For those of you who follow this blog, you may recall that my first children’s novel  My New Zealand Story Canterbury Quake was published last year. I am very excited that it is a finalist in the Children’s Choice category of the New Zealand Children’s and Young Adults Awards this year. The event will be held in Wellington in August and it really is a dream come true to be a finalist. No matter the outcome, it really is an amazing feeling knowing that children throughout New Zealand have liked my book and voted it through to the finals.

Those children in New Zealand under the age of 18 are able to vote for their choice to see who the final winner will be. And yes – this is a chance for you to vote for my book if you feel so inclined. Of course I would love it if you did!

Click the image below to be taken to the voting forms.

This graphic was created for the Book Awards Trust and Sarah Forster and by freelance web designer Jane Harris from Three Hats

Canterbury-Quake-NZCYA-Web

When I am happiest
By Rose Lagercrantz
Illustrated by
Eva Eriksson
ISBN 978192721896
Gecko Press

6

My happy life and My heart is laughing are the first two books about Dani, her dad and best friend Ella. They offer a wonderful insight into the day-to-day life of a young girl as she begins to find her way in the world. In My happy life Ella moves away but with time and support Dani learns to accept that life sometimes offers challenges and she finds ways to cope with life. In Rose Lagercrantz’s latest story, When I am happiest it begins with the second-to-last day of school. Dani is so happy that she begins to write a book all about how happy she is.

However, suddenly Dani’s world is turned upside down when her father has a serious accident and ends up in hospital. Dani must then overcome her biggest hurdle yet. There is both a softness and simplicity to Dani’s story and as a reader I couldn’t help but be moved by Dani’s situation and how she deals with whatever life throws at her. As with the previous books, this is another winning combination of writer and illustrator. Short chapters and a perfect sized text, gorgeous line drawings on every two page spread, make this ideal for readers of five-to-seven year olds new to chapter books. This is a heart-warming story that will leave readers with a warm fuzzy feeling. I have thoroughly enjoyed all three books and feel as if Dani is a long lost niece and all  I want to do is protect her, giver her a big hug and get to know better.

Review of My heart is laughing can be found here.

 

The witch hunter
By Virgina Boecker
Little Brown Books
ISBN 9780316327008

“Your greatest enemy isn’t what you fight, but what you fear”.

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king’s best witch hunters until she is accused of being a witch herself when she is then arrested and sentenced to be burnt at the stake.
Nicholas Perevil, a powerful and dangerous wizard offers her a deal. Nicholas will save her but only if she can break a deadly curse he is under.
Elizabeth faces a fantasy world of witches, ghosts and even pirates. She must eventually work out where she fits in the world and what is right or wrong. This could be quite some adventure as this is just the first book in a new series.
Looks and sounds very cool. Ghosts and witches and of course a little romance perhaps!

Travels of an extraordinary hamster

By Astrid Desbordes

Illustrated by Pauline Martin

ISBN 9781927271834

Gecko Press

5Hamster is perhaps not the nicest of characters but he does grow on you. Despite his many selfish flaws there is something that makes him special and likeable. For example, rather than joining his friends Mole, Snail, Hedgehog, and Rabbit, at a picnic, Hamster happily takes a pile of their food and simply walks away to eat on his own, much preferring his own company. He is always the first to brag about his own endeavors and always tries to be one-up on everyone else. However, whether he realises it or not, his friends love him just the way he is, faults and all.

Rather than text, the chapters are told completely using speech bubbles, much like a graphic novel or comic but not as busy and very easy to read and follow. The illustrations are quirky and brightly coloured with lots of white space allowing readers to fully concentrate on the characters and their personalities. This is a great first chapter book for younger readers. Even adults will love the humour and irony.

Detective Gordon : The first case

By Ulf Nilsson

Illustrated by Gitte Spee

ISBN 978192721506

Gecko Press

5

What an utterly charming book!

Detective Gordon is a rather over weight toad who loves nothing better than eating cakes, drinking tea and stamping important papers. However, he is suddenly faced with a mystery when squirrel comes rushing in to declare that someone has stolen his stash of nuts. He soon thinks he has the culprit but instead it turns out he has caught a rather lonely, hungry and nameless mouse whom he takes under his wing, makes her his assistant and bestows upon her a name. Together they stand in the freezing cold, watching and waiting for clues which could lead them to the real thieves. I love how Detective Gordon and his new assistant become friends, their relationship taking on as much importance as the theft of the nuts.

