Category Archives: Book Review

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.

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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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Brady Plays the Fiddle by Melissa Auell

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Brady Plays the Fiddle by Melissa Auell, 16 pages, picture e-book, published by Jade River Publishing in 2017.

Brady the Badger is interested in learning to play an instrument. His parents take him to a bluegrass festival where he hears some instruments being played and gets to meet the musicians.

Brady Plays the Fiddle is a sweet and lyrical story which introduces a range of string musical instruments to young children. Each instrument is played by a different animal.

The story is told through rhyme, which is best read aloud. My kids immediately asked me what bluegrass was. If I was reading this to a class, I think it would be useful to have some samples of bluegrass music for the children to listen to. And of course, if possible, the actual instruments from the story. It would make an awesome music lesson to read the book, and then try out a mandolin or a dobro!

The illustrations were very bright and reasonably simple. I think that they would appeal to young children. However, I felt that the illustrations of Brady lacked continuity between the first couple of pages and the rest of the book. This may have just been my perception as he went from being drawn from the front, to being seen side-on. His nose was also a darker shade of pink and his fur a darker grey in the later pages. I know it seems pedantic, but initially I didn’t realise that both badgers were Brady.

My favourite illustration was on the front cover; there Brady is feeling the music and obviously enjoying himself. The background to this page is expertly coloured too. It really was an excellent choice for the cover.

Brady Plays the Fiddle is a nice book most suitable for toddlers, preschoolers and lower primary school children. It is a great way to introduce these instruments to children and would make an useful addition to preschool music programs.

 

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

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Australia Illustrated by Tania McCartney

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Australia Illustrated by Tania McCartney, hardback non-fiction, 96 pages, published by EK Books in 2016.

Discover Australia in this beautifully illustrated book. It contains bite-size pieces about Australian culture, its quirks, landmarks, cities, flora and fauna. It is simple enough to be enjoyed by young children, whilst also being interesting enough to engage older kids and adults.

I found this to be a somewhat quirky look at Australia and I loved it! The illustrations are simply gorgeous; colourful, detailed and unique. I enjoyed reading all of the place names and other information contained in the outlines of each state or territory; these were very cleverly compiled. Reading Australia Illustrated made me feel great to be Australian! It made me want to travel and explore my beautiful homeland, and seek out some of the more unusual aspects of our nation.

I read this book cover to cover in one sitting, though I still took my time to enjoy it. It wouldn’t necessarily need to be read in order; it is browsable, and could make a good coffee table or waiting room book. I also think it would be a good book to spark the interest of reluctant readers, hopefully leaving them wanting to know more about Australia.

Australia Illustrated is suitable for children and adults alike. It is a great read and I highly recommend it.

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Secrets of Bearhaven by K.E. Rocha

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Secrets of Bearhaven by K.E. Rocha, hardback novel, 244 pages, published by Scholastic Press in 2016.

Spencer has learnt a lot about bears in his eleven years, after all, both his parents work in bear advocacy, so he has been brought up on bear facts and stories. However, nothing could prepare him for the huge secret they have been keeping.

My ten year-old read Secrets of Bearhaven before I did. Afterwards, she told me it was the best book that she had read this year! Considering how many books she rips through every week, this was quite high praise, so I read it straight away. And I agree with her, this book is excellent. It is a very fast-paced novel full of action and excitement. There is intrigue, crafty villains, and amazing technological advancements. I was hooked from the first few pages, and now both my daughter and I want more!

The world of Bearhaven is beautifully constructed down to the smallest detail. The homes, the shops, roadways and fields; it is all described so carefully that the place comes alive. And the residents of Bearhaven are all very individual with varying physical characteristics and personalities. It would be amazing to walk among them and explore their beautiful home. Rocha has created a better world for these bears, completely hidden within our own world, and it is amazing.

All of the characters are well developed and complex. Spencer is a brave and determined boy who shows strength under pressure. He is clever, innovative and very likeable. He makes an excellent lead character. But it is Kate that I loved the most. The adorably curious and mischievous baby bear that befriends Spencer from their first moments together. She was quirky and fun and made me laugh. Uncle Mark is pretty cool too! I like the way he treats Spencer and the relationship that they have.

Most suitable for upper primary and lower high school students, Secrets of Bearhaven will not disappoint. And it is only the start of Spencer’s adventures; the story continues in Mission to Moon Farm, followed by Hidden Rock Rescue and the latest release, Battle for Bearhaven. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series soon.

 

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

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Lost in the Woods by Dennis Mews

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Lost in the Woods by Dennis Mews, e-book, 189 pages, published in 2016.

Nadia Hamilton has just started at her new school, The Grange, when her class goes on a week long camping excursion in the wilds of Wales. Nadia doesn’t really want to be there, but she doesn’t yet know how exciting and stimulating the outdoors can be. Craig Wilson is a troubled teen on the run from the police and some dangerous criminals after he stole their car, which contained a mysterious package. He ends up in the woods nearby the school’s camping ground, where he needs to find shelter and food while he hides out, but he keeps running into Nadia.

The premise of the story was good, but I found the execution somewhat lacking. It didn’t flow smoothly as it jumped between the perspectives of Nadia, Craig and Nadia’s teacher, Mr Thomas, which I occasionally found confusing. For instance, I thought it was Nadia that went orienteering, became lost and then was “rescued” by Mr Thomas, but then later in the book, he thinks about Claudia being left alone in the woods by her parents and becoming lost. Maybe I just got mixed up, but in either case, why didn’t the child recognise Mr Thomas, when Nadia met him two days later when she started in her new class, or Claudia, as her own teacher? And there were a few other small things that weren’t quite right, like Nadia zipping up the tent up when they were actually sleeping in their wood shelters. I found the accumulation a little irritating, which lessened my enjoyment of the story.

Nadia was quite annoying; she kept breaking the rules, wandering off and generally being a pain in Mr Thomas’ side. She was also a bit whiney, and not very tolerant of others. I didn’t much like Craig either. He was a bit dim, and made some very bad choices. The teacher, Robin Thomas, I did like. He was a very experienced teacher trying to give his students the best education possible. He really took on a lot to have twenty, sixth graders in the woods for a week by himself. I would have thought for that age group it would have been more appropriate for more adults to accompany the kids on an excursion, especially one of that duration and location.

This was an okay read, it just didn’t quite do it for me. Perhaps I would have liked it more if I was still a child. I think I will ask my ten year old to read it and give me another perspective.

Lost in the Woods is suitable for upper primary and lower high school children. There was some death, violence and guns within the story.

 

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

 

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I’ll Rescue You by M.T. Thomas

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I’ll Rescue You by M.T. Thomas, e-book novel, 189 pages, published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform in 2017.

Forty years previously a race of aliens tried and failed to conquer Earth. Since then humans have been studying the aliens’ technology, weaponry and anatomy in preparation for any further attacks. Belle is the product of one of the human’s experiments; she is half alien and half human. She is able to communicate with the aliens and listen in to their telepathic conversations. Apollo is one of the enemy aliens, come to earth as an assassin. After failing to terminate Bell’s life on his first attempt, he hatches a plan to draw her to him. However, he must work quickly before his alien colleagues drop in for a bloody confrontation.

Science fiction, romance and adventure collide in this somewhat off-beat novel. I’ll Rescue You was a quick and enjoyable read; it was funny and unique, with quirky and original characters. The plot was solid, the writing well structured and the characters detailed. I enjoyed the jaunt about the world, especially to the Paris Catacombs, and the burgeoning relationship between Belle and Apollo, though this was perhaps a little predictable.

I quite liked Apollo, despite his original mission, and his brethren. It was lovely reading his journey to self-enlightenment and empathy. For the first time in his long life, he was able to get to know himself, experience emotion and care for others, something quite apart from his previous alien life, which was cold and emotionless. I didn’t like Belle as much, though she was resourceful and kind. Belle’s human sister and bodyguard also featured a lot throughout the story. I liked seeing how events unfolded from both sides of the chase.

Although none of the characters are children or teenagers, this book is still suitable for upper primary and high school kids to read.

 

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

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