The House on the Hill
‘Curiosity’ can present itself in many forms; and in this book it presents with a thrilling anticipation. Here is a story to send shivers of curiosity up your spine in the hauntingly stunning, The House on the Hill. With high levels of suspense to chill your bones, this poetic spookfest is a winner.
With Mewburn‘s ode to Edgar Allan Poe’s Raven, his romantically suave language and rhythmic canter beautifully rolls off the tongue. Sarah Davis‘s monochromatic, sepia toned imagery marries flawlessly with the spine-tingling lyrics to create an optimal intensity of creepiness and tension.
When two young ghosts are beckoned by the bell in the house on the hill, they find themselves “Upon the gate a portent hung, a dragon’s claw, a serpent’s tongue.” The initial terror slowly dissipates with more and more clues being revealed as the characters edge closer to their destination. Child-friendly hints dubiously lure us towards the dingy dwelling, like dancing moths, jack-o-lanterns and the characters’ outfits that appear distinctly like white sheets with cut-out eye holes. Davis’s striking illustrations with her extreme angles and perspectives, perfectly placed focal objects and effective use of light and shade draw us in with every breath as we follow the ‘ghosts’, and their cat, on their journey through the ‘haunted’ house on the hill. And just when our hearts can’t race any faster, we reach the final reveal and encounter the most ghoulish group of vile creatures – children!
Ideal for your Halloween thrills and celebrations, but equally fun-tastic all the year round. Behind the moodiness and apprehension, The House on the Hill takes preschoolers through an adventure of bravery, friendship and togetherness. There is loads of room for educational opportunities with its brilliant use of poetry, vocabulary, visual literacy and the arts.
Dragon Knight – Dragons!
Books one, two and three have been a hit in this series so it is no surprise that book four Dragons was also a resounding success with Miss Seven and her dad.
This book follows the same lines as the others with dragon’s, knights, gold and adventures and as every good story needs a knight undercover in the form of Mereks friend Brin. I think Brin as a knight undercover brings some good girl power to the story that Miss Seven really appreciates. Merek with his quick thinking and shape shifter powers saves the village from the cyclogs in a great story.
Miss Seven and Dad were enjoying this book so much that Miss Four and I had to read it as well and we both really enjoyed it. Miss Four loves the illustration’s which really are just so perfect. Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley are a great team. I think this book will be getting read again as MIss Eight has started to get a bit interested as well and took this book to bed with her tonight. We all declared this book the best of the lot I think because of the gold and the cyclogs (and Brin, says Miss Seven!)
I can definitely recommend this book especially if you have enjoyed the others in the series. This series is just getting better and better.
Dragon Knight – Witch!
Having read the first two books in this series I was stoked to have this come up for review and receive it. When I showed my eldest daughter, she just about jumped out of her skin with excitement. She asked if I could start reading it right that second! So I did read her one chapter before heading off to get dinner ready.
One chapter was not enough and after dinner she asked if I was doing anything and if we could read another chapter. So off we went to her room to have another chapter. She managed to get another chapter out of me at bedtime as well. Needless to say, we burned our way through this book faster than an Arbalest can make apple juice.
There are a couple of stories flowing through this book. The main one being around a possible Witch in the village and Merek’s involvement in her possible trial. Ultimately an event with an Arbalest (which was pretty cool!) leads to the witch and Merek crossing paths. Percy continues to be the character that we must love to hate. There was many protests and “this is NOT fair” from Miss 8 throughout the story relating to Percy. I agreed with her.
Then there is the classic Mewburn/Bixley gross stuff. I mean really, they step it up just about every book. But this one, had me gagging and having to stop to clear my mind quite a bit guys! Even the thought of the green pus was enough to make my stomach lurk. They do promise that the book will be revoltingly funny, and this is very true. Bixley’s illustrations are genius as always. My daughter loves the “historical” facts interlaced through the chapters, because the pictures say just about everything needed. Lots of laughs to be had! If you/your kids liked the Dinosaur Rescue books, these books are a no-brainer. If you/your kids like history and gross stuff, and dragons definitely pick this up.
Dragon Knight – Fire!
When I read this short easy to read novel with illustrations that are designed for maximum fun I thought, great, a book that reluctant readers or slow readers at primary level can have fun devouring, especially boys.
Kyle Mewburn provides a written text that is perfect for fun. Ogres that fart, shape changers that are human and dragons at the same time, villains that deserve to be beaten and a hero that doesn’t win all t6he time but impresses with his bravery and fair play.
Merek is a boy who can shape shift into a dragon and other creatures, his parents can also do this. he wants to become a knight but isn’t confident about it. The rogue of the novel is a beastly boy called Percy Crumble and there is a girl posing as a boy.
At the beginning of this Medieval fantasy there is a map of the village and castle where Merek and his family live. It has places named The Fruit and Nut Black forest, Grist’s Mill and the Route Canal. Great fun for adults too, many will remember the River Phoenix.
Donovan Bixley shows his immense talent and great versatility with the illustrations which are superb black and white drawings. I hope this becomes a series like their earlier effort Dinosaur Rescue.
Lets get those reluctant boys reading. This book is a great start.
Dragon Knight – Rats!
Merek is a young lad whose real form is a dragon if he shape-shifts, though on many occasions that goes awfully wrong. We first meet him clinging to a spire that’s on fire (though that doesn’t really worry dragons), but if he shape-shifts and escapes, he will be seen for what he is and all will want to kill him for humankind hate dragons. He wants to attend Knight School and must, whatever the circumstance, be circumspect! The rest of the book describes in amusing, scatological and sardonic ways how he got to this position and indeed if he succeeds in overcoming or being rescued.
It is a clever use of the circular plot structure (repeated in subsequent book where Merek finds himself locked in a rat cage) where an exciting dilemma is used as a bait or hook for the reader to want to find out how the circumstance came to be. In the course of the story we meet his helper (a young girl Brine who must disguise her gender if she wants to get into the Knight School too) and his nemesis, Master Percy Crumble, a spoilt brat of the overarching Lord Crumble. There are a range of absurd characters and places that collectively make the medieval setting a farce and comedy of errors.
Interspersed with the narrative is a range of inserts/maps that seek to give information for contemporary readers about life in these “primitive” times, information that is mixture of fact and absurdist fiction. Great stuff! This book will appeal to children (boys and girls) who revel in the portrayal of the naughty as opposed to the correct and where adults are made to be seen to be rather stupid! Confident readers in the middle primary school will love them! Teacher notes can be found on the Scholastic NZ website, for both Fire! and Rats!. The series is also supported by a website.
reviewed by John McKenzie readingtime
A Perfect Chirpy Christmas
I was so excited to get A Perfect Chirpy Christmas. Kyle Mewburn is one of our favourite local writers. We own quite a few of his books, both for littlies and for tweens. I figured it was about Christmas (favourite time of year) and had a bird (favourite animal type), so it would probably be well received. I was not wrong.
When I showed the book to my daughter she squealed with delight, immediately opened the book and poured through it all the way home from school. This is unusual as she will often wait for me to read it to her. We got home and I asked her what she thought of the story and how it flowed. She hadn’t read it as such, but just from the pictures she told me the story as she saw it. She got it almost right, which is a good indicator of a good book for new readers. Each picture has to somewhat convey the meaning of the words, and this does.
Mewburn also leaves some things open to the interpretation of Patrick McDonald. So where he says that Flit finds the perfect setting for his white Christmas, he gives no indicators as to what that might be. But the picture certainly looks like an amazing place to have a perfect white Christmas. McDonald’s pictures are warm and inviting. I loved the characters of the birds, shining through too. The not so perfect nest just about broke our hearts.
The story itself is packed full of warm fuzzies and all the best things about Christmas. The focus is not on the gifts, but on the experience. It’s not about receiving, but about giving. And most of all it’s about the importance of family and friends over all else at Christmas time. It’s well written, it’s well presented and it would be very welcome under a Christmas tree for summer-time reading.
Every year we do a art installation here in Hamilton, and this year my daughter was keen to do a bird theme. This book inspired her to launch into her decoration pieces over the weekend. She is basing some of her birds on Flit and his friends.
This latest offering from Scholastic will not disappoint. Abby my 2 Â½ year old granddaughter was very interested in this latest offering. She laughed her way through the story making comments right throughout. This is a story of a chicken who could not lay an egg, with helpful advice from a from a variety of animals trying to help solve the problem. The ending is just delightful with Abby saying “read it again Grandma”, which to me is always an indication of how much she has enjoyed the story.
With Christmas fast approaching this book would make a wonderful gift or a great addition to any small personal library. Highly Recommended.
Reviewed by Christine Frayling booksellersnz
Luther and the Cloud-makers
What would you do if a choking, thick, black cloud of pollution covered your home? Would you sit back, worrying, and wait for it to go away and for someone else to sort it out, or would you want to find a solution? In Kyle Mewburn and Sarah Nelisiwe Anderson’s new picture book, Luther and the Cloud-makers, this is the issue that Luther and his family face.
At the end of a wide, green valley lies a secret village, full of laughter and singing until one day the clouds come. As the clouds gather, turning day to night, Luther sets out to find the cloud-makers and make them stop, before it”s too late. He meets many cloud-makers along the way, but can he convince them to see the error in their ways?
Luther and the Cloud-makers is a powerful story with an ecological theme, about a boy who stands up for what he believes in. It shows children that even one small act can make change happen and make the future brighter. When everyone in his village is sitting around feeling sorry for themselves, Luther decides to do something about the problem and make the cloud-makers stop. It’s a unique take on the ecological and environmental theme that will entertain and educate readers.
The story is full of Kyle Mewburn’s characteristic word-play and he paints a vivid picture with his language. I love the way he describes the air in the valley as “so fresh your skin soaked it up like an old, dry sponge dropped in the sea,” and he describes the pollution cloud as “tongue-tingling, nose-crinkling”. Kyle makes the cloud-makers sound so menacing by using words like ‘rumbling’, ‘belching’, ‘booming’, ‘roaring’and ‘crackling’.
Sarah Nelisiwe Annderson’s illustrations for Luther and the Cloud-makers are superb and really suit the tone of the story. I love the way that Sarah has contrasted the colours throughout the book. At the beginning of the book there are lots of bright and vibrant blues and greens to highlight how clean and fresh the village is. Then the oozing black clouds appear and bring darkness to the landscape. When Luther meets the cloud-makers Sarah has used lots of red, orange and black to highlight the danger and evil nature of the cloud-makers and their pollution. When he finally gets to the city, almost all colour has disappeared, to be replaced by grey and black. It’s on the last few pages that Sarah gives your eyeballs a wake-up call. One of the things I really like about Sarah’s illustrations is the way that she frames them and uses different panels on the page. One of my favourite examples of this in the book is when everything goes dark in the village and the animals become confused. This style will certainly appeal to older children who like graphic novels. I’d actually really like to read a graphic novel (or even a wordless picture book) written by Sarah.
Luther and the Cloud-makers is a wonderful picture book to read to children young and old, and it’s a must-have book for teachers.
We got given this book a few days ago via Scholastic. My daughter is a huge fan of Kyle Mewburn’s writing and Donovan Bixley’s wonderful illustrations. She and I pick up anything by these guys and the Dinosaur Rescue series has been no different. This is book 8 of the series, and we have read almost every one. The series is mainly aimed at boys, but girls who laugh in the face of gross bodily fluid and fart jokes will adore this series too.
We read this book a chapter a night. Though, I did cave and read two chapters one evening. The book has five chapters and is a pretty quick read. Mewburn seemed to use a few harder to pronounce dinosaur names in it, but I just muddled through that. This book didn’t seem to have quite the level of yucky pus, poo or vomit in it, but it does feature sometimes. At one point, I was reading to my daughter and the imagery of the words and the illustration on the page floored her. She literally fell back on her bed and groaned for Arg.
I also loved that when I showed her the book on the first night, she gasped excitedly, ripped it from my hands and hugged onto it for the next hour. It’s so nice to see my child love a book and its characters so much, that excitement is her natural reaction. The story was exciting and a bit scary. A few bad things happen, but its dealt with as sensitively as Mewburn can without wrapping the reader in cotton-wool. The ending leaves the door open for book 9 too, and a possible new threat to Arg. I’d be keen to see where that goes. Another awesome book from the dream team Mewburn and Bixley.
You can always rely on Kyle Mewburn to write a book that will make kids laugh and keep them entertained from start to finish. Kyle’s latest book, illustrated by new talent Daron Parton, features a silly animal who likes being different.
Blue Gnu is a delightful, tongue-twister of a book about friendship and being different. You can tell that Kyle has had so much fun writing this book! You can get tripped up very easily with his wonderful, rhyming text. Kyle always uses lots of ‘noisy’ words and Blue Gnu is no exception. Sentences like “What a splotchy, spotty, dotty gnu!” and “What a hoopy, loopy, stripey gnu!” are fun to get your mouth around and it would be great to get the children saying it with you (try saying those sentences quickly three times!). I love Daron Parton’s illustrations, which seem to fit the story perfectly. He has brought Kyle’s silly gnu’s to life and made Boo and Hoo stand out from the herd. His style is really unique and his bright, bold illustrations make the book great to share with a large group of children. I’ll look forward to seeing more of his illustrations in future books. Book Design have also done a great job of positioning the text so that it doesn’t get in the way of these wonderful illustrations.If you’re not already hooked on Kyle Mewburn’s books, you will be once you read Blue Gnu. Grab a copy from your library or bookshop now.
Bog Frog Hop
I love picture books that have a delightful time playing with words and that have whimsical and playful illustrations this is one of them! Children are going to love chanting the words again and again.
In a soggy bog, with a mossy log there are ten slippery polliwogs plopping in the soggy bog.
And then there were nine and eight and 1/2.
Yes this is a counting book filled with lots of rhyming and alliteration fun. There are grimpy-grumpy frogs, a scriffy-scruffy dog that becomes a splashy-splashy dog, flippy-floppy frogs, with plip plops, and flip flops, and splish splosh and plish plosh the repetitive fun goes on and on. The boldly coloured illustrations are really wonderful and will also enable lots of inquisition.
Perfect for sharing with young children and there will be many requests for you to read it again and again.
This is the most entertaining roll-off-the-tongue counting rhyme Miss Nearly 6 and I have shared for ages. The language is such fun and such a great example of its rhythms and rhymes that it’s a delight to share. The illustrations by CBCA shortlisted illustrator Rebecca Cool, are the perfect accompaniment with their colour, simplicity and quirkiness. The little listener is drawn to counting the polliwogs as more and more become frogs and as they do, there is much to discover to intrigue and delight, especially when the scriffy scruffy dog becomes part of the action. And all the while, the rain falls harder – Drip! Drop! Glip! Glop! Splish! Splosh! Plish! Plosh! Splish! Splash! Ka-plish! Ka-plash! And then the rain stops . . .
I took this book to a kindergarten class I was teaching and we had such fun turning it into a voice band to accompany the story and all the counting, adding and subtracting we were doing. Then we had a heap of fun creating our own polliwogs and frogs and raindrops for a mural that showcased their talents for all to see. A must-have on the shelves of our youngest students!
Melu is an absolute winner! The story is full of Kyle Mewburn’s witty humour and it’s a real joy to read. Kids will identify with Melu because he’s different and full of dreams. Kyle uses lots of descriptive language, like splashing and glittering, which make the story fun to read, and I love the way each of the animals talk (they each have their own voices in my head). Ali Teo and John O’Reilly’s illustrations are bold and really make Kyle’s character’s shine. They’re quite simple illustrations but the character’s faces and body language are so expressive. My favourite illustration is near the end when they’re in the sea because they’re just so happy. Not only is Melu a fun story with wonderful illustrations, it also shows children (and adults) that it’s OK to be different and stand out from the crowd.
5 out of 5 stars – my best friends are books
Kyle Mewburn’s latest offering is a cute story about a stubborn mule who becomes fed up with always walking in the same direction with his other mule friends. Every night, Melu (an anagram of “mule”) dreams of venturing down the hill to find lush green grass and swim in the glittering green sea below. One day it becomes too much, so Melu decides it’s worth the risk to turn around and head down in the opposite direction from everyone else. Melu has not chosen an easy path. He must overcome many obstacles in order to reach his dream, but during the process he forms some great friendships. This is a fabulously illustrated, well-written, thought-provoking tale. It contains lovely social messages about friendship, teamwork, overcoming adversity, having dreams and achieving dreams through taking risks.
Suitable age: 2-7.
Kyle Mewburn has done it once again! He’s created another clever and fun-filled picture book that children and adults alike will love, and it features a loveable hippo called Po.Children absolutely love Seesaw Po! I’ve read it numerous times to children from 2-7 years and they were all captivated by the story. Older children know right from the start that Po is too big to go on the playground and they feel sorry for him, but they don’t see the surprise ending coming. It’s a story that all children can relate to because they all love going to the playground and they all have their favourite thing they like to go on (for me it’s always been the swings). Katz Cowley’s illustrations are as marvelous as always. You can really see the joy on the faces of the characters as they whizz around on the roundabout and whoosh down the slide. Seesaw Po is a great collaboration from two of our most talented authors and illustrators.
Po the hippo is a kindly fellow who always thinks of others before himself. When he and his three animal friends visit the playground they rush to the swing. But there’s a tiny ant on the swing who Po insists has the first turn and he gives him a push. Then Po gives all his friends a push. When it’s Po’s turn, his friends try to push him, only he’s too heavy.
Po’s friends enjoy zooming around on the play equipment. Unfortunately, Po gets stuck on the slide and when he hops on the roundabout it stops spinning. The seesaw is the final challenge and eventually Po’s friends give up trying to lift him off the ground. They wander off home for a rest. Po sits sadly on the seesaw. However, his kindness is about to be rewarded.
The author gives a perceptive glimpse of the interaction between friends at play. There’s sharing, caring, coping with differences, and recognition of the value of even the smallest creature.
Illustrator Katz Cowley’s watercolours are full of movement and visual humour as the youngsters race about. Their individual personalities are charming. Varied perspective adds interest and amusement. The cameo of Po about to go head first down the slide, followed by the co-operative efforts of his friends pushing and pulling, is delightful.
The final page is a splendid surprise.
Another stunning picture book by the ever-imaginative, highly talented, award-winning author Kyle Mewburn. Simply gorgeous with beautiful and evocative illustrations by Deidre Copeland. Awards will follow for this, I have no doubt. Truly beautiful.
When Milly the cow looks up at the moon she knows it must be lonely, so she decides to keep it company. The other cows think she’s crazy, but Milly continues trying to win the moon’s friendship. But this is harder than Milly thinks. After all, how do you get the moon to share its secrets with you? This is a beautifully written picture book from the author of Hill and Hole and NZ Post Award-winning Old Huhu. In simple but elegant language, Mewburn tells a funny and whimsical story about friendship and finding where you really belong. Deidre Copeland’s stunning illustrations bring Milly, the moon and the nighttime landscape to life.
Arg has a real problem and has to solve it before someone gets chomped! He has to stop and angry T-Rex from destroying his village. This is another hilarious tale in the Dinosaur series filled with great pictures, blood curdling screams and chomping Gurg in half and spitting him out! All the fun and silly antics boys love. Arg finds it hard being the only boy who has evolved in his tribe and sometimes his big brain gets him into heaps of trouble! He wants to wear clothes – his mother doesn’t understand that, his dad tries to understand him but hopes he will grow up like any other Neanderthal. Yet when Arg meets Skeet an evolved talking T-Rex the fun begins. A great read!
Stego-Snottysaurus is funny with big drawings throughout. I loved the part where Arg lost his balance and toppled over the edge. The only thing he could think about was “at least the bear can’t get me now.” How wrong he was! The flu is causing all sorts of snotty problems for Arg and his tribe; it is terrible flu that has hit their valley. But Arg is horrified when he discovers people flu can be deadly to dinosaurs. The dinosaurs will be doomed if it reaches the secret valley! This would have to be Arg and Skeet’s biggest adventure yet saving the dinosaurs from people flu, and not to mention their snottiest!
Boys especially will love this adventure tale and of course dinosaurs are always popular even a dinosaur that might just catch the flu! Enthralling, easy to read – a real winner!
Hester and Lester
Thumbs up to this celebration of creative kids exploring the outdoors. Young Lester is bored with playing on his own and is rather glum. His big sister, Hester, helps Lester to discover his imagination and their world becomes a shared adventure. Together they build a castle amongst the trees. They dig a moat and fill it with ferocious beasts. Then they make a drawbridge wide enough for a dozen horses. Their kingdom expands as their inventive story unfolds. Harriet Bailey’s illustrations are a superb partnership with the author’s text. Earthy, autumn colours match the natural materials the children use in their play world. Larger-than-life snails become a troop of soldiers in suits of armour. Bamboo sticks line the ramparts as mighty cannons. Hester and Lester sweep leaves of gold from the forest floor to fill the castle’s treasury. The family dog joins in the fun and games until it’s time for tea. A warm-hearted story that should encourage youngsters to play outside. The quality hardback publication is a bonus.
Jean Bennet bookrapt
Charming story written by experienced and award-winning Kyle Mewburn, and illustrated by Harriet Bailey. Harriet was the very talented winner of the Storylines Gavin Bishop Award for Illustration which was highly contested by many amazing illustrators. So it’s very exciting that we’re publishing her first book. When boisterous big-sister Hester finds her pernickity little-brother Lester sitting sadly in the forest, she’s keen to put things right. Making a little brother happy isn’t always easy – even with a very active imagination! But as they embark on an imaginary adventure, Lester learns something important. Hester and Lester is about the power of imagination, and a special sibling bond. It’s a lovely story – the children are completely engrossed in their imaginative play building a castle out of bits and pieces in the back yard. So engrossed, that they see the castle as real and see themselves as being right in it. Harriet’s illustrations bring this to life and show us the magical world of Hester and Lester’s imaginations. Delightful.
DO NOT PUSH
Do Not Push, a fun to read book for the younger reader. I would say best suited for maybe ages 6+ and am delighted to say this is the first novel(ish) kind of book my master 9 has read alone and actually finished. He has learning difficulties so the story line appealed to him, he found it interesting and easy to read and I am very proud of his accomplishment – reading the whole book in 4 days.
The topic of the book ‘Do Not Push’ posing the question: “If you found a big red button in the middle of a forest, would you push it? Even if it said ‘DO NOT PUSH’ in big red letters?” lead to quite a family discussion, with some interesting answers in deed. Apparently I am less likely to take a risk than the rest of the members of my family, and would not push any random button whether there was a sign or not. Miss 5 would push the button, but if there was a sign then nope she wouldnt. The male members of my household (young and old) would all push the button no matter what.
The story, despite its level of realism definitely has a hidden message/lesson to be found within its pages, and I am glad that master 9 picked up on that message.
A really great read, that I am sure most would enjoy. I enjoyed reading it and thought it really was a good wee book.
Three cheers for No-ears!
Poor No-Ears the Elephant is a bit different. Instead of having lovely big elephant-ears, he’s stuck with tiny little things on the side of his head. The other elephants make fun of No-Ears, but his other friends in the jungle try to help out. However, after ears fashioned from feathers, leaves, fur and other materials, No-Ears is ready to give up and go off to live on his own, he’s so discouraged. But when the great-grandaddy bull elephant is trapped under a pile of rocks, No-Ears is the only one who can get in to save him. Three Cheers for No-Ears is a lovely story. Simple, with a nice message, it doesn’t have so many words per page that your littlie will get bored, and it has fun stuff like feathers and giraffes to keep them entertained. The illustrations are fabulous, with bright colours and engaging pictures on every page to draw in young readers and listeners.
Maree Field Southland Times
Three Cheers For No Ears is a book about sad elphant who gets teased because his ears are so small. Because of this none of the elaphants will be his friend he makes friends with all the birds. But one day something happens which makes him realise that having small ears isn’t so bad. I think it is a nice story because it lets people know that being different from others is a good thing and that we are all special in our own way.
Reviewed by Sam – Lawrence School’s Crafty Crew
This is by Hanna from Grade 3 at Sunnnybrae Normal School.
Daisy was a pretty mouse who lived in a tall tower. Her friends stopped visiting her because they got too tired climbing the stairs to see her. This made Daisy unhappy and lonely. Hanna thought that this was a good story, especially for juniors. She liked the maze at the end of the book
Daisy the mouse lives in a tower, surrounded by a maze. Whenever she invites her friends to tea, they are grumpy and exhausted by the time they navigate the maze and climb the tower. Unfortunately Daisy doesn’t realise this and decides to cheer them up by making the maze more difficult and the tower higher. This results in her frustrated friends failing to arrive. Daisy goes down to look for them – guess what happens to her? In the end, of course, the friends are able to once again enjoy each other’s company – but Daisy has learned a lesson. This light, entertaining story is considerably enhanced by the imaginative illustrations done in watercolour, pencil, acrylic and collage, using Adobe Photoshop. The pictures offer a whole new layer of entertainment if the reader studies them carefully. There are lots of appealing little extras to be spotted in the backgrounds – such as the penguin sailing past Rangitoto in a boat made out of paper with German text on it. Best for sharing with children of about four to six.
Hill & Hole
Hill and Hole were best friends. Hill likes being a hill, and Hole likes being a hole. But sometimes they dream of swapping places…
Have you ever had that feeling that it might be fun to be something or do something else? Kyle Mewburn’s wonderfully original story explores that theme with two very unlikely characters – Hill and Hole.
Kyle has produced another excellent philosophical book that will encourage 4-8 year old children to think about wanting what you don’t have. Teachers could use it to explore the Health theme of being happy with who you are. The illustrations are a perfect fit for this picture book.
Maria Gill Kidsbooksnz
Old Hu-Hu was always going to be a hard act to follow for Kyle Mewburn, but this is, in a completely different way, and with completely different illustrations, by a different illustrator, Vasanti Unka, every bit as good. The overall effect, is similarly philosophical. While Old Hu-Hu’s message was about coping with death and loss, this one’s message is about wanting to be something one is not, something other. “Hill and Hole were best friends” begins the simple text. They admire each other’s strengths, Hole asking Hill each morning what he can see, and Hill asking Hole each evening what he can feel. Hole tells Hill about the sunrise, Hole tells Hill about the earth’s breathing. When they ask Mole to change each to the other, so that Hole becomes Hill and vice versa, each is extremely happy with the new point of view, for a while. Then they ask wind to reverse the effect, but as Wind tells them, “Sometimes it’s easier to do things than to undo them once they’re done” and Wind can only do half of what Mole did, and the two exist side by side as a plain, and they are happy, watching the sun rise together, and feeling the earth breath together .. for a while. With beautifully minimalist text and illustrations which I find difficult to describe, but which suit the text perfectly, this is another stunning book, with a beautiful dedication from Kyle Mewburn: “for Marion, my Wind and my Mole”
Malcolm – Storytime books
A crack in the Sky
Nine year-old Conor is a likable boy. He cares about his hard-working mother and never complains that everything they own is second-hand. He can hardly believe his luck when he see a new, red sofa floating in the estuary. But is it really good luck?
The next morning Conor wakes with a stuffed-up nose, itchy red eyes and a cough. It’s the start of the weirdest time of his life. He meets strange people in an environment that challenges his understanding of the world. Nothing seems to make sense. Where are they? Will they be there forever? The unlikely friends join together in a struggle that stretches them to the limit of their endurance.
Readers will stay hooked as they search for clues to find out what’s happening to Conor and his companions. A fascinating, inventive story for 8-11 year olds.
Jean Bennett, Weekend Sun
A Crack In The Sky is a neat wee novel for children starting to read bigger books. The chapters are relatively small so kids may just read one or two chapters at a time and then go back to it later. This story has happy and sad parts to it. The problem arises one day when Connor realises he’s no longer at home, he’s in a strange land with people he doesn’t know, but somehow when he starts talking to them he suddenly remembers everyone’s names. Connor then sets off for discovering where he is, how he got there and how he can get back to his Mum.
This story is very involved and keeps the reader wanting to know what happens next. But is there a happy ending??
I will be recommending this to others.
Pop Hooper’s Perfect Pets – Scruffy Old Cat
Nat came and helped Tilda find Pickle and the bracelet and made friends. Tilda found out that Pickle liked swimming in her pond and that Pickle was a bit like Nat. Nat fixed the flying fox and Tilda decided to keep Pickle. It was cool when Nat and Tilda and Pickle went in the flying fox box together. It was funny when Tilda tried to make Pickle go to sleep in her drawer!!
Reviewed by Joshua Thompson (age 7)
Awesome! At first I thought this book looked boring but I’m not a cover reader you know so I read the first chapter and I couldn’t stop myself. Before I knew it I was at the end.
Katia Kennedy (age 7)
A complete package this one : a beautifully produced hardback with sumptuous illustrations and a heartwarming tale about life and death. Rachel Driscoll’s painterly illustrations and Mewburn’s moving prose capture the emotions of a young hu-hu beetle who can’t believe his fearless friend, Old Hu-Hu, has died. Eventually, little Hu-Hu-Tu realises that Old Hu-Hu lives on within him and he has to treasure the memories of his friend flying to the moon, riding a dog and taking a centipede in a boxing match.
Graham Hepburn Canvas
A treasure appeared in my mailbox today – Old Hu-hu written by the irrepressible Kyle Mewburn. … though I always have an unquiet murmur in the back of my mind when I see animals with human characteristics (have you ever seen a hu-hu bug with a moustache?) … I’ll forgive this as the overall emotion and depth of the book is taken to a new level with Rachel’s beautifully crafted illustrations. A labour of love I’d say, from both the author and the illustrator. There are not many books on this topic and I think it’s been dealt with beautifully… with not a mention of God or Heaven in sight.
With Duck’s Stuck! this team has produced another lively picture book somewhat reminiscent of the traditional tale The Turnip. However, there’s a twist in the tale here. Greedy duck has spied an open sack of grain in the shed and squeezed his head through a crack in the planks to feast on the unexpected bounty. Alas, he cannot pull it back and one by one, the other farmyard animals come along to inspect the situation.
This is a story that reads aloud well, there’s a cadence to the language which rolls off the tongue satisfyingly and will lead to many re-readings. Perfect for pre-schoolers. A great addition to home and library collections.
Ellen Carter, Magpies
Duck smart. Duck clever. Sees hole. Smells food. Sticks in head. Gets stuck. Stupid duck. In a nutshell, this is the problem faced by our duck and all the farmyard animals try various methods to resolve the problem. As is often the case, it is the meek that inherit the earth, and it is a rat that comes up with the final solution, and is amply rewarded for its good sense. Echoing the brevity of the duck’s quack, language here is reduced to its essence as the focus of each sentence highlights a dramatic moment in the ongoing resolution of duck’s dilemma – a delightful play with patterns of language.
John McKenzie Reading Time
The Eleventh Sheep
WHEN SIAN CAN’T SLEEP SHE counts sheep from one to ten, then she counts them again. She never counts the eleventh sheep. One night the eleventh sheep jumps into Sian’s dreams. Then each night Sian and the eleventh sheep have fun together… But the eleventh sheep dreams of being back in the fields with the other sheep. With some rhyming text, delightful full colour pictures and an enchanting little story, this hard cover picture story book will be loved by children as young as three. It gives you a lovely warm feeling as you read it.
This is a perfect bedtime story and a wonderful stimulant for discussion on dreams with a humorous ending.
Joan Steinman Ballarat Courier
For anyone who has trouble sleeping this early childhood book should appeal with its emphasis on the’s’ and ‘ee’ words and sounds that provide a link to numerical concepts. Sian cannot sleep so sHe calls on rollicking ruminants to help her. The occasional rhyme, tongue twister and onomatopoeia ensure that this is a read aloud shared experience picture book between adult and young child. The illustrations use big images with a bright colourful palette depicting the narrative without too much confusion. A dream sequence moves into familiar fantasy territory and at the end, there is a cute twist.
Helen Martin Reading Time
No room for a mouse
No room for a mouse is a wonderful, beautifully designed picture book created for children by a writer and illustrator of talent who have applied themselves to delighting their audience, rather than sending their own talents for a run around the park Wondering why there are so many empty rooms in the house he shares with his mum, a boy invites a bunch of increasingly weird people home. Mum – whose distracted personality is perfectly pinpointed by her polka dot dress is too busy working for the pigeon post to notice, until the house is full and there’s no room for the mouse. Author Kyle Mewburn gets the tone of playful nonsense perfectly without a forced note, while Freya Blackwood’s skill and delicacy make her very special indeed. If there is a message in this book, it is about that rare commodity, generosity of spirit, but it is so much a part of the book’s texture (and one suspects its creators) that it is never difficult to swallow.
Meg Sorensen, Sydney Herald
No Room For a Mouse is wonderfully crafted nonsense that echoes the easy, playful inventiveness of an earlier generation of children’s writers. It has an internal logic that renders mum’s eccentric activity and the various bizarre circumstances of the people’s homelessness as perfectly natural, not to forget the curious cast of house guests and their daffy names.
And there is Freya Blackwood’s illustration that captures superbly all the bedlam and whimsy in Christopher’s house. Crowded rooms everywhere yet every person a distinct individual engaged in their own activity. Amidst the chaos, the fussy, intent image of mum amusingly oblivious to it all. Like Christopher, little readers will wander wide-eyed across the pages lighting on all the different activity and wondering where it will all end up.
Kevin Steinberger, Magpies
Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck!
This story is about a situation familiar in most families: the small boy who flees when his aunt arrives, demanding kisses. When the sloppy kisses come (Kiss! Kiss! On the left cheek. Kiss! Kiss! On the right cheek.) Andy thinks to himself Yuck! Yuck! On each weekly visit he finds a better hiding place – the pig pen, the chicken coop, under the house – but Aunt Elsie always lures him out. Then Aunt Elsie falls off a camel in Australia and breaks her leg. Andy waits in vain for Aunt Elsie. Finally she arrives – on crutches. Andy runs to meet her and gives her two big, sloppy kisses. Picture and text combine perfectly in a single narrative drive. The deceptively simple illustrations are a skilful mix of pencil drawings and collage (using photos and fabrics) with some digital detailing done by computer. (Aunt Elsie’s dresses – in colourful floral fabric – are particularly impressive.)
Trevor Agnew, Magpies
Slightly carnivalesque in its humour, this story tells of the mayhem that is caused when Ant’s mother buys him baggy pants, the fanicest pants he had ever seen, but when he sneezed, the pants fell down to his knees. Misadventure piles on misadventure, and both Ant and his pants undergo a transformation. The end may leave you splitting with laughter. Inconsequential perhaps, but no doubt aspects of the tall tale may well amuse the emerging young reader.
John McKenzie Reading Time
The bear in the room next door
This story is going to cause some knowing looks from quite a few mums and will sound alarmingly familiar for many dads. Josh is a brave young lad. Not only is Josh very brave but he is full of great ideas and has a huge curiosity. One night as he is curled up asleep in his bed he is woken by a loud, grumbling, growling sound. Josh quickly realises there’s a bear in his parents’ bedroom and they might need saving. But this bear is almost as clever as Josh and Josh has to devise and revise a very cunning plan to catch the bear and save his parents. Deborah Hinde’s colourful illustrations are very appealing and capture Josh’s personality perfectly. This is an amusing picture book that gradually escalates until it reaches the amusing (and surprising?) climax which will leave young readers giggling but also included is a twist in the tale.
In this delightful fantasy designed to stimulate the imagination, careful examination of the final illustration reveals that all is not what it seems. The ironic relationship between image and narrative comes to the fore as we learn to doubt the voice of the narrator and the concept of normality! The illustrator has precisely captured this play on expectations. The cottage gardens are suggestive of utopia. Butterflies flutter and a dog lazily sleeps on a lounge chair. But there are unsettling details as we begin to read the illustrations: caterpillar handles, mushrooms growing through the floors and (surprise) a magazine entitled Saurian Way! That’s just the beginning … This is a good introduction for the middle school child to begin to acquire new skills in decoding picture books using such ideas as intertextuality, irony and double coding. Highly recommended.
John McKenzie Talespinner
Addressing the reader directly, the writer invites us into his house on a search for a missing Hoppleplop. Every room is visited and in each a different creature is revealed all enjoying themselves in various ways. Some are quite ordinary like a sleepy cat but others quite extraordinary – the Ooblangitan from next door and the Gobbling which came down in a thunderstorm and moved in some years before. This is a wonderfully imaginative story with plenty more ideas to discuss in the illustrations.
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