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

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Two little Scholastic books

The Three Little Lambs by Sher Foley, illustrated by Deborah Hinde (Scholastic)

There hasn't been a Kiwi Corker tale for a while so I was delighted when I unwrapped 'The Three Little Lambs' from the Scholastic box today.  Instead of three little pigs building houses we have three little mischievous lambs.

Once upon a time, out in the wop-wops, there were
three little lamb living happily with their mother.
But one muddy, grey day she was taken away in a big
truck. The little lambs feared the truck might come
back for them, so they decided it was time to leave.

Of course the first two little lambs aren't very successful with their flimsy houses and a ferocious weasel blows their house down and captures them. The oldest lamb is much brighter than his siblings and he builds his house from much stronger materials. Three times the weasel tries to trick him outside but the wily lamb outwits him every time. Children will love how the lamb finally gets rid of the pesky weasel. The story lends itself to parents and teachers talking to their children about how mustelids are a pest in New Zealand and the best way to get rid of them.

A fairy tale with a twist and an environmental message! Teachers can also talk about the iconic New Zealand symbols/objects in the book. Will be a much loved book in the home or school library.

Deborah Hinde's bright and colourful illustrations complement the book. I've just realised this is a reprint with a new cover.

ISBN: 978-1-77543-415-3
RRP $19

The Bee's Sneeze by Lucy Davey, illustrated by Katz Cowley (Scholastic)

I had been wondering what had happened to Lucy Davey because we hadn't heard from her for a while. I contacted her while I was in Wanaka and I discovered why ... Her family had grown to six! We had a coffee and a chat and she said - unbelievably - she had written three books and they were all coming out in 2016. When my children were under one years old, all I ever achieved was a  food shop and housework done about once every two weeks. She's an amazing woman! And here's her latest offering.

A great read aloud story for young children (3-7 years) about a Tootletuff fig seed planting itself in Willowomp Wood. When Buzzy McBee flies closer to the Tootletuff fig flower to check it out he sneezes, and is shot into the arms of Monkey Minx. When each animal tries to help Buzzy McBee they too sneeze and are blown smack bang into another creature, but, oh-o, what happens when they're shot towards Crocodile ... read the book to find out.

Katz Cowley illustrations add to the humour of this rollicking tale. Sometimes small pictures with a white background with the occasional one-two page full colour pages. Early childhood and Junior Primary school teachers could read this aloud to the enjoyment of their students, and then follow-up it up with a talk about the cycle of seeds and plants. It could also lead onto a discussion about pollen causing hay fever for some people.

ISBN: 978-1-77543-298-2
RRP $19

Friday, September 9, 2016

Singalong with Sharon Holt and her two books

Kia Ora by Sharon Holt, illustrated by Deborah Hinde

Learn how to greet your friends, father, mother, granddad, nana, and uncle in Maori and English:

Kia ora, e hoa. Kei to pehea koe? Kei te pai ahau.
Hello, friend. How are you? I am well.

Young learners can find out how to answer with different replies. I am hot, tired, fed up, happy. Read the story in class or at home, and then play the accompanying CD song.  Sharon includes follow up ideas, and the guitar chords.

Early childhood and Primary school teachers will find this an excellent resource to use when learning taha Maori, and to keep in the classroom library for recreational reading. I recommend schools get class sets - great for teachers who want to teach taha Maori but feel nervous doing so. It's all done for you

Taku Mokai by Sharon Holt, photography by Sophie Holt

This book and the book above introduce 3-4 sentence conversations. In Taku Mokai young learners talk about their animals and how they take care of them.

He manu taku mokai. Ko Ruby tana ingoa.
Whakatika ai au I tana whare, ia ra, ia ra ... ia ra, ia ra.

My pet is a bird. Her name is Ruby.
I clean her house every day.

At the beginning of the book are curriculum links, a pictorial glossary in Maori and English, follow up ideas for the book, and instructions on how to use the book. At the back of the book are guitar chords and a CD song.

Colourful photographs of young children with their pets accompany the text.

These two books are part of  a 12 book series, with more to come. In 2015 the series was the winner of the CLNZ Educational Publishing Awards, and the 2013 Maori Language Awards.

Maori Legend still in print

Tangaroa's Gift by Mere Whaanga (Scholastic)

Tangaroa's Gift was first published in 1990 and received the Gaelyn Gordon Award for a much-loved book in 2011 - it's so popular it is still in print!

Author illustrator Mere Whaanga wrote the legend of how paua received its beautiful colours of blue, green, pink and purple after collecting pieces of paua shell from a beach. She tells how paua first felt lonely; so drab no one noticed him. Tangaroa asked Paua why he was sad and he replied he wasn't fast or clever or pretty like other marine animals. Tangaroa thought about how he could make life better for paua, but at first his gift brings unwanted attention.  Read this delightful tale of how Paua became the most beautiful shellfish in all of New Zealand. An excellent resource to go with your books of Maori legends.

The artwork complements the gentle tale with its water colour blues and greens. Mere has swirled colours to mimic the curve of waves and the koru. Also complementing the text is the Maori version on the left and the English version of the story on the right.

RRP $19.00
ISBN: 978-1-77543-412-2

Reviewed by Maria Gill

Two fabulous junior fiction books for boys and girls

Dragon Knight: Barbarians! By Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley, Scholastic NZ

This is title no. 6 in the series, and I’ve heard it will be the last – although there’s no actual indication on the book itself that it’s the final one, so I’ve got my fingers crossed there may be more... The story follows the usual format by beginning with Merek and Breena in terrible trouble, then backtracks to tell us how they got there – and what they do to rescue themselves. In this story the plot involves a bunch of barbarians stealing Lord Crumble’s treasure, but when Merek and Breena begin investigating they find appearances are deceiving. Are the barbarians really as bad as they smell?

The value of series such as this is how well they target their intended audience – primary-aged boys. Kyle’s joke-filled and action-packed stories (laced with plenty of revolting stuff) together with Donovan’s exuberant cartoon pictures on every page offer a good alternative to computer games. Literature they ain’t, but they are very entertaining.

There’s a special thrill in handing the latest Mewburn/Bixley title over to a grandson and seeing his face light up – and then he plumps down on the sofa and instantly begins reading – long may it last.

ISBN 978 1 77543 397 2 RRP $12 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Barking Mad by Tom E. Moffatt, Scholastic NZ

This is the 2015 winner of the Tom Fitzgibbon Award for a previously unpublished writer, awarded by the Storylines Trust. The previous winner (How I Alienated My Grandma) was a funny story for younger readers, and I’m delighted that this new winner falls in the same category. New Zealand needs a strong market in junior fiction books like this so we can compete with the well-known, well-publicised humorous series from overseas that flood our bookshops.

Finn’s grandfather seems to have gone crazy. He keeps on barking and he even licked the postman. Finn’s family are distraught. But the clue lies in the fact that Granddad is a home inventor. Finn and his sister Sally soon figure out that he’s invented a machine that swaps brains – and he’s managed to swap brains with his dog, DaVinci. Chaos ensues - and this amazingly breathless pace is kept up right to the end. At one stage Finn ends up accidentally swapping brains with his sister – the worst thing in the world for both of them. Melodrama, mix-ups, humour, confusion and even desperation are expertly juggled by the author until all comes right and everyone’s brains are back where they belong.

Readers of around 8 to 11, especially boys, will chuckle their way through this madcap story, aided by black pen cartoon illustrations by Paul Beavis. Heartily recommended, and I hope the author is working on his next book.

ISBN 978 1 77543 374 3 RRP $17.00 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman