Sunday, 29 May 2016

A Pekinese on the Wairarapa Coast

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Anne Manchester, illustrated by Fifi Colston
Photos by Anne Manchester
Toughen up, Andrew!
Mākaro Press 2016  $25.00pb 84pp
ISBN 978 0 9941 2995 6`
Themes:  Holidays/ Pekinese dogs/ Wairarapa Coast
Andrew (named after Prince Andrew) is a small but sturdy Pekinese who really enjoys his home comforts. However, his family has decided he needs a bit of toughening up and in the four stories in the book he goes on holiday, meets a large black seal, goes crayfishing and learns to play football. These are true stories and Andrew was a very real little dog who **was loved and cherished by his owner and who I remember  trotting along the parade at Days Bay and Eastbourne as though he owned the world (which of course he imagined he did).  The book is enhanced by Fifi Colston’s endearing illustrations and the writer’s family photos. An enjoyable read aloud for both reader and listeners.  
Year 3 up/ Age 7 up

** My computer spell check keep wanting me to change who to that but Andrew was definitely a who and I refuse!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

An underachieving pig wins through

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Stephanie Thatcher
The Other Brother
Scholastic NZ 2016  $18.99pb 32pp
ISBN 978 1 7754 3382 8
Themes: Achievements/ Brothers/ Kindness/ Pigs
It’s not easy to be an underachiever in a family with three brilliant older brothers who are sporty, arty and just simply -  clever. Bertie, the other brother tries his hardest to match them but it takes a wise teacher to show him there are other (and maybe far more satisfying) ways of being brilliant. A ‘moral’ tale but a very palatable one and a story that reads aloud well and leads to lots of discussion and many spin offs.  .      
Preschool up/ Age 4 up

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Wellesley College, Wellington Are The New Zealand Champions for the 2016 Kids’ Lit Quiz

CONGRATULATIONS to the Wellesley College team of four and to their coach Jane Kent for their exciting win in this afternoon’s New Zealand final of the 2016 Kids’ Lit Quiz. As usual I fear my photo doesn’t do justice to the magical feeling of the occasion but believe me those smiles and happy eyes were something to see! The team (and this is an all boy school) will be in Auckland for the World Final at the IBBY Congress in August. Not too far behind the team were Southwell School, Hamilton who were last year’s World Champions and Awakeri School from the Bay of Plenty who won the New Zealand finals a couple of years ago.

The questions (devised by Wayne Mills Quizmaster)  were all intriguing and never easy.  As usual we came away reeling at the extraordinary wide knowledge that these young readers who understand the pleasures from being involved in the Sport of Reading, carry in their heads. Well done!!

Friday, 20 May 2016

From the Number 1 Bestselling Author of Middle School comes a new heroine:

USA Writer (born New York 1947) and Illustrator James Patterson, illustrated by Chris Grabenstein Jacky Ha-Ha

Arrow NZ 2016  $19.99pb 364pp

ISBN 978 1 7847 5407 5

Themes: Funny stories/ Stammering/ USA family life 1990s

Life isn’t all a bowl of laughs for Jacky Ha-Ha although she likes to pretend it is. James Patterson has created a new and quite vulnerable heroine in Jacky who sets out to write down for her own children what life was like for her 26 years ago in 1990 in a family of six girls with a mother serving as a staff sergeant in the Army in Saudi Arabia and a father who is hardly ever home. Although much of Jacky’s memories are almost over-the-top hilarious there is an underbelly of sadness and poignancy that most readers will pick up on. The whole narrative is enhanced by the on-every-page illustrations from Chris Grabenstein.       

Year 5 up/ Age 9 up

James Patterson has been the most borrowed author in UK libraries for the past eight years in a row and his books have sold more than 300 million copies worldwide, making him one of the biggest-selling authors of all time. He lives in Florida.


Cross your fingers. Cross your toes that the weather improves tomorrow and all planes carrying children from all around New Zealand will land without being diverted at Wellington Airport in time for the National Finals of the Kids’ Lit Quiz to be held at National Library Molesworth Street starting at 1pm. 

See this Blog on Sunday for some photos and the announcement of THE WINNERS who go through to the WOLRD FINALS to be held for the very first time in New Zealand in August. This will be as part of the IBBY Congress in  Auckland.  More later…

Southwell School, Hamilton NZ were the World Champions in 2015

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

A New Novel by Jacqueline Wilson

Available NOW
UK Writer  Jacqueline Wilson  Rent a Bridesmaid

Penguin Random House NZ 2016  $35.00pb 361pp

ISBN 978 0 8575 3271 8

Themes: Friendship/ Gay marriage/ Marriage in old age/ Single parent families

Tilly has a dream of being a bridesmaid in a pink frilly dress and of walking down the aisle behind a beautiful bride, radiant in white – and all the better if the bride and groom were her own parents. In some ways the story sounds just like the mixture as before (and of course in many ways it is which is what makes Jacqueline Wilson one of the most popular writers of today.) However, like all her books which are often light and frothy and totally readable  on the top there are the more serious elements floating just below the surface – how it feels to have your mother walk away from the family/ the difficulties (and delights) of a gay marriage/ the agonies of having a best friend who suddenly seems to like someone else better than you/ getting married at 75/ what happens when your dad falls in love with your teacher…. Tilly, the catalyst for the story and who has the brilliant plan of hiring herself out as a bridesmaid, is an endearing heroine and may well take her place with the other Jacqueline Wilson superstars  -- Hetty Feather/ Tracy Beaker/ Sapphire Battersea / Opal Plumstead…

Year 6 up/ Age 10 up (but much younger children will insist on reading it of course)

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Trapped in Time

French Writer and Illustrator  Timothée De Fombelle The Book of Pearl

Translated by Sarah Ardizzone and Sam Gordon

Walker Books 2016  $19.99pb 367pp

ISBN 978 1 4063 6462 0

Themes:  Fairies/ Imagination/ First Love/ Memories/ Time Traps

A ‘gentle’, intricate and compelling love story about a young man who lives in the world of today and whose great love is trapped in another time but of whom his memory is fading fast. Not a book for every young reader or indeed to read aloud to a large group but for imaginative readers of all ages it will be an experience to remember.

Google the writer’s name for other titles  - all equally enchanting and all just as perfectly crafted.  
Year 7 up/ Age 11 up – and adults

Timothée De Fombelle – born Paris 1973 (Photographer untraced) 

(Sorry about the size of the font - this wretched porgamme has a mind of its own  and I never know how things are going to turn out. BM

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

The Godwits Fly

UK Writer and Illustrator
Jeannie Baker
Walker Books 2016  $27.99hb 40pp
ISBN 978 1 4063 3801 0
Themes: Collage illustration/ Flight of the godwits/ Migration/ Nature reserves/ Wheelchairs
A small boy in a wheelchair (we feel only temporarily) looks from the edge of the sea in a nature reserve (in Australia?) as the godwits rise into the air to begin their annual migration to Alaska. There is little in the text to inform us about this amazing journey and New Zealand, a major player, doesn’t get a look-in although a good map and links to websites are included. However, with the beauty of illustration teamed with a knowledgeable teacher or other adult, the book will open many windows (and doors) to this epic flight.   
Year 4 up/ Age 8 up 

Jeannie Baker  - Photographer not traced

Featherston Booktown and other news


Featherston Booktown – a three-day celebration of books, writers and literature – is returning to the Wairarapa town for the second time from May 20-22.

Joy Cowley, who lives in Featherston and composer Gareth Farr have joined together to put rhythm into Joy's book, Scary Music.

Please Google Featherston Booktown for all the details – it should be a very special few days .

Photo of Joy in her Featherston home taken by Maarten Holl/ Fairfax Media

An author virtually unknown in this country has won $50,000 at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

Stephen Daisley — originally from Raetihi but a longtime resident of Western Australia — is the surprise winner of the fiction category with his second novel, Coming Rain. He faced serious competition from Patricia Grace, Patrick Evans and newcomer David Coventry.

The prestige of winning the country's top literary honour is capped by the $50,000 Acorn Foundation Literary Prize, which will buy Daisley some time to dedicate to his next book. 

Other awards, each accompanied by $10,000 prizes, went to Witi Ihimaera for his memoir Maori Boy

Witi at the Edinburgh Festival 2014 - photogapher unknown

David Eggleton for his poetry collection The Conch Trumpet, and Tangata Whenua authors Aroha HarrisAtholl Anderson and the late Judith Binney.

Acknowledgements: I copied this word for word from STUFF


I saw on Facebook this morning that another National Treasure (see Dave Gunson’s book posted earlier), Kate Harcourt, is in hospital following a heart attack.  That she is loved and known by so many people is shown by the amazingly astronomical number of hits and likes this piece of news has already collected. 

NZ Treasures and Traditions

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Dave Gunson
New Holland 2016  $24.99pb 64pp
All About series
ISBN 978 1 8696 6448 0
Themes: New Zealand culture (mid 20th century) / New Zealand icons

Remember when we called Tamarillos, Tree Tomatoes and Kiwifruit were Chinese Gooseberries? Do we ‘talk funny’ in New Zillund? (Australians apparently think so). And just what is the story behind the use of the silver fern as an emblem of our country?
In trade-mark bright colours, easily followed text and a cornucopia of information, Dave Gunson has created another title in his All about series – this time one that will be full of nostalgia for the 40 plus adults as well as presenting much up to the minute information for them and for younger readers at whom, of course, the book is aimed.  Who we are, where we are, what we eat and drink, what we make, what animals and plants share the country with us   - it’s definitely all about New Zealand Treasure ands Traditions.
Year 4 up/ Age 8 up – but definitely of interest to adults of all ages.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Marine Life - Children's Picture Book

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Marion Day, illustrated by Jane Thorne
Spiny Sebastian Starfish
AM Publishing NZ 2016  $19.99pb 32pp
ISBN 978 0 9941 3053 2
Themes: Marine life/ Marlborough Sounds, NZ

One morning while he was simply minding his own business and searching for food on the sea floor, Sebastian Starfish found himself hooked, dragged to the surface and thrown into a smelly bucket of bait.   This began a long and anxious journey for him until, at last, he was reunited with his friends. Small children will enjoy identifying the different emotions on Sebastian’s ‘face’ from terror to surprise to, at last, real happiness when he was returned home.
This picture book, the first of a planned series, is available from selected bookshops and from the writer who lives and creates her stories in the Marlborough Sounds. Go to:   
Preschool up/ Age 4 up

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

A very small climber

NZ Writer and Illustrator
Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Link Choi
Henry Bob Bobbalich
Scholastic 2016  $18.99pb 32pp
ISBN 978 1 7754 3322 4
Themes: Adventurous children/ Anger/ Climbing/ Fathers and sons/ Stories in rhyme

Henry Bob Bobbalich was a small boy with a great sense of adventure especially when it came to climbing  - walls/ trees/ cliffs – nothing was too tall or too difficult – he could scale them all. However this didn’t suit his unimaginative school teacher who felt the boy should be concentrating on matters closer to the ground and Henry lost his spirit. It took his father, a small girl falling from a cliff and a large elephant to turn his fate and for him to be able to listen to the voice inside his head and to follow the sort of life he knew was right for him. Interesting illustrations from Link Choi an Auckland based artist who specialises in producing picture books for adults (this may be his first picture book for children?) and whose prints are available for view on the net. One of the charms of the book is you are really not quite sure where and when it is set. Children will have their own ideas.  As she did in Grasshoppers Dance  (Scholastic 2015) Juliette MacIver has a wonderful way with words  (They read palms and the Psalms, applied balms they had made…) which makes it a pleasure to read aloud.
Preschool up/ Age 4 up

(Is it really a week since I entered anything on this Blog?  Put it down to the school holidays and an avalanche of writers wanting their work assessed! BM)