Archive for the ‘Intermediate’ Category

Ice Breaker

By Maria Gill

Illustrated by Alistair Hughes

ISBN 9781869665364

New Holland Publishers

 

I have always been a fan of explorer Frank Worsley. His photo hangs proudly in our school foyer as he is deemed a past pupil hero, his determination something to aspire to. As books on Antarctic explorers go, most focus on Sir Ernest Shackleton so it is wonderful to see Frank Worsley getting the attention he so rightly deserves. If it wasn’t for his incredible navigation skills there would have been no survivors from this dangerous journey.

In 1914 an attempt by the crew of the Endurance to traverse the Antarctic continent began well enough. Unfortunately the ship became stuck in the ice and eventually sunk. This is the story of that  extraordinary journey and how all the men survived because of Frank Worsley and Sir Ernest Shackleton.

It is hard to believe that everyone survived given the constant setbacks they endured. It was bad enough being shipwrecked but the freezing cold temperatures, bitter winds and treacherous conditions that hounded the crew is beyond our imagination. The journey is well recorded here in Maria’s creative non-fiction picture book. Again, as with all of Maria’s books, the subject is well-researched. It is hard to believe that no lives were lost or that the men did not just give up in such unbelievably harsh conditions. This book shows the depth of character these men had and their resilience and determination to stay alive.

The illustrator captures this determination in the faces of the men. The bitter cold and harsh reality of their situation is also wonderfully captured in the illustrations. A great record by author and illustrator of one of New Zealand’s true heroes.

Suitable for all levels as a well documented account of one of New Zealand’s true heroic explorers.

 

 

Today in New Zealand History. Updated edition

By Neil Atkinson, David Green, Gareth Phipps, and Steve Watters

Exisle Publishing

 

 

This is one of those books that should be in every school in New Zealand, if not every home.  The pages are full of dates and information but in a very accessible way. Easy to read, not too wordy but enough information to give readers an understanding of important historical events in New Zealand’s history. There is a mix of black and white photos as well as colour ones.

The layout is perfect for dipping into and reading interesting snippets. The headings and dates are bold and easy to read when searching for particular dates. The book covers so much; disasters, politics, famous people, sporting events and much, much more. The book includes the 15th March 2019 Mosque shootings which is still so very fresh in everyone’s minds. As someone who lives in Christchurch and was in lockdown in a school while this devastating event took place, it is good to know that it is included in the updated edition.

NB Thanks to Exisle publishing for allowing me to share these copyright sample pages.

The book also includes happy events, such as when our Silver Ferns netball team won the 2019 World Cup. Exciting times.

Grab yourself a copy of this detailed, informative and authoritative look at our history from way back in the past right up until now.

 

Avis and the Promise of Dragons 

By Heather McQuillan

ISBN 9780995119758

The Cuba Press

 

Love the cool cover with the mysterious eye peeking out from the bush. The first thought is why is it hiding, and what is going to happen? It is an easy well-paced read so won’t take you long to find out the answers.

Avis has a dream to work with animals, so when a scientist with a witchy-looking house offers her a job as a pet-sitter she jumps at the chance. But it turns out Avis is not looking after pets at all – the animals in Dr Malinda Childes’ backyard are as eccentric as she is and Avis has to promise to keep them a secret.

Writer Heather McQuillan provides an entertaining, yet informative read for those who enjoy a mix in their reading. We have fantasy, bullying, secrets, family issues, as well as lots of environmental concerns. Would be a good read aloud in schools as there is much to consider in the story of Avis, a young girl who is left in charge of some very unusual pets.

All begins well for her pet-sitting job until a storm changes everything and Avis is faced with many challenges, including the consequences of keeping secrets. Avis doesn’t always manage to do the right thing but she is prepared to make amends and learn from her mistakes, which is not always an easy thing to do. Avis also learns to accept changes and finds the strength to make some changes herself. Seeing growth in a character is always the sign of a good book. And anyway,  who doesn’t love a story with dragons?

White Bird

By R. J. Palacio

ISBN 9780241397244

Penguin Books

Penguin Random House

I read the book Wonder a number of years ago and loved it. I have it as year six book club title and the children love it too. So it was a no brainer to buy a copy of White Bird which shares with us the backstory of Julian’s grandmother. For those who read Wonder, you will remember that Julian was a bully and very unkind. While there is no excuse for such horrible behaviour, we can see in Whitebird that Julian later regretted his actions. For homework Julian has to write an essay about someone he knows and he chooses his grandmother. At first she is reluctant to share her story but she goes ahead and we are taken back to the 1940’s and a world at war.

