Beth And Chrissi Do Kid Lit 2015

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2015 – DECEMBER READ – The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1)

Published December 31, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse-Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends — one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena — Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.

What did I think?:

This is the final book in our Kid-Lit series for this year, the beginning of the hugely popular Percy Jackson series and my very first read from Rick Riordan. Well, we’ve certainly ended this year with a bang as this was a real cracker of a book and I can now understand why it is so loved by children (and probably adults) the world over. Our hero is Percy Jackson, a twelve year old boy whom when we first meet him seems just like an ordinary kid, apart from the fact that he changes boarding schools every year due to his behaviour which could be described as disruptive. Professionals have tried to explain his sometimes unruly character as a mixture of things ranging from dyslexia to ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) but we soon find out that Percy Jackson is probably the furthest away from being a normal kid as you can get. For Percy is a demi-god or half-blood, sired by a rather famous Greek God and a mortal woman.

Of course he does not know this in the beginning but he begins to get an inkling that he might be a bit special after a strange incident occurs on his class trip one day. Well, meeting and destroying one of Hades leathery-winged, fang-baring Furies isn’t one of your everyday occurrences, especially as he was so certain she was a normal, run of the mill school teacher! However, it turns out Percy is incredibly different from your average demi-god being the son of one of The Big Three: Zeus, Poseidon or Hades which gives him some amazing powers but also leads to him being a jucier target for monsters in the mortal world. Desperate to keep him safe Percy’s mother sends him to Camp Half-Blood, a place for the children of Gods to train, harness their powers and go on exciting quests.

It is not long before Percy finds himself in possession of a great and dangerous quest – to find and return Zeus’s beloved lightning bolt which was stolen from him and is now believed to be in the Underworld, a place usually reserved for the dead and which very few return from alive. As if this wasn’t bad enough, Percy himself is being accused of the theft and if the bolt is not returned by the end of the summer solstice Zeus has vowed to wreak an almighty war on the world. Percy and his new friends, Annabeth (daughter of Athena) and Grover, a very sensitive and loyal satyr must find their way to Hades dominion and bring the lightning bolt back to Olympus before all hell breaks loose. Quite literally. That is, if the three friends don’t manage to get themselves killed by monsters in the process.

Wow. This book ticked so many boxes for me it was unreal. I’m a huge fan of Greek mythology and was lucky enough to study it at school at one point so it was truly delightful to remember this colourful host of characters and their back stories. I think the author managed to mix the world of Mount Olympus with a contemporary setting beautifully and there were some rib-ticklingly funny moments when the two words collided. For example, who knew that Ares, god of war was a biker? Or that Charon, boatman of the River Styx in the Underworld felt that he deserved a decent pay rise after all his years of service? I loved the characters, felt they all brought something different and fresh to the story and would definitely appeal to children of varying ages. The adventures are truly gripping and action packed and it was such a page turner that I almost missed my stop on the tube, so lost was I in Percy’s little world! It looks like this is going to be an amazing series to follow and already I’m wondering when I can fit the next book, Percy Jackson and the Sea Monsters into my busy schedule!

For Chrissi’s fab review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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First edition cover of The Lightning Thief from Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lightning_Thief

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2015 – NOVEMBER READ – The Class That Went Wild by Ruth Thomas

Published November 29, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

“Joseph climbed on his desk and began jumping up and down, wild with excitement, screaming at the top of his voice, ‘We’re the greatest! We’re kings of the world! We’re the greatest…!”

Ever since Mrs Lloyd left to have a baby, Class 4L has been impossible! Teacher after teacher has left in tears as Sean and his gang have got rowdier and rowdier. Gillian becomes worried because her twin Joseph has joined the gang and she’s sure he’s in trouble. But when her plan to rescue the situation ends in disaster, it seems nothing can save Class 4L.

Then Joseph goes missing….

