It is nearly NZ Bookshop day, a day to celebrate bookshops up and down the country. Almost a year ago now, my all time favourite bookshop closed its doors for the final time and it still makes me incredibly sad. So I am writing this love letter to all bookshops, not just the ones I regularly visit, but all of them because they all deserve a little love. Without a little love, others too might have to close their doors.

I confess, I spend many hours and too much money in bookshops but that is okay. I may be poor but I am so enriched by the stories I read, by the books I buy and the time spent with staff at the different bookshops I frequent. (I sound a bit dodgy but I assure you I am just passionate about books and reading, and not a stalker)

I love my bookshops and the wonderful staff who know so much, and offer so many good suggestions. Bookshops, much like libraries, are uniquely a haven for readers. I go there for information, books, gifts and a friendly chat. I go because I am always made to feel so welcome.

I do buy most of the books for a school library where I am the librarian and in charge of the budget. I prefer to visit my bookshops and buy in person. I know they are not really my bookshops but it feels like it sometimes. I need to feel the weight of the books, see the font and make sure the text size is just right for my readers. I love having discussions with the staff about the latest new books in a series or new titles coming out soon. I walk in to a bookshop, any bookshop and I kind of feel like I am heaven. I could curl up in a corner and stay there all day feeling safe and secure, if somewhat lost  in other worlds and other stories.

Bookshops need to be loved. They need their customers and they need you. Check one out on NZ Bookshop day 28th October. Spend some time there and say hi to the staff.  I know I will. You can’t keep me away.

So my love letter is to all bookshops, your staff, managers, owners, everyone involved, even other customers that I sometimes end up having chats with, I wish you all the most wonderful, happy and thriving bookshop day.

 

 

 

 

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Wishtree

By Katherine Applegate

ISBN 9781250043221

Feiwel & Friends

Macmillan Publishers

Trees can’t tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories. . . .

Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood “wishtree”—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red’s branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this “wishtree” watches over the neighborhood.

You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red’s experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.

This is a gentle, sweet and heart-warming book and I fell in love with Red and all the creatures and birds that inhabit Red’s branches and hollows. Red is old, more than two hundred rings old and very wise. Red has seen so many things happen over the years but none have tempted Red to break the forbidden rule more than what is happening now. I loved the language and the subtle messages. The book may be just over 200 pages long but the chapters are very brief, sometimes only a page long and there are some lovely illustrations but it really is a quick read with a powerful message.

There is an old Irish custom where people can leave wishes on a tree and for Red that has been happening in May for many, many years. Most wishes are superficial but others are heart-achingly honest like Samar’s, the young Muslim girl in this story. We are witness to racism, ignorance, wanting to belong, loneliness but most importantly, hope.

I wanted to hug Samar and tell her everything was going to be okay. I wanted to sit beneath Red’s big branches and watch the animals and birds coming and going. I wanted Red to be in my backyard.

This is one of those rare books that needs to be in every school and read to every child. Learning to accept each other and our differences is at the core of this book. A book that deserves reading over and over. I bought this book for my school library but will be buying my own copy as well. I may also have to buy multiple copies for our book club as there is so much to think about  and so much to love. It is a wee gem that warms the heart.

 

The trailer to this book is just beautiful.

 

The Wizards of Once

By Cressida Cowell

ISBN 9781444939576

 

This is the story of a young boy Wizard and a young girl Warrior who have been taught since birth to hate each other like poison; and the thrilling tale of what happens when their two worlds collide.

The cover alone of this magical book just beg you to pick it up and turn it over and hold it close. Purple, blues, blacks and white and the rustic and fiery title stand out and immediately you just know this is going to be a good book. And it is good book. A very good book.

Cressida Cowell long known for her wonderful How to train your dragon series has come up with another wonderful series. Her illustrations are both comical and dark. Some make you smile, others have a haunting quality to them making you just a little afraid (or a lot!).

The story grabs your right from the prologue.

Once there was Magic. It was a long, long time ago, in a British Isles so old it did not know it was the British Isles yet, and the Magic lived in the dark forests.

So the setting is already becoming pictures in our head. We know we are going into a dark and scary place where anything is possible.