Wow! Where to start? I loved this book so much. I cried so much I couldn’t see the words on the page.

Julian’s grandmother Sara Blum, was a young Jewish girl living in occupied France, who believed her life was good and a bit like a fairy tale. Her family had nice things, food, a home, and spent time together as a family in the fields of bluebells. One day the Nazis came to school wanting to collect all the Jewish children. They ran through a forest trying to escape but Sara hid in a room upstairs in the school where a crippled classmate found her and led her to safety. Together, this boy Julien, and his family helped hide Sara in a barn and kept her safe.

Throughout the story we see bullying, kindness, trust, and mistrust, courage, hope, the futility of war and the impact it had long after the war was over. We meet strong, kindhearted people risking their lives, as well as nasty ones, ready to shoot on sight. Throughout the years in hiding, it is the friendship between Sara and Julien that is most moving of all.

This is powerful and at times uncomfortable to read but it’s a must read.
Written and illustrated as a graphic novel by R. J. Palcio you can see that the author knows exactly how her characters respond to situations, she knows their stories, their thoughts and fears and captures them in her illustrations so well, that we also know and can relate to them. We can feel Sara’s sadness and we can feel Julien’s frustration at his disability, especially as he remembers how fast he could run before polio ruined everything.

This is ideal from middle grade right through to secondary. There is so much to consider, so much to unpack and just so much more than a story about a young girl hiding and trying to survive in Occupied France. It is a story of hope.

Julian’s grandmother has a message for us all “Never again”.

 

 

 

You can read White Bird as a stand alone but if you want a little more out of it then read Wonder if you haven’t already.

Nevertell

By Katharine Orton

ISBN 9781406385182

Walker Books

 

A world of magic is only a whisper away…

 

I was hooked from the first page where there is immediate tension. It is followed by more action and suspense. The pace is just right for keeping readers wanting to know what happens next.

Lina has only ever known the prison world she was born in and the harsh, snowy winters of Russia. Lina is only eleven but she is pushed by her mother, who is also a prisoner, to escape and try and find her grandmother in Moscow. Her best friend Bogdan also escapes and the two of them find themselves facing many dangers. Food and warmth are in short supply and what are the noises and creatures that keep following them.

This is a good read. It has heaps of action, and is paced well with lots of new characters along the way. Some good, some not so good. Each chapter heading has mystical illustrations adding to the story.

Trust, forgiveness, friendships, family, freedom, and hope, are all themes throughout the novel for middle grade readers. Throw in survival and courage with a good dose of magic and a whispered voice repeating the phrase “nevertell” and you have a mystery as well as a fantasy story. Fairytales are an important feature here where they offer hope but also fear as they bring warnings of danger. A good read. This is a debut novel but I will certainly be looking out for further reads from author Katharine Orton.

 

 

The night the moon fell down and other poems

by Bill Nagelkerke

ISBN 9780473489212

The CopyPress NZ

 

 

Bill Nagelkerke’s book of poetry is full of poems to delight the reader. His poems appeal to young readers for their cleverness, humour and fun. Many have been published before in the School Journal and various publications and books.

The haiku on the back cover shows us his ability to take an everyday image and give it a fresh new look so that we are caught surprised by its depth and beauty.

 

plane trail

ruling a line beneath the moon

brush-stroking the sky

 

Some poems fit perfectly in the New Zealand landscape and others reach beyond time and space. Each poem is carefully thought out; words have been chosen for their meanings and impact, whether for fun or to leave the reader thinking beyond the end of the poem.

Each poem comes with its own illustration.

My favourite is the poem Rain but I’ll leave that one for you to read when you look for a copy of this book. A good book for teachers to use in class, not just for reading poems aloud, but for encouraging student’s own creative writing. Different styles, different subjects, different poems, all worth reading and sharing.

A great choice for school libraries.

Bill, apart from being a poet and author, also a translates books from Dutch to English, most notably for Gecko Press children’s books. He was awarded the Storylines Margaret Mahy Award for his distinguished contribution to New Zealand children’s literature and literacy in 2013.

 

The Rise of the Mythix: The Golden Unicorn

By Anh Do

ISBN 9781760525132

Allen & Unwin

 

The Soul Collector is a nasty man who collects everything he deems beautiful or unique. HIs most prized possession is Lucifer’s ring for the power it holds. He doesn’t care how he gets these artefacts or who gets hurt along the way, as long as he gets them for his collection.

