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Another great Look-and-Find book.

Little Detectives At School: A LOOK and FIND Book - Baretti

Having enjoyed Little Detectives at Home with my granddaughter, this will be the obvious book to move on to when she's found all the hidden items in the home. As yet she's a long way from school age so I think of this as the second book, even though they will both be released on the same day.

 

As before, there are six images, this time, each one illustrates a room in a school. In each of these rooms there are numerous characters and objects and the idea is to find each of eight items, illustrated and named along the bottom of the page.

 

We meet the same characters as in the previous book and again I found some of them a little too stylised. Particularly the "snowman'' who I assume must be a duck. Despite this small criticism, these books are a great alternative to traditional stories and I can see them being a useful distraction in waiting rooms or busy places, where children need to be kept busy.

And when we have found all the items on each of the pages there is a list of additional things we can search for at the back - telling the time on the clock that appears on every page and counting items of different colours etc.

Age 3 - 5 years.

Beautiful book.

Beauty and the Beast - An Leysen

There must be hundreds of versions of this classic, but this retelling by An Leysen is beautifully balanced and stunningly illustrated and is definitely a book I would love to have on my shelf to share with my grandchildren. Sadly, this was a NetGalley review copy so my grandchildren can only view it electronically.

I liked that the beast was not too scary and not going to give young children nightmares.
This is a moral tale - don't judge people by their appearance - and given the success of recent books like Wonder by R.J. Palacio, it is a timely release.

Looking on Amazon, I see there are already three other fairy tales in this series, Baba Yaga, Pinochio's Dream and The Nutcracker, all with similar art work, beautifully created by the author. I would definitely consider buying these books; the illustrations also make a big difference to my own pleasure when reading to children.
Age 5 years +.

Beautiful book.

Beauty and the Beast - An Leysen

There must be hundreds of versions of this classic, but this retelling by An Leysen is beautifully balanced and stunningly illustrated and is definitely a book I would love to have on my shelf to share with my grandchildren. Sadly, this was a NetGalley review copy so my grandchildren can only view it electronically.

 

I liked that the beast was not too scary and not going to give young children nightmares. This is a moral tale - don't judge people by their appearance - and given the success of recent books like Wonder by R.J. Palacio, it is a timely release. 

 

Looking on Amazon, I see there are already three other fairy tales in this series, Baba Yaga, Pinochio's Dream and The Nutcracker, all with similar art work, beautifully created by the author. I would definitely consider buying these books; the illustrations make a big difference to my own pleasure when reading to children.

Age 5 years +.

Recommended board book.

Little Detectives At Home: A LOOK and FIND Book - Baretti

This is a cute book, a bit like Where's Wally for much younger children. There are six images, each one illustrating a room in a house. In each of these rooms there are numerous characters and objects and the idea is to find each of eight items, illustrated along the bottom of the page.

 

The recommended age for this book is 3 to 5 years but I tried it out with my eldest grandchild who is almost 2. We only attempted one page but she was fascinated by all the animal characters and on a second viewing is starting to get the hang of searching for the items. She was thrilled with herself for being able to name ''eggs''.

 

My only criticism is that some of the animal characters are actually quite difficult to identify, the dog looks very much like a bear and there's one that seems to be a snowman, though I must have got that wrong, maybe a duck?

 

I can see this being a book that we fall back on regularly when we find ourselves in waiting rooms or busy places where she needs to be kept busy. And when we have found all the items on each of the pages there is a list of additional things we can search for at the back - telling the time on the clock that appears on every page and counting items of different colours etc....and when all of that is done, there is a second book - Little Detectives at School, to move on to.

 

 

 

Disappointing.

All of a Sudden - R.P. Wolff

This was an interesting premise for a story, three people awaken on top of their graves on the same day, and although they had all died on the same date, their deaths had been several years apart and their graves were in the same city but not on the same site.

 

First they have to convince themselves that they are alive, but that the year has drastically changed; then they must convince other people that they are who they claim to be and adjust to their new circumstances.

In their previous existences, Frank had been the millionaire owner of a pizza company, Beverley was the coloured maid for a wealthy family and Madison had been just fourteen years old when a fire burned down her house and killed herself and her family.

