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1. New Zealand Children's Choice Book Awards call for action!

Vote for your favourite New Zealand book . . .


Would you like to choose the winners in the 2015 New Zealand Children and Young Adults Book Awards?

Be part of the Children’s Choice voting and have your chance to vote for the New Zealand books you think are the best.

Children and teenagers across the country have been busy reading and reviewing their favourites amongst all the New Zealand books entered in the 2015 NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Their votes created a list of 20 books they think are the best.

So get voting: we want to know what New Zealand kids think. Choose your favourite in the Top 5 in each category that’s relevant to your age group. (We have adult judges separately deciding on the overall winners, but we also want to know what kids think are the best books.)

Everyone kid who votes (you’ll need to be 18 years old or under) will be in the draw to win some books for yourself and for your school. On the second page we will ask you questions to help us contact you via your school if you win. If you are unsure about anything ask mum or dad or your teacher to help you.

Voting closes at 12 noon on Friday, 31 July.

So vote now and tell your friends to vote too. Just click
here to vote!

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2. Another book in the delightful Violet Mackerel series

Violet Mackerel’s Formal Occasion by Anna Branford, illus. Sarah Davis, Walker Books Australia
This is another one to add to my collection of Violet Mackerel stories – which is being kept for a couple of years until my granddaughter is old enough to enjoy the books. They are delightful little stories that tick all the right boxes – short, easy to read, focusing on situations involving family and friends, illustrated with lively pen and ink pictures, and sporting bright, eye-catching covers. Because they’re hardback they look extra-special and would make excellent presents. This particular story looks at a topic close to the hearts of most little girls – getting dressed up and going out somewhere special. I think this is the eighth book in the series, and I heartily recommend them for newly-competent readers of about six to eight.
See more books in the series here. Craft ideas that complement the books here.

ISBN 978 1 925081 09 1
RRP $24.99 Hb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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3. Short Stories for the classroom

Flying Free by Adrienne M. Frater (Atawhai Press)

When the author asked if I would review this book I have to confess I wasn't enthused with the idea of a self-published book with only one author's short stories including pages saying why she wrote those stories.  I was very pleasantly surprised when the book arrived in the post, however. From the professionally designed cover with a child's drawing of a bird kite with blue-green water colour wash background, to the child-like fonts, good quality paper,  and children's drawings scattered throughout, it's a beautiful book.  The short stories are all entertaining and pitched exactly right for the intended audience. Most have been published before in anthologies and the School Journal, or read aloud on the Radio. And from a teacher's perspective I could see a lot of use for the introduction before each story where Adrienne explains where she got the idea for the story. Kids love to know a back story. See below for how I would use this section in the classroom.

Flying Free contains 25 short stories ranging from a technology cat, a drought, a dance rehearsal, a boy who hates the fuss at birthday parties, rescuing stranded whales, kite flying, and ghostly friends. They'll thoroughly enjoy reading this collection of stories. There's something for everyone ... funny stories, spooky stories, sporty stories, stories about friendship, and stories about succeeding in spite of problems etc. Recommended for home and school libraries!

Teachers could use this book when teaching how to write short stories. The students could be inspired to write a story with Adrienne's prompts. For example:

  • a child who doesn't like birthdays
  • a sailing trip
  • a cat who's fascinated with technology
  • helping rescued stranded whales float
  • having to move to another town
  • a vivid memory of an event
  • things that make one person happy but make another feel the opposite
If you read Adrienne's stories before the students write you'd have to stress that you don't want them to write that story - you want them to write their own unique story using things that have happened to them as prompts but also changing it as much as their imagination wants to. Students could also look closely at the techniques Adrienne has used in the story and use some of those in their stories.

ISBN: 9780473319144  
  • Published: April 2015
  • Pages: 216
  • RRP $24.50
  • Buy here.

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    4. Another David Elliot collectible for young and old

    Henry's Stars by David Elliot (Random House)

    Stories where animals walk around on two legs, wear an item of clothing, and talk like humans - can often be read on two levels. Young readers can engage with the farm animals they recognise. Parents can encourage children to understand the underlying messages in the story. Some of the most powerful stories have used this device; I'm thinking of 'Animal House' and some of David Elliot's other stories such as 'Henry's Map' and 'The Moon & Farmer McPhee' (the latter written by Margaret Mahy and illustrated by David Elliot). In 'Henry's Map' parents can help young readers understand that just because they cannot see something does not mean it has gone (object permanence) - a concept toddlers learn around 2-3 years old.  In 'The Moon & Farmer McPhee' the underlying message is about enjoying life; looking at the beauty in the world, and dancing with joy.

    In 'Henry's Stars' David Elliot encourages the young readers to understand differing perception. When Henry (the pig) looks up at the sky he sees stars aligned in the shape of a Great Pig in the sky. He runs over to the sheep at the woolshed and describes what he has seen. However, much to Henry's disappointment they see a Great Sheep in the sky. When they show the other animals they only see representations of themselves in the stars. By the time the hens thinks they've seen the Great Hens in the sky Henry is quite fed up. Who's right and who's misguided? Read it and find out.

    New Zealanders and Australians (in the southern hemisphere) see the stars upside down according to people in the northern hemisphere. This possibly inspired David Elliot's idea for the story.  With children's avid imagination they can probably see all sorts of things in the sky. Teachers in the Junior Primary could use this delightful book as an introduction to a science unit on Astronomy. Parents can encourage an interest in the stars and point out the constellations.

    David's illustrations of the animals are loaded with expression. Henry's disgruntled expressions are hilarious;  his shoulders droop and his hooves clench. The palette of mostly water colour blues and greens are offset with the pink pig and orange hens and occasional white space. The book begins with starry sky endpapers, and ends with constellations of all the animals in the sky.  A must-have book for school and home libraries.

    David Elliot has illustrated many international books, as well as writing and illustrating award-winning books of his own. 'Henry's Map' was named one of the US School Library Journal's Best Books of 2013.

    RRP $19.99
    ISBN: 978-1-77-553824-0

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    5. A book that campaigns for Peace

    PEACE WARRIORS by Raymond Huber (Makaro Press)

    We've had a lot of ANZAC books, WW1 stories and now we have a book about people who have resisted war, and thumbed their nose at their captors.  Author Raymond Huber has collected stories from around the world that show peaceful resistance can make change. First of all, Raymond defines what is a peace warrior. He says it "is a person who fights for peace and justice without using violence." He gives examples:

    • The small-town boy who stood up to Hitler.
    • A high school student who faced a racist mob.
    • Mothers who protest weekly against a brutal military dictatorship.
    • A whole town that used non-violence to save thousands.
    • The ship that sailed towards a nuclear test.
    Each story gives a background to why the peace warrior did what they did. Then we're given a creative non-fiction account of the incident where the peace warrior resisted what was going on. We find out what happened after their resistance, and can read a timeline of events. After each story, the reader can look up the recommended reading list that follows.

    In between stories Raymond raises questions such as:

    • Is war ever right?
    • Can war be prevented?
    • Would I fight to save my family?
    • Are we killer apes?
    • Can you be peaceful and angry?
    • Does people power always work?
    • Should peace protesters break the law.
    At the back of the book are more discussion questions, and a glossary.  The questions are thought provoking and Raymond extends the reader with thoughts of his own and others. He also gives websites and books they can follow up on if the reader wants to know more. There's a website readers can look at: www.peacewarriors.nz and the page on 'evidence' is worth looking at. It shows how peace can be considerably more effective than war. 

    This resource should be in all Intermediate and High Schools. Teachers could counter-balance talks about the wars with a unit on how we could prevent wars, and look at ways people have done that in the past. Raymond has provided some excellent questions and stories for a starting point for lessons.

    Raymond Huber is a writer, editor and teacher. His animal science-fiction novels 'Sting' and 'Wings' shortlisted for the NZ Post Book Awards. His picture book 'Flight of the Honey Bee' has sold internationally, and also shortlisted for NZ book awards.

    extract from peace warriors
    It is 1943 …
    It’s early morning, and Sophie and Hans have finished
    breakfast. On the floor are piles of White Rose leaflets,
    almost 2,000 Hans reckons. They sit down and load
    the forbidden leaflets into a large suitcase. Hans carries
    the suitcase as they walk to Munich University in the
    cool winter air. The plan is to leave the leaflets in the
    corridors while the students are still in the classrooms.
    Sophie and Hans know the building well, so it should
    be quick and easy.
    Recommended reading age: 10-14 years
    RRP $25,  140 pages
    50 % of royalties go to Oxfam
    ISBN: 9780994117229

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    6. Another gorgeous Violet Mackerel story from Anna Branford

    Violet Mackerel’s Formal Occasion by Anna Branford, illus. Sarah Davis, Walker Books Australia
    This is another one to add to my collection of Violet Mackerel stories – which is being kept for a couple of years until my granddaughter is old enough to enjoy the books. They are delightful little stories that tick all the right boxes – short, easy to read, focusing on situations involving family and friends, illustrated with lively pen and ink pictures, and sporting bright, eye-catching covers. Because they’re hardback they look extra-special and would make excellent presents. This particular story looks at a topic close to the hearts of most little girls – getting dressed up and going out somewhere special. I think this is the eighth book in the series, and I heartily recommend them for newly-competent readers of about six to eight.

    ISBN 978 1 925081 09 1 $24.99 Hb

    Reviewed by Lorraine Orman


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    7. A Crazy Fairy Tale, some Rhythm and Movement, a cute Penguin, and Messy Pasta - all from Scholastic

    A Crazy Fairy Tale…

    Little Red Riding Hood Not Quite by Yvonne Morrison, illus. Donovan Bixley, Scholastic NZ

    If you liked the previous Children’s Choice Award-winning story from this pair – The Three Bears Sort Of – you’ll like this one. 
    It’s the same format, with a long-suffering parent trying to read the fairy tale to a precocious child. The interruptions and discussions are very funny – and extremely logical, when you think about it. The old fairy tales certainly weren’t renowned for being logical…Donovan Bixley’s bright and cheeky illustrations are done in mixed media, hand drawn and digitally painted. They convey the two layers of the narration with gusto. Probably best for older children, maybe about 6 to 8, who know the original story and can enjoy the input from the child listener.

    ISBN 978 1 77543 263 0 $15.99 Pb

    Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

    Rustle Up a Rhythmby Rosalind Malam, illus. Sarah Nelisiwe Anderson, Scholastic New Zealand

    Packed with action and noise, this will be great fun to read aloud to either a group or an individual child. Written from the point of view of a small boy, the rhyming text zips us through the day with his family, using such verses as: “Bibble, bibble, bubble, hums my egg from the pot, and the bread in the toaster goes click – click – pop!” Onomatopoeia is featured all the way through the story, right up to bedtime. The illustrations are friendly, expansive and colourful, happily integrating the “noise” words into the flow of daily events. Pre-schoolers in particular will love identifying and saying the words, at the same time associating sounds with events or objects familiar to them. I imagine this book will be very useful for reading and language sessions in pre-school centres and early entrant classes.

    ISBN 978 1 77543 148 0 $19.00 Pb

    Little Hoiho by Stephanie Thatcher, Scholastic NZ

    Stephanie’s first picture book The Great Galloping Galoot was published by Scholastic NZ in 2012. It’s a jolly, bouncing story – fans will find this second book is quite different in tone but just as satisfying. On her first foray out of the nest, a little penguin finds that not all birds are the same. Kotuku struts on beautiful long legs, Toroa flies on big wings, Tui can sing. Little Hoihoi can’t do any of these things. Of course, as soon as she falls into the water she finds there is something she can do much better than the other birds… The pencil illustrations are a delight with their gentle watercolours, uncluttered scenes and good use of white space. Little Hoihoi’s expressive face takes centre-stage and delicately conveys her emotions. The book includes a small amount of information about yellow-eyed penguins, but its true value will be as a group read-aloud to children of around 3 to 7.

    ISBN 978 1 77543 249 4 RRP $19 Pb

    Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

    Piggy Pasta and More Food With Attitude by Rebecca Woolfall and Suzi Tait-Bradly with feature photography by Vicki Leopold, Scholastic New Zealand
    The picture on the cover is of some extremely pink (ie. beetroot-coloured) pasta which certainly draws the eye to the book… Once you get past the pasta pig face, you’ll find an alphabetically arranged collection of interesting recipes ranging from Dirt Pudding and Incy Wincy Chocolate Spiders to Rowdy Rice Saladand Witchy Poo Fingers. Each recipe is coded to indicate what types of meal it can be - there’s certainly a wide range of dishes covered. The authors are the founders of the Auckland-based LittleCooks cooking classes for kids (www.littlecooks.co.nz), so they know what’s likely to appeal to young appetites.

    I studied the recipes and reached a few conclusions. Firstly, kids will love eating most of them and will especially love making them with a (very) patient parent to assist. Secondly, the recipes will probably be more successful with older children than with littlies – some procedures are quite fiddly and time-consuming. Scholastic recommends the book for ages 8+. Thirdly, what you see in the busy, bright illustrations is not necessarily what you get. Toys, props and fancy backgrounds have been used in the photos to create a fabulous picture – so if you want to replicate the presentation of some of the dishes, you’ll have to do a shopping trip to the toy shop first…

    ISBN 978 1 77543 216 6 $19.00 Pb

    Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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    8. An exciting sequel to 'The Bridge'

    I've finally finished my ANZAC manuscript so I can give more attention to this blog. Lorraine Orman has been ploughing through the books but I haven't had a minute spare to put them up. I will rectify that from today onwards.

    Havoc by Jane Higgins, Text Publishing

    This is the sequel to The Bridge, which was published in 2011 after winning the 2010 Text Prize. Sequels can be difficult – how much should the author rely on readers’ abilities to recall a book read up to four years ago? My ageing brain (yes, I know I’m not the target audience) did have trouble remembering the characters in the first book. I could have done with more past events and character reminders woven into the beginning of this story. But teens who have good recall or have read The Bridgerecently will be keen to re-engage with Nik (the narrator) and his close friend Lanya as they contemplate their new lives in Southside. The action starts almost straight away as a ceasefire fails and Cityside missiles start demolishing the settlements of Southside.

    However, before all this, in the Prologue we meet a new character, Nomu, who’s suffering a terrible imprisonment in a Cityside fortress. Nomu returns later in the story, enabling Nik and Lanya and the Southside brigade to understand the biological weapons programme being planned by their enemies. At the same time Nik battles to discover secrets about his parents and his own background.

    It’s an exciting read - there’s plenty of action and suspense to continue the momentum of The Bridge. However I recommend that readers make sure they read The Bridge before Havoc – it won’t make much sense otherwise. Also available as an e-bookG
    Go to Jane Higgen's website for teaching notes.
    ISBN: 9781922148339
    RRP $19.00

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    9. Heart-warming ANZAC Picture Books

    ROLY the Anzac Donkey, by Glyn Harper illustrated by Jenny Cooper (Puffin)

    If you've read 'Simpson and his Donkey' you'll know about an Australian soldier's work rescuing the wounded with the aid of his donkey in Gallipoli.  It's a gorgeous tale and now considered a classic. There have been several versions - the latest being Mark Greenwood's book published by Walker Books in 2009. Over the years I had heard that New Zealand stretcher bearers used donkeys too.  Military Historian Glyn Harper has uncovered one of those stories and we now have a true New Zealand story about a soldier and his donkey.

    Glyn tells the story in Roly, the donkey's voice.  On the opening page we're introduced to Roly and he tells us he hasn't always worked on a farm (shown in the background illustrations), he once worked in Gallipoli helping rescue soldiers who had been hurt in battle.  Glyn most likely started the story this way to reassure young children - the donkey makes it.  This will help sensitive children not feel anxious for the donkey while they're listening to the story being read to them. It's a gentle opening for the story. It's needed because the following pages jump into a hard time for the donkey.

    Through words and pictures we find out that Roly grew up on a Greek farm until English soldiers captured and loaded him onto a ship destined for Gallipoli. Unfortunately for Roly his first driver was cruel. He made Rory work long hours carrying heavy loads, gave him little food and water, and beat him. One day Roly escaped but returns when he's hungry and misses the other donkeys. On his journey back he meets a man who changes his life for the better.

    Glyn does not try to romanticise Rory's work in Gallipoli. He carries soldiers whose blood sometimes trickles down his back, and they have to run for it when there is fire charging back and forth. It's important children grow up realising war is not one big adventure and shooting guns is fun. But juxtaposed with this realistic story are the warm illustrations that show the love between animal and human. If you've owned a dog you'd recognise the look that Rory shows for Richard - it's utter adoration, and Jenny Cooper has captured it so expertly.

    Rory and Richard's heart warming tale, Glyn's excellent storytelling abilities, and Jenny's stunning illustrations make this a winner for children (and adults). It's a story that won't just come out during ANZAC celebrations, it will be read all year round. Highly recommended for home, school and public libraries.

    ISBN: 9780143506638 RRP $19.99

    Other Glyn Harper ANZAC stories illustrated by Jenny Cooper you will also want to read are:

    Le Quesnoy: The Story of the Town New Zealand Saved (Puffin)

    Jim's Letters (Puffin)

    Other ANZAC stories:

    The ANZAC Puppy by Peter Millett, illustrated by Trish Bowles (Scholastic)

    The Red Poppy by David Hill, illustrated by Fifi Colston (Scholastic)

    Caesar the ANZAC Dog by Patricia Stroud, illustrated by Bruce Potter (Scholastic)

    ANZAC Day - The New Zealand Story by Philippa Werry (New Holland)

    Best Mates by Philippa Werry, illustrated by Bob Kerr (New Holland)

    The Last ANZAC by Gordon Winch, illustrated by Harriet Bailey

    Meet the ANZACs by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Max Berry (Random House)

    Meet Werry Dunlop by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Jeremy Lord (Random House)

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    10. New YA author on the scene

    The Chimes by Anna Smaill (Sceptre, Hodder & Stoughton)
    The first thing to say about this stunning story is that it’s a classic crossover novel, ie. it can be enjoyed by both adults and older teenagers. It’s a debut novel by the author, whose previous publication is a book of poetry. However when you read that she also has an MA in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters (Wellington) you begin to understand why readers and reviewers are full of praise for this unusual and challenging book.

    The basic tenets of the futuristic, dystopian London in which the story is set are these: the written word has been forbidden and forgotten; personal memory has also been destroyed so that the past is a mystery to most people; and both memory and the written word have been replaced by music. Music is used for communication, directions, identification, social interaction and societal control.

    The story is challenging because the reader initially has little idea how this society operates – when we read on the first page about the main character (a teenage boy called Simon) standing by the side of the road we share his bewilderment and fear because none of us has any idea what is going on. Simon is eventually given a ride to London where he joins a gang who make a living by scavenging a precious metal called palladium.

    From this point the story unrolls both backwards and forwards so we eventually understand why Simon’s abilities are so special, and what has to happen to mend this broken society. It’s not an easy read but once you relax and put yourself in the author’s hands you appreciate the poetic delicacy of the style and the originality of the story concept. Recommended for older secondary students, especially those with an interest in writing.

    ISBN 978 1 444 794533 $34.99 Pb

    Reviewer: L. Orman        

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    11. A How to Play Rugby book for teenagers

    The Beginner’s Guide to Rugby by Aaron Cruden, Random House NZ

    This handsome sports book will be very popular on the New Zealand market. I can see public and school librarians (intermediate and secondary) rushing to buy it, and it will also be welcomed by parents of rugby-mad youngsters (fathers and grandfathers will enjoy it too!). First impressions of the book are that it is very comprehensive, but at the same time it makes the wealth of information readily accessible to young readers. It begins with chapters focusing on Aaron Cruden’s stellar career in rugby, beginning with his stint as captain of Palmerston North Boys’ High School First XV, and taking us right through to his continuing success in the present day. The following how-to chapters are written by Cruden himself, starting off with What is Rugby? and continuing through advice on rugby training and skills, to discussing other factors such as nutrition, leadership, and injury. The chapters on skills include sections headed up Checklist, When It Goes Bad, Activity, and The Cruden Clue. The book is well designed, with lots of headings and colour photos, and the layout encourages both dipping into and reading from beginning to end.

    Comment from my rugby-mad husband: “There’s a massive amount of information in this book. Youngsters wanting to use it as a training manual will need to focus on one skill at a time, utilising Cruden’s advice, and only move on to the next skill once they’ve mastered the current one.”

    There’s a Teachers’ Resource PDF available for download from the Random House website. My only slightly critical comment on the book: the cardboard binding will rapidly become tatty. Libraries will need to do their own strengthening of the cover.

    ISBN 978 1 77553 790 8 $34.99 Pb

    Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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    12. Children's book for children of sick parents

    What does Super Jonny do when Mum gets sick? by Simone Colwill, illustrated by Jasmine Ting

    When parents get sick children often feel confused, angry and helpless. Some children want to do something to help but feel there is nothing they can offer. They also feel overwhelmed with all the specialists that are helping their Mum or Dad and don't know what is going on.  Radiation Therapist Simone Colwill has tried to address this with a children's picture book.

    Jonathan is a superhero and his latest mission is to help his mother who is sick in hospital. He finds out what all the specialists are doing to cure his mother. There's a doctor finding out what is wrong. Jonny offers him his magnifying glass. The radiographer takes x-ray pictures so they can see inside Jonny's mum. Jonny gives her his x-ray vision binoculars to help her. We also meet a laboratory assistant, dietician, nurse, cleaner, and find out what they do to help his mother, only no-one is listening to Jonny. He wonders if he should do something different. He thinks of several superhuman ways to help her but it is one simple but very powerful thing he can do that will help her feel so much better.

    The paperback book is A4 size drawn with pastel colours. Jasmine Ting has illustrated the book with cartoon-like characters that are outlined in black. This helps to lighten the serious underlying message in the book, which is - the professionals are there to help your parents and your hugs and love are all your parents need to feel better.

    At the back of the book are guide notes for the classroom, as well as five tips on how to prepare for hospital admission. There's also a website parents can go to: www.sickmom.org.  I wondered if the book targeted Americans with the spelling of Jonny and mom - it looks like it was published in the States and they're targeting the international market.

    Recommended for parents with sick children or for parents who are sick themselves and want to help their children understand what is going on. It will help the children understand who does what and realise the power of love. I'm not sure if I would use it in the classroom, though, unless someone in the class was going through that problem. Teachers could perhaps use it in the health curriculum when studying 'helping others' and wanting to encourage 'empathy'.

    Available as an ebook from Amazon for $4.99 or in paperback for $19.95 online here.

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    13. A new Scholastic Picture Book

    Little Hoihoi by Stephanie Thatcher, Scholastic NZ

    Stephanie’s first picture book The Great Galloping Galoot was published by Scholastic NZ in 2012. It’s a jolly, bouncing story – fans will find this second book is quite different in tone but just as satisfying. On her first foray out of the nest, a little penguin finds that not all birds are the same. Kotuku struts on beautiful long legs, Toroa flies on big wings, Tui can sing. Little Hoihoi can’t do any of these things. Of course, as soon as she falls into the water she finds there is something she can do much better than the other birds… The pencil illustrations are a delight with their gentle watercolours, uncluttered scenes and good use of white space. Little Hoihoi’s expressive face takes centre-stage and delicately conveys her emotions. The book includes a small amount of information about yellow-eyed penguins, but its true value will be as a group read-aloud to children of around 3 to 7.

    ISBN 978 1 77543 249 4 RRP $19 Pb

    Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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    14. Happy Commonwealth Day

    Recently I received two gorgeous books from the Commonwealth Education Trust for a project I am working on.  I want to share them with you because of their multi-cultural nature and also the vibrancy of the artwork. And today - 9th March 2015 - is Commonwealth Day - enjoy!

    A river of stories: Tales and poems from across the Commonwealth compiled by Alice Curry
    illustrated by Jan Pienkowski

    I really like that the book has been organised from an indigenous context. You won't find themes like Water, People, or Animals - you'll find 'Down by the Water Hole' and 'Why a Rainbow Follows Rain' and 'Ghosts, Giants and Mermaids of the Deep' and 'Water Gods and Ice Kings'. It sets the tone of the book.

    You will find poems, retold myths, and stories from many of the Commonwealth countries including New Zealand, Australia and United Kingdom, as well as Trinidad and Tobago, Kiribati, St Kitts and Nevis, Cyprus, Grenada, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and Bangladesh.  Many children won't even heard of some of these countries. Teachers can show where the country is on a map or globe before reading the story aloud.

    The poems and stories capture the essence of the countries the authors have come from. For example, in 'Prescription' by Emma Krus Va'ai

    "Gather some sunshine
    and warm rain
    one cicada
    and a pocket of air from your kitchen
    a pot pourri of frangipani, sandalwood, mosooi
    and gardenia
    into a parcel
    with a long letter
    to me
    from you
    home in Samoa"

    You can imagine the poet missing home and all the scents that represent their country.

    In 'Nkalimeva' a Swaziland story retold by Tom Nevin:

    "The elephant was a good-natured and kindly animal. He was very big, and because of his size he was very clumsy. Not that the other animals were very much bothered by this, although they became annoyed when he kept knocking things over. They understood this was because of his size and made allowances for him.
    But the elephant had another problem which was to be his downfall: he was very, very inquisitive."

    You can imagine where this story is leading - its inquisitiveness resulting in a very long trunk.

    Each of the stories have Jan Pienkowski's silhouette art juxtaposed with vibrant illustrations. They're perfect for the stories and poems. On the front cover two Islanders are silhouetted in black gloss laminate in their waka-like boat, behind them is a large yellow moon, and in front a swirly blue sea.

    At the front of the book is a positive message from His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and Jan Pienkowski talks about how he drew inspiration from his many trips abroad for the pictures, Alice Curry says the stories and poems are like rivers "they flow from country to country. Tales flowing from ear to ear might change style or length or form, but they will always retain the flavour of their origins". At the back of the book you will find a very handy glossary giving the meaning to unfamiliar words from each country. There's also information about the Commonwealth Education Trust.

