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.

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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: 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

Review: Wimpy Shrimpy

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

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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 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?

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!

Posted in Review

Naming & Shaming – My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish, The Fintastic Fish-Sitter

Next on the unfortunate pile is My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish The Fintastic Fish-Sitter by Mo O’Hara and Marek Jagucki.

Zombie Goldfish comes from a successful series adored by children of all ages. This story focuses on Pradeep’s sister, Sami, babysitting a zombie goldfish called Frankie.

My first gripe is a spelling error early on. Sorry but it’s “Brussels”, not “Brussells”, only one “L” is required.  Even my spell checker came up with an error flag just as I typed it in.  If you’re wanting to publish, it does pay to proofread!

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I was expecting the story to feature a zombie type scenario, but it fell a bit flat when it was brushed off in two words essentially. Overall I felt the book to be somewhat confusing, it’s meant to be about the babysitter, going off the title but felt like a Tom and Jerry story. Frankie did nothing to prove to the reader why he is the lead in the book and though Fang, the cute but evil vampire kitten, was featured, there was nothing remotely vampirish about him. I suspect the rest of the series will explain more. As a stand-alone book, it was OK, but if you’re going to read this make sure you have the rest of the series amongst your collection.

Like my previous post, this book was also published by Macmillan.  It is purely coincidental that I found fault with two of their books on the same day.  Then again I have hundreds of picture books at home, and that publishing house does tend to crop up a lot.

 

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.