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Author Archive

Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston. Pub. Hardy Grant, 2021.

April 16, 2021 Comments off

Amari is a black girl from the housing projects who has a destiny that she doesn’t understand. She is used to living the hard way but has good attitudes and is loyal and brave. Her older brother Quinton has gone missing in a magical world and she is determined to find him.

Quinton is a magician which nobody knows about and he sends her a package in which is a pair of glasses that give Amari a virtual reality show telling her about the dangerous world Quinton has got caught up in and a plea to not try to find him.

Amari follows clues from the glasses and is led to a magical world that exists in the same space as the real world but only few people can see it. A bit like J.K. Rowlings world of Magical Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Amari enters the world of the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs an organisation that ensures that supernaturals have a safe place to meet. Amira is tested for her suitability to work for the department and surprisingly learns that she is a magician and related to magicians that have caused havoc in the past. She learns too that her brother Quinton was also a magician and has disappeared while looking for and elusive and dangerous group called the Night Brothers.

Amari applies to become a member of the Dept of Supernatural Investigations run by the van Helsings relatives of the Van Helsings that trapped Dracula. How will she get on? Will she find Quinton? and who are the Night Brothers.

Exciting fantasy for lovers of this genre.

My Cat Can See Ghosts by Emily Joe. Pub, Beatnik, 2021.

April 11, 2021 Comments off

I read this delightful and insightful picture book about cats and ghosts to my granddaughters who both have a cat. They loved it and said immediately it was just like their cats.

Cat behaviour is always intriguing, they are an aristocratic animal who have staff and know how to get what they want. My granddaughters are the same.

The text is poetic “Sometimes my cat appears to stare, At something more than just thin air.” You will have to read it yourself to see what happens next.

The illustrations by the author are superb. The ghosts in the cat’s eyes, the relaxed way a cats stretches out and the sudden burst of energy that a cat shows with hairs puffed up tall. All there in dark pastel colours with yellow shades prominent.

Lovely ending. A must buy for any school library and a home with cats.

Categories: Picture book Tags: ,

Space Detectives by Mark Powers, illus. Dapo Adeola. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2021.

April 8, 2021 Comments off

This is a short easy to read chapter book for newly confidant readers and reluctant boy readers. It is introductory Sc/Fi with a load of laughs and lots of weird creatures.

Ten year old Ethan and Mark are good friends and they run an ice cream parlour on the manmade planet of Starville. It is a glass bubble in space with all the elements of Planet Earth except that it is populated by both humans and creatures from other planets.

Both boys are detectives and want to start an agency up on Starville but there is a lack of work. The boys witness a crime in which a Tufted Grotsnobbler from Venus steals the handbag off the daughter of the Supreme Governor of Starville. They attempt to get the handbag back and are invited to a party at the Governors house for their efforts.

Then things get worse as Starvillians learn that their planet is heading for a collision with the moon. Can Ethan and Mark find out who is behind this dastardly scheme? Read it and find out.

Becoming by Michelle Obama. Adapted for young Readers. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2021.

April 3, 2021 Comments off

The most fascinating and readable autobiography I have read for some time. The cover says it has been adapted for young readers but I couldn’t see what Michelle had left out. The woman with the dazzling smile, with the too lovely daughters who stood beside Obama when president of USA, sweeps you off your feet in this extraordinary book.

The book is in four parts the first is Becoming Me and tells of her schooling and College until she met Barack Obama. Born Michelle Robinson in South Chicago in an area that experienced whit flight as the Black population slowly moved in. It was a rough area and Michelle and her brother Craig with their parents lived in an upstairs apartment above a stern woman who taught piano. Michelle learnt piano and went to schools that were mainly coloured students.

She learnt how connections and privilege gave some people an advantage over others which she accepted. She spoke very correct English and was taunted by her fellow students ” how come you speak like a white girl”? She was seen as uppity and betraying her black Culture.

She followed her basketball scholarship brother Craig to Princeton in the 1980’s a place she saw as “extremely white and very Male”. She stuck to what she knew and had few white friends. When she left with her degree she studied law and got a position in a Chicago law firm and met Barack when she was assigned the job of mentoring him.

