A Doubtful Detour by Anya Forest. Pub. www.anyaforest.com

March 1, 2021 Comments off

This historical time travel novel took me a while to read because of the amazing detail it gives about life in the Fiordland National park during the 1920,s and 1960’s. Fiordland is the major character in this novel with it’s mountains, fiords, rivers, waterfalls, dense bush, rain and unique animal life.

This is a sequel to the novel Home from the Homer also reviewed on this blog, and features 13 year old twins Seth and Zoe and their parents who travel south of the Homer to Doubtful Sound and Deep Cove. As with the earlier novel they slip into different time zones and experience life in the raw in the early days.

Seth slips into the 1920’s when tourism was starting to develop in Fiordland as is hunting. He meets several famous characters particularly Leslie Murrell a hunter and tourist developer of the 1920’s and Vivian Donald who had a company that developed the first woolpress in NZ. Seth accompanies them on a hunting and sailing trip that takes him down Doubtful sound to the ocean and trips to Dusky sound and the Puysegur Point lighthouse which was built in 1879 and burnt to the ground in 1942. He travels on a famous boat the Constance and takes part on the first licensed hunting for wapiti trip in 1923. he also comes across a whale and the rareTawaki or Firodland crested penguin.

Zoe has a totally different trip in Doubtful Sound and West Arm where the Manapouri Power Station was being built. Her main companion there was Sister Josie a nurse on board the Wanganella passenger ship that was home to over 400 men who built the Manapouri complex. The Wanganella had a gymnasium and a cinema for over 400 men when spitting on the deck meant you were fired. She travels inside Machine Hall a huge place carved into the rock that house all the turbines that made the power from the Manapouri scheme.

There are many tales like this in this novel and all are accompanied by superb photographs and documents of the times. The characters, the transport, the wildlife and the landscape and seascape of the wonder that is fiordland.

I can say no more find out the rest for yourself you will not be disappointed. Of course there is the mystery of the time travel and whether or not the family will find each other again.

North & South; A Tale of Two Hemispheres by Sandra Morris. Pub. Walker Books 2021.

February 27, 2021 Comments off

This beautifully illustrated and researched non fiction picture book sized publication contrasts the lives and needs of animals in both hemispheres at corresponding times of the year.

It starts in January when it is winter in the Northern hemisphere and summer in the South and shows the ways that animals adapt to the changing seasons and the threats that global warming, habitat destruction and other human activity are having on their lives.

Animals deal with changing seasons in various ways and the examples chosen show this but what is important is that animals need to be able to predict the seasonal changes and adjust their lives and those of their offspring accordingly.

Animals used in this publication include the salt water crocodile, the pink flamingo, the brown kiwi, the green tree python, the Japanese macaque, the African elephant, the honeypot ant, the Portuguese man-of -war and a host of others.

Each animal is accurately drawn with a profile that shows how it lives and adapts to its environment. It is classified according to its survivability in our changing world and the threats to it’s survival.

Easy to read and at the start and finish of this book is a map of the World showing all countries and the location of the animals.

A superb resource for any school library and for the family home. You will not get better information than this on the Internet. The author has written it to show children the impact of their behaviour on animal life and how this will shape the future of our natural world.

Rush! Rush! by Elena de Roo, illus. Jenny Cooper. Pub. OneTree House, 2021.

February 23, 2021 Comments off

A young girl opens her bedroom window then with her pyjamas still on plus a light dressing gown, she charges off into the world with a mission.

Under the trees, through the grass, across the sheep paddocks, past the lake where the eels are, under the manuka, across the dunes to the sea. It is a breathless trip told with beautiful linked text full of alliteration and rhyme. On the beach there is a surprise, read it and find out what.

The illustrations are breezy, you can feel the wind as it sweeps the girls hair on her rush to the beach.

The combination of Pulford’s writing and Cooper’s illustrations is a winner. I feel breathless after reading it.

Honk by Elizabeth Pulford, illus. Astrid Matijasevich. Pub. One Tree House, 2021.

February 23, 2021 Comments off

Honk is a goose who has been battered by a storm in the night and needs to recuperate. He chooses the sandpit in Henry’s backyard and Honks.

Henry, the cat and henry’s mother and little sister accept the goose and treat it with respect. henry feeds it and this is a sure way to become friends with any animal. Henry and Honk become friends with Henry showing Honk the way to the pond.

Henry’s mother knows Honk will go as soon as it is time and soon that time is up. Read it and see what happens.

A delightful story is enhanced by delightful quirky, childlike illustrations with lots of colour and expressive eyes in all the characters. Illustrations do not have to be drawn to scale to have effect.

.There is a warm fuzzy feeling about this picture book which is a story of friendship, acceptance and respect for wildlife.

The Valley of Lost Secrets by Lesley Parr. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2021.

February 20, 2021 Comments off

This might possibly be the best novel dealing with the evacuation of children out into the countryside from London and other cities in WW2, that has been written. Comparisons can be made to Goodnight Mr Tom but that would be wrong because there is the added dimension of mystery and relations between Wales and England.

Twelve year old Jimmy and his younger 6 year old brother Ronnie are evacuated from their home in London to a small Welsh coal mining village. Jimmy is determined not to like it when him and Ronnie are billeted with the Thomas’s who not topic of the week in their community.

Ronnie while very emotional takes to the Thomas’s straight away and starts calling them uncle and Auntie which Jimmy finds difficult to accept. Jimmy has his own problems as his best mate in London Duffy is billeted with the vicar and his bad boy Jack and they cease to be friends. A girl of similar age Francis who was an object of fun and derision in London has found great confidence in the change to Wales.

On a walk up the hills Jimmy and Ronnie discover a skull hidden in the trunk of a tree and expose a decade old mystery that deeply involve the Thomas family.

Strong emotions are evoked and cultural differences are exposed as well as family secrets and community relations. This book was compelling reading and would make a good read aloud at middle school and intermediate level.

A stron part of the novel and a source of mystery are the tree illustrations that begin each chapter. You will have to find this out for yourself plus and additional mystery in the written text.

A superb novel about this era of the phoney war inWW2 and very good social values as well as historical perspective.

In the Black Spiral Trilogy. Bk1. Violet Black by Eileen Merriman. Pub. Penguin Books, 2021.

February 16, 2021 Comments off

NOT RELEASED UNTIL 11 MAY 2021

The function of the first novel in a trilogy is to establish the scenario, introduce the characters and set the second novel up so that the reader wants to read that. This novel does all of that and more. You will be compelled to read the next one.

Set in the near future when a measles like pandemic(M-Fever) has struck giving victims a form of encephalitis from which few survive. Those that do develop a brain that can absorb everything and give strength that is at the super power level. Such people can be very useful for many things and also dangerous at the same time.

Violet Black is 17 years, is a survivor of M Fever. Her father is a scientist who has worked on a vaccine to stop the fever. Ethan Wright is also 17 years and his family think Violet’s father is a crook. Ethan and Violet develop ESP and can communicate with Think-say. They talk to each other with thoughts. Think-say is shown with writing in Italics.

A Mysterious and possibly sinister group called the Spiral Foundation led by Noel Marlow isolate Ethan and Violet along with four other survivors of M Fever, with similar powers and name them VORTEX. This survival group are shifted to Australia secretly where their powers can be developed in strict secrecy. They have a role to play in espionage to detect anti vax terrorists and other organisations. But they are being groomed for a role they never asked for.

For me the most appealing aspect is the ability of VORTEX members to separate the soul from the body and to travel widely in a dreamlike flow. Once again Elaine Merriman’s experience in medicine comes to the fore and makes this side of the story believable.

The action plays out with a mission to infiltrate a terrorist group in Berlin with consequences that will leave you breathless and wanting more. Don’t miss this trilogy. Book 2 Black Wolf will be out later this year.

The World Made a Rainbow by Michelle Robinson, illus. Emily Hamilton. Pub.Bloomsbury, 2021.

February 12, 2021 Comments off

There will be many books written about Covid and it’s effects on people and the World but few will be as inspiring as this picture book from the UK in support of Save the Children.

All the world had to stay home today. I wished that it didn’t. I wanted to play.

These are the opening lines to this picture book and you know what it is all about already.

A small girl decides to make a rainbow to give hope and joy to everybody and to show that we have had bad times before and got over them and we will get over this.

