Saturday, 28 February 2015

New Zealand Book Awards Trust - Great News!!


The kids are in charge! Exciting new development makes the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults even more significant.

The highly coveted Children’s Choice prize in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults is today given an extra boost with the announcement of a bold new judging process. It will engage children, their teachers, librarians and their schools because the children are now in charge of their own prize.

Previously, New Zealand children have voted, online or via posted cards, to decide which books are their favourites among the finalists selected by the awards judges. From the 2015 awards on, they will be free to pick their favourites from all 130-plus books submitted into the awards. “The result may throw up completely different titles, books the judges didn’t pick, but that’s the beauty of it,” says children’s author Kyle Mewburn, who is a trustee of the
Kyle Mewburn Acknowledgments to the Otago Daily Times
awards’ organiser, the New Zealand Book Awards Trust.

From 2015 a Children’s Choice Award will be given for each of the four awards’ categories – Picture Book, Junior Fiction, Young Adult and Non-fiction.

Under the new system, schools, or children’s books groups run by libraries will indicate that they wish to select five finalists in one or more of the awards’ four categories. Once all votes are in, the five books in each category with the highest combined scores nationwide will be listed on a website where children from all around New Zealand can  vote for their favourites. In the past there has been only one Children’s Choice winner; now there will be four.

“We are very excited about this new development,” says Book Awards Trust chair Nicola Legat. “These iconic book awards have great heritage and this change to the Children’s Choice Award will add to their importance. We believe children will be excited about being so integral to the process. We have had great support for this initiative from the School Librarians Association of New Zealand and we are sure that schools will grasp the opportunity to become involved.”

The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults will be presented in Wellington on 13 August at a ceremony at Government House hosted by the Governor-General, Lieutenant-General the Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae.

They are supported by funding from Creative New Zealand, Book Tokens Ltd, Copyright Licensing Ltd and Nielsen.

For a registrtion form for your students go to:

Not such good news:

Things in the worlds of books have been a bit dire the last month or so with the devastating announcements from National Library of the cuts, no actually slashes to their services to schools. More of that tomorrow when I will feel stronger after having missed the SLANZA meeting to discuss the cuts at National Library on Wednesday because a macrocarpa tree fell on the railway tracks of the train ahead of me and then becoming stuck in a grid lock traffic jam after the (very successful) protest

rally outside National Library on Thursday (banners are heavy to hold aloft after the first hour!) This afternoon was taken up with a talkative and positive meeting in Waikanae chaired by Wellington Regional SLANZA president, Karen Clarke and held in a sunny garden sitting at a table under a spreading (oak?) tree. 

Friday, 27 February 2015

Fiction 5 years and up

UK Writer and Norwegian Illustrator
Pip Jones illustrated by Ella Okstad

Squishy McFluff the Invisible Cat Meets Mad Nana Dot

Faber and Faber 2015  $17.99pb 76pp

ISBN 978 0 5713 0254 3

Themes: Cats/ Family life/ Grandmothers/ Imaginary friends/ New babies/ Series/ Stories in rhyme

Squishy McFluff, a lightly sketched cat and Ava are inseparable best friends and do everything together. No one can see Squishy except Ava – not surprising, as he only exists inside her head. A good humoured, fast paced story centering on Ava’s eccentric grandmother who has her hair tinted green and who is happy to include Squishy in all her activities.

We need more books at this level  - totally accessible; funny and easy to read. 

Year 1/ Age 5 up

Don't forget next Thursday March 5th is WORLD BOOK DAY.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Picture Books - Whale Strandings

NZ Writer and Illustrator Linda Roberts, illustrated by Bruce Potter The Whale Savers – Returning Wera to the Ocean New Holland Publishers 2015  $19.99pb 32pp

ISBN 978 1 8696 6431 2  Themes: Team work/ Whale stranding

Tama and his Nan find a young pygmy sperm whale stranded on the beach and soon the whole village (plus the Department of Conservation) is there with buckets, sheets and a great deal of energy and stamina. Bruce Potter’s illustrations bring the whole incident vibrantly to life and there is no real sadness as so often happens with multiple strandings. At the end the whale swims confidently over the waves and with a spout and flick of his tail is out and away back to the deep ocean and hopefully the rest of his pod. The writing is a tad forced in places but that can be forgiven because of the great use this book will have as a valuable resource and its 2 and ¼ pages of information at the end. The story includes the waiata Tohora Nui  (Big Whale) familiar to many primary and preschoolers round the country which Nana and Tama sing to comfort the whale as he lies in the sun.

Pre-School up/ Age 3 up

SEAWEEK runs from this Saturday February 28th to Sunday March 8th.

The theme this year is Look beneath the surface – Papatai ō roto – Papatai ō raro

Go to:

**  I am off this afternoon to the first of three events being held in the Wellington Region to protest against the proposed National Library changes to services to schools throughout the country. I will try to get some images and hopefully less blurred than of late. 

Monday, 23 February 2015

Young Adult Fiction (Mature Readers)

NZ Writer  Anna Smaill The Chimes Sceptre 2015  $34.99pb 289pp

ISBN 978 1 4447 9453 3

Themes: Memory/ Music/ Post-apocalyptic, Dystopian stories/ Word building

Simon is standing in the rain on a road somewhere on the way to London.  He cannot remember the past; he has no way of planning for the future. He and everyone else are living in a world where the written word is forbidden.  Everything is controlled by The Chimes and music is everywhere.  But Simon is different and when he finally arrives in an unimaginable London he begins to experience some vague memories. This is certainly not an easy book to read (I nearly gave up several times) but if you are able to persuade older students to persevere with it for the first hundred or so pages (!) they will find themselves in a truly beautifully written book that can only (and I'm sorry about this clichéd word) enrich them. Perhaps you should read it yourself first…

Anna SmaillPhoto acknowledgments to Booksellers NZ
Adult (but will be appreciated by readers from around 14 up)

Friday, 20 February 2015


Julia Donaldson (a miss (for me!) )/ Paraparaumu School (a hit )/ Janet Slater Bottin (a hit)

Julia Donaldson signs a book at St Peters Church in Wellington
I was really excited at the thought of meeting Julia Donaldson (The Gruffalo) last Thursday. I had done a telephone interview with her the last time she was here but this would be face to face – well as close as I could get to the ‘stage’ as I knew it would be a highly popular event. I carefully left home at Waikanae to drive into Wellington at 4-30pm (it is just under an hours drive) and thought that would give me plenty of time to get to the event at the top of Willis Street – it was advertised to start at 6-30pm. Alas I struck two lots of grid locked traffic and then there was nowhere to park when I did arrive – at 7-45pm. I had had to walk from Te Papa and came through the door to the sound of enthusiastic applause – the show had just finished. I did manage to get some images (rather blurred - sorry) of Julia signing her books and to have a few words. 

So many books to choose from

On Tuesday I went round to Paraparaumu School where I have been helping sort through the mountains of books donated after the devastating fire late last year destroyed classrooms and the library (including the catalogue). It won’t be fully operational for some time yet and the new library won’t have risen from the ashes for around 18 months but thanks to the tenacity and purpose of Kenzie Benbrook who is in charge of organising the ‘rebuild’ it is almost to a stage where it can be used (with some creativity on the part of the teachers and students). While I was there the door burst open and in came a group of New Entrants clutching book bags and for some who had just begun school this year, experiencing their very first visit to the library. Their teacher had to laboriously write every child’s name and book taken down in a log but she is such an enthusiast she congratulated each child on their choice and said she hoped they would enjoy the book.  There was a great feast of wonderful picture books to enjoy – some brand new thanks to publishers and others donated by libraries and other schools.
Janet talks to a potential reader while her daughter Beth displays the new book
Then last night, Thursday, I had the pleasure of meeting Janet Slater Bottin (remember The Big Block of Chocolate and The Queue that Grew- -plus 90 other titles for children?) Janet has just written a book for adult readers Moments (for which there are no words) and last night at the Paraparaumu Public Library she read some of the stories from the book at an event organised by The Friends of the Kapiti Coast District Libraries. One of the stories was so sad I had to be handed a box of tissues. If you are interested in this new venture of Janet’s you could contact her at

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

NZ Writer & Illustrator
Kat Patrick, illustrated by Lauren Marriott
I Am Doodle Cat
Beatnik Publishing  2015   $24.99hb  32pp
ISBN 978 0 9922 6482 6
Themes: Doodling/ Friendship/ Happiness/ Imagination
A wonderfully ‘silly’ story by a new writer abut a red squiggle and the things he (or is it she?) loves – noise; dancing; the ocean; farts; lentils (refer back to farts); fractals… A great book to stimulate imagination and the low key and zany illustrations match the concept. I did just wonder though why all the ‘explanations’ have been tucked away on the final end papers  - they might have been better earlier in the book.
Preschool up/ Age 4 

Monday, 16 February 2015

Computer problems

No I haven't fallen off the face of the planet!! I have just been having major computer problems which have taken 6 whole days to correct. Six days worth of emails to respond to....
 I will try to put some new material up on the blog within the next 24 hours. 

Barbara Murison

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Young Adult Fiction (Mature Readers)

Canadian Writer  Deborah Ellis  Moon at Noon Allen & Unwin, 2015   $21.99pb 256pp

ISBN 978 1 7601 1197 7

Themes: Ayatollah Khomeini / Gay relationships/ Iran 1988


This is a book that will shock and awaken. Even though it is set in Iran 1988, at first the novel might seem predictable. Teenage Farrin is another lonely girl in a school bristling with rules, dominated by a mean Principal and spiteful monitors.

But outside the school the country is dominated by the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Revolutionary Guard. In this already dangerous society where being gay is punished by execution, Farrin finds herself in love with another girl. Events are based on real life so the twists and turns of the plot become doubly exciting, doubly appalling. I couldn’t stop reading. As one of the characters tells Farrin, ‘Truth is always the most important thing, even when it leads us into dark places.’ Farrin’s illuminates history, the cruelty of prejudice and the power of love.

Year 9 up/ Age 13 up

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Fiction 10 Years and Up

To be published early March 2015

NZ Writer
James Norcliffe

The Pirates and the Nightmaker

Longacre, 2015   $19.99pb 303pp

ISBN 978 1 7755 3769 4

Themes: Caribbean Ocean – 1740/ Loblolly Boy/ Magic

The hub of this story is a magic astrolabe which must be guarded at all costs from the sinister Mr Wicker. Add castaways, a ghost ship, pirates and an invisible boy with emerald green wings and a meticulously written and devised story emerges that will be hard to put down whether or not the reader has already met the Loblolly Boy and wondered about his origins. The reader feels safe in the hands of a master storyteller and totally satisfied with the ending that comes as a great surprise.  Don’t spoilt it for yourself by looking at the last few pages!!  


Year 6 up/ Age 10 up

Please Google the writer's name for information. 
As well as writing for them himself, James Norcliffe is a total supporter and advocate of young peoples' writing 

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Young Adult Fiction (Street Racing)

NZ writer
David Jubermann


Epsum Media Ltd, 2015   $29.95pb     338pp

ISBN 978 0 4733 1206 0

Themes: Car racing/ Justice/ Street racing/ Wealth

Ollie allows an almost unknown young woman to drive his beloved Porsche GT3 in which she is clocked at over 270ks, crashes the car and then does a runner leaving Ollie, an incredibly wealthy young man, to totally face the music on his own. All the money in the world though can’t stop the subsequent events and Ollie is deported and his car confiscated and he finds himself in the exotic locations of Las Vegas, California and Detroit where he becomes immersed in the illegal street racing culture.

         Readers who have enjoyed David Jubermann’s earlier books will find the atmosphere of speed, ambition and money (and what it can buy) are all addictive and his old (and new) fans will find a compelling, unputdownable read.

David is a responsible writer who prefaces all his stories (except, obviously, for his love story – Just Us) with a plea never to try to replicate any of the racing sequences he describes and to always drive according to the speed limit and road conditions. 

Go to This will bring up a high-resolution poster – be patient though – it takes a while to download but it prints out really well.

Year 9 up/ Age 13 up

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Owl and the Pussy-cat

English writer and Welsh illustrator

Edward Lear, illustrated by Charlotte Voake

The Owl and the Pussy-cat

Forward by Julia Donaldson

Picture Puffin, 2015   $26.00hb 26pp

ISBN 978 0 7232 9321 7

Themes: Romance/ Story poems

The romantic story of the owl and the pussy cat who, after a year of sailing around the world finally put ashore in the land where the Bong trees grow, and discovered their wedding ring in the nose of a pig who sold it to them for one shilling. Charlotte Voake has brought the much loved story (it was written in 1868 to cheer up a sick little girl) to memorable watercolour life making it one of the freshest versions of the tale I have seen.  

You might also be interested in Julia Donaldson’s sequel The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat Picture Puffin 2014  $23.99pb ISBN 978 0 1413 3297 0. This is also illustrated by Charlotte Voake.

Julia will be visiting New Zealand next week – please Google Julia Donaldson New Zealand Tour 2015 for details.

Preschool up/ Age 3 up

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Unsolicited material

          As you might imagine I sometimes feel I am drowning in a sea of books as they continue to flow into my private mail box or are delivered by courier or NZ Post – and sometimes, very special, even by hand.
          It is just not possible to review everything I receive (nor would I want to) although sometimes I am sent emails or notes or even have phone calls asking why the book ‘they’ sent me has not yet been blogged.
          I try very hard to only review books here that I know will play an important part in the reader’s life either in a school/ college/ library or a private (doesn’t that sound grand?) collection.  I am looking for books that will make them think, laugh, cry, question, be involved, find answers.  
           I very seldom post unsolicited material but of course sometimes it happens that an absolute treasure appears. So. Please send me the books by all means but just don’t be offended if I don’t post them.

Fiction 9 years and up (Fantasy/ Series)

Australian Writers

Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Missing, Presumed Evil

Trouble Twisters Series Number 4

Allen & Unwin, 2014   $24.00pb  342pp

ISBN 978 1 7423 7401 7

Themes: Family/ Fantasy/ Friendship/ Good v evil/ Series/ Twins

The magical twins, Jack and Jaide have faced The Evil before but even they, with all their experience (in the first three books) of true scariness could not have imagined what is to come! I am always surprised to find that writers, exploring such well worn pathways as good versus evil and the end of the world are able to infuse freshness and new twists to the old story and make us read it as though for the first time – especially when tempered with the well-known, sometimes OTT humour of this duo.  Readers don’t have to have read the first books in this series but it will make it a more rounded experience if they have. The Trouble Twister series have been given (in my opinion) particularly enticing jackets, which may act as a lure to more reluctant readers although the first two chapters require quite a bit of concentration – it seems to become much easier reading after that.

Year 5 up/ Age 9 up

My apologies this has been sitting on my desk for a couple of months...

Monday, 2 February 2015

Wordless Picture Books


German Illustrators
Ingrid & Dieter Schubert
The Umbrella
Book Island, 2015   $29.99hb  40pp
ISBN 978 0 9941 0985 9
Themes: Journeys/ Wordless picture books

On the windiest of days, a small black dog finds a bright red umbrella propped  against a tree.  The umbrella whisks him up, up into the sky and round the world over savannahs and ice floes, through jungles and coral seas, past mountains and rivers until the familiar roof of his own home appears and they float safely down to earth. Not a word is spoken in this brilliantly conceived and illustrated picture book but for a child with imagination and possibly with an adult ‘guide’ to help, it is a book full of stories, which may take some time to ‘read’.  Note that the end papers are part of the story and that inside the front cover is the place to begin.
Preschool up/ Age 3 up