Myths and Legends of Aotearoa : 15 timeless tales of New Zealand

Retold by Annie Rae Te Ake Ake

ISBN 9781775435235

Scholastic NZ

 

This is  stunning collection of New Zealand myths and legends has been re-released which is wonderful to see. Retold by Annie Rae Te Ake Ake, the tales are immediately accessible and accompanied by bright and vibrant illustrations from young New Zealanders.  In fact I would go as far as to say that each of the illustrations could stand proudly in any art gallery. The tales are indeed timeless, and can be told again and again, generation after generation, such is the power of their story.

Myths and legends, whichever culture we belong to, are what gives us our history, our knowledge and our creative and mythical sense of being.

We begin with the creation story of Raginui, the Sky Father and Papatūānuku, the Earth Mother and how their son Tāne Mahuta  pushed them apart. There are stories about Pania and the Reef and Rona and the Moon. Of course, a book of myths and legends from New Zealand couldn’t exist without  stories of Māui so they have been included here too. This well-written collection is one of short, sharp and very readable stories which will stand the test of time.

The book includes a map with places marked where certain stories originate. This helps us create a bigger picture of the myths and characters so we can make connections. There is also a very useful glossary with Maori gods, place names and translated Maori phrases.  While this book is perfect for schools and libraries, it is also ideal in any home. A book to cherish.

 

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Dinosaur Trouble book 4 : The secret hunt

By Kyle Mewburn

Illustrated by Donovan Bixley

ISBN 9781775433699

Scholastic NZ

Cave boy Arg is back for another rollicking adventure with his pet dinosaur Krrk-Krrk. This series continues to be a hit with children reading their first chapter books. Large font. short sharp chapters, and heaps of humour. Even a little danger is thrown in to capture the reader’s attention. The illustrations are full of character, personality and humour and author and illustrator are perfectly matched.

A friendly game of hide and find goes a little wrong thanks to Arg’s best friend Shlok. However, Shlok with his drippy, snotty nose, helps stop the bleeding of his dad’s wound. Who knew you could use snot for things other than just wiping it off your nose? Gross! But this is just what many young readers enjoy and just why this series remains so popular.

Poor Little Rabbit

By Jorg Muhle

ISBN 9781776571772

Gecko Press

Oh no, Little Rabbit has hurt his arm. And there’s blood! Can you help him? 

I first met Little Rabbit a few years ago in the board book Tickle my ears. He was adorable then and adorable now.

In Tickle my ears little rabbit needed help getting ready for bed but this time he appeals to the reader to help him after he falls over. He stares out from bright, colourful pages, pleading with young readers to blow on his ouch, help put on a band-aid and make him feel all better. Sweet and interactive which is perfect for babies and toddlers. Little rabbit’s facial expressions are totally believable, from his tears at the beginning to his big smile at the end.

Baby board books have a special place when introducing books and reading to babies. Babies and toddlers will often have their favourites which they will listen to over and over. Little rabbit is a wee series with a delightful character who will become a firm favourite with oung readers as they explore little adventures in each of his books. A gorgeous book to add to a baby’s first collection.

Tickle my ears

Bathtime for Little Rabbit

Poor Little Rabbit

 

Snake and Lizard

By Joy Cowley

Illustrated by Gavin Bishop

ISBN 9781776571994

Gecko Press

 

Ten years ago we were introduced to two adorably funny characters.   Snake and Lizard are friends, although perhaps not the most likely of companions considering they started arguing from the moment they met. It didn’t take long however, to realise that having each other’s company was much better than being on their own.

This very special 10th birthday edition has a lovely embossed cover where the shiny new title and characters pop up from the cover. It proudly displays its gold Book of the year award in the top right corner where you can’t miss it. An award it certainly deserves.

I loved the stories back then and I love them now. Quirky, funny but also caring. There is a naive tenderness to their friendship too, which makes them even more lovable. Great as a read-aloud, but just as great for newly independent readers who will love the short, sharp stories with the wonderfully earthy illustrations.

This trailer is a perfect introduction to the stories for new readers.

Baby Monkey, Private Eye

By David Serlin and Brian Selznick

Illustrated by Brian Selznick

ISBN 9781338180619

Scholastic

I love Brian Selznick’s books and have a number of them in my own collection. His illustrations are stunning and his books win so many awards. This time he is collaborating with debut author David Serlin.  Baby Monkey, Private Eye offers humour wonderful illustrations; which you can peek at if you click on the Scholastic link above, and text suitable for younger readers.

Mystery, part graphic novel, humour, and an adorable character all coming soon.

Not out until February but this will definitely be on my list to purchase for my school library. The book trailer is so cute too. How can your resist such a cute creature? Looks like this could be a winner.

