The Visitor

By Antje Damm

ISBN 9781776571888

Gecko Press

This is the second book from Antje Damm that I have had the pleasure to read. Waiting for Goliath was totally delightful and so is her new book  The Visitor will be published in July.

             Elise was frightened—of spiders, people, even trees. So she never went out,
             night or day.

            One day a strange thing flies in through the window and lands at her feet. And then there comes a knock at the        door. Elise has a visitor who will change everything.

This is a very special picture book about the beginning of a new friendship between an old lonely woman and a curious young boy.

The young boy Emil accidentally flies his dart inside the open window of Elise’s house. When he goes to collect it he finds Elise, a shy old woman who reluctantly lets him into her house. His curiosity and innocent questions are honest and realistic. I certainly found myself smiling as he looked at everything in her house and began asking lots of questions. Elise slowly begins to answer and it is not long before she finds herself opening up to him and a new friendship is formed.

Inside the house is dark, with lots of browns and shady colours but glimpses of bright light shine outside the windows. As they begin to feel comfortable with each other, the light, bit by bit, enters the house. Even Elise’s cheeks begin to glow. This is truly a delightful book to share with children of all ages.

The art work is a mix of diorama, card cut-outs, and photography with a focus on the use of colour. It is quite simply, a wonderful work of art and a story to treasure. There are so many older people out there who could all do with a little Emil in their lives.

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Earthquakes! New Zealand

By Maria Gill

ISBN 9781869664862

New Holland Publishers

If you have ever wanted to know anything about earthquakes in New Zealand, then this new book from award-winning author Maria Gill has it all. The production is a perfect example of what a quality non-fiction book should be. It has all the features we expect with contents pages, glossary, bibliography, credits, headings and subheadings, photographs, graphs, symbols and timelines all sandwiched between a shiny, colourful, glossy cover. Maria Gill is well-known for her dedication and determination to research her subjects to provide readers with the best and most accurate information.

Maria Gill explains what earthquakes are, why they happen and the damage they can cause.  The timeline goes way back in time to some of the first earthquakes and marks many of the strongest ones that occurred. She also explains what to do in an earthquake and how to keep yourself safe which is something everyone in New Zealand needs to know. Having lived through the tragic Canterbury and Christchurch earthquakes, this book brought back many memories but it is good to see everything explained and know that while we cannot predict or stop earthquakes; we can be prepared and that is most important.

The language is easy and informative without being too formal or wordy, making it a suitable choice for everyone. The book is informative and shares links to videos on the internet for further research or explanation. There is also a friendly helper throughout the pages. Maria introduces us to  Rūaumoko the Maori god of earthquakes and volcanoes who helps explain things as readers move from page to page. A lovely addition to this quality book.

Primary schools through to secondary schools will certainly benefit from having this book in their school libraries.

 

 

Flit the fantail and the flying flop

By Written and illustrated by Kat Merewether

ISBN 9781775435105

Scholastic NZ

 

There is so much cuteness in this delightful, fun picture book for young children, that every time I pick it up I can’t help smiling.
Flit is a baby fantail snuggled up safely in his nest. His parents tell him to stay there and wait while they go looking for food. It doesn’t take long before Flit becomes bored and starts wandering about his nest. After stretching out a little too far Flit suddenly finds himself falling down on to the forest floor unable to fly back up to his nest. He seeks the help of many other forest birds to try to find a way back. Wonderful illustrations highlight the many native birds, bushes and trees we have in New Zealand. Lookout for Flit’s wee friend the ladybird who is with him all the way and on almost every double page spread. The language is fun with lots of alliteration and onomatopoeia which makes it a delightful book to read aloud.
This book offers a great message about friendships and supporting each other. There is also a lovely message about having the courage to try new things and believing in yourself. I also love the idea that sometimes things don’t work out the first time we try but if we keep trying and don’t give up, then we will eventually find a way to achieve what we set out to do.
This would be ideal in kindergartens, pre-schools and would be a lovely choice for young readers. Even in early primary school classes this would be a good introduction to New Zealand flora and fauna.

My Grandfather’s War

By Glyn Harper

Illustrated by Jenny Cooper

ISBN 9781775592990

EKBooks

 

Over the last few years there have many books published about World War One; picture books, novels for children and young adults, and rightly so. As the 100th Anniversary came around we remembered all that happened. We thought about war heroes, soldiers who gave so much, families destroyed, countries torn apart and the endless pain and suffering of so many people. We remembered them.

However, there is another war that needs recognition too. The Vietnam War is the topic of this thoughtful new picture book My Grandfather’s War  by Glyn Harper and illustrated by Jenny Cooper. The author and illustrator have worked on a number of books together before and continue to bring us quality stories and thoughtful illustrations.

