Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Sophisticated Picture Books

Belgian Writer and Illustrator
Leen van den Berg, illustrated Kaatje Vermeire
The Big Question
Book Island 2014   $29.99hb 32pp
ISBN 978 0 9941 0984 2
Themes: Love – the meaning of
The animals are having their AGM and after elephant has posed his big question they all have much to think about and answers to give. That is everyone except Ant who is too busy writing things down and bustling about.  And elephant’s question? How do you know when you love someone? This is one of those rare but special books that will mean different things to many people and will be appreciated by a wide age range. Small children will spend many moments on each page identifying the images; older people will ponder on the meanings of the words.  And everyone (except Ant) will go away to think further about the ideas that have been raised.
Kaatje Vermeire illustrated an earlier Book Island title  - Maia and what matters

Year 2 up/ Age 6 up

Monday, 24 November 2014

Young Adult Fiction (Mature Readers)

NZ Writer R.L Stedman Inner Fire Nationwide Book Distributors  2014   $21.99pb  261pp

ISBN 978 0 4732 9442 7  Themes: Christchurch earthquakes/ Dartmoor, Devon/ Genetic conditions/ London UK/ Personal privacy/ Stress

Christchurch and its continuing earthquakes seems a place to be out of for Corrine and her family and when an on-going genetic condition causes her to set fire to and destroy their home, they opt to move back to the UK from where they originally came.  However problems have a habit of following those affected and further fires happen plus the entrance of a group of sinister men in black and a large network of security cameras that seem to be linked. Corrine is sent to stay with her great-grandmother down in Devon and there she meets the gorgeous Rowan, aged eighteen and who provides the love interest to the story (plus some answers!).  This is a feisty thriller which is already pleasing a large group of teenage girls (see for some of their comments).

Year 10 up / Age 14 up

Note: coarse language and sexual descriptions.

If they are not carrying stock of this title bookshops, can order the title directly through Nationwide Book Distributors It can also be purchased as both print and eBook through Or – order it direct through the writer’s web page:

Rachel Stedman won the Best First Book Award in the 2014 NZ Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and was a Notable Book in the Storylines 2014 list.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

 Published Friday 21st November 2014

UK Writer and Illustrator Lauren Child, illustrated by the writer The New Small Person Puffin Books 2014   $17.99pb 32pp ISBN 978 0 7232 9361 3 Themes: New babies/ Sharing

Elmore Green's parents thought he was simply the funniest, cleverest, most adorable person they had ever seen and Elmore Green felt this was true. Then something happened to change it all – a new, small person arrived on the scene and Elmore was expected to share everything with him including his parent’s interest and adoration. In this new title by Lauren Child she shows once more that she understands so well just what makes small children tick and what they want to read about that ‘ticking’.

Preschool up- Age 4 up

Lauren Child Source of image unknown

Lauren Child was born in 1967 and grew up in Marlborough, Wiltshire. She studied Art at Manchester Polytechnic and London Art School, after which she worked in a variety of jobs. She also started her own company, 'Chandeliers for the People', making exotic lampshades. 

                                                                 Source: British Council Literature

Fiction - 5 years and up

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Victoria M. Azaro, illustrated by the writer
Sage  I am the Middle Sister
W4 Limited Publishing Division 2014   $16.00pb  84pp
ISBN 978 0 4732 8953 9
Themes: Family stories/ Series
Sage, the middle sister in the family, is delighted when she is detailed off to take the class toy bear, Mr Floppy Ribbon home for an over-nighter. However, when she realises that with this comes responsibility and especially the task of having to write a report about the visit, it is lucky she has her big sister Saffron to turn to.
It was time Sage (the middle sister in the family) had her own story as she has been there waiting, a little noisily, in the wings, in the three other tiles in this absolutely charming series about a most unique and quirky family.
Go to: to read about the writer and find out about the background to the books.
A great read aloud to a small group – small because half the fun is in the writer’s illustrations that need to be seen as you are hearing the story. Easy to read and extra large print make this very suitable for emerging readers.
If you have any problems sourcing this from your local bookstore, it is available through South Pacific Books – email:
Year 1 up/ Age 5 up

From Wadestown School Library to Paraparaumu School Library!

I seem to have got into the habit of going around to Paraparaumu School during the week to briefly help Kenzie Benbrook in her on-going task of organising the avalanche of books that have been donated from schools and libraries plus individuals around the country  (some real treasures amongst them) and sifting some of the wheat from the chaff.  Kenzie is really to be congratulated as she has kept her cool through what must have been a very difficult few months and although the room in which the library is now operating is only temporary she has managed to create a truly welcoming atmosphere in spite of having to share with a barrage of (mainly donated) new computers and their ‘luggage’. With a bit of persuasion in the right places she has collected a fleet of shelving/picture book boxes/ revolving stands/ signage and colourful beanbags.
While I was there yesterday a contingent from Wadestown Main School in Wellington arrived with Librarian Derek Piper.  He had brought a group of four of his senior Year 8 Librarians who had held a Bring and Buy Book Sale to raise funds for the Paraparaumu School Library. The photo shows Kenzie accepting the very generous cheque. As well as this, the Wadestown group brought with them a box of almost brand new books and as I left they were already being stamped by one of the volunteers with the Paraparaumu School Library logo.   
I was told yesterday that although the library computer and all its data melted down in the fire an up to date back up was held in a secure place so the records entered up to Sunday August 10th 2014 are safe - but sadly many of the resources they represent will have gone up in the flames. 

Monday, 17 November 2014

Picture Books 6 years and up

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Jacqui Simpson, illustrated by Philip Webb
Ethan the Incredible
Alcora Books 2014   $19.99pb  32pp
ISBN 978 0 4732 8129 8

Themes: Courage/ Dragons/ Princesses/ Stories in rhyme

Chaos reigns in the Kingdom of Forests by the Lollipop Lake because the whole place has been invaded by pesky dragons and the combined efforts of The Royal Family and the collection of Knights cannot get rid of them. Then into the mix rides Ethan on his motorised bright green scooter. He soon has the situation under control and later, at the king’s request, turns his skills to rescuing princesses in distress and any other task that appears.  He is a boy who shows people how to help themselves. It is only at the end of the book when the story has been enjoyed and Philip Webb’s perfect illustrations have been admired that it will be realised this is about the real Ethan –11 year old Ethan Wyman who died of a brain tumour just two years ago and who displayed in his short life all the characteristics shown by Sir Ethan in the story – courage, stickability and an understanding of other people’s feelings and needs.
Google Ethan’s name for more information.

Year 2 up/ Age 6 up

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Picture Books - Preschool up

Australian Writer and Illustrator
Margaret Wild and Deborah Niland
This Little Piggy Went Singing
Allen & Unwin 2014   $24.99hb 24pp
ISBN 978 1 7433 1912 3

Themes: Traditional nursery rhymes retold

The five little piggies are into Christmas in a big way – making a noise; partying; making presents; eating heaps; going ringa ding ding all the way home.  And in case anyone is feeling sad for the little piggy that has none, astute children will notice it is a different bereft little piggy for each double page spread. Veteran storyteller and artist Margaret Wild and Deborah Niland have constructed the plot so there is a recognisable structure to the actions and in my opinion it is a perfectly put together story.  Have fun sharing it with children who will not be able to help themselves entering in to the spirit of it all.
Preschool up/ Age 3 up

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Non-Fiction Age 13 and up

African and USA Writers Michaela & Elaine DePrince Hope in a Ballet Shoe

Faber & Faber 2014   $23.99pb 255pp  ISBN 978 05713 1446 1

Themes: Adoption/ Ballet/Orphans and Orphanages/ Racism/ Sierra Leone Civil War 1991-2002

Before she has even turned four Michaela has experienced events too horrible to think about for such a little girl – she sees her father killed by rebels, watches the absolutely brutal murder of her teacher and unborn baby and when her mother dies of starvation, she is sent to the orphanage from hell where it is surprising she survived at all. Salvation miraculously occurs in the form of an American couple who, already having adopted and fostered children from war torn countries, take Michaela and another four year old back to the United States to a time of total privilege and opportunity and the chance of a life in ballet. She might not have been born with a silver spoon but it was certainly waiting for her with her adoption into the DePrince family. This is much more than an account of the young life of a successful ballerina. It is the story of a black teenager who succeeds in a predominately white industry – the whole world of ballet where up until now not many black dancers have had leading roles in the classic ballets. It is addictive and easy reading, told very simply without any self pity and I am sure it will be read with much pleasure (and eye-opening) by a large group of teenagers from around 13 up (and of course, many adults).  Just Google Michaela DePrince for much material about her and her family.

