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Fleur Adcock is a poet, editor and translator. The different aspects of her writing are rarely expressed...


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Peer Review: Young Adult Books June 2015

19-06-2015

Reviews by Librarians, Teachers and Principals of the latest New Zealand books for young adult readers.

Letters to Gemma
Bryan Carter
Bryan Carter Publishing, RRP: PB $29.99
ISBN: 9780473314545
Ages: 12+

Reviewer: Maree Bublitz with Leah Bell, Librarian
Otorohanga College

Letters to Gemma is a compilation of letters that were written by the author to Gemma, a family friend who was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer at the age of 11, in 2009. Gemma spent the next year of her life receiving treatment for cancer which included chemotherapy. Bryan wrote these letters to entertain Gemma, and to help shift her attention from her disease to the world around her. Topics covered are varied and include both serious and amusing subjects, from terrorism to aliens.

I would recommend this book anyone who wants something different. I gave this to a Year 12 student to read and this was her response:

”From the very get-go, I found this book intriguing and relatable. It showed the power of love for friends, family and life. The beliefs in Letters to Gemma echo many artists’ beliefs that philosophy, art, deep-thinking and passion are the very essence of life, and if you can keep them dear to you, you can weather all storms.”


A Court of Thorns and Roses
Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury, RRP: PB $21.99
ISBN: 9781408857861
Ages: 16+

Reviewer: Colleen Shipley, Librarian
Marlborough Girls’ College

Nineteen year-old Feyre is a huntress who is striving to keep her family fed. After killing a wolf, she is hunted down by a beast for revenge. Abducted, Feyre finds herself in an enchanted faerie kingdom. Imprisoned but free to roam the court, Feyre begins to develop feelings for Tamlin, the High Fae. Meanwhile, the Kingdom is cursed and danger is near, and Feyre may be the only one who can help.

The story has hints of Beauty and the Beast, and lovers of fantasy and romance will relish in the magical world that Maas creates. The book is the first of a trilogy, and readers will be keen to get their hands on part two, due out in May 2016. The book is a compelling read, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to try fantasy for the first time, right through to seasoned readers of the genre. The plot and cover seem to be aimed at the 13–14-year-old age group but some of the content is definitely older.



Stay With Me
Maureen McCarthy
Allen & Unwin, RRP: PB 28.99
ISBN: 9781743316887
Ages: 13+

Reviewer: Julie Knowles, Teacher Librarian
Napier Girls’ High School

Stay With Me deals with some weighty issues that are not for the fainthearted, including domestic abuse, suicide, mental illness and drugs, but delves much deeper. The book follows 21-year-old Tess Browne as she hurriedly leaves Byron Bay, with no plan other than to escape her abusive relationship. A long road trip with a kind stranger, Harry, helps both him and the reader understand Tess’s recent past and her childhood. Harry convinces Tess to contact the family she has not seen in four years. As luck would have it, her siblings are gathering together at their Grandfather’s property and Tess is summoned. Descriptions of the rural Australian town ring true for anyone who has experienced a similar setting. McCarthy’s strength lies in her depictions of realistic characters and their relationships. The book is tension-filled but also contains humour and beautifully reflects a mother’s love and determination to protect her child at all costs.

 


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Peer Review: Junior Books June 2015

19-06-2015

Reviews by Librarians, Teachers and Principals of the latest New Zealand books for junior readers.

Grandma’s Brain
Ann Andrews, Illustration: Sally Hollis-McLeod
July Publishing, RRP: PB $20.00
ISBN: 9780473309992
Ages: 6– 10 years

Reviewer: Tina Donnell, Teacher
Kaipara Flats

Grandma’s Brain is a picture book written to help primary school aged children understand something about Parkinson’s as a brain disorder. It is particularly aimed at children who may have a parent or grandparent with Parkinson’s. It’s a gentle story with a ring of authenticity to it.

As Adam and Jack sit with Grandma reading a bedtime story, her hands start to shake. This leads to a conversation about Parkinson’s. The book the boys are sharing with Grandma is woven into the storyline and incorporated into the illustrations. The boys’ questions and comments drive the story forward and the illustrations support the text well. For example, when Adam ponders that pirates have stolen some of Grandma’s brain cells, we see the boys dressed as pirates, pushing a trolley that includes Grandma’s brain as part of their treasure. The symptoms of Parkinson’s are neatly woven into the storyline. At one point the boys break off into a demonstration of funny walks, as they remember that Grandma sometimes takes small, shuffling steps.

I think the story is very accessible for children, and explores the subject in a sympathetic and believable way.


Tā Daniel Hākari Matariki
Rebecca Beyer and Linley Wellington, Illustration: Christine Ross
Translation: Te Ingo Ngaia
David Ling Publishing, RRP: PB $19.95
ISBN: 9781927305027
Ages: 4+

Reviewer: Samantha Crossman, Bi-lingual Teacher
Tauranga Intermediate

This story is a beautiful te reo Māori translation of Daniel’s Matariki Feast which was first released in May 2014. The author describes a child’s first experience with both school and Matariki, entwining a mix of emotions, first time moments and new learning into a realistic tale that children will be drawn to.

This story provides the audience with a cultural understanding of the significance of the Māori New Year and how Matariki celebrations are undertaken, in particular highlighting the importance of planting, tending, harvesting, cooking, sharing and coming together. Colourful illustrations provide a telling backdrop which will assist new language learners to interpret the text. This book is a good introduction to new learners of Matariki at lower primary school age.


Rustle Up a Rhythm
Rosalind Malam, Illustrations: Sarah Nelisiwe Anderson
Scholastic, RRP: PB $19.00
ISBN: 9781775431480
Age: 3–7

Reviewer: Lareen Bonnington, Librarian
Tapawera Area School

What a delightful book! The story combines the sounds of everyday with the adventure of a journey with Dad. The rhyming is catchy and easy to memorise, and is designed to teach children to hear sounds we take for granted. I can imagine teachers reading this aloud and young children being able to chant along. It could even be sung. The illustrations are beautifully compatible with the story, with great colour and activity on every page.

This book is lightweight and a good size for holding. I see it as more of a read-aloud book than a book for a new reader - words like “gurgle”, “chatter” and “bibble-bubble” are easy to say, but aren’t the first words young children learn. Altogether a good addition to our library and a book I’d happily read to my grandchildren.


Detective Gordon: The First Case
Ulf Nilsson
, Illustration: Gitte Spee
Translation: Julia Marshall
Gecko Press, RRP: PB$19.99
ISBN: 9781927271506
Ages: 6– 9 years

Reviewer: Tina Donnell, Teacher
Kaipara Flats

This book is the first in a series, which has been translated from Swedish. Having read this one, I am definitely planning to keep watch for the next book.

The story has a preoccupation with tea and cakes, not to mention Detective Gordon’s girth. Aided by his new recruit, Buffy the mouse, Detective Gordon deals with the case of the squirrel’s missing nuts with great wisdom and attention to detail. The humour in the story is subtle and whimsical both in the text and the illustrations. It can be appreciated on different levels by children and adults alike. The colourful illustrations support the story and give the reader a richer sense of the characters.

I intend to try this out as a read aloud with my class of 6–8 year olds and I predict that it will be well received, with many of them keen to tackle both this book and any others in the series that we can lay our hands on.


When Dad Showed Me the Universe
Ulf Stark
, Illustration: Eva Eriksson
Translation: Julia Mashall
Gecko Press, RRP: PB $19.99
ISBN: 9781927271810
Ages: 5+

Reviewer: Alison Baucke, Librarian
Te Rapa Primary School

This is a beautifully written picture book, originally published in Sweden and now translated into English. This story is written from the viewpoint of a child who is being taken on a journey by his father. They wrap up warm, head off for a long walk on a cold night and stop for provisions along the way. The anticipation of the child grows with every step and they both learn that sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. The ending has a humorous twist and you can’t help but feel sympathetic towards the father. Ulf Stark is one of the most popular children’s authors in Sweden and Eva Eriksson is a well-loved Swedish illustrator. The illustrations are amazing and help tell the story fabulously. This is a story that most Dads and Granddads would love to read with their children, but it could be read and enjoyed by everyone. It is definitely a book for sharing.


Winiwini,Wiriwiri - He Kohinga Rotarota
Illustration: Andrew Burdan
Translation: Ngaere Roberts
Te Tāhuhu o Te Mātauranga, Ministry of Education, RRP: Charts & CD ROM, $27.00
ISBN: 9780473317621
Ages: 4+

Reviewer: Samantha Crossman, Bi-lingual Teacher
Tauranga Intermediate

This is the second collection of 12 Māori rota rota to be published. Each poetic text is written to engage and entertain its reader. The poems are individually themed and highlighted with humour, and they deal with everyday experiences where a child may feel anxious or afraid. Through deliberate vocabulary patterns and sounds, children will easily grasp the rhythm and flow of sentences, building their ability to confidently speak te reo Māori. The teacher notes clearly outline the different levels of proficiency using Te Mātauranga ō Aotearoa. Also provided are explanations of phrases, colloquialisms, and key vocabulary to develop student understanding.

Every poem is eye-catchingly illustrated, filled with vivid images, and coloured to captivate the audience. This is a memorable shared reading experience that will provide laughter and fun for all.
 


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Peer Review: Intermediate Books June 2015

19-06-2015

Reviews by Librarians, Teachers and Principals of the latest New Zealand books for intermediate readers.

Rats
Kyle Mewburn
, Illustration: Donavan Bixley
Scholastic, RRP: PB $12.00
ISBN: 9781775432609
Ages: 7–10

Reviewer: Alison Baucke, Librarian
Te Rapa Primary School

Dragon Knight
is a brand new series about Merek, a shape-shifter who is half-boy and half-dragon, created by duo Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley. Rats is the second in the series and begins with Merek being thrown into a cage with hundreds of ravenous cat-sized rats.

This is a humorous adventure book, filled with hilarious illustrations that complement the text, and will leave readers hunting for the third instalment. The book also includes information panels with diagrams, which children seem to love. It will also interest readers who enjoyed the Dinosaur Rescue series. Parts of the story may appeal more to boys, especially when the only way of escape from the rat-infested cage is through a hole where servants empty kitchen and toilet waste, but I am sure that some girls will be brave enough to attempt it. This chapter book is short, and perfect for the 7–10 age group.


Squishy Squashy Birds
Alicia Munday, Illustration: Carl Van Wijk
Potton and Burton, RRP: PB $19.99
ISBN: 9781927213421
Ages: 8–11

Reviewer: Lareen Bonnington, Librarian
Tapawera Area School

This book is interesting but slightly difficult to categorise. It’s unusual enough to engage the children’s interest, yet I’d be reluctant to put in with children’s fiction. I think I’d rather put it with our children’s non-fiction bird section. As well as being a delightful story, the end of the book has important information about New Zealand’s endangered birds. It approaches the subject in a way that is sure to appeal to schoolchildren everywhere. The thought of a book opening to reveal a host of beautiful and rare birds is an intriguing one.

This is quite a large book and a good addition to a library I believe. The illustrations probably belong in the sophisticated section, so the solution to categorising this book may be to keep it out on display. I see it as suitable for 8 years and upwards.


The Monster Within: A Jack Mason Adventure
Darrell Pitt

Text Publishing Company, RRP: PB $21.00
ISBN: 9781922182876
Ages: 10–14

Reviewer: Nick Vincent, Library Manager
Hamilton Boys’ High School

This adventure, crossed with a detective story, is set in an alternative Sherlock Holmes-era London, where vehicles and other machinery use steam as their source of power. This novel combines mystery, intrigue, travel, and monsters, to keep the reader engaged and turning the page to find out what happens next. The main characters are Jack Mason, Scarlet and Mr Doyle and this is the fourth in the Jack Mason Adventure series. Fans of the previous titles will recognise the format and characters, but if this is your first encounter you will soon be swept up into the lives of the protagonists. The writing is humourous, with plenty of banter between the characters and will even entertain readers outside the recommended age bracket.
 


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Peer Review: Picture Books June 2015

19-06-2015

Reviews by Librarians, Teachers and Principals of the latest New Zealand books for picture book readers.

Hush: A Kiwi Lullaby
Joy Cowley
, Illustration: Andrew Burdan
Translation: Ngaere Roberts
Scholastic New Zealand, RRP: HB $27.00
ISBN: 9781775432968
Ages: 0-3

Reviewer: Samantha Crossman, Bi-lingual Teacher
Tauranga Intermediate

A stunning read-aloud text with familiar lullaby sounds, this book is a delightful piece of poetry that will soothe the reader’s mind and heart. Each page has a delicately woven, iconic piece of kiwiana history as a gift to the child. With the words in English and Māori it will appeal to all readers. A glossary is also provided to assist new learners with the vocabulary.

Recognisable treasures from across our beautiful country adorn each page, the illustrator portrays a real sense of our beautiful surroundings. Detailed art works unfold one after the other followed by a series of shapes among textured backgrounds for younger readers to explore. This book is recommended to any parent or educator of new entrants and early childhood.


Grasshoppers Dance
Juliette MacIver
, Illustration: Nina Rycroft
Scholastic, RRP: PB $19.00
ISBN: 9781775432241
Ages: 3–7

Reviewer: Kathryn Burgess, Librarian
Panmure Bridge School

The grasshoppers dance as the world turns through the four seasons - summer sun, leaf-falling autumn, fog of the winter-time chill, and the springtime gales. The rhyming words and the illustrations stir the imagination and are bound to delight many children.

Our classes found it interesting to see an insect that they had previously seen or held, dressed up and dancing. They appreciated the imagery of the illustrator. A musical element could be added by playing The Grasshopper’s Dance by Ernest Bucalossi, and an extension activity could include children making or searching for sounds or music that they thought matched the seasons, or pages of the book.


So Many Wonderfuls
Tina Matthews

Walker Books Australia, RRP: HB $29.99
ISBN: 9781922077516
Ages: 2–6

Reviewer: Kathryn Burgess, Librarian
Panmure Bridge School

Tina Matthews has created a masterpiece! The illustrations are of an idyllic seaside town, which could be anywhere on the coast. The reader follows one lady and her pet pig through her home town, visiting with friends, family and others in the community. Similar to Richard Scarry’s books, the illustrations are detailed and there is something to capture a child’s attention on every page: skateboards, kites, climbing trees, children playing. I found myself looking through the book multiple times to see where a person first appeared, or if a feature was repeated on every page, such as the pet pig, or someone reading.

Any parent or grandparent would derive joy and pleasure from snuggling up to a child and sharing this book. It would also be loved in any preschool or primary school library. Although the illustrations are a little small to see in a classroom setting, the teachers who saw this book and the effect it had on the students were very keen to have a copy.
This was a very satisfying book that would suit 2 to 6 year olds.


Help! The Wolf is Coming!
Cédric Ramadier
, Illustration: Vincent Bourgeau
Translation: Linda Burgess
Gecko Press, RRP: HB $19.99
ISBN: 9781927271841
Ages: 2–6

Reviewer: Kathryn Burgess, Librarian
Panmure Bridge School

This board book has instant appeal with young children. The reader interacts with the story, trying to tip the wolf off the cliff or shake him off a branch, and many of our 5-year-old children loved the urgency in “Quick! Turn the page!” Some were desperate for me to turn the page faster to see what happened next.

The simplicity of this book may not appeal to every adult, but I read this book to over 60 children aged 18-months to 6-years, and the appreciation was instant and unanimous. The preschoolers were absolutely focused on the book and asked me to “read it again”, telling their teachers “I loved that book!” The board book construction is necessary to stand up to the shaking and turning this book will receive.

The publisher recommends for ages 2-4 but the 5 and 6 year olds loved this book as much as the preschoolers. A must buy for every pre-school and recommended for primary schools, especially those where students do not have access to many books before starting school. A terrific book to get children interested in reading, as well as a shared activity. Another excellent selection by Gecko Press.

 


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Tapping the Mind of Ann Andrews

19-06-2015

Children can be profoundly affected when a loved-one or family member is ill. Ann Andrews has been living with Parkinson’s Disease for a number of years, and has just published Grandma’s Brain, a book designed initially for her grandsons, to help explain the illness for them and their friends. Now it is available to help any child dealing with a family member who has Parkinsons.


What compelled you to write a book for children about Parkinson’s disease?

I have three grandsons. Two live close by and I’ve had lots to do with them since they were babies. Sadly my youngest grandchild lives in New York, he’s only two. I had two reasons for wanting to write Grandma’s Brain. The first occurred when I was playing one day with my NZ grandsons. The eldest boy held my hand saying “I’ll hold your hand Granny so that it won’t shake.” The other reason is because I’ve seen the curious looks given to me by the boys’ friends, who are not used to seeing a Grandma with a shake. The book tries to explain Parkinson’s as simply as possible for the boys to understand, and also provides a way to explain it to their friends.

How did your own family react when you were first diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease?


I told my husband first as both of our children lived away from home. I told my children later, and although they were grown-ups, they responded by asking all the questions that the children ask in Grandma’s Brain. They asked: Would they get it? Was it inherited? Would I die with it; and what would happen to me?

Do you think that children handle the changes of family members with Parkinson’s better than adults?


I think that both children and adults respond to change in their own way. Parkinson’s develops slowly and if the family members are close, they may get used to the changes and notice them less. Children can be difficult to read - some may not want to talk about it, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t worried. Some may even think it’s their fault, so I do think speaking truthfully and simply is the best way to go.

What have you discovered about yourself since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease?

What I’ve noticed most is that I am a survivor and have a sense of my own ridiculousness.

What advice would you give to other people living with Parkinson’s disease and their families?


Take one day at a time, live in the present, there is no point in worrying about the future. In my book Positively Parkinson’s I talk about thinking, “I want to know now.” Parkinson’s follows no regular time-line, there is no way of knowing what to expect, and everybody will have different symptoms. For me in the beginning, I got stuck dreading the worst without knowing how bad it might be, or when it might be bad. Accepting this unpredictable predicament is certainly the first hurdle.



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Phone 0064 4 801 5546
Level 4, Stephenson & Turner House, 156 Victoria St, Te Aro,
Wellington 6011, New Zealand

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With a background in writing for television in both Australia and New Zealand, Wendy Catran now writes...


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Writers in Schools: on Tour 2015


Throughout the school year we tour a variety of writers and illustrators away from their home region, so that schools can benefit from hosting someone they couldn't otherwise afford. Member schools are alerted first so that they can secure a booking early, and are offered these visits at a discounted rate. Non-member school rates are indicated below. The fees contribute towards the additional costs of accommodation, and food and transport for the writer.

Touring Fees (excl. GST):

Member Schools
First visit: Half day visit: $130.00/ Full day visit $220.00
Second or Third visit: Half day visit: $265.00/ Full day visit: $330.00
Workshops: $55.00 each

Non-Member Schools
Half day visit: $500.00
Full day visit: $700.00
Workshops: $55.00 each


 

Speed Date an Author Events

Interactive workshops are a great way to learn, and Speed Date an Author workshops allow your school’s budding writers to experience five 25-minute writer sessions over the course of a morning. They usually take place in a local museum or public library, and are delivered by five fantastic writers and illustrators. We organise six Speed Date an Author events each year. Three take place in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and the other three rotate around the regions. Member schools are alerted first so that they can secure a booking early, and are offered these sessions at a discounted rate.

Entry Fees (incl. GST):

Member Schools: $25.00 per student
Non-Member Schools: $50 per student
Supervising adult: Free
 









Find out more about Writers in Schools, tours and Speed Date an Author here.

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Phone 0064 4 801 5546
Level 4, Stephenson & Turner House, 156 Victoria St, Te Aro,
Wellington 6011, New Zealand