Book Review: Ivan and the Lighthouse


Ivan and the Lighthouse – Grant Sheehan
Published by Phantom Tree House

Ivan is happy enough at Devonport School, but he finds it hard to concentrate, because through the classroom window he can see, gleaming in the harbour, Bean Rock Lighthouse, where his father is the keeper, and that’s where he really wants to be…

Ivan and the Lighthouse is a lovely story about a small boy who dreams of accompanying his father to work as a lighthouse keeper. It is set in 1910, and “loosely based” on real events, and while it doesn’t read as a history book, it gives a great perspective on a little slice of life in Auckland at the turn of last century.

The arrival of this book was very timely, as we’d just returned home from a school holiday road trip. Our first stop had been to The Catlins, where we walked to the lighthouse at Nugget Point. We’d spoken a lot about lighthouses while we were there, and Ivan and the Lighthouse served as a great reinforcer of the mini history lesson the boys had enjoyed (?!) while we were away.

It’s well-written and the illustrations by Rosalind Clark are gorgeous and very appealing. It’s wordier than your average picture book – aimed at the 5-7 year age group – my four-year-old enjoyed it as much as my six-year-old. They loved exploring the detail on each page, and the drama of a hawk in hunt, a grounded ship, hungry sharks and Halley’s Comet was right up their alley. Virtually every page was a little boys’ dream, with boats and animals of all sorts; the illustrations are mostly double-page, and alone tell an expressive and exciting story. Paired with rich and adventurous language, this is a story that will appeal again and again with each reading.

Thank you to the team at Phantom Tree House for our lovely review copy.

Review: Poo Bum Memory Game


Poo Bum Memory
To be released by Gecko PressOctober 2016

Last night we could hear our children giggling to each other that they wanted to play “Poo Bum”. Before my husband could growl at them for saying inappropriate things, the six-year-old called out, “We’re going to play the Poo Bum card game!”

Crisis averted.

Poo Bum Memory is the classic memory card game, featuring illustrations from Stephanie Blake’s Poo Bum. It can be played at two different levels, with the cards differentiated with a star marking the “difficult” pairs.

As with any Memory game, this can be adapted to the abilities of your children – use less than 36 cards to make it easier, or use all 72 to make it trickier. The cards are a really good size and thickness, withstanding the rough handling of an excited preschooler very well.

My boys also like to play Snap! with these cards, so you’re really getting two games in one. It’s presented in a sturdy, easy to open box, which also makes for easy clean up too – phew!

Poo Bum Memory is a cheeky and fun version of the game we all played as kids, and has proved to be a winner in our house.

Thanks to Gecko Press for our review set.

Book Review: If I Was a Banana


If I Was a Banana – Alexandra Tylee (illustrated by Kieran Rynhart)
Published by Gecko Pressto be released October 2016

I don’t know if I have adequate words to describe how much we love this book. If I simply said, “BUY IT! Buy it NOW!”, would that suffice?? No? Well then, I’ll do my best to convince you that this is a book your children need to own.

If I Was a Banana is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s beautiful to read, and the illustrations are sublime; Tylee and Rynhart are a talented duo and I hope they publish a gazillion more picture books together because they are a match made in heaven.

The story begins simply, and quite amusingly:

If I was a banana, I would be that one, all yellow and fat and full of banana.

and progresses through a wonderful train of thoughts that perfectly capture a child’s thought pattern. If I was a cloud…a spoon…a cat…a star…a fish… It’s a simple story, but packs a powerful punch, and each page offers the chance to talk about what your child would choose to be, and why. My six-year-old was able to express some really good ideas about his choices; he loved the book so much that he took it to school and read it to his class (in front of the school principal, no less!).

If I Was a Banana captures the poetic curiosity of a child, both through words and the hazy, dream-like illustrations. There’s a magic to each page, and it feels as though the reader is inside the head of the young boy as he lets his thoughts range where they will.

The ending of the story is rather poignant and quite beautiful; through all his imaginings, the boy doesn’t appear unhappy with who he actually is, and the ending shows that, sending a powerful message to little readers everywhere to be confident and happy within themselves.

This is a gorgeous story, and I’m already planning on buying it as gifts for a number of small humans in my life.

Thanks to the team at Gecko Press for our review copy.



Book Review: Enid Blyton’s Summer Stories


Enid Blyton’s Summer Stories – Enid Blyton
Published by Hachette New Zealand

School’s out! So go on a picnic, visit the seaside or throw coconuts at the fair in this enchanting collection of stories perfect for summer holidays.

We didn’t save this until the summer holidays, which seem very far away when winter is still peeking its head out of the clouds every once in a while. However, that didn’t stop the six-year-old and I from snuggling up on the couch to read together…until he told me, politely and using different words, to bugger off so he could read to himself!

