Zac’s Favourite Kids Books – June 2016

I have one of the coolest jobs in the world! As an Outreach Librarian I visit primary, intermediate and secondary schools all over Christchurch to promote the library and spread a love of books.  It’s my job to get kids enthusiastic about books and reading, and I take a heap of books out to schools to share with kids.

Here are just a few of the books that I’ll be raving about in June:

Gorilla Loves Vanilla by Chae Strathie, illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne

Little Sam Sundae runs the best icecream shop around. People come from all over to have one of his icecreams. One day he gets some different customers who want some very strange icecream creations. Mouse wants a blue cheese sundae and Hen wants a worm cone, but then Gorilla comes in wanting just vanilla icecream. This is a very funny story that bounces along and the illustrations are bursting with colour and icecream of all sorts.

Fuzzy Doodle by Melinda Szymanik, illustrated by Donovan Bixley

Fuzzy Doodle follows a scribble on a page as it starts to eat the ink, then nibbles letters and words, until it moves on to gobbling pictures full of colour.  When it is full to bursting it makes a cocoon and unfolds and emerges as a dazzling book. This is a stunning book from two very talented local creators of books for young people. It’s the sort of book that will be enjoyed by young and old alike.

Flying Furballs: Dogfight by Donovan Bixley

Flying Furballs is the hilarious, action-packed new series from Donovan Bixley, the illustrator behind the Dinosaur Rescue series and Dragon Knight series. This is World War One like you’ve never seen it before. It’s the CATs vs. the DOGZ, with the CATs trying to stop the DOGZ from taking over Europe.  In the first book, Dogfight, Major Ginger Tom gets taken prisoner and it’s up to young Claude D’Bonair to fly in and rescue him from the DOGZ castle headquarters. Packed full of cat and dog puns, great characters and fun illustrations this is the perfect series for young readers.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Pax is a beautiful, heart-breaking story about the bond between a boy and his pet fox. The story starts with Peter having to leave his fox Pax in the woods at the side of a road and driving off. Peter’s father is going off to war and so Peter has to go and stay with his grandfather and can’t take Pax with him. Peter found Pax clinging to life as a kit, not long after his own mother had died, so Pax became his friend when he needed one the most. Peter and Pax have a very strong bond and so, even though they are hundreds of miles apart, they set out to find each other. The story tugs at your heart right from the start and you have to keep reading to find out if they will both survive to see each other again. Pax is a truly memorable story.

The Turners by Mick Elliott

Leo gets the worst present ever for his 13th birthday. One minute he’s just standing around in the school library and the next minute he’s growing a tail and turning into a komodo dragon.  When he goes home that night his sister and father tell him that he is a Turner just like them, someone who can turn into different animals. Usually a turn happens at night but for some strange reason Leo can turn in the daytime. Leo’s dad sets off in search of answers and tells them that he’ll be back the next day. When their dad doesn’t arrive home and they are attacked in their home by lizard men, Leo and Abbie go off in search of answers. The Turners is a very funny read, with lots of action and a dash of magic.

Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford

I love a good time travel story and this is one of the best for kids. It has one of the best opening paragraphs too: ‘My dad died twice. Once when he was thirty-nine, and again four years later when he was twelve. (He’s going to die a third time as well, which seems a bit rough on him, but I can’t help that.).’ When Al’s dad dies he gets a letter from him explaining that it is possible to travel in time and that he has built a time machine.  When his dad was a kid he had an accident that left a small piece of metal lodged in his brain which, over time, killed him. He asks Al to go back in time to stop the accident from happening and save him. Al doesn’t hesitate. He takes his hamster, Alan Shearer, jumps in the time machine and goes off to save his dad. As with all time travel stories, nothing goes entirely to plan. A funny story about a boy who just wants to get his dad back.

For more of my favourite kids books for June check out my booklist – Zac’s June 2016 Hot Picks

Read it again! WORD Christchurch

Book cover of The Were-nanaThe youngest readers weren’t forgotten in the WORD Christchurch festivities. On Saturday afternoon Read It Again! let five picture-book authors share their creations with an eager audience of three to eight year olds. Sheila Sinclair of Christchurch-institution The Children’s Bookshop chaired the session.

Melinda Szymanik read the NZ Post Children’s Choice award winner for 2009, The were-nana. Little sisters in the audience were positively gleeful at the morality tale!

Gavin Bishop brought a special guest: Teddy one-eye, author of an upcoming autobiography. Teddy one-eye was a dishevelled but very accomplished bear who taught himself to read over schoolboy Gavin’s shoulder. Gavin also shared the story behind Teddy’s tragic eye loss: as a youngster he admitted to his Grandma “I’ve swallowed one of teddy’s eyes.” “You’ll probably die.” was the reasurring reply. Happily, he’s survived long enough to read Stay awake, Bear!  to an attentive audience.

Charisma Rangipunga shared a song she sings to her children about a witch who lives in their wardrobe and tries to tempt them out of bed with lollies. Unfortunately for naughty children, the lollies turn out to be worms and the children are then forced to work in her dirty sock factory.

Book cover of Teddy one-eyeKristin Hersh read a story inspired by her son’s dislike of touring: Toby Snax. By the end of the story, lots of the kids in the audience would’ve been eager to head off for international adventures of their own.

Damon Young concluded the session with a continuum of ninja-knowledge and a rowdy reading of My Nanna is a Ninja, which he described as a “celebration of the fun of grandparents, the verve, the energy!”

Melinda Szymanik: WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival

WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival is a mere few weeks away – it kicks off on 27 August. We’ve asked three quick questions of festival guests:

Melinda Szymanik – writer for children and young adults

Cover of The Song of KauriWhat (or who) are you most looking forward to at WORD Christchurch?

I’m really looking forward to taking part in the schools programme on Thursday and reading my books to children on Saturday. It’s always a thrill to share my stories with the young people I write for. And I’m most excited to hear the discussion about Young Adult fantasy writing, between Elizabeth Knox and Laini Taylor, chaired by Helen Lowe on Sunday.

What do you think about libraries?

I discovered so many wonderful books in libraries, both school and community based, as a child. Libraries supported my reading habit and enabled me to read much more widely than the family budget could ever have allowed. They helped shape me and contributed to me becoming a writer. I love them.

Share a surprising fact about yourself.

I researched Rock Wallabies on Rangitoto Island to get my Masters in Zoology.