Author Archive

Pieces of you

By Eileen Merriman

ISBN 9780143770473

Penguin Random House

Lots of favorable reviews for this young adult book. Faces lots of different issues too which add to its appeal. I love how you can even try before you buy with a link to reading the first chapter.  Themes of mental health and self-harm are part of this novel so be warned that because of these themes this is for readers aged 16 and up. That said, I am keen to read this book very soon. Gritty, real and current.

Fifteen-year-old Rebecca McQuilten moves with her parents to a new city. Lonely but trying to fit in, she goes to a party,              but that’s when things really fall apart.

             I couldn’t tell anyone what had happened. Especially since I was the new girl in town. Who would want to believe me?

Things look up when she meets gregarious sixteen-year-old Cory Marshall.

              ‘You’re funny, Becs,’ Cory said.
              ‘You have no idea,’ I said, and clearly he didn’t, but I was smiling anyway.
               And after that, he was all I could think about.

Cory helps Rebecca believe in herself and piece her life back together; but that’s before he shatters it all over again . . .

 

I do love books that tackle difficult subjects as this one does. Check out the trailer and perhaps go and read the first chapter in the link above.

The blue hour

By Isabelle Simler

ISBN 9780802854889

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

I have to say, I think this picture book is beautiful. The illustrations and its many multitudes of blues is simply stunning. The story of twilight with many different birds and animals coming out from their hiding places is gentle, peaceful with a sense of magic and awe. The first end pages show 32 dabs of blue, much like paint test pots showing the many different blues used throughout the book. It is not often we see a picture book using mostly one colour, but here the different intensities of blue help create a wonderful mysterious world. Beautiful! I feel as if I am standing on the edge, looking in and watching a secret world unfold before my eyes.

The sun has set, the day has ended, but the night hasn’t quite arrived yet. This magical twilight is known as the blue hour. Everything in nature—sky, water, flowers, birds, foxes—comes together in a symphony of blue to celebrate the merging of night and day.

The book trailer is just lovely and the music very tranquil. Very soothing.

Virginia Wolf

By Kyo Maclear

Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

ISBN 9781911496038

Book Island

 

What an absolutely charming and thought-provoking picture book. Gorgeously illustrated with careful consideration given to the choice of colours to help show the different moods and feelings of young Virginia. 

Some days Virginia feels wolfish and growls at her sister to stop making noise as everything is just too much for her. The sound of teeth being brushed is too much and even the birds chirping is too noisy and distracting. Such sadness is difficult for Virginia to live with and all she wants is to curl up in her bed and be left alone. For Vanessa it is painful to watch as her sister crawls slowly into a world of her own. But sisterly love is strong and Vanessa tries everything to help her. Beautifully written but just as important, it is great to see the topic of depression being discussed. More important than anything is the lasting impression of hope. Hope that things will get better and they do. Perfect ending. 

 

Meet Virginia, who is feeling particularly wolfish today. Somehow, her sister Vanessa must help her feel better. But how can one girl save another from turning into a grumpy, gobbling wolf? The only way to find out is to pick up a paintbrush and see where your imagination takes you.

 

Loosely inspired by sisters Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, this stunning picture book is a testament to the power of creativity to inspire and heal, and to the loving bond between siblings.

Miniwings series 
By Sally Sutton
Illustrated by Kirsten Richards
Scholastic

The miniwings are little, winged toy horses who secretly come to life but only when adults are not around. Actually when adults are not in the room the little horses get up to all sorts of mischief and cause chaos for sisters, Clara and Sophia. There are six miniwings, each with their own special features. Glitterwing, the prettiest, rains down colourful glitter but don’t be fooled. It isn’t just pretty glitter; it makes you sneeze. Then there is Firestorm who with his trickery just might leave slugs in your bed. Together the six miniwings will turn the easy simple day to day tasks of going to school into a disaster. Clara and Sophia can’t even tell anyone about them or blame them for the trouble they cause, as no one knows they exist. Well, there is one person who might know and who might turn out to be useful in times of chaos.

