Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Monsieur Marceau by Leda Schubert, illustrated by Gerard Dubois

Marcel Marceau, one of those memorable characters like Charlie Chapman that we remember because of what they didn’t say. What is it that makes mime so appealing to us? This beautifully illustrated book will draw you in, you will learn something about Marcel Marceau’s earlier life and about the character Bip that was created back in 1947. How lucky we were to have had Monsieur Marceau in our world.

~ Reviewed by Thyme

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Simon's cat by Simon Tofield

If you have not discovered Simon's cat yet, then you are missing out on a real treat.  What began as an internet phenomenon has evolved into a world of mini-movies, comic books, and merchandise.

From watching the clips and reading the books it is obvious that Simon really does own cats, and that he has some truly funny moments with those cats.  This first collection of his stories is told without any words and without any real structure, but that just adds to the charm of watching how one cat makes his owners life very interesting. 

There are some really laugh out loud moments here, especially when the cat does things that my own cats do, and I know other cat owners who also adore Simon's cat and eagerly wait for each new mini-movie to appear on YouTube or the official website.

A fun read for all ages that always makes me chuckle.

If you like this first book then try the other books in the series including Simon's cat beyond the fence, Simon's cat feed me! and Simon's cat in kitten chaos.

~ Reviewed by Elspeth Sweetman

Monday, November 26, 2012

A witch in Winter by Ruth Warburton

The move from London to Winter is a culture shock for Anna in more ways than one - she has moved from a big bustling city to a small coastal town, and along the way she has discovered that she is a witch.  Not a fly on a broomstick, stir a big cauldron kind of witch, but rather a power from inside herself kind of witch.  It all come as something of a shock, especially when she finds out by casting a love spell with a group of friends that was a little too successful. 

Now Anna is caught between two factions of witches, and she has no idea which way to turn.  On one hand she has the people who have taken her in, tried to teach her about her powers and to be responsible and careful - and on the other hand there is the group that makes her feel as though there is something they want from her.  Anna will have to make a choice eventually, and there are some people who will do anything to make sure that she makes the "right" choice.

A witch in Winter is the first book in a trilogy, and if this first book is anything to go by it is going to be an explosive series with action, adventure, magic, and a thorough sprinkling of romance to top it off.  Warburton is a fantastic author who has taken a very ordinary little seaside village and turned it into the location of epic battles, ancient mythology, and secret societies bent on control.  A fantastic read that I wanted to finish in one sitting to see what happened next.

If you enjoyed A witch in Winter then you may also enjoy The pledge by Kimberly Derting, The selection by Kiera Cass, Pushing the limits by Katie McGarry, The treachery of beautiful things by Ruth Long, and Paranormalcy by Kiersten White.

~ Reviewed by Elspeth Sweetman

Friday, November 23, 2012

The blue sword by Robin McKinley

I've been a fan of this book - and the author - for many years.  

Harry is one of the earliest girl-with-sword, now so prevalent in fantasy literature, aimed at young adults.

She doesn't start out with said-sword, but does begin with an unconventional attitude and upbringing, one which makes her unexpected transition to girl-with-sword easier, for both her and the reader.

With nods to Kipling's The man who would be king, this combines aspects of the British Raj with fantasy.

Now, you can read plot summaries all over the place - so, I won't bother :D.

McKinley's Damar/Daria is entirely believable. Harry's character works within the social setting, as does her background of small rebellions against societal norms.

As always, McKinley's language is gloriously descriptive. You can feel the heat and the sand, and hear the battle cries.

The growing relationship between Harry and Corlath is beautifully understated, and real. The glimpses of Aerin are tantalising - and make reading her story, The hero and the crown, a must at the end of this.

I have a great deal of love and affection for this book, to the extent that I re-read it annually. (As I do, with a few other McKinley books.)

Now, having given that heart-felt endorsement, how could I do anything other than recommend other McKinley's... First up, of course, The hero and the crown. For a darker, sadder, tale, try Deerskin. On a different tangent, there's The outlaws of Sherwood (a Robin Hood tale). Her latest, Chalice and Pegasus, is also worth hunting down. Then, there's the fairy tale books... (which really does include Deerskin): Beauty and Rose daughter; Spindle's end (possibly my second-favourite of her fairy tale ones, behind Deerskin). Dragonhaven is a rarity, as it features a male main. For older readers, ie adults, her vampire tale is completely different to anything else... Sunshine.

And, you should totally visit her site.

Reviewed by Aud Selene.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A is for musk ox by Erina Cabatingan and Matthew Myers

I dare you to pick this one up and read it aloud... with a serious voice and poker face. Never gonna happen...

This is a read aloud with gusto and verve and panache. You will need a couple of voices - either yourself, or with a friend - to truly bring the energy required of this book.

You will need one to be an overwhelmingly pushy / try-hard musk ox (Joseph)... and one to be a put-upon and sarcastic zebra... Most of the text is carried by the musk ox - who manages to make almost every-single-letter fit with the theme of 'musk oxen'... (And, even with those he doesn't use a directly-related-to-musk-oxen-word for... has a link, tenuous, but a link, nonetheless.)

It is funny, and irreverent... it is a perfect read for word lovers. Older children will appreciate the wit and silliness of the whole thing...

So - next up, make up your alphabet about whatever you like, a la A is for musk ox.

Other great alphabet books are... Z is for moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinksy; G is for one gzonk by Tony DiTerlizzi; Alpha oops! by Alethea Kontis and Bob Kolar; The dangerous alphabet by Neil Gaiman and Gris Grimly.

Check out this book trailer...

~ Reviewed by Aud Selene.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Red Rocks by Rachael King

Jake is staying at his father's around the coast of Wellington, exploring alone. He runs into a strange old guy around the rocks. He tries to avoid the local bullies... What he does do, is take a seal-skin from a cave and therefore attracts the attention of the local selkies.

The modern world and the world of Celtic mythology combine in this low-key action novel - it's not action-packed like, say, James Patterson or Chris Ryan - but there is some action there.

There are also some interesting relationships. Watching Jake and his dad negotiate their time together is interesting, as Jake's dad is used to living alone and becomes totally focussed in his work (hence Jake's solo explorations).

The writing is wonderfully descriptive, giving a real and vivid sense of place and time.

Something to try out for 10+ year olds who like thinking a bit about what they're reading.

~ Reviewed by Aud Selene.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A little book of language by David Crystal

I've become a bit of a David Crystal fangirl recently... He has a love of language, a sense of humour, and a personality that comes through his writing.

A little book of language explores the development of language - from babies through to exploring the languages around you now. So, everything from how babies learn to talk, to how languages die, and develop.

I've studied language, linguistics, sociolinguistics in the past, and this title reminded me of that time - and the joy I found with the subjects.

That said, Crystal's writing style is personable and approachable - you do not need to have an academic background to appreciate this one.

It is a true gem.

~ Reviewed by Aud Selene.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The quiet place by Sarah Stewart and David Small

When you were a child, didn't you sometimes want somewhere to escape and be in your own world? Maybe you had somewhere - your own quiet place...

Have you ever moved and had to settle in a new community? What about a new country? A new language?

Did you grow up with a loving and supportive family? Those in your house, and some further away?

If any of these things sound familiar, then you will identify with Isabel, newly immigrated to America from Mexico. Isabel sends letters to her favourite aunt, Lupita, keeping her up-to-date with the family's new life.

This is a lovely story by a pair who work well together and create some heart-felt picture books for older children. Look for their other collaborations: The friend; The gardener; The journey; The library and The money tree. Most of them have a historical bent, and feature young girls growing and learning new things / new communities.

You could also track down: Tea with milk by Allen Say, about feeling displaced; The Arrival by Shaun Tan, a 'wordless' book about immigration; Dear Daddy by Philippe Dupasquier, in which a girl writes to her father, who is at sea.

~ Reviewed by Aud Selene.