We found a hat

By Jon Klassen

ISBN 9781406347517

Walker Books

Readers of the first two hat books will delight in this third and final picture book in the hat trilogy.  We found a hat is funny in a dry sense of humour way that leaves you smiling and feeling good.

Two turtles have found a hat.

The hat looks good on both of them.

But there are two turtles.

And there is only one hat.

In both This is not my hat and I want my hat back, there are consequences for actions, most drastic of course is being eaten. Here though, we have a sense of the growing understanding of the value of friendship. Even though both turtles want the hat, we see a mutual acceptance of the situation.

Klassen, even in the simplest of illustrations has the ability to use characters eyes to really show expression. I love the eyes in all of his books. They show character and personality, both good and bad thoughts and are certainly a highlight in his storytelling.

This is one of those special picture books that adults will love as much as children and one that will be read over and over again.


I love this trailer too and couldnt resist singing (very badly) along side the video. Another wonderful book from Jon Klassen and Walker Books.

As always, cover and trailer are copyright to Walker Books.


Small things

By Mel Tregonning

ISBN 9781742379791




I have had this book at home for some time now but I have struggled to write this review. I struggled to find words  that would adequately do justice to this book’s beauty. It is one of the most powerful books I have read in a long time. It is a wordless graphic novel for older readers and throws such a punch that I was left breathless. This book hits us with everything it has. Quality, beauty, sadness, hope all woven together with the most stunning illustrations.

Mel Tregonning’s illustrations capture feelings with such honesty that it is at times confronting. A young boy  is obviously so overwhelmed by his feelings of inadequacy and isolation that his world begins to fall apart. Indeed, it is the young boy himself who begins, bit by bit to crumble. His growing sense of sadness and loneliness is so raw and real it begins to eat away at him. At times when he is desperately trying to fit in, he fumbles, feeling others laughing at him and starts blushing. Despite the illustrations being black and white, Mel Tregonning captures his embarrassment through clever shading and we can feel his pain acutely. 

I so wanted to grab this boy, pull him out of the dark pages and his dark world, hold him close and hug him forever. He situation is so real and sadly all too common. However, there is also hope and the lovely sense of a friendship just starting to bud. 

I strongly believe this book is bound for all sorts of awards and deservedly so. It is with such sadness that the illustrator who died in 2014 will not be around to see the impact her beautiful book has had.

Much has been made of the fact that Mel Tregonning took her own life but rather than focus on this I want to point out that the author and illustrator Shaun Tan illustrated the last three illustrations to complete this book. For me, this highlights the fact that at times we all need help and is one of the most powerful messages in this book. 

Yes, this book moved me to tears but it is a book and story we need to read. We need to talk about depression, loneliness, sadness and how to deal with these issues. It is not for young readers. I will restrict this book to year six only (10 years up). There is so much to unpack and discuss with this book. For teachers and parents it is a great book to use to begin those awkward conversations that if left unspoken, could become worse. Sometimes, all we need to know is that we are not alone and that others feel the same way we do.

I love this book for so many reasons but mostly for its gutsy honesty and the message that we need to reach out, either for help, or to help.

Teacher notes available here for both primary and secondary schools.

1916 Dig for Victory

By David Hair

Kiwis at War series

ISBN 9781775432784

Scholastic NZ


While obviously there are no longer any soldiers left alive from the First World War to talk about their experiences, I do believe David Hair has captured their time realistically and honestly. This novel is well researched and covers daily life in the trenches.   We witness the young men digging the trenches, dealing with attacks from the German side and the very real day-to-day threat of injury or death.

As the Maori contingents join up with the Otago lads (many who are actually young Scots with a fierce sense of being New Zealanders) we see a definite clash of cultures.  The racist overtones of some of the men have the potential to damage the morale and therefore their ability to work well as a team.

Leith McArran is part of the group shovelling dirt to make the trenches when he is teamed up with an obviously under-age young Maori boy Tamati Baines. I loved watching the relationship between these two young men and how it grew from strength to strength. Their relationship highlights the need to have someone you can count on in the worst of times and as this book shows so well, these were the worst of times.

A  solid account of the First World War and life on the Somme battlefield.

In a letter to a nun back in New Zealand Tamati sums up  poignantly the feelings of many of the soldiers.

I can feel the darkness closing in. One by one, the colours leave us. Gone is yellow, gone is green. Blue is fading, turning to grey. Only brown remains, a brown world of dun-clothed men, whose bodies turn slowly to mud. The night awaits.

