We thought we would bring you some fantastic weekend reading… Masses and masses of books and something for everyone to read and enjoy. Here are the latest and greatest family friendly reads from PanMacmillan South Africa.
The Galactic List of Latest and Greatest Reads
For the Mother Person
In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume: I am reading this and really enjoying it… I am stuck in the middle of all the angst that is the Fifties in New York. The book is pure fiction but based on many events that happened in the life of Judy Blume in the 1950’s, one feels like you are literally dipping into a slice of life. The details, the coverage… I have no words. Now, I didn’t power my way through hundreds of Judy Blume’s as a teen, possibly because she was so popular and the rebel in me had to be different, silly me. I have been missing out on a masterful storyteller. At first I thought that I would need a spread sheet just to get through part one, but hold onto your hat and just read your way through it… like moving into a new neighbourhood, you don’t have to know everyone’s name to get a good picture of what is going on. Read on, read on and the story will reveal itself. Told in small snippets, you leap from character to character… and I really thought I wouldn’t get it. But the story reveals itself through the characters and somehow you find yourself getting to know who is who and what they are up to… despite my severe inability to remember names, let alone faces in real life. This is not the human maze it appears to be, the main player is Miri, who is coming of age and realises that world of grown-ups is very much a case of do as I say, not as I do… as she steps precariously into into a more grownup world. Meanwhile, her Uncle Henry is keeping us up to date with the world events of the day. Plane crashes, one after the other after the other, and their effects on the local community and such like. This is not a book you can read fast… there is a lot of reading, then a pause to digest… honestly I am loving it and don’t want to see it end. I want the characters to live on.
I Quit Sugar: Now here is an interesting read… it is a bit of a dipper, not to mention a challenge. One of the very best step-by-step guides to actually quitting sugar. In a real and a committed kind of a way, this book provides endless encouragement and reasons why you should get off the sugar band wagon forever and literally never look back. She makes a lot of sense, her directions are clear and while she shares her own story, she is committed to helping others find their own story… This book is packed with heaps of tips and little tricks, places you would never expect to find sugar, and how to hunt it down when you are label reading. She has menu plans and ideas to help you fill the gaps that are created when you take sweet treats out of your diet. At least half of the book is devoted to pages and pages of fabulous sugar free recipes, if you did nothing else but included some of these into your diet you would be doing your health a huge favour. Things like: courgette cheesecake or apple pancakes for breakfast; fennel or roast pepper soup for lunch; even goodies my kids wanted to try like avocado and coconut lollies… and her raspberry ripple looks to die for. You can check out the author, Sarah Wilson’s, website here, for loads of sugar free recipes that will leave you smiling, literally.
The Hoods Are Reading…
Machine Gunners by Robert Westall: As I began this book I realised that I read this book as a child, I distinctly remember it, it stood out that much. It is set in a town in Northern England during World War II, and is the kind of glorious and terrifying adventure that adults would never expect children to have. In the local school there is pressing competition and status is defined according to one’s hierarchy of war debris collected and discovered. The fourteen year old hero, Chas, believes he has “arrived” when he discovers a downed German plane. Someone else has already laid claim to that, but it leads to a bigger and more frightening discovery… the plane’s machine gun is still intact. Chas and his friends decide to detach the machine gun. All the while the pilot’s body remains in the cockpit. It is grim and terrifying. Together the friends create an air-shelter and watch for the Germans, as the story gets more and more gripping. Pick it up, it is an excellent read, years after it’s launch, the relaunch is just as epic. This book is a must read for any middle-to-high schooler learning about World War II, who want to get a genuine feel for what life was really like.
The Boy Who Climbed into the Moon by David Almond: This book is one of those stories for all ages, our whole family can quite easily listen to this and understand it on so many levels. The book begins with Paul, heading for the top of his apartment block to touch the sky. There are a lot of quite interesting characters to connect with on his journey towards the sky and it becomes a book where while everyone is telling the truth, it is all somewhat stretched. The characters are all exceptionally ordinary, in that they are each a little quirky, this is an adventure in human variety like no other. Paul believes the moon is a great hole in the sky… and Polly Dunbar, the wonderful illustrator, will have you firmly believing the same. There is something of a quest and a great working together of all sorts of folk who you can’t imagine ever working together… this a great read. Different in the best kind of way.
Survivor by Tom Hoyle: The first thing that stands out about this book is that it is bright luminescent green, all of it. George, who is a fifteen year old Australian, is awarded the chance to participate The Ultimate Bushcraft Challenge. A chance in a lifetime really, that goes terribly, terribly wrong. One person dies… tragedy, then two… suspicious, then more… and suddenly the title makes perfect sense. Suddenly coincidences appear to be paranoid plots and chance interactions are well… psychological sabotage to say the least. The story is told from many of the player’s perspectives and it is hard to tell who is the good or bad right to the bitter end. This is a gripping read, and so a quick read, but not so much for the fainthearted.
The Switch by Anthony Horowitz: In true dry and amusing British style Anthony Horowitz brings you a classic case of Mistaken Identity. Tad, the boy who has it all, wishes that he could be someone else… and then he is. He wakes up to discover that he has become Bob Snarby, a somewhat needy fellow and the son of somewhat criminal carnival workers. Of course there are twists and turns in the tale and of course Tad learns his lesson… eventually. A great ripping read in true Anthony Horowitz style.
Just as Long as We’re Together and Here’s to You Rachel Robinson by Judy Blume: Teen reads by the wonderful Judy Blume, who seems to be able to get right into the minds and hearts of her characters and tell her readers what they want to know about them too. Three gals: Rachel, Stephanie, and Alison, and of course Junior High. Rachel and Stephanie have known each other forever, so where does Alison fit into the story… well, Rachel is feeling left out, and so the story goes, the complicated ins and outs of teen life. In the sequel, Here’s to You Rachel Robinson, we get to know Rachel a little better… she is an over-achieving A-grade student, and the youngest to two somewhat difficult siblings. These books are great for figuring out how families work or don’t, and how relationships do eventually work themselves out.
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot: Well Meg Cabot is back, the return of the Princess Diaries… fifteen years since their first launch and just stylish and glamorous as ever you find yourself in the world of Princess Mia and the land of Genovia. Fourteen year old Mia is just a regular New York teen, until her Father breaks the news that she is actually a princess… These are books 4, 5, and 6 in the series… plenty to read and plenty to learn about. After three books Mia and Michael are at last an item and then Grandmere steps in and mightily disrupts their plans. On to Book 5, and Mia is about to turn fifteen and has big plans for the senior prom and is once again thwarted by Grandmere. And in Book 6, Michael is off in college leaving Mia to fend for herself. The overriding character is not so much our heroine, the reluctant princess, but rather her grandmother who keeps popping into the story – either to rescue from disaster or stir a little up. Be sure to check the entire series out of the library at once, you won’t want to stop until you have read all the way through… and then you will be sad it’s over!!!
Mollie Cinnamon is not a CupCake by Sarah Webb This is a coming of age book, and it is nice. It makes a good comforting weekend read. It is about Mollie Cinnamon, who is sent to a remote island to stay with her great grandmother, while her smash hit mother stars in a TV Series. Mollie is convinced that the island will be “Dullsville” and the people on it will be more boring than ever. Turns out that once you get to know folk, they very rarely are dull, and life on the island is a life that she learns to love tenderly. Of course there is a problem that needs to be solved, will the coffee shop need to be sold, or can they find a way to rescue it? The relationship between Mollie and her Great Grandmother is sweet, this is a delightful read aimed at the early teen reader.
Heroes of the Wild Series by Nicola Davies: This whole series has been fabulous, so far… just higher than an easy reader, these are first chapter books for keen environmentalists; stories from around the world about rescuing and protecting animals in danger. They read like real live stories about true events, based on actual conservation projects… and there is a section at the back of the book with facts about the animals and their environments and where you can find more information about them. In the Whale who Saved Us, Suki and Levi live in northern Canada. Levi is dying and Suki is sent to live with her great grandmother far into the Arctic circle. Suki is convinced that the whales can save him. The Leopard’s Tail is set in the Armenian mountains and a young boy, Malik, is determined to protect the Leopards from poachers and set up a Wildlife Refuge for them. These are travel books, with environmental awareness themes, clearly a whole lot of action, and kids doing the action in them. They are also fairly short and I am not sure how the author manages to pack quite so many facts and interest into the pages… but she does, again and again. Perfect books for the fact lover, and the keen outdoor fanatic.
Just William by Richmal Crompton: Well, Just William is back, in this glorious collection. The covers are refreshed with fabulous illustrations by illustrators we have all grown to love – hello Chris Riddell, Rebecca Cobb, Adam Stower, and Lydia Monks. Not to mention each one comes with a forward by a famous story teller… and well worth a read to see what they loved about Just William as a child. Between the pages are the illustrations I remember from my own childhood, those some what serious illustrations, until you read the captions. William is a law unto himself, mischief and pranks prevail… he is an earnest kind of chap, who doesn’t see the funny side to himself at all… it makes for a good, funny read. The best thing about these books is that they haven’t softened the vocabulary for the modern child… Words are words and these books are packed with good ones, words that stretch your understanding and interpretation and add a whole new level of richness to the story. I have heard a lot of chortling as this series of books is being read again in our house.
Enid Blyton’s Collection of Holiday Stories: This is a fabulous book to introduce your kids to the famous storyteller from so many childhoods. We have started reading this together, and I am hoping by the end of our summer there will be a new and excited little Enid Blyton reader in the world. The stories are just long enough for a bed time read, stories for boys and stories for girls. Sweet stories, with a little excitement, a couple of adventures, and of course a good dose of magic, and, well, happy endings. It is rather lovely, and satisfying my own sweet holiday memories of lying in a shady spot reading Enid Blyton’s again and again… If you have readers ready to launch from easy readers to chapter books then this would be great, and if you have listeners ready to launch then it is pretty easy reading for the grown-up person involved too. Good clean fun, of the Enid Blyton variety… what could be better really!!!
You Are an Artist by Marta Altes: this book nearly didn’t leave my desk, I battled to let it go… but I knew this kid would totally love the artiness and creativity that this book brings with it. Pages and pages of an artist’s journey to find their hidden talents, half drawn portraits to fill in, picture frames to create, there is nothing pale or static about this book, it is bright, funky and fun all the way and for the child that might think it can’t want to draw, this book will have those fingers positively itching… the pages are robust and have withstood markers and watercolours, crayons and pastels… this is a hardcore workbook for an aspiring artist and to help them complete their masterpiece their are dozens of stunning stickers to add to their pages too. I love this book, and I will most likely be buying a couple of these books, this one and the one below that Hood 7 is working on as my go to gifts for the next longest time. This series is delightful in every possible way, if you see them grab them… kids appeal on a massive scale!!!
Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance by Birgitta Sif: We loved Birgitta Sif’s first book, Oliver, so much that we were excited to discover this one in our package of review books to read. Frances Dean is a little girl who loves to dance. But Frances Dean is a little shy and doesn’t want folk to know that she is a dancer… and then she is inspired by a little girl who loves to sing… and Frances is off on a journey of self-discovery as she dances high and low, for the birds, for the neighbours dog… everyone really. The illustrations are delightful and the story all about the heart, the powerful and inspired heart of a little girl that thought “she couldn’t” and then discovered that “she totally could.” This is a very “happy to read it anytime book.”
Let’s Go Find a Tiger! by Yasmeen Ismail: You know how adult colouring is all the rage… well I tell you the truth their are some kids’ activity books that adults should be buying too. This is one of them. It is a gripping story of two cute characters… heading through the jungle looking for… well a tiger of course. There are incomplete drawings, in lovely fat marker and paints and my goodness you just want to join in… Add some monkeys to the monkey page… fill the butterfly page up and so on. And then of course there are lots of lovely arty stickers to join in the mix… and complete the story that you, the young artist, have helped to create. This is brilliant and the world needs more books like these that take “interactive” and “activity” book to a whole new level.
And the se7en + 1th Books:
Playtown: AirPort by Roger Priddy: Hood 8 discovered this series earlier this year, with Roger Priddy himself. He loves them, there is everything to love about these books and then some. A large style Board Book, with beautiful spreads, setting an airport scene… and then dozens of sturdy flaps to lift and see the inner workings. You can see inside folks luggage, you can see inside the cargo, you can see inside the engines… it goes on and on. And for the naturally curious, who wants to know who is who in the zoo… these books will keep them busy and entertained for hours, and hours, and hours. The pages look almost word free, when you lift the flap there are words for a grown up to read – revealing a couple of the inner workings of the picture… Why does the fire engine plane have a water tank? What is the Departure Board for? What happens inside the control tower? All questions we may have wanted to ask or answer before… This book is packed with airport information and lots of little themes run throughout the book… certain things to spot and hidden on every single page… For instance Roger Priddy is on every spread, so is a marmalade cat… This is part of a great series of books, that curious kids will love, sturdy and strong for little ones, and great for independent reading time. Not to mention lots of things for curious parents to look at too…
Super Sticker Book based on characters created by Ellen Crimi-Trent, Published by Priddy Books: Another great quality activity book from Priddy Books, these guys certainly know what their young readers want to read. This book is about a group of animals called the schoolies… and the ins and outs of their school day… masses and masses of stickers. Scenes to complete, puzzles, games… and did you see over 800 stickers?! That is a lot of stickers, and they are great quality, strong enough for little hands to manage, because nobody on earth wants torn stickers. Pure fun, head for school with the schoolies and do a couple of things that they would do at school with them… to my homeschooled kid, this was nothing short of intriguing. So a great book, what can I say, activity books are not what they used to be – they are vastly improved and packed with fun. There is lots to learn, in a joyful way, and it doesn’t feel like you are being tricked into spending your playtime on an “educational workbook.” Boredom be gone, funky sticker heaven has come to the rescue!!!
Play and Learn with Wallace, A Giant Priddy Workbook: A big, gloriously fat 300 pages of school stuff, the ultimate busy book for the youngest student, and often the only student, in the house… who is dying to do school when everyone else is. There is simple letter tracing practice, shape tracing, cutting and sticking, numbers and counting… calendar stuff, a little phonics, and a few sight words… just enough to make a fellow think they are doing heaps of school work. He loves poring through this book… it is a Priddy book, the illustrations are glorious, and the pace slow and steady. I would have thought some pages nearer the end would overwhelm… but not daunted he has filled in things I didn’t know he knew and abandoned pages that I thought he would find unmissable. Basically this is his school workbook for the year and when he has a desire to sit down and work… well, he works in it. There is tons to do, it is undoubtably very educational in that it looks and feels like school… which is exactly what this young fellow is after, when he aspires to be doing what his older siblings are doing.
We would really like to thank PanMacMillan Books South Africa for providing us with the books to review for this post. We would like to declare that this is not a sponsored post, we were not paid to do these reviews, just provided with books. All the opinions are as usual, entirely our own!!!