Saturday, August 18, 2018

Two for Two

These two sweet titles arrived in our mailbox not long ago.  In case you're wondering, the quickest way to my heart is a beautifully illustrated kids book.  Walker - you have my heart rn.

Dinosaur Day Out - Sara Acton

"Sally and Max love dinosaurs. They can’t wait to see them at the museum, but today the dinosaur exhibition is closed. Where will the dinosaurs go on their day off? A whimsical story with humour and heart from author and award-winning illustrator Sara Acton." - Walker Books Aus

This picture book is bound to have wide appeal.  The illustrations are absolutely beaut, with a gorgeous palette of colours and subtle detail.  The lively, bonny-cheeked children practically leap out of the page.  Such a sweet reminder of how little it really takes to make a kids happy (*hint* take them outside).  Dinosaur facts are gently delivered throughout the story, which is itself soft and simple, leaving plenty for the reader's imagination.  Thumbs up from us.

Available in stores September 1st.

Maddie's First Day - Penny Matthews & Liz Anelli

"First day of school, new experiences and making friends play centre stage for this book for the pre-school age." - Walker Books Aus

Another gorgeously illustrated text, with a splash of mixed media and so. much. detail.  New-to-school kids will relate to all of Maddie's feels and that tricky navigation of implicit school rules.  This would make a great shared book in a New Entrant classroom.  Lots of opportunity for discussing how we can encourage and be inclusive of each other.  If you have a child experiencing anxiety of any kind, Maddie's First Day would be a great title to share.

Available in stores September 1st.

Thank you to Walker Books for providing us these sweet books to review.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Walker Books - Educational Stories

The Day War Came - Nicola Davies & Rebecca Cobb

"A powerful and necessary picture book – the journey of a child forced to become a refugee when war destroys everything she has ever known." - Walker Books Aus

This story features a Syrian child who loses absolutely everything during the bombing of her city. She is forced to journey on her own to seek refuge.  The illustrations are absolutely stunning, right up there with the best I've seen.  Deceptively simple and totally evocative.  The poem is heartrending, truly capturing a sense of loss and trauma. 

I would venture to call this one a sophisticated picture book.  The subject matter is just too big for my little peops right now.  I love this as an addition to our collection, and look forward to sharing it with the kids when they're older - when I'm more prepared to answer questions that arise (starting with, what happened to the little girl's family?). 

Truly the most gorgeous book, and one I will be saving for just the right time.

Currently available.

The Happiness Box, a Wartime Book of Hope - Mark Greenwood & Andrew McLean

"With this picture book, award winners Mark Greenwood and Andrew McLean bring to life the inspirational true story of a book that became a National Treasure." - Walker Books Aus

Another war-themed story.  This time a historical account of Australian prisoners of war held in Changi Prison, Singapore.  The prisoners create a beautiful array of handmade toys, meant to be gifted to children in Changi.  One soldier produces a book, that later becomes a national treasure.  Beautifully told and illustrated, this is a lovely story about the strength of the human spirit.

Again though, I probably will leave this off our reading list for the time being.  While it's an interesting story, and undeniably beautiful, the pacifist in me is keen to hold off on war-centred stories for a wee while yet.

Available August 1st.

Backyard - Ananda Braxton-Smith & Lizzy Newcomb

"In Backyard, critically acclaimed Australian author Ananda Braxton-Smith and fine artist Lizzy Newcomb team up to present a lush, lyrical picture book about all the life that children can find in a suburban backyard." - Walker Books Aus

Not strictly educational, but a perfect read for nature enthusiasts.  Backyard features a beautiful and lyrical poem, packed with evocative poetic language. The illustrations nicely accompany the story.  While not delicate depictions, these paintings have depth and detail that suits the text.  Kids will love the rich vocabulary and dreamy imagery of Backyard.

Available August 1st.

Bonkers About Beetles - Owen Davey

"Owen Davey’s popular non-fiction series continues with a captivating and stunningly illustrated guide to these six-legged insects." - Walker Books Aus

Epic, stylized drawings and every fun fact you could hope for.  This book was designed for Garland.  The layout is clever, with an info-graphic feel.  There are tasks to complete as you go, perfect for putting your new knowledge to the test.  Flying Eye Books consistently produce clever and beautiful books.  Bonkers About Beetles has their trademark matte pages, textured cover, and awesome content.  The kind of book you could get lost in for hours.  A big win in our household.

Available August 1st.

All books kindly provided by Walker Books Aus.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Walker Books - Cosy Tales

We're Getting A Cat - Vivian French & Salvatore Rubbino

"Dad is terrified of mice and, after several sleepless nights, decides they should get a cat. They meet Kevin the cat in a rescue home – he's big and strong, and they're sure he'll catch all of the mice. But Kevin has other ideas…" - Walker Books UK

If you're thinking of getting a cat, or even if you have one already, this is a sweet little book about pet care.  With enough story to make it fun, and packed with details for taking care of your furry pal, this one's a keeper.  The book perfectly blends fiction and non-fiction.  It features a handy index and short bursts of factual info, side by side with the story of a family figuring out whether they can keep a non-mouse-catching cat. The illustrations are expressive and detailed, nicely balancing negative space.

Currently available in stores.

Want to Play Trucks? - Ann Stott & Bob Graham

"Jack likes trucks. Alex likes dolls. What will they play together? Their new favourite game, of course!" - Walker Books Aus

Bob Graham is fast becoming my ultimate favourite childrens illustrator.  He captures so much sweet detail.  Want to Play Trucks? features an illustrated back-story between the mothers of the two children, and it's seriously too great (and very relatable).  So many little details and a diverse range of side characters, this book is worth the pennies just for perusing the pictures.

That said, I also love the story.  Two best buds compare the qualities of their favourite toys (a big noisy truck vs. a glittery ballerina doll) and figure out how to adapt their game to suit everyones needs.  In the end the little boys figure out there is something they definitely have in common.

Available in paperback August 1st.

Maya & Cat - Caroline Magerl

"On a roof, as wet as a seal, as grey as a puddle, Cat was rumbling, a rumbly purr. What does Cat want most? Feather boas? Pretty pink shoelaces? A boatful of fish under a tiny tin sail – or perhaps something much more valuable? Affectionate and evocative, Maya and Catfollows a child’s kindly impulse to an unexpected conclusion." - Walker Books Aus

Maya & Cat is a pretty nice accompaniment to We're Getting a Cat (reviewed above), though this one is all fantasy.  The ink and watercolour illustrations are evocative (especially the wild, grey ocean and sweet little house boat < LOVE).  This is the ultimate cosy tale.  A story of courage and friendship, set in a wild and stormy cityscape.  Expressive and moody illustrations, gorgeous poetic language, and an ending that is just too sweet.

Available August 1st.

I am Little Fish!  A Finger Puppet Book - Lucy Cousins

"Dip, dive and swim along to the deep-sea rhyming story, with a colourful finger puppet and peek-a-boo holes on every page." - Walker Books Aus

I may not be the biggest Maisy fan, but the Little Fish stories are so popular with Wilco that I have been somewhat won over.  Cousins' illustration style will never be my favourite, but the bold, simple images DO appeal to our littlest.  There's loads of rich vocab, always welcome in a board book.  The addition of a finger puppet makes this one especially fun, too.

Available August 1st.

All books kindly provided by Walker Books

Small Spaces - Sarah Epstein

Small Spaces - Sarah Epstein

"Small Spaces is a gripping YA thriller from debut Australian author Sarah Epstein, perfect for fans of Fleur Ferris. 14+." - Walker Books Aus

Traumatized as a child by her imaginary friend, Tash has been taught to ignore instincts and distrust memories.  So when she is once again confronted by unsettling events from her childhood, Tash must decide what is true and what is imagined.  Time is ticking and lives are at stake.

I do love a decent thriller, and Small Spaces definitely delivers on the suspense front.  The pacing is ideal, I zoomed through in a couple of sittings.  Epstein uses narrative devices like flashbacks, transcripts and an unreliable narrator and it all really, really works.

