Thursday, 23 September 2021

One Hundred and One Daffodils by Malachy Doyle and Denise Hughes (Children's, 5 years +, 10E/10E)

 

July 2021, Bloomsbury Education, 48 pages, Paperback, Review copy 

Summary from Bloomsbury

Dusty the fox cub can't wait for her very first spring; Dad has told her there will be a big party. All Dusty has to do is find 101 daffodils to prove it really is spring. That is a lot of flowers! Will Dusty and her friends be able to find them all? This heart-warming tale from Irish author Malachy Doyle is perfect for Key Stage 1 (KS1) children who are learning to read by themselves. It features engaging illustrations from Denise Hughes and explores the themes of seasons and plant life cycles.

Nayu's thoughts

Every element of this book is bright and cheerful. Even when Dusty falls out with her friend Mabel the mole her father gives her hope that the next day all will be well, just as he does when a storm comes and brings a halt to Dusty's daffodil count. The storm wrecks some of the daffodils too, but many more survive and pop up over the several days that Dusty's search takes part in. I love the curiosity of Dusty and her friends, they delight in the natural wonders of the world in Spring, which can be fragile. Dusty learns about family traditions from her father of when he was a cub counting daffodils. Having the count last several days feels more realistic than finding them all in one day, as daffodils pop up a few at a time until suddenly there are loads of them. The illustrations are full of movement and cuteness, it is so easy to imagine Dusty sniffing for the scent of daffodils, racing around to find them all. I know I will be looking at the pictures from time to time instead of reading the story when I want a pick me up!

Inside the front and back cover are tips on what to get the reader to look out for, subjects to make them think about as well as basic comprehension questions. It even encourages getting a bulb and watching it grow, although this may be dependent on which season it is when the book is read. Incorporating science with reading is a great learning tool. 

Find out more on Malachy's website and Denise's website.

Suggested read

Another bright fun read can be found in Splash Day by Nick Sharratt (Children's, 5 years +, Dyslexia Friendly, 9/10E)


 

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Lily Takes A Walk by Satoshi Kitamura (Children's, Picture book, 10E/10E)


 2nd September 2021, Scallywag Press, 28 pages, Hardback, Review copy

Summary from Scallywag Press

 When Lily takes a walk with her dog, Nicky, she notices many lovely things. But poor Nicky only sees monsters lurking in every corner. Which version of the walk is true, Lily's or Nicky's, or both?

There is just the right amount of horror to provide a thrill, but also the safety of realising that Nicky's visions are imaginary. Until a flap reveals a real surprise at the end!

Nayu's thoughts

Aside from Lily having a faithful companion on her walks, Lily Takes A Walk appealed because I've read and reviewed Satoshi's work before so knew I would almost definitely love this title (and I do!) Lily definitely is a fictional character because unless in a sleepy town no parents would let their child walk around anywhere, even with their dog. Nicky is extremely protective of Lily: throughout Lily's walks Nicky is the one who keeps danger at bay by barking. Lily never sees the dangers because what she sees is safe: she sees bats, Nicky sees a vampire. Lily sees ducks on one side of a bridge, Nicky sees what looks like a dinosaur on the other side. 

 Each page has Lily see something completely different to Nicky. Nicky is a superb guard dog! I loved the part where Lily's parents ask how her day went, and she was clearly just chatting but Nicky had thought bubbles of all the monsters they had kept away from Lily. There is one monster that Nicky can't keep away who appears at the end in a fold out section of the book: that made me giggle a lot because I love seeing that creature in a house in novels because there are often funny expressions, and that is the case here. Satoshi's distinctive colourful style matches with an engaging tale that will want to be read more than ones. I wish we all lived in the world Lily lives in - so long as there are companions like Nicky to keep us safe! 

Editing note: It's only as I've gone to Scallywag's website I've seen that this book was written in the 80s! I wish it had been one of my childhood reads. I also assumed what Nicky saw was true too before reading the book blurb. This makes it an extrea good book to show that our imaginations can get carried away in what dangers lurk in the world, although there are most definitely some dangers that means children shouldn't wander about alone.

Suggested read

Be sure to check out Satoshi's other work including The Smile Shop by Satoshi Kitamura (Children's, Picture book, 10E/10E)


 

Sunday, 29 August 2021

Swim, Shark, Swim! by Dom Conlon and Anastasia Izlesou (Children's, Picture book, 9/10E)


 

 February 2021, Graffeg, 36 pages, Paperback, Review copy 

Summary from Graffeg

Swim around the world with Shark as he explores ocean forests and coastal reefs, meeting Hammerheads and Great Whites, stingrays and dolphins in a search for the place he calls home.

Nayu's thoughts 

I adore sharks. They are fascinating creatures in how they live, needing to constantly swim to stay alive, thriving on smaller fish as prey. I loved how cute the cover is, with the bold shark in the centre page. The only reason this book doesn't get full marks is because the illustration style while beautiful in it's own right, portraying the vastness of the ocean well and the variety of sealife, the colours and colour tone was a little different to the cover. That is a purely personal preference, each page is full of action and the motion of the water and creatures including the shark are vivid and brilliantly portrayed. I'd just prefer a brighter palette. 

On to the story:  shark is on a mission to find where it belongs. I love how all the different types of ocean with different climates and many types of shark reside are explored in shark's journey, emphasising that there are many sharks and not all can live in the same area. There is even a handy map at the story's end so readers can see where in the world the oceans area. The lyrical style of tale is pleasing to read, it isn't really a rhyming style but it has it's own distinct rhythm which matches well with the illustrations. Shark may be a predator but there are dangers in the world, which is why shark must keep on swimming (like Dory from Finding Nemo) until the perfect place is found, which does happen at the end.

Find out more on Dom's website and Anastasia's website.

Suggested read

The eagle-eyed among you will notice that yes I have recently reviewed another book by Dom and Anastasia: Blow, Wind Blow! by Dom Conlon and Anastasia Izlesou (Children's, Picture book, 10/10E)


 

 

 

Saturday, 28 August 2021

How I Saved the World In A Week by Polly Ho-Yen and George Ermos (Children's, 9 years +, 10/10E)


 July 2021, Simon and Schuster Children's UK, 384 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Book summary from Simon and Schuster

Rule number one: Always be prepared . . .

Billy’s mum isn’t like other mums. All she wants is to teach him the Rules of Survival – how to make fire, build shelter and find food. She likes to test Billy on the rules until one day she goes too far, and Billy is sent to live with a dad he barely knows.

Then the world changes forever as people begin to be infected with a mysterious virus that turns their skin grey. As chaos breaks out, Billy has to flee the city. Suddenly he realises that this is what his mum was preparing him for – not just to save his family, but to save the whole world. 

Nayu's thoughts

At secondary school one of the books I would borrow from the school library repeatedly for most of the time I was there was a whopper of a textbook all about survival, how to survive, what to do in multiple emergency situations. I was and am not into camping and trying to survive with limited tools for fun, but I find it all fascinating. You never know when skills will be useful! That's why I was intrigued to see where Billy's adventure would take him. It surprised me a lot. 

I felt sorry for Billy because his mum was different to others, and there were several times he seemed to crave normality that his mum couldn't give him. However it is because of how she brought him up that he was able to survive what felt like a zombie invasion. I hate zombies, they scare me a lot and I didn't like how the virus changed the people. I got scared when Billy was on the run from them, especially when he was almost cornered too. Some of the time he was on his own, but he was with his dad a fair too. Billy struggled because his dad was more of a typical parent than his mother was. He gave Billy space but he gave Billy structure to his life, regardless of it was wanted. Billy had to deal with his father having a girlfriend who had a daughter that Billy didn't like at all for most of the book. When it truly mattered, the fractured family did pull together and Billy's survival knowledge kept them all safe. 

There aren't many illustrations in the novel, but they certainly helped explain the tools/methods Billy used to survive. Some methods I knew but some where new to me. It was rather cool that Billy was able to share his knowledge with those he was with, and in time they accepted he knew more than them and let him teach them what to do. There is a positive ending to the book, the world does get saved too which was a relief. Billy's life will never be a typical childhood which, by the way, don't exist as we are all unique, but I would like to see him have another adventure with his strange family.

Find out more on Polly's website.

Suggested read 

If you like books about having to survive in strange lands check out Bubba and Squirt's Big Dig to China by Sherry Ellis (Children's, 9 years +, 10/10E)


 

Thursday, 26 August 2021

Perfect by Nicola Davies and Cathy Fisher (Children's, Picture book, 10/10E)

The colours are a few shades darker than this looks online

 July 2018, Graffeg Books, 32 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Summary from Graffeg Books

Perfect is a story of anticipation, disappointment, acceptance and, ultimately, love. Written by award-winning children’s author Nicola Davies, it tells the story of a young boy learning to accept his baby sister as being perfect in every way in spite of her disability. Suffused with natural imagery, Perfect is an ideal way to open up the subject of disability with children, as well as being a great story in its own right. Beautifully illustrated by Cathy Fisher, Perfect is a truly remarkable book guaranteed to bring a lump to the throat.
 

Nayu's thoughts

A new baby is always exciting, both for the parents and any siblings. However not every baby is born healthy, which can be a surprise to all involved. Perfect focuses on the view of a son who was excited but on discovering that their little sister isn't completely healthy goes into shock on having their plans dashed. The boy ignores his sister completely, refusing to look at her, talk about her, and be with her. He enjoys the swifts who fly around his house and who are a key feature on the pages. He understandably wants to fly away with them to a world where either his sister doesn't exist or she is healthy.

It must have been hard for his parents to see him so indifferent and upset; it is possible they knew beforehand that their daughter was sick. It never says what she is ill with which I feel is good because it means readers can feel more connected with a disabled sibling. All is not lost because the boy finds a not quite normal (yes I hate using the word but I couldn't think of another so please forgive me for that) swift in his garden who he feels needs help to get back in the air. He helps it from the top room of the house which happens to be his sister's. Once he watches it fly away he then connects the dots and realises his sister needs help just like the swift, and he bonds with her at last.

The story is moving in it's own way and it is echoed by the muted colour illustrations that get darker and less colourful as the boy's feelings change. Using what I think is watercolours matches the tone of the story, and makes it easy to visualise the chaotic disappointment of the boy. The high level of detail creates a life-like image of both birds and humans which make it relatable. On the most important pages the eye is drawn to the single image with detail, on the others there is lots of detail on both pages. I feel this is a brilliant read for anyone getting a new sibling who isn't 100% healthy, but are perfect in their own way. All obstacles can be overcome with patience and time.

Find out more on Nicola's website.

Suggested read 

To look at the world from a different view from a child who is deaf check out Reena's Rainbow by Dee White and Tracie Grimwood (Children's, Picture book, 10E/10E) 


 

Monday, 16 August 2021

Little Bunny's Book of Thoughts by Steve Smallman (Poetry, non-fiction, 10E/10E)


 

November 2020, Graffeg, 48 pages, Hardback, Review copy 

Summary from Graffeg

When everything feels like a challenge, take time to stop and breathe with Little Bunny's book of calm, quiet and mindfulness.

Nayu's thoughts

I adore bunnies, so it was a no-brainer in saying yes to reviewing this book. Life isn't easy, we all know that. Honestly I could have done with rereading this gem of a read far more than I have in the past few months. Little Bunny is going through some stuff of its own, but the poetry within expresses how tough can can feel and encourages what action can be taken. I don't have ears I can dangle off a branch with like Little Bunny, and performing headstands isn't in my list of things I can do, but following the advice of speaking with friends, taking a step away from worries and trying to find the positives in life is something I can do. 

The simple black and while illustrations convey more than what's written on the pages, expressing the feelings more swiftly than the words do. I want to keep looking at the adorable Little Bunny, and eventually the words will take route in my head and provide comfort when I need them. A total must for everyone's bookshelf, regardless of if you love bunnies, which you totally should! 

Find out more on Steve's website

Suggested read

For other encouraging reads involving rabbits check out Poor Little Rabbit by Jorg Muhle (Children's, Picture book, Board Book, 10E/10E)


 

 

 

Sunday, 15 August 2021

Blow, Wind Blow! by Dom Conlon and Anastasia Izlesou (Children's, Picture book, 10/10E)


 

 June 2021, Graffeg Limited, 36 pages, Paperback, Review copy

 

Summary from Graffeg

Chase Wind through the oceans, fields and mountains as, from zephyr to gale, she carries seeds and stirs seas, enriching the world and breathing life.

Nayu's thoughts

I've read many picture books about the weather, and while not necessarily my preferred style and colours of illustration, the way the colours suitably match the tone of the story of how an insignificant wind grows mighty and explores the entire planet makes it a great read. I'm not sure if I can explain this well but the lack of definted lines for each double page illustration (by definied lines I mean if a person was drawn, frequently there would be defined lines around the head, limbs and clothes, often in a dark colour (perhaps black) or a darker shade of the object's colour. The lack of defined lines magnified the nature of wind, which is unstoppable. It's not merely a matter of wind travelling around the earth, what the wind does and what objects it affects are all examined, from small seeds, birds to waves and much more. 

 

Due to personal connections with a dear friend in Florida whose house was demolished by hurricane Michael in 2018 I did have an unexpected response to the mention of hurricanes in that sunny state that I hadn't expected. It's not a bad thing, hurricanes sadly are common in Florida each year. I feel it's good to let people know about the destructive side of wind but, as is seen in the book, mostly the wind is for good like turning windmill sails which mill crops like wheat which is needed to make flour for cakes and bread. I genuinely have not seen such an expanasive exploration of a weather element in a picture book before, and am impressed with all the ways wind is used in our world, both helping and hindering us. This is a really good read especially for those studying wind in science as it isn't dull and the pleasing lyrical nature of the sentences will make it easier to remember what the wind does. The colours seen on the cover are spread throughout the book in different shades depending on the strength and location of the wind. 


Find out more on Dom's website and Anastasia's website.

Suggested read

If you like learning about science why not try learning about water in Hey, Water by Antoinette Portis (Children's, Picture book, 10E/10E)