Monday, 29 April 2013


Children’s Book of the Year Award Renamed

Up until now the top award in the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards has always been known as 'The Book of the Year’. However, it has just been announced by Sam Elworthy, chairman of the Book Awards Governance Group, that the award has now been renamed, New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award. 
Margaret’s Mister Whistler with illustrations by Gavin Bishop, is on the shortlist for this year’s Picture Book Award. 

 Photo of Margaret: acknowledgments to

Margaret was 76 when she died in her home city of Christchurch last year and had won the top award in 1999 and 2011.  She would, said her daughter Bridget, have been very happy about being acknowledged in this way. …I don’t think she ever stopped enjoying the acknowledgements that were made for her writing.
Her mother, said Bridget, always supported other writers, turned up for their book launches, bought their books and asked them to sign them.
Margaret wrote over 200 books and poems many of which have been given awards. She is the only New Zealander to win the biennial International *Hans Christian Andersen Award  
Source: The  Dominion Post  29.4.13

*Every other year IBBY (the International Board on Books for Young People)  presents the Hans Christian Andersen Awards to a living author and illustrator whose complete works have made a lasting contribution to children's literature.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Fiction - Age 10 up

NZ Writer
David Hill
Scholastic 2013         18.50pb           175 pages
ISBN 978 1 7754 3132 9
To be published May 1st.

Themes:  Bullying/ Grandfathers/ Horse riding/ High school life/ Mental illness/ Secrets/ Swimming training

Con, who tells his own story, is a regular NZ guy aged around 13 who is into swimming training in a big way, looking at girls from a distance, tormenting his older sister and generally enjoying himself. Then into his life comes Bex and most importantly Bex’s grandfather who has a secret from the past which is making him act in what many of the kids at school feel is a totally weird way. Although the reader learns some of the details of the secret about three quarters of the way through the story they are not prepared for the ending that leaves us feeling sad for a life lost. Con is an appealing hero and there are many laugh out loud moments – especially an incident when Con has reluctantly been forced up on the back of an extra large horse but is totally uncertain about how to get down again. As in so many of David Hill’s books, there is a wonderful ‘last liner’ and, as usually happens, the reader goes away feeling satisfied with a well-told story that has held their interest to the end..
Year 6 up/ Age 10 up  


Wednesday, 24 April 2013

News (particularly of interest to Wellingtonians)

The New Zealand Art Activity Book: 100+ Ideas for Creative Kids which was reviewed on this blog on April 3rd, will be brought to life by the author, Helen Lloyd next Tuesday, April 30th. Helen will be speaking at Te Papa from 10.30am to 12 noon about how children learn to draw, why a book like this is needed and how it was developed. 

The session will cost Friends of Te Papa $15.00 and guests $20.00 (this includes free parking and refreshments).
To register go to:> or ring the Friends’ office 04 381 7051


Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Fiction - Age 8 up

UK Writers and Irish Illustrator
Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham, illustrated by P J Lynch
Mysterious Traveller
Walker Books 2013         $32.99hb           48 pages
ISBN 978 1 4063 3707 5
Book Two of a planned trilogy
Themes: Blindness/ Camels/ Deserts/ Princesses

This satisfying story tells of a desert guide who finds an abandoned baby in the sands of the desert, takes her home and cares for her. Then, as she grows and as he begins to lose his sight, the roles are reversed. Which desert? Where are they? What year is it? None of this matters for this is a powerful story, immaculately written, that takes the reader into a world of the imagination and is peopled with characters about whom we come to care. The illustrations by P J Lynch, who has twice won the Kate Greenaway Medal from the British Library Association, are in subtle desert-like colours of browns and muted blues and reds. How I would love to have a class to share this with as I read it aloud.    

Year 4 up/ Age 8 up (but it could be read to much younger children).

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Picture Books (3)

Australian Writer and Illustrator (born in the UK but now lives in Australia)
Leila Rudge
Walker Books 2013    $29.99hb    32 pages
ISBN 978 1 9219 7750 3
Themes: Dogs/ Family life/ Friends/ Pet Shops

Ted has been in the Pet Shop waiting for a Forever Home for far too long and nobody ever seems to notice him. Ted runs away; joins a circus; takes part in a pet show; enrols as a guard dog but still no one notices him (not even the burglars). Then, when he is walking along the city street feeling rejected and unwanted, he sees a small girl putting up a flier asking for a companion dog who will go for walks with her and play games and be part of her family. The illustrations were created with paper, ink, pencil and glue and are full of the sorts of small details most children will enjoy discovering each time they have the story read to them 
Preschool up/ Age 4 up
NZ Writer and Illustrator
Ben Brown, illustrated by Helen Taylor
The Song of the Ship Rat
Scholastic 2013       $19.50pb     32 pages
ISBN 978 1 7754 3048 3
Themes: Old age/ Rats/ Stories in rhyme/ Voyages 

In wonderfully lyrical verse we follow the adventures of an aging ship rat as he looks back on the places he has been and sights he has seen. He feels he may be on his last voyage but when he comes to his old home upon which he once looked as paradise, he finds all the familiar things, people and animals have gone. He must go back to the life he has chosen.
Unroll the maps to Far-Away!
We’ll sail before the sun,
for I am a sea-worn ship rat, friends…
I’ll sail until I’m done.
As with all the books on which this husband and wife team have collaborated, this proves a perfect match of text and illustration.
Google Helen Taylor and Ben Brown to find many more titles to share with pleasure with individual children or a whole class.
Year 1 up/ Age 5 up
UK Writer and Illustrator
Melanie Walsh
Living with Mum and Living with Dad
Walker Books 2013         $18.99pb           40 pages (counting flaps)
ISBN 978 1 4063 4176 8
Themes: Lift-the-flap stories/ Relationships/ Separation (of parents)

Mum and Dad don’t live together anymore so their little girl divides her time between their two homes – yellow walls for her cosy bedroom at Mum’s house and flowery wallpaper at Dad’s. This is a comforting story for very young children whose parents have separated emphasising the positive things of still being part of a larger family of aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins and, most important, of the never-changing love both her parents feel for her.  Bold, bright pictures, very simple text and with sturdy flaps that should weather a lot of use.
Preschool to Year 2/ Ages 3-6


Thursday, 18 April 2013


Book Launch of A Winter's Day in 1939

Saturday last, April 13th, saw another launch out at The Children’s Bookshop in Kilbirnie here in Wellington. This was for Melinda Szymanik’s A Winter’s Day in 1939. Melinda,   who had travelled down from Auckland for the launch was joined by friends and admiring readers who had gathered to wish her well with the book as it was officially launched by the Polish Ambassador, Beata StoczyƄska. John McIntyre said, as he welcomed us all to the shop, this is a title he predicts will be around for a very long time.
See a review of the book on March 10th.
Melinda and Beata

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Picture Book

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Sally Sutton, illustrated by Gary Venn
Ben And The Icky-Ooky-Sticky-Smick 
Walker Books 2013   $29.99hb   28 pages
ISBN 978 1 9215 2900 9 
Themes: Grandfathers/ Insects as pets 

 Sally Sutton

Poor Ben! His pet Icky-ooky-sticky-smick is missing and although most of his family are pleased to be rid of what they consider is a most unwelcome visitor to their house Ben persists in searching and so does Grandpa. Many other unusual insects come to light during the search (a cribble-crabble-scuttle-snucks plus a lurcky-murky-dottle-spot and a poople-popple-piggle-snops) but it is not until a long trail of pop-corn (the insects’ favourite food) is laid that the whole collection is together again. This is a book to have real fun with from savouring the wonderful insect names (and making up some more) to investigating the digitally created illustrations. I have a feeling that the author and illustrator must have had fun putting it together as well. 

 Preschool to Year 2/ Ages 3-6 
(Sally sent me this photo of herself)

Monday, 15 April 2013

Margaret Mahy Day Awards 2013

 Many congratulations to the people who were presented with awards at the 2013 Margaret Mahy Day held at Kings School in Auckland on Saturday April 6th

 Included were: 
Aimee McNaughton Taurang Storylines Joy Cowley Award.
 This award is for a picture book and includes editorial directions from Joy with an offer of publication by Scholastic NZ in 2014

 Juliet with her eldest daughter Rosie

Juliet Jacka, Wellington The Tom Fitzgibbon Award 
Scholastic NZ  (in partnership with Storylines NZ) gives this award for a work of fiction for children between 7 and 13 with an offer of publication in 2014

Patrick McDonald, Wellington  Random House Gavin Bishop Award This is an award for a picture book and includes mentoring and support from Gavin Bishop. The award winner may also receive an offer of publication from Random House.
No image of Patrick is available at present
Please visit: where you will find a full account of The Day, photos and a complete list of the award winners.


Sunday, 14 April 2013

Mature Readers - Age 13 up

NZ Writer
David Hair
Ghosts Of Parihaka 
HarperCollins 2013   $24.99pb   303 pages
ISBN 978 1 8695 0932 3
Themes: Conservation/ Fantasy/ Maori people of New Zealand/ India/ Parihaka -  New Zealand 
Book Five in the Aotearoa series 

Matiu Douglas is with his classmates on a trip to Parihaka – an unassuming small place that was the scene of much historical, cultural and political importance during the 40 years between 1860 and 1900. When his friend Riki is snatched into the Ghost World of Aotearoa during the trip,  Matiu is forced into some decisions that may have deadly consequences. This is the fifth title in the series where past and present mix, seemingly seamlessly. For readers who have been following the series the author says this in an epilogue: …You’ll know how the Aotearoa series works: The Ghost World is an afterlife that collects the souls of those tied closely to its history, and who feel passionately about the land (for good or ill). This means of course that some of the characters are real people… 
 Book Six, the final in the series, is in preparation. 
Year 9 up/ Age 13 up 


Thursday, 11 April 2013

Mal Peet Book Launch


Mal Peet Book Launch

Last night (10.4.13) I went to the Wellington launch of Mysterious Traveller by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham out at the Kilbirnie Children’s Bookshop - scene of several book launches so far this year (and more to come!) I can’t wait for lunchtime to read this book (I think I will finish it in an hour), as it looks so very special. I will say something about it here in a few days.  Mal is here in New Zealand for a term while he teaches an advanced creative writing ‘workshop’ at Victoria University, School of Modern Letters.  He and his wife Elspeth Graham are from Devon in the UK and return at the end of June.
The picture shows Barbara Else (The Travelling Restaurant and The Queen and the Nobody Boy (just shortlisted for this year’s NZ Post Children’s Book Awards)) discussing the book with Mal and Elspeth at the book launch last night.

Please note that from now on I will put any news items on the same page as Book Reviews. I will remove the News heading from the home page.  


Fiction- Age 9 up

Dutch Writer and Illustrator
Joke van Leeuwen
The Day My Father Became A Bush
Gecko Press 2013         $19.99pb           104 pages
ISBN 978 1 8775 7916 5
Themes: Displaced people/ Journeys/ Survival/ War

A clearly crafted story in which we come to expect the unexpected. In it we meet and become involved in the lives of Toda, her father who is a soldier sent away to fight in a war he doesn’t believe in and Toda’s grandmother who is left behind in the city with the war coming closer each day.  But it is her mother, a somewhat shadowy figure, who is the haven and the reason for Toda’s journey across the war wrecked countryside filled with seemingly insurmountable incidents. A story both poignant and funny  (and the illustrations highlight the humour of the text so well) which would be rewarding to read aloud to a class or group of children and which will help to swell the collection of other high quality books that have been appearing this year just in time for ANZAC Day.
See also Melinda Szymanik A Winter's Day in 1939 and ANZAC Day – The New Zealand Story by Philippa Werry both reviewed recently on this Blog. (Use the search box to find them!)   
Year 5 up/ Age 9 up

Go to: for more unusual books from this publisher.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Picture Book

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Ruth Paul
Bad Dog Flash
Scholastic 2013 $19.50   32 pages
ISBN 978 1 7754 3096 4
Themes: Dog training/ Puppies/ Repetitive stories

A new book by Ruth Paul is always a treat and Bad Dog Flash certainly won’t disappoint her many admirers. Flash, a small and determined puppy, lives in a household of many temptations – shoes/ cats/ sticks to chase/ bones to bury/ washing to attack - none of which pleases his owner who berates him with Bad Dog Flash. But, no one can be cross with Flash for long and there is always a warm and loving lap in which to curl up.  In spite of Flash's energy this is a calm and gentle book with plenty of white spaces around the images and many new words to savour. 
Preschool up/ Age 4 up

