The Bad Guys: Episode 1 by Aaron Blabey

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The Bad Guys: Episode 1 by Aaron Blabey, paperback chapter book, 144 pages, published by Scholastic Australia in 2015.

Mr Wolf is known for trying to eat old ladies and their relatives, but does that make him a “Bad Guy”? To change his image, Mr Wolf starts a good guys club with Mr Shark, Mr Piranha and Mr Snake, with the aim to help people, and to become heroes. Mr Wolf has plans to make this band of stereotypical baddies be seen in a better light, through rescuing cats in trees and freeing dogs from the pound. But, will his plan work?

The Bad Guys is an easy to read chapter book, fantastic for those just moving up from first readers. The book had a comic book feel to it, with the story told through the extensive black and white illustrations and character dialogue.

I read the first episode to my kindergartener, who absolutely loved it (and I did too!). I think my son could have read it himself, but at 144 pages, he was a little intimidated by the physical size of the book. However, with all of the illustrations, and only a small amount of text on any one page, it was quite a quick read.

All of the characters have some quirky traits, but I particularly liked Mr Wolf’s upbeat nature and his unwillingness to accept defeat. My son liked Mr Shark’s ability (and desire) to eat anything and everything, even his own hat! The group dynamic and the interaction between the individual characters was excellent. It was easy to believe that this group could turn their bad ways over for good with Mr Wolf’s leadership and some great teamwork.

Be prepared for a good laugh whilst reading The Bad Guys; just about everything in this story was funny. The reactions to being rescued by a wolf, a shark, a snake and a piranha are great, and of course, my son thought Mr Piranha’s gassy little problem in the car was hilarious! How sceptical of Mr Wolf’s plans the others are, and how completely committed to his mission Mr Wolf is, even how they dress, it is all funny. Overall, we just really enjoyed this turned backwards tale.

The Bad Guys series is now up to, as I write this, I believe, episode 9, so there is a lot more laughter and joy to be had from these four formerly dangerous pals. We are looking forward to their next mission.

The Bad Guys: Episode 1 is suitable for lower and middle primary school children.

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Kids Books for Early Sexual Education

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When kids start asking those awkward questions (or when you overhear your preschooler explaining to his friends how babies get pooped out of butts), it’s time to arm yourself with some great picture books about sexual education.

A few things to consider when choosing early sexual education books includes the child’s age, whether the book is to be shared or read alone, and how inclusive the book is. I think the best books are the ones that also discuss alternate methods of having a baby, such as IVF, surrogacy and adoption, as well as vaginal and caesarean births. Some might also picture different family configurations, such as two dads or two mums, and parents of various cultural backgrounds. If you’re looking for one comprehensive picture book, my vote goes to The Amazing True Story of How Babies are Made by Fiona Katauskas. However, I’ve always found it useful to use an array of books, and to keep them lying about for the children to peruse at their own leisure.

Below, I have put together a list of books I have used with my own children, and have found useful. Some are about our bodies, and some deal directly with intercourse and reproduction. You might be able to find some of these at your local library, or at second-hand bookshops (I have also included an affiliate link to each picture for convenient purchasing of the books).

Picture Books for kids aged 3 to 7 

The Bare Naked Book by Kathy Stinson with art by Heather Collins

 

Mummy Laid an Egg! by Babette Cole

 

Amazing You! by Dr. Gail Saltz and illustrated by Lynne Avril Cravath

 

What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth

 

The Amazing True Story of How Babies are Made by Fiona Katauskas

 

Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle

 

Overall, I personally prefer to get the kids reading sexual education books early (sharing picture books) before they realise there is any potential for embarrassment, and then provide a range of age appropriate sexual education literature for them to peruse as they get older. By the time they are adolescents, I think it’s important to have books available covering the changes occurring to both girls and boys, sexual health, pregnancy, sexuality, and how to be sexually safe and responsible. I try to be open to questions, and answer them as honestly as I can. If you appear embarrassed and reluctant to discuss sexual education, this conveys to the child that there is something “wrong” or “taboo” about our bodies and reproductive abilities. I also try to keep things light.

