Archive for February, 2013

Kids’ Books: picks from our latest newsletter

Hey kids, looking for some great new books to read? Check out these cool titles from our February Kids’ Books newsletter:

The Vengekeep PropheciesCover: My iPad for KidsCover: The Dragonet ProphecyCover: Prehistoric Actual SizeCover: Goldilocks and the Three DinosaursCover: Alphasaurs and Other Prehistoric TypesCover: The Fairy-Tale PrincessCover: Amazing Giant Dinosaurs

Did you know you can subscribe to our newsletters and get our latest titles and best picks straight from your inbox? It’s easy!

Have you read any of these books? If so, we’d love to know what you thought of them!

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Scrap #3 – Dog on Trial!

Ebook agree

I just realised that this is my last post for the month. It’s flown by – probably because it’s such a short month. I better have a shout out for Scrap #3, coming out later this year. Scrap’s proven himself as a working dog, but when he meets his father he finds out why his mum didn’t want to talk about him. He’s determined to beat him at the dog trials, if only he knew what dog trials were!

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Testing, testing…

ImageHello! I’m not supposed to be here yet, but since I’m not very good with computers, I thought I’d better get in some practice first. My name is Lee Murray and I’ve been invited to be your Star Author for next month, New Zealand Book Month, which is very exciting. New Zealand Book Month is a special month-long party held every year in March. In involves all sorts of  events intended to promote books and reading, and especially to encourage people to read New Zealand books by New Zealand writers. I think that’s a terrific idea. I’m going to make it my goal to read four books by New Zealand authors before the end of March. Maybe you could do the same?  I’d love to hear about New Zealand books that you’ve enjoyed, or not enjoyed and the reasons why. Here are some great kiwi titles to get you started:

The Drover’s Quest by Susan Brocker

The Peco Incident by Des Hunt

Skye and the Lost Relic by Correne Walmsley

X-Rated by Gun Caundle (it’s okay, this book is NOT actually x-rated)

The Tooth Fairy’s Mistake by Linda Dawley

Dragons Away by K.D. Berry

Looking forward to joining you in a few days time…

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Phantom of Terawhiti by Des Hunt

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, and threatening Zac, his friends and his family. He must do all he can to protect the Phantom of Terawhiti from those intent on hunting it down.

Phantom of Terawhiti is an action-packed adventure story, packed with mystery,  armed and angry Russians, brainless hunters, wild weather, a car chase, and a race against time.  Des Hunt is a gifted storyteller who never fails to write a story that grips readers and makes you keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.  In Phantom of Terawhiti there are plenty of heart-stopping moments, especially when Zac and Jess clash with the Russians.  The mystery of the ‘Phantom of Terawhiti’ draws you in and, even when the creature is revealed, you wonder how it will survive in the wild with the hunters trying to track it down.

Like the main characters in his other books, Zac and Jess are just normal Kiwi kids, who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (or maybe the right place at the right time).  Zac gets dragged by his dad to come and live on the remote Terawhiti Station, and it’s while he’s here that he discovers the wreck of the yacht and the paw prints in the sand.  When they discover the Phantom of Terawhiti, Zac and Jess know that they must do everything they can to protect it.

Phantom of Terawhiti is one of Des Hunt’s best books so far and I can’t wait to see where in the country he will take us to next.

4 out of 5 stars

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Introducing Timmy Failure and Total Failure Inc.

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis is the funniest book you’ll read this year.  If you like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books you’re sure to love Timmy Failure.  This book should come with a guarantee – “If you don’t laugh out loud at least once we’ll give you your money back!” It’s due out in March and you can watch these very funny videos below to meet Timmy Failure, his friends and his enemies.  There is also a really cool Timmy Failure website you can visit to find out more about the book and the author –

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Scrap – Oh My Dog

Scrap 2In the second of the Scrap series, Scrap starts life with a new team on the hills of Rocky Ridge Station. He’s still got a lot to learn, but at least he knows where his mum is. But to see her he has to get past Buster, the massive team leader, and the man that tried to drown him as a pup.

It’s interesting that every good story has a shape. It builds to a point towards the end of the story, everything depends on that moment and in a good story you never know quite how it is going to turn out.  In this story that high point is pretty scary and you wonder if Scrap will even survive. Can you think of one moment in any story you’ve read where you’ve been so drawn in that you just have to keep turning the pages to find how it all ends?

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Scrap – Tale of a Blond Puppy

Scrap cover 2Hey team – I thought it was time to tell you about Scrap. It’s a series about a blond sheepdog in New Zealand and the first book is about to come out. Poor Scrap is dumped as a tiny puppy before he can see or hear anything. Fortunately he’s rescued and taken to a farm where Bill, a retired heading dog starts to look after him. Scrap doesn’t know anything about being a dog and it’s up to Bill to act as his Mum and teach him about the life of a working dog. While Scrap is full of enthusiasm and has the ‘Eye’ which gives him special power over sheep, he still has a lot to learn. He’s also desperate to find his Mum. It’s a small district and Bill thinks that sooner or later he’s going to come across her. It’s a book that has some serious messages, but it’s also one of the funniest books I’ve written. I thoroughly enjoyed creating it, I hope you’ll enjoy reading it too.

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Seven Wonders: The Colossus Rises Book Trailer

The day after twelve-year-old Jack McKinley is told he has six months to live, he awakens on a mysterious island, where a secret organization promises to save his life – but with one condition. With his three friends, Jack must lead a mission to retrieve seven lost magical orbs, which, only when combined together, can save their lives. The challenge: the orbs have been missing for a thousand years, lost among the ruins and relics of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. With no one else to turn to and no escape in sight, the four friends have no choice but to undertake the quest. First stop: The Colossus of Rhodes … where they realise that there’s way more at stake than just their lives.

The Colossus Rises is the first book in Peter Lerangis’ action-packed new series called Seven Wonders. It has been described as ‘Percy Jackson meets Eragon’ and it sounds really exciting.  You might recognise Peter Lerangis as one of the authors of The 39 Clues series.

Reserve your copy of Seven Wonders: The Colossus Rises at your library now.

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The weekend

We’re coming to the weekend here now – Friday and Saturday are days off here, not Saturday and Sunday. Often we’re thinking about going camping, dune driving or exploring on our Image

days off. Going to PLACES.

Place or setting can be hugely important – in my historical thriller the history is tied to the places involved, in my other books the setting has to be authentic. Take the picture I posted and think about where it could lead. Would you have to swim or climb to get there? What if there was an accident? Could someone be waiting?

It’s a picture of a canyon in Wadi Bani Awf in Oman. When it rains these canyons and wadi’s flood very quickly and people are often swept away. Maybe rain could generate the excitement in your story.

Have a good weekend!


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This is a sign we came across in Sri Lanka. It’s certainly affected our plan to go for a swim just there. 

Planning is hugely important.  People can work differently, but I know where my story is going before I even start page one. Planning is mostly about the plot and for a thriller plot it is hugely important. You have to know who goes where and why, you have to know what happens and it all has to work. I can’t stand movies with huge holes in their plot – where someone miraculously turns up to save the day for no particular reason. It’s entirely up to the writer to make the story work, and if it doesn’t they you have to change something to make sure it does. 


Because I’m writing a historical thriller I have to make sure it ties pretty closely with history and I have to research that. I love creating a story where it is very hard to guess what is true and what is made up. You have to tie everything in, and when you really start to know your subject it’s amazing how you find places and events that fit with your plot. 

I was searching for an historic church in England that a woodturner was going to return to. I found a list of ancient churches and the second one I looked at happened to be the oldest wooden church in the world with an unnamed Crusader grave at its doorstep. It was perfect and because it was wooden I could also have my woodturner making something that was part of the structure and is still there now. It made my day. 

Planning is challenging, but its often where you create the twists and turns and I think its the aspect of writing that is the most fun. 

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ImageFor my latest book I’ve been researching a lot of history, right back to 1096 AD when the Crusading Knights left Europe and retook Jerusalem. Did you know that before the First Crusade there was a People’s Crusade that was made up of fewer knights and many pilgrims including women and children. Around 40 000 left on that pilgrimage (they weren’t called Crusades back then) and they were wiped out in what is now Turkey.

Is there any moment in history that you find interesting or inspiring?

How about one of these:

* Signing the Treaty of Waitangi

* Discovery of New Zealand by Tasman, Cook or Polynesian voyager

* The First or Second World War

* King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

* Rome and the Roman Empire

* The Ancient Greeks

* The Ice Age – men lived alongside mammoth, sabre tooth, giant sloths etc. (I wrote a teen series set in this period – The Chronicles of Stone.

* Early settlers in New Zealand or Australia

* First powered flight by the Wright brothers or Richard Pearce

History offers some great material for writing. So does the future. Perhaps I’ll write something about this on my next blog.

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The Lost City of Petra.

I liked Rajansomanathan’s description of the photo  – Looks like a grand entrance to a fort hewn into a hill side. It’s a building called the Treasury within the Lost City of Petra in Jordan. Unfortunately it’s much more grand on the outside than the inside.

There is a rumour that the lost treasure of the Nabateans is hidden inside the conical dome at the top of the cylinder. If you get up close you can see bullet holes where people have fired guns at it to try and break it open.

Here are some more photos – I think Petra is a great setting for a story. ImageImageImageImage

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Story in Under 50 Words

Has anyone summarised their story in under 50 words? I’m looking forward to seeing what you’ve come up with. If you haven’t got a story try and write 50 words that would go on the back cover of a book set in the place in the photo – Petra in Jordan. What could it be about – hidden treasure, ghosts, an ancient civilization, giants? Image

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Scrap – Tale of a Blond Puppy.


Hi everyone,

I’ve got a new series coming out very soon, about a blond heading dog. It was partly inspired by this dog, Lana, who is a working sheepdog and won the National Heading Dog Champs in 2007. She’s blond, which is quite an unusual colour for a heading dog and some farmers don’t like them as they think the sheep don’t react the same to a blond dog. I wanted to write a book about a working sheepdog for a long time and her story gave me the inspiration I needed.

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Write your story in under fifty words!




Hi everyone, 

At the moment I’m working on an adult thriller that I’m presenting to a literary agent in about a month. They don’t want to look at a big wad of paper, they want you to write 50 words in the form of a back-cover blurb telling them what your story is about, they want a one-page summary of your story and the first five pages of the written story. It’s a great thing to do as it forces you to cut your story down to the essence. What is it about? What happens to who?


You’ve got to make it interesting and grab their attention – like the fireworks exploding in the photo. If you are working on a story try and write 50 words to describe your story and make me excited about it. Put them up on the blog and I’ll make comments. 


ps. I live in Al Ain, in the United Arab Emirates. That’s on the Arabian Peninsular between Oman and Saudi Arabia. 


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Bullying Websites for Kids

Are you being bullied or know someone who is?  We’ve put together some links to great websites all about bullying and how to get help if you need it.  There are step-by-step guides to taking action and stopping bullying, and help-lines that you can call and talk to an adult who can help.

Check out the Bullying links on the Kids Internet Gateway.

If you’ve read R.J. Palacio’s amazing book, Wonder, you’ll remember one of Mr Brown’s precepts is “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”  I think it’s a great thing to remember every day, and to always treat others as you would like to be treated.  You can even go to the Choose Kind website and pledge to ‘choose kind’ every day.

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Meet our February Star Author – Vince Ford

Our February Star Author is New Zealand author Vince Ford.  Vince has written lots of different types of stories, from humourous stories set in a small New Zealand town (2Much4U, SoMuch2Do and Possums2u), to sports stories (It’s a Try!) and adventure stories set in ancient times (The Chronicles of Stone series).    Vince’s books have won many awards, including the Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award  and the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Award for Junior Fiction.

Thanks for joining us Vince!  We look forward to hearing all about your books and your writing.

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Meet Joseph Delaney in Christchurch

If you love The Spook’s Apprentice series come along and meet Joseph Delaney in Christchurch this Wednesday (20 February).  You can come and meet him at Upper Riccarton Library, from 7:00-8:00pm on Wednesday 20 February.  He’ll talk about his books, you can ask him questions, and even get your book signed.

It’s a free event but you need to book a space.  Just call the library on 03-941-7923 to book.

To find out more about Joseph Delaney and the Spook’s Apprentice series, visit

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