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: 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.

 

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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 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


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

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


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

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.