These are gorgeously illustrated first chapter books for newly independent readers, particularly young girls, although I do know some boys who would love these just the same. The books are funny, naughty, a little bit delightfully girly, but definitely a good read for readers aged about seven. Good series for this age group are often hard to find but I suspect this one will be a hit.

 

Glitterwings Book Week Blunder
ISBN 9781775434238 

Trying to come up with a costume for book week proves to be quite a problem for the girls especially when the miniwings get involved. A visit to the store turns in to a real disaster with the shopkeeper taking a tumble because of the miniwings. And then its is just one thing after another for the girls. 

 

Whizz’s Internet Oopsie

ISBN 9781775434245

Warning: If you ever come across a Miniwing, don’t let them anywhere near a credit card. If you want to know why then check out the second book in the series where once again the miniwings cause trouble for Clara and Sophia.

 

The World’s Worst Children 2

By David Walliams

ISBN 9780008259679

HarperCollins Children’s Books

 

 

Humour is David Walliams forte and he does it once again with style in his latest book about the world’s worst children. They are all indeed horrible, incorrigible, selfish little rat bags. There is nothing PC about these books which makes them funny and perfect for children. Sometimes the world of political correctness gets in the way and ruins a good story. Sometimes, particularly with the way of the world these days, we just need an excuse to laugh. This book gives us permission to do just that.

The burping, farting, greedy children whose social skills are totally lacking, do get what they deserve in the end which I kind of like. While trying to read this book this morning my cats decided they would keep me company. The story I have pictured here just happens to be about Cruel Clarissa, a girl who was absolutely awful towards cats. She would pour pepper on their food, tie two cats tails together and many other nasty things. I don’t think my cats were very impressed with Clarissa’s nastiness.

 Great for readers to read on their own but even better, this is perfect to read aloud and share with children, grandchildren and classes at school. 


Never say die

By Anthony Horowitz

ISBN 9781406377040

Walker Books

Loved this series. Can’t wait to get a copy now that it is out. At the school I work I have had to replace this series many times as the books get read over and over and never go out of popularity. I think what I especially love is that the mix of adventure and being a teenager make Alex a very realistic character. The right mix also means that this series is appropriate for a younger audience as well as teens. Some content in similar type series limits their reading audience because of content but this series is perfect so that ten year old students and up can enjoy.

In this brand new, explosive adventure in the number one bestselling series, Alex Rider is trying to get his life back on track after the traumatic events of his last mission. But even Alex can’t fight the past … especially when it holds a deadly secret.

If we go back to the very first book book in the series Stormbreaker you have what I think is one of the best opening sentences ever. I know that is all I need to read to my students and they are hooked.

When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it’s never good news.

 

Check out the very cool trailer from Walker Books for Never Say Die

What are you supposed to be?

By Paul Beavis

ISBN 9781775434054

Scholastic NZ

 

 

There is so much to love about this new picture book by Paul Beavis. The wonderful warm colours, the gorgeous quirky illustrations which totally capture the characters and their personalities. I have been a fan of Paul Beavis for some time now and I do think he just keeps getting better and better.

Everyone knows REAL wolves go Grrrrr and HOWL at the moon…  

but what happens here is the story of an inquisitive little girl who is determined to make the not so wolf-like wolf more like a real wolf. I love her determination and wolf’s matter-of-factness that he is just fine the way he is. Their expressions are delightful. What makes this book special though is the realisation that you can be true to yourself. You don’t need to change anything about yourself for anyone else. A lesson many adults still find hard to learn. 

This is a wonderful picture book to share and read over and over. Look out for wolf’s tongue and the funny way it keeps sticking out. Cute and funny.

I love this book so much I asked Paul Beavis a few questions and you can see his answers  right here.

 

Your illustrations have a wonderful mix of quirkiness and warmth. How hard is it to get that mix just right?

I find it very hard. The major issue is trying to get what’s in your head onto the page, I suspect most illustrators have the same thing. Oddly enough the wolf character came fairly quickly, he was originally meant to be part of a 3 Little pigs animation thing I was developing in the late nineties, nothing came from this but I filed away the wolf drawing as I thought he had something. The little girl character design was a nightmare to get right. Like casting a film you know the right one when you see them, but I have to draw them first. Once Scholastic were on board with the project I had Lynette and her team’s experience to help me decide which character designs were worth following. Also involved was Vida Kelly, Art director supreme. I’ve worked with Vida on all my books and she has the magic ability of nudging me in the right direction. She gives me the confidence to follow an illustration idea that I might doubt but she knows with a little work it will shine.

There is also with almost of all of your books a sense of mischievousness to them. Did you get up to much mischief as a child?

Well I always imagined I was a good boy/teenager. But my fiancée is a school teacher and having told her some of what I got up to in and out of school she is less than impressed, she would have marked my card very early on. However my Dad, who was pretty smart, never knew that all the football practices I said I was going to were in fact detentions.

What comes first – pictures in your head or the story?

The character always come first. Be it a drawing of an odd looking wolf or an old lady in Mrs Mo’s case, they both stared back at me and I wondered what’s your story?

This happens very rarely as I’ve drawn hundreds of faces/characters over the years. After I have my ‘star’ the real challenge is to find someone for them to act against. Then the story evolves with me speaking to myself (in my head) and writing down the dialogue, I churn out of lot and then edit this back down to find the basic bones of a story. The hard work then begins of trying to make a story that can be read multiple times while hoping against hope that it will resonate in the readers mind.

If you could have dinner with any character from any book who would it be and why?

Well based on my behaviour as a child, I reckon an afternoon with young George from the Roald Dahl book George’s Marvellous Medicine would be interesting to say the least. I’d hope to go toe to toe with him on some of my questionable deeds, although I will say that I have never poisoned an elderly relative. I’m assuming dinner would be a burger and coke, and if we go back to the 1980s when I read the book we’d find ourselves in either A Little Chef or a Wimpy Bar, both were pretty grotty by today’s standards but I felt ‘proper posh’ going in them as a child.

What advice would you give to children who want to write or illustrate?

Write, write, write, draw, draw, draw. More importantly don’t worry if it’s not right the first time, this is so crucial to remember so I’m going to say it again don’t worry if it’s not right the first time. Because the great thing is that you don’t know how good you’re going to be, if you knew already where would be the fun in that?

Think of it as a big adventure, at the moment you are just wandering towards a mountain stepping through endless fields of cow dung (or dinosaur dung if you want to add a bit more excitement) but each of these stinky fields you make through makes you stronger. Then one day you’ll find yourself stepping on the mountain path and all sorts of possibilities open up.

Brilliant. Thank you Paul for taking the time to share your thoughts. I love that your dad thought you were at football when you were actually in detention.

Mr Postmouse goes on holiday

Written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc

Translated by Greet Pauwelijn

ISBN 9781911496045

Book Island

In the first book Here comes Mr Postmouse author and illustrator Marianne Dubuc introduced us to the daily routines of Mr Postmouse as he delivered letters and parcels to animal folk everywhere. In this second book we find Mr Postmouse and his family; Mrs Postmouse and children, Pierrot, Pipsqueak and Lulu taking a holiday all over the world. As we move through the pages we meet lots of animals and visit many different places. I particularly love the ladybugs and all the rosy cheeks of the animals and small creatures.

Family is important here with even the youngest of the mice sharing responsibilities helping to make the holiday the best it can be.

The large portrait size picture book is great for sharing and with it’s bright and busy illustrations it is not difficult to find yourself spending quite some time pointing out the different animals. There are sloths, frogs, tigers, even penguins and polar bears to search out and enjoy a  conversation over, with young ones. A good book to share.

 

The lava melt shake

Dinosaur Trouble book 2

By Kyle Mewburn

Illustrated by Donovan Bixley

ISBN 9781775433675

Scholastic NZ

Rumble, whoosh, phhhht! The volcano spews out a red-hot lava melt shake. Can Arg save the day in his mega-messy way?

