Posts Tagged ‘Picture books’

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!

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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.

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.

 

 

 

 

Flit the Fantail and the Mystery Eggs

By Kat Merewether

ISBN 9781775435112

I am delighted to say that Flit the fantail is back for a whole new adventure. He is just as charming and curious as he was in Flit the Fantail and the flying flop.

This time Flit finds eight rubbery eggs all on their own. He asks all the forest birds if the eggs belong to them but they all say no. Their eggs are different. Their eggs are not rubbery and white. Flit becomes more anxious as he searches for their owner. There is a happy ending and after the eggs hatch, the babies are reunited with their mother. Who is their mother? I’m not saying as that would ruin the surprise but it is definitely a mystery for younger readers to investigate.

This is a great picture book for schools and families learning about many of our native New Zealand birds. The illustrations are adorable, with wide-eyed birds and their very expressive faces. I love the colour spread where they are all suddenly frightened. It is a talented illustrator who can show fear in their characters eyes, even when the characters are just so cute. Love it.  Reassures us all that we are all different but we all belong together and that teamwork will help solve most problems. I hope Flit and his friends come back for more adventures. I’m very happy the friendly ladybird is also back with Flit. You can look out for it on almost every page. 

There is also a Te Reo version of this gorgeous picture book.

Polly does NOT want a cracker

By Stephanie Thatcher

ISBN 9781988516592

Upstart Press

 


Oh dear. Poor old Polly is a parrot living in a zoo but she is so sick of everyone asking her if she wants a cracker that instead of being nice and friendly, she is grumpy and shouty. Polly definitely does NOT want a cracker and lets everyone know it. In fact Polly can’t stand crackers. Polly continually squawks a rather loud NO whenever people ask her about crackers. Polly is so loud and grumpy that she gets sent to a pet store. Unfortunately, even in the pet store she is not safe from people asking “Polly want a cracker?”. One day a special customer comes in to the shop and what she does makes all the difference to Polly.

This is definitely a picture book to share and read out loud. Parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians, in fact anyone will earn bonus points for adding their own squawky voices when Polly says, “No! No! NO!”

Gorgeous illustrations. I love the expression in Polly’s eyes. You can certainly tell the difference between when she is happy and when she is grumpy. One to read again and again. 

Two new picture books from Scholastic aimed at younger readers. One young girl deals with fear of the unknown, and a young boy deals with an unwanted distraction but both have elements of humour which is always good. Both have lovely endings.

 

There’s a hedgehog in my pants

By Amy Harrop

Illustrated by Ross Kinnaird

ISBN 9781775435655

 

A little bit of lighthearted fun about an unwelcome hedgehog who takes up residence inside a young boy’s pants. The trouble is the boy is wearing his pants. The prickly creature will just not leave. No matter what the boy does, the hedgehog is firmly tucked up inside his pants. He tries dancing  and shaking his bottom, even tries yelling at the hedgehog hoping to scare it away but no luck. He is running out of options.

A funny, rhyming picture book with brightly coloured and comical illustrations which will delight those readers with a more wicked sense of humour.

 

Things in the sea are touching me!

By Linda Jane Keegan

Illustrated by Minky Stapleton

ISBN 9781775435709

 

“Look in the water, Ma!

Golly, oh, gee!

Some thing in the sea 

is touching me!”

A young girl goes to the beach with her two mothers hoping to have a wonderful day playing in the sand, swimming in the sea and just spending time together. However, it turns out that every time the young girl steps in the water, she feels things touching her. It’s great to see how once she discovers whatever is touching her is safe, her fears slip away. A good book to read to young children who might be afraid of the sea, or perhaps might just be a bit more anxious than other children. It’s good to see diversity in picture books too. There will surely be children who recognise themselves in this picture book. Her fears show up in the darker illustrations while the safety, joy and love of family show up in illustrations with more bold and bright colours.

Saying goodbye to Barkley

By Devon Sillett

Illustrated by Nicky Johnston

ISBN 9781925335965

EKbooks

 

As every parent knows, the loss of a pet can be traumatic for the whole family. Pets are very much part of family life and the death of such a beloved animal affects children in different ways. Saying goodbye to Barkley is a sweet and gentle picture book where Olivia deals with the loss of Barkley, her wonderful crime-fighter sidekick. Olivia and Barkley did everything together. Their friendship is real and her grief after his passing is also real. There is a happy ending which is great.

A good way to deal with death of a pet and open up discussions in a gentle way.

 

 

At the end of Holyrood Lane

By Dimity Powell

Illustrated by Nicky Johnston

ISBN 9781925335767

EKBooks

 

A thoughtful yet subtle picture book dealing with the issue of domestic violence and the affect it has on a young girl. Flick lives at the end of Holyrood Lane where the beech woods stand tall. Flick is a happy child, dancing with butterflies in spring time, basking in the summer sun and playing with the leaves in Autumn. However, winter storms are far from a happy place for Flick. The storms are a metaphor for when home is not a safe place, when the house is full of anger and fear. Domestic violence is hinted at but is not mentioned. The good days have lovely, sweet and warm coloured illustrations but the bad days have grey and black broody clouds and Flick’s happy face turns to one of sadness and fear.

When storms hit, Flick is overwhelmed by the suddeness of it all and not knowing how long it will last or what will happen during the storm. Her companion through all the good and bad days is her faithful and very cute, soft toy unicorn.

Flick is a courageous young girl because after a paritcularly dark  and stormy day, she finally asks for help. She wants the storms to stop; to go away for good. Finally the sun comes out again but this time we know the sun will continue to shine and there will be no more storms. The story is all too often a reality for many children so it is lovely to see it played out here in such a simple and heartfelt way.

