Small Fry Safari Challenge Haiku Review: Mirror…

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small fryBonjour my lovelies, it is Mad Martha with you today for a haiku review that is doubling as a submission in the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge.  If you haven’t yet heard about this fantastic and very user-friendly challenge you can click on the attractive button to the right.  If you’d like to take a peek at some of the other challengees’ submissions, you can find them helpfully collated here.

I am pleased to submit the very first entry in category two, which in my opinion is the trickiest of the lot: a book with a piece of furniture in the title.  My submission is Mirror by Jeannie Baker.  I submit it under the sub-clause that a mirror is a furnishing, and therefore fits the category. Hey, it’s my challenge and I can bend the rules if I want to.

mirror

If you haven’t yet encountered Mirror (or indeed, any work by Jeannie Baker), then you, my dear friend, are missing out, for this particular work is a triumph of artistic and conceptual design.  The wordless picture book follows the story of two young boys – one in Sydney, Australia and the other in the Valley of Roses in Morocco.  In an ingenious twist however, the story follows the boys simultaneously across four pages, with each single page folding out to a double page spread, as pictured below.  **Please note that the TARDIS pictured was merely being used to aid in keeping the pages still and has no relation to the events depicted in Mirror. As far as I know, anyway.**

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In this way, the daily activities of each boy and his family are displayed side by side in glorious detail. On one side, information is displayed in English and on the other, Arabic, and so the book really reflects the concept of “two sides to every story”.  Throughout the book keen-eyed readers are treated to Baker’s trademark collage art and the opportunity to search for repeated motifs across the boys’ activities.  Apart from being a visual treat, the book is also a brilliant starting point for discussing similarities in the lives of those who seem, on the surface, to be living in very different contexts.

So here is my haiku:

Holding a mirror

to our preconceived notions

inspires reflection

 And here’s some more of the artwork to whet your appetite:

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 Now, I suggest you pursue this title without delay! And there’s still plenty of time to sign up for the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge – it’s only eight books in total that you have to read to be able to say you have conquered the Safari!  Join us on the Safari bus, we’d love to have you along.

Ta-ra my dears,

Mad Martha

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Small Fry Safari Readers Challenge: Carnivores…

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small fry

Well hello there Safari buddies and spectators!  Today I have for you my second submission for the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge (click the button above for more info) and this time it is in category one – a book with something to do with Safari in the title.

Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Dan Santat is a subversively funny tale of three prominent carnivores who find themselves shunned by the greater animal community for indulging their passion for all things made from meat.  Lion, Timberwolf and Great White Shark attempt to remedy this situation through what can only be described as group behavioural therapy with varying degrees of success, before realising that sometimes you’ve just gotta be yourself, no matter how many fluffy woodland creatures you alienate (or ingest) in the process.

Carnivores

Read it if:

* you believe that meat is murder….of the delicious, tasty variety

* you have ever had a craving that could not be denied

* you resent the implication that your lusty and insatiable consumption of meat-based products (ie: other sentient beings) means that you are some kind of monstrous decimator of the fwuffy-bunny-and-other-doe-eyed-cutie-creature community

The illustrations in this book are just priceless.  You can see from the cover the comedy contained in the facial expressions of the characters and this is carried on throughout the book.  Honestly, the vacant expressions on the faces of various about-to-be-eaten woodland creatures really made me feel like they weren’t such a terrible loss – after all, Timberwolf isn’t really bad…he’s a CARNIVORE!  The illustrations also add extra humour to the text, which is funny enough – for example, the food pyramid pictured below features on the endpapers at the beginning of the book, only to be replaced by an empty food pyramid diagram on the final endpapers.

carnivores page spread

This would be a great choice for mischevous, non-vegan kids aged from about five to nine years old as a fun introduction to the concept of carnivorous animals and the food chain.

Until next time,

Bruce

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ARC Haiku Review: Hope is a Ferris Wheel…

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small fryGood sweaty morning to you all! I’m particularly excited today because I am unleashing upon you all my first submission for the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge 2014!  If you don’t know what this is, you should immediately click on the delightful button directly to the right of this sentence and inform yourself. We’ll wait. Go on.

Right then! I am submitting Hope is a Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera in category 5 – something that comes in pairs.  Can’t guess why? It’s WHEELS! Wheels generally come in pairs when attached to an axle.  And just so you know, I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley – thanks!

Hope is a Ferris Wheel follows a school year in the life of ten year old Star Mackie, who has recently moved to a new town and is finding it difficult to make friends.  This, she suspects, is due to a number of factors – her attractive blue “layered cut” that the other kids call a mullet, her classmates’ inexplicable dislike of trailer parks as a place of residence, and the fact that she is new and a bit different.  Star begins a quest to make friends by starting a club and after a few false starts – The Trailer Park Club not attracting the level of interest she initially expected – the Emily Dickinson poetry club opens some new doors for Star as well as giving her a few new headaches.  Add to this the ongoing drama of living with a busy single mother and a creative, yet misunderstood older sister and Star’s life is all getting a bit complicated.  And we haven’t even mentioned her mission to finally meet her dad.

hope is a ferris wheel

Round and round Star goes

Where she stops nobody knows

Least of all herself!

This book is a real little charmer.  It’s aimed at a middle grade audience and reminded me in some ways of the old Judy Blume books, with a heavy emphasis on a young kid just beginning to emerge into a more grown up world and having to navigate a way through strange new problems.  Star is a very likeable narrator with a refreshing naivete regarding the big bad world.  The child characters in the book are nicely fleshed out and although they have some stereotypical aspects – there’s Denny, the grumpy, protective older brother, and Eddie the tough kid – those aspects never make up the whole of the character.

One of the big drawcards for this book for we shelf-sitters was the theme of poetry running through the book.  Star falls in love with an Emily Dickinson poem about hope after a lesson from their teacher, and later finds out that Eddie, the tough guy, happens to be a dab hand at poetry too.  The poetry club forms a great backdrop for the kids to come out of their shells and find common ground in an otherwise shaky social situation.

There are a few adultish themes running through the book, mainly related to Star’s older sister, but nothing that a reasonably mature middle-grade audience couldn’t handle.  Overall, this was a quick, memorable read and one that approaches the beginnings of growing up in a fun and engaging way.  Hope is a Ferris Wheel is due for publication in early March.

So now I’m off to link up to the Small Fry Safari – even if you’re not signed up, hop on over as there are already some eager safari beavers who have submitted some entries!  Hi ho, Safari, AWAY!

Until next time,

Bruce

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Haiku Review: The Feral Child…

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Morning all! Before Mad Martha takes you on a haiku holiday,  I feel obligated to let you know that as of right now, my current giveaway, in which you can score yourself any book of your choice from the Book Depository up to the value of $12 AUD, will be closing in just over 14 hours.  Go here to find the rafflecopter link – and entries are fairly low at the moment, so your odds will be good!  Now on to today’s business – Brucey out!

Good morning poppets, it’s Mad Martha with you this fine weekend morning – one day later than expected due to the extreme lack of motivation that springs from returning from a beachside holiday.  But more on that later in the week.  I received today’s offering, The Feral Child by Che Golden from the publisher via Edelweiss, in return for an honest review – thanks!

The Feral Child is a celtic middle-grade fantasy adventure featuring Maddy, who, after her parents pass away, finds herself moving from London to Blarney in Ireland, to live with her elderly grandparents and be tormented by her annoying cousins.  One rainy afternoon, Maddy is confronted and nearly kidnapped by a strange red-haired boy, who later turns up at her bedroom window in a strange and terrifying form.  After the boy kidnaps Maddy’s young neighbour Stephen and leaves a changeling in his place, nobody seems to take Maddy’s story seriously and she takes matters into her own hands. With her cousins Danny and Roisin, Maddy sets off to steal Stephen back from the Fey.  Cue adventure!

feral child

Scary faeries, wolves,

carnivore horses, oh my !

Must I save the child?

In some ways, The Feral Child is a fairly formulaic example of its kind.  Moody, damaged adolescent scorned by family and friends finds a secret power and goes on a heroic quest to right a wrong when no one else will step forward, finding redemption and friendship along the way.  I can think of a number of books for this age-group straight away that follow this plot line almost to the letter.  Where this one stands apart is in the characterisation – Maddy, Danny and Roisin are really believable kids.  There’s no cliched or stereotypical dialogue here, and the characters stay true to their personalities, taking on changes slowly throughout the story.  This is refreshing because often in middle grade fiction the reader will be treated to, for example, an annoying, bullying character for most of the story, who miraculously changes into a caring, heroic sort of a kid after one significant event.  In Golden’s story, the children’s perosnalities evolve in a much more natural way – at the end of the story, they’re still recognisable as the same people they were at the beginning, albeit with a slightly more mature outlook on their situation.

Another strong point of the story is the tense atmosphere that emerges when the sinister faeries come into the plot.  The villains in this book are genuinely creepy – particularly the elven mounts *shudder* – and really add to the sense of danger the characters are facing.

This is a solid pick for middle graders who enjoy fantasy and mythology in their reading. This new edition is due for publication in June this year, but is already available for purchase around the place if you want to get your paws on it now.   Oh, and it’s a perfect choice Bruce’s Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge in category one (a book with something related to safari in the title) or category seven (a book with something unsightly in the title). Just sayin’!

Adios until we meet again, cherubs, and don’t forget the giveaway – time is ticking!

Mad Martha

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An Easy-to-Keep Resolution: Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge links are up!

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small fry image

Good afternoon New Year’s revellers!  It’s resolution day – yes, the one day of the year that all beings, be they stone or flesh, are encouraged to make resolutions that are destined to be abandoned before the balloons from New Year’s celebrations have shrivelled like unloved plums.  As I am a kind and benevolent being however, I here present to you a resolution that will be easy – nay, enjoyable – nay, uplifting! – NAY! LIFE CHANGING*! – to keep.  That, my friends, is the resolution to participate in the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge!  The details of the challenge run thusly:

1. Read at least one book from each category listed below.  Make sure the books you choose are aimed at Small Fry – that is, the target audience of the book must be aged from birth to 18 years (or 21 for our American friends).  So you can read picture books, early chapter books, graphic novels, middle grade books or young adult books.  The categories are:

A book with something related to Safari in the title

A book with a piece of furniture in the title

A book with a specific time in the title

A book with someone’s name in the title

A book with something that comes in pairs in the title

A book with something precious in the title

A book with something unsightly in the title

A book with some form of wordplay in the title

2. Link your reviews/progress under the relevant linky lists on the category link up page (you can find it below).  If you don’t have a blog, you could link to your Goodreads shelf/reviews, or simply comment on the challenge page as you go.

3. Before you begin, write a post (or comment) announcing your resolution to participate and add it to the link on the main challenge page.

4. Buy and wear a garish safari style hat and wear it while reading your challenge books (optional).

So what are you waiting for? Jump on the safari bus with the intrepid explorers who have already signed on!  For more information about the challenge, click on the challenge image at the top of this post. *Life-changing nature of participation in the challenge not a guarantee*

FOR THOSE WHO HAVE ALREADY RESERVED THEIR PLACE ON THE SAFARI BUS:

As the clock ticked over last night, my little shelf-elves were hard at work putting together the link up page for each of the categories of the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge 2014!  If you have already signed up for the challenge, you can find the category link up page here, or as a sub-tab of the main challenge page in the blog header.   Also, you may notice at the top of the page I have included an alternate challenge button design – you might find it hard to believe, but some people find it disturbing to look upon my wizened countenance and therefore I have provided a rosy-cheeked safari-ing cherub for those sensitive folk.  Feel free to grab either one from my sidebar.

I look forward to safari-ing with you all this year.  Hi Ho Safari-Gargoyles, AWAY!

Bruce

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Talespins Blog Tour: Read it if and Giveaways!

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tale spins tour

“It’s become quite a trend to take a known story

and tell it a different way.

That’s all well and good, for we can assume

every author has something to say.”   

(Jack’d, Talespins, p 66)

Afternoon all!  I am chuffed as a chuffed thing to be participating in the blog tour for Michael Mullin’s new book Talespins, a poetic retelling of three traditional fairy tales.  Click on the link to check out the other blogs participating the tour, and then go visit!
Tour Schedule

Don’t forget to scroll down right to the end of this post too (after you’ve finished reading it all, word for word…obviously) for GIVEAWAYS! Hurrah!

Now I’ve mentioned before that I am generally not a fan of retellings of fairy tales in any form, but having recently read and enjoyed Scar and the Wolf, a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood with zombies, I felt that I should probably give this one a go.

Talespins features three short stories-in-verse aimed at an audience of middle grade and above.  The first story, 8: The Previously Untold Story of the Previously Unknown 8th Dwarf, is narrated by Creepy (the aforementioned previously unmentioned 8th dwarf) and presents a well-known and oft-repeated lament of unattractive suitors down through the ages.  The Plight and Plot of Princess Penny relates the results of a hip young princess’s ill-advised scheme to wreak revenge on a bullying schoolfriend, and Jack’d presents the Giant’s side of the traditional Jack and the Beanstalk tale, with a guest appearance by Death.

I thoroughly enjoyed these tales.  In my experience of ferreting out fantastic ebooks for children and young people, I have found time and again that some novice authors grossly underestimate the difficulty of constructing GOOD rhyming text.   Good rhyming text has cadence.  It has meter.  It has a rhythm that allows someone reading aloud to perform the story, rather than just read it.  One of my major pet peeves is the creation and sale of books (usually in e-format, and usually self-published by people who have bypassed entirely any decent process of editing) by those who believe that just slapping two random sentences one after the other and chucking two rhyming words at the end constitutes good writing for children.  I am absurdly happy therefore, to assure you that to read Talespins is to experience GOOD rhyming text.

There are a few spots in which the meter is a bit out, particularly in the middle story of the three, but overall, Mullin has done a great job at sustaining the rhyme and rhythm throughout these reasonably long (for verse) short stories.

tale-spinsRead it if:

* you believe that not all fairy tales should end happily ever after

* you’ve ever been referred to amongst your group of friends, in word or thought, as “the one with the unfortunate face”

* you fervently adhere to the idea that every school’s bullying policy should allow for retaliatory use of potions moste potente by victims against their perpetrators

* you have a recurring dream involving magic beans, a poorly maintained elevator shaft, and the clammy hand of death on your shoulder

 Given that I have now enjoyed TWO fairy tale retellings in as many weeks, I should probably rethink my stance on rejecting them out of hand.  If you are looking for a quick, fun and feisty read for a young’un around your shelf these holidays, you could do a lot worse than securing a copy of Talespins.

Incidentally, Talespins would also be the perfect choice for those participating in the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge for 2014, in category eight (a book with wordplay in the title).  If you have no idea what I’m on about, perhaps you should click on this large and attractive button, and enlighten yourself, sign up and set your thill-seeking missiles to FUN!

small fry

 Now that your participation in the Safari is all settled (welcome aboard!), you should have a look below at some more info about Talespins and its author, Michael Mullin.  Right at the bottom of the post, because I always save the best ’til last, are two giveaways – one for US residents only ….*sniff*…fine…us internationals know when we’re not wanted…*sob*….and one for the rest of us.

Until next time,

Bruce

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Tale Spins
A trilogy of alternative fairytales and retellings. Discover the real Snow White story through the eyes of Creepy, the unknown 8th dwarf! Meet a teen princess who hires “The Frog Prince” witch to get revenge on a Mean Girl at school! And learn how the giant, boy thief and magic beans tale truly went down!

Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Praise for Tale Spins

Not usually enamoured of either re-tellings or poetry I was totally taken aback by just how much I relished this trilogy of alternative fairytales and re-tellings aimed at the Young Adult market. ~Tracy (Goodreads)

TaleSpins was like walking into a vintage store and finding a true treasure. This book takes the fairytales we all grew up on and gives them an interesting and modernized version that I enjoyed. ~Rose (Goodreads)

mike mullin

Author Michael Mullin

Michael Mullin is a native New Englander living in Pasadena. He is the author of TaleSpins, a trilogy of alternative fairy tales and retellings for YA readers. TaleSpins stories (in the 1-book collection) are “8: The Previously Untold Story of the Previously Unknown 8th Dwarf”; “The Plight and Plot of Princess Penny”; and “Jack’d”. Michael is also the co-author of the successful “Larry Gets Lost” children’s book series. His screenplay “Zooing Time” was recognized by the WGA’s Written By magazine. Before all this writing, he taught preschool and college, two positions he found disconcertingly similar.

Website * Facebook * Twitter

Tour Giveaways

Giveaway #1 – Open to US only

Mike Mullin Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway #2 $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 1/21/14 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Small Fry Safari KidLit Readers Challenge 2014: Sign Up!

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Afternoon all! After a very brief and not very deeply considered period of reflection, I have decided to take the plunge and host a readers challenge for 2014.  I hope you will join me in committing to conquer this most wiley and tricksy of beasts:

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The Small Fry Safari KidLit Readers Challenge!

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* The Challenge will run from January 1st to December 31, 2014.

* Challengees must read at least one book from each category (listed below).

* Books selected must be aimed at a target age range of under-18, so anything from cloth books to Young Adult is acceptable.  Books can be any format you like – print, audio, ebook – and any genre.  Alternatively, books could be ABOUT children – for example, parenting books, or memoirs about children

* The categories listed are a loose guide and creative interpretation of the categories is not only encouraged, but applauded. Loudly.

* Challengees should link their reviews/progress under the relevant linky lists on the main challenge page.  If you don’t have a blog, you could link to your Goodreads shelf/reviews, or simply comment on the challenge page as you go.

*Feel free to display the challenge button (html for which is in the sidebar) and share about the challenge wherever you like!

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1. A book with something related to Safari in the title (eg: Rumble in the Jungle, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt)

2. A book with a piece of furniture in the title: (eg: 100 Cupboards, The Adventures of the Wishing Chair)

3. A book with a specific time in the title: (eg: Grim Tuesday, The Eleventh Hour)

4. A book with someone’s name in the title: (eg: Ella Kazoo Will Not Brush Her Hair, Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret?, Cinderella Ate My Daughter)

5. A book with something that comes in pairs in the title: (eg: Shoes From Grandpa, The Twins at St Clare’s)

6. A book with something precious in the title: (eg: Where’s the Gold?, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone)

7. A book with something unsightly in the title: (eg: Scarface Claw, The Ugly Duckling, Get Back, Pimple!, Trash )

8. A book with some form of wordplay in the title : (eg: Dark Lord: A Fiend in Need, The Perpetual Papers of the Pack of Pets, The French Confection)

So what are you waiting for?? Click the link to sign up below!

I hope to battle out this challenge with you all by my side, intrepid explorers!

Until next time,

Bruce

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