Archive for the ‘Primary School’ Category

Sports are fantastic fun

By Ole Konnecke

ISBN 9781776572014

Gecko Press

August 2018

The first thing you notice about this new picture book by Ole Konnecke is the bright red cover with its bold title and hippo racing across the front. It is a book which already appeals before you even look inside. Sports are fantastic fun is a tribute to the different sports we can do.

The second thing you can’t help but notice is that it is funny. It has quirky illustrations showcasing the fun of cricket, horse riding, wrestling and so much more. There is even a section on caber tossing. Each sport comes with captions which are informative but many also make you laugh out loud. The sports activities are carried out by all sorts of animals which adds another aspect to this picture book.

 

This is a wonderfully funny crossover book; both fiction and non fiction with lots to learn and lots to laugh at on each page. This is fun to read alone, but much more fun reading together with someone special.

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Super excited to interview Bren MacDibble today. Even more excited to know that Bren is currently working on a new novel. Can’t wait.

Q1.How to Bee is a refreshingly unique story. Sadly it is possible that bees could become extinct. Have you always been interested in environmental issues and what was it that inspired you to write Peony’s story?

I’d been thinking about writing a farm kid story for a long time. Everyone always tells you to write what you know, and I knew about being a farm kid, but I want to write stories set in the future, and when I saw an article in the Huffington Post with big bright pictures of pear farmers in the Sichuan climbing their trees to hand-pollinate the flowers, I knew all the things I’d wanted to write, had come together. I’ve always been interested in the future and environmental issues are a huge part of that.

As I write this, I’m sitting in a free camp in Northern Territory surrounded by buzzing bees. A few were harrassing our white bus so I fed them water and sugar, because it’s very dry here, and then they told one million of their best friends and it seems we may never be able to step foot outside again!

Q2. Peony is loyal and at times feisty. Were you feisty at that age or how would you describe yourself at that age?

I think I was a feisty handful of terror until I hit around 9, and realised I wasn’t as brilliant as I imagined I was, so it was pretty easy for me to channel Peony’s single-minded determination to get things going her own way.

Q3. I cried several times while reading this book and that to me is the power of a good book. To connect so much with a character that you can feel their pain is an amazing skill. How hard was it to write the emotional stuff and how did you know it would make an impact with readers.

I cry every time I read it and I’ve read it dozens of times! I’d be feeling pretty foolish if I was the only one so I love to hear stories of people crying. Kids don’t normally cry over it. Just adults.

I never know who it will connect with. I try always to show the emotion. I wanted this book to feel real. I wanted young readers to connect with the physical sensations of emotions as well as understanding what had set Peony off rather than telling them how she felt outright. I had to think very carefully about the physicalities of emotion as well as staying true to Peony and what she holds close to her heart.

Q4. If you could have dinner with any character from any book, who would it be and why?

I’ll have dinner with Aissa from Wendy Orr’s ‘Dragonfly Song.’ That kid needs a good feed and a big hug, doesn’t she?

Q5. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I wanted to be a writer when I was young but kids like me didn’t become writers and I figured out no one gives you money for sitting around hammering on a keyboard and talking to yourself, so I gave it up and did jobs where people pay you money for sitting around hammering on a keyboard and talking on telephones for a long time, and later I did those jobs and tried to be a writer at the same time. Two jobs, like most writers.

Q6. Do you have a writing routine and a special place to write?

No. I live in a bus. When the bus is not moving, I write on a laptop in a seat… or sometimes sitting on a chilly bin or standing at a bench. There’s no routine, and a big fat zero on glamour in my life.

Q7. Your book How to Bee is shortlisted for the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. This is so exciting. How are you feeling about this?

I’m so excited. I thought you’d all forgotten about How to Bee. I was in NZ travelling around at Easter and I was more excited to see the bookshops and libraries than they were to see me! It means a lot that NZ is falling in love with Peony. I was a NZ farm kid, so this is the book’s home.

Q8. Do you have any advice for young writers?

Write honestly. Some writers do snazzy showy things and that’s kinda cool for a while, but you can touch people’s hearts when you write your story, using your language, and write about the things that matter to you.

Q9. Are you writing another novel at the moment and if so, any hints?

I’m almost finished another children’s book. We’re calling it Dry Running and it will be out early 2019… its Mad Max for kids, and it’s environmental again, dealing with the loss of a food group we all rely so heavily on, especially in NZ: Grass. Grass is grass, wheat, oats, corn, rice, bamboo, sugar cane, dairy, meat… all of it is gone in my book. Hungry yet?

I’m very concerned with food security, and there is a particularly mean fungus that tends to mutate every decade or so and do terrible damage to crops and grass.

So, against the backdrop of this famine, is a tale of two kids escaping the city to get to country relatives, on a dog cart towed by their five big doggos.

I got a grant to research this one from the Neilma Sidney Travel Fund and so I’ve been travelling around all over, visiting mushroom caves and grassland experts and watching dry dog mushing, where people harness scooters, bikes or carts to huskies and tear through forest trails. Such a great sport. Such happy doggos.

 

Thank you so much Bren for taking the time to answer my questions. Best of luck with the awards ceremony in August. Exciting times ahead.

How to bee

By Bren MacDibble

ISBN 9781760294335

Allen & Unwin

This book is an absolute wee treasure.

Peony or P as she is sometimes called, lives on a fruit farm with her beloved Gramps and her sister Mags. Bees are extinct so it is up to children to climb trees and pollinate the flowers. It is all Peony wants to do but she is too young and once again misses out on the chance to be a bee. Peony is determined that next time it will be her time, so she works hard and does what is needed to prove she has the skills to become a bee. Her mother Rosie who doesn’t live them, turns up one day and takes her away from everything she has ever known and everyone she has ever loved. Peony plans her escape with the help of a new friend.

Her life is not an easy one but I love her determination and her gutsy little ways. I love her strength and the loyalty she shows to those she cares about. For someone so young; nine years old, Peony is full of hopes and dreams and belief that you don’t need things and big houses, you just need family. Peony is vulnerable, yet feisty. Peony is real!

The strength of a good story is whether we connect with the characters and here, I fell in love with Peony and was with her all the way.

I was moved many times and yes, tissues were needed, but I was also left with a strong sense of hope that no matter what Peony might face next, she will cope. She has so much determination and kindness and it comes naturally. I found Peony so real as a character I just wanted to reach into the pages of this delightful book and give her a hug.

A well-written, moving story that so deserves its place as a finalist in the 2018 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Perfect for readers in the 8-12 year old group but ideal for anyone who wants good writing, good characters and a good book.

Lyla

Through my eyes. Natural Disaster Zones

By Fleur Beale

ISBN 9781760113780

Allen & Unwin

Shortlisted for the junior fiction awards in the 2018 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

On the 22nd of February 2011 thirteen year old Lyla is in the centre of town when an earthquake devastates the city of Christchurch. In town because of a teacher union meeting where secondary schools are closed, Lyla and her friends are faced with absolute terror as a massive earthquake thunders beneath their feet. The ground shakes so violently that buildings all around them tumble and fall with the frenzied force of the shaking. They separate in an effort to go home but Lyla gets caught up helping injured people and this is where we see how strong Lyla is as a character.

The novel focuses on the next few months and the impact of the continued aftershocks, damaged houses and day-to-day life living in a munted city.

It was a terrible time for the people of Christchurch and Canterbury and Fleur Beale has captured many of the issues people had to deal with or learn to overcome. Lyla is mature beyond her years and it is her family, friends and neighbours that become more important than things. Supporting each other, even the unlikable bully Matt is what matters most and it is these relationships which are the strength of the novel.

Lyla remains calm in the face of it all but eventually, she needs to confront the reality of everything she has been through and everything she has witnessed.

Having lived through every one of these earthquakes myself, this novel brought back a lot of memories and not all of them pleasant ones. A reminder that disasters often bring us closer together.

Where’s Kiwi Now?

Illustrated by Myles Lawford

ISBN 9781775435266

Scholastic NZ


This new search-and-find book is great for all ages. A hardback, portrait size picture book full to the brim, cover to cover, with bold, bright illustrations of the different places Kiwi has visited. Kiwi has gone everywhere; from ice age, to pirates and even outer space.

Each brightly illustrated double page spread has a theme and readers are encouraged to search for his friends. There’s Sporty Sheep, Gumboot Guy, Wacky Wizard, Tricky Tuatara and even Mystery Moa. And of course, readers need to find Kiwi but he is very good at hiding as I’m struggling to find him. The last two pages give you lists of other hidden items or creatures to find. This is perfect for travelling or for friends to share together, or just any child who loves a challenge.

Great for the holidays too and with some winter days ahead of us, a perfect time to find a copy now. With over 800 things to find, this will certainly be a book to pick up again and again until every single item is found.

Finding Granny

By Kate Simpson

Illustrated by Gwynneth Jones

ISBN 9781925335699

EKBooks

Edie loves her grandmother. They have so much fun together but then one day Granny has a stroke and suddenly everything changes. As with many stroke victims, Granny has many problems to overcome. Her words are mixed up and her face is now lopsided. Edie waits in the hospital corridors when she and her mum go to visit as she doesn’t want to see her Granny the way she looks now. Edie struggles to cope with how much Granny has changed. No longer the strong, independent, funny Granny but a frail dependent woman lying in a hospital bed.

This picture book takes a gentle look at strokes and how they affect the sufferer and those around them. Bold and bright illustrations help give the story a strong sense of hope, making it a good choice for adults to share with children who may have to confront the reality of someone in their lives who may have had a stroke. A challenging story but one that is both sweet and hopeful at the same time.

 

 

Earthquakes! New Zealand

By Maria Gill

ISBN 9781869664862

New Holland Publishers

If you have ever wanted to know anything about earthquakes in New Zealand, then this new book from award-winning author Maria Gill has it all. The production is a perfect example of what a quality non-fiction book should be. It has all the features we expect with contents pages, glossary, bibliography, credits, headings and subheadings, photographs, graphs, symbols and timelines all sandwiched between a shiny, colourful, glossy cover. Maria Gill is well-known for her dedication and determination to research her subjects to provide readers with the best and most accurate information.

Maria Gill explains what earthquakes are, why they happen and the damage they can cause.  The timeline goes way back in time to some of the first earthquakes and marks many of the strongest ones that occurred. She also explains what to do in an earthquake and how to keep yourself safe which is something everyone in New Zealand needs to know. Having lived through the tragic Canterbury and Christchurch earthquakes, this book brought back many memories but it is good to see everything explained and know that while we cannot predict or stop earthquakes; we can be prepared and that is most important.

The language is easy and informative without being too formal or wordy, making it a suitable choice for everyone. The book is informative and shares links to videos on the internet for further research or explanation. There is also a friendly helper throughout the pages. Maria introduces us to  Rūaumoko the Maori god of earthquakes and volcanoes who helps explain things as readers move from page to page. A lovely addition to this quality book.

Primary schools through to secondary schools will certainly benefit from having this book in their school libraries.

 

 

Flit the fantail and the flying flop

By Written and illustrated by Kat Merewether

ISBN 9781775435105

Scholastic NZ

 

There is so much cuteness in this delightful, fun picture book for young children, that every time I pick it up I can’t help smiling.
Flit is a baby fantail snuggled up safely in his nest. His parents tell him to stay there and wait while they go looking for food. It doesn’t take long before Flit becomes bored and starts wandering about his nest. After stretching out a little too far Flit suddenly finds himself falling down on to the forest floor unable to fly back up to his nest. He seeks the help of many other forest birds to try to find a way back. Wonderful illustrations highlight the many native birds, bushes and trees we have in New Zealand. Lookout for Flit’s wee friend the ladybird who is with him all the way and on almost every double page spread. The language is fun with lots of alliteration and onomatopoeia which makes it a delightful book to read aloud.
This book offers a great message about friendships and supporting each other. There is also a lovely message about having the courage to try new things and believing in yourself. I also love the idea that sometimes things don’t work out the first time we try but if we keep trying and don’t give up, then we will eventually find a way to achieve what we set out to do.
This would be ideal in kindergartens, pre-schools and would be a lovely choice for young readers. Even in early primary school classes this would be a good introduction to New Zealand flora and fauna.

