The Fox Forest Band by Lisa E. Lindman

foxforestbandcoverThe Fox Forest Band by Lisa E. Lindman and illustrated by Chandra Wheeler, picture e-book, published by Hugo House Publishers Inc. in 2015.

An evil wizard comes to the forest, spreading a thick fog to frighten and cower the forest animals. At first they all want to run away and hide, but then the smart fox outlines his plan to fight the wizard. The animals work together, and stand bravely to face the bullying wizard and regain their safety.

This is a nice picture book with rhyming text, and cute forest animals. It has a simple and uplifting message about overcoming bullying, and is a good place to start a conversation with kids about this often difficult topic. My kids wanted to know why the wizard was so mean, but they were happy that the animals stood their ground even though they were frightened. I loved the way the animals made their instruments from things they found in the forest, quite ingenious really. Seeing the spider joining in with a tiny little instrument made me happy too.

The Fox Forest Band is beautifully illustrated throughout with water colour images of the forest and its inhabitants. We had fun finding the fuzzy little spider in each scene, though my kids pointed out that it only has six legs in a couple of scenes! The animals are really cute, and the text is still clear and easy to read on each page. I liked the hedgehog, while my daughter liked the fox best.

This is a good book for pre-schoolers and primary school children. I read The Fox Forest Band with my toddlers, and they sat through it, pointing to the animals and enjoying it. My older kids got more out of the actual story, but it was still popular with everyone in our family.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

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Horrible Histories: Wicked Words by Terry Deary

IMG_4953Horrible Histories: Wicked Words by Terry Deary and illustrated by Philip Reeve, paperback non-fiction, 191 pages, first published by Scholastic Ltd in 1996, this edition published in 2011.

Learn about the origins of the English language in this witty and engaging book from the Horrible Histories series.

Horrible Histories makes learning history lots of fun, and Wicked Words is no exception. I enjoyed it from start to finish, and learnt quite a number of things along the way! It includes history of the development of English as a language, from when Romans ruled Britain through to modern times. It also explains various facets of the language. There is information about words borrowed from other languages, and about the idiosyncrasies that litter the English language. You can learn about onomatopoeia, euphemisms, riddles, slang, spelling, grammar and important people in the world of words, among many other things that make English the language it is today. There are plenty of jokes as well as some word games that could be fun to play. My kids thought the ‘knock, knock’ jokes were terrible, but they still laughed!

Wicked Words is illustrated throughout with comic-like black and white drawings. These help to explain the text, while breaking it up and making it more light-hearted and fun to read. Some of these illustrations are very clever and funny.

Full of facts and insights into the development of the English language, Wicked Words is a fascinating read for middle primary school students and up. I really enjoyed reading this book and felt that I learnt plenty about words in the process!

 

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Willakaville: Amazing Adventures of Astronomical Awesomeness by Mathew Heinecke

Willaka_frontcoverWillakaville: Amazing Adventures of Astronomical Awesomeness by Mathew Heinecke, e-book, 166 pages, published through CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform in 2015.

Willakaville is a fictional town where many strange things occur. This is the first collection of short stories from Willakaville. Adventure, time travel, a Tomatozilla, banana men, giant squirrels, even a toilet paper thief, it’s all happening in Willakaville.

Some of the stories are long and some are short, but all are rather odd! Many of them made me laugh, but there were a couple that I found a bit boring. Some of the stories are just ridiculous, and those were the ones that I liked the best. It was very hard to pick a favourite story, though I’m leaning towards the one about the magic mayonnaise that had a very interesting effect on all those that ate it! There were plenty of lessons being learnt throughout the book too, such as not to be lazy or play too many computer games. Most of the stories feature different characters from Willakaville, but there is some overlap. The main characters of each story arepredominantly children.

The book also contained a few poems. I’ve found it hard to get my kids interested in poetry books, so this is a nice way to slip a few poems in without them really noticing! ‘Wish from a Fish’ and ‘This is a Cat…’ were both funny rhyming poems, which I enjoyed.

With it’s simple language, self-contained and easy to read stories, this book is suitable for lower to middle primary school children. Teenagers and adults can still enjoy the humour of these short stories, but I think kids will like it best. There is a second volume of Willakaville short stories available now, and hopefully more to come soon.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

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Scream: The Human Flytrap by Jack Heath

IMG_4948 (1)Scream: The Human Flytrap by Jack Heath, paperback novel, 138 pages, published by scholastic Australia in 2015.

