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.
Dom has just finished school and is engaged in a painting job at his father’s advertising agency before he starts university. One morning he walks into his father’s office to ask for the keys to his car. Here he gets drawn into a conversation on the benefits of advertising and next thing he knows he’s being thrown a challenge to come up with a pitch to sell toothpaste. Dom’s philosophy it that it is easy enough to write an advertisement and that any ‘monkey’ could do it.
What follows is Dom’s process of due diligence on the campaign. The question raised is why does Dom really want to beat his dad at his own game? The story deals with the serious and humorous side of advertising, a father son relationship and Dom’s learning curve of where he wants to be in terms of a career.
Leonie Thorpe has done a brilliant job of keeping the story light, youthful and purposeful. Also noteworthy is the exposure to the world of advertising which is insightful for anyone wanting to pursue this line of a career.
review by Janice
Image by owly9
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
Published to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Collingwood Area School, this book of stories and photographs combines the high points of early school history with an update of events since the centennial celebrations in 1959.
It also encompasses the other eight schools of the area that have now closed. At first glance it may seem that only those who have some connection with Collingwood could find interest in this book. On the contrary, it is a documentation of changing times and changing schools in NZ history. Some highly sought after photographs are included in this books which detail life when the school opened in 1859 of not only school life at this time but life in NZ as a pioneer settler. This close knit community school was, in its origins, witness to pupils who were children of goldminers, storekeepers and pioneer farmers who knew the value of an education. The Collingwood community should be congratulated for 150 years of support to its students in preparation for the wider world. Recommended intermediate upward.
review by Melissa
I’m a real Sally Sutton fan – I love her latest picture book Farmer John’s tractor, and her Diary of a pukeko had me chuckling, so I was delighted to find this simple but lively new title on our shelves.
Diary of a bat sucks you in right from the first page, printed upside-down just as if a hanging bat was reading it, and pushing us straight into the life of this young bat – worried about the things that young people everywhere worry about, particularly at the beginning of a new school year. Who will his new teacher be? Will he have any friends? Will he be teased about his size – again? Why does his mother seem so distracted? And why won’t she answer his questions? And our young friend has a lot of questions….
Children intrigued by bats will find plenty of information about the New Zealand long-tailed variety woven carefully into the story (which would make a great read-aloud for younger children, but will be enjoyed by older ones too), and the text is well supported by Gave Gunson’s pen and ink illustrations.
Teacher notes are available (PDF).
review by Jan
Image used with permission
Three new primary level picture books about war all focus on New Zealand’s involvement on the Western Front rather than at Gallipoli. These attractively presented works are ideal for broadening knowledge about World War I in a way that is distinctly positive rather than gloomy, and focuses on the values that can emerge from a battlefield.
David Hill’s The red poppy , accompanied by a CD of Rob Kennedy’s song of the same name, tells of the compassion and friendship that develop between two wounded soldiers from opposing sides in a brief encounter that neither of them will ever forget. The story incorporates a crowd-pleasing small black dog as well and is optimistic without being unbelievable.
While it doesn’t dwell on the mud and misery that were a constant presence in the trenches of Europe, it doesn’t gloss over them either. This is shown in Fifi Colston’s superb illustrations —subdued shades of brown and grey, with the only colour coming dramatically from the crimson poppy of the title. The red poppy’s superb hardback presentation would make it ideal as a gift, to enhance understanding for many Anzac Days to come. Teaching notes on The red poppy are also available from Scholastic Books.
The eels of Anzac Bridge is possibly about Passchendaele, although this is not overtly stated. Certainly it is about a young New Zealander who travels far across the sea to join the Great War in Europe and, like so many of his countrymen, does not return.
Ali Foster uses the imaginative tactic of linking his story to that of the migrating longfinned eels, who also never return from their long journey after spawning in the waters of the stream that flows through his home town. The two stories are intertwined throughout to show the pattern of the lifecycle itself, with its continuing processes of birth, growth and death.
The Anzac Memorial Bridge of the story really exists, in the small community of Kaipororo north of Masterton. The Art Deco bridge was opened in 1922 and contains the names of the town’s young men who fell during World War One. This inspired Ali Foster to write a story that could relate to any one of them. The eels of Anzac Bridge is published by the Wairarapa Archive in conjunction with Fraser Books.
There is a town in France that will always have a special place in its heart for New Zealand; that continues to have a public square proudly named ‘Place des All Blacks’ in spite of World Cup rugby traumas; and whose schoolchildren perform a (very smartly dressed) haka twice a year in our honour.
Glyn Harper’s picture book Le Quesnoy : the story of the town New Zealand saved gives us the reason for all these things, and provides long overdue information for our own schoolchildren about the nature of true home-grown heroism. Just as Willie Apiata’s VC was awarded for the saving of life rather than the taking of it, the glory here lies in the fact that our young soldiers used ingenuity to take back a French town occupied by the Germans without the loss of a single civilian life.
It was no easy task. Only a week before the Armistice was to end the horrifically blood-soaked Western Front campaign, the New Zealand Division was given the task of re- capturing Le Quesnoy, a mediaeval town surrounded by two bastions of walls several metres thick, with a moat in between. The town had been occupied by German troops for four years and, knowing the strength of the ramparts surrounding them, the Germans were refusing to surrender.
