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Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Book review: Blown Away

Author & Illustrator: Rob Biddulph

Release date: 29th Jan 2015
Format: Picture book
Target audience: 3+
Publisher: HarperCollins


Blown Away is a wonderfully adventurous picture book which delights the reader with its cheeky animal characters and its bright setting.

The story begins with Penguin Blue who is taking a kite for a flight for the first time. He gets blown away and calls for help to his animal friends to help him. They get blown along too and thus they embark on their adventure.

Blown Away is a rhyming picture book and has a lively rhythm. It’s a perfect read aloud book. There is ingenuity in the illustrations which adds charming details like the blue whale becoming the school bus.

This is also a really useful book for beginning to teach the idea of animal habitats and adaptation. The penguins find it too hot in the rainforest. It would be a nice starting point to discover why some animals live in cold climates and some in tropical, humid climates.

I read this book to the Nursery children and to a Year 2 class. It was great to see the different things they noticed and the questions that the older children asked about the language and the setting.

Blown Away is a must have for any primary school library. It’s fab!

Source: Borrowed from the school library

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Book review: Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse

Author: Chris Riddell

Release date: 12th September 2013
Genre: Gothic Adventure/ Comedy
Target audience: 8+ / Middle Grade
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse is funny, quirky adventure story. It’s full of friendship, imaginative characterisation and a daft, adorable humour.

Ada Goth is a spirited and polite girl who lives with her father – Lord Goth – at Ghastly-Gorm Hall. Her mother died from a terrible accident and he is still grieving. Ada is rather lonely at the beginning of the story until she meets the ghost of a mouse and sets out to discover how to help him.

This is a truly bonkers book. It has Chris Riddell’s unique stamp all over it. The humour in the choice of character name and the playing with exaggeration – for example, he plays with the concept of the secret garden.

Ghastly-Gorm Hall is the sort of setting that will appeal to young readers. It’s an adventure waiting to happen and the added attraction of the illustrated form of this book really helps it come to life. Middle Grade readers are not likely to understand the concept of Gothic and this book is a great introduction to it.

One of the wonderful things about it is the use of exciting, unusual words. Sometimes I was wondering if some of these words were actual words or if they were completely fabricated. How much fun for young readers to find out though!

I wish there were more books of this length and this format for this market. It’s great for newly confident readers. The layout is kind on the eyes and the illustrations help readers picture every wacky detail from the clothing to the eggy-soldiers.

Overall, Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse is a great book which has been super popular at my school library. With its nomination for the Kate Greenaway Medal, it will surely be a hit with librarians and pupils for years to come.

Source: Borrowed from the school library

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Book review: Breakable

Author: Tammara Webber

Release date: 7th May 2014
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Target audience: New Adult (frequent & detailed sexual references)
Publisher: Penguin

Breakable is a companion novel to Easy. It’s the same story told from Lucas’ point of view.
I decided to read this because I wanted something light. When you’re studying all the time, your brain can only compute so much. I wanted to read something quick too as all these Robin Hobb novels I’m addicted to take a long time!

This novel takes us inside Lucas’ head and takes us into his past. It’s a split narrative between him now and him growing up as Landon after his mother is brutally murdered.

I enjoyed it but not as much as Easy. The problem with it is if you’ve read Easy, then you’re not really learning anything new (just some additional back story). I feel this doesn’t really work. I thought it would tell the story from the end of Easy as a sequel but sadly that is not the case.

The other issue I had with it was there wasn’t enough action or drama. It seems like a really self-indulgent book – full of erotic moments which at times were simply annoying.

Overall, I’m being honest here and saying that I was disappointed. Read Easy – that’s great. Give this a miss. (You could take a bit of inspiration from Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and write your own ‘what happened next’).

Source: Bought and read on my Kobo.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Book review: Tinder

Author: Sally Gardner

Illustrator: David Roberts
Release date: November 2013
Genre: Fairy tale retelling/ Gothic
Target audience: YA (sexual references and violence)
Publisher: Indigo (Orion)

Tinder is a fairy tale retelling of Hans Christen Andersen’s The Tinder Box.

Otto Hundebiss is on the battlefields among the many bodies of the dead. He cheats death and is given a set of dice to guide him on his way. It’s not a comforting read...

I’ve wanted to read this for ages but the shortlisting for the Kate Greenaway Medal has propelled it to the top of my reading pile.

I still haven’t quite decided what to make of it. I suppose it is the nature of the fairy tale before Disney gets their hands on it. Fairy tales are dark, full of deception and have a structure that’s so familiar. There were some very detailed descriptions of gore and blood and dark deeds. It’s definitely written with a young adult rather than middle grade audience in mind.

What I did like was the descriptions of the setting and some of the character references - like the lawyer being referred to as a quill. It stood out to me as clever. But sadly, I never really connected what Otto. I never lived his passion or felt his fear. Personally, I think the illustrations were distracting. My mind couldn’t conjure the darkness for itself and that worked against making the story come to life.

The illustrations that I did think were good were of the scenes where Otto goes to retrieve the box and the wolves become men. I thought the brothers were almost godly in stature and that was really evocative of the fairy tale tradition (for me anyway).

Overall, this is certainly different. I’m looking forward to reading what other people thought about Tinder.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Review: Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Release date: 30th Jan 2013
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Target audience: YA
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s books

Fangirl is a story of moving on, growing up, finding love and finding yourself. It’s a sweet romance with an enthralling plot. I loved it!

I really did not want this book to end. Reading it was an utter treat. It was sweet but convincing. I loved how it communicated the passion of readers through fan-fiction. The fan-fiction was so cleverly interwoven into the plot that I wanted to keep reading that story as well as the story of Cath.

Cath and Wren are twin sisters. When they go to college, everything changes. Wren wants to go it alone, Cath wants anything but. Propelled into college life, Cath would happily live in her dorm room and never leave. Except that her roommate Reagan is rather intimidating and she has about five different boyfriends. Cath must find her way through this whole new world. She must try to connect with people and make friends. But first she’ll need to leave her room...

There was a great authenticity to Cath’s writing struggle. It is surely easier to write about characters that already have a life and a soul and a whole world to inhabit. The fun is all about taking them on wild adventures. Writing for pleasure is like reading for pleasure. You do it for yourself so you can live in a make believe world. Now constructing a whole new world (that has logical boundaries and characters who are flawed) is much more difficult. But then taking those risks equates to greater rewards. (If this reads like an academic essay, please excuse me. It’s a consequence of being at UCL right now!) Cath’s dilemma resonates with me right now but not because I’m writing fiction. I’ve just conducted my own piece of research and hey, it was not easy, AT ALL! But now I’ve pretty much completed the assignment, I feel like it was a watershed moment. I have constructed something entirely my own. It feels like an achievement.

[Back to Fangirl]

I know some people didn’t enjoy this as much as Eleanor and Park but I totally did. It’s like trying to compare a marshmallow and a sherbet lemon. Both are amazing but completely different. Fangirl stands on its own as a beacon of romantic bliss. There are some very serious teen issues in this book: mental illness, isolation, alcoholism, learning difficulties. But the issues are not the heart of the book. The heart of the book is the most endearing love story. It’s wonderful. I truly didn’t want it to end and yet I gobbled it up.

I am a fangirl of Fangirl! Rainbow Rowell is a super-star of teen fiction writing.