The Very Brave Bear by Nick Bland

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18162731The Very Brave Bear by Nick Bland, paperback picture book, published by Scholastic Australia in 2013.

Bear is picking berries when he is startled by Boris Buffalo, who emerges from the slimy waters of the bog. Bear claims he wasn’t scared, and that he can do the bravest things that Boris can do. They challenge each other to various activities trying to out-brave the other. Could there be anything that scares these two brave  beasts?

The Very Brave Bear is another book in The Very Cranky Bear collection from wonderful author and illustrator, Nick Bland. My pre-schoolers love this series, and they are very fond of Bear.

We love this book! It has been read many times in our family; The Very Brave Bear is funny with lovely lyrical language and detailed illustrations. It keeps my kids engaged and wanting to read more. I’m impressed when Bear and Boris try to wear a beard of bees, but my kids like it best when they are tumbling down the steep hill and getting poked with porcupine quills. We all like the ending to the story.

The Very Brave Bear is suitable for toddlers, preschoolers and lower primary school children. It is a perfect book for sharing a giggle with your child.

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

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angusAngus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison, paperback, 239 pages, first published by Piccadilly Press Ltd in 1999, this edition published by HarperCollins Childrens Books in 2005.

Georgia Nicolson is a teenager, and as such, her life is full of problems. Nose size, kissing, school, family, friends, frenemies, boyfriends; Georgia tackles it all. Along for the ride is her best friend, Jas, her little sister Libby, and her unusually large and vicious cat, Angus.

Written in diary style, Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, chronicles Georgia’s life in all its glory (and missteps). It is a rollicking ride through teenage angst and innovation that had me laughing. It exposes many of the realities that teenagers face, though I think Georgia often tries to solve her problems in an especially unique way. Her poor eyebrows! And kissing lessons, oh my. I was left shaking my head at her solutions, but also chuckling at the outcomes. I don’t remember being that crazy as a teenager, but then, I also didn’t have a giant half-Scottish-wildcat as a pet either!

Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging is a pretty relaxed read that I flew through. Most of the diary entries are short, so there are plenty of logical places to stop for a break, which also makes it more accessible for slower or struggling readers. Georgia provides a glossary of terms at the end of the book, in case you don’t speak English teenager. Though I didn’t have an issue with any of the words or phrases in the story, Georgia’s explanations were worth reading for their humour.

As a character, Georgia, was well written and developed. She is reasonably self-centred, like many adolescents, I suppose, but likeable enough. Her obsession over the size of her nose was amusing, and a refreshing change from teens that think they are just “too fat”. Georgia’s friends, aside from Jas, were all pretty generic, and I couldn’t really tell them apart. Everything about Georgia’s sister, Libby, however, was hilarious. Three year olds are really very special, especially when they have the opportunity to speak to your crush!

Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging contains references to sex, sexuality and sexual development, which lend it to a more mature audience. I think it is most suitable for high school students, though kids in upper primary school might also enjoy it.

Invisible Magic Wand by Rafael Jacimin

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invisiblemagicwandInvisible Magic Wand by Rafael Jacimin, and illustrated by Van der Saim, picture e-book, 30 pages, published by Gripper Products/ Look Under the Rocks in 2017.

Caspian’s Grand-pa has given him an empty box. He says that inside is an invisible magic wand. With this special wand, Caspian can change the way time flows.

Apparently the gift from Grand-pa is for Caspian’s Un-birthday. Just what is an un-birthday? I have no idea. But if I ignore that bit, the story is okay. The premise is fun, I mean, who wouldn’t like a magical wand that could change the speed of time? The execution, however, lacked finesse. The layout of the e-book wasn’t great either. Some pages had text that flowed onto the next page, or had a word next to the picture instead of below it.

I also didn’t like the style of illustrations. Each page has a digital image to accompany the text, but they seemed a little flat and slightly disproportionate, and just not to my taste.

Invisible Magic Wand is suitable for lower primary school children.

 

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

A Day in the Park by Matt Weiss

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dayparkA Day in the Park by Matt Weiss, e-book, 271 pages, published in 2016.

During a science lesson at school, Ryan’s teacher suggests that he investigate a local park area to look for frogs and frog spawn. Along with his mates, Casey and Jay, Ryan heads to the park, but along one of the trails in the forest, he discovers something else. Even though they do not know what it is, the three boys decide to dig it up and research it.

Overall, I quite enjoyed A Day in the Park. I have an interest in archaeology and palaeontology, so a book about fossils and prehistoric creatures is right up my alley. There were a lot of references to scientific terms and processes during the story, which might throw some readers. However, all of the terms were explained sufficiently for people new to this area of science.

I was surprised the first time that Ryan drifted off into the prehistoric landscape. And I’m still not sure if he was dreaming, hallucinating or actually travelling back in time! There was also no explanation as to how or why he was experiencing these prehistoric travels. These sequences were some of my favourite parts of the story. They were well developed with lovely descriptive language, bringing the prairie and its inhabitants to life.

The boys were average young teens being encouraged to leave their screens behind and find adventures in nature. Jay was definitely the clown of the trio, doing some rather silly, though funny things. Casey was the brains, always ready to investigate things thoroughly, and read extra information. Ryan was kind of in between. He was quieter than Jay, but less studious than Casey. I liked all three, and through the story I learnt plenty about each of them.

A Day in the Park is most suitable for middle primary school to lower high school children. I read the whole book in one day, and it kept me entertained throughout. While I enjoyed it as an adult, I know that I would have loved this book when I was about ten or eleven, so I am recommending it to my ten year old to read.

 

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

This Hungry Dragon by Heath McKenzie

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hungrydragonThis Hungry Dragon by Heath McKenzie, hardback picture book, published by Scholastic Australia in 2016.

A very hungry dragon goes on an eating spree. Bear, fox, bull, is there anything he won’t eat?

This Hungry Dragon is an hilarious book with a message about eating right. The dragon grows and grows with every meal, eating well past the time when he is actually full, leaving him feeling rather sick.

All of my kids love This Hungry Dragon, especially my three year olds. They will ‘read’ it to themselves over and over, in between asking me to read it to them. The story is funny with great read aloud rhyming language and lovely illustrations. The dragon is pretty cute, but my favourite picture is inside the dragon’s tummy. We all love to spot different items that the dragon has eaten! I also like the unchangeable expression on the beefy bull.

This Hungry Dragon is most suitable for toddlers, preschoolers and lower primary school children. Heath McKenzie is a well loved author in our house; we like I Wanna Be a Pretty Princess and What Does Santa do When it’s not Christmas. We are looking forward to more books from this terrific author soon.

Guardian of the Gold Breathers by Elise Stephens

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goldbreatherGuardian of the Gold Breathers by Elise Stephens, e-book, 176 pages, published by Updrift in 2015.

After Liam’s father dies, his life begins to change, culminating in his mother remarrying and them leaving Dublin behind for a house in the country with his new step-father, Dr Parker. Liam is unhappy about these changes, but at least he meets some interesting people at the new house; the housekeeper Hannah and the gardener Michael. Liam is led to a dragon egg, and Michael instructs him on how to hatch it. Then Liam is set on a path to prove who he is and to help a distant fairytale kingdom right the wrongs of the past.

Guardian of the Gold Breathers is a lovely, though sometimes sad, fantasy novel. Fairies, goblins, and even a troll are brought to life as Liam learns about the real fairy stories.

The story felt a little familiar; lonely boy discovers he is something more, passes trials to prove himself, fulfils destiny. Still, it was well written and entertaining, and I enjoyed it. I liked the old tale of the Guardian and the Prince, and the idea that somewhere dragons and men once lived happily side by side.

Michael was an especially intriguing character, surrounded by much mystery. He was my favourite, though I also liked Liam and Hannah. Liam had a lot going on in his life, and I think he would have really suffered had he not met Hannah and Michael when he did. I mostly felt sorry for his mum, marrying Dr Parker because he could provide for them. Dr Parker I disliked quite a lot. His scientific work using live dogs was awful, but I also hated the way he treated Liam. He was insensitive to the boy’s feelings whilst being derisive of Liam’s love for reading and map making. Dr Parker didn’t even try to listen or understand Liam.

As Guardian of the Gold Breathers is under 200 pages, it would be suitable for slower readers interested in fantasy, who might otherwise be daunted by a longer book. It’s also great for kids who like fairy tales and dragons.

Guardian of the Gold Breathers is most suitable for middle and upper primary school children.

 

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

The Dreadful Fluff by Aaron Blabey

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dreadfulfluffThe Dreadful Fluff by Aaron Blabey, picture book, published by Penguin Group (Australia) in 2012.

Serenity Strainer is perfect, except for the evil belly button fluff she pulls out one Saturday morning. The Dreadful Fluff goes on a rampage through Serenity’s house, collecting fluff and lint, and terrorising her family.

