Having missed a week over the Christmas holidays, and I hope you all had a most wonderful time, here are my reviews for the start of the New Year. This week’s reviews cover books ranging from ages 2 to 12 years plus, most of which can also be enjoyed by adults. There is a wonderful fantasy adventure, a sweet (belated – but my fault) Christmas tale, a comical look at life from a dog’s point of view and a short rhyming picture book for very young children. Please scroll down to read my reviews of this week’s books.
Children’s Book of the Week: Escape from Hat by Adam Kline and Brian Taylor
Published on Amazon Kindle $3.28 and Hardcover $18.99
I bought this book because I was intrigued by the amount of 5 star reviews it had garnered (63 out of 64 at the last look). Nothing can be this good, I thought. But wow, was I wrong! I was captivated from the first page. From the cute and the courageous to the mean metal Dimmer-Dammers, from the tribe of pigs led by Kadogo to Gordon, the lovable cave monster who’s afraid of the dark, this is the perfect read.
‘Escape from Hat’ tells the story of a young boy, Cecil Bean, and his faithful and devoted lucky rabbit, Leek, and a black cat called Millikin whose job it is to create misfortune in Cecil’s life. By Millikin’s machinations, Leek is drugged, kidnapped and dropped into an evil and incompetent magician’s hat, inside of which he falls into the depths of Millikin’s dark world of ‘Hat’ from which return seems unlikely. Here Leek meets a fairly mixed bag of good and bad creatures but his patience and kindness sees him through. That, and the never-ending desire to be with his human again to protect him against Millikin’s bad luck. Millikin discovers Leek has survived the other creatures and conditions of Hat, and is now wandering through his space. He vows vengeance upon him and calls on his legions of other black cats to help. Cecil meanwhile, dogged by constant bad luck since Leek’s disappearance, meets a mysterious old man who proffers an in-depth knowledge of Cecil’s situation and much encouragement to change it. Cecil listens well, makes up his mind and sets out on a quest to find Leek. Both Cecil and Leek experience difficult and frightening times as they go on their respective, and often parallel, journeys. But neither is deterred. In fact, both are driven by the same inner need to be together again.
This is a book about duty, determination and friendship. There is plenty of action and suspense and lots of surprises. The truffle part is hilarious and almost believable. I found I had to keep on reading, wondering what may happen to Leek and his companions next, and where Cecil was, and how soon would he come to the rescue. That is not to say he does – you will have to read the book to find that out.
The pages are interspersed with both black and white drawings and striking colour plates, of which I much preferred the latter, but that is only my opinion. Both are extremely well executed.
Overall, this is a beautifully written book which is exciting, entertaining and inventive. A book I truly enjoyed reading and would have no hesitation in recommending to anyone over the age of six. It’s an absolute 5 star treat!
Other Books I Have Read and Reviewed This Week
Dart and the Squirrels by Nicole Izmaylov
Published on Amazon Kindle $3.11 and Paperback $6.99
A world-weary old dog lies at the back of his crate in the pound thinking no-one will want to adopt a dog like him. Then along comes the wild Scribe tribe, whose son, with all the panache of a charging rhino, bizarrely decides the animal has exactly the qualities a boy needs in a dog, and chooses him above all the endearing little puppies. He promptly names him D’Artagnan Whirligig Scribe, aka Dart. Mr Scribe (father) pays the pound, pays the vet for clearance and pays the Happy Sunshine Obedience Fun owner “fifty bucks for a measly three biscuits and a hand on his butt” and off they all go. Then the fun begins. Dart seems to attract trouble wherever he goes, and he is especially mischievous at Show and Tell when ‘Boy’ takes him to school. But misadventure aside, and despite Dart’s perception of matters being so very far removed from that of his human owners, Dart’s life is pretty good. Until, that is, a tornado comes along and uproots a tree which ends up inside the Scribe’s house. With it comes the bane of Dart’s life – a squirrel, promptly adopted and named Emilia Vuvuzela Scribe. Dart finds it difficult to like Emilia. She gets all the best food, what he thinks are his treats and most of the attention. Although he does manage to steal the treats before she gets close enough to eat them. But he still cannot like her. Then he senses she needs help in an affair of the heart and he changes his opinion of her. She doesn’t seem so bad after all. As a consequence; his romantic side takes over and he quietly plots to make her happy.
Dart is the narrator of the book and, amongst other things, treats us all to his cynical take on pet owners, and eloquently illustrates how our pets are probably not thinking what we think they are thinking at all.
Dart and the Squirrels is intelligently written and Nicole Izmaylov’s style is quite unique. It’s also lots of fun. But what makes it exceptional is it was written when the author was in middle school. Quite remarkable! For me this is very deserving of 5 stars.
Martin the Christmas Mouse by Jane Whiteoak
Published on Amazon Kindle $2.07
I bought this book before Christmas and although we are now a week past the event, I still wanted to read and review it having read another book from the same author, and having enjoyed it immensely.
Martin the Christmas Mouse is a tale about a selfless little mouse who, with his family, occupies a small space in the living room wall in the house of Mr Kingsley, described as a “kind elderly man, who couldn’t see very well without his glasses” and who is entirely oblivious to the existence of Martin, Martin’s parents and Martin’s sister Maria. The myopic Mr Kingsley is also blissfully unaware as to the amount of help he receives from Martin about the house. Martin, it seems, is very fond of the kindly and often forgetful Mr Kingsley. Christmas Eve arrives, and so do the grandchildren of Mr Kingsley, and thanks to Martin, all things are in place and Mr Kingsley has all he needs. But what will Santa bring for Martin and Maria! Or are mice even remembered at Christmas!
This is a short and very delightful read suitable for children old enough to understand the meaning of Christmas. As with Jane Whiteoak’s ‘Thomas and the Lily Pond’ there is a positive message for the children. This time it is a message about the true spirit of Christmas. All in all, with a sweet protagonist, charming illustrations and an endearing story line, Martin the Christmas Mouse adds up to worthy entertainment. I highly recommend downloading a copy and keeping it for next Christmas. Hopefully, though, this will be in paperback by then. I give Martin the Christmas Mouse 5 stars
Maggie Mouse Gets Lost by Haley Moonspur
Published on Amazon Kindle $1.65
Maggie Mouse Gets Lost is a very short rhyming tale about a little mouse called Maggie who gets lost in the long grass and calls for her mother. Maggie sensibly stays exactly where she is and waits for her mother to find her, giving out a valuable message – when you are lost, stay where you are and you will be found.
Although the images are clearly computer generated, they are adorable and will enchant any small child. The rhyming text flows almost perfectly and gets the message across well. The book itself, however, is a little too short and I found the print, far too small. But it is very sweet and enjoyable and I can see it being read over and over again. Nice fun book for toddlers with a great message. I give ‘Maggie Mouse Gets Lost’ 4 stars.
All reviews can be found on Amazon and, where possible, Goodreads.