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Archive for the ‘Junior Fiction’ Category

Space Detectives by Mark Powers, illus. Dapo Adeola. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2021.

April 8, 2021 Comments off

This is a short easy to read chapter book for newly confidant readers and reluctant boy readers. It is introductory Sc/Fi with a load of laughs and lots of weird creatures.

Ten year old Ethan and Mark are good friends and they run an ice cream parlour on the manmade planet of Starville. It is a glass bubble in space with all the elements of Planet Earth except that it is populated by both humans and creatures from other planets.

Both boys are detectives and want to start an agency up on Starville but there is a lack of work. The boys witness a crime in which a Tufted Grotsnobbler from Venus steals the handbag off the daughter of the Supreme Governor of Starville. They attempt to get the handbag back and are invited to a party at the Governors house for their efforts.

Then things get worse as Starvillians learn that their planet is heading for a collision with the moon. Can Ethan and Mark find out who is behind this dastardly scheme? Read it and find out.

Cricket Crazy by Vivienne Bailey. Pub. Cuba Press 2021.

March 19, 2021 Comments off

Tom is 11 years old, at Rewa Intermediate school and is crazy about cricket. His father was a good cricketer and has an old bat with the autograph of some famous NZ cricketers including Martin Crowe. Tom’s best friend Fletcher plays cricket too and so does Izzy a girl that Tom likes but keeps it to himself. She is an all rounder and there is nothing worse for a boy than to be bowled out by a girl.

Tom is still missing his dead mother when dad turns up with a red headed lass called Tanya who has taken over all his dad’s attention. Worse thing of all is they are kissing and cuddling and Tanya doesn’t like his dog Archie who is moved from his home comforts to out of doors.

A cricket competition is to be played with the final to be played at the Basin Reserve. Tom wants to get there but things are not going well for him. Then his favourite bat is nicked at a cricket game and Fletcher gets glandular fever.

Will Tom make it? How about dad and Tanya? What has Izzy got to do with it all? Read it and find out.

Lots of cricket talk and a glossary of terms in the back of the book. Good advice for a young cricketer and for any sport in fact. practice, have confidence in yourself, concentrate and play for your team.

A first novel for this author and I think she is on the right track with this novel about cricket and family and school life.

The cover looks very much like Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor batting together and they do get a mention in the novel.

The Valley of Lost Secrets by Lesley Parr. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2021.

February 20, 2021 Comments off

This might possibly be the best novel dealing with the evacuation of children out into the countryside from London and other cities in WW2, that has been written. Comparisons can be made to Goodnight Mr Tom but that would be wrong because there is the added dimension of mystery and relations between Wales and England.

Twelve year old Jimmy and his younger 6 year old brother Ronnie are evacuated from their home in London to a small Welsh coal mining village. Jimmy is determined not to like it when him and Ronnie are billeted with the Thomas’s who not topic of the week in their community.

Ronnie while very emotional takes to the Thomas’s straight away and starts calling them uncle and Auntie which Jimmy finds difficult to accept. Jimmy has his own problems as his best mate in London Duffy is billeted with the vicar and his bad boy Jack and they cease to be friends. A girl of similar age Francis who was an object of fun and derision in London has found great confidence in the change to Wales.

On a walk up the hills Jimmy and Ronnie discover a skull hidden in the trunk of a tree and expose a decade old mystery that deeply involve the Thomas family.

Strong emotions are evoked and cultural differences are exposed as well as family secrets and community relations. This book was compelling reading and would make a good read aloud at middle school and intermediate level.

A stron part of the novel and a source of mystery are the tree illustrations that begin each chapter. You will have to find this out for yourself plus and additional mystery in the written text.

A superb novel about this era of the phoney war inWW2 and very good social values as well as historical perspective.

Old Truck and the Flood by Jennifer Somervell & Margery Fern. Pub. Tales from the Farm Publications 2021.

February 9, 2021 Comments off

This delightful and informative picture book is the third about the Old Truck – in reality a 1921 Model 10 Republic. All the books in this series by the two sisters are previewed elsewhere on this blog.

This story is based on the 2004 storm that caused the Tongariro River to break it’s banks and flood parts of the town of Turangi near Lake Taupo.

Old Truck is in the garage when it happened and the flood water got up to his, pretty high anyway, much to his discomfort. His engine is silted up from the volcanic soil and it looks like that is it for Old Truck. Fortunately there is some positive thinking in Old Truck’s family and perhaps his days are not over yet.

Check it out and see what happens. It is a well told story of a natural disaster.

Excellent illustrations which show a portrait of country life the highlight of which is the character of Old Truck. In the back are real life pictures of old truck plus the weather circumstances and results of the 2004 flood..

Locked Down by Jesse O. Illus. Toby Morris. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2021.

February 5, 2021 Comments off

This is a remarkable story because it was first written in 2011 when Bird flu was around and the author prophetically extrapolated what might happen if things got worse. Well things did get worse and it was called Covid 19 and the nation was in lockdown.

The title has been changed from Staying Home to Locked Down to reflect the modern situation. The interesting thing of course is to compare how the author saw things going in 2011 compared what actually happened in New Zealand under lockdown.

The story concentrates on the Flint family who live in the town of Hansen which is somewhere in the South Island. A virus XB276 has struck the North Island down and people have been told to stay home. The South Island has been relatively untouched but is radically effected by the situation in the North.

There are major differences and solutions to the problems created by lockdown and i will let you find out by reading the book. There is a complete shutdown of shops and supermarkets and there is a shutdown of power sources too which create different problems than in the current situation.

The strongest messages relate to families under stress and trying to survive. It hasn’t got that bad in todays crisis, see how the children and their neighbours get on in this crisis..

Toby Morris’s illustrations enhance the story and provide images to hang your thought s on. Well worth a read.

Pages & Co Bk. 3 Tilly and the Map Stories by Anna James. Pub. HarperCollins, 2020.

December 21, 2020 Comments off

The magic of reading is to the fore in this third part about Tilly and Oscar who are bookwanderers. That is the skill of being able to enter into a book and relate to the characters and the action that happens.

Librarians are a power crazy lot, at least in my experience, and the Underwood siblings are trying to squash bookwandering by binding source editions in the British Underlibrary. This has an effect in other countries like France and USA and stops book wandering unless the source edition of a novel is kept outside of Britain.

Tilly and Oscar have some clues to a theory that a supreme power called the Archivists, who are elusive, have the ability to halt the shenanigans of the Underwood’s. The clues lead them to a book in the Library of Congress in Washington so off they go in secrecy to meet Orlando and Jorge at the library. Adventure and treachery await them.

Well written with the characters of Oscar and Tilly having good values and personal character. My favourite part is when they bookwander into Midsummer Night’s Dream and meet Titania, Oberon, Puck and Bottom. Should they stop the love potion being given to Titania? Read it and see. We also meet Shakespeare himself. Where there’s a Will there’s a way.

Fans of the series will love it and it leaves a few plot lines open for another book.

Fantastic Mr Bean by Mary-Anne Scott, illus. Lisa Allen. Pub. OneTree House, 2020.

December 12, 2020 Comments off

A short, easy to read novel wrapped around a school production of Roals Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox.

Lachie and his class are puting on a production of Mr Fox and he desperately wants to play Mr Fox but he doesn’t want to have to say the smulchy terms that Mr Fox calls his wife. Result he gets the part but can’t go through with it.

When the play is being acted out an incident happens that turns lachie into a hero. Read it and see what it is.

Short 56 page novel in large print for the most reluctant of readers. There should be more of this type of novel for children. The story is terrific and lisa Allen’s illustrations enhance the story and the characters.

Or’in of Tane. The Chronicles of Aden Weaver Bk1 by Yvette Carol. Pub. Shining River Press, 2020.

November 28, 2020 Comments off

A new fantasy series from a NZ author who uses Maori mythology as a basis for the imagery of the story. It is good v Evil in the Lands of Fire and Ice and the land of Clouds.

Aden Weaver is the son of a great warrior Kal who has been killed by the evil Empire of the Sasori. Aden and his kin are shapeshifters being able to transform into dragonflies. The enemy the Sasori are the same except the transform into preying mantis and they are led by Chief Wako who lives up to his name.

Aden is of an age where he is ready to train to be a warrior and presses his grandparents to let him go. But he is being watched by the Sasori.

Consent is given for him to be trained as a warrior along with a girl called Te Maia who has a skill of a super powered memory. She remembers everything. Aden’

Aden’s guardian for his warrior training is Stingray and together they are going to confront the Sasori in some deadly battles.

The prize is a magical stone called The Or’in of Tane that has the power to regenerate a body and keep the bearer in perfect health forever. Both sides want the stone, I do too, so it is going to be a battle to the death.

Good fantasy that uses Maori myth and legend as an example. Easy reading and very descriptive in parts. The insect transformation is appealing and unique.

Must be an entrant for the NZ Children’s book awards later next year.

Code Name Bananas by David Walliams, illus. by Tony Ross. Pub. HarperCollins, 2020.

November 19, 2020 Comments off

Another great novel of madness, mayhem, laughter and fun from the man the Telegraph have said “Dahl finally has a worthy successor“. No wonder children love it. Just in time for Xmas. Parents should take a look too.

Eric is an 11 year old boy with sticking out ears and glasses who stays with his grandma. He is an orphan and it is about to get worse. His main love is visiting the zoo in Regents Park London where he has developed a friendship with Gertrude the gorilla.

He is also friends with zookeeper Uncle Sid who has tin legs because his real ones were blown off in WW1. Sid has sticking out ears too but is as kind as a person can get especially to animals.

Every night the German bombers fly over London blowing smithereens out of the city during the Blitz in WW2. The animals are terrified but Corporal Batter with his rifle and Sir Frederick Frown with his pompous upper class manners are both ready to eliminate any animal that escapes or proves a problem. Gertrude is seen as a problem and set down to be put down by the nasty Miss Gnarl and her long needle.

Eric and Sid plot to release Gertrude and what an adventure it proves to be. Read it and find out what happens. but first read the ten possible plots of how to effect the escape.

Hilariously funny with lots of true history about WW2.

Mallory, Mallory. Revenge of the Tooth fairy by James Norcliffe. Illus. Emily Walker. Pub. Puffin, 2020.

November 9, 2020 Comments off

This is a delightful children’s novel that is easy to read, exciting, funny and has a message for everybody.

Mallory has lost a tooth and contrives a plot to use the tooth to catch the Tooth fairy and ransom her for money. She captures the alleged tooth fairy and convinces Arthur to allow her to use his budgie cage to imprison the tooth fairy along with Bruce the budgie who doesn’t say much

Mallory is not a nice person and doesn’t deserve Arthur as a friend but the tooth fairy turns out to be something unexpected. Read this novel and find out what it is.

The Tooth Fairy of course has magic powers and takes Mallory, Arthur, the bird cage and Bruce to the land of Oralia and the action begins. There they meet the Molars, Maurie and Mollie who are giant piemakers. They also run into The Incisors and the Wisdom tooth. So yes teeth have a lot of prominence in this story.

For a novel to be successful the characters must change but will Mallory change. Loved this story from beginning to end and the illustrations by Emily Walker help enhance the story.

Read chapter 26 Major Rat’s Court, it is absolutely brilliant.

Surely an entry in the NZ Children’s Book Awards this year.