Part 2 is titled becoming Us in which she gets to know Barack, forms a relationship with him, marriage two daughters Malia and Sacha as well as developing a career involving social and political work plus motherhood. She saw that Barack was a deep thinker, heavy reader and had a version of hope that extended beyond hers. He wouldn’t settle for the World as it was, he wanted it as it should be.

Politically the path of the future was laid with the election of bill Clinton as President when she was involved in encouraging the black voters to vote which ensured Clinton’s win. The road was set for Obama’s run for president.

Michelle and Barack married in style with a Stevie Wonder song You and I We can conquer the world.

As Barack’s political aspirations bore fruit Michelle was left as a working mother bringing up her daughters with

Barack largely absent. She gave him the space to forge his career. She witnessed the dirty right wing lies that mar any election and the racism that a black man running for election brings. Obama had to receive the earliest protection any presidential candidate has ever had.

Becoming More is part 3 and covers Obama’s election, inauguration and move into the White House that makes fascinating and compelling reading but I will let you the reader find this out for yourself.

Michelle Obama is a talented writer. She is clear concise and bloody interesting. You will not read a better autobiography than this.

There’s A Bear in the Window by June Pitman-Hayes Illus. Minky Stapleton. Retold in Maori by Pania Papa.

March 28, 2021 Comments off

During Covid lockdown part of the being kind and caring culture was for people to put teddy bears in their windows for people passing by to see. We had one in our window which got many children stopping.

This picture book looks at things from the bears’ point of view, what did they see?

The first bear sees rainbows in the sky and a piwakawaka flitting through the trees. Other bears see families flying kites, people playing music, and the bear in gumboots with his arm in a sling sees a kereru and a tui. Check out what the other bears see.

This first half of the picture book is in English, the second half tells the same story in Maori language. The whole thing is put to music which can be downloaded or streamed in both English and Maori.

Bright breezy illustrations with photographs of bears in peoples windows and a glossary of Maori terms.

Great for music, read-a-loud and for study of Maori language. Also a reminder of lockdown from Covid.

Dream Big Little Mole by Tom Percival, illus. Christine Pym. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2021.

March 26, 2021 Comments off

Little moles watches the birds fly and the ducks swim and she wishes she could do that. Owl tells her to “dream Big…Be brilliant. Be you”. So she does.

Little mole decides she is good at digging holes so she sets off to dig the biggest hole ever. But nothing goes smooth. She digs through foxes roof and ruins his day, ruins someone’s lawn, causes a little rabbit to trip on one of his dirt mounds and lose his kite.

She decides to give up but otter tells her to keep going. She digs down and through the banks of a river. Check out and see what happens.

Good message about holding onto your dreams and taking risks.

Illustrations enhance the text. Mole is suitably inquisitive, owl is studious, hedgehog is smug and otter is charming.

A good read-a loud for juniors.

This Is Where I Stand by Philippa Werry, illus. Kieran Rynhart. Pub. Scholastic, 2021.

March 25, 2021 Comments off

This powerful picture book is my sophisticated picture book of the year and it is just in time for ANZAC day when we remember the fallen at Gallipoli and in every war.

It opens with a bronze statue of a WW1 soldier, handsome, young, rifle slung over his left shoulder.”This is where I stand. All Day. Every Day. All Night. Every Night”.

He watches the children play, he sees the stars at night. he sees the children pass, he notes the remembrance once a year,he remembers the soldiers going to war in ships, the desert sands of Egypt, the slaughter at Gallipoli, the wounded coming home with their haunted eyes, the protesters..”.I am memory”.

Superb illustrations by Kieran Rynhart. Perfect to understand the sacrifices of war and the passage of time.

Categories: Picture book, War Tags: , ,

The Last Bear by Hannah Gold, illus. Levi Penfold. Pub. HarperCollins, 2021.

