Category Archives: animals

The Thunderbolt Pony by Stacy Gregg

Imagine that a huge earthquake strikes, destroying your home and leaving your mother badly injured.  You could take the easy (and safe) way out, joining your mother on the rescue helicopter to the hospital.  This would leave your beloved cat, dog and pony to fend for themselves for who knows how long.  You decide that you will do anything to get your animal family to safety, which means a treacherous journey over mountainous terrain and rugged coastline to a ship that will take you to safety.  Not only do you have to cope with aftershocks and a landscape that is forever changing, you also have to deal with the OCD that has taken over your life.  This is what faces Evie in Stacy Gregg’s powerful, emotional new story, The Thunderbolt Pony.

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When a devastating earthquake hits Evie’s hometown of Parnassus on New Zealand’s South Island, she and the rest of the town are forced to evacuate. Evie’s injured mum is one of the first to be rescued by helicopter and Evie will be next. But when realises that she will be forced to leave her beloved pony, Gus, her dog, Jock, and her cat Moxy behind, she is determined to find another way. Before the rescue helicopter returns, Evie flees with Gus, Jock and Moxy in a race against time across difficult terrain to reach the port of Kaikoura, where she has heard that people will be evacuated by ship in three days’ time. Surely there will be space for her, Gus, Jock and Moxy there?

But the journey is harder than Evie could ever have imagined, and with aftershocks constantly shaking, Evie will have to draw on all her bravery, strength, and resilience to bring her and her animals to safety . . . and hope that they reach the boat in time.

I feel that The Thunderbolt Pony is Stacy Gregg’s best story yet.  It is a heart-racing story about a girl who will do anything to save the animals that have become her family.  It is a very emotional story that so many readers will relate to.  You can’t help putting yourself in Evie’s shoes and thinking ‘what would I do if I was told to leave my family behind?’ Although the cover, with the flowery design, gives you the impression this is a story for girls it is in fact a story for everyone.  Girls and boys alike will be absolutely gripped by the story and, like me, will hungrily read it to find out how it ends.  It would be a fantastic read aloud, especially for Years 5-8, as it will keep everyone engaged.

As someone who has lived with constant earthquakes this was an especially emotional story for me.  Stacy Gregg has perfectly captured the feeling of constantly being on edge and not knowing whether the next shake will be a big one or a little one.  Evie knows when there is another shake coming by the way that her animals react (ears back and growling or howling).  Stacy really gives you an insight in to how animals are affected with earthquakes as it’s not always something you think about.  Even the little details like the cows still needing to be milked, even though there was no power to make the pumps work.  When they do get the cows milked using the back-up generator they end of having to pump the milk through the irrigation system because the milk tankers can’t get through on the roads.

Evie is a fascinating character who has a lot to deal with in the story, but she overcomes any obstacles that come her way.  Not only does she lose her home and see her badly injured mother fly off in a helicopter, she also has OCD which causes her to go through different rituals to protect those she loves.  Her OCD was triggered after her father became sick with cancer.  It started with her double-closing doors and got worse after she blamed herself for her father’s death.  Dealing with OCD mustn’t be easy at the best of times, but throw in a huge earthquake and a trek across the mountains and it’s a whole lot to deal with.  Overcoming her condition is a huge part of the story.

Whether you are a pony person, a dog person or a cat person there is a character in this book to please you.  Gus (the pony), Moxy (the cat) and Jock (the dog) are Evie’s family and they are fiercely loyal right to the end.  I loved each of them as much as Evie and I hoped that they would all make it to the end.  There sure are enough incidents in the story that would make you think they might not all make it.

The ending of the story is absolutely perfect and made me want to go right back to the start and read it again.  I would put The Thunderbolt Pony alongside Michael Morpurgo’s stories as Stacy is a fantastic storyteller who tugs at your heart-strings. Whether you are a long-time fan of Stacy Gregg’s books or have never read one of her books you absolutely must read The Thunderbolt Pony.

 

 

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Hooray for Birds by Lucy Cousins

Children have been growing up with Lucy Cousins’ illustrations for many years now.  Her bold illustrations are very distinctive and you certainly can’t miss them.  Children have gone on adventures with Maisy, been captivated by her fairy tale retellings, and discovered all sorts of beautiful fish.  In Lucy’s latest book, Hooray for Birds, children will fall in love with birds.

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Children will find themselves becoming birds of all kinds as they wake up shouting “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” like a rooster, pecking like a woodpecker, and standing tall on just one leg like a flamingo.   They will hop, swim and swoop their way through the book until, worn out from all the excitement, they cuddle up close with Mama in their nest.

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Hooray for Birds is a bright, busy, noisy book that will make children flap their wings with delight.  It’s a delightful picture book that adults will be only too happy to read again and again.  Lucy encourages children to join in with the birds and flap, sing and waddle along with these colourful creatures.  I love Lucy’s illustration style and it really appeals to young children especially.  One of my favourite aspects of Hooray for Birds are the gorgeous endpapers which are covered with birds.

I think this would be a great book for teachers to incorporate in to the classroom as I can see lots of ways to extend the story across the curriculum.  Lucy uses lots of wonderful descriptive language for the different actions of the birds, so this could be worked in to the English curriculum.  The book could be part of a drama lesson where the children are acting as the different birds.  Children could create colourful birds of their own as part of an art lesson.  There are so many opportunities to extend the fun of this book.

Hooray for Birds is a delight to share and I’m sure it will be a favourite with the younger children in your life.

 

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Noisy Nights by Fleur McDonald – Review + Giveaway

My 15-month-old loves books with sounds in them.  She loves hearing different animal sounds and pointing at the animals so that daddy will make the sounds.  Noisy books aren’t best for bedtime though, unless they’re all about going to sleep, like Fleur McDonald’s new book, Noisy Nights.

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Noisy Nights follows Farmer Hayden as he tries to get to sleep.  It is very noisy on his farm, between the crickets, dogs, cows, sheep, horses, foxes and trains.  Farmer Hayden just wants to sleep but the animals just won’t be quiet.  When he goes outside to look at his farm and his animals it is the sheep who help him to get to sleep.

Noisy Nights is a delightful picture book that young readers, especially preschoolers, will love.  It’s the perfect picture book to curl up with and share together at bedtime as it leaves you feeling relaxed and sleepy.  It reminds me of one of my favourite books from childhood, Jill Murphy’s Peace at Last.  The noises of the farm are keeping Farmer Hayden awake, much like the noises of the night that keep Mr Bear awake in Peace at Last.  I certainly have fun making lots of animal noises while I read Noisy Nights.  It would be a great book to act out, with different children making all the noises.

Annie White’s illustrations are the perfect match for the story as the tones of the colours are soft and the animals look cuddly.  I really like the way that Annie has portrayed Farmer Hayden and his frustrations.  You can see him getting increasingly tired and agitated throughout the book.

Grab a copy of Noisy Nights and cuddle up with this delightful story.

Win a copy of Noisy Nights!

Thanks to everyone who entered.  The winner is Vicki.

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Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Some books grab hold of your heart from the first page and don’t let go, even when you’ve reached the last page.  When I first heard about Pax by Sara Pennypacker I knew that it was going to be one of those books and from the moment I picked it up I knew I was going to love it.

PaxPax and Peter have been inseparable ever since Peter rescued him as a kit. But one day, the unimaginable happens: Peter’s dad enlists in the military and makes him return the fox to the wild.

At his grandfather’s house, three hundred miles away from home, Peter knows he isn’t where he should be—with Pax. He strikes out on his own despite the encroaching war, spurred by love, loyalty, and grief, to be reunited with his fox.

Meanwhile Pax, steadfastly waiting for his boy, embarks on adventures and discoveries of his own.

Pax is a beautiful heart-breaking story about the connection between a boy and his pet fox.  Sara Pennypacker makes you feel this connection between Peter and Pax and you read the story with hope that they’ll find each other but dread that they might not. Pax is also a story about never giving up, even when the odds are stacked against you.  Both Pax and Peter face many challenges but they are determined to find each other.  Sarah Pennypacker grabs you from the first chapter, giving you an immediate connection with Peter and Pax.  It’s a very emotional start to a story (that will probably make you cry) and you have to know what will happen to Peter and Pax.  Jon Klassen’s illustrations are stunning too.  His illustration style perfectly captures the tone of the story.

The story starts with Peter leaving Pax in the woods at the side of the road and driving away.  Peter’s father is going off to war so Peter has to go and stay with his grandfather.  This means he is not allowed to take Pax with him and his father tells him he has to set him free.  As you can imagine, this would be hard for any child to do, and you feel how hard it is for Peter to do this.  Peter found Pax clinging to life as a kit.  Peter’s mum had just died and so he found Pax when he really needed a friend.  They had been inseparable ever since, until this day that Peter is forced to leave Pax.  The story alternates between Peter and Pax’s point of view and we follow both of their journeys to find each other again. There are times that you wonder whether they will both actually survive long enough to do so.

I loved the characters of Peter and Pax, especially their determination.  They will stay in my head for a long time and I already want to go back and read their story again.  My favourite character though was Vola, a woman that Peter meets and who helps him.  She’s a really interesting character because she has been damaged by war and is used to living alone.  I love the way that her character develops just through her relationship with Peter.

Pax is an amazing story that I can’t praise enough.  It is perfect for those who like stories with animals, for fans of Michael Morpurgo and highly recommended for those who have read The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.

 

 

 

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Creaturepedia by Adrienne Barman

You know sometimes when you see a book and instantly fall in love?  I had one of those moments recently when I laid my eyes on Creaturepedia by Adrienne Barman.  I first saw this book on one of my favourite book websites, Love Reading 4 Kids and the cover really caught my eye.  When I finally got my hands on a copy of the book from my library I fell in love.  Excuse me while I gush over this book.

Creaturepedia is a visually stunning book about creatures from all over the world.  The book’s by-line is ‘Welcome to the Greatest Show on Earth,’ and it’s not wrong.  Adrienne Barman introduces us to creatures great and small, huge and miniscule. Adrienne has split the book up into different sections, with names like ‘The Champion Breath-Holders,’ ‘The Masters of Camoflage,’ and The Show-Offs.’  The beauty of this book though is that it is perfect for dipping in and out of.  You could pick any page at random and it would make you go ‘Wow!’  Curious children could flick to ‘The Lilliputians’ and discover that the Bee Hummingbird is the world’s smallest bird at 5.7cm long or that the Dwarf Gecko is the world’s smallest reptile at 1.6cm long.

The text in the book is sparse, letting the reader focus on the gorgeous illustrations that portray these creatures.  Children will discover creatures that they never knew existed and will want to find out more about them.  Adrienne’s illustrations are vibrant, quirky and fun.  Each of the creatures has its own unique personality.  Take a look at just a couple of the page spreads from the book:

Artwork credit: This is an excerpt from Creaturepedia by Adrienne Barman, published by Wide Eyed Editions.

Artwork credit: This is an excerpt from Creaturepedia by Adrienne Barman, published by Wide Eyed Editions.

Before you even open the book you can tell you’re holding a work of art in your hands.  The publisher of Creaturepedia, Wide Eyed Editions, clearly knows what makes a great book.  The love that went into producing this book is evident, from the hardcover to the binding and the vibrant colours to the high-quality paper.

Get your hands on a copy of Creaturepedia by Adrienne Barman and fall in love with this stunning book!

Creaturepedia is just one of the gorgeous books published by Wide Eyed Editions (distributed in Aus/NZ by Allen and Unwin).  Check out their website now.

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