Bruce’s Reading Round-Up: The “Domestics, Servants and Robotic Appliances” Edition…

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We’re rounding out our Children’s Book Week Chaser with some longer reads for the middle grade age bracket.  I’ve got three books here featuring everything from cats to robotic siblings, so surely there’ll be something in the mix to entice you.  Got your spats sorted?  Then let’s crack on!

Brobot (James Foley)

*We received a copy of Brobot from Fremantle Press for review*

Two Sentence Synopsis:  30120603

Sally Tinker is an inventor extraordinaire, so when her baby brother doesn’t measure up to her expectations, she creates her own.  But is a robotic sibling really all it’s cracked up to be?

Muster up the motivation because…

…this fun graphic novel is chock-full of humour, chaos and unexpected bugs in the program.  Sally is a girl who knows what she wants and even has the skills to create it, while her baby brother is….well, a bit of a messy, stinky, noisy baby.  Sally, with the best of intentions, takes it upon herself to invent an improved version of a little brother, but doesn’t count on her invention learning from the real thing.  Of course disaster strikes and Sally comes to learn that perhaps the good things about having a living, breathing sibling outweigh some of the bad – although maybe not the stinky bits.  The narrative parts of the book are broken up here and there with some text-heavy diagrams but for the most part, this is exactly the kind of book that will draw in the more reluctant base of young readers due to the saturation of illustrations, the interesting fonts and the easy-to-digest chunks of text.  Add to that the humour of stinky nappies, exploding machines and general mayhem and you’d have to agree that this book has everything that young readers love, all wrapped up in a visually appealing package.  I’d definitely recommend this one for readers aged from about seven or eight on up, who enjoy funny, fast-paced stories.

Brand it with:

Artificial intelligence; super siblings; experimental relationships

The Twins of Tintarfell (James O’Loghlin)

*We received a copy of The Twins of Tintarfell from PanMacmillan Australia for review*

Two Sentence Synopsis:  30173433

Dani and Bart are twins, orphans and servants in the castle of the King of Tintarfell.  When Bart is unexpectedly kidnapped, Dani tries to rescue him – but has no idea of the sacrifices she may need to make along the way.

Muster up the motivation because…

…as fantasy adventure stories go, this one has its fair share of twists, turns, humour and warthogs.  This was a really unexpected read for me and I’m still not sure quite what to make of it.  The story has elements of adventure, betrayal, murder and secrecy, yet at the same time has a light tone and a strong dose of tongue-in-cheek humour.  It reminded me of a strange blend of The Princess Bride, The Chronicles of Narnia and a Monty Python film to be honest.  There was something a little off about the pacing, I felt; I kept expecting the bit I was reading to be the precursor to a BIG event, but each time the book just slid quietly into the next twist or reveal.  At the same time though, there were bits of the story that felt really original and intriguing, like the Soarers, the curse upon Dani and Bart’s special talent.   The three main characters, Dani, Bart and Edmund, are all well-developed and we are privy to each of their strengths and flaws as the story unfolds.  The final few chapters neatly work the protagonists through a number of key choices that will ultimately define the people they will become, and so the ending is feels satisfyingly meaningful after all the derring-do and (in the case of Edmund) some derring-don’t (or should that be derring-didn’t?).  I definitely enjoyed this book and the author seems to hit his stride about a third of the way in, but at times I felt like he couldn’t quite decide whether the book was supposed to be primarily a comedy or an adventure, and so we are treated to each in turn.  If you are fan of light fantasy and adventure that doesn’t take itself too seriously, then I would encourage you to give this a read.

Brand it with:

Sisters doin’ it for themselves (and everyone else); Good vs Evil; Animal magnetism

Malkin Moonlight (Emma Cox)

*We received a copy of Malkin Moonlight from Bloomsbury Australia for review*

Two Sentence Synopsis:  31139009

Malkin Moonlight is a cat blessed by the moon, who loves a domestic cat named Roux.  Together they will do great things and heal a rift in their new home.

Muster up the motivation because…

…this is a gentle tale about using one’s life (lives!) well in the pursuit of peace and happiness.  While not being the biggest fan of books featuring animal societies, I still found this to be an enjoyable read due to the episodic chapters and old-fashioned narrative style.  As the story progresses the reader finds out more about Malkin and Roux as they discover new things about themselves through various challenges and sticky situations.  After the relationship between Malkin and Roux is thoroughly established, the story moves on to a different setting – a world of cats, if you will – which is in sore need of a peacemaker.  Malkin comes to fill that role in the nick of time before a man made disaster looks set to threaten the existence of the cats’ new home.  I think this book will hit the mark for middle grade readers who love a good animal story and the illustrations here and there throughout will give an added context to their imagining of the story. There was a subtle sense of schmaltz underlying the story that put me off slightly – something to do with the cats’ (and particularly Roux’s) turns of phrase, I suspect – but that is possibly to be expected from a tale that promises a hero finding his destiny in the blurb.  This is one to watch out for if you have a crazy cat person in training in your dwelling.

