Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Picture Book

UK Writer & Illustrator (born in London – Now living in Wellington)
Paul Beavis
Mrs. Mo’s Monster
Gecko Press   2014   $19.99pb         36pp
ISBN 978 1 9272 7101 8

Released in NZ in April 2014. Available for pre-order now.

Themes:         Good manners/ Patience/ Teamwork
I crunch, munch and chew because that’s what monsters do shouts the monster without even a hello as he barges his way into Mrs Mo’s house.  But the monster has met his match in Mrs Mo who very subtly begins to turn his behavior around without him even noticing it. The monster is endearingly ugly.  Mrs Mo, a model of old-fashioned good manners and patience. Together they become a team. This is Paul Beavis’s first picture book and he currently works as a website designer. I feel sure we will hear and see more of him.
The book will be launched here in Wellington in April.

Preschool-Year 2/ Age 3-6

Picture Book - Preschool

NZ Writer & Illustrator

Ruth Paul

Rabbit’s Hide-and-Seek

Walker Books   2014   $24.95hb         24pp

ISBN 978 1 9220 7734 9

Themes:         Counting/ Hide and Seek

A collection of small animals play gentle games of hide and seek in a very ordered grove of trees. The more simple Ruth Paul’s books for young children appear, the more details and wonderful surprises are waiting for the reader. Just the book to share with a preschool group who will want to come up with their own ingenious hiding places. There is a lot to think about and to talk about in these, what I thought were pastel pages, but now see were created with pencil and digital medium. They are charming.    

Preschool  Age 3-4

Image of Ruth -  Amy Jackman The Wellingtonian

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Young Adult Fiction (Mature)

Australian Writer
Tonya Alexandra
Walker Books   2014   $22.99pb         424pp
Book One in the The Love Oracles series
ISBN 978 1 92207724 0

Themes:         Greek Gods/ Greek Islands/ Love stories/ Romance

If a beautiful star nymph is banished to Earth for displeasing the Gods, tries to fit in at high school on an idyllic Greek Island and then meets a dreamy young student called Lukas, you can be pretty certain something romantic and fiery will happen especially as relationships between goddesses and human men are strictly forbidden. And that’s really it – the plot in a nutshell! I wanted more from the story and, although I read every word, I wanted to find out much more about the characters. But. Although the book was obviously not for me I can think of many 14-to-17-year-olds who will be drawn in by the romantic jacket, will love every one of the 424 pages and will be waiting anxiously for February next year when the sequel will be published. It is a book that will give real pleasure to a large number of readers in that age group above.  Google the details to see some of their reviews and some from readers who felt more as I did. 

Year 10 up/ Age 14 up (and maybe some adults as well. 

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Fiction - Age 8 up

Australian Writer

Aleesah Darlison
Ash Rover, Keeper of the Phoenix

Walker Books   2014   $16.99pb         268pp

Book One in the Ash Rover series

ISBN 978 1 9221 7902 9

Themes:         Fantasy/Friendship/ Quests/ Series

Ash Rover and his friends live in poverty so when Ash finds a just-hatched Phoenix and becomes its keeper they are hopeful of a better future. However the Phoenix (a most eloquent bird) brings nothing but disaster and the children are put in real danger. Although the jacket and the environment suggest a possible medieval setting the three main characters speak and behave like today’s 10/11-year-olds  and this helps make the story one which reluctant readers may latch into. The plot unfolds in non-stop action and would make a good read-aloud. Two more books in the series are planned - Ash Rover: Taker of the Kraken & Book 3 Ash Rover: Sentry to the Centaurs. The author says on her website that she is currently finishing these two stories. Teachers’ notes are also available through this site.

Year 4/ Age 8 up

Not long now until the opening of Writers Week 2014 here in Wellington. There are so many goodies to look forward to (the chance to meet Ulf Stark/ to hear Gavin Bishop deliver the Janet Frame Memorial Lecture/ to hear Eleanor Catton/ book launches and parties...   I will be up and down the Kapiti Coast every day for 7 days - perhaps I need a pied a terre! 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Picture Book

NZ Writer and Illustrator

James Thorpe, illustrated by Angus Mackinnon

The Weasel Puffin Unicorn Baboon Pig Lobster Race

Beatnik Publishing NZ   2013   $29.99hb          48pp

ISBN 978 0 9922 4931 1

Themes:         Cheating/ Justice/ Races/ Stories in rhyme

The Weasel, Puffin, Baboon, Pig and Lobster are determined to win the race that has attracted international support and is set off with a pop from the gun by the Queen herself.  But their determination includes cheating in any way they can. The Unicorn who would rather lose fair and square than beat them as a cheat is very surprised when a snail speaks up for him and he is declared the winner.  I have to say this book had migrated to the bottom of the pile because I wasn’t totally sure what it was about  - yes, it was published in May last year. It took a 17-year-old college student over the weekend to steer me in the right direction. This is BRILLIANT he said – look at the paper/ look at the rhyme/ look at the artwork/ it says something without being preachy. And of course James is right! It is a handsomely produced book from a publisher with a small but intriguing list which includes books by Mark Sommerset. Have a look at The illustrations are in solid colours of pink, black, rose and brown, the lines scan in such a way to make it easy and fun to read aloud and it is certainly more than just a little bit of nonsense. I’ll be looking out for more books from Beatnik. 

Year 2 up/ Age 6 up

Monday, 10 February 2014

Picture Books - Preschool

Australian Writer and Illustrator

Anna Branford, illustrated by Linda Catchlove

Lilli-Pilli’s Sister

Walker Books, Australia 2014 27.99hb         24pp

ISBN 978 1 9219 7758 9

Themes:         Babies/ Birth/ Fairies/ Families

Lilli-Pilli’s mother is about to have a baby and Lilli Pilli is convinced it will be a small sister. She tries hard to find out for sure by consulting the (Australian) birds in the forest.  She knows, of course, that boy or girl, she will love it dearly. By now Mum’s belly is so large she can no longer fly and Dad is putting the finishing touches on the crib - and then... Many children will guess the final surprise and they should enjoy such a gentle story of a happy birth in a perfect family. I think the illustrations JUST avoid being ‘cute’.  

Preschool – Age 3-4

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Fiction - Age 10 and up

NZ Writer
Desna Wallace
Canterbury Quake Christchurch 2010-2011
Scholastic NZ 2014  18.50pb  174pp
My New Zealand Story series
ISBN 978 1 7754 3182 4

Published February 1st 2014

Themes:         Christchurch earthquakes/ Diaries/ Human resilience
      A cell phone would keep Maddy, who is just turning 11, in touch with all her friends and this is all she wants for her birthday and practically all she can think about. Her parents are adamant she will not have one until she is 13 just like her older sister. The old adage says ‘be careful what you wish for’ because Maddy IS about get a cell phone – but not for chattering to friends – it is for keeping in touch with family and receiving instructions about what to do and where to go after the devastation wrought by the two big earthquakes in Christchurch. This is a story of true human resilience and could only have been written by someone like Desna who has lived through the whole chilling experience as well as being a librarian in a Christchurch school working with the age group portrayed in the story. The reality of life in Christchurch at this time is written in such a way as to sometimes make it almost unbearably real. One of the most telling moments for me was when Maddy saw, just after the second big quake, that her teacher and some of the parents were crying in terror.

This is a great addition to the My New Zealand Story series and one that will be picked up not only for its historical value but because it is such a readable story about 11 and 12-year-olds and because Maddy is such an appealing heroine. There are some moments of real humour in the story too!

Year 6 up/ Age 10 up

Mature Readers (Young Adult)

USA Writer
Lauren Baratz-Logsted
The Twin’s Daughter
Bloomsbury 2014  $15.99pb  390pp
ISBN 978 1 5999 0661 4
Themes: Gothic tales/ Murder/ Victorian London

Published February 1st 2014

One morning Lucy, a sprightly 13-year-old, opens the door of her elegant London home and sees who she thinks at first is her mother standing on the doorstep. It is however, her mother’s identical twin sister who has been brought up in very different circumstances and so begins a long and involved story of intrigue and sometimes, very chilling happenings.  Some readers will find the complicated plot a bit too much but others will enjoy the elements of creepiness, teenage life in Victorian London and the general atmosphere of having to guess what is really going on and find they make for an unputdownable read.
Google the author’s name for details of her other books – she has written many. She is a new writer for me and I will be following her up.   
Year 10 up/ Age 14 up (this will be read with enjoyment by many adults as well).

Sunday, 2 February 2014

David Elliot - NZ writer and illustrator


   Many congratulations to David Elliot, illustrator and writer from Dunedin who is the Storylines Children’s Literature Trust winner of the 2014 Margaret Mahy Award. This award is presented annually to mark a lifetime achievement in either writing, illustration, publishing or academic fields in the world of children’s literature (or all of these items). David will receive it at the Margaret Mahy Day to be held in Auckland on Saturday March 29th.

  One of the many distinctive things about David’s work is that there is a feeling in all of his books that although the work is aimed at children, adults are also going to find real substance there as well. 
 In an interview I did with him in 2009, in answer to a question about his advice to children and young people who wanted to write/illustrate, David said

Take your imagination seriously. 

    I also see in the interview that David told me it was his time, many years before, while living in the gatekeeper’s cottage at the Edinburgh Zoo that he felt was the key experience that led him to his career in illustrating. Wandering around the zoo at night, even going into the leopard’s lair to scratch the animal’s back, he began to draw the animals. As he said ‘playing around on the edges of illustration’.  And then…

                                                                                        Image: Booksellers NZ

 David and the late Margaret Mahy at the New Zealand Post Book awards in Auckland in 2011.  They are holding  The Moon & Farmer McPhee which won the  Picture Book Category Award Winner and New Zealand Post Book of the Year.

On a personal level and on a totally different subject (!) :

I was so sad to miss out on being at the launch of the 2014 Writers and Readers Week held at the Embassy Theatre on Thursday this week. Two back-to-back funerals and another evening event meant driving down the coast from Waikanae where I now live, three times in 48 hours. While the spirit was more than willing the flesh, now slightly older than it used to be, decided it would rather just stay home and finish reading The Twin’s Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logstead** and marking in the programme who I will go to hear in the actual Writers’ Week.

I could have spent time putting my books in alphabetical order but alas while they remain in a reasonably tidy state as far as looks are concerned as for logical sequence – it is chaos.


** I will try to put up a review about this book tomorrow.