Robin Hood

By Robert Muchamore

ISBN 9781471408618

 

Cover by Alessandro Taini

Very cool cover.

Author Robert Muchamore knows how to begin a good story and keep you reading.

Guy Gisborne is a gangster and not very nice at all. In fact, he is a thug. Robin Hood’s father speaks out about corruption in the town of Locksley and as punishment, he is framed with a crime and thrown in jail.  Robin’s mother died some time ago so with his father in jail, he and his brother Little John have no choice but to run. They become separated and 12 year old Robin ends up in Sherwood Forest where bandits, bikers and other groups live. There is danger at almost step.

This is a modern day Robin Hood and the first book is the gathering of the group. The book has everything. Pace, suspense, and plenty of action. There is computer hacking, heists and arrows. Lots of arrows. Secrets are revealed and friendships made.

Guy Gisborne is out for revenge after Robin attacks him. I won’t say what he does as I don’t like spoilers, but Gisborne got what he deserved. Robin is also out for revenge, for his father being in jail for a crime he did not commit.  There are good guys and bad, corruption and greed and a little humour too, in this first book in a new series by Robert Muchamore.

A thoroughly good and energetic read and I am already waiting for the next book. Sadly it’s not out until next year but I’m sure the wait will be worth it. A very good series for 10 up.

Check out the author’s page to find out more about the characters from this book

I love the trailer!

What’s in the box?

By David Minty

ISBN 9780473494261

Minty Books

 

 

whats box

 

What’s in the box? Well, that is the big question. Two friends out walking find a box all alone. They begin guessing what might be inside, coming up with all sorts of ideas. They consider the possibilities of treasure, or crabs, and numerous other options. If you look closely, hidden on every page is a wee clue as to what is hiding in the box. Children will love searching for the clue. One friend is dressed in a pirate hat and the other has a trapper hat on and they are both ready for the adventure of the mysterious box.

 

My new red car

By David Minty

ISBN 9780473471583

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This is the first picture book by David Minty, both as writer and illustrator. We meet our two friends who  are on an adventurous search for a missing red car. They search everywhere but just can’t seem to find it. There are lots of other red cars, just not the right one. Funny and brightly coloured, the reader soon sees what the friends can’t see and this will have readers laughing out loud.

Do they find the red car? Yes, they do but just where they find it might surprise you and leave you giggling.

 

Ice Breaker

By Maria Gill

Illustrated by Alistair Hughes

ISBN 9781869665364

New Holland Publishers

 

I have always been a fan of explorer Frank Worsley. His photo hangs proudly in our school foyer as he is deemed a past pupil hero, his determination something to aspire to. As books on Antarctic explorers go, most focus on Sir Ernest Shackleton so it is wonderful to see Frank Worsley getting the attention he so rightly deserves. If it wasn’t for his incredible navigation skills there would have been no survivors from this dangerous journey.

In 1914 an attempt by the crew of the Endurance to traverse the Antarctic continent began well enough. Unfortunately the ship became stuck in the ice and eventually sunk. This is the story of that  extraordinary journey and how all the men survived because of Frank Worsley and Sir Ernest Shackleton.

It is hard to believe that everyone survived given the constant setbacks they endured. It was bad enough being shipwrecked but the freezing cold temperatures, bitter winds and treacherous conditions that hounded the crew is beyond our imagination. The journey is well recorded here in Maria’s creative non-fiction picture book. Again, as with all of Maria’s books, the subject is well-researched. It is hard to believe that no lives were lost or that the men did not just give up in such unbelievably harsh conditions. This book shows the depth of character these men had and their resilience and determination to stay alive.

The illustrator captures this determination in the faces of the men. The bitter cold and harsh reality of their situation is also wonderfully captured in the illustrations. A great record by author and illustrator of one of New Zealand’s true heroes.

Suitable for all levels as a well documented account of one of New Zealand’s true heroic explorers.

 

 

It’s been awhile since I last posted. So much has been happening.

