Barbarians

Book six Dragon Knight

By Kyle Mewburn

Illustrated by Donovan Bixley

ISBN 9781775433972

Scholastic NZ

6

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.

 

Pandamonia

By Chris Owen

Illustrated by Chris Nixon

ISBN 9781925163339

Fremantle Press

A day at the zoo can be so much fun as long as you follow one simple rule. Don’t wake the panda, no matter what. If you do the consequences could be bad. And I mean bad. Jumpy hippos, tickly termites and a grumpy panda make for a funny story with gorgeous full-page illustrations.

There is much to look at with the illustrations and the different animals. I do love the hyenas and their cheeky grins.  Great rhythm and rhyme make this a delightful picture book to share with young ones

The zebra, giraffe and hyenas all laugh.
The geckos and gibbons all giggle.
Which causes the emus to shimmy and sway,
and the tapirs’ bottoms to jiggle.
 
It is also perfect to add to a teacher’s classroom collection. Great support if you are looking at zoos and animal habitats. Teaching notes available here.

The only child

By Guojing

ISBN 9780553497045

 

only child

This is an absolutely beautiful book. I have had it for awhile and just keep dipping in to it again and again to marvel at the illustrations. It has been said it is a mixture of Shaun Tan’s Arrival and Raymond Briggs The Snowman, and I completely agree. What they all have in common is the wordless story with wonderful illustrations that put them in a league of their own as far as picture books are concerned. This is a wonderful example of imagination and adventure and lovely emotional connection to the “only child”. An only child is left alone while her mother goes to work. After playing on her own for awhile she decides to take a trip to visit her grandmother. However, soon after leaving the safety of her home, she ends up lost and alone. We can feel her growing sense of loneliness. Her sense of wonder and awe when a stag takes her flying through the sky, is palpable. The dark tones, the mood and atmosphere of this picture book ring true even in a world of imagination. Love, love, love this book to bits.

This truly is a beautiful book to treasure. I can’t wait to see more from this very talented artist.

Witch’s cat wanted: Apply within

By Joy H. Davidson

Illustrated by Nikki Slade Robinson

ISBN 9781775433729

Scholastic NZ

cat

This is a delightful picture book about a young witch whose spells don’t work very well. In fact they are quite useless. The reason for her disastrous spells is that she doesn’t have a cat.  As everyone knows, a witch needs a good cat to help cast spells.  So she advertises for a cat but the ones applying for the job are simply not right. The witch asks them lots of questions but she is not having much luck at all with any of the cats who come knocking at her door.

“Could you ride on my broom across the moon,

and stir my cauldron with a wooden spoon?”

Good rhyming text adds to the fun of this story as the witch seeks to solve her problem and finds a friend along the way.

The illustrations are both sweet and funny and personalities shine through. Do watch out for the witch’s cute and comical frog on each page. His smile is contagious.

 Joy H Davidson is the winner of the Joy Cowley Award.

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Everland

By Wendy Spinale

ISBN 9780545836944

Scholastic Press

“The only way to grow up is to survive”.

 

I love the idea of this book.

A deadly virus, steampunk, danger, and heaps of adventure.  Peter Pan and Captain Hook in a way you would never imagine. I love how some of our old traditional stories are being retold with robust Young Adult re-imaginings. 

The trailer is very brief but moody and enticing. I just want to dive right in and explore the landscape. The wonderful sepia tones of this trailer add such a strong sense of setting. 

Gwen Darling and her siblings have survived the bombs, a deadly virus outbreak, and an army of Marauders bent on abducting the war’s youngest victims. But when Captain Hook snatches her sister, Gwen will stop at nothing to get her back, even if means sacrificing her own life. In Everland, the only way to grow up is to survive.

 This is one to look out for. It is on my list! 

That’s not a hippopotamus!

