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I Can’t Wait For…Arena 13 by Joseph Delaney

I’m a huge Joseph Delaney fan.  I’ve had the pleasure of hosting him in Christchurch and he’s a wonderful, interesting guy.  I’ve loved the Spooks Apprentice books and have wondered for a while what Joseph will write next.  Arena 13 is the answer to that question.  Read all about it below and check out the spectacular cover.

Arena 13, Joseph DelaneyThe city of Midgard is terrorised by Hob, a terrifying, evil creature who tortures at will and has the rulers of the city completely under his control.

The thirteen fighting arenas in the citiy are forever full with punters eager to make their fortune betting on the fights that take place there. The most popular – and the most terrifying of these – is the thirteen arena, the arena where the Trig fighters battle.

Sixteen-year-old Leith is determined to train as a Trig fighter and gets himself apprenticed to Tyron, the greatest of all trainers. But little does his new trainer or the other apprentices know, Leith has a personal battle to fight. He’s going to avenge the death of his father by killing Hob himself . . .

Arena 13 by Joseph Delaney is available now in NZ from Penguin Random House.

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Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans Book Trailer

So, you think you know about zebras, do you? They’re handsome, eat lots of grass, and um … always getting eaten by lions.

Let’s face it, they’re a little bit boring and stupid, too.

But a tussle with a grumpy gladiator can soon change a zebra… so cheer on our stripy hero, Julius, as he scraps for survival in history’s deadliest theatre:

The Colosseum!

(Just don’t call him a horse!)

Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans by Gary Northfield is an uproariously funny book for ages 7+, full of loads of hilarious illustrations and facts about Romans.  It’s out now from Walker Books.

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My Auckland Writers Festival Experience

I love visiting writers festivals and book conferences because they always leave me feeling pumped and excited about books and reading.  The Auckland Writers Festival is one of my favourite local writers festivals.  It seems to be getting better and better each year.  This year the festival featured some of the biggest international children’s authors, including Anthony Horowitz, David Walliams and Dav Pilkey, as well as local authors and illustrators.  One of my highlights of the festival this year was seeing so many excited kids and their families lining up to get in to the events and the queues of kids waiting very patiently to get their books signed afterwards.

Meeting David Walliams at the Auckland Writers Festival

I was lucky enough to be part of the Christchurch City Libraries team that covered the festival.  Here are the links to my reports from the sessions I attended:

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I’m back!

After a long absence from My Best Friends Are Books I’m back blogging again.  I’ll be sharing my favourite reads, news about new books for kids and teens, interviews and competitions.

I look forward to sharing my love of books with you.

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Lockwood and Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

I love a good ghost story, something that will scare me a bit.  Children’s horror is one of my favourite genres and I’ll snap up anything new that comes along.  When I first heard about Jonathan Stroud’s new series, Lockwood and Co., I knew that it would be exactly the sort of creepy ghost story I would love.  The first book in the series, The Screaming Staircase takes you inside the world of the ghost-hunters of Lockwood and Co. and once you’ve entered you won’t want to leave.

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.
The Screaming Staircase is one of the most exciting books I’ve read this year. Jonathan Stroud had me on the edge of my seat, anticipating a ghost to jump out at me around every twist and turn of the plot.  Jonathan has created such a chilling atmosphere in the book that you hear the creaks and groans of the old houses and almost feel the temperature drop in the room as the characters get closer to the ghosts.  You get caught up in the mystery of the lives of the living and the dead and Jonathan keeps you in suspense.
I love the world that Jonathan has created in the book; one much like ours but one plagued by ghosts of all sorts.  There are different types of ghosts, from a Type One Shade to a Type Two Wraith.  There are Physic Investigation Agencies (of which Lockwood and Co. is one) which specialise in the ‘containment and destruction of ghosts.’  These are run by adult supervisors but rely on the strong physic Talent of children.  It is only children who can see and hear the ghosts so it is up to them to capture them.  There is no mention of when the story is set (which I think just makes the story even better), but there is a mixture of both old-fashioned clothes and weapons, and modern technology.  The ghost hunters’ kit includes an iron rapier, iron chains and magnesium flares, all of which prove extremely necessary when facing the spectral threats.  Jonathan has even included a detailed glossary of terms and types of ghost, which I found really interesting to read after I had finished the book.
The three main characters, all members of Lockwood and Co., are all fantastic characters who really grew on me as the story progressed.  They each have their quirks, especially Lockwood and George, but they make a brilliant team and have each others’ backs when it counts.  There’s no love triangle here, just good old-fashioned camaraderie and getting the job done (if it doesn’t kill them first).  Lockwood, George and Lucy are building their relationship in this book, so there are some tense moments between them (especially George and Lucy) but Jonathan’s dialogue is brilliant.  I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationships develop in the further books.
I can’t wait for more Lockwood and Co.!  If you want a book that you won’t want to put down, that you’ll want to read with the lights on, then Lockwood and Co.: The Screaming Staircase is perfect.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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My Most Anticipated October New Releases

