The Longdrop by Joan Joass, illus. Bob Darroch.

July 2, 2020 Comments off

longdropThe Longdrop by Joan Joass, illus. Bob Darroch. Pub. Oratia, 2020.

Where would the good old Kiwi camping holiday be without a longdrop or dunny as we call it.

Mum, dad,three kids and the cat go camping. The toilet is a fairly long way away so dad with all his do-it-yourself skills builds a longdrop. It is his pride and joy with a comfortable white seat and room for a few other things.

But he doesn’t dig it deep enough and the methane and a lighted match can cause disaster. Read it and see what happens.

Told in rhyming text by Joan Joass with Bob Darroch chipping in with some great illustrations as usual. he gets the family right but watch the cat, it is not in every image but his incredulous looks steal the show.

 

In The City. A look anfd Find Story by Holly James, illus. Hannah Tolson.

July 1, 2020 Comments off

in the cityIn The City. A look and Find Story by Holly James, illus. Hannah Tolson. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2020.

Cities are not all the same but they do perform the same functions everywhere they exist. This look and find picture book for juniors shows the various functions of any city and allows children time to explore and look for things that happen in the city.

Oscar and Lucy travel into the city by train from the suburbs and use a map to seek things out. They see the traffic, they visit a museum, they note the number and variety of vehicles on the streets, they climb up a sky scraper, visit a park for a picnic, cruise on the river, go shopping, take a bus tour and off home.

The things they see are highlighted  and listed at the back of the book.

Excellent illustrations in bold colours and I suspect that the city shown is London but it could be new York, Tokyo Paris. The figures in the illustrations are multi cultural.

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Rush to Riches. Kauri and Gold by Gordon Ell.

June 29, 2020 Comments off

rush richesRush to Riches. Kauri and Gold by Gordon Ell. Pub. Oratia, 2020.

Adapted from two books published in 1995 and 1996 this excellent non fiction work looks at the NZ gold rushes and the Kauri timber and gum industry in a way that can be easily accessed by primary and intermediate readers and researchers.

Where these industries took place, how the timber gum and gold were accessed, the effects on the landscape and the peopling of New Zealand and the economic outcomes for new Zealand are all covered. Excellent photographs of the people who exploited these resources and the lives they led plus the effects and attitudes of the Maori population.

Did you know that one kauri tree had enough timber to build 6 houses and that the biggest gold nugget found here was called The Honourable Roddy. The NZ Govt gave it to King George V as a coronation gift and he had it melted down for a golden tea service.

These and other very interesting facts are covered in this short publication. Invaluable for school libraries and a source of reference of NZ history.

Lisette’s Green Sock by Catharina Valckx. Translated by Antony Shugaar.

June 25, 2020 Comments off

green sockLisette’s Green Sock by Catharina Valckx. Translated by Antony Shugaar. Pub. Gecko Press, 2020.

If I wanted a go to a picture book to cheer me up, this is the one I would read. It’s about individuality and difference and how everybody can use things in a different way. In this instance it is a green sock and a very comfortable looking sock it is too.

On a bright sunny day, Lisette goes out for a walk“. She passes her mum reading a book. Lisette and her mum both wear head scarfs, which I like, and they both are birds, probably chickens. Lisette finds a single green sock, likes it and puts on her left foot although it ends up on her right foot by the time she gets back home again.

Bert the rat likes the sock too but he prefers it as a hat. Tim and Tom cat find the other sock and Lisette and Bert give chase but they throw it on the river where fish finds it. What do you think fish will do with it? read it and find out.

The illustrations are superb, the colours are pastel, the characterisation inspired, and it can be used as a read aloud for juniors. Quite simply the best picture book this year. Don’t miss it.

The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate

June 23, 2020 Comments off

one bobThe One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate. Pub. HarperCollins, 2020.

Children love animal stories and so do I. This excellent novel for primary and middle school readers is a sequel to the award winning The One and Only Ivan.

