Book Review

PoP: Katie in Scotland by James Mayhew & Steggie’s Stammer by Jack Hughes.

PoP Tuesdays on Juniper’s Jungle bring two reviews of picture books.

Katie in Scotland by James Mayhew. Orchard Books.
KatieInScotlandKatie, Jack and Grandma are on holiday in Scotland! There’s lots to see and do, so where should they start? Loch Ness, of course! And when Nessie wants to join them on their holiday, fun is bound to follow!

Join Katie on her latest adventure as she discovers the wonderful delights that Scotland has to offer.

This is a fun, light-hearted read about Katie’s visit to Scotland. Within the first couple of pages she meets Nessie (for this is what the Loch Ness Monster asks them to call her) who proceeds to act as travel companion and sometimes tour guide. They take in the sights in both Glasgow and Edinburgh over the course of the book. It’s a good introduction to Scotland and could be a nice book to share before a family trip.

The illustrations in the book are lovely, they use a slightly soft palette which works well with the gentle story. I had a couple of favourite double page illustrations – early in the book there is a beautiful panorama of the Scottish landscape they are travelling through and then a little later there is a lovely night time view as they approach Edinburgh. The pictures have a timeless feel, whilst this book was first published only a couple of years ago it already has a classic feel to it.

This book is the twelfth book in the Katy series by James Mayhew, on the strength of this I’ll be looking out for the others on my future trips to the library.

Steggie’s Stammer by Jack Hughes. Wayland.
SteggieSteggie has a stammer and sometimes it takes her more time to get her words out. Her friends are in a hurry to play a game and they rush off without listening to her.

Before long, the friends get into trouble and it’s up to Steggie to rescue them. But will they listen to her advice?

I was drawn to this book both by its very appealing cover and it’s intriguing title. This book clearly was going to deal with stammering, something that affects lots of young children (about 5% of children go through a stammering phase with 1 in 5 of these being at risk of persistant stammering). I wondered how well it would manage the topic – there’s always a risk that books with such a specific purpose can be a little cheesy or worthy. Seeing that the Education Office for the British Stammering Association had acted as a consultant made me think it would probably avoid these pitfalls, I started to read with great hope.

The story is a simple one, Steggie and her friends are playing and her friends won’t give her the time she needs to speak instead interrupting and going off to do their own thing. This naturally goes wrong, and Steggie comes through to save the day with her friends learning that they need to listen to her and give her time to talk. The message is strong but does avoid feeling preachy, I think the book would definitely be enjoyed by its target age group. The illustrations are attractive, they often give the impression of being at least part done with wax crayons which gives them great child appeal.

Upon finishing the book I discovered that this is one book from a set of 4, Steggie’s 3 dinosaur friends all get their own book – I assume serving a similar purpose. I had noticed that Rex wore glasses and Dachy had a hearing aid, though must admit I didn’t spot Emmy’s eczema. I would imagine that these books would make a good addition to any childcare setting’s picture book collection.

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

Book Review

PoP: Belle & Boo and the Yummy Scrummy Day by Mandy Sutcliffe and Cats Ahoy! by Peter Bently & Jim Field.

PoP Tuesdays on Juniper’s Jungle bring two reviews of picture books.

Belle & Boo and the Yummy Scrummy Day by Mandy Sutcliffe (text by Gillian Shields). Orchard Books.
BelleBooIt’s time to eat, but how can Belle convince Boo that fruit and vegetables are as tasty as cake?

Enter the charming world of Belle and Boo, a bob-haired little girl and her adorable bunny friend. Follow the adventures of this curious pair as they enjoy the simple pleasures of childhood, drawing us into a magical world of imagination and discovery.

Boo is hungry, but he only wants to eat cake. That is until Belle finds a clever way to convince him that fruit and vegetables are just as tasty, and can be a lot more fun. And because this is Belle and Boo, there is an adventure or two along the way.

This delightful tale with vintage-inspired illustrations is perfect for fans of Beatrix Potter, Winnie the Pooh and Milly-Molly-Mandy.

I’ve known of the Belle & Boo books for a while, but they’re always out on loan from my local library so when I spotted this one I grabbed it before anyone else could. The big draw of these books for me is the gorgeous illustrations. They’re described as vintage-inspired which is pretty accurate, I think I might add timeless too. The illustrations are very attractive, their somewhat muted colour palette adds a warmth to the book.

The story itself is a simple one. Boo (the rabbit) is a big fan of cake and doesn’t want to eat other things for a wonderful variety of reasons (I loved the description of the boiled egg as “too eggy” – this is one I’ve heard more than once from people). Belle encourages him to help to pick some tasty fruit and vegetables and slowly brings him round to the idea of eating them. The solution is a simple but entertaining one, I think it’ll please children and adults alike.

My only slight disappointment with this book came from the recipe print included at the end of the book. The whole point of the story is that Belle’s trying to encourage Boo to try foods that aren’t cake or cookies, she makes soup and baked apples. The recipe isn’t for either of these though, it’s for spiced biscuits – to me this doesn’t fit. I’m sure the biscuits are lovely, and the recipe card is illustrated beautifully but it isn’t what I was hoping for.

Cats Ahoy by Peter Bently & Jim Field (illustrator). Macmillan Children’s Books.
CatsAhoyWhen Alfonso the cat hears there’s a boat coming into harbour carrying its largest ever catch, he hatches a plan. It’s brave! It’s bold! And it involves a ghost pirate ship, some rather gullible fishermen, and cats … LOTS of cats. With an infectious rhyming text and laugh-out-loud illustrations, this book is set to become a firm favourite for fans of life on the high seas.

Winner of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize 2011: a swashbuckling tale of pirate plunder, derring do and a huge haul of haddock!

This is a really fun read, it is a rhyming text that lends itself brilliantly to reading aloud. The blurb above is a pretty comprehensive account of the story held within the book, I don’t want to add any more for fear of spoiling the reading experience. I loved the choice of cats for pirates, it makes a lot of sense and allows for some lovely word play towards the end of the book.

I loved the illustrations, they’re richly coloured and contain so many clever little details. I liked the variety of page layouts within the book, particularly one double spread that is divided into 4 vertical sections. The cats themselves are a wonderful bunch, lots of different shapes and sizes and colours, I’m sure readers who own a cat will be able to spy one the looks similar to their cat.

Having looked at the author’s website I see he wrote King Jack and the Dragon, a picture book very different to this one that I absolutely loved when I read it. Clearly this an author whose style I enjoy a lot, expect to see more of his books appearing in these posts!

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

Book Review

Picture Book Mini Reviews [8]

One of my 2013 reading resolutions was to read more picture books. I’m going to share my thoughts on these books in mini reviews throughout the year.

The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen. Orchard Books.
An interesting book to kick off this selection of picture book mini reviews, The Dark grabbed my attention at the library based entirely on it’s dark yet inviting cover. The story is about Laszlo, a boy who is afraid of the dark, and how he conquers this fear. The story has an odd quality, as you would expect from Lemony Snicket, and I think it’s probably one that will split opinion. I personally really liked it, and Klassen’s illustrations are absolutely spot on to support and extend the story. It is a generally dark coloured book so the contrast of the patches of light works superbly. An unusual treat of a book.

The Tear Thief by Carol Ann Duffy and Nicoletta Ceccoli. Barefoot Books.
This book is absolutely beautiful, both in story terms and illustration terms. Carol Ann Duffy’s story of a secret being that visits in the hour between supper and bedtime, stealing tears from upset children is gorgeous. It has a mild moral element, discussing how different types of tears (for instance tears of anger, tears of laughter, tears of boredom) differ in value to the Tear Thief, but this is subtle and may easily be overlooked. I thought the reason for the Tear Thief’s existence and work was lovely, I think I may adopt it as my personal thinking! The illustrations by Nicoletta Ceccoli are as lovely as the story, they’re soft and gentle and beautifully coloured. I haven’t read any books illustrated by her before but she’s now an illustrator I will actively be looking out for.

Ping! By Chae Strathie and Marion Lindsay. Scholastic.
Ping! is a lovely, simple story about a purple Thing called Ping who befriends a little girl called Evie. It has a predictable, rhyming structure perfect for reading aloud (and would need a little practice beforehand as it turns out there are many different ways you can say the word Ping!) and is a solid feel good book. The illustrations are colourful and have a youthful quality to them that works perfectly with the text. There’s a nice mixture of single page and double page illustrations along with some pages with a few illustrations showing Ping’s movement – I really liked this about the book. I get the feeling this is the sort of book that would easily become a dearly loved and often requested read, and I think it’s cute enough that most adults will happily oblige.

Book Review

Picture Book Mini Reviews [7].

One of my 2013 reading resolutions was to read more picture books. I’m going to share my thoughts on these books in mini reviews throughout the year.

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam by Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton. Nosy Crow.
This is the story of two not very good thieves, who try to pull off a robbery but end up learning a lesson. It’s written in rhyme and is most enjoyable to read aloud. The story does have a moral but it’s nicely subtle, this is a fun book about two rubbish robbers first and foremost. The illustrations are colourful and detailed, I liked them very much – the double spread where Shifty and Sam are drawing their plans up was a particular favourite.

Small Knight and George and the Royal Chocolate Cake by Ronda Armitage and Arthur Robins. Orchard Books.
This is one of a series of picture books featuring Small Knight and George. When King Wilfred the Wonderful announces that he and the Queen are coming to visit everyone gets busy preparing for the big party. Small Knight and George have to go and rescue the very special chocolate cake from a band of brigands who have stolen it. The story is quite simple, and for me felt like it was lacking something. I’m sure however that young readers will enjoy it regardless. I loved the illustrations, there are very few straight lines, they’re all at least a little wobbly which seems to add a warmth to them. I enjoyed lots of the little details in them, and think children would appreciate these too.

Bedtime for Monsters by Ed Vere. Puffin.

I absolutely loved this! It’s fun and clever, and has a nice sense of peril that young readers will love. We follow the monster as he gets closer and closer to the reader, and hungrier and hungrier. The peril grows and is then resolved in a surprisingly delightful manner. The descriptions are playful and inventive with lots of wonderful phrases – I grinned all the way through. The illustrations are similarly playful and have a childish charm to them. This is the first of Ed Vere’s books that I’ve read, I shall definitely be hunting out the rest now.

Book Review

Book Review : Jessie Hearts NYC by Keris Stainton.

Jessie’s just arrived in New York, hoping to forget about her awful ex.

New Yorker Finn is in love with his best friend’s girlfriend.

They might be perfect together, but in a city of eight million people, will they find each other?

I absolutely loved Keris Stainton’s debut novel Della Says: OMG! and was very excited when I discovered that her second book was going to be set in my favourite place in the world, New York City. I know that Keris is another NYC obsessive so as I settled down to read this book I had a good feeling that it would transport me across the pond and I was not disappointed.

The plot follows Jessie who, along with her friend Emma, is going to spend the summer with her mother who moved to New York City when the play she wrote transferred onto Broadway. Jessie is nursing a broken heart, and feels resentful about the way her mother left her behind. It also follows native New Yorker Finn, he’s hiding a couple of fairly huge secrets – he’s in love with his best friend’s girlfriend, and he’s thinking about changing his career path to something he wants to do instead of what his family want him to do. I loved the way these two characters were similar – both of them are dealing with romantic issues and they both have problems with their parents. The two stories alternate through the book, overlapping as their paths cross. I loved the way both of the characters got pretty equal billing, it meant I felt like I got to know them both really well.

I absolutely fell in love with Finn, he’s just so lovely. There’s a section where he talks about the glamour of old New York which confirmed for me that I was falling for him. Jessie is a great character, I loved how excited she was about New York. The situation between her and her mother is pretty strained at times, I liked the way that this was fully explored – Jessie’s reactions felt very genuine to me. I also loved Emma, Jessie’s best friend. She’s definitely the sort of best friend you would want, supportive at the times when you need support but not afraid to tell you when you’re being an idiot.

There is another love story contained within the pages of the book, and that is the characters’ (and author’s) love affair with New York City. I absolutely loved all of the mentions of famous sights, and got really excited as the characters visited places that I’ve been to. I also liked the inclusion of pop culture references to some of the many tv shows and films that are set in New York City. I’m sure this book will be encouraging lots of people to consider a visit to New York.

I absolutely adored this book, it’s great fun and just utterly lovely. I don’t know if there are plans for a follow-up book but the ending would definitely allow for one and if there is I will be pushing my way to the front of the queue to read it.

Jessie Hearts NYC is published in paperback by Orchard in the UK priced £6.99.