The sixth book in a bestselling junior fiction series inspired by true stories from the Wilson Sisters’ childhoods. It’s a whole new world . . . rescuing an injured stallion!

In the sixth Showtym Adventure, Vicki will stop at nothing to save a crippled beach-racing stallion.
When Vicki and her sisters discover that horses are roaming on country roads because the locals can’t afford to fences contain them, their eyes are opened to a whole new world of hardship.

Then Vicki meets Pepe, a prized beach-racing stallion crippled by mistreatment. The owner can’t pay for a vet and, fearing the beaten horse may die, the Wilsons take Pepe in.

Will Vicki be able to save the injured racer? And will Pepe accept his new life after galloping at full speed?

This story of hope and recovery is inspired by the Wilson Sisters’ early years.

Pepe, The Beach Stallion: Showtym Adventures #6

Kelly Wilson


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

The Wilson sisters, parents, and their horses visit some friends on their huge farm during the school holidays.  Amanda, Kelly, and Vicki have so much fun riding horses and motorbikes and exploring the farm with their friends.  The farm offers horse trekking rides and the Wilson’s dad helps his friend, Mike, clear some tracks to use.

The girls hear that stray horses found loose on the roads will be shot by the council, so arrange for Mike – the local vet –to be called first the next time a stray is found.  They quickly get a call about four stray horses roaming and are successful in capturing them for the council.

Locals soon discover what they’re doing and they get a call for help from the owner of a stallion.  Pepe is a very fast pony used to beach racing and being ridden without a saddle or bridle.  He’d gone missing for a day and been returned with his legs damaged and hooves a worn-down, bloody mess.  His owner offers to give him to the Wilson’s as payment for fixing him.  They take him home to nurse him and the Wilson sisters’ adventures begin!

The real-life Pepe is featured in the back of the book. Along with an introduction to characters and a guide on jumping.  I really enjoyed the story, which is based on actual events.  Any horse-mad girl needs to read this book.

Introducing an exciting new approach to stargazing in the southern hemisphere, this book features step-by-step routes to help you easily identify key constellations across the southern night sky.

Stargazer takes you through constellations one-by-one, linking them together as you progress using easy-to-follow star routes that guide you across the celestial sphere. Adapted carefully for the southern hemisphere, this book is perfect for budding astronomers learning to navigate our expansive and fascinating universe. Complete with practice exercises, stunning colour photography of nebulas and galaxies, and amazing facts about our solar system and beyond, this book is a reliable and exciting new guide to our skies.

Stargazer: A Step-by-step Guide to the Southern Night Sky

Dorling Kindersley

Penguin Random House New Zealand

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Stephen Litten

Stargazer was originally published as a northern hemisphere guide, but thanks to the team at Penguin Random House Australia it has been updated to aid in the identification of constellations and major star clusters in the southern hemisphere. Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock is retained from the UK edition, and is ably assisted by Ian Ridpath and Patrick Armstrong, two Australian astronomers.

The book is divided into 6 sections: an intro to stargazing, 4 routes around the southern sky, and a brief extro concerning planets and the like. Why constellations and not stars? Because the sky is divided into constellations with the named stars tied to the various constellations. Thus, Antares sits in Scorpius and Betelgeuse in Orion. The routes traced are: Crux to South Celestial Pole, Orion to Pleiades, Scorpius to Galactic Centre, and Piscis Astrinus to Large Magellanic Cloud. So, while the southern skies don’t have a naked eye visible polar star, we do have the better view of the Milky Way plus the Magellanic Clouds. There are plenty of illustrations and enough text to illuminate these.

What are missed are some of the constellations that straddle the ecliptic. These include some of the zodiacal ones like Virgo and Leo as well as non-zodiacal ones like Cetus and Ophiucus. So this really is an introductory guide. Not having the original northern hemisphere version, I can’t quickly check to see if the omissions in this are completed by that.

I found the book to be aesy to follow. Finding the constellations was generally simple (when the weather cooperated). I live in south Auckland and I could achieve adequate viewing conditions by just stepping out the back door, so it is applicable most of us southern hemisphere types. Price is reasonable for a firm-cover edition, $37, and it’s not too bulky so can be carried outside with you. Thank you to Penguin Random House for the review copy.

It is a peaceful morning and Scarface Claw is happily snoozing in a spot in the sun, tail curled around and feet tucked in.

there was a shudder and sway,
the whirr of an engine,
then off and away.

And then off goes the truck down the drive – with Scarface ON TOP! Clinging on to the roof of the truck, Scarface zips along streets with his owner, Tom, oblivious to his rooftop passenger and everyone trying to get his attention as he drives along … who will come to poor Scarface Claw’s rescue?

Inspired by true stories of cat owners driving off without realising their cats are on the roofs of their cars, Scarface Claw’s latest adventure will have readers getting just as involved in the story as the bystanders trying to get Tom’s attention!

Scarface Claw Hold Tight!

Lynley Dodd

Puffin MR

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

A delightful tale of Scarface Claw and his wild adventure of going for a ride on a car roof.  The story is told in short, rhythmic paragraphs and simple sentences that are alliterative and fun.  The illustrations are superb, very realistic while being entertaining.

The book itself is a board book with solid cardboard pages that won’t be torn by little fists.  This is another enjoyable picture book featuring the mighty Scarface Claw in the much-loved Hairy Maclary and Friends series.  I highly recommend all babies and toddlers be immersed in the Hairy Maclary world and this book is a must-have!

Long before waka touched Aotearoa’s shores, the land of the long white cloud was home to an array of creatures uniquely adapted to its environments and protected by its isolation.

Encounter New Zealand’s incredible wildlife in this spectacular visual exploration.

Journey through ocean, sky and land to meet a marvellous range of organisms.

Discover fascinating facts, and learn how we influence the survival of our living treasures.

In this magnificent companion volume to Aotearoa: The New Zealand Story, Gavin Bishop weaves a compelling visual narrative of our land, our people and our wildlife — past, present and future.

Wildlife in Aotearoa

Gavin Bishop


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

The contents of this book are cleverly separated into various categories – Tangaroa’s Watery World explains briefly about our oceans – then further grouped into There are Fish and Whales as Big as a Bus, Some Fish Enjoy the Light of the Sun, and Some Fish Prefer the Dark and Quiet of Deep Water. 

The contents naturally flow on to Because of All These Fish, Aotearoa is the Seabird Capital of the World and Where the Sea Meets the Land.  Each of the species featured has its name displayed next to it and a brief fact about it.  There is a glossary with an explanation of unfamiliar words used and discussions about Safe Places for Native Wildlife on Land and Safe Places for Native Wildlife at Sea, as well as explaining The Kermadec Island Marine Sanctuary.

This is an incredible picture book exploring New Zealand’s unique landscapes and its remarkable wildlife by the award-winning author of Aotearoa: The New Zealand Story.  It is spectacularly illustrated with realistic images and is attractively laid out and contains interesting facts.  I avoided the insects’ page though as the illustrations are so realistic I could feel my skin crawling!

A picture book to treasure, I highly recommend having a copy.

 When Pierrot becomes an orphan, he must leave his home in Paris for a new life with his Aunt Beatrix, a servant in a wealthy household at the top of the German mountains. But this is no ordinary time, for it is 1935 and the Second World War is fast approaching; and this is no ordinary house, for this is the Berghof, the home of Adolf Hitler.

Quickly, Pierrot is taken under Hitler’s wing, and is thrown into an increasingly dangerous new world: a world of terror, secrets and betrayal, from which he may never be able to escape.

The Boy at the Top of the Mountain

John Boyne


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

Pierrot lives with his French mother in Paris after his German father died.  He has a dog, D’Artagnen, and a best friend, Anshel, and life is good.    In 1936 his mother dies and the seven year old is sent to an orphanage in the French countryside as he can’t stay with Anshel.  He eventually is told that his paternal aunt has heard about his mothers death and wants him to live with her.

Riding a train to Austria and his aunt, he is collected by a brusque stranger and delivered to a grand house nestled in the hills, miles from town. After a brisk bath given by a maid, he meets his aunt and finds out she is the housekeeper for an important man.  Pierrot is renamed Pieter by his aunt – to sound more German – and told not to mention he is French and never ever to mention his best friend or his name.  Then the home’s owner arrives and Pieter greets him with how he was coached by his aunt, a Nazi salute.  The next nine years of his life at the Berghof is then told.

After the war Pieter learns the full extent of the war he has been complicit in and can no longer pretend Hitler and the Nazi’s weren’t monsters.  Years later he returns to Paris to find out Anshel’s fate.

I was sympathetic towards Pierrot at first – a little boy who has lost everything and thrust into a new life where he has to lie about himself – but that changed to dislike as he falls under the influence of Hitler and, in betraying his aunt, becomes Pieter.  He’s blind to what’s happening around him and innocently passes on conversations with his school friends that cause them and their families to disappear.

There are plenty of little hints about the horrors to come but I can see them because of hindsight. If I was living back then I doubt I would  have realised what was going on – being in my own happy little world most of the time – I would only notice when it affected me.  Maybe this explains a little about the acceptance of the German and European people to the Third Reich’s rise to power.

Written by the author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, this is a well written story that is well-plotted and powerful.  I highly recommend this thought-provoking story though it might be too much for younger readers.

We would all be better off if everyone saw mathematics as a practical ally. Sadly, most of us fear maths and seek to avoid it. This is because mathematics doesn’t have good ‘people skills’ – it never hesitates to bluntly point out when we are wrong. But it is only trying to help! Mathematics is a friend which can fill the gaps in what our brains can do naturally.

Luckily, even though we don’t like sharing our own mistakes, we love to read about what happens when maths errors make the everyday go horribly wrong. Matt Parker explores and explains near misses and mishaps with planes, bridges, the internet and big data as a way of showing us not only how important maths is, but how we can use it to our advantage. This comedy of errors is a brilliantly told series of disaster stories with a happy ending.

Humble Pi: A Comedy of Maths Errors

Matt Parker

Allen Lane

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Stephen Litten

Mathematics underpins many disciplines, but one that affects us most is engineering. Matt Parker investigates the mathematical failures of engineering in Humble Pi. There are a surprisingly large number of ways mistakes can be made, and Parker throws light and elucidation on these.

Humble Pi is arranged in the normal manner, excepting the reverse page numbering and an inserted chapter 9.49 between chapters 9 and 10. The failures generally fall into four categories: unexpected consequences, more precision needed, poor planning, and the limitations of computer systems. And in writing that sentence I made a mistake by assuming only three and remembering a fourth. Parker tends to avoid fatal disasters: there’s no comedy in death (unless it’s the Darwin Awards).

Computers do get special mention, as there are numerous ways computers are not the best tool for what they are doing.: random number generation, timing, data storage using the wrong programme. The misuse of computers is impressive. Bridges seemed to feature highly, with harmonic vibrations featuring with two of my favourites; the Millennium Footbridge and “Galloping Gertie” aka the Tacoma Narrows bridge.

I enjoyed this book; Parker writes with humour and style while dissecting the nature of the mathematical failures. I recommend this to anyone with an interest in mathematics, or engineering, or failures. I thank Penguin Random House for the review copy.

Witness the epic battle of the cyclops!

Visit the endangered dragon preserve! Please, no slaying.

Solve the mystery of The Mystery Cottage, if you dare!

Buy some knick knacks from The Fates! They might come in handy later.

On a road trip across an enchanted America, Helen and Troy will discover all this and more. If the curse placed upon them by an ancient god doesn’t kill them or the pack of reluctant orc assassins don’t catch up to them, Helen and Troy might reach the end their journey in one piece, where they might just end up destroying the world. Or at least a state or two.

A minotaur girl, an all-American boy, a three-legged dog, and a classic car are on the road to adventure, where every exit leads to adventure. Whether they like it or not.

Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest

A Lee Martinez


Purchased from Auckland City Libraries Withdrawn

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

If Odysseus had had an electric-blue Ford Chimera, and a minotaur for a girl-friend, this might have been his odyssey. Well, not exactly. But it is a quest, there are gods, witches, a cyclops, and orcs involved… in an alternate America where dragons are at once an endangered species and “an ecological disaster just waiting to happen.” Oh, and the orcs ride motorcycles.
This is both the funniest and the most fun book I’ve read in a while. High literature it isn’t, and if there is a message it’s a simple one about perseverance and self-acceptance. But light entertainment it certainly is, and if that’s what you need, then I can certainly recommend this book.