Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Hot Money by Bill Nagelkerke (general fiction)

If you have read and enjoyed Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce then you might also enjoy this NZ take on a theme which gets us all asking the question "what would you do?"Miles and August are mucking about after school when they witness a police chase. As the getaway car speeds past, a bag is thrown from the window, landing at the boys' feet. Miles looks inside and finds $20,000. He knows what he SHOULD do with the money, but his family are struggling for cash and so he is tormented. August tries to persuade him to do the right thing, but it is just so tempting...What would you do?

Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan

This was one of those books that has never really appealed to me, but was recommended and so I felt I should give it a go.

And yay for recommendations... what a fantastic read, and a brilliant start to a series. When Will is apprenticed to the mysterious (and slightly feared) ranger, Holt, he is not happy. All his friends have been apprenticed to the job of their choice, and so he can't understand why he has to go and live away from his home castle with Holt.

But when there is a threatened attack by the vengeful Morgorath, Will has to forget his misgivings and behave like a true apprentice.

With plenty of fighting action, this is a cracking read for young boys from about Year 4 and up. Highly recommended!!

Saturday, 1 February 2014

The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas by David Almond

I read this book in one sitting - partly because I had no children to interrupt me, but mostly because it is a cracking great read.

The story can be read on two levels... it is essentially about a young lad (Stan) who runs away with the circus and ends up swimming with piranhas as a main attraction.  And that is quite entertaining enough in itself.  But older readers will see much of what happens as a metaphor for life: for example, when Stan stands above the piranha pool, plucking up the courage to dive in, we can ask ourselves if we have the courage to make a change in our own life?

As with any good story, there is a baddy (or 5) to contend with.  The baddies in this story are almost Shakespearian in the way they provide comic relief, as they are just so ridiculous.  (They remind me of Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing.) They are part of an organisation called DAFT (Department for the Abolishun of Fishy Things) and they have a very poor grasp of the English language, which is rather entertaining, although some of the puns may go over younger readers' heads.

I also love the way that David Almond uses his own voice in parts to narrate the story, creating a kind of movie-like effect of zooming in and out of scenes.  My favourite quote from one of these moments is "we could go anywhere with words and our imaginations."  Fabulous.

Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne


John Boyne is becoming one of my favourite writers.  Not only is he is the author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, but he also penned the fairy-tale like Noah Barleywater Runs Away and the fabulous The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket.

Stay Where You Are and Then Leave is a story set during World War 1 and deals with a young boy coping with his father signing up to go and fight in the trenches.  As with Noah Barleywater and Barnaby Brocket there is a hint of the fairy tale about the way the story is written, despite the fact that it is firmly set in a real place and time.

Alfie, the young lad in the story, is desperate to deliver the milk on the milk float with his father, but at 5 years of age he is considered to young.  On Alfie's 5th birthday, his dad signs up to go and fight in the war... much to his mother's horror and Alfie's confusion.  The story flits about a little at the start, moving between flash-backs to when Alfie was 5 and then back to when he is 9... and his dad still hasn't reappeared.  A chance encounter at King's Cross station leads Alfie on a secret mission to find his missing dad - and in doing so he comes across some horrific and disturbing sights of returned soldiers who are suffering from shell shock.

This is not always an easy read as it touches on some difficult issues, not least that of the effects of shell shock on the young soldiers who fought in the Great War.  However, John Boyne seems to be able to pen a tale with ease and his characters are well-developed and interesting.

This book would appeal to those who are interested in World War 1 and its effects on the lives of the people at the time.  It is NOT a war story, rather a human interest story.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014



Wellington City Libraries (2014).  Kids blog.  Retrieved on 14 January, 2014 from

I liked this site because the reviews are by children, for children, which can often be more effective than reviews by adults!  The rules for reviewing are simple… no poor language, and the reviews have to be submitted for moderation before going live.  Prizes are awarded after the first two reviews, and then every fifth one after that… a great incentive to get children involved in both reading and writing.

The Guardian (2014).  Children’s Books. Retrieved on 14 January, 2014 from

This is one of my favourite children’s book sites.  I love the layout and the sheer depth of information available – which is always topical and relevant.  (There is currently a feature on Catching Fire.)   There are links to a wide variety of books and book-related activities, and if all that is a bit overwhelming, you can click your age and find out about some age-appropriate possibilities.


Booksellers (2012). New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. Retrieved on 14 January, 2014 from

I use this website a lot – especially around the time of the Book Awards, but also to refer back to past nominees.  It lists all the nominees and winners right back to 1997, which is a fabulous resource for librarians.  It also explains the criteria for each award.  The site itself is easy to navigate and clearly laid out. 

Storylines (2010). Awards.  Retrieved on 14 January, 2014 from

This is a very basic looking site, but it is a veritable font of information as it lists all the winners of 8 major literary awards, going back to their origins, some of them in the 1990s.  It is a wonderful resource for librarians and teachers as it also provides links to author bios and award criteria.


Magpies (n.d.) Talking about books for children. Retrieved on 13 January, 2014 from

The Magpies website comes in conjunction with the Magpies magazine and also The Literature Base magazine.  It is NOT an e-version of either publication, but you can search keywords to find articles of interest, which you can then locate in the appropriate magazine.  It is a great resource as it enables a reader to look up areas of interest, or specific authors – and then be led to two great journals.

Lit World: be the story (2012). World Read Aloud Day Activities. Retrieved on 14 January, 2014 from

I stumbled across this website, and am pleased I did.  The website is comprehensive and inspiring as they are a group who are trying to use the power of storytelling to give hope to children.  The Read Aloud Day page is a great resource for anyone wanting to get involved.  There are activity kits for classrooms, home, communities and the office, each with ideas on how to promote reading and book suggestions.


Books for Kids. (2014). Welcome to Books for Kids. Retrieved on 15 January, 2014 from

Books for Kids is a small, independently owned book shop in Hamilton.  I use them, and their website, all the time to source books and just keep in touch with what they are promoting.  It is a simple site, but it has an online shopping option, and clear contact instructions.  It is also Facebook linked so I keep in touch with them that way too.

Random House Books, NZ. (n.d.). Young readers. Retrieved on 15 January, 2014 from

This is a comprehensive site, as you would expect from a large publishing house, with suggestions for popular reads, links to author information and activities.  I also like the Teacher link, which has books lists and classroom activities.  It is clearly laid out, although I would think it is aimed more at adults looking for ideas, than children.


Books for Keeps. (n.d.) The Children’s Book Magazine online.  Retrieved on 15 January 2014 from

This is a wonderful British site full of reviews for children (and to be fair, YA as well – so this site could fit into the category below as well), and including an online version of the Books for Keeps magazine.  There are links to a dazzling array of authors and the books they have written.  I particularly loved this edition (and so have included it on my list) because it included an interview with Chris Riddell, author of one of my favourite books last year, Goth Girl.

The Children’s Book Review (2014). Growing readers.  Retrieved on 15 January, 2015 from

I liked this American site because you could click on links to recommended reading for different age categories (including YA, so it could fit into the next category too…), but you could also click on links to various subject/interest links (e.g. animals, award winners, fairy tales, books into movies etc…) It was a bit busy to look at for my liking, but as with the previous site, there was a huge amount to surf and a vast list of authors to investigate.

Radio New Zealand (2014). Children. Retrieved on 15 January, 2014 from

What a great resource for parents and teachers in this day and age of technology overload.  Children can listen to stories, classical music and reviews which have been aired on Radio New Zealand.  Although the book list is quite small, it is contemporary and there are some goodies in there, including Margaret Mahy’s The Dark Blue 100-Ride Bus Ticket and Vince Ford’s first book in his Scrap series.


Christchurch City Libraries. (n.d.) New Zealand Post Young Adult Fiction. Retrieved on 15 January, 2014 from
This is less a review site than a list of the Young Adult finalists in the New Zealand Post Book Awards from 1997 to the present day.  There are links to blurbs for each book, which makes it a handy starting point for those who might be looking for a good quality Young Adult read.

Wellington City Libraries. (n.d.) Teen Blog. Retrieved on 15 January, 2014 from

This is a funky site, which looks as though it is produced by teens for teens.  Although it says it is a blog about reading it also says there may be stuff in there about Wellington and “whatever else” which recognises the fact that teens who read are interested in more than just that… The reviews tend to be copied from, but the site itself is appealing.


Maria Gill. (2013). A writer’s journal.  Retrieved on 15 January, 2014 from

I love this site as it bridges the gap between website and the print information book, and seems to acknowledge that the two can co-exist in beautiful harmony!  You can use the site to buy Maria Gill’s books, but you can also click on links to find out additional information about the subjects in the books.  There are also links to activities for children to do. 

B.B.C. (2014). History for Kids.  Retrieved on 16 January, 2014 from

The BBC websites are always of high quality, and this is no exception.  Children can choose an era that interests them (Ancient History, World History, British History, and more, bearing in mind that there is a British bias) and then then have a go at some fun activities that will help them with their learning.  I particularly enjoyed the Ancient Egyptian mummy embalming game!


Teen Ink. (n.d.) Resources for Teens.  Retrieved on 16 January, 2014 from

I rather stumbled across this cool website, written by teens for teens.  I am not quite sure if it fits into the Information Resource category, but its purpose is to encourage teenage creativity in all areas (art, photography, writing, health…) As well as providing some information on all these subjects, it also showcases the teens’ own art, poetry, photography, song writing etc…

17. (2014). Young People. Retrieved on 16 January, 2014 from

This is a section within the website especially for teens, which talks about mental health and some of the issues which can effect teens (depression, bipolar, ADHD, suicide, eating disorders, etc…)  The site itself is reasonably simple and straightforward, but each section has links to other helpful websites and resources.


International Children’s Digital Library (n.d.) A Library for the world’s children. Retrieved on 15 January, 2014 from

I love this website.  It is an absolute treasure trove of stuff for children. You can read books online in a variety of languages – and best of all it is free, so is a wonderful resource for parents and teachers alike.  I have to say that I am not a huge fan of its layout… it could be a little simpler and funkier, but when something is good, you can overlook the odd little fault!

500 Hats (n.d.).  The Teacher Librarian in the 21st Century.  Retrieved on 15 January, 2014 from

This blog by Barbara Braxton has blown me away in the last couple of days.  It is less about children’s literature and more about what it means to be a good librarian, but it is so in-depth and interesting that I had to include it.

The New Zealand Herald. (2013). Hairy Maclary: A dog’s life. Retrieved on 15 January, 2014 from

This article, celebrating 30 years since Hairy Maclary’s emergence onto the literary scene, is a lovely retrospective of this classic work.  As well as looking at each of the dogs (and, of course THAT cat) and their individual characteristics, it also shares information about how Lynley Dodd went about creating the story. 

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

Cornelia Funke has been hailed as the German J.K. Rowling - high praise indeed!  I have read some of her other stories, and thoroughly enjoyed them, but this one looked a bit darker and more complex...

Prosper and Bo are orphaned brothers and they have run away from their rather unpleasant aunt and uncle, to Venice, a place which their late mother used to tell them all about.

They are befriended by a small gang of street children, led by their enigmatic leader, The Thief Lord.  All is well, until the aunt employs a private detective to hunt the children down.  From this point on, the story twists and turns all over the place, rather like the canals and streets of Venice themselves.  The plot throws up surprises and plot twists all over the place... culminating in a thrilling journey into the complete and utterly fantastical!

I loved this book and would recommend it to Year 5 and up.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

An oldy but a goody this one... all based on historical fact.

Ten year old Annemarie lives in occupied Copenhagen, and her best friend is a Jew.  When word gets out that the Nazis are on their way to 'relocate' these Jews, the Danish people - including Annemarie - go into overdrive, and risk their own lives, in order to save these innocent people.