When Xar and Wish meet they immediately hate each other and very much distrust each other but suddenly they are forced to work together for there is evil happening. Witches have returned and witches are bad, dangerous and to be feared. This book has it all. Magic, fantasy, pace, danger, adventure and humour to remind the reader they are actually safe even though the world they are reading about seems so real and scary.

Xar is arrogant, a little selfish but also a little sad and flawed which is why we can’t help but like him. His father shows only disappointment towards him as his magic has not started as is expected of a boy his age. Wish is a warrior but lacks any warrior-like standard her mother Queen Sychorax demands so is also a disappointment. It is a shared sadness at not being quite good enough that Xar and Wish have in common. Both have something to prove and it is this connection that draws them together despite their hate for each other and the different worlds they come from.

There are many other characters involved as both Xar and Wish each have their own companions. I do particularly love Squeezjoos a little hairy fairy belonging to Xar. He is funny and brave and in danger mostly, which is part of the whole adventure, trying to save Squeezjoos life.

This is a really good read which has been beautifully produced. Large text size, lots of illustrations to break up the text and lots of little bits in between like the Spelling book pages. The map of the Warrior Empire and Wizard Wildwoods is also a wonderful treat. I do love a book with maps as they add so much and help me build pictures in my mind as I travel with the characters.

Great fantasy novel for readers aged nine up. Can’t wait for the next book – really can’t wait!

The Spectacular Spencer Gray 

by Deb Fitzpatrick

ISBN 9781925164671

Fremantle Press

 

Spencer Gray is just an ordinary kid, but he manages to get into some pretty extraordinary situations. When Spencer stumbles on a sinister operation in the bush, his life goes into overdrive – midnight rescue missions, super-endangered animals, hair-raising adventures. To survive, Spencer will need to pull off something spectacular.

 

If you want a sneak peek you can read a sample chapter here.

The trouble with a good adventure story is that reading a sample chapter isn’t enough. It just makes you want to read the whole book and this sampler does exactly that. I now want to find out what happens to the characters throughout the rest of the book.

Teaching notes for extended exploration of this novel can be found here.

You can also check out the trailer for The Amazing Spencer Gray which is the first book about Spencer. A series worth checking out for adventure, danger and a bit of fun along the way.

Aotearoa The New Zealand Story

By Gavin Bishop

ISBN 9780143770350

Penguin Books NZ

 

It is hard to know where to start with Gavin Bishop’s latest book. There is just so much on offer, so much to be explored. So I will begin with the cover. It is a larger than normal portrait size hardback that stands out, grabs your eye immediately and begs to be picked up.

 

I can’t resist spreading this book out to share the whole stunning cover. It is a masterpiece on its own. Gavin’s work is very distinctive, you would recognise his style anywhere and while this is still true here, what I love is the introduction of so many wonderful blues.

Aotearoa is a stunning pictorial reference book from cover to cover. The end pages, and the title too are stories in their own right. I love how the title of the book Aotearoa is in its own white cloud suggesting that absolutely everything has been well thought out in the writing and production of this book.

Starting with the big bang and looking forward with hope for the future, this book and its stories can go on and on. It is  a great reference for adults as much as children and essential to every school in New Zealand. Information is bite-sized, and enough to whet the appetite of students of all ages to perhaps do further research. It is a book to dip into over and over and it isn’t even necessary to read it in order.

The book has all the key points in a quality non-fiction book including a contents page and a page dedicated to Maori/English translations which is always helpful.

I must say that on page 34 under Education, I felt a great sense of pride and a big smile crossed my face as I read about the Fendalton School being the first open-air classroom in New Zealand way back in 1924. I have a very personal interest in this school and its history, so this certainly made my day.

While I bought this book for our school library, it may just be that I have to go and buy my own copy as I am not sure I want to hand it over. It is wonderful, stunning, informative, and essential. A beautiful coffee table book in any home. Gavin Bishop at his best and I have no qualms predicting this, that Aotearoa will be an award winning book in next year’s book awards. It really is a treasure.

I am lucky to be going to the book launch this week so hopefully I will be able to get this copy signed.

1-2-3 Bird!

By Dave Gunson

ISBN 9781775433941

Scholastic NZ

There is so much to love about Dave Gunson’s new counting picture book. The illustrations are bright, cheeky and offer much more than a quick read. There is the obvious counting of different birds on the pages but also hidden among the picture are numerous insects, spiders and even a couple of geckos. Each page also has an extra number to seek out. I am sure children will love reading this over and over as they discover new things with each re-reading.

