Hawke’s Bay is awash with bookish talent. Since we emerged, blinking, out of lockdown, anyone with an artistic bent has been beautifully overwhelmed with things to do, see and hear. These books are all exquisitely written by writers you might bump into in our sun-showered streets, produced by award-winning publishing houses, and recently launched into the world.

Egg & Spoon: An Illustrated Cookbook – Alexandra Tylee and Giselle Clarkson (Gecko Press, $39.99)

This is such a special book. Like anything Alexandra writes, it has a simple charm and elegance, and in this case, as befitting a cook book aimed at younger cooks, a lovely warmth.

In an eggshell, this is a collection of delicious recipes that use good, wholesome ingredients to muck about with. There are rules, but you can blend, break and batter them. Food is nurturing, food is kind (there’s a note on why we choose free range eggs).

A line at the beginning of the recipe for Walnut Thumbprint Biscuits epitomises Egg & Spoon for me. It says, there is something nice about little round biscuits. That’s from the mind of a poet because it says so much in so few words: it’s lovely to have nice things; simple things are hugely satisfying; little things are cute; soft shapes with no edges are delicious; calm down, sit down and appreciate the time it takes to eat your little walnut biscuit.

Fantastic Mr Bean – Mary-anne Scott, illustrated by Lisa Allen (One Tree House, $20)

Mary-anne is the author of five books for children and young adults, all of which I’ve read and loved. This one is for readers of about 6 and up, or for families to read together.

Young Lachie is desperate to be cast as Fantastic Mr Fox in the school play … and he is! But then, there’s a line he won’t cross – he is not up for the soppy stuff with Mrs Fox. Recast as Farmer Bean, Lachie hurls himself into the role, creates props with his wonderful older brother and stinks up the house whilst getting in character. The night comes and disaster may strike, but not if fantastic Mr Bean has anything to do with it.

This is a cracker of a wee read – funny, child centred and heroic.

The launch: whānau; fun; a huge, delicious bee cake.

Tree of Strangers – Barbara Sumner (Massey University Press, $35)

It is often said that truth is stranger than fiction. This book proves such a thing to be true. Barbara Sumner takes us deep into her experience of adoption, the legacy of its trauma and the incredible story of her search for her parents.

The yearning in the book is incredible. The way in which Barbara explains the empty ache she feels, the things she can’t process, and the connections she’s not sure she can make are raw and soul-searching and shocking. Her daughters are her lifeline, connecting her to her future and her past.

She finds a link to her mother, Pamela, and embarks upon a journey that reads like a tightly plotted novel, events andrevelations inspiring awe, shock and the rapid turning of the pages.

The launch: emotional: there were adopted children present, and at least one mother who never saw her child before they were taken away.


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