Sunday, December 11, 2011

Books for Middle School

People by Blexbolex, Gecko Press

 Another challenging book by Gecko Press. It’s hardbound with a jacket and is presented in an unusual size (25cm x 19cm). It’s as thick as a proper book (that is, not a picture book) but this is in part due to the very solid paper used. Librarians will be scratching their heads wondering where to shelve it. Each page presents a minimalistic image of a person in some kind of role, along with words that describe the role. So we find School Children, a Conductor, a Painter, a Stevedore, an Astronaut. So far so good. But the artist’s sly sense of humour comes through when we find images for A Seasonal Worker (Santa Claus), a Myth (Prometheus pushing his stone), a Nudist, an Invisible Man, a Risk-Taker. Humour is also evident in the juxtaposition of the images – an Explorer is next to Tourists, a Monk is next to a Rabbi, a Vagabond is next to a Bedouin.
Now, who would appreciate a book like this? I could see it being used in primary schools for social studies lessons, but children will probably need guidance from teachers to help them think about the not-so-obvious aspects of the images. Art teachers may also be interested in it because the illustrations certainly bear out the “Less is more” guideline. By the way, Blexbolex is a French illustrator and graphic artist, and this book won the Best Book Design in the World Award at the Leipzig Book Fair.
ISBN 978 1 1877467 87 3 RRP $37.99
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

D.E.S.I.G.N.* by Ewa Solarz, illus. Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinski, Gecko Press
The asterisk stands for Domestic Equipment: Sleek, Ingenious, Groundbreaking, Noteworthy – all qualities which could be applied to this book. It’s a solid hardback volume (originally published in Poland) using top-quality paper, meaning that it has a definite feel-good aspect. It offers a selection of 69 objects created by “the most influential and famous designers from around the world”. These are all objects which can be found in a house, and they are presented chronologically. Each double spread display includes cartoon illustrations, explanatory text, the date of invention, the designer’s country of origin, the material it’s made from – and various other bits of information. Not to mention a great deal of humour! The featured objects are not what you’d expect – browsing through the volume one can find an elephant chair, a skier’s table, a grass sofa, a cosmic lamp, an octopus-shaper juicer, animal houses with tails, sky shelves, and a floor doily... I rather like the indestructible sofa. The cartoon illustrations are colourful and funny – and quite addictive. You find yourself turning the page just to see what weird object is going to come up next.

Strangely enough, I see this book as being of interest to schoolchildren of five to fifteen because of the universal humour. But as a reference tool, it would probably be useful for students once they start studying design as part of their curriculum.
ISBN 978 1 877467 83 7 RRP $39.99

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman
The Littlest Angel: Lily Goes Skitter Skating by Elizabeth Pulford, illus. Aki Fukuoka, Scholastic NZ

The Littlest Angel: Lily Lands in Bubble Trouble by Elizabeth Pulford, illus. Aki Fukuoka, Scholastic NZ
These are Books 3 and 4 in The Littlest Angel series. If you know the series, you hardly need to read on but if you don’t, Lily is a pupil at Amelia’s Angel Academy (think fairies, rather than traditional, religious-type angels), the kind of student who always has the best of intentions but gets herself into some awful scrapes. The presentation of the books in the series is clever – girls will love the sparkly silver bits on the cover, the glitzy coloured foil on the page edges, and the pastel shading on the pages themselves. I’m sure there are plenty of primary-aged girls out there who already love Lily and will be delighted to find these two volumes in their Christmas stockings.
ISBN 978 1 77543 024 7 RRP $12
ISBN 978 1 77543 052 0 RRP $12

Diplo-dizzydocus by Kyle Mewburn, illus/ Donovan Bixley, Scholastic NZ
Primary-aged boys are unlikely to read Scholastic’s The Littlest Angel series, but they could easily become addicted to this series which began about the same time: Dinosaur Rescue. This is Book 4, and tells us another funny and easy-to-read story about Arg, the genius Neanderthal boy, and his friend Skeet, who happens to be a clever Tyrannosaurus Rex. As in the previous stories, there is plenty of vomit, snot, stink, poo, and so on. My advice to parents – don’t read it! You’ll be disgusted. But if you’re trying to encourage a boy into reading books, this series would be spot on – the hilarious cartoon illustrations should be a good enticement. By the way, there are Teachers’ Notes available for this book on the Scholastic website.
ISBN 978 1 77543 050 6 RRP $12
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Saturday, December 3, 2011



Recon Team Angel Assault by Brian Falkner (Walker Books)
First there were six combat teenagers for an undercover mission but one-by-one they are picked off. Chisnall the leader of the group knows it has to be someone in the team - he suspects them all including his girlfriend Sergeant Brogan. Only he knows all the details of the mission - to find out what the aliens are hiding in the middle of their headquarters. To complete their mission they have to be dropped in by planes, pass themselves off as Uluru aliens and get inside to find out what is there, then dismantle it with whatever means. Only someone seems intent on stopping them.

Brian Falkner writes with incredible skill building up suspense to the climatic ending.  This science fiction thriller has all the appeal for teenage boys:  guns, warfare, and humour.  Brian uses authentic army-speak for operation communication and his futuristic weaponry are convincing.
I asked Brian a few questions about his book:

Where did you get the story idea - did the publisher suggest this theme?
The story idea was mine. It was inspired by seeing an old copy of “Where Eagles Dare” by Alistair McLean lying around somewhere. The first chapter of Assault is called “Where Angels Fear” in tribute to the McLean novel.
Any more books planned for the series?
There are plans for four books in the series, however if successful, I am open to writing more.

The weaponry sounds so authentic - is it totally made-up or is it based on real weapons?

For the weapons, I researched the current military weapons and explosives and then extrapolated them a little into the future. I didn’t want to write a book about laser guns and other “space opera” stuff. I wanted it to feel like a real war with real weapons, just slightly removed from where we are now.

For the alien weapons, I wanted them to be just a little different to human weapons. For example the rifle is carried on the back, and springs into the hands of the user automatically when needed.

In your other books you chose names from kids who won competitions at your school talks - did you do that this time? 

There are many kids names in this book (all listed at the back). This was a bit harder to do, because this is a war story and characters die. It is awkward to use the name of a real kid, and have that character die. But that couldn’t be avoided in this kind of book.

Highly recommended for boys (and girls who like a bit of action) 12-18 years.  My reluctant reader son said it was even better than the Cherub series (the only other series he has read). Normally my 15 year old son would take a whole term to get through a book - for this book he took four days - a record and proof of how gripping this book was for him.

Reviewed by Maria Gill
The Ghost Bride by David Hair, Penguin NZ

This is Book 2 in the series called The Return of Ravana. The first volume was called Pyre of Queens, and I would recommend potential readers look for that book first. The plot is complex, and not very user-friendly if you don’t know what’s gone before. I also recommend that readers refresh their knowledge of the Indian epic called the Ramayana by reading the section at the back called A Brief Introduction to the Ramayana.

The double timeframe moves between Rajputana in 1175 and Mumbai in 2010. The characters in the first timeframe are new (ie. new reincarnations of characters from the Ramayana), but the teenagers in the 2010 timeframe also featured in the Pyre of Queens. In both plot strands we find a life-and-death bridal challenge, but the 2010 story is the more interesting given its modern setting. Two teenage boys know they are re-enacting events from the past – and they realise one of them must participate in a modern swayamvara (bridal challenge) in order to defeat their immortal enemy, a demon-king called Ravindra. So Vikram joins the suitors in a reality show featuring Bollywood actress Sunita – whoever overcomes all the challenges will win Sunita’s hand. But what is the strange connection between Sunita and Amanjit’s sickly sister, Rasita? As with the first book, there is plenty of suspense and the action is violent and bloody. Not for the faint-hearted.
ISBN 978 0 14 356599 4 RRP$25
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman


Dinosaur Rescue series by Kyle Mewburn, illustrated by Donovan Bixley (Scholastic)

In Book One T-wreck-asaurus Argo embarks on a mission to save the dinosaurs from extinction.
In Book Two Stego-snotty-saurus Argo and his bestfriend Skeet try to find the cure for the human virus that is deadly to dinosaurs.
In Book three Velocitchy-Raptor Argo and Skeet must save a baby velociraptor from a hungry quetzalcoatlus even though Argo appears to be allergic to the baby raptor.
In Book Four Diplo-dizzdocus Argo and Skeet must find out what is making the diplodocus herd too dizzy to walk before they are thrown into the Grogllgrox stew and eaten.
Books five and six of this bestselling and highly popular series are due out in 2012. Highly recommended for 6-10 year old boys who love humour, and a bit of snot, vomit and action!


Bruiser by Gavin Bishop, and Stuck in the Mud by Brett Avison

Two wonderful digger books for the 4-6 old boy who is obsessed with machinery. I remember when my son was this age and we couldn't walk or drive past heavy machinery without having to stop and watch, and answer a whole barrage of questions. "What's that digger doing?" or "Where's he taking that dirt, Mum?" You know the questions.

In Bruiser the front loader is a machine on a mission. It ploughs up hillsides, tramples down paddocks and crushes up stones. Until it gets stuck in a hole and causes a bird's nest to fall in with him. What will Bruiser do? Will he continue with his destructive ways or does the little chick change him?
In Stuck in the Muck a cow gets stuck in the mud and it takes quite a few different types of machinery to get her out. What a kerfuffle! Can they get her out or is she going to stay stuck?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Early Childhood Books

The Big Book of Words and Pictures by Ole Kรถnnecke, Gecko Press
This is definitely a big board book (about 35cm tall) so it’s probably best viewed on the floor – both you and your preschooler, that is. In fact, you may even like to just leave it lying on the floor in view of the preschooler, and watch what happens. Hopefully the child will open the sturdy pages and become intrigued by the simple, attractive displays. There is no story, just a host of objects on each page with names underneath. The first page contains child-related objects (book, bed, pillow, teddy bear), the third and fourth pages contain household objects such as spoon, frying pan, bib, chair – and so on through topics such as the seasons, food, animals, the sea, flight, transport, music, sports, etc. Most objects are within the ken of a 3-year-old (for instance) but you may be called upon to explain some unfamiliar items, such as moisturiser, overtrousers, secateurs, sleigh bells, unicycle, water pump, petanque... The book was originally published in German, so does not have a New Zealand tone. However the illustrations are fresh and appealing, and the interested adult will pick up subtle flashes of humour tucked away here and there.
ISBN 978 1 877467 87 5 RRP $29.99
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman
A Kiwi Jingle Bells by Yvonne Morrison and Deborah Hinde, Scholastic NZ
This is the board book edition of the original 2006 version (over 35,000 copies printed). I have to admit I checked the last page to see if there was a CD there –but no. So you’re left to sing the numerous verses on your own. “Dashing to the bay, In a Kombi campervan, Christmas at the beach – The family’s master plan. Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way, Christmas in New Zealand on a sunny summer’s day, ay!” This board book version is sturdy and a suitable size for small hands. Deborah Hinde’s illustrations are colourful and active and contain plenty of objects that a pre-schooler should recognise. If you’re looking for a Christmas-themed stocking-filler for your 2-year-old, you should check this one out.
ISBN 978 1 77543 045 2 RRP $13.50
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Chapter Books for Teenagers

Heart of Danger by Fleur Beale, Random House NZ
This is the third book in a trilogy (the previous titles are Juno of Taris, and Fierce September), and I wish I had been able to read the three titles one after the other, rather than with big gaps of time in between.  To spend so long in Juno’s world would be a fascinating and absorbing read. I’m pleased to see that the publishers weren’t too coy to include plot summaries of the first two books – for people like me whose memories are getting creaky...
In this final instalment, Juno and her family and friends are beginning to settle in Aotearoa, but then little sister Hera comes out with one of her prophecies – an announcement that she will be going away soon. Panic-stricken, Juno’s family move to another settlement where they hope she will be safer. Juno starts to make friends, including a handsome young man who takes a romantic interest in her. But before Juno can sort out her complicated feelings for Ivor, Hera is kidnapped. Instead of denying her own extra-sensory abilities, Juno must now open her mind and use her instincts to track down her sister. An exciting chase and confrontation result, and Juno finally realises how strong her powers are. Further developments help her understand that she and Hera are not freaks – they have been created by their genetic heritages.

An excellent read for teenagers, especially girls – how about buying the whole trilogy for your daughter or grand-daughter for Christmas?
ISBN 978 1 86979 543 6 RRP $19.99

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman
Battle of the Birds by Lee Murray, Taramea Publishing

Annie is eleven years old, and currently stuck in Wisconsin. She’s homesick for New Zealand, and her mind is full of images of home as she sprawls out on the top of an eagle-shaped effigy mound. Amazingly, a real eagle arises from the dirt and Annie is still sitting, stunned, on its back as it flies into the sky. The eagle flies to New Zealand, but a time-slip has happened – she has gone back 1000 years in time. The eagle delivers Annie close to a Maori tribe, and she soon meets up with Moana, a girl of her own age, along with Moana’s tribe. Eventually Annie realises that she has a special power that enables her to talk to birds, and that she must play a part in protecting the native flightless birds against the murderous intentions of Te Hokioi, a huge Haast eagle. There is plenty of action and suspense as Annie fights against the evil bird and his minions.
This first-time author worked with an experienced mentor to write this story, so it avoids many of the pitfalls of a book published by a small press (as opposed to a big commercial publisher). The cover is attractive, the layout is pleasing, and the style is very fluent and suitable for the age group (intermediate level). A bonus is that Teachers’ Notes are available at
As a writer myself, I was a bit uneasy with some of the authorial decisions eg. writing in the present tense, and giving a mythological American eagle the language of a 21st-century American teenager – but young readers probably won’t be so picky. I imagine they’ll simply get swept along in the non-stop action.  
ISBN 978 0 473 18928 0 RRP $19.99 
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman
Nest of Lies by Heather McQuillan, Scholastic NZ
Books with dystopian settings are all the rage at the moment. It would be interesting to explore why so many authors for young people seem to believe that our civilization is destined for self-destruction. Heather McQuillan’s book is set in a world where most of society has been destroyed by a plague (blamed on birds). The remnants of the human race live in distinct groups – such as the oppressive and wicked regime of the Citadel; and the Outsiders roaming the countryside (trying to preserve the environment); and the Eggheads (scientists) who live on a cruise liner and are determined to restore the beneficial aspects of human technology.
Ashlee is a 14-year-old Cinderella-type heroine who is treated as a slave by her wicked father and vicious step-family. She misses her brother, who disappeared in suspicious circumstances. Her hopes are raised by a mysterious message from him that is delivered by a bird. Ashley finds the courage to run away to look for Felix – and gets involved in all sorts of adventures and battles involving the various groups of people.
It’s an easy and engaging read, and there’s plenty of action and suspense to draw the reader on, especially girls who like a brave heroine. My only qualm focuses on a  possible mismatch between the straightforward, plot-focused style of the story (which indicates a readership of around intermediate age), and other indicators that point to a teenage readership ie. the age of the heroine, the dystopian setting, and the escalation of violence, bloodshed and chemical warfare at the climax of the story. I’m not quite sure what age group the book would suit, but Scholastic says 11+.
ISBN 978 1 77543 025 4 RRP  $18.50
Lorraine Orman
I read the book too and thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought the book targeted 11-13 year olds (Intermediate aged) girls.
Maria Gill

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Stories of the Wild West Gang by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Trevor Pye (Gecko Press)

As 11 year old Eliot says on the back cover 'Just the right amount of craziness. One of the funniest books I've ever read.'

When Michael's five cousins move in next door, his parents are horrified - Michael thinks it's wonderful. His parents make him go to bed at 9pm, eat a strict diet and coddle him as their only child. At the West's household he gets to stay up as long as he likes, eat anything, have scandelous fun and be treated as any other in the household. He manages to convince his parents to go away so he can go on wild jaunts with the West family, and Michael cannot get enough of it. He goes rafting, camping, to the school fair, Pong Castle, over the wonky fence, puts up with the grumpy guest, survives the haunted fridge, and the wedding, goes fishing and has wickedly fun hullabaloo time with them.

A laugh out loud book for 8-12 years olds. This series has been published before as single books but now all ten stories are in one volume. Joy Cowley's characters are original and funny. It's a book about families and how they're all different. Plus it is a young boy's adventures and making fun out of nothing much. Highly recommended for home and school libraries. An excellent book for Primary Middle, Senior and Intermediate teachers to read aloud to their class.

Joy Cowley's books are loved by children all around the world. She has been awarded the OBE for her services to children's wrting, and the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement.

Trevor Pye lives in Tauranga and he is an award-winning illustrator whose work has featured in more than 200 children's books.

The Margaret Mahy Treasury: Eleven favourite stories by Margaret Mahy (Penguin)

A compilation of some of Margaret's best picture books including A Lion in the Meadow, The Witch in the Cherry Tree, A Summery Saturday Morning, The Great Piratical Rumbustification, The Boy with two Shadows, The Great White Man-Eating Shark, Jam, The Three-Legged Cat, The Boy who was Followed Home, The Librarian and the Robbers, and The Man Whose Mother was a Pirate.

This is the sort of Treasury that Grandparents would buy their mokopuna, teachers would keep in their class to read to their students, and parents would buy for their children and keep afterwards for the next generaton.  It contains all your favourites with original illustrations.

Margaret Mahy has won the Carnegie Medal twice, the IBBY Honour Book Award, the Hans Christian Andersen Award and numerous other international and national awards. Her books are loved by several generations.  Every library should have this Treasury (along with her Poetry collection).

Monday, October 31, 2011

Three New Non-fiction Books

The Book of New Zealand Records and Firsts by Stephen Barnett (Scholastic)

On the front cover the book promises Biggest, Fastest, Most Unusual and More - and you certainly get that. First we find out which Kiwis have set records for the fastest, deepest and longest. We meet adventurer Shaun Quincey who rowed the fastest across the Tasman, 17-year-old Elliot Nicholls who broke the world record for the fastest texting whilst blindfolded, then two young lads who dove the deepest depths, the boat that set a new world record for the fastest time around the world in a powerboat, and the tap dancer who danced 610 taps a minute, and lots more. Next, we see the biggest and most such as the world record chocolate bar, the world's record price for a bird's feather, the largest wasp nest recorded in New Zealand, the man who learnt more than 58 languages, the biggest ball of tape, the most expensive tiny piece of paper, the biggest children's sporting event in the world, and the cricketer who set the world record for the greatest number of tennis balls caught in one minute. Thirdly, we're treated to some of the most unusual records (didn't we just have some of those). Like the Twisty Twinz who climbed into a perspex box and set a new world record, the seven-legged lamb, and the World's steepest street (in Dunedin). Lastly, are the New Zealand firsts such as the pigeon post, the coach who took jogging to the world, the adventurer who climbed the highest mountain, the bungy jumpers and more.  Great reading for kids who like their facts.  Ideal for Middle, Senior Primary and Intermediate-aged classrooms.

RRP $17.00  ISBN: 978-1-77543-031-5

The Small Blacks Annual by Peter Harold (Penguin)

Printed on glossy paper in A4 size and 96 pages long we have another rugby book for kids. This time the focus is not on the All-blacks but rather the kiwi kids aged 5-12 who play rugby. There's loads of photographs of kids playing rugby, stories, articles about famous rugby players, activities, interesting facts such as why do we get stitch and how do we get rid of it, tips on rugby skills, recipes, quizzes, jokes, Maori vocabulary, cartoons, poetry, songs, and news articles - phew! A lot is packed in for rugby fans to saviour.  For ages 8-12 year olds who are rugby mad.

RRP $19.99, ISBN: 978-0-1433-0657-3

The Big Book of New Zealand Wildlife by Dave Gunson (New Holland)

The Big Book of New Zealand Wildlife is a comprehensive collection of birds, animals, insects, fish, plants and fungi in one single volume. If it looks familiar - yes, it is a compilation of all the 'All About' series books produced in encyclopaedia format. You'll find over 400 species of New Zealand natives brought to life with colourful illustrations and interesting facts. Designed to be easily accessible for 7-14 year olds.  An excellent reference book that would be useful in every Primary classroom and home.

Dave Gunson wrote the successful All About series, produced colouring-in books to complement them, and illustrated numerous books (approximately 150) over the years. Dave is a keen artist and has been involved with a number of group and solo exhibitions over the years.

Hardback $39.99, 160 pages, ISBN: 978-1-86966-297-4

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Christmas Books

There's a Hole in my Bucket sung by The Topp Twins, pictures by Jenny Cooper
(Scholastic)  CD inclusive

There's a hole in my bucket,
dear Liza, dear Liza
There's a hole in my bucket,
dear Liza
a hole.

You've probably heard the song before - it's a favourite with pre-schoolers. What makes it special is having a book and CD for children to read and play over and over again. Jenny Cooper's illustrations are a treat - the expressions of the two characters are hilarious (especially Liza getting more and more annoyed with Henry). Lots of fun for 4-6 year olds and will be popular in the kindergarten and Junior Primary school classes.

The Topp Twins are a truly original comic and musical duo - this is their first book for children. They see There's a Hole in My Bucket as a fun way to encourage kids to pick up a book, believing that learning to read is vital, no matter who you are or where you are from.

Illustrator Jenny Cooper has illustrated numerous children's books. Jenny said that while she drew pictures for this book she listened to the song over 200 times!
RRP $26.00

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth by Don Gardner, illustrated by Katz Cowley, sung by Craig Smith  (Scholastic) CD inclusive

Everybody stops and stares at me,
These two teeth are gone as you can see,
I don't know just who to blame for this
But my one wish
on Christmas Eve
is as plain as can be...

You've probably guessed it - it's his two front teeth. Little chimp thinks about all the things he could do if he had two front teeth; whistle, sing songs, wish people Merry Christmas... Will he get them?

Another bright and beautiful book from Scholastic.They've taken a well known Christmas song and paired it with popular duo Katz Cowley (illustrator) and Craig Smith (singer/songwriter). Don Gardner penned the song in 1944 and asked a class of 22 second graders to complete the sentence: "All I want for Christmas is...' and then 'began smiling as he heard 16 of them lisping wishes without the help of one or two both front teeth' (LA Times, 2004). That was his inspiration for the song in this book. Katz Cowley went through two earthquakes in Christchurch while illustrating this book and moving six times across two countries. Craig Smith wrote 'The Wonky Donkey' which was co-winner of the APRA Children's Song of the Year award in 2008.

Sure to be another popular book for 4-6 year olds for Christmas.  A must have for all kindergartens and Junior Primary School classes.

Christmas in the Bush by Lindy Kelly, illustrated by Lyn Kriegler
(Harper Collins)

What will Christmas be like this year?
Josh wondered as he arrived at his dad's farm. Christmas with Mum in the city was always fun.
The farm was a fun place for holidays, with Dad, his dog, Scout, and the bush near the house. But Christmas?

Christmas with Dad is going to be different alright; no christmas tree, no big christmas dinner with ham and turkey, and apparently Santa doesn't even come this far out in the woods. His father says he has something a bit special up his sleeve - but what could beat a traditional Christmas...

At first Josh thinks this is going to be the worst Christmas ever but though it doesn't start with all the traditional trimmings it turns in to the best Christmas he has ever had. What beats presents under a christmas tree - read out to find how to have a bush Christmas. An enjoyable read for children from 4-6 years. Helpful for those children from recently separated families especially if they're experiencing a different Christmas for the first time.

Lindy Kelly has written numerous short stories for Learning Media, picture books for educational companies and several children's books for Harper Collins. Lyn Kriegler has illustrated 22 picture books, seven chapter books and 25 readers. Lyn's artwork is bright and busy - plenty to keep young children's attention.

RRP $19.99  Release date November 2011

Willbee the Bumblebee, story by Maureen Thomson and Craig Smith, illustrations by Katz Cowley, music by Craig Smith (Scholastic)  Includes book, CD and Willbee toy.

Willbee the Bumblebee came out in 2010 and now it is back packaged together with toy, book and CD in gift box format - sure to be a popular present for the under 5s.

RRP $31.00

Beach Bag Boogie by Lindsay Wood, illustrated by Rebekah Holguin
(Harper Collins)  RRP $19.99

When Jasper woke up, things felt very
strange - there were whoosh-whooshing
sounds and his bedroom had changed.

Jasper wakes up in a tent beside the sea. Everything is new and different and exciting. Jasper can feel tingling over his skin and a jig-jiggling urge to get dancing set in... He does the sleeping bag shimmy,
the slip slop slap samba, the beach bag boogie...  Lots of fun alliteration as she read about a young boy's fun day camping at the beach.

A fun book for 4-6 year olds - sure to be popular in kindergartens and Junior Primary School too. I can see lots of children bursting to get up and doing some of those jiggling dances while listening to the story.  The illustrations are bright and colourful with some white spaces for the text. Recommended for the holidays!

RRP $19.99

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Christmas Books

Bruiser by Gavin Bishop (Random)
Bruiser was a machine on a mission.
"Oi! Get outof my way!" he said.
"I've got a motorway to build!"
On Monday he ploughs through five hills, Tuesday he crushes ten rocks, one Wednesday he tears up three forests ... until Friday when he gets stuck in a ditch. He makes such a racket trying to get out he wakes up the magpie chick and Mother Magpie is not impressed. Will he get out and what will happen to the magpie family?
A digger story for the four-year-old boy who is impressed with big machines. I remember my son being obsessed with road machinery - he would have adored this story. I love the way Gavin has woven an environmental message into the story; with the digger changing his ways and caring for nature after his experience with the magpie family. Sure to be a hit!
Gavin Bishop is one of New Zealand's best-loved author/illustrators for children. He has written and illustrated many books and won numerous national and international awards.
PB $22.00 HB $34.00 ISBN: 978-1-86979-451-4
Stuck in the Mud by Brett Avison, illustrated by Australian Craig Smith (Five Mile Press)
On Mum and Ted's farm
there's a very large barn,
where the hay and the horses
are kept.
And right at the back, past some seeds in a sack, is where Milky the cow often slept.
Milky liked to stay nice and warm in the shed chewing her cud. But one day she goes out and gets stuck in the mud. The family rush over to help her with their assorted wheels: quad bike, pick-up Ute, bigger truck, and then they bring in friends and the services with their big metal pulley, the fire brigade, crane, and chopper. Will Milky get out and will they ever be able to salvage the rest of the wheels ...
Brett Avison has written another successful picture book that will appeal to the under five year old. Children will love the surprise pop-up twist at the end. The paper is nice and thick, which will ensure it will last those excited fingers turning the pages. Australian Craig Smith's (not to be confused with New Zealander Craig Smith) wonderful colourful artwork fills every large page. Children will enjoy looking at the detailed scenes on every page.
Aucklander Brett Avison's first book 'A Bigger Digger' sold out on its first print run. Both books are being published together in the United Kingdom. This is his second book and will most likely be the basis for an ongoing series.
Australian Craig Smith has been a prolific, award-winning illustrator. His witty, humorous artwork is enormously popular with children. He has a wonderful sense of the absurd and a terrific eye for detail.
Hardback $24.99 ISBN: 978-1-74248-642-0

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Two new Chapter Books by two talented Nz authors

The Half Life of Ryan Davis by Melinda Szymanik (Pear Jam Publishing) E-book

Apparently my older sister Mallory was perfect. That's not how I remember her, but it's what my mother tells me when I'm doing something wrong.  My sister certainly looks perfect in all the photos mum has plastered her bedroom with ... But I guess it doesn't matter whether she was perfect or not. It's impossible to be as good as someone who's just a memory.

