I think I might have to move into the new library as it has only been opened three days and I have already been there two out of three. 

Today I attended the Gareth Ward writing workshop and found it very inspiring. His ideas on the writing structure were very useful. Lots of things to consider when writing and the keen writers in the room listened to his every word.

His Young Adult novel The Traitor and the Thief  (Walker Books) won the Storylines Tessa Duder Award and was a finalist in the 2018 NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

 

Caught picking pockets at Coxford’s Corn Market, 14-year-old Sin is offered a way out of his life of crime: join the Covert Operations Group (COG) and train to become a spy. At Lenheim Palace, he learns spy craft and is befriended by eccentric Zonda Chubb. After an assassination attempt on the founder of COG, they endeavour to unmask the traitor. Sin is then forced into an uneasy alliance with the school bully, Velvet Von Darque. But can he trust her? And will COG try to bury him with the secrets he discovers?

 

I’m very much looking forward to reading my signed copy of his book. If you ever get the chance to attend one of his writing sessions, I urge you to go for it. Well worth it.

Thanks to Turanga for making this possible. 

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I spent a wonderful afternoon at the opening of Turanga our amazing new central library. After the earthquakes our old library was closed and as incredibly sad as it was to lose our library, we have been blessed with a brilliant new one. It is beautiful, stunning, a masterpiece in design and just what our city needs. There is so much to do in the new library. There are function rooms to hire, places to buy food, eat and relax. You can even sit on the stairs, plug in and charge your devices.

The stairs are an artwork on their own. When we were waiting for the mayor to cut the ribbon and declare the library open, the crowd were looking up at the librarians on the floors above us, while they were looking down at us. Cameras and phones clicking away, everyone smiling and it reminded a few of us of the scene from City of Angels where all the angels were looking down. It was a wonderful feeling because I do secretly think librarians are much like angels with their kindness, friendliness, and willingness to help.

A huge congratulations to everyone involved in this massive but essential undertaking. There are 180,000 books, a 200-seat theatre and a $1 million touch screen which was very cool and so easy to spend time exploring. Layers and layers of things to swipe, and zoom in on and discover our city and its history. I spent my time in the children’s section, of course and already can’t wait to return.

Our city has its hub and its heart back.

The Mayor of Christchurch after cutting the ribbon and officially opening the library.

 


Beautiful sculpture on the stairs (before ribbon cutting)

 

 

 

The touch wall – way to easy to lose track of time playing on this wall.

 

 

 

Dear Professor Whale

By Megumi Iwasa

Illustrated by Jun Takabatake

ISBN 9781776572076

Gecko Press

One of the pleasures from reading a book published by Gecko Press, is the feel-good feeling you are left with when you close the cover. Dear Professor Whale is one such book that left me with a smile on my face.

This is a follow-up to Yours sincerely, Giraffe. It shares the same pleasure and wonder of written letters and new friendships discovered through correspondence. We are so caught up in the story, that we totally accept and believe that two whales are writing to each other across the seas. We also believe that seal is the one delivering the letters. Professor is the only whale for miles around. He misses his old friends who left Whale Point sometime ago. Once, they used to hold the Whale Point Olympics and he misses all the fun and laughter from those special days. When a letter from young whale Wally, is delivered to him, a friendship develops. Their letters go back and forth and it isn’t long before Professor Whale is keen to hold a new Olympics and so invites his old friends and Wally to be part of a grand event. 

So yes! There is a new Olympics and whales, penguins, seals and even a giraffe come for the special event. Professor Whale is most excited to see his old friends but also to meet his new friend, Wally who has been writing to him. They also discover a connection between them which is special.

There are a couple of special moments where animals make decisions that have consequences for themselves, but the end result shows us the true meaning of friendship. This book reminds us of the important values in life; friendships, communications, caring and of course, fun and teamwork. Short chapters, illustrations, and a good size font make this ideal for a first chapter book. Great also for a short read aloud in class.

The black and white illustrations are delightfully quirky but reveal the different personalities . What’s not to love about this book? Just lovely.

The Wizards of Once: Twice Magic

By Cressida Cowell

ISBN 9781444941425

Hachette Children’s Books

 


I loved the first Wizards of Once book. I’m actually listening to the audio edition for the second time while I wait for the sequel, just released. I love the bright, bold cover which is so appealing. It looks to have the same wonderful features; magic, fantasy, danger, quests, humour and of course, wizards. I just know, this sequel is going to be twice the fun.

As much as Zar and Wish are meant to hate each other, I have a feeling things will change and a growing respect for differences, will be found. 

It is so hard waiting for the next book in a series, sort of like waiting for Christmas. Sometimes I get so excited waiting, that I have to remember that I’m actually an adult and need to be a little patient. Trip to the bookshop very soon.

