Children’s Books

The Lasting Appeal of “Buddy” Children’s Books

As a young child, I was already big on books. Although I had a large collection of picture flats, there were some that I loved more than others. On reflection, these best-loved books all seemed to have something in common; they were all stories about best friends, many of whom were ‘odd couples,’ pairs who had to muddle through friendship the way we, as people, must do every day–not always gracefully, but usually with good intentions at heart.

george and martha

The first such pair was George and Martha, a set of Hippopotamuses, each of whose books tell a few short stories about how friends relate to each other. Favourites include what to do when you are having trouble telling your friend the truth (hint, the answer is not pouring her awful-tasting split pea soup into your shoes under the table) and how to handle a friend who is a prankster.

frog and toad

The second pair was Frog and Toad, two amphibian best friends whose tales include how to develop enough self control not to eat all the cookies (the only sure way is to feed them to the birds), and what to do when your friend enjoys an activity that you do not.

cowboy and octopus

morris and boris

Other notable buddies include Morris the moose and Boris the bear, Harry and Shellburt (a retelling of the tortoise and the hare), and, Jon Scieszka’s more modern pairing:  Cowboy and Octopus.

The appeal of the Buddy children’s book exists on many levels. The stories can help teach about friendship, including how to accept opinions different from one’s own (such as Shellburt’s conviction that salads are better with flies in them). They offer many chances for humour and silliness (e.g. when octopus chooses to dress as the tooth fairy for Halloween), and they provide many opportunities for developing funny character voices when reading aloud. 

NZ$19.99, paperback

NZ$19.99, paperback

NZ$19.99, paperback

NZ$19.99, paperback

One New Zealand author currently upholding the tradition of Buddy children’s books is Joy Cowley, writer of Snake and Lizard and Friends: Snake and Lizard (both illustrated by Gavin Bishop). As a reptile fan, these books already had a good chance of charming me, but Cowley’s works, (like most other Buddy series before hers) use the multiple-tales-per-book format to great effect, building the friends’ relationship throughout. I hope there are more adventures to come for this scaly duo. I’d also love to see a Buddy children’s book series centred around two friends who are endemic New Zealand creatures, tuatara and fantail perhaps? Just think of the hijinks that could ensue…

Liz Gillett

Lessons I Learned from Children’s and Young Adult Literature

blubberI’m about to admit something that many women in my age-group would be embarrassed to admit:  I have no significant childhood memories of reading Judy Blume.  I never read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.  I never read Then Again, Maybe I Won’t.  I may have read Blubberbut the only thing I remember about it is the cover image of a girl standing in front of a blackboard with a whale drawn on it.

However, as an aficionado of children’s literature, I have an appreciation for how influential Judy Blume’s work has been and, with Blume’s book Tiger Eyes now a film, I feel inspired to salute the contribution of Blume and other children’s book authors by saying a bit about what kids’ books have taught me over the years.

ferdinandThe Story of Ferdinand

     by Munro Leaf:

Finding your own brand of happiness is more important than looking good in front of others.

The Giving Tree

     by Shel Silverstein:

Kindness is great.  Selfishness isn’t.

peter rabbitThe Tale of Peter Rabbit

     by Beatrix Potter:

A watering can is not a good hiding place.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

     by Judi Barrett:

Being allowed to choose what you eat and when is a privilege.  Also, a giant stale loaf of bread held together with peanut butter makes for a sea-worthy vessel.

paper bag princessThe Paper Bag Princess

     by Robert Munsch:

Being clever and resourceful is better than being rich or tidy-looking.

Where the Wild Things Are

     by Maurice Sendak:

Sometimes, a wild rumpus is the only sensible option.

The Velveteen Rabbit

     by Margery Williams:

The love of others makes us real in a way we cannot achieve alone.

charlottes webCharlotte’s Web

     by E. B. White:

There’s nothing wrong with crying over a spider.


     by Roald Dahl:

Reading and magic go hand-in-hand.

Tuck Everlasting

     by Natalie Babbitt:

Changing isn’t as scary as staying the same forever.


Anne of Green Gables

     by L. M. Montgomery:

Some of the best kindred spirits are the unlikely ones.

The Song of the Lioness Quartet

     by Tamora Pierce:

The king of thieves is better than the prince…way better.

Liz Gillett

Featured Titles Newsletter



     by Edward Rutherfurd, Hachette, TR, $39.99

City of love. City of splendour. City of terror. City of dreams.

Inspired by the haunting, passionate story of the city of lights, this epic novel weaves a gripping tale of four families across the centuries: from the lies that spawn the noble line of de Cygne to the revolutionary Le Sourds who seek their destruction; from the Blanchards whose bourgeois respectability offers scant protection against scandal to the hard-working Gascons and their soaring ambitions.

Over hundreds of years, these four families are bound by forbidden loves and marriages of convenience; dogged by vengeance and murderous secrets; torn apart by the irreconcilable differences of birth and faith, and brought together by the tumultuous history of their city.

The story of Paris bursts to life in the intrigue, corruption and glory of its people. Beloved author Edward Rutherfurd illuminates Paris as only he can: capturing the romance and everyday drama of the men and women who, in two thousand years, transformed a humble trading post on the muddy banks of the Seine into the most celebrated city in the world. View Details.


round_houseThe Round House

     by Louise Erdrich, Murdoch Books, TR, $36.99

Winner of the 2012 US National Book Award for Fiction.

One Sunday in 1988, thirteen-year-old Joe Coutts learns that his mother has been the victim of a brutal attack by a man on their North Dakota reservation. Joe’s mother is traumatized and afraid. She takes to her bed, and refuses to talk to anyone – including the police; meanwhile his father, a tribal judge, endeavours to wrest justice from a situation that defies his keenest efforts; and young Joe’s moral and emotional landscape shifts on its child’s axis. Frustrated, confused and nursing a complicated fury, Joe sets out with his best friends Cappy, Zack and Angus in search of answers that might put his mother’s attacker behind bars – and set his family’s world straight again. Or so he hopes. The Round House is a powerful and deeply humane story of a young boy pitched prematurely into an unjust adult world. View details.


gatsby_tiffany_editionThe Great Gatsby, Tiffany Edition

     by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Random House, HB, $34.99

The world and his mistress are at Jay Gatsby’s party. But Gatsby stands apart from the crowd, isolated by a secret longing. In between sips of champagne his guests speculate about their mysterious host. Some say he’s a bootlegger. Others swear he was a German spy during the war. They lean in and whisper ‘he killed a man once.’ Just where is Gatsby from and what is the obsession that drives him?

This edition of The Great Gatsby is the result of a unique collaboration between Tiffany & Co. and Vintage Classics. It is based on designs in the Tiffany & Co. archives from the twenties when F. Scott Fitzgerald’s talent, beauty and notorious lifestyle made him one of best known writers of the Jazz Age. View details.

Click through to read our recent blog post on The Great Gatsby.


granta_best_of_young_british_4Granta 123: Best of Young British Novelists 4

     by Granta, PB, $35.00

Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists issues are always highly anticipated, having previously featured authors such as Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, David Mitchell and Zadie Smith, authors who have since become much lauded successes. In this, their fourth Best of Young British Novelists, Granta features the new work of twenty writers who represent the future of literature in Britain. View details.



     by Dan Brown, Random House, HB, $49.99

Dan Brown’s new novel, Inferno, features renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon and is set in the heart of Europe, where Langdon is drawn into a harrowing world centred around one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces.

As Dan Brown comments: “Although I studied Dante’s Inferno as a student, it wasn’t until recently, while researching in Florence, that I came to appreciate the enduring influence of Dante’s work on the modern world. With this new novel, I am excited to take readers on a journey deep into this mysterious realm…a landscape of codes, symbols, and more than a few secret passageways.” View details.


wedding_giftThe Wedding Gift

     by Marlen Suyapa Bodden, Random House, TR, $36.99

When wealthy plantation owner Cornelius Allen marries off his daughter Clarissa, he presents her with a wedding gift: a young slave woman called Sarah. It just so happens that Sarah is Allen’s daughter as well, the product of a long-term sexual relationship with his slave Emmeline. When Clarissa’s husband rejects her newborn son as illegitimate and sends Clarissa and Sarah back to the Allens, their return sets in motion a series of events that will destroy the once-powerful family.

Told through the alternating view points of Sarah and Theodora Allen, Cornelius’s wife, The Wedding Gift shines a glaring light on the brutal world of slavery in the antebellum American South. Marlen Bodden’s compelling historical novel explores how planters controlled slaves and free women alike, propelling them along a taut social tightrope as they struggled for freedom and autonomy in an oppressive and patriarchal world. View details.



turings_cathedralTuring’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe

     by George Dyson, Penguin Books, PB, $30.00

‘Riveting . . . conveys the electrifying sense of possibility that the first computers unleashed . . . a page-turner.’ —New Scientist 

How did computers take over the world? This is the story of how the PC, iPod, smartphone and almost every aspect of modern life came into being.

