Category Archives: Animals

Guest Post: K. E. Rocha

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K. E. Rocha (Kristin) is the author of the wonderful Secrets of Bearhaven series. This exciting adventure series is suitable for upper primary school students and up. As I read the first book in the series I found myself immersed in an incredible world with cunning villains, young heroes, and bears that quickly felt like old friends. It even includes bear language developed especially for these books.

Kristin has kindly written a guest post for Today We Did to tell us a little bit about herself and why she writes.

If you had told me when I was in third grade that I would be an author one day, I would not have believed you. I know it might seem like all authors say that, but I really would have been horrified by the idea. As a third grader I was still struggling to learn to read. I had to be in special classes, working with literacy specialists, and as a result, reading and writing just felt like hard work to me.

I was in sixth grade when an author’s visit to my school inspired me to become a writer. By then I had finally caught up to my peers in reading and was enchanted (like I think most kids were and still are!) by the magical world of Harry Potter. The author at my school that day was none other than J.K. Rowling. When she read from her third Harry Potter book and talked about the incredible series she’d created I quickly realized that dreaming up worlds and people, and bringing them into existence in a story, was the coolest job I could imagine.

I wrote Secrets of Bearhaven for the reader I was in the third grade, and the one I was in the sixth grade, because it is my hope that these books will help all types of readers fall in love with reading. The vocabulary is meant to be accessible and the chapters intentionally short for less confident readers—like I was for so long. At the same time, the excitement of the adventure, and the themes of family, animal rights, and communication are intended to draw in avid readers—like the one Harry Potter helped me to become.

What’s more, I want kids to feel empowered by Secrets of Bearhaven, whether they are empowered to write their own stories and find their own voices, or empowered to stand up for what they believe in, like Spencer does in each of the four books.

I think it’s essential for kids to have the experience of being transported by reading. Stories about characters with super powers who go on otherworldly adventures are important. They allow our imaginations to fire. But at the same time, I think it’s equally important for kids to read about characters who really aren’t so different from themselves, and who still go on to do extraordinary things. Those are the stories that change us by showing us what we might be capable of.

Spencer is not blessed with any superpowers. He’s not even the fastest kid on his school baseball team, but he rises to the occasion, because the people he loves, and the animals he cares about are threatened. It’s my hope that readers see themselves in Spencer and in doing so, see how powerful the combination of courage and determination can be.

So whether your child is out there saving bears or, like third grade me, still trying to work out what’s so great about reading and writing, I hope they find the books, characters, or authors that inspire them.

And thank you Sara for inviting me to share a little about myself and what makes me so passionate about reading and writing!

Kristin

 

Visit Kristin on her website, Facebook, or Instagram. And definitely check out the Secrets of Bearhaven pages at Scholastic for more information about the books and some cool extras like learning the bear language and watching the book trailer. There are plenty of great reviews of the books on Goodreads too.

You can also purchase the books from Book Depository, and  Amazon.

 

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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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The Cat Wants Custard by P. Crumble and Lucinda Gifford

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The Cat Wants Custard by P. Crumble and Lucinda Gifford, hardback picture book, published by Scholastic Australia in 2016.

Kevin is feeling a little peckish, but not for chicken, fish or beef. Perhaps something sweet, just like custard!

Kevin is adorably grumpy and demanding, just like your typical house cat. His efforts to communicate his desire to his owner are very amusing, especially when he contorts his own body into the letters of the word custard. I also really like when he is trying to get into the fridge. My kids think the ending is hilarious.

The story is fun and the colourful illustrations are gorgeous. Kevin is drawn with such expressive facial and body language. I really enjoy sharing The Cats Wants Custard with my kids.

We just love Kevin in The Cat Wants Custard, with regular bedtime readings of this fantastic book. Highly recommended for pre-schoolers and lower primary school children.

Fluffy Hugs by Richard Dodd

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fluffyFluffy Hugs by Richard Dodd, e-book, 60 pages, published by Smashwords in 2015.

Fluffy is a baby emperor penguin, born in captivity within a zoo. Fluffy is a little different to the other penguins in the enclosure, as he can understand what the humans are saying. He discovers he has other magical abilities too, which he can put to good use helping animals and people.

Fluffy Hugs is a short and simple story; a bit of magical fun with one of the cutest animals in the world, a fluffy, grey penguin chick. Who could resist such a sweet little fellow? I would definitely hug him! Being able to use his hugs to help is an unique talent, but I really liked his ability to travel about the world just by thinking about it.

Fluffy Hugs did not take long to read. My seven year old could probably knock it over pretty quickly too, and I think she would enjoy it a lot. Magical animals are in at our house! There were a handful of simple line drawings within the book which I liked. I think the story could have been enhanced by more illustrations, due to its short nature.

Fluffy Hugs would be suitable for lower primary school students and reluctant older readers. It is the first book in a series chronicling Fluffy’s adventures. The next book in the series, Minty Visits, is also available now.

 

*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.

6th Grade Revengers: Cat Crimes and Wannabes by Steven Whibley

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catcrimes6th Grade Revengers: Cat Crimes and Wannabes by Steven Whibley, e-book, 88 pages, published in 2015.

Jared and his best friend Marcus style themselves as The Revengers; a team that takes care of problems in their community. Their first task is to rid the Oak Street neighbourhood of a crazy and evil cat that is ruling the street with his claws and teeth. They also have to do something about Gunner, Jared’s sister’s boyfriend and wannabe pop star. He just hangs about Jared’s house pretending to write music and loafing off Ronie (Jared’s sister). The boys are going to have to be creative to solve these problems, and prove themselves as a team that gets things done.

An easy and quick read, Cat Crimes and Wannabes was entertaining and amusing. There were occasional black and white illustrations among the text, and the chapters were fairly short, good for reluctant readers.

The first chapter was a very clever way to begin the story, introducing Jared and his family. I enjoyed reading about Jared and Marcus and their new business. I especially liked their efforts to banish the evil cat. That was one scary cat! So vicious and aggressive, it was more like a small tiger than a house cat. Jared and Marcus really underestimated how difficult removing such a cat would be, but their efforts were funny.  While Gunner wasn’t dangerous like the cat, he was still an annoying presence who I disliked greatly. The boys’ plan to remove Gunner from their lives was ingenious, and much nicer than things I thought of to do to him!

This is the first book in a series following The Revengers. I had a moment of disappointment when the story finished, as I was expecting it to be longer based on the page count. Instead there was a preview for the next book in the series at the end , and now I want to read that one too!

Cat Crimes and Wannabes is most suitable for middle and upper primary school children into lower high school.

 

*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 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.

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.

New Reviewers – Basil and Coco (and L)

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My ten year old daughter loves to read. She often supplies me with her opinions on books and suggests books for me to read. Over the last year or so, she has also become more interested in reviewing books. Rather than write her reviews up on the blog, we are trying video reviews. She’s a little shy though, so her reviews will be expressed through Coco Cat and Basil Bear.

We had a lot of fun making these videos! L is keen to make more, and is already working on her next review.

Have a look at our first two videos on YouTube, Introducing Basil and Coco and Basil and Coco Review Mudpuddle Farm.

More videos to come!