A beautiful story about how a new baby needs time to hatch and grow, for all young brothers- and sisters-in-waiting.

Will the egg EVER hatch? This is a story for all children eagerly awaiting a new sibling.

‘When Baby wakes up,
will she hop and jump?’
‘Not yet, Kiwi Iti,
these things take time.’

Helen Taylor’s gentle text and exquisitely detailed illustrations show that growing a family takes patience and love, but is oh-so-worth the wait.

Kiwi Baby

Helen Taylor

Picture Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

After discovering an eg and learning it holds his sister, Kiwi Iti impatiently waits for it to hatch.  He bombards his dad with questions about when she can do things.  He waits and waits and waits…….. until finally she’s born.

This was a very sweet story that will help older siblings eager to play with the news baby.  The illustrations are very descriptive and are very descriptive drawings.  The colours are strong but restful, with the text bold and easy to read.

I recommend this for any child waiting for a sibling.

A woman’s cryptic dying words in a Venetian hospice lead Guido Brunetti to uncover a threat to the entire region in Donna Leon’s haunting twenty-ninth Brunetti novel.

When Dottoressa Donato calls the Questura to report that a dying patient at the hospice Fatebenefratelli wants to speak to the police, Commissario Guido Brunetti and his colleague, Claudia Griffoni, waste no time in responding.

‘They killed him. It was bad money. I told him no’, Benedetta Toso gasps the words about her recently-deceased husband, Vittorio Fadalto. Even though he is not sure she can hear him Brunetti softly promises he and Griffoni will look into what initially appears to be a private family tragedy. They discover that Fadalto worked in the field collecting samples of contamination for a company that measures the cleanliness of Venice’s water supply and that he had died in a mysterious motorcycle accident. Distracted briefly by Vice Questore Patta’s obsession with youth crime in Venice, Brunetti is bolstered once more by the remarkable research skills of Patta’s secretary, Signora Elettra Zorzi. Piecing together the tangled threads, in time Brunetti comes to realize the perilous meaning in the woman’s accusation and the threat it reveals to the health of the entire region. But justice in this case proves to be ambiguous, as Brunetti is reminded it can be when, seeking solace, he reads Aeschylus’s classic play The Eumenides.

Trace Elements

Donna Leon

William Heinamannn

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

Brunetti is back!

Commissario Guido Brunetti and Claudia Griffoni are called to a hospice to hear the last words of a woman dying of cancer.  The story intrigues him enough to start digging for more information.

Vittorio Fadalto was the victim of a hit-and-run on his motorbike and drowned in a ditch.  But was he deliberately struck and killed?  He was a by-the-book scientist who worked at the company overseeing Venice’s water supply and testing it was safe for human consumption.  Why would anyone want to kill him?

The story flows well and has wonderfully descriptive wording, such as this description of the tech-genus secretary, Signora Elettra Zorzi.  “She looked at him in surprise, but then her expression changed to that of a leopard seal just noticing a baby penguin paddling in the water above it.”

The ending was a bit disappointing to me – as I enjoy seeing bad guys get their just desserts.  It does point out the difference between differences between guilt and responsibility though.

If you dream of travel in this Covid-19 world, the story is set in Venice in the middle of a heatwave and the richly expressive language puts you there, dripping with sweat alongside the locals, then this is the book for you.  If you just want a good story though, this is also the book for you.

An icon in the world of television news, Blaise McCarthy seems to have it all: beauty, intelligence and courage. But privately there is a story she has protected for years . . .

Blaise’s daughter Salima, blinded by juvenile diabetes, lives at a year-round boarding school. But when the school suddenly closes, she returns home to Blaise’s New York apartment with her new carer, Simon. As new challenges change the way they see one another, the bond between mother and daughter deepens as never before.

Then Blaise’s personal and professional worlds collide, and the well-guarded secrets of her home life are exposed. Suddenly her life is no longer perfect, but real. Can mother and daughter together learn how to face a world they can’t control?

A Perfect Life

Danielle Steel


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

Blaise is a top notch journalist at the top of her career.  She’s an elegant, quiet woman who everyone loves who has a perfect life.  Then her daughter, Salima, comes home when her school is unexpectedly closed.  A teacher, Simon, comes with her to be employed as a babysitter, though he is determined that she learns to do things by herself.

Simon is drop dead gorgeous, smart, a good guy, cordon bleu cook, and 20 years younger than Blaise.  They slowly become friends… then sparks happen!  They’re happy for a while, then Blaise gets cold feet about the age difference and Simon has to leave while he sorts his feelings for a past lover out.  Will he return?

This is a Danielle Steel novel, so while true love has a rocky path, it wins in the end.  I’m bemused by the author’s view on disability though, which seems to suggest anyone with one is content not to function as independent.  A previous book had a wheelchair-bound woman who had to be carried everywhere.

 In this one being blind means you need to be lead everywhere and helped to bathe, dress, eat food.  The blind daughter is 19 and she lets someone brush her teeth?!  Two days after meeting the hero she’s doing everything for herself perfectly?  Yeah right.  And a school for the blind would let this babying happen by a staff member?

Ignore that and it is a fun read while curled up in front of the fireplace this winter.  A good book to escape with.

FALASTIN is a love letter to Palestine. An evocative collection of over 110 unforgettable recipes and stories from the co-authors of Jerusalem and Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, and Ottolenghi SIMPLE.

Travelling through Bethlehem, East Jerusalem, Nablus, Haifa, Akka, Nazareth, Galilee and the West Bank, Sami and Tara invite you to experience and enjoy unparalleled access to Sami’s homeland. As each region has its own distinct identity and tale to tell, there are endless new flavour combinations to discover.

The food is the perfect mix of traditional and contemporary, with recipes that have been handed down through the generations and reworked for a modern home kitchen, alongside dishes that have been inspired by Sami and Tara’s collaborations with producers and farmers throughout Palestine.

With stunning food and travel photography plus stories from unheard Palestinian voices, this innovative cookbook will transport you to this rich land.

So get ready to laden your table with the most delicious of foods – from abundant salads, soups and wholesome grains to fluffy breads, easy one-pot dishes and perfumed sweet treats – here are simple feasts to be shared and everyday meals to be enjoyed. These are stunning Palestinian-inspired dishes that you will want to cook, eat, fall in love with and make your own.

Falastin, A Cookbook

Sami Tamimi & Tara Wigley

Ebury Press

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Stephen Litten

Sami Tamimi is a Palestinian cook living in London. Tara Wigley is a food writer, also London based. Both work for noted Israeli Chef Yotam Ottolenghi. Together all three contribute to this cookbook; Sami writes the recipes, Tara writes the story that accompanies the dishes, and Yotam provides the introduction. Sami details over 110 recipes, mercifully light on couscous. And Falastin is the Arabic version of Palastine – there is no “p” sound in Arabic

Falastin may have only 110 recipes, but is 350 pages, so either the recipes are incredibly complicated or we’re getting story to accompany food. And the latter is the case. The recipes are divided into the various mealtimes as well as the trad veggie, fish, and meats. Tara pulls here weight by introducing local characters, colour, histories. There are also colour illustrations for each recipe. And a glossary! Thank god, a glossary, as many of the recipes reference ingredients with Arabic names. The glossary offers useful suggestions if you can’t access the exact item. But the book was published in London, so not quite so many ingredients need substituting there as opposed here.

 My impression of the cookbook is YUM. Unfortunately, it arrived about a week before the Lockdown. Since then sourcing specialty ingredients has been on the back burner. But the recipes read as delicious. And I can avoid couscous if I want to (it’s not my favourite source of carbohydrate). There are also recipes for some of those artisanal veggies, like purple carrots. So if Levantine food interests you, get a copy.

Thanks to Penguin RandonHouse for the review copy.

Beep-beep! Chug-chug! Zooooom! Here is an introduction to machines that move in English and Maori that our littlest learners will love.

This beautiful, brightly illustrated board book introduces babies to the vehicles of Aotearoa in English and in Maori.

Let’s go find and name some vehicles in English and Maori.

From building sites to airports, on the roads and out to sea, Aotearoa has so many vehicles to spot! This simple and eye-catching board book teaches Kiwi babies the names of things that zoom along in English and Maori, and will catch the attention of our machine-mad littlest learners.

Vehicles for Kiwi Babies

Fraser Williamson & Matthew Williamson

Picture Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

A cute board book that names some commonly seen vehicles around New Zealand and gives both the English and Maori name for each.  Each double page has the words displayed on the left hand page in large text that is easy to read with a solidly coloured background that is different for every vehicle, while the right side has a lifelike illustration of the vehicle featured.

The illustrations are very realistic looking and attractive, with bright colours and boldly depicted features.

In the back of the book there is a chart that helps you to correctly pronounce the Maori names of the vehicles depicted.

This is an adorable book that will be a handy way for little ones to learn te reo and identify some of the commonly seen vehicles in New Zealand.

