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Sunday, 9 November 2014

Review: The Fairytale Hairdresser and Father Christmas

The Fairytale Hairdresser and Father Christmas by Abie Longstaff is one of those typical children's books that end in a happy ending. There are many others in this series and shows that it is quite popular.

The beginning of the story is found wanting (from an adult's perspective) but changes tack through the middle of the book and then resumes normal transmission as the story ends.

http://www.bookdepository.com/Fairytale-Hairdresser-Father-Christmas-Abie-Longstaff/9780552570527/?a_aid=EnchanteThe book starts with a hairdresser named Kittie Lacey who is the best hairdresser in all the land. She is helping everyone do up their hair on Christmas eve, from the elves to Jack Frost. When it was Crystal turn to get her hair done, she couldn't be found. Everyone looked for her. They finally found her in the gift room frozen in a block of ice with all the presents gone! It was the Snow Queen with a heart of ice that had stolen all the presents.

While the story is predictable what I liked are the simple illustrations by Lauren Beard. While simple, she has managed to add a lot of detail on the pages. The final few pages of the book made me giggle, when all the different fairytale characters get their presents. It is a nice twist, and follows on with the fractured fairy tales that I've been teaching in class. If I was going to find links that will help relate to something recently very popular. The Snow Queen reminded me of Princess Elsa.

Lastly, the cover of the book is really pretty. The picture doesn't do it justice as it has glitter all over. I think this book will be a big hit with little boys and girls and would be a great bed time story.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Review: The Big Little Book of Happy Sadness by Colin Thompson

My first encounter with Colin Thompson was during my training as a student teacher. My English teacher read The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley. She was a great orator and it made me want to read the book to my eventual kids.

Move onto 2014 and another ex-teacher (Julie) is reading me The Big Little Book of Happy Sadness

Happy Sadness is about George, a young school aged boy who is lonely. More than lonely, he just has nothing in his life besides an old grandma who doesn't understand him. George likes to head down to the dog pound, something that actually makes him happy. One day he walks to the back of the pound and spots a three legged dog. As he stared at the dog and the dog stared back at George, it was like he was seeing a reflection of himself. The pound was closing in 1 hr and that was all the time he had to run back home to ask his grandma's permission to adopt the dog.

Like all Colin Thompson's books I have read, they are sophisticated picture books. The story has a deeper meaning, uses great vocabulary and requires the reader to infer. While this book is an older book (2009), like anything good it stands the test of time. 

However, having a good story is not why I really love this book. Julie (the ex-teacher) showed me that there are so many things you can do with this book as a teacher. Getting kids to infer meaning, learning new vocabulary, being inventive and creative (three legged dog...what's missing ^_^), comparing the changes in George throughout the story. 

I'm in the process of nutting out a great series of lessons because of this book and hopefully can share with you all. For the moment, just enjoy this book for what it is, a great adventure with George.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Moon Dragons by Dyan Sheldon

The Moon Dragons by Dyan Sheldon is a tale of a selfish King and his greedy subjects. 

When the King hears about the existence of Moon Dragons he is immediately enraptured by the idea of them. Without thinking of the consequences of such actions he offers a huge reward for the capture or any evidence of them. Alina is a small village girl who would love to see them as well. She also ventures forth in search, but her goal is much difference than those of the local herdsmen, huntsmen and mountaineers. 

There are many stories like The Moon Dragons, but what sets it part is the beautiful art by award winning artist, Gary Blythe. 

There are also a couple of great underlying messages which is what you want from a picture book. Determination and selflessness are good values to impart on your little ones.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Review: Homeroom Diaries by James Patterson and Lisa Papademetriou

I love this book. It has so many twists and turns; you think it is all fine but then something bad happens. That is what I would explain this book as. I have trouble finding books I like but then I found this one. 

The main characters that you will meet are Cuckoo, Tebow, Flatso, Eggy, Brainzilla and Zitsy. Now these people are in a group called the "Freak Shows." In North Plains High, there are a number of groups such as The Barbies, Jocks, Goths and Zombies. But I should explain the personalities of the Freak Shows. Cuckoo is a not so normal girl. She is quite the crazy one but she is the main character in this book. Tebow is a jock with a kind and very strong religious heart. Brainzilla is a super smart barbie and is Cuckoo's BFF. Egg is a swag chilled out girl and sometimes a bit of a goth. Flatso is a nice girl who can beat a boy in a fight with one punch. Then there's Zitsy and I think we all know what his nickname means!

Some of the main events in the story are when the new teacher Winne Quinn arrives at North Plains High. Cuckoo and the other girls start to fall for him. That changes learning quite a bit. As this event unfolds, the Cuckoo's caretaker (Mrs. Morris) is having a bit of trouble and the ending is quite a surprise. 

James Patterson has many other books that I have also enjoyed, books with great twists and turns, just like this one. However, I think Homeroom Diaries is his best yet. 

By Grace, age 10.


Saturday, 20 September 2014

Review: The Dinosaur that Pooped the Past (giveaway at the bottom).

The Dinosaur that Pooped the Past by Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter is rhyming children's book. It is the third book in the series and that bodes well for us readers. It can be a fickle business in the world of children's picture books.

Danny and his dinosaur (no name) are at grannies birthday for lunch. Grannie isn't really a great cook and every thing she serves is green! Luckily dino licks up Danny's plate and off they go outside to play. Outside is a magical swing which Danny and dino love to play on. The swing transcends time but when the rope snaps mid swing it sends them hurtling through time and space, and the past! They are stuck there unless they can fix the swing.

Like many children's books these days, many are in a sing song rhyming rhythm. This is great to help kids associate how words are similar spelt (and sometimes how they aren't). Yet, due to the lengthy nature of the book, I felt that not every single sentence needed to rhyme. It felt forced at times.

While it isn't a clever story, I think kids will naturally gravitate towards a book like this. It has dinosaurs and poop. Does it matter if the content isn't clever, as long as kids pick up books and read?

That's the bottom line in my opinion, if it will get kids reading, that will do.


I have one copy of this to give away thanks to Randomhouse NZ. If you an NZ postal address I can send this to, then you can enter. Simply comment in the comments section to enter! Entries start from now until Monday 22nd September at 11:59pm. (You can also enter on Facebook).

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Review: Hugless Douglas by David Melling

Happy Birthday, Hugless Douglas! is the latest is the series of Hugless Douglas. I haven't read any of the previous books in the series, so I don't actually know why he's called Hugless.

This book is about how Hugless Douglas's twin cousins ruin everything when they come over. They open all his presents without asking and in the midst of it, Douglas bounces off on his new pogo stick to lament his worst birthday ever.

What's great about this book, is the kids and I can relate to the story. My (school) kids all have had a little brother/sister or friend ruin something, either their drawing, toys or something else. There was a lot of humour and silliness which all kids love (me too).

The pictures are also super cute as well. I've found that a lot of picture books and cartoons/comics for kids in general have really moved towards the cuteness factor. Even 9/10 year old boys love it.

However, the overused cliche ending, 'worst birthday ever' to 'the best birthday ever', is droll. The kids even groaned at that ending. Sure, write it as a happy ending, but using those exact word... children these days are more sophisticated than that.

Overall a good book and I wouldn't mind checking out the other in the Hugless Douglas series.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Review: Bear and Chook by the Sea

Bear and Chook by the Sea by Lisa Shanahan, is a ridiculously cute book about friendship.

One day Bear wakes and he decides it smells about the right time to go on an adventure. Chook, while nervous to leave their home goes along with Bear.

I read this book to my Year One students and they loved it, the repetitive word phrases had them joining in and totally engaged. 

When Bear and Chook reach the sea, all does not go as planned and it is Chook's turn to show Bear what friendship means. 

This picture book was perfect to initiate a conversation about how to be a good friend and was easy to relate to for my students, whose school is right by the beach.  

I will definitely be reading this book for many years to come.

Oh and if you are a teacher, there are activities online if you do a quick google search :)
Review By Miss Hall

Monday, 28 July 2014

Expired - Massive Giveaway: (Winners Announced)

Thanks to Random House NZ and Hachette NZ, TheBestKidsBooks.com have a massive giveaway.

We're celebrating that Gladstone Primary School's library reopening, and what better way to celebrate a library reopening than with a swag of books!

The Prizes are:
3x $10 Amazon Voucher (International Only)
Picture Books (NZ Only):
Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox
Hermione Anemone and the Enormous Storm by Ciara Molloy Tan and Michaela Blassnig
The Dot by Peter Reynolds
The Prince and the Potty by Nicholas Allan

Novels (NZ Only):
The Forbidden Library
by Django Wexler

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 1&2 by Jeff Kinney
Machine Wars by Michael Pryor
Spooks: A New Darkness by Joseph Delaney
Rage of the Rhino by Bear Grylls
Brotherband: Slaves of Socorro by John Flanagan
Friday Barnes, Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt
Tale of a Tail by Margaret Mahy
George and the Unbreakable Code by Lucy and Stephen Hawking
How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

NZ Residents you can win more than one prize, all you need to do is have more than one entry!

For our International readers, you can enter to win 1 of 3 Amazon vouchers.

Fill out the form below to enter!

Wow! Thanks so much, I got so many entries for the giveaway. So stoked. These lucky people are the winners (please check your email!):

Sherridan C
Kate S
Maia H
Louis A
Bhuvaneswari D
Nicola H
Christine F
Stephanie K
Shani M
Michael D
Andrea C
Julie M
Ainsley A
Ange B
Cass H
Portia L
Meredith S

Again, thanks to all those who entered and hopefully I will have some more giveaways soon. Happy Reading.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Review: The Prince and the Potty by Nicholas Allan

The Prince and the Potty is a very humorous book based loosely on the current Prince George (Princess Kate and Prince Williams' boy).

The first half of the book details how important potty's are to royal babies and that a lot of prince and princesses became Kings and Queens when they were still in their diapers!

The historical fiction will leave the children wondering if it was true after they have finished laughing because each scene is so silly.

In the latter half of the book, it tells us of the little prince getting his own royal potty, how fancy and how great it is. Yet when he goes to the nursery and the royal potty is left behind, the prince will have to fend for himself and use a normal potty, which causes all sorts of outrage amongst all the royal helpers.

A cute book with cute pictures. This would be a great addition to any day-care, kindergarten or preschool library. 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Review: Hermione Anemone and the Enormous Storm

Hermione Anemone and the Enormous Storm is a cute little picture book by Ciara Molloy Tan and Michaela Blassnig.

A massive storm hits the ocean and while Hermione Anemone is safe in her rock pool, other animals however are not so lucky. As the storm rages on more and more animals take refuge to Hermione' rock pool. She doesn't mind though, as soon enough she's hosting a great party.

As a teacher, I loved the couplet poem style writing, since I had just finished teaching it a 2 months ago. Often we forget the little details in a book; we just assume that it is a typical rhyming story, rather than a deliberate act of writing.

There are also lots of different sea creatures to learn about like abalone, tuna and clams.

The pictures are super cute. People get told 'don't judge a book by its cover', but this can be especially true of children. A great cover and great pictures draw in eager readers (and listeners) like a moth to a flame, regardless of the story. 

If you've got some wee ones, give this book a go. You'll learn about sea creatures and have fun while reading.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Review: Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas is a bit of New Zealand historical fiction. Elizabeth is an elephant seal who decides to call Christchurch her home. Every time locals attempt to take her back out to sea, she manages to find her way back to the Garden City. It also details how much a boy called Michael (and the town) loved Elizabeth. Secretly wanting her to find her way back to town.

What's great about this book is the description of the Elizabeth and what she does. The story line references determination, love and perseverance but what my class kids and I loved is the detail in the book. The illustrations compliment the words and there are some great fun facts about elephant seals at the  back. This was a nice touch and the animal lovers in my class loved this part. What better way to get children interested in animals than having a story about animals and then giving them real life facts about it.
Lynne Cox is an open water swimmer who has written several books. She also has another children's book called Grayson, about how a teenage girl encounters a baby whale off the coast of California.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Review: Death's Academy by Michael Bast

Death's Academy is the first book by Michael Bast that I have read and I was pleasantly surprised. The title sound quite gruesome, however, I found this book interesting, without too much blood and guts, and suitable for kids.
http://www.bookdepository.com/Deaths-Academy-Michael-Bast/9781462113804Midnight Smith (Night) needs to pass an exam to get into school. But this isn’t any exam. It’s the exam to get into Death’s Academy, the only school for hoodies (Grim Reapers) like Night. When the halos (guardian angels) and the hoodies go away to an island for the Reapless holiday; Night, his friend Mal, and the halo Brilliance have to fight unicorns (mortal enemies) to get the Scythe back, the key to the hoodies’ powers. This book throws you head first into a magical world that adores adventure and scorns stereotypes.

This read was very entertaining. I loved the twist on the classic theme of good versus evil, and it was nice to watch Night slowly starting to understand the secret of his father. The book really sucks you in and prevents you from putting it down. This is also a fast paced book, and a good one to read when you are in the mood for something quick and light but with lots of action.

I would thoroughly recommend this book and look forward to reading another book by Michael Bast. To leave you on a good note, remember, ‘becoming a reaper can be fatal.’ 

By Keying Huo-Smith

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Review: Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown

Darth Vader and Son is a simple picture/comic book with many different scenarios of, if Darth Vader was raising a 4 year old Luke Skywalker.
Mostly this book reminds me of Farside calendars, they are silly little scenarios with puns and laughs, except this one is with Star Wars scenarios. Not all of them hit the mark but overall it's a good cheap book with laughs and will keep many a guest that comes to your house entertained. 

Is this a great kids book? Probably not, it probably reaches in the kid in us! So probably a great one for dads and his sons/daughters who love Star Wars. 

The pictures are well drawn and the book itself is well made and sturdy (you can let kids rifle through it).
My only gripe is that I wish every scene was something to do with Star Wars rather than a generic father raising a son scenario.

So if you are looking for a nice present for someone who likes Star Wars (or yourself!), I think you've got your ticket here.

Here are a couple of pages from the book.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Review: The Scholar, The Sphinx and The Shades of Nyx by A.R. Cook

The Scholar, The Sphinx and The Shades of Nyx starts when David Sandoval gets kidnapped by a gypsy caravan and discovers that the ‘mistress’ is a Sphinx. She is slowly getting drained of her powers by a part of Nyx herself, a Shade. David must journey beyond the world that we can see, into the depths of the Curtain and beyond.

I enjoyed this book greatly. I must admit, at some times the plot was a bit muddled. For example, at the start of the book, you are sort of thrown into the story without any background of David or any explanation as to why he is at a particular place. At other times, I found myself caught up in the plot that A. R. Cook weaved. I really enjoyed the vivid descriptions of the characters and setting of the different worlds. 

You will enjoy the mythological characters in this book. One character that I particularly liked was the adorable Tanuki, a shape changing badger from Japan. He will definitely make you laugh at his funny antics. I hope to see him reappear in the next in the series. David Sandoval is an engaging hero, seeming a bit reluctant at the start of his journey.

This is a wonderful new series and I strongly advise you to stick around for the Epilogue. 

Review written by Keying

Monday, 26 May 2014

Review: Tale of a Tail by Margaret Mahy

This book is a truly magical Margaret Mahy adventure.
Tom and his mum move into Number 1 Prodigy Street.
"What's a Prodigy?" Tom asks his mum.
"A Prodigy is a magical surprise" his mum told him.

Tom goes on to befriend Sarah from Number Three (who loves cats) and Thomaz Mirabilis with the red cloak and magical dog that move into Number 22. Najki (the dog) has a magical tail that grants wishes. Sometimes this causes problems because of careless wish making.

The three all go on to have adventures including encountering the horrible Cat - Kickers gang.

Najki also narrates portions of the story giving an interesting dog's point of view.

This is a delightful Margaret Mahy story with great black and white illustrations by Tony Ross.

Tale of a Tail is a story for children from the ages of 7 to 10.

Review written by Lynne Wardrop, Gladstone's very own amazing librarian. 

Monday, 12 May 2014

Review: The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler

The Forbidden Library is Django Wexler's first attempt at YA (young adult). According to the back, Wexler is trying to create a classic in the mould of Narnia and Alice in Wonderland.Funny enough, the main protagonist is also called Alice.

http://www.bookdepository.com/Forbidden-Library-Django-Wexler/9780857532879While sneaking around after bed time, Alice, a young girl of 12, stumbles upon a secret meeting her father is having with a fairy. Yet, this fairy is more like a fat flying bumble bee, nothing like what Alice imagined a Fairy would be. The day after, her father goes on a trip and then suddenly disappears. He is declared dead and Alice gets taken in by her estranged uncle Geryon. Her uncle lives in a mansion called The Library which is full of cats.

In The Library, Alice does mundane jobs for her uncle. She has a sneaking suspicion that the cats are watching her, even laughing at her. One day, a black cat starts talking to her! He leads her through the library and soon enough Alice is lost, it’s as if the library was shifting and creating new pathways as they were walking. By accident, Alice picks up a book and suddenly along with the black cat, is sucked inside the book.

The cliche of kids being sucked through into another dimension has been done a lot of recently years, however, children who read these types of books love it. Why change something that works?

The worst thing was it seemed like a rehash of my favourite kids book Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Young girl, black cat that can talk, alternative universe. However, it wasn’t until about halfway through the book that I started to change my mind.

One of the differences is the magic in this book. Those who can be “sucked” into books are called Readers and they have the ability to understand magical books (known as prison books) and bind creatures inside these books to themselves . This grants them their powers. To do so however, they have to defeat the prisoner inside. The way Wexler incoporates the powers is really well done. At no time is the magic too powerful and the characters in the book find clever ways at solving their problems.

Something that I though Wexler could have done better was build up more suspense through the latter half of the book. While he builds up a lot of the background, the interesting parts end much too quickly.

Wexler also writes adult fantasy books, so I hope it isn't too long before the sequel to The Forbidden Library comes out.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Review: The Fourth Stall Part II by Chris Rylander

The Fourth Stall Part II by Chris Rylander is set in a school’s boys’ bathroom, which is the office of the main character, Mac. Mac earns money running a business from his office which is so far away that no one uses it, except for the people who come with problems. In the first book (The Fourth Stall) someone stole all the money that their business had made and I thought it might have been a normal breaking and entering, but it was a story of betrayal.

This book like the first is a middle school mystery. These types of books always draw me in and if I’m reading in the morning, I can’t get out of bed until I know what is going to happen next. It is really exciting with lots of action. 

There are lots of little side stories but one of the main ones is about the new Principal closing in on closing Mac's deserted bathroom. My heart jumped every time the principal was near Mac. I read on nervously. At first I thought that the principal was good because everyone expects all principals to be good, but as I read on, he wasn't what I thought he was.

Chris Rylander’s book ideas come from songs, movie scenes, and stories people have told him. Chris’ favourite books are Sideways Stories from Wayside School and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Like the Fourth Stall series, these books are set in middle school and the main characters are similar - they are funny and not very popular. 

By Chloe Innes

Saturday, 3 May 2014

International Giveaway: Earth Sentinels by Shaman Elizabeth Herrera

Win a copy of Earth Sentinels by Shaman Elizabeth Herrera.

Earth Sentinels is targeted at older teens (15+) and has violence in the book.

Here is an excerpt from Amazon: 


Enough is enough! They're taking the land back!

Earth Sentinels offers insights into current environmental concerns and indigenous injustices woven into an epic adventure. The story is filled with compelling characters, such as the fallen angel Bechard, shamans, spiritual beings and earth’s creatures who collaborate using supernatural powers to save the planet from imminent destruction, demanding that mankind changes its way…or else.
You’ll meet 17-year-old Zachary, whose family’s organic farm is being ruined by fracking; Haruto, living in Fukushima, Japan, where the nuclear meltdown is raging out of control; Mahakanta, a cotton farmer in India, who used GMO “magic seeds” with devastating results; the Amazonian tribe members, Conchita and her father, Pahtia, fighting against intruders illegally tearing down their rainforest; and the Bear Claw First Nation Tribe who are dealing with an unstoppable oil spill ruining their traditional hunting grounds.
As the events unfold and the world retaliates, each character is forced to question their own motives.

To win, just comment on this post or go over to facebook.com/thebestkidsbooks and comment on the post there.

Entries close Tuesday 6th of May at 11.59am NZT

Good Luck!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse is a young adult book (YA) classified as a Dystopian novel but to me it was more a Fantasy/Romance crossover. While the romance is dramatic, in that it draws you in, and the writing is quite beautiful and clever at times, I found the characters and the storyline of the novel to be very simplistic and a little cliché. Still, the Winner’s Curse is an entertaining and sometimes intriguing book.

The Winner's Curse
Kestrel is the 17 year old daughter of the powerful General of the Valorian Empire – the victors of the war with the Herrani people. Like all Valorian youth, Kestrel is trained in basic military self-defence so that when she becomes of age, she has to make a choice to join the military or get married. Kestrel finds neither appealing.

At the marketplace one day, Kestrel observes a Herrani slave auction and surprises herself, and everyone else, by bidding on a young male slave, Arin. Kestrel is attracted to his reputation for being a fine singer which aligns with her scorned upon passion for music. Little did Kestrel know that this spontaneous decision would begin a complicated relationship of forbidden love and this, combined with the fact that Arin is the holder of a dark secret that could be the undoing of the Empire, makes for an interesting plot.

Kestrel is strategic, clever and cunning, but I found that she seemed to overcome all the challenges in the book too easily. This lead to parts of the book being too unrealistic for my liking. (Spoiler) In one section Kestrel managed to stop a war from happening with a simple conversation that took less than a chapter. It seems that any obstacle that Kestrel faced was effortlessly overcome due to her tactical mind.

Even though The Winner's Curse has a lack of depth in places, I think that it has a certain charm that makes you want to keep reading until the end. Be prepared for the story to have a slow start knowing that it will become more interesting about two thirds of the way through.

Overall a good read for those who like history, romance, fantasy/dystopian genre.

By Aimee, Age 14