Tag Archives: New Zealand

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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Win a copy of Fuzzy Doodle

Fuzzy Doodle is the stunning new collaboration between the very talented Melinda Szymanik and Donovan Bixley.  Fuzzy Doodle will be a favourite with young and old alike and I think everyone needs to own a copy of this wonderful book.  You can read my review here on the blog.

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Thanks to the lovely people at Scholastic NZ I have a copy of Fuzzy Doodle to give away.  All you have to do to get in the draw is email bestfriendsrbooks@gmail.com, with the subject ‘Fuzzy Doodle,’ along with your name and address.

Thanks to everyone who entered.  The winner is Craig.

 

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Fuzzy Doodle by Melinda Szymanik and Donovan Bixley

I love everything that Melinda Szymanik and Donovan Bixley do, so when I heard that they were collaborating on a book I was incredibly excited.  The more I heard about this book, Fuzzy Doodle, the more I wanted to get my hands on it.  We don’t have many books published in hardcover here in New Zealand but you know that when a publisher releases a book, especially a picture book, in hardcover that they really believe in this book.  Fuzzy Doodle has just been released and it is an absolutely stunning book!

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Fuzzy Doodle follows a scribble on a page as it starts to eat the ink, then nibbles letters and words, until it moves on to gobbling pictures full of colour.  When it is full to bursting it makes a cocoon and then emerges and unfolds as a dazzling book.  The story perfectly captures the process of creating a story, from the first scribble of an idea, building on that idea, adding colour and layers to the story, sending it out into the world and hoping that it will unfold into a book.

Fuzzy Doodle has ‘award-winning’ written all over it.  It is one of those books that everyone is going to know and it will be a favourite with kids and adults alike.  It is a book that speaks to you as a reader and a lover of books.

There is something magical about this book, from Melinda’s delightful text that is a joy to read aloud to Donovan’s stunning, vibrant illustrations that make Fuzzy leap off the page. Melinda has a lot of fun with words and the story is sure to introduce children to lots of fantastic new words.  Fuzzy does lots of eating so Melinda uses words like ‘gobbled,’  ‘chomped,’ ‘famished,’ and ‘scrumptious.’ Donovan’s illustrations in this book are like nothing we’ve seen from him previously but they are perfect for this story.  Fuzzy starts off as quite dull but the magic really happens when he discovers the ink.  The ink is glossy on the pages (which looks amazing!) and so as Fuzzy eats more ink and words he starts to become glossy himself.  Then Fuzzy discovers colours, and you can’t help smiling as Fuzzy gets brighter and larger.  It really feels like you are holding a valuable piece of art when you are holding this book.  You know that it is something special to treasure.

I urge everyone to buy a copy of this book (multiple copies if you can afford it).  Fuzzy Doodle should be in every home, school and library in the country, and I hope that those outside New Zealand get the opportunity to discover this wonderful book too.  If you are a teacher or a parent you need to share this book with your children.  You will fall in love with this adorable Fuzzy Doodle.

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Flying Furballs: Dogfight by Donovan Bixley

Donovan Bixley is one of our most talented illustrators in New Zealand and I’d have to say he’s my favourite illustrator.  Not only has Donovan illustrated stories for other wonderful authors like Kyle Mewburn, Yvonne Morrison and Margaret Mahy, he has also written and illustrated his own books.  His style is unique but it varies slightly depending on the topic, with a particular talent for poo, vomit and snot.  Donovan has recently released a new series, called Flying Furballs, that he has both written and illustrated.  The first book in the series, Dogfight, really proves why Donovan is one of our most talented creators of great books for kids.

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Strap on your flying goggles, prepare your bi-plane and get set to join Claude D’Bonair and the CATs Air Corps for adventure, crazy missions, dangerous rescues and plenty of laughs.  Donovan Bixley shows us the Great War like we’ve never seen it before.  It’s the CATs (Cat Allied Troops) versus the DOGZ (Dog Obedience Governed Zone) as the CATs try to stop the DOGZ from taking over Europe.  It’s up to Claude and the team at CATs HQ to fight for all of katdom.  In this first book Claude decides to take matters into his own hands when the CATs most famous dogfighter, Major Tom, is captured and held in the DOGZ castle headquarters.  It’s up to Claude to rescue Major Tom and bring him home.

