From Moa to Dinosaurs. Explore & discover ancient New Zealand by Gillian Candler & Ned Barraud. Pub. Potton & Burton, 2016.
This is the sort of priceless non fiction book that cannot be bettered by any one web site. It is altogether in one superb reference book brilliantly illustrated by Ned Barraud.
Gillian Candler’s simple and authoritative written text is accessible to children of all ages. It is the 5th outing by these experience writers, their other titles are at the link at the bottom of this review.
The book starts 180 Million years ago when new Zealand was part of the great southern land of Gondwana. Over millions of years it split off with Australia then discarded the Aussies to form the undersea continent of Zealandia and finally to the islands we have today.
New Zealand was largely a land of ancient forests populated by birds when the Maori first came. We had nine species of Moa with the females almost twice as big as the males. Moas were hunted by the largest eagle ever, the Haast eagle and we know this because of talon scratches on old moa bones.
NZ once had a fresh water crocodilian of up to 3 metres in length evidence of which is in the ancient Central Otago lake Manuherikia. Not a lot of people know that.
All the evidence for the facts provided are explained in a little box within the illustrations and text titled How Do we Know? There is no doubt about it.
This is a beautiful publication for everyone and essential for every school library.
All By Myself by Jessica McGarvey. 2015.
Early readers are some of the most valuable reading resources that a child will ever have. they start the reading process and can engender a love of reading that hopefully lasts a life time.
This is one of those books. A little boy gets out of bed, his drawings are on the wall, wakes up his dad to help him on with his boots. Then outside to sit on the tractor, then help feed the goat. A bit of hide and seek is fun and off to fly the kite. The kite soars over the farm and the little boy has enough confidence to wind it back in all by himself.
Simple text simple but expressive illustrations. A great confidence builder with the boy initiating the action, the father assisting and creating fun.A lovely piece of work for juniors.
12 Huia Birds by Julian Stokoe. Illus. Stacy Eyles. Pub. Oratia Books, 2016.
The last confirmed sighting of a Huia was in 1907 although there were credible but unconfirmed sightings as late as the 1960’s.
It was a beautiful bird prized for it’s feathers by the Maori but it was a ground dweller where it hunted for huhu grubs in fallen logs and other grubs in the soil. The female had a beautiful curved beak and the male a straighter beak, it’s feathers were black, trimmed with white and it had a yellow plumage below the beak.
Before the Maori it sang to hail the dawn but the coming of the dog and the rat began the road to extinction. European settlers and introduced possums, stoats ferrets and weasels finished the fabulous huia off.
This picture book tells that story beginning with 12 huia, counting down to the last bird in rhyming verse as it vanishes off into the sky but there is hope as the bird lives in paintings songs and stories, but this should never happen again to another species.
Well told by Julian Stokoe and superbly illustrated by Stacy Eyles acrylic like paintings of the birds and their diminishing environment. There are some stunning pages none more so than the 9 Huia birds singing songs of love as the supreme Maori chief seeks the huia’s feathers for his treasure box.
Great appeal for primary and intermediate school students with a powerful conservation message for everybody.
The Impossible Boy by Leonie Agnew. Pub. Penguin Random house, 2016.
This novel for children and young adults is staggeringly good.It is multi level, thought provoking and ultimately hopeful in spite of an endless war where there are no rules only winners and losers.
Every night on the TV News we see children hauled from the rubble of war torn cities in the Middle East, dirty, shaking, their faces carved masks of indifference and largely emotionless except for their eyes. It is gut wrenching.How do they cope with war? What do they feel? This novel directly confronts these questions.
Benjamin is 6 years old and he has an imaginary friend called Vincent Gum who looks after him after a train crash and delivers him to a children’s orphanage in the middle of a war torn city. Other children, who belong to no side, are in there, and Ben teams up with 14 year old girl Lucky, her brother Zaar and younger children Amos and Sofia.
Ben’s imagination is ultimately going to save all of these children who have turned the art of survival into a game. Each copes with war in a different way but their fears in this novel are personified in the form of the Hanger Man who hides in the closet. It is Ben’s imaginary friend Vincent who helps teach the children their fears cannot hurt them.
Vincent is a character in his own right with his own fears and he must learn how to cope too.
Leonie Agnew ‘s descriptions of the war situation are stunning. After an air attack she says even “the air seems to be crying’ and the journalists cameras “snap like a wild animal”
This book is unforgettable.
My Autobiography Humble Pie by Gordon Ramsay. Pub. HarperCollins, 2007.
I was never a fan of this famous chef and even less a fan of cooking shows, until I read this book. Ramsay tells it like it is in his rambunctious way explaining all his actions and attitudes, not because he had too but because it happened.
He loved his mother but his father could be called a selfish cruel bastard who caused grief for every member of his family especially Ramsay’s two sisters and younger brother Ronnie. They all suffered worse than he did because Ramsay would not be conquered by it. Sure he wanted his father’s love but his father was unable to give it.
Ramsay at an early age decided he was going to work hard and in cooking he found something to love, cherish and do well. And hasn’t he done this well?
His tough upbringing greatly affected his attitudes to cooking and the heated environment of the kitchen. He had no time for anyone who was slack and didn’t have the respect for good food that he did.
Cooking wasn’t his first love. Football was and we read of his career with Glasgow Rangers. He was a Scottish boy who lived in England and developed an English accent. In Scotland that was a recipe for getting done.
We have chapters on his family life, his early training as a chef under arch enemy Marco Pierre White, his TV career and his rise to the top in matters culinary and his Michelin Stars.
A rollicking read spoken in provocative language and always interesting. I loved the man.
Shooting Stars by Brian Falkner. Pub. Scholastic, 2016.
“You who are on the road must have a code that you can live by” these lyrics from a 1970 Crosby Stills and Nash song ran through my mind as I was reading this superb novel.
Egan and his Moma have lived in the remote forests and bush of the Coromandal Peninsula for 15 years since Moma fled from an abusive husband with Egan as a baby. She taught him well, bringing him up on a code that is not unique- based on the Golden Rule, and written by every philosopher from Socrates to Fred Dagg. Egan is well read and wants to be a writer, Hemmingway and Steinbeck are favourites. Some of his stories are spread throughout the novel. The Code works well in the bush where there are no other humans, until Egan meets D.O.C. deer culler J.T. Hunter.
Egan and his dog Jack like J.T. and they learn much from each other, then Moma goes missing. Egan looks for clues in his mother’s papers and this takes him to Auckland. This is part 2 of the novel with Egan describing Auckland as a bonfire that needs constant feeding. He learns to live with the street kids and finds violence and love. He could survive anything but The Code by which he has lived is sorely tested.
Part 3 tells the father’s story and Egan learns what celebrity status means. The Code is further tested and broken. I would ruin it for you if I told you anything else.
Falkner narrates the story in diary form through Egan from December to March and it is totally compelling. The wit, the humour, the characterisation and the flow of the novel are strong traits of all Falkner’s novels, this is no exception. I was mesmerised from start to finish and you will be too. It is a triumph for motherhood.
Mention must be made of the cover, it is outstanding, any reader can see what the novel is going to do from the cover. The best I have seen for a long time.
Would be a great text for students from year 9 – 11 and great reading for everyone else. My book of the year so far.
NB this novel will be released for standing orders in October 2016 with general release November.
Jingle Bells, Rudolph Smells by Deano Yipadee and Paul Beavis. Pub. Scholastic, 2016.
This is a Wonkey Donkey type format with CD attached with Deano singing the song around which this picture book story for juniors revolves. You can play the CD to see how the song sounds then sing along with the words in the book.
It is a Xmas story, the first of the year and it will probably be popular. Once again Rudolph, he of red nose fame, comes to the rescue of Santa and his sleigh on Xmas Eve using one of his bodily functions. The book calls it a trump, an oft used Northern England term. We call it a fart.The fart is not only smelly but it engenders heat and energy that is enough to save the day and of course it goes in Santa’s face, always guaranteed a laugh and smile when singing along.
Paul Beavis’s illustrations are excellent and he manages to give life to each reindeer. Rudolph of course will go down in history as he always does.
Not released until October 2016.