Monday, November 4, 2013

Mrs Pepperpot's Outing by Alf Prøysen

This is the first Alf Prøysen book I have ever read and it was a delightful read, nothing deep, stories about a little lady who shrinks at the least inopportune moments, and whose clothes intriguingly enough shrink with her which is very convenient. The Norwegian author, Alf Prøysen,  was born back in 1914 and sadly only lived to be fifty-six. He was well known for his children's books as well his contributions to the music and television industries. Mrs Pepperpot, the protagonist, lives with her husband Mr Pepperpot on a hillside in Norway. The main story in this book revolves around a car ride with Mr Pepperpot searching for some interesting activities in which to partake.  Whilst he is muddling through these, Mrs Pepperpot is busy collecting stray animals, all of whom rescue her during her shrinking episodes. The stories don't require a great deal of brain power to decode, but they are intriguing and obscure enough to keep you reading. To my way of thinking, students who enjoy the adventures of Pipi Longstocking and Enid Blyton books,  may well find the Pepperpot series of interest. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Onion Tears by Diana Kidd

I have now read quite a few of Diana Kidd's novels and it is a shame she is no longer around to continue sharing cultural insights in order to break down stereotypes which often dehumanise refugees. This book is a beautiful vehicle for teaching children values-based education in relation to asylum seekers and refugees. Although it was written some twenty-four years ago, it is still extremely relevant to the situation in Australia today. The thoughts of a young Vietnamese girl Nam-Huong,  who has been through a trauma that has left her unable to speak, are eloquently conveyed to the reader through the first person narration. Nam lives with "Aunty" and helps out in the family restaurant (along with fellow refugee Chu Minh) when she is not attending school. Insight into what she suffered and her loneliness and disconnectedness are conveyed through a number of letters which Nam writes to the "Dear little yellow canary," "Dear Mr Buffalo" and other animals with who she had a connection in her past life. At school she is teased because of her name, the food she brings to eat and the fact she doesn't verbalise what she is feeling. The students have no understanding of her grief for her missing family and her beloved Grandpa whose fate is revealed only at the end of the story.  It is only her understanding teacher, Miss Lily, who eventually helps Nam to start enjoying her new life and to smile again.Whilst some younger readers will be unable to relate to the atrocities Nam endured in Vietnam and during the boat trip, they will understand how difficult it can be to start life in a new country and how being dismissed, teased and excluded can affect a person's well being. Onion Tears was shortlisted in the 1990 Children's Book of the Year awards and winner of the 1990 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Children's Literature.  It was inspired by the stories of Southeast Asian students at Richmond Girls High School. I have reviewed a few books by this author on this blog. The detailed ink illustrations by Dee Huxley which adorn all the pages add greatly to the pathos of Nam's story.

The soldiers took Dad away..Nam and little yellow canary

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Tartan Kangaroo by Tom Lewis and Tony Oliver

Australia meets Scotland, this book is basically an illustrated poem, written in ballad form. Mind you, the illustrations by Tony Oliver, are absolutely amazing, especially the massive tartan, bagpipe-playing kangaroo. This kangaroo is an environmental disaster of earthquake proportions who rips up gum trees and flings them around awakening the townsfolk in the middle of the night with his merry bagpipe tunes. Well, the time happens when there's bound to be a few complaints. Then, there's the bright idea of using the eccentric roo to attract tourists. What happens in the end is not what you might expect!

Say Cheese by Mary Blakeslee

This is definitely a girly book and focuses on the issues of fitting into a new school, friendships and peer pressure. Fifteen year old Granada (Granny) has just returned to Canada to attend Fineacre High after many years of studying at an exclusive school in Switzerland. She initially has trouble settling in, and is faced with further trouble when she sets her sights on Steve Williams, the editor of the school newspaper Fi High Speaker, and who is under the constant watch of his girlfriend of three years, Lonnie Kaye Borgnine. Granny is so infatuated with Steve that she lies about her photography skills to gain a place on the newspaper. There are a few fiascos to start off with, but after spending many hours studying the art of photography with her father who is  renown for his accomplished photojournalism, she starts to gain Steve's appreciation and attention. Gary, the guy in charge of the photography section, is not so easily impressed, and like Kaye, it seems he is out to make her life miserable. Thank goodness for her new friend Maureen who is there to offer advice, and support her through the tricky situations. On the home front, Granny is trying to develop a relationship with her new step mother Judy and help out with the energetic five year old twins Trixie and Trina. Judy firmly believes they are destined to be great child models.  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pup by John Heffernan

This novel is an engaging follow-up to the books Chip and  Spud by the same author, and focuses on the life of Pup, another one of Farmer Morton's abused dogs. It follows the friendship of a young boy called Jack with the young kelpie whom he rescues from his cruel master. On the advice of one of his father's friends, Jack sets out to train Pup to a professional level in the rounding up of sheep. Jack doesn't enjoy school is currently struggling with reading, and is the brunt of ongoing jokes and verbal abuse at his school. Pup bring a new joy to his life and slowly things start to improve with his studies. Morton whose wife has left him along with his daughter, has spiralled further into the ugly tunnel of alcohol abuse and he is determined that Pup be returned to him. He is reckless in his pursuit of all he has lost. It is a hard book to put down and very suitable to an upper primary audience.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Eric by Shaun Tan

How excited was I when I found this little gem! I have a large collection of Tan's works and was not aware of this existence of this littler number. Turns out that this is a mini gift edition of one of the most loved stories from the multi-award-winning, internationally lauded masterpiece Tales from Outer Suburbia. Despite the fact that in general we tend to think of book with fewer words are reserved for children, this is really a book for all ages.

Some years ago we had a foreign exchange student come to live with us. We found it difficult to pronounce his name correctly, but he didn't mind.

Thus begins the story of the very amiable  "Eric," the name he chose for himself to make life easier for others. Eric chooses to live on a shelf in the pantry rather than in the freshly decorated room the family had provided for him.  Tan showcases Eric's interest in the smaller and less obvious things in the world; those things we often neglect to notice. His illustrations are what make this book so memorable as they are unique and whimsical, with the final illustration which makes you go tingly inside. It is a beautiful and fitting conclusion which makes everything else in the books suddenly very meaningful.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Dog So Small by Philippa Pearce

First published in 1962 this book may not appeal to many of today's young readers as they may not be able to relate to everything in the text. But, some will find it quite enchanting, especially if they enjoyed Philippa Pearce's award winning novel Tom's Midnight Garden. Ben, the main character, would dearly love a dog and when his grandfather promises him one for his birthday he is very excited. However, his excitement turns to dismay on his special day when he receives a hand embroidered picture of a chihuahua in a frame from his grandparents. It seems nobody thinks a dog is a good idea when you live in a small abode in the middle of a busy city like London. As it so happens, the reader learns, that this picture has special significance to his grandmother and was lovingly stitched in Mexico. As the novel progresses we see Ben visit his grandparents, as he does regularly, and enjoy the company of their dog Tilly. Upon his return to London he starts to obsess over the picture of the miniature chihuahua dog to the point where it nearly costs him his life. Some readers will find Ben's attitude in the final chapter very disconcerting and unexpected. Avid upper primary readers with good comprehension skills would definitely take away more from this book than a less capable reader. It contains some powerful insights into life.

He saw clearly that you couldn't have impossible things, however much you wanted them. He saw that if you didn't have the possible things, then you had nothing.

Ink drawing by Anthony Maitland are regularly dispersed through this book and are very representative of the way children's novels were illustrated in the sixties and seventies. I really enjoyed the illustrations as much as the story.

The hand embroidered picture

One of Ben's visions
Click on the link below to hear famous actress Judy Dench tell part of the story:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Spider and the King by Diana Kidd

Sam leaves home without thinking it through. He is tired of not been noticed, and jealous of all the attention his sister Kate is getting since her life-changing accident. However, life on the streets in the city is not all it seemed cracked up to be and Sam feels an intense loneliness. Not only this, but he is also hassled by a gang who seem out to cause him harm. Then, it's Rissole to his rescue and little by little Rissole tests him and allows him into his life. They both share a love of a stray kitten called Pinball and both have their own issues to come to terms with. Rissole wants desperately to find his mum and Sam, now nicknamed Spider, struggles to come to terms with his feelings of guilt at having left home and the enormous obstacle that his sister faces.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Hitler's Daughter by Jackie French

Mark, Anna, Ben and Little Tracey have a game they play each morning as they wait for the school bus; they make up stories. This time it's Anna's turn and she has an enthralling one to tell about Hitler's daughter, a daughter only a few select people in the Third Reich know about. Mark is particularly captivated with the story and Germany's dark history. But what is reality and what is imagination? It's difficult to tell until Anna reveals some startling news at the end of her two week narration. This book skips between the two stories, the one about the lives of the bus stop friends, and the one about Heidi, the unacknowledged daughter of Adolf Hitler, story set back in World War 11 Germany. It throws up many questions, like what it would be like to be a child of someone evil?  How can someone love someone who commits terrible crimes? This novel was first published in 1999 and has sold over 100, 000 copies in Australia alone. It has also received a lot of critical acclaim in many countries and it would be great if every upper primary student had the opportunity to read this book.

The Cabbage Patch Fib by Paul Jennings

One evening around the tea table Dad insists on intelligent discussion, and that's when Chris pops the question, "Where do babies come from, Dad?" Well, Dad doesn't give an intelligent answer at all, in fact he tells Chris that they grow out of cabbages at night. Intrigued by this, later that evening just before bedtime Chris grabs a torch and begins his search for a baby in the family's cabbage patch. Bingo! He finds one and it  is a little boy and it is green. He is suitably impressed, but about to find out the hard way just how demanding caring for a baby can be, especially this one which starts to change colour and die if he so much as hands it to anyone else to care for for more than a minute. He has to take it to school with him, miss out on his favourite lessons and playing British Bulldog in the breaks, and what's even worse, he has to change the disgusting yellow nappies whilst the whole class looks on! So what can he possibly do to make his life easier? Craig Smith's ink illustrations are entertaining within themselves.  This book is an easy read but entertaining.

This one of Jenning's stories included in the Round the Twist series. Click on the link below to preview it. It is a little different from the story but just as enjoyable as the book.

The Monster Diaries by Luciano Saracino & Poly Bernatene

The Monster Diaries is a monster-sized book and is not a story so much as a series of diary entries from twelve different monsters including the well known ones like Dracula, The Abominable Snowman and Frankenstein. "The Federation of Fright" believes that human children have run out of nightmares and is running a competition to find the grisliest ghoul and will be judging each of the entries on their terror tactics. Each diary entry is accompanied by a photo of the in many cases hapless writer engaged in one of his/her favourite pastimes. There are some links made between some of the characters but generally speaking each entry is self-contained.The dimensions of the book may make it a difficult hardback to add to your bookshelf having the dimensions 250mm x 340. However, it is a stunning hardback book. It is also a  humorous read with many play on words which could even result in some readers laughing out loud. The large, detailed illustration are a strong point of the book. And, as to who deserves to win the competition? Well, you decide for yourself.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Viking Longship by Mick Manning & Brita Granström

Into Vikings? Ever wondered what life would be like on board a viking ship? Mick Manning and Brita Granström share their knowledge mixing up illustrations and text in all kinds of interesting and unique ways. In this book you can explore skilful ship builders at work, spend time at a Viking farm, be part of a battle, visit the markets of that time and also listen to tales about the Viking Gods as you warm yourself by the fire. Viking women had more rights than women in many other countries as Vikings considered men and women as equal. A few down points were that everyone it seemed had nits and fleas and the discovery of Jorvik poo showed that they were infested with tapeworms too. So much for having the toilets close to the house and the drinking wells! Decide for yourself whether they Vikings were bloodthirsty barbarians or not.The story begins a very long time ago in 864

The authors' website is also well worth a visit:

Here is a Vimeo clip of Brita at work painting in the freezing snow in Sweden:

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (pop-up style) illustrated by J Pavlin and G Seda

This beautiful pop-up book of Gulliver's Travels was published by Octopus Books Limited in 1979 in Prague, Czechoslovakia using the illustrations of J. Pavlin and G. Seda. It was originally published in 1977 with text in Czech by Artia. It is obviously a condensed version but very well done I think. In the story, Gulliver finds himself in a tumultuous storm and the ship he is sailing in meets a sad end. Gulliver, the sole survivor, finds himself washed ashore in a strange land called Lilliput.  To these tiny people called Lilliputians he is a giant. Initially, he is not kindly received as he can't speak the language and make himself understood and so he is locked up. Finally, he receives a pardon but only on one condition.

New Patches for Old by Barbara K. Walker & Ahmet E. Uysal

This Turkish folktale retold by Barbara K. Walker and Ahmet E. Uysal will appeal to all ages. It was published back in 1974 but the humour is timeless. It's holiday time and Hasan decides to buy something new in the way of clothing for the members of his family to celebrate. After accomplishing this, he buys some trousers for himself even though they are too long and the tailor has no time to shorten them. He then begins his quest to find a family member with time to do the task, but to no avail. It seems everyone is far too busy to help dear old dad out. But it seems they also have a secret, and this secret has funny consequences, well for the reader, but not so much for Hasan who is not impressed with what was supposed to be a pleasant surprise for him.

Some students have made this delightful story into a presentation:

A House in Town by William Mayne & Sarah Fox-Davies

A fox mother, Vixen, returns one day after stalking prey along the hills to find machines in the process of demolishing the house where she has been rearing her cubs. She must act quickly and get them to a safe haven. En route with the youngest in her jaws she is set upon by a pack of dogs. Workmen in the streets cheer for the foxes. The story follows her as she desperately tries to exit the town. The ending is satisfactory and this book would suit a middle primary to an upper primary student gaining confidence in reading. The gentle illustrations by Sarah Fox-Davies are stunning and mirror the text closely which would help students with the reading of the book.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Jack the Giantkiller by Tony Ross

A violent book about killing giants which some parents might very well turn their backs on. Highly acclaimed writer, Tony Ross, renown for his comic updating of traditional tales, really hits the mark with this one. The main character, Jack, will appeal to the rebellious instincts in young readers, as he sets about systematically killing off all the feared giants of the region. He begins with the capture of Cormoran goading him into his killing pit with insults before mercifully clubbing him to death with a well-aimed single blow. Little does Cormoran's brother, Blunderbore, know that he is next on Jack's quite extensive execution list. His abominable neighbour (who just so happens to be with him) becomes collateral damage. It's then onwards to deal with the two-headed giant, Elvarach, the Thunderdell, and then suddenly dragons and a magician enter the story... and much to his delight, a princess. This is the true stuff of fairy tales, all but with a modern twist; twist of the sword that is! I know many young children who will just love this picture book by Ross, printed just so it happens on acid free paper, ensuring it will be around for a bit.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Landing A Night of Birds by Katherine Scholes

"Each great wing was as long as a man is tall. But in this wild wind the bird was tossed along like a paper plane - struggling over long mounds, bumps and heaps of troubled air. It flew with its head slung low and eyes half closed against the beating hail."

The story begins with a master of the winds, a beautiful, ageing Wandering Albatross, desperately carving his way through a violent storm. The next chapter switches to Annie, who along with her grandfather, Old Joe, awake to a violent gale to discover a sea of dead and exhausted birds struggling to survive in their yard. Quickly, and in difficult conditions, the two collect the living birds and give them asylum in their boathouse not far from their cottage. Annie is fastidious in her search for birds, not willing to leave one living bird out in the cruel elements. As it turns out, the birds are mutton birds (Short-tailed Shearwaters) returning from their marathon flight from the Aleutian Islands, off Alaska. Throughout the story the reader is continually questioning the relationship between the albatross struggling out at sea and the stranded mutton birds back on shore.  The story then takes a fantastical twist with Annie waking one night to feathery noises, and finding she can communicate with the birds. She learns of the legend of the mariner and the albatross. Interwoven with Annie's encounters with the Bard and the other birds is the struggle of the albatross. Eventually, the two stories collide.The illustrations by David Wong include water colour plates and ink sketches, and both masterfully bring the stormy tale to life. In the back of the book there is are some interesting author's notes containing information about the Wandering Albatross, the Short-tailed Shearwater and the Rime of the Ancient Mariner along with other information pertinent to the tale. I have two copies of this hardback book in our little library of rescued books for students to enjoy and share. 

A captivating illustration by David Wong
I could really relate to this story as one year whilst visiting Nek Beach on Bruny Island I was sad to see the hundreds of mutton birds who did not quite complete their epic journey. They were still graceful in death. Every year we go down to the viewing platform at Nek Beach to see both these beautiful birds and the little penguins over the summer holiday period.

Death at the Nek 2008

Short-tailed Shearwater

Graceful in death

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Handel Who Knew What He Liked by M.T.Anderson & Kevin Hawkes

Not the type of book I would usually pick up but I am glad I did, as the book gives a basic but entertaining account of Handel's childhood and the highs and lows of his career. The humour contained in the illustrations by Kevin Hawkes, was also one of the strong points of this book. Look at the portrait painting in the illustration below as Handel discreetly has his new clavichord moved up to his bedroom; his father was dead against him having a career in music. There is an glossary inbuilt into the pages with information boxes popping up under the main story to explain terminology such as clavichord, libretto, aria, as well as small explanations about the social norms of the times. That certainly eliminates the  annoying necessity of most information=driven books of having to flip to the back of the book every time there is an italicized word! One of my favourite descriptions  in the book was within the section about the big and expensive operas Handel put on: "The characters would sing arias in Italian, some of the most beautiful music ever heard onstage. Then they would stab each other." This book is written with wit and compassion and certainly gave me a thought-provoking glimpse into both Handel's life and also into the  cutthroat practices involved in the business of public performances in the 1700s.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Beast and the Boy by Massimo Mostacchi & Monica Miceli

If you appreciate beautiful art in children's books you can appreciate this book based on its illustrations alone. The book features full panel and double page spreads of Monica Miceli's waving trees and abstract hills which give enormous warmth to the story. Appearances aren't everything and the beast in this book may well look ferocious, but really he's harmless and desperately in need of a friend. One day he meets a runaway boy who also lacks friends. And so a new friendship is forged with the two revelling in each other's company. Meanwhile, the boys parents who are desperately searching for him, are faced  by a pack of menacing wolves and the plot develops from here. This is a straightforward morality tale which can easily be appreciated by all primary students.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

From Zero to Ten: The Story of Numbers by Vivian French & Ross Collins

I was pleased to find this book to add to my collection of maths-related books and dictionaries, and I really enjoyed reading it too. It is not what I would call a taxing book and it delivers some thought-provoking information on how our number system developed. This book could comfortably be read in a night, or a couple of silent  reading sessions at school, and is very enlightening and entertaining. It is humorous and the illustrations are lively and quirky. It talks about the counting system used by the Incas, the Mayans,  the Egyptians, the Indians, the Arabs, the Romans, the Babylonians. It also focuses on how measurements evolved, and the section on "Using our Bodies to Measure" highlighting Leonardo da Vinci's theorie will have uour mind boggling.. And what are good and bad numbers? What are lucky and magic numbers? It also traces the history of mankind's attempts to measure time. Do you have time to find out about the story of numbers?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Star Trek: Mission to Horatius by Mark Reynolds

I have added this brand new book to the little library especially for one boy in my class who is a hardcore Trek fan. Mission to Horatius by  Mark Reynolds is the title of a 1968 novel especially for children based on the television series. It was actually the first novel to be based on the Start Trek franchise  and was done  whilst the series was still being made. This hardback edition was published in 1999 by Pocket Books. Anyway, in this book the USS Enterprise is on its way to Star Base 12 for well-deserved shore leave, supplies and repairs, as food is running low and also the engines need attention. However, en route, a distress signal diverts the Enterprise to the outer edge of  the known solar system. The mental health of  the crew is not the best according to Dr McCoy. They are restless and irritable and he is concerned that they could be prone to cafard, a type of space madness. When they arrive at the NGC 400 solar system, the Enterprise crew come across three planets inhabited by different human settlers who had been disgruntled with the social norms of Earth. One planet has reverted to a Stone Age state, another has a mid-20th Century technology while the third has the most advanced technology and weaponry, and is ready for space travel. Kirk and his crew are trying to figure out who sent a distress signal and the nature of the emergency. To complicate things, they run into  a warrior society, where drugs are used  by a small elite to control the general population.

Otto: The Autobiography of a Teddy Bear by Tomi Ungerer

Otto is a  German teddy and his first memories are of being stitched together and presented to a Jewish boy for his fifth birthday some years before the outbreak of WWII. David shares his bear with his best friend Oskar, using him for pranks, games and showing him how to operate a typewriter and to write with ink. The purple pink indelible stain which marks his head is an important part of the story. Then comes the war and David is taken away by German soldiers. Hardships are ahead and Otto is to change hands many times throughout the book. Students will find this innocent protagonist appealing and although the book deals with one of the darkest chapters in history, the story with its beautiful ending will prompt important questions and reflection without causing undue stress. A small corner of the Holcaust seen through the eyes of a teddy bear is a truly unforgettable experience.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Figures of Julian Ashcroft by Gary Crew and Hans De Haas

