• The Sapling

New picture books from Aotearoa


Alana Bird reviews five new picture books from Aotearoa that will tickle your funny bone.

Boo Goes Tutti Frutti by Rachel Weston, illustrated by Scott Tulloch

Boo Goes Tutti Frutti’s bright front cover is a huge draw for tamariki and this combined with the funny title was why my preschool class chose this book to read. I knew from the first two lines that this book was going to be an enjoyable read aloud.


Boo the dog has worked up an appetite out in the garden but then he discovers there’s not a scrap or crumb for his starving tum-tum! A bowl catches Boo’s eye and with a “Jump! Thump! Bump!”, he knocks the fruit onto the floor. After licking, nudging and smudging the kiwifruit and plums he decides they are not to his liking. However, he enjoys the avocado so much that he gobbles three more. Boo has solved his hunger problem but he has created a terrible mess, and how will his owners deal with the chaos he created?


Spread from Boo Goes Tutti Frutti, by Rachel Weston, illustrated by Scott Tulloch (Weston Books)

The rhythm, rhyme and repetition in Boo Goes Tutti Frutti reads similarly to Lynley Dodd’s Hairy Maclary series. The repetition invites tamariki to participate in the story and anticipate what might happen next. The alliteration and descriptive language that Rachel Weston plays with - “teetered... tottered... greedily guzzled” - made Boo Goes Tutti Frutti such a fun read, and excellent for tamariki who are learning language and eager to add to their vocabulary.


Boo was just mischievous enough to keep my audience of 3 and 4 year olds engaged and curious about what would happen next. The amusement and shock over the huge mess Boo was making kept them in suspense, and they found it hilarious that a dog was eating fruit; especially that he liked eating avocados!


Boo was just mischievous enough to keep my audience of 3 and 4 year olds engaged and curious about what would happen next.


Spread from Boo Goes Tutti Frutti, by Rachel Weston, illustrated by Scott Tulloch (Weston Books)

Young children will enjoy this fun picture book by Rachel Weston. From the colourful illustrations to the wonderful language, Boo Goes Tutti Frutti is a great choice if you’re looking for a light-hearted, entertaining read for your little ones.




boo goes tutti frutti


By Rachel Weston, illustrated by Scott Tulloch

Published by Weston Books RRP$20.00

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The Skeleton Family by Ian Chapman, illustrated by Cheryl Smith

In his first children’s book, The Skeleton Family, Dr Ian Chapman shares with us a unique story and his musical talents.


The Skeletons are the nicest people you could ever meet. Skelly-mum is a talented artist, Skelly-dad writes, sings and plays music on his guitar, their daughter Mia is in high school and loves to draw and their youngest, Arlo, is a gamer who hopes to have his own YouTube channel one day. They even have two pets: a cat named Baxter and a dog named Spanky.


On paper they are an ordinary, modern family but their lack of skin makes their new neighbours go into hiding! The Skeletons come up with a plan to get the neighbours to see them for who they are, not what they look like; there’s cupcakes, a welcoming card and of course a musical performance. Thankfully, their entertaining song wins over their neighbours by showing them they are just like them, and that on the inside we are all skeletons.



Spread from The Skeleton Family, by Ian Chapman and illustrated by Cheryl Smith (David Bateman)


Skeletons are intriguing for young children so it was not surprising that my preschool class got a kick out of The Skeleton Family. They were fascinated with the premise that skeletons could live in a house, play computer games and own pets that were also skeletons. I enjoyed the message about not judging a book by its cover (or in this case the lack of) and the tamariki understood this message too, one commenting that “they’re nice, not scary!”



Spread from The Skeleton Family, by Ian Chapman and illustrated by Cheryl Smith (David Bateman)

The song that the Skeletons perform for their new neighbours is just the right amount of spooky and silly which is fitting for The Skeleton Family. We also enjoyed making up our own tune using the lyrics. Included in the back is the sheet music for playing it on the glockenspiel which is an appropriate instrument for happy skeletons and a fun challenge for budding musicians.



The song that the Skeletons perform for their new neighbours is just the right amount of spooky and silly ... We also enjoyed making up our own tune using the lyrics.

