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Archive for the ‘Intermediate Fiction’ Category

Out of the Egg – Ka Puta Mai I Te Heki and Fofoa Mai Le Fua Moa by Tina Matthews. Trans. Na Kiwa Hammond I Whakamaori (Maori)and Tafu Nicole Maynard (Samoan). Pub OneTree House 2022.

October 1, 2022 Comments off

I have known the story of the Little Red Hen for about 70 years and the essential theme of sharing, in order to benefit all, is still there, but with a strong conservation theme as well. A sign of the times.

An additional difference is that there are now two books one in English and Maori and the same story in English and Samoan.

The story revolves around the Little Red Hen, who plants a tree and seeks the help of Fat Cat, Dirty Rat and Greedy Pig, to assist her in planting and caring for the tree as it grows. They decline of course. When the tree grows and there is now a little cat, a little rat and a little pig who want to play in the tree, what will little Red Hen do? Read either book and find out for yourself.

Excellent illustrations with lino type black and white pictures with the little Red Hen and green plant standing out. Fat Cat, Dirty Rat and Greedy Pig are classic.

Paramount to the conservation and sharing themes are the two languages Maori and Samoan. These books are great for learning either language for primary and Intermediate students. The story is the key though and it hits the spot. Essential purchases for any multi cultural primary and intermediate school.

Flying Furballs Bk10. Take-Off! by Donovan Bixley. Pu. Upstart Press, 2022.

September 29, 2022 Comments off

Dull would he or she be of soul who could not find enjoyment out of this comic book adventure that is a parody of World War 1 flying aces with a bit of WW2 thrown in.

Europe is divided between countries that are either cats or dogs. It is Katdom verses DOGZ and the battle is in the air with Sopwith Camels and Fokker triplanes. It’s sort of Biggles with cats and dogs.

It is full of characters like Syd Fishus an ex flyer who is father of new ace Claude D’Bonair, plus Major Ginger Tom the best dogfighter in Katdom and Manx a no nonsense mechanic. On the DOGZ side we have Alf Alpha a Hitler type leader who is known as the Furrer, plus The Red Setter the most famous pilot in the Woof Laft.

The DOGZ have planned to divert Katdom with a phoney raid while plotting an armed invasion further south. Katdom is duped and set out in the air “to give those DOGZ a jolly good licking”. Mean while erstwhile potential hero Claude D’Bonair is declined permission to take part in the battle and sent south on reconnaissance. What will be the outcome? Has katdom gone to the dogs? or will the cats make a purrfect response? read it and find out.

Told in three different ways. Firstly the air war is in comic book style and episodic with each episode divided by an heroic episode on the life Major Ginger Tom called Tom Foolery and involves an Ancient Chinese Ming vase. Also between episodes of this story we have detailed drawings of the aircraft used in WW1 plus flying tricks used in air combat. But wait there’s more. Check and see what it is.

Amazing detail and some references from songs such as Cats in the cradle with a silver Spoon which is an autobiography of Major Tom and this gives this picture book sized story great appeal for adults and older readers.

I missed the first 9 books about the Flying Furballs and intend to go back and read them and so should you. One of the most readible and entertaining stories I have read for some time. Donovan Bixley’s illustrations and written text are superb. An award winner in the making.

Pipi and Pou and the Raging Mountain by Tim Tipene, illus. Isobel Te Aho-White. Pub. OneTree House, 2022

September 27, 2022 Comments off

A short easy to read novel for 6-12 year olds, with large font and only eight chapters with a strong environmental message and all within the context of Maori myth and legend.

Pipi and Pou are cousins who have the same Nana with super powers and wisdom in the natural world of the Maori. Pipi can transform into a Pouakai or giant eagle and Pou can transform into a strong Taniwha who likes being in water. All three are guardians of the environment.

When earthquakes start shaking down south Nan knows that a mountain, Maungatinonui, is distressed, and she takes Pipi and Pou with her to sort it out. It seems that Maungatinonui is upset about the treatment visitors are giving to the environment of the mountain. Our three guardians set about finding a solution to the problem. Read it and see how they get on.

Maori language is used throughout the English language text and helps familiarise the reader with important terms and concepts. Some knowledge of Maori is required.

A good read with Book 2 Pipi and Pou and the River Monster already published too and soon to be reviewed on this blog. Illustrations by Isobel Te Aho-White enhance the text and provide understanding of the characters and issues of the novel

The 156-storey treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton. Pub. MacMillan, 2022

September 23, 2022 Comments off

It had to happen, Andy and Terry’s treehouse now has another 13 storeys and this isn’t the end of the matter as 169 Storey Treehouse is planned.

This episode is about Xmas and the usual scenario of exploring the new 13 added storeys of which the best is the one inhabited by Quizzy the quizzical.

When Santa Claus crashes into the treehouse and his reindeer are caught up in the branches, Xmas is threatened. Then to make matters worse Santa falls into a cloning machine and there are Santas all over the place. Which one is the true Santa? Well having a quiz is a good way but will this reveal the true Santa? read it and find out.

The usual bag of madness and mayhem is superbly illustrated by Terry Denton and half the fun of reading these stories is looking at the illustrations. Then there are the observed public holidays of which “underpants on the head” day is my favourite.

Sure to be a favourite of reluctant readers especially boys but girls have a heroine with Jill. Don’t miss this it may be the second to last with 13 to the power of 2 a likely end. The Santas having an hilarious belly fight is a highlight of this novel.

The Zebra’s Great Escape by Katherine Rundell, illus. Sara Ogilvie. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2022.

September 6, 2022 Comments off

This is a story that you wish was true. It deals with the Dr Doolittle philosophy of talking to the animals. What if we could? what would we learn? and what could we achieve? Well the obvious answer is understanding, and that’s what we get with this superb hard back picture book.

Mink is a feisty young girl who doesn’t believe in rules or in bedtimes but she has a good heart and is brave. While swinging in her yard she meets a baby zebra who s very distressed because he has lost his parents. Mink senses this and they touch heads upon which colours stream out that tell a story and start a communication between the two that leads to great adventure.

Zebras parents have been captured by an evil cruel man with a moustache and black boots called Mr Spit. He has imprisoned animals in his gated home from Aardvarks through to Zebras and all the letters of the alphabet. Mink and the baby zebra called Gabriel along with a dog called Rainbow, a squirrel called Rodentia who can all communicate with the same colour scheme, set out to find and free Gabriel’s parents and the other animals.

Read the rest yourself and see what happens. It is brilliant and as I said earlier you wish that it was true.

Excellent illustrations from Sara Ogilvie who portrays the characters especially Mink, Gabriel and Mr Spit, very well and enhances the text by making the colour communication believable.

One of the best of the year. Katherine Rundell’s novel The Good Thieves is also reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

The Smidgens Crash Land by David O’Connell. Illus. Seb Burnett. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2022

September 3, 2022 Comments off

A Smidgen is a small human like creature, no more than 7 centimeters tall and they live in the spaces that humans don’t know about and their culture is much like ours. Smidgens keep their existence secret and there are two clans of known Smidgens and a suspected third clan.

This is the second book in an easy to read, short chapter adventure story.

Gafferty Sprout is a risk taking adventurous girl who in the first book acquired a knife made from the shard of the Mirror of Trokanis, a magic mirror that has powers to keep away ghosts for one thing. humans and other Smidgens know about it and want it.

When a rascal of a Smidgen, Crumpeck, steals the magic knife and sets out to find the suspected third Smidgen clan in a golf course the action starts. Gafferty and her friend Will set after Crupeck in the human world where there are cats and other dangerous things to contend with. Will they be successful? Read it and see.

Well illustrated by Seb Burnett, the cat is a gem.

Not the last from this series. Appealling characters and good values. Lots of adventure.

Neon’s Secret Universe by Sibeal Pounder, illus. by Sarah Warburton. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2022

August 26, 2022 Comments off

This is the latest big thing from the UK and is designed to lure your reluctant juniors into reading. Good stuff.

Neon Gallup is three days short of her tenth birthday when her parents decide to their lives and neon’s by moving from Paris to Bunty somewhere in America and open a restaurant called Rats. Rats actually come up quite frequently in this story there is even a ghost rat. Neon is reluctant to go, she is going through an identity crisis and has decided to dress only in black and get away from colours.

Things change when she sees a strange mark on the window sill of her new bedroom and inside the cubby hole it conceals she finds a lipstick container which when used on the wall of her room, opens a portal into a magic world of unicorns.

The lipstick is the only key to this magic world which is colourful and is inhabited by unicorns which are nothing like the variety that the world knows. neon meets a friendly unicorn called Moya who shows her the ropes in this new world. But she cannot leave and is set a task that will change her attitudes and life.

Easy to read with a map of the Secret Universe of the unicorns. Check it out and see it will broaden your imagination.

The Golden Swift by Lev Grossman. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2022

August 18, 2022 Comments off

This highly imaginative ecological fantasy is the sequel to The Silver Arrow which is also reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

The Silver arrow is a train which can communicate with humans with artificial intelligence and travel all over the world on secret railway lines which even go through the air. The train is controlled by The Great Secret Intercontinental Railway and was given to 10 year old Tom and 12 year old Kate for Kate’s birthday by their uncle Herbert who is a billionaire with ecological interests in endangered animals.

Uncle Herbert has disappeared and a new state of the art train called the Golden Swift has appeared as a rival to the Silver Arrow and controlled by a boy from Kates class called Jake and his friend Wren. They too are saving animals especially the Scottish Lynx which disappeared from Scotland centuries ago. They want to reestablish the ecological balance by returning the lynx to Scotland but is this a wise thing to do?

Lev Grossman uses the return to nature of the Demilitarised Zone between Nth and South Korea and the reintroduction of Wolves to a USA national Park as examples of how humans can return the ecological balance and food chains to the natural world. But is this what the natural world need?

The animals are not impressed by what humans have done to the environment and say every animal knows to run when humans are around. They express the opinion that humans should leave the environment alone and don’t deserve to be part of the natural world.

How is it all going to pan out? One thing for sure is this is not the last we have heard from this series.

Well written, crazy imagination and serious talk of the natural world. It poses the thought that can humans change their attitude and spoiling ways and save the environment and the life that inhabits it. We hope so.

It took me a time to get into this novel but as the plot developed I got more keen until the excellent ending. Read it and see what I mean.

Little Tales of Hedgehog and Goat by Paula Green, illus. Kimberly Andrews. Pub. Puffin, 2022

July 31, 2022 Comments off

Hedgehog and Goat are unlikely friends since goats are essentially day animals and hedgehogs run the night, but they become friends because both are lonely on a typical NZ farming environment.

Goat does what goats do and has a unique dancing style. Hedgehog sleeps and snuffles around but together they can make and tell stories. So they do.

Each story is headed by an aphorism or a saying that has a general truth such as “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”, “Actions speak louder than words” “All that glitters is not Gold” and my favourite ” out of the frying pan and into the fire”. There are others of course and each is applicable to a story by Goat and Hedgehog about their relationships with other animals like Horse, kaka, cat, dog, pukeko and humans.

All the stories are linked and beautifully illustrated by Kimberly Andrews who gets the characters right and portrays a unique NZ scene.

Easy to read, short, large font and a lot of fun. A good read-a-loud for juniors and a bed time story.

The Midnighters by Hana Tooke. Illus. Ayesha Rubio. Pub. Puffin, 2022.

July 28, 2022 Comments off

One of the most unusual novels I have ever read, it’s not quite realism, it’s not quite fantasy but it is both of these. Set in the magical city of Prague with it’s spires, it’s bridges and its mechanical clock this novel takes you beneath the city to the dark magical world of the people that live after midnight.

Ema Vaskova was born at midnight on the twelfth day of the twelfth month at the same time as her grandmother Liliana died. She was one of twelve children-5 sets of twins and the oldest sister Frantiska, the only non twin, who takes responsibility for bringing her up.

Now Ema is twelve and she is sent to live with her uncle in old Prague where she meets a girl hanging upside down like a bat with a round face, round eyes and silver hair called Silvie. Ema lives in a state of impending doom, has a scientific mind like her other family members, has the ability to go unseen, people don’t notice her, and has a skill of being able to read people’s faces and know when they are lying.

Silvie sees Ema for what she is and tells her “nothing is impossible with a little imagination” and encourages her to have “less worrying and more daring.” Silvie tells Ema of a world beneath the city of Prague where the midnight Guild meet and react, and it is a strange world indeed. How will Ema cope? Then Silvie disappears and evidence of a murder starts to emerge. Where is Silvie and if there has been a murder who is guilty?

This is a novel about difference and in the words of the author Ema is an Enigma and quite possibly neurodivergent. This novel is not for everyone but readers of fantasy who love detail will love it to bits. I did.

Each chapter contains an illustration by Ayesha Rubio at the top which helps the intrigue and sets the scene for the action. A very nice package with short chapters and nearly 400 pages. You have never read anything like this before.