Tag Archives: monsters

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

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The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, paperback novel, 370 pages, published by Hot Key Books in 2018.

Jude is a mortal in the Faerie world, raised by Madoc, war chief to the High King, along with her sisters, Taryn and Vivi. Of the three, only Vivi is Fey, the birth daughter of Madoc. Her younger sisters are both mortal, but parentless, thanks to Madoc’s wrath. However, Madoc treats them as his own, raising them among the Fey gentry. This does not sit well with many of the Fey nobles, as they prefer their mortals to be their slaves, rather than their equals. Political change is in the air, and Jude finds herself caught up in the power struggle to be the next High King.

I found it took a little while for me to really get into this story, but once it got going I really enjoyed it. At first it seemed to be a story of some cruel teenage Fey tormenting the only mortals in their school class. While the feud was escalating and I was impressed by Jude’s determination to continue to defy Prince Cardan, I was much happier once there was spying, stealing, and murder plots, treachery and treason! It became much more exciting, and I could hardly put it down. It seemed there was no end to the Fey’s capacity for inflicting pain and humiliation on others for amusement, nor did they reserve this behaviour only for their enemies. A truly interesting and terrifying group. This did make for much action within a fast-paced, exciting story.

I found most of the characters dislikable in many ways. There is much to dislike about Cardan; he is arrogant, mean, vindictive, evilly cunning… the list really could go on, and his noble friends are almost as despicable. There isn’t much going for the other princes either. As for Madoc, he is a true general of war, delighting in bloodshed and strategy. Yet, strangely, Madoc was a character that I could connect with; he was ‘bad’ in many ways, but he owned his decisions, and he was absolutely loyal to his family. Taryn annoyed me with her too timid attitude and her disloyalty to Jude, while Oriana was a bit too distant, and kind of awkward with the girls. And Jude. What can I say about Jude? Well, I really wanted to like her, but she does not make it easy. Her determination and bravery are commendable, and she cares deeply for her family, even loving Madoc despite all he has done. Yet, she is kind of abrasive and prickly, with streaks of a cruelty and fondness for power that could undo her. There weren’t really ‘good’ and ‘bad’ guys in this story.

The Cruel Prince is most suitable for middle to upper high school students, given the level of violence throughout the book. And it is only the first in a new series, so there will be more bloodshed to be had in Faerie shortly. Yay!

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The Wandering Troll by Russ Hughes and KayeC Jones

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wanderingtrollcoverThe Wandering Troll by Russ Hughes and KayeC Jones, picture e-book, 35 pages, published in 2016.

A troll leaves his under-bridge home because it has become too noisy. He searches for a new home in the forest, snow and desert. Will he ever find a peaceful place to stop for good?

This rhyming tale of a troll trying to find a spot to settle down is a lovely book for sharing with younger children. The inclusion of onomatopoeic ‘noise’ words, such as swoosh, thwack and click were fun additions to the reading aloud experience. His journey was repetitive, allowing for children to easily predict what might happen next.

The story was enjoyable, and we did giggle at the plight of the poor troll. He seemed so very happy in the snow (that’s probably my favourite page), but he needed somewhere much quieter. It was good for him to find a cosy home, and the ending made me feel happy.

While I liked the meandering text placement, it does make it slightly harder for newer readers to follow. The letters and words varied in size, spacing, colour, and direction. There was even the occasional misplaced upper case letter. It was all very whimsical, though it did suit the style of the illustrations and the story well.

The illustrations are gorgeous in The Wandering Troll. It appears as if each part of the picture is sewn to the page like appliqué pieces. Even the text is done in this style, with stitching through the centre of each letter. The troll is quite simple, yet his button eyes and stitched mouth are surprisingly expressive throughout the book. I like his angry face when he hears too much noise.

The Wandering Troll is suitable for toddlers, preschoolers, and lower primary school students.

 

*I received this book in digital form 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.

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.

The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender

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deadgrilscoverThe Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender, paperback novel, 329 pages, published by Scholastic in 2015.

When Delia’s distant aunt dies and leaves her an old house, her family is surprised to discover that it is actually a mansion previously used as a mental asylum. Delia’s parents had planned to do it up over the summer prior to selling it, despite their daughter’s protests. Neither Delia nor Janie want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere in a creepy old house, but that’s about all they can agree on. When some strange things begin to happen to Delia, she decides to leave, even if her parents refuse to go too. Except, the house won’t let her leave…

This was a ghost story told from the perspective of the ghost. It wasn’t as scary as I had thought it would be, but it was still interesting. It delivered a few turns I wasn’t expecting, and it pushed at my preconceived notions of ghosts. I’ve always thought of ghost time as passing much the same way as real time passes, so I was intrigued by the idea that time could slow or speed up for the ghosts in this story. When months or even years can pass within a few breaths, it would certainly reduce the likelihood of boredom during a haunting, especially when so few people visit the old asylum. The fact that the ghosts could learn to manipulate their surrounds, such as picking up small objects or opening doors, yet they could also walk through walls, and be hurt, was quite interesting.

The house is really creepy, with it’s abandoned rooms, old leather restraints and eerie corridors. And that’s before you know for sure that it is haunted and that an evil force has overtaken the building! I liked the descriptive qualities of the writing, particularly the way the ghosts were described. The ghosts came alive for me (no pun intended!), especially Florence and Eliza.

The story itself was compelling, and kept me reading fairly swiftly. I really wanted to know what would happen to Delia, and to the house and its ghostly inhabitants. It was a good length for a teen novel. It also wasn’t too complicated or frightening, so younger teens could also enjoy it. The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall was different to other ghostly novels I’ve read, in a good way, and I enjoyed reading it.

The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall is suitable for high school students. Fans of horror and ghost stories should enjoy this journey into the world after death.

Cyclops by Rachel Meehan

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cyclops coverCyclops by Rachel Meehan, e-book, 53 pages, published by Cherry House Publishing in 2015.

Cyclops lives on a beautiful island which is invaded by evil pirates looking for a place to rest and relax. Frightened by the giant with one eye, the pirates decide to capture him and sell him to a traveling circus. He becomes a prisoner to be gawked at, prodded and tested by underhanded scientists.

Cyclops is an illustrated ballad, and is the first book in the Chronicles of Curious Creatures series. It is cleverly written with lyrical text; I got into quite a rhythm as I read. It described all the characters and locations well and with humour. I really liked that the evil pirate was called I.M. Mean!

The text was white on a black background, which I normally find more difficult to read, but it suited this story quite well. The size of the text also changed through the story, which just worked. There were lovely coloured illustrations throughout. I particularly like the way the villains are depicted in the pictures.

Cyclops is suitable for middle primary school students to lower high school students. It is a good story for sharing aloud too, I just love the way the story rolls off my tongue! More books in this series will be available soon!

 

*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.

Scream: The Human Flytrap by Jack Heath

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IMG_4948 (1)Scream: The Human Flytrap by Jack Heath, paperback novel, 138 pages, published by scholastic Australia in 2015.

Some very odd things happen in Axe Falls, the beach-side town where Josh and his sister Yvette live. There have been unexplained disappearances, and strange occurrences, but things are about to get even stranger for Josh when his parents move them into a spooky old house. Their new neighbour seems to be a crazy old lady screaming at them to leave, there are weird noises, and he’s sure he’s seeing impossible things out of his window. Combined with his best friend, Dale’s out of control science project, Josh is having a rather unusual and confusing week, but it’s about to get a lot worse!

The Human Flytrap is the first book in a new and exciting series called Scream for middle to upper primary school students. These books aim to get your heart pumping, your spine tingling and your skin prickling with goosebumps! For maximum effect, try reading these at night (stormy or windy if possible), under the covers with a torch when the rest of the household is asleep! This was how I read the Goosebumps series when I was a child, and if was great at getting me in the right mood for a fright!

I read this book quite quickly and really enjoyed it. It was an engaging and exciting read. The characters are well developed, and I really got a sense for Josh especially. He is very brave and empathetic. I liked all of the main characters actually. They are all good kids experiencing a crazy situation, but helping each other through. We will probably get to know them even better through the series. Some of the teachers at the high school are pretty strange and intimidating though. I think they might be involved in the funny happenings in town, perhaps they are even relics of the old asylum building that houses the school. I’ll have to keep reading to find out.

As an adult I wasn’t too scared, though reading about the giant sized flytrap did have me glancing over to my baby venus flytrap a bit more often than normal! My third grader is enjoying reading the Scream series. She says that she wasn’t too scared while reading The Human Flytrap, it is “fun scary”. Younger readers might find it too frightening, but it really depends on the individual child as to how they will react to books like these.

 

A Very Unusual Pursuit by Catherine Jinks

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IMG_1446A Very Unusual Pursuit by Catherine Jinks, paperback novel, 329 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2013.

Set in late nineteenth century London, this is the story of Birdie McAdam and her master, Alfred Bunce. Alfred is a bogler, a man that kills bogles, the monsters that infest the dark recesses of London and feed on children that stray too close. As his apprentice, Birdie acts as the bait to lure bogles from their lairs, so that Alfred can kill them. It is a hard and rough life for the young orphan, but it is what she knows and loves. Birdie’s life becomes more complicated when Edith Eames asks to witness a de-bogling, and can’t help but express her concern for Birdie’s safety and her reservations regarding Birdie’s role as bait. The leader of the local pickpocket gang, Sarah Pickles, is also interested in Birdie, though only for her own nefarious purposes. Several of Sarah’s lads have disappeared, perhaps consumed by a bogle. She requests that Alfred and Birdie investigate, so they embark upon their most dangerous job yet, where they might need help from some of the orphan boys, Jem and Ned, as well as Miss Eames.

This is the first book in the City of Orphans series by Catherine Jinks. A thrilling, fast-paced adventure in old-time London, this story is a mix of historical fiction and fantasy dealing with the mythical monsters known as bogles or bogeymen. The description of both locations and characters is wonderfully detailed allowing the reader to step into London as it was, and how it might have been with monsters lurking in chimneys, sewers and wells. The details of speech and clothing were particularly well written, appropriate for the time and place in which the story is set. There is a small glossary section at the end of the book to help with some of the terms that have fallen from common usage over the last century or so. This was an useful addition to the book.

I really liked Birdie, the tough orphan with the sweet voice. Her attitude, honesty and courage, and her intense loyalty to Alfred were endearing and maddening at the same time. I could definitely feel Miss Eames’ exasperation and concern with Birdie’s choices, but also her delight and respect for the child. I would have wanted to save her too.

I think A Very Unusual Pursuit would be most suitable for children in middle to upper primary school. Though, maybe not for children that are overly scared of monsters! I enjoyed this story so much, I immediately went out and bought the next two books in the series.

 

* A Very Unusual Pursuit was the winner of the 2014 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Younger Readers category.

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.

 

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.