Sunday, January 23, 2011

A favourite reprinted and a legend

Napoleon and the Chicken Farmer by Lloyd Jones illustrated by Graeme Gash ISBN: 978-0-908-783755 RRP$19.99 Hardback

When Napoleon Bonaparte, the great Emperor of France, returned to Corsicafor his summer holidays, the whole town turned out to welcome their hero home.

As the procession wound its way past his farmyard, Manoli thought, 'Wouldn't it be nice, just for once, to be somebody else other than a chicken farmer?'

Manoli has a chance to be somebody else at the annual Napoleon Bonaparte look-a-like concert. Of course, once he's had a taste of majestic bearing Manoli is reluctant to give it up. The chickens get drunk and disorderly on peaches, no one can eat cake and the townspeople are unhappy. Can Manoli save the day?

An amusing sophisticated picture book that parents, 6-12 year old readers and students will enjoy. The underlying theme of being happy with who you are and play to your strengths is set in Neopolitan's time. The artwork is bright, expansive and modern with a touch of Picasso influence. The book was first published in 2003 by Mallinson Rendel and won the Honour Award at the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults in 2004. In the same year, it also scooped the award for Best Use of Illustration at the Spectrum Print Book Design Awards, and the Russell Clark Award for distinguished contribution to illustration at the LIANZA Children's Book Awards.

Lloyd Jones' bestselling novel Mister Pip won several prizes and awards including the 2007 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best Book Award and the 2007 Montana Medal for fiction. It was also shortlisted for the 2007 Man Booker Prize. He has written numerous novels, and has worked as a journalist and consultant.

Illustrator Graeme Gash helped design (with Kevin Wildman) as well as illustrated Napoleon and the Chicken Farmer. Graeme is a graduate of graphic design from AUT, has worked in an agency and now works freelance painting, doing puppet theatre and playing music (singer songwriter of the band Waves).

The Taniwha of Wellington Harbour by Moira Wairama, illustrated by Bruce Potter
ISBN 978-0-14350449-8 RRP $19.99 English and Maori versions

In ancient times in Aotearoa, there was a beautiful lake in which there dwelt two monstrous taniwha.
Their names were Whataitai and Ngake.

Whataitai was an easygoing taniwha.
He liked to cruse slowly around the lake,
stopping often to eat the fat, juicy eels at Te Awa - Kairangi river mouth.
After his meal he would stretch himself out to sleep in the sun on Pito-one beach.

Ngake, however, spent most of his time speeding around the lake as fast as he could swim.
His favourite game was leaping over Matiu Island and doing spectacular belly flops.

One day Ngake's restless nature sees him gauge a way to the sea. Whataitai is too fearful at first to join him until he realises the lake has changed since his friend left. He follows the throughfare but doesn't find it an easy journey.

A legend that creatively tells the making of Wellington Harbour. Author Moira Wairama uses colourful language to give us insights into the two taniwhas' characters. Illustrator Bruce Potter's water colour paintings capture the light in the water, the colours of a coastal landscape and the intricate scaling of sea creatures beautifully. The design of text adds to the movement and texture of the story.

Moira Wairama tells the legend for the first time in written form. She says the story was originally told to her thirty years ago by Tipene O'Regan and she has been storytelling it for many years. Moira’s first book Alphabet Art was a collection of poems for children written in collaboration with artist Austin Whincup. Her second book, The Puppet Box, received the Joy Cowley Award in 2006 and was published, with a Maori version, Te Pouaka Karetao, in June 2007. Moira also writes for both the English and Maori School Journals.

Bruce Potter has illustrated over 100 children's books. His illustrations for Papa's Donuts gained him a second place in The World's Best Illustration at the 2007 Gourmand World Cookbook awards. He holds a two-man deadlift world record and has a Bronze medal in the World Masters Bench Press Championships. He has also sung baritone in many musical productions.

Reviewed by Maria Gill

Friday, January 7, 2011

Teen Reading for Summer

Fierce September by Fleur Beale, Random House NZ
This is the eagerly-awaited sequel to the futuristic Juno of Taris. It’s not strictly necessary to have read the first book, but I would recommend reading Juno first to provide necessary background information and characterisation. Juno and the 500 inhabitants of Taris (an isolated island protected by a dome) are rescued by a ship after Juno’s friend Vima sent out a radio message for help. The ship takes the group to Wellington where they are set up in a refugee centre. It is immediately obvious that there is strong opposition among some Outside people to the support being given to the Taris group. A fatal artificial virus is introduced to Wellington, and a malicious media and internet campaign blames the Taris people. In the midst of this hate campaign, Juno and her friends and family struggle to adapt to a whole new lifestyle.
In an interesting initiative, this book uses a cross-media technique to add depth and interest to the story. At the end of each chapter readers are referred to online blogs featuring additional conversations and commentary on the unfolding events of the plot. This technique offers some interesting learning opportunities for innovative teachers, as well as extending the general reading experience.
Fierce September is an excellent and very satisfying study of the power of modern communication technology – heartily recommended for teens.
ISBN 978 1 86979 328 9 RRP $19.99
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Journey to Tangiwai by David Hill, Scholastic NZ
It’s a bit of a surprise to see this story, originally published in Scholastic’s My Story series in 2003, being re-designed and re-issued. Even the series seems to have undergone a change - it’s now called My New Zealand Story. Still, given that the Tangiwai train disaster happened on Christmas Eve 1953, Scholastic’s timing is not surprising. It’s not a new edition, just a new design with a more striking cover and more up-to-date fonts. It’s still one of the best My Story titles, with its descriptions of a boy’s life in 1953 and its inexorable climb towards the train crash climax. It must surely have long-term appeal to boy readers. Intermediate and secondary school libraries that don’t have it should buy a copy, and other libraries could take the opportunity to replace their (probably) worn-out copies.
ISBN 978 1 77543 006 3 RRP $19
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Should I Kiss Tommy Aitken? by Dawn McMillan, Penguin NZ
In the old days a book like this was called a Twist-A-Plot book. Penguin are being a bit coy about the format – on the back cover they simply say that the reader makes the choices. Basically the story starts with a few pages of plot (13-year-old Georgia is having an icecream with a boy and gets an urge to kiss him) and then imposes a choice – if she kisses him, turn to page 20. If she doesn’t, read on. Several choices later the reader can reach one of several endings – but there is only one path that takes the reader right to the last page of the book. The book is more of a game than anything else – traditionalists who want to read a proper story will find it frustrating. However it provides a light-hearted look at the intricacies of early teenage dating, and it may be a suitable present for a girl of 11 or 12 who simply doesn’t want to read a book from cover to cover.
ISBN 978 0 14 330571 2 RRP $17.99