Thursday, 30 January 2014

Picture Book

NZ Writer & Illustrator
Maria Gill, illustrated by Bruce Potter
The Last of Maui’s Dolphins
New Holland Publishers (NZ) Ltd 2014  $19.99pb  32pp
ISBN 978 1 8696 6410 7
Themes:  Endangered species/ North Island Maui’s Dolphins/ Set nets 

High above, on the surface of the water, the dark shapes of the fishing boats hover, spelling disaster and death for a pod of dolphins and other marine life in the area. Told in the form of a story aimed at younger children, a young dolphin, Hiriwa, is called into a rescue situation when many of his friends become caught in a set net from a fishing trawler. The book opens up many spin offs into this truly hot topic.  It could also be used by older readers who will find the concepts and the excellent list of websites to explore helpful. To open the book and find Bruce Potter’s illustrations is to enter a watery undersea world of such believable images you need to blink to clear the salt from your eyes. Maria Gill, a true conservationist, has written over 30 children’s books for the book trade and the education markets and is a regular visitor to schools and libraries to talk to children and young adults.    

Year 1 up/ Age 5 up

Friday, 24 January 2014

Picture Books (for all ages)

Australian Writer & Illustrator
Mark Greenwood, illustrated by Frane Lessac
Walker Books  2014  $29.99hb  32pp
ISBN 978 1 9219 7771 8
Themes:         ANZACS/ Charge at Beersheba/ Horses in wartime/ World War 1 1914-1918


Lieutenant Guy Haydon  loved his mare, Midnight from the time she was born. Together they went off to join one of the Australian Light Horse Regiments – regiments destined to take part in one of the last great cavalry charges at Beersheba in the Middle East in 1917.  Short, tense text  (sometimes reflecting the beating of the horses’ hooves) makes for dramatic reading aloud and the orange and brown illustrations mirror the desert sands.
This story is based on memories of the Haydon family who have bred horses, including Midnight, in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales since 1830.   

A poignant (hard to read aloud for horse lovers) and useful resource to add to the growing collection of books for ANZAC Day. Remember when we really had to scratch around to find anything on the topic? 

Year 2 up/ Age 6 up

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Mature Readers (Young Adult)

USA & Australian Writers
Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
These Broken Stars
Book One in The Starbound Trilogy
Allen & Unwin  2013  $23.99pb  374pp (originally published in USA)
ISBN 978 1 7433 1852 2

Themes:         Love stories/ Science fiction/ Survival

A young war hero and the daughter of the richest man in the universe are thrown together almost literally and find themselves totally alone when their luxury space ship crashes into a seemingly uninhabited planet.  Although the book has been described as ‘Titanic in space’ it is ultimately a really gripping story of survival. It will be read with enjoyment by readers other than those who, lured by the rather corny cover, are looking for a predictable love story.

It was given the prestigious ‘starred’ review in the American Library Association’s Booklist.

Year 9 up/ Age 13 up

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Fiction - 8 years and up

To be published February 7th 2014

NZ Writer & Illustrator
Mary McCallum, illustrated by Annie Hayward
Dappled Annie and the Tigrish
Gecko Press, 2014   $19.99pb 137pp
ISBN 978 1 8775 7991 2
Themes:         Brothers and sisters/ Imagination/ Lighthouses/ Loss/ Out of doors/ Summertime
Annie’s mother has her feet firmly on the ground as she moves about in her safe domestic world during this long hot New Zealand summer. Annie’s father is also down to earth - he is the local lighthouse keeper waiting anxiously for his new assistant to arrive and is away from the house most of the time. The children  (Annie and her younger brother Robbie who is only four) live in a different world. Annie’s is a rich one of the imagination but so vividly painted and involving that the reader is almost convinced by the end that this is the true reality where hedges talk and the tigrish is an ever-present influence. The writer has managed to enter into the mind and feelings of a nine-year-old child so we see a new world through her eyes in lightly etched descriptions and ideas that are never overdone. The book is written in such a way it would be a pleasure to read aloud to an appreciative group. I envy the teacher or librarian, parent or caregiver who has the opportunity.**

Year 4 up/ Age 8 up

** Now that I have moved and it is the summer holidays I haven’t had the chance to build up a bank of children on whom to try out any new material.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Fiction - age 10 up

UK Writer
Rohan Gavin
Knightley and Son
Bloomsbury, 2014  $18.99pb 331pp
ISBN 978 1 4088 3891 4
Themes:         Adventure/ Conspiracy/ New age books/ Fathers & Sons/
While his once famous detective father is slowly coming out of a long coma in a London nursing home, his son, thirteen-year-old Darkus decides to read through all his father’s old case histories. This is just as well as with his father making a spectacular recovery, the pair are thrown headfirst into a maelstrom of conspiracy, danger and adventure that Darkus’s new knowledge helps to resolve. The book, the first in a planned series, is written with wit and humour but will probably appeal more to ‘hungry’ readers than to those who need a bit of persuading to start something new.  For the opinions of the story from some young readers (mainly I think from the UK) go to Good Reads
The cover does not do the story justice. 
Year 6 up/ Age 10 up

Non-fiction - Younger Readers

NZ Writer & Illustrator
Diane Newcombe, illustrated by Melissa Anderson Scott
A Is For Auckland
Random House, 2013  $22.00 48pp
ISBN 978 1 7755 3558 4
Themes:         Alphabet books/ Auckland, NZ
Girl and Bird whirl cheerfully around the Auckland area sharing its treasures in pithy text and look, then look again illustrations. Three pages at the back of the book expand on the text making this a valuable resource about the region. This is a book that will be used at many levels and for a variety of reasons – basic information/ craft ideas/ as a catalyst for children in other centres to produce their own alphabet books…
Preschool up/ Age 4 up 

Note: This is another casualty of My Move. It was published in November but just surfaced this morning.  

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Picture Books - pre school up

NZ Writer & Illustrator

Diana Noonan, illustrated by Robyn Belton

The Teddy Bear’s Promise

Craig Potton Publishing, 2013  $19.99pb  32pp

ISBN 978 1 8775 1779 2

Themes:         Continuity/ Family life/ Growing up/ Patience/ Teddy Bears/ Tradition

Like so many Teddy Bears the one in this story was loved dearly by his owner, a little boy called Max and they did everything together. ‘I will always love you,’ promised the Teddy Bear but Max grew up and the bear found himself in a dusty box stashed away somewhere in grandma’s house. This is basically a story of love within a family and how it endures through the generations.  The illustrations are as one would expect from Robyn Belton – poignant and endearing and Diana Noonan’s text gives many chances for families to talk through the ideas it presents. I did feel a little sorry for the bear though who just had to wait his turn to be loved again.
Preschool up/ Age 4 up

This book was a casualty of my recent move as I had it set aside to review when it was published, I think sometime in November. I have just unearthed it from the bottom of a box with an ormolu clock that was too heavy for me to lift – it took two quite strong people to move it for me and when I found the book I felt it was too charming a presentation not to include even if it has been out for a little while.