Saturday, December 19, 2009

More books for Christmas

Young MacDonald Had a Farm by Anna Crosbie, illustrated by Scott Tulloch ISBN 9781869507909 $19.99 (Harper Collins)

Old MacDonald had a farm.
And on that farm he had a baby.

With a waaugh waaugh here!
And a waaugh waaugh there!
'Isn't he cute?' Old MacDonald said.
'Our very own son! We've called him Trev!'

The author has cleverly used the Old MacDonald format, to tell the story of Trev growing up and taking over the farm from Old MacDonald and his Missus. Trev gets out his tractor (broom-broom here), the plough (clunk-clunk there), the digger (digga-dig here), the grader (scrape-scrape there), the quad bike (vroom-vroom here), the dump truck (chugga-chug there), the post driver (boom-bang here), the hay baler (snip-swoosh there), and the harvester (swish-slash here) to transform the farm - and then he gets a girlfriend... With all those big boys toys you can imagine a few 3-4 year old boys enjoying the noises those machines make.

Anna Crosbie grew up in rural Canterbury - surrounded by tractors! This is Anna's first book for children; her other books include: How to publish your own books and A little book of house messing.

Scott Tulloch is a professional artist and illustrator who lives and works in Martinborough. He has written the much-loved Willy series. Scott's drawings appeal to children and adults; his illustrations containing their own back-story and humour.

Real Life by Ella West (Longacre Press) ISBN: 978 1 877460 39 5 rrp $19.99 Readership: 12 years plus

'The call me a finder. I find places for the Project. I can think about a place in my head and then I am there. It's called travelling.'

This is the much anticipated conclusion of the suspenseful Thieves trilogy. In 'Real Life' Nicky and her fellow travellers are trapped back at the Project. To keep them from escaping they've been forced to wear tracking bracelets that can't be removed. While thinking of a way to escape she discovers a small slice of freedom by joining a swim team in a nearby town. But when terrorists threaten, Nicky is sent on a mission...

Ella West lives on a rural property at Janefield near Mosgiel, and works as a journalist. Ella is the winner of the 2006 Louis Johnson/Creative New Zealand Bursary for New Writers and Thieves was a finalist in the 2007 NZ Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. The sequel to Thieves, Anywhere but Here, was published in August 2008 and was shortlisted for the Sir Julius Vogel Award in 2009.

Pony Club Secrets: Victory and the All-Stars Academy by Stacy Gregg

ISBN: 978-0-00-727033-0 RRP $14.99

It wasn't what Issie had been expecting at all. When she first found out that she had made the National Young Rider Squad and would be travelling to Melbourne to compete, she had naturally assumed she would be riding one of her own horses. She had been torn, trying to decide which one she should take - Blaze or Comet... It was impossible to choose between them. It came as a total shock when Chevalier Point's head instructor, Tom Avery, broke the news to Issie and the other club riders that they wouldn't be taking any of their horses with them.

As it turns out - Issy gets to pick the perfect horse: Victory, a brown thoroughbred for her week long training course. The new instructor, nicknamed Voldemort because she's a hard-taskmaster, is hard to impress. But Issie has other things to deal with too; a room-mate that drives her nuts and a secret in the stable that's proving hard to keep...

Horse-mad and animal-loving girls will love this next instalment of the Pony Club Secrets. This is the nineth book in the series with more to come in 2010. An enjoyable read for 9-12 year old readers.

Check out Stacy Gregg's site for details about a competition beginning December 8th and finishing 31 January 2010.

Every time a new Pony Club Secrets book is published a donation is made to the Horse Welfare (formerly the International League for the Protection of Horses).
Reviewed by Maria Gill

Monday, December 14, 2009

Non-fiction books from New Holland

I am a Dolphin by Barbara Todd, illustrated by Helen Taylor (New Holland Publishing)
ISBN: 9781869 662646 RRP $14.99

I am a dolphin
That lives in the sea
My home has no fences
I'm wild and I'm free

Barbara Todd brings to life non-fiction facts in the form of lyrical poetry. The young reader (4-6 years) will find out how dolphins breathe, swim, find food and care for each other. On the last page you'll find more facts about dolphins.

This is the second book in the 'I am a ...' series. It aims to introduce wildlife facts in a simple but catchy way. The pictures are a mix of photography and cartoon characters.

Barbara Todd has studied dolphins, whales and seabirds for the past twenty years. She has written ten other children's natural history books.

Helen Taylor has illustrated many New Zealand children's books; most notably 'A Booming in the Night' co-produced with her writer husband Ben Brown, which won the NZ Post New Zealand Best Picture Book Award in 2006.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

More Picture Books

Moonrabbit by Megan Kelliher, illustrated by Dominique Ford (Penguin)
RRP $30.00 (hardback) ISBN: 978-0-14-350335-4

In the stillness of night after moonrise
from hilltop to river and glen,
behind soft, sleepy eyes and baby-sweet sighs
live the dreams of a world full of children.

This book is a beautiful production with its glossy cover slip over hard cover, illustrations beginning on the end papers and large size. The text is easy to read, though not your usual style. Instead you'll find white text on night sky illustrations and the print meanders across the page.

This is a delightful bedtime story for young children about a magical moonrabbit that slips down to Earth on a moonbeam to grant a sleeping child a wish...

Article in Bay of Plenty Times:
A friendship between two Tauranga mums has resulted in a children's book being published by industry giant Penguin.
Moonrabbit was written by Megan Kelliher, and illustrated by her close friend Dominique Ford.
It's a tale about a mystical white rabbit who lives on the moon, and grants the wishes of sleeping children.
The idea was born from a painting by Dominique of a white rabbit in a moonlit forest clearing.

Reflections of a Solitary Hamster by Astrid Desbordes and Pauline Martin
RRP $24.99 56 pp Recommended age: ages 5 upwards (Gecko Press)

Remember the snoopy comic strips? Written in the same vein, you'll find the musings of a hamster and his relationship with his forest animal friends. It is said to be a humorous take on French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Reveries of a Solitary Walker. It is one of those humorous comics that you will enjoy dipping in from time to time. I can see senior school (8 years+) upwards getting the most value out of the tales.
Not surprisingly, Astrid Desbordes has written books for adults on philosophy and religion; this is her first book for children.

Mole: For me the most beautiful word in the world is 'friendship'. What's yours?
Hedgehog: Uh... loyalty.
Rabbit: Adventure.
Snail: Commonsense.
Hamster: Waffles.

Big Bouncer by Dawn McMillan, illustrated by Ross Kinnaird
RRP $18.95 (Penguin) ISBN: 978-0-14-350387-3
Remember me? I'm Big Bouncer!
In that 'sniff-bottom' story I was the announcer.
Back then I was gruff,
bossy and rough.
I was so COOL.
Nobody's fool.
Everyone called me THE MAN!

Have you ever wondered what happened to Big Bouncer? Well, he's back loud and proud and claiming HE'S THE MAN until... he meets the girl dog of his choice. He spruces up his act to win her over, then becomes the FAMILY MAN!

Another humorous tale by award winning team: Dawn McMillan and Ross Kinnaird. 'Why Do Dogs Sniff Bottoms?' won the Children's Choice category of the NZ Post Book awards in 2003 and in 2005 it was awarded New Zealand Booksellers Gold.

When Dawn McMillan isn't teaching part-time at her local primary school, she's at home with her husband Derek and cat Josie writing children's books. She's written 18 picture books and over 130 educational readers for the international market.

Ross Kinnaird comes from an art directing and illustration in advertising background. Nowadays, he's happiest storytelling and illustrating in classrooms around New Zealand.

Fick & Friends: The Bushfire by Jamie Lawrence, illustrations by Mark Russell
RRP $14.95 ISBN: 978-0143503514 (Penguin Puffin)

It was a beautiful sunny day
in Maddsville so Mr Meena,
the local grocer, and his
family decided to go on a picnic.
As they made their way into the busy,
little did they know that some naughty
campers hadn't put out their campfire
properly. Some sparks had blown into
the dry grass and had started a fire.

It sounds like another job for Flick the Fire Engine. He's now a fully fledged fire-fighting engine and raring to go. When he sees smoke rising in the horizon; Flick and his friends race to save Mr Meena and his family and put the fire out.

This series has been written specifically to teach young Primary aged children (and kindergarten children) how to be safe around fire, in story format. On the last page, you'll find Flick's Top 10 Bush Safety Tips for Your Family. Young children will enjoy the use of onomatopoeia (formation and use of words to imitate sounds) throughout the book: 'Ree woo Ree woo Ree woo'.

Stories from our Night Sky by Melanie Drewery, illustrated by Jenny Cooper
RRP $25.00 61 pp ISBN: 978-0-14-350375-0

This is a treasure trove of Maori poems and legends; some are contemporary, others are traditional but all have in common the night sky. The poems are written in Maori and English. You'll recognise poems like 'Twinkle, twinkle little Star' and others you'll think - that sounds familiar: Out in the night time, In a hole in a tree. Lived an old mother morepork, And her little ruru three... The stories are also an eclectic mix such as tales of the forefathers, to Grandad telling a story to his grandson about tuatara, or little Hana overcoming her fear of the dark - something for everyone.

Teachers will find this a useful resource for their Myths and Legend Reading unit and also to inspire children to write modern day legends.

Reviewed by Maria Gill

Sunday, November 29, 2009

ILLUSTRATORS competition

Female illustrators dominate the short-list for the inaugural Gavin Bishop Award for Children's Book Illustration

The judging for the inaugural Storylines Gavin Bishop Award for Children’s Book Illustration has finished and the judges were impressed by the high standard of entries received. The judges for the award are Gavin Bishop, Crissi Blair and Alan Gilderdale from Storylines, and Jenny Hellen, Deputy Publishing Director at Random House New Zealand.

The judges said: "The quality and standard of entries made judging a very difficult task and took a full working day to complete. However, in the end six entries stood out for their quality and diversity."

The list of finalists comprises five women and one man, with an equal geographical spread between the North and South Islands. The finalists are: Sara Acton from Christchurch; Heather Arnold from Auckland; Harriet Bailey from Wellington; Stephanie Junovich from Christchurch; Gary Venn from Hamilton; and Neroli Williams from Christchurch.

Click on the names below to download artwork from each finalist. Note: This artwork is copyright to each artist.

Sarah Acton
Heather Arnold
Harriet Bailey
Stephanie Junovich

Gary Venn
Neroli Williams

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A new My Story title

No Survivors: the Diary of Jackie Simms, Hamilton, 1979
By Sharon Holt (Scholastic)

Twelve year old Jackie Simms is crazy about Abba and is constantly teased about it from her older brother Jeff. Jackie is at the age where she is discovering herself and the things she’s good at. Along with her best friend Maria, Jackie frequents the roller rink in Hamilton and finds she has a natural talent for it. Like any other pre-teen girl, Jackie struggles with the transition out of childhood and argues with 17 year old Jeff. And to make matters worse she’s in love with his best mate Davey, who only sees her as Jeff’s little sis.

Jeff and Davey are invited along by Jeff’s uncle on an Air NZ scenic flight over Antarctica. The two teenagers save hard throughout the book, much to Jackie’s dismay – she can’t understand why anyone would want to fly over an area devoid of colour.

As with all ‘My Story’ books, tragedy is about to strike. For those who were around in 1979 we can recall the events of Nov 28 and the impact it was to have on all New Zealanders.

This story is a great snapshot of New Zealand (and in particular Hamilton) that will bring to life the highs and lows of 1979. For some of us it’s a trip down memory lane - for the younger generation it will be a poignant history lesson about New Zealand’s worse air disaster. The use of ‘random thoughts’ throughout the journal injects some humour into what could easily have been a morose read.

Unlike many of the ‘My Story’ books, the incident in this story is well within the living memory of most New Zealanders. Skillfully written, Sharon Holt has created an entertaining read that recounts with respect the recent events of the Mt Erebus disaster.

Sharon Holt Sharon was born in Auckland, and has been a published writer since 2001. She has published 24 fiction and nonfiction stories, picture books, poems and plays. Her stories are
about daily family life, and many of her children’s stories have a ‘story behind the story’.
She now lives in the small Waikato town of Kihikihi. Sharon was short-listed for the 2007 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young People and also made the Storylines 2007 Notable Books list for her non-fiction book: It's True! You can make your own Jokes'.

Teachers download a free Teaching Resource

Reviewed by Christine Hurst

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Slide The Corner by Fleur Beale: Scholastic NZ Limited (2009)

Fifteen year old Greg is sick of being told he’s ‘as thick as crude oil’ by his academic dad. Greg loves cars, not academic stuff. Cars; he’s crazy about them, but can he get his parents to understand? They want him to go to university; Greg wants to be a rally driver. It looks as if everything and everyone is against him, until he helps a pregnant woman change a wheel on her car. Greg gets to meet her husband (who is a mechanic), is offered an after school job, and his life begins to change in interesting and exciting ways.

Fleur Beale has written a great, fast-paced story, which deals equally well with the emotional turmoil of family conflict, as it does with the rudiments, and thrills, of rally driving.
I can’t imagine a young teen (or older reader) not enjoying this engaging book.

Slide the Corner was Fleur's first novel, and it has gone on to win the Gaelyn Gordon Award for a Much-loved Book - an award that recognises the ongoing success of this novel.
Reviewed by Vivienne Lingard

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Three new books from Scholastic

The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith and Illustrated by Katz Crowley.
Scholastic ISBN 978-1-86943-926-2 RRP $25.00 includes CD

The Wonky Donkey only has three legs, and he only has one eye, and that makes him a winky wonky donkey. By the time you get to the part where the wonky donky was quite good looking you have a serious amount of tongue twisting to cope with.

But fear not – there is a music CD to help you, and the children, have fun with this delightful book. The illustrations are great. They complement the story perfectly.

The song, by the way, was awarded the APRA Children’s Song of the Year 2008.

Great to buy for the grandchildren, and for the classroom.

Watch Craig Smith perform the song on You Tube (google Wonky Donkey).
Singer/songwriter Craig Smith performs at gigs around the South Island. He has lived in Australia for 4 years and Vietnam for 6 years, and says Spike Milligan and his Mum are his greatest influences. British-born Katz Cowley has a degree in Illustration from the
University of Northumbria. She spent a year and a half travelling around SE Asia and living in Australia before arriving in NZ in 2000, where she has been ever since.
Reviewed by Jenni Francis

The 12 Days of Holidays by Yvonne Morrison and Illustrated by Jenny Cooper.
Scholastic ISBN 978-1-86943-916-3

On the first days of holidays my mother said to me: Please will you turn off that TV!

So begins a twist on an old classic. The main character in the story gets more annoying by the day, Mother gets more and more exasperated, the family is in disarray, until on the thirteenth day, Mum hits on the perfect solution. For her that is.

A great Christmas book, with wonderful colourful illustrations that show an increasing frenetic household.

Yvonne Morrison has written a number of books in a similar vein, including Brian the Big Brained Romney; Kiwi Dads; and The Tuatara and the Skink.

Jenny Cooper has illustrated for Yvonne Morrison in the past, and for Sarah Johnson, Frances Adlam and many others.

Reviewed by Jenni Francis

A Right Royal Christmas by Lucy Davey and Illustrated by Donovan Bixley.
Scholastic ISBN 978-1-86943-844-9

One look at the cover and you are transported back to the days of nursery rhymes and fairy stories. However, Princess Claire is not the kind and loving sort of princess. In fact she likes that she has no brothers and sisters and relatives to share her feast with at Christmas. It’s just her and the King and Queen.

Until a rat-a-tat-tat at the door spoils all her plans. Eventually, the castle is filled to overflowing with people and still comes a rat-a-tat-tat. The last visitors bring a surprise even to Princess Claire.

Delightful story for little children, for Christmas of course.

Reviewed by Jenni Francis

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Banquo's Son

Banquo’s Son by T. K. Roxborogh, Penguin NZ

Tania Roxborogh has excelled herself with this ambitious and absorbing tale. She extracted a brief reference from Shakespeare’s Macbeth – a reference to the murdered Banquo’s son, eleven-year-old Fleance – and has woven a fascinating story of love and honour set in 11th century Scotland. We meet Fleance as a young man, having been adopted by a traveller couple in northern England. Fleance is in love with Rosie – but something stops him from settling down with her. He is haunted by his father’s ghost, and understands he must go back to Scotland and play a part in his country’s troubled history. It’s not long before Fleance becomes a friend of Duncan, the young heir to the Scottish throne – and given his own noble heritage, Fleance finds himself also in line for the throne. The story ends with Fleance attaining the kingship – but at a terrible cost.
This crossover novel should be enjoyed by older teenagers and adults who like a gripping historical novel.
Click here to read an extract.Visit T. K. Roxborogh's blog at
Teacher Notes here
ISBN 978 0 14 320249 3 RRP $37.00
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Ben & Mark: Boys of the High Country by Christine Fernyhough and John Bougen, Random House NZ
This paperback book has a great deal of eye impact: the photographs are stunning. In fact it’s a top quality production all round, with its wrap-around cover and glossy paper. Ben and Mark Smith live on Mount White Station in Canterbury. The station covers 40,000 hectares, and it takes 45 minutes to drive from the front gate to the farm house. The boys attend primary school at Springfield, living there during the week and returning to the station in the weekends. The book looks at many aspects of their lives, while simultaneously giving a fascinating glimpse into life on a high country station – dog handling, mustering, horse riding, animal husbandry, recreation, schooling and local events. The prose is straightforward and easy to read, and there are fantastic photos on every page. I predict this will be a very popular Christmas present this year for boys aged about eight to ten.
ISBN 978 1 86979 068 4 RRP $37 Teacher Notes available

Young Adult
The Crossing by Mandy Hager, Random House NZ
Book One of the Blood of the Lamb series, this is a riveting fantasy set in a future world devastated by climate catastrophes and plague. Maryam lives on a remote Pacific island that survived the worldwide devastation. Her people are held in thrall to the members of a religious cult called the Apostles of the Lamb who live on an ocean liner stranded on the reef. When Maryam reaches menstruation she is sent to join the community in the ship. Rather than the paradise she expected, she discovers that the Apostles and their families are cruel sadistic despots who use the islanders for their own ends. Maryam herself is destined to save the life of an Apostle’s ailing son by having all her blood transferred to his veins. But Maryam is determined to fight back, and after several adventures she sets sail in a (forbidden) boat with three unlikely companions, heading for what she hopes will be a safer place to live. That’s where the story stops, and I simply can’t wait to read the next book in the series!
ISBN 978 1 86979 150 6 RRP $20 Teaching Notes available
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Word Witch

The Magical Verse of Margaret Mahy: The Word Witch edited by Tessa Duder, illustrated by David Elliot, RRP $44.99 (hardback) ISBN: 9781869507077, Harper Collins
A wonderful collection of 63 of Margaret Mahy's poems with stunning illustrations by David Elliot. You'll find well-known poems such as 'Down the Back of the Chair', 'Bubble Trouble' and 'Dashing Dog' - all now picture books. Tessa Duder also found some that haven't seen the light of day for over 30 years such as: 'When I am Old and Wrinkled Like a Raisin'. Tessa searched school readers, collections picture books, anthologies, magazines and Margaret's private papers.

The credit for suggesting a collection of Margaret's poems goes to Elspeth Tindall who asked as an afterthought in a letter to Tessa: 'I do hope you can persuade someone that Margaret's collected poems would be a good thing...' Tessa thought so very much and so did Lorain Day at Harper Collins Publishing.

When thinking of an illustrator David Elliot was their first choice. David spent over a year illustrating all the poems. I visited David in Dunedin and saw one of the illustrations on the drawing board; he had elephants galloping all over the page. It is such a delight to see it in its finished form. David's whimsical and humorous style suits Margaret's mischievious poems - perfectly.

At the book launch, Tessa said she saw herself as the midwife; gathering up the poems and sending them to David.

David told the crowd that it was a deep privilege to illustrate for a writer he has utmost respect for. Every time he drew an illustration and thought of Margaret Mahy - he felt his illustration wasn't good enough and would start again. For every drawing he did ten roughs. He is hoping to put those pictures together for an exhibition, which will tour around New Zealand.

When Margaret came up to the microphone she said, "I thought I'd start with a poem that isn't in the book."

Tessa and Loraine Day's eyebrows raised (they had thought they had the definitive collection in the book).
Margaret Mahy (rather mischieviously, I thought) read out the very first poem she had thought of - mind you she was only three years old when she crafted it. Margaret said she felt a huge sense of triumph at the time. Margaret then recites another poem. "I've enjoyed having games with words," she said. She told us that David Elliot picks up the words as an image and that he's an illustrator and an artist. Then with that twinkle she said, "I didn't know it had sold out; I'd like to think I've had something to do with that." Everyone laughed at her modesty. Margaret ended her talk telling us, "I've always been a reader, probably more than a writer. What I wrote was an impact, an echo of what I was reading. There were poems in the book that I barely remember writing. I've been an incessant writer, I still am."

Tessa had the last word saying: "Margaret Mahy's poems are truly remarkable".

I agree and so will you when you pick up this gorgeous book of poems.

