Granny McFlitter is back to save Christmas at the zoo, one lightning-quick stitch at a time!

‘Twas the night before Christmas and down at the zoo,
the keepers were ready; the animals, too…’

All of a sudden there’s a commotion – who has unravelled the animals’ stockings? With Santa arriving any moment, the zookeepers call on a champion knitter for a Christmas Eve miracle!

Can Granny McFlitter pull one — or should we say, purl one — out of her knitting bag?

Granny McFlitter: The Knit Before Christmas

Heather Haylock & Lael Chisholm

Picture Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

It’s the night before Christmas and the zoo is ready for a visit by Santa.   The keepers had decorated with Granny McFlitter’s help and the zoo looked festive.  They had hung up stockings and the animals were excited to see what Santa bought them.  Then the animal’s stockings were unravelled and the decorations destroyed!

The keepers managed to track down the culprit but needed help fast to find new decorations and stockings for the animals.  With Santa arriving any moment, the zookeepers give Granny McFlitter an urgent call to work a Christmas Eve miracle!  Can Granny save Christmas?

The book is easy to hold, with thick pages that are easy to turn.  The story is well laid out with short, catchy rhyming stanzas on each page that perfectly match the fabulous illustrations.  Bright and colourful, they convey a sense of drama to the humorous story while also being fun to look at.  The black text is easy   to read and stands out well against the solid background colours.

A pleasure to read, there are several other books about the fast-knitting Granny McFlitter and you need to share them all with the little people in your life.  This is a very special Christmas story that needs to be shared.

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Ottolenghify every meal.

Yotam Ottolenghi and his superteam are back, with flexible, flavour-packed dishes that all lend a little something to the next meal. It’s harissa butter on a roasted mushroom, then tossed with steamed veg or stuffed into a baked potato. It’s tamarind dressing on turmeric fried eggs, then drizzled over a steak the next day.

Extra Good Things is rounded off with a chapter on the ‘one basics’ of desserts for you to perfect and then adapt with your favourite flavour combinations, such as ‘one basic mousse’ transformed into coffee mousse with tahini fudge.

This is playing it forward, Ottolenghi style, filling your cupboards with adaptable homemade ingredients to add some oomph to every mealtime.

Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Extra Good Things

Noor Murad and Yotam Ottolenghi

Ebury Press

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

I have to begin by saying that this is a somewhat novel approach to a cookery book. It’s all about the extras – the finishing touches and sides that make a meal something extra special. There are recipes for sauces, dips, condiments and sprinkles, each presented alongside a base recipe.

This does make for lengthy recipes, and so this is not a beginners’ cookbook by any means. But more experienced home cooks will get plenty of interesting ideas for ways to jazz things up, a bit or a lot. It is very much an Ottolenghi book. There is an emphasis on vegetables and more than a hint of the Middle East in most of the recipes, together with quite a lot of chilli. But not everything.

I was impressed with the ‘Blooming Leeks’ which is a direct take-off from a well-known American restaurant dish I once tried in Vegas. That gets served with a ‘Green Ranch Dressing’ that would go very well with a lot of things, especially fritters. There is a recipe I really want to try called “Lamb and Potato Chap” which looks to be reminiscent of the ‘frying saucers’ of fond memory. And I also fancy the “Baked Polenta” with feta, bechamel and za’atar tomatoes (I am so surprised that my word processor knows how to spell za’atar).

The dessert section, headed “one basics” takes a slightly different approach, focusing on the base recipe rather than the side (though there are plenty of dessert extras here).

 It’s nicely presented as a large trade paperback with those durable flexible covers (there’s got to be a word for them, but I can’t find it). There’s a good index and a pretty ribbon to mark your page. All recipes are illustrated, some with step-by-step pictures. There’s even a picture of the assembled ‘extras’ at the beginning of each section.

The only thing that is really lacking is a glossary of unusual ingredients (with suggested substitutes). Some of them were beyond me, and I suspect you’d have considerable difficulty finding them in New Zealand shops. Just what is ‘chana dal’?

Discover more than 100 of the best kid-friendly adventures that Auckland has to offer – from spooky sea caves to urban strolls, playgrounds, bike rides and splash pads.

