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

###

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.

 

Advertisements

Children’s Book of the Week and Other Book Reviews


 

Mungai and the Goa Constrictor banner

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)

###

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.

Children’s Book of the Week and Other Book Reviews


Mungai and the Goa Constrictor banner

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: Dragonasaurus Tales by Josephine Young
Each available on Amazon as an eBook  $3.04 and in Paperback $7.49

This week’s book of the week is in fact a series of five short books, and each one of them is just as good as the one before, if not better. The books are written in rhyme and each one tells a story, so I feel it is best to offer a short description of each book along with a few lines of text.

My Reviews

Baffin's Curiois Consequence - Review featured on Mungai and the Goa ConstrictorBaffin’s Curious Consequence (Dragonasaurus Tales)
Whilst asleep beneath a tree, Baffin, a young dragonasaurus, is woken by the great roar of his friend Dex; his idea of fun being, to sneak up on his pals and make them jump.  Baffin, like all the other dragonasaurus, is becoming rather fed up of Dex, and resolves to teach him a lesson. The final straw for Baffin had been when Dex had jumped out on his little sister Floss and made her cry.
“Baffin decided, “Enough is enough.
It’s clearly time someone got tough.
I think it might be time to fix,
naughty Dex with his frightening tricks.””
Baffin develops a master plan to lure Dex into a nearby cave and scare him. What follows surprises and frightens them both.

Baffin's Desire for Fire - Review featured on Mungai and the Goa ConstrictorBaffin’s Desire for Fire: Dragonasaurus Tales (Volume 1)
Baffin, anxious to grow up far faster than he should, has an uncontrollable desire to breathe fire, just like the older dragonasaurus do. His need is so great he is prepared to risk his own safety and travel through Trembly Wood and on to Fire Mountain, in search of the Great Fire Bird whom he believes will be able to help him. Unaware of the Grong, the terrible creature that wanders the woods, Baffin begins his journey.
“This monstrous creature had been stricken
with claws of a wolf and feet of a chicken!
These feet might look odd but mean it can race
right after its prey at a lightening pace.”
Inevitably Baffin comes face to face with the creature and needs to use all his wits to save himself.

Baffin's Sister Swap Scandal - Review featured on Mungai and the Goa ConstrictorBaffin’s Sister Swap Scandal: Dragonasaurus Tales
Baffin has built a sandcastle and is terribly proud of it. However, as he steps back to admire his work, his sister Floss comes bounding over in his direction and lands smack in the middle of his treasured display. Baffin is so mad he grabs her paw and strides off towards home with her. Then a stork crosses their path.  Upon which Floss declares, having learnt such things from her Uncle Max,  that storks deliver new babies to their new mums. Baffin immediately decides that this could be how to rid himself of Floss and swap her for a brother.
“Of course! Baffin screeched to a stop.
That stork could give him a sister swap!
In a flash he could see clear as day,
the storks were where the answer lay.”
But how much does he really value his little sister!

Bella's Dancing Dilemma - Review featured on Mungai and the Goa ConstrictorBella’s Dancing Dilemma: Dragonasaurus Tales
As you would expect, Dragonasaurus are not the most delicate of creatures. In fact, they are downright clumsy. Many of their kind accept this fact, except for Bella.  Bella’s greatest ambition is to become a dancer. Her friends tell her about a talent show which they are all going to enter – their special talents being focused upon stomping and breathing fire.  Bella sees her chance, but she must first learn how to dance. Whilst practising her simple steps she meets various new friends, all of whom give her heaps of encouragement and show her different dances and beats to try. But Bella, hard as she does try, is unable to dance and comes very close to giving up.
““That’s nonsense Bella you can’t quit now.
You can dance, you just need to know how.
If you relax, your body will find its own beat
then you can strut on your funky feet.””
But, will Bella eventually get the hang of it and feel confident enough to enter the talent contest!

 Izzy's Flying Disaster - Review featured on Mungai and the Goa ConstrictorIzzy’s Flying Disaster: Dragonasaurus Tales
As everyone knows, dragonasaurus were born to breathe fire and fly. But, of course, they also need to be old enough and big enough to do so. Little Izzy is not convinced she is too young or too small to fly, and hatches a series of ingenious ways to do so. Needless to say, her success rate is notably low. She does not, however, give up trying. In fact, she is so determined to succeed, she ends up unwittingly placing the life of her friend Mouse in the balance.
“Uncurling from his hiding place, Mouse did spy
the eagle peering at him with its beady eye.
“I’m not so sure Izzy, in fact I have a hunch,
MICE are what eagles like to eat for their lunch!””
Can Izzy save Mouse! Will she ever learn to fly! Or does this friendship end here!

