Book Review

PoPB: The Dinosaur Games by David Bedford & Dankerloux and A Day with the Animal Doctors by Sharon Rentta.

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

The Dinosaur Games by David Bedford and Dankerloux (illustrator). Macmillan Children’s Books.
TheDinosaurGamesReady, steady, RAAAAAAH! Titus the T-Rex is ready for the Great Dinosaur Games. He may only be young, but he’s a tough lizard king and he’s out to win everything! Or so he thinks . . . He’s not built for hurdles and swimming isn’t easy when you’ve never learnt how. But with a meteor on its way to Earth, everything is set to change. Titus may not win a race, but he might just save one!

I enjoyed this book so much! It has a wonderfully catchy, rhyming text – I started reading it in my head but soon switched to reading it aloud just so I could enjoy the reading experience to its fullest. Titus the T-Rex is a lovely character, he starts the book completely ready to dominate all of the sporting activities in the Great Dinosaur Games. When he discovers that actually he’s not suited to any of them he goes off and sulks in true childish fashion, before getting the opportunity to redeem himself and find his own sporting path.

Dankerloux’s illustrations are bold and appealing, working really well with the text. I really enjoyed how the text is paced throughout the book, a couple of times the final, rhyming, word appears on the following page allowing for prediction (and the satisfaction of predicting the correct word) and the building of anticipation. The page where Titus is throwing his strop is wonderful, there are four pictures showing him engaged in different sulky behaviours – he looked so much like some of the young children I’ve seen sulk!

This is a lovely, fun book that will make an excellent addition to any collection. It’s a lot of fun to read aloud (though thankfully avoids the sort of rhymes that require hours of rehearsal) and children will enjoy listening to it. It also provides some great talkabout opportunities, and will fit well into any sports themed events.

A Day with the Animal Doctors by Sharon Rentta. Alison Green Books.
ADWTADIt’s going to be a busy day for the Animal Doctors.

A snake needs unknotting, a leopard has lost his spots, and a dog has swallowed an alarm clock…

A fabulously funny book for every child who loves playing doctors and nurses.

This book is so cute! Terence is a young tapir, and this book follows him as he spends the day at work with his mum – a doctor at the Animal Hospital. He gets to see all sorts of aspects of hospital work, and finds he’s able to do lots of things to help out (though the tiny mice cleaning the hospital often seem to wish he’d help a little differently). The story has a real gentleness to it, there’s humour throughout though this is quieter than in some picture books. Terence is adorable (though I love baby tapirs so I admit I may be a little biased) – I liked how childlike his helping was.

The illustrations in this book are as gentle as the plot. The colour palette is on the slightly muted side which works beautifully in this book, the the illustrations themselves appear hand drawn which adds to the overall softness. The pages are rich with details, I loved spotting all of the little things – like the cleaner mice who are often to be found mopping or sweeping or the hen going around collecting eggs.

This cute book would be a lovely way to discuss hospitals with a young child, the language used is simple and to the point. I loved the book and will look out for more by the author.

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

Book Review

PoP: Woolly by Sam Childs and The Great Granny Gang by Judith Kerr.

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

Woolly by Sam Childs. Scholastic.
WoollyThe new baby mammoth is called Woolly, but she isn’t woolly. And she’s cold.

How will Woolly’s family keep her snug and cosy?

A mammoth tale of warmth and friendship.

Woolly a baby mammoth, born without the woolly coat her parents and brothers all sport. She’s born without a woolly coat – I must admit that my mammoth knowledge is minimal so I have no idea whether this was the norm or not. Woolly’s lack of woolly coat means she’s cold so her mummy comes up with different ways to keep her warm, but each one fails for one reason or another. My favourite of these was the beautiful feather coat.

The text is not a rhyming text, but I’d still recommend a run through before reading it aloud – there’s one sentence on the second double page in particular that is rather tongue twister like (Woolly’s brothers are called Willy and Wally…) There’s a nice familiar structure to the book that works really well for the type of story. The illustrations are nice, there are some lovely little details to spot throughout the book.

I enjoyed this book right up until the ending, I felt like I was missing a page of story. This was a real shame as it left me feeling a bit disappointed in the whole reading experience.

The Great Granny Gang by Judith Kerr. Harper Collins Children’s Books.
GreatGrannyGangHere come the fearless granny gang,
The youngerst eighty-two.
They leap down from their granny van,
And there’s nothing they can’t do.

I really don’t think you can go wrong with Judith Kerr, her stories are always entertaining, her rhymes make for lovely read aloud books and her illustrations are always warm and welcoming. The Great Granny Gang is no exception to any of these and it results in a gentle, entertaining read. I love that this book is about grannies who aren’t living boring lives – this bunch of octo- and nonagenarians are super cool and adventurous. I’d be really hard-pressed to choose a favourite granny, though Maud repairing roads with her pneumatic drill might take some beating!

I love the softness of Judith Kerr’s illustrations. The illustrations in this book are drawn and coloured using pencils, they’re truly lovely have a timeless feel, so in keeping with the age of the main characters. There are lots of action filled pictures in the book, these really do give the impression of movement for the characters. I liked spotting all of the little details in the pictures, there were so many things that made me smile.

A lovely read that definitely gets the thumbs up from me.

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

Book Review : Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt.

SeanGriswoldAccording to her guidance counselor, fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas needs a focus object—an item to concentrate her emotions on. It’s supposed to be something inanimate, but Payton decides to use the thing she stares at during class: Sean Griswold’s head. They’ve been linked since third grade (Griswold-Gritas—it’s an alphabetical order thing), but she’s never really known him.

The focus object is intended to help Payton deal with her father’s newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis. And it’s working. With the help of her boy-crazy best friend Jac, Payton starts stalking—er, focusing on—Sean Griswold . . . all of him! He’s cute, he shares her Seinfeld obsession (nobody else gets it!) and he may have a secret or two of his own.

In this sweet story of first love, Lindsey Leavitt seamlessly balances heartfelt family moments, spot-on sarcastic humor, and a budding young romance.

Contemporary YA is one of my great loves and when I heard about this book it sounded right up my street. I didn’t get round to reading it though until I read Raimy’s interesting review and thought it was about time I read it.

This book is about Payton, about her discovering that her father has Multiple Sclerosis and trying to adjust to both knowing this and the feeling of betrayal she experiences when she discovers the rest of the family had been keeping the news from her. If I’m being completely honest for a good proportion of the book Payton behaves like a bit of a brat but I didn’t find this frustrating, it felt like a very genuine reaction and one that I could understand even if I couldn’t imagine behaving the same way in the same situation. The one character I didn’t really take to however was Jac, Payton’s best friend. I found a lot of her behaviour irritating – she’s definitely the kind of person I wouldn’t want around me for very long.

Sean Griswold is the boy who sits in front of Payton in the classes they share – seating is allocated alphabetically and so she’s been sitting behind him for years without ever really noticing him. She chooses his head for a focus exercise the school counsellor gets her to do, it’s something that’s part of her everyday life. This allows us to get to know Sean as Payton does, I liked him a lot as a character. I really liked the way he and Payton grew closer through developing a shared interest, some of the moments they shared were lovely.

I thought that Payton’s father’s illness was covered in the book really well. It ended up not being the main focus of the book, instead it’s more about the effect it has on the family – I think teenagers in a similar situation to Payton or those who know someone who is might find it good to read. The one thing I would have quite liked to see however was a page pointing interested readers in the direction of reliable further information about Multiple Sclerosis.

This book is funny and warm with real heart. I thoroughly enjoyed it and just wish I’d not put it off for so long.

Sean Griswold’s Head is published by Scholastic in the UK.

Book Review

Book Review : Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve.

It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea …

The great traction city London is on the move again. It has been lying low, skulking in the hills to avoid the bigger, faster, hungrier cities loose in the Great Hunting Ground. But now, as its great mountain of metal lumbers along in hot pursuit of its quarry, the sinister plans it has harbored for years can finally start to unfold behind its soaring walls …

A young assassin is stalking her own prey through the city. Hester Shaw’s plot is foiled by a young apprentice who has finally stumbled into a real adventure. Tom’s blundering intervention leaves the pair stranded in the Out-Country, a sea of mud scored by the tracks of cities like the one now steaming off over the horizon. Staring back from the city in horror is Katherine, a sheltered Tier One girl who is about to grow up very fast.

I’m on a personal mission at the moment to read more steampunk fiction, and I had this title recommended to me. I tracked it down in my local library, got settled with a cuppa and began to read. Very quickly I found myself becoming drawn into the book, as the plot picked up pace I turned the pages faster, desperate to find out what was going to happen next.

The plot is a captivating tale. The world as we know it is gone, cities and towns have converted to being movable, fitted with tracks and mechanisms, bigger cities “eat” smaller towns and villages, stripping them of their parts and people and using them to keep the cities going. There are two sets of children; Hester and Tom in the Out-Country and Katherine and Bevis inside London. They both start to unravel the secrets that London is hiding, as they do the action picks up wonderfully.

The book is full of brilliant characters. The four children are excellently written as are the people they meet along the way on their respective adventures. I can’t begin to pick out a favourite character, when the options include rebels and pirates and museum custodians it’s an impossible task.

I really enjoyed the way the book was written. It definitely captured my attention and I can imagine it would work brilliantly as bedtime reading for a parent to share with their child. I can’t imagine many parents would be able to resist the temptation to cheat and carry on reading after their child’s asleep though!

Mortal Engines is published in paperback by Scholastic in the UK priced £6.99