Lonely Planet Kids Paris City Trails by Helen Greathead

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pariscoverLonely Planet Kids Paris City Trails by Helen Greathead, paperback non-fiction, 102 pages, published by Lonely Planet Publications in 2016.

This book caught my eye on the “New Books” table at my local library. I thought it would be good for my nine year old as she is learning French and this looked like an interesting cultural book to complement her learning. I started flicking through some of the pages and found myself immersed in the streets of Paris discovering museums, bridges, cafés and even cemeteries!

The book contains nineteen themed trails through Paris. Each trail has a number of stops with some information about each location. Some of the locations are well-known, such as the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral, while others are somewhat obscure, but all were fascinating. These trails had every possible interest covered, from food journeys, sport, and art to romance, history and magic.

The layout and content are superbly presented, with short bursts of texts, interspersed with plenty of photos and coloured illustrations throughout. There are also fact boxes and extra tidbits around the main text. I really liked the illustrations, which included the two kiddy guides, Marco and Amelia. You can spot this pair participating in various activities along the trails. All of the illustrations were bright, colourful and clear; some were quite funny too.

I’ve never wanted to go to Paris as badly as I do right now! I would love to follow these trails and experience all of the incredible sights, sounds, smells and tastes I’ve discovered in Paris City Trails. It may be aimed at children, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I highly recommend it for anyone planning to travel to Paris with children (and anyone just dreaming of it!)

Paris City Trails is suitable for middle primary school students and up. There are currently two other titles available in the Lonely Planet Kids series; London City Trails and New York City Trails. I plan to read them as well and hopefully there will be more titles available in the future. I’d really like to see some for other major European cities.

How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers

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catchastarcoverHow to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers, hardback picture book, published by HarperCollinsChildren’sBooks in 2004, this edition published in 2014.

After admiring the stars, a boy would like a star of his own. He tries different ways of catching a star right from the night sky.

We have enjoyed reading How to Catch a Star many times. It is an adorable picture book that will win the heart of any child. It always leaves me with a nice, warm feeling.

The story tells us that anything is possible, you might just have to think creatively to reach your goal. It is a literal reminder to “aim for the stars!” and do your best.

The boy has a number of clever ideas on how to catch his star, but my favourite is his idea of using a life belt to lasso the star. My kids think the rocket would be best. We also like the distinctive illustrations, especially the trees.

How to Catch a Star is suitable for preschoolers and lower primary school children.

¡Hola! Let’s Learn Spanish by Judy Martialay

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holacover¡Hola! Let’s Learn Spanish by Judy Martialay, paperback, 30 pages, published by PoliglotKidz Press in 2015.

Ride along with Panchito (a Mexican jumping bean) and Pete the Pilot to learn some basic Spanish. Go from the bean fields to the markets and then off to a party, learning Spanish all the way.

My complete Spanish repertoire prior to reading this book was gleaned from Dora the Explorer episodes, so basically I could count to three and say hello. ¡Hola! Let’s Learn Spanish was perfect for a total beginner such as myself. It is a fantastic resource for children and adult beginners alike, with its engaging and interactive method of introducing the language. You can also go onto the Polyglotkidz website and download the audio files. This allows for listening to the correct pronunciation of the Spanish words, and provides an opportunity to practice speaking the language.

I liked the story of Panchito, which was fun and I picked up a number of words as I read. It was easy to see the translation of the Spanish words. I felt like I was learning Spanish straight away! There is a glossary of words at the end of the book for quick reference, which was handy for checking words I wasn’t sure about.

I really enjoyed the Culture Corner section of the book. The information was interesting, relevant and age-appropriate. I did not know that a jumping bean is not a bean at all! It even included the words and tune for the song which is traditionally sung during the striking of the piñata.

Activities designed to strengthen language retention were a useful addition to the book. Suitable for children of all ages these activities could be done in a group or individually. I really liked the idea of doing a treasure hunt as part of the language learning experience. There was also a short play which would be fun to act out.

¡Hola! Let’s Learn Spanish is suitable for primary school children, but can be used by anyone wanting a fun way to pick up a little bit of Spanish. I would like to see more books like this for other languages in the future.

 

*I received this book 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.

 

The Wandering Troll by Russ Hughes and KayeC Jones

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wanderingtrollcoverThe Wandering Troll by Russ Hughes and KayeC Jones, picture e-book, 35 pages, published in 2016.

A troll leaves his under-bridge home because it has become too noisy. He searches for a new home in the forest, snow and desert. Will he ever find a peaceful place to stop for good?

This rhyming tale of a troll trying to find a spot to settle down is a lovely book for sharing with younger children. The inclusion of onomatopoeic ‘noise’ words, such as swoosh, thwack and click were fun additions to the reading aloud experience. His journey was repetitive, allowing for children to easily predict what might happen next.

The story was enjoyable, and we did giggle at the plight of the poor troll. He seemed so very happy in the snow (that’s probably my favourite page), but he needed somewhere much quieter. It was good for him to find a cosy home, and the ending made me feel happy.

While I liked the meandering text placement, it does make it slightly harder for newer readers to follow. The letters and words varied in size, spacing, colour, and direction. There was even the occasional misplaced upper case letter. It was all very whimsical, though it did suit the style of the illustrations and the story well.

The illustrations are gorgeous in The Wandering Troll. It appears as if each part of the picture is sewn to the page like appliqué pieces. Even the text is done in this style, with stitching through the centre of each letter. The troll is quite simple, yet his button eyes and stitched mouth are surprisingly expressive throughout the book. I like his angry face when he hears too much noise.

The Wandering Troll is suitable for toddlers, preschoolers, and lower primary school students.

 

*I received this book in digital form 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.

Kyle Evans and the Key to the Universe by Rob H Hunt

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kylecoverKyle Evans and the Key to the Universe by Rob H Hunt, paperback, 162 pages, published by MES Inc. in 2016.

Kyle Evans is living a reasonably boring and safe life until a few weeks before his tenth birthday when a temporal vortex appears in his bedroom. Then his life becomes very interesting indeed. Spaceships, vortex travel, robots, interesting and dangerous lifeforms, metallic attack ants,and a talking cat, who is really an alien, called Bootles. Kyle is in for the adventure of a lifetime.

Action and adventure right from the first few pages set the tone for this fast-paced and engaging science fiction novel. Excellent description accompanies good character development, allowing me to feel like I could step right into the story. The chapters are short; each leading neatly into the next, keeping the story flowing along swiftly. The cover threw me a bit, as I couldn’t work out how a panther fit in with the story, until I realised that Bootles was actually a black cat!

Robots, robots, everywhere! Search droids, battle droids, Kranken. These last look like robotic ants, but they come in a big nest and can morph together to change their appearance and abilities. I really like this concept even though it made them terrifying! The scenes at Kyle’s school were exciting.

I do love cats in literature! Bootles is my favourite character, he is witty, brave, loveable and resilient. He is also affectionate and he made me laugh. Kyle and Sofia displayed courage and curiosity and I liked them too. I think Bootles was lucky to have them by his side. While Bootles was really an alien hiding in the skin of a cat, he acted quite a lot like a cat; rubbing himself against Kyle’s legs, purring and hissing.  He had plenty of crazy ‘plans’ to help them escape danger too, some of them were ingenious, while others were overthought. I love their escape from the zoo and Sofia’s ability to fly the spaceship was truly amazing.

The Commander reminded me of the villain Dr. Claw from the Inspector Gadget cartoons, except his sidekick is a grey cloud instead of a fat cat. We were only treated to glimpses of The Commander, yet it was enough to know he is evil, scary and powerful. I really hope Bootles can stay out of his grasp!

Kyle Evans and the Key to the Universe is suitable for middle and upper primary school students. This is the first book in the Kyle Evans series. I am excited to follow Kyle in his next adventure, along with Bootles and Sofia, as they explore the universe, and hopefully always stay one step ahead of The Commander.

 

*I received this book 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.

 

New Library Additions June ’16

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More books, more books!

Physical books:

E-books:

Megan’s Brood by Roy Burdine

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megansbroodcoverMegan’s Brood by Roy Burdine and illustrated by Shawn McManus, paperback, 105 pages, published in 2016.

At the start of summer, Megan and her parents moved into a new house, leaving their old home, her school and friends. Megan is not at all happy about the move, but things look up when she discovers a clutch of strange eggs residing in a crack in the wall of her attic bedroom. After watching and waiting for weeks, the eggs hatch revealing a motley crew of small imp-like creatures, each with it’s own distinct look. Megan treats them like her babies, but as they grow some disturbing and unique abilities appear among them.

Megan’s Brood is a quick fantasy read that I knocked over in one session. The pace was good, and the plot interesting. I think I would have freaked out if I located a pulsating, luminescent cocoon in my room, but Megan takes it pretty well. She really cares for the strange little creatures that hatch, attaching to her like chicks to a mother hen. They reminded me of a cross between gremlins and imps, though some were cuter than others. I liked that they were different, and developed various abilities, such as fire-breathing or colour changing. However, I would try very hard not to upset the little fella that uses sulfur as a defense mechanism, euwww!

Each chapter began with a lovely black and white full page illustration. Other pictures were distributed throughout the story, all of which are very nice. I like how Megan is portrayed, just how she is described. The last picture was a bit scary though!

The format and length suggests chapter book, yet I found this incongruous with the characters and storyline. Megan is about to enter year seven, along with her new friends Cutter and Casper, which makes them older by several years than the characters I normally encounter in chapter books. Megan is a teen (or close to) and does things that teens do, suck as thinking about Cutter being her boyfriend, going to a party, and reading horror novels. I don’t think these are things that kids reading chapter books are up to yet. Some elements of the story are also more suitable for an older or more mature audience, such as the deaths of some of the little creatures and the disturbing nature of a few of them. So, I think Megan’s Brood is more of a short novel for kids from upper primary school to lower high school. It may be well suited to older reluctant readers as well, as it has short chapters, broken by the occasional black and white illustration.

I did enjoy this fast fantasy read, and I will be giving it to my fourth grader to read now. Megan’s Brood is the first book in a great new series, with the second book, Megan’s Brood and the Old One coming soon.

 

*I received this book 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.