Category Archives: picture books

Summer Days: Stories and Poems Celebrating the Kiwi Summer

The days are getting warmer and it’s starting to feel like Summer is just around the corner.  When you think of a Kiwi summer you think of days at the beach, hokey pokey ice cream, pohutukawa trees, jandals and lots of family time.  New Zealand stories and poems that encapsulate a Kiwi summer have been gathered together in a gorgeous new collection by Puffin.

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Summer Days is a gorgeous collection of New Zealand stories and poems that the whole family will enjoy.  Authors, illustrators and their stories have been carefully selected to showcase our Kiwi summer.  Inside these bright covers you’ll find stories from Margaret Mahy, Joy Cowley, Pamela Allen, Sandra Morris and Dot Meharry, interspersed with poems by Peter Bland, Fiona Farrell and James K. Baxter.  Each story and poem is beautifully illustrated by some of our best illustrators including Gavin Bishop, Jenny Cooper and David Elliot.

So much attention has been paid to the production of the collection.  It’s hardcover, with a summery design that is stamped into the cover, the page edges are bright yellow,  and it has a ribbon bookmark.  My favourite part of the design though is the ice cream endpapers.  It’s just one of those books that anyone would be happy to get. It leaps off the shelf and begs you to take it home.

Summer Days is the perfect collection for the whole family as there are stories for everyone.  Get a copy for your family this Christmas and spend the summer reading it again and again.

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I Want To Be in a Scary Story by Sean Taylor and Jean Jullien

I love interactive picture books that make the reader a part of the story.  It’s clear that kids love them too because it’s these kind of books that are the most popular in my school library.  I Want to Be in a Scary Story by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Jean Jullien is an absolutely brilliant recent example of an interactive story where the reader talks directly to the purple monster who stars in the story.

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You start off asking Little Monster what he wants to do today.  He wants to be in a story, but not just any story – a scary story.  You then set up an idea for a scary story and in Little Monster goes.  However, it’s a little too scary for Little Monster, so you try again.  It is still too scary.  You keep trying until Little Monster decides maybe a funny story might be best.  Just when you think you’ve got the perfect story for Little Monster, he disappears, only to surprise you at the end.

I Want To Be in a Scary Story is a hilarious picture book that you have to read aloud.  You are guaranteed to have your young audience in fits of laughter.  It’s the sort of picture book that would almost be better if you read it in a pair, with one person being the reader and the other being the monster.  If you’re reading it yourself though you need to come up with a great Little Monster voice.

Sean Taylor and Jean Jullien are a winning combination for this book.  Sean Taylor’s text makes the story perfect for performing as there are two distinct voices, with different fonts and different colours.  You could even just read the text and get the children to draw what you think Little Monster’s scary story might look like.  Jean Jullien’s illustrations are bold, colourful and full of expression.  Little Monster’s face changes from an expression of pure joy to one of fear and shock.

I can’t wait to read I Want To Be in a Scary Story to all of the kids at my school.  I know this is going to be one of those books that the kids ask for again and again but will never be on the shelf because it’s so popular.

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Scarface Claw, Hold Tight! by Lynley Dodd

Like most kids in New Zealand I grew up with Lynley Dodd’s books.  I got read the Hairy Maclary books and My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes so much when I was younger that as an adult I know them off by heart.  It’s really wonderful being able to share these stories with my daughter now too, especially when she can almost read Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy to me.  It’s great to see that Lynley Dodd is still writing stories starring these familiar loveable characters, and her latest book features that crotchety moggie, Scarface Claw.

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Scarface Claw, Hold on Tight! starts off with old sleepyhead, Scarface Claw sunning himself on the roof of the car.  The next moment though he finds himself holding on for dear life as Tom zooms off down the driveway.  As the scar speeds off down the motorway they go past a trailer of dogs, a logging truck, a school bus full of boys and many other people who try everything to get Tom’s attention. When the Policewoman finally manages to get Tom to stop, Scarface tumbles down from the roof, very unhappy indeed.  He yowls and scowls like the Scarface Claw we know, and Tom takes him, double quick, all the way home.

Scarface Claw, Hold on Tight! will be loved by young and old.  As soon as I got the book my daughter asked me to read it three times in a row and it has certainly become one of our current favourites to snuggle up together and read.  Lynley Dodd certainly hasn’t lost her touch in the 30 or so years she has been writing these stories.  Scarface Claw hasn’t mellowed with age either.  He still seems the same old grumpy cat that he was when my grandmother first read me Caterwaul Caper when I was young.  I remember that story so well because she always used to trip over the word ‘cacophony.’ It’s one of my favourite words and it’s all because of Lynley Dodd.

The story is a joy to read aloud, especially with Lynley Dodd’s language.  There is some wonderful alliteration in this story.  I especially like ‘a lumbering logging truck loaded with logs.’  The illustrations are delightful, especially when you see poor Scarface hanging on to the top of the car.  My favourite illustration is the one of Scarface sliding off the roof of the car.  Scarface is seriously unimpressed and Tom looks quite shocked too.

One question that I’d love to ask Lynley Dodd if I ever do meet her is ‘how does Miss Plum manage to always be in the right place at the right time?’ If you look carefully at the illustrations you’ll also see another of Lynley’s characters trotting along the street.

Grab a copy of Scarface Claw, Hold Tight! to add to your Lynley Dodd collection.

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There Is No Dragon In This Story by Lou Carter and Deborah Allwright

Like wolves, dragons get a pretty back rap in stories.  They guard castles, hoard gold and are generally just a menace.  Did you ever think that maybe the dragon might like to have their own story where they do something good?  In Lou Carter and Deborah Allwright’s wonderful new picture book, There Is No Dragon In This Story, Dragon sets off to find his own story in which he can be the hero.

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This story was supposed to be a story about a dragon who captured a princess and was defeated by a brave knight.  However, Dragon refuses to capture ‘any icky, frilly princess’ and sets off to be the hero of his own story.  Dragon walks in to the stories of several fairy tale characters, including the Gingerbread Man, the Three Little Pigs and Jack, but they all tell him ‘No. There is NO DRAGON in this story!’ When the giant sneezes and blows out the sun, there is only one character who can save the day and become the hero.

There Is No Dragon In This Story is a wonderful fairy tale mix-up about a classic villain who just wants to be a hero.  The reader follows Dragon through stories they are familiar with, all the while hoping that Dragon will find his place in a story.  Dragon starts off feeling quite hopeful that he could just slot in to someone else’s story but ends up despondent because nobody wants a dragon in their story.  I love the boost of confidence that he gets when he realises that he is the only one that can help and he knows that he can do it.  It shows kids that when they put their mind to it they can achieve what they set out to do.

Lou Carter’s story is wonderful to read aloud.  There are plenty of different characters so there are lots of opportunities to try different voices.  The story would work well with children acting out the different parts.  Deborah Allwright’s illustrations are full of colour and humour.  She really brings out the joy and confidence of Dragon and portrays the fairy tale characters we love in a new light.  Even when the characters are left in the dark she still manages to make the characters shine.

There are so many ways you could extend the fun of this story.  You could get children to recreate Red Riding Hood or The Three Little Pigs with Dragon in the story.  Get them thinking about how you could make Dragon the hero in each of these fairy tales.  Children could write their own stories where Dragon is the hero and even think about other villains that they could turn in to heroes, like the Wicked Witch or The Big Bad Wolf.

Grab a copy of There Is No Dragon In This Story now and help Dragon become the hero.

 

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My Top September Kids & YA Releases – Part 2

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The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met, never even spoken to – someone who is light years away? Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J. Their only communication is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love. But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean? Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone.

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Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros by Meg McKinlay

“Don’t you wish,” said the small rhinoceros, “that you could see the world?” And so begins this delightful picture book by award-winning creators Meg McKinlay and Leila Rudge.

Once, there was a small rhinoceros who wanted to see the big world. So she built a boat. And sailed away … From the duo behind award-winning picture book No Bears comes a simple yet inspirational tale about challenging the norm, pushing boundaries and being true to oneself.