What did I think?:

I’m afraid I might not be able to give a completely unbiased review of this book as it’s one of my childhood favourites and I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve read and enjoyed it. This story holds so many happy memories for Chrissi and myself and I remember it being one of the books I read to her at night before she went to sleep. Ah yes, even then I was nurturing the little bookworm inside my sister! Of course, there’s always a worry that re-reading a book you loved so much as an adult will ruin some of the magic but I’m happy to report that this was not the case with this story and it was a beautiful trip down memory lane. The author, Ruth Thomas, wrote books that drew on her own experiences as a primary school teacher in London and she wrote convincing and credible characters that children can still relate to today.

As mentioned in the synopsis, this book follows the children from Class 4L, a lively bunch of ten year olds who have recently lost their beloved teacher Mrs Lloyd as she leaves to have a baby. It seems that Mrs Lloyd was the only teacher who had any influence or indeed managed to control the class. The children take out their frustrations at losing her on teacher after teacher as the class spirals into bouts of bad behaviour, led by resident bad boy and “king,” of the class, Sean Adams. One of our main characters, Gillian Rundell is terribly worried about her twin Joseph, the class clown, who has become indoctrinated into Sean’s gang and is getting into trouble both in and out of the classroom.

Joseph is easily influenced and peer pressure plays a huge role which leads to things getting increasingly nasty with little hope of a resolution, despite the efforts of Gillian and her friend Grace to save her vulnerable brother and turn around the behaviour of Class 4L in general. It turns out even a Good Club may not be enough to change things for the class and when Joseph goes missing, Gillian, her family and the headmistress Mrs White are at their wits end about what to do. Come back Mrs Lloyd!

This book was just as magical for me as it was during my childhood and it was so much fun re-discovering passages I had completely forgotten. Who could forget Dippy Dora, the poor old mad woman who lived near the school and provided so much fuel for the children’s teasing? Then there are the specific “bad things,” that Joseph gets involved in that I was surprised to still be shocked by as an adult! It’s such an exciting story that is profoundly moral without ever preaching and I was so pleased to remember the diverse cultural cast of children that really represent Great Britain today which I must applaud the author for, especially as it was written in the late 1980’s. I’m sure I will be reading this book again at some point as it has so many important messages that are still relevant today and it’s a perfect book to read to children. A worthy addition to our kid-lit shelves, it’s reminded me that the author, Ruth Thomas won The Guardian Children’s Fiction Award for her first novel, The Runaways in 1988. Hmm, a potential contender for Kid-Lit 2016 Chrissi?

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Ruth Thomas 1927-2011

Image from http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/sep/23/ruth-thomas

Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit – OCTOBER READ – Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian

Published October 31, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The story is set during the Second World War, when Tom Oakley, an elderly and unsociable widower, finds himself with a young evacuee on his hands. Willie is a sickly, under-nourished and ill-treated London child, but we see him blossom in Tom’s care into a healthy, happy and talented boy. He makes friends for the first time, and is surprised to find that he soon forgets to be homesick, as there is always so much to do in the village. This tale traces the beautiful and profound relationship that develops between the man and the boy.

What did I think?:

Goodnight Mister Tom is one of Chrissi’s all-time favourite books and I know she also used to love the 1998 film adaptation starring John Thaw as Tom Oakley, a disgruntled and solitary old man who is forced to house a young boy, evacuated from London during the war. Actually, I really don’t know why I haven’t ever read this book up until now, I can completely understand why she loves it and it has also made its way onto my all-time favourite books list. Thanks, Chrissi!

When Willie first arrives at Tom’s door, he is petrified of the old, grumpy man who he is certain will beat him with a stick or brand him with a hot poker. The sad thing is that Willie has been abused all his life from someone who was supposed to love him, so he doesn’t know any different. He is quiet, scared of everything, has no friends or interests and, to his embarrassment and horror, wets the bed on a nightly basis when he first arrives at Tom’s house. However, Tom has his own tragedies that he deals with from day to day – losing his young wife and baby son has greatly changed him into the man we meet. It is as if he is scared to let anyone else into his life just in case he loses them too and his snappy exterior is a defence mechanism and protects him from potential pain and loss.

Nevertheless, there is something about Willie that melts something in the old man’s heart and he begins to care a great deal about him, soothing his fears, calming his nerves, encouraging his talents, helping him to learn and letting him know (in a gruff but very kindly manner) that he is loved. Under Tom’s gentle ways, Willie makes his first friends, learns how to play and be happy like a normal child of his age and discovers hidden talents that he never knew he had. In this way, Tom also learns to deal with his own traumatic past and a beautiful relationship starts to develop. There are still hard times to come for poor Willie, but with Mister Tom by his side, he has no need to be afraid.

I have so much love for this book I don’t know where to start gushing about it! The characters are so beautiful, particularly Mister Tom and Willie and it would take a hard-hearted soul to resist falling in love with them. I was certain I had seen the film adaptation but perhaps I haven’t as I was certainly shocked by some of the events in the story that I did not recall. I am quite glad however that I didn’t know particular details as I felt the story made more of an impact on me than if I had been aware of spoilers. So, be careful to avoid these if you haven’t read this before! The author certainly doesn’t hold back from difficult situations and had me both tearful and captivated at the same time. I’m sure this novel first published in 1981 is destined to be a classic for many years to come and I know I’m going to enjoy re-reading it in the future.

For Chrissi’s fab review please check out her post HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of five):

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Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit – SEPTEMBER READ – Watership Down by Richard Adams

Published September 30, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

This stirring tale of courage and survival against the odds has become one of the best-loved animal adventures of all time.

‘We’ve got to go away before it’s too late.’

Fiver was only a small rabbit, but he had a sixth sense and foresaw that disaster was about to destroy the warren. Few believed him. Led by his brother Hazel, a small band of rabbits set out on a perilous journey to find a safe home. Fiver’s intuition finally leads them to Watership Down. But here they encounter the greatest threat of all.

What did I think?:

I’ve had a hard copy of Watership Down on my shelves for so long and when Chrissi I and were picking the Kid-Lit choices for this year, it seemed a perfect opportunity to add it. I’ve been really excited to read it, I remember absolutely loving the film as a child and we even had a record of the track Bright Eyes which never failed to make me cry but funnily enough, I don’t remember reading the book. The story covers a small warren of rabbits who leave their larger burrows after one of the smaller rabbits, Fiver, has a premonition that it would be dangerous to stay. His brother Hazel has no qualms about standing with him as Fiver’s premonitions have had a sneaky way of coming true in the past and along with a small group of other rabbits, decide to leave the area and move towards a delightful place on the hills known as Watership Down.

Hazel proves himself a fantastic leader as they start off on their perilous journey which has many dangers for the group of rabbits the largest of all being another group of rabbits whom they stay with for a while. Fiver once again has a terrible feeling about the place but is consoled by his friends that he has nothing to fear. Guess what? Once again, Fiver is proved right and the rabbits manage to escape, barely with their lives. When they finally reach Watership Down they feel their worries may all be over and they can relax for the rest of their lives doing just what rabbits do. Although they can’t er… do what rabbits do if they don’t bring some does into the burrow. Once again, they journey to another burrow which is said to be overcrowded to see if they can’t persuade some of the does in that burrow to join theirs. This is when they face one of the biggest dangers of their lives and one from which they might not all escape from.

First of all, I’m really glad I finally read this book. I have to admit to being slightly disappointed at the beginning, it seemed to take a long while before the story kicked off and I think I was a good 150 pages in before I could say that I was truthfully enjoying it. Saying that, once I was invested in the story I was really invested. I loved the rabbits (with a soft spot for little Fiver and the brave Bigwig), I loved their journey and what they faced to make a happy warren and I think as an adventure story its up there with some of the most exciting despite a slow start. I think it might be a story for older children as I worry the beginning wouldn’t engage younger readers but I do still think it has a place in children’s literature today. It’s got everything you would want from a story – heroic rabbits, a dastardly villain in the form of General Woundwort, helpful animal friends like the bird Kehaar (who I also found hilarious) sad moments where I could feel myself tearing up and a triumphant, bitter-sweet ending. It’s a book I’ll be glad to hold on to and will enjoy giving to my children one day.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review please see her blog HERE

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Aagh, forgot about the scary parts!!

