My Little Book of Bugs Taku pukapuka iti mō ngā pepeke Te Papa Press 2020
Julia Kasper is Curator Terrestial Invertebrates at Te Papa
Phil Sirvid is Entomology Manager at Te Papa
Jean-Claude Stahl is an imaging specialist at Te Papa known for his detailed photographs of the natural world.
My little Book of BugsTaku pukapuka iti mō ngā pepekeis a small hardback book designed for children from 18 months to 3 years. Each page features an astonishing photograph of a bug with a sentence in English and in te reo Māori. You get one fascinating fact but you also get photographs that are visual discovery channels.
You discover bees collect pollen with their hair and then when you look at the photograph you can track where the hair is. Such a contrast from the soft hair to the fragile patterned wings and the black sheeny back. I have been sitting looking at this photograph of a bee pī for ages.
The other joy is you get to read the fascinating fact in both English and te reo Māori. These three discovery joys (the fascinating fact, the astonishing photos and presence of te reo Māori) open the book to a wider range of readers. I challenge older children to look at the photograph and produce a poem or piece of writing, or their own artwork.
I loved the simple sentences: I never knew beetles hid their wings under their ‘strong armour’!
I find children’s books are a brilliant aid as I learn te reo Māori – so this book is also a very cool language aid no matter how old you are.
What a treat of a bug book – Taku pukapuka iti mō ngā pepeke. The bugs in the little book can be found in Te Papa’s collection, but this book is a fabulous way to get discovering when you can’t manage a museum visit. The next time I am in Wellington Te Whanganui-a-Tara I will be checking out Te Papa’s bug section. In the meantime I am loving my bug discovering.
I Love Bugs Elspeth Alix Batt, One-Tree House, 2020
Elspeth Alix Batt has been an illustrator and artist for over forty years. Her illustrations have appeared in School Journals, Ready to Read books, on cards, flags, book covers, school banners, books of many genres. I love Bugs is the first book Elspeth has written and illustrated.
Elspeth’s exquisite illustrations take you into the ‘wriggly jiggly’ ‘spiny shiny’ world of bugs. Each page glows with such colour and detail you feel like you are in the scene. The insects are magnificent.
The writing is equally captivating. It is like a poem pattern. A scrumptious list poem. And it is an excellent poem to read aloud because it soundsmagnificent. I find some rhyming children’s books clunky and unappetising, but Elspeth knows how to make words sing and connect like music. Sometimes surprising. Sometimes making me wriggle and jiggle.
Yes there is a surprising and PERFECT ending!
Yes there is an excellent bug-information page at the back.
Yes this book is a rip-wriggling, tingly-tickly, bug-catching SUCCESS!
I Am the Universe, Vasanti Unka, Penguin Books, 2020
Vasanti Unka is one of my favourite children’s authors. Last year I was on a Storylines Tour with Vasanti (and a few other very cool authors) in the Kaikoura region, and I loved it when I shared a school session with her. I felt so inspired. Vasanti’s books are so captivating: her playful words match her playful illustrations.
Vasanti is an award-winning writer, designer and illustrator of children’s books. Check out her backlist – it is fabulous! She lives in Auckland, has a Masters in Design degree and tutors in this field.
It’s celebration time because a glorious new Vasanti Unka book has arrived in the world. It is scintillating. It gleams and it glimmers.
Vasanti says: ‘This has been one of my favourite books to work on, from writing to design, every step has felt like it was really sprinkled with star dust! I spent ages on the illustrations but I loved every minute of it. I can’t wait for you to see it.’
The book was due to come out a few months ago, but got delayed by covid so I have had my copy sitting on my desk and I have been itching to share this twinkling treat with you too!
Vasanti takes us ona tour of the universewith her glistening illustrations and writing. The story is like a bright list poem!
I am the Sun,
a mighty fireball
of blazing starlight.
I am the Moon
an orbiting satellite
spellbound by Earth.
We will travel from the glittering Solar system, we’ll land on earth’s gravel and rock, move though oceans, mountains, cities and neighbourhoods, and end up in the snuggly nook of home and family.
I love every page, but perhaps most of all the ending. The book goes full circle with the stars, sun and moon looking down on us at the start, and us looking back up at them at the end. In the final page the girl’s bedroom is mysterious purple-black, just like the universe. The child is wearing her starry pyjamas, her cat is waiting for a cuddle and games, but she is looking out the window at the glintingstars, with a big smile on her face and a head full of luminescentdreams.
That is what this heavenly book can do – fill you with glitterydreams. You can stall on any page and stories will flow. The neighbourhood page has my eyes darting and dashing from one sparklyspot to the next: children are scooting, skipping, tree-climbing, ball-kicking, cape-wearing, toy-playing, book reading.
The universe is amany-spangled thing. It is full of movement and shine, as well as darkspace and mystery. Vasanti’s book holds the universe up for us like a prism so we can bask in its many astonishing lights.
Yes, I love love love this book. I do hope it finds a home on a universe of Aotearoa bookshelves. Our borders might be closed, but our dreams and our readings are not.
Bibbit Jumps has the cutest drawings – the little frog loves to jump more than anything in the world. Bei Lynn has captured the jumpy frog so beautifully, I thought the book and the frog might jump off my kitchen table onto the green-grass lawn and go leaping.
