Friday, October 13, 2017

Book Review :: The Wonderling

The Wonderling - Mira Bartok

"Mira Bartók tells the story of Arthur, a shy, fox-like foundling with only one ear and a desperate desire to belong, as he seeks his destiny."

If you're hunting for a summer read to share with your junior schoolers, The Wonderling could just be the one (though ideally this would be consumed in winter, snuggled in front of the fireplace).  Such a cosy, magical and melancholy little book world.  While slow to get moving, The Wonderling has a ton of fun elements that make it worth the ride.  From the mistreated underdog to the various descriptions of food, junior readers and older readers alike will enjoy slipping in to Arthur's world.

Arthur and his collection of companions are very sweet.  They are familiar characters, particularly for those who've delved into Dickens (one of Bartok's influences).  Quintus - AKA the rogue with a conscience, is a particularly fun, Dickensy character.  Arthur himself presents a classic, unwilling hero; anxious and painfully naive - but loyal and honourable till the bitter end.  I will admit to finding him frustrating at times, but he's likeable all the same.  I feel certain he'll develop more inner-strength and agency by book two.  All the groundwork has been laid...

The world is generally well developed, though admittedly a little patchy at times (in that pages are given to certain settings while others are described selectively).  This is a balance that I didn't especially enjoy.  Less of some (the orphanage, for instance - which could be described sufficiently in a page or two) and more of others (the woods, which are skipped through all too quickly).  There are parts of Lumentown that are described beautifully, and others that I couldn't properly picture.  I mean, maybe it's just me.  I'm particular.  My absolute favourite part of the book is the description of Pinecone's home.  Ugggg.  So cool.  I would've stayed here for the whole novel, if I could.

There's a lot going on, with sentient animals, steampunk elements, magical creatures and a hero's journey.   The illustrations are a nice touch, and overall the book is just so beautifully packaged.  I'm excited to see how the book transfers to film.  I expect it will be visually stunning and probably paced more tidily than the book. 

If your kid digs an epic, fantasy adventure, The Wonderling is worth checking out.  Not quite on par with Harry Potter and the like, but fans of the latter are likely to enjoy this one.

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Book Review :: Landscape With Invisible Hand

Landscape With Invisible Hand - M. T. Anderson

"National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson returns to future Earth in a sharply wrought satire of art and truth in the midst of colonization."

Huh.  This ARC arrived with no blurb on the back and, curious, I read the first chapter to see what was up.  It was compulsive reading from there on in.  It's unlikely I would've pulled this book from the shelf, the cover art does nothing for me, but I'm glad I read it.  It's short and would happily consume an afternoon.  Time well spent, in my opinion.

  • This story is relevant.  I mean it's about an alien take-over, ya know, but still totally relevant.  Lol.  The most obvious connection to current times is the poor-vs.-rich gap, and the low quality of life (and life expectancy) of those below the poverty line.  I mean, yeah.  Sobering.
  • Adam is a bit of an unlikeable protag - for me anyway.  But I was rooting for him!  Truly.  'Dem brakes.
  • I loved the descriptions of art.  I would love to see the actual pieces, coz in my mind they are real pieces, so vividly described.  The cover is very fitting, in retrospect (though I would still like to see a different version).
  • There are some really funny lines.  This is a very bleak story, but with a sharp sense of humour. Definitely black humour, fyi.
  • This is a bit of a gritty tale, with more substance than meets the eye.  One to read and ponder afterwards.  I can see this one making the leap onto the secondary school reading list.  I think it would be a valuable addition.

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books.

Book Review :: The Very Noisy Baby

The Very Noisy Baby - Alison Lester

"Here is the story of a very noisy baby.
She could bellow like a buffalo
And roar like a lion
And howl like a wolf for a very long time."

We are absolute Alison Lester fans, so this one was a safe bet for us.  #notwrong.  Lester has the sweetest illustrations to pair with her way cute stories.  I'm in LOVE with the colour palette Lester uses, as per.  How utterly sweet is that cover??!

The Very Noisy Baby is ideal for sharing with babies and toddlers.  It has a simple, repetitive story and clean, uncluttered illustrations.  The story gives ample opportunity for making animal sounds which, correct me if I'm wrong, babies lurrrrve.  With the exception of mooing, in Wilco's case, #definiteno.  Definitely a very sweet edition to the baby book collection 😍

Friday, October 6, 2017

Book Review :: La La La

La La La - Kate DiCamillo and Jaime Kim

Cuteness overload!  If you follow my instagram stories you will have already had a sneak peek of this one.  La La La is a tender story, conceptualised by Kate DiCamillo and vividly illustrated by Jaime Kim.  It has a touch of melancholy and oodles of beauty.  Each page could be a print to frame and hang, so so pretty!  With a universal message and little to no text, this would make a lovely gift for any age group.  Gorgeous.

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

Friday, September 29, 2017

Book Review :: Gecko

Gecko - Raymond Huber and Brian Lovelock

"Discover Gecko - the escape artist of the lizard world!"

Instalment #2 in Walkers Nature Storybook series is a goodie.  This time penned and painted by two kiwis, Gecko is relevant.  In the same format as Koala, Gecko tells a story and supplements it with pertinent (and interesting facts).  I dig this.  As a teacher I would happily add this to a library corner as a research tool, and as a parent it makes a nice bedtime story - with or without the additional factoids.  Older kids will enjoy the excuse to dip into a picture book again too, because 'research'.

The illustrations are perfect for this one.  If you're looking for an art activity for your kid or your class, the pages of Gecko would make a good starting point.  Actually, I'm totally gonna save this idea.  #yuss.

Gecko is due out in a couple of days.  Thanks to Walker Books for sending us this review copy :-)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Book Review :: Tell It to the Moon

Tell It to the Moon - Siobhan Curham

"Tell It to the Moon continues the story of Moonlight Dreamers Amber, Maali, Sky and Rose, who are not like everyone else and don't want to be: becoming friends gives them the courage to be themselves."

So you should easily be able to pick whether this read is a fit for you, purely based on the cover, title and tagline.  It's slightly grittier than you'd expect, touching on a number of relevant, teen concerns.  There's also the expected amount of glitter and poems and sentimentality.  Just go in knowing this and you'll be totally fine.

Tell It to the Moon gets a bunch of big ticks ✔✔.  First up - diversity, and not just lip service either! Yuss!  Secondly -  empowering girls to: dream big, believe in selves, be true to selves, conquer fears and stick it to the man, amongst other stuff.  I mean, I know that sounds like a massive cheese-fest, but it gave me good feels and we all need a few of those right?  It totally took me back to my early teens, all the fawning over boys, journaling my probs, dreaming about the magic future and hanging out with my besties.

Yes, there's overuse of Oscar Wilde quotes (already well overused, in my opinion - sorry Osc).  There's also more than a passing resemblance to the Sisterhood books - though at least that comes with hefty amounts of all for one and one for all + got ur back.  LOVE.  If only all teenagers had such solid, dependable friendships to fall back on.

Tell It to the Moon seems likely to appeal most to younger teens - 14 and up.  It's really a sweet story, covers a wide scope of experiences - from the homeschooled girl figuring out the high school system for the first time, to family medical crises, to figuring out sexual and personal identity, etc.  And that's really just the tip of the iceberg.

Tell It to the Moon and Moonlight Dreamers (book 1) are available in stores now.

Review copy provided by Walker Books

Friday, September 22, 2017

Book Review :: Curiosity

Curiosity - Markus Motum

"A stylishly illustrated non-fiction book about the search for life on Mars, told from the unique perspective of NASA's Mars rover, Curiosity."

Urgh!  This book is so great!  Science-y goodness for our little info-sponges.  Filled with details and diagrams describing how and why this little machine ended up on Mars, totally perfect for feeding curious minds.  The illustrations in Curiosity deserve far more than a passing mention, too.  They are lovely! Just look at that pretty cover!

The rover, Curiosity, narrates the story of his ascent to Mars.  I almost feel sorry for the little machine, all alone up there, until I recall that Curiosity is still juuuuust a robot #okaywhew (but she has her own twitter account, so I mean...).  I'm glad Motum uses this devise - it gives the story some heart, to complement all that information.

This is super pretty book is available form Oct 1st so keep ya eye out x

Review copy provided by Walker Books

Friday, September 15, 2017

Book Review :: I Can't Sleep

I Can't Sleep! - Stephanie Blake

"Simon’s little brother can’t sleep without his special blanket. In this new book with the bestselling rabbit, Simon needs to show how brave he can be."

Simon is back, with his little bro this time.  A relatable tale (because losing those special items #shudder), with a certain sweetness in Simon's care and protectiveness of his little brother.  Truth be told, I didn't really feel the love for this one.  Initially this series felt light-hearted and funny.  To a degree I still find them funny, but overall I'm not drawn to them anymore.  Simon has grown up a lot (yay!), but now it's his little brother's turn to display behaviours I don't dig.  #sigh.  Simon fans will find the instalment more or less on par with the others.  If you haven't fallen out of love with Simon and co. you should enjoy it.

Book Review :: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe

"Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met, never even spoken to – someone who is light years away?"

Yusss!!  I so needed to read a book set in a spaceship!  I knew from the blurb that it would hook me, and I was so right.  Initially my interest lay in how Romy had constructed a life/world for herself all alone in her spaceship.  A daily audio message (sent months ago, from Earth) is her only link to anyone in the universe.  I mean.  How do you.  Even..  It's beyond horror.  And yet, so intriguing, and somehow not completely horrifying...  Her daily routine, origami construction, fan fic writing, etc, set a cosy scene...  How is it that being stuck in space is basically the most terrifying thing to imagine, and so much fun to read about?  I had the same feels reading Cress... (I need to read more in this genre, stat).

The story develops pretty quickly, tightly plotted and un-put-down-able.  Some of Romy's back story comes to light and it's dark-as, but makes her existence all the more remarkable.  There is a steady build of tension and small reveals.  So good.  Romy grows in my esteem with every challenge set down, and... I dunno, can I say more?  Maybe not.  It's already out, so go read it! You'll see...

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Book Review / DNF

When Dimple Met Rishi - Sandhya Menon

"Will opposites attract when Dimple meets Rishi? A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives. The arranged marriage YA romcom you didn't know you wanted or needed..."
I was pretty surprised to find this book was not for me.  The cover, the blurb, I totally figured I was gonna dig it.  I checked out at about 60%.  Part of me thinks I need to pick it up again at some stage and finish it, the other part of me is like, 'life's too short to spend on books that don't float ya boat, yo'.

For starters, I wasn't feeling love for the protag.  She quite quickly got on my nerves and progressively annoyed me as I read.  I think her feistiness could easily read differently to others, but for me it was a drag.  I was a little more invested in the love interest, but he was often just too sugar-sweet - the actual opposite of Dimple.

Much of the novel is built around the tension between Dimple and Rishi, it just wasn't enough for me.  I didn't especially care whether they were gonna get together or not.  I was curious about how things would play out with their app-building comp, but not enough to stay the course.  I really wanted so much more!  I feel like this novel had all the elements to build something I would love, but just.  Didn't.

I liked things.  There were some nice descriptions of San Francisco, all foggy and city lights and such.  I also really loved the cultural element and the tug-of-war around the (proposed) arranged marriage.  I think more books should be set in the university/college context, too.  Additional descriptions of uni life would've been fun.

I think Menon is a promising author and will definitely try other works of hers.  Dimple might not have won me over, but I'm gonna keep an eye out for what Menon produces next.

Before you go, read Angela's review, for a rounded picture of what's up with Dimple and Rishi...

Review copy kindly provided by Hachette

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Book Review :: The Changeover by Margaret Mahy

The Changeover - Margaret Mahy

I dived into the unknown with The Changeover.  I missed this one completely during my teen years.  Come to think of it, I don't know that I read a ton of kiwi authors back then.  I'm glad I finally got to this one.  Mahy's writing prowess is unrivalled.  I mean, duh.  Just a couple of quick points:
  • I wasn't hooked straight away, but when I was hooked, I was well hooked.  
  • The supernatural side of things is delivered well.  Spooky and intriguing.
  • Discourse around consent is on-point.  Mahy was ahead of her time, but fortunately the rest of the world is catching up now.  Still, there are a couple of instances that made me #redflag the romantic interest.  I think the love story is rescued by the strength of the heroine, who doesn't put up with any crap.  Seriously, Laura is suuuuuuch a rad character!  I still felt bothered by some of Sorensen's words and actions.  I found myself liking the character and then being like, 'wait, what?'  If Laura were even just a smidgen less forthright, things could've gone in a different direction.
  • Laura is a complete badass.  And funny.  There are some good one-liners throughout the book.  
  • Props to Kate too, for being a hardworking solo mum who gives herself the grace to put her own needs first, sometimes.  
  • Towards the end certain scenes had me sobbing.  It's harder to read some stuff once you've had kids, right?  I was feeling Kate's feels.
  • Again on Kate - the dynamic between mother and daughter is super interesting.  There are times when they switch roles a little, with Laura shouldering extra doses of responsibility.  So not a bad thing.  I really enjoyed reading the exchanges between the two.  Kate treats Laura respectfully - as an almost-adult.  She doesn't shy away from home truths and yet is witty and loving.  Both characters felt authentic and relatable.
  • Mahy's writing is just so clever.  The language is rich and beautiful and pleasurable to read.
  • The dialogue definitely sets you in a different time-frame.  They use very proper language and it feels very 'kiwi'.  It will be interesting to see how they approach this in the film adaptation.
  • There's a film adaptation, coming this month, yuss!!  And it looks SO GOOD!!
I'm so glad this story got a bit of repub love!  Mahy is still the queen of NZ children's lit, and I'm glad I got the push to visit her YA fic.  

Review copy kindly provided by Hachette NZ

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Book Review :: Ten Pound Pom

Ten Pound Pom - Carole Wilkinson & Liz Anelli

"Part of the new-look award-winning Our Stories series, this is a modern Australian immigration story.

This story follows the journey of a young girl who is leaving everything behind to live in a new country.  I'm putting this one in our Top Ten for 2017, loved it.

There's a fair amount of text, so this would really suit a slightly older reader - I'd say Eleanor's age (7) is a great age to start.  There's a historical element, but this is very much a story, made all the more interesting for the historical backdrop.

I absolutely fell in love with the detailed illustrations, and the details in general.  As the character (this is an autobiographical story) travels through different countries, she collects special souvenirs to mark the journey.  She makes a friend on board the ship, and they listen to Cliff Richard records in her little bunk-room.  This totally would have captured my imagination big time, when I was about Eleanor's age.

Due for release on Oct 1st, this one is SO worth checking out.  I'm looking forward to seeing where else this series goes, too!

Review kindly provided by Walker Books

Friday, September 1, 2017

Book Review :: We're Going on a Bear Hunt activity books

It should come a no surprise that I love these little books.  How perfectly would they have fit this little explorer party?  These two books are ideal companions, one for informing and one requiring input.  Perfect if you're homeschooling, perfect to use for extension activities in the classroom.  Perfect for independent peops who have an interest in the natural world (or for parents hoping to inspire more interest in the natural world).  In short, perfect for everyone!  Yay!

We're Going on a Bear Hunt - My Adventure Field Guide

I just love the cover for this one!  It's a nice size for slipping into a bag when you're heading out for an adventure.  If doing so, I would suggest picking a section and pre-reading it and planning your adventure from there.  There are plenty of activities to choose from - e.g. cloud spotting, making mud bricks, building a worm farm and a bunch more.

The field guide actively encourages heading out and observing nature, offering supplementary information to guide and enhance your observation.  Expect to find charts, descriptions and a bunch of cute illustrations, covering everything from the water cycle to how light works to climate change and heaps more.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt - My Explorer's Journal

Super cute!  The journal features an elastic clasp holding the pages together - perfect for storing leaves and pressed flowers inside the pages of the book.  Just like the field guide, the journal has activities and tasks to be completed.  There are also plenty of tips and accompanying facts to supplement the many pages waiting to be filled.

These are such pretty, inviting books.  I can see them being pored over all summer long.  They'll definitely capture inquisitive minds, and there are enough activities to keep little people busy for a very long time!

