Archive for the ‘Primary School’ Category

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!

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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.

 

Visiting you: A journey of Love

By Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg

Illustrated by Andrea Edmonds

ISBN 9781925335668

EK Books

A young child sets out on a trip with mum intending to visit a special but unnamed loved one. Along the way, they meet many different people and the child, all friendly and innocent, begins chatting with these people. What becomes apparent is that the child exposes the fact that in life, we all have worries and concerns. We all have people we care about that we miss and can’t wait to see. People in hospital, and people in aged-care who no longer remember their families. Somewhere out there, there are people who have lost loved ones and sit among us on buses, or boat rides. Everywhere we are, no matter what we do, we need to remember that people may be sad and we need to show compassion and have empathy because one day it could be us, sad and feeling a little lost. What makes this special, is that the child, just by talking with strangers, is making a difference. We are reminded that we are all connected.

A sweet story with a message we all know but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to be reminded. The illustrations have lots of yellows and oranges creating a lovely sunny day feeling.

 

Teacher notes to further extend the experience of this book can be found here.

 

The Art Garden: sewing the seeds of creativity

By Penny Harrison

Illustrated by Penelope Pratley

ISBN 9781925335590

EK Books


 

When Sadie’s best friend Tom paints, Sadie’s heart smiles. She longs to paint as well as Tom does but her attempts end up as messy splodges. Sadie also loves her garden and being surrounded by nature. Somewhere in between, Sadie learns to accept herself and find something that she can do that makes her heart smile for herself. A sweet and positive picture book about learning to accept ourselves and finding the things that make us special. Art and creativity is everywhere and we express it differently and that makes us unique individuals. For Sadie, finding her own creativity, is part of finding herself. 

The short but brilliant career of Lucas Weed

By Chrissie Walker

ISBN 9781775435082

Scholastic NZ

 


Author Chrissie Walker has captured the mischievous nature of 10 an 11-year-old boys in her award-winning novel The short but brilliant career of Lucas Weed. Lucas  is still a newcomer at Fernwood School and all he really wants is some friends. Good friends he can hang out with not just at school, but after school too. A conversation one morning with fellow students Thomas, Hunter and Oscar leads to a prank with a frog on the loose and chaos in the classroom. Finding himself suddenly popular with these boys, Lucas plans more pranks.  He plans bigger pranks and that can only mean bigger laughs. This is a fun novel where boys take centre stage and cause a little mayhem but it’s okay because despite everything, Lucas and his new friends are likeable, believable characters. However, just how far are Lucas and his new friends prepared to go for a laugh?

I can see teachers having a lot of fun reading this out to their classes.

Dawn Raid

By Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith

ISBN 9781775434757

Scholastic NZ

 

 

Like many 13-year-old girls, Sofia’s main worries are how she can earn enough pocket money to buy some groovy go-go boots that are all the rage, and if she will die of embarrassment giving a speech she has to do for school. It comes as a surprise to Sofia and her family when her big brother, Lenny, talks about protests, overstayers and injustices against Pacific Islanders.

The beauty of the My New Zealand Story series is that we witness some of New Zealand’s important historical moments through the eyes of children. Much is documented from historical times, but it is in general from adults, journalists, and news media. This series takes us behind the scenes, as children tell us in diary entries, what they saw, felt and experienced. 

Sofia begins her diary on June 1976 and initially she comes across as a little naive, although to be fair, it was a different time to the experience  of 13 year olds of today. What makes this book special is that as the story of the dawn raids unfolds, we begin to see a growing maturity in Sofia. A key feature of any good book, is the growth of a character.

Sofia records daily events with honesty and her family life soon becomes familiar to us. Her family is close and extended family are equally important. Slowly, news filters in of the many dawn raids where police storm houses in the middle of the night and arrest overstayers; people from other countries who have stayed longer than their working permits allow. In particular the raids were aimed at Pacific Island nationalities. Through Lenny and his contacts we learn of the reasons for the raids and the underlying theme of racism and human rights. We also learn about the group called the Polynesian Panthers and how they stood up to people in power.

This is a great book to read as a class and to study themes of racism and media reporting and media bias. One of the biggest issues we face today is that of “fake news” and this would be a perfect book to explore the notion that not everything we see or hear is as it really is.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sofia’s story. Loved the many references to the 1970’s music, fashion and television culture.

The old man

By Sarah V

Illustrated by Claude K. Dubois

Translated by Daniel Hahn

ISBN 9781776571918

Gecko Press

Published April 2018

 

It doesn’t matter how hard we try to pretend, we can not ignore the fact that homelessness is real. It happens and it is everywhere. It is confronting but unless we face the issues, we cannot change them. In this simple picture book we meet a little girl who doesn’t walk past an old homeless man living on the streets. She doesn’t ignore him and most importantly, she doesn’t judge him. While adults walk past and pretend to not see him, the little girl stops and talks to the old man. She sees him, cold and lonely leaning against a wall and wrapped in an old blanket. In her innocence, her acknowledgement of the old man as a person, means more than anything. It means hope and hope is everything.

The watercolour illustrations are beautiful. There is a haunting quality to them but at the same time there is a softness, an innocence about them. As we move through the pages yellow tones soon break through the darkness bringing light, warmth and hope. The day-to-day trials of being homeless, of being moved along, of being ignored are so hard that the old man even forgets his own name. It is the honesty of a young girl that gives him hope and helps him find a voice. This is truly a beautiful book and an important one to share.

There is a sneak preview of more images from this picture book here.

There are also teaching notes to make the most of this book and help children understand the plight of the homeless. If we cannot ignore it then we need to learn more about it and help make a difference, just like the young girl in this book did.

The Yark

By Bertrand Santini

Illustrated by Laurent Gapaillard

ISBN 9781776571727

Gecko Press

 

With such a wonderful cover how could you not pick up this book and delve into the story of a child-eating monster. And yes, this hairy monster with the enormous teeth, does in fact eat children, especially the very good children. The naughty ones just make him sick. Everything is going along normally until he meets a little girl named Madeleine who completely turns his world upside down. 

The language is rich and descriptive and beautifully carries us through the story, so much so, that the characters become real to us.

He loves the crackle of their little bones between his teeth, and to suck on their soft eyes, which melt like chocolate truffles. 

 

The black ink illustrations are superb. They are a little bit scary and a little bit funny but have a warmth to them so that despite being a monster, he is kind of cute and we can’t help but like him. I would very happily hang any of the illustrations on my wall.

Perfect for children aged about six and up especially if they like a little wickedness in their reading. 

Don’t just take my word for it but read the first chapter yourself, right here.

If you still want more, especially if you are a teacher, then check out the teaching notes as they will help readers gain a better understanding of the story.

ANZAC Animals

By Maria Gill

Illustrated by Marco Ivancic

ISBN 9781775434740

Scholastic NZ & Scholastic AU

 

Maria Gill and Marco Ivancic deservedly won the prestigious Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award in 2016 for their book ANZAC Heroes. They continue to bring quality books and ANZAC Animals is destined to be another hit.

Maria Gill’s research for her non-fiction books is her trademark. She finds the stories, painstakingly does her research for accuracy and then writes her books taking time to polish to perfection. ANZAC Animals delivers another well-formated non-fiction book. All the text features are there; introduction, contents, glossary, charts, photographs, index etc. with the addition of maps and timelines. The layout is well placed and easy to read. 

ANZAC Animals is a collection of true tales of animal heroes and mascots from World War One and World War Two.

The collection is both fascinating and delightful. I love the story of Lulu the chicken mascot who would warn soldiers of approaching enemy aircraft with her noisy shrieking so that they had time to hide safely.

Or the story of Torty the tortoise, who became a listening ear to James Stewart Little as he described the horror of the things he saw during WWI. Believe it or not Torty is still alive today – 100 years later.

This is an extraordinary collection of tales about animals in war.  There are dogs, horses, mules, pigeons, and even a monkey. They all had one thing in common. The animals were the companions of soldiers. They helped soldiers cope and in many cases, helped them survive the atrocities of war.

One of the most famous is of  the story of Murphy the donkey who carried injured soldiers to safety. The stories of soldiers have long been told but sometimes animals are heroes too and this book is all about the animals and what has made them all so special during some of the worst of times.

