Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Latest titles from Scholastic

Dinosaur Trouble: The Great Egg Stink by Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley, Scholastic NZ

There’s no mention on the book that this is a prequel to the popular Dinosaur Rescue series, but that’s what we are told on Scholastic’s website. Not just one prequel – it’s a whole new series! It’s written for transitional readers aged about five to seven, and should be useful with reluctant readers in those first years of school (mainly boys).

As with the Dinosaur Rescue series, there is a preponderance of rude bodily functions, so parents and teachers beware. It uses simple straightforward text to describe how Arg acquires his little microceratops pet, Krrk-Krrk. This involves the theft of some dinosaur eggs, copious vomiting, and similar gross activities performed by Arg’s family – all lavishly illustrated in black ink cartoons by Donovan Bixley.

I can’t really recommend this for reading aloud in the classroom – I suspect it would cause general hysteria… But most young male readers should love it.

ISBN 978 1 77543 366 8 $6.00 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Tui Street Tales by Anne Kayes, Scholastic NZ

This is the 2016 winner of Storylines’ Tom Fitzgibbon Award for a junior novel from an unpublished writer. It’s an unusual format for this award, consisting as it does of seven stories focusing on seven different families who live in Tui Street. There’s something unusual about Tui Street – you can find a tree that literally grows into the sky (with a giant at the top), and a Maero (Maori guardian) living in the creek, and a helpful tui that grows to an enormous size… As we read, we detect definite echoes of traditional fairy tales, such as Jack and the Beanstalk, The Princess and the Pea, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves – to name a few. But these old tales have been brought into the 21st century and now focus on thoroughly modern children.

The narrative framework that surrounds the stories looks at the way the Tui Street children look after each other and help each other through difficulties. However another theme introduces the idea that many of the parents in Tui Street are heavily involved in the magical events woven through the seven stories.  As an adult, I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief at this adult involvement – but probably most children won’t have the same qualms. Best for readers of about 8 to 11 who like a good dollop of magic inside their book covers.

ISBN 978 1 77543 472 6 $16.99 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Makaro Press Blog Tour

Lonesome When You Go by Saradha Koirala, Makaro Press

"I look to my band mates. They’re
wide-eyed. It’s time to put our
rock faces on. My fingers on
the strings, my shoulder under
the strap of the bass, my feet on
the floor – every part of me burns."

Not only is this the author’s first YA book, but it’s also just been given a 2017 Notable Book Award by the Storylines Foundation – one of only two YA books to receive the award this year. Congratulations to author and publisher!

Saradha is well qualified to be the author of a novel about a musical teenager. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from Victoria University and has published two books of poetry. In her other life she’s a secondary school teacher of English literature and creative writing. She is also (surely) a bass guitar player in a band – I say this because the descriptions of her heroine’s life as a bass guitar player in a high school rock ban
d have the confidence of first-hand experience.

Paige’s band, Vox Pop, are selected for the final of the Rockfest competition. Their hopes are high. But then things start to fall to pieces. “I just want things to stay the same,” Paige laments. “The band, my friends… I want to keep a nice steady rhythm, a walking bass line where every note lands on the beat and you always know exactly what to expect.” But with two members of the band at loggerheads and another suffering a bad motorbike accident, Paige finds everything spinning out of control. When one of her best friends is hospitalized with anorexia, Paige simply can’t cope. After a devastating event at the Rockfest finals Paige hits rock bottom, but she finally pulls herself together and realises it’s time to pursue other dreams.

It’s an energetic and very readable story with a likeable heroine – I thoroughly enjoyed it, even the music-focused bits. I do have one little criticism which is nothing to do with the story – I think the cover is too austere (it’s a black and white picture of an amp). If only it was a dramatic picture of a girl playing a bass guitar, something full of life and verve that would attract the eye of a teen reader… As it is, librarians and teachers will have to make an effort to “sell” the book to teens. Hopefully the Notable Book Award will help with its promotion.

BTW, there’s a free teaching resource available on

Saradha Koirala has played in a number of bands over the years, all with dubious names. She’s a huge fan of 90s rock and Bob Dylan but appreciates the nuanced beauty of anything created with purpose, integrity and
love. After teaching English at high schools in Wellington for ten years, Saradha now lives in Melbourne with a drummer, a writing desk and a bicycle. She is the author of two collections of poetry, and Lonesome When You Go
is her first novel.

ISBN 9780994123749 RRP $25 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

The Blog tour continues ... Other  brilliant bloggers are:

4 April • Crissi Blair
5 April • Eirlys Hunter
6 April • Sarah Forster
7 April • Zac McCallum

The Disenchanted Wizard

The Disenchanted Wizard [e-book] by Mike Crowl with Cherianne Parks, Frank Joseph Publishing (127 Glenpark Ave, Maryhill, Dunedin 9011, email

Mike says this fantasy is part of a 3-book series that began with Grimhilda! in 2014. This third story is the best of all of them. It can certainly be read as a stand-alone.

The heroine, Della, is about to play in a very important football game – the opener before the top local premier team (the Wizards) plays against the All Stars. She’s dying to meet her hero football player, Xanadu Whitworth. But her cousin Harold interrupts her preparations with a newly-acquired old map – and when the two of them study the map they see some strange and spooky pictures, one of which seems to move. When they show Archie, Della’s father, his reaction is frightening - he turns white and rushes out of the house. Della and Harold try to track him down, but soon find themselves thrust into a nightmare of horrifying events involving people being folded up into the magic map, an old wizard who keeps on losing his memory at the crucial time, and a wicked wizard who can shapeshift into a wolf and is determined to use a magical talisman to take over the minds of all the spectators at the big football game.

Non-stop action and a strong focus on the child protagonists are combined to create a satisfying fantasy for readers (probably girls) of about 9 to 12.

Available as an e-book from the main online bookshops (these links copied from Mike’s blog):


ISBN 978 0 473 38856 0: Various prices: e-book

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Scholastic's latest picture book offerings

The Singing Dolphin: Te Aihe i Waiata by Mere Whaanga, Scholastic NZ

This accomplished author/illustrator has produced several books for children; probably the most well-known is Tangaroa’s Gift which won the Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award in 2011. It’s great to see she’s written and illustrated a delightful new bilingual picture book. It was inspired by the real-life story of Moko the dolphin who lived and played in the sea near Mahia between 2007 and 2009. She tells of a wise woman who lived near the Pathway of the Whales and had three grandsons. The youngest grandson is good at singing magical songs, but when his two brothers cast him overboard from their canoe in a fit of rage, he transforms into a dolphin. Sadly, he doesn’t know the song for transforming back. Sometimes he returns to his old home, playing, bringing gifts, and singing songs – but he cannot stay.

The illustrations are delicately beautiful, combining fine black pen outlines with water-colour seascapes in fabulous shades of blue, green, purple, aqua and turquoise. Each double-spread illustration offers fascinating detail that will entertain quick-eyed youngsters while the text is being read.
Despite the beauty of the pictures it’s a sombre story, so I think it would be best shared with primary-aged children either in small groups or one-to-one.

ISBN 978 1 77543 402 3 RRP $19.99 Pb (also available in hardback, $27.99)

10 Greedy Goats, pictures by Deborah Hinde, sung by Pio Terei, Maori lyrics by Ngaere Roberts, Scholastic

Yes, it’s another one in Scholastic’s series of picture songbooks and CDs using the tune of 10 Green Bottles - following on from three earlier books featuring kiwis, geckos and penguins. It’s obviously a very popular series! The lyrics are written by Scholastic NZ staff, and there are a few hiccups in the scansion – but fortunately these are barely noticeable in the sung version. As always, Deborah Hinde’s Adobe Photoshop illustrations are crisp and colourful, and will retain the attention of any pre-schooler following the story of the ever-reducing goat clan having heaps of fun at the fair. The Maori lyrics are provided separately in the last few pages of the book.

ISBN 978 1 77543 407 8 RRP $20 Pb

Nee Naw: The Little Fire Engine Words and music by Deano Yipadee, illus. Paul Beavis, Scholastic 

We’re barely past Christmas with its usual profusion of Scholastic picture songbooks – and here’s another one! It’s a follow-up collaboration from the pair who produced the extremely popular Jingle Bells Rudolph Smells (Scholastic NZ). As with all books in this songbook genre, the text consists of the words of a song. Children can look at the illustrations, sing along to the song, and (if they’re able) read the words. There are some handy fire safety tips inside the back cover.

Dean O’Brien (aka Mr Yipadee) is a New Zealand singer, song-writer, performer and app-producer who lives and tours in Europe and the UK. He also tours New Zealand with Craig Smith (of Wonky Donkey fame). The words of his song sound better on the accompanying CD than they do on the printed page – so it’s best to have the whole family singing along rather than reading it aloud. It’s a bouncy feel-good story about a little fire engine who manages to deal with a difficult fire when his two bigger station-mates can’t do it.

The exuberant action-packed illustrations are done by Paul Beavis whose other work includes the illustrations for the award-winning junior novel Barking Mad (Scholastic NZ) and the picture book Mrs Mo’s Monster (Gecko Press) – I love both these books.

BTW, the book provides a website address for Deano Yipadee which didn’t work for me. I went to instead.

ISBN 978 1 77543 392 7 RRP $21.99 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Friday, March 10, 2017

Stories, Activities and fun - all in one book

ANNUAL edited by Kate de Goldi and Susan Paris (Gecko Press)

Kate de Goldi and Susan Paris wanted to produce a book that appealed to the intelligent enquiring child. The child they were. A child that reads well above their age, devouring sophisticated language, but not ready for YA themes.

They’ve broken all the rules and started from scratch beginning with the stark orange cover with gold drawings, and endpapers that invite you to find the story. The contents page is a piece of art in itself. Dylan Horrocks produced each page title in the form of a poster or newspaper heading.

The stories, articles, activities, comics and poems have been written by mostly beginner writers or experienced adult writers. Kate wanted to give some gifted first-time authors an opportunity, and also encourage adult authors to enter into the world of children’s literature; hoping to break down barriers. You will also find some well-known children’s authors: Barbara Else, Joanna Orwin, Bernard Beckett and Ben Brown.

One of my favourite pieces in the book is Paul Beavis’s visual spread on storytelling (page 44-50). He uses his monster character, from his two books, to show how to get started with a story, how to draw your characters, create visual conflict, use contrast and conflict to build a story, show not tell, and how to wrap it all up. Lastly, he shows the young reader how to make their own 8-page book to write their story in. Teachers will want to use this to inspire story-writing and illustrating in their class. 
Some of the material is quite sophisticated like the photographs and some of the artwork. There's also some excellent activities that young children will enjoy. Such as Gavin Mouldey's maze and maps and spot the difference, Dylan Horrock's game board, and Fifi Colston's stunning bottle people. There's even a song and its chords called 'Always on your Phone'.

When considering who you would buy it for, I think you have to stop thinking in children’s ages but in their reading ability. Kids that are eight years old but sophisticated readers will love it, as will 12-14 year olds who like to visually pore all over a book. Adults who are lovers of children’s literature will also want it. A book you will want to dip in and out for years. Would make a great Christmas present.

ISBN: 978-1-776570-77-5
RRP $39.99 (hardback)

Buy at all good bookshops and online here

A book of Maori Wisdom

Mauri Ora: Wisdom from the Maori World by Peter Alsop & Te Ray Kupenga (Potton & Burton)

Mauri Ora is a beautiful book to hold. From the engaging photo on the front of a mother and baby sharing a laugh, to the gold edging on hardcover and pages, to the striking collection of black and white photographs throughout the book and the choice of Maori proverbs.

In the Introduction the authors suggest if you want to know more about a culture get to know their proverbs. They talk about the power of proverbs and how you can ‘use your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you.’

Peter Alsop and Te Ray Kupenga have structured the book in six parts (virtues):

1.      Maatauranga – Wisdom – applying experience, knowledge and judgement
2.      Maaia – Courage –  staring down adversity and draw on strength
3.      Atawhai – Compassion – drawing on different emotions depending on the situation
4.      Ngaakau Tapatahi – Integrity – doing what is right
5.      Whakahautanga – Self Mastery – modifying behaviour and actions for desirable effect
6.      Whakapono – Belief – acknowledgement of the spiritual realm

They explain what those virtues are and before you launch into reading those virtues it  suggests that the book presents options and invitations ‘a whakatauki menu waiting for the right occasion, time or place’.

The first proverb in Wisdom is titled ‘Maatanga – Experienced’: Ekore e mau i a koe, he wae kai pakiaka: You will not catch the feet accustomed to running among the roots.’  You won’t find an explanation for this proverb, instead the book invites you to ruminate and think about what it means to you. On the opposite page is a full page historical photograph of a Kuia carrying a young Maori child on her back looking at you (photographer).

They've chosen photographs that depict Maori culture. You’ll find intimate photographs of family, famous Maori elders, and Maori going about their work. This book would be a great addition to Secondary School libraries; inspiring its students. As well as a book for the home library, and as a gift for expatriates or overseas friends. Would make an excellent Christmas present.

ISBN: 978-0-947-503147
RRP $39.99
Have a look inside the book here
Buy the book here

Saturday, March 4, 2017

A heartwarming children's war book

Torty and the Soldier: A story of a true WWI survivor by Jennifer Beck, Fifi Colston (Scholastic)

Stewart Little (the real one, not the movie character) had been walking to a field hospital in Salonika when he saw a small tortoise run over in 1916. Half buried in the dusty road Stewart picked up the squashed tortoise and took it back to the hospital ship where he worked. He cared for it while they traveled back and forth from England to France then Malta and back to England. Even though he was told no pets were allowed back into New Zealand he hid the tortoise, which had gone into hibernation in his kitbag. It lived with him for the rest of his life. This is their true story.

To accompany this heartwarming story is Fifi Colston's stunning sepia coloured illustrations. Fifi visited the real tortoise in Napier and the replica at Te Papa while finding reference material about the reptile before painting the images. This is the second children's war book, Fifi has illustrated. The first being The Red Poppy written by David Hill. Fifi captures just the right tone for the book and I love how she brings in texture, shading and morphs in other images.

Jennifer Beck communicated with the relatives of Stewart Little while researching the book. She'll be launching Torty and the Soldier with the family in Morrinsville this week. Jennifer Beck also wrote The Bantam and the Soldier, illustrated by Robyn-Belton. You can see an interview with Jennifer Beck here.

The creative non-fiction story will teach children about empathy for animals, and the span of a tortoise's life over several generations of a human's life. It's another untold story from WWI and 4-8 year old children (and older) will love this gentle tale.

ISBN: 978-1-77543-484-9
RRP $19.99 (hardback)

Torty and the Soldier and The Red Poppy also feature in a children's war book exhibition currently travelling around Australia. For more information about the Anzac Stories: Behind the Pages Exhibition go here.