Books for Christmas

Since I started my book blog I have done a Top Ten for Christmas. I am running a little later this year so I have gone with books you should be able to buy at any bookshop, I am choosing one book I have reviewed and loved along with another I choose off the shelf of a bookshop as if I were buying as gift (as with all good book gifts I have had a read before passing it on).

Since I started my book blog I have done a Top Ten for Christmas. I am running a little later this year so I have gone with books you should be able to buy at any bookshop. For each category I am choosing one book I have reviewed and loved along with another I chose off the shelf of a bookshop as if I were buying a gift (as with all good book gifts I have had a read before passing it on).

I am concentrating three categories – Picture Books, Tweens and Young Adults, with a bonus choice from reviewer Sam to give us an insight into that hard-to-buy-for-group.

Picture Books

The Dinkey Donkey by Craig Smith and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

A couple of weeks ago I asked reviewer Sam what books he remembered from his childhood, and his immediate response was Where the Wild Things Are. This tale of the naughty child running wild who in the end returns home to his family is loved by all children, and is a great, timeless gift for Christmas.

When searching the bookstore for a new Christmas gift I could not go past The Dinkey Donkey. I loved the Wonkey Donkey and its silly sounding rhymes, and we still quote bits from it every now and then. Now we can update our stale sayings with the extremely loveable Dinkey Donkey, who is a more than just a pretty face. Not only does this book have the same rhyming build up as the original, but it teaches children to look past the cute donkey to see all that she is. This is a must for children of all ages.

Books for Tweens

The Girl The Dog and the Writer in Rome by Katrina Nannestad and The Golden Unicorn by Anh Do

When I first reviewed Katrina Nannestad’s book about a young girl solving a mystery in the streets of Rome I was captivated. If I were buying a book for a tween this would still be my recommendation because it is funny, has a great plot and lovely characters. It is children’s writing at its best. Since Rome, Freja has travelled to Provence and Lucerne and continued her adventures. Plenty of gift giving options with this series.

I picked up Ahn Do’s Unicorn because it looked like such a departure from his previous books, and it is. Right from the first chapter you are taken into a new world created by the villainous Soul Collector, and once you are in there it is hard to get out. The language and writing is great for tweens, and Chris Wahl’s illustrations make this book accessible for your older reluctant readers, and also for advanced early readers. However, it is the story that carries this book, and once your reader is finished you will be pleased to find book two in the series is already out.

Young Adults

Passenger by Alexander Bracken and The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzie Lee

There are many great titles I could have chosen for this section, but because we are so close to Christmas I have gone with books you can buy off the self. When you have your readers have their Christmas dollars I hope you will look at some of the reviews I have done of independently published books and give some of them a chance. I also have a link to some free reads below.

However, as the time to Christmas draws closer I have gone with two off the shelf books with an historic twist for young adult readers. And yes, perhaps they lend towards the female readers, but I think Sam may have taken care of the boys in the next section.

Passenger is a great book that takes the reader through time with the lead character Victoria as she finds she suddenly finds she is enmeshed in a war between factions of time travellers. This is a great, fast paced story, which continues in Wayfarer, the second book in the series (fortunately for avid readers). The characters are strong, likeable and flawed. The jumps through history give this book a twist I love, and it is a great read for all those romantics out there.

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy was a surprise for me. I loved the title, and so picked it up to read the first chapter. I know reason says you should not choose books this way, but sometimes it works. I couldn’t put it down once I started, in fact I would have finished it there and then in the shop if I had not bee pulled away. Our main character Felicity is not your common eighteenth century female. She is focussed on becoming a doctor in a work who sees other roles for her. As she follows her dreams she is thrown into adventure and learns the true meaning of friendship. This book is a great great for lovers of; history, strong female leads; adventure and a good story.

Teenage and Young Adult Boys

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Boys are notoriously difficult to buy for, so I have a special section for them, written by reviewer Sam, who has shared two books I have seen him read more than once this year.

Hello fellow readers today I would like to tell you about two books I believe you should buy for the holidays.

Ready Player One is a book about a future where humanity lives in a virtual world called the oasis. This world is full of 80s pop-culture and different places to explore but when the death of it’s creator arrives a secret is revealed, that hidden in the oasis is an easter egg that will give whoever finds it complete control of the oasis and 3 trillion US dollars. You follow the story of Wade Watts as he hunts for the egg. I would recommend this book for ages 13 to 18. 

Scythe is a book about a futuristic world in which death is no longer a problem, overpopulation however has become an extremely apparent side effect of a world without death so the scythes were formed they kill people based off charts from when humans would die. This story follows scythe apprentices Rowan and citra through their journey of becoming a scythe. I would recommend this book for ages 12 to 16.

 Happy Christmas shopping, and happy holiday reading form all of us at The Bookbubble. Hope to see you in January when I will share my Christmas Holiday reads.

Looking for Some Free Reads for Christmas – look no further

Picture Book Present

Nothing I love more than a browse in a bookshop for a gift. The gift I was choosing today was for a three year old, and the venue was one of my favourite local bookstores, Berkelouw Books. As I browsed I thought what a great blog this would make. So today my blog is about my shopping experience.

Why Berkelouw?

I buy books in many different places, for many different reasons. Berkelouw is my go to shop for gift books because they they do not limit their selection to books from wholesale providers, in fact they have often found a hard to find book for me and brought it in. They believe in old fashion service.

This means they are not the cheapest place to buy books, but I would rate them the best place to buy books nearby.

My books search

The Cover – Circle by Marc Barnett and John Klassen

I am a cover person. Especially when shopping for a picture book, I make my initial decision on whether to not to even pick a book up by the cover. When faced with the selection in the picture, my first choice was Circle by Marc Barnett and John Klassen. 

The book did not disappoint either. A great story about friendship, fears and tolerance. I loved both the story and the illustrations. But I did not buy it. 

Oh, if the book were for me, then it would be in my collection, but the book was for a three year old for a present, and I think perhaps this book is one children would need to choose for themselves. I cannot see a lot of excitement coming from opening it as a gift.

So I continued my search.

Titles – The Magic Bookshop by Natalie Jane Prior and Cheryl Orsini

An interesting title can also induce me to pick up a book, and I was drawn to The Magic Bookshop by Natalie Jane Prior and Cheryl Orsini. Why, simply because it had two of my favourite things in the title – magic and bookshop.

Beautifiully illustrated, this story really drew me in. I mean the idea of a child spending an afternoon in their grandfather’s bookshop able to read anything they choose. I was sold.

I reluctantly replaced the book after reading only the first two pages. Too many words for a three year old. I really enjoyed what I read of the story line, but I could not imagine a three year old interested in it. This one is perhaps targeted at older children.

A Good Old Learning Book – P is for Pterodactyl The Worst Alphabet Book Ever

Learning books are great. Raj Halder and Chris Carpenter have written a great books poking fun at the oddities of the English language. I mean C is for Czar and K is for Knight.

The illustrations by Maria Tina Beddia are beautifully done, and this book was a joy to read.

I nearly had my wallet out, a funny book is always a winner, but I stopped. For a 3 year old learning the sounds of the letters of the alphabet in their journey towards reading is hard enough, perhaps this book is better suited once they have learnt that lesson.

A Book for a Laugh – A Stack of Alpacas by Matt Cosgrove

I know I like to find different books for people to read, but when you are buying present for someone you want them to be excited when they open the gift, and you want them to love it afterwards.

Some of the books I have reviewed, especially by independent authors, would have fitted the bill, but I was not organised enough to buy these books online.

In the end I went a Matt Cosgrove book. His love of Alpacas continues with a A Stack of Alpacas, and we have a chance to see Uncle Macca look after some young alpacas with hilarious results.

Written in rhyme, there is lots of mayhem and fun for children to love, it is beautifully illustrations, and in my mind, the perfect book to gift to a three year old.

I have not included any links to buy the books I reviewed this week, an dI have no affiliation to Berkelouw books. Odd, I know, as I do need to fund the page. The reason this blog stands alone is because I would like to encourage you all to spend some time looking round bookstores near you to find something new and different to read yourself, our purchase for someone else.

It can be a fun way to spend a quick half an hour, or even longer. If you are worried you might end up spending too much money, one of the reasons why I do not do it too often, then move the activity to your local library. But you do not have to actually spend anything, just go, have a look, it might surprise you how much fun you can have.

A Catlike Competition

The Cat Wants Custard by P. Crumble and Lucinda Gifford vs I Wish I were a dog by Lydia Monks

Love books about animals? So do I, and I especially love them when I can see my cat and dog staring back at me. My book to review this week was The Cat Wants Custard, a favourite in my online bookstore, but I found myself comparing it a family favourite, I Wish I Were a Dog. See which one came out on top.


