Archive for the ‘Primary School’ Category

The day the plants fought back

By Belinda O’Keefe

Illustrated by Richard Holt

ISBN 9781775435686

 

There is mayhem in the garden when two boys get carried away with their over-zealous playfulness. They have a total lack of respect for everything. They leave the inside of the house in a huge mess and then start out in the backyard by uprooting vegetables and using them as weapons. The plants are not happy and together, they stand up for themselves and decide to teach the boys a lesson. Funny, mischievous and it is good to see the boys come to the realisation that their behaviour has consequences. The illustrations are brightly coloured and playful, very suited to the story.

A fun story for children, particularly aimed at three to seven year old readers. I do like the rather angry expressions on the faces of the different vegetables. The are certainly not very impressed with the boys and their behaviour. Yes, there is a moral to the story but the fun also stands out. And yes, the boys learn their lesson, so all is good in the neighbourhood.

Two boisterous boys who made lots of noise, found it dreadfully hard to be good;
always charging and barging, fighting and biting, and not acting quite as they should.

Patrick and Wayne drove their parents insane, but they could be good if they tried.
Still, they’d roar and they’d claw, they’d scoot and they’d shoot until someone eventually cried.

 

 

 

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To trap a thief

By Des Hunt

ISBN 9781775435648

Scholastic NZ

 

Des Hunt always manages to capture the essence of what it is to be young and conflicted. His latest book is another example of a rollicking good read, full of adventure, conflict, mystery and in this case, a good quest as well.

In To trap a thief  we have Connor, a 12 year old boy who is still struggling with the death of his father and facing the reality that his mother is ready to remarry. The man she wants to marry is Morgan but Morgan’s own parents are not so keen on the idea of their son marrying either.  Tensions are high when everyone meets for the first time and go badly.  Connor and Morgan’s father go off for a walk leaving the others behind to discuss things. On their walk they run into one of the town’s bullies and this is just the beginning of a heap of things that go wrong. To try and get to know each other, Morgan’s parents take Connor and his best friend, Harvey, on holiday with them in a newly bought camper van.  While on holiday Connor is sent clues to missions via his phone but he has no idea who is sending them. The boys begin the quest but run into a stranger, Frank Brown who seems too good to be true, especially as he starts handing out $100 notes.  Indeed, Frank has an agenda of his own and it leads to danger for everyone and an actual fight for survival.

Fast-paced, believable characters, and a good solid read from one of New Zealand’s much-loved and award winning authors. I love how Des Hunt incorporates a little bit of science into his novels and he does it seamlessly.

Great read for 10 plus.

Polly does NOT want a cracker

By Stephanie Thatcher

ISBN 9781988516592

Upstart Press

 


Oh dear. Poor old Polly is a parrot living in a zoo but she is so sick of everyone asking her if she wants a cracker that instead of being nice and friendly, she is grumpy and shouty. Polly definitely does NOT want a cracker and lets everyone know it. In fact Polly can’t stand crackers. Polly continually squawks a rather loud NO whenever people ask her about crackers. Polly is so loud and grumpy that she gets sent to a pet store. Unfortunately, even in the pet store she is not safe from people asking “Polly want a cracker?”. One day a special customer comes in to the shop and what she does makes all the difference to Polly.

This is definitely a picture book to share and read out loud. Parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians, in fact anyone will earn bonus points for adding their own squawky voices when Polly says, “No! No! NO!”

Gorgeous illustrations. I love the expression in Polly’s eyes. You can certainly tell the difference between when she is happy and when she is grumpy. One to read again and again. 

A story for Matariki : The Promise of Puanga

By Kirsty Wadsworth

Illustrated by Munro Te Whata

ISBN 9781775435815

Scholastic NZ

There is a bright new star in the winter sky — Puanga, cousin to the Matariki sisters. Each year, she appears to the people of Aotearoa, a special sign (for those unable to see Matariki) that winter and the Māori new year are coming.

Hana and her best friend Puanga play together all the time. In spring they make daisy chains, in summer they play in the river and visit the beach to collect shells. In Autumn they ride their bikes together until they are suddenly faced with winter. The suddenness of the cold, harsh days and nights of winter causes problems with crops in the fields and many other things that make life difficult in the winter months. If only there was some way of knowing that winter was coming so that everyone could be prepared.

Puanga tells Hana a secret that might help and makes a promise but it will also change everything. Their friendship and love for each other, along with Tāwhirimātea the god of wind and storms, help make an amazing gift for all.

The bold illustrations bring a modern day feel to this Māori mythology-based story.

It’s great having some Māori vocabulary woven into the story too as we move between the changing seasons.

With Matariki just around the corner, this is an ideal book to add to school library collections and teacher resosurces.

Bambi the Blind Alpaca

(Inspired by a true story)

By Jan Lummis

Illustrated by Jenny Cooper

ISBN 9781775435877

Scholastic NZ

Bambi the blind alpaca is based on the very real tale of Bambi and his brother Charisma. In real life Bambi and Charisma were brothers and best friends, doing everything together. One day they became separated leaving Bambi struggling to cope on his own. Jan Lummis takes this event and creates a safe and happy alternate ending.

Children love stories based on truth and knowing that somewhere out in the real world are characters, animals and people they can relate to or make connections with, leaves them happy and satisfied.

When Charisma leaves, Bambi is lost and lonely. He is afraid to do things on his own because Charisma has been his best friend, his guide and his eyes. There is a happy ending and the wonderful realisation that people come and go in our lives.  There will be sadness when some friends leave, but always there will room for new friends. 

Jenny Cooper, as always, produces beautiful pictures. The alpacas are gorgeous and definitely have that cuteness appeal. The warmth of the illustrations adds a softness that tugs at the heart.

A sweet picture book for younger readers. There is photo of the real Bambi at the back as well as a double spread of information about alpacas which adds to the overall value of this lovely story.

 

 

 

A place of Stone and darkness

by Chris Mousdale

ISBN9780143773122

Penguin Random House

 

 

Chris Mousdale’s book A place of Stone and Darkness had me hooked right from the start.

It is a stylishly produced hardback novel which crosses a mix of genres. There is fantasy, adventure and mystery all in a wonderfully imagined, dystopian underground world. Chris Mousdale  also illustrates the book and includes maps of the Striggs world, a glossary of their language, and character portraits, as well as a number of gorgeous earthy illustrations.

Deep, deep down underground is the world of the flightless Striggs.  They have lived there for thousands of years after being forced from the surface by savage humans. The Striggs have adapted to life underground but their world is threatened with pollution to its water and members of the flock are becoming ill and dying. While exploring in one of the tunnels Ellee Meddo, finds a human, a Toppa, as they are known, who has fallen through an old unused well. Toppas are known to be dangerous and feared at all costs but this Toppa is young and hurt and Ellee can’t just leave him. With the help of her brother Sidfred, Ellee hides the boy but eventually he is is discovered by other Striggs and that creates friction and more action. One Strigg in particular, Kass, wants to just kill the boy. The action is fast paced, even nail-bitingly at times, so that it was very hard to put the book down. I just wanted to keep reading.

In order for the community to work and survive, the Striggs believe in the mantra; “Be one, be all, be everything”. When the group decide that they must return the boy, to the surface, this mantra becomes more important, especially when faced with danger from other humans. The world of the humans is violent and one of social decay. If the Striggs are discovered by humans it could mean the end of their world. I can tell you, their worlds do collide and the suspense built so quickly I was almost holding my breath wondering what was going to happen next. 

I loved this novel for so many reasons. The fast-paced action, its total believability, its warmth, the friendships, the loyalties and even the subtle messages. Yes, there are messages about our environment, trust, human kindness and taking risks. This is a wonderful read and one that I predict will go far. Great for older readers and with its buff coloured pages is ideal for children with dyslexia.  Loved it!

This would make a good class read aloud and teacher notes can be found here to explore this novel further.

Little Frida : A story of Frida Kahlo

By Anthony Browne

ISBN 9781406381221

Walker Books

Anthony Browne has brought us another stunner of a picture book. His artwork is wonderfully distinctive and his fans are many, including myself. I have admired his work for years and was lucky enough to meet him a number of years ago. I stood in line awestruck as I waited to get my copy of Voices in the Park signed. Even though the queue was long he took the time to draw a quick picture and I still treasure this book very much. So I am delighted to be reading his latest picture book. It has a more creative non-fiction feel to it as the story he tells is based on the real life of artist Frida Kahlo. 

Browne beautifully illustrates Frida’s life as a young girl. He brings the pain of struggling through polio and the consequences of her illness that left her with a limping, thin leg and the cruelty of children who called her “Peg-Leg”. Frida was different, an outsider, often lonely, but her imagination created a new friend. Her new friend and the imaginary world they live in is portrayed beautifully and wistfully by Browne. It is a world of hope and beauty, friendship and dancing. In this new world Frida is finding her strengths and that is painting. Frida is becoming an artist. 

I love how one artist can take the life of another artist and create a beauty on its own. There is at times a sense of surrealism and sophistication about the illustrations, which is Browne’s own trademark but he also incorporates Frida’s own style. Browne uses rich, bold colours and there are, as always, little hidden images, including an old friend from his other books but I will leave that for you to find. I will say though, it made me smile.

The biographical notes about Frida are framed like a work of art itself on the final end page.  Out of pain comes beauty and Browne shows this in his stunning new picture book. It is an essential book for school libraries but also a book that will be special in any home. I love too, the way the book feels, with its embossed frame of little Frida on the cover.  Frida was famous for her self-portraits often adding bits of fantasy to her paintings.  Browne honours Frida with his own sense of fantasy, so do look closely at the cover before you open the pages and enter the world of Frida Kahlo as a young girl.

On the brink : New Zealand’s most endangered species

By Maria Gill

Illustrations by Terry Fitzgibbon

ISBN 9781869665180

New Holland Publishers

On the brink is a well-researched non fiction children’s book about the dangers of extinction for many different New Zealand species. It includes among others,  reptiles, frogs, fish, insects, birds and marine animals. It is well-formatted, realistically illustrated and informative without being too wordy. The book details the top five most endangered in each category. It is incredibly sad to realise just how many species are actually threatened with extinction. Perhaps the saddest is the Maui dolphin with less than 55 left in the world. Certainly makes you stop and think. It is also very sad to see how few Hamilton’s frogs there are left. I love frogs and actually have my own pet ones who are about 12 years old. They are little brown whistling tree frogs and they make me smile so much. I would hate to see the loss of Hamilton’s frogs.

As a buyer of children’s books for a school library, I do like non-fiction books which include a good glossary, index and contents page and this book provides all that and more. There are many useful websites to check out for further research. There is also a double page spread with ideas of what readers can do to try and help make a difference.

This is an excellent book trailer to use in class with the book. Definitely a must-have for school libraries.

A sad reminder of what we could all lose if we do nothing. We all need to do our own little bit to help.

 

The Good Egg

By Jory John

Illustrated by Pete Oswald

ISBN9780062866004

Harpercollins

The Good Egg is very busy running around after everyone. He is always helping them do things, like carrying groceries, painting houses, almost anything you can think of, the Good Egg is in there trying to help. His eleven companions are not so helpful. In fact they are often naughty and lazy. Poor Good Egg has had enough and he begins to feel sad and unwell.

It’s not always easy being good. Sometimes it actually becomes too much and the Good Egg finds out the hard way; that sometimes you have to stop and just look after yourself and let others be responsible for themselves. Being kind is always the right thing to do, but you also have to be kind to yourself. An eggcellent idea and example in a wonderful companion picture book to The bad seed by the same author and illustrator. I hope there is more to come from these two. Great picture books with humour and worthwhile messages. Great for school libraries and teacher read-aloud. There is always a good egg and a bad egg in every class.

Two new picture books from Scholastic aimed at younger readers. One young girl deals with fear of the unknown, and a young boy deals with an unwanted distraction but both have elements of humour which is always good. Both have lovely endings.

 

There’s a hedgehog in my pants

By Amy Harrop

Illustrated by Ross Kinnaird

ISBN 9781775435655

 

A little bit of lighthearted fun about an unwelcome hedgehog who takes up residence inside a young boy’s pants. The trouble is the boy is wearing his pants. The prickly creature will just not leave. No matter what the boy does, the hedgehog is firmly tucked up inside his pants. He tries dancing  and shaking his bottom, even tries yelling at the hedgehog hoping to scare it away but no luck. He is running out of options.

A funny, rhyming picture book with brightly coloured and comical illustrations which will delight those readers with a more wicked sense of humour.

 

Things in the sea are touching me!

By Linda Jane Keegan

Illustrated by Minky Stapleton

ISBN 9781775435709

 

“Look in the water, Ma!

Golly, oh, gee!

Some thing in the sea 

is touching me!”

A young girl goes to the beach with her two mothers hoping to have a wonderful day playing in the sand, swimming in the sea and just spending time together. However, it turns out that every time the young girl steps in the water, she feels things touching her. It’s great to see how once she discovers whatever is touching her is safe, her fears slip away. A good book to read to young children who might be afraid of the sea, or perhaps might just be a bit more anxious than other children. It’s good to see diversity in picture books too. There will surely be children who recognise themselves in this picture book. Her fears show up in the darker illustrations while the safety, joy and love of family show up in illustrations with more bold and bright colours.

Bullseye Bella

By James T. Guthrie

ISBN 9781775435730

Scholastic NZ

Bella Kerr is 12 years old, lives with her mother and younger brother, Blackbeard. They are a close-knit family.  Mum is a busy, hard-working single parent and reluctantly leaves Bella at home and in charge of her younger brother while she works late at night. Bella is mature and sensible and her mother trusts her to do the right thing. However, one day Bella overhears her mother on the phone and learns that there is not enough money to pay her brother’s school fees. Blackbeard needs a special school because he is autistic so she comes up with a plan to try to make some money. Bella is an unusually gifted darts player and enters a competition hoping to win some money.  It doesn’t go well and ends in tears.

I love seeing Bella and how determined she is, but also so vulnerable. As she progresses through the games Bella has to compete against men who have been playing darts for years, and one man in particular is rather nasty and incredibly arrogant. He brings trouble and difficulties for Bella and her family. Bella may be a very good dart-player but her difficulty is not just nerves, but her maths as well. That makes quite a challenge to try to win the prize money to help out her mother. There is also the fact that the competitions are at night and in a pub when she is supposed to be home looking after Blackbeard.

Bella’s love for her little brother is precious. She understands him so well and he adores her, following her everywhere and defending her with pirate talk and bravery. All he wants is a parrot, as do all pirates. A feel-good story with humour, love, family and a good dose of competition for those who like a challenge.

This is a well deserved winner of the Tom Fitzgibbon Award

The remember balloons

by Jessie Oliveros

Illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte

ISBN 9781481489157

SimonandSchuster

I love this very special and very moving picture book about a young boy, James, who witnesses the declining memory of his much-loved grandfather. The impact of his grandfather’s condition affects everyone. Memories are what hold us together and when those memories fade, the loss can be tragic. James is struggling to understand how this is happening. The boy and his grandfather have a special relationship. They spend many hours together, camping and fishing, and always grandfather shares stories about his life. Each memory is stored in a bright coloured balloon but as his memory fades, balloons slowly float off, taking the memory with them. There is a double paged spread where James is chasing the balloons, reaching high but the balloons are just out of reach. To use one of my dearest friends phrases, I had “leaky eyes”. A big leak! This is powerful and poignant and such a beautiful way to help young people understand conditions such as Alzheimer’s. As moving as this book is, it is also gentle, kind and just a little hopeful.  I have bought this for the school library but this is one to add to my own collection as well.

The beautiful illustrations limit colour to the balloons and their memories, which helps focus the story and its theme on memory loss, its impact and love. Just beautiful.

James’s Grandpa has the best balloons because he has the best memories. He has balloons showing Dad when he was young and Grandma when they were married. Grandpa has balloons about camping and Aunt Nelle’s poor cow. Grandpa also has a silver balloon filled with the memory of a fishing trip he and James took together.

But when Grandpa’s balloons begin to float away, James is heartbroken. No matter how hard he runs, James can’t catch them. One day, Grandpa lets go of the silver balloon—and he doesn’t even notice!

Grandpa no longer has balloons of his own. But James has many more than before. It’s up to him to share those balloons, one by one.

SImonandSchuster

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.

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.