Another Wonderful 5 Star Review of Mungai and the Goa Constrictor


My heartfelt thanks to author David Rowinski for this amazing review on amazon.

New Book Cover December 2012I finished reading Mungai and the Goa Constrictor over a week ago and though I planned on immediately posting a review I refrained, allowing myself time to consider the story.

As I closed the book, I believed I had read a simple fable about the evil of environmental exploitation, but after reflecting I realized her story is more nuanced. She resists the temptation to draw a clear line between humans and animals. Instead, she creates an amorphous creature of desire, Mungai, who allies with Goa, a constrictor. These two approach an array of animals. Seducing them with promises of comfort enjoyed by the two legged, these animals are soon in the employ of these tricksters. This is an important point. As countries emerge from poverty to seek their share of resources difficult challenges will be posed.

Ms Curzon weaves a wonderful tale, addressing pressing concerns with wit, wisdom, and sympathy.

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Book Tour: Untimed by Andy Gavin


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Untimed by Andy Gavin - Promotional Poster
 
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Genre: YA Time Travel Adventure/RomanceUntimed Book Cover

Publisher: Mascherato Publishing

Release Date: December 18, 2012

Amazon

Book Description:

Untimed is an action-packed time travel novel by Andy Gavin, author of The Darkening Dream and creator of Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter.

Charlie’s the kind of boy that no one notices. Hell, his own mother can’t remember his name. So when a mysterious clockwork man tries to kill him in modern day Philadelphia, and they tumble through a hole into 1725 London, Charlie realizes even the laws of time don’t take him seriously. Still, this isn’t all bad. Who needs school when you can learn about history first hand, like from Ben Franklin himself. And there’s this girl… Yvaine… another time traveler. All good. Except for the rules: boys only travel into the past and girls only into the future. And the baggage: Yvaine’s got a baby boy and more than her share of ex-boyfriends. Still, even if they screw up history — like accidentally let the founding father be killed — they can just time travel and fix it, right? But the future they return to is nothing like Charlie remembers. To set things right, he and his scrappy new girlfriend will have to race across the centuries, battling murderous machines from the future, jealous lovers, reluctant parents, and time itself.

Excerpt: Chapter One “Untamed”

UNTIMEDby Andy Gavin

Illustrations by Dave Phillips

Advance Review First Chapter
Cover Art Not Final
Formatting Not Final
Illustration Formatting Not Final

© 2011-2012, Andy Gavin. All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

MASCHERATO PUBLISHING
PO Box 1550
Pacific Palisades, Ca, 90272
publishing@mascherato.com
http://andy-gavin-author.com

Copyright © Andy Gavin 2012
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

MS version: 3.20a
75,300 words, November 19, 2012, 1:19:29 PM PST

Cover Photo-Illustration copyright © Cliff Nielsen 2012
Interior Illustrations copyright © Dave Phillips 2012

E-book ISBN 978-1-937945-05-3
Hardcover ISBN 978-1-937945-03-9
Trade Paperback ISBN 978-1-937945-04-6

Chapter One:
Ignored
Philadelphia, Autumn, 2010 and Winter, 2011

My mother loves me and all, it’s just that she can’t remember my name.
“Call him Charlie,” is written on yellow Post-its all over our house.
“Just a family joke,” Mom tells the rare friend who drops by and bothers to inquire.
But it isn’t funny. And those house guests are more likely to notice the neon paper squares than they are me.
“He’s getting so tall. What was his name again?”
I always remind them. Not that it helps.
Only Dad remembers, and Aunt Sophie, but they’re gone more often than not — months at a stretch.
This time, when my dad returns he brings a ginormous stack of history books.
“Read these.” The muted bulbs in the living room sharpen the shadows on his pale face, making him stand out like a cartoon in a live-action film. “You have to keep your facts straight.”
I peruse the titles: Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Asprey’s The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, Ben Franklin’s Autobiography. Just three among many.
“Listen to him, Charlie,” Aunt Sophie says. “You’ll be glad you did.” She brushes out her shining tresses. Dad’s sister always has a glow about her.
“Where’d you go this time?” I say.
Dad’s supposed to be this hotshot political historian. He reads and writes a lot, but I’ve never seen his name in print.
“The Middle East.” Aunt Sophie’s more specific than usual.
Dad frowns. “We dropped in on someone important.”
When he says dropped in, I imagine Sophie dressed like Lara Croft, parachuting into Baghdad.
“Is that where you got the new scar?” A pink welt snakes from the bridge of her nose to the corner of her mouth. She looks older than I remember — they both do.
“An argument with a rival… researcher.” My aunt winds the old mantel clock, the one that belonged to her mom, my grandmother. Then tosses the key to my dad, who fumbles and drops it.
“You need to tell him soon,” she says.
Tell me what? I hate this.
Dad looks away. “We’ll come back for his birthday.”

* * *
While Dad and Sophie unpack, Mom helps me carry the dusty books to my room.
“Time isn’t right for either of you yet,” she says. Whatever that means.
I snag the thinnest volume and hop onto my bed to read. Not much else to do since I don’t have friends and school makes me feel even more the ghost.

* * *

Mrs. Pinkle, my ninth-grade homeroom teacher, pauses on my name during roll call. Like she does every morning.
“Charlie Horologe,” she says, squinting at the laminated chart, then at me, as if seeing both for the first time.
“Here.”
On the bright side, I always get B’s no matter what I write on the paper.
In Earth Science, the teacher describes a primitive battery built from a glass of salt water covered in tin foil. She calls it a Leyden jar. I already know about them from Ben Franklin’s autobiography — he used one to kill and cook a turkey, which I doubt would fly with the school board.
The teacher beats the topic to death, so I practice note-taking in the cipher Dad taught me over the weekend. He shows me all sorts of cool things — when he’s around. The system’s simple, just twenty-six made-up letters to replace the regular ones. Nobody else knows them. I write in highlighter and outline in red, which makes the page look like some punk wizard’s spell book. My science notes devolve into a story about how the blonde in the front row invites me to help her with her homework. At her house. In her bedroom. With her parents out of town.
Good thing it’s in cipher.
After school is practice, and that’s better. With my slight build and long legs, I’m good at track and field — not that the rest of the team notices. A more observant coach might call me a well-rounded athlete.
The pole vault is my favorite, and only one other kid can even do it right. Last month at the Pennsylvania state regionals, I cleared 16’ 4”, which for my age is like world class. Davy — that’s the other guy — managed just 14’ 8”.
And won. As if I never ran that track, planted the pole in the box, and threw myself over the bar. The judges were looking somewhere else? Or maybe their score sheets blew away in the wind.
I’m used to it.

* * *
Dad is nothing if not scheduled. He and Sophie visit twice a year, two weeks in October, and two weeks in January for my birthday. But after my aunt’s little aside, I don’t know if I can wait three months for the big reveal, whatever it is. So I catch them in his study.
“Dad, why don’t you just tell me?”
He looks up from his cheesesteak and the book he’s reading — small, with only a few shiny metallic pages. I haven’t seen it before, which is strange, since I comb through all his worldly possessions whenever he’s away.
“I’m old enough to handle it.” I sound brave, but even Mom never looks him in the eye. And he’s never home — it’s not like I have practice at this. My stomach twists. I might not like what he has to say.
“Man is not God.”
One of his favorite expressions, but what the hell is it supposed to mean?
“Fink.” For some reason Aunt Sophie always calls him that. “Show him the pages.”
He sighs and gathers up the weird metallic book.
“This is between the three of us. No need to stress your mother.”
What about stressing me? He stares at some imaginary point on the ceiling, like he always does when he lectures.
“Our family has—”
The front doorbell rings. His gaze snaps down, his mouth snaps shut. Out in the hall, I hear my mom answer, then men’s voices.
“Charlie,” Dad says, “go see who it is.”
“But—”
“Close the door behind you.”