I can see why Ulf Nilsson is an award winning writer. His words flow naturally.

   “The squirrel started to cry. Tears rolled down his soft cheeks where they immediately froze to ice  Small pearls fell to the ground”

The illustrations are also gorgeous. Just look at the cover and the expressions on the faces of the two main characters.

This is a great chapter book for newly independent readers aged 7 – 9. I think it would be equally as wonderful as a read-aloud by parents or teachers.

I certainly hope that there are more books about Detective Gordon and Buffy his new side-kick. I would love to see what other mysteries they can solve.

Once again Gecko Press have produced a quality book.

Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans

By Gary Northfield

ISBN 9781406354928

Walker Books Australia

This trailer is brilliant. I so want to run out and get this book right now. I know so many boys and girls who will just love this. As a package the cover is bright and full of character and humour. There are lots of black and white line illustrations such as that shown on the cover. This is sure to be a hit chapter book for children aged seven up. It combines humour and facts to add a little more to their reading fun. Too much text in a chapter book can put children off reading especially when they are young so this will be ideal to get them giggling and reading and wanting more. This is a must-have to add to the school library.

“From a smelly watering hole deep in the heart of the Serengeti to the ferocious clamour of the Colosseum, join Julius Zebra and his motley menagerie of friends as they gear up to be… GLADIATORS! Only if they win the love of the Roman crowds will they win back their freedom. But do Julius and his pals have what it takes to succeed in a world where only the meanest and toughest survive?”

An ember in the ashes

by Sabaa Tahir

ISBN 978-1595148032

                                                            20560137

Laia is a slave fighting for her family and all she holds dear set in a fantasy world inspired by ancient Rome. Living with her grandparents and older brother, they are poor. They do what is expected of them by the Empire. To challenge the Empire means death. Elias is a soldier who desperately wants his freedom.

“But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.”

Do check out the book’s website where there is maps of the Laia’s world, character info and heaps more.

I love the cover of this YA book and the trailers too are very tempting. This is definitely one I will be looking out for.

Velvet

By Temple West

ISBN 978-125005708

Swoon Reads (Macmillan)

New  Paranormal YA coming soon.

“Caitlin is your typical orphan …pissed off and grieving. After her mother dies of bone cancer, she’s uprooted to Stony Creek, a pitiful excuse for a town in the rural mountains of upstate New York. Stuck living on her aunt and uncle’s struggling horse ranch, Caitlin vows to simply survive until she graduates high school.  Then, it’s on to New York and wrangling a scholarship at The Fashion Institute so she can become a designer and start her own line. But shortly after arriving in Stony Creek, a freak storm sets her on a dangerous path: right in the middle of vampires, demons, and age-old secrets. The only person she can trust? Adrian, the vampire who rescued her. Problem is, he has to pretend to be her boyfriend in order to keep his status as her personal bodyguard under wraps. And in a small town, it’s not long before some secrets get real big.”

 

The Dreamer’s Lotus
By Mike Dickenson
“What if you could speak directly to nature? What if it spoke back? A young outcast followed by crows finds a flower in the forest one night – it is the Dreamer’s Lotus, a powerful hallucinogen that opens the mind to the meanings of the symbols. This can be helpful, especially when you live in a world where everything is symbolic. Corvus suspects the Elders of The White Village have rewritten the meanings of the symbols somehow. They say the forest is a perilous place, a land of madness and illusion. They might be right, after-all, inexplicable things have been seen there… They say the boy is a bad omen, part of a prophecy that will destroy the village. Only a brave and curious girl is willing to help him, even though she knows he is playing a deadly game. If he finds what he is seeking they will kill him, but Corvus has to know the truth. Why is he the only one who can hear the voices in the forest and why is he followed by the most feared sign of all? The Dreamer’s Lotus holds the answers, but if he eats it, the crows will be the least of his concerns.”

