Children’s Book of the Week and other Book Reviews


Welcome to more of my 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!

Children’s Book of the Week – Alex the Cat by Dina Porell
Alex the CatAlex the Cat is the story of one kitten’s struggle for survival on the open streets in a town somewhere in Korea.  Alex is born to two loving, doting parents who are continuously trying to stave off the pangs of hunger and stay alive by scavenging for scraps from the city’s waste bins.  In Korea, as we all know, there are multitudes of abandoned and homeless cats and the competition for food is fierce.

Finding himself unexpectedly alone, Alex soon realises there is no-one out there he can trust, save one other small kitten.  And even that relationship is short-lived.   Life is punishing.  Food is hard to come by; the other feral cats are vicious and highly territorial, and the humans are callous and brutal.

Seen through Alex’s eyes,  the story runs full circle from a family life of unconditional love coupled with feelings of complete safety, to sadness, cruelty, rivalry, fear, disappointment, and finally back to another form of kindness and security again.  Then, just as Alex has finally learned to trust humans, another sort of competition arises prompting Alex to make a life-changing decision.  And, he’s only nine months old.

The thing that struck me first about Alex the Cat, as is so often the case, was the fabulous, evocative art work on the cover.  Great use of colours and textures!  The story itself is well-written, and the scenes, like the characters, are well-described. Though this is not a book to read if you are overly-sensitive about the fate of stray cats.  The scenes depicted are sometimes distressing and a little too realistic.  For those reasons, I do not feel it is suitable for very young children.

At the same time, this book is enjoyable.  Although highly emotive, it puts across the point well that cats, like us, are sentient beings which suffer from pain, are capable of experiencing emotions (including the ability to mourn for a lost parent), and can build relationships.  It also highlights the plight of unwanted cats in Korea.

I was moved by this book and felt the author, Dina Porell, must have experienced a lot of this sort of unmitigated cruelty to animals first hand.  Spreading awareness of this amongst young people, by way of a story, does Ms Porell credit.  It is not your average feel-good ending, but it is good, and Alex’s altruistic  thoughts (though I doubt any cat, in reality, would think this way) would put most humans to shame.   A great story!   5 stars

Alex the Cat would be best suited to ages 12 years and upwards.

Available on Amazon as an eBook $3.18

Other books I have reviewed

Getting Back to Normal by Marilyn Levinson
Getting Back to NormalEleven-year-old Vanessa (Vannie) has lost her mother and is left with her inattentive father and younger brother, Robby, for company.  Anxious to move away, Vannie’s father rents out the house they have been so happy living in as a family, and they move to a cottage on the estate where he works as the Director.  He is so busy planning events and running the estate, Vannie and Robby are more-or-less left to their own resources. Despite the lack of food, Dad, who needs as much looking after as the children do, has forgotten to go shopping, and failed to turn up with the promised take-away. Vannie is at a loss and Robby keeps crying hunger. 
Unable to deal with what little food is available, Vannie takes a walk in the grounds.

““I want to cook dinner tonight,” she says out loud.  “But what can I make?  Number one, I don’t know how to cook.””

Without warning, a formally-dressed young man appears from nowhere and helpfully answers her question.  He offers Vannie a quick and easy recipe to try. The mysterious stranger introduces himself and they talk for a while.  Seeing him sitting on a nearby bench, Vannie notes, to her alarm, she can see right through him.  She later thanks him and he disappears without trace.  At this point she realises she has been talking to a ghost.

Thereafter, ‘Archie’, the ghost, continues to manifest himself to Vannie, always with helpful tips and recipes, until he finally puts in a request for some help in return.  Still grieving for her mother, Vannie is flabbergasted by Archie’s cri de cœur, and battles with her inner self about the rights and wrongs of it all.  All she really wants to do is live a normal life.  Vannie shares the secret of Archie with her best friend,  Tammy, who is thrilled at the prospect of meeting a real ghost, and off they go to the library to find out who Archie really is.

Meanwhile, the family have begun to enjoy Vannie’s cooking.  Needless to say, no-one has any idea her mentor is a ghost, nor that certain romantic plans may be afoot.

Though vastly different, this book put me in mind of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Canterville Ghost’. The spectres in both stories have a certain rakish vitality and pizzazz, neither are scary, and both need the help of a child to leave this earth in peace.

Getting Back to Normal also offers a great line-up of characters, all of which are well-developed and extremely likeable;  ranging from Aunt Mayda to Robby’s feral cat, Theodore.  There is a sweet little sub-plot about the sensitive Robby rescuing Theodore. He had been feeding him at their old house.  Left behind, he does not believe the new tenants will look after Theodore properly, and sets out to rescue him and bring him back to the cottage; very much against his father’s wishes.  But, Robby perseveres and the outcome is worth all the tension.

This well-written story, told from Vannie’s perspective, makes for a fast, easy and very enjoyable read.  It is also fun.  I hadn’t planned to read this book when I did.  I opened it to glance at the first paragraph and I kept reading through to the end.  It is that sort of book.  It draws the reader straight in and there’s no escape.  With lots of secrets to unfold and plenty of surprises along the way, it’s hard not to stay focused.

