Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Picture Books: Beach Reading for January 2013
By Trevor Agnew

[First published in Your Weekend magazine, The Press, Christchurch] 
At the Beach: Explore and Discover the New Zealand Seashore   Gillian Candler, ill. Ned Barraud, Craig Potton Publishing, 2012, 32 pages, pb, $19.99
ISBN 978-1-877517-73-0

Nic’s Cookbook   Nicholas Brockelbank, Scholastic, 2012, 32 pages, pb, NZ$10
ISBN 978-1-77543-110-7

Kiwi: the Real Story  Annemarie Florian, ill. Heather Hunt, New Holland, 2012, 32 pages, hb, NZ$29.99  ISBN 978-1-86966-378-0

The Looky Book  Donovan Bixley, Hachette NZ [Hodder Moa], 2012, 24 pages, pb, NZ$19.99
ISBN 978-1-86971-272-3

The Wreck of the Diddley   Fatcat and Fishface, ill Stephen Templer, Craig Potton Publishing, 2012, 26pages, pb, inc. DVD, NZ$24
ISBN 978-1-877517-40-2

Llama Drama  Yvonne Morrison, ill. Neroli Williams, Scholastic NZ, 2012, 32 pages, pb, NZ$19.50

I Love Lemonade  Mark Sommerset, ill. Rowan Sommerset, Dreamboat Books, 2012, 32 pages, hb, NZ$29.99   ISBN 978-0-9864668-6-1 

That’s Mine!  Michael Van Zeveren, Gecko Press, 2012, 32 pages, pb, NZ$19.99
ISBN 978-1-877579-28-8

Anton and the Battle  Ole Könnecke, Gecko Press, 2012, 32 pages, pb, NZ$19.99
ISBN 978-1-877579-26-4

The Old Man and the Cat  Anthony Holcroft, ill. Leah Palmer Preiss, Puffin, 2012, 32 pages, pb, NZ$19.99    ISBN 978-0-143-50464-1
New Zealand picture books offer splendid summer reading for the young. In At the Beach Gillian Candler shows considerable skill in describing the various kinds of beaches enjoyed by many of her young readers. The various creatures found along the foreshore are not only described in a brief lively way but are also shown in their natural environment. Thus mud crabs and mud snails are shown tunnelling down into mudflats, while sandhoppers are hiding under dead seaweed.  Ned Barraud’s handsome colour illustrations make this a book to take to the beach. Any beach.

Nic’s Cookbook is a gem. Nicholas Brocklebank assembled his first cookbook when he was only 8, after a shrewd teacher realised that food preparation and cooking would help develop his maths and literacy skills. Aged 9, he was the winner of TV’s Good Morning Kids’ Cook Off. At 10 he has had his first cookbook published. Beautifully photographed and skilfully designed, Nic’s Cookbook is easy to work with, providing clear lists of ingredients and equipment. Each step in the 14 recipes is numbered and several processes are shown in step-by-step photos. (One of these taught me a new technique for cutting-up onions.) Best of all, from Spanish omelette to chocolate slice, lamingtons to sushi, Nic’s personality shines through in his instructions. Step 15: “Eat!

Kiwi: the Real Story takes a genuinely fresh approach to our national bird.  Inspired by the success of the Backyard Kiwi project at Whangarei Heads, Annemarie Florian has written a marvellously onomatopoeic tribute to the kiwi. “Gorging grubber, larvae-lover, snail-scratcher, beetle-battler…” The poem (which demands to be read aloud) weaves sinuously across the top of each page, while interesting kiwi facts occupy the lower section. Heather Hunt has created vibrant and truly original portraits of the kiwi in action. The result is a handsome book that can be both skimmed through and enjoyed in detail.

Donovan Bixley is such a talented artist that he can even make a giant pink squid into an appealing character. Following the success of his Kiwi versions of Old MacDonald’s Farm and The Wheels on the Bus, he has now produced a colourful visual puzzle delight, The Looky Book. Each double-page spread has a different challenge – match the geckos, spot the errors, and so on. Bixley’s sense of humour neatly matches that of his young readers and they will adore his carefully concealed jokes and visual puns. And the pink squid.

Fatcat & Fish may not be a familiar name to adults but children know the duo as cheerful and amusing musicians. The Wreck of the Diddley presents the lyrics of one of their songs as a picture book, vividly illustrated by Stephen Templer. The Captain is spinning a yarn of shipwreck but his parrot corrects every detail. Parents who feel daunted by the task of catching the rhythm will find the free DVD gives them the tune and brings the pictures to life. A grand shared vocal item for bedtime.

Yvonne Morrison has a flair for witty verse and the text of Llama Drama rhymes as well as its title. Pam irritates her fellow llamas by over-reacting to minor crises like bees and green apples. The llamas provide a handy chorus for those reading aloud:
Stop making a fuss. Stop making a scene.
You’re just a llama drama queen!”
Surprisingly, however, Pam turns the tables on her detractors and achieves an unexpected show business triumph, beautifully illustrated by Christchurch’s Neroli Williams.

Dreamboat Press is a husband and wife operation, based on Waiheke Island. Mark and Rowan Sommerset have only produced five picture books so far but they have already gained a shelf-ful of awards. Their latest title, I Love Lemonade, has the slightly naughty flavour that young readers adore. Fresh from his humiliation in Baa Baa Smart Sheep, Quirky Turkey plans revenge by offering Little Baa a glass of “fresh, delicious lemonade.  As before, Little Baa’s verbal skills enable him to outwit the turkey, and young readers will enjoy the way Quirky suffers not one but two self-inflicted humiliations. Gleeful, mischievous fun.

Michael Van Zeverin understands the problems facing small people in a hostile world. In That’s Mine, a tiny frog finds a lost egg. No sooner has he said “That’s mine” than every animal in the jungle turns up to claim it. Soon the snake, the eagle and the lizard are competing for the egg, much to the annoyance of the elephant. Young readers will enjoy Van Zeverin’s lively cartoon illustrations and the gleeful repetition of “That’s Mine,” but they will also be delighted by the witty ending when the mystery egg finally hatches.

Boasting is at the heart of Ole Könnecke’s Anton and the Battle. “I’m stronger than you,” says Anton, to the amusement of his friend Luke. Anton lifts an imaginary boulder but Luke lifts a bigger one. The cartoon illustrations use special colours to show the imaginary objects as the two boys escalate their conflict from lifting logs through picking up pianos to brandishing bombs. “Mine’s bigger.” The unexpected arrival of a puppy changes the nature of the conflict and brings a witty conclusion. Young readers will enjoy recognising the bombastic posturing of the tiny braggarts.

The classic The Old Man and the Cat (1984) by Canterbury writer Anthony Holcroft has been re-published, with handsome colour illustrations by Leah Palmer Preiss. This poignant tale of an old man whose magic flute summons birds and other creatures to his island gains extra power from the current debate on cats. When a sly black cat steals the old man’s flute, the island is devastated. “Afterwards there were no birds left anywhere in the forest. There were no lizards and no moths.” The old man has to act. Holcroft’s pared-back text is perfectly matched by the beautiful, stylised colour pictures.

Trevor Agnew, January 2013








No comments: