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The Last Bear by Hannah Gold, illus. Levi Penfold. Pub. HarperCollins, 2021.

March 23, 2021 Comments off

This excellent novel is one of the main reasons I keep on reading and reviewing children’s books. Michael Morpurgo called it “unforgettable” and he is not wrong. This is probably the best novel that explains to children the reasons why global warming has to be countered by positive steps from humans. We are not the only ones on this planet.

Eleven year old April and her academic father have lost a mother and a wife. They are grieving and the father decides to take up a job monitoring temperature and the effects global warming is having on the Arctic region. They are to spend the Arctic summer in two huts on the isolated Bear Island inside the arctic circle and a boat ride from Svalbard, a journey that once could be made across the ice sheet.

Bear Island was named because it was populated by polar bears who could walk across the ice to Bear Island and then back again. No longer can that happen, the ice has gone and no bears allegedly reside on Bear Island, but April finds one.

After being assured by her father that no bears are on the island on the first day April is sure she sees one in the distance as the midnight sun sets over the island. Next day she is out looking in spite of warnings that polar bears are aggressive and not to be tampered with. April finds him and he stands up and roars and she roars back.

April calls him Bear and realises he is in poor condition, in fact almost skin and bone. The next day she brings him food consisting of oat cookies and peanut butter. Bear loves it and over the next three months of summer April feeds him up to mint condition and their relationship develops. April is determined to find out why he is the only bear left and she talks to Bear who seems to understand in his bear like ways.

Pretty soon the food runs short but bears need ice sheets to help them hunt. Bear keeps looking north and April understands that is where his home is. How is she going to help him back? read the novel and find out you will not be disappointed.

Crunch time comes when father tells April they are leaving the island.

A totally believable relationship develops between Bear and April who is a feisty girl and describes herself as “I might be short but at least I am not a crybaby” neither is Bear but both are grieving and need each other.

Superb illustrations by Levi Pinfold give character to the Arctic environment, April and Bear.

A wonderful story if you miss this you will kick yourself. The best of the year.

Categories: Uncategorized

My Bum is So Noisy! by Dawn McMillan, Illus by Ross Kinnaird. Pub. Oratia, 2021.

March 14, 2021 Comments off

This is the sort of picture book that kids will pick u immediately they see the title particularly boys of primary and intermediate level although not exclusively so.

These authors have done it before and their picture books are reviewed elsewhere on this blog. Dawn McMillan’s text will help increase children’s vocabulary especially the use of descriptives while the illustrations particularly the behind ones inject much humour into the situation.

But the best part is how the boy takes an embarrassing situation and finds a good use for it.

A sound-system backside! Great fun.

Categories: Uncategorized

Grandkids by Des Newton. Self published 2020. desnew@slingshot.co.nz.

January 2, 2021 Comments off

This is a picture book that can be enjoyed by both the young and the old. It is only 13 pages long but says so much about the relationship between grandparents and grand children.

Why do we have grandkids? Tell me what they’re for…..swinging on the curtains and messing on the floor.

They eat us out of house and home, leave their toys all over the floor and backyard and test our patience to the full. But we love them and wonder what they will become and we know that when it comes to technology they have the better of us.

The illustrations reflect the reactions old people have to their grandkids and our happiness when they are in bed for the night.

I would like to see this story spread over 26 pages to give more power to both written text and illustrations.

Categories: Uncategorized

NEANDS by Dan Salmon. Pub. Onetree House, 2020.

October 6, 2020 Comments off

Pru, Ivy and Charlie are all 14 years old and their parents are all scientists or archeologists who knew each other and they have disappeared.

The World they live in is hostile to science and it is changing as people are turning into neanderthals. They are getting hairy, their skulls are thickening they are losing language and their knuckles are starting to drag along the ground. Worse still they are hostile to other humans.

The cause for change seems to be viral but is it true? and can it be stopped? or is the whole human population destined for extinction?

Charlie tells the story after his parents disappear and school friends start the change to a NEAND as he calls them.

Pru, Ivy and Charlie look for safety and survival in this new World.

The science is interesting and the prose is very descriptive. Ivy says a very interesting thing “I spent my whole life trying to be Maori and now I’d just settle for staying human”.

Has everybody got a Neanderthal gene in them and can this under certain circumstances be triggered turning humans into NEANDS.

An interesting read especially since the Covid 19 virus is currently playing havoc with the Globe.

Categories: Uncategorized

Nikau’s Escape by Kate S. Richards. Pub. Green Room House 2020.

September 17, 2020 Comments off

This is the third book in a series about Jabu a black African from South Africa who lived pre Nelson Mandela when Sth Africa was under Apartheid.

In this novel for teens Jabu comes to New Zealand to snow board in the volcanic area of the central North Island. There he meets Pania and her brother Nikau and becomes quite fond of Pania.

Pania and Nikau had an abusive father who has been in prison for 10 years but is now released. Nikau has fantasised about his father and imagines having a cool but meaningful relationship with him. Nikau is being drawn into the world of drugs and crime and his sister Pania is determined to save him from it. Nikau has other ideas but when his father turns up Nikau rapidly learns that his criminal and drug life is not for him

Things come to a head at a skiing and snowboard trip to Ruapehu when the volcano erupts sending out a lahar and it is a question of survival.

An easy to read book with good values and plenty of action.

Categories: Uncategorized

My Little Book of Bugs. Pub. Te Papa Press 2020.

September 14, 2020 Comments off

My Little Book of Bugs. Pub. Te Papa Press 2020.

This bilingual board book in English and Maori is for pre schoolers.

It talks about all the bugs children will see in their environment from bee to weta in alphabetical order.

Butterflies have wings covered with thousands of tiny scales and cockroaches can live for a long time without food and water. Wetas wave these spiky legs to frighten enemies.

The Maori text follows the English and gives readers an appreciation that there are two major languages in New Zealand plus sign language of course.

being a board book it is very hardy and can be chewed and thrown without damage. A valuable

Categories: Uncategorized

Kylo Kitty moves to the City by Chantal Venter. illus. Katerina Kalinichenko.

September 14, 2020 Comments off

Kylo Kitty moves to the City by Chantal Venter. illus. Katerina Kalinichenko. Pub. KyloKitty Books, 2020.

Kylo kitty has moved to the city and is looking for friends. He gets up early and goes looking.

He meets Anthony Ant and kiwi Karl but they are not unfriendly but don’t need a friend. A white tail appears and disappears then white paws are seen. What or who can it be?

He meets the owner of these things and his name is Spooky. read it and find out who it is.

Well Illustrated with Kylo well characterised with dark coat and big green eyes. The text is rhyming and great for reading aloud to pre schoolers and juniors.

It comes with a sheet of stickers too.

Rona Moon. Ko Rona Mahina by Tim Tipene, illus Theresa Reihana.

September 2, 2020 Comments off

Rona-Moon-Cover-LRRona Moon. Ko Rona Mahina by Tim Tipene, illus Theresa Reihana. Pub. Oratia, 2020.

Maori myths and legends are as good as any culture on the planet but like many old stories they can do with a revamp to make them more relevant to today’s world and today’s children. That is exactly what this new version delivers. Written in English and Maori.

Rona acts like a spoilt brat. She is defiant, angry, unreasonable and all her whanau suffer from her actions. She pout she stamps,  she hits her brother, rolls her eyes and says whatever to any request to behave.

Then one dark night when the moon is high she is swept up to the moon and meets Whaea Rona, the woman on the moon. Whaea Rona urges Rona to use her anger to create change not to attack others. Love and kindness is the way. Great message.

The star of this picture book for juniors and primary student are the illustrations. The moon and Earth look great, Rona is the perfect brat with her pouting lip, her nana, father and brother are beautifully drawn. Check out the brother’s facials when Rona smiles.

An excellent publication with a place in every household with children and in the school library. Legends don’t come better told than this. Great cover.

Saving Thandi by Kate S Richards.

August 16, 2020 Comments off

thandi2Saving Thandi by Kate S Richards. Pub.Green Room House 2020.

Thandi is a baby rhinoceros that accompanied Jabu, a teenage orphan who left his shanty in Soweto for Durban. They were unwittingly in the same truck together and neither forgot the experience.

Now Jabu is a famous surfer and runs a Trust for young black surfers particularly Alexia a teenage surfing sensation. Surf and rhinos come together in

the private game reserve Umfolozi which is part of the Kruger National park on the Mozambique border.

Alexia is to have a photo shoot with the baby rhinos at Umfolosi but her and her friend Billie and Jabu get involved with a battle against poachers that extends from the game parks to the Mozambique coast.

Also entering the fray is Ice, a boy who became crippled while train surfing and now has lost his job and any hope again. He is a friend of Jabu and he is to learn that there is always hope.

Excellent adventure both at sea and on the game reserve.

Very well written  with spaces between paragraphs for the reluctant reader to pause while reading. The descriptive writing is also a feature and the characters worth knowing. The sequel to Train Surfer also reviewed on this blog

The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman.

July 14, 2020 Comments off

silver arrowThe Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman. Pub. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020.

September release.

This is superb storytelling for primary and intermediate readers. It is fantasy/adventure with a message for the modern world about endangered animals who are just trying to survive in a World that has lost it’s balance.

Eleven year old Kate and her nine year old brother Tom have never met their uncle Herbert. Their mother never mentions him but she did say that he was very rich and totally irresponsible. It is Kate’s birthday in a few days so she writes to her uncle Herbert and suggests he buy her a birthday present. Very brazen I thought.

On her birthday a flat decked truck pulls up with 102.36 ton steam train on it and it is put on some railway lines in Tom and Kate’s backyard. Uncle Herbert says it is for their enjoyment. Kate’s parents are not amused and use words that should never appear in a children’s book(they don’t in this book).

The children are sent to their bedrooms but in the night the train starts up, the children get on board and the train hurtles off into the night. At the first station a whole lot of animals get on board , they have been waiting ages for the train to come among them is a porcupine, a fishing cat and other endangered animals.

That’s all I am going to tell you you will have to read it to find out but it is thrilling. This is easy to read and would be a great read-a loud. The ending will have you on tenterhooks. The good thing is that Kate and Tom make mistakes, face responsibility and never give up sometimes in dire circumstances.