Sunday, 20 August 2017

Jug Valley Adventures #1 Boys V. Girls by Anne Digby (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E)

 February 2017, Straw Hat, 78 pages, Ebook, Review copy

Book summary
When a bike is stolen from the school bike sheds at Jug Valley Juniors, Tim forms a secret club with his friends Ben and Ludo to try to solve the crime. They call themselves the Handles. 'This isn't girls' stuff,' he tells his twin sister Amy. 'It needs boys to handle it.' 

To get back at the boys, Amy and her best friend Mini jokingly call themselves the Spouts...but it's no longer a joke when Mum's lovely bike is stolen, too, giving the girls a serious quest of their own. And so the rival detectives go into action - mainly against each other.
Yet they should be working together if they want to avoid danger...

Nayu's thoughts
Reading the synopsis I decided not to review this book as it sounded like the boys were the main characters,  but I know the publisher online and they thought I'd enjoy t so I gave it a go-it's great! It's a modern feeling Enid Blyton type of feel. Anne's written several series including the girl focused Trebizon boarding school series, so I knew I liked her style of writing. I loved how adamant the girls and boys were not to work together for most of the book, being very competitive about it, until the part they had to cooperate to survive. 

Initially I was a bit surprised by what I read - it seemed like the story was heading in a direction I didn't see often for this age group, but then it turned out to be something else which I'm used to reading. I adored baby Harry, who was generally seen as a pain, even though he had an important part in helping solve the mystery. I liked how technology was a part of the story (fitting the 1990s when it was originally published) but not an all consuming part of the children's lives, again suiting the publication date. It was very easy to imagine because as I grew up while I didn't go on bike rides my friends were allowed out and about on their own. It doesn't feel a dated read because of the technology - friendship and sibling rivalry is timeless. 

The girls proudly had as many good ideas as the boys, and are a bit more methodical at times, but to give them their due the boys do remarkably well on their own. What they call each over had me laughing because I accidentally added an r to the girls' group so it read 'Sprouts'...for some reason I found this absolutely hilarious and kept calling them that throughout the story. I like how their family life is examined in great detail, and their parents have a fairly decent sized role within the mystery. Definitely a series to watch out for! 

Suggested read
Another great family based read is about 3 sisters and their father including the title: The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E)

Saturday, 19 August 2017

The Misadventures of Max Crumbly Middle School Mayhem by Rachel Renee Russell and Nicki Russell (Children's, 9 years +, 8/10E)

June 2017, Simon and Schuster Children's, 256 pages,  Hardback, Review copy 

Summary from Simon and Schuster
 When we last left our hero, Max Crumbly, he had crash-landed on top of a Mighty Meat Monster pizza after taking a late night tumble through the vents at South Ridge Middle School - and he was completely surrounded by three ruthless criminals!

Will Max be shredded to bits like mozzarella cheese on the hard and crunchy pizza crust of doom? Can his friend and sidekick, computer whiz Erin, help get him out of this sticky situation alive?

Nayu's thoughts
I was super eager to read this because book 1 ended on a cliffhanger which does get resolved!!! Unfortunately this book ends on a cliffhanger too. Yes I'm interested in reading book 3 to find out what happens, but book 1's cliffhanger was more cliffhangery (if there's such a word), and this continuation of Max's life didn't keep me on the edge of my seat. I can't pinpoint why my interest wasn't total, I mean there's Erin who is sassy and a tech geek who helps and hinders Max on his insane scenario (so a girl exists in the story, which is an important criteria for me)

I thought the accidental and on purpose incidences were funny and inventive, the illustration is exactly the same style as my beloved Dork Diaries series also by Rachel, and I laughed to myself a lot, but it didn't have enough zing for me. Wait a minute...I've just thought of something-the book was kind of gross, which Dork Diaries is, but it involved things I'm afraid of (wiggly things big and small) which automatically makes me a whole less comfortably even if I do skip those sections where I can. I do recommend this if you love Dork Diaries and crazy adventures! 