In 1945 a small group of brilliant engineers and mathematicians gathered at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, determined to build a computer that would make Alan Turing’s theory of a ‘universal machine’ reality. Led by the polymath émigré John von Neumann, they created the numerical framework that underpins almost all modern computing – and ensured that the world would never be the same again. View details.


perilous_questionPerilous Question: 

The Drama of the Great Reform Bill 1832

     by Antonia Fraser, Hachette, HB, $55.00

The two-year revolution that totally changed how Britain is governed.

Internationally bestselling historian Antonia Fraser’s new book brilliantly evokes a key period of pre-Victorian political and social history – the passing of the Great Reform Bill of 1832. For our inconclusive times, there is an attractive resonance with 1832, with its ‘rotten boroughs’ of Old Sarum and the disappearing village of Dunwich, and its lines of most resistance to reform.

This book is character-driven – on the one hand, the reforming heroes are the Whig aristocrats Lord Grey, Lord Althorp and Lord John Russell, and the Irish orator Daniel O’Connell. They included members of the richest and most landed Cabinet in history, yet they were determined to bring liberty, which whittled away their own power, to the country. The all-too-conservative opposition comprised Lord Londonderry, the Duke of Wellington, the intransigent Duchess of Kent and the consort of the Tory King William IV, Queen Adelaide. Finally, there were ‘revolutionaries’ and reformers, like William Cobbett, the author of Rural Rides.

This is a book that features one eventful year, much of it violent. There were riots in Bristol, Manchester and Nottingham, and wider themes of Irish and ‘negro emancipation’ underscore the narrative. The time-span of the book is from Wellington’s intractable declaration in November 1830 that ‘The beginning of reform is the beginning of revolution’, to 7th June 1832, the date of the extremely reluctant royal assent by William IV to the Great Reform Bill, under the double threat of the creation of 60 new peers in the House of Lords and the threat of revolution throughout the country. These events led to a total change in the way Britain was governed, a two-year revolution that Antonia Fraser brings to vivid dramatic life. View details.


lets_explore_diabetes_with_owlsLet’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

     by David Sedaris,

     Little, Brown Book Group, TR, $36.99

From the unique perspective of David Sedaris comes a new book of essays taking his readers on a bizarre and stimulating world tour. From the perils of French dentistry to the eating habits of the Australian kookaburra, from the squat-style toilets of Beijing to the particular wilderness of a North Carolina Costco, we learn about the absurdity and delight of a curious traveler’s experiences. Whether railing against the habits of litterers in the English countryside or marveling over a disembodied human arm in a taxidermist’s shop, Sedaris takes us on side-splitting adventures that are not to be forgotten. View details.

Click to hear Sedaris interviewed on Radio New Zealand National.

Click to hear an interview with Sedaris on US National Public Radio.


origins_of_sexThe Origins of Sex: 

A History of the First Sexual Revolution

     by Faramerz Dabhoiwala, Penguin Books, PB, $30.00

For most of western history, all sex outside marriage was illegal, punished by the church and state. Then, between 1600 and 1800, this traditional world-view was shattered by a revolutionary new idea – that consenting adults should have the freedom to do what they like with their own bodies.

This acclaimed, groundbreaking book shows that the creation of our modern sexual culture – in which sex is ever more private, yet ever more publicised – was a central part of the Enlightenment. The first sexual revolution helped create a new model of western civilization, whose principles of equality, privacy, and individual freedom last to this day. View details.


everest_first_ascentEverest – The First Ascent:

The Untold Story of Griffith Pugh, 

the Man Who Made it Possible

     by Harriet Tuckey, Random House, TR, $36.99

Marking the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of Everest in May 1953, Everest – The First Ascent tells the story of the doctor and physiologist Griffith Pugh, without whom the successful conquest of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay would not have been possible.

Recruited as an advisor in 1952, Pugh battled for fifteen months – in the face of opposition, suspicion and ridicule – to revolutionise almost every aspect of British high-altitude mountaineering, transforming the approach to oxygen, clothing, boots, tents, air beds, fitness, hygiene, health-care, diet and acclimatisation. The results were a stunning success and opened the door to the golden age of Himalayan climbing. Pugh’s techniques are still in use today, yet he has never enjoyed popular credit for his work.

Written by Pugh’s daughter, Harriet Tuckey, Everest – The First Ascent also charts the personal story of her own, and her mother’s, relationship with this fiercely independent, troubled, abrasive and eccentric man, as she seeks to uncover the achievements of his controversial career. View details.


serpents_promiseThe Serpent’s Promise: The Bible Retold as Science

     by Steve Jones, Little, Brown Book Group, TR, $39.99

In The Serpent’s Promise, Britain’s favourite geneticist, Steve Jones, updates the Bible from the point of view of modern science.

