Saturday, December 21, 2019

Christmas Picks: Chapter Bookwraps from Gecko Press

Story of Gecko Press

Who is Gecko Press?

Gecko Press is an independent publisher, based in Wellington. Every year Gecko Press translates and publishes a small number of carefully-selected children’s books by some of the world’s best writers and illustrators, from countries including France, Germany, Japan, Poland and the Netherlands.

Gecko Press also publishes two or three books each year by (mostly) New Zealand authors and illustrators.

From the media

‘[Gecko Press’s] production values are exemplary.’

Kate de Goldi, Radio New Zealand

‘There is a robust nature to the books [Gecko Press] has published, a strength, a quirkiness, and a depth that we have lacked … We have customers who seek out Gecko books ahead of any others.’

John McIntyre, Children’s Bookshop and National Radio reviewer

‘Inspirational publishing … their current list is adventurous and dynamic.’

Sunday Star-Times

by Rose Lagercrantz & Eva Eriksson

* Country of Origin:  Sweden

* Ages:  5-7, 6-8 years
*Translated by Julia Marshall

Writing with exceptional insight and humor, author Lagercrantz develops Dani’s emotional maturity in this story, giving her a growing awareness of both life’s complexity and adult fallibility, all the while maintaining Dani’s bone-deep optimism.
Starred review, Kirkus Reviews
School Library Journal ‘Easy Readers and Early Chapter Books: Some of the Best of 2019
This series just gets better and better.
Horn Book

A stand-alone follow-up to the acclaimed chapter books that began with New York Times Notable Book "My Happy Life".


What do you do if your best friend lives in another city and the adults can’t keep their promises about when you’ll see her? You have to sort it out for yourself!
Dani’s father is away and Dani is staying with her grandparents. When she remembers it’s Ella’s birthday, she thinks of the world’s best gift for the world’s best friend: she, Dani, will be the present!
Grandma agrees— if she’s brave enough to take the train alone. So Dani sets out on a journey all by herself.
The sixth in the My Happy Life series

Editorial Reviews:  

  • Magpies Magazine – August 7, 2019
    …it leaves behind a strong impression of real kids fully engaged with the ups and downs of real life.
  • School Library Journal: ‘Easy Readers and Early Chapter Books: Some of the Best of 2019’ – July 9, 2019
    There is just so much depth and emotion to this tiny book.

  • Horn Book (May/June Issue) – July 9, 2019
    This series just gets better and better.
  • Booklist Online – July 9, 2019
    In the sixth beginning chapter book from the Dani series, originally published in Sweden, Lagercrantz beautifully portrays the characters’ shifting emotions.

  • Youth Services Book Reviews – July 4, 2019
    I really like the way the book treats the emotional life of children and their adults, showing a range of feelings realistically, including adult depression.
  • The Children’s Bookshop – March 13, 2019
    These stand-alone illustrated stories are just charming and accurately reflect a 7-year-old’s perspective on life’s dramas. The mixed emotions arising from friendships and relationships are handled with sensitivity and humour.
  • Red Reading Hub – March 11, 2019
    Eva Eriksson’s splendidly empathetic black and white illustrations are a delight and add an extra touch of piquancy to the book. I will definitely seek out the earlier titles in this series.
  • Wholeheartedly recommended for solo reading and as a class read aloud for KS1 and early KS2
  • Booktrailers4kidsandYA – March 11, 2019
    A lovely feel-good chapter book for newly independent readers. Another beautiful book in the My Happy Life series to treasure.
  • Kirkus Reviews (starred review) – March 5, 2019
    Writing with exceptional insight and humor, author Lagercrantz develops Dani’s emotional maturity in this story, giving her a growing awareness of both life’s complexity and adult fallibility, all the while maintaining Dani’s bone-deep optimism.

The Runaways
by Ulf Stark & Kitty Crowther

* Country of Origin:  Sweden
* Ages:  6-8, 8-12

A touching, realistic, gently humorous story of how a sensitive boy copes with his treasured grandfather’s decline.  
Starred review, Kirkus Reviews
Autumn-hued illustrations by Crowther (Stories of the Night) juxtapose the dull hospital against glorious piney islands and a light-filled sea. 
Starred review, Publisher’s Weekly
Expressive full-page illustrations add color to the pages while supporting the story’s tone. An unusual adventure story with a core of mutual grandfather-grandson affection.
Starred review, Booklist

Grandson and grandpa run away together for a one-night adventure.

Translated by Julia Marshall


“I hate the food here,” Grandpa said. “ They’ve taken all the joy out of it.
Not even the water tastes any good.”
“Perhaps you should run away,” I suggested.
“I did a lot of that when I was young,” he said. “I think it’s a bit late now…”
But by the time I had to leave for the bus, we’d made a plan.
Grandpa’s in the hospital and hating it. He swears at the nurses and makes trouble for everyone. Dad finds it too stressful to visit, but Gottfried Junior visits Grandpa as often as he’s allowed, and when he’s not allowed, he goes anyway.
Grandpa thinks only of the place he was happiest—the island where he lived with Grandma. He wants to go back one last time, but they won’t let him out of the hospital.

Gottfried Junior and Grandpa take things into their own hands. If running away is the only way to the island, then they’ll be runaways.

Editorial Reviews:  

  • Liz Derouet (verified owner) – October 3, 2019
    The relationships between father and son, and grandfather and grandson, are central to the novel, as is the love they have for each other and the various ways this love is shared.
  • NZ Poetry Box – September 23, 2019
    A very delicious book that will make you feel warm inside, a little bit sad and a big bit daring!

  • Magpie Magazine (AUS) – September 17, 2019
    The Runaways looks at the important role grandparents play and is also a gentle introduction to death. Suitable for a 6+ audience, younger readers will enjoy the story and more mature readers will take away some of the deeper meanings layered in the text.
  • Publisher Spotlight – September 9, 2019
    This is a perfect picture book for older readers and Publishers Weekly’s starred review is a just reward.

  • Gecko Press – August 27, 2019
    The Runaways is a beautifully written, warm, tender and honest story which many of us find familiar.
  • Red Reading Hub – August 26, 2019
    …Ulf Stark’s gently humorous story is told…in a straightforward manner that adds to its impact while Kitty Crowther’s colour pencil illustrations have their own power that perfectly complements the honesty of the first person narration.
  • The Horn Book – July 9, 2019  In this iteration [of a child helping an old person go on the lam] every emotional effect is fully earned, and the final beat — in which we learn, obliquely, that Grandpa has died — is deeply affecting.

by Catharina Valckx
Translated by Antony Shugaar

* Country of Origin:  France
*Ages:  5-7, 6-8

An uplifting, warmhearted early chapter book about a crow, who proves you can move mountains (or even dromedaries) and perform truly heroic deeds if you believe in yourself.
This story about finding the extraordinary in everyone gives readers something to crow about. 


Achille LeBlab, special correspondent, knocks at Zanzibar’s door. He wants to write an article about an exceptional character. Is Zanzibar exceptional? The lizard seems to doubt it. “Aside from your poetic name, I’m afraid you’re a very ordinary crow.”
That night Zanzibar decides: “I haven’t done anything remarkable yet, but it’s never too late!” He comes up with an idea for an incredible feat. First he  must find a camel…

Editorial Reviews for this book: 

  • Read It Daddy – September 25, 2019
    A fantastic moral tale about our perception of what makes us amazing and exceptional versus the popular view of what it really takes.
  • Book Trailers for Kids and YA – August 27, 2019
    Sweet, funny and just a lovely feel-good story for newly independent readers.

  • Outside In World – August 2, 2019
    Valckx’s witty text and vignette pen and ink illustrations are sure to make Zanzibar popular with a whole host of new readers. Poetry Box – July 29, 2019
  • This is a story of good friends and things both ordinary and extraordinary – oh and excellent mushroom omelettes. A delicious read indeed.
  • Readings Books – July 29, 2019
    This quirky little gem of a book, with its delightful language, humour and simple childlike illustrations, is guaranteed to engage young readers.
  • Kirkus Reviews – June 18, 2019
    This story about finding the extraordinary in everyone gives readers something to crow about.

My Opinion

Grecko Press is one of my favourite publishers and their books are truly wonderful.  They choose their books with utmost care from al around the world and I highly, highly recommend their choices.  Go to their website and check out all they have to offer.  You won't be disappointed.   It's always an honour ( and fun ) to review for them.  


Happy weekend everyone!  Come back next week for more awesome unwrappings!  I love your visits with me.  Christmas is just around the corner... you ready? 

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