By Juliette MacIver

Illustrated by Sarah Davis

ISBN 9781927271971

Gecko Press

Published September 2016

Thats Not a Hippopotamus_Cover_med

 

This is not the first time author Juliette MacIver and illustrator Sarah Davis have worked together and I am sure it won’t be the last. They work so well together that as a team they are a first rate pair. Juliette’s rhyme and way with words is wonderful to read aloud. Sarah’s ability to turn any story into works of illustrative art is equally wonderful.

That’s not a hippopotamus! is the funny story of a class visiting the zoo only to discover that the hippopotamus is missing. Or is he? The children hunt high and low but keep coming up empty handed. Hippo doesn’t seem to anywhere. Only Liam, the quiet boy, seems to know anything but he is dragged around by his frantic teacher who clearly is so busy running around she ignores Liams suggestions. I do feel sorry for Liam. There is a Liam in every class but will she end up listening to him?

The children are delightful, full of colour and character. Readers will love finding hippo in amongst the pages. He has the ability to slip in and out of the pages with ease, even hiding among elephants and if you look close enough – even up a tree. Lots of different animals and birds to identify too. If you check out the title page you can see that right from the start Liam knows just what to look for when looking for a hiding hippopotamus. Lessons in there perhaps but a great read aloud for young readers.

 

Sunken Forest

By Des Hunt

ISBN 9781775434030

Scholastic NZ

forest

Des Hunt has a very deserving reputation for producing top quality stories and Sunken Forest is no different.

           New town, new school, one random act of kindness.

           Wrong choices, bad mates,

           A raft of false accusations.

           Matt Smith is forced to attend a military-style wilderness camp with a bunch of kids he barely knows.

          It’s a nightmare, until he meets Elsa in the sunken forest…

           Who knew he could feel such empathy for a giant eel?

          And how far could that stretch when disaster threatens the lives of all? Matt is about to find out.

 

It seems no matter which way Matt turns, someone is there ready to dig the knife in especially when people realize his father is in prison. People suddenly don’t want to trust or believe him. He finds trouble everywhere, as one problem leads to another escalating out of control. He is however, determined and resourceful but struggles with the notions of justice and revenge. This is a great read, well paced and well researched. The descriptions of  New Zealand’s native bush and its wildlife and fauna highlight the beauty of our country. The author also points out the danger in our bush and how the weather and in particular, heavy rain, can create incredibly dangerous situations. It is a very real way of life in the New Zealand bush. The environment is always incredibly strong in Des Hunt’s novels so that setting is part of the story as much as any of the characters.

The characters are strong but all have flaws just as we all do. It is the flaws that lead to poor decisions which impact on Matt’s lives. His good deed to help an old lady ends up with him being accused of theft for which he is sent to a camp for problem kids. It is at the camp that he meets Elsa.

I love the relationship Matt has with Elsa, the giant eel. They seem to connect on a number of levels. It certainly proves the quality of Des Hunt’s writing in that it works, as we are right next to Matt and Elsa as they cross that bridge of communication between human and animal.

This is a great read for those who love the outdoors, conflict, bullying, and adventure. Goodness, it really does have heaps going on and I will be recommending it to all my year six students at school. I also think it would be perfect for a set text for teachers or librarians wanting to work with a group of keen readers.

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Impyrium

By Henry H. Neff

ISBN 9780062392053

HarperCollins Childrens Books

 

This is such a brilliant trailer. I love it! So much time and energy has gone in to this top quality trailer.  This book is definitely on my “must get hold of a copy now” list.

“In the first book of Henry H. Neff’s new high-stakes middle grade fantasy series, two unlikely allies confront a conspiracy that will shake the world of Impyrium to its core.

For over three thousand years, the Faeregine dynasty has ruled Impyrium. But the family’s magic has been fading, and with it their power over the empire. Whether it’s treachery from a rival house, the demon Lirlanders, or rebel forces, many believe the Faeregines are ripe to fall.

Hazel, the youngest member of the royal family, is happy to leave ruling to her sisters so that she can study her magic. But the empress has other plans for her granddaughter, dark and dangerous plans to exploit Hazel’s talents and rekindle the Faeregine mystique. Hob, a commoner from the remote provinces, has been sent to the city to serve the Faeregines—and to spy on them.

