Fuzzy Doodle

By Melinda Szymanik

Illustrated by Donovan Bixley

ISBN 9781775432500

Scholastic NZ

 

fuzzy

This gorgeous book arrived at school today and the first thing one of the teachers said when I showed it to her was “it’s beautiful” and I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve read it a number of times now and see something different every time. I know I have to return this to school tomorrow so I am going to have to get my own copy when it comes out in a few weeks as it is one to keep.

It is a beautifully produced hardback, portrait size, sophisticated picture book. It is all about the creative process with the clever metaphor of a caterpillar’s life-cycle. And we all know what a caterpillar turns in to.

Fuzzy begins as a scribble and starts eating his way through inky bits and then words and then soon he is eating paragraphs. From paragraphs, stories grow and I won’t ruin the ending nor the metamorphosis of Fuzzy, except to say it is beautiful. Donovan Bixley’s illustrations are delightful. His charcoal and ink illustrations are more abstract that what we normally see in his work but these are perfect for Melinda’s story. As Fuzzy evolves, so does the page and so too, the black smudges to glorious colour.

The whole process of writing, beginning with the germ of an idea and the smudge on the page, to the final outcome is demonstrated with some wonderful poetic devices which children will love. My favourite is always alliteration.

“Then that parcel, it changed colour, creaked and cracked till it broke open…”

This is perfect and not just for schools or young readers, but would be a wonderful gift to writer friends you know or older students who love writing. It is simply, inspiring and makes you want to create your own scribbles and turn them into something beautiful.

 

Raymie Nightingale

By Kate DiCamillo

ISBN 9781406363135

Walker Books

 

 

 

5

 

Raymie Clarke had her world turned upside when dad ran off with the dental hygienist. However, Raymie does have a plan to get him back again. If she can learn to twirl a baton and enter the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition and then win it, her father might see Raymie’s picture in the paper and come home to Raymie and her mother.   Criteria for the competition also includes doing good deeds. Her attempts at good deeds doesn’t go so well and actually creates other problems for her to deal with. Alongside all this, Raymie has to contend with Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background and therefore could be tough competition, and Beverly Tapinski who is strong but troubled and is determined to sabotage the contest.

This is a moving tale of three girls, each with their own problems, who discover the true value of friendship. As they learn to support each other it leads each of them to discover difficult truths they had been avoiding. Friendship, honesty and acceptance are strong themes throughout this novel but rather than being in your face, these qualities come slowly as the girls learn to trust each other. This is sweet and moving and great for middle grade readers. Loved it! But then I love all of Kate DiCamillo’s works. Read this one and then look for more of her books. They are all quality writing and wonderful stories.

Hex

By Thomas Olde Heuvelt

ISBN 9781444793239

Hodder & Stoughton

 

isbn9781444793239-detail

As soon as I saw this I knew I had to share!

What a cool and creepy cover.  I am seriously going to have to get a copy of this book. The trailer is awesome. Top quality and creepy as! I love books that make you cringe and your skin crawl with fear and I just can’t wait for this one. Out this month New Zealand and Australia. One of those crossover novels sure to appeal and creep out both YA and adult readers.

“Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay until death. Whoever comes to stay, never leaves.

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth-century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Blind and silenced, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children’s beds for nights on end. So accustomed to her have the townsfolk become that they often forget she’s there. Or what a threat she poses. Because if the stitches are ever cut open, the story goes, the whole town will die.

The curse must not be allowed to spread. The elders of Black Spring have used high-tech surveillance to quarantine the town. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break the strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into a dark nightmare.”