 

By Kasi Blake
Clean Teen Publishing
ISBN 9781634220828
YA paranormal
“The Noah girls have beauty, powers, and brains. They use all three to play their games. They blow the dust, the boys are crushed, and no one is ever the same.Each year the Noah girls play a secret game— Crushed. The rules are simple. 1. Use wisdom to pick your target. The boy can’t be too weak or too strong-willed. 2. Blow the enchanted dust into your target’s face to enchant (Crush) him. 3. Give verbal commands and assign them tasks to perform throughout the year. The more tasks completed, the stronger the witch’s power grows. 4. At the end of the year, the witch with the most power wins cold, hard cash. As if being a witch in high school isn’t complicated enough, Kristen picks the wrong boy to Crush. Zack is tall, handsome, and a little scary. Her Crush spell isn’t working on him like it has with the others. In fact, he is behaving the opposite of every other boy she’s Crushed, hating her instead of adoring her. Something is definitely wrong. After someone attempts to kill her, Kristen realizes there is more at risk than a few hundred dollars. She may be betting with her life.”
Coming in August 2015
 
Wellmaster: The Weeping Wall
by Alain Carver
Drums in the Deep Publishing
Deals with social and environmental issues.
“In the dusty streets of a city governed by a distant and ruthless ruler known only as the Wellmaster—where water is as precious as gold—13 year old Farro and his best friend Tarka run through the dangerous alleys for fun and adventure. Life is hard for Farro and Tarka but they and their families manage to survive, until one day Tarka is captured and imprisoned. It is while imprisoned that she makes a discovery that will challenge their friendship and the society that props up the Wellmaster’s power.”

My Gallipoli

By Ruth Starke

Illustrated by Robert Hannaford

ISBN 9781921504761

Working title press

myGallipoli

With the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign happening this weekend, My Gallipoli is a must read for children and students everywhere to help understand what it must have been like during those terrible times of World War One.

The author has woven very skillfully all the different points of view. We see what it was like to be a Turk defending their homeland. We see the Australian and New Zealand soldiers arriving ready to fight, but totally unprepared for the reality of war. We are drawn in to the life of a nurse caring for wounded and dying soldiers and even a chaplain who laments that there are “too many bodies to give them proper burials”.

There are many more stories shared in this sophisticated picture book and the illustrator has captured those moments and the landscape perfectly with his mixed media illustrations. This is a powerful book, in that by allowing us to see so many sides of the war at Gallipoli, we can’t help but realize how futile it all was and the huge cost of such a war.

At the back of the book there are three pages of biographical notes with further information on each of the characters portrayed. This is a beautifully produced book aimed at school students but its value goes beyond just use in a classroom. The accounts are poignant for all readers.

What I found most intriguing was that all were desperate to help their cause no matter what side they were on, and you can feel and connect with their frustration at what was happening all around them. A powerful book!

I do urge you to read the teacher notes here if you want to make the most of this wonderful resource.

The King and the Sea

By Heinz Janisch

Illustrated by Wolf Erlbruch

ISBN 9781927271803

Gecko Press

king

Heinz Janisch has skillfully created one of those books that appears on the surface to be simply a collection of short stories. And they are just that – very short simple stories about a King. However, it doesn’t take much to realize that the stories offer much more. Each little story is quite profound. The King believes he is in charge and therefore very important. As he goes about his day he meets up with many things; clouds, dogs, rain and so many more. He either questions them or tries to bully them but little by little he realizes that life is bigger than he will ever be. There is a reason and purpose for everything and everyone. One of my favourites is:

The King and the Dog

“Sit! Lie! Come!” shouted the king. “I am the king!”

“Stop! Fetch! Heel!” he bellowed.

Then he ran off after the dog.

This fable like story is both funny and wise and I can’t help but grin as I read it over again.

I also love The King and the Rain. This quirky little book is beautifully illustrated by Wolf Erlbruch who also illustrated Duck, Death and the Tulip which sits on my bookshelf among my favourite picture books.

The King is illustrated in collage format and he stands out amidst the white spaces on the pages. This allows us to really see him and begin to understand him more by focusing on his expressions and body language. This is great for families to read together but I also think this would be a wonderful resource to share in a classroom and open up discussion on values and what is important in life. In fact for those teachers who want to make the most of this thoughtful book, check out the teacher notes here.

Mr Huff

By Anna Walker

Penguin Books Australia

ISBN 9780670078042

I have been a huge fan of Anna Walker’s work for some time now. My favourite book so far is  Peggy blogged about in a previous post. However, after checking out this new trailer for her latest book I may end up with two faves.

I love the style of her illustrations. There is a softness to them that draws you in and connects you with the characters in her stories.

“Bill is having a bad day.

Mr Huff is following him around and making everything seem difficult.

Bill tries to get rid of him, but Mr Huff just gets bigger and bigger!

Then they both stop, and a surprising thing happens . . . ”

We all have days where we struggle just to cope and we all have days when we sometimes need a little reminder of how good things really are. I just know this book is going to be one of those good things. I will certainly be looking out for this one when it hits our shores in a few weeks.

Check out the trailer and watch for Mr Huff’s smile when it comes after the tears. Just gorgeous!

When dad showed me the universe

By Ulf Stark

Illustrated by Eva Eriksson

ISBN 9781927271827

Gecko Press

“Sometimes the most important things are right under your nose.”

ViewImage

Gecko Press continually produce beautiful books and this is no exception.

Dad takes his son out one evening to show him the universe. It is of course huge, and very special. They gather their coats, and one or two important provisions and set off on their journey. As with the best journeys, getting there is often just as special as the destination. They observe the little things along the way, things that build up a bigger picture of the universe and just how special life really is.

This is a beautifully illustrated book just perfect for dad’s and sons to share together.
Ulf Stark has the ability to connect readers emotionally with the characters in his books. Eva Eiksson’s illustrations brings those characters to life in a lovely visual way in gorgeous colours. And of course such a journey together also includes a bit of humour. Great combination and a book which I think, is just superb.

 

Help! The wolf is coming!

By Cedric Ramadier and Vincent Bourgeau

ISBN 9781927271841

Gecko Press

wolf

 

“An interactive boardbook for toddlers.”

Wolf is on his way to catch you, quite possibly with the intention of gobbling you up for dinner.  But readers can follow simple instructions to avoid being caught. This is a bigger than average board book with a bright yellow cover and title in red. A bold warning to the reader that danger is lurking. On the cover Wolf is very small but as we turn each page Wolf gets bigger and bigger as he comes closer and closer. Close enough to catch the reader.

I was reading this book at my desk at lunch time in the school library today. Even though it is a board book for very young children, a group of 10 year old girls gathered around me, so I read the book out loud. The crowd grew. As we followed the directions, “turn the page” or  “tip the book” etc the children began to giggle. And when I slammed the book shut to trap the wolf, they all laughed. A lovely sound!

“That’s so cool” said one. And “So funny” said another.

So this book isn’t just for pre-schoolers but is good for everyone. Younger ones no doubt will get the most of this being read again and again.  This is not out until May but it is one to watch out for.

Brooklynn’s bridge

By K. T. Hunter

“January, I know you did it. You’re trying to pay me back for turning on you.” Her smile had left her face and a devious one replaced it.
“Brooklynn, you just don’t realize that when I come after you, you won’t even see it coming.”

“After her life is turned upside down through a serious of unfortunate events, sixteen-year-old Brooklynn is forced to move to Texas, where she and her family can start over. Plagued with the ability to read the thoughts of those around her and visions of the future, she must juggle adapting to her new high school and saving those she sees may be doomed to die. But after the incident back in Edmonds, Washington with Alex Pierce, Brooklynn is shaken about her ability and with only her grandmother, Karen, to understand her, she’s not sure whom she can trust—especially after meeting the mysterious and fearless January who seems to be the one person immune to her abilities. With a new school, new friends, and the conflicting feelings of a new crush, Brooklynn has a lot to manage… all while dealing with January’s impending threats of revenge. Filled with suspense, drama, and wit, Brooklynn’s Bridge will take readers through a spiraling mystery, as it follows Brooklynn and her secret abilities through the whirling world of high school and revenge… but will her powers and her new friends be enough to allow her escape January’s grasp with her life?”

Reviews for this book all indicate that it is short, sharp and action-packed. I am not sure this is available in New Zealand but do check out online sites if you are keen for a new YA novel.

Mosquitoland

By David Arnold

ISBN 9780451470775

mos

“I am a collection of oddities, a circus of neurons and electrons: my heart is the ringmaster, my soul is the trapeze artist, and the world is my audience. It sounds strange because it is, and it is, because I am strange.”
After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the “wastelands” of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland.
So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.”

This debut novel is having rave reviews, such as  heartfelt and hilarious, and sharp, sad, and surreal.   I do love a book that takes you right into the heart and mind of a character and I believe Mim’s journey will deliver. I so want to read this book right now! I am intrigued by the trailer too. If you have read this then do let me know what you think.