Posts Tagged ‘First chapter books’

The lava melt shake

Dinosaur Trouble book 2

By Kyle Mewburn

Illustrated by Donovan Bixley

ISBN 9781775433675

Scholastic NZ

Rumble, whoosh, phhhht! The volcano spews out a red-hot lava melt shake. Can Arg save the day in his mega-messy way?

The latest book in the Dinosaur Trouble series about cave boy Arg and his stone age family has heaps of humour but also quite a bit of danger. What makes these books perfect for younger readers is not just that they offer a good adventure to read but there is the awareness that family is important and always there to help and support. No matter what danger Arg gets himself in to, he knows he can rely on family. 

Donovan Bixley captures the antics with wonderfully funny illustrations. In fact, as a team, author and illustrator work perfectly together. This series and its format with large text, lots of illustrations and short chapters is great for newly independent readers. Perfect for getting readers ready to read the Dinosaur Rescue series after this one.

I was enjoying reading the latest adventure of cave boy Arg and laughing along at all the funny bits when I began wondering if the author might just be a bit like Arg. Arg certainly has his share of trouble but with a bit of clever thinking he always finds his way out of danger so I thought I would ask author Kyle Mewburn a few questions to see if there were any similarities between himself when he was young and his mischievous character Arg.

Check out his answer to this and other questions below.

There is a lot of humour in your chapter books. The Dinosaur Rescue and Dinosaur Trouble chapter books have a real sense of mischievousness in them. What were you like as a child? Mischievous perhaps?

I never considered myself mischievous, but for some reason I was always getting into trouble. Personally I think I was simply too clever for my own good – much like Arg. I also had a low boredom threshold, so was always coming up with ingenious ways to amuse myself, whether in class or at home. Unfortunately not everyone could see how ingenious I was. Though Dinosaur Rescue and Dinosaur Trouble aren’t autobiographical per se (apart from the neanderthal parents and jealous sister – haha!), the underlying sense of alienation and different-ness Arg feels certainly is. Having a strong emotional element underpinning the storyline is so important for this age group, I think. 

We know you live in an isolated area of the country but you often travel to schools all over NZ and even Australia. Is it difficult having to travel so far. What it is like living where you live and does it get very cold?

Millers Flat isn’t as isolated as it seems. It’s only 90 minutes drive to Dunedin or Queenstown, both of which have airports. You could actually argue I don’t live in the middle of nowhere, but halfway to everywhere. But while travelling isn’t difficult, it certainly is expensive. The fact I have to pass on travel costs to schools often puts a visit out of reach of a school’s budget. Which is why I try to make the most of any trip and cram as many visits in as possible, so schools can share costs.

I can’t imagine living anywhere else. The lifestyle suits me perfectly. I require almost total quiet to write – even a fly makes me lose focus. So I couldn’t imagine living in a city. And there’s nothing better for clearing the cobwebs than pottering in the garden. Living in an isolated area also fits in nicely with my greenie philosophy. We have a composting toilet and a worm-farm grease-trap, so almost no food is wasted.

When we first moved to the area in 1990, we used to get bitterly cold, extended winters. Temperatures could remain below zero for months on end, freezing the ground several inches deep. But recent winters have been positively balmy in comparison, thanks to climate change. Either way, we manage to stay snug and warm in our little, extremely well-insulated (thanks to our grass roof) house with a very efficient wood-burner.

What does an ordinary writing day look like for you?

I try to write most days – at least when I’m at home. I haven’t quite mastered the art of writing on the road. Basically I wake up, make coffee and, at this time of the year, put on the fire. Then I head up to my desk and start writing… or at least trying to write. Often that involves trawling social media and playing a lot of solitaire. I’m a fits and starts kind of writer. I generally write in inspired bursts. But the inspired bursts don’t appear unless I chain myself to my desk for extended periods of struggling to write a single decent sentence.

What key advice would you give to children who want to write?

Enjoy your writing! There’s often no concrete reward to writing – the odds of getting published are incredibly low. Unless you are enjoying the journey and the process, you’re more likely to experience frustration and angst rather than joy.

What genre of books do you read in your spare time and who is your favourite author?

I used to read a lot of literary fiction – Graham Greene, Peter Carey etc – but recently I’ve returned to reading a lot more speculative sci-fi. I’ve been slowly working my way through The complete works of Theodore Sturgeon the last few years. It’s been a fascinating journey following the development of a key sci-fi writer from his early days of churning out “800-word stories with a twist” for a magazine, right through to the complex classics of his latter years.

If you could be any character from any book, yours or anyone other book, who would you be and why?

The character from H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. I’ve always had a fascination with the notion of time travel – and the moral implications of it all.

Thank you so much Kyle for sharing your thoughts.

A case in any case

By Ulf Nilsson

Illustrated by Gitte Spee

ISBN 9781776571093

Gecko Press

 

 

A case in any case is the third book in the Detective Gordon series about a police Toad and his assistant Buffy. However, each book works very well as a stand-alone.

