Children’s Book of the Week and Other Book Reviews


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Welcome to another week of children’s book reviews.  As ever, I hope you will enjoy my choice of books and the reviews of them. Please don’t forget to scroll down the page and read them all!

Children’s Book of the Week: The Issy Books by Pat “Gigi” Calfee – Illustrated by Isybilla Gee
Available from issy.com

I am delighted to have had the opportunity to review these books, which were recently sent to me. The Issy Books are, in fact, a series of eleven short books for emergent readers. They are written by Pat Calfee and illustrated by her very creative granddaughter, 5-year-old Isybilla Gee. Pat, now an educational consultant, previously spent 15 years teaching both 2nd and 3rd grade students.

My Review

The series opens with the picture book “Meet Issy”, the talented five-year old illustrator, and we learn about her likes, her pets and her family. The series then continues with tales of Harry the Hippo, Webster the Spider and a host of other animals, each with their own little book.

Every page of every book in the series has its own simplistic illustration and a short sentence to describe it. The illustrations and the well-ordered vocabulary go hand in hand, making the meaning of every page clear, easy to follow and fun, with just enough words to help the young reader grow confidence. Specific keywords go with each  book, and are clearly listed at the start below the ‘suggestions’ for using the book. I have no doubt parents teaching their children to develop their reading skills will find these extremely helpful. The books are also produced in a nice handy size for small hands.

The fact that a young child, herself an emergent reader, has illustrated these books makes them all the more endearing, and other young children will so easily be able identify with the naïve style.
Each book is a delight in itself, but I particularly liked Oscar the Octopus where numbers are cleverly introduced, counting backwards from 8 to 1. And then there was Flossie the Flamingo where the words for different shapes were presented.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Issy Books, and I especially delighted in introducing the youngest member of the family to them, who, albeit she is not quite at the emergent reader stage, was able to instantly identify the animals in the books, and the short sentences on each page held her interest. So much so, she was happy to repeat the words and point to the pictures.  An excellent start for any child!  In my opinion, this is a fairly strong indicator of the success of the books.

It can be very difficult at first for young children to decipher the written word, therefore the vocabulary must flow and the accompanying illustrations need to speak out in a way which adds value.  It is my opinion that The Issy Books do precisely that. Added to this, there is the parental guidance factor which can only enhance the reading satisfaction and ability of both parent and child.  I am giving The Issy Books a very solid 5 stars!

Switch by Karen Prince     
Available on Amazon Kindle $1.24

The story is set in Zimbabwe and opens with the High Priest, Drogba, looking for a person to provide him with a new body. This opens the door for the introduction to the wicked and very comical witch, Gogo Maya, who is being pursued by someone unknown in the forest that she would rather avoid.  Her only escape it to ‘switch’. Through pure miscalculation she finds herself inadvertently linked to a very average young boy named Joe. Joe has an overly precious cousin, called Ethan, who is better suited to the city than the bush. Ethan is spoilt, highly germaphobic, asthmatic, snobbish, cowardly, and definitely not a risk taker. He does, however, feel able to give Gogo Maya CPR, and manages to suck in what is left of her magical powers. The witch’s leopard familiar, Salih, for some unfathomable reason, chooses him in order to telepathically communicate the witch’s needs. Throw in the very bizarre Tokeloshe tribe, some possibly helpful crocodiles, a few hyenas, a host of African children and lashings of magic, and the book has you wanting to read on.
The opening chapter of this book grabbed me instantly. I also love books about Africa, and this one did not disappoint. I felt absolutely filled with the sound and smells of the continent just reading it. The evocative settings make it quite clear the author knows the terrain well. The plot is very imaginative and highly original and the characters are well-drawn and credible.  I would definitely read this book again and am giving it 5 stars.
(This book would be best suited to ages 11 years and over)

Kiwi in Cat City by Vickie Johnstone   
Available on Amazon Kindle $1.22 and in Paperback $7.50

Kiwi in Cat City is about a little girl called Amy, her brother James and their cat Kiwi.  After waking one night and seeing Kiwi leap out of the window, Amy rouses James to go with her to follow Kiwi to see where she goes and what she does at night.
Kiwi, who spots them tailing her, turns around and addresses them in their own human speak and subsequently invites them along on her nocturnal journey. After getting over the shock of hearing their cat talking to them, both children decide to do just that and tag along. Then, an even more surprising thing happens as they both turn onto cats themselves.
This book is beautifully written, with a great poetic prologue, and heaps of action, intrigue and fun. Ms. Johnstone’s vivid imagination does her a great deal of credit. I am also assuming, by the not entirely complete ending, that another book will be following soon, which I will look forward to reading as well.  5 stars for Kiwi in Cat City!
(This book would be best suited to ages 10 years and over)

A Tale of Four Birds and Their Quest for Food and Happiness by Gramps Doodlebug    
Available from Amazon Kindle $1.22

Four hungry birds set out together in search of food. Though of different species, their combined voices garner a lot of attention. No-one, however, rewards them with the food they are singing for. On their rounds they visit the house of a rich man who, although he has no suitable food to give them, offers them directions to find a man with a straw hat who will provide for them. Their next port of call is the house of a poor man, with a straw hat, who turns out not to be the one they are seeking, and who has nothing to offer them either. At this point one of the birds leaves the quartet thinking he will do better by himself. The others travel on. At different points two others go their separate ways leaving the last bird to carry on the mission alone.
The simple, beautiful illustrations drew me to this book and the story reminded of some of those I had read as a child. The descriptions of the birds and their voices are quite charming, and I am sure will enthral many a bird-loving child. There are both facts and lessons to be learnt here, all of which are meaningful and easy to understand. I give A Tale of Four Birds 4 stars.
(This book would be best suited to ages 5 years and over)

***

All my reviews can be found on Amazon and, where possible, Goodreads.

Please note: Authors frequently offer their books at lower prices and often they are free.  These prices were correct at the time of publishing, but it is worth checking for price changes.

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‘Let the Wolves run free’ by Ratty and the Watchers


Such beautiful words!

Howling For Justice

Wolf Pack Howling On Lake

Your amber eyes and coat of ashes,
I see sorrow in your face,
With the pain the young one thrashes,
a trophy for the human race,
Hunted down I feel the heartache,
from ancient dens the wolves must flee,
Misunderstood beliefs we must break,
education is the key.

I saw a pack when in full flight,
Brothers / sisters chasing starlight,
Their hearts are yearning to be free of our world.

In the night an Alpha male howls,
it’s a song of such beauty,
All they hear is Hollywood growls,
and not the call to his family,
Never safe on the lonely mountain,
the guns are heard in the deep valley,
Another notch on the butt of a rifle,
a cub added to the death tally.

Shadows dancing on moonlit skies,
Leave them be don’t wave them goodbye,
All they want is to be free of our world.

Look in…

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I Heart Digital Novellas


Crunchy Dragon

HarperTeen (a.k.a. where I work) announced a new digital short-fiction imprint today, an event that inspired me to sit down and write a post I’ve been mulling over for a while. It’s about–you guessed it–digital short fiction. I have some Thoughts.

The first thought is, I love this trend. I’ve said facetiously that I love seeing the word “novella” back in the limelight, which is true; but I also love seeing the form itself become more mainstream. It can be tough to sell readers (and publishers, for that matter) on short fiction. Novellas, let alone short stories, are too short to print on their own; but anthologies are tricky too, and literary magazines have never enjoyed the circulation they should. So although I’ll still choose to read in print over digital any day of the week, I’m genuinely excited to see short fiction carve out a niche in the ebook…

View original post 591 more words

Winners of the Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop


The Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop is now officially over!

Congratulations to the following bloggers who  have won and will each receive a Paperback copy of Mungai and the Goa Constrictor. I will be emailing you all for addresses later today.

Michelle Hodge

Shannon Rhea

Kimberly Holgate

cindi169

A huge thank you to everyone who visited my blog.

Children’s Book of the Week and Other Book Reviews


Mungai and the Goa Constrictor - A Children's Book by Amelia E Curzon - Banner

Welcome to another  week of children’s book reviews.  I hope you enjoy my choice of books and the reviews of them. Please don’t forget to scroll down the page and read all of them!

Book of the Week: But What If I DON’T Understand? By C. P. Siebenhuener
Available on Amazon in Paperback $8.99

I chose this book as Children’s Book of the Week because I think it carries such an important message. As a child, an incurably shy one I might add, I remember all too well how I was always afraid to ask if there was something I did not understand. It did me no good whatsoever.

