We want to help create motivated and engaged young readers. This blog is about children's and YA literature (especially New Zealand), literacy research, and ways to get, and keep, kids reading.
George Larson is an 18 year old school boy from Otago, with aspiring dreams of becoming a musician. But everything changes when George notices a spider crawling over his homework book in a repeating pattern - spelling out the word “soul”. His dead granddad starts turning up at night with strange messages that someone is after him, and to try not to get killed! And that George is apparently the only one who can save the world by turning off the “lighthouse”. A Tibetan monk (who likes to “high five”) turns up at George’s house wanting to go on a journey with him. George has so many questions. What is this lighthouse? Why does his dead Granddad keep turning up? Who are the people after him? Where are they going? Why does the Tibetan monk say he has known George for a long time? Can George and Kaisa become more than friends?…
The author, Fredrik Brouneus, was born in Stockholm, but now lives in Dunedin with his family. The Prince of Soul and the lighthouse is his first book in English.
review by Michelle
Image by alijava
Poor Jack, he’s in conflict over wanting to keep something not his own and searching for the correct owner.
I enjoyed this true to life look at a boy who desperately wants to own a puppy. It’s a great read for juniors who are ready to leap into short chapter-books or for a shared read-aloud. The book is also stong on positive themes like honesty, caring, responsibility and family life.
The large print and double-spaced lines combined with words to stretch a reader’s vocabulary, while the happy ending presents readers with a satisfying conclusion. Stephanie Spartel’s expressive black and white illustrations also enhance this Hey Jack! series.
review by Fiona
Image by photos_martha
I enjoyed this mouth-watering read. It is true to life for all those boys who have really wanted to own a puppy. It is great for juniors who are ready to leap into short chapter-books or for a shared read-aloud.
The large print and double-spaced lines combined with words to stretch a reader’s vocabulary like gobbles, wriggles and jingles all help to provide a lot of interesting discussions about contexts in general.
Honesty, caring, responsibility and family life are strong themes. Jack is in conflict over the common problem of being torn between wanting to keep something not yet owned and searching for the correct owner.
The happy ending is a satisfying conclusion. See Stephanie Spartels expressive black and white illustrations that enhance this Hey Jack! series.
review by Fiona
Image by photos_martha
This first book, in the Dinosaur Rescue series, will be a hit with primary school-aged students with many varied interesting and disgusting facts including the secrets of Stone Age hunting and brontosaurus poo.
Mewburn’s witty humour in describing Arg and his family is hilarious. Arg is the most ‘evolved’ Neanderthal boy in his tribe however his parents don’t really understand Arg’s odd ways. Arg meets Skeet, an equally evolved Tyrannosaurus rex who can speak Arg’s language. Together they embark on a mission to save the dinosaurs from extinction.
I also liked Bixley’s cartoon-like black and white illustrations; they enhanced Mewburn’s story and both had enough action to ensure my interest.
review by Fiona
image by Scott Kinmartin
Pelly and Dean are best mates and call themselves the Steel Pelicans. Dean’s dare-devil attitude to fireworks gets them into trouble more than once.
When Pelly has to move from Australia to New Zealand, they are both sorry to say goodbye. Pelly eventually makes friends with Afi and while on holiday together, they come across a smuggling operation. When Dean arrives to join them, the tension between the three and Dean’s obsession with explosives could spell disaster for them all.
An action-packed story in Des Hunt’s inimitable style – good characters, New Zealand-feel, and a really good read.
review by Rosemary
image by Mydaas
Aaron has just left school, is starting his first job – as an undertaker’s assistant – in the small town where he lives in a caravan with his aunt. He has nightmares and embarrassing sleepwalking incidents, linked with
having witnessed his parents’ murder/suicides. The daughter of the undertaker has had a similar traumatic childhood and with her friendship Aaron eventually comes to terms with his troubled background. His aunt’s rapidly deteriorating dementia and the undertaker’s work makes for rather grim reading but the story flows well and is sensitively written.
The Dead I Know would suit Year 10 boys. For more information on sleepwalking see here.
review by Phil
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Bear Grylls is an iconic media figure known as much for his stomach churning consumption of grubs, insects and raw animal parts as his fearless adrenaline fuelled adventures.
My kids can’t get enough of his TV series and are fascinated by the places he goes and the physical challenges he puts himself through. When I tell them that Bear is a former British Special Forces soldier, an expert in martial arts, and at the age of 23 one of the youngest ever mountaineers to summit Mount Everest their eyes widen. When I tell them that he climbed Mount Everest only eighteen months after breaking his back in three places in a serious parachuting accident, they are amazed.
‘Mud, sweat and tears’ tells the tale of Bear’s journey from an adventurous young boy learning to climb with his father through to his life and death struggle of climbing Mount Everest, and on to international fame as the action hero of ‘Man vs Wild’. He recounts his many adventures from his wild school days, the gruelling challenges of selection for the elite squadron of the British Special Services and the journey from hospital rehabilitation centre to the summit of Everest.
Full of the gross-out detail and almost reckless fascination with risk taking that makes his tv series compulsive viewing, Bear is also extremely honest and reflective in trying to understand the forces that have shaped his life.
Whilst physical and mental strength, courage, perseverance, and endurance figure strongly, the central themes of the book and the core of Bear’s life are the importance of his family, friendship and his faith.
Written in short bite sized chapters in a simple and easy to read style, Mud, Sweat and Tears is recommended for young men (and women) who are fans of the TV series and for whom life is an adventure to be lived and a dream to be followed.
Bear Gryll’s website can be found here with information on his life, TV shows and books. Bear has also written a series of fictional adventures stories for young readers.review by Peter
review by Peter
image by Sarah Nitt
Jake and his mates find an old wrecked car and decide to do it up so they can have fun driving it around the paddocks.
Buzz and Robbie both agree they all need to put some money towards the repairs, but Jake has no money and as that would mean getting a job, he resists.
As the scheme seems to be going ahead without him, Jake soon realizes he may need to find some money.
This story has a gentle building of tension and one thing I like about this book, is that there are no major dramas, or ridiculous outcomes – one keeps feeling there is bound to be trouble with three teenage boys and a car, but it’s all just really good fun!
Dirt Bomb, a finalist in the 2012 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards, is a brilliant action read for teenagers.
review by Rosemary
This novel has it all. It starts with a bang and doesn’t let up until the last sentence. It is a tale of piracy and treasure hunting in the high airs (not seas). Sequel to Airborn, this novel still stands alone as a swashbuckling “good read”.
Matt Cruse, a trainee navigator is aboard a worn out, tumbledown cargo airship piloted by a reckless captain. Flying through a typhoon at dangerously high altitudes, they see a ghost ship, the Hyperion, that was presumed wrecked 40 years ago. On board are exceptional treasures and Matt is the only living soul who knows the coordinates for the ship’s location.
How can these treasures be retrieved? Does he even want to do it? Who can he trust?
Eventually he joins with Kate, his sweetheart, and Hal, the conceited pilot of a new airship capable of pushing to the limits of high altitude flying, to hunt for the Hyperion and its treasure. But hot on their trail are ruthless air pirates as well as dangerous sky monsters. Adventure parallels with the climbing of Mount Everest, literary parallels with 20,000 leagues under the sea and the myths of Icarus and Prometheus will fascinate any eclectic reader.
The emotional tension and suspense is heightened by Matt’s simultaneous attraction to his high class girlfriend Kate, and the mysterious gypsy girl Nadira, who holds the key to unlock the booby trapped treasure.
Highly recommended for those who enjoy a tale full of drama and action. See the book trailer on Kenneth Oppel’s website.
Review by Glenda
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The bombing of Pearl Harbour is brought to life through Danny’s eyes; an eleven year old who develops courage, friendship and teamwork while trying to survive this horrible event. The book will appeal to senior primary, intermediate and junior secondary students.
Faction stories are made interesting by drawing on real events and then mixing those events with a fictional slant.
Tarshis hooks you in with an exciting start; however, my preference is action all the way. This story didn’t quite engage me as much as other chapter books that have less than 90 pages.
Extra notes are included at the end of the book including that 7 December 2011 is significant as it was the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbour.
If you like faction stories then you can find other titles Tarshis has written on her website. An interview with the author is available on the Pentalk Community.
Review by Fiona
image by awkwccr
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