Another obscure and dark publication from Gary Crew first published in 1996 which deals with youth and the supernatural. Fans of Crew, especially The Tower, and Caleb,  will not be disappointed. On his home one day, solitary student, Julian, from a somewhat impoverished family (by Western standards!)  finds a figure which is pretty much a replica of himself. Some months later, whilst on his way to play footy, he purchases another figure exactly the same from a toy shop. However,  upon arriving home and eager to place it alongside the existing figure, he is astonished to find his treasure strangely missing! The story then, suddenly jumps forwards in time when Julian is considering going to university or getting a job. His parents offer him the departing gift of a figure. Yes, you guessed it, the same one he had fielded twice before. What could possibly be going on?  Some years later...he encounters an old woman with claw-like hands offering a curious figure which could contain clues to his future. To find the eternal truth Julian must run "the length of a nightmare."  This is a very unusual picture book which will leave the majority of upper primary readers baffled.  But then again, that is exactly what Crew's books are all about. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ethel & Ernest A True Story by Raymond Briggs

This is definitely a book I would recommend to all upper primary and lower secondary students. It is a graphic novel by English author and illustrator, Ronald Briggs which tells the story of his parents from their initial meeting in 1928 until their deaths in 1971. It is an engrossing and thoroughly enjoyable history capsule making reference to many significant events in British society during these years. The plot is a heartwarming progression through the lives of Ethel and Ernest with it's ups and downs, and  their joys and sorrows. When Ernest meets Ethel, she is a lady's maid with a middle class mentality and firm ideas of what is respectable. She marries Ernest, a milkman with socialist ideas and a passion for progress. Eventually they are blessed with a son, Raymond,  and live in a London suburb experiencing the Great Depression, World War II and the bombing of London, as well as the postwar advances such as the advent of television and automated household appliances. The book richly depicts London working class life and makes references to the major political developments of the 20th century. This books succeeds in making the social history personal. The illustrations can only be described as small masterpieces, which coupled with a witty and thought-provoking dialogue between two people from totally different classes makes for page turning reading. It is a tribute to ordinary folk living through quite extraordinary times.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Beach Party by R.L Stine

This is the first R.L Stine book I have read for teenagers, and whilst I enjoyed us, all I kept thinking the whole time I was reading the book, "I am glad that my daughter didn't have the attitude and self-righteousness of the two teenage girls depicted in this book. "It is essentially a softened-up crime novel for older kids. The two main protagonists, Karen Mandell and Ann-Marie ( a bit wishy-washy) are childhood friends who meet up again when Karen  invites Ann-Marie,who had moved to New York some years before,  to  spend some time with her back in her old stomping ground  in Venice Beach, a suburb of Los Angeles. The more physically-striking of the two, Karen finds herself sought after by two young attractive males, Jerry a seemingly well-balanced guy with great friends, and the other Vince, a leather-clad member of a gang. Karen soon discovers things are not as straightforward as she initially thought, especially after discovering that Jerry already has a girlfriend  called Renee who is non-to-pleased about their blossoming friendship, and that Jerry recently lost his brother in unfortunate accident. Karen starts getting threatening messages to stay away from Jerry, then her friend Ann-Marie starts behaving in an odd manner, and suddenly Karen finds herself being questioned about a murder. The plot,  even if slightly contrived, is not too obvious, and I think most teenage readers would enjoy this book. The only thing I find about R.L.Stine's characters is that they are not very well developed so it is hard to feel an attachment to any of them, but then again like James Patterson, he is known for his racy page-turning publications.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Little Versailles by Marie Sellier

I was reasonably keen when I saw this book up for grabs in an op shop having visited Versailles only two years ago. It is very simplistic but a great introduction to young students to  Louis XIII though to Louis XVI and also to the grandeur of Versailles and the revolutionary climate which existed in France, most notably in the capital city, Paris, in the 17th and early 18th century. There are stunning photographs of The Hall of Mirrors, the king's bedchamber, and the Letto Fountain among others. There are also many painting depicted, such as The Ballroom (circa 1688)and Ferdinand Elle's Madame de Maintenon with her Niece. The book is very staid in its prose delivery but is notable for the spectacular  images which dominate the book. Maybe it needs a little injection of  the "horrible histories" approach.

The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen

I only purchased this book on the account that I enjoyed Klassen's very witty picture book I Want My Hat Back so much. This particular picture book, written by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Jon Klassen, was released in Australia in April this year, and it will not disappoint.  Basically, it is about a boy, Laszlo, confronting his fear of the dark. In this new take on an old theme, the dark is the foil of the main protagonist, the scared little boy. The dark is adept at hiding, has many guises, is  unpredictable, and hides in the dark. Klassen's illustrations capably contrast the light and the dark, and also cleverly portray the different hues and moods of the day using overlapping panels of muted colours. There are also pages which are nearly totally black, save the details we see in the beam of Laszlo's torch. 

I am looking forward to sharing this book with Archie, my grandson, when he is old enough to understand it.
Click on the link below to see the trailer promoting the book..

A Ghost in The House by Betty Ren Wright

This is the first book by Betty Ren Wright novel I have read and I am sure it will appeal to some of the upper primary girls. Teenager Sarah is more than happy in her new house in the suburbs, especially her large bedroom dominated by a beautiful fireplace, just perfect for sleep overs with her best friend Lutie. After living in small dinghy inner city dwellings, this house is a welcome change and all the family are enjoying their time there.  However, six months on her father has been laid off and now her Aunt Margaret, the  invalid owner of the house, has moved back in, into Sarah's room. Ever since Margaret's  arrival the atmosphere in the house has changed dramatically. Whenever Sarah is left to look after Margaret alone in the house strange things happen, the room will become suddenly chilly, ornaments move around the room by themselves, and then there's the eerie singing. The image in an old painting is slowly changing and Sarah starts to fear for her life and that of her great aunt. Her mother believes she is just imagining it all and Sarah has no-one to turn to. The plot is uncomplicated and there is enough suspense to keep the reader turning the pages.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Touch and Feel Playbook by Eric Carle

I actually purchased this book for my grandson who is three months old and just starting to be interested in  brightly-coloured picture books. It is a board book and is 25.5cm by 25.5cm which makes it a good-sized book to share with babies. The apple on the front is a shiny padded plastic, and upon opening the book you are greeted by a white, woolly sheep and a furry-maned lion. Adults will be enticed to touch  the textured joys as much as their infants. There is a mirror hidden under a square on the shapes page and the frog has a very interesting texture. One of my favourites is the corrugated roof on the house. The big, hungry caterpillar is hidden under a cocoon flap and a beautiful butterfly makes a spectacular last double page spread. The book of course features artwork from The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other Eric Carle picture books, having first concepts such as animal sounds, colours, numbers band shapes along with some basic words. I can't wait to share it with little Archie.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Three Robbers by Tomi Ungerer

Do you like a dark and dastardly story? Want to scare your toddler? The three robbers in their large black capes will do just that, well initially at any rate. The threesome, toting a blunderbuss, a pepper-blower and a huge red axe, are out to reek havoc on their victims and to cash up as quickly as possible. One day, after much plundering,  they are confronted by little orphan, Tiffany on her way to live with her wicked aunt. Now strangely enough, the villains carry her away to their cave and upon her suggestion and without reservation, decide they can do a lot better with their loot. It is a rather ridiculous story but the beautiful silhouettes and artwork compel you to read this book and to appreciate it for this; the appalling plot is soon forgiven. I just love the awesome weapon, the pepper-blower!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Sword in the Grotto (Araminta Spook) by Angie Sage

 In this second book by Ange Sage in the Araminta Spook series, it's Sir Horace's five-hundredth birthday and Araminta  wants to give him a surprise party. Only problem is that there is considerable angst in the spooky household at this particular point in time as Uncle Drac has had a nasty fall from his bat turret, and it seems he has inadvertently squashed his favourite bat, Big Bat. So someone has to do the bat manure run out to the local mushroom farm in his place. Araminta is one of the volunteers along with her "wizzard" friend Wanda. Whilst exploring the beach area, they discover a grotto and inside it an amazing medieval sword which would make the perfect present for the aging ghostly suit of armour, Sir Horace. Only problem is they can't quite locate the entrance. Amazingly enough, when they return home they find that there is a secret entrance from their house, how convenient! Anyway, it is not long after this discovery, that the two friends find themselves trapped in a very unenviable position and face the prospect of being drowned. Can the Edmund ghost do anything to help them? The amazing ink work illustrations by Jimmy Pickering are really what make this book, which is pretty much what I said about the first book in the series.