Dogfight is a witty and very funny start to the Flying Furballs series.  Donovan really knows his audience and tells a story that kids will love.  Donovan’s trademark humour shines through in both the illustration and the text.  There are cat and dog puns galore dotted throughout the story.  At one point in the story when Claude meets Major Tom he says that he was afraid that the DOGZ were torturing him and Major Tom’s reply is:

‘Oh yes, got plenty of that.  They pulled my tail. Rubbed my fur the wrong way.  Dunked me in a bathtub.  And the mongrels dangled a piece of wool in front of me, just out of reach  – for a week!’

Even the characters names are hilarious, from Syd Fishus, the cat who flew with Claude’s father, to Commander Katerina Snookums, and C-for, the CATs resident inventor.

Like the Dinosaur Rescue series and Dragon Knight series Donovan has included some cool diagrams in Dogfight.  These explain how gadgets and planes work and show the different important parts.

Dogfight will have you laughing out loud and desperately wanting to get hold of the next book in the series.

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The Little Kiwi’s Matariki by Nikki Slade Robinson

Matariki books for children are always in high demand.  There are only a couple that are suitable for introducing Matariki to preschoolers, while also being a fun story.  Nikki Slade Robinson has just released a wonderful new Matariki book, The Little Kiwi’s Matariki, that is perfect for sharing with our young tamariki.

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In The Little Kiwi’s Matariki, Kiwi wakes up to the moon shining deep into her burrow.  She knows that something is different from other nights and sets off to tell everyone that ‘its coming.’  All of the other creatures tell Kiwi ‘Kao. No, no little Kiwi,’ it’s their tummy rumbling or their singing in their dreams.  They all follow Kiwi though, and when they get to the sea shore they see the light is coming from Matariki.  The book ends with a simple explanation of Matariki that is perfectly aimed at young tamariki.

The Little Kiwi’s Matariki is my new favourite Matariki book.  It’s perfect for introducing our young tamariki to Matariki in a fun way.  It is an ideal book for parents, teachers and librarians who want to share a bilingual book with their tamariki.  Nikki has included some basic te reo, alongside the English equivalent, which is great for those who aren’t confident speakers of te reo. Nikki has also used repeated refrains, like ‘Kao. No, no little Kiwi,’ that tamariki can join in with.

The illustrations are also very appealing to tamariki.  As well as Kiwi, there are lots of other native birds and a spider that tamariki will be familiar with, including Tūī , Ruru and Katipo.  Nikki has given each of them a distinct personality.  I especially love the Ruru’s huge eyes.  One of the other things I love about Nikki’s illustrations is the way that the moon and the stars of Matariki glow on the page.

My favourite aspect of Nikki’s book is the way that the different characters are used to highlight the different aspects of Matariki celebrations.  Tūī, for example, says ‘Matariki? Time for music and dance!’ This fits with Tūī’s personality, so you know that a lot of thought has gone into choosing the right creatures for the story.

If you only buy one Matariki book for your home, school or centre this year make it The Little Kiwi’s Matariki.

 

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Sylvie the Second Blog Tour

Kaeli Baker is the author of Sylvie the Second, a story of identity, family, friendships both good and bad, and choices that can affect the rest of your life. It is a stand-out debut YA novel from a wonderful new local author.  You can read my review here on the blog.

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Today I’m joined by Kaeli as part of her blog tour for Sylive the Second.  Sisters play an important part in Sylvie the Second so I asked Kaeli if she could write a post about her Top 5 sisters in fiction.  Read on to find out who they are.

My Top 5 Sisters in Fiction

The relationship between sisters, or even siblings in general, has always been a source of huge fascination for me. I’m an only child and the idea of growing up with someone close to my age, who shares DNA and bits and pieces of my parents – the same unruly hair, or the same crooked teeth – who sleeps in the room next door and argues over whose job it is to do the dishes, is so foreign to me.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise then, that I’ve always loved reading about sisters in fiction. Here are five of my favourites…

Kristy Thomas & Karen Brewer

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The Babysitters Club Little Sister series, by Ann M. Martin

Kristy and Karen are stepsisters with a close and reliable bond. I had always wanted a big sister, and it interested me that two people could become sisters without blood ties. Karen admires Kristy and wants to be just like her. Kristy is the pinnacle of big sisterhood, providing help and advice to Karen when she needs it.

