Scoop Review of Books

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Life Turned Upside-Down

Book Review | Children’s Books
Wave Me Goodbye, by Jacqueline Wilson (Penguin Random House/Doubleday, $30)
Reviewed by Sophie Robinson

cover“‘Would you like to go on a little holiday?’ asked Mum, the moment she’d shaken me awake.”

Main character Shirley, aged 10, was shocked at the question, because her family never went out of London on holiday. But things were different now due to the approaching war. Children of all ages, including Shirley, were being sent out to the countryside for safety.

The story follows Shirley through the beginning of her new life as an evacuee. She is shy and has no friends, and people sense this. When host families are choosing evacuees, Shirley is one of the last 3 children to be rehomed. Everything in her life is turned upside down – first she has to cope with her father leaving for war, then she has to leave her mother behind in London when she is evacuated to the country, and she has to cope with living with strangers.

This story made me feel like I was there with Shirley, as she left her old life in London, and then had to start a new life in the country with no friends or family. Jacqueline Wilson’s character development is thorough so the reader feels like they have a personal connection with the main character. Read more »

Purple (and Violet) Prose

Greta Von Gerbil & Her Really Large Lexicon
by Blair Reeve (words) and Chris Stapp (pictures) (Anapest Press, Hong Kong)
Reviewed by Vaughan Rapatahana

greta-von-gerbilweb2This is the second recent conjoint publication by Reeve and Stapp; all to do with esoteric, arcane and obscure vocabulary – sesquipedalian, anyone – and so much more besides. Before I write further, I must stress that the book is an equal partnership between words and images and that one cannot thrive without the other.

This slim tome is a cogent symbiosis of the two: Stapp’s colourful, exaggerated designs well complement Reeve’s colourful, exaggerated lexicon, as purveyed via the voice of Greta; who incidentally dresses as lavishly as her harlequin declarations. Thus, she

took pleasure in garments of violet and purple.

Once again, as with the initial publication of Hogart the Hedgehog Turns Nink (2015), Reeve and Stapp are deliberately crafting something rather more than a kid’s pictorial storybook. For not only is the vocabulary deliberately too abstruse for most young children to be able to pronounce, let alone comprehend, but the ironies within the text may also pass them by somewhat: Greta Von Gerbil is a kid’s tale built more for adults. The authors are confronting reader prejudices that dictate that big bright pictures, cartoon and caricature-like, must mean a ‘children’s book’: this is far from the case in this publication.

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Author Q&A: Nikki Slade Robinson

On 8 June, the finalists in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults were announced, and among them is a longtime Scoop Review of Books reviewer, Nikki Slade Robinson, for her children’s picture book The Little Kiwi’s Matariki.

Photo by Neil Hutton.

Photo by Neil Hutton.

Following is a Q&A with Nikki about her life, inspiration and work:

Where were you born? Te Puke – though I only lived there until I was 1 month old.

N publicity shot 2016 cropWhere do you live now? In paradise, near Ōpōtiki.

Where did you go to school? Woodlands School and then Ōpōtiki College.

What were you like in school? I drew heaps. I have a maths report that says I should try not to draw quite so much in my maths book. (Don’t get me wrong, maths IS important, it’s just I understand it better when I turn it into pictures.)

What was your favourite book growing up? Tons! I loved helping unpack the cartons of books at school from the National Library Service. Miffy was the first book I remember getting hooked on. Some of our books at home had been in a school fire and they had smoke marks on the pages, and smelt smoky but I loved them just the same. Dr Seuss was utterly awesome. Then I got into Cricket magazine, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Tolkien, Harriet the Spy… there’s just too many to name.

Who is your favourite children’s author? Wah! How do I choose? There are wonderful NZ authors that would have to top the list – Margaret Mahy of course, Jack Lasenby, David Hill, Des Hunt, Joanna Orwin … there are just so many now writing such fantastic young adult books that to list them all would take ages. But they are all wonderful so hunt out kiwi authors next time you go to the library or bookshop!! Read more »

‘Will Attend Any Wedding’

Rent a Bridesmaid
by Jacqueline Wilson (Penguin Random House, $35)
Reviewed by Sophie Robinson

Rent_A_Bridesmaid‘Very pretty sensible nine-year-old… will attend any wedding ceremony… very small rental…’ That’s how Tilly’s Rent-a-Bridesmaid advertisement reads, in Jacqueline Wilson’s newest title, named of course Rent a Bridesmaid. Tilly (a.k.a Matilda) lives with her dad, her mum having left. Tilly is sensible, tidy, a little bit shy, and loves gorgeous girly dresses. Especially if they are raspberry ice-cream pink coloured!

One day her best friend Mattie (a.k.a another Matilda) gives Tilly her used-once, raspberry ice-cream pink bridesmaid dress. Unfortunately Tilly doesn’t have a wedding to be a bridesmaid at. Mattie is somewhat a tomboy and is quite happy to hand over a girly dress. Together, Mattie and Tilly hatch a plan for Tilly to hire herself and the dress out as a bridesmaid. Thanks to the advertisement, Tilly succeeds in attending three different weddings. She finds new relationships in unexpected places, and also learns quite a bit about her existing family and friends, not to mention herself. She reconnects with her mum … ‘Are you my actual real mum?’ The story has a satisfying, happy ending which feels just right.

As with previous Jacqueline Wilson titles, it’s a great read, I enjoyed it just as much as the others I’ve read. You don’t need to have read any previous titles however to enjoy this one, it’s a stand-alone not a sequel. Highly recommended, for girls 8 – 11.

Whitu, 八 … Nink

Hogart the Hedgehog Turns Nink
text by Blair Reeve, pictures by Chris Stapp (Anapest Press, $25)
Reviewed by Vaughan Rapatahana

Blair ReevesI rather like this slight, self-published book; slight because at only 41 multi-coloured pages – some with no text on them – it’s very easy to read at one sitting, especially as much of it is in anapestic rhyming and alliterative tri-lines, rather like a looooong nursery rhyme. Given Blair Reeve’s strong performance poet background, this is a book to be read, indeed chanted, OUT LOUD. I can well see him onstage doing exactly that.

It is a clever wee book too, because, while it is ostensibly a children’s picture book for dads and mums to read to their kids and tots at bedtime, in reality it has several other layers. It’s not so slight after all, eh.

Let’s look at the multi-levels contained between these bright hard covers:

1. Hogart the hedgehog, can of course, be read entirely as a kid’s book, replete with Edward Lear type nonsense and multiple Dr Seuss rhyming patterns – generally aaa/bbb – gone madder. Yet I sensed more, the more I scanned in and between the lines.

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