Saturday, July 21, 2012

Two new Kiwi Corkers

Goldie and the Three Penguins by Chris Gurney, illus. Sarah Nelisiwe Anderson, Scholastic NZ
One of the latest titles in the popular  Kiwi Corkers series, this hardback book presents an amusing and ultra-modern take on Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Goldie sets off to buy a jelly-tip ice-cream but is lured by the smell of fish and chips to the house of the three Penguins.  When she eats the meal of Chick Penguin, she says, “My oh my, that was really kapai!” This mantra is repeated throughout the story as Goldie tries out the chairs and the beds. Everyone can guess the ending – Goldie runs back to the loving arms of her mother. Children who know the original story (and are favourably inclined towards movie-style penguins) will enjoy the inter-textual links. The rhyming text is fairly demanding to read aloud but should be entertaining if read with panache. The illustrations are lively, intriguing and very modern – using a style that combines  a semi-comic-book format with digital painting and digital collage. Goldie’s snarls of blonde wool hair provide an interesting motif (and of course her mum has the same). Best for primary-aged children.
ISBN 978 1 77543 043 8 $18.50 Hb
The Frog Footie Player by Chris Gurney, illus. John Bennett, Scholastic NZ
Another Kiwi Corkers title, this is a very New Zealand version of The Frog Prince. Youngsters might not know the original story as well as they know the Goldilocks one, but it’s still an entertaining read. Kiri’s lost rugby ball is returned to her by a frog called Archie. All he wants in return is to watch rugby on TV with a pillow and some chocolate fish. Kiri isn’t keen, but her dad says she must keep her promise. In the excitement of watching the game, Kiri gives Archie a kiss – and he turns into an All Black!!! The cartoon-style pictures are suitably bright and friendly, done using Corel Painter. Primary-aged boys will enjoy the rugby theme – and girls are likely to enjoy the rugby-mad heroine.

ISBN 978 1 77543 057 5 $18.50 Hb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Two excellent books published by Random

Young Adult Novel

The Nature of Ash by Mandy Hager, Random House NZ

This excellent author has followed up her successful futuristic trilogy with an exciting, fast-moving thriller for teens, also set in a future New Zealand. But the timeframe of this novel isn’t as distant as the one in the trilogy – it’s a New Zealand very recognisable to our current generations, with a few nasty political developments thrown in. Ashley’s life turns to chaos when his father (a trade unionist) is killed by a bomb. He has to take responsibility for his younger brother Mikey, who has Downs Syndrome, and also for his grandmother who has dementia and lives in a rest-home. To add to his confusion, he discovers that his long-lost mother is still alive, but caught up in a terrorist group called Muru. Ash sets off to locate and confront his mother at the Muru secret hideaway, along with Mikey and two other teen friends. Their expedition ends in disaster and they only just escape with their lives. Further developments reveal that Ash and his friends are being used as pawns in a game controlled by much more powerful players. The plot races on relentlessly, the characters are believable, and the New Zealand of a few decades from now is chillingly credible. I couldn’t put the book down. Recommended for teens, especially boys.
Teacher notes here and read an extract here
ISBN 978 1 86979 903 8 RRP $19.99 Pb

Junior Novel

Red Rocks by Rachael King, Random House New Zealand
Having lived in Wellington, I am familiar with the coastline where Rachael set this story, and must congratulate her for using the landscape so well to create the wild and slightly threatening atmosphere. I also admired her initiative in creating a New Zealand version of the old selkie legend. The story is interesting and mysterious – and extremely well-written. Jake enjoys wandering the wind-swept beaches and rocks, but his life changes dramatically when he discovers a sealskin hidden in a rocky cleft and takes it home. He subsequently encounters several strange characters – an old man who lives in a hut on the beach, a beautiful and forlorn woman who wanders the roads, and a fey girl called Jessie who is obviously a selkie. Jake’s father meets the woman, brings her home and falls under her spell - literally. Jake realises that things are spinning out of control – if he doesn’t act quickly, dire events will happen. Because of its magical overtones, I suspect the story will appeal more to intermediate-aged girls than to boys – but you never know... Oh yes, congratulations to the publishers for producing such an eye-catching cover.

Teacher notes here and read an extract here

ISBN 978 1 86979 914 4 RRP $19.99 Pb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman