'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.' - author Jackie French

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Review: A Dog Called Bear

A Dog Called Bear is a quirky story about pets and differences, and it starts with fabulous endpapers that look like fur.

Lucy loves dogs, and having saved her money and read all about dogs, she sets out to find the perfect one to have as a pet. Her search brings her into contact with other animals who try to convince her that they would be a better pet than a dog. Frog can have a bath every day and fox would prefer to be a part-time pet.

Then Lucy meets an animal who claims to be a dog, a newly invented dog, but doesn’t look like any of the dogs she’s ever seen in her books. His name is Bear and he is soon on his way home with Lucy. Lucy and Bear have real personality, and Bear does have a special touch of ‘dog’ about him (I particularly loved the picture of him lazing in a dog basket with a smile on his face).

10 Quirky Questions with Karen Foxlee

1. What's your hidden talent?
I wish I had an exciting hidden talent like whip-cracking tricks or mountain-climbing. I have a range of fair to middling talents instead. I can sketch good eyes. I can bake really nice chocolate chip biscuits. And I’m reasonably talented at toilet-training kittens.

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
The Snow Queen. I can still remember how shocked by her I was as a child. A beautiful female driving around luring children away. Like all great villains I find her incredibly lonely and there is something quite sad about her. As a child she intrigued me and I always wished for her back story; how did she end up there, like that, hell-bent on making everything wintery?

3. You’re hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
Roald Dahl, Hans Christian Andersen, Douglas Adams, Marilynne Robinson and Charlotte Bronte. Then I’d worry all night that everyone was getting on okay and I’d be so so so nervous.

4. Which literary invention do you wish was real?
Gosh, that’s an interesting question. An invention? I always love anything to do with being able to change times or enter magical worlds. Whether it is the clock striking thirteen in Tom’s Midnight Garden (Phillipa Pearce) or the wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S Lewis), or the subtle knife in Pullman’s Dark Materials Trilogy….. I wish that was real.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Review: A World Between Us

I knew zippo about the Spanish Civil War that preceded World War II, had no idea volunteers from around the world flocked there to prevent Franco from taking over as Dictator ruler. Until I read A World Between us. Through Felix, Nat and George, this world springs off the page into vibrant, gritty detail. 

Unable to explain to family or friends, Felix runs away to volunteer as a nurse in the hope she might find Nat in Spain. She battles alongside medical colleagues to save patients with a minimum of resources. Meanwhile, Nat and fellow untrained volunteers receive a hero’s welcome on Spanish soil. He worries he will go into battle with a useless wooden replica of a rifle. George, originally in Spain only to search for Felix, is confronted by truths Britain doesn’t want to hear.

Review: The Gobbledygook and the Scribbledynoodle

The Gobbledygook is back in this rhyming romp for little ones.

Gobbledygook is in his favourite place--the library. He's reading his favourite 'mon-story' book, gobbling up the storyline. He mixes up the words, whispers and shouts--that's why he's called the Gobbledygook!

But goodness me--what's this? His favourite book has come alive! Out jumps a monster, right off the page! This scribbly creature is called the Scribbledynoodle and he quickly sets to work scribble-scrawling hither and thither, all over the books.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Review: The Way We Roll

Will and Julian sucked me into the vortex of their opposing worlds from the first page. They were witty, physical, heartfelt and real. I recognised their voices, could see Julian’s swagger and felt Will’s attempts to keep Julian out of his life. I didn’t know who to barrack for when they fought.

Despite the fact Julian did time for assault and Will went to private school, the two had so much in common. Yet nothing was as it seemed. I inhaled the pages in my rush to discover Julian’s secret and was floored when I did. Is there a way back to wholeness after unimaginable betrayal? Can friendship be stronger than family?

Review: Atlas of Animal Adventures

This stunning publication is from Wide Eyed Editions, the publishers of the amazing Atlas of Adventures, and Destination: Space. Extraordinary in every way with illustrations in coloured inks, this oversized 85 page book is an atlas of information on animals. It covers their incredible and at times unbelievable behaviour, migratory habits and life systems.

