The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne.

October 7, 2015 Comments off

boy top mountainThe Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne. Imprint Random House, 2015.

A novel with the same power as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Just as the son of the Kommandant of the Death camp was lured innocently to the gas chamber with his Jewish friend, so 7 year old Pierrot is seduced into the Nazi world of secrecy, suspicion and brutality.

Pierrot’s journey is an astonishing transformation from sensitive son of a German soldier and French mother to a child monster with the same qualities of any Nazi. John Boyne documents  Pierrot’s life from 7 years old in Paris in 1936 to the end of the War in 1945 at Berchtesgaden and shows how easy it is for the innocent to be corrupted.

The story and transformation of French boy Pierrot with a Jewish boy as his best friend to the loathsome Pieter whom he becomes, is simply told in three parts and is very understandable for students of senior primary and intermediate age but is clearly for high school students.

It is riveting and John Boyne builds the tension throughout but he deeper stuff will need to be explained. Heavens it needs to be.

The character and decline and fall of Hitler is neatly depicted from the time he tells Pierrot “work will set us free” to the crazed lunatic who bundles into a car on his way to the final days in the bunker. A description of Hitler eating “like a rat chewing his way along a cob of corn” is priceless.

The ending is deserving  but you will have to read the novel to find out what happens.

Don’t miss this novel it is superb.


Treasure Hunters Danger down the Nile by James Patterson

October 1, 2015 Comments off

treasure huntersTreasure Hunters. Danger down the Nile by James Patterson illus Chris Grabenstein. Pub. Random House, 2014.

An easy to read rollicking adventure of a family of four who are seeking the treasure of King Solomon’s mines as well as trying to find their mother and the death or otherwise of their father.

Narrated by Bick one of twins, her brothers Beck and tailspin Tommy and the brains of the group Storm with the photographic memory. They are brave fearless risk takers and have a false uncle after their fortune and the ruthless Guy Dubonnet Merck, a classic villain, chasing them.

Lots of adventure on the Nile and sharp witted conversation. Well written in short chapters with Chris  Grabenstein’s illustrations providing great characterisation and enhancing the plot.

Reluctant boy and girl readers will love this novel, it is madcap. Primary, intermediate and some high school students.

Pukeko Dancing on the old Dirt track by Lotte Wotherspoon

September 25, 2015 Comments off

pukeko dancingPukeko Dancing on the old Dirt track by Lotte Wotherspoon. Pub.

While the Sanderson family prepare for a typical NZ christmas on their farm, Spike and Rose pukeko prepare for the arrival of six chicks in the swamp. The lives of the pukekos and  humans overlap and both are to celebrate on christmas day.

Linking the two stories is the rhyming couplet  FLIP-FLAP, YIKIDDY- YAK,There’s a pukeko dancing on the old dirt track. It is a story that demands to be read allowed and is indeed more powerful when it is. The story is skilfully told and the rhyme is not forced.

The outstanding feature of this picture book are the pen ink and pastel illustrations of the farm, the swamp and the plant and wildlife which is classic New Zealand. Lotte Wotherspoon captures that striding authorative walk that characterises pukeko and it makes for a satisfying story.

In the Bush by Ned Barraud & Gillian Chandler.

September 24, 2015 Comments off

in the bushIn the Bush by Ned Barraud & Gillian Chandler. Pub. Potton & Burton, 2015.

This duo complete a quartet of NZ natural environments after the Beach, the Garden and under the Ocean with this study of the NZ bush one of the most studied environments in NZ schools.

It is a simple yet comprehensive look at the plants, the insects animals trees, predators and introduced species in NZ’s native forests. Gillian Chandler offers some stunning facts such as stoats will kill even if they aren’t hungry and todays tuataras are not the same as their ancient ancestors.

Ned Barraud would have to be the best wild life illustrator in NZ. He mixes graphic illustrations with detailed portraits of plant and animal life.

A very informative  book that would be a great asset in any school library and in the home.

Hucking Cody by Aaron Topp.

September 21, 2015 Comments off

huckingHucking Cody by Aaron Topp. Pub.Mary Egan Publishing, 2015.

I am always delighted when I read a book like this that is aimed at the reluctant boy reader of High School age. It is about growing up but more importantly it is about Freeriding.

Hucking is to launch from a substantial height without fear and having faith in your bike to get you through. Yes it is about riding downhill through obstacles, over cliffs on a bike with quality rear suspension.

Cody is such a rider but his older brother Zane is a better one and the new girl at school with the pierced nose is a better one too. The competition is on and there is a major race at the end of the novel and lots of bike talk all the way through.

There is also a lot of jealousy, family conflict, criminal behaviour and expectations that are unrealistic particularly regarding the opposite sex and first love.

The novel is strong on personal ethics and responsibilities as well as the frailties of teenage  and family behaviour.

Told in short very readible chapters with a plot that keeps moving. The university party is a hoot, I was at a few of those in my day.Highly recommended.

Franky by Leo Timmers.

September 17, 2015 Comments off

FrankyFranky by Leo Timmers. Imprint Gecko Press, 2015.

Sam’s bedroom is full of robots. he is crazy about them and he believes out there in space is a planet where all the robots live. he is right of course but his mum and dad and his dog are not convinced.

Sam needs help so he builds a robot from electronic things in his room and he calls the robot Franky.

Franky is great to play with but one day he goes all quiet and looks up to the heavens. Then a space ship lands full of robots and guess who they look like.

Superb illustrations of robots and space rockets. Boys will pour over it for ages. Sam is a confident boy and trusts his own judgement.

You really need to get this for your home or school library.

Categories: Picture book Tags: ,

SHHH! I’m sleeping by Dorothee de Monfreid.

September 16, 2015 Comments off

SHHH I'm sleepingSHHH! I’m sleeping by Dorothee de Monfreid. Imprint Gecko press, 2015.

If you have ever suffered the inability to sleep because someone in the room is snoring their fat head off then you will empathise with this 12 page board book for juniors. It is outstanding.

Picture if you will 8 bunk beds on two walls, in the middle of the night each with a different breed of dog, then one dog starts snoring.

The lights go on, dogs start discussing the situation and as the night progresses all the other dogs end up on the one bunk listening to one dog tell a story.

By morning all the dogs are asleep on the top bunk and the snorer awakes after a great sleep and wonders where everybody is.

The dogs all have great names like Zaza, Misha and Omar and the water colour illustrations tell the story of the night in great detail. The dialogue is in speech bubbles and relates the exasperation of the others with the snoring but what can they do.

Good read aloud.

Categories: Picture book Tags:

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