Rather than the ‘normal practice’ of storming the walls, which would have resulted in heavy casualties among the towns people, the New Zealand Field Artillery used heavy mortar fire to distract the Germans while members of the Rifle Brigade quietly crept up the walls under cover of the smoke. On November 4, 1918, Lieutenant Leslie Averill was the first survivor to make it into Le Quesnoy. Once the Germans realised the wall had been breached they opened one of the town’s main gates and surrendered. While 130 New Zealand soldiers and a greater number of Germans died during the liberation of Le Quesnoy, the historic town and its grateful population remained largely unharmed.
The picture book tells the story through the eyes of a child living in the town, and thanks are due to military historian Glynn Harper for using this device to make it totally suitable for primary school children (and thanks also, Glynn, for the pronunciation guide..it’s Ler kay nwah). Artist Jenny Cooper has relished the opportunity to widen her usual scope, and her illustrations are moving and evocative without being grim.
This is the one of our war stories that so needs not only to be told but to be shouted from the rooftops!
review by Cecily
Images used with permission
In memory of Margaret Mahy, the Storylines Children’s Literature Trust held an event for New Zealand Book Month on the evening of the late Margaret Mahy’s birthday, 21 March, at the National Library in Parnell, Auckland.
Writers Kate De Goldi, Leonie Agnew and Tessa Duder presented a varied 70-minute programme of readings from Margaret Mahy’s work to an audience of about 60 adults and children. Children from Willowbank School delighted the audience with their adaptation of A Summery Saturday Morning. With the theme of Margaret Mahy’s birthday, MC for the evening, Rosemary Tisdall, read narrations between each reading, highlighting the gift Margaret gave to us all through her writing. Both poignant and entertaining the evening covered extracts from Mahy’s verse, novels and speeches.
Image by Christchurch City Libraries
I was fascinated to discover this new picture book written by Ali Foster, illustrated by Viv Walker, and launched at Pukaha Mount Bruce earlier this year. It tells the story of Private Arthur Braddick, who grew up in the Kaiparoro area south of Eketahuna, and who later lost his life on the Western Front during World War I.
In a parallel story we learn about the life journeys of the long-finned eels that inhabit the Makakahi River and other local streams, and their journey to the warm undersea trenches near the islands of Tonga where they breed and then die (the baby eels then making their way back through the ocean to the rivers of New Zealand).
The name and setting comes from the real Anzac Bridge, which was erected after World War I north of Mount Bruce and still stands today.
Reading is so much about connections –my Great-Aunt turned the first sod for this bridge, and cut the ribbon when it was opened (she sent the most sons away to the war), and as a child I lived north of Kaiparoro on a farm bordering the same river.
The book was published by Wairarapa Archive, in association with Fraser Book.
review by Jan
Image used with permission
The title of this picture book sums the message of the story up. This story is told through the eyes of a young boy, Tyson and begins with his reluctance to attend the Anzac Dawn Parade because for him it is all about celebrating war. But after talking with his whānau he realises he doesn’t have the full story and begins to see another side of the story about the importance of this day. Come dawn the next morning, he attends the Parade with his mum and Koro and stood in remembrance of those who died.
Elspeth Alix Batt’s pen and wash illustrations work well for the time periods of the story with every page linked to ANZAC poppies by using their colour. The red against a sombre grey background at the dawn ceremony emphasises the solemn occasion.
This book is also available in English. The te reo Māori version was shortlisted in SLANZA Te Kura Pounamu awards 2012. The late Katerina Mataira won the Te Rōpū Whakahau award Te Tohu Pounamu 2012 for her translation of this book.
review by Alice
Image by striatic
This treasure of a legend that previously was only known to a few, has been bought to life by Moira Wairama in her book Ngā Taniwha i te Whanga-nui-a-Tara.
This picture book retells the legend of Whataitai and Ngake, two taniwha whose bid for freedom from their lake shaped the current landscape of Wellington harbour.
Open the book and Bruce Potter’s vivid, imaginative illustrations quickly pull yopu in. The use of different size text and the way the words dance across the page and interact with the illustrations create a riveting read in te reo Māori. The landscape format fits the story well, allowing panoramic and large as life views on the double spread pages. This legend will appeal to a wide age group from primary aged students to adults.
This book was awarded the SLANZA Kura Pounamu book award 2012 and the Te Rōpū Whakahau - Te Tohu Taurapa for the best picture book in te reo Māori.
This book is also available in English under the title The taniwha of Wellington Harbour.
review by Alice
Image used with permission
Zara is lying in a coma, critically injured in the motor cycle accident that killed her brother Jem. In her subconscious state she constantly replays parts of her life. She can hear what those around her are saying, but is unable to respond.
The plot has three aspects – the accident and resulting trauma, Zara’s subconscious search for her dead brother in the blurry world of his favourite comic, and the hidden secret of what happened when she was kidnapped when a young child.
Elizabeth Pulford varies the font according to whether we are listening to the voices of family and friends or to Zara in flashback mode or to her scary adventures as she tries to find her brother, and Angus Gomes’ graphic novel style illustrations support the narrative perfectly.
review by Jan
Image by ER24 EMS (Pty) Ltd
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