The Farmer in the Dell sung by Topp Twins Illus Jenny Cooper.

October 23, 2014 Comments off

farmer in the dellThe Farmer in the Dell sung by Topp Twins Illus Jenny Cooper. Pub. Scholastic, 2014.

This is the fourth collaboration between the Topp Twins and Jenny Cooper and the combination works just fine. The CD in the back of this picture book has the song and an instrumental with some interesting call outs.

Children can read the book or have it read out or sung along with the Topp Twins. Good stuff.

Jeeny Copers illustrations are just outstanding. The hound dog is just magnificent. Elvis would have been moved. The farmer and his wife who are presumably in the dell are great – bare knees for the man, gumboots for the woman, dancing with a collie. The nurse and the cow are just bizaare.

It is worth it just for the illustrations, the music just tops it off, if you will excuse the pun.

Plenty: A place to call Home by Ananda Braxton-Smith.

October 22, 2014 Comments off

plentyPlenty: A place to call Home by Ananda Braxton-Smith. Pub. black dog books, 2014.

Set in Australia this novel is for primary/intermediate students and has some depth. It is about home, homesickness, homelessness and moving and the effects they have on peoples lives but told from a child’s perspective.

The World is full of people on the move. Some by choice and some because they have to. Maddy feels like she has to because her parents have decided it is what is best for them and Maddy too.

Maddy is happy in the city with her best friend Sophie-Rose. They are 10 years old and enjoying the routine of life where they are. Maddy is angry when she is told they are shifting to a town in the country called Plenty. She is determined to hate it and to stay mad at her parents until they go back. This is not going to happen.

At Plenty Maddy meets her grand mother who is showing signs of dementia, a reason why her parents chose to move. When Maddy goes to the small school of 7 girls and 5 boys she  befriends Grace Wek a tall black girl from Southern Sudan who was forced from her homeland by war. her memories of the journey to Australia are grim and her memories of home vague.

Maddy’s interaction with grandmother and Grace is to change her attitude and point of view.

A very sensitive story of a world wide situation.

Timmy Failure: We Meet Again by Stephan Pastis.

October 20, 2014 Comments off

timmy failureTimmy Failure: We Meet Again by Stephan Pastis. Pub. Walker Books, 2014.

This book is totally weird but full of home spun wisdom and a load of laughs.

Timmy Failure has an unfortunate name but he is saved from failure by an incredible imagination. He has the gift of the gab and a sense of the absurd that gets him out of uncool situations. Underneath he is unsure, he is scared, he is facing the world without a father and he is a reluctant student.

He lives with his very understanding mother who goes along with his quirky behaviour including being suspended from school, and goes along with his make believe friend and business partner Total the polar bear.

Timmy is a detective and is on the trail of a Science Report that he wants to use in an assignment instead of doing it himself. Unfortunately he is paired with his arch rival, a girl he calls the beast and runs by the name of Corrina Corrina. Timmy is find out that the two of them are more alike than either cares to admit.

School Camp is a hoot. This book is for reluctant boy readers at primary and intermediate school and those with a sense of the bizaare. Those that liked the Wimpy Kid and Big Nate will love this book.

The cartoon characters have their own style and add to the humour of the novel.

Adults will love the musicality of some of the chapter headings and of course Timmy’s arch rival-” Corrina Corrina i love you so”…

The Rule of Thoughts by James Dashner.

October 10, 2014 Comments off

rule thoughtsThe Rule of Thoughts by James Dashner. Pub. Random House, 2014. 

Michael is a very confused person. he was a Tangent- a completely programmed entity within a virtual reality game. He had a family background and friends that he thought were his and his alone. Wrong. Somehow his intelligence was downloaded into the brain of a boy called Jackson Porter by  a character he knows as Kaine.

Michael finds himself in Jackson Porter’s flat and has to adjust to being a real person. Two men bust down the door of his flat and tell him they are taking him to Kaine. Michael mistrusts everything and escapes.

He decides to look up two friends who are human gamers who play the games he is an entity in. Sarah and Bryson. When he finds them after creating an alternative identity for himself, the threesome venture back into the virtual reality world to find out what is going on.

Who or what is Kaine and why is he converting virtual characters into real life humans. As the title says  “the takeover has begun”

One of the great what ifs in this world is whether computers with Artificial Intelligence will ever take control and what will happen if they do.  Well this is one of those stories and it is brilliant. Michael,  Sarah and Bryson discover a dastardly plot to populate Earthg with human bodies harbouring Tangent minds.

This is for the reader that likes hi-tech novels that are full of action and cleverness. I couldn’t put it down but understand it has a nitch that isn’t everybody. The film Maze Runner currently on the circuit is also James Dashner’s creation.

