I love hearing about new books coming out and find myself very excited at the prospect of reading new adventures and falling in love with different characters.

Wolf Girl 

By Ahn Do

ISBN 9781760525095

AllenandUnwin

 

This sounds so good. Love the cover and love that this is a series. So much to look forward to.

I crawled onto the bank and collapsed, exhausted.
From the dirt, I looked up in amazement at four dogs staring down at me.
Was I dreaming? Had I gone mad? It all seemed very real.
‘You guys saved me!’ I said, as I sat up in my dripping clothes. ‘I owe you.’

When disaster separates Gwen from her family, she must fend for herself, all alone in the wilderness.

Luckily, she’s not alone for long… When a wolf puppy, a Labrador, a Chihuahua, and a greyhound want to make friends, Gwen discovers talents she didn’t know she possessed.

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Louisiana’s way home

By Kate DiCamillo

ISBN 9781406385588

Walker Books

 

In this world there are the rescuers and the rescued. I have always fallen into the second category.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two covers for this heartbreaking yet heartwarming story about Louisiana Elefante who is suddenly uprooted in the middle of the night by her Granny. They leave everything behind, even her cat Archie. No time either, to say goodbye to her best friends, Raymie Nightingale and Beverly Tapinski. Which is your favourite cover?

Set in the 1970’s where life was simpler than today and told in the first-person point of view, we see everything from Louisiana’s understanding. We feel her frustration at being forced to travel with her eccentric granny who tells her they have to flee an ancient curse. The journey ends in heartache for Louisiana and she is left to deal with issues way beyond what is expected of a 12 year old. Home for Louisiana is where her friends are but sometimes in life, we learn that home is where you make it.

There is humour, especially with Granny and her teeth. I adore how confident Louisiana is when she takes control of driving the car while her Granny moans in pain from toothache, in the backseat. However, her confidence is driven by fear for her Granny’s situation, which she declares is “dire”.

Louisiana is both strong yet vulnerable. Cynical and untrusting, determined and brave. It is much credit to an author that leaves you worrying or thinking about a character long after you have finished a book. I know in my heart Louisiana will be happy but I would love to give her a hug of reassurance that she knows she is loved and wanted.

I am looking forward to the next novel where Beverly Tapinski will tell her story and I hope there is a big reunion for these three best friends.

 

The World’s Worst Teachers

By David Walliams

ISBN 9780008364007

HarperCollinsUK

 

 

The World’s Worst Teachers follows on from the series The World’s Worst Children which continues to be a huge success and despite having multiple copies in the library, are still in high demand. This book, I think, will be even more in demand as children love the idea of horrible teachers.

David Walliams stories are great for everyone, children to read alone, parents and teachers to read aloud but they are also ideal for reluctant readers which is always a big plus for me.

Due in just two weeks and I will be in the shop straight after work to get my copies. Can’t wait!

Artemis Fowl

By Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl is a 12-year-old genius. His family has been part of the criminal world for years and the time is now right for a major battle with powerful fairies who live underground. And they are angry! Artemis Fowl and his many adventures were hugely popular a wee while ago but I bet that with the release of the movie later this year, these fantasy novels will be back in high demand.

It goes without saying that reading the book first will enhance your viewing of the movie.

Magic, fantasy, adventure, thriller, fight for survival. Everything is included in this series of books. Check out your local library or shout yourself a copy of the book. You won’t be disappointed as it is an excellent read. Or you can read the graphic novel versions of this series too. I still have a signed copy of the original book tucked away safe on my bookshelf. Really looking forward to this movie.

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.

 

 

 

Flit the Fantail and the Mystery Eggs

By Kat Merewether

ISBN 9781775435112

I am delighted to say that Flit the fantail is back for a whole new adventure. He is just as charming and curious as he was in Flit the Fantail and the flying flop.

This time Flit finds eight rubbery eggs all on their own. He asks all the forest birds if the eggs belong to them but they all say no. Their eggs are different. Their eggs are not rubbery and white. Flit becomes more anxious as he searches for their owner. There is a happy ending and after the eggs hatch, the babies are reunited with their mother. Who is their mother? I’m not saying as that would ruin the surprise but it is definitely a mystery for younger readers to investigate.

This is a great picture book for schools and families learning about many of our native New Zealand birds. The illustrations are adorable, with wide-eyed birds and their very expressive faces. I love the colour spread where they are all suddenly frightened. It is a talented illustrator who can show fear in their characters eyes, even when the characters are just so cute. Love it.  Reassures us all that we are all different but we all belong together and that teamwork will help solve most problems. I hope Flit and his friends come back for more adventures. I’m very happy the friendly ladybird is also back with Flit. You can look out for it on almost every page. 

There is also a Te Reo version of this gorgeous picture book.

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.

 

Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun

By Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke

ISBN 9780062414465

Bloomsbury 

 

Wow! Just so excited about this soon to be released novel by two awesome authors.

Pan’s Labyrinth has undergone a transformation which has apparently taken ten years to complete but from what I can see and have heard, the wait has been worth it.

The novel is said to be suitably dark and spellbinding, sinister and magical. There will be “trickster fauns, murderous soldiers, child-eating monsters, courageous rebels, and a long-lost princess hoping to be reunited with her family”. Everything you want in a great novel. There are also a number of beautiful but haunting illustrations to add to the overall quality package. 

I simply cannot wait. I loved the movie although every time I watched it there is one scene where I had to turn away and close my eyes until it is over. Every time!

This is going to be epic. 

The book trailer is very cool.  Counting down the weeks until July when it will be published. 

 

You shouldn’t come in here. You could get lost. It has happened before. I’ll tell you the story one day, if you want to hear it. 

In fairy tales, there are men and there are wolves, there are beasts and dead parents, there are girls and forests. 

Ofelia knows all this, like any young woman with a head full of stories. And she sees right away what the Capitán is, in his immaculate uniform, boots and gloves, smiling: a wolf.

But nothing can prepare her for the fevered reality of the Capitán’s eerie house, in the midst of a dense forest which conceals many things: half-remembered stories of lost babies; renegade resistance fighters hiding from the army; a labyrinth; beasts and fairies.

There is no one to keep Ofelia safe as the labyrinth beckons her into her own story, where the monstrous and the human are inextricable, where myths pulse with living blood …

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.

Ursa

By Tina Shaw

ISBN 9781760651244

Walker Books

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Ursa is the latest book out by New Zealand author Tina Shaw. It is a Young adult book set in a disturbing time of tension and oppression.

The city of Ursa is inhabited by two races of people. The Cerels and the Travesters; the have and the have-nots, the oppressed and the oppressors. The Travesters have everything, they live in good housing, have food and clothes while the Cerels live in abject poverty, unhealthy, overcrowded housing. Leho is fifteen and lives with his blind mother, grandmother, sisters and brother crammed in a tiny space accessed through a manhole. They are almost always hungry. His father has been taken away, deemed a threat to society. Men keep disappearing. Rules are everywhere. The Cerels are said to be inferior so are not allowed to breed. No more babies. The end of their race is inevitable. It is a hostile world and dangerous. Leho has had enough. He wants changes, he wants freedom for his family and friends. He is prepared to risk everything.

Ursa is very much an allegory for what happened in World War Two inside Nazi Germany and the more I read, the more familiar the story became and the more sick I felt that this kind of hatred was actually once real. I connected with Leho and his family. They are strong characters in a world they did not choose but must do everything they can to survive. The repercussions for trying to make changes can be fatal but Leho is determined. Revolution is in the air. Shaw gives us believable characters, in a bleak and desperate setting. Day-to-day life is hard but Leho’s, older brother Jorzy entertains the family at night with stories. These stories weave themselves into the novel, story within a story, offering further understanding to the plight of these people.  Jorzy too, wants change but he is more patient than Leho, plans more but Leho can’t wait. The tension between the brothers builds as does the overall suspense. One wrong move and it could all end in disaster. It is certainly a book that will leave you thinking. Can this happen again? How can we make changes for a better world. This is a solid read which keeps you going, and keeps you thinking.  A well-deserved winner of the Storylines Tessa Duder Award.

 

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.