* * *

I stomp down the hall. Mom is talking to the police. Two cops and a guy in a suit.
“Ma’am,” Uniform with Mustache says, “is your husband home?”
“May I help you?” she asks.
“We have a warrant.” He fumbles in his jacket and hands her an official-looking paper.
“This is for John Doe,” she tells him.
The cop turns to the man in the suit, deep blue, with a matching bowler hat like some guy on PBS. The dude even carries a cane — not the old-lady-with-a-limp type, more stroll-in-the-park. Blue Suit — a detective? — tilts forward to whisper in the cop’s ear. I can’t hear anything but I notice his outfit is crisp. Every seam stands out bright and clear. Everything else about him too.
“We need to speak to your husband,” the uniformed cop says.
I mentally kick myself for not ambushing Dad an hour earlier.
Eventually, the police tire of the runaround and shove past me as if I don’t exist. I tag along to watch them search the house. When they reach the study, Dad and Sophie are gone. The window’s closed and bolted from the inside.
All the other rooms are empty too, but this doesn’t stop them from slitting every sofa cushion and uncovering my box of secret DVDs.

* * *

Mom and I don’t talk about Dad’s hasty departure, but I do hear her call the police and ask about the warrant.
They have no idea who she’s talking about.
Yesterday, I thought Dad was about to deliver the Your mother and I have grown apart speech. Now I’m thinking more along the lines of secret agent or international kingpin.
But the months crawl by, business as usual, until my birthday comes and goes without any answers — or the promised visit from Dad. I try not to let on that it bothers me. He’s never missed my birthday, but then, the cops never came before, either.
Mom and I celebrate with cupcakes. Mine is jammed with sixteen candles, one extra for good luck.
I pry up the wrapping paper from the corner of her present.
“It’s customary to blow out the candles first,” Mom says.
“More a guideline than a rule,” I say. “Call it advanced reconnaissance.” That’s a phrase I picked up from Sophie.
Mom does a dorky eye roll, but I get the present open and find she did well by me, the latest iPhone — even if she skimped on the gigabytes. I use it to take two photos of her and then, holding it out, one of us together.
She smiles and pats my hand.
“This way, when you’re out on a date you can check in.”
I’m thinking more about surfing the web during class.
“Mom, girls never notice me.”
“How about Michelle next door? She’s cute.”
Mom’s right about the cute. We live in a duplex, an old house her family bought like a hundred years ago. Our tenants, the Montags, rent the other half, and we’ve celebrated every Fourth of July together as long as I can remember.
“Girls don’t pay attention to me.” Sometimes paraphrasing helps Mom understand.
“All teenage boys say that — your father certainly did.”
My throat tightens. “There’s a father-son track event this week.” A month ago, I went into orbit when I discovered it fell during Dad’s visit, but now it’s just a major bummer — and a pending embarrassment.
She kisses me on the forehead.
“He’ll be here if he can, honey. And if not, I’ll race. You don’t get your speed from his side of the family.”
True enough. She was a college tennis champ and he’s a flat-foot who likes foie gras. But still.