High school and young adults

The Volume of Possible Endings by Barbara Else.

October 4, 2014 Comments off

possible endingsThe Volume of Possible Endings by Barbara Else. Pub. Gecko Press, 2014.

This is the third book in the Tales of Fontania series and like the others it is a tale of magic, adventure, invention, humour and silliness. Nothing wrong with that it’s what kids want to read in books and me too.

The land of Fontania is a land of magic but only the Royal family have magic powers. Some of them like all royal families are eccentric, ruthless, crazy, inventive, funny and responsible and like all families they fight. Knowing who is who is the key to this story.

The key to the magic of this Kingdom are the dragon-eagles, they are sacred and essentially good but things can and do go awry.

Dorrity is the main character, she is 12 years old, brave, adventureous and on the right side. She is wanted by the evil Count Bale whose smile is as thin as a trip wire and tricky as a spider web. Everything about him is.

He wants to capture Dorrity who has a connection with both sides of the Royal family. Make her queen for a couple of days, end his banishment then take over as the new king. Dastardly!.

Dorrity has an ally in a mechanical boy known as Metalboy who was invented by the current king but is let loose and starts to evolve into a key weapon against the Count.

The plot hums along after Dorrity finds a book of Five Possible Endings to the situation. Will any of them be true. Read it and find out.

The dialogue between the characters is very witty and to me was the strength of the novel. While part of the Fontania series all books in it are stand alone.

Primary and intermediate school level.

Story of a New Zealand Truck Driver by Mary Kelleher. Music David Parker

October 2, 2014 Comments off

truck driverStory of a New Zealand Truck Driver by Mary Kelleher. Music David Parker. Pub, Handmade Designs Ltd, 2014.

Most innovative books take risks. This picture book history takes many and comes up trumps.

It is memoirs of truck driver Bert Williams who operated in the Banks Peninsula/Canterbury area from the 1920’3 to 1960’s. He was known by many names and carried an assortment of cargoes on his truck from wool to bee hives. He was also a daredevil  motorbike racer and purchased his first truck from winnings of a race. They don’t make men like him anymore.

The structure of the book is a mural on which is a button trail that children can follow and identify various items on the way. Does anyone remember Corgi toys? I do, I had a collection of trucks and toys. They were hard wearing and survived many a rough handling.

The one piece of hard wearing cardboard page opens one way with a mural of hessian, buttons, cloth and hardware in which a truck journey is pictured. It is essentially a craft book but  accompanying it are short verses about Bert Williams that are sung and recited on a CD that accompanies the book.

Then you fold back the other side that chronicles the history of Bert with photographs and personal recollections.

Great for a study of life in grandparents day and early transport. Younger students can sing-a-long with the songs on the CD.

A very flexible educational tool for every school library and classroom.

Teddy One-Eye. The autobiography of a Teddy Bear by Gavin Bishop.

September 30, 2014 Comments off

teddy one-eyeTeddy One-Eye. The autobiography of a Teddy Bear by Gavin Bishop. Pub. Random House, 2014.

When you pick up this solid little book you know Gavin Bishop is saying ” come on in. make yourselves at home”. We had a hint that Gavin could write a book like this after Piano Rock but in this novel he has taken it to a new level. It is quite simply superb!

Teddy One -Eye starts off as a bear to Boy in 1950. Given to Boy by his grandmother in Invercargill he shares Boy’s early years in Kingston and later becomes companion to BB, Boy’s younger brother. Teddy becomes tattered and torn as a result of his adventures with both boys, loses an eye and is stitched together numerous times.

He is discarded between 1957 -1972 in the Wardrobe years but resurfaces as a girl bear to Boy’s three little girls. Then again is put in the Back Bedroom between 1986-1996 and again imprisoned in the Basement until 2011 before making a glorious and revealing comeback.

Each of these eras has its own culture and ways of dealing with life and Gavin Bishop tells it superbly. Baby Boomers will love the 1957-1972 period and the values, environment and life styles that were created by their parents. I was awoken by the use of the word “piece” which my parents and I often used to described a small snack usually a sandwich.

As an excellent artist Gavin Bishop illustrates the passage of time with  simple colourful drawings of transportation and houses in which are implanted dates of significance to a changing world and of Bishops own life. Did you know when the first supermarket opened in New Zealand? Read the book and find out.

Naturally the book is autobiographical. The title tells you that and what a fantastic way to tell it.

This novel is for everyone. Grand parents should read it to their grand children and parents read it because it is wonderful. If you can get it off your children.

The ending may seem a bit surreal but believe me their is a surprise for you and for Teddy One -Eye. This novel should quite comfortably sweep all children’s book awards next year. Do yourself a favour and read it.


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