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2015 – AUGUST READ – The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Published August 30, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family . . .

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.

What did I think?:

Shockingly to some people I’m sure, this was my first foray into the magical world of Neil Gaiman! The Graveyard Book was our August read for Beth and Chrissi do Kid Lit 2015 and I’m so, so glad we picked it. Warning – this book probably isn’t suitable for much younger readers as there are some scary moments that young children might find a bit too much to take. Consider the opening: a man called Jack is methodically making his way through a family home, knife in hand (for reasons we do not know as yet) and ends up killing the entire family save for one toddler who manages to escape into a graveyard. Yikes. The spooks are quite amused by this living creature turning up and are aware of the danger he is in so by a ghosty vote decide to look after and protect the child themselves. Mr and Mrs Owens are to be the boy’s parents, and a man called Silas (who flits between both the living and the dead) is to be his guardian. They name the child Nobody, or Bod for short.

The rest of the novel follows Bod as he grows up in the graveyard, including his adventures with the undead, lessons on how to “fade,” walk through walls and world history. Which by the way is much more accurate when you can actually speak to the people who were there at the time! Bod even goes to school outside the graveyard for a short period, cut short when he witnesses bullying and decides to give the bullies a taste of their own medicine. In doing this, unfortunately Bod has brought a lot of attention to himself which is not something his guardian Silas wants. Especially as the man called Jack is still out there and still hunting Bod down as the child he failed to kill.

Oh my goodness, what can I say about this book? First of all, the idea – so unique and kooky and I really loved the idea of a child growing up in a graveyard protected by centuries-old spooks that both look after and teach him. I loved the character of Bod, he was so unusual (which is what you get when you’re raised by ghosts I suppose?) and so fiercely moral. The way he stood up to school bullies was wonderful and at times, side-splittingly funny as he reversed the roles and gave them a taster of what it would be like to be afraid. This is also a great anti-bullying statement from Neil Gaiman and almost made me wish we had those tools at our disposal in today’s schools! Finally, the illustrations in this book from Chris Riddell were fantastic and complimented Neil Gaiman’s words beautifully. This is my first Neil Gaiman but it definitely won’t be my last. In fact, after I finished this book, I immediately downloaded all his other work, that’s how good it was. Read it, suspend your disbelief and just enjoy!

To see Chrissi’s fabulous review, visit her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2015 – JULY READ – Gangsta Granny by David Walliams

Published July 30, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Ben is bored beyond belief after he is made to stay at his grandma’s house. All she wants to do is to play Scrabble, and eat cabbage soup. But there are two things Ben doesn’t know about his grandma: she was once an international jewel thief and she has been plotting to steal the crown jewels. Now she needs Ben’s help.

What did I think?:

I began this book a bit cynical, I’m ashamed to say as I think that David Walliams does a brilliant job as a comedian but a children’s book author? I wasn’t sure. Well he proved me wrong. This is a fantastic and touching tale of a young boy’s relationship with his grandmother with everything included that children will just love (including the obligatory fart jokes, of course). There are also some beautiful illustrations by Tony Ross that were the icing on the cake for a story that is destined to become a classic.

Our main character is a young boy called Ben who doesn’t have the easiest relationship with his parents. They are die-hard fans of a show called Strictly Stars Dancing and as a result, are determined that their son should grow up to be a professional dancer rather than a plumber which is his real dream. They are often terribly busy on Friday nights, especially when they get the chance to go to a filming of the show so leave Ben with his grandmother, a visit which Ben comes to dread. For a start, all Ben’s grandma seems to be interested in is a game of Scrabble and then there is the cabbage. Cabbage soup, cabbage for dessert in the form of a cake, cabbage, cabbage everywhere! She even smells of cabbage and because she eats a lot of cabbage, her bottom seems to have a life and a voice of its own!

Ben is miserable and tells his parents exactly how he feels about poor old Granny, no holds barred. Then the next time he visits, Granny tells him an old and amazing secret…. when she was younger she was a prolific jewel thief, stealing rare and precious diamonds all over the world that once got her shot at and made her the world’s most wanted criminal. Ben is terribly excited about this new “gangsta granny,” that he has discovered and persuades her that she should try again to steal the Crown Jewels, something she never managed to do, with his help of course! Due to his interest in plumbing he has discovered a series of underground pipes below the Tower of London that they could swim through in order to get into the Tower. Granny agrees and the two begin formulating their plan, also forming a new, stronger relationship. However, there is a dancing competition the same night at the Town Hall and Ben might have told a little fib to his parents in that he wanted to be a dancer (to their delight, much better than that awful plumbing!). Will the two manage to carry out their plan? Will Ben have to dance at the Town Hall in a hideous “Love Bomb,” costume made by his Mum? Read it and find out!

As I mentioned at the start, David Walliams really surprised me with this book. I always knew it was going to be funny and there were some great moments of humour (like Granny’s naked yoga – yikes!) but I definitely wasn’t prepared for how much this book was going to touch me. It’s not just about Granny’s farty bottom or how insane Ben is going to look if he ever wears any of his Mum’s er…creative costumes? It’s about relationships, both parental and grand-parental and really makes you appreciate those older people in our lives or those that have sadly left us. I think it would be a lovely book to read in a classroom setting and may help younger children talk about things they are struggling with as well as making them laugh. I think Chrissi and I have now decided we are one hundred percent putting David Walliams on the Kid-Lit list for next year – sorry David, for ever doubting you!

For Chrissi’s fab review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2015 – JUNE READ – The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

Published June 30, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

Like the Skin Horse, Margery Williams understood how toys–and people–become real through the wisdom and experience of love.

What did I think?:

The first time I ever heard of this book was on a classic Friends episode where Chandler decides to buy an expensive first edition version of the book for his friend Joey’s girlfriend who he is also hopelessly in love with. Since then, I’ve been curious about it and when the time came for Chrissi and I to pick our Kid-Lit choices for this year, this had to be one of them. It was first published in 1922 and has some gorgeous illustrations by William Nicholson which unfortunately weren’t available on my Kindle edition but I did not enjoy the book any less for it.

It is a beautiful tale about a stuffed rabbit given to a little boy one Christmas but sadly lies neglected for a while in favour of more modern, mechanical toys. One night however the boy is given the old rabbit to sleep with after the loss of another toy and it becomes the boy’s firm favourite. They go on many adventures together and as the boy’s love for the rabbit grows, the rabbit becomes slightly shabbier for all the bedtime hugs it receives. After the mechanical toys mock the rabbit for his shabbiness, the wisest and oldest toy in the nursery The Skin Horse tells the rabbit that through the boy’s love he could become REAL which placates him slightly. On one of their adventures however, The Velveteen Rabbit comes across some real wild rabbits and is quite distressed when they make fun of the fact that he has no hind legs and couldn’t possibly be real.

One day something terrible happens – the boy becomes very ill with scarlet fever and on his recovery, the doctor suggests that everything the boy has touched during his illness should be got rid of, this includes the poor rabbit which the boy has lain with as his comfort. The rabbit is broken-hearted and cries but as his tears hit the ground, a beautiful flower appears which holds a little fairy. She tells the rabbit that because he is old and shabby and was well loved by the boy, she will now make him completely real and he is delighted to join the wild rabbits jumping in the field, complete with the obligatory real hind legs. He returns to get a glimpse of the boy and the boy himself recognises his old Velveteen rabbit in the wild rabbit’s face.

I’m so glad I finally read this story and now completely understand why people find it so magical. I vividly remember wishing my toys could come to life as a child (doesn’t everyone?) and I think many young children will be charmed and excited by this tale. It’s very short so can easily be read as a bedtime story and I think if anyone is considering buying it they should make sure they purchase the edition with the illustrations as they are so beautiful and really compliment the story. It’s definitely a book I hope to be reading to my children one day.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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