 

 

This truly impressive book trailer is a collaboration between several groups; students, Duffy Books in Home, Colenso, Bloomsbury Publishers and the New Zealand Book Council.

Statistics show the sad reality that many boys do not read. In an attempt to change these statistics the group have made this fantastic trailer as an incentive to get boys reading. The trailer is based on J. K. Rowling’s book Fantastic Beasts and where to find them.

Hopefully students, boys in particular, will be inspired to read the book before seeing the movie. The trailer is definitely exciting and certainly a wonderful way to hook readers. I’m completely hooked. I love it. The illustrated edition is one of those special, beautifully bound books that make a wonderful gift that becomes a pleasure to read again and again.

Well done to all involved for this top class production. If you want to read a bit more about the process of  making the trailer you can click here. Or you can click here if you want to listen to Jo Cribb (CEO of NZ Book Council) as she discusses Making bookworms of boys. 

As a school librarian I have regularly seen boys and girls watch book trailers and then look for the books on our shelves. It works!

 

Stories of the night

By Kitty Crowther

ISBN 9781776571970

Gecko Press

 

Little Bear asks Mother Bear very politely if she will tell three stories before bed time. Mother Bear obliges and while sitting comfortably on her chair, she begins the stories. The number three has always been significant in fairy tales so having three stories within the one story retains a special fairy tale quality.

The stories are about the night and some of the wonderful things that happen during the hours of darkness. There is a gentle philosophical approach to them which is appealing. We begin with the Night Guardian and her rituals for getting animals to go to sleep. We move on to a child searching for the best blackberries, and then a man in an old coat who never sleeps. In the end we discover that what matters most in the world is friends and family.

The illustrations are a glorious pink reminiscent of the hours when the sun is going down, or coming up in the morning. As Little Bear falls asleep the characters from the stories come to visit in dreams. The glowing pink that surrounds the room and the dream, creates a wonderful warm fuzzy feeling. The illustrations have a retro childlike quality to them which I found delightfully nostalgic. A gorgeous quality story book, to share some quality time together with children.

Keep an eye on this koala

By Scott Tulloch

ISBN 9781775435426

Scott Tulloch has a way with humour. He hooks his readers in with quirky, weird ideas and young readers love it. The more bizarre the better, it seems. With very short chapters, this book is great for readers who love a giggle, but also love a quick and easy read. The illustrations are simple and comical but very expressive.

There is a lot of trickery going on here but things do even out in the end. Koala and Cockatoo look straight at the reader challenging them to perhaps take sides, but mostly, to join in the fun.

Keep an eye on this kiwi

By Scott Tulloch

ISBN 9781775435310

As an early reader chapter book, Scott Tulloch and Scholastic have combined all the elements to get children eager to read. There is humour, illustrations, short chapters and a bright yellow eye-catching cover. We meet Kiwi and a bunch of huhu grubs for some fun and Tulloch trademark cheekiness.

 

Kia Ora : You can be a Kiwi too

By June Pitman-Hayes

Illustrated by Minky Stapleton

Maori lyrics by Ngaere Roberts

ISBN 978 1775435396

Includes bonus CD sung in English and Maori

This is a lovely picture book to gift to new arrivals to New Zealand. It is an inclusive look at our culture and the people who make up our wonderful country.  I love all the greetings in different languages towards the middle of the book. There is also a glossary of Maori words and their translation on the back cover for quick reference. New arrivals are introduced to many of our wildife, our fauna and even our traditions. The book and CD are in both English and Maori. A lovely book to give as a gift but also a lovely reminder of the reasons I love New Zealand.

At the end of Holyrood Lane

By Dimity Powell

Illustrated by Nicky Johnston

ISBN 9781925335767

EKBooks

 

A thoughtful yet subtle picture book dealing with the issue of domestic violence and the affect it has on a young girl. Flick lives at the end of Holyrood Lane where the beech woods stand tall. Flick is a happy child, dancing with butterflies in spring time, basking in the summer sun and playing with the leaves in Autumn. However, winter storms are far from a happy place for Flick. The storms are a metaphor for when home is not a safe place, when the house is full of anger and fear. Domestic violence is hinted at but is not mentioned. The good days have lovely, sweet and warm coloured illustrations but the bad days have grey and black broody clouds and Flick’s happy face turns to one of sadness and fear.

When storms hit, Flick is overwhelmed by the suddeness of it all and not knowing how long it will last or what will happen during the storm. Her companion through all the good and bad days is her faithful and very cute, soft toy unicorn.

Flick is a courageous young girl because after a paritcularly dark  and stormy day, she finally asks for help. She wants the storms to stop; to go away for good. Finally the sun comes out again but this time we know the sun will continue to shine and there will be no more storms. The story is all too often a reality for many children so it is lovely to see it played out here in such a simple and heartfelt way.

