Kids’ Books: bulk review

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Bathtime for Little Rabbit – Jörg Mühle
Published by Gecko Press – available February 2017

Another gorgeous board book from Jörg Mühle, featuring our friend, Little Rabbit. There’s something so appealing about the simplicity of this book; the illustrations are adorable, with clean lines and simple concepts that are beautiful and endearing. I love the interactive style (blow-drying Little Rabbit’s ears was a lot of fun!), and the gentle responses it elicits from my rambunctuous four-and-a-half-year-old. He loved Tickle My Ears, and Bathtime for Little Rabbit has quickly become a favourite. I know of a few little people in my life who will be getting this book for their birthday!

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The Lost Kitten – Lee (illustrated by Komako Sakai)
Published by Gecko Press – available March 2017

This book is, quite simply, a work of art. Sakai is considered one of Japan’s leading illustrators, and it’s not hard to see why. In The Lost Kitten, she has captured the innocent curiosity of a child, and of a small kitten, so perfectly that each page almost feels alive. My boys were both completely absorbed in this book, and I was in no hurry to turn each page; the story feels so real. As such, it’s also a story I don’t think we’ll tire of, it is such a pleasure to read. My youngest was a bit upset when we first read that the kitten was lost, but fear not, there is a happy ending!

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Bruno – Catharina Valckx (illustrated by Nicola Hubesch)
Published by Gecko Press – available March 2017

This is a delightful comic-like collection of six linked stories about Some of the More Interesting Days in My Life So Far. Bruno is a cat who makes the most of every day, always finding something good or interesting about them all. He has a hilarious little group of friends who bring joy and silliness to his days, and my boys think they are all wonderful. Tweety the canary is a particular favourite; “All done, cinnamon bun” is cackled a number of times each day in our house. I think the main appeal of this book is that it takes rather ordinary moments in time, and turns them into adventures that are always quirky and funny. The humour is aimed at kids, and my two found it hilarious. They get the jokes, and the silliness, and I love seeing what cracks them up about each different story. The lines are so dead-pan, but brilliantly delivered, and the illustrations are bold and perfectly detailed to enhance the text. One of my favourite books aimed at a wide age range, but especially enjoyed by four-and-a-half- and six-and-three-quarter-year-olds!

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Helper and Helper – Joy Cowley (illustrated by Gavin Bishop)
Published by Gecko Press – available February 2017

The thoughts of a six-and-three-quarter-year-old*:

“It’s a chapter book, but with pictures, which makes it interesting. The story is about some friends…some of them are best friends, and some of them are just ordinary friends, but they all want to help each other which is kind. Snake thinks she’s cleverer than Lizard, but they are best friends anyway. Squirrel is a bit nervous but I think she always tries her hardest to help. The book is called Helper and Helper because that’s the job Snake and Lizard do. They argue a lot but never stay cross at each other for long. It’s a good book.”

*At the time of writing, I hadnt actually read the whole book, as it was taken firmly from my hands by my biggest!

December :/

Let’s just take a moment to stop and check that we’ve all turned over to the last page of our calendars, because it’s suddenly dawned on me that 2016 is almost over. Yeah, I don’t know where those other calendar pages disappeared to either, but they seem to have flipped over too blimmin’ fast this year!

So as we come into this silliest of silly seasons, I’ve been thinking about what’s going to happen in 2017.

My application for study is being processed.

(Side story: I had some documents verified by a Justice of the Peace in early October, and when he opened the front door to his home, every conceivable surface was crammed with Christmas decorations. Santa and Mrs Claus lined the hallway, tinsel hung from the ceiling, the kitchen table was basically unusable because of all the napkins and holly and tinsel and singing Santas. I remarked that it was looking very festive, to which he replied that they simply hadn’t gotten around to taking the decorations down since last Christmas. “Oh, why bother now?” I crowed, and I laughed all the way home.)

All going well, I’ll begin the first paper at the end of February, at which point, I’ve decided I’ll put this blog to bed for the foreseeable future. As I’m sure you’ve have noticed, I’ve been rather slack over the last few years, and this space is no longer really working for me – and nor am I working for it. I don’t seem to have the same interest in writing a blog, just as I believe many people don’t have the same interest in reading a blog.

I’m glad I started this little hobby way back in 2011, though. The blogging community here in New Zealand is so supportive and I’ve met so many amazing people (many of them in real life now) that I’m privileged to call my friends. It’s been great, but I think next year is the time to hang up my hat and concentrate on other stuff.

Bloody John Key stole my thunder a bit though, eh??!

Book Review: Cherry Tree Farm Collection

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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.

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.

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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.

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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

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two – J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne
Published by Hachette New Zealand

The much-anticipated special rehearsal edition of the script book has finally arrived, with fans flocking to bookstores across the world to be among the first to read it. The eighth story in the Harry Potter series, set nineteen years after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage.

Having finished the book whilst lying in the sun one day last week, here are my thoughts:

  • this edition is the script used by cast and crew during rehearsals for the stage show. As such, it provides an entirely different reading experience to the previous seven Harry Potter books. It’s a decent-sized book, but the format means it takes no time to read. The style of writing is quite different, and plays are always difficult to read as books (remember all those years of trying to read the plays of Shakespeare in English classes??) BUT – if you imagine how it would look on the stage…it would be brilliant.
  • the play is written by Thorne, and is based on a story written by Rowling, Tiffany and Thorne; when you have the author of the original series combining with two newbies, you have to expect that it is going to be different in a lot of ways.
  • our favourite young heroes are now grown-ups with families of their own, thus they are less exciting, less excitable, less endearing and less out-of-the-ordinary. The two main youngsters, Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy, are much more adventurous and fearless that their parents, but they are certainly not in the same league as young Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny and Draco.
  • the wonderful magical aspects were still there, which was great, and I loved that Moaning Myrtle featured.
  • adult Harry is a bit of a knob. He reminds me of a petulant four-year-old; he’s lost that adorable spark and faithfulness that made young HP a crowd favourite. He says some mean things to his son, and my feelings towards him were lukewarm for the remainder of the book.
  • at the end of The Deathly Hallows, good triumphed over evil, Voldemort was vanquished and all was right with the world (apart from the obvious tragic losses)…the story had an ending; Harry had won. Fans were gutted, but everything finally came together and made sense. I’m not really sure what the publication of this new installment actually achieves in terms of those original books, because it doesn’t really add or change anything; it almost feels like a reality TV show, “Harry Potter: Where Are They Now?”
  • [SPOILER ALERT] the play introduces the child of Bellatrix Lestrange and Voldemort, supposedly born before the Battle of Hogwarts. I struggled with this concept, but I do remember how much love Bellatrix had for the Dark Lord…so I decided to do some investigating, and came across this interesting piece that made me more open to the idea. Still…I found it weird.

I enjoyed Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but I didn’t love it the way I loved its seven predecessors. Read it, but be prepared for it to be very different to the HP books you know.

Thank you to Hachette New Zealand for this review copy.

On My Mind: What Next?

When my babiest bear turned four, my thoughts started to turn towards what I’m going to do when he starts school next year. I don’t want to sit around home watching bad telly, but I also don’t want to work full-time; the last time I worked in New Zealand was almost ten years ago, and I don’t have a job – or a career – to step back into.

I toy with the idea of going back to university, but I’m not sure what I want to study. For a long time I wanted to obtain a Master of Counselling, but I’m not as passionate about that as I once was. I think approaching 40 makes me question whether I’m past that stage in life, but then I think of the number of clever people I know who have gone back to study, and I know that age really isn’t a valid excuse. Maybe I’m scared of failing, of not being able to keep up…but that’s silly, because I’m a bit of a nerd, and an organised one at that!

I play with the idea of finding a 9am-2pm job so I can still take my boys to school and pick them up at the end of their day. A job where I don’t have to think too hard or work extra hours…but I know that I would go insane if I wasn’t challenged in some way.

Signal Hill Lookout, Dunedin NZ

Something I am seriously thinking about is starting my own business, but that’s going to take a lot more planning and thought. The appeal of that is being able to set my own hours and therefore still be available for my kids. I’m doing some investigating…but am I really the businesswoman type?

I’d love for this blog to be my “job”, but the reality is that I don’t have the audience numbers, I don’t have a “niche”, nothing makes me stand out from any of the other mummy bloggers around. I also think that in order to really make it as a blogger in New Zealand, being based in Auckland is three-quarters of the battle won?? I’m not being self-pitying or looking for plaudits, I’m simply being realistic. And to be honest, I’m not sure that I’d enjoy all the pressure that would come with being paid for something I genuinely love doing.

We’re incredibly fortunate to be in a position where I can stay at home with and for our children right now. I’m very lucky to have a husband who is not pressuring me think about this, but I know he realises that I won’t be content to be a lady of leisure, and will support me in whatever I decide to do – and whenever I decide to do it.

Book Review: End of Watch

End of Watch

End of Watch – Stephen King
Published by Hachette New Zealand

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a Stephen King novel that has consumed and terrified me as much as End of Watch did. This is the third and final installment in a trilogy that began with Mr Mercedes, but it isn’t just your run-of-the-mill tie-all-the-ends-together finale, oh no. I haven’t read the first two books in the trilogy (Mr Mercedes or Finders Keepers), but it doesn’t matter; End of Watch is a thrilling stand-alone novel, and the background the first two books will provide really isn’t missed. That in itself is a sign of a great book, in my opinion; it doesn’t rely on its predecessors to be a bloody good read. Plus the cover is lightly embossed with rain drops, which is just awesome.

End of Watch is clever and disturbing, and frightening in a very plausible, realistic way. Technology and medical trials are a fact of modern life, and this novel takes these ideas and transforms them into something sinister and terrifying.

I’ve already placed this book on my husband’s bedside table, and suggested he might like to read it. He’s not a big reader, but I think he will find the whole concept as intriguing as I did.

Stephen King isn’t just a master of horror, he’s also a great writer, and I think that’s why this novel works so well. The characters are believable and likeable (mostly!), and this makes the whole story seem possible. I did find the end of the bad guy a little bit of a let down (maybe I wanted greater punishment and suffering for him??!), but the way the novel itself ended was perfect. I like it when authors aren’t afraid to break the mold or kill off main characters.

At the end of the novel, in his Author’s Note, King touches briefly on the subject of suicide, one of the strongest threads in this story. He encourages readers to seek help when they are feeling low, and I have to say that my respect for the man skyrocketed at that point. To use his novel as a platform for talking about this is huge.

End of Watch is a book that you won’t want to put down; thank you to Hachette New Zealand for my review copy.