Here’s what he had to say about this collection of whimsical Enid Blyton stories:

“I don’t have a favourite story in this book – I liked them all. I liked that at the end of some, the author asked me what I thought or what I would have done. Sometimes I thought some of the characters were a bit mean and a bit naughty, but a lot of them were very kind and helpful.

There was a lot of magic in the book. I liked that some of the characters were real and some were pretend. There was a mermaid in the last story [The Galloping Seahorse].

The pictures were really cool. I liked the hedgehog. I think I’ll start from the beginning again…do you want to read them with me, mum?”

Yes, my darling boy, I most certainly do!

Another stellar collection of classic Enid Blyton, with timeless appeal and that magic that every childhood needs.

Thanks to Hachette NZ for our review copy.

Book Review: Cherry Tree Farm Collection


The Cherry Tree Farm Collection – Enid Blyton
Published by Hachette New Zealand

This collection brings together some of Enid Blyton’s earliest and most imaginative stories – The Children of Cherry Tree Farm (1940) and two further stories about the same children, The Children at Willow Farm (1942) and More Adventures at Willow Farm (1943).

I grew up reading the stories of Enid Blyton, and as an adult, I’m still a big fan. Her stories are appealing on so many levels, and her ability to make adventure and magic from nothing is second to none.

I don’t know who was more excited when The Cherry Tree Farm Collection arrived for review – me or my six-year-old. That night, we sat down together and read a few chapters; the late hour was the only thing that stopped us from finishing the whole book!

There’s something about this bunch of siblings and their adventures in the countryside that speaks of another time, but of adventures that are timeless and exciting. As a parent who is conscious of getting kids outside to play and roam, it was great to read a book that lacks technology and gadgets, but is full of fun. The children are still a little mischievous, and even though Tiny thought they “speak a little funny”, they are still easy for kids to identify with.

The Cherry Tree Farm Collection is a lot of fun to read. It possesses that quintessential Blyton-ness that brings wonder and magic to every page, making it a joy to read aloud or quietly to yourself.

Thanks to Hachette NZ for our review copy.

Book Review: A Day with Dogs


A Day with Dogs РDoroth̩e de Monfreid
Published by Gecko Press available October 2016

Nine funny dogs live their everyday lives in these pages where you can learn all about seasons, colours, food, town and country, night and day, school and work, and much more – including dog breeds, of course.

Dorothée de Monfreid is the author of one of Pickle’s favourite books, The Cake. He was pretty excited when he saw A Day with Dogs, and flicks through it almost daily at the moment.

He thinks the dogs are hilaaaaaaarious. He giggled like a maniac when they were getting ready for school, and then he pointed out all the things he has to do to get ready for kindy.

The illustrations are amusing, and the dogs possess a slap-stick humour that greatly appeals to both of my boys. This is the kind of book that is ideal for toddlers learning more about the world around them, but for slightly older children requires very little adult intervention as they can start to “read” it to themselves. They can go beyond the simple naming of things to the exploration of characters and relationships and the silly things these dogs get up to! Each page is full of fun things to discover, and the illustrations are very expressive.

This is a fun book that children of varying ages will get a lot from.

Thanks to Gecko Press for our review copy!

50 Dangerous Things: 34

Number 34: Deconstruct an Appliance

Our old printer was stuffed, and I was about to bin it when I remembered that taking apart an appliance was considered one of the 50 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do. Perfect.

Then the printer sat on the floor under my desk for a few months until one snowy, freezy Sunday, when the boys were bored and belligerent – including the biggest of them all. While I set out to do the grocery shopping, they set out to discover what the inside of a printer looks like.

50 Dangerous Things: 34

Armed with screwdrivers and other assorted tools, they spent a good hour-and-a-half dismantling that printer, until every last screw and spring had been removed. They moved bits and prodded electronic things, and Tall was in his element, teaching his sons all sorts of interesting facts about mechanical engineering and product design.

50 Dangerous Things: 34

Tiny wanted to try and put the printer back together again, but we managed to dissuade him. Both he and Pickle had a great time hunting out the tiniest of screws and deciding which screwdriver they needed to use.

This was a great exercise for their inquiring minds; Tiny already exhibits similar engineering traits to his dad, so this was right up his alley.

50 Dangerous Things: 34 Deconstruct an Appliance – DONE

50 Dangerous Things: 01 Lick a 9-Volt Battery
50 Dangerous Things: 11 Throw Rocks
50 Dangerous Things: 15 Throw Things from a Moving Car
50 Dangerous Things: 28 Climb a Tree
50 Dangerous Things: 32 Change a Tyre
50 Dangerous Things: 21 Spend an Hour Blindfolded

50 Dangerous Things: 05 Stick Your Hand out the Window