Saturday, October 22, 2016

A book for little monsters

Did you hear a monster? by Raymond McGrath (Penguin)

I'm rather a fan of these monster books written, illustrated and sung by Raymond McGrath. The other two books 'It's not a monster. It's me!' and 'Have you seen a monster?' have also been popular with little monsters, I mean children. Raymond's storytelling, humour, artwork, and songs work really well. I love the expressions on the monsters and little children's faces.

To say Clarice Caroline is a little scaredy-cat, is an understatement. She's frightened of loud noises, cracks in the pavement, grown-ups ... in fact, she is scared of everything. To help her deal with her fears she wears a helmet (just in case). However, one night she ventures out of her bed alone, tiptoeing across creaking floorboards, along dark and echoey hallways, right up to a bumpity thumpity noise ... Find out what she discovers and why she's stepped out of her fears to help someone, or should I say something ...

Wonderful fun, children will want it read again and again. Might help some children deal with their own fears. Will be a favourite in the house or classroom. As a bonus you get to play the CD and hear several songs:  Monstomping; Did you hear a Monster? read along, I am not afraid of the Dark, and The Friendship song.

ISBN: 978-0-14-330913-0
RRP $19.99
Due for release 3 October 2016

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Scholastic Christmas Titles

Dinosaur Hunting by Lucy Davey, illustrated by Kirsten Richards (Scholastic)

Just about every boy goes through a crazy-about-dinosaur phase; some more than others. Those that are fanatic can reel off the names of a dozen dinosaurs and tell you all sorts of interesting facts about them. This book is meant for them.

Father and son decide to go on a dinosaur hunting expedition in their backyard ...

Down to the garden,
tiptoe tracking.
Dinosaur hunting, Daddy and me.
Following footprints,
twigs snap-cracking -
which kinds of dinosaurs can we see?

Their imagination sees all sorts of dinosaurs ... Stegosaurus, Shamosaurus, Segisaurus, Ammosaurus, Spinosaurus, Supersaurus ... and T-Rex! I had to look up google to see if they were real dinosaurs or not; I only recognized the first and last one. Father and son make dinosaurs out of the washing, while playing at the playground, and while splashing in puddles. Observant little boys will see a real dinosaur hiding in each picture. But oh-oh, the little boy loses his dinosaur plush toy; they have to backtrack to find it. Teachers and mothers could ask who is hunting who?

The story reminds me of the classic 'We're going on a bear hunt', which was hugely popular in our house when the kids were small. Lucy's clever use of alliteration, onomatopoeia and rhythm will make this a favourite to read aloud to young audiences.

Lucy Davey is a very talented lady. She's written a number of popular picture books including The Fidgety Itch, Fifi la Bell series, A Right Royal Christmas, Pandora's Potato Romp, Tarantula Boo! and Out of Bed, Fred!  As well as being a skilled children's book writer, she is a children's song writer, has a PhD in chemical engineering, and can paint. This is her third book published this year - which is a feat in itself, coupled with raising three teenagers and a baby is a miracle!

Kirsten Richards is new to the New Zealand scene, but she's illustrated books for Scholastic US, Oxford University Press, Hodder Children's Books, Thomas Nelson and Top That! Her book 'The Littlest Pilgrim' spent three weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers list. Kirsten grew up in England but now lives in Auckland. Her artwork is expressive, colourful and enables young readers to find something new they hadn't seen the last time they read the book. Kirsten created the artwork using acrylic inks and finished it in Photoshop.

ISBN: 978-1-77543-395-8
RRP $19
Ages: 3-7 years

Jingle Bells, Rudolph Smells by Deano Yipadee and Paul Beavis (Scholastic)

We've had farting donkeys and cows ... and now we have a farting Rudolph - one of Santa's reindeers. It was bound to happen sooner or later. Kindy kids who love this type of humour are going to laugh their heads off.

Santa and all the reindeer set off on their trip, and then oops, they hit a bump and one of the reindeer did a trump. The chorus follows:

Jingle bells! Rudolph smells
from eating carrots and hay,
went over a bump and he did a TRUMP,
and it went in Santa's face - hey!

Four year old kids are going to run around and sing that stanza all morning.

In the end, Rudolphs' failing helps get Santa and the sleigh out of a sticky situation. A free CD is attached at the back of the book; kids will want to play it again and again ... teachers and parents might take a contract out on the author.

