Johnny Danger

Book 2 : Lie another day

By Peter Millet

ISBN 9780143309055



While there are plenty of wonderful New Zealand books written by equally wonderful authors, there are not so many book trailers for their books. So it is brilliant to have the chance to show this new trailer for Lie another day book two in the Johnny Danger series.

I was watching this trailer (again) at school and one of my students (year 4) came over to see what I was doing so we watched it together. Not only did it get the thumbs up but he told me to buy it. I ordered it today and when it arrives Sam will be the first one to read it (unless I get in before him). The trailer is well made and has a bit of everything in it just like the books.  Action, humour, cartoon, parody.

It is great to have the author Peter Millet here on the blog answering some questions. Some very cool answers too.

What is the appeal of writing books for children?
Roald Dahl said it best ‘adults are too stuffy, boring and take themselves far too seriously’. Apparently that’s why he loved writing for children. I’m inclined to say that I agree with him. Additionally, when I tell a joke to a crowd of kids everyone looks at me when they laugh, often with adults they look at each other before they laugh to make sure it’s okay to laugh. Kids have way more fun.
Most of your books include humour. I imagine humour is quite difficult to write and be genuine at the same time so what is your trick?
My style of humour is quintessentially British. It’s dry and it’s subtle. I’m not a fan of slapstick, or lazy-bodily function jokes. When I read my stories aloud I always keep a straight face. That’s pretty much how I write my comedy stories as well. That allows me to develop characters and plotlines satisfactorily while infusing the humour as the undercurrent to the story. One thing which is very difficult being a comedy writer is the book editing process. Often an editor will ask me to alter a scene or change an ending. When I do this I also have to make sure that the new content is as funny as the content it is being inserted around. Sometimes this can be problematic.
Which authors inspire you to write?
Roald Dahl, Andy Stanton, Roddy Doyle. There are many more. Here’s my soapbox moment – Roald Dahl never won a book award in his lifetime. Comedy movies never win Oscars. Writing comedy is an extremely complex process. People who aren’t funny can’t write comedy, and people who say comedy is too frivolous to be award-winning don’t understand complicated writing. Hopefully in my lifetime children’s comedy writers will be treated equally along with dramatic children’s writers and we will see an end to this silly era of elitism. Shakespeare was a master at both and duly celebrated.
As a child – were you the kind of boy who played at being a spy or were you more of the indoor type?
As many of my readers know some of the gadgets in my stories originate from childhood ideas and pranks. I once carved out the middle portion of a hardback book and used it as a secret storage compartment to hide ‘used lines’ the teacher had issued to children as punishment. I then used these lines to help children get out of future punishments. So in a way, I was an undercover operative battling evil villains in my junior years at school.
If you could meet any character out of any book, who would it be and why?
Probably the Twits. It would be interesting to see if I could win an argument with them, or potentially win a battle of pranks. I’d also like to witness a grown man consuming food stored in his beard.
Johnny Danger gets himself in to lots of trouble. What was your biggest adventure or the most dangerous thing you have ever done?
In 1990 I took a jungle trek in the rain forests of Borneo. We reached an orangutan sanctuary and a tour guide said ‘no sudden movements, and don’t provoke them – they’re strong enough to rip your arms off.’ I don’t recall reading that information before I embarked on the journey. Everything went fine, and the worst that happened was some cameras were stolen by the orangutans who proceeded to store them in their treetop hide out and then urinate on the victim’s heads. Walking back to our pickup point, I was also advised to avoid puddles containing leeches, and to look out for the odd scorpion here and there as I was wearing shorts, not the recommended long trousers with wraparound socks. I made it out unscathed. In my book Lie Another Day the jungle scene is inspired by that experience.
Many thanks Peter for sharing your thoughts with us.

This blog is about books and reading, reviews and trailers but also sometimes,  just something that really needs to be shared. Books are made up of words, words made up of letters and letters of course make up the alphabet. This video clip is a wonderful way to celebrate the alphabet. These images taken by NASA show the alphabet as seen from space. It really is very cool and well worth sharing. Great for students to just watch but great to know that the world is an amazing place however we see it, if only we take the time to really look.

Thank you to NASA.

A couple of picture books for young readers to enjoy.

The magic Mr. Whizzletoff

By Sarah Bannister

“The story is written in a rhythmical rhyming style. Full of imagination and descriptive words; it describes a magical place. To enter this world, children need to find the special area. Suddenly they are submerged into a completely new world! Once there, they can meet a magic man, however they will need a code for him to appear.”

Picture book aimed at four years and up.


Ice cream work

By NaoshiFrom the mind of Japanese artist Naoshi comes the sweet and charming world of Ice Cream Work which is full of visual surprises for readers of all ages. It is the story of an ice cream cone man whose search for work takes him to many places with many challenges along the way.