But What if I Don't Understand Book Cover - Featured review on Children's Book of the Week on mungaiandthegoaconstrictor.meMy Review of But What If I DON’T Understand?

“But What If I DON’T Understand?” begins with the child Danielle coming home from school, dragging her feet in an attempt to slow down the inevitable homecoming meeting with her mother. She has taken a test at school and has not done very well. Her fears cover a whole spectrum of concerns; disappointing her mother, being laughed at by her classmates and incurring her teachers wrath. Danielle’s mother, however, is very understanding and quietly explains to Danielle why she must not worry and why it is alright to ask the teacher if there is anything at all she does not understand.

This book teaches children the importance of asking questions in order to stay abreast of the rest of the class. Too many children find themselves in Danielle’s position, as they have done for generations.  To not understand and  to not ask is to be left behind. Both parents and children will be able to appreciate, via the straightforward, well-written and delightful dialogue, that this sort of communication problem can be overcome. This book also provides a very useful tool for educators who may well often overlook these reticent children in the classroom. The message is expressed in a sweet and sensible way by a loving parent to her child. It really is quite endearing.

I highly recommend this book to anyone whose own child may be having difficulties at school through not being able to keep up. Or one who teaches a child who is not reaching their full potential. An added bonus here is that when you buy the Paperback version you have the opportunity to download an audio version free. That’s pretty good in my opinion. I am giving “But What If I DON’T Understand?” 5 stars.

Song for Papa Crow by Marit Menzin
Available on Amazon in Hardcover $13.20
I received a copy of Song for Papa Crow from Netgalley.

Little Crow is desperate to have someone to play with. But when he tries to sing along with the other birds, all of which have beautiful voices, he is made fun of because of his ugly ‘caw’ sound.   Then a mockingbird comes to town and gives a concert.  Little crow is so impressed with his singing he persuades Papa Crow to take him ‘backstage’ for an autograph.  Mockingbird gives Little Crow a seed which enables him to sing like the other birds. This, however, has its own consequences.

Written and illustrated by Marit Menzin, Song for Papa Crow is amazing!  It is filled with sumptuous illustrations skilfully put together as collages. Although I read this book from my computer, I could almost feel the texture of the images, and the colours are superb. The text is well-written and very descriptive.  Children, and adults, are able to learn about, and recognise, varies species of birds and their songs. At the back of the book there are some Fun Facts about the birds in the story. Excellent! If this doesn’t garner your child’s interest in the bird world – nothing will.

This is a story about acceptance of who we are, and about being happy with those valuable gifts we have been endowed with. We all have our own particular voice, and all our voices will be heard, despite we may think others sound better.

Song for Papa Crow is a book you will want to keep forever. This is definitely a 5 star read.

Patchwork Dog and Calico Cat by Greta Burroughs
Available on Amazon in Paperback $13.99 and on Kindle $3.17

Patchwork Dog and Calico Cat is a series of short stories for young children, portraying the various adventures two friends, the dog and cat in the title. Together they try and learn to fly, get trapped in a shed with a skunk during the rain, and eat sour apples by mistake, to name but a few of their lovely adventures. Though Calico prefers to laze around in comfort, Patchwork is far more adventurous and just can’t resist trying everything – most of which lands him in trouble. At the end of each story there are three fun questions which involve the young readers, keeping their interest up by opening a discussion about what they have read. Marvellous – children can remember the adventure and discuss the message given. Well done to Greta Burroughs – i think that works very well!

This book is lots of fun and great for young animal lovers. Well-written with tons of humour, it can be thoroughly enjoyed by children aged 4 and upwards, and it is rather fun to read out loud as a parent too. The youngest member of my family enjoyed Patchwork and Calico so much; I just had to give them 5 stars.

Kevin and the Seven Lions by Martin Tiller
Available on Amazon in Paperback $7.62 and on Kindle $3.05

Kevin, our main character, is a young boy unable to stop himself from daydreaming, especially when in school. He drifts away constantly during lessons into a world of dinosaurs, submarines, spaceships and lions. Kevin’s teacher, Mrs Calvin, is repeatedly trying to get his attention. Finally she comes up with an idea, and gives Kevin a notebook asking him to write down his dreams as they occur. Kevin is suspicious of this request at first, but when some interest is shown in his stories by his parents, he throws himself into his writing.

This is a wonderful little book from Martin Tiller which offers the sort of encouragement many a budding young writer would be thrilled to receive. I am sure many will also be able to identify with Kevin and his dream world, a realm so many generations of children, with their vivid imaginations, will have wandered off to in the past.
I loved the illustrations and found the book to be extremely well-written. My only qualms being; it ended a bit abruptly for me and I felt as if I were missing a page.  Kevin’s seven lions were reduced to six in my version, without explanation! Perhaps another download would show this as rectified. I would highly recommend this for age 6 years and up.

All reviews can be found on Amazon and, where possible, Goodreads.

Please note: Authors frequently offer their books at lower prices and often they are free.  These prices were correct at the time of publishing, but it is worth checking for price changes.

3rd Annual Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop


Welcome to the
3rd Annual Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop
January 18th to 24th

(Click on one of the links above to visit all the other awesome blogs taking part)

There are four copies of Mungai and the Goa Constrictor to be won. To enter, follow my blog and leave a comment along with your contact details. Good luck!

Mungai and the Goa Constrictor - A Children's Book by Amelia E Curzon - Book Cover

MUNGAI AND THE GOA CONSTRICTOR

Probably one of the best books you and your family will read this year!

Likened to both Orwell’s Animal Farm and Kipling’s Jungle Book (though a very different tale) it is hoped Mungai and the Goa Constrictor will one day take its place amongst the great children’s classics.

Action, adventure, humour, friendship, environmental awareness and shamelessness trying to steal a march on innocence– all in one very entertaining book!

Just some of the things people are saying!

“This was a clever, enjoyable, different, well-crafted story and one I’d love to see as an animated movie. Both the book (and the movie!) would appeal to older children and adults alike” (Beeshon Reviews- UK)

“Excellent book! Thought provoking and fun! This is a story that could take its place among the best in fairy tales – with a lesson–but not only for children”  (The Happy Looker “T.H.L.” – Boston, MA, USA) 

“Amelia Curzon has created a beautiful fable in “Mungai and the Goa Constrictor” that warns of the effects of destruction of the forest in a fashion that is innocent, entertaining and compelling” (Scarlett Rains Reviews – Ohio, USA)

Children’s Book of the Week and Other Book Reviews


Mungai and the Goa Constrictor - A Children's Book by Amelia E Curzon - Banner

Welcome to another  week of children’s book reviews.  I hope you enjoy my choice of books and the reviews of them. Please don’t forget to scroll down the page and read all of them!

Book of the Week: A Blue Poetry Paintbox  – Chosen by John Foster  
Oxford University Press
Available from Book 2 Basics

I have had this book on my shelves for a very long time and have read it many times to my own children. Until recently it had sat there unnoticed until the smallest member of the family made a grab for it. Time to read it again!  I had forgotten just how good it was and felt it was time to publish my thoughts on it.

A Blue Poetry Paintbox Book Cover featured on mungaiandthegoaconstrictor.meMy Review of A Blue Poetry Paintbox

A Blue Poetry Paintbox is an anthology of 93 children’s poems from a whole array of poets and illustrators. If you don’t already have a copy, do try and get one. It is part of a series of four books all defined by their Paintbox colour. Inside the blue one there are dragons and lions, castles and sea-monsters, pirates and zebras and dinosaurs. It is filled with whimsical poems such as ‘Monkey Babies’
Don’t leave your monkey baby
sitting by the swamp;
a crocodile might eat him.
Chomp! Chomp! Chomp!       Etc, etc,

and ‘The Sea-monster’s Snack’
Deep down upon his sandy bed
the monster turned his slimy head,
grinned and licked his salty lips
and ate another bag of ships.

The price is variable (but £2 -3 seems the norm) and unfortunately now it seems to be only available as used.  It was also quite hard to track down. And even then, apart from my own copy, I have only managed to find further copies in the UK. Do not let this put you off, though.  If you can obtain a good second hand copy you won’t regret it. This really is a marvellous book to own and will be enjoyed for years to come, as it has been by past generations. Great for the transition from simple rhyming books to poetry books! That is not to say children won’t want to continue to enjoy rhyming books – they will, but here they can move comfortably up to the next stage. It’s lively, it’s fun, it nurtures the imagination of young children, and it has a wonderful assortment of different verses accompanied by  delightful illustrations. The publishers recommend this for 5/6 years plus, but the youngest member of the family is far younger and enjoyed listening to the poems immensely. Definitely 5 stars!

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher    
Available on Amazon Kindle $7.38 Hardback $12.84

Ten year old Jamie, the narrator of this book, takes us through his day to day life in a simplistic and sometimes heart-breaking manner. Following the tragic death of his sister Rose, killed by a terrorist bomb in London, Jamie’s life, and that of his older sister, Jas – twin of the dead Rose- takes a very sad road. Rose’s death has a tremendous effect on all the family, and both parents deal with their anguish in their own way.  Jamie’s father turns to drink, whilst his mother turns to another man, and abandons both her surviving children. Alone with the children, and in the hope of starting a new life, Jamie’s father moves them all away from London, but is unable to let go of Rose. Five years have passed since her death and she still remains on the mantelpiece, even after the move. Though neither Jas nor Jamie judge their father for his drinking habits and lack of parental care, both are deeply affected by it. As the story unfolds Jamie does not grieve the way his parents and sister do – after all, he barely remembers his dead sister.   He only remembers her permanently placed on the mantelpiece.  And all Jamie longs for, so desperately, is a return to normality, with his father and mother reunited and some care and attention doled out to himself and his living sister.
This very sensitive story is told beautifully and in a most original way. The writing is flawless and the characters, right down to Jamie’s cat, leap off the page. There are various issues which arise, such as racism, death, friendship, school bullying, family values and separation – all of which author Annabel Pitcher has dealt with in a refreshingly honest manner. I have to admit it does play havoc with one’s emotions towards the end though, and I had a real problem continuing because of the exceptionally large lump in my throat. When I did reach the end, I sat back quietly and thought what a wonderful book.
My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece appears to be aimed at children of 12 years and up, but I have absolutely no doubt many adults will enjoy this too. I certainly did, and would have no hesitation in recommending it to all ages.  5 stars!

A Wolf Pup’s Tale by Rachel Yu     
Available on Amazon Kindle $1.24  Paperback $7.99

This is a story about an inquisitive little wolf cub called Rugmo, who is eager to know just what lies on the other side of the fence surrounding the reservation he and his family live on. “Nothing a wolf needs” his mother had said. Inevitably, the occasion arises when Rugmo spots a hole in the same fence. Despite his mother’s previous warning, Rugmo, unable to resist the challenge of the unknown, courageously squeezes through the gap and his adventure begins. In a very short space of time he experiences hunger, friendship and danger, and realises that, although he is having a very exciting time, home may well be the better place to be.
This is a nice little story and very well-written, and the illustrations are endearing. There is an illustration on every page enabling very young children to follow the story quite easily. Once hooked, the story’s message is not hard to understand either; listen to your parents – they know the dangers out there in the ‘real’ world! The message also fosters daring and inquisitiveness – which is also a good thing. The ending was a surprise; I didn’t expect that, it was really sweet.
Nice story-telling and great pictures along with a clear message make this a solid 4 star read.

The Rat Who Didn’t Like Rats by Blythe Ayne 
Available on Amazon Kindle $3.13  Paperback $9.99

Reginald, the sharply dressed rat of the title, snobbishly eschews all other rats, safe in the misguided belief that he is not one of them. How he has come this far without knowing his own origins is not clear, nor is what he does think he is. Somehow this doesn’t really seem to matter though once you get into the story, which is really rather sweet. Reginald is invited to a farewell party. The room is filled with animals, all there to celebrate the migration of the geese for winter.  Reginald spends most of his time telling all he encounters that he hates rats, and won’t hear anything in their defence.  Something his friends seem very tolerant of. Then a girl rat, Raquel, arrives at the party and catches Reginald’s eye. He has a bit of a problem believing she is a rat. Finally his friends manage to convince him that not only is she a rat, but so is he. He then surmises that rats cannot be so bad after all.
Much can be read into this, as one other reviewer seems to have done, but for me this a book about acceptance of others, and even when one’s perception of another is that of difference, a closer look will often reveal we are very much the same.
The illustrations are wonderful and quirky and the writing is sharp and funny.  I enjoyed this book very much and would recommend it for ages 8 and over. I gave The Rat Who Didn’t Like Rats 4 stars.

All reviews can be found on Amazon and, where possible, Goodreads.