 

So, an interesting idea for a novel, but sadly, this book was poorly edited and the same words and phrases were repeated...and repeated. The dialogue was weak and the narrator was struggling, particularly with the male voices.

I had agreed to review the audio version for Audiobook Boom and so I managed to complete it, but I'm afraid I would not read this author again, nor recommend it to others.

 

 

Beautiful illustrations.

Why Blue? - Josh Tuiniga

I just love the artwork in this children's book and the idea of using it to answer one of the many questions that young children ask on a day-to-day basis - why is the sky blue?

 

I remember being told when my children first started school that we should make every effort to get the facts correct when our children asked us questions. Probably the only thing that I remember from that meeting, around twenty-five years ago.

So that could be the reason why I have problems with the answers this little girl receives - " "Because," said the baker, I had leftover blueberries from this morning's pancakes!" " or the musician, who replies - " "Cause I'm playin' the BLUES, little gal!" "

The correct answer is given by her brother but belittled by turning it into a ramble that goes over her head.

 

Towards the end she sees that the sky has turned red and purple and orange - another fabulous illustration. And by bedtime it was black, with stars.

So I'm left with a very mixed response to this book - illustrations 5*, content 2*.

Icelandic adventure.

Volcano Island - William Graham, William Graham, Mary Allwright

William Graham is a keen travel blogger and it's great that he shares his experiences with young readers in his children's literature. This book is set in Iceland and I discovered to my surprise, that it was the first book I'd read about that country.

 

Rolf and Frieda are both ten; Rolf is a slightly alienated American boy and Frieda is an Icelandic girl, struggling through the recent death of her mother. Their parents are friends and arrange for Rolf to spend some of his summer vacation in Iceland. In spite of initial reservations, the two children find they have a lot in common and Frieda enjoys showing him around and sharing some of the local folklore.

 

The book was an interesting combination of travelogue and local myths, with a bit of an adventure thrown in. Sadly, most youngsters seem to want to read fantasy these days, but for a child looking for something a bit different, this would be an excellent choice.

 

I was listening to the audiobook version, well narrated by Mary Allwright, and obtained through Audiobook Boom in exchange for an honest review.

Recommended age 5 to 10 years.

The downward spiral...

The Fifteenth of June - Brent Jones
I just finished listening to this book and it has left me feeling thoughtful. It's a difficult book to review as I didn't particularly like Drew Thompson for most of the book, yet it's hard not to empathise with him as he travels along the road to self-destruction.

The trigger for himself, his father and his brother, was the murder of his mother when Drew was just a teenager. Each of the men coped with his agonising loss in a different way and Drew chose to drown himself in a sea of alcohol, drugs and sex. As the book begins Drew is 28, leaving his long-standing girlfriend and moving into an apartment in a rough area. He's been sacked from his job for being drunk and high, and his life seems to be spiraling out of control.

He applies for a job at a call-centre and at the interview meets Kara, a Barbie-doll type character, who gives his life some meaning, at least for a while. But just as things seem to be taking a turn for the better, he discovers that his father, Russel, is terminally ill and doesn't have long to live. While Russel is ready to return to the side of his beloved wife, Drew struggles to take this added stress on board and the cracks begin to show.

I couldn't see where the author was going with this sorry character intent on his path of self destruction, but by the end I found I was actually beginning to like Drew and respect his decisions, which was refreshing.
An interesting debut, very different from my usual reads, but worthwhile, and I'm glad I chose to request a review copy from Audiobook Boom.
(I should possibly add a bad language and explicit sex warning.)
3 1/2 stars.
 
 

 

An early reader.

Kitty and Me (Reading Stars) - Judy Wolfman, Brett Greiman

I shared this with my toddler grandchildren and it got a bit of a mixed response. They love being able to read books on my Kindle with me but they definitely have their favourites. The eldest, nearly two years old, likes the book, but always wants to skip forwards to the dog - considering that she is surrounded by cats I find this a bit surprising. No other part of the book holds her attention. My grandson, 6 months younger, watched it intently and with much more enthusiasm.

 

Having said that, this is not solely a book for toddlers, it is intended to introduce a number of very simple words, which are repeated throughout, to start early readers along the route towards reading. For this reason it is pretty simple.

