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.

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.

Book Review: Mr. Gloomingdale’s Downpour by A. Patrick Conlan

Mr Gloomingdale's Downpour cover

Mr. Gloomingdale’s Downpour: A soakingly amusing tale by A. Patrick Conlan, Gracewood Hollows Books, $9.99 (from the author), ISBN9780986454929, Available now.

Why do kids get all the best books? At the moment I think my reading passion is surviving on a diet of great kids books and Hilary Mantel. Thank god for Hilary Mantel.

To get back to the point… kids books! They’re awesome because they are funny, pretty and quirky… like Mr. Gloomingdale’s Downpour – not a “new” book but a “new to me” book – by New Zealand author and filmmaker A. Patrick Conlan.

Mr. Gloomingdale has a lot of facial hair and he is not happy. He is, point of fact, a grump. A grump who is (un)lucky enough to live with a lot of very happy, smiley faced daisies and some cute little creatures who sort of look like hairy ghosts. Whatever, they are very cute. Mr. Gloomingdale wishes for less cheeriness in his life which, according to the rules of kids books, goes terribly wrong and we find out Mr. Gloomingdale might not be the horrible grouch he insists he is!

This is a very individual book with lively and quirky illustrations, and a great story. I do have one quibble, and its production related – the font is too spaced, making it hard to read. If that problem was fixed it would be near perfect.

My Book Watch for the NZ Herald on Sunday, 21 October 2012

Naked Truth coverNaked Truth: Lifting the lid on the New Zealand sex industry

By Rachel Francis (Penguin, $35)

An engaging and eye-opening social history of the New Zealand sex and adult entertainment industry, this is a fascinating read that tells the stories of several figures from the industry, from Flora MacKenzie of Famous Flora’s to Steve Crowe of Boobs on Bikes furores. Rachel Francis writes with an insider’s view, treating her subjects with honesty and admiration, letting them tell their own stories.


By Sid Marsh (Wooden Shed, $39.99)

As a reader I can tell when an author has gone above and beyond the call of duty for researching their books, and Greyhound is one of those. A compelling, strange war novel, written in thick Kiwi slang and focusing on a Kiwi tanker crew at the end of WWII, it is a difficult but ultimately rewarding read, filled with period detail of New Zealand and Italy.


By Tessa Duder (Whitcoulls, $19.99)

A fantastic new edition of one of New Zealand’s most beloved young adult books, Alex is still a great read after 25 years. It focuses on a wonderfully Kiwi heroine, Alex, who is trying to balance teenage life and love with trying to qualify for the swimming events at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games. I loved reading Alex again, almost as much as I loved reading it in 1989! A piece of New Zealand literary history.

Catching Fish coverCatching Fish

My Dad’s a Dragon Catcher

By Tanya Batt (Clean Slate Press, $19.99)

Educational publishers Clean Slate Press have launched a new imprint with new titles, including these two fantastic picture books from Tanya Batt. Catching Fish (illustrated by Natalia Vasquez) is a great read-aloud romp with beautiful collage-like illustrations, while My Dad’s a Dragon Catcher is full of colourful cartoonish illustrations and has the cutest heart-warming story. Perfect bed time story books.

Book Watch 211012 scan

Reprinted courtesy of the NZ Herald on Sunday.