Friday, 30 January 2015

Non-Fiction 8 years and up Waitangi Day

NZ Writer, Photographers and Artists  Philippa Werry  Waitangi Day The New Zealand Story

New Holland, 2015   $25.00pb 64pp ISBN 978 1 8696 6421 3

Themes: New Zealand History/ Treaty of Waitangi, 1840

Waitangi Day, the Treaty of Waitangi - what it is and why it matters is the theme of this
recent book put together in the same format of many photos and images and easily accessed material as found in ANZAC Day the New Zealand Story.  

The important facts surrounding the Treaty between its ‘signing’ in 1840 and the present day are broken down into bite sized pieces and are supported by a detailed guide to the places to see and explore when visiting Waitangi. There is a full index. It will be interesting to see what ‘Day’ Pippa Werry turns her considerable talents to next! Although the book is aimed at younger readers (see below) it will also be useful for much older students (and adults) wanting a quick brush up.

Pippa and Bob Kerr at the launch of Best Mates 2014 Image: Barbara Murison
Year 4 up/ Age 8 up

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Young Adult Fiction (Fantasy)


USA Writer Amanda Hocking Frostfire Book One The Kanin Chronicles Pan Macmillan, 2015   $19.19pb 321pp

ISBN 978 1 4472 5664 9

Themes: ‘Belonging’/ Betrayal/ Fantasy/ Love stories/ Series/ Trolls/ Vampires

Bryn Aven is an outsider, seen as a ‘half blood’ especially with her blond hair and blue eyes and cannot seem to fit into the Kanin society which she loves. It is here she wishes to become part of the King’s elite guard.  Easily read, a tight storyline and exciting writing, this has all the elements (see themes above) that should make it popular.

For some readers the stunning jacket will be a major drawcard!  

Amanda Hocking came to fame through her previous titles. Until then she had not published a book but after being ‘discovered’ on eBooks the Trylle  trilogy sold many millions of copies.

Year 8 up/  Age 12 up

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Picture Books for the very young


Swedish Writer & Finnish Illustrator Lena Landstrom, illustrated by (her husband) Olof Landstrom Where Is Pim? Gecko Press, 2015   $19.19pb 32pp

ISBN 978 1 9272 7174 2 Themes: Friendship/ Hide-and-Seek/ Series

In this new story about Pim and Pom there is drama, tension, humour and adventure when Pim, the small rag animal? person? (it is really whatever the viewer wants it to be) is ‘taken’ by an energetic dog who then joins in the search.  A whole novel could be written about the feelings and emotions that are raised here but this is a simple story in just over 50 words, aimed at the very young and it works supremely well.  Every picture moves the story on to its hoped for conclusion.  Perfect!!

Preschool/ Age 3 up

Monday, 26 January 2015

Young Adult Fiction (13 years and up)


USA Writer
Emily Lockhart
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Allen & Unwin 2015  (first published Hyperion Books, New York 2008)   $17.99pb 345pp
ISBN 978 1 7601 1330 8
Themes: Attitude/ Boarding school life/ Gangs
At 14 when she starts at the boarding school that was also attended by her father and sister, Frankie is a rather geeky, under-developed, unnoteworthy teenager. At 16 she has developed into a possible criminal mastermind and the story of what happens in those two years makes for a highly addictive read - I couldn’t put it down!  The book was first published in the USA 7 years ago so there are plenty of reviews and information about it on the net – nearly all positive.
Barbara Else who has just read it says:
Funny! Clever! Wise! Great fun! Feminism in action!  And that just about sums it up.
My only quibble is the jacket that is pallid and uninspired, in direct contrast to the contents within.
Year 9 up/ Age 13 up

Friday, 23 January 2015

Non-Fiction Natural World Age 6 up

NZ Writer & Illustrator
Sandra Morris
A New Zealand Nature Journal
Walker Books 2014  $23.99pb 48pp
ISBN 978 1 9219 7765 7
Themes: Journal keeping/ NZ natural world
In the rock pools, at the zoo, in the mountains and the fields and even in our urban streets creatures and plants are at work eating, sleeping, reproducing and living incredible lives. Sandra Morris sets out to successfully open children’s eyes to the natural world around them by encouraging them to look and to record their findings.   A special book that will light many candles and the outcomes will grow in value. It’s a book for an adult to share with a child or as a valuable classroom resource.
Year 2 up/ Age 6 up

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Picture Book - preschool up

Available from February 2015

NZ Writer & Illustrator
Nikki Slade Robinson
Muddle and Mo
Duck Creek Press 2015  $19.99pb 32pp
ISBN 978 1 9273 0501 0
Themes: Friendship/ Identity crisis/ Patience 
Muddle is a small yellow duckling full of questions and Mo is a very laid back goat who oozes patience. Muddle, as befits his name, is not totally sure what sort of animals either he or Mo actually are but at the end of a long walk he has it sorted. A charmingly put together story that will really involve small children and have them asking all sorts of questions of their own.
Preschool up/ Age 4 up

Monday, 19 January 2015

Non-Fiction Animals in Wartime

UK Writer and Illustrator David Long, illustrated by Peter Bailey Jet the Rescue Dog

Faber & Faber 2014  $24.99hb  222pp

ISBN 978 0 5713 0492 9

Themes: Animals in Wartime

Near Hyde Park in London there is a stone and bronze memorial to the courageous dogs, cats, birds, horses and even a bear that went to war along side the humans who were fighting.  From animals in the Blitz, London 1940, the Western Front in Northern France 1914 and a memorable cat that saved a ship’s crew in the Yangtze Incident in the Chinese Civil War in 1949, these are stories that help to show not all heroes and heroines are human. Don’t be put off by the very unremarkable look of the publication – beige cover and black and white pen drawings. It is not a book many children would pick up for themselves but the stories are riveting and well worth following up – there is much about many of the animals in the book on the net. It is also worth following up on the work of Peter Bailey whose textured drawings may be found in books by writers such as Tony Mitton, Alan Ahlberg, Dick King Smith, Laurie Lee, and Philip Pullman

Year 4 up/ Age 7 up

Hyde Park Memorial to Animals in Wartime

Friday, 16 January 2015

Picture Books about depression

German and UK Writers and UK Illustrator
Andrew Fusek Peters & Polly Peters, illustrated by Karin Littlewood
The Colour Thief
Wayland 2014   $29.99hb 28pp
ISBN 978 0 7502 8052 5
Themes: Depression/ Family stories/  Fathers and Sons
The small boy who narrates this story has been put in an intolerable position as he watches his father sink into a deep depression and feels it is his entire fault. He describes how his father feels all the colours in the world have gone and he draws a picture of his dad enclosed in an ice-block. Eventually, after months of counselling, Dad returns to his normal happy state and he and his little boy are back to enjoying life together again. Were I buying for a school collection this would not be a book I would put on the open picture book stands or boxes as I feel it needs a wise older person to be on hand to answer the many questions it will generate. However, it would be a wonderfully positive story to share with a child or family who was in the same situation – just the return of the colours at the end is a cause for feeling better.  It would also fit comfortably in the Health Resources at a primary school. It is a book to share and take slowly.
Year 2 up/ Age 6 up (but shared with a dispassionate adult)

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Young Adult Fiction

USA Writer
Jennifer Niven
All the Bright Places
Penguin Books 2015   $18.00pb 388pp
ISBN 978 0 1413 5703 4
Themes: Death (of a sister)/ Depression/ igh school life
 High School Life/  Love stories/ Suicide
A love story set in an American High School about two young people obsessed with the ideas of death and life. Theodore who wants to die and seeks desperately to find ways of doing this only to be thwarted each time by small things that make him see the positive side of living. Then there is Violet who counts the days until she can leave her small town, go somewhere where she can forget her sister’s recent death and really ‘start to live’. But Theodore and Violet are thrown together on a class project and their lives change. Told from the POV of the two main characters this is an absorbing read, sometimes very funny and thought provoking but librarians buying for collections should be aware of the component of suicide and the ways Theodore investigates how he can kill himself.  
It is worth Googling the writer as this is her first book for young adults and she has an interesting ‘history’.   
Year 9 up/ Age13 up (and adults)

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Non-Fiction all ages

French Writer and Illustrator

Herve Tullet Mix It Up Allen & Unwin 2014  $23.00hb 32pp ISBN 978 1 7601 1095 6

Themes: Art/ Colour mixing/ Imagination/ Interactive books

 Just put your finger on the small grey spot and start tapping and with a little help from your imagination the whole world of colour mixing is at your fingertips.  Blues and yellows turn green, yellow and red make orange, white makes colours lighter and squishing colours together opens up yet another world. You just have to believe and the magic doesn’t end on the last page because it is a short step from there to the pottles of real paint or the paintbox. For any child with imagination (and that means most of them) there are hours of interest and excitement here.(I have just looked out the window and there is not a child in sight – sad because the book is crying out to be used)…

Go to: for an interesting interview with Herve.

Preschool up/ Age 4 up
Herve Tullet ran a workshop with children based on the book at the Guggenheim Museum New York on October 18th 2014.  Image source not traced.

