Thursday, 31 October 2013

Fiction - Age 11 up

USA Writer
J. L. Powers
Through My Eyes series
Allen & Unwin 2013  $19.99pb  183pp
ISBN 978 1 7433 1249 0
Themes:   Civil war/ Mogadishu/ Somalia/ Street art/ Survival
At heart Amina is an artist; she paints and writes poetry and life, in spite of the Civil War in Somalia, is as good as it can be. Then her father is arrested, her brother abducted and with a frail grandmother and a pregnant mother it is over to Amina to support her family.  She turns to Street Art that tries to show the situation in her country and to make some money. It is a dangerous thing to do.
This is one of a series of stories based on truth that aim to show children living in contemporary conflict zones.
For an interesting interview with the author, Google J.L. Powers Amina
Year 7 up/ Age 11 up

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Fiction - age 9 up


NZ Writer

Stacy Gregg

The Princess and the Foal

HarperCollins 2013  $25.00hb  317pp

ISBN 978 0 0074 6902 4

Themes:  Jordan/ Show-jumping

At the age of thirteen Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein was the first female rider to represent Jordan internationally in equestrian sport when she won an Individual Bronze Medal in show jumping at the Pan-Arab Equestrian Games in 1992.

Although the book is a work of fiction it is inspired by the early life of the real Princess Haya  (and is told with her blessing). It tells of a small girl who was born a princess but who felt much more at home in the Royal Stables than in the Royal Palaces and who reared a motherless foal to become a champion show jumper. This is not your average Pony Club Series story although it will be gobbled up by children (small girls) who do read in that genre. It is a carefully researched, moving, poignant and well-written account of a real life. This is a ‘good looking’ production and even has its own bookmark.  However not many readers will make use of it as they will want to read on way after bedtime and finish it (reluctantly) at just one sitting.    


Year 5 up/ Age 9 up


Released Yesterday 25.10.13

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Finlay Macdonald, illustrated by Lynley Dodd with photos from various sources
The Life and Art of Lynley Dodd
Penguin Books 2013  $50.00hb 208pp
ISBN 978 0 1435 6796 7
Themes:         Biographies/ Authors and Illustrators - children’s books - biographies

At last here is the full story of the small girl who grew up in the magic surroundings of the Kaingaroa Forest in the middle of the North Island, New Zealand.  She became a household name world wide beginning with the first picture book about Hairy Maclary (and friends) published in 1983.  The book is as much a visual record as well as a text one with wonderful insights into the actual writing and illustrating process. It seems many aspiring writers think that writing the text for a picture book (to say nothing of producing the illustrations) can be virtually tossed off over a long weekend. I wish every one of these writers would read the chapter A beginning, an end and a plan to see what is really involved.  It could be up to a year’s work or more until perfection is reached and even then, this amazing woman who has brought so much pleasure to so many children, is never totally satisfied. Finlay Macdonald has written an extremely readable text and highlights the vital partnership between publisher (Ann Mallinson) and artist. It is a handsome book and one that will be treasured.

Adult (but of interest to all ages for various reasons).

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Fiction Age 7 up

Norwegian Writer and Illustrator
Erlend Loe, Illustrated by Kim Hiorthoy
Kurt Gets Truckloads
Gecko Press 2013  $19.99pb 120pp
ISBN 978 1 8775 7930 1
Themes:         Character changes/ Family stories/ Funny stories/ Money/ Truck Drivers

Kurt is the kindest and most gentle of family men – loves his wife, his children – his life. But all is about to change as when, as an act of more great kindness Kurt saves a man’s life and is rewarded by a diamond as big as your head. Of course he sells it and receives truckloads of money.  Enough to turn anyone’s character around and in this case it turns him nasty as well with his only friend left in the world his pre-school son Bud who doesn’t really know what is going on anyway. It’s enough to put you off ever buying another Lotto ticket  - just in case. A great story to share with a group and one that will be enjoyed by older children and students as well. 
Year 3 up / Age 7 up

Many congratulations to Trevor Agnew from Christchurch who is the recipient of the Betty Gilderdale Award for distinguished services to children’s literature.
Trevor was one of New Zealand’s first qualified Teacher Librarians, has been an enthusiastic reviewer for the Christchurch Press and the Australian periodical Magpies and keeps a Blog on books for children and young adults  - Agnew Reading  (just Google!)
Trevor will receive his award at the Children’s Bookshop, Christchurch on Thursday November 28th. Great news...

Photo: Booksellers NZ

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


NZ Writer and Photographer
Nicholas Brockelbank, with photos from Nigel Beach
Nic’s Lunchbox
Scholastic  2013  $10.00pb  32pp
ISBN 978 1 7754 3190 9
Themes:         Children as cooks/ Recipes

His first recipe book, Nic’s Cookbook, sold 120 copies in 30 minutes at the bookshop where it was launched last October. Now Nic has produced another book of recipes that are fun for children to make and to EAT. The recipes are simple, sensitive to issues like the No Nut Ban and the cheerful photos of Nic in his trade mark black and white checked apron as he concentrates on stirring, chopping and sometimes tasting, makes you realize this is a book that is going to be good to use.

