Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Wolf in the Wardrobe by Susan Brocker, HarperCollins NZ
The title is a great enticement and the cover (incorporating a stunning photo of a wolf’s face) is guaranteed to attract readers – the story will not disappoint. Thirteen-year-old Finn has always wanted a dog. He witnesses a huge dog being hit by a car and disappearing into the bush. Finn tracks it down and recognises it as a wolf called Lupa, a fugitive from a recent circus in the area. Finn is determined to look after Lupa, but it’s a difficult task when he has to keep her secret from his family. He initially hides her in his wardrobe, but eventually shifts her to the garden shed. Things get complicated when Finn’s forgetful old Nana discovers the dog and takes a fancy to her. How can Finn keep a tame wolf well and happy when he doesn’t want his mother to know – and he’s paying a fortune for dog food? Then Cackles the Clown, the previous owner of the wolf, appears on the scene and makes Finn’s life a misery... The tension never slackens in this riveting story for intermediate-aged readers. The author has obviously done her homework, and the information about wolves is engaging. Recommended as an excellent fast-paced read, especially for boys.
ISBN 978 1 86950 906 4 RRP $19.99
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

My First Car Was Red by Peter Schössow, Gecko Press
This is certainly not your ordinary picture book, and it might be another one for the “Complex Picture Books” collection. My first impression was “old-fashioned” but further reading indicates that the book is a lot more subtle than that. Written from the point of view of a primary-aged boy, it tells how Grandpa gives him a rusty old pedal car which is then renovated to driveable standards. The boy and his little brother (who manages to issue plenty of concise instructions through the dummy in his mouth) set off on a drive. It doesn’t take long for hazards to appear and the drive turns into a helter-skelter dash from reality into a strange world where nothing is quite what you’d expect. The text is simple (lots of dialogue) but the humour is tongue-in-cheek and fairly advanced, so I don’t think it’s suitable for pre-schoolers.
The illustrative style also appears to be more suitable for older children, maybe about six or seven. It’s an unusual cartoon style involving thick black outlines and camouflage colours of brown, olive green, muted red, dull yellow, burnt orange, khaki and pale blue. There’s a lot going on in the pictures, including the addition of relevant (European?) road signs on each page. I suspect children will either love or hate the illustrations, with not many in between. Gecko’s presentation is excellent, using top-quality paper and turn-in flaps on the cover. Also available in hardback, and not released till 5 August.
ISBN 978 1 877467 69 1 RRP $19.99
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Harry’s Hair by Jane Buxton, illus. Jenny Cooper, Puffin NZ
In this whacky cautionary tale we read about Harry, who wouldn’t brush his hair. First of all birds come to nest in his hair – then chinchillas, then a whole host of weird creatures. The smell is disgusting because the inhabitants of Harry’s hair do their business down his neck. Having been banished from school, Harry ends up with his hair turning into an art installation – and then he’s interviewed on TV. Eventually he finds that being a celebrity isn’t all that marvellous...
Children will enjoy the suggestion of the dire events can happen to you if you don’t brush your hair, especially having poop going down your neck. The story is told in rhyming text, and Jenny Cooper’s bright, cheeky illustrations add an extra zing to the outrageousness of the plot. Best for children of about four to seven – and it would make a popular read-aloud as long as you don’t mind some degree of chortling and nudging from the boys in your audience.
ISBN 978 0 14 330616 0 RRP $19.99
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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