Category Archives: authors

My Top 5 NZ Series for Kids and Teens

Like many kids I’m a fan of series.  There’s nothing better than sinking your teeth into a great series and being able to read more than one book featuring your favourite characters.  While there aren’t a heap of New Zealand series for kids and teens there are some that really stand out for me.  Some of them make me laugh again and again, while others take me to different times and places.  Here are my Top 5 NZ series for kids and teens.

  • 1219373The Karazan Quartet by V.M. Jones
    • Book 1 – The Serpents of Arakesh
    • Book 2 – Beyond the Shroud
    • Book 3 – Prince of the Wind
    • Book 4 – Quest for the Sun
I was excited when the first book in the series, The Serpents of Arakesh, came out.  The idea of an orphan boy getting the chance to test a new computer game and go into this game to retrieve a magical object sounded fantastic, and I wasn’t disappointed.  As soon as I started I knew I was going to love this book, and the other three books in the series just got better and better.  It’s one of my favourite fantasy series and just writing about it now makes me want to go back and read it all over again.  After publishing this series and a couple of great contemporary (and award-winning) novels, V.M. Jones seems to have disappeared.  I really miss her writing and I wonder what she’s doing now.

These are all out of print now but if you have this series in your library, get it out on display and promote it to your Year 5+ kids, especially the boys.

Recommended for 9+

  • The Juno series by Fleur Beale
    • Book 1 – Juno of Taris
    • Book 2 – Fierce September
    • Book 3 – Heart of Danger

Once I got in to Juno of Taris I couldn’t put it down.  Fleur Beale’s strength with this series is her characters, the strong bonds between them and also the conflict between them.  Fleur really makes you feel for her characters and the strange situation that they are in.  After reading the first book, I would have been satisfied to leave the characters as they were, then Fleur wrote two sequels.  I really enjoyed following these characters as they settled into their new life, and it was great to find out more about the other characters in the series.

Recommended for 11+

  • Dinosaur Rescue series by Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley
    • Currently 8 books in the series, starting with T-wreck-asaurus

Prehistoric toilet humour – what more can you ask for!  These books are full of dinosaur farts, dinosaur poo, caveman vomit and partial caveman nudity.  Not only are they disgusting and hilarious, you also learn heaps about dinosaurs and prehistoric life.  The challenge is trying to figure out what is factually accurate or just a huge whopper.  Kyle and Donovan are too of the wackiest people to ever be thrown together to create a series and it’s a truly winning combination.  If your children haven’t discovered this series yet they are seriously missing out.

Recommended for 7+

  • My New Zealand Story series by various authors

9781775431824The My New Zealand Story series from Scholastic New Zealand introduces children to different events and periods of New Zealand’s history.  I love this series because it gives a snapshot of the life of a fictional character (based on real people) and how they cope with life in the goldfields, or in colonial New Zealand, or how they react to a disaster like the Napier Earthquake.  These books also highlight how different the lives of the characters is to the lives of children today.  They really bring history alive for young readers and connect them with the history of their country.  The latest in the series is Canterbury Quake by my good friend, Desna Wallace.

Recommended for 9+

  • QueenTales of Fontania series by Barbara Else
    • The Traveling Restaurant
    • The Queen and the Nobody Boy
    • The Volume of Possible Endings
    • The Knot Impossible

Barbara Else’s Tales of Fontania series is a fantasy series that stands out from the crowd.  Barbara has an incredible imagination and her world and characters jump off the page.  Her tales are full of adventure, danger, royalty, spies, flying trains, a floating restaurant, stinky trolls, poisonous toads and much, much more.  You never know what who or what you’re going to meet next.  Thanks to the stunning covers by Sam Broad the books jump off the shelf and grab your attention.  I have it on good authority that there are more Tales of Fontania to come too.

Recommended for 9+
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Filed under authors, books, children, New Zealand, NZ Book Month 2013

My Top 10 NZ Read Alouds

There are lots of New Zealand books for children that are great read alouds, either to share one-on-one with your children or in a classroom.  Here are my Top 10 NZ Read Alouds, some old and some new (in no particular order).

Red Rocks by Rachael King

Red RocksWhile holidaying at his father’s house, Jake explores Wellington’s wild south coast, with its high cliffs, biting winds, and its fierce seals. When he stumbles upon a perfectly preserved sealskin, hidden in a crevice at Red Rocks, he’s compelled to take it home and hide it under his bed, setting off a chain of events that threatens to destroy his family. Can he put things right before it’s too late?

