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Keyword: ‘Into the River’

Wildlife of Aotearoa by Gavin Bishop

September 27, 2019 Comments off

wildlifeWildlife of Aotearoa by Gavin Bishop. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2019.

Gavin Bishop describes this fully comprehensive, large picture book sized, encounter with New Zealand’s amazing array of wildlife, as a “leap into the unknown”. Well it is known now thanks to him, in the best non fiction work I have read this year and one of the best ever.

Superbly illustrated with a Maori component and a strong emphasis on conservation and the future.

It begins and ends with a giant squid and it’s famous eye, on the front and back inside covers. Then comes god of the sea Tangaroa and five long-finned eel larvae who begin their journey through the multiple environments of Aotearoa.

The whales, fish, dolphins and sea life of the oceans around New Zealand are first followed by the bird life and we learn that a third of these birds are endangered and that Shag droppings have killed all the trees on Whero Island in Foveaux strait.

The 15,000 kilometers of life on the shoreline is followed by wetlands, Estuaries and rivers and we learn that the Lug worm leaves decorative castes on the sand and is frequently used by fishermen as bait.

Effects of Polynesian settlement is next with the introduction of rats, pigs chickens and dogs of which only the dogs and rats survived. Life above and below the tree-line follows then European settlement which continued the clearance of native bush started by the Maori till now when only 20% remains.

Domesticated wildlife such as cattle, sheep pigs and deer are covered and their effect on native species,as is wildlife in the towns and cities and in the house.

This superb work ends with safe places for wildlife in the sea and on the land. Outstanding drawings and illustrations with a Maori context throughout.

A phenominal piece of work for everyone. essential purchase for all schools and there is a place in the home for it too.

DRY by Neal Shusterman & Jarrod Shusterman.

October 14, 2018 Comments off

dryDRY by Neal Shusterman & Jarrod Shusterman. Pub. Walker Books, 2018.

One of the most readible, action packed and futuristic novels I have read for some time. It is about survival when the water runs dry and human beings have a melt down causing the total disintegration of society.

William Golding in Lord of the Flies wrote about the thin veneer of civilisation that covers mankind and how quickly it erodes under pressure. When the Governor of Arizona cuts the flow of the Colorado river into Southern California and stops the water supply to everybody, all hell breaks loose.

Teenager Alyssa and her younger brother Garrett are as under prepared as everybody. When their parents go missing while looking for water they team up reluctantly with the boy next door, Kelton whose father has prepared for this moment all of his life. Kelton has too and he is one tough customer.

As rioting and looting pervade in every community, it becomes dog eat dog with people doing anything for water. The kids meet up with a street wise hell cat Jacqui and a mercenary capitalist, Henry, who sees opportunity for money in the whole scenario and would sell his grandmother if there was a profit in it. The snappy dialogue between the characters excels when Henry is on board.

The group travel through the wasteland of bone dry, lawless, California as authorities grapple with the catastrophe that is around them. For the group tomorrow has to wait a while and yesterday is irrelevant. Survival is the only game in town.

I couldn’t put it down. Brilliantly written and conceived. Totally believable. Miss this and you will kick yourself. For teenagers and young adults.

Brotherband Bk 7: The Caldera by John Flanagan.

November 17, 2017 Comments off

calderaBrotherband Bk 7: The Caldera by John Flanagan. Pub.Penguin Random House, 2017.

Hal, Stig, Ulf and Wulf, Lydia, Thorn and dog Kloof are a Brotherband in the Skandian culture and they sail a technically superior viking ship, the Heron, due to a movable boom sail rig invented by Hal the Skirl or captain. They take on dangerous missions all over the Skandian world and such is their team work and skill that they are always successful.

When Stig’s father Olaf turns up after deserting his family and crew 20 years previously a new adventure begins. Olaf has work as chief palace guard for the Empress of Constanta a city identical to the modern day Istanbul. The Empress is Regent to her young son who has been kidnapped by to true baddy with the name Myrgos.

Myrgos has a fortress in a caldera of a volcano which has opened to the sea and his fortress is at the top of a cliff overlooking the caldera.

Hal and his crew are asked by Olaf to rescue the Empress’s son and clear his name at the same time. But all is not as it seems. Read it and enjoy the action, it is outstanding and compulsive reading.

Told in the same easy style of previous Brotherband books and you do not have to have read the earlier novels to know what is going on. John Flanagan neatly brings you up to scratch in Part 1 of the novel and then you are straight into the action against the villain Myrgos and the river pirates of the Dan river.

Lots of sailing talk and sea and river battles that are brilliantly described. I was disturbed when Lydia the only female member of Hal’s crew was wounded in the first battle of the novel but I knew she would get up again.

For intermediate and junior secondary readers but I am sure older and younger confident readers will easily cope with this novel. Leadership is a constant theme of this series, what does it take to be a leader?

Reluctant boys – this is for you.

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee.

