Category Archives: People/The Body

The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made by Fiona Katauskas

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The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made by Fiona Katauskas, hardback picture book, published by ABC Books in 2015.

This is a cute and comprehensive aid for helping parents explain human reproduction to younger children. It covers basic anatomy, puberty changes, sexual intercourse, IVF, sperm donation, fertilisation, gestation, birth and breastfeeding.

We are very open in our family, with no topic off limits for discussion. We adjust the depth and detail of information as well as our language to suit the kids’ ages, but we never avoid their questions. I’d much rather they hear about some things from us, then get a grossly twisted version on the playground! So The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made really suited us. It provides all of the necessary information respectfully, with appropriate language and a little humour. I have used it with my three younger children when they were each around the age of five. We read it together and I answered any questions they had. They were all engaged and curious.

I really liked the way that gestation is explained, using a fruit analogy along illustrations of the growing baby inside its mother. The kids wanted to know if it actually felt like carrying a watermelon by eight months along. And my son did a wonderful impression of a caesarean birth, where he was the mother behind the sheet having her tummy cut open!

In the Feeding Baby section, the two pictures depict women breastfeeding. This is great, but I would have liked to see a picture of a baby being bottle-fed too. Fed is best, irrespective of whether that is from breast or bottle. (Trying not to rant here, just thinking about how I was made to feel like a failure when my baby needed formula, and I feel strongly that no one should be shamed for feeding their baby milk in whatever form they need).

The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made is suitable for lower primary school children and above. It is best read together!

 

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.

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.

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

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angusAngus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison, paperback, 239 pages, first published by Piccadilly Press Ltd in 1999, this edition published by HarperCollins Childrens Books in 2005.

Georgia Nicolson is a teenager, and as such, her life is full of problems. Nose size, kissing, school, family, friends, frenemies, boyfriends; Georgia tackles it all. Along for the ride is her best friend, Jas, her little sister Libby, and her unusually large and vicious cat, Angus.

Written in diary style, Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, chronicles Georgia’s life in all its glory (and missteps). It is a rollicking ride through teenage angst and innovation that had me laughing. It exposes many of the realities that teenagers face, though I think Georgia often tries to solve her problems in an especially unique way. Her poor eyebrows! And kissing lessons, oh my. I was left shaking my head at her solutions, but also chuckling at the outcomes. I don’t remember being that crazy as a teenager, but then, I also didn’t have a giant half-Scottish-wildcat as a pet either!

Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging is a pretty relaxed read that I flew through. Most of the diary entries are short, so there are plenty of logical places to stop for a break, which also makes it more accessible for slower or struggling readers. Georgia provides a glossary of terms at the end of the book, in case you don’t speak English teenager. Though I didn’t have an issue with any of the words or phrases in the story, Georgia’s explanations were worth reading for their humour.

As a character, Georgia, was well written and developed. She is reasonably self-centred, like many adolescents, I suppose, but likeable enough. Her obsession over the size of her nose was amusing, and a refreshing change from teens that think they are just “too fat”. Georgia’s friends, aside from Jas, were all pretty generic, and I couldn’t really tell them apart. Everything about Georgia’s sister, Libby, however, was hilarious. Three year olds are really very special, especially when they have the opportunity to speak to your crush!

Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging contains references to sex, sexuality and sexual development, which lend it to a more mature audience. I think it is most suitable for high school students, though kids in upper primary school might also enjoy it.

The Dreadful Fluff by Aaron Blabey

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dreadfulfluffThe Dreadful Fluff by Aaron Blabey, picture book, published by Penguin Group (Australia) in 2012.

Serenity Strainer is perfect, except for the evil belly button fluff she pulls out one Saturday morning. The Dreadful Fluff goes on a rampage through Serenity’s house, collecting fluff and lint, and terrorising her family.

We’ve owned The Dreadful Fluff for a while now, and it has been well loved by all of my children. They think it is hilarious that belly button fluff could be alive and evil! Even when he starts devouring family members, the kids are still laughing. It is a particular favourite of my three year olds, who insist on reading it again and again.

It really is quite a funny book, and I like it a lot. The Dreadful Fluff is delightfully wicked and gross. I love the way he is drawn, with such expressive eyes and a nasty grin. And he just looks so ecstatic when he is rubbing himself again the dryer door, I can almost hear him purring. Serenity’s method of fighting him is ingenious. The moment Serenity goes all Rambo and challenges the Dreadful Fluff is my favourite scene in the book.

The Dreadful Fluff is most suitable for toddlers through to lower primary school children.

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

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holdingHolding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven, paperback novel, 388 pages, published by Penguin Books in 2016.

Libby used to be morbidly obese, and she’s still a big girl, but now it’s time for her to leave her house again and start high school. There she meets Jack, a popular, good looking boy with a secret he is hiding at all costs.

A touching love story, Holding Up the Universe made me feel, made me hope, made me smile. It also kept me up late as I found it difficult to stop reading. I flew through the story, taking every step and every stumble with Libby and Jack. My heart lurching and singing, my mind whirling over the difficulties that they both faced.

Holding Up the Universe covers themes of bullying, grief and obesity, but also explores a disorder called prosopagnosia or face-blindness. This was not something I was particularly familiar with, but was quite an interesting topic, and obviously well researched. I certainly learnt a lot during this novel.

The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Libby and Jack. I find this to be an excellent way to explore the depths of the characters. Libby is an amazing person; smart, brave, strong, empathetic. She is complex and beautiful, and she deserves so much more than her peers are capable of giving. Jack is also a complicated character, but I didn’t like him as much as I liked Libby. There were moments when I just wanted to smack him for his stupidity! By hiding his problems with face recognition, he comes across as being a jerk, which isn’t really him. And his choice of friends was questionable, until I realised that shallow and self-interested friends are the only ones that he could have hidden his issues from for very long. I’m surprised his family didn’t realise something wasn’t right.

Holding Up the Universe is suitable for high school students and beyond. I feel that it would be a good read for all teenagers and their parents as it examines a lot of issues relevant to adolescent life. I also recommend reading All the Bright Places, which is another poignant story of adolescence by Jennifer Niven.

Crossing by Catherine Norton

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crossingCrossing by Catherine Norton, paperback novel, 192 pages, published by Omnibus Books in 2014.

Cara has lived behind the Wall her entire life. She knows nothing but food shortages, and responsibilities beyond her years. When Leon and his family move into the top floor of Cara’s apartment building, she gets a glimpse of how things could be different.

Crossing was a fast, captivating story of a different life. The city in the story is nondescript, and could be anywhere in the modern world. However, the Wall is reminiscent of the Berlin Wall in Germany, and the lifestyle also had elements of socialist Russia during the Cold War. Everything about the city made me think of the colour grey; the clothes, the streets, the buildings, even the sky. The city felt defeated, along with all its residents. Their lives were full of hardships, but the loss of freedom felt particularly oppressive to me, especially when observing the view over the Wall from Leon’s apartment.

Growing up with such restrictions and deprivations was tough enough, but Cara also had to cope with her parents’ mysterious work trips, and the responsibility of caring for her younger sister, Lilith, during those times. Even when her parents were home, they didn’t appear to take much interest in Cara anyway, with most of their focus on Lilith, as she showed promising aptitude for computers that would make her useful and valuable for the government. Cara was quite isolated even within her family unit. I felt quite sympathetic towards Cara, and I was glad that she found a friend in Leon.

The story jumped from past to present quite a lot, and it was sometimes not clear when the time had changed. Otherwise, the story was good. It did end a little faster than I had expected, and I was left pondering a few unanswered questions, which is not necessarily a bad thing. This can be a creative opportunity for the reader! Overall I liked Crossing.

Crossing is most suitable for upper primary school and lower high high school students. My fifth grader read Crossing in one sitting, and told me afterwards that it was a good read for her. She felt that she read about a life vastly different to hers, and it made her appreciate her own situation and family more.

 

Mrs Miller – Christmas Killer by Paul Nolan

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mrsmillerMrs Miller – Christmas Killer by Paul Nolan, e-book, 98 pages,published through Createspace in 2016.

