Tag Archives: children’s book

Wholesome: Together we can save the planet! by Grace Nava

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wholesomeWholesome: Together we can save the planet! by Grace Nava, paperback picture book, 48 pages, published by Media for Life in 2016.

Little Peach Pit is out for a walk. Along the way Pit encounters and appreciates the wonder of nature. The soil and ponds are healthy, there are bees and ants and frogs. However, as Pit draws closer to the city, nature is not so healthy. There pollution and waste and other human activities are hurting nature. What can Little Peach Pit do to help? Pit discovers some ways that we can all help to improve the health of our environment.

Little Peach Pit’s walk is an interesting one, flowing from the healthy countryside into the polluted city. Each step of the way there was advice on how people could help the environment and make the world a better place for everyone. Even though Pit found some very sad areas within the city, such as a polluted pond and unhealthy, weedy soil, he also found hope that we can improve. He saw people picking up rubbish, recycling, and growing a community garden. He learns that the way people interact with the environment, even in little ways, can have a huge impact on the health of our planet.

All children should learn how to help protect and improve our environment, and Wholesome is a great way to introduce some of these concepts. Reading this with young children will provide a starting point for discussions on what we, as individuals, and as communities, can do to make the planet healthy and happy. There is a vocabulary list at the back of the book to help children understand some of the terms referred to in the story and there is also a list of resources that will assist in further education.

Wholesome: Together we can save the Planet! is a lovely educational story suitable for primary school children. It would make an excellent addition to school and public libraries.

 

*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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Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens

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Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens, paperback novel, 333 pages, published by Corgi Books in 2015.

In the second Wells and Wong Mystery, Daisy and Hazel are spending the school break at Daisy’s home, Fallingford. It is Daisy’s birthday and her mother is throwing her a tea party to celebrate. For the weekend of the party, family members and friends arrive to stay with the Wells’. Then a guest is suddenly taken ill and dies, so Daisy and Hazel begin to investigate, but could a family member really have committed a murder?

After reading the first book in this series, A Lady Most Unladylike, I knew I would need more Daisy and Hazel in my life. Though Daisy sometimes calls Hazel ‘Watson’, and likens herself to a young female Sherlock Holmes, their adventures remind me much more of Miss Marple and her knack for being in the right (or perhaps wrong) place and time to solve a murder. These books are like Agatha Christie mysteries for children, and they are fabulous!

In Arsenic for Tea, we are introduced to Fallingford, Daisy’s home. We get to meet her parents, brother and household staff. The setting felt authentic to the era (1930s England), and there was a handy map of the house at the start of the book, including where everyone was sleeping. It was a step back in time, to when children slept in the nursery and were watched over by a nanny or this case, a governess. When families dressed formally for dinner, were waited upon by servants, and the doctors made house-calls as regular practice.

The characters were also realistic, with each character being described in great detail. I liked the mystery uncle, who knows Daisy so well, but is keeping secrets. And her somewhat bumbling father who keeps forgetting things, but is jolly and loveable. Though, of course, Hazel and Daisy are the best characters! Their dynamic is engaging, but I just have to roll my eyes at Daisy’s behaviour; she sometimes forgets how intelligent and capable Hazel is. Daisy might be the head of the detective agency, but she definitely needs Hazel to keep her in check at times, and make sure the case is progressing productively. They are both very bright girls, and I love that they are putting their brains towards solving such interesting mysteries. I think it also highlights that girls can be and do anything they put their minds to, even if society frowns upon those choices. Be brave, break boundaries and be who you are or who you want to be. I’m resisting the urge to write “Girl power!”, but now I’ve gone and done it 🙂

Stevens writes a lovely mystery, with twists and secrets, at a great pace, keeping the reader enthralled until the very end. I really enjoyed the interplay between the family members and how Daisy reacted to the possibility that her family housed a murderer. The household being cut-off by heavy rain heightened the tension and strained relationships, creating even more drama. I also like how the covers for this series have been done. They are clean and clever, very appealing.

Upon completion of Arsenic for Tea, I went straight on to read the third book in the series, A First Class Murder. I am introducing my ten year old to the Murder Most Unladylike series, hoping that she will love them as much as I do.

Book Spotlight: Spine Chillers by Q.L. Pearce

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Spine Chillers by Q.L Pearce is a collection of spooky short stories. Are you brave enough to read them after dark?

In the house on Beech Street a terrible tragedy occurred. Now neighbors won’t look at the place as they pass. Those who live nearby draw their blinds and shutter their windows after dark. What are they afraid of?
Hale Hallow Woods seems sinister and menacing even in the light of day. Does a thirst for revenge beat near its dark heart?
The answers lie within these pages, just waiting to send a chill up your spine!

 

And a little about the author…

Q.L.Pearce is the author of more than 120 books for young readers, from picture books to YA, as well as film tie-in books. Her works have received several awards including a Carter G. Woodson Book Award gold medal from NCSS and a Moonbeam Children’s Book Award gold medal. Her fiction includes the popular middle grade series, Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs (Price, Stern, Sloan). Q believes strongly in the value of scary books for young readers. When asked what credentials she has which qualify her as an expert in this area she replies, “I was a child once. That was very scary.”

 

And now for a little taste of Spine Chillers.

 

 The House on Beech Street (Excerpt from Spine Chillers, by Q.L. Pearce
Copyright © Glass Apple Press 2016)

Jason stepped inside. The air within was tainted with an odor that made him gag.

“What is that smell?” he asked putting his hand to his face.

“What smell?” Mike responded. Thomas just shrugged his shoulders.

“Do you know the story of the Carlson’s?” The woman didn’t wait for an answer before she continued. “They were a typical family. The little girl, Anisa, took ballet lessons. The boy, Junior, played baseball. Some people said he had the talent to go far as an athlete … that is … if he’d lived.”

The group entered the kitchen. The table was set for five as if the family would be sitting down for breakfast any minute. Jason noticed a pitcher’s mitt on one of the chairs.

“He was a lefty,” he said to no one in particular.

“Mr. Carlson’s mother slept in the spare room. She was an invalid and needed a lot of care. Mr. Carlson and his wife had quarreled about it that fateful morning and he’d left early. When he came home he found his wife in that very chair.” She pointed to the one at the end of the table. “He’d brought her flowers and wanted to apologize. It took him a few moments to realize she was dead. It seems she had taken a handful of sleeping pills with her tea. The police found the rest of the family in the basement along with a cracked, bloody baseball bat.”

“What happened to the dad?” Mike asked.

“They found him two days later hanging from the tree in the backyard. He’d left a note that said he wasn’t alone in the house. The neighbors claimed they heard noises late at night … screaming. You’ll notice that the houses on both sides are now empty. No one wants to live near this place.” She paused and looked in the direction of the front entrance. “Sometimes I can’t wait to leave.”

Motioning for the boys to follow, the woman moved from the kitchen into a dimly lit hallway. She opened the first door on the left. “This was the grandmother’s room.” Jason was hit with a wave of a smell like rotting fish.

 

Prom Date (Excerpt from Spine Chillers, by Q.L. Pearce
Copyright © Glass Apple Press 2016.)

The Roller Grille was the real deal. An authentic drive-in restaurant with car hops on roller skates delivering trays of burgers and fries to people parked outside. It had been in business for decades. Other than a fresh coat of paint now and then it hadn’t changed from the day it opened.

Tyler, Andy and Jacob threaded around the cars and pushed through the glass doors to the diner. A hostess dressed in a fuzzy sweater and a poodle skirt guided customers to booths covered in red vinyl. A candy-colored jukebox blared from a corner. The laughter and chatter of the crowd was louder than the music. Tyler noticed Shay jammed into a booth with her friends. He raised a hand in greeting but she ignored him.

Andy pointed to the long soda fountain. “There’s room over there.” Tyler nodded and they each claimed a stool.

“What’ll it be?” Randy, the soda jerk adjusted his black bow tie and gave them a toothy grin. The boys ordered shakes.

Andy whirled around once on his stool and stopped to face Jacob. “So do they have any place like this in Phoenix?”

“No. This is pretty cool.” He looked around and his eye settled on a wall of photographs. “Who are those people?”

“Those are the prom kings and queens from the high school,” Tyler answered.

“Wow there’s like a hundred of them. What’s the deal with those two?” Jacob pointed to a black and white photo that was larger than the rest.

Tyler slipped into telling the story that everyone in town knew by heart. “That’s Johnny Tonnarro and his girlfriend, Samantha. He was like a rock star a long time ago. He got killed in an accident off Yetter Point.”

“It was a foggy night. He drove his car off the cliff and got squished like a pancake,” Andy added. “His girlfriend waited for hours in the cold for him to show up. She was all dressed for the prom and crying like a baby.”

Jacob gazed at Samantha’s sweet face. “That’s sad. What happened to her?”

Tyler lowered his voice for effect. “She drowned a year later on the anniversary of the accident. She was down on the jetty throwing flowers out into the ocean, those stinky white ones…gardenias. A wave swept her off the rock. Some people say they’ve seen her.”

“Seen her? What do you mean?”

Andy took up the story again. “Every year around this time her ghost waits out on Thorne Road near Highway One for Johnny to pick her up. Just standing there crying.”

Randy placed the shakes in front of the boys and joined in. “This time of year the evenings are usually foggy,” “They say she waits just off the edge of the road in the mist – lavender gown, white gloves, and gardenias in her long, blonde hair.”

Jacob’s mouth dropped open and his eyes grew wide. “Really? A real ghost? You’ve seen her?”

Taylor and Andy couldn’t hold back their laughter. “Nobody’s seen her,” Andy snickered. “It’s all made up. Not the accident part but the ghost part.

Jacob frowned. “So Samantha didn’t really die?”

“Oh, yeah. She died alright. She drowned. But only little kids and tourists swallow the ghost story. You have to be a real lamebrain to believe it. Last year the town newspaper offered a ten thousand dollar reward for anybody who could get a photograph of her. There were a lot of fakes but nobody’s earned the money yet.”

Still grinning, Tyler turned to take a sip of his milkshake and caught a glimpse of Shay. She was staring toward the entrance. If looks could kill, her eyes were lethal weapons. Tyler followed her gaze.

“Uh oh,” he whispered and his smile faded. His brother was holding the door open for Anilla Jacoby, Shay’s arch-enemy. Anilla beamed up at Lane and slipped her arm through his. The couple slid into a booth. Shay stood and stormed toward the door without looking at them.

“This isn’t good,” Tyler muttered.

A moment later his phone beeped. He read the text. Come outside now. We need to talk. Shay was waiting for him as he pushed open the door.

“I thought I would die of embarrassment. I can’t believe he would show up here in front of everyone with that airhead hanging on him like that. Now I know why he’s been avoiding me.” She turned on Tyler. “How long has this been going on?”

“Don’t ask me. This is the first time I’ve seen him with Anilla.”

“He needs to pay a price for humiliating me like that. I want to embarrass him in front of all of his friends!”

Tyler shifted nervously. “Shay I don’t want to…”

“Think of something!”

“Look, Shay. Maybe you should just let it go. He’s my brother. I can’t …”

“I’m not going to let this go, Tyler.” She leaned in and growled. “You’re with me or against me. And trust me, if you want to survive high school you don’t want to be against me. I can make your life miserable.” Shay turned and stomped away.

 

 

For more information about Q. L. Pearce and her books visit her website, Facebook page, LinkedIn, Amazon Author Page, Goodreads or on YouTube.

 

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.

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.

 

 

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.

Invisible Magic Wand by Rafael Jacimin

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invisiblemagicwandInvisible Magic Wand by Rafael Jacimin, and illustrated by Van der Saim, picture e-book, 30 pages, published by Gripper Products/ Look Under the Rocks in 2017.

Caspian’s Grand-pa has given him an empty box. He says that inside is an invisible magic wand. With this special wand, Caspian can change the way time flows.

Apparently the gift from Grand-pa is for Caspian’s Un-birthday. Just what is an un-birthday? I have no idea. But if I ignore that bit, the story is okay. The premise is fun, I mean, who wouldn’t like a magical wand that could change the speed of time? The execution, however, lacked finesse. The layout of the e-book wasn’t great either. Some pages had text that flowed onto the next page, or had a word next to the picture instead of below it.

I also didn’t like the style of illustrations. Each page has a digital image to accompany the text, but they seemed a little flat and slightly disproportionate, and just not to my taste.

Invisible Magic Wand is suitable for lower primary school children.

 

*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 Day in the Park by Matt Weiss

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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.

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.