Lyn Potter reviews ‘Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls’ and more

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bedtime-stories-for-rebel-girlsGoodnight Stories for Rebel Girls is a wonderful book of stories about 100 girls from all over the world.

Many start with ‘Once Upon a Time’ so they read like modern fairy tales which children can enjoy at bedtime. But they are based on the lives of real girls who were determined to succeed and often had to overcome huge hurdles before there was a fairy tale ending.

Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, two successful entrepreneurs in their thirties, know from their own experience how hard it still is for women to succeed in today’s world. They wrote Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls so girls could be surrounded by female role models, become more confident and set bigger goals.

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls started its journey on Kickstarter (the global crowdfunding platform focussed on creativity).The authors were hoping to raise $40.000 dollars to print the first 1000 copies.  The result was beyond their wildest dreams. It hit $1 million dollars in pre-orders before the publication date. A great many people obviously saw a need for such a book.

Some of the women whose life stories are told in Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls lived centuries ago such as Cleopatra and Catherine the Great. Most lived in more recent times and include Evita Peron, Coco Chanel, Amelia Earhart, Rosa Parks and Maya Angelou. And some are still alive now such as Malala Yousafzai (the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize) and Hillary Clinton.

The lives of many women who courageously stood up for human rights, often at great personal risk to themselves, are celebrated. Our own Kate Shepherd is included. Thanks to her courage and tenacity New Zealand became the first country in the world where women gained the right to vote.

The careers the women in this book chose were many and varied. Amongst them were surgeons, trombonists, sportswomen, scientists, rock stars, activists and even a pirate! Some may well be ones that our granddaughters have not yet heard of such as astrophysicist, primatologist and palaeontologist.

There is for instance the story of Margaret Hamilton who played a crucial role in the Apollo Space Mission. She was the engineer who programmed the code that allowed the Apollo 2 spacecraft to land safely on the moon.

Reading about such women could well open their eyes to possible career opportunities especially in the Sciences, Maths and Technology where girls are still under represented.

This book is suitable for girls eight years and up. It’s one I will love sharing with my granddaughters. The stories of how each of these 100 girls aimed for the stars and made their dreams come true are truly inspirational.

Title: Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls. Authors: Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo. Imprint: Particular Books. RRP $40.00

The Detective Dog

the-detective-dog-lrDetective Dog Nell has solved many a crime thanks to her amazingly keen sense of smell. She sniffed out who threw the hazelnuts down from the trees, who took the honey away from the bees and who did the poo on the new gravel path.

Detective Dog Nell shares a home with a very untidy six year old boy called Peter. She is kept busy retrieving his socks in the sofa, his shoe from the shed and the toys he keeps losing like his tumble down teddy and bounce-away ball which had finished up in the loo.

Apart from being a detective dog from Tuesday till Sunday Nell has another job each Monday when she heads off to school with Peter to be a reading dog. The children in his class love reading stories to Nell and she loves listening to them. And while there she also enjoys smelling the crusts in the bins, the coats on the hooks, and best of all the smell of the books.

Then tragedy strikes. She arrives one day to find that a book thief has stolen all the books. The teacher is looking terribly worried and the children are very upset.

Luckily the thief had inadvertently dropped his cap so Nell knows his scent and is soon hot on the trail to hunt him down. After a wild chase around the area followed by all the children the culprit is found!

He is not as evil as they expected. All the books are returned unharmed and they find a way to help him indulge in his love for books in a better way.

The story of The Detective Dog was written by Julia Donaldson who is famous for The Gruffalo and many other picture books. The brightly coloured cartoony pictures, full of background details which small children will love to look at were done by Sara Ogilvie, a talented young artist.

The clever rhymes and rhythm make this funny story about a clever and loveable dog a great one for parents and grandparents to read out loud. I am sure pre-schoolers will love having it read to them again and again.

Title: The Detective Dog. Author: Julia Donaldson. Publisher: McMillan. RRP: $18.99 Paperback

Ruru’s Hangi

rurus-hangiRuru is a nocturnal bird so it is seldom seen by humans but its melancholy “morepork” cry can sometimes be heard floating through the trees after darkness falls.

Ruru has woken to find that the eggs she has kept safe and warm in her nest for thirty days have cracked and her babies have finally hatched.

She calls out joyfully to let the other birds hear the good news. Little kiwi is the first to hear it and quickly runs off to tell Tui, Weka and Katipo.

Kiwi persuades them to make a hangi to celebrate the occasion which they all think is ka pai, perfect! But they want to surprise ruru so it must be kept it a secret until it is all done.

They get busy straightaway. Little Kiwi digs a big hole, Tui piles on sticks and Weka pushes stones on top. Katipo lights the fire.

Now they must hunt for the food. Little kiwi sniffs out fat grubs from the ground, Weka digs out tender roots, Tui picks juicy piko piko and Katipo spider weaves a leaf basket with her silken threads.

When the fire has burned down to the ashes they push the hot stones into the hole, put the food on them and pour water on top. The steam rises and hisses. Last of all they cover the hole with dirt to keep the steam in. Now they can all have a long moe (rest) while the food cooks. They curl up and are soon snoring.

When after many hours the hangi is finally done they call Ruru to show them their surprise and to have a great party together.

Nikki Slade Robinson has a talent for making night time in the bush feel like a magical place. And the stylised pictures of the birds are very appealing.

This story is a great way to teach young children some of our Maori language and culture in a playful way. At the back of the book there is also a more detailed explanation of what a hangi is, how it is prepared and how yummy it is to eat.

Title: Ruru’s Hangi. Author: Nikki Slade Robinson. Publisher: Duck Creek Press. RRP: $19.99

 Reviews by Lyn Potter. Read more by Lyn here.