    Teachers could use the book to introduce students to the Commonwealth countries in Social Studies, or for a unit on myths, or poems. The average classroom has children from all over the world. They could make their own anthology of multi-cultural stories and poems inspired by this book.

    Though compiled overseas New Zealand's Learning Media created the education package to go with this wonderful book. You can visit www.ariverofstories.com to buy their teaching resource and the Anthology.

    South Pacific Press is running a special deal on 'A River of Stories'. You will receive a 20% discount if you mention 'Commonwealth Day Blog Post' with your order. Read their post for ideas on how to celebrate Commonwealth Day too.

    Give the Ball to the poet: A new anthology of Caribbean Poetry edited by Georgie Horrell, Aisha Spencer and Morag Styles, illustrated by Jane Ray

    I personally can't get enough of poems written for children. I love their honesty, use of language, and representation of culture. In 'Give the ball to the Poet' you will find a wonderful mix of poems in this anthology from the Caribbean. From a chant for a cricket hero, to poems about the delightful fruits of the Caribbean, to the beating of the drums - they are poems that reflect the culture of these people.

    The first poem is very appropriately about a Rastafarian:

    Goodmornin Brother Rasta

    Good-days wash you mi brother
    a-make peace possess you
    and love enlighten you
    e-make you givin be good
    and you everymore be everybody
    a-make Allness affect you always
    and you meetn of eye to eye be vision
    and all you word them be word of wonderment

    by James Berry, Jamaica

    These poems are meant to be read aloud. Children will enjoy rolling the words off their tongue. They could include music to help with the rhythm.  You'll also find some cricket poems - how very handy for our World Cricket series!

    Keeping Wicket

    When they were young,
    She kept wicket for her brothers,
    They batted,
    Padded up
    And ratcheted up the score.
    She crouched behind the stumps
    keeping wicket.

    by Valerie Bloom, Jamaica

    Every poem has an illustration by Jane Ray. They're colourful with added gold to make them even more vibrant - like the Caribbean countries.  A must-have Anthology for your classroom reading library, and to use in a poetry unit.

    Buy from online bookstores such as Book Depository, or ask your local bookseller to get it for you.

    128 pages, ISBN: 978-1909931008  $17.48 (discounted at present from Book Depository)

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    15. New multi-national company on the scene

    New Picture Books from Starfish Bay Publishing

    These picture books (for ages 3+) are distributed by David Bateman, according to the website www.starfishbaypublishing.co.nz  The website is worth checking out. It provides the following descriptive statement: “An Australian and New Zealand-based independent publisher specializing in children’s books with imaginative and intriguing illustration. Our aim is to capture children’s imagination and hold their interest while entertaining them with a thoughtful story.”

    The Pear Violinby Bingbo, illus. Gumi (RRP $14.99, ISBN 9780994100245 Pb)

    This a translated edition of a picture book by a Chinese author who’s published more than 370 children’s stories, with more than ten million copies sold and over 50 awards. It’s a whimsical story of a squirrel who creates a violin out of a pear and mesmerises the whole forest with his beautiful music – and eventually all the animals end up playing beautiful music on their pear instruments… The illustrations are bright and cheerful.

    Two Unhappy Fishby Bingbo, illus. Gumi (RRP $14.99, ISBN 9780994100269 Pb)

    As above, this is a translated edition. Two fish hide because they hate their looks – until one day they meet each other and realise that everyone is different – not ugly, just different. The seascape scenes are colourful and should hold the interest of pre-schoolers.

    The Cowardly Lion by Bingbo, illus. Jianming Zhou (RRP $14.99, ISBN 9780994100238, Pb)

    An unfortunate lion keeps running away from other creatures, getting physically smaller and smaller each time – until he’s the size of a mouse. But one day his mouse friend is attacked, and the lion suddenly gets his courage (and his size) back. The bold eye-catching illustrations have an Asian flavour that pre-schoolers should enjoy.

    The Moving Houseby Bingbo, illus. Huangying (RRP $14.99, ISBN 9780994100252, Pb)

    A gentle story about a rather foolish squirrel who built his new house on what he thought was a large rock – but turned out to be something quite different! The illustrations have a soft tone and wide perspectives that would make the book useful for reading aloud to groups of pre-schoolers.

    Snowy Night by Tilde Michels, illus. Reinhard Michl (RRP $14.99, ISBN 9780994100221, Pb)

    This is a translation of a book published in Germany in 1985. It’s a heart-warming fable about trust, in which a hare, a fox and a bear arrive in turn at the door of Peter’s warm and cosy house, asking for shelter from the storm. But can they trust each other? The illustrations have a distinct European tone, mostly presented in formal, boxed shapes providing a sense of security.

    The Ogglies of Smelliville by Erhard Dietl (RRP $19.99, ISBN 9780994100207, Pb)

    This is the first in a series of editions translated from the German originals, with this story originally published in 2004. This award-winning author and illustrator has published over 100 children’s books. Children of four upwards should enjoy the revolting habits of this unusual family – such as making bootlace soup, drinking shampoo, and decorating the lounge with rubbish. The cartoon-type illustrations are similarly full of disgusting scenes which youngsters will enjoy studying to find the awful bits. Better for reading to an individual rather than a group of children.

    Reviewed by Lorraine Orman
    Who is Star Fish Bay Children's Book Publishing? It says on their website:
    The company director, Luke Hou, has been a professional book publisher since 1999. In 2007 he completed an MA in Publishing from the London College of Communication, University of the Arts London. In 2011 he was awarded a Corporate General Management qualification from the Australian Institute of Management.
    It looks like Luke Hou partners with small publishing hous

    es in countries around the world. They distribute his books from China and other partnered countries, and he distributes their books in other countries. It's a new publishing model and one to watch.

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    16. Nikki Slade Robinson as author and illustrator

    Muddle & Mo by Nikki Slade Robinson (Duck Creek Press)

    This is Nikki's first solo book (as far as I know). She has illustrated 60 other children's books (one of my favourite's being 'Hannah Bandana's Hair - just because the main character has hair like mine and I've lost things in my hair before too.) I'm surprised she hasn't done it before because this little book is rather gorgeous. It reminds me a little of Rowan and Mark Sommerset's successful books.

    Nikki has gone for pared back illustrations and text, with the focus on faces with lots of expression. She's used recycled paper as a backing and two illustrations on each double page spread - the duckling and the goat.

