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Archive for the ‘Intermediate Fiction’ Category

The Telegram by Philippa Werry

February 10, 2019 Comments off

telegramThe Telegram by Philippa Werry. Pub. Pipi Press, 2019. .

During WW1 the last thing the people at home wanted to see was a telegram boy or girl coming to their door. If you had a son, a brother a father or a husband at war then a telegram meant missing in action, dead in battle or taken prisoner.

Beaty is a 14 year old girl who lives with her younger sister Tilly and their mother who works every hour to keep the family going. When mother loses hours at work Beaty, in spite of academic abilities, is pulled out of school and gets a job as a telegram girl.

She faces all sorts of bullying for being a girl doing a boys job but proves them all wrong and even learns some skills that the boys struggle with.

When the boy next door, Caleb, goes to war, he asks Beaty to write to him and she does. Their letters describe life back here in NZ and heavily censored impressions of life in the trenches in the last year of WW1 after Passchendaele. It also continues into the Flu Epidemic that followed the soldiers home. Excellent historical fiction.

Beaty is a treasure and good role model. Philippa Werry describes life at home with knowledge and accuracy in this very readible novel for primary, secondary and high school student.

books@nationwidebooks.co.nz

Chinatown Girl by Eva Wong Ng.

February 7, 2019 Comments off

chinatown girlChinatown Girl by Eva Wong Ng. Pub. Scholastic, 2019.

This is a reissue of the My New Zealand Story title first published in 2005 but in response to the fact that there were now 171, 000 Chinese New Zealanders according to the 2013 census, reissued again.

Everybody should know what it was like to be Chinese in New Zealand and we didn’t make it easy for them. Chinese were known as the Yellow Peril and we made it as difficult as possible for them to come and settle here. The Immigration Restriction Act of 1908 put a bond of 100 pounds on any Chinese coming to this country(more than the average Kiwi earned in a year).

This story in diary form set in Greys Avenue Auckland (Chinatown) in the year 1942 when the threat from Japan was at it’s height, is told by 12 year old Sylvey Chan. It tells of the Chinese experience and will be of great interest to new immigrants to this country and to everyone else as well.

I think it is fabulous and is full of wartime history of rationing, of the blackout and the “loose lips sink ships” catch cry that dominate local thinking. Sylvie rides down Queen street on a push bike at night when the blackout is in force, visits an opium den, is visited by American Chinese soldiers after the fall of Singapore and the Battle of the Coral Sea. It also features  her life at Beresford street School and at Chinese School.

The book is full of Chinese wisdom of Confucius such as “when you go to other peoples places never go with only air in your hands”. Many Chinese became vegetable growers because it is what they knew from home and if the business failed you still had something to eat.

Absolutely fascinating. Well written and historically accurate. If you miss this you will kick yourself. For primary, intermediate and secondary school pupils.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

February 3, 2019 Comments off

TuckTuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2016.

First published in 1975 and a classic in Childrens’ Literature this novel is one of the most satisfying reads I have had for a while. I first read it in the 1980’s and my reread gave me great satisfaction.

It was a stifling hot day when Winnie Foster met  Jesse in the woods drinking from a spring. He rapidly covers up his movements before Winnie has a drink and kidnaps her and takes her back to his house.

She meets the Tuck family and learns from them that the spring water gives them eternal life. The Tuck family will never die. Winnie likes their company and they tell her the story of the spring and of their life. They are all well over a 100 years old and still look the same as they did when they first drunk from the spring.

In a classic technique of British literature the conversation with the Tucks is overheard by a devious man in a yellow suit who connives to deprive the Tucks of their secret and of the woods which holds the spring. You will have to read the book to find out what happens and it is brilliant.

All school libraries should have this book and if you miss this novel you will kick yourself.

Splendidly written in old style descriptive prose that is so comforting you could fall asleep in it. The plot is very clever and the ending superb.

The Dog Who Saved The World by Ross Welford.

January 17, 2019 Comments off

dog saved worldThe Dog Who Saved The World by Ross Welford. Pub. HarperCollins, 2019.

Ross Welford is one of the best childrens’ authors around, so if you haven’t read any of his books, two others are reviewed on this blog, this is a good one to start on.

Georgie is early teens and has a friend called Ramzy. Georgie works at a dog rest home in an old church they call St Woofs, looking after unwanted dogs. She tries to adopt a mongrel she calls Mr Mash but her stepmom has allergies and that is the end of that.

When Mr Mash jumps all over an old woman named Dr Pretorius, to prevent any further action Georgie and Ramzy agree to help her in an experiment using a virtual reality device.

On the day called The Big Experiment Day Georgie puts on the VR helmet and goes into a world where she is attacked by a huge scorpion. The experiment is cut short as this shouldn’t happen and when Dr Pretorius reviews images of what happened, it appears that Georgie was sent into the future, AND the winning numbers of Lotto can be seen in the shop window.

Then catastrophe, a disease has broken out in the dog shelter that is akin to Ebola and it is feared all dogs are going to die. Worse still the disease is transferable to humans. The World is threatened with major disaster.

How can a dog save the World? and does Dr Pretorius’s Virtual Reality device hold the key? Thrilling stuff, read it and find out.

Primary, intermediate and junior secondary students with a scientific bent or animal lovers, will love this. The story of the policeman and the dog poo is hilarious.

It is a very clever story with plenty of laughs and drama. Written in short sharp chapters it will keep the reader going long after they planned to stop. A great start to this years reading.

Whispers by Greg Howard.

January 11, 2019 Comments off

9780241367087-1-edition.default.original-1 webWhispers by Greg Howard. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2019.

This novel for gifted intermediate readers and secondary school students, is a slow burner. It takes a while to get into it, but once it takes off, you will be hooked.

Eleven year old Riley James lives with his father and older brother in a deeply religious country community in South Carolina. There is no room to be different in this community and Riley knows that he is. He has the same feeling for boys that most boys have for girls. He is by his own admission a mummy’s boy and he clashes with his gun-toting elder brother Danny and with his father.

Crisis comes when his mother disappears and the police are constantly questioning Riley about it. He says he can remember nothing but events in this story, particularly a Stand By Me type camping trip into the woods with some other boys, jog his memory.

At the beginning of the novel is a story about Whispers told to Riley by his mother. When she disappears he retreats into his imagination and creates a bizarre fantasy explanation about things in life based on the whispers story, but reality is close at hand.

Where has his mother gone? Is she still alive? and what about his awakening sexuality? Read this intense novel and find out.

The Fork, The Witch and the Worm. Tales from Alagaesia by Christopher Paolini.

December 31, 2018 Comments off

fork witch wormThe Fork, The Witch and the Worm. Tales from Alagaesia by Christopher Paolini. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2018.

I have loved dragon stories since I first read the Hobbit too many decades ago. The fact that I am still reading about dragons pleases me immensely and this addition to the tales of Eragon and the Dragon Riders is superb.

It is four tales really, all based around the magical world of Alagaesia in which Eragon and his dragon Saphira appear but are not main characters. The tales emanate from Eragon’s home on Mount Arnour and feature characters that fans of the Inheritance Cycle have read before.

I am only going to allude to the final story about the Worm which is another name for a dragon, in this case it is Vermund The Grim, a bloodthirsty destructive and powerful dragon.

Vermund attacks, devours and practically destroys the valley of the Horned Skgaro. They are a strong tribe with horns growing on their heads but find they have no answer to Vermund.

Ilgra is a strong determined character who loses her father and all her possessions in a brilliantly described attack on the Skgaro by Vermund. My hackles were raised and so will yours. Ilgra plots to kill Vermund while he is sleeping on  the Kulkaras mountains by thrusting her spear into his big red eye. Can she do it? Read it and find out.

Behind all Ilgra’s determination lies something  deeper – “are there some things in life that can never be changed?”  and is revenge worth it?

Great cover, a dragon wrapped around a mountain.

Eragon has many fans in New Zealand, the novel sold 42,000 copies here so this will also be popular. Read it over the holidays, it takes you to another land.

Andrew Down Under. The Story of an Immigrantdog by Anne Manchester, illus. Fifi Colston.

December 19, 2018 Comments off

Andrew down underAndrew Down Under. The Story of an Immigrantdog by Anne Manchester, illus. Fifi Colston. Pub. Makaro press, 2018.

This is a prequel to Toughen Up Andrew previewed elsewhere on this blog. It is the story of a journey from Palm Springs USA to windy wellington for pampered Pekinese dog Andrew and his master Poppa.

It is not an easy journey and includes many tests for rabies and parasites, a long plane ride and ten days quarantine in New Zealand. Tough going for a little dog who is used to going everywhere with Poppa even into restaurants.

The story is told from Andrew’s point of view and children from 6-12 years will love it. Helps you appreciate how difficult it is for new immigrants to our country.

Fifi Colson once again draws the illustrations in pen and ink and there are photographs of some of the characters in the book. Easy font, short chapters and only 118 pages, make this very readable. Kids and animal stories are like a hand in a glove.