Category Archives: New Zealand author

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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Flying Furballs: Unmasked by Donovan Bixley

Claude D’Bonair and his cat friends are back for their third Flying Furballs adventure in Unmasked.  Donovan Bixley’s Flying Furballs series is one of the best series for young readers around.  The stories are packed with action, close shaves, puns to make you laugh-out-loud, brave cats and horrid dogs.  They are perfect for newly independent readers because there are lots of Donovan’s wonderful illustrations throughout the story and they are just really fun to read.

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Claude D’Bonair is the heroic, young pilot in the CATS Air Corps, who you follow on his adventures in to DOGZ territory.  He flies all over Europe to try and foil the DOGZ plans and rescue fellow cats.  In the latest book in the series, Unmasked, Claude and Manx, CATs’ head engineer, have to go on an undercover mission to Venice to recover some secret plans.  With great escapes, explosions and marvelous inventions, Unmasked is another thrilling story in this fantastic series.

Flying Furballs is hugely popular in my library and I’m always trying to get new kids hooked.  The series is especially great for 7-9 year olds and they would be fantastic stories to read aloud to a Year 3/4 class.  I can’t wait to read more Flying Furballs adventures!

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Ruru’s Hangi by Nikki Slade Robinson

Nikki Slade Robinson’s award-winning picture book, The Little Kiwi’s Matariki, is my favourite book to read around Matariki.  In this book Nikki Slade Robinson introduced young children to Matariki through Kiwi and his friends in a simple yet fun way, using a mixture of English and te reo in the text.  In Nikki’s latest book, Ruru’s Hangi, she introduces young children to the concept of a hangi as the creatures celebrate the arrival of Ruru’s babies.

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Ruru has been sitting on her eggs for 30 days and 30 nights and on day 31 the eggs wriggle and hatch.  Kiwi hears Ruru’s elated cries and goes to tell the other creatures in the forest.  Kiwi has an idea to celebrate the arrival of Ruru’s babies and gets the other creatures to help out.  They dig a hole and gather all of the things that they need to make a hangi.  When the hangi is ready they call Ruru and they share the kai together to celebrate.

Ruru’s Hangi is a perfect introduction to the hangi for young children and is another wonderful bilingual text from Nikki Slade Robinson that is great to share with young children, especially preschoolers.  Nikki introduces children to native birds and creatures, like the Tui, Katipo and Weka who all help to prepare the hangi. Nikki’s illustrations are fun with each of the creatures having a distinct personality.  The Te Reo used is basic and weaves effortlessly in with the English, so this is a great book to share even if you know very little Te Reo.  Nikki uses lots of repetition in the text, like:

‘Ka pai, perfect!’ they said. Shhh! Don’t tell Ruru!’

Nikki ends the book with a simple explanation of how to prepare a hangi, just like the creatures in the book have done.  Ruru’s Hangi is a invaluable resource for early childhood centres and schools.  It is a book that will be used by teachers and librarians around the country but also a book that children will love.  Anyone who is looking for a wonderful bilingual story to share with their children should get a copy of Ruru’s Hangi.

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Lonesome When You Go Blog Tour – Interview with Saradha Koirala

Saradha Koirala is the author of the wonderful Lonesome When You Go, a YA novel that follows Paige and her high school rock band in the lead up to Rockfest.  To help spread the word about Saradha’s book, her publisher, Makaro Press has set up a blog tour.  I’m very pleased to be part of the Lonesome When You Go blog tour and today I get to share my interview that I did with Saradha about her book.  Thanks for joining me Saradha!

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  • What inspired you to write Lonesome When You Go?

I was on a train heading out to Johnsonville to see my brother and his oldest friend and just started thinking about when we all played in a band together in high school and what an excellent and tumultuous time that was in the midst of all the other dramas that those years can throw at you.

I wrote the briefest idea out on a scrap of paper there and then and talked to them about it when I arrived. We had a good old reminisce!

Our high school band’s rise and fall was pretty ordinary really and I wanted the story to be much more dramatic than that. It was a chance to revisit that time but I also ended up amalgamating a bunch of different high school experiences – as student and teacher – and a whole lot of rock and roll times, real and imagined. It seemed like a fun concept and it did turn out to be a lot of fun to write.

Being a high school teacher lent itself quite naturally to wanting to write for teenagers too, and I had an idea of what I thought some of the young women I’d been teaching might want to read about – a cool rock chick who isn’t fixated on a mysterious sparkly boy!

  • What are the songs that shaped teenage you?

I spent a lot of my early teen years listening to whatever I could find in the house, which was mostly popular tunes from the 60, 70s and 80s. It wasn’t until people started giving me mixed tapes and I could buy my own CDs that I really saw how music could change my views of self and shape my teenage identity.

Radiohead, Violent Femmes, Smashing Pumpkins, Dinosaur Jr, Stone Temple Pilots and Shihad were often on high rotation in my CD player. Music is much easier to access these days, but back then I really got to know the few albums I owned inside out! I would analyse the lyrics, read the liner notes, talk to my friends about them, sing along and all that.

I really think those bands of the mid-nineties tapped into a collective feeling that teenagers hadn’t been able to vocalise yet. They gave us permission to feel moody and outraged, while also acknowledging the sweetness we desired from the world. But it’s been a long time since I was a teenager, so maybe that’s Paige talking.

  • What genre of music best sums up your life?

Some days I would say it’s been a bittersweet folk album in the vein of Joni Mitchel’s Blue, but mostly I like to look at life as an Indie pop band full of cheesy catchy lyrics, bright colourful beats and frivolous synthesizers.

If Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan could write a soundtrack for the novel then everything in the world would make sense to me!

Actually I say that because I think he’s a master of creating story and character in very few words, but his music probably isn’t quite garage rock enough to capture the rock and roll aspect of the book.

So in that case, I’d say The Pixies. I kind of had The Pixies in the back of my mind as I described Vox Pop playing and I think they’re just an incredible band with a totally kick-ass bass player.

  • What is the most important lesson that you learned from being in a band?

Because I tend to be quite a self-sufficient person and my favourite things to do (writing and reading) are largely solo tasks, I think playing in bands taught me how to be part of something beyond myself. I never really played team sports, but was always in school orchestras, choirs, chamber music groups and, later on, rock bands.

In all those groups we had competitions to work towards, tours to organise, performances in front of sometimes many, but often very small audiences, rehearsals to get to on time and other band members to consider when making decisions and playing. It isn’t enough to just learn your part well and play it through, you really need to tap into what everyone else is doing and how they’re going, what they need and how what you’re doing affects all of that.

  • As well as being the author of Lonesome When You Go you’re also a poet.  Is the process of writing a novel similar to writing poetry for you?

They’re really very different processes for me and I’ve continued to do both simultaneously since finishing Lonesome. I enjoy being able to shift between the different forms.

When writing a novel I find I can set myself much more tangible goals – 1000 words a day, complete a particular scene etc. It’s a more continuous process too, as you’re developing and building on what you wrote last time and thinking about where you left your characters and what might happen to them next. With a novel there’s a lot of planning involved (for me, anyway) and behind the scenes stuff that helps inform my picture of the characters and their world.

I find poetry more difficult to describe in terms of a process as I’m less systematic about it. The poems come from everywhere and sometimes when I least expect them. I find I need to be open to poetry’s own schedule rather than try and force out a number of lines a day or give myself a deadline to complete something. Poetry doesn’t have to stay within a certain world or voice either, so there’s less need for continuity or meeting reader expectations.

The crafting process is probably similar for both. I think you need to be able to look at the world in a certain way to be a poet, and it’s a way of seeing the world that I really value.

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New Dinosaur Trouble series from Mewburn and Bixley

I’m always on the lookout for great series for young readers who are just starting chapter books.  Sally Rippin’s Billie B Brown and Hey Jack series and James Roy’s Chook Doolan series are always flying off the shelf.  I was really excited to hear that Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley were releasing some new adventures of Arg, the brainy caveboy from their Dinosaur Rescue series, but aimed at beginner readers.  The Great Egg Stink, the first book in their new Dinosaur Trouble series is out now and it is a whole lot of disgusting fun!

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Arg is bored waiting for his mum to bring home some food.  When his mum returns with armfuls of eggs Arg discovers that one of the eggs might hold something he doesn’t want to eat.  Things are about to go from boring to exciting and a bit dangerous, especially if Arg’s sister Hng finds his egg.

The Great Egg Stink is a great intro to the wacky prehistoric world of Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley.  It’s the perfect chapter book for beginner readers, with a simple but entertaining text and heaps of Donovan’s wonderful illustrations.  Like their Dinosaur Rescue series, this new series is full of disgusting details that boys will love and plenty of laughs.  There are farts, vomit and  (my favourite part) an exploding mastadon.

The thing I love the most about the books that Kyle and Donovan create together are the puns.  They don’t disappoint, starting with puns about the ‘web’ and Arg’s ‘tablet.’  They don’t dumb anything down for these younger readers, which makes this series a perfect one to hook kids on reading.

We need more of these clever, engaging early chapter books for young readers so I hope that we see more series like Dinosaur Trouble.  I can’t wait to promote Dinosaur Trouble to the young readers at my school.

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Who Sank the Boat? and Other Stories by Pamela Allen

I love Pamela Allen’s stories.  My parents read them to me when I was young and now I read them to my daughter.  Her stories have stood the test of time and Pamela is still writing and illustrating new stories today.  Penguin Random House New Zealand have just released a beautifully packed collection of Pamela Allen’s stories just in time for Christmas.

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Who Sank the Boat? and Other Stories is a hardback collection of just some of Pamela Allen’s best stories.  Inside you’ll find Who Sank the Boat?, My Cat Maisie, Belinda, Alexander’s Outing, Brown Bread and Honey, Daisy All-Sorts, Grandpa and Thomas, Cuthbert’s Babies and Share Said the Rooster.  There is also some information at the start of the book about Pamela Allen and the many awards that she has won throughout the years.

This is collection to curl up with and share with the young ones in your life.  It’s the perfect gift book to put under the Christmas tree and it is a book that will be shared again and again.  I will certainly enjoy re-living my memories of Pamela Allen’s stories with my daughter as we try to figure out who did sink the boat, how to get Belinda back and try to teach Billy and Ben to share.

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That’s NOT a Hippopotamus! by Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis

Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis are the dream team when it comes to picture books in New Zealand.  They have written and illustrated so many fabulous picture books, from the Marmaduke Duck series to Toucan Can.  Their books are always a joy to read aloud and their latest book, That’s NOT a Hippopotamus! is no exception. Adults and children alike will love this book!

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In That’s NOT a Hippopotamus! we follow a class of children and their poor teacher on an outing to the zoo. They discover that the hippopotamus is missing and they race off all over the zoo as they try to track it down.  Some of the children think they’ve found the hippo but they don’t quite get the right animal.  One of the children, Liam thinks that he sees the hippo but no one pays attention to him.  When it gets to the stage that the children are all forlorn and their teacher has almost had a nervous breakdown Liam finally gets everyone to listen to him.

That’s NOT a Hippopotamus is a hilarious story that will have adults and children in fits of giggles.  After creating so many books together Juliette and Sarah have a real knack for creating funny, entertaining, but also very clever, picture books.  The thing that makes this picture book stand out for me is that there are so many layers to it.  As the children chase after different animals (thinking they’ve found the hippopotamus) Juliette gives the reader little details about each animal so you can guess what it is.  There is this great sense of anticipation about what the animal will be, and you often get it wrong (which makes it even better).  On one page a boy says ‘I see him Miss! He’s on the ground.  I’ll get him while he’s snuffling round.’ There is an elephant’s bottom poking around the end of the page so you think it might be an elephant, but it’s actually a warthog.  Another layer of the story, told through the illustrations, is Liam spotting the hippopotamus.  He tells his teacher that he’s seen the hippo but she doesn’t pay him any attention.  The hippo is actually hiding in the exhibits though, and if you look carefully you will spot him.

I love the way that Juliette MacIver plays with words and she has certainly had fun with this story.  She has used some very clever rhyming and I love what the children yell out each time they catch an animal, ‘I got ‘im, Miss! I got ‘im, Miss! I got ‘im by his trotter, Miss!’  I know kids are going to love calling out ‘That’s NOT a hippopotamus!’ too.

This is a picture book that kids will beg to read over and over again and it is one that I think adults will be very happy to.  I absolutely love it!

 

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Gecko Press’ Gorgeous Annual

Unfortunately I’m not of a generation that grew up with annuals.  I didn’t experience the joy of these volumes, chock-full of activities, stories and quizzes. Thankfully the wonderful Gecko Press have brought back this format with their gorgeous new book, Annual, that a new generation of kids will love.

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Editors Kate De Goldi and Susan Paris have mined the talented authors and illustrators we have here in NZ and gathered these gems into a truly radiant collection.  There are stories, short essays, comics, a song, crafts, activities and a hilarious board game.  There are well-known authors and illustrators, such as Barbara Else, Bernard Beckett and Gavin Bishop, but also some incredibly talented debut authors such as Gavin Mouldey, whose story B.O.N.E. is an absolute wonder.

Annual arrived on my doorstep on the morning that I was going away for a school holiday break with my family, so the timing couldn’t have been more perfect!  There is hours of entertainment in this book and there is something for the whole family. I especially enjoyed Kirsten McDougall’s A Box of Birds, a collection of odd words to take on a road trip.  I was thinking about some of these words as I was driving and I thoroughly confused my family when I yelled out ‘Tally ho, the salt!’ (a phrase to use when you first catch sight of the ocean).  We all enjoyed a ‘pootle’ (a wander along the beach with no destination in mind) and with 12-year-old boys in the car there were more than a few winkybubbles (you’ll have to look that one up yourself).

There are so many things that I love about Annual.  Being a Gecko Press book the standard of production is excellent, from the eye-catching red hardcover to the smell of the high-quality paper.  The variety of pieces in the book is brilliant, with something for every type of kid (and adult for that matter).  There are pieces to make you think, pieces to challenge you, pieces to make you laugh and pieces to unleash your creativity.  One of my favourite pieces is the comic strip Bad Luck Zebra by Sharon Murdoch and Susan Paris, which cracked me up every time I read it. Kate De Goldi, Susan Paris and Gecko Press deserve a standing ovation for this gorgeous book.

You will want to come back to Annual again and again to revisit your favourite bits and uncover some new delight that you might have missed last time.  Get a copy of Annual for everyone on your Christmas list.

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Maui and Other Maori Legends by Peter Gossage

For kids in New Zealand today there are lots of books in Te Reo Maori and retellings of Maori legends that they can enjoy, but when I was a kid there weren’t many around.  The Maori myths and legends that I was introduced to as a kid were those that were retold and illustrated by Peter Gossage.  Through Peter’s books I learned all about how Maui fished up New Zealand, how he discovered fire and how he slowed the sun. As an adult I love these books because the text is simple and the illustrations are striking. Penguin Random House NZ are releasing a very special collection of Peter’s stories this month.

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Maui and Other Maori Legends collects 8 of Peter’s beloved Maori myths, including Battle of the Mountains, The Fish of Maui, How Maui Slowed the Sun and Pania of the Reef. They are presented in a beautiful hardback that will with-stand the many readings that it is sure to have. The copies in my library have been very well loved by kids right from Year 1 to Year 8.  Their readability for any age is one of the things I love most about Peter’s retellings.

Every classroom and library needs to have this collection as it will be an invaluable resource.

 

 

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Starlight Stables by Soraya Nicholas

Starlight Stables is a wonderful new series about three horse-crazy girls from New Zealand author Soraya Nicholas.  Soraya grew up reading the Saddle Club books and dreaming of owning her own pony.  Now Soraya owns her own horses and writes the kind of books she loved when she was a kid.

These books are perfect for those horse-mad girls who are always looking for more books about horses, especially fans of Saddle Club and Stacey Gregg’s books. The stories are set in Australia but NZ girls will really relate to the characters. They don’t just focus on horses though.  There is friendship, competition, rivalry, horse thieves and bush-fires.

The first four books in the Starlight Stables series are all out now, so young readers can get hooked.  They don’t have to read the books in a particular order which is great. Here are the covers and the blurbs for each book.

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Starlight Stables: Pony Detectives

Poppy is thrilled to be back doing the one thing she loves – riding horses at Starlight Stables – especially when her aunt and uncle make all her dreams come true with a gift of her very own horse. But there’s a catch… Poppy must look after the new scholarship girls. Will the bold and troublesome Milly and shy, sensible Katie be the pony-mad friends she’s always hoped for?

When horses go missing from the local farms, Poppy worries about Crystal, her new horse. Will the girls be able to protect their ponies from the horse thief and find the missing horses at the same time?

Gymkhana_Hijinks.jpgStarlight Stables: Gymkhana Hijinks

Horse-mad friends Poppy, Milly and Katie are overjoyed to be back at Starlight Stables and spending every second with their new ponies – riding, training and having fun while preparing for their first big Pony Club competition. But when a rival competitor arrives one day to train with them, trouble seems to seek the girls out at every turn. Is it just coincidence? Or is someone trying to sabotage the three friends’ chances of winning?

Can Poppy, Mily and Katie expose their rival’s risky antics in time to save their chances at the gymkhana?

Bush_BoltsStarlight Stables: Bush Bolts

Poppy is thrilled that her best friend Sarah is finally coming to visit Starlight Stables. She is sure that Sarah will love it as much as she does – especially Poppy’s beautiful pony, Crystal, and her horse-mad friends, fiery Milly and sweet Katie. But it soon becomes clear that Sarah doesn’t share Poppy’s love of horses and riding – in fact, she’s more interested in helping Poppy’s uncle with some bushfire-injured animals.

When a bushfire erupts nearby, Poppy finds herself fighting not only to save her friendship but also to save her beloved Starlight Stables. Will she lose everything she loves?

Saving_StarlightStarlight Stables: Saving Starlight

Poppy’s world is falling apart. Her aunt and uncle have had an ominous visit from the bank because they have lost an important riding sponsor. It means they might have to sell Starlight Stables. Could Poppy lose everything – her beloved Starlight Stables, her beautiful horse Crystal, her friends Milly and Katie, and even her aunt’s Olympic dreams?

Poppy is determined to do everything she can to help. She just has to win the upcoming show-jumping competition so she can give them the prize. But it means she will have to jump higher than she ever has before to save everything she loves.

Win a set of the Starlight Stables books!

Thanks to everyone who entered!  The winner is Carole.

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