* * *

Our history class takes a field trip to Independence Park, where the teacher prattles on in front of the Liberty Bell. I’ve probably read more about it than she has.
Michelle is standing nearby with a girlfriend. The other day I tapped out a script on my phone — using our family cipher — complete with her possible responses to my asking her out. Maybe Mom’s right.
I slide over.
“Hey, Michelle, I’m really looking forward to next Fourth of July.”
“It’s January.” She has a lot of eyeliner on, which would look pretty sexy if she wasn’t glaring at me. “Do I know you from somewhere?”
That wasn’t in my script. I drift away. Being forgettable has advantages.
I tighten the laces on my trainers then flop a leg up on the fence to stretch. Soon as I’m loose enough, I sprint up the park toward the red brick hulk of Independence Hall. The teachers will notice the headcount is one short but of course they’ll have trouble figuring out who’s missing. And while a bunch of cops are lounging about — national historic landmark and all — even if one stops me, he won’t remember my name long enough to write up a ticket.
The sky gleams with that cloudless blue that sometimes graces Philly. The air is crisp and smells of wood smoke. I consider lapping the building.
Then I notice the man exiting the hall.
He glides out the white-painted door behind someone else and seesaws down the steps to the slate courtyard. He wears a deep blue suit and a matching bowler hat. His stride is rapid and he taps his walking stick against the pavement like clockwork.
The police detective.
I shift into a jog and follow him down the block toward the river. I don’t think he sees me, but he has this peculiar way of looking around, pivoting his head side to side as he goes.
It’s hard to explain what makes him different. His motions are stiff but he cuts through space without apparent effort. Despite the dull navy outfit, he looks sharper than the rest of the world, more in focus.
Like Dad and Sophie.
The man turns left at Chestnut and Third, and I follow him into Franklin Court.
He stops inside the skeleton of Ben Franklin’s missing house. Some idiots tore it down two hundred years ago, but for the bicentennial the city erected a steel ‘ghost house’ to replace it.
I tuck myself behind one of the big white girders and watch.
The man unbuttons his suit and winds himself.
Yes, that’s right. He winds himself. Like a clock. There’s no shirt under his jacket — just clockwork guts, spinning gears, and whirling cogs. There’s even a rocking pendulum. He takes a T-shaped key from his pocket, sticks it in his torso, and cranks.
Hardly police standard procedure.
Clueless tourists pass him without so much as a sideways glance. And I always assumed the going unnoticed thing was just me.
He stops winding and scans the courtyard, calibrating his head on first one point then another while his finger spins brass dials on his chest.
I watch, almost afraid to breathe.
CHIME. The man rings, a deep brassy sound — not unlike Grandmom’s old mantel clock.
I must have gasped, because he looks at me, his head ratcheting around 270 degrees until our eyes lock.
Glass eyes. Glass eyes set in a face of carved ivory. His mouth opens and the ivory mask that is his face parts along his jaw line to reveal more cogs.
CHIME. The sound reverberates through the empty bones of Franklin Court.
He takes his cane from under his arm and draws a blade from it as a stage-magician might a handkerchief.
CHIME. He raises the thin line of steel and glides in my direction.
CHIME. Heart beating like a rabbit’s, I scuttle across the cobblestones and fling myself over a low brick wall.
CHIME. His walking-stick-cum-sword strikes against the brick and throws sparks. He’s so close I hear his clockwork innards ticking, a tiny metallic tinkle.
CHIME. I roll away from the wall and spring to my feet. He bounds over in pursuit.
CHIME. I backpedal. I could run faster if I turned around, but a stab in the back isn’t high on my wishlist.
CHIME. He strides toward me, one hand on his hip, the other slices the air with his rapier. An older couple shuffles by and glances his way, but apparently they don’t see what I see.
CHIME. I stumble over a rock, snatch it up, and hurl it at him. Thanks to shot put practice, it strikes him full in the face, stopping him cold.
CHIME. He tilts his head from side to side. I see a thin crack in his ivory mask, but otherwise he seems unharmed.
CHIME. I dance to the side, eying the pavement, find another rock and grab it.
CHIME. We stand our ground, he with his sword and me with my stone.
“Your move, Timex!” I hope I sound braver than I feel.
CHIME. Beneath the clockwork man, a hole opens.
The manhole-sized circle in the cobblestones seethes and boils, spilling pale light up into the world. He stands above it, legs spread, toes on the pavement, heels dipping into nothingness.
The sun dims in the sky. Like an eclipse — still visible, just not as bright. My heart threatens to break through my ribs, but I inch closer.
The mechanical man brings his legs together and drops into the hole. The seething boiling hole.
I step forward and look down….
Into a whirlpool that could eat the Titanic for breakfast. But there’s no water, only a swirling tube made of a million pulverized galaxies. Not that my eyes can really latch onto anything inside, except for the man. His crisp dark form shrinks into faraway brightness.
Is this where Dad goes when he drops in on someone? Is the clockwork dude his rival researcher?
The sun brightens, and as it does, the hole starts to contract. Sharp edges of pavement eat into it, closing fast. I can’t let him get away. Somehow we’re all connected. Me, the mechanical man, Sophie, and Dad.
I take a step forward and let myself fall.

*
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Andy Gavin Headshot

About The Author:

Andy Gavin is an unstoppable storyteller who studied for his Ph.D. at M.I.T. and founded video game developer Naughty Dog, Inc. at the age of fifteen, serving as co-president for two decades. There he created, produced, and directed over a dozen video games, including the award winning and best selling Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter fD7B38Aranchises, selling over 40 million units worldwide. He sleeps little, reads novels and histories, watches media obsessively, travels, and of course, writes.