And I have never managed not to laugh when one of my kids has mispronounced the word vagina as ‘bagina’ or told a helpless (and increasingly embarrassed) adult that the penis fits inside said ‘bagina’! I try to stop them, I do, but often the words are out before I can intervene, and then what is there to do, but apologise and laugh? I have talked to my children about not sharing their knowledge at school, but they all seem to find this very difficult too.

Do you have or know of any sexual education books for younger children that you recommend? Let us know in the comments!

 

*Please remember that I am not an expert, just a parent speaking from experience with my own children (two girls and two boys).

 

 

International Book Fairs on the Kotobee Blog

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I really love anything and everything to do with books. I can’t pass a bookshop, a book stall at a market or fete, or even the library without having a browse! I love to check out other people’s bookshelves, small and large, and I really enjoy wandering through a book fair. Unfortunately, with little kids, I don’t often have the opportunity to visit book fairs (at least not alone, or with the time and funds they really deserve!).

Putting aside my current inability to attend them (I’ll just keep dreaming…), each year there are lots of wonderful and spectacular book fairs around the world, and luckily for us, Kotobee Blog has compiled a list of some of the biggest and best international book fairs throughout 2019. These fairs bring publishers, authors and readers together to celebrate all things literary. Below is an infographic of the book fairs sorted by month, but if you pop over to Kotobee and have a look at the original article, you can look at the list by month or by continent, it’s pretty neat! There is also some information about each fair, and links to find out more. Some of these are trade fairs, while others welcome all visitors interested in the fascinating world of books.

If you’ve attended one of these events or are intending to, I would love to hear about it! The closest one to me is Melbourne’s Rare Book Fair, which I think would smell utterly delicious, ahhh… I will make it there someday, and many of the others will be added to my bucket list!

Could a Whale Swim to the Moon? … and other questions by Camilla de la Bédoyère

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Could a Whale Swim to the Moon? … and other questions by Camilla de la Bédoyère and Aleksei Bitskoff, hardback junior non-fiction, published by QEB Publishing in 2015.

Want to learn about blue whales? This book will help to answer some of your questions, such as what if a blue whale came to stay, or tried synchronised swimming!

In Could a Whale Swim to the Moon? facts about blue whales are presented in a fun and quirky way, perfect for younger readers. The text was nice and big, and clear, making it easy to read. The amount of information on each page was not overwhelming, and the illustrations were lovely. My 5yo was fascinated by the baby whale being pushed in a pram with a milk bottle and I liked the whale strapped to the jumbo jet.

At the back of the book, there were some bonus facts, along with a map of the world showing where blue whales live. I found all these facts to be quite interesting and I enjoyed sharing them with my sons. I did have to do some quick calculations into metric lengths and weights, but that was just an extra brain workout for me!

Could a Whale Swim to the Moon? is suitable for preschool and lower primary school students. There are a number of other animal fact books in this series which I think will be worth taking a look at. I want to try Could a Tiger Walk a Tightrope? or Could a Penguin Ride a Bike? next.

The Truth According to Arthur by Tim Hopgood

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The Truth According to Arthur by Tim Hopgood and illustrated by David Tazzyman, hardback picture book, published by Bloomsbury Publishing in 2016.

Arthur has had a little accident involving his brother’s bike and his mum’s car. He knows it was wrong and he really doesn’t want to get into trouble, so he has a go at bending, stretching and even ignoring the truth.

The Truth According to Arthur is a funny book about telling lies, and how the truth will usually come out. The Truth has been personified and appears beside Arthur throughout the book. When Arthur is modifying the truth, he is in fact performing that action on The Truth, which is a great visual for kids. The stories Arthur tells to cover up what has happened are very funny, as are the accompanying illustrations. I really liked the style of illustration; it was colourful, not overly busy, and conveyed the story in an appealing way for younger children.

I read The Truth According to Arthur to both of my sons, one of whom has a propensity for lying. No situation is too big or too small for him to lie about; he even lies about obvious things, such as telling us he put his toy away when it is clearly clutched in his hand… But he has his Arthur moments too. Most recently pretending to have a concussion at school because he liked the fuss and attention, and he got to come home early. So when I came across this book I thought it might be a great book to share with him. Both boys greatly enjoyed the story. It was excellent that they saw that no matter what Arthur did to The Truth, it was still there, waiting to be acknowledged fully. They also saw that when Arthur admitted the truth, his mother wasn’t too angry after all, even pleased that he had told the truth. I think this will help them to understand that telling the truth is the best strategy; there’s no need to have all the worry and upset that comes with lying.

The Truth According to Arthur is suitable for preschoolers and lower primary school children. I think it is best as a shared read with children to help encourage a discussion about being brave and telling the truth. We will be reading The Truth According to Arthur again, repeating the lesson, as I feel that it will have a positive effect on my boys.

 

Have You Ever Seen? by Sarah Mazor

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Have You Ever Seen? by Sarah Mazor and illustrated by Abira Das, picture e-book, published by MazorBooks in 2018.

Auntie Lily has conjured up some very silly rhymes for the children before bedtime.

I believe that rhymes and rhythm are important for early literacy. Not only are they pleasant to listen to, they are also important for early speech development, and for reading and spelling later on. Silly rhymes are lots of fun and can even help to encourage reluctant readers to get involved. And Have You Ever Seen? is definitely full of silly rhymes.

For me, there were a few things that I struggled with when reading this book. Firstly, the presentation of the mobi. file I was reviewing was awful. The edges of the pages were cut-off, so I adjusted the page size so that I could read all of the text, but then each page of the book was spread across two pages on my reader, as well as being slightly distorted. This is one of the reasons why I prefer to read a physical book, especially in the case of picture books. Have You Ever Seen? is available as a physical book as well as the Kindle edition.

Reader difficulties aside, the story was going along fine until donkey was rhymed with monkey. Yes they both have the same finishing sound, but these words do not rhyme. And to me, an almost rhyme is worse than no rhyme. There were a few examples of this, such as swan and lawn, hippo and depot.

What exactly is the Yak spreading his ketchup on? I think it’s supposed to be a burger, possibly ‘mac’ refers to the fast food burger chain, but I think this rhyme is just forced. The dove “raining pee pee from above”, well, that is actually how birds pee, so this page didn’t really fit with the rest of the silly rhymes, unless the author just wanted to use the words “pee pee” for the laughs.

The rest of the rhymes were just the right sort of funny and silly. I liked the sheep sleeping in the melon and the goat gardening on a boat. The illustrations were quite nice too, capturing the text extremely well. The mouse was super cute, but my favourite picture was the dancing lion.

At the end of the Kindle edition there are a number of rhyme riddles for the kids to solve. This was a nice addition to the story, and a great way to get kids practicing their rhyming skills.

Have You Ever Seen? is suitable for preschool and lower primary school children.

 

*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.

Reviews on Amazon.com.au

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In an earlier post I lamented Amazon’s new reviewing policy which requires a $50 spend on site within the previous twelve months in order to post reviews on their site. Since I rarely purchase anything to that value, I was no longer able to post my reviews there. However, my daughter recently saved her money up to buy some electronics, and we purchased it through my Amazon account. I got rather excited, thinking that I would be able to review on Amazon again, but alas, since I am Australian, and we automatically get redirected to Amazon.com.au now, this was not to be.

I am able and fully intend to leave book reviews on Amazon.com.au. Not quite the audience of Amazon, but I’ve got to work with what is available! Still reviewing on Goodreads and Riffle Books too.

My Dino Ate My Homework by Ingrid Sawubona

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My Dino Ate My Homework: a story about the fun of learning by Ingrid Sawubona, picture e-book, published in 2019.

Instead of helping the boy with his homework, the dinosaur eats it all up as a tasty afternoon snack. The dinosaur absorbs all the information, making him very smart, and he passes this new knowledge onto the boy.

I’m a little partial to dinosaur books, so I wanted to read this one as soon as I saw it. I enjoyed reading it and sharing it with my kids.

The text rhymes throughout the story, and contains some interesting factoids. My five year olds thought it was pretty funny, especially when the dino did the eating! I learnt that Maine only has one state neighbour, New Hampshire, which I did not know before.

The illustrations are really good. There are pictures on every page, which are detailed and clear, with great use of colour and shading. The boy’s hair and freckles are great! The pictures are also relevant to the adjacent text. My only complaint is that the picture of the food chain is incorrectly depicted as a cycle, rather than an hierarchy.

My Dino Ate My Homework is suitable for preschool and lower primary school children. It was enjoyable to read aloud with my little fellas, and has already been requested for a re-read at bed-time.

 

*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.

Princess Bella and the Dragon’s Charm by Pete Planisek

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Princess Bella and the Dragon’s Charm by Pete Planisek, illustrated by Elizabeth Nordquest, chapter e-book, 42 pages, published by Enceladus Literary in 2016.

Princess Bella is beautiful and kind, but she does not laugh. Eventually the people in her kingdom begin to refer to her as the Ice Princess because no one has ever heard her laugh. One evening after a particularly bad day, Princess Bella is dragonapped from the highest tower of the castle, and removed to a treasure-filled cave high in a distant mountain. Princess Bella quickly befriends the lonely dragon, Spurlock, and they enjoy each other’s company. After a while Princess Bella begins to feel homesick. She can’t stay in a dragon’s cave forever, can she?

A whimsical tale of friendship and acceptance, I quite enjoyed Princess Bella and the Dragon’s Charm. It was a quick and easy read, with short sentences and simple phrasing perfect for young readers starting out with chapter books.

Each chapter had a colourful illustration at the start showing an image from the story. These were not only cute, but also helpful in making the text less daunting for younger readers.

The story was heart-warming, and it made me laugh, especially when Prince Himmasnob was about! Even his hair was amusing. I have a soft spot for dragons, and I really liked Spurlock. The concept of an ice-skating, skiing, snow-ball tossing dragon just delighted me.

Princess Bella and the Dragon’s Charm is most suitable for lower to middle primary school children to read themselves, but it would also be a lovely story to share aloud.

 

*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.

Winterborne by Augusta Blythe

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Winterborne by Augusta Blythe, YA e-book, 300 pages, published in 2011.

Loie and Mia were born on the same day in the middle of a blizzard, and they have been best friends ever since. Both girls have experienced much tragedy in their intertwined lives, and they are more sisters than friends. Now that their seventeenth birthday is on the horizon, their lives are about to become even more complicated. According to Winterborne family myth, each Winterborne will develop powers at seventeen. And if that wasn’t enough, a seriously hot boy has moved in next door, and he is about to turn their lives upside down.

Winterborne is the first book of the Universe Unbound trilogy; a fantasy series for teens, told from Loie’s perspective. It gripped me early on, and I raced through the whole book overnight. I just couldn’t stop turning the pages! It was over too soon, really, and with an end that I had guessed at fairly early on, but that did not dampen any of my pleasure in reading it. I was interested by the powers that Mia was supposed to inherit, by the mystery of her missing father, and Loie’s parents’ accident, but when leprechauns arrived, oh boy, did I get excited! I love reading about mythical creatures, the good and the bad, and Winterborne had plenty. I could really visualise the evil pixie and his minions, and the hellhounds’ breath was rancid, their fear-inducing presence palpable. More books should feature such creatures of the dark!

There was also some teen romance, along with family and friend drama. Parties, boyfriends, frenemies, school, etc, but the bulk of the story revolved around Mia’s impending power surge and the danger that that was placing Mia, Georgia (Mia’s mum) and Loie in.

Mia was a princess, with beauty, money and self-confidence at off-the-chart levels. She overshadowed Loie quite a bit, with Loie acting like Mia’s faithful side-kick. That sort of relationship irks me a little, but Loie didn’t seem to mind too much, she was used to being the off-sider, rather than the main attraction. Despite this relegation to second place, which I think was largely self-imposed, Loie was really smart, pretty and incredibly loyal. While Mia was a little self involved, I still found her to be a likeable character overall, though Loie was my favourite. And Andreas, the gorgeous British neighbour, was right in the thick of things too. Andreas was charming, well mannered, blindingly handsome with a sculpted body, smart and fun; a little too perfect, sure, but so dang likeable I can forgive him his flawlessness.

Winterborne was quite an entertaining fantastical adventure, suitable for upper primary and high school readers.

 

*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.