Coming home

By Michael Morpurgo

Available at Waitrose

robin

A plucky little robin sets out on an epic journey. Through dark forests, driving rain, clapping thunder and flashing lights.

I am a huge fan of Michael Morpurgo and buy his books all the time. I love how his new book also helps Crisis a UK charity for homeless people. This is so needed, especially at Christmas time.

I have already ordered my copy and can’t wait until it arrives in the post all the way over here in New Zealand.

Do sit back and enjoy Michael reading his new book. Copyright of course to  Waitrose.

 

Last night was a disastrous night here in New Zealand with multiple earthquakes and aftershocks. Sadly two fatalities and lots of damage. We are strong, having been through these before but it is still horrible to endure. SO I want to bring some cheer to those who are feeling shattered and on edge (like me).

I am sharing a video for Christmas. Copyright of course belongs to John Lewis.

Enjoy and for those in affected areas, please stay safe. Kia Kaha.

This is a difficult post to write but one I must. 

This is not about the history of the shop, or the owner’s experiences or even the fate of the shop (although I am ever hopeful a buyer will be found). None of that is my story to write. This is about my ten years experience working in one of the most wonderful bookshops ever.

I worked every Saturday and many of the school holidays for the last ten years. The best holiday to work was the build up to Christmas where everyone was full of excitement and book chat.  We had the perfect location, right in the heart of Victoria Street in a quirky building with lots of nooks and crannies. The big earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 changed all that but we dusted ourselves off and started again in a different part of town.

What I gained from my years of working as a retail assistant was a growing confidence in myself. I had to approach customers and begin conversations, something I was always intimidated by before. Over the years, these customers have become friends. I know their children, I know their likes and dislikes. I have hugged customers as they cried when telling me why they are buying a special book for a wee child. Stories about a young dad dying or siblings who have died. I remember helping a young mother with book choices for her children and wrapping them for Christmas presents, knowing she had cancer. Sadly she died a few weeks later.

Then there are the grandparents who religiously come in every birthday, Easter and Christmas. They are all like family. We don’t just sell books and gifts, we listen. We listen and even on occasions look at their family photos.

I have attended many publishers Road Shows which I will miss. I loved finding out what new books were coming out and felt I was privy to special secrets. I have had the privilege of meeting so many fantastic authors and illustrators from New Zealand and internationally. I’ve had wonderful conversations with Margaret Mahy, Andy Griffiths, Derek Landy and so many more. I have chatted with Michael Morpurgo (my absolute hero) and even been kissed on the cheek by him. Years later, my right cheek is still unwashed.

I was so fortunate to have my own book launch at the shop. A wonderful setting, a fantastic night with wine and nibbles, and an amazing cake. I felt like royalty, thoroughly spoiled by so many friends all thanks to the support of staff at the shop.

What saddens me about the closing of this wonderful shop, is not just a personal loss of a job I have loved, but what it means to the city of Christchurch and children’s literature in general.  We were specialists and while other bookshops sold much the same as we did, we also sold those books that were unique, beautiful and sophisticated. We were not afraid to come out from behind the counter and talk with our customers.

I will miss my wonderful colleagues, Jane, Louise, Pru and Mary, my boss, and Jamie who had recently moved on to another job. I will miss having somewhere special to go every Saturday. I will miss our wonderful customers. I miss my old friend, The Original Children’s Bookshop more than I thought I ever could. I feel like I have lost an old friend and am grieving for that friend. 

A few Saturdays ago when news became public about our liquidation, the shop was so full with customers coming in. Many of them cried, sad we were closing.  Customers just hugged us openly and in shock. Emotionally it was an incredibly tough day but I feel so proud to have been part of this very special place and to have travelled with them for as long as I have.

Is it the end? I hope not. Will it be bought? I hope so. Will I stop crying? One day!

As they say, never say never. I live in hope. And please, please, shop local. Keep our bookshops alive.

A great selection of new picture books from Scholastic NZ . Great for toddlers through to about six years old but really, you are never too old for picture books.

 

Parakeet in boots

By Chris Gurney

Illustrated by Myles Lawford

ISBN 9781775434382

boots

The latest in the Kiwi Corkers series is just as funny and quirky as others in this popular series. The traditional stories take a journey through New Zealand shores. Here we have a new take on the familiar Puss in Boots with a parakeet collecting paua in his kete. Bright, colourful illustrations add to the humour of this story. He really is a very confident and somewhat manipulative Parakeet but he does what he does for all the right reasons and we share delight in the happy ending.

 

 

Dinosaur hunting

By Lucy Davey

Illustrated by Kirsten Richards

ISBN 9781775433958

hunting

Dinosaurs are hiding everywhere, behind trees, and even in the clouds if you look closely. A fun story of a little boy going for a walk with his dad and enjoying the world of imagination. A sweet circular story where the ordinary becomes a little more interesting thanks to a vivid imagination. Dad offers fun and support, especially when it seems the dinosaurs might be getting just a little too close for comfort.

 

Hush : a kiwi lullaby

By Joy Cowley

Illustrations by Andrew Burdan

Maori lyrics by Ngaere Roberts

Sung by June Pitman-Hayes

ISBN 9781775433125

Includes bonus CD in English and Maori

lullaby

This is an old traditional song but with a very kiwi feel. The illustrations are soft and warm creating a very gentle mood and feel to the book. It is matched beautifully with the sweet tones of the singer on the bonus CD. It is nice to see a glossary of Maori terms at the back of the book to encourage listeners and readers to take pride in our Maori language.

As baby is lulled to sleep we are introduced to kunekune pigs, paua, tui, silver ferns and much more. This is a perfect book for new parents who want to spend some gentle time with their precious  wee ones

 

 

The Kiwi Hokey Tokey

Illustrated by Stevie Mahardhika

Sung by Pio Terei

Maori lyrics by Ngaere Roberts

ISBN 9781775434115

Includes Bonus CD in English and Maori

 

kiwi

The Kiwi Hokey Tokey is a very catchy song which children will love dancing to and performing the different actions. Lots of fun and of course introduction to Maori words make this a good one to add to any junior library or home collection. My favourites are the farmyard flash mob, the dancing kunekune pigs and the cheeky fantails.  The illustrations are full of character and humour. Another very Kiwi book to delight young children or to send to friends overseas.

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Bruce wants to go faster

By Dreydon Sobanja

Illustrated by Murray Dewhurst

Foreword by Sir Colin Giltrap

ISBN 9780473360627

Inspired kids

 

 

bruce

 

I confess I do not know one end of a car from the other – well maybe I do, but that is about all I know of cars so when I began reading this book I was totally surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I was taken along for the ride with Bruce and loved every minute of it and even learned a few things about cars too.

Bruce McLaren was no different to most 11 year old boys. He had dreams just like everyone else and for Bruce he wanted to go fast and not just fast, but faster than anyone else. His dreams hit a massive hurdle in the name of Perthes Syndrome which left him spending two years with his legs in plaster and confined to a special Bradshaw Frame bed. He spent those two years in the Wilson Home for Crippled Children but he never gave up. He would spend time racing around the wards at night in his gurney when the nurses had gone home. His legs were in plaster but also held in place at the ankles so that he basically had no movement at all, as his legs were kept in one position all that time.

I couldn’t imagine being confined to bed for two years and then even after his release from the home  he was confined to bed. He even had to learn to walk all over again. However, he didn’t let it get him down. Instead he made plans for racing and for his future.

He later went on to become one of the world’s best drivers and car designers and winning races as he sped around the tracks.

One of the highlights for me with this book, is that Bruce overcame so many hurdles, and never gave up. Instead he kept striving to be better and faster. And he succeeded. He still remains today as one of New Zealand’s most famous names in the Motorsports industry.

There are so many highlights for Bruce that to name them all here would spoil the reading of this wonderful biography.

This really is a very special book about overcoming obstacles, daring to dream when the world seems against you, being resilient and believing in yourself.  I do think this is one for teachers to take notice of specially with the excellent glossary at the back. It is a glossary with a difference. Rather than explaining terms in the book, it explains concepts about what it takes to become whatever it is you want to be. Being brave, being ready to start again, change your dreams and mostly never giving up.

Perfect for every school library, but also a great gift to give to someone special. An inspiring book encouraging children to believe in themselves.

