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Archive for the ‘Intermediate Fiction’ Category

The World’s Worst Children 3 by David Walliams illus. Tony Ross.

June 20, 2018 Comments off

worst children3The World’s Worst Children 3 by David Walliams illus. Tony Ross. Pub. HarperCollins, 2018.

I don’t really need to review this book because kids will already know about it, but I do so for all those kids who would rather make monkey noises than sing xmas carols(I.m one of those), or those who stick all their bogeys together so that they look like a huge green icicle, then eat them.

Yes it is ten more horrible children who throw tantrums, do pranks, are overly bossy, kung fu everything and generally make life intolerable for those around them. Sure it is well over the top but we all know the type.

My favourite is Walter the Wasp a short arsed bully with a sharp nose and a wit that cuts like a knife. He is out to win bully of the year trophy which is a gold statuette depicting a bully giving a smaller child a wedgie.

There is always a seriousness about David Walliam’s books, he hates cheats, bullies, public school twits and the gap between rich and poor.

I love his books and you will too. This man has done more to get reluctant kids to read than anybody since J.K. Rowling. Illustrated brilliantly once again in colour by Tony Ross.

The Day the War Came by Nicola Davies, illus. Rebecca Cobb.

May 25, 2018 Comments off

day war cameThe Day the War Came by Nicola Davies, illus. Rebecca Cobb. Pub. Walker Books, 2018.

This is one of the most powerful and moving picture books I have ever read and you will be moved too.

It is narrated by a little girl who wears the same clothes from beginning to end. It starts with family happiness around the breakfast table, moves to school where the little girl is learning about volcanoes, drawing birds and singing about tadpoles turning into frogs.

Then the war comes in a devastating series of images that has the little girls home and town bombed to the stone age. Her journey to a safe haven follows but the war comes with her in her mind and in the attitudes of the people she encounters.

She is eventually refused entry to a school because there isn’t a chair for her, but as is usually the case children come to the rescue. Read it and find out how.

Rebecca Cobb’s illustrations are stunning especially the coming of the war, helicopters in the sky, the bomb crater of the little girls home. Then on the journey away lonely shoes on the beach.

The written text will make you cry. The repeated school scene is powerful.

Superb.

The Visitor by Anjte Damm.

May 19, 2018 Comments off

The Visitor by Anjte Damm. Pub. Gecko Press, 2018.

visitorWhat a brilliantly conceived and perceptive picture book about fear and loneliness this is.

Illustrated using photographs with cardboard cutout figures inserted, it tells the story of a lonely old lady who never goes outside because she is scared. The photographs are gloomy and she is gloomy.

Then a paper plane comes through her window which exacerbates her fears until a small boy knocks on her door and makes himself at home. he is bright and breezy and wears his cap on backwards

She tells him her name is Elise and he is Emil. He asks her to read to him from her library from which she has read every book. He brings colour into her life. He tells her that her house is cool.

The last double paged illustration in the book is majorly different from the identical illustration at the start. Read it and see how, you will not be disappointed.

The written text is simple, well place in the illustrations and wise beyond belief.

The Stolen Stars of Matariki by Miriama kamo, Illus. Zak Waipara

May 7, 2018 Comments off

matarikiThe Stolen Stars of Matariki by Miriama kamo, Illus. Zak Waipara. Pub. Scholastic, 2018.

When I went to school I never heard of Matariki or Pleiades as the Greeks called it. The Maori have always known about it and it is an important celestial entity in their culture.

I first read children’s literature about it in the 90’s and it has since been a point of celebration in schools and the community when it first swims into our ken.

Miriama Kamo in this excellent picture book has added mystery and legend to the existence of Matariki and she has added it to the mystique of that powerful piece of landscape known as Birdlings Flat, a place noted for it’s steep shingle shoreline , it’s eels and the thunderous surf that slams into it during a southerly storm.

Amongst the shingle beach are pieces of agate that look like gemstones and it is conjectured that they are part of two extra stars now missing from these Seven Sisters.

Zak Waipara’s digital animation gives life to the written text with the gems appearing in the stars of Matariki, the agate of the shingle beach and in the wonderous eyes of the children as they go eeling and searching with their grandfather and grandma.

We need these myths and stories to enhance our understanding of the place of humankind in this vastness of the Universe. Children of all ages will love it.

The Mapmakers Race by Eirlys Hunter.

May 6, 2018 Comments off

mapmakerThe Mapmakers Race by Eirlys Hunter. Pub. Gecko Press, 2018

The best thing I liked about this novel for primary and intermediate school children is that characters have to get off their bottoms and do something. They have to contribute and work for the group otherwise they will not survive. There is no sitting around on their chrome books and moaning that there is nothing to do. The children are challenged.

The novel is about a race to map a route for a railway  from Grand Prospect to the coast across a mountainous landscape. Five teams take part with four of them being adult teams of various skills and ethics.

