Blog Archives

Creating taonga, Trevor Agnew

Maui and other Māori Legends: 8 Classic Tales of Aotearoa Peter Gossage Puffin $40.00, ISBN 9780143309291 What a delight! Maui and other Māori Legends contains eight complete picture books in one handsome hardback, complete with embossed cover, glossary and bookmark

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Posted in Children, Literature, Māori

Drawing pictures in the mind, Barbara Else

Coming Home to Roost Mary-Anne Scott Longacre Press, $20.00, ISBN 9781775538592  The Road to Ratenburg Joy Cowley Gecko Press, $20.00, ISBN 9781776570751 Twice now I’ve been a marker at a regional Lit Quiz where teams of top intermediate age readers

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Posted in Children, Literature, Review

Forward to the 1950s, Trevor Agnew

The Adventures of Hutu and Kawa Avis Acres (text and illus) Puffin, $25.00, ISBN 9780143507055 First to the Top: Sir Edmund Hillary’s Everest Adventure David Hill (Phoebe Morris illus) Puffin, $25.00, ISBN 9780143506874 Changing Times: The Story of a New

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Posted in Children, Literature, Review

Foreign countries, Kathryn Walls

The Bakehouse Joy Cowley Gecko Press, $20.00, ISBN 978177650072 The Knot Impossible: A Tale of Fontania Barbara Else Gecko Press, $25.00, ISBN 978177650041 The Girl Who Rode the Wind Stacy Gregg HarperCollins, $25.00, ISBN 9780008124304   Joy Cowley’s The Bakehouse

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Posted in Children, Fiction, Literature, Review

History, myth and jollity, Linda Burgess

Roly the Anzac Donkey
Glyn Harper (Jenny Cooper illus)
Puffin, $20.00,
ISBN 9780143506638

The Song of Kauri
Melinda Szymanik (Dominique Ford illus)
Scholastic, $27.00,
ISBN 9781775432289

I Am Not a Worm
Scott Tulloch
Scholastic, $19.00,
ISBN 9781775432517

Zoo Train
Sally Sutton (Daron Parton illus)
Walker Books, $28.00,
ISBN 9781922179876

There’s an immutable force that stands between a child and a book: the adult who buys it. There’s already been the adult who wrote it, published it, reviewed it, stocked it, displayed it – all that has to have taken place before the child can say that magical – sometimes chilling – word: “Again.”

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Posted in Children, Literature, Review

History lessons, James Norcliffe

Monkey Boy   
Donovan Bixley
Scholastic, $16.50,
ISBN 9781775431862

Trouble in Time    
Adele Broadbent
Scholastic, $19.00,
ISBN 9781775432265

Monkey Boy opens with a prologue designed, no doubt, to catch its intended audience of younger, and not so young, boys. It’s 1804 and our hero, Jimmy Grimholt, needed “to do more than pee. He was full to busting, so that he was afraid he would muck himself if he didn’t go soon”.

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Posted in Children, Fiction, Literature, Review

Hurtling along, armed with a map, Eirlys Hunter

Soup and Bread
Nōnen Títi
Nōnen Títi, $25.00,
ISBN 9780994107732

The Pirates and the Nightmaker
James Norcliffe
Longacre, $20.00,
ISBN 9781775537694

The Volume of Possible Endings: A Tale of Fontania
Barbara Else
Gecko Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781927271377

Two of these titles are fantasies with large dollops of magic, yet I happily suspended disbelief and became immersed in their worlds. The third is supposedly set in the here and now, but instead of getting lost in it I kept noticing inconsistencies – it just wasn’t credible. Believability is crucial to fiction, and it can’t be achieved unless a novel’s characters are operating in a particular and sustained world. It doesn’t matter how unfamiliar the setting is – 12th-century Laotian temple, Antarctic scientist’s lab, a dragon’s lair – there has to be enough plausible detail to allow the reader to feel secure that the writer knows what they’re talking about. The writer may well have only visited the location in their imagination, but that’s all that should be necessary to bring the place to life. The wardrobe, those furs, that lamppost – of course we’ll believe in Narnia. The more specific a place, the more real it will seem, and the more believable the story.

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Posted in Children, Fiction, Literature, Review

Reading, writing and arithmetic, Barbara Else

Speed of Light
Joy Cowley
Gecko Press, $20.00,
ISBN 9781877579936

Teddy One-Eye: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear
Gavin Bishop
Random House, $35.00,
ISBN 9781775537274

The ACB with Honora Lee
Kate De Goldi (drawings by Gregory O’Brien)
Longacre, $25.00,
ISBN 9781869799915

Three stars of New Zealand literature, three award-winning books, three very different approaches and audiences: how is any reviewer to manage this daunting assignment?

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Posted in Children, Fiction, Literature, Review

Explaining WWI, Steven Loveridge

The Bantam and the Soldier
Jennifer Beck (Robyn Belton illus)
Scholastic, $19.50,
ISBN 9781775432074

The Anzac Puppy
Peter Millett (Trish Bowles illus)
Scholastic, $19.50,
ISBN 9781775430971

Best Mates: Three Lads Who Went to War Together
Philippa Werry (Bob Kerr illus)
New Holland, $20.00,
ISBN 9781869664114

Jim’s Letters
Glyn Harper (Jenny Cooper illus)
Picture Puffin, $25.00,
ISBN 9780143505907

Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story
Philippa Werry (Bob Kerr illus)
New Holland, $25.00,
ISBN 9781869663803

The contemporary challenge of making sense of WWI is made considerably trickier in regard to young readers with the, (understandable) limits on how the realities of war might be conveyed to the 5-12 age group. Rising to this challenge, and joining the surge of publications accompanying the war’s centenary, the five works reviewed here present aspects of New Zealand’s war experience to young readers. Striking illustrations, some sketched from familiar photographs, aid in this task, conveying scene and tone. Indeed, the attention to expressions and pose (which range from scenes of mirth to downward gazes and thousand-yard stares) are well used to convey mood. They are also imbued with an impressive attention to detail; though I’ll have to ask Bob Kerr how available The Māoriland Worker, which the Best Mates are shown reading, was at Gallipoli.

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Posted in Children, Literature, Review, War

Rhyming pleasures, Linda Burgess

Over the Hill to Greytown
Tania Atkinson (Viv Walker illus)
Wai Art Press, $20.00,
ISBN 9780473252526

Bruiser and the Big Snow
Gavin Bishop
Random House, $21.00,
ISBN 9781775534860

Toucan Can
Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis
Gecko Press, $20.00,
ISBN 9781877467547

The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play, so Sophie, who was having tea with her mummy in the kitchen, spied Tom Thumb, who was in the cupboard. Can’t go under it, can’t go over it, and Alfie got in first and the door shut behind him. I’ll eat you up, I love you so. Your father was put in a pie by Mrs McGregor. And into the water they fell. Frances will only eat bread and jam. Captain Najork came with his hired sportsmen. The cat from Brazil caught a very bad chill. “EEEEEOWWWFFTZ” said Scarface Claw. The little yellow digger will sort it.

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