Friday, April 24, 2015

Heart-warming ANZAC Picture Books

ROLY the Anzac Donkey, by Glyn Harper illustrated by Jenny Cooper (Puffin)

If you've read 'Simpson and his Donkey' you'll know about an Australian soldier's work rescuing the wounded with the aid of his donkey in Gallipoli.  It's a gorgeous tale and now considered a classic. There have been several versions - the latest being Mark Greenwood's book published by Walker Books in 2009. Over the years I had heard that New Zealand stretcher bearers used donkeys too.  Military Historian Glyn Harper has uncovered one of those stories and we now have a true New Zealand story about a soldier and his donkey.

Glyn tells the story in Roly, the donkey's voice.  On the opening page we're introduced to Roly and he tells us he hasn't always worked on a farm (shown in the background illustrations), he once worked in Gallipoli helping rescue soldiers who had been hurt in battle.  Glyn most likely started the story this way to reassure young children - the donkey makes it.  This will help sensitive children not feel anxious for the donkey while they're listening to the story being read to them. It's a gentle opening for the story. It's needed because the following pages jump into a hard time for the donkey.

Through words and pictures we find out that Roly grew up on a Greek farm until English soldiers captured and loaded him onto a ship destined for Gallipoli. Unfortunately for Roly his first driver was cruel. He made Rory work long hours carrying heavy loads, gave him little food and water, and beat him. One day Roly escaped but returns when he's hungry and misses the other donkeys. On his journey back he meets a man who changes his life for the better.

Glyn does not try to romanticise Rory's work in Gallipoli. He carries soldiers whose blood sometimes trickles down his back, and they have to run for it when there is fire charging back and forth. It's important children grow up realising war is not one big adventure and shooting guns is fun. But juxtaposed with this realistic story are the warm illustrations that show the love between animal and human. If you've owned a dog you'd recognise the look that Rory shows for Richard - it's utter adoration, and Jenny Cooper has captured it so expertly.

Rory and Richard's heart warming tale, Glyn's excellent storytelling abilities, and Jenny's stunning illustrations make this a winner for children (and adults). It's a story that won't just come out during ANZAC celebrations, it will be read all year round. Highly recommended for home, school and public libraries.

ISBN: 9780143506638 RRP $19.99

Other Glyn Harper ANZAC stories illustrated by Jenny Cooper you will also want to read are:

Le Quesnoy: The Story of the Town New Zealand Saved (Puffin)

Jim's Letters (Puffin)

Other ANZAC stories:

The ANZAC Puppy by Peter Millett, illustrated by Trish Bowles (Scholastic)

The Red Poppy by David Hill, illustrated by Fifi Colston (Scholastic)

Caesar the ANZAC Dog by Patricia Stroud, illustrated by Bruce Potter (Scholastic)

ANZAC Day - The New Zealand Story by Philippa Werry (New Holland)

Best Mates by Philippa Werry, illustrated by Bob Kerr (New Holland)

The Last ANZAC by Gordon Winch, illustrated by Harriet Bailey

Meet the ANZACs by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Max Berry (Random House)

Meet Werry Dunlop by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Jeremy Lord (Random House)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

New YA author on the scene

The Chimes by Anna Smaill (Sceptre, Hodder & Stoughton)
The first thing to say about this stunning story is that it’s a classic crossover novel, ie. it can be enjoyed by both adults and older teenagers. It’s a debut novel by the author, whose previous publication is a book of poetry. However when you read that she also has an MA in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters (Wellington) you begin to understand why readers and reviewers are full of praise for this unusual and challenging book.

The basic tenets of the futuristic, dystopian London in which the story is set are these: the written word has been forbidden and forgotten; personal memory has also been destroyed so that the past is a mystery to most people; and both memory and the written word have been replaced by music. Music is used for communication, directions, identification, social interaction and societal control.

The story is challenging because the reader initially has little idea how this society operates – when we read on the first page about the main character (a teenage boy called Simon) standing by the side of the road we share his bewilderment and fear because none of us has any idea what is going on. Simon is eventually given a ride to London where he joins a gang who make a living by scavenging a precious metal called palladium.

From this point the story unrolls both backwards and forwards so we eventually understand why Simon’s abilities are so special, and what has to happen to mend this broken society. It’s not an easy read but once you relax and put yourself in the author’s hands you appreciate the poetic delicacy of the style and the originality of the story concept. Recommended for older secondary students, especially those with an interest in writing.

ISBN 978 1 444 794533 $34.99 Pb

Reviewer: L. Orman        

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A How to Play Rugby book for teenagers

The Beginner’s Guide to Rugby by Aaron Cruden, Random House NZ

This handsome sports book will be very popular on the New Zealand market. I can see public and school librarians (intermediate and secondary) rushing to buy it, and it will also be welcomed by parents of rugby-mad youngsters (fathers and grandfathers will enjoy it too!). First impressions of the book are that it is very comprehensive, but at the same time it makes the wealth of information readily accessible to young readers. It begins with chapters focusing on Aaron Cruden’s stellar career in rugby, beginning with his stint as captain of Palmerston North Boys’ High School First XV, and taking us right through to his continuing success in the present day. The following how-to chapters are written by Cruden himself, starting off with What is Rugby? and continuing through advice on rugby training and skills, to discussing other factors such as nutrition, leadership, and injury. The chapters on skills include sections headed up Checklist, When It Goes Bad, Activity, and The Cruden Clue. The book is well designed, with lots of headings and colour photos, and the layout encourages both dipping into and reading from beginning to end.

Comment from my rugby-mad husband: “There’s a massive amount of information in this book. Youngsters wanting to use it as a training manual will need to focus on one skill at a time, utilising Cruden’s advice, and only move on to the next skill once they’ve mastered the current one.”

There’s a Teachers’ Resource PDF available for download from the Random House website. My only slightly critical comment on the book: the cardboard binding will rapidly become tatty. Libraries will need to do their own strengthening of the cover.

ISBN 978 1 77553 790 8 $34.99 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Children's book for children of sick parents

What does Super Jonny do when Mum gets sick? by Simone Colwill, illustrated by Jasmine Ting

When parents get sick children often feel confused, angry and helpless. Some children want to do something to help but feel there is nothing they can offer. They also feel overwhelmed with all the specialists that are helping their Mum or Dad and don't know what is going on.  Radiation Therapist Simone Colwill has tried to address this with a children's picture book.

Jonathan is a superhero and his latest mission is to help his mother who is sick in hospital. He finds out what all the specialists are doing to cure his mother. There's a doctor finding out what is wrong. Jonny offers him his magnifying glass. The radiographer takes x-ray pictures so they can see inside Jonny's mum. Jonny gives her his x-ray vision binoculars to help her. We also meet a laboratory assistant, dietician, nurse, cleaner, and find out what they do to help his mother, only no-one is listening to Jonny. He wonders if he should do something different. He thinks of several superhuman ways to help her but it is one simple but very powerful thing he can do that will help her feel so much better.

The paperback book is A4 size drawn with pastel colours. Jasmine Ting has illustrated the book with cartoon-like characters that are outlined in black. This helps to lighten the serious underlying message in the book, which is - the professionals are there to help your parents and your hugs and love are all your parents need to feel better.

At the back of the book are guide notes for the classroom, as well as five tips on how to prepare for hospital admission. There's also a website parents can go to:  I wondered if the book targeted Americans with the spelling of Jonny and mom - it looks like it was published in the States and they're targeting the international market.

Recommended for parents with sick children or for parents who are sick themselves and want to help their children understand what is going on. It will help the children understand who does what and realise the power of love. I'm not sure if I would use it in the classroom, though, unless someone in the class was going through that problem. Teachers could perhaps use it in the health curriculum when studying 'helping others' and wanting to encourage 'empathy'.

Available as an ebook from Amazon for $4.99 or in paperback for $19.95 online here.