Added to the 31 comprehensive, double spread entries in full page colour, is a World map and six other double page maps that cover Africa Europe, Asia and the Middle East, Australia and Oceania, North America, Central and South America, and Antarctica.

The detailed life and habits of the animals belonging to each area are presented under their country headings. There are miniatures of each map in a circle on the introductory page of each entry. A framed picture points out the major parts of the designated animal’s body and their use, and a large block of facts introduces the main information.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Review: Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park is a novel about two sixteen year-olds from Omaha, Nebraska in 1986 and teen love against the odds.

Eleanor is new in town. Eccentrically-dressed, chubby and with unruly flaming red hair, she stands out for all the wrong reasons. Eleanor comes from a troubled family, is withdrawn and for the first time, the school misfit. Park is the quiet and steely half-Korean boy trying to stay off of everyone’s radar whom Eleanor has no choice but to sit next to on the school bus.

Eleanor and Park overcome their bus-seat discomfort each morning by slowly communicating non-verbally, through shared interests in comic books and music. They bond over songs and rock groups. Slowly, they fall in love and non-conformingly defy all and everyone around them to be together. Even if, for Eleanor’s safety, it means keeping their relationship a secret from her family. Even if it means that Park has to fight for Eleanor.

Review: Hello Atlas

It's just so lovely to see books that do things differently--I know I go on about this all the time--but it's so important. Most books are 'new' to children, especially the very young, but adults adore and value children's books, too, and there's nothing nicer than opening a book without thinking 'seen it before'.

Kids also need a massive amount of variety in books, to encourage engagement and finding something that resonates with them.

Hello Atlas is another addition to a very popular genre at the moment but it still manages to stand alone in terms of originality.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Review: Midnight Creatures

A Pop-Up Shadow Search? Have you heard of such a thing? Does it not make you to rush for a torch, bring on the night, and hide in a darkened room to discover the creatures inside these pages?

If you're me, the answer to that question is yes!

What absolute fun. A book of full double-page pop up pages with cut-outs that silhouette all manner of animals against the bedroom wall--a fork-marked lemur, a greater mouse-deer, and a nine-banded armadillo are just some of the creatures to be found in the dense, moonlit jungle.

12 Curly Questions with Penny Harrison

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
When I was 14, I was the pianist in a band called Zenith. We were not good!

2. What is your nickname?
Mostly Pen, although my little girl sometimes calls me Mama Bear.

3. What is your greatest fear?I'm absolutely terrified of the ocean (and drawn to it at the same time).

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Whimsical, lyrical, evocative and uplifting - at least, I hope so!

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Persistent, spontaneous, passionate, redrafter, daydreamer (that's my positive word for procrastinating!)

Monday, 17 October 2016

Review: small things

Mel Tregonning was a world-renowned Manga artist. She began illustrating this wordless graphic novel, centred around feelings of loneliness and hopelessness, in 2008. Each of her images bears silent witness to the quiet but invasive influence negative feelings can have if they are left unchecked but also to the powerful positive impact small actions can have on a sensitive soul. Tragically, Mel took her life in 2014.

Mel’s family has worked together with Shaun Tan to complete Mel’s unfinished work, which I believe will become a legacy of love and hope for anyone struggling to overcome sadness, anxiety or depression. The final three illustrations contributed by Shaun Tan remain true to Mel’s original collection while adding the gentlest note of hope: something we all need when times are tough.

Review: Destination: Space

We are invited by five young people to accompany them on an adventure into Space on a mind-blowing journey of discovery. The journey begins with, and explanation of, the Origins of the Universe and our planet - the Big Bang - and moves right up to the Universe today.

Whatever you have wanted to know about the Universe is told here in brief. But it will satisfy young searching minds, and generate an interest to further research this cluster of invaluable subjects.

We are told how atoms were formed, about the expansion of the Universe, and our Galaxy. There is a Time Line of Events, Space Shuttles, comparisons of Matters, and the science and physics behind the stars. This is only a part of what in included.