Although Archie can be generally considered a friendly ghost, and not at all scary, there is one small scene which is a tad frightening.  In it, Archie reveals another aspect of his personality.  For this reason I would urge caution when reading with children under eleven.  This does not detract in any way from the fact it is an excellent book with a great plot, and I highly recommend it.  5 stars

Getting Back to Normal would be best suited to ages 11 and upwards.

Available on Amazon as an eBook $3.99

Dr.Heidegger’s Experiment by Nathaniel Hawthorne
File created with CoreGraphicsDr. Heidegger, an anomalous old physician, gathers together four of his ancient friends in order to help him with one of his experiments, and to amuse himself.  All four have chequered pasts, and all are in some way connected to each other by that past. Expecting something mundane, involving perhaps a mouse and an air pump, as he was known for such experiments, the four guests wait patiently.

They seat themselves, at Dr Heidegger’s behest, around the table in the centre of the room, placed upon which there is a “cut-glass vase of beautiful form and elaborate workmanship”.  The vase is filled with a sparkling liquid.  Surrounding the vase are four champagne glasses.  The Doctor informs his companions that the liquid in the vase is water from the Fountain of Youth.

Doctor Heidegger reaches for a huge leather-bound tome, commonly thought to be his magic book, and takes out a pressed rose which has lain between the pages for fifty-five years.  He then proceeds to dip the rose into the water and the rose blooms again.

The cat is out of the bag.  Dr. Heidegger’s experiment involves the secret to eternal youth. Their glasses are filled. The four eagerly down the liquid as quickly as is possible.  And… come back for more.  As the years drift away from them, they become more and more ridiculous.  Cavorting around the floor, the once old men vying for the favours of the only female guest with passion abounding, make complete fools of themselves in Dr Heidegger’s eyes. Whereupon he warns them to appreciate the advantages of age, and not to repeat their original mistakes which ended in society’s rejection of them.  He has learned this by sitting there watching: they have learned no such lesson.

The effects of the Fountain’s water are not, however, permanent, and they soon start to wear off.  The imbibers become tired, but not discouraged.  Having finally discovered the elusive elixir of life, despite Dr Heidegger’s warning about the transgressions and follies of youth, all four vow to travel to the source to obtain more of the water.

In Dr Heidegger’s Experiment, Nathaniel Hawthorne seeks to illustrate that the mistakes made by the young are made because they are just that – young. If any if us had a chance to have our time again, would we, in fact, fare any better;  or would we simply repeat the same mistakes.  It seems, Mr Hawthorne thinks we would, and going back will always be a huge error of judgement.  It is part of our individual nature.  Perhaps, this is the moral of the story.

This is an adaptation of the original book by Nigel Hawthorne.  It has been adapted with children and young adults of today in mind.  In it have been added the splendid, marvellously Gothic, comic and vibrant pen and ink drawings of Marc Johnson-Pencook.  In my opinion, these are a huge success.

This is an excellent presentation of this classic work, which deserves plenty of recognition.  The writing is bold and faultless and the illustrations, as previously mentioned, are exquisite.  I can highly recommend this version of Dr Heidegger’s Experiment.  5 stars

Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment would be best suited to eight to twelve years.

Available March, 31st 2014

Noah’s Petting Zoo by Idan Hadari
Noah's Petting Zoo Noah, of the title, is a ramshackle old house marked for demolition.  Andrew, a young boy who lives in the same well-to-do neighbourhood, is upset when he hears of this, and sets about finding ways to stop the machines moving in.  His first approach is to the ‘ready for action’ tractor, who promptly denies all responsibility for whatever actions he is about to take and passes Andrew on to his driver.  He, in turn, adopts the same attitude and points Andrew in the direction of the Mayor’s office.  The chain of culpability apparently ends here.  Andrew confronts the mayor, on Noah’s behalf, to ask for a reprieve.  The mayor is sympathetic, but adamant – Noah must go.  He does, however, give Andrew a small glimmer of hope by telling him Noah can be saved if a use can be found for him. Andrew, suddenly buzzing with enthusiasm, sets off on his mission to find that use.

This is a great little rhyming book with some really sweet illustrations.  I felt the rhythm of the rhyme faltered slightly once or twice, but otherwise was excellent. The marvellous illustrations show animals that might be a tad too exotic for the average town dweller (ostrich, zebra, monkey, etc), but this seems to add to rather than detract from the delight of the book.  In all, Idan Hadari has written a story that is both positive and inspiring, showing a sensitive, relatively young boy making a decision to do something considerate and worthwhile, and following it through to the end.

There are several lessons to be learned from Noah’s Petting Zoo.  The first shows children how to work together to protect things that, although they may be old, are still worth preserving.  Children will also learn about co-operation;  Andrew is only able to execute his plan because of the help he is given by his friends and neighbours. Lastly, and this is a wonderful lesson to learn, one small voice can make a difference;  and if you want to be that small voice and are thwarted by people who keep passing the buck – find the person who matters most.  Don’t give up.

It is also interesting to note that here the animals save Noah from the vast flood of progress, whereas in that other well-documented story of Noah, involving another great flood, they were dependent upon him to be saved.  Whether this allusion is intentional, or merely coincidental, I do not know;  but it may be something young children, already familiar with the story of Noah’s Ark, could possibly discuss.

Whether your child wants to read Noah’s Petting Zoo alone or have the book read aloud to them, I believe they will enjoy this story.  It would be a gainful addition to any child’s bookshelf or e Reader.  5 stars

Noah’s Petting Zoo would be best suited to ages 5 to 8 years

Available on Amazon as an eBook $1.27 and in Paperback $8.22

All my reviews can be found on Amazon and, where possible, Goodreads.
Book Covers with links can also be found on my Pinterest board – “Books I Have Reviewed”
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 any changes.

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Children’s Book of the Week and Other Book Reviews


Welcome to more of my 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!

“Children’s Book of the Week – The Story of Solomon Bear by Phillip Laird
Available as an eBook $6.69 and in Paperback $8.99

The Story of Solomon Bear

Solomon Bear is the adored teddy bear of an unnamed young girl growing up in a house where she is neither loved nor wanted.  The bear and the child are devoted to each other in this warm, feel-good story for children.  The little girl is never allowed ‘outside’ and she and Solomon spend hours together playing hide-and-seek, dancing, and expressing their deep, never-to-end love for each other.  Then, sadly, the cold-hearted step-mother makes a decision; the little girl has grown too old for such nonsense and the bear has to go.  What worse fate for a young child than to be threatened with the loss of something she loves so much.

The distraught little girl runs away and Solomon is left alone.  His last glimpse of his dearest friend, his kindred soul, sees her running towards the forbidding forest.  When she doesn’t return, his heart is broken and he begins to ask himself if their love was as real and as lasting, and as unforgettable as they had both said it would be.  Eventually, unable to bear (please forgive the pun) her loss any longer, Solomon seeks the advice of the other toys, toys he has never mixed with before, to find a way to leave the house and go in search of his beloved companion.

Phillip Laird’s The Story of Solomon Bear is a beautifully, poetically written tale about the strength of an innocent, enduring love and a bond which cannot be broken.  In parts it may be a little too gushy for some, but it is still undoubtedly a wonderful read, which I think which will become a classic one day.  Claudia Gadotti’s illustrations, in black and white, are simply gorgeous, too.

Whatever your age, if you have ever loved a teddy bear, you will be enthralled by this emotive book.  It is a total delight to read, either quietly or out loud.  There are a few good lessons in there, too.  I highly recommend this story and am giving it five solid stars.

The Story of Solomon Bear would ideally be suited to ages five and over.

Other books I have reviewed

Surprise in Auntie’s Garden! by Ann Morris
Available as an eBook $7.57 and in Hardcover $12.34

Surprise in Auntie's GardenWhat a beautiful ‘surprise’ this book turned out to be.  It tells the story of an aunt and the very special relationship she has with her niece, Erin.  Together they share an interest in the garden and its flowers. Discovering a new inhabitant one day, Erin learns how to identify a particular caterpillar, or worm as she thinks it is, and slowly sees it develop into a beautiful monarch butterfly.

The extremely colourful illustrations are stunning and the text well-written and educational.  Children are able to learn about the monarch’s feeding and migratory habits, and how its life develops – all in very simple, easy-to-read sentences.  For those not yet old enough to read, most adults will probably enjoy reading this aloud, at least I did.

According to the book’s introduction, Erin is the niece and God-daughter of the author, so this is in its way a true story, making it all the more endearing.

I couldn’t fault this book.  Well done to author Ann Morris.  An excellent book for any child interested in nature.  I am giving it a positive five stars.

Surprise in Auntie’s Garden! would be best suited to ages four and over.

The Water Lily Fairy by Mary Ann Vitale
Available as an eBook $2.06 and in Paperback $12.60

The Water Lily FairyWhen a group of fairies fly over a village, one fairy elects not to fly on, but stay and hide amongst the water lilies.  Cleverly camouflaged as a lily bud, she is able to hear the conversations of the children nearby. Later she leaves the safety of the lily pond to look around.  She flies over the village and notices how poor the people are.  She then makes a kind, conscious decision to help them.   But, after the first gift of rose petals, which lifts their day, the children want more. After which, the adults have a suggestion too.

This short little book is well-written and nicely illustrated.   For young children who believe in fairies (and I am assuming all do), this is just right – short enough and bright enough to hold their attention to the end.  I am not sure about the message of giving someone everything they ask for, but there is certainly a good message about helping those less fortunate and how giving has its own rewards.  

This is a sweet little book and I can imagine it will be enjoyed by a lot of children.  Five stars for the kind fairy.

The Water Lily Fairy would be best suited to ages three to five years.

Prince Avian Rules the Pool by Scarlett Raines
Available as an eBook $4.10

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAPrince Avian Rules the Pool revolves around the young Prince Avian of the title.  A seemingly ordinary little boy in all other things  (kind, obedient and helpful) he takes on a whole new persona when he visits the pool to play with his friends.  There we see a selfish, high-handed, uncaring boy determined everyone should play by his rules.

“Well, I make the rules and that’s the rule.  You have to do it my way,”  is one of his favourite sayings.

Avian’s friends, tired of his imperious attitude, stop playing with him.  One friend tries to tell him about his bad behaviour, but he doesn’t want to listen.  As a result, he is left lonely and bored at the side of the pool, watching everyone else having fun.

