Friday, 28 June 2013

Picture Book

UK Writer & Illustrator
Caryl Hart, illustrated by Sarah Warburton
The Princess and the Peas
Nosy Crow    2013 (2012)         $17.99pb     32 pages
ISBN 978 0 8576 3108 4

Themes: Cautionary tales/ Food allergies/ Royal etiquette/ Stories in rhyme

Lily-Rose, who lives with her caring dad in a forest, is allergic to peas and refuses to eat them however tastily he cooks them. He calls the doctor who diagnoses an acute case of Princess-itis and after being told the story of The Princess and the Pea, Lily-Rose  is sent off to live in a handily nearby palace. Here she discovers that there are much worse things in life than not eating your greens. Caryl Hart has a light touch with a quite complex story and the images are as warm-hearted and funny as the narrative. This would be fun to read aloud to a smallish group so they could enjoy the detailed pictures as well as the story.

Year 1 up/ Age 5 up

For information about Caryl Hart go to and follow the links.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

NZ Post Children's Book Awards 2013

Here are the winners for the 2013 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards announced at the Addington Events Centre in Christchurch last night (24.6.13)

Into the River
Ted Dawe
Mangakino University Press
ISBN 978 0 4732 0508 9
(note:  this book is aimed at mature young adult readers and contains some explicit material).

                                                 NON-FICTION AWARD
100 Amazing Tales from Aotearoa
 Simon Morton & Riria Hotere
Te Papa Press
ISBN 978 1 8773 8579 7

                                                 JUNIOR FICTION AWARD
My Brother's War
David Hill
Penguin Group NZ
ISBN 978 0 1433 0717 4 (paperback)
ISBN 978 1 7425 3265 3 (e-book)

The Queen and the Nobody Boy: A Tale of Fontania series
Barbara Else
Gecko Press
ISBN 978 1 8775 7949 3

                                              PICTURE BOOK AWARD
Mister Whistler
 Margaret Mahy & Gavin Bishop
Gecko Press
ISBN 978 1 8774 6792 9

Hugh Brown
ISBN 978 1 8695 0956 9

Kyle Mewburn
Scholastic  NZ
ISBN 978 1 7754 3027 8

Sadly for me the storm on Friday last week meant my planned trip to Christchurch (on the Cook Strait ferry) was delayed and delayed and then my sailing was cancelled so reluctantly I abandoned the whole plan to attend the ceremony. However, luckily for me, Fleur Beale had arranged a gathering of Wellington children’s writers at her home out at Island Bay.  Thanks to Fifi Colston who texted the announcements as they were made and to the excellent Booksellers’ Facebook page, we were kept absolutely up with the play.

Here we are on receiving the news that David Hill had won the Junior Fiction Award (and we were also wishing him a Happy Birthday)
(I took the picture and not very well as the flash didn’t go off)
From left to right – Adele Jackson, Maureen Crisp, Fleur Beale, Pippa Werry, Anita Nalder and Sabrina Malcolm


Sunday, 23 June 2013

Young Adult fiction

NZ Writer
Sherryl Jordan
The Freedom Merchants
Scholastic    2013         $19.50pb           426 pages        
ISBN 978 1 7754 3146 6

Themes:         Algiers – 17th century/ Barbary Coast/ Ireland – History 17th century/ Monks/ Pirates/ Slave trade

Liam lives with his family of younger siblings and an older brother in the small fishing village of Ballykillmara. All seems serene in this routine 17th century world.   However, pirates are raiding the coastlines of Ireland and England taking young men as white slaves to be sold in the markets at Algiers and along the Barbary Coast and Liam’s brother is captured. With the help of monks from a nearby monastery, packets of gold from a  sunken pirate ship and a great deal of courage, Liam sets off to find him and bring him home. From the very first moment the reader knows he or she is safe in the hands of a master storyteller through all the twists and turns of a tangled plot with plenty of blood, the horrors of the slave ships and unfailing faith of the small band of monks.  We are never let down and by the end of the story this reader was anxiously thinking only 10 more/ 7 more/ 2 more pages to go and never wanting it to end. Highly recommended.
Year 9 up/ Age 13 up

