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Lindy Kelly writes literature for adults and children. Her first collection of short stories for adults,...


Peer Review: Picture Books April 2015


Reviews by School Librarians, Teachers and Principals of the latest New Zealand picture books

Max’s Bath, Max’s Wagon and Max’s Bear
Barbro Lindgren, Illustration: Eva Eriksson
Translation: Julia Marshall
Gecko Press, RRP: Boardbook $14.99
ISBN: Max’s Bath - 9781776570003 / Max’s Wagon - 9781776570010 / Max’s Bear - 9781776570027
Ages: 1+

Reviewer: Alison Hewett, Junior School Librarian
Kristin School

These three board books about the adventures of Max and his dog are a delight, and are sure to please both toddlers and parents alike. Each book follows a similar story pattern and introduces the idea of problem-solving to a young audience. The stories perfectly capture the familiar play world and daily life of a young child with simple toys, in a warm and comforting home. The stories reassuringly convey everyday small situations that loom large in the world of a toddler - bath time, bedtime and playtime. In real life the small difficulties that Max encounters might result in a tantrum, but in these books the problems are artfully and calmly solved with the aid of the ever present and watchful dog, who acts as both play companion and babysitter. There is humour as well as playfulness, and it’s impossible to read these books without smiling.

The illustrations on the thick board have a retro feel that reminds me of Shirley Hughes’s Alfie and Dogger stories, and a little of the illustrations of the Angelina Ballerina series too. The simple text features on the left page of the spread, with a simple watercolour and ink illustration on the right. The illustrations match the text perfectly and while these stories have been published as board books with toddler and parent appeal, the stories with their very subtle humour would also be wonderful for children learning English as a second language.

There have been eight stories published in the original Swedish. I hope these translations sell well enough in English so that more are translated and published too.

The Umbrella
Ingrid Schubert and Dieter Schubert
Book Island, RRP: HB $29.99
ISBN: 9780994109859
Ages: 3+

Reviewer: Alison Hewett, Junior School Librarian
Kristin School

The story in this book begins as soon as the cover is turned, as both the first and last endpapers form the beginning, and possibly the end of the story. I say possibly because the story could easily continue, and the idea of a story continuing on, and working out what might happen next, would make a great conversational prompt with a single child or a whole class.

A terrier and a cat find an umbrella on a windy autumn day. On opening the umbrella the terrier is pulled into a sky filled with swirling autumn leaves high above the village rooftops, with the cat a tiny speck far below. The worry on the dog’s face soon turns into a happy smile as he explores the sunny cloud formations above, and the tumultuous weather below. These whimsical illustrations provide much to explore for younger readers. Our windblown dog is dropped into a variety of geographical settings, each with its obstacles to overcome, before being blown on to the next spot, and finally to the place where the umbrella was found.

This book arrived as I was contemplating creative resources to use with a Year 3 unit of inquiry into biomes. This book, with a double page spread featuring each of the world’s different geographic areas, would be a useful and creative prompt for discussion about biomes and habitats, their similarities and differences, and the animals and people that live in each.

The Umbrella would be a worthy addition to a collection of wordless picture books, especially in a school where these are used creatively to inspire writing, storytelling, poetry or for inquiry units into weather and the seasons.

Muddle & Mo
Nikki Slade Robinson
Duck Creek Press, RRP: PB $19.99, HB $29.99
ISBN: 9781927305010
Ages: 2– 5

Reviewer: Lucy Tomlinson, Librarian
Mangapapa School

Muddle, the cute but confused yellow duck of this picture book, runs a relentless barrage of statements at his friend, Mo the goat: "You have a wonky tail", "Your feet don’t waddle" and my favourite, "Your wings are on your head". The simple observations aren’t unlike those directed at adults by all-knowing toddlers. Who hasn’t received the scrutiny of a child and fared poorly?

The scrutiny that poor long-suffering Mo is under finally dissipates when Muddle is assured he is 100% duck. The characters are so well drawn that you feel you know a couple with this sort of chemistry!

The illustrations give the characters great expression, which amply support this simple story of confused identity. Mo doesn’t respond to Muddle’s monologue verbally, but his expressions on each page show his emotions very clearly, allowing any tot to appreciate the humour in this little gem.

Overall a very worthy title to complement a toddler’s library. The size of this book is perfect for little hands to turn the pages.

My New Zealand Colours Book, My New Zealand ABC Book, My New Zealand 123 Book
Te Papa Press
Te Papa Press, RRP: Boardbook $19.99
ISBN: My New Zealand 123 Book - 9780987668875 / My New Zealand ABC Book - 9780987668882 / My New Zealand Colours Book - 9780987668899
Ages: 3+

Reviewer: Elaine Wills, Librarian
Enner Glynn School

 A wonderful selection of New Zealand art straight from Te Papa’s collection, presented in the form of three board books. Through the themes of number, alphabet and colour, readers can delight in photographs, sculpture, objects and paintings from New Zealand’s past.

The bold thematic headings include te Reo Māori and the verse is presented in a rhyming pattern.
As a journey though time, the pictures are most appealing to those who can relate to them, and if you have been fortunate enough to have visited Te Papa you will no doubt recall some of them from exhibits there. For young readers some of the illustrations and text may have to be explained but that does not detract from their appeal.

The text is engaging and the rhyme, although sometimes irregular, adds value to the reading experience. In particular the text written in verse in the ABC book is catchy and enchanting, appealing perhaps to an older age group, whereas the simple two-line rhyme in the Colours book is perfect for a younger age. The 123 book also has this two-line verse pattern but the jump at the end of the number book from 12–100 could be confusing for younger readers. The use of white text on black, or colour on colour makes a welcome change and I found it easy to read. I think the number and colour books would appeal to 3-6 years and the alphabet book 5+ years.
I found it an interesting choice to publish these as board books because I think they would appeal to a wide range of readers and I believe older children would be less likely to choose them in this format. Due to the number of pages in these board books the spines have quickly become compromised and I would love to see a paperback version. A colourful series of books to be shared by the young and old together, and a delightful way to showcase New Zealand art.

Little Hoiho
Stephanie Thatcher, Illustration: Stephanie Thatcher
Scholastic, RRP: PB $19.00
ISBN: 9781775432494
Ages: 2–5

Reviewer: Lucy Tomlinson, Librarian
Mangapapa School

A picture book of discovery. Little Hoiho is out one day and compares herself to the long-legged Kotuku, the elegant flyer Toroa and the beautiful singing Tui. The comparisons are not flattering, instead they are humorously drawn and we feel a little sorry for the flightless, unmusical and short-legged penguin.

Thankfully after a tumble into the sea, Hoiho’s swimming ability is revealed. She realises her uniqueness is perfection itself! There is a lovely lesson of self-acceptance here.

The soft-focus pictures lend a warm, fuzzy feel that matches the story of self-acceptance and self-confidence perfectly.

The addition of a few facts about penguins and a website to refer to for more information is a great idea. Missing, is a small glossary of English translations and a pronunciation guide for the names of the birds in the story.

This story is a worthy title to showcase some New Zealand birds, as well as imparting the underlying message of self-confidence and self-acceptance.

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Peer Review: Junior Books April 2015


Reviews by Librarians, Teachers and Principals of the latest New Zealand books for junior readers

Keys/ Ngā Kī
Sacha Cotter, Illustration: Josh Morgan
Translation: Kawata Teepa
Huia Publishers, RRP: PB $20.00
ISBN: Keys - 9781775501619 / Ngā Kī - 9781775501640
Ages: 3-7

Reviewer: Sophie Thompsom, Teacher- Bilingual Unit Fairhaven School, Te Puke

Keys/Ngā Kī takes the reader on an imaginary journey, nicely emphasizing the relationship between the young girl and her father. Keys/Ngā Kī introduces the young readers to rhyming words and creates a learning place for the older reader to see examples of alliteration. The illustrations connect the reader to what seem like strong New Zealand themes. For example, the calendar on the wall shows a native bird, and the girl’s bed spread has strong tukutuku patterning. The sizing and shapes of the homes and streets reflect a good old-fashioned Kiwi neighbourhood. The pirate wears a tiki around his neck. The toy chest in the girl’s room has a poutama pattern. The alphabet wall chart in the girl’s room is the Māori alphabet. The children understand that the book is written in both Māori and Pākehā but they made strong connections to the smaller items within the illustrations.

The Bilingual unit of Year 4–6 thought:
• ‘I love how her Dad is imaginative.’
• ‘I like all the weird places the Dad goes to.’
• ‘It’s cool how the story is a positive one and shows how close a Dad and a Daughter can get.'

