Archive for August, 2021

The way I say it

By Nancy Tandon

ISBN 9781623541330


What do you do when your name is Rory and you’re going into sixth grade and you can’t even pronounce your own name. Rory is a smart, musical kid with a speech impediment. He has difficulty saying the letter r. It doesn’t matter if it is at the start of a word, or snuggled up inside a word, the letter r trips him up, and according to some people, makes him sound like a baby. He is made fun of because of the way he talks. A fall out with his former best friend, Brent, also adds to his troubles. Bullying is a strong contender in this middle grade novel. You can feel Rory’s pain and frustration. He really wants to get his letters and words right. He wants to sound like everyone else.

Rory regularly sees a speech teacher, Mr Simms, at school and it is this relationship which holds the key to making things right. Both are fans of the boxer Muhammad Ali, and both fans of good music. Both of these things play a significant role in helping Rory overcome his speech problems and his understanding and dealing with issues concerning Brent.

When an accident happens and his used-to-be best friend, but now enemy and bully number one is seriously hurt in hospital with a brain injury, Rory becomes confused about his feelings and struggles with doing the right thing.

The power of this novel is seeing the growth in characters. They are believable and I found myself drawn to them all, even the bullies. Writing that connects you to the characters, is good writing. Rory’s friend Tyson brings lots of humour to the story too, and just like in middle grade school, there are crushes and mixed emotions and even mixed up crushes.

A good solid read, with a mix of humour, bullying, being different, brain injuries, and friendships. Really enjoyed this read.


by Rachel Weston

Illustrated by Deborah Hinde

ISBN 9780473571245


Bumblebee is the latest picture book from author Rachel Weston. Told in gentle rhyme, it is both a story and an informative look at bumblebees.

Flowers call to Bumblebee as she dances around the garden sipping pollen and smelling the flowers sweet perfume.

“Come to me!

Come to me!

Come drink my nectar, Bumblebee.”

With Bumblebee’s help, vegetables grow, and fruit hangs from trees.

Soon Autumn comes with chilly nights and Bumblebee hides away. When she wakes up things are not quite the same and she is struggling to find flowers to help her survive.

Bumblebee’s life is in danger but with the help of a young girl’s thoughtfulness, and wisdom of her grandmother’s words, Bumblebee is rescued. I won’t tell you how this happens but it is worth knowing so you can help other bumblebees too, someday if needed. The book showcases the busy life of a bumblebee and the need for people to support and care for the bees.

This book is perfect to use in classes and homes. It is an ideal book to read now, with NZ Bee Aware month coming up in September.

At the back of the book is a double-page spread with information about pollinators and things people can do to help these wonderful insects.

Deborah Hinde is one of my favourite illustrators. Her artwork is soft, warm and, colourful. The pictures have just the right amount of cuteness. I love the French flaps and the beautiful endpapers with their colourful floral display. And who doesn’t love a cute dog in there as well.

Skinny Dip : Poetry

Edited by Susan Price and Kate De Goldi

ISBN 9780995140769

Annual Ink

Massey University Press

What better day to review a new anthology of poetry than New Zealand National Poetry Day.

This is a wonderfully well-thought out anthology of poems for young people, written by some of New Zealand’s favourite poets. Beautifully designed with French flaps, this is a collection of poems to treasure.

Poets included are Ben Brown, Ashleigh Young, Rata Gordon, Dinah Hawken, Oscar Upperton, James Brown, Victor Rodger, Tim Upperton, Lynley Edmeades, Freya Daly Sadgrove, Nina Mingya Powles, Renee Liang and Nick Ascroft, Sam Duckor-Jones, essa may ranapiri, Bill Manhire, Anahera Gildea, Amy McDaid, and Kōtuku Nuttall.

There is a list of the poets and short blurbs about them and their writing at the back of the book.

The poems are relatable for children, with familiar subjects up for poetical discussion.

Bill Manhire’s poem There’s always someone is so true. Children everywhere know the teacher with the biggest whistle, or the child who desperately needs to go to the toilet even though they’ve had plenty of time go before.

I particularly like Oscar Upperton’s poem Eulogy for the class frog.