The Cat Wants Custard

In A Cat Wants Custard, Kevin the Cat (I love the name) is trying to get his owner to understand he wants custard for dinner. We all know cats are fussy, and they communicate with us in their own way. Kevin is definitely very inventive talker, and very cat like. P. Crumble’s story also has a moral, be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.

I could immediately see why this book is a best seller. The cat is very catlike, the story is very funny and the illustrations by Lucinda Gifford capture Kevin to a T. If you love animal stories, this book is a great buy to read to your children.

I Wish I were a Dog

Lydia Monk’s Kitty has dog envy. She points out how dogs have much more fun than cats, and wonders why she cannot be like that.

Her very smart owner then points out all the ways cats have more fun than dogs, showing the grass is not always greener on the other side. What does the dog think of that? You will have to read it and see.

In this book the images are beautiful, and really carry the story. Written in rhyme, it is also very easy to read. Kitty’s tale of envy is a must for your picture book collection, if you can get your hands on a copy.

And the winner is…

Normally I would say I love both books and either one would be a fantastic purchase to read to your children, and that is true. To be honest though, I Wish I were a Dog is still my favourite. Maybe it is because it is more whimsical, maybe it is because the cat is more catlike and the dog more doglike, or maybe it just touched something a little deeper in me. Or Maybe it is because it makes me want to be a cat.

Searching for a Good Read in New Zealand

We’re Off to Find a Kiwi by Juliette MacIver and Kate Wilkinson

When I holiday love nothing more than to spend an hour or two lost in a local bookshop. This year I spent quite a bit of time in the picture book section of a bookshop in Gore, New Zealand. I left with a beautiful book by Juliette Macliver and Kate Wilkinson I want to share with you.

Written in 2017, this story has a beautiful, traditional picture book feel to it. Two children decide to find a native kiwi bird and hunt through many natural habitats in search of their elusive target. Along the way they are helped by local animal life to narrow down their search.

So what made me want to add this book to my collection? The detailed illustrations drew me to the book. After flicking through The pictures I had to go back and read the story. Told in rhyme, We’re Off to Find a Kiwi takes children through different parts of New Zealand looking for the shy kiwi.

What I love about this story is the the way is teaches all about the kiwi in a fun way, and even has some facts about the native New Zealand bird at the back. I am sure parents will appreciate how this is subtly woven into an interesting and fun read. The story itself plays to children’s love of adventure, drawing them into Juliette MacIver’s world.

This is a truely lovely book. A great souvenir of my holiday, as well as a book I would recommend for parents who love reading to their children.

Buy We’re Off to Find a Kiwi from Amazon (non-affiliate link)

Buy We’re Off to Find a Kiwi from Paper Plus in New Zealand (non-affiliate link)

Pig the Pug – Love It!

Pig The Pug by Aaron Blabey

On a week where I have been working to turn one of my stories into a picture book, I spent quite a bit of time researching what mades a good picture book. And, coincidentally,  I have a great picture book review for you.

I have been wanting to review Pig the Pug for a while. Partly because it has been a best seller on my book stall, and partly because of the looks of joy on children’s faces when they see the cover. Pig did not make it onto our picture book shelf when I was reading to Sam, but now I wish he had.

Firstly, what is supposed to make a good picture book. The experts, and there are many, agree on four things:

1) A fun or unique character who children can identify with.

2) Illustrations that support the story, and that children can use to follow the story when no one is reading it.

3) A strong story or concept told with few words and great images.

4) Re-readability – we all know how many times children need a book read to them in one sitting. There are still books I can recite from memory 10 years after having last read them.

If I had not read anything at all about what makes a good picture book I would love this book. Pug does not share, he is greedy and selfish and what he owns is his alone. This is a funny cautionary tale for children who won’t share, and a tale just desserts for children who know someone who does not allow others to play with their toys.

In terms of what makes a good picture book – well Pug is definitely someone children will have met in human form, and he is funny and over-the-top. As parents know well, sharing is a big concept for children to learn, so a book that handles it in a humorous way is great to have. A child could follow the story from the images , in fact this book could be brought for the images alone. I mean just look at Pig on the front cover!

Finally, the most important one for parents, re-readability. Well I have read it a few times, and I still find it funny. I then read it to Sam, and he thought it was a laugh, and I still smile when I think about the book. And all I need to do is envision the faces of children at the book stall when they see the book to see it is a favourite with them.

