TBR Friday: Over My Dead Body…

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TBR Friday

Following hot on the heels of last week’s TBR Friday, I have another contribution for my Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017 climb! I’ve snuck in a sneakily short read that’s been sitting on my TBR shelf for ages.  It wasn’t on my list to get through this year but because it was so quick to read, and I’m behind on my review schedule, I thought I’d knock it over and at least feel like I was making progress toward some kind of reading goal.  This week it’s book two in Kate and Sarah Klise’s 43 Old Cemetery Road middle grade series, Over My Dead Body.

Ten Second Synopsis:

Following on from the events of book one of the series, 43 Old Cemetery Road, abandoned child Seymour Hope, cranky writer Ignatius Grumply and ghostly Olive C. Spence are dwelling happily at Spence Mansion, when nasty sort Dick Tater investigates the living arrangements, and throws Seymour in an orphanage and Ignatius in an asylum.  Determined to reunite, Olive must put her ghostly skills into action to defy Tater and bring her boys home.

Time on the TBR Shelf:

Three years less a month.  Bought in July 2014!!

Acquired:

From the Book Depository.  I bought all four of the books in the series at the same time and have since left all but the first languishing on the shelf.

Reason I haven’t read it yet:

It’s a short book so I’ve always had the feeling that I could rip through it any old time.  Of course, with its series brethren on the shelf there has always been the lingering sense that I’d have to read them all at the same time.  Still, this is no excuse, because I could probably get through all of them in less than two hours total.

Best Bits:

  • I had completely forgotten that these books are formatted as a series of letters, newspaper articles and illustrations (which means I’ll also be submitting it for the Epistolary Challenge – hooray!).  In fact, Olive, the ghost, ONLY communicates through letter writing (and interrupting other people’s written work).  The constantly changing fonts and heavy emphasis on illustration is a major strength of the series.
  • I had sort of forgotten what had happened in the first book, since it’s been three years since I’d read it, but it was easy enough to pick up again.  The book has a little illustrated recap at the start so any readers new to the series will be brought up to speed.  It was interesting to see Ignatius being not so grumpy this time around, but Seymour’s parents are even nastier and more conniving here, if that’s possible.
  • Once again, Olive is beguiling as the ghost of an elderly mystery writer.  I loved how the townsfolk help her out despite claiming not to believe in her existence.
  • I still think this series is an absolute winner for early middle grade readers.  The story is quick and engaging, the format is brilliantly accessible and the characters are quirky enough to keep the attention.

Less Impressive Bits:

  • This story didn’t grab me quite as much as the first book did.  The plotline of Dick Tater trying to burn books and cancel Halloween seemed a bit silly really.  Luckily, it’s such a quick read that even if the story was a bit underwhelming, the format and the brevity make up for it.

On reflection, was this worth buying?

I’m glad I’ve got the series ready to go, because I want to see if the next book is as good as the first.

Where to now for this tome?

Not sure.  I might hang on to all the books til I’ve finished the series, then put them in Suitcase Rummage as a set.  Or donate them to the mini-fleshlings’ school library.

And with that, I have reached Pike’s Peak – twelve books – and my Mount TBR Challenge goal for the year.  I haven’t officially made the decision to extend my goal yet.  I’m going to ponder it a little more.  Stay tuned!  And you can check out my progress toward this year’s reading challenges here.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Fi50 Reminder and an Inspirational Early Chapter Book

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fi50

It’s that time of the month again – Fiction in 50 kicks off on Monday!  To participate, just create  a piece of fiction or poetry in fewer than 51 words and then add your link to the comments of my post on Monday.  For more information, just click on that snazzy typewriter at the top of this post.  Our prompt for this month is…

button_that-old-wives-tale (1)

Hope to see you there!


Ballerina Dreams: A Tale of Hope, Hard Work and Finding Your Groove…

 

ballerina dreams

Ballerina Dreams by Michaela & Elaine DePrince.  Published by Allen & Unwin, 24th May 2017.  RRP: $14.99

 

The world of early chapter books seems to have expanded greatly since I was a youngling and nowadays there are a plethora of beautifully presented, exquisitely formatted, engaging and accessible stories out there for newly confident readers.  Ballerina Dreams: A True Story by professional ballet dancer Michaela DePrince and her adoptive mother Elaine is one such story.  We received our copy from Allen & Unwin for review and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

At the age of three, Michaela DePrince found a photo of a ballerina that changed her life. She was living in an orphanage in Sierra Leone at the time, but was soon adopted by a family and brought to America. Michaela never forgot the photo of the dancer she once saw, and decided to make her dream of becoming a ballerina come true. She has been dancing ever since, and after a spell as a principal dancer in New York, now dances for the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam.

Beautifully and gently illustrated by Ella Okstad, Ballerina Dreams is the younger-reader edition of Michaela DePrince’s highly moving memoir, Hope in a Ballet Shoe.

Not being a particular fan of ballet, I was a bit trepidatious going into this book, but I was drawn in by the young, brown-skinned girl on the cover.  I happen to have some familial ties with a fantastic blog called FleshTone, that promotes representation of all skin colours in all areas of everyday life, from underwear to toys and beyond.  FleshTone, driven by its founder, Tayo Ade, has a particular focus on dancewear for darker skinned performers, because bizarrely, despite the fact that there must be thousands upon thousands of non-white people involved in dancing worldwide, production of flesh-coloured dancewear to suit such people is hard to find.  I immediatley wondered, while reading this book, whether Michaela DePrince has trouble finding flesh-coloured dancewear to suit her fleshtone…but I digress.  Back to the book.

Ballerina Dreams is the early reader version of DePrince’s memoir Hope in a Ballet Shoe.  DePrince herself hails from Sierra Leone, where she lived in an orphanage after her parents were killed in the war there.  Adopted by Elaine DePrince, along with her best friend and several others from the orphanage, Michaela moves to the USA with her new family and is able to pursue the dream she has fostered since finding an abadoned magazine with a picture of a dancer on the front: to learn ballet.

The story touches briefly on DePrince’s struggles as a dark-skinned dancer in a world in which such dancers are scarce, before ending on her accomplishments as a professional dancer and her desire to inspire and encourage other young people of colour to pursue their dreams with hard work and patience.

The book is beautifully presented, with large print and colour illustrations throughout, appearing both as full page spreads and wrapped around sections of text.  As such, the story will be accessible for young readers as both a read-alone or a read-aloud with an adult.  It’s wonderful to see that books – and particularly nonfiction books – highlighting individuals from diverse backgrounds are being published for this age group.

I would highly recommend this engaging tale for young fans of dance and those who enjoy true stories told in accessible ways.

I’m submitting this book for the Popsugar Reading Challenge in category #32: a book about an interesting woman.  You can check out my progress toward the challenge here.

Until next time,

Bruce

Meandering through Middle Grade: Spy Toys

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meandering-through-middle-grade

As a kid, did you have a teddy bear whose ears were slightly nibbled at the edges?  Or a doll whose hair would never quite sit flat?  Then today’s book is for you, and all the kids out there who appreciate toys that aren’t exactly how they are depicted on the box. Today I bring you Spy Toys by Mark Powers, which we received for review from Bloomsbury Australia and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

The world’s leading toy manufacturer makes playthings for the rich and famous, and every toy they create contains a tiny computerised brain and a unique personality. These toys are seriously awesome! But every so often there’s a faulty toy …

Dan is a Snugliffic Cuddlestar bear – he should be perfect for hugging. But because of a faulty chip, Dan is so strong he could crush a car. Thrown on to the rejects pile, he meets Arabella, a Loadsasmiles Sunshine Doll, who has a very short temper and is absolutely NOT good with children. Soon Dan, Arabella and Flax (a custom-made police robot rabbit gone AWOL) are recruited by Auntie Roz, the ‘M’ of the toy world, and together they make up THE SPY TOYS.

Their first mission: to protect the prime minister’s eight-year-old son from being kidnapped ..

 

spy-toys

Spy Toys by Mark Powers.  Published by Bloomsbury Australia, 12th January, 2017.  RRP: $12.99

 

We on the shelf, being a little bit not-quite-right ourselves, thoroughly enjoyed this original, fun, fast-paced, funny early middle grade offering.  Dan is a teddy bear designed for hugging but could crush a child with his malfunctioning strength chip.  Arabella is meant to bring sunshine into a little child’s life, but has a snappy comeback that could burn your ears off.  And Flax…well, he’s a bunny with a problem with authority.  These three toys, after managing to save themselves from the reject pile, are charged with the job of protecting the Prime Minister’s son – what better way to hide bodyguards in plain sight, than to disguise them as toys? – and so the intrepid trio become…Spy Toys!  While it’s a steep learning curve for our sharp-clawed, sharp-tongued and sharp-eyed friends, they must do all they can to protect the Prime Minister’s son from a criminal gang run by an elephant-human hybrid ex-circus clown, or perish in the attempt.

This early chapter book is pure, unadulterated fun from beginning to end, with oodles of line drawings throughout to add zest to the action.  There’s no mucking around with boring filler either: from the moment Dan is singled out as a defective toy it’s non-stop action, escapes and chases until the thrilling (and quite dangerous!) finale.  Clearly the author isn’t afraid to throw in a bit of silliness – the human-animal hybrid gang being a case in point – but there are also some nicely touching scenes in which the Prime Minister learns a bit about being an attentive parent – awwww!  The Snaztacular Ultrafun toy factory also had something of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory about it – I can imagine kids desperate for a golden ticket to visit such an exciting place!

The three heroes are loveable, in a defective sort of way and I can’t wait to see where this series goes next.  As an early chapter book, it’s the perfect length for newly independent readers who love action, adventure and comedy all rolled into one.

For the device-happy reader, the book also has an accompanying app, in which the user must help Dan the bear leap over barrels and boxes on a conveyor belt to avoid being dumped down the reject toy chute at the Snaztacular Ultrafun factory.  The game is almost embarrassingly simple, but the eldest mini-fleshling in the dwelling (at six years old) proclaimed it the “best game ever” and got far more mileage out of playing it than I would have expected.  It’s also a satisfyingly small download so you don’t have to worry about it taking up too much space on your phone or device.

Spy Toys is definitely an intriguing opener to the series and I can’t wait to join Dan, Arabella and Flax on their next spy-tastic adventure!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

A Week of Double-Dip Reviews…starting with Middle Grade Fiction (and a Giveaway)!

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imageWell I hope you haven’t been filling up on lots of nutritional reading recently, because the shelf denizens and I have a whole WEEK’S worth of Double-Dip reviews to satiate your cravings.  Today we will be looking at two new release, middle grade, illustrated chapter books (and will have a giveaway to boot!), then on Friday we’ll move on to some delightfully subversive picture books, followed by short story collections on Monday, and rounding out the smorgasbord with adult fantasy fiction this time next week.

Excited? Hungry for good reading experiences? Then let’s get to it!

(You’re wondering about the giveaway, aren’t you?  Just read on and it will all become clear!)

First up we have Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye by Tania Del Rio and Will Staehle, which we received from the publisher via Netgalley.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Meet Warren the 13th, a cursed 12-year-old Victorian bellhop who’s terribly unlucky . . . yet perpetually optimistic, hard-working, and curious. Orphan Warren’s pride and joy is his family’s hotel, but he’s been miserable ever since his evil Aunt Anaconda took over the management. Anaconda believes a mysterious treasure known as the All-Seeing Eye is hidden somewhere on the grounds, and she’ll do anything to find it. If Warren wants to preserve his family’s legacy, he’ll need to find the treasure first—if the hotel’s many strange and wacky guests don’t beat him to it! This middle-grade adventure features gorgeous two-color illustrations on every page and a lavish two-column Victorian design that will pull young readers into a spooky and delightful mystery.

Dip into it for…

warren…an unexpectedly charming main character, a hotel full of adventure and some serious double-crossing.  The book is also illustrated which adds atmosphere to the kookiness of Warren’s hotel.  This is a book for the sleuths and problem-solvers, who will delight in uncovering Warren’s family secrets along with the protagonists and peeling back the layers of a very mysterious quest.  Those who resonate with a downtrodden main character will alternately shake fists at the machinations and rejoice at the foiling of nasty Aunt Anaconda, who is hiding more than just a severe dislike for Warren.  My favourite character was Sketchy – I won’t spoil it for you, but Sketchy is a character that you would certainly not expect to find in the basement of a reputable establishment.

Don’t dip if…

…you’re after a straightforward mystery.  This book is replete with twists, turns, characters hiding their true colours and a plethora of family secrets that will keep the reader guessing throughout.

Overall Dip Factor

Warren the 13th proves the idea that you don’t have to be pretty to be a hero.  While the concept of the story is one we’ve seen many times before, the execution is original and kids who enjoy quirky characters and unexpected plot twists will want to jump in right alongside Warren as he hunts down the All-Seeing Eye – whatever it happens to be.

Now onto a new release AUSSIE early chapter book, Bella and the Wandering House by Meg McKinlay, a copy of which was kindly provided to us by Fremantle Press.  The self-same copy will be available for you to WIN, provided you keep reading to find out how to enter the giveaway.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Bella is very surprised one morning to discover her house has moved in the night – not a lot, just a little. Her parents are too busy to notice, but even they can’t pretend it’s not happening when they wake up to find their house on the banks of a lake. Night after night the house moves and the family wakes to a new location. Unless Bella can solve the mystery, who knows where they’ll end up?

Dip into it for…bella and the wandering house

…a charming and memorable little tale that holds at its heart themes of grief, loss and the bonds between generations.  Unmentioned in the blurb, strangely, is the relationship between Bella and her grandfather, which features largely throughout the whole story and ultimately feeds into the satisfying resolution of the wandering house problem.  McKinlay has a delightful way with words and I couldn’t help but giggle at the description of the house’s long, skinny legs – helped along by the gangly, awkward image in one of the illustrations.  For some reason, I expected a walking house to have either a stout pair of clomping feet or chicken legs, but I enjoyed the choice of lower limb here.  I also loved how determined Bella’s parents were to get to work every day, despite where the house ended up – surely most true-blue Aussies would take a wandering house as an excuse to bludge off work, but not these two!

Don’t dip if…

…you’re after an action-packed adventure story or something to do with magic and mystery.  This is a gentle story, simply told and while the house’s movements are quite amusing, it is also obvious that there is an underlying restlessness driving the plot that is reflected in the worries of the characters.

Overall Dip Factor

Bella and the Wandering House is a heartwarming story that is more complex than it appears.  While young readers will enjoy the fun of having a walking house, adult readers will appreciate the subtle themes about the importance of choice when recovering from difficult circumstances.  Reminiscent of the work of that other Aussie kidlit genius, Glenda Millard, and the mix of adventure and focus on relationships found in Eva Ibbotson’s books, Bella and the Wandering House would make a great pre-bedtime serial read for grown-ups and their mini-fleshlings, or a quick, satisfying read for independent readers who like contemporary stories with a twist of magical realism.  It would also be the perfect stocking stuffer for adult readers dreaming of a seachange!

Giveaway Time!

One of you lucky readers will receive my copy of Bella and the Wandering House – thanks to Fremantle Press for providing the copy!  The giveaway is open internationally and will be open from the moment this post goes live (NOW!) until midnight on Friday the 4th of December, 2015 (Brisbane time!).

To enter, simply comment on this post and answer this question: “What important thing of yours has gone wandering at an inopportune moment?”

One winner from the applicable comments will be chosen by a random number generator, and will have 48 hours to respond to a congratulatory email before a new winner is selected.

Good luck!

I hope this bite-sized snack of middle grade fiction has whet your appetite for more Double-Dip reviews! Stay tuned for double the literary goodness this week.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Bruce’s Reading Round-Up: Scaling Mt TBR in Graphic Novels…and a TOP BOOK OF 2015!

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I’ve been circling these four titles for months now and finally, FINALLY I’ve been able to round them up and drag them off my TBR stack! And as it turns out, one of them ended up being a TOP BOOK OF 2015 pick.  Bonus!

So today I’ve got two graphic novels, one graphic biography and one fully illustrated early-reader type novel.  Two I purchased aeons ago, one I was lucky enough to receive in a goodie bag from my recent HarperCollins BTCYA event and one I received unexpectedly from the publisher via Netgalley.  Let’s saddle up and ride on in!

Nimona (Noelle Stevenson)

Two Sentence Synopsis: nimona

Ballister Blackheart, reluctant villain and archnemesis to Sir Goldenloin has his cosy life interrupted by the unexpected arrival of a young, shape shifting sidekick, Nimona.  As if maintaining reluctant villainy and working to subvert the sinister Institution weren’t trying enough, Ballister now has to deal with a kill-happy teen monster busting down his doors and working outside the rules.

Muster up the motivation because:

This is one of my TOP BOOKS OF 2015, that’s why!  It’s not often that I become absorbed in the plot of a graphic novel, or feel particularly connected to the characters, but reading Nimona felt much like dipping into a complex, twisty novel, except with lots of pictures.  The characters are fleshed out and we’re given wibbly-wobbly glimpses (by way of flashbacks!) into their histories to provide some hint as to motivations and hidden connections.  Nimona is the quintessential, risk-taking teen (or is she?!) and the early scenes between her and Blackheart are laugh-out-loud material.  If that weren’t enough, there are dragons, explosions, hapless minions, fake limbs, poison apples and questions about what Sir Goldenloin keeps down his codpiece to keep it looking so…healthy.  Nimona is the full package – an exciting story with interesting characters, presented in an eye-catching format and topped off with humour and feels.  Yes, I said feels.  If you only read one YA graphic novel this year, make it this one.

Brand it with:

Haters gonna hate; big-hearted villains, fun with flame-throwing

Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven (Brandon Easton/Denis Medri)

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

Two Sentence Synopsis: andre the giant

From his childhood on the family farm to hitting the big time in the wrestling world, this book charts the life story of Andre Roussimoff.  Focusing mostly on his time as a famous wrestler, the book gives an insight into the man behind the legend.

Muster up the motivation because:

It’s like the author saw The Simpson’s joke about Troy McClure’s appearance in the celebrity funeral “Andre the Giant, We Hardly Knew Ye” and decided to right that wrong. If you have any interest at all in Andre the Giant either as a wrestler or a film star, this book will provide plenty of information that is a surprise to you.  The book starts out with Andre’s idyllic childhood in France on his family’s farm – the only time he ever felt “normal” – and progresses through the ups and downs of his wrestling career to the end of his life. His vices aren’t shied away from, and even though my interest in the man came more from his movie appearances, I found it quite interesting to see the world behind the action and showboating of professional wrestling.  Seeing Andre’s struggles with acromegaly, especially toward the end of his life, was quite moving – particularly as he was still wrestling despite being almost unable to move for long periods of time.  This might well be a niche read, being as it is a graphic format and a biography, but I quickly became drawn in to the interesting story behind the “giant” we all know and love.

Brand it with:

Bigger than Ben Hur, Let’s get ready to rumble, Hulk Hogan’s a big girl’s blouse

Salt Water Taffy #3: The Truth About Dr True (Matthew Loux)

Two Sentence Synopsis: salt water taffy

In this third outing for Jack and Benny, forced to spend their summer holiday in tiny Chowder Bay, Maine, the boys stumble across an old bottle and with it, a murder mystery that cuts to the heart of the town.  But will they solve the mystery before the townsfolk do something they’ll regret?

Muster up the motivation because:

This is a fun, quick read for middle graders who like a bit of mystery and adventure in an easy-to-digest package.  I hadn’t read the two prior stories in the series, having chosen to start with number three because the blurb sounded more like my cup of tea than the other two stories, but the book works well as a standalone anyway.  While I wasn’t overly excited by the story itself – the answers seemed to be provided to the boys via verbose townspeople or excessively helpful spirits rather than through the boys’ endeavours – there is enough adventure here to satisfy middle grade readers looking for a brain-break and a bit of escapism.  The book is nicely presented too with the front and back covers bearing vintage-looking ads related to the story and the cartoon style art is eye-catching and easy to read.

Brand it with:

Summer holiday, message in a bottle, angry mobs

The Yeti Files #1: Meet the BigFeet (Kevin Sherry)

Two Sentence Synopsis:

meet the bigfeet

A charming and hilarious easy-read chapter book for kids, somewhere in-between Fly Guy and The Strange Case of Origami Yoda.  The Yeti family, who were forced into hiding after the release of a photo by George Vanquist, the ruthless cryptozoologist, decide to risk it all and meet up for a cracking family reunion.

Muster up the motivation because:

You ain’t never gonna find a nicer bunch of mythical creatures anywhere.  Apart from being packed with illustrations and interesting fonts to aid young readers, our narrator, yeti Blizz Richards, is just a big ol’ marshmallow that you’ll want to invite round to your house for a game of backyard volleyball.  The humour alternates between slapstick and dry and there are plenty of interesting non-yeti characters to liven things up.  While this technically isn’t a graphic novel, the illustrations are an integral part of the story and will draw in reluctant and confident readers alike.  I’m interested in finding out what happens in the later books in this series and will try this out as the first “read-over-a-few-sittings” book for the oldest mini-fleshling in the dwelling.  I’d highly recommend this for youngsters aged 6-9 who are up for adventure and a good laugh.

Brand it with:

Status set to public, outdoorsy fun, family reunions

 *I just knocked FOUR books off my TBR stack!*

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What a relief to actually make some headway into the old TBR shelf!  And with such a fun and engaging set of reads, too.  I hope there’s something in the bunch that has set your eyes alight and encouraged you to add to your (no doubt overflowing) TBR stack. 

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Just Couldn’t Put It Down Giveaway Hop!

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Just-Couldn't-Put-It-Down-July

Welcome to my stop on the Just Couldn’t Put It Down July Giveaway Hop hosted by Stuck in Books!  The hop runs from July 7th to July 20th and features lots of bloggers giving away copies of books they consider to be gripping reads, so don’t forget to check out the linky at the end of this post so you can hop around and try your hand at winning more cool stuff!

The book I am offering today is a middle-grade fantasy book that is told in a series of letters, emails and newspaper cuttings and features pages full of awesome illustration.  I speak, of course of the first book in the 43 Old Cemetery Road series by Kate Klise – Dying to Meet You.

dying to meet you

Once-famous author of children’s ghost stories, Ignatius B. Grumply decides to rent a holiday house for the summer in order to finish writing (well, start writing, actually) his first book in 20 years.  Unfortunately for Ignatius, 43 Old Cemetery Road is already occupied – by 11-year-old Seymour, his cat, Shadow, and the ghost of the previous owner, Olive Spence (who also just happens to be an avid writer. And 197 years old).  So begins an unmissable correspondence betwixt old man and young lad, in which house rules are established and everyone tries to muddle along together.  That is, until Seymour gets word that his parents (who ran off on a lecture tour abroad, leaving Seymour at home) have decided to demolish number 43 – will Seymour and Olive be able to convince I.B. Grumply to help them find a way to save their home?

If I had discovered this book when I was an eight or nine year old, it would have immediately become one of those books that I read and re-read and re-read until the pages were all dog-eared, vegemite stains covered the edges of the pages and the covers were all bloated from having been repeatedly dropped in the bath.  It has all the hallmarks of a modern classic for the younger end of the middle-grade age group – humour, punny names, easy to follow text, eye-catching illustrations, formatting that spurs the imagination, as well as a story featuring ghosts, grumpy (and absent) grown-ups and a big old house with oodles of history.

I’ve immediately purchased the rest of the books in the series (not something I do often, I assure you!) and now I am giving one lucky reader the chance to experience this fun, fantastical series too.

So here’s my giveaway:

ONE winner can choose EITHER:

* paperback copies of the first two books in the series – Dying to Meet You and Over My Dead Body

OR

* a hardback copy of book number one – Dying to Meet You

The giveaway is open internationally, provided the Book Depository ships to your country for free.  Other Ts and Cs are available to view in the rafflecopter form.

click to enter button

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Good luck! Don’t forget to hop around to the other participating blogs. You can find the full list here:

Powered by Linky Tools Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Until next time,

Bruce  

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Jesper Jinx: A Maniacal Book Club Review…

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Morning all, and welcome to another meeting of the Maniacal Book Club! Today we have a middle grade illustrated chapter book that leaves no depth unplumbed in the humorous misadventure category.  It is Jesper Jinx by Finnish author Marko Kitti.  Marko is the first Finnish author we’ve had on the blog so far, so we’ve come over all multicultural.  But let’s get on with it!

Jesper Jinx

Jesper Jinx is an eleven year old boy who seems to attract trouble like nobody’s business.  This book follows some of Jesper’s escapades (two and a half, to be exact), as told to author Marko Kitti.  In the first story, Jesper accidentally gives his cat, Snowy, a new fur colour and in the second, Jesper accidentally gives away some of his best pranks to a teaching insider.  Essentially, this is a written record of the things that can go wrong in hilarious ways when a bored young lad is unleashed upon unsuspecting passers-by. 

Guru Dave

maniacal book club guru dave

My friends, this book is all about learning one’s lesson, about gaining self-control and about turning one’s skills to good, not evil.  Actually, in all honesty my friends, this book is about none of those things.  It is about mayhem and chaos and shenanigans perpetrated upon the unwary and innocent.

The boy Jinx has a telling catchphrase throughout this book: “What harm would it do to have a little fun?” Kitti’s writings recorded here explain fully the extent of how wrong things may go if left in the hands of an unsupervised eleven year old boy.  I fear for the karma of the Jinx boy.

Toothless

maniacal book club toothless

No dragons in this book. There’s lots of trouble though.  And a cat that gets turned red.  And a kid with a moustache – I thought that was pretty funny.  But no dragons.  That’s probably a good thing because Jesper with a dragon could be more than the world is ready for.  Still. It might be more fun if there was  a dragon.

Mad Martha

Jesper Jinx, Jesper Jinx,maniacal book club martha

If he were a girl, you’d call him a minx.

His crazy behaviour will make parents groan,

He probably shouldn’t be let out on his own.

Heed this advice that I freely share::

Should you see Jesper coming, by heavens, beware!

Bruce

maniacal book club bruceJesper Jinx is the kind of book that will have kids aged about 7 and up rolling in the aisles as they read about Jesper’s wildly chaotic adventures.  The book is a short read with a great formatting balance between text and illustrations and will have the young ones (especially boys, methinks) turning the pages until they’ve uncovered the whole sorry tale of Jesper’s antics. The story is packed full of kid friendly humour, like playing pranks on one’s teacher, and is really all about innocent fun.

Kitti’s style is very much like a combination of Roald Dahl and David Walliams, so if you’ve read either of those two authors (and really, who hasn’t?!) you’ll know exactly what you’re in for here.  There’s plenty of silliness and unexpected plot twists that plunge Jesper into even more trouble than before.

Admittedly, this is one of those books for kids that really is pitched to be enjoyed most by kids in the target age range, rather than one that adults will get a lot out of too.  Having said that, it does have all the makings of an engaging, fun, funny and accessible entry point into the early chapter book format and as such, would be perfect for reluctant readers, or as a “just for the fun of it” classroom read-aloud.

You can visit Jesper and find out more about this book and the next in the series at http://www.jesperjinx.co.uk

Until next time,

Bruce (and the club!)

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