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Posted in Children's Books, Fantasy, Humour, Illustrations

‘The Fate of Fausto’ by Oliver Jeffers

The Fate of Fausto

 

A greedy man who thinks he owns everything, sets out to review his domain. He tells the flower, “You are mine,” and the flower agrees. Fausto declares the same to the sheep and the mountain, who also agree. But when Fausto sets out in a boat, things don’t go his way.

I’ve been a fan of Oliver Jeffers since reading ‘How to Catch a Star’ to my son a few years ago. The artwork in this book is lovely and as always, Jeffers’ tale is not a simple one – rather it’s one that prompts questions about ownership, greed and human rights. Considering the ending is not exactly a happy one, it’s also a book that should be read with a child, rather than simply passing it on as a gift – this is a book that requires discussion.

A beautifully made and well-imagined book for young and old.


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Posted in Adventure, Children's Books, Fantasy, Science Fiction

‘Scavengers’ by Darren Simpson

 

 

 

 

 

Scavengers

 

Forager and scavenger Landfill lives with wooflers, swims with turtles and tries to stick to the rules outlined by Babagoo, but the rule about not going outside is one Landfill is desperate to break.

This is an interesting and potentially very clever book that centres around the relationship between its two main characters. Dealing with issues around control, abuse and emotional support, the author tells a story that is by turns, hopeful, sad and affectionate. Having said that, the story didn’t draw me in as much as I’d expected, and the world of the Hinterland didn’t ring true. While I’m sure readers of ten and up will love it, the book felt a bit artificial to me.



 
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Posted in Adventure, Children's Books, Illustrations

‘The Wailing Siren Mystery’ by Franklin W. Dixon


The Wailing Siren Mystery

 

When Frank and Joe Hardy are caught in a storm with their motorboat the Sleuth, they observe a mysterious yacht, hear a wailing siren and see a helicopter drop a wallet full of cash into the sea. Later, after their pal Chet has a load of rifles stolen from his father’s truck, the crime-fighting brothers begin to see a connection.

It’s hard to believe that The Hardy Boys were dreamed up way back in 1926, the first three books in the series appearing the following year. Author Franklin W Dixon, rather mysteriously, never existed and was in fact a pseudonym used by series creator, Edward Stratemeyer and his Syndicate. While Stratemyer came up with the basic plots, ghost writers were drafted in to write the books, which also explains why some were better than others.

Though I read many of the Hardy Boys adventures as a kid, I have no memory of ‘The Wailing Siren Mystery’ – our local library had a lot of the books, but certainly wouldn’t have stocked all 59 of them. The original Wailing Siren was number 30 in the series and published in 1951, though the hard-back copy I bought is the revised version, updated by Priscilla Baker-Carr and published in 1968.

The story is classic Hardy Boys, with a host of villains, strange occurrences and mysterious messages. The writing, however, is a bit clunky at times and there’s a couple of errors in the plot – for instance, Frank telephones his dad to tell him about the homing pigeons, but at that point in the story, Frank can’t possibly know the pigeons exist. Aside from that, and the ridiculous proliferation of exclamation marks (particularly from Aunt Gertrude!) it’s not a bad tale and reminded me why I loved this series so much as a kid.


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Posted in Adventure, Children's Books, Humour

‘The Closest Thing to Flying’ by Gill Lewis

 

 

 

 

 

The Closest Thing to Flying

 

Semira and her mother have nowhere to call home. Controlled by bad-tempered Robel, they must pretend they are part of his family to stay out of jail. But what if Robel is lying? Samira keeps to herself, avoiding difficult situations, but when she finds a diary from 1891, she discovers a kindred spirit whose life strangely mirrors her own. Can Henrietta’s story give Semira the courage she seeks?

Gill Lewis tells a thoughtful and clever tale of two girls, a feathered hat and a collision of opportunities, hope and courage. Though aimed at girls, this is a book for everyone who has a dream. The writing is superb, witty and sensitive, and Ms Lewis creates two distinct but well-crafted worlds, populated by characters that are endearing and believable.

This is a truly lovely book that everyone should read.


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Posted in Cakes, Children's Books, Cookery, Humour, Illustrations, Recipe

‘Freddie’s Amazing Bakery: The Great Raspberry Mix-Up’ by Harriet Whitehorn and Alex G Griffiths


Freddie’s Amazing Bakery: The Great Raspberry Mix-Up’

 

Cake-lover and amazing baker Freddie Bonbon is the nicest boy in town. Along with his best friend Amira, he sells cakes, croissants and tarts at his popular bakery. When hotel owner Mrs van de Lune announces a baking competition, Freddie is determined to win – especially as he could use the prize money to buy a new oven. But Freddie isn’t the only one entering the competition – bad-tempered baker Bernard Macaroon plots to discover Freddie’s recipe and has a few tricks up his sleeve to stop the canny cake-maker from winning the competition.

Along with dozens of age-appropriate illustrations by Alex G Griffiths, Harriet Whitehorn creates a charming tale of baking rivalry, friendship and community spirit. Having said that, the story is scarcely original, with an ending that’s painfully obvious. Though entertainingly told, even the glossary of baking terms and the raspberry cupcake recipe at the back, add little to shout about.

A nice little book that should have been more interesting than it is.


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Posted in Adventure, Children's Books, Humour, War

‘Carrie’s War’ by Nina Bawden


Carrie’s War

 

Visiting the wartime village where she and her younger brother were billeted following the evacuation from London, a grown-up Carrie Willow tells her own children of her adventures. But her memories of the Welsh hills, the surly Mr Evans and his timid sister are marred by something she did following one of her many visits to Druid’s Bottom, where the sickly Mrs Gotobed lived with her housekeeper Hepzibah, the odd Mr Johnny and another evacuee, Albert.

I had vague memories of having read this years ago but must have imagined it, as the book was entirely new to me. I read it in one sitting and loved the atmosphere, the strange mix of characters and the slightly sinister plot line that bubbles away on the backburner throughout the book. Nina Bawden’s characters, particularly the mysterious Hepzibah and the bullying Mr Evans, are beautifully drawn, entirely realistic and, ultimately, thoroughly endearing. The ending had me on the edge of my seat and left me in tears, (which doesn’t happen often).

An absolute delight from start to finish.


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Posted in Cakes, Children's Books, Cookery, Review

‘Sir Chocolate and the Condensed Milk River Story and Cookbook’ by Robbie Cheadle and Michael Cheadle

Sir Chocolate and the Condensed Milk River Story and Cookbook

 
 
Sir Chocolate loves to go fishing in the Condensed Milk River, but when the river stops flowing, Sir Choc and Lady Sweet set off to investigate.

This is another of Robbie Cheadle’s delightful little books featuring the adventures of Sir Chocolate and Lady Sweet. As usual, the paperback version of the book is illustrated with colour photos of Robbie’s wonderful fondant art creations. The rhyming story is lovely and the recipes (including Marshmallow Flowers and Crunchies) sound absolutely yummy.

A great way of getting kids to experiment with cooking.



 
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Posted in Children's Books, Humour, Illustrations, Review

‘Does It Fart?’ by Nick Caruso and Dani Rabaiotti


Does it Fart?

 

Posing questions that all children wonder about, Does it Fart? provides the answers in a witty and educational way. From spiders and whales to cheetahs and chimpanzees, we find out who does what, why and when, and for those creatures who don’t fart, we discover what they do instead.

With a title that’ll definitely grab kids’ attention, this is an interesting and amusing book that mixes education with humour. The illustrations (by Alex Griffiths) are lovely, and I really liked the idea of posing a question (Does a parrot fart?) and then turning the page to find out the answer. The text, however, while very informative, doesn’t quite fit with the style of the illustrations, and suggests the authors (Nick Caruso and Dani Rabaiotti) aren’t totally sure about the age range they’re aiming at. As a book for parents to read to younger children, I’m sure it’ll work well, but only older kids will understand the text if reading themselves.



 
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