A great shared book for younger readers but also appealing to Year 4–6 students. I would suggest that the te Reo book should have a CD to accompany it. This would give all teachers or readers the opportunity to hear the correct pronunciation.

Little Red Riding Hood…Not Quite
Yvonne Morrison, Illustration: Donovan Bixley
Scholastic, RRP: PB $19.00
ISBN: 9781775432630
Ages: 4–8

Reviewer: Karen Johnsen, Class Teacher - New Entrants/Year One
Hurupaki School, Kamo
, Whangarei

I have a real passion for stories that include bad wolves and I found this story hilarious. It is a very cleverly written version of the traditional Little Red Riding Hood story. Yvonne Morrison has cleverly captured the voice of the small child throughout the story, as well as the quick thinking of the adult reading the story. I have taught this child! It's these comments that add the real humour to the tale.

Donovan Bixley's illustrations are fabulous. They are wonderfully varied in style to suit the events and comments throughout the story. I particularly liked the steps required to successfully eat Granny, the child’s drawings, and the parts of the wolf.

I had great fun reading this book to a group of five-year-olds. The book insists that you use different voices to make the absolute most for both reader and listeners. I feel, however, that the real humour of the story was missed by my 5-year-olds as they were too young to appreciate it. I would put this book as suitable for 6–11 year-olds, when they are more able to understand the juxtaposition of the child character’s critical thinking and the adult’s quick thinking responses.

This book will definitely be joining my collection of wolf story favourites.

The Whale Savers
Linda Roberts, Illustration: Bruce Potter
New Holland, RRP: PB $19.99
ISBN: 9781869664312
Ages: 4-7

Reviewer: Karen Johnsen, Class Teacher - New Entrants/Year 1
Hurupaki School, Kamo, Whangarei

This is a delightful story set in New Zealand, about a little boy and his Nan who discover a stranded whale on their local beach. With help from their community, they join together to save the whale. It's a tale about working together and co-operation, and about caring for and respecting our wildlife.

I particularly liked the way te Reo Māori is woven into the story, with a glossary at the back of the book. The book highlighted the important work that the Department of Conservation are involved in, and provided factual information for the young reader. The author also included useful information about whales at the back of the book along with websites, further reading, and important phone numbers to use if you find a stranded whale.

Bruce Potter’s use of drawings and photos added another dimension to the book, and were truly engaging. They enabled me to feel and see every emotion of the wera (whale), and that of those trying to save him.

I highly recommend this book, and would use it with all primary aged children. It would be an excellent book to use if involved in a research project on whales and/or conservation and the environment.

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Peer Review: Intermediate Books April 2015


Reviews by Librarians, Teachers and Principals of the latest New Zealand books for intermediate readers.

The King and the Sea
Heinz Janisch, Illustration: Wolf Erlbruch
Translation Sally-Ann Spencer
Gecko Press, RRP: PB $19.99, HB $34.99
ISBN: 9781927271803
Ages: 8+

Reviewer: Karen Johnsen, Class Teacher - New Entrant/Year 1
Hurupaki School

This book comprised of 21 very short stories about a little King and his experiences in the big world around him. Some of my favourites were The King and the Trumpet, The King and the Bee, The King and the Squirrel, The King and the Star, and The King and the Kings.

I particularly enjoyed deciphering the messages within each story. They showed how the King and his self-importance are really unimportant in the greater scheme of life. Many of the stories need to be read a number of times to really appreciate their message – particularly The King and the Fishing Net and The King and the Bee.

The illustrations at first appear simplistic, but like the stories, are in fact not. The simple pencil sketches at times included different elements like parts of a newspaper, music scores and ink drawings.

I would recommend this book to adults and older children who would have the ability to really connect with these charming, if slightly quirky stories and illustrations. I would also use the stories with my students to generate discussions and to promote thinking skills.

Dragon Knight Fire!
Kyle Mewburn, Illustration: Donovan Bixley
Scholastic, RRP: PB $12.00
ISBN: 9781775432593
Ages: 7+

Reviewer: Ayleen Hunter, Librarian
Clutha Valley School

I really enjoyed this book, I think it will appeal to both boys and girls, and think it would be a good book to push towards the reluctant readers, particularly the boys. Everything about this book is fun, from stinky ogres to shape shifting dragons; it has villains and heroes that don’t always win.

