If I Was a Banana by Alexandra Tylee & Kieran Rynhart. Pub. Gecko Press, 2016
When I read this outstanding picture book for children of all ages my thoughts were that the pairing of author and illustrator was an experienced one and they must have worked together several times. But no. It is Alexandra Tylee’s first book and the only time she has worked with Kieran Rynhart and what’s more they are Kiwis.
A boy who is neither big or little is walking with his mother looking at the world around him. He plays the What If game. If he was a banana he would be fat and full like the one in the shop window, if he was a cow he would be the self important one standing in the field and if he was an elephant he would be very careful where he put his feet.
There are more What Ifs before he decides he is most comfortable being himself.
The illustrations are superb. In coloured pencil and varying in size from whole page to smaller images placed strategically within the written text and melding beautifully with the imagination and emotion of the boy. The lion, the tree the storm clouds even the banana are outstanding.
I shall be watching this one when Award time comes round next year.
Happy Bright Light. A Weekly Empowerment Guide by Kelly Stone. http://www.happybrightlight.com. 2015
I rarely review works such as this one which deals with confidence and strength in your own character. I learn things from every book I read and am aware that not everyone is the same and that some young people struggle. This book review is for them.
A two part book each dealing with a 26 week agenda for discovering self and self improvement. Part 1 deals with finding strength in your own identity and such tasks as saying Yes and No and building connections.
Part 2 deals with setting goals, dealing with stress, adopting a positive attitude and handling tough situations. It stresses working hard, not giving up and turning weaknesses into strengths.
The book is also a diary of your achievements asking the reader to identify things they learned about themselves and when they felt confident.
Between chapters are some serene photographs which give a sense of calmness and help in feeling confident.
Essentially for high school students and young adults but there is something here for everyone.
This is one of the best dystopian fiction novels by a New Zealand author that I have read. It demands a sequel and I expect one is already underway.
Arcadia is 17 years old and deemed “unworthy” by the ruthless and controlling Polis who rule the island population that is remarkably like the South island of New Zealand.
On Arcadia’s arm is a cross that signifies her unworthiness. At birth she was weak and sickly and like all similar babies is left outside at night in a ritualistic circle and is expected to die. She doesn’t and is brought up by a man she knows as grandfather, in a hub where she has no rights and is treated as a pariah. Her life is about to change big time.
The Polis who are strictly regimented took control of the island after an illness swept the World and anarchy reigned over their island reducing the population from 4 million to just over 1 million. Now the Polis rule from a big City and the population live in small hubs that are strictly controlled. The Polis say they want to strengthen the human species by looking after the strong and whittling out the weak. Every child is subjected to the same test.
Captain Alexander Hayes is a young soldier who is summoned by the General to locate and escort Arcadia from her hub of Greytown to the Polis City. This undercover, action packed and tense journey is stunning but you will have to read the novel to find out all about it.
In line with the subject matter this novel is clinically written with not a word out of place. The novel is narrated by Arcadia and her shifting relationship with Captain Hayes is a highlight, as is the landscape through which they travel.
The journey and the city will provide the stunning answers to Arcadia’s identity, past, survival and family and of the true nature of the Polis.
If you miss this one you will kick yourself. For high school students and Young adults.
Kiwi’s Intrepid Journey by Anna Dalzell, Illus. Jane McIntosh. Pub. http://www.change.net.nz 2015.
Kiwi sits in his hole thinking how inadequate he is. He cant sing like Korimako or fly fast and strong like kereru or be proud like Pikake.
When Ruru calls a meeting asking the birds to help return a Kauri seedling to it’s sacred place Kiwi is the only one available to do the job.
He travels through New Zealand’s mountains, rivers and forests to restore the seedling and returns as a hero to his bird friends.
A story of self esteem and how our thoughts sometimes affect our actions and feelings about ourselves.
Beautifully illustrated by Culverden artist Jane McIntosh using water colours and pencil drawings. She captures the essence of the birds and the beauty of the NZ landscape and enhances the written script of the author.
Good read-a-loud for juniors and good reading for older more confident readers.
If you don’t know about these books that have captured reluctant readers especially boys then you missed a terrific series of novels. This is book 9 and it is every bit as appealling as the others, in fact I enjoyed it more.
Greg Heffley aka the Wimpy kid wrestles with one of life’s great mysteries, girls. He learns that girls not only go to the bathroom in groups but they run their lives by a different set of rules than boys.
His 5th grade class are having a Valentines Day dance and Greg must find a girl to take. He tries very hard and makes genuine efforts by his own standards and sense of humour but that is not good enough for girls.
He also gets involved with a School Student Council that wants to have the same soft toilet paper in the student toilets as the teachers do in the staffroom. Fat chance.
But the funniest stories are Greg’s memories in his mothers womb before he was born. No wonder he turned out like he did.
Just get it and read it. Jeff Kinney’s illustrations enhance his written text and I love his drawings of the girls.
Primary and intermediate in appeal but very good for slow or reluctant boy readers at any level.
Brother Sister by Sean Olin. Pub. Razor Bill Penguin, 2011.
Will is tall and lanky, very moody and changeable, lacks friends but has great ability at golf, and he loves his sister. Asheley is younger than him, very attractive , has few friends, does have a boy friend called Craig who she loves but he is a macho clown.
On a day when Will wins a golf tournament and Asheley plays a starring role in a win for her softball team their lives come tragically undone.
Will and Asheley’s parents are divorced, they live with their mother in a house built by their father, and she is the town drunk. A violent abusive drunk and on this day after weeks off the sauce she hits it with a violent and abusive vengeance.
Will and Asheley shrink into despair before your eyes and Will especially goes into a mental decline that leads to murder. I can tell you no more but it is compelling reading.
The plot is revealed in narratives by both Will and Asheley retrospectively and in consecutive chapters so that you see both sides of the story. The chapters are short and the drama is intense. It is hot stuff.
Senior secondary and young adult in appeal.
Marshmallow Skye by Cathy Cassidy. Pub. Penguin Australia, 2011.
They are part of a family that is changing. Mother is remarrying a nice man involved in making chocolates but his daughter Cherry waltzes off with elder sister Honey’s boyfriend. There is tension in the house.
When an old trunk belonging to a girl, Clara, who disappeared decades ago, is found in the attic, Skye starts to wear all the old fashion clothes from within and the dreams start. Dreams of a dark haired handsome gypsy boy who was rumoured to have caught Clara’s fancy before she disappeared. Spooky!
Great story of family relations told in a witty and positive fashion by Cathy Cassidy. This Chocolate Box Girls series will have seven more parts and girls of primary and intermediate school age will love them. I really enjoyed this one.