Monthly Archives: November 2012

Win my favourites for Christmas

Next week I’ll be posting my Top 10 of 2012 lists, and I want to give one of my lucky readers the chance to win a prize pack of some of my favourite books of 2012.  The prize includes a copy of:

  • Mister Whistler by Margaret Mahy and Gavin Bishop
  • Stupid Baby by Stephanie Blake
  • Around the World in 80 Days, illustrated by Robert Ingpen
  • Red Rocks by Rachael King
  • The Brain Sucker by Glenn Wood
  • Zom-B by Darren Shan
  • Eve and Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate

All you have to do to get in the draw is enter your name, email, and address in the form below and tell me your favourite review, interview or competition on My Best Friends Are Books this year.  The competition closes Wednesday 5 December, so that your prize will arrive before Christmas (NZ only sorry).

Thanks to everyone who entered and gave me some great feedback.  The winner is Vicki.

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Win Issue 1 of TheKillRoom

Horror writer and all round good-guy David Gatward released the first issue of his new venture at Halloween, a horror magazine called TheKillRoom.  It’s a fantastic magazine, full of short horror stories written by well-known horror writers (such as Scream Street author Tommy Donbavand and author of the Furnace series, Alexander Gordon Smith), and stories from up-and-coming horror authors.  Here’s why David decided to start up TheKillRoom,

‘So, the reason behind TheKillRoom… The whole idea came about because during most school visits I do I meet with students who’d love to get published but see it as either impossible, or something you only do when you’re an adult. There was no avenue for this. No real way for them to experience getting in print, or perhaps just going through the process of submitting not just to any magazine, but to one they’d like to read. I began wondering about it being a horror fiction mag. Then I had the idea of producing something that allows kids to get published alongside top-selling horror authors.’

It’s a great read for teen or adult horror fans and I’m looking forward to the next issue.  You can download it for free from David’s website ( and I have 4 bound copies to give away.  To get in the draw just enter your name and email address in the form below (NZ and Australia only).

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Margaret Mahy’s stories come to life on the screen

Two absolutely wonderful DVDs are released today that celebrate legendary New Zealand author Margaret Mahy and her magical tales.  Margaret may no longer be with us but her stories live on and these new DVDs give an insight into her writing and present her stories and poems as they were intended.

Margaret Mahy’s Rumbustifications takes us inside Margaret’s home in Governor’s Bay as she reads 5 of her stories and 11 of her favourite poems to her grandchildren and pets.  It’s quite intimate and you feel like you are actually sitting right in front of her as she reads.  The stories and poems that Margaret reads are ones that children and adults alike will be familiar with and you might even discover a new favourite story.  Margaret performs her stories and poems as she imagined them and they sound spectacular rolling off her tongue.  I especially love her performances of Down the Back of the Chair and Bubble Trouble and The Boy Who Was Followed Home is now one of my favourite stories of hers (I hadn’t read this before and I can’t believe I missed this).  What I loved most about this wonderful production are the magical additions to her stories.  Many of them have had animation and sound effects added after the reading has been recorded, so each of the things ‘down the back of the chair’ actually pop out of Margaret’s chair and end up crowding the screen.  In ‘Summery Saturday Morning’ animated geese actually chase Margaret’s dog.  None of the animations get in the way of your enjoyment of the story, but make it even more special.  It is thanks to Margaret’s long-time friend, Yvonne Mackay, that we can now enjoy Margaret’s enchanting readings on DVD for the very first time.

Margaret Mahy’s Rumbustifications is the perfect gift for the whole family this Christmas.  I can imagine everyone crowding around the TV and being held captivated by Margaret’s reading.  It’s available in NZ wherever DVDs are sold at $19.99.

A Tall Long Faced Tale is an incredibly interesting and detailed documentary about Margaret Mahy that’s aimed at adults.  It was recorded for TVNZ’s Artsville programme several years ago and is now available on DVD for the first time.  In this 70 minute documentary Margaret is interviewed by her most iconic and exciting animated characters, the Lion in the Meadow, David from The Witch in the Cherry Tree, Mother Pirate, and author Elizabeth Knox.  I loved these appearances by her characters as it was a quirky interview technique and I wondered who would pop up next. A wide range of subjects are covered, including memory, identity, motherhood, magic and the universal appeal of her stories.  As well as the characters from her picture books, some of the characters from her young adult novels make an appearance and ask her about the stories they feature in.  Some of the illustrators that Margaret worked with throughout the years talk about Margaret and her magical stories, including American illustrator Steven Kellog (The Boy Who Was Followed Home),  English Jenny Williams (The Lion in the Meadow, The Witch in the Cherry Tree), and Quentin Blake (Nonstop Nonsense).  I loved the way that the interview ends with Margaret walking down the wharf with her characters by her side, and Elizabeth Knox’s final question is one of the most fantastic interview questions ever – ‘If you were given 3 wishes, either selfish or unselfish, what would they be?’ I’m sure you will be as surprised as I was with her answers.

A Tall Long Faced Tale is a must-watch DVD for all teachers, librarians, and anyone who loves children’s literature.  It’s available in NZ wherever DVDs are sold at $24.99.

Thanks to Chris from Production Shed.TV for sending me copies of these wonderful productions.

Check out these videos from Margaret Mahy’s Rumbustifications and A Tall Long Faced Tale and keep an eye out on the blog for a chance to win your own copy of the DVDs.

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Picture Book Nook: Hey Baby! by Corinne Fenton

Everybody loves a cute animal photo, especially when it involves baby animals.  The latest picture book by Corinne Fenton is filled with extremely cute photos of baby animals and it’s perfect for sharing snuggled up with your baby.

Corinne’s lovely text is from the point of view of a parent, telling their baby just how special, precious and unique they are.  I love the positive message of the text and parents will love reading it to their baby.  I also really like the layout of the text on the page and the way Corinne has used different colours for the text.  The text is perfectly matched with some beautiful photos of baby animals, from pigs and rabbits, to monkeys and elephants.  When the text talks about eyes and ears, the photos are of baby animals with unique eyes and ears.  The photos are quite extraordinary and will make you laugh (especially the monkeys holding their breath) and make you go ‘awwww’ (especially the baby elephant running along).  I love that there is lots of white space so the focus of you and your baby goes straight to the animals, and that the photos are quite large and close up so that you can see the unique features of the animals.

If you’re looking for that perfect book to give to a newborn baby or for a special book to give to your own baby this Christmas you can’t go past Hey Baby! by Corinne Fenton.  

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Christmas 2012: Horrible Christmas by Terry Deary and Martin Brown

Do you love history with all the horrible bits left in?  Have you ever wondered where Christmas carols came from or why we have Christmas trees?  Well all your Christmases have come at once with the latest edition of Horrible Christmas by Terry Deary and Martin Brown. 

Horrible Christmas is a fantastic book from the pair that have brought us the Horrible Histories series.  It’s a book ‘filled full of the foulest facts you can find on this festive folly.’  Terry and Martin dispel the myths about Christmas and give you the cold, hard, horrible facts.  You can discover:

  • the truth behind some popular Christmas carols
  • who invented the Christmas cracker
  • what people used to eat for their Christmas dinners
  • the things they never tell you about Santa
  • Christmas entertainment from the past
  • Christmas customs from around the world

There is so much in this book that I didn’t know about Christmas.  Did you know that Father Christmas comes in down the chimney because Saint Nicholas was the saint of chimney sweeps or that Christmas pudding in the Middle Ages was spicy porridge?  There are also lots of quizes and a game so that readers can test their knowledge about the different topics.  Martin Brown’s illustrations always make me laugh and this book is chock-full of his Christmasy characters from through the ages.  I especially like the illustration of a very fat Father Christmas trying to figure out how to squeeze back up a very small fireplace.

Horrible Christmas is a great addition to the Horrible Histories series that boys just seem to gobble up.  They’re hugely appealing because they’re interesting, funny and gross.  If you know a kid that says they don’t like reading, put  Horrible Christmas under the Christmas tree for them and they’ll be hooked on this fantastic series.

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Discover the world of The Hobbit

Like many other people around the world I’m incredibly excited about the release of the first Hobbit movie, An Unexpected Journey.  What better way to get ready for the movie than delve into books about it.  Like me, you could read the original book that inspired the movie, or you could read the wonderful new books that Harper Collins New Zealand have just released that take you inside the world of the movie.  Here are four of these wonderful books, aimed at a variety of different audiences.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – The Movie Storybook tells a simplified version of the story for children (or adults who want to know what the story is about).  The story is accompanied by lots of stunning, full-colour photos of the characters and places from the movie, as well as maps of Middle Earth.  The story is easy to follow and perfect for sharing with younger children who might not be ready to read the original story themselves.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – The World of Hobbits introduces children to the creatures who are the heroes of both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and tells you everything you always wanted to know about Hobbits.  You can learn not only what a Hobbit actually is, but also what they look like, what their nature is, what they wear, why they have such big, hairy feet, where they live, what their home looks like, what they eat, and who their friends and enemies are.  The writing is aimed at children so it’s basic and easy to understand, but incredibly interesting.  I really like the layout, as there is a good balance of images and text on each page.  There are plenty of full-colour photos of the characters and places, as well as maps, decorative borders, and even a Hobbit’s menu.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Visual Companion is aimed at an older audience and incorporates information and images from the younger titles.  It includes information about Hobbits (and Bilbo Baggins in particular), profiles of the other characters including Gandalf, each of the Dwarves and the Elves, a summary of their quest and information about the places they pass through, the enemies that they clash with, and a stunning map of Middle Earth that folds out.  The thing that I like most about this particular book is that you learn more about each of the characters, like their personalities and why they look the way they do.  Once again, this book is filled with full-colour photos of the characters and places from the movie, but you also get a more close-up look at the characters costumes and weapons.  This hardback book is one to treasure and is the perfect gift for Hobbit fans young and old.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Official Movie Guide is the perfect book for older Hobbit fans and movie buffs.  This book gives a behind-the-scenes look at making this incredible movie.  It includes exclusive interviews with director Peter Jackson, Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, as well as the rest of the main cast and filmmakers, who share film-making secrets and tales of what it was actually like making movie magic in Middle Earth.  Not only do you get photos from the movie, but also behind-the-scenes photos of the actors, locations, sets, creatures, and costumes.  You learn about Peter Jackson’s journey to bring the story to life, how they got the right look for the characters and their costumes, how they decided which locations to shoot in, how they transform an actor into a Dwarf, and how they filmed in high definition and 3D.  I could sit for hours reading this book and poring over all the stunning photos.  Anything you would want to know about making a film is in this book and it’s incredibly detailed.  With Gandalf gazing out at you on the front cover you can’t help but pick this book up from the shelf, and you won’t be disappointed if you do.

There is a Hobbit book for everyone this Christmas, whether you are young or old.  Grab one of these wonderful books to put under your tree this Christmas.

Thanks to Harper Collins New Zealand I have 2 Hobbit prize packs to give away.  You can enter the draw here.


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Win a Hobbit Prize Pack

Harper Collins New Zealand have just published a range of wonderful books to tie in with the first Hobbit film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  There are four books, including the Movie Storybook, The World of Hobbits, the Visual Companion and the Official Movie Guide.  You can read all about each of the books here on the blog.

To celebrate the release of these books and the world premier of An Unexpected Journey in Wellington this week, Harper Collins New Zealand have kindly donated some of these wonderful books to give away.  There are 2 different packs and you can enter the draw for either or both of them.  The 2 packs are:

  • Kid – a copy of the Movie Storybook, The World of Hobbits, and the original book by J.R.R Tolkien.
  • Teen/Adult – a copy of the Visual Companion, the Official Movie Guide, and the original book by J.R.R Tolkien.

Thanks to everyone who entered.  This competition is now closed.  The winners were Melanie and Lehman.


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Kiwi: the real story by Annemarie Florian, illustrated by Heather Hunt

New Holland Publishers are one of the leading publishers of children’s non-fiction in New Zealand and their books are often nominated for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.  Their latest gem is the wonderful Kiwi: the real story by Annemarie Florian and illustrated/designed by Heather Hunt.

Kiwi: the real story is a marvelous multi-layered book thattells the story of Kiwi behaviour.  Weaving its way through the pages is a poem about the Kiwi, full of beautiful descriptive language, like ‘gorging grubber’ and ‘cricket-cruncher.’ I love alliteration and this poem is chock-full of it, making it a joy to read aloud.  Tying in wonderfully with the poem are the blocks of more detailed information on each page, which explain why the Kiwi is a ‘spider-wrestler’ and a ‘covert nestler.’  The design of the book means that you can read the poem and the information separately, or both together.  Younger children will love the poem and the illustrations, whereas older children will also enjoy finding out more about the Kiwi.

Heather Hunt’s illustrations are stunning.  I find it amazing how she can make a bunch of squiggly lines look exactly like a Kiwi.  I love the way that she shows the movement of the Kiwi on the page and the way that she brings out the character of this marvelous bird.  The colours that Heather has used, from the bright green of the praying mantis to the blue of the egg, are vibrant against the black background, and the grey and white of the Kiwi makes it really stand out on the page.  I especially like the way that she has used different colours to differentiate between the adult Kiwi and the baby Kiwi.  Heather also designed the book and I think that it’s this design that really makes the book special.  She has taken the three layers of the story and woven them together so that they can be enjoyed in unison.  The words of the poem seem to dance around the illustrations, making the book extremely appealing to young children.  The book is beautifully produced too, in a hardback format, with endpapers that look like the night sky.

The character of the Kiwi in the story was originally created by Heather to be the ambassador for Backyard Kiwi, a project carried out by the Whangarei Heads Landcare Forum.  The quirky design is used to personify the bird for road signs and billboards.  You can learn more about Backyard Kiwi at  and you can find out more about Heather and her working process at

Kiwi: the real story is a must for any primary school library and is sure to be a finalist in next year’s New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.  Grab a copy offrom your local library or bookshop now, or if you would like a special signed copy you can order these from Heather Hunt’s website –

4 out of 5 stars


Filed under books, children, New Zealand, non-fiction, picture books

Dinosaur Rescue: Scuto-stickysaurus

Like many boys around the country I look forward to a new Dinosaur Rescue book from the wonderful Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley.  Each book gives me my dose of prehistoric facts, disgusting dinosaur behaviour and wild adventures with Arg the brainy cave boy.  Arg’s latest adventure is Scuto-stickysaurus.

In Scuto-stickysaurus, disgusted by his family’s eating habits, Arg leaves his cave to search for the cause of the terrible noise that is filling the air.  He discovers a Scutosaurus, a very slow, heavily armoured dinosaur, and he sets off to save it from his tribe’s hunting party.  It’s not long before he finds himself stuck to the Scutosaurus with no way to pry himself loose.  It’s up to his good friend Skeet to rescue him and the Scutosaurus before it’s too late.

Scuto-stickysaurus has the perfect mix of fact, fiction and stinky dinosaurs that I love about this very cool series.  In this book you can:

  • Learn how to look like a Neanderthal,
  • Find out about a prehistoric trip to the dentist,
  • Get some jungle survival tips (Bear Grylls style)
  • Learn about dangerous jungle plants
  • Discover the perfect way to escape a Deadly Mouth Plant.

There’s also plenty of dinosaur poo and farts to go around, and when it comes to these, Arg is always in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It’s the combination of the story and the illustrations that makes this series so hilarious.  Scuto-stickysaurus is the 7th book in the series and it’s just as good as the 1st book, T-wreck-asaurus.  I hope that Kyle and Donovan have got plenty more ideas up their sleeves for Arg’s future adventures.

Thanks to Scholastic New Zealand I have 2 copies of Scuto-stickysaurus to give away.  You can enter here.


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Win a Dinosaur Rescue Prize Pack

Scuto-stickysaurus is the latest book in Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley’s disgusting and hilarious Dinosaur Rescue series.  Each book gives me my dose of prehistoric facts, disgusting dinosaur behaviour and wild adventures with Arg the brainy cave boy.  You can read my review here.

Did you know there is an awesome new Dinosaur Rescue website?  Head to to have a look at all the interesting information and cool activities.

Thanks to Scholastic New Zealand I have a Dinosaur Rescue prize pack to give away, including a copy of Scuto-stickysaurus and 2 other Dinosaur Rescue books .  To get in the draw all you have to do is enter your name and email address in the form below, and tell me 2 things that you can find at  Competition closes Wednesday 28 November (NZ only).

Thanks to everyone who entered.  The winner is Annette.

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