Monthly Archives: October 2011

Liesl and Po book trailer

Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver is one of the fantastic books I’m reading at the moment.  It’s a really magical book and one of those stories that you can get lost in.  If you like books like The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo, I highly recommend it.  Reserve it at your library now.

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Picture Book Nook: Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

I love Oliver Jeffers’ books because they’re always so quirky and different.  His illustration style is quite simple and sparse but he uses different textures and materials within them.  His latest picture book, Stuck, is classic Oliver Jeffers and is weird and wacky, with a surprise ending.

It all began when Floyd got his kite stuck in a tree.  As any kid would do, Floyd tries throwing other things up into the tree to knock the kite down, including a ladder, a bucket of paint, a cat, the kitchen sink, and a rhinoceros.  Each thing he throws up there just ends up getting caught with the kite.  It’s not long before things really start to get out of control and Floyd starts to run out of ideas.  Will he get his kite, and everything else, out of the tree?

Stuck will have kids (and grown-ups) laughing out loud at all the crazy things Floyd throws into the tree.  You’re never quite sure what you’re going to find he’s thrown in the tree each time you turn the page, so you can have a guessing game about what it might be.  I didn’t see the ending coming so it had me cracking up, and left me thinking what might happen next.  I love the simplicity of Oliver’s illustrations and the text, which seem quite child-like.  Oliver has really channeled his inner child in this book and kids will love the craziness of it.  Stuck will beg to be read again and again.

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Picture Book Nook: A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham

Bob Graham is one of Australia’s most prolific illustrators and his books always make you laugh and tug at your heartstrings.  Bob’s latest book, A Bus Called Heaven is another classic Bob Graham story.

An abandoned bus turns up one day in Stella’s street and everybody stops and stares. There’s no explanation for it, it’s just there. They all follow Stella on board to have a look around and Stella suggests that it could belong to everyone in their street.  Together, they push the bus into Stella’s front garden and clean it, paint it and add their own touch.  Life returns to the bus where ‘babies crawled, people laughed, kids fought, grandads scratched dogs, meetings were planned, couples met and the Fingles showed their holiday pictures.’  Then the tow truck arrives and takes the bus away.  Will Stella and her neighbours be able to save their bus?

A Bus Called Heaven is a uplifting story about a community coming together and fighting for what they believe is right. Bob Graham makes you want to be a part of their community and you’re hoping and wishing that they’ll be able to keep their bus.  Bob’s vibrant, panel-style illustrations tell their own story, meaning that you could take away the text and you could still understand what’s going on.  There are so many characters that anyone can find someone in the story that they can relate to, whether it’s the children playing, the parents sharing a cup of tea, or the grandads scratching the dog’s tummy.   A Bus Called Heaven is a story that can be enjoyed again and again and a great book to teach children about community and working together.

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Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur

Elise never really knew her parents.  Her mum died after her birth and her dad got sick and died of cancer a few years later.  Her Uncle Hugh and Aunt Bessie promised to look after her and she has lived with them ever since.  She’s been best friends with Franklin for years and they’ve always loved playing games like Knights together.  When they start middle school Elise starts to get embarrassed by Franklin and doesn’t want to hang around with him anymore.  Then there’s her locker buddy, Amanda who nicknames her Scabula and squashes her lunch every morning.  Elise starts to hate school and is afraid to go because of Amanda’s bullying.  Just when she needs it a special surprise comes along.  Her father leaves her a mystery to unlock and with each discovery a new key arrives.

Eight Keys is about a girl discovering who she is and learning about the parents she didn’t know.  When Elise is feeling lost and worried, the mystery that her father left for her comes along and helps her choose who she wants to be.  It helps her see who her mum and dad were and how much they loved her, even before she was born.  You see a real change in Elise, from the worried, confused girl at the start to the confident, happy girl at the end.  I really liked the character of Franklin because he’s funny, loyal and will do anything to help his friend.  Eight Keys is the perfect book for girls who like Jacqueline Wilson and Cathy Cassidy.  It will make you laugh and cry, but leave a smile on your face.

Eight Keys would make a great read-aloud for 9-12 year olds, especially as it deals with bullying and friendship.

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Far Rockaway by Charlie Fletcher

If you were to meet the characters from your favourite books who would they be?  Would you want to meet Harry Potter, Matilda, or Percy Jackson? You certainly wouldn’t want to bump into Count Olaf, Captain Hook, or Voldemort.  In Far Rockaway by Charlie Fletcher, Cat finds herself face to face with some of the heroes and villains of classic adventure stories.

Cat and her grandfather, Victor made a pact that one day, just for fun of it, they’d take the subway and stay on it until the very end of the line, at a place called Far Rockaway.  They never get to make this trip together because, while crossing the street in Manhattan, Cat and Victor are knocked down by a speeding fire truck.  Cat wakes up in a world made from all the books her grandfather used to read to her, and filled with the most memorable characters from classic adventure stories, including The Last of the Mohicans and Treasure Island.  Cat needs their help to find the mythic castle of Far Rockaway, and get herself and her grandfather home alive.

Far Rockaway is part fantasy, part adventure and full of pirates, indians, and zombies.  I really like the way that Charlie Fletcher has weaved Cat’s story in with three completely different stories.  If you know the characters from the classic adventure stories you’ll see what a fantastic job Charlie has done of transferring them to another story.  There were a couple of characters I didn’t know but this has made me want to go and read those stories and discover who they were.  Cat is a great character, who’s brave, loyal and kicks butt when she needs to.  I like what she says about girls in stories,

“Why do the guys get to do all the rescuing? I mean I loved all the stories you gave me and read me, but one thing: where were the real girls? Half the books, they weren’t there at all, and the other half they’re wimped-out girly-girls getting all weepy and falling in love with the mysterious complicated dude or waiting for the right guy to save them.”

If you want a swash-buckling adventure story about the magic of stories then join Cat on the journey of a lifetime in Far Rockaway.

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Ruby Redfort: Look Into My Eyes by Lauren Child

If you’ve read the Clarice Bean books by Lauren Child, you’ll know that Ruby Redfort is Clarice Bean’s favourite book character.  She’s a super brainy genius with terrible eyesight and loves to wear t-shirts with slogans like ‘What a total yawn’ and ‘Bored beyond belief.’  In Look Into My Eyes, we find out how Ruby got started as a secret agent.

Ruby Redfort lives her life by a set of rules, like Rule 1: You can never be completely sure what might happen next, or Rule 7: Never forget the little things – it’s the little things that will lead people to notice the big things.  When a mysterious stranger calls Ruby and sets her a challenge, her rules help her to solve the puzzle.  It’s not long before she finds her way into the HQ of the most secret of secret agencies – SPECTRUM.  After sitting SPECTRUM’s Agency Test, Ruby is put to work solving a code that one their agents failed to solve before she died in an avalanche.  The closer she gets to the truth, the more danger she finds herself in.  Ruby has grabbed the attention of some of the world’s most evil villains and crooks, but will SPECTRUM be able to save her before it’s too late.

Ruby Redfort: Look Into My Eyes has got me hooked on Ruby Redfort and her adventures.  Ruby Redfort is a very cool character and the sort of girl that everyone would like.  She’s smart, fearless, funny and isn’t afraid to stand out from the crowd.  She has quite an old-fashioned way of talking (she calls people buster and bozo), but that’s something I really like about her character and it makes her stand out.  The way that Ruby answers the phone made me crack up every time.  Ruby’s butler (or household manager as he like to be called), Hitch is one of the coolest butlers ever!  He’s very mysterious when you first meet him, but he’s always there when the Redforts need him.  Apart from Hitch, alot of the adults in the book are boring, stupid and just interested in themselves and their parties.  I was wondering how a girl as smart and full of personality as Ruby had such dull parents.

If you love books full of mystery, with kids who are secret agents, and evil villains who want to commit the crime of the century, then Ruby Redfort: Look Into My Eyes is the book for you.  As Clarice Bean says, ‘you will literally be on the edge of your wits.’


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The Art of The Adventures of Tintin

If you’re as excited about The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn as I am you’ll be watching all the different movie trailers, looking at images from the movie, and maybe even wishing you were Tintin.  I loved the cartoon series of Tintin as well as the books and the movie looks amazing.  While you wait for the movie, there is an amazing book that you should check out called The Art of The Adventures of Tintin.

I find it really interesting finding out how movies are made, how they choose the actors to play the characters, what costumes they choose, and how they decide where to shoot the movie.  The Art of the Adventures of Tintin is overflowing with all this information about The Secret of the Unicorn.  There are introductions by the brilliant Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson who are directing and producing the movie.  They talk about why they decided to make this movie and how important it was to get the details correct.  The author of the book (and Lead Conceptual Designer for the movie), Chris Guise takes you on a kind of tour of the movie, showing you some of the amazing art work and design from the team at Weta Workshop that has gone into the movie.

The book is split into four sections: The Film Makers, The Beginning, The Characters, and The Environments.  The Beginning gives some background on Tintin’s creator, Herge, and shows you how the designers came up with the look of the movie.  My favourite section of the book is The Characters.  You get to see what Tintin could have looked like in the movie, and I really think they picked the right image for the movie, because some the early images look pretty strange.  You see how they created all the main characters and find out how they made them look so realistic.  The Environments shows you how the designers made the sets, props and vehicles look exactly like Herge imagined them.

If you’re a Tintin fan or even just like seeing how movies are made, The Art of the Adventures of Tintin is the perfect book for you.  There is so much detail and so many images in this book that it will keep you entertained for hours.  I can’t wait to see how all these aspects of the film have come together when The Secret of the Unicorn is released in New Zealand on 26th December.

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Subscribe and win a New Zealand picture book pack

If you’ve enjoyed reading my reviews you might like to get them emailed to you as soon as they’re posted.  If you subscribe to My Best Friends Are Books before 30 November you could win a New Zealand picture book pack just in time for Christmas.  The pack includes All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth, There’s a Hole in my Bucket, and The Elves and the Cloakmaker.

The winner of the New Zealand picture book pack is Nicole Latham.  Thanks to all my new followers!


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How to draw a dragon with Emily Gravett

Emily Gravett is one of my favourite illustrators and I always eagerly await her new book.  Again! looks absolutely brilliant and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

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Frank Cottrell Boyce on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again

I’m really excited about this book and can’t wait to see how Frank Cottrell Boyce will breath new life into Chitty.

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