Sunday, October 27, 2013

Exciting new series for boys

Tom Hassler and the Rats of Droolmoan Cave by Doug Wilson

Why does Tom have no relatives? Not even a dad. He intends finding out when he goes to his grandmother's place - a grandmother he didn't even know existed until recently. What he thinks will be a break from boring school routine becomes quite scary when he is called to go urgently. On the voyage to his grandmother's place he comes across something that not in a million years he would have imagined. Before long he is involved in a mission to save the sea people from a deadly battle with Madame Hortense and her rat pack. The only thing Tom has to help is Maria, a girl who has similar powers as Tom, his wily Grandmother and the sea people. Does he have the inner resources to do it?

An exciting adventure fantasy story that boys (and girls) will find hard to put down. It is a coming-of-age story about a young boy finding the strength and belief from within to solve a problem. He also has to win the respect of the sea people who expect a lot from him.

On the front cover of the book it says it is an eco-story but it is a lot more subtle than that. The rats are a real problem in the story especially to sea birds but it is more about stopping their leader - Madam Hortense. The author elaborates on why rats are a problem to native birds on a fact page at the back of the book.

The is the first book in a series published under the Erkel-Erkel Publishing Ltd imprint. I was pleased to see it had been professionally edited and proofed, and the artwork by illustrator Donovan Bixley is stunning as always.

Doug Wilson is a scientist and a traveller who has lived in Australia, England, America and Saudi Arabia. He has had a passion to write boys' adventure series with ecological ideas for a while. See an article about how this medical researcher began storytelling here.

The second book to look out for is called 'Tom Hassler and the Giant Razor-clawed Granioptrix of Ice Mountain'. This time Tom is called upon to help save a village in Moratadoor from a terrifying beast called Granioptrix. Can he do it?

Go to the website here.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Award winning Leonie Agnew's picture book

The Importance of Green by Leonie Agnew, ill. Trevor Pye, Puffin Books

This clever and colourful picture book can work on several levels. There’s the basic storyline which describes what happens when Liam runs out of green paint - chaos. And - if you want it to - it could also be used to support discussions of the importance of the natural environment. When Liam uses up his green paint, he starts painting blue grass and yellow grasshoppers - but his scenes come to life and everything goes wrong. Seagulls crash-land on the grass, people refuse to drink blue milk, and insects have nowhere to hide. Thank goodness - Liam discovers that by mixing his blue and yellow paints he can restore green to its rightful importance. Finally, there’s a colour wheel at the back which enables the book to support a study of colours.

Fittingly, Trevor Pye’s cartoon illustrations are full of vivid colour, interesting perspectives and non-stop action, so the book would make a good read-aloud for a group. The cover shouts at you (in green, naturally)  - it’s sure to attract the attention of the intended age level. Recommended for children of about four to six, particularly those who like throwing a bit of paint around. This one’s perfect for my 5-year-old grandson...
See Inside the book here

Leonie Agnew is an award winning children's author, a former advertising copy writer, and currently moonlighting as a primary school teacher.  In 2013, Leonie won the University of Otago Children's Writer in Residence. For her book 'Super Finn' she won:  New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards 2012 Junior Fiction Prize, Best First Book, and Children's Choice (Junior Fiction Category winner), Storylines Notable Book Award 2012, LIANZA Children's Book Awards 2012, Finalist Esther Glen Award, Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award 2010; and the Storylines Joy Cowley Award finalist for The Importance of Green. ISBN 978 0 143 50571 6 RRP $19.99 Pb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Another Fabulous Fantasy from James Norcliffe

Felix and the Red Rats by James Norcliffe (Longacre)

David is pleased when his mum’s Uncle Felix is coming to stay. Uncle Felix is the author of a series of fantasy books about the land of Auxillaris that David has read and enjoyed. The two main characters are named Felix and Bella.

But David’s older brother and sister, twins Gray and Martha, think Uncle Felix is weird. Gray in particular isn’t happy that he and his pet rats have to move into David’s room. During his great uncle’s stay, David begins to reread his favourite of his uncle’s books ‘Into Auxillaris’.

When Gray discovers his pet rats have turned tomato red, he blames his little brother. David denies everything but notices Uncle Felix looking very thoughtful. Do the red rats have anything to do with the book he is reading?

As he reads further into the story, David learns that the novels were set in his own suburb, and Bella is based on a real person. When more strange things occur, the entire family is trying to figure out what is happening. Does Uncle Felix know more than he is letting on?

Another fabulous fantasy from the author of the award winning ‘Loblolly Boy,’ this story is told in alternate chapters of reality and fantasy, blending together effortlessly. It tells a tale of sibling rivalry, an exiled princess, strange creatures, an evil ruler and a riddle to be solved. There is some challenging vocabulary throughout the story but this only adds to the imaginative narrative. Great for readers 9+

Dive in and enjoy the ride!

ISBN 9781775533245   RRP$20   P/B 248 Pages
James Norcliffe is a poet as well as an author of children's books. He has been awarded the 2012 University of Otago College of Education's Writer in Residence. The Loblolly Boy won the 2010 NZ Post Junior Fiction Award, as well as being shortlisted for the Esther Glen Medal. His other recent books are The Loblolly Boy and The Sorcerer, The Enchanted Flute and Felix and The Red Rats.

Note: There is an e-book version but the only site I could find it for sale on was an overseas company. Hopefully, the e-version will be for sale here soon so you don't have to pay US dollars for it.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A new Young Adult novel from Fleur Beale

Speed Freak by Fleur Beale, Random House NZ

Fleur Beale has produced another very readable story in her long line of books for boys. I’m not the target audience (it’s aimed at boys of about 12 to 15, and maybe some girls as well) but I was happily engrossed as I worked through it. It’s set in the world of kart racing, and knowing Fleur, the details will be 100% authentic. The hero is 15-year-old Archie who’s an ace driver but is competing against a cheating rival to win a chance to race in Europe. Alongside the theme of racing ethics there’s also a theme that focuses on family issues. In this case, Archie’s (divorced) father has invited his lady friend to move in, together with her 7-year-old son, Felix. The trouble is that she hates all motor sports and doesn’t want to let Felix near a track. But Felix is desperate to become a kart driver like Archie. There’s also the situation involving Silver, a girl racer who’s coping with emotional problems and drives like a maniac... The characters are believable, the pace is fast, the story is satisfying. It’s a winner!

Fleur Beale is a former high school teacher and the award-winning author of more than 40 books for children and young adults.(Also available as an e-book)
Teaching Notes here

ISBN 978 1 77553 470 9 $19.99 Pb   
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Monday, October 7, 2013

A new bedtime story from Melinda Szymanik

While You Are Sleeping by Melinda Szymanik, ill. Greg Straight, Duck Creek Press

Using calm, repetitive text with moments of poetry, the author introduces us to different scenarios that happen during the night. We look at people going about their lives on the other side of the world, night animals eating their breakfasts, long-distance vehicles blazing trails through the dark, bakers kneading their dough. To most preschoolers the idea that life goes on while they sleep will be a new and fascinating one, and I imagine there will be many rapt faces both listening and looking. This is the illustrator’s first picture book, and he’s done an expert job. His crisp, stylized illustrations are full of colour, texture and detail. Careful attention will reveal his use of recurring motifs throughout the book, such as the wide-eyed owl, the sleeping dog, and New Zealand birds. This book will be a popular bedtime story for 3 to 5-year-olds - but it will also be useful in preschool centres as a means of slowing down the pace. The illustrations would work with both small and large groups.

ISBN 978 1 877378 77 5 $29.99  Hb (also available in Pb)

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The latest picture book by Joy Cowley

Hero of the Hill by Joy Cowley, illustrations by Philip Webb

Engine H One-Ninety-Nine worked the Wairarapa line pulling carriages up the steep incline of the Rimutaka Hill. The engine pulled carriages up the hill even on days of rain or gale. Normal engines didn't have the power like the Fell locomotives.

A delightful rhyming tale about the reliable Fell trains that tackled the difficult Rimutaka Hill. Based on real engines, of which only Engine H 191 survives.

Joy Cowley has donated her royalties to the Fell Locomotive Museum at Featherston.

Philip Webb's illustrations are detailed and colourful, on full double page spreads. The design of the book further enhances the layout with strategically placed text.

Philip says at the end that the pictures aren't an accurate representation of the area - rather 'an impression' of the Rimataka Hill and its surrounds.

Four - Six year old boys will love this creative non-fiction story about the Fell engines. Teachers could use it in the junior school on topic studies about transport then and now. It is also going to be a lovely book for tourists who go to the Featherston area.

About the book launch