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Feb 23 2018

How to blitz nits (and other nasties) by Mumsnet

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Bloomsbury, 2018. ISBN 9781408862155
(Age: Parenting book) This is a parenting book for people who hate parenting books. It portrays the reality of being a parent in a way that politically correct parenting books rarely do. Would they talk about what to do when you child does a poo so epic that it reaches their neck? Or how to stop your child scratching their bum when they have worms?
While witty and limited in scope, this semi-reference book is definitely more useful than it first appears. Factual information mingles with real posts from the English online parenting community Mumsnet; this use of first-hand anecdotes and advice means that it doesn't just tell you what you 'should' do or what is proven to work. There are old wives tales and ingenious (not always medically recommended or socially approved!) solutions to tricky problems (for example, how to pin down a child to administer eye drops or fight molluscum with a toothpick).
It addresses 10 main issues: nits, threadworms, ringworm, warts and veruccas, molluscum, conjunctivitis, foreign objects, vomit, poo, and dragons under the bed. Sometimes as a parent you just need to know someone else has faced the same horrors or that someone else has had it worse and on this level the book provides genuine laugh out loud moments.
It is a funny read, perfect for parents who want to know the essentials but want to take it with a pinch of salt and a few laughs along the way. Simple language peppered with witticism makes this an engaging and quick read and it will probably be reached for again when advice is needed on how to clean vomit out of the couch or de-nit the household.
Nicole Nelson




Feb 21 2018

The wizards of once by Cressida Cowell

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Hodder Children's Books, 2017. ISBN 9781444939576
(Age: 10+) A wizard with no magic and a warrior with magic get stuck in a big mess. Can a wizard and a warrior be friends and get out alive?
This story is make-believe but the story is so intense it feels like you are the characters. The characters are Xar a wizard (with no magic) and Wish a warrior princess (who has magic). These characters entwine in an adventure that neither of them or their friends will forget.
The settings are the bad woods, the wizard camp and the warrior fortress.
The story has a few plots entwined together to make this story. The theme for this story is fantasy and being friends with the enemy.
I recommend this book to 10+ boys and girls. Also if you have enjoyed this book you might like How to train your dragon because it's the same author and if you have read How to train your dragon you might like this book.
Grace Colliver, Year 6




Feb 21 2018

Battle for the shadow sword by Adam Blade

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Team hero, bk 1. Orchard Books, 2017. ISBN 9781408343517
The first chapter is when Jack used his powers to save people in his class. The first chapter made me want to read more.
The problem was not predictable and the conclusion was not predictable either. Sometimes when you put the book down you ended on a cliff hanger.
The book was very interesting and the best part was near the end of the book.
The main character is a bit believable. The problem is sometimes similar with Sea Quest and Beast Quest books and I would recommend this book for Beast Quest and Sea Quest fans.
Heath Colliver, Year 6




Feb 21 2018

Skip to the loo! A potty book by Sally Lloyd-Jones

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Ill. by Anita Jeram. Walker Books, 2018. ISBN 9781406377347
(Ages: 1-3) Toilet training. Board book. Rhyming book. Bunny needs his potty so off he skips to the loo and one by one, many other characters join in. "Look! Everyone's on their potties! POO! POO! POO!" It's a potty party: all the animals are sitting on their potties of varying shapes and sizes and there are balloons and music. "WAIT! Isn't someone missing? I wonder... is it YOU?".
From the illustrator of Guess how much I love you comes this potty book, which encourages toilet trainees to join the potty fun. The mirror page at the end is a cute invitation to the reader to join in and is definitely the most successful element of the book. While it could be useful alongside other toilet training books, it is not instructive enough to work as a standalone introduction to toileting. Despite it being a play on the song 'Skip to my Lou', the text itself is not singable; it even sounds clunky and lacks rhythm when read. In addition, the progression of animals is a little odd. It starts off fairly standard, with a bunny and a kangaroo, but then along comes Lord and Lady Huff-Puff (two dressed up cats), a naughty big fat monster called Stinkaroo and some spooky wookie ghosties (animals wearing white sheets). In addition, the old-fashioned chamber pots some of the animals are using as potties might be confusing, particularly as they look like teacups.
It is all a little hodgepodge and while the toilet message is there and the illustrations are well done, it definitely isn't an essential book for young toilet trainees.
Nicole Nelson