Firstly, I was caught up in the excitement and chaos of selling my home and buying another. After 32 years in my home there was lots of packing and giving away things I’d gathered over the years. It was also an emotional time remembering all the things that had happened there, especially watching my son grow up and all the friends who stayed in our house. Lots of good memories, but it was time to move. It just took up most of my time.

Secondly, we have of course been in lockdown with lots of limitations but it has given me a chance to catch up on some reading. So here is a selection of new picture books just out from Scholastic NZ.

I do hope you are all safe and happy in your bubbles and finding quiet times to read a book or two.

As our prime minister says. Stay home. Be kind.

Happy reading.

 

Dozer the Fire Cat. Inspired by true events

By Robyn Prokop

Illustrated by Jenny Cooper

ISBN 9781775436171

In 2019 New Zealand had its largest wildfire since 1955 and in the back of this picture book you can learn more about what happened during this time.

Dozer is based on a real cat that went missing during these fires. Dozer is gorgeously illustrated by Jenny Cooper who brings his personality out in the open. He is very cute, indeed.

Author Robyn Prokop shares his escape from the fires and how his family worry so much when he goes missing. There is no sign of him for several days and the fires are so bad, they fear the worst.  I do love a happy ending and for Dozer and his family, there is one but it is what happens in between that becomes the story of Dozer. Sweet story with sweet illustrations.

 

 

Moas’s ark

By Peter Millet

Illustrated by Shaun Yeo

ISBN 9781775435846

Author Peter Millett brings us a reimagining of the classic story of Noah’s Ark. It is very much a funny kiwi tale with good rhymes, and rhythm. After forty days Noah delivers the animals safely on land except the Moa, tuatara and the kiwi who he takes all the way to Aotearoa. They go through choppy seas and long days to finally reach their destination. I think poor old Noah is glad to see them depart his ark.

Artist Shaun Yeo brings even more humour to the story with his delightful illustrations.

If you want to know more about how the author came up with the idea  you can read an interview with him here.

If you want to read the book then click here. Check out page 6-7 and watch as the ark sits precariously on the top of a huge wave in the middle of stormy seas.

Huge thanks to the good people at Scholastic NZ for sharing a free digital copy of this book. So sit back and enjoy for yourselves.

 

 

Nee Naw goes bananas

By Deano Yipadee

Illustrated by Paul Beavis

ISBN 9781775436195

Nee Naw is back with his friends in a new adventure. He may be a little fire engine but he always manages to find himself in the middle of a big adventure. This time he is caught up with helping at a monkey sanctuary where the monkeys cause mischief and mayhem. Check out what happens when the cheeky monkeys fill Nee Naw’s tank with bananas.

Paul Beavis adds plenty of humour with his bright and quirky illustrations.

You can listen to the CD as well.

 

 

Kia kaha! Together standing strong

By June Pitman-Hayes

Illustrated by Minky Stapleton

Maori lyrics by Ngaere Roberts

ISBN 9781775436225

 

A timely picture book about learning to accept each other and our differences.

Kia kaha! kia kaha!

Together, standing strong.

We join our hands in friendship, 

that’s how we get along.

Aimed at younger children, the book goes through different scenarios showing ways we can help each other.  It includes cultural acceptance, disabilities as well as basic kindness, well reflected in the illustrations. There is also a CD to sing along to in both English and Te Reo Māori.

Ideal for pre-schools and kindergartens.

The someone new

By Jill Twiss

ISBN 9780062933744

HarperCollins

 

Making new friends can be difficult, but in this delightful picture book, the efforts to overcome fear are well worth it as new friends find each other.

This is a gentle story of acceptance; of new things, new people, new friends.

Jitterbug the chipmunk wakes up and can feel something in the air, something new. She goes investigating and along the way she learns new information, new words and eventually finds herself a new friend.

The illustrations are beautiful, all warm and cosy with a softness that will appeal to everyone. The story is set in the most natural setting with flowers, bush, rivers and many different animals and creatures. Personalities shine through the pages as much as the message of kindness itself. Love it.

Best quote “Because even though New can be scary, kindness is stronger than fear.” 

 

Today in New Zealand History. Updated edition

By Neil Atkinson, David Green, Gareth Phipps, and Steve Watters

Exisle Publishing

 

 

This is one of those books that should be in every school in New Zealand, if not every home.  The pages are full of dates and information but in a very accessible way. Easy to read, not too wordy but enough information to give readers an understanding of important historical events in New Zealand’s history. There is a mix of black and white photos as well as colour ones.

The layout is perfect for dipping into and reading interesting snippets. The headings and dates are bold and easy to read when searching for particular dates. The book covers so much; disasters, politics, famous people, sporting events and much, much more. The book includes the 15th March 2019 Mosque shootings which is still so very fresh in everyone’s minds. As someone who lives in Christchurch and was in lockdown in a school while this devastating event took place, it is good to know that it is included in the updated edition.

NB Thanks to Exisle publishing for allowing me to share these copyright sample pages.

The book also includes happy events, such as when our Silver Ferns netball team won the 2019 World Cup. Exciting times.

Grab yourself a copy of this detailed, informative and authoritative look at our history from way back in the past right up until now.

 

The first doo-lally daft blinkin’ bonkers book

By Ainsley Waite

ISBN 9781988516899

Upstart Press

 

Children love jokes. They love laughing and the more they understand puns and jokes, the more they devour joke books. Delivery isn’t always so wonderful at seven years old, but watching children and listening to them get excited when they share jokes, now that, is wonderful.
This delightfully bright new book by Ainsley Waite shares some classic jokes and new ones too, that children will giggle over. Each page is full of bright, bold colours and fonts that seem to dance on the page. I love the format, very much as a picture book which makes it a quick and easy read. The cover alone is enough to make you want to pick up this fun book and share a joke or two with a friend. Look out for it. Great family fun and a top addition to a primary school library.
I am very excited to share some questions and answers with the author and designer Ainsley Waite. 

1. The first thing you notice about your book is the bright, bold cover. How do you decide what colours and font designs will work best with each other?
It actually takes quite a long time trying to work out the right colours that work together and don’t clash too much.  Nobody wants to get a headache from reading a book! The same goes for working out which fonts to use. I try to use styles that help support the meaning of each word and it’s relevance to the joke. (For example, a slim, slanting font can indicate moving at speed whereas large, bold, capital letters can suggest shouting).It’s working out the layout that’s the tricky part – each joke needs to fit on the page and must be easy to read. Any illustrations should help it along so that any younger readers who might not be able to read so well can still understand the joke. As to the cover, I wanted colours that would appeal to both girls and boys. And quite simply, yellow is one of the brightest colours in the spectrum which helps the book to stand out on the store shelf!

 

2. Children love jokes and joke books but it is rare to find them in this format. How did you come to the idea of a picture book format?

As a child I owned plenty of joke books but I always found it odd that they were filled with simple, plain, black and white type. To my mind jokes are fun and should surely be colourful and energetic? Years ago I would put jokes together on square canvases and hang them as artwork for my children’s bedroom walls.  I then went on the sell these artworks locally. That’s where the idea to collate them and put them all together in a book came from!

3. Based on the title of your book, I’m guessing there must be plans to create a second one, and maybe even a third. Can we expect another one soon? And do your family and friends tell you lots of jokes for further books or do you research jokes to see what works?Hah! Since the release of this first book I’m forever getting joke suggestions from friends and family – in particularly from my dad who lives in Liverpool, UK. My dad really does have some of the best (and worse) dad jokes – so thanks dad! I’ve an A4 exercise book filled to the brim with my scribblings of possible jokes for following publications. I find them everywhere!  There were a few goodies in the crackers at the Christmas table last year and I found a great one recently on a blackboard in a cafe in the South Island. Book two is currently underway although I’ve no idea when it will be finished! Trying to select the best jokes is the first job, then working out the design of each page, create any illustrations and then lay it all out on the computer. From there I’ll be testing each page out on everyone who knows me..  so watch this space!

