Ruru’s Hangi by Nikki Slade Robinson

Nikki Slade Robinson’s award-winning picture book, The Little Kiwi’s Matariki, is my favourite book to read around Matariki.  In this book Nikki Slade Robinson introduced young children to Matariki through Kiwi and his friends in a simple yet fun way, using a mixture of English and te reo in the text.  In Nikki’s latest book, Ruru’s Hangi, she introduces young children to the concept of a hangi as the creatures celebrate the arrival of Ruru’s babies.

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Ruru has been sitting on her eggs for 30 days and 30 nights and on day 31 the eggs wriggle and hatch.  Kiwi hears Ruru’s elated cries and goes to tell the other creatures in the forest.  Kiwi has an idea to celebrate the arrival of Ruru’s babies and gets the other creatures to help out.  They dig a hole and gather all of the things that they need to make a hangi.  When the hangi is ready they call Ruru and they share the kai together to celebrate.

Ruru’s Hangi is a perfect introduction to the hangi for young children and is another wonderful bilingual text from Nikki Slade Robinson that is great to share with young children, especially preschoolers.  Nikki introduces children to native birds and creatures, like the Tui, Katipo and Weka who all help to prepare the hangi. Nikki’s illustrations are fun with each of the creatures having a distinct personality.  The Te Reo used is basic and weaves effortlessly in with the English, so this is a great book to share even if you know very little Te Reo.  Nikki uses lots of repetition in the text, like:

‘Ka pai, perfect!’ they said. Shhh! Don’t tell Ruru!’

Nikki ends the book with a simple explanation of how to prepare a hangi, just like the creatures in the book have done.  Ruru’s Hangi is a invaluable resource for early childhood centres and schools.  It is a book that will be used by teachers and librarians around the country but also a book that children will love.  Anyone who is looking for a wonderful bilingual story to share with their children should get a copy of Ruru’s Hangi.

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My Pictures After the Storm by Eric Veille

A book that makes you laugh every time you read it is a sure sign of a great book.  The first time I read My Pictures After the Storm, the latest ‘curiously good’ book from Gecko Press, I was laughing the whole way through because I didn’t know what to expect.  Now, every time I read it I know what is coming and it is just as funny.

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My Pictures After the Storm is a stand-out book and my favourite book at the moment.  I want to show it to everyone I see and I am desperate to show it to all the kids at school after the holidays.  It features a series of before and after illustrations that are incredibly clever and absolutely hilarious. Eric Veille shows us the changes to his pictures after the storm, after a cannonball, after the hairdresser and much more.

The text is sparse but the language that Eric uses is rich.  On the My Pictures after the hairdresser page for example the lion-tamer goes from being ‘a lion-tamer unconcerned’ to ‘a lion-tamer nicely permed.’ A cake after the elephant turns into a splitch and an octopus becomes a splatch.  One of my favourite pages is ‘My pictures after a cold,’ because you have to say the names of the fruit and vegetables like you have a cold.

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Eric’s illustrations are what makes this book so brilliant.  They are full of humour and expression.  It is so much fun to compare the before and after pictures to see what has happened to everything on the page.  Each of the scenes is something that kids and adult will be able to relate to, from having lunch and going swimming to having a battle and eating too many potato chips.

My Pictures After the Storm is a book that kids will beg to read again and again and adults will be happy to do so.  It’s a book that will have you laughing together and noticing new things on the page each time you read.  It is sure to engage even older children who will appreciate the clever illustrations and humour.

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The Treehouse Fun Book 2 by Jill Griffiths, Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton

Do you know a fan of Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton’s Treehouse series? Are you looking for something to occupy them these school holidays? You need to rush out to your nearest bookshop and buy a copy of The Treehouse Fun Book 2 from the creators of the Treehouse series.


The Treehouse Fun Book 2 is the perfect book for any fan of the brilliantly funny series.  It is chock full of Terry’s hilarious illustrations that kids love and Andy, Jill and Terry’s crazy antics.  It’s a book to make kids really feel like a part of the series as they fill in their details at the start of the book and get to control the action by writing and drawing. You can use the combining machine to make crazy new animals, create moo-vie posters, decipher coded messages, create a disaster in the treehouse, write in speech bubbles to create wacky conversations between animals, and make up names for Jill’s rabbits.  There really is hours of entertainment in this book and it will have kids laughing out loud.

Grab a copy of The Treehouse Fun Book 2 to keep your kids entertained these school holidays.

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Perfect by Cecelia Ahern

I loved Cecelia Ahern’s debut YA novel, Flawed.  It was fast-paced, tense and the ending left you wanting more.  After a year long wait the sequel and finale, Perfect, is finally here and it had me on the edge of my seat.

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Celestine North lives in a society that demands perfection. After she was branded Flawed by a morality court, Celestine’s life has completely fractured – all her freedoms gone.

Since Judge Crevan has declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost, on the run with the complicated, powerfully attractive Carrick, the only person she can trust. But Celestine has a secret – one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground.

Judge Crevan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save only herself, or risk her life to save all the Flawed. And, most important of all, can she prove that to be human in itself is to be Flawed…?

Perfect is the sequel that I hoped for.  It is thrilling, tense, action-packed, and twisty.  Celestine is forever on the run and you just know that she could be caught at any stage.  Celestine’s grandfather tells her to trust no one and she certainly finds this out throughout the course of the book.  There are those who want to help but know they need to cover their backs, those who seem trustworthy but blame Celestine for messing up their lives, and there are those who are willing to do anything to bring her down and silence her.  Celestine and her fellow Flawed find themselves in some situations that could blow up at any moment.

I have really enjoyed seeing Celestine’s character evolve, from the girl who had everything to the girl who had nothing.  She went through so much and became so strong.  Although she didn’t want to be the ‘face’ of the Flawed she took a stand for their rights and did everything she could to try to bring the system down.

In a market full of trilogies it was great to read a story that is just told in two books.  Although there were a couple of places where there was a lull in the action I felt that overall everything was covered in the two books.  By the end I felt that everything was resolved and that there is hope for the future.  Celestine’s story is set in Humming, which is only a small part of the world, so I am curious to see if Cecelia Ahern will return to this world and show us a different part.  Humming was supposed to be the test of the Flawed system but are there other places in the world who have a similar system that they adopted?

Several of the Year 7/8 girls at my school absolutely loved Flawed and are dying to get ahold of Perfect.  This second book gets a little steamy at one stage but would still be fine for good intermediate age readers, especially the girls.  Celestine is sure to be another strong female character, like Katniss, that readers will love.

 

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Win a Timmy Failure Prize Pack

I’m super excited for the release of the sixth book in Stephan Pastis’ Timmy Failure series!  It’s called The Cat Stole My Pants and here is the blurb:

Timmy is in Key West, Florida, ostensibly for the honeymoon of his mother and Doorman Dave – if they even got married, which Timmy doubts. Unfortunately for Timmy, crime doesn’t take a holiday. And because Total has fled to Cuba, Timmy must rely on a new partner for help: Doorman Dave’s nephew Emilio. Meanwhile, a surprise newcomer shows up in Timmy’s life and, as if things couldn’t get more hectic, Timmy’s pants have been stolen by a six-toed cat.

Thanks to the wonderful people at Walker Books Australia I have a Timmy Failure prize pack to give away.  The pack includes a copy of each of the 6 books in the series and a pair of Timmy Failure sunglasses.

Timmy Failure Prize Pack

To get in the draw just email bestfriendsrbooks@gmail.com with the subject ‘Timmy Failure,’ along with your name and address.  Competition closes Friday 28 April (NZ only).

The Cat Stole My Pants by Stephan Pastis is released in Australia and NZ on 27 April.

 

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Lonesome When You Go Blog Tour – Interview with Saradha Koirala

Saradha Koirala is the author of the wonderful Lonesome When You Go, a YA novel that follows Paige and her high school rock band in the lead up to Rockfest.  To help spread the word about Saradha’s book, her publisher, Makaro Press has set up a blog tour.  I’m very pleased to be part of the Lonesome When You Go blog tour and today I get to share my interview that I did with Saradha about her book.  Thanks for joining me Saradha!

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  • What inspired you to write Lonesome When You Go?

I was on a train heading out to Johnsonville to see my brother and his oldest friend and just started thinking about when we all played in a band together in high school and what an excellent and tumultuous time that was in the midst of all the other dramas that those years can throw at you.

I wrote the briefest idea out on a scrap of paper there and then and talked to them about it when I arrived. We had a good old reminisce!

Our high school band’s rise and fall was pretty ordinary really and I wanted the story to be much more dramatic than that. It was a chance to revisit that time but I also ended up amalgamating a bunch of different high school experiences – as student and teacher – and a whole lot of rock and roll times, real and imagined. It seemed like a fun concept and it did turn out to be a lot of fun to write.

Being a high school teacher lent itself quite naturally to wanting to write for teenagers too, and I had an idea of what I thought some of the young women I’d been teaching might want to read about – a cool rock chick who isn’t fixated on a mysterious sparkly boy!

  • What are the songs that shaped teenage you?

I spent a lot of my early teen years listening to whatever I could find in the house, which was mostly popular tunes from the 60, 70s and 80s. It wasn’t until people started giving me mixed tapes and I could buy my own CDs that I really saw how music could change my views of self and shape my teenage identity.

Radiohead, Violent Femmes, Smashing Pumpkins, Dinosaur Jr, Stone Temple Pilots and Shihad were often on high rotation in my CD player. Music is much easier to access these days, but back then I really got to know the few albums I owned inside out! I would analyse the lyrics, read the liner notes, talk to my friends about them, sing along and all that.

I really think those bands of the mid-nineties tapped into a collective feeling that teenagers hadn’t been able to vocalise yet. They gave us permission to feel moody and outraged, while also acknowledging the sweetness we desired from the world. But it’s been a long time since I was a teenager, so maybe that’s Paige talking.

  • What genre of music best sums up your life?

Some days I would say it’s been a bittersweet folk album in the vein of Joni Mitchel’s Blue, but mostly I like to look at life as an Indie pop band full of cheesy catchy lyrics, bright colourful beats and frivolous synthesizers.

If Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan could write a soundtrack for the novel then everything in the world would make sense to me!

Actually I say that because I think he’s a master of creating story and character in very few words, but his music probably isn’t quite garage rock enough to capture the rock and roll aspect of the book.

So in that case, I’d say The Pixies. I kind of had The Pixies in the back of my mind as I described Vox Pop playing and I think they’re just an incredible band with a totally kick-ass bass player.

  • What is the most important lesson that you learned from being in a band?

Because I tend to be quite a self-sufficient person and my favourite things to do (writing and reading) are largely solo tasks, I think playing in bands taught me how to be part of something beyond myself. I never really played team sports, but was always in school orchestras, choirs, chamber music groups and, later on, rock bands.

In all those groups we had competitions to work towards, tours to organise, performances in front of sometimes many, but often very small audiences, rehearsals to get to on time and other band members to consider when making decisions and playing. It isn’t enough to just learn your part well and play it through, you really need to tap into what everyone else is doing and how they’re going, what they need and how what you’re doing affects all of that.

  • As well as being the author of Lonesome When You Go you’re also a poet.  Is the process of writing a novel similar to writing poetry for you?

They’re really very different processes for me and I’ve continued to do both simultaneously since finishing Lonesome. I enjoy being able to shift between the different forms.

When writing a novel I find I can set myself much more tangible goals – 1000 words a day, complete a particular scene etc. It’s a more continuous process too, as you’re developing and building on what you wrote last time and thinking about where you left your characters and what might happen to them next. With a novel there’s a lot of planning involved (for me, anyway) and behind the scenes stuff that helps inform my picture of the characters and their world.

I find poetry more difficult to describe in terms of a process as I’m less systematic about it. The poems come from everywhere and sometimes when I least expect them. I find I need to be open to poetry’s own schedule rather than try and force out a number of lines a day or give myself a deadline to complete something. Poetry doesn’t have to stay within a certain world or voice either, so there’s less need for continuity or meeting reader expectations.

The crafting process is probably similar for both. I think you need to be able to look at the world in a certain way to be a poet, and it’s a way of seeing the world that I really value.

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The Red Book by Beck and Matt Stanton

Beck and Matt Stanton are creators of books that drive kids crazy.  Their previous picture books, This is a Ball and Did You Take the B from my _ook? have been hits with kids, even if they do make them go a little crazy.  Their latest picture book is The Red Book and it is absolutely hilarious!  It is my favourite book to read aloud at the moment.

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Even before you open the book you know that it is going to be funny just by reading the instructions for grown-ups on the back:

For the Grown-Ups:

Okay, Big Wig.
We have a challenge for you.

It’s your job to convince the nearest kid that everything in this book is actually red.

And we mean everything.

It will not be easy! They will try to persuade you that things are not as red as you say, but you will stay strong!

And the kids will love it!

The Red Book is fantastic, interactive picture book that will both infuriate kids and have them rolling on the floor laughing.  I’ve been reading this book to the Year 1 and 2 kids at my school over the last couple of days and they absolutely love it!  As soon as you show them the cover and read the title they start arguing with you and yelling ‘No!’ because the cover of the book is purple (or so they keep telling you).

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The first page gets the kids on board with you, making sure that they agree about the colours on the page.  When you turn the page though you tell them that they are all wrong and that everything is red. It’s your job to try and convince the kids that everything in the book is red, but they won’t have a bar of it, because they can see that Fergus the Frog and Rose the Penguin aren’t red.  The kids get more and more frustrated and you (as the reader) eventually snap and tell them that you’re the grown-up and what you say goes.  By the end of the book though you will convince them that this book is red.

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The text is perfect for this interactive book and really gets everyone involved in the story.  The kids can’t help but join in and argue with you because what you are saying is so silly. If you’ve got kids who loved The Book with No Pictures (who doesn’t love that book!) or Do Not Open This Book then they’ll love this one. The illustrations are simple but bold and really stand out on the plain white background.

Get The Red Book for your home or school library now and drive your kids crazy!

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Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart

I loved Dan Gemeinhart’s first book, The Honest Truth. It was heartbreaking but such a great story. I was curious to read his new book, Scar Island (which came in the Scholastic Standing Orders). Wow, this book is amazing!  I’ve just finished it (thankfully my toddler had a long nap today!) and it kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. 


The story focuses on Jonathan who has committed a terrible crime that he doesn’t speak about. He has been sent to Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys, a crumbling island fortress that was once an insane asylum. Jonathan is here with 15 other boys who have created various crimes and we meet them through the course of the story. The place is cold and wet and the boys get treated horribly, until something happens to the adults, leaving them to fend for themselves. There are no rules – they can eat what they like, sleep where they like and do whatever they want. However one of them decides that he is in charge and things start to get out of control. When a huge storm heads for the island their world starts to crumble and the only way they can survive is if they work together.
Scar Island is like Holes and Lord of the Flies rolled in to one. It is one of those books you just don’t want to put down. When you’re not reading it you’re wondering what will happen next. It’s an adventure story and a survival story with a dash of darkness.  It’s an immersive story too because you can feel and smell the damp, cold fortress, hear the click of the rats scurrying paws and feel the fear and dread of these boys who are trapped.

Dan keeps you guessing the whole way through. Although most of the boys explain why they are at Slabhenge Jonathan keeps dodging the question. Dan drip feeds you details but doesn’t reveal everything until near the end.  You have to keep reading to find out if everyone survives until the end of the story. 

Scar Island is sure to be the perfect book to hook reluctant readers and it would make a great read aloud for Years 7 and 8.

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The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

A boy spends every day looking out his window. He sees the people in his street going about their business; leaving for work, watering their gardens, and chatting over the fence. One day though, the neighbour’s grandson goes missing and this boy is the last person to see him. Soon the police turn up and they need to know anything that would help their investigation. The reason this boy watches everything from his window is that he has crippling OCD. This boy is Matthew in Lisa Thompson’s amazing new book The Goldfish Boy.

9781407170992Matthew Corbin suffers from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. He hasn’t been to school in weeks. His hands are cracked and bleeding from cleaning. He refuses to leave his bedroom. To pass the time, he observes his neighbors from his bedroom window, making mundane notes about their habits as they bustle about the cul-de-sac.

When a toddler staying next door goes missing, it becomes apparent that Matthew was the last person to see him alive. Suddenly, Matthew finds himself at the center of a high-stakes mystery, and every one of his neighbors is a suspect. Matthew is the key to figuring out what happened and potentially saving a child’s life… but is he able to do so if it means exposing his own secrets, and stepping out from the safety of his home?

The Goldfish Boy is an absolutely gripping mystery with an incredible young boy at its heart. I knew from reading the blurb that this book was going to be unlike anything I had read before and I wasn’t disappointed. Lisa Thompson grips you from the first page and doesn’t let you go until the last sentence. She keeps you in suspense trying to figure out what has happened. There are so many questions that pop up as you read (What is wrong with Matthew and what is the connection to the death of his brother? What has happened to Teddy?) but Lisa ties up all the loose ends.

I loved this book not just because of the gripping mystery but also because of the intriguing character of Matthew. At the start of the book he hasn’t been out of the house in several weeks, he washes constantly and stares out of his window at the people in his street.  The story is narrated by Matthew and as the story progresses we get to know more about him and his crippling fears.  Lisa Thompson takes you inside the head of a boy suffering from OCD and you really get a sense of how terrifying it must be for him.  There are times that you think Matthew makes some progress and starts to get better, only for him to break down and need to clean himself furiously.  I loved that this story wasn’t just about the mystery of Teddy going missing and who did it, but about how Matthew manages to overcome his condition to find the answers.

The Goldfish Boy is one of my favourite middle grade reads so far this year.  It is a perfect read aloud for Years 6-8, the only problem being that the kids won’t want you to stop reading until you’ve reached the end.  I can’t wait to read whatever Lisa Thompson writes next!

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Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

Some books encourage children to imagine, some books teach children a new skill, and some books inspire children to do amazing things.  Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is an incredible new book by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo that is bursting with stories of amazing girls and women from all over the world. This is a book that everyone needs to read and I guarantee you will be amazed and inspired every time you pick it up.

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There are 100 tales of extraordinary women in Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.  Inside you’ll find stories of artists, mountaineers, nurses, activists, sportspeople, writers, scientists, spies and rock stars.  There are women that you will have heard of before and others who you’ll read about for the first time.  There is such a range of women that there is someone for every girl to relate to.  Each double-page spread features a short biography told in the style of a fairy tale alongside a full page portrait that captures the spirit of each heroine.  Each of the portraits has been created by a different female artist from around the world so they are all completely different styles.

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I love everything about this book!  The fairy tale style biographies are the perfect introduction to each of these extraordinary women.  The authors have captured exactly what it is that makes these women heroines and they’ve done so in a way that is accessible to children young and old.  Each of the biographies really would make great good night stories as you can imagine girls (and boys for that matter) dreaming about the amazing things that they themselves could achieve.  Unlike the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson, these are real women who have overcome adversity to achieve great things.  I love the design of this book, with the double-page spread for each woman.  Their name is at the top of the page, along with what they were known for, and their date of birth (and death if applicable) and the country they came from are at the bottom of the page. A quote from each woman is overlaid on the portrait of them, which is a nice little touch.  There is a contents page at the start of the book but the book is laid out alphabetically by first name so that you can easily flick back to a bio that you want to read again.  The production quality is high too, as it is a beautiful hardback book with ink and paper that you can smell.  A feature that I especially love is the space at the back of the book for girls to write their own story and draw their portrait.

I found this book absolutely fascinating and I learned so much.  There were women that I had never heard of before, such as Jingu, an exceptionally talented and tough Japanese empress, and Claudia Ruggerini, an Italian partisan who helped to bring down Mussolini.  I also learned that as well as being a famous chef Julia Child was a spy in World War Two who cooked cakes to repel sharks.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls needs to be in every home and school library.  It’s not just an important book for girls to read but also boys.  Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo show us how strong, brave, determined and fearless women can be and that girls can achieve amazing things.  I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

 

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