Mr. Bunny’s Chocolate Factory – a timely tale

Mr Bunny’s Chocolate Factory couldn’t be a more timely tale for Easter!

The publication of this picture book just happens to coincide with the announcement of the closure of the Cadbury chocolate factory in Dunedin, a decision prompted by profit motives. And factory farming is not far from the news either. This story is surprisingly topical on both fronts.

MrBunnysChocolateFactory

How do you think chocolate eggs are made? Chickens eat chocolate and then lay chocolate eggs, of course! There is a factory… run by a bunny… and in the factory works some chickens …underpaid and overworked. Take a look inside the inner workings of this chocolate factory about to fracture… you’ll find great greed, a big bad boss and weary workers.

If you fancy a serving of morality along with your morsels of treats, Mr Bunny is a wonderful way to engage young children with the ideas of greed and excess and reflect on how people – or animals – should be treated. This is story for our times, in more ways than one.

Easter related books

Checkout our basket full of recently arrived books about rabbits, eggs and Easter

Cover of happy easterCover of egg hunting we will goCover of The chocolate monsterCover of EggCover of We're going on an egg huntEasterhungry

Digital Egg Design

This school holidays, take part in a quirky QR iPad Easter hunt in the library followed by a chance to create your very own Easter-inspired basket of goodies.

Boss Baby – based on a book

CoverBefore Boss Baby the movie there was … Boss Baby the book!

The film Boss Baby (2017) is loosely based on the 2010 book by author and illustrator Marla Frazee. Many a parent has thought that their little ones seem to rule the roost … sometimes they are downright tyrannical with a temper tantrum or two. Boss Baby is a delightful metaphor. Here, parents are the overworked staff of Boss Baby, put upon by his demands. Coincidentally topical, Boss Baby may remind you of a certain world leader making headlines for similar behaviour.

The Boss Baby (2010)
From the moment he arrives, it is obvious that the new baby is boss and he gets whatever he wants, from drinks made-to-order around the clock to his executive (play) gym. He makes demands. Many, many demands. And he was quite particular. If things weren’t to his immediate satisfaction, he had a fit. He didn’t say a single word that made any sense at all but that didn’t stop him. He was born leader.

CoverThe Bossier Baby (2016)
Boss Baby used to be in charge of his family, but that was before he got an even bossier baby sister. She demoted him and made herself CEO and set about restructuring the organisation (aka the family). She had a full-time social media team and a private limo (cue pram envy). Boss Baby was sidelined until they started working cooperatively to rule their workers (aka parents).

The voice of Boss Baby in the film is actor Alec Baldwin who has been doing impersonations of American president Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live.

Find Alec Baldwin’s work in our collection.

Christchurch – Our underground story

Christchurch: Our underground story is a “lift-the-flaps” picture book with a difference. It has the sturdy thick board pages and colourful illustrations you’d expect to find in other books of this kind but the topic is a bit less straightforward than teaching simple colours or counting.

It’s about infrastructure, which is not a particularly thrilling word to most kids (or adults). But the ongoing maintenance and repair of quake-damaged infrastructure has a daily impact on Cantabrians, so thrilling or not, it’s probably something we should all pay a bit of attention to.

This is one of the reasons for the book as it attempts to open our eyes to exactly what all those coned-off holes in the ground, detours and diggers are in aid of.

It’s a challenging topic but SCIRT Civil Structural Engineer Phil Wilkins and Chemical Engineer/illustrator Martin Coates have brought their considerable experience to bear in producing a really unique and distinctly Cantabrian book.

Cover of Christchurch: Our underground story

Christchurch: Our underground story is sort of a “How Stuff Works” for infrastructure, filled as it is with diagrammatic drawings of how this pipe connects to that one connects to the next one, and the methods by which they’re maintained and repaired. By lifting the flaps you can see the processes and equipment underneath, and it’s all accompanied by explanations of what things are called and what their purpose is. It’s the kind of book that invites inquisitive kids to spend a lot of time absorbed on each page… and it’s pretty educational for adults too.

Christchurch: Our underground story spread
A look inside Christchurch: Our underground story by Phil Wilkins and Martin Coates

The illustrations make it clear that this book is about Christchurch with local landmarks and little touches like flowers poking out of road cones that place it very much in the Garden City.

Proceeds from the sale of the book go to Ronald McDonald House which provides accommodation for families who, because they have a sick child in hospital, have to travel from out of town.

The book can be ordered now with purchased copies able to be picked up at a book launch event at the Margaret Mahy Family Playground on Saturday 25 February. You can also place a hold on a library copy.

Further reading

There’s a snake in my school

David Walliams, whom I had the pleasure of seeing in action in front of a very receptive audience of Christchurch schoolchildren last year, has been at it again, penning another offbeat children’s tale, this time a picture book.

It’s bring your pet to school day and Miranda, a girl who marches to the beat of her own drum, brings along her pet python, Penelope. Of course.

Cover of There's a snake in my schoolEven with a python on the loose There’s a snake in my school is not quite “Snakes on a plane”. For one thing there is no Samuel L. Jackson – though I’m happy to report that the school in the book does have a diverse ethnic mix of pupils, which makes a nice change from most of the picture books I read as a child.

Also, the snake in question is well behaved and non-menacing… mostly. Because there’s always a bit of darkness woven into Walliams’ stories.

Fans of legendary illustrator Tony Ross will enjoy the bright, energetic artwork full of animal-related mayhem and fans of “doing silly voices when reading picture books” will enjoy the pompous headmistress Miss Bloat, who, as interpreted by me, is a mix of Margaret Thatcher and Hyacinth Bucket.

I read this to my nearly 3 year old, and even though There’s a snake in my school is longer and more wordy than most picture books we read together, it kept his attention until the end. Still, I think this would be better suited to school age children, if for no other reason than the school setting will make more sense to them.

There’s a snake in my school
by David Walliams, illustrated by Tony Ross
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780008172701

 

Zac’s Favourite Kids Books – June 2016

I have one of the coolest jobs in the world! As an Outreach Librarian I visit primary, intermediate and secondary schools all over Christchurch to promote the library and spread a love of books.  It’s my job to get kids enthusiastic about books and reading, and I take a heap of books out to schools to share with kids.

Here are just a few of the books that I’ll be raving about in June:

Gorilla Loves Vanilla by Chae Strathie, illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne

Little Sam Sundae runs the best icecream shop around. People come from all over to have one of his icecreams. One day he gets some different customers who want some very strange icecream creations. Mouse wants a blue cheese sundae and Hen wants a worm cone, but then Gorilla comes in wanting just vanilla icecream. This is a very funny story that bounces along and the illustrations are bursting with colour and icecream of all sorts.

Fuzzy Doodle by Melinda Szymanik, illustrated by Donovan Bixley

Fuzzy Doodle follows a scribble on a page as it starts to eat the ink, then nibbles letters and words, until it moves on to gobbling pictures full of colour.  When it is full to bursting it makes a cocoon and unfolds and emerges as a dazzling book. This is a stunning book from two very talented local creators of books for young people. It’s the sort of book that will be enjoyed by young and old alike.

Flying Furballs: Dogfight by Donovan Bixley

Flying Furballs is the hilarious, action-packed new series from Donovan Bixley, the illustrator behind the Dinosaur Rescue series and Dragon Knight series. This is World War One like you’ve never seen it before. It’s the CATs vs. the DOGZ, with the CATs trying to stop the DOGZ from taking over Europe.  In the first book, Dogfight, Major Ginger Tom gets taken prisoner and it’s up to young Claude D’Bonair to fly in and rescue him from the DOGZ castle headquarters. Packed full of cat and dog puns, great characters and fun illustrations this is the perfect series for young readers.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Pax is a beautiful, heart-breaking story about the bond between a boy and his pet fox. The story starts with Peter having to leave his fox Pax in the woods at the side of a road and driving off. Peter’s father is going off to war and so Peter has to go and stay with his grandfather and can’t take Pax with him. Peter found Pax clinging to life as a kit, not long after his own mother had died, so Pax became his friend when he needed one the most. Peter and Pax have a very strong bond and so, even though they are hundreds of miles apart, they set out to find each other. The story tugs at your heart right from the start and you have to keep reading to find out if they will both survive to see each other again. Pax is a truly memorable story.

The Turners by Mick Elliott

Leo gets the worst present ever for his 13th birthday. One minute he’s just standing around in the school library and the next minute he’s growing a tail and turning into a komodo dragon.  When he goes home that night his sister and father tell him that he is a Turner just like them, someone who can turn into different animals. Usually a turn happens at night but for some strange reason Leo can turn in the daytime. Leo’s dad sets off in search of answers and tells them that he’ll be back the next day. When their dad doesn’t arrive home and they are attacked in their home by lizard men, Leo and Abbie go off in search of answers. The Turners is a very funny read, with lots of action and a dash of magic.

Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford

I love a good time travel story and this is one of the best for kids. It has one of the best opening paragraphs too: ‘My dad died twice. Once when he was thirty-nine, and again four years later when he was twelve. (He’s going to die a third time as well, which seems a bit rough on him, but I can’t help that.).’ When Al’s dad dies he gets a letter from him explaining that it is possible to travel in time and that he has built a time machine.  When his dad was a kid he had an accident that left a small piece of metal lodged in his brain which, over time, killed him. He asks Al to go back in time to stop the accident from happening and save him. Al doesn’t hesitate. He takes his hamster, Alan Shearer, jumps in the time machine and goes off to save his dad. As with all time travel stories, nothing goes entirely to plan. A funny story about a boy who just wants to get his dad back.

For more of my favourite kids books for June check out my booklist – Zac’s June 2016 Hot Picks

To tree or not to tree – Arbor Day 5 June

Have you ever wondered what librarians do on their day off? Well sometimes, we like to go to bookshops. Crazy, I know, we’re around books at work every day – what do we want with books on our day off? I guess sometimes its nice to browse from the other side of the stacks — a bit like Hermione taking Muggle Studies to look at things from the wizarding point of view.

9781447273981So the other day, when Mr K and I went into town to look at the newly re-opened Bridge of Remembrance, I couldn’t resist popping into the new Scorpio Books. The first book that caught my eye was Tidy by Emily Gravett. The wonderful peek-a-boo cover lured my into the forest (just like the lamppost lures Lucy into Narnia) where I met a badger named Pete who likes everything neat. This is a delightfully funny story about what happens when neatness is taken to the extreme. I loved the expressions on the animals’ faces, and their growing panic as Pete’s desperate attempts to keep the forest tidy start to go horribly wrong. I also love the way Gravett subtly introduces a conservation message. It’s definitely one of my latest favourite picture books.

Cover of As An Oak Tree GrowsAnother latest favourite is As An Oak Tree Grows by G. Brian Karas. I took this one home to read to the Young Lad, because it’s by the same author as The Village Garage – which is one of his favourites – and he enjoyed it even more than I expected. This simple story starts with a young Native American boy planting an acorn, and continues on through the years as the tree grows and the world changes around it. The Young Lad really enjoyed the story, and was fascinated by the facts about oak trees in the back of the book. He also thoroughly enjoyed the activity sheet and poster, and especially enjoyed poring over the illustrations to see what he could find. No matter what I said to the contrary, he insisted that the tall ships in the harbour were pirate ships! Even when I pointed out that they had white sails, not black ones or red-and-white stripes like pirate ships should have, and that they didn’t have any Jolly Roger flags, he was quite sure they were pirates. Even so, the book prompted lots of discussion about history, types of transportation, and Progress, as well as trees.

After telling you about such tree-y additions to my Favourite Picture Books list, it seems only right to let you know about the Arbor Day events that are on this weekend.

Cover of The Trees and MeFor more information, read about Arbor Day on the CCC website.

As it happens, 5 June is World Environment Day as well as Arbor Day, so in honour of the occasion, I’ve put together a booklist of kids books about trees and the environment.

Maybe I’ll even join in myself and plant a tree on my day off!

Watch out everyone! Here comes Cat

The library is the perfect place for finding new friends and discovering hidden treasures. A couple of weeks ago my wife discovered a series of picture books about a mischievous cat that had the whole family laughing out loud.

Cover of Here comes the tooth fairyThere are currently four books in the series written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Claudia Rueda – Here Comes Easter Cat, Here Comes Valentine Cat, Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat and Here Comes Santa Cat.  Each of the books is a hilarious conversation between the reader and Cat.

Cat is a bit grumpy. He hates Valentines Day and he’s jealous of the Easter Bunny, but the reader helps Cat work through his problems. Cat is tricky too so you often have to get him back on the right path again. He tries tricking the tooth fairy and wants to send Dog in to space in a rocket.

These books are so funny because Cat interacts with the reader using just signs that he holds up and his facial expressions. Here’s just one example:

From Here Comes Valentine Cat by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Claudia Rueda
From Here Comes Valentine Cat by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Claudia Rueda

We loved Cat’s facial expressions. Claudia can show you that Cat is up to no good just by raising his eyebrow or showing him smirking. Cat holding up the signs works really well too because you often have to use these to work out what Cat is thinking.

We originally got just a couple of the Cat stories but we had to reserve the others because they’re just so brilliant. They’re perfect for both young and old and you won’t mind reading them again and again. We even have an eAudiobook copy of Here Comes Easter Cat through OverDrive that is narrated by the author, which is fabulous.

The first Freerange Little Prints book – Chickens in the hen house

Freerange Press has produced two essential books about post-quake Christchurch:

  1. Christchurch: The Transitional City Pt IV which documents the temporary and the pop-up in our town (including libraries),
  2. 50 thought-provoking essays, and visual projects as included in Once in A Lifetime: City-building After Disaster in Christchurch.

Now they’ve branched out, and launched Freerange Little Prints for the younger set. Their plan is to publish kids’ books with themes of “the city, politics, design, art, pirates”. The first Little Print off the press is Chickens in the hen house by Wendy Kissel, with bold and bright illustrations by Kelly Spencer.

Chickens in the hen house

It’s supercute, and Kiwi – with tī kōuka, chicken coops, and kids playing and counting. It’s the kind of book that’d be a great Christmas stocking filler  – perfect if you want something small, thoughtful, and bright as a button.

Relishing the moments with a wordless picture book

Cover of Anno's journeyThe other evening, Mr K — who doesn’t usually like “girly” movies and would much rather watch the likes of Conan or Easy Rider — suggested we watch About Time. We both rather enjoyed this touching, romantic comedy about Tim who discovers he can time travel, and sets out to fix all the mistakes in his life. I was rather taken with the words Tim spoke at the end of the movie about relishing the moments of life

“We’re all traveling through time, together, every day of our lives… All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable life”

I felt a kerplunk in my brain and a memory marble popped out showing me the day I picked up a copy of Anno’s Journey and flicked through it in a rush. I knew it was a classic picture book and had won like a bunch of awards and all that, but at first glance, I have to say I was underwhelmed. What was all the fuss about? There are no words, and the muted pictures didn’t seem especially eye-catching.

But then I took the time to sit down and actually look — to relish each page, each moment with the book — and I saw the clever details in the illustrations, the little stories within the story. I took it home for the Young Lad (who loves books, but does not like reading for himself) and it was a hit!

Although his teacher says he’s reading fine, he usually refuses to read at home. Give him a book he’s never read, and he refuses to read it because he doesn’t know the words. Give him a book he’s read before, and he refuses to read it because he’s had that one already. Getting him to read his school reading book is a nightmare! Frustrating doesn’t even begin to describe it.

This wordless picture book, though — it was a whole new experience. He didn’t need my help with it, he was in charge of the book. I think he found it empowering. Together, we found so many fascinating things in the illustrations. Miss Missy, not wanting to be left out, started searching too, and it was she who discovered Seurat’s “Bathers” and “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”

So then, of course, I couldn’t help but bring home more wordless picture books. We spent several evenings side by side on the couch, looking at the pictures, wondering over the story, and relishing our time together with these wonderful books.

Cover of Clown by Quentin BlakeHere are some of our favourites:

Now I know that “reading” these books didn’t actually help the Young Lad learn to read a single word, but we had such fun together, and I think that’s actually more important!

Useful links to help early readers –Cover of Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

Farty pants

Cover of Polar Bear's underwears  Cover of Vegetables in underwearCover of What colour are your knickers? Cover of Whose knickers? Cover of Dinosaurs love underpants Cover of Mrs Vickers' knickers Cover of Dr Grundy's undiesCover of A brief history of pants Cover of Poo bum Cover of Flush Cover of Fartiste Cover of I'm 9

If you like a bit of a giggle with your kids, here’s a couple of great subject headings that lead you down an amusing byway:

And of course … Captain Underpants!

Cover of Captain Underpants Cover of Dav Pilkey Cover of Captain Underpants

He is very popular at our house – we’ve just started on book two.

Happy rudey reading!