Nightmares by Jason Segal and Kirsten Miller

September 16, 2014 Comments off

nightmaresNightmares by Jason Segal and Kirsten Miller.  Pub. Penguin, Random House, 2014.

It is said that nightmares and dreams are manifestations of events in our real lives. Could this be true in this novel?

Charlie’s mum died 3 years ago and his father meets a woman called Charllote DeChant with flaming red hair and bohemian dress. They marry and move in together at a big purple house that sits on the highest hill in the town of Cypress Creek. The house is scary like a haunted house and at the top is a tower with no curtains at the windows. At night an eerie light shines from the tower.

As soon as Charlie moves into the house he starts having nightmares about a witch who wants to lock him up in a cage and keep him in the netherworld.

Charlie can’t sleep and this soon becomes apparent to his friends and teachers at school. Charlie is not looking good and things start to suffer. His little brother Jack is quite keen on his new stepmother and Charlie has a realistic dream that the witch wants to eat him. he has to save Jack.

He tries to tell his teachers and friends but no=one believes him. Then he starts to have a more sinister nightmare. A presence is following him and the nightmares want to drag him forever into the Netherworld.

Co-written by the man who wrote Despicable Me and by Kirsten Miller who wrote the Kiki Strike books and does the illustrations.

Part one of a new series that will appeal to primary and intermediate children. It is scary and adventurous and it is about family, friends and school. All the things important in kids lives.

Play in the Garden by Sarah O’Neil

September 13, 2014 Comments off

play gardenPlay in the Garden by Sarah O’Neil. Pub.New Holland, 2014. 

It is not often that I review a non fiction work but when it is using imagination to get kids into gardening then I make an exception.

The essential attraction of this novel is that it involves adults. Instead of setting a part of the garden aside for children, get them interested and involved in sharing the whole garden.

This book shows how to grow a bean teepee, decorated stepping stones, Making corn husk people, making your own sprinkler and painting with vegetables.

Of course you must have basic gardening skills first and know how to set up a garden and grow plants. The first chapter shows all this then the fun stuff begins.

Well set out with clear instructions and colourful pertinent illustrations. Sprinkled among the information are Did you know? bubbles and the information in these is fascinating. Did you know that a lawn is more efficient at producing oxygen than a tree is? or that there could be a million earth worms in an acre of ground and that worms can live up to 15 years.

This book is well worth having in the home and should be an essential purchase for school libraries. Mainly aimed at primary/intermediate students but adults will learn a lot too.

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365 Days of Wonder by R.J. Palacio

September 12, 2014 Comments off

365 wonder365 Days of Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Pub. Random House, 2014.

This is the last word on that wonderful story of August the 12 year old boy with the severe facial disfigurement and told in Wonder.

Thomas Browne was August’s 5th grade teacher who witnessed all the upheavel that the bullying of August caused. Browne describes 5th grade as the year kids learn the power of being mean. A power some kids never lose, but most do.

One of Mr Browne’s teaching tools was to put a precept up on the board that was discussed and written about by his pupils. He also kept communications open for pupils to send him precepts that they liked. This book is a book of precepts. All of them are thought provoking and it is good to have them in one easy to read book.

Here are some that I like.  “I yam what I yam” Popeye the sailor.   “Everything you can imagine is real”  Pablo Picasso.  “To thine ownself  be true”  William Shakespeare.   “If you’re lucky enough to be different, don’t ever change”   Taylor Swift and  “it costs nothing to be nice”  Harry Styles.

But the book is more than that. It is structured in months with a quote for each day and between is a story about them. It also gives the answer to a question that was never resolved in Wonder. Who told principal Tushman that Julian was writing mean notes to August? Well if you read this book you will find out.

Inspirational. For all class levels.

The Day No One was Angry by Toon Tellegen & Marc Boutavant

September 9, 2014 Comments off

AngerThe Day No One was Angry by Toon Tellegen & Marc Boutavant. Pub. Gecko Press, 2014.

The sort of storytelling one has come used to when reviewing Gecko Press publications and I mean this in the most positive way. Twelve short stories from animals each dissecting and giving meaning to the emotion of anger.

The unusual hyrax is first cab off the rank expressing his anger at the sun for not being around when he is wanting it. He misses the sunset and the sun rise. The sun never listens.

Elephant is angry with himself for trying to climb a tree that he always falls out of. Beetle and earthworm are both angry but believe each is angrier than the other while aardvark tells squirrel that he is only angry when he stands on his feet, so he stands on his head where he is much happier.

Squirrel is a contented little fellow and this irks shrew who does everything including smashing up squirrel’s home to make him angry, but squirrel just thinks of the good times.

Some great behavioural and attitudinal messages in the stories. Primary school children will love the stories.

There are only 81 pages of this book and Marc Boutavant has an illustration on everyone of them. They are outstanding giving Toon Tellegen’s written text additional meaning. Toad is brilliant and rhino and hippo take some beating.

The last story is the title of the book and it is superb. When no one is angry, life can be a little dull, as long as you don’t lose sight of the humour of it all.

This book will not disappoint you.

The Jewel by Amy Ewing

September 6, 2014 Comments off

jewelThe Jewel by Amy Ewing. Pub. Walker Books, 2014.

This novel totally fascinated me from beginning to end. It is a sort of dystopian fantasy creating a world that is futuristic, fantastic and totally believable. Like the court of Louis XIV only modern.

Set on an island protected by a sea wall the society created is in five concentric circles at the heart of which is the Jewel or the Royal Palace and all the ruling Aristocratic families. The life here is totally extravagant. Status is their occupation and gossip their currency.

Outside the Jewel is an area called The Bank. The professional, banking district whose residents fawn on the Jewel and conduct the business of the island. The current Empress of the island is from the Bank and this causes a great deal of resentment amongst the ruling families. Murder is common.

Next layer out is the Smoke. Factories that drive the economy with harsh Dickensian working conditions. outside this layer is the Farm lands. Again harsh working conditions and poverty.

The lowest of the low is the Marsh lands. The heroine of this novel Violet is from this poverty stricken land. The irony of it all is that the families from the Jewel cannot produce babies that live long and the girls from the Marsh are used as surrogate mothers to produce royal heirs.

The girls are tested at age 12 to see if they are suitable, then trained in holding facilities and tested for three qualities called Auguries until they are 16  related to Colour, shape and growth and only special girls can do the business. The girls are known as Surrogates and are auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Violet  is highly  ranked at 197 out of 200 surrogates and  she is expected to carry a child who will inherit all that is royal. She  is bought by The Duchess of the Lake, a vicious bitch who ruthlessly deals to anyone who is in the way. Can Violet survive?

Then she meets Ash.

You have got to get into this one. The detail of the society is impressive as Amy Ewing sets up the the trilogy that this is to become. The clothes, the Balls, the extravagant living, the intrigue and the ritual of testing the Auguries and conceiving a child are just breath taking.

High school and young adult in appeal. You have never read anything like this before. Compulsive.

I am the Big Bad Wolf and here I Come by Benedicte Guettier.

September 5, 2014 Comments off

wolfI am the Big Bad Wolf and here I Come by Benedicte Guettier. Pub. Gecko Press, 2014.

The big bad wolf is one of my favourite literary characters and I am not alone. Children love to be scared by the big bad wolf and to be rescued from him. This outstanding thick board book from French writer Benedicte Guettier gives  you and children a chance to live out those fantasies and fears.

On the first page a naked wolf with a glint in his eye announces proudly that he is the Big bad wolf. He then in consecutive board pages puts on his underpants, T-Shirt, socks, trousers, Red top, boots, hat(with a feather) and coat and now he is coming to get you.

Outstanding. The wolf’s expressions as he is putting on the various items will make adults laugh too and the colourful clothing gives the wolf a sense of humour and style that wouldn’t hurt a fly.

I read it to my pre school granddaughters this morning. They loved it and I know what book is on the menu for bed time.

For pre schoolers and junior primary children. The thick boards mean they can handle it, chew it, throw it in the bath and get the feel for books.

I am off to read it again.

Wonder with The Julian Chapter by R.J. Palacio.

September 3, 2014 Comments off

julianWonder with The Julian Chapter by R.J. Palacio. Pub. Random House, 2014.

Wonder is a classic book. It tells the story of 12 year old August who suffers from severe facial disfigurement that many people find horrifying. His face looks like it has been melted onto his head. When he goes to school for the first time he evokes a number of reactions from children and adults. All of these people told their story of August in the first publication. Except Julian.

Julian was nasty to August. he called him names, sent him horrible notes, generally bullied him and started off a game called Plague. If you touched August you had 30 seconds to wash your hands or you died. And whats more he thought it was a laugh, he couldn’t see that he was at fault in any way. Nor could his parents.

August didn’t want to go back to school, but his brilliant parents made him go back and the book is just wonderful as we share his first year in school.

Julian now tells his story in a 99 page chapter  inserted at the end of the original book and I can tell you it is outstanding and makes for compulsive reading. I don’t want to ruin  it for you but it deals with acknowledging responsibility, with parental guidance, with great teachers, with remorse, and with the humanity of it all.

Does a mistake define your life for ever? Julian is about to find out and so are you.

Don’t just read Julian’s chapter do yourself a favour and read the book again. I can tell you the story told by Julian’s grandmere within Julian’s chapter, will melt your heart.

This book is for everybody. My review of the original book is on this blog.


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