Suggested read aloud age: 9+

See Ya Simon by David Hill

Simon is a typical teenager – in every way except one. Simon likes girls, weekends and enjoys mucking about and playing practical jokes. But what s different is that Simon has muscular dystrophy – he is in a wheelchair and doesn t have long to live. See Ya, Simon is told by Simon’s best friend, Nathan. Funny, moving and devastatingly honest, it tells of their last year together.

Suggested read aloud age: 11+

The Brain Sucker by Glenn Wood

How would you act if part of your personality was stolen with a brain-sucking machine?

Lester Smythe has a black heart. He s invented a dangerous brain-sucking machine that removes the goodness from its victims, and he intends to use it to rid the world of all human kindness. But Lester didn t count on thirteen-year-old Callum McCullock and his two best friends, Sophie and Jinx. The trio vow to destroy the brain sucker. And nothing will stop them.

Suggested read aloud age: 8+

Snake and Lizard by Joy Cowley

Snake is elegant and calm, and a little self-centred; Lizard is exuberant and irrepressible. Even though they’re opposites, they are good friends. With its wisdom, acceptance and good humour, Snake and Lizard captures the essence of friendship.

Suggested read aloud age: 7+

Steel Pelicans by Des Hunt

Sometimes friendship and loyalty can be dangerous things – especially when fireworks are involved. Inseparable Aussie friends dare-devil Dean and tag-along Pelly often get up to no good. That’s what makes them the Steel Pelicans. But as Dean’s homemade fireworks get increasingly dangerous, things start going wrong, and Pelly’s parents hasten a move back to New Zealand. After living most of his life in Australia, Pelly feels like he’s been dumped in a foreign land with no friends and a school that doesn’t care, until he joins up with Afi Moore and is invited to stay the weekend at the Moores’ seaside bach. Then the pair stumble on a smuggling operation and find themselves deep in trouble, which only gets worse when Dean comes over for the holidays. In no time at all, Dean’s obsession with explosives threatens not only the investigation but also their lives.

All of Des Hunt’s other books are great read alouds too.

Suggested read aloud age: 10+

Northwood by Brian Falkner

Cecilia Undergarment likes a challenge. So when she discovers a sad and neglected dog, she is determined to rescue him. No matter what. But her daring dog rescue lands her in deep trouble. Trouble in the form of being lost in the dark forest of Northwood. A forest where ferocious black lions roam. A forest that hides a secret castle, an unlikely king and many a mystery. A forest where those who enter never return. But Cecilia is determined to find her way home. No matter what.

Suggested read aloud age: 9+

Juno of Taris by Fleur Beale

Juno is young; she has no authority, no power, and to question the ways of Taris is discouraged. She knows what it’s like when the community withdraws from her – turning their backs and not speaking to her until she complies.The Taris Project was the brainchild of a desperate twenty-first-century world, a community designed to survive even if the rest of humanity perished. An isolated, storm-buffeted island in the Southern Ocean was given a protective dome and its own balmy climate. And now Juno is one of 500 people who live there – but what has happened to the outside world in the years since Taris was established? The island has not been in contact with Outside since the early years of its existence.Juno yearns to know about life Outside, just as she yearns to be allowed to grow her hair. It is a rule on Taris that all must have their heads shaved bare. But is it a rule that could be broken? Danger awaits any who suggest it.

Suggested read aloud age: 11+

Super Finn by Leonie Agnew

When Mr Patel asks his class what they’d like to be when they grow up, Finn (most famous for getting in trouble and doing stupid things) chooses ‘superhero’. With his friend Brain, the two boys make a list of things needed to be a superhero, including superpowers and saving someone’s life. Can Finn use his superpowers to help save his World Vision sponsored child? Sometimes, despite the best intentions, things don’t always work out as planned. Join the hilarity as the boys’ money-making scheme comes unravelled. Look out, world …here comes Super Finn!

Suggested read aloud age: 7+

The Wolf in the Wardrobe by Susan Brocker

Finn had seen those eyes before. They were golden yellow, like the colour of the moon hanging low in the sky. And they were full of pain. When Finn comes across a car accident, little does he realize his life is about to change forever. The huge, injured animal he discovers is no dog – but a wolf, escaped from the circus. Finn is bewitched. Instinctively, he knows he must save the wolf, Lupa, and prevent her return to the cruel circus. Where to hide the wolf, and how to feed her, are just the beginning of Finn’s problems. For the sinister circus clown, Cackles, is hot on their trail and will stop at nothing to get Lupa back. But Cackles doesn’t even like wolves, so why is he so determined to get her? In a race against time to save Lupa, Finn gets help from unlikely quarters. But will it be enough?

Suggested read aloud age: 10+

The Ghosts of Tarawera by Sue Copsey

On holiday near Rotorua, Joe and Eddie are fascinated by the area’s bubbling mud pools and boiling geysers. Local volcanologist Rocky tells them about the Pink and White Terraces that existed on the lake where they’re staying, and how they were destroyed in the cataclysmic 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera. But Joe’s fascination turns to unease when strange sightings on the lake and dark rumblings from the Earth hint that the volcano is reawakening. Can he persuade Rocky, who puts his faith only in science, to sound a warning?

Suggested read aloud age: 10+

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Filed under authors, books, children, children's fiction, New Zealand, NZ Book Month 2013

Seriously Spooky Month: Interview with Derek Landy

Derek Landy is the author of the Skulduggery Pleasant series and the new Demon Road series.  He is one of my absolute favourite authors and I have loved everything that he has read.  I got the chance to meet him and interview him back in 2010 when he was part way through the Skulduggery Pleasant series (you can read the interview here).  Since he has started a new series I wanted to ask him a few questions about it and get the scoop on Demon Road.  Read my interview with Derek to find out how many Demon Road books we have to look forward to, what Derek’s favourite supernatural being is, and why Derek loves horror stories.

740f7-demonroad

  • How did it feel starting a new series after you had been living in Skulduggery’s world for so long?

Scary, daunting, but also thrilling and refreshing. I was fully at home writing Skulduggery, and possibly too comfortable. That’s not always a good thing for a writer, so a new challenge was needed to stop things from getting stale.

  • Why did you choose to set your new series in America?

The idea of a roadtrip pretty much dictated where it was going to be set. I tried setting it in Ireland, but you can’t really have a roadtrip here. In America, you can drive for weeks without seeing anyone. In Ireland, every five minutes you’d be passing through some small town somewhere…

  • How many books are you planning on writing in the Demon Road series?

Three. There was no way I was committing to a nine book series like I did with Skulduggery!

  • What is your favourite supernatural being?

Vampires are endlessly fun. You can adapt them to fit whatever you need them to be. Dracula had them scary, Anne Rice had them romantic, Buffy had them cool, and Twilight had them sparkly. Er…

  • There are some really gory scenes in Demon Road.  Are these your favourite parts to write?

Gory scenes are definitely fun…! And it’s always an interesting exercise to see how far I can push things before my editor picks up the phone…

  • Out of all of your characters which one are you most like?

I’d like to think I’m like Skulduggery — cool, charming, and awesome. But the truth is I’m probably a mixture of Glen and, I dunno… Scapegrace.

  • Do you see your two series crossing over?  Will Skulduggery characters make an appearance on the Demon Road?

That was a temptation that I ultimately decided against. I wanted people to be able to pick up Demon Road without needing to know the rules of magic as set down in Skulduggery. Plus my vampires in both series are completely different, and I didn’t want to confuse people.

  • Why do you love horror stories?

I’ve always loved horror, since I was a kid. We love to be scared. Being scared is entertainment — provided you get to walk out of the theatre afterwards, or close the book, or turn off the TV. We love horror because it tests us within a safe environment. I doubt I’d love it so much if these things were really happening to me…

  • What other books would you recommend to kids and teens who love your books?

These days I’m recommending ‘The Rest of Us Just Live Here’ by Patrick Ness to everyone, as well as the Shattered Sea trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. Loved them both.

Demon Road by Derek Landy is out now.  Go and grab a copy from your library or bookshop now.

 

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Seriously Spooky Month: Guest Post – Lesley Gibbes

As part of my Seriously Spooky Month I asked some of my favourite spooky authors to write a guest post for My Best Friends Are Books.  Today I’m joined by Lesley Gibbes, author of the award-winning book, Scary Night.  Lesley joins me on My Best Friends Are Books today to talk about her spooky picture book.

There’s no denying, I love all things scary! When I was a child I loved a good scare and nothing was scarier than the darkness of night. There’s something so deliciously terrifying about noises in the dark made by things you can’t see. My imagination would run wild and I loved it!