Sarah loves the time she spends with her grandfather. They play games together and he takes her to and from school each day. He walks with a limp from an injury he got a long time ago but Sarah has always been warned not to ask Grandpa about this. All she knows is that he fought in the Vietnam War and that this sometimes makes him very sad.

Like many inquisitive children Sarah wanted to know about the Vietnam War and why it made her Grandpa sad. Sarah tried to find out from books at school but she had no luck. Her best option was to ask Grandpa himself. So she did.

Sarah’s grandfather took his time but he told her about the war in Vietnam. He told her how awful it was fighting in the jungle in a war where chemicals were used, as well as guns. The chemicals did so much damage to soldiers that many of the next few generations were affected.

The soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War were not welcomed back like heroes of World War One. Many became sick over the years and for many the sickness spread to the next generation.

This is a thoughtful book where the author has obviously carefully considered how much information to share with young readers and how much to hold back. The illustrations are warm and expressive with Sarah and her grandfather, The illustrations of the jungle and the war itself are reflective of her grandfathers memories but still are not too confronting for young readers.

This book is well worth further exploration and you can find some teacher notes to assist with any discussions you might have, by clicking here and scrolling to the book on the publisher’s website.

 

 

Scaredy Book

By Devon Sillett

Illustrated by Cara King

ISBN 9781925335682

EKBooks

 

                                                                               It’s not always easy to be brave!

 Book lives in the library where it is warm, peaceful and most importantly, safe. However, he begins to think about the outside world but is too scared to leave the library.  Book sees danger everywhere and it stops him from trying. He sees his book friends go out and come back ripped, sticky and sometimes, some never come back.

One day Book sees a little girl named Emma and plucks up the courage to attract her attention. Emma picks him up and hugs him, just the way we all hug our favourite books. Emma takes him out in to the sunshine and Book finally sees a whole new world where lots of good things happen. Stepping out of his comfort zone took courage but Book is now able to reap the rewards and enjoy so many new things in his life.

Aimed at younger readers, this picture book is ideal for children who may be a little anxious about the world around them. It encourages children to find the strength within themselves to try new things, to take risks and make new friends along the way.

The illustrations are warm and colourful. The end pages in particular, are very cute and have sweet images of Book as he tries new things, like tennis, listening to music or bouncing on a trampoline. His cute smiles show us that he is having fun and thoroughly enjoying his new experiences. 

Teacher notes are a great way to explore this book even more.

 

 

Long way down

By Jason Reynolds

Illustrated by Chris Priestley

ISBN 9780571335114

Those who follow this blog probably know how much I love verse novels. I love everything about them, especailly the language and how it can pack a punch.  Long way down  knocked me sideways. William Holloman’s brother has just been murdered. He wishes he had laughed more at his brother’s dumb jokes because he won’t ever get the chance again. His brother is dead. Tragedy seeps through every page of this book. The language is real and gritty. It is powerful, beautiful and haunting.

After his brother’s death Will knows one thing for sure. He must follow the rules.

  1. Don’t cry
  2. Don’t snitch
  3.  Get revenge

It is raw and dark and I will think about Will for a long, long time. After reading this book I had to just sit awhile and reflect on the lives of the characters. The reality is that there are many William Hollomans in this world and we need to change this. How? I don’t know the answer but something has to change for people like William. They get caught up in the world of poverty, gangs, hardship and anger. This book takes us in to Will’s world, and his thoughts. It is a dark and scary world and as tough as he is trying to be, we see his vulnerability. We hear his thoughts and we find ourselves caring for him in a way only good writing can make us. An amazing insight into the sad and desparate life of a young man looking for revenge. Loved it so much. Need to read again.

Listen to the first few pages being read by the author. 

Oh, So Many Kisses!

By Maura Finn

Illustrated by Jenny Cooper

ISBN 9781775434924

A sweet picture book for preschoolers all about the wonderful warm kisses babies and children receive from everyone who loves them. So many different kisses. Fast, slow and tickly kisses are just a few. Kisses from mums, dads, grandads, and kisses for teddy bears, cats and dogs. My favourite are the slimy frog kisses. The illustration of the frogs is just gorgeous, as is the one of the pigs and the cat and her kitten. Jenny Cooper’s illustrations beautifully capture the humour and fun of Maura Finn’s story. The book provides a lovely rhythm and rhyme with a simplicity making it easily remembered by young children as it gets read again and again.  A lovely picture book to share and snuggle up close with a wee one.

 

Kiwi One and Kiwi Two

By Stephanie Thatcher

ISBN 9781775434962

 

 

Stephanie Thatcher does cute and does it very well.  There is definitely lovely cuteness in her illustrations of New Zealand wildlife in this delightful picture book about two cheeky kiwi who decide to wake up all the animals in the bush one night. Pukeko, fantails, kereru, gecko, and others are all woken from their sleep by Kiwi One and Kiwi Two. As we all know, kiwi are up during the night and here they are keen to play with their friends who really should be sleeping. However, now that the animlas and birds have been woken up, they start playing games, with Kiwi One and Kiwi Two. They venture all over the forest but it isn’t long though before the animals become sleepy again and return to bed.   The two young kiwi are still wide awake so keep going until dawn.  A lovely book to send to family overseas reminding them of our wonderful wildlife. Look out for the illustration of the exhausted pukeko as it is just delightful.

The book allows for discussions on what it is for animals or birds to be nocturnal and perhaps even why children need to go to bed when they are told to and why sleep is so important.

 

 

The Stolen Stars of Matariki

By Miriama Kamo

Illustrated by Zak Waipara

ISBN 9781775435402

 

 

There are usually nine stars in the Matariki star cluster but when Grandma, Poua and the children look up one night, there are only seven. Te Mata Hāpuku, which is also known as Birdling’s Flat is where Sam and Te Rerehua love to visit their Grandma and Pōua and it was there that they realised the stars were missing. The beach is wild and windy and the ground is covered in stones, millions of grey stones but hidden among them, are agates, coloured gemstones. They love searching for the agates by day and going eeling at night. It is a wonderful family tradition and one that inspired  Miriama Kamo to write this book.
The mystery of the missing stars takes the children on a night time adventure as they go searching for the stars.

Matariki is such a special time in the New Zealand calendar that it is always a pleasure to find a new picture book with a focus on different aspects. A family tradition of telling tales and spending time together makes this extra special.

 

 

 

Nee Naw and the Cowtastrophe

By Deano Yipadee

Illustrated by Paul Beavis

ISBN 9781775435174

This is another book in the adventures of Nee Naw the little fire engine who despite his little size, ends up in situations where he must overcome challenges. This time, Nee Naw has to rescue Ploppy the cow  who happens to become stuck up a very, very tall tree. An accompanying CD is great for young ones to listen to as they look through the pictures.

Paul Beavis illustrations, as always, are bright and quirky and bring Nee Naw and his friends to life. The characters are  easily recognisable from book to book and no doubt familiar to fans of Nee Naw books.

 

 

 

 

 

Dragonfly: Book One

 The Zingoshi Chronicles

By Bridget Ellis-Pegler

ISBN 9780473417093

 

Augmented Reality is getting better and better. Check out the trailer to a new fantasy novel series The Zingoshi Chronicles using augmented reality. So cool. Just download the free App when you buy the book and have fun bringing the characters to life. I spent quite some time making the charaters dance. There is also a website where you can not only buy the book, but have fun doing different activities. There is a whole team of people working on this new series and even a club you can join to have even more fun. Check the fun here.

 

Flamingo Boy

By Michael Morpurgo

ISBN 9780008134648

HarperCollinsPublishers

I am always in awe of Michael Morpurgo’s ability to weave stories that take you back in time and leave you in a world where you experience everything as if you are right there with the characters.  In his latest book Flamingo Boy, I found myself so involved with the characters and what was happening to them, that I held my breath at times and needed tissues to continue.  We begin with a boy named Vincent who likes to draw and suddenly we are in France and the middle of WW2.

Renzo is Flamingo Boy, a young autistic boy who has the gentleness to heal injured birds and animals but also the anger and rage of someone unable to cope with change. He sees the best in people but fears the world he doesn’t understand. 

The story is set in the unique landscape of the Camargue in the South of France during WW2. Renzo lives with his parents on their farm among the salt flats surrounded by flamingos. His life is simple and very much routine, as any change at all can unsettle him for weeks on end. One special treat is going to the market to ride the carousel and his favourite animal on the ride is the horse. The carousel becomes pivotal to the story and symbolically it represents so much more, but mostly it offers hope. His family befriends the Roma family and their daughter Kezia who run the carousel. Roma people are hated as much as the Jews during war time so when the Germans take over the town, Renzo and his parents hide Kezia’s family. 

This is a powerful book in many ways. We see destruction as a result of war and how it affects everyone on both sides. We see what it like to be different from others and how hard it is to fit in, whether being Roma or being autistic. We do however, see the value of friendships and trust. We see so much love and hope in this book that I think it should be in schools everywhere. A very moving story that will stay with me for a very long time.

 

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!

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!