Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Non-Fiction 8 years and up

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Maria Gill, illustrated by Marco Ivancic
New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame – 25 Kiwi Champions
New Holland Publishers 2014  $24.99pb    64pp
ISBN 978 1 8696 6422 0

 If there was ever a book of role models this is it!  
 25 sporting heroes are shown here with all their hard work, their training programmes, their triumphs and even their failures. There is one sportsperson to each double page spread and it is surprising just how much information the writer and illustrator have managed to pack into those two pages without them ever looking crowded.  This is a book that not-so-enthusiastic readers will relate to with its realistic pictures and the good readers will enjoy the straight from the shoulder text. There are plenty of extras in the form of where to find sports museums/ bibliographies/ competition and a useful guide to setting up your own sports training plan.  Fortunately the book is well bound as I predict it will have a great deal of use. 

Year 4 up/ Age 8 up

Fiction Age 7 up

Australian Writer and Illustrator

Sally Murphy, illustrations - Gabriel Evans  Roses Are Blue 
 Walker Books 2014 $18.99pb    103pp  ISBN 978 1 9222 4437 6 Themes: Car crashes/ Coping with change/ Disabled parents/ Family stories/ Mothers/ Stories in blank verse

When Amber Rose’s teacher announces that Mother’s Day is coming and everyone’s mother is welcome, her stomach does a dive and her throat feels tight.  This is because Amber Rose’s mother is different – very different. OK to have a mother who wears bright clothes, has a stud in her nose or talks too loudly. But, Amber Rose’s mother is in a wheel chair after a car crash and she can’t talk at all, her neck is all floppy and her hands twitch. Without a hint of sentimentality Sally Murphy gets right inside the mind of an eight-year-old girl trying to cope with change. Don’t let the idea of blank verse put you off  - it is wonderfully easy to read and gives the story such an immediacy that everything relates to the plot. Definitely a read-at-one-sitting book.

Year 3 up/ Age 7 up

Monday, 28 July 2014

Picture Books

NZ Illustrator and Writer
Helen Taylor
Kakapo Dance
Penguin Books 2014  $19.99pb   32pp
ISBN 978 0 1475 0601 0
Themes: Language/ New Zealand birds
Kakapo can’t coo or glide, or chirp or twirl, or hop or chime or whistle or waddle – he’s too fat and heavy and his voice is too deep. But he can join in with the other birds in a much more solid way – with a thud and ching and a tumble and a shuffle and a BOOM!! Another special book (see the entry last week for The song of Kauri) where the sights and sounds and smells of the New Zealand forest come alive in front of you. There are mouth-watering words to roll around your tongue and the pictures of the Kakapo show him to be one of the most endearing of our native birds.

Preschool up/ Age 4 up

Young Adult Fiction

Published 25.7.14

NZ Writer
David Hill
The Deadly Sky
Penguin Books 2014  $19.99pb   260pp
ISBN 978 0 1433 0815 7
Themes: Anti-nuclear protests/ Mururoa Atoll/ Nuclear Bombs/ Tahiti 1974
It is Tahiti 1974 and anti-nuclear testing protests are running hot but in spite of this 14-year-old Darryl’s mother decides to let him accompany her when as part of her New Zealand teaching job, she has to visit the outlying island of Mangareva. 
With so much tension and unease in the world at present it takes a writer of David Hill’s calibre to take us back 40 years and really involve us in what it must have been like to have been around at the time of the Pacific Nuclear testing programme.     

Year 7 up/ Age 11 up

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Fiction Age 8 and up

Australian Writer

R A Spratt (Rachel)

Friday Barnes Girl Detective

Random House Australia 2014  $19.99pb   247pp

ISBN 978 1 7427 5962 3

Themes: Boarding school stories/ Intellectual parents/ Solitude

When Friday Barnes, a rather lonely and decidedly unusual small girl solves a bank mystery she uses the reward money to send herself to the most exclusive boarding school in the country where there are many more crimes to be solved. And maybe there will be some real friends..

