Fairy Tale Makeovers: A Bean, A Stalk and A Boy Named Jack…

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My fairy tale makeovers review series has been lagging a bit of late, so I am happy to present you with a fun little makeover of Jack and the Beanstalk for the early years crowd.  I gratefully received a copy A Bean, A Stalk and a Boy Named Jack by William Joyce and the alliteratively named Kenny Callicut, from the publisher, Simon and Schuster, and was immediately drawn to the gorgeous colours and sweeping vistas of the illustrations.  There’s also an extremely underwhelmed Brahman bull that pops up here and there that had us all giggling from the get-go, so watch out for him!

a bean a stalk and a boy named jack

When drought hits the land, all the King’s subjects must line up to do their bit – their bit specifically being producing tears in order to provide water to wash the King’s stinky pinky toe.  After some slight interference from the King’s daughter and the Royal Wizard, a smallish boy and a smallish bean join forces to solve the problem of the stinky pinky, and return equilibrium to the kingdom.  When Jack (the smallish boy) plants Bean (the smallish bean), an oversized stalk erupts and delivers the unlikely pair to the crux of the problem – a (smallish) giant kid having a giant bath!  With a bit of friendly conversation and due consideration, the water problem is rectified and the King’s pinky becomes unstinky.  Cue bathing! Cue rejoicing! Cue…another fairy tale?!

**For some odd reason – it could be something to do with the writing – but I imagined this whole tale beginning to end read in a Brooklyn-ish accent.  It seemed to fit perfectly and really added to the experience for me, but you know, it’s just a suggestion. **

At 58 pages, A Bean, A Stalk and a Boy Named Jack, is a slightly longer than average picture book, but the engaging and colourful illustrations, many of them covering double page spreads, just suck you straight into the adventure.  The tale is narrated in a fun, laid-back tone, and while there’s no rhyme, there are plenty of repeated phrases for the young’uns to join in with.  The text is laid out in a combination of clear black type and colourful speech bubbles and this mixes things up and provides a bit of interest.

Jack is immediately likeable and Bean is possibly the cutest vegetable ever to grace the page and the remaining members of the  ensemble cast just seem to want to solve the stinky pinky problem and return the status quo.  There’s not a lot of wild adventure here – more of a meeting of like minds – but it’s definitely worth a look simply to appreciate the eye-catching art and gentle humour gracing the pages.  I especially liked the cheeky twist at the end of the tale which leads into another fairy tale (Jack, of course, being a common name in fairy tale circles), but I won’t spoil it for you.

If you are looking for a fun, relaxed twist on the Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum that exchanges bone-grinding for hygienic bathing practices and water conservation, then this is the fairy tale makeover for you!  I must admit, paging through it again has sucked me straight back into the beautiful illustrations, so I’m going to sign off now and spend a few more moments giving my eyeballs a visual treat.  Don’t mind me.

*clears throat in preparation for Brooklynish accent*

A Bean, A Stalk and A Boy Named Jack was released on October 1st.

Until next time,

Bruce

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A Cheeky Read-it-if Review: I Need a New Butt…

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imageBoy have I got something for you today.  Now, admittedly, I am usually not the greatest fan of books that have anything to do with bums, backsides, pooh, farts or anything related to our sitting muscles, but after reading the blurb of today’s offering (and finding out that the author and illustrator are from New Zealand – hooray!) I decided to take a chance.

Today’s offering is titled I Need A New Butt by Dawn McMillan and Ross Kinnaird and after satisfying myself that it was not some kind of new-fangled exercise program aimed at fleshlings possessing large posteriors, but rather a picture book for the mini-fleshlings, I decided to give it a crack. (Pun intended).

What do you do when you notice your bum has a big crack in it? Start looking for a new one, of course!  The protagonist of this story is a young lad who needs a new bum to replace the (obviously broken) one that he currently owns.  His imaginative quest recounted in rhyme takes him through a whole series of wildly spectacular but not entirely practical candidates, until he realises that this cracked-butt business may in fact be occurring at epidemic proportions – his Dad’s butt has a crack too!

i need a new butt

Read it if:

* you have a boy (or manchild) in your house suffering from a crack in the bum area

*you enjoy books about embarrassing body parts

*you can see how a robotic butt fitted with extra hands could be both stylish and practical

*you would do anything to reshape the bottom you currently own (including selling your pet dog)

Surprisingly, I actually really enjoyed this book.  The rhyme was spot-on, the illustrations are hilarious and the story had a nice narrative flow.  Normally, as I said, I’m not the greatest fan of bum books because the story can veer off into that particular category of ickiness that should only really be enjoyed by eight-year-old boys, but I Need a New Butt is both non-icky and quite inventive.  For instance, the main character tries out a range of new bottoms, and carefully considers their pros and cons before refining his choice.  For exapmle, after realising that a bum made out of a chrome car bumper would be nice to look at and useful (for the headlights), it would probably be too heavy to carry around every day.

This book is going to be a hit with kids in the picture book age range, and, it must be said, with the dads of the kids in the picture book age range who get to read it aloud.  Overall, I think it’s a fun, cheeky option for those who like this kind of content.

And, to add my two cents worth, if I had the option of a new butt, I would definitely want one that does this:

butt_cannon_1761
Until next time,

Bruce

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

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Surprised by Joy (and a feathered fowl): The Duck and The Darklings…

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Welcome literary wayfarers! I have something special for you today.  Once every so often, a picture book comes along that is as visually appealing as it is moving, as lyrical in prose as it is engaging in content.  The Duck and the Darklings is just such a book.  The book is the product of another successful and inspiring collaboration between Glenda Millard (who I have mentioned on the blog before, here) and Stephen Michael King, and as soon as I heard about it, I put it on my “must buy that soon” radar.  Thanks to the delightful cake-eating competition-purveyors at Allen & Unwin however, I was lucky enough to win a copy, sparking my admiration for the book and the post that you are now skimming reading with great care and attention.

the duck and the darklings

Peterboy and his grandfather live among the Darklings in a hole in the ground in the land of Dark, below the ruined world above.  Peterboy longs to bring some light to his grandfather’s life and in his search he finds Idaduck.  He brings the broken duck to his grandfather and together they set about healing the creature.  When Idaduck is ready to leave them, the Darklings shine the lights from their candle-hats to show her the way and in doing so, discover that Idaduck has brought them something they needed more than anything – hope in the power of healing.

The themes in this book are familiar to fans of Millard’s work – hope, caring for others and finding joy in tiny, ordinary moments – but she has certainly outdone herself this time in creating a story dependent on so much fantasy world-building in such a small package.  This book feels like an epic fantasy condensed onto a post-it note, with peaks and lulls, hope, sadness and inevitability perfectly paced across 32 pages.  The prose is exquisitely lyrical, with a natural rhythm that provides the dreamlike quality underpinning the story.  King’s illustrations provide the visual realisation of Millard’s words and his familiar style perfectly conveys the gloominess of the Darklings’ underground home and the curiousity and hopefulness of Peterboy.  Rather than saying too much more about it, I’ll give you some examples:

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  image      image

He has also inspired Mad Martha to start crocheting a hat like Peterboy’s.  Maybe without the candle though, despite it’s undisputed usefulness.

If you can get your paws, claws or hands on a copy of this book, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.  For my money, I think it’s one of those rare treasures that will do more for the adults reading it than the mini-fleshlings – but I’m sure they’ll love it just as much.

Until next time,

Bruce

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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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Haiku Review: Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great….

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Afternoon my Spring-time lovelies! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the bees are buzzing (or would be, were there any bees left in our neighbourhood) and cupcakes are raining from the heavens! Sorry, northern hemisphere-friends, just couldn’t resist making you a little jealous.  Although admittedly, the cupcakes part is made up.

Mad Martha here with you again, and speaking of cupcakes, the title character in today’s Haiku review does actually have the ability to make it rain cupcakes! Yes, I’m speaking of Unicorn, from Bob Shea’s colourful and inviting, Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great…

unicornI found this book to have an incredibly high “I can relate to that” factor.  Being a sock creature created from the dregs of the fabric off-cuts basket, I admit I can be overly-sensitive to those who may be considered “the beautiful people”.  For this is the crux of Goat’s dilemma – how can ordinary old goat ever be friends with such a stand-out over-achiever as Unicorn?  Luckily, with a bit of heart-to-heart, honest communication Goat learns that he too has some pretty enviable skills and abilities.

Open dialogue

defeats Tall Poppy Syndrome.

Cloven is cool too.

The title and cover art alone were enough to get me straight into this book, but I found even more to enjoy inside the covers.  Take, for example, this page:

cloven justice

Apart from giving me an idea for a fantastic literature-related Halloween costume, what a catchphrase! I have immediately brought it into use around the shelf, while dusting and generally keeping things tidy….I find it lifts the spirits in an otherwise uninspiring circumstance.

Go on, try saying it.

A bit louder.

Fun, isn’t it?

Until we meet again my pretties, TASTE MY CLOVEN JUSTICE!!

Mad Martha

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Haiku Review: Noah Dreary…

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Evenin’ all! It’s Mad Martha with you again.  Today I bring you a haiku from a book with arguably the best opening page ever. See for yourself:

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What a cracker, hey? The book is Noah Dreary by Aaron Blabey.  I’d not bothered to read any of Blabey’s work before, despite knowing that he was a CBCA shortlisted picture book author/illustrator, and I must admit that this has been a grave oversight on my part.  I found this book’s humour scratched that itch we all have for that which is just plain odd.

This particular work follows the trials and tribulations of Noah Dreary, seasoned complainer and recent head-loser.  The illustrations are just fantastic – really, this book could retain it’s sense of weird humour even if the words were to be omitted.  In all honesty, if that first page hasn’t captured your interest, I don’t know how I’m going to coerce you….but here’s a haiku review anyway!

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Heads up, complainers:

Careful what you whinge about

Things could still get worse!

This book will appeal greatly to the kiddies, and to any grown-up who works in any occupation that involves dealing with incessant whingey-ness.

One word of caution though, for the faint of heart – as a younger stone I vividly remember being scared witless by any depiction of headlessness.  I particularly recall a television commercial for CCs corn chips that gave me the heebie-jeebies every time it came on (and put me off corn-chips for life).  Any illustrated versions of the The Legend of Sleepy Hollow were completely out.  If you (or your mini-fleshling!) gets a little freaked out over headless characters, this may not be the book for you.

Oh, and for your viewing (and possibly reminiscing) pleasure, here’s the link to the CC ad of which I speak:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oh36xZqaz8U

Yep. It still creeps me out.

Oh, and Bruce has asked me to give you another heads up: July’s Fiction in 50 challenge is coming up soon!  The theme is Night Terrors and you can find out more about this intriguing concept here.

Adieu my friends,

Mad Martha

Haiku Review: The (Epic) Tale of a Library Dog…

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Good afternoon lovelies! I have an extra specialmartha and rhythm offering for you today from one of my very special blog-mates, and winner of the prestigious Gargie Award, Rhythm, the library dog!  Yes, today’s poem will honour Rhythm’s first (autobiographical!) tome, Reading with Rhythm: The Tale of a Library Dog. I was hoping she’d go for the pun and make it the “tail” of a library dog, but that’s just me.  The cover says it’s by Janet Mills, but she must have been the assisting typist as the content is very clearly in the voice of the puppy we know and love.

This colourful and appealing picture book delves into the lives of dogs who work for a living, be they therapy dogs, search and rescue dogs, guide dogs for the vision-impaired, hunting dogs, guard dogs or library dogs (the best kind).  Alongside Rhythm’s explanation of the different working roles open to enterprising canines, is a little brief of what the grand lady herself enacts as a dog-about-the-library. Or school. Or Wherever, as the need arises.

The illustrations are very appealing and give the book a fun and engaging overall look.  You can read more about the illustrator, Paul Howell, here at Rhythm’s own blog. Here’s an example, followed by my review:

rhythm illustrations

Pups with a purpose

illustrate the old saying

working like a dog”

Had I been blessed with opposable digits, I would be giving this book two thumbs up.  Suffice to say, it will appeal greatly to the little ones, and would be an interesting side-discussion in early years curriculum relating to roles people (and fur-people) play in the community.

Rhythm’s book is available for purchase at Amazon, and while you’re clicking around, you can check out her blog (and fantastic flair with themed doggy costumes) at www.readingwithrhythm.wordpress.com.

Adios amigos!

Mad Martha

 

Haiku Review: Where the Forest Meets the Sea…

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Hello my blogging bilbies, it’s Mad Martha with you again after a fairly long absence…if you are wondering where I’ve been, I had to get my hair untangled after an unfortunate incident with one of the house felines.  But I’m back today with a Haiku Review based on one of my favourite ever picture books: Where the Forest Meets the Sea by Jeannie Baker.  This book was first released in 1988 and tells the story of a boy spending time with his grandfather in the timeless and beautiful daintree rainforest in Far North Queensland. Underlying the simple story is the spectre of development and the seemingly neverending threat to areas of natural significance from humans and their progress.

The standout feature of Baker’s books are the illustrations, which she cleverly crafts from clay, paper and found materials, and then photographs for inclusion in picture books.  You can find out more about Baker’s work at www.jeanniebaker.com and below are some of the page spreads from Where the Forest Meets the Sea to give you a teaser if you have not encountered her work before:

Where the Forest meets the Sea 2 forest meets sea 2

So without further ado, here is my haiku review of Jeannie Baker’s highly memorable, and still relevant (unfortunately!) tome, Where the Forest Meets the Sea:

forest meets sea

Ancient world struggles

against the modern era

A losing battle

If you have never encountered Jeannie Baker before, her work is well worth discovering.  Other highly recommended works of hers include wordless picture book Window and its companion book Belonging, and her most recent publication, Mirror.

Farewell for now,

Mad Martha

 

 

Haiku Review: Banana!

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Greetings readers, Mad Martha here with another Haiku Review! Today, I delve into the colourful, dynamic world of Ed Vere and his two-word masterpiece Banana!  This is one of our absolute favourite picture books…and unfortutely, our copy is currently missing. I’m not blaming Bruce…just because it is his job to guard the shelf…but the fact remains that this important tome is not in its allocated place.  If any of you know where it might be, please let us know, for while Bruce puts on a brave face, those of us who know him well understand that on the inside he is pining, warring with complex emotions of loss and grief, like a book-shepherd missing his favourite book-sheep…..

But back to Haiku:

Titanic struggle

over simian treasure.

The victor? Manners.

Until next time readers, keep your eyes (and bananas!) peeled for that book!

Mad Martha

Mad Martha’s Haiku Review: Jon Klassen’s Classics

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Mad Martha here…while reflecting on my Odes to Authors, a brilliant idea flashed through my head. A stupendous, marvellous idea that hurled itself out from the depths of my brain, begging to find audience! A Haiku Review….a book review in seventeen syllables! Inconceivable! Flushed with the anticipation of my wondrous invention, I slipped to the keyboard to let my unique idea find voice….only to find that others – nay, multitudes of others – had already had this idea. Swathes of blogs and websites make it their business to peddle this idea from moment to moment.  I was not as unique as I thought.

Yet I would not allow my spirit to be crushed!

And so I present to you a haiku review of Jon Klassen’s modern classics: I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat.

Sweet retribution

for crimes against millinery.

Justice has been served.