Monthly Archives: September 2011

Night on Terror Island by Philip Caveney

Have you ever wanted to be in a movie?  Kip gets this chance when he meets the mysterious Mr Lazarus in Philip Caveney’s latest book, Night on Terror Island.  Kip’s dad owns the Paramount Theatre, a small movie theatre that is under threat of going out of business because of the big multiplex cinemas that have popped up.  Kip loves the Paramount and helps his dad out whenever he can, making the popcorn, selling candy and the tickets.  Just when things are really bad and their projectionist decides to retire, the myterious Mr Lazarus appears and offers to take up the job and turn things around.   Something isn’t quite right with Mr Lazarus though; he knows things he shouldn’t about Kip and his family and he can make things appear out of thin air.

As Kip gets to know Mr Lazarus he uncovers the truth about this strange man and Mr Lazarus shows Kip his secret invention.  The Lazarus Enigma is a special machine that can project people into movies.  Kip thinks this sounds amazing, but when you’re in a film, everything is real: real bullets, real swords, real monsters.  If you don’t get out by the time the closing credits roll, you’ll be trapped in the film forever!  When Kip’s sister gets transported into a horror film called Terror Island, it’s up to Kip to go into the film and get her back.

Night on Terror Island is a gripping, fast-paced story full of action, adventure, magic, hungry saber-toothed tigers and killer Neanderthals.  It’s clear that Philip Caveney loves movies and the magic that they bring to children and adults.  He’s perfectly captured the desire to want to be inside the world of movies.  I’m a bit like Kip because I’d rather be transported into a comedy or a children’s movie, rather than a horror.  My favourite thing about Night on Terror Island though has to be the character of Mr Lazarus.  He’s such a mysterious character and I’m still not sure whether he is totally good or whether he is a little bit sinister.  I feel like Philip didn’t quite tell us everything about Mr Lazarus, which is why I liked him so much.  I’d love to read more about Kip and Mr Lazarus’s adventures in the world of the movies so hopefully Philip Caveney writes some more about them.

8.5 out of 10

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Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is one of my favourite books because of the way that the story is told.  The ‘creator’ Brian Selznick uses a mixture of words and illustrations to tell the story.  One minute you’re reading the words and the next you’re looking at the amazing illustrations to try and piece the story together. Brian has used the same storytelling technique in his new book, Wonderstruck.

Wonderstruck is the story of two children, set fifty years apart.  Ben’s story is told using words and is set in 1977 and Rose’s story is told completely in pictures and is set in 1927.  Ben has never known his father, but when he discovers some clues in his mother’s bedroom to who his father is, Ben sets out on a journey to discover the truth.  Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook and Brian’s illustrations reveal her own journey.

Wonderstruck is an absolutely amazing book!  I love the idea of telling two different stories in two different ways.  When I was reading Ben’s story I could see the images in my head, but when I was ‘reading’ Rose’s story I was putting each of the images together to figure out her story.  The book looks huge but I read it all in one go because over half the book is made up of Brian’s stunning illustrations.  He only uses pencils, but he creates some unbelievable effects.  When you look at the faces of the characters you can see exactly what they are feeling, whether it is excitement, anger or sadness.  One of the pages is just someone pointing their finger and you know exactly what it means.  Reading Rose’s story is like watching a silent movie because you have to work out what is happening yourself.  Wonderstruck is one of those books that leave you smiling and you’ll want to read it again and again, just to enjoy Brian’s illustrations.

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The Flytrap Snaps by Johanna Knox

Spencer Fogle is an ordinary kid who lives in the extraordinary town of Filmington.  His hometown used to be called Flemington, until film and TV crews discovered its range of landscapes, from fiery volcanoes to snowy mountains and lush rainforests, and took over the town.  The town’s richest resident, Jimmy Jangle, controls most of the business within Filmington and holds alot of people’s futures in his hands.  When Spencer is walking home from school one day, he hears blood-curdling screams coming from one of the science labs and goes to investigate.  Spencer uncovers a dark plot involving carnivorous plants, genetically modified flies and a mysterious, hidden file.  However, Jimmy Jangle and his thugs are willing to do anything to keep the truth covered up.

The Flytrap Snaps is the first book in The Fly Papers series, by New Zealand author Johanna Knox and illustrator, Sabrina Malcolm.  It’s a quirky story with action, mystery and plenty of laughs.  I love the idea of Filmington, with it’s different companies set up for the movie and television industry.  There’s the science labs that create experiments to be used in films, catering companies to supply food and drink for the film and TV crews, and the BodySlam Stunt Wrestling Club where they train stunt people for the movies.  I really liked Spencer because he’s just an ordinary kid who has to deal with an extraordinary situation.  I can’t wait to read the second book to find out what Spencer, Dion and Tora get up to next, and to solve the mystery of The Fly Papers.

Recommended for 9+    8 out of 10

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Heart of Danger by Fleur Beale

We were first introduced to Juno and the people of Taris in Juno of Taris, what would become the first in a trilogy.  I picked up Juno of Taris on a recommendation of another children’s librarian that I worked with and was blown away by the community that Fleur Beale had created.  For those of you who haven’t read the first book, it’s best to start at the beginning, but one of the great things about the subsequent books in the trilogy is that you get a summary of the story so far before you start.  I don’t know if this was an idea of the publisher, Random House New Zealand, or Fleur herself, but I think it’s something that all trilogies/series should have, especially when the books come out a year apart.

Heart of Danger starts off exactly where Fierce September ended, with Juno and her family arriving at their new home.  It’s not long before Juno’s sister, Hera senses danger and they decide to move back to New Plymouth and Fairlands School, where they have the protection of Willem.  Juno is reluctant to move back to Fairlands, where Hilto’s son, Thomas goes to school.  There’s also the handsome Ivor, whose advances make Juno uncomfortable.  Her feelings for Ivor are confusing and she’s not sure how to deal with them on the outside world.  When Hera is taken by mysterious strangers who mean to do her harm, Juno must use her special mind powers to help her save her sister.  But will this be enough to save them both from the Children of the Coming Dawn?

Heart of Danger is the perfect conclusion to this brilliant trilogy.  There is a sense of impending doom from the opening chapter which builds to a thrilling climax, but there are also alot of questions answered about the establishment of Taris, the extent of Juno’s powers, and Juno’s biological family.  The climax of the story comes just over halfway through the book and I was wondering how it would finish, but it left plenty of time for Fleur Beale to wrap up the story of the people of Taris and end on a positive note.  I’ve really enjoyed seeing how Juno has developed over the series and how the people of Taris have adapted to the outside world.  I loved how they all managed to hold onto little aspects of life on Taris, while becoming citizens of Aotearoa.  I know I’ll miss Juno, her family and her friends, but I’ll enjoy starting from the beginning again and taking that journey with them once more.  In the mean time, I’ll go to to read Nash’s Story, an extra short story that Fleur Beale has written, to be read after Heart of Danger.

Recommended for 12+    10 out of 10


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Picture Book Nook: Don’t Worry Douglas! by David Melling

Douglas, the loveable bear who wants a hug is one of my favourite picture book characters.  David Melling really knows how to write and illustrate for children, particularly preschoolers, and he’s created a character that every child will love.  In his first picture book outing, Hugless Douglas, our bear friend just wanted a hug, but he never seemed to be able to find the right type of hug.  In Don’t Worry Douglas! he’s given a special wooly hat by his dad and he goes off to show his friends.  On the way out the door his dad tells him to look after it, but this is exactly what Douglas doesn’t do.  His hat gets caught on a tree and slowly unravels.  The other animals say “Don’t worry Douglas” and try to help him put it back together.  But what will Douglas’s dad think?

Don’t Worry Douglas is the perfect match of text and gorgeous illustrations.  David’s illustrations make Douglas look so cuddly and loveable which makes him appealing to children and adults.  His child-like qualities and personality are something that children can relate to and you can’t help but want to help him out, give him a cuddle and tell him everything will be OK.  One thing I particularly love about David Melling’s illustrations is that he portrays emotion so well in both the facial expressions and body language of his characters.  The illustration of Douglas wearing his wooly hat that his dad just gave him captures that excitement and joy so perfectly.  I can’t recommend David Melling highly enough and urge you to go to your library or bookshop and get all of his books!  They’re perfect for any age.

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Picture Book Nook: Tarantula Boo! by Lucy Davey

Lenny the Tarantula lives at Zurlington Zoo.  He’s “furry and fuzzy and hairy” and he likes to play tricks on people, especially his favourite trick, Tarantula Boo, where he jumps at people.  The only thing that’s missing is a friend to share his scares with, and when a flying coconut breaks the glass on his cage, he escapes to go and find a friend.  Lenny looks all over the zoo, but will he find someone who isn’t scared of him or tries to eat him?

Tarantula Boo! is a book that begs to be read aloud again and again.  I love Lucy Davey’s books because of the beautiful, descriptive language she uses (I think she’s the next Lynley Dodd) and this is what makes Tarantula Boo! such a great book.  It’s so easy to read because the words just roll off your tongue.  The first couple of pages will have children hooked as they are introduced to Lenny:

“Safe behind glass at Zurlington Zoo,
lived loveable larrikin Lenny Lassoo.
Lenny was furry and fuzzy and hairy,
and liked to play tricks that were frightfully scary.

He’d wiggle his toes, and ogle his eyes,
and stretch out his limbs to dinner-plate size.”

Children will love Lenny and they’ll laugh as he jumps out at people and animals.  Philip Webb’s illustrations perfectly match Lucy’s descriptions and make Lenny funny, rather than scary.  Tarantula Boo! is a book that parents and teachers will enjoy as much as the children and won’t mind reading again and again.

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Picture Book Nook: Stomp! by Ruth Paul

Join the dinosaurs and follow the leader as they stomp, jump and hop their way through the jungle, the swamp and the river.  Children will have fun doing the actions and making the sounds as they pretend to be dinosaurs.  Those dinosaur-mad children will be able to name the different dinosaurs and can pretend they’re a T-Rex or a Triceratops.

Stomp! reminded me of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt because of the wonderful noises and actions that children can copy as you read.  I love the way that Ruth Paul has organised the dinosaurs from tallest to shortest across a double page spread.  This layout makes it easy for children to see all of the dinosaurs and look out for their favourites.  Everything is very ordered when the T-Rex is leading, but things start to fall apart when the baby dinosaurs leads on the way back home.  Ruth Paul shows us through the  illustrations that it’s good to be small, as the baby dinosaur is small enough to creep under the creepers and squeeze through the trunks.  The illustrations are bright and clear and full of plenty of humour, especially towards the end.

Stomp! is a book that can be shared with one child or many.  Everyone can make lots of noise and stomp around like dinosaurs.

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Skulduggery Pleasant: Death Bringer by Derek Landy

If you’re a huge fan of Skulduggery Pleasant like me, you’ve been waiting a whole year to find out what happens next to Skulduggery Pleasant and his side-kick Valkyrie Cain.  We were left wondering whether Valkyrie’s dark side would show her head and there was a feeling of impending doom.  Death Bringer doesn’t disappoint and there are plenty of thrill, chills and surprises to keep you on your toes.

Even before I started the story, Derek’s dedication made me crack up so I knew this book was going to be great.  The story starts with you meeting Melancholia St. Clair, a young Necromancer who Craven has chosen to be the Death Bringer.  Who and what the Death Bringer is is revealed throughout the book.  We’re reunited with Skulduggery and Valkyrie when they question a reporter who has been trying to dig up information about some strange disappearances that have occurred recently.  It appears someone is trying to cover up the truth about the Death Bringer and The Passage, and Skulduggery and Valkyrie are determined to get to the bottom of it.  When they discover the truth they must do anything they can to capture Melancholia and stop The Passage.

Death Bringer is a huge book with so much packed into it and I didn’t want it to end.  Skulduggery and Valkyrie face some terrible truths in this book and the line between good and evil is blurred.  You discover more about Skulduggery’s past and get inside Valkyrie’s head.  Because we’re getting close to the end of the series (only 3 more books to go), the story is getting darker and there’s less focus on some of the minor characters.  There’s still plenty of Derek Landy’s humour shining through though and a couple of parts had me laughing out loud, especially this part when Skulduggery meets a family travelling through Roarhaven.

“Ah,” Skulduggery said, “yes.  Very rude man, that shopkeeper.  All’s well, though?  No harm done? Excellent.”  He crouched at the car window and looked in.  “What a lovely family you have.  What a charming family.  They’re all lovely.  Except for that one.”  His finger jabbed the glass.  “That one’s a bit ugly.”

One of my favourite parts has to be the fight between Fletcher and Caelan.  It’s shows you exactly what Derek thinks of Twilight and some of the insults they throw at each other are classic.  Some of my favourite characters are back too, including Vaurien Scapegrace, the decomposing vampire and his follower, Thrasher.  There are also some great new character names including Dexter Vex, Melancholia St Clair and Oblivious.  If you’re a fan of Skulduggery Pleasant make sure you reserve your copy of Death Bringer at the library now, or if you haven’t read any of the series make sure you get your hands on the first Skulduggery Pleasant book.   Recommended for 9+      10 out of 10


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