Love this book and I can really see why Pig is such a dominant character in the work of children’s picture books

Buy Pig The Pug from Amazon

The Day That a Ran Away

The Day That a Ran Away by B.C.R Fegan (Illustrated by Lenny Wen)

I started this group of reviews focusing on books published by their authors or small publishing houses to give you an idea of the range of books available through non-traditional publishing. I am lucky enough to finish with a picture book by the same team I started with – BCR Fegan and Lenny Wren.

The first book – Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32 – was a great counting book, looking at learning to count beyond ten. Their new offering is a twist on learning your alphabet. The teacher asks Jet why he had not done his homework, writing out the alphabet, and Jet comes up with the best excuse you could imagine.

The book is fun to read, and you will be surprised at what the alphabet can get up too. And, as always, there is a little twist at the end to bring a smile. For me what really makes this book are the fantastic illustrations by Lenny Wen. They are so detailed and colourful children will love the book for these alone.

The pairing of Fegan and Wen is just one example of the rich world of children and YA literature that is out there beyond tradition publishing. Why not head out and have a look? You may be pleasantly surprised.


Buy The Day That a Ran Away from The Book Depository



What Is Behind the Door of Room 32?

Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32

by B.C.R. Fegan and Lenny Wen

After such a long period off I am excited to return with a review of a book I just adored reading. I was so excited because I do not get asked to review many picture books, and once I read this book I was excited to share it with others. Unfortunately, until I was able to write this review, that was with my husband and son. But now I get to tell all of you about this imaginative and beautifully illustrated story that older picture book readers in your family will really enjoy.

As a writer, B.C.R. Fegan has turned a counting book into a funny and slightly scary adventure through a monster hotel all told in rhyme, which we parents love as it does help when reading a story book out loud. The monsters encountered in each room have very different personalities, and are wonderfully illustrated by Lenny Wen. As you can imagine, the children in the book cannot help themselves and they must open the door to Room 32 and they find…… well of course you will have to read for yourselves. I can telling you the ending will not give your children nightmares, in fact it is more likely to have them heading to bed with giggles.

I love that this book is so very different from other books I have reviewed, and that it deals with that next level in counting for children – taking them above the 1-10. The rhymes and characters make a great tale, but really for me this book is taken to that level of a great book by the illustrations. Reviewer Sam and I went back through the book just to look at the images that went with the words. Lenny Wen has captured the monsters and actions in this book in a way that really make it sing. And the final piece of the puzzle that makes this book one of my favourites is the twist at the end. Adults and children alike will love how it finishes. At the very least it will bring a smile, if not a full belly laugh.

Would I recommend this book – most definitely. I would love to see more like this out there to choose from.


Buy Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32 from Amazon


Why I Love Second Hand Book Sales

An Hour of Your Time Can Produce Gold

I love a new book. I love to be the first one to open a book and to read it til the end. Even if I buy a book for both my husband and I to read it is only with great reluctance that I will let him read it first. So it will come as no surprise to you that I never really liked second hand book sales, well until recently.

My first foray was with a friend when she went to the local Lifeline sale. I was amazed by the number of people coming out with bags full of books. I thought to myself there really cannot be that many books there that I would want to read, not second hand…..

Fast forward to an hour later when I emerge with a box of books. It started with a Leon Uris book I wanted to re-read  which I found and it spiraled from there. I now enjoy spending a good hour or so in local second hand book stalls, stores and sales, and I am never disappointed.

I am at home in New Zealand at the moment and my brother was talking about a local book sale. I was not going to go as I did not have much weight allowance left, and books eat up weight very quickly. However, on a wet afternoon I decided an hour or so would be a little fun, and I am pleased I did because I found some real gems, and I have 5 examples of why spending an hour of your time can do wonders for building your children’s reading library. not ;east because I spent NZ$2.5o to get the quality books I am going to tell you about, one of which I found on one the ABLE website selling for US$37. Each still have a number of reads left in them, and would be a  great addition to a reading library apart from the savings buying second hand provides.

      1. My personal favourite,

        Calling All Puppies Written and Illustrated by Winifred Martin

        This is a picture book from the 1950’s about two Wire-haired Fox Terrier puppies and their puppy friends – Cocker spaniels, Scottie, Pekingese and others. Illustrated with charming full page colour portraits and dozens of black and white text drawings by the author/artist it is the most adorable book for dog lovers. This is truly a lovely story with beautiful illustrations.

      2. A great read by and author commissioned to write some of the Frozen Books,

        Jitterbug Jam: A Monster Tale by Barbara Jean Hicks and Alexis Deacon

        This reverse monster under the bed tale is well written and superbly illustrated and touchingly funny. Children will just love it, and parents will love reading it to them. If you want to know a little more  you can read the goodreads blurb here.

      3. A timeless tale,

        The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin by Beatrix Potter

        Any Beatrix Potter book is a find, and when the cheapest new online price I could find was $5, and secondhand price 99c, 50 cents to buy this lovely tale written and illustrated as only Beatrix Potter did is a steal. The book tells of Squirrel Nutkin when he goes to the Island to gather nuts with his brother Twinkleberry, and their cousins. I bought this book not only because of the author, but I loved the line on the first page that tells us this is a Tale about a Tail. Priceless in so many ways!

      4. A tween book not for the faint-hearted,

        Dangerous Spaces by Margaret Mahy

        Margaret Mahy had a unique view of the world, writing books that took children into places they could only ever imagine. In this story an ordinary girl blurs the boundaries between reality and imagination in a spine-tingling way that is relieved by the humorous picture of her everyday life. This is not one one her best loved books, but when you pay 50c you may as well give it a read. I have only just started reading it, but I am already hooked so it was worth my tiny investment. You can read the goodreads review here.

      5. A New Zealand Book Award Finalist,

        The Lies of Harry Wakatipu by Jack Lasenby

        I have to admit I did not buy this for me, but for reviewer Sam. I thought he might like the line on the back cover that states Harry Wakatipu is a legend in his own sleeping bag. This is a collection of fantastic stories told by Harry the Horse, and is written by the man who who edited the reading journals we kiwi kids of my generation grew up on. I just had to have this one because I wanted my son to have a taste of my culture. I will have to wait until I get home to see what he makes of it, but for 50c it was worth a punt. There is a review on goodreads.

These books are why I love second hand book stalls; you can find timeless gems, be taken back to your childhood, try something new, just waste an hour or so on a wet do-nothing day, and for such a small you might just find something you or your children will love.

How Cranky Can a Bear Be?

The Very Cranky Bear

by Nick Bland

I know I like to find new and different books for you all to read, and I know the Cranky Bear has been around for a while. But he is new to me.

I did some baby sitting recently and wanted to take round something to read to two three year olds. They love dinosaurs, but I took a copy of the Cranky Bear as well just in case. He was a hit, and not just with the children.

The story is an age old bored children annoying a cranky old man, oops bear, who they wake up from his sleep. The children all try to make the bear feel better, but one child in particular finds the key to making the cranky bear happy.

I had to read this book three times, a job that was made easier by the rhyming style the story was told in. It is also interactive in that the children can guess a lot of the next words. The reading-out-loud package is completed with great illustrations that children love to look at and comment on.

I do not know how I missed the joy of reading this book for so long, and I might have to delve into some of Nick Bland’s other bear books.


Buy Cranky Bear Books from Booktopia
Buy Cranky Bear Books from The Book Depository


Koala Bare – Another Jackie French Winner

Koala Bare by Jackie French and Matt Shanks

Ever seen a koala just wake up? Far from the cute and cuddly bear we imagine koalas are quite grumpy, and Jackie French’s koala in Koala Bare is true to form. And please do not call him a BEAR.

From the beautiful, tactile cover to the last page this book shows why Jackie French is such a successful writer of children’s book. Koala is very grumpy. He is not a BEAR, and he is out to show you why he is not like all those other silly bears. In fact he wants to prove that he is just himself.

The story is told in rhyme, which is great for parents reading to children. Matt’s Shanks illustrations manage to be both soft, as befitting a book about bears and koalas, but at the same time reflect koala’s anger. In fact looking through the illustrations in this book is one of the true treasures of reading it. However what I liked most was the message in the book. Children listening may not get it, but I loved that the koala did not want to be categorised, he just wanted to be himself. In this day and age where advertising is turning our young ones into kiddie clones I love that this book is saying it is all right to be you and be different.

I road tested the book on twin two year olds and a newly minted school starter. They all listened to the end, but it was the five year old who was most taken with the book. He loved the koala and how grumpy he was and how he just wanted to be left alone in his tree. He then went back and looked through all of the pictures, picking out scenes from stories and pointing out all the damage koala was doing. In the end though he enjoyed the story and the pictures, he just loved touching the koala on the cover.

All in all a great picture book for all younger children, but really appreciated by those just heading out into the world themselves and this mum.

Buy Koala Bare from Amazon