Who is Baby Monkey?

He is a baby.
He is a monkey.
He has a job.
He is Baby Monkey, Private Eye!
Lost jewels?
Missing pizza?
Stolen spaceship?
Baby Monkey can help…

if he can put on his pants!

Baby Monkey’s adventures come to life in an exciting blend of picture book, beginning reader, and graphic novel.

 

Dear Prime Minster, Politicians and Members of the Ministry of Education

This is an open letter with regards schools and their libraries or lack of. While I totally applaud your decision to do away with National Standards, I beg you to consider another factor which troubles schools, particularly primary schools.

A recent announcement that our literacy levels have dropped to 32nd place is deeply concerning. While teachers do all they can to teach reading and basic comprehension, and do it well, they need support from librarians and of course parents too.

Students need to be surrounded by books, quality books and the latest new titles. Sadly, because libraries and library staff are not funded by the MOE many school BOT’s are forced to choose between funding a full-time librarian and school resources. This should not be a choice. Schools need a library and a dedicated and enthusiastic full-time librarian. Librarians know their students and their stock and most are very good at matching each to the other. To be fair, some schools choose not to have libraries based on their own priorities but for those who have no choice based on the funding from government, then this is incredibly sad.

Not all parents take their children to a public library, some are too busy, it’s too far or they don’t see it as necessary. And yes, parents do need to be part of their children’s reading development but sadly, we know the reality.

Overseas trends where school libraries have closed have seen a drop in literacy levels and the same is happening here in New Zealand. For those skeptics that say books are the past and it is all about a digital world, a gentle reminder that libraries are not just about books. So much happens in libraries these days, books, ebooks, computers, ipads, QR codes, makerspace activities, book clubs, author events, a safe haven for students and of course reading, heaps and heaps of reading. Here is the crunch though, schools without funding, without libraries and librarians will surely only add to the the dropping literacy levels.  I urge you and your members to consider that in order to raise reading levels, the New Zealand Government must help fund school libraries and their librarians. It is only ever going to be a win-win situation. Statistics also have shown that students who have a full time librarian produce better overall results than students who don’t.

Left to their own, without government funding, some schools will end up closing their library doors and that is totally unacceptable. Raising funds for their libraries, school PTA’s can sell only so many sausages.  The same selling of sausages has to help top up readers. The Ready-to-Reads and School Journals are a wonderful, first-class resource but children need far more titles than is supplied.  Immersion in books, both readers and library books is paramount. A few tatty teacher-owned books in the corner of a class is one thing but a library with thousands of books and a passionate librarian completely another. How does a six year old with a reading age of ten cope with a few books in a classroom? Or the ten year old reading at a six year old level. Is he or she supposed to go to a junior class in the hope a teacher will have something they can read? A good school librarian will know exactly which book will work. They will find the book with content that matches their chronological age with their reading age so they are not put off reading with books with babyish covers. As the old adage goes the right book for the right child.

I love watching students clamor for the latest Diary of a Wimpy kid, or David Walliams latest title. Watching groups eager to share their latest read with each other is also simply a wonderful sight. It is this that will drive up literacy levels. A love of reading comes from finding the right books and that is where a well-stocked library and librarian can help.

So, I urge you Prime Minister to look at how schools fund their libraries and please consider helping with MOE funding as every child will benefit. Schools need your help. Students need your help. Reading is the key to everything we do in life, from a simple menu, to technical  instructions, we all need to read and it starts when children are young. Please help our kids for their future. Lets drive the literacy levels back up and let’s do this together.

Nevermoor: The trials of Morrigan Crow

By Jessica Townsend

ISBN 9780734418074

Hachette Childrens Books

 

Thoroughly enjoyable read. A wonderful mix of fantasy, and mystery. Lots of very likable characters and some not so likable ones too. We meet young Morrigan Crow shortly before she is supposed to die. Morrigan you see, is cursed and blamed for all the bad things that have happened in her town. Her fate is to die at midnight on Eventide. However, in comes a stranger by the name of Jupiter North who rescues her and takes her to Nevermoor. It is a place few have heard of with all sorts of magical creatures and wonderful characters. Jupiter North has plans for Morrigan, plans she doesn’t understand but there is something special about him that makes Morrigan trust him. So begins her new life in the Hotel Deucalion in Nevermoor.

Morrigan is compelled to particpate in a number of trials in order to become part of a very elite group called the Wondrous Society. Each contestant must have a knack, something that makes them special and will help them in the final trial. In the trials she must compete against 500 others for one of only 9 places. Making the group will allow her to stay in Nevermoor where she is finally making friends and beginning to feel happy.

