Monthly Archives: December 2015

My Favourite Christmas Books: Santa’s Beard

One of my favourite Christmas books is Santa’s Beard by Matilda Tristram and Tom Duxbury, and illustrated by Nick Sharratt.  It is the best Christmas story to read aloud and I love sharing it with kids.

9781406347470

It’s an incredibly silly, laugh-out-loud story about Santa’s beard finding a new face.  Santa is too hot with his beard in the summer sun so his beard decides to find a new face.  Santa’s beard jumps onto a chef, a granny, a baby and many more faces to try and find the right place.  The real fun of this book is that, as you read, you have to move Santa’s beard around and put it on each new face.  The anticipation is wonderful and kids always laugh when they see whose face Santa’s beard has landed on.  The text is simple and fun and Nick Sharratt’s illustrations are delightful as always.

Here is a video from the publisher of Santa’s Beard, Walker Books, of a very funny reading of the book:

Leave a comment

Filed under books, Christmas, funny, picture books

First glimpse of The BFG

Disney and Steven Spielberg are making a new movie version of Roald Dahl’s The BFG.  It’s a mixture of CGI and live action and it’s due out in mid-2016. Check out the teaser trailer below:

Leave a comment

Filed under children, movie trailer, Movies

Star Wars books for young and old

It’s Star Wars mania at the moment!  With the release of the new movie just around the corner there has been a whole new assortment of Star Wars merchandise coming out.  That means that there is a whole new selection of Star Wars books to choose from, for the very youngest Star Wars fan to the oldest.  Here are some of the best new Star Wars books, all from Hardie Grant Egmont.

Story-Time Saga

These are adorable stories for the youngest Star Wars fans, based on the original trilogy.  There are currently 2 titles in the series with 2 more coming soon.  Each of the books focuses on an important event in the original trilogy, introducing characters and places from the movies.  The stories are short and simple, with delightful cartoon illustrations.  The first two books are When Luke Skywalker Met Yoda and When R2-D2 Saved the Secret Plans.  Coming in January is When Princess Leia Met the Ewoks and When the Rebels Saved Han Solo.  Coming from this geeky dad, these books are the perfect way to instil a love of Star Wars in your kids from a very young age.

Wheres the wookiee

Where’s the Wookiee? A Search and Find Activity Book

This is a ‘Where’s Wally?’ type book for Star Wars fans and it is ALOT of fun!  In the first few pages you’re given the task of finding a variety of characters, including Chewbacca, Han Solo and Boba Fett, in every location throughout the book.  Each double-page spread is a different location from the Star Wars saga, from Hoth to Mos Eisley and the Death Star to Jabba’s Palace.  Finding these characters is no easy task as each page is jam-packed full with Jedis, droids, Stormtroopers and Ewoks.  For the expert searchers there are also extra characters to find in the Galactic Checklist at the back of the book.  The illustrations are quite cartoony but I really like the style.  It’s hours of fun for young and old.

The Princess, The Scoundrel and the Farm Boy by Alexandra Bracken  (A New Hope)

So You Want to Be a Jedi? by Adam Gidwitz (The Empire Strikes Back)

Beware the Power of the Dark Side by Tom Angleberger (Return of the Jedi)

These three books are original retellings of the three original movies – A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  These three very lucky authors were given the task of retelling the stories in their own special way.   It is clear to see the love of the stories that each of the authors bring to these books. While retelling the stories that we know and love they are also quite different.  In The Princess, The Scoundrel and the Farm Boy, Alexander Bracken, breaks the whole story down into the stories of the three main characters – first Princess Leia, then Han Solo and finally Luke Skywalker.  So You Want to Be a Jedi? focuses on Luke’s story, with the other characters taking a back seat.  Adam Gidwitz has also cleverly woven a Jedi training manual into the story so that young readers can train alongside Luke.  The final book in the trilogy, Beware the Power of the Dark Side is Tom Angleberger’s love letter to Star Wars.  It is chock-full of details, including dialogue from the movie.  I love each of the different styles of these authors and they really bring the movies alive on the page.  This trilogy of books are perfect for older Star Wars fans who are sure to gobble them up.

Leave a comment

Filed under books, children's fiction, picture books

The Nest by Kenneth Oppel

The Nest by Kenneth Oppel and illustrated by Jon Klassen has to be the strangest, most unsettling book that I have read this year.  There had been lots of hype leading up to its release and there were starred reviews popping up all over the place, so I had to read it and find out why.  When you have two very talented storytellers like Kenneth Oppel and Jon Klassen collaborating on a book it is bound to stand out.

My first thoughts on looking at the book and flicking through were that it was a wonderful production.  The cover, with the transparent dust jacket, is stunning and Jon Klassen’s black and white illustrations inside give the book a suitably eerie feeling.  This feeling became stronger as I started to read Kenneth’s story.

9781910200865

The first time I saw them, I thought they were angels.

The baby is sick. Mom and Dad are sad. And all Steve has to do is say, Yes to fix everything. But yes is a powerful word. It is also a dangerous one. And once it is uttered, can it be taken back? Treading the thin line between dreams and reality, Steve is stuck in a nightmare he can’t wake up from and that nobody else understands. And all the while, the wasps’ nest is growing, and the ‘angel’ keeps visiting Steve in the night.

Reading The Nest was like slipping into a strange dream that I just had to see through until the end.  It unsettled me and made me shiver but I had to know how it ended.  I really felt for Steve and his predicament.  His parents are distracted with his baby brother and he just wants his brother to be healthy so that his parents have time for him.  Steve is given the chance to make his brother healthy and all he has to do is say yes. If I was in Steven’s situation I probably would have done exactly the same thing.  The story is tense right from the start but Kenneth Oppel ramps it up until right at the end of the book.  I didn’t know how it was going to end but it was satisfying.

I know that adults will enjoy this book but I’m not sure what children I would recommend it to.  It would be best for children who like dark stories or maybe even fairy tales.  It would probably work well as a read aloud in a class, as there could be a lot of discussion about it.

Check out the book trailer below and you can read an excerpt here.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under book trailer, books, children's fiction, children's horror

My Top 10 Picture Books of 2015

This year has been another great year for picture books.  There has been a good mix of laugh-out-loud picture books to read aloud to groups and picture books with lots of details to share one-on-one.  Below is my list of favourite picture books from 2015 (some with links to my reviews).  I’ve been doing lots of school visits in my library role this year and most of the books below have been real winners with the kids I’ve read them to.  Some of them I didn’t get a chance to review (these I’ve elaborated on) but they have proved to be very popular.

  1. Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas by Aaron Blabey
  2. Little Red Riding Hood (Not Quite) by Yvonne Morrison and Donovan Bixley
  3. The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
  4. I Want Spaghetti by Stephanie Blake
  5. My Dead Bunny by Sigi Cohen and James Foley
  6. The Mystery of the Haunted Farm by Elys Dolan
  7. Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey – another winner from Aaron Blabey.  This was the book that got me hooked on his stories.  It’s about a pony called Thelma, who really wants to be a unicorn.  She discovers that fame isn’t all that its cracked up to be and that being yourself is more important.  Boys have groaned when they have first seen it but they laugh along with the story too.
  8. The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton – for a debut picture book this is absolutely brilliant!  Princess Pinecone wants to be a warrior and she needs a big, strong, fast horse to help her.  Her parents don’t get her wishes quite right and she ends up with a short, fat little pony that farts a lot.  This little pony might not be what she asked for but together they become a great team, and help the meanest warriors show their cuddly sides.  Kids from Year 1-8 have all loved this book and I never get sick of reading it aloud.
  9. Imaginary Fred by Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers – Two huge names come together to bring imaginary friends to life.  It’s a quirky, funny and absolutely stunning book.  Fred is the best imaginary friend you could ask for, but he always finds that he isn’t needed anymore and he fades away.  Then one day, a boy called Sam wishes for a friend and everything changes.  It’s a book that I want to share and tell everyone about.  The only downside is that it is too long to read to a group of children.  I love it though and it will be one that I’ll read again and again.  Check out the book trailer here.
  10. The Cow Tripped Over the Moon by Tony Wilson – I always enjoy retellings of fairy tales and nursery rhymes and this book is a hilarious take on Hey Diddle Diddle.  The cow tries again and again to jump over the moon but she keeps messing up.  She trips over the moon, crashes into the moon, and sails straight over the moon, but she is determined to do it.  It’s a perfect book to share with pre-schoolers and it will have them laughing out loud.  It had me in stitches!

1 Comment

Filed under books, children, picture books

Mango and Bambang: The Not-a-Pig

Mango and Bambang: The Not-a-Pig by Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy is a delightful little book, filled with stories about a girl called Mango Allsorts and Bambang, an Asian tapir. Mango is a brave, clever, talented girl, but she is also lonely.  It is while she is walking through town one day that she sees a commotion and goes to the aid of Bambang.  Mango and Bambang become the best of friends and have lots of interesting adventures together. The stories are a joy to read and they’re very funny.  I love Clara Vulliamy’s illustrations, which bring Mango and Bambang to life in shades of black, white and purple.  The book is beautifully presented too, in hard-cover with gold foil and purple page edges.

These are two characters that children (especially girls) will fall in love with.  Hopefully there will be more Mango and Bambang stories to look forward to.  Grab a copy of Mango and Bambang: The Not-a-Pig and introduce your children to two new friends.

Here is a video of Polly and Clara talking about how they created Mango and Bambang:

Leave a comment

Filed under books, children's fiction, funny, humour

My Top 10 Children’s Fiction of 2015

There have been so many great children’s fiction titles this year.  I’ve been furiously reading books for ages 7-12 for my many school visits this year so that I would have some fantastic new books to introduce kids to. Here are my top 10 children’s fiction titles of 2015.

  1. 9780733333682The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing by Barry Hutchison
  2. Pugs of the Frozen North by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre
  3. The Bad Guys: Episode 1 by Aaron Blabey
  4. Olive of Groves by Katrina Nannestad
  5. Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar
  6. The Porridge of Knowledge by Archie Kimpton
  7. The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce
  8. The Ghosts of Tarawera by Sue Copsey
  9. The Marvels by Brian Selznick
  10. Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate (will review on the blog next year when it comes out in NZ)

My favourite children’s fiction title of 2015 is…Olive of Groves by Katrina Nannestad.  It has been one of the last books I’ve read this year but it really stands out for its wonderful characters and quirky humour.

My favourite series for children of 2015 is…The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey.  The combination of Aaron’s hilarious text and illustrations make this series an absolute winner!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under books, children, children's fiction

My Top 5 YA of 2015

I haven’t read much YA this year I’m sad to say.  There have been many great YA books released this year but I just haven’t had the time to read them.  In my role in the library I’ve been mainly promoting great reads to primary school kids so I’ve been reading lots of children’s fiction.  Here are my top 5 YA books of 2015 that have really stood out for me (you can click through to read my reviews):

  1. y648Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas
  2. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
  3. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
  4. Stray by Rachael Craw
  5. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

YA from 2015 that are still on my TBR pile (I know they’ll be great!)

  • Unbecoming by Jenny Downham
  • Inbetween Days by Vikki Wakefield
  • Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher
  • Another Day by David Levithan
  • Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti

Leave a comment

Filed under books, young adult, young adult fiction

Laugh out loud with Aaron Blabey

If you need a good laugh all you need to do is read a book by Aaron Blabey.

Aaron Blabey has become one of my favourite author/illustrators this year.  Not only are his books incredibly funny, he is also really prolific.  By the end of this year Aaron would have published 6 books through Scholastic!  This year he has given us Pig the Fibber (a follow-up to Pig the Pug), Thelma the Unicorn, Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas, I Need a Hug (released this month), and two episodes of his brilliant series for younger readers, The Bad Guys.  Every one of these books is a winner in my eyes.  I love Aaron’s sense of humour, which appeals to kids and adults alike.  His picture books are perfect to read aloud and I have shared them with kids from Year 1 to Year 8 this year, with resounding success.

I hope that we have many more Aaron Blabey books to look forward to next year.  Here are my two favourites from Aaron this year.

Piranhas

Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas

This is the story of Brian (love the name!) a Piranha who should like meat but much prefers fruit and veges.  His friends aren’t happy and try to put him on the right track.  He tries to persuade them that ‘fruit is the best’ but they would rather eat feet, knees and bums.  This is a hilarious read that has kids and adults cracking up.  The idea of the story is great and it works really well.  There is so much expression in both the text and the illustrations.  Brian is just so happy being who he is but the other piranhas get really frustrated with him trying to get them to eat fruit and veges.   I also like Aaron’s extra added features in the front and back of the book that explain all about piranhas and bananas.  This is a picture book that will be read again and again.

The Bad Guys

This is my favourite series of 2015.  It’s perfect for kids from ages 7-12 and has all the things that make Aaron’s picture books so great – a unique story, laughs galore and great illustrations.  Episode 1 introduces us to the ‘Bad Guys’ of the story, Mr Wolf, Mr Shark, Mr Piranha and Mr Snake.  They’re always portrayed as the bad guys, with their shark teeth and nasty natures, but all they want to do is be good guys.  Mr Wolf gathers his friends together and they come up with a plan to become good guys.  Nothing seems to go as they planned though.  In Episode 2 the bad guys are trying to make good again so they come up with a new plan – rescue 10,000 chickens from a high-tech cage farm.  This time they’re joined by a new guy, Legs, a computer genius tarantula.  He’s a good guy with a bad reputation too so he wants to help out and do something good.

The Bad Guys books are short, chock-full of illustrations (sort of like a comic), and absolutely hilarious!  I chuckled my way through these first two episodes and I’ll eagerly await more escapades of The Bad Guys.

Leave a comment

Filed under authors, books, children's fiction, funny, humourous, picture books