Donovan Bixley’s illustrations give the reader a clear picture of what is going on and breaks up the text for reluctant or slow readers. I hope this book becomes a series to encourage slow readers to take up the challenge to read for enjoyment, as this book is sure to entertain them.

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Peer Review: Young Adults April 2015


Reviews by Librarians, Teachers and Principals of the latest New Zealand books for Young Adults

Sarah Costelloe
Published by Sarah Costelloe, RRP: PB $25.00, ebook $3.99
ISBN: 9780473255534
Ages: 13+

Reviewer: Dr Jennifer Glenn, Teacher with Library Responsibility
Thames High School

Sarah Costelloe tells us on her website that a view of Auckland City, "behind a veil of fog", set her "thinking about the meaning behind the country’s name, Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud". The possibility that there is an ancient, sinister force which threatens New Zealand, sits behind this creative fiction.

Young adult readers will identify with Holly Armstrong – dislocated, fleeing trauma and struggling to build connections in a new place. The apparently quiet beach settlement of Piha is clearly drawn from the ‘wild and expansive’ beach to the ‘cosy village…hemmed in by bush’. It is good to feel Holly’s exhilaration at learning to surf and her attraction to the strong, bronzed surf lifeguards, especially Taine Kingi.

The sinister undercurrent is real, and accelerates to close off the first book in what will be a series. Even if Holly’s responses are a little surprising at times, readers will enjoy the thriller elements which keep us keen to find out what happens next. Students will welcome a thriller with local and surfing elements.

Moon at Nine
Deborah Ellis
Allen and Unwin, RRP: PB $16.99
ISBN: 9781760111977
Ages: 13+

Reviewer: Judith Smallbone, Assistant Head of Faculty - Languages
John Paul College, Rotorua

I enjoyed this book more than I expected. Moon at Nine is a well written story, by established author Deborah Ellis. It tells the story of a friendship between two fifteen-year-old girls which develops into romance. Set in Iran in the late 1980s, the Shah has been overthrown and Farrin’s life with her parents is not as easy as it was. As Farrin’s actions and thoughts are increasingly controlled by her family and school, meeting brave and outspoken Sadira is a breath of fresh air. Ultimately Farrin must choose love or life. The story is based on real life events.

The development of the girls’ relationship is subtly addressed by the author, and the story highlights a great number of human rights’ issues.

Moon at Nine is an interesting snapshot of life in Iran in the late 1980s, and would serve as a good introduction to this time in history. The reader doesn’t require any prior knowledge of the events, in order to make sense of the story. The rights of women and minority groups are relevant and topical discussions to have today.

Jane Higgins, Illustration Sebastian Ciaffaglione
Text Publishing, RRP: PB $19.99
ISBN: 9781922147295
Ages: 13+

Reviewer: Karen Flett, Teacher of Year 8 - Head of Learning Support
Kaikorai Valley College

Havoc is the sequel to the Text Prize winning novel The Bridge by Christchurch author Jane Higgins. The story opens with the city still divided between the powerful, affluent Cityside and the squalid Southside. There has been a ceasefire but Cityside break it by blowing up the Moldam Bridge, attacking the people of Moldam with gas and putting checkpoints in place to contain the Southside residents.

Southsider, Nik Stais rescues an injured girl from the bombed bridge and she talks about science experiments being held at the notorious Pitkerrin Marsh and ‘Havoc’. Nik is concerned about these attacks and believes Cityside could have sinister plans in store for Southside residents. He joins with Lanya and Sandor to enter Cityside and find out more about Operation Havoc and events at Pitkerrin Marsh.

Havoc is complex and thought-provoking with themes of friendship, loyalty, corruption and warfare including the use of bioweapons. It needs to be read carefully because there are many characters and events to remember, and this complexity could be off-putting for some readers. Havoc is a young adult adventure story that will appeal to science fiction fans.


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My Top 5: Books to Read Aloud


Donna Stuthridge, Librarian
Hurupaki School, Whangarei

When you are looking to invest in your library collection, there's nothing quite like recommendations from colleagues and peers. Throughout the year, we publish a variety of Top 5 and Top 10 review lists by school librarians. Donna Stuthridge contributed this fantastic list, which is brimming with New Zealand writers and illustrators who visit schools as part of the Writers in Schools programme.

