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

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Asterix and the Chariot Race

Asterix and the Chariot Race - Jean-Yves Ferri & Didier Conrad

"The roads across Italy are in disrepair. Defending his name, and to prove Rome's greatness, Senator Lactus Bifidus announces a special one-off chariot race... competitors arrive from far and wide, including Asterix and Obelix. With Bifidus secretly scheming, who will win this almighty chariot race?"

Earlier in the year our kids inherited their Granddad's Asterix collection, and it has been a perfect marriage.  No other book or series has so captivated them.  Garland in particular will study the illustrations for hours and has committed many of the stories to memory (he now has a pretty thorough knowledge of Gauls and Romans and menhirs).  Naturally, I leapt at the opportunity to check out a newly released title.  Um, anyone else not actually realise new titles were still being produced?  Consider yourself informed! 

With a new author/illustrator team, I half expected to find jarring differences, but to my (relatively untrained) eye there are none.  Asterix and the Chariot Race is a perfect fit to the rest of the series, both in presentation, illustration and story substance.  I guess Garland will be the true judge, I'll give you an update on Boxing day 😉.  The print quality of this title is possibly the only notable change - with a hardback cover and glossy new pages, our current collection may feel outshone.

We have some way to go before we complete our collection but #2018goal.  Have your kids discovered Asterix and Obelix yet?  There's your #2018goal right there...

Review copy kindly provided by Hachette Books

Little Dog and the Summer Holiday

Little Dog and the Summer Holiday - Corinne Fenton and Robin Cowcher


"A charming and nostalgic story about a much-loved Little Dog and his family."

Eeeeeep!  I hope Walker maintains this tradition of a new Down-under Summer title each year (last year's When We Go Camping is still a favourite).  This one features an a nostalgic Aussie caravaning holiday - how sweet! 

Set in the 50s, a little family and their dog drive from Melbourne to Sydney, to sample all of Sydney's highlights.  Such a perfect little story, simple and energetic, both.  The illustrations are languid, with a hazy summer feel and enough captivating detail to make you linger on each page.  Little Dog and the Summer Holiday captured us completely.

I'm eager to track down the predecessor, Little Dog and the Christmas Wish (for the Christmas book collection).  This one is already a firm favourite!

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

NY is for New York - Paul Thurlby

NY is for New York - Paul Thurlby


"The highly collectible graphic artist Paul Thurlby embarks on an alphabetical tour of New York!"

NY is for New York reads like a series of beautiful, retro postcards.  Every alphabet letter features, in a tour of NY's main attractions.  Urgh!  In case you need any reminding of why New York is on your bucket list, this lovely book has your back (I can only imagine how glorious and twinkly-white-Christmassy New York is right now... Sigh...  ).  I adore the illustrations - any of them framed would make the perfect addition to a gallery wall.  Each is enriched by a snapshot information that accompanies 💯💯💯 .  Perhaps targeted at kids, I think I'm gonna keep this one for me! 

The price point for this little number is pretty rad, considering the quality of both content and publication (thick, matte cardstock).  Check it out in ya local bookstore!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Book Review :: ABC Pop-up

ABC Pop-Up  - Courtney Watson McCarthy
"Whether you’re a young child or a design connoisseur, the clever associations in this diminutive pop-up will charm you in a big way."

Okay so I requested this book based on it's having 'pop-up' in the title.  Who isn't still caught by the magic of pop out pages?!  I was delighted when it arrived.  More than just a pop-up book.  Something clever and beautiful and wholly unexpected.  The pop-ups have intricacies and their own type of magic (a windmill that spins, and swing that... swings).  A selective colour palette, a balance of simple with more complex (the umbrella compared to the x-ray).  And that was just my first glance.  When I revisited the book I discovered more cleverness hidden in the pages that featured more than one letter (all embossed on the card so you need to hunt for them) - so great!

Perfect for any age reader who still looks for magic and loves pretty design.

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

Book Review :: We're Going on a Bear Hunt // Snowglobe Gift Book

We're Going on a Bear Hunt // Snowglobe Gift Book - Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury


"Gorgeous gift edition of the classic join in story by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. Shake up a snowstorm with this perfect gift for brave hunters and bear-lovers everywhere!"

If you were planning to gift a copy of We're Going on a Bear Hunt this Christmas, stop the press!  Walker have just produced the snowglobe edition.  Whaaaaaa!  So cool!  Just like the original, but better.  Because snowglobes are the best, and very Christmassy too, and Christmas is the best, too.  Um, where was I?

A word on the cover (bc I know you all KNOW the sweet story inside, not to mention THOSE illustrations).  It's about a cm thicker than usual, to accommodate the snowglobe.  That's just to say, this isn't just a phoned in snowglobe (the picture above doesn't convey the product at all).  It's everything you could wish a snowglobe-book-cover to be.  The snow itself is created by styrofoam balls .  Genius.  Because not only do they move in a perfectly snowy way, they are a size match for the illustrated snow on the cover picture. Perf.

You probably need to see it for yourself to know that this is definitely your next baby shower gift choice.

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

Book Review :: Hugo Makes a Change

Hugo Makes a Change - Mauro Gatti & Scott Emmons


"Huge the vampire craves red, juicy meat for every meal! But when his eating habits leave him feeling sluggish and bored, he goes on the prowl for something new..."

This is vividly illustrated title will especially appeal to families interested in more of a plant-based diet.  Hugo the vampire decides that too much meat is slowing him down.  He discovers balance, loads of fruit and veges to go with his fave hamburger.  It's a simple concept and well executed.  The rhyme is tightly written and the illustrations are bold and fun.  Who knew vampires could be cute?

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

Author Spotlight :: Angela Armstrong


Guys!  Lookit!!  know you know who Angela is (and if you don't, it's time to find out 😀) so I'm sure you're way ahead of me.  Buuuuut, if there's the slight chance you haven't heard - Angela of Striking Keys has launched her official author website 👊


It's every level of awesome over there.  Make sure you click through the 'books' tab because Angela is offering two novellas for sale, and The Quin is even FREE for a short time.  I've read it and it is BEAUTIFUL.  Go join the Angela fan club, and then we can all claim to have discovered her in the early days 😉 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Book Review :: The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse

The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse - Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen


"They may have been swallowed, but they have no intention of being eaten... A new comedy from the unparalleled team of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen."

Any collab between Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen is obviously gonna be quirky.  This title is no exception.  There's a slightly different flavour to this one.  It has the feel of a fable, or fairytale reimagining.  It's delightfully surprise-filled.  Twists and turns abound.  The illustrations are more cluttered than others by Klassen.  Admittedly, these are not my favourite of his, but I was smitten with the wolf stomach interior settings.  Sounds weird, but that's half the charm!  We will always be up for anything produced by these two.  If you feel the same, The Wolf, The Duck & the Mouse is a guaranteed bedtime fave.

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

Book Review :: The Poesy Ring

The Poesy Ring - Bob Graham


"The poesy ring flew high, caught by the wind. And with the breeze in its tail, the horse turned and galloped. The ring tumbled end over end, and settled deep in a meadow over the sea..."

If you think that cover is beautiful, you'll be pleased to know that the interior matches.  Like Gary, The Poesy Ring features soft colours and un-fussy detail.  The finishing scenes in the snowy city are so, so perfect (and Christmassy, without being Christmassy).  The sweeping arc of the story (it begins in County Kerry, 1830 and finishes in New York, 1667) lends magic, turning The Poesy Ring into somewhat of a modern fairytale.  Whimsical and poetic, this one will appeal to the romantics.

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

Book Review :: Gary

Gary - Leila Rudge


"Any bird can find adventure. Even Gary."

There are so many reasons why I love Gary.  For starters, the multi-media illustrations are lovely.  Pencil with water colour and a little collage.  Warm, gentle hues and busyness without being busy, if you know what I mean..

I also love Gary because he's a pigeon called Gary, and that's the best.