Ivan is a silver backed gorilla who was taken from the jungle as a baby, brought up by humans and never understood that in his own community he would be in charge. He is a gentle giant and when confined to a small zoo off a major highway he is befriended by Bob a small dog who has been abandoned by humans.

Bob has a human care giver, Julia, who taught Ivan art, and still visits him and his elephant friend Ruby at the zoo. Bob has doubts about himself but a massive hurricane and tornado wreck the zoo putting all the animals and humans in jeopardy. Bo finds strengths that he never knew he had.

Superbly narrated by Bob who has doubts over whether dog is man’s best friend or that man is dogs best friend. See what you think yourself.

The illustrations by Patricia Castelao are superb and add a necessary dimension to the characters and the story. Don’t miss this beauty.

The Fire Fox by Esther Remnant and Mike Gwyther.

June 19, 2020 Comments off

fire foxThe Fire Fox by Esther Remnant and Mike Gwyther. Pub. Wild Tales, Imprint CopyPress, 2020.

A very classy picture book adapted from a finnish folk tale about the aurora Borealis or Northern Lights.

A young boy whose friend is a bird he can hold in the palm of his hand, wander the wilderness of the Arctic and seeing the sights that dwell there.

One night the wind changed and “a wet black nose and some curious toes parted the shadows at the edge of the forest”. The boy and bird follow the fox who legend has it sweeps snow into the heavens with his tail to cause the northern lights.

Read this picture book and see what happens here and admire the superb linocut prints by Esther Remnant that are the illustrations that tell this story. Some of the best art work i have seen in a picture book. Breath taking in fact.

Alice-Miranda in the Outback by Jacqueline Harvey.

June 19, 2020 Comments off

MirandaAlice-Miranda in the Outback by Jacqueline Harvey. Pub Puffin Books 2020.

This is an adventure mystery novel for middle school readers set in the outback of Australia and it is the latest in 19 books about the same characters set in other parts of the World.

Alice-Miranda Highton-Smith-Kennington-Jones is a pre teen girl with a vivid and enquiring mind. She likes to solve mysteries and with her friends Millicent and Jacinta,  and cousin Lucas and others she sets about solving mysteries on a huge outback station near opal center Coober Pedy.

Something has gone wrong with the water supply around Hope Springs Station,  outback legend  Taipan Dan has gone missing, his friend an fellow character Sprocket McGinty is kidnapped and a ginger cat Junie turns up at Hope Springs Station where Miranda and her friends and family are staying. Then a young deaf girl goes missing, a mystery map is found and there rumours of a lost opal mine start circulating. Plenty for Miranda to get her teeth into and she does.

Easy to read with the Outback being a major character in this book. I read it quickly and so will you. Good family values.

The Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman.

June 13, 2020 Comments off

length stringThe Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman. Pub. Puffin Books, 2020.

This novel for middle and senior school students is one of the most moving, emotional and compelling novels I have ever read.

Anna is 12 years old when the Germans invaded Luxembourg in 1941 and started identifying all the Jews with the yellow star and stripping them of any human dignity. In August 1941 it was still possible for Jewish people to escape Luxembourg to Portugal and get a ship to America but it was dangerous and expensive.

Anna leaves her twin sister Belle, plus the the rest of the family, at the insistence of her parents and goes to live with Hannah and Max in Brooklyn New York. Anna keeps a diary of her feelings addressed to her twin sister Belle and writes letters to her family. She gets no reply but remains positive about life and seeing them again.

In today’s World, Imani is 12 years old and facing her Bat Mitzvah. She is a black girl who has been adopted by Nordic parents in New York and has been brought up Jewish along with her also adopted brother Jaime. Imani wants to know who her parents were but finds it difficult to bring this fact up with her adoptive parents who have been loving and caring all her life.

When Anna dies she leaves her books to her grandchildren and Imani finds the diary Anna wrote in 1941 and reads it as part of her presentation for her Bat Mitzvah. What she and her friend Madeleine read brings out all the emotion and reality of the Holocaust.

Beautifully written with Anna’s diary entries and Imani’s life in the modern World. It will have you in tears.  It is also current as Imani tries to find her own identity as a black girl living in today’s world.

