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Archive for the ‘Junior Fiction’ Category

Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival.

August 17, 2017 Comments off

perfectly normanPerfectly Norman by Tom Percival. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2017.

This superb picture book has a touch of genius about it as it helps children who are different understand that they should not be embarrassed or ashamed about their difference and tells them they are not alone.

Norman is,in his parents eyes, perfectly normal, but you the reader know this is not true by the illustrations. Norman and his kite are in colour and everything else is in black and white.

Then the imaginative Norman grows a pair of multi coloured wings and celebrates with a flight with the birds. Norman worries how his parents will react, so wears a warm coat which he never takes off. This makes his life miserable until he realises that the wings are not the problem but wearing the coat is.

He sheds the coat and other children with the same difference shed theirs and we have a wonderful celebration of colour as winged happy children take to the air.

Perfectly Norman or is that normal. Great to read aloud to juniors.

The illustrations are superb. The contrast of black and white with colour enhances the theme of difference and the isolation that people with difference sometimes feel. I repeat, a touch of genius.

Bad Mermaids by Sibeal Pounder illus. Jason Cockcroft.

August 13, 2017 Comments off

Bad MermaidsBad Mermaids by Sibeal Pounder illus. Jason Cockcroft. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2017.

You never think of mermaids as being bad, you think of them as sitting on rocks with clam shells over their womanly bits, combing their long blond hair with fish bone combs, and luring unsuspecting sailors with their womanly wiles.

Not in this book for young readers mostly girls aged 7-12 years.

The World of the Hidden Lagoon and Swirley Shell is turned upside down when the top mermaid Arabella Cod is fishnapped. But who by? many mermaids have disappeared and others have been forced to make shell tops and not to leave their cities.

Whats more Ommy Pike now rules the hidden world with vicious piranhas. Help is fortunately at hand. Mermaids Beattie, Mimi and Zelda are mysteriously called back to Swirley Shell while holidaying on land with legs.

When they enter the password of Ihavenolegs they know all is not well as piranhas chase them. They hijack a fast car called a Clamorado 7 and set out to solve the disappearance of Arabella Cod.

Interesting fantasy from the creator of the Witch wars series. Check it out.

Kid Normal by Greg James & Chris Smith, illus. Erica Salcedo.

August 8, 2017 Comments off

kid normalKid Normal by Greg James & Chris Smith, illus. Erica Salcedo. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2017.

This novel for middle school, intermediate and junior secondary school readers is one of the most bizarre stories I have ever read. That’s not putting it down, its a compliment because reluctant readers are the big challenge these days and this story will suck them in.

There are two strands to the plot, one for each author, and they are skillfully brought together as the book proceeds. The first is about Murph, a boy who has moved schools so many times he is fed up to the back teeth. He is mistakenly accepted by a school that deals with children who have a weird talent or capability some of super hero status but not all. They discover Murph is just normal but he adjusts to his new life. Will he become a hero?

The second strand is about Clive Meeke a scientist working on DNA who is pressured by his boss. Who isn’t these days? While conducting an experiment with a wasp in the room things go pear shaped and Meeke becomes power crazy Nektar, half man half wasp.

If you want to know any more you will have to read it yourself but if you just want a snippet to get the feel of the book there is a short story in the middle of the book that mimics James Bond, about a super hero The Blue Phantom,  that is just brilliant.

Written by two BBC Radio 1 jocks who have the gift of the gab the story is never drab. Some of the idiom and metaphor are superb with Erica Salcedo providing illustrations that enhance the plot and give you an idea of what the characters look like.

It is a good laugh and reading should be fun.

So Special by David Hill, Illus. Nikki Slade Robinson

August 6, 2017 Comments off

so specialSo Special by David Hill, Illus. Nikki Slade Robinson. Pub. Duck Creek Press, 2017.

Picture books can be used to highlight topics, feelings and personal situations so that the reader can see that they are not alone. The pen is still mightier than the sword although when applied to this book, there is something ironic about that statement as the topic is the families of the armed forces who are serving overseas and the problems they have.

Oscar and his sister Laila miss their dad who is with the army overseas. Laila sucks her thumb and Oscar sometimes gets angry when other kids ask about the whereabouts of his father. Mother copes as well as she can and supports her children with skill and attention.

But they still miss their dad. Both children learn to live with the fact that their dad is special and is serving his country oversea.

Nikkii Slade Robinson’s illustrations are perceptive, large and colourful. They show the joy and the sadness. The use of the family dog is powerful and the mother is always in control. The aircraft, tank and battleship shadows throughout the book remind readers of who we are talking about.

David Hill’s text is simple, straight to the point and sensitive. Also available in Maori language under the title He Tino Taonga.

This picture book fulfills a need in a most positive way.

Dragons Under my Bed by Kathy Bee, Illus. by Lisa Allen.

July 31, 2017 Comments off

dragon bedDragons Under my Bed by Kathy Bee, Illus. by Lisa Allen. Pub. Duck Creek Pres, 2017.

Something happens in my room at night. Straight after Mum turns out the light” Heck we all know that is true and like the little boy in this story it pays to have a good story to explain what happens.

Yes it is dragons under the bed who come out and have enormous fun creating a hellava mess until mum comes back to see what the kerfuffle is.

A picture book from the song Dragons under the Bed from well known singer/songwriter Kathy Bee. You can download the song from this book and sing along or you can read it aloud instead.

It has the added advantage of easing childhood fears of a monster under the bed  especially knowing that the dragons are having such fun.

Lisa Allen has illustrated the song and brought it to visual life. The dragons are brazen, puffing smoke, firing arrows, throwing clothes around, emptying the wardrobe and all sorts of mischief. The little boy is as innocent as the day is long and of course has imagination

But we know who is really to blame.

Worth every cent of 20 bucks from  www.kathbee.nz

I Just Ate My Friend by Heidi McKinnon

July 24, 2017 Comments off

ate my friendI Just Ate My Friend by Heidi McKinnon. Pub. Allen & Unwin, 2017.

I have been sitting on this potentially award winning picture book for a few weeks now and I just have to get it out. Why you say? Because it is multi level, thought provoking, funny, with illustrations that are so simple I could have done them, yet it has that je ne sais quoi.

On a child’s level it has a strong message of, “be careful who you chose as a friend.” It also looks at ways in which we make judgments on who our friends should be.

At an adult level, while everything above is relevant, it deals with old adage of “what goes round comes round”.

A monster regrets that he has eaten his best and only friend, he ponders the meaning of this and goes looking for a new friend. In the end another monster chooses him. He is happy for a while, but………

Lots of black with bright colours on whole pages and white font in short but perceptive sentences. The ending is a killer.

Juniors will love it but older children and adults will be bewitched too.

There is no Dragon in this Story by Lou Carter and Deborah Allwright.

July 23, 2017 Comments off

no dragonThere is no Dragon in this Story by Lou Carter and Deborah Allwright. Pub.Bloomsbury, 2017.

I like dragons but I am afraid they are not always the good guys in children’s stories. They maybe in The Game of Thrones but I haven’t seen the ending yet.

The dragon in this excellent story for juniors and older fans of traditional stories, is sick of being the villain who captures a princess and fights a knight who becomes a hero. Fair enough not all dragons are tarred with the same brush and so it is with this one.

After trying to get into a number of stories involving the Gingerbread Man, the Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks, Pinocchio and Hansel and Gretel, and been told that “there is no dragon in this story”, dragon is fed up. He needs acceptance.

Jack and the Beanstalk gives him his big chance. See if he takes it.

Easy dialogue, best read aloud, with a chance for children to interact with the reader and the story. Illustrations are big, colourful and enhance the story line, especially the facial expressions of the dragon. Other traditional characters are easily recognisable.

An excellent publication out in August for $24.99NZ.