Musician Deano Yipadee takes his musical show all around English schools. He's originally from New Zealand but has been living in England for a few years with his young family. Deano says Wonky Donkey's Craig Smith inspired him to write musical picture books.

You'll know Paul Beavis from his Mrs Mo's monster picture books, which are a favourite amongst young children. He's managed to capture different personalities for each reindeer while giving the main character - Rudolph - his starring role. The pictures are fun, colourful and encourage young readers to inspect each page closely for new details. 'Jing Bells, Rudolph Smells' is bound to sell well around the Christmas period for years to come.

ISBN: 978-1-77543-385-9
RRP $21
Ages 3-7 years

The Kiwi Hokey Tokey by Lynette Evans, illustrations by Stevie Mahardhika, sung by Pio Terei, Maori lyrics by Ngaere Roberts

I'm not sure if schools still teach the Hokey Tokey dance, but I sure remembering dancing it at school. It was great fun. I'm not surprised Scholastic thought of doing a kiwi version. I bet teachers will be grateful for this story/song and will be using it for their next performance; they're always looking for songs with actions to do for their classroom performance.

Here's how it goes:
a clan of kiwi put on a dance display,
invited friends to join, one sunny day,
to do the Hokey Tokey,
and here's how to play!

You put your pokey beak in,
Down in the gully on a farm far away
you put your pokey beak out,
you put your pokey beak in,
and you shake it all about.

You do the Cool-as Kiwi
and you turn around, that's what it's all about.
Ka Pai!

The little kiwis in the pictures demonstrate the moves. Next, the pukeko put their lanky legs in, then tuatara put their spikey tail in, and the kea put their scratchy feet in ... We then have farm animals having their turn: sheep, horses, ducks, pigs and fantails, until they all join in together for the finale. I can see kindy kids and Junior Primary kids wanting to jump up and sing and do the actions again, straight away. Luckily for the teachers the song is sung in English and Maori on the CD attached, and the Maori version is written at the back. Will bound to be a great success in kindergartens and Junior Primary School.

Lynette Evans is the publishing manager at Scholastic. She's quietly penned a few children's books with her Scholastic team.

Illustrator Stevie Mahardhika was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia and moved to New Zealand to study at AUT. Stevie works with the Watermark group of illustrators. His illustrations are bright and colourful and drawn digitally using Photoshop.

Pio Terei is one of New Zealand's most popular and personable entertainers. He is also a positive parenting advocate and spokesperson and has presented 'No Sweat Parenting' shows around the country for many years, helping to write and present a series of the same name for Maori TV.

ISBN: 978-1-775543-411-5
RRP $21
Ages 3-7 years

Kiwi Corkers Bag of Books: Five evergreen children's stories with a kiwi bent (Scholastic)

Can't think of what to get your son, daughter, grandchildren ... then buy them this gorgeous set of Kiwi Corker books in a cute little bag. You'll get :

The Little Blue Duck by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Stevie Mahardhika
The Frog Footy Player by Chris Gurney, illustrated by John Bennett
The Three Cattle Dogs Gruff by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Myles Lawford
The Tuatara and the Skink by Yvonne Morrison, illustrated by Donovan Bixley
The Ugly Hatchling by Yvonne Morrison, illustrated by Dave Gunson

They are all stories that lend themselves to being read aloud; their rhythm, rhyme and familiarity make them popular with 3-7 year olds.

The Little Blue Duck loves to cook but needs someone to help her. All her friends are too busy until it comes time to eat the pavlova.

In The Frog Footy Player Kiri is happily playing with her rugby ball until she kicks it into the pond. Frog offers to help but only if she grants him a wish. However, once she gets her ball back she's reluctant to carry out his wish ...

Kids will recognize this tale straight away in The Three Cattle Dogs Gruff, but instead of old billy gruff its a taniwha that hides under the bridge and three young cattle dogs need to cross the bridge. Will they get across?

In The Tuatara and the Skink its vain Sammy the Skink who represents the hare, and Old Tom who stands in for the tortoise. Old Tom wants to put Sammy Skink in his place so suggests a race. Will it be smug and speedy Sammy or clever Old Tom who will run the competition?

Instead of the ugly duckling we have a rather misfortunate looking kiwi hatchling in The Ugly Hatchling. Stoat has captured a large juicy egg but in his haste to get away with his prize he drops it and it rolls out of the forest and lands beside mother Pukeko, who thinks it is one of her clutch of eggs. Out hatch 1, 2, 3, 4 fluffy black chicks and one strange little chick. Kids will recognise it is a little kiwi. When the pukeko fly away, the little chick goes looking for his own kind.

Chris Gurney and Yvonne Morrison are rhyme and rhythm masters and the stories are a joy to read aloud. Little kids are going to enjoy slinging the bag over their shoulders and then curling up to look at the pictures, and then beg their parents to read them aloud to them. Great holiday reading!

ISBN: 978-1-77543-426-9
RRP $25
Ages 3-7 years

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Latest from Leonie Agnew

The Impossible Boy by Leonie Agnew, Penguin Random House NZ

Award-winning Leonie Agnew’s previous two junior fiction titles were Super Finn and Conrad Cooper’s Last Stand. This new story is so different to the first two that I asked Leonie about its origins. Interestingly, it is already an award-winning story, having won a prize presented by British publisher David Fickling Books, called the 2015 Master of the Inkpot. There were over 1000 entries specifically from authors working without agents.

Leonie’s previous two titles are generally known as humorous stories – but it might be better to call them serious stories wrapped up in a humorous exterior. The Impossible Boy combines several dramatic themes but without the sugar coating. It’s a tough story which required a big leap of imagination. Leonie herself believes that it’s not suitable for readers of Year 5 and below – but says she has had good responses from students of Year 6 and upwards.

The impossible boy, Vincent Gum, is the invisible companion of a 6-year-old lost child named Benjamin Grey – only Ben can see Vincent. The boys are wandering in an unidentified war-torn city.

Vincent takes Ben to shelter in an orphanage, but stays with him to ensure his safety. Ben comes under the protection of a group of orphans who teach him survival skills, but nobody except Vincent can protect him against the nightmarish Hanger Man who lives in the closet. As the plot develops and the children fight to stay alive, reality and non-reality swirl together – the question “Who is Vincent?” becomes predominant, and readers need to piece together the clues to produce their own interpretations.

There are definite allegorical elements in the story. The devastated city where the children live has to be representative of any war-ravaged city. Syria comes to mind, but the city is not obviously middle-eastern. The children are the same as children anywhere, getting through their lives as best they can. Vincent, the invisible boy, is more than just a traditional imaginary friend – he’s an entity called into physical existence by Ben. In one challenging part of the story, Vincent is denied by Ben and finds himself helplessly sucked back inside Ben’s brain, only to emerge later when the monstrous Hanger Man must be defeated. Surely this is an allegorical look at the power of human imagination and determination. As for the Hanger Man himself – he is representative of a million childish nightmares, the ultimate monster in a million closets.

When I asked about the inspirations for this story, Leonie said she actually wrote the first draft of the book before Super Finn was published. The complete story came to her about seven years ago, one Christmas morning after she’d been to mass the evening before. But she also believes the inspiration came from many sources – books about the power of faith, movies about the power of imagination, ponderings on the foundations of religion. Interested adults and keen young readers will find this book riveting, challenging, startling - and ultimately inspiring.  It will haunt readers for a long time, and I’m sure we’ll hear a lot more about it. 

ISBN 978 0 14 330906 2 RRP 19.99 Pb (also available as an e-book)

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Picture books for four year olds

Jack's Castle by Brett Avison, illustrated by Scott Tulloch (Bateman)

Bateman hasn't published many children's books.  Brett Avison's prior books were published with an Australian publishing company. Obviously, the publisher couldn't resist this digger story.

Jack uses his sit-on digger to make a castle in the sand. His dog Toby digs too. Kids ask if they can join in and together they build a majestic castle with turrets, a moat, and tower with flags and flowers. But, oh no, the tide comes in and washes it away. Do they build a new one everyday or find another solution for their castle. Read it to find out how Jack problem solves this dilemma.

Scott Tulloch's illustrations are rich and expressive with full colour illustrations on every page.

My son was digger-mad - many four year old boys are too.  If you've helped your son or daughter build sand castles, you'll remember their disappointed faces when the waves washed their castles away. Parents and teachers could talk about what they could do to save their sandcastles and the bigger issue of not feeling frustrated when something happens - instead, look for ways to solve the problem. Bound to be popular with little boys and girls who love to play in the sand.

I've just discovered that Bateman also published another of Brett's stories 'A hippo lives in Havelock', which was also favourably received. Magpies review: The text rollicks along in jaunty rhyme and children well beyond Havelock will be captivated by the hippo's heroics." Magpies, Vol. 31, 2016

ISBN:  978-1-86953-943-6
RRP $24.99 Hardback

Tiny Owl on the Ramshackle Farm written and illustrated by Lotte Wotherspoon

A tiny owl snoozes in the branches of an old macrocarpa tree on a ramshackle farm. He can hear the
babble of a brook in the midnight calm, until pigs come crashing through the trees, a bull swishes his tail and snorts in his dreams, a chicken noisily lays eggs ... and other animals disturb the silent night air. Each time Tiny Owl imagines some great monster thrashing around the farm. His parents realise his fears and take him flying to show him the majesty of the farm and the sunrise. Will it help him overcome his fears ... read to find out.

The real star of this book is the black pen sketch drawings with pops of red colour. My favourite pages feature the family of owls on the farm, the crashing pigs, the night sky with twinkling stars, cat on the verandah, the pohutukawa trees, and the sunrise - they are stunning. The endpapers are rather gorgeous too. The artwork is quite different to anything else on the market.

Will be enjoyed by young children 3-7 years, and emerging young artists. It will most likely encourage some to experiment with their own black pen and red drawings. Parents and teachers can also use the book as

a springboard to talk about their own fears and how to overcome them.

This is Lotte's third book for children (that I can find). Her second book 'Pukeko dancing on the old dirt track' shortlisted for the Scholastic Best Children's Book Awards at the 2016 BPANZ Awards. She also illustrated David Hill's book 'Black Day' several years ago.

ISBN: 978-0-473-35329-2
RRP $29.95 Hardback, $19.99 Paperback

Reviewed by Maria Gill

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Inspirational sport book for boys

Bruce wants to go faster by Dreydon Sobanja, illustrated by Murray Dewhurst, (Inspired Kids)

Dreydon Sobanja brought out two inspirational picture books several years ago. This time he is targeting a slightly older age group and developed his story into an illustrated junior fiction title. He's also published it in hardback, and I think with the higher production values and the message he is giving out - he has struck the mark, this time.

Sir Colin Giltrap (of Giltrap Motors) introduces the story in the foreword. He talks about how Bruce McLaren was an inspiration throughout his life and ends with, if you aspire to Bruce's principles and believe in yourself - you can succeed in your life too.  A nice positive message to begin the story.

Chapter One begins with Bruce McLaren's love of anything with wheels. Unfortunately, after 11 year old Bruce hurt his leg he developed a limp - a limp that wouldn't go away. Doctors discovered he had Perthes syndrome and would have to rest ... for two years. You can imagine how awful that would be for a young boy. However, imaginative Bruce found ways to occupy his time and one of those hobbies was carving objects. One day he carved a motor car and showed the nurse. He told her when he grew up he would build that racing car and then build another that would be faster. That's evidence of someone who believes strongly in their destiny. Read the rest of the story to find out if he achieves his dream. You'll also discover other interesting facets of his life.

At the back of the book, you'll find the secrets of Bruce's success. Dreydon writes a paragraph about each virtue. For example, adaptability - he adapted his dream of racing motorcycles to being a Formula One race car driver. The message being, your dream now will change and grow as you get older, and you must change and grow with it.

I really liked the visual timeline on the last few pages, too. It shows the different cars Bruce drove and other titbits about his life.

Boys (and girls who like cars) aged 6-10 years old will thoroughly enjoy this book. It has an interesting life story with positive messages that young people can apply to their life - to achieve their dreams.

Dreydon Sobanja decided to put his dream of writing inspirational books for children, and competing in endurance sporting events into reality in his early thirties. This is his third book in the series, and he's represented New Zealand at the ITU Age Group World Triathlon Championship in Canada in 2014.

Illustrator Murray Dewhurst approached author Dreydon Sobanja with the idea for this book. Murray had always enjoyed drawing motorcars and his Uncle Keith Madgwick had also overcome a disability to fulfil his dream of competing in motor sport. Murray is a published urban artist, graphic designer and illustrator.

RRP $24.99 Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-473-36062-7

Monday, September 26, 2016

Trans-Tasman promotion

the Shark Caller by Dianne Wolfer (Penguin)

I've met Dianne Wolfer several times at SCBWI conferences in Sydney. She's a very kind and thoughtful person, who is much loved by her fellow authors. This book is a break away from her other books, which have been three children's war books (Lighthouse Girl, Light Horse Boy, Photographs in the Mud), one picture book (Granny Grommet and me), and several junior fiction books. Dianne told us in a talk at The Children's Bookshop in Sydney that she wrote it after visiting Papua New Guinea and hearing about the island tradition of calling sharks. Dianne told us it took six years to write; the story started in one direction and ended up in another. I read it in one sitting on the plane home to New Zealand and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The main character, Isabel, and her mother return to their birthplace in Papua New Guinea to grieve, after the heartbreaking loss of Isabel's twin brother. Her relatives welcome her back into the fold, as if she had never left. However, she notices quickly that a lot has changed. Someone has sold the rights to log the forest on the small island, and it's having a devastating effect on the community.

Isabel's brother was supposed to learn the secret ways of calling sharks, but he died before given the chance. Instead, Isabel's cousin teaches her how to dive and her Uncle tells her stories about her ancestors. It's her destiny to undertake a long dive through underwater caves on her own. She puts aside her fears to carry out the traditional ritual to see if she can save her brother. What she finds is beyond whatever she could have imagined. Does she have the courage to complete the journey or will she succumb to the horrors within?

It's a coming of age story, with a fantasy element. Dianne weaves folk lore into the story and gives it a twist. A gripping tale with beautiful imagery

Highly recommended for young readers 10-14 years old.

RRP NZ$23, A$17.99
ISBN:  978-0-14-378055-7 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

New publishing house on the block EK Books

I attended the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators' Conference in Sydney last weekend. On one of the panels illustrator Gwynneth Jones talked about illustrating three books at once, Anouska Jones spoke about writing her first book as well as being the publisher of the new Sugar and Spice series for young girls, and Susan Whelan shared her writing process.  Imagine my surprise when I returned home Friday to find these three beautiful books in my mail box.

Patch and Ruby by Anouska Jones, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones

Patch and Ruby is the tale of a lonely pony. It chats with the chickens, hangs out with the lady birds, eats dinner with the mice family and nuzzles up to his special friend Sam. However, everyone is busy and have their own family. Sam realises Patch is lonely and does something about it. Guess who comes to play with Patch. Life is never the same.

The images are bright and colourful ensuring that young girls fall in love with the characters. The hardback books have eye-catching spines, and the endpapers introduce the main characters.

A sweet story about caring for animals and making sure they're not lonely. Horses are pack animals and like to share a paddock with other ponies, horses or other animals. The story is also about friendship and being thoughtful of other people/animal's needs. Young children will enjoy this gentle story.

ISBN:  978-1-925335-22-4
RRP $19.99 Hardback

Dance with me by Penny Harrison, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones

A little musical box ballerina enjoys twirling and whirling to the boxed music and calls to a young girl to dance with her. And she does. But one day the young girl grows up and ignores her. The ballerina jumps out of the window and waltzes around roses and asks a bee, then turtle, and a tiger to dance with her but they just shoo her away. She returns to her little box and beckons the girl to play with her. Instead she closes the box for a very long time. Is she destined to stay squashed and bent in the box or will someone else come along who'll appreciate her ballerina moves and music?

A sweet tale about a bored ballerina who longs to dance with someone else. Little dancers will empathise with her and get them up dancing and twirling with her.

ISBN: 978-1-925335-23-1
RRP $19.99 Hardback

The Great Sock Secret by Susan Whelan, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones

EVERY household has a pile of lost socks and probably EVERY family has a child whose imagination wonders what happens to those socks.

Sarah's mother wants to look for lost socks. Sarah tries to distract her. When her mother looks in the wardrobe, Sarah checks the fairies are okay playing with socks under the bed. While her mother checks the bathroom, Sarah hides the fairies bathing in the sink. Together they check the whole house, even Sarah's messy brother's bedroom. Luckily Sarah's mother doesn't notice the fairies and the lost socks. But then she wants to look for all the lost pens ...

A story about the power of imagination. A young girl imagines fairies are using lost socks for sleeping bags, towels, and hammocks. Parents and teachers can read this story and encourage young children to imagine what they think happens to lost socks. Could produce some wonderful artwork and stories!

ISBN:  978-1-925335-24-8
RRP $19.99 Hardback