Archive for the ‘Primary School’ Category

How Māui slowed the sun

Retold by Donovan Bixley

Illustrated by Donovan Bixley

Advised and translated by Dr Darren Joseph and Keri Opai

ISBN 9781988516202

Upstart Press

 

I had the great pleasure yesterday of meeting author and illustrator Donovan Bixley and yes he was wearing his famous top hat. He was taking a workshop for young students as part of the ReadNZ, (formerly the New Zealand Book Council ) Speed Date an Author program. He was great with the students and I loved how he shared his ideas about illustrating, with the main concern that children should not sit there, pen in hand, and wait for perfection. Children were encouraged to start with squiggles and see where it took them. Lots of discussion took place and everyone was engaged, so if you get the opportunity to have Donovan at your school, then go for it.

His latest book is eye-catching. There is no way you can miss the bright, vivid cover or Māui’s cheeky smile.

Donovan’s retelling adds a touch of humour to the traditional tale of Maui and how he slowed the sun. Māui is upset that he cannot do all he wants to do in a day because the sun rushes across the sky so fast there is not enough light left to accomplish everything. He comes up with a plan and organises everyone to work together to trap the sun Tama-nui-te-rā.

His characters, especially Māui, have personality which shines through. The first endpaper has a selection of small illustrations with both English and Te Reo words which will assist readers. On the last page Māui addresses the reader with a “Ka kite anō Catch you next time” which gives us hope that there will be another book in this Tales of Aotearoa series.

The first in the series is How Māui Fished up the North Island and is also a must-have for school libraries. Great resources for schools looking at Maori myths and legends.

Here he is hard at work.

 

And here is my own gorgeously signed copy. Thank you Donovan!

Rugby 1 2 3 : Whutupōro Tahi Rua Toru

By Tahlia Kehoe Rowden

Illustrated by Myles Lawford

ISBN 9781775436089

Scholastic NZ

 

The release of these two picture books is perfect timing for Te Wiki o te Reo Māori Week. Rugby 1 2 3 is a bilingual picture book about one of New Zealand’s favourite sports; rugby.  The story shares some of the regular happenings at a rugby game such as; forwards, backs, reserves, and officials, among others. There is a simple counting structure encouraging children to learn their Maori numbers. For someone beginning to learn a little bit of Te Reo this is a great incentive as the words will soon become familiar and easily recognisable. Great for preschoolers and children up to about age 7.

It is wonderful to see publishers producing more bilingual books, especially as there is a growing interest in learning Te Reo and learning about Maori culture.

 

 

My Kiwi Gumboots

By June Pitman-hayes

Illustrated by Minky Stapleton

Maori Lyrics by Ngaere Roberts

ISBN 9781775435808

Scholastic NZ

Another bilingual book for children with a very New Zealand setting. Gumboots, farms, cheddar cheese, it’s all here.
Every child loves their gumboots, especially the young girl wearing her yellow boots and matching raincoat. She visits a farm where there are even more reasons to wear her big yellow gumboots. Lots of puddles to splash in and mud to splosh in, a delight that most children can relate to, even if they haven’t visited a farm. Bright, cherry illustrations offer lots of things to look out for adding extra value to the story.
There is also an accompanying CD to sing along. The end page has a glossary Te Papākupu to help with translation.

Scary Tales: Rhymes for Brave Children

By Judi Billcliff

Illustrated by Deborah Hinde

ISBN 9780473483043

PictureBook Publishing

Judi Billcliff has taken traditional rhymes and given them a makeover; a scary makeover.

The blurb on the back of this picture book asks if you are brave enough to look inside and meet the scary creatures and there are plenty of them. You just might need to be brave! There are witches, goblins, and ghosts too. Even Count Dracula makes an appearance in these reimagined  rhymes with a twist of scariness and lots of laughter.

 

 Scary Mary

Scary Mary quite contrary

How does your garden grow?

With wailing moans

And rattling bones

All hanging in a row.

You’ll have to to read the book to find out what else she has in her garden.

Deborah Hinde, as always, provides gorgeous illustrations; cheeky, funny, quirky, but also with a warmth which leaves us feeling safe after our journey into the spookiness of scary tales. This is a great book to use when thinking about Halloween, too.

Starbird

By Sharon King-Chai

ISBN 9781509899562

Twohoots Books

 

If I could use only one word to describe this beautiful picture book, then I would use exquisite.

It is a beautiful work of art with intricate illustrations, many which are painted with silver foil so that the birds wings are shiny like jewels. Written very much in the form of a fable, we learn of the most beautiful Starbird, the only one of its kind who is captured by a King and kept in a cage for his daughter. His daughter, however, realises that a cage is no place for such a beautiful creature and lets it fly free. The father is angered and searches everywhere until once more, the bird is caged.