Clamber up ancient volcanoes. squelch through tidal mudflats, walk through bush-clad gorges or picnic on Hauraki Gulf islands. Loads of outdoor adventure suggestions with practical tips, and info on marine animals, native trees and birds, fungi and wetlands with a bit of history and te reo Maori thrown in. There is brand new material on two further walks in East Auckland.

Every walk includes clear descriptions and accessibility icons for bikes, buggies, wheelchairs and dogs.

Sections are : Central Auckland, City Adventures, North Auckland, Regional Parks, Hauraki Gulf, East Auckland, West Coast, Waitakere Ranges, South Auckland and the Toyota Kiwi Guardians Programme.

Kid Friendly Adventures Auckland

Ceana Priest

Penguin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

This book offers over 100 of the best kid-friendly adventures to enjoy in Auckland – from spooky sea caves to waterfalls, urban strolls, playgrounds, bike rides and splash pads.

A map in the front pages of the book has 79 numbered locations with activities and their numbers listed on the map of Auckland, with the numbers showing the location of each activity.  The activities are divided into sections by location – Central Auckland, North Auckland, Hauraki Gulf, East Auckland, West Coast, Waitakere Ranges, South Auckland – and by type – City Adventures, Regional Parks, and the Toyota Kiwi Guardians Programme.

Instructions are given on – how to plan for your adventure, what gear to pack, what to wear – all commonsense hints that may be obvious but very useful to be laid out.  A reminder that we call 111 in NZ is also helpful.   Each activity has a summery of what it is, along with useful information – Grade (Easy to Hard), Accessibility, Time, Facilities, Location, Dogs.  There are also little information icons for Walking, Pushchairs, Bikes, Wheelchairs, Dogs, that use colour to show the suitability of each for the activity.  There are lots of suggestions and tips given for further outdoor adventure, and heaps of interesting facts about marine animals, native trees and birds, fungi and wetlands.

ach activity is illustrated with stunning photography taken by the author as she and her son tested each activity.  This gives the boo a personal touch and seeing the sheer delight of Finn as he embraces each activity is a great recommendation as well as bringing a smile to the face!  The book is a great size to slip into a handbag or backpack and is laid out in a practical, attractive way, with information easy to find.

I hadn’t heard of the Toyota Kiwi Guardians Programme before but it is a great idea and sounds fun!   There’s a cycling app mentioned that has been developed by a local that is worth checking out.  We don’t have kids but my partner is very enthusiastic about doing some of the walks featured, so this book appeals to adults too.

A great guide for any family in Auckland.  The book is worth buying even if you don’t live in Auckland – just for the fantastic photos.

A beautiful bilingual counting board book for toddlers featuring the birds of Aotearoa, from poet Ben Brown and illustrator Helen Taylor.

Let’s go visiting with Pukeko, and count up the birds together in Maori and English!

With durable card leaves at a suitable size for little hands, and gorgeous page designs that assist developing minds with nature, number and word recognition, this New Zealand-themed board book is a perfect bedtime story and a very special gift.

Pukeko Counts To Ten

Ben Brown, illustrated by Helen Taylor

Picture Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

Each double page has one of Aotearoa’s beautiful bird species and the number of birds is given in a numerical form and is from 1 – 10.  The number also has its Maori name written underneath and a brief description of the bird in Maori with an English translation.

The text is bold and in a easy to read dark blue on a white background.  The illustrations are fantastic – realistic and a pleasure to look at.  The colours are true-to-life and used well, causing the drawings to have a calming feeling about them. My favourite is the blues, greens, and reds of the takahe.  Simply stunning.

As they are board books, the pages are sturdy, won’t crumple and rip, and can be wiped clean.  This makes them ideal to be enjoyed by babies, toddlers, and children without a lot of mobility control.

The descriptions of the birds range from ‘One snug pukeko’ to ‘Ten ghostly huia’ and are a great way to increase vocabulary, as well as improve counting skills. Plus you get to enjoy Aotearoa’s beautiful birds!  I recommend these board books as fun way to practice counting and is a perfect way to introduce anyone to te reo.

Set 300 years before the events in A Song of Ice and Fire, FIRE AND BLOOD is the definitive history of the Targaryens in Westeros as told by Archmaester Gyldayn, and chronicles the conquest that united the Seven Kingdoms under Targaryen rule through to the Dance of the Dragons: the Targaryen civil war that nearly ended their dynasty forever.

The thrilling history of the Targaryens comes to life in this masterly work by the author of A Song of Ice and Fire, the inspiration for HBO’s Game of Thrones. With all the fire and fury fans have come to expect from internationally bestselling author George R.R. Martin, this is the first volume of the definitive two-part history of the Targaryens in Westeros.

Centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones, House Targaryen – the only family of dragonlords to survive the Doom of Valyria – took up residence on Dragonstone. Fire and Blood begins their tale with the legendary Aegon the Conqueror, creator of the Iron Throne, and goes on to recount the generations of Targaryens who fought to hold that iconic seat, all the way up to the civil war that nearly tore their dynasty apart..

What really happened during the Dance of the Dragons? Why was it so deadly to visit Valyria after the Doom? What were Maegor the Cruel’s worst crimes? What was it like in Westeros when dragons ruled the skies? These are but a few of the questions answered in this essential chronicle, as related by a learned maester of the Citadel, and featuring more than eighty all-new black-and-white illustrations by artist Doug Wheatley.

Review of Fire and Blood – George R.R. Martin, illustrated by Doug Wheatley

Voyager

Supplied by Harper Collins New Zealand

Reviewed by Stephen Litten

“300 years before A Game of Thrones, dragons ruled Westeros…” Thus reads the blurb on the front cover of Fire and Blood. It is subtitled A History of the Targaryen Kings from Aegon the Conqueror to Aegon III. Which is about half the duration of the House of Targaryen kings.

From the subtitle, it can be guessed that while this volume is a story, a story that is almost as epic as the Silmarillion, like the latter it is also a history not a novel. With a timeframe of over 150 years there is just too much action for anything but the barest bones to be fleshed. Thus the narrative is vague on dialogue or appearances, shaky on motives, and ironclad on outcomes. It is also about 600 pages, replete with full or part page illustrations intermittently.

Having the story a history not a novel may not be to everyone’s taste, but it does allow the author several advantages. Primarily, plotting is easier. The cast of characters can also be pegged back to the bare essentials. And as this is a dynastic history we know who we are focussed on the Targaryens. What we also learn is the background of the alliance dynamics in Game of Thrones and why certain noble houses loathe and detest other houses. Thus Fire and Blood informs Game of Thrones. Naturally, parts of this new book have been turned into a television series.

I enjoyed this book. The illustrations added to experience. Definitely one for the home library if you are an epic fantasy fan.

Jillian Marsh is a survivor. She escaped her toxic upbringing at the hands of her religious zealot mother as a teenager, and after hitting rock bottom due to alcoholism in her twenties, she not only got sober, she built a successful marriage and medical career, even if she wasn’t able to make amends for all the mistakes she made during her drinking days. But nearly a decade later, things are once again going downhill for Jillian.

Her wife, Rochelle, has left her while Jillian is pregnant with Rochelle’s biological child, and she feels constantly unsettled in her now-empty house—items missing from their usual place, burning candles she can’t remember lighting, the screen from her bedroom window removed.

Even her mommies-to-be group isn’t the solace it once was. Bree, Camille, Maggie, and Jillian vowed to not only support one another in motherhood but in their sobriety, careers, and maintaining their independence after their babies are born . . . a sisterhood that begins to unravel when the secrets between the women come unwillingly to light.
 
As things in Jillian’s home begin to escalate, she’s forced to ask herself: Is one of her supposed friends not as trustworthy as she seems? Could Rochelle be gaslighting her in order to claim full custody of their daughter? Or, worst of all—is Jillian turning into her own mother, and imagining all of it in some sort of subconscious sabotage against her unborn child?  
 
When the missing items turn into unambiguous threats, and as the circle of those she can trust continues to dwindle, Jillian knows only one thing for sure: she will do anything to protect her baby.

Hush Little Baby

RH Herron

Dutton

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

Jillian is a successful Ob-Gyn who’s pregnant with her wife’s biological baby.  Only her wife has left her for another woman.  A recovering alcoholic, she has formed a tight-knit support group with 3 other alcoholics also expecting.  They call themselves ‘The Ripleys’ after the kick-ass heroine in the Alien movies.

Rattling around alone in her former marital home, Jillian should be nesting but she feels unnerved.  Items go missing, only to reappear, candles that she can’t remember lighting are found burning, her bedroom window screen is removed allowing her cat to escape…..  Someone has been in her house and violated her space. But who? And why?

A dedicated doctor, Jillian doesn’t have enemies.  Or does she?  Her turbulent home life is complicated and messy. The Ripley’s all have secrets and as they are exposed, the group start to look at each other with suspicion.  Who can she trust?

The book starts off with scenes from Jillian’s everyday life which seems ordinary. Then we get glimpses of why this is happening and some certain odd unexplained incidences.  As the story unfolds we get an insight into Jillian’s life, her heartbreak, her strength, and her determination. The suspense in this book is intense and with each new revelation the pieces of the puzzle become clearer – you have to keep reading to find answers.

A riveting thriller, this book is a must for anyone who likes spine-chilling reads.  As each new revelation is exposed, the question of ‘how far will a mother go to protect her baby?’ is raised.  Do not start this book if you have no self control and things to do the next day; it is a real page-turner where you have to keep reading to find out what happens next.

“This cookbook is full of some of TikTok’s biggest trends, displaying innovative cooking and fun dishes to make at home.”–Gordon and Tilly Ramsay, from the foreword

Bring the fun to your kitchen with some of the most popular recipes you know and love from the entertainment platform with more than one billion users globally!

Featuring more than sixty recipes from more than forty food creators on the platform, As Cooked on TikTok offers something different and delicious on every page. There’s The Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich from The Korean Vegan, Grilled Jalape�o Corn Off the Cob from Cooking with Shereen, Ramen Carbonara from Cooking with Lynja, Bang Bang Shrimp from Newt, and Strawberry Cream Puffs from ScheckEats–plus tips and techniques from TikTok star chefs like Ming Tsai, Alex Guarnaschelli, and The Pasta Queen, among others. Each recipe has not only been tested and vetted for home kitchens, but also includes a QR code to scan so you can go straight to that creator’s page. It’s like making a meal with the creator right in your kitchen with you!

As Cooked On TikTok

edited by Emily Stephenson

Ebury Press

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

Most cookbooks resemble collections of short stories by a single author, organised and cohesive. This is different – an anthology of recipes by multiple authors; an internet-derived version of those fund-raising collections that one used to see created by schools and communities. It has the much same strengths and flaws.

It’s an eclectic selection; there is considerable variety, but there is little consistency and it’s hard to tell how well tested the recipes are. They also vary greatly in style and in difficulty level. With some you’d really want to be a TikTok user (which I am not) because you’d need to view the associated video. Which IS something both useful and innovative – each recipe has a QR code that leads the reader to the contributor’s video of the recipe. The result is something of a curate’s egg. Good in parts, not so much in others.

There are numerous recipes involving pasta and ramen. I tried the ramen carbonara recipe almost immediately, and it worked very well, far better than when I’d tried making carbonara the usual way. Great recipe for students, I thought. But the baked feta ramen wasn’t so great. There are vegan recipes that tended to make me wonder why, and proceeded to figure out how to make with actual eggs and so on. There is something of an obsession with feta cheese – and with tortillas slit and folded around various ingredients (including fish, chips and peas). There are some distinct Americanisms – like those scone-like ‘biscuits’. There are tips and tricks, and “I was today years old”.

I suspect this book is probably very much a snapshot of what is trendy in food in 2022. There are some excellent ideas which will become part of the repertoire, and others not so good which will soon be forgotten. It’s a fun and lively book, and I think most home cooks would be entertained and will find some new recipes they can try.

Hairy Maclary is always looking for mischief! Join the raggedy rascal and his gang as they gallop about, sniffing and snooping and bothering cats – until they meet their match.

Hairy Maclary and Friends by Lynley Dodd is one of the world’s best known and best loved brands for children, and this colouring book captures all the delightful humour of the stories, with illustrations of Hairy Maclary and his gang – Hercules Morse, Bottomley Potts, Muffin McLay, Bitzer Maloney, Schnitzel von Krumm as well as tough old Scarface Claw, sneaky Slinky Malinki and pittery pattery Zachary Quack.

Hairy Maclary and Friends Off For a WalkLynley Dodd

Puffin MR

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

Hairy Maclary and his gang are introduced and we follow them while they explore the world, causing mayhem where ever they go and chasing cats – until they meet their match!  The cats from the Hairy Maclary world are also depicted getting into trouble, along with cute little Zachary Quack.

This is a colouring book jam packed with bold, detailed scenes with familiar characters to colour in and bring to life.  The illustrations have bold black lines and lots of places to colour.  The white background makes them stand out and will be easy to apply colour to.

