Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – AUGUST READ – Fortunately The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Published August 31, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

You know what it’s like when your mum goes away on a business trip and Dad’s in charge. She leaves a really, really long list of what he’s got to do. And the most important thing is DON’T FORGET TO GET THE MILK. Unfortunately, Dad forgets. So the next morning, before breakfast, he has to go to the corner shop, and this is the story of why it takes him a very, very long time to get back.

Featuring: Professor Steg (a time-travelling dinosaur), some green globby things, the Queen of the Pirates, the famed jewel that is the Eye of Splod, some wumpires, and a perfectly normal but very important carton of milk.

What did I think?:

I’ve only recently got into the magical world of Neil Gaiman’s writing and I’m loving the whole experience. I’ve read a couple of his adult books now and a few of his graphic novels so when the time came for Chrissi and I to prepare our Kid Lit list for this year we wanted to include one of Neil’s children’s books – Fortunately, The Milk which is part text, part illustration by the wonderful talent that is Chris Riddell. I have to say, the illustrations in this story really brought an extra something to the narrative and gave me such a warm, fuzzy feeling when I was reading this but even without the drawings, the story stands confidently on its own and would bring so much joy and happiness to children and adults alike who read it. It certainly made me smile multiple times when I was reading it and I can’t wait to read it to my nephew whom I’m sure would hoot with laughter at it.

Fortunately, The Milk is the story of a normal father and his two children whom he is tasked with looking after when his wife goes away for a short period of time. He almost fails at the first hurdle when he forgets to replenish the milk stock for the children’s cereal in the morning but pops out to the corner shop to get some and is gone an extraordinarily long time. When he comes back and the children quiz him about where he has been he tells them a fantastical tale of pirates in the eighteenth century, vampires (or wumpires) that want to destroy him and an ancient tribe that fancy him for a sacrifice, a Stegosaurus in a hot air balloon, aliens that want to take over the world and a galactic police manned by dinosaurs. Throughout it all, all he is concerned about is keeping the milk safe and getting back to his children so that they can have their cereal. In the end, it is down to that little carton of milk which ends up saving the world!

This is a fantastic and hilarious adventure that had me captivated throughout. It’s fairly short so I think it will appeal to a variety of age ranges but is also action-packed so there’s little chance of boredom. I already knew of Chris Riddell’s talent as an illustrator but I really loved the drawings in this story, they complimented Neil Gaiman’s writing perfectly and were so entertaining to look at I actually read the book a little slower just so I could stare at them a bit longer and fully appreciate them. Fortunately, The Milk is definitely a book I would enjoy reading to children, I can already imagine all the voices I could do (especially for the wumpires) and it has the potential to become a classic piece of children’s literature.

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP IN SEPTEMBER ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT 2017: Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay.

Image from: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/sep/14/fortunately-milk-neil-gaiman-review

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – JULY READ – The Reptile Room (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #2) – Lemony Snicket

Published July 30, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Dear Reader,

If you have picked up this book with the hope of finding a simple and cheery tale, I’m afraid you have picked up the wrong book altogether. The story may seem cheery at first, when the Baudelaire children spend time in the company of some interesting reptiles and a giddy uncle, but don’t be fooled. If you know anything at all about the unlucky Baudelaire children, you already know that even pleasant events lead down the same road to misery.

In fact, within the pages you now hold in your hands, the three siblings endure a car accident, a terrible odor, a deadly serpent, a long knife, a large brass reading lamp, and the appearance of a person they’d hoped never to see again.

I am bound to record these tragic events, but you are free to put this book back on the shelf and seek something lighter.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket

What did I think?:

Chrissi and I read the first book in the Series Of Unfortunate Events, The Bad Beginning in our Kid Lit challenge last year and with the television series being announced on Netflix that I really fancy watching, we decided to include the second book in the series, The Reptile Room this year. This book has been a really interesting turnaround for me. I enjoyed The Bad Beginning when we read it but sadly not as much as I was hoping to and some things about it irked me slightly, like the continuous explanation of certain words that the author used which I thought got a bit unnecessary at times (although I’m quite aware I’m not the intended audience for this book at all!). However, I was really surprised to find that I actually enjoyed The Reptile Room much more. Surprising, as quite a few people on GoodReads don’t agree with me and think the first book in the series was a lot better but personally, everything that annoyed me in the first book I just found charming in this second outing and I’m definitely more excited to carry on with the series than I was after The Bad Beginning.

Of course, we are back with the poor Baudelaire orphans – Violet, Klaus and Sunny who have been placed with a new guardian after their terrifying experience with Count Olaf in the previous novel. Their new distant relative, Montgomery Montgomery (hilarious!) who insists the children call him Uncle Monty is a respected herpetologist, i.e. someone who is involved in the study of amphibians and reptiles and an all round good egg. He even has a Reptile Room in his house where he looks after his creatures and carries out research. Uncle Monty is preparing for a big research trip to Peru and the children are delighted when they are invited to help him prepare and then told that they will accompany him and his research assistant on the trip. However, when the mysterious research assistant arrives, he has a different, much more wicked agenda in mind and the orphans are placed in a horrific and dangerous situation once more, just when they thought they were going to get their happy ending.

I don’t want to say too much more about the plot for anyone who hasn’t read it but let me assure you, it’s wonderful. I haven’t read a children’s villain for a little while now that is quite so evil and nasty but at the same time, almost a caricature of himself and I think adults will find him hugely entertaining. I felt like I connected a lot more with the children’s characters in this novel as well, much more so than the first novel in the series. I love clever Violet’s inventions that she always manages to come up with in the nick of time, the invaluable information that Klaus provides from his reading and even baby Sunny who really comes into her own in this story and saves the day. There’s one particular incident with one of Uncle Monty’s snakes, The Incredibly Deadly Viper (or is it?!) and Sunny that really made me smile and it was definitely one of the many highlights of the book for me. But when Lemony Snicket, just when are you going to give these poor children a bit of good luck in their lives? I don’t mind really, the stories are just too good! Now I just need to try and persuade my sister that we should put the third book in the series on our Kid Lit list for 2018.

For Chrissi’s fab review, please check out 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: Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman.

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.

 

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):

imagesCAF9JG4S

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