The message becomes clear and reminds us that captivity is not okay and the consequences are shameful. This is a sophisticated picture book about freedom and love and can be read on several levels.  This is one to keep and treasure or equally, a beautiful gift to give to someone special.

Starbird’s songs weave the richest dreams and delight all who hear him, but when the Moon King traps him in a cage as gift for his daughter, the colour and life in his voice begin to drip away. 

I adore it. Highly recommend it for all school libraries and lots of homes too.

Bumblebees have smelly feet

By Rachel Weston

ISBN 9780473482961

Weston Books

What a perfect summery cover for a book about bees. The book is packed with information on everything you ever wanted to know about bees and more. I shared this with a group of children and this is what they had to say.

They loved the title and thought having a funny title was good. They enjoyed the photos next to the writing and the information about bees.  They all loved the funny drawings at the back of the book where the bees are wearing costumes. They thought the reading level was just right for them. In fact, they were all very taken with this non-fiction book and agreed we all need to encourage bees to visit our gardens. As one of them said “we have to look after our bees for everyone”.

This has all the qualities I look for in a non-fiction book. Quality photos, glossary, index, bold headings and sub-headings which is great for children who like to dip and dive into a non-fiction book. The buzz facts is a cool addition to this well-researched book.

Certainly a book to add to any school library and one for home too.

The Runaways

By Ulf Stark

Illustrated by Kitty Crowther

Translated by Julia Marshall

ISBN 9781776572342

One of the things that continues to amaze me is the ability of good writers to make you like even the bad characters in stories. It is only when we dig into the depths of these characters, that we realise just how vulnerable they often are.  The pain they feel, for whatever reason, is behind their awfulness. In The Runaways, Grandpa is a bit of pain, grumpy and he swears a lot too.  We eventually find out the reason he is so grumpy, and I can tell you, it melted my heart, just a little. Grandpa’s health is deteriorating but there is one thing he wants to do before the end.

Gottfried Junior adores his Grandpa and just wants to spend time with him in the hospital. Even though he is not allowed to see him very often, Gottfried, finds a way. Together, they hatch a plan to runaway overnight. It involves a few lies, lots of plans and even an accomplice. This is a wonderful, heart-warming story about two people who love each other very much and the reality that life will soon be very different for them both.

The Runaways is a beautifully written, warm, tender and honest story which many of us find familiar. Growing old, or losing grandparents is a harsh reality but Ulf Stark has done a lovely job. This is a very moving account and I should warn you, tissues may be needed.

 

Zanzibar

By Catharina Valckx

ISBN 9781776572564

Zanzibar is a crow who is content with life until a travelling lizard reporter knocks on his door and asks if there is anything exceptional about him to write in his newspaper. Zanzibar considers his options but realises he is just an ordinary crow with nothing special to offer the reporter. Zanzibar decides to do something to change that, something which will make him stand out and be noticed. That something special involves a long flight, lots of planning and a camel.

Zanzibar is a funny, illustrated first chapter book. The characters care about each other and support Zanzibar on his quest to lift a camel with just one wing. Does he do it? Not telling. However, there are always lessons to learn a long the way about the value of friendship and believing in yourself. Sweet, funny, and just a lovely feel-good story for newly independent readers.

Tough guys (have feelings too)

By Keith Negley

ISBN 9781912497157

Flying Eye Books

 

Everyone has feelings. Everyone feels a little sad at times, even superheroes.  This is a simple but very effective picture book about knowing that it is okay sometimes to have sad days. It is okay to show feelings and more importantly, share those feelings with someone special. This is super cool with lots of mustardy, red and blue coloured illustrations where falling tears are evident.

Dads have feelings too and how many children think of their dads as some kind of superhero who they consider a tough guy. Here, we have a dad and a son, sharing their love and support for each other knowing that neither of them have to be tough all the time, or even pretend to be tough. Feelings are natural and I believe this book is an important one to share the message that it is perfectly fine to cry, feel sad and know who to turn to when in need. Great for pre-school and early primary schools.

 

Winner of the Joy Cowley Award

The little ghost who lost her boo!

By Elaine Bickell

Illustrated by Raymond McGrath

ISBN 9781775435754

“I’ve lost my Boo! I’ve lost my Boo!

Where has it gone? What will I do?”

What do you do when you are a little ghost and somehow you’ve lost your boo? You go searching of course, and that is exactly what little ghost does. She searches everywhere and asks all her friends if they have seen her boo. We meet lots of different animals and birds, but do they know where her boo is? It doesn’t seem like she is having much luck at first but wait for the ending which requires reader participation to complete the story.

The illustrations are quite adorable, especially poor little ghost’s looks of disappointment, worry, sadness and of course, happiness. I do love the rooster’s feathers all beautiful and detailed and taking up a whole page.

 

Picture book reprint

Grandmas McGarvey joins the scrum

By Jenny Hessell

Illustrated by Trevor Pye

ISBN 9781775436034

Grandmother McGarvey has been around for 30 years and this reprint brings her back for a whole new generation of readers. It’s not everyday you see a Grandma toughing it out on the rugby field, head down in the middle of a scrum with a rugby team, but that is exactly what Grandma McGarvey does. Totally by accident, of course. Why she is there will all be revealed when you find a copy of this latest edition. The story is funny and with a good kiwi feel to it.

Junior novel reprint

Lily has a secret 

(Book 2 in the Lily the Littlest Angel series)

By Elizabeth Pulford

ISBN 9781775435921

 

First chapter books carry a lot of responsibility. They need to have a good story to capture the imagination of newly independent or emerging readers. Short chapters, decent size font, illustrations to help break up the text, and words readers are familiar with as well as a few new words to challenge. The Littlest Angel series of books  provides all that and more.

Lily has a secret. A warm, fluffy, cute and injured kitten. How will she keep it a secret, especially when one of the rules, is no animals allowed? There is also the matter of a performance to put on, which is quite difficult when you are trying to hide a kitten.  Lily somehow always manages to break things, or get herself into some sort of trouble but she is sweet and likeable and really only wants to do the right thing. Good first chapter book and beyond.

 

Monkey on the run

By Leo Timmers

ISBN 9781776572519

Gecko Press

Wordless picture books, or silent books, as they are sometimes known, are often sadly undervalued yet they offer so much. Children get to retell what they see or invent their own stories. Perfect for oral language, sharing stories and using imagination.

Monkey on the Run allows us the chance to be creative and interact with his delightful picture book.

Papa monkey and little monkey are stuck in a traffic jam. Little monkey decides to jump on to a fire engine and hop from one vehicle to the next in order to move up the line and beat the traffic. Papa monkey isn’t far behind but there are a lot of vehicles in the traffic jam and lots of drivers. We meet donkeys, giraffes, moles, pigs and even sea creatures all driving different cars and trucks. The pictures are brightly coloured, with heaps of detail and things to discover. Young children could name the animals, count and name the different type of vehicles, explore the pictures and of course, tell you their own imagined story. Definitely a book for having fun together with someone close.

 

 

Otto goes North

By Ulrika Kestere

ISBN 9781776572427

Gecko Press

I love the opening sentence of this new picture book.

Far up in the north you’ll find a blueberry-blue house with a grass roof. 

Who can resist a blueberry-blue house, a grass roof, a sauna and a setting as beautiful as the mountains and the sea.

Otto the Lemur cycles for a very, very long time to visit his friends, far, far away so he can see the Northern Lights. He wants to paint a picture of the lights so he can remember their beauty but it is too cold for a lemur and he struggles to keep warm. His friends, Lisa the lynx and Nils, the young bear, come up with a plan, as good friends do. The conversations are delightfully comical and I found myself giggling away at times.

Gorgeous illustrations but in particular, check out the expressions on the animals faces. Love Otto’s red nose as he shivers in the cold. There is so much on offer here and teachers could  go beyond a simple reading and extend students learning. It’s about good friends, kindness, caring, creative thinking and problem solving, as well as a good read.

 

 

 

 

The Invincibles. Power Up

By Peter Millett

Illustrations by Myles Lawford

ISBN 9781775435990

Scholastic NZ

 

 

This is the first book in a new series by Peter Millett. The appeal is for those who enjoy a bit of humour, sports, teamwork, and superpowers, all amongst a bit of mystery.

We meet a group of friends on a rugby field when they are all zapped by lightning. This bizarre event has the strangest of consequences when they discover they all suddenly have superpowers. Each has their own power but there are time restrictions on their power and that puts pressure on them all to save the day. In this case, they need to save the All Greats rugby team before it is too late.

The book is easy to read with short chapters, decent size font, and illustrations. There are bonus collector cards at the back of the book which add to the overall appeal.

Check out the book trailer and see for yourself.