The Bible was the first scientific textbook of all; and it got some things right (and plenty more wrong). Steve Jones’ new book rewrites it in the light of modern science. Are we all descended from a single couple, a real-life Adam and Eve? Was the Bible’s great flood really a memory of the end of the Ice Age? Will we ever get back to Methuselah given that British life expectancy is still rising by six hours a day, every day?

Many people deny the power of faith, many more the power of science. In this ground-breaking work, geneticist Steve Jones explores their shared mysteries – from the origins of life and humankind to sex, age, death and the end of the universe. He steps aside from the noisy debate between believers and unbelievers to show how the same questions preoccupy us today as in biblical times – and that science offers many of the answers. View details.


NZ Titles

fighting_to_chooseFighting to Choose:

The Abortion Rights Struggle in New Zealand

     by Alison McCulloch, Victoria University Press,

     PB, $45.00

Fighting to Choose chronicles one of the most important yet neglected chapters in New Zealand’s recent political history.

More than thirty-five years ago, at the height of the second wave of feminism, New Zealand passed a conservative abortion law that bucked a trend in the West toward liberalisation. How did this happen in a country proud of its progressive social policies – particularly its record on women’s rights? And why is such a cumbersome, expensive, endlessly litigated set of statutes still on the books? In Fighting to Choose: The Abortion Rights Struggle in New Zealand, Alison McCulloch sets out to answer those questions by taking a close look at the people involved and the tactics they employed in waging what was – and continues to be – an intense and impassioned battle. View details.


disestablishment_of_paradiseThe Disestablishment of Paradise

     by Phillip Mann, Orion Publishing Group, TR, $36.99

Something has gone wrong on the planet of Paradise.

The human settlers – farmers and scientists – find that their crops won’t grow and their lives are becoming more and more dangerous. The indigenous plant life – never entirely safe – is changing in unpredictable ways, and the imported plantings wither and die. And so the order is given – Paradise will be abandoned. All personnel will be removed and reassigned. And all human presence on the planet will be disestablished.

Not all agree with the decision. There are some who believe that Paradise has more to offer the human race. That the planet is not finished with the intruders, and that the risks of staying are outweighed by the possible rewards. And so the leader of the research team and one of the demolition workers set off on a journey across the planet. Along the way they encounter the last of the near-mythical Dendron, the vicious Reapers and the deadly Tattersall Weeds as they embark on an adventure which will bring them closer to nature, to each other and, eventually, to Paradise. View details.


white_collar_radicalWhite-collar Radical:

Dan Long and the Rise of the White-collar Unions

     by Mark Derby, Craig Potton, PB, $39.99

From 1960 until his sudden death in office in 1976, Dan Long was the most visible face of the Public Service Association (PSA), New Zealand’s largest union. In his dark suit, narrow tie and plastic framed spectacles, Long seemed the epitome of the public servants he represented. In fact, as this lively biography makes clear, his background and political attitudes made him a very unusual leader of this traditionally conservative organisation.

The son of working-class migrants from Ireland, Long was raised a staunch Catholic in the remote Wairarapa railway community of Cross Creek. He and his two brothers were conscientious objectors during WW2, and were held in a series of detention camps. Long then worked as a lawyer in the Ministry of Works, and in 1960 was selected as the PSA’s general secretary (its most senior paid official) in part because of his active support for equal pay for women in the public service.

He led the PSA during its transformation from a gentlemanly professional body into a large, well resourced and highly effective trade union representing every level of public employee from senior departmental managers to night cleaners. Long was also directly instrumental in broadening the range of PSA activities beyond immediate issues of pay and working conditions into the much wider fields of human rights, internationalism and the social revolution of the late 1960s and 70s.

A warm-hearted and gentle family man, Long could also be a formidable negotiator, with a trained lawyer’s grasp of detail. Although a lifelong Catholic and non-aligned leftist of pacifist principles, he nevertheless came to the attention of state security services. This book draws upon their unpublished files to show how public servants in this period suffered a covert purging because of their entirely legal political activities. View details.


bakers_thumbprintThe Baker’s Thumbprint

     by Paula Green, Seraph Press, PB, $25.00

I think I have the moment in me
that I want to last like the instant the light
catches the hills to make them sharp.
(from ‘Sunday Afternoon’)

Philosophers, scientists and artists such as Socrates, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Einstein and Jane Austen pop in for lunch, stay for the afternoon, dance at outdoor concerts and generally inhabit the every-day in these playful and thought-provoking poems by much-admired poet Paula Green. View details.


landfall_225Landfall 225:  My Auckland

     edited by David Eggleton,

     Otago University Press, PB, $30.00

This latest edition of Landfall celebrates New Zealand’s largest city with an exciting and exuberant issue of art, photography, cultural commentary, essays, stories, reviews and poems, including work by writers from all over the country. View details.


writing_classThe Writing Class

     by Stephanie Johnson, Random House, TR, $37.99

This unique novel is both a compelling love story and an insightful writing manual.

