Jeannie Baker is an artist who creates collages (and her website is a work of art in itself. She uses natural materials as much as possible, and so thJeannie Baker is an artist who creates collages (and her website is a work of art in itself. She uses natural materials as much as possible, and so the illustrations in her books show the feathers and the mosses and the twigs, etc. I have long enjoyed looking at her picture books, and this latest one is no exception.
Her text is also excellent. It's simple, but not plain. She doesn't try to rhyme (there are some authors who really shouldn't!) but tells the story in a poetical manner.
This book is about the life and migration of the godwit - a little bird that flies annually from the Arctic to Australia or New Zealand, and back. The book also starts and ends with a boy dreaming of flying - a lovely way to make it more relevant to our children....more
I read this book when it first came into the shop (about a month or so ago) and I've picked it up and read it again several times since. It delights mI read this book when it first came into the shop (about a month or so ago) and I've picked it up and read it again several times since. It delights me each time.
One of the things that delights me, and which intrigued me when I first looked at the cover, is that the art is not what I usually expect from this illustrator. Donovan Bixley is a well-known New Zealand illustrator and author, and his work is usually bold and bright. I like bold and bright - don't get me wrong - and I really like the cheeriness of his Kiwi versions of Old MacDonald's Farm and Little Bo Peep and More...: Favourite Nursery Rhymes (and more), but if I had to choose between a wall of bold and brightly illustrated books and muted tones illustrated books, I'd choose the latter.
The cover of this book has one bit of boldness and the background is watercolours running into each other. It's quite beautiful. The rest of the book follows, with fabulous design features and simply fantastic illustrations. And of course, Melinda Szymanik has written another children's book that gets everything right. I haven't been disappointed yet in anything in her range (that goes from pre-schoolers to pre-teens), and this lovely story about a doodle gradually growing and eventually turning into a book is a real tribute to the art of writing....more
Jimmy Cook simply must be related to the famous Captain James Cook, so of course he chooses him when they have to do school projects about an ancestorJimmy Cook simply must be related to the famous Captain James Cook, so of course he chooses him when they have to do school projects about an ancestor. When he discovers where Cook died, he resolves to go there (Hawaii) and teach them a lesson. All sorts of other things happen (trouble, mainly) and this book has some very funny moments. It's all in the words that Jimmy writes in his Ship's Log ("only girls keep diaries") as he sorts himself out in Third Grade.
This is a get-up-and-go book that absolutely delights.
We're at a zoo in Australia - well, either that or a zoo elsewhere with a strong Australian contThis is a get-up-and-go book that absolutely delights.
We're at a zoo in Australia - well, either that or a zoo elsewhere with a strong Australian contingent of animals - and are warned, "Just don't wake the panda whatever you do." Why not? you ask. Surely pandas are pretty mild mannered animals. They don't do much. They're really very inoffensive. Okay, you wouldn't want to get under one that decided to fall asleep suddenly, and yes I expect their claws could wreak havoc on you if you disturbed one or threatened its baby. But seriously, it can't be that bad to wake one up.
Hmm, the second page says:
If you wake up the panda he gets very grumpy, which hypes up the hippos and makes them all jumpy. When the hippos get jumpy they usually hop, and once they begin, they are tricky to stop. Those hippos create such a hullabaloo ...
Whenever I visit the zoo (which is reasonably frequently) and see the hippos, I'm reminded of the time many many years ago when one of the hippos was very cross. It was bellowing! I'd never heard anything like it - nor have I since. So I can totally understand what happens next in the book.
What more can I say? Fabulous illustrations (another that steps outside the run-of-the-mill children's book art), brilliant rhyming and pace, hilarious story. Grab a child to read it to!...more
Wouldn't it be dreadful?! - arriving at the school library to find all the books have been stolen! But happily, Peter has been taking his dog Nell toWouldn't it be dreadful?! - arriving at the school library to find all the books have been stolen! But happily, Peter has been taking his dog Nell to the library with him, and Nell not only loves books but is a great tracking dog with a keen sense of smell.
This is the latest in Julia Donaldson's extensive list of published books. She rhymes so nicely, the stories are nice, and the illustrations are beautifully suited. This, like any of her others that I've looked at with the grandchildren, is a pleasure to read aloud....more
I think I saw this on a shelf at the library and thought it might be a nice, light read. I've enjoyed some other series that are themed around variousI think I saw this on a shelf at the library and thought it might be a nice, light read. I've enjoyed some other series that are themed around various crafts, but this wasn't as good as them and I almost didn't finish it. There's too much lead-up to the crime, and then a rapid wrap-up. And I knew who the murderer was right from the beginning. On top of that, none of the key characters caught my interest.
What characters these two girls are - Bean is an extrovert and naughty, Ivy is quietly subversive. When Bean decides she wants to break a record - anyWhat characters these two girls are - Bean is an extrovert and naughty, Ivy is quietly subversive. When Bean decides she wants to break a record - any record will do - Ivy is right there with her. And when the record of sticking straws in your mouth doesn't work, and when Bean gets into trouble for trying to shatter glass by screaming, without warning her Dad, it's Ivy's talking about Mary Anning that points Bean in the right direction. Mary Anning was the first person to find a whole ichthyosaur fossil, and she was only 12. Bean very quickly convinces them both that of course there'll be dinosaur bones in her backyard and they're digging their way to becoming the youngest paleontologists ever.
My grandchildren loved this just as much as the first two in the series, and I am still loving reading them aloud....more
This book grabbed me right from the start - a boy sitting on a bench at the far side of the playground on a cold winter's day, having a think; a girlThis book grabbed me right from the start - a boy sitting on a bench at the far side of the playground on a cold winter's day, having a think; a girl coming to sit beside him wearing nothing but a sleeveless summer dress. The title is a giveaway and the reader knows before the boy does that this is Jessica's ghost. What the reader doesn't expect is the friendship that is almost instantaneous between boy and ghost.
The boy is a misfit within his school environment, the girl is dead, and soon another misfit comes into the story - a girl who is short and squat and solves her problems with violence. She's been expelled from many schools and has been accepted into his. The boy's mother thinks he needs friends, the girl's mother is desperate for the girl to not be expelled yet again, though she holds little hope that the girl will ever get on with anybody. But the girl can also see Jessica.
There are some funny moments in this book, but mostly it's about friendship, and about the need to talk about your problems before they end up killing you....more
Sometimes I have ideas about books I'd like to write .... but I never have the commitment to put in the time. What this gives me, however, is a deep aSometimes I have ideas about books I'd like to write .... but I never have the commitment to put in the time. What this gives me, however, is a deep appreciation for authors (even for authors whose work I think is rubbish (yes, I know that's a terrible thing to say) or who have avoided a thorough editing process).
This author has got it right! Children are fascinated by the octopus; many adults are also fascinated by them - the way they change colour, the way they can squeeze through tiny gaps, those waving tentacles, the suction caps dotted all down the tentacles, the beady eyes and curved beak, the huge variety in size of them ..... This book has a great deal of that, though not the beady eyes and curved beak (it's fiction so we don't need to deviate from cute), nor the variety (there being only one octopus in this story). But it has the octopus changing colour to blend in with its environment, and it has the octopus squeezing into tight gaps in order to hide.
It also has a cute story which many of us can relate to - the need to have alone-time, and the opposite need to be with people (well, seahorses in particular) who we know. And the colours of the illustrations are really suitable to the sea. It's all very nicely done.
I asked the grandchildren what they thought of this story, but I think it was too late at night to get anything coherent out of them. "Awesome" was one response, but Zenobia has been saying that about every little thing lately so it doesn't cut much. Then, to my leading questions, I simply got affirmatives. Ah well, there are times I can't think of much to say either....more
What a lot of fun this book is. My daughter and I greatly enjoyed the Artemis Fowl series when they were first published, and now Colfer has producedWhat a lot of fun this book is. My daughter and I greatly enjoyed the Artemis Fowl series when they were first published, and now Colfer has produced another series for us to enjoy.
The story moves between present day and 1898, as do the key characters. There's Riley, raised by Garrick(in the late 19th Century) to be his magician's (and assassin) apprentice, and there's Chevie (Chevron Savano), a teen FBI agent who is slightly in disgrace and posted to a dead-end assignment in London (present day). But the actions of Riley and Garrick cause the activation of a TimeKey, and all sorts of things are let loose!
With plenty of action and plenty of verbal sparring, this is a great read. We should be reading the next one soon....more
There have been some very nice children's books published over the last few years about wars that our country has been engaged in. Glyn Harper is an author that springs to mind, and there are more. They all treat the subject sensitively. The Harmonica only refers to the war covertly, but the grandchildren had no trouble telling me that Uncle Jack had died when he went away as a soldier. Despite that, this book is "Cool" - their first comment (for the purposes of this review).
Here is what else they said:
James (soon to be 9): It's cool - because of the music. It's sad because Uncle Jack didn't come back from the war, but it's nice because Carlos is learning about him. Zenobia (turned 7 this month): It's cool - because you can see his Uncle Jack in his thoughts. Ivy (5 and 1/4): Uncle Jack disappeared.
I asked the children about the pictures, which I think are beautifully done. They're in muted colours, and many of the double spreads are done in different tones of the one colour, e.g. blue, or brown. They enhance the words perfectly - a fantastic choice of illustrator, and fine artwork.
The children said "We all like the pictures."
I spend quite a lot of our homeschooling budget on resources, and am continually telling myself that I don't need more books for "just because", but this one is one I think I'll have to buy. With the lovely art, the evocative text and the sensitive story, combined with the link to music .... well, it's worth adding to our shelves.
And I wonder how much a decent little harmonica would cost ..... ...more
I told the children - you need to choose one book each for the letter H (for schoolwork) and then any other book for yourself. One of them chose thisI told the children - you need to choose one book each for the letter H (for schoolwork) and then any other book for yourself. One of them chose this book. I've been hoping for books with titles that begin with the letter, but they're sorted by author and have a lovely orange letter on the spine, so we get authors most of the time. Never mind.
Now, this is a book that I wouldn't ordinarily borrow. It's one of these cutesy teach-the-children-about-good-behaviour books, and so many of them are so terribly nice about it that they turn me off completely. So I groaned inside when it came to reading their H choices. But, unlike other times when I flatly refuse to read a book that I don't like, I had to read it for school. Oh well - grin and bear it!
Surprise, surprise! We all enjoyed this little story. It's not preaching, Brandon takes an awful long time to learn what a pain he is, and the illustrations are great. I love the pugnacious face Brandon has. And when we turned to the back page the children saw covers of books starring Brandon's friends."Can we read those too?" So I've reserved them at the library.
Isn't it great when we get pleasantly surprised?!...more
If you look at my starting and finish dates for this book it seems that I've taken a long time to read it. I haven't - it's simply the book that I'veIf you look at my starting and finish dates for this book it seems that I've taken a long time to read it. I haven't - it's simply the book that I've kept at work and so I've only read for about 15 or 20 minutes, 3 days a week. Having said that, sometimes my reading-at-work book becomes a take-home. The fact that this didn't doesn't detract at all from how much I enjoyed it.
This is the first in a series and I've been reading an Uncorrected Proof which was left at the bookshop (my workplace) by the book rep. Great stuff! I can thoroughly recommend it. It has a great beginning - straight into tension and action, and continues throughout. Twins Will and Annalie are as different as chalk and cheese - he's all action, she's got the brains - but when their father, Spinner, suddenly disappears they work together to take his boat, the Sunfish, and sail to the Moon Islands to find him. Essie is a rich girl and Annalie's only friend at the school her father convinced her to go to - Essie runs away with Annalie to 'talk sense into Will'. And later on they are joined by Pod, a runaway indentured worker (slavery by any other name).
When I was a teenager I knew a family who'd grown up around boats, so the twins' abilities at sailing are completely believable. The scenario is also believable - a future where our planet has suffered disastrous flooding and where military power (the Admiralty) has taken control.
The pace is great, the kids are excellent characters, and I will most definitely be waiting for the next in the series to be published.
It's not a new idea - that in the future there is such an even greater divide between the rich and the poor (yes, it will continue to get worse - we cIt's not a new idea - that in the future there is such an even greater divide between the rich and the poor (yes, it will continue to get worse - we can perhaps fear that some of this will come true) that the poor are used as test subjects (yes, not just the poor of third world countries or gullible 'friends') and as bodies for harvesting organs and blood. This is a theme in a great many sic-fi novels.
David Hill does a nice job of it for the younger reader. He gives us sub-classes within the poor majority - the Towners, the Druggers, the kids' gangs, and the Misfits. Global is the organisation that 'helps' everybody, and that has nicely indoctrinated the younger generation. Curiously, the government allows the Misfits, who live on X-Isle, to dock their boats at the piers, despite 'the lies they tell' about Global.
While the head man at Global is thoroughly evil (along with his henchmen), Hill gives us other characters who are less black-and-white. Cal, the narrator of the tale, discovers that he needs to listen to more than viewpoint and to start thinking for himself. He gets involved in dangerous situations, and he has to learn things that he never would have thought of doing.
The action in this book is gripping, the characters are interesting, and it's a good story about standing up for the right thing....more
It's interesting to read the two pages in 100 Christian Books That Changed the Century that describe this book and how the writers believe it changedIt's interesting to read the two pages in 100 Christian Books That Changed the Century that describe this book and how the writers believe it changed the century. Perhaps it did. I can see that it may have led to great moments of Christians actually asking themselves if they were living the life that Jesus modelled. And it could well have led to some amazing changes in many churches.
It's sad that these things don't last. It's rather like the momentary great outpourings we have of compassion (and aid) for the starving, for refugees, for those affected by catastrophes, for endangered animals, etc. etc., and the often calamitous effect well-meaning 'celebrities' can have (I've just been looking up Live Aid - some readers will remember that - and ...more
I'm trying to figure out quite why I find this book so delightful. It can't just be because I used to have a beloved black Labrador called Sally (wellI'm trying to figure out quite why I find this book so delightful. It can't just be because I used to have a beloved black Labrador called Sally (well, okay, yes she was a Labrador cross - the vet said she was quite possibly crossed with a Pug (there's no accounting for taste, is there?!) - and her hips were obviously not Lab). I loved my Sally. But that doesn't mean I have to love a book about another black Lab called Sally. It could have been one of those tedious books that the children borrow from the library and you feel obliged to read aloud to them even though the prose is boring, or worse (!) it's in rhymes and they plod. Or it could have been one of those so terribly badly written books that they manage to slip past me, but I refuse to read aloud because I just can't bring myself, even through clenched teeth.
Instead, this book is simple but honest. The illustrations are woodcut prints - plain colours, uncluttered shapes, and with lovely expressions on Sally's face. Completely dog, none of that anthropomorphism that is in so many children's books. The words are straightforward as well.
It's written with the intention of helping children to be okay about a pet having to go to the vet, and perhaps about themselves having to go to hospital or the doctor. But it's also perfectly satisfying to any reader....more
This endearing dog is very good at following commands, and very hopeful that he can watch the cats and keep them out of mischief while his family areThis endearing dog is very good at following commands, and very hopeful that he can watch the cats and keep them out of mischief while his family are out at the shops. Poor hopeful dog. It's hopeless, really. Who can control five mischevious cats?! He ends up all tuckered out and fast asleep and the house is in a mess! But happily the cats love him, and while he's napping they tidy up the lot.
Lovely story, fabulous illustrations. The grandchildren and I have thoroughly enjoyed this delightful picture book....more
James and Zenobia and Ivy very much enjoyed the first book in this series, so what else should we do but read the second. They enjoyed this just as muJames and Zenobia and Ivy very much enjoyed the first book in this series, so what else should we do but read the second. They enjoyed this just as much, if not more. I think the haunted bathroom had much to do with how much the story was liked. For example, when I asked them what they liked about the book, these were the responses:
Ivy - I liked the haunted bathroom, and when Bean cut Nancy's hair. Zenobia - I liked the haunted bathroom the best, and when Bean snipped Nancy's hair. I like the spooky bits most of all. James - I liked the haunted bathroom the best, because it was funny. I like when they threw the presents for the spirits into the toilet, and the water overflowed. And I liked when Nancy's hair was being cut off.
A clear consensus! And Nancy's hair (and we don't need to worry about them getting any ideas because they've already done the the cutting-of-each-other's-hair naughtiness) was another clear hit.
This book was great to read aloud. There are pictures (black and white) on every page so there's plenty to keep the attention of the younger children, and I have no doubt they'll all be reading it again when they're fully independent readers. Ivy and Bean are fun characters, and the story is such that the adult reading can enjoy the humorous viewpoint of the kids all getting caught up in the ghost aspect, while the children can quite happily believe that the bathroom really was haunted.
I started buying this series for my grand-daughter, Ivy. Of course. And I'm reading them aloud to the three grandchildren.
This story is cute, and telI started buying this series for my grand-daughter, Ivy. Of course. And I'm reading them aloud to the three grandchildren.
This story is cute, and tells the beginning of the friendship between the two girls. Bean (Bernice) is who we start with - she's the outgoing one who never stops talking and frequently gets into trouble. She has no interest in getting to know Ivy, the boringly quiet girl who lives across the road. But then circumstances throw them together, and Bean discovers that 'still waters run deep'. Not that she puts it that way, of course.
The story is very nicely told, the characters are realistic, and there's plenty of humour. It was a pleasure to read this to the kids, and I'm already started on #2....more
I can never get over my admiration for Pratchett. His cleverness and his wide-ranging knowledge are phenomenal. In some of his books I get all the jokI can never get over my admiration for Pratchett. His cleverness and his wide-ranging knowledge are phenomenal. In some of his books I get all the jokes, because I've got a good working knowledge of the subjects he's lampooning; in others I get some of them and know that there are many more that I don't get because the subject matters are not ones I'm particularly familiar with. For example, it's obvious that there are so many British political jokes - very few of those make it further than my eyes - in most (if not all) of these fabulous Discworld novels. And then there are the pop groups that he's clearly twisting the names of in this book .... Apart from a few years in my teens and early twenties, I've never been a follower of popular music - I guess I'm somewhat stuck in time - so there were a lot of jokes I didn't get. However, I was aware that they were jokes so I could smile wryly and continue reading. Of course, that's the nice thing about reading jokes you don't get - you don't have to pretend you get them (thankfully I don't care any more if I've missed one, but I do remember how excruciating it can be to hope that nobody shares their pleasure with you about a joke that passed you by, because you can't even start to make any sort of response that makes sense).
None of which has much to do with this book.
It's about music - duh! It's about how music can seem to have a life of its own, and how in Discworld it can. And that can ultimately be dangerous.
This is a rather cute book about a little girl who can't get to sleep for all the noise going on. The noises are ghosts and giants and knights and allThis is a rather cute book about a little girl who can't get to sleep for all the noise going on. The noises are ghosts and giants and knights and all sorts, and they all go, "Who me?" We did some fun drama at homeschool with it....more
In the bookshop where I work we have a number of regular customers (oh, wouldn't it be nice to have the sort of disposable income that makes it an easIn the bookshop where I work we have a number of regular customers (oh, wouldn't it be nice to have the sort of disposable income that makes it an easy thing to regularly buy from a bookshop (rather than the occasional carefully-budgeted-for purchase)...). However, as we don't have our loyalty programme on the computer yet (but stamp on their little cardboard Loyalty Card still), I'm not learning people's names. So I can't attribute this recommendation. However, the same customer has twice told me that this book is his absolute favourite children's book.
Aside from the Mercy Watson books for younger readers (which are absolutely hilarious), I haven't read any of Kate DiCamillo, despite her being an author that readers rave about, and despite their being queues (practically) for each new book she has published. Why? Well, I tend to avoid books that are 'nice' or 'lovely'. I lean towards the 'sharper' books.
Happily, I am not averse to giving anything a go (with regards to books, that is), and having had this twice so thoroughly recommended I decided I must read it. And I can say that I'm glad I did. This is a [insert superlative of your choice] and charming little book, the sort of book that I'd be hard put to read aloud without my voice showing my tears. What a treasure.
For a brief idea of the book - Edward Tulane is a sentient china rabbit. He is not at all like those toys we read of (or view) that come to life when people aren't around, so don't think Toy Story or animated versions of The Little Tin Soldier. Think rather of Hans Christian Andersen's original of the latter, and think of The Velveteen Rabbit. But then think again, because Edward Tulane is one of the most arrogant and self-satisfied creatures you have ever met.
This book is a morality lesson in disguise, and most beautiful....more
What a great premise! This book is set shortly after the time of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London, when fossil hunting was all the rage, andWhat a great premise! This book is set shortly after the time of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London, when fossil hunting was all the rage, and when there was enormous debate between Christianity and Darwinism. Faith is 15, the daughter of the Reverend Erasmus Sunderly and his wife Myrtle. Faith also has a much younger brother, Howard - several other brothers have died in infancy. The family is moving for Sunderly to take up a position at the Vane Island excavation (Vane appears to be one of the Channel Islands, though I may be mistaken in my geography (for which I can be excused, living on the extreme other side of the world)). And in the very first chapter, Faith overhears her father and uncle talking, and she discovers the family is fleeing from accusations of fraud.
So, there is this great 'scientific and theological debate' setting, there's the place of women (and the terrible frustration for those who would love to study), and then there's murder and intrigue and a touch of the supernatural. I thoroughly enjoyed this book!...more
Don't you love it when other popular published authors review one of the greats?! I have to confess that I hadn't come across Patrick Rothfuss before,Don't you love it when other popular published authors review one of the greats?! I have to confess that I hadn't come across Patrick Rothfuss before, but his two reviews of this book had me instantly looking him up and getting hold of the first in his Kingkiller Chronicles (The Name of the Wind). Hopefully the idea of "I'm a fan of anybody who's a fan of Terry Pratchett" will hold there. And further down the reviews page I found one by Brandon Sanderson who became a Discworld afficionado on reading this book.
So really there's not much more I can say.
Rothfuss notes Pratchett's social comment and quotes the paragraphs about Vimes and his boots. I'm not going to repeat it - read his review, or better still, read the book, and you'll see Pratchett's commentary on why the poor can't get out of the poverty trap.
And Pratchett does that throughout all his books. He makes wry comment on humanity and society, all within this fabulously quirky and magical world, and with characters you've just got to love, warts and all....more