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Fiction Age 8 up

Bernice Williams is a teacher from the Wellington area who works with small groups of children in various schools. One of her most enviable jobs (apart from the smallness of the groups) is to talk to  gifted children at Ngaio School about books and book related activities they might like. Sometimes she reads aloud to them and a couple of weeks ago they visited Gecko Press here in Wellington. The group have recently been looking at books by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham including Mysterious Traveller (see earlier entry on this blog) and just last week Cloud Tea Monkeys.

 Here is a review of that book from Alex Lewis age 11 from Ngaio School.
Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham is a book about a girl called Tashi and a group of very helpful monkeys. I really like this book for lots of different reasons. The first of these reasons is that it has very detailed illustrations. In my opinion these make it more interesting. It also pays attention to the tiniest of details, which adds depth to the plot. For example, when it said ”Inside the house her mother coughed, twice.” Just that tiny snippet of information leads to a very big event in the story. My final reason is that it uses an amazing range of captivating language eg. “a light the colour of lemons was soaking into the sky and painting out the stars”. Overall, I think that this book is an amazing story suited for anyone with a craving for a captivating adventure.
I highly recommend it.

UK Writers
Mal Peet and Elspeth Grahame
Cloud Tea Monkeys
Walker Books 2011    $17.99pb  
ISBN 978 1 40633 386 2

Mal and Elspeth will be leaving New Zealand shortly after being here for the whole summer (they are probably escaping just in time). Mal has been teaching in New Zealand at Victoria University at the International Institute of Modern Letters. They will be farewelled at the Children’s Bookshop at Kilbirnie tonight around 6pm after the book launch for Mandy Hager’s latest title – Dear Vincent. All lovers of children’s books are welcome.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Fiction Age 11 up

Australian Writer
Rosanne Hawke
Allen & Unwin   2013          $19.99pb           205 pages        
ISBN 978 1 7433 1246 9
Through my eyes series
Themes: Child labour/ Forced marriage/ Kashmir

Shahana lives with her 10-year-old brother in a dilapidated shack once belonging to her grandparents in the conflict zone of Kashmir where the border patrolled by Indian and Pakistani soldiers divides the country in half. She keeps them alive by producing exquisite embroidery which she sells to the evil Mr Nadir who has his eye on her as a possible young bride he can sell to the highest bidder. Although this is one of a series designed to show the horrors of children living in conflict zones around the world, it reads as an unputdownable story. Google Through my eyes for other titles in the series. 

Year 7 up/ Age 11 up

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Picture Books

NZ Writer & Illustrator
Stephanie Thatcher
The Quiet Pirate
Duck Creek Press   2013          $19.99pb/ $29.99hb     32 pages        
ISBN 978 1 8773 7882 9 pb
ISBN 978 1 8773 7881 2  hb

Themes: Intelligence/ Noise/ Pirates

Pirates are a noisy lot – shouting, stamping, bellowing, hullabaloo -ing and it just didn’t suit Barnaby, the cabin boy. He had a very quiet voice and was rather given to sitting in a lifeboat, reading (and thinking and listening and watching). Sometimes he wondered if he really had the makings of a pirate in him but guess who got eaten by the angry sea monster and who got to sail home with the box full of treasure?  And guess who suddenly found he had quite a loud voice after all? Some interesting ideas for discussion emerge here and the book is full of generous images of pirates, crow’s nests and deep blue oceans all to be poured over.      

