Hilarious new picture books

There have been lots of great new picture books coming out lately, especially ones that’ll have you and your children laughing out loud at the silly antics of farm animals, a nanny goat that adopts a tiger, and a boy who wears nothing but green.

  • Cover imageIn The Nanny Goat’s Kid, the amazing picture book duo of Tony Ross and Jeanne Willis tell us the story of the Nanny Goat who can’t have children but adopts one instead.  He’s different from all the other kids – he’s a tiger cub!  When the other kids start to go missing, everyone blames the Nanny Goat’s Kid, but was it really him?  Another quirky story from this talented team that older children will enjoy too.
  • The Gobble, Gobble, Mooooo Tractor Book is the latest book by Jez Alborough, the very clever author who introduced us to Duck in the Truck.  One morning, while the farmer is still asleep, Sheep climbs up onto the tractor and starts making tractor sounds.  Soon all the other animals join in and they’re making so much noise that they wake up the farmer, but what will happen next?  Parents and children will have fun making the animal sounds together and laughing at the animal’s antics.
  • Green by Mark Sperring and illustrated by Leo Timmers is the story of Clive who wears nothing but green.  “Green shoes, green socks and a bright green hat.”  His sister is forever teasing him, telling him he looks like a cabbage, a toad, and a beastly bug (among other green things), until one day he decides that he has had enough.  A hilarious book about sibling squabbles, with bright, bulgey illustrations by Leo Timmers.

Patrick Ness and Monsters of Men

Patrick Ness’ new book, Monsters of Men is due out on May 12 here in New Zealand and I can’t wait!  Monsters of Men is the final book in the Chaos Walking Trilogy, in which we will find out the fate of Todd and Viola and the world that they live in.  Here’s the blurb:

Three armies march on New Prentisstown, each one intent on destroying the others.

Todd and Viola are caught in the middle, with no chance of escape.

As the battles commence, how can they hope to stop the fighting? How can there be peace when they’re so hopelessly outnumbered? And if war makes monsters of men, what terrible choices await?

But then a third voice breaks into the battle, one bent on revenge…

I got my hands on a sample of the first chapter when I met Patrick Ness at the Somerset Writer’s Festival and you get thrown right into the action from the very first word.  It’s going to be a wild ride of a book!

If you’re also a huge fan of Patrick Ness, you can read my interview with him on the Pulse website.  While you’re there you can also enter the competition to WIN a signed copy of The Knife of Never Letting Go, a chapter sampler of Monsters of Men and two Chaos Walking badges. 

To make sure you’re one of the first to get your hands on Monsters of Men, reserve it now.

New NZ stories for children

Lately I’ve been reading some new children’s books that are written by New Zealand authors about Kiwi kids.  I really like it when New Zealand authors write about life in New Zealand, because I can relate to it so much better than American authors writing about American kids.  The scenery is something I recognise and the experiences of the characters is often something that has happened to me or something I did when I was a kid.  

Jack Lasenby is an author who has been writing for years and his books always have a slice of Kiwi life.  I like to think of him as Barry Crump for kids, because his books are made up of lots of little stories about life in a small country town, the mischief that kids get up to, and the crazy stories that adults tell them.

 Jack’s latest book, The Haystack, is full of these amusing and entertaining stories that are told from the point of view of Maggie who is being brought up by her dad in the 1930’s Depression.  They’re set in a little Waikato dairying township called Waharoa, where several of Jack’s other books have been set and where he grew up.  I loved these stories because of the closeness of Maggie and her father, and the way that Jack creates the atmosphere of Waharoa.  You can almost smell the wood smoke and feel the hot sun beating down on the dusty roads.

If you like the Percy Jackson books, you should try The Taniwha’s Tear by David Hair.  This is the second in the series and so it carries on the story of Matiu Douglas who came face to face with creatures from Maori legend in the first book, The Bone Tiki.  Like Percy Jackson, Matiu discovers he has powers and that the gods and monsters of legend (in this case Maori legend) are real and he must help to save our world. 

This is another book for children that is distinctly New Zealand and the combination of scenery that you recognise, action, adventure, myth and legend makes it an exciting and unique read.

If you’re interested in New Zealand children’s authors, we have a great page on our Kids website which has interviews with authors such as Joy Cowley, Margaret Mahy, David Hill and Brian Falkner.

Women want him, men want to be him – Jack Reacher

As well as watching a considerable amount of Glee at the weekend,  I also had my head stuck in Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher book 61 Hours.   In many ways I am the complete opposite of Jack Reacher;

  • he’s 6-foot, broad-shouldered and rugged whereas I am average height and rugged is probably the last word you would use to describe me.
  • he’s an ex-military tough guy, I’m a librarian and couldn’t scare anybody if I tried.
  • his only possessions are the clothes on his back, but it took 15 large boxes just to move all my books last time I moved flats (I’m only slightly obsessed, I swear!).

I’m sure I could give you more examples, but these just show you what extreme opposites Jack Reacher and myself are.   I prefer to live my live vicariously through Jack Reacher and other characters such as Harry Bosch, Charlie Parker and Mikael Blomkvist.  These characters can do the things that I would never do myself and I know that I would react very differently if placed in the same situations. 

What makes Lee Child’s latest book, 61 Hours, so exciting is the countdown throughout the book.  It starts at 61 hours (obviously) with the tour bus that Jack Reacher’s on crashing on a snowy highway just outside of the town of Bolton in South Dakota.  You know as you read that time is counting down to something but you don’t find out until the end of the book so you just have to keep reading to find out.

If you’re a Lee Child fan, he’s going to be in Christchurch next Thursday (15 April) so you can get to meet the man himself.  He’ll be signing his books at Borders Riccarton from 11.30am-12 noon, Paper Plus Riccarton from 12.00-12.30pm, and Whitcoulls Cashel St from 1.00-1.45pm.  He is also doing a Literary Liason at the James Hay Theatre  at 7pm if you want to hear him discuss his books and Jack Reacher (Tickets $15 at Ticketek).

Curiously good new books from Gecko Press

Everybody has a friend or family member like Hamster.  He loves being the center of attention, he’s selfish, and greedy.  His friends Rabbit, Snail, Squirrel, Mole and Hedgehog all know what he’s like but love him no matter what.  Reflections of a Solitary Hamster is Gecko Press’ first graphic novel, written by Astrid Desbordes and illustrated by Pauline Martin.  Through each quirky episode Hamster and his friends learn some important lessons about friendship, sharing, and that it is the thought that counts.  Gecko Press’ ‘curiously good books’ are always presented so beautifully and Reflections of a Solitary Hamster is no exception.  Great for children and teens but particularly adults as they will get the often subtle sense of humour.

Good for You, Good for Me by Lorenz Pauli and illustrated by Kathrin Scharer is one of my favourite Gecko Press books so far.  Dormouse meets Bear one day while he is walking along playing his flute.  Bear gives Dormouse his favourite red cushion so that he can have a play of his flute.  This deal is good for them both; Bear has the flute and Dormouse has a cushion to sit on.  It turns out that Bear can’t play the flute very well and so they swap back and decide to travel together.  They make a good pair and discover that if they work together things will be ‘good for you, good for me.’  The illustrations are delightful and show Bear and Dormouse playing together in the sun and the rain.  I especially like the black and white line illustrations of Bear dancing while Dormouse plays his flute.  This is a great books for sharing with young children and is a perfect bedtime story.

Boys of the High Country

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live on a farm, miles away from any town with only your family for company?  For some people this may be your worst nightmare, but for Ben and Mark Smith this is a life they love.  Ben and Mark: Boys of the High Country is a great new book from Random House New Zealand, written by Christine Fernyhough and John Bougen that gives an interesting insight into life at Mount White Station in the Canterbury High Country which is managed by Ben and Mark’s parents, Richard and Sheri.  The book illustrates what life is like for the boys who have grown up helping out on the farm.  It is filled with information on farming life, such as the animals they look after, their daily routines and what they do for fun. 

The easy to read text and stunning photos make this a great book for children and adults, and would be a wonderful educational resource for teachers.

Get lost in The Maze Runner

the-maze-runnerThere is really only one word needed to describe James Dashner’s The Maze Runner – Wow!  Imagine that you wake up in a strange place knowing nothing but your name.  Your memory has been wiped and you have no idea what happened to you before you woke up in the pitch black of an elevator that opens to reveal a walled-off area and a bunch of boys staring at you.  The leader of the group tells you that you are in the middle of a maze, in a place called The Glade where these boys all live, carving out an existence.  Nobody knows why the maze is there or why they are all trapped inside with no way out that they have discovered in the past two years.  As well as trying to solve the maze they must survive the attacks of sinister blob-type creatures called Grievers.  The story follows Thomas and the other ‘Gladers’ who strive against the odds to escape the maze alive.

