Meandering through Middle Grade: A Different Dog…

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meandering-through-middle-grade

I’m back with another Paul Jennings new release today, courtesy of Allen & Unwin.  A Different Dog felt like a big departure from Jennings’ typical work, despite the fact that the twist in the tale is still present.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

The gripping and surprising story of a boy, a dog and a daring rescue from the bestselling, much-loved author of the Don’t Look Now series and The Unforgettable What’s His Name.

The forest is dense and dark. And the trail full of unexpected perils. The dog can’t move. The boy can’t talk. And you won’t know why. Or where you are going. You will put this story down not wanting the journey to end.

But it’s from Paul Jennings so watch out for the ambush.

One of the best. From one of the best.

a different dog

A Different Dog by Paul Jennings.  Published by Allen & Unwin, 26th April 2017.  RRP: $14.99

When you’ve read almost everything a particular author has written over many years and suddenly they do something with a story you don’t expect, it can be hard to measure it against your previous experiences of their work.  So it was for me with this story.  A Different Dog has a much more subdued and sombre tone that much of Jennings’ previous work and the magical realism that often colours his stories and provides the impetus for his famous twists in the tail of the tale is absent here.  Not that this is necessarily a bad thing – just different from what I would have expected.

The story revolves around a boy who has been a selective mute (or possibly an anxiety-induced mute) since a traumatic incident involving a beloved pet.  He lives with his mother in livable poverty and is disconnected from peers due to his lack of speech.  While on a mission to win a cash prize in a community fun run, the boy witnesses a vehicle accident and attempts to help – but instead ends up trying to find his way out of the hillside terrain accompanied by a highly unusual dog, who was a passenger in the crashed vehicle.  Along the way home, the boy makes a number of life-changing discoveries…but his greatest challenge comes later when his friendship with the dog is tested by fate.

I quite enjoyed the subtleties of this story as a change from the wackier antics that embody Jennings’ usual fare.  Even though it is a reasonably short read, this felt more like a story for older readers who could appreciate the themes of grief, guilt and shame that ring-fence the boy’s image of himself.  There is a pointedness in the story relating to the cruelty of others, whether between humans or from humans directed at animals, and this left me with a bit of a sense of the sinister when I think back to the story.

On the whole, I think I prefer Jennings’ lighter works but A Different Dog is a thought-provoking read that uses a remarkably small word count to effectively raise questions about ethics, choices and making recompense for past mistakes.  This would be a great choice for reluctant young adult readers or those who require high-interest, low reading level tales for struggling older readers.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Picture Book Perusal: Cat Knit

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picture book perusal button

If you love delightful tales of friendship, cattiness and yarn then today is your lucky day!  Allow us to happily present to you new release picture book Cat Knit by Jacob Grant, and provided to us by PanMacmillan Australia for review.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Cat and Yarn are the best of friends. They have so much fun playing together, the two are inseparable.

Until the day Girl takes Yarn away.

When Yarn Returns, he is completely changed, no longer Cat’s bright and rolly friend. Cat is mad!

Soon, Cat begins to miss his best friend, and he just might realize that a little change isn’t so bad after all.

cat-knit

It’s no secret that we are big fans of yarn and its related fibre-crafted products around the shelf, and when yarn is combined with a cute, grumpy-faced cat that looks a little like one of the cats in the dwelling, you can be sure that we will be big fans of the result.  Here’s a little side by side pic for comparison about our prior claim:

cat-knit-comparison

Twinnies, or what?!

Cat, unsurprisingly, is friends with Yarn.  They play together in all sorts of hilarious ways (read: sledding), they snuggle up together and are generally as happy as a cat and an inanimate object could be.  When Girl takes yarn away and returns him completely changed however, Cat isn’t in love with the arrangement.  What follows is a struggle between wanting things back the way they were and finding good use for yarn’s new form and function.  But it isn’t all bad.  After all, where there’s one ball of yarn, there might be more!

This book was a lot of fun and the mini-fleshlings particularly enjoyed the various moods of Cat, played out via his facial expressions.  I particularly liked the machinations of Girl, which are known in the wider world as “knitting”, and was quite comforted by the fact that clearly Mad Martha isn’t the only one who pores over yarn catalogues with such undivided attention.  The ending is a great laugh, featuring more in the way of catty expressions of displeasure, and a very nifty bobble hat indeed.  The overall message of the book is that a change in the personality of one’s friend need not mean the end of a friendship, and that such changes can be just what is needed at that point in time.