Marmaduke Duck and the Christmas Calamity

By Juliette MacIver

Illustrated by Sarah Davis

ISBN 9781775433903

Scholastic 2016
duck

 

 

Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis are a much-loved team, with Juliette’s funny, quirky tales and Sarah’s delightful illustrations. The tales of Marmaduke Duck are found in every school library and read by hundreds of children and teachers who laugh over the antics of Marmaduke and his companions. The latest adventure is just as funny. Here we meet cheeky wee elves, reindeer and of course Santa himself. I can’t help but smile when I look at Polar Bear. He does seem a bit of a drama queen and more of a worrier than the other animals.

It is a a bit of a calamity when Santa and the reindeer tumble over a cliff and become stuck  in the snow below.  The presents need to be delivered  but Santa is stuck so fast he just won’t be able to make it in time. So ever the helpful duck, Marmaduke and his friends come to the rescue of Christmas.

A funny, feel-good story to share every Christmas.

 

 

A kiwi night before Christmas (Limited edition)

By Yvonne Morrison

Illustrated by Deborah Hinde

ISBN 9781775434276

Scholastic

kiwi

The traditional christmas story by Clement C. Moore takes a very Kiwi turn in this reprint of the kiwi classic.

How much more Kiwi can you get with a Christmas that has a bach, sheep and a black t-shirt, gumboot-wearing Santa on a tractor.

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all round the bach,

Not a possum was stirring; not one we could catch.

Great to share with young ones and great for teachers to read-aloud for fun. Would also be good to make comparisons with Moore’s original text and compare Christmas in the different hemispheres. Good also to look at kiwiana but just as good to read for fun.

 

Jingle Bells, Rudolph smells (with bonus CD)

By Deano Yipadee

Illustrated by Paul Beavis

ISBN 9781775433859

Scholastic

This is one of those books that children will laugh at over and over again. The familar tune of the chorus makes it easy for children to remember the words to sing along to, with the accompanying CD.

What happens when Santa’s sleigh gets stuck on a roof? Who will help Santa and save Christmas? And what does a smelly reindeer have to do with this? You will just have to read the book to find out but be assured young ones will love it.

Paul Beavis’s illustrations are bright, comical and full of personality.

 

jingle

I have always loved books and reading. Always!  I do also love special gift packages of books. So today I am highlighting a few special ones which will make ideal gifts for Christmas.

 

The Topp Twins Treasury of Sing-along stories

Illustrated by Jenny Cooper

ISBN 9781775434306

Scholastic

topp

 

Do your ears hang low?

There’s a whole in my bucket  (My favourite)

The Farmer in the Dell

She’ll be coming round the mountain

Dingle-dangle scarecrow

 

I remember singing these songs as a young child and they had been around for donkeys years before me so it is wonderful to see them beautifully illustrated in picture book format. You can read the stories, laugh out loud at the flying pigs or the goat and chicken as they lament over a hole in their bucket. Or you can just sing along with or without the book in front of you. Available previously as single titles, it is nice to see this compilation. This would make a lovely gift for someone special.

Jenny Cooper’s illustrations seem to be everywhere or perhaps it is because I love her work so much that I search for it them in every bookshop. Just another reason to love this compilation.

Listen along to the CD with brilliant singing from the Topp Twins. Great for a car ride or to sing along with on the drive to school or just sitting in a corner, listening and reading along to the CD on a lazy Sunday.

 

 

The little yellow digger (Book and jigsaw puzzle box set)

Betty and Alan Gilderdale

ISBN 9781775434313

Scholastic

5

When digging out a drain, the little yellow digger gets stuck in the mud. So they bring in a bigger digger …

and guess what happens to the bigger digger?

This classic story about a little yellow digger getting stuck in the mud is back in a gorgeous sturdy box set with a 48 piece jigsaw. The pieces are large and perfect for young hands. Great for extending the value of this classic rhyming book and the whole reading experience.  Perfect present for pre-schoolers.

 

Kiwi Corkers

Great New Zealand yarns : small gift bag

ISBN 9781775434269

Scholastic

6

A small gift tote filled with five Kiwi Corker tales.

The frog footy player by Chris Gurney

The tuatara and the skink by Yvonne Morrison

The ugly hatching by Yvonne Morrison

The little blue duck by Chris Gurney

The three cattle dogs gruff by Chris Gurney

 

The Kiwi Corker series is very popular in schools and particularly with teachers who use them when looking at traditional stories and  fractured fairy tales. Working in school I know how important it is that children get to know fairy tales. They offer so much and even when reading Young Adult books, there are often references to fairy tales that will be missed if children do not know the basic tales.

Reading these retellings is a fun way to enjoy the stories and reflect on the differences, mostly with the addition of heaps of humour. A very kiwi feel to each story with tuataras, kiwis, and pukeko too. A nice gift to send to family and friends overseas.

I am reminded of  Albert Einstein’s quote about fairy tales.

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

Traditional fairy tales or retellings, either way, reading these will be pure fun.

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Fox and Goldfish

By Nils Pieters

ISBN 9780994128218

Book Island

foxgoldfish_cover_200dpi

This beautiful book is wordless, apart from the first and second-to-last pages. Fox’s friend Goldfish is dying and he wants to make the most of Goldfish’s last days.  So Fox takes Goldfish on a trip – very much a bucket-list trip before his impending death. They swim in the ocean, visit mountains, dance in the rain and enjoy quality time making wonderful memories together.  It is a wonderful book on the value of true friendship and loyalty. Gloriously bright, bold illustrations create a sense of warmth and wonder as the two friends journey together towards Goldfish’s final sunset. Heart-warming.

While it is one of those books for special occasions, it is also just a lovely story to enjoy.

Teacher notes can be found here.

 

 

Here comes Mr Postmouse

By Marianne Dubuc

Translated by Greet Pauwelijn

ISBN 9780994128201

Book Island

 

 

here-comes-mr-postmouse-300-dpi_0

Mr Postmouse visits many different animal houses on his daily rounds as he delivers their letters. Very much like a cross-section we take a look inside the homes of the animal houses. We look at underground homes, homes in trees, and even homes in the sea. There is lots to look at and lots to find. Even Red-Riding Hood makes a specail guest appearance behind one of the trees. Snake rather cutely slithers over several pages. This is defiitely a book to read over and over and little readers will no doubt find something different each time they read it. I know there were things I missed the first time I read this book.

Here comes Mr Postmouse is in a hardback, portrait-size format making it ideal to sit and share with someone special.

Brobot

By James Foley

ISBN 9781925163919

Fremantle Press

 

9781925163919_rgb-2

 

“Sally is the world’s foremost inventor under the age of twelve, and she just knows she can build a better brother than the messy, smelly version she has. Sally’s invention – Brobot – is fantastic, that is until the remote gets broken and Brobot careens out of control. Sally realises that maybe there’s more to a brother than just his inconveniences”

 

What a brilliant cover. The blue is beautiful and bright and just calls for the book to be picked up. This is a great introduction the the graphic novel format for young readers. The very funny illustrations are broken up with just the right amount of text for newly independent readers. I love the very comical expressive eyes particular when Sally gets mad. They really are a window to the soul and in this case, Sally’s honest big-sister frustrations are quite obvious. This is very funny, especially for those readers with younger siblings. I mean who hasn’t thought of ways to dispense with, or swap a younger brother or sister – momentarily of course! Sally does find that her creation isn’t quite what she hoped for but her little brother seems to be totally oblivious to her plans and sits their looking perfectly cute. I do think this would make an ideal little series so I hope there are more adventures with Sally.

An ideal book to encourage creative  and makerspace thinking.

 

Teaching notes found here.

Ottoline and the purple fox

Written and illustrated by Chris Riddell

ISBN 9781447277927

Macmillan Children’s Books

 

5

To regular readers of my blog it is no secret that I am a huge fan of the works by illustrator and writer Chris Riddell. If you pick up a copy of the latest book in his Ottoline series it isn’t hard to see why I love his work. Or why his work is regarded so highly and why I continue to buy his books. (Actually I have to buy two of each of his books – one for the school library I work in and one for me). The illustrations are just delightful and Ottoline is a superb character.
Ottoline is strong, sensible and kind. She lives with her friend Mr Munroe who is small and hairy and came from a bog in Norway. Hie eyes are about all you can see through his long, long hair. Together they live in the Pepperpot Building while her parents are off all over the world collecting things.
There are lots of different characters in her building, all wonderfully kind and beautifully drawn.  I love that this is a sweet, funny feel-good story. Friendship is a strong theme throughout all the Ottoline books and you know what – sometimes that is all we need in a good book. Sometimes we just need to look around us and see what is right in front of our noses.
I laughed out loud when I saw Ottoline with copies of Goth Girl, a cheeky wee nod by Chris Riddell to his other wonderful series Goth Girl.  (And yes – I have all those books too).
Author Chris Riddell is the current Children’s Laureate and you can find out more about him and what he does right here.
Copyright of the video belongs to Macmillan of course.

Shooting stars

By Brian Falkner

ISBN 9781775433606

Scholastic NZ

November release.

5

Egan Tucker is fifteen and has been in hiding his entire life. But things are about to change. Forced to leave his home, he must venture out into a world that is unlike anything he has ever known. He is not ready for this world. And the world is not ready for Egan.

Egan has lived his whole life hidden from the world, protected by his mother who snatched him away when she ran from an abusive husband. For fifteen years they have lived in the forest, surviving on the wilds of nature. He knows the bush and forests of the Coromandel Peninsula so well. It provides all their needs. He spends much of his time scouting the bush, hunting pigs with CrackerJack, his faithful dog. On one of these hunts he meets DOC deer culler J. T. Hunter and this encounter changes everything for Egan. They become friends and for Egan who has known no-one else except his mother, this relationship becomes an important aspect of the novel. Then Egan’s mother goes missing and he finds himself in Auckland searching for his moma. Auckland is a world of noise and people, cars and technology. It is a world he has only read about and his adjustment is both difficult and intriguing. The language of the street kids he encounters is foreign to him but he is determined.

He may be well-educated from the books he has read, mostly from second-hand classics his mother has bought him over the years but he is also very naive. These books are the reasons he wants to be a writer and the reason he writes his diary.  I love how Egan is both gullible and strong which comes through perfectly in his diaryand his relationships with the street kids he meets.

His mother has taught him a set of codes to live by and these codes guide him whenever he faces different or difficult situations.

I was totally swept away with Egan and his life. Falkner’s quality writing made these people very real.

This is certainly a story with a difference and one that will be enjoyed by many teen readers for its action and great characters.

After reading this book, the thought occurred to me that this would make a good movie.

 

We found a hat

By Jon Klassen

ISBN 9781406347517

Walker Books

Readers of the first two hat books will delight in this third and final picture book in the hat trilogy.  We found a hat is funny in a dry sense of humour way that leaves you smiling and feeling good.

Two turtles have found a hat.

The hat looks good on both of them.

But there are two turtles.

And there is only one hat.

In both This is not my hat and I want my hat back, there are consequences for actions, most drastic of course is being eaten. Here though, we have a sense of the growing understanding of the value of friendship. Even though both turtles want the hat, we see a mutual acceptance of the situation.

Klassen, even in the simplest of illustrations has the ability to use characters eyes to really show expression. I love the eyes in all of his books. They show character and personality, both good and bad thoughts and are certainly a highlight in his storytelling.

This is one of those special picture books that adults will love as much as children and one that will be read over and over again.

 

I love this trailer too and couldnt resist singing (very badly) along side the video. Another wonderful book from Jon Klassen and Walker Books.

As always, cover and trailer are copyright to Walker Books.

 

Small things

By Mel Tregonning

ISBN 9781742379791

Allen&Unwin

9781742379791-2

 

I have had this book at home for some time now but I have struggled to write this review. I struggled to find words  that would adequately do justice to this book’s beauty. It is one of the most powerful books I have read in a long time. It is a wordless graphic novel for older readers and throws such a punch that I was left breathless. This book hits us with everything it has. Quality, beauty, sadness, hope all woven together with the most stunning illustrations.

Mel Tregonning’s illustrations capture feelings with such honesty that it is at times confronting. A young boy  is obviously so overwhelmed by his feelings of inadequacy and isolation that his world begins to fall apart. Indeed, it is the young boy himself who begins, bit by bit to crumble. His growing sense of sadness and loneliness is so raw and real it begins to eat away at him. At times when he is desperately trying to fit in, he fumbles, feeling others laughing at him and starts blushing. Despite the illustrations being black and white, Mel Tregonning captures his embarrassment through clever shading and we can feel his pain acutely. 