‘Writers take what we learn of human nature and, fuelled by our longings for other existences and other times, forge new identities that can be as real as she is, sitting with her dog on the weathered step of the old house, stories that move us to tears or laughter.’

Merle Carbury, an author in her own right, also teaches Creative Writing. Amid the tension of the final semester of the year, her many and varied students prepare to submit their manuscripts. As Merle mentors their assorted ambitions, observes the romantic entanglements of her colleague, worries about her husband and is intrigued by their mysterious German lodger, she both imparts and embodies how to write a novel.

Written by a prize-winning author, who is also an experienced teacher, the overarching intelligence, compassion and wicked humour in this inventive book make it a joy to read. View details.


Special Interest

foragers_treasuryA Forager’s Treasury: 

A New Zealand Guide to Finding and Using Wild Plants

     by Johanna Knox, Allen & Unwin, PB, $36.99

In New Zealand’s urban and rural wildernesses, there is an abundance of food just waiting to be discovered, if only you know what to look for. Foraged food is healthy, economical and sustainable, but the best part about it is the fun you will have finding wild food.

This book is guaranteed to make you look at the plants around you in a different light. A Forager’s Treasury features profiles of many edible plants commonly found in New Zealand, including advice on where to find them, how to harvest them and how best to use them. View details.


cookedCooked: A Natural History of Transformation

     by Michael Pollan, Penguin Books, PB, $37.00

‘Cooks get to put their hands on real stuff, not just keyboards and screens but fundamental things like plants and animals and fungi. They get to work with primal elements, too, fire and water, earth and air, using them – mastering them! – to perform their tasty alchemies.’

In a culture of celebrity chefs and food reality shows, in countries which are crammed with fresh ingredients flown in from every corner of the Earth, we nonetheless year-on-year wade ever deeper into a great swamp of processed foods. The more we watch food on television, the less food we actually prepare and cook.

Michael Pollan’s marvellous new book is a clarion-call for the virtues and values of proper cooking – an essential, defining human activity which sits at the heart of our cultures, shapes family life and is in itself hugely enjoyable. In a series of brilliantly observed encounters with chefs from around the world, Pollan takes us on a journey through the fundamentals of cooking, uncovering the inner mysteries of everything from tiny specks of yeast to a whole hog roast. The result is an extremely funny and surprising book that encourages us to revel in the magical activity of making food. View details.


Tradescants_OrchardThe Tradescants’ Orchard:

The Mystery of a Seventeenth-Century Painted Fruit Book

     by Barrie Juniper and Hanneke Grootenboer,

     The Bodleian Library, HB, $91.95

In the early seventeenth century, England’s leisured classes took an eager interest in fruits from the Mediterranean and beyond, introducing species from abroad into the kitchen gardens and orchards of grand homes. A charming collection of sixty-six early watercolors showing fecund trees with fruits hanging heavily from their branches, The Tradescants’ Orchard is a testament to these broadening horticultural horizons.

The Tradescants’ Orchard reproduces for the first time the entire manuscript, traditionally associated with the renowned father-and-son nurserymen the John Tradescants. The paintings pose many questions: Who painted them and why? What is the significance of the wildlife–birds, butterflies, frogs, and snails–that appear throughout? Why is there only one depiction of an apple tree despite its popularity? Were there others that have since gone missing?

A visual feast that will appeal to botany and gardening enthusiasts, the book also includes an introduction that maps out the mystery of how and why these enigmatic watercolors were made. View details.


flowers_at_homeFlowers at Home

     by Sandra Kaminski,

     Renaissance Publishing, HB, $65.00

Using beautiful fresh flowers and foliage and an imaginative range of accessories, well-known New Zealand stylist Sandra Kaminski shows how to transform a room or setting to reflect a mood. It could be as simple as a few perfect blooms arranged in a glass bottle to show them at their best, with no other visual distraction, or it might be a celebratory theme, in which case Sandra’s choice of complementary colours, textures and personalised touches is nothing short of superb.

Whatever your preferred style of arranging fresh cut flowers, you will find endless inspiration in this exquisite floral collaboration between Sandra and photographer Geoff Hedley that showcases each season and several significant festive occasions. View details.


gustav_klimt_complete_paintingsGustav Klimt:  The Complete Paintings

     by Tobias G. Natter, Taschen, HB, $380.00

During his lifetime, Klimt was a controversial star whose works made passions run high; he stood for Modernism but he also embodied tradition. His pictures polarized and divided the art-loving world. Journalists and general public alike were split over the question: For or against Klimt?