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

You know what it’s like when your mum goes away on a business trip and Dad’s in charge. She leaves a really, really long list of what he’s got to do. And the most important thing is DON’T FORGET TO GET THE MILK. Unfortunately, Dad forgets. So the next morning, before breakfast, he has to go to the corner shop, and this is the story of why it takes him a very, very long time to get back. Featuring: Professor Steg (a time-travelling dinosaur), some green globby things, the Queen of the Pirates, the famed jewel that is the Eye of Splod, some wumpires, and a perfectly normal but very important carton of milk.

Spirit Animals: Wild Born by Brandon Mull

Four children separated by vast distances all undergo the same ritual, watched by cloaked strangers. Four flashes of light erupt, and from them emerge the unmistakable shapes of incredible beasts – a wolf, a leopard, a panda, a falcon. Suddenly the paths of these children – and the world – have been changed forever.
Enter the world of Erdas, where every child who comes of age must discover if they have a spirit animal, a rare bond between human and beast that bestows great powers to both. A dark force has risen from distant and long-forgotten lands, and has begun an onslaught that will ravage the world. Now the fate of Erdas has fallen on the shoulders of four young strangers . . . and on you.

The Lost Boy by Greg Ruth

Some mysteries are too dangerous to leave alone. Nate’s not happy about his family moving to a new house in a new town. After all, nobody asked him if he wanted to move in the first place. But when he discovers a tape recorder and note addressed to him under the floorboards of his bedroom, he’s thrust into a dark mystery about a boy who went missing many, many years ago. Now, as strange happenings and weird creatures begin to track Nate, he must partner with Tabitha, a local girl, to find out what they want with him. But time is running out, for a powerful force is gathering strength in the woods at the edge of town, and before long Nate and Tabitha will be forced to confront a terrifying foe and uncover the truth about the Lost Boy.

Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne

The day the First World War broke out, Alfie Summerfield’s father promised he wouldn’t go away to fight – but he broke that promise the following day. Four years later, Alfie doesn’t know where his father might be, other than that he’s away on a special, secret mission.

Then, while shining shoes at King’s Cross Station, Alfie unexpectedly sees his father’s name – on a sheaf of papers belonging to a military doctor. Bewildered and confused, Alfie realises his father is in a hospital close by – a hospital treating soldiers with an unusual condition. Alfie is determined to rescue his father from this strange, unnerving place.

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is the just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry – and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart.

Demon Dentist by David Walliams

The new jaw-achingly funny novel from David Walliams, the number one bestselling author! Make your appointment if you dare…Darkness had come to the town. Strange things were happening in the dead of night. Children would put a tooth under their pillow for the tooth fairy, but in the morning they would wake up to find…a dead slug; a live spider; hundreds of earwigs creeping and crawling beneath their pillow. Evil was at work. But who or what was behind it…? Read this book and find out!

Pinocchio, retold by Michael Morpurgo

Pinocchio as you’ve never seen him before: telling his own story through the master storyteller and award-winning author of WAR HORSE. “Now – there’s no point in pretending here – I was, and still am deep down, a puppet. Everyone knows Pinocchio is a puppet. I reckon I must be just about the most famous puppet the world has ever known. But the truth is I’m not just a puppet, I’m more than just bits of wood and string. I’m me. So I thought it was about time that I, Pinocchio, told you my story…” So begins this stunningly beautiful interpretation of the classic story. Michael Morpurgo channels Pinocchio‘s words to tell the famous puppet’s story in his own inimitable, cheeky and always funny way. Lavishly illustrated throughout in full colour by the acclaimed Emma Chichester-Clark, this is a must-have gift for all book lovers, and an utterly charming and surprising adaptation of a much-loved tale.

All the Wrong Questions: When Did You See Her Last? by Lemony Snicket

I should have asked the question ‘How could someone who was missing be in two places at once?’ Instead, I asked the wrong question — four wrong questions, more or less. This is the account of the second.

In the fading town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea, young apprentice Lemony Snicket has a new case to solve when he and his chaperone are hired to find a missing girl. Is the girl a runaway? Or was she kidnapped? Was she seen last at the grocery store? Or could she have stopped at the diner? Is it really any of your business? These are All The Wrong Questions.

Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Barcelona, 1980. Óscar Drai finds himself drawn to an old dilapidated mansion where he meets the captivating and elusive Marina. She leads him to the cemetery to witness a mysterious ritual: on the fourth Sunday of every month, a veiled woman alights from a carriage and lays a single rose on an unmarked grave.

Óscar and Marina are swept on a journey into the city’s dark underground of labyrinthine sewers, corrupt policemen, ageing aristocrats, forgotten societies and criminal depravity…to a sinister tale of love, ambition and jealousy that will hold Óscar’s heart forever.

Arclight by Josin L. Mcquein

Marina can’t remember anything about her life before she stumbled out of the Dark and into the Arclight. Where has she come from? How has she survived? Any why do the rulers of the Dark seem determined to destroy her? To find out, she will have to venture back into the Dark.

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Jonathan Stroud talks about Lockwood and Co.

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.
Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again…
Lockwood and Co.: The Screaming Staircase is one of my most anticipated books of 2013.  I love ghost stories and horror for kids and teens, and The Screaming Staircase sounds absolutely fantastic.  I’m looking forward to diving into this one and losing myself in the story.  I’ll post my review later this month, along with some copies to give away.  Check out these videos of author Jonathan Stroud talking about his new book.

Book Trailer

Jonathan Stroud talks about Lockwood and Co.

Jonathan Stroud and the characters in Lockwood and Co.

Jonathan Stroud talks about Lockwood and Co. – Book Two!

Jonathan Stroud on ‘The Problem’ in Lockwood and Co.

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Can you guess the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards finalists?

nzpcba_new_logoThe New Zealand Post Children’s Book Festival starts on Monday 17 June (that’s next week) and our committee here in Christchurch can’t wait to bring the Festival to the children of Canterbury.  The main part of the Canterbury Festival this year is our Roadshow.  We’re taking the finalist books on the road and visiting schools and preschools throughout Canterbury, from Ashburton up to Rangiora.  We’ll be reading and talking about the finalists and I’ll be stepping in to Mister Whistler’s shoes each day.

We wanted to have a cool way to promote the books to the kids in each of our sessions so we came up with the idea of reading an extract from some of the books.  The kids will then have to guess which book the extract comes from.  It’s an easy idea that you could use in your classroom or library too.  See if you can figure out which 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards finalist book these extracts come from.

  • ‘Then came the long metal howl.  In the canyon mouth, Hodie saw a bright blur.  Next moment a wind-train shot out of the canyon and snaked above the valley floor towards the Depot. Lamps shone at the front.  Four large swivelling wings on the engine made it shift this way and that to catch the currents of wind.  Larger wings were spaced along three carriages, one of which looked like a dining car, and a van that must be for luggage.  Concertina metal cages linked the carriages.’
  • ‘All the time, the song raced round and round his head, and his feet tried to dance him round and round the platform.’
  • ‘Gorging grubber, larvae-lover, snail-scratcher, beetle-battler.’
  • ‘He looked out to sea.  He had never been down here at night and he took a moment to enjoy the strangeness of it.  In the patches of light, he thought he made out seaweed in the surging water, and something else, floating out there, waiting.  Seals!  He stood up and shivered in the wind.  He heard it again: ‘The skin. Jake.’ A row of seals, their wet heads dark against the sea, watched him, like a row of sentries guarding the sea.  Or the beach.’
  • ‘The creatures here have to watch out for other hungry animals looking for a meal.  Some dig into the sand to escape.  Some hide under rocks.  Others have clever ways of protecting themselves.’
  • ‘We’re safe where we are, but we don’t wait around to speculate, just run like hell until we’re through the gardens and back in town.  It’s chaos there.  People packing out of offices.  Shops boarding up their windows.  Lucinda takes her leave of us, promising she’ll keep in touch.  All the frantic activity underlines how stuffed I feel, not helped when Mikey whines about being hungry and tired the rest of the way home.’

I hope you all have a great festival week, whatever you may be doing.  I certainly can’t wait until the awards ceremony in Christchurch on Monday 24 June to find out who takes out the awards!

 

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Win a stack of new books from Walker Books for your school

Walker Books Australia have so many fantastic books being released this month.  From a tale of Ancient Greece, to a story of a girl who wants to act but suffers from stage fright, and even a new book by David Almond and Dave McKean.

Thanks to Walker Books I have a stack of their latest release novels to give to one lucky school.  The pack includes:

  • 2013-06-10 17.49.33That Boy, Jack by Janeen Brian
  • Murder at Mykenai by Catherine Mayo
  • In the Wings by Elsbeth Edgar
  • View from the 32nd Floor by Emma Cameron
  • Wild Boy by Rob Lloyd Jones
  • Mouse, Bird, Snake, Wolf by David Almond and Dave McKean

To get in the draw just enter your name and email address in the form below and tell me why your school deserves a stack of books.  These books are suitable for ages 9+.  Competition closes Wednesday 19 June (NZ only).

Thanks to everyone who entered.  The winner is Grace for St George’s School.

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The post in which I gush over Reading Matters 2013

It’s 2 days after the end of Reading Matters 2013 and I still can’t stop thinking about it.  It was unbelievably awesome and  the best conference I’ve been to by far.  I’ve never had so much fun at a conference or come away so excited and motivated.  The Centre for Youth Literature team put together a great programme, with a lineup of some of the best young adult authors from Australia and overseas.  You could tell how much time, effort and passion that the team put into making the conference so engaging, thought provoking, and entertaining.  I already thought they were pretty damn awesome beforehand but I’ll be singing their praises to anyone who wants to listen.

At every other book conference I’ve been to I’ve bunked a couple of the sessions, but the Reading Matters sessions were so good that I didn’t want to miss a minute of them.  The authors, volunteers and the Centre for Youth Literature team kept the energy up the whole time and I was constantly buzzing with excitement. They all must have been pretty worn out by the last session, but it never showed.  They were all incredibly interesting sessions and we all learnt a lot more about the authors than we had bargained for.  I had no idea that some of them had such dirty mouths, but they had us almost falling off our seats with laughter.

I love Australian young adult literature and some of my favourite authors were there, including Vikki Wakefield (All I Ever Wanted, Friday Brown), Gabrielle Williams (Beatle Meets Destiny, The Reluctant Hallelujah), Morris Gleitzman (the Once quartet), and Myke Bartlett (Fire in the Sea).  I also enjoyed meeting and listening to the international authors, especially Raina Telgemeier (Smile, Drama), Keith Gray (Ostrich Boys) and Libba Bray (Beauty Queens, The Diviners).  I have to admit I hadn’t read anything by the international authors prior to the conference but I certainly will be now.  They were all really wonderful people who wrote some lovely dedications in my books.  I’ll be writing some more posts throughout the week about some of the sessions.

I also got the chance to meet some of my awesome fellow bloggers/Tweeters in person.  I was so glad I got to meet Danielle (alphareader.blogspot.co.nz and @danielle_binks ) and Jess (www.thetalescompendium.com and @TalesCompendium )  whose blogs and Tweets I follow, and I could have chatted to them for ages.  Danielle is a super speedy Tweeter so she kept up with everything the authors were saying.  I, on the other hand, was very slow and decided to just retweet Danielle’s.  Between all of the Tweeters there and those who couldn’t be, we even managed to get the official hashtag, #yamatters, trending WORLDWIDE!

To all the authors and the organisers, especially Adele, Nicole, Anna and Jordi from the Centre for Youth Literature, thanks for making Reading Matters an event that I’ll never forget.  The next Reading Matters conference is in Melbourne in 2015 so make sure you get there (I know I’ll be there come hell or high water!).

If you want to catch up on all the #yamatters tweets, check out the hashtag on Twitter.

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