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 drwingss 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.

Under the Ocean by Ned Barraud & Gillian Candler

September 29, 2014 Comments off

under oceanUnder the Ocean by Ned Barraud & Gillian Candler. Pub. craig potton publishing, 2014.

The outstanding feature of this non fiction picture book about creatures in and around New Zealand’s seas is the illustrations. Ned Barraud works for Weta Digital and his illustrations of fish, birds and mammals living in the sea around NZ are incredible. The octopus and the squid are amazing.

Gillian Candler backs up the illustrations with fascinating facts about the sealife and she organises it with an ecosystem approach. Floor dwellers, reef creatures, land and sea animals, deep sea creatures and open sea creatures. Attention is paid to food chains and ecological balance and some facts will astound you.

There are 1400 fish species, more penguin species than anywhere else in the world, the two most endangered dolphin species and you can tell the age of a fish by the number of growth rings on it’s ear bone. bet you never knew that.

Laid out brilliantly, great information. Essential in every school library as a strter for further investigation or an overall view.

Check out the other books in this series In the Garden and At the Beach.

Lockwood & Co. Pt2: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

September 25, 2014 Comments off

lockwoodLockwood & Co. Pt2: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud. Pub. Random House, 2014.

This is the sort of novel that those who aspire to writing should read. The story flows like a well oiled machine, the detail of the settings are immaculately described, the characters are uniquely created, the dialogue is snappy and witty and the plot is totally absorbing and told well. Can I say more?

It is essentially for high school students but good intermediate readers will devour it. The novel is 469 pages long and is part 2 of the Lockwood & Co series and there are more to come. It stands alone as a novel, I didn’t read the first part titled the Screaming Staircase but I am going back to get it.

The setting is London and while it is present day or near future it seems like a Dickensian setting. It is mostly told at night and the urban poor are everywhere along with the rich , wealthy and decadent.

Lockwood & Co are three people. The handsome and mysterious Lockwood who is early 20’s, a younger George his researcher and Lucy a shy but attractive girl who hears the whispers of the dead. All three are Agents, they hunt the ghosts ghouls and various creatures of the dead that have come loose in an event they call The Problem. They are everywhere. Using, iron, silver salt, magnesium flares and rapier swords they combat these ghosts wherever they occur.

In this novel the grave of Edmund Bickerstaff a Victorian crazy has been disturbed. In it was a bone glass mirror that has the power to show the holder what goes on on “the other side”. But it kills those who can’t handle it. It is stolen and the chase is on the recover it before it can do great damage. The climax in the catacombs below Kensal Green Cemetary will have you on edge. Splendidly told.

I can tell you no more except that it is compulsive reading. Jonathan Stroud wrote one of the best fantasy series title The Bartimaeus series. This is up with that. As Rick Riordan says “Stroud is a genius”

Don’t miss this.

Nightmares by Jason Segal and Kirsten Miller

September 16, 2014 Comments off

nightmaresNightmares by Jason Segal and Kirsten Miller.  Pub. Penguin, Random House, 2014.

It is said that nightmares and dreams are manifestations of events in our real lives. Could this be true in this novel?

Charlie’s mum died 3 years ago and his father meets a woman called Charllote DeChant with flaming red hair and bohemian dress. They marry and move in together at a big purple house that sits on the highest hill in the town of Cypress Creek. The house is scary like a haunted house and at the top is a tower with no curtains at the windows. At night an eerie light shines from the tower.

As soon as Charlie moves into the house he starts having nightmares about a witch who wants to lock him up in a cage and keep him in the netherworld.

Charlie can’t sleep and this soon becomes apparent to his friends and teachers at school. Charlie is not looking good and things start to suffer. His little brother Jack is quite keen on his new stepmother and Charlie has a realistic dream that the witch wants to eat him. he has to save Jack.

He tries to tell his teachers and friends but no=one believes him. Then he starts to have a more sinister nightmare. A presence is following him and the nightmares want to drag him forever into the Netherworld.

Co-written by the man who wrote Despicable Me and by Kirsten Miller who wrote the Kiki Strike books and does the illustrations.

Part one of a new series that will appeal to primary and intermediate children. It is scary and adventurous and it is about family, friends and school. All the things important in kids lives.

Play in the Garden by Sarah O’Neil

September 13, 2014 Comments off

play gardenPlay in the Garden by Sarah O’Neil. Pub.New Holland, 2014. 

It is not often that I review a non fiction work but when it is using imagination to get kids into gardening then I make an exception.

The essential attraction of this novel is that it involves adults. Instead of setting a part of the garden aside for children, get them interested and involved in sharing the whole garden.

This book shows how to grow a bean teepee, decorated stepping stones, Making corn husk people, making your own sprinkler and painting with vegetables.

Of course you must have basic gardening skills first and know how to set up a garden and grow plants. The first chapter shows all this then the fun stuff begins.

Well set out with clear instructions and colourful pertinent illustrations. Sprinkled among the information are Did you know? bubbles and the information in these is fascinating. Did you know that a lawn is more efficient at producing oxygen than a tree is? or that there could be a million earth worms in an acre of ground and that worms can live up to 15 years.

This book is well worth having in the home and should be an essential purchase for school libraries. Mainly aimed at primary/intermediate students but adults will learn a lot too.

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365 Days of Wonder by R.J. Palacio

September 12, 2014 Comments off

365 wonder365 Days of Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Pub. Random House, 2014.

This is the last word on that wonderful story of August the 12 year old boy with the severe facial disfigurement and told in Wonder.

Thomas Browne was August’s 5th grade teacher who witnessed all the upheavel that the bullying of August caused. Browne describes 5th grade as the year kids learn the power of being mean. A power some kids never lose, but most do.

One of Mr Browne’s teaching tools was to put a precept up on the board that was discussed and written about by his pupils. He also kept communications open for pupils to send him precepts that they liked. This book is a book of precepts. All of them are thought provoking and it is good to have them in one easy to read book.

Here are some that I like.  “I yam what I yam” Popeye the sailor.   “Everything you can imagine is real”  Pablo Picasso.  “To thine ownself  be true”  William Shakespeare.   “If you’re lucky enough to be different, don’t ever change”   Taylor Swift and  “it costs nothing to be nice”  Harry Styles.

But the book is more than that. It is structured in months with a quote for each day and between is a story about them. It also gives the answer to a question that was never resolved in Wonder. Who told principal Tushman that Julian was writing mean notes to August? Well if you read this book you will find out.

Inspirational. For all class levels.

The Day No One was Angry by Toon Tellegen & Marc Boutavant

September 9, 2014 Comments off

AngerThe Day No One was Angry by Toon Tellegen & Marc Boutavant. Pub. Gecko Press, 2014.

The sort of storytelling one has come used to when reviewing Gecko Press publications and I mean this in the most positive way. Twelve short stories from animals each dissecting and giving meaning to the emotion of anger.

The unusual hyrax is first cab off the rank expressing his anger at the sun for not being around when he is wanting it. He misses the sunset and the sun rise. The sun never listens.

Elephant is angry with himself for trying to climb a tree that he always falls out of. Beetle and earthworm are both angry but believe each is angrier than the other while aardvark tells squirrel that he is only angry when he stands on his feet, so he stands on his head where he is much happier.

Squirrel is a contented little fellow and this irks shrew who does everything including smashing up squirrel’s home to make him angry, but squirrel just thinks of the good times.

Some great behavioural and attitudinal messages in the stories. Primary school children will love the stories.

There are only 81 pages of this book and Marc Boutavant has an illustration on everyone of them. They are outstanding giving Toon Tellegen’s written text additional meaning. Toad is brilliant and rhino and hippo take some beating.

The last story is the title of the book and it is superb. When no one is angry, life can be a little dull, as long as you don’t lose sight of the humour of it all.

This book will not disappoint you.

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