Holly Glover is starting at a new school at the start of December. She finds it strange that there are no Christmas decorations up, and the school is so quiet, with none of the usual childish banter and laughter. She soon discovers that the Head Teacher, Mrs Miller, hates christmas to the point where it has been banned at the school. Mrs Miller terrorises the teachers and students alike, and immediately takes a dislike to Holly. Can Holly bring Christmas back to Mount Pleasant Middle School?

This Christmas themed short novel was a fun read that I finished in one sitting. The story had a funny side, especially when Holly’s Dad was around, though there’s nothing funny about the despotic nature of Mrs Miller’s rule of the school.  I would not have liked being a student under her reign! It also hit on some more serious matters, like making new friends, death, and supporting your loved ones so they don’t feel hurt.

The characters were well-written. I liked Holly and her new friends, Meera and Chris. Mrs Miller is very scary, and I can see why no one wants to cross her. I liked the way that she was contrasted against her deputy, Mr Castle. Holly’s father seems somewhat eccentric. Everything he does is humorous for everyone except Holly, who finds his behaviour utterly mortifying. Between his terrible spray tan business, clothing choices, belchy old van, and his obliviousness to Holly’s embarrassment, Mr Glover tops the list of most embarrassing Dads. I feel a bit sorry for Holly, since she has to endure such embarrassment at a new school, but he’s her Dad, he loves her, and he doesn’t mean to embarrass her. I love that two of the teachers at Holly’s school are called Miss Meek and Mr Mild!

Mrs Miller – Christmas Killer is suitable for middle and upper primary school students. I enjoyed it, it’s a good story to read before Christmas.

 

*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.

A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen and Mike Lowery

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squigglystoryA Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen and Mike Lowery, picture e-book, 36 pages, published by Kids Can Press in 2016.

A little boy wants to write a story, but he isn’t sure how to do it. His big sister helps him get started, and encourages him to continue writing.

A Squiggly Story is a lovely book. It promotes creativity and persistence, and encourages kids to give new things a try. The boy is learning to express himself through writing a story, just like his sister does. He doesn’t know a lot of words, but he discovers that stories can be told in many ways, and by anyone. This outlines a beautiful sibling relationship, where the big sister guides her younger brother with patience and understanding.

I really like this book. The story is great! I like the way that the boy’s story develops, and comes to life. The illustrations are clear, and quite cute. I like all the scribbles and doodles, as well as the comic-like speech bubbles, and unique style of text. The whole book is well set out and pleasing to read.

A Squiggly Story is suitable for lower primary school children. It is perfect for sharing and would make an excellent addition to any children’s library collection.

 

*I obtained this book as a digital copy through Netgalley. I did not receive any other remuneration, and this is an honest review composed entirely of my own opinions.

Caillou, Potty Time by Joceline Sanschagrin and Pierre Brignaud

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cailloupottycoverCaillou, Potty Time by Joceline Sanschagrin and illustrated by Pierre Brignaud, picture e-book (board book edition), 24 pages, expected publication by Chouette Publishing – Caillou on July 12 in 2016.

Caillou’s mum has bought him a new potty. He wants to wear underpants and use his potty, but he doesn’t always make it on time.

In a sturdy board book format, this is a lovely book to share with toddlers, especially those that are just starting out on their potty journey. Caillou is a well known character that many kids love; he is quite appealing and familiar to youngsters. I like Caillou too, and I like the bright and clear illustrations in this book. The story is simple and follows Caillou’s efforts to use his potty, along with a couple of misses. It was nice that the misses weren’t a big deal, Caillou was just encouraged to try again next time. I liked the gentle reminders that he would get there. As a parent, I only wish toilet training could happen as quickly as it did for Caillou!

I read Caillou, Potty Time to my two toilet training toddlers, and they loved it. For the rest of the day they told me they were just like Caillou every time they used the potty. They also lamented that their potty didn’t have little fish on it like Caillou’s, despite having one shaped like a turtle!

This is the first book in a set of two featuring Caillou’s toilet training progress. Both board books will be available together as a pack in July.

 

*I obtained this book as a digital copy from Netgalley. I did not receive any other remuneration, and this is an honest review composed entirely of my own opinions.