Tag Archives: Picture Book Nook

Picture Book Nook: Machines and Me series by Catherine Foreman

Catherine Foreman, author and
illustrator of the award-winning picture book, The
Cat’s Pyjamas
, has just released the first two books
in her fantastic new series, Machines and
, with Scholastic NZ. Machines
and Me
is a series of four picture books that each
focus on a different machine. The first two books (out now)
are Planes and
Tractors, with
Boats and
Trains coming soon.

I absolutely love these books!
They’re bright and bold, so will appeal to very young
children. Every page is colourful and the machines really
stand out on the page. The text is simple but has a really
nice rhythm to it. The thing I like the most about these
books though is that they are perfectly suited to the age group.
Catherine Foreman gives a simple
explanation of what each machine does and how it works, but she
does so in a fun way. I also really like Catherine’s design
of the books, with the text following the direction of the machines
and matching the size of the machines. I’m always looking for great
books to share with babies and their parents at our sessions in the
library and these books are perfect. They’re large and the
illustrations are vibrant so they can be seen from further
away. The simple, rhyming text makes them perfect to read
aloud to a large group too. Get your hands on a copy of the first
two Machines and Me books,
Tractors and
, and keep an eye out for Boats
and Trains, coming soon
to a bookshop and library near you. They’re a must for any
home library and would be an absolute hit in preschools.

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Picture Book Nook: One Little Fantail by Anne Hunter, illustrated by Dave Gunson

There are some wonderful books that have been published about New Zealand birds, especially Ben Brown and Helen Taylor’s picture books.  There are very few, however, that are perfect for younger children and wonderful to read aloud.  One Little Fantail by Anne Hunter and illustrated by Dave Gunson is one of those books that entertains and informs young children about New Zealand birds.

One Little Fantail is a collection of delightful rhymes that introduce children to a variety of our native birds.  Anne Hunter’s rhyming text is a joy to read aloud and each poem rolls off your tongue.  I love the way that Anne can describe so much about each bird’s characteristics in just eight lines. The short, rhyming text makes the book perfect for sharing with younger children, as they don’t get bogged down in detail. You could get children to pretend to be each bird, based on the description that Anne gives you of each one.  For those inquisitive children, there are more interesting facts about each bird in the ‘Did you know…’ pages at the back of the book.

Each double page spread features a different bird, with their name in English and Maori.  Dave Gunson’s realistic illustrations are stunning and he perfectly captures the characteristics of each bird.  He captures the mischief of the Kea, the flitting of the Fantail, and the fierceness of the Kahu.

Book Design have done a brilliant job of designing One Little Fantail.  I especially like the way that the names of the birds fade into the background, while also being quite prominent on the page, and the way that the sounds each bird makes stands out in bold lettering.

One Little Fantail is a book should be in every preschool and school around the country.  Grab a copy and introduce your children to our magnificent native birds.

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2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards Finalist: Melu by Kyle Mewburn, illustrated by Ali Teo and John O’Reilly

Melu by Kyle Mewburn, Ali Teo and John O’Reilly is a finalist in the Picture Book category of the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.  I’m a huge fan of Kyle Mewburn’s and I love Ali and John’s illustrations.  It’s a wonderful picture book and I’m glad to see it as a finalist.  I reviewed it in April last year,  so if you want to hear all about it and find out what makes it such a worthy finalist, read on.

Have you ever felt like you don’t quite belong?  Have you ever wanted to just stop doing the same old boring thing, day in, day out and go off in search of something better?  If you answered yes to these questions then Melu by Kyle Mewburn, and illustrated by Ali Teo and John O’Reilly is the perfect book for you.

Melu is a mule who lives with the rest of his herd, high up in the sun-baked hills, on a rocky island floating in a glittering green sea.  They’ve always clip-clop around the hills in the same direction, but Melu is different.  He doesn’t clip-clop, he clop-clips, and he imagines himself galloping across fields and splashing in the sea.  One day Melu decides to go off in search of the fields and the sea.  Along the way he meets Goat and Bull who are different just like him and they join him in his search.

