Mr Miniscule and the Whale by Julian Tuwim

Mr Miniscule and the Whale cover imageMr Miniscule and the Whale by Julian Tuwim, illustrated by Bohdan Butenko, Book Island, ISBN 9780987669681, RRP $18

There’s something in stories about teeny tiny things meeting big giant things that always appeals to children and in that vein they will thoroughly enjoy Mr Miniscule and the Whale. Mr Miniscule is a wee little explorer who goes off in search of a big blue whale… what will he find? Where will he go? What is that giant blue thing?

I won’t ruin it, of course, because this is another delightful children’s book from Book Island, who are really producing absolutely fantastic book treasures at the moment. Mr Miniscule and the Whale is actually a classic Polish book and that’s what I love about Book Island; they’re bringing us gorgeous and unknown (to those of use who don’t have any additional language skills!) books in English translation. And everyone loves finding hidden treasure.

As with all Book Island books Mr Miniscule and the Whale is beautifully illustrated with high production values. I’m seriously thinking of setting up a shelf just for displaying Book Island books.

The story is rhyming which makes it good for reading out loud and it’s detailed without being too long – perfect for slightly older toddlers. I highly recommend you search this out – along with any other Book Island titles – you won’t be disappointed!

Book Review: Maia and What Matters by Tine Mortier and Kaatje Vermeire

Maia and What Matters cover imageMaia and What Matters by Tine Mortier & Kaatje Vermeire, Book Island, ISBN9780987669667, RRP $29.99.

The most beautiful picture book I’ve seen this year, Maia and What Matters is the latest from Kapiti Coast publisher Book Island – further proving that the best New Zealand publishers are congregating around Wellington.

Maia is “an impatient scamp”, lucky enough to have a Grandma just the same. They romp delightfully through Kaatje Vermeire’s absolutely stunning illustrations, capturing your heart with Tine Mortier’s equally delightful text.

Age does come for us all, however… and Grandma falls ill and suddenly she doesn’t romp (or talk) like she used too. Then tragedy strikes that little bit deeper.

I want to frame every page of this book. The pictures are beautiful and the story is gentle, heartfelt and honest in its depiction of the relationship between generations.

A book to make you wish you told your grandparents how much you loved them while they were with you. Or to remind you to romp with your grandchildren.

BookieMonster’s Picks of 2012

2012, we hardly knew ye. As the year draws to a close, I confess I’m looking forward rather than backward. 2012 is a year I’m more than happy to consign to history.

2013, you will be mine!

However, it seems obligatory to do some sort of year wrap-up, so here’s a few of my favourite things (apart from whiskers on kittens):

My Favourite New Books of 2012

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Bloody brilliant. Mantel is SUCH a good writer particularly with voices and small details. She doesn’t drown you in historical guff, she just adds flavour here and there so you BELIEVE.

Mansfield with monsters cover

Mansfield with Monsters by Katherine Mansfield, Debbie and Matt Cowens

I’ve told everyone I can that Steampress are the kiwi publishers to watch now. They’re putting out fiction that is better and more original than anything the big boys are doing. Mansfield with Monsters was a perfectly done literary mash-up. One did not know where Mansfield ended and Monsters began, and one loved it.

The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas by Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter

I mean, really.

The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas cover

The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse by Fredrik Brouneus

Steampress again, those sneaks. This title was up there with the best in YA fiction, one that I hope gets a wider audience this year because it was SO GOOD.

Best New New Zealand Publishers

Clearly, the aforementioned Steampress. But also Book Island, a lovely little Kapiti Coast publisher bringing gorgeous European children’s books to NZ (in english translation). In both cases it’s wonderful to see innovative and creative people taking a punt and doing it so well. Publishing is not easy work, so please do support them when you can.

Most Fun Review to Write

Well, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, of course. I hope you all enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

So, there’s a few thoughts from yours truly. Of course I’d like to hear your thoughts too – comment away! Or go outside and enjoy the sunshine, your choice. :D

Book Review: Sir Mouse to the Rescue by Dirk Nielandt and Marjolein Pottie

Sir Mouse To The Rescue cover

Sir Mouse to the Rescue by Dirk Nielandt and Marjolein Pottie, Book Island, RRP $24.99, ISBN9780987669629, Available now.

Another new title from the new New Zealand (new) publisher, Book Island, Sir Mouse to the Rescue is the thoroughly charming tale of Sir Mouse and her best friend Dragon. Suitable for early readers that are almost ready for chapter books, I think Sir Mouse will be particularly enjoyed by girls for its  twist on the usual fairy tales of helpless female princesses and brave male knights.

Sir Mouse is a knight (“bold Sir Mouse”) who tries to rescue the Prince, battles Cat (a fellow knight), hangs out with her best friend Dragon and contemplates living happily ever after. She sometimes takes herself a tad too seriously but fortunately Dragon is there to keep her company… plus Dragon may not be so silly as she originally seems.

Sir Mouse to the Rescue has lovely illustrations that are a mixture of cartoon and collage and the stories are broken up into short “chapters”, making this a great present idea for readers who are feeling too old for “picture books” but aren’t quite ready for true chapter books.

A final bonus? Sir Mouse thinks marrying the Prince and living happily every after is a CRAZY idea.

Mouse sighs. “A princess does not wear a suit of armour,” she says. “A princess has no sword. A princess is not a knight. Can you see me wearing a posh dress?”

“It might look lovely on you,” says Dragon.

Mouse sighs.

When Dragon has gone home, Mouse tries on a posh dress. She stands in front of the mirror. Ridiculous, thinks Mouse.

Give this to every little girl you know. :)

Book Review: Sammy and the Skyscraper Sandwich by Lorraine Francis and Pieter Gaudesaboos

Sammy and the Skyscraper Sandwich cover

Sammy and the Skyscraper Sandwich by Lorraine Francis and Pieter Gaudesaboo, Book Island, RRP $24.99, ISBN9780987669605, Available now.

Sammy is very hungry. So hungry, he could eat the biggest sandwich in the world. So he goes to the kitchen and gets to work!

Sammy and the Skyscraper Sandwich is one of a trio of gorgeous new books from Book Island, a new publisher bringing European children’s books to New Zealand (in English translations).

The format of Sammy is a large board book, so it’s perfect for reading aloud and perfect for little kids to spend time looking over – the illustrations are large and colourful, and full of lively detail that will catch the eye. The story is very cute and the perfect length for little kids.

All this is just accentuated by the excellent production values. The book is substantial, bright and glossy.

A beautiful gift and a fantastic addition to kids’ books in New Zealand.