Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone

By J. K. Rowling

Illustrated by Jim Kay





First thing this morning I picked up my copy of this book and I have done nothing else but paw over the pages. Wow! Double wow! It is simply awesome. This is the same wonderful, magical story we know and love but vividly illustrated in how I can only describe, as stunning. It is beautifully packaged in hardback and the end pages alone are so hauntingly beautiful that it took me ages to turn to the next page, as I was totally mesmerized by the art work.

The pages depicting Diagon Alley are just perfect with their crooked and disheveled  shops. I so want to go shopping there and walk the same streets.

Harry’s loneliness is captured so vividly that you can’t help but be moved by his total vulnerability. Love it. Draws you right in to Harry’s world.

It is a beautiful spring day here in Christchurch, New Zealand with temperatures heading towards 27 degrees C. I need to get in to my garden but I really can not move. I just want to sit here and read this over and over. It really is a stunning book and one that I am sure will not only fly off shop shelves but it will become a firm favourite and a treasured and much-loved book for so many readers.

For those who already love Harry, Hermione and Ron, this is gorgeous. For those who have yet to meet Harry, this is the way to do it. Hop on board the Hogwarts train to a magical world of make-believe.

Jim Kay discusses his pictures here.

Azizi and the little blue bird

By Laila Koubaa

Illustrated by Mattias De Leeuw

ISBN 9780994109866

Book Island

Translated by David Colmer


This book ticks lots of boxes and is ideal for parents and teachers to share with children. It is a large, portrait sized hardback picture book which tells the story of a land where greedy rulers have caused havoc and forced their people to hide in fear, shrunken away almost into oblivion. Even all the blue birds are caught and kept in cages because the rulers demand their capture and imprisonment. Life is harsh under the rulers might.  The land is hot and dry and the illustrator’s choice of burnt orange and yellows reflects this perfectly.

BI_AziziLittleBlueBird_first spread

I also love the pictures with the jasmine and in this large format, it seems as if the jasmine is indeed climbing the walls and blooming everywhere.

                       Azizi lives in a country governed by greedy rulers, who capture all blue birds and lock them up in a big cage in the courtyard of their palace. The people suffer and live in fear,    until one day a little blue bird escapes from the cage.  Together with Azizi it sets out on a long journey to free the people of their cruel and relentless rulers.

The story unfolds in a fable-like way so that readers can see the consequences of greed but also when one little bird escapes, they also see how one thing, or one person can make a difference. It only takes one person or in this case, one bird to stand up and say enough! One person can take the first step to make change happen.

Greed, arrogance and even bullying all play a part in this story but it is also simply a story to enjoy especially when  Azizi finds friendship and then hope with a little blue bird.

It is also great to see a story set in another time and place and bringing in cultrually diverse characters, which is so important for young readers today, given how connected we all are now.

For teachers there are some great notes here to make the most of this story. Definitely one to add to your school library collection.

Rabbit in red

By Joe Chianakas

Distinguished Press


Definitely one for young adult audiences/readers. If you are after a good scary story with heaps of blood and gore then this might just be the one for you. Not for the faint-hearted, I imagine. Well the end of the trailer certainly scared me!  And don’t read it at night just before you turn off the light unless you want nightmares.

Bill Wise has blood in his past, so he turns to horror films to wipe it clean. Jaime Stein has felt the betrayal of death, so she too takes refuge in the on-screen deaths of others. Now Bill, Jaime, and seventeen other horror-loving teens have gathered at Rabbit in Red Studios, the brainchild of eccentric horror producer Jay “JB” Bell, for the terror-filled, blood-drenched contest of their lives.
JB has presented this competition as a race between the best of the best that will reward the winners with cash, internships, and a career making the movies they love. But things aren’t always as they seem at Rabbit in Red, and soon life starts to imitate art. Will Bill and Jaime be strong enough to confront real horror to save their friends, or will they all fall victim to JB’s twisted plans?


An eagle in the snow

By Micheal Morpurgo

ISBN 9780008134167



I am sure there are many readers who claim to be number one fans of author Michael Morpurgo but I assure you – I am number one or least somewhere near that title. I do after all own no less than 62 of his books. (Actually I just counted them and that even surprises me – no wonder I’m broke!) The latest addition is An eagle in the snow  which is another fantastic read.

Michael has the uncanny ability to take his readers and transport them across time and place and his latest book is no exception. I’m sitting up in bed reading this morning and suddenly I am on a train trapped in a tunnel in the dark while a stranger relays the story of Billy Byron, a soldier in the trenches of World War 1.

I believe strongly that stories about the war enable us to connect to our past.  Following Barney’s story and feeling his fear trapped in the dark yet trying to be brave. And of course Billy Byron’s story  allows us to participate and gain knowledge about the wars, but from the warmth and safety of our homes. With World War commemorations it is a timely reminder of what has happened in the past, the consequences of war and how we need to encourage all we can to make a difference in our world so that this never happens again.

It as it always is with Michael’s books, beautifully written, emotive and powerful. Aimed at readers from perhaps nine up this book hits the mark. I can see this being read by many students but for teachers taking a book club or using it as a set text there is so much to unpack. Questions arise as to what is the right thing to do and how do we know, how do we make some of our choices and what ethics or beliefs do we base our thoughts on. We can only do what we can with the knowledge we have at the time but what if …?

I loved this book but that is no surprise. It is so easy to enjoy and be moved by his books. His writing flows even between the past and the present and I thoroughly enjoyed being taken on this journey. A great read. A great read-aloud too for senior primary students.

“1940. Barney and his mother, their home destroyed by bombing, are travelling to the country when their train is forced to shelter in a tunnel from attacking German planes. There, in the darkness, a stranger on the train begins to tell them a story. A story about Bobby Byron, the most decorated soldier of WW1, who once had the chance to end the war before it even began, and how he tried to fix his mistake. But sometimes the right thing is hard to see – and even harder to live with …”

Don’t forget to read the Afterword at the back of the book. A very handy chapter of facts.

I really like slop

By Mo Willems

ISBN 9781484722626


Oh my goodness –  this is just delightful. Mo Willems himself in a book trailer cooking slop – really yucky slop. The kind of slop that would make you gag!

I love Piggie and Elephant books and adore their unique and quirky relationship which is full of humour and kindess.

There really isn’t much I can say as I think Mo himself does it so well but will Gerald be tempted to eat Piggie’s cooking? I guess I will have to wait like everyone else until the end of October.

Do check out Mo Willems website. It has heaps to look at and heaps of fun to do  especially the GoMo page.

Check out .

The lion and the bird

By Marianne Dubuc

Translated by Sarah Ardizzone

ISBN 9780994109873

Book Island


While out gardening one day Lion comes across an injured bird and so takes it home and nurses it back to health. Lion and Bird are completely different but their friendship blossoms and they do everything together. They spend time sharing stories and enjoying time outdoors but soon bird has to return to his flock. Throughout the story we move through the seasons exploring the heights of friendship and the pangs of loneliness.

It is a sparsely written book allowing the illustrations to do the talking. It allows us to see the characters and feel the depths of their friendship. By the same token it also lets us see Lion at his most vulnerable and loneliest of times. This is an honest and very special beautifully packaged hardback picture book.

This is not just for young children but a reminder to us all of how special friendships are and how much loyalty matters. This gentle story pulls at the heart strings but friendship and loyalty are strong bonds that wont be broken.

Teacher notes to help make the most of this very special book can be found here.


By Katherine Applegate

ISBN 9781250043238




One of my all time favourite books is The one and only Ivan by Katherine Applegate and I am so excited she has a new book coming soon. Katherine’s writing is always absolute quality and so deserving of her awards, particularly the Newberry Medal. I am so looking forward to Crenshaw.

Based on the blurb and reviews I just know that this book will move me just as Ivan did. Cannot wait for it to hit New Zealand shores.

           “Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There’s no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may   have to live in their minivan. Again.

Crenshaw is a cat. He’s large, he’s outspoken, and he’s imaginary. He has come back into Jackson’s life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?”





In the previous post you can see my review of the new YA novel Hucking Cody which I thoroughly enjoyed so I am delighted to have the author Aaron Topp as a guest on my blog today.

I asked just a few questions so we can get to know the author a little better. Enjoy!

The novel carries a sense of authority on the subject of biking. How much research did you do or does it come from your own experiences?

I subscribe to the rule of ‘write what you know’ so I guess I’ve been ‘researching’ the book for the last 35 years! I received my first BMX when I was 6 and have never stopped riding a bike on dirt since. Even now at 40 years old I reckon I’m still getting faster (although my 12 year old son disagrees!) I love the whole experience of riding a bike down challenging terrain, so much like Robert Frost once said ‘no tears in the author, no tears in the reader’, when you’re passionate about something as a writer, that passion translates pretty easy to the page.

Betrayal is a strong theme throughout your novel. Was this something you planned at the start or was it something that just evolved with your characters?

I wanted to explore the themes of unconditional love (most often) found between brothers, and even amongst best mates. I liked the universal idea of the older brother, Zane, pioneering new ground at the expense of the younger brother, Cody, because it produced this interesting juxtaposition of ‘awe versus contempt’ within him. Does Cody accept the huckster tag his brother gave him, or has Cody got it within himself to overcome it without losing a brother along the way? What about when a mate’s involved? And the new girl Cody seems to have a special connection with – is that the same or just a reality of life? This is the journey I wanted to take the reader on.

Were you keen on writing as a teenager?

Yes, but the urge to write was suppressed by me, which was really silly looking back now. The few times I’d let the urge win, I’d write in secret and away from the dangerous eyes of my fellow boarding school mates. The next day pieces of writing were discreetly handed to English teachers for them to give feedback on. These days one of the first thing I tell students is ‘embrace the natural desire to write, celebrate it. It’s who you are.’

What is the strangest job you have ever had?

Does writing count?

I think this novel will appeal to both male and female readers and not just those into mountain biking. Did you have a reader in mind when you wrote this?

While I’m stoked when any teen reads my books, just like my first book, Single Fin, I wanted to write a book that teenage males would want to read, about something they were doing in their own spare time anyway. That’s always been an objective of mine. Reading is still so important for a young man’s development, but the competition for a teenager’s attention is far greater than it ever has been. And from their feedback, I knew they didn’t always want another book about vampires, boy wizards or any of the multitude of dystopian books taking up shelf space. Real life fiction is relevant, always will be to them, although finding the right vessel of interest to carry the story is still important. What better way to do it than on a bike!

How long did it take you to write – from idea to publication?

I take small bites of writing due to having a day job and a young family. Having a routine is great for this and mine is a strong coffee at 7:30pm and then write at least 500 words before 10:30pm. Not exactly rock and roll, but it works for me. Over a few years Hucking Cody saw the light of day in various different forms before it finally settled on what Barbara Else calls ‘a very handsome production’.

And for all those keen writers out there, what advice would you give.

Read, find a routine, write when inspired, and above all else, follow your bliss.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Aaron.  And if you want to read even more about Aaron check out the New Zealand Book Council site

Hucking Cody

By Aaron Topp

ISBN 9780473326685

Mary Egan Publishing




Cody’s life is good – well it is if he is on his bike, otherwise life just keeps throwing him curve balls. Tormented regularly by a group of rugby bullies Cody finds solace on his mountain bike. It gives him the freedom to soar, to defy gravity and be at one with the world.

Right from the start we are on Cody’s side and as the action builds so too does our connection to Cody. He is a likable teen with good ethics which are tested as the novel moves along. He admires his older brother Zane for his bike skills and ability to outshine everyone else on the trails but at the same time he struggles with his brother’s off-the-rails antics which pull the family apart. The writing flows effortlessly  making it very easy to be drawn in to Cody’s world of mountain biking. 

 “It’s about having the ability to fly. The sensation of it, you know, defying gravity by hitting something with speed.

It’s then about mixing it up, having a good time while you’re up there. Going faster and higher than before, or than other riders”.

This is a quality novel for teens based in the real world where brothers sometimes mess up. While many will enjoy this novel for its insight into mountain biking, others will enjoy it for it’s realistic characters and story of betrayal. I am not the sporty type at all, in fact my idea of sports is turning the pages of a good novel and these pages I turned easily, thoroughly enjoying the story and getting to know Cody and keeping my fingers crossed as he met each new challenge.

I especially like the glossary at the back of the book which explains some of the terminology of the sport.

I want spaghetti

By Stephanie Blake

ISBN 9781927271926

Gecko Press



Simon, the naughty little rabbit with attitude is back. No longer calling out “poo bum”  or refusing to go to school, Simon is now a fussy eater. The only thing he will eat is spaghetti.  He demands spaghetti for every meal and refuses to be persuaded to try anything else. His mother is well and truly over his picky eating.

“That’s enough!” said his mother.

“Go to your room.”

   And so begins his tantrum.

This is ideal for young readers but even five and six-year-old children at school will love this and no doubt many of them will relate to Simon and his fussy eating.

As with previous stories about Simon, the illustrations are simple yet bold and bright. They certainly have lots of appeal for young readers. And as with every good story, even though Simon is a bit of a rascal, readers can’t help but like him. Well worth adding to your collection of Simon books especially if you want to sit giggling with your child and enjoying the antics of a naughty little rabbit.

If you want to delve deeper there are teaching notes here.

Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright

By Chris Riddell

Book 3 in the Goth Girl series

ISBN 9781447277897

goth girl

This is so exciting. I am a huge fan of the works of author and illustrator Chris Riddell. His illustrations are simply superb. Whether as black line drawings or full colour he has a way of making his characters come to life. The faces are so expressive and you can read all sorts of emotions in his pictures. His illustrations quite frankly are to be admired and appreciated for what they are and that is works of art!

I love the humour in his first two Goth Girl books and can’t wait to add this new book to my collection. I have already pre-ordered it so hopefully it will be here any day now. It is a bit like waiting for Christmas and even a week seems so far off when waiting for this newest addition to arrive. The Goth Girl books are not only beautifully illustrated and written but beautifully packaged. Gilt edges, hardback and contain a pocket at the back of the book holding a tiny lift out book. So much thought has gone it to these books it is no wonder they are in demand. There are in the previous books, lots of tongue-in-cheek references to British literature of old and I am sure this will offer the same wonderful quirky sense of humour. Sometimes just holding a new book is enough but diving in to this one will be nothing but joy!

People are flocking to Ghastly-Gorm Hall from far and wide to compete in Lord Goth’s Literary Dog Show. The esteemed judges are in place and the contestants are all ready to win. Sir Walter Splott is preparing his Lanarkshire Lurcher, Plain Austen is preening her Hampshire Hound and Homily Dickinson and her Yankee Poodle are raring to go. But there’s something strange going on at Ghastly-Gorm – mysterious footprints, howls in the night and some suspiciously chewed shoes. Can Ada, the Attic Club and their new friends the Vicarage sisters (Charlotte, Emily and Anne) work out what’s going on before the next full moon?

I loved his Ottoline series too which is well worth looking out for.

Chris Riddell is the very deserving current Children’s Laureate UK and you can read so much more about him here.

Magnus Chase and the gods of Asgard

Book 1 The swords of summer

By Rick Riordan

ISBN 9781423160915

I am seriously excited about this one. I love Percy Jackson and just know that I am going to love Magnus Chase too.  There is room in my heart after all, for another hero.

“Magnus Chase has always been a loner, a troubled kid. Since the death of his mother, he’s lived on the streets of Boston, watching out for himself and surviving by his wits.

One day, he’s tracked down by an uncle he barely knows, who tells him an impossible secret: Magnus’ father was a Norse god.

After centuries apart, the Nine Worlds of Viking myth are growing closer together. The Lords of Asgard stir. Forces of evil muster for Ragnarok, and Magnus may be the only person who can prevent doomsday: by finding a weapon that has been lost since the dawn of time.

Before Magnus can even process this information, a fiery attack forces him to make a fatal choice.

Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die…”

Yes I have borrowed the blurb because I am too excited to create my own and cannot wait for the October release.

In the mean time why not have some fun reminding yourself all about  Percy Jackson

Archie the daredevil penguin

By Andy Rash

ISBN 9780451471239

Viking Books for Young Readers


I just love this trailer. Really love it! I have watched it and laughed out loud many times.  I am writing this post at my desk in the school library and I have a bunch of children all giggling as they watch the trailer (again and again).  The sound of children laughing is wonderful.  This trailer tops the list for its humour, simplicity and charming penguins.

Archie has a secret. He may be the daredevil penguin but he is afraid of the water and creatures who lurk beneath. How long can he keep his secret or will he find a way to fly high over the seas and keep out of the water.

I can’t wait to see this book. Very cool!


The big book of animals of the world

By Ole Konnecke

ISBN 9781776570126

Gecko Press


This is not your average board book. For a start, it is a much larger format board book which makes it ideal for sharing with the whole family or a group of children. They will love pointing out all the different animals found within its pages.

Crossing different landscapes we meet animals from the Arctic, to farms and cities and mountains, to Africa and China, and right across the globe. While on the surface it may appear to be a simple word book, it is much more than that. This book houses a collection so vast that children will find so much to talk about. It might be the different animals or it might the different habitats but whatever it is, this is wonderful opportunity to talk and discuss and that alone makes this a very worthy book to add to any collection. There is even a little family of mice who make their journey across the different continents and oceans. Well, at least I think they are mice. I might have to just keep reading the book again and again to be sure. I love the sloth!

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It is great to see that even our humble Kiwi has been included. For those that want to explore this book even more, especially in a classroom setting, do check out the teacher notes here.

Pictures courtesy of Gecko Press.


By Martina Boone

(Heirs of Watson Island Book 1)

ISBN 9781481411226)

“Three plantations. Two gifts. One ancient curse.
All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lives with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead–a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.
Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who somehow seems to know what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family’s twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn’t what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.”
Book two is coming out soon!


Benjamin McTish and door through the Grandfather Tree

Book 1 in the  Benjamin McTish series

By June M Pace

ISBN 9780989646406

This series has been out for a while but worth a share.

“When Benjamin finds a peculiar relic of a key in his grandmother’s garden shed, he could never know his world was about to change forever.”

He and his new-found friends, Annabel and Mathilda, two sisters who have come from America,  become an unlikely threesome ready to solve mysteries in a fantasy world where the Path of Prophecy leads them to many adventures and dangers. Benjamin has a sixth sense but will it be enough to protect the threesome from dark sorcery? Sit back and enjoy the trailer.