He’s Hawk. She’s Fisher. They’re cops, patrolling the mean streets of the ancient city misnamed Haven, a sinister place where demons, thieves, sorcerers, and murderers own the night and anything can be bought-except justice.

Guards of Haven

(omnibus edition; contains Wolf in the Fold, Guard Against Dishonour, and The Bones of Haven)

Simon R. Green


Purchased from Auckland City Libraries Withdrawn

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

During Covid-19 lockdown, some light entertainment was very much in order, and this fitted the bill perfectly. Maybe it’s because he’s just a year or two older than me, and from Bradford-on-Avon, a short distance from my home village in England, but I do find Simon Green’s prose to be eminently readable and his stories to be a whole lot of fun. He writes across the genre, from space opera to low and urban fantasy. I’m calling the Haven stories low fantasy because they’re gritty and grounded, in spite of a fair amount of quite high magic. Hawk and Fisher are captains in the guard of the city of Haven. They’re essentially cops, and their stories are the fantasy novel equivalent of the buddy-cop show. Only they’re married – which does break the trope that the male and female leads should be in a constant state of romantic tension.

This omnibus collects the fourth to sixth novels in the series, each being largely a standalone story. Of the three, the third is probably the most memorable, with a seriously knock-out climax. But all three are good reads, and highly entertaining stories. They’re never going to win any awards, but they will do what good fantasy does best, take the reader away from mundane reality – albeit to a world with its own problems. And if that’s what you need, enjoy. No spoilers.

This beautiful, brightly illustrated board book introduces babies to the sea creatures of Aotearoa in English and in Maori.

Let’s go exploring under the sea in English and Maori.

From the beaches and rocky coastline to under the waves around Aotearoa New Zealand, vibrant pictures introduce Kiwi babies to the beautiful variety of creatures that populate our ocean. Simple and eye-catching, with essential words in English and Maori, this board book is sure to captivate our littlest learners.

Ocean for Kiwi Babies

Fraser Williamson & Matthew Williamson

Picture Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

This is a board book that shows some of the creatures in the ocean and gives both the English and Maori name for each.  The words are displayed on the left hand page in large text that is easy to read and on a solidly coloured background that is different for every creature.

The right side has a lifelike illustration of the creature featured.  The illustrations are very realistic looking and attractive, with bright colours and boldly depicted features.

In the back of the book there is a chart that tells you how to pronounce the Maori names of the sea life depicted.

This is a cute book that will be a handy way for little ones to explore the ocean / moana and be introduced to some of the creatures living in its depths.

The Living World

Rachel Rohloff

New Shoots Publishing

Supplied by Fantail Communications

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement, the greatest source of visual beauty, the greatest source of intellectual interest.  It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.” David Attenborough

This is a fantastic resource book for teachers and parents eager to teach children about science and nature with hands-on learning and play.

“Knowledge gained through experience is far superior and many times more useful than bookish knowledge.”  Mahatma Ghandi
The introduction explains how this resource develops science skills and how it uses hands-on fun and play to make sense of the Living World.  All activities in this book involve at least one of the 22 pattern/urges of play and details what they are.  Children learn from experience and the eleven scientific skills they will gain are listed – Observation, Communication, Classification, Measurement, Inference, Predictions, Making Hypotheses, Recording, Experimenting, Analysing, Evaluating – and defined.

The book is divided into four chapters;

  • What is the Living World
  • Plants
  • Animals
  • People

There is a list of activities at the beginning of each, along with equipment and supplies needed, learning outcomes, a list of scientific vocabulary and skills gained from the experiments, ideas for further activities, and teaching tips.

The photos are stunning and the book is well laid out, with information and instructions easy to find and understand. You can also download worksheets for the activities in the book from www.newshootspublishing.co.nz.

The book itself is printed on environmentally responsible paper and it’s awesome that a book about nature is sustainable.  I love all the quotes scattered throughout the text.  “To reconnect with nature is key if we want to save the planet” Jane Goodall.

This book needs to be in every educator or homeschooling parent’s resource kit.

Some nightmares are real.

‘If you’ve only just arrived . . . then why do you want to leave?’

Elissa arrived in Memory Wood on the most important day of her life. The eleven-year-old chess prodigy was competing at the English Youth Grand Prix when she was snatched, and woke up in a makeshift cell underground.

Elijah has lived beside Memory Wood for as long as he can remember. He’s only ten but he’s spent his life so far exploring every inch of it, and that’s how he finds Elissa.

When he appears in her cell, Elissa assumes Elijah will save her; that he’ll run and call for help. But Elijah doesn’t want her to leave.

And not only that, but Elijah knows how this can end. After all, Elissa isn’t the first girl he’s found beneath Memory Wood.

As time runs out for Elissa and her abductor’s behaviour becomes more erratic, she knows she must act. Elissa draws on all her resilience, her powers of logic and her strength to try to outwit Elijah, even as he tries to make her the friend he’s never had. He is her only hope of survival and their deadly game of cat and mouse, of deception and betrayal will determine whether either of them will leave alive . . .

The Memory Wood

Sam Lloyd

Bantam Press

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

Elijah is ten and has lived beside the Memory Wood his whole life, exploring it and learning its secrets.  Sometimes he even make friends with the girls he finds there…….

Elissa loves chess and is competing in English Youth Grand Prix when she goes out to the car park to retrieve an item from her mum’s car.  She is grabbed and thrown into a van, where she passes out.  Upon waking she finds herself blindfolded and chained to a wall in a dank room.  Elissa quickly uses her chess skills to map out the room and assess her situation before encountering her captor, who explains her new reality.  Then she meets Elijah who wants to be her friend…….

Detective Superintendent Mairead MacCullagh is the officer in charge of the police investigation into Elissa’s disappearance, and she’s also dealing with personal problems.

The story is told from the POVs of these these characters, each chapter winding tightly together to tell the tale.  More of the story is revealed slowly in the first half, with subtle little nuggets of information to pick up on that keep leading to surprising discoveries.  The second half is a race against time, culminating in a shocking ending that was a total surprise I didn’t see coming.

Wow!  I’ve just found another must-read author to add to my list.  A dark and creepy psychological thriller, this is an incredible debut novel from a new author, very well plotted and scary.

Read it.  I dare you.

The story of the astonishing voyage of Captain James Cook and the Endeavour, to mark the 250th anniversary of that voyage, and Cook’s claim to sovereignty.

In 1768 Captain James Cook and his crew set sail on a small British naval vessel, the boldly named Endeavour, bound for the Pacific Ocean. He was ordered to establish an observatory at Tahiti in order to record the 1769 transit of Venus, and – with the skills of naturalist Joseph Banks and his team – to collect natural history in this far part of the world. But Cook’s brief also included a secret mission from the British Admiralty: to discover Terra Australis Incognita, an unknown southern land that might prove to be larger and richer than Australia.

Cook was not alone in this quest, and the Endeavour shared the Coral Sea and coastal New Zealand with an armed French merchant ship commanded by Jean de Surville. Eventually in 1770 Cook’s ship crossed the Tasman Sea and reached the southern coast of New South Wales. Sailing north, he charted Australia’s eastern coastline and claimed it for Great Britain. It was the most significant of Cook’s voyages, transforming the world map and the way Europeans viewed the South Pacific Ocean and its lands and peoples.

Captain Cook’s Epic Voyage: The strange quest for a missing continent

Geoffrey Blainey


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Stephen Litten

This is a revised edition of Sea of Dangers, (2009) which dealt with Cook and several French navigators and their peregrinations in the South Pacific. Cook’s initial task was to observe the transit of Venus, before opening his sealed orders. Which commanded him to search for and chart the theoretical as yet unfound continent considered to be in the South Pacific. Obviously, that had to be kept secret from Britain’s rivals. Circulating through the South Pacific at the same time was Jean de Surville, charged with leading a trading expedition to develop contacts with this continent.

James Cook is generally regarded as a hero for his navigation of New Zealand and the east coast of Australia. He also came close to sinking HMS Endeavour several times. Blainey investigates these incidents, the worst of which probably necessitated the repairs conducted in Batavia; a stopover that killed more of the crew than anything else. Blainey also contrasts the strategies assigned to Cook and de Surville and the affects this had on the health of their crew.

While I found this book to be interesting, I also found sevearal sections to be quite sketchy. The introduction of de Surville seemed to be over-edited and not focussed. Blainey, as an Australian, focusses on the Australian leg of the voyage whereas a New Zealand author would have spent the bulk on New Zealand. What the book lacked were enough comparative maps: Blainey makes much of Cook and de Surville almost meeting or discovering alternative locations yet provides no charts depicting where they were in a suitable scale. I would also have liked any chart showing the putative Terra Australis Incognita.

This isn’t a bad book but it’s not a great book. If you are unfamiliar with the subject, it’s certainly a particularly good start and worth the read. I thank Viking/Penguin Random House for the review copy.