The illustrations are very impressive and very life-like. The colours and tones are beautiful. Every hair, whisker or feather is so real you wish you could almost leap into the page and pat the animals.

An excellent book and a must-have for any library. 

Check out author Maria Gill’s book trailer and see for yourself just what is so special about this book.

 

The ANZAC Violin: Alexander Aitken’s story

By Jennifer Beck

Illustrated by Robyn Belton

ISBN 9781775433910

Scholastic NZ

 

 

“A true story of a rescued violin and an extraordinary musician, Otago’s Alexander Aiken”

Author Jennifer Beck and illustrator Robyn Belton have previously worked on a number of picture books before. Each book has been first-rate and their latest collaboration is no exception. The story based on the true accounts of New Zealand solider Alexander Aitken, take us through his time in the trenches during World War One. They were harsh and difficult times, full of danger, death and desperation. In 1915 a former schoolmate of Alex’s won a cheap violin in a shipboard raffle. Unable to play music himself, he gave the violin to Alexander who had some musical ability. It didn’t take long before Alexander was playing everyday and getter better and better. Amid the chaos of war Aleaxander Aikten brought music to fellow soldiers and gave them hope for better times ahead. As the story unfolds  we soon learn more about Alexander and his violin. 

 

The violin becomes important to all the soliders, many help to hide it from authorities, protecting it from harm and damage. 


I love this double-page spread. The reflection of the soldiers in the sea has a haunting, almost mourning quality to it . The violin in its black case stands out, reminding us that despite the dark days there is always hope.

“The violin was my companion in this dug-out; I slept with it by my side.”

The end pages with their photos, maps and writing are very much in journal form and it feels familiar, like we are sharing the diary of an old friend. The colours have a warm yet earthy feel with sepia tones reminiscent of the times. The layout with all its details brings us closer to Alexander and supported with photos Alexander becomes very real to the reader.

Having the real life story of people played out in picture book format makes them and their history accessible to a younger reader.  The sophistication of the story, the historical facts and the wonderful illustrations make this a must have for any library or home collection. A truly wonderful, thought-provoking picture book set during World War One where the focus is music and hope and not just the war itself.

Dinosaur Trouble book 4 : The secret hunt

By Kyle Mewburn

Illustrated by Donovan Bixley

ISBN 9781775433699

Scholastic NZ

Cave boy Arg is back for another rollicking adventure with his pet dinosaur Krrk-Krrk. This series continues to be a hit with children reading their first chapter books. Large font. short sharp chapters, and heaps of humour. Even a little danger is thrown in to capture the reader’s attention. The illustrations are full of character, personality and humour and author and illustrator are perfectly matched.

A friendly game of hide and find goes a little wrong thanks to Arg’s best friend Shlok. However, Shlok with his drippy, snotty nose, helps stop the bleeding of his dad’s wound. Who knew you could use snot for things other than just wiping it off your nose? Gross! But this is just what many young readers enjoy and just why this series remains so popular.

Baby Monkey, Private Eye

By David Serlin and Brian Selznick

Illustrated by Brian Selznick

ISBN 9781338180619

Scholastic

I love Brian Selznick’s books and have a number of them in my own collection. His illustrations are stunning and his books win so many awards. This time he is collaborating with debut author David Serlin.  Baby Monkey, Private Eye offers humour wonderful illustrations; which you can peek at if you click on the Scholastic link above, and text suitable for younger readers.

Mystery, part graphic novel, humour, and an adorable character all coming soon.

Not out until February but this will definitely be on my list to purchase for my school library. The book trailer is so cute too. How can your resist such a cute creature? Looks like this could be a winner.

Who is Baby Monkey?

He is a baby.
He is a monkey.
He has a job.
He is Baby Monkey, Private Eye!
Lost jewels?
Missing pizza?
Stolen spaceship?
Baby Monkey can help…

if he can put on his pants!

Baby Monkey’s adventures come to life in an exciting blend of picture book, beginning reader, and graphic novel.

 

Nevermoor: The trials of Morrigan Crow

By Jessica Townsend

ISBN 9780734418074

Hachette Childrens Books

 

Thoroughly enjoyable read. A wonderful mix of fantasy, and mystery. Lots of very likable characters and some not so likable ones too. We meet young Morrigan Crow shortly before she is supposed to die. Morrigan you see, is cursed and blamed for all the bad things that have happened in her town. Her fate is to die at midnight on Eventide. However, in comes a stranger by the name of Jupiter North who rescues her and takes her to Nevermoor. It is a place few have heard of with all sorts of magical creatures and wonderful characters. Jupiter North has plans for Morrigan, plans she doesn’t understand but there is something special about him that makes Morrigan trust him. So begins her new life in the Hotel Deucalion in Nevermoor.

Morrigan is compelled to particpate in a number of trials in order to become part of a very elite group called the Wondrous Society. Each contestant must have a knack, something that makes them special and will help them in the final trial. In the trials she must compete against 500 others for one of only 9 places. Making the group will allow her to stay in Nevermoor where she is finally making friends and beginning to feel happy.

Morrigan is both strong, yet fearful, funny, yet serious. Most of all she is in need of friends and the belief that someone loves her and believes in her.

There are so many wonderful, quirky characters in this book, not least of all is Fenestra the Magnificat, head of housekeeping, who despite her grumpiness is really kind of cool. There’s Frank the vampire dwarf  but whatever you do, don’t call him a dwarf vampire.

Jessica Townsend has created a delightful magical world, with believable fantastical characters and a mystery that needs solving. Just what is Morrigan’s knack? Morrigan herself, doesn’t even know and the only person who seems to know is Jupiter North and he won’t tell her. A great read and hanging out now for book two. I bought the paperback copy as soon as it was out but if you can get your hands on the hardback that would be even more special.

 

If reading this as a class novel you can find teacher notes here. It would certainly make a good story for a read-aloud or a student bookclub. Loved it!

 

 

 

Don’t blink

Written and illustrated by Tom Booth

ISBN 9781250117366

Feiwel & Friends

Some books you just fall in love with. This is one those books. Beautifully illustrated with a delightful young girl centre stage surrounded by a menagerie of equally delightful animal friends. They join together to play a blinking game almost all of us have played at some stage in our lives. Not only do they challenge each other to stare as long as possible without blinking, but they challenge the reader to join in. It is a lovely picture book with a wonderful feel-good quality that makes me smile every time I read it. While it may be aimed at younger readers, adults reading this to children will also be drawn to its sweetness and challenges.

Think you can win a staring contest against an elephant? What about a gorilla, a cheetah, a fox, or an alligator? What about all them―AND a bunch of their other animal friends―at the same time? You’re about to find out!

Whatever you do DON’T BLINK!

There are some fun activities to download on the author/illustrator’s website too, including masks, and spot the difference pages. Love, love, love this book.

 

 

Tintinnabula

By Margo Lanagan

ISBN 9781742975252

Little Hare

 

In wild times and in wartime,

in times of fear and illness, I go

to Tintinnabula, where soft rains fall.

 

Tintinnabula is a story about moving from discomfort to peace,

from violence and uncertainty to a still, sure place.

It reminds us that our best friend in hard times

can often be ourselves.

 

The first thing you notice with this beautiful picture book is the cut out shape in the middle of the cover. It is a portal into another world. Margo Lanagan takes us on a journey through darkness and out the other side. A lone figure stands at the entrance, seemingly hesitant to walk through, but guided by the light in the distance on the other side, we know she will step inside. And we step inside her world too.

 She hears the sound of bells ringing far away and this urges her onward through dark inhospitable landscapes with hidden dangers lurking in the shadows. The language is succinct and sublime, poetical and poignant. What makes this particularly powerful is that as the young woman travels through harsh environments she discovers that the strength she searches for comes from within. Only she can save herself and move from the darkness into the light where she can finally find peace.

The illustrations are beautiful.  Different shades of grey, black, and red merge to create a haunting and moody atmosphere, at times quite chilling. There are dark shadowy creatures chasing the young woman but she keeps going, following the sound of bells. Splashes of white soon begin to appear,  blending and forming into the shape of bells.  Symbolically they lead her to self-acceptance.

As dark as this sophisticated picture book is, it is in the end an uplifting one. It is within ourselves that we find strength to move forward when life becomes too difficult.

A stunning book, dark, broody but also hopeful. This is a wonderful sophisticated picture book that can be read across all levels.