Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dolphin book for children

The Last of Maui’s Dolphins by Maria Gill, ill. Bruce Potter, New Holland

Maria Gill’s eye-catching picture book is a heartfelt plea to New Zealanders to look after our threatened sea-life. Hiriwa is a young Maui’s dolphin who cannot understand why his pod keeps a count of its members - only 55 left... He plays with his friends - Spotty the snapper, Squiggles the octopus, and Puru the blue penguin. They try to keep away from the ominous dark shapes floating on the surface of the sea. But one day Hiriwa finds his friends have been caught inside a huge fishing net - and he races desperately to distract the fishermen and help his friends escape certain death. Bruce Potter’s vivid blue seascapes are painted with soft lines and dreamy backgrounds - except for the fishing net bulging with frightened sea creatures. This one is a deliberately alarming picture. The last double spread contains essential information about the critical status of Maui’s dolphins, including the actions young people can take to help preserve these precious creatures. This important book is not for preschoolers, but will be excellent for supporting primary-level classroom studies of endangered fauna.

ISBN 978 1 86966 410 7 $19.99 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Find teaching resources and other interesting links and information here

You can see this book on display at the Takapuna Library:


Sunday, March 16, 2014

New sport biography from author David Riley

Offloading with Sonny Bill Williams by David Riley (2014)

Author teacher David Riley has hit the right note with another biography about a rugby league star – this time Sonny Bill Williams (SBW). David opens with a training session that gives the essence of SBW’s ethos – he treats the sport as a professional job and wants to learn from everyone around him. He often turns up to training sessions with an exercise book and pen ready to take notes. It has often inspired others, especially younger players, to do the same.

We find out that SBW started rugby league at six years old and always threw himself into the game. At Intermediate and High school coaches wanted him to play league and union for the school but his heart was first with league. Interestingly, he is still having that tug-of-war in his adult years.

We learn that SBW has also played American Football and boxing – he shows no fear – but had to give them up for rugby. We hear about SBW’s choices that got him into hot water and how he has tried to correct that as he has matured. We get the minute-by-minute commentary and scoring of important games, extra facts that complement other text on that page, and colour photographs from a variety of sources. At the back we read tips and life’s lessons from SBW, see a list of his favourite things, and a timeline of his life.

David has written a comprehensive biography about one of the world’s most popular sport stars. Years 5 – 10 boys (and girls) will thoroughly enjoy reading how SBW has gone from being a local boy into one of the World Cup rugby league and union legends. Essential for all school libraries!

Available as a print and e-book from all good book stores and by emailing:

Or order direct from his website

See an exhibit about the inspiration for David's book at the National Library from Friday 21st March until 20th April and at the Gala Night on Friday 28th March, 6pm, National Library. RSVP if you'd like to come along: mariagill at  All invited!


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Two rollicking adventure stories for boys

Jock Logan and the Sea Devil by Brent Leslie, published by Brent Leslie

Hills of Gold by Brent Leslie, published by Brent Leslie

The first book was published in 2012, and the second in 2014. The author is an Auckland journalist, magazine editor and writer. Brent has written several books for younger children as well as these two for young adults. I enjoyed the first novel (though it’s not really a YA story - the hero is only 12), which is set in 1917 and focuses on Jock Logan - he’s sailing on a scow that’s hijacked by the notorious Count Felix Von Luckner and his crew. I liked it because the focus stays on young Jock throughout the story, it’s full of action and suspense, it’s written in an easy, readable style, it contains some interesting historical material, and it’s based on fact. Good cover, too.

"... a high standard of both writing and production...a cleverly woven blend of fact and fiction as a young boy's tale of adventure; fun and easy to read" – Ashton Wylie Awards judges (2012).
For the second book, the author combines two plot strands - one focuses on a gold-mining family with difficulties, set in Waihi in 1912; the other focuses on their adult uncle who’s a gold mine engineer in Russia sent there to quell the unrest amongst the peasant mine workers. His character was inspired by a forebear of the author.
Author/reviewer Lee Murray says: "With vocabulary and style appropriate of the day, and covering issues such as developments in women’s suffrage, the union movement, prohibition, even transport technology, Hills of Gold provides a colourful, and terrifyingly accurate, snapshot of the period. I expect history and social studies teachers will be grabbing for this novel as Leslie has a way of bringing the past to life, making Hills of Gold both an entertaining and provoking addition to the curriculum. Leslie is a wonderful story-teller: history should always be this fun." The full review here.

Buy from all good book stores or directly from Brent Leslie: email
ISBN 978 0 473 19610 3 Pb  $24.95
ISBN 978 0 473 26383 6 Pb $24.95

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Thursday, March 6, 2014

App story written for son

Sneezle Beezle: He runs on diesel by Bruce Laybourn, illustrated by Vincent de Jong

Sneezle Beezle is a small mechanical boy crafted in the workshop of a monastery high in the Himalayas. He earned his name through the funny little noises that he makes.
At the age of three months (which is six years in human terms)
Sneezle Beezle sets out to discover his place in the world.
This is the story of his adventure.

We are introduced to the maker before Sneezle Beezle makes his journey across seas into the bedroom of six-year-old Dylan. Dylan must work out how Sneezle Beezle runs - a little sneezle gives the answer.

Written in rhyme with assonance (junk, bunk, trunk) placed in the middle and end of each line, makes it fun to read aloud to young children. The illustrations of Dylan are modelled on the real-life son
of the author - which is a real interesting story on its own (written on last page). Dylan was kidnapped by his mother and taken to Turkey. Author Bruce Laybourn wrote the stories as a means to help he and his son communicate from opposite sides of the world.

The artwork by Vincent de Jong is sometimes quite moody capturing the severe weather in the Himalayas, and later on in the book, quite light - when showing Sneezle communicating with his new-found friend. The illustrations look like they have been drawn on the computer, and sometimes include photograph backdrops.

Note:  The layout of the app is in printed book format so you need to flick past several pages before getting to the start of the story.

See the website

Available to buy on iTunes for $7.99

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Two Indie Picture Books

Nothing Rhymes With Elephant by Jon Gadsby, ill. Grant MacDonald, Mrs Moo Books

The word “indie” in the book world covers a wide range of books that have been produced by individuals and small publishers, instead of by recognised commercial publishers. We’re going to see more and more of these books as the publishing market goes through a painful period of change.

This attractive picture book is the first effort from Mrs Moo Books ( The writer, Jon Gadsby, is well known for his involvement with the entertainment industry and children’s literature. The illustrator is new to the picture book field, combining it with a successful career in commercial illustration and design. The rhyming text offers a playful discussion of the words that rhyme with other animals’ names - eg. armadillo and pillow, gibbon and ribbon. At the end, all the elephants can do is swing their trunks in frustration as they contemplate their rhyme-less status. The text has occasional hiccups with the rhythm, but young listeners won’t notice if you read aloud with plenty of gusto and play up the laughs. The crazy cartoon illustrations are cheeky and funny, and will certainly keep a child’s attention. I was interested to read the fascinating animal facts in the section at the back. All in all, a admirable effort from this new publisher.

ISBN 978 0 473 24675 4 $19.95 Pb

Morgan, the Moreporks and the Moon by Richard Fairgray, Tara Black and Terry Jones, ill. Richard Fairgray and Tara Black, Square Planet Ltd.

The authors of this picture book are probably better known for their comic book series Blastosaurus. This is their first picture book (for more info see It’s listed with several well-known book chains, both national and international, so should be readily available. In a format reminiscent of comic book layouts, it tells the story of a little boy called Morgan who is compelled to find out the name of everything and everybody. But he’s flummoxed by the moon - what’s its name?? A bunch of friendly moreporks fly him to the moon so he can ask his crucial question. Having learned the answer he floats back home and into bed. The reader does not find out the answer, and this may be a bit of a let-down for younger readers - who generally like questions to be answered. The bold illustrative style is intriguing and should be enjoyed by youngsters of about four to seven, particularly those who are hooked on comics.

Note to indie publishers - when submitting a book for review, please supply an information sheet with details about the book (including price and availability) and the background of the author and illustrator (and if necessary, the publisher). Reviewers don’t like being forced to search all over the internet for this information.

ISBN 978 0 473 24704 1 $15.99 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman