Vote for your favourite New Zealand children and young adults book

0048 BOK logo working 25Would you like to choose the winners in the 2015 New Zealand Children and Young Adults Book Awards?

Be part of the Children’s Choice voting and have your chance to vote for the New Zealand books you think are the best.

Children and teenagers across the country have been busy reading and reviewing their favourites amongst all the New Zealand books entered in the 2015 NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Their votes created a list of 20 books they think are the best.

So get voting: we want to know what New Zealand kids think. Choose your favourite in the Top 5 in each category that’s relevant to your age group. (We have adult judges separately deciding on the overall winners, but we also want to know what kids think are the best books.)

Every kid who votes (you’ll need to be 18 years old or under) will be in the draw to win some books for yourself and for your school. On the second page we will ask you questions to help us contact you via your school if you win. If you are unsure about anything ask mum or dad or your teacher to help you.

Voting closes at 12 noon on Friday, 31 July.

So vote now and tell your friends to vote too. Just click here to vote!

Voting button








Picture books for June 2015

Shine cover imageShine: A Story About Saying Goodbye by Trace Balla, Allen & Unwin, ISBN9781743316344, RRP $24.99

Oh god. Picture books can tug at the heart strings at the best of times but a picture book for kids to help them understand grief and loss, particularly of a parent? I dare you to not be a quivering, blubbering mess when you get to the end of this.

However, the best books illuminate the things we’d rather not see and Shine does that for little kids, in the gentlest way possible, whilst helping them to think about love and loss and life going on. It’s also wonderfully illustrated.

A book that will be genuinely appreciated by all kids and parents.

The Goodbye Chair cover imageThe Goodbye Chair (A Nicholas Story) by Josephine Carson Barr, illustrated by Simon Barr, Veritas Aotearoa Publishing, ISBN9780473238636, RRP $19.99

Nicholas has been staying with Nannie for the holidays but it’s almost time to leave. He knows Nannie will be sad, so he comes up with a special way to say goodbye. The Goodbye Chair is a sweet story, with lots of Kiwi touches including the three official languages of New Zealand – English, Maaori and NZ Sign Language. This makes it a perfect choice for gifts, schools and libraries.

The Fairiest Fairy cover imageThe Fairiest Fairy by Anne Booth and Rosalind Beardshaw, Nosy Crow, ISBN9780857633156, RRP $28.99

Betty is a very cute little fairy, still learning her fairy ways. With the help of her friends she tries her best to be a fairy but she does get in a muddle. Will she be the fairiest fairy of them all?

The Fairiest Fairy is a gorgeous rhyming story with the cutest illustrations and a simple story. Definitely a great bedtime read!

Teddy Took the Train cover imageTeddy Took the Train by Nicki Greenberg, Allen & Unwin, ISBN9781760112134, RRP $24.99

Does everyone have a story of losing a beloved toy? I do; Bunbun left in a Brisbane hotel in 1983(?). I still miss Bunbun. Aaaaanyway Teddy Took the Train is a good antidote to the fear of losing a toy that can grip the hearts of kiddies. Teddy ends up on a train after being accidentally left behind and that is just the start of his adventure. Will Dot see Teddy again? Hopefully but in the meantime he’s got a lot to do!

Teddy Took the Train is a great sharing story for kids. I wonder what Bunbun is up to?

T is for Taniwha cover imageT is for Taniwha by Ann K Addley, Ann K Addley, ISBN9780473317331, Available at

Billed as The Colouring Book for Kiwi Kids, T is for Taniwha could really be a colouring book for any kid – but is a great little run through of some kiwiana. I loved the style of the illustrations and it would definitely provide some busy time for kids! Can be purchased hard copy or as an ebook – so you could use it more than once, I guess?

Cute, fun and an alphabet run-through. Grab it for those rainy days!

Book review: Murder & Matchmaking by Debbie Cowens

Murder & Matchmaking cover imageMurder & Matchmaking by Debbie Cowens, Paper Road Press, ISBN 9780473315696, Ebook and print.

I admit it, I’m an inveterate Pride and Prejudice fan. One of the things I like best about it is Austen’s almost absurd sense of humour, especially with her supporting characters and in Pride and Prejudice Mrs Bennet is probably the best example. She always did seem slightly unhinged to me, and New Zealand author Debbie Cowens obviously agrees.

Cowens was one half of the wife and husband writing team behind 2013’s excellent debut Mansfield with Monsters, and she brings a similarly original approach to Murder & Matchmaking. Jane Austen’s heroines meet Sherlock Holmes-style detectives when the unmarried young ladies of Hertfordshire start dying in mysterious circumstances. Miss Elizabeth Bennet suspects the deaths are not accidents, an opinion shared by famous London detective Mr Sherlock Darcy. Will they solve the mystery together? And, more importantly, will they get married?

He asserts that the loss of one young lady in the area might be viewed as an unfortunate event; that two implies carelessness on the part of the inhabitants; but for three young ladies to have died in such short succession indicates something far more sinister.

The mystery here isn’t in the “whodunit” because that’s revealed quickly, it’s in the chase, and I love how Cowens uses this to seamlessly meld romance and mystery. Cowens knows the two genres are much closer than most would admit – characters who aren’t what they seem,  building of suspense and anticipation, and the big “reveal” at the end – and she makes the most of that to write a story that is at once familiar and original.

Where the author really excels is blending the writing styles of Jane Austen and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, crafting a story that’s equal parts intriguing and hilarious. Murder & Matchmaking strikes a perfect balance between imitation and mockery and, much like Mansfield with Monsters, the reader is hard pressed to immediately spot the difference from the original. One minute they’re all nicely taking tea in the drawing room and before you know it someone’s strangled in the idyllic Regency countryside.

It’s easy to enjoy Murder & Matchmaking but much harder to classify. Is it mash-up, parody, horror, satire, homage or just good writing? I say: all of them.

Book blogging in New Zealand

Booksellers NZ have a great article by Elizabeth Heritage on their website about book blogging in New Zealand, including some comments from BookieMonster. If you’re looking for other great blogs to read or just to find out a bit about the book blogging community in NZ then it’s definitely a recommended read!

Book blogging in New Zealand | Booksellers New Zealand

Book review: Stroppy Old Women

Stroppy Old Women cover imageStroppy Old Women compiled by Paul Little and Wendyl Nissen, Paul Little Books, ISBN9780473258603, RRP $34.99

52 stroppy old women (one for every week of the year!) capture their thoughts on what’s wrong with the world and how it can be fixed. Stroppy Old Women follows on from Grumpy Old Men 1 & 2, though with an interesting name change – grumpy being deemed more offensive for women. Which is odd when you think about it, stroppy to me seems far more proactive and positive than grumpy, which is just patronising. Sorry, old dudes.

Wording quibbles aside what the reader gets in Stroppy Old Women is 52 fascinating opinion pieces from 52 fascinating women, such as Carole Beu, Judith Baragwanath and Jools Topp. And I loved every single stroppy moment, even when I didn’t agree with them. There’s a wonderful range of issues deemed worthy of stroppiness, and every voice shines with raw honesty and authenticity.

Whether it’s bad parking, customer services, colonialism, Maori sovereignty, technology or fashion, these women’s opinions are genuinely held and strongly argued. Seriously readers, how could you NOT want to peek into the brains of such amazing women as Judith Ablett-Kerr, Sue McCauley* and Shona Laing. These women have lived and worked in all walks of life and their individuality shines through.

It’s telling and more than a little sad that the one issue all the women seem to agree on is that feminism is needed as much now as it was 20, 30, 40+ years ago. Still, thank the stroppy goddesses we have all these women to speak up and hopefully we’ll continue to listen.

As a nice extra, a percentage of the proceeds of sales of Stroppy Old Women will benefit Alzheimer’s New Zealand, so readers get to do some good and enjoy a great read.

*Who has apparently written a novel about “the market economy and people’s increasing alienation from the land and the damage it does” that no one wants to publish. Dear Paul Little, would you get on to that please??