So of course, my first picture book just had to be set in the dead of the night when anything can happen. And in SCARY NIGHT when three friends, Hare with a hat, Cat with a cake and Pig with a parcel set out on a mysterious night-time journey all sorts of scary things happen. Close your eyes and imagine snapping crocodiles, roaring bears, mountain cliff tops, graveyards, bats, spiders, castle ruins and rats. Are you brave enough to join the journey and find out just where the three friends are going? Go on, you won’t believe the surprise!

SCARY NIGHT has just the right amount of scare to give your kids a thrill with a reassuring ending that’s sure to have everyone celebrating. It was awarded Honour Book, by the Children’s Book Council of Australia for Early Childhood Book of the Year 2015 and is the perfect book for Halloween this October!

SCARY NIGHT written by Lesley Gibbes, illustrated by Stephen Michael King and published by Working Title Press 2014. CBCA Honour Book 2015 Early Childhood Book of the Year. Shortlisted Speech Pathology Australia, Book of the Year (3-5 years) 2015.  You can visit Lesley Gibbes at www.lesleygibbes.com

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Seriously Spooky Month: Guest Post – Gareth P. Jones

As part of my Seriously Spooky Month I asked some of my favourite spooky authors to write a guest post for My Best Friends Are Books.  Today I’m joined by Gareth P. Jones, author of my favourite funny book about ghosts, Constable and Toop, and the forthcoming Death and Ice Cream.  Gareth talks about why he loves writing about death.  Thanks for joining me Gareth!

“Honestly, Gareth, why do you have to write about death?”

My new novel (published by Hotkey Books) comes out January 2016, and I already know that my mum won’t like it because of its title. It is called Death or Ice Cream?

“Why can’t you write a nice book like Little Women?” she says.

“I think because I was born a hundred years too late,” I reply. “Also, I’ve not read it but I have seen that episode of Friends about it and I’m pretty sure someone does die in it. Beth possibly?”

“Black Beauty then.”

“I’m not massively keen on horses.”

My mum’s real question is: “Why do you have to write about death?”

Firstly, I should explain that I don’t only write about death. I have three series of books (Ninja Meerkats, The Dragon Detective Agency and The Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates) in which the vast majority of the characters make it to the end. I have also written the text for two picture books, (The Dinosaurs are Having a Party and Are You the Pirate Captain?) which are very light on the subject of mortality.

But when it comes to writing my standalone novels, I am often drawn to the subject of death. The Thornthwaite Inheritance is about a pair of twins trying to kill each other, The Considine Curse begins with a funeral, and Constable & Toop is a Victorian ghost story named after a real undertakers.

It was the real Constable and Toop that sparked the idea for my new book, Death or Ice Cream? I follow them on Twitter (sure, why wouldn’t an undertakers have a twitter account?) and they put up a link to an article called 500 Ways To Say Dead about all the euphemisms we use for dying (kick the bucket, push up the daisies, fall asleep, bite the bullet, pop your clogs etc.) It got me thinking about why we have such a long list of ways to express the one thing that will definitely affect us all. The answer is that death is something we are scared of so we use language to soften its impact. We try to make it sound funnier, gentler… more temporary. But, if Dumbledore has taught us nothing else, it is that fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.

“Yes, Gareth.” This is my mum again. “But you write children’s books. Why can’t you be more like that nice Beatrix Potter or Enid Blyton?”

Over the nine years I have been a published author, I have visited hundreds of schools and met thousands of children. I have observed that these children have not yet learned to fear death but they are fascinated by it. And literature allows us to consider subjects in a way that is engaging, satisfying and, above all else, entertaining. So whether it’s war, religion, prejudice, sex or death, books help us explore these tricky subjects in a unique – and rather wonderful – way.

Anyway, my new book isn’t just about death. My favourite thing about being a children’s author (rather than – say – a crime writer or a purveyor of historical fiction) is the freedom to employ different genres and draw upon a variety of influences to tell my stories. As my publishers will tell you, Death or Ice Cream? is a difficult book to describe but I’ll have a go anyway. Death or Ice Cream? is a selection of dark morality tales, closely interwoven and all set in the same fictional town of Larkin Mills. While the characters change from story to story, the book has an underlying theme about the duality of the daily choices we are forced to make. Let me try that again. It’s about god and the devil and why religion forces us to make a choice between them. It’s also about domestic sharks, concrete sculptures, dodgem cars, corrupt politicians, evil doctors, the Roman empire, the dangers of archeology, zombies, the art of making television, alien landings, death and ice cream.

Oh and if you’re thinking that the question Death or Ice Cream? is a no-brainer, then I should point out that it is not really a choice at all.

After all, you can choose never to have an ice cream.

Cover illustration by Adam Stower

Cover illustration by Adam Stower

Death or Ice Cream? is published January 2016 by Hot Key books.

You can read my review of Gareth’s Constable and Toop here on the blog.

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Win a signed copy of Stray by Rachael Craw

Rachael Craw’s addictive sequel to Spark, Stray, was released yesterday and I had the pleasure of helping Rachael to launch it in Christchurch last night.  It was a great launch with heaps of Spark fans! You can read my review of Stray here on the blog.

Thanks to Walker Books Australia I have 5 copies of Stray to give away, and thanks to Rachael they are all signed.  To get in the draw to win a signed copy of Stray just email bestfriendsrbooks@gmail.com with the subject line ‘Stray’, along with your name and address.

Competition closes Wednesday 9 September (NZ only).

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Interview with Jack Heath, author of The Cut-Out

Today I’m joined by Australian author Jack Heath.  Jack is the author of action-packed thrillers for children and young adults, including the Scream series from Scholastic, Money Run, The Hit-List and his first novel, The Lab.  Jack’s latest novel is The Cut-Out, a spy thriller about mistaken identities that is perfect for fans of the Cherub series and Alex Rider.  I had a few questions about Jack’s latest book and spies.  Jack very kindly answered my questions and you can read them here.

The Cut-Out is out now from Allen and Unwin.

What are 3 words that you would use to describe your new book, The Cut Out? Fast, frantic, fun.

Is the character of Fero based on who you wanted to be when you were a teenager?

Fero is everything I wasn’t – athletic, quiet, courageous. In some ways I wish I’d been more like him, but it’s those qualities that get him into so much trouble in The Cut Out!

In The Cut Out, Fero gets mistaken for enemy agent, Troy Maschenov.  Have you ever had a case of mistaken identity?

I have a brother who looks a bit like me, and sometimes people get us confused. Fortunately my brother isn’t a deadly foreign spy, or so he claims.

What is your favourite gadget in The Cut Out?

Definitely the Armoured Turbofan Vehicle, which is like a cross between a motorcycle and a tank.

What books and movies inspire your writing?

I love spy thrillers by Robert Ludlum and Olen Steinhauer. As for movies, some of my favourites include Tomorrow Never DiesTrue Lies and Mission Impossible 3.

Who is your favourite fictional spy?

I’m a big fan of reluctant spies, so I always loved Alex Rider. He got more interesting with every book!

Your first book, The Lab, was published when you were a teenager.  What advice do you have for young writers who want to get published?

I encourage all aspiring writers to join their local writers centre, to write something every day, and to read everything they can get their hands on.

Who would you recommend The Cut Out to?

The Cut Out is for anyone who likes shifting allegiances, big twists and lots of action.

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Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

Louis Sachar is an exciting author.  He’s not prolific but when he does publish a book it’s always something to shout about.  My first Louis Sachar book (and probably his most popular) was Holes, the story of Stanley Yelnats and Camp Green Lake.  It totally grabbed me and is still one of my favourite books.  Louis’ last book, The Cardturner, was a fascinating book about bridge and family secrets.  It’s been 5 years since his last book, so I was very excited to hear about Louis Sachar’s new book, Fuzzy Mud.  After reading his previous books and having high expectations I wasn’t disappointed.

Tamaya is on a scholarship to the prestigious Woodridge Academy and every day she and seventh-grader Marshall walk to school together. They never go through the woods. And when they arrive at school they stop talking to each other – because Marshall can’t be seen to be friends with a little kid like Tamaya. Especially not with Chad around. Chad-the-bully, who makes Marshall’s life utterly miserable. But today, hoping to avoid Chad, Marshall and Tamaya decide to go through the woods … And what is waiting there for them is strange, sinister and entirely unexpected. The next day, Chad doesn’t turn up at school – no one knows where he is, not even his family. And Tamaya’s arm is covered in a horribly, burning, itchy wound. As two unlikely heroes set out to rescue their bully, the town is about to be turned upside down by the mysterious Fuzzy Mud.

 

Fuzzy Mud is a weird, thrilling, suspenseful story about friendship, bullies and an experiment gone wrong.  Louis Sachar keeps you on the edge of your seat as the suspense builds right to the end.  It’s slightly creepy and I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to end.   Like each of Louis’ books there are several strands to the story.  What at first seems like just a school story about fitting in and bullies making life hell, soon becomes a quite different story with far worse problems.  The story of Tamaya and Marshall is interspersed by extracts from an inquiry into a place called SunRay Farm, a research facility not far from their school, that was creating an organism that would be used to make a bio-fuel to help save the planet.  These extracts show you that their experiments didn’t quite go as planned.  When Tamaya discovers the fuzzy mud in the forest when she is helping Marshall escape the school bully, the consequences are disastrous.  Could an organism that was designed to help people actually harm or even kill people instead?

The book has got one of the coolest covers I’ve seen recently and it is sure to grab the attention of kids.  The design of the book is very clever too.  I wasn’t quite sure what all the dots at the top of the chapter headings were to start off with but this became clear as I kept reading.  I think it’s kind of quirky and a nice touch.

Fuzzy Mud would be a great read-aloud for kids aged 10 and up.  Not only is it a thrilling story that will keep kids entertained, but it’s also thought-provoking.  What would you do if you found a weird substance in the forest? How would you react if the kid who was bullying you suddenly disappeared?

If you love Louis Sachar or just want a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat, grab a copy of Fuzzy Mud now.

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The Bakehouse by Joy Cowley

Joy Cowley is a New Zealand legend.  Children grow up reading her books, from the very first school readers, through to school journals, picture books and on in to novels for children and young adults. She has been writing for many years and that experience truly shows in the depth and quality of her writing.  In the last couple of years the wonderful Gecko Press have been publishing Joy Cowley’s novels for older readers.  Her first with Gecko Press, Dunger, went on to win the Junior Fiction category at the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults in 2014.  Then came the haunting, Speed of Light.  Joy Cowley’s latest novel from Gecko Press, The Bakehouse, takes readers back to Wellington during the Second World War.

Viewed from a distance of seventy-plus years, 1943 was history soup, everything mixed up, and it was difficult to separate reality from what he had read or been told.  One event, though, was crystal clear and refused to be forgotten.  He’d never talked about it to the others, not Meg and certainly not Betty, but he didn’t want to be buried with the truth.

Someone should know what happened that winter day.

Bert wants nothing more than be old enough to fight in the war—to handle weapons, defend his country, and have a life filled with adventure. Little does he know that the secrets and danger of war don’t always stay at the front line, and that one boy’s actions can change everything.

The Bakehouse is Joy Cowley at her best.  It’s a brilliant, multi-layered novel about secrets, lies and how the consequences of one boy’s actions ripple throughout his family.  Joy Cowley shows readers what life was like in New Zealand in 1943, with the threat of Japanese invasion and many of the men off at war.

We meet Bert as an old man in a nursing home, who recalls the story of the Geronimo Bakehouse for his grandson.  There is something that Bert needs to get off his chest, something to do with the Bakehouse, and as the story progresses you wonder what the big secret is that Bert has been keeping for seventy-odd years.  It is Bert who first ventures in to the Bakehouse and claims it as the family’s bomb shelter.  He cleans and tidies it ready for his family, and one day decides to show his sisters.  It is on this day that they discover a soldier hiding in the Bakehouse.  The soldier, Donald, has escaped from the army and is hiding in fear of being captured and court marshalled.  Bert and his sisters keep Donald as their secret and look after him, bringing him food and clothing.  Life gets complicated for the children, but little do they know what is to come and how much their lives will change in one moment. You know that something bad is going to happen but I wasn’t sure how it was going to pan out.

The way that Joy tells the story reminds me of John Boyne’s The Boy in Striped Pyjamas.  Like Bruno in that story, Bert is a naive boy who doesn’t quite understand what is going on around him.  There are several incidents in the book where, as an adult, you know what is being implied but Bert has no idea.  Bert can’t understand why his sister Betty wants to go and visit Donald so much, especially without her brother or sister.  When Bert’s Auntie Vi takes him and his sister to the movies, but then ends up meeting her friend and a couple of soldiers, disappearing with them, we know what is implied but Bert is confused.  It is very good storytelling.

Gecko Press should be applauded for once again producing a wonderful little package that matches the other Joy Cowley books that they have published.

The Bakehouse is a must-read book from a New Zealand legend.

Recommended for 9+

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Morris Gleitzman on his new novel, Soon

Watch the video to hear more from Morris Gleitzman about Soon, Felix’s story so far, and the unexpected reaction to the series in Germany.

Soon is out now in NZ from Penguin Random House

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