Monday, July 28, 2014

Junior Fiction book with bully theme

On the Edge by Linley Jones, produced by AM Publishing New Zealand

To order copies of this junior novel email the author at It’s indie published, and on first look I was impressed by the production and the quality control that’s gone into it. The cover picture is eye-catching with its bright colours, clean lines,  and New Zealand flavour. The editing, proofreading and design layout have been done to a professional level by Adrienne Morris. The author has had two previous books published (one was Making Waves, published by Scholastic NZ) and it was useful to see these listed on the back of the title page. It’s a fast-moving adventure story for intermediate-aged readers, and there’s a lot going on. Bullying, coping with physical fear, family problems, cultural differences, environmental issues, and crime involving the smuggling of rare orchids ... twelve-year old Brady has much to overcome. The plot races to an exciting climax where Brady has to face his fears and rescue the boy who was bullying him. It’s a hearty read, particularly for boys who like a bit of a challenge.

ISBN 978 0 9922628 3 9 $20 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Books to celebrate Commonwealth Games and Sports

Commonwealth Games fever is nearly upon us. I remember as a teacher always scrabbling around trying to find resources that I could use in my classroom when the Games were on.  Here are two that will be very helpful and sport-mad kids will love them:

Go for Gold: Sports Puzzle Book by Barbara Telfer, illustrated by Peter Bray (Scholastic)

A puzzle book with 101 activities for kids to work out. There are word finds, codes, puzzles, clues, crosswords, matching challenges, hurdles and mazes for children to find out more about the different sports and countries competing.

Packed with fun facts about a huge range of sports and sporting events, including the Commonwealth Games, Summer and Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, X Games and more.

Barbara Telfer has authored a number of very successful puzzle books over the years including The
Great Animal Puzzle Book, The Great New Zealand Puzzle Book and Santa’s Kiwi Holiday Activity Book.

Great for fast finishers and rainy days in the classroom or at home.

ISBN 978-1-77543-222-7

NZ RRP $10.00

New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame by Maria Gill, illustrated by Marco Ivancic (New Holland)
Due out 1 August 2014

Read the biographies of 25 Kiwi Champions.  From sailors to swimmers, rugby players to rowers, shot put athlete to aerobic competitor - you'll meet the athletes at the top of their game. You'll read about their training programme, their high and low moments, how they got into the sport, and what they're doing now. Illustrated by the very talented Marco Ivancic with caricatures, and professional photographs and graphics. Teenagers (and adults) won't be able to put it down.

Free teaching resource on website this week:

New Zealand Hall of Fame won the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards Children's Choice in the non-fiction category, was shortlisted for the LIANZA awards, and was awarded a Storylines Notable Book Award.

RRP $24.99
ISBN:  9781869664220

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A stunning new Picture Book

The Song of Kauri  by Melinda Szymanik, illustrated by Dominique Ford (Scholastic)

Once upon a time, when the land was new, and time
and memory were just beginning, a giant began to
grow out of the rich earth.

The Song of Kauri is a stunning picture book. It's a creative non-fiction story about a kauri seedling growing until its a giant - a kaumatua of the forest. From its great height it sees the changes around it - good and bad. Written in lyrical text - its a mythical and timeless tale. It will encourage children to be empathetic towards these gentle giants, which are in danger of Kauri die-back. A little note on the imprint page reminds us to scrub our shoes before going on forest walks and to keep to the tracks - to help prevent spreading the disease.

Scholastic have gone the extra mile with this book; it's hardback with a satin embossed koru on the front cover. The endpapers look textured - so much so you want to stroke it. The story itself is on glossy paper with illustration edges softened, with the koru and other symbols imprinted on the text page. The book is also available in te reo Maori.

Melinda Szymanik won the Children's Choice with her 'Were Nana' picture book in 2009 and she was shortlisted this year with her junior fiction novel 'On a Winter's Day in 1939' at the NZ Post, and the LIANZA awards.

The Song of Kauri is Dominique Ford's third picture book (Moonrabbit, Secrets). She is a new star in the illustration world. Dominique created the illustrations in collage, watercolour pencil, acrylic paint and digital media.

The Song of Kauri is highly recommended for Primary (Year 2 upwards) and Intermediate schools, and for lovers of beautiful books. Teachers could read it to start a unit on caring for the environment.

I asked Melinda Szymanik five quick fire questions:

1.  Where did you get the idea from?
The inspiration for the story came from an animated short shown before a film festival movie I went to see years ago. The ending of this short film captivated me and became the ending of the book. As we walked out of the theatre I turned to my husband and said that it would make a great picture book. It just took me a few years to write it.

2. What did you think when you received the first proofs of the book?
I was stunned by the illustrations right from the beginning - they were beyond what I had imagined. Illustrator Dominique Ford did a fantastic job and the book designers, Luke and Vida Kelly then added their magic to make a beautiful book.

3. What underlying message do you think this book imparts to readers?
I wanted to show the beauty, strength and consistency of nature. How it transcends the changing needs and desires of humanity, and endures despite us. That nature may not continue to endure if we continue to ignore or mistreat it.

4. People will have different interpretations about what is happening at the end of the story. what were you thinking when you wrote the ending?
I think the ending 'is' open to a lot of different interpretations and I liked that. When I wrote it I was thinking about Kauri just letting go of his old life and trying something new. I liked the idea that the birds repaid his kindness by letting him experience their freedom. Nature too is a community. Or you could see this as the tree dying and its seeds being dispersed by the birds to grow new trees. You could see this as a cautionary note about what will happen if we fail to take care of the environment as Kauri will disappear. Humanity and everything associated with it is a burden on nature and perhaps one day nature will stop trying to persist. You could also see this in a religious framework, with death and ascension; or death and rebirth.

5. Where are you having your book launch?
I am having a book launch in the Dunningham Suite at the Dunedin Public Library on Friday August 1st at 5.30pm.

ISBN: 9781775432289
RRP: $27.00
Reviewed by Maria Gill

Sunday, July 6, 2014

An illustrated junior fiction book for boys

Monkey Boy by Donovan Bixley (Scholastic)

Jimmy Grimholt's the monkey boy on board warship HMS Fury. His job is to fetch the gun-powder for the canon crew during a battle - the lowliest dangerous job on board the ship. He's bullied by boys his age, by the snooty Lieutenant, and the rest of the motley crew but that's nothing compared to the bullies only he can see.  Will he survive the journey? Can he show everyone he's a worthy member of the team? And can he deal with his biggest fear?

Pitched for 10-13 year old boys with all the gory grotty details they could ever want. And that's not all - it's also captured in Donovan Bixley's clever funny pictures; bringing this book to a whole new level.

I hope this is the beginning of a series and I hope it goes international. It is sure to be a hit with boys who have finished reading the Dinosaur Rescue (written by Kyle Mewburn and illustrated by Donovan Bixley) series (and other illustrated chapter books) and now wanting something a bit more challenging. Written in several point of views (omniscient, Jimmy, Will) with a non-linear structure, and complemented with illustrations (stand-alones, and comic-style) and fact pages (with diagrams of ships hull etc).

Check out the book trailer ...

and Donovan Bixley's page on his website.

Teacher notes here.

Donovan Bixley is a talented artist and designer with a range of styles. He was the illustrator of The Three Bears (Sort Of) that won the Children's Choice in the recent New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards. Other books he's illustrated include: Phoebe and the Night Creatures, Wacko Kakapo, The Tuatara and the Skink, and A Right Royal Christmas.  He's also the illustrator of the very popular illustrated junior fiction series Dinosaur Rescue.



Saturday, July 5, 2014

iPad illustrated story book about our freshwater rivers

Two Fishy Friends Save Ngaruroro Awa by Arconnehi Paipper, illustrated by Sophie Blokker

Patiki and Tuna travel up river and encounter pollution from a river, miss getting stomped on by cows, and caught in a net. Who can help them survive this perilous journey? Read on to find out.

New Zealand's fresh waters are not so clean and green. Author Arconnehi Paipper has written the story to demonstrate the plight of our freshwater species.

It's a 32 page book with full colour illustrations on each double page spread, however, I wouldn't call it a picture book because each page has around 170 - 280 words. The book has been produced for digital media but has kept its traditional book format.

Middle school would find it a helpful resource when studying rivers and freshwater species.

A Q&A with Author Arconnehi Paipper
Her children’s book, Two Fishy Friends Save Ngaruroro Awa: The Story of Tuna and Patiki, is about a flounder and a tuna in New Zealand who work with the local people to save their river.

Q: Did you intend to make this story into a book?
I did not intend for it to be a book, actually, I was just putting down thoughts about the plight of these beloved species. A friend of mine then encouraged me to consider a book format, and here it is.

Q: What made you decide to write this book?
The river work was inspired by my Dad, Banjo. When he passed on, he left us with a responsibility to do what we could to ensure the Mauri (life-force) of the river and the endemic species that have fed the people who live here not for today only, but for the future as well.
Q: You work with a group of people on conservation projects along the Ngaruroro River. Talk about who this group is and what you are doing.
Operation Patiki is a small group of our family and friends from our ancestral and fishing area on the river Ngaruroro. We are actively engaged in a monitoring programme of the Black River Flounder and Tuna.

Our group works with regional councils, the Department of Conservation, Nga Whenua Rahui, Fish & Game, Forest & Bird, and the community to re-establish riparian growth that will assist the biodiversity of this system on the Heretaunga Plains and to ensure water quality is improved for recreation and as a food source.

Q: Why did you choose to write specifically about the Tuna and Patiki?

A: Tuna (Longfin Eel, Anguilla dieffenbachii) and Patiki (Black Flounder, Rhombosolea retiaria) are both endemic species (found only in New Zealand waters). They are both extraordinary species to Maori and New Zealand, and contribute to our health, our stories and our livelihood.

But both are under threat due to the change of land use: urban expansion, industrial growth, farming intensification and the increase of water allocations for irrigation, physical changes to the rivers (ex. gravel extraction), as well as pollutants affecting water quality.

The question moving forward is: How do we transition economically and sustainably into a changing environment with the demands of our human desires and basic need for survival being met? How do we live so that nothing is threatened and everyone is satisfied with supply and well being while sustaining the very source from which all life stems, our living environment?

What prevents us?

Q: What do you hope this book will accomplish in terms of your conservation work?
My desire for the book is that it will inform and inspire the young – as well as those who grew up when the rivers and waterways of Aotearoa [New Zealand] were in pristine condition – into action and be a cause for regeneration through the awareness of our natural inheritance. The Earth Mother needs and deserves our care. There is not a person in this country who cannot fulfill his or her role in this quest.


Polish translation of popular children's book

Mr Miniscule and the Whale by Julian Tuwim, ill. Bohdan Butenko, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Book Island

Originally published in Polish, this whimsical story by a well-known Polish poet (1894-1953) has been superbly translated into English in this edition. The illustrator is also well-known in Poland, having done illustrations for more than 200 picture books. Amazingly, this translation has been achieved in rhyme - and well-scanned rhyme, to boot. It lilts and flows comfortably off the tongue.

Mr Miniscule (half the height of a coffee bean) goes to sea to find a whale. He lands on an island and prepares to pitch his tent - but you can imagine what the island suddenly turns out to be... The illustrations were copyrighted in 1956, so they have an old-fashioned air about them (in fact, the style may even be coming back into fashion!).  There is much use of empty space, black line sketching, and just two or three mainly muted colours per picture.

I believe children will be intrigued by the minimalist cartoon pictures and the easy-reading verse. It will work well as a read-aloud (to both small and large groups), and I can also see new readers attempting to read it to themselves. Librarians, beware the rather awkward size (199 x 300mm).

Julian Tuwim was one of Poland’s leading poets. He won fame not just for his adult verse but also for his rhymes for children, many of which are classics known to every Polish child. Nobody knows if he ever set out to sea to see a whale.

Bohdan Butenko is one of Poland’s top illustrators, whose drawings appear in more than 200 children’s books. He is also famous for his animated cartoons – especially featuring Gucio the clumsy hippo and Cezar the sensible dog – as well as for his stage sets and television design. He has won many prizes, among them the 2012 Order of the Smile – a special medal awarded by children to adults who are particularly kind to them.
ISBN 978 0 9876696 9 8 $19.99 Pb (also available in hardback)
Buy it here.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Real life cat makes it into picture book

Esau the Paw by Chris Gurney, ill. John Bennett, Scholastic NZ

"Esau the Paw was a very cool cat.
No cat was fluffier, be sure of that!
Like a big bloated fur ball, he strutted and stalked,
enjoying the smiles he received as he walked."
Chris Gurney, rhyming expert, is best known for her numerous titles in Scholastic’s very popular Kiwi Corkers series, but she occasionally branches out into other stories. This appealing little tale is based on her own cat, Chevy - who has thick, fluffy fur and had to go to the vet for a trim when his coat became too dirty and tangled to brush.
Any cat owner can envisage the look on Chevy’s face when he found most of his fur shaved off... But don’t bother imagining, check out Chevy’s reaction by visiting the hilarious photos on Chris’s blog at Chris’s imagination runs wild in the story as Esau tries to grow his fur back again with castor oil and skin lotion. But eventually, “Yes, Esau the Paw was a VERY cool cat, whose fur all grew back, given time - fancy that!” The crisp cartoon illustrations show Esau as a plump, slightly goofy cat (he definitely can’t glower as well as Chevy does) who will catch the interest of children from about four to seven, especially those who love cats. This book would be fine to read in front of a group of children aged about four to seven.

ISBN 978 1 77543 185 5 $19.50 Pb