• The Sapling

2018 End-of-Year Shopping List: NZ Picture Books

Do you want to be sure you're getting top-shelf books for your favourite people this Christmas – or on any gift-giving occasion? We are making it easy for you! Here is our selection of the very best New Zealand picture books of 2018.

The Bomb, by Sacha Cotter and Josh Morgan

What do you do when you’re no good at everyone’s favourite summer activity? In Sacha Cotter’s story of learning to do the perfect bomb, our young hero has to face failure and fear, and find his own path to follow, with the help of the coolest truck-driving Nan in Aotearoa. Told in a down-to-earth mix of prose and chant, with a clear New Zealand voice, The Bomb is original, fresh and wonderful – and comes in its own original te reo Māori edition, too, as Te Pohū.

Josh Morgan’s illustrations are absolutely first-class, evoking a wild summer in vivid colour. The sophisticated design is full of variation and packed with fun details that make it a book you can cheerfully read a hundred times.

The Bomb

by Sacha Cotter and Josh Morgan

Published by Huia Publishers

RRP $23.00

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I am Jellyfish, by Ruth Paul

Poor Jelly is being teased by Swordfish for not having a reason for existing, as she lives her peaceful existence. But she doesn’t mind – she’s a zen kind of creature. Told in effortless rhyme, this simple, philosophical story shows us that jellyfish do have their uses, and are not to be taken for granted.

Ruth Paul’s illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, using dappled tones, bright colours, and even glow-in-the-dark elements to pop the fish against the background, which heads to absolute black as we dive many fathoms deep. The expressions of the fish are hilarious, particularly the lanternfish, who has the expression of a country yokel in every B-grade Western ever made! Read full review on The Reader

I am jellyfish

by Ruth Paul

Published by Penguin

RRP $20.00

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The Stolen Stars of Matariki, by Miriama Kamo

Miriama Kamo’s debut, The Stolen Stars of Matariki, is an assured blend of local geography, political parable, and the supernatural, as two children and their grandparents investigate why the Matariki constellation used to have nine stars and now only has seven.

Zak Waipara’s illustrations combine his distinctive graphic style with evocative colour washes and artistic elements from te Ao Māori. The book comes also comes in a te reo Māori edition, but the English version uses lots of reo, too, which is unobtrusively translated on the page, making the text accessible without simplifying the rich bilingual dialogue within the family.

The Stolen Stars of Matariki

by Miriama Kamo, illustrated by Zak Waipara

Published by Scholastic New Zealand

RRP $18.00

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Puffin the Architect, by Kimberly Andrews

This book is a delightful tale of a mum trying to create the right home for her pufflings – but they are proving a little difficult to please. It's a fun romp through different, intricately designed houses, perfect for each client, but what's really breath-taking is the writing. To see a book completed in flawless rhyme, building page by page while subtly reusing and adapting each section to a new house and owner – well, it's rather astounding and worthy of a very long round of applause.

The illustrations are fabulously drawn and coloured, with a lot of detailed work for the plans throughout. The family interactions are endearing, and there's a lot to relate to as the little pufflings fail to appreciate their mum's genius! This is a delightful read for ages 3+, and school-age kids also get plenty out of the detail. Read full review.

Puffin the architect

by Kimberly Andrews

Published by Penguin

RRP $20.00

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Dear Donald Trump, by Sophie Siers, illustrated by Anne Villeneuve

This book is gold! Dear Donald Trump tells the story of young Sam, who doesn’t want to share a room with his older brother any more. His brother plays on his phone after lights out, and steals his stuff. He is done with him – and he wants to build a wall. He writes a series of letters to the President to discuss their shared interest in keeping out the enemy.

The illustrations are what really makes this book stand out. The illustration of the boys’ room and the 'rooms' within it are finely drawn in pen and ink with watercolour wash that feels a little like some of Sarah Laing’s colour work. The power of the metaphor of Trump as a child is something that can be seen by adults, but not readily by young kids. We recommend Dear Donald Trump for adults, and for older kids. Read full review.

Dear Donald trump

by Sophie Siers, illustrated by Anne Villeneuve

Published by Millwood Press

RRP $30.00

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Oh, So Many Kisses, by Maura Finn, illustrated by Jenny Cooper

This is a snuggly, warm, lovely book that will just make you want to kiss and cuddle the little people around you. The perfect, fresh, bouncy rhyming makes for a book you and your kids will find yourselves reciting through the day.

The illustrations are beautiful watercolour portraits of a diverse range of real families. There's a māmā with moko kauae, another in hijab, babes with disabilities, and a variety of clothing from different cultures and religions. These families look like you might actually know them from kindy.

Oh, So many kisses

by Maura Finn, illustrated by Jenny Cooper

Published by Scholastic New Zealand

RRP $18.00

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Oink, by David Elliot

A pig relaxing in a claw-foot bath faces an age-old dilemma in this nearly wordless masterpiece. A succession of knocks at the door bring in rowdy friends. The pig is now decidedly not relaxed (especially when a beach ball bounces off its head!) and clears the room in a classic, subtly scatalogical fashion.

The narrative tension is perfect, the story universally relatable, and the cosy illustrations are hilarious for old and young.


by David Elliot

Published by Gecko Press

RRP $25.00

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