Book Reviews: Five Fresh Kiwi Picture Books

September 16, 2018

It seems to impossible to think of a New Zealand childhood without certain things: jandals, gumboots, lolly cake and of course, Lynley Dodd. Two of her newest titles are reviewed here by Simie Simpson, alongside Little Hector and the Big Blue Whale, Kia ora, You Can Be a Kiwi Too, and The Taniwha in our Backyard.

 

 

Little Hector and the Big Blue Whale, by Ruth Paul (Puffin)


Ruth Paul always seems to manage cute and endearing in equal measure and Little Hector and the Big Blue Whale is a perfect example of this. Little Hector is a Hector’s dolphin, and the smallest dolphin in the world. This is the first book in a series about Hector.

 

 

Hector may be squitty but he is daring. However, the ocean is a big and dangerous place for a squitty fellow and when Hector follows the other dolphins out to sea he finds himself lost and alone. Well, alone until a hungry Orca comes along ... if you’re a squitty little dolphin, alone may be preferable to the company of your cousin, Orca. Luckily, this is a picture book and not a nature programme, so Hector comes across a very kind blue whale who helps him find his way home, where he realises home is the place to be.


Luckily, this is a picture book and not a nature programme, so Hector comes across a very kind blue whale who helps him find his way home, where he realises home is the place to be.
 

There is a lot for little ones to look at in the illustrations, even when Hector is all alone in the ocean the reader can see ships and marine life in the distance. The little, varied fish tell a story of their own – they are swimming past in schools, eating smaller fish and generally getting on with fishy things. Each fish, no matter how tiny seems to have a unique expression. Ruth Paul’s ocean is a busy and interesting place.

 

This is a very sweet read for little ones who can all relate to Hector, being squitty and all. And on the back page, we find  some facts about Hector’s dolphins as well, and these are simple and informative. But best of all? The word squitty….

 

 

little hector and the big blue whale

by Ruth Paul

Published by Puffin
RRP: $18.99

 

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KIA ORA, YOU CAN BE A KIWI TOO by June Pitman-Hayes, illustrated by Minky Stapleton with te reo lyrics by Ngaere Roberts (Scholastic NZ)


Kia Ora, You Can Be a Kiwi Too certainly has something adults can learn from. It is a book I want to call aspirational; it encourages inclusion and good old fashioned ‘getting along’.
 

Spread from Kia ora, You Can Be a Kiwi Too, written by June Pitman-Hayes, illustrated by Minky Stapleton

 

Yes, it is a little romanticised. But without getting too political and ranty, it feels like the sort of book kids need to be reading given the sort of rhetoric that has been prevalent in our world in recent times. Surely, this is the world we all want to live in? One where we welcome people into our country, learn about their languages and cultures, and can switch between English and Te Reo Māori as easily as the chords of a guitar. It has a beautiful vision, so if we can all quell our inner cynics for long enough to go out and buy a copy for our local kura, schools, kohanga and preschools we might be taking a step to creating a generation that is a bit kinder and more tolerant.

 

...it feels like the sort of book kids need to be reading given the sort of rhetoric that has been prevalent in our world in recent times.

 

The illustrations perfectly match the tone and intent of the story – they show humour and compassion in action and have a lovely colour palette. For anyone learning te reo, there is a glossary at the back as well. For anyone learning te reo, there is a glossary at the back as well.

 

As an added bonus, this book comes with a CD, and the story/song starts in English and is then repeated in Māori and after just one listen I found myself unable to read the book without the tune in my head – it’s that catchy!

 

kia ora, you can be a kiwi too
by June Pitman-Hayes, illustrated by Minky Stapleton,

Published by Scholastic NZ

RRP $20.00

 

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THE TANIWHA IN OUR BACKYARD, by Malcolm Paterson, illustrated by Martin Bailey (Oratia Media)

 

Launching during wiki o te reo Māori is The Taniwha in Our Backyard. This is a book for older picture book readers and as it points out at the back of the book, there is potential for this book to have many applications in the classroom. Included in the book is a map and information about kauri dieback and the South Kaipara region, where this story is set.

 

Pages from The Taniwha in our Backyard, written by Malcolm Paterson, illustrated by Martin Bailey 
 

I loved that te reo Māori was spoken naturally within the context of the story and the translations were easily accessible at the bottom of the page. They were on hand and easy to read but unobtrusive enough that if you didn’t need them you can easily read the story without paying them attention. Malay words were also used and the translations were in a different colour.