If you want to read an interview then click here

Magrit

By Lee Battersby

Illustrations by Amy Daoud

ISBN 9781925081343

Walker Books Australia

magrit

 

What a treasure! This is a very special and beautifully produced novel for readers from nine up.  Heart-warming, touching and sad all rolled in to a wonderful story where the truth is the hardest of all things to find. Beautifully written, I was hooked from the very first page. I just wanted to take Magrit home with me. I sat in the sun reading this today and just didn’t want to put the book down or do anything else. I had to keep going until I found out how the story ends. So I did just that. Sat and read until I knew Magrit’s truth. While I think this would be great for parents to read to children, I am also inclined to think this is one of those special books that readers will love for themselves and make their own connections to Magrit, Bugrat and the Master Puppet.  I bought this book for the school library where I work and I know it will be a hit – but the thing is – I have to return it to school for others to read but I really don’t want to. I actually want to read it all over again. Hmm – late night coming on!

“Magrit lives in an abandoned cemetery with her friend and advisor, Master Puppet, whom she built from bones and bits of graveyard junk. She is as forgotten as the tiny graveyard world that surrounds her. One night as Magrit and Master Puppet sit atop of their crumbling chapel, a passing stork drops a baby into the graveyard. Defying Master Puppet s demands that the baby be disposed of, and taking no heed of his dire warnings, Magrit decides to raise the baby herself. She gives him a name: Bugrat. Magrit loves Bugrat like a brother, friend and son all rolled into one. But Master Puppet and the newly discovered skeleton girl know all too well what will happen when Bugrat grows up – that the truth about them all will be revealed. Something Magrit refuses to face”

 

ANZAC Day is such a special event in both New Zealand and Australian history that 100 years later we are still respecting our ancestors and all they did to serve our countries.

Here is a selection of some of my favourite World War One picture books to share with children. While not all focus on the Gallipoli Campaign, they do talk of the impact of war and are all very worthy to share with children when they ask why do we still have ANZAC parades. Simply put, it is to remember them. All of them. Those who went to war, those who fought and never made it home and yes, even those who stayed at home and helped kept families strong.

 

Gladys goes to war

By Glyn Harper

Illustrated by Jenny Cooper

ISBN 9780143507208

Puffin Booksgldays

 

Gladys Sandford was a very special and determined woman. Told that war was no place for women, Gladys fought convention and went to war, driving ambulances and even fixing them. Gladys was also the first woman in New Zealand to gain a pilot’s license. Based on the real life Gladys this is a very special book. Often illustrators are great at either drawing animals or people. It is not every illustrator who can do both well but Jenny Cooper does this and does it beautifully.

 

The ANZAC puppy

By Peter Millet

Illustrated by Trish Bowles

ISBN 9781775430971

Scholastic

puppy

“In the middle of the night, in the middle of the winter, in the middle of a war, a puppy was born.’ This fictional story was inspired by the story of Freda, a Harlequin Great Dane and mascot of the NZ Rifle Brigade during World War 1. The ANZAC Puppy is a simple story about the reality of war, hardship, friendship and love.”

This is a great story for younger readers especially for its happy ending, despite the harsh realities of war and the pain of being involved in such awful times.

 

 

The red poppy

By David Hill

Illustrated by Fifi Colston

ISBN 9781775430704

Scholastic

poppy

“Young soldier Jim McLeod waits in the trenches of World War I for the order to attack the enemy. With him are his friends, and Nipper, the messenger dog. When they charge across no-man’s-land, Jim is shot …and finds himself face to face with an enemy soldier.”

 A poignantly illustrated picture book with lots to say. There is more focus on the trenches in David Hill’s story than some of the others chosen here today and this certainly adds impact. I love the colours used for this book. The sepia tones and the blood red of the poppies are ideal for this story and perfect for older children. There is much to read and look at in this book and would be ideal in a classroom of year 5 and six students. There is also the wonderful addition of a CD to listen to.

 

Jim’s letters

By Glyn Harper

Illustrated by Jenny Cooper

ISBN 9780143505907

 

jim

“Dear Jim, Your postcard arrived today. I showed it to the family. Mum misses you…” Between December 1914 and August 1915 Tom and Jim write to each other whenever they get a chance. Tom talks about life at home on the farm while Jim writes from Egypt and then from the trenches of the Gallipoli peninsula”

The power of this book is highlighting the lives of those at war and family at home. It was hard for family waiting at home knowing any day they might receive the dreadful news that their beloved son, brother or father was either wounded or killed. Nothing was certain and I think this book depicts this very well.