 I want to eat your books

By Karin Lefranc

“This monster book is silly and fun, with a strong message about kindness and friendship. The little zombie teaches kids not to jump to conclusions and to give everyone a chance. And when a real-life mummy shows up, the zombie is the first to step up and offer the mummy his friendshipand to teach her a few things about the joy of books. This is the perfect monster book for little ones who want a thrill but aren t looking for anything too scary.”

The Stars at Oktober Bend

By Glenda Millard





The Stars at Oktober Bend | FRONT COVER (20 October 2015)



This book blew me away. It will tear at your heart, pull it back in again and give you renewed hope that despite what life throws at you, life is ultimately good.

Alice is 15 years old and broken. After an assault, Alice is left with acquired brain injury which leaves her unable to talk. Her words stumble out slow and awkward, so she hardly talks to anyone except her brother Joey and her Gram. Joey is a wonderful supporting younger brother taking on responsibilities beyond his age. Their Gram is old and in very poor health and the rest of the family are gone. Alice also suffers from seizures – her electrics are broken, as she says so she doesn’t go to school. She stays home and writes the words she struggles to say. Alice writes beautiful poems that say so much more than she is capable of with speech. She leaves her poems in different places about town, hoping they might be found.

Manny is 16 years old and runs at night trying to block out the pain from when he was a boy soldier, before he came to this safe country. It is Manny who finds one of Alice’s poems and seeks to find out about the writer.

This book is both tender and terrifying. Alice and Manny hold secrets and truths from each other. Secrets so awful that I was moved to tears. Almost all of the characters are flawed but that is the reality of life. Their pain and grief is raw. I just wanted to hug them both and tell them things will be okay.

Alice’s poems flow with such ease when she writes but Manny can see beyond the poems and her brain injury. Theirs is a love story about hurt and hate but ultimately about healing. It is an incredibly powerful book.

The novel is written without capital letters and while it might seem strange at first, it works perfectly and as you read not only do you become accustomed to the style but you get to know Alice as she really is and bit by bit you see her change.

Seriously, when this comes out in February do look out for it. It deals with some tough issues but is beautifully written and it will leave an impact.

If you are using this in class I would certainly recommend the teaching notes on this link.

How to be famous

By Michal Shalev

ISBN 9781776570300

Gecko Press



The pigeon at the centre of this very funny picture book is very self-absorbed. Coming from a long, long line of very famous pigeons she is of course, in her own, not so humble opinion, even more famous than the others. Pigeon lives in a zoo with animals everywhere and visitors taking photos of the animals.  I love how she poses for photos with the other animals totally believing people are taking photos of her because of how famous she is. The truth is just a little different and a whole lot funnier.

The laugh-out-loud ending will delight readers of all ages.

One of the key points of the story is that if we are so busy showing off and being full of ourselves, we often miss just what is going on around us. Is there a lesson in there somewhere about being overly confident – sure there is – but I would read this over and over again just for the fun. Despite her rather large ego, she is a character that will win friends with readers. I certainly love her.

For teachers this is a great read, especially at the start of the year when new classes and groups of students are being introduced. To make the most of this picture book  Gecko Press have supplied teaching notes here.

As always, the cover is copyright and belongs to Gecko Press.

Anna and the Swallow Man

By Gavriel Savit

ISBN 9780552575270



Anna Lania is only seven years old when on the 6th November, 1939 her father is taken by the Germans to a prison in Krakow and she is left alone waiting for his return, which of course isnt going to happen. While waiting ever so patiently, just as a good girl should, she meets the Swallow Man. Anna’s father had taught and encouraged Anna to speak many languages and she is very skilled at pulling the languages she needs to communicate with others. This mysterious man also speaks many languages and it is this ability which first brings them together.

After a brief talk and instructions to “stay out of sight”  Anna decides to follows him, not quite sure if she was meant to or not but it is here their journey of survival begins.

Together they journey through cold harsh winters with nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat. The war is happening all around but they hover always on the edge of capture, never quite being caught. The Swallow Man tells Anna stories to pass the time as they tread on and on throughout the seasons, across different borders and back again, all while the war continues. The writing of this novel flows beautifully. It is both subtle and sophisticated. There is little dialogue but the story unwinds without the need of it and is indeed part of the mystery behind this quiet, strange man.

One of the strengths in this novel is Anna’s trust in the Swallow Man. It is honest and absolute and I couldn’t help but be moved by their relationship and intrigued by the man himself.

They avoid strangers but one day they meet a man, Reb Hirschl who joins them and the impact of this is both wonderful and dangerous. I loved Reb for his enthusiasm and philosophical look on life. He is in stark contrast to the Swallow Man and this creates its own problems.

This is a poignant, yet intriguing novel with perhaps a somewhat ambiguous ending but that itself is part of the mystery and what gives this book its power to move readers.

Watch out for this book coming in January. Aimed I feel, at Intermediate and Secondary school readers, but adults too will get much out of this novel.


The pencil

By Paula Bossio



Gecko Press



The pencil is a delightful wordless board book. A little girl finds a piece of string and lets her imagination soar as she follows it. I adore how she discovers, hoops, bubbles and even a monkey on her journey. However, like all good imaginations, hers also finds trouble. I love her smiles and sheer delight in the world she creates.

This is a simple but gorgeous, funny and creative board book to be read over and over. However, don’t be fooled. The book does not end on the last page. Turn to the back cover and enjoy the real ending. Perfect choice for young ones.


Everything, everything

By Nicola Yoon

ISBN 9780552574235

Random House Kids\Delacorte.



“Madeline Whittier is allergic to the outside world. So allergic, in fact, that she has never left the house in all of her seventeen years. When a new family moves in next door, she begins a complicated romance that challenges everything she’s ever known.”

Madeline is used to a very isolated life, with only her mother and her nurse/carer for company. She has never left the house not even to touch the trees outside or feel the wind on her face. However, when a family move next door Madeline begins to challenge everything she has ever known.

Madeline watches the family, in particular Olly  a tall, lean teen all dressed in black. Despite her illness and isolation they begin a rather unique relationship. It isn’t long before Olly’s own issues challenge Madeline to take the biggest risk of her life. This is a good read for those who love something different with a bit of romance thrown in. Okay, maybe a bit more than just a little romance  but it is more than that. It’s about taking risks and being true to yourself. Madeline learns she is stronger than she thinks. Currently a bestseller in the USA so you might want to find a copy of this and enjoy it for yourself.


The knot impossible

 4th book in the quartet of A tale of Fontania

By Barbara Else

ISBN 9781776570041

Gecko Press


While this is the fourth book of tales from Fontania it is like the others, a standalone novel with its own stories. Each book can be read on its own but what does connect the books is the place itself. Fontania is a place of mystery and magic with a bit of mayhem in-between.

The knot impossible is the story of  Rufkin a young boy for whom so much seems to be going wrong.  His complete and utter fear of performing leaves his acting family with no choice but to leave him in the care of the Mccacks, while they tour.

A sense of abandonment weighs heavy on his mind but soon he is drawn in to a great adventure of his own, rescuing a little boy and sailing heavy seas. He meets many characters on this journey, some are good and others downright bad. There are cave-lizards to be avoided and just what is it that is lurking beneath the sea. A little fantasy, a little steampunk and a whole heap of thrills. Rudkin’s biggest problem, is deciding whom to trust! And of course he needs to work this out before “the end-of-days”. This is another great read from author Barbara Else and of course beautifully packaged by Gecko Press. Barbara’s use of language is creative and quirky with its own little idiosyncrasies which adds to the story. It is great to see a character grow and Rufkin does. He finds courage where he least expected to find it so to me  – that is just wonderful.

There is still plenty of summer holiday here in the Southern Hemisphere to find a copy of this book and enjoy reading before school starts up again. A great book for middle grade readers.

I love the supporting map on the inside cover.

Today I wandered around the new Margaret Mahy playground in the middle of Christchurch. The place was buzzing with families, young and old, enjoying the new facilities on a gloriously sunny day. This was a huge undertaking but for  families in Christchurch this is just wonderful. So many things to do and climb or swing. Makes me so proud to be a Kiwi!





Fittingly named after Margaret Mahy, one of New Zealand’s best and much-loved children’s authors. The whole park idea was inspired by children and this would have pleased Margaret very much indeed.



On one side of the playground you can see some of the empty land. Once there were numerous buildings and thriving businesses but the quakes destroyed all that.


On one side of the park is the Avon River with its own wee jetty for children to paddle their feet and no doubt feed the ducks. This playground really is a little oasis in the middle of an ever changing city and a much needed one at that. Just wonderful. As simple as that! Just in time for long summer days.



If you want to know more you can read the Press release here and enjoy a little news clip too.


Whether you have Christmas in a cold wintry place or sunbathing on a beach in the middle of summer, Christmas is always a time to catch up on some reading.

These are some of my favourites which I have shared over the years.



The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg                                                       polar

ISBN 9781849390989

I do love the version with the CD read by Liam Neeson.

