Amundsen’s Way. The Race to the South Pole by Joanna Grochowicz.

April 21, 2019 Comments off

AmundsenAmundsen’s Way. The Race to the South Pole by Joanna Grochowicz. Pub. Allen & Unwin, 2019.

This is historical writing at it’s very best. It is the other side of the coin about the great race to the South pole in 1912 between Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott. Scott’s tale is told in Joanna’s earlier book Into the White reviewed earlier on this blog.

It is not only the story of Amundsen and his men and their journey to the pole but also the story of the dogs who took them there. The dogs’ story is equally dramatic and mirrors the drama of Amundsen and his crew.

Amundsen deceived the King of Norway, his people and the famous explorer Nansen, into believing he was headed for the Northwest Passage around Cape Horn and up the Pacific. Captain Scott had no knowledge of Amundsen’s intentions either. When the ship the Fram berthed at the port of Madiera, Amundsen’s brother was dispatched with a letter to both the King and Nansen. He was heading South to the Pole.

Doing this he unwittingly drew Scott into a race he didn’t want and he put his reputation on the line. He must succeed. This preyed on his mind for the whole escapade and affected his decision making and his relationships with his men. But Amundsen had planned meticulously and was convinced of his ability to be successful. The contrast with Scott is one of the great exploration stories.

Having reached the Antarctic they hunkered down in a small hut  with 9 men, surrounded by dogs, leading to power struggles amongst both men and dogs. There was significant drama and conflict in both species.

Amundsen was haunted by the knowledge that Scott had motorised sleds, little did he know that these were a white elephant but it caused him to panic and move before his men were ready and the conditions were suitable.

Read it and see how the journey went and the fate that befell the dogs. Totally absorbing. This book is for everybody. They don’t make men like this these days.

To Trap a Thief by Des Hunt

April 16, 2019 Comments off

trap thiefTo Trap a Thief by Des Hunt. Pub Scholastic, 2019.

Another exciting adventure novel from a master children’s writer. Once again it is kids verses the adults and the kids are going to win but not before they are put through their paces and a lot of things have changed.

Set in the top half of the South Island from Nelson across to Motueka, Takaka and the Abel Tasman National Park, the backdrop of all the action is melded into the magnificence of this part of new Zealand.

Connors dad died in a plane crash and his mother has taken up with a good man called Morgan. Unfortunately Morgan’s mum and dad don’t like the relationship. To give things a trial Connor and his friend Harvey go on a camping trip in a motorised caravan with Rosen and Denzel, his possible future step grandparents. There is friction. But before all is worked out there are codes to break and a thief to catch.

Before the trip Denzel and Rosen won Lotto and others feel that it was from a ticket that they lost. Is it true? On the trip the boys are roped into a Quest via cell phone and a smooth operator called Frank has a mission of his own.

Easy to read in short chapters with plenty of excitement to lure in the most reluctant readers. Intermediate and Junior secondary.

Home Child by Dawn McMillan, illus. Trish Bowles.

April 9, 2019 Comments off

home childHome Child by Dawn McMillan, illus. Trish Bowles. Pub. Oratia Books, 2019.

This is the picture book story of Pat Brown, one of the children that Britain gave away in the 1950,s because of poverty or because they were orphans.

Many of these children had sad lives, sometimes abused and often unloved. Several hundred came to New Zealand and while Pat Brown had many sad moments  she was one of the lucky ones who had a happy life.

Dawn McMillan enhances Pat’s story of how she and her two brothers and sisters caught the boat from England, through the Panama Canal to the strange wooded hillsides of Wellington. Then a trip across Cook Strait and bus ride to Nelson. There Pat and Sheila were separated from Bill and Alma who were fostered elsewhere.

Pat tells the story to her granddaughter and there is a big surprise at the end. Read it and see what it is.

Trish Bowles captures every emotion in her illustrations. The sadness and tears of leaving home, the ship voyage out to NZ, the fun on board ship, the tragic separation of the children, the first day at school and the surprise ending.

A classy publication for everybody. Very moving.

Categories: Picture book Tags: , ,

The Magic Desk by Aaron Moffat

April 8, 2019 Comments off

magic deskThe Magic Desk by Aaron Moffat. Pub Olympia Publishers 2018.\

This is the third book from this author, all are reviewed on this blog, and his main obsession is bullying in schools. He has others too and many are found in this recent novel.

Timothy is a WASP (white anglo saxon protestant), he is 12 years old and has just arrived in NZ with his born to rule mother. He looks like a studious boy but at heart is shiftless and lazy, and he is going to have to change.

Timothy is rescued from a beating by bullies by Aroha a Maori girl who fancies him and is the daughter of a reformed Gang leader. Their relationship is at the core of this novel.

Timothy’s mother buys a mahogany “escritoire”, (desk in more common language,) which has a portal into another world. Through traveling via the desk to different historical scenarios including pre European Maori, French revolution and others, Timothy learns that bullying is a human trait that is impossible to extinguish. Humans will take it to the grave.

Lots of race and immigrant talk, some of it will appall you, but mostly it is tongue in cheek and open to further discussion. The novel is well written, lofty writing in parts and the characters do change. Timothy learns that reading and writing are powerful and a petition over enviromental concerns changes everything. His mum will never change.

I laughed all the way through. For intermediate and high school students. Check it out.

Little Frida by Anthony Browne

April 6, 2019 Comments off

Little fridaLittle Frida by Anthony Browne. Pub. Walker Books, 2019.

A new Anthony Browne picture book is something to savour, and this one about the young Frida Kahlo is a beauty.

Frida was only 6 years old when she contracted polio. It was painful and made her different from other children. She felt lonely and an outsider and when she dreamed she dreamed of flying.

She retreated into her imagination and flew away meeting a girl who was just like her, except she could dance. Frida told her all her secrets, she listened and they became the closest of friends. She knew she could visit her whenever she wanted and she did.

Brilliant story about the power and healing qualities of the imagination. It is a powerful story.

The illustrations are as always outstanding. Full of mystery and meaning while capturing Frida’s sadness and pain and the Mexican landscape from whence she came. There is the airplane made of fruit, a little dog that appears on most pages and the wings that Frida wore disappearing mysteriously.

Check it out, you will not get better quality writing and illustration than this.

Harsu & the Werestoat by Barbara Else.

April 5, 2019 Comments off

HarsuHarsu & the Werestoat by Barbara Else. Pub. Gecko press, 2019.

This is one of the weirdest novels I have ever read, yet I was compelled to finish it, in order to understand it. I am not sure that I did but here is what I think.

Daama is the mother of 12 year old Harsu. Daama is the daughter of the Wind God, changes into a werestoat, wields power through charms, signs and magic and feels she should be praised for being a good mother and goddess. She is not. She is narcissistic and shallow in her beliefs and deserves to be curbed.

Harsu is part human, devoted to his mother but can’t forgive her for eliminating his father. Fortunately Harsu’s father left him enough clues to curb the power of his mother through charms and signs written on a clay tablet that he carries around with him.

Daama wants perfection in her children and sees the pock marked Harsu as not good enough to praise her. She is wrong. Daama kidnaps two seemingly perfect boys and a girl and locks them in jars letting them go periodically so they can praise her.

Together they all pass through the gate of Time and Place and travel through the mystical world arriving finally in New Zealand, while Daama pursues admiration and power.

Harsu is the key to her downfall and must learn that through reading and writing he can quell his mothers powers. But he has to box clever. The ending is tense with many lives at stake.

See if you can do better than me in explaining this novel. It has been written for middle readers, somewhat like a legend or myth or fairy tale but it baffled me.

Cats and Robbers by Russell Ayt

April 3, 2019 Comments off

cats robbersCats and Robbers by Russell Ayt. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2019.

This is the Home Alone of picture books. Two cats verses three robbers and I bet you can guess who is going to win.

The cats live in a long tall house with three floors and a basement. Three infamous robbers are up a tree casing the joint. On the top floor they see a safe that must be full of lots of loot but they don’t see the cats.

The two cats have spying cameras and mics in the basement and prepare booby traps for the robbers. The robbers are not the sharpest tools in the shed and as they tiptoe, sneak and creep through the house they are ambushed by the cats and sent where all robbers should be sent. Read it and see what happens.

The illustrations are truly unique. Each page has a different pastel colour with illustrations that enhance the text yet tell another side of the story. The robbers are suitably villainous and stupid and the cats are both innocent and cunning.

One of the best of the year. Don’t miss it.

Categories: Picture book Tags: ,