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Saturday, 26 September 2015

Book review: 'Who Could That Be at This Hour?'

Author: Lemony Snicket

Release date: 20th June 2013
Genre: Mystery
Target audience: 9+
Publisher: Egmont


‘Who Could That Be at This Hour?’ is a quirky, oddball mystery. It’s whacky, it’s confusing and it’s full of fantastic words. It’s the first book in the All the Wrong Questions series.

Lemony Snicket is a young apprentice to S. Thedora Markson. Quite what is he is training for is unclear. But I gathered that it was perhaps a private detective of some kind. He travels with Thedora to a client in Stain’d-by-the-Sea. A town unlike one you’ve ever seen before. There he is employed to locate and return an object which has been stolen.

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But I’m not sure I’ve ever read a children’s book which was so deliberately confusing. This book is bonkers. Why was Lemony Snicket in the cafe at the beginning? Why did he sneak out the window? Why does he choose the worst chaperone available? I’ve finished the book and there are still many unanswered questions. However, I did enjoy reading it.

My only complaint about this oddball book is the ending. Because after all the crazy setting, characters and unanswered questions, it turns out you have to read the next one to find out who was after the stolen object in this story. I felt like I’d been cheated. I love series books but as far as I’m concerned the story does need to be wrapped up rather than just left hanging. Especially when you consider that younger readers are persevering with so much new exciting language and strange happenings. They deserve a rewarding ending and not a feeling of bafflement.

A quick mention for the illustrations by Seth - I love them. They are as quirky as the story and they certainly helped me follow what was happening.

I decided to read this book for the A to Z Reading Challenge – for letter Q for Questions. It is surely the perfect book for that category. It was funny and definitely strange and overall, it was entertaining.

Source: Borrowed from the school library

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Book review: Madame Tussaud's Apprentice

Author: Kathleen Benner Duble

Release date: 15th July 2015
Genre: Historical fiction
Target audience: 11+
Publisher: Alma Books

Madame Tussaud’s Apprentice is a story of revolution, friendship and survival. In a time of political turmoil, it is difficult to know who to trust and who to love.

Célie and her friend Algernon are street urchins who pick the pockets of the rich French Parisians. But when the victim of their crime is the king’s brother - Comte D’Artois – it can only lead to a horrible punishment. Célie is rescued by Marie Tussaud and is employed to draw backdrops for the waxwork museum. The mood in France is volatile country and the future is far from certain.

I enjoyed reading about the work of Madame Tussaud. Of course, I (like many) have visited the London attraction and so it was fascinating to learn some of the history behind it. Célie’s education in waxwork was compelling reading.

There is an interesting message in this story about the choice to be violent in revolution. Célie wants change but as the story progresses she comes to realise that violence in any form is abhorrent. Perhaps she is naive to think that change can come about without the populous taking up arms. But history tells us, change can happen through peaceful protest. I like that this book raises these issues especially at a time when many young people feel alienated from British society.

The pace and the plot of the story follow the events of the French revolution. As I was reading it, I found that I was more engaged with the middle when Célie has an active role at Versailles and the conflict of her predicament with the Comte D’Artois. When she is whisked away to Paris, I lost a little interest and it wasn’t until the beheading of King Louis that I really wanted to read on again. (I hardly think that’s a spoiler. Surely everyone knows that is inevitable?!)

Having been to Paris and Versailles so recently, this book was perfectly timed for me to enjoy it. I liked many of the characters: Célie, Maris Tussaud and little Jean-Louis. Madame Tussaud’s Apprentice was a good read.

Source: Review copy from the publisher. Thank you.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Reading Challenge: Read Your A to Z

Umbrella Education are running a fantastic reading challenge which I am going to be running in our school library this year.

The aim of this challenge is to widen students' reading choices and help them to discover something new. (And of course have lots of fun in the process). It's great for those children who get stuck on Wimpy Kid and the like.

What's the challenge?
Students read a book for each letter of the alphabet. A is for Adventure, B is for Baddies etc.

I created the display on the right to help students get started. The book covers are pegged up so they can be changed frequently throughout the year.

Visit the Umbrella Education website for the downloads including bookmarks, review sheet and the all important A to Z categories: 

I have put my resources for the challenge into a share file on Google Drive in case they are of use to other librarians and teachers: Here is the link: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B3g0cuwB5d62aldTY1JreUtKMEU&usp=sharing
I'd like to adapt this for our Pre Prep children too. D is for Dystopia wouldn't work for them. But D is for Dinosaur = awesome!

I'm going to have at completing the challenge too. The children always get excited when the adults join in.

So are you running a reading challenge this year?

Any ideas for Z is for Zebra?

If you have a go, make sure you tweet your reads #readyourAtoZ