Posts Tagged ‘Difference’

Raymie Nightingale by Kate Di Camillo.

March 26, 2016 Comments off

raymieRaymie Nightingale by Kate Di Camillo. Pub. Walker Books, 2016.

This is a novel for primary/intermediate students that will draw you in once you have read one page. It begins on a day when the sun is in a cloudless sky “it seemed like someone had put it up there and then walked away and left it”.

The style of writing with short sharp sentences makes for easy and compulsive reading. Kate Di Camillo draws the imagination out of the reader with her descriptions – “she looked like a mermaid in a bad mood” and when describing one of the characters grandmother it was “like looking at Louisiana in a fun house mirror”

The story is about three girls who are all broken hearted.  Raymie’s father has run away with a dental hygienist and she wants him back. Louisiana’s parents have been killed and she lives with her grandma who has put her cat in a home, and Beverley has a father who is a cop and has left home.

They meet at Baton twerling lessons and each has a motive for being there and all three want to enter the Little Miss Central Florida Tire 1975 competition which involves doing good deeds. The three become friends and as the plot progresses their priorities change.

Set in Florida in 1975 it tells of an innocent age long since passed. It is refreshing reading from the same writer that gave us Because of Winn-Dixie and the Tale of Despereaux,

You have to read this beauty, a smile will rarely leave your face.

Adventures of a Bowling Shoe by Tom Rozek

December 4, 2015 Comments off

bowling shoeAdventures of a Bowling Shoe by Tom Rozek.

This short novel for middle school children is a hoot. I had a smile on my face through all 85 pages and you will too.

The novel is zany, perceptive about the human condition and funny. It is written to be read. 32 short chapters with an illustration by Zach Wideman at the head of each chapter.

It is the story of Jim a piece of cow skin that is cured and made into a size 12 left bowling shoe. He deals with smelly feet, having food and bowling balls dropped on him and the taunts of other bowling shoes.

Life is not great but he sticks with it. He befriends the cockroaches that live in the bowling alley where he works and they give him a lifeline to fulfill his one dream. On the way from the cow to being a shoe he met another piece of cow skin named Sally and wants to meet her again. Read this novel to see if he does.

Two additional chapters can be found at

From The Cutting Room of Barney Kettle by Kate De Goldi

October 29, 2015 Comments off

barney kettleFrom The Cutting Room of Barney Kettle by Kate De Goldi. Pub Penguin Random House, 2015.

I always vowed that I would never write a bad review about any novel and I hope people do not conclude that this is a bad review. But in all honesty this is not my kind of novel. I love De Goldi’s Clubs and Honoria Lee was diffident on The 10PM Question but this novel was too busy for me. I found the plot was cluttered with trivia that prevented me getting at the story.

It took me five weeks to read the novel and one week of thinking what and if I was going to review it.

The story is a good idea. Barney is an aspiring film maker who has a filmic view of the world. He is looking back at the world of central High Street Christchurch before a 32 second shake killed it for everyone. Its the way he goes about telling it that gets me. I wish his more level headed sister Ren had been the narrator I probably would have liked the novel better.

Nonetheless people will love this book and Kate De Goldi is too dominant a literary figure to be ignored or dismissed just as this novel is.

Not my cup of tea but few who know me will not be surprised by this.

I think this is an adult book but senior students, young adults and readers with that theatric flair will like this novel.

Molly and Pim and the Million Stars by Martine Murray.

August 12, 2015 Comments off

molly & PimMolly and Pim and the Million Stars by Martine Murray. Pub.Text Publishing, 2015.

A novel for primary/intermediate students that is very different indeed. I suppose the correct word is alternative as Molly’s mother is into herbs and potions and gathering plants in the woods. She has a herbal remedy for everything but one day she gets it terribly wrong.

Molly and her mum have neighbours from hell who clearly misunderstand Molly and her mother. They are called Grimshaw and we first meet him thundering down the hill to complain about their rooster like a boulder rolling downhill. The rooster know as the Gentleman celebrates every dawn and the Grimshaw’s are driven to distraction. How Molly and her mother solve this problem is extraordinary.

Molly has a friend named Ellen who has a mum who gives her apricot bars wrapped in plastic for her lunch. Molly wishes she had an ordinary life too. Then Molly meets Pim, a different boy who has quirky but positive behaviour.

It is Pim that Molly turns to after her mother inadvertently changes into a tree while trying to block the Grimshaws out of their sight. Can they get mother back?

Molly has an obedient dog and a cat who should have staff named Martine. When things go wrong they are there but are they helpful?

Lovely language, short easy to read chapters and a great theme of difference.

The Rest of us just live Here by Patrick Ness.

June 22, 2015 Comments off

rest live hereThe Rest of us just live Here by Patrick Ness. Pub. Walker Books, 2015.

Since his Chaos Walking series, every book by Patrick Ness has been a major event in the world of Young Adult literature. Indeed it is a major literary event for all literature. So it is with this novel.

It took me three days to read this novel because I wanted it to. In the words of Winston Churchill it is a “mystery inside an enigma’ and I am not sure I fully understand it yet but over the next few months I will probably get there.

Patrick Ness  supplies a message with the book that probably provides the answer when he says  “this book is for all the Unchosen Ones” but of course he has to provide a Chosen One so we can distinguish between the two. I will let you the reader work out who the Chosen One is and why the rest of us just live here.

The novel is centred in a small American town, in a typical American family or is it? – a typical family?

Mike is approaching Graduation and the end of year Prom at the local high school. His sister Mel is to graduate too, she had a year off due to a problem with anorexia. Mike suffers from OCD and has two friends, a girl called Henna who he is infatuated with and a big boy with healing powers named Jared. Mike’s father is an alcoholic with a past, his mother is a politician and his younger sister Meredith loves a 1D type boy band called Bolt of Fire. The plot is about all the interaction between this group and it is simply written and compulsive reading.

I thought Ness may be taking the water out of the American way of life, maybe yes maybe no, you decide. I will say “is there a nation on earth that puts therapy on a pedestal the way Americans do?”

The structure of the novel is unique as there are two stories going on that are linked and touch each other and bring a science fiction feel to the novel. Before each chapter begins there are a couple of paragraphs about the Immortals breaking through to create havoc and the impact they have on “indie kids”, life’s people that no-one wants to see. The link between the two is the Chosen One. Fascinating.

A very entertaining and thought provoking novel. I loved it. I will leave you with a quote from the novel “why does everything have to mean something”. Brilliant!


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.

Travels of an Extraordinary Hamster by Astrid Desbordes. Illus. Pauline Martin

April 30, 2015 Comments off

travels hampsterTravels of an Extraordinary Hamster by Astrid Desbordes. Illus. Pauline Martin. Pub. Gecko Press, 2015.

Your going to love this fully coloured chapter book told entirely in pictures with speech bubbles. It is from France and is about a totally self obsessed Hamster and his wonderful friends. Without his friends hamster would be lost.

In the first 3 page chapter Hamster’s friends, mole, hedgehog, rabbit, squirrel, bear and snail, invite him to join them for a snack and a chat. Hamster can do without a chat but takes a snack away for himself. Don’t you just love people like that? But somehow you love him just as hamster’s friends do.

They are all invited by polar bear to visit him on his ice floe, so they leave their cosy clearing with the reluctant hamster for a holiday. Nothing changes hamster he is consistently anal.

Splendidly illustrated by Pauline Martin who captures the character of all the animals with simple colourful drawings with expressive eyes.

This book is for everyone but essentially an early reader for primary school children. You will not be surprised to learn that Astrid Desbordes studied philosophy.

The Cake by Dorothee de Monfreid

May 24, 2014 Comments off

cakeThe Cake by Dorothee de Monfreid. Gecko Press, 2014.

Everybody loves a cake. Tiger decides to bake one but it is hard to get agreement on what type of cake to bake. Monkey wants a banana cake, dog a bone cake, rabbit a carrot cake and cat a fish cake.

No surprise at that except tiger wants a chocolate cake. It’s his idea and he is the strongest animal, so he decides on a chocolate cake. I’m with tiger on this but the others think the idea and tiger too is revolting.

Tiger gets tough. The others disappear then return with a cake. Read the rest yourself.

A multi layered (no pun intended) picture book. Children can see it one way but perhaps adults will interpret it differently. Good ideas can be thrown back in your face.

Bright red and pink pages are illustrated with brightly coloured animals. Large text in white balloons.

Children will want to read it again and again.

Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman

January 10, 2013 Comments off

Alex as wellAlex As Well by Alyssa Brugman. Pub. Text Publishing, 2013.

It is not often I read a truely inspiring novel for young adults, but this is one of them.

Alex is  14 years old and is changing more than most of us ever will. She has known all her life that she is a girl yet she has been brought up as a boy. The voice of the boy Alex is still in her head but she is a girl.

When she was born the doctors told her parents she /he was  “sexually ambiguous”. Alex has a penis which is very small and is referred to in the novel as a noodle. Alex’s parents decided they have a son and refuse to let this go. They put Alex on medication consisting of male testosteron so that he will develop into a boy.

They never told Alex. As puberty  spuds in Alex takes herself off medication and starts to dress as a girl. She feels like a girl and the moment is uplifting for her. She  enrols in a new school as a girl and changes her whole life.

Her deficient parents react badly. Father leaves the house, mother goes hysterical, pours her heart out on-line and receives some conflicting feedback. Alex fronts up to her mother and father and the conflict is spellbinding.

Alex herself has some positive feedback from the world around her namely from school, her new friends and  the fashion world and this gives the reader hope for her future.

The parents have kept a huge secret from her, a secret that will blow Alex apart.

Brilliantly told by Alyssa Brugman, I have read two of her novels before Finding Grace and Being Bindy, both excellent, but this is the icing on the cake. Brutally honest and  at times, sad, happy, funny, perceptive, human and compulsive.

You will not forget this novel in a hurry.


The Terrible thing that happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne. Illus. Oliver Jeffers

July 13, 2012 Comments off

The Terrible thing that happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne. Illus Oliver Jeffers. Pub.  Random House, 2012.

This is a tall story about being different for primary and intermediate school students and it would make a great read-a-loud .

Alistair and Eleanor met at the law firm of Bother and Blastit.  They were attracted to each other as both were completely obsessed at being normal, what ever that may mean? This is the main theme of this novel, normality!!

They marry, have a boy and a girl, settle in Sydney, everything normal and out of the human eye. They are happy. Then along comes Barnaby. From the first seconds after birth he began to float upwards, he defies gravity. The Brockets are horrified. How dare their son be different, how dare he attract attention to himself. As if he can help it of course!

When Barnaby is 8 years old his mother takes him to Sydney Heads and lets him go. He floats upward to the most amazing around the world adventures from Brazil, New York and even inner space.

Barnaby learns a lot about difference and the ending is just perfect as are Oliver Jeffers understated illustrations.