Category Archives: children’s fiction

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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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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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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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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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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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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Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart

I loved Dan Gemeinhart’s first book, The Honest Truth. It was heartbreaking but such a great story. I was curious to read his new book, Scar Island (which came in the Scholastic Standing Orders). Wow, this book is amazing!  I’ve just finished it (thankfully my toddler had a long nap today!) and it kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. 


The story focuses on Jonathan who has committed a terrible crime that he doesn’t speak about. He has been sent to Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys, a crumbling island fortress that was once an insane asylum. Jonathan is here with 15 other boys who have created various crimes and we meet them through the course of the story. The place is cold and wet and the boys get treated horribly, until something happens to the adults, leaving them to fend for themselves. There are no rules – they can eat what they like, sleep where they like and do whatever they want. However one of them decides that he is in charge and things start to get out of control. When a huge storm heads for the island their world starts to crumble and the only way they can survive is if they work together.
Scar Island is like Holes and Lord of the Flies rolled in to one. It is one of those books you just don’t want to put down. When you’re not reading it you’re wondering what will happen next. It’s an adventure story and a survival story with a dash of darkness.  It’s an immersive story too because you can feel and smell the damp, cold fortress, hear the click of the rats scurrying paws and feel the fear and dread of these boys who are trapped.

Dan keeps you guessing the whole way through. Although most of the boys explain why they are at Slabhenge Jonathan keeps dodging the question. Dan drip feeds you details but doesn’t reveal everything until near the end.  You have to keep reading to find out if everyone survives until the end of the story. 

Scar Island is sure to be the perfect book to hook reluctant readers and it would make a great read aloud for Years 7 and 8.

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