Middle School. Treasure Hunters: Peril at the Top of the World by James Patterson, illus. Chris Grabenstein

December 3, 2016 Comments off

peril-top-worldMiddle School. Treasure Hunters: Peril at the Top of the World by James Patterson, illus. Chris Grabenstein. Pub.Penguin Random House, 2016.

Book 4 in the Treasure Hunter series from prolific writing duo James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein. Sure they are formulaic but hell they are good reading for middle school kids.

They are funny, informative, action packed with both male and female heroes who are flawed but essential well meaning. The Kidd family of Treasure Hunters are a together family and this time they are with their recently found parents trying to solve a great conspiracy by a secretive group who like to toy with eggheads and do-gooders like the Kidd family.

They call themselves the Enlightened Ones and they are stealing and have already stolen some of the World’s greatest works of art and this time it is set in Russia and the North pole under the Aurora borealis or Northern Lights.

It isn’t going to be easy and they are going to be imprisoned in some of Russia’s most notorious prisons. Narrated by twin Beck there is lively dialogue, informative information from Russian trivia expert Larissa and clues to solve to find the missing art collections.

Chris Grabensteins illustrations and oddball comments are a highlight.

The Genius of Bugs & Activity Book by Simon Pollard.

November 29, 2016 Comments off


The Genius of Bugs & Activity Book by Simon Pollard. Pub Te Papa Press, 2016.

Issued in conjunction with the Bug Lab exhibition at Te Papa these two science books about bugs are exceptional publications.

The emphasis is on selected bugs that use Weapons, Teamwork, Engineering and Deception to ward off enemies and attract their prey.

Take the Bombardier beetle that blows a super-hot, stinky gas powered spray out of it’s bottom and you are right in a very interesting book.

Add the Spitting spider, the brain surgeon Jewel wasp that surgical implants it’s eggs inside a cockroaches brain and the Japanese honey bees that surround an enemy and cook it alive with their body heat and you have an action packed read.
New Zealand Wetas , the  Harvestman spider plus my favourite the Moss piglet add flavour and science comes alive.

Splendidly illustrated with close up photographs and written in large font with bite sized information boxes and the package is complete.


Genius of Bugs Activity Book by Simon Pollard. Pub Te Papa Press, 2016.

The Activity book allows juniors to make their way through a spider maze, solve a word find puzzle, connect the dots to discover an insect and answer true or false questions. Answers are in the back of course.

Helps juniors connect with the subject of insects  in the above book.

Broad appeal over the whole primary/ intermediate school and plenty of boy appeal.

The Tattooed Sisters and other stories by Bill Nagelkerke

November 28, 2016 Comments off

tattooedThe Tattooed Sisters and other stories by Bill Nagelkerke. Pub Self. Available Amazon.com  2016.

Kira and Miranda have been friends since pre-school but just as they reach their teen years  Kira’s parents announce they are moving away. The girls are stunned . What can they do to cement their friendship forever? A tattoo each, the same one but what will it be and where will they put it?

Read this excellent book of short stories by an author who has shown mastery of this genre. Every writer will tell you to write what you know about and Bill Nagelkerke has tapped into the rich vein of his childhood plus observations of life around him as an adult.

The stories are all tightly written and include subjects like bullying and the value and power of reading. This book of 20 short stories and poems will appeal to a wide range of readers from primary intermediate age to high school and young adult.

I recognised many similar aspects from my own childhood but couldn’t write them as well as Bill.

Fire Island. A Keri series book by Jenni Francis.

November 23, 2016 Comments off

fire-islandFire Island. A Keri series book by Jenni Francis. Pub.  www.jennifrancis.com  2014.

Bullying is the major theme of this short readable novel for girls of Intermediate school age. See an earlier review elsewhere on this blog.

The setting is a school camp on a volcanic island, east coast North island.

There is an old saying that goes “if you hold your chin up you are also sticking your neck out”. Keri is an intelligent, gifted and brave girl of intermediate age who has fallen foul of her old friends who now bully her.

When Keri defends a 9 year old girl from Rochelle, Danielle and her gang of five it has repercussions for Keri and her friends on school camp.

Keri stands firm to the gang defending James, a nerdy boy who has talents that nobody expects, and her other friends. The teachers get it all wrong against accomplished liars and things look grim for Keri. There is a new girl with a problem, trouble on the water while sailing, a fire and a broken leg as well as the school camp activities.

Good adventure and much to ponder in Jenni Francis’s tightly written no nonsense narrative. The dialogue is particularly good.

SNARK Being the true story of the expedition that discovered the snark and the Jabberwock by David Elliot after Lewis Carroll

November 21, 2016 Comments off

snarkSNARK Being the true story of the expedition that discovered the snark and the Jabberwock  by David Elliot after Lewis Carroll. Pub. Otago University Press, 2016.

This brilliantly illustrated book of the tales of the Jabberwock and the Snark might well be called a “snail of a tale”. To understand why I say this you will need to read the book.

Basically Elliot tries to get to the bottom of all the literary questions that have been posed by both Lewis Carroll’s nonsense fantasy poems. He creates a fictional book allegedly written by The Boots who was the helmsman on the voyage to hunt the Snark and the only character without an illustration.In this book he is the only character to survive the voyage and discovers what indeed a Snark was and more importantly what it looked like.

The Boots account of the story of Jabberwock and Snark is beautifully merged with Lewis Carroll’s poems without destroying the mystery of them.

It is fine writing by David Elliot and even better illustrations.

This book is for the child inside all adults who wondered  what the devil the opening line to the Jabberwock meant “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did Gyre and gimble in the wabe”

The Notes in the back of this 42nd edition add authenticity to David Elliot’s work and that of Lewis Carroll. I believe it would bring a smile to his face.

Categories: Mystery, Senior Fiction Tags:

Losing William by Jenni Francis

November 17, 2016 Comments off

williamLosing William by Jenni Francis. Pub. http://www.jennifrancis.com     2004.

A short easy to read novel about the effects that parents separating have on the whole family and friends.

Keri is a self assured intermediate school girl who is good at art and netball. She is enthusiastic about life, reads books and has a BFF in Jessica. Jessica moves away to New York, Keri wins a scholarship to a private school and her parents tell her that they can no longer live together.

Can it get any worse? yes it can but you will have to read the book to find out how.

Many families split and the children in particular become more vulnerable. Keri has to cope with jealousy and bullying from her former netball friends,  has to learn to accept and cope with dad’s new girlfriend Beth and to understand her younger brothers and mother are hurting too.

It’s not going to go away and it is not going to be easy. Keri has to find a way and move on. See if she does. The ending has a sense of adventure and is exciting.

Well told with the family scenarios inch perfect. Although chiefly aimed at girls of intermediate and junior secondary age there is much in this novel for everyone.

Categories: Intermediate Fiction Tags:

AniMalcolm by David Baddiel.

November 15, 2016 Comments off

animalcolmAniMalcolm by David Baddiel. Pub HarperCollins, 2016.

This quirky novel about identity for primary and intermediate students is absurdly clever. It combines the poo bum weez humour of writers like Paul Jennings and Andy Griffith but adds a satirical dimension that will make older readers smile too.

Malcolm lives in a home loaded with animals but he cares nothing for them and doesn’t know why. Everybody else in his family loves animals why not him? Was it the fact that the chimpanzees threw poo over him when he visited the zoo, or something else?

Malcolm goes to visit Orwell Farm with his class and encounters a goat with big eyes named  K-Pax. He stares into the eyes of the guru like goat, falls asleep and when he wakes he is a turtle lying on his back. Horrors.

In turn he changes into a cat, then a sheep and other animals before becoming a pigeon. He learns that every time he goes to sleep he wakes up as the last animal he saw.

How will he become a human again.? What will he learn about being an animal? Read it and find out.

Simple to read, clever illustrations and lots of laughs.