Archive

Posts Tagged ‘families’

The Life and Times of Eddie Mcgrath by Brigid Feehan. Pub, Onetree House, 2021

June 11, 2021 Comments off

Eddie short for Edwina is an imaginative junior high school student with a caring and bizarre family including two older sisters and an aunty who is a Druid. She has stunned everybody by winning a competition in which she becomes an MP for the day in his or her constituency office, then has to prepare a speech and meet the Prime Minister, all on camera.

She has a couple of good friends Meri and a boy named Liam and it is all innocent and idealistic. Such is young life. Their lives are hectic and things change very quickly but they are caring and well meaning. The story is narrated by Eddie and she agonises over her life with her friends as young girls do.

Hanging over her head is of course the meeting with the PM and her speech but many other things are happening. Her father has an accident and a boy from Christchurch who also won the competition wants to come to Wellington to meet her.

The best story however involves Liam and his arthritic dog Russ. Liam is not happy with some chickens that are being mistreated by a neighbour so he removes them in a chilly bin and ensconces them on the top floor of an abandoned and earthquake risky former convent. Then he changes his mind and decides to put them back but is caught. This introduces another character and another situation.

Brigid Feehan links all the stories together in a witty spirited novel for intermediate and junior secondary readers. Eddie is a committed reader herself and this novel is probably best suited for girls although not necessarily so. I enjoyed it and it shows that life doesn’t always go smooth but if you adapt to the changes you might get a better than asked for result.

Partners in Slime by Belinda O’Keefe. Pub. Scholastic 2021.

May 25, 2021 Comments off

Thirteen year old Jake and his mate Cooper want to ride on a new roller coaster called the Steel Beast which is to open in 38 days time. Unfortunately they have no money and the beast is going to cost over $100.00 each to ride on.

Jake gets an idea to make money from his younger sister Paige who is a real handful for Jake to handle and she seems to have the ear of her parents. The idea is to make slime and sell it to the kids at school who Jake believes are gagging for it.

With the help of a web page and input from Coopers scientific uncle Ivor the boys make a very desirable product and it sells like hotcakes. The sister Paige and her girlie friends come up with a better product that smells of food product and the boys have been usurped.

What are they to do next? The answer is off this planet and the results hilarious. Will the boys get near the Steel Beast? Read it and see what happens.

The best part of this story is the business venture. How do you start a business from scratch? Once you have a product how do you market it? What do you do about competition?

A great read-a- loud for junior and intermediate readers with high boy appeal.

Displaced by Cristina Sanders. Pub. Walker Books, 2021

May 14, 2021 Comments off

I really enjoyed this historical novel of New Zealand in the 1870’s when settlers were being encouraged to come to New Zealand and establish farms. The Land Wars with the Maori were essentially over in terms of an armed struggle and new Zealand was open to settlers from all over the World.

This novel concentrates on an English gentry family named Sansonnet headed by Robert and his family whose farm in England is sold from underneath them by Robert’s brother who encourages them to join him on a farm in New Zealand. Well all is not as it seems.

Robert and Penelope and their three sons and two daughters book passage to Napier in New Zealand and set sail but all does not go well. Robert is a bully of a father and it is way or the highway for his family. This cause some conflict. On the journey all three sons come to grief in different ways and only one makes to Napier.

On arrival there is no brother waiting, no farm and a very rough and ready colonial settlement. Robert takes off to Thames to meet his brother and the family are left to make it on their own headed by 18 year old Eloise who is a superb character, her 16 year old sister Martha and mother Penelope who has lost it after the fate that befell her sons.

With the help of a preachers daughter the family settle in, but Eloise has fallen for a Norwegian woodcutter named Lars and Martha has taken with Hemi, a half cast Maori boy. To find out any more you are going to have to read it yourself and believe me it is worth it.

The clash of values of Victorian manners of the Sansonnets and those of the settler communities is stunning. The women cope very well but the men are left flabbergasted and found to be hypocritical.

Well written, the descriptions of early New Zealand are superb and there is a nice bit of scandal at the end. One of the best novels about early New Zealand that I have read. Could be read by Intermediate school readers and above but aimed at senior audiences.

Winner of The Storylines Tessa Duder Award for 2021.

Cricket Crazy by Vivienne Bailey. Pub. Cuba Press 2021.

March 19, 2021 Comments off

Tom is 11 years old, at Rewa Intermediate school and is crazy about cricket. His father was a good cricketer and has an old bat with the autograph of some famous NZ cricketers including Martin Crowe. Tom’s best friend Fletcher plays cricket too and so does Izzy a girl that Tom likes but keeps it to himself. She is an all rounder and there is nothing worse for a boy than to be bowled out by a girl.

Tom is still missing his dead mother when dad turns up with a red headed lass called Tanya who has taken over all his dad’s attention. Worse thing of all is they are kissing and cuddling and Tanya doesn’t like his dog Archie who is moved from his home comforts to out of doors.

A cricket competition is to be played with the final to be played at the Basin Reserve. Tom wants to get there but things are not going well for him. Then his favourite bat is nicked at a cricket game and Fletcher gets glandular fever.

Will Tom make it? How about dad and Tanya? What has Izzy got to do with it all? Read it and find out.

Lots of cricket talk and a glossary of terms in the back of the book. Good advice for a young cricketer and for any sport in fact. practice, have confidence in yourself, concentrate and play for your team.

A first novel for this author and I think she is on the right track with this novel about cricket and family and school life.

The cover looks very much like Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor batting together and they do get a mention in the novel.

Locked Down by Jesse O. Illus. Toby Morris. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2021.

February 5, 2021 Comments off

This is a remarkable story because it was first written in 2011 when Bird flu was around and the author prophetically extrapolated what might happen if things got worse. Well things did get worse and it was called Covid 19 and the nation was in lockdown.

The title has been changed from Staying Home to Locked Down to reflect the modern situation. The interesting thing of course is to compare how the author saw things going in 2011 compared what actually happened in New Zealand under lockdown.

The story concentrates on the Flint family who live in the town of Hansen which is somewhere in the South Island. A virus XB276 has struck the North Island down and people have been told to stay home. The South Island has been relatively untouched but is radically effected by the situation in the North.

There are major differences and solutions to the problems created by lockdown and i will let you find out by reading the book. There is a complete shutdown of shops and supermarkets and there is a shutdown of power sources too which create different problems than in the current situation.

The strongest messages relate to families under stress and trying to survive. It hasn’t got that bad in todays crisis, see how the children and their neighbours get on in this crisis..

Toby Morris’s illustrations enhance the story and provide images to hang your thought s on. Well worth a read.

Answering to the Caul by Ted Dawe. Pub Mangakino University Press. 2020.

January 3, 2021 Comments off

This is a powerful novel in two distinctly different parts. The first part is titled Living with the Caul and analyses the life of Andrei Reti a boy who was born with a Caul covering his head. According to folk lore and superstition this will lead to him having an affinity with water with the possibility of drowning being unlikely.

Water does indeed have a great influence on Andrei as he survives drowning in the bath while a baby, and in other incidents in his life that affect his relationships with his whanau. He grows up with a sense of guilt.

However it is poverty and reading that by far have the biggest impact on his life. When your father is in jail and your mother is sick the world looks like a huge and lonely place. Poverty comes through the door and when Andrei’s mother dies he is shipped up to live with whanau in the north where poverty is a daily existence.

He adjusts and his only escape is books. He reads prolifically at a level far in advance of children his own age and this influence of reading is a major theme of the novel.

Up North he comes in contact with a wild family member called Dallas who is violent and on the verge of exploding every minute of the day. Dallas introduces him to the adult world and is to have a major impact on his life in the second part of this novel but you will have to read it to find out how. Needless to say Dallas regards the two factors that control his life as Whanau and utu. There is no room for aroha as Andrei tells him.

The story is narrated by Andrei and covers his early childhood and school up to high school. It then jumps into adulthood and the repercussions of his childhood and the Caul come to the fore.

Part two is another story as it is set in Thailand but I will leave that to you the reader. Needless to say there is an incident that reminds me of a novel by Michael Morpurgo involving elephants.

The book is very readible, with short chapters, and much to say about school life and poverty. It is very descriptive and brings back old kiwi english with terms like cackhanded, which made me smile. Then there is the description of a current scone made by his aunt that is described as “not a food but a landform, something between a boulder and a cow pat”.

This novel would go well when read in conjunction with Tim Tipene’s White Moko which is reviewed earlier on this blog. This New Zealand in the raw.

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Pub. Penguin Books, 2020.

September 29, 2020 Comments off

Avery Kylie Grambs is 17 years old, she lives in her car, her mother is dead, she has nothing to do with her father and she has a sister who is in a dysfunctional relationship with her boyfriend. She is positive in her attitude to life but the future doesn’t look hopeful.

Then she is visited by a lawyer who tells her she is a beneficiary in a will left by an eccentric billionaire Tobias Hawthorne who has four sons of similar age to Avery. When the will is read Avery has inherited $46 billion and the rest of the Hawthorne family are left scraps. Why?

The terms of the will are iron tight and if the family challenge it, they get nothing. Avery is taken by the family lawyers to Hawthorne Mansion, a fabulous house with a theatre, bowling ally and a thousand rooms, plus staff. Avery is advised by a lawyer and has a bodyguard who was same for Tobias Hawthorne.

The family are hostile and the terms of the will mean she has to stay in the house for a year in order to inherit what has been left her. She fears for her life and rightly so.

The paparazzi are all over the place and everybody wants to know who this Avery is. She has to relate to the four sons two of which she is attracted to.

The old man Hawthorne was a game player. He liked mysteries and promoted competition and games amongst his sons. The biggest mystery is Why Avery? She doesn’t know herself. The rest of the novel is spent working out the mysteries that the Old Man has set.

This novel is written in 91 short chapters that will keep you in the book long after you want to stop reading. It is compelling and very clever. I loved it you will too.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, illus by Dawud Anyabwile.

July 19, 2020 Comments off

crossoverThe Crossover by Kwame Alexander, illus by Dawud Anyabwile. Pub. Anderson Press, 2020.

This is the most powerful graphic novelĀ  for high school students that I have ever read and it deservedly won the Newbery Medal. It is about basketball and it is about families and all the characters in this novel are black.

JB and Jordan are twins, they are 13 years old and a very gifted basketball players. They live and breathe basketball and they are fans of rap music. Their father was a pro baller and won a championship ring as “da man”, but he is not a well man. Their mother is Principal of the High School the boys attend and both parents are highly involved with boys lives.

The boys compete, the father coaches them and the mother ensures that the boys education takes priority. Then a girl comes on the scene. She is beautiful, wears pink gym shoes and she makes a play for Jordan and they become an item. This upsets JB and the closeness the brothers once had starts to deteriorate to the point that it erupts into a violent act in the middle of a basketball game.

The family is wracked with problems, the boys become enemies and then tragedy. The ending is stunning.

There is lots of basketball talk most of it in rap verse. The book is divided into four quarters and there is a competition going on.

Easy to read with the illustrations superb. I read the book in about an hour and got emotionally involved with what was happening, you will too.

Reluctant boy readers and readers who like sports stories particularly basketball will love this novel. The rap prose is inspiring to as is the relationship between Jordan and the girl. Black Lives matter is also a strong theme of this novel.

Help! I’m Moving to Mars by Lula Green.

November 18, 2019 Comments off

moving to MarsHelp! I’m Moving to Mars by Lula Green. Little And Lula Publishing, 2019.

Moving houseĀ  is always a traumatic experience for children and adults whether it be from one city to another, one country to another or in this case one Planet to another.

So it is with 10 year old Malia and her large family. Malia doesn’t want to go she will miss her friends, the things she does and places on Earth that she visits daily. Too bad she and her family are off.

The journey will take a couple of months and while there are no details of what awaits them at the other end it is adjustment to the change that is important in this short, large print, easy to read novel for primary and intermediate readers.

How would you like to be confined in a space ship with a snake and a tarantula? Fortunately for Malia she has a Z screen link with Tabitha who is the same age as Malia, and Tabitha would love to be in Malia’s position.

Drama is built up nicely as the landing on Mars is approaching but you will have to read that for yourself.

A self published work. Contact https://www.facebook.com/lulagreenbooks

Dreamweavers Bk1. Awa and the Dreamrealm by Isa Pearl Ritchie.

November 10, 2019 Comments off

awaDreamweavers Bk1. Awa and the Dreamrealm by Isa Pearl Ritchie. Pub.Te Ra Aroha Press, 2019.

After reading this fantasy with a realism twist for primary and intermediate school readers, I played the Gary Wright song Dreamweaver. Do this yourself and see why.

Awa is of oriental descent, she is sensitive, her parents have just split up, she has moved to a small Wellington flat with her mother and she has started at another school.

At night she has dreams that seem real and one evening she sees a light that turns out to be a Dreamcharmer named Veila. Veila teaches Awa to enter the Dreamrealm where unbeknown to her she has an important role to play as a Dreamweaver.

At school Awa is bullied by Felicity but meets a friend Ella who is also bullied by Felicity. The divorce of the parents, the bullying and the racism, provide the realism twist to the dream world fantasy that Awa enters but somehow there is a connection.

This first part of a trilogy has Awa learn to understand the power the powers she has and the enemies she faces in the Dreamrealm in the personna of The Politician and Judgement. I feel the best is yet to come.

Easy to read, short chapters and much to appeal to pre-teens. The fantasy is drawn from the Greek legend Narcissus and from Maori mythology especially the nature of dreams.