Archive for December, 2019

The language of fire: Joan of Arc reimagined

By Stephanie Hemphill

ISBN 9780062490117

Balzer + Bray

 

The Language of Fire is a lyrical, dark, and moving look at the life of Joan of Arc, who as a teen girl in the fifteenth century commanded an army and helped crown a king of France.

Most of us are aware to some extent of the story of Joan of Arc, perhaps we’ve seen movies or were taught about her in school, but here in this novel from Stephanie Hemphill we are inside the head of Joan and are privy to her thoughts.

Joan, or Jehanne as she is known, hears the voice of God who tells her to build an army and lead France to victory. Told as a novel in verse form, it is easier to capture the moments of doubt, dismay, fear and loneliness, but also success, that Joan feels. We feel it all with her, every step of the way.

As a young, illiterate peasant girl Joan struggles at first with the idea that God has spoken to her and commanded her to do his will. In time, she understands it is her destiny, and with grit and determination as a teenage girl in a man’s world, Joan takes up the challenge, knowing the price she will eventually pay.

I don’t tend to read historical novels but this was a very good read and I was right into the story of Joan and loved seeing her mature into the brave leader she became.

We know how things ended for Joan but it still hits you as a reader when you get to there but Joan was very courageous right up until the end. However, her fight was more than physically brandishing a sword. It was a fight to be understood and to be treated with respect; for women back in the 1400’s were easy prey for men with horrid intentions. A great read, if somewhat dark at times, but that is the reality of the life of Joan of Arc.

“I am just a lowly peasant girl.

Who am I to be chosen

to save France?

The idea is surely folly

fueled by my longing

to be more than I am.”

The Rise of the Mythix: The Golden Unicorn

By Anh Do

ISBN 9781760525132

Allen & Unwin

 

The Soul Collector is a nasty man who collects everything he deems beautiful or unique. HIs most prized possession is Lucifer’s ring for the power it holds. He doesn’t care how he gets these artefacts or who gets hurt along the way, as long as he gets them for his collection.

Kelly Swift is an average teenager with a secret. She can outrun anyone and anything. Suddenly things change and she finds new strength and a lump growing in the middle of her forehead and for some strange reason she begins to hear people’s thoughts. The Soul Collector has been watching her and he wants Kelly for his own collection but she is determined not to be caught. So he takes her mother and Kelly will do anything to save her.

This is a quick read with lots of action, a prophecy, mythical creatures and an ending that leaves you hanging out for book two.

Characters are older teens but the reading is aimed at a younger audience who love a good adventurous read. Lots of illustrations give face to the characters but also break up the text. Ideal for reluctant teen readers too.

Thoroughly enjoyed the story and the references to myths and legends from the past. I’ll also be one those waiting in line for book two.

The Magic Place

By Chris Wormell

ISBN 9781788450157

David Fickling Books

 

 

‘And even though she only saw it in her dreams, she felt sure it was real...’

The cover of this chapter book is a real standout. Our eyes are equally drawn to the light and beauty in the distance as they are to the small window where Clementine and the cat Gilbert, stare out from the darkness, to the far-off mountains.

The illustrated end pages take us from the grime and dirt of city life to the contrasting beauty of nature at the close of this book and Clementine’s story.

Clementine is basically imprisoned by her awful and nasty aunt and uncle. They force her to live in a tiny room with nothing but a bed. No chairs, nothing to play with and all the time she must work hard doing everything they command. Clementine never goes outside or sees the outside world. Her life is difficult and lonely but she is determined that there must be something better. Then comes Gilbert, a most wise and clever cat.

Together they face the wicked couple and change their fate. There is adventure, humour and a lovely twist that provides a happy ending, but it is also dark, with nasty characters. It has a Victorian feel to the setting which adds to the suspense and darkness but it is ultimately a story of hope and courage and a belief in dreams. It is also the story of the magic of home, the most wonderful place of all.

Clementine is a strong, capable, believable and likeable character. Delightfully illustrated throughout. Love this story.

Just Because

By Mac Barnett

Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

ISBN 9781406388763

Walker Books

Just Because is one of those special books for curious minds. Children love a good story at bedtime and even more than that, they love prolonging the final lights-out before sleep. The young girl in this book keeps asking her father questions and he gives her the most wonderful answers.  Are they the right answers? You will have to find out for yourself, but they will make you think, and smile. 

She asks “Why is the ocean blue?” 

He answers “Every night, when you go to sleep, the fish take out guitars. They sing sad songs and cry blue tears.”

Great imagination and a beautiful moment for dad and daughter to share.

The illustrations reflect the night until the last double page spread where her dreams and imagination take over while she sleeps and they become alive with colour.

What I think makes this book extra special, is that while it is a lovely picture book to snuggle up and share with a young child at bedtime, it is also a good book to use in class and get students writing. I can see them asking all sorts of questions and coming up with unusual and imaginative answers. They could create their own drawings to accompany their questions too. I have this book in my school library and I will be sharing it with every teacher.

I love this book, just because!

Where’s Kiwi Celebrating?

Written by Lynette Evans

Illustrated by Miles Lawford

ISBN 9781775436157

Scholastic NZ

Our loveable Kiwi is back for another adventure. This time he is wandering in and out of different celebrations. Full-page colour illustrations with quirky cartoon-like characters focus on the many different, yet wonderful celebrations in New Zealand. This is an ideal book to share in classes and libraries in schools, and of course, in home collections. It celebrates different cultures and different occasions that make us special. There is Chinese New Year, Matariki, Waitangi Day, to name just a few.

Kiwi is hiding somewhere on each page and it is up to us, the reader, to find him and his many friends; like Tricky Tuatara, or Mystery Moa and more importantly, Kiwi’s Girlfriend.

There is a double page spread at the back of the book with lists of lots of other things to find. In fact there are over 800 things to spot.

Lots of bright, colourful and busy pictures to keep readers searching for hours.

 

Stink-o-saurus saves Christmas

By Deano Yipadee

Illustrated by Paul Beavis

ISBN 9781775435907

Scholastic NZ

 

 

 

The dinosaurs are back for another funny adventure and this time it is Christmas.

Bright and cheerful with lots of opportunities to use a big loud voice when you come to words like “Toot, Toot, Toot” or “chomp, Chomp, Chomp”. A good story to read aloud.

This picture book comes with a bonus CD so little ones can sing-along and enjoy the fun. Great for car rides or just listening to in the comfort of your own home.