There's a satisfying blend of likeable and unlikeable characters.  Additionally, the unlikeable characters are suuuuuuper unlikeable.  Some are truly manipulative and emotionally abusive.  The more sympathetic characters are perhaps not wonderfully drawn, but for this particular story I don't think it matters.  There's is so much else to be caught up in.

There's a pervasive creepiness that oozes out of the flashbacks, right into the present day story.  Tash's imaginary friend is right at the heart of the horror and almost enough stop me from sleeping well at night, yanno? The homestead is also... I just... I can't with the homestead.  Suuuuper creepiness (in the best way).

There were some weaknesses, though insignificant enough in the scheme of things.  It was difficult to keep reading through some of Tash's decisionmaking.  Important for the progression of the story, but frustrating.  There's some insta-love and a little too much tell vs. show.  None of this got in the way of what was a twisted, layered and tightly plotted story.

Small Spaces is already in stores and libraries so check it out.

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Winner Winner (Vegetarian) Dinner

So we are well into week one of the school holidays.  Are you having the time of your life?  Genuine question, because I freaking am #datsleepinlyfe.  Sleep ins aside, I'm starting to concoct some plans for week two of the hols because after just three days, cabin fever is well and truly setting in.  I honestly had no idea my kids were this loud.  Why are they this loud?!  I am experiencing a little regret about purchasing batteries for their electric piano...

So we were pretty stoked to be invited along to watch Big Bad Wolf at the Bruce Mason Theatre, and I'm honestly even more thrilled to offer a family pass to one of you all!  This promises to be a very cute show:

"Reinventing the classic tale we all know, the Big Bad Wolf is a clever take on Little Red Riding Hood’s old mate. Taking the scary character of the Big Bad Wolf, the show reveals how he’s been misunderstood for years, painting him as an introverted loveable “vegematarian” wolf – that means he eats broccoli and not rabbits. This table-turning tale will have you wondering why you were ever scared of the Big Bad Wolf. You can view the show’s trailer here:"

Entry is as simple as a comment here, on instagram or facebook.  NZ residents only (the show is in Auckland).  I will draw a winner Saturday 14th July.  

For a little taster of what to expect, check out this cute interview with Wolfy:

Q&A: Wolfy from Windmill Theatre Co’s Big Bad Wolf

What inspired you to become vegetarian or has this always been your way of life?
I’ve always been a vegematarian, ever since I was a little baby wolf. My mumma Grand Wolfmaster used to try and make me eat rabbits and other animals, but I’d rather be their friend!

Describe your ideal vegetarian dish in three words?
Green, leafy and delicious.

Fellow vegetarians (fictional or real) who inspire you.
My favourite famous vegetarian is Paul McCartney. Listening to The Beatles is soothing for my big pointy ears, and fills my mind with lovely thoughts.

If a vegetable could speak a thousand words, which vegetable would speak the most to you?
Broccoli! It speaks to me all the time. We recite our favourite poetry together.

As a busy wolf on the move, what are your tips for keeping your lunches fresh?
To keep my lunches fresh I put them in my special lunch box which I keep in my secret tree trunk. It stays nice and cool in there!

Any favourite vegetarian / vegan restaurants you would recommend from your part of the woods?
My favourite stop for vegematarian friendly food in Australia is Lord of the Fries. Their burgers make me want to HOWWWWWL! There’s even a store in Auckland now.

What is something you wish people knew about you?
I wish people knew that my big pointy teeth aren’t for eating people or bunnies!

Favourite poet.
My favourite poet is Spike Milligan! His poems always make me chuckle.

What do you love the most about being vegetarian?
My favourite thing about being a vegematarian is that I can eat lots of delicious food, but still be best friends with Mr Rabbit and Heidi Hood!

Just a reminder, the BIG BAD WOLF runs from July 18-21 at the Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Mapmakers' Race - Eirlys Hunter

The Mapmakers' Race - Eirlys Hunter, illustrations by Kirsten Slade

"Four children temporarily lose their parents just as they are about to begin the race that offers their last chance of escaping poverty. Their task is to map a rail route through an uncharted wilderness." - Gecko Press

The Mapmakers Race ticked all the right boxes for us.  We read this at bedtime over the course of about a week.  I don't know who was more invested in the story, but I will say that the refrain of 'just one more chapter' was oft repeated.  This is a riveting adventure story filled with obstacles, nasty antagonists, a touch of magic realism and all the descriptions of food that you could possibly hope for.  Exactly the sort of book I would have devoured as a kid. 