All of this is witnessed by Avian’s grandmother, sitting quietly by the pool, who offers a few long-overdue words of wisdom, allowing him to see where he is going wrong.  Had his grandmother not intervened then, the potential for Avian to turn into a long-term bully may well have developed.  But, instead he learned his lesson and became more receptive to the needs of others, and began to listen and share.  This brought about another awakening – second chances do come along.

This is a well-written, easy-to-read and enjoyable book highlighting the need for learning the right social skills;  showing how one’s conduct towards others is so important when it comes to making friends.  Skilfully woven into this are the lessons of acknowledging and respecting the needs of others and doing unto them as you would have them do unto you – the Golden Rule we would all do far better to live by.

All in all, a great little read to which I am giving five stars, and I shall be looking forward to reading more in this series from Scarlett Raines.

Prince Avian Rules the Pool would be best suited to ages five and upwards.

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All my reviews can be found on Amazon and, where possible, Goodreads.
Book Covers with links can also be found on my Pinterest  account on the board ‘Books I Have Reviewed’
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 any changes.

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Children’s Book of the Week and other Book Reviews


Welcome to more of my 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!

Children’s Book of the Week – The World According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney
Available on Amazon as an eBook $4.66 | Paperback $5.39 | Hardcover $12.08 | Audio $17.99

When I first opened this book, I wasn’t expecting anything quite so good. What a wonderful surprise. It’s funny, sometimes moving, very entertaining and filled with the sort of wisdom both children and adults will surely benefit from. A great little book! Please read my full review below.

Thec World According to HumphreyMy Review

Written from Humphrey the hamster’s perspective, The World According to Humphrey tells the story of his ‘liberation’ from a pet store to his life in the classroom, where he resides as a classroom pet in Room 26 at Longfellow School. Humphrey is totally besotted with Ms. Mac, his kind-hearted rescuer, not knowing that her post at the school is only a temporary one. Inevitably the day arrives when she must leave and the dreaded and hostile Mrs Brisbane returns. Unfortunately for Humphrey, the stone-hearted Mrs Brisbane “can’t stand rodents”.

Following the departure of his beloved Ms. Mac, Humphrey is left to go home each weekend with a different child or member of staff, an arrangement which changes his and their lives. Each home he visits is not without its share of problems; a mother cannot speak English, the Head Teacher is unable to command the same respect from his own children as he enjoys at school, the TV in one household is never switched off, and another child’s mother is sick. Humphrey puts his thinking cap on and helps these families to resolve their various issues. Needless to say, he is much-loved by all who meet him and even the ones who don’t take to him straight away are eventually won over. While all this is taking place, Humphrey is slipping in and out of his cage, by opening the “lock-that-doesn’t-lock”, and at the same time managing to get an education.

I really did like this book. The humour is intelligent and innocent. I particularly like the way Humphrey has named the children – after the teacher’s commands – “Repeat-That-Please-Richie”, “Stop-Giggling-Gail” and “Pay-Attention-Art” are just some of them – very clever. This is fast-paced, witty and highly entertaining. Humphrey’s understanding of his human counterparts and their problems is refreshing and insightful, ranging from the emotions of falling in love to the despair of having a sick parent, and being reticent about speaking out in class because of a language barrier. In most cases, as in life, the children’s behaviour in school reflects their situation at home, which here is sensitively dealt with.

This is an extremely enjoyable, well-written book which is loaded with lessons, all subtly woven in. “After all, you can learn a lot about yourself by getting to know another species” being Humphrey’s favourite  dictum. There is also a great deal to be learnt about caring for hamsters. Humphrey himself is adorable, compassionate, perceptive and funny. A great book which I highly recommend. (5 stars)

The World According to Humphrey would be best suited to ages 7 to 9

Other Books I Have Reviewed

There Are No Such Things As Dragons – Or Are There? By V. J. Wells
Available on Amazon as an eBook $3.19 and in Paperback $3.55

Amy and Argyle – There Are No Such Things As Dragons – Or Are ThereAmy, the tale’s protagonist, is eight years old when she is taken by her father to spend the summer with Aunt Morag and Uncle Angus, who live in ‘a real castle’ in Scotland. After arriving at their destination and eating dinner together, Uncle Angus lets slip that there may be a ‘wee dragon’ somewhere in the castle.

This is a captivating story of friendship and trust. Amy learns she can ‘speak dragon’ and how easy it is to form lasting friendships. It carries just the right amount of suspense to keep children on the edge without scaring them too much. The illustrations are delightful, the book is well-written, the descriptions are well-thought out, and it is short enough to keep the interest of all, whether reading or listening.

I enjoyed the storyline and the setting (Scotland being the perfect location, of course, for dragons). The story is quite poignant, since it involves two lonely subjects, and the ending is endearing; as are the characters. I read this to the youngest member of the family who is already asking for more of the same (are there any children who are NOT intrigued by stories of dragons?), so hopefully there will be more of the adventures of Amy and Argyll soon. Highly recommended (5 stars)

There Are No Such Things As Dragons – Or Are There? would be best suited to ages 4 to 7

Magical Stories by Annemarie Nikolaus
Available on Amazon as an eBook $2.96 and in Paperback $4.74

Magical StoriesMagical Stories is a book consisting of four short stories involving magicians, ghosts, animals, doing what is right, Santa Claus and more. Although one or two minor bits suggest English is not the first language of the author, it adds to the charm and I would consider this book intelligently and thoughtfully written. The vocabulary is excellent, though not geared toward the very young child. These are proper ‘fablish’ bedtime stories, like the ones many of us read as children – and many of the ones I read had also been translated into English. The tales are endearing and absorbing, and do indeed feel magical. My favourite was The Christmas Story with its lesson on consumerism and how Christmas has lost its true meaning. Well done to author Annemaria Nikolaus for offering something so utterly enchanting and beguiling, and refreshingly different. (5 stars)

Magical Stories would be best suited to ages 9 years and upwards

The Adventures of Brackenbelly – All in a Day’s Work by Gareth Baker
Available on Amazon as an eBook $1.53 and in Paperback $5.53

The Adventures of Brackenbelly

The much put upon Isomee Hogg-Bottom lives with her despicable uncle at Hogg-Bottom farm. Here she is happily going about her chores one day when a stranger, a legendary uma, arrives on their doorstep in the hope of buying one the uncle’s, again legendary, flying chostri. However, the uma – Brackenbelly, finds the uncle is not willing to sell him a chostri unless he is willing to help him in return. At night things have been happening outside the barn, indicating someone or something may be trying to get to the chostri on the inside of the barn. Whatever is afoot sounds extremely frightening and dangerous and the lazy uncle is not willing to investigate the matter himself. From here the reader is taken into the even darker side of the uncle’s nature and the good and kind side of the uma, as the adventure begins.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a short chapter book. Each chapter ending is equipped with its own cliffhanger urging the reader to continue. As the story progresses we learn more about Isomee’s relationship with her uncle and just how loathsome he really is (nothing here unsuitable for children – he’s just as mean as they get). We also see how deeply intelligent and compassionate the uma is and watch as his friendship with Isomee develops.

This is very well-written with excellent character descriptions, including the one of the chostri. It’s exciting, original and imaginative. Since this is the only one I have read, I am assuming in the next one we will learn of Isomee’s fate. Highly recommended.(5 stars)

The Adventures of Brackenbelly – All in a Day’s Work would be best suited to ages 10 plus

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

Book Covers with links can also be found on my Pinterest Board – ‘Books I Have Reviewed’

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


Welcome to more of my 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!

 

Children’s Book of the Week: The Deep and Snowy Wood by Elwyn Tate                Available on Amazon for various Kindle devices $1.99

This is just such a good children’s book. I have been trying to review it for some time, but, unfortunately, it will only download to certain devices and is not yet available in any other format. Now, armed with a Kindle Fire HD, I am delighted to say; I have finally managed to review it. Please read my full review below.

Th Deep Snowy WoodMy Review

The Deep and Snowy Wood is a rhyming book following three animals; a deer, a mole and a squirrel as they run, dig and hop their way, across, under and above the snow in search of… well…something. The question being – where are they going and why? And, only on the last few pages is there any indication of their destination, which I won’t spoil for you.

The rhyming is superior and never loses rhythm, and the illustrations are superb. This is not always so with all children’s books, but here they are perfectly partnered; with both and graphic art and written text flowing seamlessly together. With a tremendous amount of credit to the author, Elwyn Tate, it’s all very professional, which makes such a difference. I love the way all the animals are wrapped in scarves and how the little mole’s underground home looks so cosy and welcoming. There are plenty of other wonderfully depicted animals too, for little ones to point to and identify, and the winter scenes are gorgeous.

Although this book is seasonal, it is one that can be read at any time of year, and no doubt will be read over and over again at the behest of small children. It is now the absolute favourite of the youngest member of my family, aged two and a half, and the first thing she asks for at bedtime. A real must for any small child’s bookshelf and very possibly a future classic. Highly recommended. (5 stars)

The Deep and Snowy Wood would be best suited to ages 2 – 4 years

Other Books I Have Reviewed

A Voice in the NightA Voice in the Night by Ernestine Dail Available on Amazon as an eBook $7.66 and in Paperback $9.99

Three boys find themselves unexpectedly left alone in a log cabin overnight during a fierce storm. The boys are from vastly different backgrounds and have completely different personalities. Yet they are close friends. There are Brian and Josh, who come from loving, supporting homes, have more or less all they need and our diligent scholars who lead blameless lives ; and then there is Thomas, whose background is very far removed from that of his two friends. No-one is sure if he has any parents at all, and his life is nowhere near as good. He is often in trouble and has managed to earn himself a bad reputation.

Whilst Brian restlessly occupies the sofa downstairs (Josh and Thomas are asleep upstairs in the loft) there is a loud banging on the cabin door followed by a voice screaming: “Open the door! – Open the door, now!”

Brian’s thoughts drift back to a man he has seen about the town,who doesn’t seem to belong. And, there is also the recent jewel robbery in the same town; as yet unsolved. Could this be the same man and should Brian open the door? And why is everyone blaming Thomas for the robbery?

A Voice in the Night is an engaging short story for young teens. It is well-written and the plot is quite suspenseful. The characters are well-drawn and likeable – even bad boy Thomas. The in-depth background details give the reader the opportunity to get to know all those involved and to empathise with them. And, there are lessons to be learnt about friendship, doing the right thing, not prejudging others and helping those less fortunate.

This is an enjoyable short read (32 pages) and I look forward to reading more of the same from Ernestine Dail in the future. (4 stars)

A Voice in the Night would be best suited to ages 12 years plus

The Bremen Town MusiciansThe Bremen Town Musicians by Juin Bugg Available on Amazon as an eBook $2.90

Jack the donkey, Boon the dog, Kitty the house-cat and Red the rooster are all growing old and have outlived their usefulness to their masters; and are in fear of meeting an untimely death. They travel together, escaping their previous destinies, and go in search of somewhere where they can be useful again and live their lives out naturally. Needless to say, there are few challenges along the way, but these are overcome and the four animals finally find a place in life that suits them.

This is a delightful, and well-written, adaptation of the original from the brothers Grimm. Though there are many such adaptations, I found this one quite appealing. The animals find out, despite being vastly different from each other, that by working together as a team they have increased their own value and are wanted again, and are able to delight others with their collective talents.

There are some great lessons here in respect for one’s elders, teamwork and acceptance of others. Children are introduced to the age factor and can see how the animals, although previously considered to old to work by their former masters, are far wiser now than they ever were before – with age comes wisdom. The teamwork changes their ability to work completely (where alone they were weak – together they are strong) and once more they are able to do so. “Good fortune is with us and I believe that as long as we are working together, we will find our place in this world. We will be valued more that the work we do.” As animals from different species they are able to get along and enjoy each other’s company.

Not all fairy tales from the brothers Grimm are suitable for younger children, but this one certainly is. Sadly, there are no illustrations, which I feel would have really enhanced this book. More especially since there are so many other adaptations available which are filled with colourful images.

A short, but very enjoyable read. (4 stars)

The Bremen Town Musicians would be best suited to ages 6 – 8 years.

A Friend Like AnnabelA Friend like Annabel by Alan Davidson Available on Amazon as an eBook $4.63

This is an anthology comprised of five short vignettes about Alan Davidson’s heroine, Annabel. Annabel is a 13 year old cauldron of creativity, volatility, intelligence, melodrama and kindness. She lives in a very small and dull village and attends a very mediocre school (where, needless to say, she livens things up a bit). On the plus side, she has a very supportive, if eccentric, family, and an enduring best friend called Kate who follows her everywhere, hanging on to her every word.

It is difficult not to like Annabel as we are taken through her various adventures, aided by friend Kate’s narration. She is full of life, caring, funny and often quite wayward, and she doesn’t always seem to care too much for the consequences of her actions – this may not be the best message to send out – but there is also a remarkable sense of honesty about her and an inherent understanding of what is right. She is also generous of thought and does help others a great deal.

The stories in A Friend Like Annabel are original, funny and sometimes touching; my favourite being Annabel and the Duckling. To say they are well-written would be superfluous. In Alan Davidson’s writing, the plots are tight with just enough narrative, and all come full circle. Through careful thought on the author’s part, the reader is given a complete understanding of all the characters, main and secondary, without being overly wordy, filled with clichés or leaving the stories path. Excellent stuff! (5 stars)

A Friend Like Annabel would be best suited to age 12 plus

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

Book Covers with links can also be found 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


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: Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
Available on Amazon in Hardcover $13.95 | Paperback $3.38 | Audio $8.99 | Board $6.29

Giraffes Can't Dance

Giraffes Can’t Dance is a great little rhyming book about Gerald, a clumsy Giraffe, who seems to be the only one in the jungle who can’t dance. Every year in Africa, the animals hold a jungle dance. This year, whenever that is, Gerald arrives at the event and the others immediately start laughing at him, knowing of his ineptitude in this field. Feeling “so sad and so alone”, he starts to walk home. On his way he meets a cricket, who helps him to understand that he can dance if only he listens to the right music. Thus, Gerald’s ability to dance improves beyond measure. His fickle friends, upon seeing him spiralling across the jungle floor with his new-found agility, cannot believe their eyes, and suddenly Gerald is the ‘beau’ of the ball.

I absolutely loved this book, as did the youngest member of the family, aged two. The rhyming is superb:

The warthogs started waltzing
And the rhinos rock ‘n’ rolled
The lions danced a tango
Which was elegant and bold.”  –  
Priceless!

The illustrations are detailed, vibrant and great fun; and will undoubtedly hold the attention of those too young to read to themselves.  In fact, it’s the ideal read aloud book anyway; being just the right length. And then there is the nice little touch of having a cricket to find on every page; which provides a certain amount of entertainment in itself. This book shows what it feels like to be different and how, by learning that we only need to “find the right music” to encourage us, things can change – a great message.  

Highly recommended (5 stars)

Giraffes Can’t Dance would be best suited to 2 to 6

Other Books I Have Reviewed

Keeno and Ernest - The Diamond MineThe Adventures of Keeno and Ernest – The Diamond Mine by Maggie van Galen
Available on Amazon  in Hardcover $19.02

This is the second book I have reviewed by Maggie van Galen, and I liked it just as much as the first. The Adventures of Keeno and Ernest – The Diamond Mine is also the second book in the Keeno and Ernest series.

Mother’s Day is approaching and Keeno, the audacious little monkey of the title, is determined to give his mother a wonderful present. He finds a shiny red rock. So far, so good. But then, from high up in the canopy, Keeno spots a cart full of diamonds in the diamond mine below. He devises a plan to get hold one of these, and give it to his mother instead of the rock.

His steadfast and sensible friend, Ernest the elephant, tries to persuade him that this would be stealing, and that his mother would be just as happy with the stone because it is something he has found all by himself.  Rationalising that if he replaces the diamond with the red rock, it would not be stealing – it would be a trade, Keeno makes a plan. Ernest is not convinced, and Keeno secretly implements the plan deciding he will tell him later.  He very swiftly gets into trouble, and it is up to Ernest (whose “always there for him”) to rescue him again.

This is another very sweet and enjoyable story from Maggie van Galen. It is well-written and well-paced, and the characters are adorable. And, with the delightful, bold and vibrant illustrations, painted by hand by Joanna Lundeen, this book is a real gem.

Then there is the lesson about stealing; “If you take something without asking, then it’s stealing and stealing is wrong”. And, when an elephant tells you that; you really should listen! An excellent message, especially for all those dear little two or three years olds we all know and love,  who think everything in the entire universe  has MINE – ALL MINE stamped all over it. There is also an added bonus here of a page of ‘can you find’ at the back, which is fun. 

In all; a very endearing little book which I am thrilled to place on my bookshelf. (5 stars)

The Adventures of Keeno and Ernest – The Diamond Mine would be best suited to ages 4 to 8

Mo The Talking DogMo – The Talking Dog by Michelle Booth
Available on Amazon as an eBook $3.08 and in Paperback $8.81

This is a delightful tale about an abused puppy who is rescued by the son of a somewhat unconventional vet. Henry Ashton, the vet, has been deeply interested in genetic engineering for some time and is hoping to find an animal to place a human voice box in; grown from tissue. When Martin, his son, rescues the puppy from the canal, and they realise the puppy is unable to bark, he becomes the ideal candidate for Henry to ‘help’. I must explain at this point, Henry is no maker of monsters, but genuinely wishes to assist the animal, despite his vested interest. Henry operates and lo; Mo has a voice box. Hence, we have Mo the talking dog. Mo is very carefully taught his words by the family, and picks up quite a few more from Mimic, the family’s African Grey parrot , who also talks, and with whom he watches children’s television. Much of their speech is gleaned from this. Needless to say, the Ashton family’s life begins to take on a whole new meaning; something they all seem to take very much in their stride. And so the adventure begins.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is funny, well put together and the characters are well-rounded and extremely likeable; well, most of them anyway. The plot is tight and clever. It reads just like any good old adventure story, which will have children routing for Mo and Martin as the tale rolls on. It’s very entertaining and in parts keeps you wondering what on earth will happen next. My only disappointment being, the animal abusers should have been dealt with more severely.

This book addresses so many issues; animal abuse, bullying, the ethics of genetic engineering and doing the right thing where others are concerned. All of which are dealt with in an empathic manner. I also loved the way Mo talked, and for those who find him hard to understand, you can find ‘Mo’s Dictionary’ at the back of the book. The book cover confused me a little. It is very sweet, but being so simplistic, I was expecting a story for much younger children. In fact, I was delighted when I found it be a chapter book of some reasonable length.

I can highly recommend this – whether you are a dog lover or not – and can see more than one generation enjoying it. (5 stars)

Mo – The Talking Dog would be best suited to ages 8 to 12 

Robbie's Quest for SeedRobbie’s Quest for Seed by D.C. Rush
Available on Amazon as an eBook $1.51 and in Paperback $6.64

Robbie’s Quest for Seed follows Robbie the Robin and his feathered friends as they leave the comfort and security of the bird bath and feeder they know so well, and fly south for the winter. Their plan is to head for Florida to enjoy the warmer weather and the plentiful supply of seed, bread, pretzels and anything else the kind residents put out on their bird tables.

They set off on their journey with all having a part to play in getting themselves and their young safely to their chosen destination. Having overcome various obstacles and dangers on the way, they finally arrive. But, it is not as they remember and there is little food and much water. They have two choices: stay and wait for the waters to subside or fly west to better pastures. They are now weak and hungry, and decisions must be made.

In Robbie’s Quest for Seed, the birds have created a very fair and democratic society for themselves They form orderly queues to eat and bathe, and share and distribute food according to need. Their lives are well-organised and gracious. Quite Utopian really; where the strength of a good team outweighs the sum of its divisions and all are happy; and things get done well by those who are pleased to do them.

This a wonderful story of true friendship, teamwork and consideration for others. Children can also learn about the migratory habits of birds and their patterns of behaviour. There is a bit of a geography lesson in there too, plus instructions on how to navigate by the stars.

In all: A lovely, well-written and enjoyable book to keep on your child’s bookshelf. (5 stars)

Robbie’s Quest for Seed would be best suited to ages 4 to 10

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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: The Adventures of Keeno and Ernest “The Banana Tree” by Maggie van Galen – Illustrated by Joanna Lundeen
Available on Amazon: Hardcopy $19.95

Take one adorable, daring and disobedient little monkey, a very cautious, clever and ne’er do wrong elephant, throw in some rule breaking and mix with a hint of peril, and you have all the right ingredients for an utterly delightful children’s story. Please read my review below.

The Adventures of Keeno and Ernest -"The Banana Tree" - Review by Amelia CurzonMy Review

Best friends Keeno and Ernest spend much of their time together eating bananas. Day after day they go back to the same old tree.  Until one day, Keeno sees “a huge banana tree with hundreds – maybe thousands – of super yummy bananas” across the swirling river. He must have those yummy bananas at any cost, even if it means disobeying his parent’s rules to get them. He pleads with Ernest to cross the river with him, and when Ernest refuses on the premise his parents have told him not to do so without  supervision, Keeno decides to build a raft and go it alone. As you would expect with an adventurous young monkey like Keeno, terrible danger lurks around the next bend in the river. Way out of his depth, Keeno becomes very frightened. Fortunately, a mutual friend, Toucan Tom, flies by and Keeno gets him to whiz off and find Ernest – because “He always knows what to do!”

With The Adventures of Keeno and Ernest, Maggie van Galen has given us a book which is perfect for reading aloud, beautifully written and easy to understand.  And, it is not difficult to remember the object of Keeno’s desire as every page has the coveted banana tree in it. The animals are well-chosen for this particular story. Characteristically, Keeno is an impulsive and mischievous little monkey, Ernest is a sensible elephant able to heed and remember quite clearly whatever has been said to him, and Toucan Tom, the only other character in the tale, is a loud, loud bird. All perfect! I particularly liked the very vivid hand-painted illustrations by Joanna Lundeen. In fact, there is really nothing here not to like. Moreover, this is a story of friendship, and of learning that when your parents tell you not to do something, it is probably in your best interests not to do it. This is an ideal book for any young child. Highly recommended! (5 stars)

(The Adventures of Keeno and Ernest “The Banana Tree” would be best suited to 4 years and upwards)

Other Books I Have Reviewed 

We All Went on Safari by Laurie Krebs and Julia Cairns
Available on Amazon: Paperback $6.90 and Hardback $13.75

We All Went on Safari Review by Amelia CurzonI absolutely loved this book. We All Went on Safari is a counting picture book for young children, which also teaches them how to count to ten in another language – Swahili! It is tremendous fun, and after all, since the Maasai people are globally known; what better way of introducing young children to them and their culture than with a beautifully produced book such as this.
A group of Maasai women and children, accompanied by a Maasai warrior, take themselves on a short safari across the Serengeti where they encounter various wild animals, counting them in rhyme as they go; “We all went on safari, Among herds that intermix, We followed woolly wildebeests, Watende counted six”. The illustrations are simply gorgeous with their vibrant colours and wonderful depictions of the Maasai and their lands and wildlife.
Having learnt to count to ten (the numbers are depicted on each page thus: 1 – moja, 2 – mbili), the learning process continues at the back of the book with pictures and short facts about the animals of the Serengeti and their names in Swahili, the character’s names in Swahili with their meanings, facts about Tanzania (including a useful map) and numbers one to ten again in Swahili with an illustrated guide. Completely irresistible from beginning to end, this is a real must for any child’s bookshelf! (5 stars)
(We All Went on Safari is best suited to children ages 2 years upwards)

Little Music Lessons for Kids: Lesson 1 – A Fascinating Story about the Staff and Treble Clef by Tatiana Bandurina
Available on Amazon: eBook $4.11

Little Music Lessons for Kids Review by Amelia CurzonThis is a short and very clever introduction to sheet music for small children. And it’s fun. It begins with an unnamed musical family, all of whom play different instruments, being introduced by their puppy, the musical puppy. The puppy goes on to explain very carefully and in simple words, the basics behind the staff and the treble clef.  It counts the floors in the musical house (the staff) and compares them to the fingers on the hands.  It shows us on which floor of the house the treble clef lives. As the title suggests, the staff and the clef are the only subject matter in this lesson and are dealt with methodically using repetitive text, making the facts easy for a child to remember. At the end of the lesson there are some very helpful and concise step-by-step instructions for parents.  Even if, as a parent, you do not have any sort of background in music, but want to encourage your child, this is where to start. This is the first lesson in a series of ten. Refreshing, thoughtful, educational and very appealing! (5 stars)
(Little Music Lessons for Kids is best suited to 3 to 9 years old)

The Awkward Owl by Shawnda Blake                                                                                                             Available on Amazon: eBook $2.96 and Paperback $9.99

The Awkward Owl  Review by Amelia CurzonThis is a very sweet book about a clumsy little owl that couldn’t fly.  Hard as he tried, he always seemed to end the wrong way up and the wrong way round.  One day he crashed into the trunk of tree and fell to the ground. A small girl picked him up, took him home and loved him. She gave him some much-needed encouragement to try again, by telling him he could do it. And do it he did.
The text is well-written and enjoyable, and I loved the book cover at the beginning of the story promoting ‘Flying Basics: For the Beginner Bird’ – both funny and clever. Regrettably, the illustrations, hand-drawn in crayon, didn’t really grab me, though young children may well identify with the style and simplicity.
There is also a message here: If you try hard enough you can do anything – so always believe in yourself.
A great little book for the very young!  (4 stars)
(The Awkward Owl would be best suited to 2 years upwards)

***

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 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.