Here in the Real World by Sara Pennypacker.

February 15, 2020 Comments off

real worldHere in the Real World by Sara Pennypacker. Pub. HarperCollins, 2020.

This easy to read novel with short chapters for primary and Intermediate students, is a delight from beginning to end. It is set in Florida and Sara Pennypacker’s style reminds me of Kate Di Camillo.

Over protection is one of many disadvantages of being an only child. Ware is eleven and a half years old and is a disappointment to his hard working parents. He knows they are disappointed and he would like to change completely.

I think he is a fabulous person. He is a dreamer, a thinker and above all an artist. He struggles to meet and mix with people and prefers to be with his own fantasies. He is the type of boy who when he closes the door to his room, every cell in his body breaths a sigh of relief.

He is put in a childminding school during the summer holidays after his grandmother who he calls Big-deal, and he hates it. Over the fence from the play centre is an old churchyard and he goes in there to play. It reminds him of a medieval castle and his great love is the code of a knight which concentrates on fairness.

Ware meets Jolene in the yard and she is a die hard realist but the two get on with lots of disagreement and banter. Jolene plants a garden in the old churchyard and Ware builds a moat around the old church tower.

Then an older girl Ashley tells Jolene and Ware that the bank is going to sell the church site and destroy the work they are doing.

Read it and find out what happens. Brilliant ending. One of the best of the year.

Lost Wonders. Vanished Creatures of Aotearoa by Sarah Ell, illus. Phoebe Morris.

February 11, 2020 Comments off

lost wondersLost Wonders. Vanished Creatures of Aotearoa by Sarah Ell, illus. Phoebe Morris. Pub. Allen&Unwin, 2020.

This very readable non fiction work about lost animal species in New Zealand is one of the most fascinating works i have ever read. Not only does Sarah Ell describe the geological history of New Zealand and the species that lived here she gives the Maori legends and stories that surrounds great beasts like the moa and the Haast eagle and smaller creatures live the huia and piopio.

80 million years ago when the continent of Zealandia, on which New Zealand sits, broke away from Gongwana, it carried a cargo of plants and animal life that thereafter would develop in isolation. While Haast and other geologists found evidence of the moa and the Haast Eagle in the early 19th century it wasn’t until  in the 1970’s in Hawks Bay that Jean Wiffen found evidence of dinosaurs. After the dinosaurs died off 65 million years ago NZ became Land of the Birds and was until European settlement in the 1800’s.

Amazingly while 24% of species have disappeared from NZ since Human settlement on the Chatham Islands the extinction rate is over 50%. Read this story too.

Part 2 of this book features species that have been lost and then found such as the Takahe found in Dusky Sound in 1848.

Phoebe Morris’s illustrations are superb. This wonderful; non fiction work should be in every school library. For primary Intermediate and High school.


Dozer the Fire Cat by Robyn Prokop illus. Jenny Cooper.

February 8, 2020 Comments off

dozerDozer the Fire Cat by Robyn Prokop illus. Jenny Cooper. Pub. Scholastic 2020.

A fire has started. take only your most treasured possessions say the police and evacuate quickly.

Animals cannot understand that and Dozer the cat keeps doing the things he has always done. The humans call and call but Dozer is sleeping.

Then the fire arrives is put out by brave firemen but Dozer is alone surrounded by black. The ash sticks to his paws, he is frightened and scared.

This must have happened to thousands of animals during the Australian bush tires but this true story is based in New Zealand during the Nelson fires of February 2019.

Robyn Prokop’s written text brings out the drama of the fire, while Jenny Cooper as brilliant as ever, captures the fire and the fear of the pussy cat.

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Wheels by Sally Sutton, illus. Brian Lovelock

February 5, 2020 Comments off

wheelsWheels by Sally Sutton, illus. Brian Lovelock. Pub. Walker Books, 2020.

With a front cover that says  “pick me up and read me”, this picture book attracts reluctant readers especially boys.

The front and back covers are strewn with tyre marks of the various everyday vehicles that are illustrated in this book.  Six different wheeled vehicles are then partly introduced and the reader asked  “shout whats coming if you know”. Each vehicle is presented over four pages with superb illustrations by Brian lovelock.

The written text demands to be read aloud to a class of juniors. Sally Sutton is good at this.  The back has a picture of a wheel with all it’s parts described.

A very worthwhile addition to any classroom and in the home.

Orphans of the Tide by Struan Murray.

January 31, 2020 Comments off

orphansOrphans of the Tide by Struan Murray. Pub. Puffin, 2020.


Always nice to read a children’s novel by a new author who has a great imagination.

Struan Murray creates a totally believable world that has been through the Drowning. The sea has risen enormously and the only known city left is built on a mountain and is called the City. The City is a character in it’s own right in this novel.

The plot is mysterious and action packed and it is about survival in this watery world. It begins when a whale is washed up on the roof of a house close to the waterfront. Ellie the main character knows that whales start decomposing in the stomach which produces gas and needs to be opened up before it explodes.

The opening starts a panic in the town. Ellie slices the whale open and a boy is extracted from the intestines. Ellie names him Seth and wants to protect him from the townsfolk who have judged him to be a Vessel for the main foe of the people who they call the Enemy.

The Inquisitors in the City have the job of hunting the Vessel down and killing it. Seth is the first Vessel in 23 years, but Ellie, her friend Annie and mysterious character Finn have other ideas.

Between chapters there is the story of the previous Vessel who has left the Diary of Claude Hestermeyer. Does it hold the secret to what is going on?

Ellie is a superb character. Her mother was an inventor and she herself has many skills and a respected role in the town. But she has a deadly secret which you can find out about by reading this novel. The last 50 pages are gripping.

Highly descriptive  novel for intermediate and junior high school students that will make you think. There is a map in the front to guide you. A great start to my reading year.


What’s In The Box? by David Minty.

January 23, 2020 Comments off

whats boxWhat’s In The Box? by David Minty. Pub.   2019.

This is a picture book of discovery and imagination. Aren’t they all?

Two friends coloured yellow, one wearing a pirate hat, the other a hat with a pompom and long straps, find a box on the shore. They ponder what’s inside it their imaginations run wild.

Could it contain “a crab with wonky eyes” “an entrance to a tunnel full of turkeys” ‘a box full of treasure” or “penguins with rocket boosters”.

I am afraid it is none of these but there are visual clues on nearly every page as to what is inside the box. See if you can spot them.

Simple written text and simple expressive illustrations full of colour. An excellent second book to My New red Car also reviewed on this blog.

Today in New Zealand History by Neill Atkinson, David Green, Gareth Phipps & Steve Watters.

January 21, 2020 Comments off

today in historyToday in New Zealand History by Neill Atkinson, David Green, Gareth Phipps & Steve Watters. Pub.  2020.

There are hours of fascinating reading about true events in New Zealand’s short history in this recent publication.This non fiction work goes through the calendar year and for each day there is an historical event. For instance Samuel Marsden planting the first grape vines in New Zealand in 1819.

The first thing I did when I got this novel was go through all the family birthdays to see what happened on that date. My wife for instance has a birthday on the same date as the National Council of Women was formed in 1896. My grand children were fascinated by what happened on their birthdays too and we had great discussion about it.

Social, historical, war, music, artistic, sporting and tragic events are recalled. Each entry has at least half a page of information but mostly whole pages. The facts are concise, not biased and are accompanied by a photograph or diagram or cartoon. The ownership and artistic works of these photos etc is documented in the back of the publication.

Crucial to any book like this is a good Index and this book has one. Check out the Beatles and you leaarn of their landing in NZ get on 21 June 1964 with plastic tikis around their necks. This is an updated version and includes events like the Christchuch Massacre on 15 March 2019 and the World title for the women’s netball Team last year.

This is not only for school libraries but also for the home. I don’t often promote books for sale but at less than 40 bucks this book is  a must  have. Check it out when it is released in February.