Sunday, November 16, 2008

You'll find a large selection of picture books written by New Zealand authors out in shops in time for Christmas. Scholastic New Zealand have also published some exciting reads for children aged 9-12 and one book for older readers 13 years+:

Picture Books
Flick and Friends: The Exploding Paint Factory by Jamie Lawrence illustrated by Mark Russell (Puffin) ISBN: 978-014-350298-2 RRP $14.95
It was clean-up day in Maddsville. Once a year everybody in town joined in to help collect any litter that had gathered around the town. The engines had been helping all day with the clean-up. Now they were all on their way back to the station and were very tired. Suddenly...
Flick and his friends deal to a litter bug and help fight a fire all in a day's work. Author, Jamie Lawrence, spreads the eco message with this fun fire engine story. Pre-school children will enjoy the tale and can learn from the Top Ten Eco Wise Tips on the back page. Review by Maria Gill

Willy's Grandpa by Scott Tulloch (Harper Collins) ISBN: 978-1-86950-738-1 RRP $14.99
This is Willy. He's very young. These are his parents. They're not so young. Especially up close. And these are Willy's grandparents. They're really old. Grandad Gramps and Granny Maz are Willy's dad's parents. They live in the country. Grandma Gran and Grandpa Pop are Willy's mum's parents. They have a scaredy-cat called Max.
Willy loves visiting his grandparents - both sets - each person entertains him in their own way. Only Willy's Grandpa Pop isn't young like he used to be, in fact he's looking more tired on each visit. Then one day he gets really sick and goes to hospital...
If you're unfortunate enough to have a grandparent die and your little four year old is badgering you with questions, while attempting to understand it all, this charming book will help them put it into perspective. Scott Tulloch's amusing drawings will appeal to the reader (the parent) and the intended audience (the child). Review by Maria Gill
Grandma's Kiwi Christmas by Helen McKinlay, illustrated by Craig Smith (Harper Collins) ISBN: 978-1-86950-685-8 RRP $14.99
On Monday morning, Grandma fell out of bed at six o'clock. She picked herself up, dusted her wrinkles with her big duster and checked her calendar. 'Ah ha,' she laughed, 'only five sleeps till Christmas.' She put in her false teeth and dressed in her granny clothes. 'I think I'll make mince pies today,' she said. 'Wheee!' She slid down the banisters. 'Miaow,' said Scratch.
Each morning Grandma counts down to Christmas and carries out a task starting with making minced pies, decorating the Pohutukawa tree, not-to-mention getting stuck in it. Then she gets called to stand in for the Christmas Fairy then Father Christmas... by Boxing Day she sure needs that sleep in. Illustrations and delightful story compliment each other. Grandmothers and Nanas will enjoy buying this for their grandchildren to show that even though they wear knitted cardigans and false teeth they can still have a little wicked fun and adventure. Review by Maria Gill
Te Rauparaha: Legend of Aotearoa retold by Maureen Cavanagh, illustrated by Bruce Potter (Penguin) ISBN: 978-014350293-7 RRP $17.95
Resting on Papa's cloak, there was once a beautiful part of Aotearoa called Kawhia. At the time of our story, the tangata whenua of Kawhia were Ngati Toa. Their chief was Te Rauparaha. Rangi and Papa sent their blessings to Kawhia. Rangi sent the sun to warm the people and the rains to water their crops. Papa gave them rivers full of fish and mighty forests full of birds. Ngati Toa were happy...
Unfortunately the people of Kawhia forgot to share the kindness of Rangi and Papa. Their neighbours began to fight with them, joining forces with other tribes. Knowing they couldn't win , Chief Te Rauparaha helped his people escape Kawhia and took them on the long trek to safety down South eventually settling on Kapiti Island. Author Maureen Cavanagh draws on her knowledge of Maori History from her University studies to retell the legend about the brave Chief Te Rauparaha. Teachers in Primary and Intermediate school will find this book a welcome addition to their Maori legend studies in Reading. Review by Maria Gill

Chapter Books 9-12 year olds
Argenta by Stephanie Hills, Scholastic NZ, ISBN 978-1-86943-846-3 RRP $18.99
Anquin is a birdboy on the planet of Argenta whose job is to look after the eggs of his clan. But Anquin gets bored with his life and flies into the Forbidden Zone – where he discovers hundreds of his clansfolk who have been made slaves by another race of aliens. Anquin ends up flying on a space rocket to Earth, where he makes friends with a boy called Martin – who dreams of being a superhero and saving the world. Together Anquin and Martin outwit the evil aliens and set Anquin’s clan free. This straightforward adventure story would be a good introduction to science fiction for young readers of about 9 to 11 – it’s probably not detailed or technical enough for really avid sci-fi fans. Review by Lorraine Orman


My Story: Poor Man’s Gold: The Diary of Reuben Radcliffe, Northland, 1899-1900 by Kath Beattie, ISBN 978-1-86943-903-3 RRP $17.99
Most readers will know that the My Story series looks at significant events in the history of New Zealand, telling of the adventures of young people who were involved in the events. In this case, the story focuses on the kauri gum digging industry in Northland. Reuben is still in his early teens when his family lose their home and income, so he sets off to dig gum and earn some money. It’s a very hard life – the diggers lived in shanties and tents and worked from dawn to dusk in wet, muddy and dangerous conditions. The technical information about the gum industry is very interesting, especially for those who like reading about the old days. Reuben’s family are eventually re-established in work, but not before tragedy strikes and a family member is lost. Review by Lorraine Orman

Young Adults
Set in Stone by Vincent Ford (Scholastic) ISBN: 978 1869 438 302 RRP $18.99
Set in Stone is the second in the trilogy of Vincent Ford’s Chronicles of Stone. The first was recommended for Year 5 and up; I recommend this one for an older age group (13 years+)
The beginning is fast-paced and brutal. It is set in a time when mammoth and bison roamed – a time of hunting, fighting and survival for Trei and Souk, now in the lands of The Children of Stone. My sympathies lean towards the girl. Souk is strong, spirited and intelligent and is the stabilising influence on her headstrong twin brother. Trei is more one-dimensional; he has one main goal, to learn everything he can about the Stone people’s secret weapons and ultimately give this knowledge to his people. The story is filled with rock-sorting, stone sharpening and arrow-making; all very well described, in abundant detail, which culminates in massive bison and mammoth hunts and copious slaughter. Tensions are high; the land is awash with blood. A warning here – the carving up of the flesh is not for the faint-hearted. But apart from testosterone-fuelled adventure, the story is also about jealousy and mistrust: between Sacha, the blonde shaman of the tribe and Souk, who is blessed with her own special powers; tribal members towards the outsiders, and Trei towards a friend his sister has come to love. Trust becomes mistrust, and jealousy becomes revenge, which makes for rather horrific conclusions. There is the counterbalance of friendship and loyalty between the twins, though at the end, they too are put to the test.
The story leaves us on a precipice, as all good cliffhangers’ should. I can’t wait for the last book in the trilogy. 'Tribal Ash' number three in the trilogy due out in February 2009.
Review by Vivienne Lingard

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