Year 2/ Age 6 up

To be published July 1st 2013 (by which time I hope to find a better image of the jacket as this doesn't do it justice)

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Kids’ Lit Quiz National Finals 2013


The Sport of Reading
I am just back from a few hours filled with amazement and admiration.  The amazement was for the teams of children (intermediate age) from all over New Zealand who made it to the national finals of the Kids’ Lit Quiz held this afternoon at the National Library of New Zealand and who between them had an absolute fund of knowledge about current, older and some very old children’s books. The admiration was for their quiz master, Wayne Mills, who is the master mind behind the quiz and who year after year in the heats throughout the country and at the finals always manages to come up with a programme of questions that are fresh, intelligent and full of possible traps for the unwary.

The winners are:
The team from Takapuna Normal Intermediate, Auckland with St Josephs Catholic School, Nelson and Marsden School, Wellington very close behind. 
See also the entry for April 5th on this blog. Search under Kids Lit Quiz.

The winners and their coach with their trophies and awards.
No wonder they are all smiling – they have just heard that in less than 3 weeks they will be on a plane bound for South Africa to take part in the World Finals.

Photo: Barbara Murison

Picture Book

NZ Writer & Illustrator
Kyle Mewburn, illustrated by Sarah Nelisiwe Anderson
Luther and the Cloud Makers
Scholastic   2013         $19.50pb      32 pages        
ISBN 978 1 7754 3144 2

Themes: Environmental Protection/ Pollution/ Recycling

There was once a perfect place to live  - a green valley where the sun shone and the flowers grew, the air was fresh and sweet and the people were happy. Then insidiously into this seeming paradise came a great, black, tarry cloud. It was over to Luther, a boy with a mission, to find what was causing it. 
A great story about pollution, recycling and attitudes that will require children reading and looking at it to really think what the whole story is about. There are many possible spin-offs to this title!   

Year 2/ Age 6 up

A couple of days ago it was announced Kyle Mewburn is the new president of the New Zealand Society of Authors. This is a great event for New Zealand children’s literature and a cause to celebrate. Like his story above, this event too will have many possible spin-offs.


 Photo thanks to Kyle Mewburn 2012

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Young Adult

NZ Writer
Mandy Hager
Dear Vincent
Random House   2013         $19.99pb           277 pages        
ISBN 978 1 7755 3327 6

Themes: Aged care/ Death/ Dysfunctional families/ Love stories/ Painting/ Suicide/ Survival/ Vincent Van Gogh

In her new book (published yesterday 7.6.13) Mandy Hager takes us to some dark places with amazing skill and understanding. Tara’s sister has killed herself in Ireland on the other side of the world, her father is terminally ill and her mother appears to have written her off. Tara, a passionate painter and admirer of the works of Vincent van Gogh ultimately shows she is a survivor but we have many moments of doubting if she will make it.  it is a story hard to stop reading. Mandy has written a two-page note at the end of the book, which in my opinion, is one of the best arguments for NOT taking one’s own life I have read. As she says – there is nothing remotely glamorous, mysterious, logical or inevitable about killing oneself...Why cut a life short when circumstances can change from one instant to another? We never know what is round the corner – that’s part of the great possibility of life...
My hope for the book, as well as being read as a great story by a writer who goes each year from strength to strength, is that it finds its way into the hands of people it will help.
Of course, as an ex-librarian I am only too aware this will have its difficulties.

Year 10 up/ Age 14 up (and adults)

Mandy Hager and Ruth MacIntyre at the Children's Bookshop, Kilbirnie, Wellington. In the background - David Hair, Geoff Palmer and Fleur Beale. 
Photo: Barbara Murison (taken 2012)

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Picture Books

South African Writer & Illustrator
Alex Latimer
Lion vs Rabbit
Random House   2013         $16.99pb           32 pages        
ISBN 978 0 5525 6541 7

Themes: Back-up teams/ Bullies/ Trickery

Once there was a very, very mean lion who lived in Africa and who delighted in humiliating his victims. At last all the animals rebelled and after offering a reward on the net of 100 bucks to tame the bully, were pleased to find a great international response. Alas, none of the animals that flew in from around the world were up to the job – that is, until Rabbit arrived. He was puny looking but he was smart and his way of dealing with Lion will delight all children who usually love a bit of trickery in their stories. It is one of those perfect matches of images and story that give the reader-aloud as much pleasure as it does the listener. 