Some very odd things happen in Axe Falls, the beach-side town where Josh and his sister Yvette live. There have been unexplained disappearances, and strange occurrences, but things are about to get even stranger for Josh when his parents move them into a spooky old house. Their new neighbour seems to be a crazy old lady screaming at them to leave, there are weird noises, and he’s sure he’s seeing impossible things out of his window. Combined with his best friend, Dale’s out of control science project, Josh is having a rather unusual and confusing week, but it’s about to get a lot worse!

The Human Flytrap is the first book in a new and exciting series called Scream for middle to upper primary school students. These books aim to get your heart pumping, your spine tingling and your skin prickling with goosebumps! For maximum effect, try reading these at night (stormy or windy if possible), under the covers with a torch when the rest of the household is asleep! This was how I read the Goosebumps series when I was a child, and if was great at getting me in the right mood for a fright!

I read this book quite quickly and really enjoyed it. It was an engaging and exciting read. The characters are well developed, and I really got a sense for Josh especially. He is very brave and empathetic. I liked all of the main characters actually. They are all good kids experiencing a crazy situation, but helping each other through. We will probably get to know them even better through the series. Some of the teachers at the high school are pretty strange and intimidating though. I think they might be involved in the funny happenings in town, perhaps they are even relics of the old asylum building that houses the school. I’ll have to keep reading to find out.

As an adult I wasn’t too scared, though reading about the giant sized flytrap did have me glancing over to my baby venus flytrap a bit more often than normal! My third grader is enjoying reading the Scream series.¬†She says that she wasn’t too scared while reading The Human Flytrap, it is “fun scary”. Younger readers might find it too frightening, but it really depends on the individual child as to how they will react to books like these.

 

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Pig the Fibber by Aaron Blabey

IMG_4939Pig the Fibber by Aaron Blabey, hardback picture book, published by Scholastic Australia in 2015.

Pig the pug is back, and he is still being mean to Trevor the sausage dog! Pig blames Trevor for all of his own naughty behaviour. Now Pig has a plan to consume all the dog treats in one sitting, but first he has to get those pesky owners out of the way. Will Pig’s fibbing come back to bite him?

We loved Pig the Pug, and now we love Pig the Fibber. Despite being so mean to Trevor, it’s hard not to like this little roly-poly fellow, and to feel both amused and a bit sorry for him when he gets his just desserts.

Behind this funny tale with its rhyming text is a simple message about not telling lies. Pig learns the hard (and humourous for us) way that fibbing about his misdeeds is not a nice thing to do. A good lesson for all children, though I hope fibbing children don’t get quite the same consequences as Pig! The illustrations aren’t too complex, but there is so much character in them. The dogs’ expressions are excellently conveyed, especially Pig’s face when he is doing something naughty. He has crazy eyes and a maniacal grin!

Pig the Fibber is an excellent follow up to Pig the Pug, and is fantastic for sharing with little people. It is definitely a picture book worthy of re-reading many times, and whilst it is best for preschoolers and lower primary school students, but most people will have a chuckle whilst reading Pig’s latest adventure.

 

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Scream: The Spider Army by Jack Heath

IMG_4946Scream: The Spider Army by Jack Heath, paperback novel, 139 pages, published by Scholastic Australia in 2015.

Yvette lives in Axe Falls, a town where some very unusual things have been happening. A recent earthquake has left part of the high school damaged, but the kids still have to attend classes. During a food-tech class, Yvette sees a spider, but it is no ordinary spider, this one has a vivid blue streak down its back. Everyone in town has heard rumours of these blue-back spiders, rumours rife with mystery, disappearances, and death. Yvette sees more blue-back spiders, and the medical centre begins to be inundated with spider-bite victims, will Axe Falls survive the spiders?

Scream: The Spider Army is the second book in the Scream series. I’ve always thought these sort of books are best read after dark, and by torchlight, if possible, to give the maximum creepiness effect. Reading this book reminded me of nights curled up reading Goosebumps books as a child. The Spider Army didn’t disappoint in spine tingling scariness. The blue-back spiders are seriously creepy, and evil, especially the spider queen. Having suffered a couple of spider bites myself, I chose to read this book with the light fully blazing!

The story is well written, fast paced and exciting. It had all the right elements of scary fantasy for kids. I finished reading it very quickly, as did my eight year old daughter. She loved it and immediately moved on to one of the other books in the series, telling me that “Jack Heath is now my favourite author!”. I can see a lot of Scream books in our future.

All of the characters were described with enough detail to picture them clearly, and the reader was able to get to know Yvette and her brother Josh a bit more deeply. I really liked Yvette, her courage, and ingenuity, and the way she wanted to help and protect her brother and friends. All of the school staff that were mentioned seem very odd, and mildly disturbing. A school caretaker like Mr Mortimer would have been scary enough, without a plague of strange blue backed spiders as well!

