Welcome to another week of children’s book reviews. As ever, I hope you will enjoy my choice of books and the reviews of them. Please don’t forget to scroll down the page and read them all!
Children’s Book of the Week: The Issy Books by Pat “Gigi” Calfee – Illustrated by Isybilla Gee
Available from issy.com
I am delighted to have had the opportunity to review these books, which were recently sent to me. The Issy Books are, in fact, a series of eleven short books for emergent readers. They are written by Pat Calfee and illustrated by her very creative granddaughter, 5-year-old Isybilla Gee. Pat, now an educational consultant, previously spent 15 years teaching both 2nd and 3rd grade students.
The series opens with the picture book “Meet Issy”, the talented five-year old illustrator, and we learn about her likes, her pets and her family. The series then continues with tales of Harry the Hippo, Webster the Spider and a host of other animals, each with their own little book.
Every page of every book in the series has its own simplistic illustration and a short sentence to describe it. The illustrations and the well-ordered vocabulary go hand in hand, making the meaning of every page clear, easy to follow and fun, with just enough words to help the young reader grow confidence. Specific keywords go with each book, and are clearly listed at the start below the ‘suggestions’ for using the book. I have no doubt parents teaching their children to develop their reading skills will find these extremely helpful. The books are also produced in a nice handy size for small hands.
The fact that a young child, herself an emergent reader, has illustrated these books makes them all the more endearing, and other young children will so easily be able identify with the naïve style.
Each book is a delight in itself, but I particularly liked Oscar the Octopus where numbers are cleverly introduced, counting backwards from 8 to 1. And then there was Flossie the Flamingo where the words for different shapes were presented.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Issy Books, and I especially delighted in introducing the youngest member of the family to them, who, albeit she is not quite at the emergent reader stage, was able to instantly identify the animals in the books, and the short sentences on each page held her interest. So much so, she was happy to repeat the words and point to the pictures. An excellent start for any child! In my opinion, this is a fairly strong indicator of the success of the books.
It can be very difficult at first for young children to decipher the written word, therefore the vocabulary must flow and the accompanying illustrations need to speak out in a way which adds value. It is my opinion that The Issy Books do precisely that. Added to this, there is the parental guidance factor which can only enhance the reading satisfaction and ability of both parent and child. I am giving The Issy Books a very solid 5 stars!
Switch by Karen Prince
Available on Amazon Kindle $1.24
The story is set in Zimbabwe and opens with the High Priest, Drogba, looking for a person to provide him with a new body. This opens the door for the introduction to the wicked and very comical witch, Gogo Maya, who is being pursued by someone unknown in the forest that she would rather avoid. Her only escape it to ‘switch’. Through pure miscalculation she finds herself inadvertently linked to a very average young boy named Joe. Joe has an overly precious cousin, called Ethan, who is better suited to the city than the bush. Ethan is spoilt, highly germaphobic, asthmatic, snobbish, cowardly, and definitely not a risk taker. He does, however, feel able to give Gogo Maya CPR, and manages to suck in what is left of her magical powers. The witch’s leopard familiar, Salih, for some unfathomable reason, chooses him in order to telepathically communicate the witch’s needs. Throw in the very bizarre Tokeloshe tribe, some possibly helpful crocodiles, a few hyenas, a host of African children and lashings of magic, and the book has you wanting to read on.
The opening chapter of this book grabbed me instantly. I also love books about Africa, and this one did not disappoint. I felt absolutely filled with the sound and smells of the continent just reading it. The evocative settings make it quite clear the author knows the terrain well. The plot is very imaginative and highly original and the characters are well-drawn and credible. I would definitely read this book again and am giving it 5 stars.
(This book would be best suited to ages 11 years and over)
Kiwi in Cat City by Vickie Johnstone
Available on Amazon Kindle $1.22 and in Paperback $7.50
Kiwi in Cat City is about a little girl called Amy, her brother James and their cat Kiwi. After waking one night and seeing Kiwi leap out of the window, Amy rouses James to go with her to follow Kiwi to see where she goes and what she does at night.
Kiwi, who spots them tailing her, turns around and addresses them in their own human speak and subsequently invites them along on her nocturnal journey. After getting over the shock of hearing their cat talking to them, both children decide to do just that and tag along. Then, an even more surprising thing happens as they both turn onto cats themselves.
This book is beautifully written, with a great poetic prologue, and heaps of action, intrigue and fun. Ms. Johnstone’s vivid imagination does her a great deal of credit. I am also assuming, by the not entirely complete ending, that another book will be following soon, which I will look forward to reading as well. 5 stars for Kiwi in Cat City!
(This book would be best suited to ages 10 years and over)
A Tale of Four Birds and Their Quest for Food and Happiness by Gramps Doodlebug
Available from Amazon Kindle $1.22
Four hungry birds set out together in search of food. Though of different species, their combined voices garner a lot of attention. No-one, however, rewards them with the food they are singing for. On their rounds they visit the house of a rich man who, although he has no suitable food to give them, offers them directions to find a man with a straw hat who will provide for them. Their next port of call is the house of a poor man, with a straw hat, who turns out not to be the one they are seeking, and who has nothing to offer them either. At this point one of the birds leaves the quartet thinking he will do better by himself. The others travel on. At different points two others go their separate ways leaving the last bird to carry on the mission alone.
The simple, beautiful illustrations drew me to this book and the story reminded of some of those I had read as a child. The descriptions of the birds and their voices are quite charming, and I am sure will enthral many a bird-loving child. There are both facts and lessons to be learnt here, all of which are meaningful and easy to understand. I give A Tale of Four Birds 4 stars.
(This book would be best suited to ages 5 years and over)
All my reviews can be found on Amazon and, where possible, Goodreads.
Please note: Authors frequently offer their books at lower prices and often they are free. These prices were correct at the time of publishing, but it is worth checking for price changes.