“Perfect Picture Book” Friday

The Lonely Little Tree

Written by : Moya Kirby

Illustrated by: Terri Rose Baynton

Published by:  Scholastic New Zealand, October 2018

Ages:   2 – 6 years

Theme: Christmas, Forestry, Loneliness, Helping one another

Opening Lines: Where once grew a forest near the seas, one tree was left – one tiny tree. Her forest friends had been cut away, and she was left, alone, to stay.

Synopsis: A tiny tree sands all alone on the edge of a felled forest. Whispering winds swirl, and native birds gather around, bringing gifts of blossoms and berries to adorn the lonely little tree. What a magical sight, on this Christmas night.

Why I like this: This is a beautiful whimsy rhyming story about a lonely tree that wonders what will become of him, when a passing bird says it can be whatever it wants to be – a giant or a Christmas tree. He knows it will take many years to be a giant and has no idea who will help make him a Christmas tree. Then all the native birds of New Zealand rally around and find unique ways to turn this lonesome tree into a beautiful colourful tree. With Clematis blossoms, spiders web, shells and feathers and much more to decorate it, not to mention Ruru’s eyes to sparkle at the top of the tree. It is a beautiful story of giving, helping and showing the true spirit of Christmas, kiwi style. They even defend the tree when someone turns up to cut it down. The watercolours of greens, blues and browns add to the whimsy feel of the story and the hint to forestry and the effects on environment is an added element for discussion in classrooms. A story to be treasured and read at Christmas time and all year long.


Resources here in NZ…   https://kcc.org.nz/about/

Games and activities for kids relating to rainforests: … https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/kids

The New Zealand Christmas Tree…   http://globaltrees.org/threatened-trees/trees/pohutukawa/

I’m always happy reviewing Picture Books that come my way and share them with you.  If you would like to see more please pop over to Susanna Leonard Hills Blog where there are hundreds of books reviewed by other like minded authors and writers.  Thank you for popping in and I hope you return again soon.


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“Perfect Picture Book” Friday


Written by : Simon Puttock

Illustrated by: Matt Robertson

Published by:  Frances Lincoln Children’s Books UK 2017

Ages:   4 – 8 years

Theme: uninvited, hilarious, dark humour

Opening Lines: Mr Moot lived all alone with his beloved pet Fluffywuffy. Mr Moot was not troubled by mice. He did not have noisy neighbours. And he hardly ever got any letters delivered…

Synopsis: Mr Moot lives a quiet life with his cherished pet, Fluffywuffy, by his side. He isn’t troubled by neighbours, or mice, or even the postman… But when an uninvited guest comes to visit, Mr Moot finds himself kept awake every night. If it’s not the sound of drums, then the noise of chainsaws and even motorbikes comes from the living room below. Luckily for Mr Moot, Fluffywuffy has a solution for how to deal with his (unlucky) guest! Kids will love this darkly funny story with a brilliant mischievous twist!

Why I like this: The author, born in New Zealand and now lives in England, gives us a humorous look at what happens when an unexpected visitor comes to stay. Upsetting a normally quiet life we can see in the illustrations that Fluffywuffy is growing increasingly unhappy about this noisy uninvited guest and secretly has plans of his own… Apparently.   The illustrations are comical as is the text and all the while Fluffywuffy says nothing. Until the last page which shows Fluffywuffy smiling with oversized human teeth.   I’ll let you decide on the last page… Is it too scary? Is it too weird? Or is it hilarious?

Resources/Findings: Author’s website… http://www.simonputtock.com/page3.htm

Illustrators website…   http://matttheillustrator.com/home

I’m always happy reviewing Picture Books that come my way and share them with you.  If you would like to see more please pop over to Susanna Leonard Hills Blog where there are hundreds of books reviewed by other like minded authors and writers.  Thank you for popping in and I hope you return again soon.


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“Perfect Picture Book” Friday

Brave and the Fox

Written by : Nicola Davies

Illustrated by: Sebastien Braun

Published by:  Scholastic, London England Oct 2018

Ages:   3 – 7 years

Theme: bravery, determination, adventure

Opening Lines: The long, dark winter was over at last! The sun shone down on the village under Blue Mountain, where Brave was getting ready for her very first hunting trip.

Synopsis: In the cold and icy white of her homeland, Brave embarks on a hunting trip – and as day turns to night, she finds herself on an unexpected adventure with danger, discovery and, most of all, magic.

Why I like this: The beautifully illustrated cover is what first attracted me to this sweet story. The illustrations throughout the story are rich and and sweet giving it a magical feel. This inspiring story of courage and determination of a young girl left alone in the freezing snow, faces danger but with the help of a fox manages to make her way home again, a heart-warming story, there is also extra information at the back with child-friendly facts about some of the environmental issues faced in the Arctic today.


Author’s website… https://www.nicola-davies.com/books.php

Illustrator’s website… https://www.sebastienbraun.com/

I’m always happy reviewing Picture Books that come my way and share them with you.  If you would like to see more please pop over to Susanna Leonard Hills Blog where there are hundreds of books reviewed by other like minded authors and writers.  Thank you for popping in and I hope you return again soon.

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“Perfect Picture Book” Friday – SWEET DREAMS SARAH by Vivian Kirkfield

Hi everyone,  while Vivian is now in Geneva I did before she left New Zealand have a chance to talk to her about her book Sweet Dreams Sarah which is due out  April 2nd 2019.  It was originally meant to be her debut book after having received a contract back in 2015, but after a couple of set backs it finally is hitting shelves in April this year.  Sweet Dreams Sarah has been a labour of love for Vivian and like Sarah she persisted in getting Sarah’s story out there. Here is a short interview with Vivian and I’m delighted to also have Vivian read Sweet Dreams Sarah for us.  Enjoy…

Sweet Dreams Sarah

Written by: Vivian Kirkfield

Illustrated by: Chris Ewald

Published by: Creston Books, LLC 2 April 2019

Ages:   5 – 9 years

Theme: perseverance, will-power,

Opening Lines: Before the Civil War, Sarah obeyed her owner. Hurry Up, eyes down, don’t speak. Slaves were property – like a cow or plow or the cotton that grew in the master’s fields.

Synopsis. From Amazon… Sarah E.Goode was one of the first African-American women to get a U.S. patent. Working in her husband’s furniture store, she recognized a need for a multi-use bed and through hard work, ingenuity, and determination, invented her unique cupboard bed. She built more than a piece of furniture. She built a life far away from slavery, a life where her sweet dreams could come true

Why I like this: I have been fortunate to view how Vivian crafted this story draft after draft, after draft. Her studious research, lyrical sentences and detail to word choices makes this a gripping, heart-warming story of reaching for your dreams – and succeeding! In a few words Vivian shows how a master controls his charges… Eyes down, don’t speak.   Or Sarah’s dreams… A husband, a family, and a job. Thoughts, feelings and even action are conveyed in as little as three words. For example.. Measure, cut, sand. What I love about this story is that it inspires children to dream, to strive and persist in working towards their goal or dream. To hold onto their high expectations and meet the challenges, at the same time teaching us all a little more about American history. Vivian brings this story to life for Sarah and Chris’s honey warm colours in his illustrations allow us to step back in time to watch Sarah’s progress. In the back is the Author’s note, what a Patent is and Sarah E Goode’s Timeline, along with selected resources. This book should be in every school.


Visit Vivian’s website:   https://viviankirkfield.com/my-book/





I’m always happy reviewing Picture Books that come my way and share them with you.  If you would like to see more please pop over to Susanna Leonard Hills Blog where there are hundreds of books reviewed by other like minded authors and writers.  Thank you for popping in and I hope you return again soon.

PS:  Giveaway of a signed copy of PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE  winner is……


Congrats Pat.   Drop me a line with your address and we will make sure you get this beautiful book.

Posted in Children's literature, Interviews, Perfect Picture Book Review, Susanna's PPB Fridays, Vivian's Adventures down under | Tagged , , , , , , | 19 Comments


Hi everyone.   Here are the final videos and pics of Vivian’s adventures down-under. It’s taken me awhile to sift through the hundreds of videos and pictures.  In Vivian’s last week here after the SCBWI meeting we drove up the Waitakere Ranges for dinner at a friends Restaurant looking out over the tree tops to the city below.  The next day we spent at the Kumeu Show which features, wood chopping competitions, dog shows, horse shows and hundreds of craft stalls and heaps more.  On the Monday we flew to Wellington for an overnight visit. Wellington being the capital of New Zealand also houses the House of Parliament (the Beehive).  We visited Peter Jacksons Weta Workshop and Te Papa Museum and rode the famous Tram Car.  Next day we flew to Christchurch where we stayed for two nights.  We wandered around the central city,  and met with Melanie Dixon a fellow Storm Literacy client with Vivian, and had dinner with her and her daughter.  The next day we took off in a rented car for Akaroa.  A French seaside township just out of Christchurch where we spent the day and had a lovely lunch and picnicked on the beach. Back in Christchurch we found the White chairs and Memorial Wall, commemorating the people who died in the February 2011 earthquake.  Christchurch is a beautiful city and still trying to rebuild itself with parks and wide paved streets bringing a new fresh life.  It’s sad that the following day after we returned from Christchurch there was a terrorist attack in which 50 people died while praying.  It is believed the number of people killed is the equivalent by population of a mass killing of 3344 people in the USA. Which puts into perspective how small our country is and how big this devastating event is.  Vivian and I spent a day out at more beaches after the successful school visit.  We drove over to the north shore visiting some lovely parks and beaches, such as Shakespeare Park and lunched at the exclusive Gulf Harbour.


As we still had a few days left, before Vivian flew out, and a 12×12 member Kathy Derrick reached out asking if we would visit her, so hubby and I took Vivian on another road trip.  This time up north to the Bay of Islands.  We stopped first at Whangarei where they have a delightful book store called Storytimes. Had lunch in this riverside port and continued up to Paihia stopping briefly at Kawakawa where the famous toilets made of ceramic were designed by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser.   At Paihia we visited Waitangi and Vivian walked the grounds where back in 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between 500 Maori chiefs and the representatives of the English Crown. Our accommodation was in Kerikeri.  We spent the next day catching a ferry at Paihia  for Russell where we wandered around and had lunch.  Returned to Paihia and that evening met up with Kathy and her husband.  After a lovely evening and an overnight stay in Kerikeri we returned to Auckland via Dargaville township on the west coast.  Here are some fun videos and pictures, also included is Vivian’s last night here in Auckland having an evening out at the Sky Tower in downtown Auckland to celebrate our 41st wedding anniversary.  We had such fun.  Enjoy…

Vivian will be still flying to Geneva when I post this.  I’m hoping she has a wonderful safe journey and an equally enjoyable time with friends in Switzerland and Bologna. I miss her already and while we had perfect weather the whole time she was in New Zealand it seemed fitting that the heavens sent a light mist of rain on my drive home from the airport which lasted into the evening.  I miss my dear sweet friend, full of laughs we spent many wee hours chatting about writing, family and heaps more.  We often sat across from each other at my dining table typing away, reading stories and emails, commenting and when we were in places that didn’t allow us the use of internet we would chat, swap writing ideas, critique each others stories and even had a night of playing cards. I will certainly miss all that.

I hope my dear friend comes back soon.  We have so much more to see and do.  Don’t leave it too long.








Keep a look out for my next post of Vivian being interviewed live and reading of Sweet Dreams Sarah.

Thanks for stopping by.


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The morning of the 15th (NZ time) Vivian and I headed for Pt Chevalier School for Vivian to read to one hundred 6year olds. After a beautiful assembly where children sang the National Anthem in both Maori and English, and also in sign language, awards were given out for achievements and acts of kindness and creativity. Children here are encouraged to be inclusive in all things. Vivian was introduced and welcomed by the Headmaster. Then in the library the children sang “Happy Birthday Four Otters” with Vivian and the reading got underway. I was impressed to see Vivian in action unruffled by such a large group. Often Vivian stopped to answer questions from the children and it was so lovely to see how enthusiastic and attentive they were. The reading was followed by more questions and a spelling craft on the whiteboard. Afterwards Vivian and I were invited for a lovely morning tea in the staff room put on by the teachers. It was a very rewarding session and I literally had to drag Vivian away. She would have stayed all day given the chance.


Written by: Vivian Kirkfield

Illustrated by: Mirka Hokkanen

Published by: Pomegranate , March 2019

Ages:   4 – 8 years

Theme: counting, nature, animals

Opening Lines: Water waits. Dawn breaks in a chorus of bird song. ONE willow flycatcher whistles as the night slips silently away.

Synopsis. The animals find shelter, safety and fun in the river and as dawn turns to dusk they sing, leap, toboggan, flit, flutter and hunt, riding out a storm, bask in the sun’s rays and tuck under the silver moon. A counting book filled with modern wood engraving illustrations, celebrates the wild beauty and the natural environment around us.

Why I like this:    As the opening lines demonstrate the beautiful lyrical language captures the mood. When I first read the early drafts of this story I fell in love with the way the words whisked you away in a dream-like state to a place of stillness yet busy, silent yet noisy, and the world as we know it miles away. Almost poetry-like Vivian paints vivid imagery from dawn to dusk of the animals at play. Mirka’s wood engraving is perfect for this book and gives the illustrations texture. I also love the glossary about the animals and questions that ask the children to study the illustrations.

It’s also lovely to see a teacher’s aid and activity book available.


Free download of the colouring/activity book….. https://viviankirkfield.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/otter-coloring-book.pdf

Author’s website:   https://viviankirkfield.com/my-book/


I’m always happy reviewing Picture Books that come my way and share them with you.  If you would like to see more please pop over to Susanna Leonard Hills Blog where there are hundreds of books reviewed by other like minded authors and writers.  Thank you for popping in and I hope you return again soon.


Posted in Perfect Picture Book Review, Vivian's Adventures down under | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments



Last Saturday 9th March saw Vivian presenting at the New Zealand SCBWI in Auckland. A lovely turnout headed by Gillian Torckler. Vivian spoke about the roller coaster ride her writing journey has taken after jumping out of a perfectly good plane to not only being represented by the amazing Essie White of Storm Literacy but also having three Picture Books coming out this year. That’s right folks three books and already next year Vivian has another two more books due out with one a compilation of nine full length picture book stories. Whew! She has been one busy lady.

At the meeting Vivian also covered the Ten Techniques in the Picture Book Toolbox to Help Your Manuscript Sparkle and Sing.

  1. ALLITERATION: word starts with same letter or same sound – Suddenly—silence.A silver sliver hangs in the night sky.
  2. ONOMATOPOEIA: word that sounds like its name – “No,” purrs Cat, “go ask the snake, slither-sliding by the lake.”
  3. SIMILIE/METAPHOR word that compares one thing to another – Two dragonflies dance, ballerinas above a liquid stage.
  4. SHOW vs TELL: words that show action/feelings instead of just telling how character feels – resources like the Emotion Thesaurus can help – Slipping the paperwork and a bit of her heart into the envelope, Sarah sealed her fate and sent it off.
  5. ELEMENT OF THREE: words or phrases in sets of three – Before the Civil War, Sarah obeyed her owner. Hurry up! Eyes down! Don’t speak!
  6. PERSONIFICATION: nonhuman takes on human characteristics – Stumble, tumble down the trail. Pippa prays she will not fail.
  7. REPETITION: repeating a word or phrase throughout the story – Water waits. Water ripples. Water calms. Water splashes. Water glistens. Water darkens. Water roils. Water cascades. Water glitters. Water flows. Water waits.
  8. REFRAIN: repeating a phrase or verse throughout the story – Quiver! Quaver! Shiver! Shake! Cats make Pippa cringe and quake!
  9. IMAGERY: vivid and descriptive language that paints pictures in the reader’s mind to evoke the senses – use Thesaurus.com to find rich vocabulary alternatives – Dusk falls, stealing the day, as the mountains swallow the sun.
  10. WORDS COUNT vs COUNT WORDS: tell the story with as few words as possible but use as many words as necessary – Every day Sarah worked alongside her husband. Measure. Cut. Sand.

And her Seven Steps to Successful Book Publication.

  1. Read lots of books in the genre you want to write
  2. Participate in writing challenges and contests
  3. Interact with the kid-lit community
  4. Join critique groups
  5. Hone your craft
  6. Write and revise
  7. Submit                                                                                                                                          Both were also covered in handouts at the meeting. Vivian’s passionate review of her books – Pippa’s Passover Plate, Four Otters Toboggan and Sweet Dreams Sarah – showing the different editors she encountered, their methods of communication, and what rolls she and the illustrators played in producing the final products was not only an eye opener but also appreciated for her honest views.Here in a video is some of the meeting for you to enjoy. ..


    Well over our time slot at the Glen Eden library Vivian so enjoyed answering questions and chatting with the wonderful people who attended. She loves meeting and chatting with people. “It’s all about connecting, I can’t help it.” She can be heard saying.  Funnily though after most had left a few of us found ourselves locked in the Library with Vivian. Can you believe it! Safe to say we eventually got out.


    Here are a couple of comments from those who attended the meeting…

    Thanks for a great meeting on Saturday – lovely to meet Vivian, and to hear such a heart-felt and honest account of her most recent ups and downs!


    Thanks so much for arranging the event this afternoon.

    I really enjoyed listening to Vivian’s experiences with publishing in the US. She was encouraging, and seeing the variety of her published work was really interesting. It gives me the encouragement to keep on experimenting with different genres. Please pass on my thanks to her again for taking time out of her holiday to spend the afternoon with us.

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Hi everyone, sorry Vivian couldn’t introduce these videos as she is very, very busy reading hundreds of #50 Precious Words posts on her blog. Another record number of stellar stories.

Anyway I thought you would love to know what she has been doing this past week.  I mention that I was taking her away from the big city following the eastern coast from Auckland to Waihi, stopping at Bowentown  for a picnic lunch overlooking fabulous swimming spots.  After a few hours we drove on down through Tauranga to Mount Mauganui for our overnight stay. This is a favourite tourist spot especially high summer and New Years.  It’s kind of a mini Gold Coast.  With a small number of high rise apartments opening on to a long sandy white beach.   You’ll love these pictures of pristine vivid blue water, and white sand.   After meeting up with a couple of dear old work colleagues of mine we headed the next day for Rotorua.  Visiting Geysers, Champagne Pool  (my favourite),  we ended up at a very authentic Maori concert which was incredible (even if I say so myself). On the third day there we drove to Taupo (largest lake in NZ) known for it’s trout fishing.  We then drove on to Turangi so Vivian could see the snow capped mountains nearby but after stopping for petrol and restrooms I stupidly walked in to a glass door and my glasses left a nasty cut near my eye brow.  So we rested for a while before we headed back to Rotorua by which time my ego didn’t feel quite so bad and we went for walk in the Redwood Tree tops.  This consists of walking on 37 swing bridges through pine trees and ponga ferns.  Beautiful! As you will see. Afterward we hopped on a gondola for dinner over looking Rotorua and after a night of playing cards we left Rotorua for Matamata.

Driving through what is usually green fields, most of which is very dry right now due to our unusually dry temperatures (heatwave for over three weeks) we arrived at the Hobbiton Shop/Ticket office and café.  The actual Hobbit houses are kept secret due to them being on private property and as thousands of tourists visit them every month special buses and bookings are used.  Enjoy the following video as you follow Vivian wandering around this little place known as Middle Earth.  Had to laugh as Vivian is the right height for the little doors. Enjoy…

Well that’s it for this post.  Do pop back again soon as I will be posting the SCBWI  Auckland NZ meeting with Vivian’s presentation.



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“PERFECT PICTURE BOOK – FRIDAY” – with Vivian Kirkfield

I’m so delighted to have my dear friend and critique buddy Vivian Kirkfield here with me in New Zealand. I often have to pinch myself that she is really here with me and I thought what a wonderful opportunity to have Vivian, the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate read to us her beautiful story.   So sit back and enjoy. Oh, and did I mention there is also a giveaway of a SIGNED copy of PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE. To be in to win all you have to do is comment below.


Written by: Vivian Kirkfield

Illustrated by: Jill Weber

Published by: Holiday House New York. February 2019

Ages:   4 – 8 years

Theme: Bravery, empowerment,

Opening Lines: Hurry, scurry, Pippa Mouse, washing, scrubbing, cleaning house.

Synopsis: From Amazon… An enchanting mouse scours her cozy, miniature home for her Passover Seder plate with no luck. Sundown is near and the Passover celebration will begin soon. Pippa Mouse must venture out and be brave to ask a cat, a snake, and an owl for help. To her surprise not only are the animals helpful in tracing her plate to the pond, they become her Passover Seder guests. A spread at the end of the book shows the Passover plate with its six essential symbolic items: zeroah (a roasted bone), beitzah,(an egg), maror and charoset (bitter herbs), chazeret (mortar or paste), and karpas (a spring vegetable).

Why I like this: This is a beautiful rollicking read aloud that will surely have children following Pippa as she looks for her Seder plate. Courage and friendship are universal themes within this story and Jill Weber’s illustrations are delightful and fun making this book a keepsake.

Resources/Findings:   A great teachers/parent guide…   https://pjlibrary.org/getmedia/add2be91-7072-490f-b4aa-917a5202d650/Pippa-s-Passover-Plate-Reading-Guide.pdf



Don’t forget to comment below to be in to win a copy of Pippa’s Passover plate.  You have until 15th March.

I’m always happy reviewing Picture Books that come my way and share them with you.  If you would like to see more please pop over to Susanna Leonard Hills Blog where there are hundreds of books reviewed by other like minded authors and writers.  Thank you for popping in and I hope you return again soon

Posted in Interviews, Perfect Picture Book Review | Tagged , , , , | 26 Comments


Here is a video and some photos from Vivian’s story-time at the local library in Auckland NZ, last Saturday.  Everyone had such fun.  Enjoy!

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