Grandad’s Guitar by Janine McVeagh. illus. Fifi Colston.

May 24, 2017 Comments off

grandads guitarGrandad’s Guitar by Janine McVeagh. illus. Fifi Colston. Pub. Makaro Press, 2017.

When Kahu is given a worn and scratched old guitar for his birthday by his Nana, he is not pleased. “why can’t I have a new one?“.

So Nana tells him the history of the guitar that was owned by his grandfather, has been around the world, entertained people from many cultures and was a strong binding factor in the relationship between his grandparents.

As Nana tells this story to Kahu he is learning to play the guitar and has three chords mastered by the end of the story.

It is probably set in the 1970’s when many New Zealanders took off for their OE on board an Italian passenger liner. I did and this picture book has a strong nostalgia about it for me and  I suspect many other grandparents out there. This is their story too.

Grandfather played the guitar all over Europe, through the Middle East to India. It nearly got swept away but now Kahu has it. He is proud.

Fifi Colston’s excellent illustrations show the hippy culture of the time, the combi van, the relationship between the grandparents and the various cultures that they met in their travels.

All in all a classy publication. It is released today at $25.00 a copy. Well worth it.

Categories: Picture book Tags: ,

See You When I see You by Rose Lagercrantz, Illus. Eva Eriksson.

May 23, 2017 Comments off

see you whenSee You When I see You by Rose Lagercrantz, Illus. Eva Eriksson. Pub. Gecko Press, 2017.

This is the fifth book in this series about Dani and her best friend Ella. They now live apart as Ella has gone to another town but have half a locket each which they hang around their necks to cement their friendship.

Dani has been sad as her mother was killed in a car crash and her father has been in hospital but is now back with a new girlfriend Sadie.

In this two part story Dani goes to the zoo with her class, gets separated but meets Ella also at the zoo with her class. The two celebrate being together.

The second part has Sadie coming to dinner. Dani had last seen Sadie when they rode Iceland ponies with her friend Ella. Things did not go well and Dani is upset that her father appears to have forgotten her mother.

Beautifully written  with simple words and short sentences for the newly confident reader of 5-7 years. The power of these stories is that they introduce grown up circumstances with child experiences.

Superbly illustrated by Eva Eriksson, my favourite is a drawing of a boy at the zoo walking around like a gorilla. A lovely book.

Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

May 21, 2017 Comments off

chemical heartsOur Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland. Pub. Hot Key Books, 2016.

There is a Japanese art form called Kintsukuroi in which you take a bowl or plate or a pot break it into pieces and stick it back together again so that it becomes more beautiful for having been broken.

This really is a metaphor for the relationship that develops between Henry Page who narrates the novel and Grace Town a beautiful, mysterious, damaged and thoroughly weird girl. Henry wonders what it will be like to fall in love and when he first sees Grace he knows he is drawn to her like a moth to a flame.

Henry struggles to get anything going with Grace, they text each other, work together on the school newspaper but one day she is hot the next cold. Then he finds out about a deep sadness that Grace is carrying around. Henry wants to care for Grace and for her to recognise that they are an item but Grace slips into the abyss and forgets the world exists. Grace tells Henry that “stories with happy endings are stories that haven’t finished yet”.

Henry finds out that this is true. The novel also asks the question do men feel romance?. Do they crush on girls and go through the same heartbreak as girls do over boys?

Brilliantly written in a style that draws on film, book and music trivia with bold dialogue and great depth on what it is like to be growing up and seeking love. I read this in two sittings I couldn’t put it down. Thank you Linley for recommending it to me.

For teenagers and young adults who like the novels of John Green and grew up with Harry Potter, The Twilight series and the music of the Strokes and the Pixies.

Don’t miss this one you will kick yourself if you do.

Middle School. I Funny. School of laughs by James Patterson, illus. Chris Grabenstein.

May 16, 2017 Comments off

school laughMiddle School. I Funny. School of laughs by James Patterson, illus. Chris Grabenstein. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2017.

I have reviewed a number of books by these two authors and they always have a funny way to address issues that concern children such as bullying and friendship which always have a positive ending.

The novels are easy to read, appeal to the reluctant reader of primary and intermediate age and are expertly illustrated.

In this novel wheelchair bound comedian Jamie has finished with his TV show and returned to school with his friends Gilda, Joey and Pierce. Once again they have to contend with bullies Stevie and Lars but this time the bullies have an ally in the new Headmaster, Coach Ball.

Coach Ball has a flattop haircut and a closet full of tracksuits and has a desire to close the school library and turn it into a wrestling arena. The new librarian Ms Denning has a month to prove that more than 50% of students are using the library or the die is cast.

