Book Review: Wake Up, Bear by Lynley Dodd

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_wake_up_bearI have to make a disclosure here – I have actually read Wake Up, Bear before. More times than I can count, in fact. First released in 1986, it was on my daughter’s bookshelf during her early years in the mid-late 1990s. Lynley Dodd was always a huge favourite of ours – we both loved the luscious language, the pace and humour, and the gorgeous illustrations. That was 20-some years ago, and while I still think Lynley Dodd is fabulous, do today’s six-year-olds still revel in her stories in what feels increasingly like a device-driven world?

The short answer is, yes. Children still love a well-written story, and I’ve yet to read a Lynley Dodd story that doesn’t qualify. My class were learning about seasons and life cycles at the time I read this story, so they were full of shared knowledge about bears hibernating and were actively predicting where the story might go. They loved joining in the refrain and were delighted and surprised by the joke at the end, which caused Bear to wake up.

Wake Up, Bear might be 32 years old but it is still as fresh and lively as the first time I read it. The illustrations are still delightful, the language is still rich and vibrant, and like all of Dodd’s books it is absolutely perfect for reading aloud. In an era when junior school teachers are in despair about the increasingly low levels of oral language of children starting school, I offer the following prescription: Some Lynley Dodd, daily. At least one book, more as demanded by the child. It would go a long way.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

Wake Up, Bear
by Lynley Dodd
Published by Puffin
ISBN 9780143772569

Book Review: The Thunderbolt Pony, by Stacy Gregg

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_thunderbolt_ponyIf you are a horse-loving tweenager, Stacy Gregg is a rockstar.  With her crazily popular Pony Club Secrets and Pony Club Rivals series and her more recent stand-alone novels, Stacy is one of New Zealand’s most popular children’s authors; both in New Zealand and overseas. Fans were queuing up to buy her newest release, The Thunderbolt Pony, last month without even needing to know the title or the plot; she is that popular.

Stacy’s newest novel is the first by her to be set in New Zealand. And what a tale it tells. Twelve year old Evie, already battling obsessive compulsive disorder after the recent death of her father, faces a new trauma when the Kaikoura earthquake strikes. Evie’s house in the small town of Parnassus is destroyed and her mother is badly injured, needing medical evacuation. When Evie is told she needs to flee the devastation with her neighbours to get to Kaikoura to meet a navy ship, she refuses to abandon her beloved animals and is determined to find a way to stay together. And thus begins her epic trek with her faithful pony Gus, feisty cat Moxy, and loyal dog Jock.

This is a thrilling read. The description of the physical experience of the big quake and its many aftershocks felt much too familiar. There were also far too many heart-in-throat moments of peril and danger. I found myself reading ‘just one more page’ on several occasions because I couldn’t bear to put the book down until I knew all of our animals were safe.

As well as the overarching plot about animals and earthquakes, there is a sub-story about Evie’s anxiety issues and counselling sessions. Stacey handles the topic of mental health with grace and empathy. Evie’s challenges with OCD and anxiety are not minimised nor used for comedic purposes. Her suffering is real and its treatment is explored gently and kindly, through the metaphor of Greek mythology.

This would be an extremely useful book to use to open a dialogue with children if they are facing any similar mental health challenges of their own, whether or not their anxiety is caused by a bereavement or earthquakes. Our hero is a great role model for anyone battling anxiety; she comes through her ordeal stronger and wiser: ‘… you could waste your life just waiting for the future to happen.  Sometimes we’re so busy anticipating things, we miss out on the moment that we’re living in right now.’

Evie’s story is one of courage, friendship, overcoming obstacles, and learning that there are some things we cannot control. It is an adventure story, an animal story, and a very New Zealand story; a great read for Kiwi kids and overseas friends.

Review by Tiffany Matsis

The Thunderbolt Pony
by Stacey Gregg
Published by HarperCollins
ISBN 9780008257019


Book Review: When We Go Camping, by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Cat Chapman

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

when_we_go_campingSally Sutton has written a number of popular children’s books, including Roadworks and Construction, and the Diary of… series that features a range of animals, such as a frog and a pukeko.

When We Go Camping follows a family camping trip and the trials, tribulations and excitement of a holiday in the outdoors. A great book to read out loud to young children, it contains rhymes and onomatopoeia that evokes what’s happening on the pages.

When we go camping, we bang in the pegs,
Bang in the pegs, bang in the pegs.
Guy ropes are tricky; they trip up our legs!

Smacketty tappetty bopp-io.

Each page has a version of that phrase, keeping continuity throughout the book – zippetty zappetty flopp-io; slappetty whacketty swash-io, etc, ending with hushetty shushetty snore-io as they sleep off their adventures.

The illustrations by Cat Chapman are charming and will keep young ones (and those reading the book to them) amused for ages, hunting out all the things needed for a successful camping trip. Older children can read along, while younger ones can help point out certain things like the family dog (who gets a look-in on almost every page), a teddy bear, sunhat, jandals, sausages, flies – and even a possum in the loo (that page includes a hilarious rhyme about the long drop).

With good weather fast approaching, this book would make a great Christmas gift for those heading away on a camping holiday this summer.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

When We Go Camping
by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Cat Chapman
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781921977787

Summer Reading Catalogue: Children & Young Adult

Welcome to our final dispatch from the front line about the Indiebound Christmas Summer Reading catalogue.

toucan_canOur top pick in the Children & Young Adult section for summer is Toucan Can, by Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis. My glowing review of this can be found here – and when I bumped into Juliette at a launch of another book on the list (A Book is a Book) she said that Sarah had emailed her ‘we made somebody cry! How cool!’

Most of our suggestions for younger readers have been on the bestsellers’ lists for weeks and are all worth looking at. Since they were released, the two Scholastic titles, My Daddy ate an Apple by Craig Smith and She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain, featuring a CD of the Topp Twins singing the eponymous song, have been jostling for top spot on the Poppies NZ Summer Cat 13_sml_Page_6_smlChildren’s and Teens Nielsen bestseller list. Another great suggestion is the Donovan Bixley-illustrated edition of Dashing Dog, by Margaret Mahy (HarperCollins NZ).

Junior fiction offerings include A Book is a Book (Gecko Press), by Jenny Bornholdt and Sarah Wilkins, which is a perfect celebration of reading for children and adults of any age. Donovan Bixley’s sophisticated picture book The Weather Machine (Hachette NZ) has also been reviewed favourably here, by Sue Esterman. And The Boring Book, by Vasanti Unka is a delightful dance of words, beautifully designed and illustrated by Vasanti, and published by Penguin.

It is difficult to go past Mortal Fire (Gecko Press), by Elizabeth Knox, for older readers, particularly those who enjoy magical realism (as I do). Set in the same world as the Dreamhunter duet, the story carries us on into a world post-dream palaces. Neil Gaiman also has a bit of magic in his bestselling Fortunately, the Milk…(Bloomsbury), which has received rave reviews worldwide.

John Boyne’s Stay where you are and then leave (Random House) is destined to be a classic, and is based on a boy’s search for his missing father during the First World War – perhaps something to heighten your teen’s awareness of the coming centenary?

The Divergent series of books (Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant)cv_allegiant by Veronica Roth are going to be selling out all over the country in the lead-up to the release of the first movie based on these books on 10 April 2014. The final story in this trilogy, Allegiant, has now been published, and we encourage you to pick up all three as a great gift for your teen reader this summer.

Our other top pick is by an author vaunted as the ‘next Roald Dahl’, David Walliams. High praise! Demon Dentist is ‘a hilarious and teeth-chatteringly thrilling tale about an evil dentist who has an over-the-top devotion to teeth extractions…’ This sounds like a perfect book for the Jeff Kinney and Andy Griffiths-loving child in your life.

The staff at Booksellers NZ wish you and your families all the best for the Christmas period. We look forward to carrying on reading, reviewing and recommending fantastic books in the New Year.

P.S.  We ran out of time to cover the final two pages in the catalogue which feature, respectively, Kitchen, Home & Lifestyle (hint, try our article in The Read about cookbooks for tips in this category), and Travel & Sport. Whether you are a bit of Bear Grylls or one of life’s cruisy armchair readers the Christmas Catalogue has something to tickle your fancy. We hope some books from within are winging their way to a Christmas tree near you.

by Sarah Forster