Bruce’s Reading Round-Up: Words and Pictures…and a Top Book of 2016!


imageIt’s our very first round-up of the year so I thought I’d go easy on you all and bring you one wordy book and two picture books.  We received print copies of all these delightful reads from Allen & Unwin and Bloomsbury for review.  Lassos at the ready? Let’s ride on in!

First up, from the master of linguistic gymnastics, David Astle, we have Wordburger: How to Be a Champion Puzzler in 20 Quick Bites.


Ten Second Synopsis:

A kid-friendly guide to becoming a wordsmith, covering everything from homophones to palindromes and pretty much everything in between.

Muster up the motivation because:

This book will give you at least some of the skills required to prove you’re the smartest attendee at your next dinner party, even if it is aimed at kids.  The book is divided into sections, each dealing with a different peculiarity of the English language, for your learning pleasure. The sections also include some activities and mini-puzzles to get your brain working as you read. This is definitely not suited for reading aloud, and for the section on homophones, even reading it in your head to yourself comes with a severe risk of brain implosion.  I would recommend this one as the type of book you dip into when the fancy takes you because I found that trying to read the sections consecutively nearly brought on word-related psychosis.  On the plus side, when Letters and Numbers comes back to our screens (come on SBS!) I will now have some extra fact-based barbed prongs in my arsenal, instead of just an inflated sense of my own linguistic expertise.

Brand it with:

Hardcore linguists only need apply; tongue-twister-ific; cryptic captaincy

Next up, a biographical picture book and one of my picks for Top Books of 2016: Elephant Man by Mariangela Di Fiore, illustrated by Hilde Hodnefjeld and translated by Rosie Hedger.

elephant manTen Second Synopsis:

At the age of just a few years, Joseph Merrick begins to develop strange growths on his body and face that will lead to his being known as the “Elephant Man”.   Is there a way that people can look past his appearance and see Joseph for what he really is?

Muster up the motivation because:

This is a fascinating biography, sensitively told, that will pique the interests of the children that the book is aimed at, as well as the adults who read it to, and with, them.  The illustrations are a combination of drawn artworks and collage, featuring actual photographs of some of the main characters, and some of Joseph’s possessions, including a handwritten letter and a cardboard model of a cathedral.  Joseph’s life story is engaging and the tone of the text conveys the yearning that Joseph has to be treated like a human being.  An informative afterword is included that will definitely generate conversation – I for one want to know if Joseph left his skeleton to science and how it came to be on display at the Royal London Hospital museum – and all up, this book feels like a quality piece of work for middle to upper primary school kids.  I would have loved to have seen this work pushed out a little into a narrative nonfiction, middle grade chapter book offering as I think Joseph’s story could really pique the interest of independent readers in that age group (as well as adult readers of middle grade!).  Highly recommended.

Brand it with:

Bruce's Pick

Judging books by covers, facing up to diversity, forging friendships

And from the heartfelt to the zany, we have Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat by Emily MacKenzie…

stanley the catTen Second Synopsis:

Stanley is a committed, generous individual who knits accessories for all his friends.  But when he discovers the Woolly Wonders competition, his new creation may put a few noses (and tails) out of joint.

Muster up the motivation because:

It is well known that we here at the shelf are big fans of textile crafters and some of Stanley’s creations made us quite desirous to own such a piece (the bunny balaclavas particularly).  This picture book is a riot of colour and zany antics and little ones will be drawn to the busy page spreads.  We especially enjoyed one of the final pages in the book, the illustration on which required us to turn the book longways.  We were quite surprised to discover that Stanley’s solution to a lack of yarn for his competition entry was to unravel all the lovely gifts he had made for his friends – we’re not sure we can forgive him for that – but his final product for the competition is a gasp-worthy sight and one that will have the youngsters cheering for our knitting hero.  In fact, the tableful of knitted wonders had Mad Martha sneaking off to see when the textile competition specs for the Ekka and Pine Rivers Show go up – Stanley’s passion for creating epically yarn-tastic creations has rubbed off!

Brand it with:

felines in textiles, fashion accessory design, aeronautical uses of yarn

Thanks again to Allen & Unwin and Bloomsbury for providing the review copies.  I hope you’ve now roped at least one of these books onto your TBR list!

I am also submitting Wordburger and Elephant Man for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas:

alphabet soup challenge 2016

You can check out my progress for the challenge here.

Until next time,