Pat & Isabel O’Sullivan

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The St Clare’s Series, by Enid Blyton

Identical twins at a boarding school in England! My kid brain went wild over Pat and Isabel and the antics at St Clare’s. Their adventures kept me endlessly entertained – everything from midnight feasts to sneaking out, to pretending to be each other and tricking the teachers, which is obviously the biggest benefit of having an identical twin.

Kate & Anna Fitzgerald

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My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult

The complexity in this relationship is what I love most. The dilemma of being Anna – the girl born to save her sister, and Anna – a teenage girl with rights. The confusing tangle of love, duty and freedom. As you get further into the story it becomes clear that both girls are capable of selflessness, and care for each other deeply even when it’s messy.

Bellatrix LeStrange & Narcissa Malfoy

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The Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling

Two sisters heavily involved in the world of dark arts. One evil to the core, one…maybe not so much. The relationship between Bellatrix and Narcissa is strong – they even call each other Bella and Cissy. United in the web of a complicated family with fierce loyalties, eventually they find that their devotions take them in different directions.

Judy Woolcot and her whole entire family

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The Seven Little Australians series, by Ethel Turner

Judy Woolcot is my favourite sister of all time. I was obsessed with these books. I wanted Judy to be my sister.

‘She had a small, eager, freckled face, with very bright dark eyes, a small, determined mouth, and a mane of untidy, curly dark hair that was the trial of her life.

Without doubt she was the worst of the seven, probably because she was the cleverest.’

Mischievous Judy is close to all of her siblings. In the end it becomes clear just how much she is willing to give up for them.

 

That sums up my top five! Thanks so much to Zac for letting me share his space on the interweb, and I hope you enjoy Sylvie the Second.

Kaeli

Make sure you visit msblairrecommends.blogspot.co.nz tomorrow for the last stop on the Sylvie the Second Blog Tour.

 

sylvie-cover-copyWin a copy of Sylvie the Second!

Thanks to Makaro Press I have a copy of Sylvie the Second to give away.

To get in the draw for a copy of Sylvie the Second by Kaeli Baker simply email bestfriendsrbooks@gmail.com with the subject line ‘Sylvie the Second,’ along with your name and address.

Competition closes Wednesday 23 March (NZ only).

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Anzac Heroes by Maria Gill and Marco Ivancic

Maria Gill has introduced us to famous Kiwis from all walks of life, from climbers to politicians, sportspeople to movie stars.  Her two previous books, New Zealand Hall of Fame: 50 Remarkable Kiwis and New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame: 25 Kiwi Champions, are fantastic books and were finalists in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.  In Maria’s latest book, Anzac Heroes, she tells the stories of the triumphs and tragedies of 30 heroic Australasians during World Wars One and Two.

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Anzac Heroes is an absolutely stunning book that highlights the courageous Anzacs who served in World War One and Two.  There are 30 Anzac heroes featured in the book, both Australian and New Zealand, men and women, soldiers in the army, navy and airforce as well as medics and spies.  There are people in the book who I’ve heard of before, like Charles Upham and Nancy Wake, but many more whose bravery I wasn’t aware of.

I love everything about Anzac Heroes, especially the design, layout and production. It’s hardcover, so you know it’s going to last for ages, especially as it is going to get read over and over again.  The cover, featuring Marco’s stunning, realistic illustrations really stands out.  The heroes standing on the cover dare you to open the book and discover their story.  Once inside, the contents page clearly shows you how to navigate the book and who you’ll discover.  The book is split up into World War One and World War Two, with background on each war which includes a detailed map (that boys especially will love) and a timeline of events.  Each of the heroes has a double-page profile that details their war-time exploits, along with a handy timeline with key dates and events.

My favourite aspect of this book is the key at the top of each page.  It tells you which country the person is from, which service they were in (i.e. army, navy, medic), and has photos of each of the medals they were awarded.  Each hero also has a detailed explanation about why they received a particular medal.  Lt. Col. Sir Peter Buck, for example, received a DSO (Companion of the Distinguished Service Order) for his role in commanding his troops.  In the back of the book you’ll also find the Medal Room, which has photos of the medals tells you their names.

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Maria knows her audience extremely well and makes history come alive.  This is the sort of book that kids will pick off the shelf and read from cover to cover because it is so appealing.  Boys in particular will sit with this book for hours, pouring over the maps and the medals.  Marco’s illustrations are superb and are the perfect match for this book.  I certainly felt that some of these heroes were looking right at me. You can even see the sweat beads and the stubble on their faces.  When you look at the photos of some of them, you see how spot-on Marco’s illustrations are.

Anzac Heroes is a perfect nonfiction book for children.  It shows you how exciting nonfiction can be.  Nothing online could beat this book!  Rush out and get a copy for your home and your school now.

 

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Sylvie the Second by Kaeli Baker

With some of the larger publishers moving offshore there have been some wonderful independent publishers set up, one of these being Mākaro Press.  They have a commitment to publishing books for children and young adults and are helping to ensure local authors can still get their stories published.  Their most recent publication for young adults is Sylvie the Second by debut author Kaeli Baker.

sylvie-cover-copyIt’s another hospital trip in the witching hours for Sylvie, as part of the support crew for her crazy sister, Calamity Cate. An overdose, this time. As usual, it seems like the family is so caught up in all of Cate’s drama that Sylvie goes unnoticed.

Invisible. Always coming in second.

Not anymore.

After a makeover, a friendship breakdown, and a whole lot of pizza, Sylvie starts to get noticed, but by the wrong people. That’s when things unravel with painful consequences. Visibility, Sylvie discovers, is not about how other people see you, but how you see yourself.

Sylvie the Second tells the story of Sylvie’s journey of discovery.  It is a story of identity, family, friendships both good and bad, and choices that can affect the rest of your life.  The story is told in the first person, so we go on this journey with Sylvie and know everything that she is thinking and feeling.  There were times that I wanted to yell at Sylvie in frustration and moments that I wanted to hug her. She has a strong voice that teen readers will be able to relate to.

Sylvie feels invisible.  Her parents don’t pay her any attention because they’re always wrapped up in what is happening with her crazy sister Calamity Cate.  Cate has tried to commit suicide several times, without success, and so she is in and out of psychiatric care.   Sylvie’s parents are rarely home, and when they are they don’t seem interested in Sylvie and what is happening in her life.  Sylvie becomes so sick of going unnoticed that she changes her clothes and her look to stand out more.  This certainly seems to get the attention she desires, particularly from Chris, the hot guy at school.  However, things take an unexpected turn at a party and Sylvie’s world is turned upside down.  When she needs support the most Sylvie discovers who her real friends are and that she stands out more than she thought.

My favourite character is Belle (or Bookish Belle as Sylvie calls her).  She is the voice of reason in the story and helps to pick Sylvie up.  She’s an incredible friend (nothing like Sylvie’s so-called friends at the start of the book) and if it wasn’t for Belle I don’t know what might have happened to Sylvie.  I also really like Adam but I wanted to know more about him.

I loved the way that the story is wrapped up.  Kaeli leaves you with a sense of hope, while also realising that Sylvie’s life will be tough and still have its challenges.

Sylvie the Second is a stand-out debut novel from a wonderful new local author.

I’m very excited to be part of the blog tour to promote Sylvie the Second.  Make sure you check out the blog on Friday 18 March to read Kaeli’s post about her Top 5 Sisters in Fiction and enter the competition to win a copy of Sylvie the Second.

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Interview with Maria Gill

Maria Gill is one of our queens of children’s nonfiction in NZ.  She has written some fantastic books for all ages and on many different topics, from dogs to Kiwi and volcanoes to politics.  Some of Maria’s most recent books have profiled remarkable Kiwis from all walks of life.  In Maria’s latest book, Anzac Heroes, she tells the stories of the triumphs and tragedies of 30 heroic Australasians during World Wars One and Two.

I had a few questions about Anzac Heroes and Maria Gill kindly offered to answer them for me.  Maria talks about some of the extraordinary men and women she discovered while writing her book and the collaboration process with Marco Ivancic.  Thanks for joining me Maria!

  • Who is the ANZAC that fascinated you the most?

Hard to pin down to one. Charlie Upham, perhaps. Not just for his bravery on the field – he sacrificed his life many times for his men and the Anzac army – but also, for his tenaciousness at trying to escape prisoner of war camps eight times! When he came back to New Zealand, locals had fundraised and bought him a farm to thank for his service to his country. He refused it. As far as he was concerned, unless they were going to give a farm to all the soldiers, he wasn’t going to be singled out for a gift. Australian Joice Loch was another.

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  • Did you have a personal connection with any of the heroes in your book?

None of the heroes are relatives or friends’ relatives. However, Albert Knight’s story touched me personally. It was very difficult finding any information about Aboriginal soldier Albert Knight. I only found two sentences online about his life. There were no archived newspaper stories about him. Sadly Aboriginal soldier stories have gone unreported. I had to find his family and speak to them. I only had his surname and the town he was born in over 120 years ago. I rang many phone numbers until I found a family member. That person put me on another family member, and they told me to ring another. Between Albert’s relatives, I pieced together his life story. There was a lovely outcome that came out of talking to his family – read his story to find out.

  • How did you choose the heroes to be featured in your book?

First I had to define ‘what is a hero’. Then I had criteria. I wanted Army, Navy, and Air Force servicemen. They had to have a range of jobs within those military forces and fight in different places so that I was covering as many of the wartime arenas as possible. Next I wanted four indigenous soldiers: two Aboriginal and two Maori. Lastly, I wanted to include women. Women couldn’t fight in the two wars, but the five women I chose were incredibly brave while operating in the war zones as ambulance drivers, doctors, nurses, rescuing refugees or as a spy. It means there aren’t just Anzac soldiers in the book, but in the Introduction, I say why I included all the others.

  • We hear so much about the male heroes but your book also features some incredible female heroes.  Can you tell us a little about one of these amazing women?

Dr. Jessie Scott was a young doctor from Canterbury. When she received a personal invitation from the Scottish Women’s Hospital to work in Europe – she caught the first boat out. She had been working in a hospital close to the frontline when the Austrians then Germans invaded Serbia. She and the other doctors decided not to desert their patients. Instead, they stayed. The Germans crammed Jessie and the other nurses and doctors into a train carriage with little food or water. For several weeks, they were taken from one country to the next while the American Red Cross negotiated with the Germans for their release. When they arrived back in London and Jessie was interviewed about her ordeal, she perkily said the Germans had treated them well, and they had enjoyed the scenery. They had only eaten once a day, slept on straw, and the Germans had taken most of their possessions off them. Jessie’s story didn’t end there, though…

  • What was your collaboration process like for this book? Did you work closely with Marco Ivancic?

I worked closely with the illustrator and designer of the book. For Marco, I took photographs at museums in Australia and New Zealand so he could use them for photo reference when drawing the pictures.  I also spent a day with an Army re-enactment group and took photographs of them doing a drill, acting out a war scene, and holding different guns. They kindly stood still in poses while I took photographs of them at all angles. Marco had asked for close-ups of details on their clothing, how they held a gun and expressions on their faces. The re-enactment group even stood in formation so Marco could see the stance and angles for the front cover illustration. For designer Luke Kelly I gathered different maps of Europe during WWI and WWII and marked in battle zones. I also found all the medals for the heroes, and for the medal page. Sometimes I could not get the real medals that belonged to that hero so had to line single medal images up in order and send to Luke. Luke, Jack Hayes (New Zealand military expert) and I put a lot of work into those medals! I also collaborated with different experts, museums, and Creative NZ enabled it to happen with their grant.

  • What does ANZAC Day mean to you? How do you celebrate it?

I believe Anzac Day recognises not only the sacrifice men and women made during the different wars but also the kinship between Australia and New Zealand while fighting. Common themes that resonated throughout the different Australian and New Zealand stories were their comradeship, incredible bravery, modesty, and down-to-earthness. Leaders fought with their men instead of sitting in their offices. It shows how alike Australians and New Zealanders are, compared to other nationalities.

I’m going to attend my first Anzac Day dawn parade this year. I have to confess my only interest, before writing this book, was in reading war stories. I love adventure stories where the hero survives at incredible odds. Most of the heroes in ‘Anzac Heroes’ fit that category.

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Anzac Heroes by Maria Gill, illustrated by Marco Ivancic is available now from Scholastic New Zealand.

 

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