I love reading translated fiction, especially for children. Some of my favourite stories were not originally published in English – Inkheart by Cornelia Funke was originally published in German and The Watcher in the Shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafon was originally published in Spanish. Thank goodness for publishers like the wonderful Gecko Press who translate the best books in to English for children to enjoy here in New Zealand. Gecko Press’ latest translated gem is The Ice Sea Pirates by Frida Nilsson. This wonderful story brought back memories of the first time I read my favourite book, Inkheart, as it took me on an adventure that swept me away.
Siri lives on a small island with her younger sister, Miki, and her old, tired father. An outing on a nearby island to collect berries ends in tragedy as Miki is taken by pirates. These are not just any pirates, but those from the Snow Raven, a ship from the stories that Siri tells her sister. The Snow Raven is captained by the most wicked pirate in all the seas, Captain Whitehead, a pirate with hair white as snow and a heart as empty as an ice cave. Children who are taken by Whitehead are never seen again as they get sent to work in his mines until their bodies and minds are broken. Siri knows that she is the only person who can save her sister and so sets out to get her back by any means.
The Ice Sea Pirates is an adventure story full of pirates, wolves, mermaids, frozen landscapes and a whole lot of heart. It is a story about an incredibly brave girl who never gives up on her search for her sister. Frida Nilsson, and her skilled translator, Robert Graves, transport the reader to the unforgiving Ice Sea and make you feel that you are right there beside Siri the whole way. You feel the biting, icy wind, feel Siri’s gnawing hunger and her heartache for the friends she makes along the way, and hear the creaking and groaning of the frozen sea. The writing is beautiful. Some of the descriptions of the characters and places were so perfect that I had to reread them several times.
Siri is one of those characters that becomes your best friend. You are right there beside her and get inside her head. She goes through so much on her journey to find her sister – she leaves home by herself to rescue her sister, faces down white wolves, stows away on boats with angry men, and stands up to vicious pirates – but she never gives up. She is determined to find her sister, rescue her friend and protect those who cannot protect themselves.
I loved The Ice Sea Pirates and I know that Siri and her story will stay with me for a long time. It is the perfect read aloud for ages 9 and up and I highly recommend it for anyone who loves adventure stories with a touch of magic and wonder.
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.
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.
A book that makes you laugh every time you read it is a sure sign of a great book. The first time I read My Pictures After the Storm, the latest ‘curiously good’ book from Gecko Press, I was laughing the whole way through because I didn’t know what to expect. Now, every time I read it I know what is coming and it is just as funny.
My Pictures After the Storm is a stand-out book and my favourite book at the moment. I want to show it to everyone I see and I am desperate to show it to all the kids at school after the holidays. It features a series of before and after illustrations that are incredibly clever and absolutely hilarious. Eric Veille shows us the changes to his pictures after the storm, after a cannonball, after the hairdresser and much more.
The text is sparse but the language that Eric uses is rich. On the My Pictures after the hairdresser page for example the lion-tamer goes from being ‘a lion-tamer unconcerned’ to ‘a lion-tamer nicely permed.’ A cake after the elephant turns into a splitch and an octopus becomes a splatch. One of my favourite pages is ‘My pictures after a cold,’ because you have to say the names of the fruit and vegetables like you have a cold.
Eric’s illustrations are what makes this book so brilliant. They are full of humour and expression. It is so much fun to compare the before and after pictures to see what has happened to everything on the page. Each of the scenes is something that kids and adult will be able to relate to, from having lunch and going swimming to having a battle and eating too many potato chips.
My Pictures After the Storm is a book that kids will beg to read again and again and adults will be happy to do so. It’s a book that will have you laughing together and noticing new things on the page each time you read. It is sure to engage even older children who will appreciate the clever illustrations and humour.
Tickle My Ears, Jorg Muhle’s previous book with Gecko Press, was a hit in our household. My daughter loved helping get Little Rabbit ready for bed by tucking him tickling his ears, rubbing his back and tucking him in. It’s a great interactive book to help all little ones get ready for bed. Gecko Press now brings us the gorgeous Bathtime for Little Rabbit.
Bathtime for Little Rabbit is another interactive board book perfect for helping your little ones with their bath and bedtime routines. In this book you call Little Rabbit for his bath, help to wash his ears, help to keep the water out of his eyes and make sure he’s nice and dry.
Little Rabbit is absolutely adorable and you and your little one will love helping him with his bath. It’s a book that subconsciously teaches them about caring for others because you’ve got to make sure that you’re gentle and kind. You’ll also have a bit of a laugh too, especially when you have to blow on the page to dry Little Rabbit off. The illustrations are soft and the text sparse making this the perfect read for newborns right through to preschoolers.
Grab a copy of both Tickle My Ears and Bathtime for Little Rabbit for some perfect bedtime reading with your little rabbits.
Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis are the dream team when it comes to picture books in New Zealand. They have written and illustrated so many fabulous picture books, from the Marmaduke Duck series to Toucan Can. Their books are always a joy to read aloud and their latest book, That’s NOT a Hippopotamus! is no exception. Adults and children alike will love this book!
In That’s NOT a Hippopotamus! we follow a class of children and their poor teacher on an outing to the zoo. They discover that the hippopotamus is missing and they race off all over the zoo as they try to track it down. Some of the children think they’ve found the hippo but they don’t quite get the right animal. One of the children, Liam thinks that he sees the hippo but no one pays attention to him. When it gets to the stage that the children are all forlorn and their teacher has almost had a nervous breakdown Liam finally gets everyone to listen to him.
That’s NOT a Hippopotamus is a hilarious story that will have adults and children in fits of giggles. After creating so many books together Juliette and Sarah have a real knack for creating funny, entertaining, but also very clever, picture books. The thing that makes this picture book stand out for me is that there are so many layers to it. As the children chase after different animals (thinking they’ve found the hippopotamus) Juliette gives the reader little details about each animal so you can guess what it is. There is this great sense of anticipation about what the animal will be, and you often get it wrong (which makes it even better). On one page a boy says ‘I see him Miss! He’s on the ground. I’ll get him while he’s snuffling round.’ There is an elephant’s bottom poking around the end of the page so you think it might be an elephant, but it’s actually a warthog. Another layer of the story, told through the illustrations, is Liam spotting the hippopotamus. He tells his teacher that he’s seen the hippo but she doesn’t pay him any attention. The hippo is actually hiding in the exhibits though, and if you look carefully you will spot him.
I love the way that Juliette MacIver plays with words and she has certainly had fun with this story. She has used some very clever rhyming and I love what the children yell out each time they catch an animal, ‘I got ‘im, Miss! I got ‘im, Miss! I got ‘im by his trotter, Miss!’ I know kids are going to love calling out ‘That’s NOT a hippopotamus!’ too.
This is a picture book that kids will beg to read over and over again and it is one that I think adults will be very happy to. I absolutely love it!
Unfortunately I’m not of a generation that grew up with annuals. I didn’t experience the joy of these volumes, chock-full of activities, stories and quizzes. Thankfully the wonderful Gecko Press have brought back this format with their gorgeous new book, Annual, that a new generation of kids will love.
Editors Kate De Goldi and Susan Paris have mined the talented authors and illustrators we have here in NZ and gathered these gems into a truly radiant collection. There are stories, short essays, comics, a song, crafts, activities and a hilarious board game. There are well-known authors and illustrators, such as Barbara Else, Bernard Beckett and Gavin Bishop, but also some incredibly talented debut authors such as Gavin Mouldey, whose story B.O.N.E. is an absolute wonder.