Jamie and his friends set out to help, but how come Coach Ball drives a $140,000 Masaerati? Read it and find out.

 

T

Into The White. Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey by Joanna Grochowicz.

April 27, 2017 Comments off

into whiteInto The White. Scott’s Antarctic Odyssey by Joanna Grochowicz.  Pub. Allen & Unwin, 2017.

When I went to school the ill fated race to the South Pole between Robert Falcon Scott and Norwegian Roald Amundsen was known by everybody. It’s a story that should never be forgotten and thankfully Joanna Grochowicz has written this simply told and accessible account of Scott’s famous journey.

Joanna lays the facts before you to let you the reader understand and decide why this journey ended so badly. Many blame Scott himself for being a poor decision maker and being aloof from his men. There is ample evidence for you to make up your own mind but I think it is fair to say that if the facts surrounding this trip were put on the table today, no body would go for it.

Patriotism can be an overly persuasive emotion and I think it was with this trip. Showing the Norwegians whose boss got in the way of safety. Scott had mistakenly taken ponies and motorised sleds. Both failed. Amundsen took dogs, 200 of them. He finished with 11.

Scott suffered appalling weather conditions on the Great Ice Barrier. Heavy snow caused men to sink up to their shins and ponies to leave holes a foot deep. White out conditions demoralised the men as they tried to pick a course through a blank wall of white. Scott planned for 16 kilometers a day but they were lucky if they did half that.

The journey across the Great Ice Barrier up the Beardmore Glacier and across the High Plateau was formidable . Food and fuel were short, the men were constantly freezing. Sometimes to stand outside for 2 minutes would cover the men from head to foot in snow. That they got so far was miraculous. After the horses died the men dragged their heavy supply sleds themselves.

Read this superb account to find out the full story. It is gripping.

Sarah Lippett’s illustrations at the head of every chapter enhance the reality of the story and Herbert Ponting’s photographs are astonishing. Take a look at the photo of Dr Atkinson’s frostbite to see what it looks like.

This book like the story of Scott, Bowers, Oates, Wilson and Evans is unforgettable. The last days will bring a tear to your eye.

Wide appeal from primary students through to Young adult.

The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom.

April 22, 2017 Comments off

crueltyThe Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom. Pub. Walker Books, 2017.

Abandoning their own when an operation turns bad is what the CIA is known for. So sayeth one of the characters in this book, but is it the whole truth.

Seventeen year old Gwendolyn is an ordinary American girl. She is told by her father that he works for the Government and as a result they have lived in many countries especially Russia and Italy making her adept at several languages.

When her father goes missing in France on what he said was a routine operation, Gwendolyn’s life changes. The CIA call round asking questions. A neighbour upstairs tells Gwendolyn that all is not as it seems and gives her a book that her father said was for her eyes only. What she discovers takes her to Paris and the company of a taut bodied former Mossad agent, Yael ,who describes her job as 90% waiting around and 10% terror.

Gwendolyn toughens up under Yael’s guidance and after a gun battle Gwendolyn takes off for Berlin and later Prague. She assumes the identity of a 22 year old Russian stripper called Sofia and becomes involved with a gun running, drug dealing, young girl smuggling multi millionaire Bohden Kladivo. He tells her “a woman who seeks to rise in the World must be crueler than men”. As the plot evolves Gwendolyn/Sofia finds the cruelty rising within her.

An excellent action/thriller/spy story that makes for tense reading. One of the best of this type of novel that I have read and the good news is the story is not over. There must be a sequel. The plot is tight and believable and the style is clever, menacing and witty – “trains creep slowly along the tracks like snakes in a moat”

Teens and Young Adults will love it.

My Dog Mouse by Eva Lindstrom.

April 20, 2017 Comments off

my dog mouseMy Dog Mouse by Eva Lindstrom. Pub. Gecko Press, 2017.

If you have ever been able to count the number of teeth in a dogs mouth while it yawns then you are probably dealing with an old dog. Mouse is an old dog with thin droopy ears who is a little over weight and moves real slow.

The little girl with the androgynous hairstyle loves the old dog and always asks the owner if she can take him for a walk.

Wearing her flared green dress with black tights and her back pack she takes Mouse for a walk around the block, through the park, right turn and home again.

They both love it and are clearly comfortable together. This is the way it should be.

I wish Mouse was mine” the little girl says after dropping him off. The last page will put a lump in your throat. Don’t miss this one. Great for studying  pets and reading aloud to juniors.

The illustrations are laid back. Easy autumnal water colours accompanied with pencil etchings. The illustrations also make social commentary – the supermarket trolley left behind, the cigarette butts on the ground outside for smokers.

Superb publication.