Tag Archives: New Zealand

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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Frankie Potts is back again!

Frankie Potts is the village of Tring’s number one girl detective.  She has flaming red hair, a questioning mind and an addiction to gobstoppers.  And she is REALLY good at solving mysteries. Frankie’s first two adventures saw her trying to solve a whole pile of mysteries including:

  • What’s my (sort of) new dog called, and where’s he from?
  • Why is my grandma acting so oddly?
  • Why are random pink items of clothing going missing all over the village?

Frankie Potts is back in two new adventures – Frankie Potts and the Postcard Puzzle and Frankie Potts and the Wicked Wolves.

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Frankie’s list of mysteries to solve is getting longer by the day. Firstly, her mum is acting very strangely – she’s tired, grumpy and feels sick all the time. And then there’s Grandma M, who keeps dropping hints about expanding her troupe of performing greyhounds: Tinkerbell, Titania and Tiramisu.

With her detective sidekick Mac, Frankie travels to Giggleswick to find out about the mysterious Gideon R. Best, Animal Trainer Extraordinaire, and why he sent a postcard – with two kisses on it – to Frankie’s mum. How can Frankie work out what an overweight donkey, a cuddle-obsessed pig and a pooing parrot have to do with anything? And why has Tinkerbell started to waddle?

Kaboom! Things are getting explosive in Frankie’s family. She had better start solving.

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A band of dancers with bells and blue painted faces have come to Tring, and Frankie can smell a mystery. Who are these Wicked Wolves? How come Grandma M knows them, and wants to pick a fight with them?

Meanwhile, Tinkerbell and Sparkplug’s seven adorable puppies are causing chaos at Frankie’s house. Grandma M is planning to give away four of them, and Frankie and Mac must make sure that they go to good homes. Ralph Peter-McGee, Frankie’s arch-enemy, seems to have his eye on her favourite pup Kettle Thomson. Can Frankie stop Kettle going to the wrong home? And why are those Wicked Wolves sniffing around the puppies?

The Inaugural Tring Talent Contest is rapidly approaching, and Frankie has some serious detecting to do. But maybe not all the clues are quite as they seem.

I can’t get enough of Frankie Potts!  She is a wonderful character that kids, especially girls, will love.  She is really inquisitive and mysteries seem to follow her wherever she goes.  Naturally she needs to solve them and you just know that she’ll find the answers.  She carries a notebook everywhere so she always has a list of mysteries that she needs to solve.  I like the way that these lists are included in the story so that the reader can try to solve the mysteries too.

One of my favourite features of the Frankie Potts series is the design of them.  Phoebe Morris’s illustrations and the bright colours make the covers stand out and look really appealing to the target audience.  I also really love the alliterated titles which sound really cool (Postcard Puzzle, Bikini Burglar).

Get the Frankie Potts series into the hands of any young fans of a good mystery.  I think they would be a good ‘next step’ for fans of Geronimo and Thea Stilton and Billie B. Brown.  Once you’ve read one you’ll be hooked!

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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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Barking Mad by Tom E. Moffatt

The Tom Fitzgibbon Award is a fantastic award given out by Storylines each year that helps to launch the careers of unpublished authors in New Zealand.  There have been some wonderful winners of this award, including Leonie Agnew (Super Finn) and Juliet Jacka (Night of the Perigee Moon), who have gone on to write more great books.  Tom E. Moffatt was the winner of the 2016 Tom Fitzgibbon Award with his book Barking Mad, and judging by this book, Tom has a very bright writing career ahead of him.  Barking Mad is absolutely hilarious!

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At first, Fingers refuses to believe that his Granddad has gone BARKING MAD! But what straight-thinking grownup goes around LICKING the postman, growling like a dog and chasing hospital security guards up trees? And when Fingers and his sister Sally discover a BIZARRE machine in Granddads workshop, mix-ups turn into MIND-SWAPPING madness one look at Granddads dog DaVinci is proof of that!

Barking Mad is a crazy, hilarious read that will have you laughing out loud.  As soon as I read the blurb I knew that this was going to be a book for me and I wasn’t disappointed.  Just the idea of a grandad swapping minds with his dog was enough to make me laugh.  You can just imagine how crazy and silly the story is going to be.  Just when you think the story couldn’t get any funnier, it does.  Can you imagine swapping bodies with your grandad, your sister, or your brother?  That’s probably too scary to even think about!

I really loved the characters in this book.  The main character is Finn Butterby, but everyone calls him Fingers, as in Butter Fingers, because he is quite clumsy.  When Finn gets told that he has to carry his grandfather’s very delicate mind-swapping invention you just know that something is going to go wrong.  I love the way that Tom portrays the grandad’s dog DaVinci too.  Because Finn’s grandad has swapped minds with his dog, DaVinci often acts quite human-like, like when they find him reading a newspaper.  Finn and his sister also mix up their names and start calling them DaVanddad and GraVinci.

There are lots of hilarious and often embarrassing situations in the book but my favourite part is the rescue/escape from the dog pound.  I know that this is one part that will make kids crack up.  Barking Mad is perfect for anyone aged 8+ who loves funny stories, especially for Andy Griffiths fans who are looking for something new.  I can’t wait to read what Tom writes next!

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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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Winners of the 2016 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults

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The winners of the 2016 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults were announced last night in Wellington.  Congratulations to all the winners and those who were chosen as finalists in the awards.  Congratulations also to the judges of this year’s awards who had the tough job of choosing the winners from all the fantastic books that were submitted.  It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it.  I personally think they made some great choices for the winners.  Kids also made some fantastic choices too in the Children’s Choice Awards.

Here are the winners of the 2016 New Book Awards for Children and Young Adults:

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  • Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and winner of the Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction

ANZAC Heroes by Maria Gill, illustrated by Marco Ivancic; Scholastic New Zealand

  • Best First Book Award

Allis the little tractor by Sophie Siers, illustrated by Helen Kerridge; Millwood-Heritage Productions

  • Te Kura Pounamu Award for the best book in te reo Māori

Whiti te rā! by Patricia Grace, translated by Kawata Teepa, illustrated by Andrew Burdan; Huia Publishers

  • Picture Book Award

The Little Kiwi’s Matariki written and illustrated by Nikki Slade Robinson; David Ling Publishing (Duck Creek Press)

  • Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction

From the Cutting Room of Barney Kettle by Kate De Goldi; Penguin Random House (Longacre)

  • Young Adult Fiction Award

Battlesaurus: Rampage at Waterloo by Brian Falkner; Pan Macmillan Australia (Farrar Straus Giroux)

  • Russell Clark Award for Illustration

Much Ado About Shakespeare illustrated by Donovan Bixley; Upstart Press

New Zealand children enthusiastically voted for their own specially selected finalists’ list for this year’s HELL Children’s Choice Awards. Each book wins $1,000. The winners are:

  • Te reo Māori

Te Hua Tuatahi a Kuwi written and illustrated by Kat Merewether, and translated by Pānia Papa; Illustrated Publishing

  • Picture Book

The House on the Hill by Kyle Mewburn, illustrated by Sarah Davis; Scholastic New Zealand

  • Junior Fiction

The Girl Who Rode the Wind by Stacy Gregg; Harper Collins

  • Non-Fiction

First to the Top by David Hill, illustrated by Phoebe Morris; Penguin Random House (Puffin)

  • Young Adult Fiction

Stray by Rachael Craw; Walker Books

You can read the full media release here, including the thoughts of the judges on each of the winning books.  You can download the Winners Poster here.

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Win Frankie Potts books

New Zealand author Juliet Jacka has just released her brand new series all about an inquisitive girl called Frankie Potts.  The first two books, Frankie Potts and the Sparkplug Mysteries and Frankie Potts and the Bikini Burglar are out now and are fantastic reads for ages 7-10.  They are full of excitement, adventure and fun.  Check out my review here on the blog.

Thanks to everyone who entered!  The winner is Chris.

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Introducing Frankie Potts

Meet Frankie Potts, the village of Tring’s number one girl detective.  She has flaming red hair, a questioning mind and an addiction to gobstoppers.  And she is REALLY good at solving mysteries.

Frankie Potts is the creation of New Zealand author Juliet Jacka.  She’s a new character that kids (especially girls) are going to love.  She’s inquisitive, confident and observant.  She has her eyes peeled for things that look unusual and out of the ordinary.  She carries a notebook everywhere with her and is always making lists of unusual things she sees and mysteries that she needs to solve.

In the first book in this fantastic new series, Frankie Potts and the Sparkplug Mysteries, Frankie finds a stray dog outside her favourite sweetshop and he follows her everywhere.  Her first mystery is:

  1. What’s my (sort of) new dog called, and where’s he from?
    • Waggles from Wichita?
    • Kirk from Canada?
    • Morris from Mozambique?

She decides to name him Sparkplug and everybody seems to go gaga for him, especially her formidable Grandma M.  Her grandma starts to act stranger and stranger and so Frankie adds more and more mysteries to her list.  She sets out to solve them with the help of Sparkplug.

The excitement continues in the second book of the series, Frankie Potts and the Bikini Burglar.  Frankie is on the lookout for a human detective sidekick to join her.  It’s not an easy task, especially when she has to deal with the new boy at school, the mean office lady, her arch-enemy Ralph Peter-McGee and tracking down the burglar on the loose in Tring.

The Frankie Potts series is full of excitement, adventure and lots of fun.  The covers make the stories look really appealing, with Phoebe Morris’ wonderful illustrations on the cover and throughout the books.  The series is perfect for 7-10 year olds, especially those readers who like the Billy B. Brown series by Sally Rippin or the Friday Barnes series by R.A. Spratt.

Stay tuned to read a special guest post from Juliet Jacka and a chance to win the first two books in the Frankie Potts series.

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