Year 9 up/ Age 13 up

Note: Contains some distressing descriptions of atrocities in the Sierra Leone Civil War 1991–2002

Twisty Christmas Tales Book Launch

On Thursday evening last (13th November) the Children’s Bookshop at Kilbirnie hosted one of the most diverse book launches I have been to. It was full of surprises and definitely children oriented from the amazing sweet delights on the food table to a three player orchestra (all under the age of 10) who greeted us with a selection of Christmas music as we arrived (was it 100 people – it certainly felt like it).  10% of all profits on sale of the book will go to the Muscular Dystrophy Association so it was very appropriate that a spokesman should be present to tell us a little about their work. The book having been launched with aplomb, all the writers (some of whom had flown in for the occasion including Marion Day who lives in the Outer Marlborough Sounds) gathered together for many photos – one of which I took and will put below.  There are 31 writers in the book  - I could only count three missing (Joy Cowley/ David Hill and Lorraine Orman) but there must have been more.  It was a real delight for me to find several writers there with whom I have worked in Manuscript Mentoring situations and Assessing over the past years. What is it they say about being able at last to put a face to a name?

There are more writers to the left and right who I have managed to cut off!
Go to the search box to find my original words about the book.  

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Health Resources - 6 years and up

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Mona Roper, illustrated by the writer
A Sallamong’s Story
Mona Roper 2014  $15.00pb  30pp
ISBN 978 0 4732 8813 6
Themes: Grandmothers/ Growing up/ Self-awareness and self-esteem

On Santos’s tenth birthday he wakes early to find the sun shining and a cheerfully wrapped parcel containing a pair of Moss skis on his bedside table. It is to be his last really happy time for a while because from the next day everything turns to custard when his parents begin to fight; a drought is declared on the Islands of Sallamong and Santos has to decide whether or not to shed his skin - a ritual that will determine the way he grows up.  On the surface this appears to be like any other short chapter book with an unusual and very engaging hero and an exotic location. However, it is much more than that. For children it will reinforce the comfortable truth that whatever happens to them in life (being bullied/ surviving an earthquake/ getting sick/ moving house) they will always be themselves within their own skin and nothing can change that. This is a book that would sit very well in the NZ School Curriculum Health and Physical education resource area.
If you have any problem locating a copy of the book at your bookstore go (the cheapest option) or
or you could try Amazon
And for more information about the book and its author go to
Year 2 up/ Age 6 up

Non-fiction - all ages

NZ Writer and Photographer Julie Noanoa with images by Norm Heke

Māori Art for Kids Craig Potton Publishing 2014  $24.99pb 80pp ISBN 978 1 9272 1313 1 Themes: Maori art and culture

15 artists show 15 art activities in a book which is essentially one for adults and children to use together. It has been produced with tight budgets in mind and all the ideas have been tested and approved by children and young people. Among the projects are instructions for making a poi dancing ball, a tukutuku wall panel, a tukutuku kite, a kete…

This is a treasure house of art activities and projects that acknowledges there are, of course, many differences in cultural beliefs and artistic design through out the country and encourages the children to develop their own ideas, styles, materials and colours.
As with all publications from Craig Potton Publishing, this is a handsome book to look at, to handle and to access, and children should be proud of what they will be able to achieve by using it.

Year 2 up/ Age 6 up

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Picture Book - Preschool up

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Dawn McMillan, illustrated by Ross Kinnaird
Doctor Grundy’s Undies
Libro International 2014  $19.99pb 32pp
ISBN 978 1 8775 1473 9
Themes: Boxer shorts/ Repetitive stories/ Stories in rhyme
Doctor Grundy has a new pair of underpants (very jazzy with tiger eyes and tiger stripes). He is hanging them on the line having just  (I guess) rinsed them through before their first wearing, when the wind blows (and blows). Off go the undies only to find wherever they try to land someone wants them for themselves. Like all good repetitive stories this is great to read aloud and will be as much fun for the reader as it will be for the enthusiastic listeners (and, of course, they will love the title),
The author and illustrator also collaborated on I need a new bum which has become a New Zealand children’s book bestseller, and has sold over 22,000 copies since it was published  in September 2012.

Preschool up / Age 4 - 6

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Fiction - Age 7 up

Published November 1st 2014

NZ Writers and Illustrator Peter Friend, Eileen Mueller and A.J. Ponder editors, illustrated by Geoff Popham 
The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales Phantom Feather Press, 2014  $22.00pb   222pp 
ISBN 978 0 9941 1550 8

Themes: Christmas stories/ Short stories

Thirty-one short stories with Christmas in mind make up this new book, of which 10% of profits go to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association of New Zealand. Some of them would be excellent to read to a group in that over-excited time as school winds down for another year and they are all short enough to read in ten to fifteen minutes. Whatever you do don’t miss Joy Cowley’s special take on the traditional Christmas Story in Kiwi Christmas which has already been published as a picture book by Pleroma Press, Otane with illustrations by Bruce Potter.