If you miss this you will kick yourself. Wow! What an ending.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. A Hunger Games Novel by Suzanne Collins.

June 4, 2020 Comments off

songbirdsThe Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. A Hunger Games Novel by Suzanne Collins. Pub Scholastic, 2020.

When I talked about the Hunger Games trilogy in schools when it first came out, the kids were riveted but their teachers were appalled that it involved children killing children. This sequel  addresses that concern and the rest of the inhumane treatment  that is meted out to the children and inhabitants of the 12 Districts by the rulers of Panem in the Capitol.

The civil war that resulted from the Hunger Games is over and the rebels from the Districts were defeated but not eliminated. Cassus Snow the Capitol leader is killed and there is a new guard, but Capitol has inflicted severe and more inhuman control over the Districts. The  10th Hunger Games are to take place and one of the most vile and sadistic characters I have read in children’s literature, a woman named Dr Gaul, is in charge of presenting the games. She is a Dr Mengle type who experiments on animals and humans.

A boy and girl from each of the 12 Districts are to take part in the games they are called tributes, but this time they each have a Mentor from Capitol to guide them. Coriolanus Nash son of Cassus Nash is to mentor Lucy Gray Baird from District 12 where Katniss came from. The relationship between Coriolanus and Lucy is at the heart of this novel but it is not the only one of importance.

The relationship between Sejanus Plinth, the son of a wealthy family and Coriolanus is of equal importance as Sejanus is also a mentor of a competitor in the Hunger games. It is Sejanus that heads the argument against the inhumane and barbaric treatment of the Districts and in particular the tributes in the games supported by Coriolanus in his relationship with Lucy. Can they change the way Capitol regards the District people?

As the games start inside an arena, not in an outdoor environment as with the first series, and the killing starts, all hell breaks loose.

If you are a new reader of this series do not worry you will not be all at sea, but if you have read the first series you will be totally absorbed in the new circumstances and at the more severe inhumane and barbaric treatment of the tributes in the Games

No characters from the earlier Trilogy are in this novel.

Stunningly written but not for the faint hearted. From Intermediate to YA in appeal. Over 500 pages long.

The Divorce Diaries by Sarah Quigley

May 30, 2020 Comments off

divorceThe Divorce Diaries by Sarah Quigley. Pub. Vintage imprint PenguinRandom House, 2020.

I bought this book for my wife after reading an article in the Sunday Times and decided to read it myself. I am very glad I did. It is beautifully written, full of feeling and emotion and best of all it is a profile of life in one of the great cities of the World, Berlin.

Leaving a relationship is a process and this six part book goes through the process from love is blind, marriage and all that it promises, through to separation, learning to live alone, becoming open to other relationships and finally contentment and acceptance.

It is compelling reading and the beauty of it is, you never know the husband’s name nor the identity of any of Sarah’s other relationships. You know her women friends first names and some of them are brilliant, but she spills the beans on no-one although in Berlin she runs into many famous people.

Divorce is always messy and it’s always different. The emotion attached to divorce according to Sarah is disappointment first, with anger a close second. It builds up in her like lava in a volcano but she gets through it.

Her Swedish husband couldn’t handle alcohol and became violent. For 360 days a year he was fine but when he drank no woman should have to put up with what he meted out. Sarah loved him and probably still does and it hurt her deeply to have failed although she in my eyes never failed.

The process of getting her life back is compelling reading. Her first relationship after the Swede was on holiday in Greece “where self confident girls in sexy red bikinis stand thigh deep in turquoise water, tossing back their salt-spray manes and taking selfies“.

her second is with a 50 year old German she calls Ad Man who has the sexual stamina of a 20 year old and the investment portfolio of a wealthy octogenarian.

It is not easy and it takes her a while to appreciate aloneness without feeling acutely alone. Sarah gets there by the end of the book, it is riveting.

For anyone with relationship problems and decisions to make. How about this for perception “sometimes divorce rids you of friends who were never real friends in the first place”