This book, while touching on a difficult subject, does offer a happy and hopeful ending. 

For those wanting to investigate this book further, teacher notes can be found here.

 

 

 

Once Upon a Wild Wood

By Chris Riddell

ISBN 9781509817061

Macmillan Children’s Books

Many who have read this blog before know I am a huge fan of illustrator and author, Chris Riddell. His newest picture book, the first in about ten years and only just released, is simply beautiful, stunning and a whole heap of other feel-good adjectives. It arrived at school today and I was so excited I pulled the wrapping off in haste and was smitten. Within in a few minutes I was ordering another copy for a teacher sitting next to me. 

Oh my goodness, where to start!

The hardback cover has a cut out centre. Little Green Rain Cape is framed right in the centre of the cut out, book in hand, as she steps in to the wild wood. We can see the different fairy tale characters peeking out from the trees, all looking directly at the reader. We can’t help but want to step inside the wood with her.

Little Green Rain Cape enters the Wild Wood on her way to a party. Her backpack is full of all the things she might need on the way. She is wise and well prepared for almost anything.

On her journey Little Green meets many of our favourite fairy tale characters but they are not quite where you think they might be. The stories are delightfully mixed up. The golden harp is very fickle and looking for a new owner. The three bears, the 12 dancing princesses, and so many other characters make an entrance. The trees too, are quirky and their facial expressions are gorgeous. They smile and frown and we can see their compassion and their own little personalties. 

I’m in love with the colourful illustrations and the magic and story of the Wild Wood. I am also left hoping there just might be another adventure in the Wild Wood for Little Green Rain Cape.

This is certainly a book to read again and again. Parents will enjoy sharing this with children and talking about fairy tales. Teachers will love it for so many reasons, not just as a picture book to read aloud, but a great resource for creative writing, fractured fairy tale studies and heaps more.

Love it to pieces! 

 

Paraweta

By Stephanie Blake

Translated by Karena Kelly

ISBN 978177652182

Gecko Press

 

Paraweta (Poo Bum Te Reo Maori edition)

Simon is the same little rabbit we have grown to know and love but this time we are lucky to have a Maori language edition of Poo Bum. He is still cheeky and just a little bit naughty but still hugely popular.

I just know this edition will be a hit for our Te Reo readers.

Once there was a little rabbit who could only say one thing… In the morning
his mother would say, ‘Time to get up, my little rabbit!’ He’d reply: ‘Poo bum!’
At lunchtime his father would say, ‘Eat your spinach, my little rabbit!’ He’d
reply: ‘Poo bum!’ 

With naughty children and naughty rabbits too, there is only so much a parent will take, but you will have to read it to see who will have the last word?

The edition comes just in time for Maori Language Week to be held during the week of September 10-16.

Ka pai Gecko Press

My old man he played rugby

By Peter Millett

Illustrated by Jenny Cooper

CD sung by Jay Laga’aia

ISBN 9781775435280

Scholastic NZ

Author Peter Millett has brought us another fun and quirky picture book for young readers.  His focus this time is the very kiwi game of rugby. There are lots of dad’s racing around fields playing rugby. There is lots of crashing and banging, heaving and woo-hooing. There is tackling and kicking and even a scrum. Some dads are better at rugby than others. And if fun isn’t enough, you can count along and learn something about the game of rugby as well.

Based on the traditional tune of This old man, the book comes with a CD sung by Jay Laga’aia. It is one of those tunes that makes you want to sing out loud or even get up and dance.

The colourful, very funny illustrations by Jenny Cooper have a cheekiness to them which will have children and parents laughing out loud. With Father’s Day just around the corner, this very entertaining book would make an ideal present for dad’s and young ones to read together. 

My Storee

By Paul Russell

Illustrated by Aska

ISBN 9781925335774

EKbooks

Published August 2018

 

The young boy of this new picture book is unnamed and therefore he represents many young boys and girls. He could be anyone. He struggles at school with his spelling. The rules of writing don’t make sense to him and when his teacher crosses out all the mistakes with a red pen making them stand out, it only reminds him that he is wrong. With each mistake and each big red cross his confidence suffers. 

He loves writing stories and they tumble around in his head day and night. He writes stories about dragons, unicorn detectives, robot pirates and even alien volcanoes. He writes his stories on paper which then piles up on his bedroom floor. At school however, the writing rules get in the way and his creativity is squashed. He worries so much about getting things right at school that the dragons disappear from his thoughts. It is not until the new teacher, Mr Watson, comes to his class that things begin to change. Mr Watson clearly understands the boys problems and encourages the boy to forget the rules and just write, write and write.

Most of us had that one teacher we remember fondly. The one who made a difference, who believed in us before we believed in ourselves. Mr Watson in this book, is that one special teacher. 

This is one of those picture books that is needed in every school. Children need to be encouraged to write; to be creative without the roadblocks placed in front of them. Many children are poor spellers, many are dyslexic, making it even harder to work through their school days. At the heart of the problem, there needs to be someone on their side. A teacher, a parent, someone special who will support their creativity. Spelling can be fixed up later. There are many tools children can use these days to help but we can’t let rules and regulations get in the way of a child’s imagination. To do so would be detrimental to their learning.

The illustrations are bright, colourful and full of fun. The spelling in the book is just as the little boy would spell things; Incorrect but still understandable. The last page where the words have the correct spelling suggests a hopeful, and happy outcome. The boy knows that after the story comes the editing and with support, he will only get better. It takes effort but we are left knowing he will be okay. This is a wonderful picture book for young and not-so-young readers about self-acceptance, creativity and hope. Yes, it is also about dyslexia but the overall message is learning to believe in yourself and not giving up.

 

The Thunderbolt Pony

By Stacy Gregg

ISBN 9780008257019

HarperCollins

 


 

One of the things I love best about Stacy Gregg and her novels is the strength of her characterisation. It doesn’t take long before I am connected to her characters and right inside the story. Her latest novel is currently a finalist in the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and well deserves to be there.

When a devastating earthquake hits Evie’s hometown of Parnassus on New Zealand’s South Island, she and the rest of the town are forced to evacuate. Evie’s injured mum is one of the first to be rescued by helicopter and Evie will be next. But when realises that she will be forced to leave her beloved pony, Gus, her dog, Jock, and her cat Moxy behind, she is determined to find another way. Before the rescue helicopter returns, Evie flees with Gus, Jock and Moxy in a race against time across difficult terrain to reach the port of Kaikoura, where she has heard that people will be evacuated by ship in three days’ time. Surely there will be space for her, Gus, Jock and Moxy there?

Evie suffers from OCD which at times almost cripples her with fear. It began when her father died of cancer and for reasons which become clear later, Evie blames herself and is suddenly caught up with constant daily rituals which threaten to takeover her life.

Evie is on her own with her animals crossing dangerous and broken bridges, swollen rivers and rugged land. It is her attempt to keep them all together and make it to safety and eventual evacuation by ship out of the earthquake zone and its devastation. The story and action are well-paced and the rollercoaster ride of emotions and fear is authentic.  I love how even Evie’s beloved animals have personalities of their own. As animals and her pets, they are very loyal to Evie and even to each other. Evie is determined and strong for her twelve years, but with her OCD her vulnerability shows through so it is nice to see how she manages being on her own in such dangerous and frightening times.

The story switches back and forward in time, much like the earthquakes with their tossing and turning of the ground. As the story is for younger readers, the publishers have used different fonts to show this break in time, a great device to use, making it easier to keep up with the story.

One thing I really loved was how the author used mythology to make connections. When being chased and physically challenged by a bull, Evie sees a Minotaur. Very cool indeed.

Another great read from author Stacy Gregg.

 

Sports are fantastic fun

By Ole Konnecke

ISBN 9781776572014

Gecko Press

August 2018

The first thing you notice about this new picture book by Ole Konnecke is the bright red cover with its bold title and hippo racing across the front. It is a book which already appeals before you even look inside. Sports are fantastic fun is a tribute to the different sports we can do.

The second thing you can’t help but notice is that it is funny. It has quirky illustrations showcasing the fun of cricket, horse riding, wrestling and so much more. There is even a section on caber tossing. Each sport comes with captions which are informative but many also make you laugh out loud. The sports activities are carried out by all sorts of animals which adds another aspect to this picture book.

 

This is a wonderfully funny crossover book; both fiction and non fiction with lots to learn and lots to laugh at on each page. This is fun to read alone, but much more fun reading together with someone special.

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo

Written by Marlon Bundo with Jill Twiss

Illustrated by E. G. Keller

ISBN 9781452173801

Chronicle Books

 

What a wonderful picture book.

Marlon Bundo is a rabbit who meets and falls in love with Wesley, “a big, fluffy bunny with the floppiest floppy ears and the bushiest bushy tail” Marlon has ever seen. They love hopping everywhere together and most of all they love each other. All their friends are keen to see them marry but the Stink Bug is in charge and says that boy rabbits can not marry boy rabbits. The Stink Bug (with more than a passing resemblance to President Trump) is a nasty bully who makes all the decisions for the people.

However, one friend decides to change things. Friendships and loyalty are strong themes in the book too.

Yes this book has a political point but it is so funny.  It is also about diversity, it’s about being able to love whomever you want to love and that no one can tell you how to live. It is delightfully funny, has absolutely the cutest illustrations ever and it is a very important picture book for children, and many adults too. Love it.