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Hurtling along, armed with a map, Eirlys Hunter

Soup and Bread
Nōnen Títi
Nōnen Títi, $25.00,
ISBN 9780994107732

The Pirates and the Nightmaker
James Norcliffe
Longacre, $20.00,
ISBN 9781775537694

The Volume of Possible Endings: A Tale of Fontania
Barbara Else
Gecko Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9781927271377

Two of these titles are fantasies with large dollops of magic, yet I happily suspended disbelief and became immersed in their worlds. The third is supposedly set in the here and now, but instead of getting lost in it I kept noticing inconsistencies – it just wasn’t credible. Believability is crucial to fiction, and it can’t be achieved unless a novel’s characters are operating in a particular and sustained world. It doesn’t matter how unfamiliar the setting is – 12th-century Laotian temple, Antarctic scientist’s lab, a dragon’s lair – there has to be enough plausible detail to allow the reader to feel secure that the writer knows what they’re talking about. The writer may well have only visited the location in their imagination, but that’s all that should be necessary to bring the place to life. The wardrobe, those furs, that lamppost – of course we’ll believe in Narnia. The more specific a place, the more real it will seem, and the more believable the story.

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Posted in Children, Fiction, Literature and Review

Reading, writing and arithmetic, Barbara Else

Speed of Light
Joy Cowley
Gecko Press, $20.00,
ISBN 9781877579936

Teddy One-Eye: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear
Gavin Bishop
Random House, $35.00,
ISBN 9781775537274

The ACB with Honora Lee
Kate De Goldi (drawings by Gregory O’Brien)
Longacre, $25.00,
ISBN 9781869799915

Three stars of New Zealand literature, three award-winning books, three very different approaches and audiences: how is any reviewer to manage this daunting assignment?

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Posted in Children, Fiction, Literature and Review

Explaining WWI, Steven Loveridge

The Bantam and the Soldier
Jennifer Beck (Robyn Belton illus)
Scholastic, $19.50,
ISBN 9781775432074

The Anzac Puppy
Peter Millett (Trish Bowles illus)
Scholastic, $19.50,
ISBN 9781775430971

Best Mates: Three Lads Who Went to War Together
Philippa Werry (Bob Kerr illus)
New Holland, $20.00,
ISBN 9781869664114

Jim’s Letters
Glyn Harper (Jenny Cooper illus)
Picture Puffin, $25.00,
ISBN 9780143505907

Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story
Philippa Werry (Bob Kerr illus)
New Holland, $25.00,
ISBN 9781869663803

The contemporary challenge of making sense of WWI is made considerably trickier in regard to young readers with the, (understandable) limits on how the realities of war might be conveyed to the 5-12 age group. Rising to this challenge, and joining the surge of publications accompanying the war’s centenary, the five works reviewed here present aspects of New Zealand’s war experience to young readers. Striking illustrations, some sketched from familiar photographs, aid in this task, conveying scene and tone. Indeed, the attention to expressions and pose (which range from scenes of mirth to downward gazes and thousand-yard stares) are well used to convey mood. They are also imbued with an impressive attention to detail; though I’ll have to ask Bob Kerr how available The Māoriland Worker, which the Best Mates are shown reading, was at Gallipoli.

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Posted in Children, Literature, Review and War

Rhyming pleasures, Linda Burgess

Over the Hill to Greytown
Tania Atkinson (Viv Walker illus)
Wai Art Press, $20.00,
ISBN 9780473252526

Bruiser and the Big Snow
Gavin Bishop
Random House, $21.00,
ISBN 9781775534860

Toucan Can
Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis
Gecko Press, $20.00,
ISBN 9781877467547

The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play, so Sophie, who was having tea with her mummy in the kitchen, spied Tom Thumb, who was in the cupboard. Can’t go under it, can’t go over it, and Alfie got in first and the door shut behind him. I’ll eat you up, I love you so. Your father was put in a pie by Mrs McGregor. And into the water they fell. Frances will only eat bread and jam. Captain Najork came with his hired sportsmen. The cat from Brazil caught a very bad chill. “EEEEEOWWWFFTZ” said Scarface Claw. The little yellow digger will sort it.

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Posted in Children, Literature and Review

Hormones and hedges David Hill

Into the River Ted Dawe Longacre, $20.00, ISBN 9781775536048 Dappled Annie and the Tigrish Mary McCallum (Annie Hayward illus) Gecko Press, $20.00, ISBN 9781877579912 Anyone present when Into the River won the Senior Fiction and Book of the Year categories

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Posted in Children, Literature, Review and Young adults

New seeds for old, Kathryn Walls

The Mijo Tree Janet Frame (Deidre Copeland illus) Penguin, $25.00, ISBN 9780143569428 A Book is a Book Jenny Bornholdt (Sarah Wilkins illus) Gecko Press, $25.00, ISBN 9781877579929 Dunger Joy Cowley Gecko Press, $20.00, ISBN 9781977579462 Janet Frame sent the typescript

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Posted in Children, Fiction, Literature and Review

A lot to live up to, Caoilinn Hughes

When Our Jack Went to War  Sandy McKay Longacre, $20.00, ISBN 9781775533092 Brave Company David Hill Puffin, $20.00, ISBN 9780143307570 Speed Freak Fleur Beale Random House, $20.00, ISBN 9781775534709 When Our Jack Went to War is “a fictional story based

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Posted in Children, Literature, Review and Young adults

Becoming somebody, Angelina Sbroma

The Brain Sucker Glenn Wood Walker Books, $19.00, ISBN 9781921933633 The Queen and the Nobody Boy Barbara Else Gecko Press, $25.00, ISBN 9781877579233 How to Sell Toothpaste Leonie Thorpe HarperCollins, $25.00, ISBN 9781869509422 Glenn Wood’s The Brain Sucker is the

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Posted in Children, Fiction, Literature, Review and Young adults

From trenches to terrorism, Barbara Else

Marked   Denis Martin Walker Books, $20.00, ISBN 9781921977541 My Brother’s War David Hill Puffin, $15.00, ISBN 9781742532653 Into the River Ted Dawe Mangakino University Press, $25.00, ISBN 9780473205089 The Nature of Ash Mandy Hager Random House, $20.00, ISBN 9781869799038

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Posted in Children, Fiction, Literature, Review and Young adults

Boy germs, Eirlys Hunter

The Flytrap Snaps Johanna Knox and Sabrina Malcolm (illus) Hinterland Press, $22.00, ISBN 9780473179960   Just Jack Adele Broadbent HarperCollins, $19.99, ISBN 9781869508869   Super Finn Leonie Agnew Scholastic, $19.50, ISBN 9781869439996   The Puffin Books of my childhood carried

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Posted in Children, Literature, Review and Young adults
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