Hunter's writing strikes that perfect balance between description and plot.  Never boring, and never losing sense of the (beautiful) world of the story.  Each of the central characters are roundly drawn and immensely loveable.  Even the roguish baddies are lots of fun.  And as if the writing isn't beautiful enough, there are oodles of gorgeous illustrations paced throughout the story.  So divine.

"I absolutely loved The Mapmakers' Race.  I thought Sal was pretty cool and Joe and Beckett were very adventurous.  I thought the drawings were beautiful and interesting.  I found the story very entertaining and when I finished it I wished it would go on and on and on." - Eleanor (aged 8)

"I really wanted another chapter book of it because it's so fun.  Beckett was the cook and ruled the food and he said no one could have any food until it was lunchtime.  I liked how Humphrey was really wanting stories and he was quite funny." - Garland (aged 6)

The Mapmakers' Race made us want to rush out and have alllll the adventures.  It has sparked a lot of explorer games since.  Desperately hoping this is part of a series...

If you would like to hear a snippet of the story, and see some of the illustrations check out this short video.

Available now.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Walker Books - The Moral of the Story is...

Tropical Terry - Jarvis

"Terry wants to stand out. But, in Coral Reef City, it's sometimes better to blend in... Coral Reef City is home to the most dazzling shoals of tropical fish in ALL the ocean. And then there is Terry. Terry looks grey. Terry feels dull. And although he is the best at playing "Hide A Fish", he can't help but wonder: Just what would it feel like to be part of that dashing, flashing crew?"  - Walker Books AUS
Tropical Terry has pretty eye-catching, multi-media illustrations that immediately appealed to our kids.  Under the ocean adventures are always fun (big time Nemo & Sammy fans in our household).  I can't help but imagine how fun it would be to do some Jarvis/TropicalTerry-esque paintings with a classroom of kids...  

The story has equal vibrancy, as well as some light humour.  Terry learns an important lesson about friendship and loyalty.  Well suited to children finding it difficult to navigate childhood friendships (so, um, all children), and a good prep for those about to begin school.

Tropical Terry is due out 1st July

"A playful and visually engaging book about the joys of sport and team playing. In the end, it’s the taking part that counts!" - Walker Books Aus

Another story centred around friendship (two best friends taking the ping pong world by storm).  This time the emphasis is on good sportsmanship, and I must say I really love the message.  In Ping vs Pong, competition is friendly and fun.  Ping and Pong don't lose sight of their friendship but enjoy testing the limits of their sporting ability, whether together or in competition with each other.  How cool!

I love the quirky illustrations for this one.  Simple, punchy and expressive.

Ping vs Pong is due out 1st July

"What happens when things don’t go the way you plan? Can you try and try again? Spirit is a beautiful picture book about hope." - Walker Books Aus

An allegorical story about perseverance, endurance and hope.  On the surface this is a relatively simple story about a girl and her toy boat, but conveys a lovely message about the resilience of the human spirit.  Spirit has a dreamy quality, with evocative illustrations and simple, undemanding text that leaves the message in plain sight.  This book would make a nice gift for an adult visiting on hard times.  It also serves to encourage little ones in finding their inner courage and confidence.  Very sweet.

Spirit is due out 1st July

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Chaos Walking Trilogy - books 1 & 2

The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness

"Imagine you're the only boy in a town of men. And you can hear everything they think. And they can hear everything you think. Imagine you don't fit in with their plans... Todd Hewitt is just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man. But his town has been keeping secrets from him. Secrets that are going to force him to run..." - Walker Books Aus

Fans of YA fic in need of an edge-of-your-seat read will love this prize-winning novel.  I don't think I was able to put it down until I'd finished.  The premise is dark and unusual, and from page one, more than enough to keep me hooked.

