We want to help create motivated and engaged young readers. This blog is about children's and YA literature (especially New Zealand), literacy research, and ways to get, and keep, kids reading.
The minute I saw the cover of this lovely picture book I knew exactly where it was set – in the distinctive limestone high country of the Castle Hill Station, in the Southern Alps.
With beautiful design principles, and photography by John Bougen the story of Dart the sheepdog, looking for his missing sheep, is told with a wonderful mix of panoramic photography and fun, childlike collage. The text is easy to read with the story related in black, painterly text on beige corduroy and the conversational text incorporated with images of the various characters that Dart meets, at all manner of angles.
With its very New Zealand flavour, the rhyme of the text and changes in rhythm make it catchy and entertaining – great fun to read aloud, inviting lots of interaction from the audience. See if you can spot the missing sheep hiding in each double spread.
To finish off, there is a brief biography of Dart, information about Castle Hill Station and a glossary of special words.
This will not only be a lot of fun to share with younger primary school students, but is also a great example of design and illustration, so don’t forget to share it with your older students too.
review by Lisa
Image by fraew
As always, the contenders for the picture book section of the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards are an interestingly mixed bag. But among the usual suspects—Margaret Mahy, Kyle Mewburn, Tina Matthews and Jennifer Beck is newcomer (amongst a group of not just previous finalists, but previous winners of this section) Terri Rose Baynton with her charmingly off- beat offering Mr Bear Branches and the cloud conundrum.
Terri Rose, the daughter of Martin Baynton of Jane and the dragon fame, has produced a story that incorporates both the factual (the water cycle) and the fantastical (the urge to relax couch- potato- like up in the clouds) before emerging as a whimsically charming book about friendship.
Possibly the illustrations are its strongest feature. In two tones of beige with warm red highlights, the stick figures of Mr Bear Branches and his friend Lintfrey bounce along in a trail of buttons. This book has also been shortlisted for the picture book section of this year’s Australian Book Design Awards—Terri Rose is a New Zealander, but spends much of her working life across the Tasman.
This would look to be a front-runner for the Best First Book Award at least.
review by Cecily
Image by John Mueller
Mules Can Do Anything—at least they can if they are like Melu (the spelling of his name is significant).
This, my personal favourite of the 2013 New Zealand Post picture book finalists, probably has more in common with 2011 finalist Hill and hole than Kyle Mewburn’s other works, being basically about a philosophy to live your life by—at junior level.
When Melu decides to break away from the herd of stubborn mules who ‘had been clip-clopping around the sun-baked hills for generations’ and always in the same direction, at first his enterprise is rewarded and the lush green fields below the hill are everything he had dreamed of while on the self imposed mule treadmill.
But it is when things become difficult and he has to seek the help of others that the book gains its true strength. Melu starts off as a story about enterprise and entrepreneurship, but the need for problems to be solved lifts it into the realms of co-operation, friendship, and the recognition that others often have a part to play in the achievement of our personal dreams.
As well as being my favourite, this could be the Children’s Choice winner. Kyle Mewburn has a history of being able to please both readers and NZ Post judges, winning awards from both in 2007 with Kiss Kiss, yuck yuck!, also illustrated by Ali Teo and John O’Reilly, though i prefer here the Melu illustrations, with their palette of earth, honey and glacier-fed greens!
review by Cecily
image used with permission
As thick fog rolls onto the beach where Anthea and her brothers and sisters are playing, it is up to Anthea, (who is blind), to guide them all safely home.
Beautifully illustrated by Gavin Bishop, Footsteps through the fog will give readers a new perspective on what it is like to be blind.
Mahy’s lyrical evocation of whispering trees, murmuring seas and waves sighing on the beach recasts the familiar landscape of the New Zealand seashore as an enchanting soundscape. Although unable to see, Anthea’s heightened senses of hearing, smell and touch show us that seeing isn’t the only way of getting to know and experiencing the world around us.
Published after Margaret Mahy’s death in 2012, royalties from the sale of this book will be donated to the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind (RNZFB).
A bonus at the back of the book is a gate fold that opens out to display the Braille alphabet.
The Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind maintains an excellent online resource page for teaching children and young people about blindness.
review by Peter
Image by Suziesparkle
What is faith? What happens when I die? How should we live our lives? How do religions help us to make sense of the world?
Looking through a child’s eyes, Faith answers many of the simple questions that helps explain what makes each religion different and more importantly what makes them similar.
Putting the world’s major religions into their geographic and historical context, Faith gives a simple overview of each religion’s doctrines, values, practices and rituals.
Non judgmental descriptions and explanations of spiritual leaders, sacred texts, clothing, symbols, places and acts of worship provide a fascinating window and insight into the lives and beliefs of different cultures.
Faith is a book that encourages understanding and tolerance. Each section is accompanied by simple exercises that children can do in class or with their families to encourage them to explore each concept more deeply.
Written simply and illustrated with photos of children from around the world, Faith is suitable for children of all faiths and backgrounds.
review by Peter
Image by Nirats
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