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I Want to be in a Scary Story by Sean Taylor and Jean Jullien

Monster wants to be in a scary story – but is he brave enough? Scary stories have creepy witches and creaky stairs and dark hallways and spooky shadows… Oh my goodness me! That is very scary. Maybe, a funny story would be better after all?

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Baabwaa & Wooliam by David Elliott and Melissa Sweet

Baabwaa is a sheep who loves to knit. Wooliam is a sheep who loves to read. It sounds a bit boring, but they like it. Then, quite unexpectedly, a third sheep shows up. A funny-looking sheep who wears a tattered wool coat and has long, dreadfully decaying teeth. Wooliam, being well-read, recognizes their new acquaintance: the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing! The wolf is so flattered to discover his literary reputation precedes him that he stops trying to eat Baabwaa and Wooliam. And a discovery by the sheep turns the encounter into an unexpected friendship.

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On the Night of the Shooting Star by Amy Hest and Jenni Desmond

Bunny and Dog live on opposite sides of the fence. No one says hello. Or hi. But on the night of the shooting star, two doors open… From bestselling author Amy Hest and illustrator Jenni Desmond comes a charming picture book about loneliness and making friends.

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His Royal Tinyness by Sally Lloyd-Jones and David Roberts

Marianna, the most beautiful, ever so kindest princess, lives happily with her mum, dad and gerbil. Happy, that is, until the new baby comes along. His Royal Highness King Baby is so smelly. He’s so noisy. And all the talk in the Land is about him – non-stop, All the time! Has there everbeen such a time of wicked rule?!

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Crazy About Cats by Owen Davey

Did you know that the fishing cat has partially webbed paws for catching fish? Or that pumas can leap up over 5 metres into trees? There are roughly 38 species of cats today, each one superbly adapted to their environment – whether that be in the rainforest or the desert!

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The Ice Sea Pirates by Frida Nilsson

The cold bites and the sea lashes in this adventure on the ice seas. Ten-year-old Siri must counter the treachery of sailors, hungry wolves, frozen landscapes and a mine where children are enslaved, to save her younger sister from the dreaded ice sea pirates.

 

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My Top September Kids & YA Releases – Part 1

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The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

After crashing hundreds of miles from civilisation in the Amazon rainforest, Fred, Con, Lila and Max are utterly alone and in grave danger. They have no food, no water and no chance of being rescued. But they are alive and they have hope. As they negotiate the wild jungle they begin to find signs that something – someone – has been there before them. Could there possibly be a way out after all?

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Because You Love to Hate Me edited by Ameriie

This unique YA anthology presents classic and original fairy tales from the villain’s point of view. The book’s unconventional structure–thirteen of the most influential booktubers on YouTube join forces (writing-prompt style) with thirteen acclaimed and bestselling authors–gives these mysterious, oft-misunderstood individuals characters a chance to tell their stories, their way.

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Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

They think I hurt someone.
But I didn’t. You hear?
Cos people are gonna be telling you
all kinds of lies.
I need you to know the truth.

Joe hasn’t seen his brother for ten years, and it’s for the most brutal of reasons. Ed is on death row.

But now Ed’s execution date has been set, and Joe is determined to spend those last weeks with him, no matter what other people think.

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What Was I Scared Of? by Dr. Seuss

A very special, spooky story from Dr. Seuss – with glow-in-the-dark ink!

Then I was deep within the woods
When, suddenly, I spied them.
I saw a pair of pale green pants
Wth nobody inside them!

Turn out the lights and say hello to Dr. Seuss’s spookiest character… the pair of empty trousers, with nobody inside them!
First published as part of The Sneetches and Other Stories collection, this all-time favourite story of Dr. Seuss’s is now published on its own in this very special edition with a glow-in-the-dark finale!

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Birthday Boy by David Baddiel

This is the story of Sam Green, who really, really, really loves birthdays. He loves the special breakfasts in bed. The presents. The themed parties. Blowing out the candles on his cake. Everything. He is so excited about his 11th birthday, in fact, that he wishes it was his birthday every day.

So, at first, it’s quite exciting when his birthday happens again the next morning. And again. And again. And again…

But it’s not long before things start to go wrong. Soon, disaster strikes, threatening something Sam loves even more than birthdays. Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.

