The Changeover – in all forms

Always good to read the book before watching the movie – I’ve just embarked on Margaret Mahy’s Carnegie Medal winning novel The Changeover (1984).
Stuart McKenzie’s and Miranda Harcourt’s film version (Firefly Films) releases on 28 September.  Check out the trailer HERE.

Miss Twelve and friends are meanwhile entranced by the you tube clips on #MakingTheChangeover.

Nice moves by Radio New Zealand who are presenting the original 15-part adaptation of the book read by Miranda thirty years ago (adapted for radio by Carol Dee). Marvellous.

Find it HERE. 

RNZ also features an review of the re-realeased book by Hannah August HERE.

“Accumulated Power”

Just found this treasure – Margaret Mahy on the power of books and memory here in her piece on childhood favourites.  “The voices of my dead parents come to me out of the story, setting up profound sympathetic resonance in that echoing inner library, both voices mingling with mine as I read..”.

From the March/April 1997 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Family Reading.

Source: “Accumulated Power”

NZ YA Website Launch


Hooked on NZ Books is an engaging and vibrant new website for all things NZ YA.

Created by the editors and writers of New Zealand books Pukapuka Aotearoa (launched in 1991 and edited by Harry Ricketts and Louise O’Brien), Hooked on NZ Books teaches how to write and publish reviews, offers an archive of professional and YA reviews and opinion and encourages readers to participate.

Hooked on NZ Books “want to know about what you read” and, “specifically, what you think about New Zealand books.”


Five Questions for Tomie dePaola

Love this speed-date between The Horn Book and Tomie dePaola (Strega Nona, Laura Ingalls Wilder Award lifetime contribution to American children’s literature).

“…the two essentials that I always keep in front of me, and have for years, are: Is this work good enough for children? (an homage to Zoltán Kodály: “Only the best is good enough for a child.”); and read, read, read (and show all kinds of pictures) to your children!”


Hello World!

  2544Time has passed in the Mo household since the arrival of the little blue monster who, like a rumbustious toddler, crunched, munched and chewed his way into the orderly lives of Mr and Mrs Mo in “Mrs Mo’s Monster” (2014).  Author/illustrator Paul Beavis continues his droll depiction of the little monster in “Hello World” (Gecko Press, September 2015).

Little Monster is bored.  Mr and Mrs Mo are busy with no time to play – in classic parent fashion, Mrs Mo tells him “we’ll do something fun tomorrow.”  That doesn’t cut it with the monster for whom, like most human children, it’s all about the now.    2546
Surveying the (now tidy) miscellany of attic junk he has the brilliant idea to pack a bag and head “off to see the world.”  Mrs Mo’s reaction is perfectly understated.  “How exciting,” she says.  “Can I make you a sandwich?”

He sets off with a spinning globe under his arm and knapsack heaving with attic-tat; trumpets and trophies, rackets and bats.  Heading for the hills, he’s having a brilliant time, oblivious to both the trail he leaves as things fall out of his bag and the furtive Mrs Mo who is follows at a safe distance, gathering it up behind him.
But the landscape looms and the shadows lengthen and the little monster begins to tire.


Forlorn, he tosses the globe aside and regards his now empty rucksack. Beavis’s use of visual foreshadowing is brilliant here.  It’s the “all is lost moment” for the monster but little readers will delight in spotting the long shadow of Mrs Mo (and the collection of junk) just behind a nearby rock.


Equally delightful is the monster’s facial expression as he clutches her with relief.  Ever-cool, Mrs Mo says she thought he might be “missing a few things” and offers him a sandwich.  The monster gratefully accepts “just the one.”  Restored, he leaps up from amidst an impressive pile of crusts and sweeps Mrs Mo forward on the adventure.  Together they climb, the monster reassuring Mrs Mo all the way to the top where they are rewarded with a glorious vista of fiery sunset and patchwork fields.


There’s an amusing reversal here as Mrs Mo appears unsteady and moots heading home. Little monster’s torch beam cuts impossibly through the darkening sky as he bravely declares “I can show you the way!”.  Parents will love the monster’s childish provocation at the end and Mrs Mo’s benign response (and Mrs Mo, cuppa in hand, literally on top of the world).

Beavis has a strongly narrative and striking illustrative style. The perspective shifts are brilliant – from the tiny, trailing Mrs Mo who ultimately (and heroically) fills a page, to the confines of the rock landscape that opens to an climatic epic vista of land and sky.  Judicious use of colour heightens the sense of intensifying menace with benign blue skies and green fields at the beginning of the adventure giving way to the the fiery reds and ochres in the canyon.

This charming fable is warm and exuberant.  Young readers will love looking for the steadfast Mrs Mo on every page almost as much as they will identify with the kaleidoscopic emotion and energy that is Mrs Mo’s Monster, growing up.


With thanks to Gecko Press for providing a review copy.

