Frog on a Log? by Kes Gray and Jim Field

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Frog on a Log? by Kes Gray and illustrated by Jim Field, hardback picture book, published by Scholastic Press in 2015.

The cat insists that the frog sits on a log. Why? Because frogs must sit on logs. The cat goes on to explain that cats sit on mats, hares on chairs, mules on stools…. and on and on.

This wonderfully silly rhyming story is accompanied by cute and funny illustrations. Some of the animals get to sit on some rather uncomfortable items, including irons, forks and poles! My favourite picture is the wizard with his lizard playing the flute with the newt, and the magnifying glass that allows us to see the fleas sitting on peas. The frog can be found in each picture too.

Frog on a Log? is a great read-aloud book which my pre-schoolers love. It is funny, entertaining and can be read again and again. My boys like all the rhyming and it has encouraged them to think of other words that rhyme. We loved the ending!

I highly recommend Frog on a Log? for pre-school and lower primary school students.

 

*Frog on a Log? has also been published under the title Oi Frog!

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The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty by Karla Strambini

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The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty by Karla Strambini, hard-back picture book, published by Walker Books Australia Pty Ltd in 2013.

Norman Qwerty’s imagination is highly active. Amazing and wonderful ideas fill his head and are just waiting to burst forth. However, he feels that he is different to others, and that no-one else has thoughts like his, making him feel alone.

A simple story with clear text, The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty told the tale of an ordinary man capable of extraordinary ideas.

The story itself was pretty basic, and I didn’t think that much of it, however, the illustrations were delightful. Done mostly in grayscale, with a hint of colour here and there, they were detailed and interesting. Each page held something new to investigate. I loved that the people were wearing hats that were locked to keep all their new and outrageous ideas in, but that sometimes the ideas still escaped. Most extraordinary of all, was that everyone had different ideas, some ordinary, some strange and some incredible, but all interesting.

I read this book with my two preschoolers, who were both intrigued by the pictures. They pored over the pages spotting new things and pointing out anything that interested them. They were both very taken with the robot bird in Mr Qwerty’s hat. My favourite invention was the hovering light with eyes. We spent quite a lot of time just looking at the pictures.

The Extraordinary Mr Qwerty is suitable for preschoolers and lower primary school children. I think it worked best as a read-aloud book, where we could discuss the illustrations thoroughly together.

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Funny Farm by Mark Teague

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Funny Farm by Mark Teague, hard-back picture book, published by Orchard Books in 2009.

Edward visits Hawthorne Farm for the first time. His uncle, aunt and cousin show him how to help about the farm, by collecting eggs, feeding the pigs, painting the barn, and herding the sheep. The fact that Edward and his family are dogs running a farm is only the first of many odd things at Hawthorne Farm!

Funny Farm is a simple story of a day on the farm, just that the farm is a little different to most. The text was clear and easy to read, with just one sentence per scene; great for younger children. Each page was full of colourful and detailed illustrations full of interesting and unusual things.

My preschoolers thought Funny Farm was pretty good. They liked all the strange things, such as the pigs playing on the swings, the bugs ploughing their own small field, and the sheep brushing their teeth at the water trough. They laughed quite a lot when Edward got chased by the rooster and when he fell into the pig’s food trough! They are keen to read this book again.

Funny Farm is suitable for toddlers and preschoolers.

 

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The Land of the Sourpie by J. S. Skye

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The Land of the Sourpie by J. S. Skye, paperback novel, 198 pages, first published in 2013, this edition published in 2015.

Flurry the adorable little teddy bear is back. He has spent about three months living in MiddleAsia with his new human parents, when he is invited to return to his home town for a visit. Upon arrival Flurry is surprised to discover he has a new little sister, and he is not happy about it at all.

The Land of the Sourpie is the first real adventure for Flurry, where he finds himself far away from home. Along for the ride are Flurry’s new sister, Fall, and his friend, Caboose. They face the perils of the large forest at night, making friends and enemies along the way.

I quite liked this adventure, though Flurry got on my nerves; he was so incredibly mean to his sister. Flurry really didn’t take it well when the news of a sister was broken to him, and I suppose his parents could have warned him about their new child, instead of springing it on him during a visit with his friends, but still, his reaction was over the top jealous. It was a ridiculous notion to think that Mr and Mrs Snow would love Fall more than him. But then I have to remember that Flurry is a very young bear cub, and his actions are like that of a human toddler discovering they have to share their parents with a new sibling.

Another thing I disliked about Flurry was that when he thought he might get in trouble, he let his friends take the blame. And he was too proud to admit when he was wrong, especially when it came to his sister. This behaviour made him more difficult to like in this story.

I liked Fall better. She was the polar opposite to Flurry; sensible, responsible, rule-abiding and humble. She really wanted to do the right thing, but Flurry just wouldn’t listen to her. And Caboose made me laugh, he can’t help but be likeable!

The best bits of this story happened once the bear cubs met the sourpie felines and their estranged brethren. I loved the name of King Jag’War. I hope we will meet these great cats in future Flurry stories, they were such great characters. The pack of wolves the cubs run into are very well described, but far less likeable than the cats. The leader of the pack was really quite scary and evil; I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of him!

I felt that the chapters were a little long for the target audience. My 8 year old likes to “conquer” a chapter in each reading session, but these chapters were too long for her to do that at the moment. Still, it was a good read which left me eager to read the next Flurry adventure.

The Land of the Sourpie is suitable for middle and upper primary school students.

 

*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.

 

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Amazon Reviews

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I logged in to Amazon yesterday to post a review only to discover that their review guidelines have changed. I can no longer post reviews unless I have spent a minimum of US$50 using a credit/debit card on the site within the previous 12 months. I live in Australia, and find that many things I might like from Amazon do not ship to Australia or the postage makes the cost too much, and I tend not to buy enough e-books to cover the minimum amount (I prefer physical books). So I am sad to say that I will no longer be posting reviews to Amazon.

I am dismayed by this policy change. I believe it unfairly impacts indie authors by restricting who can review their books. It also impacts the customers by restricting their access to honest and unbiased reviews. Reviews are helpful in creating sales, and are especially important for those books which have not been through a big publishing firm with dedicated marketing. This is a disappointing move that just smacks of greed (sigh…). I used to post reviews on Book Depository too, but now they only pull reviews from Amazon…

However, I will continue to post my reviews to my blog, Facebook and Twitter pages, Goodreads and Riffle. And I will continue to look for more places to post reviews. I’m open to recommendations too, so if you know a good place with free access to reviews, please let me know!

The Granted Wish by J.S. Skye

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The Granted Wish by J.S. Skye, paperback novel, first published in 2012, this edition published in 2017.

Flurry the Bear is a cute, little, teddy bear cub who just seems to find trouble around every corner. His concerned parents seek help from Christopher Kringle, the very man that brought life to the teddy bears of the Mezarim. The solution can only work for so long before Flurry finds himself in trouble once more.

The Granted Wish is the first book in the Flurry the Bear Series, which follows Flurry on his adventures. This first book provides details of Flurry’s background; it is his origin story. We learn about Flurry’s parents, and his first years, including his first adventure away from home. Flurry’s story is told as a tale in a book read to a group of young teddy bear cubs, who have all heard the awe inspiring tales of Flurry; his adventures, his bravery, his conquests, (some spread enthusiastically by Flurry himself, no doubt!). I liked this approach to telling the story.

For me, The Granted Wish was a reasonably quick read, with a solid and magical plot, that I enjoyed. It was fun getting to know Flurry, his family and his friends. There was laughter, friendship and discovery, of new things, and of himself, as Flurry began his adventurous lifestyle.

The idea of a whole township of teddy bears living and working at the north pole is wonderful! They were all meticulously described, with varying personalities, just as we have in our own society. I especially related to Mrs Snow’s exasperation over Flurry’s antics! And the amazing Christopher Kringle, who has been re-invented from jolly old Santa with his jelly belly, to a young, vital and strong character who uses his magic to bring life, nuture and guide those around him. He is kind, yet firm when required. As for Flurry, he is a bit mischievous and a bit of a daydreamer, but he is also a loving son, and he does try to do the right thing. However, he has a vain streak (he is an exceptionally adorable little teddy, after all), which can lead to some smugness. I hope Flurry can overcome this tendency in the books ahead.

An interesting start to a what promises to be an exciting series, The Granted Wish, is suitable for middle and upper primary students.

 

*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.

Pete and the Persian Bottle by Sarah Jackson

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Pete and the Persian Bottle by Sarah Jackson and illustrated by Tegan Werts, e-book, 101 pages, published by Big Bulb Books in 2016.

The summer holidays are almost upon Pete when he discovers an interesting old bottle in the skip bin next door. Unfortunately for Pete, instead of a friendly genie ready to grant him wishes, there is a scared Djinn residing in the bottle who just wants to go back to his homeland. Suddenly Pete is a rat and the Djinn is gone; how will Pete get back to normal now?

This was an easy, quick and entertaining read. It does sound fun to get some wishes from a genie, but it would be so easy for things to go wrong, just as Pete discovered. Poor Pete; all he wanted was to be more than average. Of course, being a talking rat did make him special, but it wasn’t exactly what he had in mind! His adventure as a rat was good, it felt realistic, with a little bit of danger and some rather funny moments. I liked Pete’s narrow escape from the Lace Monitor, and his heightened sense of smell.

Pete and the Persian Bottle was set in a small and hot town in Queensland, Australia. The language reflects the setting, with a number of Australianisms throughout the story. Having grown up in country Australia myself, the setting was familiar and the language and characters perfectly suited to the town. I quite enjoyed the story, and I liked the cast of kids too (except for the bully, Glenn, no one could really like him!) There were also a few black and white illustrations scattered through the text, which were nice.

Pete and the Persian Bottle is suitable for middle to upper 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.

 

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Popular by Sofia O’Hara

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Popular by Sofia O’Hara, short story, 16 pages, published in 2016.

Jenna isn’t slim and pretty like some of the other girls in her school, but she wants to be. She gets bullied at school, devastatingly, by the boy she has a crush on. This causes her to hit a pivotal moment in her young life when she realises that she needs to love herself before anyone else can love her.

To be honest, I didn’t really like this short story much. The writing was fine, but I didn’t enjoy the content. I was also a bit irritated by Jenna.

The message about the importance of loving and liking oneself is important; we should like who we are and be proud of ourselves. However, seeing a poster with a beautiful model on it and wanting to be like that isn’t my idea of accepting and loving who you are. It’s fine to want change and to pursue it, but Jenna only seemed to be interested in her looks and what the other kids thought of her. She makes changes to her lifestyle which causes her to lose weight and feel better, which is great for her health, but she’s only happy and proud after the changes. To me this suggests that one can only be happy if one is slim. Not the positive body image message I was expecting.

I felt sorry for Jenna, not because she was overweight, but because she seemed to have no personality and no friends. If being slim and pretty is the only criteria for being popular, I’ll take a pass, and Jenna should have too. There are much more satisfying things in life than being popular in high school. Pursuing a fulfilling hobby, learning a language, playing a team sport, taking a practical life skills course, joining a community group, or volunteering could have effected the same positive benefits for Jenna. Learning to communicate effectively with others and mingle with other teenagers with similar interests would have given Jenna a sense of belonging, helping her to accept herself as she was. Instead, this story focussed on Jenna making some physical changes and how that affected the way her peers viewed her.

Popular is suitable for teen readers, but it wasn’t my cuppa tea.

 

*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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The Three Ninja Pigs by David Bedford and Becka Moor

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The Three Ninja Pigs by David Bedford and illustrated by Becka Moor, paperback picture book, published by Simon and Schuster, UK Ltd in 2016.

The Big Bad Wolf is up to his tricks, messing up this, and breaking that. The Three Ninja Pigs keep getting the blame for his antics. Will they be able to put a stop to the Big Bad Wolf’s villainy?

The three little pigs have had a make-over, as ninjas! They twirl, they jump and they Hee-ya! And they are totally adorable in this exciting twist to an old tale. My four year old boys loved The Three Ninja Pigs, requesting multiple re-reads.

This story was great fun and the illustrations were bright and interesting. The Wolf really was being quite naughty, creating chaos at every stop. My boys thought the mess he created was funny, and they enjoyed pointing to things that had been broken or knocked down. They also laughed at where the Ninja Pigs ended up after each encounter with the Wolf, such as stuffed in a vase, or hanging from the ceiling. We liked spotting the various fairytale characters through the book, such as Little Red Riding Hood and the troll under the bridge.

The Three Ninja Pigs is suitable for toddlers, preschoolers and lower primary school children.

The Frog That Could Not Jump by Sofia O’Hara

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The Frog That Could Not Jump by Sofia O’Hara, e-book, 10 pages, published in 2016.

Oscar is a little green frog that has been told all his life that his legs are too small and weak to jump. Oscar believes the other frogs and is too scared to even try jumping. He feels so ashamed of his legs that he leaves his home looking for somewhere less judgemental.

This short fable is about believing in oneself and ignoring negative attitudes from others. It is impossible to know if you can’t do something if you have never tried to do it, as Oscar discovers. However, many things take a lot of practice to achieve, and since Oscar’s legs were described as being “completely numb” and “lifeless”, it is unrealistic to think he would be able to jump at the moment he most needs to. Yet, perhaps this just reinforces the idea that if you really, truly believe in yourself, you can do anything.

The Frog that Could Not Jump was an easy and quick read. It has a simple plot and gets its message across clearly. There were no illustrations, aside from the cover. I thought it could have worked nicely as a picture book. Even the occasional line drawing to break up the text for younger readers would have been a nice addition.

The Frog that Could Not Jump is suitable for middle and upper primary school students.

 

*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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