Buffy is in charge of the police station when she hears noises and decides to investigate. However, her investigations need a little help from Detective Gordon who is currently away. I love the relationship between these two loveable characters. They need each other and their friendship is strong and caring. Despite sometimes fumbling over what is right in front of them they do solve their mysterious cases. The humour is subtle but so funny. Love it.

Gorgeous illustrations in soft colours provide a very natural setting for the story. I do love how expressive the eyes are in the pictures and bringing out the characters personalities. 

Great series for those newly independent readers on their first chapter books but equally great as a read-aloud.

Ottoline and the purple fox

Written and illustrated by Chris Riddell

ISBN 9781447277927

Macmillan Children’s Books

 

5

To regular readers of my blog it is no secret that I am a huge fan of the works by illustrator and writer Chris Riddell. If you pick up a copy of the latest book in his Ottoline series it isn’t hard to see why I love his work. Or why his work is regarded so highly and why I continue to buy his books. (Actually I have to buy two of each of his books – one for the school library I work in and one for me). The illustrations are just delightful and Ottoline is a superb character.
Ottoline is strong, sensible and kind. She lives with her friend Mr Munroe who is small and hairy and came from a bog in Norway. Hie eyes are about all you can see through his long, long hair. Together they live in the Pepperpot Building while her parents are off all over the world collecting things.
There are lots of different characters in her building, all wonderfully kind and beautifully drawn.  I love that this is a sweet, funny feel-good story. Friendship is a strong theme throughout all the Ottoline books and you know what – sometimes that is all we need in a good book. Sometimes we just need to look around us and see what is right in front of our noses.
I laughed out loud when I saw Ottoline with copies of Goth Girl, a cheeky wee nod by Chris Riddell to his other wonderful series Goth Girl.  (And yes – I have all those books too).
Author Chris Riddell is the current Children’s Laureate and you can find out more about him and what he does right here.
Copyright of the video belongs to Macmillan of course.

Life according to Dani

By Rose Lagercrantz

Illustrated by Eva Eriksson

ISBN 9781776570713

Gecko Press

LifeAccordingToDani_Cover

I loved the first three books about Dani and book number four is no exception. As first chapter books go for new readers, this is perfect. Great line drawings once again, from illustrator Eva Eriksson break up the text and the font is just the right size, as are the short chapters.

Dani and her father have almost always been on their own ever since mum died. Their relationship is tight and loving.

While this is a stand-alone it does follow on from the previous book When I am happiest where dad had had a terrible accident and was in hospital recovering. While in hospital Dani is sent to stay with her best friend in the world, Ella. Their relationship is also one of enduring love and friendship despite being separated when Ella moved away.  Now together they are having fun fishing and exploring and just enjoying each others company.

Dad rings Dani every night just to chat until one night the phone doesn’t ring. Dani begins to worry and as a character I have grown to adore, I can’t help but feel for her and her concerns that maybe Dad has forgotten her.

Of course he hasn’t but soon after he turns up on the island accompanied by his nurse. His nurse however, is now an important person in his life and Dani has much to deal with and it is a struggle for all concerned.

I love how Ella jumps to Dani’s defense when Dani begins to sulk and gets cross with her father. The honesty of  friendships is so important and I know readers will recognize their own best friends when reading about Dani and Ella.

Another sweet adventure in the life of Dani and her best friend Ella. If you have read the others, you will definitely want the latest. If you haven’t met Dani and Ella, check out this new story and you will be wanting to find the rest.

 

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Yours Sincerely, Giraffe

By Megumi Iwasa

Illustrated by Jun Takabatake

ISBN 9781927271872

Gecko Press

 

GIraffe_cover-PAPERBACK-IB.indd

Giraffe is bored, as usual. He’d love a friend to share things with. So he writes a letter and sends it as far as possible across the other side of the horizon. There he finds a pen pal—Penguin.

Giraffe knows nothing about penguins and his letters are full of questions. What does a penguin look like? Where is a penguin’s neck?

And so the letters begin to fly from horizon to horizon. (Gecko Press)

 

In his loneliness Giraffe enlists the help of Pelican to deliver letters past the horizon to the unknown other side. When Pelican eventually arrives back with a letter in return, Giraffe is excited and happy but also curious. With wonderful whimsical yet matter of fact, albeit incorrect logic, Giraffe comes up with some strange ideas of what his letter writer Penguin, would look like. The comical line drawings and easy to read text and short chapters make this a perfect read for newly independent readers. So often today, books stretch the boundaries for children so it is lovely to see a sweet feel-good story about friendship that leaves you smiling.  I love the chapter headings too. Just a couple to share.

A bored Giraffe writes his first letter

or

Is the horizon near or far

Letter writing might be on the endangered list but Yours Sincerely, Giraffe show us how wonderful this tradition is and how we need to keep it alive. This will make a good tool for teachers to use when looking at writing. Besides, who could not resist a letter headed Dear Giraffe who is trying to look like a penguin.

Published in August, this is one to look out for.

 

When I am happiest
By Rose Lagercrantz
Illustrated by
Eva Eriksson
ISBN 978192721896
Gecko Press

6

My happy life and My heart is laughing are the first two books about Dani, her dad and best friend Ella. They offer a wonderful insight into the day-to-day life of a young girl as she begins to find her way in the world. In My happy life Ella moves away but with time and support Dani learns to accept that life sometimes offers challenges and she finds ways to cope with life. In Rose Lagercrantz’s latest story, When I am happiest it begins with the second-to-last day of school. Dani is so happy that she begins to write a book all about how happy she is.

However, suddenly Dani’s world is turned upside down when her father has a serious accident and ends up in hospital. Dani must then overcome her biggest hurdle yet. There is both a softness and simplicity to Dani’s story and as a reader I couldn’t help but be moved by Dani’s situation and how she deals with whatever life throws at her. As with the previous books, this is another winning combination of writer and illustrator. Short chapters and a perfect sized text, gorgeous line drawings on every two page spread, make this ideal for readers of five-to-seven year olds new to chapter books. This is a heart-warming story that will leave readers with a warm fuzzy feeling. I have thoroughly enjoyed all three books and feel as if Dani is a long lost niece and all  I want to do is protect her, giver her a big hug and get to know better.

Review of My heart is laughing can be found here.

 

Detective Gordon : The first case

By Ulf Nilsson

Illustrated by Gitte Spee

ISBN 978192721506

Gecko Press

5

What an utterly charming book!

Detective Gordon is a rather over weight toad who loves nothing better than eating cakes, drinking tea and stamping important papers. However, he is suddenly faced with a mystery when squirrel comes rushing in to declare that someone has stolen his stash of nuts. He soon thinks he has the culprit but instead it turns out he has caught a rather lonely, hungry and nameless mouse whom he takes under his wing, makes her his assistant and bestows upon her a name. Together they stand in the freezing cold, watching and waiting for clues which could lead them to the real thieves. I love how Detective Gordon and his new assistant become friends, their relationship taking on as much importance as the theft of the nuts.

I can see why Ulf Nilsson is an award winning writer. His words flow naturally.

   “The squirrel started to cry. Tears rolled down his soft cheeks where they immediately froze to ice  Small pearls fell to the ground”

The illustrations are also gorgeous. Just look at the cover and the expressions on the faces of the two main characters.

This is a great chapter book for newly independent readers aged 7 – 9. I think it would be equally as wonderful as a read-aloud by parents or teachers.

I certainly hope that there are more books about Detective Gordon and Buffy his new side-kick. I would love to see what other mysteries they can solve.

Once again Gecko Press have produced a quality book.

My heart is laughing
By Rose Lagercrantz
Illustrated by Eva Eriksson

Gecko Press
laughing

The adorable Dani of My happy life is back in a new heart-warming story My heart is laughing

Dani who is almost always happy, deparately misses her best friend Ella ever since she moved away. Some days Dani copes very well but other days are just too much, especially when Vicky and Mickey, the class bullies turn on Dani.
When it all gets too much Dani strikes back but that just lands her in a whole heap of trouble. This is a delightful follow-up to My happy life but also a great stand alone.
As much as this is a story about bullying it is also a tale of true friendship and loyalty.
I think this is ideal for 5 -7 year old readers looking for a first chapter book.
As a school librarian, I know how important it is that first chapter books have to connect in order to encourage readers to keep going. This does that beautifully.
Eva Eriksson’s gorgeous line drawings bring to life all the emotions; smiles, defiance, loneliness and of course happiness and laughter. So simple but so telling.
This combination of author and illustrator is spot on. Younger readers will love this.

Galaxy Zac

By Ray O’Ryan
Illustrated by Colin Jack

I am so looking forward to this series reaching New Zealand. It is ideal for those children just off the reading colour wheel and reading their first chapter books.

Read what Galaxy Zack says on his own site.

“It is the year 2120 and Zack Nelson and his family are making the big move from Earth to the planet Nebulon. Zack is already nervous about starting school and making new friends, but it only gets worse when he dreams that his classmates are slimy aliens with tentacles, pizza comes covered in gross bugs, and he can never communicate with his Earth friends again! When Zack arrives at Sprockets Academy for his first day of school, he meets and befriends Drake Tucker, a Nebulite boy who also loves to explore and learn about the planets. All of the differences between Earth and Nebulon begin to pile up and make Zack miss his home in Dubbsville, Texas, even more. But things start to look up when he receives a mysterious surprise. What could it possibly be? ”

These are the titles coming soon:
Hello Nebulon
Journey to Juno
Prehistoric planet
Monsters in space

This is definitely a series I will be looking to add to my school library. In fact I know just which set of boys will be lining up for them early.