First Picture Books – Favourites for the Very Young

The first of Australian author Mem Fox’s ten read-aloud commandments is to “Spend at least ten wildly happy minutes every day reading aloud. From birth!” The practice of reading to your child from birth has, of course, been widely lauded by educators and psychologists. But what I love about Mem’s angle is that she fundamentally views reading to children as an opportunity for sharing and intimacy. As her tenth commandment states – “Please read aloud every day because you just adore being with your child, not because it’s the right thing to do.”

I read to my first born religiously. In the sleep-deprived miasma that was largely my experience of early motherhood, reading was part of my routine.   Routine was control. Control was one of the many tenets of my being vaporised at conception. And so, “My Tiger Roars” by Melanie Walsh became mandatory fare. my tiger roarsWhy this from among the thousands? It still puzzles me. Regardless, it did tick some boxes; a board book (to withstand the rigours of grabby little hands and slobbery jaws). Plenty of high-contrast patterns (in my pre-natal reading fervour I’d read somewhere that this was ‘developmentally appropriate’). Simple and colourful animal faces presumably designed to reflect the size of a babies face (yep, fun). Dubious text – “Munch Munch. My patchy panda bear eats his lunch.” With all due respect, you couldn’t pay me to read it again, even for the sake of nostalgia.

CILLA 1ST YEAR (2005) 249 - Version 2Experience has aligned me with Mem’s abundant wisdom. Babies and toddlers don’t care to be educated. They love being close, enjoying the rhythm and musicality of language. They delight in experiencing all that closeness brings – scent, hair, touch. Just as exciting are other tactile opportunities – a book can be pleasingly slapped, thrown, dropped or gummed.   Often it doesn’t matter what is read, just that it is read. Having said that, there will always be particular books that please and these will be requested – over and over and over again.

Before you find yourself stuck with some inherited or deceptively shiny bargain bin pap (and there’s plenty out there), here are some titles I recommend for babies and toddlers. Most are classics, some more recent – but all the books on this list have provided countless “wildly happy minutes” in our home.

giddy up let's rideGIDDY-UP!  LET’S RIDE!  By Flora McDonnell

Glorious full colour illustrations, the joy of this large format picture book is in the rhythm. Sit your small person astride a knee and take them riding with Flora.

PANTS by Giles Andreae and Nick Sharratpants

Vivid colour, simple rhythm and brilliantly silly. I fell in love with this book when I heard it performed by the famous Stu & his ukulele at the Wellington Library to a raucous group of delighted toddlers.

GOODNIGHT MOON by Margaret Wise Brown & illustrated by Clement Hurd

Goodnight_Moon-pictThis gentle homage to bedtime ritual is definitely conducive to sleep with its simple rhyme and soothing rhythm. Wise Brown’s little bunny bids goodnight to the real and imagined inhabitants of her world – a ‘comb and brush’ and a ‘bowl of mush’, to the ‘stars’ and ‘air’ and ‘noises everywhere’ – before settling down under the watchful eye of a knitting nanny. This bunny’s world is slightly surreal with its eclectic array of objects (and creatures), wild shifts in scale and old-school nursery vibe – you can almost smell the formaldehyde. Clement Hurd’s illustrations reflect this perfectly by pitching monochrome against acid-bright, gradually darkening page-by-page, as inevitably sleep comes down.

the runaway bunnyAlso by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd – THE RUNAWAY BUNNY.

This is a rhythmic and gentle mother-baby story. Essentially a game of verbal hide and seek, a steadfast Mother bunny assures her baby that wherever he goes; she will find a way to be with him. Again, Hurd’s illustrations are a perfect confluence of detail and simplicity.

dear zooDEAR ZOO by Rod Campbell

A perennial favourite, Dear Zoo builds anticipation and then satisfies absolutely just as it invites the reader to triumphantly recognise and name the hidden animal and fulfil the rhyming text. A triumph.

the elephant and the bad babyTHE ELEPHANT AND THE BAD BABY by Elfrida Vipont and Raymond Briggs

One day, and elephant offers a baby a ride through the town…

BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR, WHAT DO YOU SEE? By Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric brown bearCarle

Even as I think about this book my toe starts tapping. All the Rs – rhythm, rhyme and repetition. And the perfect denouement in a double page spread of cavorting, colourful, creature-children. Marvellous.

I KNOW A RHINO by Charles Fuge

I know a rhino This bright and appealing rhyming story is about the toys in a child’s life and the special roles they play. She takes tea with rhino, mud-fights with pig, tends to a sick dragon and indulges leopard in his penchant for fancy dress. This story is imbued with imagination and humour, brought to life with luminous and theatrical illustrations.

where's spotWHERE’S SPOT? Eric Hill

The delights of a simple game of hide-and-seek are explored in this bright and sturdy flap book.

PEEPO and EACH PEACH PEAR PLUM by Janet and Allen Ahlberg.

These are classics. In EACH PEACH PEAR PLUM, rhymed text and illustrations invite the reader toeach peach pear plum play ‘I spy’ with a cast of Mother Goose and other folklore characters.

Set in the 1940’s, PEEPO follows a baby through the day as he observes domestic life. With simple, rhythmic text and richly detailed illustrations – the real delight of this book is the series of holes peeping through to the next page. These lead the reader on to the next stage in the day, giving a hint of what is to come. peepo31Witty and charming – this is a perfect book for sharing.

MOG AND ME by Judith Kerr

mog and meWho can resist MOG the flawed feline? This is the first in a series of first Mog books for toddlers. This story captures the simple rhythms of a child’s day. Mog and her toddler begin their day together with a stretch and a wash. The child has to get dressed, “but Mog wears her fur all the time”.   Scenes of play follow with catnip, stacker blocks, a train and a trolley (with an alarmed looking Mog aboard). They eat, and then sleep. Together. Aw.

kiss goodnightKISS GOODNIGHT SAM by Amy Hest and Illustrated by Anita Jeram

Is it the warm autumnal palette used to create this cosy little home that defies the “dark and stormy night on Plum Street”? Is it the patient attention to bedtime ritual from a loving momma bear? Is it the way Jeram has so perfectly captured movement and expression in this intimate exchange? Whatever it is, there’s no denying the delicious sense of comfort and security this story engenders.

shirley hughesTHE NURSERY COLLECTION by Shirley Hughes

I’ll be writing more about Shirley Hughes who has been such a part of our early reading adventures. The Nursery Collection is a simple collection of stories that perfectly capture a child’s world. In these perfect picture books, a lively toddler and her baby brother discover and explore colour, shape & size, sound and opposites.

the very busy spiderTHE VERY BUSY SPIDER and THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR by Eric Carle

Yes, yes I know – another best kid’s books list with Eric Carle.   But these stories never lose appeal even after countless reads. They celebrate the natural world with a delightfully spare narrative that is both wondrous and wry. The Very Busy Spider has some clever texture to run little fingers and toes over and of course, the best thing about The Very Hungry Caterpillar is poking fingers in the ‘holes’ eaten by the insatiable insect.

ten little fingersTEN LITTLE FINGERS and TEN LITTLE TOES by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury

A simple poem celebrating the universal appeal of babies everywhere. Oxenbury’s soft and luscious watercolours capture their plump innocence perfectly.

meg and mogMEG AND MOG (series) by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski

My seven-year-old still delights in Meg and Mog – only these days she reads (recites!) them to me. First published in the 1970’s these stories are about Meg, a rather inept witch, her long-suffering Mog and friend Owl.   Simple and colourful with touches of comic art form – they will make little readers laugh out loud.

I love you just the way you areI LOVE YOU JUST THE WAY YOU ARE by Virginia Miller

Bartholomew Bear’s face is a kaleidoscope of toddler angst. He’s cold, doesn’t want to walk, won’t eat and hides at bedtime.   The only word he utters is “nah”. Repeatedly. Father George’s patience is beyond impressive. Calmly righting all the wrongs, he tells Baby Bear “I love you just the way you are.” Baby Bear rewards him with compliance. For a moment anyway…

WE’RE GOING ON A BEAR HUNT by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

we're going on a bear huntThis book still thrills my 7-year-old. A big bold story perfectly caught by Oxenbury’s brilliant illustrations, this book captures the anticipation and excitement of a family adventure. Indomitable, they squelch through mud, swish through grass, splash through water. They’re not scared. Until… Uh-uh! A narrow gloomy cave and… a bear! The clever double quick pacing that chases the family home is brilliant. And so is the snuggly ending.  Check out the beautiful pop-up edition.

owl babiesOWL BABIES by Martin Waddell and Illustrated by Patrick Benson

Three baby owls left alone while their mother is away hunting is the perfect setting for an exploration of anxiety and reassurance.   Benson’s simple but richly textured illustrations perfectly juxtapose the three fluffy innocents against the depths of night forest.

TThe Tiger who came for teaHE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA by Judith Kerr

While Sophie and her mother are sitting down to tea one afternoon, the doorbell rings. A big, furry, stripy tiger has come for tea…and sandwiches, and buns, and biscuits…and eats all the food in the house until there’s nothing left to cook for Daddy’s supper. Conventional and at the same time anarchic, this is fabulous.


Legendary in New Zealand, Dodd’s marvellous illustrations and mastery of complex rhyme make this (and other stories in this collection) unmissable fare.

And recently discovered…

THE NOISY BOOK by Soledad Bravithe noisy book

Bold, colourful and, well, noisy.

HANNAH’S NIGHT Written and illustrated by Komako Sakai.

This gentle story is about a little girl who wakes in the night and enjoys the quiet of her home, using her own resourcefulness to pass the time.  Beautiful.

hannah's night 2hannah's night