Archive for the ‘Intermediate’ Category

The Iron Man

By Ted Huges

ISBN 

Allen & Unwin

The Iron Man came to the top of the cliff.
Where had he come from? Nobody knows.
How was he made? Nobody knows.

WOW!

This new edition of Ted Hughes’ classic The Iron Man is simply stunning.

The story is still the familiar one where a gigantic iron robot turns up out of the blue, all smashed up. A young boy named Hogarth finds him, helps fix him and the two become firm friends but not everyone is so keen on the iron man. It doesn’t take long before there is mayhem. Adventure, friendship, and tolerance, are all messages within this classic story.

Chris Mould’s illustrations are simply stunning. This is a full-colour hardback, portrait sized book for everyone. From the choice of colours; earthy browns, rusty orange, blues and lots of green, to the format which is novel, chapter book,  part graphic novel, the whole production is stunning. The end papers have a retro feel to them, almost like wallpaper.

An absolute winner. Love it. When my copy arrived yesterday, I sat in the staffroom sharing it and everyone was impressed. They described it as; beautiful, gorgeous, a real treasure and all agreed, it would make a beautiful gift for any age. I held my copy hugging it tight, before putting gently in my bag to take home and read last night. This is a much-loved classic for a new generation to love.

Check out the trailer as illustrator Chris Mould discusses his new book.

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The Runaways

By Ulf Stark

Illustrated by Kitty Crowther

Translated by Julia Marshall

ISBN 9781776572342

One of the things that continues to amaze me is the ability of good writers to make you like even the bad characters in stories. It is only when we dig into the depths of these characters, that we realise just how vulnerable they often are.  The pain they feel, for whatever reason, is behind their awfulness. In The Runaways, Grandpa is a bit of pain, grumpy and he swears a lot too.  We eventually find out the reason he is so grumpy, and I can tell you, it melted my heart, just a little. Grandpa’s health is deteriorating but there is one thing he wants to do before the end.

Gottfried Junior adores his Grandpa and just wants to spend time with him in the hospital. Even though he is not allowed to see him very often, Gottfried, finds a way. Together, they hatch a plan to runaway overnight. It involves a few lies, lots of plans and even an accomplice. This is a wonderful, heart-warming story about two people who love each other very much and the reality that life will soon be very different for them both.

The Runaways is a beautifully written, warm, tender and honest story which many of us find familiar. Growing old, or losing grandparents is a harsh reality but Ulf Stark has done a lovely job. This is a very moving account and I should warn you, tissues may be needed.

 

Zanzibar

By Catharina Valckx

ISBN 9781776572564

Zanzibar is a crow who is content with life until a travelling lizard reporter knocks on his door and asks if there is anything exceptional about him to write in his newspaper. Zanzibar considers his options but realises he is just an ordinary crow with nothing special to offer the reporter. Zanzibar decides to do something to change that, something which will make him stand out and be noticed. That something special involves a long flight, lots of planning and a camel.

Zanzibar is a funny, illustrated first chapter book. The characters care about each other and support Zanzibar on his quest to lift a camel with just one wing. Does he do it? Not telling. However, there are always lessons to learn a long the way about the value of friendship and believing in yourself. Sweet, funny, and just a lovely feel-good story for newly independent readers.

The Quiet at the End of the World

By Lauren James

ISBN 9781406375510

Walker Books

 

I’m not a huge fan of Science-fiction but I was more than pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this read. Totally got in to the story, characters and even the belief that everything in this Young Adult novel, could very well happen one day. That is a scary thought.

Lowrie and Shen are the youngest people on earth. A catastrophic virus caused global infertility and babies have not been born for many years. They are protected by elders but the elders have secrets; serious secrets they want to keep from the two teenagers. When the secret is eventually uncovered, everything changes and Lowrie and Shen have an impossible choice to make. Life as it exists could change forever.

I listened to the audio of this book and was hooked thinking of all the possibilities. I was in the Thames mudlarking, searching for treasure with them. I was with them when the secret came out and with them as they realised what the future would hold.  I was with them all the way and that to me, is a good book. Thoroughly enjoyed it and totally recommend it to YA readers.

Antarctic Journeys

By Philippa Werry

ISBN 9781869664992

New Holland Publishers

When we consider non-fiction books for children, conversations often turn to the fact that everything we want them to know is online with just a quick click away. While that is definitely true, it may take many attempts and quite some time to find what they are looking for with many distractions along the way. As adults we know it is very easy to get lost on the internet and before you know it an hour has passed and you still haven’t really found what you are looking for. So with that in mind it is great to see some new non-fiction books for children, with all the information needed in one place, on two very different topics; Antarctica and Kereru.

Antarctic Journeys is a great example of what to look for in a non-fiction book. It has a multitude of colour photographs, an index, glossary, timeline, and contents page. The subheadings are bold and the photos are well-detailed. The information is well researched.

It is a book to read anyway you want. You can read it all the way through, or dip into chapters and read snippets that take your interest. I particularly liked the animal journeys, especially the cats. I also enjoyed reading about Frank Worsley and Ernest Shackleton. Their journey was an incredible tale of survival, although that can be said of all the early explorers to Antarctica. The book, as the title suggests, is about journeys of all kinds, both historic and contemporary. The writer herself made a journey to Antarctica after winning a place on the Antarctica New Zealand community engagement programme. This book captures much of her experience, and so much more.

This is an excellent choice for school libraries at all levels.

Coo-coo Kereru

By Terry Fitzgibbon

ISBN 9781869665173

New Holland Publishers

This is a combination creative non-fiction picture book. Beautifully illustrated with rhyming text on one side of each spread and information text on the opposite page. The Kereru is indeed, a beautiful bird and whenever I happen to see one, which is sadly, not very often,  I can’t help but stand quietly and watch them.

This book, aimed at younger children, explores the history of kereru, as far back as the myths and legends when a Kereru helped Maui fish the North Island out of the sea. The birds are also known as wood pigeons. I did find it sad that at one time Kereru had a life-span of 20-25 years but now because of introduced predators, loss of their forest homes and other things, their life expectancy is now only 5-6 years. The back of the book gives plenty of ideas of how you can help these beautiful birds.

Another good book to add to your library.

 

Louisiana’s way home

By Kate DiCamillo

ISBN 9781406385588

Walker Books

 

In this world there are the rescuers and the rescued. I have always fallen into the second category.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two covers for this heartbreaking yet heartwarming story about Louisiana Elefante who is suddenly uprooted in the middle of the night by her Granny. They leave everything behind, even her cat Archie. No time either, to say goodbye to her best friends, Raymie Nightingale and Beverly Tapinski. Which is your favourite cover?

Set in the 1970’s where life was simpler than today and told in the first-person point of view, we see everything from Louisiana’s understanding. We feel her frustration at being forced to travel with her eccentric granny who tells her they have to flee an ancient curse. The journey ends in heartache for Louisiana and she is left to deal with issues way beyond what is expected of a 12 year old. Home for Louisiana is where her friends are but sometimes in life, we learn that home is where you make it.

There is humour, especially with Granny and her teeth. I adore how confident Louisiana is when she takes control of driving the car while her Granny moans in pain from toothache, in the backseat. However, her confidence is driven by fear for her Granny’s situation, which she declares is “dire”.

Louisiana is both strong yet vulnerable. Cynical and untrusting, determined and brave. It is much credit to an author that leaves you worrying or thinking about a character long after you have finished a book. I know in my heart Louisiana will be happy but I would love to give her a hug of reassurance that she knows she is loved and wanted.

I am looking forward to the next novel where Beverly Tapinski will tell her story and I hope there is a big reunion for these three best friends.

 

The World’s Worst Teachers

By David Walliams

ISBN 9780008364007

HarperCollinsUK

 

 

The World’s Worst Teachers follows on from the series The World’s Worst Children which continues to be a huge success and despite having multiple copies in the library, are still in high demand. This book, I think, will be even more in demand as children love the idea of horrible teachers.