She has problems and fun putting together ROY G BIV the colours of the rainbow on paper and hanging it in her window. But what a brilliant idea. Check it out for yourself

Old Truck and the Flood by Jennifer Somervell & Margery Fern. Pub. Tales from the Farm Publications 2021.

February 9, 2021 Comments off

This delightful and informative picture book is the third about the Old Truck – in reality a 1921 Model 10 Republic. All the books in this series by the two sisters are previewed elsewhere on this blog.

This story is based on the 2004 storm that caused the Tongariro River to break it’s banks and flood parts of the town of Turangi near Lake Taupo.

Old Truck is in the garage when it happened and the flood water got up to his, pretty high anyway, much to his discomfort. His engine is silted up from the volcanic soil and it looks like that is it for Old Truck. Fortunately there is some positive thinking in Old Truck’s family and perhaps his days are not over yet.

Check it out and see what happens. It is a well told story of a natural disaster.

Excellent illustrations which show a portrait of country life the highlight of which is the character of Old Truck. In the back are real life pictures of old truck plus the weather circumstances and results of the 2004 flood..

Locked Down by Jesse O. Illus. Toby Morris. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2021.

February 5, 2021 Comments off

This is a remarkable story because it was first written in 2011 when Bird flu was around and the author prophetically extrapolated what might happen if things got worse. Well things did get worse and it was called Covid 19 and the nation was in lockdown.

The title has been changed from Staying Home to Locked Down to reflect the modern situation. The interesting thing of course is to compare how the author saw things going in 2011 compared what actually happened in New Zealand under lockdown.

The story concentrates on the Flint family who live in the town of Hansen which is somewhere in the South Island. A virus XB276 has struck the North Island down and people have been told to stay home. The South Island has been relatively untouched but is radically effected by the situation in the North.

There are major differences and solutions to the problems created by lockdown and i will let you find out by reading the book. There is a complete shutdown of shops and supermarkets and there is a shutdown of power sources too which create different problems than in the current situation.

The strongest messages relate to families under stress and trying to survive. It hasn’t got that bad in todays crisis, see how the children and their neighbours get on in this crisis..

Toby Morris’s illustrations enhance the story and provide images to hang your thought s on. Well worth a read.

The King’s Nightingale by Sherryl Jordan. Pub. Scholastic 2021.

January 31, 2021 Comments off

This is one of the best adventure novels about slavery that you will read this year. Based in Europe and North Africa although those two regions are not mentioned in the novel. Instead it is the Penhallow Isles where the main character Elowen was born and raised, and Rabakesh where she is enslaved to king Shaistakhan.

Elowen is a 16 year old girl brought up in a christian religion called Followers of the Shepherd. It’s faults and credibility are revealed to her early in the novel over a illegitimate baby is denied death rights because of her illegitimacy. As this is happening pirates from the south sack Elown’s village and carry off those they can catch to be sold as slaves. Many do not make the journey alive after brutal treatment from the pirates.

Elowen survives along with her brother Fisher but they are sold separately. Elowen is bought for the king because of her beautiful singing voice and is treated very well indeed, in fact in luxury but she has a fatal flaw which is going to ruin this for her.

She is warned not to question the decisions of men or to speak ill of the king who belong to the Izarin religion much like Islam. Elowen is outspoken and makes it clear she wants to escape to find her brother fisher.

Her abilities as a singer earns her the name Shalimar or Kings nightingale and she evokes jealousy amongst the king’s harem. This results in Elowen being resold into desperately different conditions that she had with the King. She regrets this and when she learns of a war machine that is to attack The King she takes very dangerous actions. Read the rest and find out it is brilliant.

Beautifully told and described by Sherryl Jordan who is surely at the top of her game. It follows a similar book titled The Freedom Merchants also reviewed earlier on this blog. However the descriptions of the desert landscape of Rabakesh and the palace lifestyle of King Shaistakhan are delicious, as are the comparisons of the two religions and cultures.

Elowen is a good role model, loyal, brave, compassionate and generous but her outspokenness gets her into trouble. She learns the language and religion of her captives in order to quietly achieve her goals.

A novel in four parts. If you miss this one you will kick yourself.