Archive for the ‘Primary School’ Category

Remarkable Animal Stories

By Maria Gill

Illustrated by Emma Huia Lovegrove

ISBN 9781775436454

Scholastic NZ and Scholastic Australia

I have just spent a very pleasant afternoon reading this gorgeous new book from award winning author, Maria Gill. Her speciality is writing non fiction and often, creative non fiction. Her latest book fits neatly in the creative side of things.

The animal and bird stories in this collection, are based on truth. Many may be familiar to you as their stories have made the news. Some have even made world-wide headlines; like Inky the octopus, who was known for escaping his aquarium. There are stories that will make you smile; like Moko the dolphin, and some that are a little sad, like Paddles, the cat who was owned by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern.

These are my favourites; Moko, Ken-Joe a cheeky kea, because I love keas, Henry, the oldest tuatara in captivity, and Lulu, a kangaroo who loves cuddles.

The stories are written over double-page spreads which is great for short reading times to share or dip in to when time permits. The likelihood, however, is that you will want to read all these stories in one go.

The illustrations by Emma Huia Lovegrove are created in watercolour and gouache and gorgeous with just the right amount of cuteness. Photos are also included. At the back of the book there is also details of the role of wildlife sanctuaries. Without places like these, many animals would not survive. We need to be aware of what we can do to help these places, as they are the ones who help our animals.

A wonderful book to share with family. Teaching notes provided by Scholastic can be found here.

If you are in Christchurch on Saturday, August 21 then you might want to pop down to the Arts Centre as Maria will be having her book launch for this delightful book. Details can be found here.

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Aotearoa lost Worlds

By Dave Guson

ISBN 9781988538662

Bateman Books

Aotearoa Lost Worlds is a non-fiction delight for readers of all ages. Children, and those in particular who love dinosaurs, will love dipping into this book. Looking back at 120 million years of New Zealand’s natural history is quite amazing.

The land, animals, and climate has changed so much over millions of years but author and illustrator, Dave Gunson, brings many of the changes to our attention in his latest book.

I have always been fascinated by the long-extinct Haast’s eagle; the worlds largest bird of prey, so it was very interesting to read. It was so big and it was believed its wing span was 3 metres wide. That is incredible.

I never knew that over 230 million years ago, New Zealand had its own crocodiles. While they are magnificent creatures, I’m very glad we don’t have them around today as I wouldn’t want to run in to one by a river or swampy rest area.

Or you can read about the largest NZ Gecko that grew to over 60 centimetres in length. That is so much bigger than the ones we have today. And of course, you can read about dinosaurs too.

Obviously there are no photos, but Dave Gunson’s illustrations are colourful, detailed and realistic. His research is well-founded and written clearly. This is full of interesting and informative facts. A great book to dip into and again and again.

Just remember

By Donna Blabler

ISBN 9781927229729

Lighthouse Media Group

After a tragic car accident, grief, loss, and guilt are now part of Em’s life. Her mother’s breakdown and inability to care for Em has meant she now lives far away with her nan. A new school, new friends, and a mermaid are all part of her new life but it is the old life and guilt that is eating away at her.

A detention kept her late at school and when her family came to collect her, there was an accident. Em’s father was one of the people killed in the accident and she blames herself. But is Em really to blame, is her guilt necessary? The author Donna Blabler weaves a story about loss and how we take on guilt, real or misconceived.

Em struggles initially at her new school. With the wrong uniform, shoes, and jumper, everything seems to be a total misfit, including Em herself. She puts up barriers but slowly, with the help of some new friends, the barriers come down. Em also has a secret. Em finds the tree that she and her dad used to sit under during holiday times and while she sits there remembering him and happier times, she discovers a mermaid. As the two build up a friendship, truths are revealed but there is also trouble lurking by, with an elderly man who demands Em keep away from the area.

It is not a long novel and there is lots happening but the story flows smoothly. For all its mysteries and sadness, and fantasy, it is a gentle and warm story dealing with real issues.

Great for 10 – 14 year olds.

My New Zealand Story : Stop the tour

By Bill Nagelkerke

ISBN 9781775437178

Scholastic NZ

Forty years ago the face of New Zealand Rugby Tours changed forever. The Springbok Tour of 1981 was held in different cities in New Zealand. The tour included the team from South Africa, and its presence in New Zealand created so much conflict, that it is still talked about today. In South Africa there was a racist apartheid system, where people were treated differently because of the colour of their skin. Black people were segregated from white and not allowed to attend the same places or events, or have the same rights as white people.

When it was known that the South African team; the Springboks, were coming to New Zealand people immediately took sides. Many people thought that sports and politics should not mix and that the tour should go ahead. Many others thought that the apartheid system was so wrong, that the tour should be banned. The nation was divided.

Bill Nagelkerke has given us an insight to this terrible time in our sporting history, through his character Martin Daly.

Martin sits on the fence, not knowing what to think, or who is right. Through a series of incidents, Martin finally takes a side and his life changes. The tour is splitting friends and families. Riots are happening, people are getting hurt and tensions are incredibly high. It is not just adults who are marching against the tour, but students too became involved. Martin’s initial ambivalence is believable but then we see him grow and take responsibility for his choices. Growth in a character is always an indication of a good writer, and a good story, which is exactly what we have in this book.

First published in 2007, this retitled and redesigned version is perfect for a new generation of readers. In time to mark the 40th anniversary, this book is a great reminder that sometimes, you have to learn that sitting on the fence and not taking part, is not good enough. Sometimes, you have to take sides.

My New Zealand Story :Journey to Tangiwai

By David Hill

ISBN 9781775436386

Scholastic NZ

David Hill brings us the diary of Peter Cotterill, a teen Scout who is working hard to attend a major competition for first aid. He studies hard, works a paper round and spends time with his Uncle, recently back from a war that left him sad and angry.
It is 1953 and a year for all New Zealanders to remember. It is the year Edmund Hillary climbed Mount Everest, the same year that the Queen had her coronation, but it is also the same year as one of New Zealand’s worst disasters.

Peter is determined to win the local Scout first-aid competition. Winning the locals will mean he could get to the Nationals and that is what he has his heart set on. There is much happening in the background of all his tests and learning. His Uncle Hugh is not well and getting worse all the time. Peter and his uncle are close so this causes lots of concern. While everyone is looking forward to the Queen’s coronation, Uncle Hugh is very much against anything to do with the royals.

It is on his way to the finals, that Peter finds himself in one of New Zealand’s deadliest disasters. How he survives, you’ll have to read yourself.

I love how David Hill has dropped lots of historical moments in this book. One was the six o’clock closing of the public bars.

Redesigned with a fresh new eye-catching cover, having first been published in 2010, this book will appeal to a new generation of readers, too.

Both books have photos and historic notes to support their time in New Zealand’s history.

Mrs Chippy the Cat

By Susan Brocker

Illustrated by Raymond McGrath

ISBN 9781775437086

Scholastic NZ

In 1914, Captain Ernest Shackleton led an expedition to Antarctica on the ship Endurance. Our very own New Zealander, Frank Worsley, was part of this famous exploration too. There was also another very special member on board; Mrs Chippy, the tomcat and his owner, Harry McNeish, the ship’s carpenter.

Mrs Chippy was useful as a good mouser, catching all the mice and rats. The crew came to love the cat and when it accidentally fell overboard one day, they rescued it from the icy, Antarctic waters. When the Endurance became stuck in the frozen ice, Mrs Chippy took turns keeping the crew cosy and warm at night time by curling up beside them. Cats are wonderful for keeping you warm on cold winter nights, so this must have been extra special for the crew, as they slept on the freezing ice floe in their flimsy tents.

Susan Brocker brings Mrs Chippy’s story to life, and Raymond McGrath adds to it with his more natural, retro-looking illustrations. There is a sense of ruggedness to the pictures which works well with the historical aspects of the story.

At the back of the book there is a page of historical notes with photos of the real Mrs Chippy, which adds a lovely bit extra to the story.


By Melinda Szymanik

Illustrated by Isobel Joy Te Aho-White

ISBN 9781775437116

Scholastic NZ

Melinda Syzmanik’s latest picture book, Batkiwi, is just delightful. A heartwarming picture book about teamwork, even if that team is made up of just two members.

Kiwi loves helping his fellow forest creatures and friends. Whenever one of them needs help, he gets his legs running as fast as he can, but it is just not quite fast enough. Feeling sad about not being able to help, he carries thoughts with him that he just can’t be a hero. One night, when feeling extra sad, and hiding in a dark cave, Kiwi hears a voice. The friendly voice of a Bat, offering the best advice, that together they can help in emergencies. Together, Bat and kiwi can be heroes. Batkiwi “A dynamic duo.”

This picture book is supercool. The illustrations totally fit the story. This is a wonderful, visual introduction to New Zealand’s wildlife with colourful pictures of kunekune, ruru, weta, skink, and many others.

It is lovely to see a Te Reo Maori edition also available.

Partners in slime

By Belinda O’Keefe

ISBN 9781775436799

Scholastic NZ

Partners in slime by Belinda O’Keefe is the current winner of the Tom Fitzgibbon award, and deservedly so.

O’Keefe has created believable characters in a setting so familiar, that best friends, Jake and Cooper, could be living right next door to you.

It is 38 days until the official opening of a very special roller coaster at the Adrenaline World, supposedly the best ride in the Southern Hemisphere. Jake wants nothing more than to be there on the very first day but the ride and entry is very expensive. The only way he can afford tickets for himself, and Cooper, is to earn the money. They work on a number of ideas until they finally decide to make and sell slime. However, Jake’s sister, Paige sells slime too and is doing a great trade. As the competition heats up between brother and sister, Jake and Cooper have to come up with a better plan.

When the boys decide to add special ingredients, they end up with a magnetic neon gloop and that is when the action begins. One special ingredient creates a whole heap of disasters. It is also where much of the humour comes into the story.

There is lots going on in this novel. Brother and sister relationships, best friends, school stories, creative thinking, planning and working towards something special, mischief and a bit of mayhem, and of course lots of fun.

This is a book that children can relate to. There is much to giggle through in the novel. Aimed at eight to ten year old readers this is also a good read aloud for parents and teachers to share.

Julia and the Shark

By Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Illustrated by Tom de Freston

I love this book.

This is the story of Julia, and her parents, who travel to a remote island lighthouse where dad can digitise the lighthouse and mum can search the surrounding sea for the elusive Greenland Shark. Noodles, Julia’s pet cat comes along for the adventure.

This book is heartfelt. Julia’s relationship with her mother is strained which creates much of the tension in the book. There are other causes of pain in this book too; bullying, mental health issues, and much of it is created through lack of communication and misunderstandings. There is an environmental aspect too.

The characters are believable and easy to connect with. When Julia’s best intentions to help her mother, go badly, she puts her own life, and Noodles, at risk. Danger is very real. However, one of the overall messages from Julia and the Shark, is that of hope.

The illustrations are beautiful. Black, whites and grey shades which have a moody, haunting quality. Watch out for the addition of yellow towards the end pictures. Symbolic and beautiful.

Look out for this book for nine years and up, when it comes out in September.

The great Kiwi Bedtime Book

By Donovan Bixley

ISBN 9781988516882

Upstart Press

Yay for a wonderful Kiwi bedtime picture book, especially for little ones.

This latest picture book by author and illustrator, Donovan Bixley, is just delightful. It has Bixley’s trademark bright, bold and luxuriously colourful quirky illustrations.

The pictures are full-page, corner to corner spreads focusing on animals, birds and even sea creatures, as they settle down for a night’s sleep.

I love the cheeky smiles of the different animals, especially the jelly fish, dolphins and whales. As the animals, birds and creatures begin to sleep for the night, there is one particular bird and their family, who are just waking up.

The Kiwi is ready for fun.

There is lots of alliteration and onomatopoeia which makes reading this book so much fun. Great for reading aloud.

I love the end papers with the front inside cover being pictures of empty beds, and the back end papers showing pictures of animals in their beds.

I am incredibly proud to be a very new and first-time nana and this book is going to be read over and over again with my wee grandson. It is perfect to share with young ones as they snuggle up for the night.

Hare and Ruru

By Laura Shallcrass

ISBN 9780995118058

Beatnik Publishing

Hare and Ruru is a special picture book suitable for all ages. The words and pictures are gentle and thoughtful, beautifully encased in a hardcover, portrait-sized format.

Hare finds the world too noisy, thoughts and even silence is too loud. Hare goes searching everywhere for peace and calm but without any success, until eventually one night Ruru flies down and offers some suggestions.

Many children and adults too, suffer from anxiety, and noises in particular, can be overwhelming. Some children may recognise themselves in the pages of this book and relate to Hare’s anxiety. When children make connections to stories they learn empathy, but also, if their own personal story is similar, they find hope and that makes this book special.

There are helpful teaching notes at the back of the book so teachers, librarians and parents too, can make the most of this special book. A book to include in any mindfulness collection.

Hare and Ruru is a well-deserved finalist in the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults for 2021.

Flit the Fantail and the Matariki Map

Written and illustrated by Kat Quin

ISBN 9781775436355

This is the third picture book about Flit the fantail. His popularity is as strong as ever. Flit’s cheeky smile is always what I notice first. His big brown eyes, beautiful wings and feathers, along with that smile, help create a very cute and likeable character. I’m delighted that his little ladybird friend is back to keep him company again.

Flit can’t sleep, he is restless and fascinated by the glowing moon in the night sky. He decides he wants to catch the moon. He flits down to the forest floor and when he looks back up into the sky he notices nine special, sparkling stars. His friend Keri, the Kiwi asks what he is doing awake at this time of night and when Flit tells him he wants to catch the light, Keri offers to help. Together they set off through the night but they soon realise they are actually quite lost. With some help from the wise old Ruru, the adventurous pair learn that by following the bright lights of the nine stars of Matariki, they can find their way home again.

Much like sailors of old, the stars will guide the pair back through the forest and to the safety and warmth of their families.

The illustrations are produced with 2B pencil and Adobe photoshop providing a gorgeous softness and just the right amount of cuteness. This is a lovely addition to the Flit the Fantail stories and a sweet introduction to the stories of Matariki.

There is also a Te Reo Maori edition available.

Takahe trouble (Inspired by true events)

By Sally Sutton

Illustrated by Jenny Cooper

ISBN 9781775437109

What do two Takahē  friends do when they are tired of the same routine and same surroundings? Well, if you are as curious as Walter and Manaaki are, then you escape, runaway and have an adventure. These two takahē did exactly that. They searched for fast cars and scary rats. They met a dog, a stoat and had a jolly good, scary, but very interesting adventure before they were caught and returned safely home again.

Sally Sutton shows her love of language with her very onomatopoeic choice of words.

Toddle-toddle-toddle, chatter, chatter, chatter.

A lovely reminder that home is often the best place to be. Jenny Cooper is one of my favourite illustrators. I love the quirkiness of her characters and their facial expressions. You can tell what they are thinking and feeling, especailly when they are being cheeky.

The last page provides details, and a photo of the real Walter and Manaaki. The two Takahē  now live on Motutapu Island; a predator free place where they can still have adventures but always be safe.

I’m an Inky Octopus

Written and illustrated by Stephanie Thatcher

ISBN 9781775436898

Inky the Octopus takes us on a trip around her home beneath the sea. Playing tag with her friend the jellyfish, Inky darts in and around the rock pools, through the ocean and through the kelp. She showcases her abilities to change colour and spurt out ink when danger is near.

This is a fun rhyming picture book, but it is also a great wee introduction to sea life and the life of an Inky Octopus. Who knew they had three hearts, or even nine brains? I didn’t. You will have to read the book to find out what colour their blood is, as well as other interesting facts. Who wins the game of tag? You’ll have to read the book to find that out too.

The illustrations were created using pencil watercolour and they really are very sweet. Inky is certainly having fun.

There is a Te Reo Maori edition as well.

North and South

Written and illustrated by Sandra Morris

ISBN 9781925381801

Walker books

North and South is a book of contrasts. Month by month the Northern hemisphere is compared to the Southern hemisphere through the different seasons. When it is cold and wintery in the north, the south experiences sunshine and warmth. In gorgeous watercolour illustrations we witness how animals adapt to the different seasons, how they search for food or build new homes for shelter.

I find it so amazing that animals know when the seasons are changing and when to begin their migrations. Did you know that the Bar-tailed Godwit fly 12,000 thousand kilometres to their breeding grounds on the Alaskan tundra. They average 60 kilometres an hour. Monarch butterflies also travel thousands of kilometres in their search for warmer weather. This book is full of facts just like these, and I love that they include our very own brown kiwi.

The endpapers illustrate a map of the world with different animals depicted next to the relevant countries. It allows a quick overall glance of the world. This is a beautiful non-fiction book with plenty of international appeal across all ages.

Below each page of animal facts there is a conservation status. This lets us know which animals are threatened and how seriously endangered some animals are. It also means that if we do not look after our animals, if we do not do something to stop climate change, then many of these animals, will very likely become extinct.

North and South would make an excellent choice in classrooms and school libraries. There is a very good glossary, a contents page, and an index with additional links to helpful websites for further study. There is also a list of ways you can help wildlife and fight climate change.

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.