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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: No Boys Allowed by Marilyn Levinson
Available on Amazon: eBook $4.08 and in Paperback

I am very pleased to introduce this week’s Children’s Book of the Week, which addresses the subject of divorce and children, from a child’s point of view. A very enjoyable read for both child and adult alike!  Please read my review below.

No boys Allowed by Marilyn Levinson featured on mungaiandthegoaconstrictor.meMy Review

Eleven year old Cassie finds herself loathing all men following her father’s departure from home. He has left her mother for a younger woman and has moved to another state. In Cassie’s young mind he has abandoned them all without further thought.  She is both hurt and angry. Her first response is to clear out anything he has left behind.  This she does with the exception of one item, a stamp album her father was given as a boy. Her second is to try and ban all boys and men from the house.

After suffering such an enormous loss and then being left in a state of bewilderment as her mother starts to see other men, Cassie finds herself experiencing all sorts of emotions – few of which she understands. But all of which have impacted on her progress at school and her fledgling social life. Her cosy world, torn apart by her parent’s separation, has become unfamiliar to her. She needs to apportion the blame, and who better for the role than her father. Nothing is right in Cassie’s world anymore – and she firmly believes it is entirely his fault. To add to her distress, and intrude upon her new policy of ‘No Boys Allowed’, her Great Uncle Harry, recovering from a heart attack, moves in with them, taking over her bedroom and forcing her to share with her sister, thus depriving her of her highly treasured privacy.

It goes without saying, knowing of Marilyn Levinson’s reputation as a writer, that the book is well-written, but it is worth noting how truly well she portrays the judgement of an eleven year old child. There are lots of different ways of dealing with and sharing uncertainties, and the introduction of Great Uncle Harry, who quietly puts everything into perspective, presents Cassie with all the right opportunities. She is able to move away from her anger and frustration to a place where life becomes more bearable and enjoyable. Cassie is not the only one coping with the effects of her father’s parting, and each character is shown to be dealing with their feelings in their own individual way.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story – it is a good story with a worthy true-to-life plot. It is sympathetic, poignant and convincing. The writing flows beautifully and I personally felt compelled to keep reading on regardless of other commitments.  The subject of divorce and children is treated in a subtle and sensitive way here and will no doubt strike a chord with young readers in the same, not uncommon, situation. Perhaps they will be able to draw something beneficial from Cassie’s feelings and experiences. All-in-all, an excellent read! (5 stars)

(No Boys Allowed would be best suited to 9 years and upwards)

Other Books I Have Reviewed

The Exciting Adventures of Percy the Pig by Tori Gilbert
Available on Amazon Kindle only: eBook $3.03

Percy the Pig lives at Fiddlewood Farm with his friends, the other animals. Their lives are nigh on perfect, until one of them, Lotti the lamb, goes missing. They search the farm thoroughly, and when Lotti isn’t found, they decide he must have been taken by someone.  Percy promises the distraught Matilda, Lotti’s mother, that he will go in search of him. His friends rally round and two of them offer to go with him on his mission. They hitch a lift into the nearby market town of Butterfly Creek by sneaking on to the back of Farmer Jones’ truck and hiding between the bales of hay.  In the town they meet a cat, Alley, whom Percy takes an instant dislike to. Here begins their adventure.
I liked this book. It starts with the names and types of the animals written in bold letters, instantly allowing children to identify them throughout the story. It is well-written, fun and has a few good lessons – none of which are laboured, but instead just quietly slipped into the text. It is a book about loyalty, team work, keeping promises, friendship and not judging others too quickly. Some lovely colourful illustrations too! There is also the opportunity for some interaction at the end. All in all, a great little book! (4 stars)
(The Exciting Adventures of Percy would be best suited to 4 – 9 years)

Wolf Facts and Pictures by P.K.Miller
Available on Amazon Kindle only: eBook $1.19

The book was offered free, and being an avid supporter of the wolf population, I took advantage of the offer. I am so pleased I did. It is absolutely filled with interesting information about the species, such as how they care for their cubs, how they stay warm in such cold conditions and what is behind that beautifully haunting sound.
In today’s current climate, wolves and their welfare are often at the forefront of the news. This book is very timely in that respect.
It is not a long dreary textbook; it is more entertaining than that. It is fun and easy to read and has some wonderful images of these beautiful, majestic creatures at home in the wild. Both factual and enjoyable, it seeks to dispel the myth surrounding wolves; they do not prey upon man, often they are the prey. If you too are a wolf-lover – this is for you. A neat little reference book right there on your Kindle (4 stars)
(Wolf Facts and Pictures would be best suited to 7 years to adult)

The Adventures of Frosty (The Strange Thing) by Waide Marshall
Available on Amazon Kindle only: eBook $3.33

This is a very appealing and funny little book involving an endearing little penguin, Frosty, who finds a strange object which arouses his curiosity. He uses all his senses to find out what it is.
The story is made up of simple words, sweet and easy to understand.  The illustrations, which are executed using arcs, circles and other basic shapes, are perfect. The eyes depicted in the story are terrific – at one point, as the pages are turned, they get bigger and bigger! I had to go through this book 5 times in a row for the youngest member of the family.  She so delighted in those eyes.
This book is adorable, well worth the price and it is bound to appeal to small children!  (4 stars)
(The Adventures of Frosty (The Strange Thing) would be best suited to 2 – 5 years) 

***

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 Tales of Big and Little: Doom of the Three Stones by Josh Kilen
Available on Amazon: eBook $3.07 and in Paperback $7.99

I never imagined I would like a story containing Ninja Pizza crusts and cheese.  It all sounded rather, well quite frankly, cheesy to me.  But no! Josh Kilen’s masterful story-telling makes this all work really well, providing a story that is captivating, highly entertaining and extremely imaginative. Please read my review below.

Big and Little featured Children's Book of the Week on Mungai and the Goa ConstrictorMy Review

Big and Little are two dogs hooked on cheese, and anything else that lists it as an ingredient. This inordinate addiction takes them on a wild adventure to a magical world where beleaguered gnomes battle against dynamic Ninja Pizza crusts, and other edible adversaries, all led by a power-hungry and destructive cat called Shir. Shir’s ultimate aim is to take over the Worlds.

Whilst unsuccessfully trying to steal some cheese (two vicious guard dogs are in attendance), Big and Little come across a gnome. After bribing Big and Little with the promise of help to access the cheese, the gnome persuades them to help him with his own problem. Blinded by greed, they both hastily agree to do just that. Having done so, they follow the gnome down a hole into a magical tunnel and back into his world where the adventure begins. Here they encounter all manner of scary things, such as evil forests and swamp monsters and, of course, the terrifying and wicked Shir.

This book is lots of fun and quite hard to put down, especially as every episode ends with a cliff-hanger. There are no pictures, but the storyline is gripping enough to keep children interested. The characters are, to say the least, unusual, but also enjoyable. And our heroes practise the perfect ethics of: Whatever they start; they finish. When it comes to others; they apply the Golden Rule. Both excellent ideals for children!

Despite there are a few deaths in this, I don’t think it makes it sad for young children. At least some deaths should not. After all, who can lament the passing of a pizza crust? The battle scenes, however, may be a tad scary for some younger readers.

This book is part one of the series and I can’t wait to read the others. In all, this is a highly entertaining and worthwhile read. My only criticism; this book is listed as a ‘bedtime’ read.  I think it is an ‘anytime’ read.  (5 stars)

(The Tales of Big and Little would be ideally suited to ages 6 and upwards)

Other Books I Have Reviewed

Sock Full of Pennies by Danny Dean   
Available on Amazon: eBook $3.01 and in Paperback $13.91

