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.
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.
Imagine if you could live in a hotel. Not just any hotel, but one where each of the rooms had a different theme. If you like cuddly toys, you could live in a room full of cuddly toys of every size, colour and type. If you like Playstation, you could live in a virtual reality room where you could be a character in any game you chose. In Patrick Carman’s new book, Floors, Leo lives in the weirdest, most wonderful hotel in the whole world, the Whippet Hotel.
Leo Fillmore and his father Clarence live and work at the Whippet Hotel as the caretakers, making sure everything is in working order. The hotel’s eccentric owner, Merganzer D. Whippet disappeared one hundred days ago and hasn’t been seen or heard from ever since. This leaves the mean hotel manager, Ms. Sparks in charge of the hotel, and when the hotel doesn’t work as it should, everybody hears about it. Leo spends his days helping his father maintain the hotel and making sure Betty and the other ducks get walked. One day, as Leo is returning the ducks to their pond on the roof, he discovers a mysterious box in the duck elevator. This box is the first of four that will lead Leo to discover the secrets of the Whippet Hotel and the mystery of the missing Merganzer D. Whippet.
Floors is full of wonder, mystery and mahem, and made me smile the whole way through. Patrick Carman has created this weird and wonderful hotel and filled it with one exciting room after another. There’s a Pinball Room, which is set up like a pinball machine, with bowling balls as the pinball and couches for the flippers; the Cake Room filled with real cakes that are delivered by the chefs each morning; and the Central Park Room which contains a scale model of New York’s Central Park. The characters are just as weird and wonderful as the hotel. There’s Captain Rickenbacker who thinks that his arch-nemesis is out to get him, the obsessive writer, Theodore Bump, and the nasty hotel manager Ms. Sparks. Floors is one of the most fun, imaginative stories you’ll read this year. It’s perfect for fans of Roald Dahl and Lemony Snickett.
5 out of 5 stars.
Finn Marsh is just an ordinary kid who’s not very good at most things. When his class has to do a homework assignment about what they’d like to be when they grow up, Finn decides he’d like to be a superhero. But to be a superhero there are a few things you need, like superpowers, a nemesis, a costume, and you need to save someone’s life. To finish his homework Finn needs to become Super Finn and, with the help of his friend Brain, he must figure out what it takes to be a superhero. When Finn’s mum tells him and his brother that they can’t afford to sponsor their World Vision child, Umbaba anymore, Finn realizes that it’s up to him to raise the money to save him. After their experiments to try and get super-strength and night-vision powers don’t go as planned, Finn and Brain turn to doing dares for money and running a black market junk food business during their lunch break to raise money to help sponsor Umbaba. Are their crazy schemes enough to help save Umbaba’s life and become a superhero?
Super Finn is the funniest book I’ve read in a long time. Finn and Brain are cool characters and you might even have kids like them in your class. The things that they get up to are hilarious and one part of the book, when Finn is in assembly with bags of lollies strapped to his body, made me crack up laughing. I loved the character of Finn because even though he keeps getting in trouble he doesn’t give up his mission to help Umbaba. Super Finn is Leonie Agnew’s first book and I can’t wait to read what she writes next. Recommended for 7+ 10 out of 10