Category Archives: Dinosaurs

TwoSpells by Mark Morrison

Standard

TwoSpells by Mark Morrison, e-book, 574 pages, published in 2018.

Twins, Sarah and Jon have travelled to Wales to spend the summer with their maternal grandparents, whom they have only met once before. They’ve barely landed in Wales when they begin to encounter some odd things; was that a werewolf they hit on the road? Things only get stranger at their grandparents’ farm, where there’s a creepy handy-man with a wooden leg, a magical book, and Sarah is sure those garden gnomes waved to her. They are giving a swift introduction to the magical world, learning much about themselves, and how they fit into that world, along the way. Sarah and Jon are excited to enter the ancient castle, TwoSpells, which is actually an humungous magical library, where one can enter the books and view the story from within. It also acts as a refuge for magical folk, where the “regulars” cannot go. Unfortunately the library is experiencing some rather frightening disturbances, and an illness is also affecting the magical populace. Sarah and Jon must help to save the library and all those who are sick.

This book is Awesome! TwoSpells had me hooked from the first chapter; that’s where the action started, and it just kept coming. It was a rollercoaster ride of magical creatures, book characters and a villain intent on controlling not just the world, but all worlds and realities. I could hardly put it down, I just had to read the next chapter, and then the next!

The battle at the library was wonderfully told. It was detailed and energetic; the highlight of the story. The diversity of creatures, magical, historical and mythical that emerged during the battle was incredible. Many of them were terrifying, but all came to life, rampaging about, creating a swirling mess of the library. I love the idea of being able to enter books, but the possibility of unleashing something big and dangerous was somewhat alarming!

All of the characters were strongly developed and described. I really felt like I got to know Sarah and Jon, and their grandparents. Grandpa was such a funny old man, but completely loveable. His relationship with Grandma was lovely, and I enjoyed their interactions. Their banter, and Grandpa’s propensity for “nicking” stuff, made me laugh. I loved when he fooled the security system at the exit of TwoSpells. Grandma standing up to the Golems was also quite funny.

I liked Sarah better than Jon; he was a bit too happy about slaying dragons and swinging swords. I preferred Sarah’s more cautious approach to their new-found magical identities. She was more likely to think before acting, and was very compassionate towards others, even those that were very different to her. I liked the relationship she began to form with Liam, one of the Junior Guardians at TwoSpells. While Liam, and his brother, Seth, were more minor characters, they were both very likeable.

The handy-man at the farm, Clyde, was an interesting character; he seemed pretty shifty, but also had kindness behind his exterior grumpiness. He had a strange back-story, and I’m still wondering what happened to his dog. I liked his gruffness, in the same way that I liked the abruptness of the Golems. Though the Golems were all made the same, the ones in charge of security about Sarah and Jon, were developing their own personalities nicely.

TwoSpells ended with many of my questions unanswered, and the fate of several characters unknown. I really hope that means there will be a follow-up book! I want to know about so many things! There are still lots of connections to be fulfilled, and I feel that there must be another great adventure coming.

TwoSpells is suitable for upper primary and high school students. I recommend it for fans of fantasy and action. Read it, it’s fantastic!

 

*I received this book as a digital 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.

Advertisements

A Day in the Park by Matt Weiss

Standard

dayparkA Day in the Park by Matt Weiss, e-book, 271 pages, published in 2016.

During a science lesson at school, Ryan’s teacher suggests that he investigate a local park area to look for frogs and frog spawn. Along with his mates, Casey and Jay, Ryan heads to the park, but along one of the trails in the forest, he discovers something else. Even though they do not know what it is, the three boys decide to dig it up and research it.

Overall, I quite enjoyed A Day in the Park. I have an interest in archaeology and palaeontology, so a book about fossils and prehistoric creatures is right up my alley. There were a lot of references to scientific terms and processes during the story, which might throw some readers. However, all of the terms were explained sufficiently for people new to this area of science.

I was surprised the first time that Ryan drifted off into the prehistoric landscape. And I’m still not sure if he was dreaming, hallucinating or actually travelling back in time! There was also no explanation as to how or why he was experiencing these prehistoric travels. These sequences were some of my favourite parts of the story. They were well developed with lovely descriptive language, bringing the prairie and its inhabitants to life.

The boys were average young teens being encouraged to leave their screens behind and find adventures in nature. Jay was definitely the clown of the trio, doing some rather silly, though funny things. Casey was the brains, always ready to investigate things thoroughly, and read extra information. Ryan was kind of in between. He was quieter than Jay, but less studious than Casey. I liked all three, and through the story I learnt plenty about each of them.

A Day in the Park is most suitable for middle primary school to lower high school children. I read the whole book in one day, and it kept me entertained throughout. While I enjoyed it as an adult, I know that I would have loved this book when I was about ten or eleven, so I am recommending it to my ten year old to read.

 

*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.

Author Interview: Christopher Llewelyn

Standard

tyrannosortofrexcovergiraffeworkcoverChristopher Llewelyn is the author of the fabulous Tyranno-sort-of Rex, one of our favourite picture books, as well as How Does the Giraffe Get to Work?

I set out to learn a bit more about this budding children’s author, and he kindly agreed to be interviewed!

 

 

First, a bit about yourself, your family and home?

Not a lot to tell really, no super-powers or exotic ancestry. I’m from Wales originally (born in Merthyr Tydfil, brought up just outside Llandrindod Wells) and after living in a variety of places around the UK (during which I studied for a History Masters and worked at too many jobs to list), I moved out to New Zealand in 2003. I now live in Christchurch with my wife Holly. No children, no pets – unless you count the single sleepy fly that is currently trying to see out the winter in our bathroom.

 

What is the first book you remember falling in love with? What made you love it? 

As a child I had two particular favourites; one was Flat Stanley and the other was Winnie the Pooh (I’ve always felt a strange affinity with Eeyore). However, the first time I remember getting that feeling where you physically struggle to put a book down was with Alien by Alan Dean Foster. I was fourteen when I read it and wasn’t able to watch the film as it was an 18 Certificate (and it was back in the day when hardly anyone had a video recorder… or at least that was the case in mid-Wales), but I loved the fact I could read the book. The book did scare me silly; but I guess a book is only ever as frightening as your imagination allows it be. It was also the first time I put music together with a book, almost as an accident, because I played a bootleg tape somebody had given me of the The Cure live in concert over an over while I was reading, and even now whenever I hear the song A Forest I’m transported straight up to the Nostromo (the spaceship in Alien). I still have a habit of coupling music with books, especially when I buy a big chunk of a book like The Kills by Richard House, which I read while listening over and over to World to Come by Maya Beiser (I’d recommend both).

 

What was the last book you read?

I buy most of my books from second hand stores so I end up with quite an eclectic collection. I like the feeling of walking out of a shop with six or seven books to read, which I couldn’t afford to do with brand new books. Buying books like this means I’ve never really been loyal to any one author, as I just pick up things that look interesting (and I do tend to judge a book by it’s cover). The last book I read I did actually buy new in a bookshop, and it was Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel. I really really enjoyed it, in fact I don’t think I can recommend it highly enough. The writing is amazing, just at another level to anything else I’ve read recently. You know it’s a good book when you get to the end and wish there were another 300 pages. I usually have two books on the go at the same time, one fiction and one non-fiction. The latest non-fiction book I’ve read is Upright Thinkers (the human journey from living in trees to understanding the cosmos) by Leonard Mlodinow, which I would also say is definitely worth a look (if you like that kind of thing).

 

Is there a special place you prefer to write from?

I do all my writing at home, but I tend to go for a walk early in the morning before I start. I have a good memory, so I’m able to work a storyline through in my head while wandering along the beach, or up in the hills, and retain it all until I sit down and put pen to paper (or fingers to keys). I find this a good way of working as it means you’ve already got something ready when you sit down to write, rather than trying to come up with an idea while staring at a computer screen (very uninspiring).

 

How did you choose your illustrator, Scott Tulloch?

I didn’t choose him. Scholastic put us together, which I’m grateful for as Scott’s work is fantastic, and I think his illustrations lift the text to another level. I’ve only actually met him once, but we got on well and seemed to have the same ideas of what we want to achieve.

 

How do you work with the illustrator on your books? Is he part of the creative process from the start?

Scott only gets the books once they’ve been written, and then it’s all down to his imagination. He does send the sketches through at each stage, and is pretty receptive to feedback… though to be honest he’s the one with the experience and is very good at what he does, so any suggestions from me are usually just if I’d had an idea for a particular line in the text.

 

Did you want to be a paleontologist as a child? Do you have a passion for dinosaurs?

I think I had the normal amount of passion for dinosaurs as a child… which means a huge amount. They’re just so amazing and, like 99.9% of children, my favourite would have been the T-Rex. However, now that I’m older I don’t really understand why it is that children seem obsessed with the animals they should be most scared of, like the T-Rex and Tigers. You’d think there would be an evolutionary response to steer clear of any creature with teeth bigger than your head. As an adult I still have an interest in dinosaurs, but more as part of an all encompassing fascination with the history of life on earth.

 

I understand that you are just starting out in the world of picture books. Are there more in the works?

I hope there will be more books. I have a stack of completed stories, but at the moment it seems that what I want to write and what the majority of publishers are looking for is quite different. But who knows, maybe somebody out there will see the reason in my rhyme.

 

Well, I certainly hope that more of Christopher’s books get published! Tyranno-sort-of Rex is an adorably funny picture books that any little dino fan will love. Check out the read along videos on Youtube for even more fun.

When a ship full of dinosaur bones gets caught in a storm it leads to a mix-up of tyrannosaurus proportions! Will the museum’s curator piece together this fossilised …
Who knew that the animals only worked at the zoo, and that each morning they make their way to work, just like the rest of us! Some ride public transport, while …

Save

Tyranno-sort-of Rex by Christopher Llewelyn and Scott Tulloch

Standard

tyrannosortofrexcoverTyranno-sort-of Rex by Christopher Llewelyn and illustrated by Scott Tulloch, paperback picture book, published by Scholastic New Zealand Limited.

At the end of a dinosaur dig, the bones are carefully packed and labelled to be shipped back to the museum. Unfortunately, during a rough sea journey, the bones become one big jumbly mess. The museum’s curator tries to put them together again, ready for the big exhibition, but things go a little awry.

Dinosaur books are always a hit in our house, but this book is our new favourite! We’ve only had it for a couple of weeks, and it has been read multiple times every day so far. One of my boys even woke in the night crying because he wanted his new dino book to cuddle! He already knows some of the words, and joins in when the curator gets out his drill.

Tyranno-sort-of Rex is very funny with lovely colour illustrations throughout. It will make your child laugh when they see what the curator comes up with. I especially like when the skeleton ends up with two heads! The lyrical text makes it excellent to read aloud, and the repetition of the curator’s actions will have the kids joining in in no time! I love reading this book to my kids.

Suitable for preschoolers and primary age children, adults will also enjoy the curator’s dino designs in Tyranno-sort-of Rex. Every young dinosaur fan should have this humourous book in their collection.

 

Ten Terrible Dinosaurs by Paul Stickland

Standard

IMG_5266Ten Terrible Dinosaurs by Paul Stickland, paperback picture book, first published by Ragged Bear Publishing Ltd. in 1997, this edition published by Picture Corgi in 2014.

This is a cute count-down book perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. It uses simple language and large text, making it easy for young children to follow the words. The illustrations are bright and colourful. The story is funny, it rhymes, and most importantly there are dinosaurs!

My toddlers have been asking me to read Ten Terrible Dinosaurs a lot lately. They like to make roaring sounds throughout as they pretend to be the dinosaurs in the story. The repetition of the numbers has been helping them to learn the numbers, and we like to count the dinosaurs together. Knowing that the number will rhyme with the previous line has encouraged them to try to predict the next number. They also laugh every time we get to the dinosaur whose silly trick goes wrong, and when one of the dinosaurs gets stuck in a tree!

 

Dino Shapes by Suse MacDonald

Standard

IMG_5268Dino Shapes by Suse MacDonald, board book, published by First Little Simon in 2014, previously published as Shape by Shape in 2009.

My toddlers are obsessed with dinosaurs at the moment. As soon as they saw this cute little board book, they wanted it. It has been read over and over and over… They love it. I also like it, it has been helpful in teaching them some shapes.

Each page is a bold colour, the text is easy to read and simple. It starts with two black circles for eyes, and each page uses a new shape in the story, adding detail to the dinosaur. There are cut-outs on the pages for each shape the story uses. These accumulate to provide the final picture. It is quite clever really, though as far as I know, Brachiosaurus didn’t have big pointy triangular teeth!

Inside the front cover there are also different shapes printed in bright colours with the name of the shape beneath each one. I often ask my toddlers to point out certain shapes before we read the story. They like to repeat the names of the shapes after I read them out too.

Dino Shapes comes in a sturdy board book format and is perfect for babies and toddlers.

 

Dinosaur Poo! by Diane and Christyan Fox

Standard

IMG_1695Dinosaur Poo! by Diane and Christyan Fox, hardback picture book, published by Words & Pictures in 2014.

Dinosaurs poo all over the place, but which dinosaur has the largest (and probably smelliest) poo around? Velociraptor and Pteradacyl set out to find the biggest dinosaur poo, behind rocks, in the river and even up a tree!

Dinosaur Poo! is sure to be a hit with young and old alike. This hilarious romp through the prehistoric landscape had us laughing and giggling as we lifted the flaps to see the big smelly piles of dinosaur poo. And the ending had my kids in stitches. They wanted to read it over and over! The clear, colourful illustrations combined with funny rhyming text and lift-the-flap sections, make this an awesome book for children in preschool and lower primary school.

My kids are both obsessed with toilet humour at the moment, and they both love dinosaurs, so the combination of poo and dinosaurs was sure to be a hit in our house. I borrowed this book from the library first, but we enjoyed it so much I am going to purchase it so that we can read it any time we feel like a good laugh!

 

 

Big Book of Aussie Dinosaurs by Kel Richards and Glen Singleton

Standard

IMG_1489Big Book of Aussie Dinosaurs by Kel Richards and illustrated by Glen Singleton, hardback non-fiction, 25 pages, published by Scholastic Australia in 2014.

Over the years we have read many dinosaur books, but I think this is the first one exclusively about Australian dinosaurs. It is a clear and simple introduction to this topic, suitable for preschoolers and lower primary school children. It contains facts about each dinosaur, with quirky illustrations on every page. My preschooler liked the carnivores running around with knives and forks. Her favourite dinosaur is Minmi, and she liked that a carnivore’s knife and fork were drawn crumpled from trying to penetrate her hard bony plates.

There is a glossary of Australian dinosaurs at the back of the book with a picture, the full name, phonetic pronunciation and the meaning of the dinosaur’s name. We tried saying all of the names aloud, some of them were quite difficult!

Prefect for all small dinosaur lovers, Big Book of Aussie Dinosaurs deserves a place in any dinosaur book collection!

 

I’m a Dirty Dinosaur by Janeen Brian and Ann James

Standard

IMG_1307I’m a Dirty Dinosaur by Janeen Brian and illustrated by Ann James, hardback picture book, published by Puffin Books in 2013.

A dinosaur who doesn’t want to wash, splashing in puddles and sliding his tail through the mud. He really is a dirty dinosaur, with dirty feet and dirty tum and dirty snout.

This funny rhyming tale of a dinosaur who loves to get muddy was very well received by my preschooler and toddler. They laughed and pretended to be the dinosaur, they also like to get very dirty and not have a bath! Suitable for preschoolers and early readers with it’s simple language and large text, this is sure to become a quick favourite. I liked the illustrations, which were simple and different, as the illustrator appears to have used actual mud to create the dirt and mud of the story. This technique is very effective. Overall, a good book for young children.

 

* I’m a Dirty Dinosaur was an honour book for the 2014 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Early Childhood category.

T-rex’s Terrible Tooth by Kathryn England and Ben Redlich

Standard

IMG_0445T-rex’s Terrible Tooth by Kathryn England and illustrated by Ben Redlich, paperback picture book, published by Koala Books in 2010.

Young Tyrone the T-rex has a toothache. A toothache so bad that he is unable to eat his normal meaty diet without horrendous pain. Convinced that he is about to die of starvation, he breaks down wailing. A passing Brontosaurus informs Tyrone that soft fruit and vegetables are plentiful, and by changing his diet he will certainly survive. Tyrone gives his new diet his full attention with unexpected results.

This is a delightfully humourous rhyming story featuring dinosaurs, one of my kids’ favourite topics, so it is a hands down winner in our house and has been read numerous times to both my preschooler and second-grader. We love reading this book out loud to make the most of the rhyming text, and it always makes us laugh. My preschooler likes the meat meals Tyrone dreams of but can’t eat, such as Triceratops lollipops, while I like his melodramatic response to his toothache. The ending is very satisfying and my kids think it is hilarious. A great book for preschoolers and lower primary school children, I highly recommend T-rex’s Terrible Tooth for every little dinosaur fan!