 

How to read a book

By Kwame Alexander

Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

ISBN 9780062307811

HarperCollins


While Kwame Alexander changes tact here from his wonderful young adult books to a new picture book, one thing doesn’t change, and that is the language. It is beautiful. Every word is carefully thought out and has purpose. If you click here you can listen for yourself and find out exactly what I mean by the poetical language. I do enjoy books about books and reading. This one is just gorgeous.

We are encouraged to open a book and see and feel its beauty, turn the pages and enjoy the experience of reading. The book is delightfully illustrated with bright fluorescent colours and collage effects. The bright pink end pages are bookshelves full to the brim with books just waiting to be read.

James Foley

James Foley is a very talented author and illustrator of children’s books and I have admired his books for a number of years now. His early chapter books are funny, easy to read, and the illustrations are quirky and comical.  His series S. Tinker is popular and great for children who like reading about inventions, brothers and sisters and most importantly, enjoy reading books that make them laugh.  Brobot is the first book where we are introduced to Sally and her brother Joe. It is there that Sally decides to build herself a new brother, a better brother.

If you check out James website in the link above you can find out a bit about him, but also read some chapter samples of these funny books.

James has kindly allowed himself to be interviewed by Sally Tinker herself. They talk about his writing. He shares lots of ideas which are helpful if you are a keen writer. Check out a couple of videos below and then see if you can find any of his books in your school or local library, or visit a bookshop nearby. Maybe after watching, you will be inspired by his suggestions to write your own stories. Enjoy these clips but there are more on Youtube as Sally Tinker has her own channel. How cool is that!

 

Antarctic Journeys

By Philippa Werry

ISBN 9781869664992

New Holland Publishers

When we consider non-fiction books for children, conversations often turn to the fact that everything we want them to know is online with just a quick click away. While that is definitely true, it may take many attempts and quite some time to find what they are looking for with many distractions along the way. As adults we know it is very easy to get lost on the internet and before you know it an hour has passed and you still haven’t really found what you are looking for. So with that in mind it is great to see some new non-fiction books for children, with all the information needed in one place, on two very different topics; Antarctica and Kereru.

Antarctic Journeys is a great example of what to look for in a non-fiction book. It has a multitude of colour photographs, an index, glossary, timeline, and contents page. The subheadings are bold and the photos are well-detailed. The information is well researched.

It is a book to read anyway you want. You can read it all the way through, or dip into chapters and read snippets that take your interest. I particularly liked the animal journeys, especially the cats. I also enjoyed reading about Frank Worsley and Ernest Shackleton. Their journey was an incredible tale of survival, although that can be said of all the early explorers to Antarctica. The book, as the title suggests, is about journeys of all kinds, both historic and contemporary. The writer herself made a journey to Antarctica after winning a place on the Antarctica New Zealand community engagement programme. This book captures much of her experience, and so much more.

This is an excellent choice for school libraries at all levels.

Coo-coo Kereru

By Terry Fitzgibbon

ISBN 9781869665173

New Holland Publishers

This is a combination creative non-fiction picture book. Beautifully illustrated with rhyming text on one side of each spread and information text on the opposite page. The Kereru is indeed, a beautiful bird and whenever I happen to see one, which is sadly, not very often,  I can’t help but stand quietly and watch them.

This book, aimed at younger children, explores the history of kereru, as far back as the myths and legends when a Kereru helped Maui fish the North Island out of the sea. The birds are also known as wood pigeons. I did find it sad that at one time Kereru had a life-span of 20-25 years but now because of introduced predators, loss of their forest homes and other things, their life expectancy is now only 5-6 years. The back of the book gives plenty of ideas of how you can help these beautiful birds.

Another good book to add to your library.

 

I spent a wonderful hour in the warmth of Turanga  Library today, with a group of excited  children (and many adults too) being entertained by the very funny and equally lovely, Swapna Haddow.

Swapna is the author of the Dave Pigeon books which I have thoroughly enjoyed. They are all about pigeons, in particular, Dave and his best mate ,Skipper. Her books are illustrated by the very talented Sheena Dempsey Skipper is the sensible one who tries to keep Dave out of trouble. It doesn’t always work out that way but that is perfect because that leads to mischief and often a bit of mayhem, which keep readers entertained.

Swapna told us how she spends her day writing, coming up with ideas and even that perhaps from time to time, like many writers, she might have to fib. All very funny and innocent and a great way to finish the first week of the school holidays. Listening to her reading out her book was delightful, especially the humour in the stories and the voices and accents she uses.

You can check out her books and more about Swapna and of course, Dave and Skipper on her website here.

Apologies for the grainy shots. I was at the back and my zoom isn’t too good on my phone. Hopefully I will get to have another chance to be entertained by Swapna again soon.