My Grandfather’s War

By Glyn Harper

Illustrated by Jenny Cooper

ISBN 9781775592990

EKBooks

 

Over the last few years there have many books published about World War One; picture books, novels for children and young adults, and rightly so. As the 100th Anniversary came around we remembered all that happened. We thought about war heroes, soldiers who gave so much, families destroyed, countries torn apart and the endless pain and suffering of so many people. We remembered them.

However, there is another war that needs recognition too. The Vietnam War is the topic of this thoughtful new picture book My Grandfather’s War  by Glyn Harper and illustrated by Jenny Cooper. The author and illustrator have worked on a number of books together before and continue to bring us quality stories and thoughtful illustrations.

Sarah loves the time she spends with her grandfather. They play games together and he takes her to and from school each day. He walks with a limp from an injury he got a long time ago but Sarah has always been warned not to ask Grandpa about this. All she knows is that he fought in the Vietnam War and that this sometimes makes him very sad.

Like many inquisitive children Sarah wanted to know about the Vietnam War and why it made her Grandpa sad. Sarah tried to find out from books at school but she had no luck. Her best option was to ask Grandpa himself. So she did.

Sarah’s grandfather took his time but he told her about the war in Vietnam. He told her how awful it was fighting in the jungle in a war where chemicals were used, as well as guns. The chemicals did so much damage to soldiers that many of the next few generations were affected.

The soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War were not welcomed back like heroes of World War One. Many became sick over the years and for many the sickness spread to the next generation.

This is a thoughtful book where the author has obviously carefully considered how much information to share with young readers and how much to hold back. The illustrations are warm and expressive with Sarah and her grandfather, The illustrations of the jungle and the war itself are reflective of her grandfathers memories but still are not too confronting for young readers.

This book is well worth further exploration and you can find some teacher notes to assist with any discussions you might have, by clicking here and scrolling to the book on the publisher’s website.

 

 

Oh, So Many Kisses!

By Maura Finn

Illustrated by Jenny Cooper

ISBN 9781775434924

A sweet picture book for preschoolers all about the wonderful warm kisses babies and children receive from everyone who loves them. So many different kisses. Fast, slow and tickly kisses are just a few. Kisses from mums, dads, grandads, and kisses for teddy bears, cats and dogs. My favourite are the slimy frog kisses. The illustration of the frogs is just gorgeous, as is the one of the pigs and the cat and her kitten. Jenny Cooper’s illustrations beautifully capture the humour and fun of Maura Finn’s story. The book provides a lovely rhythm and rhyme with a simplicity making it easily remembered by young children as it gets read again and again.  A lovely picture book to share and snuggle up close with a wee one.

 

Kiwi One and Kiwi Two

By Stephanie Thatcher

ISBN 9781775434962

 

 

Stephanie Thatcher does cute and does it very well.  There is definitely lovely cuteness in her illustrations of New Zealand wildlife in this delightful picture book about two cheeky kiwi who decide to wake up all the animals in the bush one night. Pukeko, fantails, kereru, gecko, and others are all woken from their sleep by Kiwi One and Kiwi Two. As we all know, kiwi are up during the night and here they are keen to play with their friends who really should be sleeping. However, now that the animlas and birds have been woken up, they start playing games, with Kiwi One and Kiwi Two. They venture all over the forest but it isn’t long though before the animals become sleepy again and return to bed.   The two young kiwi are still wide awake so keep going until dawn.  A lovely book to send to family overseas reminding them of our wonderful wildlife. Look out for the illustration of the exhausted pukeko as it is just delightful.

The book allows for discussions on what it is for animals or birds to be nocturnal and perhaps even why children need to go to bed when they are told to and why sleep is so important.

 

 

The Stolen Stars of Matariki

By Miriama Kamo

Illustrated by Zak Waipara

ISBN 9781775435402

 

 

There are usually nine stars in the Matariki star cluster but when Grandma, Poua and the children look up one night, there are only seven. Te Mata Hāpuku, which is also known as Birdling’s Flat is where Sam and Te Rerehua love to visit their Grandma and Pōua and it was there that they realised the stars were missing. The beach is wild and windy and the ground is covered in stones, millions of grey stones but hidden among them, are agates, coloured gemstones. They love searching for the agates by day and going eeling at night. It is a wonderful family tradition and one that inspired  Miriama Kamo to write this book.
The mystery of the missing stars takes the children on a night time adventure as they go searching for the stars.

Matariki is such a special time in the New Zealand calendar that it is always a pleasure to find a new picture book with a focus on different aspects. A family tradition of telling tales and spending time together makes this extra special.

 

 

 

Nee Naw and the Cowtastrophe

By Deano Yipadee

Illustrated by Paul Beavis

ISBN 9781775435174

This is another book in the adventures of Nee Naw the little fire engine who despite his little size, ends up in situations where he must overcome challenges. This time, Nee Naw has to rescue Ploppy the cow  who happens to become stuck up a very, very tall tree. An accompanying CD is great for young ones to listen to as they look through the pictures.

Paul Beavis illustrations, as always, are bright and quirky and bring Nee Naw and his friends to life. The characters are  easily recognisable from book to book and no doubt familiar to fans of Nee Naw books.

 

 

 

 

 

Dragonfly: Book One

 The Zingoshi Chronicles

By Bridget Ellis-Pegler

ISBN 9780473417093

 

Augmented Reality is getting better and better. Check out the trailer to a new fantasy novel series The Zingoshi Chronicles using augmented reality. So cool. Just download the free App when you buy the book and have fun bringing the characters to life. I spent quite some time making the charaters dance. There is also a website where you can not only buy the book, but have fun doing different activities. There is a whole team of people working on this new series and even a club you can join to have even more fun. Check the fun here.

 

Flamingo Boy

By Michael Morpurgo

ISBN 9780008134648

HarperCollinsPublishers

I am always in awe of Michael Morpurgo’s ability to weave stories that take you back in time and leave you in a world where you experience everything as if you are right there with the characters.  In his latest book Flamingo Boy, I found myself so involved with the characters and what was happening to them, that I held my breath at times and needed tissues to continue.  We begin with a boy named Vincent who likes to draw and suddenly we are in France and the middle of WW2.

Renzo is Flamingo Boy, a young autistic boy who has the gentleness to heal injured birds and animals but also the anger and rage of someone unable to cope with change. He sees the best in people but fears the world he doesn’t understand. 

The story is set in the unique landscape of the Camargue in the South of France during WW2. Renzo lives with his parents on their farm among the salt flats surrounded by flamingos. His life is simple and very much routine, as any change at all can unsettle him for weeks on end. One special treat is going to the market to ride the carousel and his favourite animal on the ride is the horse. The carousel becomes pivotal to the story and symbolically it represents so much more, but mostly it offers hope. His family befriends the Roma family and their daughter Kezia who run the carousel. Roma people are hated as much as the Jews during war time so when the Germans take over the town, Renzo and his parents hide Kezia’s family. 

This is a powerful book in many ways. We see destruction as a result of war and how it affects everyone on both sides. We see what it like to be different from others and how hard it is to fit in, whether being Roma or being autistic. We do however, see the value of friendships and trust. We see so much love and hope in this book that I think it should be in schools everywhere. A very moving story that will stay with me for a very long time.

 

Endling Book One :  The Last

By Katherine Applegate

HarperCollins

It is holiday time so I am doing a few extra posts as I catch up on some books I want to share but this one is top of the list.

