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