Ryan feels the weight of his sister Mallory's disappearance on his shoulders. Instead of hanging out with his bestfriend Alex he has to babysit his younger sister Gemma all the time. It kind of cramps his style when trying to chat up Kim - the girl he has set his sights on. Mallory has been gone for a couple of years now. His father left home not long after and his mother still hasn't given up hope Mallory is still alive. Ryan stopped believing that ages ago.

Was she murdered, abducted or did something else cause her disappearance? Will Ryan's life ever return to normal? And does it have anything to do with that stranger who watches him at the skate park... Author Melinda Szymanik keeps you guessing right until the very end in this contemporary thriller for 11 - 15 year olds. An exciting read for boys and girls, and for parents who'd like to know how a 15 year old boy thinks. (I have a 15 year-old-son and I thought Melinda got into the head of a teen boy very convincingly.) One of the first books from the new Pear Jam Publishing House. Watch out for the website, audio book, and printed books coming soon... E-book available now through Amazon and Barnes & Noble now for $6.85.Paperback available 1st December. A must buy!

The very talented Melinda Szymanik writes picture books (her second picture book The Were Nana won the Children's Choice in the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards, The House that went to Sea came out in September), chapter books (Jack the Viking), short stories (for numerous Australian and New Zealand Anthologies), including educational stories for Learning Media. She has a Masters in Zoology but chooses to write children's books full-time.

Yes by Deborah Burnside (Harper Collins) Available November 4th 2011

Luke is what you would call my only friend. When we were little kids our favourite game was pirates and that's when I started calling him 'Legless, because that's definitely a pirate name, and he called me 'Ahoy there, Marty'. Well, he didn't call me 'Ahoy there' but 'Marty' with the 'Ahoy there' first, get it? Just like pirates, or how we thought pirates would talk. Sometimes he'd say, 'Ahoy there, Mixed-up Marty!' Mixed-up Marty, that's me all right, and Luke is Luke with only one-and-a-half legs.

Marty has a lot on his plate. His mother is leaving home to fly around the world for three months. This leaves his dad in charge and he thinks Marty is a loser. He's also just started an Enterprise group with his bestfriend Luke, and three others, which with all the in-fighting and crocheting doesn't leave much time for his overdue homework. On top of all that Marty is autistic; he finds faces hard to work out and he doesn't like to be touched. How will this help him get to first base with Francesca? How will get on without his Mum? Will the Enterprise group ever got on long enough to make a decision?

A moving and sometimes funny book about an Autistic teen boy navigating adolescence and making sense of the world through his mixed up mind. Author Deborah Burnside checked out the Young Enterprise Scheme at her local high school while researching for the book. While dwelving into the mind of an autistic teen boy she discovered that her own son had similar problems (and as Deborah emphasises - its not about her own son).  Highly recommended for 11-15 year olds.

Deborah Burnside lives in Taradale and is the mother of three sons. Her first novel On a Good Day was shortlisted for the 2005 LIANZA Awards and was a Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Book the same year. Her first junior novel Night Hunting was a 2009 Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Book. Her children's non-fiction book It's True: This Book is a Load of Rubbish was part of the popular 'It's True' series in Australia.

RRP $22.99 ISBN: 9781869509255

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Scholastic's Picture Books for Christmas!

Marmaduke Duck and Bernadette Bear by Juliette MacIver, illustrations by Sarah Davis

On Hollyhock Hill, at the very tip top,
Marmaduke Duck had a marmalade shop.
Marmalade jam, from the roof to the floor!
A matchless, marvellous marmalade store!

Marmaduke Duck's marmalade store is a roaring success. Animals queue up for miles to buy his wares until Bernadette Bear opens up a honey shop next door.  Then everyone troops to the newest and trendiest store to buy Bernadette Bear's honey. Poor Marmaduke is devastated. He closes his shop and walks off in despair until he sees something that makes him stand up and fight for his store. But sometimes what you wish for doesn't feel that good when you get it. How do Marmaduke and Bernadette resolve the issue? Read and find out...

What a wonderful story to show children that being cooperative and not always competitive helps everyone be happy - a win-win situation for all.  In today's competitive economic market people sometimes do resort to devious means to get attention from the public - at the expense of others.  Though this message will be lost on the very young - they'll enjoy it just because it is a good story, older children will possibly see the moral link.

The book is even more likeable with Sarah Davis's illustration:  the expressions on the animal's faces, and the wonderful bright use of colour. I love it when the duck is reading a book on 'Know Your Predators' while a fox and a stoat walk into the shop. Instead of being scared of them, Marmaduke Duck hand feeds them some marmalade. There's lovely touches of humour in the pictures and the text. Highly recommended for kindergarten and Junior-Middle School children.

This is the second in the Marmaduke books. 'Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam' was a finalist in the NZ Post Children's Book Awards in 2011.  The judges said it was, 'A real romp of a story ... gorgeous and vibrant ..."
Piggity-Wiggity Jiggity Jig and the Christmas Baby by Diana Neild, illustrated by Philip Webb

Piggity-Wiggity Jiggity Jig
was a festive-y name for a small sort of pig.
His home was emblazoned in red, gold and green
and quite dazzled the eyes with its tinselly sheen.

Piggity and his clan get ready for Christmas. Relatives arrive with presents and children prepare for the concert. Though, Piggity is clearly not pleased with the role he is given. Who will take his place and will there be another role for Piggity?

A lovely story about families getting together and everyone working co-operatively to make an event happen.  Diana Neild expertly jiggles the language to make it rhyme and keep to the rhythm - making it fun to read.  A great read-aloud story for kindergarten and Junior School children.

This is the fifth story in the Piggity-Wiggity (not including the Book of Pigtivities) series. Piggity-Wiggity Jiggity Jig was a NZ Post Book Honour award, plus Storylines Notable Book in 2009. Piggity-Wiggity Jiggity Jig Goes to Dad's Cafe was a finalist in he 2010 NZ Post Book Awards.

On the Road to Tuapeka by Ben Brown, illustrated by Scott Tulloch

Heka the weka
and Reka the weka,
on the road to tuapeka,
saw a bus ...
a double decker!

The two wekas jump on board the bus along with several other animals along the way. None of them know where they want to go but are content to enjoy the view along the way. When Possum Pete pulls into the caravan park for the night they meet a strange little man with a barbecue and pan. He invites them for dinner - they are thrilled, until they find out they are on the menu. Will they get away or will the funny little man have a delicious stew?

The story reminds me of Wombat Stew but is a thoroughly kiwi version. Kindergarten and Junior school students will enjoy the rhythm and and rhyme and will have a chuckle over the amusing illustrations.

Ben Brown writes children's books, non-fiction and short stories for children and adults. Ben Brown's 'Fifity-Five Feathers' was shortlisted for Te Kura Pounamu and Russell Clark Awards in 2005, A Booming in the Nigh won Best Picture Book award at the 2006 NZ Post Children's Book Awards. Scott Tulloch is the author/illustrator of the recent Scholastic title 'Tom and the Dragon' as well as the Willy books. He has illustrated for other authors numerous other books too.

The Elves and the Cloakmaker by Chris Gurney, illustrated by John Bennett
Kahu the Cloakmaker toiled night and day,
an honest and hard-working man,
weaving his cloaks in his own special way
with his knotted and gnarly old hands.
There is a lot to do weaving cloaks - it keeps Kahu and his wife busy all day. So much so, they are exhausted at night and fall asleep during their toil. Over the night, four little fairy elves come  and finish the cloak, weaving special bird feathers into it. It's a beautiful sight and the owner is thrilled. Soon lots of orders come in for their cloaks and luckily for them the elves come in and finish them off. One night Kahu and his wife hide in the pantry and watch the elves at work. They hatch a plan to thank the elves ...

The Elves and the Shoemaker tale is transformed into a New Zealand story with not shoes but Maori cloaks as the magical product.  Instead of elves it's the special fairy folk from Maori tales called the Patupaiarehe - pronounced: Pah-too-pah-ee-ah-reh-heh.'The Elves and the Cloakmaker' is bound to be enjoyed by Kindergarten and Junior-Middle Primary School children. They'll love the language and humorous illustrations.

This is Chris Gurney's sixth book in the Kiwi Corker series. That's half of the books in the series plus she has written another two books: 'Hester's Blister' and 'Giraffe Attack'.  Chris writes with a faultless sense of rhyme and rhythm and shows great humorous talent.

Former BBC animator John Bennett has illusted two other books: Hinemoa Te Toa and The Boxing Day Test.  He now works full time as a cartoonist and illustrator.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Picture Books for Early Childhood

Stomp! by Ruth Paul (Scholastic)

STOMP through the swamp
Over the hump JUMP
In the jungle ROAR
Swish your tail and THUMP

So go the dinosaurs on their stomp through the swamp. They squish-squash berries, hop over rocks, until they stop and cause a dinosaur jam.  Then they turn around and swing through the swamp the other way until something happens to their leader...

Ruth Paul's artwork is gorgeous - totally appealing to the four and under target audience. I can see kindergarten's having a lot of fun with this book.  The kids will take turns being the leader as they stomp around the kindergarten doing all the fun things dinosaurs do. On further readings children will notice the onomatopoeia words in smaller print; and perhaps will come up with some of their own.

Scholastic has published the book on glossed card, which will ensure little hands won't bend the pages in their excitement to read the book. The book's A3 size enables groups of 40 children to see the illustrations and print easily too.  Ruth Paul has created the illustrations in pencil and then coloured it in Photoshop on the computer. She co-designed the book with Vida Kelly.

Ruth's other books include: The Animal Undie Ball, Superpotamus, Two Little Pirates and The King's Bubbles.

A must have for Under fours and all kindergartens!

Tarantula Boo! by Lucy Davey, Illustrated by Philip Webb (Scholastic)

Safe behind glass at Zurlington Zoo,
lived loveable larrikin Lenny Lassoo.
Lenny was furry and fuzzy and hairy,
and liked to play tricks that were frightfully SCARY.

Lenny Lassoo loves to play tricks at the zoo - his favourite game is Tarantula Boo! He waits until school children press their noses against the glass then out he jumps from hiding to scare the wits out of them - all in fun, of course. But though he is a trickster he really is a lonely Lenny Lassoo. He dreams of a friend to share his home and fun. He gets the chance to look for one when the glass on his cage is cracked and he escapes. Does he find a friend at the zoo or does he get a surprise himself?

Another great book for Under Fives (and will also be appreciated in the Junior School at Primary too).  There's rhyme, alliteration and use of onoomatopoeia to keep the children interested in the language. Along with changing font sizes and Philip Webb's playful illustrations that are bright and fill the A3 sized page.  A wonderful read-aloud for the kindergarten and Junior School.

Watch the mini movie here
This is Lucy Davey's nineth book for children.  She won the Joy Cowley Award with her book 'Out of Bed, Fred!' in 2011. 

The Treasure Thief by Beatrice Rodriguez (Gecko Press)

Rooster, Hare and Bear bid adieu to their friends Fox and Chicken and start their sea voyage back home to the farm. En route they wash up on a desert island where Rooster discovers a mysterious white orb. Oblivious to his companions, Rooster is possessed by the orb. His faithful friends follow him home, surviving toxic toadstools, piranhas and tiny bats. What is the powerful orb and what will they discover when it cracks open?

This is the second picture book from Beatrice Rodriguez following after The Chicken Thief. Again there are no words but the illustrations tell plenty of what is happening. Children at Kindergarten and Junior School will enjoy making up their own words; and putting their own spin on the story.

Giraffe Attack by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Aki Fukuoka (Scholastic)

"Goodness me!" said Mum.
Will you listen to that din?
There's a nasty old giraffe outside,
trying to get in!"

Jack overhears members of his family talking about the fierce and flustery giraffe making things go clang, or trying to get his Grandma by the ankles, and shaking the house to its knees. Poor old Jack is terrified by the time he goes to bed. When something goes clump, thump, kerplunk on the roof he thinks the giraffe had come to get him. He hollers for help!

A wonderful story for children to understand that sometimes you can misunderstand what grown-ups are saying. Sometimes words that sound the same don't mean the same. And sometimes you have to rein in your imagination because it can get out-of-control.

Chris Gurney is a master of clever use of language. She uses rhyme, alliteration and lots of onomatopoeia - making it a great read aloud for kindergarten and Junior School children.  Children will delight in guessing what is really making all that noise. This is Chris Gurney's nineth book with number 10 coming out just in time for Christmas (and yes, it does have a Christmas theme).

Robby & Hoot by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Phillip Fickling (Puffin)

Come, little robots! Stop clanking and clattering!
Switch on your ears and switch off our chattering.
I have an interesting story for you
about a long friendship that's trusty and true.

The teacher robot tells them a story about Robby Robot looking for a second-hand toe. While searching in the junk yard he hears a little blue car wailing just before it is about to be crushed. In a daring move, Robby jumps into the car and drives it to safety. That's not the end of the journey, though, as swarms of security droids chase them. The two have to problem solve how to get out of the yard undetected to safety - can they do it?

Four to six year old boys are going to love this book about robots and chases. They'll enjoy the tension when it looks like the escaping pair are caught, and realise it is important not to give up hope. At the back of the book there are cut-outs for the boys to pull-out then they can enact the story with their own Robby Robot and Little Blue car figures along with the  Security Bts and shrieking Crusher.  Will keep boys amused long after the story has been read.

Joy Cowley is one of New Zealand's greatest authors. She's had over 200 children's books published and received awards from here and overseas.  Joy had a son who was a reluctant reader (she was slow to read herself when young) so she really knows how to motivate them with great story, wonderful use of language, and that little bit extra - cut-outs to encourage them to listen to stories.


Hairy Nose, Itchy Butt by Elizabeth Frankel, illustrated by Garry Duncan (Exisle Publishing)

Late one afternoon, down in the ground,
Hairy-Nosed Wombat woke up with a frown.
He stretched and yawned, rubbed his eyes and scratched his ear.
Then a strange sensation came over his rear.

Hairy-Nosed Wombat goes in search of a tree first, then a salt bush, next a big log, and then an old mallee stump each time they have been cleared by loggers and bulldozers. He had run out of ideas of how to scratch his butt and was on the way to his burrow when he found that was gone too. Poor old Hairy-Nose Wombat was devastated - what will he do?

A perfect story to have in the classroom (Junior through to Intermediate) because it is a great conservation conversation starter for children.  It will help children understand the effects logging and clearing of land has on wildlife. On the back page is information about how the Southern hairy-nosed wombat is one of only three wombat species found worldwide, all of which occur in Australia. Plus information about their behaviour and how it sometimes gets them into trouble. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New Non-Fiction for Children

New Zealand Bird Calls by Lynnette Moon, Geoff Moon, John Kendrick, and Karen Baird

Listen to the calls of 60 of our native New Zealand birdcalls.  Read about those birds and look at their photographs to find out more about them. Each bird entry includes information about habitat, distribution, appearance and behaviour of the bird, along with a description of its call.

New Zealand Bird Calls is an essential guide for any beginner or bird enthusiast to enjoy in the field or at home.  Schools will find it helpful for native bird studies. Its handy size makes it easy to carry on a bush walk.

This is Lynnette Moon's third book on the subject of birds. Her late husband Geoff Moon, was an outstanding bird photographer with many books to his name.

Notable wildlife sound recordist John Kendrick has been capturing New Zealand birds on film and tape for half a century. His daughter Karen Baird, who prepared his calls for this collection, has worked for both the Department of Conservation and the Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society, as well as running private wildlife tours with her husband.

ISBN: 978-1-86966-310-0  RRP $29.99

I Spy NZ Art published by the Auckland Art Gallery

Play 'I spy with your little eye something beginning with... the 26 letters of the alphabet. To complement the letters you'll find artwork from New Zealand's most well-known artists.  For example, in - 'I spy Aa ... You'll see John Pule's oil on canvas 'Take these with you when you leave'. Keen eyes can see that there is an aeroplane, animals and an automobile in the painting.

This book could be used throughout the Primary and Intermediate as a starting point of looking at different types of art.  However, the book is small (slightly bigger than a board book) so not big enough to share with the whole classroom.  Also, the concepts are quite difficult, for example, 'a' for 'abstract' so though the alphabet would appeal to young children they're not going to get those more 'abstract' ideas. 

I love the front cover though, with its cut-out 'NZ' and koru design behind. I also like the answers with small paintings at the back to see what objects you'll find for that alphabet. A book for art teachers and children who have an interest in art. To commemorate the opening of the newly refurbished and expanded Auckland Art Gallery.

Order enquiries to Judy Davies, Retail Manager:

Party Food for Girls by Alessandra Zecchini & Arantxa Secchini Dowling (New Holland)
This book is a delight to behold. From the scrumptious cover, gorgeous use of colour and design, and photographs to make you salivate.  The book hadn't been in my house half an hour before my 12-year-old daughter had pilfered it and begun whipping up cupcakes with icing (very delicous, I might add).  We've been leaving it around the house for her to make more yummy cakes and sweeties.

This book will inspire many young chefs and will make a wonderful birthday or Christmas present. With 50 recipes, tips and variations, and a full A4 photograph for every recipe (plus step-by-step photographs) - the young chef will find plenty of ideas to prepare party food.  At the back of the book you'll find conversion tables, a glossary, an index, stencils and patterns.

Alessandra Zecchini is a food writer and travel journalist living in New Zealand with her husband and two children. This is her third cookbook and the first written with her 12-year-old daughter Arantxa.

Shaun Cato-symonds has worked with Alessandra on all three of her books, and his food photography graces many more quality publications and advertising campaigns worldwide.

ISBN: 978-1-86966-299-8  RRP $29.99

The Raupo Phrasebook of Modern Maori by Scotty Morrison (Penguin)

Written in a user-friendly manner, with everyday New Zealanders in mind, and with a focus on modern-day language, The Raupo Phrasebook of Modern Maori is the guide that no home or school should be without.

As well as common phrases, the book covers dialects, grammar and pronunciation; answers to key questions; idioms and slang; proverbs and speeches; and provides information on the ever-changing history of te reo Maori. Useful vocabularly lists are also given for each section. Whether you're a beginning speaker of te reo Maori, a visitor, or fluent in Maori - you'll be surprised at how much you can learn from this book.  Schools will find this a very useful resource for every classroom and library. 

Author Scotty Morrison is the well-known presenter of the Maori current affairs programmes Te Karere and Marae Investigates. He holds a Diploma of Teaching, Bachelor of Education and Masters degree (Education) from Waikato University and is currently working towards his PhD at Massey University.
ISBN:   978-0143566106  RRP $35

Reviewed by Maria Gill

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Brian Falkner's Latest Title

Northwood by Brian Falkner (Walker Books)

When Rocky the Samoyd tells Cecilia Undergarment that he is starving to death, Cecilia can only do one thing - save him. It requires subterfuge, daring and innovative thinking - talents Cecilia can draw upon easily. She doesn't expect it will lead to her getting lost in the dark forest of Northwood though. The same forest her doting parents had always told her never to go near. The same forest where ferocious black lions roam. How will she get out and what else does she find in that dark forest...

Brian Falkner has tried a different style from the rest of his books. Firstly, he uses the third person omniscient (universal) - narrator talking to the reader, and secondly, his main character is female. Thirdly, it is also a fantasy story whereas his others have had a science fiction or contemporary feel.  But like most of his characters Cecilia does have a special talent - the ability to talk to animals. The story is about the little guy (in this case Cecilia) overcoming the odds - she problem solves how to get out of the forest; listening to her intuition on how to do it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and girls 8-12 years old will do also.  I can imagine this book having universal appeal. It will be for sale in New Zealand, Australia, America and England (and I am sure many other countries).  I'm really proud of how successful Brian Falkner has been and he deserves to be - he's put the miles in.  He spends most of his year touring schools and he's so good at giving talks he's booked up months in advance in Australia and New Zealand (and probably America too).

