Book Watch – NZ Herald on Sunday, 9 February 2014

Maia and What Matters

By Tine Mortier, Illustrated by Kaatje Vermeire, Book Island

A stunning and deeply moving picture book, Maia and What Matters is the story of Maia and her beloved grandma. Dealing compassionately and appropriately with issues of loss and grieving, as well as old age, this is a wonderful book to share with children and to treasure for years to come.

Raising Steam

By Terry Pratchett, Doubleday

Amazingly, Raising Steam is the 40th Discworld novel and Terry Pratchett remains as fresh as ever. The book takes us back to Ankh Morpork and raconteur Moist von Lipwig, now in charge of bringing the steam train to the varied population of Discworld. With his characteristic dry wit and a plot that races along, Pratchett delivers another highly enjoyable read.


By Brandy Wehinger, Random House

Zombies may be so last year but fun and romantic stories are timeless. Blue is the debut teen novel from New Zealand author Brandy Wehinger and it’s an enjoyable, fun read, and the perfect antidote for teens hung up on Twilight or Stephen King. Summer may be over for kids but they can still enjoy a beach read.

The Kept

By James Scott, Random House

Another debut novel, this one has an authentic horror voice. The Kept takes us to rural New York State in the late 19th century, examining long-held family secrets and the deep desire for revenge. Genuinely literary prose combined with a darkly haunting story make The Kept a satisfying and troubling read.

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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.

2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards nominees announced

Earth Dragon, Fire Hare cover image

This year’s nominees for the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards have been announced and I’m happy about two in particular.

A hearty congratulations to all the nominees!


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.

Book Review: The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas by Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter

The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas cover

The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas by Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter, Random House, RRP $18.99, ISBN9781849417792, Available now.

Never has a book had a more descriptive title. Fletcher and Poynter do not muck around, so if you don’t want to read about dinosaur poo combined with Christmas, do not read this book.

If, on the other hand, you have the sense of humour of a five year old or you ARE a five year old, you will laugh like a drain.

Personally I think the word “poo” is one of the best in the English language, funny to read, funny to say and about a funny subject.

Danny is a little boy who wants everything for Christmas, even though he’s got quite a lot already. So instead of leaving him another present, Santa Claus leaves him an egg. An egg that hatches into a very hungry dinosaur. A dinosaur who, as it turns out, has a very fast and efficient digestive system…

Last, but not least, and never forgotten

Granny popped out of the dinosaur’s bottom.

The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas is brilliant, hilariously written, perfect for reading out loud (with a similar cadence to The Night Before Christmas) and it has vibrantly large illustrations. I suspect little children everywhere will want this one read to them every night for months.