The edition of the book that we received came with a dust jacket featuring the image above, and as we are incurable dust-jacket removers, we were able to uncover the delightful design on the hardback cover.

cat-knit-undies

I will admit to having a yearning to own an ugly Christmas jumper, probably due to the fact that I will never have the opportunity to wear one unless I move to a shelf in the Northern Hemisphere for at least one Christmas, so this design tickled me pink.

I would recommend Cat Knit to anyone who (a) has a cat or (b) is able to laugh at cats, which, let’s admit it, is every human alive.  Having received the thumbs up of approval from the mini-fleshlings in this dwelling, I can also say that it has passed the giggle road test for reading aloud to little ones.  It’s even inspired me to ask Mad Martha to crochet me an ugly Christmas jumper of my own…which I will then attempt to force onto the cat (pictured above).

Until next time,

Bruce

Gabbing about Graphic Novels: Lunch Witch #2 (Knee-Deep in Niceness)

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gabbing-about-graphic-novels

It’s long past time that I created a new feature for graphic novels, given that I enjoy them so much and there are so many brilliant ones out there, so welcome to the inaugural, coincidentally-Halloween, edition of Gabbing About Graphic Novels.  Today’s book is the second in a series that I hadn’t heard of before, but will now make a point of pursuing.  We received a copy of Lunch Witch #2: Knee Deep in Niceness by Deb Lucke from the publisher, Papercutz, via Netgalley.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Grunhilda the Witch has a weakness…a tiny soft spot on her black and crusty heart. She continues to hide the nice feelings she has when she gets a letter from former Salem Elementary student Madison. But she can’t keep up the ruse for long because her familiars are onto her…and so are her ancestors! The familiars search her hovel and find her collection of letters from Madison. Mr. Williams has a solution, but it involves making a meanness potion from the book that IS-NOT-TO-BE-USED-BY-ANYONE-OTHER-THAN WITCHES (ESPECIALLY-NOT-WITCHES’-PETS). But anything that can go wrong does when he accidentally mixes up a positivity potion instead…and it starts to affect everyone in town. Birds are singing. Flowers are growing. The principal cancels school! Grunhilda hurries to mix up a potion to fix the town, her familiars, and her own black crusty heart before the positivity succeeds in making everything bright and cheerful.

lunch-witch-2

Target Age Range: 

Middle grade and above

Genre:

Comedy, fantasy

Art Style:

Line drawings, scratchy hand-lettering and some atmospheric cardboardy highlights

Reading time:

I read this in about three short sittings.  At 164 pages, it is more substantial than many graphic novels I had read and by the end I felt like I had finished a well-developed story.

Let’s get gabbing:

Even though I hadn’t read the first book in this series (which is called The Lunch Witch, in case you are interested), I had absolutely no problem following the story, as this feels a bit like a standalone.  Essentially, Grunhilda’s animal familiars think that she is hiding a kind-old-lady characteristic somewhere about her personality and they make the decision to alter this by (inadvisedly) using the old lady’s spell-book.  Disaster ensues and with the prospect of everlasting positive vibes overtaking the town, and its up to Grunhilda and one very determined Scout to make things right and miserable again.

Grunhilda is perfectly lovable as the cranky old witch with just a grain of love in her heart, while her collection of familiars – the irrepressible mutt, Mr Williams, straight-talking spider Louise and a collection of bats – provide alternating bouts of support, chaos and general ill-feeling.  Scout, the badge-obsessed boy scout, is an unexpected and standout character, as much for his determination to legitimately achieve a badge to sew on his sash (be it a “helping old ladies” badge or a “causing everlasting negativity for a whole town badge” – he isn’t fussy) as for his commitment to assisting the community (whether or not he is wanted, and however loosely the term “assisted” may be applied).

Best bits:

Apart from Scout, I have to say I found the ancestors pretty amusing, with their mish-mash of old-timey costumes and incessant banging on the underfloor of Grunhilda’s house with broom handles.

Recommended for:

This series would best suit subversive middle graders who like a story that flips stereotypes on their heads and isn’t afraid to delve into the wicked and vexatious sides of human (and witch) behaviour.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Moose on the Loose: A Double-Dip Review…

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image

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Haiku Review and Giveaway: The Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets…

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Welcome, one and all, to my stop on the Stanley and Katrina Book Blast Tour for their fantabulous book The Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets!  You can get all the info about the book and giveaway below.
TPPotPoP as I like to call it, is an insightful and sometimes scandalous peek into the secret lives of two pets, the next door neighbour’s guinea pig and an inquisitive bird.  The book is made up of the private correspondence of Stanley (dog) and Katrina (upwardly mobile feline) as they tussle over the various issues that arise between all cohabiting couples.  The illustrations perfectly complement the light tone of the booK. This is sure to be a winner with all those who can’t resist a book pawthored by animals!
Curt correspondence
betwixt canine and feline
Guess who gets their way?
Might I suggest that this would also makes good present for some of the middle grade mini-fleshlings of your acquaintance?
Until next time,
Bruce

Celebrating 

Stanley and Katrina von Cat the Master of Wisdom and Knowledge are celebrating their one year blogiversary (click here to read their inaugural post) by hosting their very own “Book Blasty Tour”. Thank you for taking the time to visit this special stop along their tour. 


About the Book

Title: The Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets

Authors: Stanley & Katrina, Pet Authors

Illustrator: Miro Chun

Year published:  2012

Updates: This book was updated in September of 2013 with a new cover, interior illustrations, and a sneak peek of book #2 in the series.

Publisher: CreateSpace

Number of pages: 106

Recommended ages: 5+ 

Summary (Amazon): After three years of living under the same roof as the dog in the house, Katrina von Cat the Master of Wisdom and Knowledge decides to write a letter to her canine housemate, Stanley. Katrina loves treats, naps and bossing the dog around. Stanley loves snow, attention and turkey. The diva kitty, Katrina, will have none of Stanley’s antics and most certainly will not stand for him eating her food. The only reasonable solution is to take him to Kitty Court.

Amazon U.S. * Amazon U.K. * Amazon Canada 

 Barnes & Noble *  Leanpub(digital formats) 


The Buzz

“The book is really humorous. It is unique in a manner where you see the cat and dog communicating with each other about themselves, their likes, and dislikes in a letter form. The narrator’s tidbits add to the charm of the book. The contrasting characters and their individual personalities have been etched well. The author has put the perspective of the pets in the forefront and written a unique and excellent book for children.” ~ Reviewed by Mamta Madhavan for Readers’ Favorite


We enjoyed this book tremendously! It charmed us, made us laugh, and kept us wanting to read more. A tip of the hat to the pair of pets whose rivalry leads the story along its delightful course.~ Amazon Reviewer


About the Authors: Stanley & Katrina

Stanley is a three-year-old black Labrador/Rottweiler mix who does his best to ignore Katrina.
Katrina von Cat the Master of Wisdom and Knowledge is an eight-year-old grey tabby cat who loves her toy mouse.
They would love to tell you where they live but all they know is that they live in a tan house. For more information about Stanley & Katrina, please visit their website, www.StanleyAndKatrina.com.

* Free Printables For This Book! *

Kid Lit Printables has created fun and FREE printables for The Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets. Click here to view all available printables, now. 


Stanley & Katrina’s 

Book Blasty Tour Stops(2013)

November 8


* $25 Book Blasty Tour Giveaway *

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)
Contest runs:November 8  to November 30, 11:59 pm, 2013 
Open: Internationally
How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget above or by clicking here.
Terms and Conditions: A randomly drawn winner will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest or any other entity unless otherwise specified. If you have any additional questions, feel free to send us an email at stanleyandkatrina (at) gmail (dot) com.
* This giveaway is sponsored by the authors, Stanley & Katrina. *

The Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets: Book Blasty Tour and GIVEAWAY

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Good afternoon all! I am very excited to be participating in a Book Blasty Tour for Stanley and Katrina – animal authors extraordinary!  Stanley and Katrina are celebrating their one-year blogoversary, and as part of the celebration, I will be posting a review as part of the tour on the 21st of November.  But I’m not the only one – see below for a list of tour dates.  Also, from the CAPS LOCK in the title of this post, you might have gathered that you have the opportunity to WIN STUFF! $25 worth of Amazon gift card or Paypal cash to be precise – so if you’re feeling lucky, click on the link towards the end of this post and enter the giveaway. You’ve got to be in it to win it, as they say…

And don’t forget to pop by again on the. 21st to find out more about this ripper little story!

 

Celebrating 

Stanley and Katrina von Cat the Master of Wisdom and Knowledge are celebrating their one year blogiversary (click here to read their inaugural post) by hosting their very own “Book Blasty Tour”. There are plenty of stops along the tour, so plenty of opportunity for you to celebrate along with Stanley and Katrina (vCtMoW)!


About the Book

Title: The Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets

Authors: Stanley & Katrina, Pet Authors

Illustrator: Miro Chun

Year published:  2012

Updates: This book was updated in September of 2013 with a new cover, interior illustrations, and a sneak peek of book #2 in the series.

Publisher: CreateSpace

Number of pages: 106

Recommended ages: 5+ 

Summary (Amazon): After three years of living under the same roof as the dog in the house, Katrina von Cat the Master of Wisdom and Knowledge decides to write a letter to her canine housemate, Stanley. Katrina loves treats, naps and bossing the dog around. Stanley loves snow, attention and turkey. The diva kitty, Katrina, will have none of Stanley’s antics and most certainly will not stand for him eating her food. The only reasonable solution is to take him to Kitty Court.

Amazon U.S. * Amazon U.K. * Amazon Canada 

 Barnes & Noble *  Leanpub(digital formats) 


The Buzz

“The book is really humorous. It is unique in a manner where you see the cat and dog communicating with each other about themselves, their likes, and dislikes in a letter form. The narrator’s tidbits add to the charm of the book. The contrasting characters and their individual personalities have been etched well. The author has put the perspective of the pets in the forefront and written a unique and excellent book for children.” ~ Reviewed by Mamta Madhavan for Readers’ Favorite We enjoyed this book tremendously! It charmed us, made us laugh, and kept us wanting to read more. A tip of the hat to the pair of pets whose rivalry leads the story along its delightful course.~ Amazon Reviewer


About the Authors: Stanley & Katrina

Stanley is a three-year-old black Labrador/Rottweiler mix who does his best to ignore Katrina.
Katrina von Cat the Master of Wisdom and Knowledge is an eight-year-old grey tabby cat who loves her toy mouse.
They would love to tell you where they live but all they know is that they live in a tan house. For more information about Stanley & Katrina, please visit their website, www.StanleyAndKatrina.com.

* Free Printables For This Book! *

Kid Lit Printables has created fun and FREE printables for The Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets. Click here to view all available printables, now. 


Stanley & Katrina’s 

Book Blasty Tour Stops(2013)

November 8


* $25 Book Blasty Tour Giveaway *

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)
Contest runs:November 8  to November 30, 11:59 pm, 2013 
Open: Internationally
How to enter: Please enter by clicking here.
Terms and Conditions: A randomly drawn winner will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest or any other entity unless otherwise specified. If you have any additional questions, feel free to send us an email at stanleyandkatrina (at) gmail (dot) com.
* This giveaway is sponsored by the authors, Stanley & Katrina. *
So what are you waiting for? Hop to it, and don’t forget to stop by on the 21st for our leg of the tour – the shelf denizens can’t wait to share their impressions of this book with you.
Until next time,
Bruce

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Two Quirky Picture Books: Read-it-aloud-if….

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Hey there reading buddies! Today I’ve got two picture books for you:  Shark Vs. Train by Chris Barton and Tom Lichtenheld, and The Pet Project: Cute and Cuddly Vicious Verses by Lisa Wheeler and Zachariah Ohora.

shark vs trainThe highly thought-provoking Shark vs Train follows a hypothetical battle betwixt toothy sea creature and iron-clad steam machine. The overarching message at the end of this one is that context is everything!

Read-it-aloud-if:

* you’ve ever idly debated the relative merits of two random objects across a range of wildly unlikely scenarios

* you are a philosophy buff with a particular interest in toy-related dilemmas

* you believe the transition of competition-style reality tv shows to book format is long overdue

* you are a boy, aged 3 to 93 +, or are responsible for providing reading material for a boy, aged 3 to 93+

I really enjoyed this book as it is super relatable for anyone who has ever spent time with children of a certain age.  What tickled me most though, was that I could just imagine the book being played out as a serious conversation between two little fleshlings…and realised that the two little fleshlings could be substituted for two old men and the imagined conversation was altered not one jot.  Now that’s proof of a wide appeal!

pet projectWe’re quite fond of a bit of poetry round the shelf, and The Pet Project, a story about a young girl researching an appropriate choice of pet, was therefore fondly received.

Read-it-aloud-if:

* you believe any major life decision should be approached using fieldwork, careful recording of observations, and an empirically verifiable method

*you firmly believe that your parents would have allowed you to keep those seven cats that followed you home, had you only been able to demonstrate the economic boon that would have resulted from the creation of a cottage industry in your bedroom based on woven cat-hair socks and scarves

* the idea of being wee-ed on by a guinea pig grosses you out….but the idea of someone else being wee-ed on by a guinea pig puts you in a smug kind of good humour

The illustrations in this book are really appealing and perfectly complement the humour in the verses.  This is definitely one to read to any kid who’s been bugging you to get them a pet.

In other news, did I mention the blog is now followable on Bloglovin’? No? Well it is. As demonstrated by this fancy button:

Follow on Bloglovin

I wonder what would happen if you clicked it…..

Until next time!

Bruce