Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The Ten Best New Zealand Children’s Picture Books of 2013


The Ten Best New Zealand Children’s Picture Books of 2013
By Trevor Agnew

First published in Your Weekend magazine on Saturday 30 November  2013

 Ten Best Children’s Picture Books of 2013

Chosen by Trevor Agnew


All picture books are paperback, unless otherwise stated. They are ordered in (very) approximate reading age. Prices are in New Zealand dollars.


One Little Fantail  Anne Hunter, ill. Dave Gunson,
Scholastic, $19.50 

Busy, quizzy kea, two mischief mates at play, skippity-hop on the mountain top, rocking around all day.’ Hunter’s chirpy verse introduces native birds and their behaviour, while Gunson provides dramatic colour illustrations.  3-6


Toucan Can!  Juliette MacIver, ill. Sarah Davis, Gecko Press, hb, $34.99; pb, $19.99

He cancans on a fruit can.’ Littlies will love sharing the whimsical word play and bouncy rhythm as Toucan dances and sings, with the amazingly colourful menagerie created in Davis’s illustrations.  3-6


Henry’s Map  David Elliot, Random House, $19.99 

Henry, a fastidiously tidy piglet, draws a map of the deplorably untidy farm.  The other animals are impressed until a sheep bleats, ‘But we’re not there.’ Young readers will enjoy feeling smarter than Elliot’s panicked (and very skilfully illustrated) animals. 3-6


Alphabet Squabble  Isaac Drought, ill. Jenny Cooper,
Scholastic, $19.50 

Not all letters are equal in Alphabet Land. Letters like A and E are popular, while the X,Y and Z families feel discriminated against. Drought’s cheerful fable follows their quest for recognition.   Cooper’s droll illustrations match this witty tale of words at war. 6-8


Swim  Chris Szekely, ill. Andrew Burdan,
Huia, hb, $24. [Maori language version: Tahoe, $24]

Szekely’s sumptuous re-telling of the classic Maori love story emphasises Hinemoa’s part. With ‘the grace and soul of a heron,’ she pursues her forbidden love for Tutanekai. Burdan’s lush colour illustrations give verve to a familiar romance. 6-10



The Song of the Ship Rat  Ben Brown, ill. Helen Taylor, Scholastic, $19.50

Brown’s ballad tells of ‘a sea-worn ship rat,’ whose seafaring life culminates in a poignant return to old haunts in Lyttelton Harbour. The nostalgic mood is emphasised in Taylor’s elegant watercolour illustrations. 6-10


Luther and the Cloud-Makers  Kyle Mewburn, ill. Sarah Nelisiwe Anderson,
Scholastic, $19.50.

When his peaceful isolated village is menaced by dense smoke clouds, Luther ventures into the outside world to find the perpetrator. He soon finds many cloud-makers but can one boy make them change?  Mewburn’s parable and Anderson’s illustrations combine to create an eco-fable. 6-10


Hero of the Hill  Joy Cowley, ill. Philip Webb,
Scholastic, hb, $31

Cowley’s lively verse tale honours the Fell engines which hauled trains on the steep Rimutaka Incline for 77 years. Webb’s witty colour illustrations capture the feel of life in this unique railway community.  6-10


The Weather Machine Donovan Bixley,
Hachette NZ, $19.99

Look, no words. Bixley’s brilliantly imaginative pictures create a world with green skies and unpredictable weather. An inventor creates a magnificent machine that lets him choose the weather. Then a spanner in the works creates delightful chaos. All ages.


Puffin New Zealand Children’s Treasury  Puffin NZ, $45.

This collection is a genuine treasure, with ten classic Kiwi picture books – that’s  $4.50 per book – providing an overview of New Zealand children’s illustrated stories from My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes to A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree. All ages.
Trevor Agnew
Christchurch, New Zealand

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