This book is about a boy, incessantly bullied at school and perpetually and brutally abused by his father at home, who progresses from being one of the poorest boys in the community to an impossibly rich coal magnate.  All of which is achieved with hard work, persistence, kindness to others and a good deal of foresight.
Rusty Sledge, the protagonist, begins his life in a small town in West Virginia.  He is of above average intelligence, and as a result does well at school, but due to extreme poverty and his father’s treatment of him, he arrives there each day shabbily dressed, tired and often bruised. He also has unkempt red hair and spots, and is small for his age. This all leads to an unwarranted amount of bullying by Barry Buckley, the wealthy son of a local coal mine owner whose father Rusty’s father works for.  Barry is privileged, spoilt, not very bright, over-weight and has a very nasty streak in him. He is also of the impression that whatever he does, right or wrong, his father will bail him out. Sadly this is often the case. Barry bullies and torments Rusty year after year until Rusty fills his only good sock (there are no holes in it!) with the 446 pennies he has saved from his odd jobs. He then retaliates, inflicting a great deal of pain upon Barry. From here begins a story which spans three continents. It is a story about peaceful retribution, honesty in all things, determination and taking care of those who mean the most to you. But above all, it is a story of inherent goodness conquering deep-rooted evil.
This is a book which is very difficult to put down. It is clear author Danny Dean has a vast, in-depth knowledge of the coal mining industry, and has shared much of this with the reader, but not in an overly technical or long-winded way, but instead has created an interesting and enjoyable learn-as-you-go text (for those of us unfamiliar with the running of and workings of mines – personally, I gleaned quite a lot from this).
I would also like to stress this book does contain violence. It is definitely not for young children. However, the story is beautifully told, and the violence is far from gratuitous and, indeed, very pertinent to the overall narrative. Though I did notice a (very) few mistakes, it in no way spoilt my enjoyment of this book. (5 stars)
(Sock Full of Pennies would be best suited to 14 years plus)

Raindrop’s World by Carl Pettit
Available on Amazon: eBook $1.22 and in Paperback $9.99

Raindrop’s World is a collection of short interwoven stories about some of the smaller creatures that inhabit the Amazonian Rainforest – several ants, a dung beetle who lives amongst them, and a sage old tree frog. Led on by Pollen (a leafcutter ant), Little Clay (the dung beetle) goes on an adventure into another part of the rainforest to meet Raindrop (another leafcutter) at the bottom of the Giant Kapok tree.  Raindrop wants to climb to the top of the Kapok tree to find a wise and very elusive old tree frog known as the Guru. She has many questions for him and is expecting him to have all the answers. They set off up the tree together. Unfortunately, due to the lateness of the day, Pollen and Raindrop abandon Little Clay half way up the tree. They find a unique way of getting to the bottom quickly, and he is left all alone in unfamiliar surroundings. Not to be phased by this, Little Clay braves it out and continues with some adventures of his own.
This book is wonderful, and it is so good to read a book about the smaller creatures of the rainforest. Though, we do get to briefly meet a jaguar, a finch and an imaginary armadillo!
The characters are sweet and funny and there are some great little maps of the rainforest and cute illustrations of the characters.  I highly recommend this book for young readers. (4 stars)
(Raindrop’s World would be best suited to ages 5 and upwards)

My T-Rex Has a Toothache by Elwyn Tate
Available on Amazon: eBook $2.10

This is a short rhyming book about a little boy’s pet dinosaur and how he takes him to the dentist to cure his toothache. When the dentist is unable to cure him, he takes his T-Rex to school. Still no luck! So the little boy then has an idea of his own.
This is engaging and fun, and the illustrations are colourful and captivating. I do not own a Kindle Fire, so I cannot speak first hand, but I am told they work very well on it. The smallest member of my family (2 years) loved this little book and insisted on my reading it over and over again. She also took great delight in roaring with the dinosaur. (4 stars)
(My T-Rex Has a Toothache would be best suited to 2 -6 years)

***

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 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: But What If I DON’T Understand? By C. P. Siebenhuener
Available on Amazon in Paperback $8.99

I chose this book as Children’s Book of the Week because I think it carries such an important message. As a child, an incurably shy one I might add, I remember all too well how I was always afraid to ask if there was something I did not understand. It did me no good whatsoever.

But What if I Don't Understand Book Cover - Featured review on Children's Book of the Week on mungaiandthegoaconstrictor.meMy Review of But What If I DON’T Understand?

“But What If I DON’T Understand?” begins with the child Danielle coming home from school, dragging her feet in an attempt to slow down the inevitable homecoming meeting with her mother. She has taken a test at school and has not done very well. Her fears cover a whole spectrum of concerns; disappointing her mother, being laughed at by her classmates and incurring her teachers wrath. Danielle’s mother, however, is very understanding and quietly explains to Danielle why she must not worry and why it is alright to ask the teacher if there is anything at all she does not understand.

