Sparks! Double Dog Dare by Ian Boothby and Nina Matsumoto

Sparks! by Ian Boothby and Nina Matsumoto is one of the funniest graphic novels for kids. I recommend it to kids in my library all the time. When I saw that there was a sequel coming I was super excited and I’ve been counting down the days. When I opened a book delivery for my school library the other day it was on the top and I did a little squee of excitement. Double Dog Dare is everything I hoped it would be – silly, funny and action-packed.

Charlie and August are two cats keeping their city safe, dressed in the mechanical superhero dog suit known as Sparks. When there is a family trapped in a burning building, a twister heading for a bus full of children or a pizza truck that’s crashed into the ocean, Sparks is there to save the day. But when a second, evil Sparks shows up and starts causing trouble everyone blames the real Sparks. Who is this fake Sparks and what do they want? It’s up to Charlie and August to uncover the truth and prove that Sparks is a good boy.

Double Dog Dare is another hilarious, explosive adventure with Charlie and August. While we don’t have the alien baby overlord in this story there is a lot of action, with explosions, fire and fights. August’s inventions always make me laugh and I especially love the way he uses the most advanced laser beam in the world. Charlie loses his confidence when a new cat moves in across the road. This cat is polydactyl (meaning it has extra digits on its paws) and Charlie thinks that August wants to replace him. After all, a cat with thumbs could do some pretty awesome things in the Sparks suit. Charlie’s insecurity leads to us getting a flashback to his life before he met August.

The story and the illustrations feel bigger and bolder than the first book. I really love the action of Nina’s illustrations that flows really nicely from panel to panel. I want to give a special mention to David Dedrick, the colourist of this book. The colours are sharp and really make the illustrations jump off the page. There is a lot of action in the story and David’s colours make the action pop.

I highly recommend both Sparks books and they have the kid tick of approval too (the first book is hardly ever on the shelf in my library). I hope there will be more Spark books to look forward to.

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

Be prepared to fall madly in love with the most stunning celebration of books that you will ever read!


Ever since I first heard about A Child of Books I have been eagerly awaiting its release.  It is the first collaboration between Oliver Jeffers and another artist, typographical fine artist Sam Winston.  There have been a few teaser images, showing illustrations made up of text, and I knew I needed to have this book.  It has just been released and it is absolutely stunning!

A Child of Books is about a little girl who sails her raft ‘across a sea of words’ to arrive at the house of a small boy. She invites him to come away with her on an adventure where they can journey through ‘forests of fairy tales’, ‘across mountains of make-believe’ and ‘sleep in clouds of song’. Guided by his new friend, the boy unlocks his imagination and a lifetime of magic lies ahead of him… But who will be next?

A Child of Books is a celebration of stories, books and reading, that you will want to read again and again.  It’s one of those books that you will find something new in each time you read it.  You might notice a line from a book that you missed the last time or note the significance of a particular line of text.  I want to take this book everywhere with me and show it to everyone I meet.  However, I also want to take the book apart and have the pages on the walls of my house and my school library to look at every day.

Oliver Jeffers’ characteristic illustrations and hand drawn text that I already love is combined with Sam’s astonishing typographical landscapes that I couldn’t get enough of.  Sam has taken excerpts from classic children’s stories and nursery rhymes, from Treasure Island to Alice and Wonderland, and shaped them into stunning creations.  There is an ocean made from castaway stories and clouds made from lullabies.

If I ever doubt why I do what I do all I need to do is open this book.  If anyone questions the validity of libraries and librarians all I need to do is put this book in their hands.  A Child of Books is my picture book of the year and it will always have a special place in my heart.

Buy this book for your collection and share it with everyone in your life.

Reading survey for parents from CORE Education

Sue Bridges, Literacy Facilitator at CORE Education is looking to gather information from parents of primary-aged children for her research on reading help at home.  Sue is wanting to gather information about the ways in which parents and whanau are helping with reading at home – including both traditional and digital resources.  Please find the info about it below and the links to the survey.  If you know any other parents of primary-aged children please encourage them to fill in the survey too.