Yes! This frog LOVES jumping!
But sadly sadly for a frog, Bibbit does not LOVE going in the water. He is not a very good swimmer.
This feels like a good jump-pad for a story that will hook you! And it is. I don’t want to give the story away but there are swimming lessons, a surprise picnic, a birthday, a very large apple that needs eating, a big bustling city, what to do when you don’t feel well, a kind moon.
The story flows like honey so you can gobble it up as a sweet treat!
The drawings are exquisite and make each page shine with froggy life.
The book is all about friendship – and that seems to be a very good thing to celebrate in our challenging times.
Bei Lynn is an award-winning Taiwanese illustrator who has written and illustrated over 20 picture books, stories, magazines and comics.
Her works have been recognized by various awards and honors, including Hsin-Yi Children Literature Award, China Times Best Children’s Book of the Year, Taipei Public Library Best Children’s Book, and the Best Chinese Children’s Picture Book of Feng Zikai Chinese Children’s Book Award.
12 Huia Birds12 Manu Huia by julian Stokoe, illustrated by Stacy Eyles, Oratia Press, 2020
Oratia Press have reissued this popular picture book to include a te reo Māori version. I am keen to hear this book read aloud, to hear the music of both English and te reo.
(Note from Paula: The publicist read this review and wrote to me! ‘You can actually get your wish to hear the book read aloud, by the wonderful George Henare in both English and te reo Māori, in the free 12 Huia Birds app. Here is a link to the app for young readers to hear and learn more.’
This new edition sold out in flash – but new copies will be ready mid September!
I love the way the book does a loop – starts with 12 huia alive in the forest – counts back down to 1 huia looking for her mate – and then ends with 12 huia that, these days, are only alive in the poems, stories and paintings we make.
The counting rhymes bring the huia to life – this beautiful bird that once filled the bush with song and feathered flight is now something we can only dream of. You could say the book is an aide to keeping huia in our minds, making losses from the past precious.
The illustrations are equally animated. The curve of the huia’s beak, the black sheen of feathers, the eye-catching tail are exquisitely alive on the page.
As much as 12 Huia Birds12 Manu Huia reminds us of the treasured bird, of its passage to extinction, it reminds us to work even harder to protect the birds we do still have with us. The book comes with an app that offers more information on huia, and the environmental message that drove the ink of the author and colours of the illustrator.
I recently sang the praises of the extremely wonderful The Nature Activity Bookon Poetry Box and said it filled me with a galaxy of poem ideas.
The grey sand at Te Henga beach
wrinkles and crumples
like elephant skin.
I listen for trumpets and rumbles,
but all I hear is the sweet cheep
of the scuttery dotterel.
Paula Green (inspired by Patterns in Nature)
So for September I am creating some poem challenges based on ideas in the book. You can pick one or more. Thanks to Te Papa Press I have up to four books to give awayto young poets whose writing really catches my attention.
I suggest you don’t send your poems / artwork the day you write but wait for a week and see if you’d like to change anything. I think part of being a writer is letting things simmer and then seeing how the flavours change in a few days time.
The tip for these challenges is to GO OUTSIDE and explore, using all your senses, rather than imagining. This is when science and poetryjoin hands and you use words to show what you discover as a nature explorer. Two challenges get you to use your IMAGINATION.
You might like to do a drawing, comic strip or painting to go with your poem.
I will read all your poems at the end of the month and write a letter back to you.
DEADLINE: 28th September
Find a place to sit and scavenge for sounds. It might be in your garden, a park, a paddock, in the bush or when you go the beach.
Write down all the sounds you can hear.
Beside each sound find words to describe the sound, what it reminds you of.
Now use your sound collection to make a poem. The sound will help the place where you are sitting come alive in the poem.
Patterns in nature
Nature is full of glorious patterns.
I love walking on the beach and hunting for patterns (see my elephant poem).
You can find patterns on leaves, insects, animals, honeycomb, sand, bark, plants, shells, spiders webs.
Find a pattern in nature that fascinates you.
Jot down words as you look and discover.
Try writing a little poem that explores the pattern.
Hunt for some little objects. You might like to study them with a magnifying glass.
You could hunt for tiny seeds, marbles, nuts, flowers, pebbles, grass blades …
Beside each object jot down what you see and what you feel when you touch it.
Look at the colours, patterns, shapes, textures.
You might go hunting for similes.
How many words can you jot down beside each thing.
Now use your discoveries to write a poem.
It might be about one object or several. Over to you!
Listen to your poem.
Underline the words that shine on the line.
A habitat is the place where an animal lives in nature.
This is a chance to use your IMAGINATION!
Make up a habitat for an imaginary creature.
Jot down what the habitat looks like. You could even sketch it to help picture it.
What plants, animals, water, weather might you find? What is the land like?
If you shut your eyes what would you hear?
What movement do you see?
Now use your imagination to write a poem about your habitat.
Your poem might tell a story.
It might be like a photo of the place.
Stories are treasure troves of mythical beasts: think of dragons and phoenixes, griffins, yetis and unicorns.
Invent your own mythical beast. You might like to draw it to help picture it.