 

There are so many more books I could share. Below are two of my favourites already reviewed on this blog.

One minute’s silence

By David Metzenthen

 

ANZAC Heroes

By Maria Gill  (non-fiction but a perfect book to support these picture books)

One

By Sarah Crossan

ISBN 9781408872345

Bloomsbury Children’s

 

One

 

“Grace and Tippi are twins – conjoined twins.

And their lives are about to change. 

No longer able to afford homeschooling, they must venture into the world – a world of stares, sneers and cruelty. Will they find more than that at school? Can they find real friends? And what about love? But what neither Grace or Tippi realises is that a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead. A decision that could tear them apart. One that will change their lives even more than they ever imagined…”

I have always been a fan of verse novels. The power of a novel written in verse is magical. Words are sparse and carefully thought out and hit the reader with impact. This is no exception. One by Sarah Crossan creates a realism around Grace and Pippi. I was intrigued with the girl’s ability to deal with the issues of living everyday as conjoined twins.

“It really isn’t so bad.

It’s how it’s always been.

It’s all we know.

And actually,

     we’re usually

     quite happy

     together.”  (pg 12- 13)

 

Never having the ability to do things without each other must be the toughest things to deal with – or so I thought.

Having always had the protection of being home-schooled the girls have been sheltered but now with things changing they have to face the public eye, attend public school and learn to deal with what people think of them and their situation. Their transition to public life is unique but well written. We are given enough information to understand the girls plight but not enough to be intrusive or insensitive. The girl’s mother is trying to hold it all together while the father struggles with drink.  Part of their world is crumbling but the other part is beginning to taste the joys and trappings of teenage life. Younger sister Dragon has her own issues to deal with as well. Don’t let the fact that it is a verse novel put you off. It is a smooth, easy read with a powerful impact that will want you looking out for other verse novels and just as importantly, looking for other works by Sarah Crossan.

This book hits home with a punch. A good one for teens to sink their teeth into.

Bicycling to the moon

By Timo Parvela

Illustrated by Virpi Talvitie

Translated by Ruth Urbom

ISBN 9781776570324

Gecko Press

Bicycling to the Moon cover

Purdy the cat and Barker the dog live together in a sky-blue house on top of a hill.

Barker likes the garden. He wants only to dig, to scratch up the earth and turn it over. But Purdy has big dreams: he wants to fly south with the birds, win the singing competition, be a Supercat.

I am so glad that Gecko Press translate so many books for children or I would miss delights such as this book. Bicycling to the moon is quirky, funny and at times quite profound with it stories of friendship and the value of loyalty. As best of friends, Purdy and Barker often frustrate each other. Barker certainly seems to do more than his share of work around the house and Purdy often spends his time complaining about things and not getting much done but at the end of the day, they really do care about each other.

I particularly loved the chapter “A singing contest”. Like Purdy, I am someone who cannot sing at all. In fact I recall a teacher telling me years ago that I should mime the words when my class sang in front of the school. I think Barker would have had something to say to my teacher! I still mime if I have to sing in public.

This collection of short stories is broken up with lovely colourful illustrations making it ideal for readers from seven up, to read on their own. This is also perfect for parents and grandparents to share before bedtime. It might even generate conversations on friendships, loyalty and honesty. Love it!

Nibbles: The book monster

Bu Emma Yarlett

ISBN 9781848691933

Little Tiger UK

nibbles

 

It doesn’t matter how old you are, a good picture book is not just for young children.  A good picture book is worth reading at any age and Nibbles: The book monster is one such book.  Brightly coloured, full page illustrations are one of the first things you notice, but the second, is the cheeky smile of the very naughty book monster.  Despite being naughty and gate-crashing his way into traditional fairy tales you just can’t help but like him. The ending is particularly funny and children will love it.

There are peep holes to peek through, and  stories within stories to unfold. Nibbles has escaped from his cage and is on the run. The story really needs the reader to help put him back in the cage where he belongs.  I bought this delightful book for the school library and can’t wait to share it with the children. It is also great for teachers wanting to look at fractured fairy tales.

 

 

Follow me back

By Nicci Cloke

ISBN 9781471405082

Hot key books  

follow

 

“There was no sign of a struggle, they whisper to each other. She took her phone but left her laptop behind.
Apparently, she’d met someone online, they write to each other in class, phones buzzing.
She ran away. She was taken.”

“The first time Aiden Kendrick hears about Lizzie Summersall’s disappearance is when the police appear at his front door. He and Lizzie used to be friends; they aren’t anymore. And when Aiden finds out that Lizzie had been talking to strangers on Facebook; that the police think she went to meet one of them, he begins to wonder how well he ever really knew her, and Aiden doesn’t know it yet, but with Lizzie’s disappearance his life is about to take a twisted and desperate turn.”

 When Lizzie goes missing there are many suspects and many twists and turns that kept me reading. While this book does highlight the fact that we can never really be sure of the people we meet online and the dangers such relationships can bring, it was a very good read.  A psychological thriller played out on school grounds, Facebook and even a local reality TV show.

Aiden misses Lizzie who seems to have just vanished. While she appears to have gone willingly, all she took with her was her phone. No-one knows where she is or who she is with or even if she is safe and alive. Aiden and his best friend Scobie seek to find out what happened to Lizzie but the more they search the truth the more Aiden ends up in trouble himself. There were times when I felt sorry for Aiden but times when I wanted to shake him as he really could be an idiot and not the nicest of characters. However, I still wanted him to find Lizzie. This is a well thought-out novel with the pace perfectly teasing us at the end of each brief chapter until the very end. Social media today is everywhere and everything and this book is one worth sharing with teens in a classroom setting to discuss the dangers. But it is most importantly a good read for the thrill of the ride and one I enjoyed thoroughly.

Front lines

By Michael Grant

ISBN 9780062342157

 

5

This is one book I am particularly eager to read. Strong female characters in the military and a solid storyline make this so appealing. It is the first in a new series by Michael Grant where he has re-imagined World War II with girl soldiers fighting on the front lines.

“A court decision makes women subject to the draft and eligible for service. The unproven American army is going up against the greatest fighting force ever assembled, the armed forces of Nazi Germany.Three girls sign up to fight. Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman are average girls, girls with dreams and aspirations, at the start of their lives, at the start of their loves. Each has her own reasons for volunteering: Rio fights to honor her sister; Frangie needs money for her family; Rainy wants to kill Germans. For the first time they leave behind their homes and families to go to war.These three daring young women will play their parts in the war to defeat evil and save the human race. As the fate of the world hangs in the balance, they will discover the roles that define them on the front lines. They will fight the greatest war the world has ever known”

Check out this very cool trailer.

Tu Meke Tui!

By Malcolm Clarke

Illustrated by Flox

ISBN 9780473343750

Mary Egan Publishing

Tu Meke Tui Face Book page.

 

5

Tu Meke Tui is a heart-warming story of friendship and encouragement but also acceptance and being proud of who you are. It is about the realization that we are all different but we all have something that makes us special. Most of all, it is about finding the courage to try something new and take risks and find new friends along the way.

This picture book is full of rich, vibrant illustrations depicting some of New Zealand’s native birds and bush.  I love how there is so much of New Zealand’s native wildlife and fauna throughout the illustrations. It would be ideal as a gift to family and friends overseas.

If you want to know more just click here.

Tickle my ears

By Jörg Muhle

ISBN 9781776570768

Gecko Press

(Available  May 2016)

TickleMyEars_Cover_HR_RGB

 

“It’s getting late and Little Rabbit must go to bed. Can you help him?”

This is an adorable board book all about a Little Rabbit with rosy cheeks. While great to read anytime, it will become a bedtime favourite as the littlest of children snuggle up and follow requests to help Little Rabbit get ready for bed.

There will be tapping on the shoulders, tickling of the ears and tucking Little Rabbit into bed.  My guess is that when it comes to kissing Little Rabbit goodnight  the pages of this book will be slobbered over with real kisses. The sweetest of illustrations add to this story making it a perfect read for wee ones.

 

ANZAC Heroes

By Maria Gill

Illustrated by Marco Ivancic

ISBN 9781775433637

Scholastic NZ

5

 

30 courageous ANZACS from WWI and WWII

This is one of those very special books that will capture a wide audience. Teachers, librarians, students, parents and grandparents will love this book. It is a beautifully produced, hardback non-fiction book of biographies of some of our ANZAC heroes.

This superb book features the lives of 30 Australian and New Zealand  ANZAC Heroes from both World War One and World War Two. This is a very well researched project and is quite simply, stunning. I believe this is a winner and should be in every school library. This is one of those books you want to pick up again and again. It is about saving lives, imprisonment, courage and bravery. It is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things to serve our country. Their stories are real and heroic.

I loved reading about Olive King. I confess I had never heard of her before but after reading her biography, I now admire her so much. Having been told war was no place for women, Olive proved otherwise and volunteered to drive ambulances. Olive also took up courses in first-aid and motor repairs. Later she transported wounded soldiers. She went on to do so many extraordinary things.

Try reading about Captain Charles Upham, one of only three soldiers to ever win two Victoria Crosses. An amazing achievement.

As a non-fiction book this is a perfect example for others to follow. It has it all. Contents page, introduction, glossary, maps, timelines, bibliography, list of websites, photographs, illustrations, and of course detailed biographies. The language and text is suited to readers of all ages. I loved the double page spread of the timelines of each war. Brief but very informative and so easy to follow.

There are some great teaching notes to support this book and I do encourage teachers to use them to make the most of this wonderful resource.

What dog knows

by Sylvia Vanden Heede

Illustrated by Marije Tolman

ISBN 9781776570379

Gecko Press

What Dog Knows cover

This is a perfect combination of story and facts.

It is both a chapter book with a story of Wolf and his cousin Dog and their wonderfully quirky relationship but also a book filled with facts and quizzes and lots of humour. Wolf continually attempts to outwit his cousin but sometimes with only a little bit of information he gets confused and Dog has to fill him in with the real facts.

The facts through out the book are bite-size and informative. I loved the chapter about mummies and the hilarious illustration of the recipe for a mummy (according to Wolf). While there are plenty of things in this book to try at home I wouldn’t suggest trying to mummify the cat but it is certainly a laugh-out-loud read. Wolf makes up little rhymes too which tend to annoy Dog but they do add to the story.

There are stories and information about dragons, and dinosuars, pirates and robots but so much more.

The end pages are gorgeous. Watch out for Wolf and his cheeky face under the flaps.

It is an ideal book for readers who love facts, or animal stories, or humour. It really is a book with a little bit of everything. Aimed perhaps at the newly independent readers it still has something for any age whether parents, grandparents or teachers, this is a wonderful book perfectly accompanied by the funniest illustrations.

Juicy the Peach and the popcorn palaver

By Anna Theed

Illustrated by Antony Elworthy

Beeswax Books

ISBN 9780473323967

6

In rhyming text with bright illustrations this debut picture book by author Anna Theed is sure to put smiles on the faces of young readers or listeners. Actually a couple of  10 year old boys on library duty today picked up our copy of this book and giggled their way through Juicy’s antics especially her bad case of flatulence. I also had a class of 5 and 6 year old children who laughed through the book. The sound of children’s laughter is a wonderful thing.

A glittery hardback picture book with quirky characters. Love the big wide eyes on the children’s faces.

There is chaos as Juicy takes care of two children for a day. And that chaos involves plenty of popcorn, in fact so much popcorn that it “popped out the door, down the path to the gate.”  What do you do with so much popcorn? Well, you read the book to find out.  If you want to have a wee peek inside then click here