Feb 20 2018

Boogie bear by David Walliams

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Ill. by Tony Ross. HarperCollins, 2018. ISBN 9780008172770
(Age: 5+) Highly recommended. Themes: Difference, Polar bears, Brown bears, Adventure. When the polar bear falls asleep after eating her magnificent lunch, she wakes to find that the ice on which she has slept has broken away and been swept far from where it started. She is most concerned, and the words, 'oh dear' begin to appear on the pages as her situation goes from bad to worse. The ice melts as she drifts towards a warmer climate, until finally it melts altogether, dumping her into the sea. Spying an island nearby she bear paddles towards it only to be confronted by many pairs of eyes. Her situation becomes more dire when she finds that the eyes belong to a pack of brown bears, who are not altogether happy with this interloper. She climbs a tree, only to be shaken and she falls into a muddy puddle. Here things happen which make her see things are about to get much better.
The tale of how one polar bear is accepted by the pack of brown bears underlines the idea of cooperation and acceptance, of being different but the same. The tale will make readers laugh out loud and they cannot help but understand the theme of diversity. The little additions of bear facts will further enhance the fun in the book.
Tony Ross' laugh out loud illustrations will intrigue and delight the readers, as he shows the bear in all her glory, merrily floating out to sea, falling haphazardly into the water, attempting to find land and then dealing with an angry mob of brown bears. Each illustration of the bear adds to the humour as Ross with a few seemingly simple lines can add touches of emotion to the faces of the animals. Children will be in no doubt about the polar bear's anxious moments and her finding resolution at the end, and may even see the link to climate change and the changing environments that animals now have to deal with.
Walliams' books have sold over 20 million copies around the world, and his collaboration with Ross has seen some great picture books and novels being published.
Fran Knight




Feb 20 2018

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

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Ill. by Jon Klassen. HarperCollins, 2017. ISBN 9780008158286
(Age: 11 - adult) Highly recommended. War, peace, Animals, Foxes. When his gruff and distant father leaves to fight in the war, motherless Peter is forced to stay with his grandfather and made to abandon his pet, a fox called Pax.
At his grandfather's he learns of the dog his father once owned and cared for. They were inseparable. Duty and responsibility overwhelms Peter. He feels abject guilt at leaving his pet behind and decides he should be with Pax. He packs his rucksack, takes some water and food, and sets off, back to the place where he abandoned the fox, and in alternate chapters we learn of what Pax is doing to get back to his human.
After he falls and breaks a bone in his foot Peter meets Vola a one legged recluse living in the woods. Through her he comes to understand the effect of war, as he is maneuvered to use her marionettes to tell the story of Sinbad. She killed a man in a previous war and finding a tattered copy of the Voyages of Sinbad in his coat pocket, carved the puppets as a memorial to him, but now she needs to see it performed. Peter is forced to stay with her until his foot has healed enough for him to move on, but he is anxious to leave and she is just as anxious that he is able to survive alone. The two rub against each other just as Pax is finding it difficult surviving with the other foxes he meets, learning the skills he missed as a kit,
An involving story of survival, the author is able to get inside the fox's head to portray its survival with assured realism. She beautifully contrasts the development of all three characters as they adapt to the changes in their world, while Klassen's brittle, black and white illustrations form a majestic backdrop to the events.
Beautifully written, Pax can be read by children and adults alike. The image of war is ever present, from the father going off to war, the woman, Vola and her wooden leg and her mission to see the Sinbad story performed, and the threat of encroaching war.
Peter eventually leaves to find the fox, and a heart stopping conclusion brings the reader to rethink the idea of friendship and challenge the concept of war and its effects on the people involved.
Allusions to Sheherazade, the tale of the phoenix, the stories of Sinbad, the roc, and so on are throughout the book, impelling the reader to look further into the tale. The stories behind Vola's life too are captivating as she becomes the teacher she wanted to be, rather than the soldier she was.
This wonderful book held me to the end.
Fran Knight




Feb 19 2018

The brilliant fall of Gianna Z. by Kate Messner

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Bloomsbury, 2018. ISBN 9781681195476
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. E.B. White Read Aloud Award 2010. On your mark... get set... go finish your science project? All Gianna Zales wants is to compete at the cross-country finals, but there's something standing in her way - a science project. She has less than a week to collect and document twenty-five leaves, and she'll lose her spot on the team if she can't pull it off. With a forgetful grandmother, a hearse-driving father, a mean-girl running rival, and new feelings toward her best friend, Gianna wishes life would just leave her alone to finish the project. Can Gianna Z. get the stroke of brilliance she needs to make it all work out?
Gianna will quickly draw people in with her infectious personality and will resonate with many tweens. With themes of family, friendship and being true to oneself, connections will be able to be made throughout the story. The various storylines including the lengths some will go to avoid completing homework, an ailing grandmother who is developing signs of Alzheimer's and the stereotypical mean girl all combine together to make an enthralling book. Gianna is torn in so many directions while trying to balance her commitment to the track team and taking on the roles of artist, daughter, friend and grand-daughter. This book will be a huge hit with a wide variety of children and I would strongly recommend it for ages 10 and up. A must have for the library collection.
Kathryn Schumacher




Feb 19 2018

Deception by Teri Terry

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Dark Matter, book 2. Orchard Books, 2018. ISBN 9781408341742
(Age: 13+) Recommended. Themes: Science fiction. Epidemics. Dystopian fiction. Following on immediately from Contagion, the first book in the series, readers are swept into the British countryside as an epidemic sweeps the country. Shay is convinced that she is the carrier of the virus and without telling Kai, has left Shetland to give herself up to the authorities. Kai follows her trail, desperate to find her and faces danger on the way as the survivors of the plague are hunted down by vigilantes and the secret service.
This is an adrenaline fuelled story that is fast paced and very exciting. Told in short snappy chapters from three viewpoints, Shay, Kai and Callie, recount their stories and give different viewpoints of what is happening. Shay comes into her own, as she learns to use her towering intellect and new powers, while Kai's determination and skills of survival are wonderful. Some more survivors, including Spike and Freja, are introduced and enrich the plot, giving insight into how people are coping with the epidemic.
Readers with a bent for science will also find the descriptions of antimatter and matter fascinating as Terry gives an explanation of the origin of the virus and the creation of the survivor's strange powers. There is much to ponder about the misuse of scientific experimentation even if the end result might provide cures for diseases.
There are some unexpected twists and turns and conclusion which will keep the reader enthralled and waiting for the next book in the series. Both Contagion and Deception would engage anyone who likes easy to read but totally engrossing stories.
Pat Pledger




Feb 19 2018

Valensteins by Ethan Long

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Bloomsbury, 2017. ISBN 9781619634336
(Ages: 5-10) This can be summarised simply as monsters learning about love. Fans of Long's previous book Fright Club will love this as it uses the same cast of characters and illustrative style. There are dark gritty illustrations with a smattering of pink to suit the love theme. The bright pink highlights on the front cover will definitely grab attention and the use of familiar monsters (Frankenstein, etc.) and their witty banter will even please children who think they are too old for picture books. While the rest of the Fright Club is busy working on their scaring techniques, Fran K. Stein is working with pink paper, scissors and glue. "Are you making a mask?" asks Vladamir. He is, of course, making a Valentine's Day heart. An explanation of Valentine's Day and love follows: "That's when two people feel all mushy mushy about each other". The rest of the Fright Club members respond mainly with horror and disgust, especially when they discover that love involves kissing on the lips. Fran ignores them and goes off to find his Valentine. While pondering love he decides that it isn't really about fluttering your eyes or cutting out paper hearts, but "something you feel in your real heart, even if it does feel a little funny sometimes."
This has a very American look and feel to it, perhaps owing to America's pioneering of both Valentine's Day and Halloween, as well as some of the vocabulary and phrasing ("it looks like a paper butt", "tee-hee"). I wouldn't read this to young children who still have a one-dimensional understanding of love as it may be confusing for them. In addition, they wouldn't understand the repartee between the monsters. Older children with an understanding of the difference between familial love and romantic love and a keen sense of humour are the target audience here.
Nicole Nelson




Feb 18 2018

Julius Zebra: Entangled with the Egyptians by Gary Northfield

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Walker, 2018. ISBN 9781406371802
(Age: 8+) Recommended. Themes: Animal Stories, Ancient Egypt. Julius Zebra: Entangled with the Egyptians is the third graphic novel written and illustrated by Gary Northfield. This is another laugh out loud story, filled with puns, jokes, sarcastic one-liners and plenty of slapstick comedy.
Shipwrecked on a foreign shore, the friends fall headfirst into a new adventure. Captured by an Egyptian Commander and his troops, they are marched off to be imprisoned. At this time, Egypt is experiencing a drought, however when Julius raises his hands to protest his capture, a fortuitous shower of rain occurs. Suddenly their luck changes and he becomes revered as Heter the horse god - bringer of good fortune.
They move quickly through the Egypt, visiting familiar landmarks, living in the palace, visiting and nearly wrecking the ancient library, generally causing drama wherever they go. Felix the antelope's exploration of an underground tomb and greediness in stealing a precious stone, intensifies the action. Factual information is included, writing Roman numerals, hieroglyphics and the art of mummification.
Northfield's hilarious cartoons highlight the perks of the zebra's reign as pharaoh and his special treatment as an Egyptian god. Palace life is luxurious, the food, the bath in donkey's milk and the special clothes, wigs and Cleopatra's beard to wear. Even the chapter headings add to the humour: "I want my Mummy", "Don't rain on my Parade" and "Wheel of Fortune". Julius Zebra: Entangled with the Egyptians delivers all the familiar characters, historical touches and humour, just right for a springboard into studies of ancient civilisations.
Rhyllis Bignell




Feb 18 2018

Release by Patrick Ness

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Walker Books, 2017. ISBN 9781406331172
(Age: 17+) Themes: Homosexuality; Family; Friendships; Sexual Identity; Ghosts; Freedom from the past. Patrick Ness is a patron for a group that promotes diversity in schools, and this book introduces sexually diverse representations. The central character, Adam, is exploring his identity through a series of homosexual relationships. This exploration is at odds with his family background - his father is a pastor in an Evangelical American church, and the basis of Adam's experience of family love and acceptance is derailing as he explores his sexual relationships and his view of love. A close connection to a female friend gives him a sense of connection even when things go wrong - 'she has his back', despite his 'first love' turning his back on him. The young, high school-aged Adam is sexually active with his new boyfriend, and their sexual encounters are described in detail (although some facets of the coupling are left to the imagination, mostly the descriptions are fairly overt for a YA book). This coming-of-age tale, involves deserting the expectations and influence of family, not an uncommon motif in YA fiction; Adam's parents are painted as the 'evil' spectre in the background as they grapple with their own worldview and struggle with Adam's choices. But this is also a story where sexual diversity is assumed and the opinions of the parents are maligned. Adam also becomes the target of workplace sexual harassment, that is not dealt with well.
In contra point to this story of breaking away from conventions and the critique of those norms, is the spectral appearance of the Spirit Queen who inhabits the tortured spirit soul of a recently murdered young woman as she wanders the lake shore where her body was dumped. There is struggle as she works out how to be released from the torture, and will the Spirit Queen be trapped in this metaphysical half-light? Ironically this location is where Adam will be attending a farewell party for his former 'love interest', whose influence he cannot shake. This metaphysical appearance is about being released from the holds of a past life and the story thread weaves amid Adam's story of release.
Ness has demonstrated his usual capacity to write with great finesse, but I won't be recommending this in my school context. It is far too graphic and the fact that Ness needs to state that his own father was nothing like the father in the book, is evidence that he recognises the cruelty in the representation of Adam's father. Free expression of sexuality and desire may be common in today's culture, but it may not be helpful for all young readers to have this presented so boldly.
Carolyn Hull




Feb 16 2018

My brigadista year by Katherine Paterson

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Candlewick, 2018. ISBN 9780763695088
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. "When thirteen-year-old Lora tells her parents that she wants to join Premier Castro's army of young literacy teachers, her mother screeches to high heaven, and her father roars like a lion. Lora has barely been outside of Havana - why would she throw away her life in a remote shack with no electricity, sleeping on a hammock in somebody's kitchen? But Lora is stubborn: didn't her parents teach her to share what she has with someone in need? Surprisingly, Lora's abuela takes her side, even as she makes Lora promise to come home if things get too hard. But how will Lora know for sure when that time has come?" (Publisher)
I absolutely loved this book by award winning author, Katherine Paterson. It gave me a wonderful insight into a time in Cuba's history that I had no idea about. Many countries could take a leaf out of this plan in current times. Many teenagers during this time volunteered to teach fellow Cubans of all ages to read and write, while participating in their daily lives. There was the ever-constant threat and dangers from the counterrevolutionaries hiding in nearby hills. The author's notes and timeline at the back of the book, outlining this period in history is a great source of information. This book was an easy read, with quite large text. Themes such as hardship, bravery, friendship and perseverance are evident throughout the book. It would make a fantastic read aloud and provide great learning activities about perspective and responsibility. A must have for the library.
Kathryn Schumacher




Feb 16 2018

Three cheers for women by Marcia Williams

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Walker Books, 2018. ISBN 9781406374865
(Age: 8-80) Highly recommended. Subjects: Women - History, Women - Biography. Popular British author and illustrator Marcia Williams (Dot) celebrates the astonishing achievements of women from all over the globe, from ancient to modern times. Her unique comic-strip style creatively showcases more than seventy brave and noteworthy role models from writers to social activists, scientists to artists. Cartoon animal and bird characters float with Dot with her friend Abe around the frames of the cartoon strips, providing fun comments and additional facts.
Brave Boudicca, Warrior Queen of Iceni led over 100000 untrained men into battle against an army of 10,000 Roman soldiers. Williams draws her charging into battle, sword raised, fiery long red hair flowing as she exhorts her soldiers to fight. Cleopatra, Joan of Arc and Queen Elizabeth 1 are included as historical figures. Each figure's childhood, formative years and adult life are told through speech bubbles, easy to read statements and sketches. Williams includes their key achievements, messages and their role in the society of their times. Eleanor Roosevelt was a Human Rights activist who refused to follow the Alabama segregated seating policy in 1936, sitting midway between the white and coloured sections.
Williams has drawn inspirational stories of girls, teenagers and women from many countries, cultures and backgrounds who have made an impact. There's Pakistani bomb survivor and human rights advocate young Malala Yousafzai, Olympian Cathy Freeman, artist Frieda Kahlo, Indian President Indira Ghandi each illustrated with engaging biographies.
Three Cheers for Women is an exciting resource for schools to use across the curriculum, teaching positive gender roles, celebrating diversity, inclusivity and the important contributions of women both today and historically.
Rhyllis Bignell 




Feb 14 2018

The Book of Dust: La belle sauvage by Philip Pullman

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Book of dust, vol. 1. David Fickling Books, 2017. ISBN 9780857561084
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Many years have passed since the completion of His dark materials and now Pullman fans have been graced by the first in a prequel series following baby Lyra and her protector, Malcom. Diving back into this world was a magical experience - for this reviewer it was like coming home. A knowledge of the world of His dark materials is unnecessary for the enjoyment of La Belle Sauvage, but like the original series the book thrusts you into a world of daemons and children thirsty for knowledge.
The novel follows the unusually bright innkeeper's son, Malcom, and his need to protect baby Lyra, who was left with the Nuns at the priory for safe keeping. Working in the pub, Malcom meets all sorts of people - even strange men with three-legged hyena daemons whose presence unnerves everyone. But this strange man isn't the only to visit the Trout since Lyra's arrival - Lord Asriel, a famous explorer calls, employing Malcom to take him to the priory to visit his daughter and swearing the boy to secrecy. Befriending a librarian and a gyptian, Malcom's days are soon filled with the need to protect little Lyra - even if that means braving the Thames in flood and outsmarting the man with the three-legged hyena.
I would highly recommend La belle sauvage for boys or girls twelve years and up who love fantasy. In particular those who have already fallen in love with Lyra in His dark materials or in the 2007 film The golden compass.
Kayla Gaskell, 22




Feb 14 2018

Dino Diggers: Crane calamity by Rose Impey

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Ill. by Chris Chatterton Bloomsbury, 2018. ISBN 9781408872468
The Dino Diggers have a new project - this time they are building a new house for Mr and Mrs Triceratops and all the little ceratops. But not not all of them are working hard - Ricky Raptor the apprentice is day-dreaming about being a proper Dino Digger driver and he very nearly lands in all sorts of trouble because he is not concentrating. Is he going to end up in the barrel of the cement mixer???
With its bright pictures and a cardboard model crane and brachiosaurus to build, this will appeal to young readers who like big machines and dinosaurs. Each dinosaur has its own personality so this series is great for encouraging young readers to recall what they already know and ponder on how the new story will evolve.
Barbara Braxton




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