Such is the magic of Rachel Spratt’s writing that she makes even the most over-the-top incidents and experiences totally believable.   This is a beginning of a new series from the author of Nanny Piggins.
Friday Barnes Under Suspicion will be published in January 2015

Year 4 up/ Age 8 up

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Fiction Age 7 up

Australian Writer and Illustrator
Anna Branford, illustrated by Sarah Davis
Violet Mackerel’s Helpful Suggestion
Walker Books 2014  $19.95hb 111pp
ISBN 978 1 9222 4436 9

Themes:  Flashcards/ Friendship/ Loneliness/ Series/ Stepfathers

Violet’s best friend Rose has dropped a bombshell – she is going on a trip to Japan and will be away for more weeks than Violet wants to think about – maybe she will forget all about Violet.   And Rose is not the only one with news – Violet’s stepfather, Vincent,  has a new job in a nut and bean shop – and it is a job that comes with problems as he has to memorise long lists of products and prices.  Anna Branford has invented a new set of experiences to help her ever-inventive, appealing and down to earth heroine Violet, solve both these puzzles. There is something about Violet to which small girls and maybe a few boys really relate and the realistic and endearing illustrations by Sarah Davis add to the book’s charm.  I was so sure that Violet Mackerel was real that when I was talking to Sarah at the NZ Post Book Awards for Children and Young People in Auckland last month I asked if her illustrations were of a real child but she said no – she was a made up character. Maybe that makes Violet even more unique.
Year 3 up/ Age 7 up

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Picture Books (available in English and te reo)

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Melinda Szymanik, illustrated by Dominique Ford
The Song of Kauri
Scholastic 2014  $26.99hb   30pp
ISBN 978 1 7754 3228 9

Themes:  Beginnings and endings/ Growth/ Kauri/ New Zealand people


While the sun and the earth and the moon know exactly where they are going Kauri simply spreads his branches and welcomes all visitors to the forest – birds/ animals and people -

and just keeps on growing. This is one of those very satisfying books which give licence to read into it what you will and to come away with a totally satisfying experience. The whole beautiful production sings of the kauri – its gold, brown and yellow cover with its embossed koru, the carefully crafted words and the feeling that if you took a deep breath as you turn the pages you would be able to smell the leaf mould of the forest and the heady scent of the kauri gum. 

The book is also available in te reo : Te Waiata o Kauri  ISBN 978 1 7754 3211 1

Preschool up/ Age 4 up

Picture books in Te Reo Maori

NZ Writer and Illustrator√
Sharon Holt, illustrated by Deborah Hinde
He aha tēnei
The Te Reo Sing Along Books Series Number 7
The Writing Bug Ltd   2014  $24.99pb   24pp
Includes CD
ISBN 978 0 4732 8590 6

Themes:  Books in te reo Māori/ NZ insects/ te reo sentence structure

Māori names for 11 NZ insects are shown here with the instructions with each one to me tiaki…he taonga  (be gentle …it is very special). Another star in the firmament of the Te Reo Singalong Books with its full page and colourful illustrations/ a page of extension ideas that really work/ an English translation/ a page of guitar chords and a great CD which is playing as I type this.  He aha tēnei? A very special book which will be valued and loved by children and teachers!

Available in many bookshops but also try www.tereosingalong.co.nz

Preschool up/ Age 3 up

Monday, 21 July 2014

Young Adult Fiction

NZ Writer
Anna Mackenzie
Donnel’s Promise
Longacre 2014  $19.99pb 364pp
ISBN 978 14 7755 3546 1
Themes:  Fantasy/ Medieval times/ Sequels/ Strong female heroines

It is not necessary to have read the prequel Cattra’s Legacy in which the brave and beautiful heroine Risha discovers she is the rightful heir to the kingdom of Havre but I found having a background was helpful. Now that she has returned to Havre to take up her mother’s throne Risha becomes bored with the court gossip and politics and sets off on a tour with her handsome guard captain, Nolan, and her mother’s cousin, Ciaran but an ambush on the way sets in motion a life-changing series of events. Clear succinct writing make the book a pleasure to read although for some teenagers the fast moving adventure and action alone will carry them along  - and EVERYONE will be hoping for a third title. Some memorable word pictures have stayed in my mind.  This is from the prologue: A gust of wind carried the harbour’s briny tang up the slope and wove it through the hot scent of sun-crackled herbs and mountain pines. (and does this seem particularly poignant as it is only 3 degrees outside as I write this?)

