14/10/2017 11:24 AM


The Empty Grave ('Lockwood & Co' #5) by Jonathan Stroud   {Reviewed by STELLA}
If you are a reader of the 'Lockwood' series, you will understand the excitement and also the apprehension of reading The Empty Grave. Excitement because it is the fifth in the series and there is so much to find out. What were they up to on the Other Side? Why is ‘the problem’ getting worse? Will Lockwood, Lucy and George survive finding out? And who is Penelope Fittes, and what is she up to? And apprehension, because it’s the final 'Lockwood' book! And it's so good! If you haven’t read any of this series, it’s time to start with the Screaming Staircase immediately. The Empty Grave opens with our intrepid heroes in the final resting place of Marissa Fittes, the famous and supposedly dead ghost hunter. Unsurprisingly, a jaunt into the crypt doesn’t go exactly to plan, and things just get more dangerous from there on in. As the forces that police the ghost-hunting agents become more draconian in an attempt to stifle the truth, Lockwood & Co. become increasingly curious and determined to find out what is going on. The Fittes agency is on the offensive, the Orpheus Society more secretive, and someone wants Lockwood, Lucy and George eradicated. Whose empty grave awaits, and will this be the end of the road for our young agents? There are plenty of twists and turns in this last action-packed book, and also answers, some that may surprise you! Always a tricky thing, a final book to a wonderful series, but Jonathan Stroud expertly pulls it off. It has the classic intrigue, deceptions and scariness of the first four, as well as all the failings of our human team, their commitment to truth, and their determination to overcome the evil misdoings of others who are obsessed with the ghosts, the dangerous pull of the Other Side and the desire to manipulate life and death. Thrilling, frightening and altogether brilliant. 

26/08/2017 11:19 AM

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell     {Reviewed by STELLA}
When the Queen Mary, a Victorian liner, sinks, a baby with hair the colour of lightning is found inside a cello case floating on the English Channel. She is discovered by eccentric scholar Charles Maxim, who names her Sophie and takes her into his home, much against the advice of the authorities. While Sophie sometimes eats off an atlas or writes her sums on the wallpaper, she is surrounded by music, words, and love. When the inspectors come, despite the best efforts of Charles and Sophie to tidy and clean the house and make themselves presentable, the authorities conclude that now that she is thirteen Maxim is not a suitable guardian, and Sophie is to be moved to an orphanage where she will be taught to be a proper young lady. In a fit of fury, Sophie destroys the cello case that saved her life, only to find a clue, and away they head over the channel to Paris. On the run from the authorities, Charles and Sophie are mother-hunting. Sophie is convinced her mother survived the sinking of the ship and she’s determined to take risks to find her. Risks that involve a strange boy, Matteo, and a band of wayward children who live above the streets of Paris on rooftops or in treetops, eking out a precarious existence - one that is preferable to the orphanage or workhouse. Can Sophie trust these unusual, secretive children? Will she be courageous enough to face physical danger and determined enough to believe in herself? Katherine Rundell creates magic with her cast of characters and description of place. Sophie is a wild child and determined young woman you warm to immediately: stubborn, intelligent, brave and vulnerable. Matteo is a perfect companion: resourceful, secretive and daring. Charles is an adult who brings the rules, lives by the heart and is loyal to the core. Rundell is an exquisite writer, her pace is spot on, the plot inventive and her language witty. You will find it hard to leave Sophie behind when you close the final page of this adventurous and warm-hearted novel. Fortunately,Rundell has several other titles to her name, the latest has just arrived -The Explorer

26/08/2017 10:09 AM

Letters from a Lost Uncle by Mervyn Peake  {Reviewed by THOMAS}
“You will understand, unless you are very stupid, how exciting it is after so many years spent in searching for the White Lion, to feel so close to him.” The characters of Peake’s fictions, finding conventional society too narrow to contain them, turn their backs upon all that is familiar, traditional and expected of them and choose the path of loneliness that is the only alternative, monopraxis establishing no maps to variance, to learn that the path of loneliness is one to be beaten for oneself. Where there is no route forward a route must be made forward, and to carry on is to carry on with no companion but perhaps an oddity not of the same order of being as oneself. This is a melancholy path but it would be gritless to despair for to despair is the intended fate of all who turn their backs on lit windows and dining tables. One such wanderer, a “lost uncle”, though to whom he is lost is unclear, finds himself, one-legged but with a useful spike to complete his complement of limbs, more suited to the hazards and loneliness of arctic wastes than he is to human company, and travels north in search of the White Lion, whose image he has seen on a stamp. The longing of the Peakesean wayfarer draws him to the cold far edges of the mind, where snow may be swept by wind into a vast column, clearing the underlying ice so that the monsters that swim beneath may grin up as he passes. He has only a mutant turtle-dog named Jackson for company and to carry his gear. And the lion? Single-mindedness such as the uncle’s cannot fail, but the prize is bound to disappoint, the White Lion to be vast but old and on the point of death, the animals of the North all gathered for its farewell. And out of such loneliness, from this nowhere to which such uncles belong, from these experiences from beyond the usual ambit of experience, why these letters posted back to an undifferentiated nephew, these, in this case, distinctive pencil drawings with typewritten scraps of text pasted on? Does the letter, the book, the artefact, the text perform an inward urgency, tethering the sojourner to a sanity from which they might otherwise be distant? Or is there a magnanimity in production when to not produce would be less draining: does a writer imagine that the world might somehow be better (or worse) for their imposing their words upon others or upon at least the possibility of others? The task of an explorer is to explore. Is there any quest that does not leave a trace?

14/08/2017 08:47 AM

The winners of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults have just been announced!

2017 Margaret Mahy Book of the Year: SNARK by David Elliot
Copyright Licensing NZ Young Adult Fiction Award: The Severed Land by Maurice Gee

Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction: My New Zealand Story: Bastion Point by Tania Roxborogh

Elsie Locke Award for Non Fiction: Jack and Charlie, Boys of the Bush by Jack Marcotte

Picture Book Award: That's Not A Hippopotamus! by Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis

Te Kura Pounamu Award: Te Kaihanga Māpere by Sacha Cotter, translated by Kawata Teepa, illustrated by Josh Morgan

Russell Clark Illustration Award: Snark by David Elliot

Best First Book Award: The Discombobulated Life of Summer Rain by Julie Lamb

12/08/2017 11:34 AM

 {The 'Lockwood & Co.' series, reviewed by STELLA}
I started reading Jonathan Stroud’s 'Bartimaeus Trilogy' when I should have been reading something else this week! (I’m blaming this in my son’s exclamation “I can’t believe you haven’t read this yet. You have to.”) - a hazard when there are so many excellent books to read and always new titles arriving on my pile. Reading Stroud took me right back to my first encounter with his writing for children and teens, The Screaming Staircase, the first in the 'Lockwood & Co.' series. For fifty years, London has been haunted by ghosts, and the only people how can quell these beings are young, talented agents. There are several Psychic Investigations Agencies, but none are quite like Lockwood & Co. For a start they are a small team of three, they don’t have an adult ruling the roost and they do have a reputation for getting into quite a fix every once and so often. They are also extremely good at their job: Lockwood himself is brave, unflappable (you could definitely say he enjoys danger - maybe too much!) and highly skilled; George is the brains of the organisation - the one who will delve into the puzzles behind the ghostly problems finding the key that may quite often save their lives; and Lucy is smart, brave, and has an unwavering ability to tune into ghosts, especially the disaffected and trickiest ones. All in all, it’s dangerous, scary and filled with wonderful details and excellent characters. As the series continues the world of Lockwood & Co. becomes increasingly complex, the ghosts more malign, the apparitions more startling and the machinations and jealousies of the agencies increasingly mysterious. With titles like The Screaming Staircase,The Whispering SkullThe Hollow Boy and The Creeping Shadow, these are not for the faint-hearted. Yet Stroud isn’t all about scares; he uses humour excellently and draws out the relationship between our three heroes with pithy dialogue and the epic values of loyalty, courage and compassion. The fifth and final book, The Empty Grave, is due in September!

29/07/2017 12:21 PM

Book-related games and activities that are enjoyable ways to introduce children to concepts and story telling structures. A favourite at VOLUME isStory Box. The box contains 20 double-sided puzzle pieces that can be arranged (and re-arranged) to make wordless fairy tales. The illustrations are playful and clever allowing for different interpretations depending on the nieghbouring cards. An array of characters from gnomes and brave children to kings, witches (who may or may not be friendly) and wolves, against backdrops of farms, forests and mountains where people live in humble homes, majestic castles and forest trees give children an endless array of possible stories. My favourite cards include the wolf flavouring the tied-down gnome with salt and pepper, the strange giant pink rabbit who is busily nibbling away at the palace, the princess on her moped in the night-time forest, and gnomes lamenting some catastrophe, their boxes of tissues well in use. Sturdy, and with plenty of story-telling possibilities: ideal for 3-to-6-year-olds.                                       {STELLA}

Animals at Home is a matching card game for young children. 27 animals nee to find their homes. This great for small children - they are introduced to a variety of animals, some of which will be familiar (horse, bee, mouse), others perhaps new to them (beaver, platypus, mole). All the cards remain face up and the matching begins. Where does the beaver live? Who goes home to the cave? The illustrations are bright and clear and the text is restricted to nouns. There are clues in the colour backgrounds - you're right when the background colour matches. To make the game a little more challenging it can be a matching memory game with all the cards turned face down. Sturdy cardboard pieces are just the right size for little hands.

For children who love animals, Amazing Animal Facts is brilliant. This is produced in book form as well as a boxed file set. The box contains 50 postcards (25 different animal fact cards, so one of each can be posted) that can be coloured in and sent as postcards or kept as information file cards. The file box is segmented into five categories; Sea, Forest, Field, Jungle and Sky, with 5 different animals apiece. The Blue Whale fact card tells us that its heart is as big as a car and that it has a belly button, that the Sloth is so slow that it grows green algae on its fur, and that flies are deaf, poop every 5 minutes, and that a group of flies is called a business. Wonderfully designed, with intriguing facts perfect for young enquiring minds (and plenty for adults to learn too)!                   {STELLA}

15/07/2017 08:36 AM


Philip Pullman’s latest book is The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship, a graphic novel illustrated by Fred Fordham. Serena is sailing around the world with her family when a storm picks up and she is swept overboard. She’s rescued by the daring John Blake and finds herself on the mysterious ghost ship, the Mary Alice. Crewed by an assortment of sailors from different eras, souls rescued by the ship, they include a Roman engineer from 210, a slave of the Barbary pirates picked up in 1614, and Blake from an experimental expedition in 1939. And if adventures at sea and time travel aren’t enough there’s a present day villain, a wealthy tech mogul, who is out to find the Mary Alice and John Blake. What does Blake have that could be so important to a man who controls communications via his best-selling device, the Apparaptor? And he’s not the only person chasing the Mary Alice, awaiting sightings and news of a ship appearing in a strange fog and disappearing just as suddenly. Serena gets caught up in this high-stakes chase through time and across the seas. Can she help Blake and the crew of the Mary Alice overcome pirates, armed thugs and the crazed behaviour of a megalomaniac, and will she get back to her family? The Adventures of John Blake is a superb story filled with an exciting plot, conspiracy and mystery. Fordham's illustrations are excellent - with both nostalgic and modern elements, they fit the time-travel concept perfectly. Layered with intriguing characters, who we just get a glimpse of in this book, I’m sure there will be more John Blake adventures to come.     {Reviewed by STELLA}
> Click herehere and here for some spreads. 

01/07/2017 01:10 PM

Zeustian Logic by Sabrina Malcolm    {Reviewed by STELLA}
If only real life could be like as magical as the stars in the night sky, as escapist as the stories of the Greek gods he tells his little brother to help him sleep at night, or as logical as a mathematical equation. Tuttle (Duncan) would rather look at stars, visit the Carter Observatory and play computer games with his mate, Attila the Pun, but life has other, more urgent things in train for our nerdy teen. Tuttle’s Dad, a once famous, now infamous, mountain climber has been missing, presumed dead in a storm on Mt. Everest, accused of leaving his paying customer to die on the mountain. Tuttle is determined to find out the truth, but more pressing still are his mother’s fall into depression, his younger brother’s anxiety, and how to make sure the family are fed, get to school on time and avoid all the hassles of the social worker and the persistent journalist. And Tuttle also has the aggravating presence of Boyd, the petrol head neighbour who drives him insane. Zeustian Logic is reminiscent, in style, of Kate De Goldi’s The 10pm Question, with its compelling main character, serious issues – in this case the death of a parent and the fallout this has for a family – mixed with humour and compassion, against a backdrop of the everyday ups and downs of being a young teen coping with secondary school and of attempting to find resolutions to sometimes impossible problems. The book is cleverly set a year on from the event that changes this family’s lives – the relations and friends have been supportive and cared for them but now everyone has got on with their lives while Tuttle and his mother and brother are still living in a limbo-land, one in which grief is still ever-present, where the pressures on this young man are reaching a breaking point. Sabrina Malcolm has written a brilliant book about a boy coping with the death of his father and the impact that grief has on a family. In this climate of chaos, sadness and anger, Malcolm avoids clichés and resolution to create an ultimately affecting story about recovery from trauma and how family are the anchor points in their own constellation.


21/06/2017 09:47 AM

The 2017 CILIP Carnegie Medal for Outstanding Book for Children and Young People:
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
It's early 1945 and a group of people trek across Germany, bound together by their desperation to reach the ship that can take them away from the war-ravaged land. Four young people, each haunted by their own dark secret, narrate their unforgettable stories. They converge in a desperate attempt to board an overcrowded ship in a Baltic port, which is tragically then sunk by a torpedo. Based on a true story, the incident was the worst maritime tragedy ever.
The 2017 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for Outstanding Book in Terms of Illustration:
There is a Tribe of Kids by Lane Smith
Lane Smith takes us on a colourful adventure through the natural world, following a child as he weaves through the jungle, dives under the ocean and soars into the sky. Along the way he makes friends and causes mischief with a dazzling array of creatures both large and small - but can he find a tribe of his own? Full of warmth and humour, There Is a Tribe of Kids is a playful exploration of wild childhood - of curiosity, discovery and what it means to belong.
The Amnesty CILIP Honours:
Carnegie: The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon
Greenaway: The Journey by Francesca Sanna

17/06/2017 12:55 PM


Gecko Press produce excellent books for younger readers, and they have a knack for finding those quirky tales that will make you smile and have children laughing, commiserating and cheering for their favourite story friends. An early chapter book series, with short chapters and plenty of pictures dotted throughout, is 'Detective Gordon', written by Ulf Nilsson and illustrated by Gitte Spee. The First Case introduces you to Detective Gordon, an old toad (he’s 19!) – the police chief of the forest. When Squirrel discovers that 204 of his 15,704 nuts have been stolen he is understandably upset and rushes through the forest to report the crime to the famous detective, insisting that his missing nuts must be found. Detective Gordon stands vigil at the scene of the crime, and, when a young mouse flits away with another nut, he makes to pursue her. Unfortunately, he’s frozen and stuck under a mound of snow. The young mouse digs him out, and then she is promptly taken to the police station, which is warm and snug, with a comfortable bed and plenty of cakes (Gordon has a penchant for a nice cup of tea and cake for every meal and between times too, and he sometimes (but don’t tell anyone) nods off). When the detective discovers the mouse has no name, no home and only stole the one nut due to extreme hunger, he takes pity on her, promptly names her Buffy and feeds and homes his new assistant. And then it's time to solve the crime! Squirrel’s becoming further agitated by his missing nuts and wants the criminals caught, but who is it? With snow falling and the tracks being covered, can the Chief and his new assistant catch the culprits? A lively and charming story with plenty of cake and lots of heart. There are three 'Detective Gordon' books, so far, to be enjoyed.





10/06/2017 01:06 PM

This week's BOOK OF THE WEEK is See You When I See You by Rose Lagercrantz and Eva Eriksson 
Dani is on a school trip to the zoo, and the teacher tells the children how to stay safe and not get lost. But Dani gets separated from the others. Suddenly another class is rushing up the path and at the back of the noisy crowd is someone she recognizes: Ella! The good friends are so happy to be together again and Ella wants to play. What should Dani do? Follow her best friend in the whole world or do as the teacher said? 

>> Read Stella's review

>> This is the fifth book about Dani and her friend Ella. Have you read the others? 

My Happy Life
Dani is probably the happiest person she knows. She's happy because she's going to start school. Dani has been waiting to go to school her whole life. Then things get even better  -  she meets Ella by the swings. After that, Dani and Ella do everything together. They stick together through wet and dry, sun and rain, thick and thin. But then something happens that Dani isn't prepared for.
My Heart is Laughing
Dani's been trying her best to stay happy ever since her best friend Ella moved away. But when some girls in Dani's class start being cruel to her, it starts a chain of rather unhappy events. It would all be okay if only Ella would move back.
When I am Happiest
It's the second-to-last day of school and Dani's so happy she could write a book about it! In fact, that's exactly what she's done, although it's not quite finished yet. Now the book is in her backpack with all the other things she has to take home before the summer break. But then Dani gets some bad news. How will she ever be happy again? 
Life According to Dani
Its Dani's first summer vacation and the best ever! She is staying on an island with Ella, her best friend in the world. Dad is still in hospital but he calls every day, and Ella and Dani stay busy building huts, fishing, exploring, and swimming. Then Dad turns up, but with his new girlfriend! This is not the visit anyone had imagined. 

>> Bouncing back!

>> Do you read Swedish?

10/06/2017 01:05 PM

See You When I See You by Rose Lagercrantz and Eva Eriksson  {Reviewed by STELLA}
Swedish duo, writer Rose Lagercrantz, who has a genius for telling a simple story well, for capturing the small yet significant moments in Dani’s world, and illustrator Eva Eriksson, with her delightful, evocative pen-and-ink drawings, bring us the fifth book in the 'Dani' series, a wonderful Gecko Press series about Dani, a young girl who will steal your heart and appeal to the younger children in your life. We first met Dani in the delightful My Happy Life, and since then we have walked alongside Dani as she has started school, made friends, found out about bullies, lost a friend, got into a few scrapes, been happy and sad, scared and worried. Now, in book five, Dani is well at home at school and she is off to the zoo for a class trip. The rules are clear, and if you get lost you must wait where you saw your class last. Well, Dani does get lost, but when a class from a different school runs by in an unruly manner, who should she see? Ella! Her best friend. And suddenly the dilemma, stay put or follow Ella? Of course, Ella has grand plans that involve them adventuring on their own, and headstrong Ella is difficult to resist. Dani is delightful, loyal to her friend, conscious of what she really should be doing, torn between the rules and what feels best. Alongside this innocent adventure, is another : Dani’s father, still recovering from an accident, is doing his best to get Dani to like Sadie, the new person in his life. Yet he’s not quite getting it right. And why is Ella so upset - why does she think their friendship is in danger? Can Dani make it better? The great thing about this series is the ability of the author to create a character like Dani who doesn’t always do the ‘right’ thing, but is always full of heart, with stories that children will relate to, focusing on their concerns and worries, while also creating a sense of joy and a little mischief. 


06/05/2017 07:32 AM

The Palace of Glass by Django Wexler  {Reviewed by STELLA}
The third in 'The Forbidden Library' series, The Palace of Glass is the best yet! Alice, having discovered Geryon’s role in the disappearance of her father, is determined to get the better of him, and put the wrongs to right. To do this she has to ask for Ending’s help. Ending, a giant talking cat, is the guardian of Geryon’s Library. Alice doesn’t know whether she can trust Ending, but she has little choice - Ending can help her discover new powers and give her the information she needs to overturn Geryon’s power. When Geryon is called away to a meeting with the other old Readers, Alice sees her chance to enter the world which will take her to the Palace of Glass. She enters a strange world of fire and ice, meets a fire sprite, Flicker, who will be her guide to the dangerous Palace of Glass, where she must find a portal book with a potent spell, a spell strong enough to capture Geryon. Alice will have to gather her magical creatures and her powers, and keep her wits about her as she battles her foes and her supposed allies. Who can she trust? And where will this confrontation take her? The 'Forbidden Library' series is a great adventure with a remarkable heroine. There’s much to think about here, with lessons about power and corruption, loyalty and trustworthiness, all wrapped up in a compelling story about a girl who wants to do the right thing by her fellow apprentices and by the amazing magical creatures who have been cajoled and trapped by the might of the Readers. 

29/04/2017 02:17 PM

We have had some excellent children’s illustrated non-fiction arrive recently. For those fascinated by outer space, there is a great new book from Martin Jenkins with excellent Stephen Biesty illustrations: Exploring Space: From Galileo to the Mars Rover and Beyond is informative and appealing. From Galileo's telescope and early astronomy to the birth of flight, the Space Race and life on the Space Shuttle, to what future space travel will look like, this book will spark the imagination and intrigue those that look towards the stars. The wonderful cross-section drawings of Biesty’s detailed illustrations add that magic touch. For those that would rather keep their feet on the ground, who are keen on the environment and nature, The Book of Bees! is a stunner. Author Piotr Socha is one of Poland’s most popular cartoonists. A graphic designer and illustrator, he is also the son of a beekeeper. The Book of Bees! is filled with excellent historical detail, delightful and informative facts about the humble, but ever necessary, bee; and all this is wrapped in wonderfully designed and illustrated package. A standout book that will delight children and adults alike. Also not to be missed for animal lovers: Dieter Braun's Wild Animals of the North and, available from June, Wild Animals of the South.
{Reviewed by STELLA}

24/04/2017 04:36 AM

Usually the wolves turn up in the second week of the school holidays. Here are a few books to help you cope. 
Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault       $30
When Vanessa's sister Virginia is feeling wolfish and frightens the visitors, Vanessa sets out to calm her. Will Vanessa's drawing skills and imagination do the trick? 

Wild Animals of the North by Dieter Braun      $45
A remarkably beautiful book, short-listed for the 2017 Kate Greenaway Medal
>> Just look at this!

(In case you were wondering, South will be available in June.)
The Wolves of Currumpaw by William Grill       $33
This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of a wolf, Old Lobo, the wolf that no one could capture. In 1893, a respected naturalist and hunter, Ernest Thompson Seton, left New York in a bid to rid the ranchers of Old Lobo and his pack. This wasn’t as easy as Seton thought it would be and after many failed attempts he noticed another wolf, the beautiful she-wolf Blanca, and this ultimately led to the capturing of Old Lobo. This is a beautifully told story with stunning illustrations, which also reflects on the impact of Seton’s hunt for Lobo, his regret at his success and his growing awareness of wild places and the animals that belong in them. 

I am the Wolf... and Here I Come! by Benedicte Guettier      $20
The wolf is getting dressed. What's he going to do when he is ready? (Clue: he is very hungry). An enjoyable board book to share (clue: it closes with a snap like a wolf's jaws). 
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin       $20
It’s Germany, 1956, and Hitler has won the war. Yael, an eighteen-year-old woman, is part of the Resistance and she has a mission – a dangerous one – she is charged with assassinating Hitler. As a child, Yael was in a camp and experimented on – the experiment, which was successful, has given her a gift that can be used against her enemies. In 1956 a famous motorcycle race, for the creme de la creme of youths, crosses Hitler’s Europe. After years of training, Yael is ready to join this often-dangerous race, where allegiances are necessary to survive and to win is difficult. But win Yael must so she can get to the Victors’ Ball.  This novel draws you in slowly and then grips you with its teeth and doesn’t let up until the end. Followed by Blood for Blood
The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell      $15
Beautifully written, exciting and unusual. Feodora and her mother live in the snowbound woods of Russia, in a house full of food and fireplaces. Ten minutes away, in a ruined chapel, lives a pack of wolves. Feodora's mother is a wolf wilder, and Feo is a wolf wilder in training. A wolf wilder is the opposite of an animal tamer: it is a person who teaches tamed animals to fend for themselves, and to fight and to run, and to be wary of humans. When the Russian Army threatens her very existence, Feo is left with no option but to go on the run.
Help! The Wolf is Coming! by Cedric Ramadier and Vincent Bourgeau      $20
The wolf is coming and (predictably) he wants to eat us. Perhaps if we tilted the book, he might have a hard job of catching us. With a bit of imagination there are quite a few ways we might make things hard for this wolf.
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk       $23
Annabelle has lived in Wolf Hollow all her life: a quiet place, still scarred by two world wars. But when cruel, manipulative Betty arrives in town, Annabelle's calm world is shattered, along with everything she's ever known about right and wrong. When Betty accuses gentle loner Toby - a traumatised ex-soldier - of a terrible act, Annabelle knows he's innocent. Then Betty disappears...Now Annabelle must protect Toby from the spiralling accusations and hysteria, until she can prove to Wolf Hollow what really happened to Betty. There are no wolves in this book. 
What Dog Knows by  Sylvia Vanden Heede and Marije Tolman    $20
Wolf and Dog are cousins. In some ways they are similar; in some ways very different. When Wolf finds a book of facts in the library, he thinks he can outsmart Dog. But can he?

08/04/2017 08:01 AM

Two children's fantasy series reviewed by STELLA.
This week at our children’s book group for 9-12-year-olds our topic was fantasy (anything magical: dragons, wizards, witches, ghosts). Why do we love imaginary worlds and what do they tell us about our own world? I chose two books with a similar theme - Inkheart by Cornelia Funke and The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler. I read both of these some time ago, but they still stick with me. In both, the characters literally fall into books and into danger - wild rides where truth is uncovered and obstacles are overcome. Each have interesting girl protagonists, Meggie in the 'Inkheart' series and Alice in 'The Forbidden Library' series; both have a least one missing parent; both explore the need to trust, yet be wary of, strangers; and both have an incredible power - one that will help the characters overcome great obstacles to free the ones they love.

Cornelia Funke’s series is a complex, multilayered tale of mythical and magical proportions. When a stranger knocks on Meggie’s door one night, her life is turned upside down. Dustfinger, a fire-eater and performer, has come to find Mortimer (Meggie’s father), a bookbinder with a strange power: he is a Silvertongue with the ability to talk characters out of books. But for every character that comes out, something must go in. Dustfinger comes with news of Meggie’s mother and dangerous times, and Mortimer is pulled back into a world which he has tried to keep hidden from Meggie, who soon learns she has some incredible powers herself.

When you see a by-line that says "Books open new worlds. Especially for Alice", you can’t help but be tempted, and this was my introduction to The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler.  When Alice's father disappears, presumed drowned, Alice is sent away to live with the strange Mr. Geryon at his dark and unfriendly home, which includes a mysterious forbidden library. Banned from entering, of course Alice is curious, and so begins a tale of talking cats, books that you fall into, moving shelves, unusual and sometimes frightening creatures, foes and friends, and Alice's discovery of her quite remarkable talents. The Mad Apprentice is the second book in the series, where Alice meets other children like her and learns more about the sorcerers that they are apprenticed to, and the third book, just arrived at Volume, is The Palace of Glass.

17/03/2017 03:44 AM

A quick survey of our shelves revealed them to be loaded with books that have feisty, adventurous girl protagonists who take their destinies into their own hands*. Here's a small selection - recommended reading for children and young adults of all genders

Juno of Taris by Fleur Beale       $20
On Taris rules govern everything, from personal appearance to procreation. Although these rules were devised to survive environmental crisis, Juno must work out when to challenge authority, and when to resist peer pressure, in her attempt to find out the truth and her place in her society. 
Followed by Fierce September and Heart of Danger
Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts      $30
Ada will not stop asking 'Why?' This enables her to find out all sorts of things, but does she recognise the parameters of her research? 
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin       $20
It’s Germany, 1956, and Hitler has won the war. Yael, an eighteen-year-old woman, is part of the Resistance and she has a mission – a dangerous one – she is charged with assassinating Hitler. As a child, Yael was in a camp and experimented on – the experiment, which was successful, has given her a gift that can be used against her enemies. In 1956 a famous motorcycle race, for the creme de la creme of youths, crosses Hitler’s Europe. After years of training, Yael is ready to join this often-dangerous race, where allegiances are necessary to survive and to win is difficult. But win Yael must so she can get to the Victors’ Ball.  This novel draws you in slowly and then grips you with its teeth and doesn’t let up until the end.
Followed by Blood for Blood
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman        $22
Sixteen-year-old Seraphina, assistant to the court composer, is drawn into an intrigue indiciative of the disintegrating relationship between humans and dragons, aware that she must hide her secret: her father is human but mother was a dragon, and this not only gives her special gifts but also puts her in immense danger, both from around her and within.
Followed by Shadow Scale
The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig     $23
16-year-old Nix and her father travel not only around the world but through time in their pirate ship stuffed with treasure and mythological artefacts. Nix's father is obsessed with returning to a time before Nix was born, when her mother was still alive. Nix feels safe in the belief that he will never succeed, but one day her father gets his hands on a map, and Nix must make some hard choices.
Women in Science: 50 fearless pioneers who changed the world by Rachel Ignotofsky        $35
A lively, beautifully illustrated survey.
"Rachel Ignotofsky provides young women with the courage and the confidence to follow the exciting paths these scientists have blazed before them." - Eileen Pollack
 Wildfire ('Wildwitch' #1) by Lene Kaaberbol        $16
When 12-year-old Clara meets an unusually large black cat, her life changes for ever. No sooner than she discovers that she can communicate with animals and harness the powers of nature, she finds herself exposed to unexpected danger. She finds she must learn to fight as well as to flee. 
Followed by Oblivion, Life Stealer and Bloodling
My Happy Life by Rose Lagerkrantz and Eva Eriksson     $20
Dani is probably the happiest person she knows. She's happy because she's going to start school. Dani has been waiting to go to school her whole life. Then things get even better-she meets Ella Frida by the swings. After that, Dani and Ella Frida do everything together. They stick together through wet and dry, sun and rain, thick and thin. But then something happens that Dani isn't prepared for...
You will love the other 'Dani' books too

A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay        $20.00
Jena lives in a closed and remote community where a tragic incident has altered the lifestyle of the villagers. Out of tragedy has come a reverent regard for the mountain, a sect of wise Mothers who are all authoritative and who train a group of chosen girls to obey and harvest mica, which the villagers as an energy source. When a single stone is moved, Jena begins to question her role and the behaviours of others. The truth she will uncover will change all their lives. This is a gripping, powerful and completely compelling book that makes you think and question the fates we all encounter. 
Cloth Lullaby: The woven life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky and Isabelle Arsenault        $35
A beautifully illustrated children’s book outlining Bourgeois' early connection with textiles via her family’s work as tapestry restorers for generations in France, her early connection with nature, and her path to becoming an artist. While studying mathematics in Paris, Louise’s mother dies and Louise abandons her studies and begins her work as a painter and sculptor -  a homage to her mother.  
Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr       $19
The daughter of a priestess is cast out as a baby, and after raiders kill her adopted family, she is abandoned at the gates of the Great Hall, anonymous and mute. Called No-Name, the cursed child, she is raised a slave, and not until she is twelve does she learn her name is Aissa: the dragonfly. Every year the Bull King takes a tribute from the island: two thirteen-year-old children to brave the bloody bull dances in his royal court. None have ever returned - but for Aissa it is the only escape. Aissa is resilient, resourceful, and fast - but to survive the bull ring, she will have to learn the mystery of her true nature. A well written adventure set in Bronze Age Crete.
Northern Lights ('His Dark Materials' #1) by Philip Pullman     $18
Lyra and her animal daemon travel to Svalbard to attempt to rescue children who have having their souls removed, receiving help from an ice bear and a witch clan. Vast in scope and delectable in detail. 
Followed by The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass
The Ruby in the Smoke (a 'Sally Lockhart' mystery, #1) by Philip Pullman     $19
Deliciously Dickensian characters, a grimy setting, a plot that is both emotionally and intellectually engaging and keeps you guessing until the end (and beyond), plenty of good information about various kinds of misfortune prevalent in Victorian London, incandescent similes and other turns of phrase, the irrepressible verve both of Pullman’s writing and of 16-year-old Sally Lockhart, determined to find out the truth behind her father’s death. What more could you want? 
The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell      $15
Beautifully written, exciting and unusual. Feodora and her mother live in the snowbound woods of Russia, in a house full of food and fireplaces. Ten minutes away, in a ruined chapel, lives a pack of wolves. Feodora's mother is a wolf wilder, and Feo is a wolf wilder in training. A wolf wilder is the opposite of an animal tamer: it is a person who teaches tamed animals to fend for themselves, and to fight and to run, and to be wary of humans. When the Russian Army threatens her very existence, Feo is left with no option but to go on the run.
Girl Detective ('Friday Barnes' #1) by E.A. Spratt        $20
Imagine if Sherlock Holmes was an 11-year-old girl! Super-smart Friday Barnes solves everything, from missing homework to bank robberies. 
You will enjoy all six Friday Barnes books
Maresi ('Red Abbey Chronicles' #1) by Maria Turtschaninoff      $23
Maresi came to the Red Abbey when she was thirteen. In a world where girls aren't allowed to learn or do as they please, an island inhabited solely by women sounded like a fantasy. One day Jai, her clothes stiff with dirt, scars on her back arrives on a ship. Jai has fled to the island to escape terrible danger and unimaginable cruelty, and the men who hurt her will stop at nothing to find her. Now the women and girls of the Red Abbey must use all their powers and ancient knowledge to combat the forces that wish to destroy them. Maresi, haunted by her own nightmares, must confront her very deepest, darkest fears. 
"Dark, powerful and original. Really stands out in a very crowded YA marketplace. Thrilling, suspenseful and gloriously feminist." - The Bookseller
Naondel ('Red Abbey Chronicles' #2) coming soon!
>> Turtschaninoff introduces the series.
Dragonkeeper by Carole Wilkinson       $22
Set in China during the Han Dynasty, this is the story of a slave girl and her chance encounter with a dragon. Her journey with Danzi (the dragon) is one of danger and discovery. The girl, who had felt so worthless, finds an inner strength and courage to protect the dragon and becomes the dragonkeeper (a role reserved for very few). This book is beautifully written and rich in texture. 
There are six books in the series!

Good-Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 tales of extraordinary women by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo     $40
100 one-page biographies of inspiring women from all times and all places, each with a wonderful full-page illustration by one of 60 artists (who just happen to all be women), including New Zealander Sarah Wilkins.
>> Watch this!
We have already pre-sold all our first delivery of this book, but more stock is on its way. Put your name down now for the next available copy!

* We found to our delight that the gender-bias assessment undertaken in this video did not apply to the books on our shelves (if anything, the reverse!). We would also contend that it is not only girls who need books with girl protagonists - boys can enjoy them too. 

Come and browse!

02/03/2017 02:08 AM


Triangle by Mac Barnett and John Klassen     $28
Triangle sets out to play a mean trick on square, but square has the last laugh. The quality of the illustrations is particularly lovely, as the characters pass between the land where everything is triangular to and from the land where everything is square, through the land where the things are without shape. 
Mr Postmouse Goes on Holiday by Marianne Dubuc         $30
Mr Postmouse can't be delivering letters all the time; sometimes he and his family like to travel. However, they can't go around the world without a few parcels to deliver... 
Full of charming detail (as you'd expect). 
The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito and Julia Kuo     $35
Yoshio wants to find the most beautiful sound, the sound of silence, but everything has a noise, especially in a big city. Where will he find the sound of silence? Beautifully illustrated. 

Yvain: The Knight of the Lion by M.T. Anderson and Andrea Offermann       $30
In a story drawn from Arthurian lore, Yvain kills a lord in battle and finds his fate entwined with that of the slain man's widow and that of her maid. Luminously drawn, this graphic novel is both an exploration of knightly virtues and of the lives of medieval women. 
"A thoughtful, entertaining, and provocative presentation of this centuries-old story." - Booklist
Eden West by Pete Hautman       $22
Seventeen-year-old Jacob has grown up in the insular world of a separatist cult. His allegiance to the Grace starts to unravel as he develops feelings towards Lynna, a girl from the neighbouring range who he meets when patrolling Nodd's borders. As the End Days grow ever closer, will Jacob be tempted to sample forbidden Worldly Pleasures?
Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet          $28
Eleven-year-old Noah's life suddenly changes when his parents whisk him off on a secret mission in East Berlin in 1989. With a new name and identity, he must make a new life in a city where 'they' may be listening at any time, and where his friend Claudia's parents have suddenly disappeared....

Audubon: On the wings of the world by Fabien Grolleau and Jeremie Royer      $33

A stunningly lovely graphic novel based on the life of the man whose passion for birds drove him on an epic quest across North America at the start of the 19th century. What would the world make of his illustrations upon his return?
Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault     $30
When Virginia wakes up feeling wolfish and starts making noises that frighten the visitors, will her sister be able to charm her back to humanity by painting her a garden called Bloomsberry?

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd, illustrated by Levi Pinfold       $23
In 1941 Emmaline is evacuated from London to Briar Hill hospital in Shropshire. There she discovers a hopeful deep secret: there are winged horses that live in a world through the hospital mirrors. 
"A remarkable book." - Michael Morpurgo 
Exploring Space: From Galileo to the Mars Rover and beyond by Martin Jenkins and Stephen Biesty         $38
Biesty's incredible cross-sections add an extra dimension to this history of exploration of the final frontier (even though we're not too sure that space is the final frontier). 
The Scourge by Jennifer A. Nielsen           $25
When Ani is told she has tested positive for the plague that is sweeping her country, and sent to quarantine on an island (where the sufferers and condemned (supposedly) so that the populace may be saved (supposedly)), she discovers that all is not quite what it seems, neither the plague, nor the colony, nor the way in which her country functions. What is going on?

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan       $17

Will twelve-year-old Willow's mathematical genius help her to build a new life when everything goes wrong? 
Bronze Bird Tower ('Dragonkeeper' #6) by Carole Wilkinson       $28
Being a dragonkeeper is a lot more difficult than Tao could have imagined. When he and Kai reach the dragon sanctuary at last, nothing is as they imagined it would be, and danger is always at their heels. Bronze Bird Tower brings to a close this wonderful series in which young protagonists in ancient China must make difficult choices in the face of immediate and structural dangers. Start with #1: Dragonkeeper. Recommended!
Poo Bum: A memory game by Stephanie Blake     $25
Match the cards and enjoy the company of Simon the cheeky rabbit. Fun. 

13/02/2017 11:07 AM

Our Book of the Week this week is Helper and Helper by Joy Cowley and Gavin Bishop.

We have a lovely hardcover copy to give away, courtesy of
Gecko Press. To go in the draw, just tell us your favourite book by Cowley and/or Bishop.

11/02/2017 01:15 PM

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Helper and Helper by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Gavin Bishop
Snake and Lizard are back, negotiating their life together and finding out what the world has to offer. Cowley's wry, warm tales about the give-and-take nature of friendship, beautifully illustrated by Bishop, are perfect for reading aloud or as an early chapter book. 

>> Read Stella's review.

>> You will like the other 'Snake and Lizard' books, too!

>> An interview with Joy Cowley (which includes her reading a Snake and Lizard story). 

>> Sing along to the Snake and Lizard song

>> When things go wrong

>> We have a copy of Helper and Helper to give away, courtesy of Gecko Press. To go in the draw, just e-mail us the title of your favourite book by Gavin Bishop and/or Joy Cowley.

11/02/2017 01:00 PM


Helper and Helper ('Snake and Lizard' #3) by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Gavin Bishop - our BOOK OF THE WEEK!   {Reviewed by STELLA}
Another wonderful 'Snake and Lizard' collection from the talented duo Joy Cowley and Gavin Bishop.  Helper and Helper is the third collection of tales about the desert dwellers Snake and Lizard. Snake, as charming and deviously clever as ever, and kind, sometimes gullible, Lizard are up to their usual excellent antics. Lizard discovers democracy, not that it helps much to thwart Snake's plans; the Grey Rabbit steals their clients with his special healing abilities until Lizard has a cunning plan; Snake becomes an honorary lizard family member, which entails fifteen aunts making themselves at home in the burrow; and the good friends, our helpers, need to visit Wise Tortoise for a dose of help. These stories, with best friends Snake and Lizard, will delight young and old. Cowley's engaging storytelling allows children to explore big ideas and what really matters with humour and compassion. Gavin Bishop's illustrations are the icing on the cake, or, in the case of Snake, a particularly good quail's egg or, for Lizard, a breakfast of many fat blue flies.

09/02/2017 05:16 AM

Tell a different story each time you play with the Story Box. The interlocking pieces are a huge amount of creative fun.
(Hint: this would make an ideal gift on International Book-Giving Day!)
>>Visit our website for more information.

... and where is the princess off to on her motor scooter? (You decide.)

07/02/2017 03:40 AM


A Lion in Paris by Beatrice Alemagna
A very beautiful large-format book telling the story of a lion who seeks the excitement of the city but is disappointed that he is not noticed when he gets there. For lion-lovers and Paris-lovers old and young.

Lafcadio, The lion who shot back by Shel Silverstein
Lions have always run away from the hunters who come in search of lion-skin rugs, but one day a young lion questions this tradition, eats a hunter and takes his gun. After a bit of practice, the lion becomes such a good shot that soon all the lions have hunter-skin rugs. A man comes to take the lion to be a sharp-shooting star in a circus, and so begins a new life for Lafcadio: fame, clothes, travel, marshmallows. He becomes more and more human-like and begins to forget that he is a lion. What happens when his friends persuade him to go to Africa on a lion hunt, and, when he is standing there in his lion-hunting outfit, an old lion recognises him? Is he a human or is he a lion? Deep issues of identity are treated with a light touch in this funny book with great illustrations.

The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc
A gentle lion finds a wounded bird who cannot fly off with its flock and makes it a bed in a slipper, nursing it back to health as they become close friends through the winter. Spring comes and the flock returns. Will the bird leave the lion to rejoin them? The story is full of subtle observations about attachment and freedom, about seasons in the year and also in relationships, about being true to your nature and about the strength of friendship, but these are not shouted and the reader is entirely involved in the characters’ immediate feelings. This might well become your favourite picture book.

A Hungry Lion (or: A dwindling assortment of animals) by Lucy Ruth Cummins
The hungry lion's friends are all disappearing. Where could they have got to?

04/02/2017 02:59 AM

The Severed Land by Maurice Gee    {Reviewed by STELLA}
With a striking cover and a map of a divided world, I knew I was hooked. Maurice Gee’s new novel for children is a thoughtful, fast-paced adventure with a wonderful heroine. The novel opens with Fliss observing some soldiers and their cannon. Never able to break through the invisible wall, they have become increasingly frustrated with their inability to colonise the other side. As mayhem breaks loose, a drummer boy runs from the soldiers only to find himself stuck between the wall and the barrel of a gun. Fliss, for reasons unknown to her, is able to pull the drummer boy through the wall. Not that he’s grateful, but the Old One who holds the wall in his mind has been expecting him and he has a mission for Fliss and Kirt: they must rescue the Nightingale - to save the wall, which is in peril, and so keep their land protected from the warring families that wish to take it all. Going back through the wall is dangerous and uncertain: to be caught by the ruling elites would be certain death, and rescuing the Nightingale and bringing her to the Old One has many obstacles.The relationship between Fliss and Kirt has just the right amount of tension, each not quite sure of the other, but their mission relies on trust and courage. The underlying references to colonisation, to the power and passion of a people to resist, and the symbolism of the wall are pitched just right, lending layers of meaning beyond the action. The great story-line and compelling characters, Fliss - daring and passionate and Kirt - brave and stubborn, and their interactions with friends and foes will keep you entranced and leave you wanting more.

15/01/2017 01:05 AM

Picture books are not only for the very young. They can be appreciated on many levels for their language, playfulness and images. Wordless picture books are a wonderful way to delve into a story and many are sophisticated interpretations of story-lines we know well. Artist Thomas Aquinas Maguire’s version of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans is a stunningly designed wordless concertina-style book which also doubles as a very long frieze. The frieze can be looked at completely if you have a very long floor space, or the pages can be turned just like a standard book. Presented in a box, the detailed illustrations in black and white are fittingly dreamlike and atmospheric. The fairy-tale is told in an accompanying booklet. It is the story of a young princess driven out of her home by the new Queen, a witch who has cast a spell on her brothers. The brothers turned to swans can only be returned to human form if the young princess knits seven shirts from nettles and keeps an oath of seven years’ silence. As our world becomes increasingly screen-based, it's exciting to encounter beautiful tactile objects.
{Reviewed by STELLA}