Scream: The Spider Army is suitable for middle and upper primary school students. Though older children may also enjoy it, it is probably a bit too scary for younger readers. As an adult, it didn’t have quite the goosebumps inducing quality that it did for my third grader, but I still enjoyed the story a lot. I will be reading more in the Scream series.

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Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey

IMG_4940 (1)Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey, hardback picture book, published by Scholastic Australia in 2014.

Pig is a pug, a very greedy pug. He lives with a sausage dog called Trevor, who is sweet and kind. Pig never shares anything with Trevor, claiming everything for himself. He really should share, but will he learn his lesson?

Pig the Pug is a funny book with a message discouraging selfishness and greediness. The lyrical text flows nicely, and is accompanied by clear and simple illustrations. I love the look on Pig’s face when he is standing on top of his pile of toys, it is perfectly maniacal! And I can’t imagine a more perfect ending for this story. I hope Pig learns from his experience, but I have a funny feeling he may need a few more lessons on sharing.

My kids enjoyed this book, and demanded re-reads straight away. They also went away and read the book themselves (3rd grader and kindergartner). They both laughed at Pig’s greedy ways, especially when he was yelling “Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!”, which is something their toddler brothers do a lot!

This cute rhyming book is suitable for pre-schoolers and lower primary school children, and is great for reading aloud. Pig the Pug is a shortlisted book for The Children’s Book of the Year Awards in 2015, and has been followed up with a second book, Pig the Fibber.

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Fluid Mechanics: A Fairy Tale by Sarah Allen

Fluids Fairy Tale CoverFluid Mechanics: A Fairy Tale by Sarah Allen, e-book, 21 pages, published in 2013.

What an interesting concept! Learn about physics through the telling of a fairy tale. The first section of the book tells the fairy tale, while the second part goes over the physics concepts that were found within the story.

Once upon a time there was a princess… and she rocks! She becomes queen, and goes off to face the wizard that has stolen her baby daughter, and put her beloved husband into a never-ending sleep. Her husband’s brothers help her out in her quest, giving her a magical golden ball and a silver boat.

The fairy tale showed the Archimedes’ Principle, Buoyancy Force, Bernoulli’s Principle and Archimedes’ screw in action. The story was well written, and I enjoyed it. I also liked the Queen, who shows innovation, perseverance and courage along her quest. She faced the wizard, and solved his conundrum, using fluid mechanics, allowing the reader to explore an example of these concepts. They were then explained more fully in the second section. Simple diagrams were used to help illustrate the physics. This is a great way to introduce physics to younger students, or anyone having difficulty getting their heads around it. I found it was quite easy to understand the science in this format, and it hardly seemed like learning at all!

Suitable for kids from upper primary through high school and beyond, Fluid Mechanics: A Fairy Tale is a fantastic introduction to this interesting subject. More Sarah Allen science books are available through Amazon.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

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Live Again by Brittney Mulliner

liveagainebookLive Again by Brittney Mulliner, e-book, 184 pages, published in 2015.

Live Again picks up Aubrey Tate’s story shortly after Begin Again ends. After the terrible fright she had on the night of the winter formal, Aubrey’s life has continued on with increased protection and supervision from her friends and family. Mike is spending a good deal of time worrying about her, as is Carter, while Luke has run a million miles. Aubrey is hurt by Luke’s withdrawal, confused by Carter’s behaviour and overwhelmed with Mike’s constant presence and assertion that she is now his. She is still spending time with Gage, and she even has an evening or two with Tucker, who’s mostly a jerk. Aubrey must deal with her boy issues, and face that she now has a new stalker that wants to hurt her. She is also coping with increased frequency and intensity of dance practices as she will be representing the Dance Academy in competition soon.

Just like the first book in the series, Live Again is well written, detailed and engaging. There is plenty of drama, especially of the boy kind, and some mystery too. It was tantalising wondering who the stalker was, but I was kept guessing right to the end. The ending was much more satisfying than in the first book, this one wrapped up nicely, resolving everything. I thought it was unnecessary to have this story across two books, when it could have easily been one longer book. I was glad that I had Live Again to start reading straight away, otherwise I would have been frustrated at the end of Begin Again, waiting to find out what happens.

I liked the majority of the characters, and thought they were easy to relate to. Through the story the reader gets to know Aubrey quite well, as she is the antagonist of the story, but we learn a little about many of the other characters as well. I liked Aubrey and McKayla, they were pretty decent kids despite their privileged upbringing. I also liked Brandon and Carter, trying to act like responsible adults to protect Aubrey, yet not long out of their teens themselves, and prone to silliness, such as eating competitions. Talia and Alexis sort of blurred together for me, as they were so similar. So did their boyfriends. That didn’t detract from the story, I just had a much better sense of McKayla and Mike. I had mixed feelings about Mike, since he seemed a bit controlling to me, but he played an important role in Aubrey’s life and in the story. One character that I really did want to know more about was Gage, he was rather enigmatic!

As in Begin Again, a few things seemed odd to me, though I have put that down to never having been a rich, beautiful teenager in California! Money, cars, shopping… And a group of teenagers travelling to an island by themselves for the weekend, and all the parents being okay with this? Not to mention Brandon agreeing for Aubrey to go while her stalker is still out there. Yeah, that seems like more freedom than the average teenager might have, but still, it was a nice way to give Aubrey time to get to know some of the other students.

I enjoyed reading this teen drama. Live Again is suitable for middle to upper high school students, and should be read directly after the first book in the series, Begin Again. A third book in this series is due out later this year. I will be looking forward to seeing what trouble Aubrey find herself in next.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

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Begin Again by Brittney Mulliner

2-1Begin Again by Brittney Mulliner, e-book, 192 pages, published in 2014.

Aubrey Tate is the new girl in school. She has moved in with her brother on the Californian coast after a traumatic incident in her Chicago home. Her mother packs her off quickly, hoping that starting over will allow her to move on from the past. Aubrey falls on her feet, finding a safe haven with her brother, easy transition to school with her cousin, McKayla, and a new dance studio to attend. Though she is trying to leave some boy troubles behind, she quickly finds herself the object of attention for numerous boys at school.

Begin Again is a teen drama. The story follows Aubrey’s new start living with her brother, Brandon, and how she adjusts to her new school, making friends, meeting boys. The plot is simple, but well written. The setting and characters are described in detail allowing the reader to get to know them. The Page’s house sounds divine, and the view from Brandon’s condo is very refreshing (wish I had a view like that!) And, wow, there are a lot of good looking kids at Aubrey’s school! Everyone is so hot, beautiful, gorgeous, tanned…. do people like this really exist in such numbers? And money, money, everywhere. These kids have way too much money for their ages, especially considering not many of them seem to have a job. There are swanky cars and endless wardrobes, huge parties and intimate dates. I was amused by the complex plans the girls put into action to ask the boys to the winter formal, so much effort, but sweet too. Maybe we do things differently in country Australia, but I don’t remember high school quite like that!

Despite being rich and beautiful, both Aubrey and Mckayla seem somewhat oblivious to their assets, and they don’t use what they have to better themselves. They have insecurities and doubts, and spend too much time at the mall, like many teenagers. Aubrey and McKayla are fairly average teenagers, just with plenty of dough to splash about. I liked them both. Their best friends, Alexis and Talia, were also likable, though I felt like I didn’t get to know them as well. For the most popular girls in school they are far nicer and down to earth than expected. On the other hand, Sydney is pretty mean and catty, mostly out of jealousy and spite. She isn’t a nice person, she is just kind of pathetic. So is Aubrey’s mum. She really lacks parenting skills, and is far more concerned about her own image than she is about her daughter. She only wants reflected glory from Aubrey, no hassles or hiccups. This isn’t fair to Aubrey.

As for the boys in Aubrey’s life, there are enough to make life interesting and complicated. Mike is the protector, always defending Aubrey, Luke is the hottest guy in school, but he’s also obsessed by his surfing, and Gage is the mysterious bad boy that everyone warns Aubrey away from. And then there’s Brandon’s best friend, Carter, the older and off-limits man, who may think of Aubrey as just a little sister. They are very diverse, apart from their attractiveness. I’m intrigued by their histories, especially Gage’s. I would have liked a little more background, though their histories may yet be revealed in the next book. I liked them all in different ways, and there were things about all of them that I disliked too, such as Mike’s control issues, or Luke’s instability.

Cliffhanger, anyone? The book ended rather abruptly in the middle of the story! Nothing was resolved, or completed, it just ended. What??? Okay, so there is a sequel, and I started reading the sequel immediately upon completion of Begin Again, but still, I felt a little cheated at the end. There was a nice dramatic twist, but I wanted more, no, I needed more. I now have to find out what happens in Aubrey’s life, what happens with all the boys, her friends, her brother, and her past. The story really drew me in.

This engaging book is best for middle to upper high school students, especially those keen on realistic teen drama. When you get Begin Again, make sure you have the sequel, Live Again, waiting in the wings, you’ll want it straight away!

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

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