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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Junior Chapter Book, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 22 of 22
1. Another book in the delightful Violet Mackerel series

Violet Mackerel’s Formal Occasion by Anna Branford, illus. Sarah Davis, Walker Books Australia
This is another one to add to my collection of Violet Mackerel stories – which is being kept for a couple of years until my granddaughter is old enough to enjoy the books. They are delightful little stories that tick all the right boxes – short, easy to read, focusing on situations involving family and friends, illustrated with lively pen and ink pictures, and sporting bright, eye-catching covers. Because they’re hardback they look extra-special and would make excellent presents. This particular story looks at a topic close to the hearts of most little girls – getting dressed up and going out somewhere special. I think this is the eighth book in the series, and I heartily recommend them for newly-competent readers of about six to eight.
See more books in the series here. Craft ideas that complement the books here.

ISBN 978 1 925081 09 1
RRP $24.99 Hb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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2. Humorous Illustrated chapter books for little girls

Victoria M. Azaro wrote the Saffron series for Penguin Books NZ. Just recently she has combined the three books into one and called it 'Super Saffron'. Also, Saffron's sister Sage wanted to have her own book and Victoria relented and wrote one for her too. Read about these two excellent books below.

Sage: I am the middle sister by Victoria M. Azaro (W4 Publishing)

You'll find more of the quirky hilarious adventures that Saffron has but Sage's adventures centre around her family and school. Sage hasn't long started school and the big excitement is bringing home the class teddy. Sage is quite a bright 5 year old and not one to let her big sister Saffron get one over her. Find out how she solves a tricky wee problem ...

Victoria has written the illustrated chapter book for 5-7
year olds. Each page has black and white illustrations and big print. Little girls are going to thoroughly enjoy reading the book and many girls can identify what it is like to have an older sibling.  Teachers can use the book in their Health programme to talk about how to solve problems, responsibility and sibling rivalry.

Paperback: $16.00
ISBN: 978-0-473-28953-9

Super Saffron by Victoria M. Azaro (W4 Publishing)

Older sister Saffron is so excellent at solving problems ... well, in her mind she is but in actuality everything she does ends in disaster. While on trips abroad in America, Spain, South America and France with her business dad and meditating mum, annoying younger sister Sage, and baby; Saffron has to navigate big cities, deal with a nudist beach, find a toilet, and speak different languages. This results in Saffron creating chaos in every situation she finds herself in. Young girls will enjoy reading the very funny adventures of Saffron and her family.

Teachers could use the book in their Health programme to talk about cultural diversity; what it feels like to be a minority, learning a new language, sibling rivalry, and problem solving. The books makes an excellent read aloud; and though boys wouldn't pick the book up themselves they will definitely enjoy hearing the story read aloud to them.

Combines books 1 - 3 in one super edition!

Paperback: $24.99
ISBN:  978-0-473-27066-7
Buy from all good bookshops (Paper Plus, Indie stores, Children's bookshops) and Victoria's website:  http://www.saffron-sage.com/shop.html

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3. Two reviews for David Hill's latest book 'Sinking'

Sinking by David Hill, Scholastic NZ

An attention-grabbing cover welcomes readers to this contemporary tale, written with the author’s usual skill and attention to detail. It’s narrated by teenager Conrad, and begins with Conrad on his usual early-morning walk to swimming practice. Suddenly a frantic figure rushes out of the bushes, scaring him half to death. Turns out that the weird guy is the grandfather of a new girl in Conrad’s class called Bex - she’s having problems because her grandfather is suffering severe anxiety attacks. Bex is into horses, while Conrad is into competitive swimming - and these two sports provide interesting backgrounds as Conrad tries to figure out how to help Bex and her ailing grandfather. There’s a nail-biting and deadly climax scene - but I’m not going to give the show away...The book holds you from the first page, ratcheting up the tension as the main plot and sub-plots unfold. The characters are likeable and genuine - and all are handled sympathetically by the author, even the bully. Heartily recommended for boys of about eleven to fourteen (girls will enjoy it too).

ISBN 978 1 77543 132 9 RRP $18.50 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

Sinking by David Hill (Scholastic)

Early one morning as a young teen named Conrad is crossing the park on the way to swim training, an old man runs out of the bushes. He is shouting about someone called Ted. Conrad is shaken by this but doesn’t tell anyone at the pools. Not even his best mate Jaz who is also training for the Nationals.

Back at school there is a new girl in Conrad’s class. She’s skinny, short and feisty and not scared of anyone – even guys much bigger than her. Conrad soon learns this girl (Bex) is in town to look after her grandfather – the same man who was ranting in the park. Bex is waiting for her mother to come to town to help but she is caught up with the shearing back on their farm.

As Conrad gets to know Bex, she introduces him to her grandfather, George Abbott. Conrad gets on well with him and wants to know why he was out so early and behaving strangely. He begins asking questions and his dad tells him of a local tragedy years before, where a young guy drowned in the strong current of the river. He’d argued with a friend over a girl and had been drinking. The friend was asleep on the bank at the time and not responsible, but had carried the guilt with him his entire life. That man was George Abbott.

As Conrad’s friendship with Bex builds, her trust in him grows. She tells Conrad that George’s wanderings have got worse since his wife died and when he goes missing one day, Conrad is the first person she calls for help. George has left a note. Where can he be? Will they find him before something terrible happens?

Conrad and Bex race to the river on the back of her horse towards an action packed finale, to face another near tragedy.

Sinking is a fabulous story full of believable characters and David Hill’s wonderful wit. Conrad made me laugh out loud and I felt for George and his battle with early Alzheimer’s.

Reviewed by Adele Broadbent


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4. An exciting new historical junior fiction series

New Zealand Girl Series published by Puffin (Penguin New Zealand)

Penguin has just released an exciting new series for girls. The lacy cover with pink titles led me to think the stories within would be sugary sweet – what I found instead were well written adventure stories by two skilled authors.

Rebecca and the Queen of Nations by Deborah Burnside

Set in 1874 and beginning in Ireland 10-year-old Becky takes desperate measures into her hands. She escapes the workhouse and leaves behind her orphaned brothers and sisters, stealing a horse so that she can travel to Belfast to find her brother Felix. She lands a maid’s job on board Felix’s boat the Queen of Nations, which is setting sail for New Zealand.

Young Becky must look after the family while the children’s mother is laid ill with sea sickness and late stages of pregnancy. Becky has all the skills to help the family; she had been her mam’s right-hand while she was alive. Guilt still tugs her that she could have helped her own Mam’s labour but instead she ran to get help. Can she help this mother, will she survive the taunting of the older boy Patrick and last the long journey to New Zealand?

Author Deborah Burnside tells a convincing story of what it would be like on board a ship.

“’No naked flame below!’ came the call through the hatch before it was sealed. All lamps were trimmed, and the emigrants waited out their fate in the dark. Storms had come and gone before, but this time the wind screamed around the masts and raked its nails down the canvas, and the waves thrashed at the decks, thrusting watery fingers into every crack and crevice.”

She evokes the sounds, smells and happenings on board. We join Rebecca in the excitement and fears of life as a nineteenth-century immigrant girl. So much so, you’ll wish the story continued after they land in Auckland.

Hene and the Burning Harbour by Paula Morris

Hene’s life in the pa changes the day missionary woman Mata Wiremu sails into their village, in 1845. She carries the important medicine that could help Hene’s ailing brother Taehi along with all the other sick whanau. Hene is excited to be the one to spread the good news that the healing woman has arrived but is dumbstruck when she is told later that day she must go back with her to Paihia Mission. Hene doesn’t want to go to school – she wants to run free and help her family. She has no choice.

At the mission she must wear an itchy hot dress, attend class every day where she learns to read and write. She also has to learn how to sew, which her clumsy fingers struggle to master. She’s lonely and pines for her family until Rangi joins the school. She befriends the girl and finds out life at the missionary is much better than Rangi’s life in the town of Kororareka (now called Russell). When Kororareka is attacked Hene must face her fears to rescue Rangi.

This series is a must for any study of nineteenth century New Zealand in Years 5-8. Teachers could pair the books up with non-fiction books, as part of the Reading and Social Studies curriculum. Students will enjoy the suspenseful stories at school or reading for pleasure.  Boys will be put off by the frills on the cover but girls will delight in the strong female characters and stories that end with hope.

I like that the books also have extensive glossaries, a map of the region, historical notes about the time the stories are set, and the authors stories about how they became a New Zealand girl.

I hope that Penguin will also provide Teaching Notes on their website for this series in the future.

RRP $12.99 
More books in this series to come. Watch out for 'Charlotte and the Golden Promise' by Sandy McKay - coming soon.

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5. Fictional book about bullying for 10-13 year olds

Batjack by Ann Neville published by Create Books
Thirteen year old Tom wants to audition for the school musical Batjack but he has a problem …

A Big One – Dylan, the school bully, and Tom’s arch enemy want the same part.

When Tom is cast as the main character and Dylan is his understudy the battle begins – fights, verbal abuse, vandalism, theft … You name it, it happens.

How will Tom and his friends deal with the bullying? What is Dylan’s secret? Can they reach a compromise and manage to co-habit on the same planet let alone the same stage? Read on to find out …
Bullying is an issue in most (if not all) schools. Kids are often too scared to tell their parents or teachers and suffer in silence.  As a teacher I saw it happening all the time and talked to the class about looking out for each other.
Batjack is a much needed story that would make a wonderful read aloud in class. After each chapter the students could talk about the issues that have been brought up and also role play or problem solve how they would get out of situations.  I think Ann has taken the issue of bullying one step further than most books too.  She has addressed the problem that a bully might have and looked at how victims can be more confident and therefore not look like victims or easy targets.
If I was still teaching I would encourage the students to turn the problem solving techniques  into posters. I suggest that schools perhaps invite a self defence instructor to teach a few sessions.  At the moment, schools seem to deal with the problems rather than search for solutions. This book will be a great addition to middle, senior Primary and Intermediate schools libraries (even years 9 and 10 where bullying is often rife) plus I'd recommend schools purchase it as a resource for their Health curriculum.
Ann also has two small books - one for children and another for parents - as a follow up to the book.  She'll also be adding a free downloadable teaching resource to her website:  www.createbooks.co.nz
Ann Neville has lived in Hamilton most of her life and taught in various towns in New Zealand and the UK. She has written Bullying Guides for parents and children, as well as other educational resources.
Ann has a Master’s in Education, Diploma in Educational Management, Diploma in Educational Leadership and Graduate Diploma in Creative Writing. She has also studied Short Story Writing for Children and is currently completing a Diploma in Publishing through Whitireia New Zealand.
Her research has looked at all forms of violence including physical, verbal, isolation, sexism, ageism and cyber bullying. This lead Ann to write the book ‘Violence...not in our school’, which was made possible through a Graduate Study Award from the University of Waikato.  A Winston Churchill Fellowship enabled Ann to travel to USA to study their strategies for dealing with violence in American schools.
Her book ‘Batjack’, aimed mainly at 9 to 13 year olds, was short-listed for the Tom Fitzgibbon Award in 2011.

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6. Historical fiction for boys

Conrad Cooper’s Last Stand by Leonie Agnew, Penguin NZ

Fans of Leonie’s award-winning Super Finn will be bound to enjoy this new story. It’s set in Auckland in 1978 at the time of the Bastion Point occupation. It’s written from the point of view of ten-year-old Conrad, who’s very much an innocent abroad. He lives just down the road from Bastion Point and when the story starts he has no idea what’s going on. Conrad has his own problems trying to figure out gods and who to believe in and all that stuff. He settles on believing in Tane Mahuta, Maori god of the forests - so the story is written in a style that frequently addresses Tane. Conrad thinks Tane would like him to protest over the removal of an old pohutukawa in the school grounds, and this idea gradually ends up with Conrad getting involved in the Bastion Point protest. Conrad’s mental torments are described in a light-hearted, wry-sounding tone - but the underlying themes are anything but light-hearted. Conrad’s personal struggle over how to cope with his authoritarian stepfather is an important subject, and the background information about the Bastion Point occupation and eviction makes essential reading for New Zealand youngsters, both Maori and Pakeha. Heartily recommended for readers of about ten to thirteen, especially boys.

Themes:  family issues, historical fiction, reading age 8-13 years

ISBN 978 0 143 57119 3 $19.99 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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7. A new book from Adele Broadbent

The Last Herrick Secret by Adele Broadbent, AV Project

This is a sequel to Too Many Secrets(HarperCollins NZ, 2010) – an exciting adventure story about a teenage girl who finds all sorts of secrets connected to a rundown homestead in the bush. In this book, Becs is delighted to return to civilisation and ordinary teenage life – and also excited about bringing Isaiah with her (he’s the teenage boy she discovered hiding out in the bush). Inevitably, things go wrong. Isaiah is initially shunned as a “ wild boy”,  and takes a long time to make friends. Meanwhile Becs is having trouble picking up where she left off with her former friends. To add to her woes, there’s a strange teacher at school who seems to be spying on her – what’s going on? A school camp creates even more problems -  and Becs is devastated when her family suddenly whisk her and Isaiah back to Herrick House to sort out problems with his family (there’s a ghost involved!). It’s an easy and absorbing read, written from the point of view of both Becs and Isaiah. Both characters come across as credible and likeable, and the school setting is very authentic. A must-read for any teenage girl who enjoyed the first book.

ISBN 978 0 473 22411 0 $20 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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8. Excellent read for 10 years plus

A Winter's Day in 1939 by Melinda Szymanik (Scholastic)

This has to be the best book I've read this year.  It has adventure, emotional moments and tense moments.  It is the sort of book you buy extra copies so you can give them to other people to read because you want them to be acquainted with such an excellent book. What's it about?

Twelve-year-old Adam lives with his family in Poland attending school and helping on the farm until the Russians invade their country. His family are transported to work in a labour camp in Russia. They are forced to work to buy meagre food supplies and survive in over-crowded unclean conditions. Not everyone makes it out alive. When the Germans declare war on the Russians they are freed - but where to? They are sent from one side of the country to another by train, ship and by foot. Will the family make it out together or does illness claim one or more of their lives ...

It is a coming of age story - Adam at first naive and angry about small things learns to overcome his issues with his father and take over the responsibility of looking after his mother and little sister while his father and older brother are away fighting. You'll cry, you'll stay up late to read-on, and you'll be grateful to read about a bit of Polish history you may not have known about.

Melinda Szymanik writes picture books, short stories, and junior fiction for several publishing houses. She won the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards for her book 'The Were Nana' in 2009. Other books include: Jack the Viking (Scholastic), The House that Went to Sea (Duck Creek), The Half Life of Ryan Davis (Pear Jam), Sally Bangle: Unexpected Detective (Tale-Spin).

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9. My New Zealand Story series latest book

Cyclone Bola, Gisborne, 1988 by Kath Beattie, Scholastic NZ

The latest title in Scholastic’s My New Zealand Story series, this diary-style story looks at the devastation wrought by Cyclone Bola in the Gisborne city and rural areas. The cyclone is well within my memory but I have to confess I had little recall of how bad it was (yes, I am an Aucklander!).  A page of statistics in the book gives some idea of the destruction: 4000 people evacuated, 56,000 hectares of farmland damaged, 300 houses damaged or relocated, 17 bridges totally or partially destroyed, and millions of dollars’ worth of animal stock killed. The story is told by Amy Dyer, who’s about twelve when she gets sent to live on a family farm near Gisborne while her parents are doing a yacht trip. There’s some mildly interesting material as the farm setting is described and Amy details how she’s getting on at a different school (she has to do research and write essays for her previous teacher in Auckland). The only hassle seems to be that there’s a cyclone brewing in the area near Vanuatu where her parents are, and Amy is worried about them. Of course a few days later the cyclone hits New Zealand – and Amy and her great-uncle and aunt are marooned in the farmhouse while the rain thunders on the roof and the wind howls and the flood rises. The descriptions of the experience are vivid, and obviously based on first-hand information. Another useful title in this excellent series – I’m sure teachers will be glad to include it in their studies of disasters.

ISBN 978 1 77543 100 8, RRP $18.50 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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10. Another Great Read from Des Hunt

Phantom of Terawhiti by Des Hunt, HarperCollins NZ

Another title in Des’s long line of exciting adventure stories with strong New Zealand settings and themes. This one is set on Wellington’s wild south-west coast, in the Makara area. Zac and his father are living on the remote Terawhiti Station, trying to stay incognito (Zac’s father was involved in a business scandal). But a large boat belonging to a Russian billionaire is shipwrecked on the rocks nearby – and a strange creature seems to have come ashore. Zac and a local girl called Jess track the animal down and find that it’s a tame albino serval, ie. a large wildcat. Unfortunately a couple of Russian thugs are also looking for the rare animal, as well as some over-enthusiastic hunters. Zac and Jess work frantically to save the cat, but their task is made even more difficult when she’s located near Zealandia, a wildlife conservation park. It’s an absorbing read for intermediate ages, especially boys.

Note to publishers – readers DO study the cover and pick up mistakes. The spooky feline eyes on the front should belong to a white cat, not a black one.
Des Hunt is the author of thirteen novels, including the acclaimed CRY OF THE TANIWHA. After forty years working in education he is now a full-time writer, using novels to share his fascination with science, technology and the world around us. For more information visit deshunt.com.
ISBN 978 1 86950 954 5 $19.99 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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11. Junior Fiction title about one of New Zealand's worst maritime disasters

Where the Flag Floats by D.C. Grant, Pear Jam Books

Most Aucklanders know a little about the wreck of the screw-driven corvette HMS Orpheus on the Manukau Bar on February 7th 1863 (the 150th anniversary was this year). Many of us have visited the memorial and the little museum at Huia. But it takes a vivid and absorbing story such as this to really make us understand what happened. It was New Zealand’s worst maritime disaster, with 189 crew members killed out of a total of 259. Dawn Grant has woven a highly readable account of the disaster from the point of view of a young stowaway, Sam Galloway. It begins with Sam becoming a penniless orphan when his mother dies in Sydney. His only hope is a valuable watch engraved with an inscription that he can’t read because he is illiterate. This watch apparently proves that he’s related to a wealthy family - he knows he has to travel to Auckland to find them. But villains interfere and Sam ends up hiding on the Orpheus, still in pursuit of his precious watch. When the shipwreck happens, Sam is near the officers who are debating the best way to go over the bar - and he hears their fateful decisions. The author’s descriptions of the gradual disintegration of the ship and the deaths of the sailors make gripping reading. I won’t say what happens to Sam, but the story does end happily. Highly recommended for young readers of about 9 to 14 who like historical stories - and it would also be useful as part of a classroom study of disasters.

DC Grant writes about sports, guns and battles, but not always in the same book. Grant's first book In Too Deep is about surfing. The first book in the Catch Jason Shaw series, High Speed, is about murder. Other works include historical fiction and featured pieces on www.rorkesdriftvc.com.
ISBN 978-0-473-23618-2 RRP $19.99 (pbk) $4.99 (e-book) Pb
Buy from here
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman



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12. A new junior fiction series by Vince Ford

'Scrap: Tale of a Blond Puppy' Book 1
'Scrap: Oh my Dob' Book 2
'Scrap: Dog on Trial' Book 3 all by Vince Ford (Scholastic)

Scholastic have put out some interesting young Junior Fiction over the last two years. A dinosaur series by Kyle Mewburn for boys and a cute angel series by Elizabeth Pulford. Now, Scholastic have published a series that will interest rural children with the Scrap series.

Little Scrap has the 'eye' - it just comes natural to him. He doesn't know much else until Bill an old sheep dog takes him under his wing and teaches him about life. Stuff like - he's a dog not a human, electric fences hurt and where he came from. Once Scrap knows his mother most likely didn't abandon him he's desperate to find her.

In Book 2, Scrap goes to live with his new owner Johnny Mac and gets to know the new pack with Buster the new leader. Scrap can't wait to visit the farm where his mother lives but he's been told by Buster he cannot - if he doesn't get shot by the owner, Buster will fight him for disobeying orders. Scrap learns how to work as a team along with novice header dog Sam.

In Book 3, Scrap's talent is noticed and he goes to the dog trials. He has an unfortunate encounter with his father and meets his match with the young Kelpie, Jess. Will they save the day in their most challenging situation yet!

Seven to nine year old children (boys and girls) will enjoy reading this series about a growing seeing 'eye' dog learning his trade and growing up. Written from the point of view of a growing pup, with lots of subtle facts about the life of a sheep dog and life's lessons. In each book Scrap is a year older; nicely shown with an illustration of Scrap on the cover at differing ages.

Vince Ford has written for this age group before with Possums 2U, Jonty & Choc, and for older boys his Chronicles of Stone Series, The Dare Club and Boyznbikes. He writes this series with just as much skill, never over-writing or being too sentimental. Will be highly popular for rural kids and boys and girls who love dogs.

Book 1 9781775430803
Book 2 9781775430810
Book 3 9781775430827

RRP $15.00

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13. A new exciting WW1 story for 10-14 year olds

When our Jack went to war by Sandy McKay (Random House)

Tom, his mum and little sister Amy are proud but worried when their older brother and son has to go off to war. They have already lost their husband and father, leaving mum depressed and prone to staring out the window for hours on end.

They’d be lost with Mum’s friend Mrs J from around the corner – who comes in and sorts out the house and gets mum moving again.

Letters begin between 13 yr old Tom and 18 yr old Jack away at Trentham training camp. The letters are light hearted to begin with, giving the reader an insight into 1916 New Zealand childhoods through Tom’s letters, and life as a trainee soldier from Jack.

But as Jack gets closer to the fighting after a trip across the ocean to England and time spent in another camp in France, the letters portray the real horrors of war in the trenches. Lice, rats, hunger and shellshock. Media from the time is a sharp contrast to the truth of Jack’s new existence. Prepare for a harrowing but credible conclusion.

Interspersed with advertisements and newspaper clippings from the time, When our Jack went to War is a fictional but realistic story of NZ’s involvement in the WW1 in 1916. Many families would’ve followed the same journey Jack’s family did.

ISBN 9781775431329    RRP$20   P/B 192 Pages

Reviewed by Adele Broadbent

Based on the author's research into the death of her own great uncle, who died in 1917. The NZ Post Award-winning Sandy Mckay ably conveys how war affects everyone ...

Teaching notes here

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14. Sally Sutton's Diaries

Diary of a Frog by Sally Sutton, ill. Dave Gunson, Scholastic NZ

Diary of a Sea Lion by Sally Sutton, ill. Dave Gunson, Scholastic NZ

There’s a gap in the New Zealand market relating to stories for primary-aged readers. Scholastic NZ seems to be targeting this gap, with their Littlest Angel series (Elizabeth Pulford) and Dinosaur Rescue series (Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley). Now they’ve got another series under way which originated with Sally Sutton’s Diary of a Pukeko and continued in Diary of a Bat. The books have the same format and story structure - an unobtrusive diary format, first-person narration, a plot involving a personal challenge that children can relate to, frequent black pen cartoon illustrations, and a quirky modern style with plenty of puns and inside jokes.

The sea lion story focuses on a young female who’s afraid of the water. She deflects the scorn of the other sea lions by telling them stories about a courageous young sea lion who lived in the 19th century and helped a gang of shipwrecked sailors survive. The frog story introduces us to a self-opinionated young Hochstetter’s frog who is determined to nab the leading role in the school drama production but also suffers from debilitating stage fright. At the end of the books you’ll find one or two pages of true facts about the featured animal and its environment. Good fun for confident readers of about 7 to 10, and also useful for short intermittent read-alouds in the classroom. Both books have Teachers’ Notes available on the Scholastic website.
Diary of a Frog Teacher Notes
Diary of a Sea Lion Teacher Notes

ISBN 978 1 77543 152 7 RRP $16.50 Pb

ISBN 978 1 77543 153 4  RRP $16.50 Pb

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The Travelling Restaurant: Jasper’s Voyage in Three Parts by Barbara Else, Gecko Press I’ve been tossing round words like quaint and quirky and original – they all apply to this light-hearted fantasy set in a country called Fontania. Twelve-year-old Jasper Ludlow is suddenly bundled away with his family on to a sailing ship but unfortunately he is left behind – with no idea what’s going on or what caused the panic. He manages to get aboard a peculiar circular multi-coloured ship called The Travelling Restaurant, crewed by a secretive young woman and captained by a gruff elderly man. Weird things start happening as TTR sails eastwards to re-unite Jasper with his family. Non-stop adventures ensue – involving a wicked, witchy woman who is determined to become queen, a missing baby, pirates, monkeys, spying seagulls, an unreliable uncle, a magical dragon-eagle – and a whole lot more. The book is excellently presented by Gecko Press, with an eye-catching cover, cover flaps which unfold to reveal two maps (very useful), and even a postcard to use as a bookmark. The writing is lively and the plot inventive but it’s a solid read that will appeal mostly to smart readers of intermediate age who don’t mind tackling something a bit different. To be released in April. ISBN 978 1 877467 77 6 RRP $24.99 Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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16. Books for all ages - Children and Young Adult

Picture Book
Sam Pylar by Shalesh Vasan, ill. Duncan West, Phantom Tree House

I couldn’t find any information on the internet about this writer, and the publisher’s website at www.phantomhouse.com wasn’t very forthcoming. Recommendation to small publishers: provide plenty of information online for reviewers, booksellers, and librarians. It’s a mildly spooky story about a vampire named Sam Pylar, written from the p.o.v. of Lucy, his 7-year-old classmate. When Sam eats a garlic sausage at Lucy’s birthday party, he is severely indisposed. He later re-visits Lucy as a vampire bat to deliver his good wishes. The production of the book is handsome, with a fold-over glossy cover and top-quality paper. The illustrations are done in an old-fashioned style reminiscent of the Phantom-type comics of the mid-1900s. The illustrator has taken a daring step by rendering the first half of the book in muted colour and the second half in heavy black ink, presumably to emphasis the spookiness of Sam’s transformation into a bat. Children may need this change of style explained to them. Definitely not a book for pre-schoolers.
ISBN 978 0 9864571 6 6 RRP $19.99 Pb

YA Novel
Snakes and Ladders by Mary-Anne Scott, Scholastic NZ
This is Mary-Anne Scott’s first book, but writing runs in her blood – her mother is Joy Watson, author of the popular Grandpa’s Cardigan series. The novel takes a contemporary look at several current issues such as parent-child relationships, bullying, and peer pressure. Finn’s aging rocker dad is on trial for accidentally killing a pedestrian. Initially Finn is glad to take up his grandmother’s offer to fund him at an exclusive boys’ boarding school – but Finn soon finds out that his family secrets make him a target for a bully. His life becomes more and more complicated as he tries to fulfil the expectations of Mia, a popular girl at a nearby school who has decided Finn will make a nice accessory for the school ball. But a disastrous after-ball party results in heartbreak for Finn and his mates, and Finn finally realises it’s time to face up to his own demons and reveal the truth about earlier events. Finn is an engaging hero, and

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The Brain Suckerby Glenn Wood (Walker Books Aust)

Callum McCulloch has just turned 13. He wakes to find the present he’s always wanted – a Thunderkit wheelchair from his grandmother. Paralysed from the waist down, this wheelchair will let him go places he hasn’t gone before. After trying it out he returns home elated with it. That’s until his Gran receives a letter from the Welfare Department questioning her ability to continue to care for him. They have to go to the city for a meeting.

Meanwhile, another story is being told of a man called Lester Smythe. From very small, Lester has been ignored or misunderstood causing him to become bitter and evil. He has grown to hate any goodness he sees and has built a machine called The Brain Sucker. This machine is connected to a victim’s ear which then sucks out the goodness from their brain. (A few adjustments had to be made along the way as the first machine he invented took out a little more than he’d planned). He plans to dispose of all this goodness so it cannot return to its owner.

Back to Callum who travels to the city with his best friend Sophie and Gran. This is where the two stories collide with terrible results. Gran become Lester’s latest victim of The Brain Sucker and she changes into a rude, nasty woman. Can they get her ‘goodness’ back before their Welfare Department interview?

With Sophie’s gadget expertise and their friend Toby (nicknamed Jinx because of all the terrible things that happen to him), they embark on their dangerous mission, facing Lester, his henchmen and his terrible machine.

A great story for 8+ with firm friendships, gadgets, guns and all the action young readers love. The age old concept of good vs evil filled with humorous characters both imaginative and some closer to people we may know...
Listen to comedian Jeremy Corbett read the story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpegzV2vzZs&feature=youtu.be
New Plymouth born author Glenn Wood is an ex cop, copywriter, screenwriter, actor, and full time writer. He's had two books published for adults about his hilarious experiences in the police force. This is his first book for children. His second follows June 2013. 
ISBN – 9781921977633           RRP$19     248 pages  

Reviewed by Adele Broadbent

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18. A new junior fiction from Scholastic

Rabbit by MargaretBeames (Scholastic NZ)

Jack has always wanted a dog and when he overhears his parents whispering about his upcoming birthday, he knows this year it’s finally going to happen. Or so he thinks. What is waiting for him in the cardboard box on the back lawn is not a puppy, but a rabbit.

He is disappointed, until the rabbit speaks to him. At first Jack is shocked but it soon sinks in and they decide on a name together. The rabbit is to be called Henry.

But Jack isn’t the only one who hears Henry talk. The girl next door is listening on the other side of the fence and she rushes to tell her family. No one but her older brother believes her – who sees an opportunity to make some money.

When Henry disappears from his hutch, Jack, his best friend Nick and the little girl who started it all end up in a dangerous adventure to get him back home and safe.

A junior novel from the author of forty books for children, including ‘Oliver’, ‘The Shearwater Bell’ and ‘Duster’. ‘Rabbit’ is another story young readers will enjoy, which deals with friendships and family, and explores the topic of animal testing.

 ISBN 9781775430919  RRP $20.00

Teacher Notes: http://www.scholastic.co.nz/Resources/Notes/Rabbit.pdf

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19. Holiday Reading for 6-9 year olds

This age group wants to read grown-up chapter books but still need illustrations to help them understand what is happening in the book. In the past two years, NZ and Australian publishers have taken up the challenge and produced some fantastic books for 6-9 year olds. Here's some that this age group will thoroughly enjoy reading these holidays:

Dinosaur Rescue series by Kyle Mewburn, illustrated by Donovan Bixley (Scholastic)

Young Arg finds it difficult to find into his tribe of dimwitted Neanderthals. They don't understand his need to wear clothes and talk full sentences. Luckily he finds a friend in a talking T-rex called Skeet. The two of them have many adventures - saving the tribe, dinosaur species and getting out of tricky situations. Told with lots of humour, sprinkling of dinosaur facts and illustrated with Donovan's wacky illustrations. For boys who've finished the Captain Underpant series and wanting more (especially little dinosaur afficianados).
Book 1 - T-Wreck-Asaurus - meet the family, Arg and Skeet - and have an adventure
Book 2 - Stego-Snottysaurus - Arg has to find a way to save the dinosaurs from a deadly flu
Book 3 - Velocitychy-Raptor - A baby velociraptor needs saving from a hungry quetzalcoatlus
Book 4 - Diplo-dizzdocus - Arg and Skeet need to save the dizzy diplo-dizzdocus
Book 5 - Spino-Rottysaurus - The dracoraxes will become extinct unless Arg saves them
Book 6 - Dako-Snappysaurus - On Arg's first hunting trip things go horribly wrong...
Book 7 - Scuto-Stickysaurus - Arg gets himself into a very sticky situation that could end badly

Retail price $12.00,  Target Age 8-10 years

Littlest Angel series by Elizabeth Pulford, illustrated by Aki Fukuoka (Scholastic)

Little Lily joins the Angel Academy. In order to progress through the ranks she has to do good deeds, help the team win sports, and keep herself out of mischief.  A perfect series for little girls who loved reading the Fairy series and want more of the same.  Each book is produced in pretty colours, sprinkled with glitter and illustrated with Aki Fukuoka's cute drawings. Can be read to, with or by 6-8 year old readers.

Book 1: Lily gets her wings - in order to join the academy she must earn her wings first
Book 2: Lily has a secret - Can Lily keep the kitten secret while earning her silver slippers?
Book 3: Lily goes skitter skating - Will Lily's team beat the All Saints Angel team in snow sports?
Book 4: Lily chases lost dreams - Lily wants to earn her silver star but has twin troubles
Book 5: Lily lands in bubble trouble - Lily longs to be part of Mother Angel's birthday celebrations
Book 6: Lily gets in a pink pickle - Lily finds herself in a spot of trouble

Retail price $12.00, Target Age 6-9 years

Saffron Series by Victoria Azaro (Penguin)
Young Saffron travels the world with her family. She tries to help her mother and father but manages to make a mess of things. Saffron thinks she knows how to do everything and speak any language - only that is not quite true...

Book 1: Saffron
Book 2: Saffron I have everything under control
Book 3: Saffron So Quite Excellent

Retail price $14.99, Target Age 6-9 years

Other series to look at for this age group are:

Ophelia Wild Secret Spy by Elena de Roo, Book 1 out and more to come (Walker)

Violet Mackerel series by Anna Branford, illustrated by Sarah Davies (Walker)
Book 1: Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot
Book 2: Violet Mackerel's Remarkable Recovery
Book 3: Violet Mackerel's Natural Habitat
Book 4: Violet Mackerel's Personal Space

Diary of a Bat and Diary of a Pukeko by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Dave Gunson (Scholastic)

Literacy Mysteries series by Hazel Edwards e-books
Book 1: Artnapping
Book 2: False Bottom
Book 3: Fleeced
Book 4: Game Play
Book 5: The Ideas Pirates
Book 6: Winning a Giraffe called Geoffrey
Book 7: Birds on the Brain
Book 8: Mindspaces
Book 9: Zoo Poo Clues

Nit Boy series by Tristan Bancks

Enjoy your reading!

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20. For boys who love their sports!

Shot, Boom, Score!By Justin Brown (Allen & Unwin)

‘Right, now, my boy.’ When Toby’s dad says these words, Toby knows he’s in trouble. But this time is different. Sure he just double bounced his big sister off the trampoline, and she has a broken arm to show for it – but Dad thinks Toby just needs something to focus on. Something to aim for.

Toby can’t believe his ears when Dad promises Toby a GameBox V3 if he can score 20 wickets and 10 tries in the following cricket and rugby seasons. Too easy!

Toby lives and breathes sports, can bowl top spinners with his eyes shut and score tries all day long. But then a new kid joins their class. (Someone as big as an adult with hairy caveman legs). Someone called Malcolm McGarvy.

When Malcolm learns of Toby’s challenge, he does everything in his power to prevent Toby achieving it, with tons of dirty tricks up his sleeve. But Toby is determined… Then rugby season rolls around and Toby is up against his teacher, mean Mrs Martin-Edge who suspends him for four games! But that GameBox V3 is too good to give up on.

A laugh out loud tale for all sports lovers! Cricket & rugby are key themes but Toby lives and breathes all sports, is loyal to his mates, and is a likeable character.

Originally hailing from Hawera, Justin Brown has had many travels, been  a radio and tv host, creative writing teacher and  a stand up comic. He has written non-fiction for children and adults, animation scripts, and junior chapter books with Shot, Boom Score! his first novel for children. Check out his website - www.justinbrownbooks.com

ISBN – 978 1743313688 RRP $19

Paperback 180 Pages

Due out Feb 2013

Reviewed by Adele Broadbent

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21. Melinda Szymanik's Latest Offering

Sally Bangle: Unexpected Detective by Melinda Szymanik (Tale-spin Media) e-book

"She used the end of the pen to push her wispy hair behind her ears. Then she wrote My mother is Felicity Bangle (strict), My Father is Captain William Bangle (lost), she couldn’t bring herself to say ‘dead’ and anyway no one was one hundred percent sure that was true. My brother is a pain in the butt she wrote. She crossed out the last bit after is and put Malcolm Bangle instead. Then she couldn’t help adding, (annoying). She started a new section. Favourite foods: ham and pineapple pizza, salt and vinegar chips, chocolate. Hate: Mum’s Tuna Surprise and asparagus. Best friend - Abigail Fray. Worst enemy - Vanessa Blunt (I wish we’d never met). Greatest wish: to have my Dad back and go to a different school and never ever be bullied again."

Sally Bangle's life sucks! Her dad went missing at sea seven years ago, her mother has left her job and is acting strange, and Vanessa - the school bully - won't stop hassling her at school. While studying for a school project Sally finds a photograph of her father with Major Blunt and Professor Angstrom. Sally is determined to ask these men what really happened to her father. Her questions get her into a whole load of trouble and unearths more than she bargained for... 
A story about standing up for yourself, not to take everyone at face-value, and not giving up. A mystery story for 8-12 year olds who love a good detective book.

Melinda Szymanik is the author of picture books, short stories and novels for young people. She lives in Auckland with her family and runs a business with her husband. She won the 2009 NZ Post Children’s Choice Award for her picture book The Were-Nana.
Read more here.
Buy it at Amazon and other ebook websites.
ISBN: 978 047323336-5
RRP $2.99

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22. From New Zealand illustrator Sarah Davis

Violet Mackerel’s Possible Friend, by Anna Branford, illus. Sarah Davis, Walker Books Australia

This is the fifth title in the Violet Mackerel series. I’ve only read one other – and loved it. This one is just as good. Violet’s family are in their new house, and Violet is keen to make friends with the girl next door. But making friends is tricky business, and Violet is nervous about doing things properly. Hopefully her Theory About Swapping Small Things will guide her in what to do. But when she goes to Rose’s birthday party in a home-made flower costume, bringing a home-made present, and finds the other girls dressed in expensive fancy dress and carrying store-bought presents, she’s just about ready to run away... Of course, all ends happily. Sarah Davis’s appealing drawings are on nearly every double-spread, helping Violet come vividly to life in the minds of the reader. Heartily recommended for girls of about 7 to 10.  

ISBN 978 1 921977 56 5 $24.99 Hb

Lorraine Orman

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