Honestly, the hardest decision for me is whether I'll gift these to the kids (they're perfect gifts!), or save them to use as teaching resources.

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Book Review :: I Want to Be in a Scary Story

I Want to Be in a Scary Story - Sean Taylor & Jean Jullien

"The stellar duo behind Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise reunites to create a book that will have children (and their parents!) roaring with laughter once again."

Okay, admission.  I super duper thought this one would not be for me.  I'm so influenced (maybe too much, I guess) by illustration style, and didn't feel drawn to this cover.  I quickly flicked through and thought, "yeah, nah."  So imagine my surprise when I sat down to read it and found it HILARIOUS!  And not just because the story is funny (it is), but because of the perfect match between story and images.  I'm so sold.  To me this has a little of a I Am The Wolf And Here I Come flavour - deceptively simple illustrations with cheeky, unexpected comedy.  That one is an enduring fave, and I suspect this one will be too.  I Want to Be in a Scary Story is likely to get funnier with each reread, as you figure out the best timing and delivery for each joke.  I think Klassen fans will enjoy.  Just fyi, literal lols while reading this.  See for yourself, and judge me if you will...

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Book Review :: Once Upon A Small Rhinoceros

Once Upon A Small Rhinoceros - Meg McKinlay & Leila Rudge

"Once, there was a small rhinoceros who wanted to see the big world. So she built a boat. And sailed away ... From the duo behind award-winning picture book No Bears comes a simple yet inspirational tale about challenging the norm, pushing boundaries and being true to oneself."

Feat. a small rhinoceros with wanderlust.   Okay, cute!  The small rhinoceros dreams of exploring the world, and gradually collects what she'll need in order to do so.  There's not a lot of fanfare, just a lil' rhino, living her best life.  I love the sketchy, soft pencil illustrations.  There's sweet detailing, and a sense of exuberance that should appeal to little people.

This one should have broad appeal, both in terms of style and content.  Above all else, it's a nice starting point for discussing other countries and cultures.  Our little fam is hungry for adventure, so this story fed right into that.  Guess we need to build a raft, yo'.

Once Upon A Small Rhinoceros is out Sept 1st.

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

Friday, August 25, 2017

Book Review :: Gather the Daughters

Gather the Daugthers - Jennie Melamed

"On a small isolated island, there's a community that lives by its own rules. Boys grow up knowing they will one day reign inside and outside the home, while girls know they will be married and pregnant within moments of hitting womanhood."

Gather the Daughters opens with descriptions that are vivid and beautiful.  The isolation of the island is quickly apparent, but it sounds almost dreamy, at first.  Dry summer pastures and hazy sky.  Dresses stained with berry juice, and homemade cookies with fresh milk.  The foreshadowing is often subtle.  The girls are restless and irritable.  They collectively have a habit of fidgeting with their hair and dresses.  They can't sleep.  There's a marker in the beginning that lays everything bare, but only in retrospect (my mind didn't go there).  Melamed takes her time divulging the full extent of the horror.

It's the author's ability to weave scenes of simple beauty into jarring sequences of systematic abuse and exploitation, that make this such a complex, remarkable and devastating book.  The shrouding mystery compels you to read, even as your stomach twists.  Chilling lines like, 'what happens to the sons, when the daughters leave?' plague me still.  I'll also never forget the descriptions.  The muddy shins amidst clouds of mosquitos.  The driftwood huts and meals left on doorsteps.  And okay, there are some equally horrifying descriptions that I won't share, and they will live in my mind also.  Srsly good writing.

But still.  Gather the Daughters took me places I didn't want to go and, and wish I hadn't.  I was relieved that Melamed left the worst truths at an implied level, (no full-on GoT style descriptions).  I still may not recover from this story.  I truly thought I'd be okay with it.  I've always appreciated a challenging story, and will admit to having a curiosity about cults.  Just maybe not this kind of challenging.  Or this kind of cult.

Ultimately, I think I was won over by fighting spirit of the girls.  The daughters are brave and broken, their stories recount such misery and fragile strength, I was brought to tears more than once.   Full-on, ugly crying.  They are the gift of this novel.

