Quake cats : heartwarming stories of Christchurch cats
By Craig Bullock

Published October 2014

The trailer for this beautiful book gets me every time I watch it. I can’t wait to read the stories
of real cats and how they survived or perhaps didn’t survive the awful tragic earthquakes that devastated our city in 2011. This is a book for everyone, not just those who went through the earthquakes. We know the suffering that went on but animals also suffered. This book follows the great success of Quake dogs in 2013. I just know this will also be a hit. I have already pre-ordered my copy and look forward to its release in October.

My own cat Dusty suffered badly in the earthquakes and is not the same as she once was. I have two cats and just days before the February 22 earthquake, Lily the one year old, was dragged from our property by a dog, that viciously mauled her, shaking her in its mouth until two kind neighbours put their own lives in danger and rescued her. After time at the vets she came home, vet smelly, stapled together and lucky to be alive. Then the earthquake hit. I had a house full of extra people staying who didn’t have anywhere else to go, and even another cat.
Dusty struggled with the vet smells and Lily’s predicament and obvious pain, the extra people and cat and the continuous shakes and roaring sound of the earthquakes. Dusty completely shredded drapes at the front door as she tore at them trying to get out every time there was a noise. She really became quite aggressive and nervous. Eventually she bailed me up and I was under serious attack and afraid!! I had just showered and my only escape was to throw the towel on her and run through the house naked. (Not a pretty sight). The next day Dusty was at the vet first thing and spent many, many months on medication to calm her. Dusty is off the medication now but she still hisses at everything, runs in fear at any sudden noise, and even the wind can upset her. Family and friends tell me Dusty is broken (jokingly of course) but when she snuggles up, paws around my neck, nuzzling and purring away I know she is still under there somewhere, under all that fear.
For those of you who may have read my children’s novel Canterbury Quake, My New Zealand Story; yes there is a Dusty in the novel. She really went crazy so many times that I felt she deserved her own little place in the story. And as for Lily, she is fine – a little on the heavy side perhaps but lovely.
DO look out for Quake cats, you won’t be disappointed. Tearful maybe, but worth it completely worth it.

My Dusty, who loves hiding anywhere safe and secure.

Speed of light
By Joy Cowley

ISBN 9781877579936
Gecko Press


I thoroughly enjoyed Joy’s previous book Dunger which won the Junior Fiction Category in the recent NZ Post Book Awards for Children & Young Adults. And I thoroughly enjoyed this book too even though it has a mathematical theme because I confess I actually have a phobia to anything maths related. I can put sentences together on occasions but not numbers. Numbers terrify me and the thought of not being able to use a calculator makes my skin crawl. But with Joy’s latest book I found myself intrigued with the number side of things especially the explanation of the Fibonacci numbers. When the weather is warmer I think I will be outside looking at patterns in leaves and flower petals with a new eye.
But it is so much more than that.
We have Jeff who has a fixation on numbers and anything mathematical, and his sister Andrea who has certain secrets, brother Beckett who is locked up in a prison cell overseas and his parents; a domineering bully of a father and mother in denial. I must say I found myself quite annoyed with Jeff’s father and disliked him intensely. This just goes to show how good the writing is for when we connect emotionally either good or bad, then the writer has hit their mark!
A severe storm one night blows in more than just leaves and broken trees. It blows in to Jeff’s life a mysterious and even mystical old lady who comes with warnings he doesn’t understand. Is she really just a lost and demented old lady or is there more to her that meets the eye.
Find out when it comes out next month. Another great novel from Joy Cowley – aged 12 plus.
Review of Dunger in a previous post here

Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla
By K Applegate
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

ISBN 9780544252301

For those that read this blog regularly you will know that I have blogged about The one and only Ivan before. First for the incredible quality of the writing and very moving story of Ivan the gorilla who spent most of his life in a shopping mall. Secondly after the real Ivan died where I sat crying into my computer. Well I am doing it again. Now as a picture book / non-fiction book I am again moved by the story of Ivan. This book is not out until October but I just have to share the trailer, for in the true spirit of the writers of the nerdybookclub – everyone, everywhere should know about Ivan. The trailer for this book is powerful enough on its own that very little is needed to be said. If you don’t know about Ivan, then please find a copy of the novel. You won’t be disappointed – I promise. And for those who are fans already do check out the trailer and keep an eye out for this beautiful picture book. I will be waiting eagerly with tissues in hand!
We teach our students about making a difference. Ivan made a difference and I think this book will have impact on a younger audience who will in turn hopefully go out and make a difference in their world.

Earlier post on Ivan

Thanks to nerdybookclub.wordpress.com for show-casing this wonderful trailer for the world to see.