One wants to protect the dynasty. The other wants to destroy it. But when Hazel and Hob form an improbable friendship, their bond may save the realm as they know it…or end it for good.”

Look out for this one. I know I will be!

Super Rabbit

By Stephanie Blake

ISBN 9781877579578

Gecko Press

SuperRabbit_Cover_med

 

Stephanie Blake has brought us another story about mischievous but lovable Little Rabbit. This time he is Super Rabbit, the super hero off to fight villains.

I read this to a group of children in our school library today at lunch time who giggled and laughed all the way through. They gave it a thumbs up five out of five. I read it again to a class of nine year olds who also laughed and gave it  five out of five. Just goes to show you that picture books are for all ages.

I fell in love with Rabbit’s cat. The facial expressions of the cat are adorable, especially when he covers his eyes in frustration over Rabbit’s antics.

Bright, bold colours add to this funny tale of a rabbit with great and determination and a heap of imagination. Great end pages too. Perfect for pre-school  but as my readings proved today, great for anyone. An  ideal book to add to a child’s collection of favourite picture books, to read over and over again.

A great one for grandparents to share. I think this is my favourite of the Little Rabbit books.

 

Other Rabbit books by Stephanie Blake are:

Poo Bum

Stupid baby

I don’t want to go to school

I want spaghetti!

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Life according to Dani

By Rose Lagercrantz

Illustrated by Eva Eriksson

ISBN 9781776570713

Gecko Press

LifeAccordingToDani_Cover

I loved the first three books about Dani and book number four is no exception. As first chapter books go for new readers, this is perfect. Great line drawings once again, from illustrator Eva Eriksson break up the text and the font is just the right size, as are the short chapters.

Dani and her father have almost always been on their own ever since mum died. Their relationship is tight and loving.

While this is a stand-alone it does follow on from the previous book When I am happiest where dad had had a terrible accident and was in hospital recovering. While in hospital Dani is sent to stay with her best friend in the world, Ella. Their relationship is also one of enduring love and friendship despite being separated when Ella moved away.  Now together they are having fun fishing and exploring and just enjoying each others company.

Dad rings Dani every night just to chat until one night the phone doesn’t ring. Dani begins to worry and as a character I have grown to adore, I can’t help but feel for her and her concerns that maybe Dad has forgotten her.

Of course he hasn’t but soon after he turns up on the island accompanied by his nurse. His nurse however, is now an important person in his life and Dani has much to deal with and it is a struggle for all concerned.

I love how Ella jumps to Dani’s defense when Dani begins to sulk and gets cross with her father. The honesty of  friendships is so important and I know readers will recognize their own best friends when reading about Dani and Ella.

Another sweet adventure in the life of Dani and her best friend Ella. If you have read the others, you will definitely want the latest. If you haven’t met Dani and Ella, check out this new story and you will be wanting to find the rest.

 

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How to hang a witch

By Adriana Mather

ISBN 9780553539479

 

It has been sometime since I posted a YA trailer. Not sure if they are not being made as often but seeing this one, I am glad there are some people out there who still believe in the power of a good trailer. After watching this one I am very keen to get hold of a copy of the book when it comes out next month. Will be down to the bookshops for sure.

Sam  Mather is a descendent of Cotton Mather who was one of the men responsible for the famous witch trials of Salem. When Sam ends up moving to Salem and attending the high school, she is confronted by descendents on the other side who see her as trouble. Being an outsider is never easy and the folks here are not keen to help her. There is also a ghost and a centuries old curse to deal with. Sounds intriguing and one to look out for. Ghosts, witches and curses is striaght up my alley!

 

 

 

Yours Sincerely, Giraffe

By Megumi Iwasa

Illustrated by Jun Takabatake

ISBN 9781927271872

Gecko Press

 

GIraffe_cover-PAPERBACK-IB.indd

Giraffe is bored, as usual. He’d love a friend to share things with. So he writes a letter and sends it as far as possible across the other side of the horizon. There he finds a pen pal—Penguin.

Giraffe knows nothing about penguins and his letters are full of questions. What does a penguin look like? Where is a penguin’s neck?

And so the letters begin to fly from horizon to horizon. (Gecko Press)

 

In his loneliness Giraffe enlists the help of Pelican to deliver letters past the horizon to the unknown other side. When Pelican eventually arrives back with a letter in return, Giraffe is excited and happy but also curious. With wonderful whimsical yet matter of fact, albeit incorrect logic, Giraffe comes up with some strange ideas of what his letter writer Penguin, would look like. The comical line drawings and easy to read text and short chapters make this a perfect read for newly independent readers. So often today, books stretch the boundaries for children so it is lovely to see a sweet feel-good story about friendship that leaves you smiling.  I love the chapter headings too. Just a couple to share.

A bored Giraffe writes his first letter

or

Is the horizon near or far

Letter writing might be on the endangered list but Yours Sincerely, Giraffe show us how wonderful this tradition is and how we need to keep it alive. This will make a good tool for teachers to use when looking at writing. Besides, who could not resist a letter headed Dear Giraffe who is trying to look like a penguin.

Published in August, this is one to look out for.

 

Tangaroa’s Gift

by Mere Whaanga

Te Koha ā Tangaroa

Nā Ngawini Kereru Whakamāori

ISBN 9781775434122

Scholastic NZ

6

I am delighted to see this book is available again, all spruced up and ready for a new audience. It is a bilingual book which is especially important as we celebrate Te Reo this week.

This is a simple but lovely pourquoi tale. It is the myth-like telling of how Paua got his beautiful shiny colours and why they happen to be on the inside of his shell.

Lovely use of language adds to the sense of storytelling and the oral traditions of years goneby. This is ideal to read out loud.

                    And he fashioned for Paua a wonderful coat that sparkled and dazzled with its beauty.

I also adore the beautiful purples, pinks, deep-sea blues and forest greens as images swirl across each page creating movement and mood.

It is more than a simple tale though as it can be used to discuss jealousy, and even bullying but maintaining its under lying message that each of us has beauty within. We all have something that makes us special. That in itself makes this a special book to add to any collection.

 

 

 

 

 

Gus’s Garage

By Leo Timmers

ISBN 9781776570935

Gecko Press

Gus's Garage_Cover_med

This book stands out with its bright bold colours. I love the birds with their cheeky faces as they sit either side of Gus’s garage on the cover of the book. They each have an eye on Gus making him the real focus of this fun picture book.

Gus is a great thinker and knows just how to solve his friends mechanical problems. All sorts of bits and bobs are used to fix problems as one by one they come to Gus in need of his help. After working hard all day helping others Gus finds he has his own problem to solve which he does just perfectly.

Leo Timmers is a writer and illustrator I follow. His work is bright and quirky with so much appeal that it is so easy to become a fan. You will certainly want to check out his other works. A great book to read again and again. I know wee ones will love pointing out the birds as they appear on each page. A delight to read and enjoy.

Return

By Aaron Becker

ISBN 9781406368437

 

So excited about this upcoming book. Not out until August but I am already hanging out for this book now. I love the first two books and have no doubt I will fall in love with the third book in this trilogy of wonderful wordless picture books. Despite having no words these stories say so much. The use of sepia tones to start at the very beginning in Journey through to the red and bright colours so symbolic of so many things. Imagination is such an important part of these books and the best thing is that imagination feeds upon itself and by the time you finish reading these books you have experienced an amazing journey. You have found new friends to travel with and experience adventure and fun.

Gorgeously illustrated and thought-provoking these books are a delight to read over and over again. Lots of sophisticated thinking happens when using these in class as teachers at my school of employment, tell me. While you are waiting for Return to be published do make sure you find copies of Journey and Quest if you haven’t read them already. This very cool book trailer is copyright of the publishers, of course. Walker Books and Candlewick Press.