Archive for November, 2020


By Sally Stone

ISBN 9781775436010

Scholastic NZ

Author Sally Stone’s book Pandemic: The Spanish Flu, 1918 was first published by Scholastic in 2012 but it has been reprinted 2020 with an eye-catching new cover and a preface discussing the current COVID-19 pandemic, which has drastically impacted the world. Reading the diary of Freda Rose, the parallels between the 1918 pandemic and the one we are facing now are quite eerie.

In 1918 the First World War was nearing the end. Soldiers were coming home and with them, they were bringing the Spanish Flu. While the War took 16 million lives, the Spanish Flu took almost 50 million lives. The pandemic was devastating world-wide.

Eleven-year-old Freda Rose misses her soldier brother and waits for him to return from the war. She deals with everyday life; friends, family and even a lost chicken, but nothing can prepare her for the pandemic which hits the country and her small Canterbury town. Everything changes. Trying to contain the influenza pandemic was difficult. Just like the current pandemic, shops closed, people got sick, needed help and many died. Chemists wore gauze across their faces, hotels were turned into hospitals and people were scared.

We find out how they coped through the pages of Freda Rose’s diary. She writes in her dairy to Lucy Locket telling her of her joys, her fears, her sadness at the impact of the plague, as it was called. Some days were better than others.

There are moments of humour to help break up the tension and to show that no matter what happens, life goes on. Freda Rose, her friends and family are likeable and believable characters. This is a very good read in the wonderful My New Zealand Story series looking at historical accounts of our past through the diaries of young New Zealanders.

This book is a very useful resource to compare the two pandemics and see if modern medicine and technology has helped or hindered the current situation. For example, international flights all over the world have stopped as countries have closed their borders. In 1918 people travelled for weeks on ships and news and information took a lot longer to reach people. There are historic photos to support the factual aspects of this novel for middle-grade readers.

Sally Stone provides a very good insight to living through a pandemic. What stands out is the knowledge that though the 1918 pandemic seemed to last forever, it did pass. Things got better. Hope prevailed and that is important for readers today, to know that the current pandemic will one day end and the world will recover.

24 Hours on the Kiwi Seashosre

Gillian and Darryl Torckler

ISBN 9781988538389

Bateman Books

For many years, Gillian and Darryl Torckler have collaborated on numerous books for children. Their focus is non-fiction books. Their latest venture is two books looking at life in the New Zealand bush and seashore.

Each book is filled with fun facts about what happens over a 24 hour period. We visit the nightlife and day time activities of our wildlife. In 24 Hours on the Kiwi Seashore we look at tides, birds, anemones, dolphins, seals and so much more. The photos are stunning in both books. Each book has an excellent glossary and index page.

The information is perfect for readers aged 8 through 13. Each subject has a heading and there are lots of bite-sized boxes with interesting facts. One thing I found very interesting was that the tui bird has two voice boxes. Or if you look at 24 Hours on the Kiwi Seashore, gannets can reach speeds of 145 kms an hour when diving. That is incredibly fast.

Photos cover the entire pages creating a visual feast of New Zealand’s wildlife. Each animal, bird or creature is labelled with both its English and Te Reo Māori name. These books offer a wonderful introduction to our native bush and seashore and are ideal for all school library collections.

24 Hours in the Kiwi Bush

ISBN 9781988538372

What we’ll build

By Oliver Jeffers

ISBN 978000832209


Oliver Jeffers has the ability to create wonderful picture books with simple messages that hit home. He has covered many different issues; loneliness, grief, environment, to name a few. His latest book is all about building a place to feel safe and loved. Importantly, it shows us, it takes work and love to create a home that keeps us safe.

A father and his daughter work together. They plan and work as a team to protect each other, now and always. Its a beautiful book of hope. Our world can seem scary for young children, especially with everything that is going on right now, and this book is a perfect one to share and bring a little calm into our lives.

I love the idea of building a table so that father and daughter can sit around it and talk. Gorgeous!

This advert from Puffin Books is just adorable. I love it.

How many of the books do you recognise? How many have your read?

How many will you put on your Christmas list?

As the advert says. Pass on a dream.

The Fowl Twins

By Eoin Colfer

ISBN 9780008324827

HarperCollins Children’s Books

For many years author Eoin Colfer brought us the weird, wonderful and magical world of Artemis Fowl. Artemis was a mastermind, although his intentions were not always honest. Now it is his younger brothers time to have their own adventures.

Myles and Beckett are eleven year old twins, but they are completely different. Myles is fastidious and bright, Beckett is messy and undisciplined. Just like their older brother, the twins find themselves caught up in danger. There is humour, which is always good to break the tension when things are tough.

We meet evil Lord Teddy Bleedham-Drye who is after the fountain of youth and will do whatever it takes to get it, even killing the Fowl twins, if he has to. There is a troll they befriend. There is even a nun, Sister Jeronima who specialises in torture and interrogation. In similar fashion to the Artemis stories, there is help from the magic realm. Lazuli Heitz is an elf and pixie hybrid called a pixel and she comes to help rescue the boys when they are in danger.

For fans of Artemis Fowl this new series is a must-read. For those who love a good fast-paced thriller, then this is one to add to your list.

Check out the author reading his introductory descriptions of Miles and Beckett.

Christmas in Summer

By Suzy Cato and Itty Bitty Beats

Illustrated by Carla Martell

ISBN 9781775436638

Scholastic NZ

Christmas in summer is full of warm days, long nights, beaches, picnics and laughter. Children are on holiday from school and enjoy the lazy days of summer. Santa loves these things too. He loves the beach and surfing. He loves playing guitar but only after he has delivered all his presents. Of course, he also loves pavlova. Christmas books often highlight the winter season of snow in the Northern Hemisphere, so it is always good to see Christmas books set in New Zealand where sunshine and barbecues are the order of the day, instead of roasts on cold, snowy days.

This a fun, brightly illustrated Christmas book for young children. You can download or stream the song and listen along as you enjoy the pictures.

This weekend is the perfect time to purchase a copy of Suzy Cato’s new picture book, especially if you are in either Auckland or Christchurch. Both cities will be having a book launch which is your chance to meet the authors and perhaps get your copy signed by them for that someone special for Christmas.

Friday, 6 November 20203:30pm – Highbury Shopping Centre, Birkenhead, Auckland

Saturday, 7 November 202010am – The Dorothy Butler Children’s Bookshop

Sunday, 8 November 2020 11am – Turanga Library, Christchurch City Libraries

1pm – Scorpio Books, Christchurch

Monday, 9 November12:30pm – Switch New Brighton, Christchurch