Children’s Book of the Week and Other Book Reviews


 

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Welcome to more of my children’s book reviews.  As ever, I hope you will enjoy my varied 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 Giving Tree by David Lee Martin
Available on Amazon as an eBook $3.09

‘The Giving Tree’ by David Lee Martin is not to be confused with the best-selling, and once controversial, ‘The Giving Tree’ by Shel Silverstein, first published in 1964.  Mr Martin’s book is far less provocative, but no less profound and leans more towards the sharing than the simple take, take, take. I have to say the book of the same title by Silverstein was never one of my favourite reads, even in younger days; seeing the boy grow from child to elderly man, stripping his benefactor of all and giving nothing in return with dire consequences.  Although there are many opposing interpretations of this plot, to me it was simply disheartening; whereas David Lee Martin’s story is far more child-friendly, loving, and uplifting, and has great illustrations to boot. Please read my full review below.

The Giving Tree ReviewMy Review

A very selfish and greedy dragon, Ethel the Red (love that!), lives in a small cave where she keeps all her treasured possessions. Ethel is a great hoarder and lives amongst a mountain of goodies purloined from others. She also has a real problem sharing anything with anyone. Terrified of someone else benefitting from her belongings, which are now spilling from her cave, she decides to move the whole caboodle to a larger and safer place.

Her new choice of residence is a beautiful oasis furnished with nothing more than a small picket fence with a sign saying “The Giving Tree – Please Do Not Cross” So determined is the wilful Ethel to do whatever she wants to do, and never what anyone else asks her to do or not do, she decides this is just the spot for her. “It shall be mine, mine, mine!”, she selfishly cries.

Having made her decision she flies back to her cave to collect her goodies. Dumping them on the lush green grass, with no regard whatsoever for the poor little sapling beneath them, Ethel then goes about her usual business of grabbing and snatching anything she has taken a fancy to; this time it is a small child’s teddy bear. Ethel flies back with her booty to her mountain of plunder only to find a storm has scattered all her possessions so far they can no longer be seen. The only thing she can see is the grateful, but withered, sapling. Then after spending a year in a huge sulk, dragons are apparently prone to long sulks, life begins to take on a whole new meaning as the sapling, having been left free to grow, has turned into a beautiful and bountiful tree. Thus begins Ethel’s conversion.

I like this book, a lot.  It is well-written and fun.  I enjoyed the descriptions and phrases used. The illustrations are colourful and endearing and the message is delivered in a simple and easy to understand way. David Lee Martin does a great job here with this by showing children just how important it is to both give and share, and to forgive and be nice to others. He takes the most self-centred creature of its kind and transforms it into a loving, giving animal, thus showing how even the toughest hearts can be won over.

In all; an inspiring and hugely readable book illustrating some true values. (5 stars)

(The Giving Tree would be best suited to ages 4 years and upwards)

Other Books I Have Reviewed

The Magical World of Twigshire ReviewThe Magical World of Twigshire by Judi Light
Available on Amazon as an eBook $3.96 and in Paperback $10.30

The Magical World of Twigshire is a collection of vignettes revolving around the enchanting occupants of Twigshire village. We meet such characters as Hortense, Emelda Flapjacket, Mr Bumberdorn and Scrum and Angelo, as they go about their daily lives doing wonderful things.

We can even learn how to make ‘Limp Imp Soup’.  That was one of my favourites.  It seems, after you have made your soup, you can dry out the imps, the main ingredient, and re-use them time and time again, and…they don’t mind a bit.

Gifted author and artist Judi Light has created a work filled with whimsical and entrancing illustrations, which are really more like lovable caricatures, and which I personally found reminiscent of the great (late) satirical cartoonist Ronald Searle. Ms Light’s illustrations are glorious; vibrant, highly detailed and so beautifully drawn that you can look at them forever and still keep seeing more. In fact, the whole book is absolutely charming; loaded with touches of magic and sweet little messages about feeling good inside.  Beautifully written in a mixture of text and poetry, the reader is transported into a captivating world of happiness, kindness and the enjoyment of life. There is just so much for young children to enjoy (and adults too) and so many lessons for them to learn. Utter magic! (5 stars)

(The Magical World of Twigshire would be best suited to ages 5 years and upwards)

Green Kitty ReviewGreen Kitty by Alexandra Faer Bryan
Available on Amazon in Paperback $24.74

This book took me completely by surprise. I was expecting a book about a cat.  Instead I found myself reading a wonderful story about a beautiful and much loved grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s. Our young narrator, with her family, visits her grandmother continuously in the assisted living home where she lives. Grandma is also a great story teller, and upon each visit she promises to tell the story of the Green Kitty.  Each time she fails to remember the details, and instead tells another story, often involving the family themselves or their animals. Until, one day Grandma remembers all about the Green Kitty and the tale is told.

The little girl didn’t mind waiting for the story; she adored her grandmother and was totally aware of her illness; her parents had explained the symptoms to her very carefully. A kindly aunt even likened the grandmother’s continued repetition of things to reading a good book more than once or watching re-runs on television.  Indeed, within the family, all aspects of the Grandmother’s illness are accepted and life carries on with one or two slight adjustments.

I loved this book – in fact, I read it twice. It is brimming over with love and compassion, and filled with subtle ideas for approaching the subject of dementia and telling children exactly what it is. Sometimes the sufferer’s pattern of behaviour can be quite upsetting, not in an offensive way, but in an emotional way, and often children do not understand this.  They can become extremely confused when someone so precious as a grandparent, or any loved one for that matter, succumbs to such an illness. It must be very difficult to explain why the one they love is not behaving the way they know so well, and hiding the truth may not be the way forward. Alexandra Faer Bryan has done a marvellous job here in The Green Kitty, showing that the lives of those with dementia are still filled with purpose and there are ways to deal with it. And… the animal stories are very enjoyable too. (5 stars)

(The Green Kitty would be best suited to children old enough to understand)

Katy, The One-eyed Cat ReviewKaty – The One-Eyed Cat by Tony Dunne
Available on Amazon as an eBook $4.68

Loosely based on a true story, this is sweet, nicely illustrated book telling the sequence of events from Katy, a neglected and abused cat,  being found by an elderly couple who are unable to keep her, to her eventually being adopted by another couple who put aside their original needs and think first of Katy’s.

The book’s merit lies in illustrating how we should look beyond an animal’s disabilities when considering adoption. It shows children the process involved in re-homing an animal and enforces the idea that no creature should be discriminated against because of any special needs they may have; that all deserve the same chances and the same amount of love. What is also great is that the author does explain why the first (very responsible) couple decide not to keep Katy.

This is an enjoyable and heart-warming little book with some lovely illustrations, and one which should strike a chord with many. (4 stars)

(Katy – The One-Eyed Cat would be best suited to ages 4 years plus)

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

Book Covers and Buy Links will also be posted on my Pinterest Board

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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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 varied 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: No Boys Allowed by Marilyn Levinson
Available on Amazon: eBook $4.08 and in Paperback

I am very pleased to introduce this week’s Children’s Book of the Week, which addresses the subject of divorce and children, from a child’s point of view. A very enjoyable read for both child and adult alike!  Please read my review below.

No boys Allowed by Marilyn Levinson featured on mungaiandthegoaconstrictor.meMy Review

Eleven year old Cassie finds herself loathing all men following her father’s departure from home. He has left her mother for a younger woman and has moved to another state. In Cassie’s young mind he has abandoned them all without further thought.  She is both hurt and angry. Her first response is to clear out anything he has left behind.  This she does with the exception of one item, a stamp album her father was given as a boy. Her second is to try and ban all boys and men from the house.

After suffering such an enormous loss and then being left in a state of bewilderment as her mother starts to see other men, Cassie finds herself experiencing all sorts of emotions – few of which she understands. But all of which have impacted on her progress at school and her fledgling social life. Her cosy world, torn apart by her parent’s separation, has become unfamiliar to her. She needs to apportion the blame, and who better for the role than her father. Nothing is right in Cassie’s world anymore – and she firmly believes it is entirely his fault. To add to her distress, and intrude upon her new policy of ‘No Boys Allowed’, her Great Uncle Harry, recovering from a heart attack, moves in with them, taking over her bedroom and forcing her to share with her sister, thus depriving her of her highly treasured privacy.

It goes without saying, knowing of Marilyn Levinson’s reputation as a writer, that the book is well-written, but it is worth noting how truly well she portrays the judgement of an eleven year old child. There are lots of different ways of dealing with and sharing uncertainties, and the introduction of Great Uncle Harry, who quietly puts everything into perspective, presents Cassie with all the right opportunities. She is able to move away from her anger and frustration to a place where life becomes more bearable and enjoyable. Cassie is not the only one coping with the effects of her father’s parting, and each character is shown to be dealing with their feelings in their own individual way.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story – it is a good story with a worthy true-to-life plot. It is sympathetic, poignant and convincing. The writing flows beautifully and I personally felt compelled to keep reading on regardless of other commitments.  The subject of divorce and children is treated in a subtle and sensitive way here and will no doubt strike a chord with young readers in the same, not uncommon, situation. Perhaps they will be able to draw something beneficial from Cassie’s feelings and experiences. All-in-all, an excellent read! (5 stars)

(No Boys Allowed would be best suited to 9 years and upwards)

Other Books I Have Reviewed

The Exciting Adventures of Percy the Pig by Tori Gilbert
Available on Amazon Kindle only: eBook $3.03

Percy the Pig lives at Fiddlewood Farm with his friends, the other animals. Their lives are nigh on perfect, until one of them, Lotti the lamb, goes missing. They search the farm thoroughly, and when Lotti isn’t found, they decide he must have been taken by someone.  Percy promises the distraught Matilda, Lotti’s mother, that he will go in search of him. His friends rally round and two of them offer to go with him on his mission. They hitch a lift into the nearby market town of Butterfly Creek by sneaking on to the back of Farmer Jones’ truck and hiding between the bales of hay.  In the town they meet a cat, Alley, whom Percy takes an instant dislike to. Here begins their adventure.
I liked this book. It starts with the names and types of the animals written in bold letters, instantly allowing children to identify them throughout the story. It is well-written, fun and has a few good lessons – none of which are laboured, but instead just quietly slipped into the text. It is a book about loyalty, team work, keeping promises, friendship and not judging others too quickly. Some lovely colourful illustrations too! There is also the opportunity for some interaction at the end. All in all, a great little book! (4 stars)
(The Exciting Adventures of Percy would be best suited to 4 – 9 years)

Wolf Facts and Pictures by P.K.Miller
Available on Amazon Kindle only: eBook $1.19

The book was offered free, and being an avid supporter of the wolf population, I took advantage of the offer. I am so pleased I did. It is absolutely filled with interesting information about the species, such as how they care for their cubs, how they stay warm in such cold conditions and what is behind that beautifully haunting sound.
In today’s current climate, wolves and their welfare are often at the forefront of the news. This book is very timely in that respect.
It is not a long dreary textbook; it is more entertaining than that. It is fun and easy to read and has some wonderful images of these beautiful, majestic creatures at home in the wild. Both factual and enjoyable, it seeks to dispel the myth surrounding wolves; they do not prey upon man, often they are the prey. If you too are a wolf-lover – this is for you. A neat little reference book right there on your Kindle (4 stars)
(Wolf Facts and Pictures would be best suited to 7 years to adult)

The Adventures of Frosty (The Strange Thing) by Waide Marshall
Available on Amazon Kindle only: eBook $3.33

This is a very appealing and funny little book involving an endearing little penguin, Frosty, who finds a strange object which arouses his curiosity. He uses all his senses to find out what it is.
The story is made up of simple words, sweet and easy to understand.  The illustrations, which are executed using arcs, circles and other basic shapes, are perfect. The eyes depicted in the story are terrific – at one point, as the pages are turned, they get bigger and bigger! I had to go through this book 5 times in a row for the youngest member of the family.  She so delighted in those eyes.
This book is adorable, well worth the price and it is bound to appeal to small children!  (4 stars)
(The Adventures of Frosty (The Strange Thing) would be best suited to 2 – 5 years) 

***

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.

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 Tales of Big and Little: Doom of the Three Stones by Josh Kilen
Available on Amazon: eBook $3.07 and in Paperback $7.99

I never imagined I would like a story containing Ninja Pizza crusts and cheese.  It all sounded rather, well quite frankly, cheesy to me.  But no! Josh Kilen’s masterful story-telling makes this all work really well, providing a story that is captivating, highly entertaining and extremely imaginative. Please read my review below.

Big and Little featured Children's Book of the Week on Mungai and the Goa ConstrictorMy Review

Big and Little are two dogs hooked on cheese, and anything else that lists it as an ingredient. This inordinate addiction takes them on a wild adventure to a magical world where beleaguered gnomes battle against dynamic Ninja Pizza crusts, and other edible adversaries, all led by a power-hungry and destructive cat called Shir. Shir’s ultimate aim is to take over the Worlds.

Whilst unsuccessfully trying to steal some cheese (two vicious guard dogs are in attendance), Big and Little come across a gnome. After bribing Big and Little with the promise of help to access the cheese, the gnome persuades them to help him with his own problem. Blinded by greed, they both hastily agree to do just that. Having done so, they follow the gnome down a hole into a magical tunnel and back into his world where the adventure begins. Here they encounter all manner of scary things, such as evil forests and swamp monsters and, of course, the terrifying and wicked Shir.

This book is lots of fun and quite hard to put down, especially as every episode ends with a cliff-hanger. There are no pictures, but the storyline is gripping enough to keep children interested. The characters are, to say the least, unusual, but also enjoyable. And our heroes practise the perfect ethics of: Whatever they start; they finish. When it comes to others; they apply the Golden Rule. Both excellent ideals for children!

Despite there are a few deaths in this, I don’t think it makes it sad for young children. At least some deaths should not. After all, who can lament the passing of a pizza crust? The battle scenes, however, may be a tad scary for some younger readers.

This book is part one of the series and I can’t wait to read the others. In all, this is a highly entertaining and worthwhile read. My only criticism; this book is listed as a ‘bedtime’ read.  I think it is an ‘anytime’ read.  (5 stars)

(The Tales of Big and Little would be ideally suited to ages 6 and upwards)

Other Books I Have Reviewed

Sock Full of Pennies by Danny Dean   
Available on Amazon: eBook $3.01 and in Paperback $13.91

This book is about a boy, incessantly bullied at school and perpetually and brutally abused by his father at home, who progresses from being one of the poorest boys in the community to an impossibly rich coal magnate.  All of which is achieved with hard work, persistence, kindness to others and a good deal of foresight.
Rusty Sledge, the protagonist, begins his life in a small town in West Virginia.  He is of above average intelligence, and as a result does well at school, but due to extreme poverty and his father’s treatment of him, he arrives there each day shabbily dressed, tired and often bruised. He also has unkempt red hair and spots, and is small for his age. This all leads to an unwarranted amount of bullying by Barry Buckley, the wealthy son of a local coal mine owner whose father Rusty’s father works for.  Barry is privileged, spoilt, not very bright, over-weight and has a very nasty streak in him. He is also of the impression that whatever he does, right or wrong, his father will bail him out. Sadly this is often the case. Barry bullies and torments Rusty year after year until Rusty fills his only good sock (there are no holes in it!) with the 446 pennies he has saved from his odd jobs. He then retaliates, inflicting a great deal of pain upon Barry. From here begins a story which spans three continents. It is a story about peaceful retribution, honesty in all things, determination and taking care of those who mean the most to you. But above all, it is a story of inherent goodness conquering deep-rooted evil.
This is a book which is very difficult to put down. It is clear author Danny Dean has a vast, in-depth knowledge of the coal mining industry, and has shared much of this with the reader, but not in an overly technical or long-winded way, but instead has created an interesting and enjoyable learn-as-you-go text (for those of us unfamiliar with the running of and workings of mines – personally, I gleaned quite a lot from this).
I would also like to stress this book does contain violence. It is definitely not for young children. However, the story is beautifully told, and the violence is far from gratuitous and, indeed, very pertinent to the overall narrative. Though I did notice a (very) few mistakes, it in no way spoilt my enjoyment of this book. (5 stars)
(Sock Full of Pennies would be best suited to 14 years plus)

Raindrop’s World by Carl Pettit
Available on Amazon: eBook $1.22 and in Paperback $9.99

Raindrop’s World is a collection of short interwoven stories about some of the smaller creatures that inhabit the Amazonian Rainforest – several ants, a dung beetle who lives amongst them, and a sage old tree frog. Led on by Pollen (a leafcutter ant), Little Clay (the dung beetle) goes on an adventure into another part of the rainforest to meet Raindrop (another leafcutter) at the bottom of the Giant Kapok tree.  Raindrop wants to climb to the top of the Kapok tree to find a wise and very elusive old tree frog known as the Guru. She has many questions for him and is expecting him to have all the answers. They set off up the tree together. Unfortunately, due to the lateness of the day, Pollen and Raindrop abandon Little Clay half way up the tree. They find a unique way of getting to the bottom quickly, and he is left all alone in unfamiliar surroundings. Not to be phased by this, Little Clay braves it out and continues with some adventures of his own.
This book is wonderful, and it is so good to read a book about the smaller creatures of the rainforest. Though, we do get to briefly meet a jaguar, a finch and an imaginary armadillo!
The characters are sweet and funny and there are some great little maps of the rainforest and cute illustrations of the characters.  I highly recommend this book for young readers. (4 stars)
(Raindrop’s World would be best suited to ages 5 and upwards)

My T-Rex Has a Toothache by Elwyn Tate
Available on Amazon: eBook $2.10

This is a short rhyming book about a little boy’s pet dinosaur and how he takes him to the dentist to cure his toothache. When the dentist is unable to cure him, he takes his T-Rex to school. Still no luck! So the little boy then has an idea of his own.
This is engaging and fun, and the illustrations are colourful and captivating. I do not own a Kindle Fire, so I cannot speak first hand, but I am told they work very well on it. The smallest member of my family (2 years) loved this little book and insisted on my reading it over and over again. She also took great delight in roaring with the dinosaur. (4 stars)
(My T-Rex Has a Toothache would be best suited to 2 -6 years)

***

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.

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.  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: Wise Bear William – A New Beginning by Arthur Wooten
Available on Amazon: eBook $3.09 and Paperback $8.99

I am delighted to have been asked to review Wise Bear William.  It is the perfect combination of skilful story telling by Arthur Wooten and delightful illustrations by Bud Santora. Every page is a gem. Please read my review below

Wise Bear WilliamMy Review

Wise Bear William is the story about the tattered old toys that live in the Campbell’s attic. Traditionally generations of children, when visiting the house, have come into the attic to choose one toy each; one that they would love until they are too old for it, at which time the toy would be returned to the attic. The toys currently residing in the attic are a floppy-eared rabbit called Bean Bag Bunny, a one-eyed cat aptly named Calico Kitty and a very shabby rag doll known as Rag Doll Rose. When they hear there will be children visiting the house, they all want to be chosen, but soon realise they are a bit the worse for wear.  They turn to Wise Bear William, Captain of the attic, for suggestions and advice on how to make themselves more personable and lovable. William helps them all, but also tells them that no matter how much they spruce themselves up on the outside, it will always be the inside that matters.

I had heard good things of Wise Bear William before I was asked by the author to review it. When I did read it, it passed all expectations – It is simply sublime. Just opening this book took me straight back to my childhood. Both the sumptuous illustrations and the divine storyline seemed to leap straight off the pages of the old-fashioned story books I used to read.

I adored the little mouse with spectacles which appeared in so many of the glorious illustrations!  In fact the youngest member of the family spent quite some time scouring all the illustrations hoping to find him on every page – which, although she didn’t, was great fun.

The characters are expertly drawn and extremely lovable and the reader is taken through a range of emotions, from joy and hope to sadness and back again, in a very short space of time. I found Wise Bear William to be especially sweet with his spectacles and waistcoat, and his exquisite caring demeanour. I think most of us can relate to this story. After all, who doesn’t have a care-worn old teddy stored away somewhere, or perhaps a doll or a stuffed cat or dog.

This book is one to keep and cannot fail to appeal to children of all ages. I will certainly be putting it on my to-be-read-again-soon shelf.  (5 stars)

(Wise Bear William would be best suited to ages 4 years and upwards)

Warriors: Book 1 – Into the Wild by Erin Hunter
Available in Amazon:  eBook  $6.39 – Paperback $6.99 – Hardcover $11.55 

This is a story about a domestic cat, Rusty, who wants nothing more than to eat a live mouse.  Having plucked up the courage to venture beyond his (human) home and into the forest, he encounters a young feral apprentice warrior. The two fight and then become friends. The Thunderclan, the ‘family’ of the young apprentice, desperate to replenish their numbers with new stock, recruit Rusty into the clan and rename him Firepaw.  In all, four Clans of the forest battle against each other for survival, each protecting its own territory and competing for food, and the Thunderclan need all the help they can get.
The story is told from the cat’s point of view. It is a tale of talking and warring cats with their own structured society based loosely on that of our own.  A sweet added touch from the author is the naming of the cats.  The ordinary warriors all have ‘paw’ in their names, and the leaders all have ‘star’ in their names, allowing for easy identification, which I thought was rather clever.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is well-written with some very descriptive scenes, though some may be a bit upsetting for children. However, it has plenty of action and adventure and an assortment of good and bad, and some clever twists here and there.  In fact, there is always something to route for.  (4 stars)
(Warriors: Book 1 – Into the Wild would be best suited to ages 9/10 years and upwards)

Magic Molly Book 1: Mirror Maze by Trevor Forest
Available on Amazon:  eBook $2.40 and Paperback S5.50

Born the child of a High Witch and a Magician who uses real magic, Molly Miggins lives in an enchanted world many would envy. Molly’s parents, The Great Rudolpho and the High Witch, are preparing for a live vanishing act at the funfair when – whoosh! They actually do vanish!
Molly looks backstage in the hope of finding them. Suddenly out of the mist appears a wizard, from The Magic Council, who tells her she is the only who can rescue her parents and bring them back. But, for this purpose Molly must become a witch. The wizard issues Molly with a deadline to complete her task. The problem is, although it is Molly’s ninth birthday in the morning, to enter the Witches Academy and take the Witches Promise, she must be ten. At the wizard’s behest, arrangements are hastily made and Molly is given special dispensation to enter the Academy a year early. She attends the Witches Promise ceremony wearing full uniform, including the wrong colour tunic, her own choice of bright yellow, and a bent hat, and armed with ‘the oldest spell known to witch kind’ – a birthday present from her grandma. To add to this mixed bag of fortune, at the Academy she is given a crooked wand, which proves quite difficult to aim when casting spells.
Will Molly ever be able to master the wand and complete the task before the wizard’s deadline, or will she lose her parents forever!  Without spoiling it, that is as far as I can go, but I can tell you it is certainly worth reading the whole story.
Mr Forest seems to have an inherent aptitude for connecting with his young readers. The story has bags of humour and the narrative is well-constructed. There is also the nice little sub-plot involving Molly’s antagonist, Henrietta, whose taunting and bragging Molly has been subjected to for far too long.  It seems Henrietta thinks daddy’s money can buy just about everything she desires. A lesson is subtlety thrown in here.
I adored Granny Whitewand with all her foibles, and Molly’s first clumsy attempts at magic were engaging and comical.  All in all, a fun and entertaining read.  (5 stars)
(Magic Molly Mirror Maze would be best suited to ages 8 years and upwards)