Melu is an absolute winner!  The story is full of Kyle Mewburn’s witty humour and it’s a real joy to read.  Kids will identify with Melu because he’s different and full of dreams.  Kyle uses lots of descriptive language, like splashing and glittering, which make the story fun to read, and I love the way each of the animals talk (they each have their own voices in my head).  Ali Teo and John O’Reilly’s illustrations are bold and really make Kyle’s character’s shine.  They’re quite simple illustrations but the character’s faces and body language are so expressive.  My favourite illustration is near the end when they’re in the sea because they’re just so happy.  Not only is Melu a fun story with wonderful illustrations, it also shows children (and adults) that it’s OK to be different and stand out from the crowd.

5 out of 5 stars


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Picture Book Nook: Catching fish and dragons – picture books by Tanya Batt

Clean Slate Press is a New Zealand based educational publisher that has just launched a new picture book imprint.  Their first book, Wishy Washy World by Joy Cowley, is a collection of eight stories featuring Mr and Mrs Wishy Washy and the animals on their farm.  Clean Slate Press have just launched two new picture books, Catching Fish and My Dad’s a Dragon Catcher, both written by Tanya Batt.

Catching Fish is about Jake, who wears his favourite shirt all the time.  It’s his favourite because it has five red fish on it that swim along the bottom edge.  It gets so dirty that he has to wash it, but when he wears it next all the fish have gone.  Jake and his mum look everywhere for the fish, but they can’t find them, until they look up in the sky and see them swimming through the air.  How will Jake get the five fish back on his shirt? Catching Fish is a delightful, funny story that begs children to join in.  They can make the sounds of the clothes in the washing machine and on the line, help Jake go fishing and jump up to try and catch the fish from the sky.  I really like Natalia Vasquez’ quirky, collage-style illustrations.  It’s interesting to see all the different materials and photos that she has used to create the illustrations (the wooden fence is photographs of wood and the sun is a photo of pasta).

My Dad’s a Dragon Catcher is about Toby and the job that he makes up for his dad.  When Toby and his friends are sitting around eating their lunch they talk about what their dads do for a job.  Toby says that his dad is a Dragon Catcher because that sounds exciting.  When his teacher invites their dads along for Father’s Day at school, Toby has to figure out what to do.  His dad isn’t really a Dragon Catcher but maybe he can pretend.  Boys especially will love this story, with its dragons, red truck with fireproof wheels, and the fire-proof undies.  Helen Bacon’s fiery illustrations will really appeal to children.  Her dragons all look quite silly and harmless, even when they’re breathing fire.  It’s a great book for dads to share with their children, especially if they’re ready for a longer story.

The thing I like most about these two great picture books is their production.  The hardbacks look wonderful and they have beautiful endpapers with dragons and fish on them.  Catching Fish and My Dad’s a Dragon Catcher are available now from a Whitcoulls near you.

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Picture Book Nook: The Magical Life of Mr. Renny by Leo Timmers

The wonderful Gecko Press introduced us to the remarkable Belgian picture book creator, Leo Timmers, when they started to publish his books in English.  He is incredibly talented, not only as a storyteller, but also as an artist.  His illustrations are vibrant and almost seem to jump off the page, so I can’t think of a better illustrator to create a picture book about an artist whose paintings become real.

Mr. Renny is a very good artist.  Whatever he paints looks just like the real thing, but no one wants to buy his paintings.  He has no money, and he’s hungry.  One day a mysterious stranger offers to make Mr. Renny’s dreams become real.  Now whatever he paints becomes real, including a hotdog, a car, and a ship.  But what happens when his friend wants to buy one of his paintings?

The Magical Life of Mr. Renny is a colourful masterpiece that children and adults alike will love.  Like Leo’s other books, including Who’s Driving? and I am the King, the illustrations are bright and vibrant, and he makes them look 3D so they jump off the page.  This is one of those picture books that you want to pick up again and again just to stare at the illustrations and find what you might have missed last time you looked.  Leo adds in lots of little details for you to find, like the goat who has dropped her eggs or finding all of Mr. Renny’s treasures in his mansion.  The story itself is funny and thoughtful and would make a great read aloud.  It promotes lots of discussion about art, greed and friendship, and you could have children talking for hours about what they would paint if their paintings became real. Local author, Bill Nagelkerke has done a fantastic job of translating the book into English and making it flow so well as a read aloud.  Gecko Press’ books are always beautifully designed and this is no exception, from the front cover and the inside flaps to the back cover with its frame design.

Get your hands on the work of art that is The Magical Life of Mr. Renny by Leo Timmers.

5 out of 5 stars

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Picture Book Nook: Blue Gnu by Kyle Mewburn, illustrated by Daron Parton

You can always rely on Kyle Mewburn to write a book that will make kids laugh and keep them entertained from start to finish.  Kyle’s latest book, illustrated by new talent Daron Parton, features a silly animal who likes being different.

Boo is the one and only blue gnu.  Well he thinks he is, until he meets Hoo.  Hoo tries to convince Boo that it’s more fun with two, but Boo likes being unique.  So Boo tries to make himself look different by adding touches of colour.  Boo has to decide whether it’s better to be the one and only striped or spotted blue gnu or whether things really are better with two.

Blue Gnu is a delightful, tongue-twister of a book about friendship and being different.  You can tell that Kyle has had so much fun writing this book!  You can get tripped up very easily with his wonderful, rhyming text.  Kyle always uses lots of ‘noisy’ words and Blue Gnu is no exception.  Sentences like “What a splotchy, spotty, dotty gnu!” and “What a hoopy, loopy, stripey gnu!” are fun to get your mouth around and it would be great to get the children saying it with you (try saying those sentences quickly three times!).  I love Daron Parton’s illustrations, which seem to fit the story perfectly.  He has brought Kyle’s silly gnu’s to life and made Boo and Hoo stand out from the herd.  His style is really unique and his bright, bold illustrations make the book great to share with a large group of children. I’ll look forward to seeing more of his illustrations in future books.  Book Design have also done a great job of positioning the text so that it doesn’t get in the way of these wonderful illustrations.

If you’re not already hooked on Kyle Mewburn’s books, you will be once you read Blue Gnu.  Grab a copy from your library or bookshop now.

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Picture Book Nook: The Hueys in The New Jumper by Oliver Jeffers

Oliver Jeffers is one of those illustrators whose work is instantly recognisable.  He has a really unique style that’s quite sparse but very effective.  I fell in love with Oliver’s illustrations when I first picked up The Book Eating Boy, which is one of my favourites along with The Great Paper Chase.  Oliver’s latest book is The Hueys in The New Jumper, the first in a new series which is sure to be a hit.

The thing about the Hueys was that they were all the same.  They looked the same, thought the same, and did the same things, until the day that Rupert knitted a new jumper.  At first, everyone thinks Rupert is silly and he stands out like a sore thumb.  Then some of the other Hueys start knitting their own jumpers, and they all start to look the same again.  How will Rupert stand out?

The Hueys in The New Jumper is a quirky picture book about how cool it is to be different.  Rupert shows children that it’s OK to be different (and you might even start a new trend at the same time).  The book itself is quite different from a lot of other picture books, because there is very little detail or colour in the illustrations.  I love that Oliver can make such simple characters show so much emotion (he shows happiness, shock, anger and embarrassment with a few quick strokes of his pencil).  The Hueys are characters that children and adults will love and I look forward to seeing what they get up to next.

Oliver has been in NZ recently for the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival and an event in Wellington.  I’m really looking forward to hearing Oliver talk at the Children’s Book Council of Australia Conference in Adelaide this week, and I’ll be queuing up with everyone else to get my books signed.

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Picture Book Nook: April Favourites

I’ve been reading a heap of picture books lately.  Some of them have been pretty average but most of them have been perfect picture books that I want to read over and over again.  Here are a selection of my favourites that I read in April:

The Pros and Cons of Being a Frog by Sue deGennaro

Finding the right animal wasn’t easy. It was Camille who finally gave me the idea of being a frog! Frogboy and Camille are best friends but they are very different. Camille speaks in numbers and Frogboy likes to dress up. With Camille’s help he finds that dressing up as a frog is perfect for him, but when he tries to convince his friend to be a frog too, his plan goes terribly wrong.

This is a beautiful story about friendship and how, even if you’re completely different you can still be friends.  I really like Sue deGennaro’s illustrations, which are a blend of different media, including collage, pencil and ink.

Eric!…the Hero? by Chris Wormell

Eric is a boy who sometimes gets things wrong. Some days he’s a little bit slow, some days he’s a little bit clumsy and most days people would agree that he’s the opposite of a hero. But when a huge monster stomps down from the mountains, Eric might just get the chance to prove them wrong.

I absolutely love Chris Wormell!  When I was working at The Children’s Bookshop a few years ago my boss introduced me to Chris’s Two Frogs and I’ve been a fan ever since.  I love the way he captures emotions in his illustrations and he often writes stories about characters who are different or misunderstood(like Eric in this story).

Cloth From the Clouds by Michael Catchpool and Alison Jay

The boy who spins cloth from the clouds is wise. He spins only enough cloth for a warm winter scarf, not one stitch more. But a greedy King sees the marvellous cloth and demands that the boy spin cloaks and gowns galore. Soon there are fewer clouds in the sky and finally the rain stops. Will it be possible to undo the damage done by greed?

This is a perfect picture book for older readers, with an environmental message about the impact of human greed on the natural world.  The story is a pleasure to read aloud and the words just roll off your tongue (it would make a great story to act out with costumes and props).  Alison Jay’s illustrations are stunning and they seem to glow on the page.  I keep picking this book up just to look at the pictures.

Six Little Chicks by Jez Alborough

Busy Hen has five little chicks to look after while making sure number six – still an egg- stays warm. The last thing she needs is hairy, scary Fox sniffing about. She is frantic when the other birds warn her that her chicks are in danger, but her five little chicks are a lot braver than she realises!

Jez Alborough (creator of Duck in the Truck) is the king of picture books for preschoolers and this is another great book from him.  The text is rhyming and is full of fun sounds for children to join in with (which make it fun for adults to read aloud too).  The illustrations are bright and bold and the chicks are incredibly cute, which will appeal to preschoolers.


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Picture Book Nook: A Mammoth in the Fridge by Michael Escoffier

If you find a mammoth in your fridge, there are two questions you should ask: How did it get there? and How do you get it out?  One day, Noah opens his fridge to find there is a mammoth in his fridge.  At first his father doesn’t believe him, but when he looks for himself he freaks out and they call the fire brigade to solve the problem.  When they try to catch the mammoth it escapes and runs through the streets and ends up stuck in a tree, but when it gets dark Noah goes out to help it.

A Mammoth in the Fridge by Michael Escoffier and illustrated by Matthieu Maudet is a deceptively simple story with a surprise ending.  At first I didn’t think there was anything special about the story, until I got to the last few pages.  The ending left me with a smile on my face and children will love it too.  Both the text and the illustrations are quite sparse and simple but they’re fun and there’s a sense of anticipation throughout the story to keep children guessing what might happen next (will the firemen catch the mammoth? Where will he run to?).  I especially like the illustration of the mammoth squashed into the fridge.  The father is telling the children to stay away because it might bite, but the mammoth just looks upset that his hiding place has been discovered.  Thanks Gecko Press for another unique, curiously good picture book!

4 out of 5 stars

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Picture Book Nook: Hugless Douglas and the Big Sleep by David Melling

I fell in love with Hugless Douglas from the moment I set eyes on this adorable bear.  He’s the bear that nobody wants to hug (apart from everyone who reads the book) and who ruins his wooly hat.  In his latest hilarious outing, Douglas has been invited to a sleepover at Rabbit’s house, but when Douglas is around, things don’t quite go as planned.

Douglas has been invited to a sleepover at Rabbit’s house so he packs his bag and makes his way through the forest.  Rabbit is happy to see everyone and invites them all inside, but however hard they push and pull, Douglas doesn’t fit.  Rabbit decides to dig a bigger hole and everyone squeezes inside for a bedtime story.  Everything is going fine until Little Sheep tickles Douglas’ nose and makes him sneeze.  Will anyone get any sleep?

Hugless Douglas and the Big Sleep is a perfect picture book that children and adults will love, whether at bedtime or any other time of the day.  David Melling is the king of picture books and I love both his wonderful words and his marvelous illustrations.  With his signature red scarf to his bumble bee pyjamas, Hugless Douglas is a cuddly, loveable character that deserves a place next to the Gruffalo, Spot, and the Very Hungry Caterpillar.  He’s full of enthusiasm and always ends up squashing a sheep or two.  However you’re feeling Hugless Douglas will cheer you up and make you laugh.  One of my favourite things in these books are the end pages featuring the sheep and rabbits.  In the other books they’ve modeled different hugs and hats, and in Hugless Douglas and the Big Sleep they model the different things you would take for a sleepover.  I hope there are many more Hugless Douglas books planned because I can’t get enough of this loveable bear.

5 out of 5 stars


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