Inspirational stories for young and old – Lyn Potter reviews

Granny McFlitter the Champion Knitter

Granny McFlitter could not stop knitting. It was driving her family crazy! They didn’t want any more knitted knickers, or scratchy stockings or lumpy wool slippers. But would she listen to them, not her! Was she losing the plot they wondered?

One night as she sat in front of her knitted TV she heard how there had been a massive oil spill after a ship had run aground. Hordes of little blue penguins were arriving ashore covered in black sticky oil. She heard a vet say on screen ’We’re washing the penguins. But they go all shivery after they are clean.”So Granny McFlitter sprang into action. She knitted loads of penguin pyjamas with armholes for flippers in a whole lot of different patterns and colours.

She rushed off to the beach to help in the rescue effort. In her hand knitted net she captured penguins. Then she cleaned them and dressed them up in pyjamas. The vets were very grateful!

Granny McFlitter was now on a roll and went on to help the vets at the zoo by knitting for creatures with sniffles and flu: long scarves for giraffes, hats for wombats and warm pants for monkeys.

But could any of this story really have happened? I checked it out on the net. When the container ship Rena ran aground off the coast of Tauranga on the 5th October, 2011 spilling about 350 tonnes of fuel many penguins were covered in oil and did need help.

So a lady in a knitting shop in the South Island posted an appeal on her blog for sweaters for penguins (she included a pattern). It went viral and hundreds of penguin sweaters poured in from all over the world from people who wanted to be part of the penguin rescue effort. Far too many!


But the Wildlife experts said penguins weren’t used to being dressed up in human clothing and it would have stressed them out. The cleaning process did strip the birds of their natural oil and leave then cold and shivery but they were quickly put into a warmed tent under heat lamps.

So Granny McFlitter’s sweaters (and those made by the many other volunteers) were probably never put to use to keep those penguins warm. But knitting them made them feel happy and like environmental champions!

This heart-warming story with its delightful comicky illustrations by Lael Chisholm (winner of the Storylines Gavin Bishop award) is sure to delight young children.

My grandmother taught the girls in our family how to knit. It is one of the few skills my oldest sister who has dementia has not lost. She is part of a knitting group which knits warm blankets for needy families. I taught my oldest granddaughter to knit. She now knits Beanies for Babies which are sent to hospitals and midwives to give to new mothers.

If you teach your grandchildren how knit you just never know how they might put those knitting skills to good use in the future!

Title: Granny McFlitter the Champion Knitter Author: Heather Haylock Illustrated by Lael Chisholm. Imprint: Picture Puffin RRP: $19.99


Wildboy: The Boy Who walked around New Zealand

This is the true story of how Brando Yelavich, also known as Wildboy, became the first person in the world to walk all around the coastline of New Zealand, an epic journey of 8000 k which took 600 days.

You may have read about his epic adventure in his previous books for older children but this is his first picture book.

Wildboy was a city boy who had started to go off the rails. He made the decision to turn his life around by setting himself this massive challenge. With no previous experience of our great outdoors it was a huge learning curve.

He had to forage for food that was safe to eat and to hunt for eels, fish, possums and sometimes even insects. There were some very scary encounters with a bull in a paddock and a huge shark in the sea. And he got so tired, so hungry and so lonely that he wanted to give up but he kept on walking one step at a time.

He left in summer but by the time he reached the South Island it was winter. It froze all of his gear, even his socks.

Donna Yelavich (Wildboy’s Mother) has created the captivating illustrations of the changing landscapes Wildboy walked through: rolling hills, golden beaches, paddocks, bush and snowy topped mountains. Pre-schoolers will love spotting the different creatures on each page.

By the end of the journey Wildboy was fitter and better at hunting for his food, had seen beautiful sunsets and amazing stars. He began to feel really at home in the wild which made him happy and keen to motivate others.

‘Now I go on lots of adventures into the wild and so can you! He says at the end of the story.

A great motivational storybook to make both young and old excited about exploring our great outdoors and to dream big!

Title: Wildboy. The boy who walked around New Zealand. Author: Brando Yelavich. Illustrated by Donna Yelavich. Imprint: Puffin RRP: $19.99


Explore! Aotearoa

Explore! Aotearoa is filled with exciting stories about our pioneering explorers. They set themselves monumental challenges often wearing clothing which failed to protect them adequately from the weather, and with rudimentary and sometimes home-made equipment

Bronwen Wall has brought these stories about sailors, trampers, mountaineers, divers and cavers to life in a very exciting way for both older children and adults. And the dramatic illustrations by Kimberly Andrews as well as the maps, old photographs and time lines add considerable interest. It has won a Storylines Notable Book Award.

Here’s a taste of some of the characters you will meet. Kupe and his crew were the first. Determined to catch a monstrous giant octopus who had stolen their catch they built sturdy Ocean going canoes and set off on a lengthy chase which fortuitously finished with the discovery of Aotearoa.

Thomas was a surveyor with the New Zealand Company on the West Coast. Local Maori had told him of an immense plain in the interior where there were birds larger than geese. This whetted his appetite for undertaking some extensive and at times harrowing journeys. On the third one in 1846, guided by two local Maori and their wives and carrying heavy loads, they struck bad weather, exhausted their supplies and had nothing but fern root to chew on. Their only chance of survival was if they ate the dog. Thomas was loathe to sacrifice his faithful companion but finally agreed. After 436 challenging days of exploring he had to admit defeat and turn back which took another two months.

Freda du Faur was an Australian woman who was determined to climb Aoreke Mt Cook. She had intended to go with one experienced guide but at that time it was unheard of for a woman to climb alone with a man. Reluctantly she hired another man to carry some of her equipment .The climb was hazardous:

“One moment she stood on solid ground, the next, the rock was shifting under her, tumbling hundreds of metres down the mountain side. “Freda!” Peter yelled. She felt the rope pull tight around her waist and leapt for the cliff. Her face brushed frozen rock as her hand grabbed for holds.”

But she completed her mission and went on to conquer the Grand Traverse of Aoreke Mt Cook which was at that time considered to be the biggest mountaineering feat accomplished in New Zealand.

This inspirational quote at the end of Exploring Aotearoa lingered in my mind long after I read the book.

‘Every time you go somewhere you’ve never been before; every time you try something you’ve never tried before; every time you return to a favourite place at a different time of year, in a different season, in different weather, with different people, you are an explorer. Anyone can do it. Get out there and give it a go!’

Explore! Aotearoa is by Bronwen Wall with Illustrations by Kimberly Andrews. Published by The Kennett Brothers RRP: $30


Reviews by Lyn Potter

Parent and grandparent, Avid traveller, writer & passionate home cook

Read more by Lyn here.