March 23, 2021 Comments off

This excellent novel is one of the main reasons I keep on reading and reviewing children’s books. Michael Morpurgo called it “unforgettable” and he is not wrong. This is probably the best novel that explains to children the reasons why global warming has to be countered by positive steps from humans. We are not the only ones on this planet.

Eleven year old April and her academic father have lost a mother and a wife. They are grieving and the father decides to take up a job monitoring temperature and the effects global warming is having on the Arctic region. They are to spend the Arctic summer in two huts on the isolated Bear Island inside the arctic circle and a boat ride from Svalbard, a journey that once could be made across the ice sheet.

Bear Island was named because it was populated by polar bears who could walk across the ice to Bear Island and then back again. No longer can that happen, the ice has gone and no bears allegedly reside on Bear Island, but April finds one.

After being assured by her father that no bears are on the island on the first day April is sure she sees one in the distance as the midnight sun sets over the island. Next day she is out looking in spite of warnings that polar bears are aggressive and not to be tampered with. April finds him and he stands up and roars and she roars back.

April calls him Bear and realises he is in poor condition, in fact almost skin and bone. The next day she brings him food consisting of oat cookies and peanut butter. Bear loves it and over the next three months of summer April feeds him up to mint condition and their relationship develops. April is determined to find out why he is the only bear left and she talks to Bear who seems to understand in his bear like ways.

Pretty soon the food runs short but bears need ice sheets to help them hunt. Bear keeps looking north and April understands that is where his home is. How is she going to help him back? read the novel and find out you will not be disappointed.

Crunch time comes when father tells April they are leaving the island.

A totally believable relationship develops between Bear and April who is a feisty girl and describes herself as “I might be short but at least I am not a crybaby” neither is Bear but both are grieving and need each other.

Superb illustrations by Levi Pinfold give character to the Arctic environment, April and Bear.

A wonderful story if you miss this you will kick yourself. The best of the year.

Categories: Uncategorized

Wolfboy by Andy Harkness. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2021.

March 22, 2021 Comments off

The moon is full, but it looks like a biscuit to me, when Wolfboy gets hungry and starts looking for rabbits in this fabulous picture book and read-a-loud for juniors.

He can’t find them in the shadowy trees or the murky creek or the creaky old oak or the soggy bog, but they are there and you can find them too. Wolfboy gets huffy and drooly and growly as you do when you are hungry, so where are they?

The rabbits have a plan of their own and they confront Wolfboy with it and he likes their idea. See if you do. I wonder what it is?

Very lively illustrations. Wolfboy is blue with big wolf eyes, the scenic images are dark colours and the rabbits are yellow. There is a rabbit on every double page spread and they are doing things that rabbits are not noted for.

There is a smile on every page of this very appealing picture book.

Cricket Crazy by Vivienne Bailey. Pub. Cuba Press 2021.

March 19, 2021 Comments off

Tom is 11 years old, at Rewa Intermediate school and is crazy about cricket. His father was a good cricketer and has an old bat with the autograph of some famous NZ cricketers including Martin Crowe. Tom’s best friend Fletcher plays cricket too and so does Izzy a girl that Tom likes but keeps it to himself. She is an all rounder and there is nothing worse for a boy than to be bowled out by a girl.

Tom is still missing his dead mother when dad turns up with a red headed lass called Tanya who has taken over all his dad’s attention. Worse thing of all is they are kissing and cuddling and Tanya doesn’t like his dog Archie who is moved from his home comforts to out of doors.

A cricket competition is to be played with the final to be played at the Basin Reserve. Tom wants to get there but things are not going well for him. Then his favourite bat is nicked at a cricket game and Fletcher gets glandular fever.

Will Tom make it? How about dad and Tanya? What has Izzy got to do with it all? Read it and find out.

Lots of cricket talk and a glossary of terms in the back of the book. Good advice for a young cricketer and for any sport in fact. practice, have confidence in yourself, concentrate and play for your team.

A first novel for this author and I think she is on the right track with this novel about cricket and family and school life.

The cover looks very much like Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor batting together and they do get a mention in the novel.