    The duckling called Muddle (very appropriate name) talks to Mo the goat. First he tells Mo he's a funny colour, his beak is too hairy, he's eating the wrong foods, his wings are on his head ... Of course, you soon realise that Muddle thinks Mo is a weird looking duck and it's not until he sees a herd of goats that Muddle realises he's got it all wrong.

    The story comes in a different angle from most 'accepting differences' stories. Little kids are often faced with prejudice about looking different. This clever book suggests to the reader in an underlying message to accept different species/cultures, as not everyone is the same. Let's face it - that's what makes life interesting. Read the book to find out what Mo says back to Muddle at the end.

    A rather cute book that will be popular with 3-6 years old children. Teachers and parents can generate lots of discussion about accepting others/differences etc.

    I'm pleased Duck Creek Press has gone back to this size format and printed it in paper back and hard back. It is practical for schools and kindies - so the books last long enough and can be read aloud in group settings. This book is sure to be popular in those settings so needs to last long!

    ISBN: 1927305003 hardback $29.99 paperback $19.99

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    17. A counting book with a story

    Little Kiwi Counts the Chicks by Bob Darroch (Puffin)

    I love kiwi books; understandably since I help release kiwi chicks on Motuora Island during the breeding season. And I've loved Bob's series of kiwi books with their humour and cartoon drawings ever since the first one came out quite a few years ago. This time Bob's written a counting book with kiwi chicks but it's a counting book with a difference - it actually has a story. I can see this being very useful in the classroom. It's just a shame Penguin didn't make the book bigger so that it can be seen by all the 4-5 year olds sitting on the mat
    learning to count.

    What's the story? Two little kiwi chicks ask Morepork where everyone is in the forest because it is so quiet. Morepork tells them all the birds will be home getting ready for their new families. When the two kiwi chicks hear some noise they go and investigate. First they find one little kakapo chick, then two little moreporks, and three baby silver-eyes, and four kaka ... but it doesn't just end with counting - there's a little surprise ending.

    Bob's cartoon like characters fill the page with bright colour. This book will sure to be popular with 3-5 year old children (and their parents). The small book can easily be held by small hands but as I said above it won't be easy to share with a class. It would be great if they made some big size ones, and perhaps a Maori version. (If enough teachers requested it perhaps Penguin would.)

    RRP $15.99
    ISBN: 978 0143506621

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    18. An early reader for 3-7 year olds

    The Little Kiwi Book of Months by Frances Chan

    In The Little Kiwi Book of Months 3-7 year olds will discover exciting activities to do throughout the months of the year. In January - head for the beach, in February it's back to school, in March stomp on autumn leaves, and in April fly a kite ...

    Children will enjoy the rhyming text and learn not only about the months but also the seasons. Bright full page photographs complement the story written in white or black text.

    Readers 6-7 years old could read the book during the holidays. Research has shown that children who don't read during the breaks slip back a few reading ages. Parents could read to their 3-5 year olds and get them to guess what month it is. It will help them learn the months and corresponding seasons.

    Frances Chan is an editor with 25 years’ experience in publishing, including writing children’s educational books and sub-editing a parenting magazine. This is her first self-published book – the result of Frances’s 100 Days Project for 2014. She wrote the book for her young daughter.

    ISBN: 9780473 299231
    RRP: $8.99 plus postage
    24 pages

    To order The Little Kiwi Book of Months please email  [email protected] with your postal address.

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    19. An assortment of books for the holidays

    Doodle Bug by Bruce Potter (Draconis Publishing)

    Bruce Potter lets his pen take over his imagination and doodles creative characters and scenes in this picture book for children. There's a little story to complement the pictures about Doodle Bug walking through the doodles and finding all sorts of characters - it encourages children to find him in the pictures.

    The illustrations are a mix of pencil drawing and computer art with black and white, and colour illustrations. At the back of the book, Bruce shares where he got the inspiration for the book. He says that he has always loved doodling and finds it helps him think more clearly and often that is when he creates something new. He encourages children to do the same.

    When Bruce gives talks to schools he draws the doodles in front of the kids; first asking what they'd like to see. Bruce can draw anything.  Kids get so excited they yell it out when they've found Doodle Bug.

    A fun book for 3-6 year olds. Could be used in the Junior school art programme to encourage children to doodle and create characters from their imagination.

    Hear Bruce sing the Doodle Bug song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-5xO6JZ8vY#t=188

    ISBN: 978 0 473 28113 7
    RRP $25.00
    Bruce has just released an e-book version too.
    To find details go to his website: www.brucepotter.co.nz

    The Bumper Book of New Zealand Wildlife: to read, colour and keep by Dave Gunson (New Holland Publishers)

    Dave has collected 90 wildlife species he's included in the New Zealand Birds, Garden, Shore and Sea Life Books into one bumper edition. You'll find birds, fish, insects, and marine life. Kids can draw them; noting their colours from the colour editions also in the book, then pull them out and hang them on the wall or fridge. Teachers could use them as templates for their Junior classes.  Also included are facts about the featured animals.

    Will be useful for the holidays, as it will keep kids occupied and also increase their wildlife knowledge of New Zealand species.

    Dave Gunson is a prolific writer and illustrator of children's books. He's written seven titles in the 'All About' series, four board books for young children, and written and illustrated many picture books and activity books.

    ISBN: 978 1 86966 427 5
    RRP: 19.99

    No cover available at time of writing blog.

    The Story of a New Zealand Truck Driver by Mary Kelleher, music by David Parker

    For something a bit unusual (in a delightful way) and on subjects little boys are bound to what to know more about ... have a look at the this book.  For starters it's a fold-out mural book that you can hang on a wall or sit on a table.  The artist has created the pictures from a collage of raw materials such as sacking, felt, buttons, string, photographs and material. (I hope she holds an exhibition one day so we can see the originals!) The story is embroidered onto woven material and are snatches of conversations between the truck driver and the people he meets. If you play the CD these words have been transformed into a song from the tune 'Baa Baa Black Sheep'. On the other side of the mural are fact boxes about the journey Truck driver Bertie Williams has when he travels over the hills and valleys of Banks Peninsula from 1920 to 1960. Kids will learn about wool bales, cocksfoot, Indian motor cycle and Side car race, vehicle author licences, snow blizzards, kerosene, and the hills of Bank Pensinsula. On the back page is a map of the journey and the CD.  Other books in the series include 'The Mill is Kaiapoi' with more to come. Go to www.handmadehistories.com to find out more and see their other murals.

    After reading the book, teachers could encourage children to make a class mural about the history of their area.  A great resource for schools when studying local history.

    ISBN: 978-0-473-28703-0 
    RRP $39.99

    Release the Beast by Romy Sai Zunde, illustrated by Cinzah Merkens (Beatnik Publishing)

    A little boy is feeling naughty and unleashes his inner beast. 

    "When I get mad, the beast boils in my bones. He stomps in my feet and roars in my mouth. He does anything he wants, and no one can stop him, not even mummy. He can make anything he dreams happen, and the beast never, ever gets into trouble."

    When baby wants to play with the blocks the inner beast stomps and kicks down the blocks and shuts mummy in a box and eats baby Noah for breakfast.When his father tells him to hurry up, again his inner beast wakes up. Same when he's told to eat up all his vegetables, and go for a bath. His inner beast does whatever he wants. Or does he?

    Read this delightful story with clever artwork - stylised in mix of black ink pen and water colour paint - about how kids and grown-ups can feel rage and can express those feelings through imagination rather than carrying it out. Kindergarten and Junior Primary teachers could read the story and use it as an introduction to a unit about feelings and anger management.  The book will let children know that anger is normal; adults and kids feel it too.

    "A fun and quirky reminder that there's a beast in all of us - and why wouldn't he come out when you've been told to do something you don't want to do again! Being able to recognise your frustration for what it is, is what counts.'  Karyn Henger, Editor, Little Treasures Magazine

    ISBN: 978-0-9922648-1-9
    RRP $24.99

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    20. Four Picture Songbooks with CDS

     Have You Seen a Monster? By Raymond McGrath, Puffin NZ

    This one is slightly different to the other three because it has a proper picture book story and the CD is an extra. The well-shaped story focuses on Elliott and Emma-Jane Rose who have a knack for finding things. They are hot on the trail of something very big and hairy that’s left a terrible trail of destruction in the town. A delightful double-spread illustration shows what they’re tracking – a big red hairy monster who’s LOST! I won’t tell how the children solve the problem of what to do with a miserable monster… The illustrations are the best part of the book – they’re colourful, quirky, and packed with interesting detail. The CD contains three songs and a read-aloud version of the story. (Oh yes, parents can now park the children on the sofa with the book, play the CD on the laptop, and walk away – but I hope they won’t!) It’s a fun book to share with children of about four to six.

    ISBN 978 0 143 50599 0 RRP $19.99 Pb

     Square Eyes, words and music by Craig Smith, illus. Scott Tulloch, Scholastic NZ

    The words of the song have a heart-felt message for children – “Come on, let’s exercise, don’t get square eyes”. It offers various alternative activities – listen to music, dance, read, swim, bake, ride a bike, play a board game, etc. Scott Tulloch’s bright friendly illustrations of animals doing different activities are excellent. The bouncy song on the CD is sung by Craig Smith, who is well-known to every New Zealand child for his entertaining local and school performances.

    ISBN 978 1 77543 269 2 RRP $21 Pb

    The Farmer in the Dell, sung by the Topp Twins, illus. Jenny Cooper, Scholastic NZ

    If you liked There’s a Hole in My Bucket, Do Your Ears Hang Low, and She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain, then you’ll like this one! Jenny Cooper’s hilariously inventive illustrations enliven a fairly repetitive song. The good ol’ hound dawg on the front cover is priceless. The song is rendered in jovial fashion by the Topp Twins, and it certainly encourages children to get up and sing and dance (just as Craig Smith recommends!).

    ISBN 978 1 77543 195 4 RRP $21 Pb

    We Wish You a Kiwi Christmas, Lynette Evans and Myles Lawford, sung by Pio Terei, Scholastic NZ

    I’ve missed the deadline for posting overseas, but this book would be great for grandparents to send to grandchildren living in other countries. It’s a Kiwi take on the classic Christmas carol, in which Santa unfortunately breaks down and loses his reindeer – only to be rescued by Little Kiwi and her bird friends. Myles Lawford’s Adobe Photoshop illustrations cleverly combine a traditional and a New Zealand flavour, with cheery big-eyed birds and a forlorn gnome-like Santa. There’s a Maori version printed in the book and sung on the CD, and a useful glossary provides meanings for some of the Maori words.

    ISBN 978 1 77543 267 8 RRP $21 Pb

    Reviewed by Lorraine Orman


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    21. Gavin Bishop's Autobriography from a teddy bear's view

    Teddy One-Eye: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear by Gavin Bishop, Random House NZ

    This handsome hardback book is a fascinating hybrid. The sub-title makes the shape of the story obvious, but there are other elements carefully woven in. And like any challenging book, questions come to mind but don’t get answered – probably deliberately. The story is written from the point of view of a somewhat philosophical teddy bear who belonged to the author when he was a boy. Through the teddy’s eyes (eye?) we learn about Gavin’s family and childhood in the 1950s – including all sorts of interesting details that leave me in awe of the author’s memory.

    But the story is more than just a study of a childhood in New Zealand. This is a very long-lived bear who also belonged to the author’s daughters in their turn, an experience that involved some interesting cross-dressing. A hint of mystery throughout the text eventually results in readers learning about a tragic previous owner before Gavin actually laid hands on the bear.

    There are times when Teddy is abandoned in a cupboard or trunk for many years. He hibernates, but to keep the reader’s interest from waning Gavin has included rolling graphics that mark relevant historical events during those years, eg. in 1969 Neil Armstrong took a teddy bear to the moon.

    This book will be bought by all New Zealand public libraries, also primary and intermediate schools. I suspect it will be enjoyed most by keen readers of about eight or nine, but all school-age children will be able to appreciate it if parents make it a family read-aloud book, adding explanations and discussion when needed.

    ISBN 978 1 77553 727 4 RRP $34.99 Hb
    Reviewed by Lorraine Orman   

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    22. 2014-2015 New Zealand Children's Non-fiction Books

     Activity Books

    Ghoulish Get-ups by Fifi Colston (Scholastic)

    Maori Art for Kids by Julie Noanoa & Norm Heke

    The New Zealand Nature Activity Book by Dave Gunson (New Holland)


    Jammin' with Steven Adams  by David Riley (davidrileynz@gmail.com)
    New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame by Maria Gill, illustrated Marco Ivancic (New Holland)

    Offloading with Sonny Bill Williams by David Riley ([email protected])

    Steppin’ with Benji Marshall by David Riley ([email protected])

    Teddy One-eye by Gavin Bishop (Gecko Press)

    The Story of a New Zealand Truck Driver by Mary Kelleher (www.handmadehistories.com)

    Taratoa and the code of conduct by Debbie McCauley (Mauao Publishing)


    Creative Non-fiction books

    Best Mates by Philippa Werry (New Holland Publishers)

    Grasshopper’s Week by Tania and Chris Norfolk (Craig Potton Publishing)

    The Last of Maui Dolphins by Maria Gill (New Holland Publishers)

    The song of Kauri by Melinda Szymanik (Scholastic)


    Digital Books

    Go to http://pixelbook.co for Rangitoto and Operation Nest Egg Chick books digital version

    Go to http://readingwarrior.com/ for David Riley’s books digital version


    Information Books

    Hello Boys & Girls: A New Zealand Toy Story by David Veart (Auckland University Press) *Because of its $65 price tag – it might be targeting adults but would suit High School

    Waitangi Day: The New Zealand Story by Philippa Werry (New Holland Publishers)



    KCC Wild Things magazine (http://www.kcc.org.nz/magazine)


    Nature Books

    Draw New Zealand Birds by Heather Arnold (www.dragonsaucebooks.com)

    Motiti Blue and the oil spill by Debbie McCauley (Mauao Publishing)

    Operation Nest Egg Chick by Maria Gill, illustrated by Bruce Potter (www.longwhitecloudbooks.com)

    Rangitoto by Maria Gill, illustrated by Heather Arnold (www.longwhitecloudbooks.com)

    Under the Ocean by Ned Barraud & Gillian Candler (Craig Potton Publishing)


    Poetry Books

    A Treasury of New Zealand Poems for Children, edited by Paula Green (Random House)

    The Letterbox Cat & Other Poems, by Paul Green (Scholastic)


    Sport Books

    New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame by Maria Gill, illustrated Marco Ivancic (New Holland Publishers)

    Jammin with Steven Adams  by David Riley (davidrileynz@gmail.com)
    Offloading with Sonny Bill Williams by David Riley ([email protected])

    Playing Rugby League with Benji Marshall, co-written with Lynn McConnell (New Holland Publishers)

    Steppin’ with Benji Marshall by David Riley ([email protected])

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    23. Children's Books for Sea Week

    Sea Week is coming up and teachers and parents might be looking for great books that fit the marine theme. I've included new books, books that might be out of print but they should still be in your library, and mostly NZ and Australian titles. You'll also find some online resources that you can download for free:

    All about NZs Sea Life by Dave Gunson (New Holland)
    All about NZs Sea Shore by Dave Gunson (New Holland)
    At the Beach by Gillian Candler & Ned Barraud (Craig Potton)
    Dolphins Down Under by Liz Slooten & Steve Dawson (Otago University Press)
    I am a dolphin by Barbara Todd & Helen Taylor (New Holland)
    I am a Penguin by Barbara Todd & Helen Taylor (New Holland)
    I am a Seal by Barbara Todd & Helen Taylor (New Holland)
    I am a Whale by Barbara Todd & Helen Taylor (New Holland)
    Know your NZ Fishes by Jenny & Tony Enderby (New Holland)
    New Zealand Shore & Sea Life by Dave Gunson (New Holland)
    Real-size guide to the New Zealand Rocky Shore by Gillian & Darryl Torckler (Random)
    Save our Seas by Maria Gill, illustrated by Vivienne Lingard (New Holland)
    The Kiwi Fossil Hunter's Handbook by James Crampton & Marianna Terezow (Random)
    Under the ocean by Gillian Candler & Ned Barraud (Craig Potton)

    Picture Book
    Gilbert in deep by Jane Clarke & Charles Fuge (Koala Books)
    Marmadule Duck and the wide blue seas by Juliette MacIver, illo Sarah Davis (Scholastic)
    Sea Secrets by Dawn McMillan, illo by Julia Crouth (Reed)
    Sydney and the Whalebird by David Elliot (Random)
    The Fierce little woman and the wicked pirate by Joy Cowley, illo Sarah Davis (Gecko)
    The Last of Maui's Dolphins by Maria Gill, illustrated by Bruce Potter (New Holland)
    The Three Fishing Brothers Gruff by Ben Galbraith (Hodder)
    The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera, illo Bruce Potter (Penguin)

    Creative Non-fiction
    Big Blue Whale by Nicola Davies, illo Nick Maland (Walker)
    Cat on the island by Gary Crew, illo Gillian Warden (Angus & Robertson)
    Meet Captain Cook by Rae Murdie Illo Chris Nixon (Random)
    Motiti Blue and the oil spill by Debbie McCauley
    One Small Island by Alison Lester and Coral Tulloch (Penguin)
    The Fantastic Undersea life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino (Knopf)

    Animal Planet Series (Weldon Owen)
    Nature Storybooks (Walker Books)

    More resources here:

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    24. A cute picture book with a sad back-story

    Ethan The Incredibleby Jacqui Simpson, illus. Philip Webb, Alcora Book (www.ethan-the-incredible.com)

    Sadly, this picture book is written in memory of a New Zealand boy called Ethan who died from a brain tumour in 2012. Parents can decide whether to share this with children – but if they don’t mention it, the story and the illustrations will still make for a happy reading experience for everyone. Jaunty rhyming text tells how the Kingdom of Forests is infested with pesky dragons. But Ethan the Incredible arrives on his trusty motorised scooter and vanquishes the pests. After that, there are a few princesses who need rescuing… But eventually Ethan has fixed all the dragons and helped all the princesses – so he roars away on his scooter to find new adventures. Philip Webb needs no introduction as an illustrator – and his zany cartoon pictures give added life to this warm-hearted book. It would be fun to read aloud to an individual child or to small groups in pre-school centres and new entrant classes (boys should enjoy it).

    ISBN 978 0 473 28129 8 RRP $23.00 (from website) Pb

    Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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    25. Poetry book for the very young

    The Letterbox Cat & Other Poems by Paula Green, illus. Myles Lawford, Scholastic NZ

    Printed in striking black and red on white, this book of poems should appeal greatly to primary teachers planning a class called “Fun With Poetry”. Paula runs NZ Poetry Box, a useful blog for children and schools at www.nzpoetrybox.wordpress.com. The poems in this anthology are an intriguing mix of words, design and illustration, using shape to enhance meaning. For example, the poem about a kite is laid out in the shape of a kite with a long winding tail, while the words in Nice Ice are arranged in the shape of an icecream cone. The book offers perfect examples for children to follow with their own poetry and design. Myles Lawford’s illustrations are minimalist and quirky, befitting the light tone of the poems.
    Could this book be used at home? Yes. If a parent was determined to introduce a pre-schooler or young primary-aged child to poetry, this would be an interesting place to start because of the extra visual elements. BTW, the poem about the Letterbox Cat is on page 24. I wonder why it wasn’t printed on the first page…
    ISBN 978 1 77543 223 4 RRP $12 Pb

    Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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