Archive for the ‘Intermediate’ Category

Becoming Muhammad Ali

By James Patterson and Kwame Alexander

Illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile

ISBN 9780316498166

Houghton Mifflin

I’m writing this review on a warm autumn afternoon in Christchurch, New Zealand and enjoying memories of the time I met Muhammad Ali and our short but amazing conversation. It was many years ago and I was living in London, doing my big OE; working in hotels for cheap accommodation and experiencing life on the other side of the world.

I was cleaning hotel rooms and working in the Forum Hotel, one of the biggest hotels in London at the time. Ali was no longer boxing but he was still doing the rounds working for charities and trying to make the world a better place. I was lucky enough to clean his room and when I was in the hall he came out and told me he had had an accident. Before I could say much, he stuck his hand out and showed me his finger, cut off and sitting in the palm of his hand. I looked up at him (I’m barely 5 foot) and back at his hand and I screamed. Not the best response, I admit and it wasn’t really that loud but he gently placed his hand on my shoulder and told me it was a fake finger, which you really could tell straight away. We both laughed after that. I think, his fame, his height and the suggestion that he had cut off one of his famous boxing fingers was just a bit much for this young girl from down under. It was and always will be one of my most treasured experiences. Despite his size and fame, there was a gentleness to him that I found quite humbling. So to read this book has been a total delight.

Getting to know the young Cassius Clay before he became famous, before he changed his name is kind of magical. It’s like watching a movie and knowing the ending, but having no idea how it started because you had missed the beginning. Patterson and Alexander have created a beginning that is easy to read. It is a mix of poetry and prose. Kwame does verse novels with impact and perfection and the poems here are beautifully written. Patterson’s writing shows the love and respect of a best friend and we feel it. Ali tells his side of growing up, knowing he wanted to be a champion boxer and just how he set out to achieve that. One of his best friends Lucius, aka Lucky, tells his version of events. His obvious sense of pride in his friend as he watched it all play out is evident as he shares his insights to the young Cassis Clay.

I love the illustrations throughout the book; graphic novel type that suit the tone of the book. I think one of the strengths of this book is that you can feel the love Ali has for his family, particularly his younger brother Rudy, and his friends. His determination and confidence is inspiring. This is not just a book about boxing, or a biographical account of his life; it’s about friendships, belief, faith and courage at a time when black people still had to sit at the back of the bus. I felt many emotions reading this book. Anger; for racism he had to endure in a time when segregation was everywhere. Hope; for his dreams to come through, and relief that he made it. Happiness; that I had the fortune to have been pranked by this amazing man.

I am so glad this book has been published and is out there for everyone to read, enjoy and get to know the young, Muhammad Ali. I don’t want to return the book to the library but I will (reluctantly) as I want others to enjoy it too.

The last bear

By Hannah Gold

Illustrated by Levi Pinfold

ISBN 9780008411282


Oh my goodness, what a wonderful story. Beautifully written and with a gentle tone that adds to the warmth of the narrative.

April is eleven years old. Her mother died when she was small and her memories are limited, but she does remember her mother’s love. Her scientist father is caught up in his grief and ignores April so she feels she is loosing him too. In an effort to change things her father wants to spend time together, just the two of them, so he accepts a six-moth job on Bear Island, a remote outpost in the Arctic, though there are no actual polar bears on the island anymore. There is only the cold, icy landscape and each other. But the job takes more and more of his time and April is even more alone than when they lived in the city. April spends her time exploring the icy cold vastness of Bear Island and it is not long before she discovers there is in fact one last polar bear on the island, but he is hurt and afraid.

April is brave and caring. It is her determination and courage that enables her to interact with the bear and beyond all possibilities, form a relationship with this wild animal. Their relationship is amazing. They learn to understand each other and their different needs. I adore April. I want to hug her, hold her tight. I want to climb on the bear’s back and ride with them through the Arctic seasons. I believe in both April and the bear.

