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Keyword: ‘Into the River’

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.

NZ Hall of Fame. 50 Remarkable Kiwis by Maria Gill. Illus. by Bruce Potter

August 8, 2011 Leave a comment

NZ Hall of Fame 50 Remarkable Kiwis by Maria Gill, Illus Bruce Potter. Pub, New Holland Publishers, 2011.

Did you know that Scott Dixon’s parent were stock car drivers and that Scott won the Indie 500 in 2008? or that BMX rider Sarah Walker wore T-shirt and Tracksuit pants to school every day?

Who is the eldest Bic or Boh Runga? Did you know that Keisha Castle-Hughes once featured as a moslem girl in a Prince video clip and that Rhys Darby wanted to be an Airforce Jet fighter pilot?

You can find this out in this excellent book on famous New Zealanders.

Each portrait is two pages long with career highlights and short biography. Ideal for speech writing or a start to further study.

Each famous person is beautifully characterised by Bruce Potter. Original photographs and diagrams provide excellent information.

Importantly the famous are catagorised into Leaders, Pioneers, Scientists, Inventors, Artists and Sports people and all the big names are there as are recent celebrities.

Did you know Peter Jackson started making films with the family movie camera when he was 8 years old? I could go on like this for ages.

Get it and read it yourself. Absolutely essential for all school libraries and a great addition to home libraries.

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Smiling Jack by Ken Catran.

January 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Smiling Jack by Ken Catran. Pub. HarperCollins, 2010.

Robert’s father and uncle are killed in a motor accident in which they some how swerved on a bridge and went over the side into a fast moving river. They both knew the road well and the accident is a mystery. Ccould it be murder?

18 year old Robert is taken to the scene by the local police Sergeant, Sarge Peggy and finds the Jack of Hearts by the roadside. Is this a clue? The Jack had been given a bizarre smile and all other murders that occur in the book are accompanied by the same Smiling Jack. I wondered about this because the cover has the Jack of Diamonds on it. Perhaps I missed something.

It is suspected that Robert’s father and uncle were involved in a swindle in which clients money was used to convert into three million dollars worth of gold coins and these coins are missing. Where could they be?

The clients mostly reside in the small country town of Tucker and include the leaders of a religious cult called the Aten whose beliefs are taken from an ancient Egyptian religious leader. What do they know of the swindle?

When several other characters are done to death things start to look grim for Robert.

A classic whodunnit from Ken Catran told in his familiar style and frantic pace which characterised his earlier series on serial killer Blue that included Talking to Blue, Blue Murder and Blue Blood. These are quite brilliant and if you like this title try the Blue series.

Ken Catran keeps you guessing and as always his research into the Egyptology of the religious cult is faultless. His writing style keeps you reading because it is so effortless, and tension is maintained throughout the book. The ending is breath taking.

Will appeal to high school students and reluctant readers.

The Ring of Five Book 1. by Eoin McNamee

October 2, 2010 Leave a comment

The Ring of Five by Eoin McNamee. Pub. Quercus, 2010.

Danny is a strange looking boy with one blue eye one brown eye, a triangular face and  pointed ears and chin. He is bullied at school and ignored by his parents and he doesn’t know it, but he looks like a Cherb, the enemy of the world that he is about to enter.

His parents decide to send him to boarding school but instead he is picked up by a strange taxi driver and crosses over into a world  that is an island between warring factions. A war  in which evil forces led by the Ring of Five, threaten the forces of good.

Danny is sent to Wilson’s school for spies and he finds out that it is a school for which his talents are well suited, he just needs specialised training and experience. At Wilsons he meets friends Dixie, Vandra and Les who have special skills of their own, and is supported by a powerful headmaster, Brunholm, and others.

Danny doesn’t realise that because of his appearance he has a special role to play as a spy who must infiltrate the Ring of Five and stop them and their evil ways. He doesn’t do it all in this book because it is the first part of a trilogy, the next part The Navigator will be out later this year.

Eoin McNamee knows his fantasy and the experieced reader will see parallels with other fantasy series but there is nothing wrong with that. Harry Potter fans will like this book although the evil forces are not as forbidding is in the latter series. Evil does have its victories but you never feel that good is going to lose.

Suitable for fantasy readers from years 5/6 and 7/8 even junior High school. Get out and read it and watch out for the sequels.

Checkered Flag Cheater by Will Weaver

September 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Checkered Flag Cheater by Will Weaver. Pb. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2010.

At last a book for petrol heads and guys and girls who like motor racing. There are so few fiction titles about this subject that when you get one, it is a must purchase for High School Librarians.

Trace Bonham is 18, he is cool, he is smart and he loves stockcars. He becomes a driver for Team Blu, a company that makes a high energy drink and his performance as a driver and as a suitable candidate for advertising helps the company to a healthy share of the drink market.

Trace tours the USA racing his stock car on different track surfaces and he has a team of people behind him who sort out the car, ensure that he keeps up his school work at an On-line School and see that he is happy.

Trace is an honest competitor and he suspects that something is amiss. One day his car is going like a dog until a certain time in the race, then it has power to burn. Why? Read this book and find out.

Plenty of motor racing and car talk in this book. Plenty of tips for young drivers and a description of a racing drivers lot on the professional USA motor racing  circuit. For example when racing on a corner – “it may look cool to show daylight under the tyre. but you’ve got more control with all four tyres on the dirt”.

Will Weaver has written other books on motor racing Super Stock Rookie and Saturday Night Dirt If you like this topic get into these as well.

Main appeal at High School level.

Atherton Series Part 3 The Dark Planet by Patrick Carman

August 28, 2010 Leave a comment

The Dark Planet by Patrick Carman. Pub. Little, Brown and Company, 2010.

A stunning finish to the Atherton Series that began with The House of Power and Rivers of Fire. The positive ending gives us all hope for the future of planet Earth.

To recap the plot so far. Atherton is a three tiered planet made by mad Scientist but genius, Dr Marcus Harding. This world is inhabited by humans from the Dark Planet, a polluted planet on it’s death throes.

Dr Harding had an ingenious plan that started with Atherton evolving into a flat shaped planet with a giant lake in the middle and the human power structure on the planet changing due to the positive influence of children. Without giving too much away this takes you up to the end of the Rivers of Fire.

The main characters in this series are Edgar, an intelligent boy with a logical mind and an ability to climb anything. Isobel his friend who is brave, good with a slingshot and clever. Dr Luther Kincaid an old man of science and mentor to Dr Harding.

In this final part Edgar travels to the Dark Planet to solve the mystery and reas0n for Atherton, while Isobel and Samuel travel to the heart of Atherton to release the powerful dragon Gossamer that is to play a crucial part in the gripping conclusion.

The action is thrilling and  suspenseful with the conclusion all you would have wanted and more. To say anything else would ruin it for you. Get out and read it!

Suitable for Intermediate through to junior secondary. The ideas in this novel can be complicated and ingenious, so true science fiction fans will be thrilled by this novel, which is one of the best scifi ideas in the past 10 years.

The Bone Tiki by David Hair

The Bone Tiki by David Hair. Pub. HarperCollins, 2009.

This is a book based in two worlds, the real world and the world of Maori myth and legend.

In the real world Wiremu Matiu Douglas (Mat),  a 15 year old boy with a Maori father and a Celtic mother, lives his life in Napier New Zealand. His parents are separated and he  is going with his father to a Tangi for his great grand mother Wai-aroha, a woman who had disappeared for a long time and whose death awakens a great adventure.

Wai-aroha wore a bone tiki around her neck and had promised it to Wiremi(Mat) when she died. On the day of the tangi Mat overhears a telephone conversation between his father, who is a lawyer, and a deep voiced client, Puarata, who lays claim to the bone tiki.

Puarata is a Godfather like character who has lost mana with his tribe and family and is not wanted at the tangi. He claims to have carved the bone tiki, allegedly from human bone, and wants it back.

Mat instinctively dislikes Puarata, and at the tangi takes the bone tiki off Wai-aroha’s neck as she lies in state on the Marae. As soon as he touches the tiki he feels it’s power. He then flees the tangi with Puarata and his henchmen in pursuit with the intention of going to his mother’s place in Taupo.

The chase is fast and thrilling and in the middle there is a transition into the world of myth and legend. He meets a young girl, Pania, who helps him in the early part of his escape . She understands the power of the Bone tiki and encourages Mat to stay off the roads and make his way inland through the rivers and bush. She also tells him if he gets in big trouble to hold the tiki and say Toa.

Mat is to find out that wherever the tiki goes it awakens the land of myth and legend, and that he is fleeing from a past that is savage and thrilling at the same time.

A fantastic first novel from David Hair, the type of story that is lacking in New Zealand children’s writing and themes that haven’t been developed since Joanna Orwin’s Owl and Joy Cowley’s The Hunter.

Aimed at Intermediate and high school students, do yourself a favour and read this exciting novel. I believe David Hair has another novel out Taniwha’s Tear and I cannot wait to read it.