Archive for the ‘Primary School’ Category

My Dad is a Grizzly Bear

By Swapna Haddow

Illustrated by Dapo Adeola

ISBN 97815529013979

Macmillan Children’s Books

Imagination is everything to children. A wild imagination helps children play games, get through difficult days, connect and communicate with other children. Imagination is key to this new picture book.

In Swapna Haddow’s latest book, a young boy’s imagination centres on his father as a grizzly bear.

Grizzly Bear Dad is a bit of a pain when eats all the honey, or when he wakes up all grumpy and stomps around. He is an embarrassment when he sleeps in the cinema or sings louder than everyone else at a party. The grizzly bear is useful though, especially when he is trying to catch up with the school bus because the children are running late.

This is a funny picture which children will relate to very well. They will see themselves and their own families in the pages of this story, especially when the family go camping. If dad is a grizzly bear, watch out for mum!

The cover of the book is bold and eye-catching. I love that the illustrations throughout the book highlight the fact that this story has a real family focus.

A fun story to share and read over and over. It is also a good one to watch out for Father’s Day later this year.

Funny stories for 5 year olds

By Peter Millett

ISBN 9780241492543

I’m a big fan of audio books. As a librarian, I try to read as many books as I can so I am able to have honest conversations with my students about good books. I can enthusiastically and honestly recommend a book if I have read it first. Trouble is, working three jobs, trying to work on my own writing, and fitting in time to read, is not always easy. The best solution is audio books. I listen to books while I drive to work, when I’m out walking, and when I’m in the garden or even doing housework. I constantly have a couple of books on the go, as well as physical books. With a little bit of listening training, I now listen on 1.25 speed and get through even more books.

I recently listened to Peter Millet’s collection of funny stories. They are a mash-up of fairy tales for younger children. Children who are familiar with traditional fairy tales will love the absurdity of the different characters in the wrong situation. Where else would Cinderella meet trolls on a rickety bridge and sit next to Snow White all in one day?

As you can see from the titles, characters really are in the wrong settings, but this is what makes these stories funny. I listened to this out walking and kept hoping people wouldn’t think I was strange as I walked through the local park smiling to myself. The sound effects are particularly good and had me giggling, or jumping in fright in some places.

Hansel and Gretel and the Big Bad Wolf

The Magical Elves of Hamelin

The Golden Duckling

The Little Red Queen of Hearts

Humpty Dumpty and the Three Bears

Sleepwalking Beauty

The Gingerbread Man vs. the Turtle

Cinderella and Her Gruff Stepsisters

The Enormous Shoe

The Magic Soap Pot

Spellbound Ponies

Magic and Mischief

By Stacy Gregg

ISBN 9780008402815


The first book in a new series by award-winning author, Stacy Gregg, introduces us to the main characters. Olivia, her mum and sister, Ella move to a place in the country. It is in the “middle of nowhere” according to Ella but Olivia is excited. It means she will have a chance to ride horses.

The ivy-covered Pemberley Stables are not what Olivia expected. They are empty and appear to be abandoned. However, all is not as it seems and from a mist in the stables, a ghostly girl appears. Eliza is a ghost, having died a few hundred years ago in a riding accident but she is very friendly and the two girls quickly become best friends. With Eliza’s help, Olivia discovers a spell carved into the wall.

The deepest magic binds these stables

Unless two brave girls can turn the tables.

The curse on each horse must be found,

Then break their spell to be unbound.

Long, long ago, a spell was cast on the stables and bound all the horses in their ghostly form. The only way to change things and free the horses is to work out what each horse needs to do to be a better horse. In the first book, we meet Bess, a big black horse that roams at midnight robbing people of their jewels. The girls realise they have to try and convince Bess that stealing is not the right thing to do. If they succeed, then Bess will be freed and become real again. Like all good books, there is always someone trying to ruin their plans. Horace the Hunt Master tries to get in the girls way. Will he succeed?

The books are an easy read for independent readers, especially those who love horses, spells, ghosts and best friend stories. They offer short chapters, with many illustrations throughout. You can’t escape the fact that these books do have lessons in them, but that said, I know there are many young readers who will love these books.

Stacy Gregg has books now for everyone. Her picture books suit much younger readers, and we now have these early chapter books which can be followed by her middle-grade novels.

Sugar and Spice

ISBN 9780008402907

Olivia and Eliza are back again. This time we meet Prince, a rather overweight horse with a penchant for all things sweet and yummy. His downfall, is greed and it is up to the girls to change his ways but of course, Horace the Hunt Master is back and will do everything he can to stop the girls.

Olivia and Eliza realise that if they manage to break the spell, one horse at a time, and change the horses from ghost to real, the horses will need feeding. Feeding costs money and Olivia has to work out ways to make money. This adds an extra plot to the story as Olivia considers entering a baking competition with money as first prize. The trouble with that is her older sister Ella also wants to win the money.

A good mix of magic, mischief and sibling rivalry.

The Rock from the Sky

By Jon Klassen

ISBN 9781406395570

Walker Books

If you have read any books by author and illustrator Jon Klassen, you will automatically recognise his quirky style, simplistic illustrations and familiar choice of colours and shades. That alone should tell you the book is going to be a winner.

The Rock from the Sky is his latest and like so many of his books there is the funny twist at the end. This is longer than your normal 32 page picture book, and it is broken up into five chapters, but every page is necessary to tell the story.

Turtle and Armadillo are friends and are busy working out the best spot to sit. Armadillo has a bad feeling about one spot so he moves away. A massive rock suddenly falls from the sky and after much humour, they sit on the top of this rock from nowhere, and imagine the future. As they imagine different things happening, the reader can see the potential danger coming their way. Turtle wanders off after a wee tiff and goes to another spot, but by now Snake has arrived and shares the rock with Armadillo. Turtle feels sad, even a little jealous, as is what happens to all friends from time to time. The ending is funny with the well-known wit and style we have come to expect from Klassen’s books.

The book deals with friendships, and imagination, and also fate, in his typical witty, dry sense of humour.

It is no wonder he is an award winning writer and illustrator. I love this.

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.

Ellie Copter: Nee Naw and Friends

By Deano Yipadee

Illustrated by Paul Beavis

ISBN 9781775437048

Nee Naw is a little red fire engine who finds himself caught up in many adventures. There has been a number of picture books written about him and his numerous friends.

In this latest picture book Nee Naw can’t cross a broken bridge to put out a fire so he calls upon his friend Ellie Copter. Of course, like all good friends, Ellie comes to the rescue and saves the day. The book highlights the lesson not to play with fire.

Paul Beavis creates bright, bold and quirky illustrations which are instantly recognisable. There is no white space on the page, just corner to corner, bright illustrations set in the country landscape of hills and farmyards. Love the sheep!

As with previous books in this fun series, you can download or stream the song.

Oh, so many kisses!

By Maura Finn

Illustrated by Jenny Cooper

ISBN 9781775436829

Scholastic NZ

This delightful book first came out as a picture book with a lovely blue cover in 2018. Now it is available as a padded board book with a new cover. The cheeky smile of a baby stares out and we can’t help but smile.

It is a book of kisses. All sorts of kisses from so many faces. Family, friends, and animals all lovingly offer kisses to the new baby.

This is ideal for brand new babies who will no doubt squirm delightfully as readers plant kisses on them as they read the story.

Jenny Cooper’s illustrations are warm with just the right amount of cuteness. With Mother’s Day just around the corner, this is the perfect gift for a new mum too.

The Grinny Granny Donkey

By Craig Smith

Illustrated by Katz Cowley

ISBN 9781775436874

Also in time for Mother’s Day is the board book of The Grinny Granny Donkey. There is probably a copy of the original story of the Wonky Donkey in almost every home in New Zealand. The story continues now with Granny Donkey. The same sweet but funny illustrations, quirky sense of humour and repeated lines make this a story which will quickly become a familiar favourite with young children.

Even more so if read by a real granny or nana.

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.

There’s a bear in the window (English and Maori)

by June Pitman-Hayes

Illustrated by Minky Stapleton

ISBN 9781775437154

Scholastic NZ

Covid-19 and the first lockdown saw many thousands of bears in windows all over New Zealand. It began as something fun to do and challenged families to go for walks and look at everyone’s windows to see if a bear or two appeared. I had bears in my own front window and I smiled on my walks as I checked out other homes. Big bears, little, single bears and windows with a house load of bears. Author June Pitman-Hayes has created a story around the idea of bears in windows but is asking us as readers to think about what the bears might see as they look out of their windows. We see New Zealand wildlife and people going about their day. There is a focus on colour so this would be very useful in schools and pre-schools when looking at colours. At the end of the story there is the opportunity to read it over again in Te Reo Māori. You can also download or stream the story as a song version. The picture book has brightly-coloured glossy pages and with a bear as the main character, young ones will be sure to enjoy this new story.

Duggie the buggy

By Sam Wallace

Illustrated by Shaun Yeo

ISBN 9781775436300

Duggie the Buggy is feeling a little down. Things are not as they used to be. He has flat tyres and his paint is all faded. Newer cars are cleaner, faster and more appealing than he is, so he ends up feeling unwanted. Duggie is even left outside to rust away. Thank goodness for true friends because Ronnie the Rocket comes to the rescue and shows Duggie that things can change and things do get better. Together they come up with a plan. If you want to know what Ronnie does to help his friend, you will have to find a copy of this book which is out now from Scholastic. This is a sweet, hopeful picture book about not giving up. It encourages us to remember to aim high and shoot for the stars.

Moon and Sun by Melinda Szymanik

Illustrated by Malene Laugesen

ISBN 9781988516806

Upstart Press

Moon knows she can never be as bright and warm and beloved as her sister, Sun.

She hides away, shy and sad, only coming out at night. But maybe Moon is more important than she realises…

Moon and Sun is a special picture book. It deals with one of the most common issues children have, that being, insecurity and lack of confidence, lack of self belief and often feeling less important that their older siblings.

Moon is insecure and she thinks her sister, Sun is more beautiful, more popular and generally, better than herself. It really is a common tale, but here Melinda Szymanik shows us that we are all special. We all have much to give and sometimes, doing things together is even better than being on our own.

It is beautifully illustrated with full pages of gorgeous colours. The pictures have a myth-like quality to them which adds an extra dimension to the story.

This is a beautiful book to share with young children. It’s also a good one for teachers in pre-schools and primary schools to use to encourage gentle discussions about how we are all unique. Our differences are our strengths and understanding that, can help children learn to believe in themselves.

Just lovely.

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.

Counting creatures

By Julia Donaldson

Illustrated by Sharon King-Chai

ISBN 9781529040517


What can I say? This is yet another beautiful book by a perfect collaboration of author, artist and publisher.

It is a beautifully packaged counting book for children. We are asked on alternate pages “Who has more babies than that?” Each spread shows different creatures answering the question, with the increasing numbers of babies they have. Beginning with a bat and just one baby, heading on through the pages to creatures that have multiple babies. Julia Donaldson brings us her skills with rhyme and language as is her forte. Simple but informative.

Stunningly illustrated by Sharon King-Chai (one of my favourite illustrators) with exquisite lift-the-flaps and cut-outs, this is not just gorgeous but also educational. This is one of those special books that will be read again and again. Love it!

I haven’t read a lot of graphic novels although I do appreciate their impact on readers and reading material these days as a growing and very popular trend. So over the Christmas break I decided it was time to read a few to see just why they hold such favour with readers. I chose a variety from younger readers through to Secondary school students at the older age group. I read five and honestly enjoyed every book. They were a real mix. Funny, mysterious, sad and serious. Will I read more graphic novels? Definitely.

In no particular order.

Speak : the graphic novel

By Laurie Halse Anderson

ISBN 9780374300289

Farrar Straus Giroux NY

This was the most powerful of the graphic novel books I read. It deals with the horrible issue of rape. Melinda attends a party where she is raped and we follow her downhill-slide as she struggles to deal with it all. Melinda tells no one about what happened and sinks deeper and deeper into a depression, her grades failing and friendships falling apart. The illustrations are dark, broody and powerful. We see her internal thoughts and her growing sense of anger as realises that she had said no. It is the claiming back of her voice that has the most impact in this top read for young adults. No means NO!

The Inkberg Enigma

By Jonathan King

ISBN 9781776572663

Gecko Press

This book is pretty special. It has a real retro feel to it like the old mysteries we used to watch on TV or read in old comics of my youth. I loved the setting with its small coastal fishing town, people who know each other and long hot summer holidays.

Miro and Sia live in Aurora, a fishing town nestled in the shadow of an ancient castle. Miro lives in his books; Sia is never without her camera. The day they meet, they uncover a secret.

A good old-fashioned mystery to solve. When a man is pulled out from the sea in front of Miro and Sia, there is some wild creature clinging to his legs so Sia takes a photo but unwittingly captures something else in the photo. Sia decides it is a clue and that they must investigate. Miro would rather read his books than follow danger, but Sia is persistent. He follows grudgingly at first but the more clues they find, the more he is keen to solve the mystery of just what is living in the sea below the harbour and what is the importance of a particular, very old book. The story suits the format with its colourful illustrations. There is a second story within its pages and these are told in black and white illustrations, adding to the overall retro feel.

Thoroughly good read. It would be nice to see Sia and Miro solve more mysteries.

The Witches

Based on the novel by Roald Dahl

Adapted and illustrated by Penelope Bagieu

ISBN 978176097830


Roald Dahl’s book The Witches takes on a new look in the graphic novel adapted by Penelope Bagieu. The illustrations are bright and visually appealing. The cover screams out just wanting to be picked up. Quick, easy to read and even at almost 300 pages long, younger readers will love this and I think it will be a top read and in high demand with my students.

What particularly appeals to me is that the text is in lower cases. I know it’s a thing with graphic novels to have the text in capitals but I find personally find it off-putting. Kind of like text messages use uppercase to shout out their messages. Three of the five books in this list used uppercase throughout and while you adapt to reading this way, I’d much prefer it the way it is here in The Witches.

The Invasion

Animorphs the Graphic novel

Based on the novel by K. A. Applegate & Michael Grant

Adapted by Chris Grine

Animorphs has been a hugely popular series for years and with the popularity in graphic novels, I think this format is going to be just as successful. The colourful illustrations and brief but pertinent text makes it easy to follow storylines.

A group of five friends find themselves face to face with an alien who has crashed to earth. He warns them of a bigger, deadlier threat to all mankind. Right before his death he gives them all special powers to morph into any animal by using their DNA if they can touch the animals first. Some are keen, others not so much but soon they find themselves running from danger and realise they need to use their gifts if they are to stay alive. They soon realise, the planet is under attack and they will need to do whatever they can to save lives. They need courage, teamwork and their new abilities to make this happen.

A good read, lots of action and I will be looking for more in the series as they are published.


By Raina Telgemeier

ISBN 9781743832684


Raina Telgemeier’s books are so popular that they are always on reserve, and sadly, they are also among the top titles of books that go “missing” and need replacing.

Based on her own life dealing with anxiety and stomach troubles, Guts is a story that needs to be told. Raina struggles with stomach pains, constant fear of vomiting, anxiety and just everyday life in general. Some days are worse than others and on these bad days she cannot attend school.

I love the ending where she realises she is not alone. Other people have similar issues or fears and it is just how people learn to deal with them that makes them strong enough to cope.

It’s realistic with a good message. I’m now going to have to read more of her work.

I think I might have my work cut out trying to read all the other books by these authors and graphic illustrators.