I'm not, personally, a great fan of the artwork and the story doesn't have much to appeal to parents for repeated reading (like The Gruffalo or Dear Zoo, for example), but it serves its purpose as an early reader and we'll probably return to it from time to time.

Nothing like A Man Called Ove.

Beartown: A Novel - Fredrik Backman

Oh dear, I was so looking forward to a new title by Fredrik Backman. I'd loved A Man Called Ove and was hoping for something along similar lines. Alas, I have no interest in sport, particularly ice hockey and I found the style in which the book is written rather patronising - for example: "And what is a Club?" (loc 4619) and: "What is a home?" (loc 4682).

 

The story takes place in an isolated community in a forested area of Sweden. The community's proudest moments have come from the up-coming junior hockey squad and everything revolves around them winning the junior final and progressing to the main tournament the following year. That's about all that happens for the first half of the book.

In the second half though, an event occurs, that turns the village on its head; there are recriminations and denials, and 'hockey' becomes the cause and the defense.

 

When writing reviews I always check back over the highlights that I've noted in my Kindle, a particularly good book inevitably has a good number of highlights. The number of highlights for this book is sadly telling. I found the hockey theme uninspiring and most of the characters were quite unpleasant.

It gets amazing reviews on Amazon, so I'm obviously alone in my opinion, but personally, I would only recommend it to people who live in ice hockey communities.

An eye-opener!

Paradise Denied: How I survived the Journey from Eritrea to Europe - Zekarias Kebraeb, Marianne Moesle, Andrew Godfrey

This is a book that definitely deserves a wider audience.

It is excellently summed up by the blurb on GoodReads: "Paradise Denied gives a face to the thousands of refugees who have no choice but leave behind their homes and risk their lives while hoping for a better destiny for themselves and their family."

 

Zekarias Kebraeb is Eritrean by birth. He enjoyed his childhood until, at the age of 17, he finished school and the bus was waiting at the school doors to transport the graduates off for their National Service - a duty that could last for 18 months, or could be a life-time commitment, no-one knew.

He had heard stories about National Service - his cousin had committed some perceived misdemeanour and been confined for two years in a metal shipping container as punishment, in intense heat and with little water or food.

Little wonder that he decided to attempt the treacherous journey to 'freedom'.

 

Having battled his way across the desert of the Sudan and then the stormy waters of the Mediterranean, he was horrified to discover that freedom was not waiting for him, in fact, many of his compatriots are shipped straight back to where they came from. The reception that awaits them back in Eritrea, is chilling.

 

This is a topical subject and I think it would give us all a more humane view if this book were more widely read.

I can't recommend it highly enough.

Novella

The Garden Of Magic - Sarah Painter

I'd never read a book by Sarah Painter, but it's hard to resist her beautiful covers, so I offered to review this audiobook for Audiobook Boom. I don't know the author or the narrator, so this is an impartial review.

 

Iris Harper is a herbalist, but she is getting on in years and I felt for her struggle to get downstairs and answer the doorbell when it rang. She has quite a reputation, but I couldn't quite see how she was going to help when a young girl is wrongly accused of theft.

In fact, I thought she was unacceptably rude to Bex when she came asking for help, and Bex was surprisingly long suffering. In the end, the resolution revolved around a considerable coincidence, which always makes me cringe.

 

It was an enjoyable listen, if a bit twee; well narrated by Tracey Norman. But it was only a novella, so it was hard to get into the story or the characters, before it drew to its conclusion. For this reason I'd feel this book was better suited to those who had already read some of Sarah Painter's novels, as it would elaborate on some of the folk they had already met. For a first time reader it was too short and didn't make me feel I needed to read more.

Lovely illustrations and scientifically sound.

Different? Same! - Heather Tekavec, Pippa Curnick

This was a beautifully illustrated children's book, highlighting the similarities between many, apparently different, animals. A blubbery walrus, a wrinkly elephant, a bristly warthog and a smooth narwhal are all very different at first glance, "but look closely now", they all have tusks. The catchy repetition of the phrase "but look closely now" worked really well to keep the rhythm and interest of the book's young audience.

 

My 15 month grandson was too young for the comparisons between the animals but he loved the images of the animals and making the noises of the ones he recognised.

Unfortunately the copy I received via NetGalley could not be viewed on my Kindle so this is not going to join 'The Forest Sleeps' as one of our favourite books.

 

At the end of the book all the animals are repeated, with an opportunity to note more similarities between them - spots, numbers of legs, or webbed feet, for example. There is also an explanation for features such as tusks, shells, whiskers, etc. I would imagine that this book would be popular in a pre-school library and for sharing with children between 2 and 5 years, it has plenty to offer for quite a varied age group.

Lovely illustrations and scientifically sound.

Different? Same! - Heather Tekavec, Pippa Curnick

This was a beautifully illustrated children's book, highlighting the similarities between many, apparently different, animals.
A blubbery walrus, a wrinkly elephant, a bristly warthog and a smooth narwhal are all very different at first glance, "but look closely now", they all have tusks. The catchy repetition of the phrase "but look closely now" worked really well to keep the rhythm and interest of the book's young audience.

My 15 month grandson was too young for the comparisons between the animals but he loved the images of the animals and making the noises of the ones he recognised.
Unfortunately the copy I received via NetGalley could not be viewed on my Kindle so this is not going to join The Forest Sleeps as one of our favourite books.

At the end of the book all the animals are repeated, with an opportunity to note more similarities between them - spots, numbers of legs, or webbed feet, for example. There is also an explanation for features such as tusks, shells, whiskers, etc.
I would imagine that this book would be popular in a pre-school library and for sharing with children between 2 and 5 years, it has plenty to offer for quite a varied age group.

You've got to try the Non-dairy Strawberry Ice Cream!

Shut Up and Cook!: Modern, Healthy Recipes That Anyone Can Make and Everyone Will Love - Erica Reid

Whilst I was not particularly keen on the title of this book, the recipes it contained were definitely inspiring.

Having the book on my Kindle meant that I could bookmark those that caught my eye and then select what to cook that day.

 

Unfortunately, not every recipe is illustrated, hence the four, rather than five stars, but there are a good number of vegetarian choices and all of the recipes are dairy free, which suits my family. I also liked that ideas for on-the-go snacks are marked with a little plane icon.

 

So far I have tried the Non-dairy Strawberry Ice Cream (even without an ice-cream maker my daughter declared it the best ice cream she had ever tasted!) Also, the Avocado Carrot Salad - though I think I'd reduce the cumin a bit next time, and the Black Bean Burgers.

Next on my list to try are Gypsy Girl Guacamole, Avocado Kale Smoothie and The Hollywood Bowl

 

There's quite an extensive introduction, which I confess I skipped, but it does include a useful list of the less common ingredients.

So, at 15% the recipes begin with Breakfast (9 recipes), then Vegetarian (23), Poultry (9), Lamb and Other Meats (3), Fish (4), Dressings and Sauces (6), Soups (6), Pizza (3), Snacks (11), Desserts 14), Drinks (5), a grand total of 93 options, many of which are vegetarian and dairy-free.

 

 

 

 

A middle-grade adventure story with some clever word-plays.

The King of Average - Gary  Schwartz

This is going to be a difficult review to write as I'm not quite sure how I feel about this audiobook. This was a middle-grade adventure story with a large number of word-plays and puns, that seemed to be more directed at adult readers; yet the adventure itself was more suited for a younger audience.

The audio version was expertly read by the actor, turned author, Gary Schwartz.

 

James is an average kid, with a mother who is too busy to give him any time and who claims he should never have been born. Not surprising then, that he has identity issues and a lack of confidence. He decides he must be the most average boy alive - average in school, in sports and in all other areas of his life, in fact, he could be the King of Average.

 

Thus begins an adventure where James must perform certain tasks to prove how average he is and thence take on the crown of a country known as The Kingdom of Average. Along with a crowd of friends that includes a pessimist, an optimist and a scapegoat, who always takes the blame, he travels through countries such as Epiphany, 

via The Sea of Doubt to Mount Impossible, the highest peak in the Unattainable Mountains. 

 

This is a strongly moral story, but how many children are going to stop to think about the book's message once the narrative ends? In my opinion, the target audience is teachers who are looking for a book to read aloud to their class, that also has some interest for them by way of the word plays and puns.

 

My thanks to Gary Schwartz, Audiobook Boom and Audible, who gave me this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.