Friday, 31 May 2013

Storylines 2013


Storylines 2013 is coming!

Here in Wellington a committee has been meeting for the past few months (latest last night) and have come up with a programme involving:

Books, Buskers, Bears, Boogie

Plus time to:
*Meet writers and illustrators
*Get involved with making things  (lots of craft projects)
*Listen to things (music as well as stories)
*Do things (like learning to juggle)

The Wellington Storylines Free Family Day
will be held at
the Michael Fowler Centre
 on Saturday August 17th beginning at 10am

 Barbara Else brings a picture book to life at the 2012 Storylines in Wellington

For outline details of the programmes in other centres Google Storylines

 Photo of Barbara Else - Barbara Murison


Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Fiction - Age 7 up

NZ Writer & Illustrator
Vince Ford, illustrated by Jenny Cooper
Scrap Book 3 Dog on Trial
Scholastic 2013   $15.00pb         136 pages        
 ISBN 978 1 7754 3082 7

Themes: Sheep Dog trials/Father-son relationships/ Sequels/ Talking animals

In this, the third book in the series, Scrap, an enthusiastic young sheep dog, is brought into conflict with his father, Rex, over the forthcoming sheep dog trails.  I have a feeling Vince Ford must have had a lot of fun (plus many tongue-in-cheek moments) writing these easily read stories which have something for so many – country children/ city children/ good readers/ reluctant readers – and for adults as well.
Google Scholastic NZ for titles and details of the other books in the series. 

Year 3 up/ Age 7 up 

Photo: Acknowledgements to Vince Ford

Fiction - Age 10 up

UK Writer
Simon Mayo

Itch Rocks
Doubleday 2013   $27.99pb          434 pages        
 ISBN 978 0 8575 3133 9

Themes: Action stories/ Sequels
Itchingham Lofte feels like any other ‘normal’ teenager but add in some radioactive rocks, a psychotic science teacher, international terrorists and a team of security guards set up to protect him 24/7, it is sometimes hard even to convince himself. This sequel to Itch  (a good idea to have read it first) contains all the elements of the first book but takes it to an even higher level of excitement and inventiveness.
Itch is a character to warm to with his slightly Walter Mittyish / Mr Magoo behaviour and although he is put in the most terrifying of situations we never really fear for his ultimate safety. Of course all this may change in the next book in the trilogy promised for next year.   
Go to‎ to see Simon Mayo reading from and talking about the book.
Simon was born in 1958 in Southgate, London and has worked for the BBC for around 30 years.

 Year 6 up/ Age 10 up                                                                                                                                             
                           Photo of Simon Mayo:  acknowledgements to BBC, London

Mature Readers (Young Adult)

Australian Writer
Sue Whiting
Portraits of Celina
Walker Books 2013   $16.95pb         349 pages        
 ISBN 978 1 9220 7747 9

Themes: Ghost stories/ Love stories/ Revenge
Bayley is hearing a voice – Celina’s voice. She is wearing Celina’s clothes and sleeping in her room but Celina died forty years before when she was only sixteen. What does she want? From a rather slow beginning the story mounts into a quite scary ghost story and a believable love story, then binds the two together in a satisfying ending.     

Year 9 up/ Age 13 up

For more about Sue Whiting go to:
There is also an interesting interview on:

Young Adult

UK Writer & Illustrator
Rae Earl
OMG! Is This Actually My Life?
Walker Books 2013   $18.95pb    326 pages        
 ISBN 978 1 4063 4001 3

Themes: Diaries/ Family relationships/ Funny stories/ High school life

An over-the-top and absolutely lightweight but additively readable account of a year in the life of Hattie Moore who has much to worry her. She wants to be a Hotness Goddess but is thwarted by the other components in her life  - her missing father (she doesn’t really even know who he is), her irritating small brother, her unusual gran and a dog with a small but entertaining part to play in the plot. Also she doesn’t seem totally sure exactly what a Hotness Goddess is supposed to do…Not a priority purchase but many 12 and 13 year olds (girls only I think) will love it.