The book will be launched officially at the Children’s Bookshop, Kilbirnie Wellington on Thursday November 13th at 6pm – an open invitation.  As you pick the book up you are aware at once of the fairy lights twinkling and the Christmas bells tinkling and the scene is set as you plunge into David Hill’s forward in which he tells us a quite dreadful story about how the Christmas Dinner Table caught fire because someone pulled one small cracker.

Year 3 up/ Age 7 up

Friday, 7 November 2014

Fiction - Age 12 and up


Australian Writer John Flanagan Scorpion Mountain Brotherband Series Book Five

Random House, Australia  2014  $22.99pb   461pp ISBN 978 1 7427 5936 4

Themes: Assassinations/ Fantasy/ Series

Fans of the Brotherband series have been well catered for in 2014 with Slaves of Socorro coming earlier in the year and publishing today (7.11.14) is the latest in the series - Scorpion Mountain. Hal, that unlikely hero, and the Heron Brotherband have received a frightening message from King Duncan of Araluen. His daughter Cassandra has nearly been killed by ruthless members of the Scorpion cult and next time she won’t be so lucky. Can Hal and his gang step in and prevent this happening?

For a background to the series and to hear John Flanagan talking about it, visit his website at:

This book can be read on its own but it will be much more satisfying for newcomers to the series (if there are any! ) to start at the beginning with Book One The Outcasts.

Year 8 up/ Age 12 up

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Picture Books - Preschool up

To be published December 1st

NZ Illustrator
Jenny Cooper, illustrator
The Farmer in the Dell
Scholastic NZ  2014  $21.00pb   32pp
ISBN 978 1 7754 3195 4
Includes CD of lyrics sung by the Topp Twins
Themes: Farmers/ Nursery Rhymes/ Singing Games

With great verve and a big sense of humour Jenny Cooper has taken the words of the old children’s singing game (said to have originated in Germany around 1820) The farmer in the dell and really brought it to life. A gyrating dog, a benign looking cat with a trembling mouse in his fierce looking claw plus a plump little cheese at the end that stands alone, all contribute to the fun and conviviality. . I haven't seen this game for a long time but I have a feeling when we played it at school it was the cheese that became the farmer for the next round. To add to the general air of good times, the Topp Twins perform the lyrics on an attached CD.
Preschool up/ Age 3 up


Sunday, 2 November 2014

Fiction - Age 10 and up

NZ Writer and Illustrator

Barbara Else, illustrated by Sam Broad

The Volume of Possible Endings

Gecko Press 2014  $24.99pb 336pp

ISBN 978 1 9272 7137 7

Themes: Adventure stories/ Brothers/ Fantasy/ Standalone series

To be the only child in a town full of adults and to be living with your very demanding and totally unusual brothers might be a handicap for some 12-year-olds.  Dorrity though, whose tale (in five parts) this is, is gifted with a creative imagination (like the writer) and leads us, her readers, off into possibly the best adventure yet in the Tales of Fontania series. You only have to look at the jacket of the book, created by Sam Broad, to realise this is not your ordinary adventure story. Could this be Dorrity strapped to the back of a fast moving motorcycle? Who is the young boy, similarly captured? and look at the leading figure on a much larger cycle – definitely sinister, maybe a little menacing and certainly not out for a Sunday Club Ride. Although this is a standalone story, as are all the books in the Fontania series, familiar characters appear before us – just more mature. It was good to catch up with Sibilla - remember her as a very vulnerable baby in The Travelling Restaurant? She is now a tall young woman wearing boots up to her knees and down to her knees she had a green skirt so stiff it looked like a lampshade. Descriptors like this are never overdone – but they are just enough to let us see the action or the character.

  The Volume of Possible Endings will not be published in The States until next year but already it has received enthusiastic reviewing space from the prestigious Kirkus Reviews. This was the magazine that gave the first book in the series The Travelling Restaurant its highest accolade of a Starred Review.

There are few books that I ever have time to read two times but this was one of them and I was left with this feeling - MORE PLEASE! And, if you go to Barbara’s Blog

at you will find this is already happening!

Year 6 up/ Age 10 up

Barbara in her beautiful and sometimes even quirky garden, in Wellington NZ. Image Barbara Murison