July 21, 2015 Comments off

watchmanGo Set A Watchman by Harper Lee. Pub. William Heinemann: London 2015.

I just had to read this novel and put in my 2 bobs worth because To kill A Mockingbird was one of my favourite childhood novels and because early publicity about this novel suggested Atticus Finch was a racist. Bullshit!!!

Atticus Finch is now 72 years old and suffers from arthritis. He still lives in Maycomb Junction with his sister Alexandra who is a real star of this novel. He practices law as he always will, sits on the town council and still upholds justice. He can still hold an argument, stand up for his principles and has  a sharp sense of humour. When Scout or Jean Louise is found to have swum in the river with her intended Henry and it is suspected that it was in the nude, Atticus retorts “I hope she wasn’t swimming on her back”.

Jean Louise now 26 years, returns on holiday after living 2 years in New York where life is open and things that would horrify citizens of Maycomb, go unnoticed. Jean Louise has put Atticus up on a pedestal because of her childhood and the only place for him to go is down.

The world is changing for race relationships in America with the Civil Rights Movement taking off faster in some areas than it is in the South. Jean Louise attends a Council meeting chaired by Atticus and her intended Henry and a rank redneck speaker charges against desegregation and talks nigger this and nigger that. Jean Louise is physically sick.

Confrontation between Jean Louise and Atticus is inevitable and as Atticus would say absolutely necessary. He has brought Scout up to be her own person and that she surely is. Their confrontation is stunning, an inter-generation barney that is unforgettable and one that lifts this novel from more than a sequel to Mockingbird and into a stand alone classic on it’s own.

Bob Dylan a decade later wrote”get out of the new world if you can’t then you’re damned cos the times they are a’changing”. Not everyone moves at the same pace with Maycomb and old age being well behind New York and youth. but it is the words of Atticus that define this novel for me “Hypocrites have just as much right to live in this world as anybody”. Go ahead cast the first stone.

Don’t miss this book.

Evie’s War by Anna Mackenzie.

July 9, 2015 Comments off

evie's warEvie’s War by Anna Mackenzie. pub.Longacre, 2015.

This excellent novel about a New Zealand girl’s experiences in World War 1 can only be described as epic.

Written by Anna Mackenzie while in residency in Belgium by Passa Porta, International literary School.By her own admission she became engrossed and immersed in World War 1 to the point of obsession. I am glad she did because this novel is one incredible account of the Great War and of English Society.

Evie is 18 when she and her parents and older brother Edmund take a passage to UK with the intention of touring Europe. The shot that rang around the World changed all that and the family found themselves living with her aunt in circumstances that can only be described as Edwardian upper class with values akin to those of the characters in a Jane Austen novel.

Evie mixes with the English young ladies who describe her as having “colonial outspokenness”. She can do things that polite young ladies of status don’t do. In many ways it is  Downton Abbey palaver with war an unwanted guest at the table.

Evie wants to do her bit and gets involved as a nurse treating the hordes of young men with their horrendous wounds while the newspapers are full of the glories of battle. To talk the truth is a total social no no with the only evidence of what is happening in the casualty  lists in the papers.

Evie is courted by a wounded officer and in spite of the raw reality all around them the relationship is totally innocent and refreshingly naive.

Each year of the war from 1914 through to 1918 is depicted in diary entries from Evie’s journal. Historical facts are included in the diary entries and changes in society and perceptions of the war change. Edmund goes to war and what an intrepid tale his is.

Evie herself goes to Belgium as a driver and nurse for the whole of 1918 and the true horrors of this war are portrayed through the men she treats in the most primitive of conditions.

Superbly described by Anna Mackenzie. How about this- Evie’s piano playing is described as being like a “farmhand clumping over a cow paddock in hefty boots”. her wit is also evident when Evie is asked if the cannibals still ate human flesh “only on Sundays it is a delicacy”

Anna Mackenzie has clearly put her heart and soul into this novel and I think it is her best. So far!

Middle School: Save Rafe by James Patterson Illus. Chris Tebbetts.

June 17, 2015 Comments off

save rafeMiddle School: Save Rafe by James Patterson Illus. Chris Tebbetts. Pub.Random House, 2014.

This is the 6th book in this very good series for reluctant readers particularly boys but not exclusively so. The main character in this novel is Rafe Khatchadorian who lives with his artist mother and younger sister.

Rafe has an attitude problem because he likes to break rules and gets into heaps of trouble. He finds it difficult to talk to girls but is a gifted cartoonist writing a series of comic books about Loozer the loser which is really about himself. The cartoons are spaced throughout the book reflecting the action that has or is to take place.

Rafe was expelled from his last school and before his new school will accept him he has to pass a two week outward bound type school with 7 other kids including 3 girls. It is not easy but they will learn how to conquer their fears, work together and learn to trust themselves. Not everybody will pass.

At the end they have to write a letter to themselves saying where they would like to be in a years time.

Good values and a lively plot as the 8 kids make their own raft to sail down a river, climb a cliff and survive by not hurting the environment.