Year 8 up/ Age 12 up

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Fiction - Age 7 up

UK Writer & Illustrator
Jackie Morris

East of the Sun, West of the Moon
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books  2013  $29.50hb 168 pages        
 ISBN 978 1 8478 0294 1

Themes: Journeys/ Old tales, retold/ Polar bears/ Read aloud/ Scandinavian fairy stories

Love, loyalty and freedom are woven together in this mystical story, retold from the Scandinavian fairy tale of the same name. It takes the reader on a magical journey to far mountains, deep, dark forests and into our imaginations. Not a story for every child but for those who lose themselves in it and for any adult who shares it with them, it will be an unforgettable experience.
Jackie Morris has thought about the story and made preliminary sketches, particularly of the polar bears which play a big part in the tale, for many years.
This is an excellent piece of book production – an almost square book that fits comfortably in the hands.
Google Jackie’s name for several great websites and samples of her illustrations.

Year 3 up/ Age 7 up

Friday, 24 May 2013

Picture Book


UK Writer & Illustrator
Jez Alborough
Six Little Chicks
Red Fox  2013  (2012)         $6.99pb           32 pages
ISBN 978 1 8494 1611 5

Themes: Counting books/ Farmyard stories/ Lucky accidents/ Stories in rhyme

Five little chicks and their rather dopy Mother Hen are in mortal peril as the big red fox struts into the farmyard, licking his lips. But thanks to a fortunate accident the fox really meets his just deserts and the chicks are able to gather round to see the sixth member of the family coming out of the egg. As you will see this is a truly simple little story but it is a useful book to share with its many spin-offs in counting, comprehension and language skills.  

The illustrations are not Jez Alborough’s best  (remember Duck in the Truck and My Friend Bear?) but they are very 'touchable’ and the story reads aloud really well.

Preschool up/ Age 3 up 

Photo of Jez: Acknowledgments to Random House

Picture Book

NZ Illustrator and Maori Lyric Writers
Illustrated by Deborah Hinde. 
Maori Lyrics by Kotuku and Te Okahurangi Tibble, sung by Pio Terei
10 Kooky Kiwi
Scholastic 2013  $19.50  32 pages
ISBN 978 1 7754 3145 9 

Themes:  Counting – songs and music/ Kiwis – songs and music/ Traditional songs

Brightly coloured illustrations bring to life this New Zealand take on the traditional song Ten Green Bottles with one small kiwi ‘falling off the wall’ until there are none left. But – wait – that’s not the end of the story because the kiwi all end up in bed having a story read to them. Half of the book is in English and the other in te reo Maori with a bonus extra of a CD with words sung by Pio Terei. 

Pre school up/ Age 4 up

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Picture Book

NZ Writer, Translator and Illustrator
Chris Szekely, illustrated by Andrew Burdan and translated into te reo Maori by Scotty Morrison
Swim / Tahoe
Huia Publishers 2013         $24.00hb                  32 pages
ISBN 978 1 7755 0079 7 (English version)
ISBN 978 1 7755 0105 3 (Maori version)

Themes:  Epic swims/ Flute playing/ Hinemoa and Tutanekai/ Lake Rotorua/ Love stories/ Stories in te reo Maori/ Survival

This is the story of the two young lovers, Tutanekai and Hinemoa who, in spite of paternal disapproval and a vast stretch of lake water, finally manage to be together.

I was privileged to be at the AGM of the Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection last night where the guest speaker was Chris Szekely, the author of Swim and Chief Librarian, Turnbull Library. Chris gave us the very first public airing of this book as he read and projected the magnificent images on the screen. His audience sat quite mesmerized as the well-known story unfolded  - although, as Chris explained, he has taken a small poetic licence or two especially in removing the gourds that Hinemoa traditionally used to keep her afloat as she swam out to the island. As he said gourds as life rings and love stories somehow don’t match. 
I am so impressed with this book – the whole production – and am sure it will be received with enthusiasm by a very wide audience indeed.
Swim will be officially launched in Rotorua near the spot where Hinemoa started her swim, at the beginning of June. 
Chris was the winner of last year’s (2012) New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards Picture Book Section with Rāhui which he also shared with us last night.
It was a very special evening.  

Preschool up/ Age 4 up (including secondary schools)
Photo of Chris: acknowledgments to Huia Publishers

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Picture Book

UK Writer and Illustrator
Susan Varley
Badger’s Parting Gifts
Andersen Press 2013 (1984)   $18.99pb 32 pages
ISBN 978 1 8493 9514 4 

Themes:  Death/ Grieving/ Memories

Badger is so tired and so old and he realises that soon he must leave his friends and go down ‘the long tunnel’ to die. When this happens his animal friends are overcome with grief and sadness but as winter turns to spring they begin to remember all the wonderful things that Badger had taught them over the years – how to make paper cuts (Mole), how to tie a tie (Fox), how to ice skate (Frog).  This book must be one of the best I have come across for explaining the concept of death (and especially of an older person) to young children.  Over the past 29 years I have used it with many parents and families and it is great to see it bought out as a reprint. It has not dated and still reads without a skerrick of sentimentality in the telling and its bright accessible illustrations still complement the story.
(Have a surreptitious tissue at the ready if you are reading it aloud).

Preschool up/ Age 4 up

Friday, 17 May 2013

Fiction Age 7 up

Australian Writer but born in Essex UK
R A Spratt
Nanny Piggins And The Race to Power
Random House 2013           $19.99pb  284 pages
ISBN 978 1 7427 5499 4 

Themes:  Campaigns/ Family Life/ Funny (very funny) stories/ Pigs/ Politics/ Series

Although this is the eighth installment in the Nanny Piggins adventures, it is a stand-alone story. Not only that, each chapter is a stand-alone story making it perfect for a wet Friday afternoon read-aloud. 
Nanny who looks after the children in the Green family does not approve of their father, Mr Green her employer, who is currently running for mayor so Nanny decides to mount a campaign of her own. This  includes a memorable fun run, being trapped in a lift and beating the world pole vaulting record. 

Year 3 up/ Age 7 up (A great read-aloud.)

R A Spratt IS the name on R A Spratt’s birth certificate, making it difficult for library cataloguers. She lives with her husband and two children in Bowral, Australia.
Go to: for more information and to hear R A Spratt reading from the first chapter of the first Nanny Piggin’s story. 

Photo of R.A Spratt: Acknowledgments to Random House


Australian Writer & Illustrator
Lorraine Marwood, illustrated by Amy Daoud
Guinea Pig Town and Other Animal Poems
Walker Books 2013           $16.95pb 144 pages
ISBN 978 1 9220 7742 4 

Lorraine Marwood lives on a dairy farm in rural Victoria, Australia and has spent much time working on adult literacy, ESL and encouraging children to read  - and to write poetry. This collection is full of great images (possum deciles on our tin roof/ a grey cow with a moist nose and a yellow tag munching hay like it is a sherbet lolly and pink roses are kitten’s noses – whiskers like fine fish bone lines) to get children going on creating their own.

Year 2 up/ Age 6 up


NZ Writer & Illustrator
Sandra Morris
Discovering New Zealand Birds
New Holland Publishers 2013 (1994)           $17.99pb  32 pages
ISBN 978 1 8696 6390 2 

A very welcome reprint of a really attractive book showing fourteen well-known New Zealand birds in bright watercolour and quite full text which makes it also suitable for secondary school.  Discovering New Zealand Birds has been around libraries (school, college and personal) for the past nineteen years so it may be time to replace what are probably rather battered copies with the new edition.  The whole book has been redesigned and the text updated. 

Year 3 up/ Age 7 up (although much younger children will enjoy recognising the images.) 

Sandra Morris has worked as an art editor and illustrator for the NZ School Journal and has designed and written many of her own books. She runs the Sandra Morris Illustration Agency - visit:

Photo shows Sandra Morris at work in the field. 
Courtesy of Sandra Morris 

Monday, 13 May 2013


Australian Writer & Designers
Nicolas Brasch
For Valour – Australia’s Victoria Cross Heroes
Black Dog 2013           $19.99pb           32 pages
ISBN 978 1 7420 3231 3

From the ninety-nine Australian Victoria Cross recipients the author has researched, he has chosen twenty to present here in full detail The Victoria Cross is the Commonwealth's highest military honour for bravery.  The time span covers the Boer War (only one recipient and the first Australian to be awarded the honour) to the heroes of the War in Afghanistan. This is a very accessible account illustrated mainly with black and white images and without too much information on the page.

