Reviews

Are you for Hairy Maclary or Slinky Malinki?

hairy-maclary-from-donaldson-s-dairy slinky-malinki

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy and Slinky Malinky by Lynley Dodd

 

Today’s blog is a sort of book review for all those who will soon be celebrating their first Christmas. It is an exciting time for parents, if not for their new family members, and I am hoping that  somewhere in the mass of presents there will be some books to encourage reading. Thinking about this reminded me of a first Christmas 9 years ago and the books I bought for that special day.

There were some books especially for the baby, but there was one also for me, to encourage me to read to my new bub. Like many parents, when reading out loud I liked books that rhymed. I am sure it helped with the flow of words, but also because they are easier to remember when you are tired and don’t have the energy to actually ready the words.

That first Christmas, so far from home I wanted a taste of my roots and I decided to buy a Lynley Dodds book. We have so many of her books now it is hard to believe my concern over whether I should buy Hairy MacClary because he was there first, or Slinky Malinky because we had a black cat. In the end it was the first couple of pages that sold me … “Slinkey Malinky was blacker than black, a stalking and lurking adventurous cat. He had bright yellow eyes and a warbling  wail and a kink at the end of his very long tail.” What’s not to like?

I fell in love with the rather naughty Slinkey Malinky on the first read, and our whole family  love the books about this very cat like cat and, especially at this time of year, his Christmas Crackers book. As my son grew older and we chose books together we ended up buying Hairy Maclary books as well. We like the fact that, like most dogs, Hairy Maclary has many friends and spends much of his time in trouble, and in the end it was two of his friends who ended up becoming our favourites: Schnitzel von Krumm with the very low tum is so funny in Dogs Never Climb Trees and Basketworks, and my personal favourite is Zachary Quack who brings out a different side of our doggy friend.

Whoever you decided is your favourite Lynley Dodds character, you should consider popping one of her board books in your bub’s first Christmas stocking, I am sure you will never regret it!

Buy Hairy Maclary Books from Booktopia

Buy Hairy Baclary and Zachary Quack from Booktopia

Buy Slinkey Malinky Books and Christmas Crackers from Booktopia

Buy Schnitzel von Krumm for Booktopia

Click on the Link Below and Search to buy from Fishpond NZ

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Have you heard of HI-LO Readers?

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Last Saturday night a friend asked me if we sold any Aussie Nibbles on Bookbubble for her daughter. I have an Aussie Bite, but this reading level is too high for her daughter who is having trouble reading. This Mum is not the first mum who has talked to me about books for children who have struggled with reading, or who plain just do not enjoy it. Their children want to read the same types of books as children their own age, but often cannot cope as the books get more descriptive and the story gets lost as they try to decode the language. They also get put off as the number of words on the page increases and pictures are dropped. When confronted with a page full of words their automatic reaction is to put the book down.

Never one to let not knowing something put me off, I decided to do some research, and I came up with lots of information on why children find regular books difficult and what they can do to over-come this. I also found some sites that provide books specifically to help struggling readers – these books are called HI-LO readers (high interest and low reading reading levels). Most of the work and research has been done in England and America, but I did find one site in Australia. And, funnily enough, none of the main Australian and New Zealand bookshops had a selection of HI-LO readers except Fishpond (I think because they source books from the US and UK), and amazon.co.uk and amazon.com. You just put HI-LO readers in the search and the books appear.

In general many of the books have a low volume of words per page, images to assist with the story-line and lots of white space on the page to encourage children to read. The stories are high on action and low on description so that the children are kept in the story rather than having to decode a lot of information that does not assist with the telling the story. Some mainstream books that do this well are The 13 Storey Tree House and the follow up books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The How to Train Your Dragon Series – the books with the drawings in, and I am sure you can think of many others like this. If you can please put some in the comments below to help people looking for these types of books who read this blog.

If you want to do some more research, or look for other books, the links below are the ones I managed to find. I hope they help.

Australian
Blake Education has some books available in Australia for high low reading, and a chart yo help you choose what is appropriate.

UK and US Book Sales

BarringtonStoke are a specialist UK  publisher and have a wide range of books available.

HIP-Books has a rage of different types of books.

lovereading4 kids in the UK also has a range of books you can buy from them, but many are mainstream so can be bought in Australia.

UK and US Book Information and Link to Books Sales

Oxford Owl has a range of information and resources to help with reading

childrens.about.com has an interesting article on HI-LO reading that has lots of links to different types of books.

The Beanstalk Charity has some links to HI-LO readers as does the Friendship Circle.

Teachers.org.uk has some information and links to books

Reading rockets has some useful information.

This is by no means an exhaustive list so please feel free to add information in the comments that you think may help mums, dads, teachers and careers looking to share their love of books with children.
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A Demi-God, an elf, a dwarf and a valkyrie with a talking sword?

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer by Rick Riordon

(A Review by Sam, aged 9)

What is the Book About?

A boy finds out his father is a norse god, he dies and is sent on a quest to save the world along with a dwarf, an elf and a valkyrie.

Who is your favourite character and why?

My favourite character would be Blitzen the dwarf because he has a very good imagination for building.

What was your favourite part of the book and why?

The part when the sword talks for the first time. It is funny because he just pops up and has a chat while they are running from the bad guys. He talks all through the book after that.

Why is this book better than other books you have read?

Rick Riordon writes about myths and I like myths, but it is still modern. When I read them I really want to find out what happens next. Each series he writes is better than the last one, and this is the best.

Click here to buy Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer from Amazon

 
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Beyond Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys and The Secret Seven

 EJ12 Girl Hero – Spooked by Susannah McFarlane & Zac Power – Undercover Files by H.I. Larry           unknownUnknown

When I was a child I read all the Secret Seven books, all the Famous Five Book, every Nancy Drew book, and even some of the Hardy Boys. I loved reading about kids who saw things adults did not see, and found all these inventive ways to catch the crooks out. So I could understand why children have been reading Zac Powers and EJ12 books, or so I thought.

When I decided to review these two series I asked two fans to loan me books they liked. When they gave me their choices I asked them why they liked their characters? Tara said she like EJ because she was smart and cool. Sam said he like Zac Power because he always got into trouble but would still complete his mission. Already I could see that these books would be a little different from my childhood reading, but the best was yet to come.

The first big change was that my heros stumbled upon mysteries using their own initiative, and continued sleuthing often against the advice of adults. EJ12 works for a spy organisation called SHINE and Zac Power works for GIB. The have missions rather than mysteries, and they have adults directing their missions to save the world, or defeat their arch enemy agencies.

The second big difference is gadgets. I clearly grew up in the pre-iphone era, and so did my heros. They often went into danger armed with only a flashlight (if that), and when they got into sticky situations they had to use their initiative and whatever was to hand. Zac and Emma have an array of gadgets befitting members of international spy organisations, and the training to go with them.

What they do all have in common with my old favourites is that the heros save the day! And really that is what we want to know as children – good will always defeat evil, no matter how close the battle.

I missed my books when reading Zac and EJ, but I can see why today’s children like these books. Boys will love the short, snappy stories in Zac Power, and they will enjoy the fact he always gets into trouble but uses his brain to get out. Girls will love that EJ is caring and has friends, but still uses her head and kicks arse. And, let’s face it, todays young readers have grown up in an age when smart phones are a reality, and gadgets are to be expected. My mystery books might be a little tame for them now, but I think I am going to see if you can still buy Nancy Drew books and try for a little nostalgia from a simpler time.

Buy EJ and Zac Books from Bookbubble

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Buy EJ, Zac, Secret Seven,  Famous Five, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys from Booktopia (Click on Book Covers below for a range)
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Buy EJ, Zac, Secret Seven,  Famous Five, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys from Fishpond (You will need click on the image below to go to Fishpond and Search for the books you want)

Bookstore

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Dawson’s Creek Meets Twilight in Australia

unknownFall For Me by K.A.Last

I have to admit that I have had this book sitting on my Kindle for some time. I bought it with every intention of reading it as the first book of a series written by a new local author. But I have to say I have not been won over by the angels and vampire genre and never got past the first chapter, which is about the fall of an angel.

When I decided I was going to review independent authors as well as those supported by publishing houses, I planned to review of this book as my first. So this week, with a train journey in front of me, I started this book for the third time. I planned to finish over the next couple of weeks and write the review. Well the best laid plans and all that…..

This review is coming two week earlier than I had planned, and a little late, as I found myself getting engrossed in this book to the extent that I did  not have time to read the 2 books I had planned for this week’s review. And this is a testament to why you should sometimes read or try something out of your comfort zone.

It is not that I am suddenly a convert to the angels and vampire genre, not even close. It was more that while reading this book I was transported back to my early teens when I loved to watch Dawson’s Creek and was caught up in the love triangle that was Joey, Dawson and Pacey. To me Fall for Me is essentially a teen romance with a modern twist (the angel and vampire element) set in Australia. My teenage self that hides deep inside enjoyed the characters, their rather wry interactions and the fact that the point of view moved back and forwards between Angel Grace and  human Josh, who managed to fall in love inspite of Grace’s interesting extra-curricular activities getting in the way. To add tension to the love story, Fallen Angel Seth is there in the background causing doubts in Grace as their past is slowly revealed to her.

What saves this book from being a dewy-eyed love story, giving it some real interest, is Grace is not just any girl in love. She is a kick-ass protection angel/vampire hunter who must make a decision when confronted with a vampire with a pure soul. It is the age old question of good vs evil when the side of good is not so clear, and how do you make the right choice when whatever you do there are consequences that will affect those around you.

I was side-tracked by Fall for Me this week, and enjoyed it! Even better, book two in the series, Fight for Me, is already out, and book three is on the way.

If you want a return to your teenage years, or you love the Angel and Vampire genre, or you are looking for a book for a tween girl, then you cannot go past Fall for Me.

You can buy Fall for Me by clicking here

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2015 Top 10 Christmas Picks

free-christmas-holly-clip-art-703146   Top Ten for Christmas  holly3

It is that time of year again and many of you are like me, doing the round of shops and gathering up Christmas presents for all those loved ones. Then you pass a bookshop and you think to yourself ‘Ah ha, books, an easy present filler for the kids.’ You then walk inside, and you stop. What Beast Quest Books have they read? Were there any EJ12’s they haven’t got? What about Zac Powers and Billie B Brown? Would they read something else? And if yes, what? Are they too young for Harry Potter?

Hopefully I am here to rescue you, or at least get your grey matter working by giving you some ideas of the wealth of other books out there? This post will outline why I have chosen the books, if you want to find out more about the book or the series then please click in the book title or image and it will give you more details about the book and some options of where to buy.

I am going to start with the little ones, the ones that still love books because they are read to them. I believe you can never go wrong with any of the Julia Donaldson books, but this, my first pick, is a book given to my son that both my husband and I loved reading to him (and let’s face it all the early books have to be a little about us). Dear Zoo is a great book by Rod Campbell, where he asks the zoo to find him a pet with hilarious results. You open the flaps to find what animal they have sent and why they won’t work as a pet. I do blame this book for my son wanting a dog for years, but even that cannot stop me from smiling every time I read this book.

My second choice is an oldie but a goodie. I get that some parents find Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak a little odd, but there are reasons why it has stood the test of time. The pictures are amazing but it is the fact that the book captures life through the eyes of a child that makes it so popular. Why not team it up with the DVD for a gift package.

My next two books for the read to age group can also be bought for children of any age. One of my aunts surprised us with one of our family favourites, It’s a Book by Lane Smith. A loveable gorilla tries to explain a book to to a techno generation ass creating a hilarious tale. And if you think this is too young for older kids, think again. At book week this year some Year Six children chose this as their favourite book.

The final picture book is a twist on the age old tale of the Three Little Pigs. I picked up The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka in a bargain bin at a book shop and to this day I cannot understand why it was there. From prison the wolf tells how he was set up and how he really is such a good guy. This tale is so well written in a tongue in cheek style, and I challenge you to read it without laughing.

For my next five picks I was going to find one off books that your readers, and maybe some non-readers would love. Then I had a change of heart. Why make it hard on yourself, why not start your family on a series of books that will enable you to buy gifts for the future. So I have gone with the first book of book series, and I have tried for books that might appeal to boys and girls alike.

My first book is The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi, the first book in the Amulet Series. I have chosen this series for three reasons. Firstly, it is an action adventure series with a brother and sister as the main characters. I love their sidekick, who is a crazy rabbit. And finally, it is in graphic novel format, so will appeal to avid readers, and those not so avid readers who like to get through a book quickly. There are six books in the series and so there is plenty to keep you going in the book gift area if they like the first one.

Escape from Wolfhaven Castle, the first book in the Impossible Quest Series by Kate Forsyth is my next pick. My action and adventure loving son loves this series because the dialogue is funny, and although there are male lead characters he can identify with, he also enjoys the female characters. This is a five book series for your children to get totally lost in.

Two brothers and a sister are the leads in my next pick, The Field Guide Book 1 of the Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black. After watching the movie my son started on the books, which he says are way better than the movie. The story line is great, and what I really love about these books are they are in hard cover and make beautiful looking gifts as well as being great reads. There are five books in the original series, plus three books in the Beyond The Spiderwick Chronicles Series.

Another series that has DVD’s behind them is the How to Train Your Dragon Series. Like the Spiderwick Chronicles, they are different enough from the movies or TV series to interest even the most avid fan. They are well written, fast paced and very funny and if you get the version with images then they only add to the story. How to Train your Dragon by Cressida Cowell is the first in the series, but once hooked, your child has 11 other books to read. Not only can you follow up with movie and TV dvd’s, but iTunes have great audio versions of the story read by David Tennant which are great fun for the whole family to listen to on a road trip.

My final serial pick is a book I  have not even read. I am picking it on the basis that the Percy Jackson Saga, The Heroes of Olympus Series, and the Red Pyramid Series have not only been popular, but are well written, and the characters are ones children identify with. I started reading the Heroes of Olympus series to my son as a bedtime story, but apparently I do not read quickly enough and my son has now lept ahead to book 3 on his own. Funnily though my pick is none of these series, but a recently released book called Magnus Chase and The Sword of Summer by Rick Riorden. This book is the first in the new series about demi God children of the Norse gods in general and in particular Thor. This is for older readers (12+), but with the modern characters, great stories and a hero that is the son of Thor. I think this will be a winner!

And to my final pick for this top ten list. Well, it’s not a reading book at all. With google at our finger tips we sometimes forget that children can still actually learn things from books. Everything You Need to Know (an encyclopedia for young minds) from Kingfisher is a resource children can use when they do not have screen or computer time. It has easy to read to read text, great images and a wide reange of topics for enquiring young minds. And my favourite bit? It has web links so those enquiring young minds can learn even more and take their search to the net.

Hope you have enjoyed my top ten. I would be interested to know what you would have left out or included.

Happy Christmas shopping.

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Top 10 Summary

1) Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

2) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

3) It’s a Book by Lane Smith

4) The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka

5) The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi (Book 1 of  the Amulet Series)

6) Escape from Wolfhaven Castle by Kate Forsyth (Book 1 of the Impossible Quest Series)

7)The Field Guide  by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black (Book 1 of the Spiderwick Chronicles)

8) How to Train your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

9) Magnus Chase and The Sword of Summer by Rick Riorden

10) Everything You Need to Know (an encyclopedia for young minds) from Kingfisher

The Naked Boy and The Crocodile

UnknownThe Naked Boy and The Crocodile 

Stories by children from remote Indigenous communities.

Edited by Andy Griffiths.

 

When Andy Griffiths toured Indigenous communities as an ILF (Indigenous Literacy Foundation) ambassador he asked the children he spoke to to share some stories with him, and some of these make up the collection in the Naked Boy and the Crocodile.

I am going to be honest, I bought these books thinking I would be doing my bit to support literacy in Indigenous Communities (as money from sales goes to supporting their literacy programme). However, this do-gooder was surprised when I got distracted from putting the book up for sale on eBay by actually taking the time to read it. So surprised I had to share it with you all.

My surprise came not from the literary skills of the children who wrote the stories, but from the richness of their imagination, and their depiction of a life so different for the average Australian town dweller. I was also surprised that I smiled through this short read with genuine pleasure, and felt a little disappointed when it ended.

Here is a little taster of the type of thing that made me smile from the title story.

   “Once upon a time there was a croc who was hungry. Looking for food. His favourite food was people. The   thing he liked most was naked people.”

If you want to support the great work of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation then you should buy a copy of this book. If you want to find out more about the croc who loves naked people, then you should definitely read this book. If reading about life from the point of view of some very imaginative children makes you smile, then you should very definitely read this book!

 

If you want to buy this book from bookbubble click here

Or it is also available at

Fishpond in New Zealand by clicking the link below:

Fishpond

Or Booktopia in Australia by Clicking the link below:

Booktopia

Combining History and Fantasy – What could be better for a good read?

 Alchemyst_Nicholas_Flamel  The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott

For my second review I wanted to share a book (or rather a series of books) that I really enjoyed reading recently, and that I am sure many teens and maybe even other adults will enjoy.

What initially attracted me to this book was the story line: fifteen year old twins meet a medieval alchemyst and help him in his search for the philosophers stone like codex that is missing some pieces. They are hindered along the way by Nicholas Flamel’s arch-nemesis, John Dee who is also trying to find the complete codex to bring back beings called The Dark Elders. History and fantasy all rolled into one book, what’s not to like!

The first book is fast paced and well written and takes the reader through a mad chase to find the codex, introducing them to a range of historic characters in a new light such as; Bastet from Egyptian history, the Morrigan for Irish legend, and even Yggdrasil – the life tree from Norse legend.

Michael Scott has imagined a story that weaves the fantastical with historic characters with a modern day spin. The Alchemyst certainly pulls the reader into this world and leaves them wanting more, so it is a good thing there are five more books in the series that introduce more historic characters and takes the story around the globe and beyond.

Although in later books some of the writing gets a little bogged down in retelling the story of previous books, a problem with any serialised story, the characterisations and cleaver plot line more than make up for this.

 

For the series buy from Booktopia buy clicking on the link below:

Booktopia

in New Zealandbuy the Alchemyst from Fishpond by clicking on the link below.

The Alchemyst: Book 1

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My Favourite Julia Donaldson / Axel Schelffer Book


Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book

by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Like many parents today, I love the way Julia Donaldson writes, and Axel Schelffer paints us amazing images, bringing her stories to life visually. My son has grown up listening to and loving The Guffalo and the Gruffalo’s Child, Stick Man is still read at Christmas; and he was delighted to Find Room on the Broom had been made into a stage play. But for me my magic moment came when he read my favourite of their books out loud to to friends. Finally I knew he understood why Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book has been my favourite to read to him again and again.

He used his voice to play up the links from each scenario in the book to a new one, his voce rising and falling at play on the books and stories theme that link them all together (sometimes delaying his reading as he lost himself in the pictures before realising he was actually reading to an audience). Then, when he had finished reading, he took his audience back to the beginning of the book and showed them how all the characters had been in the initial illustration, and were there again at the end in the final one as their actual characters in the story.

The symmetry of this round robin books is contagious, and reading Julia Davidson’s lyrical rhymes is a joy as the story meanders around frogs and dragons and ghosts, spacemen and robbers and birds, who all have one thing in common – books. As the words paint the pictures, so Axel Scheffler’s images create the colourful world that you fall into when reading Charlie Cook’s favourite book.

It makes me smile to think that this is one bug  I have passed on to my child.

Buy Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book from Amazon