4. What advice would you give to someone, particularly children, wanting to follow in your footsteps.Put your ideas down on paper. Take your time working out who you think would enjoy reading your book and if you have an age and gender you’re targeting. Try out designs using different layouts and colours and make sure to test your creation out on your target audience, be it friends and family. It’s hugely important to listen to any feedback and amendments they might suggest and their reasons why. There will be plenty of opinions and suggestions and don’t lose heart if some are not what you want to hear. Everybody’s different! Most importantly have fun putting it together and be proud of yourself!

5. If you could have dinner with any character from any book, who would it be and why?  Oooh this is a tough one, but I think I would have to be the cartoon cat Garfield. As a child I was pretty obsessed with him! I couldn’t wait to read the daily cartoon strip in the newspaper and would save my pocket money to buy the books. I’d spend hours drawing Garfield and much to the delight of my parents, I would pin each drawing on the walls and ceiling of my bedroom. Deciding what to cook for dinner would be easy as like myself, Garfield absolutely loves lasagne. Actually my two boys adore Dog Man so let’s invite him along too! Can you imagine how crazy that would be? Well, it would be blinkin’ bonkers!

Thank you so much for taking the time share your ideas with us and I totally agree about Dog Man and Garfield at the same table for tea. That would be crazy but hilarious.
Here is Ainsley busy writing. I wonder if she is thinking and writing up some new jokes.

Numenia and the Hurricane:Inspired by a True Migration Story

By Fiona Halliday

Page Street Kids

Trailer by Mark Abery

While on holiday these last few weeks I spent a bit too much time on the internet but it wasn’t wasted. I discovered a wonderful new illustrator. Fiona Halliday has what looks like to be a beautiful new picture book for young readers. I’ve checked out her website too and her artwork really is gorgeous. There is a softness, a gentleness  in her illustrations that draws you in and wants you to connect.  The art work is stunning and beautifully captured in this wonderful trailer.  From quotes from some early reviews I can see how beautiful and poetic the language is and I can’t wait to read it all.  I am certainly going to order this debut book when I return to work in the library.

When the autumnal equinox arrives, Numenia takes off with her two sisters and thousands of other birds to begin their long migration from the Arctic to the islands of the Caribbean. But there is a dangerous storm brewing on the horizon. When the hurricane hits, fierce winds rip Numenia away from her family.

This small, scrappy whimbrel must make her way through unfamiliar terrain and rough conditions to reunite with her sisters. Battling hunger, loneliness, and raging winds, Numenia finds the strength to endure the elements on her miraculous journey.

 

Avis and the Promise of Dragons 

By Heather McQuillan

ISBN 9780995119758

The Cuba Press

 

Love the cool cover with the mysterious eye peeking out from the bush. The first thought is why is it hiding, and what is going to happen? It is an easy well-paced read so won’t take you long to find out the answers.

Avis has a dream to work with animals, so when a scientist with a witchy-looking house offers her a job as a pet-sitter she jumps at the chance. But it turns out Avis is not looking after pets at all – the animals in Dr Malinda Childes’ backyard are as eccentric as she is and Avis has to promise to keep them a secret.

Writer Heather McQuillan provides an entertaining, yet informative read for those who enjoy a mix in their reading. We have fantasy, bullying, secrets, family issues, as well as lots of environmental concerns. Would be a good read aloud in schools as there is much to consider in the story of Avis, a young girl who is left in charge of some very unusual pets.

All begins well for her pet-sitting job until a storm changes everything and Avis is faced with many challenges, including the consequences of keeping secrets. Avis doesn’t always manage to do the right thing but she is prepared to make amends and learn from her mistakes, which is not always an easy thing to do. Avis also learns to accept changes and finds the strength to make some changes herself. Seeing growth in a character is always the sign of a good book. And anyway,  who doesn’t love a story with dragons?

White Bird

By R. J. Palacio

ISBN 9780241397244

Penguin Books

Penguin Random House

I read the book Wonder a number of years ago and loved it. I have it as year six book club title and the children love it too. So it was a no brainer to buy a copy of White Bird which shares with us the backstory of Julian’s grandmother. For those who read Wonder, you will remember that Julian was a bully and very unkind. While there is no excuse for such horrible behaviour, we can see in Whitebird that Julian later regretted his actions. For homework Julian has to write an essay about someone he knows and he chooses his grandmother. At first she is reluctant to share her story but she goes ahead and we are taken back to the 1940’s and a world at war.

Wow! Where to start? I loved this book so much. I cried so much I couldn’t see the words on the page.

Julian’s grandmother Sara Blum, was a young Jewish girl living in occupied France, who believed her life was good and a bit like a fairy tale. Her family had nice things, food, a home, and spent time together as a family in the fields of bluebells. One day the Nazis came to school wanting to collect all the Jewish children. They ran through a forest trying to escape but Sara hid in a room upstairs in the school where a crippled classmate found her and led her to safety. Together, this boy Julien, and his family helped hide Sara in a barn and kept her safe.

Throughout the story we see bullying, kindness, trust, and mistrust, courage, hope, the futility of war and the impact it had long after the war was over. We meet strong, kindhearted people risking their lives, as well as nasty ones, ready to shoot on sight. Throughout the years in hiding, it is the friendship between Sara and Julien that is most moving of all.

This is powerful and at times uncomfortable to read but it’s a must read.
Written and illustrated as a graphic novel by R. J. Palcio you can see that the author knows exactly how her characters respond to situations, she knows their stories, their thoughts and fears and captures them in her illustrations so well, that we also know and can relate to them. We can feel Sara’s sadness and we can feel Julien’s frustration at his disability, especially as he remembers how fast he could run before polio ruined everything.

This is ideal from middle grade right through to secondary. There is so much to consider, so much to unpack and just so much more than a story about a young girl hiding and trying to survive in Occupied France. It is a story of hope.

Julian’s grandmother has a message for us all “Never again”.

 

 

 

You can read White Bird as a stand alone but if you want a little more out of it then read Wonder if you haven’t already.

Nevertell

By Katharine Orton

ISBN 9781406385182

Walker Books

 

A world of magic is only a whisper away…

 

I was hooked from the first page where there is immediate tension. It is followed by more action and suspense. The pace is just right for keeping readers wanting to know what happens next.

Lina has only ever known the prison world she was born in and the harsh, snowy winters of Russia. Lina is only eleven but she is pushed by her mother, who is also a prisoner, to escape and try and find her grandmother in Moscow. Her best friend Bogdan also escapes and the two of them find themselves facing many dangers. Food and warmth are in short supply and what are the noises and creatures that keep following them.

This is a good read. It has heaps of action, and is paced well with lots of new characters along the way. Some good, some not so good. Each chapter heading has mystical illustrations adding to the story.

Trust, forgiveness, friendships, family, freedom, and hope, are all themes throughout the novel for middle grade readers. Throw in survival and courage with a good dose of magic and a whispered voice repeating the phrase “nevertell” and you have a mystery as well as a fantasy story. Fairytales are an important feature here where they offer hope but also fear as they bring warnings of danger. A good read. This is a debut novel but I will certainly be looking out for further reads from author Katharine Orton.

 

 

Wheels

by Sally Sutton

Illustrated by Brian Lovelock

ISBN 9781760651589

Walker Books

Writer Sally Sutton and illustrator Brian Lovelock have teamed up again to create yet another fun picture book for younger children. In the same format as previous collaborations such as Roadworks, Demolition and Construction, this new book Wheels is another winner.

Bright and colourful illustrations accompany delightfully fun language as we explore all things wheels. Big ones, little ones, rumbly, snazzy and even zoomy wheels. Lots of different wheels and lots of cars, trucks and even scooters. There is a page at the back of the book detailing the parts of a wheel, which with the end papers of tyre treads, adds to the overall impact

Rhyme, repetition and a good solid rhythm will make this a favourite and guaranteed to be read over and over again. This is a great book for parents and grandparents to share with young ones. It is also a good choice to have in preschools and kindergartens, not just because it is informative, but because it’s a great interactive read aloud as the reader is encouraged to join in and “shout what’s coming”. 

Look out for this one publishing 1st February 2020.

The night the moon fell down and other poems

by Bill Nagelkerke

ISBN 9780473489212

The CopyPress NZ

 

 

Bill Nagelkerke’s book of poetry is full of poems to delight the reader. His poems appeal to young readers for their cleverness, humour and fun. Many have been published before in the School Journal and various publications and books.

The haiku on the back cover shows us his ability to take an everyday image and give it a fresh new look so that we are caught surprised by its depth and beauty.

 

plane trail

ruling a line beneath the moon

brush-stroking the sky

 

Some poems fit perfectly in the New Zealand landscape and others reach beyond time and space. Each poem is carefully thought out; words have been chosen for their meanings and impact, whether for fun or to leave the reader thinking beyond the end of the poem.

Each poem comes with its own illustration.

My favourite is the poem Rain but I’ll leave that one for you to read when you look for a copy of this book. A good book for teachers to use in class, not just for reading poems aloud, but for encouraging student’s own creative writing. Different styles, different subjects, different poems, all worth reading and sharing.

A great choice for school libraries.

Bill, apart from being a poet and author, also a translates books from Dutch to English, most notably for Gecko Press children’s books. He was awarded the Storylines Margaret Mahy Award for his distinguished contribution to New Zealand children’s literature and literacy in 2013.

 

Ordinary hazards: A memoir

by Nikki Grimes

ISBN 9781629798813

WordSong

I’ve long enjoyed the works of poet/writer Nikki Grimes, especially Bronx Masquerade so the minute I saw her memoir sitting on the local library shelf display of new books, I grabbed it, thrilled that it was a verse novel like many of her works and immediately issued it. Here I am a day later having already finished reading her powerful book.

Nikki’s memoir is raw, honest, but also uplifting. Nikki tells of being caught up in foster care system, her mother’s mental illness, separation from her sister Carol, and a father who was mostly absent. We feel her growing mistrust of her mother’s new husband. We share her fears and loneliness, and are angered by the abuse that is part of her life.

Nikki shares with us her discovery at six years old that she could write and the peace and courage writing gave her to cope in a world most of us will never know or understand. Writing became everything to her and her notebooks kept her secrets, hopes and dreams. Her faith too, kept her strong.

I so badly wanted to reach in to the young Nikki, wrap her in hugs, hold her tight and let her know how brave, strong and loved she is and tell her everything would be okay. I wanted to let her know that there is a place she will one day feel safe enough to call home. Despite the traumas in her life; and some of it quite harrowing, she comes out the other end strong and determined. Her writing may reflect the pain of her childhood but it also shows, strength, hope and joy. 

Loved it.

 

Death coming up the hill

By Chris Crowe

ISBN 9780544302150

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing

It’s summer break on this side of the world at the moment and I’m on a bit of a roll reading verse novels and this one is another one to shout out loud about.

Written in the form of haiku, each syllable in this young adult book represents each “soul”  of the 16,592 American soldiers who died in Vietnam in the year 1968. Apart from the absolute hard work to produce these haiku, and keep the story flowing, the research and historical background is very much evident.

It’s 1968, and war is not foreign to seventeen-year-old Ashe. His dogmatic, racist father married his passionate peace-activist mother when she became pregnant with him, and ever since, the couple—like the situation in Vietnam—has been engaged in a senseless war that could have been prevented.

We are caught up in Ashe’s life, his fears, the impact of the Vietnam War, his parents marriage breakdown, and a time of strong racist actions. Ashe is loyal to his parents but he is soon faced with choices; choices that will change his life forever.  There is much political unrest with the assassinations of both Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. Throughout it all, Ashe is worried he will be drafted to join the soldiers and fight.  Ashe and his girlfriend connect, both sharing the belief that peace is a far better option than war. A good insight to a different time with good solid characters with real flaws. I was completely drawn to Ashe and his situation. The format is easy to read and has a beauty with its mix of haiku and white space on the page. Very sobering numbers and facts. A powerful read.

We need books like this to remind us of the past and to keep moving forward towards peace, no matter who we are or where we live.