Tag Archives: animals

Phantom of Terawhiti by Des Hunt

Des Hunt is one of my favourite New Zealand authors because he writes action-packed adventure stories set in New Zealand.  The setting is always so important in his stories and Des has introduced Kiwi kids to parts our beautiful country that are both familiar and unexplored territory for them. In his latest book, Phantom of Terawhiti, Des takes us to Wellington’s wild southwest coast and introduces us to Zac, who stumbles on an interesting discovery.

It’s the school holidays and Zac thinks he might go crazy with boredom. He’s living in exile with his disgraced father on the remote Terawhiti Station on Wellington’s wild southwest coast. Then Zac and his dad witness a boat sink during a storm. Investigating further, Zac finds a set of unusual animal prints on the beach. Whose boat is it? And what creature could have made the prints? Soon armed men are prowling the coast, and threatening Zac, his friends and his family. He must do all he can to protect the Phantom of Terawhiti from those intent on hunting it down.

Phantom of Terawhiti is an action-packed adventure story, packed with mystery,  armed and angry Russians, brainless hunters, wild weather, a car chase, and a race against time.  Des Hunt is a gifted storyteller who never fails to write a story that grips readers and makes you keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.  In Phantom of Terawhiti there are plenty of heart-stopping moments, especially when Zac and Jess clash with the Russians.  The mystery of the ‘Phantom of Terawhiti’ draws you in and, even when the creature is revealed, you wonder how it will survive in the wild with the hunters trying to track it down.

Like the main characters in his other books, Zac and Jess are just normal Kiwi kids, who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (or maybe the right place at the right time).  Zac gets dragged by his dad to come and live on the remote Terawhiti Station, and it’s while he’s here that he discovers the wreck of the yacht and the paw prints in the sand.  When they discover the Phantom of Terawhiti, Zac and Jess know that they must do everything they can to protect it.  Kiwi kids will relate to Zac and Jess and will imagine themselves in their shoes.

Phantom of Terawhiti is one of Des Hunt’s best books so far and I can’t wait to see where in the country he will take us to next.

4 out of 5 stars

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Picture Book Nook: That’s Mine! by Michel Van Zeveren

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the little frog finds an egg.

“That’s mine!” he says.

But the snake wants his egg, and so does the eagle, and so does the lizard…But what does the angry elephant want?

 

 

 

That’s Mine! by Michel Van Zeveren is a gem of a picture book that’s simple, yet surprising.  You start off thinking you know where the story is going, but it veers off in a completely different direction (these are the best sorts of stories).  The illustrations are bold and I love the expressions on the animals faces, especially right at the end.

 

The thing I like most about this book though is the text and the design.  As each of the animals appears the sound they make turns into a word, like the eagle who flies in saying “Ack…ack…ack..actually it’s mine.”  Children can follow the direction that each animal appears from by following the direction of the words (the hsss of the snake drops down from the top to the bottom of the page).  I love the way that the text changes size depending on how loud the animal is talking and in relation to their size.  On a page featuring all the animals, the text is largest for the elephant and smallest for the frog, so it’s clear that each of the animals has a different voice.

That’s Mine! is the perfect picture book for reading aloud.  You can do different voices for all the animals and make it really silly.  It could even be acted out in the classroom, with each child being a different animal.

4 out of 5 stars

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Picture Book Nook: Hey Baby! by Corinne Fenton

Everybody loves a cute animal photo, especially when it involves baby animals.  The latest picture book by Corinne Fenton is filled with extremely cute photos of baby animals and it’s perfect for sharing snuggled up with your baby.

Corinne’s lovely text is from the point of view of a parent, telling their baby just how special, precious and unique they are.  I love the positive message of the text and parents will love reading it to their baby.  I also really like the layout of the text on the page and the way Corinne has used different colours for the text.  The text is perfectly matched with some beautiful photos of baby animals, from pigs and rabbits, to monkeys and elephants.  When the text talks about eyes and ears, the photos are of baby animals with unique eyes and ears.  The photos are quite extraordinary and will make you laugh (especially the monkeys holding their breath) and make you go ‘awwww’ (especially the baby elephant running along).  I love that there is lots of white space so the focus of you and your baby goes straight to the animals, and that the photos are quite large and close up so that you can see the unique features of the animals.

If you’re looking for that perfect book to give to a newborn baby or for a special book to give to your own baby this Christmas you can’t go past Hey Baby! by Corinne Fenton.  

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Picture Book Nook: If You’re a Kiwi and You Know It! sung by Pio Terei, illustrations by Stevie Mahardhika

Children love singing and dancing to songs like ‘The Wheels on the Bus,’ ‘Old MacDonald Had a Farm,’ and ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It.’  In the last few years there have been a number of books, based on these action songs, that have been given a Kiwi twist.  Donovan Bixley’s The Wheels on the Bus and Old MacDonald’s Farm, and Do Your Ears Hang Low by The Topp Twins and Jenny Cooper, are recent favourites of mine.  Scholastic New Zealand, along with Kiwi entertainer Pio Terei and illustrator Stevie Mahardhika, have just released a Kiwi version of ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It,’ called If You’re a Kiwi and You Know It!

They have taken the original action song and given it a Kiwi twist by adding in some of our wonderful wildlife.  Kids can join in the song and dig for worms like a kiwi, dive and play like a dolphin, strut around like a pukeko, slither away like an eel, and many more.  The actions are easy to do and you can have a lot of fun pretending to be different creatures.  Stevie Mahardhika’s illustrations are beautiful and they get funnier as you go through the book.  I love how each of the animals pretends to be a different animal (the kiwi and pukeko trying to dive like a dolphin and flap their flippers like a seal are absolutely hilarious!).

The book comes with a great CD of Pio Terei singing the song (and just the guitar accompaniment), as well as a Te Reo Maori version of the song.  Thank you so much Scholastic New Zealand for including the Te Reo version of the song on the CD and for including the Te Reo lyrics in the back of the book (rather than as a separate book).  This is a godsend for librarians like myself who will use this book and CD in their preschool sessions in the library, and for parents all over the country.  We certainly need more bilingual books of this quality.  Get a copy of If You’re a Kiwi and You Know It! from your library or bookshop now, and sing and dance along with our wonderful wildlife.

4 out of 5 stars

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Picture Book Nook: A Hare, A Hound and Shy Mousey Brown by Julia Hubery

The best picture books are those where the text and the illustrations are perfectly matched.  Even though the author and illustrator may have worked in different parts of the world, the book is so perfect that they could have been working side by side.  A Hare, a Hound and Shy Mousey Brown, written by Julia Hubery and illustrated by Jonathan Bentley is one of those rare picture books.

‘There’s a hare in the air, there’s a hound on the ground, and watching them both is shy Mousey Brown.’  On the first page we meet these three very different characters.  The hare is bouncing around, full of joy, while Mousey Brown watches on, hoping the hare will notice him.  But when the fearless hare dances right up to the hound and tries to wake him, Mousey Brown has to be brave and save the hare from the hound’s jaws.

A Hare, a Hound and Shy Mousey Brown is a beautifully illustrated picture book, full of joy, mischief, and three very loveable characters.  Julia Hubery’s rhyming text begs to be read aloud and it simply rolls off your tongue.  It’s the sort of story that’s perfect to act out because of the three different characters and their very different personalities.  The hare has lots of energy and is always bouncing around, the dog is pretending to sleep, and Mousey Brown is just watching from afar and trying to warn the hare.  Jonathan Bentley’s illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and he’s perfectly captured the personalities of the three different characters.  The illustrations are cute but full of character.  I love the way that Jonathan has captured the complete joy and carefree nature of the hare, the irritation of the hound, and the admiration and worry of Mousey Brown.  Even before I opened the book and read the wonderful story inside, Jonathan’s front cover grabbed me and I knew it was going to be special.

Like Mousey Brown, my heart goes pitter-pat-pounding with love for Julia and Jonathan’s book.  I hope that we see more picture books by this amazing duo.

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The Drover’s Quest by Susan Brocker

Over on the Christchurch Kids Blog (Christchurch City Libraries’ blog for children aged 8-12 years) our June Star Author, Susan Brocker has just released a fantastic new book called The Drover’s Quest.  It’s filled with Susan’s favourite things, including history and animals, and it’s set in New Zealand in the 1860s.

Rumour is flying around the west coast gold fields that Tom McGee has struck it rich and found a nugget of gold as big as a man’s fist. So no one is surprised when next his campsite is found wrecked and abandoned. Men have been killed for a lot less on the tough goldfields of 1860s New Zealand.

But one person is convinced Tom is not dead. His headstrong daughter, Charlotte.  Solving the mystery is not her first task, though. First, she must get to the coast. A skilful horse rider, she disguises herself as a boy and joins a cattle drive across the Southern Alps. To survive the dangerous drive over Arthur’s Pass and to keep her identity hidden from the vicious trail boss, she’ll need the help of her dog, her horse, and her father’s friend, Tama. She knows she can do it – she has to – but what will she find? And will her new American friend, Joseph, help or hinder her quest?

Charlie is in for the ride of her life – and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

If you love stories set in the past, stories about animals or stories with lots of adventure then The Drover’s Quest is the book for you.  The story starts in Christchurch and the characters travel over Arthur’s Pass to Hokitika on the West Coast.  These are my favourite parts of our beautiful country and I’ve travelled the route they took many times so I could see it clearly in my head.  It’s a route that is very quick and easy to travel today but was very rugged and dangerous in the 1860s.  There is a very tense part in the book where the drovers are taking the cattle down the Otira Gorge (it had me on the edge of my seat).

I really liked the characters, especially Tama and Joseph who bring different cultures into the story, and Scar because I couldn’t figure out whether he was good or bad.  The animals are also important characters in the story and they are incredibly loyal to their masters.

Check out the Christchurch Kids Blog throughout June to find out more about The Drover’s Quest from our June Star Author, Susan Brocker.

5 out of 5 stars

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The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Have you ever read a book that makes you want to pull the characters into your arms, rock them gently and tell them everything is going to be OK?  This is exactly what I wanted to do the whole way through Katherine Applegate’s beautiful story, The One and Only Ivan.

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla.  Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain.  He rarely misses his life in the jungle.  In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog.  But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home – and his own art – through new eyes.  When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

From the opening lines, ‘I am Ivan. I am a gorilla.  It’s not as easy as it looks,’ you are transported into Ivan’s head and see the world through his eyes.  You read everything Ivan thinks and remembers, sees, touches, tastes and smells.  Ivan comes out with some real pearls of wisdom and I found myself writing down so many quotes that I wanted to remember later.  Things like,

“In a Western, you can tell who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, and the good guys always win.  Bob says Westerns are nothing like real life.”

There is a real sadness to the story, because these once great majestic beasts are locked away in cages, but the friendships between them help them to deal with their situation and add humour to the story.  It’s these friendships and Ivan’s need to protect Ruby that bring a sense of hope.  Ivan wants Ruby to have a better life than the one that he has lead, locked up in the mall.  Katherine Applegate’s writing is absolutely beautiful and I wanted to savour every word.  The stream of consciousness writing style she has used for this book means that she has obviously chosen her words very carefully.  Her writing is incredibly descriptive and, like Ivan, she paints a vibrant picture for you.  This is my one of my favourite descriptions,

“Because she remembers everything, Stella knows many stories.  I like colourful tales with black beginnings and stormy middles and cloudless blue-sky endings.  But any story will do.”

I can’t recommend The One and Only Ivan highly enough.  It’s a story that will affect you and the characters will stay with you long after you close the covers.

 5 out of 5 stars

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Little Manfred by Michael Morpurgo

I love both stories about war and stories about animals, which is my I love Michael Morpurgo.  Most of his stories are about war or animals and sometimes both.  His latest book is called Little Manfred and it’s about war, and a dog that sparks the memories of an old man.

It’s the summer of 1966 and Charley and her little brother, Alex, are walking their dog Manfred on the beach by their home when they notice two old men staring out to sea.  When the two men discover that their dog is called Manfred, this sparks the memories of Walter and he tells the children about his experiences during World War II.  Through Walter’s story, Charley and Alex learn about their mother’s past and her connection to Manfred, a German prisoner of war who was posted at her farmhouse when she was a little girl.

Michael Morpurgo has woven another amazing story of friendship, bravery, and forgiveness that transported me to another time and another place.   Whenever I read a Michael Morpurgo book it’s almost as if he is sitting on my couch or in the library beside me, telling me the story, because I can hear his voice in my head.  If you’ve ever seen one of his videos of him reading you’ll know that he’s got the perfect storytelling voice.  Michael Foreman’s illustrations, once again, perfectly match the story because they can be bright and happy or dark and gloomy.  I think Michael Morpurgo’s books are perfect for anyone and if you haven’t read any of his books, Little Manfred is a great one to start with.

Recommended for 7+    10 out of 10

If you want to know more about the story and find out what Michael Morpurgo’s inspiration was, you can read about it on the Guardian Children’s Books website.

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Not Bad for a Bad Lad by Michael Morpurgo

Michael Morpurgo’s latest book is about a boy who is always getting into trouble.  Everyone is always telling him he’s a bad lad.  He gets caught playing on bomb sites, banging rubbish bin lids and stealing tomatoes and even a car.  He gets arrested and sentenced to a year in Borstal, which was a prison for young offenders where they could learn a trade like carpentry, painting or bricklaying.  The judge sends him there to think things over and learn his lesson.  The first few months are tough and the boys are worked hard, ‘laying bricks for hours on end in all weathers, making bread in the kitchens, weeding in the vegetable garden.’  Every morning the boys have to go on a two-mile run and the bad lad likes running past the stables.  One morning, as he goes past the stables the old man who looks after the horses calls him over and offers him an amazing opportunity to help out in the stables. This opportunity helps him to turn his life around and make his family proud of him.

Not Bad for a Bad Lad is another amazing story from Michael Morpurgo and Michael Foreman, the author and illustrator of War Horse, Kaspar: Prince of Cats and Billy the KidMichael Morpurgo often writes stories about an older person telling a child about their interesting life, and this is one of those stories.  The story is inspirational and Michael Foreman’s illustrations add perfectly to the story.  Don’t get put off by the picture of the horse on the front cover because this isn’t just a story about a horse.  This is a must-read for all Michael Morpurgo fans, but a great book to delve into if you haven’t read any of his books yet.  

Recommended for 9+    10 out of 10

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The Wolf in the Wardrobe by Susan Brocker

When Finn comes across a car accident, little does he realize that his life is about to change forever.  The huge, injured animal he discovers is no dog – but a wolf, escaped from the circus that he went to with his Dad.  Finn knows that he must save the wolf, Lupa, and prevent her from returning to the circus and the sinister circus clown, Cackles, who torments her.

Finn takes her to the vet and they patch her up, but then he has to figure out how he will pay the vet bill.  Where will he hide her and how will he feed her?  When Finn’s Nana discovers Lupa in the wardrobe, he thinks he’ll be in big trouble, but his Nana thinks Lupa is her old dog Molly and she only wants to keep her safe.  Meanwhile, Cackles the Clown is hot on their trail and will stop at nothing to get Lupa back.  But Cackles doesn’t even like wolves though so why is he so determined to get her?

The Wolf in the Wardrobe is a great story about a boy who will do whatever he can to protect his animal friend.  Finn gives up the things that he loves so that he can earn extra money to help Lupa and learns all that he can about wolves to help take care of her.  Finn’s Nana was my favourite character, because she made me laugh and even though she would forget who Finn was sometimes, she’d help him to care for Lupa.  I also liked the character of Cackles because he was so sinister and creepy.  If you like books about animals or just a story with great characters, you’ll love Wolf in the Wardrobe by Susan Brocker.    Recommended for 9+    8 out of 10

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