Archive for September, 2020

The wheels on the truck

Sung by The Topp Twins

Illustrated by Jenny Cooper

ISBN 9781775436409

This adapted classic with its familiar tune has a good old Kiwi farm feel to it, both in story and pictures.

Beware! Once you play this CD to your children you are going to have to play it again and again. It certainly won’t be a problem as you’ll find yourself happily singing along with the Topp Twins, quite possibly at the top of your voice. It is definitely fun and very catchy. Even a group of 10 and 11 year old children got right into the swing of it when I played it at school last week and we were all singing along loudly in the library.

Jenny Cooper, once again brings the characters and animals to life with her beautiful, yet quirky illustrations. Twin farmers are travelling in their truck with three dogs piled on the back. Their personalities shine through with warmth and humour.

This will make an ideal addition to preschools, as well as any home with youngsters. Great book to share when reading.


Mini Whinny: Bad day at the O.K. Corral

By Stacy Greg

Illustrated by Ruth Paul

ISBN 9781775436249



The adorable, yet out-spoken Mini Whinny, is back. Left at the O.K. Corral pony day care, Mini Whinny tries dress-ups. At first she tries out the pink tutu but after finding herself in trouble and facing some bullies she changes for another dress-up. What could it be?  It becomes clear that it is up to Mini Whinny to sort things out. Mini Whinny is stubborn, strong-willed, but also likeable, cheeky and cute.

I love Mini Whinny’s friend, the gorgeous tabby cat, who is found on almost every page. Ruth Paul’s illustrations have the cute-factor which will appeal to young children.

Another one to add to the Mini Whinny collection of picture books.


Ernie and the magic kennel

By Robert Rakete & Jeanette Thomas

Illustrated by Kimberly Andrews

ISBN 9781775436331



Ernie is a corgi and Benny is a street dog and they find themselves inside a magic flying kennel and whisked off all over the world. They stop in different countries just long enough to collect additional dogs. There is Fleur from Paris and Blu from Uluru and even more to collect along the way until finally the kennel is full of dogs. Their destination is a special surprise for them all.

Ernie and the Magic Kennel is a humorous story with a wee message about family, friends and what it means to belong.  The rhyming text and a mix of different characters makes this fun to read aloud.

Award-winning illustrator, Kimberly Andrews, brings the characters to life with her delightfully comical illustrations.

Ernie and Benny are based on real dogs, although I’m not sure they’ve been on a real magic kennel ride.

Red Edge

By Des Hunt

ISBN 9781775436416

Scholastic NZ


Red Edge is a thoroughly good romp of a read. The characters are believable, flaws and all.  I particular loved the setting which is the edge of the Red Zone where once streets were full of houses, neighbourhoods and schools. Now the Red Zone is wide, empty open spaces after thousands of homes were demolished after the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.  As someone who lived through the quakes and knows the streets, I got a wee buzz every time I recognised the streets Cassi was running through. Even the market and the airport were definitely recognisable so I had a sense of pride while reading this book. The effects of those earthquakes all these years later,  still impact on so many people’s lives. The trauma is real and we see the impact it still has in both Cassi and Quinn’s daily lives.

Twelve year old Cassi, has just moved house and school, yet again. She and her father have moved to the edge of the Red Zone, next door to what is locally known as the haunted house. Observing strange goings-on next door,  she sneaks onto the property to investigate but it’s not long before Cassi finds herself caught up in a dark and dangerous situation with criminals, who are very keen to keep their situation a secret.

Together, Cassi and Quinn, the boy across the road and her new-found friend, begin the dangerous adventure of trying to find out just what is happening in the house next door.

The story has a great pace, mystery, a quality story and great writing, which is just as one would expect from award-winning author Des Hunt. Like many of his novels, Hunt adds a scientific or environmental aspect which he does here as well. I love a good read but I also love a good read where I learn something new, as I did here, in Red Edge but I can’t tell you what as that might spoil the surprise. This really is one of those books to read and get lost inside.

This would be a great teacher read-aloud. It would also be great as a set novel for years 6 and up, especially when considering New Zealand writers and NZ settings. 

Punching the air

By Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

ISBN 9780062996480



Punching the air is a profound book that left me thinking of the characters long after I turned the last page. I’ve been left with so many questions about fairness, justice, racism, white privilege, poverty and so much more.

Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white. 

Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it? 

Amal is a teen, imprisoned for something he did not do. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong colour! The prison world he finds himself in is absolutely awful.  He is taunted and beaten by guards and other prisoners. He is reminded that this is his life and where he belongs, society expects nothing from, or of him. At times you can feel Amal believes this too. He struggles to cope in a society of systemic racism. It is a cruel, unforgiving world for Amal.

I don’t know if I’ll change

I’ve been so broken

too many times that I

have turned to dust.


Eventually Amal finds poetry and a way to cope.

Yusef Salaam, co writer of this powerful book, was one of the Exonerated Five, a group of young men who were wrongly imprisoned for a rape they did not commit. They were eventually exonerated and paid out. This is not that story but it is similar. Together the writers have written Amal’s story, one, which is sadly, repeated too many times.

Told as a verse novel, the writing is powerful, at times gut-wrenchingly raw.  This format was perfect for Amal and his story. Every word matters. It is beautifully written with an honesty that at times left me stunned and so sad. This is not a world we should be accepting.

It is no wonder that this book is a best seller. No doubt at all, it will be an award winner too.

It is well worth checking out the teacher notes here.

The Great Aotearoa Puzzle Book

By Barbara Telfer

Illustrated by Minky Stapleton

ISBN 9781775436591

Scholastic NZ

This book is jam-packed with activities to keep busy minds entertained. Children aged seven up and right through to adults will enjoy testing their knowledge of all things New Zealand. Heaps of ways to test your te reo Māori; both language and basic knowledge. There is just so much to do and learn.

There are word finds, crossword puzzles, mazes, codes to crack and even some fun te reo Māori maths puzzles.

I can see family members having to get their own copies to fill out their answers on quizzes and try and outwit siblings. How about teams of parents against children. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be sharing my answers.

This is a perfect choice for eager minds wanting something to do during the upcoming holidays.

The Stone Giant

By Anna Hoglund

Translation by Julia Marshall

ISBN 9781776572731

Gecko Press



The Stone Giant is very much like the old traditional tales of long ago. A young girl is left on her own while her father, a knight, goes off in search of a dangerous giant who turns everyone to stone. He intends to defeat the giant and make the people on their tiny island safe once again. However, her father fails to return and eventually she goes in search of him, knowing all the while that there is danger lurking.

This book is gorgeous from start to finish. The illustrations have a retro European feel to them with grey and atmospheric colours representing the young girl’s thoughts, fears, and the dangers that surround her. Her red dress stands out on the pages symbolising her courage and strength of character.  Fearing the worst, she leaves the safety of home and goes in search of her father. The girl uses her wit and hatches a plan to protect herself from being turned into stone if she should meet up with the scary stone giant. Her bravery and clever thinking will encourage readers to know that there is always hope, no matter what.

I love everything about this book; the illustrations, the lyrical writing and the fable-like story, all delightfully packaged in this beautiful pint size book.

Just gorgeous.