Posted in Review

Review: Supertato Veggies Assemble

Today I shall be reviewing Supertato Veggies Assemble by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

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This is a story about an evil pea wreaking havoc in the supermarket late one night. He sends an army of peas out of the freezer to destroy everyone else. Can Supertato and his friends help save the day?

One thing that draws you to this book is how colourful it is. Each page is jam packed (pun intended), with lots of action and little quirks you wouldn’t normally find in a children’s story. I particularly like the baked beans tins!

As a writer, trying to write my own novel about an animated piece of ham, Supertato gives me hope that talking food as protagonists DOES work, its actually inspired me to go back to my ham story and figure it all out.

I love how the name of the story is based on a very popular cinema franchise, it works very well and it should hook in superhero fans no matter the age.

What I find fascinating are the illustrations, I enjoy how the broccoli and fish fingers are drawn, using bubbles as inspiration.

The narration, to me, is very Batman the TV series – esque, it’s all I hear in my head when reading it out loud to my children, now that I’ve told you this you will probably feel the same way. For those not familiar with the style just imagine a narrator describing a situation and then questioning the outcome, it’s effective and gets you thinking ahead to what may happen. With it being a children’s story it is light hearted and very fun to read.

Another thing I enjoy is the superhero team, one of which is a tomato. We find out something interesting about tomatoes in this book, something which children may not know so I like how it’s approached.

If you are looking for a quick book to read to your child this is definitely the book for you. It isn’t wordy at all, yet it still works out well as the illustrations tell the story just as effectively as the narrative.

Comments from my son

“I like the fish fingers looking at the evil pea”

If you like this book try Supertato Run, Veggies Run! By Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

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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, writing

Review: The Bean Machine

The next review is The Bean Machine by Adam Bestwick.

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Image result for adam bestwick the bean machine

My Rating: 6 out of 10

My Son’s Rating: 10 out of 10

It’s about a bean obsessed boy, who loves to eat beans all day every day. A problem arises when he eats so much that even mum and dad don’t know what to do with all the empty tins. Can Jack find a way to deal with the tin crisis?

I enjoy rhyming stories and this ticks all the boxes with rhythm, pattern and readability, it’s easy to read, though at first, it does seem very wordy, it soon picks up pace. The text goes well with the imagery and I feel Adam achieved his goal of telling a story and also teaching his readers some good life skills.

I would say it’s aimed at around 7 year old’s, but younger children would benefit from this story too.

What children will love about this is that the story goes in depth about what he eats beans with, some combinations that children would love and adults would squirm at.

The illustrations are engaging, fun and they work very well. Adam uses both drawn images and real-life images with winning effects.

There isn’t much character development, but the story isn’t about that, it’s about the outside world ideas and inspirations.

I can’t fault the story but there is a lot of emphasis on all the food combinations, I wonder if just putting in a few suggestions would have created the same effect?

This book is aimed at all beans addicts and those who love to see something good come from something so bad.

Comments from my son:
“I liked the end page the best”

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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: The Rise and Fall of Claude the Magnificent

I’m trying to do more than just one review a week, I have hundreds of books so I need to get them all reviewed, wouldn’t you agree?

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“If horses can wear shoes, why can’t cats wear hats!” – My favourite part of the entire book

The Rise and Fall of Claude the Magnificent by Chris Capstick and illustrated by Monika Filipina is today’s review.

Image result for the rise and fall of claude the magnificent

My Rating: 10 out of 10

My Son’s Rating:

I love the idea that a cat has a strong desire to show off his artistic talents. After listening to his mum, he sets off to Paris to make a name for himself, which he thinks will be easy.  A lot of characters he bumps into tries to knock his confidence which then does happen. Is it all over for Claude?

There is a lot of text within this book, so I’d say the reading age range is probably 6+ though as a huge cat fan I’ve read this book to my 2 and 4-year-old many a time and they love each read.

The illustrations are beautiful, very pastel like with a lot of attention to detail on every page, Monika has done a fantastic job of setting the theme with the right colours, she has easily achieved her goal. Each hat Claude makes is over the top and very flamboyant, but that is what the people wanted.

As the story progresses, Claude manages to find a niche and becomes quite successful at hat making, hence the front cover image, though it comes with downsides and without spoiling it, there’s a nice little nod to Paris’ famous landmark.  His ego grows and what started out as a formidable character, you soon see his nasty streak.

I do like stories like this, where the character goes through a change.  In children’s picture books, sometimes, there aren’t any developments or changes within the character but I find my children understand the character a bit more if they were once bad but then good, or if they were good and they turn nasty, they comprehend the necessary change the character has to go through.

The story tackles, upbringings and greed very well and Chris has done an excellent job of dealing with these themes within.  It is a book I definitely recommend and enjoy.  My favourite part of the book has to be the double page spread of the giant hat because it shows off Claude’s amazing talent and gives off a very foreboding and impending doom about it.

 

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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: Solomon Crocodile

For my next review I’ll be looking at Solomon Crocodile, written and illustrated by Catherine Rayner.

Image result for solomon crocodile

My Rating: 7 out of 10

My Son’s Rating: 8 out of 10

The story is about a cheeky crocodile who just wants to play. Unfortunately, he keeps on making everyone unhappy by his wicked manner.

Catherine Rayner has done a wonderful job illustrating this book, the splatter type effect used on Solomon and the way she has drawn the storks and hippo works very well as a children’s picture book and I can understand why it won the Kate Greenway Medal.

The text is simple and easy to read, I’d say it is aimed at the 4 to 7-year-old market and I believe Catherine achieved her original goals for the story. The setting is in a jungle and you can tell this by the colours and scenery used – lots of greens, reds and yellows.

It’s not a story where the character changes his naughty trait, unlike Naughty Naughty Monster, but something good does happen to him at the end which makes me believe there may be follow up books. After a quick google, Yes I can see a follow-up!

Solomon doesn’t listen to what the animals are telling him which leads him down a path where he eventually feels lonely, this is what makes the story work because it’s reflective of an actual child’s mood when they don’t get their way, I’ve learnt that much from my own boys.

I wouldn’t say it’s an original, but it’s a cute little story designed to showcase how well Catherine Rayner can illustrate and combine the theme and setting to the text. From the start, we are told Solomon is trouble and we go on an adventure to see just how bothersome he can get with the other animals.

I did enjoy reading this but was hoping for a different type of ending, due to the character’s nature so I can’t give it full marks.

Comments from my son:
“I liked the part where he gets a friend.”

If you liked this book, I recommend “Naughty Naughty Monster” by Kaye Umansky and illustrated by Greg Abbott.

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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: Naughty Naughty Monster

The next review I will be doing is a book called “Naughty Naughty Monster” by Kaye Umansky and illustrated by Greg Abbott.

Image result for naughty naughty monster

My Rating: 7 out of 10

My Son’s Rating: 8 out of 10

It’s about a monster who keeps on causes harm and mayhem to all the woodland creatures for fun when a fairy comes along and changes things.

I enjoyed the rhyming prose, and in my eyes everything in this little world made sense. I do like to read stories whereby the main character needs to go through a change and much like the bully in this story he learns the hard way not to hurt others, especially for fun.

Image result for naughty naughty monster

I think the illustrations fit well with the text and the setting of the story, lots of browns and greens are included. The text is easy to read, and you do feel sorry for the monster at one point, but this balances out as you also feel sorry for the foxes, rabbits and hedgehogs.

It is a story about lesson learning, it’s also about bullying and doing the right thing, I believe the goals from Kaye were achieved, and it was a delightful book to read to my children. I quite liked the idea behind the story, as in the main character, from the start isn’t likeable, and you can see why. The fairy is an excellent example of a parental figure trying to guide the monster towards a more positive way of life.

It is an original story, with a few nods to other fairy tales which makes it an enjoyable read.  I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read lesson learning stories and teach morals and good values to children.

 

Comments from my son:
“I liked the monster at the start but even better by the end.”

If you liked this book, I recommend “The Truth According to Arthur” by Tim Hopgood and illustrated by David Tazzyman.

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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: Also an Octopus

Today’s review is Also an Octopus by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and illustrated by Benji Davis.

Image result for also an octopus

My Rating 10 out of 10

My Son’s Rating 10 out of 10

Are you a budding writer? Do you want to share some basic writing skills with your child? Do you feel you need to express what stories mean to a younger audience but aren’t quite sure on their level of development? If so, you have found the right book.

This is the perfect book for teaching children about story basics. Maggie has cleverly given the target audience ideas and easy methods on how to get started writing a story. The book itself is about a character and what they need to do to have an exciting and engaging adventure. Maggie has easily achieved her goal, and if you’re a writer like me, you’ll take some inspiration from it too.

I would say it’s aimed around a very young audience, around the four to seven-year mark and this is reflected by Benji’s illustrations. Each page has a bright illustration, and it’s evident where you’re supposed to look, the flow of each image is natural and simple to follow.

Every object, person or animal within has a purpose in the book, and they are all used correctly and placed in such a way that you instantly want to go back and have a re-read.

Image result for also an octopus

Each page has an idea of its own to get young minds imagination and their creativity flowing, it’s the sort of book I would expect to see in a school library, and I like to think that maybe it is!

The way the octopus talks through the book is a lovely little quirk, it acts as though he can hear the narrator, which is typical for a children’s picture book but its friendly and engaging.

The text is simple but works well, for an early years reader, this certainly ticks the right boxes regarding readability.

I do find it an original idea, another one of those “I wish I had thought of that” type of feelings flashed through my mind upon reading it which makes it a great read, in my eyes.

I also enjoy the ending, the closure of one story and the potential of another. I feel children aren’t stupid, you should play to their cleverness and intuition, and their imaginations should be nurtured and explored as best as possible to reach their future potential. I won’t lie, I would like nothing more than my children to grow up to have the same writing flare I have. Though I’ll never be pushy, I want to encourage them to find their own passions and hobbies and personally speaking this book will be amongst the collection I’ll keep for years to come.

The message within the story is what keeps it at a young readers category. It’s such a joy to read, and my son sat still throughout the entire read and joined in when prompted with ease.

Comments from my son:

“I loved all of it

“My favourite part was the ending”

(He also giggled at the waffles)

If you liked this read, try The Mood Hoover by Paul Brown and illustrated by Rowena Blyth

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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 Review

Review Children’s Picture Books

With the recent naming & shaming posts receiving such a wonderful response I feel it is only fair to add a more positive area to the blog whereby I will review children’s picture books. So keep an eye out, over the next few months you’ll see a lot of amazing and talented authors and illustrators crop up. You never know, I may be reviewing your work!