Category Archives: Monsters

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

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percy1Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, paperback novel, 375 pages, published by Puffin Books in 2005.

Percy Jackson has issues. He is dyslexic with ADHD, and has been booted from six schools in six years. He doesn’t try to get expelled, he just seems destined to screw up at school. As the school year comes to a close, Percy yet again finds himself in trouble, but soon school is the least of his worries, as he and his mother are chased by a minotaur, and he discovers that he is not all human after all. Being half Greek god, monsters are trying to kill Percy, and the only safe place for him to go is to Camp Half-Blood, a camp just for kids like him; children of the gods. When he is presented with a hero quest, Percy embraces it as best he can, and along with his friends, Annabeth and Grover, he sets out across the country to find some stolen property and oust the thief.

I had been trying to convince my ten year old to try reading the Percy Jackson series for a couple of years now, but she was stubbornly refusing. So when I picked up a copy of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief at my favourite secondhand bookshop (Canty’s), I decided to start reading it aloud to her. She very quickly became intrigued by the story, and began begging for more chapters. She is quite capable of reading it herself, but sharing books aloud is a lovely way to spend time with my children, so I kept reading it. We read some everyday, except for when my daughter was away on a school trip for three days, it was incredibly hard for me not to read the rest of the book without her! Once she arrived home, we finished the book quite quickly. About five seconds after finishing Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, she asked could we start the next one, Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters. Luckily I had it on hand to get started!

I am thrilled that my daughter loves Percy Jackson as much as I do. It is an exhilarating ride full of adventure, action, monsters and heroes. I felt like we were given a good lesson on Greek Gods and mythology while we read too, which is fascinating. The story is obviously well researched, my only complaint is that the Greek names really stretched my pronunciation skills! The plot was intricately weaved and fast-paced; I loved the action scenes. There were a few surprises along the way as we followed Percy’s journey with great enthusiasm.

The characters are complex and realistic, flawed and special. Grover was probably my favourite. He is always so worried, but he comes through when required. He is an excellent friend to Percy, and helps keep him safe. Annabeth is also a great friend, but she performs her role with more sarcasm and bluntness. She is quirky and valuable, and while a little prickly at times, she is also a lovely person who cares for her friends. Percy is very lucky to have such friends by his side. We really liked Percy too; thrust into a life he never imagined, he battles through and works hard to right a wrong and prevent a war. I’m looking forwards to seeing how he progresses as a character through the series.

It was interesting discovering some of the Gods and their personalities. Most displayed a high level of arrogance and self-importance, which I suppose can only be expected after thousands of years of immortality and rule. They were also pretty scary, and I am glad that I don’t have to face any of them, especially Ares and Hades. Even scarier, though, were the monsters sent to stop Percy, truly nightmare inducing.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is most suitable for middle primary school and high school students (and up!). We have already started the next book in the series, Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters. We will definitely be reading more of these awesome books.

 

 

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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.

Optics: A Fairy Tale by Sarah Allen

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opticsOptics: A Fairy Tale by Sarah Allen, e-book, 23 pages, published in 2013.

The woods surrounding Isabelle’s village are full of monsters. The villagers know it is not safe to enter the woods, but Isabelle must go to cut some wood to help her family survive. She discovers a monster stuck in a tree, and helps it. In return she is shown a special mirror in which she can capture the monsters’ souls so that they will stop terrorising her village.

This book introduces the properties of convex and concave mirrors and lenses in a fun and entertaining way. The mirror in the story is a large spherical concave mirror, like a big bowl on its side. In this mirror, Isabelle can see and trap the souls of the monsters that have chased her. She sees that the images of the souls change size and location when the monsters move closer to or further away from the mirror’s surface, and on the concave side, the images are upside-down. Through the telling of this story, I learnt a bit about optics. Being able to put this information into the context of a story will help me to remember the properties of concave and convex mirrors, and in turn, lenses.

There is a small section at the end of the story that explains these concepts in simple language. It covers the centre of curvature, focus and image location with simple diagrams to aid understanding.

Optics: A Fairy Tale is part of an educational series by Sarah Allen. This blend of fairy tale and physics is suitable for high school students and up. It simplifies some optics basics, helping to prepare physics students for more complex concepts.

 

*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.

 

What do Werewolves do when it’s not Halloween? by Heath McKenzie

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IMG_3820What do Werewolves do when it’s not Halloween? by Heath McKenzie, paperback picture book, published by Scholastic Australia in 2013.

Halloween comes but once a year, when all the spooky things emerge from the shadows, but what do they do with the time in between? Find out what the witches and vampires, ghosts and mummies get up to in their free time. And specifically what do the werewolves do when they are not scaring the wits out of everyday people?

A hauntingly funny book for primary school children, What do Werewolves do when it’s not Halloween? is another great story from Heath McKenzie. The rhyming text is amusing, and the illustrations divine. The thought of those mummies changing their bandages never fails to make me laugh, and my kindergartner loves to pore over the pictures finding all the little quirks, like the ghost playing guitar and the vampire rubber ducky. The ending is her favourite part, and she can recite the last few pages to me! Reading this book has been a good inspiration for both my kindergartner and my third grader to create some of their own funny halloween pictures, with what they think could be alternative activities for the spooky creatures. I love that reading this book has prompted them to be artistic and creative.

