A Beautiful, Beastly Double Dip: Gift Books about Repitilia (and other unusual creatures)

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You may have noticed that it is getting to that time of year when it will be impossible to avoid the urging of others regarding choosing the right gift.  If you are looking to escape such urging, you have come to the wrong place, for today I have two beautifully presented books that would make the perfect gift for young readers of your acquaintance with a penchant for dinosaurs and other beastly creatures.  We received both of these tomes from Bloomsbury Australia for review and they have already been pored over by the mini-fleshlings, to the accompaniment of much “Ooohing” and “Ahhing”.

First up, we have Discovering Dinosaurs by Simon Chapman and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

This is the the most thrilling, adventure book, ever! Written by a real-life adventurer, Simon Chapman, be prepared to live your dream and imagine you discovered the dinosaurs. It’s your chance to battle blizzards with swarms of vipers in the Gobi Desert with Roy Chapman Andrews, join the race across the the Wild West of America with bone-hunters Cope and Marsh.

Along the trail of discovery you’ll unearth a time when monsters really did rule the world – DINOSAURS.

You will find them all in here: Triceratops, Pteradactyls, Iguanodon, Stegosaurus, Diplodocus and many more. It’s crammed full of stats, wild pictures, a brilliant pop-up (don’t get eaten!), realistic artworks, journals, flaps and even the insides of dinosaurs. You’ll discover what makes a dinosaur, when and where they lived, what they ate, why they fought and why they became extinct.

Dip into it for… discovering-dinosaurs

…a vividly illustrated adventure into the prehistoric world, with flaps to lift, notebooks and letters to flick through and one whopping great pop up!  If you have a mini-fleshling interested in dinosaurs, this would certainly be a winning choice for gifting.  The book is large with a satisfyingly chunky cover and solid cardboard pages, all the better to provide a sturdy base for the artifacts inside.  Beginning with a double page fold-out map of the world as it was during different geological time periods, the book is divided into double page spreads that focus on particular geographical regions in which certain species of dinosaur have been found, alternating with double page spreads on a range of “favourite” dinosaurs.  The book finishes with some information on fossils as well as an intriguing little flip-up notebook piece which is enticingly titled, “How to Find Fossils”.

Don’t dip if…

…you aren’t a fan of dinosaurs, I suppose.  Age-wise, the text was a bit advanced for the eldest mini-fleshling in this dwelling, at nearly six years old, but but he spent plenty of time flicking through the various flaps, pull-outs and bits to see what was in, under and around.  I would have to say that this is best suited to the seven and above age group, if you are looking at them actually getting to grips with the information in the book, rather than just having fun with the pictures and pop-ups.

Overall Dip Factor

The best recommendation I can give for this book is that the mini-fleshling double-checked whether this book would be remaining in the dwelling after it had been reviewed, and if so, could he claim it as his.  There are plenty of books on various topics in this type of engaging format around, but they certainly do make for a fun and tactile reading experience.  If you don’t know any mini-fleshlings with a particular interest in dinosaurs, this would make an equally appealing gift for any primary school teachers or children’s librarians of your acquaintance.  It’s the kind of book that will be on high rotation during silent reading.

Next we have A Miscellany of Magical Beasts by Simon Holland.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Enter an incredible world of magical beasts, dare to draw near to their captivating powers, and discover the spellbinding stories of sixteen favorite mythical creatures from around the world. Venture into this world and you’ll discover why griffins collect a gem called agate, how to put out dragonfire, how mischievous elves can cause terrible nightmares, and much, much more.

A Miscellany of Magical Beasts is a beautiful, luxurious gift book showcasing a fascinating menagerie of creatures from the world’s timeless mythologies and legends. Presented in an incredible package with spectacular cover finishes, it is sure to be treasured by fantasy enthusiasts.

Dip into it for…  miscellany-of-magical-beasts

…a feast for the eyes and a scratch for the fantastical beast itch.  Apart from being nicely timed to coincide with the release of a certain movie about certain fantastic beasts and where to find the same, this is the kind of book that will spark the imagination of even the most literal and pragmatic of young readers.  The cover image gives a good indication of the high quality of illustration throughout the book and each page is awash with colour and fine detail.  The book has several illustrators contributing, so while all the illustrations are stunningly gorgeous, there is a bit of variety in style, which is an interesting touch. Tucked within the pages are a few fold-outs and cut-outs and because they are not included on every page, add a little extra to the reading experience for those who go the distance.  A wide range of beasties are covered, from the unicorn to the chimera and from elves to werewolves, with each creature receiving at least a double-page spread of information in a blocks of text that don’t overwhelm.  Some of the creatures also get a little extra attention, with sections such as “How to Outwit a Werewolf” and a “Guide to Dragons” filling out some of the informational gaps and providing variety.

Don’t dip if…

…you are looking for information on gargoyles.  They aren’t included.  Similarly, if you are looking for a whiz-bang reading experience with pop-ups and flaps to lift you will be disappointed because this book is more of an information text, albeit a beautifully presented one.

Overall Dip Factor

If you know a mini-fleshling with a vivid imagination, who is into fantasy fiction, or is simply ripe for pushing into tabletop fantasy RPG games, this book will certainly whet their appetite for the magical.  It has a lovely large format that is perfect for enjoying with others and the illustrations really are something else.  Once again, if you are, or know, a classroom teacher or children’s librarian, this would make a brilliant and coveted addition to any school or classroom library.

As they say, the first bite is with the eye (or something of that nature), and if you have a reluctant reader or a mini-fleshling who would rather eat glass than wake up to find a book in their Christmas stocking, either of these tomes might change their mind.  On the other hand, if you are related to a voracious reader, either of these books in their stocking will reinforce for them why getting a book for Christmas is the greatest thing ever.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Title Fight Reading Challenge: I Want That Love…

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Title Fight Button 2016

Today I bring to you my final contribution for the Title Fight Reading Challenge 2016 with a book for category six (a book with an emotion in the title).  I Want That Love is another truly original mashup of dinosaurs and deep-seated human emotion by Japanese master of quirkiness Tatsuya Miyanishi.  If you are struggling to place Miyanishi’s other work, you can check out our review of You Look Yummy here.  We received a copy of this one from the publisher via Netgalley and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Although Tyrannosaurus storms around saying that power is everything in the world, he realizes he is getting weaker with age. After his tail gets bitten in a run-in with Masiakasaurus, some young Triceratops nurse him back to health.

Touched by their innocent hearts, Tyrannosaurus begins to feel love for these new friends–even though he might have eaten them under different circumstances!

So when two Giganotosaurus attack the group, Tyrannosaurus fights them off, holding the children tightly to his body, and sacrificing himself in order to protect them from the Giganotosaurus. The third title in this acclaimed series, I Want That Love explains that love is far more important than power. 

i-want-that-love

Let me begin by saying that Miyanishi’s style of writing will not be for everyone.  Some parents will no doubt pick up this book, have a flick through and decide they would rather drink paint than pass such a weird book on to their kids.  I, having no stony offspring, am able to enjoy the utter bizarre joy of watching a violent, baby-dinosaur-chomping T-Rex realise the power of love through a close encounter with advanced age.  In a nutshell, the story follows a T-Rex, who has a penchant for killing and eating weaker and smaller dinos, until he finds himself in a deathly dire situation.  When he himself is attacked by some stronger dinos, the T-Rex is nursed back to health by some utterly adorable little Triceratops kids.  Later, when the baby Triceratops are threatened, T-Rex provides the ultimate sacrifice to save the kids, thus proving that he has learned his lesson about the power of love trumping (yes, I use that word deliberately) the fallacy that strength and power are the things that matter most in life.

I don’t know if the T-Rex and Triceratops are the same ones as appear in You Look Yummy – they look the same, but there are some continuity difficulties if they are – but this book has that same heart-warming punch at the end that will knock your world-weary heart for six.  Even though these books are utterly weird and unlike any other picture books that you will read – seriously, I still can’t decide whether the author intends these to be dark humour or serious moral tale, or indeed whether the translation has anything to do with how they read – there is an incredibly authentic underlying message in each story.  I have a sneaking suspicion that these are actually meant for adults, but I really can’t be sure.

Odd as these books undoubtedly are, we on the Shelf have definitely fallen under their Prehistoric spell and will keep our eyes peeled for any more in the series.  Mad Martha did intend on hooking up a cuddly T-Rex for you, but she couldn’t fit it in, given the time we had to spend this week looking at each other sideways and whispering “What the actual F***?” over the result of the US election.

Happily though, with this title I have COMPLETED THE TITLE FIGHT READING CHALLENGE FOR 2016!!  Hooray!

For any of you who enjoy my reading challenges, I have been working hard on a new challenge for 2017 and will hopefully have information posted here within the next week or two.

Until next time,

Bruce

Bruce’s Reading Round-Up: The “Enticing YA” Edition…

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If you are fan of young adult literature, be it quirky-cute romance, gripping historical fiction, paranormal menace or angsty growing-up tale, you will no doubt want to saddle up and ride with us today.  I have four enticing YA titles for you, each with its own niche audience, so scroll on down and see what you can round up!

Hotel for the Lost (Suzanne Young)

*We received a copy of Hotel for the Lost from Simon & Schuster Australia for review*

Two Sentence Synopsis:  hotel-for-the-lost

Audrey and her brother Daniel are being driven to their grandmother’s house, to take a break after their mother’s untimely death three months earlier. After stopping for the night at a hotel, the family dynamic seems more functional…but that’s only the first of a lot of strange things that are going on at the Hotel Ruby.

Muster up the motivation because…

…There’s a lot of ghosty goodness going on in this one that will have you guessing ahead to try and figure out the mystery before the big reveal.  I happened to be reading this one around Halloween time and it was charmingly atmospheric, what with its big gothic hotel in a lonely setting, odd nightly parties and collection of delightfully (and in some cases, creepily) bizarre guests.  Audrey is stuck down a well of grief and guilt since her mother’s death, while her brother Daniel is surly and their father seems to have mentally checked out.  On arrival  at the Ruby, things start looking up, but it isn’t long before Audrey starts to notice cracks in the hotel’s posh facade, not least of which being the overlord-like attitude of the concierge.  As Audrey meets more guests and her father becomes more and more plugged in to the family, Audrey decides that things might be looking up and it won’t be so hard to hang out for a few days until the family checks out, despite a few hard-to-explain incidents.  As ghostly, paranormal stories go, this one has plenty of threads to both entice and confuse the reader, with clues about the mystery dropped left, right and centre: there’s the mystery of the invitation-only nightly party, the tragic history of the building, the gossip about some of the guests and the strange flashes of vision that Audrey is experiencing.  I know I was hurriedly trying to piece together the tidbits of information in order to figure out what was going on before the reveal.  I suspect that experienced readers of paranormal stories will pick the obvious signs early on, but there were definitely a few aspects of the reveal that I did not see coming.  I was quite impressed with the ending that Young chose to go with here, because it is a bit more ambiguous and dark than I would have expected.  Overall, this was a fun read, albeit a tad predictable in places, that will satisfy those looking for an atmospheric story that will give a whole new meaning to the term “life of the party”.

Brand it with:

Complimentary late check-out; all in the family; what goes on below stairs

The Graces (Laure Eve)

*We received a copy of The Graces from Allen & Unwin for review*

the-graces

The Graces by Laure Eve. Published by Allen & Unwin, 26th October, 2016. RRP: $19.99

Two Sentence Synopsis: 

River is starting afresh at a new school and like everyone else, is drawn to the Grace siblings like a moth to a flame. When River manages to form a friendship with Summer Grace, her life becomes all that she wants it to be…but are the rumours of a Grace curse true?

Muster up the motivation because…

…this is a deep exploration of identity, loyalty, belonging and exerting one’s power in the fraught social world of the teenage years.  I didn’t think that I would be pulled in to The Graces as much as I was, but I was quickly won over by the focus on character development and the ways in which people will lie, keep secrets and remake themselves in order to fit in.  Everyone in River’s town believe that the Grace family are witches.  The three Grace siblings – twins, Fenrin and Tahlia, and younger sister Summer – float through school untouched by the problems of the common people, despite rumours of revenge and trouble that may have been dished out to those who defied the Graces in the past.  River, desperate to remake herself in this new environment, is somehow able to find her way into Summer’s good graces, and from there into the Grace family itself.  What she discovers is a tight-knit, exclusionary, possibly paranoid vision of their place in the world – a place she wants to share.  For the most part, this story is one firmly grounded in human relationships – parents exerting their will (and fears) on children, sibling loyalty, friendship defined by secrecy – but towards the end, a more obvious element of fantasy emerges.  I was slightly disappointed by this, because I thought that the character development and psychological twisting and turning between the Grace siblings and River was compelling enough that the story didn’t need any fantastical trappings.  Also, the fantasy element shows the story up as a series-opener, which heightened my disappointment.  I felt that this story had everything it needed to pack a memorable and thought-provoking punch contained within its pages, without having to add anything other-wordly to the story, and I don’t want to see that watered down by a focus in the next book on fantasy, rather than human nature.  Despite that little niggle at the end, I can heartily recommend this to readers of YA who are looking for an examination of human relationships and the price one might be willing to pay in order to be included.

Brand it with:

One of us; On the outer; Believing the rumours

The Lie Tree: Illustrated Edition (Frances Hardinge & Chris Riddell)

*We received a copy of The Lie Tree from PanMacmillan Australia for review*

Two Sentence Synopsis:  the-lie-tree

Faith yearns to take a place alongside her famous scientist father, but is constrained by the social restrictions imposed on women of her time. When the family moves to an island to escape a scandal, Faith takes her chance to assume the mantle of natural scientist over a very strange plant indeed – and finds herself embroiled in a mystery that challenges all the assumptions that her father held dear.

Muster up the motivation because…

…Frances Hardinge is a class apart when it comes to writing for young people.  In fact, I will go so far as to say that her books aren’t really young people’s books at all, but adult-reader-worthy books that happen to feature young protagonists.  Having read plenty of Hardinge’s work before, I knew pretty well what I was in for with The Lie Tree, and that was exactly what I got: absorbing, evocative prose, strong female characters with obvious, yet useful flaws, plot twists, and an atmosphere that perfectly reflected the oppressive situation in which the protagonist finds herself.  Faith is the eldest daughter of an (until-recently) esteemed natural scientist, who finds herself and her family spirited away to a remote island to avoid a scandal related to her father’s work.  After uncovering some of her father’s secrets through slyness and stealth, Faith is presented with an opportunity to observe a mythical plant whose discovery could change the world.  The story, like much of Hardinge’s work, unfolds slowly, with important information drip-fed to the reader.  The historical setting of this particular tale added a great deal to the atmosphere, as did the focus on gender-based restrictions that require Faith to undertake much of her investigation covertly.  This book really is absorbing, playing on ideas about the power of suggestion to create fear and generate a social environment which, already enmeshed in class-based strata and strict observance of propriety, is ripe for the dissemination of falsehood as truth, and opinion as fact.  I received the illustrated edition of the book to review, with illustrations completed by (who other than) Chris Riddell, yet I found that the illustrations didn’t add a great deal to my experience of the book.  Obviously, the illustrations are gorgeous and I enjoyed flicking across a full page line drawing every now and then in such a long book, but the narrative carries itself here, with Hardinge’s narrative imagery working its own magic.  Riddell’s illustrative style is particularly suited to the dour, historical atmosphere of the story however and admittedly, it was fun to see the portrayals of characters whose physical features are as unflattering as their personalities. I would definitely recommend The Lie Tree to those who are already fans of Hardinge’s work, featuring as it does a similar dark and foreboding atmosphere as her recent publications, Cuckoo Song and A Face Like Glass. If you are a fan of historical fiction that carries a touch of the subversive, and are looking for a good mystery with a slightly magical twist, then you will find plenty to entice you with The Lie Tree.

Brand it with:

Keeping one’s enemies close; the stealth-inducing properties of crepe; born to be wild

The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily (Rachel Cohn & David Levithan)

* We received a copy of The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily from Allen & Unwin for review*

Two Sentence Synopsis:  

The Twelve Days of Dash and Llily by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.  Published by Allen & Unwin, 26th October, 2016.  RRP: $19.99

The Twelve Days of Dash and Llily by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. Published by Allen & Unwin, 26th October, 2016. RRP: $19.99

Dash is concerned about his relationship with Lily, while Lily is depressed about her grandfather, Christmas and her relationship with Dash. Dash decides to break with tradition and surprise Lily with twelve days of happiness before Christmas to try and get their mutual groove back.

Muster up the motivation because…

…if you were a fan of the first book in this series (which I have not read), you will no doubt go ga-ga for this charming, festive offering.  I really wanted to like this one, not least because of the delightful, quirky cover design, but I ended up DNFing at 68 pages.  Romance and romantic relationships are just not my thing in fiction, but I can see why there was so much buzz about the first book in the series.  The story is told from the alternating viewpoints of Dash and Lily.  Dash opened this book, and I quickly found his self-deprecating dry humour quite disarming.  I thought that I might actually find myself falling for a romance book!  Then Lily took the helm and I just found her a bit too sheltered for my liking.  When you are nearly 18 and can’t get over the fact that you don’t feel all that Christmassy at Christmas, I think you need to step out of your #firstworldproblems for a moment and appreciate what you’ve got.  I did make the decision to put the book down during one of Lily’s sections, mostly because I didn’t think I could handle reading about such a young-seeming character as an adult reader.  I can certainly see the appeal of the book and the series however and should warn you not to let my curmudgeonly attitude toward unspoiled, innocent souls put you off reading it if you are in the mood for a Christmassy, feelgood story.

Brand it with:

Christmas knits; holiday romance; Dash-ing through the not-snow

Surely there is something amongst these offerings to ignite the YA gleam in your eye and have you rushing out to muster up one of these titles!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Picture Book Perusal: Cat Knit

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If you love delightful tales of friendship, cattiness and yarn then today is your lucky day!  Allow us to happily present to you new release picture book Cat Knit by Jacob Grant, and provided to us by PanMacmillan Australia for review.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Cat and Yarn are the best of friends. They have so much fun playing together, the two are inseparable.

Until the day Girl takes Yarn away.

When Yarn Returns, he is completely changed, no longer Cat’s bright and rolly friend. Cat is mad!

Soon, Cat begins to miss his best friend, and he just might realize that a little change isn’t so bad after all.

cat-knit

It’s no secret that we are big fans of yarn and its related fibre-crafted products around the shelf, and when yarn is combined with a cute, grumpy-faced cat that looks a little like one of the cats in the dwelling, you can be sure that we will be big fans of the result.  Here’s a little side by side pic for comparison about our prior claim:

cat-knit-comparison

Twinnies, or what?!

Cat, unsurprisingly, is friends with Yarn.  They play together in all sorts of hilarious ways (read: sledding), they snuggle up together and are generally as happy as a cat and an inanimate object could be.  When Girl takes yarn away and returns him completely changed however, Cat isn’t in love with the arrangement.  What follows is a struggle between wanting things back the way they were and finding good use for yarn’s new form and function.  But it isn’t all bad.  After all, where there’s one ball of yarn, there might be more!

This book was a lot of fun and the mini-fleshlings particularly enjoyed the various moods of Cat, played out via his facial expressions.  I particularly liked the machinations of Girl, which are known in the wider world as “knitting”, and was quite comforted by the fact that clearly Mad Martha isn’t the only one who pores over yarn catalogues with such undivided attention.  The ending is a great laugh, featuring more in the way of catty expressions of displeasure, and a very nifty bobble hat indeed.  The overall message of the book is that a change in the personality of one’s friend need not mean the end of a friendship, and that such changes can be just what is needed at that point in time.

The edition of the book that we received came with a dust jacket featuring the image above, and as we are incurable dust-jacket removers, we were able to uncover the delightful design on the hardback cover.

cat-knit-undies

I will admit to having a yearning to own an ugly Christmas jumper, probably due to the fact that I will never have the opportunity to wear one unless I move to a shelf in the Northern Hemisphere for at least one Christmas, so this design tickled me pink.

I would recommend Cat Knit to anyone who (a) has a cat or (b) is able to laugh at cats, which, let’s admit it, is every human alive.  Having received the thumbs up of approval from the mini-fleshlings in this dwelling, I can also say that it has passed the giggle road test for reading aloud to little ones.  It’s even inspired me to ask Mad Martha to crochet me an ugly Christmas jumper of my own…which I will then attempt to force onto the cat (pictured above).

Until next time,

Bruce

Maido: A Gaijin’s Guide to Japanese Gestures…

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maido

In my ongoing quest to learn more about Japan and its quirky idiosyncracies, I stumbled across this delightful and visually appealing (not to mention useful), tome.  We received a copy of Maido: A Gaijin’s Guide to Japanese Gestures and Culture by Christy Colon Hasegawa from the publisher via Netgalley and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Maido (my-dough, not to be confused with that childhood favorite, Play-Doh) describes the most common Japanese gestures and defines their meanings and the cultural contexts that surround them. Japanese gestures are a world of their own, much the way the language and country are. In the Kansai region of Japan, people often use the term Maido as a greeting in business and sales, and as a send-off to a business’s best customers as if to say, come again or thank you.

In this case, Maido is welcoming you to a world in which you don t offend every Japanese person you meet. By learning a few simple gestures you can avoid making intercultural slip-ups and win the respect of locals. And who knows maybe the next time you walk into the local izakaya (watering hole), you may be lucky enough to hear someone saying, Maido! Maido! to you.”

So this book is essentially a humour-filled pictorial guide to reading the body language of Japanese people and as such is an incredibly useful book to read if you are planning on visiting or moving to Japan.  The book is set out in an easy-to-follow format: each page features a picture of a Japanese person demonstrating a gesture, accompanied by the Japanese term for the gesture, an English translation of what the gesture might be called and a brief explanation of how and where one might use such a gesture.  Gestures include everything from noting sexual preference to asking for a hot towel at a restaurant, from calling someone a moron to beckoning someone toward you – really, for the individual interested in social interactions, this book provides a wealth of information in a super-accessible way.

Apart from feeling that I was learning some useful information, I had two favourite elements of the book.  The first is that the gestures are being demonstrated by a majorly diverse cross-section of Japanese people, from the bemused looking elderly, to the styled-up cosplayer, to the neatly turned out professional type, to the cheeky little kid.  Visually, the photography itself provides a fascinating insight into Japanese culture and social interactions.

As well as the visual appeal of the book, I also loved the author’s conversational and humorous style.  The author was born and raised in Japan by a Japanese mother and Puerto Rican American father and as such is perfectly placed to deftly explain the social implications of certain gestures in a way that non-natives can appreciate.  She is also possessed of a witty turn of phrase, which makes reading each of the explanations a lot of fun in itself.

If you have any interest in Japanese culture at all, be it manga, cosplay or a strong desire to visit the country, you could do a lot worse than to have a flick through this handy explanatory tome.  I would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in Japan, as well as anyone who loves an accessible, visually-appealing nonfiction read about society and culture.

Until next time,

Bruce

Bruce’s Reading Round-Up: The “Completely Unrelated Kidlit” Edition…

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I tried and tried, but I couldn’t think of a theme that would link the books for today’s Round-Up, so you’ll just have to bear with me.  We have a picture book based on a classic dance hit, a fairy tale retelling for early chapter book fans and a book of stats and facts for the upcoming T20 Cricket season here in Australia.  Let’s saddle up and ride into this diverse herd!

Footloose (Kenny Loggins, Dean Pitchford & Tim Bowers)

* We received a copy of Footloose from Allen & Unwin for review *

Two Sentence Synopsis:  

Footloose by Kenny Loggins, Dean Pitchford & Tim Bowers.  Published by Allen & Unwin, 26th October 2016.  RRP: $19.99

Footloose by Kenny Loggins, Dean Pitchford & Tim Bowers. Published by Allen & Unwin, 26th October 2016. RRP: $19.99

When the zoo closes down for the night the fun really starts!  A reimagining of the classic hit song featuring a crowd of dancing animals.

Muster up the motivation because…

…I’m pretty sure nobody needs a reason to bust out a few moves when Footloose comes on the radio and so it will no doubt be with this lively, colourful picture book.  Let me say up front that I’m not the greatest fan of the songs-to-picture-books trend, mostly because the songs are generally awesome on their own and the added book just slows them down, trying to squish slightly awkward text into a pre-existing lyrical framework.  I did find that was the case here to a certain degree.  Footloose is one of the younger mini-fleshling’s favourite boogie tunes and while there were a few smiles throughout the reading of this one, she didn’t express the unbridled glee that I expected, or indeed that she exhibits when she’s throwing down the moves to the song.  The illustrations are certainly inviting and animated and its obvious that the animals are having a cracking time cutting footloose.  There’s also a CD that comes with the book so you can experience the tune in your own home.  Overall, I think little kids will love the vivid illustrations and the general fun vibe of the book, but for me, some of the text didn’t quite work as a read (or sing) aloud, which kind of defeats the purpose of the book, in my opinion.  If you are a fan of the song, you will no doubt end up checking this book out, so do let me know what you think.

Brand it with:

Dancing leads to animal frivolity, 80s dance hits, busting a move

Big Bash Book 2016-17 (Daniel Lane)

* We received a copy of the Big Bash Book 2016-17 from Allen & Unwin for review *

Two (well, one) Sentence Synopsis: 

Big Bash Book 2016-17 by Daniel Lane.  Published by Allen & Unwin, 9th November 2016.  RRP: $29.99

Big Bash Book 2016-17 by Daniel Lane. Published by Allen & Unwin, 9th November 2016. RRP: $29.99

A photo-filled look at the players and teams who will feature in this season’s KFC T20 Big Bash league.

Muster up the motivation because…

…if you are a cricket fan, this book will no doubt provide hours and hours of viewing pleasure…much like test cricket itself.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or in a country that doesn’t really play cricket) it will have been impossible not to notice the dramatic rise in popularity of the Big Bash League.  Colourful, loud, reasonably priced and family friendly are words that describe both the League itself, as well as this high quality tome.  It is well known that I have a rather lacklustre attitude towards cricket of any kind, but even I can’t help but get sucked in to the energy and excitement of Big Bash cricket.  This book is much the same.  While I have little to no interest in the contents of this book, I couldn’t help but pick it up and have a flick through.  It is full colour throughout, with big photographs of players and teams, and I’m pleased to note that both men’s and women’s teams are featured.  I immediately flicked through to the Brisbane Heat sections of the book and read up on Chris Lynn (he of the big six hitting capability), while saying a little prayer that the Heat win more than one game this season.  On my flick through the book I also managed to catch a glimpse of one Jake Lehmann, sporting a moustache that is as alluring as it is disturbing.  That aside, predictably, I suppose, when I left the book out in plain sight in the dwelling, it was immediately snatched up by the he-fleshling and the mini-he-fleshling, who began poring over it and discussing their memories of last year’s season (during which the mini-he-fleshling managed to attend a game at the Gabba…the only game of the season that the Heat actually won, so at least they got their money’s worth).  This is clearly a niche market book but would make a fab gift for any cricket fan of your acquaintance.

Brand it with:

I don’t like cricket…(no really, I don’t); family entertainment; fun with fielding

The Spell Thief: Little Legends (Tom Percival)

*We received a copy of this title from the publisher via Netgalley*

Two Sentence Synopsis: the-spell-thief

When new kid Anansi moves to town, Jack (from the Beanstalk) can’t shake the feeling that there is something shady about him.  After Jack tries to prove his theory, things start going from bad to worse, and Jack must decide how far he is prepared to go to get to the truth.

Muster up the motivation because…

…as early chapter books featuring rehashed fairy tale characters go, this one is of quite a high quality.  The Little Legends series features all your favourite fairy tale characters (including, but not limited to, Jack (of the beanstalk), Red (of the riding hood) and Rapunzel (with the hair)), as well as Jack’s talking pet chicken Betsy (although the only thing she can say is “Whaaaat?”).  The books aren’t retellings of the original fairy tales, but rather feature the familiar characters in fairy tale-like adventures.  In this story, Anansi, who those of African heritage may know as the trickster spirit, arrives in the village and is spotted by Jack engaged in mildly suspicious activity involving imps and trolls.  Jack then sets out on a quest to prove his theory that Anansi is a troublemaker, but predictably ends up causing far more trouble himself.  The book is illustrated throughout, which adds immensely to the story, and although the kids feel a little bit too “Disney” for my liking, the characters are all true to age and true to form, in dialogue and behaviour.  There is also a satisfying mix of male and female characters here, so the book isn’t particularly skewed toward one gender or the other.  I quite enjoyed the story due to the fact that it was a quick read and the action kept moving, with some interesting twists and characters that one might not expect from a fairy tale world.  I think my favourite part of the world is the concept of the great Story Tree; a tree that sits in the middle of town and grows a new branch every time a resident creates a new story through their actions.  As this is the first book in a series, I can imagine that the Story Tree will be sprouting a lot of new branches as the stories keep coming.

Brand it with:

Not your Nanna’s fairy tales; trick or be tricked; water-soluble solutions

It’s an unlikely collection, I’ll admit, but hopefully at least one of these tomes has caught your eye and inspired you to go out and round it up.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

The Unforgettable What’s His Name: A Maniacal Book Club Review…

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It’s been a number of years since I’ve read a book by Paul Jennings, so the Book Club was more than delighted to receive a copy of The Unforgettable What’s His Name, by Mr Jennings, and illustrated by Craig Smith, from Allen & Unwin for review.  Before I unleash the Club on this quirky and heartwarming tale, here’s the blurb from A&U:

Now you see him, now you don’t – an action-packed adventure about a boy who just wants to blend in, from a bestselling author/illustrator team.

Even before all this happened I had never been like the other kids. I tried not to be seen. If I climbed a tree or hid among the bins, no one could find me. ‘Where’s What’s His Name?’ they’d say.

Then, one weekend, I got what I wanted. First, I blended in with things. But on the second day I changed.

I mean, really changed.

The hilarious story of a boy with an unusual problem, from children’s book legend Paul Jennings. Includes fantastic look-and-find colour illustrations.

 

The Unforgettable What's His Name by Paul Jennings & Craig Smith.  Published by Allen & Unwin, 26th October, 2016.  RRP: $14.99

The Unforgettable What’s His Name by Paul Jennings & Craig Smith. Published by Allen & Unwin, 26th October, 2016. RRP: $14.99

And here’s what the Maniacal Book Club have to say on the topic…

Guru Davemaniacal book club guru dave

When the eyes of the world are watching, will you step into the limelight or shrink into the shadows?  This is the dilemma faced by young What’s His Name.  To stand up and be counted, or overlooked, like a single monkey amidst a herd of leaping banana-chewers: only you can make the decision to be seen as you truly are.  We would all do well to take a lesson from young What’s His Name.  Blending in with your surroundings may solve your problem in the short term, but eventually, one must show one’s true colours, or risk remaining forever like a statue over a pond, while the moss slowly grows over one’s head.

To0thless

maniacal book club toothless

 

There are no dragons in this book.  There are a bunch of crazy monkeys that run all over town though, and a dog with no ears and a motorcycle gang, and even a boy who can transform into lots of cool things.  It sounds like a cool superpower but most of the time it isn’t very convenient for What’s His Name.  One time, one of the monkeys even tries to pee on him! They call that monkey the Big Pee!

I really liked Sandy the dog too.  This book has a lot of funny things in it and I think kids who like wacky adventures and unexpected things will like this book.  It would be fun to have a teacher read this book out in class because I think all the kids would be laughing.

Mad Martha

maniacal book club martha

This poem is inspired by Simon and Garfunkle’s folk hit Feelin’ Groovy.

Hello lampost, whatcha knowing?

It appears you have two ears growing.

And is that a hair or three?

Do, do, do, do, do

You’re transforming!

Bruce

maniacal book club bruce

 

Paul Jennings, it must be said, is a master of magical realism, with a narrative style all his own.  Whether it has been two weeks or twenty years since you last read one of his books, I can guarantee that you’ll fall straight back into his familiar way of storytelling.  The Unforgettable What’s His Name is a book about a boy who wants to fade from sight.  Painfully shy, the boy gets the jitters whenever he thinks people are watching him and this leads to some unique and giggle-worthy problems.  All the expected Jennings features are included here: unexpected and hilarious situations involving our protagonist, things going wrong at exactly the wrong moment, characters who aren’t necessarily what they appear to be on the outside, and at least one reference to pooh.

The book didn’t seem to me as laugh-out-loud funny as some of Jennings classic works, but there are certainly a range of events that will have readers cringing with embarrassment and wriggling with glee as all sorts of silly situations unfold, requiring skin-of-your-teeth escapes and some truly innovative solutions to problems.  The book is illustrated throughout with both black and white line drawings and double-page spread, full colour illustrations, which add to the magical aspects of the book.

Putting aside the craziness of being able to turn into a human chameleon when anxious for a moment, this book is at its heart a story about facing one’s fears and carving out a place to belong.  As in most of Jennings’ work, the bottom line notes that you don’t have to be the same as everyone else in order to fit in somewhere.

I’d definitely recommend this as an insta-buy for classroom libraries or as a treat for fans (new and old) of the quirky, unexpected mind of Paul Jennings.

Until next time,

Bruce and the gang

 

Mount TBR Challenge 2017: I’m Climbing On Again!

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Even though I only discovered this challenge this year, I have found it so useful that I’m hopping on board again for 2017.  Bev at My Reader’s Block is a challenge queen and hosts this one yearly to get people motivated to start tackling their ever-growing TBR piles.  This year I signed up at the lowest level, Pike’s Peak, or 12 books and I have just recently achieved it, with a few extras added to the tally by the end of the year hopefully.  If you are interested in the challenge, just click on the image above to be taken to the sign up page, where you can find all the information about rules and restrictions and, most importantly, challenge levels.

I have decided in 2017 that I am going to once again attempt the lowest level of Pike’s Peak.  Twelve books was manageable this year, and I think committing to one book a month isn’t so daunting that I’ll feel too much pressure, but will nonetheless make a dint in my TBR stack.  I’m actually so motivated to keep at this challenge that I’ve already chosen the twelve books I’d like to tackle!

2017-mount-tbr-challenge-books-2

They are, in no particular order…

The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham

A middle grade fantasy romp that I wanted to read for ages, so decided to chuck it in with a laybuy I was putting on at Big W.  I really wanted the edition with the prettier cover, but I saw my chance to own it and took it.

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine

A middle grade historical mystery that came out slightly after the first book in the Wells & Wong series by Robin Stevens.  I finally scored this one as a birthday gift, but haven’t got to it yet.

Takeshita Demons by Cristy Burne

A middle grade yokai story.  I stumbled across the first three books in this series at the Library cast-off book shop and picked them up because I just couldn’t walk past any book featuring Japanese ghosties.  I’ve been desperately wanting to have at this series, so I’m making the time in 2017. Hopefully I’ll finish the three books I’ve got, not just this first one.

Greenglass House by Kate Milford

A middle grade mystery featuring smugglers!  I first put this on pre-order back in mid 2014, when it was originally released.  I put the pre-order on the paperback, which was releasing in the middle of 2015.  I figured I could wait that long.  Then the release date got pushed out to September of 2015.  I was tetchy, but accepted this.  THEN the release date got pushed out to September 2016!  Needless to say, I was cheesed.  It finally arrived last month, so since I’ve been waiting on it so long, it’s going in the challenge.  It has since won some awards though, so it should be worth the wait.

Home to Mother by Doris Pilkington

This is the children’s edition of the story of Australia’s Stolen Generations, immortalised in the book and film Rabbit-Proof Fence.  I spotted this one in an op-shop last week and snapped it up.

Beastly Bones (Jackaby #2) by William Ritter

This is the second book in the Jackaby fantasy mystery series.  I pre-ordered this one a while back, since I enjoyed the first book.  My anticipation has waned somewhat during the wait (and I think the third book is out now too), but if I don’t add this one to the challenge, it may continue to be overlooked.

Wayside School is Falling Down by Louis Sachar

I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Sideways Stories from Wayside School from so many different bloggers that when I saw this one at the Library cast-off bookshop I snapped it up.  Louis Sachar is always a fun read, so I don’t think I can go too far wrong here.

The League of Beastly Dreadfuls by Holly Grant

I bought this one from the BD when I was in need of some bookish retail therapy.  Just haven’t got around to it yet.

Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami

I had seen this little early middle grade title on a couple of “recommended” lists and then it popped up at Booktopia for two bucks or some other ridiculously cheap price so I had to have it.  I initially thought this was set in Japan, but on closer inspection, it’s actually India.  Not sure how I made that error, given the author’s obviously Indian (and super awesome!) surname.

The Bromeliad by Terry Pratchet

This is the omnibus edition made up of Truckers, Diggers and Wings.  I have read Terry Pratchet’s Discworld books before but never loved his work, but when I heard about this trilogy (maybe from SteJ at Book to the Future?) I thought I might investigate.  After reading a preview of the first chapter and finding myself guffawing after the first page, I decided I had to have it.

Henry and the Guardians of the Lost by Jenny Nimmo

We shelf denizens looooove Jenny Nimmo.  It started many years ago with the Snow Spider Trilogy, when we were fascinated by all things Welsh, and we have devoured a good section of her back catalogue since.  This one is a late 2016 release, so we grabbed it from the BD in one of those “retail therapy” moments.

The Fourteenth Summer of Angus Jack by Jen Storer

This is an Aussie middle grade fantasy/mythology tome that I had had my eye on since its release.  It came up in the bargain section of Booktopia ages ago and I grabbed it.  Having re-read the blurb, I noticed it’s by the same author as Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children which I found a bit tropey and pedestrian, but hopefully this one will be more up my street.

So there you have it!  My goals for TBR tackling for 2017.  A couple of these books are quite short, so I may be able to sneak in a few extras – I’ve got plenty to choose from! – but we’ll see how we go.

Are you participating in this challenge this year, or are you thinking about it for next year?  Have you read any of the books that I want to attempt?  Let me know!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

The Heart of Henry Quantum…and a Giveaway!

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henry-quantum

Today’s book is for those who like a bit of quirk in their contemporary.  The Heart of Henry Quantum by Pepper Harding is part romantic comedy, part epic Christmas quest and part relationship drama, and it was kindly provided to us by Scribe Australia for review.  Even better is the fact that now you get the chance to win a copy!  Read on for that…but in the meantime, here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Henry Quantum has several thoughts going through his head at any given time, so it’s no surprise when he forgets something very important — a Christmas gift for his wife, Margaret, which he realises on the morning of December 23rd.

So Henry sets off in search of the perfect present for Margaret: a bottle of Chanel No. 5.

But much like Henry’s ever-wandering mind, his quest takes him in different and unexpected directions, including running into the former love of his life, Daisy. Meanwhile, Margaret is questioning whether she and Henry belong together after all …

‘The Heart of Henry Quantum’ is a sweet, funny, and touching debut which shows how the seemingly insignificant events of one single day can change our lives forever — perhaps, if we’re lucky, for the better.

I was super excited to read this book.  I will say that right up front.  From the blurb and the cover, I thought that this was going to be a book featuring a lovable and slightly forgetful old bloke who ends up discovering how much he loves his dear old wife after an uplifting and heartwarming encounter with an old flame from his youth.  Exactly the sort of story I love, I thought.

So I started reading and soon discovered that Henry is not an old man, but rather a middle-aged fellow with quite remarkable powers of going off at a tangent, mentally.  Also, he works in marketing.

Alright, thought I.  The main character is not who I expected, but I will still give this a go.  Despite the fact that Henry can’t keep a relevant thought in his head for more than two seconds at a time.  And is such a man-child that he can’t even plan ahead to buy his wife a present.

So I read on with an open mind until….we meet Daisy, the former love of Henry’s life.

That’s cool! I thought.  Daisy seems like a fun, interesting gal.  This could be looking up! I thought.

And then we find out that Daisy may be the love of Henry’s life, but their former relationship was carried out during Henry’s marriage to his wife.  The one he can’t remember to buy a Christmas present for.  And Daisy, in order to be with Henry, was also cheating on her husband.

If there is one thing I can’t abide, in real life or in fiction, it is infidelity.  If I had liked Henry more to begin with, I may have pushed on, but since his flights of ideas were already beginning to get on my nerves, I decided to put the book down there, at page 71.

I can see that this book will have a huge number of readers that will absolutely love the contemporary, quirky, rom-com nature of the plot.  Unfortunately though, I do not count myself among their number.

As well as being a let down because I was expecting a completely different kind of story, I am also left in the lurch on not finishing because this was going to be my entry for the letter Q in my Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge.  I had already tried (and failed!) with two previous Q titles, so I was counting on Henry to see me through.

Happily though, this means that one of you can now snag a copy of The Heart of Henry Quantum by Pepper Harding and provided to us by Scribe.

The giveaway is open internationally and other Ts & Cs are in the rafflecopter form.  The giveaway will run from today until November 23rd, 2016.

To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter link below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Until next time,

Bruce

Magical Middle Grade in a Mouldering Setting: Wormwood Mire…

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wormwood-mire

Subtle magic, family mysteries and mouldering old houses are the cornerstones of Wormwood Mire, the second Stella Montgomery intrigue by Aussie author Judith Rossell. If you are into historical fiction for young readers that embraces a bit of the ol’ unexplained, then you should probably jump on board with this series if you haven’t already.  The good news is that you don’t have to have read the series opener, Withering-by-Sea, to enjoy this second offering – I myself had forgotten much about the plot of the first book, except for the major points, and found that the small references to the happenings in the first book really provide all a new reader would need to know.  Enough blathering though.  We received a copy of Wormwood Mire from HarperCollins Australia for review and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

When Stella Montgomery returned to the Hotel Majestic cold and wet but exhilarated by adventure, the Aunts were furious.

Now they are sending Stella away to the old family home at Wormwood Mire, where she must live with two strange cousins and their governess.

But within the overgrown grounds of the mouldering house, dark secrets slither and skulk, and soon Stella must be brave once more if she’s to find out who – or what – she really is …

From bestselling writer-illustrator Judith Rossell comes the thrilling and magical sequel to her multi-award-winning novel, WITHERING-BY-SEA.

Let me start by reiterating that I really don’t think that one has to have read the first book in the series in order to fully appreciate this one.  I found Wormwood Mire to be a much more intriguing and multi-layered story than Withering-by-Sea, and overall would have to say that I enjoyed the reading experience much more.  Stella, whose is alone in the world but for a collection of cranky aunts, is sent away to live with her as-yet-unmet cousins, Strideforth and Hortense, at the crumbling estate of a long-dead relation, after the shenanigans of the first book.  Stella, having never met her cousins and never attended proper lessons at all, is understandably nervous about the move, but hopes that spending time at the estate will allow her to discover more about some of the mysteries surrounding her family and her strange new-found abilities.

Happily, while Stella’s cousins possess a few interesting personality traits, the trio gets along famously and we become privy to the real mystery of the book – the bizarre collection of plants and creatures kept on the estate by their ancestor, Wilberforce Montgomery.  This is not the only mystery that Stella hopes to shed light on though; she is also much interested in finding out more about her mother and two children in a photograph, who Stella suspects are herself and a long-lost sibling.  Add to this set of puzzles a rather unorthodox (and quite shady) dentist and travelling showman, a ghostly figure flitting about the place and townsfolk whispering about history repeating and you have all the pieces in play for a particularly intense game of discovery and derring-do.  As with the previous book, the pace and overall tone is quite sedate, but the multiple, interconnected mysteries add plenty of depth to the story and I was drawn further in to the search for answers with every passing chapter.

The house itself was a wonderful addition to the story and almost a character in itself, with secret passages and exotic artifacts squirreled away by Wilberforce Montgomery.  Hortense’s collection of truly outlandish animal friends also adds colour (and chaos!) to the story, with a disagreeable and downright naughty mollyhawk who squawks in fluent latin and an extremely bitey ermine just two of her unusual menagerie.  Another highlight of the story is the multiple references to Stella’s book of cautionary tales, received, of course, from the nefarious aunts, A Garden of Lillies, in which children who stray from following the instructions of their elders meet various unpleasant ends, recounted in rhyming couplets. I’m fairly sure that thwormwood-mire-interiorese little interludes are a nod to Edward Gorey’s Gashlycrumb Tinies and provide just the right amount of comic relief.

Once again this tome contains some gorgeous ink wash illustrations, some as whole page images and others fitting around the text throughout.  The style of illustrations, as well as their greenish tones, add to the sense of place and the historical setting in which the story unfolds, and as I always say, any book – every book – is better with pictures.  The chunky hardback format and the included ribbon bookmark make the reading experience satisfyingly tactile too.

I am very interested to see what happens next in this series, as this book ends on an unexpected and revealing note.  Given that this story was so different to the last, I am sure that Rossell will have something equally diverting for Stella Montgomery’s next intrigue!

Until next time,

Bruce