A Long Trail Rolling by Lizzi Tremayne.

March 25, 2015 Comments off

long trail A Long Trail Rolling by Lizzi Tremayne. Pub.Blue Mist Publishing, 2015.

I was so glad to read this High School/Young adult novel because it embraced two of my favourite genre, westerns and romance, but it is a lot more than that with the author herself describing it as historical/adventure fiction.

Set in the Utah Territory of the 1860’s it is about an 18 year old immigrant Polish girl named Aleksandra who disguises herself as a boy and becomes a rider on the Pony Express, a job advertised only for skinny, young, expert riders, preferably orphans.

Before this happens her father is murdered by a Cossack henchman of the Czar of Russia called Vladimir who has followed Aleksandra and her family to America because they possess an elixer made from a plant found on the Steppes that not only treats depression but gives the user incredible stamina and strength. The Czar wants it for his cavalrymen and Aleksandra’s father, Krzysztof, refuses to turn it over.

Before this all happens Aleksandra and her family had become bloodbrothers with a Shoshone Indian tribe after rescuing the Chief’s son and that same son now  wants to take Aleksandra for his wife. Circumstances between the Indians and the settlers deteriorated and the union unbeknown to Aleksandra, cannot take place.

Meanwhile Aleksandra after the murder of her father sought help at a trading post and had her heart go boom boom boom at the sight of the hunky but emotionally damaged Xavier. Will the men conflict over this young damsel in distress?

It is all set up for a wild time on the Pony Express. The last 100 pages are thrilling.

Well told by Lizzi Tremayne who not only tells a credible story but describes America when it’s environment was in pristine condition. It will make a green drool with envy. The descriptions of the Utah territory and the Great Salt Lake are breathtaking.

I loved reading this novel and you will to but don’t expect to read “head em off at the pass” or “this town ain’t big enough for the both of us”. Plenty of horse talk though and exciting encounters with the Indians.

Yak and Gnu by Juliette MacIver, Illus. Cat Chapman.

March 18, 2015 Comments off

Yak & GnuYak and Gnu by Juliette MacIver, Illus. Cat Chapman. Pub. Walker Books, 2015.

This rhyming picture book is a beauty that demands to be read aloud. It also has more than one gnu and allowed me the luxury of saying “what a gnuva gnu’ in memory of a Flanders and Swan song of yester year.

Yak with his captain’s hat and gnu with her green pearls are the best of friends and feel they are unique. Yak naturally has a kayak and gnu a canoe. What gnu hasn’t?

They are sure they are unique but a trip down the river to the sea puts paid to their common belief. They discover a goat in a boat, a calf on a raft, a snail setting snail and among others a rat and her clan on a catamaran. My favourites are the giraffes in their hovercrafts and an ocean cruise full of yaks and gnus.

” does it matter smiled gnu. Who cares my friend when I have you” Wonderful finish.

The rhyming text is never forced and Cat Chapman’s water colour illustrations are perfect. Check out the giraffes in their hovercrafts wearing sunglasses. Just superb.

This is a picture book team that is going places. Don’t miss this one.

Dragon Knight by Kyle Mewburn & Donovan Bixley.

March 17, 2015 Comments off

dragon knightDragon Knight by Kyle Mewburn & Donovan Bixley. Pub. Scholastic, 2015.

When I read this short easy to read novel with illustrations that are designed for maximum fun I thought, great, a book that reluctant readers or slow readers at primary level can have fun devouring, especially boys.

Kyle Mewburn provides a written text that is perfect for fun. Ogres that fart, shape changers that are human and dragons at the same time, villains that deserve to be beaten and a hero that doesn’t win all t6he time but impresses with his bravery and fair play.

Merek is a boy who can shape shift into a dragon and other creatures, his parents can also do this. he wants to become a knight but isn’t confident about it. The rogue of the novel is  a beastly boy called Percy Crumble and there is a girl posing as a boy.

At the beginning of this Medieval fantasy there is a map of the village and castle where Merek and his family live. It has places named The Fruit and Nut Black forest, Grist’s Mill and the Route Canal. Great fun for adults too, many will remember the River Phoenix.

Donovan Bixley shows his immense talent and great versatility with the illustrations which are superb black and white drawings. I hope this becomes a series like their earlier effort Dinosaur Rescue.

Lets get those reluctant boys reading. This book is a great start.

How I Alienated my Grandma by Suzanne Main.

March 16, 2015 Comments off

alienated grandmaHow I Alienated my Grandma by Suzanne Main. Pub. Scholastic, 2015.

This is a science fiction adventure novel for primary and intermediate students and it was the winner of the Tom Fitzgibbon Award in 2014 and it deserved to be.

Enthusiastically written by a mother who is used to the banter of children and the absurdities that bringing up children brings. A big strength of the novel is the relationship between the two boys Michael and Elvis, it is clever, witty and a source of most of the information you need to understand the plot.

The plot is clever. Michael finds  a metal object buried deep in his backyard with a metal detector lent to him by his science mad next door neighbour Elvis.  When Michael’s grandma comes to visit he points it at her and presses an indentation and grandma turns into a lizard like creature then back to herself. I would have loved to have done this to my grandma.

Elvis tests the metallic object and finds it is related to no metal on Earth so it must be an alien and Michael deduces that he has alienated his grandma.

The plot thickens when the boys learn that the aliens want to take over Earth and put themselves in human beings.

The boy’s research to see if there have been any alien sightings and find that there have. Who is the old man who shouts “They are Coming” in the main street.

Are the aliens coming and can the boys stop them? The last 100 pages are thrilling. Read it today.

An Elephant for Breakfast by Zella.

March 14, 2015 Comments off

elephant breakfastAn Elephant for Breakfast by Zella. Pub. Zella Books London, 2014.

A junior reader for confidant readers in years 3/4 and a good one too.

Freddie, Tom, Rose, Johnny and Bella are cousins who live in Paradise Road London. They have an uncle Cosmo who owns a chocolate factory in Kenya and every year he sends them a box of presents at the beginning of summer. This year it is late and when it comes it has a nasty surprise.

This is a story about ivory smuggling and the dangers to elephants of the illegal trade. The box for the children is very heavy and inside are huge blocks of chocolate and inside the chocolate are ivory tusks. Who is doing this? Is their uncle Cosmo or his girlfriend Josephine involved?

The children are alerted when two shabbily dressed men calling themselves policemen turn up at their door. You will have to read it to find out more.

Well wrtten and has a feel of a junior Famous 5 about it.

Little Red Riding Hood -Not Quite by Yvonne Morrison, illus Donovan Bixley

March 11, 2015 Comments off

red riding hoodLittle Red Riding Hood -Not Quite by Yvonne Morrison, illus Donovan Bixley. Pub. Scholastic, 2015.

Just as clever and enchanting as last years The Three Little Bears Sort of by the same pair.

This time the story of Little Red Riding Hood is dissected line by line and any anomalies in the story are questioned by a little girl in small blue polka dot pyjamas. Why was little red riding hood called that? What is a riding hood? How did the wolf swallow granny whole and then Little red riding hood as well? Surely the wof is too small to do this?

Why didn’t the wolf eat Little Red Riding Hood before going to Granny’s and how was the woodcutter so accurate as to cut open the wolf get granny and little red riding hood out without damaging them or the wolf.

Clearly the story needs thinking about.

Donovan Bixley’s illustrations are outstanding. He mixes lifelike imagery with childlike drawings and the written text is well placed throughout the illustrations. The wolf is terrific.

This will be popular and the same formula could be used by any child to dissect other nursery rhymes and fairy tales.

Good for reading, good for writing good for art and good for a laugh.

Muddle & Mo by Nikki Slade Robinson.

March 9, 2015 Comments off

muddle & MoMuddle & Mo by Nikki Slade Robinson.. Pub. Duck Creek Press, 2015.

Muddle thinks that Mo is a funny looking duck and Muddle is right because Mo is a goat. Goats do not look anything like ducks, well not in my experience at least but who knows what sort of slant Picasso could put on it.

Muddle decides that Mo is a funny colour for a duck, his beak is too hairy, he doesn’t eat worms among other things but worst of all his poos are too hard. It doesn’t look good for Mo.

Then Muddle sees a Goat Farm and realises Mo is not a duck but a goat. Mo of course already knows this but is Muddle a goat? Read it and find out. Very good ending.

Delightful picture book with a very expressive duck and a goat. Written text is minimal and right on the nail. Has great child appeal especially with the” hard poos”. My granddaughters wanted to have it read again and they are hard taskmasters.

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