New review: Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex

Just in time for National Poetry Day, I’m delighted to be reviewing the fantastic book, Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex, author and illustrator of many picture books and novels.

orange

We all know nothing rhymes with orange. But how does that make Orange feel? Well, left out! When a parade of fruit gets together to sing a song about how wonderful they are – and the song happens to rhyme – Orange can’t help but feel like it’s impossible for him to ever fit in.   

As soon as I read about this book I knew I’d love it – and I do!  It’s a wonderful parable of how in order to fit in, we sometimes need a bit of help and for that to happen others need to make space and maybe adjust a little.

orange 2

It starts as an amusing poem celebrating the wonderful and varied fruit, but as Orange gets more downhearted and desperate to fit it, the rhymes get a little more ridiculous.  As Drew Daywalt said (author of The Day the Crayons Quit) “any picture book that can work in Friedrich Nietzsche and lycanthropic pears is a winner”.

orange 1

Even Orange can’t work out what’s going on, asking questions throughout, creating an emotional commentary alongside the fruit parade poem.  Finally, it’s a very intuitive Apple who realises certain fruit are “feeling rotten because they’ve been forgotten” and works out just how to help Orange fit in.  I won’t spoil it, but it’s genius in its childlike simplicity!

orange 4

The illustrations are a combination of photographs, text and drawing, bringing to life a vibrant cast of characters – the fruit we know and love. Young and old alike will enjoy this fruity tale, a good book to read aloud creating instant empathy. Original and with a great message celebrating difference, Nothing Rhymes with Orange is a wonderful book to help celebrate National Poetry Day!

Find out more at www.adamrex.com

With thanks to Abrams and Chronicle for sending me this book to review.

Advertisements

New review: Early Learning with The British Museum and Nosy Crow

 

The partnership continues between The British Museum and Nosy Crow with three fantastic new books in their series of books for 0-12 year olds.  The British Museum is the country’s leading visitor attraction and the second most visited museum in the world.  The books draw on the British Museum’s unparalleled, vast and fascinating collection of objects and Nosy Crow’s expertise as the Independent Children’s publisher of the Year 2017, to create a collection of titles that represent and celebrate cultures from around the world!

Colours and Opposites are the two new titles in their board books series, where inquisitive toddlers can enjoy learning all the colours of the rainbow and contrasting opposites alongside seeing wonderful photographic images highlighting cultures from around the world.

There is a useful index in each book, detailing all the artefacts shown, giving little ones and grown-ups the chance to explore and learn more.

Featuring everything from illustrations by Beatrix Potter to a mask made of coconut from Bangladesh, I love the celebration of history and culture giving a wonderful opportunity to inspire even the youngest of minds. I also think older sibling’s, parents and carers will enjoy the tour through history!

Mixed-Up Masterpieces Funny Faces is a fun photographic mix-up book, featuring faces from the museum’s collection.  With puzzles to solve matching up the correct faces and then hours of fun mixing them all up again, there’s hundreds of hilarious combinations!

The faces used are incredible real masks from around the world, with an index at the back of the book telling you about each one. Again this is a book that will inspire curiosity in the many and varied cultures around the world and bring history to life – something all the family can enjoy.

Find out more at www.nosycrow.com and www.britishmuseum.org

With thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me these books to review.

New Review: You Can’t Make Me Go To Witch School! by Em Lynas illustrated by Jamie Littler

Em Lynas writes stories and poems for children aged 5 to 12 years. You Can’t Make Me Go To Witch School! is her fantastic debut novel, published by Nosy Crow and illustrated by Jamie Littler. A perfect combination of lively narrative and marvellous illustrations that bounce off the page, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read!

-You Can't Make Me Go To Witch School!-309098-1

You Can’t Make Me Go To Witch School! By Em Lynas illustrated by Jamie Littler

Daisy Wart is NOT a witch! She is an ACTRESS!  And actresses do NOT go to witch school! So when she finds herself at Toadspit Towers, sleeping in a swinging cauldron (surprisingly comfortable) and eating gloop (unsurprisingly disgusting), she vows to escape at all costs.  But how can she get past the TOADSPIT TERRORS that lurk in the corridors? And what if she REALLY IS a witch? Maybe even the WITCHIEST WITCH of them all?

Daisy Wart is furious when her Granny leaves her at Toadspit Towers boarding school for witches. Adamant that she is not a witch and determined to escape, so she can prove her thespian abilities in her school play, Daisy hatches an escape plan. And another, and another….all of which are doomed to fail! Stuck in a dormitory with the irritating Dominique, Best and Brightest Witch in the school, the longer Daisy spends at Toadspit, the more the mystery surrounding her ancestry unfolds.  Not only this, the school has a few mysteries of its own and it seems Daisy’s escape is tied up with the fate of Toadspit. With two new friends to help her, Daisy gathers all her courage and ingenuity to once and for all prove she is not a witch….!

You Can’t Make Me Go To Witch School! is a fantastic story, full of humour and original, fun magical details that will delight readers.  I particularly liked the school reward system – magical ticks giving students the ability to ‘buy’ treats (I’d love to be able to do this at my school!) A lively cast of characters include Mrs Toadspit the resident ghost and headmistress; Mrs Thorn, a teacher with looks that cold ‘shrivel’; Jess and Shalini, Daisy’s friends; and of course a variety of magical creatures from hooting owls, carnivorous plants to magical wooden cats! I particularly enjoyed Ms Lobelia the singing/gardening expert (wonderfully drawn by Jamie Littler).

Daisy who is a loveable but somewhat feisty girl has to quickly learn how to fit in at her new school and make friends, something many readers will identify with – although I don’t imagine many readers sleep in swinging cauldrons! Jamie Littler’s fantastic Illustrations bring to life the humour and magic of the story and as the plot thickens, there are some brilliantly described edge of your seat moments. There is a slightly unexpectedly gruesome moment as the story climaxes to watch out for with younger readers, but I’m sure You Can’t Make Me Go To Witch School! will be a hit with all who read it and they’ll be clamouring for the next in the series!

-You Can't Make Me Go To Witch School!-309098-1

Find out more at www.emlynas.weebly.com.

With thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me this book to review!

 

Bookchat: Adam Hargreaves

 

banner new

 

I am so very excited to say that Adam Hargreaves is on the blog today! I think if someone had told me when I was young that one day I’d be talking to one of the creators of the Mr Men, I would never have believed them!

SONY DSC

Adam is the son of original Mr Men creator, Roger Hargreaves.  Not only has he continued the work of his father, Adam is also a painter, creating beautiful oil on canvas landscapes.  I was delighted to be invited to interview Adam following the publication of his first book from his very own series, Molly Mischief: My Perfect Pet!  The adventures of Molly are bound to delight young and old alike. I read the story aloud with my five year old niece who laughed out loud and announced that Molly was exactly like her!

Molly is a wonderful character – full of life, mischief and mayhem – exactly what an inquisitive little girl should be.  Her first adventure centres on a trip to the zoo, where Molly becomes inspired to find a pet more perfect than her own little mouse, Polka.  The antics that follow as Molly tries to find her ‘perfect’ pet are very funny and utterly endearing.  Try as she might, none of the animals she ‘borrows’ from the zoo quite fit at home, from a hippo to a giraffe to an elephant.  Eventually she realises that maybe her pet mouse, Polka, is more perfect than anything else – much to the relief of her family (except maybe her brother…!).  Molly Mischief: My Perfect Pet is exactly what a children’s story should be – funny, full of imagination, with a valuable lesson to be learned. And perfect for sharing!