 

I loved that te reo Māori was spoken naturally within the context of the story and the translations were easily accessible at the bottom of the page.

 

There is a lot going on in this book – Māori traditions, local knowledge, history, geography, sustainability, storytelling and a warm story about whanau spending time together. I did feel like it almost had too much happening at times and the font has a slightly old-fashioned feel.

 

However, these are small issues and doesn’t detract from what is a thoughtful, enjoyable story and an excellent book for educators. It is a lovely launching pad to a variety of topics and in my opinion, there are never enough picture books for the 7+ age range. 
 

 

the taniwha in our backyard
by Malcolm Paterson, illustrated by Martin Bailey

Published by Oratia Media

RRP $21.99

 

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ZACHARY QUACK MINIMONSTER, by Lynley Dodd (Puffin)

 

Fostering a love of language since 1983, Hairy Maclary is almost compulsory reading for babies and toddlers. Reading the lovely Zachary Quack Minimonster and Wake Up, Bear, I was reminded at how delightful and clever her books are. They are full of joy and rhythm, relatable and perfectly pitched for their intended audience.

 

Zachary Quack is back in that perfect baby and toddler format – a board book! Board books fall into that wonderful multipurpose category of book, learning tool and chew toy. Zachary Quack is the little duckling that has featured in Hairy Maclary and Zachary Quack and he’s quite mischievous: ‘He scruffled a centipede out of its house, he pestered a spider and ruffled a mouse’.

 Spread from Zachary Quack: Minimonster, by Lynley Dodd (Puffin) 
 

So here comes Zachary, causing havoc with the wildlife he starts getting into paint and glue and then things get really sticky… (pun intended). He gets a shoe on his head, various items stuck to him and our old friends Slinky Malinky, Hairy Maclary and co. all make an appearance.

 

When reading this for the first time I was focusing on Dodd’s joyful language, but I know for any child being read to they will also be looking at the story happening within the illustrations. While the naughty little duck is going over the rake and leaves, who should be poking out from the corner but Hairy Maclary? MInimonster Zachary Quack freaks out Hairy, Slinky and Bottomly Potts, to name a few, when they see this odd little duck with everything but the kitchen sink stuck to him.


When reading this for the first time I was focusing on Dodd’s joyful language, but I know for any child being read to they will also be looking at the story happening within the illustrations.
 

Children will really enjoy pointing Hairy and others out when they see them popping up. It is the perfect way to encourage visual literacy and teach kids how to follow a story – and what an enjoyable way to create our future readers.

 

zachary quack Minimonster
by Lynley Dodd

Published by Puffin

RRP $16.00 (Board Book Format)

 

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WAKE UP, BEAR, by Lynley Dodd (Puffin)

 

Dodds’ Wake Up, Bear is a story I can totally relate to. Bear has been asleep all winter and the plethora of animals from all over the globe – from domestic to tropical cannot wake him – not Lions’ scary roar, Monkeys’ tickly tail, Cats’ yowling (hello again, Slinky Malinky!) or Goats’ butting. Finally, it is the lure of food that rouses Bear. And who can blame him?

 

Lynley Dodd has such a light touch; this is a very simple story about a bear, but kids also learn about hibernation and animals from all around the world. While this is not a rhyming story like Zachary, it is still full of fun and perfect for toddlers.

 

Lynley Dodd has such a light touch; this is a very simple story about a bear, but kids also learn about hibernation and animals from all around the world.
 

The illustrations are like wearing your favourite around-home pants; they are familiar and warm, and make you feel good inside. Children may not have the nostalgic feels but they are certainly able to feel the pure joy and warmth of her illustration.

 

And, for anyone out there, what is a bulbul tree? Is this a real thing? And, if we can find the answer to this it proves that even adults have something to learn from kids’ books.
 

wake up, bear
by Lynley Dodd

Published by Puffin

RRP $18.00

 

Buy Now

 

 

 

simie simpson


Old booksellers don't die...they become book reps or librarians and Simie Simpson has done all of these things. Oftentimes she can be found lurking in bookstores rearranging displays and tidying shelves compulsively. Simie currently works as a librarian in the beautiful Kaipara region.

 

 

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