There is a message here about the damage we are doing to this planet and it is an important message but when you read about April and the bear, you can’t help but want to make a difference and help. We do need to worry about the melting ice caps, polluted seas and the plastic waste and this story will make you stop and think but it is also full of hope, all because of the bravery of one young girl.

The story is also about grief and how all-consuming it can be. Sometimes, we can get caught up in grief and forget there are other people around us that still need to be loved. April and her father are struggling through this difficult journey, but again, there is hope.

There are many beautiful illustrations that add to the impact of the story. Their haunting quality shows the beauty of the relationship between the bear and April.

I was moved to tears but I won’t tell you when; I’m sure you’ll work that out for yourself. The last bear, is an absolutely beautiful, heart-warming story that will stay with me. I loved it. Totally loved it. Perfect for 9 years and up. This may be the author’s debut novel, but I am sure there will be many more and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

I believe this would be a wonderful read-aloud for classes year 5 and up but also I think it would make an ideal novel for a student book club in schools. Trying to stop a group of readers in a book club from reading on ahead and finishing the book would be bit of a problem though as it is a book you don’t want to put down.

My name is Henry Fanshaw : The true story of New Zealand’s bomber squadron

By Gillian Torckler

Illustrated by Adele Jackson

ISBN 9781988538631

Bateman Books

Henry Fanshaw is a teddy bear but one with an extraordinary tale to tell. Henry was the mascot for the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s No 75 Squadron flying in the dangerous times of World War Two.

Henry tells us of the people he met, the dangers they faced, and tragedies they saw. He tells it through his eyes. He was there after all, throughout those harrowing times. I enjoyed learning about the planes and the men flying them. I especially liked reading about one particular very brave soldier; Sergeant James Ward but I won’t tell you what he did as you can read that yourself, but I will say, he was incredibly brave and well deserved the Victoria Cross medal he received.

I love that I live just 5 minutes away from the museum where Henry Fanshaw now spends his time looking at visitors who stand and wonder why he is so important. This book will tell you just how important Henry was and still is today. A reminder of the brave soldiers who fought to keep us all safe, all those years ago.

This is informative and an enjoyable read. The illustrations have a retro feel to them with muted colours and images reflecting the 1940’s. I love the end papers with the fields at the front with the shadow of the plane flying overhead, and the clouds at the back. Also at the back are facts about the different planes and some of the important people at the time.

Certainly a book to recommend to students wanting to know about World War Two and one of New Zealand’s most famous squadrons.

Snapper : the real story

By Annemarie Florian

Illustrations by Alistair Hughes

ISBN 9781760793340

New Holland Publishing

Snapper: the real story is about the life cycle of snapper. It is told through clear but simple text and brightly coloured illustrations. It is an informative look at how and where snapper live and the dangers that surround them.

The language is lyrical with lots of alliteration which makes it fun to read as well as being a useful resource when studying the ocean.

Sauntering through sponge garden sculptures.

At the back of the book there is more detail about the problems of over-fishing, plastic and pollutions and includes many useful links to other resources for ocean studies.

This is where I stand

By Philippa Werry

Illustrated by Kieran Rynhart


Scholastic NZ

The subject matter of This is where I stand is the statue of a World War One soldier who stands tall and proud as he looks out over the town. He tells of all he has seen over the many years since he was put on the plinth. He shares his memories of the war, gunfire and poppies in fields. He shares tales of families walking through the park where he stands. All that he remembers is shared, the good and the bad.

There is so much to love about this book. The language is poetical and just beautiful.

I am in the wind and the rain and the sun.

I am in the birdsong and green leaves and the moonlight.

The illustrations are stunning. The soft tones have a haunting quality. Together, the language and art work make this a beautiful book. Perfect not just for ANZAC Day but any day. This should be in every school library. To make the most of this sophisticated picture book do check out the teacher notes here.

New Zealand disasters: Our response, resilience and recovery

By Maria Gill

Illustrated by Marco Ivancic

ISBN 9781775436218

Scholastic NZ

Yet again, author Maria Gill and illustrator Marco Ivancic have proven themselves a winning combination with their latest collaboration. New Zealand disasters is a book that should be in every school library. It is timely, informative, well-researched and a great book to dip into again and again. It is one that is not just for study and hot topic projects, but is a book that will be interesting to everyone living in New Zealand.

I recall far too many of these disasters but also far too many that I have actually experienced to some degree or another, in my home town of Christchurch. I remember waking up to the eerie quiet and icy cold, snow-laden streets in the big snow of 1992. I recall vividly the Canterbury and Christchurch earthquakes and the ongoing aftershocks. The Port Hills fire was very close to home and the mosque shootings is still very raw in my memory. And of course, the Covid-19 pandemic is still very much active around the world. This book provides enough information on these and numerous other disasters that readers will come to know of some of our worst moments in history. It provides an understanding of the disasters and like any information, it helps us cope and know that after any disaster, things will get better. Knowledge is power and this book provides us with hope and strategies for any future disaster.

Most of us will remember where we were when different disasters happened, so often the mention of a particular disaster will bring back memories and associations. For example, when the DC-10 plane crashed into Mt Erebus in Antartica I was living in Milford Sound and we found out about this awful crash listening on an old ham radio. Disasters bring people together and hold memories, good and bad.

New Zealand Disasters is well set out. It has a very cool colour-coded contents page, glossary, and index. Bright and bold headings and sub-headings make it easy to scan for information. It covers all sorts of disasters, like earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones, mining accidents, plane crashes, volcanoes, fires and many more. There are photos and survival tips as well as a list to help you put together your own emergency kit.

The illustrator provides realistic impressions of the moment of many of the disasters. You can see the fear in the faces of people escaping disasters. Having lived through a number of these, I can assure you that the fear is real. Hopefully readers of this book will have some of their own fear alleviated, after learning some of the survival strategies.

Another top book from an award winning combo. Surely another award will follow.

Check out this very cool trailer.

The top secret intergalactic notes of Buttons McGinty Book 3

By Rhys Darby

ISBN 9781775436621

Scholastic NZ

Buttons McGinty is back in yet another funny adventure. Set out in journal form with lots of drawings, this middle grade book is ideal for fans of Jeff Kinney and Dav Pilkey. It can be read as a stand alone book, but there is a good brief recap of the first two books just in case you haven’t read them. Then before you know it, we are launching quickly and madly into Buttons’ final adventure.

Buttons is in search of his missing mother. He and his Dorm 4 gang travel the universe looking for her and come face to face with danger, including Batships, and Space Cops chasing them through the universe. The action is fast-paced, lots of tongue-in-cheek humour and a quirky protagonist who rushes through everything at break-neck speed. A good ending to the trilogy of Buttons McGinity and his band of friends. I love the robot and his kind heart.

You can also have fun creating messages for your own adventures by using the Morse Code and Hieroglyphs Keys at the back of the book.

The Ghosts on the Hill

By Bill Nagelkerke

ISBN 9780995123366

Cuba Press

The year is 1884. The place is Lyttelton, a small and bustling harbour town. Elsie was one of the last to see the lost boys alive, and now she is haunted by what happened to them. When the opportunity comes for Elsie to follow in their footsteps over the Bridle Path and put their ghosts to rest, she doesn’t hesitate.

Set in the past, this story offers much in terms of the history of the settlement of Lyttelton, and Christchurch, New Zealand. As someone who grew up in Christchurch, the setting is familiar and I couldn’t help but smile at some of the places I recognised. Elsie is the main character and she is sweet and caring. However, she has a strong sense of guilt that eats away at her. While on the hills one day she met two boys and they chatted for a short time. Elsie even gave them some of her food as they had come unprepared for their hike over the Bridle path. The weather closed in but she did not stop the boys from continuing their walk and sadly they were never seen alive again. You can feel her pain and guilt and the fear of the hills she has now built up within herself. Based on truth, this story is both sweet and sad. This is not just a good ghost story but a look at the way of life back in the 1850’s. This would be a great read in class for primary school students doing studies on our early settlement. I particularly liked the Maori fairies thread, with the patupaiarehe who are wicked and dangerous.

The forever horse

By Stacy Gregg

ISBN 9780008332358

HarperCollins Children’s Books

Maisie has always loved horses. She is also a talented artist. When the opportunity arises for her to study in Paris, her two worlds collide. There, in the heart of the city, Maisie finds the childhood diary of famous horse artist, Rose Bonifait, and meets the beautiful black stallion, Claude.

As the two girls’ stories emerge, tragedies unfold – both past and present – and Maisie realises that she can’t begin to imagine life without her forever horse…

Once again Stacy Gregg seamlessly weaves two stories together to bring us an excellent read. Maisie and Rose have much in common even though they have never met. They both love drawing and they both love horses. Their stories are set in the same place in Paris, but well over 150 years apart. Rose has more confidence than Maisie and is strong-willed preferring to wear trousers rather than dresses as was expected for girls and young women of the time.

There is something very likeable about both girls and their stories are heartfelt. After an accident Rose has to deal with a huge change in her life. It is her eventual acceptance and courage to deal with her new life that makes her a good strong character. Maisie also faces changes and it is lovely to see her gain confidence and finally believe in herself.

I can’t draw, not even a straight line. I also can’t ride a horse but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this book and feeling lots of emotions as the two stories were revealed.

Answering to the caul

By Ted Dawe

ISBN 9780473528188

Mangakino University Press

There are some things you can never share with another human being. Answering to the caul is one of these.’ 

It is said that being born in a caul means that you can never die by drowning. Andrei Reti puts this prophecy to the test, time and time again.  But there is a price to be paid for each caul intervention.  This is a novel about the dark side of being special.  About the war between fact and coincidence. About the things we can never share.

This is definitely a crossover book which will appeal to young adults and adults alike. It is deep, sad, stinks of reality and the harshness of poverty and neglect but it is a very good read. Andrei, despite his dysfunctional upbringing is incredibly well-read. I love the many references to some of the literary classics, and I think many people who have enjoyed reading the classics themselves, would love Andrei.

Andrei does indeed believe that he was born in a caul and there is proof on a number of occasions where he has escaped drowning. However, each time the consequences have been fatal for some other people in his life. Andrei’s story runs over many years as he retells us his life. We see his father in prison, the death of his mother and when he is sent away to stay with relatives, his life changes. Poverty, anger, and revenge are all part of his life now and he has to live with choices he makes, as well as the choices made by his cousins. At times I wanted to hug him and others I wanted to shake him and tell him not to get involved in things. Even when he tries to do the right thing by traveling to Thailand to help out whanau, he still ends up in trouble and even danger.

Perhaps there really was something that mapped out his life. Whether you believe the caul or not, you can’t help but believe in Andrei and like him, flaws and all.

A good solid read.


By Sally Stone

ISBN 9781775436010

Scholastic NZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24 Hours on the Kiwi Seashosre

Gillian and Darryl Torckler

ISBN 9781988538389

Bateman Books

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

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

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

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

24 Hours in the Kiwi Bush

ISBN 9781988538372

The Fowl Twins

By Eoin Colfer

ISBN 9780008324827

HarperCollins Children’s Books

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

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

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

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

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

How to make a bird

By Meg McKinlay

Illustrated by Matt Ottley

ISBN 9781925381894

A girl sets out to make a bird. First she plans it, works out what she needs and begins her creation. We see her creative process working through language that is rich, poetical and thoughtful. Her thought process is almost a lesson for life itself.

Breathe deeply

and take your time.

The making of a bird

is not a thing

to be hurried.

The illustrations are stunning with a subtle sophistication that adds even more to the story.

