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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.

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman. Pub. Walker Books, 2021.

March 16, 2021 Comments off

Neal Shusterman is one of my favourite authors with his Arc of the Scythe series being his outstanding work. This novel for senior students and Young Adults is a thought provoking novel, cleverly written with an outstanding imagination and wit. It could also be seen as a picture of Trump’s America but not everybody will see this.

Ash is in his High School football team. He is in the defensive unit and his job is to get the opposing quarter back and make his life a misery. He does it very well, but in the first game of the year he clashes heads with an opposing player and has a major shift in reality. It is a game changer.

In the real world Ash lives in he is from a poor family. His best friend is Leo who is in his football team and he is black. He is also friends with the star quarter back Layton a brute of a boy who dominates his girlfriend Kate who Ash quite likes. Ash takes Math lessons from a classmate Paul and his younger brother Hunter is a bit of a pain.

After the clash of heads Ash enters into a parallel reality and in this one he is a very rich boy. All the above mentioned friends are in the new reality but their relationships have changed. Another clash of heads in the next game pushes Ash into another reality in which he himself is still a football player but also a drug dealer. But the biggest change is that America is a segregated country. Black and white do not mix. This disturbs Ash and he goes looking for his black friend Leo.

The next clash of heads changes Ash completely. In the previously realities Ash has reflected often about who he is but in this next reality he is gay and is taunted by a gay friend to come out of the closet which he does in dramatic fashion. This new reality has Ash questioning his identity further and has one of the best lines in the novel. When he tells his parents that he is gay he looked at his mother ” all she could see were her unborn grandchildren dying before her eyes”.

Will Ash get back to his first reality? Are there other realities? Read this very clever novel and find out. The ending is outrageous.

My Bum is So Noisy! by Dawn McMillan, Illus by Ross Kinnaird. Pub. Oratia, 2021.

March 14, 2021 Comments off

This is the sort of picture book that kids will pick u immediately they see the title particularly boys of primary and intermediate level although not exclusively so.

These authors have done it before and their picture books are reviewed elsewhere on this blog. Dawn McMillan’s text will help increase children’s vocabulary especially the use of descriptives while the illustrations particularly the behind ones inject much humour into the situation.

But the best part is how the boy takes an embarrassing situation and finds a good use for it.

A sound-system backside! Great fun.

Categories: Uncategorized

Katipo Joe. Bk2. Spycraft by Brian Falkner. Pub Scholastic, 2021.

March 6, 2021 Comments off

This is masterful writing from Brian Falkner that will have you spellbound from beginning till end. Falkner grabs the reader on page one and never lets you go till the stunning ending when you will be screaming out for more.

After his experiences in London during the Blitz and the fateful mission in France, Katipo Joe the fifteen year old spy is airlifted into Germany during a bombing raid, with the aim of infiltrating an elite group of Hitler Youth. This will have him mixing with five other elite young Nazis and competing with them to become movie stars in a film by Leni Riefenstahl. But there is a bigger prize than that but you will have to read the novel to find out what it is. This will not be a hardship I can assure you of that.

In this journey he finds love and meets Hitler’s inner circle of Himmler, Goebbels and Goring and even the girl that stole Hitler’s heart Eva Braun, plus Hitler’s dog Blondi and that is a story in itself. He mixes with the Nazi elite in the town of Obersalzberg and ponders “how can you be in the presence of such evil and not feel even a prickle of discomfort?”. They appear so normal.

The highlight for me is the meeting of the top Nazis including Hitler, Eva Braun plus Goebbels etc at the Eagle’s Nest fortress in Berchtesgaden, a place I visited in 2004.

This is world class writing, well researched, historically accurate and poses a “what if “scenario regarding Hitler’s dilemma of whether to to invade England. The detail is fascinating from the descriptions of the Nazi leaders to the aircraft, the guns the motor vehicles that the SS and Hitlr drove around in and of course the landscape around Obersalzberg. In the back of the novel there are some very enlightening photographs in which the action was involved

The ending is stunning and sets up book three. I can’t wait. If this isn’t the best Children and Young Adults book of the year I will give up eating strudel.

A Doubtful Detour by Anya Forest. Pub. www.anyaforest.com

March 1, 2021 Comments off

This historical time travel novel took me a while to read because of the amazing detail it gives about life in the Fiordland National park during the 1920,s and 1960’s. Fiordland is the major character in this novel with it’s mountains, fiords, rivers, waterfalls, dense bush, rain and unique animal life.

This is a sequel to the novel Home from the Homer also reviewed on this blog, and features 13 year old twins Seth and Zoe and their parents who travel south of the Homer to Doubtful Sound and Deep Cove. As with the earlier novel they slip into different time zones and experience life in the raw in the early days.

Seth slips into the 1920’s when tourism was starting to develop in Fiordland as is hunting. He meets several famous characters particularly Leslie Murrell a hunter and tourist developer of the 1920’s and Vivian Donald who had a company that developed the first woolpress in NZ. Seth accompanies them on a hunting and sailing trip that takes him down Doubtful sound to the ocean and trips to Dusky sound and the Puysegur Point lighthouse which was built in 1879 and burnt to the ground in 1942. He travels on a famous boat the Constance and takes part on the first licensed hunting for wapiti trip in 1923. he also comes across a whale and the rareTawaki or Firodland crested penguin.

Zoe has a totally different trip in Doubtful Sound and West Arm where the Manapouri Power Station was being built. Her main companion there was Sister Josie a nurse on board the Wanganella passenger ship that was home to over 400 men who built the Manapouri complex. The Wanganella had a gymnasium and a cinema for over 400 men when spitting on the deck meant you were fired. She travels inside Machine Hall a huge place carved into the rock that house all the turbines that made the power from the Manapouri scheme.

There are many tales like this in this novel and all are accompanied by superb photographs and documents of the times. The characters, the transport, the wildlife and the landscape and seascape of the wonder that is fiordland.

I can say no more find out the rest for yourself you will not be disappointed. Of course there is the mystery of the time travel and whether or not the family will find each other again.