I did laugh at the 4 pukeko racing and the underlying question as to who will be the winner. Perhaps a little political nod for the adults reading, with the grand pukeko wearing a “let’s do it!” slogan on her chest as she tries to win her race. That aside, children will love searching for creatures, counting out loud and I bet, enjoying discussions about the different native wildlife.

A good New Zealand book to send overseas and ideal for kindergartens, pre-schools and lower primary schools as well.

The runaway coat

Dinosaur Trouble Book 3

By Kyle Mewburn

Illustrated by Donovan Bixley

ISBN 9781775433682

Scholastic NZ

 

Young cave boy Arg is cold. I mean really cold. He is freezing, his teeth are chattering and his skin is turning blue. Unfortunately things get even worse for Arg when mum throws his coat away because it stinks. It stinks because it is full of vomit, although to be fair, her coat is full of maggots so both are pretty bad. Determined to find his coat Arg runs off in to the wilderness and straight in to danger. Lots of danger, including a spiky-tailed anklylosaur with his own problems.

New independent readers will love the short chapters and feel a growing sense of achievement as they whiz through the pages. Donovan Bixley’s illustrations are quirky and full of character, totally giving life to Arg and his Stone Age family. Author and illustrator are completely in tune with each other with this series of books and their other series, Dinosaur Rescue which is for older readers. This latest book as with the previous two in the series, offers lots of fun. It is Kyle Mewburn’s ability to combine a world of grossness and humour that captures young readers imagination and leaves them laughing out loud.     Do look out for this third book in the series coming out this November.

 

The longest breakfast

By Jenny Bornholdt

Illustrated by Sarah Wilkins

ISBN 9781776571673

Gecko Press  October 2017

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and a good one will set you right for the whole day. So too, will quality time with family at the start of each day. The longest breakfast is the perfect example of the early morning chaos over finding the right breakfast. Poor Malcolm is bombarded with requests for all sorts of breakfast even someone wanting pudding. The baby toddles after Malcolm calling out toot, toot or bzzzzzzz but Malcolm is busy trying to sort out everyone else and we can see that the baby begins to feel ignored.

I love how the illustrations of the baby start out small but as he gets more and more frustrated his illustrations become bigger until  finally the baby has his own full page and is at last noticed by the rest of the family.  Eventually everyone, including neighbours, come together for breakfast. A busy, warm, family-friendly picture book with bright colourful illustrations.

Published October 2017 so not long to wait.

 

Toto : The dog-gone amazing story of The Wizard of Oz

By Michael Morpurgo

ISBN 9780008134600

HarperCollins Children’s Books

 

I am loving this book.  A refreshing look at the beloved story of The Wizard from Oz told from the point of view of Toto the dog. He sees things Dorothy doesn’t see and adds so much to the adventure. Toto is an adorable, funny and lovable character. He chases hats in the wind just as dogs might do. He is Dorothy’s best friend and as she says, he doesn’t bite. That makes for a great dog.

The delightful brightly coloured illustrations by Emma Chichester Clark become so much a part of the story too. This is a winner for everyone. Younger children will love it being read aloud and independent readers will not want to put it downI don’t want to put it down but I do need to go to work.

I also love how the author, as with his trademark ability, takes us back into the past and we are suddenly right there in the story. We are right there with Dorothy and Toto as they head down the yellow brick road.

An absolute winner and I can’t wait for lunch time to read some more.

 

 

The curious Ar-chew

By Sarah Grundy

Illustrated by Ali Teo & John O’Reilly

ISBN 9781775434375

Scholastic NZ

 

“This is the tale, I swear it is true,

of a very strange creature called the Ar-chew.

The tale begins at the foot of a tree

with a hollow so narrow it was tricky to see…”

A hedgehog discovers something strange lurking in the hollow of a tree one day. Not knowing what the mysterious creature could be, hedgehog wanders off seeking help from his woodland friends.

This delightful picture book is the well-deserved winner of the Joy Cowley Award. It offers good rhyme and rhythm and is supported by delightful illustrations in natural settings. The forest floor and its autumnal scenery provide a perfect backdrop to the story. The animals work well together trying to discover what the creature could be. A good choice to read in class when discussing teamwork and friendships.  For observant readers there are clues in the illustrations as to what the creature may be, adding yet another level to this gorgeous picture book for young readers.

Definitely one to share again and again.

 

Putangitangi walks

By Stephanie Thatcher

ISBN 9781775434221

Scholastic NZ

 

Cheeky Putangitangi (little duck) is looking for her friend. What will she do when she finds him? A fun rhyming story about two playful little ducks.

Mischievous, funny and gorgeously illustrated picture book about a paradise shelduck  going out for a walk and the antics she gets up to on the way.  Lovely whimsical language, rhyme and rhythm but the heart of this story has to be the illustrations. The wonderful cheeky facial expressions clearly show the mischief and personalities of the ducks and other birds. A lovely touch which I adore is the little frog on every page and his comical smiles.

This is a sweet, funny picture book with lots of appeal which will become a firm favourite. This book is also very much a New Zealand landscape which will make it an ideal gift to send or take overseas for family and friends.

 

The big block of chocolate

By Janet Slater

Illustrated by Christine Dale

ISBN 9781775434900

Scholastic NZ

With more than 250,000 copies sold The big block of chocolate is both a best seller and a classic. It is great to see this favourite picture book republished with the original illustrations for a whole new generation of readers to enjoy.

Miss Jenny bought some chocolate, a great big block of chocolate. She said, ‘This block of chocolate is mine and ALL for me.’ Did someone say CHOCOLATE?

Simple but well-worked language and great use of repetition creates  a musical flow and rhythm that readers will enjoy over and over. 

We move through the pages and illustrations with ease as we first meet Miss Jenny and then various animals who all find the block of chocolate and wanting it just for themselves, take it and hide it to eat later when no one is around. And just who gets to eat the chocolate? You will have to read it for yourself.  It has humour and yes even a message about sharing. A fun read to share together.

A Wrinkle in Time

By Madeleine L’Engle

Loved this book as a child. SO excited it has been made in to a movie. Love the fact that parts of it were filmed right here in New Zealand.

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

 

Copyright for this trailer of course belongs to Disney. Can’t wait for this to come out next year but I do encourage you to read the book first – as always!

See you when I see you

By Rose Lagercrantz

Illustrated by Eva Eriksson

ISBN 9781776571307

Gecko Press

 

Those who have read my previous reviews about Dani and her best friend Ella will know how much I love these books. The latest book is no exception. While part of a series each book can still be thoroughly enjoyed as a stand-alone.

Dani lives alone with her dad as mum died when she was very young. It has always been the two of them but lately dad has Sadie, a nurse he met in hospital after he had an accident. The two have become very close and Dani feels a little lost and perhaps a little jealous. More so since her best friend Ella had to move away. A class trip to Skansen zoo goes wrong when Dani is separated from the rest of her class. However, a coincidence has Dani bump in to Ella who is also there on a class trip from her new school. Together, they have their own little adventure.

I love how trusting, innocent and real Dani is.  Her emotions are at times raw but real. She loves her best friend even when she disagrees with her. A book that deals with life, friendships, family and coming to terms with change. 

Delightfully illustrated by Eva Eriksson this book, like the others in the series, will be a hit for those newly independent readers reading their first chapter books. A sweet feel-good story to enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sage Alexander and the Hall of Nightmares

By Steve Copling

 

 

 

Cool cover and so good to see such a lengthy book trailer to entice us readers into the world of Sage Alexander

It is always a good sign when the bulk of reviews are positive as it all adds to the desire to read new books. My current TBR pile is enormous and there are not enough hours in the day to read, but I do want to read this one. There are more books in the series being written and planned for publication which is also another good sign. So, do enjoy the trailer and see what you think.

After the Seven Princes of Hell escaped the underworld, becoming gods became their obsession. Spawned from the angels banished from Heaven, the Seven have lured the soul of man into their influence since the beginning of time. Supernaturally gifted angelic-human warriors – the Angelic Response Council – have been disappearing over the past thousand years, and their ranks grow thin.

Prophecy holds that in the Council’s darkest hours a boy will emerge, Sage the Warrior, divined to possess all twenty-two angelic gifts and become the Council’s ultimate warrior. He will seek out and destroy the Seven Princes of Hell one by one, and lead humanity away from the brink of their own annihilation.