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


Mungai and the Goa Constrictor - A Children's Book by Amelia E Curzon - Banner
Welcome to another week of children’s book reviews.  As ever, I hope you will enjoy my choice of books and the reviews of them. Please don’t forget to scroll down the page and read them all!

Children’s Book of the Week: Wise Bear William – A New Beginning by Arthur Wooten
Available on Amazon: eBook $3.09 and Paperback $8.99

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

Wise Bear WilliamMy Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

All my reviews can be found on Amazon and, where possible, Goodreads.
Please note: Authors frequently offer their books at lower prices and often they are free. These prices were correct at the time of publishing, but it is worth checking for price changes

Children’s Book of the Week and Other Book Reviews


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Welcome to another week of children’s book reviews.  As ever, I hope you will enjoy my choice of books and the reviews of them. Please don’t forget to scroll down the page and read them all!

Children’s Book of the Week: The Issy Books by Pat “Gigi” Calfee – Illustrated by Isybilla Gee
Available from issy.com

I am delighted to have had the opportunity to review these books, which were recently sent to me. The Issy Books are, in fact, a series of eleven short books for emergent readers. They are written by Pat Calfee and illustrated by her very creative granddaughter, 5-year-old Isybilla Gee. Pat, now an educational consultant, previously spent 15 years teaching both 2nd and 3rd grade students.

My Review

The series opens with the picture book “Meet Issy”, the talented five-year old illustrator, and we learn about her likes, her pets and her family. The series then continues with tales of Harry the Hippo, Webster the Spider and a host of other animals, each with their own little book.

Every page of every book in the series has its own simplistic illustration and a short sentence to describe it. The illustrations and the well-ordered vocabulary go hand in hand, making the meaning of every page clear, easy to follow and fun, with just enough words to help the young reader grow confidence. Specific keywords go with each  book, and are clearly listed at the start below the ‘suggestions’ for using the book. I have no doubt parents teaching their children to develop their reading skills will find these extremely helpful. The books are also produced in a nice handy size for small hands.

The fact that a young child, herself an emergent reader, has illustrated these books makes them all the more endearing, and other young children will so easily be able identify with the naïve style.
Each book is a delight in itself, but I particularly liked Oscar the Octopus where numbers are cleverly introduced, counting backwards from 8 to 1. And then there was Flossie the Flamingo where the words for different shapes were presented.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Issy Books, and I especially delighted in introducing the youngest member of the family to them, who, albeit she is not quite at the emergent reader stage, was able to instantly identify the animals in the books, and the short sentences on each page held her interest. So much so, she was happy to repeat the words and point to the pictures.  An excellent start for any child!  In my opinion, this is a fairly strong indicator of the success of the books.

It can be very difficult at first for young children to decipher the written word, therefore the vocabulary must flow and the accompanying illustrations need to speak out in a way which adds value.  It is my opinion that The Issy Books do precisely that. Added to this, there is the parental guidance factor which can only enhance the reading satisfaction and ability of both parent and child.  I am giving The Issy Books a very solid 5 stars!

Switch by Karen Prince     
Available on Amazon Kindle $1.24

The story is set in Zimbabwe and opens with the High Priest, Drogba, looking for a person to provide him with a new body. This opens the door for the introduction to the wicked and very comical witch, Gogo Maya, who is being pursued by someone unknown in the forest that she would rather avoid.  Her only escape it to ‘switch’. Through pure miscalculation she finds herself inadvertently linked to a very average young boy named Joe. Joe has an overly precious cousin, called Ethan, who is better suited to the city than the bush. Ethan is spoilt, highly germaphobic, asthmatic, snobbish, cowardly, and definitely not a risk taker. He does, however, feel able to give Gogo Maya CPR, and manages to suck in what is left of her magical powers. The witch’s leopard familiar, Salih, for some unfathomable reason, chooses him in order to telepathically communicate the witch’s needs. Throw in the very bizarre Tokeloshe tribe, some possibly helpful crocodiles, a few hyenas, a host of African children and lashings of magic, and the book has you wanting to read on.
The opening chapter of this book grabbed me instantly. I also love books about Africa, and this one did not disappoint. I felt absolutely filled with the sound and smells of the continent just reading it. The evocative settings make it quite clear the author knows the terrain well. The plot is very imaginative and highly original and the characters are well-drawn and credible.  I would definitely read this book again and am giving it 5 stars.
(This book would be best suited to ages 11 years and over)

Kiwi in Cat City by Vickie Johnstone   
Available on Amazon Kindle $1.22 and in Paperback $7.50

Kiwi in Cat City is about a little girl called Amy, her brother James and their cat Kiwi.  After waking one night and seeing Kiwi leap out of the window, Amy rouses James to go with her to follow Kiwi to see where she goes and what she does at night.
Kiwi, who spots them tailing her, turns around and addresses them in their own human speak and subsequently invites them along on her nocturnal journey. After getting over the shock of hearing their cat talking to them, both children decide to do just that and tag along. Then, an even more surprising thing happens as they both turn onto cats themselves.
This book is beautifully written, with a great poetic prologue, and heaps of action, intrigue and fun. Ms. Johnstone’s vivid imagination does her a great deal of credit. I am also assuming, by the not entirely complete ending, that another book will be following soon, which I will look forward to reading as well.  5 stars for Kiwi in Cat City!
(This book would be best suited to ages 10 years and over)

A Tale of Four Birds and Their Quest for Food and Happiness by Gramps Doodlebug    
Available from Amazon Kindle $1.22

Four hungry birds set out together in search of food. Though of different species, their combined voices garner a lot of attention. No-one, however, rewards them with the food they are singing for. On their rounds they visit the house of a rich man who, although he has no suitable food to give them, offers them directions to find a man with a straw hat who will provide for them. Their next port of call is the house of a poor man, with a straw hat, who turns out not to be the one they are seeking, and who has nothing to offer them either. At this point one of the birds leaves the quartet thinking he will do better by himself. The others travel on. At different points two others go their separate ways leaving the last bird to carry on the mission alone.
The simple, beautiful illustrations drew me to this book and the story reminded of some of those I had read as a child. The descriptions of the birds and their voices are quite charming, and I am sure will enthral many a bird-loving child. There are both facts and lessons to be learnt here, all of which are meaningful and easy to understand. I give A Tale of Four Birds 4 stars.
(This book would be best suited to ages 5 years and over)

***

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

Please note: Authors frequently offer their books at lower prices and often they are free.  These prices were correct at the time of publishing, but it is worth checking for price changes.

Children’s Book of the Week and Other Book Reviews


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Welcome to another  week of 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!

Book of the Week: A Blue Poetry Paintbox  – Chosen by John Foster  
Oxford University Press
Available from Book 2 Basics

I have had this book on my shelves for a very long time and have read it many times to my own children. Until recently it had sat there unnoticed until the smallest member of the family made a grab for it. Time to read it again!  I had forgotten just how good it was and felt it was time to publish my thoughts on it.

A Blue Poetry Paintbox Book Cover featured on mungaiandthegoaconstrictor.meMy Review of A Blue Poetry Paintbox

A Blue Poetry Paintbox is an anthology of 93 children’s poems from a whole array of poets and illustrators. If you don’t already have a copy, do try and get one. It is part of a series of four books all defined by their Paintbox colour. Inside the blue one there are dragons and lions, castles and sea-monsters, pirates and zebras and dinosaurs. It is filled with whimsical poems such as ‘Monkey Babies’
Don’t leave your monkey baby
sitting by the swamp;
a crocodile might eat him.
Chomp! Chomp! Chomp!       Etc, etc,

and ‘The Sea-monster’s Snack’
Deep down upon his sandy bed
the monster turned his slimy head,
grinned and licked his salty lips
and ate another bag of ships.

