Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts. Ten Tales from the Deep Dark Woods by Craig Phillips. Pub. Allen & Unwin, 2017.
The telling of stories of myths and legends was the reason the storyteller had the best seat by the fire. Here are ten myths legends and fairy tales from nine different cultures that talk about all the mythical creatures mentioned in the title.
Most of the stories you will know already although there was one I hadn’t heard of and it is a beauty. From Sweden is The Boy Who Was Never Afraid. He goes looking for his cow that was stolen by a an old Troll. Who hasn’t? he can’t afford to be afraid and after confronting bravely some formidable opponents he gets his cow back and becomes a hero at the same time. Brilliant.
You get Irish giant Finn McCool, Russian with Baba Yaga and Momotaro the peach boy plus others. You can’t beat that.
What makes these tales more accessible than they were before is the fact they are written in wide screen comic book illustrations that bring life to the tales. Visual readers will really get into these and so they should.
Less than 30 bucks will get you this impressive book that will appeal to reluctant readers and good readers alike. High boy appeal.
Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear & Isabelle Arsenault. Pub. Book Island, 2017.
This is a sophisticated picture book that is multi level, it is disturbing but ultimately hopeful and the topic is depression.
Many people get depressed but when a child gets depressed that is upsetting and needs investigation. When Virginia gets depressed she turns into a wolf and everything in the house turns upside down and dreary for her sister Vanessa.
Vanessa cares and tries to jolly Virginia up. It is a hard row to hoe. Virginia mentions Bloomsberry and so Vanessa paints her view of Bloomsberry with flowers and a garden in which she and Virginia can wander safely and happily.
The names of the children and the situation mirror that of writer Virginia Woolf and the name Bloomsberry is a name associated with her, although you don’t need to know that to enjoy the book.
Isabelle Arsenault’s illustrations are superb. The black wolf, the brightly dressed Vanessa and the black and white images depicting depression are magical. The garden scenes painted by Vanessa fill the reader with hope that depression will pass.
A picture book for everyone.
A Different Dog by Paul Jennings. Pub. Allen & Unwin, 2017.
Fans of Paul Jennings will not be disappointed in this long short story. Just over 80 pages of writing that will keep you on edge and keep you guessing to the end.
The boy who narrates the story is known only as the boy. He never speaks but once owned a dog called Deefer whose fate is crucial to the story. The boy lives with his mother and they are very poor but both want to break that poverty thing.
Although the boy never talks you know what he is thinking. He has no friends and is harangued at school but an adventure in which a vehicle leaves the road and kills the owner leaving another dog, is to change the boy’s life. Read it and see how.
The illustrations by Geoff Kelly in black and white pen are a critical part of this story
Superbly constructed by a master storyteller for reluctant readers of intermediate and secondary school age.
Moa by James Davidson. Pub. Earths End, 2017.
A comic book story in 5 parts concerning two Moa Rangers Possum von Tempsky and Kiwi Pukupuku. Both ride Moas and are sort of watchdogs cum cultural police cum super heroes who wander round NZ’s bush and seashore sorting out the bad dudes including tough looking pigs, stags and lizards. All the local population are kiwis.
Their adventures fringe onto Maori legends including Hatupatu and the Birdwoman and of course Maui. There is a story of the largest Kauri tree that bushmen want to cut down. Everytime they try it is restored again as it is protected by a Mauri stone.
The last story which is not finished is a serial story concerning the theft of Maui’s magic jaw bone by Otto who wants to use it to fish for his own land and conquer the World. You will need to get the next part to find out how it ends.
Comic book illustrations with speech bubbles from the characters. Lots of action and tongue in cheek humour without offending the cultural aspects.
Another example of the changing way Maori legends and culture are proceeding to appeal to modern kids. I like the movement.
Flight Path by David Hill. Pub. Puffin NZ, 2017.
This excellent novel about Bomber Command in World war 2 is released tomorrow and if I were you I would get down and get it because you will not read a better novel about this topic than this one.
Jack is a NZ boy of 19 years and he can’t wait to get off the ship and join in the fight against Hitler. He is allocated to F Fox Lancaster bomber sitting in the freezing cold perspex nose cone as a bomb releaser and gunner. He sees all the action front on.
After two raids Jack was scared and felt like he had been doing the job for ever.
The Lancaster has a multi national crew of seven and they are told if they get shot down to head for the dirtiest cafe in town sit in the corner and wait. Jack hopes it will never happen.
The crew take part in bombing raids over Germany, France and the English channel at night time. Starting after 10.00 o’clock and sometimes out there for 6 hours. Every mission has major risks from flack from ground fire or attack from German night fighters and even from their own bombers who are flying in close formation. There are missions at the D-Day landings and a hunt for the Battleship Tirpitz.
The dogfights and descriptions of the bombing raids are superb and after each mission a white bomb is painted on the nose of the Lancaster. However with each mission the tensions get higher. When will it be F Fox’s turn to be shot down or suffer casualties.
A superb novel that could be compared to Brian Falkner’s novel of 1917 reviewed below. David Hill is equally superb in his observations as Brian Falkner especially when the English pilot says things like what-ho and wizard. There is also a bit of romance so read it and find out.
Intermediate readers could easily read it but it is essentially high school and Young Adult.
Yousuf’s Everyday Adventures: Beautifully Different by Dana Salim, illus. Pavel Goldaev. Pub. firstname.lastname@example.org
Taylor Swift once said “if you have the good fortune to be different don’t ever change“. This is very much the theme of this positive picture book about difference.
The book opens with this line- “Daddy, some of the kids in my class are different than me. Why is that? Why can’t we all be the same?”
Then we go on a fantasy adventure that involves travel to a land where the flowers are attacked by weeds and unite together to defeat them. The message is difference is beautiful.
The illustrations are bright, large and colourful. They start with a father and son both with big expressive eyes who go on an Imagination Time Travel game and it ends with a positive lesson.
A picture book with International appeal for primary school children and probably best read aloud to a class or individuals.