PoPB: The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland and Harold Finds a Voice by Courtney Dicmas.

pairofpicturebooks
Pair of Picture Books Tuesdays on Juniper’s Jungle bring two reviews of picture books.

The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland. Hodder Children’s.
TVCBIn the Jingle Jangle Jungle
on a wet and windy day,
four little friends meet
a very cranky bear.
Can they cheer him up?

I liked this book, I liked it a lot. The story is told in rhyme, it follows four animal friends who are looking for somewhere dry to play. They find a cave but don’t realise its already occupied, by a bear who just wants to sleep. Each of the animals thinks it knows the best way to cheer the bear up, initially this results in a very amusing but unsuccessful result. It takes an animal who is prepared to listen to what the bear actually wants in order to solve the bear’s problem.

The book’s illustrations are bold and striking. The colours are very rich and the pictures feel like they have a real depth. The depiction of the rain is very effective, I felt cold every time I saw a rainy picture. Of the animals my favourites were Lion thanks to his shiny, golden mane and Sheep thanks to her lovely soft looking fleece. I wasn’t 100% sure of the need for the two female characters Zebra and Sheep to have eyelashes and pink cheeks to signify that they were female, this information is conveyed in the text. One of my favourite details was that it was cards the animals wanted to play, as a keen card player I liked seeing these animals wanting to play too.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It would work really well as a group read with a nursery crowd, it would allow for discussions of hibernation and of how we can best help others.

Harold Finds a Voice by Courtney Dicmas. Child’s Play.
HaroldHarold is an amazing mimic, and can imitate the sound of everything in his home. Tired of repeating the same old noises, he yearns to find out what other voices there are in the big, wide world. But what happens when he suddenly realises that he doesn’t yet have a voice of his own?

This fantastic debut by author/illustrator Courtney Dicmas recounts Harold’s hilarious tale. It’s full of colour, humour and invention, and children will love to join in with Harold as he mimics everyday noises.

I loved this story! Harold is a parrot who is an incredible mimic of all of the sounds around him. His range is extensive, from alarm clocks to blenders, showers to vacuum cleaners. When he gets the opportunity to escape the flat he lives in he quickly adds lots of new sounds to his repertoire. When he realises he doesn’t know what he himself sounds like he has a go at making his own noise, and is pleased with the result. It’s a fun, simple story, I think it’s absolutely begging to be read aloud. It would require a bit of practice beforehand, I’m still not entirely sure how to try and make the noise of the blender!

The pictures are colourful and busy, occasionally to the level of feeling a little chaotic. This works well for the story but I was pleased that the very busy pages were infrequent. My favourite pages were the ones that just showed Harold, particularly a double spread where he is pacing and thinking. There’s so much movement and expression in this page, it felt very real.

Such a fun book, one that should be making its way into any nursery or childcare setting’s collection.

Both books featured in this post were borrowed from my local library.

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2015 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal nominations announced.

CKG

There’s great excitement this morning as the nominations lists for the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals have been released. The process was changed last year, bringing three lists stages – nominations then longlist then shortlist.

Today’s press release states:

91 books have been nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal and 71 nominated for the Kate Greenaway medal. The official long and shortlists identify a range of outstanding books for children and young people of all ages and interests and enable the 100,000 pupils in our 5,000 shadowing groups to engage with world-class literature and illustration from new and established authors and illustrators.

I’m not going to duplicate the lists here – that’s a combined 162 books (well, not quite as a couple are nominated for both awards) which would make for a very long post. Instead here is the link to the CILIP Carnegie Medal nominations and here is the link to the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal nominations.

What I will list is the books from the lists I’ve reviewed – this isn’t to say they’re necessarily my favourite, just that they’re books I’ve shared my opinions on. From the Carnegie nominations:

Black, Holly. The Coldest Girl In Coldtown

Carroll. Emma. The Girl Who Walked On Air

Hall, Tim. Shadow of the Wolf

Robinson, Hilary. Where the Poppies Now Grow

Sharpe, Tess. Far From You

And from the Kate Greenaway nominations:

Browne, Anthony. What If…?

Impey, Martin (illustrator) Robinson, Hilary (author) Where the Poppies Now Grow

The next stage in the process is the announcement of the longlists on 10th February 2015, then the announcement of the shortlist on 17th March 2015. The winners will be announced at the ceremony in June, the exact date is still to be confirmed.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Book Review: Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle.

FamousInLoveShe fell in love with him in the books – now she has the chance to star opposite him in the film…

Paige doesn’t think she’s particularly special, but after getting the starring role in a massive film adaptation of the bestselling Locked trilogy, the rest of the world would disagree. Now she’s thrown into the spotlight, and into a world of gossip, rumour and deceit. The only people who know what she’s going through are her two male co-stars, and they can’t stand the sight of each other. Paige knows it’s a mistake to fall in love on the set of a movie, but days of on-screen romance and intensity start to change her mind. The question is, can she keep what happens behind the scenes a secret when the world is watching her every move?

This book feels really current and very relevant, it focuses on Paige a young actress who gets the lead role in the latest YA movie adaptation. She’s done lots of acting locally, but never dreams that she’s going to be successful at the open audition looking for an unknown actress.

The book opens with a prologue that’s set at some point in Paige’s future. She’s already a famous actress at this point but she suggests that all is not as it seems. The story then leaps back to just before she gets the role, and then follows her through the filming of the first movie in the trilogy (like most existing YA movie adaptations the fictional story is a trilogy with fantasy elements and two boys vying for the girl’s attention).

Paige narrates the book, this along with the use of the present tense makes the book feel fresh and draws the reader into Paige’s life. Paige struggles with the transition from regular teenager to lead actress in a film that matters so much to so many fans, whilst this is generally well done she does from time to time come across as unnecessarily angsty.

The author works hard to explain to the reader that Paige isn’t your typical teen, she doesn’t read gossip mags and is happiest hiding in her local bookshop reading screenplays. This is necessary so that when she meets Rainer and Jordan, the two male actors she’ll be filming with, that she doesn’t know anything about them, their pasts or the trouble there has been between them.

There is a section in the book where Paige reflects on her favourite film, one with a makeover reveal scene – she talks at length about how much she loved the way the character becomes beautiful. She experienced a similar sort of makeover and is entirely buoyed by how everyone reacts to her – it made me sad that she bought so firmly into the clothes and make up and image thing. I really wished that she could see how false this was – I didn’t feel like it fitted in with what we knew about Paige either.

Like the fictional YA book that is the focus of the movie being filmed, this book has a love triangle. This lacked some subtlety, the tensions between Rainer and Jordan left me thinking they were both lying and manipulating Paige at points in the book. The ending felt very abrupt, lots of things slotting into place in a very short space of time. I think this was meant to reflect the whirlwind nature of the press commitments for promoting a film, but it didn’t translate so well.

I had lots of quibbles with this book but I did enjoy reading it. It’s certainly not one I’d be rushing to return to, and I won’t be racing to read the subsequent books in the series or the novella of the fictional book being made into a film (yes, the author of this has written and released the book that features in this book under the pseudonym of the fictional author – there’s no easy way to write that). I will more than likely read the later books at some point, if only to find out where the prologue of this book fits. This could have been a great book, but sadly it’s execution just falls a little short of its concept.

Famous in Love is published by Macmillan Children’s Books in the UK from 23rd October 2014. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Event News: YALC Pop Up Event.

YALC

After a very successful YA Lit Con in the summer, this Sunday sees a pop up event as part of London Film and Comic Con Winter. From the YALC website:

We’re delighted to announce that YALC will be popping up at the London Film and Comic Con Winter event, on Sunday 19 October, with two special spin-off panel events.

At 1.00pm, Hey YA! will bring together YALC favourites James Dawson and Non Pratt with superstar US author James Frey to discuss all things young adult fiction – what YA is, who reads it and why we love it – chaired by YALC’s Katherine Woodfine. (James Frey will also be doing a solo event at 2.00pm followed by a signing session.)

At 3.00pm, join us for Female Characters in Fantasy Fiction – a panel discussion exploring gender and genre with Laure Eve, Zoe Marriott and Samantha Shannon, chaired by Liz de Jager.

Each event will be followed by a one-hour book signing, with books available to buy from our Waterstones bookshop. Events are free with a ticket to London Film and Comic Con.

Tickets to London Film and Comic Con will be available to purchase on the door from 9am, priced ay £15 for early bird tickets (entry from 9.00am) and £8 for standard tickets (entry from 11.00am). For more information about Winter LFCC and tickets, see the website: http://www.londonfilmandcomiccon.com/

This sounds like a great opportunity to hear some great authors speak – if I was in London I’d definitely be going along.

Posted in General | Tagged | Leave a comment

PoPB: Noodle’s Knitting by Sheryl Webster & Caroline Pedler and Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon by Rachel Valentine & Ed Eaves.

pairofpicturebooks
Pair of Picture Books Tuesdays on Juniper’s Jungle bring two reviews of picture books.

Noodle’s Knitting by Sheryl Webster & Caroline Pedler (illustrator). Little Tiger Press.
NoodleNoodle’s Knitting Noodle has ALWAYS wanted to knit. She even knows all the magic words:

“Knit one, purl one, knit two together!”

So when Noodle finds a ball of wool, she knits and knits and knits…

But soon Noodle knits herself into a very big pickle!

I’m convinced that Little Tiger Press is producing some of the cutest picture books going, Noodle’s Knitting is no exception to this. After spending months watching the farmer’s wife knit Noodle finally gets her chance to give it a go – she has a ball of beautiful purple wool, some Noodle sized knitting needles (trying saying that three times!) and away to go. Admittedly this cute book is a little low on story, but the story it does contain is lovely and has an ending that made me want to leap into the book!

The illustrations are as lovely as the story. They’re filled with beautiful colours, and I found myself wanting to find a ball of wool the exact same purple as Noodle’s – I’d love a scarf that colour! This book is a little bit different, it’s been enhanced with “soft-to-touch wool on every page”. This adds an extra element of interest to each page, I think little hands will love tracing the wool throughout the book. I loved the attention to detail with the knitting – I could clearly see the different stitches (Noodle’s scarf appears to be knitted in stocking stitch which has two distinct sides).

A cute read, perfect for the autumn!

Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon by Rachel Valentine & Ed Eaves (illustrator). Bloomsbury.
MarmadukeMarmaduke isn’t like other dragons. He’s got big floppy ears, he’s orange and he doesn’t even fly! He can fly, but he won’t, because his wings… Well, they’re unusual.

But when Marmaduke embarks on a daring rescue mission, he has to make an important decision: will he keep his wings hidden, or will he dare to be different?

I love stories about dragons. I’m less keen on some of the princess related story tropes that often accompany dragons in stories, but it seems more and more books are trying to step away from these tropes. This book definitely tries it, first acknowledging the trope – the other dragons all protect princesses – and then showing a different story altogether featuring Marmaduke the very different dragon and Meg a very different princess. Marmaduke and Meg’s differences are carefully explored, along with everyone else’s reactions to them – this would produce some great discussion points in a nursery setting. I liked their story and I particularly liked its outcome.

The illustrations in this book are bold and colourful. They’re very attractive and appealing, I loved the contrast between Marmaduke and the rest of the dragons, and between Meg and the rest of the princess. I wouldn’t want to be a princess, but if I had to I’d want to be a princess like Meg! I’d also like a bedspread like hers, the bold colourful patchwork is beautiful.

This is a lovely addition to the dragon and princess story range. I’m very interested by the news that the author has another princess themed picture book coming out next year, The Three Princesses, it sounds like this one’s going even further to subvert the trope. It’s already on my list of books to look out for!

Both books featured in this post were borrowed from my local library.

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MG Monday: The Lost Journals of Benjamin Tooth & The Windvale Sprites by Mackenzie Crook.

middlegrademonday

Middle Grade Mondays on Juniper’s Jungle feature books aimed at 8 – 12 year olds, or younger. This week, The Lost Journals of Benjamin Tooth and The Windvale Sprites by Mackenzie Crook are both featured.

These two books are companion novels. The Windvale Sprites was published in 2011, and The Lost Journals of Benjamin Tooth was published in 2013.

LJoBTOne day I will be remembered as the greatest scientist that the world has ever known and so it is my duty to mankind to record my thoughts that future generations are able to study the progress of a genius.

I am eleven years old.

These are the recently discovered journals of Benjamin Tooth: alchemist, inventor and discoverer of the Windvale sprites. They chronicle his journey of scientific discovery from pompous boy to mad old man in his pursuit of the sprites on Windvale Moor. The sprites hold the key to eternal life, and Tooth is determined to capture it.

I read this book first, though I had been assured that it didn’t matter which order you read the books in. I chose to go chronologically – this book is set before The Windvale Sprites and so that made more sense to me.

I enjoyed the first part of the book very much. Benjamin Tooth is an engaging character, a young lad focused on science and his mission to excel in his scientific pursuits. Sadly, as the book progresses and Benjamin gets older I found him harder and harder to like, and found that I cared less and less about what happened to him. A couple of times I actually found myself wishing some great harm would come to him. I’m fine with characters not being likeable, but Benjamin was the sort of dislikable that made me consider putting the book down and not carrying on.

The journal format makes this book a quick read, this probably helped me to keep reading. When the sprites make their first appearance I found I was instantly taken by them – they’re an interesting creation and Benjamin’s observations of them are fascinating. I would have loved to read more about them and their society rather than his attempts to trap them.

