Category Archives: books

Win Skulduggery Pleasant: Resurrection

Skulduggery Pleasant: Resurrection is the 10th book in Derek Landy’s epic series featuring the wise-cracking skeleton detective.  The Skulduggery series is one of the few series that I have stuck with all the way through so I’m really excited to see where Derek takes the series next.

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Thanks to everyone who entered. The winner is Helen Muxlow.

 

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Old MacDonald Heard a Fart by Olaf Falafel

There are many different book versions of Old MacDonald but you haven’t read one like this before.  Old MacDonald Heard a Fart is the stinkiest, funniest version of the song you’ve ever heard.

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As the title suggests this book is full of farts.  All of the usual animals on Old MacDonald’s farm are here but they’ve all got a serious case of wind.  Each animal makes a very distinct fart noise and Old MacDonald demonstrates how to make the sounds on each page.

Old MacDonald Heard a Fart is a picture book that is guaranteed to make kids laugh out loud.  I’ve read and sung it to the 5 and 6 year olds at my school and they were laughing the whole time.  They left the library making farting noises and I’m sure they went home to tell their parents all about it.  I am sure that this book will never stay on the shelf because the kids will be reading it again and again.  Olaf Falafel is going to have the Old MacDonald tune stuck on repeat in the heads of kids and adults.

It is Olaf Falafel’s illustrations that really make this book stand out for me.  They look quite similar to Axel Scheffler’s illustrations as he gives each of the animals some real personality.  The pig wears a tutu, the cow wears a Hawaiian shirt and the duck wears a boater hat.  The illustrations of Old MacDonald’s face at the bottom of the page are really helpful to figure out how to make the fart noises, especially when the kids want to make the noises.

Laugh and fart along with your kids as you read Old MacDonald Heard a Fart.  Later in the year you also have the festive Father Christmas Heard a Fart to look forward to.

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2017 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults Shortlist

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Congratulations to all of the authors and illustrators who are on the shortlist for the 2017 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, which was announced this morning.  As always there is a broad range of titles, some of which I’ve read and loved (Leonie Agnew’s The Impossible Boy) and others that I have yet to discover (Wars in the Whitecloud: Wairau, 1843).

I really like the addition of the Best First Book Award, which gives recognition to emerging writers and will hopefully encourage them to continue writing stories for children and young adults in New Zealand.  I think that it is a shame to lose the Children’s Choice Award but hopefully there will something else introduced to encourage young readers to engage with the finalist books.  I will certainly be encouraging the kids at my school to read the finalist books and we’ll do our own Children’s Choice Award in the library.

The finalists for the 2017 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults are:

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Picture Book Award

  • Fuzzy Doodle, Melinda Szymanik, illustrated by Donovan Bixley, Scholastic NZ
  • Gwendolyn! Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton, HarperCollins Publishers (ABC)
  • My Grandpa is a Dinosaur, Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones, illustrated by Richard Fairgray, Penguin Random House (Puffin)
  • That’s Not a Hippopotamus! Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Sarah Davis, Gecko Press
  • The Singing Dolphin/Te Aihe i Waiata, Mere Whaanga, Scholastic NZ

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Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction

  • Helper and Helper, Joy Cowley, illustrated by Gavin Bishop, Gecko Press
  • My New Zealand Story: Bastion Point, Tania Roxborogh, Scholastic NZ
  • Sunken Forest, Des Hunt, Scholastic NZ
  • The Discombobulated Life of Summer Rain, Julie Lamb, Mākaro Press (Submarine)
  • The Impossible Boy, Leonie Agnew, Penguin Random House (Puffin)

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Copyright Licensing NZ Award for Young Adult Fiction

  • Coming Home to Roost, Mary-anne Scott, Penguin Random House (Longacre)
  • Kiwis at War 1916: Dig for victory, David Hair, Scholastic NZ
  • Like Nobody’s Watching, LJ Ritchie, Escalator Press
  • Shooting Stars, Brian Falkner, Scholastic NZ
  • The Severed Land, Maurice Gee, Penguin Random House (Penguin)

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Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction

  • From Moa to Dinosaurs: Explore & discover ancient New Zealand, Gillian Candler, illustrated by Ned Barraud, Potton & Burton
  • Jack and Charlie: Boys of the bush, Josh James Marcotte and Jack Marcotte, Penguin Random House (Puffin)
  • The Cuckoo and the Warbler, Kennedy Warne, illustrated by Heather Hunt, Potton & Burton
  • The Genius of Bugs, Simon Pollard, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa Press)
  • Torty and the Soldier, Jennifer Beck, illustrated by Fifi Colston, Scholastic NZ

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Russell Clark Award for Illustration

  • Fuzzy Doodle, illustrated by Donovan Bixley, written by Melinda Szymanik, Scholastic NZ
  • Gladys Goes to War, illustrated by Jenny Cooper, written by Glyn Harper, Penguin Random House (Puffin)
  • If I Was a Banana, illustrated by Kieran Rynhart, written by Alexandra Tylee, Gecko Press
  • Snark: Being a true history of the expedition that discovered the Snark and the Jabberwock . . . and its tragic aftermath, illustrated and written by David Elliot (after Lewis Carroll), Otago University Press
  • The Day the Costumes Stuck, illustrated and written by Toby Morris, Beatnik Publishing

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Te Kura Pounamu Award for books written completely in te reo Māori

  • Ngā Manu Tukutuku e Whitu o Matariki, Calico McClintock, illustrated by Dominique Ford, translated by Ngaere Roberts, Scholastic NZ
  • Ngārara Huarau, Maxine Hemi, Illustrated by Andrew Burdan, Huia Publishers
    Te Haerenga Māia a Riripata i Te Araroa, Maris O’Rourke, illustrated by Claudia Pond Eyley, translated by Āni Wainui, David Ling Publishing (Duck Creek Press)
  • Te Kaihanga Māpere, Sacha Cotter, illustrated by Josh Morgan, translated by Kawata Teepa, Huia Publishers
  • Tuna rāua ko Hiriwa, Ripeka Takotowai Goddard, illustrated by Kimberly Andrews, Huia Publishers

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Best First Book Award

  • Awatea’s Treasure, Fraser Smith, Huia Publishers
  • Like Nobody’s Watching, LJ Ritchie, Escalator Press
  • The Discombobulation of Summer Rain, Julie Lamb, Mākaro Press (Submarine)
  • The Mouse and the Octopus, written and illustrated by Lisala Halapua, Talanoa Books
  • Wars in the Whitecloud: Wairau, 1843, written and illustrated by Matthew H McKinley, Kin Publishing

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The World’s Worst Children 2 by David Walliams and Tony Ross

David Walliams has become one of those children’s authors who have reached the same level of anticipation by young readers as J.K. Rowling had at the height of the Harry Potter series.  Kids gobble up his books and can’t wait for his new books.  I had to make sure I got copies of his latest book, The World’s Worst Children 2, on release day so that I could have it in the library for excited readers.  It is certainly worth the wait for readers young and old.

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The World’s Worst Children 2 is David Walliams and Tony Ross’ second collection of cautionary tales featuring some of the worst, most horrid children ever.  There is Humbert the Hungry Baby who eats everything in sight and grows to be humongous,  Stacey Superstar who has an unforgettable voice, Fussy Frankie who hates anything healthy, Gruesome Griselda who loves playing disgusting tricks, and Competitive Colin who has to win everything no matter what it takes.  These children deserve everything that comes their way!

The characters in The World’s Worst Children 2 will make you laugh, cringe and shudder with horror.  You really wouldn’t want to meet these kids, let alone be their parents.  I enjoyed each of the stories but two really stood out for me.  The story of Harry Who Never, Ever Did His Homework was brilliant because of the ghosts of the greatest villains in history that turn up in his bedroom.  They have some really funny banter between them.  I also really enjoyed the story of Trish who slowly turns in to a troll with every horrible comment that she makes about the kids and teachers at her school.

It’s important to acknowledge Tony Ross’ contribution to The World’s Worst Children 2 because I don’t think it would be the same book without his wonderfully weird illustrations.  Tony Ross has always be great at bringing out the worst in people in his illustrations and he certainly does that in David Walliams’ books.  He has made each of the children featured in the book look absolutely horrid, especially Humbert and Trish.

We have one more volume of the World’s Worst Children to look forward to and I fear that they are going to be the worst yet!

Check out this book trailer showing each of the characters in the book:

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Timmy Failure: The Cat Stole My Pants by Stephan Pastis

I’m a huge Timmy Failure fan and I look forward to each new book.  The sixth book in Stephan Pastis’ hilarious series, The Cat Stole My Pants, has just been released and it’s another great addition to the series.

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The Cat Stole My Pants starts with a cat stealing Timmy’s pants (or so he believes) while visiting the house that was once home to Ernest Hemingway on the island of Key West. He has come on his mum and step-dad’s honeymoon, along with Doorman Dave’s nephew Emilio Empanada.  Since Timmy’s former business partner, Total, has taken off to Cuba, Timmy makes Emilio his unpaid intern.  The poor kid has to follow Timmy everywhere and be a part of Timmy’s crazy plans.  There is a treasure to be found, a best-seller to be written and a father to meet.  What could possibly go wrong?  Anything at all when it includes Timmy Failure.

You are always guaranteed a good laugh with each new Timmy Failure book.  I eagerly await the next installment just to see what crazy things Timmy gets up to next.  Timmy’s unusual outlook and funny way of talking gets me every time.  Stephan Pastis’ characters always make me laugh and there are some great new characters in this book.  Emilio Empanada gets the lucky job of being Timmy’s unpaid intern.  As you can imagine, Timmy doesn’t treat him very nicely but Emilio seems happy enough to hang around with him.  Emilio gets roped in to all sorts of schemes, from breaking in to a lighthouse to helping Timmy sell his book.  Emilio is a fan of romance novels and the names of some of these cracked me up – The Donkey’s Kiss is More Powerful than his Kick and Love is a Speckled Pony of Desire.  I also enjoyed the minor characters like Speedo Steve and Captain Largo Spargo.

The thing that I enjoyed the most about this book though was the book that Timmy wrote called Timmy Failure’s Wisdom-Filled Guide for the Uneducated People Who Don’t Know Very Much.  Included in his book are various scenarios involving a crime and possible answers.  These were so ridiculous that they were incredibly funny.

If you’re a Timmy Failure fan grab a copy of The Cat Stole My Pants now.  If you haven’t read a Timmy Failure book yet, what are you waiting for!

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Grandad’s Guitar by Janine McVeagh and Fifi Colston

Sharing stories is an important part of our whakapapa. We share stories so that those who came before us are remembered and celebrated. Some of these stories lend themselves well to being made into a book that can be shared with people all over the world.  Janine McVeagh’s story of her husband and the connection that he made with their grandson through his guitar is one of these stories. In Grandad’s Guitar, Janine brings her family’s story to life with the help of Fifi Colston’s wonderful illustrations.

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Kahu receives a battered, old guitar for his birthday. He would much rather have a shiny new one, but as his grandmother tells him the story of this guitar Kahu learns how to play the instrument and learns of his connection to his grandad. The guitar once belonged to his grandad who took it all over the world, along with his grandma. They traveled to England, France and Greece before coming home through Iran, Afghanistan and India. The guitar may look old and battered but it is quite a treasure that is now Kahu’s.

Grandad’s Guitar is a fantastic story that celebrates music and its power to connect people across countries and generations.  It shows the importance of sharing family stories to keep the memories of those who are no longer with us alive.  Janine’s storytelling makes you feel like you are a member of the family listening to her story.

I love the look and feel of this book. Makaro Press have done a wonderful job with the production of the book.  The paper is thick and the illustrations are glossy so you almost feel like you are holding Fifi’s original illustrations in your hands. Fifi’s illustrations take you back in time to the 60s, showing the fashion of the times and showing the different cultures through the food and clothing.  I especially love the music notes that flow through the illustrations.

This is a great book to share with children young and old. It’s an especially good book to use in a classroom because you could explore many different aspects of the story, from music and its ability to connect people, to family stories and how these are passed down the generations, or even looking at the different cultures that Kahu’s grandparents visit on their travels with the guitar.  With Matariki just around the corner I think this is the perfect book to share, as one of the things we celebrate at Matariki is our whakapapa.

Makaro Press have also created some wonderful teacher’s notes to go with the book too – http://www.makaropress.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Final-Teachers-Notes-Grandads-Guitar.pdf

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The Jamie Drake Equation by Christopher Edge

Christopher Edge’s previous book, The Many Worlds of Albie Bright was science fiction for kids at its best. Christopher effortlessly wove actual science with fiction into a story about a boy’s search for his mum across multiple dimensions. It is a fantastic book that the kids at my school have loved and I’ve certainly enjoyed discussing the story with them. Christopher’s latest book, The Jamie Drake Equation, is another brilliant science fiction story that readers young and old will devour.

Repro_JamieDrake_cvr.inddHow amazing would it be to have a dad who’s an astronaut?

Rocket launches, zero gravity, and flying through space like a superhero! Jamie Drake’s dad is orbiting the Earth in the International Space Station and Jamie ought to think it’s cool but he just really misses him…

Hanging out at his local observatory, Jamie picks up a strange signal on his phone. It looks like alien life is getting closer to home. But space is a dangerous place and when his dad’s mission goes wrong, can Jamie prove that he’s a hero too?

The Jamie Drake Equation tore apart my atoms, shook them up and put me back together again. It made me smile, broke my heart and left me in awe of the universe.  The story is narrated by Jamie so you really get inside his head and experience his sadness, embarrassment , heartbreak, wonder and awe.

Ultimately this is a story about a boy and his connection with his father who he just wants to return to him on Earth. Jamie’s dad is often away, training for missions or up in space, and Jamie and his family have had to live all over the world for his dad to achieve his dreams. Jamie really misses his dad and just wants him to be home, rather than talking to him on a screen. His dad’s latest mission is to launch nano-spacecraft in to space to look for signs of alien life. However, it’s Jamie who makes contact with an alien race when he accidentally downloads a transmission to the Hubble Telescope to his phone. Soon Jamie is discovering more about aliens and the universe than he ever thought he would.

Like The Many Worlds of Albie Bright, the thing I love most about The Jamie Drake Equation is the way that Christopher not only tells a fantastic story but also teaches you about the wonders of the universe. I never knew about things like a star’s ‘Goldilocks zone’, or that one of our closest stars, Proxima Centauri, is only four and a quarter light years from Earth. Reading this book made me want to desperately visit an observatory to look at the stars (something I’ve never done).  I’m sure Christopher will inspire kids to want to explore the universe too.

The Jamie Drake Equation is perfect for readers who love adventure, science and space, stories about families, or anyone who just loves a gripping story.   It would be a great read aloud for Years 6-8 as it will certainly grab kids (and teachers).  I wonder where Christopher Edge will take us next?

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Beetle Queen by M.G. Leonard

From the moment I started reading M.G. Leonard’s debut, Beetle Boy, I fell in love with her storytelling, her characters and her wonderful beetles.  I gobbled up Beetle Boy and even a year after reading it I find myself thinking about Darkus and his friends.  I have been eagerly anticipating the sequel, Beetle Queen, for ages because I need to return to that story and find out what is happening.  I couldn’t wait until it is released in New Zealand (and neither could several of my favourite readers at my school) so I bought a copy from the UK.  Beetle Queen is even better than I was hoping it was going to be.

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Cruel beetle fashionista, Lucretia Cutter, is at large with her yellow ladybird spies.

When Darkus, Virginia and Bertolt discover further evidence of her evil, they’re determined to stop her. But the three friends are in trouble. Darkus’ dad has forbidden them to investigate any further – and disgusting crooks Humphrey and Pickering are out of prison. Hope rests on Novak, Lucretia’s daughter and a Hollywood actress, but the beetle diva is always one scuttle ahead …

Beetle Queen is a superb sequel and I would say it’s the best second book in a trilogy that I have ever read.  M.G. Leonard transports you straight back in to the story, almost exactly where the previous book ended.  All the things that I loved about Beetle Boy are in Beetle Queen – the wonderful characters that you either love or love to hate, the brilliant storytelling which feels quite magical, the sense of adventure, and all the beetles.  The sense of joy that Darkus experienced after rescuing his dad and bringing him home doesn’t last long before he loses him again.  We saw the determination of Darkus, Bertolt and Virginia in the first book so we know that they will do anything to stop Lucretia Cutter’s plans and bring Darkus’ dad home again.

The thing I love the most about Beetle Queen is M.G. Leonard’s characters.  Darkus, Bertolt and Virginia are clever, determined and caring.  They would do anything to protect their beetle friends and they certainly have plenty of challenges that they have to face in Beetle Queen.  Humphrey and Pickering, the bumbling (and quite peculiar) cousins are back again and trying to get what is owed to them by Lucretia Cutter.  They make me laugh every time they appear in the story because they are just so hopeless and you know things aren’t ever going to go well for them.  Lucretia Cutter is delightfully sinister and we learn more about her wicked plans.  I love Baxter, Newton, Marvin and Hepburn, the beetle side-kicks who all play important roles in Darkus’ plans to stop Lucretia Cutter.  They manage to express so much with just a flutter of elytra or twitch of antennae. The stand-out character in Beetle Queen though, for me, has to be Darkus’ Uncle Max.  He kept on surprising me in this book, because he often reacted quite differently to what I was expecting.  He is very supportive of Darkus and always backs him up.

I am so excited to read the finale, Battle of the Beetles, but I’ll have to wait until next year to find out how it all ends.  In the mean time I urge everyone to read Beetle Boy and Beetle Queen because you will fall in love with Darkus and his Coleopteran friends.  They are the perfect books to read aloud to a Year 5 or 6 class or snuggled up in bed with your children at night.

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Here come the Miniwings!

Miniwings is a terrific new series by Sally Sutton and illustrated by Kirsten Richards that I have to rave about.  The first two books in this new series have just been released and I can’t get enough of them.  I want my own set of Miniwings!

The Miniwings series is about two sisters, Clara and Sophia, and the mischievous little Miniwings (think My Little Pony toys that come alive whenever it’s just them and the girls).  There is Moonlight (a unicorn who loves his food), Glitterwing (who rains glitter when she flaps her huge, sparkly wings), Whizz (a fast little pony who loves playing tricks), Comet (a show-jumping and dressage star who hates losing), Firestorm (who is brave and a little bossy) and Oceana (who is loves the water and is very messy).  They love to have fun and play tricks so they are always getting Clara and Sophia in to trouble.

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Glitterwing’s Book Week Blunder is about Clara and Sophia getting ready for Book Week at their school.  They meet their favourite author and try to make their book character costumes, with a little help from the Miniwings.

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In Whizz’s Internet Oopsie, the Miniwings discover the internet and the marvels of shopping online.  When they are left at home while the girls go to school the Miniwings find Mum’s credit card and go shopping.  When deliveries start turning up on their doorstep Clara and Sophia have to figure out how to sort out the mess, especially when one of their surprise packages is a goat.

I love everything about these books!  The covers are really eye-catching, with their appealing colours and sparkly stars, so you just know that girls in particular are going to be desperate to get their hands on them.  The Miniwings themselves are adorable but also super mischievous.  They each have very different personalities and Kirsten Richards shows this in her stunning illustrations.   Sally Sutton’s stories are so much fun to read and I know that kids are going to read these books over and over.  Sally has a lot of fun with language and has created her own Miniwing-ese.  The Miniwings  like to use words like ‘noggin-flash’ (idea) and ‘delishy’ (tasty).  The Miniwings also like to burst in to song throughout the story which made me laugh every time.

The Miniwings series are perfect for young readers who are just getting in to chapter books.  These fun, engaging stories are sure to hook young readers on books for life.  I can’t wait to see what the Miniwings get up to next!

 

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Interview with CATs hero Claude D’Bonair

Award-winning author and illustrator, Donovan Bixley, is currently chronicling the heroic adventures of the famous CATs pilot, Claude D’Bonair.  Donovan very kindly put me in touch with Claude, who took some time out from fighting the dastardly DOGZ to answer my questions.

  • We’ve heard the tales of your daring missions so far.  What are the three most important things to take with you on a mission?
Phew Zac, you had to start with a hard question. Let me think … well, the truth is that we never know where the next mission will take us, or what danger we’ll be heading in to. You can’t rely on anything. You might find yourself deep in enemy territory without your squadron. You might even lose your plane … which happens to me more often than I’d like to admit! Quick thinking and fearlessness has helped me get out all sorts of dangerous situations. So, I guess the best thing I can take on a mission is my courage and inventiveness … that, and a packet of cat biscuits.
  • How do you prepare before going off on a mission?
You’re asking the wrong cat. I’m not much for preparing. I just try and figure out what to do as I go along. My friend, Syd – he’s actually more like an uncle to me – he likes to “prepare” for a mission by eating and sleeping. Syd says, “In war, you never know when you’ll get you’re next meal”… that doesn’t explain why he used to eat and sleep all the time before the war too!
For me, a change is as good as a rest. I like to clear my mind, practicing Meowzaki, the martial art I learnt from my dad.
  • C-for is the cat responsible for the brilliant inventions that help you on your missions. What is your favourite of C-for’s inventions?
It would have to be his exploding fake dog poop.
  • You get in to some pretty hairy situations on your missions.  Who is the best cat to have by your side when catastrophe strikes?
When catastrophe strikes, it usually means you’ve downed your plane behind enemy lines. In those situations you want someone who doesn’t just follow orders. You want someone who speaks their mind and thinks on their feet. I think I’d want to have Manx at my side when I’m in a tight jam. Manx and I just got back from a dangerous mission in Venice and really she saved my tail that time. Manx is a top engineer and real problem solver in tricky situations.
  • Your dad was a race car driver, adventurer and pilot and you certainly seem to have inherited his bravery.  What was one of the most important lessons that you learnt from him?
Ha ha, that makes me think of a time when I was young, when dad and Syd took me on one of their crazy adventures to Japan. Syd is always suspicious of new things – but this one time, he thought wasabi paste was a lip cream – ha ha – after that, he wouldn’t eat Japanese food for the rest of the trip.
My dad was completely different. He was never afraid to try new experiences. It can be scary at first, especially when you’re in a new place and you don’t speak their language, but you soon find that they are just like you. Whether someone was cat or dog, ginger striped, or black and white spotted, my dad always treated others they way he wanted to be treated. So I guess he left me with two great lessons: to be fair and to be fearless. I owe my life to those lessons, and even though CATs are at war with the DOGZ army, I’ve often made friends with dogs who’ve helped me when I’ve been in greatest need.
  • What do you like to do when you’re not off foiling the DOGZ plans?
You know, I’m not one of those cats who like to lounge around sleeping all day (unlike some cats I could name). I love to get out and see the world and try new things. One day, when cats and dogs are living in peace again, I want to take off and see some of the friends I’ve made around the world. That will make for some exciting adventures.
Claude

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