Children’s Classics

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – JUNE READ – The Prime Minister’s Brain (The Demon Headmaster #2) by Gillian Cross

Published June 29, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Everyone at school is playing the new computer game, Octopus Dare – but only Dinah is good enough to beat it. As it begins to take hold, Dinah realizes that the game is trying to control her. But why is it happening, and how is the Demon Headmaster involved?

What did I think?:

The Prime Minister’s Brain, first published in 1985 by Puffin Books is another of our Kid-Lit books with a bit of history behind it. It’s the follow up to The Demon Headmaster which Chrissi and I reviewed in our Kid Lit challenge last year and was also one of our favourite childhood reads. Reading The Prime Minister’s Brain as an adult was a real nostalgia trip for me and, as a sequel, although it doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of brilliance as The Demon Headmaster did, was still a great reading experience and a nice journey down memory lane.

In The Prime Minister’s Brain, Dinah has been officially adopted by the Hunter family and has two new brothers, Lloyd and Harvey and a host of new friends who all teamed up in The Demon Headmaster to form the unstoppable group SPLAT aka Society For The Protection Of Our Lives Against Them. In this story, there is a new craze going around the school, an addictive computer game with a puzzle to solve called Octopus Dare. Clever Dinah manages to solve the puzzle and is invited to London to compete in a challenge with dozens of other children (or Brains). Dinah is slightly worried and a little uneasy about the project so the children of SPLAT decide to make a holiday of it and accompany her. When they get there, they are right to be wary. The competition turns out to be a lot more sinister than they could have expected and Dinah begins to realise that the organiser of the challenge has much darker and frankly, insane reasons in wanting to solve a computer puzzle.

As I mentioned before it was lovely to re-visit the world of The Demon Headmaster again. I remember reading the sequel as a child and enjoying it but still favouring the original and first story. I felt the same this time round but still relished the experience for the memories it brought back. The characters are wonderful, particularly the children although I found myself slightly more irritated by grumpy little Ingrid as an adult! Of course, the Demon Headmaster himself is fantastic and your quintessential villain, perfectly drawn by Gillian Cross and ever so readable and easy to hate. I understand there might be about four books in the entire series and I don’t think Chrissi and I have ever read more than the first two so there is potential to carry on and see what dastardly deeds that rogue headmaster gets up to next. However, part of me doesn’t want to spoil the nostalgic feelings I do have towards the series so far so we’ll have to wait and see!

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT TIME ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT 2017: The Reptile Room (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #2) by Lemony Snicket.

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – MAY READ – The Sea Of Monsters (Percy Jackson And The Olympians #2) – Rick Riordan

Published June 2, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The heroic son of Poseidon makes an action-packed comeback in the second must-read installment of Rick Riordan’s amazing young readers series. Starring Percy Jackson, a “half blood” whose mother is human and whose father is the God of the Sea, Riordan’s series combines cliffhanger adventure and Greek mythology lessons that results in true page-turners that get better with each installment. In this episode, The Sea of Monsters, Percy sets out to retrieve the Golden Fleece before his summer camp is destroyed, surpassing the first book’s drama and setting the stage for more thrills to come.

What did I think?:

Chrissi and I read the first Percy Jackson book, The Lightning Thief last year on our Kid Lit challenge and we enjoyed it so much that we were determined to continue the series this year. The brilliance of Rick Riordan’s story-telling abilities combines everything I love in a good children’s book perfectly and he is a master at moulding action-packed sequences with essential character development without slowing down the pace or changing the atmosphere of the narrative.

So if you don’t know who Percy Jackson is yet, let me enlighten you and then strongly suggest you hunt down the first book in the series! Percy is a teenage boy who has recently found out he is a half-blood – a very special creature indeed. His mother is mortal but his father just happens to be a god. Not just any god either – Poseidon, famed ruler of the oceans. In the first novel, Percy was accepted at Camp Half-Blood, a training camp for young teenagers to make friends and hone their powers. There is however, much danger and rivalry between certain fractions of the immortals (and half-bloods) and this has led to Percy finding out a lot about what both he and other, perhaps less trustworthy individuals are capable of.

In The Sea Of Monsters, a special, one of a kind tree at Camp Half-Blood has been poisoned and the camp is in dire straits,its safety severely compromised and the threat of other-worldly monsters attacking the camp looming larger than ever. The only hope for its recovery is if someone travels through the perilous Sea Of Monsters to retrieve Jason’s Golden Fleece which will revive the tree and give the camp some much needed protection once again. Of course, our young hero gets involved as he also has a dear friend captive on the same island being terrorised by a Cyclops that he is determined to rescue. It is guaranteed that both the journey and the quest will be terribly dangerous however and Percy must draw on all of his strength and the loyalty of his friends and fellow travellers if he is to succeed.

Once again, Rick Riordan’s imagination and sheer talent for creating such a fantastical world just blew me away. I’m an avid reader of anything to do with Greek mythology after studying it for a brief period at school and some parts of the narrative were so nostalgic for me as it brought back happy memories of learning the myths for the first time. The author has written some wonderful characters, notably Percy of course but I also loved his best friend, Annabeth and a new friend/half brother called Tyson who is part Cyclops but incredibly sweet and vulnerable. There’s an undercurrent of humour running throughout the story which I always appreciate and it’s just an amazing fictional world to inhabit for the short time that you’re reading it. Really looking forward to the next book in the series now – will we be able to wait until next year?!

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT TIME ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT 2017: The Prime Minister’s Brain by Gillian Cross.

 

Blog Tour – Dougal Daley: It’s Not My Fault – Jackie Marchant, Loretta Schauer (illustrator)

Published May 4, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

I, Dougal Daley, am dead! Ok I’m not actually dead. But if I m not careful I soon will be.

In this first book, football-loving Dougal Daley finds himself at risk from the mysterious creature living in the garden shed. Nobody believes him but as a precaution, he sets upon writing his will – rewarding those who help him and disinheriting those who get on his bad side. Meanwhile, as limbs and windows alike are broken by rogue footballs and unhinged canines, Dougal finds himself in all sorts of trouble. . .and NONE of it is his fault!

Hello everyone and welcome to my spot on the Dougal Daley blog tour! Today, I have a very special guest post to share with you from the illustrator of the book, Loretta Schauer where she talks about her experiences of illustrating this book. Over to Loretta!

For this book we had the text laid out first and knew where we wanted to put the illustrations. Most of the images were to work in amongst the text, rather than taking up a whole facing page, but as you’ll see some of what would otherwise be text was actually illustrated too.

The story is told through Dougal’s voice so we wanted the illustrations to reflect this. They are not entirely drawn as if by Dougal himself, but there is an immediacy and slightly anarchic feel to them, as if visualising the world through Dougal’s eyes. I used pencil for most of the images with the occasional bit of watercolour wash and a few grungy charcoal smudges here and there. Some of the images are as if Dougal is working out his own thoughts and feelings about concepts – like his dilemma actually being a tri-lemma, but sometimes the illustrations are just funny incidental details like Dougal’s big sister Sybil’s nail varnish collection (vomity violet and putrid pink) or the packets of crisps Dougal’s friends are eating when they don’t invite him round because they assume he’s grounded. My favourite bits to draw were Death by Crutches, Claude’s fluffy hamster toy, and of course, the creature in the shed!

For this book, a lot of the text and speech is also illustrated to keep with Dougal’s voice – like Dougal’s jumbled speech bubble when he tries to explain why his friend ended up in the river. Big chunks of the story are told through handwritten notes between the various characters and of course the will that Dougal is writing and updating throughout the book. All these needed to be illustrated “in character”, so I made up a handwriting style for each person (10 in total!) using different pens and pencils, and like an actor, I needed to keep these handwriting characters consistent throughout the story.

I think my favourite hand writing styles were Claude Barleycorn, Angela Sweeter and Dougal’s very important notes to the Police.

The handwritten notes were treated exactly the same as the rest of the illustrations, where we worked out where they needed to be in advance, and sometimes this meant four of five pages in a row of nothing but illustrated notes back and forth between the characters.

‘Dougal Daley – It’s Not My Fault’ was lots of fun to illustrate, and it was great working with Jackie the author and the team at Wacky Bee. I’m looking forward to illustrating book 2 – ‘Dougal Daley – Where’s my Tarantula?’

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Dougal Daley was inspired by a messy bedroom and a random question from my son about writing a will. Dougal Daley has been huge fun to write about – you wouldn’t believe the disasters that happen around him (none of which are his fault of course)! When I’m not writing I love doing school visits and creative writing workshops. I also take time away from the writing world looking after guide dogs while their owners are away.

Website: https://www.jackiemarchant.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JMarchantAuthor

ILLUSTRATOR INFORMATION

I originally studied performing arts and have a degree in Dance Performance – well you never know when you need a quick pirouette! I also worked in practical conservation for a long time, and spent many years battling balsam, identifying lichen, and searching for creepy crawlies before I picked up my pencils and paints and began exploring illustrating and writing for children. In 2011 I won the Waterstone’s ‘Picture This’ competition and I now illlustrate full time. However I am still happiest noodling around for fossils and shells on the beach!

Website: http://lorettaschauer.tumblr.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Loretta_Schauer

A huge thank you to everyone involved in this blog tour and to Loretta for providing me with some wonderful background information about her illustrating journey. Why not check out the rest of the stops on the tour where you’ll find some fantastic reviews from my fellow bloggers? Dougal Daley: It’s Not My Fault was released by Wacky Bee Books on 4th April 2017 and is available from all good bookshops now.

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35003254-dougal-daley

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dougal-Daley-its-Not-Fault/dp/0995697221

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – APRIL READ – A Snicker Of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Published May 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Introducing an extraordinary new voice—a magical debut that will make your skin tingle, your eyes glisten . . .and your heart sing.

Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.

But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck’s about to change. A “word collector,” Felicity sees words everywhere—shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog’s floppy ears—but Midnight Gulch is the first place she’s ever seen the word “home.” And then there’s Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity’s never seen before, words that make Felicity’s heart beat a little faster.

Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she’ll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that’s been cast over the town . . . and her mother’s broken heart.

What did I think?:

Why have I never heard of this book? When Chrissi and I were researching which books to put on our Kid Lit list for this year, this one appeared which had very positive reviews on GoodReads (4.09 average). Then we got some lovely comments when we did the big reveal of Kid Lit 2017 in January with a few people saying this was one of their favourite children’s books which made us both very excited to read it. Now I’ve finally read it, I can see why. This is a beautiful, magical tale of an ordinary yet very EXTRAordinary young girl that touched my heart with its strong messages about the importance of love, family and friendships.

When we first meet our protagonist, Felicity Pickle she is in the car with her mother, sister and dog, Biscuit travelling to yet another town to start their lives over. Felicity’s mother is described as having a “wandering heart,” and she rarely stays in the same place for too long, feeling an unbelievable urge to move on which is obviously a bit de-stabilising and distressing for the two children at times. However, they are about to return to her mother’s childhood home, Midnight Gulch, a town famous for at one time being a magical, wondrous place until a duel between two magicians and a terrible curse removed most traces of the magic for good.

There has always been something special about Felicity. She sees words in the air around her. This happens when people talk and she sees their innermost thoughts in the form of words and even in objects around her which sometimes suggests the history of a particular place. She writes all the words that are new to her or that she particularly likes down in a little blue book and she has her own talent with words, forming poems for her little sister when she is upset. Joining another new school at Midnight Gulch was always going to be hard for the girls and Felicity especially finds it difficult to form new friendships when there is the risk that she will be removed and taken to another place at any given moment. However, when she meets Jonah, learns more about the history of magic in the town and attempts to lift the dreadful curse, there is a chance she might also be able to cure her mother’s wandering heart and find a home for good.

Oh what a lovely book this is! It’s one of those feel good, warm and fuzzy novels that just makes your heart happy. I just loved the characters, particularly Felicity and Jonah but also the smaller characters on the periphery that added so much to the story. For example, Felicity’s Auntie Cleo, who the family stay with who is just marvellous, adores her sister and the children but has stories all of her own like many of the people in the town. I also really enjoyed how ice cream was so much of the narrative as the town’s biggest business and some of the flavours mentioned made my mouth water – how I wish they were real! This is a fantastic debut from an author that really knows how to write a whimsical, touching tale that gets you hooked, makes you joyful and I enjoyed every minute of it.

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT TIME ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT – The Sea Of Monsters (Percy Jackson and The Olympians #2)- Rick Riordan

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – MARCH READ – Awful Auntie by David Walliams

Published March 31, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A page-turning, rollicking romp of a read, sparkling with Walliams’ most eccentric characters yet and full of the humour and heart that all his readers love, Awful Auntie is simply unmissable!

From larger than life, tiddlywinks obsessed Awful Aunt Alberta to her pet owl, Wagner – this is an adventure with a difference. Aunt Alberta is on a mission to cheat the young Lady Stella Saxby out of her inheritance – Saxby Hall. But with mischievous and irrepressible Soot, the cockney ghost of a chimney sweep, alongside her Stella is determined to fight back… And sometimes a special friend, however different, is all you need to win through.

What did I think?:

Chrissi and I first put David Walliams on our Kid Lit list a couple of years ago when we read the amazing Gangsta Granny. We enjoyed it so much that we’ve continued to feature his books on including The Boy In The Dress last year. After now having had some experience with his writing, I was really looking forward to diving back into his wacky but wonderful mind accompanied with some brilliant illustrations by Tony Ross, who is remarkably like Quentin Blake. A lot of people compare David to Roald Dahl and I can definitely see why (it’s not just the Quentin Blake connection!). He is incredibly witty and has an amazing imagination for things that children of the target age group love to read and laugh about.

I may have started my other reviews of the author’s work by stating that the one I’m writing about is my favourite David Walliams book and I’m afraid here I go again! Awful Auntie is easily the best one I’ve read so far, I loved the plot, the characters and the jokes and found myself thoroughly charmed by the whole thing. Our main character is a little girl called Lady Stella Saxby, only surviving heir to Saxby Hall after her parents were killed in a horrific car accident. However, there is a relation of the family that her father specifically did not want to ever inherit Saxby Hall, his sister, Alberta. Alberta is not your regular kind and loving auntie I’m afraid. She’s mean, self-obsessed, a bit crazy and only devoted to one thing – her pet owl Wagner who assists her in her wicked deeds. She’s determined to find the deeds to Saxby Hall and force Stella to sign them over to her by any means necessary. Lucky Stella has the ghost of Saxby Hall, a chimney sweep called Soot on her side so that Aunt Alberta can be stopped before anything too terrible happens!

This story was just fantastic. Absolutely hilarious, I loved the character of Aunt Alberta and all her little quirks and villainous ways and I really enjoyed how Stella stood up to her, played tricks on her and remained brave and proud of her heritage despite having suffered the loss of her parents and been lied to and treated abominably by somebody who was supposed to be her close family. Once again, the illustrations were out of this world and really added to the magic and atmosphere of the story although David’s gift with words and humour did give them a major run for their money! I laughed out loud at many points and was constantly delighted by an exciting, fast-paced story that I know children would adore. Two words for you – Owl Urinal. Could they really be a thing? Aunt Alberta seems to think so!

Image from https://www.worldofdavidwalliams.com/book/awful-auntie/

For Chrissi’s fabulous post, please visit her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP IN APRIL ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: A Snicker Of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid Lit 2017 – FEBRUARY READ – The Cuckoo Sister by Vivian Alcock

Published February 26, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

“Since the day I found out about Emma, I seemed to have gone to the bad. I was rude. I told lies. I listened at doors and read other people’s letters if they left them about. I was always losing things . . . watches, cameras, and silver bracelets. And whenever my mother reproached me, I screamed at her, ‘Look who’s talking? Who lost her own baby? Who lost my sister? Just because you wanted a new dress?'”

Convinced that her family’s problems will end if only Emma is returned by the person who snatched her from her baby carriage, Kate longs for the older sister she never knew. But when a thin, spiky-haired stranger with hard eyes shows up with a letter claiming she’s the long-lost sister, there’s more trouble than ever. This “Emma” is certainly not the sister Kate imagined.

What did I think?:

The Cuckoo Sister appeared on our Kid Lit list for this year after a strange, nostalgic moment experienced by my sister, Chrissi Reads. This book was one of our (many) favourites from childhood but we hadn’t thought about it for years. One day, she suddenly remembered it and had such a clear picture of what the cover looked like from the copy I had owned leading me to go on a frantic Google search for that exact cover and led to us placing the book on the list for 2017.

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It follows a young girl called Kate who finds out that her parents had another baby before she was born – a little girl that they called Emma. Tragically, after leaving the baby in a pram outside a shop while her mother went hunting for a new dress, the baby disappeared, ruining her parents life. Well, now a girl two years older than Kate has appeared on the family doorstep with a letter from the woman who raised her saying that the child was her sister Emma (although she now went by the name of Rosie) and apologising for taking her all those years ago. Kate has had a picture in her head about what her sister looked like and often fantasised about what would happen when her sister finally returned. However, what turns up on the doorstep is the furthest away from what Kate or her parents could ever have imagined. Is this really Emma, Kate’s long lost sister? And can they learn to be a family again, despite their huge differences?

Well, this book brought back a wave of wonderful memories from when I used to read it to myself and to my sister when we were younger. It was lovely to see the old cover again and it was odd how much I remembered certain sentences, phrases, incidents of text all these years later. For nostalgia’s sake alone, I’m really glad we re-read it. I have to admit however to feeling slightly disappointed regarding the story. So far, with other books we’ve re-read, a case in point being The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, all those old feelings about the novel came flooding back. Not so with this book unfortunately. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved re-visiting a story that I clearly loved as a youngster but for some reason, it doesn’t seem to have stood the test of time. I felt more anger towards Kate for being a spoilt brat in regards to her reaction to her sister and at times, the abominable way she treated her parents and found Rosie herself very difficult to get to know and love as a character. Perhaps it’s one of those children’s books that you can only read and enjoy when you’re a certain age? I’m not sure but it was an interesting re-reading experience and I’m still glad that we chose to put it on the list for this year.

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

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP IN MARCH ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT 2017: Awful Auntie by David Walliams

The Girl Who Walked On Air – Emma Carroll

Published February 14, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Abandoned as a baby at Chipchase’s Travelling Circus, Louie dreams of becoming a ‘Showstopper’. Yet Mr Chipchase only ever lets her sell tickets. No Death-Defying Stunts for her. So in secret, Louie practises her act- the tightrope- and dreams of being the Girl Who Walked on Air. All she needs is to be given the chance to shine.

One night a terrible accident occurs. Now the circus needs Louie’s help, and with rival show Wellbeloved’s stealing their crowds, Mr Chipchase needs a Showstopper- fast.

Against his better judgement, he lets Louie perform. She is a sensation and gets an offer from the sinister Mr Wellbeloved himself to perform in America. But nothing is quite as it seems and soon Louie’s bravery is tested not just on the highwire but in confronting her past and the shady characters in the world of the circus . . .

Fans of Frost Hollow Hall will love this epic adventure, where courage takes many different forms.

What did I think?:

The Girl Who Walked On Air is the wonderfully talented Emma Carroll’s second novel for children, aimed around the middle grade reading age but… (and this is a big BUT), I truly believe that her books can be enjoyed by children and adults alike, especially those adults who love an imaginative plot and beautifully drawn characters like Louie Reynolds, our heroine for the story.

I first came across Emma’s writing with her fantastic debut, Frost Hollow Hall which completely captured my heart and I can’t recommend highly enough. Well, if she hasn’t gone and done it again with The Girl Who Walked On Air! Set in the grounds of a Victorian circus it features a young girl called Louie who was abandoned by her mother at Mr Chipchase’s circus and is looked after by the kindly Jasper, a trapeze artist and her guardian angel. She has big dreams of being a performer, or to be exact – a “showstopper,” on the tightrope wire. She practices constantly, watched over by her loyal little dog Pip, but Mr Chipchase is determined that she is only good enough to sell tickets and mend costumes.

This sends her and new arrival at the circus Gabriel, straight into the clutches of Mr Wellbeloved, who manages a rival circus and insists on only the most death defying stunts to bring in the punters. As Louie learns more about who she is as a person, where her heart lies and just what lengths she will go to in becoming a star, she also discovers a lot about friendship and just who can be trusted in a fickle world where money and pure greed is, sadly, the only yardstick by which success is measured.

Once again, Emma Carroll has given us some brilliant characters which have stayed with me long after finishing the book. Louie, just like Tilly in Frost Hollow Hall is beautifully drawn. She is impetuous, independent, brave and indeed flawed but ever so realistic as a young girl which in turn, made her infinitely more loveable as a result. I really enjoyed reading about her relationships with Jasper and her friends Ned and Gabriel and was touched by the dark side of her past and her desperation to find out where she came from and where she belonged. The setting of the circus that the author chose was just as stunning and so descriptive that I felt I could picture events scene by scene, character by character, which led to many difficulties putting it down!

As I mentioned earlier, please don’t be dissuaded that the author writes for children, I do believe that this book can be enjoyed by adults just as much. The Girl Who Walked On Air took me right back to my childhood when I used to just sit in a room and read right until the book was finished (and if this went past my bedtime, it was continued under my duvet with a torch!). I didn’t need the torch as an adult, but I certainly read from the beginning to the end in one sitting and loved every moment.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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