Archive for the ‘Primary School’ Category

The ANZAC Violin: Alexander Aitken’s story

By Jennifer Beck

Illustrated by Robyn Belton

ISBN 9781775433910

Scholastic NZ

 

 

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

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

 

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


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

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

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

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

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Dinosaur Trouble book 4 : The secret hunt

By Kyle Mewburn

Illustrated by Donovan Bixley

ISBN 9781775433699

Scholastic NZ

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

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

Baby Monkey, Private Eye

By David Serlin and Brian Selznick

Illustrated by Brian Selznick

ISBN 9781338180619

Scholastic

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

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

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

Who is Baby Monkey?

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

if he can put on his pants!

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

 

Nevermoor: The trials of Morrigan Crow

By Jessica Townsend

ISBN 9780734418074

Hachette Childrens Books

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

Don’t blink

Written and illustrated by Tom Booth

ISBN 9781250117366

Feiwel & Friends

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

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

Whatever you do DON’T BLINK!

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

 

 

Tintinnabula

By Margo Lanagan

ISBN 9781742975252

Little Hare

 

In wild times and in wartime,

in times of fear and illness, I go

to Tintinnabula, where soft rains fall.

 

Tintinnabula is a story about moving from discomfort to peace,

from violence and uncertainty to a still, sure place.

It reminds us that our best friend in hard times

can often be ourselves.

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Abel Tasman; Mapping the Southern Lands

By Maria Gill

Illustrated by Marco Ivancic

ISBN 9781775435099

Scholastic NZ

More than 300 years ago, a young Dutch sailor named Abel Tasman stood on the prow of a ship he and his crew had sailed across wild, uncharted waters. In the distance, through a shroud of mist, the rugged outline of steep hills rose from the ocean waves. Could this be Terra Australis – the great southern land? 

Having read a number of Maria’s books over the years the one thing that stands out is the depth and standard of her research. The information in her books is always well planned, informative, yet easy to read.

Maria maintains this standard in her latest picture book about Abel Tasman. It is a biography in story book format which will appeal to younger audiences.

We begin with Abel as a young boy listening to tales of the sea and his desire to be a sailor. We follow him on his journeys as he later sails the seas and into a world of adventure and exploration.

We are with Abel in stormy seas, when under attack, and even with an earthquake. The scary thing is I have just been re-reading this book, and was on the page about an earthquake they had felt when really freakishly, we have just had our own 4.1 quake here in Christchurch as I write. That is just a bit too scary and too freakish for my liking. I don’t think I will re-read the page about a volcano erupting, but it is there in the book if you want to know more about Tasman’s adventures.

Maria has collaborated once again with illustrator Marco Ivancic to produce another quality book. His illustrations have that  photo-realism quality making everything believable. The maps on the end pages are a perfect backdrop to the history of the world when Abel Tasman was exploring. The pages towards the end of the book provide extra details and facts to give more understanding to Abel’s story. Abel Tasman: mapping the Southern lands is another winning collaboration between author, illustrator and publisher.

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The Kiwi go marching one by one

By Peter Millet

Illustrated by Deborah Hinde

Sung by Jay Laga’Aia

ISBN 9781775435129

Scholastic NZ 

A popular trend in picture books is to add a bonus CD. They offer more than just a picture book to read. Pre-schools and primary schools love them. They are great for listening along in the classroom or in the car on the way to the grocery store. Children with English as a second language use them to read and listen to the rhythm of English language. They are certainly popular in my school library. Peter Millet’s latest book is no exception. 

Peter has taken the classic The ants go marching one by one and given it a whole new meaning. A very Kiwi meaning. He introduces different NZ wildlife and our love of the outdoors. He takes us up to  the snow to meet kea, out on choppy seas to catch kahawai.  He takes us on a real Kiwi adventure

A familiar tune, well supported by the wonderful illustrations by Deborah Hinde. Her illustrations are bright and colourful but have a softness to them which just makes the kiwis so cute and very appealing. Their eyes, in particular are so warm and friendly, appealing to the reader to join them on their journey. Check out their attempts at bungee jumping! Adventurous yet gentle but lots of fun. Love the little fantail flitting between the pages.

Great gift for Christmas or for end of year teacher present. It is also great to have the song in Te Reo as well with easy to follow lyrics.

How NOT to stop a kidnap plot

By Suzanne Main

ISBN 9781775434801

Scholastic NZ

 

Michael is on a mission. It is one he is unprepared for and actually doesn’t want, especially as the mission is to save his sworn enemy, Angus, from being kidnapped. In his attempt to avert the kidnapping, Michael and his best friend Elvis follow whatever leads they can find. Some of the leads get them in to trouble and involve breaking a few laws. While not exactly wanting to end up as criminals, they do have to decide how far they will go in order to keep Angus safe from the kidnappers. They do of course have to work out who the kidnappers are and that could be almost anyone. 

This is a great read with lots of action, a little bit of revenge that doesn’t quite happen the way Michael wants it to happen, humour and most importantly, likable and believable characters. Michael is not perfect, but he is genuine and a good friend to have. Despite some initial bullying and a definite dislike of Angus, Michael realizes that sometimes the best thing to do is the right thing. A good read for ages 8 plus. Thoroughly enjoyed the journey and meeting Michael and his friends.

Michael and Elvis have had other adventures in Suzanne’s previous novel How I alienated my Grandma. I confess it is a book I haven’t read yet but after enjoying this novel, I will definitely be looking to read their other adventures.

The following picture books are new from Scholastic New Zealand and just out in time for Christmas.

Old MacDonald had a farm

Song by The Topp Twins

Illustrated by Jenny Cooper

ISBN 9781775434986

 

 

The song Old MacDonald had a farm is a classic that people all over the globe have been singing for years.   This new picture book version is illustrated by the very talented Jenny Cooper. Her illustrations as always,  are delightful. Her animals are cute, funny, and just so lovable. I love Jenny’s very kiwi farmer wearing his iconic red checkered flannel shirt.

The bonus CD is sung by the Topp Twins.  They sing with heaps of energy and I bet you won’t be able to resist turning the  CD player up loud and singing along.  A delightful picture book for younger readers that will have you smiling and singing all the way through. As we come to the end of the year, this book and CD along with the others listed below, would make good gifts for Christmas.

 

 

Row, Kiwi, Row your boat

Illustrated by Stevie Mahardhika

Sung by Pio Terei

Maori lyrics by Ngaere Roberts

ISBN 9781775434931

 

 

We can sing or read along with this playful picture book as three young kiwi spend the day hunting for a taniwha.

They are so busy looking for a taniwha that they don’t notice something lurking in the waters behind them. Along the way they make friends with a diving duck, a slippery eel, a leaping lizard and many more birds and animals.  The big question though, is just who is following them?

The very familiar tune, the bright and sweet but very Kiwi pictures  makes this book lots of fun and a special one to send to family overseas.

 

The scariest thing in the garden

By Craig Smith

Illustrated by Scott Tulloch

ISBN 97817745435051

 


Whose eyes are those in the garden? Look, it’s a scaredy-sprout! What do you think scared that sprout so much? A-A-A-A-R-R-R-R! Laugh out loud to this super-silly song and discover what truly IS the SCARIEST thing in the garden!

There is quite possibly hardly any family homes in New Zealand that don’t have a copy of Craig Smith’s Wonky Donkey. The success of Wonky Donkey led to more of his songs being made in to books with The scariest thing in the garden being his latest. Like his other books humour is key. Bright bold illustrations ensure readers keep turning the page until the last surprise. The bonus CD ensure readers also keep singing along.

 

Stink-o-saurus

By Deano Yipadee

Illustrated by Paul Beavis

ISBN 9781775434733

Stan was a rare dinosaur, a one of a kind. Most from their front, HIS roar came from his BEHIND! Youll split your pants laughing at Stan, the worlds only STINK-O-SAURUS. But can his stinky antics save the day and keep Tommy T-Rex far away?

Author Deano Yipadee and illustrator Paul Beavis have worked together on picture books before and their collaboration continues to be one of success.

They obviously share a wicked, boyish sense of humour which comes out both in the story and illustrations. This is another book which is sure to please young readers. Bright, cheeky illustrations of a stomping dinosaur with a roaring behind and lyrics to sing along to make this another one that will make children laugh out loud.

 

 

The Creakers

By Tom Fletcher

ISBN 9780141388779

This book arrived on my desk for our library and I have nabbed it before the children as I want to read it first. The cover is gorgeous, and I know I use that word a lot, but it is gorgeous. When are immediately drawn to the book with its wonderful colours, embossed title, and Lucy, our main character appealing to us to join her in a magical adventure. There are some very cool illustrations throughout the story adding to the wonder of it all. The print size is an ideal size, just like Goldilocks and her chairs, not too big, not too small, but just right for readers who sadly, are often put off reading because of the size of the print in some books.

I  can’t wait to start reading.

What silently waits in the shadows at night? What’s under your bed, keeping just out of sight?

Do you ever hear strange, creaking noises at night? Ever wonder what makes those noises? Lucy Dungston always did.

Until, one morning, Lucy discovers that all the grown-ups have disappeared – as if into thin air. Chaos descends as the children in Lucy’s town run riot. It’s mayhem. It’s madness. To most kids, it’s amazing! But Lucy wants to find out the truth. Lucy lost her dad not long ago, and she’s determined not to lose her mum too. She’s going to get her back – and nothing is going to stop her . . . except maybe the Creakers.

 

Not only do we have an exciting premise to get us hooked but there is also a very cool book trailer to watch as well.

Wishtree

By Katherine Applegate

ISBN 9781250043221

Feiwel & Friends

Macmillan Publishers

Trees can’t tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories. . . .

Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood “wishtree”—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red’s branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this “wishtree” watches over the neighborhood.

You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red’s experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.

This is a gentle, sweet and heart-warming book and I fell in love with Red and all the creatures and birds that inhabit Red’s branches and hollows. Red is old, more than two hundred rings old and very wise. Red has seen so many things happen over the years but none have tempted Red to break the forbidden rule more than what is happening now. I loved the language and the subtle messages. The book may be just over 200 pages long but the chapters are very brief, sometimes only a page long and there are some lovely illustrations but it really is a quick read with a powerful message.

There is an old Irish custom where people can leave wishes on a tree and for Red that has been happening in May for many, many years. Most wishes are superficial but others are heart-achingly honest like Samar’s, the young Muslim girl in this story. We are witness to racism, ignorance, wanting to belong, loneliness but most importantly, hope.

I wanted to hug Samar and tell her everything was going to be okay. I wanted to sit beneath Red’s big branches and watch the animals and birds coming and going. I wanted Red to be in my backyard.

This is one of those rare books that needs to be in every school and read to every child. Learning to accept each other and our differences is at the core of this book. A book that deserves reading over and over. I bought this book for my school library but will be buying my own copy as well. I may also have to buy multiple copies for our book club as there is so much to think about  and so much to love. It is a wee gem that warms the heart.

 

The trailer to this book is just beautiful.

 

The Wizards of Once

By Cressida Cowell

ISBN 9781444939576

 

This is the story of a young boy Wizard and a young girl Warrior who have been taught since birth to hate each other like poison; and the thrilling tale of what happens when their two worlds collide.

The cover alone of this magical book just beg you to pick it up and turn it over and hold it close. Purple, blues, blacks and white and the rustic and fiery title stand out and immediately you just know this is going to be a good book. And it is good book. A very good book.

Cressida Cowell long known for her wonderful How to train your dragon series has come up with another wonderful series. Her illustrations are both comical and dark. Some make you smile, others have a haunting quality to them making you just a little afraid (or a lot!).

The story grabs your right from the prologue.

Once there was Magic. It was a long, long time ago, in a British Isles so old it did not know it was the British Isles yet, and the Magic lived in the dark forests.

So the setting is already becoming pictures in our head. We know we are going into a dark and scary place where anything is possible.

When Xar and Wish meet they immediately hate each other and very much distrust each other but suddenly they are forced to work together for there is evil happening. Witches have returned and witches are bad, dangerous and to be feared. This book has it all. Magic, fantasy, pace, danger, adventure and humour to remind the reader they are actually safe even though the world they are reading about seems so real and scary.

Xar is arrogant, a little selfish but also a little sad and flawed which is why we can’t help but like him. His father shows only disappointment towards him as his magic has not started as is expected of a boy his age. Wish is a warrior but lacks any warrior-like standard her mother Queen Sychorax demands so is also a disappointment. It is a shared sadness at not being quite good enough that Xar and Wish have in common. Both have something to prove and it is this connection that draws them together despite their hate for each other and the different worlds they come from.

There are many other characters involved as both Xar and Wish each have their own companions. I do particularly love Squeezjoos a little hairy fairy belonging to Xar. He is funny and brave and in danger mostly, which is part of the whole adventure, trying to save Squeezjoos life.

This is a really good read which has been beautifully produced. Large text size, lots of illustrations to break up the text and lots of little bits in between like the Spelling book pages. The map of the Warrior Empire and Wizard Wildwoods is also a wonderful treat. I do love a book with maps as they add so much and help me build pictures in my mind as I travel with the characters.

Great fantasy novel for readers aged nine up. Can’t wait for the next book – really can’t wait!

The Spectacular Spencer Gray 

by Deb Fitzpatrick

ISBN 9781925164671

Fremantle Press

 

Spencer Gray is just an ordinary kid, but he manages to get into some pretty extraordinary situations. When Spencer stumbles on a sinister operation in the bush, his life goes into overdrive – midnight rescue missions, super-endangered animals, hair-raising adventures. To survive, Spencer will need to pull off something spectacular.

 

If you want a sneak peek you can read a sample chapter here.

The trouble with a good adventure story is that reading a sample chapter isn’t enough. It just makes you want to read the whole book and this sampler does exactly that. I now want to find out what happens to the characters throughout the rest of the book.

Teaching notes for extended exploration of this novel can be found here.

You can also check out the trailer for The Amazing Spencer Gray which is the first book about Spencer. A series worth checking out for adventure, danger and a bit of fun along the way.

1-2-3 Bird!

By Dave Gunson

ISBN 9781775433941

Scholastic NZ

There is so much to love about Dave Gunson’s new counting picture book. The illustrations are bright, cheeky and offer much more than a quick read. There is the obvious counting of different birds on the pages but also hidden among the picture are numerous insects, spiders and even a couple of geckos. Each page also has an extra number to seek out. I am sure children will love reading this over and over as they discover new things with each re-reading.

I did laugh at the 4 pukeko racing and the underlying question as to who will be the winner. Perhaps a little political nod for the adults reading, with the grand pukeko wearing a “let’s do it!” slogan on her chest as she tries to win her race. That aside, children will love searching for creatures, counting out loud and I bet, enjoying discussions about the different native wildlife.

A good New Zealand book to send overseas and ideal for kindergartens, pre-schools and lower primary schools as well.