The Skeleton Family is an unusual but humorous story and sing-a-long that teaches tamariki that it is important to get to know someone before we judge them; after all, we are all skeletons on the inside.



the skeleton family


by Ian Chapman, illustrated by Cheryl Smith Published by David Bateman RRP $20.00

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Sir Singlet by Dawn McMillan and Ross Kinnaird

Dawn McMillan and Ross Kinnaird are known for their funny children’s books and Sir Singlet did not disappoint. In Sir Singlet a young boy tells the story of how his Uncle who has a talent for sewing and is bestowed with the unique name of ‘Sir Singlet’ after his flair for fashion saves the day.


Uncle is fed up with his usual medieval attire so he decides to use his sewing skills to create his own underwear range. Singlets, undies and socks of all colours and sizes adorned with fearsome animal faces make up his exclusive line of underwear, but just as he is about to launch ‘Knightwear’ the King declares war! Duty calls and Uncle along with the rest of the King’s army soon find themselves in a losing battle. Everyone is retreating when Uncle takes off his hot and heavy armour revealing the terrifying beasts on his underwear, which scares their enemies off. The King is so happy with this victory that he knights Uncle 'Sir Singlet’, in honour of his unusual battle method.


Spread from Sir Singlet by Dawn McMillan, illustrated by Ross Kinnaird (Oratia Press)

With its fun rhyming and unique storyline my preschool class was glued to the story. The humorous illustrations show plenty of rosy cheeked bottoms, much like in I’ve Broken My Bum! and they caused lots of giggles: “you can see his butt!” they laughed.



With its fun rhyming and unique storyline my preschool class was glued to the story.


Funny books are always a hit with tamariki and what I liked about this book is that it turns on its head the traditional trope of a knight and instead he is shown enjoying the gentle art of sewing and fashion. This unexpected turn adds to the humour of the story but it is also a very important message for tamariki, as it confirms that you can have different kinds of interests regardless of who you are.


Spread from Sir Singlet, by Dawn McMillan, illustrated by Ross Kinnaird (Oratia Press)


Dawn McMillan and Ross Kinnaird have done it again with Sir Singlet. This book is perfectly suited for reading aloud, and the fun, comical story will leave tamariki chuckling.



sir singlet


by Dawn McMillan, illustrated by Ross Kinnaird Published by Oratia Press RRP $20.00

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Ernie and the Magic Kennel by Robert Rakete and Jeanette Thomas, illustrated by Kimberly Andrews

Ernie the corgi and Benny the street dog are from two very different worlds but when they take a trip in a magical kennel with a host of other dogs, that all changes.


Benny is out playing when he spies a sparkly envelope and follows it to Ernie’s kennel. It is a letter from the Queen who informs Ernie and Benny that the kennel is magical and it is about to take flight across the world from New Zealand to the Queen’s palace in England. Along the way they stop and pick up Blu from Australia, Ace from Switzerland and Fleur from France. When they arrive at the Palace, the Queen shows Ernie, Blue, Ace and Fleur a painting of their royal heritage. Poor Benny sees no dogs like him in the painting and feels like he does not belong, however Ernie assures Benny that he really belongs with him, as his new family!



Spread from Ernie and the Magic Kennel, by Robert Rakete and Jeanette Thomas, illustrated by Kimberly Andrews (Scholastic)


Ernie and the Magic Kennel is The Breeze radio hosts Robert Rakete’s and Jeanette Thomas’s debut children’s book. Complemented by Kimberly Andrews’s adorable illustrations this is an entertaining adventure story that follows the dogs across the world and arrives at a heart-warming ending. It was a joy to read aloud with a rollicking rhythm and rhyme - and doggy dialogue which provided an excellent opportunity to practice my funny voices at mat time!



It was a joy to read aloud with a rollicking rhythm and rhyme - and doggy dialogue which provided an excellent opportunity to practice my funny voices at mat time!


The message is that love is what makes a family, and Ernie’s ‘adoption’ of Benny as his new brother was a touching ‘aww’ moment that made this story’s ending a lovely surprise. In the beginning it seemed Benny had joined the adventure accidentally but the Queen had been expecting five dogs big and small from the very start and she found him the home he needed with Ernie the corgi.


