Today in New Zealand History. Updated edition

By Neil Atkinson, David Green, Gareth Phipps, and Steve Watters

Exisle Publishing

 

 

This is one of those books that should be in every school in New Zealand, if not every home.  The pages are full of dates and information but in a very accessible way. Easy to read, not too wordy but enough information to give readers an understanding of important historical events in New Zealand’s history. There is a mix of black and white photos as well as colour ones.

The layout is perfect for dipping into and reading interesting snippets. The headings and dates are bold and easy to read when searching for particular dates. The book covers so much; disasters, politics, famous people, sporting events and much, much more. The book includes the 15th March 2019 Mosque shootings which is still so very fresh in everyone’s minds. As someone who lives in Christchurch and was in lockdown in a school while this devastating event took place, it is good to know that it is included in the updated edition.

NB Thanks to Exisle publishing for allowing me to share these copyright sample pages.

The book also includes happy events, such as when our Silver Ferns netball team won the 2019 World Cup. Exciting times.

Grab yourself a copy of this detailed, informative and authoritative look at our history from way back in the past right up until now.

 

The first doo-lally daft blinkin’ bonkers book

By Ainsley Waite

ISBN 9781988516899

Upstart Press

 

Children love jokes. They love laughing and the more they understand puns and jokes, the more they devour joke books. Delivery isn’t always so wonderful at seven years old, but watching children and listening to them get excited when they share jokes, now that, is wonderful.
This delightfully bright new book by Ainsley Waite shares some classic jokes and new ones too, that children will giggle over. Each page is full of bright, bold colours and fonts that seem to dance on the page. I love the format, very much as a picture book which makes it a quick and easy read. The cover alone is enough to make you want to pick up this fun book and share a joke or two with a friend. Look out for it. Great family fun and a top addition to a primary school library.
I am very excited to share some questions and answers with the author and designer Ainsley Waite. 

1. The first thing you notice about your book is the bright, bold cover. How do you decide what colours and font designs will work best with each other?
It actually takes quite a long time trying to work out the right colours that work together and don’t clash too much.  Nobody wants to get a headache from reading a book! The same goes for working out which fonts to use. I try to use styles that help support the meaning of each word and it’s relevance to the joke. (For example, a slim, slanting font can indicate moving at speed whereas large, bold, capital letters can suggest shouting).It’s working out the layout that’s the tricky part – each joke needs to fit on the page and must be easy to read. Any illustrations should help it along so that any younger readers who might not be able to read so well can still understand the joke. As to the cover, I wanted colours that would appeal to both girls and boys. And quite simply, yellow is one of the brightest colours in the spectrum which helps the book to stand out on the store shelf!

 

2. Children love jokes and joke books but it is rare to find them in this format. How did you come to the idea of a picture book format?

As a child I owned plenty of joke books but I always found it odd that they were filled with simple, plain, black and white type. To my mind jokes are fun and should surely be colourful and energetic? Years ago I would put jokes together on square canvases and hang them as artwork for my children’s bedroom walls.  I then went on the sell these artworks locally. That’s where the idea to collate them and put them all together in a book came from!

3. Based on the title of your book, I’m guessing there must be plans to create a second one, and maybe even a third. Can we expect another one soon? And do your family and friends tell you lots of jokes for further books or do you research jokes to see what works?Hah! Since the release of this first book I’m forever getting joke suggestions from friends and family – in particularly from my dad who lives in Liverpool, UK. My dad really does have some of the best (and worse) dad jokes – so thanks dad! I’ve an A4 exercise book filled to the brim with my scribblings of possible jokes for following publications. I find them everywhere!  There were a few goodies in the crackers at the Christmas table last year and I found a great one recently on a blackboard in a cafe in the South Island. Book two is currently underway although I’ve no idea when it will be finished! Trying to select the best jokes is the first job, then working out the design of each page, create any illustrations and then lay it all out on the computer. From there I’ll be testing each page out on everyone who knows me..  so watch this space!

4. What advice would you give to someone, particularly children, wanting to follow in your footsteps.Put your ideas down on paper. Take your time working out who you think would enjoy reading your book and if you have an age and gender you’re targeting. Try out designs using different layouts and colours and make sure to test your creation out on your target audience, be it friends and family. It’s hugely important to listen to any feedback and amendments they might suggest and their reasons why. There will be plenty of opinions and suggestions and don’t lose heart if some are not what you want to hear. Everybody’s different! Most importantly have fun putting it together and be proud of yourself!

5. If you could have dinner with any character from any book, who would it be and why?  Oooh this is a tough one, but I think I would have to be the cartoon cat Garfield. As a child I was pretty obsessed with him! I couldn’t wait to read the daily cartoon strip in the newspaper and would save my pocket money to buy the books. I’d spend hours drawing Garfield and much to the delight of my parents, I would pin each drawing on the walls and ceiling of my bedroom. Deciding what to cook for dinner would be easy as like myself, Garfield absolutely loves lasagne. Actually my two boys adore Dog Man so let’s invite him along too! Can you imagine how crazy that would be? Well, it would be blinkin’ bonkers!

Thank you so much for taking the time share your ideas with us and I totally agree about Dog Man and Garfield at the same table for tea. That would be crazy but hilarious.
Here is Ainsley busy writing. I wonder if she is thinking and writing up some new jokes.

Numenia and the Hurricane:Inspired by a True Migration Story

By Fiona Halliday

Page Street Kids

Trailer by Mark Abery

While on holiday these last few weeks I spent a bit too much time on the internet but it wasn’t wasted. I discovered a wonderful new illustrator. Fiona Halliday has what looks like to be a beautiful new picture book for young readers. I’ve checked out her website too and her artwork really is gorgeous. There is a softness, a gentleness  in her illustrations that draws you in and wants you to connect.  The art work is stunning and beautifully captured in this wonderful trailer.  From quotes from some early reviews I can see how beautiful and poetic the language is and I can’t wait to read it all.  I am certainly going to order this debut book when I return to work in the library.

When the autumnal equinox arrives, Numenia takes off with her two sisters and thousands of other birds to begin their long migration from the Arctic to the islands of the Caribbean. But there is a dangerous storm brewing on the horizon. When the hurricane hits, fierce winds rip Numenia away from her family.

This small, scrappy whimbrel must make her way through unfamiliar terrain and rough conditions to reunite with her sisters. Battling hunger, loneliness, and raging winds, Numenia finds the strength to endure the elements on her miraculous journey.

 

Avis and the Promise of Dragons 

By Heather McQuillan

ISBN 9780995119758

The Cuba Press

 

Love the cool cover with the mysterious eye peeking out from the bush. The first thought is why is it hiding, and what is going to happen? It is an easy well-paced read so won’t take you long to find out the answers.

Avis has a dream to work with animals, so when a scientist with a witchy-looking house offers her a job as a pet-sitter she jumps at the chance. But it turns out Avis is not looking after pets at all – the animals in Dr Malinda Childes’ backyard are as eccentric as she is and Avis has to promise to keep them a secret.

Writer Heather McQuillan provides an entertaining, yet informative read for those who enjoy a mix in their reading. We have fantasy, bullying, secrets, family issues, as well as lots of environmental concerns. Would be a good read aloud in schools as there is much to consider in the story of Avis, a young girl who is left in charge of some very unusual pets.

All begins well for her pet-sitting job until a storm changes everything and Avis is faced with many challenges, including the consequences of keeping secrets. Avis doesn’t always manage to do the right thing but she is prepared to make amends and learn from her mistakes, which is not always an easy thing to do. Avis also learns to accept changes and finds the strength to make some changes herself. Seeing growth in a character is always the sign of a good book. And anyway,  who doesn’t love a story with dragons?

White Bird

By R. J. Palacio

ISBN 9780241397244

Penguin Books

Penguin Random House

I read the book Wonder a number of years ago and loved it. I have it as year six book club title and the children love it too. So it was a no brainer to buy a copy of White Bird which shares with us the backstory of Julian’s grandmother. For those who read Wonder, you will remember that Julian was a bully and very unkind. While there is no excuse for such horrible behaviour, we can see in Whitebird that Julian later regretted his actions. For homework Julian has to write an essay about someone he knows and he chooses his grandmother. At first she is reluctant to share her story but she goes ahead and we are taken back to the 1940’s and a world at war.

Wow! Where to start? I loved this book so much. I cried so much I couldn’t see the words on the page.

Julian’s grandmother Sara Blum, was a young Jewish girl living in occupied France, who believed her life was good and a bit like a fairy tale. Her family had nice things, food, a home, and spent time together as a family in the fields of bluebells. One day the Nazis came to school wanting to collect all the Jewish children. They ran through a forest trying to escape but Sara hid in a room upstairs in the school where a crippled classmate found her and led her to safety. Together, this boy Julien, and his family helped hide Sara in a barn and kept her safe.

