Archive for the ‘Primary School’ Category

Where Dani goes, happy follows

My happy life series

By Rose Lagercrantz

Illustrated by Eva Eriksson

ISBN 9781776572267

Gecko Press

I absolutely adore Dani. She is strong and determined yet vulnerable too. Her outlook on life is wonderful despite all the things that happen to get in her way. At the heart of every book is her relationships. The one with her father is a loving one but fraught with difficulties as he has his own issues to deal with. Ella is her best friend who moved away and whom Dani misses terribly.  Author Rose Lagercrantz pulls at the heartstrings in every book about Dani. While they are all stand-alone books, read together they build a bigger picture of Dani and her life. I find myself so proud of Dani and her achievements; big and small. I also want to just give her a big hug. The power of good writing is making believable characters and Lagercrantz continues to do that. Dani is very real and so adorable with just the right amount of sweetness.

This time, Dani decides to give her faraway friend Ella, the best birthday present; herself. Dani attempts to visit Ella far away which puts her in danger and sets up a whole new adventure for Dani.

Eva Eriksson amazes me that Dani is the same in all the books. Dani has the same beautiful smile and the same inquisitive eyes. The line drawings are simple yet show depth and emotion; humour and sadness, with real feeling.

A lovely feel-good chapter book for newly independent readers.

Another beautiful book in the My happy life series to treasure.

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Bess the brave war horse

By Susan Brocker

Illustrated by Raymond McGrath

ISBN 9781775435563

Scholastic NZ

 

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

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

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

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

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

Chinatown Girl: The diary of Silvey Chan, Aukland 1942

My New Zealand Story.

By Eva Wong Ng

ISBN 9781775435778

Scholastic NZ

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

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

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

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

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

Saying goodbye to Barkley

By Devon Sillett

Illustrated by Nicky Johnston

ISBN 9781925335965

EKbooks

 

As every parent knows, the loss of a pet can be traumatic for the whole family. Pets are very much part of family life and the death of such a beloved animal affects children in different ways. Saying goodbye to Barkley is a sweet and gentle picture book where Olivia deals with the loss of Barkley, her wonderful crime-fighter sidekick. Olivia and Barkley did everything together. Their friendship is real and her grief after his passing is also real. There is a happy ending which is great.

A good way to deal with death of a pet and open up discussions in a gentle way.

 

 

Dogman: Brawl of the wild

By Dav Pilkey

ISBN 9781338236576

Scholastic

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

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

I am so clever

By Mario Ramos

ISBN 9781776572496

 


Everyone’s favourite wolf is back. The strong and handsome, if somewhat egotistical wolf, returns for another adventure. We first met him in I am so strong and I am so handsome. This time wolf wanders through the forest and is eager to eat Little Red Riding Hood and her Grandmother. Nothing seems to go in his favour and every time he does get close, someone or something from the fairy tale world gets in his way. Between the pages of this picture book we meet the likes of the three little pigs, the seven dwarfs and a few more characters that children will recognise. Great for a fun read.

Many teachers do lessons on fractured fairy tales and the delightful twist here with our humorous and familiar wolf, makes this a perfect choice to use in such lessons.

 

 Everyone walks away

By Eva Lindstrom

ISBN 978177651864

Frank is lonely. He doesn’t fit in or feel any sense of belonging. Everywhere he goes Milan, Tilly and Paul exclude him. You can see how much he wants to be part of their group and you can see their sideways glances at him but he always ends up walking away. There is certainly a sadness to this picture book and the illustrations highlight the feelings of isolation as Frank looks small compared to the landscape and his surroundings. The eyes reveal so much about the different character’s feelings which is not always easy to achieve in children’s book illustrations.

Frank goes home alone and makes special jam from his own tears. What happens next is also kind of special too. This book deals with issues of loneliness, exclusion and cliques and we can see the impact it has on Frank. It is an important book to share. 

Five little ducks went off to school

By Peter Millet

Illustrated by Stevie Mahardika

Sung by Jay Laga’aia

ISBN 9781775435273

Scholastic NZ

 


Peter Millet and the team at Scholastic provide us with a new picture book just in time for the start of the new year. A trip to school starts off well for the ducks but each one in turn forgets something.  A sweet and comforting story about going to school. Great for new entrants but a good reminder for other children who might be a little anxious.

Stevie Mahardhika brings the characters to life with gorgeous and definitely very cute illustrations. The ducks splish and splash, they hurry and scurry and of course they quack, quack, quack.

Jay Laga’aia provides the singing on the accompanying CD which is cute and catchy and will no doubt be sung over and over again.

A fun book to share with young readers. You can enjoy a quiet read together or you can sing along loudly in the car on the way to school.

The Top Secret Undercover Notes of Buttons McGinty, Book 1

By Rhys Darby

ISBN 9781775434979

Scholastic NZ

 Buttons McGinty is sent to boarding school to a place named Ranktwerp Island Education Fortress for Gifted Lame Unruly Minors, a.k.a. R.I.E.F.G.L.U.M. It is however, not quite what he is expecting and is full of surprises; not all of them good ones either. He makes new friends and together they face the bad guys and a whole lot more. Buttons is obsessed with Morse Code which turns out to be a good thing as there are mysteries to be solved. The biggest mystery, of course, is what happened to his parents and where are they now.

Buttons keeps a journal and writes his thoughts and ideas about everything that is happening. In some cases it is a word-by-word account. As you can see from the the page below the font is just as if Buttons was hand-writing in his journal which adds a real sense of authenticity to the novel. He is funny, quirky, adventurous and a thinker. Much of his thinking is outside the box but that is what make him so likable. You can almost hear his brain ticking over as his thoughts spill out rapidly onto the pages of his journal. 

Definitely a book for fans of adventure and humour, with a dose of good old-fashioned friendships. Watch out for a lurking Bigfoot. Great read for 8 – 12 year old readers and really, anyone who enjoys a good laugh.

Check out the back of the book with the Morse Code Key and see if you can solve some of the clues throughout the book. 

Cook’s Cook

The Cook who cooked for Captain Cook

By Gavin Bishop

ISBN 9781776572045

Gecko Press 

 

 

Gavin Bishop as author and illustrator of this new picture book brings us an extraordinary point of view of the 1768 journey of Captain James Cook on board the H.M.S  Endeavour. He shares the voyage through the eyes of John Thompson, the one-handed cook. What an amazing man he must have been to prepare and cook food for 94 people on board a ship that at times ran short of food and essentials and with only one hand.

Gavin shares some of the recipes the cook used and believe me, some of them are what I would consider, disgusting.  For example, Stingray soup and dog and breadfruit stew. Gross. So glad things have changed. 

Gavin has obviously done his research with this creative non-fiction picture book filled with important illustrations reflecting the times as they were. His end pages create a beginning and end of the journey starting with a cross-section of the ship. It is brimming with goods and supplies but still has to fit 94 people so we can only imagine how cramped it must have been.

We also see the trading and bartering of goods, which at times was certainly questionable in its fairness. We follow the lives of many passengers and in many cases, also their deaths. The story of John Thompson is one I had never heard of before which proves the point in history, and in life in general, there is always more than one side to any story. 

As Julia Marshall says, this book has everything: “culture, class, adventure, humour and much more”. And it does. It has something for everyone and will certainly make a perfect resource for school libraries and teachers at many levels.  There are some excellent teaching notes here to make the most of this book and generate further discussions. A great book also to add to any home library and reflect on the history of New Zealand.

Check out the video below with Gavin talking about his latest book. 

 

 

Dave Pigeon

By Swapna Haddow

Illustrated by Sheena Dempsey

ISBN 97805713233302

Faber and Faber

Dave Pigeon is a series of first chapter books for newly independent readers and those who just love a good funny story. Dave is as you imagine rightly, a pigeon and so is his best mate Skipper. They demonstrate many good qualities; kindness, teamwork, friendship, and resourcefulness. They also demonstrate rather hilariously, deviousness and cunning. A disastrous encounter with Mean Cat results in a a broken wing for Dave and a surprise rescue by Mean Cat’s human owner. In order to stay safe and enjoy their new home with the human, they need to get rid of her cat. Their plans are very funny but not exactly successful but that is what makes this book a delight. This would also make a great read-aloud especially in junior classes. I love how hopeful and determined the pigeons are in trying to get what they want.

The books are illustrated with quirky drawings on almost every page which adds to the appeal and success of these award winning books for ages 5 – 8.

I am also delighted with the fact that the author has moved from the UK to my home city in New Zealand.

Check out some of the other books in the series for more hilarious antics and adventures.

Dave Pigeon (Nuggets!)

ISBN 9780571324439

 

 

Dave Pigeon (Racer!)

ISBN 9780571336906Dave Pigeon (Racer!)

 

 

The lonely little tree

by Moya Kirby

Illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton

ISBN 9781775435297

Scholastic NZ

 

The lonely little tree is a sweet story about a tiny tree left in the wilderness after all the other trees in the forest were cut down. Birds get together to help the tree realise it can be whatever it wants, including being a Christmas tree. They gather all sorts of decorations to hang on the tree. As we discover, the birds themselves become part of the Christmas decorations. Sweet, gorgeous illustrations and of course a little message for Christmas. An ideal gift for sharing a good New Zealand story with family overseas.

Teacher notes can be found here.

 

A Kiwi day before Christmas

By Yvonne Morrison

Illustrated by Deborah Hinde

ISBN 9781775434108

Scholastic NZundefined

Twas the dawn before Christmas and, down at the beach, Santa was fishing… just one more he’d catch.

This fun picture book is a prequel to the classic A Kiwi Night Before Christmas. It is filled with iconic kiwi characters like sheep, weta, fantails and geckos.  Santa in his red t-shirt and gumboots is also part of the charm.

Another picture book to send to family overseas who might be feeling a little homesick at Christmas.

Lots of bright red and green coloured illustrations adds to the Christmas feeling. The fantails are my favourite.

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the Villains

By Clotilde Perrin

ISBN 9781776571987

Gecko Press

This book is special in so many ways. It is wickedly funny, exquisitely produced and a real treasure. It is an over-sized portrait shaped book that is not just for children. I showed many adults this book and they all took their own delight in lifting the flaps, pulling the strings and reading all about the three villains. 

There are large foldout pages revealing facts about each of the three villains and a page each with a good old-fashioned fairy tale. 

There is something exciting about lifting a flap and finding hidden secrets. Under the witch’s cloak there is a pocket with a mirror, a sweet, and my favourite, a cat with a rather strange grin on its face. The witch’s dress has several layers, each hiding even more secrets. 

The wolf’s stomach and its content is particularly funny too. 

I really love that each of the villains has their own library section where they share the stories where they are characters. Giant’s library shelf includes Jack and the Beanstalk, The BFG, and many others. Of course all good scary fairy tales have either a giant, a witch, or a wolf and this book has all three. 

This is a beautiful book to be read and played with over and over again. I absolutely love it. 

Skip to the loo my Darlin’

Sung by the Topp Twins

Illustrated by Jenny Cooper

ISBN 9781775435433

 

 

If you want fun and a good laugh, this is cool. It is great as a book to read-aloud, read by yourself, or sing along to the wonderful Topp Twins. We had a heap of fun with this at my school this week. I gave the book to some teachers who held up the book show-casing Jenny Cooper’s gorgeously cute pictures while the music played loudly for everyone to hear and sing along. For whatever reason over took me, I would skip past the children every time the words “Skip to the loo my Darlin'” came along. Lots of giggles. Lot of animal sounds were also made, although I didn’t do so well as a possum, I have to tell you.

I can see this book being played out and peformed in assemblies. Lots of fun to create their own little animal sounds and heaps of skipping.

There is something special about Jenny Cooper’s illustrations, too. The kind of pictures that warm the heart.

This is going to be a hit in schools and pre-schools and family fun times.

 

We’ve got a boat

Written and sung by Jay Laga’aia

Illustrated by Donovan Bixley

ISBN 9781775435303

 

 

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We’ve got a boat combines a fun story about boating and ends with facts about The America’s Cup and photos of our proud sailors. Readers can be entertained by the story and then learn a little of the history of the cup and some of our wonderful winning moments.

The chorus is catchy and you can’t help but want to sing loudly and proudly as we celebrate out boating skills and kiwi crew; here they are kiwi, sheep and cow demonstrating their expertise on the water. Donovan Bixley provides his iconic quirky New Zealand animal illustrations. 

A perfect book for summer holidays with all the blue sea and sunny skies. 

 

 

Keep fit Kiwi: Heads and shoulders, knees and toes

By Lynette Evans

Illustrated by Steve Mahardhika

Sung by Pio Terei

Maori lyrics by Ngaere Roberts

 

 

Pre-school and primary school teachers are always looking for good music to sing and dance along for morning PE sessions and this one fits the bill. A catchy song that almost everyone knows but here with a kiwi twist. Written and sung in English and Maori, which adds to the appeal.

The illustrated characters all have cheeky, friendly smiles, which just goes to show you that exercise is fun. Music and exercise is always a good combination, especially when encouraging children to step away from devices and enjoy a bit of exercise and fresh air. Another good resource for schools.

Invisible Jerry

By Adam Wallace

Illustrated by Guiseppe Poli

ISBN 9781925335781

EK Books

People don’t notice Jerry. If someone bumps into him, they don’t say sorry. If he makes a joke, no one laughs. He never gets picked last for sports teams — but that’s because he never gets picked at all. It’s like he’s invisible. Until Molly comes along. Molly asks Jerry his opinion. She laughs with him. She sees him.

The impact when we begin to notice children like Jerry is huge. Jerry, no longer invisible, starts to shine, people notice him and then he goes on to notice other invisible children and helps them shine and they in turn help other children to shine.

The colourful illustrations have a soft, almost blurry-edged feel to them which reinforces the feeling of invisibility.

This would make a good resource for teachers to use in class about inclusiveness and encouraging children to play together. No one should be invisible.

If we look close enough, there are children like invisible Jerry everywhere. There are children who are lonely, shy, who don’t fit in but would love to be included, love to be chosen for teams and games. We need to start noticing these children and help them shine.

As we commemorate 100 years since the end of the First World War, it is timely to look at two new war-themed books by much-loved author, Michael Morpurgo. While written for children, these books really are for everyone.

Poppy Field

By Michael Morpurgo

Illustrated by Michael Foreman

ISBN 9781407181424

Scholastic

Poppy Field
Michael Morpurgo and Michael Foreman are well known for their partnership over many  award-winning children’s books. This time they have teamed up with the Royal British Legion to tell an original story that explains the meaning behind the poppy and why we wear it still.

Morpurgo skilfully tells the story of young Martens whose family live on a farm in Flanders Field. 

A poor girl out selling eggs one day meets a soldier as he sits on his own trying to write a poem for his dead comrades; in particular, his best friend, whom he has just buried. He doesn’t want eggs or even the poppies she offers him, but upon his request, she places some poppies on the dead soldier’s grave. In return, she takes a crumpled up scrap of paper with the draft of a poem he was working on. The poem is eventually framed and handed down through four generations of the young girl’s family. The poem is In Flanders Fields.

While the story speaks many truths, it is a work of fiction but more important than that, it is a reminder of who we are and where we come from. it shows us that there is hope and a future because of those who fought before us and for us.

The story is beautifully illustrated in soft greys, blacks and browns, with the only colour being the red poppies which stand out, symbolic and proud.

The Afterword about the history of the poppy and why it is still worn 100 years later, however, is in full colour. The contrasting colours between the story and the Afterword only adds to the haunting quality of the story. A  story that needed to be told. 

Teacher notes can be found here.

 

 

Our Jacko

By Michael Morpurgo

Illustrated by David Gentleman

ISBN 9781406366136

Walker Books

 

There is an old scruffy tin hat which has always been in Michael’s house for as long as he can remember.  It has been used as a toy, a feeding bowl for the hens and even a hanging basket but no one can remember where it comes from. Michael hates it, always has, especially the hole and what the hole likely means. Somewhere, someone wearing that helmet must have died in the war. A school trip and project about the First World War is what changes Michael’s mind when he discovers the hat belonged to his great, great grandfather, Jacko, who never returned from the war. Our Jacko, as the family used to call him, died in Ypres in 1915. Michael and his family discover Jacko’s old diaries and learn so much about life in the trenches, fighting during the First World War. 

Michael Morpurgo takes us on a journey of discovery and the realisation that no matter how awful and tragic the war was, we do need to remember it. We do need to remember those who died and the impact of those losses on everyone and how it changed the world. Peace came at a cost, and we need to remember those who paid the price. 

This is a special book aimed at the 8-12 year olds,  perfectly timed for Armistice Day, the end of the First World War, the war to end all wars.