Fiction - Readers 8 and up

Available 05/02/2015

USA Writers and Illustrator
James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, illustrated by Laura Park
I Totally Funniest
I Funny series Book Three
Young Arrow 2015  $18.99pb 320pp
ISBN 978 0 0995 9629 5
Themes: Children with disabilities/ Contests/ Wheelchairs
Jamie Grimm lost the use of his toes, his feet and his legs in a car accident which killed the rest of his family and he gets about in a wheelchair. This however, is not going to stop him entering the contest to find The Planet’s Funniest Kid Comic. Like all books by James Patterson the story, plot and characters zip along at a great and irresistible rate with a few poignant comments on the human race in general thrown in. It is easy to read and enhanced by the comic-like illustrations by Laura Park.  
Great for not-so-enthusiastic readers.

Year 4 up/ Age 8 up

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Fiction (readers 12 and up)

USA Writer
Kate Kae Myers
The Vanishing Game
Bloomsbury 2014   $19.99pb 353pp
ISBN 978 1 6196 3127 4
Themes: Brothers & sisters/ Death/ Foster homes/ Love stories/ Mental illness/ Supernatural stories/ Twins
When her twin brother, Jack, dies in a car crash, Jocelyn is overwhelmed with grief. Then she receives a letter from her brother who, it seems, may be very much alive. A cleverly written thriller that really packs a punch in its ending and has the reader going right back to the beginning to see what clues they must have missed.

Year 8 up/ Age 12 up

Fiction (readers 12 and up)

USA Writer
James Patterson (with Emily Raymond)
The Lost
Witch & Wizard series
Young Arrow 2015 (2014)   $29.99pb 347pp
ISBN 978 0 0995 6775 2
Themes: Good v. evil/ Magic/ Power/ Series
Whit and Wisty Allgood, the brother and sister team, have fought against and now seemingly defeated the evil dictator The One Who is the One and all that he stands for. But. This is no time for complacency for a catastrophic evil is pending and if it takes control not even the Allgoods will be able to prevent it taking over. This is the fifth and final title in the series and hopefully the many fans of the series will feel satisfaction at the ending – and be happy to now have the book in paperback format.     

Year 8 up/ Age 12 up

Fairy tales retold

UK Writer and Italian Illustrator 
 Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti
Hansel & Gretel

Bloomsbury 2014  $24.99hb 46pp  ISBN 978 1 4088 6198 1 
Themes: Abandonment/ Fairy tales – retold/ Horror Stories/ Old Age

One of the true horror stories from the world of fairy tales is brought to stunning life here in words and illustration. Although Neil Gaiman doesn’t step totally away from the classic format of this well thumbed story he does tell it in  more detail so that we feel anew the terror of the children’s abandonment in the deep dark of the woods, the evil of the old woman (now no longer a witch) in her gingerbread cottage and the wonder of the happy ending with all the ends tied neatly ‘up’. Don’t expect a burst of colour in the illustrations – they are brilliantly presented in black ink taking us further into what is really a psychological thriller.

Do read the article on page 48-49 which shows the beginnings of this story that was published in 1812 in the Grimm Brothers first collection of German tales.
Year 4 up/ Age 8 up 


Monday, 5 January 2015

Jill Harris, Jean Watson, Fleur Beale - Three Special New Zealand Women

The year has begun with some exciting news and some sad news. 

The sad news?

Jill at the launch of The Red Suitcase
Jill Harris, writer of The Red Suitcase published by Makaro Press and launched on the eve of ANZAC Day last year, died on Christmas Day aged 76. Google her name or use the search box on this BLOG for more information and photos of Jill, a courageous woman who worked almost up to the day of her death on her latest book. She had previously written three other titles for children - At The Lake, Missing Toby and Sil plus The Red Suitcase now into its second print run.

On Friday I went to St Peter’s Church in Willis Street, Wellington where writer Jean Watson was farewelled. Jean was recently best known for her support and total involvement with the orphanage in Southern India, Karunai Illam about which the documentary Aunty and the Star People screened round New Zealand late last year. Many secondary schools will have copies of her books in their collections. Perhaps the best known was Stand in the Rain
Jean, then aged 80, bikes through the village of Tamil Nadu. Image: Indian News Work
which was published back in 1965. At the time of her death (and she had only returned from India a few days before) she was working on her autobiography. It was a tribute to Jean that the church was overflowing – many women dressed in saris - and that so many well-known people from the writing community were there. As we were honouring her here in Wellington, a simultaneous service was being held in Tamil Nadu in India.

Now the happy news!

Fleur - photographer not traced.
Fleur Beale was named as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) in the New Year Honours List on January 1st. When you think of all the wonderful books Fleur has created to share with us and how she is always so totally supportive of new and emerging writers and is so willing to take part in writing events for children and young people, so many people will say And about time too!!

That’s such positive news with which to begin a new year.