Sunday, May 31, 2009

Three new picture books

The Naughtiest Puppy by V.M. Jones, illustrated by Scott Tulloch (Harper Collins)
ISBN 9781869506919 RRP $19.99

It was winter. The blue-green mountains were white with snow, and Hugh the sheepdog's five puppies were growing bigger.
They looked like perfect little angels...and three of them were.
Whisper, Shadow and Secret were as silent as Hugh,
with the same still way of watching the world.
"Those three pups are sharp as tacks," said Kerry the farmer.
"And cute as buttons," said his wife Ngaire.
Bandit was a rascal and a ruffian who thought it was boyish to be bad.
He longed to the be naughtiest puppy, but he couldn't come close.
The littlest puppy was the naughtiest of all. That puppy was so naughty
there was no name to fit him.

That puppy gets into all sorts of trouble: barks at the sheep, paints the pigs' pen, chews books and is not in everyone's good books until the night of a storm and he proves his weight in gold, and finds his name while he's at it...

This is the second picture book from V.M. Jones about sheep dogs. In the first book we were introduced to Hush and Echo - this book is the resulting puppies.

Scott Tulloch's artwork compliments the text perfectly. He captures the golden colours of the South Island countryside and also the cheekiness of the puppets.

Guardian of the Bridge by Diana Harris, illustrated by Russell Ness (Random House)
ISBN 9781869792442 RRP $

In the days of old - ing ra o mua - there lived a taniwha who was the guardian, the kaitiaki, of a very deep lake. The lake was very beautiful and was surrounded by tall kauri trees. Many birds lived among the trees and filled the air with their song.

Taniwha enjoys playing with the tamariki but as time goes by they stop calling out to him. Taniwha is very sad and for a long while he sleeps. When he wakes up, the world has changed. "What has happened to the forest? Someone must have put a makutu on my lake while I was asleep, and now I will have to leave." The taniwha heaves himself out of the water and goes walk about - after a few near misses with growling monsters he finds himself back near the water. There he finds the harbour bridge and he's captivated by it...

This is a reprint of the taniwha legend (in fact a very similar story has also been published this year) and it successfully interweaves Maori fables with modern day times. At the back of the book are several pages of facts about Auckland Harbour bridge, pictures of the grand opening, and instructions for a game. Originally published in 1990, this new edition was brought out to celebrate the 50th anniversary opening of the Auckland Harbour Bridge. An excellent resource for the classroom.

Diana Harris has written several books including: Litterbugs and Johnny Jones: A Colonial Saga. Russell Ness was formerly an art teacher and art director before becoming a management consultant. This is the first book that Diana and Russell have worked on together.

Little Kiwi Flies to the Rescue by Bob Darroch (Penguin)
ISBN 9789143503545 RRP $17.95

Poor Lttle Kiwi. He felt bad. He sat on a log and thought, "My sister must think I'm a coward... scared of the dar ... scared of water ... scared of bats ... Oh my!" he sighed.

Little Kiwi can't seem to get anything right. He's scared of the dark, scared of water and his little sister's friends always seem to be making fun of him. But when his sister gets in trouble it seems Little Kiwi might be made of sterner stuff after all.

Another delightful tale (sixth in the series) of Little Kiwi's adventures by Bob Darroch. Great for reading aloud in classrooms (kindy and junior school) or a night-time read with parents. Children will also enjoy the cheeky pictures accompanying the story. Bob is excellent at giving his characters so much expression with a few flicks of his paintbrush. Free height chart included.

Bob has beeen drawing cartoons for most of his life. His work has appeared on toys, souvenirs, postcards, newspapers, magazines and many picture books. He has also illustrated books for other authors including his wife Ruth.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Margaret Mahy makes History Fun

Awesome Aotearoa: History of New Zealand by Margaret Mahy (AUT Media) RRP $29.95

Twitchy Islands
There was once - oh, ages ago - a great southern continent called Gondwanaland. In spite of its size and grandeur it was probably dissatisfied because it wanted to be even bigger. Over many years - about 200 millions years ago - it twisted around with such profound discontent that it twisted itself out of existence, splitting into a lot of different islands, different countries, different continents: South America, Africa, India, Australia, Antarctica...

Margaret talks to the reader in a conversational tone whilst she unveils the history of New Zealand. You'll find her delightful turn-of-phrase in abundance:

"For New Zealand does seem to be one of those restless countries that has crumbs in its bed and needs to wriggle around in order to be comfortable. It buries bits of itself down below, and then pushes other pieces up. It is not one of those countries, like Australia, simply lounging around, peacefully yawning from time to time and then having a bit of a snooze."

Margaret begins with the breaking up of Gondwanaland and continues giving tasty geological, cultural, historical and political details right up to when we voted in our first female Prime Minister. Alongside Margaret's playful text you'll find Trace Hodgson's black and white cartoon illustrations, which bring another layer of humour. There is a generous index, fun sub-titles and the chapters are not too long so the intended reader (aged 9-11 years) will not find it 'Boering'.

A must-have book for your bookshelves and school libraries. Margaret Mahy fans agree - the book went straight to number one in the Top Bestselling New Zealand Children and Young Adult's List within weeks of it being released.
Reviewed by Maria Gill

Monday, May 18, 2009

New Fantasy Thriller for Young Adults

The Bone Tiki by David Hair, Harper Collins, ISBN: 978 1 86950 734 3 $19.99
What do you do when you meet a tohunga makutu?
You run.
When reality dissolves and myths and legends come alive?
You run faster.
And when the dead come to life and blood debts have to be paid, will you have the courage to do what must be done?

Matiu Douglas attends a tangi with his lawyer father. A client of his father wants a bone tiki bequeathed by the dead Aunt real bad. Matiu steals it before he gets hold of it then flees for his life. Along the journey he meets Pania a girl-clown, Wiri a long-dead warrior and scary creatures. To escape, he journeys to a parallel world...

David Hair's first novel is a fast paced mythical thriller. I asked David some questions about the writing of the book:

Where did you get your inspiration for the book?
David says when he was young he was often taken to Rotorua and he heard many local stories. He had a vivid imagination and imagined taniwhas in the rock pools. He also visualised the ghosts in New Zealand winding their way up to Cape Reinga.
"I wrote the book some time ago - in 2001. I sent it off to get published and it was rejected. Life got busy and I forgot about it until my wife urged me to do something with it. I resubmitted it to Harper Collins just before I left to go to India."

Where did you get the characters from?
Matt is an expression of a pakeha in New Zealand who is half caste with roots in both cultures.
Puarata I took from an old legend and fleshed it out some more.
The other characters built themselves around the two protagonists.

What do you bring to the book about yourself?
"My father was a logging truck driver and I often travelled with him. I travelled to the places that Matt goes to. When Matt runs away - that is very familiar territory.

What next?
"I am splitting my time in India doing financial papers and writing. I'm waiting to hear if the sequel to The Bone Tiki has been successful. I'm also writing a book for the adult market - a fantasy. A huge tomb of 300,000+ words

For teachers: A teaching resource

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Two new chapter books from Harper Collins

Nina of the Dark by Ken Catran, HarperCollins (New Zealand)
According to the publisher’s blurb, this is the first volume in a new fantasy series. It’s a classic quest fantasy with a sharp twist in the tail. Nina is the archtypical heroine, born a slave but destined for great things. Her country is on the brink of a devastating war, and as Nina begins her quest she is caught up in the battle. Eventually people recognise her as a potential queen – but Nina is still driven by an interior voice to find out who she really is and what she is meant to do. Fascinating characters, lots of adventures, some dark secrets, and a good sprinkling of magic make this an exciting and satisfying read. But beware the final secret, which will change your whole understanding of the story. Should be enjoyed by teenage girls.
ISBN 978 1 86950 665 0 RRP $24.99
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Quin Majik and the Hairy Roof Rescue by Fleur Beale, illus. Philip Webb, Mallinson Rendel This is the second title in the series about Quin Majik and his ongoing battle with the residents of Tidy Street. Quin is a Bad Influence – in other words, he’s a typical boy. The neighbours don’t like him at all. But when Mr Smart went up on his roof to clean it – in his shirt and tie – and got his tie caught in the skylight, guess who rescued him? Quin’s favourite activity is inventing. So he invented a crane to hoist Fred Smart up to the roof to help his father. And suddenly the Smart family are great friends with the Majiks. Seems to me that poor Anna-Louisa Kleen is going to be the heroine of the third book in the series... Light-hearted fun for primary-aged readers, enlivened by Philip Webb’s excellent cartoons.
ISBN 978 1 877423 28 4 RRP $15
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Our Daft Dog Danny , Pamela Allen, Penguin ISBN 978-0-670-07335-1 RRP $28.00

Uncle Peter lived at the beach with his dog Millie. The children love to visit him, and one day, they take their dog Danny. But Danny is not as smart as Millie. In fact, he needs to learn a lesson the hard way.

Lovely illustrations show the emotions of the dogs, the children and Uncle Peter. A great story that children will enjoy, of a disobedient dog and a clever way to save the day. This is a great book for reading aloud.

Pamela Allen is a prolific writer of fantastic children’s books and she has won many awards in New Zealand and overseas. Her books have been published around the world and have been translated into a number of languages.
Reviewed by Jenni Francis


Salt River by Elizabeth Hegarty, Scholastic NZ
Winner of the 2008 Tom Fitzgibbon Award for a previously unpublished writer, this book is a fascinating combination of history and adventure. Set in the 1920s, it looks at the life of 14-year-old Tom Pook in the remote backwaters of the Kaipara Harbour. Tom lives with his parents and seven brothers and sisters in a one-roomed house where the only access is by boat. Tom doesn’t go to school – he helps his father earn a living by fishing. But Tom wants to leave his home and see the world – how can he possibly achieve this? Well written and well researched, this story is based on the life of a real person. Recommended for readers aged about ten to thirteen.
ISBN 978-1-86943-908-8 RRP $17.99
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Another Picture Book from Gecko Press

The Big Yawn by Monika Spang, illustrated by Sonja Bougaeva
ISBN: 978 1 877467 19 6 RRP pb $18.99 hb R29.99 (Gecko Press)

Quickly now, it's almost eight.
We're the last ones through the gate.
Something happens as the sun goes down -
the most outlandish show in town.
You'll only see it at the zoo;
Watch carefully, as we walk through...

First the tiger yawns in the midst of playing checkers, then the showy swans get the yawning bug, they pass it to the porkers' pen, who crosses it over to the crocodile's nile until the whole zoo is yawning. The perfect book for bedtime reading for 3-6 year olds.

Monika Spang studied agricultural biology and journalism and Sonja Bougaeva studied book art and painting. Together they've produced a beautiful book about zoo animals.