Book Review

Picture Book Round Up.

A slightly different sort of picture book post today, I’m simply rounding up the picture books I’ve read recently.

A Home for Mr Tipps written and illustrated by Tom Percival – a cute book about a young boy adopting a stray cat. It has lovely illustrations with bold colours which work well with the story.

Daddy Does the Cha Cha Cha is written by David Bedford and illustrated by Bridget Strevens-Marzo – a fun story about lots of dads who all have their own signature dance. Not particularly high on plot but the choices of different dances made me smile.

Grandma’s Saturday Soup is written by Sally Fraser and Derek Brazell. Published by Mantra Lingua, the book is available in 29 different dual language editions, I read the English with French version. It’s a lovely story, everything Mimi sees around her reminds of her grandmother and the delicious sounding soup she makes on Saturdays. There’s lots to discuss here, from family to different cultures to the seasons and days of the week.

Here Be Monsters written by Jonathan Emmett and illustrated by Poly Bernatene – an exciting pirate adventure with a real sting in its tail. The illustrations are gorgeous and add a lot to the reading experience. The text is rhyming, some work better than others, and lengthy – this would be best suited to slightly older children.

And finally, sticking with the nautical theme, The Sea Tiger is written and illustrated by Victoria Turnbull. It’s a touching story about a sea tiger and merboy who are best friends, having lots of adventures together. The story is quite deep and whilst the illustrations are beautiful they’re also very muted, I’m not entirely sure what young readers would make of the book.

Book Review

PoP: Captain Brainpower and the Mighty Mean Machine by Sam Lloyd & Black Dog by Levi Penfold.

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

Captain Brainpower and the Mighty Mean Machine by Sam Lloyd. Harper Collins Children’s Books.
CaptainBrainpowerHoley moley! There’s a new superhero in town!

Meet two very special toys: Captain Brainpower and Mojo Mouse. They’ve been thrown away at the rubbish dump where the Might Mean Machine has snatched Mojo for breakfast! Can Captain Brainpower activate his amazing super power and save Mojo from becoming mouse on toast?

3, 2, 1… Captain Brainpower to the rescue!

I really wanted to enjoy this book, its bright colourful cover had grabbed my attention and I loved the idea of having brainpower as a super power. Unfortunately I was left underwhelmed by the book, despite its short length it felt like the time spent reading it dragged.

The book is as colourful as its cover, if anything I found at times it was a little too colourful – the pages filled with bold colour shades sometimes felt a bit too busy. Some pages have a huge amount of detail, there would certainly be lots to talk about if reading it with just one or two children.

The story itself has all the elements that make a good picture book, the action starts straight away, there’s sufficient peril to keep the reader’s attention. I personally found that the middle section fell a bit flat – I would have expected to love seeing Captain Brainpower in action but unfortunately didn’t. I also didn’t like the name calling there was going on throughout the book and Captain Brainpower’s repeated utterances of “Holey Moley” and “Blooming Brains” – this made the character feel a little on the twee side.

All in all this was a book that sounded great but unfortunately failed to deliver for me. I have every confidence that it’ll work well for some young readers but it’s certainly not one I’d be rushing to add to my collection.

Black Dog by Levi Pinfold. Templar Publishing.
BlackDogAn enormous black dog and a very tiny little girl star in this offbeat tale about confronting one’s fears.

When a huge black dog appears outside the Hope family home, each member of the household sees it and hides. Only Small, the youngest Hope, has the courage to face the black dog, who might not be as frightening as everyone else thinks.

This book won the Kate Greenaway Medal in 2013, awarded for distinguished illustration in a book for children. Having now read the book I can completely understand how it won, the illustrations are absolutely stunning. Every double page spread contains one large colour illustration and a number of small sepia toned illustrations. There is a real beauty and slightly unusual quality to the illustrations, they brought to mind the work of Shaun Tan – an illustrator whose work I adore.

The story is about a family who in turn see the black dog outside, each person who sees it describes it as bigger than the last person right up until Small, the youngest and tiniest member of the family, sees it and instead of hiding from it like her family members does exactly the opposite and goes to confront it. It shows how fear can be self generating, with each family member the fear of the dog becomes bigger and more exaggerated until Small refuses to be drawn into this, showing them that standing up to the thing they’re all afraid of is the way to conquer it.

Black Dog is a beautiful book which balances a big message with stunning illustrations, bringing a sense of whimsy to the whole reading experience. A definite new favourite book for me.

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

Book Review

PoP: When… by Emma Dodd & Where on Earth is the Moon? by Ruth Martin and Olivier Latyk.

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

When… by Emma Dodd. Templar Publishing.
WhenIn ‘When’, a little bear shares his dreams of his future with his mother.

This is going to be a pretty short review, the book is a pretty short book. Coming in at 24 pages (many picture books are 32) and 76 words long this is a simple, beautiful rhyme that will work wonderfully as a book to share. The book is narrated by the little bear, and is him telling his mother what he wants to be when he grows up. These aren’t ambitions like wanting to be an astronaut or a hunter, they are instead ambitions of the type of bear he wants to be.

The illustrations are as simple and beautiful as the text. Every illustration is a double page spread featuring the mama bear and baby bear together, the colours used are restricted to a small number on each page and gold foil is used to great effect on every other illustration. The bears themselves have texture added to their fur (I think by use of a sponge but I’m not particularly arty) that works very well.

The copy of the book I read was a paperback copy but it also exists as a board book. I think as a board book it would make a lovely addition to a present for a new baby, it’s certainly a book I’m going to be giving away plenty of times.

Where on Earth is the Moon? by Ruth Martin & Olivier Latyk (illustrator). Templar Publishing.
WhereOnEarthA bedtime adventure for sleepy little explorers everywhere.

Luna loves to look at the Moon each night before she drifts off to sleep, but she wonders where it goes during the day. While she dreams, her imagination takes her on a journey as she searches far and wide for where the Moon could possibly go when the Sun is out.

This is a really lovely picture book that will be enjoyed by young children with the attention span to sit and listen to a slightly more detailed story. It’s about a young girl, perhaps Reception year aged, who is fascinated by the moon and wonders where it is when she can’t see it during the day. I really enjoyed her attempts to stay awake all night and watch where it disappears to, and the various places she imagined it might be hiding.

The text itself is very detailed, it’s laden with adjectives and alliterations which result in a pretty rich read (ignoring the temptation to drop lots of alliterations into this review is surprisingly hard). I think if you were going to be reading this aloud you’d probably need a few practice runs as a result of the very detailed text.

The illustrations work really well with the text. They’re very modern looking, the lines and colours are crisp. This paired with the more handwritten style of font balance the detailed text very nicely. I was interested by the way rich turquoises and teals are used as a result of the many night time scenes and yet the book feels warm. The only thing I wasn’t completely sold on was the double page spread that paired turquoise text with a black page. It looks very striking but I found it wasn’t so easy to read.

A final thought I must share is how pleased I was to see a space / science themed story with a female main character. This was a really nice change and made me love the book even more.

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

Book Review

My Week In Books. [4]

Each Monday I review the books I’ve read in the previous week in mini reviews.

Brotherhood of Shades by Dawn Finch. Authonomy.
This book has a really strong plot pulling lots of historical fact into a fantasy plot filled with great tension and intrigue. Within a few pages I realised that this was the sort of book you could really sink your teeth into, it’s intelligent and densely plotted with lots of detail and lots to make you think – I found a couple of times I had to put it down for a while so I could ponder some of the more philosophical discussion. There were times where predictions I’d made about what would happen came true, but the ending of the book took me completely by surprise.

Finch has created a really intriguing cast of characters, I felt particularly drawn to D’Scover, the “Keeper of the Texts” who plays a central role in the book. The whole time that I was reading I felt that information, and knowledge were held in very high esteem within the book, it was a delight to discover when I reached the end, and Finch’s biography to discover she was as I hoped a librarian. This shone through in the book and only added to my enjoyment.

The Falcon Chronicles: Tiger Wars by Steve Backshall. Orion Children’s.
This was a thrilling read from start to finish, I had to stop reading at one point to answer the phone and spent the whole time wondering what was happening whilst I wasn’t reading! Backshall has used knowledge that he’s gained on his travels as a naturalist to create the world of these books making it jump vividly off the page. There’s a clear conservation message running through the book but it never feels preachy or shoehorned it, instead it’s fully part of the plot and will be all the more effective.

I loved the two lead characters, Saker and Sinter, and the way their relationship develops over the course of the book. I really loved that there was no hint of any romantic link between them, this felt very refreshing. As I was reading the book I found myself imagining reading it out loud, I think it would work really well as a class book for most year 5-7 classes – it would certainly keep the children wanting the next chapter, and there’s lots of potential for really good discussions of plot points. I’m really pleased that this is the start of a series, I’ll certainly be picking up the next book.

Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan. Templar Publishing.
Whilst I’d known of Shaun Tan’s work for a few years now I’d never got round to actually reading any of it. After being introduced to The Arrival at a conference I attended (I’m still sad that only the first 20 pages or so were read, I wanted to listen to the whole story being told) I knew I needed to start catching up with his work and Tales From Outer Suburbia became my first port of call. As soon as I started reading I realised there’s something very special and magical about Shaun Tan, and then realised that in my new review everything approach I was going to have to find a way to talk about this book.

It’s hard to explain why this book is so lovely, and such a magical read. It’s a collection of short stories, they cross genres, they vary in length but they all captivate the imagination. The illustrations that go with the stories are beautiful, I spent ages poring over the detail in some of them. I liked each and every story, though there were of course stories I loved more than others, my favourites included Eric, No Other Country and Alert But Not Alarmed. This is a really lovely book, I know I’ll be recommending it far and wide.

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The eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed that it’s Tuesday rather than Monday, the weekend was rather hectic and I just didn’t have time to finish this post yesterday. Also I’ve switched to mini reviews as I felt sticking to 100 words was just too constrictive and I was having to leave things out that I really wanted to say.