David Walliams stories are great for everyone, children to read alone, parents and teachers to read aloud but they are also ideal for reluctant readers which is always a big plus for me.

Due in just two weeks and I will be in the shop straight after work to get my copies. Can’t wait!

Artemis Fowl

By Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl is a 12-year-old genius. His family has been part of the criminal world for years and the time is now right for a major battle with powerful fairies who live underground. And they are angry! Artemis Fowl and his many adventures were hugely popular a wee while ago but I bet that with the release of the movie later this year, these fantasy novels will be back in high demand.

It goes without saying that reading the book first will enhance your viewing of the movie.

Magic, fantasy, adventure, thriller, fight for survival. Everything is included in this series of books. Check out your local library or shout yourself a copy of the book. You won’t be disappointed as it is an excellent read. Or you can read the graphic novel versions of this series too. I still have a signed copy of the original book tucked away safe on my bookshelf. Really looking forward to this movie.

To trap a thief

By Des Hunt

ISBN 9781775435648

Scholastic NZ

 

Des Hunt always manages to capture the essence of what it is to be young and conflicted. His latest book is another example of a rollicking good read, full of adventure, conflict, mystery and in this case, a good quest as well.

In To trap a thief  we have Connor, a 12 year old boy who is still struggling with the death of his father and facing the reality that his mother is ready to remarry. The man she wants to marry is Morgan but Morgan’s own parents are not so keen on the idea of their son marrying either.  Tensions are high when everyone meets for the first time and go badly.  Connor and Morgan’s father go off for a walk leaving the others behind to discuss things. On their walk they run into one of the town’s bullies and this is just the beginning of a heap of things that go wrong. To try and get to know each other, Morgan’s parents take Connor and his best friend, Harvey, on holiday with them in a newly bought camper van.  While on holiday Connor is sent clues to missions via his phone but he has no idea who is sending them. The boys begin the quest but run into a stranger, Frank Brown who seems too good to be true, especially as he starts handing out $100 notes.  Indeed, Frank has an agenda of his own and it leads to danger for everyone and an actual fight for survival.

Fast-paced, believable characters, and a good solid read from one of New Zealand’s much-loved and award winning authors. I love how Des Hunt incorporates a little bit of science into his novels and he does it seamlessly.

Great read for 10 plus.

A place of Stone and darkness

by Chris Mousdale

ISBN9780143773122

Penguin Random House

 

 

Chris Mousdale’s book A place of Stone and Darkness had me hooked right from the start.

It is a stylishly produced hardback novel which crosses a mix of genres. There is fantasy, adventure and mystery all in a wonderfully imagined, dystopian underground world. Chris Mousdale  also illustrates the book and includes maps of the Striggs world, a glossary of their language, and character portraits, as well as a number of gorgeous earthy illustrations.

Deep, deep down underground is the world of the flightless Striggs.  They have lived there for thousands of years after being forced from the surface by savage humans. The Striggs have adapted to life underground but their world is threatened with pollution to its water and members of the flock are becoming ill and dying. While exploring in one of the tunnels Ellee Meddo, finds a human, a Toppa, as they are known, who has fallen through an old unused well. Toppas are known to be dangerous and feared at all costs but this Toppa is young and hurt and Ellee can’t just leave him. With the help of her brother Sidfred, Ellee hides the boy but eventually he is is discovered by other Striggs and that creates friction and more action. One Strigg in particular, Kass, wants to just kill the boy. The action is fast paced, even nail-bitingly at times, so that it was very hard to put the book down. I just wanted to keep reading.

In order for the community to work and survive, the Striggs believe in the mantra; “Be one, be all, be everything”. When the group decide that they must return the boy, to the surface, this mantra becomes more important, especially when faced with danger from other humans. The world of the humans is violent and one of social decay. If the Striggs are discovered by humans it could mean the end of their world. I can tell you, their worlds do collide and the suspense built so quickly I was almost holding my breath wondering what was going to happen next. 

I loved this novel for so many reasons. The fast-paced action, its total believability, its warmth, the friendships, the loyalties and even the subtle messages. Yes, there are messages about our environment, trust, human kindness and taking risks. This is a wonderful read and one that I predict will go far. Great for older readers and with its buff coloured pages is ideal for children with dyslexia.  Loved it!

This would make a good class read aloud and teacher notes can be found here to explore this novel further.

Little Frida : A story of Frida Kahlo

By Anthony Browne

ISBN 9781406381221

Walker Books

Anthony Browne has brought us another stunner of a picture book. His artwork is wonderfully distinctive and his fans are many, including myself. I have admired his work for years and was lucky enough to meet him a number of years ago. I stood in line awestruck as I waited to get my copy of Voices in the Park signed. Even though the queue was long he took the time to draw a quick picture and I still treasure this book very much. So I am delighted to be reading his latest picture book. It has a more creative non-fiction feel to it as the story he tells is based on the real life of artist Frida Kahlo. 

Browne beautifully illustrates Frida’s life as a young girl. He brings the pain of struggling through polio and the consequences of her illness that left her with a limping, thin leg and the cruelty of children who called her “Peg-Leg”. Frida was different, an outsider, often lonely, but her imagination created a new friend. Her new friend and the imaginary world they live in is portrayed beautifully and wistfully by Browne. It is a world of hope and beauty, friendship and dancing. In this new world Frida is finding her strengths and that is painting. Frida is becoming an artist. 

I love how one artist can take the life of another artist and create a beauty on its own. There is at times a sense of surrealism and sophistication about the illustrations, which is Browne’s own trademark but he also incorporates Frida’s own style. Browne uses rich, bold colours and there are, as always, little hidden images, including an old friend from his other books but I will leave that for you to find. I will say though, it made me smile.

The biographical notes about Frida are framed like a work of art itself on the final end page.  Out of pain comes beauty and Browne shows this in his stunning new picture book. It is an essential book for school libraries but also a book that will be special in any home. I love too, the way the book feels, with its embossed frame of little Frida on the cover.  Frida was famous for her self-portraits often adding bits of fantasy to her paintings.  Browne honours Frida with his own sense of fantasy, so do look closely at the cover before you open the pages and enter the world of Frida Kahlo as a young girl.

On the brink : New Zealand’s most endangered species

By Maria Gill

Illustrations by Terry Fitzgibbon

ISBN 9781869665180

New Holland Publishers

On the brink is a well-researched non fiction children’s book about the dangers of extinction for many different New Zealand species. It includes among others,  reptiles, frogs, fish, insects, birds and marine animals. It is well-formatted, realistically illustrated and informative without being too wordy. The book details the top five most endangered in each category. It is incredibly sad to realise just how many species are actually threatened with extinction. Perhaps the saddest is the Maui dolphin with less than 55 left in the world. Certainly makes you stop and think. It is also very sad to see how few Hamilton’s frogs there are left. I love frogs and actually have my own pet ones who are about 12 years old. They are little brown whistling tree frogs and they make me smile so much. I would hate to see the loss of Hamilton’s frogs.

As a buyer of children’s books for a school library, I do like non-fiction books which include a good glossary, index and contents page and this book provides all that and more. There are many useful websites to check out for further research. There is also a double page spread with ideas of what readers can do to try and help make a difference.

This is an excellent book trailer to use in class with the book. Definitely a must-have for school libraries.

A sad reminder of what we could all lose if we do nothing. We all need to do our own little bit to help.

 

Bullseye Bella

By James T. Guthrie

ISBN 9781775435730

Scholastic NZ

Bella Kerr is 12 years old, lives with her mother and younger brother, Blackbeard. They are a close-knit family.  Mum is a busy, hard-working single parent and reluctantly leaves Bella at home and in charge of her younger brother while she works late at night. Bella is mature and sensible and her mother trusts her to do the right thing. However, one day Bella overhears her mother on the phone and learns that there is not enough money to pay her brother’s school fees. Blackbeard needs a special school because he is autistic so she comes up with a plan to try to make some money. Bella is an unusually gifted darts player and enters a competition hoping to win some money.  It doesn’t go well and ends in tears.