The latest book in the Dinosaur Trouble series about cave boy Arg and his stone age family has heaps of humour but also quite a bit of danger. What makes these books perfect for younger readers is not just that they offer a good adventure to read but there is the awareness that family is important and always there to help and support. No matter what danger Arg gets himself in to, he knows he can rely on family. 

Donovan Bixley captures the antics with wonderfully funny illustrations. In fact, as a team, author and illustrator work perfectly together. This series and its format with large text, lots of illustrations and short chapters is great for newly independent readers. Perfect for getting readers ready to read the Dinosaur Rescue series after this one.

I was enjoying reading the latest adventure of cave boy Arg and laughing along at all the funny bits when I began wondering if the author might just be a bit like Arg. Arg certainly has his share of trouble but with a bit of clever thinking he always finds his way out of danger so I thought I would ask author Kyle Mewburn a few questions to see if there were any similarities between himself when he was young and his mischievous character Arg.

Check out his answer to this and other questions below.

There is a lot of humour in your chapter books. The Dinosaur Rescue and Dinosaur Trouble chapter books have a real sense of mischievousness in them. What were you like as a child? Mischievous perhaps?

I never considered myself mischievous, but for some reason I was always getting into trouble. Personally I think I was simply too clever for my own good – much like Arg. I also had a low boredom threshold, so was always coming up with ingenious ways to amuse myself, whether in class or at home. Unfortunately not everyone could see how ingenious I was. Though Dinosaur Rescue and Dinosaur Trouble aren’t autobiographical per se (apart from the neanderthal parents and jealous sister – haha!), the underlying sense of alienation and different-ness Arg feels certainly is. Having a strong emotional element underpinning the storyline is so important for this age group, I think. 

We know you live in an isolated area of the country but you often travel to schools all over NZ and even Australia. Is it difficult having to travel so far. What it is like living where you live and does it get very cold?

Millers Flat isn’t as isolated as it seems. It’s only 90 minutes drive to Dunedin or Queenstown, both of which have airports. You could actually argue I don’t live in the middle of nowhere, but halfway to everywhere. But while travelling isn’t difficult, it certainly is expensive. The fact I have to pass on travel costs to schools often puts a visit out of reach of a school’s budget. Which is why I try to make the most of any trip and cram as many visits in as possible, so schools can share costs.

I can’t imagine living anywhere else. The lifestyle suits me perfectly. I require almost total quiet to write – even a fly makes me lose focus. So I couldn’t imagine living in a city. And there’s nothing better for clearing the cobwebs than pottering in the garden. Living in an isolated area also fits in nicely with my greenie philosophy. We have a composting toilet and a worm-farm grease-trap, so almost no food is wasted.

When we first moved to the area in 1990, we used to get bitterly cold, extended winters. Temperatures could remain below zero for months on end, freezing the ground several inches deep. But recent winters have been positively balmy in comparison, thanks to climate change. Either way, we manage to stay snug and warm in our little, extremely well-insulated (thanks to our grass roof) house with a very efficient wood-burner.

What does an ordinary writing day look like for you?

I try to write most days – at least when I’m at home. I haven’t quite mastered the art of writing on the road. Basically I wake up, make coffee and, at this time of the year, put on the fire. Then I head up to my desk and start writing… or at least trying to write. Often that involves trawling social media and playing a lot of solitaire. I’m a fits and starts kind of writer. I generally write in inspired bursts. But the inspired bursts don’t appear unless I chain myself to my desk for extended periods of struggling to write a single decent sentence.

What key advice would you give to children who want to write?

Enjoy your writing! There’s often no concrete reward to writing – the odds of getting published are incredibly low. Unless you are enjoying the journey and the process, you’re more likely to experience frustration and angst rather than joy.

What genre of books do you read in your spare time and who is your favourite author?

I used to read a lot of literary fiction – Graham Greene, Peter Carey etc – but recently I’ve returned to reading a lot more speculative sci-fi. I’ve been slowly working my way through The complete works of Theodore Sturgeon the last few years. It’s been a fascinating journey following the development of a key sci-fi writer from his early days of churning out “800-word stories with a twist” for a magazine, right through to the complex classics of his latter years.

If you could be any character from any book, yours or anyone other book, who would you be and why?

The character from H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. I’ve always had a fascination with the notion of time travel – and the moral implications of it all.

Thank you so much Kyle for sharing your thoughts.

 

The Dark Prophecy

The trials of Apollo Book 2 

By Rick Riordan 

ISBN 9780141363974

Penguin Random House

Rick Riordan has fans all over the world, including me. Readers love his books, in fact readers devour his books. In my day job as a librarian I am constantly asked by my students- when are the next books coming out. Well, I can finally say the next one is here now. Book two in the Trials of Apollo series offers more heroic adventures. The students who began with Percy Jackson continue to read these wonderful tales of mythological characters. It is not just children and teenagers who read Riordan’s different series but also many adults.

Take a peek at these book trailers to see just why Rick Riordan’s books are so popular. Check out his website as well for more details about his books. There are also heaps of ideas if you want to be a writer yourself.

 

The god Apollo, cast down to earth and trapped in the form of a gawky teenage boy as punishment, must set off on the second of his harrowing (and hilarious) trials.
He and his companions seek the ancient oracles – restoring them is the only way for Apollo to reclaim his place on Mount Olympus – but this is easier said than done.
Somewhere in the American Midwest is a haunted cave that may hold answers for Apollo in his quest to become a god again . . . if it doesn’t kill him or drive him insane first. Standing in Apollo’s way is the second member of the evil Triumvirate – a Roman emperor whose love of bloodshed and spectacle makes even Nero look tame.
To survive the encounter, Apollo will need the help of a now-mortal goddess, a bronze dragon, and some familiar demigod faces from Camp Half-Blood. With them by his side, can Apollo face down the greatest challenge of his four thousand years of existence?

 

 

 

Jake Bailey: What cancer taught me
By Jake Bailey
ISBN 9780143770862
Penguin Random House NZ

 

None of us get out of life alive, so be gallant, be great, be gracious, and be grateful for the opportunities you have.’
Only one week after being told he had cancer, student Jake Bailey was wheeled on stage for his end-of-year speech as head boy at Christchurch Boys’ High School. None of us can forget seeing him on television, brave and determined. His words moved everyone and spread quickly around the world so that people everywhere knew of this young man from Christchurch. A young man who had the biggest battle of his life ahead of him.
In his biography we share Jake’s journey, his illness, his treatment and recovery. Jake’s story is one we all need to read. While aimed for the adult market I believe this is one of those perfect cross-over books and will be a must-have for secondary school libraries. Such an honest and inspirational young man, I can’t wait to read his book.

 

Tāwhirimātea A song for Matariki

By June Pitman-Hayes

Illustrated by Kat Merewether

Māori lyrics by Ngaere Roberts

Matariki is a time to celebrate Earth, sky, seasons and whānau. This new picture book with its accompanying CD is a treasure for families, schools and pre-schools.  Great to read aloud and great to sing along with the CD.

Mum, dad, children and grandparents go on a walk and have a picnic. They swim, catch fish, walk through the bush and spend a wonderful day together.

Tāwhirimātea, blow winds blow

Rā, warm us up with your sunshine glow.

Papatūānuku, we plant seeds in you.

Ua, rain, helps new life come through…

Lots of New Zealand wildlife make guest appearances throughout the story. Very good use of Te Reo throughout the story as well as a complete Maori version make this essential for school libraries.

Gorgeous use of colour in the illustrations, especially the blues and purples. Warm and friendly.

We’re off to find a Kiwi

By Juliette MacIver

Illustrated by Kate Wilkinson

ISBN 9781775433750

 

 

We're Off to Find a Kiwi hr

 

Children’s writer, Juliette MacIver is prolific and popular. Her trademark playful rhymes continue in her latest picture book about Louie and his big sister, on the hunt for the elusive kiwi. The children think of the different places a kiwi might hide. They search the town, a farm and even the mountains but just can’t seem to find any kiwis. But they do not give up.  I do like the last page with facts about kiwis which adds a little extra to the story.

Very much a New Zealand themed picture book which makes it ideal to send to family and friends overseas.

Soft illustrations with lots of natural colours, particularly with the bush scenes. Great for the 3 – 7 year olds.

 

 

 

 

1917 Machines of War

Kiwis at War series

By Brian Falkner

ISBN 9781775432807

Scholastic NZ

It is 1917 and the Great war is a jagged scar across the face of Europe. Soldiers cower in mud-filled trenches, hurling bullets across the war-torn landscape. Above them flies 17-year-old New Zealander Bob Sunday, of the Royal Flying Corps. Before long, Bob finds himself flying against the great German air aces, including the infamous Red Baron, as their warplanes whirl above the battlefields of Arras, Passchendaele and Cambrai.

Over the years, I have read many children’s and young adult war war books but none have focused on war from a pilot’s point of view. It is illuminating to see how World War 1 played out in the skies above the battlefields, from the eyes of pilot Bob Sunday. There were so many things I didn’t really know about. I was surprised by the debate over parachutes which becomes part of Bob’s many conversations. The descriptions of the different planes and the people involved provides a well-researched account of the events at the time.

It is great how we get to see the impact of war from pilots from different sides of the war. Enemies at times, showing a sense of respect for each other as they battle for the skies.  Bob Sunday arrived fresh from New Zealand with revenge in his heart but over the year you can see his growing maturity and change of ideals.  Author Brian Falkner tells it straight but I did find myself smiling a few times over clever and witty dialogue. We know from our history books that war was brutal and a tragic waste but through Bob Sunday’s eyes we see it first-hand.

A smell began to assail my nostrils. An unbreathable stench of death and decay. I held my breath as long as I could, trying not to gag, but eventually I had to breathe in and waves of nausea and dizziness almost overwhelmed me. I don’t know what I was crawling through …

Bob is a believable and likable protagonist facing up to his fears and living in incredible times.

I think this would make a great read for a novel study for older students or a book club choice. Do make use of the teacher notes here.

This is the fourth title in the Kiwis at War series with a final book to be published in 1918. Each book looks at a different year of the First World War.

Waiting for Goliath

By Antje Damm

ISBN 9781776571420

There is so much to love with this picture book about waiting for a friend.

Bear sits waiting and waiting. Even when it snows, bear sits waiting on the bench for his friend Goliath. Other animal friends come and go and much discussion is had about whether Goliath will ever turn up. Bear is of course patient, optimistic and faithful to his friend Goliath. When Goliath eventually does turn up, young children will laugh out loud. I did.

The illustrations are superb. Created as dioramas and then photographed, the pictures have a depth of field that will fascinate young readers and put them right in the middle of the story. Just gorgeous.  Published this May so do watch out for it.

 

My dog Mouse

By Eva Lindstrom

ISBN 9781776571499

Published this June.

 

He’s old and fat with ears as thin as pancakes. His walk is a kind of waddle and he’s always pleased to see me.

This delightful book really is for everyone. We all know an old dog that goes so slowly. “Step, pause. Step, pause. Step, pause.”  The kind of old dog you want to just pick up and carry home. 

Well Mouse is one of those old dogs and even though the girl in the story doesn’t own Mouse she does love him to bits. Whenever she asks, she is always allowed to take him on walks. Very slow walks where other people always overtake them. And when she hands him back to his owner, she thinks “I wish Mouse was mine”. The story is funny and sweet but it is also real. And we know that come tomorrow she will be back to take Mouse for another long, slow walk.

The illustrations have a naive, child-like quality to them which is lovely and fresh.