Year 8 up/ Age 12 up

Picture Books (many picture books)

      I made a dreadful discovery today. Somehow, while, I wasn’t looking, a great mountain of wonderful picture books has steadily grown beside my computer and, with the best will in the world, I simply am not going to have time to review them all in detail. So, what I am going to do is to list them here and tell you that every one on this list I have read and feel is a book that would enhance a library collection or an individual child’s bookcase (lucky individual child).  There are a couple I do want to give a fuller review to and will put those up later in the week.
     And apologies to the publishers who have sent them to me - sometimes a couple of months ago! There are so many books…

So here we go:

Trace Balla                       
Allen & Unwin 2014 
ISBN 978 1 7433 1633 7 

Stephanie Blake           
A deal’s a deal  
Gecko Press 2014 
ISBN 978 1 8775 7984 4

Choechoe Brereton                       
A house for Donfinkle  
Walker Books  2014
 ISBN 978 1 9217 2053 6  

Steve Cole and Bruce Ingman           
Go to sleep or I let loose the leopard 
Jonathan Cape  2014 
ISBN 978 1 7800 8062 8 

Belinda Ellis                       
Back-to-front Bob  
Scholastic NZ  2014 
ISBN 978 1 7754 3183 1 

Belinda Ellis           
Punctuation mark  
Scholastic NZ  2014  
ISBN 978 1 7754 3184 8 

Karen Erasmus           
Incy Wincy spider  
Lothian 2014 
ISBN 978 0 7344 1549 3  

Corinne Fenton           
Hey Dad, You’re Great 
Black Dog  2014 
ISBN 978 1 9222 4486 4  

Julian Fuwin and Bohdan Butenko   
Mr Miniscule and the whale  

Book Island   2014 
ISBN 978 0 9876 6969 8

Chris Gurney and John Bennett           
Esau the Paw  
Scholastic NZ 
ISBN 978 1 7754 3185 5

Elise Hurst                       
Imagine a city  
Scholastic Australia 2014 
ISBN 978 1 7429 9009 5


Lena and Olof Landstroim           
Pom and Pim  
Gecko Press 2014  
ISBN 978 1 8775 7988 2

Juliet MacIver & Sarah Davis  
Marmaduke Duck on the wide blue seas  
Scholastic NZ  
ISBN 978 1 7754 3125 1 

Tina Matthews           
So many wonderfuls  
Walker Books  2014 
ISBN 978 1 9220 7751 6   
Lisa Moroni and Eva Eriksson  
Watch out for the crocodile  
Gecko Press 2014 
ISBN 978 1 8775 7990 5 

Satoru Onioshi   
 Ko WAi E Huna Ana?  
Gecko Press 2014 
ISBN 978 1 9272 7147 6

Maris O’Rourke and Claudia Pond Eyley  
Lillibutt’s Te Araroa adventure 
Duck Creek Press 
ISBN 978 1 8773 7893 5 

Ruth Paul
Rabbit’s hide-and-seek
Walker Books  2014 
ISBN 978 1 9220 7734 9

Liz Pichon  
My big brother Boris  
Scholastic  NZ 2014  
ISBN 978 1 4071 4325 5  $18.99pb

Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Angie Rozelaar
Don’t call me sweet!  
Allen & Unwin 2014 
ISBN 978 1 4088 3882 2  

Jedda Robard           
Tom and Tilly Fly away  
 Walker Books  2014
ISBN 978 1 9221 7990 6 

Tull Suwannakit                       
What happens next?  
Walker Books  2014 
 ISBN 978 1 9220 7756 1

Ciara Molloy Tan   
Hermione Anemone and the enormous storm   
Lothian 2014 
ISBN 978 0 7344 1547 9  

Scott Tulloch                       
I am not a worm  
Scholastic  NZ 2014 
ISBN 978 1 7754 3251 7 

Mo Willems           
The pigeon needs a bath!  
Walker Books  2014
ISBN 978 1 4063 5778 3


Friday, 18 July 2014

Young Adult Fiction

To be released August 1ST 2014


NZ Writer
Fleur Beale
I am Rebecca
Random House 2014  $19.99pb 251pp
ISBN 978 1 7755 3549 2
Themes:  Cult Communities/ Sequels

Remember Esther who managed to ‘escape’ the emotional and physical ties of the strict religious sect in which she found herself way back in 1998 in the much read and admired story I am Not Esther? What happened to the family Esther left behind? In this sequel we hone in on the feelings and actions of the family particularly Rebecca and to a certain extent, her twin sister, Rachel as they try to negotiate the already heady trials of simply being a teenager. For them it is complicated by the closeted environment in which they live and the ever present presence of their all-powerful father. He is a meticulously drawn character whose every word they obey without question. Don’t listen to him we want to scream at the girls as yet another milestone in their lives is thwarted. This is totally addictive reading with some almost unbearable twists and turns in the plot. And, yes, Esther does appear several times!
Year 9 up/ Age 13 up