The story is heart-stopping and the plot races along.  It’s one of those books that you just don’t want to end and I was excited to discover that The Maze Runner is the first book in a trilogy.  Now I just have to wait patiently for James Dashner to write the sequel, Scorch Trials that comes out next year.  If you loved Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games you’re sure to love The Maze Runner.

Pull up the blankets, turn out the lights, cuddle your teddy, time to say goodnight

I’ve noticed that there has been a bit of a run on picture books about bedtime lately and they’re all really cute.  Here’s just a couple of my favourites:

9781842709153Bedtime without Arthur by Jessica Meserve is about a girl called Bella who has a very special bear named Arthur who protects her from monsters when she is asleep.  “He is as brave as a knight.  He is as strong as ten elephants.  And he does karate.”  While Arthur is fighting the monsters in the shadows, Bella is dreaming of rainbows and rainforests, but one night Arthur goes missing and Bella has a horrible sleep because she can’t stop thinking about the dragons, slugs and grizzly bears that she is scared of.  She searches everywhere for him and finds that he has made another friend.  This little bear has lots of character and the illustrations are adorable and so bright.

9781842708217One of my favourite illustrators, Chris Riddell has also written and illustrated a picture book about the monsters that hide in your room.  Mr Underbed is about a boy called Jim who is dozing off one night when a friendly monster pops out from under his bed.  His name is Mr Underbed and he’s a bright blue, fluffy thing with a bulbous pink nose and a friendly face, and he tells Jim that it is very uncomfortable sleeping under the bed and asks if he can sleep in his bed.  Jim invites him in but this is only the start of the long string of monsters who want to share his bed, including Pinkie the bedside table rabbit and Grimble, Grumble and Groan the toy trunk triplets.  Will Jim ever be able to get to sleep?

9780747599715Stormy Weather by Debi Gliori doesn’t have the humour of the previous two books and is more of a lullaby for parents to read to their children before bed.  The different animals tell their children how they will watch over them and protect them while they sleep.  The text flows nicely and is a pleasure to read with perfect ryhthm to lull children to sleep.

Great new picture books

Here’s just a small selection of some great new picture books that have arrived at the library lately:

Fearless is a new picture book by Colin Thompson who has written some very funny picture books for older readers.  It’s a book about how the names of people (and animals) sometimes don’t quite match their personality.  A family called the Claybourne-Willments, who should have been called the Smiths, get a little puppy called Fearless. “It seemed like a good name for him.  Except Fearless wasn’t.”  Fearless is a bulldog who has a “tiny, nervous brain” but a huge heart and loves everyone he meets. However, when a burglar breaks into their house can Fearless live up to his name and protect his family?  The story is hilarious and I loved the illustrations, especially the one when a fly lands on his nose.

I know there are plenty of fans of Jackie French’s fantastic picture book Diary of a Wombat, where we follow the life of Mothball the wombat over the course of a week.  Most of the Mothball’s week involves sleeping, eating, and looking for food but Jackie French’s words and Bruce Whatley’s illustrations make for a funny read.  I was excited to discover that they have just written a sequel called Baby Wombat’s Week which is just as good as the original.  This new story is told in the same format as the original, where we follow Mothball and her baby over the course of a week.  Baby wombat gets bored very easily and goes off in search of food while his mother sleeps, and he bumps into a human baby who becomes his friend and they play together.  The text is very simple and so a lot of the story is told by the pictures, making this a perfect picture book.  Much like Diary of a Wombat, this book will appeal to both adults and children.

Spot It! by Delphine Chedru is a new look-and-find book that is great for young children.  Each of the pages in the book is a colourful repeating pattern (flowers, trees, swirls) similar to a wallpaper design, but hidden in each page is an animal or object to find, such as a leaping dragon, a lost chick, and a butterfly with five spots.  There is only one thing to find on each page making it easier for younger children, but they are cleverly hidden amongst the pattern.  I like it because it’s something different from the  I-Spy books, but still challenging for younger children.