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My NZ Story; Quarantine by Philippa Werry. Pub. Scholastic, 2022

March 17, 2022 Comments off

This is a well told moving story about a Wellington family and their friends during the 1937/37 “infantile paralysis” or polio pandemic which showed many of the same characteristics that the Covid pandemic has in today’s world.

Polio came from nowhere and the medical profession was flummoxed as to it’s cause and how to stop it. They realised that it was a virus but no vaccine was found until the 1950,s and not used in NZ until 1956. Like Covid the community reacted in different ways. Schools were locked down particularly for children as they seemed to be the target for the polio virus. There was even a conspiracy theory that milk was the cause and should be boiled before use. This was refuted of course and in 1937 the school milk programe was introduced by the first labour govt.

Twelve year old Tom narrates this story. He belongs to a family with five children, 3 girls and two boys and he is the second oldest. His father is a working man and although it is the Depression holds down a job at the newly opened Ford motor Coy in Petone. His mother is a hymn singing stern hardworking Welsh woman who cares for her children and there is not much money around.

This portrait of a family life during the depression is a highlight as is the school life of Tom and his friends. Tom is a big fan of Olympic gold medalist Jack Lovelock and actually meets him running at the beach. Tom begins to run himself. His sisters Flo aged 10 and Lily aged 14 are into films of Shirley Temple etc.

Foer me the character that I loved was Mr Moffat a teacher at Tom’s school. he is a great teacher, strong disciplinarian, strict but fair and the children new where they stood with him.

When one of Tom’s family gets “infantile Paralysis” and you will have to read the book to find out which one, everything in his family changes.

In the back is a historical note and photographs of polio treatment and even the first Iron lung. Fascinating.

A stirring story with some sad moments but also some joyous ones. Terrific writing from Philippa Werry who knows her history and never disappoints. Her portrayal of family life in the 1930,s is a great contrast to life now and in many ways I preferred it. One of the best books in this series.

Takaura: My Words of Winter Nga Kupu Maori mo te Takarua by Christine Dale. Translations by Kiwa Hammond. Pub. OneTree House, 2022

March 16, 2022 Comments off

This very attractive picture book has two main aims.

Firstly it is about winter in New Zealand and it uses very descriptive language that children would use. The language appeals to the senses or how you feel, see, hear, smell and taste winter. Words such as dark and looming (clouds), dank and pungent(puddles), cheering and chanting(Crowds at a rugby match) and rich and delicious(hot soup)

Secondly it is to build vocabulary in both English and te reo Maori about the season of winter. This vocabulary is enhanced by terrific photographs of a New Zealand winter featuring multi cultural children of junior age.

I tell you what the stacked pies that are tasty and flaky or Ka hongihongi i nga kopaki paraoa, he reka he pakapaka look very inviting I almost ate the page.

A similar book on summer has already been published. great resource for the school and in the home

Katipo Joe Bk3. Wolf’s Lair by Brian Falkner. Pub. Scholastic, 2022

March 12, 2022 Comments off

The epic conclusion to this action packed spy thriller about Katipo Joe, a teenage spy during WW2 whose skill and intellect outwitted the Nazi enemy.

In book 1 he escaped Nazi Germany with his mother, witnessed the Blitz and was trained as a spy to kill a leading Nazi in France. In book2 he penetrated the Hitler Youth Movement and was accepted to compete with other leading German youth to become Hitler’s successor at the Eagles Nest in the Austrian Alps. Both books are great action stories and are reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

Wolf’s Lair is Hitler’s hideout and strategy fortress in East Prussia from which he masterminded Operation Barbarossa or the attack on Russia.

Joe is ensconced as Hitler’s youth successor under the name of Jurgen and he travels to Wolf’s Lair on Hitler’s special train Der Fuhrersonderzug and the action and tension is plentiful. His mission is to kill Hitler and we know from the start he is going to fail.

Arrival at Die Wolfsschanze (Wolf’s Lair) with his German youth classmates Thomas, Heike and Sophie is tense as they witness the invasion of Russia, the persecution of the Jews and Poles and the cruelty of the SS.

The highlight of this final episode is the personification of Hitler and his Nazi cronies Himmler, Goring Goebbels and Bormann, the biggest challenge Brian Falkner had with this novel. I think he succeeds but you the reader can decide for yourself.

The series as a whole has been the best action writing I have read from a New Zealand writer and rivals any overseas novelists. Don’t miss this one or the whole series, it is riveting.

Needless to say all the loose ends and side stories are sorted out as is Joe’s future. There is a couple of moving characters in Sophie and Polish girl Felka. If you miss this you will kick yourself.

The Tale of the Tiny Man by Barbro Lindgren Illus. Eva Erikson, Translated by Julia Marshall. Pub Gecko Press 2022.

March 7, 2022 Comments off

This is a simply told story from Sweden about a tiny man who is very lonely because he has no friends. Although he is polite and courteous around people, raising his hat in greeting towards them, people don’t seem to like him.

He lacks self esteem and blames it on his ugly hat. He cries in bed at night but believes he is a kind man, and he is. He pins a note to a tree that says FRIEND WANTED and waits on his doorstep for an answer as 10 days go by and the first signs of winter appear.

Then a dog with a curved tail and wet nose comes to him and happiness abounds. He feeds the dog and they become friends, you can tell cos the dog leaks on his gate to mark out his territory. They have fun together and those that used to mistreat the old man change because of the dog.

The winter ends with spring and a young girl with a polka dot dress and a ribbon in her hair appears and the dog loves her. Is friendship exclusive? Will the dog take off with the girl?

Read it and see you will not regret it.

Easy to read text particularly good for juniors and primary students when read aloud.

The illustrations are a treat. The little man and the dog and girl are superbly drawn but do not drift into sentimentality. Brings about great opportunities to discuss self esteem and friendship.

Counting Creatures by Julia Donaldson, illus. Sharon King-Chai. Pub. Macmillan, 2022

March 4, 2022 Comments off

This picture book is a rarity these days as it contains flaps and peep holes that readers can look through to see the animals and read the text.

It starts with a bat who has one baby who holds on tight as mother and baby fly through the night. It asks the question as it does with every animal Who has more babies than that?

This is a counting book from 1-10 but including 15, 20, 25 and lots more. If i asked you who has the bigger brood of babies? Rabbit, a Mouse or a pig? Some of you will be wrong so read this book to find out.

It also begs children to look closely as there is a spider on practically every page but not all. See if you can find them.

Julia Donaldson’s rhyming text describes the animals with the flaps revealing more information. Children will just love lifting them up to see what is underneath.

Sharon King-Chai’s illustrations are a delight. Every creature is drawn with a personality, my favourite is the rabbit and they include mammals, birds and insects.

One of the best picture books so far this year and very sturdy. It needs to be as kids will just read it and read it and lift the flaps. Pre school and primary.

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Crane Guy by Sally Sutton, illus. Sarah Wilkins. Pub. Penguin Books, 2022

March 2, 2022 Comments off

I bet you have played I Spy with children or even adults and this superb Picture book plays that game too except it is from the point of view of a crane driver high above the city.

Crane guy, up so high, building Towers in the sky, tell me what you spy” Thus begins this book and using the letters S,B,W. G, and P it challenges the reader to find things in the city below beginning with these letters, with a list provided in the back.

The illustrations are big and show the city with all its diversity of people and what they do.

At night the crane driver must come down but what does he see when he looks up? Check it and find out.

catchy rhyming text with bold illustrations that will keep children in the book.

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Black Spiral series Bk3 Black Spiral by Eileen Merriman. Pub. Penguin Books, 2022

February 28, 2022 Comments off

This is the best ScFi series and futurism I have read since The Arc Of the Scythe series which is also reviewed on this site. It is the final in the series and ties up all the themes and plot lines in a satisfactory ending but leaving food for thought.

M-Fever is a man made virus that has been spread among young adults by a ruthless organisation called The Foundation. Survivors of the fever have shown heightened cognitive ability including the ability to read minds and communicate with ESP. In some survivors it has led to the ability to shift into a Dream-flow by leaving their bodies and assuming the form of an animal like a wolf or a bird or even a whale.

The Foundation has realised the potential for espionage and medical science and has become secretly sponsored by powerful people in government, in the law, in the military as well as medicine. They are extremely powerful. The Foundation has isolated a group of young adults who have powers into a group called VORTEX who are treated as medical guinea pigs and used to infiltrate terrorist groups etc.

17 year old Violet and 19 year old Johnno who narrate this story come together through VORTEX and realise that the Foundation are basically an evil organisation. They flee, become lovers, dream-flow together and are hunted by the foundation.

Violet becomes pregnant adding a new dimension to the story, her IQ rating is off the scale, she has developed an ability to heal and she wants to destroy the Foundation. She and Johnno flee back to NZ and plot with Apollo , a group opposed to the Foundation, to help others of their kind and to destroy the organisation that has put them through mental hell.

The action tales place in NZ, Australia, Germany and Poland and it will keep you on your toes. A highlight is the medical talk and the science fiction. Violet discovers that the telemores at the end of her chromosomes are not shortening with age posing the scenario that she could live forever. The dream-flow phenomenon brings up the possibility of time travel. And what about the baby? Check it out and see.

An extremely thought provoking series that is compulsive reading. Don’t miss this series you will kick yourself if you do.

Lion Guards the Cake by Ruth Paul. Pub. Scholastic, 2022

February 23, 2022 Comments off

If you have ever had a delicious looking cake in the house and you are alone with it, you will understand what is going through lion’s mind.

Lion comes off the gate post and into the house while the inhabitants are asleep with the intention of guarding the cake.

He is sorely tested by very determined mice who “skitter and scatter across the floor’, a whiskery cat who is a little bit fat and a licketty-lick dog. Crisis comes when they all attack the cake at the same time and the lion roars. read it and see what happens.

The language of the text is a delight peppered with onomatopoeia, you know words that sound like their meaning.

First class picture book about temptation with the illustrations showing intention all over the faces of the animals especially the lion. Great read-a -loud and discussion starter. The smug look on the lion at the end is superb.
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Elephant Island by Leo Timmers. Pub. Gecko Press, 2022.

February 22, 2022 Comments off

Once again Leo Timmers has come up with a picture book about transport, this time ships and boats and there are a host of them, but ultimately it is a book about making do with what you have and never giving up.

Arnold is a seafaring elephant who comes a cropper when a boisterous wave sinks his boat. After many hours in the water he bumps into the smallest of possible islands and waits. Firstly a mouse boat comes, then an old sea dog and a fishing boat at full steam. All are sunk but Arnold uses his nous and builds on the smallest of islands from all the sunken boats so that all survive and have a place to stay.

It’s a work of genius. nearly every type of ship and boat eventually arrives and the fun has expanded across the world. Check it and see what happens.

The illustrations are also a work of genius, they are sort of collage with a bit extra. Follow the creatures and see how they fare, the dog and his guitar are impressive.

As always with Timmer’s books there is always hope and nobody gets left behind. If only the world was like this. Other books by this author are reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

My Bum is so Cheeky by Dawn McMillan. Illus. Ross Kinnaird. Pub. Oratia, 2022.

February 21, 2022 Comments off

The boy in this Series has really had a hard time with his bum. He has needed a new one, it has been broken and noisy and smell has always been a problem and it is in this book as well.

The boy longs for “a bum with manners, a bum that is mild” but he is not that lucky. he has a bum that twitches and jiggles, bounces and bounds and whatsmore it is cheeky. What a nerve.

His bum gets him in trouble at school and bounces in his father’s favourite chair until it is square. How can you fix that? A solution is at hand but I am too cheeky to tell you. Find out for yourself and read it.

Once again Dawn McMillan’s funny rhyming text is excellently enhanced by Ross Kinnaird’s illustrations. A team working well together.

Kids will love you reading it to them and spend hours checking out the bum.

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