Category Archives: Book review

Book Review – Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee

Title: Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee

Written by: Jeff Zentner

Published by: Anderson Press

Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee

Originally, Delia was going to host a TV show with her best friend Jesmyn, but she moved to Nasville, leaving Josie to fill her shoes. Josie’s ambition is a dream career on mainstream TV with her flawless teeth, long honey-blond hair and Scarlett Johansen voice, but she knows absolutely nothing about horror movies. In contrast, Delia is a horror movie fanatic but lousy at TV. Together they make a great team. Every Friday night they become Rayne Ravenscroft and Delilah Darkwood hosts of their own public access TV show, Midnite Matinee, on the local cable station TV Six. They dress as vampires, perform crazy stunts involving skeleton raves and dog weddings, they show low budget horror movies which used to belong to Deliah’s dad and roast viewers letters about the show with the help of their trusty puppet, Frankenstein W. Frahn-ken-shteen.

Written in two voices, Josie and Deliah’s, this novel has a theme of loyalty and friendship verses following your dreams. Josie and Deliah are at a crossroads in their lives. It is their last year at school and they have some big decisions to make. Deliah is searching for her Dad who walked out on her and her mum ten years ago. Her last connection to him are the horror movies they show on Midnite Matinee, which they used to watch together before he left. She has hired a private investigator to find him. She believes, if Midnite Matinee becomes a success, her dad might see it and get in touch and Josie won’t leave for university and to get experience on the national Food Network. Josie is torn between staying and pursuing her television dreams in a new city. Meeting Lawson, one of the show’s guest performers, a talented MMA fighter with weaknesses for pancakes, fantasy novels, and Josie, is making her tough decision even harder.

Jeff Zentner’s snappy dialogue is brilliant. He epitomises the character’s quirks and idiosyncrasies perfectly. I laughed out loud several times, especially at the Idiot twins, Colt and Hunter McAllen who only have a bit part, but in my opinion deserve their own book. The story gallops full speed ahead in an eclectic mix of narrative, emails, texts and letters that conveys a realistic picture of society today and how social media and instant communication rules over our lives.

A fun read that encompasses all the twists and turns of modern family life in a small American town.

This book review was previously published on the online Armadillo Children’s Book Review Magazine.

Book Review – The Woman who Rode a Shark

Title: The Woman who Rode a Shark and 50 more wild female adventurers

Written by: Ailsa Ross

Illustrated by: Amy Blackwell

Published by: AA Publishing

The Woman who Rode a Shark

This hardback book features 50 amazing women and their achievements through history, from 200BC in Ancient Illyria when Teuta the pirate queen stood up to Ancient Rome, to Svetlana Alexievich, the Nobel prize winning journalist in Ukraine today, who is giving a voice to the survivors of conflict and disaster.

The book is split into six sections: the artists; the pioneers; the scientists; the activists; the athletes and the seekers. Each section features around 7-10 amazing women from all over the world 0rganised from eh earliest to the most recent. Each double spread consists of a single page of fascinating facts with a corresponding full page portrait in bold vibrant colours that instantly capture the reader’s imagination. Each section also has a map showing where each of the woman is from.

Every page of The Woman who Rode a Shark contains a rich, diverse message that women all over the globe, throughout the ages have had a positive impact and legacy on society, from Jeanne Barret the first woman to sail around the world from 1740 -1803, to Sacagawea who helped chart North America in 1785-1812. She did everything the men did and she did it all carrying a baby on her back.

The Woman who Rode a Shark inside

There are also snippets of information to ignite every female adventurers’ imagination, such as it is said that pirate Teula’s treasure is still buried in the hills somewhere above the Adriatic Sea and whilst Diana Nyad swam from Cuba to Florida for 52 hours without sleeping she passed the time by dreaming of dancing Foxtrot on Dancing with the Stars. These snippets are accompanied by inspirational quotes such as:

“I’s rather dream large and fail than shoot for mediocre and never discover my limits.”

(Diana Nyad).

I think one of my favourite bits of the book is that at the bottom of each spread there are the names and dates of even more women who have also made achievements in similar fields for the reader to research and find out more. Proving the list of dynamic women is endless.

A must have book for all young girls who are not going to let anyone hold them back.

This book review was previously published on the online Armadillo Children’s Book Review Magazine.

Book review – Photo Adventures

Title: Photo Adventures

Photographs by: Jan Von Holleben

Text by: Monte Packham

Published by: Thames & Hudson

Photo Adventures

Ingenious! Such as brilliant idea. This book is full of fun ideas for children to enjoy experimenting with. It is not just a book about photography, it is a book about stretching your imagination to transform everyday objects and settings into incredible, zany and magical at. The children are encouraged to create scenes such as, flying through the air as a superhero, floating in space amongst the stars, deep-sea diving after treasure, swinging through a tropical jungle to growing extra arms and legs and dissecting your brain.

Jan Von Holleben is a professional photographer and his photographs throughout the book will inspire any child to step away from their games console or tablet. The only thing the child needs is digital camera or smartphone. A great way to keep the children amused and happy on rainy days whilst encouraging them to be creative. All the suggested ideas can be achieved in three to five easy steps.

Photo Adventures inside

The text is written by Monte Packman to support the photographs. It is often written in rhyming couplets, which helps to set the tone and adds to the entertaining nature of the book.

Photo Adventures is recommended for children aged 7 upwards (KS2) and some of the activities will need adult supervision. I believe it would be possible to adapt some of the activities for KS1, or nursery with more helpers. There is a photo school chapter at the end of the book, which is ideal for older children who have been inspired to take their interest in photography a step further.

This book review was previously published on the online Armadillo Children’s Book Review Magazine.

Book Review – A Postcard to Ollis

Title: A Postcard to Ollis

Written by: Ingunn Thon

Illustrated by: Nora Brech

Translated by: Sian Mackie

Published by: Wacky Bee

A Postcard to Ollis

A story of friendship and family loyalties, written in third person and present tense. Ingunn Thon develops full and engaging characters with very different personalities. Ten-year old Ollis is inquisitive, inventive and determinedHer best friend and neighbour, Gro, is cheeky, quick-witted and impulsive. Ollis is named after five women who played important roles in Norwegian history. She likes to invent things, which often do not go to plan. Her mum has a new baby and announces her plans to get married to the baby’s father, who has recently moved in. Ollis is jealous and disappointed as she can not see her own father, especially when she discovers her name is not on the invitations.

Ollis’ and Gro, go on a bike ride and stumble upon a yellow letterbox mounted on a crooked post. They look inside and its empty. They hear a whumph-thunk-clang and in true Lake House style, a postcard addressed to Ollis appears in the letterbox. The friends return everyday to see if there are any more postcards. It is not until they meet Borgny, that Ollis finally discovers a hundred and one postcards addressed to her with drawings of places all around the world. She works out these postcards have been sent for ten years. Ollis believes they are from her father and embarks on a quest to find him.

This chapter book won the Nynorsk Prize 2017 for Excellent Prose and was shortlisted for the Italian Premio Strega 2018 literary prize, which is the equivalent of the Carnegie Medal.

A Postcard to Ottis is full of witty banter and distinct, diverse characters that capture your heart. I loved the wacky Borgny and was pleasantly shocked at Ollis’ father’s reaction to her. However, I found the present tense rather difficult to read and in places it jolted me out of the story. I also felt there was too much unnecessary description that was not relevant to the plot. The characters make you laugh, cry and scream with frustration. Full of twists and surprises this book really makes you think about what ‘family’ is and the many different types of family relationships.

Book Review – Littlest Magpie and the Star

Title: Littlest Magpie and the Star

Written by: Gill Hutchison

Illustrated by: Carol Daniel

Printed and bound by: David Barlow Printers

Littlest Magpie

Gill Hutchison was a dear friend and SCBWI British Isles member. After her tragic death her SCBWI network group (Central North) friends and family set up an Indiegogo campaign to raise money to publish her picture book. They raised £1,252 which was 42% of their goal and raised a further £592 through direct orders. The book was launched on November 12th 2016

The book is beautiful. It is about the Littlest magpie who loves shiny things and watches the stars in awe. This tender story encapsulates the themes of patience and perseverance as the little magpie tries to catch a star.A heart-warming story about growing up, friendship and believing in your dreams.

The illustrations are beautiful and portray the Littlest Magpie’s character perfectly. We can truly watch Little Magpie learn to fly and grow into an adult bird with a love of shiny objects.

Ideal for reading at Christmas.

Book Review – The Twelve Unicorns of Christmas

Title: The Twelve Unicorns of Christmas

Written by: Timothy Knapman

Illustrated by: Ada Grey

Published by: Egmont

Twelve Unicorns of Christmas

When a Christmas picture book is all about unicorns you know you are on to a winner. If your child loves unicorns this is the perfect Christmas picture book, with lots to laugh about as the little girl counts down to Christmas with her unicorn friend. A fun and delightful blend of the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas song and crazy unicorn’s antics. The fabulous colourful illustrations play a large part in creating a zany image of an action packed, chaotic build up to Christmas day.

Twelve Unicorns of Christmas spread 1

Things do get a bit crazy and there’s so much to do, but her wonderful unicorn is a little mischievous… he munches all the mince pies, scribbles on the Christmas cards, makes a lot of mess and when the carol singers arrive, cover your ears, because unicorns definitely can’t sing. I think children will identify with this as the run up to Christmas can really get busy and hectic.

Twelve Unicorns of Christmas spread 2

A wonderful interactive book that you can enjoy with your child as you join in the song and count each gift on the page as you go along, ending with a grand festive finale full of unicorn celebrations. This fantastic book is full of humour, warmth and family fun.

Book review – Star Bright the Christmas Fairy

Title: Star Bright the Christmas Fairy

Written by: Simon Allen

Illustrated by: Lucy Gilbert

Published by: Simon Allen

Star Bright

This independently published Christmas book is one of the better ones I have read this year. Many of the Christmas books I have looked at to review are too wordy, or simply not really about Christmas. They could be set anywhere at any time of the year whereas, Star Bright the Christmas Fairy is centred around Christmas in a true traditional Christmas story style.

Written in rhyme, with a theme of being thankful for what you have, this book tells the story of the Christmas fairy who dislikes being stuck at the top of the Christmas tree all through the festive celebrations so plans to have fun and party. However, her plans do not go as she imagines when she falls into Santa’s sack and is whisked away with him whilst he delivers all his presents.

The Christmas Fairy is worried she’ll never get back home but Santa carries her back in his sleigh and helps her to understand the important role she plays at Christmas time watching over the family from the top of the tree. The Christmas Fairy realises her lucky she really is.

The illustrations by Lucy Gilbert match the text perfectly. They are clear, uncluttered and entertaining. Young children will love to pour over these pictures whilst they follow the Christmas fairy on her adventures. The text has a melodious rhythm that the children will love to listen to again and again. A great book to read aloud at bedtime.