This book is enjoyable for adults as well, the zombie scene is my favourite, have a look at those library cards! A great read out loud book to share and laugh over. After reading What do Werewolves do when it’s not Halloween? and What does Santa do when it’s not Christmas?, I do so hope that Heath McKenzie will tell us what the Easter Bunny is up to next!

The Hunting of Shadroth by Victor Kelleher

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IMG_1356The Hunting of Shadroth by Victor Kelleher, paperback novel, 192 pages, first published by Kestrel Books in 1981, this edition published by Puffin Books in 1983.

Young Tal is a member of the Clan, a people that live simply in cave dwellings overlooking the gentle rolling slopes down to the Greenlands, an area of thick jungle. Living in the Greenlands is the large cat-like creature known as the Feln, a gentle beast, living in peace with the Clan. However, when something kills some of the Clan’s cows, the chieftain, Kulok, blames the Feln and sets out to destroy them. Tal is forced onto the hunt, but cannot bring himself to kill the Feln, and is cast out of the Clan for cowardice. Tal knows that the Feln is not the problem, a malevolent force, known in legend as Shadroth, has risen in the Greenlands. It is up to Tal and his best friend, Lea, to travel beyond the Greenlands to seek help. It will take great courage and persistence to defeat Shadroth and bring peace to the Greenlands and the Clan once more. With the Feln and Lea by his side, Tal must face his fear and fight for all he has ever known.

As a child in primary school I was obsessed with Victor Kelleher, I read as many books by him as I could find, but The Hunting of Shadroth was my favourite, one that I read many times. I hadn’t read it for more than a decade though, until I came across this old copy in a secondhand book shop. I was a bit hesitant to start reading it in case it didn’t stack up to my memories of it, but I needn’t have worried! I found this to be as compelling a read now as it was when I was a child.

While it is a fantasy novel, it draws on many aspects of our own reality and history, and couples this knowledge with descriptive imagery to really bring the story to life. Following Tal and Lea on their adventure, their fight and their friendship with the Feln, I found myself racing through the pages, not wanting to put it down until I knew the outcome. Each time Shadroth appeared, I could image the terror he would induce among the Clan. He is a bit scary, and there are parts of the story that are quite dark. For this reason, The Hunting of Shadroth, while suitable for middle to upper primary school children based on reading and comprehension abilities, there are kids that may find it too frightening to read. Other children may find it more exciting than scary. My second grader has informed me that she will wait until she is a bit older, and that’s fine. While I wait for her to be ready, I will just have to re-read more of the Victor Kelleher books I so loved many years ago.

 

Don’t Wake the Troll by Ben Kitchin and Ben Redlich

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IMG_0859Don’t Wake the Troll by Ben Kitchin and illustrated by Ben Redlich, paperback picture book, published by Scholastic Australia in 2013.

A group of dwarves make a plan to creep deep into the mountain to steal back their treasure from a giant troll. They wait until the troll is sleeping and down the tunnel they go, they have to be very careful not to wake up the troll. As they tip-toe along, there comes a noise, kerlunk, kerlunk. It is their shields banging into their armour, so they ditch the shields, the noise might wake the troll, and on they sneak. But then there is another noise….

A wonderful and amusing adventure with treasure and a big smelly troll. The story is clever and exciting. I just love the illustrations too! There are some very funny pictures that made both my preschooler and second grader laugh out loud. The dwarves look so funny, especially as they start to leave their armour and weapons behind. The troll is very well drawn, covered in hair with great dirty nails, a big warty nose, and flies surrounding his stench, he is funny, yet a little scary at the same time. My kids really got into this book. My preschooler wanted to make all the sounds as the dwarves move down into the troll’s lair. Don’t Wake the Troll also has a very fitting ending. This is a book to be read and read again, especially with preschoolers and children in lower primary school.

 

Freak Street: Meet the Zombiesons by Knife & Packer

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IMG_0424Freak Street: Meet the Zombiesons by Knife & Packer, paperback graphic chapter book, 93 pages, first published by Scholastic Australia in 2008, this edition published by Scholastic Australia in 2013.

The Zombiesons live on Freak Street along with some other unusual families. Within their family, there is Mr and Mrs Zombieson, their children Zigi and Zoey and the baby Zee. They also have a three headed dog called Zlobba. They are all bright green with red hair and their brains exposed, they also have an interesting house and yard, including a man-eating hedge that likes mouldy pizza. Granny Zombieson is coming to stay and celebrate her 500 year birthday with her family. She is a whiz in the kitchen at making the most delicious pizzas, such as Haunted Hawaiian, for which she guards the recipes closely.

Zigi plays soccer with the Freak Street School team, and whenever Granny Zombieson comes to watch, the team never loses, so it is important to Zigi that she attend the big final. On the morning of the final the whole family goes to the theme park Danger World for Granny’s birthday. Matters are complicated when Granny has her brain stolen, but by whom and why, and will she still make it to the game to be Zigi’s lucky charm?

This was a funny story filled with amusing colour illustrations. The faces of some of the characters captured their nature extremely well. Granny Zombieson was my favourite character, with her skateboard and attraction to terrifying rides, despite her age. Her friends from the Ridiculously Old Age Zombie Home also made me laugh, especially when Scary’s eyeball fell into the fish bowl. Even though the Zombiesons were zombies, they were mostly just like any other family, though maybe with a few more rather unusual quirks.

My second grader enjoyed Meet the Zombiesons so much that she has asked for more b0ooks from this series, and she is looking forward to meeting more of the Freak Street families. Meet the Zombiesons was a simple yet exciting adventure best for lower and middle primary school students, though I liked it well enough too. It makes zombies seem not very frightening at all, so younger readers shouldn’t be scared to give this book a go, especially with an adult.

 

Clay Monsters

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IMG_8261L had previously used some clay at school for modelling, but this was the first time for A. We used white air drying clay, which I bought at Bunnings.

Our dry monsters.

Our dry monsters.

The clay was easy to work with, and the kids treated it much like they would have play dough. They enjoyed the sensation of squishing it in their fingers, and rolling it into balls and sausages. Once they got down to the serious business of shaping their monsters we added a little water to the clay to make it sticky enough to create features. Working with wet clay can get pretty messy too, so we worked on a muck mat, and had damp tea towels for hand (and face) wiping as necessary.

Using a paint brush to add detail.

Using a paint brush to add detail.

I let the kids decide what kind of monsters they would model, yet both of them decided to make serpent monsters. Neither of the kids are particularly keen on snakes, so perhaps they thought snake-shaped monsters would make very scary clay monsters.

Making the clay smooth with water.

Making the clay smooth with water.

A made her clay into a long body with a little head, while L made her snakey monster with a huge head and fangs. L used a paintbrush to add some details to her serpent, such as a mouth. A painted water along the body of her snake until it was very smooth. Her monster really looked like a snake, but she assured me that it was a really terrifying monster. A also made a funny little spotty blob monster, which she said was like a germ.

My monster with umbrella.

My monster with umbrella.

I also made a clay monster of my own, because playing with clay is just fun. My monster was a bit of a blob with four feet, and numerous eyes made by poking the clay with a toothpick. It is also holding a clay umbrella with a toothpick handle. The umbrella was L’s idea, and I love it, it made my monster very quirky, especially since it doesn’t have hands or even arms for that matter, so I think it is holding the umbrella with its side! It has a tail that looks a bit like the opening of a trumpet, and three spikes on its head, but no nose.

The germ monster.

The germ monster.

We placed the monsters onto plastic wrap so they wouldn’t stick to anything, and then left the monsters to dry completely, which took a few days. This was not helped by a bout of rain at the time, keeping the air moist. While they were drying we were careful not to move them or bump them.

L thought she might like to paint her monster once it was dry, but in the end we left them as is. I quite like all of the clay monsters that we made, and we have placed them onto a shelf for display.

 

Monster Masks

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Gluing down some tissue paper.

Gluing down some tissue paper.

The kids created their own monster masks using paper plates as a base. I cut some eye holes, and then they got started decorating their masks. We started by placing tissue paper over the plate to create the monster’s skin. Once we’d glued the tissue paper down, A chose to leave her tissue paper loose around the edge as a bit of a frill. L chose to push the edges of her tissue paper around to the back of the plate and glue it down.

Gluing the edges down.

Gluing the edges down.

The kids used some crepe paper to add fur, felt and foam for horns, mouth and ears. L added a silver tail to her mask too. And then it was glitter glue and more glitter glue. A used lots of glitter glue to create some pretty sparkly teeth that haven taken a couple of days to dry in our damp weather.

 

Adding a glitter glue nose.

Adding a glitter glue nose.

I added a large pop-stick to the back of the plate to help support the mask, and then another large pop-stick at the bottom of the mask for the kids to hold it.

A adding purple fur.

A adding purple fur.

Glitter glue teeth.

Glitter glue teeth.

When I took photos of the kids using their masks, they growled and roared for me. They also ran out wearing their masks to scare Big L when he got home from work.

L modelling her monster mask.

L modelling her monster mask.

A modelling her monster mask.

A modelling her monster mask.

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

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IMG_8648The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, paperback picture book, published by Macmillan Children’s Books in 1999.

A little mouse strolls through the woods, several predators offer for him to join them for a meal. He frightens each of these animals away with his description of the fictitious monster, the Gruffalo, but then he actually meets one. The Gruffalo thinks he would like to eat the mouse as well, but the mouse has a clever idea to escape becoming lunch.

This is a beautifully written and illustrated picture book that is extremely well loved in our home. The kids can recite this story because we have read it so many times. I love it too, and I am always happy when one of the kids choose it for story time. The story is written in rhyming text, and the mouse’s description of the Gruffalo is delightful. It is amusing and original, and not at all scary. It is a wonderful book to share with children of all ages. The Gruffalo is a must have for every child’s book collection.