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Posts Tagged ‘families’

Slice of Heaven by Des O’Leary.

September 12, 2018 Comments off

slice heavenSlice of Heaven by Des O’Leary. Pub. Makaro Press, 2018.

This is a terrific novel about kids going to High School in South Auckland and the lives they live in this multi cultural community.

Many people will refer to South Auckland as “the Hood” and in many ways that is exactly what it is. The rap culture and the Gangsta model have to a certain extent captured the psyche of the kids in South Auckland and it is more than just pretence. It is their lives.

Sione & TJ, Deepak & Raj, Nigel &Junior, Jordan, Hieu, Oko, and Redemption are all on detention at school when they are press-ganged into joining the school softball team for a game against a visiting school. They all have crap attitudes, have no interest in school or softball but hey it is better than detention. The real team never showed up because they couldn’t pay the $20.00 for travel and use of the gear.

From this beginning they become a team but heaps happens in their home lives as well. Sione has hard working parents who came to New Zealand so their kids could have a better future not running wild with the gangs. Sione does some dumb things and takes a beating from his father. Other characters have bad family problems and live in poverty stricken over crowded homes.What hope do they have?

Superbly written and told by Des O’Leary who was a teacher in Aorere College  South Auckland and certainly knows what is what with kids culture. His characters are Samoan, Tongan, Maori, Indian Fijian, Vietnamese and others and the strongest feature is the dialogue between the characters. They talk to each other in an aggressive manner with embarrassment and the put down major weapons but there is an underlying sense of humour about how they talk that will captivate readers. One thing you don’t do is call a Vietnamese, Chinese. Read it and find out why.

The social and economic depravity of the area is also a theme “the old man shuffled past the kids looking for cigarette butts on the ground”. The gangsta stuff with the coloured bandanas and the attachment to “our turf’ is a factor and most characters are pretending to be people they aren’t.

The point is will the softball connection change their lives?

Excellent novel for teenagers about an area with attitude that has some mystique in New Zealand culture. Great cover, says it all.

Boy Under Water by Adam Baron, illus. Benji Davies.

July 30, 2018 Comments off

boy under waterBoy Under Water by Adam Baron, illus. Benji Davies.. Pub. HarperCollins, 2018.

This novel for intermediate and junior high school readers is about growing up and it addresses a massive question – “Do grown-ups tell you the real stuff or do they try to shove it aside like an old tent stuffed behind a sofa”?

Every family has secrets, secrets that affect other family members and friends  behaviour, and kids do not understand. Why don’t they know? and what will happen when they eventually find out?

Cymbeline Igloo is nine years old and he lives with his mother. He has artistic ability and his mother gives art lessons. Family history comes to a shattering crisis when Cymbelline has to go to the swimming pool with his class. His mother panics and Cymbelline wonders why his mother has never taken him to the pool or any body of water where he could learn to swim.

Cymbelline attends after a challenge from a class member and while waiting to commence a swimming lesson he is pushed into the deep end and sinks to the bottom. His mother erupts. The next morning when Cymbelline wakes up his mother is gone.

I am not going to tell you anymore you will have to read the novel and believe me I did not guess the ending, nor will you but it is brilliant.

Superbly told and explained by Adam Baron with an underlining dark and witty humour. He is talking to the kids and opening big secrets. Deftly illustrated by Benji Davies.

You will find out about the name when you read the book.

Our Dad by David Ling, Illus. Nicky Sievert

July 26, 2018 Comments off

our dadOur Dad by David Ling, Illus. Nicky Sievert. Pub. Duck Creek Press, 2018.

I do love a picture book for juniors about dads because it is a chance to see how I match up, now that I am a granddad too.

The dad in the book is as close to perfect as you can get, in my eyes. He loves his kids but he works from

home while mom works. Ok so he doesn’t get some things right.

He is forgetful when running a bath, he sometimes leaves the washing out and doesn’t cut the lawns. He is a hopeless do it yourself man, and he gets lost when on holiday.

But when the kids need him he is there and he is a good listener. Just about perfect. Read it and see what else he gets up to.

Good for getting kids to talk about themselves and their dads and moms.

Nicky Sievert’s illustrations are just about perfect too. My favourite illustration is the kids faces when they see what dad has cooked for tea. Priceless!! Are you sure my wife did not slip you the plot??

Categories: Picture book Tags: ,

White Rabbit Red Wolf by Tom Pollock

July 11, 2018 Comments off

white rabbitWhite Rabbit Red Wolf by Tom Pollock. Pub. Walker Books, 2018.

This is a psychological thriller of the very highest order for your gifted young adult readers, about spies and mathematics . In 1991 I read a book about the philosophical concepts of Western Thought by Jostein Gaarder titled Sophies’ World which was absolutely brilliant. This novel ranks along side that novel.

I am not going to try to explain it to you I am just going to tell you what it is all about and you can work it out for yourselves.

Anibel and Peter are seventeen year old twins born 8 minutes apart. Their parents are separated and they don’t know their father. They are White Rabbit and Red Wolf in spy parlance. Their mother is strategically the most important mind in the UK since Turing and a target for spies. The British spy agency 57 fears she is open to the highest bidder and they watch her and her two children.

Ingrid or Ana is sent to infiltrate the twins life and she concentrates on Peter. If you have a deep dark desire that you don’t want anyone to know about and you are in the same room as Ana, she will get it out of you. The novel is in two time sequences, the present and 5 years earlier when Ingrid came into Peter’s life. Peter narrates the story.

Anibel has protected Peter all his life. She is savvy and ruthless and she precipitates much of the action in this story. Peter is obsessed with mathematics. He thinks mathematics can solve everything in life. He knows he is damaged because he has panic attacks that debilitate him, and he hopes to use mathematics to get closer to fixing himself. But he is going to make discoveries about his sister, mother and Ana that will shatter him.

When Peter and Anibel’s mother is attacked and stabbed with a knife on the eve of presenting  a ground breaking scientific paper all hell breaks loose, with Peter, Anibel and Ana on the run from spies and the police. The action is stunning.

The novel is in three parts – Encrypt, Invert and Recoil, the three steps in mathematics that prove everything is a lie. Work it out for yourself, it is superb.

Watch Me! by Jenni Francis.

April 7, 2018 Comments off

watch meWatch Me! by Jenni Francis. Pub. jennifrancis.com  2018

The most recent short novel for intermediate and junior secondary girls from the Keri series about Keri and her friend Mereana who are now 13 years old.

The girls go to visit cousin Claire on a farm that runs horse trekking holidays as well as stocking sheep and cattle. Someone is stealing horses sheep and cattle from Claire’s farm and from surrounding farms and the girls are going to become involved.

It is not the only drama in the book as Claire has found lumps under her arm and has bad sweats in bed at night but this is not going to hold her back.

As usual this short novel is tightly written with realistic dialogue between the girls and other characters. It has great family values and is written at a pace that keeps you in the book.

Who would have thought that Morse Code would be still useful in these days of cell phones. Read it and find out why. Lots of horse talk.

Cold as Ice. Always in Control by Jenni Francis

March 9, 2018 Comments off

cold as iceCold as Ice. Always in Control by Jenni Francis. Pub. Jenni Francis, 2016.

This is the fourth novel about Keri who is now in High school and dealing with a host of problems resulting from a new relationship between her mother and a man called Rob.

Rob has a daughter Keri’s age and a younger son who are having difficulties with the split of their parents and with the new relationship. Sara is having a lot of problems with anorexia and is taking it out on Keri using her brother Thomas as a foil.

The parents try as hard as they can to blend their two families but the troubles run deep and it ain’t going to be easy. Things come to a head on a skiing trip and it is a gripping ending.

Jenni Francis is a no nonsense writer. The story is told in a clipped but detailed fashion. I could have learned to ski from the detail prescribed in this novel. The dialogue is strong and the perceptions on marriage breakups and new relationships show some experience.

Essentially aimed at pre-teen and teenage girls but by no means exclusively. Boys could learn a lot from this. Short chapters and only 120 odd pages this is a fascinating read about a girl who tackles life full on and is very likeable.

Check out the other Keri books on this blog and at http://www.jennifrancis.com

Radio Boy and the Revenge of Grandad by Christian O’Connell

March 5, 2018 Comments off

radio boyRadio Boy and the Revenge of Grandad by Christian O’Connell. Pub. HarperCollins, 2018.

This is a sequel to Radio Boy in which middle schooler Spike Hughes took on his spiteful headmaster and won by setting up his own radio station in his garden shed.

This story has him competing with his granddad a former cruise ship entertainer with a Pepe Le Pew hairstyle who goes by the name Toni Fandango, has been kicked out of the house by Spike’s grandma, and now shares Spike’s bedroom.

After taking over Spike’s Radio show and being sacked by his grandson it is all on when the local DJ on Kool FM runs a competition to hire a replacement while he goes on holiday.

All is fair in love and war and radio competitions but who will win? In the final Spike has to interview the winner of the best dog competition and grandad has to interview the cow of the year. In between time it is mayhem.

Easy to read with large font, short chapters and illustrations. In recent weeks I have talked to many middle and lower school children and this type of story is very popular indeed. Some great writers like James Patterson, Matt Stanton, David Baddiel and others are writing in similar style and reluctant boys and girls love them. Many are reviewed on this blog so check them out they are a good laugh and have good values.