The book is also illustrated with Donovan Bixley's illustrations and they're perfect for the story. They look slightly sinister helping to build the spookiness of the Northwood Forest but he also draws very likeable characters.  Donovan's illustrated over 50 children's books and he's a real star (you've got to see him in person - he wears a tophat for the occasion and he puts on a real funny show for the kids). We call him the 'Talented Mr Bixley'.

Highly recommended!

ISBN:  978-1-921529-80-1  RRP $22.99

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wings by Raymond Huber, Walker Books Australia
I haven’t read the first book in this series, called Sting (a finalist in the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards Junior Category for 2010) but that didn’t matter. I had no trouble picking up the characters and the story. Ziggy the honey bee, together with several others of his family, are taken by their human keeper to Tokyo to solve the problem of local bees going missing. They meet Mitsu, a local bee, who tells them about the mystery. After some adventurous investigations the bees discover that a scientist has invented a pesticide fatal to bees. Ziggy and Mitsu end up hunting for the mystical ice orchid which contains life-saving pollen – but first they must solve the riddles of a guardian snake. Most of the story is successfully told from the point of view of Ziggy, but the focus is necessarily limited. So additional background information is provided through extracts from the diary of Dr Sophie Domisse, the keeper of Ziggy’s hive. It’s a straight-forward easy-to-read adventure story for readers of about eight to ten, with a smart, eye-catching cover. Interesting information about bees and their importance in our environment is included at the end. Raymond Huber’s website at offers background information and activities.
ISBN 978 1 921720 20 8 RRP $17.99
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

T-wreck-asaurus by Kyle Mewburn, illus. Donovan Bixley, Scholastic NZ
Stego-snottysaurus by Kyle Mewburn, illus. Donovan Bixley, Scholastic NZ
These are books 1 and 2 in a new series called Dinosaur Rescue. The combination of all things revolting and dinosaurs is bound to be a winner – with boys aged about 8 to 11. Girls won’t be interested. Each book is 96 pages so they look quite solid, but there’s not much text on the pages and a lot of space is taken up with black pen pictures, boxes, maps, diagrams, etc. Arg is a Neanderthal boy – but he happens to be a genius. Well, a genius compared to the rest of his tribe. He even wears clothes! In the first book Arg discovers a secret valley where he meets a genius-level T-rex who can actually speak. Arg calls him Skeet. In the second book Arg and Skeet try to prevent a flu outbreak among the dinosaurs. All adventures include copious amounts of poo, snot, farts, slime, and stink – so be warned. Donovan Bixley’s action-packed cartoon illustrations are a perfect match for the text – gross is the best word to describe the whole package...
ISBN 978 1 77543 019 3 RRP $12
ISBN 978 1 77543 020 9 RRP $12
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Lily Gets Her Wings by Elizabeth Pulford, illus. Aki Fukuoka, Scholastic NZ
Lily Has a Secret by Elizabeth Pulford, illus. Aki Fukuoka, Scholastic NZ
Books 1 and 2 in a new series for girls called The Littlest Angel, these can only be described as sweet. However I was impressed by the excellent book design. Lily features on the covers as a cute little redhead, flying against a sparkly pastel sky, with her name in silver and her halo rather askew. The inside pages are tinted with pastel colour, as are the numerous cartoon illustrations, while the edges of the pages have a sparkly foil coating. Writing about angels involves creating a supporting theology, and I was interested to see that there is no religious aspect whatsoever included in these stories. Lily and her cohorts are more like traditional fairies than traditional angels – and they have all the foibles and faults of young humans. In the first book Lily is trying to get into an Angel Academy, and is competing for one vacant place with another angel. But things keep on going wrong for Lily – she gets in one scrape after another. In the second book Lily breaks an Academy rule by smuggling an injured kitten on to the premises – her attempts to keep it hidden are complicated by some terrible damage she causes to a precious harp... Lily is always in trouble, but everything works out in the end. Girls of around 7 to 10 who love reading traditional books about fairies will be attracted by the pretty covers and should thoroughly enjoy the series.
ISBN 978 1 77543 022 3 RRP $12
ISBN 978 1 77543 023 0 RRP $12
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Goodnight Pumpkin by Belynda Smith, illus. Marie Sanders, Duck Creek Press (distributed by David Bateman)
Belynda Smith has lots of experience as a children’s librarian, so she knows what works in a picture book and what doesn’t. Her first book is based on a true family event. It’s a peaceful, repetitive story about a little girl who won’t stay in her bed. Her long-suffering and increasingly tired mother carries Polly back to bed several times. But the last time it happens, Mum is so tired she gives in and lifts the bedclothes for the visitor to slide in – but a twist in the tale reveals that Mum is sharing her bed with someone other than Polly... Marie Sanders’s pastel illustrations are obviously intended to be calming and non-eventful – as befits a bedtime story – but I think I would have preferred more variety in the format rather than having very similar pictures for each repetition of the text. However congratulations go to Duck Creek Press for choosing a sturdy hardback format. This book is best for the littlies, aged about three to five.
ISBN 978 1 877378 49 2 RRP $29.99
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Phoebe and the Night Creatures by Jenny Hessell, illus. Donovan Bixley, Scholastic NZ
This quirky tale picks up the age-old theme of monsters in the dark. Phoebe needs to go to the toilet – but she can’t get out of bed because there’s a wolf under it. “Take the wolf with you,” calls her nonchalant mother. So Phoebe sets off, wolf in tow, but then they bump into a smelly troll at the end of the bed. Phoebe decides he needs to come to the bathroom too, for a wash. And so the story proceeds until Phoebe reaches the bathroom door with an amazing procession of creatures behind her. But when she turns on the bathroom light ... well, I won’t give away the plot twist. Parents might need to explain the fate of the monsters and the moral of the story to very young readers. Donovan Bixley’s computer-generated cartoon illustrations are striking and colourful and very contemporary – they will appeal hugely to children familiar with modern TV cartoons. Should be suitable for children of about five to eight, though Scholastic thinks four to seven.
ISBN 978 1 86943 976 7 RRP $19.50
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

There Was An Old Woman Who Swallowed a Weta by P. Crumble, illus. Errol McLeary, Scholastic NZ
Scholastic are on to a pretty good thing with their Kiwi Corkers hardback series (Great New Zealand Yarns). This one is based on a perennial favourite. Of course it will be a joy to read/sing aloud, as the intrepid old lady swallows a bat, jandal, stoat, tuatara, hawk, sheep ... and a kiwi. This pedantic reviewer found a couple of hiccups in the scansion (tuatara just doesn’t fit) and the final throw-away line isn’t quite as satisfying as, “She’s dead, of course.” But adult readers (especially teachers) should read it with heaps of enthusiasm and verve – and they’ll get away with it. Gentle souls will be pleased to see the animals all escaping on the last page. The black ink and watercolour cartoon illustrations are suitably gross and over-the top – and those previously mentioned gentle souls will appreciate the addition of a window on each double spread which shows the consumed animals still alive and kicking. Fun for kindergartens and primary school classes.
ISBN 978 1 86943 992 7 RRP $18.50
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman