Sunday, June 3, 2018

Chaos Walking Trilogy - books 1 & 2

The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness

"Imagine you're the only boy in a town of men. And you can hear everything they think. And they can hear everything you think. Imagine you don't fit in with their plans... Todd Hewitt is just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man. But his town has been keeping secrets from him. Secrets that are going to force him to run..." - Walker Books Aus

Fans of YA fic in need of an edge-of-your-seat read will love this prize-winning novel.  I don't think I was able to put it down until I'd finished.  The premise is dark and unusual, and from page one, more than enough to keep me hooked.

Mystery is layered thick, with slow revelations throughout the story.  I love a good mystery so this ticked all the right boxes for me.  I also love a hero's journey narrative, and it was a LOT fun to read one set in an alien(ish) landscape  A cracking pace is set and maintained for the duration of the novel.  Plenty of danger lurking at every corner.  Some tragedy, some horror, all set in a world that is essentially Sci-fi (though feels much closer to Western).  Loved.  It.

With beautiful writing, and plenty of strangeness., The Knife of Never Letting Go is a definite fave for me  Can't wait to see it adapted for film!

The Ask and The Answer - Patrick Ness

"Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd and Viola once again face their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss. Immediately imprisoned and separated from Viola, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor's new order. And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode..." - Walker Books Aus

Book 2 in the Chaos Walking trilogy is a pretty different kettle of fish.  In terms of narrative structure, in terms of pace... Really, in every way different.  There is a lot that works well but overall this one hasn't hit the nail on the head for me.   A big detractor is Todd losing a lot of agency.  I really loved Todd in book 1.  I loved his journey, I loved his connections to loved ones, I loved how he showed courage and I loved his big ole sensitive heart.  I was disappointed to find him somewhat vanilla in book 2.

A big positive is one particular relationship he builds during the story.  I can't go into it without spoiling things, but it's touching.

Overall it feels like some of the momentum is lost (though still an action-packed novel).  There are some new characters to enjoy hating, and some sharp, unexpected twists that were entertaining.  A good read, but for me, not on par with The Knife of Never Letting Go. 

I'm a little of the way through Monsters of Men, the third and final instalment of the series.  I have to admit to not loving it, yet, and have dipped into other books meanwhile, but I'll get back to you with some thoughts when/if I finish.


Saturday, May 5, 2018

Night of Cake and Puppets

Night of Cake and Puppets - Laini Taylor & Jim di Bartolo

"In this stand-alone companion to the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone series comes the story of Mik and Zuzana's fantastical first date—as a gorgeously illustrated gift edition with bonus content included."

Laini Taylor fans will require no introductions to this book.  I purchased this on kindle a long while ago and loved every page, but the published hard back is SO MUCH COOLER!!!  If you ever wanted to see exactly how Zuzanna and Mik were envisaged, wish - granted.  For new to Laini readers, start with Daughter of Smoke and Bones first, and then hit this one up!

Zuzanna is an impressive character.  Sharp, witty and immensely loveable.  Her wooing of Mik makes for compelling and often hilarious reading.  Night of Cake and Puppets is definitely the 'curl up in front of the fire with hot chocolate' kind of read.  It's short (novella length) but packed with detail, and Laini's beautiful, lyrical writing.  You'll fall in love with Zuzanna and Mik, both.

If you're deep into the series, but need to come up for air after all the heavy-going stuff, you need Night of Cake and Puppets, STAT.  Get amongst it.

Walker Books Lucky Dip pt. 2

Julian is a Mermaid - Jessica Love

"A glimpse of three women dressed as mermaids leaves one boy filled with wonder and ready to dazzle the world.  Mesmerizing and full of heart, this is a picture book about self-confidence and love, and a radiant celebration of individuality." - Walker Books Aus

Ding ding ding, this is a com.plete winner.  I couldn't possibly love it more.  The illustrations are stunning. The colours are luminous, the characterisations (via illustration) are perfect. I wanted to crawl into Julian's world and see it all for myself.   There's a sprinkle of magic and careful detail that makes each page a treasure to uncover.  The fabric patterns for instance?!  Oh.Em.Gee.  So good.  Best of all, this story celebrates childhood and imagination, completely free of gender conformity.  🙌🙌🙌

Due out June 1st

The Penguins Are Coming! - Meg McKinlay & Mark Jackson

"What's a penguin? Award-winning picture book creators Meg McKinlay and Mark Jackson explain all in this hilarious picture book." - Walker Books Aus

Fun and light-hearted.  Perfect for fans of the Penguins of Madagascar, The Penguins Are Coming! features exuberant illustrations and a cute and quirky story.  My kids love searching out the details in each image and correcting the assumptions of all the animals.  It's a cute way to present some penguin-y facts by first asserting some wild ideas, before Expert Zookeeper sets everyone straight.  Popular in our house.

Due out June 1st

Waves - Donna Rawlins, Heather Potter and Mark Jackson

"Every journey is perilous, every situation heartbreaking. Every refugee is a person forced by famine or war or fear to leave their home, their families, their friends and all they know. Children have travelled on the waves of migration to the shores of Australia for tens of thousands of years. This book tells some of their stories. Waves is a narrative non-fiction book about the waves of migration to the shores of Australia." - Walker Books Aus

Waves is beautifully written, with equally stunning illustrations.  The cover alone is worthy of framing!  While each story is stand-alone, the characters are connected by their hopes, fears and losses. There are also historical summaries found in the back of the book.   Waves is a must have for school libraries and sure to become an award winner. 

I feel somewhat conflicted about when  I will share this with my kids.  On one hand I always try to teach them to be socially conscious, and what better way than sharing stories such as these?  On the other hand, some of the stories are so sad and will raise many questions.  I think Eleanor is probably ready.  Garland not so much.

Due out June 1st.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Walker Books Lucky Dip pt. 1

Dingo - Claire Saxby & Tannya Harricks

"The night is young and there is hunting to be done. An exciting new addition to the narrative non-fiction series Nature Storybooks, about dingoes." - Walker Books Aus

This new instalment in the Nature Storybooks series is a beauty.  I'm already a big fan of the series, as are the small ones.  Broad brushstrokes and a soft-hued colour palette make for evocative imagery and Saxby's story telling is on point.  Short and sweet sentences, as beautiful as they are concise.  Coupled with plenty of informative tidbits, this non-fiction title is ideal for nature lovers.  If you haven't come across this series yet, Dingo is a fun place to start.

In stores now.

Dig, Dump, Roll - Sally Sutton & Brian Lovelock

"Guess what kind of truck is at work in this interactive book by the bestselling creators of Roadworks." - Walker Books Aus

This one title was very popular with the youngest lad who has joined the legions of kiddos fascinated with vehicles.  Dig, Dump, Roll continues a running series by this pair and is likely to have a broad appeal - there's just something about construction vehicles!  Our three love guessing what will come next, as entertained when they are caught out as when they get it right.  The illustrations are fun for this one too!

In stores now.

Maisy Goes to a Wedding - Lucy Cousins

"Maisy is going to her very first wedding! See the ceremony and exchange of rings, then join in for dancing, food and wedding cake!" - Walker Books Aus

Okay, so Maisy books aren't my total fave and we are now amassing quite a collection (they are perfect road trip books though, for some reason).  While the style may not be totally to my taste, I appreciate the fun themes and my kids do dip into them fairly often.  There's little else to say, really.  If you love Maisy, you'll enjoy a new installation.  If you're not a huge fan, this somewhat heteronormative depiction of a wedding is unlikely to change your opinion.  Probably.

Paperback out June 1st.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Bird Books for Bubs

We arrived home from our trip away to find these three new titles, all featuring feathery friends.  Perfect.  Birds are my total fave.  In order of most enjoyed:

Bird Builds a Nest - Martin Jenkens & Richard Jones

"This beautiful picture book is the perfect introduction to forces and the concept of pushing and pulling, and is the third in the new Science Story Book series from Walker Books." - Walker Books Aus

This one is MADE for the early classroom which always tends to make books popular with me.  On the surface, the simple story of a bird, doing it's birdy thang.  Simultaneously a child-geared explanation of how forces work, applied to the ways in a which a bird employs them.  Very cool.  The book finishes with a simple science experiment, again lending itself perfectly to the classroom.  Featuring lovely illustrations with a timeless, retro feel.

Bird to Bird - Claire Saxby & Wayne Harris

"Claire Saxby and Wayne Harris have crafted a gentle story of nature, history, recycling and art." - Walker Books Aus

Bird to Bird glimpses into history as it details the lifespan of a tree, from seed (carried by bird), to furniture, to whittled bird toy.  I liked that Bird to Bird is grounded in a historical context.  The particular slice of history that it points towards is early Australian colonialism and the shipping of convicts to Aussie soil.  Prob not an area that especially interests me so I would likely pass on this one, but the concept is rock solid and sweetly executed.  The illustrations give additional details that will be interesting to littlies.  This one could easily be worked into an Australian history unit, with reference to how wood was recycled to suit different needs.

Splish, Splash, Ducky!  - Lucy Cousins

"A colourful, rhyming book showing the joys of a rainy day." - Walker Books Aus

This is definitely a pure entertainment, no 'secret learning' kinda book (as opposed to Science & History, above ^).  Filled with rhymes and onomatopoeia and playful silliness.  Toddlers will love and parents *may* tire of (speaking for self).  Best time to read this book?  Post rainy walk with puddle jumping.  After a warming bath and once snuggly pjs are donned.  Bubbas will love identifying all the different creatures that ducky befriends.  Dads will enjoy a story where the Papa is the go-to parent.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Mountain Between Us - DNF

The Mountain Between us - Charles Martin

"On a stormy winter night, two strangers wait for a flight at the Salt Lake City airport. When the last outgoing flight is cancelled because of a storm, Ben charters a small plane that can fly around the weather front. And when the pilot says the single engine prop plane can fit one more passenger, Ben offers the seat to Ashley..."

And then the plane crashes. Obv.  I'm sorry to admit that I couldn't finish this one.  In fact, it was the source of a readers block that lasted way too long.  While the premise (and promise of a film to watch afterwards) was fun, the writing was not.  Example:

"Her hair was short.  Think Winona Ryder in Girl, Interrupted. Or Julia Ormond in Harrison Ford's remake of Sabrina.  Not a lot of fuss, yet you could find the same style up and down Manhattan with girls who'd paid a lot of money to look like that.  My bet was that she had paid very little.  Or she could have paid a lot to make it look like she paid a little."

And thus we meet our two heroes.  He, narrator.  She, subject of haircut fixation (fetish, perhaps?).  The narrator doesn't get less annoying anywhere within the first 70 pages, and so I stopped.  There's a real damsel in distress element to the story, with macho, heroic, surgeon slash mountain climber (my, how convenient) ready to sweep her up and, yanno, fall in love while at it (I assume).

It's always disappointing to not finish a novel, but in this case it felt like the lesser of two evils. 

Review copy kindly provided by Hachette

A Lion is a Lion

A Lion is a Lion - Polly Dunbar

"All lions are fierce, right? Well, maybe, just maybe, this Lion – so well dressed and polite and charming – isn't too fierce for you..."

This one reads as somewhat of a cautionary tale, if you're willing to peel back a layer or two.  The story of a polite, sociable lion who is not all that he seems.  I love that the children vocalise their boundaries.  This is a great message for kids and will lead easily into a 'stop means stop' conversation.  A Lion is a Lion is STILL very much a kids story, despite the hidden(ish) message, and the illustrations are on point.  A worthy addition to a storybook collection.

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Me Too

Me Too - Erika Geraerts & Charl Laubscher, illustrated by Gatsby

"A story about imagining the very best kind of friend you could have."
Me Too would make a cute gift for a girlfriend or a partner.  The colours and design have a Frankie magazine vibe - mustard, teal, grey and a hint of dusky pink.  Visually and thematically, Me Too looks and reads like a short and sweet coffee table fave.

In terms of kiddo reads, this is a pass from me.  Partly because I'm not sure kids (or mine, at least) would be all that interested - the story features two children but it feels more adult (e.g. bringing your bestie breakfast in bed).  Also because the greater essence of the story feels very heterosexual romance - accidental social conditioning and all that... This latter is largely to do with the boy/girl illustrations (not the text), but when coupled with the yearning quest to find a soul mate, it just doesn't  quitesit right.

I'll def find a bestie to give this to.  Perfect Galentine gift.

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Board books by Bixley

A Day at the Beach & A Day at the Zoo - Donovan Bixley

"Learning animal names in English and te reo Maori is fun and interactive with this vibrant board book from award-winning illustrator Donovan Bixley."

We were so grateful to receive these two little beauties by Donovan Bixley.  He's become a fast favourite round here.  No exaggeration, Wilco and his cousin will come to blows over Things That Go.  A Day at the Beach and A Day at the Zoo are gorgeous little board books, the perfect blend of educational and entertaining.  The kupu in A Day at the Beach is especially relevant this season, and we're slowly adding them to our daily conversations.  A Day at the Zoo offers a range of animal names, many of which are new to us.  Both books feature a two page illustration including each of the different items, perfect for practicing newly acquired kupu. 

Super sweet little board books for little kiwis.  A Day at the Beach and A Day at the Zoo are due for release at the end of this month so keep an eye out!

Review copy kindly provided by Hachette

What's Your Favourite Colour?

What's Your Favourite Colour? - Eric Carle and Friends

"Eric Carle asks, "What's your favourite colour?" and fifteen of today's finest illustrators respond with great humour and style."

Oh man, I wish I'd had this book last term.  How perfectly it will tie in to a junior school Picasso unit I've been using!  The book provides a perfect exemplar for colour associations and moods.  It simultaneously displays a range of different illustrations styles, many of which would perfectly launch into a follow-up art activity.  What's Your Favourite Colour? is an ideal primary school resource, whether you're a home based teacher or in a school classroom.  Finish your colour unit by creating a classroom book with students own illustrations and words.  #boom.  I'm in planning mode already x

Review copy kindly provided by Walker.  Due out Feb 1st.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Three Cheers for Women!

Three Cheers for Women! - Marcia Williams

"Featuring Cleopatra, Boudicca, Joan of Arc, Elizabeth I, Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane Austen, Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo, Wangari Maathai, Mae C. Jemison, Cathy Freeman and Malala, and packed with facts, quotes and jokes."

I couldn’t find a MORE perfect book for my lil’ budding feminists.  For starters, badass chicks!  Throughout history!  Including a vast array of nasty women I’ve never even heard of - yep, some dual educating happening ova here.  For seconds, my kids are still waaaay into anything in comic-strip format.  Even my little not-yet-reader is transfixed by these pages and all their little details.  #win.  For thirds, some of my all-time faves are featured, including the queen of my heart, Jane Austen.  Since my kids are destined to be rabid Jane fans themselves, there could be no better way to start the conditioning nice and early…  

Loving this new addition to our home library, but I can very easily see myself using this to launch study topics in the classroom.  A valuable and fun resource, fo sure.

- Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

Skip to the Loo, My Darling!

"Sally Lloyd-Jones riotous, rhythmic words and Anita Jeram s fresh, bold pictures make this one of the most charming and energetic invitations to potty trainees in ages!"

Is it terrible if I admit that Guess How Much I Love You just is not my favourite book to read the kids?  Like.  Really not. It is of course, a very sweet idea, and gorgeously illustrated.  Despite the pluses, I was so-so about reviewing the newest baord book by the same author/illustrator combo.  But. I. LOVE. it.

Straight off the bat, the illustrations are fricken adorable.  Like, I’m ready to go and adopt a bunch of animals (if only they pranced in the same endearing way as these critters), and instigate a potty party!  I mean, it can only end in the same adorable way, right?? (With a hedgehog carrying a potty on his head - basically).

If you’re little one is toilet training and/or intrigued/amused by the word ‘poo’, this book is your new favourite.  Time for a potty party, anyone?

- Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

Home in the Rain

Home in the Rain - Bob Graham

"The extraordinary touches a seemingly ordinary moment of family life, in this tender, heart-warming story from the award-winning Bob Graham."

Before bringing us The Poesy Ring, Bob Graham created Home in the Rain (amongst other, undiscovered by me titles).  It's a beautiful book, and worthy winner of the CBCA Picture Book of the Year (2017.)  Home in the Rain depicts the simple joys found in the everyday.  Francie and her Mum are returning home from Grandma's, navigating the motorway in the pouring rain.  They pull over for a picnic, stop to collect more petrol, and discuss what they might name Francie's soon-to-be sister.  The illustrations create an evocative, dreamy atmosphere, to complement the tender moments between mother and kiddo.  It had me yearning for rainy day adventures, and mentally reminding myself that every day is an adventure, especially when you're little.

Love love loved this book.  Absolute favourite.

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Asterix and the Chariot Race

Asterix and the Chariot Race - Jean-Yves Ferri & Didier Conrad

"The roads across Italy are in disrepair. Defending his name, and to prove Rome's greatness, Senator Lactus Bifidus announces a special one-off chariot race... competitors arrive from far and wide, including Asterix and Obelix. With Bifidus secretly scheming, who will win this almighty chariot race?"

Earlier in the year our kids inherited their Granddad's Asterix collection, and it has been a perfect marriage.  No other book or series has so captivated them.  Garland in particular will study the illustrations for hours and has committed many of the stories to memory (he now has a pretty thorough knowledge of Gauls and Romans and menhirs).  Naturally, I leapt at the opportunity to check out a newly released title.  Um, anyone else not actually realise new titles were still being produced?  Consider yourself informed! 

With a new author/illustrator team, I half expected to find jarring differences, but to my (relatively untrained) eye there are none.  Asterix and the Chariot Race is a perfect fit to the rest of the series, both in presentation, illustration and story substance.  I guess Garland will be the true judge, I'll give you an update on Boxing day 😉.  The print quality of this title is possibly the only notable change - with a hardback cover and glossy new pages, our current collection may feel outshone.

We have some way to go before we complete our collection but #2018goal.  Have your kids discovered Asterix and Obelix yet?  There's your #2018goal right there...

Review copy kindly provided by Hachette Books

Little Dog and the Summer Holiday

Little Dog and the Summer Holiday - Corinne Fenton and Robin Cowcher

"A charming and nostalgic story about a much-loved Little Dog and his family."

Eeeeeep!  I hope Walker maintains this tradition of a new Down-under Summer title each year (last year's When We Go Camping is still a favourite).  This one features an a nostalgic Aussie caravaning holiday - how sweet! 

Set in the 50s, a little family and their dog drive from Melbourne to Sydney, to sample all of Sydney's highlights.  Such a perfect little story, simple and energetic, both.  The illustrations are languid, with a hazy summer feel and enough captivating detail to make you linger on each page.  Little Dog and the Summer Holiday captured us completely.

I'm eager to track down the predecessor, Little Dog and the Christmas Wish (for the Christmas book collection).  This one is already a firm favourite!

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

NY is for New York - Paul Thurlby

NY is for New York - Paul Thurlby

"The highly collectible graphic artist Paul Thurlby embarks on an alphabetical tour of New York!"

NY is for New York reads like a series of beautiful, retro postcards.  Every alphabet letter features, in a tour of NY's main attractions.  Urgh!  In case you need any reminding of why New York is on your bucket list, this lovely book has your back (I can only imagine how glorious and twinkly-white-Christmassy New York is right now... Sigh...  ).  I adore the illustrations - any of them framed would make the perfect addition to a gallery wall.  Each is enriched by a snapshot information that accompanies 💯💯💯 .  Perhaps targeted at kids, I think I'm gonna keep this one for me! 

The price point for this little number is pretty rad, considering the quality of both content and publication (thick, matte cardstock).  Check it out in ya local bookstore!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Book Review :: ABC Pop-up

ABC Pop-Up  - Courtney Watson McCarthy
"Whether you’re a young child or a design connoisseur, the clever associations in this diminutive pop-up will charm you in a big way."

Okay so I requested this book based on it's having 'pop-up' in the title.  Who isn't still caught by the magic of pop out pages?!  I was delighted when it arrived.  More than just a pop-up book.  Something clever and beautiful and wholly unexpected.  The pop-ups have intricacies and their own type of magic (a windmill that spins, and swing that... swings).  A selective colour palette, a balance of simple with more complex (the umbrella compared to the x-ray).  And that was just my first glance.  When I revisited the book I discovered more cleverness hidden in the pages that featured more than one letter (all embossed on the card so you need to hunt for them) - so great!

Perfect for any age reader who still looks for magic and loves pretty design.

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

Book Review :: We're Going on a Bear Hunt // Snowglobe Gift Book

We're Going on a Bear Hunt // Snowglobe Gift Book - Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury

"Gorgeous gift edition of the classic join in story by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. Shake up a snowstorm with this perfect gift for brave hunters and bear-lovers everywhere!"

If you were planning to gift a copy of We're Going on a Bear Hunt this Christmas, stop the press!  Walker have just produced the snowglobe edition.  Whaaaaaa!  So cool!  Just like the original, but better.  Because snowglobes are the best, and very Christmassy too, and Christmas is the best, too.  Um, where was I?

A word on the cover (bc I know you all KNOW the sweet story inside, not to mention THOSE illustrations).  It's about a cm thicker than usual, to accommodate the snowglobe.  That's just to say, this isn't just a phoned in snowglobe (the picture above doesn't convey the product at all).  It's everything you could wish a snowglobe-book-cover to be.  The snow itself is created by styrofoam balls .  Genius.  Because not only do they move in a perfectly snowy way, they are a size match for the illustrated snow on the cover picture. Perf.

You probably need to see it for yourself to know that this is definitely your next baby shower gift choice.

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

Book Review :: Hugo Makes a Change

Hugo Makes a Change - Mauro Gatti & Scott Emmons

"Huge the vampire craves red, juicy meat for every meal! But when his eating habits leave him feeling sluggish and bored, he goes on the prowl for something new..."

This is vividly illustrated title will especially appeal to families interested in more of a plant-based diet.  Hugo the vampire decides that too much meat is slowing him down.  He discovers balance, loads of fruit and veges to go with his fave hamburger.  It's a simple concept and well executed.  The rhyme is tightly written and the illustrations are bold and fun.  Who knew vampires could be cute?

Review copy kindly provided by Walker Books

Author Spotlight :: Angela Armstrong

Guys!  Lookit!!  know you know who Angela is (and if you don't, it's time to find out 😀) so I'm sure you're way ahead of me.  Buuuuut, if there's the slight chance you haven't heard - Angela of Striking Keys has launched her official author website 👊

It's every level of awesome over there.  Make sure you click through the 'books' tab because Angela is offering two novellas for sale, and The Quin is even FREE for a short time.  I've read it and it is BEAUTIFUL.  Go join the Angela fan club, and then we can all claim to have discovered her in the early days 😉