Mr Postmouse goes on holiday

Written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc

Translated by Greet Pauwelijn

ISBN 9781911496045

Book Island

In the first book Here comes Mr Postmouse author and illustrator Marianne Dubuc introduced us to the daily routines of Mr Postmouse as he delivered letters and parcels to animal folk everywhere. In this second book we find Mr Postmouse and his family; Mrs Postmouse and children, Pierrot, Pipsqueak and Lulu taking a holiday all over the world. As we move through the pages we meet lots of animals and visit many different places. I particularly love the ladybugs and all the rosy cheeks of the animals and small creatures.

Family is important here with even the youngest of the mice sharing responsibilities helping to make the holiday the best it can be.

The large portrait size picture book is great for sharing and with it’s bright and busy illustrations it is not difficult to find yourself spending quite some time pointing out the different animals. There are sloths, frogs, tigers, even penguins and polar bears to search out and enjoy a  conversation over, with young ones. A good book to share.

 

The lava melt shake

Dinosaur Trouble book 2

By Kyle Mewburn

Illustrated by Donovan Bixley

ISBN 9781775433675

Scholastic NZ

Rumble, whoosh, phhhht! The volcano spews out a red-hot lava melt shake. Can Arg save the day in his mega-messy way?

The latest book in the Dinosaur Trouble series about cave boy Arg and his stone age family has heaps of humour but also quite a bit of danger. What makes these books perfect for younger readers is not just that they offer a good adventure to read but there is the awareness that family is important and always there to help and support. No matter what danger Arg gets himself in to, he knows he can rely on family. 

Donovan Bixley captures the antics with wonderfully funny illustrations. In fact, as a team, author and illustrator work perfectly together. This series and its format with large text, lots of illustrations and short chapters is great for newly independent readers. Perfect for getting readers ready to read the Dinosaur Rescue series after this one.

I was enjoying reading the latest adventure of cave boy Arg and laughing along at all the funny bits when I began wondering if the author might just be a bit like Arg. Arg certainly has his share of trouble but with a bit of clever thinking he always finds his way out of danger so I thought I would ask author Kyle Mewburn a few questions to see if there were any similarities between himself when he was young and his mischievous character Arg.

Check out his answer to this and other questions below.

There is a lot of humour in your chapter books. The Dinosaur Rescue and Dinosaur Trouble chapter books have a real sense of mischievousness in them. What were you like as a child? Mischievous perhaps?

I never considered myself mischievous, but for some reason I was always getting into trouble. Personally I think I was simply too clever for my own good – much like Arg. I also had a low boredom threshold, so was always coming up with ingenious ways to amuse myself, whether in class or at home. Unfortunately not everyone could see how ingenious I was. Though Dinosaur Rescue and Dinosaur Trouble aren’t autobiographical per se (apart from the neanderthal parents and jealous sister – haha!), the underlying sense of alienation and different-ness Arg feels certainly is. Having a strong emotional element underpinning the storyline is so important for this age group, I think. 

We know you live in an isolated area of the country but you often travel to schools all over NZ and even Australia. Is it difficult having to travel so far. What it is like living where you live and does it get very cold?

Millers Flat isn’t as isolated as it seems. It’s only 90 minutes drive to Dunedin or Queenstown, both of which have airports. You could actually argue I don’t live in the middle of nowhere, but halfway to everywhere. But while travelling isn’t difficult, it certainly is expensive. The fact I have to pass on travel costs to schools often puts a visit out of reach of a school’s budget. Which is why I try to make the most of any trip and cram as many visits in as possible, so schools can share costs.

I can’t imagine living anywhere else. The lifestyle suits me perfectly. I require almost total quiet to write – even a fly makes me lose focus. So I couldn’t imagine living in a city. And there’s nothing better for clearing the cobwebs than pottering in the garden. Living in an isolated area also fits in nicely with my greenie philosophy. We have a composting toilet and a worm-farm grease-trap, so almost no food is wasted.

When we first moved to the area in 1990, we used to get bitterly cold, extended winters. Temperatures could remain below zero for months on end, freezing the ground several inches deep. But recent winters have been positively balmy in comparison, thanks to climate change. Either way, we manage to stay snug and warm in our little, extremely well-insulated (thanks to our grass roof) house with a very efficient wood-burner.

What does an ordinary writing day look like for you?

I try to write most days – at least when I’m at home. I haven’t quite mastered the art of writing on the road. Basically I wake up, make coffee and, at this time of the year, put on the fire. Then I head up to my desk and start writing… or at least trying to write. Often that involves trawling social media and playing a lot of solitaire. I’m a fits and starts kind of writer. I generally write in inspired bursts. But the inspired bursts don’t appear unless I chain myself to my desk for extended periods of struggling to write a single decent sentence.

What key advice would you give to children who want to write?

Enjoy your writing! There’s often no concrete reward to writing – the odds of getting published are incredibly low. Unless you are enjoying the journey and the process, you’re more likely to experience frustration and angst rather than joy.

What genre of books do you read in your spare time and who is your favourite author?

I used to read a lot of literary fiction – Graham Greene, Peter Carey etc – but recently I’ve returned to reading a lot more speculative sci-fi. I’ve been slowly working my way through The complete works of Theodore Sturgeon the last few years. It’s been a fascinating journey following the development of a key sci-fi writer from his early days of churning out “800-word stories with a twist” for a magazine, right through to the complex classics of his latter years.

If you could be any character from any book, yours or anyone other book, who would you be and why?

The character from H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. I’ve always had a fascination with the notion of time travel – and the moral implications of it all.

Thank you so much Kyle for sharing your thoughts.

 

The Dark Prophecy

The trials of Apollo Book 2 

By Rick Riordan 

ISBN 9780141363974

Penguin Random House

Rick Riordan has fans all over the world, including me. Readers love his books, in fact readers devour his books. In my day job as a librarian I am constantly asked by my students- when are the next books coming out. Well, I can finally say the next one is here now. Book two in the Trials of Apollo series offers more heroic adventures. The students who began with Percy Jackson continue to read these wonderful tales of mythological characters. It is not just children and teenagers who read Riordan’s different series but also many adults.

Take a peek at these book trailers to see just why Rick Riordan’s books are so popular. Check out his website as well for more details about his books. There are also heaps of ideas if you want to be a writer yourself.

 

The god Apollo, cast down to earth and trapped in the form of a gawky teenage boy as punishment, must set off on the second of his harrowing (and hilarious) trials.
He and his companions seek the ancient oracles – restoring them is the only way for Apollo to reclaim his place on Mount Olympus – but this is easier said than done.
Somewhere in the American Midwest is a haunted cave that may hold answers for Apollo in his quest to become a god again . . . if it doesn’t kill him or drive him insane first. Standing in Apollo’s way is the second member of the evil Triumvirate – a Roman emperor whose love of bloodshed and spectacle makes even Nero look tame.
To survive the encounter, Apollo will need the help of a now-mortal goddess, a bronze dragon, and some familiar demigod faces from Camp Half-Blood. With them by his side, can Apollo face down the greatest challenge of his four thousand years of existence?

 

 

 

Jake Bailey: What cancer taught me
By Jake Bailey
ISBN 9780143770862
Penguin Random House NZ

 

None of us get out of life alive, so be gallant, be great, be gracious, and be grateful for the opportunities you have.’
Only one week after being told he had cancer, student Jake Bailey was wheeled on stage for his end-of-year speech as head boy at Christchurch Boys’ High School. None of us can forget seeing him on television, brave and determined. His words moved everyone and spread quickly around the world so that people everywhere knew of this young man from Christchurch. A young man who had the biggest battle of his life ahead of him.
In his biography we share Jake’s journey, his illness, his treatment and recovery. Jake’s story is one we all need to read. While aimed for the adult market I believe this is one of those perfect cross-over books and will be a must-have for secondary school libraries. Such an honest and inspirational young man, I can’t wait to read his book.

 

Tāwhirimātea A song for Matariki

By June Pitman-Hayes

Illustrated by Kat Merewether

Māori lyrics by Ngaere Roberts

Matariki is a time to celebrate Earth, sky, seasons and whānau. This new picture book with its accompanying CD is a treasure for families, schools and pre-schools.  Great to read aloud and great to sing along with the CD.

Mum, dad, children and grandparents go on a walk and have a picnic. They swim, catch fish, walk through the bush and spend a wonderful day together.

Tāwhirimātea, blow winds blow

Rā, warm us up with your sunshine glow.

Papatūānuku, we plant seeds in you.

Ua, rain, helps new life come through…

Lots of New Zealand wildlife make guest appearances throughout the story. Very good use of Te Reo throughout the story as well as a complete Maori version make this essential for school libraries.

Gorgeous use of colour in the illustrations, especially the blues and purples. Warm and friendly.

We’re off to find a Kiwi

By Juliette MacIver

Illustrated by Kate Wilkinson

ISBN 9781775433750

 

 

We're Off to Find a Kiwi hr

 

Children’s writer, Juliette MacIver is prolific and popular. Her trademark playful rhymes continue in her latest picture book about Louie and his big sister, on the hunt for the elusive kiwi. The children think of the different places a kiwi might hide. They search the town, a farm and even the mountains but just can’t seem to find any kiwis. But they do not give up.  I do like the last page with facts about kiwis which adds a little extra to the story.

Very much a New Zealand themed picture book which makes it ideal to send to family and friends overseas.

Soft illustrations with lots of natural colours, particularly with the bush scenes. Great for the 3 – 7 year olds.

 

 

 

 

1917 Machines of War

Kiwis at War series

By Brian Falkner

ISBN 9781775432807

Scholastic NZ

It is 1917 and the Great war is a jagged scar across the face of Europe. Soldiers cower in mud-filled trenches, hurling bullets across the war-torn landscape. Above them flies 17-year-old New Zealander Bob Sunday, of the Royal Flying Corps. Before long, Bob finds himself flying against the great German air aces, including the infamous Red Baron, as their warplanes whirl above the battlefields of Arras, Passchendaele and Cambrai.

Over the years, I have read many children’s and young adult war war books but none have focused on war from a pilot’s point of view. It is illuminating to see how World War 1 played out in the skies above the battlefields, from the eyes of pilot Bob Sunday. There were so many things I didn’t really know about. I was surprised by the debate over parachutes which becomes part of Bob’s many conversations. The descriptions of the different planes and the people involved provides a well-researched account of the events at the time.

It is great how we get to see the impact of war from pilots from different sides of the war. Enemies at times, showing a sense of respect for each other as they battle for the skies.  Bob Sunday arrived fresh from New Zealand with revenge in his heart but over the year you can see his growing maturity and change of ideals.  Author Brian Falkner tells it straight but I did find myself smiling a few times over clever and witty dialogue. We know from our history books that war was brutal and a tragic waste but through Bob Sunday’s eyes we see it first-hand.

A smell began to assail my nostrils. An unbreathable stench of death and decay. I held my breath as long as I could, trying not to gag, but eventually I had to breathe in and waves of nausea and dizziness almost overwhelmed me. I don’t know what I was crawling through …

Bob is a believable and likable protagonist facing up to his fears and living in incredible times.

I think this would make a great read for a novel study for older students or a book club choice. Do make use of the teacher notes here.

This is the fourth title in the Kiwis at War series with a final book to be published in 1918. Each book looks at a different year of the First World War.

Waiting for Goliath

By Antje Damm

ISBN 9781776571420

There is so much to love with this picture book about waiting for a friend.

Bear sits waiting and waiting. Even when it snows, bear sits waiting on the bench for his friend Goliath. Other animal friends come and go and much discussion is had about whether Goliath will ever turn up. Bear is of course patient, optimistic and faithful to his friend Goliath. When Goliath eventually does turn up, young children will laugh out loud. I did.

The illustrations are superb. Created as dioramas and then photographed, the pictures have a depth of field that will fascinate young readers and put them right in the middle of the story. Just gorgeous.  Published this May so do watch out for it.

 

My dog Mouse

By Eva Lindstrom

ISBN 9781776571499

Published this June.

 

He’s old and fat with ears as thin as pancakes. His walk is a kind of waddle and he’s always pleased to see me.

This delightful book really is for everyone. We all know an old dog that goes so slowly. “Step, pause. Step, pause. Step, pause.”  The kind of old dog you want to just pick up and carry home. 

Well Mouse is one of those old dogs and even though the girl in the story doesn’t own Mouse she does love him to bits. Whenever she asks, she is always allowed to take him on walks. Very slow walks where other people always overtake them. And when she hands him back to his owner, she thinks “I wish Mouse was mine”. The story is funny and sweet but it is also real. And we know that come tomorrow she will be back to take Mouse for another long, slow walk.

The illustrations have a naive, child-like quality to them which is lovely and fresh. 

The ANZAC tree

Written and illustrated by Christina Booth

ISBN 978160154226

Omnibus Books an imprint of Scholastic Australia

In 1916 two brothers planted two trees on their farm. They then headed far away to France to fight in the Great War. The ANZAC Tree tells the story of a century of Australian generations who went to war, and the story of those who were left behind.

Beautifully illustrated, this new picture book, based on a real family, starts with the planting of two trees by two brothers on the farm just before they depart to fight in the First World War. The story moves through the generations and different wars. The sepia tones and old photographs at the beginning of the book create an historical look at the time when war broke out.

The illustrations take on a brighter feel as we move through the generations and changing times.

I love how generations of children introduce themselves in a journal format with photos and handwritten notes. They each tell their stories and how the different wars have impacted on them and their families, descendants of the two brothers at the beginning of the story.

Though times have changed, two things remain.

Firstly, and sadly, war continues in many parts of the world.

Secondly but wonderfully, the ANZAC tree still stands, proud and symbolic.

Christina Booth has provided us with a great book to not just read about wars but to show the impact on families and those left behind. Great book to use in class and open up discussion on many levels.

A Mother’s Day Dilemma

By Juliette MacIver

Illustrated by Janine Millington

ISBN 9781775433453

Scholastic

Poor Prince Pierre and Princess Emma face a major muddlesome dilemma. What do you give your mother the Queen… when she has absolutely everything?

It’s Mother’s Day and Pierre and Emma are stuck for ideas on what gift to give their mother, especially as she is the Queen and has everything she could possibly want. They search the markets, the beach, everywhere. They come up with all sorts of ideas, including smoked sardines. Will they ever find a gift for mum?

Juliette MacIver brings her trade-mark rhymes to her story about the young brother and sister as they struggle to think of a special gift.

I love how the bright illustrations have a real feel of the Pacific to them with the beaches, bush and birds. I love the pink flower in Emma’s hair and the way she scrunches up her nose at the smoked sardines.

 

 

And another delightful picture book to celebrate mums.

 

My Meerkat Mum

By Ruth Paul

ISBN 9781775434894

Scholastic NZ

 

Up. Down. Dig. Play.

Meerkat Mum leads the way.

 

What a delightful picture book with a strong message all about a mother’s love for her children. Always watching, always checking for her children’s safety, mother meerkat stays constantly alert for any danger her young family may face. The meerkat mum takes her family out in the search for food but protects them from snakes and wild weather. Always, we can see how much she loves her children, even at night when they are sleeping, mum is watching out for her children. Quick, jaunty language totally suits the movements of meerkats in this story.

Just like real meerkats, the ones in this picture book are inquisitive and quick. The burnt orange and yellow colours of the illustrations match their natural environment and the meerkats definitely have the cute factor making this an ideal book to share with younger readers.

 

If I had an elephant

By Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones

Illustrated by Richard Fairgray

Colouring by Tara Black

ISBN 9781775434764

Scholastic NZ

Fun, imaginative and just the way childhood play should be. This talented partnership of writers and illustrator have again brought us another fun-filled humorous picture book. 

Young Henry begins the day by wishing he had an elephant and then takes us with him as he considers the awesome time they would have together. We journey through time and space and meet wonderful characters such as the “four-eyed, two-horned, big-tusked Grumblepuff”.  Having an elephant by your side leads to all sorts of adventures which will in turn spark young reader’s own imaginations. Everyone needs the friendship and support of a best friend and here in this truly imaginative story, elephant is this young boy’s best friend, or at least he would be if he only had an elephant. 

If I had an elephant for a best friend, there’d be no stopping us! We’d get matching jackets. We’d build a time machine together. We’d have OUT OF THIS WORLD adventures …

IF I had an elephant.

 

Brothers from a different mother

By Phillip Gwynne

Illustrated by Marjore Crosly-Fairall

Penguin Random House Australia

 

This is just adorable. A lovely story of friendship and the idea that no matter what our differences are, we can all be friends. Wonderful concept that we all need to remember. I love this trailer. Just gorgeous and cute and has that warm fuzzy feeling. Will be ordering this ASAP.

 

A case in any case

By Ulf Nilsson

Illustrated by Gitte Spee

ISBN 9781776571093

Gecko Press

 

 

A case in any case is the third book in the Detective Gordon series about a police Toad and his assistant Buffy. However, each book works very well as a stand-alone.

Buffy is in charge of the police station when she hears noises and decides to investigate. However, her investigations need a little help from Detective Gordon who is currently away. I love the relationship between these two loveable characters. They need each other and their friendship is strong and caring. Despite sometimes fumbling over what is right in front of them they do solve their mysterious cases. The humour is subtle but so funny. Love it.

Gorgeous illustrations in soft colours provide a very natural setting for the story. I do love how expressive the eyes are in the pictures and bringing out the characters personalities. 

Great series for those newly independent readers on their first chapter books but equally great as a read-aloud.

This is so cool. Fans of Captain Underpants will love this.

Hugely popular series by Dav Pilkey and Scholastic Publishers. Do read the books first though.  This really is a funny series that will encourage children to keep reading and wanting the next book in the series.

Bruno : some of the more interesting days in my life so far

By Catharina Valckx

Illustrated by Nicolas Hubesch

ISBN 9781776571253

Gecko Press

 

Bruno is a cat with a bit of a “come what may” attitude to life. Whatever the day brings, good or bad he finds a way to make the most of it, even in a power cut. A rainy day changes nothing when he wants a picnic – he will just have it inside instead. He is both funny and serious with his matter-of-fact stance on life. He is however, a very good friend to Gloria the shop-keeping cow and Ringo the old horse.

There are six short stories, a mix of daily routines and some surprises which all connect to each other. I laughed out loud a number of times with the tongue-in-cheek humour. The quirky illustrations perfectly portray the characters expressions. My favourite is A stupid day (that ends pretty well) in which Bruno meets a canary whose words are pretty much gibberish.

Hmm! But then I also love A  peculiar day where Bruno meets a fish swimming through the air and as always, he takes things in his stride and follows the fish right into the middle of an adventure. A peculiar day indeed. Really, it is a bit too hard to pick a favourite as all the stories were delightful. 

The colour illustrations are more comic style in format but work so well here with the short stories. I love the pictures with the canal and foot bridges. Creates a real sense of place and time.

A perfect collaboration of author and illustrator.