Year 6 up/ Age 10 up

For a full list of New Zealanders awarded the honour, many of whom have had whole books devoted to them, go to:

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Picture Book

NZ Writer & Illustrator
Sabrina Malcolm
Blue Moon Bird
Scholastic 2013           $19.99pb           32 pages
ISBN 978 1 7754 3112 1

Themes: Inventions/ Loneliness/ Magic/ Toys
Theodore Cubb is a lonely small boy who has the good fortune to live in a toy factory and one night a most surprising thing happens to him that eventually leads him to a new friend! Although Sabrina’s distinctive illustrations and designs will be familiar to many readers, this is the first time she has illustrated AND written a picture book. We are treated to a feast of bright but never over stated colours in images that will want to be explored over and over again.  Like all good stories, not too much is told and there is plenty of scope for the reader and listener to build on their imaginations.
Year 2 up/ Age 6 up

The book was launched by Fleur Beale at the Children’s Bookshop, Kilbirnie, last night and here Sabrina is about to sign copies for a happy customer.

For a review of the book on the Kim Hill programme on 25.5.12 go to:  

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Fiction - Age 6 up


Australian Writer &  Illustrator
Susan Halliday, illustrated by Tom Jellett
Marcy: Lost Dogs
Ford Street Australia 2013           $12.99pb           56 pages
ISBN 978 1 9216 6574 5
Marcy Series Number 2/ Book 14

Themes: Easy-to-read/ Grandmothers/ Self confidence/ Series

Armed with a clipboard of essential tips for new dog owners, Marcy and her friend Bella walk the neighbourhood trying to match suitable homes with lost dogs from the local ‘pound’.  Easily read, funny and with a strong message of good pet ownership, this is just one new title in a very full series that I have only just come across.  For teachers wanting to get younger children ‘hooked’ into an attractive series I think these books would be well worth considering. There is a companion series Toocool with a male main ‘lead’ although Marcy and Bella also appear in them.    
Year 2- 3/ Ages 6-7

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Picture Book

NZ Writer & Australian Illustrator (born in Tuscany)
Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Lucia Masciullo
Queen Alice’s Palaces
HarperCollins Australia 2013           $30.00hb           32 pages
ISBN 978 0 7333 3102 2

Published May 1st 2013

Themes: Buildings/ Stories in rhyme/ Trickery 

Queen Alice has a palace which comes up to expectations of all such buildings - golden and grand – the best in the land and from the eye-catching illustrations she seems very content. Enter Sir Hugh (cunning, conniving and callous and much given to twirling his whiskers) who decides he too should live in such a palace and tries to trick the lovely Queen Alice into building him one – just for him. The fun in the story is the way in which each magnificent building has one vital flaw and falls to the ground before it can be occupied. The verses are cleverly constructed so that each stanza has three rhyming lines then ends on the fourth with a variation on the rhyme for Hugh (new/ bamboo/ Peru/ undo and so on) throughout the whole book. There must be a name for this technique but I can’t think what it is!
Preschool -Year 2/ Ages 4-6

I took these photos of Juliette at the New Zealand launch of the book at Paper Plus, Porirua yesterday afternoon. Many of the guests were children who were enthralled by Juliette’s dramatic rendition of the story as she proved it is great for telling aloud.


Thursday, 2 May 2013

Mature Readers

USA Writer
Patricia McCormick
Never Fall down
Corgi 2013 (2012)         $18.99pb   216 pages
ISBN 978 0 5525 6735 0

First published by Doubleday 2012

Themes: Cambodia/ Child soldiers/ Khmer Rouge/ Killing Fields/ Music/ Survival

Although this story is written as fiction it is based on the life and horrendous experiences of Arn Chorn-Pond, a boy who survived the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia to become a human rights activist. When he was eleven years old the Khmer Rouge, the radical Communist regime, came to power in Cambodia. The writer, Patricia McCormick, spent many hours interviewing Arn to get his story of how nearly two million people died – almost one quarter of the population. It is the worst genocide ever inflicted by a country on its own people.
The story is told in the voice of Arn in short sentences, which may be a little hard for some readers to adapt to at first. However, as the facts unfold it is obvious, to give the full impact, there was no other way for it to be told.

Please note that the book contains really graphic descriptions of torture and war and is absolutely unsuitable for younger readers. Don't be mislead by the young boy's face on the jacket.

Year 10 up/ Age 14 up