Viola Vincent reporting…Underdog by Anna Kenna

December 13, 2017 Comments off

UnderdogViola Vincent reporting…Underdog by Anna Kenna. Pub. Tiromoana Publishing, 2017.

If you are an animal lover this novel is heart rending stuff but even if you are not the treatment of dogs in puppy rearing farms will stir your stomach. It is a world wide problem and is alive and well in New Zealand too.

A string of sausages around a boy’s neck for a wearable arts school competition leads to an attack by a gentle labrador seeking food and brings 13 year old Caitlin alias Viola Vincent in contact with the puppy rearing industry.

With the help of a journalist friend Megan, Caitlin first helps with the labrador and then discovers the horror of the puppy farm in her area.

The plight of Sissy, a young dog who is held captive in appalling conditions with the sole purpose of producing puppies for sale, comes to Caitlin’s notice and she goes on the prowl to expose the ratbags who are mistreating dogs so badly.

Easy to read with alternate chapters in the puppy factory showing the horror of it all. Fortunately there is a happy ending.

For primary and intermediate readers. A worthwhile read from a former 20/20 TV journalist.

The Mud by Mick Stone

December 8, 2017 Comments off

mudThe Mud by Mick Stone. Pub. BMS Books, 2017

The coast around Whakakatane has sandy beaches and muddy estuaries and these form the backdrop to this rather disturbing story of 17 year old Emily Lewis who has been abused by the man she knows as father for much of her life.

Emily has been taken off a boat she has drifted around the estuary in, talking to her yet unborn baby, while her mother’s house has become a crime scene after she was stabbed in the back. Are all these events linked?

Emily is cautioned and taken to the cells, moved around the court and psychiatric circuit which she is well adept at handling and it is she who narrates the story. I liked Emily, she is clearly able academically but her life has virtually been snuffed out by adults who clearly need to be dealt to under the law.

Emily¬† has the opinion that “there is nothing you or anyone else can do about me”. Adults all the way down the line have failed her. How very sad. This story is only 105 pages long and is a short sharp punch in the guts. It is written to assist others who are in the same predicament as her.

Secondary and young adult

Lucky Button by Michael Morpurgo. Illus. Michael Foreman.

December 4, 2017 Comments off

lucky buttonLucky Button by Michael Morpurgo. Illus. Michael Foreman. pub. walker books, 2017.

There is always something gentle yet powerful about a Michael Morpurgo novel and so it is with this one. Similarly he often uses a story within a story to link a past event with a present day situation and he does it again in this novel.

Jonah looks after his mother who is house bound and has stopped playing music that Jonah loved so much. Jonah gives up much of his school life to look after his mother and is bullied at school.

After an attack he retreats to the school chapel where he finds a brass button that brought the original owner a lot of luck. The owner called Nathaniel Hogarth was a foundling at an orphanage with connections to the composer Handel.  Nathaniel appears before Jonah as a ghost and tells him an amazing story about becoming friends with Mozart and his sister.

Will the lucky button give some badly needed luck to Jonah and his mum? Read it and find out. It is fascinating and based on true events although this is not a true story.

Superbly illustrated by Michael Foreman’s colour illustrations as always.

Primary and middle school readers will devour it.

Bad Dad by David Walliams. Illus. Tony Ross

December 2, 2017 Comments off

bad dadBad Dad by David Walliams. Illus. Tony Ross. Pub. HarperCollins, 2017.

You don’t need to advertise these novels kids all know about them as soon as they are out.

The usual smattering of silliness which you wish was true, with goodies taking on baddies and winning. This time we have a bad dad who isn’t bad, a vicar without a congregation, a mini called Queenie, an aunt who can’t write poetry and three villains-Mr Big, Fingers and Thumbs who are just classic and right out of a Jimmy Cagney movie.

The down trodden are 11 year old Frank and his stockcar driving father Gilbert who losses a leg, a wife and his self respect but not the love of his son.

The minor characters are a treat especially the local copper Sergeant Scoff and perennial newsagent and all round good guy if a little mingy, Raj.

Great for anyone with a silly sense of humour and especially for reluctant readers. As usual Tony Ross’s illustrations are superb.

I loved it. But wait there’s more. We have a gay relationship to ponder and it will make you happy.

Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers

November 24, 2017 Comments off

here we areHere We Are by Oliver Jeffers Pub. HarperCollins, 2017.

If you had to explain what planet earth was and what went on here to a newcomer, how would you do it?

Well Oliver Jeffers has a new son and in the most simplest of terms tells his son all about Earth, how it looks, where it is in relation to the Universe, what life there is on Earth and what we do here.

That is a massive effort and in doing so he gets us, the reader, to assess or reassess what we are doing here. “there are lots of us here so be kind.There is enough for everyone”

He describes the land, the sea and the sky, what a human looks like, how different we all are but how similar we are too. All the animals that are here their diversity and where everybody lives including the city and country. Mr Jeffers comes from Brooklyn so the bridge gets in there.

His advice to his son is to be kind and when he is not around to answer questions you can always ask someone else.

A beautiful message. And there’s more. The illustrations are spectacular. If you don’t read this book you have missed one of the choices of the year.

For everybody.

Brotherband Bk 7: The Caldera by John Flanagan.

November 17, 2017 Comments off

calderaBrotherband Bk 7: The Caldera by John Flanagan. Pub.Penguin Random House, 2017.

Hal, Stig, Ulf and Wulf, Lydia, Thorn and dog Kloof are a Brotherband in the Skandian culture and they sail a technically superior viking ship, the Heron, due to a movable boom sail rig invented by Hal the Skirl or captain. They take on dangerous missions all over the Skandian world and such is their team work and skill that they are always successful.

When Stig’s father Olaf turns up after deserting his family and crew 20 years previously a new adventure begins. Olaf has work as chief palace guard for the Empress of Constanta a city identical to the modern day Istanbul. The Empress is Regent to her young son who has been kidnapped by to true baddy with the name Myrgos.

Myrgos has a fortress in a caldera of a volcano which has opened to the sea and his fortress is at the top of a cliff overlooking the caldera.

Hal and his crew are asked by Olaf to rescue the Empress’s son and clear his name at the same time. But all is not as it seems. Read it and enjoy the action, it is outstanding and compulsive reading.

Told in the same easy style of previous Brotherband books and you do not have to have read the earlier novels to know what is going on. John Flanagan neatly brings you up to scratch in Part 1 of the novel and then you are straight into the action against the villain Myrgos and the river pirates of the Dan river.

Lots of sailing talk and sea and river battles that are brilliantly described. I was disturbed when Lydia the only female member of Hal’s crew was wounded in the first battle of the novel but I knew she would get up again.

For intermediate and junior secondary readers but I am sure older and younger confident readers will easily cope with this novel. Leadership is a constant theme of this series, what does it take to be a leader?

Reluctant boys – this is for you.

Supersaurs 1: The Raptors of Paradise by Jay Jay Burridge.

November 13, 2017 Comments off

supersaursSupersaurs 1: The Raptors of Paradise by Jay Jay Burridge. Pub Allen&Unwin, 2017.

The first part of a new adventure series for pre-teens and teens set in a world in which dinosaurs still exist but in a time zone that is pre world War 2.

13 year old Bea sets off with her well bred grandmother Bunty and her square jawed manservant Theodore for the Spice islands to seek the whereabouts of Bea’s parents who disappeared on the Island of Aru 11 years previously. They also hoped to see the elusive Raptors of Paradise who live in the interior of the island.

Things are not going to go well as there is a super bad guy called Christian Hayter on the island who is killing and smuggling raptors and other dinosaurs off the island to foreign buyers. Bea and her troop are going to upset Hayter who is hated by the local people and the raptors alike.

Will he come to a sticky end? Are Bea’s parents still alive? What are the Raptors of Paradise like? and who is the savage little boy who appears at times of crisis in Bea’s life?

There is an absolutely superb scene when Bea and her troop are surrounded by shadow raptors who appear to be dancing. Square jawed Theodore gets the troop to sing knees up mother Brown and loe and behold the raptors mimic them and even learn the whole song.

One might say it is old fashioned writing with a jolly hockeysticks manner and to a certain extent it is, but how refreshing it all is.

Don’t miss this one. Less than $20.00 in book shops now.