Then there is the Santanders, Sal age 14, twins Joe and Francie aged eleven, Humphrey who is just walking and talking and their talking parrot called Carrot whose one liners add humour and reality to the story. Add older boy Beckett who provides the donkeys and cooking skills and we have a team to be reckoned with.

The Santanders father has disappeared on a previous adventure and their mother missed the train and there isn’t another for a week. The race to map the rail route is on and waiting for mother is not an option.

The children have some advantages. Firstly no-one gives them a dog show of winning and secondly they are in survival mode and have skills that no other team has. Firstly they were well taught by their parents and secondly Francie who can fly mentally. She never talks and her brain can see the landscape from above. She is the mapmaker.

The drawings at the head of each chapter keep the reader up with the pace and the plot advances in rollicking fashion. It reminds me of a cross between the family in Lemony Snicket and The Road to Ratenburg by Joy Cowley.

A first class read-a-loud for primary children and for individual reading. It’s all about survival and having fun at the same time.

Thunder Head by Neal Shusterman.

April 27, 2018 Comments off

ThunderheadThunder Head by Neal Shusterman. Pub. Walker Books, 2018.

This is part 2 of the Arc of the Scythe series the first being Scythe which is also reviewed on this blog. It is brilliant.

There are two powers in this dystopian world, Thunder Head the creator and the Scythes who rule death, and never the twain shall meet. Each has it’s role but there is division in the Scythe world that Thunder Head is deeply concerned about. That conflict is what this novel is all about as population control is essential in a world where nobody needs to die.

Thunder Head rules this idyllic world because it has solved all humankind’s problems. Global warming, the gap between rich and poor, crime, you name it Thunder Head has solved it. Nobody dies unless they want to or the Scythes deem that they are to be gleaned permanently from the planet. Those prone to crime have been treated genetically, sociopaths have been given a conscience and psychopaths have been given sanity. The age of mortality and suffering are over.

So why is there division among the Scythes? Who can be unhappy in paradise? Has the human ego, ambition and capacity for greed been eliminated?

There is much philosophy in this book told in short chapters amid the action, narrated by a humanised Thunder Head that gets to the soul of Humankind. The other chapters advance the plot and there  is action and intrigue aplenty.

Citra has become Scythe Anastasia and works with master Scythe Marie Curie. Yes all the scythes have names famous from the old world of mortality and they will give you a smile as you read. Jim Morrison, Golda Meir and Nelson Mandela are others.

Rowan has taken a secret role trying to remove corrupt scythes from the world and this has precipitated a lot of action but it is Citra who has caused the most ripples. In the background Scythe Michael Faraday is working on a different tact that is hopefully going to be the salvation of the world.

Brilliantly conceived and written by Neal Shusterman, the action at times is breath taking and the philosophical argument thought provoking. One of the best novels this year or any other year for that matter. I await book 3 with bated breath.

Senior fiction and young adult but good intermediate readers will devour it too as they did with the latter novels in the Harry Potter series which dealt with equally complex topics. There is even a Voldemort like resurrection.

Finding by David Hill.

April 22, 2018 Comments off

findingFinding by David Hill. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2018.

This is the New Zealand story in my opinion. I hope David Hill got as much satisfaction writing it as I got reading it.

It is the story of two family trees, one Scottish who settled in the Waimoana river valley  in the 1880s and the other Maori who were already living in the Pa by the river and without whom the Scottish family could not have survived. It is the story of early New Zealand settlement that has been largely overlooked.

The story then tells of 7 generations who lived, loved and developed the land in the valley. They intermarried and were as close to each other as it is possible to be.

One of the descendants named Alan Hohepa sums it up when describing himself “I,m Pakeha and I’m Maori and I’m Ok being both”. Recognition of the need to keep the Maori language alive was firm with Maori and Pakeha characters alike.

The story takes us from the 1880’s through landmarks in New Zealand’s history until 2018 when the current residents of the Waimoana valley are considering whether to sell up and move to the city. You will have to read the novel to find out the decision.

This is the way race relations is supposed to be and it brought joy to my soul. The ending is both apprehensive and hopeful but who doesn’t feel like that these days.

Things I loved about this book include:- I loved the way the Maori reacted when the bagpipes are played – like a screaming Taniwha. I loved the way the treasures of the silver bracelet and the greenstone bat were handed down through the generations. I loved all the characters who had a respect for each other and the land they lived on.

I loved the way the love of the land is not all one sided. I loved how the stories of the past were held dear by successive generations whose family trees are drawn in the front of the novel for you to refer to, and I loved the Waimoana river and it’s valley which is a character in it’s own right and whose map is at the start of the book.

Splendid writing by David Hill in his easy style and the art work on the cover and at the beginning of each generational chapter is superb.

For everybody really but excellent for intermediate and high school readers.