could figure it out – a friend who liked pudding for breakfast, and a dog and child having the same name.

         When I began writing the story, it turned into a kind of slapstick with characters making unexpected entrances, people mis-hearing each other, and the father, Malcolm, trying to keep calm and hold things together. In this kind of story you don’t need a lot of words – their role is to cue the action, which is mostly told through the illustrations. The way the book is written is really driven by the kind of story it is. This hasn’t really answered your question about poetry, sorry. Where the two kinds of writing meet, for me, is in an attention to language and rhythm.

As a writer, how hard is it to hand over your story to an illustrator and their personal interpretation of your story?

         Sarah and I have worked closely together on the two books we’ve done together, so I’ve never had the sense of handing my story over to anyone. It’s very much a collaborative process. I feel that my writing is only half of the story and know that Sarah will make the other half. In The Longest Breakfast we talked a lot about what Malcolm might look like and what kind of kitchen the story would happen in. We also discussed how the story ‘felt’ and what that might look like in terms of illustrations.

There is a certain amount of chaos with the family in this story. How does a morning play out for you?

         Now that our children have grown up my mornings are nothing like in the book!

Did you enjoy writing as a child and what advice would you give to young writers?

        Yes, I’ve always loved writing. When I was younger I wrote stories. I didn’t start writing poems until I’d left school. The best advice I can give to people who want to write is to read. You can learn a huge amount from soaking up how other writers do things.

Lastly if you could meet any character from any book, who would it be and why?

        Little My from the Moomintroll books, because she’s so feisty.

 

And now let’s hear from Sarah.

As an illustrator, do you feel any pressure when trying to interpret the writer’s ideas and bring the story to life or do you completely take your own ideas and work around them?

       I’ve never felt any pressure collaborating with writers. It’s more that I feel a responsibility to interpret  a writer’s ideas and enrich the world in which they exist, whether it’s for an article in a magazine or a picture book. Almost all the picture books I’ve done have been with authors I know so there has been a lot of trust and dialogue along the way, and I suppose a certain amount of flexibility on both sides. I feed my own ideas into the work but the author’s words act as the inspiration and framework for my visual storytelling.

I love how the more impatient the baby is to be heard, the more space the baby has until finally the baby takes up the whole page. Is this something you plan all along in your drawings or does it just sort or happen as you go along?

     It’s a bit of both. I try to create a visual rhythm that is in time with the rhythm of the text. I begin with initial simple pencil sketches and paste them along with the text into a mock-up book. This gives me an overall view of the flow and shows me how the individual images are working with the paginated story. I think the baby’s frustration at not being understood is the natural climax of the story so it needed to be treated differently to the surrounding images.

What is your favourite medium to use in your illustrations?

     It changes all the time. I’ve gone through phases of only using gouache, then I switch exclusively to acrylic, and currently I’ve added ink to my repertoire. For the Longest Breakfast I mainly used ink and watercolour and then added more solid areas of colour with gouache which is great for line work and adding fine opaque details. I love the spontaneity ink brings to an illustration. I scan all the completed illustrations into PhotoShop in order to clean up any mistakes and adjust colour and sometimes move anything that’s not quite in the right place.

Did you enjoy drawing and art as a child and what advice would you give to young artists?

     Yes, I did enjoy drawing, but no more than the next child. I actually enjoyed reading and writing more. I even remember feeling a little unsure of my drawing skills, especially compared to my big sister who was the queen of colouring books. So neat and always within the lines!

My advice to young artists is to persevere. Just keep doing it and you will get better. For most of us it takes years to find a genuine voice in this industry, and having the patience to keep going is essential.

 

Lastly if you could meet any character from any book, who would it be and why?

I’d like to meet Pippi Longstocking because she’s so unconventional and strong.

This is another wee gem that Jenny and Sarah have worked on together.

Aotearoa The New Zealand Story

By Gavin Bishop

ISBN 9780143770350

Penguin Books NZ

 

It is hard to know where to start with Gavin Bishop’s latest book. There is just so much on offer, so much to be explored. So I will begin with the cover. It is a larger than normal portrait size hardback that stands out, grabs your eye immediately and begs to be picked up.

 

I can’t resist spreading this book out to share the whole stunning cover. It is a masterpiece on its own. Gavin’s work is very distinctive, you would recognise his style anywhere and while this is still true here, what I love is the introduction of so many wonderful blues.

Aotearoa is a stunning pictorial reference book from cover to cover. The end pages, and the title too are stories in their own right. I love how the title of the book Aotearoa is in its own white cloud suggesting that absolutely everything has been well thought out in the writing and production of this book.

Starting with the big bang and looking forward with hope for the future, this book and its stories can go on and on. It is  a great reference for adults as much as children and essential to every school in New Zealand. Information is bite-sized, and enough to whet the appetite of students of all ages to perhaps do further research. It is a book to dip into over and over and it isn’t even necessary to read it in order.

The book has all the key points in a quality non-fiction book including a contents page and a page dedicated to Maori/English translations which is always helpful.

I must say that on page 34 under Education, I felt a great sense of pride and a big smile crossed my face as I read about the Fendalton School being the first open-air classroom in New Zealand way back in 1924. I have a very personal interest in this school and its history, so this certainly made my day.

While I bought this book for our school library, it may just be that I have to go and buy my own copy as I am not sure I want to hand it over. It is wonderful, stunning, informative, and essential. A beautiful coffee table book in any home. Gavin Bishop at his best and I have no qualms predicting this, that Aotearoa will be an award winning book in next year’s book awards. It really is a treasure.

I am lucky to be going to the book launch this week so hopefully I will be able to get this copy signed.

Toto : The dog-gone amazing story of The Wizard of Oz

By Michael Morpurgo

ISBN 9780008134600

HarperCollins Children’s Books

 

I am loving this book.  A refreshing look at the beloved story of The Wizard from Oz told from the point of view of Toto the dog. He sees things Dorothy doesn’t see and adds so much to the adventure. Toto is an adorable, funny and lovable character. He chases hats in the wind just as dogs might do. He is Dorothy’s best friend and as she says, he doesn’t bite. That makes for a great dog.

The delightful brightly coloured illustrations by Emma Chichester Clark become so much a part of the story too. This is a winner for everyone. Younger children will love it being read aloud and independent readers will not want to put it downI don’t want to put it down but I do need to go to work.

I also love how the author, as with his trademark ability, takes us back into the past and we are suddenly right there in the story. We are right there with Dorothy and Toto as they head down the yellow brick road.

An absolute winner and I can’t wait for lunch time to read some more.