Brand it with:

Wild at heart; warring factions; moonlight shenanigans

Well, with that round-up our Children’s Book Week Chaser comes to a close.  I hope you have found at least one book that will suit a mini-fleshling of your acquaintance!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Bruce’s Reading Round-Up: The “Crushed Under a Mountain of Picture Books” Edition…

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On this, the second day of my very own Children’s Book Week, I have no less than five brilliant picture books for your perusal.  Let’s ride on in before they get away!

The Little Bad Wolf (Sam Bowring and Lachlan Creagh)

*We received a copy of The Little Bad Wolf from Hachette Australia for review*

Two Sentence Synopsis:

The Big Bad Wolf has retired and now his grandson wants to step in to take his place, causing havoc and general mischief.  Once again though, it seems like the pigs have one over on the wolves, and besides, what kind of trouble could a little wolf really cause?

Muster up the motivation because…

…the unusual formatting and detailed illustrations will have mini-fleshlings poring over the book as you regale them with the tale of one very naughty little wolf.  The story is laid out in a comic-style format, with each page featuring a number of different frames, with text in each.  The detail in some of the illustrations is impressive, and I’m sure young readers will love trying to find their favourite fairy-tale characters in the pictures.  The Little Bad Wolf truly is a naughty, naughty boy, harassing and threatening to eat Mrs Pig.  Mrs Pig looks like she’s heard it all before and laughs off Little Wolf’s antics until…he goes a bit too far, resulting in the now retired Big Bad Wolf getting involved.  There is a hilarious illustration during the scene in which the Big Bad Wolf is explaining why he gave up the pig-eating game featuring an aged woodsman on his motorised mobility scooter, still keeping an eye on his archnemesis!  In the end, it seems that Little Bad Wolf’s antics may have backfired, but it doesn’t look like he had learned his lesson just yet.  The highlight of this book for me was definitely the incredibly detailed and vivid illustrations, featuring everything from Baba Yaga and the Rock-a-Bye baby, to a bunch of elves picketing the Shoemaker for higher wages.  The complex page spreads really add depth to the world and the story.  If you are a fan of fairy tale reworkings, then this is definitely worth a good look.

Brand it with:

Historical vendettas; young rapscallions; piggy poise

Seek and Find Space (Emiliano Magliardo)

*We received a copy of Seek and Find Space from Bloomsbury Australia for review*

Two Sentence Synopsis: Seek and Find Space

Find out about space while having fun!  Search for pictures on each page while learning interesting tidbits about the world beyond planet Earth.

Muster up the motivation because…

…while this isn’t the most informative title you’ll ever see on the subject of space, it would certainly have to be one of the most fun.  The book is structured in double page spreads that each relate to a different topic – the solar system, star-gazing, the space station, for instance.  Each page features a little snippet of information about the topic, a large illustration and a selection of images that mini-fleshlings can hunt for in the picture.  The illustrations are cartoonish and wacky, and keen-eyed youngsters will find lots of things to make them giggle, such as a gondolier singing to his loved-up alien passengers, and the iconic bear-shaped honey dispenser blasting off on the page about rockets.  My favourite page would have to be that of the Big Bang, with everything from cave people to a very cheerful looking crab being blasted into existence.  Again, this isn’t going to satisfy kids who really want to find out information about space, but it is certainly a fun distraction for those with an interest in all things extra-terrestrial.

Brand it with:

Extra-curricular extra-terrestrial; new discoveries; fun with finding stuff

Sir Dancealot (Timothy Knapman & Keith Robinson)

*We received a copy of Sir Dancealot from Bloomsbury for review*

Two Sentence Synopsis:  Sir Dancealot

Sir Dancealot defeats monsters using his dance moves, keeping the kingdom safe.  But what will happen when one of the monsters knows how to dance too?

Muster up the motivation because…

…this boogie-tastic little book has all the fun and excitement of So You Think You Can Dance?, with the added bonus of dancing dragons and ice skating.  The illustrations are bright and bold and the cover literally shines due to some glittery accents.  The rhyming text makes this one perfect for reading aloud and the dance-mad younger mini-fleshling in the dwelling immediately requested it to be read again as soon as it was finished.  Sir Dancealot is obviously a pretty fabulous guy, looking, as he does, like a young John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever, yet he doesn’t shy away from a challenge when the dragon challenges him to a dance-off…on ice!  There’s plenty of giggle-worthy imagery here to keep the mini-fleshlings happy and the twist at the end is worth waiting for.  I’d definitely recommend this to young readers who like their pre-bedtime stories fast, fun and funky.

Brand it with:

Boogie shoes; Strictly Come Reading; perfect pirouettes

Lucy and Company (Marianne Dubuc)

*We received a copy of Lucy and Company from the publisher via Netgalley*

Two Sentence Synopsis:  28665603

Lucy loves to play with her animal friends in the woods, sharing snacks and having adventures.  But don’t wake Anton the bear!

Muster up the motivation because…

…this is every bit as whimsical, joyful and charming as the cover would indicate.  The book actually features three short stories featuring Lucy and her animal friends, each one reading like a single picture book tale.  Of the three stories, The Hatchlings was my particular favourite as I found it to be the funniest and the most unexpected.  Adrian the snail steals the show, in my opinion (particularly while trying to brood some abandoned eggs!) but each of the stories is replete with warmth, adventure and humour.  The endpapers feature a gorgeous map of the woods showing where each animal lives and the illustrations throughout are filled with colour and exuberance.  I can see this being a book that young readers would ask for again and again, because even though the stories are very short, they are memorable and imaginative and fun.  I am super-pleased to have discovered Lucy and her company and I will  be looking out for any further adventures.

Brand it with:

Adventurous animals; fun with friends; don’t antagonise Anton

The Day I Became A Bird (Ingrid Chabbert & Raul Nieto Guridi)

*We received a copy of The Day I Became A Bird from the publisher via Netgalley*

Two Sentence Synopsis:  28665602

On his first day of school, a young boy falls in love.  In order to attract the attention of his beloved, he transforms himself into the thing he knows she will love most.

Muster up the motivation because…

…this unusual and beguiling tale put me immediately in mind of the work of Oliver Jeffers, with its quirky illustrative style and unexpected subject matter.  The boy in the book falls innocently in love with the bird-loving girl who sits in front of him at school, and makes himself a bird costume (despite its obvious impracticalities) in order to attract her attention.  There is something a bit ethereal about the story as a whole and the intended audience is not immediately clear to me.  On the one hand, it is a straightforward and quite cute story about a young boy’s first love, but I also sense that there might be something deeper going on within the pages that I am missing.  Whatever the case, this is a surprising and funny story with a distinct visual style and I would recommend it to any lover of quirky picture books as one to keep an (eagle) eye out for.

Brand it with:

Birds suddenly appear; unwieldy costumery; love takes flight

Surely, SURELY, my friends, there is something in this little herd to catch your eye!  Stay tuned tomorrow for an atmospheric and creepy graphic novel perfect for lovers of mystery and magic!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

It’s Random Giveaway Time!

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If you happen to live in Australia, it’s your lucky day, because I’ve decided to throw a random, Australia-only giveaway!

Hooray!

//giphy.com/embed/VPpdwvbhdaj4s

via GIPHY

I have a choice between two books for the winner.  The first is The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis, which we received from HarperCollins Australia for review.  The writing style just wasn’t for us even though from what we’ve read, the story seems to be a gritty sort of survival adventure.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

wolf road

Everything Elka knows of the world she learned from the man she calls Trapper, the solitary hunter who took her under his wing when she was just seven years old.

But when Elka sees the Wanted poster in town, her simple existence is shattered. Her Trapper – Kreagar Hallet – is wanted for murder. Even worse, Magistrate Lyon is hot on his trail, and she wants to talk to Elka.

Elka flees into the vast wilderness, determined to find her true parents. But Lyon is never far behind – and she’s not the only one following Elka’s every move. There will be a reckoning, one that will push friendships to the limit and force Elka to confront the dark memories of her past.

The second choice was sent to us by Allen & Unwin for review and because it is just not my thing, I’m offering it straight up to a more loving home.  It’s Wild One by Jessica Whitman, a romance based around polo and chasing one’s dreams.  Here’s the blurb from Allen & Unwin:

wild one

Love, scandal and seduction in the glamorous world of polo

When Katherine ‘Kat’ Parker wrote and directed a blockbuster movie she became Hollywood’s ‘It Girl’ overnight – until with one flop she wasn’t. Now Kat is back living in Florida trying to find the inspiration to write what she hopes will be her comeback screenplay.

Despite being an exceptionally talented polo player, Sebastian Del Campo has never shared his famous family’s intense passion for the sport. He has, however, excelled at other polo-related activities – like partying hard and having liaisons with beautiful women.

When Sebastian meets Kat he finds her down-to-earth attitude refreshing. Keen to get to know her better, he regales Kat with stories of his trailblazing grandmother, Victoria, who was a pioneering polo player.

Kat’s imagination is fired by Victoria’s story and she realises she’d make a great subject for a screenplay. Seb agrees and the pair head to Hollywood to seek out funding for a film that could make or break both their careers – and their growing feelings for each other . . .

Fun, sexy and entertaining, this novel is about taking a risk to follow your passions in life – and love.

To enter this giveaway and win your choice of one of these two books, simply click on the Rafflecopter link below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ts & Cs are in the Rafflecopter form…oh, and if you are going to leave an email, make sure it is one you check regularly because I have recently had a number of winners miss out on their prizes because they never responded to the emails I sent telling them they had won 😦

Good luck!

Bruce

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Bruce’s MG Reading Round-Up: The “Quite Frightening…ly Good” Edition…

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Welcome, welcome, welcome to another Reading Round-Up (do you feel welcome?)!  Today we are going to encircle a collection of titles for the middle grade age group that are high on humour and jolly good fun.  And zombies and deadly necklaces and mummies and other slightly frightening stuff.  But I’m sure you’re up for the challenge, a brave thing like you!  Saddled up?  Let’s crack on!

Firalphabet soup challenge 2016st up we have Zombified: Outbreak by C.M. Grey, being the third book in the humorous Zombified series.  We gratefully received a copy from Harper Collins Australia for review and wish to offer them our ongoing warm feelings because they provided us with a book to fulfill the “Z” criteria of our Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge!  What a weight off our collective minds!

Zombified: Outbreak (C.M. Grey)

Two Sentence Synopsis:

zombified

Ben, twelve-year-old half-zombie, has his powers under control and life seems to be carrying on as normal, until his older brother, Michael, disappears, leaving nothing but his game machine and a cloud of glitter in his wake. When Ben and Sophie start to investigate, little do they realise that they are about to uncover some secrets that will blow their understanding of zombie issues right out of the water!

Muster up the motivation because…

…this is a fun, adventure-filled zombie romp speckled with illustrations throughout and featuring some larger-than-life (or undeath) characters.  I have been keeping an eye on this series as books have been published but this is the first I’ve managed to pick up.  The back story is briefly explained and I found that I didn’t have any trouble picking up the thread of the story or the characters.  Ben is a super-likable young lad who just seems to want to get on with his half-life and keep outsiders’ knowledge of his “condition” to a minimum.  Sophie is a stalwart friend and I really enjoyed the loyalty that they show each other, even in situations where it may be in the best interests of each to cut ties with the other.  It’s refreshing to see a boy-girl friendship taking centre stage in an age bracket that is often plagued by “boy book” and “girl book” characterisation.  While this was a pretty amusing adventure, with some classic reveals, I think  it is one that will be best enjoyed by the target market, rather than adult readers of middle grade.  Having said that, I think I will be taking some time to seek out the first book in the series to see how Ben ended up as a half-zombie because he’s certainly personable (zombie-able?) enough to make me want to go back for another bite.

Brand it with:

Aaargh! Half Zombies!; Suspicious school staff; Family Secrets

Next up we have Somebody Stop Ivy Pocket by Caleb Krisp, which we received with some trepidation from Bloomsbury Australia for review.  If you have chanced upon our review of the first in the series, Anyone But Ivy Pocket, you will understand from whence our trepidation sprang (sprung? springed?).

Somebody Stop Ivy Pocket (Caleb Krisp)

Two Sentence Synopsis:

somebody stop ivy pocket

Ivy Pocket is working for a pair of unsightly undertakers, reading poems for the about-to-be-deceased to ease them on their way. When Ivy’s necklace shows her images of Rebecca (the supposedly dead), Ivy must try to puzzle out a way into a whole new world and stage a rescue.

Muster up the motivation because…

…it might surprise you to hear, given our rather frosty reception of the series-opener, that I found this book considerably more tolerable than the first.  I will even admit to letting out a few guffaws at Krisp’s pointy, pointy dialogue.  While the inherently irritating Ivy is still up to all her old tricks, they didn’t seem quite so insufferable this time around.  I suspect that the story, which involves some very shady funeral directors, was closer to my preferred narrative in middle grade books.  Having said that, I still couldn’t say that I really enjoyed the book.  Ivy’s inability to take obvious hints with regards to major plot twists was still too infuriating to be borne.  There is something about the character of Ivy that is a bit like Rowan Atkinson’s Mr Bean.  Watching that television show was like watching a car crash in slow motion: everyone but the protagonist could see the outcome, but were powerless to stop it and forced to endure every agonizingly awful second of it.  Except I got many more laughs out of Mr Bean than I have from Ivy.  I suspect that Ivy and I are just too different to be friends.  Still, the lass is getting plenty of love from other quarters so don’t let my curmudgeonly attitude put you off.

Brand it with:

Social ineptitude; Deadly bling; Underhanded Undertakers

Finally, we have a super-engaging encyclopaedia of the damned, of a sort.  We received a copy of Frightlopedia: An Encyclopedia of Everything Scary, Creepy and Spine-Chilling, from Arachnids to Zombies by Julie Winterbottom and Rachel Bozek from the publisher via Netgalley.

Frightlopedia (Julie Winterbottom & Rachel Bozek)

Two Sentence Synopsis:

frightlopedia

Frightlopedia is an easy-to-read collection of a diverse range of scary stuff. From vampires and zombies to bizarre burial practices and creepy insects, Frightlopedia has you covered if you are in the mood for learning about things that go bump (or slither or boo) in the night.

Muster up the motivation because…

…this is actually a really well put-together, informative and fun non fiction text.  Far from being a “kid’s book”, I found myself drawn in to some of the interesting entries, such the monastery whose crypt contains the perfect conditions to naturally mummify corpses so tourists can wander through and have a look.  There are cryptids, bizarre buildings, deathly illnesses and nasty humans to explore and learn about and it’s all set out in an enticing format. Entries are organised alphabetically and there are plenty of absorbingly creepy topics to get one’s teeth into.  Each topic is addressed in one to two pages, accompanied by illustrations or photographs, and some topics even include an activity for kids to complete so that the frights keep on coming.  I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this book and would highly recommend it to the  little creepy kid  fan of frightful happenings of your acquaintance.  It would make a fantastic gift book or the perfect tool to quieten kids down in the classroom!

Brand it with:

Boo-tiful Books; Learning Made Creepy; Faces and Places (you don’t want to meet)

I hope you’ve found something in this lot of frighteningly good middle grade titles and have duly lassoed at least one to drag home to your reading pile.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yarning with Mad Martha about The Birth of Kitaro! (+ a free crochet pattern)

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I am so happy to be with you today my dears for it has fallen to me to introduce you to one of the shelf’s new heroes (and provide you with a free crochet pattern of course!).  We received today’s graphic novel, The Birth of Kitaro by Shigeru Mizuki from PanMacmillan Australia (thanks!) for review and we just fell in love with the little one-eyed yokai boy Kitaro.  Having read Mizuki’s graphic memoir, NonNonBa, a year or so ago, we knew we were likely in for a treat with this collection of short paranormal fiction stories, but we weren’t prepared for how fun and endearing Kitaro would end up being.  But enough shilly-shallying: without further ado, I present to you: The Birth of Kitaro! Here’s the blurb from Goodreads.

Meet one of Japan’s most popular characters of all time-Kitaro, the One-Eyed Monster Boy

The Birth of Kitaro collects seven of Shigeru Mizuki’s early, and beloved, Kitaro stories, making them available for the first time in English, in an all-new, kid-friendly format. These stories are from the golden era of the late 1960s, when Gegege no Kitaro truly hit its stride as an all-ages supernatural series. Mizuki’s Kitaro stories are both timelessly relevant and undeniably influential, inspiring a decades-long boom in stories about yokai, Japanese ghosts, and monsters.

“Kitaro’s Birthday” reveals the origin story of the yokai boy Kitaro and his tiny eyeball father, Medama Oyaji. “Neko Musume versus Nezumi Otoko” is the first of Mizuki’s stories to feature the popular recurring character Neko Musume, a little girl who transforms into a cat when she gets angry or hungry. Other stories in The Birth of Kitaro draw heavily from Japanese folklore, with Kitaro taking on legendary Japanese yokai like the Nopperabo and Makura Gaeshi, and fighting the monstrous recurring villain Gyuki.

With more than 150 pages of spooky and often funny comics about the titular yokai boy, The Birth of Kitaro is the perfect introduction to the award-winning author Mizuki’s most popular series, seminal comics that have won the hearts of Japanese children and adults for more than half a century.

kitaro

So although Kitaro is new to us, he has been kicking around in Japan for many a good long year and is well known there as the yokai boy who is available to assist with all your yokai-removal needs, possessing, as he does, the powers of his Ghost Tribe ancestors.  The book is presented in traditional manga format, so younger readers will no doubt find great amusement in having to read from the back of the book to the front.  Before the comics start there is a short introduction explaining Kitaro’s popularity in Japan and some background about the author.  Then we dive straight in to the story of Kitaro’s birth, in which you will meet possibly the most delightful and charming ghost/zombie/undead couple upon which one could ever lay eyes.  These darling creatures are Kitaro’s yokai parents, and their only desire is to find a safe place for Kitaro to grow up before they perish for good.

Following on from this are bite-sized chunks of adventuresome goodness, as Kitaro steps in to assist with all manner of unearthly problems.  These include, but are not limited to, giant sea-cow-crab monsters, face-stealing spirits and shape-shifting cat people.  While they didn’t particularly scare us as adult readers, the stories are full of strange beings and a mythical world that I suspect most westerners wouldn’t be familiar with, so I think younger readers will appreciate this more as “horror” or at the very least, strange ghost stories, while older readers will just revel in the fun and oddity of it all.  The stories all have a tiny bit of a moral, usually related to someone or other behaving in a way that brings misery down upon themselves.  The individual stories are easy to follow and I can picture the excitement imaginative youngsters would experience on discovering Kitaro and his adventures for the first time.