The book went on sale on the 1st October and within one week it was already sold out. Order your book in time for Christmas. It's the sort of book you'll treasure and never want to part with.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Three more Picture Books in time for Christmas

Your Mother Didn't Do That! by Sharon Holt & Brian Lovelock
ISBN: 978-1-921150-17-3 RRP $29.99 Hardback (Walker Books)

Holly didn't want Mum to go out.
"Dad will tell you a story," said Mum.
"Yes," said Dad. "I'll tell you about the night you were born."
"Okay," said Holly.
"Did I hatch out of an egg like a chicken?"

Her father says no, if she was a chick her mother would have sat on her. Holly keeps asking if she behaved like different baby animals (a baby kangaroo, owl, shark etc.) and her father tells her 'Your Mother didn't do that!' At the satisfying end he tells her what her mother did do when she was born. A delightful book for 3-6 year olds learning about the relationship between mother and baby. A book that parents and teachers will enjoy reading aloud to pre-school children, who will love the repetition and humour.

Sharon Holt has worked as a teacher, a journalist, and now works as a full time children’s author. She has had over 20 fiction and non-fiction books for children published.In 2004, two of her children’s books were long-listed for the Esther Glen Award. Her collaboration with illustrator Ross Kinnaird, It’s True! You Can Make Your Own Jokes, was a finalist in the non-fiction category of the 2007 New Zealand Post Book Awards and is also on the Storylines 2007 Notable Books list.

In 'No Your Mother Didn't Do That' Brian has used a dry brush and splatter effect as part of his water colour technique; which results in artwork that looks visually interesting. Brian Lovelock illustrated 'Roadworks', which won the New Zealand Post Book Picture Book award; now sold in America, Australia and further afield. Brian works as a scientist during the day and paints at night. He recently illustrated his partner's book: 'The Cat with No Name' by Sher Foley.

The Wotwots by Martin Baynton
ISBN:9780733325472 RRP $16.99 Hardback (Harper Collins Publishers)

Here are the Wotwots landing in their steam-powered spaceship. Isn't it beautiful! The Wotwots call this spaceship theFree Ranger, because it looks like a flying egg. But it has long lanky legs for landing and a big propeller on top.

The WotWots are DottyWot and SpottyWot. DottyWot is a girl. She's the pretty pink one and she is the ship's captain. SpottyWot in the blue fur is her twin brother. He is the ship's mechanic.

The spaceship lands in a zoo and the WotWots go off to investigate. In this part picture book, part non-fiction book we find out about spaceships and animals. We also get to know more out the WotWots. You'll find songs and activities like the 'Sneak-a-Peek: What do you see?'. Lots to keep pre-schoolers amused. For 3-6 year old children who love the WotWot Television programme: a New Zealand version of the Telly Tubbies. There's another 15 books in this series to come out over the next couple of months: board books, sticker books, colouring-in books and novelty books.

The Terrible Taniwha of Timberditch by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Rodney McRaeISBN: 978-0-14-350388-0 RRP$18.95

"Listen," said Dad. "Listen to me. If you go down to Timberditch, the taniwha will get you."
"What does a taniwha look like?" asked Josephine.
"Terrible," said Dad. "Absolutely terrible."
Josephine went to Mum.
"Have you seen a taniwha?" she asked.
Mum laughed.
"There's no such thing," said said. "Taniwha aren't real."

Josephine goes in search of the taniwha. She asks local people what they think a taniwha looks like. Each person recounts stories about monsters that come from their countries - each one looking wildly different. Josephine builds a trap for her taniwha - find out what she catches.
A reprint of Joy Cowley's classical story about monsters being as big as your imagination.
Reviewed by Maria Gill

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Eight new Picture Books

Cowshed Christmas by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Gavin Bishop
ISBN 978-1-86979-073-8 RRP $24.99

The jersey cow came mooing, mooing, mooing.
The jersey cow came mooing to the cowshed door.
The collie dog came barking, barking, barking.
The collie dog came barking to the cowshed door.

All the animals come to the cowshed door in time for Christmas. Inside the shed they see... Hint - it's a Christian Christmas story.

The sort of tale that parents will enjoy telling as a song or with lots of rhythmic chanting. Children will delight in Gavin Bishop's colourful prints - parents make sure they name the gift each animal brings to the shed. A Christmas tale with a New Zealand edge bringing two of New Zealand's top children's writers/illustrators together.

Tiny Miss Dott and her Dotty Umbrella by Michelle Osment, illustrated by Sarah N. Anderson, ISBN 978-1-86943-898-2 RRP $18.99

When tiny Miss Dott trotted off down the lane,
she took her umbrella in case it might rain.
Miss Dott volunteered at the charity store.
She left her umbrella outside by the door.

Mis Dott gets busy with her volunteering and doesn't notice when Martin Maloney steps out into the rain and borrows her umbrella. He leaves the umbrella outside the Keys Music Store, just as Emiline Pink steps out of the store and borrows the umbrella to go to...
And so this delightful story goes on depicting each character borrowing the umbrella, "I'll be back, just as soon as I can."

Now some of you might wonder why Michelle Osment's name rings a bell - she is the author of 'Perky the Pukeko' a book (and its subsequent series), which always seem to stay in the top five New Zealand bestseller list. Michelle won the Joy Cowley award with this rhythmic tale and you can see why. Five years and under will love this jaunty story.

Greedy Cat and the Goldfish by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Robyn Belton
ISBN 978-1-86943-689-6 RRP $18.99 (Scholastic)

When Grandma went on holiday,
her little goldfish came to stay,
Katie said, "I'll goldfish sit.
I know how to look after it."

Katie's mother warns her to watch out for Greedy cat because he can be rather partial to fish. Of course, Katie won't believe that Greedy Cat would ever do such a thing. Greedy Cat sidles up to the table and before Katie can jump out of her chair, has his paw in the fish bowl trying to grab the fish...

A gorgeous tale that kindergarten children will love. (In fact, I can remember seeing one of these stories being read as a big book when my daughter was at kindy seven years ago.) These stories last the generations. Children delight in seeing the mischief that Greedy Cat gets up to.

Robyn Belton's artwork is full of expression - you can tell what Greedy Cat is thinking just by the expression of his mischevious eyes. Robyn has won many awards for her illustrations. It looks like she has used pencil and water colour paint to create the delightful illustrations for this book.

Joy Cowley is a seasoned professional writing stories for this age group (and older, of course). The Greedy Cat series has been published in the U.S.A. and in educational books but this new series of Greedy Cat stories are fresh to the market.

The Little Yellow Digger and the Bones by Betty and Alan Gilderdale
ISBN 978-1-86943-899-9 RRP $18.99 (Scholastic)

It started to rain on the Monday,
it rained on the Tuesday as well,
it bucketed down on the Wednesday,
and rivers were starting to swell.
There was thunder and lightning on Thursday,
bridges and roads swept away.
By Friday the hillsides had crumbled,
and traffic was held up all day.

The torrents of rain have left a terrible mess, which requires - of course - the little yellow digger's helping hands. Whilst clearing away the rubble the digger finds a bone in a cave. Experts from the museum come to take the precious find away and they have to wait until the big unveil at the museum to find out to whom the bone belonged...

Four year olds just love this Yellow Digger series. I can remember my own son begging for the first book in this series to be read over and over again. Back then (nine years ago) there weren't many books with diggers as the main character. Anyone with a 3-4 year old child - knows how important diggers are to this age group (well, to boys anyhow). This book will be another favourite for this age group.

When we were alone in the world by Ulf Nilsson, illustrated by Eva Eriksson
ISBN 978-1-877467-34-9 RRP $18.99 (Gecko Press)

One day at school I learned to tell the time. Nine o'clock, ten o'clock, one o'clock, two o'clock.
At three o'clock Dad usually came to get me. But hewasn't outside. In the end I went home by myself. Our house is just down the road. But why hadn't he come? What had happened?

The little boy decides his parents must have been knocked over by a truck and he must take care of his little brother by himself. He builds them a house replete with television and bedding, out of things lying around in their back yard. They even manage to procure cake (albeit uncooked) from their neighbour until...

Parents will identify with their worst nightmare - their children going missing. Children will see their worst fear - being left alone in the world - being played out in this story. The main character (we never get to know his name) must be only 5-6 years old and he rather bravely takes on the task of looking after his little brother. The illustrations are full of expression; it's amazing how dots for eyes and a line for a mouth can say so much. The artwork looks like it is coloured pencils.

The illustrator and writer are two of Sweden's finest. Eva received the Astrid Lindgren prize and the prestigious August award. Ulf is a winner of the August and American Batchelder awards.

'A bittersweet tale of brotherly love and imaginations gone wild' John McIntyre, Radio New Zealand, Nine to Noon

When Findus was Little and Disappeared by Sven Nordquist
ISBN 978-1-877467-32-5 RRP $18.99 (paperback) $29.99 (hardback)

Old man Pettson sat in the kitchen with his cat Findus, doing the crossword.
'Tell me the story about how I disappeared,' said Findus.
'You haven't disappeared; you're right here,' said Pettson.
'I mean when I was little.'
'That story! You know that one already. I've told it hundreds of times.'
'Tell me again,' said Findus.
'I suppose I could,' Pettson said. 'It was like this...'

Farmer Pettson tells the story of when he lived in his little cottage all on his own. His neighbour sensing he was lonely gives him a little cat; which he calls Findus. They do everything together and Pettson feels like he has something to live for. Then one morning he wakes and senses something is wrong...

Farmer Pettson tips the house upside down looking for Findus and with the help of two little mice finally finds him. A sweet tale about never being too old or young to find friendship. A story to be enjoyed in the kindergarten and Junior school.

Sven Nordqvist's Pettson and Findus books have sold over four million copies in more than 40 countries. His stories have been adapted for TV, film and theatre. He has won many awards such as the Swedish Literature Award, the German Yough Literature prize and the Elsa Beskow medal.

Good for You, Good for Me by Lorenz Pauli, illustrated by Kathrin Scharer
ISBN 978-1-877467-36-7 RRP $29.99 (Gecko Press)

In the distance, there was music. Bear was sitting out on his favourite red cushion.
He pricked up his ears. The music made him happy.
Then along came Dormouse with his flute.
'Dormouse, I'd like to try that,' said Bear. 'Shall we swap?
I could give you my cushion for your flute?
Then you can rest after all your walking, and I'll play you some tunes.
That's good for you, good for me.'

Beer and mouse play swapsies with music, dance, pebbles then the colours of the day. Bear begins to realise that he doesn't need possessions (his favourite red cushion) - giving gives him more pleasure. Dormouse agrees and they talk about all the other delightful things they can give each other.

The gorgeous illustrations (a mix of pencil and paint) with white background, emphasises the limited use of colour; sometimes just browns and reds, which hones the reader onto the two main characters. The text tells a delightful story about the enjoyment friends get from giving; it's a powerful message. Teachers could use this book for a springboard for a Health unit on 'making friends' or 'sharing'. Highly recommended.

Piggy Pogget by Scott Tulloch (Harper Collins Publishers)
ISBN 978-1869507398 RRP $18.99

Piggy Pogget was born on a Friday.
Just in time for the weekend.
Piggy Pogget has 3 black spots
2 floppy ears
97 fleas
and one gigantic family.

Piggy Pogget is one small pig with enormous ears. We get introduced to his family, favourite things, and not-so favourite things. Then one day Farmer Pants leaves the gate open and Piggy Pogget climbs his way to freedom and to a field of his favourtie food - corn. Of course, eating too much corn can give you... andbeing chased by a barking dog, and a bull, and a tractor, and a colossal, creaking tree can make you very scared; terrified even when confronted with a big dark shadow that turns out to be...

Four year olds will love the adventures of Piggy Pogget; identifying how scary the big wide world can seem when you're only small.

Scott Tulloch's illustrations are colourful and endearing - a book to be treasured by the under-five set. Scott also illustrated V.M. Jone's Hush books, and written and illustrated Willy's Dad, and Willy's Mum.

Reviewed by Maria Gill

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Brian Falkner's latest thriller

BrainJack by Brian Falkner (Walker Books Australia)
ISBN: 978 1 921150 95 1 RRP $19.99

Okay, I had to wrestle this book off my ten year old daughter, hide it from my 13 year old son and not even tell my husband it had arrived - to be the first to read this book. Brian Falkner has a following and his stories get more exciting with each one - and I'm pleased to say this book lives up to the exciting trailer. In fact, I was quite spooked after finishing this book - I can never look at my computer in the same way.

Right now, as you read this prologue, I am sifting through the contents of your computer. Yes, your computer. You. The one holding the book.

I am reading your emails, looking at your digital photos and images you have downloaded off the Net, opening your most private documents and having a good read, or a good laugh, depending on the content...

So now, while you're reading this, I'm looking through your computer and having a great old time. You could race over and turn your computer off, but you'd already be too late.

That scary prologue sets the scene. Sam Wilson, a brilliant teenage computer hacker, can crack the computer systems of any computer - even the White House. His daring - genius skills - lead him into a dangerous world. A world of espionage and intrigue; of cybercrime and imminent war.

Brian Falkner's style reminds me of Anthony Horowitz - his sentences paint pictures and you can imagine them as scenes in a film. Brian's latest 'Brain Jack' is fast paced, exciting and hard to put down once you start reading. I'm not giving anything away when I say that I like that Brian takes risks with his endings - they are not predictable. This is Brian Falkner's fifth chapter book for children. The Tomorrow Code was a finalist in the 2009 New Zealand Post Book Awards and the LIANZA Children's book awards: Esther Glen award.
Reviewed by Maria Gill

Fifi's latest book

Glory by Fifi Colston (Scholastic)
Florence Bright fumes when she is passed over for the computer award - the only award she ever had a chance with. Instead it is given to Miss Perfect, along with all the other ones she wins at the assembly. In fact Florence thinks she might just get even - she devises a plan to help her best friend to take the starring role in the ballet from Miss Perfect but it all goes horribly wrong...

Fifi's sense of humour is liberally sprinkled throughout the book; making this a voice that fills a gap in the New Zealand market. Eight to Twelve year old girls will chuckle, while some will perhaps identify with the injustice of being passed over for an award. A laugh-out-loud enjoyable read for Years 5 - 8.

Fifi Colston is one talented gal. She paints, illustrates books (26), has constructed a few craft books and written three chapter books for children. When she isn't working in her studio she does stand-up comedy (so now you know why she does humour so well), makes craft on television and enters wearable art competitions.

A new picture book set in Samoa

Talia by Catherine Hannken, illustrated by Trish Bowles (Mallinson Rendel)
ISBN 978-1-877423-30-7 RRP $25.00

All of a sudden, someone grabbed her and caught her up in a hug.
"This is your Aunty Maina," said Dad, after he too had hugged the laughing woman.
"Hello," said Talia politely.
Her aunty replied with a rush of words that Talia didn't understand.
"She doesn't speak much English," said Dad as they walked across the car park, "but you'll soon get the hang of it."
Talia nodded but her stomach felt tight.

When Talia first arrives in Samoa she is overwhelmed by the language and the customs that seem strange to her. Her father tells her he felt the same way when he first came to Samoa. At first Talia responds to the people around her by hanging her head but after playing in the water with Leilani, her cousin - she realises there are no barriers and realises it is going to be fun staying in Samoa after all.

A heart-warming picture book about a young girl connecting with her relatives and getting past the culture shock of being in a country that is unfamiliar to her. Children in Junior school will identify with Talia; remembering their first day at school, a move to another school or country.

Catherine Hannken and Trish Bowles are the author and illustrator of Selafina, shortlisted for the 2004 New Zealand Post Book awards and Fiapule. Catherine says she thought of the idea for the story while she was on an aeroplane. She says that many of our children in New Zealand have strong ties to another culture either through their own or their parents' or grandparents' place of birth, her own daughter included. She wanted to tell these children's story.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A new gardening book for children

Yates Young Gardener: growing things to eat by Janice Marriott
ISBN 9781869507947 RRP $24.99
Find out how to make a garden, what tools you will need and how to make seeds grow into fruit, flowers or vegetables. Designed in a bright format with colourful diagrams, step-by-step instructions including interesting facts, activities, jokes, games, puzzles and experiments. You'll learn how to make a bean teepee, grow a cucumber in a bottle, make a green-haired monster, and homemade bug spray.

Janice Marriott lives and works in Wellington, is an award-winning children's writer and a keen gardener.

Kiwi Dads

Kiwi Dads by Yvonne Morrison, illustrated by Ross Kinnaird, Scholastic ISBN 978-1-86943-918-7 RRP $18.99
A Kiwi Dad, he likes the bush,
likes going for a tramp...
It's such a shame it takes all day
for him to set up camp.

The quintessential dad BBQ's, plays cricket, does a spot of DIY, driving, fishing and other blokey activities and he's not always very successful at it either. Written in rhyme, this tongue-in-cheek picture book celebrates fathers - just in time for Father's Day.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Cry of the Taniwha by Des Hunt, HarperCollins NZ
Des Hunt seems to be able to spin an endless line of exciting yarns for intermediate-aged readers. His fans will not be disappointed with this latest adventure, set in the eerie and odorous town of Rotorua. Matt Logan is spending the holidays there, staying with his grandmother and a new step-grandfather. Almost against his will he get involved with the boy next door, who has links with a local gang. Together they discover a buried skeleton – but the possibility of buried treasure brings the gang after the two boys. The gang uses threats and violence to force Matt and Juzza to hunt for buried valuables. As always with Des Hunt’s books, there’s a gripping climax scene where the bad guys get their come-uppance.
Underlying the action and excitement of the plot are several themes which add an extra dimension to the story – there’s the distinct message that gangs are connected to crime, violence and intimidation, and there’s also a hint of Maori mythology with the suggestion that the grey heron is a manifestation of a local taniwha.
ISBN 978 1 86950 731 2 RRP $19
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

The Loblolly Boy by James Norcliffe, Longacre Press
Unusual fantasies like this are rarely published in New Zealand – Longacre Press is following its long-standing tradition of publishing cutting-edge fiction. As I read it I was reminded of the work of David Almond, Geraldine McCaughrean, and William Nicholson - writers who sweep the reader along with the sheer depth and power of their fantasy worlds. Sometimes the reader is not quite sure what’s going on – or why – but it doesn’t really matter. This tale could possibly be read as an allegory – but I suspect young readers will simply take it at face value as a mysterious and intriguing tale.
An unhappy boy called Red, imprisoned in a grim orphanage, meets a strange being who has wings and can fly. The Loblolly Boy convinces Red to change bodies with him – and suddenly Red finds he can fly in glorious fashion. But being the Loblolly Boy has penalties, and Red embarks on a long journey of discovery and adventure to find his way back to his former self – a very different former self. A stunning cover will attract the eye of most intermediate-aged fantasy fans – but I would recommend it for advanced readers who like something a bit different.
Resource Kit for teachers.
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Lorraine Orman

I've just realised that I've missed off Lorraine Orman's latest book - so here it is:

Haunted, Lightning Strikes Series by Lorraine Orman (Walker Books)
ISBN 978-1-92115082-1 RRP $15

“Horrible boys!” a voice says suddenly. I swing round, my heart jumping into my throat. A girl stands in the doorway. A strange, old-fashioned girl, wearing a white dress down to her ankles and white shoes. Her fair hair is braided and tied with white ribbons. I pick up a hint of that sweet lily smell, as if she’s wearing it like perfume.
“I made them go away,” she says with a slight English accent. “They were rude and noisy.”

Twelve-year-old Georgia and her little brother Ned are staying on their uncle's farm. In order to escape the bullying of her nasty cousin, Jeff, Georgia takes refuge in a tumbledown old homestead. She meets a strange, old-fashioned girl dressed in white whose name is Lily. Lily likes playing spooky games, and she particularly likes frightening Jeff and Ned. That's not surprising because Lily is really a ghost, a very lonely ghost who wants a friend to play with - forever.

It isn't long before Lily's games involving fire and death become very dangerous and Georgia finds herself fighting for her life.
Lorraine Orman has written an enjoyable story of intrigue; scattering clues and building up the tension until the end. This is an excellent series for 8-10 year old readers; some are funny others are spooky - just what this age group likes to read.

Have a look on Lorraine's website to read her comments about writing the book. This is Lorraine Orman's nineth book: her style is easy to read, she writes believable characters and there's plenty going on in her plots. Read more of her books.

Teaching notes here.
Reviewed by Maria Gill

Haunted is a ghost story aimed at reluctant readers, with its short format and high interest making it ideal for these readers, as well as for readers of all abilities. Part of Walker’s Lightning Strikes series, the book is attractively packaged with a red cover and silver highlights.

This gripping offering makes an excellent addition to an outstanding series.
Reviewed in Aussie Reviews

My Village: Rhymes from around the World

My Village: Rhymes from around the World collected by Danielle Wright
Illustrated by Mique Moriuchi, Introduction by Michael Rosen (Gecko Press)
ISBN 978-1-877467-11-0 Hardback $29.99, paperback $21.99

Get your mits on this beautiful book of poetry. Danielle Wright has collected 22 rhymes from around the world from: New Zealand to Norway, India to Iceland, Japan to Jamaica. Each rhyme has a page to itself; translated in English and written in the language from country of origin. My ten year old daughter looked over my shoulder as I oohed and aahed over the book and tried to pronounce the true version of the rhyme. Parents will love reading the rhymes from all over the world to their preschool children. Primary Teachers in the Junior school can incorporate the book into their study of international people, food and languages.

Danielle Wright thought of the idea for the book when she couldn't find any alternatives to Mother Goose rhymes to read to her newborn. It set her on a journey, which took three years of phone calls, emails and letters to people from all over the world; finding rhymes and getting them translated. The result is a gorgeous book that is a keeper!

The illustrator's artwork is stunning - her choice of colours gorgeous. It looks like she has used a mix of media: collage, paint and some backgrounds seem to be on recycled or rice paper. The art itself is child-like and appealing.

My Village was chosen as one of the 250 outstanding new international books for children and young adults for the influential The White Ravens 2009 catalogue from the thousands of books that Munich's International Youth Library received as review copies from publishers, authors, illustrators, and organisations from all over the world within the last year.

John McIntyre from The Children's Bookshop on Nine to Noon with Kathryn Ryan, 4/7/08
"All [the poems] are charming. It's no easy thing to do, to translate rhyme to make them accessible to an English audience, there has to be some license but this works: the poems are delightful...The illustrations are beautiful, they are absolutely stunning. Mique Moriuchi combines collage and colour to produce these friendly, child-like illustrations.. .(and) Michael Rosen, probably the most famous children's poet in the world has done the introduction. It really is a wonderful collection of poetry."

Hairy Maclary Shoo

Hairy Maclary Shoo by Lynley Dodd, ISBN 978-1-877423-31-4 RRP $25.00 hardback

Hairy Maclary
was having some fun,
messing about
with his friends
in the sun.
Frisky and skittish,
they romped
and they ran,

Hairy Maclary jumps into a delivery van and ends up on the other side of town - and into lots more mischief.

Another delightful Hairy Maclary story from Lynley Dodd. Already it has gone to the top of weekly bestseller list - see NZ Bookseller web. Parents and under five year olds will thoroughly enjoy reading this rhythmic tale together.
Maria Gill, Reviewer

Other Reviews:
"Ultimately it may be Lynley Dodd's attention to detail and her absolute empathy for children's worlds that make Hairy Maclary such a hit. That, and her enormous sense of fun with story and language. As Hairy heads off on another chaotic adventure the verse is beautifully paced as usual and words like hullabaloo, shemozzle and skeedaddle frolic off the tongue like playful puppies. The toyshop scene has the toys that kids love, Miss Plum rescues Hairy for a happy ending and Hairy and his friends look and act like everyone's favourite dog." Matt Bowler,freelance reviewer

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Two new picture books from Gavin Bishop

There was a Crooked Man by Gavin Bishop (Gecko Press)
ISBN 978-1-877467-24-0 RRP $19.99 Board book Ages 0+

There was a crooked man
and he walked a crooked mile.
He found a crooked sixpence
upon a crooked stile...

Gavin Bishop illustrates an old English rhyme in a vertical board book for young children. This boardbook could have been done traditionally and not had any wow factor - but not so with Gavin and Gecko Press working together. Gavin's colourful, angular and comical illustrations give a whole new twist to this tale. Children will enjoy the originality of opening the book vertically enabling the crooked man to appear larger than life. I love it and so will children.

This is the second in Gecko Press's board book series. Their other title - also by Gavin Bishop - There was an Old Woman came out in 2008.

Counting the Stars: Four Maori Myths by Gavin Bishop (Random House)
ISBN 978-1-86979-072-1 RRP 34.99 Hardcover, Ages 4-12
A sequel to the award-winning Taming the Sun and Riding the Waves, Gavin Bishop's latest stunning book contains four more Maori myths, including two well-known legends: Mother Earth and Father Sky and Hinemoa and Tutanekai and two less well-known legends: The Battle of the Birds and Kae and the Whale.

Before anything, there was nothing.
No warmth, no cold. No air, no dust.
Absolutely nothing.
Then just like that, there was darkness.
Lots of it. Everywhere.
Then gradually a pale glimmer
of light appeared.

Gavin Bishop spins the tales effortlessly; building momentum and intrigue about the creation of life, which leads on to why bush birds and sea birds live apart, then how the greed and cunningness of an old kohunga was thwarted by another tribal leader, ending with a story about how the power of love can bring two people together.

Gavin has used a different colour palette for each story. The first is dark - not surprisingly when creating illustrations for a story about night and day but mixed in those dark colours are startling bold and beautiful images. In contrast the bird story has gorgeous reds, blues and yellows. The story of the whale continues this theme and the tale of the two lovers harmoniously combines purples, yellows and blues with black outlines.

There are not enough Maori legends in picture book form - teachers will add it to their collection - reading Maori legends is part of most reading programmes. Children will enjoy the powerful words and illustrations and I can see some crayon and dye artwork sessions as children emulate the striking illustrations.

Counting the Stars is a collection that continues to take traditional myths to a new level. Created by one of New Zealand's most talented and passionate children's book writers and illustrators.

Reviewed by Maria Gill

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A new My Story title

“The Mine’s Afire!” The Journal of Tommy Carter, Brunnerton, 1896. (My Story) by Susan Battye & Thelma Eakin (Scholastic)

In 1896 in the West Coast town of Brunnerton, the Brunner Mine caught fire and 65 men died. In this addition to the Scholastic My Story series, local boy Tommy Carter writes in his diary about the disaster. Everyone in Brunnerton is connected to the mine somehow and Tommy’s no exception. His dad is a carpenter there and his uncle works deep in the mine. Tommy’s journal builds the story slowly to the day of the disaster and we learn from his point of view how the fire affected the people of Brunnerton. But this story isn’t just about the true life disaster. It’s a tale of how a young boy copes with life in the late 1800’s and it’s a great snapshot of childhoods from a day gone by.

With a three page glossary to explain the many obsolete terms used in the book it’s an interesting read. There are several pages of actual photographs of the town, the schoolhouse and, more importantly, the men who worked and died in the mine.

The My Story series are well read among children and not because they’re told by the teacher to read them. These books are written in an easy-to-read style and are based around true incidents that children find fascinating. Recommended for 9+ readers. Teaching notes available.
Reviewed by Christine Hurst

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Two new books for 9-12 year olds

Bute View by Janice Marriott, Mallinson Rendel
This is the sequel to Chute Thru, and I have to admit I haven’t read the first book. But it didn’t matter – I was still able to enjoy the fast action and quirky humour of this story. Young Arlo is an accomplished inventor who lives in a future world where people dwell on rafts in polluted seas. In fact, Arlo lives on Raft 1,000,001, which he describes as a ‘no-hoper’. He’s full of anticipation as he leaves the raft to travel to SPACE in the southern hemisphere to demonstrate his inventions to a bunch of important scientists. But he soon discovers that SPACE is controlled by unscrupulous businessmen – and they want to put him in a state of hibernation and ship him to another planet!
The characters are zany, the setting is wildly inventive, and the action is non-stop as Arlo tries to extricate himself from the clutches of the bad guys. Should be enjoyed by both boys and girls aged about 9 to 12.
ISBN 978 1 877423 25 3
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Fire On High by David Hill, Mallinson Rendel
David Hill continues his string of gripping adventure stories with this tale about an airplane hijack. Teenager Jonno Austin has been to South America to watch an eclipse of the sun, and on the way home his plane is hijacked by rebels from the country he’s just been visiting. A passenger, one of Jonno’s party, is injected with snake venom and will die in a matter of hours if the concerns of the rebel soldiers are not dealt with by international authorities.
This is real read-in-one-gulp stuff. The tension is cranked tighter and tighter as Jonno and his fellow astronomers try to reason with the rebels and the airplane pilots try to get help via the radio. Just when it looks as though things will work out, another crisis emerges – the plane starts flying through debris from a disintegrating spacecraft. Red-hot lumps of metal are shooting past like deadly missiles. If one of them hits the plane... It’s a great read for teenage boys.
ISBN 978 1 877423 32 1
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Five new picture books

Grandma McGarvey and the Puddle street Gang by Jenny Hessell and Trevor Pye (Illustrator) Scholastic ISBN 978-1-86943-894-4

A lovely addition to the Grandma McGarvey stories is this latest picture book by Jenny Hessell for readers 6-9 years.

Grandma McGarvey volunteers at an old folks home, and there she finds a living history of her past. Even the sweetest of old ladies was once a young person. This rhyming story will enchant young readers, especially as the illustrations are clear and colourful.

Jenny Hessell has written nine other Grandma McGarvey stories and many other stories including Dump Bear.

The Sparrow and the Feather by Ben Brown and Helen Taylor (Illustrator)
Penguin ISBN 978-014350376-7

One day, a sparrow finds a beautiful feather. He wonders to whom the feather could belong and sets out to discover the owner. Along the way, he meets other birds, but they haven’t lost the feather. He also meets a rascally weasel who thinks he might like to own the feather.

Sparrow finds the owner eventually. But by now he has already decided that having beautiful plumage may not always be a good thing.

Written in the form of a fable, and wonderfully illustrated by Helen Taylor, this book is sure to delight adults and children. Perfect for reading aloud to 4 to 8 year olds.

Ben Brown has written a great many children’s stories, most of the recent publications in collaboration with his wife Helen Taylor as illustrator. In 2006 their book A booming in the Night won the picture book award in the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.

Hey Presto by Rachel Hayward and Rachael Haupt (Illustrator)
Scholastic ISBN 978-1-86943-911-8

Daniel’s Grandmother is a retired magician. She doesn’t do magic anymore. “Over the hill” she says.

But, somehow, magical things still seem to happen around her and in her house. When Daniel loses his homework in the disappearing cupboard, Gran writes him a note for his teacher. Unfortunately, she writes it in invisible ink. Daniel’s teacher is not amused.

Daniel is made to look silly, talking about magic. Then, at the end of the term concert, Mr. Grimshaw says the wrong thing, and Gran pulls out a few tricks to change Mr. Grimshaw’s mind.
A delightful story for six to nine year olds. Colourful illustrations, interesting style although not my cup of tea but children may well like the style.

Other stories by Rachel Hayward include McGregor, and Jason’s Extraordinary Hair.

My Brown Bear Barney by Dorothy Butler and Elizabeth Fuller (Illustrator)
Penguin ISBN 978-0-350374-3

Barney the brown bear goes everywhere with the little girl in the story. He goes to the beach, shopping, gardening, and to bed, along with other items needed for each activity. And soon, she will be going to school. But Mum says bears don’t go to school. Or do they?

A beautiful story for three to six year olds. Plenty to discuss in each picture about what to take for each outing. Clear, colourful and concise illustrations make this book a wonderfully presented book.

Dorothy Butler is an expert on children’s books and she has had a huge influence on books and book selling in New Zealand, as well as writing many of her own stories.

Secrets by Dawn McMillan and Illustrated by Julia Crouth, Dominique Ford, and Lyn Kriegler.
Penguin ISBN 978-0-14-350381-1

This book is a keeper. A beautifully bound hardback picture book with three of Dawn McMillan’s stories, all with the theme of a secret.

The first story, Sea Secrets, is about Hannah and her grandmother. They find a way to keep their love for each other alive even though they are thousands of miles apart.

The second, Moontime is the secret a young boy keeps until he has a little boy of his own.

The third is Keeping Cloudy a Secret. This time, more than one person holds a secret and the ending is a lovely surprise.

Dawn McMillan has written many wonderful picture books and educational readers. One of her most well known is Why Dogs Sniff Bottoms.

Reviewed by Jenni Francis

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Two new books from Kyle Mewburn

Scruffy Old Cat by Kyle Mewburn, illustrated by Heath McKenzie, published by Little Hare, ISBN 978 1 921272 75 2 RRP $12.99 Target age 6-9 years

Lily likes to stay tidy - in fact she likes everything to be perfect around her until Pop Hooper's mobile pet shop drives into town, then everything turns to shambles. Pop Hooper offers her a kitten for 24 hours but it is so far removed from the dream kitten she has always wished for. Let's face it - this smelly, scruffy cat will never live up to Lily's expectations - or will it?

A delightfully funny tale by Kyle Mewburn, award winning author of Kiss, Kiss, Yuck, Yuck; Duck Stuck and Hopplepop. Kyle says that everyone tends to think their cat is the perfect pet (he does) yet when he goes to friends' houses they think their cat is the cutest cat out. Of course, when Kyle was young his most perfect pet was a dragon. He never got one but he did nurse an egg into a chick. The chick grew up into a pesky rooster called Oscar that thought Kyle was its mother until it met a tragic end (but that's another story). Kyle attributes the idea for the series to his 17 your old moggy called Momo (who has also since died but from old age).
Funny Little Dog by Kyle Mewburn, illustrated by Heath McKenzie, published by Little Hare
ISBN 978 1 921272 76 9 RRP $12.99 Target age 6-9 years
Flyn spends most of his time avoiding Toby Downer's gang. Flyn would be the first to admit he is a chicken and imagines owning a ferocious dog called Chomper that will help him out of his troubles. Unfortunately, Pop Hooper doesn't have one of those dogs instead he gives Flyn a funny scaredy little dog called Pumpkin. Flyn fears he will be the laughing stock of the school but is surprised how events turn out.

Another book in the series about Pop Hooper's Perfect Pets. Six to nine year olds are going to love these early chapter books told with humour and sprinkled with illustrations throughout. Kyle has just finished writing the next two books in the series: look out for one about a pony and another about a turtle due out March 2010.

Kyle Mewburn says he has a picture book called 'Old Huhu' due out September and he has also written an environmental series and Auzzie Yarns for the Australian market. He's well suited for the job because he originally came from Brisbane. Now he lives in Millers Flat, Central Otago, which is way out in the countryside near Dunedin.

Kyle says he often gets his ideas when he is working in the garden (which could be on the top of his house because it has grass growing out of it). He says he likes lots of quiet then he can write from 7.00am to 3.00pm every day.
"I spend a lot of that time rewriting and rehashing what I wrote the day before."
He enjoys visiting schools and says his book 'Kiss Kiss Yuck Yuck' gets a round of applause from children - even before he starts talking about it.
Reviewed by Maria Gill