Thursday, 31 December 2015

Happy New Year 2016

This posting is to wish all the readers of this Blog the happiest of New Years with many wonderful new books to find and enjoy.  The ‘readers’ refer to those ‘seen’ or known to me and those hundreds (and hundreds) from around the world who may not be people at all – just computer robots, tapping in. I’d love to think you were real though – from Singapore and Dubai, Mexico and Taiwan, United Arab Emirates and the United States. (Please be real!!)


Barbara Murison 

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The Latest Title from Des Hunt*

NZ Writer

Des Hunt

Cool Nukes

Scholastic 2015  $18.00pb 286pp

ISBN: 978 1 7754 3342 2

Themes: Cold Fusion Machines/ Nuclear Energy/ Science Fairs

Three teenagers are working on developing something extra special for the upcoming Science Fair – a device that could solve the whole world’s energy problems. But, it comes with a price – someone may have to die to produce it. This is classic Des Hunt writing  - a topical, believable and fast moving plot/ young people who speak as you would hear them in any playground or railway station (well, perhaps toned down a little), tension and a thought provoking ending. There is also a brown and white English Springer spaniel called TC. This will be popular reading for both boys and girls (and for Des’s many adult readers…)

Year 7 up/ Age 11 up

*this was available in November but for some reason I missed the early announcement.

Des and his dog Puku on Matarangi Beach 2012  Image by Vaughan Grigsby

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Writers and Writing

NZ Writer Bill Nagelkerke Emily's Penny Dreadful Bill Nagelkerke Publisher – an E Book 2015  NZ$1.50

Distributed by Smashwords. Also available on Kindle from Amazon

ISBN: 978 1 3112 5056 8

Themes: Family life/ House fires/ Language/ Old books/ Uncles and Nieces/ Words/ Writers/ Writers' Block
Review Contains Spoiler*

Emily has always thought of herself as a writer even though she is still very young but things keep getting in the way. However when Uncle Raymond (a curmudgeonly character suffering from *writer’s block) and his wife Dot come on an extended visit, Emily’s writing life takes off. This is a story (and a 'dreadful' story-within-a-story) that will intrigue all young would-be writers – plus those not so young. It is obvious that Bill enjoyed writing this and many writers (of all ages) will see themselves in the ‘pages’.

Please Google Bill’s name for many other titles.    

Year 5 up/ Age 9 u

Note: Yes, yes I know I have said I do NOT review eBooks but I could tell this one was so special and I have enjoyed all the other books I have read by the author so much and…

Friday, 18 December 2015

Scouting in Belgium World War II - continued

NZ Writer and Artist Robert MacKinlay  Blame Published and illustrated by the author  2015 $25, with free postage within NZ 258p

Available from and also from  and selected bookshops

ISBN 978 1 5153 2838 4

Themes: Collaboration/ Fathers and Sons/ Hampteau, Belgium/ Hotton Caves/ Invasion of Belgium World War II/ Scout Association

Time has passed since the end of Dare to Defy  (published earlier this year - see review below) which is about the same group of children but who are now older, much wearier and more street wise. The Germans are still in control but the Scout Group continues to function and in the face of tragedy close to home is one of the pivots that carries the children through. I first read this book in manuscript some time ago and I was truly moved to tears by the ending as I was again just now. Without ever becoming maudlin or sentimental, Robert MacKinlay manages to engage our emotions so we feel what it might have been like to be living as a child, 70 years ago, in such circumstances where you were never quite sure who was your friend and who your enemy.

Watch for Book Three  - hopefully coming soon.

Year 6 up/ Age 10 up         

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Scouting in Belgium in World War II

NZ Writer and Artist  Robert MacKinlay, illustrated by the writer Dare to Defy  Robert MacKinlay 2015  $22.00pb, with free postage within NZ 179p

Available from and also from  Post Free within New Zealand.  ISBN 978 0 4733 1821 5  Themes: Hampteau, Belgium/ Invasion of Belgium World War II/ Scout Association



This book was an incredibly good read and stays true to the founding principles of Scouting.

In World War II in Belgium, four 12 year-old boys become Scouts, a brave move in an occupied country where the Movement is banned and boys are expected to join the Hitler-Jugend (Hitler youth). They see this as giving in and instead decide to secretly rebel. Along with a refugee called Mot they manage to escape capture… at least for a while… I really enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to any child  - Scout or not - looking for an easy-medium difficulty read, full of adventure and suspense. There is a sequel, and it promises to be as riveting as the first.

I give it a 5/5

Rion Anderson

Note: It did take a little while to get this review from Rion (!) and in the meantime the sequel (Blame) has been published. I will try to review it for you during the week,
For my original review of Dare to Defy go to the search box and look under the title. 

Monday, 14 December 2015

The Night Before Christmas - nearly 200 years old and still going strong

USA Writer (born 1779) and Illustrator
Clement Moore, illustrated by Amanda Brack
The Night Before Christmas A Brick Story
Lothian 2015 $19.99hb 32pp
ISBN 978 0 7336 3504 5
Themes: Bricks/ Traditional Poems
A very different look at a very well-known Christmas poem.  It is totally illustrated, with great imagination, with small coloured bricks which I felt rather sceptical about when I first read about the book. However, in the hands of Amanda Brack who has several other bricks titles to her name it is amazingly lively – a Lego lover’s paradise I feel. What really surprised me too was the freshness and charm of Clement Moore’s poem  - after nearly 200 years it reads so smoothly and I must find a group of children to share it with before Christmas Day (now coming far too close).
All ages   

Thursday, 10 December 2015

A New Young Adult Writer in the Makaro Press Stables

NZ Writer  Kaeli Baker  Sylvie the Second  Submarine -  Makaro Press 2015 $25.00pb

ISBN 978 0 9941 1653 7

Themes: Dysfunctional families / Mental disorders/ Psychiatric hospitals/ Rape/ Self harm/ Sisters/ Suicide (attempted)

Sylvie, who tells the story, is the second daughter of parents whose relationship can only be described as brittle. The whole house vibrates with tension – not really surprising as the oldest daughter, Cate is in Psychiatric Care and doesn’t seem to be getting any better and Sylvie who is reacting to the whole situation as many teenagers would especially when they feel they are being given a definite second place in the family set up.  But. Don’t let this description make you feel this is a depressing story of gloom and doom. Far from it – it is written in the wholly believable voice of a teenager and interspersed with the underlying serious and almost deadly nature of the situation is full of parties, boys, and visits to the mall, music, and new clothes…

Kaeli Baker, for whom this is a first novel, is the pen name of a young Auckland writer who works in the area of youth psychiatric care. With a writing style that is so sympathetic to the outlook of older teenagers I really look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.
Year 11 up/ Age 15 up – and adults 

NOTE: I spent a happy evening at National Library on Tuesday last at the annual Christmas Party of the Society of the Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection. After a generous feast of Christmas food (and wine) we were entertained and enchanted by what has become a tradition at this particular party - members of the committee reading their favourite Christmas stories and pieces through the years. These ranged from the telling of Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus  - a letter from an eight-year-old reprinted from the September 21, 1897, number of The New York Sun to The Polar Express  by Chris van Allsburg. 

Many more interesting events are being planned by the Society for 2016 - watch these posts!

Monday, 7 December 2015

Penguins at the North Pole?

UK Writer and Illustrator
Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Jarvis (Peter Jarvis)
Poles Apart
 Allen & Unwin 2015 $24.99hb 32pp
ISBN 978 0 8576 3492 4
Themes: Penguins/ Polar Bears/ Travelling
This is the story of a family of penguins (the Pilchard-Browns) who go off for a picnic in the chill of the South Pole and somehow get lost. In fact so lost they end up at the North Pole some 12,430 miles away. Fortunately they meet a well-travelled polar bear (Mr. White) who personally escorts them home through England, Italy, India, America and Australia. A great book to read to a group who will enjoy all the extra jokes, the chances to say ‘hello’ in various languages and the charm of the illustrations.
Preschool up/ Age 4 up

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

The Bloodtree Chronicles continue

NZ Writer
Elizabeth Pulford
Bloodtree Chronicles Book Two: Bragonsthyme
Cover illustration and design by Donovan Bixley
Scholastic NZ  2015  $16.99pb 261pp
 ISBN 978 1 7754 3286 9
Themes: Dragons/Fantasy/Quests/ Series/Time
Time is running out to save the wonderful Bloodtree, the tree that is full of stories that must be preserved at all costs. With text that is a pleasure to read the author takes us once more into the Silvering Kingdom with Abagail, the heroine who in spite of her seemingly meek demeanour is determined to succeed in ousting the kingdom of all its enemies. Adventure, mystery, danger and an original plot that falls neatly into place make this a book that would be perfect to read aloud to a group of both girls and boys – but if you don’t finish it in one go they will want to take it home and find out the ending for themselves.
And there is yet more to come with Book Three, Thatchthorpe coming (hopefully) in 2016.      
Year 5 up/ Age 9 up

Note: Have a look at p52-55 of the current Listener (December 5 -11 2105) for Ann Packer's ideas of 50 great books for children and young adults for this year.  Some goodies there.