Archive for October, 2016

Brobot

By James Foley

ISBN 9781925163919

Fremantle Press

 

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“Sally is the world’s foremost inventor under the age of twelve, and she just knows she can build a better brother than the messy, smelly version she has. Sally’s invention – Brobot – is fantastic, that is until the remote gets broken and Brobot careens out of control. Sally realises that maybe there’s more to a brother than just his inconveniences”

 

What a brilliant cover. The blue is beautiful and bright and just calls for the book to be picked up. This is a great introduction the the graphic novel format for young readers. The very funny illustrations are broken up with just the right amount of text for newly independent readers. I love the very comical expressive eyes particular when Sally gets mad. They really are a window to the soul and in this case, Sally’s honest big-sister frustrations are quite obvious. This is very funny, especially for those readers with younger siblings. I mean who hasn’t thought of ways to dispense with, or swap a younger brother or sister – momentarily of course! Sally does find that her creation isn’t quite what she hoped for but her little brother seems to be totally oblivious to her plans and sits their looking perfectly cute. I do think this would make an ideal little series so I hope there are more adventures with Sally.

An ideal book to encourage creative  and makerspace thinking.

 

Teaching notes found here.

Ottoline and the purple fox

Written and illustrated by Chris Riddell

ISBN 9781447277927

Macmillan Children’s Books

 

5

To regular readers of my blog it is no secret that I am a huge fan of the works by illustrator and writer Chris Riddell. If you pick up a copy of the latest book in his Ottoline series it isn’t hard to see why I love his work. Or why his work is regarded so highly and why I continue to buy his books. (Actually I have to buy two of each of his books – one for the school library I work in and one for me). The illustrations are just delightful and Ottoline is a superb character.
Ottoline is strong, sensible and kind. She lives with her friend Mr Munroe who is small and hairy and came from a bog in Norway. Hie eyes are about all you can see through his long, long hair. Together they live in the Pepperpot Building while her parents are off all over the world collecting things.
There are lots of different characters in her building, all wonderfully kind and beautifully drawn.  I love that this is a sweet, funny feel-good story. Friendship is a strong theme throughout all the Ottoline books and you know what – sometimes that is all we need in a good book. Sometimes we just need to look around us and see what is right in front of our noses.
I laughed out loud when I saw Ottoline with copies of Goth Girl, a cheeky wee nod by Chris Riddell to his other wonderful series Goth Girl.  (And yes – I have all those books too).
Author Chris Riddell is the current Children’s Laureate and you can find out more about him and what he does right here.
Copyright of the video belongs to Macmillan of course.

Shooting stars

By Brian Falkner

ISBN 9781775433606

Scholastic NZ

November release.

5

Egan Tucker is fifteen and has been in hiding his entire life. But things are about to change. Forced to leave his home, he must venture out into a world that is unlike anything he has ever known. He is not ready for this world. And the world is not ready for Egan.

Egan has lived his whole life hidden from the world, protected by his mother who snatched him away when she ran from an abusive husband. For fifteen years they have lived in the forest, surviving on the wilds of nature. He knows the bush and forests of the Coromandel Peninsula so well. It provides all their needs. He spends much of his time scouting the bush, hunting pigs with CrackerJack, his faithful dog. On one of these hunts he meets DOC deer culler J. T. Hunter and this encounter changes everything for Egan. They become friends and for Egan who has known no-one else except his mother, this relationship becomes an important aspect of the novel. Then Egan’s mother goes missing and he finds himself in Auckland searching for his moma. Auckland is a world of noise and people, cars and technology. It is a world he has only read about and his adjustment is both difficult and intriguing. The language of the street kids he encounters is foreign to him but he is determined.

He may be well-educated from the books he has read, mostly from second-hand classics his mother has bought him over the years but he is also very naive. These books are the reasons he wants to be a writer and the reason he writes his diary.  I love how Egan is both gullible and strong which comes through perfectly in his diaryand his relationships with the street kids he meets.

His mother has taught him a set of codes to live by and these codes guide him whenever he faces different or difficult situations.

I was totally swept away with Egan and his life. Falkner’s quality writing made these people very real.

This is certainly a story with a difference and one that will be enjoyed by many teen readers for its action and great characters.

After reading this book, the thought occurred to me that this would make a good movie.

 

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

Allen&Unwin

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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

5-2

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.

 

Annual

Edited by Kate De Goldi and Susan Paris

ISBN 9781776570775

Gecko Press

 

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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

 

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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.