I began the week by reading Joy Cowley’s Speed of light. I have just finished
 I am Rebecca and now, beside my bed to start tonight is Anna Mackenzie’s sequel to Cattra’s Legacy – Donnel’s Promise.
What riches! I MUST have an early night.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Young Adult Fiction

To be published August 1ST 2014

NZ Writer

Joy Cowley Speed of Light  Gecko Press 2014  $19.99pb 202pp  ISBN 978 1 8775 7993 6

Themes:  Dysfunctional families/ Fraud/ Good v. evil/ Mathematics/ Physics/ Wealth/ Weather/ Wellington New Zealand

Jeff is the centre of a truly dysfunctional family. His father is more interested in money than anything else; his older brother is serving time in prison; his mother is unapproachable; his sister is keeping a secret. Jeff takes the only safe way he knows and goes deep into the world of mathematics – a good place where rules are kept, which has no hidden agendas and which speaks the same language all over the world. Then, in the middle of one of Wellington’s worst storms, Jeff meets a strange old woman who seems to have some answers for him. But. The question is. Is she real?

A new title from Joy Cowley is always an event and particularly so for this one that makes the reader stop and question their own beliefs about good and evil.

Sometimes when you finish a book you close it and walk away. Others you hold in your lap, reluctant to let the feelings and emotions it created in you die down. So it was for me with Speed of Light

Year 9 up/ Age 13 up

A Note from Joy Cowley
Speed of Light is a story about tension between light and dark, and how the darkness serves the light. It's a story that confronts our notions that comfort is good and discomfort is evil, whereas the seed of new growth actually lies in the shadows.  
Source: Publisher's blurb 

Friday, 11 July 2014

Fiction Age 10 up

UK Writers and Illustrator

Lucy and Stephen Hawking, illustrated by Garry Parsons George and the Unbreakable Code Doubleday  2014  $29.99pb 314pp

ISBN 978 0 8575 3326 5

Themes:  Computers/ Out of this world stories/ Outer space/ Series/ Staying safe on line/ The Universe

Something very unusual is happening to the world’s computers. Check-outs don’t work so supermarkets can’t charge for their food, aircraft are unable to take off and banks are actually handing out free money. George and his friend Annie (heroes of the three earlier books by the same writers) realise that some serious hacking has been going on and decide they must travel far into deep space to rectify the problems. This is far from a simple adventure story and is packed with amazing facts and theories about the beginnings of life on earth/ time in space/ mathematical laws and all written as an easy to follow and exciting story. This is not surprising when you realise the writers are Lucy Hawking and her father, Stephen Hawking who is Director of Research at the Institute of Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge. He is widely regarded as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Einstein.  

Year 6 up/ Age 10 up

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Young Adult Fiction

USA Writer
Jillian Cantor  Searching for Sky  Bloomsbury  2014  $19.99pb 278pp  ISBN 978 1 4088 4664 3
Themes:  California, USA/ Grandmothers/ Islands/ Love stories/ Survival

Sky who is sixteen, has lived alone on the island with River ever since her mother and stepfather died and she cannot imagine any other life. They forage for food together, curl up at night to sleep together and spend every waking hour in each other’s company. Then, one day a boat arrives and they are taken back to California where they were born and are separated. Broken hearted, Sky doesn’t even try to fit into her grandmother’s life style and spends her time searching for River. This is an absorbing and succinctly written book that keeps the reader guessing until the final (and really sad) chapter.

Year 8 up/ Age 12 up

Young Adult Fiction

Australian Writer

Jackie French  I Am Juliet  Angus & Robertson 2014  $19.99pb 207pp  ISBN 978 0 7322 9798 5

Themes:  Elizabethan theatre/ Love stories/ Romeo and Juliet  

Based on the famous and tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet, the book examines Juliet’s frustration as she comes to understand her whole life is going to be determined by other people who will force her into an arranged marriage from which there will be no escape. It also looks at a young actor, 13- year- old Rob, who was the first boy to play the part of Juliet on the Globe Theatre stage and his wonder at the power and beauty of Shakespeare’s words. Like most of Jackie French’s work this is a thoughtful book that many readers will enjoy simply for the compelling love story. Those who read through the notes at the back of the book may find themselves revisiting the play and being surprised at just how bawdy some of it is, written in an age when talking about and making jokes about sex was the norm. ‘Shakespeare’ says Jackie French ‘had far more freedom to write about his lovers than I do.’

In the same vein watch for Ophelia, Queen of Denmark (coming 2015) and Third Witch (2016)

Year 8 up/ Age 12 up