Morrigan is both strong, yet fearful, funny, yet serious. Most of all she is in need of friends and the belief that someone loves her and believes in her.

There are so many wonderful, quirky characters in this book, not least of all is Fenestra the Magnificat, head of housekeeping, who despite her grumpiness is really kind of cool. There’s Frank the vampire dwarf  but whatever you do, don’t call him a dwarf vampire.

Jessica Townsend has created a delightful magical world, with believable fantastical characters and a mystery that needs solving. Just what is Morrigan’s knack? Morrigan herself, doesn’t even know and the only person who seems to know is Jupiter North and he won’t tell her. A great read and hanging out now for book two. I bought the paperback copy as soon as it was out but if you can get your hands on the hardback that would be even more special.

 

If reading this as a class novel you can find teacher notes here. It would certainly make a good story for a read-aloud or a student bookclub. Loved it!

 

 

 

Don’t blink

Written and illustrated by Tom Booth

ISBN 9781250117366

Feiwel & Friends

Some books you just fall in love with. This is one those books. Beautifully illustrated with a delightful young girl centre stage surrounded by a menagerie of equally delightful animal friends. They join together to play a blinking game almost all of us have played at some stage in our lives. Not only do they challenge each other to stare as long as possible without blinking, but they challenge the reader to join in. It is a lovely picture book with a wonderful feel-good quality that makes me smile every time I read it. While it may be aimed at younger readers, adults reading this to children will also be drawn to its sweetness and challenges.

Think you can win a staring contest against an elephant? What about a gorilla, a cheetah, a fox, or an alligator? What about all them―AND a bunch of their other animal friends―at the same time? You’re about to find out!

Whatever you do DON’T BLINK!

There are some fun activities to download on the author/illustrator’s website too, including masks, and spot the difference pages. Love, love, love this book.

 

 

Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created ­Frankenstein

Written and illustrated by Lita Judge

ISBN 9781526360410

Wow.  Now this is what I call a cover.  It is dark, broody and mysterious and grabs your attention straight away. Mary’s Monster is a biography of Mary Shelley written in verse form. I have been a huge fan of verse novels for many years so this already has me keen. So keen in fact I have already pre-ordered it from my local library, although as it isn’t published until later this month I may have to wait a bit. However, from all I have seen I know this is one I will also be buying when it comes out. Take a look at the illustrations on her site and on the trailer below. Over 300 pages of verse and illustrations. A tortured soul and her monster, drawn in haunting, Gothic illustrations, this book has got to be at the top of my most eagerly awaited reads for the year.  Each illustration is a work of art on its own and would be fantastic to hang on any wall. I am so excited for this book. Simply cannot wait. Really, just can’t wait. Beautiful.

You can read some of the story on her website and while there do check out the gallery as there are some superb and beautiful illustrations from her picture books.

 

Tintinnabula

By Margo Lanagan

ISBN 9781742975252

Little Hare

 

In wild times and in wartime,

in times of fear and illness, I go

to Tintinnabula, where soft rains fall.

 

Tintinnabula is a story about moving from discomfort to peace,

from violence and uncertainty to a still, sure place.

It reminds us that our best friend in hard times

can often be ourselves.

 

The first thing you notice with this beautiful picture book is the cut out shape in the middle of the cover. It is a portal into another world. Margo Lanagan takes us on a journey through darkness and out the other side. A lone figure stands at the entrance, seemingly hesitant to walk through, but guided by the light in the distance on the other side, we know she will step inside. And we step inside her world too.

 She hears the sound of bells ringing far away and this urges her onward through dark inhospitable landscapes with hidden dangers lurking in the shadows. The language is succinct and sublime, poetical and poignant. What makes this particularly powerful is that as the young woman travels through harsh environments she discovers that the strength she searches for comes from within. Only she can save herself and move from the darkness into the light where she can finally find peace.

The illustrations are beautiful.  Different shades of grey, black, and red merge to create a haunting and moody atmosphere, at times quite chilling. There are dark shadowy creatures chasing the young woman but she keeps going, following the sound of bells. Splashes of white soon begin to appear,  blending and forming into the shape of bells.  Symbolically they lead her to self-acceptance.

As dark as this sophisticated picture book is, it is in the end an uplifting one. It is within ourselves that we find strength to move forward when life becomes too difficult.

A stunning book, dark, broody but also hopeful. This is a wonderful sophisticated picture book that can be read across all levels.

The one and only Ivan by Katherine Applegate is one of my all-time favourite books ever. It is also one of the top books for my year six school book club students.

I also used to work in a children’s bookshop part time and I would sell so many copies of the book quoting my favourite line to everyone.
“Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot.”

I love this trailer made by students led by middle school librarian Teresa DeLuca at Furnace Brook Middle School.

