Monthly Archives: September 2013

Picture Book Nook: Toucan Can by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Sarah Davis

Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis are incredibly talented in their own rights, but when they combine their talents they create magic.  Juliette and Sarah have previously worked together on the wonderful Marmaduke Duck books for Scholastic, and when I heard they were collaborating on a new picture book for Gecko Press I knew it was going to be a great book.  In their new picture book for Gecko Press, Toucan Can, Juliette and Sarah introduce us to a very colourful and talented Toucan.

Toucan can do lots of things!

Toucan dances!

Toucan sings!

Toucan bangs a frying pan!

Can you do what Toucan can?

 

Toucan Can is one of my favourite picture books of the year.  It’s got all the ingredients of a wonderful picture book.  Juliette MacIver’s delightful text will tangle your tongue and trip-up your lips, and once you get going you just can’t stop.  Toucan certainly can do lots of things but I’d like to see him try to read this book perfectly without tripping up.  Sarah Davis’ illustrations are absolutely stunning and they make the colourful characters jump off the page.  I love Sarah’s style of illustration because you can see each brush stroke and pencil line, and the colours she uses are so rich.  I really like the layered effect that Sarah has used in these illustrations.  The further back the animals are in the illustration, the more faded and washed out they are.  The expressions on the animals faces are also delightful.  Toucan especially has lots of different expressions, from ecstatically happy as he dances to slightly worried when he’s asked ‘Can Toucan do what YOU can do?’

One of the things I like the most about Toucan Can is that it addresses the reader and engages you.  You’re asked ‘Can you do what Toucan can?’ and Juliette suggests there are many things that you can do that Toucan can not.  Sarah’s illustrations also bring the focus back to the reader.  As Toucan and his friends dance, juggle, flip and flop, they’re looking out at you from the page.

Everyone should go out and grab a copy of Toucan Can to treasure and read again and again.  It is certain to add colour and laughter to your life and will have you dancing along with Toucan and his friends.

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Picture Book Nook: Machines and Me series by Catherine Foreman

Catherine Foreman, author and
illustrator of the award-winning picture book, The
Cat’s Pyjamas
, has just released the first two books
in her fantastic new series, Machines and
Me
, with Scholastic NZ. Machines
and Me
is a series of four picture books that each
focus on a different machine. The first two books (out now)
are Planes and
Tractors, with
Boats and
Trains coming soon.

I absolutely love these books!
They’re bright and bold, so will appeal to very young
children. Every page is colourful and the machines really
stand out on the page. The text is simple but has a really
nice rhythm to it. The thing I like the most about these
books though is that they are perfectly suited to the age group.
Catherine Foreman gives a simple
explanation of what each machine does and how it works, but she
does so in a fun way. I also really like Catherine’s design
of the books, with the text following the direction of the machines
and matching the size of the machines. I’m always looking for great
books to share with babies and their parents at our sessions in the
library and these books are perfect. They’re large and the
illustrations are vibrant so they can be seen from further
away. The simple, rhyming text makes them perfect to read
aloud to a large group too. Get your hands on a copy of the first
two Machines and Me books,
Tractors and
Planes
, and keep an eye out for Boats
and Trains, coming soon
to a bookshop and library near you. They’re a must for any
home library and would be an absolute hit in preschools.

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Skulduggery Pleasant: Last Stand of Dead Men by Derek Landy

War has finally come. But it’s not a war between good and evil, or light and dark – it’s a war between Sanctuaries. For too long, the Irish Sanctuary has teetered on the brink of world-ending disaster, and the other Sanctuaries around the world have had enough. Allies turn to enemies, friends turn to foes, and Skulduggery and Valkyrie must team up with the rest of the Dead Men if they’re going to have any chance at all of maintaining the balance of power and getting to the root of a vast conspiracy that has been years in the making. But while this war is only beginning, another war rages within Valkyrie herself. Her own dark side, the insanely powerful being known as Darquesse, is on the verge of rising to the surface. And if Valkyrie slips, even for a moment, then Darquesse will burn the world and everyone in it.

Last Stand of Dead Men is the second to last book in Derek Landy’s wonderful Skulduggery Pleasant series, and it sure is one tense, action-packed read.  The further we’ve been getting to the end of the series, the more dramatic the events of each book have been.  The magic world has been teetering on the brink of war for some time now and it’s in Last Stand of Dead Men that war finally breaks out between the Sanctuaries.  An epic magic battle ensues, with death and destruction galore.

As the front cover says, ‘no one is safe.’  The characters that we’ve come to love are caught up in the middle of the war and not everyone survives.  Heroes become villains, enemies fight together, some people aren’t who we thought they were, and others look completely different from the last time we saw them.  Derek also introduces us to new characters and creations, my favourite of which are the Warlock’s minions, the Wretchlings.

Last Stand of Dead Men is the darkest of the series so far and we see the darker side of Skulduggery coming out.  While it doesn’t have the same humour as some of the earlier books, the scenes with Scapegrace and Thrasher provide some light relief and had me laughing out loud.  One of the things I like the most about Derek’s books is his brilliant dialogue and there is plenty of this in this book.

Skulduggery will do anything to save Valkyrie and I certainly can’t wait until September next year to find out how it all ends.  Will Skulduggery save her or will Darquesse destroy the world?

Last Stand of Dead Men is out now.  Grab a copy from your library or bookshop.

Win a copy of Last Stand of Dead Men!

Thanks to HarperCollins NZ I have 3 copies of Last Stand of Dead Men to give away.  All you have to do to get in the draw is enter your name and email address in the form below.  Competition closes Friday 4 October (NZ only).

 

 

 

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My Most Anticipated October New Releases

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

You know what it’s like when your mum goes away on a business trip and Dad’s in charge. She leaves a really, really long list of what he’s got to do. And the most important thing is DON’T FORGET TO GET THE MILK. Unfortunately, Dad forgets. So the next morning, before breakfast, he has to go to the corner shop, and this is the story of why it takes him a very, very long time to get back. Featuring: Professor Steg (a time-travelling dinosaur), some green globby things, the Queen of the Pirates, the famed jewel that is the Eye of Splod, some wumpires, and a perfectly normal but very important carton of milk.

Spirit Animals: Wild Born by Brandon Mull

Four children separated by vast distances all undergo the same ritual, watched by cloaked strangers. Four flashes of light erupt, and from them emerge the unmistakable shapes of incredible beasts – a wolf, a leopard, a panda, a falcon. Suddenly the paths of these children – and the world – have been changed forever.
Enter the world of Erdas, where every child who comes of age must discover if they have a spirit animal, a rare bond between human and beast that bestows great powers to both. A dark force has risen from distant and long-forgotten lands, and has begun an onslaught that will ravage the world. Now the fate of Erdas has fallen on the shoulders of four young strangers . . . and on you.

The Lost Boy by Greg Ruth

Some mysteries are too dangerous to leave alone. Nate’s not happy about his family moving to a new house in a new town. After all, nobody asked him if he wanted to move in the first place. But when he discovers a tape recorder and note addressed to him under the floorboards of his bedroom, he’s thrust into a dark mystery about a boy who went missing many, many years ago. Now, as strange happenings and weird creatures begin to track Nate, he must partner with Tabitha, a local girl, to find out what they want with him. But time is running out, for a powerful force is gathering strength in the woods at the edge of town, and before long Nate and Tabitha will be forced to confront a terrifying foe and uncover the truth about the Lost Boy.

Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne

The day the First World War broke out, Alfie Summerfield’s father promised he wouldn’t go away to fight – but he broke that promise the following day. Four years later, Alfie doesn’t know where his father might be, other than that he’s away on a special, secret mission.

Then, while shining shoes at King’s Cross Station, Alfie unexpectedly sees his father’s name – on a sheaf of papers belonging to a military doctor. Bewildered and confused, Alfie realises his father is in a hospital close by – a hospital treating soldiers with an unusual condition. Alfie is determined to rescue his father from this strange, unnerving place.

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is the just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry – and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart.

Demon Dentist by David Walliams

The new jaw-achingly funny novel from David Walliams, the number one bestselling author! Make your appointment if you dare…Darkness had come to the town. Strange things were happening in the dead of night. Children would put a tooth under their pillow for the tooth fairy, but in the morning they would wake up to find…a dead slug; a live spider; hundreds of earwigs creeping and crawling beneath their pillow. Evil was at work. But who or what was behind it…? Read this book and find out!

Pinocchio, retold by Michael Morpurgo

Pinocchio as you’ve never seen him before: telling his own story through the master storyteller and award-winning author of WAR HORSE. “Now – there’s no point in pretending here – I was, and still am deep down, a puppet. Everyone knows Pinocchio is a puppet. I reckon I must be just about the most famous puppet the world has ever known. But the truth is I’m not just a puppet, I’m more than just bits of wood and string. I’m me. So I thought it was about time that I, Pinocchio, told you my story…” So begins this stunningly beautiful interpretation of the classic story. Michael Morpurgo channels Pinocchio‘s words to tell the famous puppet’s story in his own inimitable, cheeky and always funny way. Lavishly illustrated throughout in full colour by the acclaimed Emma Chichester-Clark, this is a must-have gift for all book lovers, and an utterly charming and surprising adaptation of a much-loved tale.

All the Wrong Questions: When Did You See Her Last? by Lemony Snicket

I should have asked the question ‘How could someone who was missing be in two places at once?’ Instead, I asked the wrong question — four wrong questions, more or less. This is the account of the second.

In the fading town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea, young apprentice Lemony Snicket has a new case to solve when he and his chaperone are hired to find a missing girl. Is the girl a runaway? Or was she kidnapped? Was she seen last at the grocery store? Or could she have stopped at the diner? Is it really any of your business? These are All The Wrong Questions.

Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Barcelona, 1980. Óscar Drai finds himself drawn to an old dilapidated mansion where he meets the captivating and elusive Marina. She leads him to the cemetery to witness a mysterious ritual: on the fourth Sunday of every month, a veiled woman alights from a carriage and lays a single rose on an unmarked grave.

Óscar and Marina are swept on a journey into the city’s dark underground of labyrinthine sewers, corrupt policemen, ageing aristocrats, forgotten societies and criminal depravity…to a sinister tale of love, ambition and jealousy that will hold Óscar’s heart forever.

Arclight by Josin L. Mcquein

Marina can’t remember anything about her life before she stumbled out of the Dark and into the Arclight. Where has she come from? How has she survived? Any why do the rulers of the Dark seem determined to destroy her? To find out, she will have to venture back into the Dark.

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Cover reveal – Shattered by Teri Terry

Shattered_cvr

Kyla’s memory was erased,
her personality wiped blank,
her memories lost for ever.

Or so she thought.

After the shocking events of SLATED and FRACTURED, we return to Kyla’s oppressive world as she tries to make sense of her lfe and everything around her.

I’m very pleased to reveal the cover for the final book in Teri Terry’s Slated trilogy, Shattered. I loved the first two books in the trilogy and I’m really looking forward to finding out how it all ends.  You can read my review of Slated here on the blog.

Shattered is due for release in the UK in March 2014, so we should get it in NZ around the same time.

 

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Jonathan Stroud talks about Lockwood and Co.

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.
Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again…
Lockwood and Co.: The Screaming Staircase is one of my most anticipated books of 2013.  I love ghost stories and horror for kids and teens, and The Screaming Staircase sounds absolutely fantastic.  I’m looking forward to diving into this one and losing myself in the story.  I’ll post my review later this month, along with some copies to give away.  Check out these videos of author Jonathan Stroud talking about his new book.

Book Trailer

Jonathan Stroud talks about Lockwood and Co.

Jonathan Stroud and the characters in Lockwood and Co.

Jonathan Stroud talks about Lockwood and Co. – Book Two!

Jonathan Stroud on ‘The Problem’ in Lockwood and Co.

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Herve Tullet reads Help! We Need a Title

Help! We Need a Title is the latest book from Herve Tullet, the creator of innovative picture and board books, including Press Here. Help! We Need a Title is a very cool new picture book that would be great to read aloud as a team.  Grab a copy from your library now and help the characters with their book.

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Derek Landy talks about Last Stand of Dead Men

War has finally come. But it’s not a war between good and evil, or light and dark – it’s a war between Sanctuaries. For too long, the Irish Sanctuary has teetered on the brink of world-ending disaster, and the other Sanctuaries around the world have had enough. Allies turn to enemies, friends turn to foes, and Skulduggery and Valkyrie must team up with the rest of the Dead Men if they’re going to have any chance at all of maintaining the balance of power and getting to the root of a vast conspiracy that has been years in the making. But while this war is only beginning, another war rages within Valkyrie herself. Her own dark side, the insanely powerful being known as Darquesse, is on the verge of rising to the surface. And if Valkyrie slips, even for a moment, then Darquesse will burn the world and everyone in it.

The second to last book in the Skulduggery Pleasant series, Last Stand of Dead Men, is finally here!  The last couple of books are going to be pretty epic and it will be really interesting to see how the series ends.  I’ll post my review very soon and there will be a copy to win.

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The Last Thirteen by James Phelan

Do your children love sinking their teeth into a new series? Do they love books like The 39 Clues, The Infinity Ring and Conspiracy 365?  Scholastic have just released a new series, called The Last Thirteen, that’s perfect for fans of these series and anyone who loves a fast-paced story full action, adventure, and mystery.

I click my fingers and everybody dies.

Sam wakes from his nightmare to discover the terrifying reality. It will come true.

Kidnapped from school and finding out his parents aren’t who he thinks they are, Sam is suddenly running from danger at every turn. Nothing will ever be the same again.

With his life and identity shattered, Sam’s salvation is tied to an ancient prophecy. He is in the final battle to save the world, up against an enemy plotting to destroy us all.

He alone can find the last 13.

Are you one of them?

The first book in The Last Thirteen series has just been released and James Phelan kicks it off with a bang.  The first book sets the scene for the rest of the series, so we find out snippets of information about Sam, the Last Thirteen, and the organisations that want to get their hands on them.  The Last Thirteen are a group of teenagers with a special ability that some people will kill to get their hands on – their dreams come true.  Sam is the first of the 13 and the race is on to find the other 12 in order to save the world.

The plot races along (especially in the second half of the book) and the chapters are short, so readers will gobble it up and be waiting for the second book.  Each of the books ends with a dramatic cliff-hanger, and the end of the first book certainly makes me want to read the next one to find out what happens.

Like similar series (39 Clues, Infinity Ring) there is a dedicated fan website, where fans can register online and gain VIP access to a range of exciting features.  There’s also the chance to enter the competition, with your chance to become famous.

The Last Thirteen is perfect for ages 10+ who love action, adventure and mystery.  Get your copy today and join the race to find the Last Thirteen.

Check out the book trailer and the video of James talking about the series:

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