Throughout the story we see bullying, kindness, trust, and mistrust, courage, hope, the futility of war and the impact it had long after the war was over. We meet strong, kindhearted people risking their lives, as well as nasty ones, ready to shoot on sight. Throughout the years in hiding, it is the friendship between Sara and Julien that is most moving of all.

This is powerful and at times uncomfortable to read but it’s a must read.
Written and illustrated as a graphic novel by R. J. Palcio you can see that the author knows exactly how her characters respond to situations, she knows their stories, their thoughts and fears and captures them in her illustrations so well, that we also know and can relate to them. We can feel Sara’s sadness and we can feel Julien’s frustration at his disability, especially as he remembers how fast he could run before polio ruined everything.

This is ideal from middle grade right through to secondary. There is so much to consider, so much to unpack and just so much more than a story about a young girl hiding and trying to survive in Occupied France. It is a story of hope.

Julian’s grandmother has a message for us all “Never again”.

 

 

 

You can read White Bird as a stand alone but if you want a little more out of it then read Wonder if you haven’t already.

Nevertell

By Katharine Orton

ISBN 9781406385182

Walker Books

 

A world of magic is only a whisper away…

 

I was hooked from the first page where there is immediate tension. It is followed by more action and suspense. The pace is just right for keeping readers wanting to know what happens next.

Lina has only ever known the prison world she was born in and the harsh, snowy winters of Russia. Lina is only eleven but she is pushed by her mother, who is also a prisoner, to escape and try and find her grandmother in Moscow. Her best friend Bogdan also escapes and the two of them find themselves facing many dangers. Food and warmth are in short supply and what are the noises and creatures that keep following them.

This is a good read. It has heaps of action, and is paced well with lots of new characters along the way. Some good, some not so good. Each chapter heading has mystical illustrations adding to the story.

Trust, forgiveness, friendships, family, freedom, and hope, are all themes throughout the novel for middle grade readers. Throw in survival and courage with a good dose of magic and a whispered voice repeating the phrase “nevertell” and you have a mystery as well as a fantasy story. Fairytales are an important feature here where they offer hope but also fear as they bring warnings of danger. A good read. This is a debut novel but I will certainly be looking out for further reads from author Katharine Orton.

 

 

Wheels

by Sally Sutton

Illustrated by Brian Lovelock

ISBN 9781760651589

Walker Books

Writer Sally Sutton and illustrator Brian Lovelock have teamed up again to create yet another fun picture book for younger children. In the same format as previous collaborations such as Roadworks, Demolition and Construction, this new book Wheels is another winner.

Bright and colourful illustrations accompany delightfully fun language as we explore all things wheels. Big ones, little ones, rumbly, snazzy and even zoomy wheels. Lots of different wheels and lots of cars, trucks and even scooters. There is a page at the back of the book detailing the parts of a wheel, which with the end papers of tyre treads, adds to the overall impact

Rhyme, repetition and a good solid rhythm will make this a favourite and guaranteed to be read over and over again. This is a great book for parents and grandparents to share with young ones. It is also a good choice to have in preschools and kindergartens, not just because it is informative, but because it’s a great interactive read aloud as the reader is encouraged to join in and “shout what’s coming”. 

Look out for this one publishing 1st February 2020.

The night the moon fell down and other poems

by Bill Nagelkerke

ISBN 9780473489212

The CopyPress NZ

 

 

Bill Nagelkerke’s book of poetry is full of poems to delight the reader. His poems appeal to young readers for their cleverness, humour and fun. Many have been published before in the School Journal and various publications and books.

The haiku on the back cover shows us his ability to take an everyday image and give it a fresh new look so that we are caught surprised by its depth and beauty.

 

plane trail

ruling a line beneath the moon

brush-stroking the sky

 

Some poems fit perfectly in the New Zealand landscape and others reach beyond time and space. Each poem is carefully thought out; words have been chosen for their meanings and impact, whether for fun or to leave the reader thinking beyond the end of the poem.

Each poem comes with its own illustration.

My favourite is the poem Rain but I’ll leave that one for you to read when you look for a copy of this book. A good book for teachers to use in class, not just for reading poems aloud, but for encouraging student’s own creative writing. Different styles, different subjects, different poems, all worth reading and sharing.

A great choice for school libraries.

Bill, apart from being a poet and author, also a translates books from Dutch to English, most notably for Gecko Press children’s books. He was awarded the Storylines Margaret Mahy Award for his distinguished contribution to New Zealand children’s literature and literacy in 2013.

 

Ordinary hazards: A memoir

by Nikki Grimes

ISBN 9781629798813

WordSong

I’ve long enjoyed the works of poet/writer Nikki Grimes, especially Bronx Masquerade so the minute I saw her memoir sitting on the local library shelf display of new books, I grabbed it, thrilled that it was a verse novel like many of her works and immediately issued it. Here I am a day later having already finished reading her powerful book.

Nikki’s memoir is raw, honest, but also uplifting. Nikki tells of being caught up in foster care system, her mother’s mental illness, separation from her sister Carol, and a father who was mostly absent. We feel her growing mistrust of her mother’s new husband. We share her fears and loneliness, and are angered by the abuse that is part of her life.

Nikki shares with us her discovery at six years old that she could write and the peace and courage writing gave her to cope in a world most of us will never know or understand. Writing became everything to her and her notebooks kept her secrets, hopes and dreams. Her faith too, kept her strong.

I so badly wanted to reach in to the young Nikki, wrap her in hugs, hold her tight and let her know how brave, strong and loved she is and tell her everything would be okay. I wanted to let her know that there is a place she will one day feel safe enough to call home. Despite the traumas in her life; and some of it quite harrowing, she comes out the other end strong and determined. Her writing may reflect the pain of her childhood but it also shows, strength, hope and joy. 

Loved it.

 

Death coming up the hill

By Chris Crowe

ISBN 9780544302150

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing

It’s summer break on this side of the world at the moment and I’m on a bit of a roll reading verse novels and this one is another one to shout out loud about.

Written in the form of haiku, each syllable in this young adult book represents each “soul”  of the 16,592 American soldiers who died in Vietnam in the year 1968. Apart from the absolute hard work to produce these haiku, and keep the story flowing, the research and historical background is very much evident.

It’s 1968, and war is not foreign to seventeen-year-old Ashe. His dogmatic, racist father married his passionate peace-activist mother when she became pregnant with him, and ever since, the couple—like the situation in Vietnam—has been engaged in a senseless war that could have been prevented.

We are caught up in Ashe’s life, his fears, the impact of the Vietnam War, his parents marriage breakdown, and a time of strong racist actions. Ashe is loyal to his parents but he is soon faced with choices; choices that will change his life forever.  There is much political unrest with the assassinations of both Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. Throughout it all, Ashe is worried he will be drafted to join the soldiers and fight.  Ashe and his girlfriend connect, both sharing the belief that peace is a far better option than war. A good insight to a different time with good solid characters with real flaws. I was completely drawn to Ashe and his situation. The format is easy to read and has a beauty with its mix of haiku and white space on the page. Very sobering numbers and facts. A powerful read.

We need books like this to remind us of the past and to keep moving forward towards peace, no matter who we are or where we live.

The language of fire: Joan of Arc reimagined

By Stephanie Hemphill

ISBN 9780062490117

Balzer + Bray

 

The Language of Fire is a lyrical, dark, and moving look at the life of Joan of Arc, who as a teen girl in the fifteenth century commanded an army and helped crown a king of France.

Most of us are aware to some extent of the story of Joan of Arc, perhaps we’ve seen movies or were taught about her in school, but here in this novel from Stephanie Hemphill we are inside the head of Joan and are privy to her thoughts.

Joan, or Jehanne as she is known, hears the voice of God who tells her to build an army and lead France to victory. Told as a novel in verse form, it is easier to capture the moments of doubt, dismay, fear and loneliness, but also success, that Joan feels. We feel it all with her, every step of the way.

As a young, illiterate peasant girl Joan struggles at first with the idea that God has spoken to her and commanded her to do his will. In time, she understands it is her destiny, and with grit and determination as a teenage girl in a man’s world, Joan takes up the challenge, knowing the price she will eventually pay.

I don’t tend to read historical novels but this was a very good read and I was right into the story of Joan and loved seeing her mature into the brave leader she became.

We know how things ended for Joan but it still hits you as a reader when you get to there but Joan was very courageous right up until the end. However, her fight was more than physically brandishing a sword. It was a fight to be understood and to be treated with respect; for women back in the 1400’s were easy prey for men with horrid intentions. A great read, if somewhat dark at times, but that is the reality of the life of Joan of Arc.

“I am just a lowly peasant girl.

Who am I to be chosen

to save France?

The idea is surely folly

fueled by my longing

to be more than I am.”

The Rise of the Mythix: The Golden Unicorn

By Anh Do

ISBN 9781760525132

Allen & Unwin

 

The Soul Collector is a nasty man who collects everything he deems beautiful or unique. HIs most prized possession is Lucifer’s ring for the power it holds. He doesn’t care how he gets these artefacts or who gets hurt along the way, as long as he gets them for his collection.

Kelly Swift is an average teenager with a secret. She can outrun anyone and anything. Suddenly things change and she finds new strength and a lump growing in the middle of her forehead and for some strange reason she begins to hear people’s thoughts. The Soul Collector has been watching her and he wants Kelly for his own collection but she is determined not to be caught. So he takes her mother and Kelly will do anything to save her.

This is a quick read with lots of action, a prophecy, mythical creatures and an ending that leaves you hanging out for book two.

Characters are older teens but the reading is aimed at a younger audience who love a good adventurous read. Lots of illustrations give face to the characters but also break up the text. Ideal for reluctant teen readers too.

Thoroughly enjoyed the story and the references to myths and legends from the past. I’ll also be one those waiting in line for book two.

The Magic Place

By Chris Wormell

ISBN 9781788450157

David Fickling Books

 

 

‘And even though she only saw it in her dreams, she felt sure it was real...’

The cover of this chapter book is a real standout. Our eyes are equally drawn to the light and beauty in the distance as they are to the small window where Clementine and the cat Gilbert, stare out from the darkness, to the far-off mountains.

The illustrated end pages take us from the grime and dirt of city life to the contrasting beauty of nature at the close of this book and Clementine’s story.

Clementine is basically imprisoned by her awful and nasty aunt and uncle. They force her to live in a tiny room with nothing but a bed. No chairs, nothing to play with and all the time she must work hard doing everything they command. Clementine never goes outside or sees the outside world. Her life is difficult and lonely but she is determined that there must be something better. Then comes Gilbert, a most wise and clever cat.

Together they face the wicked couple and change their fate. There is adventure, humour and a lovely twist that provides a happy ending, but it is also dark, with nasty characters. It has a Victorian feel to the setting which adds to the suspense and darkness but it is ultimately a story of hope and courage and a belief in dreams. It is also the story of the magic of home, the most wonderful place of all.

Clementine is a strong, capable, believable and likeable character. Delightfully illustrated throughout. Love this story.

Just Because

By Mac Barnett

Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

ISBN 9781406388763

Walker Books

Just Because is one of those special books for curious minds. Children love a good story at bedtime and even more than that, they love prolonging the final lights-out before sleep. The young girl in this book keeps asking her father questions and he gives her the most wonderful answers.  Are they the right answers? You will have to find out for yourself, but they will make you think, and smile. 

She asks “Why is the ocean blue?” 

He answers “Every night, when you go to sleep, the fish take out guitars. They sing sad songs and cry blue tears.”

Great imagination and a beautiful moment for dad and daughter to share.

The illustrations reflect the night until the last double page spread where her dreams and imagination take over while she sleeps and they become alive with colour.

What I think makes this book extra special, is that while it is a lovely picture book to snuggle up and share with a young child at bedtime, it is also a good book to use in class and get students writing. I can see them asking all sorts of questions and coming up with unusual and imaginative answers. They could create their own drawings to accompany their questions too. I have this book in my school library and I will be sharing it with every teacher.

I love this book, just because!

Where’s Kiwi Celebrating?

Written by Lynette Evans

Illustrated by Miles Lawford

ISBN 9781775436157

Scholastic NZ

Our loveable Kiwi is back for another adventure. This time he is wandering in and out of different celebrations. Full-page colour illustrations with quirky cartoon-like characters focus on the many different, yet wonderful celebrations in New Zealand. This is an ideal book to share in classes and libraries in schools, and of course, in home collections. It celebrates different cultures and different occasions that make us special. There is Chinese New Year, Matariki, Waitangi Day, to name just a few.

Kiwi is hiding somewhere on each page and it is up to us, the reader, to find him and his many friends; like Tricky Tuatara, or Mystery Moa and more importantly, Kiwi’s Girlfriend.

There is a double page spread at the back of the book with lists of lots of other things to find. In fact there are over 800 things to spot.

Lots of bright, colourful and busy pictures to keep readers searching for hours.

 

Stink-o-saurus saves Christmas

By Deano Yipadee

Illustrated by Paul Beavis

ISBN 9781775435907

Scholastic NZ

 

 

 

The dinosaurs are back for another funny adventure and this time it is Christmas.

Bright and cheerful with lots of opportunities to use a big loud voice when you come to words like “Toot, Toot, Toot” or “chomp, Chomp, Chomp”. A good story to read aloud.

This picture book comes with a bonus CD so little ones can sing-along and enjoy the fun. Great for car rides or just listening to in the comfort of your own home.