At the back of the book are a few unexpected and fun activities, including a yokai wordsearch, a drawing activity, a “spot the difference” puzzle and a run-down of all the yokai featured in the stories and their geographical origins. Overall, this is an extremely impressive package and it is clear that the creators of the book have gone to great lengths to make it kid-friendly.

We at the shelf would recommend this book most highly to young readers in the middle grade age bracket or older, who are either capable readers or fans of graphic novels (or both!) and are looking for tales that are good, clean, paranormal fun.

We just loved meeting Kitaro and will definitely be seeking out the second collection of stories (whikitaro eyeball 2ch was published a number of years back) posthaste.

Now is probably the ideal time to point out that in the first story in the collection – that involving Kitaro’s birth –  we came across a character who stole the show and quickly became our favourite little disembodied (then re-embodied) eyeball of all time.  We speak of Medama Oyaji, Kitaro’s father (pictured on the cover above – the green gentleman), who, after the decomposition of his undead body, resolves into a single, sentient and extremely active eyeball.   Recreating this charming little father-figure was just too tempting to pass up and it is for that reason that I am now able to offer you….

A Free Medama Oyaji Amigurumi Crochet Pattern!

As ever, the pattern is written using American terminology, because that’s how I learned first.

You will need:

4mm crochet hook

A large amount of white yarn and smaller amounts of black yarn and the colour you would like to use for the iris (I used green).

A small amount of stuffing

A yarn needle

Scissors

Special stitches:

3dc cluster: make 3 dc in the same st.  Before completing the final dc, remove the hook, place it from back to front in the first dc you made.  Pass the hook through the last dc of the cluster, yo and pull through the first and last double crochet stitches.  This will create a little bobble.

Eyeball (Head)

Using white yarn, make a magic ring and crochet six sc in the ring

  1. inc (2sc in each sc) around (12)
  2. *sc in next sc, inc* x 6 (18)
  3. *sc in the next 2sc, inc* x 6 (24)
  4. *sc in the next 3sc, inc* x 6 (30)
  5. *sc in the next 4sc. inc* x 6 (36)
  6. *sc in the next 5 sc, inc* x 6 (42)
  7. *sc in the next 5sc, sc2tog* x 6 (36)
  8. *sc in the next 4sc, sc2tog* x 6 (30)
  9. *sc in next 3sc, sc2tog* x 6 (24)
  10. *sc in the next 2sc, sc2tog* x 6 (18) Turn eyeball right side out and stuff
  11. *sc, sc2tog* x 6 (12)
  12. sc2tog x 6 (6).  FO.  Thread yarn needle and weave end in and out of final six sc.  Pull tight to close the hole, FO and weave in the yarn end.

Body and Legs

Using white yarn, ch12 and sl st into the first ch to form a circle (12)

1-3. sc in each stitch (12)

4. sc in the next 3sc, 2sc in the next 6sc, sc in the next 3sc (18)

5-6 sc in each sc (18)

Sc in the next 4 sc, to move the beginning st to the centre of the figure’s back

Beginning of first leg:

7. sc in the next 9sc, skip 9sc and sl st into the initial sc to join

8-11  sc in each sc of the first leg (9)

12. *sc, sc2tog* x 3 (6)

13-14. sc in each sc (6)

15. sc2tog x 3 (3)   kitaro eyeball 3

FO.  Cut yarn and pull tight.  Using yarn needle, weave in ends.

Join new yarn in the next unworked sc of round 7.

Repeat rounds 8 to 15 to create the second leg. FO, weave in ends.

Stuff the body and legs lightly and attach to the bottom of the eyeball/head.

Arms (make 2)

Using white yarn make a magic ring and sc 6 into the ring.

1 – 5. Sc in each sc (6)

6. sc in next sc, 3dc cluster in the next sc, sc in next 2sc, 3dc cluster in the next sc, sc in the next sc (6)

7. Sc2tog x 3 (3)

FO, weave in end.  Attach arm to body.

Pupil

Using black yarn, make a magic ring and sc 6 into the ring.  Sl st into the first sc.  Pull the ring to close, but leave a small hole.

Change to white yarn.

  1. Ch 1, 2sc in each sc.  Sl St in the first sc to join (12)
  2. Ch1, *sc in the next sc, inc* x 6, sl st in the first sc to join (18)

Change to black yarn

3. Sl st in each sc around (18)

FO.

Using the colour of your choice, embroider colour lines onto your pupil, adding a small white square in the original black magic ring.

Attach your pupil to your eyeball/head.

Display your work proudly!

kitaro eyeball 1

So there you have it my dears!  A fantastic paranormal adventure tome and a cute, cuddly eyeball for your very own.  You can thank me later when all  your friends are begging you to make them a charming eyeball companion.

Cheerio my dears,

Mad Martha

 

 

Bruce’s Reading Round-Up: The “Bloomsbury Middle Grade” Edition

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Today’s Round-Up features three middle grade books from the same publisher – Bloomsbury Australia kindly sent us all three, unexpectedly, for review and we loved one, thoroughly enjoyed another and were left scratching our heads at the positive hype we’d heard about the third.  Regardless, we’ve corralled them all here for your consideration. Giddy-up!

First up, we have the one we loved:

Simon Thorn and the Wolf’s Den (Aimee Carter)

Two Sentence Synopsis:  simon thorn

Simon lives a pretty lonely life with his uncle while his mother travels the world for work, offset only by his ability to communicate with birds and animals. When Simon’s mother returns unexpectedly and Simon receives a message from an eagle warning him of danger, everything Simon knows is turned upside down.

Muster up the motivation because…

…although the cover screamed “pedestrian book for reluctant male readers” to me, I loved the unexpectedly complex and twisting plot, where no one is completely trustworthy and motives are as murky as unstrained tea. I knocked the book over in two sittings, such was the pull of the adventure and mystery. Simon is a solid and honourable character who just wants to peel back some of the layers of secrecy that have shrouded his existence for so long and there are many surprises in store for him along the way, none of which I feel I can really talk about because they all relate to twists in the tale. The supporting cast of young characters, including Winter, Ariana, Jam and Nolan are believable and, unusually for most middle grade writing, all carry authentic flaws that relate to their backgrounds and loyalties. While the story does have its typical middle grade tropes – a semi-orphaned protagonist, a potential “chosen one” theme, bullied kid makes good and so forth – these aren’t laboured or made the focus of the plot and instead play an integral part in guiding the twists. Best of all, the ending is almost impossible to pick (although seasoned readers of middle grade adventure fantasy will have their theories early on) because all of the main characters, apart from Simon, have motivations that are partly hidden from the reader. This is the first middle grade offering from Carter (and I certainly won’t be examining her YA work, that looks suspiciously like paranormal romance-y type stuff – blerch!) but I am heartily impressed and looking forward to the next instalment in Simon’s adventures. I would recommend this book highly to readers of middle grade looking for an absorbing take on animal shape-shifters and urban fantasy.

Brand it with:

Pigeons vs Rats, sibling rivalry, choose your side

Next up, we have a reissue of an old classic from a master of middle-grade storytelling:

There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom (Louis Sachar)

Two Sentence Synopsis:  there's a boy in the girls bathroom

Bradley Chalkers is the most obnoxious, odious child in school – even the teachers can’t stand him! But when new kid Jeff, and school counsellor Carla come along, things might start looking up for Bradley, if only he can stop sabotaging himself.

Muster up the motivation because…

…You can’t go wrong with Louis Sachar really, can you? Whenever you pick up one of his books you can be assured of interesting (if, in some cases, annoying) characters, amusing writing and some unexpectedly embarrassing events. There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom delivers in all of these areas. Bradley Chalkers is possibly the most deliberately obnoxious character ever written for this age-group and having a purposefully unlikable main character, while seemingly counter-intuitive, actually drew me further into the story. Apart from a few hints at some frightening events in Bradley’s father’s past, we aren’t ever privy to how Bradley got to be so unpleasant and self-defeating, but it is obvious that his problems are long ingrained and almost expected by all those around him, including teachers. The story rolls on toward an inevitable happy ending (with a few speed-bumps and tough decisions toward the end, of course) and the resulting fond feelings on closing the book are the icing on the cake. One of the great things about Sachar’s books is that there always seems to be room for forgiveness, with the young characters often changing their viewpoints and friendships in an authentic way by the end. And speaking of forgiveness, you would be forgiven for wanting to poke Bradley Chalkers in the eye after the first few chapters. I’d recommend this one for young readers looking for a realistic story of friendship and fitting in, with a good dash of humour.

Brand it with:

That weird kid, no one understands me, pay attention to signage

Finally, here’s the one that didn’t live up to the hype from our point of view.

Anyone But Ivy Pocket (Caleb Krisp)

Two Sentence Synopsis: anyone but ivy pocket

A half-witted maidservant is entrusted with delivering a precious jewel to a certain person at a certain time. She does so, while ignoring obvious cues toward villainy and making up stories.
Muster up the motivation because…

…if you enjoy stories featuring “delightfully” oblivious heroines embroiled in the delivery of a (possibly magic) valuable gemstone that people are prepared to kill to possess, then you will probably enjoy Anyone But Ivy Pocket. This one has been on our radar for a while and having heard that it was a funny adventure, with a strong, unique female protagonist, I was quite interested to dive in to the story. Unfortunately for us, Ivy can only be described as either wilfully blind to obvious social cues or spectacularly unintelligent and self-centred. Either way, it proved to be an excruciating reading experience because Blind Freddy (or Fredrika!) could see the glaring plot points that Ivy was missing. This was clearly intentional on the part of the author and I’m not sure why this technique was employed. As an adult reader, I found it to be tedious at best and I can’t imagine that younger readers would find Ivy’s dull-headedness particularly amusing. The narrative style was flippant and light and overall the book is obviously intended to be a humorous, wacky adventure with two-dimensional characters that each fill a particular function in the story. We just couldn’t get over our irritation with Ivy however, in order to enjoy the actual plot. Regardless, plenty of people have really enjoyed this book, but we shelf-dwellers don’t count ourselves amongst that happy number.

Brand it with:

Are you being served?, mystery maids, wacky historical fiction

Two out of three ain’t bad, as they say, so I hope you have found something here, as we did, to amuse and entertain. Thanks again to Bloomsbury Australia for this Round-Up-worthy haul!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

Double Dip Review Week #4: Fantasy Fiction…

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imageWelcome to our final, filling portion of Double-Dip Review Week!  To finish off I have two fantasy novels for the grown ups that I received from their respective publishers via Netgalley.  Let’s dispense with pleasantries and just dive right into dessert!

First up we have Domnall and the Borrowed Child by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

The best and bravest faeries fell in the war against the Sluagh, and now the Council is packed with idiots and cowards. Domnall is old, aching, and as cranky as they come, but as much as he’d like to retire, he’s the best scout the Sithein court has left.

When a fae child falls deathly ill, Domnall knows he’s the only one who can get her the medicine she needs: Mother’s milk. The old scout will face cunning humans, hungry wolves, and uncooperative sheep, to say nothing of his fellow fae!

Dip into it for…

domnall and the borrowed child…a traditional fae tale that reads like a contemporary novel!  Domnall and the Borrowed Child is a quick read that cuts straight to the action and the reader is never left hanging, wondering what’s going to happen next.  The plot moves apace from the initial trouble – the sick fae child – toward Domnall’s blue-tak and seat-of-your-pants rescue efforts.  For some reason I expected that this would be a far more complex tale, with lots of world-building and conflict between characters, but it turned out to be a straightforward focus on Domnall and his travails.  I actually found this to be preferable, because sometimes you’re just in the mood for a simple story that doesn’t require you to memorise various aspects and characters in a mythical world.  There’s plenty of situational humour here to move things along and I really enjoyed the un-fussy execution of what turned out to be a micro-romp through the problems of being an old faerie in a new world.

Don’t dip if…

…you’re after a complex story with lots of descriptive world-building.  While complex stories with descriptive world-building have their place, this one focuses more on Domnall as a character and his small world.

Overall Dip Factor

While I did expect this to be longer and more involved, I was perfectly satisfied with what I actually got when reading this story.  Domnall is a loveable old rogue, much put upon by the female members of his tribe, and his heart is in the right place.  There’s a bit of slapstick-type humour to go along with the danger and time-running-out factor and the ending left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling and the thought that I’d be happy to return to Domnall and his world if any of his subsequent adventures end up being written down.  Plus, I’ve also only just noticed that Ishbelle Bee has written a positive review on the front cover, so that’s a recommendation in itself!

Next up, I have an offering from Curiosity Quills featuring gods and monsters galore: Homunculus and the Cat by Nathan Croft.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Homunculus and the Cat – Just a typical kitten saves the afterlife story, disguised as a book about death.

In a world where every culture’s mythology is real, Medusa’s sisters want revenge on Poseidon, Troy is under siege again, and the Yakuza want their homunculi (mythological artificial humans) back. Near Atlantis’ Chinatown, a kitten and her human campaign for homunculi rights. Against them are Japanese death gods, an underworld cult, and a fat Atlantean bureaucrat.

The main character dies (more than once) and a few underworlds’ way of death is threatened. Also with giant armored battle squids.

Dip into it for…  homunculus and the cat

…an adventure tale that features gods, monsters, homicidal Japanese death spirits, mythical creatures and cats. Flying cats.  There’s a lot of action in this one with an ending featuring a battle that can only be described as “epic”.  The cat of the title is certainly a likeable and original character and the focus on homunculi rights early on in the book is interesting.  This will be a hit with those who like their mythologies well and truly mashed up.

Don’t dip if…

…you’re looking or a tale with a recognisable mythical world.  The world Croft has created here draws on a lot of different mythologies and seems wholly original.  The downside to that is that in the early chapters, there isn’t a great deal of explanation as to how the various factions interact.

Overall Dip Factor

All in all, this is a satisfyingly humour-filled adventure romp that oozes originality.  You can imagine all the shenanigans that may occur when you have one protagonist with nine lives (and a penchant for giving the forks whether its warranted or not) and a second with no soul but a whole lot of heart.  Add to that war, arson and general political point-scoring and you’ll have a pretty good idea about whether or not this one is for you.

Until next time,

Bruce