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The Bad Seed by Jory John and Pete Oswald

This is a book about a bad seed. A baaaaaaaaaad seed. How bad Do you really want to know

He has a bad temper, bad manners, and a bad attitude. He’s been bad since he can remember! This seed cuts in line every time, stares at everybody and never listens. But what happens when one mischievous little seed changes his mind about himself, and decides that he wants to be-happy.

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Whimsy & Woe by Rebecca McRitchie and Sonia Kretschmar

After being abandoned by their thespian parents one afternoon while playing their weekly family game of hide-and-seek, Whimsy and Woe Mordaunt are left in the care of their austere Aunt Apoline.

Forced to work in her boarding house, looking after the guests, sharpening the thorns of every plant in the poisonous plant garden and listening to off-key renditions of ‘Fish Are Friends Too’ – an aria made famous by the legendary Magnus Montgomery – Whimsy and Woe lose all hope that their parents will someday return. Until one day, quite by accident, the siblings stumble upon a half-charred letter that sets them on a course to freedom and finding their parents.

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A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba Badoe

Sante was a baby when she was washed ashore in a sea-chest laden with treasure. It seems she is the sole survivor of the tragic sinking of a ship carrying refugees. Her people. Fourteen years on she’s a member of Mama Rose’s unique and dazzling circus. But, from their watery grave, the unquiet dead are calling Sante to avenge them: A bamboo flute. A golden band. A ripening mango which must not fall . . . if Sante is to tell their story and her own.

 

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The Prince and the Pee by Greg Gormley and Chris Mould

Everyone can relate to needing to pee in the middle of an important quest, whether you were out doing some shopping that took longer than expected or you were on a long journey.  Greg Gormley and Chris Mould tell the story of a brave prince, who really should have gone before he set off on his quest, in their new book, The Prince and the Pee.

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Prince Freddie is relaxing on his holiday when his horse, Sir Rushington, turns up to take him to save the people in a burning castle from the dragon. Being on holiday, Freddie has been drinking lots of lemonade, but he knows that his quest is urgent and so he jumps on Sir Rushington and gallops off.  It’s not long before he realises he needs to pee.  The waterfall they gallop past and the rain that falls on his armour just makes Freddie need to go even more.  He jumps off his horse and goes to pee behind a rock, only to be startled by an ogre.  Freddie continues to try and find somewhere to pee but keeps getting interrupted, until he finally gets his chance and saves the day at the same time.

Make sure you pee before reading The Prince and the Pee otherwise you might find yourself peeing your pants with laughter.  Everyone can relate to Freddie and his dire situation so you really feel for him.  You understand the look of anguish on his face because you know the need to pee just gets worse and worse the longer you have to hold on.  You can feel his pain when he sees and hears running water and you know it would be horrible to be bouncing up and down, up and down on a horse.  Just when you think poor Freddie might finally get some release he is interrupted by ogres, wolves and even Puss in Boots.

Greg Gormley’s text will have you laughing out loud.  As you read you can hear Freddie getting increasingly desperate and Sir Rushington trying to find suitable places to pee while still keeping Freddie on track to get to the castle.  I’ve always loved Chris Mould’s illustrations and his illustrations for this story are wonderful.  He really shows the desperation on Freddie’s face.  I also love his illustrations of the other fairy tale creatures throughout the story.

The Prince and the Pee is a great story to read aloud (especially for Year 3 and 4 children) and children could even act it out.  It’s another great picture book from one of my favourite publishers, Nosy Crow.

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I Just Ate My Friend by Heidi McKinnon

Some picture books you know are going to be brilliant even before you open the covers.  As soon as I saw the front cover of Heidi McKinnon’s new picture book, I Just Ate My Friend, with the startled monster staring out at the reader, I knew it was going to be a winner.  It makes me laugh out loud every time I read it and I can’t wait to share it with kids!

