Sunday, April 28, 2013

An exciting Young Adult E-book

Deadwater Lane by Stephen Barker, Scripta Ltd (contact

I had to do a bit of investigation on Stephen’s website to find that  this YA novel is available as a paperback at for $US10.99 and at Wheelers for $NZ29.99. It’s also available on Amazon as a paperback and an e-book for Kindle ($US3.99). Visit Stephen’s website for all the links.

It’s an edgy, racy story about a teenager called Christopher who’s just about to get released from a juvenile detention centre after a year - his sentence for dangerous driving on Deadwater Lane and hitting an elderly man who died of a heart attack a short time later. Christo is having mysterious flashbacks to the accident scene - there’s obviously some kind of cover-up involved. Once released, Christo is required to act as home help for another elderly man. When this person dies (of old age) he leaves Christo a restored Triumph sports-car and a large sum of money. This enables Christo to enlist the help of a mate to investigate the drug-dealing activities of the petrolheads of Deadwater Lane. At the same time he gradually discovers what really happened when his accident occurred. Teenage boys will enjoy the blend of on-the-edge themes - street racing, hot girls, drug dealing, and gangsters. There’s plenty of action and danger to spice it up - you can just about smell the petrol and burning rubber...

ISBN  9781475260250 RRP - see above

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

For the Dinosaur Fans

Dinosaurs Love Cheese by Jackie French, illus. Nina Rycroft, Angus &Robertson (Harper Collins Australia)

I’m reviewing the hardback version, which is very handsome indeed (I appreciated the cheesy yellow endpapers!). It’s a simple, repetitive story for preschoolers, who will be instantly drawn in by the big, velvety-green dinosaur on the cover. “I like milk and sandwiches...” says the first expansive double-spread showing the dinosaur coming down on a sling and raiding the fridge, followed by “... but dinosaurs love cheese.” The next two pages show various aspects of the dinosaur hanging from the ceiling and relishing his stolen goods. Young listeners will very soon pick up the refrain. The next double spread shows the kitchen populated by a troop of monkeys hunting for bananas ... “but dinosaurs love cheese.” And so on. The colourful, cheeky illustrations show the extremely fertile imaginings of the young narrator as he goes through a normal day accompanied by zebras, tigers, bears, etc. I  loved the different wide perspectives used in the illustrations - these would make the book a joy to read aloud and display to a class at preschool centres. I know exactly which grandson this is going to - he’s four and his name is Rory - the same name as in Jackie French’s dedication. How’s that for serendipity?
Jackie French is one of Australia’s most renowned and best-loved and respected children’s authors. She lives in the Araluen Valley, near Braidwood in NSW. Nina Rycroft is the enormously talented illustrator of such titles as NO MORE KISSES, BALLROOM BANANZA and BOOM BAH.  
ISBN 9780732292645 (hb), 9780732292652 (pb) RRP A$24.99 (also available as an e-book)
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sea Shanty Picture Book from Ben Brown and Helen Taylor

The Song of the Ship Rat by Ben Brown and Helen Taylor, Scholastic NZ

This talented pair have produced a picture book that stands out from the rest. As the title implies it’s in the form of a sea shanty - narrated by a rat. The rhyme and rhythm of the text are beguiling, and the book cries out to be read aloud - preferably with a dramatic voice and plenty of gestures. How’s this for a rollicking rhyme: “For I am a sea-worn ship rat, friends, I’ve sailed the ocean blue. I’ve sailed the world from end to end, and top to bottom too. And I have seen sweet isles of green and mountains struck with gold... I’ve been where summer sighs with heat and winter shrieks with cold.” It’s great stuff, and the illustrations are a perfect match - quirky, imaginative, challenging. They reward careful study, but they also sweep us grandly through the pages as the rat reminisces about his seafaring life, decides that shore life is not for him, and sets off again. This is a picture book for older children; I’d say about 6 to 10. The format of the sea shanty does mean that the language is very poetic - and probably not likely to be understood by preschoolers. Recommended for primary and intermediate schools - the book would make a great classroom study topic.

ISBN 978 1 77543 048 3 RRP $19.50 PB
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

More Dinosaur Rescue

Dinosaur Rescue: Salto-Scaredypus by Kyle Mewburn, illustrated by Donovan Bixley (Scholastic)

The devious Nn-Grrdy tribe are coming to barter - their sharp flints for mammoth hides. Arg hurries to hide all his favourite stuff - he doesn't want them stolen. When pushing his sabre-toothed coat down a burrow Arg falls down into a cave filled with bat pooh. While trying to find a way out he discovers a herd of hungry Saltopuses. Can Arg escape with all his hide or does his adventures end here?

Another pooh-ridden, disgusting but hilariously funny Neanderthal story for 6-8 year boys (though girls will love the stinky humour too).

Kyle and Donovan are a perfect team - their humour in words and pictures seep from every page. Extra facts are included throughout the story including helpful hints on how to hunt Mammoth, bartering for beginners, amazing facts on bats on mats ...

This is number eight in the Dinosaur Rescue Series that has been hugely popular in New Zealand, Australia and Asia. Check out the website for extra facts and activities: www.

Dinosaur Rescue: Megasaurus Mash-up 1: Books 1-4 in one volume
written by Kyle Mewburn and illustrated by Donovan Bixley (Scholastic)

If your son/brother/grandson/neighbour/friend has not read the Dinosaur Rescue Series then surprise them with this four-books-in-one treat.  Follow Arg on his adventures with his not-so-smart Neanderthal family and his talking T-rex dinosaur friend Skeet.

In the first story 'T-Wreck-Asaurus' we meet Arg and his family. Will Arg survive after stumbling into quicksand and can Arg save the T-Rex from the hunters,

In 'Stego-Snottysaurus' Arg meets a dinosaur with a very snotty problem. Can Arg help the Stego-Snottysaurus and save their race?

In Velocitchy-Raptor Arg is captured by a Quetzalcoatlus and given to a baby raptor. How can Arg escape and deal with the invisible fire ant problem at the same time?

In Diplo-Dizzydocus Arg gets into trouble with a herd of dizzy diplodocus and charging Grogllgrox. Find out how he solves the problem with stink bugs!

Highly recommended for 6-8 year old boys (and girls who like slap-stick humour too). Smarter than Captain Underpants and funnier than the Wimpy Kid!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Another gem of a book from Ruth Paul

Bad Dog Flash by Ruth Paul, Scholastic NZ

Experienced author and illustrator Ruth Paul has produced an appealing picture book about a puppy - and you don’t even have to be a dog person to appreciate the minimalism of the text and the skill of the illustrations. There are only a few words on each page, usually with a bit of rhyme involved. “Still cat, dull cat; fast cat, fun cat; run, cat!” This staccato style is continued throughout the book - until Flash stops getting into trouble and finds somebody who loves him. The illustrations are a delight, with mellow colours, lots of white space, and interesting perspectives. Flash himself is particularly cute, with his fluffy fur, floppy ears, button eyes, and expressive face. A comment on the production of the book - it looks good, with an eye-catching cover and quality paper, but the size is unusual. It’s 30 cm wide and 24 cm tall, so it will not be an easy book to shelve (speaking with my librarian’s hat on). I think this book would be best for reading one to one or to a group of children aged about 2 to 4. Adult readers could have fun emphasising and indicating the words in the text.
See Ruth's gorgeous illustrations here.

ISBN 978 1 77543 096 4 RRP $19.50 Pb
Ruth Paul is a Wellington-raised writer and illustrator. She completed a Bachelor of Arts at Victoria University of Wellington, and a Diploma of Visual Communication Design at Wellington Polytechnic (now Massey University Wellington). Throughout the years, she has worked in a variety of jobs including waitressing, acting, administration and sign-writing. She has had ten picture books published - many of which have won awards and been given rave reviews nationally and overseas.
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Celebrating Anzac Day with a children's non-fiction book

Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story by Philippa Werry (New Holland)

Have you ever wondered when Anzac Day started and what it is all about? And why they chose the red poppy as a symbol of remembrance.  Perhaps you know a bit about the second world war but the first war is a little fuzzy ... Then this treasure of a book has been written just for you.

Children's author Philippa Werry covers the Gallipoli campaign, New Zealand at war from 1914-1918, how we remember our dead and returned soldiers, and how Anzac Day is remembered then and now. Philippa has also included what happened to New Zealanders at the western front, to the Maori battalions in the Great War, and to the Pacific Island volunteers in France and Palestine. Along with recounts from returned soldiers and nurses, fact boxes about well-known battles, and little stories about incidents from the wars; are 122 photographs, paintings, excerpts from letters, quotes, poems and other images - which culminates in a pictorial historical account that celebrates the spirit of the ANZACs.

Families of returned and deceased soldiers, teachers and children will thoroughly enjoy this fascinating book, which tells the story of Anzac Day in New Zealand and around the world. An excellent resource for the Upper Primary and Intermediate classroom.  See Philippa's trailer and teaching notes here.

Philippa Werry is an accomplished children's writer of junior fiction, plays, poems and articles. Several of her books have shortlisted for awards notably the Queensland children's choice Bilby Awards in 2004, New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards in 2009, and she won a Storylines Notable Book Award in 2008.

Go to Philippa Werry's website for more information and activities:

If you're in Auckland come to her book launch:

Friday, April 5, 2013

Another nail-biting book for boys from Brian Falkner

Task Force by Brian Falkner, Walker Books Australia

This is the second book in the Recon Team Angel series. If you haven’t read the first book , Assault, a bit of background is needed. It’s 2030 and Earth has been invaded by an alien race. The Bzadians have taken over large parts of the world, and the remaining humans are fighting desperately to survive. Team Angel consists of human teenagers who have been trained up and physically altered to make them look and act like Bzadians. In the first book the team destroyed the Bzadian base inside Uluru. In this second book they are a crucial part of Operation Magnum, an invasion of Queensland aimed at destroying an important fuel-processing plant.

There are two new members in the team - and the dynamics are difficult. Lieutenant Ryan Chisnall has his work cut out for him as he tries to keep his team members working together whilst coping with a series of dangerous and often unforeseen military engagements. It’s non-stop action all the way - the pace is breathless. The team members work their way to a gut-wrenching climax scene where Chisnall has to decide which is more important - the lives of the Operation Magnum soldiers, or the future of the human race. It’s nail-biting stuff - teenage boys won’t be able to put the book down.

Brian Falkner is the award-winning, best-selling author of several novels for children and young adults, including, The Flea Thing, The Real Thing, and The Super Freak. His action adventure sci-fi novels, The Tomorrow Code and Brainjack were both short-listed for the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children & Young Adults and the Esther Glen Award at the LIANZA Awards, with Brainjack winning the New Zealand Post Book Awards, Children's Choice Award (Young Adult Fiction category). Brainjack also won the 2010 Sir Julius Vogel Award, Best Young Adult Novel. The Project has also been short-listed on the 2011 Storylines Notable Books List.ISBN 978 1

921720-55-0 $21.99 (NZ); $19.95 (Aust.) Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman