Sunday, November 23, 2008

Read a NZ book this Christmas

I hope we're convincing all you parents, teachers, librarians and kids that there are some fantastic New Zealand authored books in our shops. This week we've reviewed a book that children from separated families will relate to: 'Every Second Friday', Jenni has reviewed Tania Mill's new book: 'Don't Call Me JoJo' (soon to be reviewed on Good Morning TV) and Tania Roxborough's latest mystery book: 'Space Gum'. Not forgetting the non-fiction book about New Zealand's most spectacular scientists: 'Atoms, Dinosaurs & DNA'.

If you've read any of the books we've showcased and want to add your own review (kids included) - please leave a comment - we'll look forward to reading what you think of the books. Authors - feel free to add a comment about how you got the idea for the book.

Picture Books

Every Second Friday by Kiri Lightfoot, Illustrations by Ben Galbraith (Hodder Children's Books) ISBN: 978-0-340-95612-0 RRP$34.99 (hardback)
Our dad is a collector of bits and bobs. Every second Friday my brother and I pack our bags and go and stay at his house. I pack my toothbrush, pyjamas, books, teddy and I always pack an extra set of clothes. Because when we stay at Dad's house we always get - magnificently muddy, worringly wet and mind-blowingly messy.
Margaret Madeleine (nickname Margi) and her brother Thomas Theodore (Totty) have a glorious time at the dad's house when their mother drops them off every second Friday. Their dad's house is such a mess they have to fight their way through all the stuff he collects. But the children love searching for treasures, exploring the house and dressing up with their father. He makes it their house too by putting up all their paintings and photographs on the walls and windows.
A fun reassuring book for children who come from separated families. The author, Kiri Lightfoot has based this story on her own family experience of spending time with her dad after her parents separated. The text is playful with a satisfying ending. This is Ben Galbraith's second book, his first winning the 2007 NZ Post award for Three Fishing Brothers Gruff. His colourful, quirky illustrations begin on the end papers and on every reading you'll see something you missed before - so much is packed onto each page. 'Every Second Friday' is being distributed in New Zealand and the U.K. Reviewed by Maria Gill

Chapter Books 10-14 year olds

Don’t Call Me JoJo Tania Mills (Scholastic) ISBN 978-1-86943-820-3 RRP $18.99

Josie wakes one the night to the police bursting in, and taking away her father. Suddenly her life is turned upside down. She’s the daughter of a criminal; enduring the embarrassment of this revelation. Then she has to move, away from her friends, school and home, to be closer to where her father is in prison.
The story follows Josie as she deals with this life change, and as she discovers that she has the strength to deal with unfair events that can sometimes befall us. This is an engrossing story that will appeal to 12 to 14 year olds and above. See Tania Mills talk about 'Don't Call Me JoJo' on Good Morning TV on 27th November 10.07am (approximately). Reviewed by Jenni Francis

Space Gum Tania Roxborogh (Longacre Press) ISBN 978-1-877460-05-0 RRP $17.99
Carl and his Dad love to play practice jokes on each other. However, sometimes it’s Mum who has to deal with the consequences, and she is not happy about it.
But one day, Carl’s dad disappears, and it seems to be tied up to a visit to an ex-NASA scientist. It’s up to Carl to figure out the answer to this problem.
A fun story that keeps the tension going to the end. Of strong appeal to boys and girls of around 10 to 13 years who like a mystery.
Tania Roxborogh is a secondary school English and drama teacher. She has written many books, including teenage novels and resource books for teachers. Read an extract:
Reviewed by Jenni Francis