Mystery is layered thick, with slow revelations throughout the story.  I love a good mystery so this ticked all the right boxes for me.  I also love a hero's journey narrative, and it was a LOT fun to read one set in an alien(ish) landscape  A cracking pace is set and maintained for the duration of the novel.  Plenty of danger lurking at every corner.  Some tragedy, some horror, all set in a world that is essentially Sci-fi (though feels much closer to Western).  Loved.  It.

With beautiful writing, and plenty of strangeness., The Knife of Never Letting Go is a definite fave for me  Can't wait to see it adapted for film!

The Ask and The Answer - Patrick Ness

"Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd and Viola once again face their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss. Immediately imprisoned and separated from Viola, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor's new order. And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode..." - Walker Books Aus

Book 2 in the Chaos Walking trilogy is a pretty different kettle of fish.  In terms of narrative structure, in terms of pace... Really, in every way different.  There is a lot that works well but overall this one hasn't hit the nail on the head for me.   A big detractor is Todd losing a lot of agency.  I really loved Todd in book 1.  I loved his journey, I loved his connections to loved ones, I loved how he showed courage and I loved his big ole sensitive heart.  I was disappointed to find him somewhat vanilla in book 2.

A big positive is one particular relationship he builds during the story.  I can't go into it without spoiling things, but it's touching.

Overall it feels like some of the momentum is lost (though still an action-packed novel).  There are some new characters to enjoy hating, and some sharp, unexpected twists that were entertaining.  A good read, but for me, not on par with The Knife of Never Letting Go. 

I'm a little of the way through Monsters of Men, the third and final instalment of the series.  I have to admit to not loving it, yet, and have dipped into other books meanwhile, but I'll get back to you with some thoughts when/if I finish.


Saturday, May 5, 2018

Night of Cake and Puppets

Night of Cake and Puppets - Laini Taylor & Jim di Bartolo

"In this stand-alone companion to the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone series comes the story of Mik and Zuzana's fantastical first date—as a gorgeously illustrated gift edition with bonus content included."

Laini Taylor fans will require no introductions to this book.  I purchased this on kindle a long while ago and loved every page, but the published hard back is SO MUCH COOLER!!!  If you ever wanted to see exactly how Zuzanna and Mik were envisaged, wish - granted.  For new to Laini readers, start with Daughter of Smoke and Bones first, and then hit this one up!

Zuzanna is an impressive character.  Sharp, witty and immensely loveable.  Her wooing of Mik makes for compelling and often hilarious reading.  Night of Cake and Puppets is definitely the 'curl up in front of the fire with hot chocolate' kind of read.  It's short (novella length) but packed with detail, and Laini's beautiful, lyrical writing.  You'll fall in love with Zuzanna and Mik, both.

If you're deep into the series, but need to come up for air after all the heavy-going stuff, you need Night of Cake and Puppets, STAT.  Get amongst it.

Walker Books Lucky Dip pt. 2

Julian is a Mermaid - Jessica Love

"A glimpse of three women dressed as mermaids leaves one boy filled with wonder and ready to dazzle the world.  Mesmerizing and full of heart, this is a picture book about self-confidence and love, and a radiant celebration of individuality." - Walker Books Aus

Ding ding ding, this is a com.plete winner.  I couldn't possibly love it more.  The illustrations are stunning. The colours are luminous, the characterisations (via illustration) are perfect. I wanted to crawl into Julian's world and see it all for myself.   There's a sprinkle of magic and careful detail that makes each page a treasure to uncover.  The fabric patterns for instance?!  Oh.Em.Gee.  So good.  Best of all, this story celebrates childhood and imagination, completely free of gender conformity.  🙌🙌🙌

Due out June 1st

The Penguins Are Coming! - Meg McKinlay & Mark Jackson

"What's a penguin? Award-winning picture book creators Meg McKinlay and Mark Jackson explain all in this hilarious picture book." - Walker Books Aus

Fun and light-hearted.  Perfect for fans of the Penguins of Madagascar, The Penguins Are Coming! features exuberant illustrations and a cute and quirky story.  My kids love searching out the details in each image and correcting the assumptions of all the animals.  It's a cute way to present some penguin-y facts by first asserting some wild ideas, before Expert Zookeeper sets everyone straight.  Popular in our house.

Due out June 1st

Waves - Donna Rawlins, Heather Potter and Mark Jackson

"Every journey is perilous, every situation heartbreaking. Every refugee is a person forced by famine or war or fear to leave their home, their families, their friends and all they know. Children have travelled on the waves of migration to the shores of Australia for tens of thousands of years. This book tells some of their stories. Waves is a narrative non-fiction book about the waves of migration to the shores of Australia." - Walker Books Aus

Waves is beautifully written, with equally stunning illustrations.  The cover alone is worthy of framing!  While each story is stand-alone, the characters are connected by their hopes, fears and losses. There are also historical summaries found in the back of the book.   Waves is a must have for school libraries and sure to become an award winner. 

I feel somewhat conflicted about when  I will share this with my kids.  On one hand I always try to teach them to be socially conscious, and what better way than sharing stories such as these?  On the other hand, some of the stories are so sad and will raise many questions.  I think Eleanor is probably ready.  Garland not so much.

Due out June 1st.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Walker Books Lucky Dip pt. 1

Dingo - Claire Saxby & Tannya Harricks

"The night is young and there is hunting to be done. An exciting new addition to the narrative non-fiction series Nature Storybooks, about dingoes." - Walker Books Aus

This new instalment in the Nature Storybooks series is a beauty.  I'm already a big fan of the series, as are the small ones.  Broad brushstrokes and a soft-hued colour palette make for evocative imagery and Saxby's story telling is on point.  Short and sweet sentences, as beautiful as they are concise.  Coupled with plenty of informative tidbits, this non-fiction title is ideal for nature lovers.  If you haven't come across this series yet, Dingo is a fun place to start.

In stores now.

Dig, Dump, Roll - Sally Sutton & Brian Lovelock

"Guess what kind of truck is at work in this interactive book by the bestselling creators of Roadworks." - Walker Books Aus

This one title was very popular with the youngest lad who has joined the legions of kiddos fascinated with vehicles.  Dig, Dump, Roll continues a running series by this pair and is likely to have a broad appeal - there's just something about construction vehicles!  Our three love guessing what will come next, as entertained when they are caught out as when they get it right.  The illustrations are fun for this one too!

In stores now.

Maisy Goes to a Wedding - Lucy Cousins

"Maisy is going to her very first wedding! See the ceremony and exchange of rings, then join in for dancing, food and wedding cake!" - Walker Books Aus

Okay, so Maisy books aren't my total fave and we are now amassing quite a collection (they are perfect road trip books though, for some reason).  While the style may not be totally to my taste, I appreciate the fun themes and my kids do dip into them fairly often.  There's little else to say, really.  If you love Maisy, you'll enjoy a new installation.  If you're not a huge fan, this somewhat heteronormative depiction of a wedding is unlikely to change your opinion.  Probably.

Paperback out June 1st.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Bird Books for Bubs

We arrived home from our trip away to find these three new titles, all featuring feathery friends.  Perfect.  Birds are my total fave.  In order of most enjoyed:

Bird Builds a Nest - Martin Jenkens & Richard Jones

"This beautiful picture book is the perfect introduction to forces and the concept of pushing and pulling, and is the third in the new Science Story Book series from Walker Books." - Walker Books Aus

This one is MADE for the early classroom which always tends to make books popular with me.  On the surface, the simple story of a bird, doing it's birdy thang.  Simultaneously a child-geared explanation of how forces work, applied to the ways in a which a bird employs them.  Very cool.  The book finishes with a simple science experiment, again lending itself perfectly to the classroom.  Featuring lovely illustrations with a timeless, retro feel.

Bird to Bird - Claire Saxby & Wayne Harris

"Claire Saxby and Wayne Harris have crafted a gentle story of nature, history, recycling and art." - Walker Books Aus

Bird to Bird glimpses into history as it details the lifespan of a tree, from seed (carried by bird), to furniture, to whittled bird toy.  I liked that Bird to Bird is grounded in a historical context.  The particular slice of history that it points towards is early Australian colonialism and the shipping of convicts to Aussie soil.  Prob not an area that especially interests me so I would likely pass on this one, but the concept is rock solid and sweetly executed.  The illustrations give additional details that will be interesting to littlies.  This one could easily be worked into an Australian history unit, with reference to how wood was recycled to suit different needs.

Splish, Splash, Ducky!  - Lucy Cousins

"A colourful, rhyming book showing the joys of a rainy day." - Walker Books Aus

This is definitely a pure entertainment, no 'secret learning' kinda book (as opposed to Science & History, above ^).  Filled with rhymes and onomatopoeia and playful silliness.  Toddlers will love and parents *may* tire of (speaking for self).  Best time to read this book?  Post rainy walk with puddle jumping.  After a warming bath and once snuggly pjs are donned.  Bubbas will love identifying all the different creatures that ducky befriends.  Dads will enjoy a story where the Papa is the go-to parent.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Mountain Between Us - DNF

The Mountain Between us - Charles Martin

"On a stormy winter night, two strangers wait for a flight at the Salt Lake City airport. When the last outgoing flight is cancelled because of a storm, Ben charters a small plane that can fly around the weather front. And when the pilot says the single engine prop plane can fit one more passenger, Ben offers the seat to Ashley..."

And then the plane crashes. Obv.  I'm sorry to admit that I couldn't finish this one.  In fact, it was the source of a readers block that lasted way too long.  While the premise (and promise of a film to watch afterwards) was fun, the writing was not.  Example:

"Her hair was short.  Think Winona Ryder in Girl, Interrupted. Or Julia Ormond in Harrison Ford's remake of Sabrina.  Not a lot of fuss, yet you could find the same style up and down Manhattan with girls who'd paid a lot of money to look like that.  My bet was that she had paid very little.  Or she could have paid a lot to make it look like she paid a little."

And thus we meet our two heroes.  He, narrator.  She, subject of haircut fixation (fetish, perhaps?).  The narrator doesn't get less annoying anywhere within the first 70 pages, and so I stopped.  There's a real damsel in distress element to the story, with macho, heroic, surgeon slash mountain climber (my, how convenient) ready to sweep her up and, yanno, fall in love while at it (I assume).

It's always disappointing to not finish a novel, but in this case it felt like the lesser of two evils. 

Review copy kindly provided by Hachette

A Lion is a Lion

A Lion is a Lion - Polly Dunbar

"All lions are fierce, right? Well, maybe, just maybe, this Lion – so well dressed and polite and charming – isn't too fierce for you..."

This one reads as somewhat of a cautionary tale, if you're willing to peel back a layer or two.  The story of a polite, sociable lion who is not all that he seems.  I love that the children vocalise their boundaries.  This is a great message for kids and will lead easily into a 'stop means stop' conversation.  A Lion is a Lion is STILL very much a kids story, despite the hidden(ish) message, and the illustrations are on point.  A worthy addition to a storybook collection.

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Me Too

Me Too - Erika Geraerts & Charl Laubscher, illustrated by Gatsby

"A story about imagining the very best kind of friend you could have."
Me Too would make a cute gift for a girlfriend or a partner.  The colours and design have a Frankie magazine vibe - mustard, teal, grey and a hint of dusky pink.  Visually and thematically, Me Too looks and reads like a short and sweet coffee table fave.

In terms of kiddo reads, this is a pass from me.  Partly because I'm not sure kids (or mine, at least) would be all that interested - the story features two children but it feels more adult (e.g. bringing your bestie breakfast in bed).  Also because the greater essence of the story feels very heterosexual romance - accidental social conditioning and all that... This latter is largely to do with the boy/girl illustrations (not the text), but when coupled with the yearning quest to find a soul mate, it just doesn't  quitesit right.

I'll def find a bestie to give this to.  Perfect Galentine gift.

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Board books by Bixley

A Day at the Beach & A Day at the Zoo - Donovan Bixley

"Learning animal names in English and te reo Maori is fun and interactive with this vibrant board book from award-winning illustrator Donovan Bixley."

We were so grateful to receive these two little beauties by Donovan Bixley.  He's become a fast favourite round here.  No exaggeration, Wilco and his cousin will come to blows over Things That Go.  A Day at the Beach and A Day at the Zoo are gorgeous little board books, the perfect blend of educational and entertaining.  The kupu in A Day at the Beach is especially relevant this season, and we're slowly adding them to our daily conversations.  A Day at the Zoo offers a range of animal names, many of which are new to us.  Both books feature a two page illustration including each of the different items, perfect for practicing newly acquired kupu. 

Super sweet little board books for little kiwis.  A Day at the Beach and A Day at the Zoo are due for release at the end of this month so keep an eye out!

Review copy kindly provided by Hachette

What's Your Favourite Colour?

What's Your Favourite Colour? - Eric Carle and Friends

"Eric Carle asks, "What's your favourite colour?" and fifteen of today's finest illustrators respond with great humour and style."

Oh man, I wish I'd had this book last term.  How perfectly it will tie in to a junior school Picasso unit I've been using!  The book provides a perfect exemplar for colour associations and moods.  It simultaneously displays a range of different illustrations styles, many of which would perfectly launch into a follow-up art activity.  What's Your Favourite Colour? is an ideal primary school resource, whether you're a home based teacher or in a school classroom.  Finish your colour unit by creating a classroom book with students own illustrations and words.  #boom.  I'm in planning mode already x

Review copy kindly provided by Walker.  Due out Feb 1st.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Three Cheers for Women!

Three Cheers for Women! - Marcia Williams

"Featuring Cleopatra, Boudicca, Joan of Arc, Elizabeth I, Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane Austen, Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo, Wangari Maathai, Mae C. Jemison, Cathy Freeman and Malala, and packed with facts, quotes and jokes."

I couldn’t find a MORE perfect book for my lil’ budding feminists.  For starters, badass chicks!  Throughout history!  Including a vast array of nasty women I’ve never even heard of - yep, some dual educating happening ova here.  For seconds, my kids are still waaaay into anything in comic-strip format.  Even my little not-yet-reader is transfixed by these pages and all their little details.  #win.  For thirds, some of my all-time faves are featured, including the queen of my heart, Jane Austen.  Since my kids are destined to be rabid Jane fans themselves, there could be no better way to start the conditioning nice and early…  

Loving this new addition to our home library, but I can very easily see myself using this to launch study topics in the classroom.  A valuable and fun resource, fo sure.

- Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

Skip to the Loo, My Darling!

"Sally Lloyd-Jones riotous, rhythmic words and Anita Jeram s fresh, bold pictures make this one of the most charming and energetic invitations to potty trainees in ages!"

Is it terrible if I admit that Guess How Much I Love You just is not my favourite book to read the kids?  Like.  Really not. It is of course, a very sweet idea, and gorgeously illustrated.  Despite the pluses, I was so-so about reviewing the newest baord book by the same author/illustrator combo.  But. I. LOVE. it.

Straight off the bat, the illustrations are fricken adorable.  Like, I’m ready to go and adopt a bunch of animals (if only they pranced in the same endearing way as these critters), and instigate a potty party!  I mean, it can only end in the same adorable way, right?? (With a hedgehog carrying a potty on his head - basically).

If you’re little one is toilet training and/or intrigued/amused by the word ‘poo’, this book is your new favourite.  Time for a potty party, anyone?

- Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

Home in the Rain

Home in the Rain - Bob Graham

"The extraordinary touches a seemingly ordinary moment of family life, in this tender, heart-warming story from the award-winning Bob Graham."

Before bringing us The Poesy Ring, Bob Graham created Home in the Rain (amongst other, undiscovered by me titles).  It's a beautiful book, and worthy winner of the CBCA Picture Book of the Year (2017.)  Home in the Rain depicts the simple joys found in the everyday.  Francie and her Mum are returning home from Grandma's, navigating the motorway in the pouring rain.  They pull over for a picnic, stop to collect more petrol, and discuss what they might name Francie's soon-to-be sister.  The illustrations create an evocative, dreamy atmosphere, to complement the tender moments between mother and kiddo.  It had me yearning for rainy day adventures, and mentally reminding myself that every day is an adventure, especially when you're little.

Love love loved this book.  Absolute favourite.

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books