Josephine Young has taken two all-time children’s favourites, the dragon and the dinosaur, and given us the dragonasaurus. These endearing little creatures fill the series with their captivating and comical adventures.
All the Dragonasaurus books are written in rhyme. The rhyme is excellent and works extremely well. The illustrations are cartoon-like and very colourful.  The books are great fun, but quite long; so I feel younger listeners and readers may need more than one sitting. Something I very much liked was the language. It does not patronise young children, which is good. Instead it offers new words to learn in a diverting way. There is plenty of excitement throughout the stories and the endings to all are a surprise. And, of course, each tale has a message.  I can definitely recommend these books to be read to or by any child.  I read them to the youngest member of the family (aged two) and she was totally entranced by the poetry, loved the pictures and giggled a lot. They are sweet, funny, charming, imaginative and entertaining. I must say, I did have a favourite – Baffin’s Desire for Fire.  Here the description of the Grong is hilarious, and the end has an enjoyable twist.  I hope author Josephine Young will be giving us more of these wonderful, original and well-written tales. Highly recommended! (5 stars to all)

(Dragonasaurus Tales would be best suited to ages 2/3 and upwards)

Other Books I Have Reviewed

Oceanheart (The Enchanted Pages) by Pen Clements
Available on Amazon as an eBook $2.85

As Wynn sits by the bed of her dying sister, she is overwhelmed by guilt and her heart is filled with sorrow.  Stella is lying in a coma and Wynn believes it is all her fault and longs to make amends, but cannot think how. Unexpectedly, help manifests itself from a surprising source, the strange and much feared school councillor, Mr (Crazy) Connor.  “Crazy” Connor gives Wynn a pen and a journal, and some words of advice – ‘Write your thoughts. Write your dreams’.

Unbeknown to Wynn, the journal is enchanted. When she takes out the pen and the journal, the pen takes on a life of its own and words appear on the page – “If wish to restore what was lost, Find the Oceanheart. No matter the cost.”

As she starts to write her own words in the journal her world changes, and she finds herself transported from the safety of her sister’s hospital room to the depths of the ocean where she is rescued by the Saltwater People and taken to their tropical home. Not all the islanders are friendly though, and she finds herself pursued by the “Teeth”, poison masters and outcasts, across water and through forests. They too seek the Oceanheart and Wynn is the key. Then there is the mysterious Sorrowmaker patrolling the surrounding waters bringing doom and despair to all.

Wynn’s extraordinary journey causes her to reach deep into her soul where she discovers an inner strength and tenacity she hadn’t known she possessed. Spurred on by the need to help her sister, seemingly impossible tasks become surmountable challenges, and our heroine successfully rises to face each and every one of them.

In Pen Clements “Oceanheart”, a beautifully written, original and captivating story is to be found. From the imaginative narrative to the often surreal locations, from the strong and enjoyable characters of the Saltwater People with their living tattoos to the vile grey-skinned ‘Teeth’, each chapter lures you enticingly towards the next. And the latter part of the book is loaded with just the right amount of tension and suspense to take the reader right through to the end.

I hadn’t realised this was the first of a series until I reached the final page, but I will certainly be reading the next one when it is available. Mystery, adventure, fantasy! Oceanheart can be any of these; and I highly recommend it to anyone who reads any of those genres. (5 stars)

(Oceanheart (The Enchanted Pages) would be best suited to ages 9 years to adult)

Burly & Grum and the Tiger’s Tale (The Burly & Grum Tales) by Kate Tenbeth
Available on Amazon as an eBook $1.48

This is a simple little story about the animals of the forest. The main characters are Grum the groblin, Burlington the bear and Titan the tiger. The three are playing twister in the forest when a man is sighted.  At the same time Hamish the porcupine rushes past with news of his daughter Morag being ill. Titan instantly mistrusts the man, Professor Simon Clutterbug, drawing upon past experience, but then Morag is diagnosed with forest fever and the only one who can help is the Professor.
Simple and sweet, this book tells of tigers and their diminishing numbers, and provides a short insight into their plight. The black and white illustrations are lovely and quite comical, and the story is easy to understand, especially for smaller children. (4 stars)
(Burly & Grum and the Tiger’s Tale would be best suited to ages 4 and upwards)

[Any profits from the sale of this book will go to the charity ‘Save the Wild Tiger’]

***

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.