The Thunderbolt Pony

Author – Stacy Gregg34522470

Age – 7+

Evie has had a lot on her plate. Her father has passed away, her OCD is taking over, and the Kaikoura earthquake has left her mum being helicoptered to Christchurch. They are being evacuated, but Evie doesn’t want to leave. Her best friends are Moxy, Jock and Gus. Her cat, dog and Arabian horse – and there is no way she is leaving any of them behind. The only solution is to ride all the way to Kaikoura from her farm.

This story is their journey together, facing after shocks, an angry bull, raging rivers, wild weather and more. But their bond is absolute and also battling her OCD, Evie’s thoughts flash back to her appointments with her doctor and the thing that triggered it in the first place. Will they get there in time to board the HMS Canterbury with the other evacuees? Will they all make it?

Any fan of Sheila Burnford’s The Incredible Journey, will love this tale as much as I did. It made me cheer, cry, smile and laugh. The pace gallops along (sorry, but it’s the best word for it), with one obstacle after another for the plucky friends to beat. The story flicked backwards to the 7.8 earthquake that struck two minutes after midnight in New Zealand on 13 Nov 2016, and further back to her doctor’s visits about her OCD, then forward to the present, but it was clearly marked with different fonts and easy to follow. Fantastic!

(Love, Family, Earthquake, Disaster, New Zealand, Kiwi, Horse, Cat, Dog, Brave, Courage)

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The Wizards of Once

Author/Illustrator – Cressida Cowell34455798

Age – 8+

Xar is selfish, impulsive and full of himself. After all, he is the son of Encanzo, the King Enchantor. But he is the youngest son, and his magic hasn’t come in yet, causing him embarrasment and worry.

Wish is the daughter of Queen Sychorax, the most evil queen in the Warrior Empire. Wish is also impulsive, daring, and rebellious, but also caring and kind.

They are taught from birth that the other is a foe, an enemy, one to be slain if need be. But these two venture out into the darkness on the same night, breaking the strict rules of their forts. Wish is looking for her friend, a magical spoon that has run away. Xar is hoping to catch a witch. Everyone knows witches are extinct, but Xar believes if he can catch one and harness its magic, he will finally make his father proud of him and quieten his older brother’s taunts.

But there is something else out in the darkness. Something wild and evil, which throws them together into a uneasy pact to help the other. Not only do they have to face their angry parents, the something’s power has been growing their whole lives and they have unwittingly unleashed it.

Told directly to the reader, this is an exciting story about a prince and a princess unlike any other. Xar is a weedy, annoying brat and Wish has a limp and an eye patch. But both have loyal sidekicks who will defend them to the death. Xar’s magical creatures are funny and fantastical and Wish’s assistant bodyguard is new at the job and trying to be brave. Full of mystical pencil sketching illustrations, this was a great read with an unanswered question at the end – who is narrating the story?

(Courage, Bravery, Wizards, Witches, Magic, Warrior, Friends, Magical Creatures, Series, Scary, Humour)

The Wonderling

Author/Illustrator – Mira BartokThe Wonderling (HB)

Age – 10+

Arthur lives a troubled life in an Orphanage called ‘The Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures.’ These creatures are groundlings (mixed-up animals) like Arthur (a foxling who walks on two legs and with only one ear).

Arthur tries to avoid the bullies and Miss Carbunkle who believes groundlings only exist to serve and suffer. But there is a light in Arthur’s life – a new friend called Trinket, who shares her songs and stories with Arthur, igniting hope in his heart for something different outside the Home’s damp, grey walls.

They are soon on an adventure, as Arthur seeks his destiny with only an address stolen from Miss Carbunkle’s filing cabinet. Along the way, he meets many other groundlings of every mix, shape and size and is taken in when he reaches the city, by a rat called Quintus. Quintus is very much like Fagan in Oliver Twist, teaching, feeding, and sheltering Arthur in return for stealing.

But this is a very different world from Oliver Twist, with the High Hats (Humans) just as tough as Miss Carbunkle – who has her own evil plans in mind. Can Arthur and Trinket stop her and her evil manticore from ruining the world forever?

The Wonderling’s world is a little steampunk, a little fantasy, a little Cruella Deville and as Arthur finally discovers within himself, a lot wonderful. Beautifully told with rich description and multiple sub-plots afoot. And as the reader will discover in the gorgeous illustrations – Arthur’s best friend Trinket is not only an amazing inventor but a Kiwi Bird!

(Steampunk, Destiny, Journey, Quest, Creatures, World building, Fantasy, Orphan, Kiwi, Friendship, Courage, Bravery, Crime)

The Discombobulated Life of Summer Rain

Author – Julie LambThe Discombobulated Life of Summer Rain

Age – 8+

Summer Rain is a laugh a minute – at least the boys at school think so. She’s always cracking a joke or laughing stuff off. It’s her way of fitting in and dealing with things at home. Not that it’s bad or anything, it’s just… embarrassing. When her dad is away during the week for his work, Summer stays with her fun, a little crazy and a whole lot stingy Pop. The thing is, Pop isn’t poor, Summer has seen a bunch of bank statements to prove it.

Now 12, Summer is feeling like she’d like to change from the tom-boy she is – just a little? A popular girl at school starts showing an interest in her, which confuses Summer, but she begins to enjoy some ‘girl stuff’ for a change.

Things are just fine until a woman starts to show an interest in Pop. Surely she’ll be gone again as soon as she realises how crazy-stingy Pop is? Summer is suspicious, and digs a little deeper into this woman’s past. She doesn’t like what she finds, but Pop just won’t listen!

All is revealed in the end, with the reason for the girl’s interest, Pop’s solution and Summer being just who she wants to be.

This story may be set in NZ, but girls everywhere (especially tom-boys, like I once was), will really enjoyed the trials of Summer at school, home around her small town. This book won the Best 1st Book of the Year Award in the NZ Children’s Book Awards 2017. And it definitely deserved it. Loved it!

(New Zealand, NZ, Kiwi, Funny, Humour, Tom-boy, Friends, Award)

Aliens vs Bad Guys – The Bad Guys (6)

Author / Illustrator – Aaron BlabeyAlien vs Bad Guys (The Bad Guys #6)

Age – 6+

They’re back in a new adventure! These bad guys are now The Good Guys Club – and they’ve just saved the world from the evil Dr Rupert Marmalade. The world is celebrating!

Meanwhile, in deep space….
These good guys are hiding from an alien with multiple bums. Legs has found a way to escape, but then he’s taken by the alien! Snake is keen to leave NOW, but the others won’t leave Legs behind. One by one they are taken by the alien, leaving Snake all alone.

Will he save his own skin and leave, or will he finally understand what Wolf has been trying to tell him. Be a Good Guy for a change!

Another hilarious book in this series, with a few hints of an ALIEN movie we might know.

(Funny, Humour, Action, Courage, Brave, Friendship, Spaceship, Space)

The Little Vampire

Author/Illustrator – Angela Sommer-BodenburgThe Little Vampire

Age – 8+

Tony loves horror stories. One night while he is watching a scary movie on TV he decides to get a drink from the kitchen. But in the darkness of his house and halfway back to his room he realises his TV has been turned off. He knows it wasn’t his parents – so who or what is in his room?

He finds something completely unexpected – a little vampire. This young vampire is called Rudolph and is looking for a friend. He likes reading just as much as Tony – especially stories about vampires. And he is soon flying off into the night with a copy of Dracula under his cloak.

Rudolph comes to visit weekly and even takes Tony to his crypt in the local cemetery. But Tony has to be wary of Rudolph’s family, Rudolph’s little sister who has a crush on him, and his own Mum and Dad’s questions about his new friend that only seems to visit late at night.

With 12 million copies sold of this classic tale written in 1979, this story is proven to be popular. Due out in an animated movie soon, the movie will be just as loved. (Not due out until approx May 2018 in NZ.)

(Scary, spooky, freaky, vampire, friendship, crush)

The Ice Sea Pirates

Author – Frida Nilsson34014687

Age – 10+

Siri and her little sister know the legend of the evil Captain Whitehead and his ship the Snow Raven. It’s full of pirates who snatch children to send down Whitehead’s diamonds mines – never to be seen again.

But one day while out searching for berries for their dinner, Miki is snatched away. Siri is bereft, blaming herself, and no-one will help her go after the Snow Raven. She has no idea how, but she is determined to get Miki back, no matter what.

Her quest is full of danger,  facing rowdy pirates, becoming a stowaway, fighting off white wolves and much much more! Making friends and enemies along the way, she discovers there is more to the legend of Whitehead, and he’s even crazier than the stories say.

A full-on story of adventure, hope, determination, cruelty and courage, just like Siri, I wasn’t expecting the ending. Great read!

(Ice, Courage, Sisters, Siblings, Quest, Journey, Pirates, Evil, Wolves, Cruelty, Revenge)