The price is variable (but £2 -3 seems the norm) and unfortunately now it seems to be only available as used.  It was also quite hard to track down. And even then, apart from my own copy, I have only managed to find further copies in the UK. Do not let this put you off, though.  If you can obtain a good second hand copy you won’t regret it. This really is a marvellous book to own and will be enjoyed for years to come, as it has been by past generations. Great for the transition from simple rhyming books to poetry books! That is not to say children won’t want to continue to enjoy rhyming books – they will, but here they can move comfortably up to the next stage. It’s lively, it’s fun, it nurtures the imagination of young children, and it has a wonderful assortment of different verses accompanied by  delightful illustrations. The publishers recommend this for 5/6 years plus, but the youngest member of the family is far younger and enjoyed listening to the poems immensely. Definitely 5 stars!

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher    
Available on Amazon Kindle $7.38 Hardback $12.84

Ten year old Jamie, the narrator of this book, takes us through his day to day life in a simplistic and sometimes heart-breaking manner. Following the tragic death of his sister Rose, killed by a terrorist bomb in London, Jamie’s life, and that of his older sister, Jas – twin of the dead Rose- takes a very sad road. Rose’s death has a tremendous effect on all the family, and both parents deal with their anguish in their own way.  Jamie’s father turns to drink, whilst his mother turns to another man, and abandons both her surviving children. Alone with the children, and in the hope of starting a new life, Jamie’s father moves them all away from London, but is unable to let go of Rose. Five years have passed since her death and she still remains on the mantelpiece, even after the move. Though neither Jas nor Jamie judge their father for his drinking habits and lack of parental care, both are deeply affected by it. As the story unfolds Jamie does not grieve the way his parents and sister do – after all, he barely remembers his dead sister.   He only remembers her permanently placed on the mantelpiece.  And all Jamie longs for, so desperately, is a return to normality, with his father and mother reunited and some care and attention doled out to himself and his living sister.
This very sensitive story is told beautifully and in a most original way. The writing is flawless and the characters, right down to Jamie’s cat, leap off the page. There are various issues which arise, such as racism, death, friendship, school bullying, family values and separation – all of which author Annabel Pitcher has dealt with in a refreshingly honest manner. I have to admit it does play havoc with one’s emotions towards the end though, and I had a real problem continuing because of the exceptionally large lump in my throat. When I did reach the end, I sat back quietly and thought what a wonderful book.
My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece appears to be aimed at children of 12 years and up, but I have absolutely no doubt many adults will enjoy this too. I certainly did, and would have no hesitation in recommending it to all ages.  5 stars!

A Wolf Pup’s Tale by Rachel Yu     
Available on Amazon Kindle $1.24  Paperback $7.99

This is a story about an inquisitive little wolf cub called Rugmo, who is eager to know just what lies on the other side of the fence surrounding the reservation he and his family live on. “Nothing a wolf needs” his mother had said. Inevitably, the occasion arises when Rugmo spots a hole in the same fence. Despite his mother’s previous warning, Rugmo, unable to resist the challenge of the unknown, courageously squeezes through the gap and his adventure begins. In a very short space of time he experiences hunger, friendship and danger, and realises that, although he is having a very exciting time, home may well be the better place to be.
This is a nice little story and very well-written, and the illustrations are endearing. There is an illustration on every page enabling very young children to follow the story quite easily. Once hooked, the story’s message is not hard to understand either; listen to your parents – they know the dangers out there in the ‘real’ world! The message also fosters daring and inquisitiveness – which is also a good thing. The ending was a surprise; I didn’t expect that, it was really sweet.
Nice story-telling and great pictures along with a clear message make this a solid 4 star read.

The Rat Who Didn’t Like Rats by Blythe Ayne 
Available on Amazon Kindle $3.13  Paperback $9.99

Reginald, the sharply dressed rat of the title, snobbishly eschews all other rats, safe in the misguided belief that he is not one of them. How he has come this far without knowing his own origins is not clear, nor is what he does think he is. Somehow this doesn’t really seem to matter though once you get into the story, which is really rather sweet. Reginald is invited to a farewell party. The room is filled with animals, all there to celebrate the migration of the geese for winter.  Reginald spends most of his time telling all he encounters that he hates rats, and won’t hear anything in their defence.  Something his friends seem very tolerant of. Then a girl rat, Raquel, arrives at the party and catches Reginald’s eye. He has a bit of a problem believing she is a rat. Finally his friends manage to convince him that not only is she a rat, but so is he. He then surmises that rats cannot be so bad after all.
Much can be read into this, as one other reviewer seems to have done, but for me this a book about acceptance of others, and even when one’s perception of another is that of difference, a closer look will often reveal we are very much the same.
The illustrations are wonderful and quirky and the writing is sharp and funny.  I enjoyed this book very much and would recommend it for ages 8 and over. I gave The Rat Who Didn’t Like Rats 4 stars.

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

Children’s Book of the Week and Other Book Reviews


Mungai and the Goa Constrictor - A Children's Book by Amelia E Curzon - Banner

Welcome to this week’s children’s book reviews.  I hope you enjoy my choice of books and the reviews of them.

Book of the Week: Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Published on Amazon:  Hardcover  $12.40   Paperback  $6.99  Audio $13.26  Board book  $6.99                     

I couldn’t resist buying Room on the Broom having already read another book by the same creators, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler – namely The Gruffalo, and I had high expectations.  I was not disappointed. Nor was the smallest member of the family (aged almost 2) for whom it was intended. This book is simply adorable.

Room on the Broom Book CoverMy Review of Room on the Broom

A kind old witch with a purry cat loses her hat, her bow and her wand to the wind.  As they both go in search of these items, various different animals find them first – a dog with brown spots, a very green bird and an extremely fastidious frog – all of whom want to know if there is room on the broom for an animal like them.  The amiable, though  far from stereotypical, witch smiles and makes room for them one by one, until the broom bends beneath their weight.  Things begin to look bleak as the broom falls to the ground. At this point the animals are given the chance to be heroes.  As a reward for their actions, the witch ‘magics up’ a spectacular new broom to accommodate all their individual needs.

The illustrations are superb. The expressions on the animal’s faces are priceless and the first-rate rhyming prose was such a pleasure to read aloud.  It is a really fun book about friendship and team work, and, although this is a story about a witch, I don’t think it needs to be limited to Halloween only – it is more of an anytime-of-the-year book. I can highly recommend this for children aged 2 to 8. Without doubt, a five star treasure to keep for years to come!

Fing – A Modern Fairy Tale by Papa G   
Published on Amazon:  Kindle $1.24  Paperback $3.99

This is a terrific story about six-year old Ulrich Von Strudel, a determined little boy born without knees.  And, as if that were not enough, he has just been told his parents have been eaten by pygmies and his very mean great-aunt, Mrs Lipstick, is on her way to collect him from boarding school and look after him. When the evil Mrs Lipstick takes Ulrich home, she banishes him to the distant and inhospitable attic.  Mrs Lipstick not only dislikes little boys, she is also totally aware that if anything happens to Ulrich, she will inherit the entire Von Strudel family estate. All she has to do is find a way to “accident” Ulrich and all will be hers. But, unbeknown to the evil great-aunt, Ulrich finds a sock-loving, one-eyed monster in the closet, who soon becomes his only friend, and who encourages him to heed his mother’s advice – “If you stay positive, things will always get better.”
This is a book which can be read in one sitting or, since it is chaptered, can be read as a bedtime story a bit at a time. Either way, it is filled with humour, touched with sadness and a little bit scary in parts. Children will love it! The writing is excellent and the black and white drawings are extremely good. Recommended age 6 years plus.  I give Fing 5 stars!

I’ll Follow the Moon by Stephanie Lisa Tara 
Published on Amazon:  Kindle $3.09   Paperback $12.95

The illustrations first drew me to this book – they are delightful!  Although, with the exception of the line which is repeated on every page, I did find the rhyming a little hard to read since it didn’t entirely flow. I have read some of the reviews which argue the point that this tale is far from factual in terms of the beginning of life as a turtle. Although I have to agree with this, it is worth bearing in mind that this will probably be read to very small children who won’t be too worried about the minor details. It is just a charming story about a baby turtle hatching and vowing to find its mummy, which I am sure both parents and children (possibly 2 – 6) will find very appealing. This book deserves a solid 4 stars.

