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Posts Tagged ‘Bullying’

I’m The Biggest by Stephanie Blake

March 25, 2018 Comments off

biggestI’m The Biggest by Stephanie Blake. Pub. Gecko press, June 2018

Poo Bum  set the bench mark for this series of picture books about Simon and later his little brother Casper. It is a hard act to follow but Stephanie Blake has managed to keep the momentum going  with slick prose, bold colourful illustrations and a storyline that always surprises.

In this latest edition sibling rivalry becomes a feature of Simon and Casper’s relationship when their mother discovers that Casper has grown 3 centimeters and Simon only one.

Simon says No Way and becomes jealous. An incident in the park makes Simon realise he is still the BIG brother even though the size difference is getting smaller.

Casper of course sees things differently.

Great read-a-loud for juniors and will help littlies to view their own role in the family. Good laugh for adults too.

NB Not released until June 2018.

Time Twins by Sally Astridge & Arne Norlin.

January 23, 2018 Comments off

time twinsTime Twins by Sally Astridge & Arne Norlin. Pub. Makaro Press, 2017.

Astrid and Tamati are 11 years old. They were born at exactly the same time except Astrid was born in Sweden and Tamati in New Zealand, countries that are exactly 12 hours apart. They are Time Twins.

Tamati with help from his koro or grandfather learns about time twins and through relaxation is able to travel directly to his time twin in Sweden. They get on well but Astrid has to learn the techniques of relaxation so that she can travel to New Zealand.

Sounds like science fiction doesn’t it? but it is not. The Time twin concept is just a mechanism to compare life styles, schooling, attitudes, parenting, puberty and friendship in Sweden and New Zealand. They are remarkably similar yet different at the same time.

The issue that stood out for me was bullying. Both Astrid and Tamati have bullying episodes in their lives and there are different ways to bully and to handle bullying.

The stories are excellent with Tamati and Astrid having consecutive chapters. I was particularly intrigued by the Swedish scenario and I guess Swedes will be intrigued by the New Zealand one.

It is a good read for middle school and pre-teen readers.

How To Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather.

January 18, 2018 Comments off

hang witchHow To Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather. Pub. Walker books, 2018.

The Salem witch trials of 1691 make some of the most sordid reading in American history. Cotton Mather was a leading instigator in these trials, this novel is written by a descendant Adriana Mather and the main character in the novel is teenage girl Samantha Mather. It’s a family affair.

Samantha and her step mother Vivian sell their New York apartment to pay the medical expenses of Samantha’s father who has mysteriously gone into a coma. They move to Salem and stay in a house once owned by Samantha’s grandma that she didn’t know about.

Samantha is a difficult girl she has an affinity for sarcasm and doesn’t have any friends. Why is this? Her first day in the old house results in mysterious happenings, secret rooms, things that go bump in the night.

Her first day at Salem high school is no better, she makes enemies of a group of black clad girls called the Descendants who are related to the witches of 1691. They threaten her and say she is cursed. Then Samantha meets handsome boy Elijah who is a ghost and only she can see and hear him. He tells her to leave or else, but Samantha is built of sterner stuff and is not intimidated by the threats. She should be. Elijah tells her that when one of each of the main families involved in the original trials is in Salem a curse is invoked and the death rate mounts. Can the curse be broken?

A fascinating read that sheds light on the Salem trials and likens them to modern day bullying. Not a lot of laughs in this novel that has the power to scare the s**t out of you but fortunately there is a touch of romance to lighten the mood.

Superbly written and structured in 47 short sharp chapters so that you can read it in short bursts like I did. Senior secondary but I suspect younger readers will clamber to read it as well. It will do them no harm.

Lucky Button by Michael Morpurgo. Illus. Michael Foreman.

December 4, 2017 Comments off

lucky buttonLucky Button by Michael Morpurgo. Illus. Michael Foreman. pub. walker books, 2017.

There is always something gentle yet powerful about a Michael Morpurgo novel and so it is with this one. Similarly he often uses a story within a story to link a past event with a present day situation and he does it again in this novel.

Jonah looks after his mother who is house bound and has stopped playing music that Jonah loved so much. Jonah gives up much of his school life to look after his mother and is bullied at school.

After an attack he retreats to the school chapel where he finds a brass button that brought the original owner a lot of luck. The owner called Nathaniel Hogarth was a foundling at an orphanage with connections to the composer Handel.  Nathaniel appears before Jonah as a ghost and tells him an amazing story about becoming friends with Mozart and his sister.

