The Telegram by Philippa Werry

February 10, 2019 Comments off

telegramThe Telegram by Philippa Werry. Pub. Pipi Press, 2019. .

During WW1 the last thing the people at home wanted to see was a telegram boy or girl coming to their door. If you had a son, a brother a father or a husband at war then a telegram meant missing in action, dead in battle or taken prisoner.

Beaty is a 14 year old girl who lives with her younger sister Tilly and their mother who works every hour to keep the family going. When mother loses hours at work Beaty, in spite of academic abilities, is pulled out of school and gets a job as a telegram girl.

She faces all sorts of bullying for being a girl doing a boys job but proves them all wrong and even learns some skills that the boys struggle with.

When the boy next door, Caleb, goes to war, he asks Beaty to write to him and she does. Their letters describe life back here in NZ and heavily censored impressions of life in the trenches in the last year of WW1 after Passchendaele. It also continues into the Flu Epidemic that followed the soldiers home. Excellent historical fiction.

Beaty is a treasure and good role model. Philippa Werry describes life at home with knowledge and accuracy in this very readible novel for primary, secondary and high school student.

books@nationwidebooks.co.nz

Chinatown Girl by Eva Wong Ng.

February 7, 2019 Comments off

chinatown girlChinatown Girl by Eva Wong Ng. Pub. Scholastic, 2019.

This is a reissue of the My New Zealand Story title first published in 2005 but in response to the fact that there were now 171, 000 Chinese New Zealanders according to the 2013 census, reissued again.

Everybody should know what it was like to be Chinese in New Zealand and we didn’t make it easy for them. Chinese were known as the Yellow Peril and we made it as difficult as possible for them to come and settle here. The Immigration Restriction Act of 1908 put a bond of 100 pounds on any Chinese coming to this country(more than the average Kiwi earned in a year).

This story in diary form set in Greys Avenue Auckland (Chinatown) in the year 1942 when the threat from Japan was at it’s height, is told by 12 year old Sylvey Chan. It tells of the Chinese experience and will be of great interest to new immigrants to this country and to everyone else as well.

I think it is fabulous and is full of wartime history of rationing, of the blackout and the “loose lips sink ships” catch cry that dominate local thinking. Sylvie rides down Queen street on a push bike at night when the blackout is in force, visits an opium den, is visited by American Chinese soldiers after the fall of Singapore and the Battle of the Coral Sea. It also features  her life at Beresford street School and at Chinese School.

The book is full of Chinese wisdom of Confucius such as “when you go to other peoples places never go with only air in your hands”. Many Chinese became vegetable growers because it is what they knew from home and if the business failed you still had something to eat.

Absolutely fascinating. Well written and historically accurate. If you miss this you will kick yourself. For primary, intermediate and secondary school pupils.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

February 3, 2019 Comments off

TuckTuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2016.

First published in 1975 and a classic in Childrens’ Literature this novel is one of the most satisfying reads I have had for a while. I first read it in the 1980’s and my reread gave me great satisfaction.

It was a stifling hot day when Winnie Foster met  Jesse in the woods drinking from a spring. He rapidly covers up his movements before Winnie has a drink and kidnaps her and takes her back to his house.

She meets the Tuck family and learns from them that the spring water gives them eternal life. The Tuck family will never die. Winnie likes their company and they tell her the story of the spring and of their life. They are all well over a 100 years old and still look the same as they did when they first drunk from the spring.

In a classic technique of British literature the conversation with the Tucks is overheard by a devious man in a yellow suit who connives to deprive the Tucks of their secret and of the woods which holds the spring. You will have to read the book to find out what happens and it is brilliant.

All school libraries should have this book and if you miss this novel you will kick yourself.

Splendidly written in old style descriptive prose that is so comforting you could fall asleep in it. The plot is very clever and the ending superb.

Children of the Furnace Bk2 Crosstrees by Brin Murray.

January 29, 2019 Comments off

crosstreesChildren of the Furnace Bk2 Crosstrees by Brin Murray. Pub. Lighthouse Press, 2019.

Sequel to Children of the Furnace it is just as thrilling and brutal as the first book which is also reviewed on this blog.

The action is centered on three main characters- Wil  is a Heater with a tattoo between his eyes under which is a chip that holds evidence of the truth about what has happened to Sekkerland and the Revelayshun that has turned the Sekkerlanders into slaves.