The Adventures of Loafy Lion and Friends by Richard Bullivant 
Available on Amazon : Kindle $1.24

Loafy Lion is so named because of his supposed idleness, and the fact that “He never went out to hunt… ever!” This eventually prompts the pride to lose respect for him and ask him to leave.  This he does with heavy heart and wanders off into the distance. Then Loafy sees a friend in trouble. In fact, he is not lazy at all, just a bit deaf with perfect eyesight – all a bit topsy-turvy for a lion. As it also happens, Loafy is not into eating other animals, most of them are his friends. And when friends are in trouble – you just have to get up and do something about it.
This is the best short story I have read for a long time.  The characters are comical and it would have been great to see some images of them. The story itself is well-written and very funny, though a little too short for a book.  More than one adventure in the same book would have done more for me. Nevertheless, Loafy Lion is really enjoyable, and teaches children a bit about animals on the Continent (not country as the author would have us believe) of Africa.  There are also a couple of lessons in there too. I was a bit disappointed at the lack of illustrations, which I thought would work very well here.  But, all in all, this is a great read and well deserving of 4 good stars. It would be suited to 5 years and upwards.

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

Children’s Book of the Week and Other Book Reviews


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Having missed a week over the Christmas holidays, and I hope you all had a most wonderful time, here are my reviews for the start of the New Year. This week’s reviews cover books ranging from ages 2 to 12 years plus, most of which can also be enjoyed by adults. There is a wonderful fantasy adventure, a sweet (belated – but my fault) Christmas tale, a comical look at life from a dog’s point of view and a short rhyming picture book for very young children. Please scroll down to read my reviews of this week’s books.

Children’s Book of the Week: Escape from Hat by Adam Kline and Brian Taylor
Published on Amazon Kindle $3.28 and Hardcover $18.99

I bought this book because I was intrigued by the amount of 5 star reviews it had garnered (63 out of 64 at the last look).  Nothing can be this good, I thought. But wow, was I wrong! I was captivated from the first page. From the cute and the courageous to the mean metal Dimmer-Dammers, from the tribe of pigs led by Kadogo to Gordon, the lovable cave monster who’s afraid of the dark, this is the perfect read.

Escape from HatMy Review 

‘Escape from Hat’ tells the story of a young boy, Cecil Bean, and his faithful and devoted lucky rabbit, Leek, and a black cat called Millikin whose job it is to create misfortune in Cecil’s life. By Millikin’s machinations, Leek is drugged, kidnapped and dropped into an evil and incompetent magician’s hat, inside of which he falls into the depths of Millikin’s dark world of ‘Hat’ from which return seems unlikely. Here Leek meets a fairly mixed bag of good and bad creatures but his patience and kindness sees him through. That, and the never-ending desire to be with his human again to protect him against Millikin’s bad luck. Millikin discovers Leek has survived the other creatures and conditions of Hat, and is now wandering through his space. He vows vengeance upon him and calls on his legions of other black cats to help.  Cecil meanwhile, dogged by constant bad luck since Leek’s disappearance, meets a mysterious old man who proffers an in-depth knowledge of Cecil’s situation and much encouragement to change it. Cecil listens well, makes up his mind and sets out on a quest to find Leek. Both Cecil and Leek experience difficult and frightening times as they go on their respective, and often parallel, journeys. But neither is deterred. In fact, both are driven by the same inner need to be together again.

This is a book about duty, determination and friendship. There is plenty of action and suspense and lots of surprises. The truffle part is hilarious and almost believable. I found I had to keep on reading, wondering what may happen to Leek and his companions next, and where Cecil was, and how soon would he come to the rescue.  That is not to say he does – you will have to read the book to find that out.

The pages are interspersed with both black and white drawings and striking colour plates, of which I much preferred the latter, but that is only my opinion. Both are extremely well executed.

Overall, this is a beautifully written book which is exciting, entertaining and inventive. A book I truly enjoyed reading and would have no hesitation in recommending to anyone over the age of six. It’s an absolute 5 star treat!

