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Archive for the ‘Junior Fiction’ Category

Princess Olivia Investigates. The Wrong Weather by Lucy Hawking, illus Zoe Persico. Pub. Puffin, 2022

May 20, 2022 Comments off

This is a story about climate change and global warming for primary and intermediate students and it is very very good. First in a series I would think and easy to read at that.

Olivia is a princess in the Kingdom of Alez. Her parents Tolemy 32nd and queen Paragona and their ancestors have ruled the Kingdom for hundreds of years but they have been neglectful and unwise in their decision making. At the start of the novel they are replaced by a citizen’s party under Jeremy Pont and Gretchen Sparks who exile the Royal family to an apartment in the city below.

Olivia and her parents are shocked at the living conditions, the air pollution and the climate of the city below their former mountain top palace. Global warming and climate change have wrecked chaos with the environment and the people live wretched lives.

What has happened and can things change? Well Olivia is very resourceful princess who meets a knowledgeable group of friends who make her decide to become a scientist and investigate what has happened,

Well written with key words on every page highlighted and short simply written explanations of global warming and climate change by well known scientists.

Olivia is a great role model and her investigations reveal the cause of all the climate change. A contemporary problem mixed with a good story. It doesn’t get better than that.

The World’s Worst Pets by David Walliams, illus. Adam Stower. Pub. HarperCollins, 2022

May 16, 2022 Comments off

What can I add about David Walliams’ writing that hasn’t been written before except that it is superlative and he has done more to get reluctant kids into reading since J.K Rowling, Paul Jennings and R.L Stine.

This is a book of ten short stories about pets that have gone feral or are locked into a rivalry with another pet that is a catastrophe for the owners. Walliams also knows that kids like burps and farts and there is a knew noise a furp which is a combination of the two.

There is a story about the rivalry between cats and dogs in a musical context, why is there a musical about Cats and not Dogs but it can’t beat the battle for cuteness between a hampster and a gerbil. There is a bunny story, Picasso the horse, a silly snake, a grizzlie bear a supersonic tortoise, a furping goldfish and my favourite the burgling budgie which has a Dickensian theme to it. Loved Magwitch the one eyed magpie.

Adam Stower with his coloured illustrations enhances the characters and the humour.

You can’t go wrong with this novel for kids and I am hoping that David will come up with a book about the Worlds worst politicians. There are plenty in the World today.

Masher by Fifi Colston. Pub. Puffin, 2022.

May 6, 2022 Comments off

This is literally a shaggy dog story for intermediate and junior readers and it is very funny. Reluctant boy readers in particular will love it and it would be a good story to read aloud to a junior class.

Freddy Foxworthy is an arty boy and he is daring. His father is a builder and his sister is flirting with the metal head a couple of house along from his. His name is Axl and he has a vicious Staffordshire bull terrier called Masher.

Freddy is inspired by a teacher to make a puppet made of paper mache but he struggles because it is too soft, so he mixes up a concoction of flour water and sugar to bind the paper mache together. Masher eats it all and dies. he is cremated and his ashes are left by the gate to Axl’s house.

In a comedy of errors Freddy kicks the ashes over, conceals the spilt ashes in a pie bag takes them home and mixes them in the flour mixture to stiffen up the paper mache, and uses it to complete the puppet.

The hand puppet morphs and comes alive as Masher and the action starts. Read it and see what happens. Freddy is a good role model. He is intelligent, imaginative and has good people skills, but will he survive a paper mache dog with all the appetites and qualities of the real thing.

There are lessons in how to form a business and how to do a puppet show as well as the crazy action that surrounds a talking dog puppet. Easy to read with great imagination.

Bored by Matt Stanton. Pub. HarperCollins, 2020

April 13, 2022 Comments off

Milo Kim lives in Turtle place which is just off Mars road and he is bored. He is pre teen and has a crush on the girl two houses away named Evie Watson, who ignores him.

On the day that a new kid, who calls himself Frog, moves in next door, Milo finds a $105 on the road in two notes $100 and $5. You and me would pocket the money and say nothing but Milo is honest and wants to know who owns it.

Rocco, a slightly older kid and a bit aggressive decides the money is his without any evidence and tries to bully Milo into giving it to him. Frog comes to his rescue. Frog has his own martial art called Frog-Fu. I like Frog, he is inventive, imaginative, brave and can talk the hind legs off a donkey. Rocco is not amused.

Who does belong to the money? Read this compelling short novel with big easy print and find out for yourself.

Matt Stanton is the author of the Funny Kid series many of which are reviewed on this blog. Reluctant boy readers will love this as will girls.

The Tale of the Tiny Man by Barbro Lindgren Illus. Eva Erikson, Translated by Julia Marshall. Pub Gecko Press 2022.

March 7, 2022 Comments off

This is a simply told story from Sweden about a tiny man who is very lonely because he has no friends. Although he is polite and courteous around people, raising his hat in greeting towards them, people don’t seem to like him.

He lacks self esteem and blames it on his ugly hat. He cries in bed at night but believes he is a kind man, and he is. He pins a note to a tree that says FRIEND WANTED and waits on his doorstep for an answer as 10 days go by and the first signs of winter appear.

Then a dog with a curved tail and wet nose comes to him and happiness abounds. He feeds the dog and they become friends, you can tell cos the dog leaks on his gate to mark out his territory. They have fun together and those that used to mistreat the old man change because of the dog.

The winter ends with spring and a young girl with a polka dot dress and a ribbon in her hair appears and the dog loves her. Is friendship exclusive? Will the dog take off with the girl?

Read it and see you will not regret it.

Easy to read text particularly good for juniors and primary students when read aloud.

The illustrations are a treat. The little man and the dog and girl are superbly drawn but do not drift into sentimentality. Brings about great opportunities to discuss self esteem and friendship.

ICE A Secret, A Rescue, A Terrifying Truth by Susan Brocker. Pub. Scholastic, 2022

February 18, 2022 Comments off

If I told you that this short exciting novel has a tiger, an elephant, lions, a white alsatian, a boy who tells lies and is set in Wanaka New Zealand in the death of winter you might say Yeh Right! But it is all true and the beauty of fiction is you can do this as a writer as long as it is believable. Fortunately this novel is and it has an ending to wonder over.

Zac is staying with his father, his stepmother and step sister and is a bit anxious. His father catches him out telling lies and is a little hostile so he is up against it. His father hates him playing computer games and wants Zac to get out and do things so arranges for him to work at a wild life farm with a delightful elephant named Kaya, an angry Tiger named Shaka an African trainer called Lwazi and a very shady owner called Peter Slagter which means butcher.

While in the kennels of a dog pound Zac takes a liking to a white alsatian and the dog clearly likes him. He takes it as a pet but it howls at the white mountains and clearly wants to get out there. Zac names him Ice and takes him out there or rather Ice takes him. What the two of them discover is mind blowing and leads to frantic action with a do or die ending.

It you love animals you are going to love this novel. It has an almost unlikely connection to the killing and use of endangered African animals. It had me on the edge of my seat for much of the novel.

Check it out you will not be disappointed.

Night Race to Kawau by Tessa Duder. Pub. Penguin Random House 2022

February 2, 2022 Comments off

First published 40 years ago this gripping novel about a yachting race at night from Auckland to Kawau Island is as relevant today as it was back then.

The Starr family including Dad, Mum, teenager Sam and younger siblings Jane and Jeremy set sail in an old but sound wooden yacht in a race with more than 100 other vessels of different sizes and crews.

As we meet all the characters it is a tense and hectic day in which time is limited to prepare for the race, Jeremy gets a bang on the head and the Auckland traffic even then plays havoc with getting everybody at the wharf on time. The trip up the harbour with all the other yachts and without an expected adult crew member is tense.

The start is like an America’s Cup race and they sail into a clear sky with light winds and the expectation that it will be an easy race. Not the case. As they enter the Tiri channel with spinnaker pushing the old yacht forward there is a sudden and unexpected change in wind direction and chaos on board as dad tries to get the spinnaker down and is yelling orders left right and centre. Then silence. What has happened? has dad gone overboard? How will the young family cope if he has.

Read the rest yourself it is gripping reading.

Lots of sailing talk, family squabbles at a time when there were no cell phones or computers with all the characters challeged out of their comfort zones.

The Story of Swoop by Matt Owens, illus Emma Gustafson. Pub. Scholastic, 2022.

January 28, 2022 Comments off

A true story superbly portrayed in picture book format about an unlikely relationship between a magpie, a cat and a human. It is inspirational.

Firefighter Matt finds an injured and hungry young magpie at the side of the road and takes him home to feed and nurse back to health. But Matt has a black cat called Mogli and we all know cats love to catch birds. Not in this case.

Mogli, Matt and Swoop the magpie become family but sooner or later Swoop is going to need to go back to his own kind. Read it and see what happens.

The story is simply told and Emma Gustafson’s illustrations lift the relationship to great heights. Swoop is superbly drawn as is the cat and matt the humane human. The illustrations of Swoop and Mogli lounging around together and of Swoop riding on Mogli’s back are memorable.

Read other aspects of this true story in the back of the book.

A great way for me to start off the new year with this review.

I’ve Broken my Bum and other stories by Dawn McMillan, Illust. Ross Kinnaird. Pub. Oratia, 2021

November 19, 2021 Comments off

Just in time for Xmas so that reluctant readers can have a longer picture book to read while on holiday.

This is an addictive form of reading for those that like the poo bum wees books and there are plenty of them. All three stories in this compendium have been published before but not together like this.

I’ve broken My Bum is every boys nightmare especially when you glue it all together, stick it back on only to have a tray stick with it. But there are advantages.

Mister Spears and His hairy Ears is every man’s nightmare. Who wants hairy ears? can the be prevented? Check it and find out.

Charlie and his Amazing tales features a dog who does parachuting. I wouldn’t go near a parachute but this is a dog with imagination who just doesn’t bark and poo.

Dawn McMillan’s rhyming text enhances the humour and Ross Kinnaird gets the visual humour just right.

An ideal present for Xmas

The 13-Storey Treehouse (Full Colour Edition) by Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton. Pub. MacMillan Publishers NZ, 2021

November 18, 2021 Comments off

This is the novel that started the crazy treehouse stories, the most recent one is reviewed elsewhere on this blog. This is a copy worth getting and keeping because of the colour and hardback cover and in 50 years time it will probably be worth big dollars.

It introduces Andy and Terry ( the writer and illustrator of course) and their living quarters in a 13-storey treehouse with a theatre and library, a bowling alley, a man-eating shark tank and a giant catapult amongst other things.

Andy & Terry are under pressure from Big Nose to finish a book and this is the series of preposterous stories that make up this book.

It starts with Terry painting a cat yellow and it turning into a canary and flying away then it graduates into Barky the barking dog show. Don’t barking dogs drive you Mad? Then comes the best story in the book when Terry gets a packet of sea-monkey eggs, germinates them in a bowl of water and one of them turns into a mermaid and eats all the other eggs.

Terry falls in love with the mermaid but there is danger ahead. Read it and find out what happens. All the story threads join up at the end to make a satisfying read.

The stories are designed to attract reluctant readers and their craziness will certainly bring them to the reading table. This is an 8 out of ten book for enjoyability and I am going to keep my copy.

As always Terry Denton provides the illustrations to Andy Griffiths’ crazy text. Don’t miss it.