Non Fiction

Atoms, Dinosaurs & DNA: 68 Great New Zealand Scientists by Veronika Meduna and Rebecca Priestley (Random) ISBN: 9781869419547 RRP $34.99
Atoms, Dinosaurs & DNA profiles 68 of New Zealand's most remarkable scientists. Among them are some of the earliest explorers and collectors, the first professional scientists, twentieth-century pioneers in emerging scientific disciplines and some of today's leading scientists who are continuing to make discoveries about our world and working to shape our future. Whether they measure the universe or the atom, work with whales or microbes, explore some of the world's most inhospitable places or persevere against all odds to discover the last survivors of a species considered extinct, each of the scientists profiled in this book is driven by a passion for their discipline and a desire to better understand the world around us. By presenting the life and work of each scientist in chronological sequence, this book also charts the history of science in New Zealand over the past two centuries. Atoms, Dinosaurs & DNA is based on a major science exhibition, curated by the authors and held at the National Library of New Zealand in 2006.
Author BioVeronika Meduna is a science journalist best known for her broadcasts on Radio New Zealand National. Rebecca Priestley is a science historian and writer, and editor of The Awa Book of New Zealand Science.

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

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Kiwi Write4Kidz authors' books

Three Kiwi Write4Kidz members have new books out:
Brian Falkner's book 'The Tomorrow Code' is being released in America, U.K., Australia and New Zealand over the months of October, November and December. He plans to have a book launch in New Zealand early December at Next Page Please.
Melinda Szymanik launches her two latest books: The Were Nana (picture book) and Jack the Viking (chapter book) this Saturday 8th November at 4.00pm Mainly Toys, 539 Mt Eden Road, Auckland - she'd love to see you there. See Melinda's book reviews on the first blog entry.
Tania Mills first book 'Don't Call Me Jojo' is being launched at the Botany Library showcase room on Sunday November 9th at 2pm. Anyone who is interested in attending please RSVP at

The Tomorrow Code Brian Falkner (Walker Books)ISBN: 9781921150340 RRP $19.95
Crack the code, or tomorrow is history!
Tane and Rebecca aren’t sure what to make of a sequence of 1s and 0s, a message that looks like a random collection of alternating digits. As they decode it, slowly it becomes clear -- the messages are being sent back in time from the future! But why...Tane and Rebecca follow the message’s cryptic instructions, but it’s not long before they begin to suspect the worst --that the very survival of the human race may be at stake!
Review: Falkner makes his U.S. debut with a book that resonates with a Down Under accent. With a tautly constructed plot, this fast-paced and all-too-realistic thriller asks both protagonists and readers to consider the implications of humankind's exploitation of the earth and its possibly catastrophic repercussions. Tane and Rebecca, 14-year-olds living in Auckland, receive coded messages from their future selves, warning about an apocalyptic event that only they can prevent. As they decipher the clues and race to take the right steps to save lives, readers are swept into visions of ecological disaster and a planet fighting back. With puzzles aplenty, codes, computers and a submarine called Mobius, this technothriller offers gearhead ecowarriors everything, including a hugely satisfying ending. Character development does not take a back seat to plot, however; told largely through Tane's eyes, the narrative creates a believable and sympathetic cast of characters, both main and supporting. Exciting and thought-provoking, it will raise awareness of serious issues as it entertains. (Thriller. 10 & up) Kirkus Starred Review
Check out the website:

Don't Call Me JoJo Tania Mills (Scholastic) ISBN: 978 1 86943 8203 RRP $18.99
Josie and her dad have always been close; she is his little ‘Jojo’.
Then one night the police come and Josie learns a shocking secret:
her kind, gentle father is a criminal.
Now, against her wishes, Josie has to move to a new town to be
near her father in prison. She dreads what her new schoolmates will
say when they discover her dad’s a crim. How could he do this to
her? Josie swears she will never speak to him again. And as for his
pet name … forget it. Target Reading age 11-14 years

Sunday, November 2, 2008

October books

Coming out at the end of October were the first of the Christmas books! Some of our well known and much loved authors have a new book for you or your children to read over the holidays...