Up until recently, I owned three whistling tree frogs, who lived in a tank in my kitchen for well over 12 years. So I love this poem. A simple, clear opinionated poem with a funny twist at the end that children will love.

This collection highlights the wonder of poetry in a accessible format for young readers. Ideal for home and school libraries.

I do hope this becomes an annual anthology.

Thats what dragons do

Written and illustrated by Raymond McGrath

ISBN 9781775437496

This delightful picture book is full of wonderful language with words that dance on the page and on the tongue, and quite possibly in a tongue-twistery way will trip you up too. Dragons that roar and fly and swish, diggers that dig big and deep, alien space robots that zip and zoom and plenty more. It is full of imagination and creative thinking as two sisters play together before bedtime. The girls, no doubt will grow up to be anything they want to be.

The illustrations are bright and animated. Even the stars, clouds and cupcakes have cheerful personalities. Yes! There is even a cup cake fairy in the pages of this picture book from Raymond McGrath.

It is also a lovely, happy book to share with dads for Father’s Day, which is not far away.

Starfish the star

By Elaine Bickell

Illustrated by Daron Parton

ISBN 9781775437123

Starfish is in an aquarium with lots of other fish; clownfish, seahorse, and jellyfish, to name just a few. Starfish has attitude though, and it’s not the nicest. He wants fame. He wants adoration. He wants it all and he doesn’t really think of anyone else but himself. So he sticks himself to the front of the glass and all the other fish are forced back where no one can see them.

People coming to visit the aquarium become disappointed at not seeing all the fish, but Starfish is too vain and self-centred to realise what is happening. However, there is a chance at redemption when a disaster begins to happen and Starfish is called to help.

Lots of colourful underwater scenes, gorgeously illustrated with quirky personalities shown through the eyes of the different fish. A nice wee lesson on helping others and being part of a team.

Grandpa versus swing

By Tania Sickling

Illustrated by Lael Chisholm

ISBN 9781775436751

Grandpa versus Swing written by Tania Sickling is the winner of the Storylines Joy Cowley Award.

The story involves a grandpa who rushes about with lots of energy and no fear. He tries everything. You should see where he hides when he plays hide and seek.

A rhyming picture book about a special grandfather and the grandchildren he adores. However, he soon finds himself in strife but laughter and help from someone special saves the day.

Lael Chisholms illustrations are rich and vibrant and add to the humour of this family-friendly book for young readers. This is a great choice to read with grandfathers, and grandmothers too.

Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous tales

By Soman Chainani

ISBN 9780062652638

Illustrations by Julie Iredale


If you are a fan of the author Soman Chainani and his series The School for Good and Evil, then this is sure to be a hit too. No, I haven’t read this as it isn’t out yet, but I can’t wait. Looks and sounds very intriguing.

I love retellings of the old fairy tales. And just look at the cover. And the trailer! So cool. If you are a Goodreads member and live in the United States, then you can enter a competition to try and win a copy. Sadly, for the rest of the world, we will have to wait for publication and release days.

Check it out, and I think you’ll be putting this on your list too.

You think you know these stories, don’t you?

You are wrong.

You don’t know them at all.

There are twelve tales of danger, mystery, and magic. That’s twelve stories I can’t wait to read.

When Bo Bimble went out Elsewhere

By Sue Copsey

ISBN 9780473577728

Treehouse Books

Have you ever met a Bimble? Have you ever even heard of one? Well you are in for a treat if you read Sue Copsey’s new chapter book for children, When Bo Bimble went Elsewhere. Here, you will discover the world of the Bimbles.

“Perfectly round, impossibly green, and irresistibly soft and fluffy”

They are hidden away, unseen by humans, and living a quiet life. Their biggest fear is the giant Haast’s Eagle, which keeps them from ever venturing further than their immediate surroundsings.

Bo Bimbe is different. She wants to know about everything, from the moon and stars above to other places outside their existence. She questions everything but no one has the answers.

This book is sweet and gentle, and has that lovely feel-good feeling. Yes, there is danger, and adventure but it is charming and hopeful. The landscape and the native birds are a real focus and you can’t help but be impressed by our beautiful country, especially the Fiords down South.

Bernie is a young boy travelling in a campervan with his parents. He comes from Scotland and makes comparisons to his home and the places he visits. He is also a bit of a fanatic when it comes to birds and wildlife and records all the different ones he sees here in New Zealand. These recordings are fun to read and informative too, and the book certainly highlights a few environmental concerns.

Through a series of events where Bimble plucks up the courage to find answers to her questions, Bimble and Bernie meet up and an extraordinary friendship begins.

Together, they begin an adventure which will leave you smiling.

A delight to read.

The Danger Gang

By Tom Fletcher

Illustrated by Shane Devries

ISBN  9780241407462

How cool is this? Very keen to get my hands on a copy of Tom Fletcher’s new middle grade novel.

The story sounds very exciting and the trailer is super cool.

I thoroughly enjoyed Tom’s Christmasaurus book (and very excited to see it will be a picture book later this year) so I know, based on his writing, that I will enjoy this new book too.

‘Check out the blurb below.

Franky can’t wait to move to his new town – although he wishes he didn’t have to leave his best friend Dani behind.
But everything changes after the storm, when strange green lightning and powerful thunder crash down on the town. From that night on, the kids who live on Franky’s street start to change. One by one, they become a little odd. A little unusual. A little… magical.

Franky’s always wanted to be part of an amazing gang – just like his hero, super-spy Zack Danger! And soon, he realises that there’s real danger in store for himself and his new friends.

And so the Danger Gang is born…

Everyone needs to belong somewhere, and I think (and hope) Franky has found the people he needs and who need him too. And the trailer is just too good not to share. After lockdown, I will be hunting this book out at my local bookshops. I know I could order it online, but I do like to support local businesses when I can.


Written and illustrated by Gavin Bishop

ISBN 9781776574001

Gecko Press

Coming in September.

Written and illustrated with a delightful simplicity, this new board book by Gavin Bishop is perfect for the littlest of readers. A child spends the day with their grandfather. They hold hands as they collect eggs and greens from the garden. They share kai, and stories, and at the end of the day, they fall asleep curled up next to each other. Simple language, yet a very clear message about family bonding and love.

Gavin Bishop creates close-up illustrations of Pop and his grandchild which highlights the close bond they share together. It is a thoughtful, gentle and considered approach, and works very well.

Sweet and meaningful. This works well together with the board book Mihi, also written and illustrated by Gavin Bishop, and in the same format.

There is also a te reo Maori edition, which, as someone who is trying to learn Maori, I find particularly helpful for introducing some basic te reo Maori words.

Great for wee ones at home, but I think these would do very well in pre-schools too.


ISBN 9781776574018

Remarkable Animal Stories

By Maria Gill

Illustrated by Emma Huia Lovegrove

ISBN 9781775436454

Scholastic NZ and Scholastic Australia

I have just spent a very pleasant afternoon reading this gorgeous new book from award winning author, Maria Gill. Her speciality is writing non fiction and often, creative non fiction. Her latest book fits neatly in the creative side of things.

The animal and bird stories in this collection, are based on truth. Many may be familiar to you as their stories have made the news. Some have even made world-wide headlines; like Inky the octopus, who was known for escaping his aquarium. There are stories that will make you smile; like Moko the dolphin, and some that are a little sad, like Paddles, the cat who was owned by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern.

These are my favourites; Moko, Ken-Joe a cheeky kea, because I love keas, Henry, the oldest tuatara in captivity, and Lulu, a kangaroo who loves cuddles.

The stories are written over double-page spreads which is great for short reading times to share or dip in to when time permits. The likelihood, however, is that you will want to read all these stories in one go.

The illustrations by Emma Huia Lovegrove are created in watercolour and gouache and gorgeous with just the right amount of cuteness. Photos are also included. At the back of the book there is also details of the role of wildlife sanctuaries. Without places like these, many animals would not survive. We need to be aware of what we can do to help these places, as they are the ones who help our animals.

A wonderful book to share with family. Teaching notes provided by Scholastic can be found here.

If you are in Christchurch on Saturday, August 21 then you might want to pop down to the Arts Centre as Maria will be having her book launch for this delightful book. Details can be found here.

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