What more can I say? A must have for intermediate and high school libraries.

Mice of the Round Table: a tale of Camelot

By Julie Leung

Illustrated by Lindsey Carr

ISBN 9780062403995

Harper Collins  (Read a sample cahapter)

Oh my! This is just adorable. The trailer is brilliant and I can not wait to get my hands on a copy of this book. The plot is perfect for middle grade readers who love adventure, danger, history, knights and good old fashioned quests. I love how a good trailer can totally grab your attention and lead you to books you might possibly not know about or perhaps, might not even pick up. For people who doubt the ability of trailers to attract readers, this trailer should prove otherwise.

It might be sometime before it hits New Zealand and UK shores but do mark it down as one to get when it does.

From the author’s website.

Young mouse Calib Christopher dreams of the day when he will become a Knight of Camelot like his father and grandfather before him. For generations, Calib’s family has lived among the mice that dwell beneath the human Knights of the Round Table, defending the castle they all call home. Calib just hopes he will be able to live up to the Christopher name.

Then, on the night of the annual Harvest Tournament, tragedy strikes. The mice suspect the Darklings are behind the vicious sneak attack, but Calib has his doubts, so he sets off on a quest for the truth. Venturing deep into the woods beyond the castle walls, Calib and his friend Cecily discover that a threat far greater than the Darklings is gathering, and human and animal knights alike are in grave danger.

With help from a host of unlikely new allies, including a young human boy named Galahad, Calib must get the Mice of the Round Table and the Darklings to put aside their differences and fight together. Only then will they be strong enough to save Camelot.

Lies I live by

By Lauren Sabel

Lauren Sabel’s latest book is out now. It offers a little of everything, spies, danger, romance of the complicated kind and secrecy at all costs.

As the government’s youngest psychic spy, Callie finds valuable information for top-secret missions without ever leaving the office. Her work is fascinating and keeps her headaches at bay, but it means she must lie to everyone she loves. She can’t move to New York with her boyfriend Charlie no matter how much he begs; he’ll never know the real Callie and that wouldn’t be fair to him. Besides, she has a job to do…

…and a new partner to do it with. Jasper’s psychic abilities are impressive, as is the way he keeps up with her witty remarks. Callie can’t help but flirt; Jasper knows her in a way Charlie never will.

But as her love life gets more complicated, so do her visions. People halfway around the world seem to be in danger…and people in her own backyard, too. When an oddball billionaire takes interest in Callie’s talents, it’s clear that if she can’t find a way to alter future events, she could lose the people she loves—and her mind. Literally.



Edited by Kate De Goldi and Susan Paris

ISBN 9781776570775

Gecko Press



Annual features a dictionary of crazy words that come in handy on car trips, a sophisticated ‘spot the similarity’, a found poem from school newsletters, a maths-nerd’s memoir full of tricky logic puzzles, and top-class fiction that spans Christchurch Botanic Gardens in the 19th C, the loss of a brother, a Kiwi beach holiday, and a Fontanian boarding school.

I remember reading so many annuals when I was a child and even as a tween I would devour them whenever I could get my hands on one. It is lovely to see the reprisal of a format that holds so much for keen readers today.

Annual is a book aimed at the 9 through 12 year old readers. It is one to dip in to for a quick read, a bit of information or a longer read when time permits. There are activities to do and games to play.

My favorite is the story Seeds  by writer Joanna Orwin. The Christchurch of 1875 is a far cry from that of today (thank goodness). Harriet is destined to be a chambermaid but an encounter with the Garden curator changes everything. Delightful and perfect for readers who love historical stories.

Writers and illustrators from around New Zealand were commissioned for this Annual and it works. It gives readers a bit of everything to enjoy, from poems to stories, and comics to fun word lists from a variety of different artists and authors.

There are even ideas on how to write your own story. Check out Every picture tells a story by Paul Beavis.

Fifi Colston’s This is not a bottle offers some wonderful ideas on recycling old bottles and turning them in to works of art, or at least a spaceship or two.

An ideal Christmas present for readers to take on holidays.

Looking forward to the next annual already.

If I was a banana

By Alexandra Tylee

Illustrated by Kieran Ryanhart

ISBN 9781776570331

Gecko Press




This boy’s-eye-view of the everyday brings alive all the wonder and oddity of the world inside our own heads.

What stands out straight away for me are the wonderful earthy colours of the illustrations. Even in a world of fantasy and make-believe, the earthy colours give the story a grounding and make it seem real and possible to be whatever you want to be.

A young boy follows thought after thought, idea after idea in to a world where he can imagine being anything. He considers everything from a lone cow standing in a field, to a fish or a whale, even to a spoon. Anything is possible.

He considers each option carefully before going on to the next random thought before realising of course, that the best thing to be is to just be himself. A great book to read and imagine together.

I also think it would be ideal as story writing prompts for teachers to use in a class of young readers and writers. Children could have fun imagining being all sorts of things and perhaps writing a reasoned report on the pros and cons of being something else.

Do take the time to carefully look at the last double page at the end of the book. The backdrop holds many hidden animals and objects. See if you can spot them all.

The author has captured what adults might consider as the complete randomness of a young boy’s thoughts although totally connected thoughts if you are a young boy yourself. Lovely.


A day with dogs

By Dorothee de Monfreid

ISBN 9781776570980

Gecko Press


                      Nine funny dogs live their everyday lives in these pages where you can learn all about seasons, colours, food, town and country, night and day, school and work, and much           more—including dog breeds, of course.

Have you ever wondered what dogs do all day when you are not at home. Dorothee de Monfreid’s lovely new picture book will answer all your questions. Take a walk through the pages of this hardback picture book for young readers.

A quirky look at the antics of various species of dogs will encourage children to learn the names of different household items, or things at school or just out and about town. This is also ideal for those children and students whose first language many not be English.

It is bright and bold but without being too busy. It is informative without unnecessary explanations. Children can paw (pun intended) over this book for hours enjoying the funny pictures and absorbing language and new words as they go.

Each double page has a bold title with images from a specific area. I love the bathroom scene with all the dogs in stages of cleaning themselves even down to the puddles on the floor.

Heaps of uses!


A child of books

BY Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

ISBN 9781406358315

Walker Books


What a treasure! A child of books is absolutley stunning. I’ve had this for a few weeks now and just keep picking it up again and again. I don’t want to put it down. I’m in awe of this beautiful and wonderful thought-provoking book.

A little girl sails her raft ‘across a sea of words’ to arrive at the house of a small boy.  She takes him away on the most wonderful adventures and I am suddenly going along with them. Pictures and words all about stories and how we come from stories. Who we are today is because of stories.

The typography throughout use lines from classic stories such as Alice in Wonderlandand is brilliantly done with so much thought and consideration.

One of the special messages is that sometimes in life we get so caught up in the serious things that we forget to look around. We forget what we have and what, with a little imagination, we can do or can become.

Love, love, love it. Be sure to check under the cover too for a lovely surprise.

Every page, every word is perfect. The end pages too are gorgeous with lines of book titles.  This is the one book you really need to get your hands on.



If you are in or near Christchurch on 27th September do come and listen to these award winning authors and illustrators talk about their children’s war books. Wonderfully told and researched, beautifully illustrated this is a night not to miss.


The bee’s sneeze

By Lucy Davey

Illustrated by Katz Cowley

ISBN 9781775432982

Scholastic NZ



That teasy sneeze came breezing …

like ants in the pants of a kangaroo,

it grew till it blew with a loud




I would suggest anyone wanting to read this delightful picture book out loud, pre-read it first to get a taste of the lovely tongue twistery language.

One sneeze by little Buzzy McBee leads to another and then another and then in to danger. This is sure to delight young children and no doubt the many parents who will read this funny picture book out loud.

Warm  illustrations by Katz Cowley add to the humour. Lots of greens and browns help create a natural setting. I love the looks of surprise on bee and bear’s faces when they are blown all over the place. Sneezing takes on a whole new meaning in Lucy Davey’s latest picture book.

Barking mad

By Tom E. Moffatt

ISBN 9781775433743

Schloastic NZ



At first, Fingers refuses to believe that his Granddad has gone BARKING MAD! But what straight-thinking grownup goes around LICKING the postman, growling like a dog and chasing hospital security guards up trees? And when Fingers and his sister Sally discover a BIZARRE machine in Granddads workshop, mix-ups turn into MIND-SWAPPING madness one look at Granddad’s dog DaVinci is proof of that!

Finn and his sister Sally arrive at their grandfather’s home only to find a hospital security guard, two ambulance men and a policeman all trying to get their granddad into an ambulance. Granddad has completely lost the plot and is doing the strangest things. Finn discovers the reason and then gets caught up in a mission to save his granddad.

Barking mad will suit readers from middle primary upwards. Short chapters, funny illustrations and a story that keeps going and going. Every time Fingers gets close to finding a solution he is confronted with a new dilema. Funny, quirky, and a good read aloud.  Lots of laugh out loud moments, especially when Finn ends up his sister’s body.

Barking mad is the winner of the Tom Fitzgibbon Award. I hope to see more from this newly published author Tom E. Moffatt

The dark crowns

By Kendare Blake

ISBN 9781509804559



I absolutley loved Anna dressed in blood so I am certainly looking forward to this new book by Kendare Blake. Her writing grips you and drags you in to her worlds. Take a look at her website too with a very cool front page illustration. Suitably creepy and intriguing.

“Three dark queens
are born in a glen,
sweet little triplets
will never be friends

Three dark sisters
all fair to be seen,
two to devour
and one to be Queen

Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.”

Spark Trilogy

By Rachael Craw

Published by Walker Books Australia

Rachael Craw

I was thrilled to meet author Rachael Craw today who was in Christchurch particpating in the Word Festival.

Rachael popped in to The Original Children’s Bookshop and happily signed books and chatted. Rachael also kindly gave some bookmarks and posters for both the shop and the high school I work in at nights. I love the wee story samples of  Shield (book 3) which Rachael also gave us. Shield will be out on September First.

Stray (book 2) was the winner in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults  Children’s Choice category for YA this year. This is fantastic! If you want more information about Rachael or her books then do then check out her website by clicking on her name above.

Thank you so much Rachael for stopping by. I will treasure my own signed copy of Spark.


Rachael holding her book Spark.



Death by design.

Evie doesn’t have a choice. One day she’s an ordinary seventeen year old, grieving for her mother. The next, she’s a Shield, the result of a decades-old experiment gone wrong, bound by DNA to defend her best friend from an unknown killer. The threat could come at home, at school, anywhere. All Evie knows is that it will be a fight to the death. And then there’s Jamie. Irresistible. Off-limits.


It’s hard to remember hating anything as much as I hate Affinity; a bone-deep loathing for the faceless unknown and the concrete walls of my own DNA. Evie is a Shield: designed to kill in order to protect, and the Affinity Project have finally come for her. But Evie isn’t ready for the sinister organisation to take control of her life, her body, her mind. She isn’t ready to follow their rules about who may live and who must die – not when it condemns the innocent. She has one option: risk losing everything and everyone – including Jamie – and run.


Evie is out of options. She must comply with the Affinity Project – obey their rules, play their deadly games, give up Jamie. And her losses keep growing. When she decides to help a small group of Shields trying to affect change, Evie finds herself in the firing line. Counsellor Knox is intent on revealing her secrets and shackling her to the Affinity Project for life. To protect her family, Evie must betray those closest to her.


Book six Dragon Knight

By Kyle Mewburn

Illustrated by Donovan Bixley

ISBN 9781775433972

Scholastic NZ


It is not hard to see why this series is so popular with readers. It has playful language, tongue-in-cheek humour with lots of smelly bits that readers will giggle over.

Merek is half boy, half dragon. In fact he is a bit of a shape shifter and sometimes that is good for him but sometimes it puts him in danger especially if anyone finds out what he can do.

Merek is back for another adventure with his good friend Brin/Breena along for the ride. A great story to show how misunderstandings can have consequences but all done with humour.


When Merek and Brin try to save Lord Crumble’s treasure from a Barbarian attack, they find out more than they expected …about ‘evil’ Barbarians as well as about Lord Crumble himself. But not before getting themselves strung up by their feet and hung from a tree!


Donovan Bixley’s black and white illustrations are full of character.  It always amazes me how illustrators can capture the feelings and personalities of the characters authors write about. Together, author and illustrator here have created magic.

Readers gain so much from having a series of books like Dragon Knight. The language becomes familiar, they begin to love the characters and feel a connection with them. They feel safe reading, knowing they will get all the way through a book without too much effort. I often worry about people wanting to always push readers up to the next level. Pushing is good, but so is letting children read a series without the pressure of having to stop and try the next level. Mileage reading, is what we call it and it is the best way to encourage a love of reading.  Series such as this are ideal for encouraging that love for reading.

Great for readers in the 7- through 10 age group.