It's an astounding book in so many ways.  It's also harrowing, heartbreaking, and often sickening.  I just don't know guys.  I'm all over the show.  I don't know if I'm like, 5 stars or 1 star or like, 3.5.  I can't remember the last time a book made me feel this way.  I guess I'll have to leave you to figure out if it's for you.

Review copy kindly provided by Hachette

Friday, August 18, 2017

Being, Not Doing (AKA traveling with young kids)

Graffiti Lane

We were called to Melbourne quite suddenly, a couple of months ago.  We had one hectic week to order new passports and arrange a million little details, and then we were straight on a plane, babies and all. 

St. Kilda, Williamstown Bayside, Williamstown Pier

There are lots of things you forget when you're planning a trip.  The first thing is AIRPORTS.  I thought I was nervous about flying.  Turns out the flying was fine (with a little help, mind you), but the airports were HARD with three babies.  How do other families stay cool, calm and collected in airports?  Eventually we got the hang of things, but it there were some really intense family-non-bonding moments, I tell you.

St. Kilda

I'm not gonna lie, it wasn't the easiest trip.  Our hearts were broken, and every detail felt imbued with regret.  We still did everything we could to make the trip special, and memorable, in a low-key kinda way.


On past trips we've been able to fit in an outing or two each day, with afternoons for resting and infrequent days off.  Our visit to Melbourne was the reverse; an outing every couple of days and looooooads of down time.  We did our best to make everything count.  Hanging out in our tiny flat all day was not an option - The Incredible Hulk is Garland's spirit animal, so we def had to seek out some S P A C E for running.  Fortunately we were in walking distance of the the sweetest little park and waterfront area, so we spent a bunch of time there.  My number one survival tip for traveling with pre-schoolers?  Find dat playground.  

Williamstown park, Williamstown Bayside

A couple of times our plans went south.  We got lost, we had stuff stolen (briefly losing all contact with the world - um, I don't understand how travel worked, pre-cellphones - you'll never be able to explain this to me), and we also thought we'd have a go at the Melbourne motorway.  Bad times, bad-freakin-times.  But of course there were a ton of totally perfect moments.  My personal favourite was the celebratory (purse-and-cellphones-recovery), late-night gelato in Williamstown, looking across the water at the city lights.  I hope the kids manage to store that one in their memory banks - they should probably leave out all thought of the 'sad fish and chips' we'd consumed earlier (pre purse-and-cellphones-recovery).

Luna Park, St. Kilda

All of our best moments were the slow ones.  Horse and cart rides through the Botanical Gardens, playing 'castaways' on the combed sand of St. Kilda.  Our slower-still days wandering Williamstown were better yet.  Running our fingers against the papery gum bark, and snooping on pretty little Williamstown houses, and lunching on fresh battered fish, in the crisp, wintery afternoons.

Williamstown, Williamstown Pier

I always imagined that visiting Melbourne would be activity-filled, but we found ourselves happiest in the peaceful days.  When calm and un-frantic, we could absorb the various unfamiliar things.  This little discovery will change the way we travel.  It will mean shorter lists of must-see's, and longer periods of do-nothing.  Definitely a better fit for our little bunch of ferals.

Book Review :: Two little Australians

A few educational Aussie books in this last batch from Walker!  These will especially resonate with young Australian kiddos, but our little kiwis are definitely big fans.

Koala - Claire Saxby & Julie Vivas

"It's time to find your own way, Little Koala."

One part story, one part educational. Koala is a tale of survival, spliced with interesting facts.  The tidbits of info are great, and definitely enhance the narrative.  Our two have been lucky enough to hold a koala (chur, Australia Zoo) and even spot on in the wild (CHUR, Noosa National Park), so this story really resonated and got them rememberin'.  With strong watercolour illustrations to complement the story, this would make a perfect addition to a classroom library, or for use within a teaching unit.

A is for Australian Animals - Frane Lessac

"A factastic tour of Australian animals, by award-winning author-illustrator Frané Lessac"

And if you're going down the classroom or home teaching route, A is for Australian Animals is another worthy resource.  I have to admit, this one did not appeal to me at all on first glance.  The illustrative style is not for me, either in colour choice or technique.  I'm all 'visuals first' and would have put this one aside were it not for the written content.

Buuuuut, the animal facts are interesting, and elevate the book to 'definitely a keeper' status.  In fact, the minute I was done with this one Garland hightailed away with it.  He's asked for it nearly every night since.  It has to be said, Australia has an amazing variety of really weird animals.  A is for Australian Animals is a fun introduction to a whole bunch of them.

If you see it in-store, I highly recommend having a quick read.  If your kids are anything like ours they will lap up all these very un-boring factoids.

These two reads are perfect book buddies, and a new Nature Storybook (from the same collection as Koala) is set for release later this year.  If you're an animal lover, you'll wanna keep your eyes peeled.

Review copies kindly provided by Walker Books

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Book Review :: Where is Grandma?

Where is Grandma? - Peter Schossow

"An odyssey, on which Henry finds friends, humour, information, and—at last—Grandma."

I'm not sure I'd say I was smitten with this one.  I tend to steer away from picture books with loads of text, I find that everyone's attention will quickly dwindle if we stay on a page too long.  This is not your average story, either.  I wasn't wild about it, though our kids were pretty entertained.

I'm pleased to see a story set in the context of a hospital.  It's not typical and that's cool.  I do like a story that simultaneously educates and entertains, as this one does.  Henry definitely covers a lot of ground within the hospital, and meets a bunch of characters who share a little of what they've learned there.  Children who have to frequent hospitals may very well relate to Henry's journey.

I found the story and it's illustrations lacking in warmth, and frankly both are a little scary.  Better suited to a curious, older child who will appreciate the frankness of exchanges between Henry and the other characters.

Available through Gecko Press, who kindly sent us a copy to review.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Book Review :: The Traitor and the Thief

The Traitor and the Thief - Gareth Ward

"A thief, a spy and a steampunk showdown at Traitor's Gate!"

This is a well-paced little number!  I whipped through it in a couple of days and for the most part, really enjoyed it.  A large part of my enjoyment was derived from how richly detailed and immersive the book is.  The descriptions are so good!  So many vivid pictures in my mind, so much atmosphere.  I am all for detail and it was so fun to slip into a completely filled-out, deliberately drawn, Steampunk world.  So fun.

The story contains a mystery, though somehow it doesn't at all feel like the centrepiece.  A lot of time is given to world-building, to the benefit of the novel (the world-building is just. so. good). But it means that the mystery somehow lacks oomph.  The outcome of the mystery didn't dazzle me.  In fact, the final sequences of the novel didn't dazzle me.  I still read feverishly, despite the hindering ? ?? 👀😕

Okay, I was all in with the setting and premise.  Fun fun fun.  But I was not so invested in the characters.  There's potential there for sure, but all of the major characters lack the warmth to make me really buy in.  Meanwhile, the minor characters are more familiar, like they could've walked out of a Dickens novel.  That said, I think I'm going to like the centrals, once I get to know them better.  Sometimes that's just the way with the first in the series.  I can accept that.

Okay, here's one thing that's super problematic for me.  Early in the book there's a bit of negative commentary around weight.  Zonda is ridiculed (including by Sin) for being overweight, and caricatured by her cake-eating habit.  I do appreciate that Sin becomes an encouraging friend and champion to Zonda, but again, his focus is on changing her - making her "lighter and stronger."  I mean, she's a trainee spy I guess, but still.  *There's a little more on this past the page break but it's almost a spoiler so #duewarning.

I'm holding out hope that there'll be some #radicalselflove and #bodypositive vibes in book two!  I should also mention that everyone ridicules Sin for being uneducated, and the terminology they use is not nice.  Come to think of it, there's a lot of meanness.  Is that par for the course with YA?  Probably, but I don't know why.  It's all #conditioning in the end, and sometimes norms are only so because we let them be.... < #deep #verydeep 😂

Overall I was engaged with the story & universe - I wanna go back.  I hope the next instalment lingers on descriptions in a similar way because this was such a strength!  There's a spooky magic and cleverness about it all, that never feels overdone.  Loved it.  Give me a little more character development and little less fat-shaming/meanness in book two and I'll be happy girl!

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books