Annual arrived on my doorstep on the morning that I was going away for a school holiday break with my family, so the timing couldn’t have been more perfect! There is hours of entertainment in this book and there is something for the whole family. I especially enjoyed Kirsten McDougall’s A Box of Birds, a collection of odd words to take on a road trip. I was thinking about some of these words as I was driving and I thoroughly confused my family when I yelled out ‘Tally ho, the salt!’ (a phrase to use when you first catch sight of the ocean). We all enjoyed a ‘pootle’ (a wander along the beach with no destination in mind) and with 12-year-old boys in the car there were more than a few winkybubbles (you’ll have to look that one up yourself).
There are so many things that I love about Annual. Being a Gecko Press book the standard of production is excellent, from the eye-catching red hardcover to the smell of the high-quality paper. The variety of pieces in the book is brilliant, with something for every type of kid (and adult for that matter). There are pieces to make you think, pieces to challenge you, pieces to make you laugh and pieces to unleash your creativity. One of my favourite pieces is the comic strip Bad Luck Zebra by Sharon Murdoch and Susan Paris, which cracked me up every time I read it. Kate De Goldi, Susan Paris and Gecko Press deserve a standing ovation for this gorgeous book.
You will want to come back to Annual again and again to revisit your favourite bits and uncover some new delight that you might have missed last time. Get a copy of Annual for everyone on your Christmas list.
I’m a huge fan of Leo Timmers. I always look forward to his books because they are so clever. There are so many layers to the illustrations and you find something different every time you read his books. Leo’s latest book from Gecko Press is Gus’s Garage and it is terrific!
Gus the pig runs a garage. Gus stores all sorts of stuff in his garage, stuff that looks like rubbish, but when his friends need help, he always has just the right thing for them. It’s up to the reader to figure out what stuff Gus might use to help his friends. He certainly is one very clever pig. Rico the rhino comes by on his moped and says ‘Gus, this seat – I’m overflowing.’ Gus looks through his bits and bobs and attaches an old seat that he has to Rico’s moped. This carries on throughout the book until Gus has reused everything in his pile of stuff.
Gus’s Garage is another brilliant picture book from Leo Timmers. It is a picture book that is both entertaining and gets kids thinking. It makes them wonder what Gus will use from his pile of stuff to come up with a solution for his friends and then what might Gus’s final product be. I love the sense of anticipation as you turn the page to find out what Gus has done. I also love Gus’s refrain, ‘Let’s see. I have some bits and bobs. This goes with that. There. Just the job.’
One of the things that I love the most about Leo’s illustrations are the vibrant colours that he uses. His illustrations seem to shine on the pages. There are lots of details to take in on each page. Something I only noticed on my third or fourth reading was that the sky gets darker and darker throughout the story as the day gets later.
Gus’s Garage is a picture book that will be begged to be read again and again.
As a father of a 15 month old I’m always on the look out for some great board books to share with my girl. She will certainly let me know if she doesn’t like a book (either by pointing to a different book or just getting off my lap and walking away). We love going to the library and she’ll usually choose books that she likes the look of. Every night we have 2 or 3 stories just before she gets into bed and I love having a bedtime book, one that signals it’s time for bed. Our favourite bedtime book at the moment is the brilliant board book from Gecko Press, Tickle My Ears by Jörg Muhle.
Tickle My Ears is the perfect book for bedtime. It is very interactive, with lots of signs imbedded in this simple story that tell the child that it’s time for bed. It is short and sweet but fun at the same time. You have to help Little Rabbit get ready for bed by doing things like fluffing up his pillow (by shaking the book), tickling his ears, stroking his back and tucking him in (by turning the page). We read this book almost every night so my girl has got the hang of it and will stroke Little Rabbit’s ears and rub his back. There are some things I have to do myself, like saying ‘Hoppity Hop’ to help him get ready. The great thing about this book is that it will work for different age groups, whether your baby is talking or just sitting quietly listening to you read. I love the interactivity of the book and it is simply adorable watching my daughter stroke the rabbit’s back. I never get tired of reading it and neither does she.
Get your hands on a copy of Tickle My Ears and make this brilliant book part of your child’s bedtime routine.
How many times have you been reading a novel and desperately want to know more about the subject of the story? I’ve read stories set in Venice and needed to know more about this magical place and read Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret and needed to know more about the early days of movie making. Usually you have to go to a completely different book or website to find the information you crave. However, in a brilliant new book by Sylvia Vanden Heede and Marije Tolman, What Dog Knows, fiction and nonfiction are mashed together for the perfect book for inquisitive young readers.
When Wolf finds a fact-filled book in the library, he thinks he will outsmart his clever cousin Dog.
Who knows more about robots, dragons, knights, and pirates? And what about setting traps, playing tricks, and chewing bones?
What Dog Knows is a one-of-a-kind book that kids are going to gobble up. It’s a book that will make kids laugh and go ‘wow!’ It weaves the story of Dog and Wolf’s antics with information about all sorts of topics, from mummies to pirates and robots to dinosaurs. Each section of the book focuses on different topics, with Dog and Wolf trying to one-up each other to prove they know more. They are always picking up books to find out what they need to know. Fiction and nonfiction are presented in two different sized fonts but both weave together seamlessly.
There is a lot to love about What Dog Knows. The conversations between Dog and Wolf are very funny and full of wit, so any adults who share this book with children will love it just as much as the children. Boys especially will enjoy the humour and the jokes. Marije Tolman’s illustrations are quirky and perfectly compliment the text. Her diagram of Wolf mummifying a cat is brilliant. The thing I love the most about this book are the simple quizzes to test what readers have learnt and the activities for kids to try that tie in with each topic.
Thanks to Gecko Press for publishing this special book in English. Without Gecko Press we wouldn’t know about all the wonderful books that are published in other languages. Gecko Press also published Wolf and Dog by the same team and hopefully there are other books to come starring these two characters.
Put What Dog Knows in the hands of all the young readers you know. Not only will they be entertained, they’ll learn a thing or two along the way.
Gecko Press introduced us to Stephanie Blake’s naughty little rabbit, Simon, when they translated and published Poo Bum! a few years ago. They’ve continued to publish Stephanie’s books, with more and more stories of Simon’s naughty antics. I’ve loved each and every one (Stupid Baby is my favourite). Gecko Press has just released the latest Simon the rabbit book, I Want Spaghetti, and it’s every bit as funny as the previous stories. In I Want Spaghetti we get to meet Simon the fussy eater.
Simon only likes to eat one thing…spaghetti. His parents try to get him to eat other things like sandwiches and soup but Simon thinks they are disgusting and he won’t eat them. Simon isn’t fond of getting told what to eat or being told to go to his room so he throws a big tantrum. His parents manage to tempt him with chocolate cake and just when they think they’ve got Simon eating out of the palm of their hand, he turns the tables on them.
I Want Spaghetti is a laugh-out-loud picture book featuring a character that both kids and adults love. Simon is the child that you can laugh at but wouldn’t want as your own. He’s a horrible little rabbit, with bad manners, who has tantrums and makes a huge mess, but you can’t help but love him. Kids especially love him because he gets to do and say the things they aren’t allowed to. I have read I Want Spaghetti to kids in schools around Christchurch and kids of all ages love it, from 5-year-olds right through to 12-year-olds. In fact, the Simon the rabbit books are the most requested books that I get asked to read again and again. That’s the sign of a really great book!
I love how sparse Stephanie’s books are. The illustrations are quite simple, while showing an incredible range of emotions, and the colours of the pages are bright, allowing the text to stand out. The text is also quite simple but it has real impact. The design of the book is very clever, with the text changing sizes and being run together for emphasis. I especially like the pages of text and illustration where Simon says ‘I Want Spaghetti’ increasingly louder. The text gets bigger and the illustrations show Simon getting angrier and angrier.
The thing I love the most about Stephanie’s books is that there is always a twist in the story. I love seeing kids’ faces and hearing them laugh when you turn the last page.
Thanks Gecko Press for continuing to bring us more of Stephanie’s Simon stories. I certainly hope there are many more to come!