Halloween altered tryout 2

Have a really spooky Halloween everyone.

It’s Halloween! It’s Halloween!
The moon is full and bright
And we shall see what can’t be seen
On any other night.

Skeletons and ghosts and ghouls,
Grinning goblins fighting duels,
Werewolves rising from their tombs,
Witches on their magic brooms.

In masks and gowns
we haunt the street
And knock on doors
for trick or treat.

Tonight we are
the king and queen,
For oh tonight
it’s Halloween!

Jack Prelutsky

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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.

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: 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


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.