This past weekend, when we published our Favourite Usborne Books Ever, I realised that I hadn’t done a book review post for the longest time. Turns out I have a basket of fabulous books all read and ready to review from Pan Macmillan South Africa and a couple from the library pile. The books are an eclectic collection of contemporary and recently launched books: Teen reads and picture books, timeless classics and futuristic tales.
A Horse Called Hero by Sam Angus: As soon as we saw a book by Sam Angus we knew that this must be a family read… and we are reading away. Our previous Sam Angus book, Soldier Dog, turned out to be a living legend in our family, one of the saddest books we have ever read and one of the most memorable. We expected no less from “Hero,” and we haven’t been disappointed. This book is set during World War Two and the two main players in the book a pair of siblings, an older pragmatic sister and an eager younger brother. The narration is cleverly interwoven.. as the facts are explained to the boy so we get to hear about life during the war, the children are shuffled out of London and into the country, because that will be “for the best.” When the neighbours’ father returns from the war and theirs doesn’t we quickly are brought to understand that all is not right… as the villagers ignore them and begin to shun them. The newspapers bring to their attention that their dad is a deserter… but that is not full story and only the children know the real reason for their father’s apparent crime. Sam Angus writes straight to your heart, your emotions will fall and soar along with the children’s… beautiful writing and well worth hunting these books down for a family read.
Poo! What is That Smell? by Glenn & Lorna Murphy. You know those books that every one wants to read at once and the only solution is to sit on the couch and read it aloud! Who knew the title would be quite so appealing? An actual factual book full of facts all about the five senses: Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste, and Touch. Five chapters of easy to read factoids, questions and answers of the weird and wonderfullest kind… the sort of questions that your children ask you at obscure times… Questions like: Do ants have noses? Do cat’s like chocolate milk?
The Hoods Are Reading…
- Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff: A completely unputdownable book… Boy Nobody is a teenage assassin that moves from task to task and city to city, doing his job and moving on. Everything was going smoothly until he gets to New York and has to assassinate the Mayor. He begins to have memories, flashbacks, he wants more from his life, normalcy like a home and a family. And then there is Sam, the mayor’s daughter… The twist in the ending left you quite unsatisfied and hopefully the next book in the series will be out soon so that we can see if his decision to escape his handlers comes to fruition.
- Basher Science: Extreme Physics by Dan Green: This book was loved by quite a few kids, all on different levels. It is a deceptively simple looking book with real science written for real people to read and understand!!! This little book takes a peak into the heart of atoms, the forces within an atom… all sorts of sneaky little scientific factoids explained, including Schrodinger’s cat. A very fun read and to be honest the sort of book that you learn something new more from each time you read it!!!
- Call Down Thunder by Daniel Finn: This book is about Reve and Mi, two teenagers, whose father has died and their mother abandoned them. They are fighting to survive. The younger Reve, is the hunter-fisherman and Mi is a little bit unusual as she can hear and see things that the rest of us can’t. For instance Mi can call down the thunder. This is not your typical action packed teen-read, the story wanders between mythical and real… they go on a quest in search of their mother. They quickly discover that the city is far too dangerous for them and they end up living in a village. This is an interesting read, though quite a tricky read but well worth pursuing the story to see how it finishes.
- Snake Bite 5 (Young Sherlock Holmes) by Andrew Lane: Young Sherlock Holmes is a fabulous series, we have written about them before. In Snake Bite, Young Bond has been kidnapped, he escapes and finds himself in China with a mystery to solve. A really rare snake keeps biting folk in different parts of the city, how is that happening, it is almost as if the snake is one step ahead of him. The books in this series are excellent reads and of course everything turns out well, give or take a few twists and turns, in the end, and you can hardly wait for the next book in the series.
Hood #3: Debutantes: in Love by Cora Harrison: Oh the Debutantes are back!!! Hood #3 and I both enjoyed the first book in this series so much and this one is just as good. These books are set in the 1920′s, four sisters who live in a large falling down manor in the countryside… they go up to London for the season, hoping to impress suitable and wealthy suitors, since as daughters they will be unable to inherit their father’s ramshackle estate. These books could be all “poofy,” after all, they are about life in high society, fashion, and frivolity, music and movies, but they aren’t at all. The characters are so real and full of spunk. Eager to make the best of what they have. These girls are the kind of girls you want to be friends with, these books are the kind of books that you want to go and live in, to visit for an afternoon and to be honest you are a little sad when the read is over!!!
My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish: The Sea-Quel by Mo O’Hara: This is the second in the “Zombie Goldfish” series and yet another riotous read. A pet goldfish, taken by a wicked older brother for a science experiment… rescued but never quite the same again!!! This zombie goldfish has a few secret powers and they are used to full effect in this story. This is very funny, short and easy to read and sprinkled with heaps of funny little illustrations. There is a little surprise of two books in one, half way through you will discover the second book in the book, just a little surprise for the reader!!! A zany read for a zany kid, he loved it!!! You can read more about the author of here.
Hood #5: I Scream, You Scream! Scary Tales by James Preller: Samantha Carver is an eleven year old girl who absolutely loves the thrill of rides in amusement parks… LOVES!!! And she wins a ticket to a new and perhaps scarier than she ever expected new ride. She is so excited and cannot wait for the adventure to begin and then as they finally get to enter the ride her parents are told to remain behind… and she may not take her cell phone either… The ride turns out to be far scarier than she expected and she had to use her wits to stay on top of challenge after challenge. The chapters are really short, with lots of illustrations. This is really easy reading about one step up from an easy reader on the reading level. The title of the book implies that you will find all that is the scariest ever between the covers, not exactly. It really is benign and actually packed with humour… Our nine year old loved this read and literally bounded from chapter to chapter.
Hood #6: Tell Me Why Elephants Have Trunks: and other questions about Animals and Tell Me Why The Earth is Like a Jigsaw Puzzle: and other questions about planet earth are both edited by Kingfisher and they are fact books aimed at the younger set… slightly more advanced than beginner readers, interesting questions with short and easy answers. The illustrations are fun and vibrant and keep the young fact lover asking for more!!! These books are a lovely introduction to new ideas and will introduce your little person to topics that they might not have discovered elsewhere… Why are they chimneys under the sea? Why does it get dark at night? Our animal lover absolutely loved the animal facts and questions… Why do ladybirds have dots? Interesting questions and short, sweet answers… the sort of books that if you read over a period of days your kids will be able to impress their granny with new found knowledge and factoids!!!
Hood #7: The Singing Mermaid Book and CD Pack by Julia Donaldson: My little girls absolutely love mermaids and rightly so, not entirely convinced that there are not some lurking on our beach. This is a truly glittery book and beautifully illustrated by Lydia Monks. In true Julia Donaldson style a book written in rhyme that lends itself to singing along. The beautiful mermaid is lured away from the seaside by a sneaky circus ring leader. She tours the country entertaining the crowds and longs to go back to the sea… eventually with the help of her friends she is able to return to her beach and live happily for ever after.
And the se7en + 1th Books:
Hood #8: If I Were You by Richard Hamilton and illustrated by Babette Cole: This book was not a review book, but we have discovered something about our young library goer… he has the uncanny ability to choose the most hysterical books off the shelves ever!!! The cover is a little misleading – the cover book is not about dad in a tutu through out… It is about a regular dad having a conversation with his daughter, Daisy at bedtime. He says, “If I were you, I would snuggle down and go to sleep…” and Daisy gets thinking and suggests that “…If I were you and you were me… ” the conversation goes on and gets sillier and sillier, as bedtime conversations often do… A wild harem sacrum romp of hysterical swapping… followed by Daisy tucked snuggled down in bed and drifting off to sleep… My kids consider this book to be totally ACE!!!
And finally what I am reading:
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown: This book is a beautiful book and is taking me forever to read, there is so much detail that I don’t want to miss any of it and it is gruelling and fairly harrowing, to say the least… I am compelled to keep on reading, the author has drawn me in. It is the backstory of the 1936 US rowing team that won gold at Hitler’s Olympics… Yes it is a book about rowing and teamwork and every single detail about the training and the hardships of the team. But it is really the era that it is set in that makes this book intriguing. The book is set in the time of the Great Depression and Europe was seething in the political turmoil between wars. The book begins with the life of Joe Rantz and what a miserable life it was, a struggle for survival in a very unloving world, the more I read the more I could not believe that he actually made it to college, talk about against all odds. Anyway, I cannot stop reading, but I have to take lots of stops to absorb the story. A true story about a very hard time, well researched and well worth the read.
We would really like to thank PanMacMillan South Africa for giving us this wonderful pile of books to review. We would like to declare that we were not paid to do these reviews, just provided with books. All the opinions are as usual, entirely our own!!!