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.


Star Wars books for young and old

It’s Star Wars mania at the moment!  With the release of the new movie just around the corner there has been a whole new assortment of Star Wars merchandise coming out.  That means that there is a whole new selection of Star Wars books to choose from, for the very youngest Star Wars fan to the oldest.  Here are some of the best new Star Wars books, all from Hardie Grant Egmont.

Story-Time Saga

These are adorable stories for the youngest Star Wars fans, based on the original trilogy.  There are currently 2 titles in the series with 2 more coming soon.  Each of the books focuses on an important event in the original trilogy, introducing characters and places from the movies.  The stories are short and simple, with delightful cartoon illustrations.  The first two books are When Luke Skywalker Met Yoda and When R2-D2 Saved the Secret Plans.  Coming in January is When Princess Leia Met the Ewoks and When the Rebels Saved Han Solo.  Coming from this geeky dad, these books are the perfect way to instil a love of Star Wars in your kids from a very young age.

Wheres the wookiee

Where’s the Wookiee? A Search and Find Activity Book

This is a ‘Where’s Wally?’ type book for Star Wars fans and it is ALOT of fun!  In the first few pages you’re given the task of finding a variety of characters, including Chewbacca, Han Solo and Boba Fett, in every location throughout the book.  Each double-page spread is a different location from the Star Wars saga, from Hoth to Mos Eisley and the Death Star to Jabba’s Palace.  Finding these characters is no easy task as each page is jam-packed full with Jedis, droids, Stormtroopers and Ewoks.  For the expert searchers there are also extra characters to find in the Galactic Checklist at the back of the book.  The illustrations are quite cartoony but I really like the style.  It’s hours of fun for young and old.

The Princess, The Scoundrel and the Farm Boy by Alexandra Bracken  (A New Hope)

So You Want to Be a Jedi? by Adam Gidwitz (The Empire Strikes Back)

Beware the Power of the Dark Side by Tom Angleberger (Return of the Jedi)

These three books are original retellings of the three original movies – A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  These three very lucky authors were given the task of retelling the stories in their own special way.   It is clear to see the love of the stories that each of the authors bring to these books. While retelling the stories that we know and love they are also quite different.  In The Princess, The Scoundrel and the Farm Boy, Alexander Bracken, breaks the whole story down into the stories of the three main characters – first Princess Leia, then Han Solo and finally Luke Skywalker.  So You Want to Be a Jedi? focuses on Luke’s story, with the other characters taking a back seat.  Adam Gidwitz has also cleverly woven a Jedi training manual into the story so that young readers can train alongside Luke.  The final book in the trilogy, Beware the Power of the Dark Side is Tom Angleberger’s love letter to Star Wars.  It is chock-full of details, including dialogue from the movie.  I love each of the different styles of these authors and they really bring the movies alive on the page.  This trilogy of books are perfect for older Star Wars fans who are sure to gobble them up.

Kiwi activity books to keep kids entertained

Whether you’re going off on holiday this Summer or just staying around home, kids need lots of things to do to keep them entertained.  If the weather is great they can get outside and enjoy the sun, but Christmas weather isn’t always so reliable so it’s good to have something up your sleeve.  There are lots of different activity books around, but here are a few great ones with a Kiwi flavour.


The Great Kiwi Swimming Puzzle Book by Annette Barry and John Bennett

DIVE IN to these Great Kiwi Swimming Puzzles!

44 puzzles to keep kids entertained for hours: crosswords, dot-to-dot, drawing activities, code breakers and more! PLUS tips from Water Safety New Zealand about how to stay safe in the water.


The Little Yellow Digger Activity Book

Little Yellow Digger Activity BookCelebrating 20 years of The Little Yellow Digger, The Little Yellow Digger Activity Book is packed with fun activities!

Full of fun and charm, this activity book will keep kids amused for hours with puzzles, things to make and colouring pages, including:

  • Spot the difference
  • Join the dots
  • Make your own diggers’ chains
  • Colouring in
  • Mud pie cookies recipe


New Zealand Garden Wildlife to Read, Colour and Keep by Dave Gunson

New Zealand Garden WildlifeThe natural world of our backyards includes many fascinating native and introduced species, from fungi, butterflies and moths, spiders and weta to reptiles and beautiful birds. Just as children enjoy encounters with garden wildlife, they’ll love learning about it as they colour in the simple, bold illustrations in this book, the latest in the ‘read, colour and keep’ series from Dave Gunson.

Read: Each page carries a sentence or two of introductory text alongside a traceable black-and-white line illustration ready to be coloured in.

Colour: An A4 double-page colour insert will guide children on realistic colour and markings.

Keep: Every illustration page is perforated to enable the completed drawing to be taken out of the book for display.


The Looky Book by Donovan Bixley

The Looky Book is a puzzle book with 11 different puzzles, all with colourful New Zealand landscapes, birds and animals.  There are heaps of things to find in each picture, like find the numbers with the crazy All Black lambs, spot the difference with the mischievous keas, find the animals hidden deep in the bush, and match the farmers to their animals.   There are hours of fun for kids and adults, and when you’ve solved all the puzzles, you can go back and find the tui and the grumpy garden gnome on each page.


All of these books are available throughout the country, so wherever you go these holidays, grab one for the Kiwi kids in your life.  These books are great for the whole family so you can join in and help too.