I think this is one of those special sophisticated picture books that gives more and more on each re-reading. I read it to a group of 10 and 11 year old students today and it was wonderful to see their reactions when they realised that the book had many meanings. They all began to discuss their own creativity and what they felt they were good at and how some liked to draw and some liked to write poems and stories. A lovely discussion born out of reading this book.

The students are part of a year six book club and most of them are keen writers so when they discovered this book could be a metaphor for their own writing, they were delighted.

I love this. I confess readily, that reading a good sophisticated picture book or a good verse novel leaves me very contented, no matter the state of the world.

How to make a bird is an excellent book to unpack and think about. It’s not just about making a bird, but making a difference and not being afraid to try new things. It’s about bravery too, to let go and be proud, no matter what our creations.

Highly recommend at any level at school, including secondary.

Red Edge

By Des Hunt

ISBN 9781775436416

Scholastic NZ


Red Edge is a thoroughly good romp of a read. The characters are believable, flaws and all.  I particular loved the setting which is the edge of the Red Zone where once streets were full of houses, neighbourhoods and schools. Now the Red Zone is wide, empty open spaces after thousands of homes were demolished after the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.  As someone who lived through the quakes and knows the streets, I got a wee buzz every time I recognised the streets Cassi was running through. Even the market and the airport were definitely recognisable so I had a sense of pride while reading this book. The effects of those earthquakes all these years later,  still impact on so many people’s lives. The trauma is real and we see the impact it still has in both Cassi and Quinn’s daily lives.

Twelve year old Cassi, has just moved house and school, yet again. She and her father have moved to the edge of the Red Zone, next door to what is locally known as the haunted house. Observing strange goings-on next door,  she sneaks onto the property to investigate but it’s not long before Cassi finds herself caught up in a dark and dangerous situation with criminals, who are very keen to keep their situation a secret.

Together, Cassi and Quinn, the boy across the road and her new-found friend, begin the dangerous adventure of trying to find out just what is happening in the house next door.

The story has a great pace, mystery, a quality story and great writing, which is just as one would expect from award-winning author Des Hunt. Like many of his novels, Hunt adds a scientific or environmental aspect which he does here as well. I love a good read but I also love a good read where I learn something new, as I did here, in Red Edge but I can’t tell you what as that might spoil the surprise. This really is one of those books to read and get lost inside.

This would be a great teacher read-aloud. It would also be great as a set novel for years 6 and up, especially when considering New Zealand writers and NZ settings. 

Worse things

By Sally Murphy

Illustrations by Sarah Davis

ISBN 9781760651657

Walker Books Australia


When you’re part of the team the sideline is a place of refuge of rest of reprieve. But when you’re out of the team the sideline changes. Suddenly it’s the loneliest place of them all.

Cool, sporty kid Blake finds himself on the sideline of his football team after an accident. It is not a place he wants to be. He misses the action and the friends who seem to be more focused on their team playing rather than any children sitting out of the game. While Blake sits on the sideline, someone else is watching him, also sidelined. Amed watches everyone and wishes he could fit in but his lack of English leaves him afraid. His life has been difficult and even now that he is safe and away from the refugee camps he grew up in, he still has hurdles to overcome. Language, or lack of knowing English is now his new barrier.

The choice of format; a verse novel, works perfectly here. There are a number of children all telling their own stories each with concerns about fitting in, loneliness, connections or lack of connections. They have fears, but they also all have strengths which help them through. The most powerful strength they have is of learning to connect, unite together in friendship and respect each others differences.

For many children, English is not their first language. Children arrive in their new countries because of parents work, family reunification; many are refugees escaping war. Whatever their reason for immigrating, English is a tough language to learn and adapting is hard. We forget sometimes, but this short novel is a powerful reminder that kindness, patience and acceptance can make life easier for people like Amed.

Loved meeting all the characters here.