Picture Books

Oliver Goes Exploring Margaret Beames and Sue Hitchcock (illustrator)
Scholastic ISBN 978-1-86943-875-3
At the end of Mrs. Bundy’s garden was a shrubbery. Oliver liked to hide there among the bushes. Sometimes he jumped out at Mrs. Bundy when she wasn’t looking. “Oh, Oliver!” she would cry. “You gave me such a fright!”
Oliver is a cheeky black cat and he loves to explore. One day he finds a hole in the back fence, so he squeezes through to find a wonderful place full of insects, butterflies, spiders and a …. Frog.
A lovely story for 4 to 6 year olds. Strong illustrations in black white and green. This is the third book about Oliver, following on from Oliver’s Party and Oliver in the garden, winner of the NZ Post Picture Book award

Brian the big-brained Romney Yvonne Morrison and Deborah Hinde (Illustrator)
Scholastic ISBN 978-1-86943-872-2
T’was a week after Christmas and Santa was beat. He’d delivered his presents, his job was complete. He strolled to the paddock and greeted his flock, then saw a sight that gave him a shock!
No reindeer in this story, and no sleigh either. Instead there is Brian. A disappointment to his father, who had intended teaching Brian the skills of rugby, soccer and cricket, Brian was much happier playing around with electronics, books and astronomy. But on the night before Christmas a thick fog rolls. Brian, of course, comes to Santa’s rescue.
This is the sequel to ‘A Kiwi Night before Christmas’. A great New Zealand Christmas storybook for 4 to 8 year olds, to read themselves or for teacher or parent for shared reading sessions.

Rufus and the Rain Mark Laurent and Chris Liddiard (illustrator)
Scholastic ISBN 978-1-86943-890-6
Rufus the bear lay on the soft, springy grass outside his cave. He was having a snooze and dreaming of drinking a nice hot cup of tea. The sun was warm on his fur. Rufus loved the sun best of all.
But a small cloud comes along and covers the sun. So Rufus asks the wind to blow away the cloud and for the cloud and the wind to go away and stay away.
But without wind and without clouds and without rain, terrible things begin to happen …
Suitable for 4 to 6 year olds, especially for discussion about the weather. A nice read aloud book, with beautiful watercolour illustrations.

Chapter Books 8-12 year olds

Comet and the Champion's Cup: Pony Club Secrets Stacy Gregg, Harper Collins NZ
The bay colt knew the girl was watching. He arched his neck proudly, delighting in her attention as he trotted by. When he passed the paddock railing where the girl was sitting, the colt came so close that he almost brushed against her knees. She giggled and reached out a hand to grab him, but the colt swerved away, putting on a sudden burst of speed...
When Aunt Hess opens a riding school for summer, Issie and her pony club friends jump at the chance to help. Issie gets to know Comet, a cheeky but talented pony with real show jumping potential. Will Issue be able to train her in time for the Horse of the Year show?
This book has it all for pony club teens: gymkhanas to win, rivals to defeat, mysteries to solve, ponies in danger and two boys to choose from...
My nine-year old daughter gobbled this book up and now demands the rest in the series. Comet and the Champion's Cup is the fifth in this very successful series now being sold in the UK, Canada and Australia with a film to follow.
RRP $14.99 ISBN: 978-0-00-727030-9

Young Adult

The Magician of Hoad by Margaret Mahy, HarperCollins NZ
This complex and challenging fantasy is set in a mythical pre-Renaissance society. Five characters meet and their lives become entwined: a treacherous Hero, a worldly-wise Magician, a confused farm boy, a girl of noble birth, and a mad Prince. The story follows Heriot, the farm boy, who gradually discovers another side to his personality, one of mystery and magic. Themes such as love, duty, betrayal, self-knowledge and the abuse of power are explored. The story is illuminated by the author’s ever-questioning intellect and her superb skills with language and imagery.
ISBN 978-1-86950-687-2 - RRP $39.99

Non Fiction

All About New Zealand Birds by Dave Gunson
This fun and educational book features dozens of vibrant illustrations by talented artist, children’s book writer and bird fanatic Dave Gunson. Over 50 of our most interesting and most loved native and introduced birds have been illustrated especially for this book by Dave. Each page features one large illustration of a bird and 100 words of text. All About New Zealand Birds is an ideal introduction to many of the birds of New Zealand for people of all ages. Accompanied by fascinating – and often humorous – facts about physical characteristics, habitat, feeding habits, breeding information and more, this book is sure to appeal to the whole family.
ISBN: 978-1-86966-198-4 RRP: $24.99