Mostly though, I love Gary because Gary's journey gives me (a wanderlust-ing travel-phobe) hope.  Allllll the pigeons are off flying and exploring and seeing the pretty sights.  Gary is trapped by his inability to fly, and so instead he scrapbooks and dreams.  That is ME, friends.  Gary's story is so helpful.  Eventually he does find a way to travel.  All his scrapbooking and dreaming have set him up with a tool kit that strengthens him as he faces the scary unknown.  LOVE.

Gary is an inspirational book for anyone seeking to overcome limitations.  Winner.

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books.

Friday, November 3, 2017

A Walker Christmas List pt. 3 (Hazza Potta!)

Harry fans, step forward.  This one's for you.

J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World Movie Magic #2 / Curious Creatures


"Meet the magnificent creatures and fantastic beasts of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World."

Is there anything more magical than this book series?  I can only imagine how fun they were to put together!  Serious amounts of detail and allll the special features.

You need to know ---> inside the book there's a part one and part two.  Part one is dedicated to Fantastic Beasts.  I don't agree with this decision.  To me, Fantastic Beasts will always and only be an add-on.  Maybe kids these days feel differently.  But they shouldn't.  Moving on. To be fair, this IS a book about magical creatures, so I *guess* it makes sense.

If you want to buy serious amounts of down time on Christmas day, these are the books for you.  There are behind the scenes pics, illustrations, sketches, pop ups (exquisite ones), inserts (collectors cards, clippings, a poster, a booklet), stickers, and screeds of information.  The pages are packed with photos and text, the kind of book a kid will get lost in for hours.

Disappointingly, Magical creatures aren't my thing. I reallllly need book #1, stat.  Meanwhile I'll hold onto this one as a valuable resource for magical research (I'm only half joking 😉).


J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World Movie Magic #3 / Amazing Artefacts


"The third title in an interactive series of books that features both Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to create the ultimate behind-the-scenes guide to the wizarding world."

Okay, time to settle in.  This one is sooooo my cup of tea - start to finish.  Again, Fantastic Beasts is given a lot of room, but this time I'm more interested in the subject matter and therefore accepting 😉😂.  Some of inclusions in the Fantastic Beasts section are so spot on - especially the wand permit papers, I mean, come on.  There's also a super pretty, Art Deco style poster.  Bam.

When we move into the Harry Potter section, it's like coming home.  There's a copy of Harry Potter's acceptance letter (totes legit), a Daily Prophet, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, potion stickers and a poster of Dumbledore's sleeping portrait (amongst other doodads).  There are also instructions for making a wizard wand, and pages and paaaages of cool info.  There seem to be fewer additional items in Amazing Artefacts than there were in Curious Creatures, but they're better in this book, imo.

Basically, if you're planning a Harry Potter party theme, this book is a great place to start, decor-wise.  You've already got your invites, potion labels and Dumbledore portrait sussed!

Inserts aside (and yes, it's easy to get distracted by them), the content is super interesting for anyone who cares about the intricacies of filmmaking.  If nothing else, it will give you an immense appreciation for the hours of work that goes into making one of these films.  All those little considerations that eventually create an entire picture.

Harry Potter fans from about 10 and up will looooove these two!


J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World Creatures / Magical Film Projections


"Using black line illustrations on framed acetate pages, this enchanting book allows fans to project their favourite scenes from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them films at home with a flashlight."

This little novelty book might not have the same longevity as the others, but would certainly make a fun resource to use at parties or in your classroom.  Pair it with a torch and some popcorn to make a cute Christmas gift ==> great recipe some summer holidays (camping!) fun.  While the novelty will eventually wear off, there's broad appeal to a book that can be shared with the whole family (grandparents included), regardless of whether they even know the story or not.  The fun will be extra enhanced for book fans, but the magic will be felt by even the muggliest muggles in your whanau.

I'm getting more and more despo to plan a proper Harry Potter party.  I've finally initiated the kids by reading them Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone (we watched the movie last night), so it's only a matter of time, peops.  Bring it on.