Leah is from the Southem a country that has been through a holocaust like situation that the Revalayshun has blamed on the Heaters. Leah is on the run from the Revouts who lead the Revelayshun and leads a group of children and medical staff away from the interment camp of Ferule where most of the first book was set.

Jace is a former henchman of the Revelayshun who has seen  the light after inflicting much cruel punishment on the Sekkerlanders but now has joined their fight against the Revouts. He is traveling with Leah.

Wil is searching for the Midwife who lives in the eastern part of Sekkerland known as Terra Nullius. The Midwife knows of the existence of Wil’s sister who also has a chip inside her facial tattoo and the two parts have proof of who is responsible for the atrocitiy that has changed the World.

Can Wil find the Midwife and his sister and join with leah to overthrow the revelayshun? read it and find out.

Great action writing in this Dystopian fiction classic but be warned the cruelty is agonisingly painful. The positive side is that the underdog is going to get through and the treat of it all is the description  of Sekkerland. It is stunning like a warmed up Greenland.

I loved it. It is like understanding what ISIS are doing in the Middle East. The tactics of the Revouts are identical to ISIS.

For senior students and Young adults. You won’t put this down once you start. Part 3 Heartsblood is due later this year

Lola Dutch. When I Grow Up by Kenneth & Sarah Jane Wright

January 25, 2019 Comments off

lola dutchLola Dutch. When I Grow Up by Kenneth & Sarah Jane Wright. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2019.

Lola Dutch is inventive, she is imaginative and best of all she is confident. She puts her mind to the task of deciding what she is going to do when she grows up.

She tests her ideas out on her animal friends – Bear, crocodile, pig and crane. They of course let her run with her ideas and help her in every way possible as she imagines being on the stage, an inventor, a botanist an Egyptologist and many other things.

Bear puts his finger on the pulse “Lola what do you want to be right now?” Lola’s answer is the key to the whole story. Check it and find out why.

Simple text, complimentary water colour illustrations and a heroine to be admired.

Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M McManus.

January 22, 2019 Comments off

9780141375656Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M McManus. Pub. PenguinRandom House, 2019.

This is a murder mystery for teens par excellence.

It is set in a small East coast American town called Echo Ridge, a town that is obsessed with it’s tragic past. Twenty odd years ago Sadie and her twin sister Sarah went to the Homecoming Ball at Echo Ridge High where Sadie was homecoming Queen. Shortly after Sarah disappeared and has never been found. Why?

Now Sadie’s twin daughter Ellery and brother Ezra have returned to Echo Ridge to live with their grandmother and go to Echo Ridge high school as Sadie has gone into rehab for drug addiction. Five years earlier another homecoming Queen, Lacey who was Sadie’s favourite babysitter, was murdered in a horror theme park called Fright Farm. Her murderer has not been found

On their return to Echo Ridge on a rainy night, Ellery and Ezra find a teacher dead on the road and lots of ominous things are happening around the town. It is the eve of another homecoming Queen Ball at Echo Ridge High and startling as it seems Ellery has been named as one of the finalists for Homecoming Queen. She suspects a fit up and her investigative nature causes her to look into the deeds of the past.

Then one of the other candidates for homecoming Queen goes missing in the company of Malcolm the brother of Declan who has top candidate for the murder of Lacey. What the heavens is going on? Read it and find out, it is outstanding drama.

Brilliantly written in short chapters with lots of things going on. There are mean girls, football players who think they are wonderful, gay boys and girls and the whole American high school scene. The ending is thrilling. You won’t put this down once you start.

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold, illus. Suzanne Kaufman

January 20, 2019 Comments off

all welcomeAll Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold, illus. Suzanne Kaufman. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2019.

This is a read-a-loud picture book that celebrates cultural diversity through the eyes of children in the classroom.

While adults do not seem to embrace cultural difference in this hectic World we live in, for children it is a different story. Kids just get on with it celebrating similarities rather than differences in dress, food, habits, language and religion. Whether you wear a hijab or a baseball cap it doesn’t matter.

The front cover shows 12 different cultures and the back page has welcome in 24 languages. In between the play in the classroom it is stressed All are welcome. You have a place here. We can learn from each other.

The simple illustrations highlight the differences in culture and the similarities in needs and in relationships.

All schools and families need to have this picture book. Children are the future and adults just have to get it together to make a better World.