Archive for the ‘Junior Fiction’ Category

Lopini the legend by Feana Tu’akoi. Pub. Scholastic 2023.

June 8, 2023 Comments off

Reading should be about fun and enjoyment and this short novel for primary and Intermediate pupils fits the bill.

It is often said that success breeds success but is the reverse true that failure breeds failure? This is one of the themes of this entertaining Tongan-Palangi novel.

Lopini is a year 8 student and is a legend in his school. He has a good friend in Fi and he is successful in everything he does until he is replaced in the kapa haka group by a Maori boy who speaks Maori and by Lopini’s own admission is better qualified for the job.

Lopini doesn’t handle it very well and feels a failure which he is not used to. His friend Fi tries to bring him round but Lopini decides it is because he is not used to failure ‘I need to get better at failing and the only way to get better is to practice”.

He gets Fi to suggest things for him to do that he hasn’t got a chance to succeed at like asking a germ conscious girl to change lunches with him, to dance in public and in front of the school etc etc. Surprise surprise he becomes a success and enhances his reputation and gets involved in community projects. But is he neglecting his best friend? Read it and find out.

Very easy to read with chapter numbers in Tongan and English. There is a dour school Principle Mrs Pepper to contend with and some cool stuff that Pasifika and Maori students in particular will enjoy. I enjoyed it so it is not exclusive.

After reading it I thought gee I wish school was as cool as this when I went.

The winner of the Tom Fitzgibbon Award for 2022.

Run,Rabbit / E Oma, Rapeti series by Norah Wilson & Kimberly Andrews, Na Pania Papa I whakamaori. Pub. Scholastic, 2023

April 13, 2023 Comments off

This easy to read bilingual series teaching basic words for the learning of Maori language for juniors. All three books feature a young and determined rabbit or rapeti with his friends who are common animals found in New Zealand.

All three books are beautifully illustrated with generally one word per page in both English and Maori. Counting up to 4 is also a feature of all three stories.

Ideal for early learning of basic Maori words with a strong touch of humour about all three picture books

Po Marie Goodnight Little rabbit says goodnight to eel, fish sheep, pukeko, fantail etc before being called home to say goodnight to his mummy.

Te Wa Takaro Playtime Little Rabit says goodbye to his mummy to go and play with his friends at playschool with a Kakapo teacher whon keeps asking him Te wharepaku? Toilet? Little rabbit is having so much fun with cars, trains etc with his friends that he forgets about the toilet.

Te Rehi The Race Come on friends lets race Haere mai, e hoa ma says little Rabnbit and off go sheep, chicken, pukeko and the others in a daring race in which little rabbit shows determination as injury heaps upon injury. very humerous, children will love it.

The Bad Smell Hotel by Leela Chakraborti & Rajorshi Chakraborti. Pub. Cuba Press, 2023.

March 23, 2023 Comments off

This father and daughter creation sets out to make you laugh and it succeeds. It is aimed at primary and Intermediate readers particularly reluctant readers who want something short and funny.

Set in the year 2050 when some people cannot stop farting and society takes up the challenge and confines them all to bad smell hotels where the inmates all wear breathing apparatus to fend off the evil smells. Why has this come to pass?

The World that humans have created is ruled by robots who do everything. Humans do not need to leave the couch, they can send their avatars out to do all the enquiring and socialising they need. We have turned into slobs.

Aina who is a gifted dancer and Jerry live in the bad smell hotel and become friends. Then there is Mrs Knickerbocker who touches on an answer. When Jerry goes to see Aina dance he makes a startling discovery that is going to change the World. I wonder what it is?

Can the problem of non stop farting be solved?

Read this very funny book and find out. It is launched on 6th April.

Spaceboy by David Walliams. Illus. Adam Stower. Pub. HarperCollins children’s books, 2022

November 21, 2022 Comments off

Another amazing novel for children from the incredible David Walliams.

This time it is set in America in the early 1960’s when the space race between USA and the USSR was in full force. In the back is a timeline of important events in this race from 1957 with Sputnik 1 to 1969 moon landing.

Main character is Ruth an orphan (what else) who lives with her aunt Dorothy in the mid west, probably Kansas, on a dilapidated Ostrich farm. Aunt Dorothy is like a crocodile and treats Ruth badly and calls her Roof. Ruth has a three legged dog called Yuri after the first man in space Yuri Gargarin and she looks at the heavens every night from her bed in the attic of the farm house. and wishes her life were better.

One night a UFO crashes to the Earth and on board is a Spaceboy who talks English. Suddenly the farm is swamped with helicopters and moon buggies chasing the Spaceboy and Ruth with the help of Yuri the dog with an egg wisk as one hind leg, try to escape but without luck.

What secrets does Spaceboy have and how will it all end? There is a sort of David Bowie aspect to the novel with the four parts being named Life On Mars, Space Oddity, Loving the Alien and finally Heroes.

We meet some traditional American characters like the doughnut eating overweight sheriff, Major Majors the hollywood aging star like space boss, the incredibly vain President who wants it to be all about him, half mahcine half mad scientist Dr Schock and of course Spaceboy himself.

Loads of laughs enhanced by Adam Stower’s illustrations.

Just in time for Xmas this would make a great present for reluctant readers and David Walliam’s fans. Easy to read, I finished in under two hours and so will you if you want to but I would dwell on it if I were you. Savour it

The Ghost House by Bill Nagelkerke, illus. Theo Macdonald. Pub. Cuba Press, October 2022.

October 12, 2022 Comments off

If you ask a group of children on a school camp what type of story they like best, a large proportion of them will say ghost stories. This is a ghost story about an old kauri villa, “as empty as the inside of a base drum’, still standing in the Red Zone created by the Canterbury Earthquakes.

David is recovering from a serious illness and is being baby sat by his older teenage sister who doesn’t mind the sitting, it’s the baby part she worries about. David just wants to get back to playing cricket so to ease the boredom he goes walking in the Red Zone which is now devoid of houses and full of trees and shrubs that have flourished since the earthquake.

On his first journey into the Red Zone he comes across a house that seems to be saying Help Me. When he enters he meets an old lady called Agnes and they talk. Who is she and what is she doing there? You will have to read the novel to find out, and you will not be disappointed.

A whimsical and easy story told in short chapters and characterised by rich descriptions and a cool relationship between the old and the young. It also describes the Red Zone and what it was and what it hopefully will become. Bee keepers already work the area and public gardens are growing. The encounter between Agnes and David unravels the history of the area.

A well told tale for junior and intermediate readers.

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.