Thursday, April 21, 2011

Super Finn by Leonie Agnew, Scholastic NZ
Last year this appealing story won the Tom Fitzgibbon Award for a junior novel by an unpublished author (awarded by the Storylines Foundation). Finn is one of those kids who’s always trying to do the right thing – but manages to get into more and more trouble because things never turn out the way he plans. The story begins with Finn trying to achieve two goals: 1) to turn himself into a superhero, and 2) to earn enough money to sponsor a World Vision child in Africa. Unfortunately for Finn (and fortunately for the reader!) his ideas result in some very funny disaster scenes. In an attempt to give himself super vision he overdoses on carrots and ends up with carotene poisoning. This episode is followed by a brilliant plan to raise money – he and his mate Brain smuggle lollies into school and sell them to the other kids. But what happens when they have to go to P.E. before they’ve managed to remove the bags of lollies taped around their waists... This is a genuinely funny, warm-hearted easy-reading story suitable for upper primary and intermediate ages, especially boys. It would also be great as a classroom read-aloud. Tom Fitzgibbon Award winning book!
ISBN 978 1 86943 999 6 RRP $19.50
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Just One More, by Joy Cowley, illus. Gavin Bishop, Gecko Press
This is another delightful feel-good book from Gecko Press, with its luxurious paper, fold-over cover flaps, attractive endpapers, and excellent design. Not to mention Gavin Bishop’s bold and colourful illustrations which pop up everywhere (I’ve got the paperback version but a little bird told me to check inside the jacket on the hardback edition). Over half the stories were originally published as educational readers by Shortland Publishers and Wendy Pye Group – which gives a good indication of the age level of the intended audience. They could be enjoyed by newly-confident readers, but the book is possibly more useful as a read-aloud for primary teachers. The stories vary in length, the shortest being one page and the longest about six pages. They’re all funny and definitely a bit quirky (how does she think them up?) and they cover subjects such as a moving hole, a horse in a department store, a grumpysaurus, and a travelling bath. Definitely a book to share with my grandchildren.
ISBN 978 1 877467 67 7 RRP $22.99
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

The Lost Tohunga by David Hair, HarperCollins NZ
This is Book Three in the series which began with The Bone Tiki and continued in The Taniwha’s Tear. The ending is slightly open, so I wouldn’t be surprised if another title in the series comes along. The Maori Gothic genre is an acquired taste, and I do have trouble swallowing the author’s free-wheeling interpretations of Maori mythological and fairy-tale characters. But obviously the intended readership (teenage fantasy fans, primarily male) have no such qualms. The action comes thick and fast as a band of evil warlocks compete to locate the hideout of the dead tohunga, Puarata – whoever finds it will assume his mantle of power. The wizard hero, Mat, along with his magical and non-magical friends, races to get there first and free the trapped souls whose essences provide the magic power. There’s heaps of violence, plenty of bloodshed, a few dollops of horror, and several gory deaths – so don’t recommend this series to readers of tender age. Teens should read the books in the series consecutively – the plot is complex and the cast of characters is wide. It’s hard to know who’s who if you haven’t read or don’t recall the story in the preceding volume.
ISBN 978 1 86950 827 2 RRP $24.99
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Sunday, April 10, 2011

New Zealand non-fiction children's books

The Life cycle of the Tuatara by Betty Brownlie (Scholastic) - new!

The life cycle of the Frog by Betty Brownlie (Scholastic) - reprint

Other books in the series include Life Cycles of the: kiwi, Monarch butterfly, pukeko, royal albatross. Some of these books were printed in the early 1990s with Betty Brownlie's intricate illustrations. The books are back with new covers and sumptious photographs. The photographs can be small, clipped out to go with relevant text or take up a whole page. The design is uncluttered , simple and colourful. Subjects covered are: where they live, what they look like, a close look at their legs and feet/eggs and hatching, how they sound, the life cycle, mating, different stages of growth, what they eat, threats and where relevant how they are being saved.

An excellent resource for the Primary classroom.

Betty Brownlie is an Illustrator, author, and wildlife artist. She formerly worked as a dental nurse. Betty's books have won the: Aim Children's Book Award shortlist, 1993, for The Life Cycle of the Common Frog, The Life of the Monarch Butterfly, The Life Cycle of the Common Sparrow, and The Life Cycle of the Hedgehog, and 1995, for The Life Cycle of the Praying Mantis; New Zealand Library Association Book Award Honor award, 1995, for The Life Cycle of the Grasshopper; national awards for watercolor painting and pencil drawing. The Life Cycle of the Pukeko is a shortlist in the 2011 New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards.

ISBN: 978-1-86943-964-4 RRP $19.50

Reviewed by Maria Gill