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