Reviewed by Winston Aldworth & Dionne Christian.


by Gavin Bishop (Picture Puffin, $40)

Wow! A book for the ages — literally. Aotearoa's social history is charted here from Kupe through settlement, wars, social upheaval, Kate Sheppard, Edmund Hillary and Lorde. With neat sketches looking at the food we ate, the way we dressed, what we fought over and what we've become, this fantastic study of NZ society has a talking point on every page. There's a place for this on every bookshelf. The coolest kids' book I've seen all year. WA



by Maria Gill and Marco Ivanic (Scholastic NZ, $28)

Feelings about colonial explorers ebb and flow like the tides that carried the (now considered) racist old coots. While Captain James Cook stands supreme as the Westerner whose deeds carried greatest impact on our shores and culture, this lively and neatly illustrated book might sway you to Abel Tasman's side. He got to New Zealand in 1642 — more than 85 years before Cook was even born — and yet the poor unfortunate had to settle with his name on the shorter of our two highest mountains. In history lessons, the Englishman was "Captain" Cook, while Tasman was a "Dutch navigator". In these pages, Tasman and his crew get to shine. WA

by Peter Millett and Scott Tulloch (David Bateman, $20)
Ho ho ho! It's that time of year again — when Kiwi kids' book publishers cull forests to bring us tractor-driving Santas and pavlova-munching fairy-tale figures who cheer for the All Blacks. Into this, er, scrum comes Classic Rhymes for Kiwi Kids, a tome re-imagining the Mother Goose nursery rhymes with just enough twist to be slightly genius. The illustrations are a tad on the hasty side, but some of the wordplay is slick and local-as, bro. "Baa baa halfback, have you any ball? Yes sir, yes sir, it's in the maul." The rhymes are dedicated to the memory of Fred Dagg. I reckon he'd approve. WA

by Lynley Dodd (Puffin, $25)
Arguably NZ's most famous grumpy cat makes a rollicking return in Dodd's much-loved Hairy Maclary series. It's a peaceful morning and Scarface Claw is happily snoozing in the sun, tail curled around and feet tucked in. But his snooze is about to be interrupted. A picture book the young ones will adore. DC


Various authors (Puffin, $45, hardback)

This is a whopper of a picture book with poems, yarns and illustrations themed around Kiwi summers. Some of the content is new, some old. Brian Turner is in there, Patricia Grace and Margaret Mahy too, while James K. Baxter makes a rare and delightful dip into kids' book territory. A bach bookshelf keeper. WA

by Patricia Cleveland-Peck and Isabel Greenberg (Bloomsbury, $30)
With my daughter going through that phase where kids find death fascinating, this book — with its vast empire and famously dead dude — seemed a good fit. The illustrations are neat, dancing a line between simplicity and hieroglyphics. It's fascinating but I'd advise being with your kid when they get to the bit about how dead people are turned into mummies. WA

Win with Weekend

Penguin Randomhouse has three picture books for one lucky reader to win.
They are Aotearoa, Scarface Claw, Hold Tight and Summer Days.

To enter, go to and enter the keyword PENGUIN.
Entries close December 13, 11.59pm.