This book places particular emphasis upon the voices of Klimt’s contemporaries via a series of essays examining reactions to his work throughout his career. Subjects range from Klimt’s portrayal of women to his adoption of landscape painting in the second half of his life. The cliché that Gustav Klimt was a man of few words who rarely put pen to paper is vehemently dispelled: no less than 179 letters, cards, writings and other documents are included in this monograph. This wealth of archival material, assembled here for the first time on such a scale, represents a major contribution to Klimt scholarship. View details.


james_bond_archiveThe James Bond Archives

     edited by Paul Duncan,

     Taschen, HB, $375.00

“Bond, James Bond.” Since Sean Connery uttered those immortal words in 1962, the most dashing secret agent in the history of cinema has been charming and thrilling audiences worldwide. This impeccably British character created by author Ian Fleming has starred in 23 EON-produced films, played by 6 different actors over five decades.

To celebrate 50 years of this innovative franchise, EON Productions opened their archives of photos, designs, storyboards, and production materials to editor Paul Duncan, who spent two years researching over one million images and 100 filing cabinets of documentation. The result is the most complete account of the making of the series, covering every James Bond film ever made, beginning with Dr. No (1962) and ending with Skyfall (2012), including the spoof Casino Royale (1967) and Never Say Never Again (1983).

The stunning imagery is accompanied by an oral history recounted by over 150 cast and crew members, relating the true inside story of how the Bond films were made. Containing previously unpublished photography and artwork, as well as production memos from filming, this book is a comprehensive tribute to the legend of James Bond. View details.


Children’s and Young Adult


     by Leila Rudge, Walker Books,

     HB, $29.99

A story about finding your perfect place.

Ted is a smart dog, with his own jumper. But he has lived at the pet store for as long as he can remember and nobody seems to notice him. Will Ted ever find the perfect place to live?

Ted is full of quirky visual humour and, while supplies last, each copy of Ted comes with a free Ted plush toy, a perfectly handsome little friend in his green and white jumper. View details.


mouse_bird_snake_wolfMouse Bird Snake Wolf

     by David Almond, illustrated by Dave McKean,

     Walker Books, HB, $24.99

The dream team of David Almond and Dave McKean bring us a complete story set in an incomplete world.

The gods have created a world – they’ve built mountains, a sea and a sky – and now their days are filled with long naps in the clouds (and tea and cake). That’s until Harry, Sue and little Ben begin to fill the gaps of the world: with a mousy thing, a chirpy thing and a twisty legless thing. As the children’s ideas take shape, the power of their visions proves to be greater than they, or the gods, could ever have imagined. View details.


hueys_it_wasnt_meIt Wasn’t Me

     by Oliver Jeffers, HarperCollins,

     HB, $29.99

Meet the Hueys – a fabulously quirky group of characters from international bestselling, award-winning author/illustrator, Oliver Jeffers.

In the latest Hueys title, It Wasn’t Me, a fight has broken out amongst The Hueys. “It was not me! It was him!” But no one can remember what they’re fighting about. If only they could find an interesting distraction … View details.


twenty_big_trucks20 Big Trucks in the Middle of the Street

     by Mark Lee, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus,

     Walker Books, HB, $22.99

Count the trucks getting stuck in a traffic jam in this rhythmic read-aloud sure to draw in kids who love everything on wheels.

If you’re a little boy on a bike, an ice-cream truck on your street is always a welcome sight. But what if the truck breaks down and blocks the mail truck behind it (now there are two), not to mention a third truck carrying hay? One by one, trucks of all types and sizes and functions are sure to pile up behind, offering ample opportunity for ogling – and counting. And maybe the boy’s idea for putting one of the trucks to good use might even save the day! View details.


hooray_for_breadHooray for Bread

     by Allan Ahlberg,

     illustrated by Bruce Ingman,

     Walker Books, HB, $29.99

Three cheers for bread, HIP-HIP-HOORAY!

Early in the morning the baker bakes a lovely loaf of bread. SO lovely, in fact, that by the time the sun goes down it’s been gobbled up! Every. Last. Slice. Who eats it all? Well, the baker munches on its crunchy crust. The baker’s wife eats delicious marmalade toast and the baker’s son gets a tasty cheese and ham sandwich for his lunch. Let’s not forget the dog, even he gets his share!

HOORAY FOR BREAD! Slice by slice and crumb by crumb, everyone eats their fill of bread, with a teeny tiny mouse nibbling up the very last scrap. “Hooray” – squeak-squeak – “for bread!” But wait – there are some missing slices! Where could they have gone? Is there a tasty double spread just for YOU? View details.


vaders_little_princessVader’s Little Princess

     by Jeffrey Brown, Chronicle Books, HB, $24.99

In this irresistibly funny follow-up to the breakout bestseller Darth VaderTM and Son, Vader–Sith Lord and leader of the Galactic Empire–now faces the trials, joys, and mood swings of raising his daughter Leia as she grows from a sweet little girl into a rebellious teenager. Smart and funny illustrations by artist Jeffrey Brown give classic Star Wars® moments a twist by bringing these iconic family relations together under one roof.

From tea parties to teaching Leia how to fly a TIE fighter, regulating the time she spends talking with friends via R2-D2’s hologram, and making sure Leia doesn’t leave the house wearing only a skirted metal bikini, Vader’s parenting skills are put hilariously to the test. View details.


Oz: The Complete Collection

     by L. Frank Baum, Simon & Schuster, PB, $21.00 each


Volume 1

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her faithful dog, Toto, find themselves far from home in a strange land called Oz after their Kansas house is swept away by a cyclone. Here they meet the Munchkins and join the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion on an unforgettable journey to the Emerald City, where the all-powerful Wizard of Oz lives. Can he help Dorothy return home?

In The Marvellous Land of Oz, a young boy named Tip escapes from a witch and sets out to explore the land of Oz. Along the way, he meets the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman, as well as some new friends like Jack Pumpkinhead and the Wooden Sawhorse. Eventually, Tip’s journey takes him to the Emerald City where he realizes that his life will be changed forever.

In Ozma of Oz, Dorothy is sailing to Australia when a huge storm washes her overboard. She only survives by clinging to a chicken crate. Eventually she and a yellow hen named Billina wash up on the magic shore of Ev where they meet the mechanical man Tik Tok. But Dorothy and Billina are taken prisoner by the evil Nome King who has captured the royal family of Ev. Only Ozma of Oz can save them, but will she be in time? View details.


Volume 2

In Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, Dorothy and the Wizard visit the centre of the Earth, where people are vegetables, glass houses grow and Oz characters reappear. Eventually they return to the Emerald City but will they stay?

In The Road to Oz, Dorothy sets out on another adventure with some new friends like the Shaggy Man, Button-Bright, and Polychrome, and some old ones like the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman. But can they reach the Emerald City in time for Ozma’s birthday?

In The Emerald City of Oz, Dorothy, her Uncle Henry, and Aunt Em are going to live in the Emerald City. They set out to explore the land of Oz, with the help of Dorothy’s friends, but must rush home again when they discover that the Nome King is busy gathering an army for an invasion of Oz. Will they be able to stop the invasion? View details.

oz_complete_volume_threeVolume 3

In The Patchwork Girl of Oz, the Munchkins Unc Nunkie and Ojo the Unlucky call on the Crooked Magician, who introduces them to his latest creation: a living girl made out of patchwork quilts and cotton stuffing. But when an accident leaves beloved Unc Nunkie a motionless statue, it is up to Ojo to save him. Can the mighty Wizard of Oz help?

In Tik-Tok of Oz, Betsy Bobbin and her loyal mule, Hank, wash up on the shores of an unknown fairyland during a storm. There they meet the clockwork man Tik-Tok and find themselves trapped in a battle with the king of the Nomes.

In The Scarecrow of Oz, Cap’n Bill and Trot journey to Oz and, with the help of the Scarecrow, overthrow the cruel King Krewl of Jinxland, who has been busy gathering an army for an invasion of Oz. Will they be able to stop the invasion? View details.

oz_complete_volume_fourVolume 4

In Rinkitink in Oz, Prince Inga of Pingaree must rescue his parents and all of the subjects from his kingdom who were kidnapped by marauders from Regos and Coregos. Prince Inga, along with the visiting King Rinkitink and Bilbil the goat, set off on a series of grand adventures that will lead them to the underground kingdom of the Nome King. Will Inga’s bravery and courage be enough to save his parents and all of their subjects?

In The Lost Princess of Oz, Ozma, the beloved ruler of Oz, has disappeared, so Dorothy, the Wizard, the Cowardly Lion, and a band of friends must search the vast land of Oz to find her.

In The Tin Woodman of Oz, Tin Woodman, Woot the Wanderer, and Captain Fyter set off on a quest to find the lovely Munchkin, Nimmie Amee. Once upon a time, she and the Woodman were going to marry, but then the Wicked Witch of the West turned him to tin. Can the Tin Woodman find Nimmie Amee? And will she remember him? View details.

oz_complete_volume_fiveVolume 5

In The Magic of Oz, the mischievous Kiki Aru has discovered a magical word that can transform him and anyone else into whatever he wants. Worse yet, Kiki has been recruited by the villainous Nome King in his latest attempt to get revenge on Princess Ozma and all her friends. Can Dorothy and the Wizard stop the evildoers before they conquer Oz? Or will Kiki’s incredible powers finally give the Nome King the revenge he has craved for so long?

In Glinda of Oz, Dorothy and Ozma journey to a remote part of Oz to stop a war between the Flatheads and the Skeezers. But the Flatheads and Skeezers have a different idea. Soon Ozma and Dorothy are trapped in an amazing crystal-domed city on an enchanted island. The watertight city submerges itself, and only the Wizard and Glinda can save them-but will they make it in time?

In The Royal Book of Oz, the Scarecrow goes to search for his family roots. He returns to the cornfield where Dorothy first found him and discovers that he is the Long Lost Emperor of the Silver Island. Will he decide to stay there? Or will he return to Oz? View details.

A Writing Masterclass with John Marsden

John Marsden, the writer of the masterful Tomorrow When the War Began series, is holding a writing masterclass at the Wellington City Library this Saturday (the 13th) from 10am to 12pm. The Children’s Bookshop in Kilbirnie is the organising force behind it. John Marsden is a fantastic writer and will be brimming with inspiration and advice valuable to any interested in YA writing. Tickets are $30 (all proceeds going to the Red Cross Christchurch Earthquake Appeal) and are on a first come first served basis, so contact the Children’s Bookshop if you want to attend (04 3873905). But don’t worry if the tickets are all gone as there’s a book signing at The Children’s Bookshop this Friday (the 12th) at 4pm, which all and sundry are welcome to attend.

vicbooks’ Monster May Sale

Our annual sale starts on Wednesday the 18th and runs through to Friday the 20th of May. It’s a collection of rummageable gems, academic gap fillers and children’s delights. We’re putting it in the foyer of the Memorial Theatre in the Student Union building, which should better allow the hordes of buyers and browsers the space to explore and ransack without resorting to fisticuffs or literary turf wars.

So come along and have a hunt for something that sings to you or fills that space on your bookshelf.

Editing Enid

Hodder, the UK publisher of Enid Blyton’s work, has decided they are going to “sensitively and carefully” revise the text of her books. They’re starting with 10 of the Famous Five novels. Mercy me, or rather, as the new text would have it, oh no.

The Guardian reports that Hodder’s research turned up the unsurprising result that the language of the 1940’s is slightly harder for parents and children of the new millennium to understand. The changes are largely to be expressions in the dialogue, changing the things like ‘awful swotter’ to ‘bookworm’ and ‘it’s all very peculiar’ to ‘it’s all very strange.’

Various rationalisations have been brought into play to justify the changes, including that Blyton herself would have been in favour of it (though she died in the late 1960’s without having inserted a single ‘groovy’ into her books) and, the perennial favourite, that language must evolve or the people of today won’t be able to understand it. A more cynical interpretation would be that Hodder, who sell more than 500,000 copies of the Famous Five novels a year, care little for the authenticity or repute of the books and just want to better streamline or popularise a product in order to squeeze more money out of it.

Changing the text of a book for contemporary convenience warps an essential part of the book’s soul – its language. If one is trawling for racist terms or whatnot then an argument could be made, but if one wants to remove the word ‘gay’ from the text simply because its meaning has changed over the last few decades, then you’re essentially trying to rewrite history in small but cumulative ways. All for the sake of a bit more profit and in the assumption that children and adults not only can’t comprehend that language changes, but that they’re not interested in the process itself.

Language evolves from a historical base, if we replace that base with contemporary vernacular what will happen to the flexibility and growth of language? That might be getting overly dramatic considering we’re talking about Enid Blyton here, but these things are important. Respecting and understanding the language of the past endows children with a valuable perspective and a font of language they can play with and evolve. Taking that away by dumbing down or revising books for commercial convenience is, at the very least, slightly insulting and a bit of a shame. At worst? Hamlet may end up accusing Laertes of misunderestimating him.

Teen Sleuth Nancy Drew Turns 80

The teenage detective, who encouraged more than one generation of girls to look to themselves and their natural abilities to accomplish what they wanted, has turned 80. Girl power, indeed; I’d back Nancy over the Spice Girls any day of the week. I don’t know if I would call her a fictional feminist icon as such, but she must be pretty close. Nancy Drew novels have been translated into more than 25 languages and sold more than 200 million copies worldwide, that’s a whole lotta mystery solving and impression making. The Shelf Life blog has written a nice little homage to Nancy read it here.