Here’s the latest in brilliant Kiwi picture books, reviewed by co-founder Jane Arthur. Whether you’re looking to learn about your place in the world, wanting to discuss love in all its shapes and forms, or lose track of time with an interactive story, there’s something for everyone in this lineup.
Mihi by Gavin Bishop (Gecko Press)
Mihi is a simple board book that contains multitudes. It’s an introduction to the concept of mihi — acknowledging where we come from — by Gavin Bishop (Tainui, Ngāti Awa), one of the absolute top-tier children’s book writers and illustrators of Aotearoa, who’s been making books for 40 years now.
Across the nine spreads, the reader follows a Māori child’s expression of their identity and whakapapa as they acknowledge their maunga, marae, iwi, whānau and more. The design and illustrations are really appealing — simple, uncluttered and striking — and it’s great to see a child protagonist who’s not any particular gender.
…it’s great to see a child protagonist who’s not any particular gender.
This would be a lovely book to gift your local early childhood education centre — or young New Zealand child — this Christmas. The text and concept were advised by Darryn Joseph and Piripi Walker.
by Gavin Bishop
Hedgehog Heart by James Antoniou and illustrated by Nikki Slade Robinson (Duck Creek Press)
This book is a thoughtful celebration of the different ways we each have of expressing our emotions and love for others. Its use of metaphor is clever, and would be a great model to use in class for young primary school children to think up their own. Some examples from the book include: ‘Grandad’s heart is a cat. Shy at first, but then it purrs.’ and ‘My cousin Rachel’s heart is a monkey. She is so cheeky to the people she loves!’
[This book] would be a great model to use in class for young primary school children to think up their own [metaphors].
It’s a lovely, empathetic way to discuss the fact that some people are more reserved than others when showing their affection (or other emotions), but that variety should all be equally accepted and celebrated.
The typeface and cover design of this book don’t do it justice — they have a dated appearance that feels slightly fussy alongside the illustrations, which deserve to hold the visual spotlight. Nikki Slade Robinson has illustrated over 60 children’s books! These are some of my favourites of hers that I’ve seen — simple, bright and playful.
By James Antoniou
Illustrated by Nikki Slade Robinson
Published by Duck Creek Press
Thank You for Feeding Freckle by Cheyney McDonnell (Five Mile)
This is one of the most difficult books I’ve ever had to review because it keeps disappearing! No matter where I stash it, my nearly three-year-old finds it and takes it somewhere to read to himself (and leaves it in random places around the house). He’s obsessed!
This is one of the most difficult books I’ve ever had to review because it keeps disappearing!
Thank You for Feeding Freckle is a fun lift-the-flap, interactive story about feeding someone’s cat while they’re away. You have to find the key to the house (under the pot plant), get the cat food out of the cupboard, give the cat some pats, and so on.
The author/illustrator is a New Zealand graphic designer, and this is her first book. The illustrations are bold and appealing—thick black outlines with flat bright colours. It’s spot-on for the sorts of details and actions that young children enjoy—my kid particularly loves the page where the cat biscuits spill on the table and where you can spot Freckle’s ‘freckle’. A simple concept, brilliantly executed and perfectly pitched.
Thank You for feeding freckle
By Cheyney McDonnell
Published by Five Mile
Jane Arthur co-owns and manages GOOD BOOKS, a small independent bookshop in Pōneke Wellington. She twice judged the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, in 2019 and 2020. Her debut poetry collection, Craven (VUP) won the Jessie Mackay Prize for best first book of poetry at the 2020 Ockham NZ Book Awards, and a second collection will appear in 2023. Jane is also co-founder of The Sapling.