Preschool- Year 2 up/ Age 4 - 6
                                        Mean Lion baiting Zebra (the notice says 'I am a horse')

Young Adult

UK Writer
Mary Hooper
The Disgrace of Kitty Grey
Bloomsbury   2013         $20.99pb           282 pages        
ISBN 978 1 4088 2761 1

Themes: Country life UK 1800s/ Historical Fiction/ Love Stories/ Newgate Prison

Kitty Grey lives and works as a dairymaid in a ‘great house’ in the fresh air of the English countryside around the beginning of the 19thcentury.  She has a sweetheart, Will, and life seems full of promise. Then, Will disappears (possibly to London) and when one of the daughters of the house asks her to journey there to pick up a copy of the newly published Pride and Prejudice, Kitty accepts willingly Through a really believable chain of circumstances Kitty finds herself in the squalor and mess of the seamy side of London life with a young child (no, not hers) to care for, does a stint in Newgate Prison and ends on a boat bound for Botany Bay.  The book is jacketed in a sweetly pretty image, which is a pity, as it will put off nearly every male reader unless, as the writer suggests, the book is wrapped in brown paper.  Some of them could enjoy the story. The horror of the social life of the times is vividly shown and the total lack of any sort of support for a vulnerable young woman like Kitty. There is a certain sameness about Mary Hooper’s stories but therein lies their charm and makes her devoted readers (of which I am certainly one) return to her books with pleasure and read any new titles with delight.
For information about Mary Hooper (who is surprisingly accessible via email and Facebook) go to:
Mary Hooper is presently working on a new book about a volunteer nurse working in England and France during the First World War – probably to be called Poppy.

Year 8 up/ Age 12 up

Please note that from now on I will use the more useful heading of Young Adult for books of interest to readers around 12-15 years and not the slightly confusing Mature Readers. I will try and change all the previous labels when I get a moment.  


Saturday, 1 June 2013

Young Adult

UK Writer
Andy Mulligan
The Boy with Two Heads
David Fickling Books   2013         $26.99pb           386 pages        
 ISBN 978 0 8575 6067 4

Themes: Animal experimentation/ 'Horror' stories/ Metamorphosis/ Schizophrenia/ School stories

Richard Westlake goes to bed one evening looking forward to a big football game next day but when he wakes with a rather sore lump in his throat he very quickly finds himself in an ambulance on the way to hospital. Once there, to everyone’s amazement, the lump grows and grows, and turns into another head sitting on Richard’s shoulders – another head named Rikki. While Richard is a comparatively mild-mannered and gentle boy, Rikki is anything but and is racist, hostile and acidly witty. It would have been so easy for Andy Mulligan to turn this into a real comedy like his first novel Ribblestrop but while there are moments of laugh out loud humour basically the story is much darker than that and there are moments of fear and almost unbearable tension. Some of the passages with the frightening Dr Warren, who holds Rikki/Richard’s future(s) in his hands, don’t fade from the mind for a long time. 
I was worried as I read on how having set up such a scenario it could possibly end but I think most people will agree the ending is totally satisfactory (for everyone – characters and readers)  
When asked in an interview if The Boy With Two Heads was a really bleak book Andy Mulligan replied:
Absolutely not. There’s despair in it, and maybe more pain than in ‘Ribblestrop’ or ‘Trash’. But who’d write a children’s book ending in destruction? Richard and Rikki go on the most extraordinary journey, and they learn so much about friendship and survival. It’s metamorphosis and it’s growth, and I think it’s the most optimistic book I’ve written.

Year 8 up/ Age 12 up 

Please note the image of the jacket may not be the final one. The book is not due for publication for a week or so and this may change!