City of secrets

By Victoria Ying

ISBN 9780593114483




This is exciting. A new graphic novel for middle grade readers who like mysteries and adventure. The storyline sounds exciting and the trailer is very, very cool. I have added it to my list to get a copy for our library ASAP. Graphic novels are always in high demand and I can tell you already that this particular book will definitely have our students lining up to read it. The illustrations are top-notch.

Ever Barnes is an orphan with a secret. While some people look out for Ever and try and keep him safe, others want to know what he knows and they are after him. This book promises lots; mystery, adventure, danger, friendships and twists and turns everywhere. I am completely intrigued.






Katipo Joe: Blitzkrieg

By Brian Falkner

ISBN 9781775436447

Scholastic NZ


Schoolboy, Spy, Assassin; Joe is all these things and more. Award-winning author Brian Falkner’s latest book is a must-read. It is full of action, heroism, and definitely intense. It is a solid read with strong characters and one of those stories you just have to keep reading to see what happens next. Joe’s world is turned upside when his father is taken away by the Gestapo, leaving Joe and his mother on the run. Separated and left on his own, Joe finds himself in danger at every turn. He meets a number of different people, some become great friends; people he can trust with his life, but others put him in even more danger. The story is very well written, and well-researched with lots of detail creating a very believable setting and time for Joe and his story. Between each chapter there is a page from adult Joe’s memoir providing further insight into Joe and his time as spy during World War Two

The reality of war is brutal and inescapable but 12 year old Joe copes with everything that is thrown at him with a growing maturity.   The story shifts between occupied Paris and the bombed ruins of London. As the son of diplomats Joe speaks fluent German and this may be his greatest asset.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book with its edgy, seat-of-the-pants pace. I totally believed in the characters, their different personalities, flaws and all. I so want there to be more books about Joe.

This really is an excellent read.

At the back of the book there is a very useful glossary and some photos of the times.


Joseph St George is a young New Zealander, the son of diplomats in 1930s Berlin. But the Nazis are on the rise and the world is on a spinning path to destruction. Joe’s world is about to change, violently.

After a narrow escape from Germany with his mother, Joe is recruited by British Intelligence and given a mission to infiltrate the Hitler Youth movement.

From vital convoys across the frozen North Atlantic, to the terror of the London Blitz, to the shadowy world of the French Resistance, this is Joe’s world.

Inspired by true events, Katipo Joe is a story of incredible heroism, unlikely friendships and unbearable tragedy, set against the backdrop of World War II.

Mission Girl: The writings of Atapō , Paihia, c.1840

By Fleur Beale


Scholastic NZ

Mission Girl is a re-release with an exciting new cover.

“Even though you are a prisoner, a slave now, you are the descendant of chiefs. Never forget …”

When her tribe is defeated in battle, Atapō is captured and becomes a slave of her enemies. Freedom seems impossible; the penalty for runaway slaves is death. But when sickness strikes the village, Atapō is blamed – and now it is even more dangerous to stay. To save her life, she escapes to the Pākehā mission station at Paihia. There, Atapō is taught to read and write, and learns of the threat to Māori by some unscrupulous settlers greedy for land. 


There are so many important aspects to this story. We look at the Treaty of Waitangi, Maori beliefs and tikanga, the impact of Christianity on Maori, clash of cultures, as well as slavery. When reading  about Atapō and her story, I realised how little I really know of our past. There is so much more to know and for primary school and intermediate age students, the My New Zealand Story series is a great way to discover our history.

Atapō is a young Maori teen on the run. So much has happened in her young life, including being a slave and losing most of her family. The threat of being caught and killed is always present.  However, she is strong and determined which I found admirable. Her thirst for knowledge and learning is certainly one of her strengths. I loved how excited Atapō was after learning to read and write and the joy she felt at owning her own book to record her thoughts.

Told in diary format, this story is a thoughtful insight to an earlier time in New Zealand’s history and like many in the My New Zealand Story series, this is a must-have in school libraries.  Our history, our people.