Endling Book One :  The Last

By Katherine Applegate

HarperCollins

It is holiday time so I am doing a few extra posts as I catch up on some books I want to share but this one is top of the list.

So exciting. I love Katherine Applegate’s writing. Her books are always award winners and wonderful stories. The one and only Ivan, Wishtree, Crenshaw, are among my favourites, not just for their wonderful stories, but because the language is so beautiful. I find myself often just stopping and reading a sentence over and over as it’s beauty and succinctness takes my breath away. So I am definitely hanging out for this one. 

Byx is the youngest member of her dairne pack. Believed to possess remarkable abilities, her mythical doglike species has been hunted to near extinction in the war-torn kingdom of Nedarra.

After her pack is hunted down and killed, Byx fears she may be the last of her species. The Endling. So Byx sets out to find safe haven, and to see if the legends of other hidden dairnes are true.

Check this out. You can read a little bit here and then not long until May when the book is published and we can read the rest. Can’t wait!

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Lessons of a LAC

By Lynn Jenkins

Illustrated by Kirrili Lonergan

ISBN 9781925335828

EKBooks

 

Loppy is a little anxious creature who is always looking out for danger. The trouble is he is so busy and so good at looking for danger, that he is missing out on all the fun things in life. His anxiety is all-consuming and gets in the way of things, so much so, that he finds problems even when there are none. Along comes Curly Calmster who shows him that not all things in life lead to danger, not everything is bad. Loppy  begins to learn ways to stay calm and therefore soon becomes less anxious and worried about things.

“Just because dangerous things MIGHT happen, doesn’t mean they WILL happen.”

Good for those anxious children who need reassurance that the world really is a wonderful place.

The illustrations, mostly black, red and yellow are reminiscent of Dr Seuss’  so sure to please younger readers.

Teacher notes can be found here.

Gecko Press continue to bring us quality books for young readers. Their books are always beautifully produced and leave you with that feel-good feeling.

Valdemar’s Peas

By Maria Jonsson

ISBN 9781776571963

Published May 2018

 

“Peas? No way! Valdemar may be a little wolf, but he knows what he wants. ”

I’m pretty sure food battles happen in almost every family at some time or another. Valdemar is a little wolf with a persistent attitude. He doesn’t want to eat peas and argues the point whenever his parents tell him the benefits. They tell him he will have longer ears if he eats peas but he lets them know he already has long ears. Valdemar’s sister eats her peas and is rewarded with ice-cream. Not wanting to miss out on such a treat, Valdemar comes up with a clever plan. 

Funny and real, and very familiar to parents who struggle with picky eaters.

Simple bold illustrations with lots of white space so the focus remains on Valdemar and his family. 

A fun book to share with the whole family.

 

I’m the biggest

By Stephanie Blake

ISBN 9781776572021

Published June 2018

 

Simon is back and as naughty and nice as ever.

In his latest book Simon is upset that his younger brother Casper has grown a whole three centimetres since the last time they were measured, yet he has only grown one centimetre. Out comes Simon’s infamous temper tantrums. Simon is just as feisty as ever but his reactions are understandably realistic, warts and all.

However, in the end we see the side of Simon that makes him a character we know and continue to love.

As someone who only ever made it to 1.50 metres tall I know exactly how Simon feels about being small. I recall being very upset back when I was young and the old measurement scales, when a teacher measured the class on the blackboard but started the measurement at five foot. I didn’t even make it to the starting point and never did. So Simon, I know just how you feel although there is plenty of time on your side to grow.

See Hear

By Tania McCartney

Illustrated by Jess Racklyeft

ISBN 9781925335675

EKbooks

 

This is a sweet picture book about the senses of sight and hearing. Its novelty flip-the-book format and simple but effective language, makes this ideal for pre-schoolers.

We meet a cat, a rabbit and a piglet who happily go about their daily lives. They are super cute animals but also very observant. See begins as the front with colourful illustrations of many things we can see. Squiggly rain, crawling spots on a ladybird, lacy flutters of snow and many more. It is a lovely introduction to the senses with a simple message to take time to look around and really look at  everything there is to see.  Once you get half way through, you can flip the book and have another lovely story to read. Hear is the story from the back with a focus on the things we can hear. We can hear songs and laughter, food sizzling and cats purring. Everyday things are there if only we take time to listen.  All we have to do is stop a moment and look around.

 

 

 

 

1918 Broken Poppies

Kiwis at War 

By Des Hunt

ISBN 9781775432821

Kiwis at War 1918 Broken Poppies hr

Based on author Des Hunt’s own uncles who went to war, this novel is a chilling account of what went on in the trenches during World War One. It is at times harrowing and confronting but there is also humour, just as in any difficult situation, which makes it so real. 

Four Christmases have passed since the world went to war in 1914. Struggling to survive in the trenches, close to enemy lines, amid the terror of gunfire and the whine of warplanes, Kiwi soldier Henry Hunt rescues a shaken little dog. He has no idea he’ll soon be facing a disciplinary hearing. To Henry’s relief, the Major allows the little foxie to live this time. Henry finds the dog is not only a comfort to his fellow soldiers on the battlefields of France, but a great ratter, too. Together, can they survive the Great War?

 

Henry Hunt is both believable and likeable. He has panic attacks from a childhood trauma which still haunts him but he soon finds himself having to face these fears head on. They seem insurmountable but will put himself and others in danger if he doesn’t overcome them. Hunt’s ability to put the reader in the character’s footsteps is brilliant. We too, feel the same fear as Henry.  The author doesn’t hide us from the reality of life in the trenches either.  I flinched many times when reading about the rats which seemed to be everywhere. The descriptions of trench foot were also very real.

“…trench foot – a form of gangrene caused when feet were always wet. Raw skin would turn to angry sores which, if left untreated, became purple then black.” pg 64

Amputation would come next. Horrible stuff but sadly, horribly true. 

Henry faces bullying by Sergeant Bell who continually and unjustly calls him a coward. There is injuries, danger, death all around but there is also loyalty and comrades to help him get through the awful times. The rescuing of the wee dog they named Poppy is a wonderful part of the story. I fell in love with Poppy and at times found myself holding my breath when she got in to danger. The courage of these soldiers is amazing. The months and years in the trenches must have been horrific.  Many of the soldiers would be wounded, patched up, and sent back for more which really is beyond our comprehension. Des Hunt’s account of Henry Hunt takes us there as much as it is possible, so that we can see and feel what it might have been like during World War One. A compelling read and superbly done. A great story to end the series Kiwis at War.

Great read for some Year six students (but not all) but certainly Intermediate through Secondary levels.

Teacher Notes will help make the most of this novel.

 

Truly Devious

By Maureen Johnson

ISBN 9780062338051

HarperCollins

 

I never think twice about picking up a novel by Maureen Johnson. Loved her Shades of London books and having just read this first book in her new series, I am already waiting for book two.

A thoroughly good murder-mystery for young adults.

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Not long after the school’s opening, Albert Ellingham’s wife and daughter were kidnapped and the only clue was a note signed by someone called Truly Devious. His wife’s body was found, but the daughter was never seen again. It has remained an unsolved mystery for many decades but now Stevie Bell is attending the school and her plan is to solve the mystery. However, there is something sinister happening and Stevie and her new friends find themselves in trouble when the past and present seem to collide with more murderous adventure. And there is always the issue of whom to trust! Well written, good pace and a very cool setting.

Stevie is a like-able, believable character and a very keen detective-in-the-making. Her determination to work through research and the new puzzles makes this another good read from Maureen Johnson.

My dilemma is that I now have to wait until next year to read what happens next. Grrrrr!

Visiting you: A journey of Love

By Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg

Illustrated by Andrea Edmonds

ISBN 9781925335668

EK Books

A young child sets out on a trip with mum intending to visit a special but unnamed loved one. Along the way, they meet many different people and the child, all friendly and innocent, begins chatting with these people. What becomes apparent is that the child exposes the fact that in life, we all have worries and concerns. We all have people we care about that we miss and can’t wait to see. People in hospital, and people in aged-care who no longer remember their families. Somewhere out there, there are people who have lost loved ones and sit among us on buses, or boat rides. Everywhere we are, no matter what we do, we need to remember that people may be sad and we need to show compassion and have empathy because one day it could be us, sad and feeling a little lost. What makes this special, is that the child, just by talking with strangers, is making a difference. We are reminded that we are all connected.

A sweet story with a message we all know but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to be reminded. The illustrations have lots of yellows and oranges creating a lovely sunny day feeling.

 

Teacher notes to further extend the experience of this book can be found here.

 

The Art Garden: sewing the seeds of creativity

By Penny Harrison

Illustrated by Penelope Pratley

ISBN 9781925335590

EK Books


 

When Sadie’s best friend Tom paints, Sadie’s heart smiles. She longs to paint as well as Tom does but her attempts end up as messy splodges. Sadie also loves her garden and being surrounded by nature. Somewhere in between, Sadie learns to accept herself and find something that she can do that makes her heart smile for herself. A sweet and positive picture book about learning to accept ourselves and finding the things that make us special. Art and creativity is everywhere and we express it differently and that makes us unique individuals. For Sadie, finding her own creativity, is part of finding herself. 

The short but brilliant career of Lucas Weed

By Chrissie Walker

ISBN 9781775435082

Scholastic NZ

 


Author Chrissie Walker has captured the mischievous nature of 10 an 11-year-old boys in her award-winning novel The short but brilliant career of Lucas Weed. Lucas  is still a newcomer at Fernwood School and all he really wants is some friends. Good friends he can hang out with not just at school, but after school too. A conversation one morning with fellow students Thomas, Hunter and Oscar leads to a prank with a frog on the loose and chaos in the classroom. Finding himself suddenly popular with these boys, Lucas plans more pranks.  He plans bigger pranks and that can only mean bigger laughs. This is a fun novel where boys take centre stage and cause a little mayhem but it’s okay because despite everything, Lucas and his new friends are likeable, believable characters. However, just how far are Lucas and his new friends prepared to go for a laugh?

I can see teachers having a lot of fun reading this out to their classes.

Dawn Raid

By Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith

ISBN 9781775434757

Scholastic NZ

 

 

Like many 13-year-old girls, Sofia’s main worries are how she can earn enough pocket money to buy some groovy go-go boots that are all the rage, and if she will die of embarrassment giving a speech she has to do for school. It comes as a surprise to Sofia and her family when her big brother, Lenny, talks about protests, overstayers and injustices against Pacific Islanders.

The beauty of the My New Zealand Story series is that we witness some of New Zealand’s important historical moments through the eyes of children. Much is documented from historical times, but it is in general from adults, journalists, and news media. This series takes us behind the scenes, as children tell us in diary entries, what they saw, felt and experienced. 

Sofia begins her diary on June 1976 and initially she comes across as a little naive, although to be fair, it was a different time to the experience  of 13 year olds of today. What makes this book special is that as the story of the dawn raids unfolds, we begin to see a growing maturity in Sofia. A key feature of any good book, is the growth of a character.

Sofia records daily events with honesty and her family life soon becomes familiar to us. Her family is close and extended family are equally important. Slowly, news filters in of the many dawn raids where police storm houses in the middle of the night and arrest overstayers; people from other countries who have stayed longer than their working permits allow. In particular the raids were aimed at Pacific Island nationalities. Through Lenny and his contacts we learn of the reasons for the raids and the underlying theme of racism and human rights. We also learn about the group called the Polynesian Panthers and how they stood up to people in power.

This is a great book to read as a class and to study themes of racism and media reporting and media bias. One of the biggest issues we face today is that of “fake news” and this would be a perfect book to explore the notion that not everything we see or hear is as it really is.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sofia’s story. Loved the many references to the 1970’s music, fashion and television culture.

The old man

By Sarah V

Illustrated by Claude K. Dubois

Translated by Daniel Hahn

ISBN 9781776571918

Gecko Press

Published April 2018

 

It doesn’t matter how hard we try to pretend, we can not ignore the fact that homelessness is real. It happens and it is everywhere. It is confronting but unless we face the issues, we cannot change them. In this simple picture book we meet a little girl who doesn’t walk past an old homeless man living on the streets. She doesn’t ignore him and most importantly, she doesn’t judge him. While adults walk past and pretend to not see him, the little girl stops and talks to the old man. She sees him, cold and lonely leaning against a wall and wrapped in an old blanket. In her innocence, her acknowledgement of the old man as a person, means more than anything. It means hope and hope is everything.

The watercolour illustrations are beautiful. There is a haunting quality to them but at the same time there is a softness, an innocence about them. As we move through the pages yellow tones soon break through the darkness bringing light, warmth and hope. The day-to-day trials of being homeless, of being moved along, of being ignored are so hard that the old man even forgets his own name. It is the honesty of a young girl that gives him hope and helps him find a voice. This is truly a beautiful book and an important one to share.

There is a sneak preview of more images from this picture book here.

There are also teaching notes to make the most of this book and help children understand the plight of the homeless. If we cannot ignore it then we need to learn more about it and help make a difference, just like the young girl in this book did.

The Yark

By Bertrand Santini

Illustrated by Laurent Gapaillard

ISBN 9781776571727

Gecko Press

 

With such a wonderful cover how could you not pick up this book and delve into the story of a child-eating monster. And yes, this hairy monster with the enormous teeth, does in fact eat children, especially the very good children. The naughty ones just make him sick. Everything is going along normally until he meets a little girl named Madeleine who completely turns his world upside down. 

The language is rich and descriptive and beautifully carries us through the story, so much so, that the characters become real to us.

He loves the crackle of their little bones between his teeth, and to suck on their soft eyes, which melt like chocolate truffles. 

 

The black ink illustrations are superb. They are a little bit scary and a little bit funny but have a warmth to them so that despite being a monster, he is kind of cute and we can’t help but like him. I would very happily hang any of the illustrations on my wall.

Perfect for children aged about six and up especially if they like a little wickedness in their reading. 

Don’t just take my word for it but read the first chapter yourself, right here.

If you still want more, especially if you are a teacher, then check out the teaching notes as they will help readers gain a better understanding of the story.

What a fantastic series of books. First Words in other languages presents a snippet of some of the most common everyday words. Perfect for young ones and not so young. I love the simple but clear illustrations of items. I really love how each word has its country of origin word, the English words and in brackets, a very clear pronunciation guide. I have shared these books with teachers and other librarians and they are proving a hit. They are already in our school library. As many of our students are learning Mandarin, the Mandarin one will be in high demand. 

They are also interactive and if you download a free QR code scanner on your phone or iPad you can scan the code on the back of the book and be zipped off to Lonely Planet website for a free audio pronunciation guide for every word. Very cool indeed.

First Words Italian            

ISBN 9781787012677

First Words Mandarin

ISBN 9781787012714

 

 

First Words Japanese

ISBN 9781787012691

 

 

 

The holidays

By Blexbolex

ISBN 9781776571932

Gecko Press


The summer holidays were almost done. I had the whole garden, the fields, the lake and the sun all to myself! Until Grandad came home with that elephant.

 

A young girl is happily enjoying her holidays with grandad but it is a short-lived feeling because grandad brings home an elephant and she is not pleased at all.  At one point she very unkindly takes out her frustration on the elephant, even being mean to him. 

The illustrations are quite unique in this wordless book. They have a lovely vintage feel about them. I love the little illustrated vignettes in the corners of many pages where we see moments in time. There is no white space on the pages, every part is coloured and full to the brim with what is happening. The pages are thicker than most and have a linen type look and feel about them. A unique book indeed.

The magic of wordless books is that readers can put themselves into the stories and interpret them anyway they want. The story then belongs to the readers. The sequence of events are well-played out and the wonderful illustrations take us on a journey with a young girl as she slowly learns some of the simple lessons in life. This is one of those books to read over and over and still see something different everytime.

It is well worth checking out the question and answer interview with Blexbolex here. Not only will you find out more about the artist but you will  see more images from the book which will show you just why this is so special.

 

ANZAC Animals

By Maria Gill

Illustrated by Marco Ivancic

ISBN 9781775434740

Scholastic NZ & Scholastic AU

 

Maria Gill and Marco Ivancic deservedly won the prestigious Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award in 2016 for their book ANZAC Heroes. They continue to bring quality books and ANZAC Animals is destined to be another hit.

Maria Gill’s research for her non-fiction books is her trademark. She finds the stories, painstakingly does her research for accuracy and then writes her books taking time to polish to perfection. ANZAC Animals delivers another well-formated non-fiction book. All the text features are there; introduction, contents, glossary, charts, photographs, index etc. with the addition of maps and timelines. The layout is well placed and easy to read. 

ANZAC Animals is a collection of true tales of animal heroes and mascots from World War One and World War Two.

The collection is both fascinating and delightful. I love the story of Lulu the chicken mascot who would warn soldiers of approaching enemy aircraft with her noisy shrieking so that they had time to hide safely.

Or the story of Torty the tortoise, who became a listening ear to James Stewart Little as he described the horror of the things he saw during WWI. Believe it or not Torty is still alive today – 100 years later.

This is an extraordinary collection of tales about animals in war.  There are dogs, horses, mules, pigeons, and even a monkey. They all had one thing in common. The animals were the companions of soldiers. They helped soldiers cope and in many cases, helped them survive the atrocities of war.

One of the most famous is of  the story of Murphy the donkey who carried injured soldiers to safety. The stories of soldiers have long been told but sometimes animals are heroes too and this book is all about the animals and what has made them all so special during some of the worst of times.

The illustrations are very impressive and very life-like. The colours and tones are beautiful. Every hair, whisker or feather is so real you wish you could almost leap into the page and pat the animals.

An excellent book and a must-have for any library. 

Check out author Maria Gill’s book trailer and see for yourself just what is so special about this book.

 

Grandma forgets

By Paul Russell

Illustrated by Nicky Johnston

ISBN 9781925335477

EK Books

 

This picture book is the gentle story of a young girl dealing with her grandmother’s dementia and trying to come to terms with the fact that grandma forgets so much these days. Grandma even forgets her granddaughter’s name. Memories are one of the most beautiful and cherished things we have as humans. Memories make us and keep us alive. The tragedy of dementia is the loss of those memories people once held dear.

Father is struggling with the fact that his mother is not the mother she used to be. She is forgetful but still active, still very much part of the family. The granddaughter is determined to help her grandma remember things. The sweet and warm coloured illustrations take us through many cherished memories. Lost jackets, games, climbing trees, and the smell of Grandma’s baking. The most cherished memory is the regular reminder that no matter what, Grandma is loved. A lovely and special book to share, especially for those dealing with dementia. The book trailer is gorgeous and supports the book by adding a little extra touch by bringing the family closer to the reader.