One minute’s silence

By David Metzenthen

Illustrated by Michael Camilleri

ISBN 9781743316245

Allen & Unwin


As part of our school library’s current commemorations on World War 1 I purchased a copy of One minute’s silence.  I had known about this book and had been waiting for its publication for awhile so snapped it up immediately it hit our shops.

It is an impressive sophisticated picture book with beautiful illustrations, evocative language and insight into the terrible time known as the Gallipoli campaign.

The cover hits you straight way with two faces (one an Australian solder, the other a Turkish soldier) within a circle of never-ending soldiers and crosses. With its sombre sepia tones the message becomes clear that war is a global issue and its impact effects everyone, everywhere.

The book begins with a group of students who really would rather be anywhere else other than inside a classroom having a history lesson. Slowly the teacher draws the students in and one by one they become witnesses to the atrocities of Gallipoli.

I shared this book with my book club children; a group of 10 and 11 year olds who were mesmerized. The discussions generated were amazing. The power of this book is the ability to show readers the two sides of the campaign. The ANZAC soldiers on attack and the Turkish soldiers on defense. Both sides were doing what they thought was right.

The impact of these attacks was devastating and the imagery in this book highlights the losses from both sides.

There are teacher notes available here for further in-depth discussion and activities to make the most of this excellent book. There really is so much to unpack in this book, from the use of sepia tones, frames showing the passing of time and even to the double spread image of flies and what that could possibly mean. This is quite honestly, an amazing book that moves the reader emotionally as we connect with our past and encourages us to reflect on the futility of war. The last page brought many of us to tears. It is a book to share and a book to treasure no matter the subject. Just brilliant!

I am Rebecca
By Fleur Beale

Random House NZ
ISBN 9781775535492


Some years ago I read Fleur Beale’s I am not Esther, a very deserving award winning novel, which still remains a favourite of mine. The sequel which can be read as a stand alone novel, is I am sure, bound to be another award winner.
I was hooked right from the start of this book. Life inside the religious group Children of the Faith is so alien to many people that its strict rules and regulations almost seem barbaric. Thirteen-year-old Rebecca and her twin sister Rachel have their lives totally controlled by the Elders and governed by Rules of the Faith. Everything is planned for them, including whom they are to marry when they turn sixteen. They must remain at all times subservient to men and to the Rules. Disobedience of the Rules could see them expelled from the group and be deemed dead to their families forever more. The fear of an eternity of Hell and damnation keeps them following the Rules, without question.
The story moves along smoothly allowing us more and more of an insight into Rebecca’s world. As the pivotal points came I couldn’t stop reading, I just had to find out what Rebecca was going to do and how she was going to cope. I loved watching her grow as a character but also felt very protective of her and her sister. Such is the power of Fleur Beale’s writing that the characters had become very real.
Do watch out for Mrs Lipscombe. I think everyone needs a Mrs Lipscombe in their lives.
This is a powerful story and quite honestly, a must read.

August has seen many commemorations for the centenary of World War 1.
We have created a display in our school library and I am very grateful to our caretaker for building a model of the trenches. The children have been fascinated with all the details. We also purchased a number of non-fiction books on the war which the students have also gravitated to. We do need to remember our soldiers and their heroic deeds.

It is perhaps timely to look back on some of the fiction books set during the First World War and reflect on how difficult and tragic life was for so many people throughout the world.

The Light Horse Boy
By Dianne Wolfer
Illustrated by Brian Simmonds
Pub 2013
ISBN 9781921696572
Fremantle Press

It is 1914 and Jim is caught up in the excitement and promise of adventure of what would become the First World War. The reality was far different. The frontline was brutal and deadly. Find out how Jim struggled with all that went on as the war raged around him and his friends.

Lighthouse Girl
By Dianne Wolfer
Illustrated by Brian Simmonds
Pub 2010
ISBN 9781921361531

Also set during the First World War, Fay lives an isolated and hard life on Breaksea Island as a lighthouse keeper’s daughter. She knows semaphore and Morse code and soon these skills are the only hope for soldiers sending messages to loved ones as Fay then telegraphs the families their message. This is based on truth and puts the reader right in the middle of the war.

There are teaching notes available online from Fremantle Press

The Partials
By Dan Wells

Often a stand alone book or the first book in a new series will have a trailer made. It isn’t often that a series has multiple trailers made. The Partials sequence is an exception with three trailers, shared below.

After a war with the Partials (a group of engineered organic beings who are identical to humans) the human race has been pretty much decimated. There are some survivors but danger is always close. RM is a weaponized virus which has wiped out so many and only a few are immune. However, no babies since, have been born immune to RM.
Sixteen year old Kira is a medic in training and desperate to try and save the human race.
Reviews for this series are very good and the pace and thrill of the story are captivating.
I can’t tell you about the second and third book without ruining the first so grab the first and just keep reading.

Book 1

Book 2

Book 3

The last viking returns
By Norman Jorgensen
Illustrated by James Foley

Published by Fremantle Press.
September 2014

This is a wonderful follow-up to The last viking. I played the trailer in the library at lunchtime today and had a lovely group of children all crowded behind me. When I asked them if I should buy the book when it comes out there was a resounding and collective “Yesssss”.
The soundtrack is the brilliant and very fitting In the hall of the mountain king which we turned up loud and jiggled to. Do look out for this book and see what happens to Knut and the dragon.

And here is the trailer for the first adventures of Knut the The Last Viking

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 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.