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Dashing Dog

by Margaret Mahy

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I may have mentioned this one or two (thousand) times before, but I am a big fan of the late Kiwi children’s author Margaret Mahy.

I loved the whimsical use of language in this title but wasn’t a fan of illustrator Sarah Garland’s work. Most of the pictures looked a bit muddy to me. Not in colour but in design. I did like a couple of pages though & appreciated the effort to include different ethnicities. Not the fault of the illustrator, but Ms Mahy always made her books as international as possible in the belief that would make them easier to sell. So no Māori or Pacifika people.

Mahy’s books are often hard to find now in New Zealand, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to acquire this one if I was you.

An Episode of Sparrows

by Rumer Godden

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

You are making a mountain out of a molehill,” said Angela.

Olivia was suddenly inspired to answer, “A molehill can be a mountain to a sparrow.”

I just love Rumer Godden!

One of the reasons is, like with Elizabeth Goudge, Godden’s children (the sparrows of the title) are so well depicted. But all the characters (like the adults in my quote above) are very vivid) & easy to keep track of)

The unwanted waif (& kleptomaniac) Lovejoy has learned that if she wants something she has to get it herself – which is why she stole a packet of flower seeds. This leads to a passion for gardening, new friendships & a raft of unexpected consequences.

I did have to knock half a ★ off, because the relationship between Tip & Lovejoy  was very close to a romance – & Lovejoy was only 11. It was a relationship of minds & Tip was only two years older but it made me a little uncomfortable.

Island Zoo

by Gerald Durrell

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I must say that I was very glad when Juanita got better, not only because I did not want to lose her, but also because it is very exhausting to sleep with a playful peccary in your bed.

I’d bet not many people could say that!

As always Gerald Durrell is an entertaining raconteur, even in a book aimed at older children. Durrell never talks down to his audience and his love for the animals he collected for the world famous Jersey Zoo is plain to see. I’m scared to check with Wikipedia how many of the species he mentions are now endangered (the peccaries look to be safe though.)

For me, what makes the book are the beautiful black and white photographs by Wolfgang Suschitsky. Some of the bird pictures – every feather stands out! I will mention some photos could be clearer & this might be due to the challenge of photographing some of these creatures – or that photography has come a long way since the early 60s.

I really fell for this little  guy (for some reason the name Slow Loris makes me giggle!)

Sadly, Wikipedia classifies the Slow Loris as vulnerable.

While Durrell was a gifted writer, he never had a deep love of writing. he did it to raise funds for his beloved animals. This could explain the ending, which is a little abrupt. I could feel the impatience to get back to his work.

The Last Noo-Noo

by Jill Murphy

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I was so sad to read that Jill Murphy has recently died from cancer. I loved many of her children’s books when my own kids were young – I loved the clever way they were written on two levels, so that adults also had a bit of a chuckle!

Marlon’s granny (who reminds me very much of my NZ grandmother!) thinks Marlon is far too old to still be sucking on a dummy/Noo-noo/pacifier.

“Well, whatever he calls it,” said Marlon’s granny, “he looks like an idiot with that stupid great thing stuck in his mouth all the time.”

But neither his abrasive granny or the local bullies can get Marlon to give the Noo-Noo up until he is good and ready!

I laughed all the way through. Still love the ending.

Found a free reading on You tube

I don’t particularly like this reading but it gives you a taster. And a chance to see Ms Murphy’s wonderful artwork!

RIP, Jill. You will be greatly missed.

Dear Donald Trump

by Sophie Siers

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This is the title this book was published under in the author’s home country of New Zealand. In other countries this book was published as Dear Mr President.

Interestingly, my review received fewer likes than usual on Goodreads.

This book has a lot of charm.

Young Sam has a problem. His older brother keeps winding him up – & they share a room. Sam needs advice – fast. Who better to turn to than the most powerful man (at the time of writing) on Earth? & Trump is building a wall. Surely a wall would be the answer to all Sam’s problems.

The humour is gentle, but the book makes it’s point. It has a moral but doesn’t hit the reader over the head with it.

Trump haters – his presence is very subtle;

Spot the Trump!


A Wrinkle in Time

by Madeleine L’Engle

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Unlike some other (Goodreads) reviewers I didn’t think this book went downhill after the first three chapters.

I liked the first two chapters very much, but for a few chapters after that some of the writing felt a bit clumsy and I was starting to lose interest.

But the final half of the book was genuinely thrilling and I found it very hard when I had to put the book down!

I also very much enjoyed the portrayal of the children (in particular Meg) as flawed and often socially awkward human beings. In this regard this book reminded me of the early Harry Potter books (I’ve only read the early ones) and also in the way the children find their own strength.

I’m curious about what happens to Megan, Charles Wallace and Calvin, so will almost certainly carry on with this series.

Extra note: My edition also carries an afterword by L’Engle’s granddaughter Charlotte Jones Voikis, which I found very helpful in understanding who L’Engle was as both a writer and a person.