Chil­dren’s Books

Re­viewed by Mary de Ruyter

North & South - - Books -

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.

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