I so wanted to grab this boy, pull him out of the dark pages and his dark world, hold him close and hug him forever. He situation is so real and sadly all too common. However, there is also hope and the lovely sense of a friendship just starting to bud. 

I strongly believe this book is bound for all sorts of awards and deservedly so. It is with such sadness that the illustrator who died in 2014 will not be around to see the impact her beautiful book has had.

Much has been made of the fact that Mel Tregonning took her own life but rather than focus on this I want to point out that the author and illustrator Shaun Tan illustrated the last three illustrations to complete this book. For me, this highlights the fact that at times we all need help and is one of the most powerful messages in this book. 

Yes, this book moved me to tears but it is a book and story we need to read. We need to talk about depression, loneliness, sadness and how to deal with these issues. It is not for young readers. I will restrict this book to year six only (10 years up). There is so much to unpack and discuss with this book. For teachers and parents it is a great book to use to begin those awkward conversations that if left unspoken, could become worse. Sometimes, all we need to know is that we are not alone and that others feel the same way we do.

I love this book for so many reasons but mostly for its gutsy honesty and the message that we need to reach out, either for help, or to help.

Teacher notes available here for both primary and secondary schools.

1916 Dig for Victory

By David Hair

Kiwis at War series

ISBN 9781775432784

Scholastic NZ

5-2

While obviously there are no longer any soldiers left alive from the First World War to talk about their experiences, I do believe David Hair has captured their time realistically and honestly. This novel is well researched and covers daily life in the trenches.   We witness the young men digging the trenches, dealing with attacks from the German side and the very real day-to-day threat of injury or death.

As the Maori contingents join up with the Otago lads (many who are actually young Scots with a fierce sense of being New Zealanders) we see a definite clash of cultures.  The racist overtones of some of the men have the potential to damage the morale and therefore their ability to work well as a team.

Leith McArran is part of the group shovelling dirt to make the trenches when he is teamed up with an obviously under-age young Maori boy Tamati Baines. I loved watching the relationship between these two young men and how it grew from strength to strength. Their relationship highlights the need to have someone you can count on in the worst of times and as this book shows so well, these were the worst of times.

A  solid account of the First World War and life on the Somme battlefield.

In a letter to a nun back in New Zealand Tamati sums up  poignantly the feelings of many of the soldiers.

I can feel the darkness closing in. One by one, the colours leave us. Gone is yellow, gone is green. Blue is fading, turning to grey. Only brown remains, a brown world of dun-clothed men, whose bodies turn slowly to mud. The night awaits.

What more can I say? A must have for intermediate and high school libraries.

Mice of the Round Table: a tale of Camelot

By Julie Leung

Illustrated by Lindsey Carr

ISBN 9780062403995

Harper Collins  (Read a sample cahapter)

Oh my! This is just adorable. The trailer is brilliant and I can not wait to get my hands on a copy of this book. The plot is perfect for middle grade readers who love adventure, danger, history, knights and good old fashioned quests. I love how a good trailer can totally grab your attention and lead you to books you might possibly not know about or perhaps, might not even pick up. For people who doubt the ability of trailers to attract readers, this trailer should prove otherwise.

It might be sometime before it hits New Zealand and UK shores but do mark it down as one to get when it does.

From the author’s website.

Young mouse Calib Christopher dreams of the day when he will become a Knight of Camelot like his father and grandfather before him. For generations, Calib’s family has lived among the mice that dwell beneath the human Knights of the Round Table, defending the castle they all call home. Calib just hopes he will be able to live up to the Christopher name.

Then, on the night of the annual Harvest Tournament, tragedy strikes. The mice suspect the Darklings are behind the vicious sneak attack, but Calib has his doubts, so he sets off on a quest for the truth. Venturing deep into the woods beyond the castle walls, Calib and his friend Cecily discover that a threat far greater than the Darklings is gathering, and human and animal knights alike are in grave danger.

With help from a host of unlikely new allies, including a young human boy named Galahad, Calib must get the Mice of the Round Table and the Darklings to put aside their differences and fight together. Only then will they be strong enough to save Camelot.