Easy to read with frequent cartoon breaks that advance or comment on what has occurred.

Valuable for ages 9 through to 13 years.

Dragon Knight by Kyle Mewburn & Donovan Bixley.

March 17, 2015 Comments off

dragon knightDragon Knight by Kyle Mewburn & Donovan Bixley. Pub. Scholastic, 2015.

When I read this short easy to read novel with illustrations that are designed for maximum fun I thought, great, a book that reluctant readers or slow readers at primary level can have fun devouring, especially boys.

Kyle Mewburn provides a written text that is perfect for fun. Ogres that fart, shape changers that are human and dragons at the same time, villains that deserve to be beaten and a hero that doesn’t win all t6he time but impresses with his bravery and fair play.

Merek is a boy who can shape shift into a dragon and other creatures, his parents can also do this. he wants to become a knight but isn’t confident about it. The rogue of the novel is  a beastly boy called Percy Crumble and there is a girl posing as a boy.

At the beginning of this Medieval fantasy there is a map of the village and castle where Merek and his family live. It has places named The Fruit and Nut Black forest, Grist’s Mill and the Route Canal. Great fun for adults too, many will remember the River Phoenix.

Donovan Bixley shows his immense talent and great versatility with the illustrations which are superb black and white drawings. I hope this becomes a series like their earlier effort Dinosaur Rescue.

Lets get those reluctant boys reading. This book is a great start.

The Lazy Friend by Ronan Badel

April 28, 2014 Comments off

lazy friendThe Lazy Friend by Ronan Badel. Pub. Gecko Press, 2014.

The beauty of a wordless picture book is that you can put your own words to it and tell the story as you see it. So that is what i am going to do. You may tell it differently.

Sloth, snake, toucan and tree frog are friends, Sloth clings to a tree asleep while his friends play cards. A huge wind comes and blows the tree down requiring a forester to cut the tree up and load it onto a lorry. Sloth sleeps on while his friends look on concerned.

Snake goes to see what he can do, I thought toucan would have been a better bet, but I was proved wrong. Snake is cunning and eludes the forester and sloth sleeps on. The truck ride is over testing terrain and the log with sloth still asleep falls off the back into a fast flowing river. Snake is still in attendance. Persued by crocodiles the log with sloth still asleep and snake hanging on, goes over a waterfall. You can read the rest yourself.

Outstanding story that ends brilliantly. The illustrations tell it all. Bright greens and browns of the rainforest with a beautiful sunrise and riverbank scene at the end.

Great for teaching English and to study ecology of an endangered ecosystem. Friendship and humour are among the themes. It is for me a 10 out of 10 book. Every school should have this and it is perfect for the home. Let the children tell their own stories.

The Boy and the Cherry Tree by Mark and Rowan Sommerset

February 7, 2014 Comments off

boy cherry treeThe Boy and the Cherry Tree by Mark and Rowan Sommerset. Pub. Dreamboat Books, 2013.

It is a pleasure to review a picture book where the author and illustrator are working in perfect harmony, each telling the same story yet adding their own dimension.

A boy sees a beautiful cherry tree across a fast flowing cold river. he wants to climb in it’s branches and taste it’s sweet fruit. A concerned bird warns him off and over the years suggests better ways of crossing the river.

After many years and many failures the boy discovers the tree has gone and takes the plunge. He finds the bird was right about the river but he is in for a surprise further down stream.

The text is carefully placed on each page allowing the illustrations to tell their own story. And as is characteristic of Mark’s books the dialogue between boy and bird is snappy and witty.

Rowan Sommerset chooses cherry red, browns creams and whites to draw the boy, the tree and the bird and it works perfectly. She builds  the boy’s plans dreams and frustrations into her illustrations. There is a Japanese style about the illustratons.

A picture book in perfect harmony. A classy book to have in your home and a must for the school library.

Phylys the Farm Truck by Christine Fernyhough & Susan Elijas. Photo. John Bougan

October 23, 2013 Comments off

phylys truckPhylys the Farm Truck by Christine Fernyhough & Susan Elijas, Photo. John Bougan. Pub. Random House, 2013.

Great new Zealand picture book. It is Christine Fernyhough’s own story personified in the character of Phylys a brand new golden Ute.

When Phylys comes to the high country farm the animals think she’s a bit new, a bit flash, a city girl with a lot to learn. Phylys does learn plenty in her first week at work as she slips in cow poo, gets stuck in a river, slides into a fence and all with good humour and determination. At the end of the week she does something special that endears her to the animals who welcome her as one of them.

The illustrations by Susan Elijas are collage on top of John Bougan’s photographs of the farm. The written text and dialogue of the animals is carefully placed so that farm life is for all to see. The doe eyed innocence of Phylus on her first day is slowly replaced by the working truck that has been accepted at the end.

Great little picture book for city kids to learn of farm life and for country kids who can identify with what is happening. Should be a market for overseas children who want a snatch of new Zealand.