Gabbing About Graphic Novels: Mighty Jack…

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gabbing-about-graphic-novels

Today I’m bringing you another Ben Hatke graphic gem because Ben Hatke is awesome.  I picked up Mighty Jack from the library a week or two ago and I’m pleased to say I enjoyed it even more than the Zita the Spacegirl books.  It’s a big call I know, but bear with me.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Jack might be the only kid in the world who’s dreading summer. But he’s got a good reason: summer is when his single mom takes a second job and leaves him at home to watch his autistic kid sister, Maddy. It’s a lot of responsibility, and it’s boring, too, because Maddy doesn’t talk. Ever. But then, one day at the flea market, Maddy does talk—to tell Jack to trade their mom’s car for a box of mysterious seeds. It’s the best mistake Jack has ever made.

What starts as a normal little garden out back behind the house quickly grows up into a wild, magical jungle with tiny onion babies running amok, huge, pink pumpkins that bite, and, on one moonlit night that changes everything…a dragon.

mighty jack

Target Age Range: 

Middle grade and above

Genre:

Fantasy, fractured fairy tales

Art Style:

Ben Hatke style!

Reading time:

Took me about half an hour total spread over two sittings

Let’s get gabbing:

I’m going to dispense with reiterating how much I love Ben Hatke’s illustrative style and adorable original creatures and just get on with talking about the story.  Although, if you’ll indulge me, this series has a ridiculously cute little onion headed species that Mad Martha is dying to recreate in yarn, but as she doesn’t have the time just now, we’ll have to wait for that particular treat.

This is the good old fashioned kids-stumbling-upon-hidden-magic-right-in-their-own-backyard combined with meeting-a-friend-with-a-bizarrely-cool-skill style of fantasy that anyone who has loved fantasy and magic stories since childhood will definitely appreciate.  Since Jack’s mum has to work two jobs just to make ends meet, Jack is often left to look after his little sister Maddy, who is nonverbal.  When Maddy wanders off at a local market, Jack manages to find her talking to some strange people (who you will certainly recognise if you have read the Zita the Spacegirl series!!) and ends up trading his mum’s car for a box of seed packets when Maddy unexpectedly starts talking.

When the kids plant the seeds in the yard they’re in for a massive shock – because the garden that sprouts is full of sentient plants, adorable onion-headed creatures and some vines that are a bit too grabby for comfort.  When Jack’s swordplay-mastering, home-schooled neighbour Lilly (oh, I’ve only just realised that she has a botanical name…coincidence?) turns up to help out, Jack has to decide whether to trust her and let her into the family’s troubles or take the easy route and keep shutting everyone out.

I love, love, love, love this story.  Apart from the fantasy elements (enormous snails, anyone?) there is a strong subplot about acceptance, trust and the perils of relying on oneself when others are willing to contribute.  Mighty Jack doesn’t have the humorous undertones of the Zita series, relying instead on a sense of adventure and risk to drive a suspenseful, but exhilarating plot.  Once again Hatke has created female characters that are full of depth, with unexpected skills and for this reason, the book will appeal to both boys and girls.  There’s a certain echo of the Spiderwick Chronicles in this story, but Hatke has done it better.  I really can’t wait now to get my paws on the second book in the series – Mighty Jack and the Goblin King – by hook or crook.

 

Overall snapshot:

This is another brilliant addition to Hatke’s growing catalogue of work.  If you haven’t yet introduced his graphic novels or picture books to your younglings, you must really correct that oversight because these are modern classics that deserve to be re-read again and again.

Until next time,

Bruce

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

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

Footloose (Kenny Loggins, Dean Pitchford & Tim Bowers)

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

Two Sentence Synopsis:  

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

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

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

Muster up the motivation because…

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

Brand it with:

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

Big Bash Book 2016-17 (Daniel Lane)

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

Two (well, one) Sentence Synopsis: 

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

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

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

Muster up the motivation because…

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

Brand it with:

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

The Spell Thief: Little Legends (Tom Percival)

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

Two Sentence Synopsis: the-spell-thief

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

Muster up the motivation because…

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

Brand it with:

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

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

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

A Foolhardy Reading Round-Up: Kidlit Titles for April!

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Welcome to April and a Kid-lit-a-thon Round-Up!  Today’s Round-Up features three picture books and two middle-grade graphic novels.  One of these will be submitted for both the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge AND the Title Fight Reading Challenge, but you’ll have to read on to find out which.  We received all of these titles from Netgalley for review.  Now, let’s get (whip) cracking!

Little Red (Bethan Woollvin)

Ten Second Synopsis: little red.jpg

Red Riding Hood with a skandi twist, this book is a retelling with sass.

Muster up the motivation because:

There are a lot of fairy tale retellings getting around at the moment, but the bold, minimalist colour scheme, chunky woodcut-style illustrations and text that oozes subversive wit sets this one apart.  The general arc of the Red Riding Hood story is preserved here, but Red is presented as one independent and resourceful young lass.  The simple combination of red, black and white in the illustrations is incredibly effective and makes this book a joy to look at, as much as to read.  I’d love to see what is coming next from Woollvin and how she might tackle an original story.

Brand it with:

Girl power, Woodland Survival, You’re Axed!

Far Out Fairy Tales (Joey Comeau, Louise Simonson, Sean Tulien, Otis Frampton)

Ten Second Synopsis: far out fairy tales

This is a collection of fairy tale retellings with a definite pop-culture flavour.  Each fairy tale has been modernised with popular motifs, including zombies, ninjas and computer games.

Muster up the motivation because:

Apart from the graphic novel format, the point of difference in this collection is a neat summary at the end of each story giving the differences between the modernised version and the traditional tale.  While I found most of the tales a little bit too contrived for my tastes – the Cinderella ninja in particular gave me reading-indigestion – they are perfectly pitched for a younger middle grade audience and varied enough for at least one or two of the tales to appeal to every reader.  The standout favourite for me was the retelling of the Billy Goats Gruff, set inside a video game with boss fights and dungeon crawling, but the Snow White story featuring robots was also quite subtle and well thought out.  The illustrations are varied in style and because each retelling has a different author, the book has a sense of the original with each new story.  This would be a great pick for youngsters looking for familiar stories in a fun, graphic format.

Brand it with:

Zombies and Ninjas and Robots, Oh My!, graphic tales, fairy tales levelled up

Kuma-Kuma Chan’s Home (Kazue Takahashi)

Ten Second Synopsis: kuma chan

Kuma Chan is an unassuming little bear.  In this tale, a young boy gets an invitation from Kuma Chan to visit his home, resulting in a relaxed day of doing nothing much at all.

Muster up the motivation because:

This is another classic Japanese character that will have you flip-flopping between “Oh, so Kawaii!” and “What on earth is going on here?”  Apparently Kuma Chan, or Little Bear, is a big hit with mini-fleshlings in Japan and this is the second book in the series.  Kuma Chan himself gets around looking rather bemused most of the time, and nothing much happens in the book, aside from the boy’s journey to Kuma Chan’s house, but overall this is just a delightful read.  The fact that the boy and Kuma Chan literally just hang out together in silence for most of the book results in a calming sense of satisfaction with one’s lot.  I will definitely have to seek out the original book in the series and I would love to see what the Little Bear is up to next.  This would be a perfect choice for a reader of your acquaintance who loves books that defy conventional description.

Brand it with:

Chillin’ with my homies, Bear necessities, kawaii

Squirrel Me Timbers (Louise Pigott)

Ten Second Synopsis: squirrel me timbers

A pirate squirrel must follow a map to discover buried treasure.  Will the treasure live up to his expectations? And what’s a squirrel to do with all that booty?

Muster up the motivation because:

If you are a bit over the whole pirate thing that seems to be booming in children’s books these days, I can guarantee that adding in a squirrely twist livens things up nicely.  The rhymes are a little awkward to read aloud at times, but the cheeky illustrations and the unexpected “treasure” are fun and original.  Sammy is a very likeable protagonist and I did have a bit of a giggle at some of the twists in his nutty quest.  This should appeal greatly to young swashbucklers looking for a new perspective on what makes a pirate tick.

Brand it with:

Pieces of eight (nuts), X marks the spot, Treasure hunting rodents

Fluffy Strikes Back (Ashley Spires)

Ten Second Synopsis:  fluffy strikes back

Fluffy, sergeant in charge of Pets of the Universe Ready for Space Travel (P.U.R.S.T.) must come out of retirement to foil an invasion of aliens with spray bottles.  Will Fluffy be able to meet the challenge and rescue the pets in his charge?

Muster up the motivation because:

Despite the utter weirdness of the concept of this graphic novel series, it is actually a guffaw-worthy tale.  This is the second book in the P.U.R.S.T. series and I hadn’t read the first, so I didn’t realise that this was a graphic novel.  This meant I wasn’t prepared for the high level of visual humour contained within this tome.  The concept of the book is a little confusing when read – cats, dogs and other small animals working together in a secret (literally) underground organisation to save the world from aliens (insects) – but makes perfect (and hilarious) sense when absorbed visually.  The humour is actually pretty dry for a graphic novel aimed at kids, but there are plenty of just-plain-funny aspects as well, such as the entrance to the P.U.R.S.T. headquarters being accessed through a litter tray and the alien insects using spray bottles to ward off the cats.  I would definitely recommend this to mini-fleshlings or adult readers looking for a quick, off-beat and strangely compelling graphic novel series that doesn’t take itself – or anything else – too seriously.

Brand it with:

Alien Invasion, Notes from the Underground, Thankless tasks

Yes, you guessed it: I will be submitting Fluffy Strikes Back for both the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge and the Title Fight Reading Challenge.  It fits quite nicely into the first category: something related to fighting in the title.  For more info on the challenge, just click this attractive button!

Title Fight Button 2016

 

Also, you can check out my progress for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge, hosted by Escape with Dollycas, here.

alphabet soup challenge 2016

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

Yarning with Mad Martha about Crochet Stories: Grimm’s Fairy Tales…

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Welcome, my dears, to another yarning session with me, Mad Martha.  If you are a fan of fairy tales and crafting, then today’s book is sure to delight and inspire!  I speak of Crochet Stories: Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Vanessa Putt, which I gratefully received from the publisher via Netgalley, and immediately immersed myself in, hook at the ready.  Before I show you my completed glories, let’s take a closer look at the book itself.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Practitioners of amigurumi, the Japanese art of crocheting stuffed dolls, will adore this collection of sixteen playful patterns for fairy-tale figures. Projects include the witch and the gingerbread house as well as the hero and heroine of “Hansel and Gretel”; the giant and the golden goose of “Jack and the Beanstalk” in addition to the beanstalk and Jack himself; the long-haired captive of “Rapunzel,” her lonely tower, and her rescuer, the prince; the animals of “The Hare and the Hedgehog” plus a juicy carrot; and the wee subject of “Tom Thumb” and his cow.


Clear instructions for creating the characters are accompanied by color photos of the finished products along with charming retellings of all five fairy tales. An introductory chapter offers general notes and tips, including pointers on working in the round, stuffing, measurements, and finishing.

79461-X_Putt_1015ek.indd

Just from that front cover, I could tell that this would be a charmingly whimsical repository of achievable patterns.  What I didn’t expect was the inclusion, before each pattern set, of a traditional version of each fairy tale.  Each of these covered a couple of pages and I felt they were a neat set-up for each of the pattern sets – as well as providing the option for eager mini-fleshlings to act out the story with the dolls as it is being read.

After flipping hastily through the pages, I decided that my first attempt would be creating the witch from the Hansel and Gretel tale, mainly on account of her alluring hair.  You can see the image of the witch on the front cover there – top right hand corner.  I am pleased to say that the pattern was clear and easy to follow and the witch worked up in a jiff!  Here she is:

witchDespite being reasonably experienced at amigurumi, I do think this is a pattern that is simple enough for a beginner to follow, with no particular tricks or traps.  In fact, the witch is probably a bit easier than the standard person shape because she is worked in only two colours and there’s no need to complete legs…so a win for the first pattern I tried!

Next up, I couldn’t resist having a go at the heart-meltingly sweet giant from the Jack and the Beanstalk tale, dressed up as he is in his dear little lumberjack guise.  Bless!  Here he is:

giant

The perfect gift for a hipster, craft-beer-brewing friend! This pattern was significantly trickier than that for the witch because of the colour-changes needed, the addition of legs and the patterning on the shirt.  The giant took me a little longer than expected and I felt that the hook size recommended in the pattern was a touch too big for my preferences, but I am extremely happy with the result of this pattern nonetheless.  Especially the beard – gorgeous!

As well as the people and animals in the tales, there are also structures to craft, including bruce and witchthe witch’s gingerbread house, the beanstalk and Rapunzel’s tower.  I didn’t have quite the level of commitment to go ahead and complete them for you, but they are a fun inclusion (and a worthy challenge) for those who want to make a complete playset.  I absolutely adored the golden eggs in the Jack and the Beanstalk tale, and tiny Tom Thumb would be a fun challenge for those who like to use a smaller hook.

Overall, I was very pleased with this book.  Even though there aren’t any picture tutorials, the patterns are clear and include recommended yarn types and colours.  The patterns cover a range of skill levels and techniques, which are clearly stated at the beginning of the patterns.  I’m not convinced that this would necessarily work for an absolute beginner at crochet, but for those who know the basic stitches and want to branch out into simple amigurumi, this would be a sterling choice!

mountainside dinner

Cheerio my dears,

Mad Martha

 

 

 

 

Bruce’s Reading Round-Up: The Comic/YA/Nonfiction/Picture Book Edition…

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I hope you’ve brought your lasso and a particularly fast horse because today’s Round-Up books are ranging all over the Generic Plains. I received all of these books from their respective publishers via Netgalley, and in this collection we have a set of comics, a YA fantasy, fairy-tale retelling featuring the undead, an almost-wordless picture book and a handy guide for making work a lot more interesting. Saddle up and let’s bring these wildbooks in!

Deep Dark Fears (Fran Krause)

Two Sentence Synopsis:deep dark fears

This collection of 100 comic strips explores the irrational and unlikely fears that many of us keep quietly to ourselves, to avoid being thought mad. You may end up recognising yourself in these pages or, on the other hand, if you’re the suggestible type, you might pick up a few extra fears to go in your emotional baggage.

Muster up the motivation because:

This is a beguiling, sometimes hilarious, sometimes touching, easy-to-peruse collection that would no doubt inspire some classic reactions were you to place it in a conspicuous place and watch people sneak a look. The fears run the gamut from those (I assume) are secretly shared by many, such as running to make a train, then worrying that you actually meant to miss it and will no doubt now be involved in a train wreck, to the (I assume) more obscure and idiosyncratic, such as worrying about falling, biting off one’s own tongue and then being unable to clearly annunciate to the emergency services what the problem is. The illustrations are just charming and lend a wonderful air of levity to the fears. If I were a doctor, or indeed, trained in any profession which requires a waiting room, I would definitely leave this book lying around there to see who picked it up. My favourite fears in this collection are the imposter dogs, the not-immediately-apparent dangers of cookie cutters and the sad past history of mall cops.

Brand it with:

Art imitating life, unnamed fears, schadenfreude

Once Upon a Zombie #1: The Colour of Fear (Billy Phillips & Jenny Nissenson)

Two Sentence Synopsis:once upon a zombie

After Caitlin’s mother disappears, she moves to London with her father and younger sister for a fresh start, a new school and time spent writing for a website detailing the unexplained. When strange sightings are reported in cemeteries around the world however, Caitlin is drawn into a bizarre and chaotic world where fairy tales and nightmares might just come true…if the zombies don’t get you first.

Muster up the motivation because:

If you’re a fan of fairy tale retellings and comedy zombie tales (zom-edy tales?) then you’ll find a lot to enjoy here. The story begins in a fairly YA typical fashion, with Caitlin trying to make her way in a new school, clashing with the popular girls and vying for the attentions of the cutest boy.   It also becomes apparent that Caitlin suffers from social anxiety and the author describes this quite well throughout the various situations that Cailtin finds herself in. I enjoyed the riddle of the cemetery disturbances and once Caitlin “goes down the rabbit hole”, so to speak, the action becomes a lot less typical. While the story is light and filled with humour and banter, there are a bunch of different fairy tale and classic storybook characters included, as well as an undead plague plotline, so I did feel that things started to get a bit unwieldy at certain points. If you enjoy YA that is two-parts expected and one-part nutty, then you’ll get a good kick out of Caitlin’s adventures. This is a book that aims for enjoyment and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Brand it with:

Undead princesses, carnivorous plants, stay off the drugs and stay in school

Moletown (Torben Kuhlmann)

Two Sentence Synopsis:moletown

At first the mole was alone in the meadow but once progress arrives, the mole’s world changes almost beyond recognition. Will the mole be able to hang on to what matters most?

Muster up the motivation because:

This is a beautifully imagined, almost wordless picture book reminiscent of the work of Shaun Tan. The illustrations are atmospheric, with an earthy colour palette that encompasses both the natural environment of the mole’s original habitat, and the dark, dingy pollution brought by progress. The ending is hopeful but poignant and perfectly reflects the challenges of sustainability in a coal-driven world. Moletown would be a canny and engaging choice for the primary classroom exploring environmentalism and the challenges of preserving natural environment in the face of continued urbanisation.

Brand it with:

Scratching the surface, Get out of my personal space, cosy burrows

Tiny Games for Work (Hide Seek)

Two Sentence Synopsis:tiny games for work

Bored at work? This handy pocket guide will provide a wide range of exciting, subversive games to help break the shackles of toil-related monotony.

Muster up the motivation because:

No place of work should be without this compact, enlivening guide. This is a collection of games that can be played alone or in company, within meetings or with (or against!) unsuspecting customers. The games use few or no resources and range from the harmless and hilarious, to the actually quite questionable and likely to get you fired. At the back of the book is a handy index that lists the games under various categories – feeling competitive? Stuck at your desk? – for quick reference. I particularly enjoyed the games designed to be played within meetings – who hasn’t wanted to get back at that annoying brown-noser who won’t stop asking irrelevant, meeting prolonging questions? – and those played using customers as unwitting pawns. The game called “Triangulation”, in which the employee must keep an equal distance at all times between two unsuspecting customers is one that I would quite like to try and, like many of the games here, could be modified to be played outside of a work setting, using the general public. If you happen to work somewhere that could do with some subversive excitement, you could do a lot worse than purchase a copy of this book and share it with likeminded colleagues.

Brand it with:

You lose, watch out Beadle’s about, making one’s own fun, WH&S

So there you have it – a variety of tomes just waiting to be caught, tamed and made to serve humans.  Do tell if there’s any that has taken your fancy!

Until next time,

Bruce

A Mythological MG Mystery, Read-it-if Review: The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB…

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Welcome to another Read-it-if Review, where the decision regarding whether to add another book to your tottering TBR pile is made simple by the perusal of a short, attemptedly witty collection of bullet points. Today I have a diverting middle grade read which features Norse mythology, Russian folklore, talking animals and two clued in kid detectives. We received The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB by Adam Shaughnessy from the publisher via Netgalley.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

“What is the Unbelievable FIB?”  

That’s the question eleven-year-old Prudence Potts discovers on a baffling card no one else in Middleton–except ABE, a new kid with a knack for solving riddles–seems to see. Then a mysterious man asks for ABE and Pru’s help investigating mythical beings infiltrating the town, and that’s just one of the things Pru finds hard to believe.

Soon Pru and ABE discover another world beneath the surface of their quiet town, where Viking gods lurk just out of sight. They must race to secure the Eye of Odin, source of all knowledge–and the key to stopping a war that could destroy both human and immortal realms.

Author Adam Shaughnessy draws from classic lore to create a new world where uncertainty opens the door to magic and the last thing you should do is believe your own eyes.

the ubelievable fib

Read it if:

*you believe chicken feet would be a savvy renovation addition for your current dwelling

*you are a dab hand at riddle-solving, and would be over-the-moon (as opposed to mildly confused or completely creeped out) to find a mysterious note from an unnamed stranger in your backpack

*you are convinced that hanging out at the local watchhouse and chatting to interesting inmates will reap benefits in an as yet unimagined future scenario

*you really love middle grade fiction that is fun, fast-paced and cleverly blends myth, fairy tale and good old fashioned detective work

I was pleasantly surprised by the Unbelievable FIB in that it was a while between when I requested it for review and when I actually got to reading it, so I had forgotten that it featured Norse mythology. Now, I haven’t read many books featuring Norse mythology, so this felt quite fresh and shiny-new. I can’t say if it would feel the same for seasoned readers of Norse-mythology-based books, but the blend of the mythological with elements of the Baba Yaga fairy tale really set off the exciting, puzzling detective bits of the story.

Pru and ABE are both likeable characters and neither felt particularly clichéd to me, which is always a relief. Pru is an intrepid, cheeky, forthright young lady who has recently experienced the loss of her father, a police detective, while ABE is the reserved, quietly clever, new kid in town. Together, their skills complement each other and provide all the resources necessary to get to the bottom of some of the stranger happenings that have been occurring around town. There are also enough eccentric and shady adult characters here to keep the kids (and the reader!) on their toes regarding who can be trusted – there’s Pru and ABE’s teacher, the pompous Mrs Edleman; the kindly Fay Loningtime; the enigmatic and reclusive Old Man Grimnir; the dashing and unexpected Mister Fox and a very odd looking customer residing in the town’s watchhouse.

The author has done a great job of keeping the explanations of the more complex aspects of Norse mythology contained within the story. The various salient parts of the myths are related in a variety of ways – through a story read for the main character’s homework, for instance – which avoids any slowing of the plot while important world-building and background knowledge is given. Shaughnessy has also employed a light and humorous tone throughout, with lots of banter and quippery, which made this story very enjoyable to wander through.

Overall, this story felt like a breath of fresh air in the crowded marketplace of middle grade fiction, in which one often comes across the same sorts of stories told in similar sorts of ways. While this isn’t so outrageously original it blew my mind, it was definitely different enough from other recent releases that it made me sit up and take notice.  If you have a young reader in your midst who loves solving mysteries and enjoys a bit of fantastical adventure, then I would definitely recommend placing The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB in their hands…or at least within easy reach.

Until next time,

Bruce

Bruce’s Reading Round-Up: The Odd MG Edition…

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Welcome wild readers to another Reading Round-Up, where we take a look at the books that I’ve had round the shelf f recently, but can’t quite fit into the usual blog schedule.Today’s round-up features a whole bunch of books with an odd element – odd characters, odd worlds, odd takes on old favourites – and most of these offerings are fit for middle-grade readers and older.  Mounts at the ready? Let’s round ’em up!

Chimera: Book One (Phil Gomm)

imageTwo Sentence Synopsis:

Kyp finds himself lost in a strange world of discarded things when his not-parents commit an act of treachery.  It is up to Kyp to use his wiles and protect his Elsewhere Light as he fights his way past the deadly detritus of human memory and makes his way home.

Muster up the motivation because:

Gomm has created a new and different world from a concept that has endless possibilities.  Like a beautiful hybrid between Labyrinth and Attica (one of the shelf’s favourite ever books, by Garry Kilworth), the story weaves between danger and discovery with something unexpected at every turn.  Filled with incredible descriptions that bring the story to life, the only thing missing here is a slew of pen and ink illustrations to round things out.

Brand it with:

Strange new worlds, now where did I put that, anthropomorphic furniture, treachery and betrayal      

Check out my Goodreads review here!

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

 

Doctor Who: Lights Out (Holly Black)

doctor who lights outTwo Sentence Synopsis:

An alien with an unfortunate past finds itself next to the Doctor in the queue for the third-best coffee in the universe.  Unfortunately, a number of their fellow queue-ers (queueees?) don’t survive to get a stamp on their loyalty cards.

Muster up the motivation because:

Hey, it’s the new Doctor so it’s as good a chance as any to get to know more about him outside of the television representation. Also, this is Holly Black’s first ever contribution to the Doctor Who stories and she’s done an alright job here.  As this is part of the eBook Shorts series featuring a different Doctor per story, it’s also an excellent opportunity to dip a toe into the storybook world of the Doctor in a super-quick, achievable in one sitting read.

Brand it with:

Caffeine and Health Risks, mutants scorned, shady scientists, nyctophobia

Read my Goodreads review here!

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

Lights Out is also going to be my entry in Category 3 of the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge for this year – a book with a specific time in the title. Which means I only have one category to go – wahoo!

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And now I bring to you an offering in my Fairy Tale Makeovers Review Series – it’s been a while I know, but to make up for the time you’ve had to wait I now present you with two reimagined tales.

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Moldylocks and the Bear (Bertram Boo)

moldylocksTwo Sentence Synopsis:

Moldylocks loves bears and can’t wait to audition for the main bear role in the town production of Grizzlylocks. When real bears move into town Moldy sees an opportunity to discover how to go full bear and win the part – but only if the machinations of the Stinkpot family don’t see the bears run out of town first.

Muster up the motivation because:

Fairy tales and zombies are a natural pairing really, aren’t they?  This is the second offering in the Plainfield Chronicles, which started with Scar and the Wolf, and is significantly longer with a plot that features the difficulties of interspecies (and inter-life-status) relations, alongside a coming-of-age, becoming your true undead self, feel-good story.  It’s the perfect antidote for those who are well and truly over the saccharine sweet Disney versions of the traditional fairy tale.

Brand it with:

shuffling hordes, conspiracy and blackmail, pushy stage parents, going full bear

Read my Goodreads review here!

* I received a copy of this title from the author in exchange for an honest review *

 

Cinderskella (Amie & Bethanie Borst)

cinderskella  Two Sentence Synopsis:

After her mother’s death, Cindy discovers that she has the power to turn into a skeleton at night. Can Cindy turn this curse into a blessing or is she destined to gross-out potential dates forever?

Muster up the motivation because:

This is a surprisingly complex and original take on a tale that has been reimagined to the nth degree. While the narrative style is certainly pitched to appeal to pre-teen girls, there is a really enjoyable story with plenty of original elements waiting to be discovered by those outside this age-range.  Plus, there are some classically terrible bone-related puns in here that can be tucked into your repertoire for later use on unsuspecting passers-by.

Brand it with:

recently deceased, And-you-thought-you-had-styling-problems, character cameos, the anti-princess

Read my Goodreads review here!

I hope one of these oddities has sparked your interest enough to go out and round it up.  Stay tuned tomorrow when I participate in the Getting to Know You blog hop and giveaway – there’ll be another chance to win some of my favourite books, odd and otherwise.

Until next time,

Bruce