Activity books for the whole family

There have been a range of activity books that have been published recently.  There is something for everyone in the family, from toddlers right through to the 12-year-old history buff.


Alison Lester’s Wonderful World brings together Alison’s illustrations from her many delightful books and gives kids the chance to create their own colourful adventures with Noni the Pony, beach holidays, and explorations of the jungle and oceans.  There are more basic illustrations for younger children, right through to very detailed scenes for older children (and their parents).  It’s a wonderful colouring book for old and young alike.


See Play Do: A Kid’s Handbook for Everyday Fun is the ultimate activity book for Kiwi families.  This fantastic book is packed full of games and activities to get kids thinking, moving, exploring, being creative and having fun.  There are pages to draw on, with activities like planning your dream breakfast and drawing while listening to music.  There are pages to write on, like writing about what happened the last time you were at the park and writing a playlist of the favourite songs you like to listen to.  There are also pages with recipes to try, bird feeders and bath paint to make, and heaps of pages with suggestions of fun things to do and try.  There are so many things in this book that I want to do with my toddler.  Every family in New Zealand needs this book under their Christmas tree because it is certain to be loved by everyone.  It is a real winner!


Peter Goes’ Timeline was a fascinating book that Gecko Press published last year.  It starts at the beginning of time and follows events right through to the present day.  It is a large book chock-full of information about people, places and events throughout time, and you find something new every time you look at it.  Gecko Press have just released a companion activity book for Timeline.  This is the perfect book for those kids that love history and who have lots of fascinating facts stored away in their head, especially older children.  Kids can be creative while learning about civilisations, historical events and famous people from history.  Kids can decorate a cave with rock drawings, bring Ottoman designs to life, graffiti the Berlin Wall, decorate the uniforms of soldiers in the Russian Revolution and help Michelangelo decorate the Sistine Chapel.  There is so much variety in this book and it will keep anyone entertained for many, many hours.  The pages can also be detached from the book so you can hang your masterpieces on the wall or share them with friends.  This is a must-buy Christmas present for older children.


I also want to give a special mention to Gecko Press for their new card games based on two of their best-selling books.  Noisy Dominoes was inspired by The Noisy Book, a gorgeous board book featuring lots of different noises to make.  In Noisy Dominoes, players have to imitate the noise of the object or animal on their card or mime the action.  They have also released Poo Bum Memory, inspired by my favourite Gecko Press book Poo Bum, and featuring words and images from the book.  I think these are both a wonderful idea to extend the fun of these two books and they are a lot of fun.


My Favourite Christmas Books: Santa’s Beard

One of my favourite Christmas books is Santa’s Beard by Matilda Tristram and Tom Duxbury, and illustrated by Nick Sharratt.  It is the best Christmas story to read aloud and I love sharing it with kids.


It’s an incredibly silly, laugh-out-loud story about Santa’s beard finding a new face.  Santa is too hot with his beard in the summer sun so his beard decides to find a new face.  Santa’s beard jumps onto a chef, a granny, a baby and many more faces to try and find the right place.  The real fun of this book is that, as you read, you have to move Santa’s beard around and put it on each new face.  The anticipation is wonderful and kids always laugh when they see whose face Santa’s beard has landed on.  The text is simple and fun and Nick Sharratt’s illustrations are delightful as always.

Here is a video from the publisher of Santa’s Beard, Walker Books, of a very funny reading of the book:

Pukeko Dancing on the Old Dirt Track by Lotte Wotherspoon

When so many of our local Christmas books are just Kiwi versions of Christmas carols or The Night Before Christmas it is really refreshing to read a book about Christmas in New Zealand that is fresh and fun.  Lotte Wotherspoon has just released her new picture book, Pukeko Dancing on the Old Dirt Track, which blends the story of a family Christmas in New Zealand with the story of a Pukeko family.

Pukeko Dancing on the Old Dirt Track follows the Sandersons, a Kiwi family, as they prepare for Christmas.  They chop down a pine for their Christmas tree, decorate it, sing Christmas songs, and wrap presents.  The Pukeko family, Spike and Rose, are also making preparations.  They are gathering materials to build their nest and dreaming of ‘fleet-footed chicks.’  Just as Christmas Day arrives, with presents and yummy food to share, six fluffy chicks hatch out of their eggs and the celebrations kick off.

This is a wee gem of a book.  The story is delightful and the rhyming text bounces along, following the two families as they make their preparations.  Children will love joining in with the refrain that repeats throughout the book, ‘Flip-flap, yikkidy-yak! There’s a pukeko dancing on the old dirt track.’  The main reason I love this book though is because of the gorgeous, quirky illustrations.  The family are all wearing bright clothes and the Pukeko are even wearing little hats. Lotte has given the book a real Kiwi feel with Pohutukawa, toitoi and ferns throughout the book and the Summer activities that the family are all doing.  My favourite page is the very last spread where the Pukekos are having a party.  You can tell that a lot of love has gone into this book, just by looking at the beautiful production of it, from the hard cover and the feel of the pages, to the quality of the illustrations and the wonderful Pohutukawa end papers.  I hope to see more books from Lotte and Clay Press.

We had an event in Christchurch recently called the Pukeko Stomp, which was a walk around the Travis Wetland for pre-schoolers and their families, with stories and snacks.  I shared this book at the event and the children loved it.  It is a great book to read aloud to a group or one-on-one.

Pukeko Dancing on the Old Dirt Track is the perfect New Zealand picture book to share with your family this Christmas or to send overseas to relatives.  You can purchase Pukeko Dancing on the Old Dirt Track from the Clay Press website or at your local bookshop.