Will the lucky button give some badly needed luck to Jonah and his mum? Read it and find out. It is fascinating and based on true events although this is not a true story.

Superbly illustrated by Michael Foreman’s colour illustrations as always.

Primary and middle school readers will devour it.

Middle School. Pottymouth and Stoopid by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein.

July 21, 2017 Comments off

stoopidMiddle School. Pottymouth and Stoopid by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2017.

It was a miserable wet day and I needed something easy to read that would make me laugh and think at the same time so I grabbed Pottymouth and Stoopid. I was not wrong.

I love these Middle School stories they deal with serious issues like bullying, poverty, inequality, snobbery and friendship and they turn them into heart warming stories.

Pottymouth (Michael) is a black boy who invents new words that sound like swearing but are not. His friend is Stoopid (David) and they met at nursery school and are still friends at middle school. They are not as they are described by their school mates and are ploys to the old statement of “give a dog a bad name”.

Michael is a foster child and Michael comes from a broken relationship. Both boys and their mutual friend Anna Britannica are terrific. They have fun together but they have many low points that make them angry.

David’s father is a frustrated writer and a penny pincher but when he takes David and Michael to lunch one day he listens to their stories and this is to change their lives.

I do like a happy ending and am always on the side of the underdog. These are great stories for the reluctant reader, easy to read superbly illustrated by Chris Grabenstein and essential in every school library.

My Lovely Frankie by Judith Clarke.

June 26, 2017 Comments off

lovely frankieMy Lovely Frankie by Judith Clarke. Pub. Allen&Unwin, 2017.

When 15 year old Tom told his parents he wanted to go to St Finbar’s seminary to train as a priest his father smashed his fist into the wall and his mother sobbed in the kitchen “You will never have a normal life and a family” his father pleaded but Tom said “I have you”.

This stunning opening begins one of the most riveting novels I have read for seniors and young adults, but it will not be everyone’s taste.

Tom tells this 1950’s story looking back as an old man and reflecting with his cousin Miri.  Tom wants to know what happened to Frankie and you will want to know too.

Frankie is of course the star and when Tom meets him after 4 days in St Finbar’s an electric shock surges through his body which he doesn’t understand. Tom is naive about attraction and love and only later discovers how he feels.

This novel is about love in whatever shape or form it takes from parental love to the love of God and the sexual love of another person. Frankie knows where he stands, he loves kindness, caring and of course girls. Frankie is open with Tom about his feelings for girls and treasures their friendship but Tom has deeper feelings and wonders why he resents how Frankie feels towards girls. Will Frankie ever find out?

The novel is littered with some stunning characters like the teachers and the Rector of St Finbar’s  and the head prefect Etta who turn the school into a ministry of fear. When told he must change for God, Frankie ponders why he should change when God created man in his own image already?

One of my best books for this year it is beautifully written and perfectly paced. I dare you to read it. The conclusion is stunning.

Like Nobody’s Watching by L.J. Ritchie.

June 8, 2017 Comments off

nobody watchingLike Nobody’s Watching by L.J. Ritchie. Pub. Escalator Press, 2016.

This first novel is a finalist in Young Adult section of this years New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. It is also up for best first novel and the subject is surveillance culture.

When Oscar’s high school fits 36 cameras in the school grounds to curb vandalism it changes the culture of the school but not in the way it was intended.

Oscar and his friends are not high profile year 10’s but they have a sense of justice. When Oscar’s friend Bronwyn alerts him to boys bullying her brother Will, Oscar finds a way to hack into the school system and view the surveillance video, then uses the video secretly and without trace to shame the bullies and blackmail them into to ceasing the bullying.

At first it works a treat, then they use the same system to stop year 11’s bullying the year 9’s. This time however it is complicated so they use  a social media site to shame the bullies again to great success.

The Internet never forgets and while Oscar and his friends don’t feel they are doing anything wrong because all is anonymous and bullying is unlawful, will they slip up and get caught?

But viewing the surveillance videos could be used in a more sinister way such as stalking. The students rebel and set up a petition to remove the cameras. Read it and find out what happens.

The novel is narrated by an eye of god technique and is told in short sharp sentences which took me a while to get used to. Nonetheless it impressed me with it’s perceptive look at teen culture in this hi tech wired up world we live in.