Posts tagged Adventure

Little brothers

web cover low resI have two brothers, both younger than me, but only one that I think of as my ‘little brother’. He’s called Andy and he was born when I was six and going to Karori Normal School. My brother Pete is so close in age I can barely remember a time in my life without him (he was my first best friend), but I remember the day Andy was born. I drew a picture at school of what looked like a tadpole with a baby’s face – Andy in his white blanket. You couldn’t see his fuzz of red hair. I wrote underneath about ‘my baby’, and about how I liked bathing him and looking after him.

When he started walking I was Andy’s unpaid protector, dragging him from the edges of bush tracks and wharves, sure he’d die a terrible death (and convinced my mother wasn’t paying enough attention.) Later, I rolled my eyes when his little friends came over and played cars and Lego – brmmm, brmmm etc. Boys!

Andy liked collecting things, small things. He ate the cuffs of his jerseys. He was loud and sticky. His hair got redder and redder, and he got taller … and taller.

When I was writing Dappled Annie and the Tigrish, I gave Annie a little brother called Robbie. He’s six years younger than Annie – he’s 4 and Annie’s nearly 10 – and like my brother Andy, he’s loud and sticky, and likes collecting small things. He collects them in his pockets so that when he walks he rattles. His father calls them the shinies.

I hadn’t expected Robbie to be such an important character in the book. When I first wrote it, he stayed at home with his mum while Annie went on her adventure with the tigrish. But he didn’t like that. Neither did I. I kept feeling something was missing.

So I rewrote the book and found that (without being asked) Robbie charged off on the adventure too. Much to Annie’s annoyance at first – because he is loud and he is sticky and he is 4 … but, like all little brothers, she discovers he has his moments. When they’re stuck in the Giant Wood with all sorts of scary things going on, Robbie’s collection of shinies and ‘commando moves’ help save the day.

Robbie has a lot of my brother Andy in him, but he has other important little boys wrapped up in him too: especially my son Adam and godson Ned – who were/are both loud and sticky and smart and adventurous. There are glimpses too of my brother Pete and son Paul who did less of the loud, sticky, physical thing and more talking, and two little boys who came regularly to my house when I was writing: Lincoln and Carter.

Boys! Who’d be without them? As a big sister of two, and a mum of two (and a girl too, my youngest), I know I wouldn’t. Above all else these lovely boys have given me a lot to laugh about. Here’s a taste of Robbie in the book. He and Annie are visiting Mr and Mrs Hedge who are part of the hedge at the end of the garden. There’s a nest of baby fantails for Robbie to see, including Bud, the smallest …

Robbie climbed up so his blue shorts were level with Annie’s eyes. She could see his back pocket had bulgy bits where he’d put his little things, what he called his shinies: small stones and bottle tops and dice and Lego bricks and walnut shells. They weren’t all shiny, really, but their dad said Robbie was a magpie and magpies liked shiny things, so that’s how they came to be called that.

Annie could see the way Mrs. Hedge had cupped her branches around Robbie and was watching him closely. Just a glimpse of her eyes, and then they were gone.

“Bud’s the littlest one,” said Annie. “The one with the wobbly head.”

“Getting bigger,” said Mrs. Hedge, “and noisier—listen to that squeaking! They think you’ve brought worms, Robbie.”

“One, two, three, four, five,” said Robbie, counting. “There are five baby birds.”

“They’re hungry,” said Mr. Hedge. “Bud especially—he misses out. He’s small and the other babies push him aside.”

“Worms,” said Robbie, and he pushed one hand into his back pocket. Out came a broken rubber band. Robbie wiggled it in front of his nose, sniffed, then pushed it back where it had come from. He fiddled around some more. A cotton reel. String. Then a fat thing that was brown and pinkish. It wriggled.

“Here, Bud,” Robbie said, and dropped it into the nest.

All Annie could hear were the cicadas. Then:

“He did eat it!”

“Yes, he did,” said Mrs. Hedge. “Thank you, Robbie.” And the leaves parted, and there were the leafy eyes. Robbie didn’t see them—he was too busy watching the nest.

“In one gulp!” said Robbie.

“I would think so,” said Mr. Hedge. “That was a nice fat worm.”

“I’ve got my worm-hunting tee-shirt on,” said Robbie, “that’s why I found it,” and he waved towards the rose bush. “You know, Mrs. Hedge, birds are cute dinosaurs, too.”

That’s when the leaves around Robbie shivered and shivered. Then they shook and shook. And a sound like a huge wave rushed towards them. Annie tugged hard at one of Robbie’s back pockets.               “Let’s get down.”

Robbie stayed as he was.

Annie tugged again—sharper this time—and the pocket wriggled. A cute something was in there. She let go.

The wave of sound made her feel like she’d jumped into a pool of icy water—there were goosebumps all over her arms and neck. Whatever it was, it was coming closer, sweeping the wire fence and crashing across the lawn…

Wind. Sending the wire fence twanging, billowing the sheets on the line, pushing and shoving its way between Annie and Robbie and the Hedges, roaring in their faces. Mrs. Hedge’s mouth moved but didn’t make a sound as she struggled to keep a grip on the nest. Mr. Hedge gripped Mrs. Hedge.

“Robbie,” yelled Annie over the torrent of air, “get down!”

from Dappled Annie and the Tigrish (Gecko Press 2014)

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House of Secrets by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini

Chris Coloumbus is the writer and director of some of my favourite movies, including Gremlins, The Goonies and Home Alone.  He’s a gifted storyteller for the screen who has now delved into the world of children’s books.  His first children’s book is House of Secrets, co-written by Ned Vizzini, and I was interested to see if his books were just as good as his movies.

A secret history… A mysterious family legacy… Dark magic of untold power… And three kids who will risk everything to bring a family back together. The Pagett kids had it all: loving parents, a big house in San Francisco, all the latest video games … But everything changed when their father lost his job as a result of an inexplicable transgression. Now the family is moving into Kristoff House, a mysterious place built nearly a century earlier by a troubled fantasy writer with a penchant for the occult. Suddenly the siblings find themselves launched on an epic journey into a mash-up world born of Kristoff’s dangerous imagination, to retrieve a dark book of untold power, uncover the Pagett family’s secret history and save their parents … and maybe even the world.

House of Secrets is an action-packed blockbuster of a book about three children who are transported into the world of fiction.  There’s something in this story to appeal to all kids – adventure, mystery, magic, witches, giants, warriors, pirates, and fictional characters coming to life. Most readers have wanted to actually be in the world of a story at some stage, and this is exactly what happens to Cordelia, Brendan and Eleanor (even if it was the last thing they wanted).

Chris and Ned have said that the story was originally going to be a screenplay for a movie, but they thought it would be too expensive to make so they adapted it into a book.  I thought this came through quite clearly as the story really reads like it should be a movie.  It’s quite fast-paced and there is lots of action so it will definitely keep kids’ attention.  I can see why it would have cost so much to make this story into a movie, because it’s quite epic and there would be huge special effects involved.  The house that the children find themselves transported in is much like the Tardis (‘it’s bigger on the inside’), with lots of hidden passageways, and it gets battered about by witches, giants and pirates.  There are many different fictional worlds, filled with different creatures and characters.

The plot races along right to the end and leaves the story hanging for the next book in the series.  I’ll be looking forward to discovering what comes next for the Walker children.

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Seven Wonders: The Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis

Imagine that you were told that you woke up on a mysterious island, a place that few people know even exists, and told that you have six months to live.  You’re told that you have a special gene that gives you amazing powers, but the only way to keep those powers under control and keep you alive is to retrieve seven lost magical orbs.  These orbs have been hidden in the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and it’s up to you and your new friends to retrieve them before it’s too late.  This is the task that is given to Jack McKinley in Peter Lerangis’ new series, Seven Wonders. The first book in the Seven Wonders series, The Colossus Rises is out now.

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 an action-packed blockbuster of a book. From the first sentence you’re hooked into the story and, like Jack, you’re whisked from your normal, everyday life into a strange new world.  You’re taken to a place of legend, home to mysterious creatures, and where a group of kids have amazing powers.  The mystery of the unique gene that Jack and his friends have and the magical orbs draws you in and you keep reading hoping to find the answers.  Peter Lerangis is very good at only revealing little details throughout the story to leave you hanging and we’ll find out more as the series progresses.  There is definitely more to the island and their quest that Professor Bhegad isn’t revealing to Jack and his friends (if you read the free ebook prequel, The Select, you’ll see what I mean).

Peter really keeps you on the edge of your seat.  There is danger around every corner so you never know what to expect next.  I wasn’t even sure that Jack and his friends were all going to make it to the end of the story alive, as they have some very close shaves.  The second half of the book is especially exciting and fast-paced and had me engrossed in the story.

Like the Percy Jackson books The Colossus Rises is a mixture of adventure and fantasy.  Jack and his friends have powers that help them in in their quest to find the orbs and the island is home to mysterious and mythical creatures.  They have to fight for their lives with these creatures, both on the island and on the other side of the world, in plain view of normal humans.

I can’t wait for the next book in the series, Lost in Babylon.  The Seven Wonders website is awesome and definitely worth a look too (especially for the free ebook prequel, The Select).

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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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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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Amazon Adventure by Willard Price

This book is about two boys called Hal and Roger and their dad who set out in the Amazon to look look for rare and exciting but also dangerous animals to put in the zoo they run.

From time to time they get into trouble and soon they hear that the zoo and their house burned down because of a fire. Their father has to leave so he can help with the house that means Hal and Roger are left alone to tackle some of the biggest and most dangerous species in the world…

Roger is 14 and very funny and cheeky at times but Hal, well Hal is quite different. He is serious, thoughtful, kind but sometimes he does have quite a sense of humour.

I would give these series 10/10 they are so good. I think children ages 7 or over would enjoy these books so if you’re 7 or over and you like adventure books then you’d better get reading!

By Sarah Powley

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Who Could That Be at This Hour by Lemony Snicket

 

Before you consider reading “Who Could That Be at This Hour?” ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you curious about what is happening in a seaside town that is no longer by the sea?
  2. Do you want to know about a stolen item that wasn’t stolen at all?
  3. Do you really think that’s any of your business? Why? What kind of a person are you? Really?
  4. Who is standing behind you?

Who Could That Be at This Hour? is uncanny, peculiar and outlandish, all words which here mean ‘quite strange.’  It’s the first book in Lemony Snicket’s new series, in which he gives an account of his apprenticeship in a secret organisation, ‘in a town overshadowed by a sinister conspiracy, culminating in some unnerving and troublesome truths that lay buried for a number of years, while people were busy doing somthing else.’  The story is addictive and once you start, it’s very hard to put down.  It’s set in a strange little town, containing ‘a sea without water and a forest without trees,’ and it’s full of bizarre events and curious characters.

Nobody in this story is quite who they first appear to be.  There is Lemony’s chaperone, S. Theodora Markson (don’t ask what the S stands for) who is not as competent or highly skilled as she portrays, the mysterious, coffee-drinking Ellington Feint, the shadowy Hangfire, and even Lemony Snicket himself.  I love the way that Lemony Snicket describes some of the weird people he meets, like Stew,

He looked like the child of a man and a log, with a big, thick neck and hair that looked like a bowl turned upside down.  He had a slingshot tucked into his pocket and a nasty look tucked into his eyes.

My favourite characters in the story are Pip and Squeak, the two brothers who drive the Bellerophon Taxi.  They are supposedly filling in for their father, but they’re so short that one steers while the other sits on the floor and pushes the pedals.

If you love mystery and adventure stories, but also want a bit of a laugh, Who Could Be at This Hour? is the perfect book for you.  Grab your copy now from your library or bookshop.

5 out of 5 stars

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The Flytrap Snaps by Johanna Knox

The Flytrap Snaps is the first book in The Fly Papers series by Johanna Knox. It is an quirky yet cool tale. I even found the dedication page unique:

Dedicated to all the carnivorous plants that sit on our window sills and inspire us (you know who you are).”

Spencer Fogle is the hero of this story: he lives in the town of Filmington, which is famous for its variety of landscapes. For this reason it is used by producers all over the world to film movies, ads and videos. Spencer is used to hearing screams on his way to school. One day, Spencer hears a scream, and something tells him that this is not special effects in a horror film. He goes to investigate…and so begins a mysterious adventure, involving carnivorous plants, hench-women, wrestling and shampoo ads.

Dion is Spencer’s friend, and meets Spencer during the story. Dion is very theatrical, and dreams of becoming a movie star. He also happens to be a Venus Flytrap with four eyes. Yes…I think that Dion Horrible (his stage name) is definitely the most original element of the book!

I think that Johanna Knox has done a wonderful job of fleshing out the characters. I imagined each one very vividly…from Tora, a wrestling expert with amazing hair, to Spencer’s parents, who own a business that sells stuffed food, such as sardine-stuffed lemons. I also admire the way she writes in such a consistently humorous and strong way. There wasn’t a dull moment in the book, nor a moment when I wasn’t smiling at Dion’s antics.

The mystery gets darker as the book progresses. You will find yourself rooting for Spencer and Dion, hating Jimmy Jangle and his salami-breath sidekicks, Sybil and Cassandra, and turning the pages faster and faster as the pace of the adventure quickens. Will Jimmy Jangle find Dion? What is Tora’s secret? Will Dion get his change at fame? You will find the answers to these questions- and more- by reading The Flytrap Snaps.

By Tierney.

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The Crystal Code by Richard Newsome

What do you get when you mix Tintin, James Bond, and The Famous Five together?  You get Richard Newsome’s Billionaire Series.  So far in the series we’ve followed Gerald, Ruby and Sam to England, France, Greece and India, trying to stay one step ahead of the notorious Mason Green.  In their latest action-packed adventure, The Crystal Code, we join our favourite characters as they make new friends and enemies.

Gerald, Ruby and Sam are meeting up with Alisha and Gerald’s Australian school friend Ox for two weeks of snowboarding in the mountains of California. It’s a dream vacation.

But soon after they arrive—by helicopter, with Gerald’s butler Mr Fry at the controls, of course—the private chalet is attacked. Gerald and the gang escape through a secret passage, only to be pursued on snowmobiles by men with guns across frozen lakes and into the path of a cascading avalanche.

Could this be the work of Gerald’s nemesis Sir Mason Green, recently escaped from prison? Or is someone else behind the attack?Does the old dry cleaning ticket Gerald found amongst Green’s belongings hold the key?And how does an invitation to join the secretive Billionaire’s Club land Gerald in so much trouble?

The Crystal Code is Richard Newsome at his best!  It’s chock-full of everything I love about the Billionaire Series – chases, fights, close calls, awkward situations, sarcastic remarks, laugh out loud moments and memorable characters.  From the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, to Prague, and a tiny island in Sweden, Richard Newsome takes us on a wild ride where the action never lets up.   As the characters grow up, their relationships change, so things become a bit awkward between Gerald and Ruby (especially when another girl, Felicity, gets thrown into the mixture).  I really liked the dynamics between the characters, and by introducing new characters into the original trio, Richard has refreshed the series and made it even more exciting.

Richard also introduces us to some new villains.  At the center of the story is a centuries old manuscript that nobody has been able to decipher, and there are two characters that are desperate to get their hands on it.  Tycho Brahe, the mysterious man with the silver nose, is a fantastically sinister character who will stop at nothing to carry out his plans.  There is a lot of mystery surrounding him and Gerald and his friends don’t believe that he can be the man he says that he is.  Then there is Ursus, the man with many names, a shadowy character whose motives are unknown.  They’re both really intriguing characters and I have a feeling we’ll meet them again.

The Crystal Code, and the rest of the Billionaire series, are a must read for anyone who loves action, adventure and mystery stories.  Grab it from your library now and dive into the adventures of billionaire boy, Gerald, and his friends.

5 out of 5 stars

Richard Newsome is joining us as our October Star Author.  Make sure you check out his posts and watch out for your chance to win a copy of The Crystal Code in this week’s Free Book Friday.

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Meet our October Star Author – Richard Newsome

Our fantastic October Star Author is Australian author, Richard Newsome.  Born in New Zealand, Richard moved with his family to Queensland in Australia when he was two and a half.  Richard has done all sorts of jobs before becoming an author, including working as a journalist, where he ‘chased after police cars while they chased after bad guys.’  He is the author of the action-packed Billionaire Series, which includes The Billionaire’s Curse, The Emerald Casket, The Mask of Destiny, and the latest book in the series, The Crystal Code.  If you love books filled with action, adventure and mystery you have to read the Billionaire Series.

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

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The Queen and the Nobody Boy by Barbara Else

Last year, Barbara Else took us on a magical journey through the land of Fontania, with Sibilla and The Traveling Restaurant.  Now she takes us back to Fontania and introduces us to some wonderful new characters in The Queen and the Nobody Boy.

Hodie is the unpaid odd-job boy at the Grand Palace in the Kingdom of Fontania.  Fed-up, he decides to leave and better himself.

The young Queen, 12 -year-old Sibilla, is fed-up too.  Sick of gossip about her lack of magical ability, she decides to run away with Hodie, whether he likes it or not.

 

 

The Queen and the Nobody Boy is a magical story, full of adventure, danger, royalty, spies, flying trains, stinky trolls and poisonous toads. Trouble is brewing from the very beginning of the story.  The Emperor of Um’Binnia threatens war with Fontania and he hopes to destroy what magic there may be in the world.  The Fontanians have been looking for ‘The Ties’ for many years, but nobody really seems to know what they are, and for the Emperor to carry out his plans he must get his hands on them too.  Little do they know how important an odd-job boy might be.

Your favourite characters from The Travelling Restaurant return, including Sibilla and the pirate chef, Murgott.  Hodie is the main character of this tale of Fontania.  Even though he’s not treated very well in the Palace, he’s smart and brave, and determined to make something of himself.   My favourite quote from the book sums up Hodie, ‘Whether a boy was somebody or nobody, if he was normal he was expected to be curious.’  Hodie and Sibilla meet lots of other interesting characters on their journey, including a rather strange Um’Binnian spy called Ogg’ward, and a very persistent squirrel.  The Um’Binnians themselves are quite interesting.  They have a different way of speaking and their names look and sound strange.

If you loved The Traveling Restaurant you have to get your hands on The Queen and the Nobody Boy, but if you haven’t read it this book will make you fall in love with the land of Fontania.

4 out of 5 stars

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The Brain Sucker by Glenn Wood

How would you act if part of your personality was stolen with a brain-sucking machine?

Lester Smythe has a black heart. He s invented a dangerous brain-sucking machine that removes the goodness from its victims, and he intends to use it to rid the world of all human kindness. But Lester didn t count on thirteen-year-old Callum McCullock and his two best friends, Sophie and Jinx. The trio vow to destroy the brain sucker. And nothing will stop them.

The Brain Sucker is one of the coolest books I’ve read in ages!  The idea is original, the story is action-packed, the heroes are unlike any you’ve met before and the villain is sinister.  From the very first page, when the villain slinks onto the page, I knew I was going to love the story, and I greedily turned the pages wanting to know how it would end.

Lester Smythe is a sinister villain, but there’s also something awkward about him.  He reminded me of a cross between Gru (from Despicable Me) and Professor Doofenshmirtz (from Phineas and Ferb) and I almost expected him to announce that his brain sucking machine was the ‘Brain-suckinator.’  Lester’s plan is to rid the world of goodness because anyone acting good makes him physically sick, due to a horrible experience when he was younger.  The machine that will help him with his task is the Brain Sucker, which sucks the goodness right out of people’s heads.  It’s up to the heroes of the story to save the day (and the world from becoming a miserable place).

The heroes of the story, Callum, Sophie and Jinx are unlike any heroes I’ve met before.  They all have flaws but they manage to overcome these to help save the day.  Callum is paralysed from the waist down so he’s wheelchair bound, but he’s really determined and doesn’t let his disability get in his way.  He’s also got one of the coolest wheelchairs around!  Sophie is Callum’s best friend and she’s incredibly talented and intelligent.  She has a mechanical mind, so she can make improvements to her toys or invent new gadgets to help her friend.  Her only problem is that she gets claustrophobic.  Jinx is the funniest character in the book, because he has really bad luck.  He’s always in the wrong place at the wrong time, whether it’s a gas main exploding under his school desk or bird dive-bombing him.  You always know something bad is going to happen when he’s around, especially when his thumb starts to dance.

If you’re after a fun story, full of adventure, mystery, magic, exciting gadgets, and great characters, The Brain Sucker is the book for you.  I’d recommend it for 9+ and it would be a great read-aloud for Year 5-8.

4 out of 5 stars

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Boom towns and wild mountain roads

Hi again after some wet and blustery days up here in the North.

I thought some of you might be interested in a few of the fascinating facts I learnt about our history while researching The Drover’s Quest. For example, did you know that during the heady West Coast gold rush days of the 1860s, Hokitika was one of NZ’s biggest towns? It was chock-full of pubs (at one count 84 hotels lined Revell Street), dancing halls, and gambling dens and home to colourful characters like Fenian Jenny who liked to dance in emerald green petticoats, and diggers with funny names like Johnny the Rat and Alex the Greek.

 The road through Arthur’s Pass had only just been completed, linking the goldfields to Christchurch. About a thousand men had hacked out a route through the rock and thick bush, using only pickaxes and shovels. It was a hair-raising journey across that early road. In those days, Cobb and Co was King, with many people travelling by coach across the treacherous Pass to get to the wild West Coast. I read amazing stories of runaway coaches and horses hooning down steep mountainsides, or else crossing raging rivers like the Waimakariri in flood, or the Taramakau, nicknamed the Terrible Cow. Exciting days!

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The Drover’s Quest by Susan Brocker

Our June Star Author, Susan Brocker has just released a fantastic new book called The Drover’s Quest.  It’s filled with Susan’s favourite things, including history and animals, and it’s set in New Zealand in the 1860s.

Rumour is flying around the west coast gold fields that Tom McGee has struck it rich and found a nugget of gold as big as a man’s fist. So no one is surprised when next his campsite is found wrecked and abandoned. Men have been killed for a lot less on the tough goldfields of 1860s New Zealand.

But one person is convinced Tom is not dead. His headstrong daughter, Charlotte.  Solving the mystery is not her first task, though. First, she must get to the coast. A skilful horse rider, she disguises herself as a boy and joins a cattle drive across the Southern Alps. To survive the dangerous drive over Arthur’s Pass and to keep her identity hidden from the vicious trail boss, she’ll need the help of her dog, her horse, and her father’s friend, Tama. She knows she can do it – she has to – but what will she find? And will her new American friend, Joseph, help or hinder her quest?

Charlie is in for the ride of her life – and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

If you love stories set in the past, stories about animals or stories with lots of adventure then The Drover’s Quest is the book for you.  The story starts in Christchurch and the characters travel over Arthur’s Pass to Hokitika on the West Coast.  These are my favourite parts of our beautiful country and I’ve travelled the route they took many times so I could see it clearly in my head.  It’s a route that is very quick and easy to travel today but was very rugged and dangerous in the 1860s.  There is a very tense part in the book where the drovers are taking the cattle down the Otira Gorge (it had me on the edge of my seat).

I really liked the characters, especially Tama and Joseph who bring different cultures into the story, and Scar because I couldn’t figure out whether he was good or bad.  The animals are also important characters in the story and they are incredibly loyal to their masters.

Reserve your copy in the library and stay tuned to find out more about The Drover’s Quest from our June Star Author, Susan Brocker.

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Our own “Wild West” story

Hi everyone! It’s wonderful to be invited along to chat to you all and I’m looking forward to sharing a bit of my writing journey with you. As you can see from the books I’ve written, it’s obvious where much of my inspiration comes from! I’m animal mad, and that includes all animals – dogs, horses, wolves, cats, I love them all, and many of them pop up in my books. I also love learning about our fascinating past so often I try to weave history into my stories as well.

This is certainly true for my latest book, The Drover’s Quest, which is set in the 1860s gold-mining era. It’s the story of a headstrong girl who disguises herself as a boy so she can join a cattle drove across the Southern Alps to find her missing gold-digger father. During this time, many cattle were driven from Christchurch to the West Coast over the newly formed Arthur’s Pass to feed the miners. Charlotte (“Charlie”) has many adventures and mishaps riding her horse and working her dog across the wild mountain pass.

This story was inspired by the horses in my life and the trekking I do for pleasure. I love riding through the bush and having fun rounding up our pet cow, Bubbles, on my horse. And horses feature largely in our pioneering past. They were the main form of transport of course, but they were also used to move vast herds of cattle and sheep across the land. In some ways, our history in the late 1800s was similar to the taming of the “Wild West” of America. Rugged pioneers, bush cowboys, gun-toting outlaws, and desperate diggers feature in our past too. In The Drover’s Quest, many of these colourful characters gallop through the pages. I hope you’ll enjoy their journey.

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Red Rocks by Rachael King

While holidaying at his father’s house, Jake explores Wellington’s wild south coast, with its high cliffs, biting winds, and its fierce seals. When he stumbles upon a perfectly preserved sealskin, hidden in a crevice at Red Rocks, he’s compelled to take it home and hide it under his bed, setting off a chain of events that threatens to destroy his family. Can he put things right before it’s too late?

Red Rocks is a magical adventure story, set in New Zealand.  Rachael King has taken the Celtic myth of the selkies and transplanted it into a New Zealand setting that kiwi kids will relate to.  Jake is an average kid who gets sent to live with his dad for a few weeks, and like any kid, soon gets bored and sets off to explore the coast.  I really liked Rachael’s interesting cast of characters, from old Ted who lives in a run-down shack along the coast, to the mischievous Jessie and mysterious Cara.

One thing that I really love about Red Rocks is Rachael King’s beautiful writing.  She’s very descriptive so she paints a vivid picture of the wild, windy coast.  It’s the sort of book that you want to read snuggled up in bed because you almost feel the biting wind and the freezing ocean.

Reserve your copy of Red Rocks at the library.  You can also win a copy this week on Free Book Friday.

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Steel Pelicans by Des Hunt

Back in November 2010, Des Hunt told us about a new story that he was working on, which he thought would be called Steel Pelicans.  He told us all about the characters, the setting and a little bit about the plot, but he didn’t know whether it was going to get published.  I’ve loved all of Des Hunt’s books so far and Steel Pelicans sounded like a really great story.  Now you can read the finished story.

Steel Pelicans is about two friends called Dean Steele and Pete Kelly who are the Steel Pelicans of the story.  The story starts in Wollongong, Australia where Dean and Pete have spent most of their life.  Dean gets them into all sorts of trouble, especially when it comes to mucking around with explosives.  Pete’s parents don’t like him hanging around with Dean, and when Pete’s grandmother in New Zealand becomes ill his family decide to move to Auckland to look after her.  Dean doesn’t want Pete to go and gets him involved in one last dangerous stunt before he leaves.  It’s not long before Pete becomes friends with Afi at his new school.  Pete’s parents approve of Afi and let Pete go and stay with Afi and his family at their batch in Port Waikato.  It’s here that Pete and Afi stumble on a smuggling operation and find themselves in deep trouble, which only gets worse when Dean comes over for the holidays.  They’re about to learn that they shouldn’t mess with the Redfern family.

Steel Pelicans is a classic Des Hunt story with all the adventure, mystery and danger that make his stories so good.  His stories are usually set just in New Zealand but this story starts in Australia as that’s where the two main characters are from.  One thing I like about his stories is that they have a real Kiwi feel about them and they’re set in different parts of the country, from the Coromandel to the West Coast to Port Waikato.  He always adds an ecological message into the story and this time it’s about fishing and Paradise Ducks.  I always finish his books knowing that I’ve read a great story and learnt a little bit about New Zealand wildlife at the same time.  I really liked the characters of Pete (or Pelly) and Dean.  They’re almost complete opposites but somehow are still best mates.  I liked how Des Hunt added a second friend into the mix because it created some conflict between the three boys.  Des Hunt also really knows how to write scumbag villains, whether they’re gang members or drug dealers, and you can imagine that they’re the sort of people who might live in your neighbourhood.  If you’re a fan of Des Hunt’s books you’ll love Steel Pelicans, but if you haven’t read any of his books then this one is a great one to start with.

Recommended for 9+     5 out of 5 stars

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Steel Pelicans Update from Des Hunt

Steel Pelicans goes on sale 3 February 2012. In November 2010 I wrote about the story which at that time was in it’s very early stages. Here’s what has happened since.

I started writing Steel Pelicans on 18 October 2010 and finished the first draft on 4 March 2011. That’s almost five months, which is a little longer than usual for one of my stories. Of course Christmas and New Year came in that time as well.

The major change during the writing was that I shifted from the third person voice to the first person. To explain this, the original opening read:

As always, the view was fantastic. Looking north Pete could see across Port Kembla to the centre of Wollongong and a little further up the coast until the haze merged sea and hills into one.

After I changed the voice it read:

As always, the view was fantastic. Looking north I could see across Port Kembla to the centre of Wollongong and a little further up the coast until the haze merged sea and hills into one.

This change was made because in a lot of the story I had three boy characters in the same scene. In the third person I would always have to refer to each by name. In the first person, one of them could be referred to by I, me or my, making it much easier to write. However by making the change it meant that my storyteller, Pete, had to be in all scenes: something I wasn’t sure about until about half-way through.

At the end of the first draft the length was 62,000 words. Four rewrites and a month later it was 56,000 words. I’d removed about 22 pages. This was done to keep the story tense and get rid of the boring bits. The manuscript was sent to Harper Collins Publishers on 13 April 2011. I signed a contract another month later.

By July 2011 Harper Collins were beginning to consider the cover. I knew exactly the image I wanted: it was of a sculpture that sits on a pedestal in Brisbane River, Australia. As we were off to Darwin around that time, we changed our schedule so that I could visit Brisbane and photograph the sculpture. I think it captures the feeling of the story nicely.

Harper Collins finished their work on the book almost exactly a year after I had started writing. It was sent to the printers in Australia early November and I got my copies mid January 2012. I haven’t read it and I won’t. Only once have I read one of my finished books, and it was not the enjoyable experience I had anticipated. The problem was that I found things I wanted to change, and by then it was too late.

However I hope you will read it, and enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Ka kite.

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The Exquisite Corpse Adventure

What happens when some of the coolest children’s book authors and illustrators play a writing game that starts with one person’s ideas and ends with a novel of 27 episodes?  You get The Exquisite Corpse Adventure.  The title makes it sound like it should be a horror story, but it’s actually a weird, crazy, funny, out-of-control story put together by some of the coolest authors around.  If you’ve read or participated in the FaBo story that Kyle Mewburn started, The Exquisite Corpse is the same idea.

The story starts with twins Nancy and Joe escaping from the circus, where they have lived since they were babies.  With the help of different clues, Nancy and Joe search to piece together the Exquisite Corpse and find their parents.  Each chapter is written by a different author, so just when you think you know what’s going to happen next, the story can go off in a completely different direction.  The story is a little bit like Alice in Wonderland and The Phantom Tollbooth because they meet lots of weird and wonderful characters and get into some tricky situations.  The first chapter hooks you in by imagining what could happen in the rest of the story:

“…there is a good chance that Nancy and Joe will have to deal with werewolves and mad scientists, real ninjas and fake vampires, one roller-skating baby, a talking pig, creatures from another planet…plenty of explosions, a monkey disguised as a pirate, two meatballs…and not just one bad guy but a whole army of villains.”

Pick up The Exquisite Corpse Adventure if you dare and be prepared to be taken on a wild ride.   Recommended for 9+    8 out of 10

 

 

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Come and meet Billionaire’s Curse author Richard Newsome

One of my favourite series is the Billionaire Trilogy by Richard Newsome.  They follow the adventures of Gerald, Sam and Ruby as they uncover the truth about Gerald’s family.  You can read all about the three books in the trilogy, The Billionaire’s Curse, The Emerald Casket and The Mask of Destiny here on the blog.  Richard Newsome is coming to Christchurch this Friday (25th November) and you can meet him and get his books signed.

Richard Newsome will be at The Children’s Bookshop, 227 Blenheim Square at 4pm on Friday 25th November. 

For those of you who can’t be there we’ll be giving away a signed set of the three books in the Billionaire Trilogy next week right here on the blog.

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