I Love My ABCs by Mary Lee
Available on Amazon Kindle $3.02 and in Paperback $8.99

This is a very sweet little book about, as you would suppose, learning the letters of the alphabet. It is a cut above the average A is for Apple – B is for Bat. On each page, short sentences begin repeatedly with “I love”, and the word corresponding with the specific letter has to be searched for (a nice simple exercise as there are no more than five words on the page). The words chosen are imaginative and the illustrations are creative. Though, I did think the page with the letter Z might be confusing for small children.  (4 stars)
(I Love My ABCs would be best suited to pre-school children)

***

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

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.

Children’s Book of the Week: Ode to Icky by Maranda Russell


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Another great find!  This week’s featured work is the delightful, Ode to Icky by Maranda Russell, which will undoubtedly appeal to young children and parents alike. With its lovable and lazy protagonist and its very resourceful heroine, I think many a young reader may be set to thinking about how to bulk out their pocket money – so keep a vigilant eye on the pets!

Ode to Icky by Maranda Russell - Illustrations by Nicolas Peruzzo - Book cover - Children's Book Review on Mungai and the Goa ConstrictorAbout the Book                                            

Geared for ages 4-9, this is a cute, funny picture book about a stinky cat and a little girl who finds a way to cash in on her pet’s hygiene issues.

About the Author 

I am a 29-year-old foster parent, children’s writer, poet and writing teacher. I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and of the Western Ohio Writers Association (WOWA). I spend most of my time reading, writing, hanging out with my family, playing with my 5 cats and organizing author presentations & writing workshops at schools... read more about Maranda

My Review of Ode to Icky  

Ode to Icky is a well-constructed story about a creative and resourceful little girl and her ‘banished to the backyard’ cat, who is, to say the very least, somewhat lax about his personal hygiene. Candy, the little girl, inspired after smelling the
newly purchased perfume of an older sibling, comes up with a money-spinning plan to utilise the disgusting Icky’s odour by turning it into ready cash. Sneaking up on Icky to put the plan into action is the simplest part, due to the fact that the cat is so lazy, all he does is eat and sleep all day. The rest takes a bit more imagination.                                           The wonderful illustrations, placed on every page, can almost tell the story by themselves, which is good for small children unable to read yet. Though I am quite sure many parents WILL be reading this to their children. So either way, the story will be delighted in by all.                                                                                                                                             Maranda Russell’s tale of Ode to Icky is sweet and funny, and will no doubtless be enjoyed by many a young child. Thoroughly enjoyable!

Amazon review from C. Chapman

“Creativity is at its best here. Candy is no doubt my hero, what’s a girl to do when a problem arises? Solve it creatively of course. Occasionally it does come with a few setbacks. Candy is a free spirited innovator who takes matters into her own hands to make the best out of an already stinky situation, until consequences rears its ugly head. However, Candy strikes me as the type who will learn from her mistakes but she won’t let it stifle who she is at heart. A free spirit. I enjoyed this wonderful story. Once again hooray for Ode To Icky.”

Get your copy on Amazon                See more books by Maranda Russell                Website        

Picture of Icky from 'Ode to Icky' - Children's Book Review on Mungai and the Goa Constrictor

He hated doing anything other than sleeping

Picture of Candy and Icky from 'Ode to Icky' - Children's Book Review on Mungai and the Goa Constrictor

Candy sat down beside him and quietly cut off some of
Icky’s stinky, matted-down hair.