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Sep 16 2019

Dr Seuss's Horse Museum by Dr. Seuss, illus. by Andrew Joyner

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Puffin, 2019. ISBN: 9780241425725.
(Age: All) Highly recommended. Themes: Art history. With the words, 'A canter through art history' on the front cover the reader is well aware of the topic of the book and will discover what art is and how artists have represented horses though the ages. The book is based on a manuscript and notes by Dr Seuss that was recently uncovered, and Andrew Joyner has brought together iconic figures from Dr Seuss's book as well as his own engaging illustrations.
A definition of what is art is given right at the beginning and the young reader is told to look at some of the different ways that artists have represented horses in their work. They are instructed to
Look it over
Think it over.
Talk it over.

From then on the book explores work from prehistoric times, and ancient Chinese culture and many, many artists like Picasso, Manet, Magritte, Pollock and names that aren't as familiar, Katsushika Hokusai, Marino Marini, and Rosa Bonheur. As the children look at the paintings they also learn about the kind of art they represent, like Realism, Impressionism, and Surrealism. There is plenty of humour in the illustrations to keep the young reader engaged and older readers who have an interest in art will be fascinated by this easy to understand tour through art history, instantly recognising some of the more famous horse paintings and being intrigued by others.
The back of the book contains images of the works and information about the artists, with the time period that the artist was alive. Notes from the publisher discuss Dr. Seuss' lifetime interest in art and Andrew Joyner's approach to illustrating the book. Teacher's notes are available to download.
This would be an excellent addition to any library and would make a fabulous gift for any child who is interested in art.
Pat Pledger




Sep 12 2019

The long call by Ann Cleeves

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Two Rivers book 1. PanMacmillan, 2019. ISBN: 9781509889570.
(Age: Adult - Senior secondary) Recommended. Themes: Mystery and suspense, Detectives, Down syndrome. Fans of the Vera and Shetland series are in for a real treat with Cleeves' new series starring Detective Matthew Ven a quiet introspective man who is leading a team in North Devon. When a man with an albatross tattooed on his neck is found dead on the beach, Ven finds himself uncovering secrets from his past and present. Then a young woman with Down syndrome disappears and Ven has more than one mystery to solve.
Cleeves builds up a slow, comprehensive picture of Matthew Ven, his background as a child in The Brethren, a strict evangelical community, his subsequent denial of that community and his gradual coming to terms with himself. The beaches and dunes, small villages and The Woodyard, a place for disabled and mentally impaired people, are all described meticulously and the reader gets to know the area very well.
The long call is a character driven novel. Not only does the reader get to know Matthew, but Jonathon his partner. The two detectives who are Matthew's off-siders, Jen and Ross, each have strengths and weaknesses as detectives and as people and their background stories are fleshed out as well. The women, Lucy, Christine and Rosa, all who have Down syndrome, are portrayed sympathetically and in depth and play an important role in the story.
Cleeves wraps everything up neatly; the reader is able to reflect back on the clues that she cleverly put into her narrative, but which are easily overlooked. A very satisfying beginning to a series, which will be sure to have many followers in the future.
Pat Pledger




Sep 11 2019

The Iliad - a graphic novel adaptation by Gareth Hinds

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Candlewick Press 2019. ISBN: 9780763696634.
Themes: Ancient Greece, myths/ legends. Homer's epic poem, about the tenth year of the Trojan War, fought around the twelfth century BCE, has endured as one of the greatest war stories of all time, but it is more than a war story, it is one of human heroism and failings, and the interference of gods. To help understand the work, all in beautiful fine watercolours, Hinds presents us with an illustrated cast of characters, important Achaeans, mainly in blue (Greeks) and Trojans, mainly in red, explaining that each character's initial can be found worked into his armour. The other important players are the twelve Gods who are depicted in semi-transparent pastel shades.
A prologue sets the scene, explaining the modern day location of the warring armies, how the war started and the involvement of the Gods. The story picks up as the battle weary Achaeans, camped outside the fortress of Troy make offerings to appease the Gods who have brought sickness to the camp. It is seen that the Gods are angry about the refusal to ransom the daughter of Apollo's priest, taken as a war spoil by Agamemnon, the leader of the Achaeans. He agrees to give her up but claims Achilles' woman Briseis in return. A well placed footnote explains that the army had been raiding allies of Troy and that men and women became slaves, valuable 'spoils of war'. Achilles is furious and withdraws his support. The war continues with the upper hand shifting backwards and forwards between the two armies often influenced by the Gods who struggle to exert dominance over each other. Brave men die on the battlefield, their names recited, ensuring everlasting fame and honour for their families.
The famous finale between the Trojan hero Hector and Achilles is gripping, it is a bitterly fought battle vividly brought to life in the illustrations. The author's note at the end reflects on why we still read the Iliad. 'Humanity is on display with all its nobility and pettiness and violence and tenderness, it is, simply, a powerful story.'
Introducing a new readership to some of the most important works of Western literature has been the goal of Gareth Hinds' wonderful adaptations of classics such as Beowulf, the plays of Shakespeare, and this companion volume to The Odyssey. The adaptation retains the essence of the original with helpful maps and notes but some students may find it long and challenging. However, the characters are the original superheroes and the story compelling, while senior students will find it rewarding it will also appeal to action graphic fans of all ages.
Sue Speck




Sep 11 2019

Red by Jed Alexander

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Cameron Kids, 2018. ISBN: 9781944903114.
(Age: 3+) Highly recommended. Themes: Fairy tale, Wordless. A wordless take on the classic tale, Little Red Riding Hood, in which the Big Bad Wolf and other woodland creatures are planning something surprising sees Red scampering through the woodland, meeting the wolf and other creatures along the way. Children will tell her to be careful of the wolf, but a bigger surprise is about to happen. I love the wolf's body seen through the trees, and the red of the girl's cape contrasting with the black and white background, the small creatures welcoming her to the forest, readers needing to look closely at each page to spot them all. The image of an elderly comatose Grandma is turned around as the girl reaches Grandma's house and finds all the animals there waiting for her. The black, white and red illustrations beg the audience to add their own words. They will all know the original story but these illustrations will make them use their imaginations to build a new tale, one in which everything ends happily, wolf included, rather than his stomach filled with stones and drowned.
Fran Knight




Sep 11 2019

Computer coding projects for kids by Jon Woodcock and Carol Vorderman

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Dorling Kindersley, 2019. ISBN: 9780241317761.
(Age: 8-16) This is a visual step-by-step approach to split complicated code into manageable chunks, so that the most impressive projects become possible. Suitable for complete beginners, this book gives a solid understanding of programming, how to create their very own projects from scratch, and move on to more complex programming languages like Python. Difficult coding becomes easy and fun to understand using Scratch 3.0, the latest software from the world's most popular programming language for beginners.
'Make a Dino Dance Party or create your own electronic birthday cards. Build games, simulations and mind-bending graphics as you discover the awesome things computer programmers can do with Scratch 3.0.' (Publisher)
Donna Isgar




Sep 10 2019

Baby's first jailbreak by Jim Whalley

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Illus. by Stephen Collins. Bloomsbury, 2019. ISBN: 9781408891810.
(Ages 4+) Highly Recommended. Themes: Animals, Babies. Baby Frank is back. A hilarious follow-up to Baby's first bank heist, this wonderful rhyming story, is full of mischief and cute animals. It is so much fun to read aloud, the illustrations are brilliant, with lots of little details for young readers to spot.
Can Frank and the animals convince the visitors that they belong right where they are? The answer is both yes and no. But what happens finally, you'll have to discover, by getting your flippers, trunks, or other appropriate appendages on a copy of this chuckle-worthy book.
The storyline is great, as it gently introduces the downsides of performing animals, without coming across in a preachy form.
I have to say, this is one of the funniest picture book series, in recent years, with high hopes for more instalments of the adventures of 'Baby Frank'.
Donna Isgar




Sep 10 2019

Where the river runs gold by Sita Brahmachari

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Orion, 2019. ISBN: 9781510105416. 340p; p/b.
Shifa has to protect herself and her brother Themba as she finds out the unfortunate truth about her parentage and the controlling government she lives under in a world supposedly ravaged by an incredible storm. Characters are deep and well developed, with even the seemingly most antagonistic characters having a human side to them. The treatment of Themba's implicit neuro-divergence is fairly respectful. The plot is largely character-based at first, focusing on interactions in an oppressive society, but pivots to a sort of thriller action with escapes and secrets towards the end, in a way that is interesting and doesn't feel jarring, but the conclusion does feel a bit rushed and insubstantial.
The novel tackles a variety of themes, and handles them largely well. There is examination of the expression of creative freedom under an oppressive government as people struggle under ARK's 'freedom farms'. The populace is controlled through complete isolation from and lies about a better outside world, but people fight back with stories and artwork. Treatment of people with neuro-divergence and mental illness is also looked at, as Themba struggles to cope on the oppressive farms and everyone tries to deal with the old lady on the farm. At the core of the plot though, is environmentalism, with the world presumed to be after a mass extinction event and the protection of what natural life remains.
The novel takes place in the fictional 'Kairos Lands' with a vaguely futuristic technology level after recovering from a cataclysm. The setting is well established with some interesting, but not too intrusive, world building.
Vincent Hermann




Sep 09 2019

I am so clever by Mario Ramos

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Gecko Press, 2019. ISBN: 9781776572496.
(Age: 4+) Recommended. Themes: Fairy Tales, Red Riding Hood, Wolves. In a turned about version of Red Riding Hood, we have a wolf who thinks he is very clever, being outsmarted by the girl in the red cloak.
The story begins in the usual way with Red Riding Hood taking a basket of goodies to an ailing grandma on the other side of the woods. The wolf convinces her to tarry, picking flowers for grandma, while he scurries off to the house to eat her up and be ready for the little girl as dessert.
With Grandma nowhere to be seen, the wolf puts on her nightgown, taking her place in bed, ready to eat the girl when she appears. But first he must wipe away his paw prints from the doorway and when he goes outside to do this, the door slams and shuts him out.
He encounters the woodsman searching for his glasss, and spies the bears, three little pigs, a prince looking for Sleeping Beauty and seven dwarves off for a shower. He sees Red Riding Hood and tries to accost her but falls flat on his face, his feet tripping over the long nightogown, so breaking his teeth and leaving him with egg on his face. He is shamefaced, not eating the two people he expected to eat that day. Too clever for his own good.
This engrossing version of Red Riding Hood will have readers recalling other versions and telling their own stories about the characters met during the reading. I do like the inclusion of the other tales as background to the wolf's meanderings in the woods, and love the turn about of the original story. The illustrations will appeal to the readers, especially watching closely the various expressions on the wolf's face as he changes from a confident and clever wolf to one despairing, embarrassed wolf at the end.
Translated from Le Plus Malin (2011) I turned the page expecting a little more.
Fran Knight




Sep 09 2019

Oi duck-billed platypus! by Kes Gray

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Oi duck-billed platypus! by Kes Gray
Illus. by Jeff Field. Hodder Children's Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781444937336. pbk.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Animals, Verse, Word play, Alliteration, Humour. Following on from the success of the zany fun filled humour of the "Oi" books (Oi Frog (2014) Oi Dog (2016), and Oi Cat (2017)) this paperback version follows a slightly different variation as the frog finds it difficult to find a rhyme for some of the animals that appear before him, waiting to be seated. What do you rhyme with a duck billed platypus or a hippopotamus, an ostrich or a meerkat. Frog, cat and dog are puzzled and platypus is not very patient, reminding the trio that he is waiting, as he points out the queue behind him of other animals also waiting for their rhyme before being seated.
Eventually the Frog asks for their first names and they find it much easier to use their first names rather than their second to find a rhyme that fits. So Dolly the duck-billed platypus sits on a brolly, Kate kookaburra sits on a gate and Lemony lobster sits on an anemone. Everyone is satisfied, the alliterative names of the animals used to make a nice rhyming seat until a kangaroo happens to come along, with the fearful name, Amelia Esmerelda Honeydew HigginbottomPinkleponk-Johnson. The resolution will have children trying vainly to find a rhyme and like frog, telling the kangaroo to sit where she likes.
Full of humour, reflected in the appealing illustrations, the tale will bring laughter from all readers, recognising the alliteration and how it teams with the animal's name, seeing the rhyme that frog comes up with, perhaps offering an alternative, all the while looking closely at the expressions on the faces to see what a quandary frog is in. In a class emphasis could be the word play, rhyme and alliteration, while discussion with younger readers about first and last names would be appropriate.
All readers will love looking out for the seat of each of the animals and delight in the end papers with Field's platypus panorama.
Fran Knight




Sep 06 2019

Playing with collage by Jeannie Baker

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Walker Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781406378665.
(Age: 6+) Highly recommended. Themes: Collage, Arts and crafts, Invention, Recycled materials. The front cover invites the readers to look more closely at the image, working out what it is made of and what it could be. For those who know Jeannie Baker's work, the background knowledge that she plays with collected items from nature will stand them in good stead as they scan the cover. But those who do not know her work, and there can be only be a handful, then this will be an eye popping read.
Aimed at a younger audience, but with enough information and instructional images to appeal to anyone with an interest in art, Playing with Collage is a joy to read.
Each chapter involves a double page of information with illustrative photographs, allowing the reader to see just how her work is done, as she gives the most basic of instructions that will make every reader believe that they can do it too, even someone new to the field.
After the introduction, three more double pages talk about Tools, Tips and Playing with Materials. After these the book is divided into four parts, each dealing with a different aspect of collecting materials. The first is Paper which encourages readers to collect all sorts of paper, then play around with it, making different shapes and images. This is followed by Out in Nature, where she shows the readers the sorts of things they can collect when out in the field. Again, On the beach shows a range of things that can be collected while beach walking, and the last section, In the Kitchen showcases the sorts of things that are right under our noses.
Baker goes on to discuss Translucency encouraging the reader, as always, to try it out for themselves, and the last section shows a variety of found materials and asks the reader to guess what materials she has used in her egg box collage.
And this then is the aim of this beautiful book. Readers will be so entranced that they will go out and try her techniques for themselves, marvelling at her work, seeing her work with fresh eyes.
Readers familiar with her work will be astounded at the range of materials she collects to use in her collages and look more closely at the books when they come across them. For others this book will initiate collection and storage then experimentation as they try out some of the techniques she espouses.
This is a beautiful read from every point of view: an instruction manual, an art book, a book espousing the art of collage, a peep into Baker's talents, an inducement to re-look at Baker's other books.
Fran Knight




Sep 06 2019

Argh! There's a skeleton inside you! by Idan Ben-Barak and Julian Frost

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Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN: 9781760631635.
(Ages 4-8) Highly recommended. Themes: Human Anatomy, Skeleton, Hands. This simple, interactive and very enjoyable picture book seeks to give young children a look inside their hands to discover what makes them work. The aliens Quog and Oort need to get to a party but their spaceship needs repairs. Neither of them has hands, which makes it more difficult to make their repairs. Through some clever interaction Quog grows what he needs to make the repairs and in the process the reader comes to understand how their skeleton, muscles and nerves work together to make their hands the useful things they can be.
The bright, simple but informative illustrations make this an extraordinary introduction to human anatomy for young children. The interactive parts of the story were particularly popular with the children who heard this book read aloud; putting their hands onto the page so that Quog could see inside made the book come alive for the young audience.
At the end of the entertaining story the authors give us more detail about what is inside our hand and how it works, just in case we would like to grow another hand. Very well thought out and informative for all who read it.
The duo that produced this book also gave us Do not lick this book, (it's full of germs) and this one will be just as popular with young readers. Great addition to every primary school library.
Gabrielle Anderson




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