So exciting. I love Katherine Applegate’s writing. Her books are always award winners and wonderful stories. The one and only Ivan, Wishtree, Crenshaw, are among my favourites, not just for their wonderful stories, but because the language is so beautiful. I find myself often just stopping and reading a sentence over and over as it’s beauty and succinctness takes my breath away. So I am definitely hanging out for this one. 

Byx is the youngest member of her dairne pack. Believed to possess remarkable abilities, her mythical doglike species has been hunted to near extinction in the war-torn kingdom of Nedarra.

After her pack is hunted down and killed, Byx fears she may be the last of her species. The Endling. So Byx sets out to find safe haven, and to see if the legends of other hidden dairnes are true.

Check this out. You can read a little bit here and then not long until May when the book is published and we can read the rest. Can’t wait!

Lessons of a LAC

By Lynn Jenkins

Illustrated by Kirrili Lonergan

ISBN 9781925335828

EKBooks

 

Loppy is a little anxious creature who is always looking out for danger. The trouble is he is so busy and so good at looking for danger, that he is missing out on all the fun things in life. His anxiety is all-consuming and gets in the way of things, so much so, that he finds problems even when there are none. Along comes Curly Calmster who shows him that not all things in life lead to danger, not everything is bad. Loppy  begins to learn ways to stay calm and therefore soon becomes less anxious and worried about things.

“Just because dangerous things MIGHT happen, doesn’t mean they WILL happen.”

Good for those anxious children who need reassurance that the world really is a wonderful place.

The illustrations, mostly black, red and yellow are reminiscent of Dr Seuss’  so sure to please younger readers.

Teacher notes can be found here.

1918 Broken Poppies

Kiwis at War 

By Des Hunt

ISBN 9781775432821

Kiwis at War 1918 Broken Poppies hr

Based on author Des Hunt’s own uncles who went to war, this novel is a chilling account of what went on in the trenches during World War One. It is at times harrowing and confronting but there is also humour, just as in any difficult situation, which makes it so real. 

Four Christmases have passed since the world went to war in 1914. Struggling to survive in the trenches, close to enemy lines, amid the terror of gunfire and the whine of warplanes, Kiwi soldier Henry Hunt rescues a shaken little dog. He has no idea he’ll soon be facing a disciplinary hearing. To Henry’s relief, the Major allows the little foxie to live this time. Henry finds the dog is not only a comfort to his fellow soldiers on the battlefields of France, but a great ratter, too. Together, can they survive the Great War?

 

Henry Hunt is both believable and likeable. He has panic attacks from a childhood trauma which still haunts him but he soon finds himself having to face these fears head on. They seem insurmountable but will put himself and others in danger if he doesn’t overcome them. Hunt’s ability to put the reader in the character’s footsteps is brilliant. We too, feel the same fear as Henry.  The author doesn’t hide us from the reality of life in the trenches either.  I flinched many times when reading about the rats which seemed to be everywhere. The descriptions of trench foot were also very real.

“…trench foot – a form of gangrene caused when feet were always wet. Raw skin would turn to angry sores which, if left untreated, became purple then black.” pg 64

Amputation would come next. Horrible stuff but sadly, horribly true. 

Henry faces bullying by Sergeant Bell who continually and unjustly calls him a coward. There is injuries, danger, death all around but there is also loyalty and comrades to help him get through the awful times. The rescuing of the wee dog they named Poppy is a wonderful part of the story. I fell in love with Poppy and at times found myself holding my breath when she got in to danger. The courage of these soldiers is amazing. The months and years in the trenches must have been horrific.  Many of the soldiers would be wounded, patched up, and sent back for more which really is beyond our comprehension. Des Hunt’s account of Henry Hunt takes us there as much as it is possible, so that we can see and feel what it might have been like during World War One. A compelling read and superbly done. A great story to end the series Kiwis at War.

Great read for some Year six students (but not all) but certainly Intermediate through Secondary levels.

Teacher Notes will help make the most of this novel.