As they did with the first book, Nic and Scholastic are donating 50% of the royalties to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Year 3 up / Age 7 up


First on our screens this morning came the great news that last night in Auckland at the Arts Foundation Award  ceremony, Gavin Bishop was honoured with the Ann Mallinson Award for illustration.  Then almost before we had had time to finish our breakfast coffee the news came through that New Zealander Eleanor Catton had won the Man Booker prize for her novel The Luminaries. At 28, Eleanor is the youngest writer to win the prize in its history. 

Photo of Gavin Bishop thanks to Random House

Monday, 14 October 2013

Picture Books

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Nicola Muir, illustrated by Annie Hayward
Baba Didi and the Godwits fly
New Internationalist Publications Ltd 2013   $19.99hb           32pp
ISBN 978 1 7802 6130 0
Themes:         Bird migration/ Courage/ Grandmothers/ Human migration

 Annie Hayward

Every year the Godwits migrate from our shores on an epic flight up the Pacific, through New Guinea, Japan and on to the breeding grounds in Alaska. Watching and wondering about it all are Baba Didi and her small granddaughter. Author and illustrator have combined seamlessly to tell this story which combines the flight of the Godwits and the courage and resilience of human migration. The book has a foreword by former PM, Helen Clark in her role as Head of the United Nations Development  Programme and UNICEF will receive royalties from the sale of each copy.  

I was at the launch of this evocatively illustrated new book at the Children’s Bookshop at Kilbirnie late last week and it was so exciting to see how seriously the book was being taken when the launch speeches (as well as those from the writer and illustrator) included words from a member of the Green Party and representatives from the Shoreline Centre at Miranda just out of Auckland.  I have been to many book launches at the Children’s Bookshop but I don’t think I have ever seen such a long queue of buyers snaking out to the front door, all of whom wanted the book – and to have it signed. 

 Nicola Muir 
Year 2 up/ Age 6 up 

Saturday, 12 October 2013


NZ Writer and Illustrator
Gillian Candler, illustrated by Ned Barraud
In the Garden – Explore & Discover the New Zealand Backyard
Craig Potton Publishing 2013   $19.99pb           32pp
ISBN 978 1 8775 1799 0

Themes: NZ birds, insects and mammals/ ’Wild life’ in the backyard

The wild side of our New Zealand backyards is explored here with many questions posed for the reader, plentiful fact boxes and images detailed enough to allow easy identification of common birds, animals and insects.  
The writer, Gillian Candler, was the convenor of judges for the 2012 New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards and the illustrator, Nick Barraud, works at Weta Digital and is an enthusiast for all he can find in the garden with his three small children.
Preschool up/ Age 4 up (and, again, much older children and adults will enjoy this too – and find it useful).

Picture Book

Japanese Writer and Illustrator
Masayuki Sebe
100 People
Gecko Press 2013   $19.99pb           24pp
ISBN 978 1 8775 7987 5
Themes:  ‘Puzzle’ books

Each page in this book is full of 100 small but very active people who are telling stories, relating to each other, playing games, eating… and the task is to find ten who have been selected at random with their pictures on a special bulletin board. It sounds easy but for me it was diabolically difficult. The children who shared it with me didn’t seem to have the same problems. This is a follow-up to two other great look-and-find titles 100 dinosaurs and 100 things also published by Gecko Press. .

Preschool up/ Age 4 up (much older children and adults will enjoy this too)

There has been a slight hiatus this week as I am in the process of selling my home where I have lived for 16 years and moving up the coast to the sunshine! This will happen on November 28.  Maintaining this Blog is really important to me and I will try very hard to keep up to date with the cascade of exciting new books that are beginning to pile up on the floor of the office but sometimes there might be a couple of days go by. For instance just where did the last week go to?


Sunday, 6 October 2013

Young Adult Fiction

UK Writer
Robert Muchamore
Black Friday
Cherub Series 2/ Book 3
Hodder Children’s Books 2013   $34.99hb           384pp
ISBN 978 1 4449 1566 2


Themes:  Sequels/ Series/ Teenagers as spies

Ryan has a mission to stop the biggest terrorist attack in America’s history and, as a member of Cherub he gets on a plane to travel to the action knowing the next 24 hours will change many lives.  Teenagers as spies has an irresistible lure and when Robert Muchamore began the whole series of books to encourage his non-reading nephew in Australia he was on to something BIG.  Great for disinterested readers (especially boys) and the action packed cover is another ‘lure’. The Internet is packed with information about this writer and his books so I won’t reproduce it here. This was published last month but I have only just got it back from a real Robert Muchamore fan and – he is a good reader!

Year 9 up/ Age 13 up


NZ Writer and Photographer
Meg Lipscombe
Tui: A Nest in the Bush
Craig Potton Publishing 2013   $29.99hb          120pp
ISBN 978 1 8775 1791 4

Themes:  New Zealand birds /Photo diaries/ Tuis

On a spring morning in 2011 Meg Lipscombe noticed a tui vanishing into a bush in her garden with a twig in its beak. She discovered that a nest with two freckled eggs inside could be seen  - and photographed - from her balcony. This was the beginning of 37 days of intense observation and gives us an unique picture of the growth and development of the chicks. The book is aimed at adults but the simple text and careful photography (which really tells the story) means it can be used and appreciated by quite young children.

Meg Lipscombe was given a Fellowship from the Photographic Society of New Zealand in recognition of the excellence of this series of tui photographs.

Adult (but suitable for all ages)

Thursday, 3 October 2013

For the VERY young

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Cathy Kearse, illustrated by Gabriella Klepatski
Adventures With Daddy
Scholastic 2013   $19.50pb   32pp
ISBN 978 1 7754 3126 8

Themes:  Father-child relationships/ Solo parents/ Stories in rhyme

Slapstick humour and illustration show a small child (sex unspecified) as he/she has a very full and rewarding day out with his/her long suffering Daddy. There is a lot to talk about and explore  beyond the easily read aloud text and the carefully thought out images.

Preschool/ Ages 2-3

Fiction Age 9 up

USA Writers and Canadian Illustrator
James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
Illustrated by Juliana Neufeld
Treasure Hunters
Random House  2013   $22.99pb         451pp
ISBN 978 0 0995 6759 2

Themes:  Adventure stories/ Pirates/ Sea stories/ Shipwrecks/ Survival skills

Although they are used to the sea and everything it can throw at them the Kidd children are not prepared for what happens when their parents who have home schooled them to do without iPads, iPhones, iPods and any sort of pizza, vanish – apparently overboard. This is the beginning of a series, which, if this first book is a sample, promises to be full of action, adventure, cryptic clues and a great deal of humour. James Patterson is the creator of The Middle School series. The plentiful illustrations absolutely match the whole tone of the story.   A great holiday read – and a good read-aloud when the children go back to school.

Year 5 up/ Age 9 up

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Picture Books

USA Writer and Illustrator
Mo Willems
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs
Walker Books 2013   (2012 USA)     $27.99hb 32pp
ISBN 978 1 4063 4729 6

Themes:   Classic fairy tales retold (totally)

Forget the three bears and their encounters with Goldilocks. The protagonists in this retold story are three dinosaurs and a visiting friend from Norway – and they are all hungry. One day for no particular reason they decide to make a set of three chocolate puddings, make their beds very carefully and then go out for a walk in the forest. They are not setting a trap for a succulent little girl who happen to be wandering around the area – unsupervised. No? This is a wonderfully funny story that will make small children, older children and adults all laugh for different reasons. Mo Willems knows exactly how far to go with stories like this and is the author and illustrator of one of my all time favourite children’s picture books – Knuffle Bunny (Walker Books 2005). Do check it out as well as this new title.

Year 1 up/ Age 5 up

Fiction Age 7 up

Available From Today

UK Writer  (now living in USA) and Illustrator (born South Africa)
Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell
Fortunately, the Milk…
Bloomsbury   2013       $32.50hb  142pp
ISBN 978 1 4088 4176 1

Themes:   Family stories/ Funny stories/ Read aloud stories

Mum has gone off to a conference and the first thing that happens to the family is they run out of milk. Dad goes off to the shops and that is where this over-the-top, good-humoured tale begins. It is his story really and he tells it with great gusto from his encounters with aliens, trips in a hot air balloon, a meeting with a Pirate Queen  and how a carton of milk saves the end of the world. Everything about this publication cries out to be read or listened to from its fascinating shiny cover, its comfortably almost square size, to its easy on the eyes large print, its carefully constructed plot and to its lavish illustrations executed as only Chris Riddell can, covering each page. Just be a bit wary of opening the centerfold poster, as it has to be done carefully to avoid tearing it.

Year 3 up/ Age 7 up

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Mature Readers Only

Australian Writer
Michael Adams
The Last Girl
Number One in a Planned Trilogy
Allen & Unwin   2013       $24.99pb   384pp
ISBN 978 1 7433 1636 8

Themes:         Dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction/ Survival/ Telepathy/ Thought processes

Danby, sixteen, needs to get her small brother to the safety of her mother’s mountain retreat 100 kilometres from her present home in Sydney and she has to battle death and chaos to get there. The reason? Suddenly, everyone in the world can hear everyone else’s thought processes - everyone’s that is except Danby’s although she can hear theirs. It is total chaos and people unable to cope with the sea of voices buzzing in their heads begin to kill each other and themselves. This is not an easy read and is certainly not for the faint hearted or over imaginative. Parts of it I have to confess I found hard to understand but followers and enthusiasts for dystopian fiction will not have that problem. If I were putting it in a secondary school collection I would be wary of recommending it to readers I didn’t really know.

Year 10 up/ Age 14 up