You can tell that the book has been well-read and much loved by the students with all the time and work that has gone in to their trailer. They have made the story accessible to everyone. Thank you for letting me share it here. You should feel very proud of this trailer.

Sit back, watch and enjoy. And if you haven’t read the book yet, then this trailer will certainly inspire you to go and find a copy.

 

 

Abel Tasman; Mapping the Southern Lands

By Maria Gill

Illustrated by Marco Ivancic

ISBN 9781775435099

Scholastic NZ

More than 300 years ago, a young Dutch sailor named Abel Tasman stood on the prow of a ship he and his crew had sailed across wild, uncharted waters. In the distance, through a shroud of mist, the rugged outline of steep hills rose from the ocean waves. Could this be Terra Australis – the great southern land? 

Having read a number of Maria’s books over the years the one thing that stands out is the depth and standard of her research. The information in her books is always well planned, informative, yet easy to read.

Maria maintains this standard in her latest picture book about Abel Tasman. It is a biography in story book format which will appeal to younger audiences.

We begin with Abel as a young boy listening to tales of the sea and his desire to be a sailor. We follow him on his journeys as he later sails the seas and into a world of adventure and exploration.

We are with Abel in stormy seas, when under attack, and even with an earthquake. The scary thing is I have just been re-reading this book, and was on the page about an earthquake they had felt when really freakishly, we have just had our own 4.1 quake here in Christchurch as I write. That is just a bit too scary and too freakish for my liking. I don’t think I will re-read the page about a volcano erupting, but it is there in the book if you want to know more about Tasman’s adventures.

Maria has collaborated once again with illustrator Marco Ivancic to produce another quality book. His illustrations have that  photo-realism quality making everything believable. The maps on the end pages are a perfect backdrop to the history of the world when Abel Tasman was exploring. The pages towards the end of the book provide extra details and facts to give more understanding to Abel’s story. Abel Tasman: mapping the Southern lands is another winning collaboration between author, illustrator and publisher.

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That time of year again when the big stores share their messages for Christmas. Sometimes it is just nice to be reminded that the true meaning of Christmas is about love, family, friendship and caring.

 

Paddington Bear is a winner every time. M & S and their warm and funny Christmas advert.

The Kiwi go marching one by one

By Peter Millet

Illustrated by Deborah Hinde

Sung by Jay Laga’Aia

ISBN 9781775435129

Scholastic NZ 

A popular trend in picture books is to add a bonus CD. They offer more than just a picture book to read. Pre-schools and primary schools love them. They are great for listening along in the classroom or in the car on the way to the grocery store. Children with English as a second language use them to read and listen to the rhythm of English language. They are certainly popular in my school library. Peter Millet’s latest book is no exception. 

Peter has taken the classic The ants go marching one by one and given it a whole new meaning. A very Kiwi meaning. He introduces different NZ wildlife and our love of the outdoors. He takes us up to  the snow to meet kea, out on choppy seas to catch kahawai.  He takes us on a real Kiwi adventure

A familiar tune, well supported by the wonderful illustrations by Deborah Hinde. Her illustrations are bright and colourful but have a softness to them which just makes the kiwis so cute and very appealing. Their eyes, in particular are so warm and friendly, appealing to the reader to join them on their journey. Check out their attempts at bungee jumping! Adventurous yet gentle but lots of fun. Love the little fantail flitting between the pages.

Great gift for Christmas or for end of year teacher present. It is also great to have the song in Te Reo as well with easy to follow lyrics.

How NOT to stop a kidnap plot

By Suzanne Main

ISBN 9781775434801

Scholastic NZ

 

Michael is on a mission. It is one he is unprepared for and actually doesn’t want, especially as the mission is to save his sworn enemy, Angus, from being kidnapped. In his attempt to avert the kidnapping, Michael and his best friend Elvis follow whatever leads they can find. Some of the leads get them in to trouble and involve breaking a few laws. While not exactly wanting to end up as criminals, they do have to decide how far they will go in order to keep Angus safe from the kidnappers. They do of course have to work out who the kidnappers are and that could be almost anyone. 

This is a great read with lots of action, a little bit of revenge that doesn’t quite happen the way Michael wants it to happen, humour and most importantly, likable and believable characters. Michael is not perfect, but he is genuine and a good friend to have. Despite some initial bullying and a definite dislike of Angus, Michael realizes that sometimes the best thing to do is the right thing. A good read for ages 8 plus. Thoroughly enjoyed the journey and meeting Michael and his friends.

Michael and Elvis have had other adventures in Suzanne’s previous novel How I alienated my Grandma. I confess it is a book I haven’t read yet but after enjoying this novel, I will definitely be looking to read their other adventures.