A young boy’s trip to the North Pole filled with magic. You can of course get out the movie but do enjoy the book first.



wombatChristmas wombat

By Jackie French

Illustrated by Bruce Whatley

ISBN 9780732291716

Gorgeously funny story of Mothball the wombat who continues to eat, sleep and scratch but then something special happens and she is whisked off on a very special ride. Great for toddlers.


snow 2The snowman                       

By Raymond Briggs

ISBN 9780141501710

There is something very special about a snowman and a little boy.  The movie is wonderful too. The music as the boy and the snowman soar over chimney tops is lovely. The illustrations are just adorable with real quirky smiles and personality.



 matchThe little match girl

By H. C. Andersen

I have always loved this story of the little girl who is forced to sell matches in the freezing cold while others sit in their warm and festive houses. Even as a child this story brought me to tears. Not exactly a joyous story but a story we should read and remember for the message to share what we have. Not sure this version is still in print but there are many versions out there just as moving.




velveteenThe velveteen rabbit

By Margery Williams

ISBN 9781604332773

I know this is not the classic version with the illustrations by William Nicholson (which I do have a copy of by the way) but I thought I would share this new illustrated version as it is just delightful. I love the back cover with the bookcase showing some great classic books for children. It is a story we know of a young boy and his favourite rabbit and how toys become real. A classic to treasure.



 miracle   The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

By Susan Wojciechowski

ISBN 9781406310405

This is a very moving story of loneliness, grief and learning to trust and love again.  Jonathan Toomey is the best wood-carver in the valley but he is consumed by grief and sadness and just wants to be by himself.  A knock at his door changes everything. Sometimes we have to work at making a difference and here, a young boy does just that. He makes a difference.

Actually I think I will stop here and go and read this again before turning in for the night. My copy has the audio CD as well so I might listen to that instead when I go to bed.













A monster calls

By Patrick Ness

Walker Books

ISBN 9781406311525

A monster calls remains one of my all time favourite books. It is a stunningly illustrated and beautifully written tale of the fragility of humans.

Connor knows the monster is out there and that it is coming for him. Coming for the truth!

I cried buckets when I read this book and no doubt I will take tissues with me to see the movie. I am lucky to have a hardback copy of this beautiful book and it sits on my “favourites and beautiful books” shelf.  You know, the ones you grab first if ever you had to evacuate your home. Living with earthquakes and having half our city destroyed in 2011 by a very devastating quake which took the lives of 185 people, you learn to keep things where you can reach them quickly. That’s the shelf for this book.


I hope that all involved wont mind me sharing the trailer as it needs to be spread far and wide. It really will be one movie not to be missed. (And the fact that Liam Neeson and that wonderful accent of his is involved is just another reason to see the movie when it comes out).


And I do believe in reading books first before seeing the movies so here is a trailer to the book for those who haven’t yet read it.

This is gorgeous. Mog the cat has been around for years, sharing lots of adventures with children as parents read the famous and much-loved books to children everywhere.

This advert features a new and specially written story about Mog and the lesson is all about sharing. It works beautifully. The campaign includes Sainsbury’s selling a special edition of Mog’s Christmas Calamity book and also a Mog plush toy, with all profits going to Save the Children fund. A great cause especially at Christmas time.

This is when I wished I was living in England again just so I could buy the Christmas book. Christmas in England is such a wonderful time and has a wonderful atmosphere. But never mind! I will console myself by watching this delightful advert over and over again.

The looks on Mog’s face are priceless. I love that the writer Judith Kerr makes a special appearance in this wonderful Christmas advert. Well done to all involved. A brilliant advert and a lovely message.

Who can forget Mog the forgetful cat?


Have you seen Elephant?

By David Barrow

ISBN 9781776570096

Gecko Press


Have You Seen Elephant_front cover 300dpi_gecko

“Elephant wants to play hide and seek. You can play too, but you’ll have to try your best – he’s VERY good!”

I love this. Absolutely love the humour and the illustrations are just so delightful. Elephant is certainly very good at hiding. Hiding in plain sight that is, and he does it so innocently that it just makes you smile.

I mean how can you resist this picture? Elephant is just gorgeous and they play so well together. I also love the tortoise, ironically named Zoom.

Young children will get right in to this and laugh out loud when they find elephant in his hiding places. Simply delightful. I certainly hope there will be more from David Barrow.

One of the things that make Gecko Press so special is providing teaching notes for many of their books which encourages a deeper look at the stories. The notes for Have you seen Elephant can be found here.

Scrap City

By D. S. Thornton

ISBN 978-1-62370-297-7 

Capstone Books

“Would you believe that under the ground, right beneath your city, was another city? Would you believe it was populated with Scrappers, people built of metal and glass and stone? Jerome has no choice but to believe it after he meets Arkie. Arkie is a Scrapper, and he and Jerome quickly become friends—maybe even brothers. So when Arkie’s city is in danger, Jerome knows he must help. But helping Arkie means hurting Jerome’s dad, the only real family Jerome still has . . .”

I love the idea of building people or robots and an underground city full of them sounds very cool indeed.  This could certainly work in well with the inventor, creator side of Maker Spaces. Perhaps after reading the book to a class children could create their own robots out of things lying around the house. I will definitely be looking forward to this book.