This book teaches children the importance of asking questions in order to stay abreast of the rest of the class. Too many children find themselves in Danielle’s position, as they have done for generations.  To not understand and  to not ask is to be left behind. Both parents and children will be able to appreciate, via the straightforward, well-written and delightful dialogue, that this sort of communication problem can be overcome. This book also provides a very useful tool for educators who may well often overlook these reticent children in the classroom. The message is expressed in a sweet and sensible way by a loving parent to her child. It really is quite endearing.

I highly recommend this book to anyone whose own child may be having difficulties at school through not being able to keep up. Or one who teaches a child who is not reaching their full potential. An added bonus here is that when you buy the Paperback version you have the opportunity to download an audio version free. That’s pretty good in my opinion. I am giving “But What If I DON’T Understand?” 5 stars.

Song for Papa Crow by Marit Menzin
Available on Amazon in Hardcover $13.20
I received a copy of Song for Papa Crow from Netgalley.

Little Crow is desperate to have someone to play with. But when he tries to sing along with the other birds, all of which have beautiful voices, he is made fun of because of his ugly ‘caw’ sound.   Then a mockingbird comes to town and gives a concert.  Little crow is so impressed with his singing he persuades Papa Crow to take him ‘backstage’ for an autograph.  Mockingbird gives Little Crow a seed which enables him to sing like the other birds. This, however, has its own consequences.

Written and illustrated by Marit Menzin, Song for Papa Crow is amazing!  It is filled with sumptuous illustrations skilfully put together as collages. Although I read this book from my computer, I could almost feel the texture of the images, and the colours are superb. The text is well-written and very descriptive.  Children, and adults, are able to learn about, and recognise, varies species of birds and their songs. At the back of the book there are some Fun Facts about the birds in the story. Excellent! If this doesn’t garner your child’s interest in the bird world – nothing will.

This is a story about acceptance of who we are, and about being happy with those valuable gifts we have been endowed with. We all have our own particular voice, and all our voices will be heard, despite we may think others sound better.

Song for Papa Crow is a book you will want to keep forever. This is definitely a 5 star read.

Patchwork Dog and Calico Cat by Greta Burroughs
Available on Amazon in Paperback $13.99 and on Kindle $3.17

Patchwork Dog and Calico Cat is a series of short stories for young children, portraying the various adventures two friends, the dog and cat in the title. Together they try and learn to fly, get trapped in a shed with a skunk during the rain, and eat sour apples by mistake, to name but a few of their lovely adventures. Though Calico prefers to laze around in comfort, Patchwork is far more adventurous and just can’t resist trying everything – most of which lands him in trouble. At the end of each story there are three fun questions which involve the young readers, keeping their interest up by opening a discussion about what they have read. Marvellous – children can remember the adventure and discuss the message given. Well done to Greta Burroughs – i think that works very well!

This book is lots of fun and great for young animal lovers. Well-written with tons of humour, it can be thoroughly enjoyed by children aged 4 and upwards, and it is rather fun to read out loud as a parent too. The youngest member of my family enjoyed Patchwork and Calico so much; I just had to give them 5 stars.

Kevin and the Seven Lions by Martin Tiller
Available on Amazon in Paperback $7.62 and on Kindle $3.05

Kevin, our main character, is a young boy unable to stop himself from daydreaming, especially when in school. He drifts away constantly during lessons into a world of dinosaurs, submarines, spaceships and lions. Kevin’s teacher, Mrs Calvin, is repeatedly trying to get his attention. Finally she comes up with an idea, and gives Kevin a notebook asking him to write down his dreams as they occur. Kevin is suspicious of this request at first, but when some interest is shown in his stories by his parents, he throws himself into his writing.

This is a wonderful little book from Martin Tiller which offers the sort of encouragement many a budding young writer would be thrilled to receive. I am sure many will also be able to identify with Kevin and his dream world, a realm so many generations of children, with their vivid imaginations, will have wandered off to in the past.
I loved the illustrations and found the book to be extremely well-written. My only qualms being; it ended a bit abruptly for me and I felt as if I were missing a page.  Kevin’s seven lions were reduced to six in my version, without explanation! Perhaps another download would show this as rectified. I would highly recommend this for age 6 years and up.

All 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.