Tag Archives: animals

Picture Book Nook: A Hare, A Hound and Shy Mousey Brown by Julia Hubery

The best picture books are those where the text and the illustrations are perfectly matched.  Even though the author and illustrator may have worked in different parts of the world, the book is so perfect that they could have been working side by side.  A Hare, a Hound and Shy Mousey Brown, written by Julia Hubery and illustrated by Jonathan Bentley is one of those rare picture books.

‘There’s a hare in the air, there’s a hound on the ground, and watching them both is shy Mousey Brown.’  On the first page we meet these three very different characters.  The hare is bouncing around, full of joy, while Mousey Brown watches on, hoping the hare will notice him.  But when the fearless hare dances right up to the hound and tries to wake him, Mousey Brown has to be brave and save the hare from the hound’s jaws.

A Hare, a Hound and Shy Mousey Brown is a beautifully illustrated picture book, full of joy, mischief, and three very loveable characters.  Julia Hubery’s rhyming text begs to be read aloud and it simply rolls off your tongue.  It’s the sort of story that’s perfect to act out because of the three different characters and their very different personalities.  The hare has lots of energy and is always bouncing around, the dog is pretending to sleep, and Mousey Brown is just watching from afar and trying to warn the hare.  Jonathan Bentley’s illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and he’s perfectly captured the personalities of the three different characters.  The illustrations are cute but full of character.  I love the way that Jonathan has captured the complete joy and carefree nature of the hare, the irritation of the hound, and the admiration and worry of Mousey Brown.  Even before I opened the book and read the wonderful story inside, Jonathan’s front cover grabbed me and I knew it was going to be special.

Like Mousey Brown, my heart goes pitter-pat-pounding with love for Julia and Jonathan’s book.  I hope that we see more picture books by this amazing duo.

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The Drover’s Quest by Susan Brocker

Over on the Christchurch Kids Blog (Christchurch City Libraries’ blog for children aged 8-12 years) our June Star Author, Susan Brocker has just released a fantastic new book called The Drover’s Quest.  It’s filled with Susan’s favourite things, including history and animals, and it’s set in New Zealand in the 1860s.

Rumour is flying around the west coast gold fields that Tom McGee has struck it rich and found a nugget of gold as big as a man’s fist. So no one is surprised when next his campsite is found wrecked and abandoned. Men have been killed for a lot less on the tough goldfields of 1860s New Zealand.

But one person is convinced Tom is not dead. His headstrong daughter, Charlotte.  Solving the mystery is not her first task, though. First, she must get to the coast. A skilful horse rider, she disguises herself as a boy and joins a cattle drive across the Southern Alps. To survive the dangerous drive over Arthur’s Pass and to keep her identity hidden from the vicious trail boss, she’ll need the help of her dog, her horse, and her father’s friend, Tama. She knows she can do it – she has to – but what will she find? And will her new American friend, Joseph, help or hinder her quest?

Charlie is in for the ride of her life – and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

If you love stories set in the past, stories about animals or stories with lots of adventure then The Drover’s Quest is the book for you.  The story starts in Christchurch and the characters travel over Arthur’s Pass to Hokitika on the West Coast.  These are my favourite parts of our beautiful country and I’ve travelled the route they took many times so I could see it clearly in my head.  It’s a route that is very quick and easy to travel today but was very rugged and dangerous in the 1860s.  There is a very tense part in the book where the drovers are taking the cattle down the Otira Gorge (it had me on the edge of my seat).

I really liked the characters, especially Tama and Joseph who bring different cultures into the story, and Scar because I couldn’t figure out whether he was good or bad.  The animals are also important characters in the story and they are incredibly loyal to their masters.

Check out the Christchurch Kids Blog throughout June to find out more about The Drover’s Quest from our June Star Author, Susan Brocker.

5 out of 5 stars

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The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Have you ever read a book that makes you want to pull the characters into your arms, rock them gently and tell them everything is going to be OK?  This is exactly what I wanted to do the whole way through Katherine Applegate’s beautiful story, The One and Only Ivan.

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla.  Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain.  He rarely misses his life in the jungle.  In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog.  But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home – and his own art – through new eyes.  When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

From the opening lines, ‘I am Ivan. I am a gorilla.  It’s not as easy as it looks,’ you are transported into Ivan’s head and see the world through his eyes.  You read everything Ivan thinks and remembers, sees, touches, tastes and smells.  Ivan comes out with some real pearls of wisdom and I found myself writing down so many quotes that I wanted to remember later.  Things like,

“In a Western, you can tell who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, and the good guys always win.  Bob says Westerns are nothing like real life.”

There is a real sadness to the story, because these once great majestic beasts are locked away in cages, but the friendships between them help them to deal with their situation and add humour to the story.  It’s these friendships and Ivan’s need to protect Ruby that bring a sense of hope.  Ivan wants Ruby to have a better life than the one that he has lead, locked up in the mall.  Katherine Applegate’s writing is absolutely beautiful and I wanted to savour every word.  The stream of consciousness writing style she has used for this book means that she has obviously chosen her words very carefully.  Her writing is incredibly descriptive and, like Ivan, she paints a vibrant picture for you.  This is my one of my favourite descriptions,

“Because she remembers everything, Stella knows many stories.  I like colourful tales with black beginnings and stormy middles and cloudless blue-sky endings.  But any story will do.”

I can’t recommend The One and Only Ivan highly enough.  It’s a story that will affect you and the characters will stay with you long after you close the covers.

 5 out of 5 stars

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Not Bad for a Bad Lad by Michael Morpurgo

Michael Morpurgo’s latest book is about a boy who is always getting into trouble.  Everyone is always telling him he’s a bad lad.  He gets caught playing on bomb sites, banging rubbish bin lids and stealing tomatoes and even a car.  He gets arrested and sentenced to a year in Borstal, which was a prison for young offenders where they could learn a trade like carpentry, painting or bricklaying.  The judge sends him there to think things over and learn his lesson.  The first few months are tough and the boys are worked hard, ‘laying bricks for hours on end in all weathers, making bread in the kitchens, weeding in the vegetable garden.’  Every morning the boys have to go on a two-mile run and the bad lad likes running past the stables.  One morning, as he goes past the stables the old man who looks after the horses calls him over and offers him an amazing opportunity to help out in the stables. This opportunity helps him to turn his life around and make his family proud of him.

Not Bad for a Bad Lad is another amazing story from Michael Morpurgo and Michael Foreman, the author and illustrator of War Horse, Kaspar: Prince of Cats and Billy the KidMichael Morpurgo often writes stories about an older person telling a child about their interesting life, and this is one of those stories.  The story is inspirational and Michael Foreman’s illustrations add perfectly to the story.  Don’t get put off by the picture of the horse on the front cover because this isn’t just a story about a horse.  This is a must-read for all Michael Morpurgo fans, but a great book to delve into if you haven’t read any of his books yet.  

Recommended for 9+    10 out of 10

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The Wolf in the Wardrobe by Susan Brocker

When Finn comes across a car accident, little does he realize that his life is about to change forever.  The huge, injured animal he discovers is no dog – but a wolf, escaped from the circus that he went to with his Dad.  Finn knows that he must save the wolf, Lupa, and prevent her from returning to the circus and the sinister circus clown, Cackles, who torments her.

Finn takes her to the vet and they patch her up, but then he has to figure out how he will pay the vet bill.  Where will he hide her and how will he feed her?  When Finn’s Nana discovers Lupa in the wardrobe, he thinks he’ll be in big trouble, but his Nana thinks Lupa is her old dog Molly and she only wants to keep her safe.  Meanwhile, Cackles the Clown is hot on their trail and will stop at nothing to get Lupa back.  But Cackles doesn’t even like wolves though so why is he so determined to get her?

The Wolf in the Wardrobe is a great story about a boy who will do whatever he can to protect his animal friend.  Finn gives up the things that he loves so that he can earn extra money to help Lupa and learns all that he can about wolves to help take care of her.  Finn’s Nana was my favourite character, because she made me laugh and even though she would forget who Finn was sometimes, she’d help him to care for Lupa.  I also liked the character of Cackles because he was so sinister and creepy.  If you like books about animals or just a story with great characters, you’ll love Wolf in the Wardrobe by Susan Brocker.    Recommended for 9+    8 out of 10

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