Archive for March, 2019

The remember balloons

by Jessie Oliveros

Illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte

ISBN 9781481489157

SimonandSchuster

I love this very special and very moving picture book about a young boy, James, who witnesses the declining memory of his much-loved grandfather. The impact of his grandfather’s condition affects everyone. Memories are what hold us together and when those memories fade, the loss can be tragic. James is struggling to understand how this is happening. The boy and his grandfather have a special relationship. They spend many hours together, camping and fishing, and always grandfather shares stories about his life. Each memory is stored in a bright coloured balloon but as his memory fades, balloons slowly float off, taking the memory with them. There is a double paged spread where James is chasing the balloons, reaching high but the balloons are just out of reach. To use one of my dearest friends phrases, I had “leaky eyes”. A big leak! This is powerful and poignant and such a beautiful way to help young people understand conditions such as Alzheimer’s. As moving as this book is, it is also gentle, kind and just a little hopeful.  I have bought this for the school library but this is one to add to my own collection as well.

The beautiful illustrations limit colour to the balloons and their memories, which helps focus the story and its theme on memory loss, its impact and love. Just beautiful.

James’s Grandpa has the best balloons because he has the best memories. He has balloons showing Dad when he was young and Grandma when they were married. Grandpa has balloons about camping and Aunt Nelle’s poor cow. Grandpa also has a silver balloon filled with the memory of a fishing trip he and James took together.

But when Grandpa’s balloons begin to float away, James is heartbroken. No matter how hard he runs, James can’t catch them. One day, Grandpa lets go of the silver balloon—and he doesn’t even notice!

Grandpa no longer has balloons of his own. But James has many more than before. It’s up to him to share those balloons, one by one.

SImonandSchuster

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Where Dani goes, happy follows

My happy life series

By Rose Lagercrantz

Illustrated by Eva Eriksson

ISBN 9781776572267

Gecko Press

I absolutely adore Dani. She is strong and determined yet vulnerable too. Her outlook on life is wonderful despite all the things that happen to get in her way. At the heart of every book is her relationships. The one with her father is a loving one but fraught with difficulties as he has his own issues to deal with. Ella is her best friend who moved away and whom Dani misses terribly.  Author Rose Lagercrantz pulls at the heartstrings in every book about Dani. While they are all stand-alone books, read together they build a bigger picture of Dani and her life. I find myself so proud of Dani and her achievements; big and small. I also want to just give her a big hug. The power of good writing is making believable characters and Lagercrantz continues to do that. Dani is very real and so adorable with just the right amount of sweetness.

This time, Dani decides to give her faraway friend Ella, the best birthday present; herself. Dani attempts to visit Ella far away which puts her in danger and sets up a whole new adventure for Dani.

Eva Eriksson amazes me that Dani is the same in all the books. Dani has the same beautiful smile and the same inquisitive eyes. The line drawings are simple yet show depth and emotion; humour and sadness, with real feeling.

A lovely feel-good chapter book for newly independent readers.

Another beautiful book in the My happy life series to treasure.

Bess the brave war horse

By Susan Brocker

Illustrated by Raymond McGrath

ISBN 9781775435563

Scholastic NZ

 

Bess is a fine filly of a horse frolicking in grassy fields in New Zealand when she is chosen by Captain Guy Powles to be his horse. He said she was a beautiful horse and strong enough to carry him through battle. We follow Bess’s journey as she spends weeks at sea, cramped and sweaty below deck in a ship heading for Egypt. Bess and the other horses were often frightened , especially when the seas were stormy. When they finally arrived in Egypt life became busy with preparations and training to help the soldiers on the battlefield.  Bess and her master had a wonderful relationship where they cared for each other and more importantly, trusted each other. The book provides us with a different perspective of World War One. The language is descritptive and features some wonderful alliteration.

“fine filly, frolicking in the fields with her friends”

“On shore, strange smells, sights and sounds greeted Bess.”

This is a beautifully illustrated picture book for older readers. I love the end pages with their two-toned illustrations of Bess; first as a young horse and then back home in New Zealand, fully grown and happy. The end pages alone would look good framed on any wall. The colours throughout mirror the dusty fields and dark uniforms worn by the soldiers. The research by both author and illustrator is obvious and makes this book an important one to have in your school libraries.

The sad fact is that out of 10,000 horses that went to war, only four came back to New Zealand. Bess was one of them. Her story is true.

Chinatown Girl: The diary of Silvey Chan, Aukland 1942

My New Zealand Story.

By Eva Wong Ng

ISBN 9781775435778

Scholastic NZ

The first thing you notice in this re-release of Chinatown Girl is its fresh new cover.  It is bright, eye-catching and appeals to the preteen and early teen reader. Twelve year Silvey Chan begins her diary on January 1st 1942. The World is at war and life throws many complications at Silvey and her family, friends and the Chinese community she belongs to.

Like other books in the My New Zealand Story series, which focus on certain events in New Zealand’s history, Chinatown Girl  provides insight into the Chinese community in downtown Auckland. Through Silvey’s diary entries we find out what it is like to be different from others, including racism with Government poll taxes for Chinese people. We read about many Chinese traditions and the constant fear as the war continues overseas, but seems to get closer and closer. At school they children practice air-raid drills just in case. We also read about rationing and the consequences of a world at war.

There is much excitement in town when the American soldiers arrive and new friendships are made. 

Silvey is likeable and inquisitive and her diary makes a good and informative read about life in 1942 New Zealand. Silvey is determined to make something of her life and I bet she does.

You can find teacher notes here if you want to take this beyond a simple read.

Blackbird

By N. D Gomes

ISBN 9780008184896

Harpercollins NZ


I have just listened to the audio edition of this new Young Adult novel by N. D. Gomes. I generally listen to books while  driving to and from work. With Blackbird I found myself making excuses to go out driving just so I could hear the rest of the story. There was certainly a few extra trips to the supermarket.

Olivia disappeared the night the blackbird died.

It was New Years Eve the night that dead blackbirds descended, hours before fourteen year old Alex McCarthy’s sister Olivia went missing from a party.

Committed to finding out what happened to her sister, within the previously safe walls of their subarctic Orkney village, Alex knows that dishevelled, sometimes intoxicated Detective Inspector Birkens is her best shot.

 

This story jumps right in at the beginning and before you know it you are totally involved with Alex and her family. As things progress, sadly,  the story becomes a murder mystery. I love Alex and her sense of the world around her. Her pain and grief is raw and so real. She is so determined to find out what happened that she unwittingly puts herself in danger. We see a family grieving, each in their own way and this only makes it all so much more believable. The landscape too has its own place in the novel where island living has its own set of rules and where everyone knows each other.

I believe she will be just fine. I love the relationship Alex has with Detective Inspector Birkens, a rather flawed but real character, who is equally determined to find out what happened. And as with all good novels, there are secrets to be discovered. I kind of see Alex as one of those characters that I will stop and think about from time to time and hope that she is doing okay. I believe she will be just fine.

A top murder mystery for young adults.

 

Saying goodbye to Barkley

By Devon Sillett

Illustrated by Nicky Johnston

ISBN 9781925335965

EKbooks

 

As every parent knows, the loss of a pet can be traumatic for the whole family. Pets are very much part of family life and the death of such a beloved animal affects children in different ways. Saying goodbye to Barkley is a sweet and gentle picture book where Olivia deals with the loss of Barkley, her wonderful crime-fighter sidekick. Olivia and Barkley did everything together. Their friendship is real and her grief after his passing is also real. There is a happy ending which is great.

A good way to deal with death of a pet and open up discussions in a gentle way.