Archive for the ‘Secondary’ Category

Gallant

By V. E. Schwab

ISBN 9780062835772

Green Willow Books Imprint of Harpercollins

I love books. No doubt about it. I love buying them and I love borrowing them from the library. Libraries are one of the best uses of our rates money. Anyway, I preordered this new book from the library and I am so glad I did. It is beautifully written and so many times I just stopped to savour the sentences and read again.

Olivia has been raised at Merilance, a home for girls. Olivia doesn’t mix well with the others. She is mute and she can see ghouls. The only thing she owns is an old journal of her mothers and Olivia knows every line, every page by heart. Life in the school is difficult and lonely, so when a letter arrives telling her that she has a home and family who want her in a far off place called Gallant, Olivia can’t wait to get there. However, lines in her mother’s journal warn her that whatever she does, she must never go to Gallant.

The shadows are not real.

The dreams can never hurt you.

You will be safe as long as stay away from Gallant.

When Olivia arrives, her cousin tells her the letter is fake and she must go but Olivia stays and that is when life begins to unravel. There are ghouls and shadows, darkness, fear and longing, too.

Everything casts a shadow. Even the world we live in. And as with every shadow, there is a place where it must touch. A seam, where the shadow meets its source.

The book certainly has it moments of suspense and tension.The story is paced with thought and the darkness creeps in the more you read. Bit by bit, more of Olivia’s mother’s journal is revealed, secrets opened up and danger presses in. There are locked doors, ghostly figures and evilness. I do feel this is one of those top YA crossover books that many adults will love too. The imagery is vivid and I felt like I was right there with Olivia. I felt her loneliness, and her need to belong. I felt her need to know who her parents were. I could feel her frustration at not being able to be understood, not so much because she could not talk, but because other’s refused to try to communicate. I most definitely felt her fear, and I confess, I’d be too scared to go anywhere near Gallant. Her bravery, when needed, is awesome.

I loved it. I really liked the different characters at Gallant; her cousin Matthew, and Edgar and Hannah who look after the crumbling manor. They all had their flaws, making them real and relatable. Perhaps not a book to read late at night on your own.

The book has occasional illustrations which are beautiful, haunting, black, grey and shadowy.

Top read. Definitely, highly recommend this.

Prepare yourself for something unlike anything: A smash-up of art and text for teens that viscerally captures what it is to be Black. In America. Right Now.

Ain’t burned all the bright

By Jason Reynolds

Artwork by Jason Griffin

ISBN 9781534439467

Simonandschuster Teen

What an amazing book! At over 350 pages long, there are only a handful of run-on sentences making it a quick read. However, the words are profound. Their message even more so. I preordered this from my local library and was pretty much first in line. I have read this a number of times already and I keep finding something new. Some new symbolic meaning I didn’t quite connect the first time. I am going to have to purchase my own copy just so I can keep rereading.

Broken into three parts, written as if in a notebook, and illustrated profusely throughout, this book is stunning, both visually and textually.

The first part uses subtle and not so subtle references and images to African Americans and the number of cases where police arrests have resulted in physical restraints where people were unable to breathe. It references the struggles of being, young and black in a world where the freedom to belong, to breath, seems to be different to non-blacks. Police riots, red flames imagery symbolically showing flames of fury. It is powerful and haunting.

The second part is about the struggle with Covid-19 and the ability to breathe with the illness, with and without masks. A father is separated from his family through a bedroom wall; he is coughing and spluttering, trying to breathe. One son, continues to play games on his screen, a sister chats with friends via her phone screen. The mother barely turns her head from the tv screen and all the news; Covid-19, American riots, murders and beatings of black folk. The opening page of the book is a screen door. Screens keeping things in, keeping things out and everyone just trying to breath in between.

The third part to me, is hopeful. It’s about everyone breathing the same air, the same hopes and dreams and most importantly having family to care for, to love and be loved back. If everyone takes the time to share and care, there is room enough for everyone to breathe easy.

The book is poetical, in a found poetry kind of way. Like Jason Reynold’s book Long way down, words matter, repetitions are deliberate. He thinks about every word choice and the result is first class.

Jason Griffin’s art work is equally profound. Images are provocative and haunting. You just know he has thought about every word before he has created his images. A real and rare partnership of author and illustrator.

Love, love, love this amazing book. High school libraries need to add this to their collections.

Incredible journeys: New Zealand Wildlife on the move

By Ned Barraud

ISBN 9781988550282

Potton & Burton

Author and illustrator, Ned Barraud, is well-known for his distinctive artistic style. In his latest book he highlights the journeys many animals and birds take, often repeatedly, in their lifetimes.

Each animal or bird has its own double-page spread with lots of well-researched facts, and a map of the journey’s path. The facts are informative and easy to read.

Take the humpback whale, for example. It travels up to 10,000 kilometres from the South Pacific Ocean surrounding New Zealand, down to Antarctica and back again, when it is time to breed. That is a huge distance.

Some of the other journeys include, that of the white shark, Northern Royal albatross and even the Fiordland crested penguin, which is one of the rarest of the 18 species of penguins in the world.

A good, informative non-fiction book to have in any school library or home collection.

Backyard birds

By Ned Barraud

ISBN 9781988550305

Potton & Burton

Ned Barraud has brought together yet another book, a collection of 24 of the most common everyday birds in New Zealand. They are birds we might see in our own gardens, or on native walks around local forests or parks.

It begins with a good contents page, then the evolution of birds, followed by parts of a bird, mating, nests, eggs and chicks, before introducing different species of birds. My favourites are the pukeko, piwakawaka, and the magpie. I’ve just noticed that my favourites are all quite well-known for being rather cheeky characters with lots of personality.

Each detailed illustration also provides a paragraph or two about the birds. The last double-page spread gives ideas on how to attract birds into your garden.

A good book to have at home, to help identify birds we might see around our neighbourhood.

What about Will

By Ellen Hopkins

ISBN 9780593108642

Penguin Random House

Ellen Hopkins name is synonymous with verse novels. Her ability to take you inside the thoughts of her characters is well known and well respected. Writing mostly for the young adult audience, her latest book What about Will is aimed at the younger, middle grade readers.

Trace Reynolds is 12 and the younger brother of 17 year old Will. They were tight once. Good friends as well as brothers but after Will suffers a brain injury at a football game, everything changes. Will becomes angry, depressed and antisocial. Their mother has not long since left the family and now Trace sees Will slipping away from him too. Things begin to disappear and Will mixes with a new group of teens, and they are not the best people to be around.

Throughout the novel we feel Trace’s pain. He is caring and kind and and worries about Will. He misses his mother who he hasn’t seen in months. We feel his confusion as he becomes conflicted with trying to find out what is wrong with Will or waiting to see if Will will come right. He covers for his brother, trying to protect him but only he can decide, if it is the right thing to do. But Will doesn’t come right and things begin to spiral out of control.

This novel, in verse form, deals with many issues. Family breakdown, little league, trust, betrayal, brothers, head injuries, drug addiction. It’s all in here and woven together thoughtfully, with careful consideration to the reality of Trace and Will’s lives. Their characters and their situations offer an insight to what many families are going through. The things that happen here, happen in real life.

Friendship is a theme running through the book and one that highlights the importance of having someone who listen when you need them.

Highly recommend this book. A good solid story, authentic characters and great writing.

Always

By Morris Gleitzman

ISBN 9780143793243

Penguin Books

I don’t know where to start here. I am feeling a whole range of emotions after reading the seventh and final book in the series about Felix Salinger.

Author, Morris Gleitzman has diligently, and powerfully told us the story of Felix, a young Jewish boy who escaped an orphanage in order to save his parents. His naivety was obvious but through the different books, he grew to understand the world around him. A world of hatred, war, racism but his own strength was always kindness and hope. From the first book I have followed every journey he has been on. I have read his stories as he grew into a young man, and then as he grew old. I have worried about Felix, I have cried for Felix but mostly, I have loved Felix. Even after 15 years since the first book Once was published, I remember him because he feels like someone I really know. He feels like a long-time friend, and now he feels like a grandfather. Despite everything Felix has been through, he remains kind, caring, strong but always with a touch of sadness that only people who have been through what he has, will ever understand. I know Felix is fictional, but he is so real to me and his impact will stay with me always.

His story throughout the series, is often harrowing with death, war, loss, grief, but the books are compelling. You can’t put them down in case you miss something.

In this final book, Felix is now a retired doctor and an old man, and his granddaughter Zel (named after Zelda, the young girl whose death has haunted him all his life) is heading off soon to study and follow in his footsteps to become a doctor. One day there is a knock at his door and he is greeted by Wassim, a young boy who hands him a note and tells him he needs his help. A young boy who knows war too, just a different war. A long ago connection to his past has put them together for a reason but that brings danger. It also shakes up the past and after a series of terrible events, Felix and Wassim follow some clues, board a plane and return to where Felix’s story first began. More danger follows them but they become stronger together and soon they are not just fighting for survival today, but fighting ghosts from the past.

Both Felix and Wassim narrate different chapters, each giving us a sense of their own fears and thoughts, but also observations of each other. This allows us to see their vulnerabilities, but also their strengths. As their stories unwind, the two grow to care for each other, support each other and need each other.

I don’t want to give things away, but if you have read the other books, you really need to read Always. It is harrowing, heartbreaking but heartwarming. Everyone needs a Felix Salinger in their life.

You will need tissues. Lots of tissues, but that is as it should be. Felix and his friends, his story, his life, is unforgettable. He will stay with me always.

Skinny Dip : Poetry

Edited by Susan Price and Kate De Goldi

ISBN 9780995140769

Annual Ink

Massey University Press

What better day to review a new anthology of poetry than New Zealand National Poetry Day.

This is a wonderfully well-thought out anthology of poems for young people, written by some of New Zealand’s favourite poets. Beautifully designed with French flaps, this is a collection of poems to treasure.

Poets included are Ben Brown, Ashleigh Young, Rata Gordon, Dinah Hawken, Oscar Upperton, James Brown, Victor Rodger, Tim Upperton, Lynley Edmeades, Freya Daly Sadgrove, Nina Mingya Powles, Renee Liang and Nick Ascroft, Sam Duckor-Jones, essa may ranapiri, Bill Manhire, Anahera Gildea, Amy McDaid, and Kōtuku Nuttall.

There is a list of the poets and short blurbs about them and their writing at the back of the book.

The poems are relatable for children, with familiar subjects up for poetical discussion.

Bill Manhire’s poem There’s always someone is so true. Children everywhere know the teacher with the biggest whistle, or the child who desperately needs to go to the toilet even though they’ve had plenty of time go before.

I particularly like Oscar Upperton’s poem Eulogy for the class frog.

Up until recently, I owned three whistling tree frogs, who lived in a tank in my kitchen for well over 12 years. So I love this poem. A simple, clear opinionated poem with a funny twist at the end that children will love.

This collection highlights the wonder of poetry in a accessible format for young readers. Ideal for home and school libraries.

I do hope this becomes an annual anthology.

Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous tales

By Soman Chainani

ISBN 9780062652638

Illustrations by Julie Iredale

HarperCollins

If you are a fan of the author Soman Chainani and his series The School for Good and Evil, then this is sure to be a hit too. No, I haven’t read this as it isn’t out yet, but I can’t wait. Looks and sounds very intriguing.

I love retellings of the old fairy tales. And just look at the cover. And the trailer! So cool. If you are a Goodreads member and live in the United States, then you can enter a competition to try and win a copy. Sadly, for the rest of the world, we will have to wait for publication and release days.

Check it out, and I think you’ll be putting this on your list too.

You think you know these stories, don’t you?

You are wrong.

You don’t know them at all.

There are twelve tales of danger, mystery, and magic. That’s twelve stories I can’t wait to read.

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.

Many different kinds of love : A story of life, death and the NHS

By Michael Rosen

ISBN 9781529109450

Penguin Random House UK

This is not a book for children, but it is about one of my favourite children’s writers so I am sharing my thoughts here. I want to start off first by thanking author Michael Rosen for sharing this incredibly personal account of his experience suffering from Covid-19. I use the word suffer because he certainly suffered.

His experience is told and shared with honesty, and a rawness that is palpable. At times I smiled when reading this book, but many other times I cried. His pain is real. So too, is his anger. For 47 days and nights Michael was in an induced coma. While he was still able to answer doctors but his condition worsening, they told him they wanted to put him in an induced coma. He asks…

‘Will I wake up?’

‘There’s a 50:50 chance.’

‘If I say no?’ I say.

‘Zero.’

And I sign.

He has no recollection of those days. The world, his world, according to Michael didn’t exist with him in it. You can tell how hard it has been for him to lose those days and everything they mean.

While he was out of this world, sleeping, attached to tubes, and machines doing all the work for him of staying alive, nurses at the hospital he was staying in recorded messages for him. They wrote notes, hello messages and recorded his state of being. Many of these messages are in this book. It not only shows just how much Michael means to so many people, but also, the caring and kindness of nurses in these terrible times we are living.

The writer follows these messages up with his own thoughts, poems and updates. He takes us on a journey through his hospital stay, rehabilitation, and continued recovery. The virus is real. In Michael’s case, he lost nearly two months of his life where he hovered between dying and living. He lost sight and hearing on his left side. He had to learn to walk all over again. His struggle is still going on but what we see in this book, is his determination to keep trying, and his courage, to not give up. It is obvious that his family are his strength and his wife, Emma, must be amazing.

This book is an eye-opener for an insight to people suffering from severe cases of Covid-19. It is profound in its honesty and his book serves to remind us all, that nothing is certain. This moment in time is what we have now. Nothing else is guaranteed.

I am incredibly grateful during this terrible pandemic, that I live in New Zealand. We have not suffered as those in so many other countries, including the UK, have suffered. We have mostly been able to go about our days normally. We have had lockdowns, and losses, but by world comparisons we are so fortunate.

Best wishes Michael on your continued recovery. Stay safe everyone, wherever you are.

White Rose

By Kip Wilson

ISBN 9780358376699

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

Sophie Scholl is anti-Nazi political activist. The more she learns about Hitler and his regime, the more she is determined to make others aware of how dangerous he is but the risk is huge and the cost, if caught, unthinkable.

Based on the real life of Sophie, her family and friends, we read back and forth between the the time when Sophie first realised what was really happening to her neighbours, Jews and other innocent people, and the time when she is imprisoned for her own actions.

We learn of her strengths, fears, and those she loves. We learn about the atrocities and brutalities on Jews and anyone who disagrees with Hitler. We learn about the growing group of activists known as White Rose; a group of people who secretly print out information about the atrocities of Hitler’s regime. They are consequently considered as traitors of Hitler and are wanted. The story is well-researched, well written and has impact. I won’t forget about Sophie Scholl.

Sophie’s bravery to go against everything Germans are taught is inspiring and heroic. Along with Hans, one of her brothers, Sophie is eventually caught and imprisoned, yet even then, Sophie remains strong and dedicated to her need to make a difference to try and stop the war. Her belief is that

“…the world will see

and the world will know

and the world

will

make

them

stop.”

This is written in verse form which is the perfect way to tell Sophie’s story. It offers brevity and clarity and with all the white space on the page the poem and language becomes the focus. Powerful, haunting and insightful. This book and Sophie’s life will stay with me a long time.

Katipo Joe: Spycraft Book 2

By Brian Falkner

ISBN 9781775436607

Scholastic NZ

Grrrrr!

So I have just finished the second exciting book in the Katipo Joe series about Joseph St George, a Kiwi teen working for the British Intelligence during World War Two and now I am desperate for the next book. Brian Falkner I hope you are frantically writing the next book because I cannot wait to see what happens next.

Joe is the son of diplomats and spent much of his youth living in Germany where he speaks perfect German and English making him a good choice for spy. His father is taken prisoner by the Gestapo in the first book and he soon realises his mother is a British spy and she goes missing. Joe does everything he can to find her and his strength and abilities capture the interest of the British where is recruited as a spy himself. His spy abilities and powers of deception see him eventually recruited into the Hitler Youth movement where he becomes one of 12 teens being prepared to work for Hitler.

We follow the daily routines, tests and dangers of the 12 teens who work diligently towards an end goal with the support of Eva Braun, companion to Adolf Hitler.

The book has everything. Action, death, survival, betrayal, all neatly packaged in a tense, thrilling fast-paced adventure that will keep you turning the pages. In order to infiltrate the cause, Joe must become someone else. Doing so is dangerous and one slip-up could result in capture and probable execution. The trouble with being a spy, is knowing who to trust, if anyone.

The places and background happenings are based on facts. Some of those facts are quite harrowing but Joe has to convince others he has the stomach to deal with them. Some scenes left me feeling quite yuck but the reality is, those things really did happen. Joe is believable. He is flawed, at times doubting his own ability, over thinking things and he makes mistakes. Costly mistakes which he struggles with.

This is a solid read, gritty and gory in places but definitely one to read and remember. Joe as a character continues to grow but so too, does his willingness to step over that line. Death is simply part of how life is during the war. Falkner is one of those writers who captures the reader and keeps them hooked. This is a definite young adult title and series.

Hurry up, Brian!

House of Hollow

By Krystal Sutherland

ISBN 9780143796992

Penguin Books

This book trailer has me very intrigued. Check out the storyline.

This has mystery, suspense and a fairytale quality to it for young adult readers. The story is about three sisters who go missing from the streets of Scotland but come back a month later with no memory of where they have been or what happened to them. Strange things start to happen including their hair turning white and their eyes turning black. The girls are both beautiful and dangerous and as the years pass, one of them goes missing yet again.

There is a competition if you live in Australia for a chance to win a copy of this new thriller. Follow penguinteenaus on Instagram to find out the details, but be quick as it ends on the 15th April. While I don’t live in Australia and can’t enter the competition, I will be looking out for this book as it sounds so exciting.

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 Electric Kingdom

By David Arnold

ISBN 9780593202227

PenguinRandom House

How cool is this book trailer? Answer. Very cool. And the cover too is very appealing. I am going to have to find a copy of this book and soon. Once you’ve seen the trailer, I’m sure you will be searching too.

A dystopian novel set after a pandemic, a fly flu. We all know how common flies are so this is rather a creepy thought. If you go to the publishers site you can read an extract. Here’s the link to get there fast.

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.