What We have Been Reading Lately from PanMacmillan South Africa…

So we are taking a break and having a bit of a holiday in the city… we do this from time to time, we swap houses with folk that live in the city center. When you have eight kids, house swapping is a great way to take a holiday. Apart from the fact that we have had unusually beautiful weather and have been enjoying the great outdoors, it is still mid-winter here, in the Southern Hemisphere… which means piles of books and reading in a sunny spot. We have been reading all week, during every available moment… so I thought I would bring you a couple of collections of what we have been reading lately posts… first up: books we have received from PanMacmillan South Africa.


Not a lot of our usual picture book fair, but tons of middle school reads… so enjoy, there should be something for everyone here…

Fun Easy Readers for Very Beginner Chapter Book Readers

The Gaskitt Family Stories by Allan Ahlberg and illustrated by Katharine McEwan:
We have actually reviewed these books before, in a post on easy chapter books for beginner readers, but they are so good that they deserve a second spin… It is not often that you get easy readers that are really interesting… the thing is easy readers usually have to use a very limited vocabulary list… and so can only be “so” interesting. With these richly illustrated stories and short, sweet chapters, they are in fact very fun reads. Meet the Gaskitt family: Mr and Mrs; the twins, Gus and Gloria, Horace the cat, the refrigerator and the car radio. There are lots of little surprises in the text and the illustrations, the car radio always has something to say and so does the refrigerator. These books are packed with interesting things to spot and observe, but they are not so busy as to distract their young readers.

  1. The Man Who Wore All His Clothes by Allan Ahlberg illustrated by Katharine McEwan: Mr Gaskitt gets up one morning and puts on all of his clothes… all of them. And nobody is the least surprised about it. There is also a robbery at the bank and a terrific chase across town that involves the whole family, and all’s well that ends well… read on, read on to discover why Mr Gaskitt needs to wear all his clothes to work.
  2. The Woman who Won things by Allan Ahlberg illustrated by Katharine McEwan: Mrs Gaskitt keeps winning prizes. Prizes for absolutely everything including a new hairdo, a year’s supply of cat food… winning and winning. All the while, the children keep losing things faster than they can replace them… all the children in the whole school are losing things. This is a lovely mystery story for beginner readers. Tame, but definitely not lame.

Family Poetry Fun

The Very Best of Paul Cookson: I have to start by saying my kids absolutely love poetry and a poetry collection like this one gets a lot of mileage in our home… we haven’t had it terribly long but it is already looking decidedly worn, as certain favourites get read multiple times as we wander through the covers again and again. We all know we have to read to our kids, it is the best thing… and often we know they won’t be able to sit still for an entire chapter… well poetry is an excellent place to start… because all children can relate to it and poems, especially the poems in this book are relatively short. This collection includes poems for every mood and it really is a short little book that you could fit in your bag and take anywhere. That being said… this little book packs a punch and it is full of clever little lines for the word lovers amongst us. We really enjoyed this one and everyone was very quick to claim their own favourite poem. And… let’s take this a little further and say that listening to a poet read their own poems takes poetry to the very next level, you can follow Paul Cookson on Youtube over here.

A Tween Series to Look Out For…

Emily Windsnap and the Falls of Forgotten Island by Liz Kessler: I don’t know where we have been but we have just discovered Emily Windsnap… the perfect read for tweeny girls, with an adventurous spirit and a love of the ocean… Gotta say Hood 6 loved this one and was thrilled to discover that that there is a whole series that has gone before, to love and to read. The story is about Emily, a girl who is part mermaid part person. She can breathe underwater and when she enters the water her legs become her seaworthy tail. There is friendship, and a tiny bit of romance (truly mild and perfect for my eleven year old), because n this book Emily and her best friend Shona, and her boyfriend Aaron are going to break away from all the adventures they have been having… and go on a tropical island holiday. Of course, when Emily isn’t looking for adventures, adventures tend to find her. An ocean outing to visit a recently discovered volcanic island and a beautiful waterfall turns an unexplained mystery into an adventure of a lifetime. This is middle school magic… and a series we will definitely be seeking out to read our way through it from the beginning. You can meet Emily Windsnap on her author’s website: Liz Kessler.

A Girl Called Owl by Amy Wilson and illustrated by Helen Crawford-White: A middle grade read that will be loved by lovers of fairy tales and folklore, of all ages. Typically, as a middle school kid you would so like to conform… and Owl does just the opposite… hard as she tries, with a name like “Owl.” Enough said! Not only does she have a problem with her name and an eccentric mother, but she has spent her life longing to know her father. This book is the perfect winter read, a folktale feel that reads like comfort food, and one of the main players is of course the father of winter, Jack Frost himself. While a lot of the magical world spirals through this story, Owl is a very believable teenage character, with typical teenage problems, whose best friend’s parents are going through a divorce… real issues that kids go through in their journey through life, with a whimsical spin. And pretty snowflake and owl borders and illustrations scattered throughout, makes it a very giftable book.

Maybe a Fox by Kathy Apple and Alison McGhee: Another middle grade read, this time you are going to need tissues… its sad and lovely all at the same time. Two sisters, Sylvie and Jules, have lost their mother and their father cares for them. Sylvie is a super fast runner and Jules, well, not so much. One day on a whim they head for the waterfall to toss their wishing stones and Sylvie slips and vanishes from sight. Vanishes all together, and another tragedy has struck the family. As Jules and her dad come to terms with their grief, Jules realises that there is more to the young fox cub that crosses her path than meets the eye. In fact, have the fox and Sylvie become one? A Mystery worth pursuing and a poignant tale for sure… reach for the tissues and settle in. Eleven year old Hood 6 loved this book.

A Family Story… En Masse

The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue and illustrated by Caroline Hadilaksono: The Lotterys are a large collective multicultural homeschooling family, biological and adoptive kids, as well as a collection of pets “in need” and they live in a house called Camelottery. Sumac is nine and feels responsible when her grandfather, who is in the early stages of Dementia, comes to stay. Forever. When she realises that he cannot like her family, and everything is going to have to a change suddenly to accommodate him… Sumac’s intention to be welcoming and loving becomes somewhat more of a plot to “move him along”… There is a lot of complicated diversity in the book, there are two dads and two moms for instance. I enjoyed the story, because it depicts life in a large family really well… from the in-house lingo, to the constant chipping away at each other. The story is sweet as the family wins over their grandpa and eventually (spoiler alert) he comes to get along and dare I say, cherish them. That being said, while the story is great, the author has tried to address every single issue that is topical right now… green living, a transgender child… So if you can read past all the issues this is a great read.

The Never Ending Birthday by Katie Dale: When you have an absolutely disastrous birthday and you wish you could nothing but a do-over… and then you get one, over and over again. This is the story of twins, Max and Anni, who really manage to have the absolute worst birthday ever… ever. And then they have their birthday over, and over again… each time improving ever so slightly on the previous birthday… Max and Anni are transformed, and so are their birthdays. This is a sweet, light hearted read about a happy character transformation.

We would like to thank PanMacmillan South Africa for providing us with these books for review. This post is not sponsored in any way and the opinions expressed are as usual our own.

One Reply to “What We have Been Reading Lately from PanMacmillan South Africa…”

  1. Always love your book descriptions and checking to see what my library has.
    Re your house swaps, are these through people you know, or do you have a website you organise through? Just thinking this could be a brilliant option for us too

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