All of these books are out now, priced between $27.99-$44.99

Review copies kindly provided by Walker Books

Friday, October 27, 2017

A Walker Christmas List pt. 2

Am I premature in posting Christmas book/gift recommendations?  I mean, 80% of my presents are organised, but I'm thinking I might not be with the majority on this 😂😂.  Well bear with me, and save these suggestions for when you are ready.  Next month, Christmas Eve, whatevs.

Merry Christmas, Mary Christmas! - Laurie Friedman & Kathryn Durst


"Mary Christmas wants to love Christmas, but she doesn't love her family's over-the-top celebration. The tree sticks through the roof--it's too big! The lights suck all the power--there are too many!"

As long time readers will know, we are one of those families that love to add a Christmas book to our collection each year.  We gift ours to the kids on Christmas Eve and enjoy cups of hot chocolate while we share it.  It's our favourite.  This year we'll add Merry Christmas, Mary Christmas! to our collection, yuss! 

This title is a little different to others we have.  Truth be told, I might not have ordered it from book depository based on the cover image alone, which makes me super glad to have been sent a copy (I am SO grateful for this confounding privilege!).  What I do love about the illustrations is that they are crammed with Christmassy details, a recipe for utter happiness.  What I don't love about the illustrations is the colour palette and the too-wide mouths of the characters (reminds me of that facebook messanger filter that I use to scare my sisters).

Illustrations aside (and they've grown on me), I so appreciate the story.  I'm glad that my kids will read this message and mull it over.  What the kiddos don't realise yet is that I'm downscaling our present pile this year (hence 80% organised 😀), so this book should set things up nicely #evilgrin.

Due November 1st RRP $27.99

The Princess in Black / Three Smashing Adventures - Shannon Hale, Dean Hale & LeUyen Pham


Who says princesses can’t wear black? This instant collection of the first three adventures in the New York Times best-selling series makes a perfect gift.

Ever since this Princess in Black book hit our mailbox, the kids have been obSESSED!  They were over the moon when this wee set arrived.  Containing the first three stories (and a cute sheet of stickers), this box set is such a sweet gift for a young reader.  The stories are short in length and feature a larger font, with loads of pictures.  They would perfectly suit a reader moving into chapter books for the first time.  That said, Garland isn't reading and LOVES them, and Eleanor reads at an 11yo level and LOVES them.  So, no boundaries, peops!  These are winners!

The Princess in Black stories have a fun cast of characters, humour, and gorgeous, exuberant illustrations.  The packaging is SO nice, dem shiny covers and page borders.  Little details that lift these above the rest.  And if you need to save a little money this year, split the box set amongst three young peops!  Ten bucks a pop for luxe, quality books ---> bam.

Due November 1st RRP $29.99

Cinderella - Jane Ray


"The story of Cinderella told through six beautifully illustrated 3D peep-through tableaux."

Oh.  Melt.  This is such a beautiful little book, and definitely worthy of under-the-tree status.  I'm basically obsessed with pop-up books (um, who isn't?!).  This one brings all the magic, with peep-through dioramas featuring intricate details.  This small book (with delightful gold foil details on the cover) will fit neatly into a stocking.  So precious.

Out now RRP $32.99

The Amazing Animal Atlas - Dr Nick Crumpton & Gaia Bordicchia



"There was never an atlas as astounding, as absorbing, as astronomical, as attractive as The Amazing Animal Atlas!"

Well, this one won't fit in a stocking!  Definitely the perfect gift for any animal lover.  This one is filled with animal info, covering animals from every continent.  There are additional extras such as 'The Tree of Life' (so cool!) and a chapter on Animals in Crisis, as well as some practical ideals for how we can help make our planet healthy.  There's a handy index at the back to help you keep track of all your faves, too!

While I traditionally favour paint or pencil illustrations, I enjoyed these digital renderings.  There's a fineness to the detail, perfect composition and soft, pleasing colour choices.  The book feels 'science-y' and a little artsy at the same time.  The cover is especially well done, with silver foil details and a classic yet modern design. 

Best of all, the book itself is made using 100% eco friendly methods.  Sweet!

Due November 1st $44.99