This colouring book will engage the imaginations and hold the attention of budding artists as they explore the world of Hairy Maclary and his friends.  With 64 pages of colouring fun, this will keep a little one occupied for hours (or 30 mins as in my friend’s twins case).

How are Hairy Maclary, Scarface Claw, Zachary Quack and all their friends feeling? This delightful board book is designed to help little ones identify and express their emotions.

Lift the flaps and learn about feelings with the help of rascally Hairy Maclary and all his rollicking friends!

Happy or sad?
Mischievous or mad?

This very special first concepts board book is designed to help babies and toddlers learn the words to express how they are feeling, with Lynley Dodd’s delightful and funny animal characters leading the way.

Hairy Maclary and Friends: How Do I FeelLynley Dodd

Puffin MR

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

Each page features a familiar character from the Hairy Maclary collections and states an emotion they are feeling.  Most of the pages have flaps that cover the emotion the character is feeling or a marvellous drawing that expresses it.  You can lift flaps to discover the feeling and is a fun way to encourage young kids to recognise what they feel and convey it to others.

As they are board books with hard covers, they are sturdy with stiff pages that won’t be torn easily or be damaged by sticky hands.  The book is easy to pick up and hold, making them ideal to be enjoyed by enthusiastic toddlers or children without a lot of mobility control.  The illustrations are full of old friends and bright and colourful.

I didn’t believe Slinki Malinki’s feeling though.  I think it‘s an emotion cats are incapable of feeling. My little Slinki Malinki look-alike is anyway. An awesome addition to any child’s library and will be helpful in identifyiong and expressing feelings in a fun, safe manner.

A personal account of WWI from the diaries of a Gisborne farm boy, shaped into a gripping narrative by the diarist’s grandson 100 years later.  Follow Alick as he moves from his last night on the farm in early 1916, through enshipment and training, then off to the battle fields of France and Belgium, occupied Germany and back home.

His treasured diaries covered the tedium, the mud, the fear and sorrow, the discomfort, the periods of leave and the letters from those back home. See the war unfold through Alick’s eyes and learn about his and his companions’ attitudes to the army, to female company, to the enemy soldiers, to the hospitality provided by people under pressure, to the war itself.

And after the drama and tragedy of war, comes the return home and the efforts required to make a living while remaining steadfastly silent about the traumas of those terrible years – an unseen fight that continued and affected the generations that followed.

Into the Unknown: The secret WWI diary of Kiwi Alick Trafford no 25/469

Ian Trafford

Penguin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Stephen Litten

Alick Trafford volunteered to join the New Zealand Army, completing his basic training in Wellington in early 1916, before being shipped to France. He went through several rotations at the Front, starting as a private and finishing as a sergeant major, and being a bachelor, decided to participate in the occupation of the Rhineland when the Armistice was declared.

Alick kept a diary. Unlike most, he took it with him to the trenches, as this was against regulation. According to Ian’s recollection of events, his grandfather Alick believed the contents to be “dynamite.” While the author is credited as Ian Trafford, in reality he is more the editor of Alick’s diaries. I use the plural as a single diary was usually a small affair, suitable for daily notes, not essays on the quality of Picardy mud.

While Alick may have considered the diaries dynamite, time has softened the discourse he brings. We know about the mud, the shell shock, wounds, gas, and so forth. What is perhaps more shocking for the modern reader is the lethality of disease. Mumps and measles were both subject to quarantine, and in the latter part of the diary, he talks of the Spanish Flu, which was much worse than the recent pandemic.

Alick also had the misfortune of being wounded and spending much time in Britain recovering. He was able to visit a large number of relatives though.

I was initially put off by a claim in the foreword – the diary was illicit – but this is explained by Ian being loose with the truth. Keeping a diary in the trenches was illicit, but many men did. The Army was concerned about security (too much info on the page) and safety (distracted by writing it). That the men kept diaries is attested by the vast numbers in museum archives (and I’ve accessed quite a few doing research).

If you want to read a first-hand account of a Kiwi Digger, then you could do worse than read Into the Unknown. It gives a comprehensive guide to life of a New Zealand soldier, what he experienced both in action and inaction, on duty and leave, and attitudes to others. Alick Trafford is very much the average Kiwi. Not dynamite, but a damn good read.