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Posted in progress

Review: Spookyrumpus

This week I’m reviewing Spookyrumpus by Tony Mitton and illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees.

Image result for spookyrumpus

My Rating: 8 out of 10
Son’s Rating: 8 out of 10

The rhyming story takes you on an adventure through the dark woods, past bubbling cauldrons and a castle yard, it is the perfect Halloween read for those who are keen on being excited by spooky characters.

I find Tony Mitton can do no wrong with his storytelling, he encapsulates the theme of spooky situations so easily, it’s one of those reads where, as a writer, I wish I had come up with it first.  It’s a lighthearted story which incorporates numbers counting down to describe all the groups of characters.  I have read this many times to my children and it was only re-reading it for this review that I found an extra little bonus with this story – two extra characters on each page.  They link up nicely together and solidify the narration, direction and flow superbly.

Image result for spookyrumpus

Guy Parker-Rees partnering up with Tony has got to be one of the best partnerships I’ve come across in the hundreds of children’s book I’ve read.  The illustrations are bright, cheerful, fun and exciting to look at.  What I like in particular is how the text flows around the images and wraps around to suit each page, it makes it enjoyable to read plus I find, as a writer, it inspires and reminds me that text doesn’t necessarily have to be placed on over an image – it needs to be part of each page.

There’s a lot to look at on each page and in other books there is always the danger of overdoing it and being overstimulated to the point it confuses you as a reader but I find there’s a good level of detail on each page, everything you need to look is easy and simple – a fundamental for children’s picture books.  The colour scheme matches well too, in this case, with Halloween – lots of greens, oranges and brown.

A part of me wants to say to read this in October, the optimal month for getting the best reaction from your child, but it’s such a fun story, you could read this all year round and be thrilled by it every time, anytime.

I have read other Tony Mitton and Guy Parker-Rees books and have found similar themes throughout each of them but to me, that proves that he has a particular style and the audience are happy with what they read.

Comments from my son:

“I love the page with the big pie”

If you liked this read, try the next book by Tony Mitton and Guy Parker-Rees “Bumpus Jumpus Dinosaurumpus“.

 

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DID YOU LIKE THIS REVIEW?

As any reviewer will tell you, do your homework, and the results will pay off, so homework is what I did. If you feel I’ve missed something, please let me know. I’ve got notes upon notes of what to put in and leave out. Likewise, if it’s too long or too short do let me know. I’m refining this skill little by little every day.

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Posted in progress

Review: Best Friends

Next in my reviews is a sweet and happy book called Best Friends, written by Mara Bergman and illustrated by Nicola Slater.

Printed by Hodders Children’s Books, the story intertwines the adventures of three dogs and how their escapades bring three people together.

Image result for best friends mara bergman

 

My Rating: 9 out of 10
Son’s Rating: 9 out of 10

In my opinion, the book does a superb job at being a fun and enjoyable read.  I particularly liked how each dog has its own tale (or tail!) and the illustrations perfectly match the tone and goals set by Mara so very well.

The thing I love about this book is how simple and easy the rhyming text is to read.  The main focus is on the dogs and each character has a unique trait but, as any dog owner will tell you, the dogs also share the same goals – in this instance it’s playtime!

The humans are likeable too, even the background ones, Nicola really does a wonderful job at the simple but effective illustrations, a favourite part of the story is Dexter shaking all of the water off himself.   I can’t find fault with the children in the story, as a huge cat fanatic myself, I found myself drawn to the loveable dogs.

Image result for mara bergman best friends

I’d say the age range for this book is those aimed at primary school, around 4 to 8-year-olds.  I find it an original story, which could easily be adapted into a film or for an older audience.  The strong theme of friendship is highlighted throughout the story, I like how each dog has a good relationship with the children, and how the children easily manage to form their own new friendships.

My eldest loved this book.  When I first bought it, he wanted to re-read it several times over, his name is within the book too, which was an added bonus for him, I think.

Mara has done an excellent job of achieving her goals within the story, Nicola, with the illustrations too.  If you aren’t a dog fan by the end of the book you need to re-read it!

This is another book where I think “Why didn’t I come up with that idea?” type of realisations.  I like stories that have a lot of layers and plots and this ticked those boxes.

Comments from my son:

“I love the part where the dogs jump into the water

“I love this book”

If you liked this read, try Snip Snap by Mara Bergman

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DID YOU LIKE THIS REVIEW

As any reviewer will tell you, do your homework, and the results will pay off, so homework is what I did. If you feel I’ve missed something, please let me know. I’ve got notes upon notes of what to put in and leave out. Likewise, if it’s too long or too short do let me know. I’m refining this skill little by little every day.

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Posted in Review

Review: Wimpy Shrimpy

In the next review, I’m looking at Wimpy Shrimpy by Matt Buckingham.

Image result for wimpy shrimpy

My Rating:          

My Son’s Rating:

I really like how the story tackles the subject matter, without it coming across as condescending or patronising and it gives all introverts, who read it, a glimmer of hope that everything will be OK by getting over a fear.

Visually, the pages are engaging, with bright colours, lots of details and the emotions from all the characters are displayed through their faces and actions. I think the age range of this book is for slightly older children, maybe those who are of primary school age and have poor social skills or those who are just a bit shy and need a little nudge in the right direction.

I do feel Matt Buckingham, achieved the goal he set out to do, it is a complex topic which he completed so simply.

It is a good read, especially for children who are held back by a fear of some sort, it may not necessarily be a fear of being left out, but the general idea of changing your mind and doing the scary thing has been tackled so lovely within this story.

Personally, with having a few anxieties with my eldest about his social skills, I love this book for him.  He seems to enjoy it and always wants a re-read.  I find it an original story and what I enjoy the most is how much you can talk along with your children when reading it.  Each page has something new and engaging.

Comments from my son:

“I loved it when Shrimpy started to play”

If you liked this read, have a look at “Bright Stanley” by Matt Buckingham

 

THANK YOU FOR READING THIS REVIEW

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DID YOU LIKE THIS REVIEW?

As any reviewer will tell you, do your homework, and the results will pay off, so homework is what I did. If you feel I’ve missed something, please let me know. I’ve got notes upon notes of what to put in and leave out. Likewise, if it’s too long or too short do let me know. I’m refining this skill little by little every day.

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Posted in Review

Review: I Don’t Know What To Call My Cat

Next in the reviews is “I Don’t Know What To Call My Cat” written by Simon Philip and illustrated by Ella Bailey.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

My Son’s Rating: 10 out of 10

A book which should be aimed at young children but the prose is clearly more for the adults. You should never judge a book by its cover, but if I had to I would hands down, pick this as my favourite ever book because the illustrations are so captivating, the style and colour schemes are what every illustrator should strive for. The idea that a young girl needs to name her cat feels like what was missing from my childhood. Being a huge cat fan and never owning one until I bought a house!

As soon as I saw this book, I knew it had to have a place on my children’s bookshelf and so I made that happen.

It’s a story about a very naive girl who comes across a cat and attempts to give it a name. I feel it starts off strong but loses its way mid-way through and almost feels like two short stories. Without spoiling the ending, I was a little disappointed with how the cat is eventually named, in my opinion, it detracted from the whole point of the story. The problem with the story was that the first part was as the title reflected, then it suddenly switched to the girl looking after a gorilla for no reason other than her being incredibly naive. This is where I feel the text was intended for parents, to give them a smirk essentially. It works OK, but the ideas within the book went over my son’s head, so it’s like the story was pointless to him. If I have to explain a basic concept to him then something is not right with the story – am I right?

I’m not sure why but some of the text seemed to skip between plain to bold, yes I know typically bold signifies emphasis but it wasn’t consistent, sometimes it just wasn’t needed.

I may be nitpicking here, but a big bugbear of mine is that there were no parents in the story, not even in the background and there’s a point where she looks for the cat, and the pedantic in me thinks her parents would surely help. Then again, due to her naivety, maybe it’s best to think she’s so wrapped up in her own thoughts and ideas that adding parents would ruin the illusion.

Moving on to some positives, you do feel sorry for the girl when the cat goes missing, and she talks about how she blames herself which I find a mature theme, but it does help children identify feelings and emotions, so I was pleased to see it in this story. It’s told in a first person’s perspective, and because of the mixture of pure innocence and the mature text it felt almost dreamlike as a story, like if she had woken up towards the end it would have all made a nice kind of sense.

My Son’s comments: I like this book, it is cool!

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DID YOU LIKE THIS REVIEW?

As any reviewer will tell you, do your homework, and the results will pay off, so homework is what I did. If you feel I’ve missed something, please let me know. I’ve got notes upon notes of what to put in and leave out. Likewise, if it’s too long or too short do let me know. I’m refining this skill little by little every day.

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Posted in Review

Children’s Picture Book Review: The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water

Today I shall be reviewing The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water by Gemma Merino.

My Rating:    
Son’s Rating: 

The debut book by award-winning Gemma Merino is about an isolated crocodile and his attempts at fitting in with his brothers and sisters. At thirty-two pages long, what I find admirable is that this crocodile tries his hardest to fit in, with no pushing or prodding from his mum or friends. He is courageous and considerate and is fed up of being left out, due to his fear of water. I can’t fault anything with him, he is pretty much a vulnerable yet loveable character. Though he looks like his siblings, something is not quite right, as crocodiles surely enjoy the water, right?

Much like the story of The Ugly Duckling, except without the bullying, I feel this Macmillan published book is intended for the three to five year age market for the words are few, and the story is easy to read.

The author, in my opinion, achieved the writing and visual goals designed for the age range. Using a splatterdash effect for illustrations, Gemma has kept each visual to a minimum which I feel gives the story that bit of extra warmth and charm to it because it fits in with the lonely feelings of the crocodile. I also quite liked the fact there were a couple of images of his mummy, and it was only the bottom half of her. Similarly, it’s reminiscent to Tom and Jerry, the early years, where there was a presence of an adult yet the face was never shown, I find it helps the target audience engage and connect that little bit further.

Another warmth to this story were the siblings.  Though they acted hive-like not one of them were mean to the crocodile.  Some tried to help at times, but there was never any instances of sibling rivalry which you find in children’s stories. I found that aspect another reason why it stands out against similar books; there is no nastiness, just fear, honesty, bravery and a strong desire to change.

Reading this to my eldest for the first time, his reaction was to keep re-reading it immediately, he loved it that much. I know when I’m onto a good story for him, because of this behaviour. If I had let him get his way, that would have been a solid three-hour reading session! I found it remarkably enjoyable to read and, like my son, I also wanted more re-reads.

Illustrations vary from singles on one page, with split images on others to a full double-page spread depending on the impact of the narrative.  The prose flows smoothly, with no clunky or misplaced words and the mixture of visuals and text blend well together using space appropriately.

The crocodile manages to express thoughts and feelings amazingly without speech. I find this to be a fantastic achievement.  To me, it means, as a reader, I can sit and talk freely with my son about what the crocodile might say to his siblings, and their subsequent reactions as the story progresses.  That gives me something extra to do with my son, other than reading and accepting everything at face value.  I believe this activity will help encourage him to opinionate now and later on in life.

Every time we sat with this book, we kept finding little extra hidden treasures, especially with the illustrations and these bonuses made the book that bit more exciting over some of its competitors. I can see why it won the Macmillan Prize for Illustration 2011 as well as many other accolades in the years since its release.

Reading a book like this encourages and inspires me to continue my dream of publishing a children’s picture book. On the surface, it looks like such a natural idea, one of those “Oh why didn’t I think of that?” thoughts spring to mind.

Comments from my son:

“I like the words and the rubber ring.”
“My favourite bit is when he climbs a tree.”

If you liked this read, try the next book by Gemma Merino “The Cow That Climbed A Tree.

 

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DID YOU LIKE THIS REVIEW?

This review is my first, as any reviewer will tell you, do your homework, and the results will pay off, so homework is what I did. If you feel I’ve missed something, please let me know. I’ve got notes upon notes of what to put in and leave out. Likewise, if it’s too long or too short do let me know. I’m refining this skill little by little every day.

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Posted in writing

A Warning For Writers?

I’ve had a giggle tonight about rhyming do’s and don’ts from none other than Marshall Mathers himself, Eminem. Though he is specifying rap music I can’t help but think there may some universal writing truth in what he is saying, so I thought I’d share his video with you. It may get you thinking about your rhymes or you may just think its another celebrity spouting nonsense!

I laughed.

http://www.ladbible.com/funny/celebrity-music-interesting-eminem-lists-all-the-rhymes-that-should-be-outlawed-from-use-20180726.amp.html

Posted in project

Project Three: Completed

On Tuesday I finished this project, title included, and celebrated with a KFC! My new thoughts now include what to do about publishing. Do I approach new literary agents or should I go back and retry with all those who have said no for project one?

I’m undecided on this thought. What would you do?