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.
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 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 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 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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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.