Saturday, 18 November 2006

Zerelda's Horses, Ratso, Gladys the Goat

ZERELDA’S HORSES, Margaret Mahy, Gabriella Klepatski ill, Puffin Kiwi Bites, Auckland New Zealand, 2005, 95 pages, paperback, NZ $14.95. ISBN 0-14-331828-4

RATSO, Lorraine Orman, Dave Gunson ill, Puffin Kiwi Bites, 2005, 95p, pb, $14.95. ISBN 0-14-331826-8

GLADYS THE GOAT, William Taylor, Ross Kinnaird ill, Puffin Kiwi Bites, 2005, 96 pages, paperback, NZ$14.95. ISBN 0-14-331831-4

With their nibbled corners, the Kiwi Bites series are distinctive and deservedly popular at the middle to upper primary school level. The stories are light-hearted and attractively illustrated, so that even reluctant readers are drawn in and swept along.

In Zerelda’s Horses, Margaret Mahy brings her magic to bear on the statues of an ancient city. Young Zerelda finds her enthusiasm for horses brings happiness to a very unusual person, and a New Year celebration that nobody will forget. Especially the statues.

When soft-hearted Dad brings home an orphaned kid from his hunting expedition, ructions follow. Gladys the Goat (named after a moustached aunt) displays an appetite for vegetables, fruit, shrubs, flowers and even clothes, as well as an ability to clear fences. William Taylor’s young hero has to use all his ingenuity to save Gladys from angry neighbours but when disaster threatens Gladys shows her character.

Not every father would appreciate a white rat as his birthday present but Steve’s Dad doesn’t mind. Mum, however, has very strong views on rats. Ratso has to go. When Dad’s birthday expedition to collect shellfish goes wrong, it seems that all may be lost but Lorraine Orman has a happy ending for the family, and Ratso has a surprise for everyone.

Trevor Agnew

This review was first published in The Press, Christchurch, New Zealand on June 11th 2005.

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