Archive for August, 2020

Blood Moon

By Lucy Cuthew

ISBN 9781406393446

Walker Books 

Periods, sex and online shaming. How is that for an introduction to this compelling debut novel by Lucy Cuthew. The author holds nothing back in topic or her language. The voices of her characters ring true. Their actions even more so.

Caught up in the heat of the moment, Frankie has her first sexual experience with Benjamin but her period starts at the same time. Somehow news gets out and Frankie finds herself the centre of an awful meme and continued hateful and spiteful messages. The news of her experience goes viral and everyone knows about it. Reaction is cruel and swift. Online shaming takes over her life and we see the impact of this awful aspect of living in a digital world. Once something is out there, it’s everywhere and almost impossible to stop.

Written as a verse novel, the language is sharp, emotive and real, allowing us to totally connect with Frankie and her thoughts. Her anguish, despair, sense of shame and betrayal are real. Frankie has no control of her life, nowhere to hide and everything is overwhelming.

When things spiral out of control and every internet post seems to have Frankie’s meme plastered all over it she struggles to cope. Falling out with her best friend creates further turmoil and Frankie is on a rollercoaster of emotions and we are on the ride with her. Lucy Cuthew captures the voices of teens with authenticity. Discussions about periods is often taboo but here, they are very much part of the story. Natural and part of everyday life for females, periods are often shunned and in Frankie’s case, shamed but as Benjamin and Frankie know, periods are just blood, that’s all.

The consequences of online shaming and misuse of the internet can have a devastating impact and the author demonstrates this extremely well. Even after all the happens, Frankie discovers she is stronger than she thinks.

For teens, this is one of those books that needs to be read and read widely.

Omeletta Hen

By Janelle Wilkey

Illustrated by Deborah Hinde

ISBN 9781775436393

 

 

Omeletta is a beautiful hen but she is also incredibly stubborn. Omeletta lays her eggs and leaves them all over the place.  She lays them in the garden, in a shoe and even on a bed.  Nelson is so frustrated as he can never find the eggs when he wants them. He puts a plan to work but Omeletta is having none of it. Her determination to do things her way is very strong.

A wonderfully, humorous story with delightful illustrations that make you smile. We all need to be a bit like Omeletta and learn to stand up for ourselves especially when we feel very strongly about certain things. And for Nelson, sometimes we also need to learn to compromise.

 

The hug blanket

By Chris Gurney

Illustrated by Lael Chisholm

ISBN 9781775436348

“It smells like sunshine.

It sounds like whispers.

It looks like rainbows…

It feels like love.”

The hug blanket is a more serious story but one sadly,  most of us can relate to. Grief and the loss of a grandparent is hard at any time but this sweet picture book is one to share together as it offers some support, knowing that you are not alone in your grief. Other children experience loss too.

A young girl and her little brother spend time at the beach with their Nana. She loves everything Nana does and cherishes their time together. They hunt for shells on the beach, bake together, and sharing the best of times. Sadly, one day dad tells her Nana has died. There was time to say goodbye. The girl misses her Nana very much and is caught up in her grief and sadness. Nana had made blankets for the family. It is this blanket that the girl cherishes as it holds all the love and memories from her Nana.

The hug blanket is an important book and beautifully done. The illustrations are warm and tender and the language makes its point without being soppy.

Worse things

By Sally Murphy

Illustrations by Sarah Davis

ISBN 9781760651657

Walker Books Australia

 

When you’re part of the team the sideline is a place of refuge of rest of reprieve. But when you’re out of the team the sideline changes. Suddenly it’s the loneliest place of them all.

Cool, sporty kid Blake finds himself on the sideline of his football team after an accident. It is not a place he wants to be. He misses the action and the friends who seem to be more focused on their team playing rather than any children sitting out of the game. While Blake sits on the sideline, someone else is watching him, also sidelined. Amed watches everyone and wishes he could fit in but his lack of English leaves him afraid. His life has been difficult and even now that he is safe and away from the refugee camps he grew up in, he still has hurdles to overcome. Language, or lack of knowing English is now his new barrier.

The choice of format; a verse novel, works perfectly here. There are a number of children all telling their own stories each with concerns about fitting in, loneliness, connections or lack of connections. They have fears, but they also all have strengths which help them through. The most powerful strength they have is of learning to connect, unite together in friendship and respect each others differences.

For many children, English is not their first language. Children arrive in their new countries because of parents work, family reunification; many are refugees escaping war. Whatever their reason for immigrating, English is a tough language to learn and adapting is hard. We forget sometimes, but this short novel is a powerful reminder that kindness, patience and acceptance can make life easier for people like Amed.

Loved meeting all the characters here.

Hound the Detective

Written and illustrated by Kimberly Andrews

ISBN 9780143774655

Penguin Random House NZ

 

Award-winning author and illustrator Kimberly Andrews brings us another top picture book.

Hound the Detective is on a mission. He is searching for evidence, following clues, checking footprints and trying to answer the riddle.

To find your first clue

Just follow your nose.

In winter it’s frozen

in summer it flows.

 

There are clues on every page, things to look for and much fun to be had. It’s a great book to share together with someone and see if you can answer the clues before Detective Hound does.

The illustrations are gorgeous with full colour spreads. They are busy and every time you look, you see something new.  I love the end papers too. If you are clever and if you look carefully, there are 17  wee green caterpillars hidden in the pages. See if you can find them all. I need to keep hunting as I haven’t found them all yet!

This is a delightful picture book, not just to read, but to participate and be involved in and help Hound the Detective.  The ending is just perfect.

I am sure this story about a very hardworking detective hound will be a hit. Perhaps he might have other mysteries and riddles to solve.

Teachers Notes can be found here.

Mihi

By Gavin Bishop

ISBN 9781776573028

Gecko Press

 

Gavin Bishop and Gecko Press bring us a deceptively simple Te Reo Maori baby board book but one that says so much.

I love the book for its simplicity, illustrations and message, that as Gavin explains, “Whakapapa and a sense of place is enormously important in Te Ao Maori” . Knowing where we come from and having a sense of belonging that goes way back to our ancestors is a powerful tool to carry with us in our lives and for Maori it is especially important as it is not just family and people, but the land, mountains and rivers too.

Mihi is a simple book to share with babies and talk about their whānau and place in the world. Repeating colours and shapes show the connections between waka, mountain, iwi through to mama, papa and the baby reader. This book is an introduction for children of any age to their own pepeha—and to the idea of a pepeha.

I was lucky to be able to ask Gavin some questions about his latest book. Keep reading to see what he says.

  1. Mihi and Pepeha are often mentioned in books on Maori culture but this is the first one I have seen with Mihi as a focus, and aimed particularly for young children. Why do you think it has taken so long for this to happen?

Whakapapa and a sense of place is enormously important in Te Ao Maori. I have no idea why this has not been done before, in this format. Like all good ideas it seems so obvious once they have been done. “Why didn’t someone do this before?” everyone says.

  1. Do you think there has been a shift in what is being published these days for children, in regards to Maori culture, including books in Te Reo Maori and bilingual books? If so, is it enough or do we need to do more?

This is something that is slowly finding its place in the literature of Aotearoa. Like many early attempts of anything, some of the first publications, especially ones for children, looking at tikanga Maori have been a bit ham-fisted. In a way, like the rest of the literature from this country, it has to be given time to find its feet and grow. It can’t be forced. it will happen of its own accord and the end result will be much more worthwhile.

  1. Even though this is a baby board book, when showing it to a group of teachers, they were all very keen to see it being used with primary school children.

           It’s a baby’s book, first and foremost, but a good children’s book is for everyone.

  1. It would be great if Mihi becomes part of a series; perhaps looking at tikanga? Are you planning anymore?

   I would certainly like to see this become a series. Nothing has been planned yet but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

 

I think Mihi is a very special baby book and it needs to be out there in homes, libraries, and preschools.

 

Bibbit jumps

By Bei Lynn

ISBN 9781776572786

Gecko Press

 

I love frogs. I had three little brown whistling tree frogs for 12 years. The last one sadly dying during New Zealand’s lockdown. They are delightful little creatures and bring so much joy. So the moment I had my hands on this gorgeous chapter book about Bibbit the frog, I was hooked.

Bibbit is gorgeous. He is keen and eager to jump everywhere but not at all keen to hop into the water. After lots of encouragement from friends, Bibbit takes a few risks and ventures into the water. Not only is it safe but it gives him confidence to do other things.

He has many funny adventures with lots of jumping. Check out Bibbit’s big jump when he finds himself in a lift and needs to reach the high buttons.

He is definitely cute and sees life with a simplicity that is quite refreshing.

The book is gorgeously and comically illustrated. The text size and short chapters are ideal for children reading their first chapter books alone. The French flaps add to the overall quality of the book.

If you want to see s few pages inside this delightful book then click here.