Review: The Big Tidy Up by Norah Smaridge

Smaridge, N. (1970). The big tidy up. New York, NY: Golden Press Book.


I loved this book as a child, especially if one of my parents was reading it to me.  It’s physical condition today shows that it was obviously in the “high rotate” pile; despite being mended several times, the pages are no longer attached to the cover.

From memory, the main reason I loved this book was that Jennifer, the protagonist, was not your stereotypical, neat little girl (probably why George was my favourite character in the Famous Five too!).  Jennifer lived in squalor and was quite happy to do that even after she had been told off by her mother – who doesn’t love a rebel?  I also loved the illustrations, despite never having been a fan of the colour pink; I liked the bright colours, the chaos of Jennifer’s bedroom, and finding where the cat was hidden amongst her mess.  There is also a humour in the illustrations that matches that of the text.  The story is told with rhythm and rhyme, which is why it makes such a great read-aloud.  And I can still remember the first page verbatim (as can both parents!), even though I have read this book only five or six times in the last 30 years.  I also remember being extremely disappointed when Jennifer gave up her life of scruffiness and turned into the neat little girl her mother wanted her to – the first half of the book was always my favourite!  And who could resist those endpapers?!


I think the humour, rhythm and rhyme of the book still work today.  I do wonder about the illustrations though.  They are sort of an odd mix of stylised people, and accurate and detailed objects.  I think if the style was more consistent, with all objects being more stylised, the illustrations would probably work better for a modern audience.  I’m also quite torn about the themes of the book.  Yes, it’s important for children to know that they have the security of being loved and accepted in their homes, and that there comes some responsibility with being a member of a family.  But the way that Jennifer is turned from a messy, active, jean-wearing girl into a tidy, dress-wearing girl who waits patiently on the end of her bed just doesn’t sit well with the adult me.  And I don’t even know if changing the genders of either the parent and / or the child in this story would fix that feeling.

I got my copy of The Big Tidy Up from my bookshelf.

It’s not available from the library – way to make me feel old!


Review: So Many Wonderfuls by Tina Matthews

Matthews, T. (2014). So many wonderfuls. Newtown, Australia: Walker Books.


There is no denying that So Many Wonderfuls is a beautiful book.  The story centres on a small town, nestled between hills and the ocean, and the people and places that inhabit it.  However, it is the aesthetics of the book, rather than the story, that really make it stand out.

The layout of the book is consistent throughout, with four lines of text on one page and a full page illustration on the facing page.  The illustrations consist of a muted colour palette and alternate between a ‘wide shot’ of the town and a ‘close up’ of a specific place.  The sepia tones of the ‘wide shots’ brings to mind an old-fashioned nostalgia and evoke a feeling of fondness for the unnamed town; while the landmark that will be given the ‘close up’ treatment is highlighted with colour.

The ‘close up’ illustrations are tinted with muted pastels, which also contribute to the nostalgic feel of the book.  There is great detail in each picture, which could draw out a lot of discussion with children; while the recurring characters of an elderly lady and a pig are able to be found on each page.

So Many wonderfuls

The text, however, does not appear to work as well.  The rhyme scheme that is used is a little unusual, and probably doesn’t suit the text layout; the AB rhyme on one page rhymes with the AB on the next, making the text feel disjointed.  There also doesn’t appear to be a consistent rhythm throughout the lines of text.  The pages that work the best have a more natural rhythm and make good use of alliteration.

The are so many wonderfuls about this books – I just wish there had been more.

I got my copy of So Many Wonderfuls from Napier Libraries.

Website: Kids Books NZ


Kids Books NZ. (n.d.). Home. Retrieved November 14, 2014, from

Category: fiction reading and reviews for primary school children; fiction reading and reviews for teenagers

Overview: Kids Books NZ is a blog where New Zealand children’s books are reviewed by two New Zealand authors, Maria Gill and Lorraine Orman.  The reviews are categorised into loose age bands and types, and are also labelled with genre tags.  Maria is a tireless advocate for New Zealand children’s authors.  The blog also contains useful links to New Zealand booksellers and reviewers.

Website: Storylines

Basic CMYK

Storylines. (n.d.). Home. Retrieved November 14, 2014, from

Category: organisations involved in the promotion of reading and literature

Overview: Storylines are a great promoter of New Zealand children’s literature.  While I couldn’t find any links to reviews on their website, they offer a free subscription to their quarterly newsletter and for a modest fee you can access their themed book lists.  The website also provides information on their past prize winners and gives access to profiles on New Zealand authors.

Website: Christchurch City Libraries

Christchurch City Libraries

Christchurch City Libraries. (n.d.). Home. Retrieved November 14, 2014, from

Category: interesting and useful

Overview: I have followed the amazing Christchurch Kids Blog for a while now, but have recently discovered that they are moving to a new platform in December.  That new platform is the all new Christchurch City Libraries website hosted on BiblioCommons.  The new site is currently available for preview.  It looks amazing and there is a whole lot of information on it to explore.  I look forward to going back and spending some time looking at how this public library has its online presence nailed.

Review: Grandpa Green by Lane Smith

Smith, L. (2011). Grandpa Green. New York, NY: Roaring Book Press.

Grandpa Green

I picked up Grandpa Green from Napier Libraries when I saw it was by Lane Smith.  I have previously read, and loved, Smith’s It’s a Book (and its awesome book trailer), so selected this newer book with great anticipation.  It did not disappoint.

Grandpa Green is told from the perspective of an unnamed child describing his great-grandfather’s life.  While the text seems simple on the surface, it combines perfectly with the illustrations to add depth to the story.

The illustrations have a limited colour palette, with various shades of green predominating.  However, rather than create dull pictures, this serves to highlight the amazing topiary creations that the grandfather has made.  The garden sculptures illustrate events in Grandpa’s life, with occasional splashes of red adding drama to the pictures.

Grandpa Green

Being an adult, I didn’t pay much attention to the front cover which meant I missed a clue to the story.  I thought the boy in the book was Grandpa when he was young, rather than the narrator, and it wasn’t until I was halfway through that I realised my mistake.  I then went back and looked for all the hidden clues in the illustrations that I had missed – I imagine children would love finding these hidden objects which foreshadow what is to come.

Grandpa Green is a book about memory, growing old, and what people do to remember.  While it is a serious topic, Lane works with a light touch and a splash of humour.  This book would work well with primary school children.

Website: ACHUKA


ACHUKA. (n.d.). Home. Retrieved November 14, 2014, from

Category: ???

Overview: As you can see I’m not really sure where this website fits in the scheme of things.  It’s very aesthetically pleasing but I didn’t find it a very useful website at all.  It was difficult to navigate around, and links didn’t always lead to what was promised.  I don’t think I’ll be visiting here again.

Website: Around the Bookshops

Around the Bookshops

Around the Bookshops. (n.d.). Home. Retrieved November 14, 2014, from

Category: fiction reading and reviews for primary children; fiction reading and reviews for teenagers

Overview: For 19 years Barbara Murison produced a quarterly book review journal, Around the Bookshops, for schools and public libraries.  She ceased publishing this at the end of 2012 and now produces book reviews for her blog of the same name.  The blog has a search function enabled, and Barbara also handily tags her reviews with suitable age ranges, so books may be accessed in this way.  Reviews are also tagged with themes and genres.

Website: School Library Journal

School Library Journal

School Library Journal. (2014). Home. Retrieved November 14, 2014, from

Category: interesting and useful

Overview: The School Library Journal is a professional journal for school and CYA librarians.  The print subscription cost is quite expensive for overseas subscribers, however, we are lucky to have access for free through the Open Polytechnic or Ministry of Education databases.  The online version of the journal is not displayed like a magazine but there is access to a ton of information, including the blog of school library maestro Joyce Valenza and a few well known review blogs.  There is a lot to explore on this website.

Website: Books for Keeps

Books for Keeps

Books for Keeps. (n.d.). Home. Retrieved November 14, 2014 from

Category: fiction reading and reviews for primary children; fiction reading and reviews for teenagers

Overview: Books for Keeps is an independent magazine about children’s books.  The website allows access to issues online, as well as providing downloads of PDF versions.  There is a subscription service to their electronic newsletter and all book reviews are archived and searchable by title, age range and date.