Other Books I Have Read and Reviewed This Week

Dart and the Squirrels by Nicole Izmaylov
Published on Amazon Kindle $3.11 and Paperback $6.99

A world-weary old dog lies at the back of his crate in the pound thinking no-one will want to adopt a dog like him. Then along comes the wild Scribe tribe, whose son, with all the panache of a charging rhino, bizarrely decides the animal has exactly the qualities a boy needs in a dog, and chooses him above all the endearing little puppies. He promptly names him D’Artagnan Whirligig Scribe, aka Dart.  Mr Scribe (father) pays the pound, pays the vet for clearance and pays the Happy Sunshine Obedience Fun owner “fifty bucks for a measly three biscuits and a hand on his butt” and off they all go. Then the fun begins.  Dart seems to attract trouble wherever he goes, and he is especially mischievous at Show and Tell when ‘Boy’ takes him to school. But misadventure aside, and despite Dart’s perception of matters being so very far removed from that of his human owners, Dart’s life is pretty good. Until, that is, a tornado comes along and uproots a tree which ends up inside the Scribe’s house.  With it comes the bane of Dart’s life – a squirrel, promptly adopted and named Emilia Vuvuzela Scribe.  Dart finds it difficult to like Emilia.  She gets all the best food, what he thinks are his treats and most of the attention. Although he does manage to steal the treats before she gets close enough to eat them. But he still cannot like her. Then he senses she needs help in an affair of the heart and he changes his opinion of her. She doesn’t seem so bad after all. As a consequence; his romantic side takes over and he quietly plots to make her happy.
Dart is the narrator of the book and, amongst other things, treats us all to his cynical take on pet owners,  and eloquently illustrates how our pets are probably not thinking what we think they are thinking at all.
Dart and the Squirrels is intelligently written and Nicole Izmaylov’s style is quite unique. It’s also lots of fun. But what makes it exceptional is it was written when the author was in middle school. Quite remarkable! For me this is very deserving of 5 stars.

Martin the Christmas Mouse by Jane Whiteoak    
Published on Amazon Kindle $2.07 

I bought this book before Christmas and although we are now a week past the event, I still wanted to read and review it having read another book from the same author, and having enjoyed it immensely.
Martin the Christmas Mouse is a tale about a selfless little mouse who, with his family, occupies a small space in the living room wall in the house of Mr Kingsley, described as a “kind elderly man, who couldn’t see very well without his glasses” and who is entirely oblivious to the existence of Martin, Martin’s parents and Martin’s sister Maria. The myopic Mr Kingsley is also blissfully unaware as to the amount of help he receives from Martin about the house. Martin, it seems, is very fond of the kindly and often forgetful Mr Kingsley. Christmas Eve arrives, and so do the grandchildren of Mr Kingsley, and thanks to Martin, all things are in place and Mr Kingsley has all he needs. But what will Santa bring for Martin and Maria!  Or are mice even remembered at Christmas!
This is a short and very delightful read suitable for children old enough to understand the meaning of Christmas. As with Jane Whiteoak’s ‘Thomas and the Lily Pond’ there is a positive message for the children. This time it is a message about the true spirit of Christmas. All in all, with a sweet protagonist, charming illustrations and an endearing story line, Martin the Christmas Mouse adds up to worthy entertainment. I highly recommend downloading a copy and keeping it for next Christmas. Hopefully, though, this will be in paperback by then. I give Martin the Christmas Mouse 5 stars

Maggie Mouse Gets Lost by Haley Moonspur
Published on Amazon Kindle $1.65

Maggie Mouse Gets Lost is a very short rhyming tale about a little mouse called Maggie who gets lost in the long grass and calls for her mother. Maggie sensibly stays exactly where she is and waits for her mother to find her, giving out a valuable message – when you are lost, stay where you are and you will be found.
Although the images are clearly computer generated, they are adorable and will enchant any small child.  The rhyming text flows almost perfectly and gets the message across well. The book itself, however, is a little too short and I found the print, far too small.  But it is very sweet and enjoyable and I can see it being read over and over again. Nice fun book for toddlers with a great message. I give ‘Maggie Mouse Gets Lost’ 4 stars.

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

 

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


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

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

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

About the Author 

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

My Review of Ode to Icky  

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

Amazon review from C. Chapman

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

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

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

He hated doing anything other than sleeping

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

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