Muddy Max : The mystery of Marsh Creek
By Elizabeth Rush
Illustrated by Mike Lawrence

ISBN 9781449435615

Muddy Max is the first-ever slime-covered superhero who lives with his annoying neat-freak parents. With his savvy sidekick and his RC-driving, mountain-biking tomboy crush they face mysteries and danger with a heap of mud for good measure. In this first book in a new graphic novel series Max has to figure out who or what is lurking in the trees in the muddy marsh. And just maybe he can save a few lives at the same time.
Sounds great for primary aged students who love a good mystery told in a quirky way in graphic novel form. Can just imagine the boys lining up for this one.

The word ghost
By Christine Paice

ISBN 9781743318263


While technically on the contemporary fiction stands, this book will also appeal to many young-adult readers.
We begin in the year 1973 when Rebecca Budde aka Abes is fifteen. We feel her angst as she falls in love with Dave. Dave whom she hasn’t even spoken to yet is all she thinks of. Eventually they connect but then like all good stories, they are pulled apart.
A move to the tiny village of Brightley separates Rebecca and Dave. She struggles to cope but it isn’t long before strange things begin happening, strange appearances from ghosts. I did find myself falling in love with the ghost Algernon Keats who inhabits her wardrobe and his sense of humour but not so much his deranged sister Augusta!
And then of course there is the not-so-nice Alex March for whom Rebecca walks his dog.
For those who love the poetry from the romantic era of Keats, Byron and Wordsworth this is one to read as short bursts of poetry are shared throughout the novel.
I love how the author brings in all that made the seventies good – depending on your opinion of the times of course. David Cassidy, flares, even Donny Osmond gets a mention and admitting that I remember all of them is, I fear, giving away my age but a great book to enjoy.

Roses are blue
By Sally Murphy
Illustrated by Gabriel Evans

Walker books Australia
ISBN 9781922244376


I have always been a huge fan of verse novels. I love the visual aspect of the text on the page and the brevity of words which creates more impact connecting emotionally with the reader. This is no exception. I loved Sally Murphy’s previous verse novels; Pearl verses the world and Toppling. And I love Roses are blue.
Amber Rose has a lovely happy family – before the accident that is. Since the accident things have changed. Amber still has a lovely family but her mother now sits in a wheelchair unable to walk, talk or even feed or toilet herself.
Amber has had to move from her much-loved home with the garden her mother tended to so happily. A new home, a new school and Amber is struggling to cope. She wants her old mother back!
Told in first person, Amber Rose narrates her own story; a story of growth and acceptance.

“And I am left sitting at my desk
with no heart,
no breath,
no words.”

And yes, for the record, I did cry over this heart-warming story of love and acceptance.
The book is just as beautifully illustrated in pen and ink. The cover is gorgeous.
Great for readers aged 7 up.

A hero’s curse
By P. S. Broaddus

Drought has consumed the Kingdom of Mar for the last ten years. Essie, her sarcastic cat Tig and her secretive family struggle to survive on their small farm which is nestled against the forbidding cliffs of the Valley of Fire. A rebellion against the cruel interim ruler forces them to flee for their lives.
Essie and Tig face dangers everywhere, cunning rock basilisks, packs of hungry arcus vultures and that is not all.
Believing that the missing King Mactogonii is still alive, Essie needs to summon up the courage to find him but how will she do it when she is blind and evil lurks everywhere.
A perfect choice for middle grade readers who love adventure and a good struggle-to-survive story.
This is what the author says about the arcus vultures;
“Arcus Vultures are a curious contradiction. One of the most dangerous creatures of the Valley of Fire, it is not due to their razor sharp talons or five step wingspan. (Although these are good to be aware of.) Rather, it is due to their scavenging lifestyle of digging through decaying carcasses that Arcus Vultures carry a swift and deadly disease known as “fleshrot.” Fleshrot, if not treated, is often fatal”
Sounds pretty gross and if you want more do check out the author’s site above.

The luck uglies
By Paul Durham

ISBN 9780007526901

Eleven year old Rye O’Chanter has seen much in her short life. She has grown up in Village Drowning’s treacherous streets and forgotten cemeteries. But on the night of the Black Moon Rye becomes convinced that the terrible Bog Noblins have returned from the forest Beyond the Shale. Bog Noblins are supposed to be extinct so how can Rye convince people that they are wrong and that danger is everywhere. Who will protect them from the creatures.
And what of the stranger named Harmless who encourages Rye to question everything she knows. Rye is confronted with secrets she must unravel but danger lurks and it just may take a villain to save the village from monsters.
This is book one in a new trilogy which I have just bought for school.
I do love the trailer with its mixed media. Great appeal for middle grade readers who will be intrigued by the trailer. I may just have to fight the students to read it first!

Ko Wai E Huna Ana?
By Satoru Onishi

Published July 2014
ISBN 9781927271476
Gecko Press

ko wai
It is lovely to see the Te Reo Maori edition of this popular book Who’s hiding. A delightful book where young readers are encouraged to look to see who is hiding, or who is crying or so many other choices. They have to work out if it might be a tiger or hippo or again any other number of animals. Not only do children learn the names of animals or learn to recognise colours, they also learn to read expressions. This is great as a teaching tool for so many children who struggle with the concept of how facial expressions can tell us so much about each other. While the English version has been around for a while this version is great for anyone learning te reo Maori. I do especially like the green smiley hippo. His grin is just precious!

The cake
By Dorothee de Monfreid

ISBN 9781927271445
Gecko Press

This book is all about a bunch of animals and a particular tiger who wants to bake a cake. The illustrations are bright, bold and quirky. The text is funny and so real I can recall watching young children reacting pretty much the same way. The animals, all want different cakes made from their own favourite foods. Everyone has an opinion, but will tiger listen?
This would be great to read aloud to preschoolers but even five and six year old’s will giggle.
Just when you think you know what is going to happen next there is a wonderfully funny laugh-out-loud twist at the end. And I did laugh out loud. Gorgeous! Do keep an eye on tiger’s facial expressions. They really are priceless. Perhaps a lesson on being a team player underlies the story but it is done in such a way that readers will delight in the humour while learning about friendship and fairness without even realising it.

Last night I was part of a panel discussion with authors Gavin Bishop, Bill Nagelkerke and reviewer extraordinaire Trevor Agnew, reviewing finalist books for the NZ Post book awards for children and young adults.
I was given the task of reviewing the non-fiction books and I have to say right from the start I believe this year the non-fiction finalists has been one of the strongest selections in many years. Often one book stands out amongst the others but this year they are all quality books equally deserving of a place in the final selection. I think for the judges this would have been a tough choice.
Anyway it was a small but dedicated crowd of teachers, librarians and parents who attended and was a lovely evening. So here are my thoughts in no particular order. We will however have to wait until next week to see who wins the award.


ANZAC Day the New Zealand Story : What it is and why it matters
By Philippa Werry

This is beautifully presented.The cover alone gives so much information – map, Simpson and his donkey, the nurses, medals and on the back, the battle field. It just makes you want to dive in and read.
There are relevant websites, an excellent bibliography, glossary and picture credits – nothing is missed out.
The title page is simple and symbolic. It includes a great timeline of the Gallipoli campaign.
Readers can skim and scan for information under headings if doing research or just picking something out to read that interests them.
It includes bizarre facts such as a photo of a turtle shell that belonged to a turtle found by a NZ soldier in the trenches and kept as a pet. That is until one day when the soldier wasn’t there, some other soldiers ate the turtle!
This is very well researched and planned. The book includes postcards and images of diaries. I love the background colours of the pages.
Visually stunning and informative and more than that – it is an important book and should be in every school library. A very impressive book and I actually went out and bought my own copy as this truly is a treasure.


Wearable wonders
By Fifi Colston

Beautifully produced package with bright appealing cover and a bright, bold double spread title page.
Well thought out with contents, index page and internet links.
It has very much a scrapbook feel to it with ideas almost like journal entries and the author talking directly to the reader. The author talks about planning your ideas and the tools and materials to use and create your wearable art costume.
One of it’s highlights for children is that readers have permission to photocopy templates. An excellent instructional book for children, parents and teachers on creating wearable art!

Flight of the honey bee
By Raymond Huber
Illustrated by Brian Lovelock

A mix of fiction and non-fiction
The story of Scout a honeybee, interspersed with facts
Appealing cover but disappointed that the end pages have the author and illustrator bios. It would be better with a dust jacket with the information on the inside flap. I personally think end pages are works of art in their own right.
Gorgeous colours. vibrant and full of warmth.
Interesting facts such as this one which to get your one little jar of honey, bees need to harvest nectar from over 2 million flowers.
A lovely crossover book for young readers.


An Extraordinary Land : Discoveries and Mysteries from Wild New Zealand
by Peter Hayden
Rod Morris – Photographer

This is very informative with language appropriate for middle readers.
It is first-person and friendly. There are many side bars of informative information which would suit children but the text as a whole is perhaps too wordy for many children.
Some very interesting facts
Rod Morris has a basement freezer where he keeps frozen, dead victims! It gives him a chance to study their claws, feathers eyes etc but he also has live animals in the fridge in plastic boxes, with weta, ancient velvet worms, leaf vein slugs – some even breed and raise babies in the fridge. Gross!
Or the fact that in 1885 Kea were considered a pest and had a bounty on their head. A Kea beak could earn 2 shillings.
It is a gorgeous book and I think it would be great as a coffee table book.

The beginners guide to hunting and fishing in New Zealand
By Paul Adamson

Great photographs, heaps on information which will interest readers, boys in particular,
Lots of helpful tips – each chapter has its own glossary.
Great safety advice not just for guns but for keeping safe in the bush.
I love that it has recipes to cook whatever has been caught.
It does have a few photos which will either delight or disgust some children such as the photos of how to skin a rabbit. In full colour too!
This book is very good as there really isn’t anything out there for young hunters. It is well produced and something just a little different from the rest.

Paddington Bear
books by Michael Bond

Paddington Bear, the delightful bear from darkest Peru, so named for the tube station he ended up on with his little battered suitcase way back in 1958. He has been loved by children (and adults) for so long that as soon as we hear his name we can’t help but smile.
Well I could not resist sharing this trailer for the movie coming out at Christmas this year. When I watched it I was laughing at the same time as being grossed out by his toothbrush antics. I will have to beg, steal or borrow a small child just so I can watch the movie when it is released. In the mean while it might be time to reread some of his books.

Eric Hill 1927 – 2014
Eric Hill was the very talented author and illustrator who created books about the curious little puppy Spot who soon became everyone’s favourite dog. His wonderfully simple picture and board books with lift the flaps are firm favourites with pre-schoolers everywhere.
At home we have our own much-loved copies, although sadly, they do look a little worse for wear now. I even confess to owning my own Spot soft toy which sits on my bookcase.
Where’s Spot was first published in 1980 and has been in print ever since with a number of other Spot adventures.
In 2008 he was appointed OBE for services to children’s literature.
Here is Eric reading his book accompanied by his own Spot!

And for those wee ones who want to play a few games do check out this fun site with spot

By Joy Cowley


Eleven year old Will aka pooface to his sister Melissa aka slime brain to Will are bribed to the tune of $1000 each, to help out their old hippie grandparents fix up their holiday home in the Sounds.
It is not until they arrive at the Sounds that they realize just how secluded they are. No cell phones, no electricity, no indoor toilet and even getting water proves difficult and potentially dangerous. They will certainly have to work for their money.
Joy Cowley weaves a wonderful feel good story with moody teenager Melissa and often smart-alec younger brother Will. At times they are both frustrating but the mark of a good novel is seeing the growth of a character. Will and Melissa by the end of the novel are not the same people that began their journey to a dilapidated house in the middle of nowhere. This is an honest, realistic feel good story.
This book so deserves to be a finalist in the New Zealand Post book awards for Children and Young Adults

I am otter
By Sam Garton

When I gained a new follower on twitter recently, I did what we all do; I checked the follower out! And so glad I did or I would have missed this absolutely gorgeous picture book. It really has the most delightful illustrations. Warm, cute characters that you just can’t help but fall in love with.
Otter lives with his best friends; Otter keeper and Teddy. All goes well until Otter keeper goes to work and Otter and Teddy make their own adventures. A fun book for cuddling up with a wee one and just enjoying. I can see this would make a lovely series of books about Otter and Teddy. really gorgeous!

If you want to find out more about the author/illustrator of Otter I am sharing his clip below. Do visit his site though as there is heaps to see and enjoy.

Dorothy must die
By Danielle Paige

I have always been a fan of fractured fairy tales and the wonderful picture books with a twist in their telling. The same goes for young adult novels with their twists and turns in the retelling or revisiting of traditional fairy tales or famous books. And this I believe will be no exception. Set in the World of Oz, Dorothy somehow managed to return to OZ and took control. No longer sweet and innocent Dorothy has now let power go to her head and no-one is safe.
It may just be up to the other Kansas girl Amy Gumm to save the day. She has been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked and trained to fight. She will definitely need those skills! Her mission is to remove the tin man’s heart, steal the scarecrow’s brain and even remove the lion’s courage. But that is not all! Once she has done that she must kill Dorothy. But in the land of Oz not all is as it may seem.
Magic, fantasy, good and evil, a crumbling yellow brick road and of course a good old tornado all together for what I think will be a great YA novel. Just waiting for it to hit the shelves any time soon.

I am so looking forward to this one. I love the way the author has given a nod to Judy Garland, the original Dorothy whose proper name was of course Frances Gumm.