Last week we started a post on the books we have been reading over the last couple of weeks… and the post exploded. Literally dozens and dozens of fabulous books are out. So we split the post… a bazillion books last week and a bazillion more this week…
The Ghost Horse by Joe Layden: I know nothing about race horses or the racing scene, but something compelled me to take a deeper look at this book and I am so glad that I did. It is the story of Tim Snyder and Lisa Calley, their lives are as far as the East is from the West, and both of them fairly harrowing. Tim Snyder grows up in a completely dysfunctional family surrounded by horses and alcohol, a legacy from his mostly absent, jockey father. Lisa grows up surrounded by horses, her love for them drives her to be with them… she suffers as well, a serious childhood injury plagues her for life, not to mention life threatening illness. By the age of thirty she is a divorced, cancer survivor. Now you have to read quite a way before the main players, and their really sorry lives, finally meet each other. When they do meet you want to sigh a sigh of relief, that something is finally going right for them… but don’t get too comfortable. This is a true story and a compelling read, you may think it is a book all about horses, but you have read along way before you meet the main player, the actual horse. It is the back story, the long introduction and the build up that makes you want to read to the end… these folk have been around so long that they start to feel like family. This story is sad, the ultimate underdog story. It isn’t an easy flowing read, by any means… but once you start it, it is well worth reading all the way through to the end.
The Hoods Are Reading…
Black Friday by Robert Muchamore: We have blogged about the Cherub Series before… and I am sure we will blog about them again, this is book is the third in the second series. Cherub is a sub-division of the British Intelligence, powered by teenage agents. Kids with potential, highly intelligent and physical abilities above and beyond average. To the adult onlooker they appear to be ordinary kids, but with extensive training and expertise these young spies are no ordinary teens. In this book, young Ryan is out to halt one of the biggest impending terrorist attacks on the United States ever. It is Black Friday, happy go lucky shoppers are out in force. There are Russians, gangsters, smugglers, terrorists and eleven tons of high explosives out on the lose. Basically action, action and more action… If you have teen readers that enjoy real life spy, action, drama… then they will enjoy these.
The Dark Lord by Jamie Thomson: Let’s just start by saying winner of the “Roald Dahl Funny Prize”… so funny, funny. This is the third in the Dark Lord Series. Yup, there are more of them. There is a wicked humour, and lots of grandiose exaggeration… and it is filled with outbursts of laughter of the “MWAH, MWAH…” kind. It is a funny, quick read with a kid-friendly gothically dark humour, and plenty of miserable worms. Basically the Dark Lord crashes onto the scene in a parking lot and is mistaken for a regular kid. They name him Dirk Lord and without his ring and magical powers he forced to attend school. Dirk is distressed and cannot believe that he can’t use any of his powers… his classmates find him somewhat absurd, if not completely eccentric. The story is filled with “ridiculous” and some kids will laugh out loud while reading this.
The Voices of Silence by Bel Mooney: This book is set in the heart of the Romanian Revolution, around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Flora her family and friends are suffering under the communist regime of President Ceausescu. They live in a world of continuos struggle and suspicion, the regime keeps them in the dark and any information that anybody has is based on rumours alone. Food scarce and friends not to be trusted, they have been surrounded by secrets… Flora has been content and quite oblivious to their suffering until her thirteenth birthday and it is almost has if the blinkers come off her eyes… As her eyes open up, so she realises how small and threatened her world is. A new friend in school turns her against her best childhood friend, her father tries to escape to the west and secret police are everywhere. Betrayal is rife and the revolution descends on them on crazy evening in the square. There are gunshots and students, tanks and security police. Spoiler alert: It should be a happy ending in that friends and family are reunited… but it is not. You realise that despite the revolution, life for Flora will continue in much the same way. The everyday struggle for existence pretty much carries on as it was. This is a compelling read, a realistic book about a real situation, the empathy that you feel alongside Flora, who is caught up in a very grown up world… your spirits will rise and fall with her emotions, and that demonstrates just what good book it is. You all walk away wondering what happened to Flora, how did she grow up and what happened to other 13 year old girls just like her, all over Romania at that time.