Spread from Ernie and the Magic Kennel, by Robert Rakete and Jeanette Thomas, illustrated by Kimberly Andrews (Scholastic)


My preschool class loved that Ernie and Benny were based on real life dogs; Benny being a stray that was adopted by Jeanette Thomas’s family and Ernie being the “Chief Happiness Officer” at The Breeze radio station. Every sale from Ernie and the Magic Kennel supports local charities. In honour of Benny, Jeanette has chosen to donate her earnings to the Saving Hope Foundation which arranges fostering and adoption of dogs and Robert has chosen to donate his earnings to the Duffy Books in Homes Foundation which gifts books to children across New Zealand.


If you are wanting to purchase a fun, sweet and wonderfully written and illustrated book for tamariki AND donate to charity organisations by doing so, then you will most definitely enjoy Ernie and Magic Kennel.




ernie and the magic kennel

by Robert Rakete and Jeanette Thomas, illustrated by Kimberly Andrews Published by Scholastic RRP $20.00

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Mini Whinny Bad Day at the O.K. Corral by Stacy Gregg and Ruth Paul

Bestselling author Stacy Gregg and award winning illustrator Ruth Paul have come together again to create a third adventure for Mini Whinny. It’s a story about friendship and standing up for yourself and others that is brought to life by charming, western-inspired illustrations. The cover gives a preview of what you can expect of the story inside and will be highly appealing to young pony fans.


Mini Whinny is not too pleased to be going to the O.K. Corral Daycare; she doesn’t know anyone, and then she discovers her annoying neighbour Goody Four-Shoes is also there being perfect and popular as usual. However, Whinny soon realises that Goody is the least of her problems. A bully by the name of Bandit and his scary gang have been wreaking havoc at the daycare; knocking over blocks, putting knots in the skipping ropes, kicking up the sand pit and eating way too many beans! For once, Mini Whinny isn’t the biggest troublemaker. Mini Whinny is determined to put a stop to Bandit’s torment. On the playground, the ponies of O.K. Corral, led by Mini Whinny, bravely confront Bandit and his gang. An ambush involving mucky catapults forces Bandit’s fellow bullies to turn tail and run leaving Bandit as the last one standing. Could it be that Winny’s mischievous ways have saved the day?



Spread from Mini Whinny Bad Day at the O.K. Corral, by Stacy Gregg, illustrated by Ruth Paul (Scholastic)

As the ponies in Stacy Greg’s story are the same age as the target audience (2-6 years) and it occurs in a relatable setting (daycare) Mini Whinny Bad Day at the O.K. Corral becomes a great tool for adults to discuss with tamariki what they could do if they find themselves in a similar situation.



Mini Whinny Bad Day at the O.K. Corral becomes a great tool for adults to discuss with tamariki what they could do if they find themselves in a similar situation.

Bullying and finding solutions to bullying can be tricky topics to address with tamariki so having an amusing story can really help them to understand and relate to these big concepts. Although I felt that Mini Whinny’s confrontation of Bandit wasn’t a great solution, this in itself could become a talking point and lead to better ideas for conflict resolution.



Spread from Mini Whinny Bad Day at the O.K. Corral, by Stacy Gregg, illustrated by Ruth Paul (Scholastic)

Mini Whinny Bad Day at the O.K. Corral is a beautifully illustrated book that confronts the subject of bullying and making a stand in a way tamariki will be able to understand.




mini whinny bad day at the o.k. corral

by Stacy Gregg, illustrated by Ruth Paul Published by Scholastic RRP $19.00

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Alana bird

After graduating in my home town of Invercargill with a Bachelor of Teaching (ECE) I moved to Whangarei where I work in a small Early Learning Centre. Picture books are one of my favourite teaching tools and in my line of work I’ve read hundreds! I value the opinion of the tiny humans I work with so they have a strong influence on how I review picture books. In my spare time I love getting creative with my pencils and paints, usually painting or drawing for friends and family or making resources for the tamariki in my centre.