Archive for the ‘Everyone’ Category

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

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

A Wrinkle in Time

By Madeleine L’Engle

Loved this book as a child. SO excited it has been made in to a movie. Love the fact that parts of it were filmed right here in New Zealand.

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

 

Copyright for this trailer of course belongs to Disney. Can’t wait for this to come out next year but I do encourage you to read the book first – as always!

Waiting for Goliath

By Antje Damm

ISBN 9781776571420

There is so much to love with this picture book about waiting for a friend.

Bear sits waiting and waiting. Even when it snows, bear sits waiting on the bench for his friend Goliath. Other animal friends come and go and much discussion is had about whether Goliath will ever turn up. Bear is of course patient, optimistic and faithful to his friend Goliath. When Goliath eventually does turn up, young children will laugh out loud. I did.

The illustrations are superb. Created as dioramas and then photographed, the pictures have a depth of field that will fascinate young readers and put them right in the middle of the story. Just gorgeous.  Published this May so do watch out for it.

 

My dog Mouse

By Eva Lindstrom

ISBN 9781776571499

Published this June.

 

He’s old and fat with ears as thin as pancakes. His walk is a kind of waddle and he’s always pleased to see me.

This delightful book really is for everyone. We all know an old dog that goes so slowly. “Step, pause. Step, pause. Step, pause.”  The kind of old dog you want to just pick up and carry home. 

Well Mouse is one of those old dogs and even though the girl in the story doesn’t own Mouse she does love him to bits. Whenever she asks, she is always allowed to take him on walks. Very slow walks where other people always overtake them. And when she hands him back to his owner, she thinks “I wish Mouse was mine”. The story is funny and sweet but it is also real. And we know that come tomorrow she will be back to take Mouse for another long, slow walk.

The illustrations have a naive, child-like quality to them which is lovely and fresh. 

The legend of Rock Paper Scissors

By Drew Daywalt

Illustrated by Adam Rex

 

 

There are some authors that whenever they publish an new book, you just order and buy no matter what. Drew Daywalt is one such author. His previous books The day the crayons quit and The day the crayons came home are read over and over again. Teachers and children here absolutely adore these books. So I will tease them letting them know this new book is coming soon and they will be asking be everyday – is it here yet? This will be a picture book for everyone to share. Gorgeous bright illustrations from Adam Rex

This trailer is funny, bright and just  so gorgeous. Can’t wait.

My pictures after the storm

By Eric Veille

ISBN 9781776571048

Gecko Press

 

What a delightfully funny board book of words. Simple but comical pictures of before and after events. Board books are mostly aimed at babies and toddlers but this is one that even adults will love. 

On the left hand side of  each double page spread you have “my pictures” of an event where there are multiple little illustrations with a description underneath. On the right facing page you have pictures after the event with similar illustrations and descriptions. One example is “Before lunch” you have a loaf of bread and after you have a picture of crumbs.

I particular love the page where the pictures of food are labelled such as “dobado” and “lebod” but “after a cold” they are of course tomato and lemon. And the page after corrections is also very funny. Such a simple idea, yet very creative and clever. Children will love making the connections and spying the changes. Lots to do, lots of surprises and lots of fun. I just love it and the kind of dry sense of humour which makes us laugh even louder.

Helper and helper

By Joy Cowley

Illustrated by Gavin Bishop

ISBN 9781776571055

Gecko Press

 

helper-and-helper-cover-432x600-2

Traditional story telling at its best. Funny, in a dry matter-of-fact way with a few lessons thrown in for good measure.

Snake and Lizard are friends, best friends as Lizard reminds Snake. But sometimes even best friends get annoyed with each other and have disagreements. It is how they work around their disagreements which is so funny. Both want to be right and tend to be a bit cunning in order to prove they are right but the outcome is not always want each one wants. But as true best friends they are at the end of each day, forgiving and kind. Joy Cowley highlights the reality of true friendships, warts and all and we can’t help but love Snake and Lizard. Short fable like stories that can be shared and enjoyed by anyone.

My favourite story from this collection is Food and friends.  Watch out for the ending but just don’t turn your back on Snake.

I love the rich earthy colours of Gavin Bishop’s illustrations. His style is very distinctive and natural and helps bring these characters to life with ease. Writer and illustrator are perfectly matched for this third book in the series about Snake and Lizard.