WindvaleSpritesWhen a storm sweeps through the country, Asa wakes up the next day to find that his town is almost unrecognisable – trees have fallen down, roofs have collapsed and debris lies everywhere. But amongst the debris in his back garden Asa makes an astounding discovery – the body of a small winged creature. A creature that looks very like a fairy. Do fairies really exist?

Asa embarks on a mission to find out. A mission that leads him to the lost journals of local eccentric Benjamin Tooth who, two hundred years earlier, claimed to have discovered the existence of fairies. What Asa reads in those journals takes him on a secret trip to Windvale Moor, where he discovers much more than he’d hoped to…

Having not enjoyed The Lost Journals of Benjamin Tooth that much, I picked up The Windvale Sprites with a little trepidation. I quickly realised though that I was enjoying this far more, and this stayed the case for the entirety of the book.

This book is set in the modern day, the main character Asa also comes in contact with the sprites Benjamin Tooth had discovered and ends up finding Benjamin’s journal and using this as his guide to discovering more about the sprites. There are sections of text that are direct copies of the text from the journal – I liked revisiting this and seeing it through Asa’s eyes. Many of the issues I’d had with Benjamin were expressed by Asa – this reconfirmed by belief that these books have a real value in talking about science and the ethics of scientific investigation.

I really enjoyed the contrast between the two books, and I do think looking back at the two books I feel a little more kindly towards The Lost Journals of Benjamin Tooth if I considerate in its context as part of a pair of companion stories. I’m glad I read the books this way around rather than in the order in which they were published. Both books are illustrated by the author, these add a lot to both stories. Overall I found these books to be an interesting and thought provoking experience though maybe not one I’m going to be in a great hurry to repeat.

The Lost Journals of Benjamin Tooth and The Windvale Sprites are published by Faber & Faber in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: The Seafront Tea Rooms by Vanessa Greene.

SeafrontTeaRoomsThe Seafront Tea Rooms is a peaceful hideaway, away from the bustle of the seaside, and in this quiet place a group of women find exactly what they’ve been searching for.

Charismatic journalist Charlotte is on a mission to scope out Britain’s best tea rooms. She knows she’s found something special in the Seafront Tea Rooms but is it a secret she should share? Kathryn, a single mother whose only sanctuary is the ‘Seafront’, convinces Charlie to keep the place out of her article by agreeing to join her on her search. Together with another regular, Seraphine, a culture-shocked French au pair with a passion for pastry-making, they travel around the country discovering quaint hideaways and hidden gems. But what none of them expect is for their journey to surprise them with discoveries of a different kind…

Sometimes you want a book that you can dive in to head first, a book you can become completely wrapped up in and ignore the world. The Seafront Tea Rooms is just such a book, a truly lovely gem of a read. I liked the sound of it from the synopsis – what could be nicer than a book about tea and cake? Upon reading it I discovered that as well as being full of mouth watering descriptions of afternoon teas galore it was also full of life and heart.

The book centres around three women, Kat, Charlie and Seraphine. Brought together early on in the book, the trio work together to research the piece Charlie is to write on the best tea rooms in Britain. They each have challenges going on in their lives, and each have a need for the sort of support that comes from the best of friendships. Watching the friendship grow between the three ladies was wonderful, and left me thinking about the similar sorts of friends I have in my own life. I think sometimes that in fiction friendship can be overlooked in favour of romance so it was nice to see friendship take such a central role here. I particularly liked that the main friendships were all new yet strong – sometimes we meet someone and click as friends instantly, length of friendship isn’t necessarily an indicator of strength of friendship.

There are romantic subplots running through the book, I found that whilst I could see where Kat and Charlie’s stories were going fairly quickly it was Seraphine’s that was the surprise. I don’t want to elaborate too much, the synopsis and material around the book have been careful to allow the reader to discover this for themselves so it would be wrong for me to not follow suit. That said I will say that it was a pleasant surprise and added a whole new layer of appreciation for this book. There’s a gorgeous epilogue that ties up all of the romantic elements of the book, it’s beautiful and made me shed more than a tear or two.

In addition to the three main characters this book has a strong collection of supporting characters. These are well created, I felt like I got to know and understand them. Charlie’s sister Pippa was one of the stand outs for me – she has a long journey to go on throughout the course of the book and I found I cared a lot about this. Kat’s son Leo is very lovely, he reminded me a lot of children I’ve known in the past – always a sign that a young character is well written. And finally I must mention Bagel the Beagle – what a great name for a dog!

I haven’t read all that many books aimed at adults recently, this book has absolutely reminded me that the grass is green on every side of publishing irrespective of target audience. This is the author’s second book, I’m now going to be making sure I read her debut The Vintage Teacup Club too.

The Seafront Tea Rooms is published by Sphere in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment