Original books for all ages from NZ

changeoverThere is an incredible depth of literary talent in New Zealand ranging from Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton to Kate di Goldi, Lloyd Jones, Janet Frame and the incomparable Margaret Mahy. NZ is also the base for amazing publisher Gecko Press, which publishes books from around the world for children.

We should keep an eye on what NZ is publishing because it is so close to us here in Australia and, as in many areas; it punches above its weight.

Some of Gecko Press’s most outstanding recent books are The Big Book of Animals of the World, an oversized board book by Swedish/German author-illustrator Ole Konnecke.Bert

This creator also pops up with You Can Do It, Bert! Children will wonder what Bert is trying to do. Most of the action happens in the illustrations and the text is minimal.

Help! The Wolf is Coming! by French author Cedric Ramadier and illustrator Vincent Bourgeau is a very appealing, interactive story which will scare children as the wolf approaches but also empower them because they can tilt and shake the book to ward the wolf off.

Another fascinating book for young readers about animals is Line Up, Please! by Japanese author/illustrator Tomoko Ohmura. Fifty animals join a queue but the surprise is where they are queuing. The numerals are written, as well as the animals’ names, such as ‘giraffe’.

International best-seller Stephanie Blake’s rabbit reappears in I Want Spaghetti. How can the little rabbit be tempted to eat something else? The bold, clear colours and design are a visual lure.

When I am happiestWhen I am Happiest by Swedish author Rose Lagercrantz, illustrated in black and white by Eva Eriksson, is a heartwarming early chapter book about Dani who always tries to be happy despite having lost her mother at a young age. When her father is hit by a car, she has to summon more courage.

Dani has two hamsters, and a hamster is the larger-than-life protagonist of Travels of an Extraordinary Hamster by Astrid Desbordes and Pauline Martin. This self-absorbed hamster features in the many short stories that make up this brightly coloured book.

Very short, but profound, stories also form the structure of The King and the Sea by Heinz Janisch and Wolf Erlbruch. This book is inventive and uses a restrained, perfectly calibrated mixture of collage.

Finding Monkey Moon isn’t published by Gecko Press but is written by NZ author Elizabeth Pulford and illustrated by Kate Wilkinson (Walker Books). It is a picture book that tells the story of Michael who can’t find his toy monkey. His father is a patient, loving man.

BakehouseNZ legend Joy Cowley’s latest book is The Bakehouse (Gecko Press). It is an introspective novel about war and some of its effects in NZ. My favourite recent Cowley is Speed of Lightwhich I reviewed here.

Elizabeth Knox is another standout NZ writer. Previous works are The Vintner’s Luck, The Dreamhunter Duet and Mortal Fire, which I reviewed here. Her recent book Wake is adults-only and is an addictive horror/sci-fi set in a NZ town where most of the inhabitants are killed. Only fourteen people survive and they must try to keep community and civilization alive, as well as themselves. Not for the faint-hearted.

In Wake, like other books mentioned here, we can expect NZ creators and publishers to give us something out of the ordinary.


Lily gets her wings and Lily has a secret are the first two books in the Lily, The Littlest Angel series written by Elizabeth Pulford with illustrations by Aki Fukuoka


In book one, Lily gets her wings, Lily dreams of earning her wings so she can attend Amelia’s Angel Academy, but someone has hidden her practice wings. If Lily can’t find them in time to take the test, her dream will be shattered.

Being an angel isn’t easy for Lily. She has a sweet nature and means well, but somehow she always finds herself in trouble. And whenever she’s in trouble, her rival for the last spot at the Academy, Tisa, never seems too far away. And when Lily accidentally damages a third year angel’s wings she knows she’s in serious trouble.

Eventually, Lily finds her own wings, but they don’t seem to do what she wants them to. And how will she pass the seemingly impossible test of making Professor Glumbo laugh. There’s only one spot left at the academy and it seems that Tisa will be the one to get it.

But Mother Angel has a surprise announcement for both of them.


In book 2, Lily has a secret, Lily rescues an injured kitten, but one of the rules at the Academy is “No animals allowed (except Frumplepuss)”. As a new recruit to the Academy, Lily can’t afford to break the rules, but she can’t let anything bad happen to the kitten either.

But when Lily gets distracted by the kitten and breaks the beautiful golden harp, things can’t get much worse.

Lily is an appealing character who will endear herself to readers. Even though she’s an angel, she’s far from perfect.

Little girls will be drawn to the appealing design of these books and the lively pictures. They’ll be swept along by Lily’s latest mishap, wondering what will happen next and whether Lily will get out of yet another scrape.

Lily, The Littles Angel’s adventures are gentle stories with authentic characters and events. They make a pretty and charming addition to a little girl’s book collection.

Lily The Littlest Angel series is published by Scholastic.

Lily, The Littlest Angel is a charming new chapter book series for readers aged 6-9.