The Fastest Boy in the World by Elizabeth Laird: This is the story of Solomon, an eleven year old boy growing up in Ethiopia. This book reads like real life and doesn’t feel like a story at all, you can feel the dust beneath his feet… as you read about a boy with a passion. Solomon loves to run, and he has big dreams. Of course their is a cracker of a story here, it is by Elizabeth Laird, and you will want to know what happens as the story unfolds. But more than that this is a book that can take the dust of Africa and sprinkle it on the hearts and minds of young people all over the world. This book will bring a piece of Africa and place it on the heart of children all over the world. Africa as it is, not just a big continent on a map… but a continent filled with real people, with real friends and heroes, living real lives, even if their lives are vastly different from the lives of most of the children who will read this book. This is a real coming of age book and all the emotions that come with that. (Spoiler Alert) There is a great sadness in this book, when Solomon’s grandfather dies, but it is written beautifully and filled with loving memories. I would pop this book onto any young readers reading list, especially if they are athletic.
These books are just stunning… and take you straight into the ancient world. You are a fly on the wall on the life and times of a Roman slave girl Iliona; Tobias, a page boy and Jake the ship’s boy on a pirate ship. These books bring historical fiction straight into the hands of emerging readers. The stories are packed with the most incredible illustrations, you can’t beat Chris Riddel and David Parkins. and you really get to know the characters History that absolutely want to dive into and wander through the pages just as if you were there.
The Naughtiest Girl in the School Series by Enid Blyton: I mentioned last week that there is something of an Enid Blyton Revival going on and these are classical classics. I loved these when I was a child… and I find myself reading my way through the series again, just a bit more please… just a little bit more. If you didn’t read them when you were young, they are the story of a young girl, Elizabeth Allen, who is totally spoilt and thoroughly self-centred. Her parents in desperation send her off to boarding school. For my non-school going kids this is nothing but intriguing to them… this is a girl that thinks up pranks, faster than you can read them. It turns out being bad is not nearly as much fun as she thought it would be and her good heart wins the day again and again. Predictable books that my girls totally love…
The Dark by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Jon Klassen: The perfect team to create this exceptional book… This book tackles the difficult topic of “fear of the dark”… in a serious, yet whimsical way. A Young lad, Laszlo, has a healthy respect for the dark and manages to live, in the same house and alongside the dark. The dark lives in all the expected places, in the closet, behind the shower curtain and of course in the basement. Even though the dark is represented by shadows in all the expected places, it turns out the dark has quite a personality too… So the main players in the story are: The Dark and Laszlo, and the problem is his night light bulb reaches the end of its life and the dark invites Laszlo down stairs… to the basement. I love the running conversation between Laszlo and the Dark, it is this conversation that essentially tells the story and Laszlo and Dark do become “respectful friends.” And I love that it treats a serious problem seriously. In word delightful.
Oh Dinky Doodles by Priddy Books: are just so divine… you know when you receive books to review and you have to dash out and buy a heap of them because EVERYBODY wants their own one, and to be honest I didn’t want to share. I know have a little cache they are my special go to gift… dinky… small enough to fit into a little person’s bag and packed with things to do. Bright, funky, full colour in true Priddy Book style… The paper is sturdy, will handle even the smallest persons attack on them. Filled with pictures to add on to, cut out pages filled with surprises, AND packed with the most adorable stickers stickers. I love these myself, goes without saying these guys totally loved them too.
And the se7en + 1th Books:
Kipper’s A-Z: Celebrating 25 years of Kipper… 25 sweet years. Well Kipper is just love from start to finish… and Kipper’s adorable A-to-Z… filled with all his little friends. So much story is interwoven, through this simple alphabet book and adorable illustrations. Of course there are adorable frogs, and slugs and bugs and beetles. Arnold is at Kipper’s side all the way through and poor and hopeful Zebra has to wait until last!!! Delightful through and through.
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson: Since we are celebrating anniversaries, can you believe the Gruffalo is fifteen. We have been reading this book almost daily for the duration. Yes we have had little people in the house for that long. Beginning when it first came out, this book has never ever lost it’s appeal. In fact the Gruffalo is on my list of books to know off by heart… I have a handful of books in my head for when we need a story after bed time, I can “read” them in the dark as little people drift off to sleep.
Hugless Douglas: Is such a sweetie, the most adorable bear on the block and as for his sweet little sheep!!! Anyway here is a great big activity book, filled with things to do and heaps of stickers for every page. This bear and his friends are such a delight, an activity book is just another fun way to engage with all the characters. When I looked for this book to review it, it was no where to be found… I eventually found it under “somebody’s” pillow… clearly a book so important that it had to be taken to bed!!!
We would really like to thank Pan MacMillan South Africa for providing us with the fantastic pile of books to review for this post. 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!!!