Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival.

August 17, 2017 Comments off

perfectly normanPerfectly Norman by Tom Percival. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2017.

This superb picture book has a touch of genius about it as it helps children who are different understand that they should not be embarrassed or ashamed about their difference and to tell them that they are not alone.

Norman is in his parents eyes perfectly normal but you the reader know this is not true by the illustrations. Norman and his kite are in colour and everything else is in black and white.

Then the imaginative Norman grows a pair of multi coloured wings and celebrates with a flight with the birds. Norman worries how his parents will react so wears a warm coat which he never takes off. This makes his life miserable until he realises that the wings are not the problem but wearing the coat is.

He sheds the coat and other children with the same difference shed theirs and we have a wonderful celebration of colour as winged happy children take to the air.

Perfectly Norman or is that normal. Great to read aloud to juniors.

The illustrations are superb. The contrast of black and white with colour enhances the theme of difference and the isolation that people with difference sometimes feel. I repeat, a touch of genius.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James.

August 16, 2017 Comments off

loneliest girlThe Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James. Pub. Walker Books, 2017.

This sci/fi, futurist, adventure romance for high school students and young adults is without doubt one of the books of the year. I was spellbound from beginning to end and you will be too.

Romy is 16 years old and is alone on a space ship called Infinity taking a 50 year journey at a tenth of the speed of light, to colonise a planet in another galaxy called Earth 2.

Romy was born on the space ship against NASA instructions. The Infinity is filled with thousands of frozen embryos and astronauts in a stasis condition until the journey is over. Things have not gone well on the Infinity and Romy now runs the whole ship on her own with communication back to Earth to a person called Molly. Messages take 2 years to reach Earth and back to Infinity.

Then Romy is told that a faster ship called The Eternity captained by J a 22 year old boy with the two ships programmed to dock in a year. They correspond and a relationship develops between them that provides the romance to the story. Then J tells Romy that war on Earth has destroyed NASA and a new government called UPR is in control and that all future communications are to go through him on the Eternity.

Is this all true? Is J who he says he is? has Earth really had a war? Why is Romy all alone?

Things become rivetting as Eternity catches up to Infinity. The ending is stunning and will keep you on the edge of your seat. You will not forget this novel in a hurry.

Beautifully written, totally believable and some of the cleverest plot lines I have ever read. If you miss this one you will kick yourself.

NZ Children’s Book Awards winners 2017

August 15, 2017 Comments off

These are the winners this year and a very good selection they are too. Apart from the non fiction winner and the Maori Language winner which I have never seen, they are all reviewed on this blog. Take a look, but whats better, buy the lot for your school library.

Unluckiest book Shooting Stars by Brian Falkner

  • Margaret Mahy Book of the Year (prize: $7,500) and winner of the Russell Clark Award for Illustration (prize: $7,500)

Snark Being a true history of the expedition that discovered the Snark and the Jabberwock . . . and its tragic aftermath illustrated and written (after Lewis Carroll) by David Elliot; Otago University Press

  • Picture Book Award: Prize $7,500

That’s Not a Hippopotamus! by Juliette MacIver and illustrated by Sarah Davis; Gecko Press

  • Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction: Prize $7,500

My New Zealand Story: Bastion Point by Tania Roxborogh; Scholastic New Zealand

  • Copyright Licensing NZ Award for Young Adult Fiction: $7,500

The Severed Land by Maurice Gee; Penguin Random House (Penguin)

  • Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction: Prize $7,500

Jack and Charlie: Boys of the bush by Jack Marcotte and Josh James Marcotte; Penguin Random House (Puffin)

  • Te Kura Pounamu Award for the best book in Te Reo Māori: Prize $7,500

Te Kaihanga Māpere by Sacha Cotter, translated by Kawata Teepa and illustrated by Josh Morgan; Huia Publishers

  • Best First Book Award: Prize $2,000

The Discombobulated Life of Summer Rain by Julie Lamb; Mākaro Press (Submarine)

Categories: Uncategorized

Bad Mermaids by Sibeal Pounder illus. Jason Cockcroft.

August 13, 2017 Comments off

Bad MermaidsBad Mermaids by Sibeal Pounder illus. Jason Cockcroft. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2017.

You never think of mermaids as being bad, you think of them as sitting on rocks with clam shells over their womanly bits, combing their long blond hair with fish bone combs, and luring unsuspecting sailors with their womanly wiles.

Not in this book for young readers mostly girls aged 7-12 years.

The World of the Hidden Lagoon and Swirley Shell is turned upside down when the top mermaid Arabella Cod is fishnapped. But who by? many mermaids have disappeared and others have been forced to make shell tops and not to leave their cities.

Whats more Ommy Pike now rules the hidden world with vicious piranhas. Help is fortunately at hand. Mermaids Beattie, Mimi and Zelda are mysteriously called back to Swirley Shell while holidaying on land with legs.

When they enter the password of Ihavenolegs they know all is not well as piranhas chase them. They hijack a fast car called a Clamorado 7 and set out to solve the disappearance of Arabella Cod.

Interesting fantasy from the creator of the Witch wars series. Check it out.

J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World – The Dark Arts: A Movie Scrapbook.

August 10, 2017 Comments off

dark artsJ.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World – The Dark Arts: A Movie Scrapbook. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2017.

This is not a novel rather an expose of Wizarding phenomenon of the Dark Arts as practiced by Voldemort and his disciples in the Harry Potter movies and Fantastic Beasts and where to Find Them.

It deals with the spells like the Imperio, the Crucio and the spell that bounced off Harry Potter as a baby and demolished Voldemort but leaving Harry with the z shaped scar on his forehead.

It deals with the Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers including my favourite the delicious Bellatrix Lestrange. It tells you about the crucial concept of the Horocrux, the Dementors and those sinister resurrected corpses or Inferi.

It finishes with the Fantastic Beasts as Newt Scamander hunts the Dark Wizard Grindelwald in America.

Excellently illustrated with various objects and information tucked away in envelops throughout the book. Essentially for Harry Potter film fans but can provide a gateway into reading the books or just enjoy on it’s own

Kid Normal by Greg James & Chris Smith, illus. Erica Salcedo.

August 8, 2017 Comments off

kid normalKid Normal by Greg James & Chris Smith, illus. Erica Salcedo. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2017.

This novel for middle school, intermediate and junior secondary school readers is one of the most bizarre stories I have ever read. That’s not putting it down, its a compliment because reluctant readers are the big challenge these days and this story will suck them in.

There are two strands to the plot, one for each author, and they are skillfully brought together as the book proceeds. The first is about Murph, a boy who has moved schools so many times he is fed up to the back teeth. He is mistakenly accepted by a school that deals with children who have a weird talent or capability some of super hero status but not all. They discover Murph is just normal but he adjusts to his new life. Will he become a hero?

The second strand is about Clive Meeke a scientist working on DNA who is pressured by his boss. Who isn’t these days? While conducting an experiment with a wasp in the room things go pear shaped and Meeke becomes power crazy Nektar, half man half wasp.

If you want to know any more you will have to read it yourself but if you just want a snippet to get the feel of the book there is a short story in the middle of the book that mimics James Bond, about a super hero The Blue Phantom,  that is just brilliant.

Written by two BBC Radio 1 jocks who have the gift of the gab the story is never drab. Some of the idiom and metaphor are superb with Erica Salcedo providing illustrations that enhance the plot and give you an idea of what the characters look like.

It is a good laugh and reading should be fun.

So Special by David Hill, Illus. Nikki Slade Robinson

August 6, 2017 Comments off

so specialSo Special by David Hill, Illus. Nikki Slade Robinson. Pub. Duck Creek Press, 2017.

Picture books can be used to highlight topics, feelings and personal situations so that the reader can see that they are not alone. The pen is still mightier than the sword although when applied to this book, there is something ironic about that statement as the topic is the families of the armed forces who are serving overseas and the problems they have.

Oscar and his sister Laila miss their dad who is with the army overseas. Laila sucks her thumb and Oscar sometimes gets angry when other kids ask about the whereabouts of his father. Mother copes as well as she can and supports her children with skill and attention.

But they still miss their dad. Both children learn to live with the fact that their dad is special and is serving his country oversea.

Nikkii Slade Robinson’s illustrations are perceptive, large and colourful. They show the joy and the sadness. The use of the family dog is powerful and the mother is always in control. The aircraft, tank and battleship shadows throughout the book remind readers of who we are talking about.

David Hill’s text is simple, straight to the point and sensitive. Also available in Maori language under the title He Tino Taonga.

This picture book fulfills a need in a most positive way.