Archive for the ‘Everyone’ Category

A Portrait of Leonardo

By Donovan Bixley

ISBN 9781990003479

Upstart Press

If one was to sum up this book about Leonardo da Vinci I would say that it is impressive.

I’m inclined to think that Leonardo would love how many school and public libraries now incorporate Makerspace activities in their library sessions. All those STEM and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) activities happening in libraries would surely make his heart burst.

Donovan Bixley with his latest book in the biographical series shows us that he clearly knows his stuff. His deep research is evident with the details provided in this dip-in and dip-out illustrated book.

It is easy to read, informative but with lots of humour, particularly with Bixley’s trademark quirky illustrations. I love his bright, bold colours and his ability to show personalities, particularly through the eyes. You can just imagine how the people are feeling.

It is a great book for just picking up and flicking through the pages. No need to read in order although that is perfectly okay to read from cover to cover for the bigger picture.

Bixley follows da Vinci’s life and highlights different aspects or moments in time. He discusses da Vinci’s inventions and shows us just how ahead of his time he was. Things like parachutes, flying machines, even robots.

The last supper is one of da Vinci’s most famous paintings and through reading this book I discovered that the painting is lucky to still exist. At one time it was vandalised, and another time it survived being bombed.

I never realised how many quotes we use today came from da Vinci.

“The eyes are the window to the soul”. I never knew that was from him.

This one, however, is my favourite and such a great one for writers and illustrators.

Look into the stains of walls, or ashes of a fire, or clouds, or mud or like places, in which, if you consider them well you may find really marvellous ideas.

The addition of a map (I love maps in books), a front French flap with images of his famous paintings, and a timeline at the back, all make this a top book. Great for intermediate, and high schools and at 130 pages it is just right; not too long, and not too short. I’m certainly happy to add this to my home collection. A lovely coffee table book to pick and read.

Matariki around the world

By Rangi Matamua and Miriama Kamo

Illustrated by Isobel Joy Te Aho-White

ISBN 9781775437420

Scholastic NZ

If I had to choose just one book about Matariki, this would be my pick. It is suitable for primary school all the way through to secondary. It is both celebratory and informative.

As a school librarian, I am often asked to find information on how other countries celebrate Matariki. Information has always been very limited to just a few sentences here and there. This book answers those questions with many pages dedicated to not just Aotearoa, but so many other countries.

We can read and compare our celebrations and cultures with places like: Africa, Greece, Japan, Scandinavia, Australia and many more. The countries have different names and different stories for the star cluster. This beautiful book brings the stories together whether they are known as Matariki, Pleiades, Subaru or a number of other names. The stories are all about star clusters watching us, guiding us, and being part of the same world.

We learn about the origins with Ranginui and Papatūānuku. We learn about their children. We learn about the different stars and the lunar calendar. I love that the authors have also included consideration for climate change under the pages on Waipunarangi which means “water that pools in the sky”. A modern day message for stories that have been around as old as time.

The book is easy to read, it flows well and is informative without being too wordy, and the authors have clearly researched and thought about what they wanted to include. The glossary and index add value as well.

The illustrator, Isobel Joy Te Aho-White has created stunning illustrations with the perfect colour choices. Lots of blues, purples, greens and culturally, respectful illustrations.

With our first Matariki public holiday just around the corner, this is a much-needed, wonderful publication to share and celebrate with schools, friends and family.


Thanks to Scholastic, I am able to share these beautiful mythical illustrations.


Mana of the Pacific : Wisdom from across Oceania

Compiled by Apisalome Movono and Regina Scheyvens

ISBN 9781988550329

Potton & Burton

Mana of the Pacific is a special book, one that would sit gracefully on any coffee table.

It is full of proverbs sharing traditional values and practices. The voice of ancestors carries through the pages of shared beliefs and wisdom. Each is beautifully photographed with images of people, places and nature at its best. Pages are glossy and brightly coloured. Each double-page spread has its own proverb alongside a fitting photograph.

The proverbs are divided into themes such as kinship and culture, leadership, diligence and more.

Different cultures share their words of wisdom. Below are two of my favourites.

From Fiji

Solesolevaki sa itakele ni duavata.

Solidarity is the cornerstone of unity.


Unity is firmly established when people work together to achieve common goals.

From Papua New Guinea

A soa siahuapo norovoe la hoho ma’a.

You cannot drink the same water twice from a river because the current that has passed will never pass again.


Enjoy and utilise every moment of your life because opportunities might only present themselves one time.

This is a thoughtful collection to be read and shared by all ages. A most worthy book for school libraries, to share thoughts from different Oceanic cultures.

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.

Draw some awesome

By Donovan Bixley

ISBN 9781990003226

Upstart Press

For many years, Donovan Bixley has spent time visiting schools and bookshops, sharing his illustrative talents. I was fortunate enough to see him demonstrate some of his methods in a student workshop some years ago. The students loved following his directions and creating their own works of art. Not everyone can get to his workshops, so it is wonderful to see many of those ideas shared in his latest book.

In Draw some awesome, he shares ideas for drawing and tips on creating your own pictures. He offers warm-up exercises too. He has hints for drawing faces, or animals. He discusses roughs and shading and composition. All these ideas, and many others here, will help you in your drawing.

He writes about perspective and how it is a trick that artists use to create depth and space.

He tells us about his favourite artists and why they inspired him, and uses friendly, chatty language, rather than being all technical. Of course, like all his work, the pages are full of colour.

His style is distinctive and recognisable anywhere. His numerous picture books are bright, bold and full of humour.

Draw some awesome is a book to pick up again and again. Dip into it and try one method, or dip in again and follow another idea.

It is informative, funny, but mostly inspirational. I would love to see Donovan do a companion to this book, perhaps Write some awesome.

A great gift for children who love drawing.

This will be in bookshops in October.

Skinny Dip : Poetry

Edited by Susan Price and Kate De Goldi

ISBN 9780995140769

Annual Ink

Massey University Press

What better day to review a new anthology of poetry than New Zealand National Poetry Day.

This is a wonderfully well-thought out anthology of poems for young people, written by some of New Zealand’s favourite poets. Beautifully designed with French flaps, this is a collection of poems to treasure.

Poets included are Ben Brown, Ashleigh Young, Rata Gordon, Dinah Hawken, Oscar Upperton, James Brown, Victor Rodger, Tim Upperton, Lynley Edmeades, Freya Daly Sadgrove, Nina Mingya Powles, Renee Liang and Nick Ascroft, Sam Duckor-Jones, essa may ranapiri, Bill Manhire, Anahera Gildea, Amy McDaid, and Kōtuku Nuttall.

There is a list of the poets and short blurbs about them and their writing at the back of the book.

The poems are relatable for children, with familiar subjects up for poetical discussion.

Bill Manhire’s poem There’s always someone is so true. Children everywhere know the teacher with the biggest whistle, or the child who desperately needs to go to the toilet even though they’ve had plenty of time go before.

I particularly like Oscar Upperton’s poem Eulogy for the class frog.

Up until recently, I owned three whistling tree frogs, who lived in a tank in my kitchen for well over 12 years. So I love this poem. A simple, clear opinionated poem with a funny twist at the end that children will love.

This collection highlights the wonder of poetry in a accessible format for young readers. Ideal for home and school libraries.

I do hope this becomes an annual anthology.

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.


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.

Hare and Ruru

By Laura Shallcrass

ISBN 9780995118058

Beatnik Publishing

Hare and Ruru is a special picture book suitable for all ages. The words and pictures are gentle and thoughtful, beautifully encased in a hardcover, portrait-sized format.

Hare finds the world too noisy, thoughts and even silence is too loud. Hare goes searching everywhere for peace and calm but without any success, until eventually one night Ruru flies down and offers some suggestions.

Many children and adults too, suffer from anxiety, and noises in particular, can be overwhelming. Some children may recognise themselves in the pages of this book and relate to Hare’s anxiety. When children make connections to stories they learn empathy, but also, if their own personal story is similar, they find hope and that makes this book special.

There are helpful teaching notes at the back of the book so teachers, librarians and parents too, can make the most of this special book. A book to include in any mindfulness collection.

Hare and Ruru is a well-deserved finalist in the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults for 2021.

North and South

Written and illustrated by Sandra Morris

ISBN 9781925381801

Walker books

North and South is a book of contrasts. Month by month the Northern hemisphere is compared to the Southern hemisphere through the different seasons. When it is cold and wintery in the north, the south experiences sunshine and warmth. In gorgeous watercolour illustrations we witness how animals adapt to the different seasons, how they search for food or build new homes for shelter.

I find it so amazing that animals know when the seasons are changing and when to begin their migrations. Did you know that the Bar-tailed Godwit fly 12,000 thousand kilometres to their breeding grounds on the Alaskan tundra. They average 60 kilometres an hour. Monarch butterflies also travel thousands of kilometres in their search for warmer weather. This book is full of facts just like these, and I love that they include our very own brown kiwi.

The endpapers illustrate a map of the world with different animals depicted next to the relevant countries. It allows a quick overall glance of the world. This is a beautiful non-fiction book with plenty of international appeal across all ages.

Below each page of animal facts there is a conservation status. This lets us know which animals are threatened and how seriously endangered some animals are. It also means that if we do not look after our animals, if we do not do something to stop climate change, then many of these animals, will very likely become extinct.

North and South would make an excellent choice in classrooms and school libraries. There is a very good glossary, a contents page, and an index with additional links to helpful websites for further study. There is also a list of ways you can help wildlife and fight climate change.

Becoming Muhammad Ali

By James Patterson and Kwame Alexander

Illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile

ISBN 9780316498166

Houghton Mifflin

I’m writing this review on a warm autumn afternoon in Christchurch, New Zealand and enjoying memories of the time I met Muhammad Ali and our short but amazing conversation. It was many years ago and I was living in London, doing my big OE; working in hotels for cheap accommodation and experiencing life on the other side of the world.

I was cleaning hotel rooms and working in the Forum Hotel, one of the biggest hotels in London at the time. Ali was no longer boxing but he was still doing the rounds working for charities and trying to make the world a better place. I was lucky enough to clean his room and when I was in the hall he came out and told me he had had an accident. Before I could say much, he stuck his hand out and showed me his finger, cut off and sitting in the palm of his hand. I looked up at him (I’m barely 5 foot) and back at his hand and I screamed. Not the best response, I admit and it wasn’t really that loud but he gently placed his hand on my shoulder and told me it was a fake finger, which you really could tell straight away. We both laughed after that. I think, his fame, his height and the suggestion that he had cut off one of his famous boxing fingers was just a bit much for this young girl from down under. It was and always will be one of my most treasured experiences. Despite his size and fame, there was a gentleness to him that I found quite humbling. So to read this book has been a total delight.

Getting to know the young Cassius Clay before he became famous, before he changed his name is kind of magical. It’s like watching a movie and knowing the ending, but having no idea how it started because you had missed the beginning. Patterson and Alexander have created a beginning that is easy to read. It is a mix of poetry and prose. Kwame does verse novels with impact and perfection and the poems here are beautifully written. Patterson’s writing shows the love and respect of a best friend and we feel it. Ali tells his side of growing up, knowing he wanted to be a champion boxer and just how he set out to achieve that. One of his best friends Lucius, aka Lucky, tells his version of events. His obvious sense of pride in his friend as he watched it all play out is evident as he shares his insights to the young Cassis Clay.

I love the illustrations throughout the book; graphic novel type that suit the tone of the book. I think one of the strengths of this book is that you can feel the love Ali has for his family, particularly his younger brother Rudy, and his friends. His determination and confidence is inspiring. This is not just a book about boxing, or a biographical account of his life; it’s about friendships, belief, faith and courage at a time when black people still had to sit at the back of the bus. I felt many emotions reading this book. Anger; for racism he had to endure in a time when segregation was everywhere. Hope; for his dreams to come through, and relief that he made it. Happiness; that I had the fortune to have been pranked by this amazing man.

I am so glad this book has been published and is out there for everyone to read, enjoy and get to know the young, Muhammad Ali. I don’t want to return the book to the library but I will (reluctantly) as I want others to enjoy it too.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

By Lewis Carroll

Illustrated by Chris Riddell

ISBN 9781529002461

Macmillan Children’s Books

First published in the 1860’s this timeless classic is still going strong. This new illustrated edition from Chris Riddell is a stunner and for me, this surpasses all other editions. I have long admired Riddell’s work, and this is no exception. I love it.

Gone are Alice’s long blonde locks of previous illustrators, now replaced with short, dark hair bringing a freshness and a new personality. The mad-hatter too, is different. The story however, is the same tale of a young girl who follows a rabbit down a rabbit hole into an amazing new world. It’s a world where everything is different, strange and quite bizarre. Talking animals, parties and misadventure where Alice gets into trouble.

This edition is just beautiful. I excitedly picked a copy up at my local library from the “new books” stand but I will have to get my own copy to keep. It’s not exactly a cheap purchase but it will be one well worth buying in this new hardback, illustrated collectors edition. It is one to treasure. I really don’t want to return my library book!

In this youtube clip, Chris Riddell reads the first chapter. As you listen, you can take a look at the illustrations, both colour, and black and white. The end papers show different characters and if you take the cover off the book you reveal another beautiful cover.

Moon and Sun by Melinda Szymanik

Illustrated by Malene Laugesen

ISBN 9781988516806

Upstart Press

Moon knows she can never be as bright and warm and beloved as her sister, Sun.

She hides away, shy and sad, only coming out at night. But maybe Moon is more important than she realises…

Moon and Sun is a special picture book. It deals with one of the most common issues children have, that being, insecurity and lack of confidence, lack of self belief and often feeling less important that their older siblings.

Moon is insecure and she thinks her sister, Sun is more beautiful, more popular and generally, better than herself. It really is a common tale, but here Melinda Szymanik shows us that we are all special. We all have much to give and sometimes, doing things together is even better than being on our own.

It is beautifully illustrated with full pages of gorgeous colours. The pictures have a myth-like quality to them which adds an extra dimension to the story.

This is a beautiful book to share with young children. It’s also a good one for teachers in pre-schools and primary schools to use to encourage gentle discussions about how we are all unique. Our differences are our strengths and understanding that, can help children learn to believe in themselves.

Just lovely.

New Zealand disasters: Our response, resilience and recovery

By Maria Gill

Illustrated by Marco Ivancic

ISBN 9781775436218

Scholastic NZ

Yet again, author Maria Gill and illustrator Marco Ivancic have proven themselves a winning combination with their latest collaboration. New Zealand disasters is a book that should be in every school library. It is timely, informative, well-researched and a great book to dip into again and again. It is one that is not just for study and hot topic projects, but is a book that will be interesting to everyone living in New Zealand.

I recall far too many of these disasters but also far too many that I have actually experienced to some degree or another, in my home town of Christchurch. I remember waking up to the eerie quiet and icy cold, snow-laden streets in the big snow of 1992. I recall vividly the Canterbury and Christchurch earthquakes and the ongoing aftershocks. The Port Hills fire was very close to home and the mosque shootings is still very raw in my memory. And of course, the Covid-19 pandemic is still very much active around the world. This book provides enough information on these and numerous other disasters that readers will come to know of some of our worst moments in history. It provides an understanding of the disasters and like any information, it helps us cope and know that after any disaster, things will get better. Knowledge is power and this book provides us with hope and strategies for any future disaster.

Most of us will remember where we were when different disasters happened, so often the mention of a particular disaster will bring back memories and associations. For example, when the DC-10 plane crashed into Mt Erebus in Antartica I was living in Milford Sound and we found out about this awful crash listening on an old ham radio. Disasters bring people together and hold memories, good and bad.

New Zealand Disasters is well set out. It has a very cool colour-coded contents page, glossary, and index. Bright and bold headings and sub-headings make it easy to scan for information. It covers all sorts of disasters, like earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones, mining accidents, plane crashes, volcanoes, fires and many more. There are photos and survival tips as well as a list to help you put together your own emergency kit.

The illustrator provides realistic impressions of the moment of many of the disasters. You can see the fear in the faces of people escaping disasters. Having lived through a number of these, I can assure you that the fear is real. Hopefully readers of this book will have some of their own fear alleviated, after learning some of the survival strategies.

Another top book from an award winning combo. Surely another award will follow.

Check out this very cool trailer.