Monthly Archives: September 2012

David Levithan on Every Day

Every Day is David Levithan’s amazing new book, out in NZ and Australia this month from Text Publishing.  I love David’s books and Every Day sounds really interesting and completely different.  I can’t wait to lose myself in the story.

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This Moose Belongs to Me book trailer

This Moose Belongs to Me is the stunning new picture book written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers.  He is one extremely talented guy who always creates wonderful picture books, and this is no exception.  It’s available in NZ this month and you can read my review on Monday.

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The Crystal Code by Richard Newsome

What do you get when you mix Tintin, James Bond, and The Famous Five together?  You get Richard Newsome’s Billionaire Series.  So far in the series we’ve followed Gerald, Ruby and Sam to England, France, Greece and India, trying to stay one step ahead of the notorious Mason Green.  In their latest action-packed adventure, The Crystal Code, we join our favourite characters as they make new friends and enemies.

Gerald, Ruby and Sam are meeting up with Alisha and Gerald’s Australian school friend Ox for two weeks of snowboarding in the mountains of California. It’s a dream vacation.

But soon after they arrive—by helicopter, with Gerald’s butler Mr Fry at the controls, of course—the private chalet is attacked. Gerald and the gang escape through a secret passage, only to be pursued on snowmobiles by men with guns across frozen lakes and into the path of a cascading avalanche.

Could this be the work of Gerald’s nemesis Sir Mason Green, recently escaped from prison? Or is someone else behind the attack?Does the old dry cleaning ticket Gerald found amongst Green’s belongings hold the key?And how does an invitation to join the secretive Billionaire’s Club land Gerald in so much trouble?

The Crystal Code is Richard Newsome at his best!  It’s chock-full of everything I love about the Billionaire Series – chases, fights, close calls, awkward situations, sarcastic remarks, laugh out loud moments and memorable characters.  From the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, to Prague, and a tiny island in Sweden, Richard Newsome takes us on a wild ride where the action never lets up.  Whenever I read one of Richard’s books I feel the absolute joy that I remember feeling the first time I read Tintin’s adventures.  They make you wish that you were a billionaire with a crazed mad man threatening your life.  As the characters grow up, their relationships change, so things become a bit awkward between Gerald and Ruby (especially when another girl, Felicity, gets thrown into the mixture).  I really liked the dynamics between the characters, and by introducing new characters into the original trio, Richard has refreshed the series and made it even more exciting.

Richard has also taken the series in a different direction by introducing some new villains.  At the center of the story is a centuries old manuscript that nobody has been able to decipher, and there are two characters that are desperate to get their hands on it.  Tycho Brahe, the mysterious man with the silver nose, is a fantastically sinister character who will stop at nothing to carry out his plans.  There is a lot of mystery surrounding him and Gerald and his friends don’t believe that he can be the man he says that he is.  Then there is Ursus, the man with many names, a shadowy character whose motives are unknown.  They’re both really intriguing characters and I have a feeling we’ll meet them again.

The Crystal Code, and the rest of the Billionaire series, are a must read for anyone, young or old, who love action, adventure and mystery stories.  Grab it from your library or bookshop now and dive into the adventures of billionaire boy, Gerald, and his friends.

5 out of 5 stars

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Newly updated Margaret Mahy books from HarperCollins NZ

HarperCollins New Zealand have just released two newly updated Margaret Mahy books to celebrate her life and work.

Margaret Mahy: A Writer’s Life by Tessa Duder

This was first published in 2005 and it has now been fully updated and republished.  The updates include:

  • Updated introduction
  • New Epilogue which covers Margaret’s life between 2005 and 2012.
  • Updated notes
  • Updated Chronological Bibliography with Margaret’s books published from 2005 onwards.
  • Updated Awards and Honours (including the Hans Christian Anderson Award which Margaret won in 2006).
  • New photos.

The Word Witch by Margaret Mahy, illustrations by David Elliot, edited by Tessa Duder

This was originally published in hardback in 2009 (I have my copy in pride of place on my bookshelf) and is the ultimate collection of Margaret Mahy’s much-loved poems and stories in rhyme.  Each of the 66 pieces is accompanied by a poignant illustration by one of New Zealand’s best, David Elliot.

This new paperback edition includes a CD with recordings of Margaret reciting 12 poems, including favourites such as Down the Back of the Chair and Ghosts.  The CD is a delight to listen to and it’s wonderful to hear these poems read as Margaret heard them in her head.  If you already own a copy of The Word Witch it’s definitely worth buying a copy of this edition as well, just so you can listen to Margaret perform the poems over and over again.


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Win Shrunk! by F.R. Hitchcock

Shrunk! is the wacky, weird and wonderful new book from debut children’s author, F.R. Hitchcock.  It’s also one of the first titles published by a fantastic new UK based publisher, Hot Key Books (check out their other fantastic books on their website).  You can read my review of Shrunk! here on the blog.

To celebrate this wonderful book I’m giving away 2 copies.  All you have to do to get in the draw is add your name and email address in the form below and I’ll chose two lucky winners.  Competition closes Wednesday 3 October (International).

Thanks to everyone who entered.  This competition has now closed.

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Shrunk! by F.R. Hitchcock

Have you ever made a wish on a shooting star?  Tom has, but his wish has gone horribly wrong.  Now he can shrink anything he likes and it’s going to get him in a whole heap of trouble.  Read about Tom’s misadventures in F.R. Hitchcock’s wonderful new book, Shrunk!

After Tom moves in with his grandmother next to the Bywater-by-Sea Model Village, he makes a wish on a shooting star and gets the curious ability to shrink things. The first thing he shrinks is Jupiter, then some sheep and a boat.

But without Jupiter in place, the Earth is slowly being drawn towards the Sun. With the angry (and miniaturised) school bully yelling from his pocket, Tom has to return Jupiter and save Earth — all while trying to make friends in his new home.

Shrunk! is a wacky, weird and wonderful little story full of hilarious antics.  It’s so nice to read a story for children that feels really fresh and completely different.  There’s something for everyone in this wonderful story – wishes gone wrong, missing planets, meteors crashing to earth, shrinking animals and people, horrible little boys, a race against time, and lots and lots of laughs.

I love all the characters in the book, from Tom who ends up with a rather useless and annoying power, to his Grandma who knows more than she’s letting on, his unfortunate, geeky friend Eric, Eric’s dad who believes he has been abducted by aliens, and Jacob the big (or should that be small) bully.  The hilarious antics of the characters will have children cracking up laughing, especially Jacob vs. the squirrel.

Shrunk! is F.R. Hitchcock’s first children’s book and I hope I get to read many more of her stories.  Shrunk! is perfect for children who like funny stories or stories with a touch of magic or science.  It’s a great book for children to read themselves and it also works really well as a read aloud (for around 8 years and older).  It’s a short read too so it’s great for reluctant readers.

5 out of 5 stars

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Picture Book Nook: Catching fish and dragons – picture books by Tanya Batt

Clean Slate Press is a New Zealand based educational publisher that has just launched a new picture book imprint.  Their first book, Wishy Washy World by Joy Cowley, is a collection of eight stories featuring Mr and Mrs Wishy Washy and the animals on their farm.  Clean Slate Press have just launched two new picture books, Catching Fish and My Dad’s a Dragon Catcher, both written by Tanya Batt.

Catching Fish is about Jake, who wears his favourite shirt all the time.  It’s his favourite because it has five red fish on it that swim along the bottom edge.  It gets so dirty that he has to wash it, but when he wears it next all the fish have gone.  Jake and his mum look everywhere for the fish, but they can’t find them, until they look up in the sky and see them swimming through the air.  How will Jake get the five fish back on his shirt? Catching Fish is a delightful, funny story that begs children to join in.  They can make the sounds of the clothes in the washing machine and on the line, help Jake go fishing and jump up to try and catch the fish from the sky.  I really like Natalia Vasquez’ quirky, collage-style illustrations.  It’s interesting to see all the different materials and photos that she has used to create the illustrations (the wooden fence is photographs of wood and the sun is a photo of pasta).

My Dad’s a Dragon Catcher is about Toby and the job that he makes up for his dad.  When Toby and his friends are sitting around eating their lunch they talk about what their dads do for a job.  Toby says that his dad is a Dragon Catcher because that sounds exciting.  When his teacher invites their dads along for Father’s Day at school, Toby has to figure out what to do.  His dad isn’t really a Dragon Catcher but maybe he can pretend.  Boys especially will love this story, with its dragons, red truck with fireproof wheels, and the fire-proof undies.  Helen Bacon’s fiery illustrations will really appeal to children.  Her dragons all look quite silly and harmless, even when they’re breathing fire.  It’s a great book for dads to share with their children, especially if they’re ready for a longer story.

The thing I like most about these two great picture books is their production.  The hardbacks look wonderful and they have beautiful endpapers with dragons and fish on them.  Catching Fish and My Dad’s a Dragon Catcher are available now from a Whitcoulls near you.

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Metawars: Fight for the Future by Jeff Norton

Sometimes it would be nice to be able to escape your own life and pretend to be someone else.  What if you could connect yourself to a virtual world, where you could do exactly that and look completely different.  You could have a different face, a different body, and you could even be a unicorn or a dragon.  In this virtual world, everything is clean and bright, and you can work, shop and play.  Enter the world of the Metashpere in Jeff Norton’s new book, Metawars: Fight for the Future.

Jonah Delacroix can’t stand the real world – so he lives most of his life inside a global computer-based virtual world called the Metasphere, where everyone is represented by an avatar. When he discovers the avatar of his dead father, and assumes his online identity, a series of events are unleashed that compel Jonah to race across the real world with a secret society to protect the freedom of all mankind…

Fight for the Future is the first book in Jeff Norton’s action-packed science fiction series about the fight for cyberspace.  The real world has fallen into ruin and humans now spend most of their lives in the Meatasphere, a virtual world full of life and colour, where people work, go to school and socialise.  There are two warring factions fighting for what they believe is right.  The Millenials believe that the Metashphere should be controlled, but the Guardians believe it should be free.  Matthew Granger, the creator of the Metasphere and leader of the Millenials has just escaped prison and will stop at nothing to take back his creation, one piece at a time.

The main character is Jonah Delacroix, a teenager who lives on a bus in the real world with his mum, but like most people, prefers to spend his time in the Metashpere.  His father, who was once Matthew Granger’s personal pilot, was killed when a Guardian bomb blew up the airport.  Jonah knows where his loyalties lie, but these loyalties are constantly tested in the story.  Who do you trust when everyone thinks they’re right?  One thing I really liked about the story was that there are no clear villains.  They may seem like villains but they’re only fighting for what they believe is right.  Matthew Granger’s character was really interesting and I’m looking forward to seeing how Jeff develops his character in the next book.

Metawars is a real boys story and the perfect book to hook reluctant readers.  There are heart-stopping action sequences, spies, terrorists and cool characters. It’s sure to grab those video game addicted teens as they’ll understand the allure of wanting to be constantly plugged into the virtual world.  To hook them in, all you need to tell them about the book is it’s like Alex Rider crossed with The Matrix.  Once they’ve read Fight for the Future they’ll be hooked and eagerly awaiting the sequel The Dead Are Rising.

4 out of 5 stars


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My Most Anticipated October New Releases

Eve and Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate

Evening Spiker is recuperating from a freak accident in her mum’s medical facility. She is healing at a remarkable rate, faster than physically possible. As she grows closer to the hot lab assistant Solo, who seems to be hanging around a lot, she realises that things at Spiker Biotech are not quite as they seem. Joining forces, Solo and Eve uncover a secret so huge it could change the world completely. Spiker Biotech is about more than just saving lives. It’s about creating them.

All the Wrong Questions: Who Could That Be At This Hour? by Lemony Snicket

Author Lemony Snicket is a broken man, wracked with misery and despair as a result of writing A Series Of Unfortunate Events. He spends his days wandering the countryside weeping and moaning, and his evenings eating hastily-prepared meals. But what was he like when he was thirteen years old? Find out in the brand new series from best-selling author Lemony Snicket!

Zom-B by Darren Shan

When news reports start appearing of a zombie outbreak in Ireland, B Smith’s racist father thinks it’s a joke– but even if it isn’t, he figures, it’s ok to lose a few Irish. B doesn’t fully buy into Dad’s racism, but figures it’s easier to go along with it than to risk the fights and abuse that will surely follow sticking up for Muslims, blacks, or immigrants. But when zombies attack B’s school, B is forced on a mad dash through the serpentine corridors, making allegiances with anyone with enough guts to fight off their pursuers.

Maddy West and the Tongue Taker by Brian Falkner

Maddy West can speak every language in the world. When she is asked to translate some ancient scrolls, Maddy is excited. But the scrolls hide many secrets. Secrets that send Maddy on a wild adventure with a stowaway ninja, a mysterious monkey, a Bulgarian wrestler and a fiendish witch. And soon Maddy finds herself in deadly peril. Does Maddy have what it takes to save herself and her new friends?

The Crystal Code by Richard Newsome

Gerald, Ruby and Sam are meeting up with Alisha and Gerald’s Australian school friend Ox for two weeks of snowboarding in the mountains of California. It’s a dream vacation.

But soon after they arrive—by helicopter, with Gerald’s butler Mr Fry at the controls, of course—the private chalet is attacked. Gerald and the gang escape through a secret passage, only to be pursued on snowmobiles by men with guns across frozen lakes and into the path of a cascading avalanche.

Could this be the work of Gerald’s nemesis Sir Mason Green, recently escaped from prison? Or is someone else behind the attack? Does the old dry cleaning ticket Gerald found amongst Green’s belongings hold the key? And how does an invitation to join the secretive Billionaire’s Club land Gerald in so much trouble?

Join Gerald and his friends in the USA, the Czech Republic and a tiny island in Sweden for a new thrilling adventure. After all, with all that money, there’s got to be more to the story.

Every Day by David Levithan

Every morning, A wakes in a different person’s body, a different person’s life. There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.
And then A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

Can you love someone who is destined to change each day? YA superstar author David Levithan brings all his trademark insight to a novel that is edgy, romantic and page-turning. Every Day has a touch of the paranormal and a grounding in the real world.

The ACB with Honora Lee by Kate De Goldi

Perry’s mother and father are busy people … they’re impatient, they’re tired, they get cross easily. And they think that only children, like Perry, should be kept busy. On Saturday mornings Perry and her father visit her gran, Honora Lee, at the Santa Lucia rest home, but Gran never remembers them. ‘Who is that man?’ Honora Lee asks when Perry’s father leaves the room. After movement class is abruptly cancelled, Perry is allowed to go to Santa Lucia on Thursday afternoons. She discovers her Gran has an unconventional interest in the alphabet, so Perry decides to make an alphabet book with the help of Honora and the others. Soon everyone is interested in Perry’s book project.

Spook’s: Slither’s Tale

Far from the Wardstone, a new darkness is rising . . . Slither is a haizda mage who preys upon humans, drinking their blood to feed his dark urges. So when a local farmer dies, it’s only natural that Slither should want to feast on his lovely daughters. But then the farmer offers him a deal, and extracts from Slither a promise that will take him on a journey to the City of the Petrified Tree, to a fallen star-stone that holds great power, and straight into the path of Grimalkin, the Witch Assassin.

The Books of Beginning: The Fire Chronicle by John Stephens

It’s been six months since Kate, Michael, and Emma confronted the Dire Magnus, but the trail to their long-missing parents remains cold. Then Michael and Emma find a man who saw them ten years ago—three days after they disappeared. He knows about a map of a distant land, a place shrouded in mystery that may lead them to their parents. Meanwhile, Kate’s connection to the Book of Time is growing stronger and stronger, until a dangerous trick gets her stuck in the past, searching for a friend to help her. Only a perilous quest and a daring risk will help the children to harness the power of the Books of Beginning. But will it be enough to save them?

Ratburger by David Walliams

Things are not looking good for Zoe. Her stepmother Sheila is so lazy she gets Zoe to pick her nose for her. The school bully Tina Trotts makes her life a misery – mainly by flobbing on her head. And now the evil Burt from Burt’s Burgers is after her pet rat! And guess what he wants to do with it? The clue is in the title.

And these picture books…

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Interview with Barbara Else, author of The Queen and the Nobody Boy

Barbara Else is the creator of the Land of Fontania, the magical setting of her award-winning The Traveling Restaurant and her latest book, The Queen and the Nobody Boy.  Her books are full of magic, adventure, pirates, spies, and wonderful characters.  I had a few questions about Fontania and its inhabitants and Barbara very kindly answered them.

  • What’s your favourite place in Fontania?

I’m a city girl so it has to be the City of Spires. But I’d like to visit the High Murisons. There (so I have heard) live the only wild bears in Fontania. They have a growl deeper than any other living creature.

  • The Um’binnians have strange names and speak quite differently than the Fontanians. How did you come up with them?

The name for Um’Binnia just typed out under my fingers when I was wondering what to call the neighbouring country. It seemed to me that a good way to identity the Um’Binnian characters would be to use commas in their names too. They speak the same language as Fontanians but, just as all English speaking countries have different accents, I thought the Um’Binnians would sound different too.

  • The Queen and the Nobody Boy features some wonderful new characters, creatures and machines. What is your favourite creation from this story?

I love Hodie for his courage and determination.  And I love the squirrel for its single-mindedness.  But I think Princessa Lu’nedda is the character I cherish the most. She’s very troubled by her father, seems far too cutesy and fluffy at first, but is full of courageous surprises.

And I’m very pleased with the wind-train.

  • If you were the Queen of Fontania what would your first royal proclamation be?

‘Royal Proclamation, Part the First:  Every city, town and village in the Kingdom of Fontania shall have a library stocked to the brim with books to suit each child.

Royal Proclamation, Part the Second: At the end of each year of successful reading every child shall be rewarded with a cake shaped like the Travelling Restaurant.’

  • Can we look forward to more Tales of Fontania?

I’m certainly playing around with more ideas.



Barbara’s follow-up to The Traveling Restaurant, called The Queen and the Nobody Boy, is out now in NZ.  It’s another wonderful story, set in the world of Fontania.  You can read my review of The Queen and the Nobody Boy here on the blog.

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