Find out more on dedicated Max Crumbly website

Suggested read
Discover how hilarious Nikki's sister Brianna is in the Dork Diaries series including Dork Diaries Frenemies Forever by Rachel Renee Russell, Nikki and Erin Russell (Children's, 9 years +, 9/10E, short 'n' sweet review)


Friday, 18 August 2017

Ollie's Treasure by Lynn Jenkins and Kirrili Lonergan (Children's, Picture book, 9/10E)

 June 2017, EK Books, 32 pages, Hardback, Review copy 

Summary from EK Books
Ollie’s Treasure is tale of mindfulness for young, developing minds. Ollie’s grandma sends him a treasure map that promises to lead him to ‘something that will make him happy always’.

Of course, Ollie thinks this ‘something’ will be a toy of some sort, but he gets both a rude shock and a big surprise when his treasure turns out to be him!

Nayu's thoughts  
While at times I thought that Ollie looked a bit scary (I've seen similar looking creatures on children's TV which for some reason give me the heebie geebies), this is a wonderful book about finding ways to appreciate the world and put worries into perspective. In the acknowledgements mindfulness is mentioned which totally appropriate as that's what the clues teach Ollie, they are coping mechanisms for the crazy world we live in. 

I loved how his grandmother sneaked about keeping an eye on his progress without Ollie finding out, and that with a bit of guidance Ollie realised happiness is a state of mind, rather than being something physical item. I loved treasure hunts when I was little, and did them both with and without my older sibling, so Ollie's adventure reminded me of that. I hope it inspires readers to have their own treasure hunt! 

Find out more on Kirrili's website.

Suggested read 

Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Chalk Rainbow by Deborah Kelly and Gwynneth Jones (Children's, Picture book, 8/10E)

 July 2017, EK Books, 32 pages, Hardback, Review copy   
Summary from EK Books
The Chalk Rainbow explores difference and diversity through a family living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It’s also a story of unconditional love, of trust and of learning to look at the world through the eyes of others.

Nayu's thoughts
This was an unrequested read but I picked it up because I like rainbows and as you can tell from the cover ts a colourful read. I figured Zane was an the autistic spectrum before reading the press release sheet, just because of the story summary. I liked how in so few words his different way of viewing the world is explained by his sister. She finds drawing rainbows soothes him, which is realistic because everyone has something that calms them, and Zane needs calming a lot of the time.. 

The reason it got a lower grade is because once the rainbows started being drawn I got confused. I wasn't sure if the rest of the rainbows were literal or figurative, whether they were meant to depict something, or were just rainbows. I'm quite sure most people will see them as rainbows and not be confused by them. There were several sheets of blank paper in my review copy, which I half thought may be for drawing rainbows on, but maybe they were there by accident. I'm sure readers will have creating their own rainbows to brighten their world! 

Find out more on Deborah's website. 

Suggested read

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Hopewell High #1 & #2: Stage Fright and All Too Much by Jo Cotterill (Children's, 9 years +, Dyslexia friendly, 10E/10E)

April 2017, Bloomsbury Education, 80 pages, Paperback, Review copies 

Summary for Stage Fright from Bloomsbury
Alice's parents are having problems and she has the lead in the school play. Can her friends help her to get over her stage fright?

Summary for All Too Much from Bloomsbury
Samira wants to do well, her parents want her to do well, her teachers want her to do well, but the pressure is starting to tell. Can her friends rescue her when it all gets too much?
Information about the High-Low series from Bloomsbury
Bloomsbury High Low books encourage and support reading practice by providing gripping, age-appropriate stories for struggling and reluctant readers, those with dyslexia, or those with English as an additional language. Printed on tinted paper and with a dyslexia friendly font.

Nayu's thoughts  
Bloomsbury have started a new imprint for those who find reading a bit tricky and understandably want books that include topics for their age, as well as for dyslexics, Hopefully I'm not breaking any rules by mentioning I've read these kind of books from Barrington Stoke for years, so was intrigued by Bloomsbury doing their own range. I got super excited when I saw Jo's name as she is one of my favourite authors. 

While I prefer longer tales these shorter reads are perfect for the target audience. Their off white page colour is pleasing to the eye, as are the short sentences and nice wide margins. The illustrations make the story even more appealing. 

It has the usual Jo Cotterill magic in, with lots of misunderstandings between the friends at boarding school. I absolutely love how Samira wears her headscarf most of the time but when she's in her pjs she doesn't, which is realistic. Her storyline in All Too Much is an important one, with incredibly realistic reactions from her friends. I think I'd have liked a little more adult input when the truth about Samira comes out, but it's so well written I didn't have the heart to give it a lower grade. Being under pressure from anyone, but especially your parents is hard to deal with for adults who know of more coping skills that aren't harmful. Poor Samira takes the only way she can see, but once the truth is out her friends help her gain better coping tactics. 

Samira becomes a support to Alice in Stage Fright, who didn't understand that she needed to tell her teachers about her homelife because of the dramatic effect it had on her key role in the school play. Again like Samira Alice didn't have enough coping methods to deal with the problem of her parents in a healthy way. She needed to find out the facts, which took a while, and speaking up sooner would have saved a whole load of chaos. I'm eager to read more from this series! 

Find out more on Jo's website

Suggested read 
Check out the books which made me fall in love with Jo's work, her Sweet Heart series including Deep Water by Jo Cotterill (Children's, 10 years +, 10E/10E)

A Kitten Called Tiger by Holly Webb (Children's, 5 years +, 10E/10E)

 June 2017, Stripes Publishing, 128 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Summary from Little Tiger Press
Ava’s new kitten, Tiger, may be small but he makes up for it with his big personality and sense of adventure. As Tiger gets up to various escapades Ava finds herself coming to the rescue, even having to save the kitten from next-door’s dogs when Tiger climbs over the garden wall. But when the kitten disappears one night Ava has no idea where he could be. Meanwhile, Tiger is stuck up in a tall tree, cold and alone.

Nayu's thoughts
As a Holly fangirl, I expected to love this book, and unsurprisingly I did! I'm a huge cat lover, with a madam of my own, so could relate to the joy Ava had of having Tiger. I haven't had a kitten for a pet since I was little (Belle is a rescue cat and was 1 year old (estimate) when we got her), so it was interesting seeing just how troublesome Tiger is. Cats frequently get where they shouldn't, (Belle is known for getting stuck in the downstairs cupboard or the downstairs loo)  and like Belle Tiger can't seem to get himself out of situations without some human help. 

I was in awe at how brave Ava has to be-I couldn't have done whag she did. I was glad there was adult supervision as the rescue shouldn't be attempted unless you have experience in that kind of thing. Tiger, like my cat Belle, is so cute that I quickly forgave him when he misbehaved, just like Ava and her family do. Ava's fear when he goes missing is clear to see and made my heart skip a few beats. It definitely has a happy ending, and I'm looking forward to Holly's next cute animal themed book!

Find out more on Holly's website.

Suggested read
Check out the rest of Holly's books which are mostly about cats and dogs  including The Pocket Dog by Holly Webb and Sharon Renta (Children's, 7 years +, 10E/10E)

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Through the Gate by Sally Fawcett (Children's, Picture book, 5 years +, 10E/10E)

 April 2017, EK Books, 32 pages, Hardback, Review copy

Summary from EK Books 
Through the Gate tells the story of a child who has just moved house and is struggling to cope with all the changes in her life. She relates to the dilapidated house she has moved to, as she sits sad and forlorn upon its broken front step.

But, as the story unfolds, the house is gradually repaired paralleling how the child’s perception of her new situation improves. Each time the child passes ‘through the gate’, into the world beyond, she notices more of her surroundings and discovers that her new life has some wonderful things in it.

Within the illustrations is a ‘spot the difference’ game that encourages interaction with the story and develops observation skills. Younger children can be involved in spotting the more obvious changes and older children will be challenged with the more subtle transformations.

Nayu's thoughts 
I know this book is about change and moving to a new house, but for me it feels like it's describing depression. I guess the unnamed girl (maybe that way so readers can easily relate to her and pretend they are her) must have is depressed because of all the change going on in her life. I love how little of the illustrations are coloured at the start of the story, and by each week the girl slowly regains her love of life and the house changes before her, with colour returning. 

It's realistic to how time can help us get through changes, that while we may miss how things were the new thing, whatever it is, has it's own charm and excitement waiting to be discovered. I flipped back to compare her house when she thinks something had changed and it was fun seeing things actually change. Getting used to change is similar to getting better from depression, although there can be setbacks in depression and the girl didn't stumble on her journey at all. 

The final two revelations made me cry as I was that engrossed in the story! The spot the difference part of the book was clever, and added an extra dimension to the story. This enchanting read is going straight to my reread shelf! 

Find out more on Sally's blog

Suggested read