Tyrannosaurus Drip
Julia Donaldson, Illustrator David Roberts
Macmilllan Children’s Books – ISBN 9780230015500
Ages: 4-8 years

A little duckbill dinosaur ends up hatching in a Tyrannosaurus nest, and bravely decides to run away when he realises he doesn’t belong there. The story is entertaining, and the skilful use of rhyme and repetition makes it delightful to read aloud; the colourful illustrations are superb.


Kyle Mewburn, Illustrators Ali Teo & John O’Reilly
Scholastic New Zealand - ISBN 9781775430278
Ages: 3-7 years

Melu, a mule with inner strength and individuality, decides to break the tradition of clip-clopping (or ‘clop-clipping’) around the sun-baked hills and risk trying to reach the glittering sea below. The author’s use of alliteration and humour makes the story enjoyable to read aloud, and the illustrations are extraordinary, with bold use of colour and unique designs. Children can easily relate to the themes of friendship, helping one another, and overcoming challenges to pursue your dreams.

Piggity-Wiggity Jiggity Jig Goes to Dad's Café
Diana Neild, Illustrator Philip Webb
Scholastic New Zealand - ISBN 9781869438746
Ages: 3-7 years

Piggity-Wiggity is a little pig who is excited to go on a special outing to his father’s café, but he soon becomes overwhelmed with all the choices available. The text is catchy, with clever use of rhythm and rhyme, and the detailed illustrations complement the story beautifully. Some of the vocabulary is quite sophisticated, but is interesting and enriches the story.

Baa Baa Smart Sheep
Mark Sommerset, Illustrator Rowan Sommerset
Dreamboat Books - ISBN 97809864668
Ages: 4-8 years

Little Baa Baa is bored and decides to get up to some mischief. He manages to convince poor Quirky Turkey to eat some very suspicious-looking ‘smarty tablets’. This story is funny and mischievous, with the quirky dialogue providing an opportunity to use different animal ‘voices’ when reading aloud; the illustrations are simple but very cute, and the characters’ expressions enhance the story.

Mister Whistler
Margaret Mahy, Illustrator Gavin Bishop
Gecko Press – ISBN 9781877467912
Ages: 4-8 years

Mr Whistler, an absent-minded character who is constantly dancing, loses his train ticket in his haste to catch a train - a lot of dancing and undressing ensues in the frantic search for the missing ticket. The artwork in this book is stunning, and the author’s dynamic prose and humorous tone makes it very enjoyable to read aloud.

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Phone 0064 4 801 5546
Level 4, Stephenson & Turner House, 156 Victoria St, Te Aro,
Wellington 6011, New Zealand

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Most critics regard R.A.K. Mason as New Zealand’s first authentic poet, with a poetic intensity...


Writers in Schools: on Tour 2015

Throughout the school year we tour a variety of writers and illustrators away from their home region, so that schools can benefit from hosting someone they couldn't otherwise afford. Member schools are alerted first so that they can secure a booking early, and are offered these visits at a discounted rate. Non-member school rates are indicated below. The fees contribute towards the additional costs of accommodation, and food and transport for the writer.

Touring Fees (excl. GST):

Member Schools
First visit: Half day visit: $130.00/ Full day visit $220.00
Second or Third visit: Half day visit: $265.00/ Full day visit: $330.00
Workshops: $55.00 each

Non-Member Schools
Half day visit: $500.00
Full day visit: $700.00
Workshops: $55.00 each


Speed Date an Author Events

Interactive workshops are a great way to learn, and Speed Date an Author workshops allow your school’s budding writers to experience five 25-minute writer sessions over the course of a morning. They usually take place in a local museum or public library, and are delivered by five fantastic writers and illustrators. We organise six Speed Date an Author events each year. Three take place in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and the other three rotate around the regions. Member schools are alerted first so that they can secure a booking early, and are offered these sessions at a discounted rate.

Entry Fees (incl. GST):

Member Schools: $25.00 per student
Non-Member Schools: $50 per student
Supervising adult: Free

Find out more about Writers in Schools, tours and Speed Date an Author here.

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Phone 0064 4 801 5546
Level 4, Stephenson & Turner House, 156 Victoria St, Te Aro,
Wellington 6011, New Zealand