Reviewed by Mary de Ruyter
Picture Books • No wonder I Am Jellyfish (Ruth Paul, Penguin Random House, $20) won Best Picture Book at this year’s New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Sterling rhyming, immersive illustrations, action, compassion, and a glow-in-the- dark cover to encourage littlies to turn off the light at bedtime. • There are laughs on many levels in Kiwi author Sophie Siers’ Dear Donald Trump (illustrated by Anne Villeneuve, Millwood Press, $27.95). Sam is sick of sharing a room with his older brother, and thinks Donald Trump’s plan to “build a wall” could work for him too. Sibling spats and politics have never been such charming, or enlightening, bedfellows. • In 2019, it will be 50 years since Margaret Mahy’s first children’s book was published, and in anticipation of the celebrations, Hachette has republished the muchloved A Lion in the Meadow in hardback ($30). Gifting this will help you acquire lifelong kudos with any small humans in your life – because after half a century, this classic is still as magical as ever. • Pony Club Secrets author Stacy Gregg successfully branches out into picture books with the rather sweet Mini Whinny (illustrated by Ruth Paul, Scholastic, $20), in which the littlest horse in a stable rebels against the idea of sharing her birthday with all the other horses. • The excellent Kiwi offerings continue with The Bomb (Sacha Cotter/josh Morgan, Huia, $ 23), a flamboyant, summery tale of a boy who dreams of pulling off the perfect dive bomb, but hasn’t yet found his style; there’s also a te reo version. Kuwi’s Rowdy Crowd ( Kat Merewether, Illustrated Publishing, $20) is a delight to read out loud, with visual jokes that will keep parents amused.
Overseas highlights include: Maya & Cat (Caroline Magerl, Walker Books, $28), with beautifully poetic words and watercolour- and- ink drawings; and Want to Play Trucks? (Ann Stott/bob Graham, Walker Books, $19), a simple story about two boys encountering difference and finding common ground, for ages three-plus.
Middle Readers • The Yark (Bertrand Santini/ Laurent Gapaillard, Gecko Press, $20) had us at “orphan gratin” and “demonic diarrhoea”, and aficionados of dark humour will find a lot to love in this warm-hearted pearler. The Yark eats children – well- behaved ones, that is, as the rotters upset his stomach – but what happens when he becomes friends with a particularly special little girl? Wonderful black-ink illustrations, and a surprisingly involved character arc for a monster. • In first-time Kiwi author Steph Matuku’s engaging fantasy tale Whetū Toa and the Magician ( Katharine Hall, Huia, $ 25), capable Whetū and her mum move to the country to work for a magician. But in a world where doormats quack and rabbits talk, unexpected things can (and do) happen.
There’s a delightful subversion in Fairytales for Feisty Girls (Susannah Mcfarlane, Allen & Unwin, $28), where well-known fairytales are retold with decidedly different endings – special shout-out to Thumbelina’s truly awful jokes, which dads will relish telling. For Harry Potter fans, there’s a lavishly illustrated, full- colour edition of The Tales of Beedle the Bard (JK Rowling/ Chris Riddell, Bloomsbury, $48). And Pirate Mcsnottbeard in the Alien Slug Invasion Panic (Paul Whitfield, Walker Books, $17) is an amusing, action- packed page-turner. Non-fiction • Food Atlas (Giulia Malerba/ Febe Sillani, Oratia Books, $ 40) explores dishes, ingredients and culture through jauntily illustrated maps and fact boxes. New Zealand’s page features hāngī and hokey pokey, green mussels and pineapple lumps – but, shock horror, no feijoas! A great conversation starter and horizon expander. • Enquiring minds will love Why is That Lake So Blue? A Children’s Guide to New Zealand’s Natural World (Simon Pollard, Te Papa Press, $30). Chapter headings such as “Why are these islands shaky?” and “What happens after dark?” offer a lively way in to striking images and fascinating facts, told with humour and approachability. • Gavin Bishop’s Cook’s Cook (Gecko Press, $30) cleverly shows the realities of life during Captain James Cook’s first Pacific voyage through the eyes of the ship’s cook. • Colour bursts from the pages in Secret World of Butterflies (Courtney Sina Meredith/giselle Clarkson, Allen & Unwin/auckland Museum, $23), a beautiful intro to the insect for kids aged 2-6.