Friday, 5 April 2013

Kids’ Lit Quiz Wellington Leg 5.4.13 and launch of ANZAC Day: the New Zealand story


Kids' Lit Quiz, Wellington 5.4.13
Today I was one of the ‘markers’ for the Wellington Leg of the Kids’ Lit Quiz. I have lost count of how many I have attended but this must be one of the best. The event was superbly organised by Judy Munro, the librarian at Papakowhai School where the quiz was held. Wayne Mills, Quizmaster, was, in spite of having lost a front tooth in an encounter with a hard pizza over Easter, his usual ebullient self, keeping the participants of around 160 10-12 year olds from the Wellington region on their toes and eager right to the last question. Wayne manages to always make his questions about the whole world of children’s literature, even after all these years, fresh and entertaining. 
The winners, the Marsden School B team, will participate again at the National Finals to be held at The Beehive, Wellington in June.
Second was the Marsden A team and Scots College came in third.  And very close behind came Northland School, Evans Bay Intermediate, Mt Cook School and Raroa Intermediate.   The school that wins in June will be off overseas to the UK for the International Finals. 

More info at

The Winners with Wayne Mills

And from the same school – the second place winners. 
Unfortunately the Scots College team had moved off before I had a chance to photo them.

 Book Launch Kilbirnie 4.4.13
It’s been 48 hours of book related activities because last night I went out to the Children’s Bookshop at Kilbirnie to the Wellington launch of Philippa Werry’s great new book, ANZAC Day, the New Zealand story.   
(See the review on this Blog on March 23rd.) All the speakers had so much to say in praise of the book – words that I am sure will be repeated at the Auckland launch next week when the publisher of the title, New Holland, will be there.

 Pippa talking about her book to Maggie Rainey-Smith, Chair of the Wellington Branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors.  

Among the guests who had gathered to wish Pippa well with the book was Adele Jackson from Wellington who designed the stunning header for this Blog. 

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Non Fiction

NZ Writer and Artists
Helen Lloyd
The New Zealand Art Activity Book
100 + ideas for creative kids
Te Papa Press 2013  $29.99pb         184 pages
ISBN 978 0 9876 6880 6
Themes: Artists, contemporary, New Zealand/ Creative ideas

This really beautiful book is described as a colouring book but it is like no colouring book I have ever seen. It is printed on such high quality matt paper that much thought would be needed before making any marks, however small, on it at all. It is absolutely full of original ideas to involve children in the whole world of art and creativity and I would love to have a class with which to use it. There are many colour reproductions from artists held in the National collection including Dick Frizzell, Fatu Feu’u, E Mervyn Taylor and W.D. Hammond. It is a book for one special child to treasure and keep or for an imaginative teacher to photocopy enough ideas to keep a class going (and be excited by what they are discovering) for a year and more.  
Year 2 up/ Age 6 up
Highly recommended

Monday, 1 April 2013

Fiction - Age 9 up

NZ Writer and Photographers
Kath Beattie
Cyclone Bola – Gisborne 1988
Scholastic 2013       $18.50pb         171 pages
Series: My New Zealand Story
ISBN 978 1 7754 3100 8
Themes: Disasters, New Zealand/ Vineyards

       It is 1988 and Amy’s parents have just told her they are about to go to Vanuatu and sail a friend’s yacht back to New Zealand. This means Amy, much against her will, is to be sent off to her Uncle’s farm and vineyard in Gisborne. Amy tells the story, which does take a while to really find its feet, in the form of a diary and some readers who are looking for the adventure side of it all (and there is plenty later) may find the inclusion of so many Facts about life in the area, pre-cyclone a bit off-putting. However, once the cyclone hits, the reader is whirled into the devastating events of those weeks and is left with an unforgettable picture of what it must have been like to be living through it. Added to the tensions is the fact that no one has heard from Amy’s parents since they set sail from the port up in the Pacific. 
Black and white photos are included at the back of the book plus you will find excellent teachers' notes on the Scholastic NZ webpage 
Year 5 up/ Age 9 up

March this year was the 25th anniversary of Cyclone Bola, an event that proved to be one of the costliest cyclones in the history of this country.