We’ve owned The Dreadful Fluff for a while now, and it has been well loved by all of my children. They think it is hilarious that belly button fluff could be alive and evil! Even when he starts devouring family members, the kids are still laughing. It is a particular favourite of my three year olds, who insist on reading it again and again.

It really is quite a funny book, and I like it a lot. The Dreadful Fluff is delightfully wicked and gross. I love the way he is drawn, with such expressive eyes and a nasty grin. And he just looks so ecstatic when he is rubbing himself again the dryer door, I can almost hear him purring. Serenity’s method of fighting him is ingenious. The moment Serenity goes all Rambo and challenges the Dreadful Fluff is my favourite scene in the book.

The Dreadful Fluff is most suitable for toddlers through to lower primary school children.

How Santa Changed by Karl Steam

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howsantachangedHow Santa Changed by Karl Steam, illustrated by Maksum Stasiuk, picture e-book, published in 2016.

Over the years Santa’s job became bigger and more demanding and things had to change. One man could hardly cope with making all those toys and delivering them. Whilst Santa was initially resistant to change, Mrs Claus knew he needed help. Find out how reindeer, elves and Santa’s chubby, jolly belly came about.

How Santa Changed is a cheery Christmas book, perfect for reading aloud in the lead up to Christmas. The story is told through rhythmical verse, which is fun, and I really liked the ending.

One of the best features of this book is its gorgeous artwork. Each illustration is highly detailed and lovely to regard. We spent a lot of time just looking at the pictures.

How Santa Changed is suitable for preschoolers and primary school children.

 

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

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

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holdingHolding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven, paperback novel, 388 pages, published by Penguin Books in 2016.

Libby used to be morbidly obese, and she’s still a big girl, but now it’s time for her to leave her house again and start high school. There she meets Jack, a popular, good looking boy with a secret he is hiding at all costs.

A touching love story, Holding Up the Universe made me feel, made me hope, made me smile. It also kept me up late as I found it difficult to stop reading. I flew through the story, taking every step and every stumble with Libby and Jack. My heart lurching and singing, my mind whirling over the difficulties that they both faced.

Holding Up the Universe covers themes of bullying, grief and obesity, but also explores a disorder called prosopagnosia or face-blindness. This was not something I was particularly familiar with, but was quite an interesting topic, and obviously well researched. I certainly learnt a lot during this novel.

The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Libby and Jack. I find this to be an excellent way to explore the depths of the characters. Libby is an amazing person; smart, brave, strong, empathetic. She is complex and beautiful, and she deserves so much more than her peers are capable of giving. Jack is also a complicated character, but I didn’t like him as much as I liked Libby. There were moments when I just wanted to smack him for his stupidity! By hiding his problems with face recognition, he comes across as being a jerk, which isn’t really him. And his choice of friends was questionable, until I realised that shallow and self-interested friends are the only ones that he could have hidden his issues from for very long. I’m surprised his family didn’t realise something wasn’t right.

Holding Up the Universe is suitable for high school students and beyond. I feel that it would be a good read for all teenagers and their parents as it examines a lot of issues relevant to adolescent life. I also recommend reading All the Bright Places, which is another poignant story of adolescence by Jennifer Niven.

Trouble at Home by Cate Whittle

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troubleathomeTrouble at Home by Cate Whittle, and illustrated by Kim Gamble, chapter book, 96 pages, published by Scholastic Australia in 2016.

Georgia’s house is stolen by a large, green dragon with blue wings. Which is bad enough, but her little brother, Godfrey, was in the house watching TV at the time, so he was taken too. Georgia’s mum is distraught about Godfrey, and they have nowhere to live. No-one believes Georgia about the dragon, so she takes her other brother, Henry, and sets out to rescue Godfrey, assuming he hasn’t already been eaten by the dragon.

This quirky chapter book was a fun read with my seven year old. She could have easily read it by herself; it was a good length, contained appropriate language for younger children, and had short chapters, with black and white illustrations scattered throughout. However, we often read together as it is fun to share stories like this one, and we really did enjoy Trouble at Home.

The story is written in first person by Georgia. She is a great character; I loved her dialogue, and the way her story was written. It reminded me a lot of how my girls tell stories. We liked the way the dragon was portrayed too. Who knew a dragon could blush? Or be a fan of tea?

Trouble at Home is suitable for lower to middle primary school children, and would suit reluctant readers. There are more Trouble books in the series, which we definitely want to read. We already have the second book in the series, Trouble and the Missing Cat, which my daughter has asked to read next.