Children’s Book of the Week and Other Book Reviews


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

Children’s Book of the Week: The Velveteen Rabbit  by Margery Williams Bianco 
Available on Amazon in Hardcover $11.01 and in Kindle/Paperback/Audio /Board Book

I first read this book as a child and I have never forgotten it. Sadly, my original copy disappeared years ago, so I was both amazed and thrilled when I saw it had been re-released (yet again) on Amazon earlier this year. I instantly grabbed a copy of this latest reprint to give to the youngest member of the family. It was an absolute delight to read all over again, especially to a young child wrapped up in every word. How many children have actually read this book may never be known, but it has a universal appeal to young and old alike, so there must be countless numbers of enlightened folk out there.

The Velveteen Rabbit Book Cover

My Review

The Velveteen Rabbit is the story of a stuffed toy given as a Christmas gift to a boy, and then being forgotten and left to its own devices in the nursery. As the title suggests, he is made of soft velveteen and “he was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; his coat was spotted brown and white, he had real thread whiskers, and his ears were lined with pink sateen”.

He spends his days waiting for the ‘boy’ to return to the nursery to claim him and love him, so he can become a ‘real’ rabbit. This, he is reliably informed by the skin horse, his only friend and the oldest and wisest toy in the nursery, is how toys become real.  “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” The Velveteen Rabbit’s wish to be claimed again comes true when the boy finally does come back for him, or rather Nanny does, and he and the boy become inseparable. Until, that is, the boy falls ill with scarlet fever and all things change.

This enchanting story brought heaps of memories flooding back. I am sure many a child with a favourite toy they loved more than the rest will have dreamt of it becoming ‘real’ one day. I know I did, so this touched a chord. Not only that, it really is the most endearing of tales, with touches of sadness and moments of joy.  It tells us toys have feelings too; and when you are a child, that is just what you do believe or want to believe. The writing is inspiring and the illustrations are divine, totally in keeping with the original artwork first published in 1922. No specific age can be applied to reading and enjoying this beautiful, heart-warming book; it’s suitable for both young and old. And, it is certainly a book that should grace every child’s bookshelf. (5 stars)

Other Books I Have Reviewed

A Doctor of Divinity Book CoverA Doctor of Divinity by Shelley J Reeves
Available on Amazon as an eBook $3.14  

When I first saw the title of this book, before having read the author’s note, I was not quite sure what to expect. But, as author Shelley J Reeves points out, the title is ‘merely a metaphor’. A Doctor of Divinity is, in fact, a story about a courageous and cheerful little chickadee sharing his kindness, happiness and wisdom; and his survival following particularly harsh weather, one winter in upper New England.
The winter in question has left ice on the ground and in the trees, sealing whichever ‘pantry’ Chick D.D. flies to in search of food. But then, quite unexpectedly, the loud, reverberating sound of snow shoes is heard upon the ground, and things start to look far more promising for the hungry little bird.
This is a short, touching tale which is beautifully, almost poetically written.  The descriptions of Chick D.D. and his habitat are rich, flowing and colourful. It is easy to imagine the cottony snow and the unrelenting ice; the descriptions are so alive with clarity. “The second storm had covered the soft white blanket with sparkling ice and had swept across the white-barked birch trees and their purple-brown branches, leaving them shining all over.” There is a worthy message of inspiration and hope to be found, which can be enjoyed by all.
The cover, of course, is delightful, and inside the book there are some very appealing photographs.
I would certainly recommend this book and hope it will be available in print at some point.  (5 stars)
(A Doctor of Divinity would be best suited to ages 12 years and upwards)

Buddie - The Trampolining Bear Book CoverBuddie – The Trampolining Bear by Sarah Cooper
Available on Amazon as an eBook $1.18

Summer Sault, once a champion gymnast, gives her son, Bouncer, a more than Olympic sized trampoline to practise his skills on for the forthcoming International Trampolining Event. Training for the event seems to be going extremely well until Bouncer wakes up one morning to find bear paw prints on his treasured apparatus. When he tries to tell his parents, school friends and Mrs Blossom, his teacher, they all make fun of him.  Even his best friend, Ed, finds it all somewhat amusing. Then Ed comes to Bouncer’s house for a sleepover, and both boys watch in awe from their bedroom window as one very accomplished little bear, Buddie,  appears and goes through her routine on the trampoline.
This is an imaginative little story filled with magic, friendship and kindness. It is eminently suitable for young children; especially those who like trampolines. As they now make these for the very young, safety bars and all, a great many children will be able to identify with Bouncer and Buddie.
In all, a magical story with sweet and likeable characters, and with lots of magical sparkly bits to enchant. The simple sweet drawings are also very endearing. (5 stars)
(Buddie – The Trampolining Bear would be best suited to age 5 years and upwards)

Rufus and Magic Run Amok Book CoverRufus and Magic Run Amok by Marilyn Levinson
Available on Amazon as an eBook $2.90 and in Paperback $7.99

Rufus Breckenridge is a ten-year old boy who reluctantly inherits some magical gifts. His mother, grandmother and aunt are all ‘empowered’, and he has seen it all before. In fact, he comes from a long line of witches. But he has never felt any inclination whatsoever to join the coven and share their lifestyle.
Rufus is not, however, sure when he will get to use these wonderful powers bestowed upon him, or indeed, if ever. As he ambles through his young life, ever thankful that the power, as yet, has not manifested itself, something awful happens to his long-time tormentor, Big Douggie, the school bully. And, all because the thought of getting his own back had run through Rufus’ mind!
This is the second of Marilyn Levinson’s books I have read. And this one, although aimed at a younger market, is just as enjoyable as the first. I was completely taken with it from page one. It’s one of those books you just have to keep turning the pages to see what happens next. It is a pretty short read and I’m confident that children will find it fun, fast-paced, and magical.  A thoroughly enjoyable book for anyone searching for a little magic in their day! Get ready to believe in witches again (the good sort). (5 stars)
(Rufus and Magic Run Amok would be best suited to ages 8 and 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.

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Children’s Book of the Week and Other Book Reviews


Mungai and the Goa Constrictor banner

Welcome to another week of children’s book reviews.  As ever, I hope you will enjoy my 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.