I love seeing Bella and how determined she is, but also so vulnerable. As she progresses through the games Bella has to compete against men who have been playing darts for years, and one man in particular is rather nasty and incredibly arrogant. He brings trouble and difficulties for Bella and her family. Bella may be a very good dart-player but her difficulty is not just nerves, but her maths as well. That makes quite a challenge to try to win the prize money to help out her mother. There is also the fact that the competitions are at night and in a pub when she is supposed to be home looking after Blackbeard.

Bella’s love for her little brother is precious. She understands him so well and he adores her, following her everywhere and defending her with pirate talk and bravery. All he wants is a parrot, as do all pirates. A feel-good story with humour, love, family and a good dose of competition for those who like a challenge.

This is a well deserved winner of the Tom Fitzgibbon Award

Bess the brave war horse

By Susan Brocker

Illustrated by Raymond McGrath

ISBN 9781775435563

Scholastic NZ

 

Bess is a fine filly of a horse frolicking in grassy fields in New Zealand when she is chosen by Captain Guy Powles to be his horse. He said she was a beautiful horse and strong enough to carry him through battle. We follow Bess’s journey as she spends weeks at sea, cramped and sweaty below deck in a ship heading for Egypt. Bess and the other horses were often frightened , especially when the seas were stormy. When they finally arrived in Egypt life became busy with preparations and training to help the soldiers on the battlefield.  Bess and her master had a wonderful relationship where they cared for each other and more importantly, trusted each other. The book provides us with a different perspective of World War One. The language is descritptive and features some wonderful alliteration.

“fine filly, frolicking in the fields with her friends”

“On shore, strange smells, sights and sounds greeted Bess.”

This is a beautifully illustrated picture book for older readers. I love the end pages with their two-toned illustrations of Bess; first as a young horse and then back home in New Zealand, fully grown and happy. The end pages alone would look good framed on any wall. The colours throughout mirror the dusty fields and dark uniforms worn by the soldiers. The research by both author and illustrator is obvious and makes this book an important one to have in your school libraries.

The sad fact is that out of 10,000 horses that went to war, only four came back to New Zealand. Bess was one of them. Her story is true.

Chinatown Girl: The diary of Silvey Chan, Aukland 1942

My New Zealand Story.

By Eva Wong Ng

ISBN 9781775435778

Scholastic NZ

The first thing you notice in this re-release of Chinatown Girl is its fresh new cover.  It is bright, eye-catching and appeals to the preteen and early teen reader. Twelve year Silvey Chan begins her diary on January 1st 1942. The World is at war and life throws many complications at Silvey and her family, friends and the Chinese community she belongs to.

Like other books in the My New Zealand Story series, which focus on certain events in New Zealand’s history, Chinatown Girl  provides insight into the Chinese community in downtown Auckland. Through Silvey’s diary entries we find out what it is like to be different from others, including racism with Government poll taxes for Chinese people. We read about many Chinese traditions and the constant fear as the war continues overseas, but seems to get closer and closer. At school they children practice air-raid drills just in case. We also read about rationing and the consequences of a world at war.

There is much excitement in town when the American soldiers arrive and new friendships are made. 

Silvey is likeable and inquisitive and her diary makes a good and informative read about life in 1942 New Zealand. Silvey is determined to make something of her life and I bet she does.

You can find teacher notes here if you want to take this beyond a simple read.

Dogman: Brawl of the wild

By Dav Pilkey

ISBN 9781338236576

Scholastic

Dogman is back again for more hilarious adventures. These graphic novel books are always in hot demand. I could buy twenty copies and still have children waiting to read them. They are brightly coloured graphic novels with quirky cartoonish illustrations and heaps of humour. Lots of tongue-in-cheek humour that parents will love too. Will he get a fair go in his latest adventure?

Yes, the same author and illustrator that brought you Captain Underpants brings you funny stories about Dogman, half dog, half human.