Category Archives: Book Review

The Granted Wish by J.S. Skye

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The Granted Wish by J.S. Skye, paperback novel, first published in 2012, this edition published in 2017.

Flurry the Bear is a cute, little, teddy bear cub who just seems to find trouble around every corner. His concerned parents seek help from Christopher Kringle, the very man that brought life to the teddy bears of the Mezarim. The solution can only work for so long before Flurry finds himself in trouble once more.

The Granted Wish is the first book in the Flurry the Bear Series, which follows Flurry on his adventures. This first book provides details of Flurry’s background; it is his origin story. We learn about Flurry’s parents, and his first years, including his first adventure away from home. Flurry’s story is told as a tale in a book read to a group of young teddy bear cubs, who have all heard the awe inspiring tales of Flurry; his adventures, his bravery, his conquests, (some spread enthusiastically by Flurry himself, no doubt!). I liked this approach to telling the story.

For me, The Granted Wish was a reasonably quick read, with a solid and magical plot, that I enjoyed. It was fun getting to know Flurry, his family and his friends. There was laughter, friendship and discovery, of new things, and of himself, as Flurry began his adventurous lifestyle.

The idea of a whole township of teddy bears living and working at the north pole is wonderful! They were all meticulously described, with varying personalities, just as we have in our own society. I especially related to Mrs Snow’s exasperation over Flurry’s antics! And the amazing Christopher Kringle, who has been re-invented from jolly old Santa with his jelly belly, to a young, vital and strong character who uses his magic to bring life, nuture and guide those around him. He is kind, yet firm when required. As for Flurry, he is a bit mischievous and a bit of a daydreamer, but he is also a loving son, and he does try to do the right thing. However, he has a vain streak (he is an exceptionally adorable little teddy, after all), which can lead to some smugness. I hope Flurry can overcome this tendency in the books ahead.

An interesting start to a what promises to be an exciting series, The Granted Wish, is suitable for middle and upper primary students.

 

*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.

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Pete and the Persian Bottle by Sarah Jackson

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Pete and the Persian Bottle by Sarah Jackson and illustrated by Tegan Werts, e-book, 101 pages, published by Big Bulb Books in 2016.

The summer holidays are almost upon Pete when he discovers an interesting old bottle in the skip bin next door. Unfortunately for Pete, instead of a friendly genie ready to grant him wishes, there is a scared Djinn residing in the bottle who just wants to go back to his homeland. Suddenly Pete is a rat and the Djinn is gone; how will Pete get back to normal now?

This was an easy, quick and entertaining read. It does sound fun to get some wishes from a genie, but it would be so easy for things to go wrong, just as Pete discovered. Poor Pete; all he wanted was to be more than average. Of course, being a talking rat did make him special, but it wasn’t exactly what he had in mind! His adventure as a rat was good, it felt realistic, with a little bit of danger and some rather funny moments. I liked Pete’s narrow escape from the Lace Monitor, and his heightened sense of smell.

Pete and the Persian Bottle was set in a small and hot town in Queensland, Australia. The language reflects the setting, with a number of Australianisms throughout the story. Having grown up in country Australia myself, the setting was familiar and the language and characters perfectly suited to the town. I quite enjoyed the story, and I liked the cast of kids too (except for the bully, Glenn, no one could really like him!) There were also a few black and white illustrations scattered through the text, which were nice.

Pete and the Persian Bottle is suitable for middle to upper 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.

 

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Popular by Sofia O’Hara

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Popular by Sofia O’Hara, short story, 16 pages, published in 2016.

Jenna isn’t slim and pretty like some of the other girls in her school, but she wants to be. She gets bullied at school, devastatingly, by the boy she has a crush on. This causes her to hit a pivotal moment in her young life when she realises that she needs to love herself before anyone else can love her.

To be honest, I didn’t really like this short story much. The writing was fine, but I didn’t enjoy the content. I was also a bit irritated by Jenna.

The message about the importance of loving and liking oneself is important; we should like who we are and be proud of ourselves. However, seeing a poster with a beautiful model on it and wanting to be like that isn’t my idea of accepting and loving who you are. It’s fine to want change and to pursue it, but Jenna only seemed to be interested in her looks and what the other kids thought of her. She makes changes to her lifestyle which causes her to lose weight and feel better, which is great for her health, but she’s only happy and proud after the changes. To me this suggests that one can only be happy if one is slim. Not the positive body image message I was expecting.

I felt sorry for Jenna, not because she was overweight, but because she seemed to have no personality and no friends. If being slim and pretty is the only criteria for being popular, I’ll take a pass, and Jenna should have too. There are much more satisfying things in life than being popular in high school. Pursuing a fulfilling hobby, learning a language, playing a team sport, taking a practical life skills course, joining a community group, or volunteering could have effected the same positive benefits for Jenna. Learning to communicate effectively with others and mingle with other teenagers with similar interests would have given Jenna a sense of belonging, helping her to accept herself as she was. Instead, this story focussed on Jenna making some physical changes and how that affected the way her peers viewed her.

Popular is suitable for teen readers, but it wasn’t my cuppa tea.

 

*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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The Three Ninja Pigs by David Bedford and Becka Moor

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The Three Ninja Pigs by David Bedford and illustrated by Becka Moor, paperback picture book, published by Simon and Schuster, UK Ltd in 2016.

The Big Bad Wolf is up to his tricks, messing up this, and breaking that. The Three Ninja Pigs keep getting the blame for his antics. Will they be able to put a stop to the Big Bad Wolf’s villainy?

The three little pigs have had a make-over, as ninjas! They twirl, they jump and they Hee-ya! And they are totally adorable in this exciting twist to an old tale. My four year old boys loved The Three Ninja Pigs, requesting multiple re-reads.

This story was great fun and the illustrations were bright and interesting. The Wolf really was being quite naughty, creating chaos at every stop. My boys thought the mess he created was funny, and they enjoyed pointing to things that had been broken or knocked down. They also laughed at where the Ninja Pigs ended up after each encounter with the Wolf, such as stuffed in a vase, or hanging from the ceiling. We liked spotting the various fairytale characters through the book, such as Little Red Riding Hood and the troll under the bridge.

The Three Ninja Pigs is suitable for toddlers, preschoolers and lower primary school children.

The Frog That Could Not Jump by Sofia O’Hara

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The Frog That Could Not Jump by Sofia O’Hara, e-book, 10 pages, published in 2016.

Oscar is a little green frog that has been told all his life that his legs are too small and weak to jump. Oscar believes the other frogs and is too scared to even try jumping. He feels so ashamed of his legs that he leaves his home looking for somewhere less judgemental.

This short fable is about believing in oneself and ignoring negative attitudes from others. It is impossible to know if you can’t do something if you have never tried to do it, as Oscar discovers. However, many things take a lot of practice to achieve, and since Oscar’s legs were described as being “completely numb” and “lifeless”, it is unrealistic to think he would be able to jump at the moment he most needs to. Yet, perhaps this just reinforces the idea that if you really, truly believe in yourself, you can do anything.

The Frog that Could Not Jump was an easy and quick read. It has a simple plot and gets its message across clearly. There were no illustrations, aside from the cover. I thought it could have worked nicely as a picture book. Even the occasional line drawing to break up the text for younger readers would have been a nice addition.

The Frog that Could Not Jump is suitable for middle and upper primary school students.

 

*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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Ann Can’t Sleep by April Peter

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Ann Can’t Sleep by April Peter, picture e-book, 21 pages, published in 2017.

Ann is having trouble getting to sleep. A toy to cuddle will help, but which one is her perfect bed-time companion?

Ann Can’t Sleep is a lovely book, perfect to share with toddlers and preschoolers at bed-time. The rhyming language is soothing to read, with short, easy words forming a fun and engaging story.

The illustrations are bright and bold; perfectly appealing to young children. I really liked all of the pictures, but I especially liked the illustrations where Ann was active and having fun with her toys. Riding the donkey is my favourite. I did notice on the page when Ann picks out the plane to sleep with, the illustration below that shows her sleeping with the doll again, instead of the plane!

This e-book is let down by its typography. The words run together on every page, and at least once, letters actually overlay each other. As an adult, it is reasonably easy to correct such errors whilst reading, but for an early reader, this would be difficult for them to decipher.

Ann Can’t Sleep is suitable for children from birth through to early primary school, and is best shared 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.

Frede and Santa by Leen Lefebre

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Frede and Santa by Leen Lefebre, chapter e-book, 70 pages, published in 2017.

Frede and his family live in a small village on the edge of a large forest. Unfortunately the summer crops did not thrive, and they have entered winter in dire need of more food. Frede convinces his older brothers to travel with him to visit the Christmas village and ask Santa for help. In order to reach Santa, the three boys must traverse the forest, where an Evil Elf King lurks, just waiting for victims to come his way.

This book was first published in Dutch under the title Frede en de Kerstman. I read the English translation, though I wish I read Dutch well enough to read Frede and Santa in its original form; a translation doesn’t always do the story justice. Some of the word choices and sentence structure isn’t what one would expect from native English writers, and I had to re-read a number of parts to follow what was happening. And even then there were still a few bits I didn’t get the full meaning of. Despite this, I was able to enjoy the story well enough.

Frede and Santa is a fairytale-esque, magical adventure. The story flowed at a steady pace, but I thought the ending felt rushed and slightly disappointing. I would have liked more time spent in the Christmas village, and more time getting to know the elves and Santa. I was also expecting a rescue mission that was more involved, but due to the brevity of the story, I guess there just wasn’t time.

The three brothers were well developed characters. Frede was a spirited little fellow with his family’s best interests in his heart. I rather liked Folke and Rhune too, though they were quite different to each other. I really liked the way that the boys were described based on the seasons. The other characters felt a bit shallow, but again, there just wasn’t enough time to get to know them very well.

I don’t think that the cover suits the story. After reading the book, I pictured Frede as the son of a poor farmer with simple, well-worn, home-made clothing, rather than the modern boy on the cover.

Overall, Frede and Santa was a sweet festive read about being brave and strong for your loved ones. While the story itself is suitable for all ages, the difficulties arising with the translation make this a story better shared between adults and 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.

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Tummy Rumble Quake by Heather L. Beal

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Tummy Rumble Quake by Heather L. Beal and illustrated by Jubayda Sagor, 26 pages, picture e-book, published by Train 4 Safety Press in 2017.

Lily and Niko Rabbit, along with their childcare class, are practicing earthquake drills in the class room and outside. They learn about what an earthquake is, what it can do and how to stay safe during one.

Tummy Rumble Quake delivers information about earthquakes and earthquake safety in a way that young children can understand. It emphasises the safety aspects, and reminds the children of what to do in the event of an earthquake with a little song. It also opens the door for a discussion about these important safety procedures and allows the children to ask questions in a safe environment. I think it would be a good addition to classrooms in areas where earthquakes are common.

I had no idea what the Great ShakeOut was, so I Googled it. I assume that it is common for schools in areas prone to Earthquakes to participate in the Great ShakeOut and that the term would already be familiar to many readers there, however, the story could have been just as effective without these references.

Well, when I read Beal’s other safety picture book, Elephant Wind, I greatly disliked the illustrations, and that hasn’t changed for this book. However, the facial expressions have improved profoundly, Dylan’s arms are more in proportion and Ms Mandy’s feet are better this time round. So whilst I still don’t enjoy this style, these illustrations are an improvement.

Tummy Rumble Quake is most suitable for reading to pre-schoolers 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.

 

Elephant Wind by Heather L. Beal

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Elephant Wind by Heather L. Beal and illustrated by Jubayda Sagor, picture e-book, 26 pages, published by Train 4 Safety Press in 2017.

Lily and Niko Rabbit are visiting a science fair with their childcare class when the tornado siren sounds. Their teacher gets them safely into the basement and explains to the children what a tornado is, and how to stay safe during one.

Elephant Wind explains tornado safety in simple terms that children can understand. It covers what a tornado looks and sounds like, and where it is safest to take cover. There is even a little song to help the kids remember what they need to do. Overall, it is quite informative and would be useful in school and childcare settings to prepare children for such adverse weather.

I dislike the style of illustrations in this book. While they are quite detailed, they are not appealing to me at all. It’s hard to explain why, but they just feel wrong to me. I don’t like the smirking fox child, or the stumpy arms on Dylan, or the way the teacher’s feet are aligned, so maybe it’s just about proportions, but the childrens’ facial expressions don’t change to suit the story either; even when Lily is scared, she’s still got a huge smile plastered on her face. It’s just not suitable, and I think the pictures let the book down.

Elephant Wind is most suitable for reading to pre-schoolers 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.

Journey From Skioria by Kandi J. Wyatt

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Journey From Skioria by Kandi J. Wyatt, e-book, 140 pages, published in 2017.

After Tania is washed overboard, she awakes far from home in a world unknown to her. There she meets and befriends Trilicius and Holly, part of a group of tree-dwelling people. In order to help Tania find her way home again, they join forces with some other peoples from the nearby lands. Together they make the long journey over the mountains, along the coast, rivers and lakes, and through fields to the lands of the humans.

Journey from Skioria is by the author of the Dragon’s Future series, which was wonderful, so I was pretty excited to read her next adventure. The adventure begins within the first few pages as Tania meets Trilicius and is brought back to Skioria, where, though she is only a child, she stands as tall as the adults she meets.

While this is a fast read, it is well written, with appropriately levelled language and clear imagery. The world of Skioria is carefully crafted, immersing the reader in the forest, its people and their lifestyle. The three groups of peoples, Skiorians, Terrans and Avarians, are also well described and developed. The pace was steady, with some bursts of action. I expected more action than there was, but the developing friendships between the group members, some family secrets and discoveries still made this an exciting read.

All of the characters were interesting. Trilicius and Fil made me laugh; such a pair of jokers! It also amused me when all of Trilicius’ hair kept getting caught in the bushes as they traveled. I liked Fyrh best; he was also the one that grew the most as a character through the story. His backstory and family history, and what he learnt on the journey was a high point of the book.

I am still wondering a few things, such as how Tania ended up so far away after falling into the ocean. Also, Tania was gone for such a long time, were her parents searching for her? Did they fear the worst? Their reactions weren’t quite what I expected. Having said that, I am no longer a child myself, and probably wouldn’t have thought that way when I was!

Journey from Skioria is a heart-warming adventure suitable for middle and upper primary school students. It is also a good book to share aloud with 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.

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