Category Archives: Adventure

#365PictureBooks no. 46 I and I : Bob Marley by Tony Medina

Brimming with imagination and insight, this biography of reggae legend Bob Marley features soulful, sun-drenched paintings that transport young readers to Marley’s homeland of Jamaica, while uniquely perceptive poems bring to life his journey from boy to icon“. Publisher

At first glance I thought this picture book featured the lyrics of Bob Marley, however reading it once I had arrived home from the Public Library, led to the delightful discovery that the author has written the story of the life of Bob Marley in free verse. I didn’t know much about Bob Marley before reading this book and I suspect many kids won’t know his name these days unless they are familiar with his enduring and very catchy lyrics.

For our students that inquire into different forms of artistic expression through their PYP : How we express ourselves unit of inquiry, music is one area I need to resource more fully. I’ve recently bought some multiple user ebooks on hip-hop because we had a hole in our collection in that subject and I can see some books on reggae would be a good addition too. I’ve had some interesting conversations with our Music and Performing arts specialists recently – one part of our teaching team that I think has been overlooked in our resourcing mix in the past. I think they deserve some resources that they can use to paint a very holistic picture of any artist – musical or visual – when they are teaching about styles and movements.

I love this…and when the verse is combined with the warm, ocherish, plump illustrations, the words and pictures paint a very vivid picture of the boy, the man and the musician.

Mama just a caramel country girl shy as can be

And Papa many many years older than she

Papa is a white man so I’ve been told

My face a map of Africa in Europe’s hold

My heart the island where he and she both meet…

From “My heart the Island”

I found this perceptive review from Elizabeth Bird at NY Public Library. (My goodness she can write – one of the best book reviewers out there imo)

Bibliographic details:

I and I : Bob Marley / Written by Tony Medina and illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson.

Published by Lee & Low Books, 2009.

48 pages.

ISBN:9781600602573

This is available via back order on Wheelers – NZ $36.99, but I borrowed this copy from Auckland Libraries.

Midnight pirates by Ally Kennen

Image

Midnight pirates by Ally Kennen. Published by Scholastic, 2013. Paperback, 228 pages.

ISBN: 9781407129884

Publisher’s synopsis:

Aaaaaaargh me hearties! Running a hotel should be easy, right? Not if your guests are pirates! As three children find out when their parents go away to America, running a hotel is much harder than it seems. They pretend there are adults in charge, but the chaos just keeps on mounting. And things become even stranger when a very odd guest checks in. A ship is wrecked close to the beach, and crates of washed-up cargo are there for the taking. Was it an accident? Or does the sinister guest have something to do with it?

From the back cover:

Welcome to the wild hotel…The manager is ten years old, the guests are loopy and a ghost roams the roof. With no parents around, three kids and a dog are running the show. But their chaotic adventure turns sinister with the arrival of some dangerous visitors…

What did I think about the Midnight pirates?

Reading this reminded me so much of many hours as a child spent reading Enid Blyton mysteries. Plus there was the rather unwelcome memory of the BBC series ‘Poldark’ set in the same part of Britain. Unwelcome only because when I looked it up I realised it was a 1975 production making me feel very old! The description of the Southern coast of Cornwall, where  Midnight Piratres is set is wonderful. I haven’t visited that area of England but I feel I would like to now. This really is the sort of book that you almost want to read with rain beating against the windows, in front of a roaring fire by candle light. I had such a strong vision of how the hotel looked in my mind, that a movie or TV adaptation of this would probably never live up to it. Anyway, I digress….

An Enid Blyton read alike this is not, despite the memories. This is an adventure story with authenticity – certainly not ‘lashings of ginger beer’. This is the first book I have read by Ally Kennen and I was impressed with how vividly she portrayed both the characters and the setting. The characters, especially 13 year old Miranda, are very real and believable. Her brothers (Cal 16 and Jackie 10) are both irritating and annoying in turn. The children have led a charmed and idyllic life while their  parents struggled to run the dilapidated and failing hotel. When the parents announce their decision to sell up and travel, the children are told they will be moving away forever and going to boarding school. All of them have strong ties and reasons for wanting to stay – Cal surfs and has a local girlfriend, Miranda loves the local wildlife, especially the seals, and Jackie is very attached to the family dog Fester. Jackie decides to run away back home to the hotel and circumstances mean that Cal and Miranda have to go with him. They struggle with the poorly provisioned conditions until Jackie has the bright idea of pretending the hotel is open and taking guests. When things turn sinister, the reader gets a very real sense of how the children in this story are out of their depth and genuinely frightened. The portrayal of modern day pirates that board ships to steal both the boat and cargo, is all too believable.

This is a great story and I am so pleased to have it to offer to my students. Last year many of my now Year 6 students read the first in the Laura Marlin mysteries ‘Dead Man’s Cove‘ by Lauren St John as a class read. It’s lovely to have something in the same genre that is so easy to recommend to them.

Ally Kennen reading an excerpt from Midnight pirates:

Source: Renlearn UK  via Vimeo.

Sequel success: Ash Mistry and the City of Death by Sarwat Chadda

Image

Ash Mistry and the City of Death by Sarwat Chadda. (Ash Mistry Chronicles ; 2). Published by HarperCollins Childrens Books, 2013. Paperback, 320 pages. ISBN: 9780007447374

Publisher’s synopsis:

Ash Mistry is leading a pretty complicated life. There’s school, his unrequited crush on girl-next-door Gemma… and then there’s the fact that he’s the reincarnation of the great Indian hero Rama, not to mention the small detail that he died last year, and came back as an agent of the goddess of death.

So when the demon servants of the evil Lord Savage come after Gemma in order to get to Ash, you’d think he’d be ready to take them on.

But Lord Savage still has some tricks up his sleeve. And with Gemma out of the picture, the English villain is closer than ever to finding a magical aastra of his own, and the power to rule the world. It’s time for Ash to go up against his enemy once again. Luckily, as the human embodiment of the kali-aastra, Ash can find the weak points in any living thing and kill it. But the key word there is ‘living’. And little does Ash know that Lord Savage has mastered another branch of magic – one which allows him to create whole armies out of un-living stone…

What do I think about this sequel?

This book is fantastic – if anything I found this even better than the first – it’s tighter and expertly paced. Kids that love rip-roaring-seat of your pants adventure will LOVE this: it’s got villains trying to stay immortal but young again, the hindu version of Goloms, demon shark monsters, betrayal, redemption, loss, friendship – but mainly action. This would make a fantastic movie.

My only note of concern….once again publisher’s age recommendation is 9+. This is very violent with LOTS of killing – I recommend this for MATURE 10+  and I would be warning kids/parents/teachers as I talk about it with them. The violence didn’t worry any of my readers of the last book (Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress) as it does seem ‘in context’ with the Hindu myths and legends and also the belief in reincarnation (and Karma). Even so, I don’t want any of my students having nightmares. I loved this – it was awesome!

RELATED POSTS:

Galloping galoshes it’s ‘The Great Galloon’ by Tom Banks

Image

The great galloon by Tom Banks. Published by Hot Key Books, 2013. Paperback, 166 pages.

(ISBN: 9781471400889)

What on earth is a Galloon?…why it’s half galleon and half balloon! (source: Scholastic Bookclub News UK)

From the publisher:

The Great Galloon is an enormous airship , manned by Captain Meredith Anstruther and his able crew. They might seem like a bit of a motley bunch, but they’re great at fighting off pirates and polishing the decks whilst drinking lots of tea! But disaster is about to strike… Captain Anstruther is preparing to marry the beautiful Lady Isabella. But on his wedding day, his evil younger brother boards the ship and steals Isabella away onto his underwater Sumbaroon! Soon the plucky crew of the Great Galloon – including a reluctant countess-to-be – are battling BeheMoths, dodging scary Seagles and trying to save the Galloon from sinking. But will they ever find the Captain’s bride?

THE GREAT GALLOON is a humorous CAPTAIN PUGWASH meets MONTY PYTHON adventure perfect for reading aloud and for growing readers looking for a silly, funny book…

(from the back cover):

Can the crew of the Great Galloon survive this impending disaster? And how many riotous adventures will come their way in this fabulously funny action packed tale?

What did I like about this book?

I didn’t hesitate to order this because it’s published by Hot Key Books and as I have mentioned often on this blog, they are publishing some of the hottest kidlit fiction coming out of Britain, and kids just seem to love the books. Secondly it had a glowing pre publication review on lovedreading4kids – another website I trust. Thirdly, I have a bit of a penchant for anything steampunkish and something with a steampunk flavor and lots of humor grabbed my interest. Look at the handy ‘Key’ provided by Hot Key on the back of the cover!

RING_GREAT_GALLOON_220_147-1

I love the writing in this, it is playful and a bit mad. The reader is thrust straight into the action, and in a rather alarming way, without much of an introduction.  Accomplished readers will eat this up, but in my opinion this isn’t one for struggling readers or kids with English as a second language – it might be a little bewildering. Not a fault with the book – it is just different so something for some readers to work towards. I wasn’t surprised to read that the author has a background in the theatre, it has a ‘panto’ like riotous romping quality. The publisher has suggested Captain Pugwash meets Monty Python, I would throw in a little of the opium fuelled fantasy from Alice’s adventures, and the seagulls from James and the Giant peach to round that description out. There is an absolute Mad Hatterish feel about the story – and to get the humor you have to take things literally rather than figuratively or is that figuratively rather than literally?..maybe both!

e.g. “Another game of Backgammon?” said Stanley “I’ll bat this time”. [I thought this and plenty of other lines like this…frightfully clever!]

I loved it – hope some of my Year5 +  (9-10+) students do too!

Take a look at the first chapter available via Hot Key here:

There is a sequel on the way too…The Great Galloon : Voyage to the Volcano (August 2013)

Three times lucky by Sheila Turnage

Image
Three times lucky by Sheila Turnage.
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published 2012 by Dial
(ISBN13: 9780803736702)

Newbery honor winner and New York Times bestseller.

From the publisher:

A hilarious Southern debut with the kind of characters you meet once in a lifetime

Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone’s business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she’s been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her “upstream mother,” she’s found a home with the Colonel–a café owner with a forgotten past of his own–and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known.

Full of wisdom, humor, and grit, this timeless yarn will melt the heart of even the sternest Yankee.

What did I think about this book?

Loved it! Highly recommended – This will be good for my mature readers who can decipher the southern voice and writing. Suggested age range 10-12. This should be a wonderful read aloud that would lead to a lot of interesting and lively discussion about the characters, the setting and some of the issues – murder, bank robbery, domestic abuse, and small town snobbery. It is interesting to think that despite the differences in geography ‘small town USA’ is probably very much like ‘small town anywhere’ – including New Zealand provincial towns – and most readers will relate to many of the eccentric and downright nasty characters we meet in the book.

My favourite quote:

“I’m Baptist. So far, Fast or Never is the only speeds I got with forgiving.”

Listen to an audio extract from the first chapter HERE :

Reviews:

Review by Betsy Bird: “the one thing I can say with certainty about Three Times Lucky is that you will never, but ever, mistake it for another book. We’ve got murder. We’ve got careening racecars. We’ve got drunken louts and amnesia and wigs and karate and all sorts of good stuff rolled up in one neat little package. I’ve read a lot of mysteries for kids this year and truth be told? This one’s my favorite, hands down.”

Kirkus reviews: “What do you get when you combine Because of Winn-Dixie’s heart with the mystery and action of Holes? You get an engaging, spirit-lifting and unforgettable debut for young readers.”

Allyson Beecher: “It might be easy to dismiss this story as just another one of those books that portray all Southerners as backwards, ignorant, and foolish…Educators should take heed in that if the only books we shared with students were stories about poor, ignorant Southerners living in small towns, then we too would be “in danger of a single story”.  However, there are Southerners (just like there are northerners) that live in small towns filled with eccentric, quirky characters.  Our responsibility as educators and reading leaders is to provide students with a rich variety that represents all types of people living in a specific region or during a designated time period.”

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

navigatingearly

Navigating early by Clare Vanderpool.

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published  2013 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
 (ISBN13: 9780385742092)
From the publisher:

At the end of World War II, Jack Baker, a landlocked Kansas boy, is suddenly uprooted after his mother’s death and placed in a boy’s boarding school in Maine. There, Jack encounters Early Auden, the strangest of boys, who reads the number pi as a story and collects clippings about the sightings of a great black bear in the nearby mountains.

Newcomer Jack feels lost yet can’t help being drawn to Early, who won’t believe what everyone accepts to be the truth about the Great Appalachian Bear, Timber Rattlesnakes, and the legendary school hero known as The Fish, who never returned from the war. When the boys find themselves unexpectedly alone at school, they embark on a quest on the Appalachian Trail in search of the great black bear.

But what they are searching for is sometimes different from what they find. They will meet truly strange characters, each of whom figures into the pi story Early weaves as they travel, while discovering things they never realized about themselves and others in their lives.

What did I think about this book?

I LOVED THIS BOOK and thought about it long after I had closed the pages. The writing is beautiful and there is depth in the plot and characters…but I wonder if the story could have been developed even further and possibly published as an adult novel? This is a tricky review to write and I am thinking about how hard a “sell” this might be to my students (My oldest are Year 6 – equivalent to 5th Grade in the USA).

So many books these days have action from the start and many readers rely on that to get them hooked. Part of my role in developing readers is to get them to see the value of a strong build up in a story i.e. getting to know the characters, the setting, the back story – before reaching the action. I know that there will be students in my school community who aren’t mature enough readers to persevere past the first chapter or two. I found the start slow and whilst I am well aware that “good things take time” my reading enjoyment was punctuated with fears about whether or not I could get anyone to read this. Once Early and Jack have left the school and are on their adventure, the pace picks up considerably and there is action and adventure aplenty. Unfortunately it’s almost too much happening too soon and so many dangerous and unsettling things happen in quick succession.  Whilst the action and adventure ties in with the parallel story about pi, it did stretch credibility somewhat.

This isn’t a title I would book talk with a whole year level, however I believe this would be valuable and moving read aloud to a group from Year 6-Year 9. Some of my more thinking and mature students will want to read this, but I would prefer to show them the book and talk about it individually . It  is likely I will offer this copy to our Middle/Senior library for their collection as I am confident more of their students will enjoy it.  As Kirkus Reviews said “Navigating this stunning novel requires thought and concentration, but it’s well worth the effort.

Reviews – I’m pasting links to these, because all of them had insightful yet differing views on this book:

Travis Jonker 100scope notes:

Kirkus Reviews:

NY Times:

Publisher’s Weekly:

Teach Mentor Texts:

Zac Harding introduced me to the work of New Zealand author Des Hunt in this post. I bought the book on his recommendation and read it in an afternoon – it was really exciting, well paced and beautifully written and really was one of those stories I couldn’t put down until finished. I have a selection of books by Des Hunt in my library and had not read any of them – so I am really grateful to Zac for having introduced me to his books. Now that I have read this one, I will be offering these titles to the Year 5/6 students who prefer realistic, adventurous fiction over fantasy. It seems only fitting that I reblog Zac’s original post! Zac is interviewing a wonderful selection of New Zealand authors and illustrators, as well as reviewing some great NZ titles during NZ Book Month so hop over to his blog to read more!

Clicking on “read more….” (above) will take you to Zacs post about this book, but here is the link to the blog home page: http://bestfriendsrbooks.com

The debate about zoos 

In Phantom of Terawhiti there are references to the ethics of keeping wild animals in enclosures. This could be a good topic for a class debate.

Harper Collins has provided PDF notes for teachers here that include links to web resources on this topic and much more!

 

 

 

My Best Friends Are Books

Des Hunt is one of my favourite New Zealand authors because he writes action-packed adventure stories set in New Zealand.  The setting is always so important in his stories and Des has introduced Kiwi kids to parts our beautiful country that are both familiar and unexplored territory for them. In his latest book, Phantom of Terawhiti, Des takes us to Wellington’s wild southwest coast and introduces us to Zac, who stumbles on an interesting discovery.

It’s the school holidays and Zac thinks he might go crazy with boredom. He’s living in exile with his disgraced father on the remote Terawhiti Station on Wellington’s wild southwest coast. Then Zac and his dad witness a boat sink during a storm. Investigating further, Zac finds a set of unusual animal prints on the beach. Whose boat is it? And what creature could have made the prints? Soon armed men are prowling the coast…

View original post 277 more words