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I Just Ate My Friend is one of those fantastic picture books that invites the reader to be a part of story.  The main character, a yellow monster with bulbous eyes, addresses the reader saying ‘I just ate my friend.  He was a good friend, but now he’s gone.’  The monster then sets off to find a new friend, only to find that he’s too small, too big or too scary to be anyone’s friend.  Just when he thinks he has found a new friend disaster strikes.

I love, love, love this book!  Kids will beg I Just Ate My Friend to be read again and again.  Heidi’s text and illustrations are simple but they combine to tell a very funny story.  Rather than a lot of white space behind the monsters in the story Heidi has made it night time so the background is a night sky covered with stars.  This makes the reader focus on the big, colourful monsters that take up most of the page.  The yellow monster has large, expressive eyes, so you can tell how he feels.  Understandably the yellow monster is rather distraught that he has eaten his friend and he gets increasingly worried that he won’t find a new friend.  You see how happy the monster is when he does find a friend, only for this to be horribly ripped from his grasp.

If you love the dark humour of Jon Klassen’s This is Not My Hat you’ll love I Just Ate My Friend.

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I Can’t Sleep! by Stephanie Blake

I’m Simon the rabbit’s biggest fan.  I fell in love with this naughty little rabbit with the story that introduced him to readers in New Zealand, Poo Bum.  I haven’t met a kid yet who doesn’t love Poo Bum and kids ask me about it at least once a week.  Gecko Press have made me incredibly happy by continuing to publish the English language editions of Stephanie Blake’s other Simon the rabbit stories.  The latest in the series, I Can’t Sleep, is another hilarious Simon the rabbit story that shows us the more caring side of Simon.

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Simon loves playing with his little brother Casper (even though he once thought of him as a ‘stupid baby’).  One day they decide to build a mega giga-normous hut.  While they play Casper forgets about his blanky.  That night when they go to bed Casper suddenly remembers that his blanky is still outside in the dark garden.  Simon dons his cape, becoming Super Mega Rabbit, and rescues Casper’s blanky for him. As they snuggle back in bed, Simon tells his brother of his adventures.

I Can’t Sleep will be a favourite with children and parents alike.  Children will love the bright, bold illustrations and the adventures that Simon and Casper get up to.  Parents will be able to relate to Casper’s dilemma and they will enjoy the humour.  As a long-time Simon the rabbit fan I love seeing how Simon has changed throughout the different books.  Simon has grown from the naughty little rabbit in Poo Bum and Stupid Baby to a brave and responsible older brother in this story.

One of my favourite aspects of the Simon the rabbit books is the design.  Gecko Press have thought very carefully about the placement of text, giving it plenty of room to spread out on the page.  The size of the text also varies which helps the reader to emphasize certain words or phrases.  I also really love the inside covers of I Can’t Sleep which feature Simon with various expressions and in different poses.  I’d love to have a whole wall in my library covered with these images.

Grab a copy of I Can’t Sleep from your library or bookshop now.

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Ngā Atua: Maori Gods by Robyn Kahukiwa

There are some fantastic books of Maori myths that have been published.  Authors and illustrators like Gavin Bishop, Ron Bacon and Peter Gossage have brought these stories to generations of New Zealand children.  The Moana movie has recently brought Maori and Pacific mythology in to the spotlight, with children showing extra interest in these stories.  Renowned New Zealand artist, Robyn Kahukiwa has just published a fantastic book with Oratia Books that focuses on the gods from Maori mythology, called Ngā Atua: Maori Gods.

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Ngā Atua is the perfect book to introduce young children to the Maori gods.  It’s the sort of book that preschool teachers have been crying out for, as it is a picture book that introduces Maori gods with a simple text and bold illustrations.  The book introduces children to Tāne, Hine-te-iwaiwa, Tangaroa, Mahuika, Māui and many others.  Robyn Kahukiwa tells the stories of the gods and what they are responsible for.  Each of the illustrations that accompany the text perfectly capture the gods and their power.

Ngā Atua: Maori Gods is a beautiful book that will be loved by children across New Zealand.  It will be a book that will be read and enjoyed again and again and will be an invaluable resource for teachers.  I’m sure it will spark an interest in Maori mythology and encourage children to seek out the myths that have been brought to life by other authors and illustrators.

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