Kelly Swift is an average teenager with a secret. She can outrun anyone and anything. Suddenly things change and she finds new strength and a lump growing in the middle of her forehead and for some strange reason she begins to hear people’s thoughts. The Soul Collector has been watching her and he wants Kelly for his own collection but she is determined not to be caught. So he takes her mother and Kelly will do anything to save her.

This is a quick read with lots of action, a prophecy, mythical creatures and an ending that leaves you hanging out for book two.

Characters are older teens but the reading is aimed at a younger audience who love a good adventurous read. Lots of illustrations give face to the characters but also break up the text. Ideal for reluctant teen readers too.

Thoroughly enjoyed the story and the references to myths and legends from the past. I’ll also be one those waiting in line for book two.

Boy Giant: Son of Gulliver

By Michael Morpurgo

Illustrated by Michael Foreman

ISBN 9780008347925

HarperCollins Children’s Books

Those that know me, know that Michael Morpurgo is hands-down my favourite author. His ability to weave stories from serious situations and make them accessible to young readers, is legendary. He is never afraid to tackle the hard truths, such as war, in War Horse, or even environmental issues like the impact of deforestation as in his book Running Wild.

In Boy Giant Son of Gulliver we are introduced to Omar and his mother as they leave war torn Afghanistan. They are on a boat headed for England when it sinks. Omar wakes to find himself on an island, tied up and surrounded by the tiniest, littlest people you can ever imagine. The little people eventually realise he is no danger and take him in, caring for and helping him to learn English. English will good for him, he thinks, for when he can finally find a way to be reunited with his Mother in England, if she is in fact, still alive.

There are several levels to this novel and they all deal with the issues of war and learning to trust one another. The story is inspired by the classic story of  Gulliver’s Travels. Omar, or Owzat, as he later becomes known as, learns to love being with these tiny people and their kindness but everyday he misses his mother, and pines for her and the England they were heading for as asylum seekers.

Omar has strength and patience. He is determined to keep peace at all costs but most importantly, he refuses to give up hope.

Another top novel for middle grade readers from award winning author Michael Morpurgo.

I adore Chris Riddell and his talent for storytelling and creating the most amazingly gorgeous illustrations. I continue to add his books to my school library but also to my own collection. I shall die poor! Today I have a guest reviewer with her views on his latest book. Hannah is 8 years old and loves his books too and we have neat discussions about his books.  This is a new series and we are already keen for book two. No pressure Chris! Thank you so much Hannah for your review. You did beat me to reading it first.
Three children, three objects, three places that results in to a thrilling story of mysteries and magic. This story has made my imagination fly because of its characters creative thoughts. It’s the most mesmerising book I have ever read because it’s full of surprises. It has taken top place of my Chris Riddell list because it’s a different structure to his other books and I prefer this type of structure. As soon as I opened this book my eyes fell in love with it. You have to read this book.

        “ A magical story awaits your eyes”.

A book review by Hannah H age 8

I go quiet

By David Ouimet

ISBN 9781786897404

Canongate Books

David Ouimet and his publishers have produced a stunning, imaginative sophisticated picture book. It deals with a girl who is extremely introverted. Shy and unassuming she doesn’t even have a name. She goes through life feeling overwhelmed and struggles to find a place where she can fit in. She longs to be heard. This is her journey.

I adore the fact that this solitary, nameless girl finds solace in books. 

“When I read

I know there is

a world beneath

my branches.”

Books and reading helps her and gives her courage. The illustrations are dark and moody but they are also beautiful and hopeful. It is for the more mature reader but this would be a great book to unpack with a class and delve into the depths of its beauty and meaning. Love it.

 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

By J. K. Rowling

Illustrated by Jim Kay

ISBN 9781408845677

Bloomsbury

 

This is another beautifully illustrated collectors edition from Bloomsbury Publishers.

It doesn’t matter that I already have the set in paperback and hardback, this is something I just have to have, especially as I have the others in this beautiful format. Actually the original copies in the house belong to my now adult son, these illustrated ones are mine. The story is still the wonderful world of magic and mystery, although in this particular book the series takes a more dramatic turn and becomes darker and scarier, and sad too. It doesn’t really matter how old you are because if you are a fan of Harry Potter, then you are a fan for life. It also doesn’t matter how many times you read the books, there is always something new to discover that makes you suddenly think, so that’s why such and such happened.

Jim Kay brings a whole new element to the stories with his magical illustrations. There are stunning illustrations both in colour but also black and white which add mood and mysticism. Stunning.

Play around on the Wizarding World website to see much more.

My cat Dusty protecting my copy bought yesterday, one day after publication day.

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.

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.