Reading Help at Home Survey

Helping your child to learn to read at home used to be just about your child bringing home today’s reading book from school (in a folder), to read with you.  Nowadays, with the addition of digital devices, it may look and feel a little different.

Sue and Catriona are experienced teachers, educational facilitators and researchers. We are carrying out research across New Zealand into whānau/parents’ views and current experiences of helping their children to learn to read. This will give us useful information to share with schools so they can better support children’s literacy learning in partnership with whānau/parents.

YOU are invited to contribute your experiences and views about this important process. It will take about 10-20 minutes. All information about this voluntary survey is at the beginning.  The survey will be open through the July holidays 2016.

It’s easy to take part:

Many thanks for considering sharing your valuable experience and ideas with us. If you have friends who are parents of primary children at other schools, please feel free to pass this invitation on to them.

Sue Bridges  (; ph 021 569 041)

Catriona Pene (; ph 021 390 604)

Win a copy of Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

Kate DiCamillo’s new book, Raymie Nightingale, is an up-lifting, soul-expanding story. It’s a story of an unexpected, life-changing friendship, packed with unforgettable characters. I’m a huge Kate DiCamillo fan and I loved this book. You can read my review here on the blog.


Thanks to everyone who entered.  The winners are William, Leanne and Tami.

Polar Bear’s Underwear by Tupera Tupera

Polar Bear is sad.  He’s lost his underwear and doesn’t know what pair he was wearing today.  Luckily Mouse comes along to help him find them.  They set off to find Polar Bear’s underwear and see all sorts of underwear along the way.  They see underwear with stripes on them and underwear with treats all over them, itty-bitty underwear and frilly underwear.  None of these pairs are Polar Bear’s but they do belong to other animals.  Will Polar Bear find his underwear?

Polar Bear’s Underwear is a giggle-inducing picture book full of surprises.  The team behind this book, Tatsuya Kameyama and Atsuko Nakagawa, tell a simple story with sparse, clever illustrations and their combination works really well.  The delight of this book is in the design, with the cut-out pages helping to provide some suspense.  The illustrations give little clues about who the underwear might belong to.  Who might a pair of underwear with carrots all over it belong to?

Polar Bear's Underwear

Children will love turning the pages to see what type of underwear is next and whose it might be.  The children I have shared the book with have laughed every time the underwear and its owner have been revealed. If you haven’t laughed by the time you get to the last few pages you certainly will when you find out where Polar Bear’s underwear actually are.

Grab a copy of Polar Bear’s Underwear and share it with the children in your life.

2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults: Interview with Kyle Mewburn


Kyle Mewburn 15_smlDragon Knight: Fire!, written by Kyle Mewburn and illustrated by Donovan Bixley, has been voted for by kids all over New Zealand as a finalist in the Children’s Choice Junior Fiction  category. Dragon Knight: Fire!  is also on the judge’s finalist list. Kyle and Donovan have collaborated previously, on the best-selling Dinosaur Rescue series.

Central Otago-based Kyle Mewburn has form on his side in the Children’s Choice game, having won this prestigious award twice previously, with Kiss Kiss! Yuck Yuck!, and Melu , both illustrated by Ali Teo and John O’Reilly.

  • As an author, you must have a lot of ideas floating around. How did you decide to write this series?

I don’t usually let my ideas float around in case they escape – or some other sneaky author steals one. My ideas are kept securely locked up in a deep, dark dungeon in the bottom of my brain. Unfortunately ideas can be very stubborn sometimes and refuse to reveal their secrets, no matter how nicely I talk to them. So generally I have to resort to torture.

I decided to write my Dragon Knight series because I knew lots of fans of Dinosaur Rescue would be very angry if I didn’t write a new series soon. My publisher wanted a series with dragons, but I wanted to write about a boy who goes to Knight School (I can never resist a pun. Indeed, some of my best stories have started as a simple pun!). Luckily ,dragons and knights go together perfectly.

  1. Tell us a bit about the journey from manuscript to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in publishing this book?

The journey was relatively smooth sailing. Apart from a few editorial tweaks the story went through the entire publishing process relatively unscathed. The only hurdle was rewriting a couple of the “fact” boxes because they apparently “weren’t funny enough”. The biggest challenge was drawing the pictures. Luckily, I had nothing to do with that.

  1. How did you tailor this book to the age-group it reaches?

I don’t think it’s at all helpful to imagine yourself “tailoring” a story to any age group. That suggests any writer can write for any age group through a process of careful selection. I don’t actually agree that’s the case. The process is more organic than that. Either you can access your inner child or you can’t. If you can, then the stories tend to evolve naturally and take on a life of their own. If you can’t, then it’s no point really trying because any story you write will be prescriptive and fail to touch the reader. The only “tailoring” is actually more along the lines of editorial tinkering, such as debating the appropriateness of specific vocabulary or sentences structures.

FA (Page 1)

  1. Who have you dedicated this book to, and why?

Dragon Knight – Fire! is dedicated to Rio. I met Rio’s mum when I was at the Leipzig Book Fair – she was working for the NZ embassy at the time. She told me Rio was a super-keen reader, so I gave her some Dinosaur Rescue books. Rio loved them and started writing to me. When I finally met him a few years later I’d just finished writing Fire!, so I gave it to him to read. His verdict: “This is going to be HUGE. But make sure you include plenty of lists. Kids love lists.” So I decided to dedicate it to him right on the spot!

  1. Can you recommend any books for children/young adults who love this book?

Indeed. I’d recommend my entire Dinosaur Rescue series and the other three episodes of Dragon Knight.

  1. What is your favourite thing to do when you aren’t reading or writing, and why?

When I’m not writing I’m either eating, building or pottering around my garden. When you write full-time it’s always good to do something in-between which doesn’t involve too much thinking. You can let your mind wander so new ideas can sneak up on you. Besides, if I didn’t do something involving physical activity I’d be hugely fat in no time because I really do love eating.

Dragon Knight: Fire! by Kyle Mewburn & Donovan Bixley Scholastic New Zealand ISBN 9781775432593 RRP $12.00 Target age 7 to 10 years


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If you want to know more about Kyle, check out his website here:

If you want to know more about Donovan, check out his website here:

For reviews of Dragon Knight: Fire! and its sequel Rats!, check out the Booksellers NZ review here:

This is day eleven of the blog tour featuring each of the finalists in the Children’s Choice category of the awards, and the first day featuring junior fiction.

Yesterday’s feature was Marmaduke Duck and the Wide Blue Sea, by Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis, both of whom were featured on  Tomorrow’s feature will be a second junior fiction title, 1914: Riding into War, by Susan Brocker, featured on NZ Book Council’s blog:

Creaturepedia by Adrienne Barman

You know sometimes when you see a book and instantly fall in love?  I had one of those moments recently when I laid my eyes on Creaturepedia by Adrienne Barman.  I first saw this book on one of my favourite book websites, Love Reading 4 Kids and the cover really caught my eye.  When I finally got my hands on a copy of the book from my library I fell in love.  Excuse me while I gush over this book.

Creaturepedia is a visually stunning book about creatures from all over the world.  The book’s by-line is ‘Welcome to the Greatest Show on Earth,’ and it’s not wrong.  Adrienne Barman introduces us to creatures great and small, huge and miniscule. Adrienne has split the book up into different sections, with names like ‘The Champion Breath-Holders,’ ‘The Masters of Camoflage,’ and The Show-Offs.’  The beauty of this book though is that it is perfect for dipping in and out of.  You could pick any page at random and it would make you go ‘Wow!’  Curious children could flick to ‘The Lilliputians’ and discover that the Bee Hummingbird is the world’s smallest bird at 5.7cm long or that the Dwarf Gecko is the world’s smallest reptile at 1.6cm long.

The text in the book is sparse, letting the reader focus on the gorgeous illustrations that portray these creatures.  Children will discover creatures that they never knew existed and will want to find out more about them.  Adrienne’s illustrations are vibrant, quirky and fun.  Each of the creatures has its own unique personality.  Take a look at just a couple of the page spreads from the book:

Artwork credit: This is an excerpt from Creaturepedia by Adrienne Barman, published by Wide Eyed Editions.

Artwork credit: This is an excerpt from Creaturepedia by Adrienne Barman, published by Wide Eyed Editions.

Before you even open the book you can tell you’re holding a work of art in your hands.  The publisher of Creaturepedia, Wide Eyed Editions, clearly knows what makes a great book.  The love that went into producing this book is evident, from the hardcover to the binding and the vibrant colours to the high-quality paper.

Get your hands on a copy of Creaturepedia by Adrienne Barman and fall in love with this stunning book!

Creaturepedia is just one of the gorgeous books published by Wide Eyed Editions (distributed in Aus/NZ by Allen and Unwin).  Check out their website now.

Aaron Blabey reads Thelma the Unicorn

Aaron Blabey is one of my favourite picture book author/illustrators.  Not only his is text a delight to read aloud but his stories are full of humour and silliness.  His illustrations are absolutely hilarious too (I especially love his illustrations for his Pig the Pug books).  Thelma the Unicorn is Aaron’s latest picture book and it’s absolutely terrific!  Check out this cool video of Aaron reading Thelma the Unicorn and you can also watch the book trailer for his new series coming from Scholastic in August, The Bad Guys, right here on the blog.

Winners of the 2015 Carnegie and Greenaway Medals

The winners of the 2015 Carnegie and Greenaway Medals were announced on Monday in the UK.  Tanya Landman was awarded the CILIP Carnegie Medal for Buffalo Soldier and William Grill was awarded the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for his debut picture book, Shackleton’s Journey.  They each received a medal and £500 of books to donate to their local library and William Grill also received the Colin Mears Award of £5,000.

xxxxxCharley, a young African-American slave from the Deep South, is freed at the end of the American Civil War. However her freedom is met with tragedy after her adopted mother is raped and lynched at the hands of a mob, and Charley finds herself alone with no protection. In a terrifyingly lawless land, where the colour of a person’s skin can bring violent death, Charley disguises herself as a man and joins the army. Trapped in a world of injustice and inequality, it’s only when Charley is posted to Apache territory to fight “savage Indians” that she begins to learn about who she is and what it is to be truly free.

The judges said: Engrossing from the very beginning, the strong narrative voice engages the reader in the world described; perfectly conveying raw emotions without the overuse of sentimentality. This is a beautiful, powerful piece of writing that will remain with readers long after the last page.

xxxxxIn the last days of the Heroic Age of Exploration, Ernest Shackleton dreamed of crossing the frozen heart of Antarctica, a place of ferocious seas, uncharted mountains and bone-chilling cold. But when his ship, the Endurance, became trapped in the deadly grip of the ice, Shackleton’s dreams of crossing Antarctica were shattered. Stranded in a cold, white world, and thousands of miles from home, the men of the expedition set out on a desperate trek across the ice in search of rescue.

The judges said: This beautiful non-fiction book seems to effortlessly bring a modern and fresh feel to the story of Ernest Shackleton, whilst remaining traditional and classic. This is an exciting, quality book which provides a true experience and reminds us that it is the people, not the journey, that truly matter.

I haven’t read either of these books but they both sound really interesting.  My picks were More Than This by Patrick Ness for the Carnegie and Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell for the Greenaway.  There were certainly some great books on the shortlist and I’m sure it would have been a tough decision.

The Carnegie Medal is awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book for children. The shortlisted books this year were:

  • When Mr. Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan
  • Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossman
  • Tinder by Sally Gardner
  • Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
  • The Fastest Boy in the World by Elizabeth Laird
  • Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman
  • The Middle of Nowhere by Geraldine McCaughrean
  • More Than This by Patrick Ness

The Greenaway Medal is awarded annually for an outstanding book in terms of illustration for children and young people. The shortlisted books this year were:

  • The Promise, illustrated by Laura Carlin
  • Jim’s Lion, illustrated by Alexis Deacon
  • Shackleton’s Journey, written and illustrated by William Grill
  • Dark Satanic Mills, illustrated by John Higgins and Marc Olivent
  • Smelly Louie, written and illustrated by Catherine Rayner
  • Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse, written and illustrated by Chris Riddell
  • Tinder, illustrated by David Roberts
  • Rules of Summer, written and illustrated by Shaun Tan