The Island of Lost Horses
By Stacy Gregg (HarperCollins)
The latest pony novel from Auckland writer Stacy Gregg is inspired by the history of how the rarest breed of horse in the world, the Abaco Barb, came to be living on a remote tropical island in the Caribbean. It's told through the diaries of two young girls, a 15th-century Spanish princess and a modern girl on a mission to save these unique horses. Filled with mystery and drama it will delight horsey girls, but is a rollicking good adventure story so should have a broader appeal. There's a conservation message, too. When Gregg started working on this book, there were only five Abaco Barb horses left in the wild. That is now down to just one mare.
One Girl One Dream
By Laura Dekker (HarperCollins)
New Zealand-born Laura Dekker caused controversy when, at just 14, she set out on a solo circumnavigation of the world. This is the story of her bid to realise her dream despite losing her original boat and being threatened with protective custody by Dutch authorities. She tells of her battle to be allowed to embark on this sail and recounts her adventure aboard her 12m yacht, Guppy. Laura has a lot of practical stuff to deal with, like homework, cooking and laundry, issues with her boat, sleepless nights, boredom, sickness and times when the loneliness gets to her. This girl's own adventure is told in an open, honest style. Sixteen by the time she completed her voyage, Laura seems to be blessed with dizzying levels of resourcefulness, courage and maturity. Her book should inspire anyone with a travel dream they long to follow.
The Kaboom Kid: Playing Up
By David Warner with JS Black (Simon & Schuster)
Australian cricketer David Warner has collaborated with children's author Jess Black on this novel, part of a series about a cricket-mad 11-year-old who's just like Warner was as a boy. Our hero, little Davey Warner, has a secret weapon: his bat Kaboom, which makes him feel invincible at the crease. Unfortunately, being distracted by cricket while in class results in his lucky charm being confiscated by grumpy cricket-hating teacher Mr Mudge. Even more disastrously, a regional selector is due to arrive to look at Davey's team and pick out some talent. Somehow he has to get his precious bat back so he can show the selector what he's made of. Aimed at cricket-mad kids aged 9-plus, it's a fun, approachable chapter book that's designed to get boys reading and enjoying fiction.
Maori Art For Kids
By Julia Noanoa and Norm Heke (Craig Potton)
This is a book for parents and children to enjoy together. Fifteen Maori artists are featured with an example of their work and an art activity for kids to tackle. Many of these are simple to execute - like the heru decorative comb - others will take more skill and talent. From creating a kete to designing a hei tiki neck pendant and making spinning tops and poi dancing balls, there are fun projects to fill many a wet weekend, plus the opportunity to learn about New Zealand's unique cultural and artistic heritage. Aimed at children 7-plus, the step-by-step instructions are clear and there are plenty of illustrations and templates. An ideal way for children to learn while they play.
Dinosaur Rhyme Time
Illustrated by Valentina Mendicino (Faber & Faber)
Many nursery rhyme books seem designed to appeal more to grandparents than toddlers, so it's welcome relief to find one aimed firmly at the kids. Dinosaur Rhyme Time contains traditional favourite rhymes such as Incy Wincy Spider and Row, Row Your Boat, coupled with non-traditional illustrations of dinosaurs acting out the human parts of the rhyme. The inside cover offers children's reviews of the book: Jackson (aged 2) says, "There were dinosaurs ... Read it again, please", and Asher (aged 18 months) puts it even more simply: "Oooooh." A great addition to a toddler's home library.
• Review by Danielle Wright, creator of award-winning children's books and the news site: newsmummy.com
By Jacqueline Wilson (Doubleday)
Jacqueline Wilson has to be described as the pre-teen queen, especially as this is her 100th published book. Wilson never fails to deliver a great story and for this one, we travel back 100 years to follow our hero, Opal. With her family going through financial trouble she is forced to leave school and work in a sweet factory. Her growing friendship with the factory owner opens her eyes to workers' and women's rights, and she even meets Mrs Pankhurst and the suffragettes. Add in a burgeoning love story and the start of World War I, and the author has produced another hit to delight her many fans.
• Review by Ngaire Atmore Pattison who blogs about books at bookiemonster.co.nz
Singing Home the Whale
By Mandy Hager (Random House)
This is an exquisite young adult novel, from an experienced and award-winning author, that will be loved by people of all ages. At its heart is a teenage boy with a magnificent tenor voice who sings opera and a motherless baby orca, separated from its pod, who responds to the boy and harmonises with him. Will is seeking refuge with his uncle in a small New Zealand fishing village after a humiliating experience. As his relationships with the orca and one or two of the town's young people gradually develop, so too does his sense of self and of community. The story is told in Will's voice and in the voice of the orca - glorious, lyrical, alliterative. An unusual, sensitive novel that encourages us to take care of all living creatures.
• Review by Carole Beu of The Women's Bookshop, womensbookshop.co.nz
Nicky's best read
Hairy Maclary must be one of the best-loved characters from Kiwi children's fiction and he has an excellent website.
At hairymaclary.com kids can play games, tool up to throw a themed party, make bunting featuring the stars of Lynley Dodd's stories and take a peek inside the books. Or download the Hairy Maclary iPad app with its touch-to-read words and colouring-in pages.
Julia Marshall is the director of award-winning children's book publisher Gecko Press
The book I love most is ... From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg.
The book I'm reading right now is ... Elizabeth Knox: An Unreal House Filled with Real Storms (a print copy of her inaugural Margaret Mahy Memorial Lecture).
The book I'd like to read next is ... Mandy Hager's Singing Home The Whale.
My favourite bookshop is ... All bookshops (bless them and keep them).
The book that changed me is ... The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe.
The book I wish I'd never read is ... The Tree That Sat Down And The Stream That Stood Still by Beverley Nichols (but I'll have to read it again now to know the reason why).