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

Review: Solomon Crocodile

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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

Naming & Shaming: The Toucan Brothers

I started a new area on my blog a while ago, naming and shaming children’s picture books, as I felt some need improvement and some just need throwing in the bin altogether.  I realise authors and illustrators do pour a lot of hours and effort into creating something magical and enjoyable for children.  It frustrates me to no end that when I see a book with fundamental English mistakes – either spelling or grammar or even morals that are completely wrong, I think how did that get all the way from an agent to a publishing house, printed and sold with these glaring errors?

I read to my children all the time.  With it being my son’s birthday recently he was given 10 new picture books, which were hidden all over the house and he had to find them, he absolutely loved searching.  Today I read him one of his new books and the errors were so obvious it pained me to read it all the way to the end.  So I’m giving my review, I guess to enlighten you potential authors that you need a lot of proofreaders otherwise your work will come across as sloppy!

The Toucan Brothers by Tor Freeman

Based on a Mario Brothers mixed with Ghostbusters type story and setting, Sammy and Paul are the town’s best plumbers and general tradesmen. The story is set in rhyme, and the illustrations left my son giggling endlessly, he wanted to hear the story immediately again – the writer in me was fuming by the end, unfortunately!

The first page which first caught my eye was the slogan on the side of the van “No drip too big, no pipe too small”.  Also, note the name of the brothers – Sammy and Paul.

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Yet the last line on the next page, to me, felt like a massive mistake with the text and the above picture. It reads “No job too big, no pipe too small”.  It’s a complete mismatch.  Proofreading would have easily fixed this. Frustration level increased a notch.

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I’m all for not talking down to children, treat them with intelligence and they’ll shine on through.  The next series of errors would have put me at a failure level on my writing courses. If only Tor Freeman had asked for proofreaders and stuck to a basic writing concept – CONSISTENCY! It really is key!

Sammy has now become Sam.  This changed back to Sammy when the sentence needed that extra syllable.

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And Paul has become Paulie.  This really left me seeing red! I had to go back to the beginning to double check I hadn’t read it wrong initially.

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That’s everything I wanted to share, credit for a colourful and visual book Tor Freeman, but the errors are unjustifiably there.  As an author trying to find an agent and ultimately a publisher it astonishes me that this story was accepted by a very successful publishing house, Macmillan.

 

Posted in writing

Title Angst – Word Cloud Time

I’m struggling to come up with the perfect title for project three.  I thought I had it, but when it came to the end it suddenly felt out of place, it needs to have the right impact but I can’t quite figure that out.

So it’s time for the trusty, probably rusty, word cloud to come out and play. I haven’t drawn one of them in years but desperate times call for desperate measures.

I need to have a title sorted by the end of the week, I don’t want any more delays!

Posted in progress, writing

Literary Agents

Tonight I’ve been researching some agents and it all seems pretty straight forward. Over the next couple of weeks the aim is to edit and complete some work and then concentrate on covering letters.

Short but sweet tonight!

Posted in progress

World Book Day – My Day

In honour of World Book Day, here are the books I have read to my children today! I love all of them but if I had to pick, “Aliens Love Underpants” wins every time. It’s inspired me to write my 3rd project, believe it or not.

Bright Stanley by Matt Buckingham

The Jungle Run by Tony Mitton and Guy Parker-Rees

The Tickle Book by Ian Whybrow and Axel Scheffler

Colour Me Happy by Shen Roddie and Ben Cort

Room On The Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

I Wish I Were A Pirate by Smriti Prasadam-Halls And Sarah Ward

Aliens Love Underpants by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort

I am taking all these reading opportunities to do my research on what works in children’s books, looking for specific themes and length etc. Unfortunately there are some books that I don’t approve of and I’m amazed they even got published, see my Naming & Shaming part of my blog for further info.

I love reading books to my children, hence the major desire to write my own books for them!