Waking the Panda? Well that would be PANDAMONIA! (+an AUS giveaway!)

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pandamonia

Did you hear the one about the writer and illustrator who walked into a zoo?  No, neither had I until a copy of Pandamonia by Chris Owen and Chris Nixon landed on our shelf, kindly provided by Fremantle Press!  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

When visiting the zoo, whatever you do, DON’T WAKE THE PANDA! Join
in the fantastic fun as one grumpy panda sets off a frenzy of wild partying.

Fremantle Press seem determined to outdo themselves with picture books that might inspire a less scrupulous reader to find the nearest box cutter and carefully remove individual pages in order to frame and display said pages on the wall as works of art.  The artwork in Pandamonia is certainly worthy of such display, from the monochromatic endpapers, featuring the titular panda in a variety of somnolent poses, to the inner pages that become increasingly crowded with bold, cheeky prints of animals of all descriptions.  I can safely say that I have never seen a cuter tapir, nor indeed a more striking and noble yak as those contained within these pages.

The text takes the reader on a journey through a remarkably extensive zoo, all the while exhorting the reader not to wake the panda, under pain of wild rumpus from the zoo’s other inhabitants.  Beginning with the near-negligent threat of some jumpy hippos and tickly termites, the dangers become ever more complex as more animals and birds are added to the mix.  For teachers looking to introduce the concept of onomatopoeia to enquiring young minds, one could do a lot worse than to read them this tome as it is replete with yowling, screeching, yakking, humming and all manner of words that bring the sounds of the zoo to chaotic life.

The rhyming text begs to be read aloud and the changes in rhythm throughout allow the reader to speed up or slow down the pace as the need arises.  The amount of text was just slightly too much for the eldest mini-fleshling at 5 years old; he was desperate by the halfway point for the panda to awaken!  But as with all rewards worth having, good things come to those who wait and the reveal at the end was satisfying and funny.

The only thing that could have made this perfect for me would have been the inclusion of a few images of the sleeping panda throughout the book, as a counterpoint to the building cacophony of the other animals.  As it is though, Pandamonia is a marvellously visual picture book that neatly showcases the power of the read-aloud to incite controlled anarchy and joyous din for mini-fleshlings of an adventurous (and slightly subversive) countenance.

To ensure that the anarchy is spread around, I am offering one Australian reader the chance to win a copy of Pandamonia, thanks to Fremantle Press.  To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter link below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Until next time,

Bruce

Moose on the Loose: A Double-Dip Review…

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If the sight of a pair of enormous antlers sets your heart a-flutter, you are in for a treat today because we have TWO moose-themed, illustrated children’s books for your perusal.  We received both of these gems from their respective publishers via Netgalley.  Grab yourself a hearty snack and let’s strike out into the wilderness!

First up, we have Too Many Moose by Lisa Bakos, a cautionary tale about the perils of online shopping.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

When Martha gets an unusual pet, she’s delighted by all of the fun things they do together. If one moose is this marvelous, then more moose must be even better! Pretty soon, Martha has more moose than she can handle in this playful pet story.

Dip into it for…

too many moose

…more moose than you can handle and an endearing, and extremely funny, animal romp.  This book is so delightful I could barely handle all the excited frollicking that goes on throughout.  Martha, heartened by the success of ordering one moose from a catalogue, falls into that trap for young players at online shopping and ends up with an unwieldy amount of moose.  She eventually finds a solution that suits everybody and all is well, but in the meantime, things get a little hairy around Martha’s house.  I am always impressed with illustrators who can make such hilarious facial expressions on animal characters, and Martha is a wonderfully independent little soul and, in the end, a responsible pet owner.

Don’t dip if…

…you don’t like moose.  Or online shopping.  That is all.

Overall Dip Factor:

I absolutely loved this tale.  The rhyme and rhythm is spot on for reading aloud and little ones will appreciate the repeated refrains throughout.  The illustrations are just perfect and the scenes of frivolity (until things go bad, of course) make one wish one had a pet moose of one’s own!  I predict that this will be high on the request list of many a bedtime reading rotation.  Highly recommended.

Next up we have a sneaky TOP BOOK OF 2016 pick!

Bruce's Pick

It’s so good to see a cracking graphic novel, because we’ve had a few misses with the genre so far this year.  Here’s the blurb of Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy by Doug Savage, from Goodreads:

The forest is full of danger . . .  but help is here. Meet Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy, improbable pals who use their powers—laser vision and an unrelenting sense of optimism—to fight the forces of evil. Join the dynamic duo as they battle aliens, a mutant fish-bear, a cyborg porcupine, and a mechanical squirrel, learning along the way that looking on the bright side might be just as powerful as shooting a laser.

laser moose

Dip into it for…

…a forest full of danger, an optimistic rabbit and one very vigilant moose.  Never has such a friendship between opposite personalities existed in a children’s graphic novel than that between Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy.  While Rabbit Boy is just happy exploring the forest and meeting animal people, Laser Moose is constantly on the lookout for danger…and his arch-nemesis Cyborgupine (a cyborg porcupine, in case you couldn’t figure that one out).  In four charming and hilarious stories, our intrepid heroes save the forest and learn a thing or two about themselves along the way.  And then there’s the Aquabear.

Don’t dip if…

…you’re not a fan of alternating slapstick and subtle humour in your graphic novel reading.  The stories roll from Laser Moose causing unintentional carnage when wielding his eye lasers, to perfectly timed dry one-liners and back with nary a by-your-leave.  The end frame of the Aquabear story is a fantastic example of this (and I’m not going to spoil it for you, but I will say that it did result in me engaging in a thigh-slapping guffaw).  In some senses it’s pretty childish humour, but if an adult gargoyle can have a good old out-loud-chuckle at these animal antics, it’s got to be pretty sophisticated on some level too.

Overall Dip Factor:

I love this combination of characters – Laser Moose’s tightly wound vigilance is perfectly balanced by the forgiving and personable nature of Rabbit Boy.  The stories are short, so will appeal to young readers who need to take breaks while reading.  The dialogue is such that it will be appreciated by kids and adults alike. As with  most graphic novels, this was way too short for my liking and I’m itching to get my claws on the next in the series (it is going to be a series, right?!).  In the meantime I will have to settle for buying a copy as a “gift” for the eldest mini-fleshling.

A worthy Top Book of 2016 pick indeed, and I thoroughly recommend that you too pick up a copy under the guise of giving it to a young reader of your acquaintance.

I hope you’ve found a moose-y tale to inspire the imagination here!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An MG/YA Double Dip: Sinister Cloaks and Ghostly Gargoyles…

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It’s been quite a while since our last double dip so I hope your condiment of choice isn’t on the turn, but even if it is, you’ll have to buck up, grab a cracker and plunge on in with me. Today I have a middle-grade spooky adventure and a YA ghostly trial for your dipping pleasure. I received both of these titles from their respective publishers via Netgalley. Let’s take a dip!

First up, for the middle-graders (and the middle-grade-at-heart) we have Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

“Never go into the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there and they will ensnare your soul.” Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of Biltmore Estate. There’s plenty to explore in the shadowed corridors of her vast home, but she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate’s maintenance man, have secretly lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember. But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is: a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night.

Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of Biltmore’s owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s true identity before all of the children vanish one by one. Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic that is bound to her own identity.

In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past.

serafina and the black cloakDip into it for…

…a fast-paced story that combines some familiar fantasy tropes with some satisfyingly original elements. The villainous and merciless owner of the cloak actually comes across as pretty terrifying and there is a twist in this tale that I certainly didn’t expect. Young readers who enjoy a bit of darkness in their adventure tales will find new and creepy delights in this one.

Don’t dip if…

…you’re looking for a fantasy/paranormal tale with a simple plot. There are quite a few competing mysteries here, from the question of who the cloaked child-stealer actually is, to why Serafina must not be seen by the owners of the big house. This makes for quite a hefty story, so if you’re looking for a light, fluffy romp, this might be too heavy.

Overall Dip Factor:

Two elements of this tale stood out for me as particularly original and engaging. The initial chapters, in which Serafina (and the reader) first stumble across the man in the Black Cloak are genuinely spine-tingling and the fate of the missing children is an immediate puzzle. Also, the twist at the end of the book, in which Serafina finds out some important information about her past, gave an original and unexpected boost to the resolution of the story. These elements lifted this one out of the common herd for me and should provide a bit of solace to world-weary readers of MG fantasy.

Now, for a marginally older audience, we have Girlgoyle by Better Hero Army. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Tiffany Noboru has just awaken from her death, only to be drafted into the Gargoyle Ghost Hunter Corps. Soon she is fighting jealous rivalries within her own ranks, struggling to unravel the mystery of her recent death, and trying to avoid being killed a second time by a maniacal ghost named Bones who is seeking the destruction of the gargoyle world.

In this full-length novel, appropriate for teens and young adults, a new twist on the role of gargoyles is imaginatively brought to life in spellbinding fashion. Woven in are twenty original works of art by Miimork, which breathe life into its ghostly pages.

girlgoyle

Dip into it for…

…Gargoyles! Obviously. This is a unique take on the “afterlife” fantasy sub-genre and while the world-building is a little confusing at times (due in part to Tiffany’s own confusion over her untimely death) it’s not something you see every day. The first half of the book focuses on Tiffany unravelling the mystery of where she is (and learning how to fly!) and there’s plenty of action in the second half of the book, during which Tiffany and her fellow gargoyles attempt to bring low a seriously unhappy ghost and his army.

Don’t dip if…

…you’re looking for something pacey, with a recognisable fantasy world. Because the gargoyley afterlife is such a different concept, a fair bit of time is devoted to steeping the reader in its workings and this does result in a slow start to the story. The pace does pick up eventually, but the leisurely pace in the beginning may put some readers off.

Overall Dip Factor:

This was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed the appearance of gargoyles in such a surprising and unexpected world, but I did feel a bit all at sea during the initial world-building phase. The artworks throughout the book really added to the reading experience, and I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of Tiffany learning how to fly (and plummet!). I suspect this might appeal to a niche market of fantasy fans looking for a twist on the angel/demon dichotomy.

So there you have it. Wipe the corn-chip dust of your hands and add these little gems to your TBR!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

The Case of the Cursed Dodo (The Endangered Files #1): A Maniacal Book Club Review…

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image manical book club button

It’s time for another gathering of the Maniacal Book Club and this time we have an offering that will also fit comfortably into category two of the Oddity Odyssey Reading Challenge: books with an odd author.  For you see, this book is penned by a Giant Panda. Who happens to be a detective.  The book also fits quite nicely into category three (books with odd subject matter) as the noir style is not one often seen in books for middle-graders, nor is the fact that the story is written in the format of a chaptered screenplay.  So pretty odd all round, I should think. Allow our discussions about this odd little contender to sway you towards taking a walk on the wild side.

Jake G. Panda is a bit of a loner.  The in-house detective at the Last Resort, a hotel refuge for endangered species, attracts trouble like spilled sugar attracts ants.  When Jake gets a phone call from his Professor friend that is cut suspiciously short, the detective hightails it straight to the last known deserty whereabouts of his friend to get to the bottom of things.  Captured by a smuggling cartel, Jake and an unlikely band of fellow endangered animals escape and return to the Last Resort to sort out the mystery of a lost suitcase and a jade Dodo.  But at least one familiar face from Jake’s past has got there first.  Can Jake keep his wits about him and unravel this age-old mystery or will some double-crossing creatures rain on his parade?

the case of the cursed dodo

maniacal book club guru daveGuru Dave

Ah, the panda. So alone and yet, he pretends to enjoy his lonely existence. So it must be for many who find themselves endangered.  The message then, is to lean on one’s friends, to see one through the tough times.

But at the same time one must beware upon whom one leans – because the smiling face of a friend could simply be a mask behind which a deadly assassin hides.

Or perchance not.

maniacal book club toothlessToothless

No dragons in this book.  But there were some cool lizard-type guys and a really cool snake.  That’s close enough I suppose.  There was lots of action and animals being captured and escaping and stealing things and swapping stuff around.  There was lots of mystery which was pretty cool.  And there are some nasty rats.  I would have liked to eat the rats.  Jake G. Panda seems like a cool customer.  Maybe he can take me on his next case.

Mad Marthamaniacal book club martha

Take some advice

from the school of hard knocks,

Should you move to the desert

Take sand-proof jocks.

 

maniacal book club bruceBruce

I was surprised by the originality of the format of this book.  When I heard this was pitched at middle-graders, but had a noir flavour, I wasn’t sure how the author was going to pull it off.  Noir is not my favourite narrative style, and I wondered how the gritty overtones would suit a book for a younger audience.
I needn’t have worried.  The book is written like a screenplay, with most of the noir elements contained in Jake’s introspective voiceover monologues.  These all have a bit of a tongue-in-cheek vibe and there’s plenty of dry humour throughout the book, as well as a few slapstick scenes thrown in for good measure.  Reflecting on it, it reminded me of movies like the Naked Gun, but aimed at kids.

For the most part I enjoyed the twists and turns and the action-adventure scenes throughout the book, but I felt that the inclusion of an old flame of Jake’s around about the middle of the book slowed things down a bit and I’m not sure how that storyline will appeal to young readers.  Other than that though, there are thrills, spills, mystery and mayhem and a whole slew of obscure endangered animals to whet the curious appetite.

This series of books is something really different for this age-group and the illustrated format and the interesting narrative style will no doubt have fans of Jake G. Panda holding their collective breath for the next instalment.

Overall Rating:

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(Noir of any kind is not Mad Martha’s cup of tea)

Oddity Odyssey Challenge Progress Total: 1 of 16 books

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Secret Santa Squirrels: A Cheeky Christmas Haiku Review…

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Feliz Navidad munchkins! It’s Mad Martha with you today playing the role of jolly little elf, with a haiku review of a cheeky Christmas-y picture book, just in the nick of time before the big event.  Carefree, pint-sized author Hazel Nutt asked whether I wouldn’t let you all know about this little gem and I have agreed, so without further adieu, I present to you, Secret Santa Squirrels!

secret santa squirrels

This book attempts to answer the age-old question: How does Santa deliver so many presents in just one night?  Does he use magic? A high-powered stocking-seeking present missile? Unmanned drones?

Nope.

Apparently it’s a combination of reindeer droppings and squirrel magic.  Bet you didn’t see that one coming!  Here is an image of the beginning of the process:

reindeer poo

And I can assure you, those aren’t chocolate rumballs being cheerfully cast aloft by those reindeer.

I will allow you to discover the details for yourself as you delve into this short, sweet, rhyming picture book, but allow me to say, it appears that Santa is onto a pretty eco-friendly and labour efficient method here.

Christmas news just in!

Think your gifts just appeared there?

Kindly wash your hands.

While some of the scanning in the rhymes is a little bit stilted, subversive kids of all ages will love the idea that their presents were once poo.  This would be a great pre-Christmas giggle for any slightly cynical little elves in your dwelling.

And for those who live in countries that don’t have squirrels – mine being one of them – I have been assured by the author that there is an entire underground network of creatures that take on local work for Santa at this time of year.  Sharp-eyed Australian and Kiwi residents might even spot some possums fulfilling poo-to-present duties if they glance out at the right moment on Christmas eve.

It’s available at Amazon if you want to be the first in your community to crack this Christmas secret wide open.

Ciao for now chums,

Mad Martha

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