The Prince and the Pee by Greg Gormley and Chris Mould

Everyone can relate to needing to pee in the middle of an important quest, whether you were out doing some shopping that took longer than expected or you were on a long journey.  Greg Gormley and Chris Mould tell the story of a brave prince, who really should have gone before he set off on his quest, in their new book, The Prince and the Pee.

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Prince Freddie is relaxing on his holiday when his horse, Sir Rushington, turns up to take him to save the people in a burning castle from the dragon. Being on holiday, Freddie has been drinking lots of lemonade, but he knows that his quest is urgent and so he jumps on Sir Rushington and gallops off.  It’s not long before he realises he needs to pee.  The waterfall they gallop past and the rain that falls on his armour just makes Freddie need to go even more.  He jumps off his horse and goes to pee behind a rock, only to be startled by an ogre.  Freddie continues to try and find somewhere to pee but keeps getting interrupted, until he finally gets his chance and saves the day at the same time.

Make sure you pee before reading The Prince and the Pee otherwise you might find yourself peeing your pants with laughter.  Everyone can relate to Freddie and his dire situation so you really feel for him.  You understand the look of anguish on his face because you know the need to pee just gets worse and worse the longer you have to hold on.  You can feel his pain when he sees and hears running water and you know it would be horrible to be bouncing up and down, up and down on a horse.  Just when you think poor Freddie might finally get some release he is interrupted by ogres, wolves and even Puss in Boots.

Greg Gormley’s text will have you laughing out loud.  As you read you can hear Freddie getting increasingly desperate and Sir Rushington trying to find suitable places to pee while still keeping Freddie on track to get to the castle.  I’ve always loved Chris Mould’s illustrations and his illustrations for this story are wonderful.  He really shows the desperation on Freddie’s face.  I also love his illustrations of the other fairy tale creatures throughout the story.

The Prince and the Pee is a great story to read aloud (especially for Year 3 and 4 children) and children could even act it out.  It’s another great picture book from one of my favourite publishers, Nosy Crow.

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I Just Ate My Friend by Heidi McKinnon

Some picture books you know are going to be brilliant even before you open the covers.  As soon as I saw the front cover of Heidi McKinnon’s new picture book, I Just Ate My Friend, with the startled monster staring out at the reader, I knew it was going to be a winner.  It makes me laugh out loud every time I read it and I can’t wait to share it with kids!

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I Just Ate My Friend is one of those fantastic picture books that invites the reader to be a part of story.  The main character, a yellow monster with bulbous eyes, addresses the reader saying ‘I just ate my friend.  He was a good friend, but now he’s gone.’  The monster then sets off to find a new friend, only to find that he’s too small, too big or too scary to be anyone’s friend.  Just when he thinks he has found a new friend disaster strikes.

I love, love, love this book!  Kids will beg I Just Ate My Friend to be read again and again.  Heidi’s text and illustrations are simple but they combine to tell a very funny story.  Rather than a lot of white space behind the monsters in the story Heidi has made it night time so the background is a night sky covered with stars.  This makes the reader focus on the big, colourful monsters that take up most of the page.  The yellow monster has large, expressive eyes, so you can tell how he feels.  Understandably the yellow monster is rather distraught that he has eaten his friend and he gets increasingly worried that he won’t find a new friend.  You see how happy the monster is when he does find a friend, only for this to be horribly ripped from his grasp.

If you love the dark humour of Jon Klassen’s This is Not My Hat you’ll love I Just Ate My Friend.

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I Can’t Sleep! by Stephanie Blake

I’m Simon the rabbit’s biggest fan.  I fell in love with this naughty little rabbit with the story that introduced him to readers in New Zealand, Poo Bum.  I haven’t met a kid yet who doesn’t love Poo Bum and kids ask me about it at least once a week.  Gecko Press have made me incredibly happy by continuing to publish the English language editions of Stephanie Blake’s other Simon the rabbit stories.  The latest in the series, I Can’t Sleep, is another hilarious Simon the rabbit story that shows us the more caring side of Simon.

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Simon loves playing with his little brother Casper (even though he once thought of him as a ‘stupid baby’).  One day they decide to build a mega giga-normous hut.  While they play Casper forgets about his blanky.  That night when they go to bed Casper suddenly remembers that his blanky is still outside in the dark garden.  Simon dons his cape, becoming Super Mega Rabbit, and rescues Casper’s blanky for him. As they snuggle back in bed, Simon tells his brother of his adventures.

I Can’t Sleep will be a favourite with children and parents alike.  Children will love the bright, bold illustrations and the adventures that Simon and Casper get up to.  Parents will be able to relate to Casper’s dilemma and they will enjoy the humour.  As a long-time Simon the rabbit fan I love seeing how Simon has changed throughout the different books.  Simon has grown from the naughty little rabbit in Poo Bum and Stupid Baby to a brave and responsible older brother in this story.

One of my favourite aspects of the Simon the rabbit books is the design.  Gecko Press have thought very carefully about the placement of text, giving it plenty of room to spread out on the page.  The size of the text also varies which helps the reader to emphasize certain words or phrases.  I also really love the inside covers of I Can’t Sleep which feature Simon with various expressions and in different poses.  I’d love to have a whole wall in my library covered with these images.

Grab a copy of I Can’t Sleep from your library or bookshop now.

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Skulduggery Pleasant: Resurrection by Derek Landy

I’ve stuck with Skulduggery and Valkyrie through all their battles, near-death experiences and the countless times they have saved the world.  Like many Skulduggery fans I thought I’d seen the last of these characters that I had come to love, but Derek Landy is always full of surprises.  He has brought Skulduggery and Valkyrie back again, with new characters to welcome as friends.  Resurrection is the latest book in the series and I was so excited to return to this world and these characters that Derek created.

y648A lot has changed. Roarhaven is now a magical city, where sorcerers can live openly. Valkyrie Cain has been out of action for years, recovering from the war against her alter-ego Darquesse, which nearly destroyed her and everyone else.

Some things never change though: bad people still want to do bad things, and Skulduggery Pleasant is still there to stop them.

When Skulduggery learns of a plot to resurrect a terrifying evil, he persuades Valkyrie to join him for just 24 hours. But they need someone else on their team, someone inconspicuous, someone who can go undercover.

Enter Omen Darkly. Student at the new Corrival Academy. Overlooked. Unremarkable in every way.

24 hours to save the world. One sharply-dressed skeleton. One grief-stricken young woman. One teenage boy who can’t remember which class he’s supposed to be in.

This cannot end well.

Resurrection is a return to classic Skulduggery Pleasant.  All the things that I loved about the early books are here in Resurrection – the witty banter, great villains and humour.  The humour especially was lacking in the last few books because of the whole end of the world thing that was happening.  The relationship between Skulduggery and Valkyrie is never going to be the same as what it was at the start of the series but you can see their relationship strengthening again.  Resurrection is a return to the good old days of Skulduggery and Valkyrie, even though so much has changed in their world.

Valkyrie has been out of Ireland for 5 years, hiding away in a cabin in the wilds of America.  She had a lot to deal with after Darquesse took her over and she killed hundreds of people in Roarhaven.  At the start of the book she has moved back to Ireland and is living in Uncle Gordon’s old house.  As she is settling in her old pal Skulduggery turns up and asks her to come back into the fold and join him, just for 24 hours.  Valkyrie doesn’t feel that she is ready, mentally or physically, to be back doing Sanctuary business again but she reluctantly agrees.  It’s not long before she finds herself back in trouble again, with people who want to hurt and kill her.  Into the picture comes Omen Darkly, the brother of The Chosen One, Auger Darkly.  Omen is a kid who fades into the background, not just at school but also at home, as his parents give all their attention to Auger.  When Omen gets the chance to join his idols, Skulduggery and Valkyrie, he thinks all his dreams have come true.  Omen soon finds himself deep in trouble with some very bad people and it’s up to Valkyrie to get him out safely.  After a run in with a nasty piece of work called Smoke, Skulduggery has been corrupted and will do anything he can to kill Valkyrie.  This is one action-packed story!

I really enjoyed this introduction of Omen Darkly. He is going to play an important part in the coming books and you know that he will grow up fast, just as Valkyrie had to do.  A lot of my favourite characters from the series have been killed off but I’m sure there will be some great new characters to come.

Resurrection made me want to go right back to the start of the series and enjoy them all over again.  I feel like you would still have to have read the other books in the series to fully understand what is happening in Resurrection.  I’ll certainly be promoting the first few books in my library.

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Ngā Atua: Maori Gods by Robyn Kahukiwa

There are some fantastic books of Maori myths that have been published.  Authors and illustrators like Gavin Bishop, Ron Bacon and Peter Gossage have brought these stories to generations of New Zealand children.  The Moana movie has recently brought Maori and Pacific mythology in to the spotlight, with children showing extra interest in these stories.  Renowned New Zealand artist, Robyn Kahukiwa has just published a fantastic book with Oratia Books that focuses on the gods from Maori mythology, called Ngā Atua: Maori Gods.

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Ngā Atua is the perfect book to introduce young children to the Maori gods.  It’s the sort of book that preschool teachers have been crying out for, as it is a picture book that introduces Maori gods with a simple text and bold illustrations.  The book introduces children to Tāne, Hine-te-iwaiwa, Tangaroa, Mahuika, Māui and many others.  Robyn Kahukiwa tells the stories of the gods and what they are responsible for.  Each of the illustrations that accompany the text perfectly capture the gods and their power.

Ngā Atua: Maori Gods is a beautiful book that will be loved by children across New Zealand.  It will be a book that will be read and enjoyed again and again and will be an invaluable resource for teachers.  I’m sure it will spark an interest in Maori mythology and encourage children to seek out the myths that have been brought to life by other authors and illustrators.

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Feel A Little: Little poems about big feelings by Jenny Palmer and Evie Kemp

There are lots of picture books around that deal with feelings.  They help young children to understand their feelings and relate them to different situations.  I recently discovered a New Zealand book that I think is one of the best for helping explain feelings to children.  It is called Feel A Little: Little poems about big feelings, written by Jenny Palmer and illustrated by Evie Kemp.

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Feel A Little is a book full of poems for children that help to explain different emotions.  There are poems about Happy and Sad, Angry and Confused, but also poems about Silly, Nervous, Curious and Shy.  Each emotion has a double page spread and is explained in a short poem on one page and an illustration on the other.  Confident, for example has a poem that starts, ‘Sometimes you feel small inside, too awkward to be you.  But other days you strut, you smile, you let the you shine through,’ and is accompanied by a colourful, smiling blob shape that shines bright.

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I love, love, LOVE this book!  It is a wonderful little book that I think all parents and teachers need to own and should be in all school libraries.  It’s a great book to have on hand whenever you need to help a child understand how they are feeling.  Each of the poems and illustrations perfectly captures the emotions and explains them in a way that children will be able to understand.  The poems are a joy to read aloud and the illustrations are fun.  It’s the sort of book that I could see teachers using with young children, getting the children to create their own pictures of emotions or even act out the emotions.

Go out and get a copy of Feel A Little and tell any parents, teachers and librarians you know about it.

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The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt and Adam Rex

Many brave warriors have had to journey to strange lands to prove themselves and we have read their stories.  Drew Daywalt and Adam Rex bring us an epic origin story of three foes.  These foes searched far and wide to find the warrior fierce enough to beat them in combat.  This talented author and illustrator team have come together to tell  The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors.

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The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors follows Rock, Paper and Scissors in their search for awesomeness.  What they really desire though is to find a warrior who is able to beat them, a warrior that can make them feel worthy.  From the Kingdom of Backgarden, the Empire of Mum’s Study and the Kitchen Realm, Rock, Paper and Scissors battle many warriors but it is only when they meet each other that they truly find a worthy opponent.

This is one of the funniest picture books I’ve read in ages. It’s an epic story worthy of Hollywood and you can’t help but read it in a movie trailer voice.  It’s the sort of book that kids will beg you to read again and again, and you will be only to happy to do so.

Rock, Paper and Scissors each have a distinctive personality that comes alive, both in the text and the illustrations.  Each character in the book has a different font for their voice – Rock’s is blocky, Paper’s is swirly and Scissors’ is pointy. Adam Rex’s illustrations are fantastic!  The colours he uses make the illustrations jump off the page, especially during the battle scenes.  You can see the power and emotion of each showdown.  The rockets firing and volcanoes erupting in the background just add to the awesomeness of the battle.

You will never look at the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors the same again.  Each time you play you will remember the fierce battles that were raged in order for your showdown to happen.  Grab a copy of The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors from your library or bookshop now and witness the rise of legends.

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D-Bot Squad series by Mac Park

What do you get when you combine kids, dinosaurs and robots?  You get D-Bot Squad, an awesome new series for beginner readers from Mac Park, the creator of the Boy vs. Beast series.

Dinosaurs are back.  Dino Corp has found a way to bring dinosaurs back to life.  They keep them in a secret place but some of them have escaped and it’s up to the D-Bot Squad to catch them.  How do you catch real, live dinosaurs though?  With dinosaur robots of course.  Hunter Marks knows everything there is to know about dinosaurs. But will it be enough to build a d-bot that can catch a real dinosaur?

There are currently four books in the series – Dino Hunter, Sky High, Double Trouble and Big Stink.  They are perfect for those kids who are just starting their reading journey as the text is large and easy to read.  The stories are exciting, with cliff-hanger endings that will hook readers in.  The text is broken up with cool illustrations by James Hart, who has also created appealing covers that boys will love.

D-Bot Squad is perfect for young readers who like the Boy vs. Beast, Zac Power, or the Dinosaur Trouble series by Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley.  Young readers will gobble up these first four books and be eagerly awaiting the next in the series.  I know just the readers at my school who will love these books, so I know they will be a hit!

 

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Wars in the Whitecloud: Wairau, 1843 by M.H. McKinley

One of the things I love the most about the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults is that it always introduces me to New Zealand books that I hadn’t heard of.  One of the gems that I’ve discovered from the shortlist is M.H. McKinley’s brilliant graphic novel, Wars in the Whitecloud: Wairau, 1843.

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Wairau, 1843 is the first in the Wars in the Whitecloud graphic novel series that vividly brings to life important events in the early interactions between Maori and Pakeha.  This first book portrays the ill-fated meeting between early settlers and the Ngati-Toa tribe at Wairau in 1843.  It was a short but violent and bloody conflict and the author hasn’t shied away from portraying this.  M.H. McKinley stays true to these historic events while bringing to life both Maori and Pakeha figures who played a part in the conflict.  There are also extensive historical notes at the back of the book so that you can learn more about the events and the people involved.

As someone who loves both New Zealand history and graphic novels I absolutely love this book!  I loved studying New Zealand history when I was in high school and this is the sort of book that I needed.  Secondary school Social Science teachers all over New Zealand need to have this book put in their hands. It is an invaluable resource to make history come alive, not just for teenagers but adults as well.

The art is stunning throughout, with realistic depictions of Maori and Pakeha.  I especially like the art and layout of the front cover, which reminded me of a movie poster.  The only thing I didn’t like about the book was that there wasn’t enough of a margin throughout the book, meaning that you have to really pull the pages apart sometimes to read the text.

Wars in the Whitecloud: Wairau, 1843 is a finalist in the Best First Book Category of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and it is certainly a winning book in my opinion.

 

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Ink by Alice Broadway

Imagine that you live in a world where every significant moment in your life is tattooed on your skin.  When you are named at birth your name is tattooed on your wrist, your family tree is tattooed on your back, and any successes or failures are recorded on your skin for anyone to see.  When you die your skin is flayed from your body and made in to a book so that your ancestors will remember you.  However, you are only allowed to be remembered once you are judged and your soul found to be clean.  If you are found to not be a good person your book is burned and you are forgotten.  This is the world in which Leora lives in in Alice Broadway’s fantastic new YA book, Ink.

9781407172842Every action, every deed, every significant moment is tattooed on your skin for ever.

When Leora’s father dies, she is determined to see her father remembered forever. She knows he deserves to have all his tattoos removed and made into a Skin Book to stand as a record of his good life.

But when she discovers that his ink has been edited and his book is incomplete, she wonders whether she ever knew him at all.

Ink is a gripping dystopian story of a girl whose life has been a lie. It’s also a book about wanting to live forever through the memories of our ancestors.  There is a belief in Leora’s world that only those who have lived worthy lives will be remembered and people will go to any lengths to ensure this.  I was hooked from the very first page and Alice kept me guessing the whole way. The stunning cover was the main reason why I picked this book up as the bronze foil design made me want to find out what the book was about.

Alice Broadway has created a world that is intriguing and enchanting.  It is a world that is held together by the stories that have been passed down from generation to generation.  These stories, that are woven in to Leora’s story, are based on fairy tales that have been manipulated to serve the purposes of the government.  In Leora’s world there are those that have been marked by their stories and those who choose to remain blank.  These Blanks have been banished but it is believed that they are trying to sneak back in to society to spy and ultimately to start a war.  Everyone in Leora’s world has a certain job, including inkers, flayers and government workers, and it is Leora’s dream to be an inker.  Just as her dream becomes a reality Leora’s world starts to unravel, leaving her unsure who to trust.

Ink is the perfect book for those readers who have read the Hunger Games, Divergent, and Flawed series and want something similar.  I think it is even suitable for Year 7 and 8 as there is nothing in the book that makes it inappropriate for this age group.  Although the book comes to (what I considered) a satisfying end there is certainly the possibility to delve deeper in to this world, and Alice says on her website that Ink is the first book in the The Skin Books Trilogy.

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