Children’s Book of the Week and Other Book Reviews


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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.

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