A Beautiful, Beastly Double Dip: Gift Books about Repitilia (and other unusual creatures)

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You may have noticed that it is getting to that time of year when it will be impossible to avoid the urging of others regarding choosing the right gift.  If you are looking to escape such urging, you have come to the wrong place, for today I have two beautifully presented books that would make the perfect gift for young readers of your acquaintance with a penchant for dinosaurs and other beastly creatures.  We received both of these tomes from Bloomsbury Australia for review and they have already been pored over by the mini-fleshlings, to the accompaniment of much “Ooohing” and “Ahhing”.

First up, we have Discovering Dinosaurs by Simon Chapman and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

This is the the most thrilling, adventure book, ever! Written by a real-life adventurer, Simon Chapman, be prepared to live your dream and imagine you discovered the dinosaurs. It’s your chance to battle blizzards with swarms of vipers in the Gobi Desert with Roy Chapman Andrews, join the race across the the Wild West of America with bone-hunters Cope and Marsh.

Along the trail of discovery you’ll unearth a time when monsters really did rule the world – DINOSAURS.

You will find them all in here: Triceratops, Pteradactyls, Iguanodon, Stegosaurus, Diplodocus and many more. It’s crammed full of stats, wild pictures, a brilliant pop-up (don’t get eaten!), realistic artworks, journals, flaps and even the insides of dinosaurs. You’ll discover what makes a dinosaur, when and where they lived, what they ate, why they fought and why they became extinct.

Dip into it for… discovering-dinosaurs

…a vividly illustrated adventure into the prehistoric world, with flaps to lift, notebooks and letters to flick through and one whopping great pop up!  If you have a mini-fleshling interested in dinosaurs, this would certainly be a winning choice for gifting.  The book is large with a satisfyingly chunky cover and solid cardboard pages, all the better to provide a sturdy base for the artifacts inside.  Beginning with a double page fold-out map of the world as it was during different geological time periods, the book is divided into double page spreads that focus on particular geographical regions in which certain species of dinosaur have been found, alternating with double page spreads on a range of “favourite” dinosaurs.  The book finishes with some information on fossils as well as an intriguing little flip-up notebook piece which is enticingly titled, “How to Find Fossils”.

Don’t dip if…

…you aren’t a fan of dinosaurs, I suppose.  Age-wise, the text was a bit advanced for the eldest mini-fleshling in this dwelling, at nearly six years old, but but he spent plenty of time flicking through the various flaps, pull-outs and bits to see what was in, under and around.  I would have to say that this is best suited to the seven and above age group, if you are looking at them actually getting to grips with the information in the book, rather than just having fun with the pictures and pop-ups.

Overall Dip Factor

The best recommendation I can give for this book is that the mini-fleshling double-checked whether this book would be remaining in the dwelling after it had been reviewed, and if so, could he claim it as his.  There are plenty of books on various topics in this type of engaging format around, but they certainly do make for a fun and tactile reading experience.  If you don’t know any mini-fleshlings with a particular interest in dinosaurs, this would make an equally appealing gift for any primary school teachers or children’s librarians of your acquaintance.  It’s the kind of book that will be on high rotation during silent reading.

Next we have A Miscellany of Magical Beasts by Simon Holland.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Enter an incredible world of magical beasts, dare to draw near to their captivating powers, and discover the spellbinding stories of sixteen favorite mythical creatures from around the world. Venture into this world and you’ll discover why griffins collect a gem called agate, how to put out dragonfire, how mischievous elves can cause terrible nightmares, and much, much more.

A Miscellany of Magical Beasts is a beautiful, luxurious gift book showcasing a fascinating menagerie of creatures from the world’s timeless mythologies and legends. Presented in an incredible package with spectacular cover finishes, it is sure to be treasured by fantasy enthusiasts.

Dip into it for…  miscellany-of-magical-beasts

…a feast for the eyes and a scratch for the fantastical beast itch.  Apart from being nicely timed to coincide with the release of a certain movie about certain fantastic beasts and where to find the same, this is the kind of book that will spark the imagination of even the most literal and pragmatic of young readers.  The cover image gives a good indication of the high quality of illustration throughout the book and each page is awash with colour and fine detail.  The book has several illustrators contributing, so while all the illustrations are stunningly gorgeous, there is a bit of variety in style, which is an interesting touch. Tucked within the pages are a few fold-outs and cut-outs and because they are not included on every page, add a little extra to the reading experience for those who go the distance.  A wide range of beasties are covered, from the unicorn to the chimera and from elves to werewolves, with each creature receiving at least a double-page spread of information in a blocks of text that don’t overwhelm.  Some of the creatures also get a little extra attention, with sections such as “How to Outwit a Werewolf” and a “Guide to Dragons” filling out some of the informational gaps and providing variety.

Don’t dip if…

…you are looking for information on gargoyles.  They aren’t included.  Similarly, if you are looking for a whiz-bang reading experience with pop-ups and flaps to lift you will be disappointed because this book is more of an information text, albeit a beautifully presented one.

Overall Dip Factor

If you know a mini-fleshling with a vivid imagination, who is into fantasy fiction, or is simply ripe for pushing into tabletop fantasy RPG games, this book will certainly whet their appetite for the magical.  It has a lovely large format that is perfect for enjoying with others and the illustrations really are something else.  Once again, if you are, or know, a classroom teacher or children’s librarian, this would make a brilliant and coveted addition to any school or classroom library.

As they say, the first bite is with the eye (or something of that nature), and if you have a reluctant reader or a mini-fleshling who would rather eat glass than wake up to find a book in their Christmas stocking, either of these tomes might change their mind.  On the other hand, if you are related to a voracious reader, either of these books in their stocking will reinforce for them why getting a book for Christmas is the greatest thing ever.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Ollie’s Odyssey: A Top Book of 2016 Pick!

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Bruce's Pick

We’ve got a right old beauty for you today: an early middle grade, art-fest, epic-quest beauty chock full of original characters that you will just want to cuddle (or run away from…depending).  Today’s book is also a Top Book of 2016 pick for its stunning visual appeal and gorgeous presentation.  So what is today’s book?

It’s Ollie’s Odyssey by William Joyce, which we received gratefully from Simon & Schuster Australia for review.  I won’t keep you in suspense any longer though – here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Can a beloved but lost stuffed rabbit save himself and other Losts from becoming the most feared designation of all: The Forgotten? Find out in this epic quest from the author of The Guardians series and the creative force behind The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

Ollie is a favorite. Of all the toys in Billy’s home, the stuffed rabbit takes top rank: everywhere Billy goes, so goes Ollie. But being a favorite is more than a privilege—it’s also fraught with danger. Because of Zozo.

Zozo has never been a favorite. An amusement park prize who was never chosen, Zozo has grown so bitter that, when the amusement park closes, he seeks revenge on every toy lucky enough to be a favorite. He wants them all to become The Lost, and even better, Forgotten.

When Billy accidentally leaves Ollie under the table at a wedding, Ollie finds himself on an unplanned adventure, kidnapped by the nefarious Zozo and his gang of creeps and faced with the momentous task of saving not only himself, but all the other stuffies who are “lost” as well…

With nods to Toy Story and Knuffle Bunny, but with that insoucient joie de vivre that is all William Joyce’s and Moonbot’s own, here’s a look at what REALLY goes on with your stuffed animals when the lights are out.

ollies odyssey

We had our collective eye on this from the moment we saw the cover and read the blurb, but we were unprepared for the incredible thud of loveliness when this hardback treasure landed on the doormat.  Just to give you an idea of the gasp-worthiness of this book’s presentation, here’s a taster:

Pretty impressive, no?  One of the biggest pleasures of the reading experience of Ollie’s Odyssey is the tactile nature of the book itself – it’s satisfyingly heavy, the pages are tinted with a slight sepia tone and those eye-popping illustrations are not rationed out but appear regularly every few pages.  There are even a couple of double page spreads that take things to the next level.

Just from flicking through the illustrations, it’s obvious that the book contains some highly original characters.  Reminiscent of Jim Henson’s original characters in films like the Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, Joyce has pulled out all the stops in exploring the dark underbelly of children’s imaginations, while trusting that the overall courage and warmth of the main characters will keep his young readers on the right side of the “frights” divide.  Besides, all the best stories push the reader a little bit in the scares department, don’t you think?  We especially loved the junkyard characters as they reminded us strongly of a more innocent version of the creations in Garry Kilworth’s Attica, one of our favourite books.  There’s an enormous amount to be said for taking a risk with inanimate objects as characters and plumbing the theme of forgotten, lost and useless entities.  Something about these kind of characters certainly fires our imaginations and generally leads to the characters taking on lives of their own in our heads.

Ollie is possibly the most adorable original character we’ve seen in a while, a teddy-bunny with his own dialect that has grown out of being the favourite toy of a young lad from birth to kid-hood.  Despite being a “homemade”, kid’s will definitely see their own favourite toy reflected in Ollie and will no doubt cheer him along as he takes on a seemingly insurmountable quest to get back to his boy.  There will be obvious comparisons made between this book and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, both for the presentation and the content.  Ollie’s story is a bit simpler and less heart-breakingly emotional than Edward’s though (from what I can remember of Edward’s story anyway – it’s been a while since I’ve read that one), which makes it a great choice for a read-aloud or read-together for those just moving into the middle grade age bracket.

Mad Martha was so enamoured of Ollie that she couldn’t resist whipping up a pocket-sized Ollie to join us on the shelf.  Ours doesn’t contain the contentious bell-heart, but will be a cherished Shelf-denizen nonetheless:

pocket ollie

I would definitely recommend getting your dexterous human hands on Ollie’s Odyssey.  Apart from the fact that it would make a jaw-dropping gift for some lucky mini-fleshing, Ollie is a character that deserves a place on your shelf.

Until next time,

Bruce