Molly Mischief COVER_with sticker.jpg

Welcome to the blog Adam and congratulations on the publication of Molly Mischief!  I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it – as did my five year old niece who said ‘Molly reminds me of me!”. It’s a wonderful story and feels like an absolute classic. Can you tell us about your inspiration for writing it? The inspiration for Molly comes from the wonderful ability that children have to imagine something and for that to also be real for them. I particularly remember this when my kids were young. My son Jacob would dress up as Batman and then we would have these surreal conversations about what Jacob was doing in another room in the house. I wanted to capture this power of imagination in a character. Molly can be or do anything she wishes.

This is your first children’s book outside of the Mr Men. Was creating Molly a very different experience from working on the Mr MenThe creation of the idea for Molly Mischief was obviously quite different, but writing and illustrating Mr Men books has given me a lot of experience which I have been able to apply to writing Molly. Over the years I have developed a sort of process that fits to anything I am trying to write.

Can you tell us about the creative process behind Molly? I hand draw everything and then scan the black line drawing into my computer where I colour the illustration as I like the flat finish I can achieve that way. I have a pretty good idea of the page layouts from the start, so don’t often need to make any major changes to composition later on. It took a while and a few variations to pin down exactly who I wanted Molly to be (and she went through various name changes before Molly Mischief, but now she is a Molly I can’t think of her in any other way), but once I had given her a mischievous nature then everything fell into place. Strangely, even for lots of different versions of drawing her, she has always had the same outfit.

When I was young, my sister and I would literally spend hours drawing the Mr Men; some drawings were more successful than others!  Molly Mischief is wonderfully drawn and I particularly love her mischievous expressions. What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators and artists to help them develop their creative talent – particularly when it comes to storytelling? The more you draw the better you get, so keep practising and then, as you get better, the more fun it becomes. Drawing is all about observation, so it is important to look at things very hard when you are trying to draw them.

What adventures can we expect from Molly in the future? I am writing a second story about Molly which explores the advantages and pitfalls of being a superhero. And her superpowers, of course, involve a lot of chaos and mayhem for her family.

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions. I’m looking forward to reading Molly’s next adventure (and so is my niece!)

Adam Hargreaves will be introducing Molly Mischief, including a live draw-along, at the Bath Festival of Children’s Literature. Sunday 1stOctober, 1.30pm.

For more information visit www.pavilionbooks.com.  With thanks to Pavilion Books for sending me a copy of this wonderful book.

banner new

New review: Help! I’m a Genius by Jo Franklin

More fun and hilarity is to be had in this second instalment of the Help! series featuring Daniel and friends written by Jo Franklin.  After the success of  Help! I’m an Alien and like all true aliens, Jo is well on the way to achieving her dream of world domination!

help_series_genius

Help! I’m a Genius by Jo Franklin with illustrations by Aaron Blecha

Daniel Kendal has the smallest brain in his family and the smallest brain in the world. He knows absolutely nothing about anything. Everyone is shocked when he is mistaken for a genius and selected to compete in the National Brainiac Championships. What can a pea-brain like Daniel do to avoid making a fool of himself? And will his friends Freddo and Gordon the Geek help him?

Daniel thinks he has no chance when by a strange twist of fate he ends up representing his school in the National Brainiac Championships, an inter-schools contest.  After all, he’s nothing like his super-clever parents or his best friend Gordon the Geek.  And it’s Gordon and his other best friend Freddo who he turns to for help with hilarious results.  From a disgusting diet regime (radioactive pond weed anyone?) to a skull-stretching device (to make room for a bigger brain of course…) the three friends try everything to fill Daniel’s brain with facts, to no avail. Coupled with the news that his family might be moving to America, Daniel’s headaches go from bad to worse! As the date of the competition draws near, Daniel realises he’s just going to have to make a big fool of himself in front of everyone – or rely on his friends to help him cheat!

Laugh-out-loud moments and humiliation abound as Daniel tries to find a way to ‘win’ the competition.  I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the quirky cast of characters again – even Freddo with his interesting bodily functions! We see more of Daniel’s family who still drive him mad –and the daily dilemmas he faces feeling like the odd-one-out in his family – something all readers can relate to. There’s even some Dad-dancing brilliantly brought to life by Aaron Blecha’s illustrations which complement the story throughout. It’s not all slapstick though, with the more ‘serious’ thread of the possible relocation of the family to America due to Daniel’s Dad’s new job. This adds greater pressure to Daniel, as his sister Jess is convinced if he wins the competition they’ll be able to stay in England.  The tension mounts and Daniel’s self-awareness may just be the biggest barrier to realising he’s not as dumb as he thinks he is! Help! I’m A Genius is a very funny read and Daniel learns another valuable lesson this time about believing in yourself, even when you don’t feel good enough.  I’m looking forward to the next instalment!

Find out more at www.jofranklinauthor.co.uk . With thanks to Troika for sending me this book to review.

Book of the Month: Prisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth Lauren

book of the month

Introducing a new feature to the website and blog….Book of the Month! And our first choice is a fantastic debut adventure by Ruth Lauren, Prisoner of Ice and Snow, publishing today from Bloomsbury.

download (1)

 

Prisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth Lauren

Valor is under arrest for the attempted murder of the Crown Prince. Her parents were cast out from the royal court. Her sister was banished for the theft of a national treasure. Now Valor has been sentenced to life at Tyur’ma, a brutal prison built from snow and ice. But that’s exactly where she wants to be: her sister was sent there too, and Valor intends to break her out. From the inside.

No one has escaped Tyur’ma in over three hundred years though, and if Valor is to succeed, she will need all of her strength, courage and love. If her plan fails, Valor faces a fate worse than any prison….

Prisoner of Ice and Snow is set in the fictional land of Demidova. It’s a thrilling adventure featuring Valor, who lives up to her name as a brave and fearless heroine, stopping at nothing to free her twin sister, Sasha.  Sasha has been imprisoned for stealing a music box; an artefact of such importance it can stop impending war.  Meticulously planning her own capture and an impossible escape, Valor’s determination to free her sister is palpable from the first page; even if it means treason against her country and the royal family her parents once served.  Inside the fearsome prison for children, it quickly becomes clear all is not what it seems; Valor finds herself fighting a hidden enemy as well as surviving the brutal regime of the prison run by the ruthless Warden Kirov. Initially not wanting to trust anyone, Valor keeps her counsel and becomes even more determined when she discovers Sasha was framed. The sisters soon realise their fate is tied up with solving the mystery behind the theft as well as finding an escape route.  It seems that luck is not on their side and there is no choice but to put their trust in some of their fellow prisoners and accept help, whatever the motivations might be.

I read this gripping story in one sitting! It’s a fantastic adventure, with a wonderful heroine and great supporting cast. The snow covered landscape of Demidova gives a magical feel to the whole tale and the well-written descriptions create a captivating setting.  In particular the sense of foreboding around the prison is very real – you can almost feel the ice-cold air as you read! The plot is full of intrigue with the importance of the music box and indeed of Valor and her sister becoming more significant with each turn of the page. The over-riding theme of sisterly loyalty is very appealing; Valor and Sasha whilst being twins have distinct personalities and are instantly likeable.  I enjoyed the relationships between Valor and the small group of prisoners caught up in the plot; Feliks is a good contrast to the darker moments with his cheeky sense of humour and the slightly gruff Katia makes a great cellmate for Valor.  The friendships are totally believable and you can just imagine that in those circumstances they are absolutely crucial to surviving.  The more sinister characters are suitably menacing and you find yourself rooting for Valor, Sasha and their friends to defeat them. Edge-of-your-seat action scenes are well described and with a very satisfying ending, this couldn’t be a more enjoyable debut! With a sequel to follow, ‘The Seeker of the Crown’, readers will be captivated by Valor and the kingdom of Demidova.

book of the month

 

Find out more at www.ruthlauren.com.

With thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me this book to review.