This book, while touching on a difficult subject, does offer a happy and hopeful ending. 

For those wanting to investigate this book further, teacher notes can be found here.

 

 

 

My old man he played rugby

By Peter Millett

Illustrated by Jenny Cooper

CD sung by Jay Laga’aia

ISBN 9781775435280

Scholastic NZ

Author Peter Millett has brought us another fun and quirky picture book for young readers.  His focus this time is the very kiwi game of rugby. There are lots of dad’s racing around fields playing rugby. There is lots of crashing and banging, heaving and woo-hooing. There is tackling and kicking and even a scrum. Some dads are better at rugby than others. And if fun isn’t enough, you can count along and learn something about the game of rugby as well.

Based on the traditional tune of This old man, the book comes with a CD sung by Jay Laga’aia. It is one of those tunes that makes you want to sing out loud or even get up and dance.

The colourful, very funny illustrations by Jenny Cooper have a cheekiness to them which will have children and parents laughing out loud. With Father’s Day just around the corner, this very entertaining book would make an ideal present for dad’s and young ones to read together. 

Sports are fantastic fun

By Ole Konnecke

ISBN 9781776572014

Gecko Press

August 2018

The first thing you notice about this new picture book by Ole Konnecke is the bright red cover with its bold title and hippo racing across the front. It is a book which already appeals before you even look inside. Sports are fantastic fun is a tribute to the different sports we can do.

The second thing you can’t help but notice is that it is funny. It has quirky illustrations showcasing the fun of cricket, horse riding, wrestling and so much more. There is even a section on caber tossing. Each sport comes with captions which are informative but many also make you laugh out loud. The sports activities are carried out by all sorts of animals which adds another aspect to this picture book.

 

This is a wonderfully funny crossover book; both fiction and non fiction with lots to learn and lots to laugh at on each page. This is fun to read alone, but much more fun reading together with someone special.

Finding Granny

By Kate Simpson

Illustrated by Gwynneth Jones

ISBN 9781925335699

EKBooks

Edie loves her grandmother. They have so much fun together but then one day Granny has a stroke and suddenly everything changes. As with many stroke victims, Granny has many problems to overcome. Her words are mixed up and her face is now lopsided. Edie waits in the hospital corridors when she and her mum go to visit as she doesn’t want to see her Granny the way she looks now. Edie struggles to cope with how much Granny has changed. No longer the strong, independent, funny Granny but a frail dependent woman lying in a hospital bed.

This picture book takes a gentle look at strokes and how they affect the sufferer and those around them. Bold and bright illustrations help give the story a strong sense of hope, making it a good choice for adults to share with children who may have to confront the reality of someone in their lives who may have had a stroke. A challenging story but one that is both sweet and hopeful at the same time.

 

 

The Kiwi go marching one by one

By Peter Millet

Illustrated by Deborah Hinde

Sung by Jay Laga’Aia

ISBN 9781775435129

Scholastic NZ 

A popular trend in picture books is to add a bonus CD. They offer more than just a picture book to read. Pre-schools and primary schools love them. They are great for listening along in the classroom or in the car on the way to the grocery store. Children with English as a second language use them to read and listen to the rhythm of English language. They are certainly popular in my school library. Peter Millet’s latest book is no exception. 

Peter has taken the classic The ants go marching one by one and given it a whole new meaning. A very Kiwi meaning. He introduces different NZ wildlife and our love of the outdoors. He takes us up to  the snow to meet kea, out on choppy seas to catch kahawai.  He takes us on a real Kiwi adventure

A familiar tune, well supported by the wonderful illustrations by Deborah Hinde. Her illustrations are bright and colourful but have a softness to them which just makes the kiwis so cute and very appealing. Their eyes, in particular are so warm and friendly, appealing to the reader to join them on their journey. Check out their attempts at bungee jumping! Adventurous yet gentle but lots of fun. Love the little fantail flitting between the pages.

Great gift for Christmas or for end of year teacher present. It is also great to have the song in Te Reo as well with easy to follow lyrics.

 

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.

Putangitangi walks

By Stephanie Thatcher

ISBN 9781775434221

Scholastic NZ

 

Cheeky Putangitangi (little duck) is looking for her friend. What will she do when she finds him? A fun rhyming story about two playful little ducks.

Mischievous, funny and gorgeously illustrated picture book about a paradise shelduck  going out for a walk and the antics she gets up to on the way.  Lovely whimsical language, rhyme and rhythm but the heart of this story has to be the illustrations. The wonderful cheeky facial expressions clearly show the mischief and personalities of the ducks and other birds. A lovely touch which I adore is the little frog on every page and his comical smiles.

This is a sweet, funny picture book with lots of appeal which will become a firm favourite. This book is also very much a New Zealand landscape which will make it an ideal gift to send or take overseas for family and friends.

 

We’re off to find a Kiwi

By Juliette MacIver

Illustrated by Kate Wilkinson

ISBN 9781775433750

 

 

We're Off to Find a Kiwi hr

 

Children’s writer, Juliette MacIver is prolific and popular. Her trademark playful rhymes continue in her latest picture book about Louie and his big sister, on the hunt for the elusive kiwi. The children think of the different places a kiwi might hide. They search the town, a farm and even the mountains but just can’t seem to find any kiwis. But they do not give up.  I do like the last page with facts about kiwis which adds a little extra to the story.

Very much a New Zealand themed picture book which makes it ideal to send to family and friends overseas.

Soft illustrations with lots of natural colours, particularly with the bush scenes. Great for the 3 – 7 year olds.