Saturday, May 26, 2012

Exciting YA Novels!

Hier of the Night by Helen Lowe

"The Heir of Night" (the novel in Helen's Wall of Night series) has made the final shortlist for the international Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Newcomer.

In fact, it's the only Southern Hemisphere work to do so in either of the two book categories ('Legend' & 'Morningstar'.)

But although the original longlist is curated, both the final shortlist and eventual winner are decided by public vote--and the final round of voting to determine the Morningstar winner is now in full swing. (Closes 31 May.)

So New Zealanders we need to vote for The Heir of Night to win. :-)

All you have to do to vote now is click Here

Then click again in the circle immediately above "The Heir of Night -- Helen Lowe"

And by way of added incentive, no book by a woman--or from south of the equator for that matter--has yet won in either the Legend or Morningstar category. So your support may well make a difference!

Snakes & Ladders by Mary-Anne Scott Scholastic NZ

Finn is 16, lives in Waimea with his mum, has a sort-of girlfriend (Alison) and some good mates. When his father Duggie (‘Druggie’ as the locals call him), is suddenly in trouble with the police under a hit and run/manslaughter charge, Finn decides to take up his grandmother’s offer of tuition at a boarding school in Auckland.

The new school is hard to get used to with its high standards, rich kids and a student with a grudge. He makes new mates and Andy and Hobsie help him settle in. Finn (although a bit rusty), plays the clarinet and he soon meets the lovely Mia in the symphonic band. When Mia invites him to the school ball, Finn thinks he’s made, but it’s the beginning of his new life unravelling. When the illegal after ball party goes tragically wrong, it forces Finn to make a decision that will change his life.

There has been a lot of interest in Mary-Anne Scott’s first novel, with the topic of the after ball party as a key part of the story. But it is only a part of it. At first I didn’t warm to Finn as a character but throughout the novel, I got to know him as he dealt with his indecision about Alison and Mia, his ongoing battle with a blackmailing bully and his reaction to the after ball party. He was a strong, realistic, kiwi teen, and I believe boys in particular will relate to him.

ISBN – 978 1775430407 RRP $21.00 Pb

Reviewed by Adele Broadbent

High Speed by D.C. Grant, published by Pear Jam Books NZ
Jason is waiting for his parents to come home from a party, but when a police officer arrives instead, Jason and his Gran know something awful has happened. His parents have been in a terrible car crash. But when he discovers it was no accident and the brake lines were cut on his dad’s car, Jason world is reeling. How can this be happening? Then his house is completely trashed. Who did it? Were they looking for something? But what?
While he waits for his father to emerge from a coma, Jason is quickly led into a web of drugs, deceit, and confusion as to what his father was delving into and he is not sure who to trust.
Jason’s plight hooks the reader early and the cleverly woven plot leads into action packed intrigue of who is on which side of the law. This is the first title in the ‘Catch Jason Shaw’ series which is bound to have an avid following for thriller lovers over 11.ISBN – 978 1927182352    Age Group - 11+

Reviewed by Adele Broadbent

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Munkle Arvur and The Bod by Nikki Slade Robinson, Scholastic NZ

The book blurb says “with language in a style reminiscent of Dr Seuss.” It certainly is – try saying this aloud: “Now that Bod is not good. He is dreadfully bad. He’s greedy, he’s grabful, he’s grumpfully mad.” Of course my Spellcheck is going bananas - but both the language and rhythm of the rhyming text are great fun and a delight to read to oneself - they demand to be read aloud. The story is strongly environmental and not totally credible, but teachers of primary classes should get a lot of mileage out of it. Munkle Arvur cares for the pristine Chuckleton Creek canyon. But then the evil Bod (everybody??) arrives with truckloads of rubbish and fills the canyon to the brim. This stirs MA into inventing ways of composting and recycling the rubbish until it’s miraculously all gone.

The totally way-out style of the cartoon illustrations is fascinating, reminding me of Ronald Searle and the girls of St Trinian’s. They are done with coloured inks, pencils and digital collage, “along with objects found along the way.” Mostly expansive double-page spreads, they reward close study and even analysis. However their quirkiness means that they’re probably not suitable for pre-schoolers and would be most appreciated by children of about 7 to 10. Teachers’ Notes available .
ISBN 978-1-77543-069-8 RRP $19.50 Pb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman
Colour the Stars by Dawn McMillan, illus. Keinyo White, Scholastic NZ
Dawn McMillan is generously donating her royalties from the sale of this picture book to the Royal NZ Foundation of the Blind’s guide dog programme. It’s a heartwarming, thoughtful story about two boys – one with sight, one without. Isaac describes to Luke what colours are like – by using other senses. So yellow is the warmth of the sun on Luke’s face, and green is the spicy smell of the fern fronds growing in the bush. At the end they share a happy vision of what the stars look like in the night sky.

The illustrations are done in watercolour and gouache, using an abstract, textured style, a close focus, and washes of vibrant colour – all of which remind me somewhat of the picture books of the 1970s. FYI, the illustrator is an honours graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, and his works of art are held in galleries in both America and New Zealand.

This is a joyful book that needs to be stocked in every library, school and kindergarten – and will be of special significance to anyone affected by blindness, whether child or family member. There is a Maori edition available, and also Teachers’Notes .

ISBN  978-1-86943-974-3 RRP $19.50 Pb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

The Best-Loved Bear by Diana Noonan, illus. Elizabeth Fuller, Scholastic NZ
This re-designed platinum edition is released to celebrate the book’s Premier New Zealand Bestsellers Platinum Accreditation – which means 40,000 copies have been sold. It’s difficult to know what to say about a popular classic like this, apart from a bit of bibliographical history. It was originally published in 1994, and in 1995 it won the AIM Picture Book of the Year Award. Of course I dragged out my old copy to see which features were redesigned. It’s pretty much the same, except for a bit of tweaking. The cover has been modernised with the same picture but more white space in the background. The blurb on the back is better positioned, and I suspect that the colours of the inside illustrations have been lightened and brightened and printed on glossier paper. So if your books are looking as dog-eared and over-loved as poor old Toby, then I suggest you hasten to buy some new copies to replace them.

ISBN 978-1-86943-347-5 RRP $19.50 Pb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Slice by Rose Quilter, Walker Books Australia
One of the latest titles in the Lightning Strikes series, this madcap tale had me laughing all the way through. Congratulations to the New Zealand author for producing such a funny first novel. Marco, his best friend Andy, and his brother Joey all want to eat the last piece of pizza. So they set up a “hands on” competition – the last one to have his hand on the box gets the pizza. Sounds easy? But then Marco’s elderly and confused Nonna goes for a walk. Marco knows she’ll get lost, so all three boys (plus the pizza box) race out the door to find her and bring her home again. A hilarious chase ensues involving an evil dog, some irate stall-holders, and a departing ferry. Recommended for boys of about 9 to 14 - and best read in one big gulp.

ISBN 978 1 921977 53 4 RRP $15.99 Pb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Violet Mackerel’s Personal Space by Anna Branford, illus. Sarah Davis, Walker Books Australia
This is the fourth title in the Violet Mackerel series. I have to confess it’s the first one I’ve read - and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m sure the series already has a fan base. The production is excellent – it’s a handy little hardback book with a beguiling cover. Just about every page includes a gentle black ink and pencil illustration by this excellent New Zealand illustrator – ideal for young readers who are still intimidated by a page of solid text. The plot wraps round two big events in Violet’s life – the marriage of her mother and Vincent (the boyfriend), and being forced to move house. Violet’s big brother, Dylan, is very upset about moving house – to the extent that he camps out in the garden. Violet helps both herself and her brother by introducing him to her Theory of Leaving Small Things Behind. A heart-warming read for younger primary-aged girls. Visit for more info and activities.
ISBN 978 1 921529 20 1 RRP $24.99 Hb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Iris’s Ukulele by Kathy Taylor, Scholastic NZ
This was the 1011 winner of the Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award for a manuscript by an unpublished author. It’s narrated in an engaging style by an interesting heroine called Iris. Iris loves playing the ukulele, and the thing she wants most in the world is the beautiful purple ukulele hanging in the shop window. Her best friend is a boy called Sidney, who “just loves sewing and clothes and all things fashionable.” Together they call themselves The Masters of the Musical Universe. They decide to enter a local talent contest – but Iris wants to do vampire-werewolf rap, and Sidney wants to do a glam rock opera. Suddenly they’re not speaking to each other. To add to Iris’s woes, her mother starts going out with her ukulele teacher – horrors! It’s a satisfying plot with thoroughly likeable characters and plenty of humour – and a message about the importance of tolerance and friendship at its heart. To tell the truth, I’d now like to read a book with Sidney as its star – how about it, Kathy?
ISBN 987 1 77543 054 4 $19.50 Pb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman