Category Archives: Book review

Book review – Fabio The World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective

Title: Fabio The World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective

Written by: Laura James

Illustrated by: Emily Fox

Published by: Bloomsbury

Anyone with links to the retro community will know the lure of the pink flamingo. Laura James premise for this new series is sheer brilliance. Fabio the extremely clever flamingo detective loves pink lemonade in his favourite bar at the Hotel Royale. His side-kick, Gilbert the Giraffe, is terrible at disguises but good at asking questions, sometimes even the right questions.

In the first book, they both embark on the case of the missing hippo. Julia the jazz-singing hippo enters a talent contest being held at the Hotel Royale. During the auditions she mysteriously disappears from the stage. Fabio who is a reluctant judge for the talent contest, enthusiastically takes on the challenge to find out what has happened to Julia.

In the sequel they investigate the mystery of the missing ruby necklace on the Ostrich Express with hilarious consequences.

I love the use of the limited palette in these books. Emily Fox’s illustrations depict the characters perfectly using a three-tone theme of green, pink and black for the fist book and orange, pink and black for the second. Dotted throughout the book are fluorescent pages to match the colour scheme, which will appeal to children.

This series is Poirot with animals – from the lazy wart-hog, Chief Inspector Duff, who bumbles through the case and misses or misinterprets all the relevant clues, to the final line-up when the guilty animal is revealed. In true Agatha Christie style, Fabio looks into the psychology of the suspects by talking to them. It is cosy crime for younger readers.

I would recommend this book for all Key Stage Two class book corners.

Book review – How to be a Fashion Designer

Title: How to be a Fashion Designer

Written by: Lesley Ware

Illustrated by: Tiki Papier

Published by: Dorling Kindersley

How to be a Fashion Designer

This is a revealing and practical book for anyone who is interested in fashion design. It outlines the difference between a designer and a fashion stylist and gives hints and tips on how to be both. This book encourages the reader to hone their constructive criticism skills in a fun way.

The author is the fantastic fashion designer and sewing teacher, Lesley Ware. She outlines how to produce your own mood board, how to make your own colour palette and how to create a design that suits your own personality. There are loads of hints and tips about materials, colours and where to get inspiration. At the back of the book she has set challenges to design different items of clothing and accessories such as tee-shirts, hats, bags and shoes.

The illustrations are fun and exciting and compliment the text perfectly. You can read small bites of information with a visually stimulating illustration, which will keep even the most reluctant reader interested in true Dorling Kindersley style.

The book is aimed at 7+ but I think it would make an ideal gift for someone who enjoys drawing at any age, or someone interested in doing textiles at secondary school. It would be a good addition to your school resource books and contains loads of ideas you could use within the classroom if you are a teacher at both secondary and primary level. An inspirational book that will ignite the imagination.

Book review – Famous Family Trees

Title: Famous Family Trees

Written by: Kari Hauge

Illustrated by: Vivien Mildenberger

Published by: Lincoln Children’s Books (an imprint of the Quarto Group)

Famous Family Trees

Kari Hauge has collated the family histories of 25 people who lived from 100BC to AD2013 into one magnificent book. Some, like William Shakespeare, have complicated trees stretching back hundreds of years. Others, like Cleopatra VII and Mahatma Ghandi, have ancestors who are only known through myths, or stories passed down orally over the years. Every spread reveals a treasure trove of information to explore and cherish.

Each person from Julius Caesar to Martin Luther King is covered by a double-page spread. The left hand page provides a brief concise historical profile of the person. The right hand page contains the elaborate family tree. The How to Use section is an essential part of this book. It explains how family trees work and how they have been laid out in this book to fit onto a single page.

 Famous Family Trees supplies the answers to such questions as:

  • Who did Cleopatra grow up with?
  • Did Marie Antoinette’s extravagance cause the French Revolution?
  • Where did Genghis Khan’s fierce nature come from?
  • What were Charlotte Bronte’s pseudonyms?
  • What was life like in the Kennedy household?
  • How did Annie Oakley stand up for women’s rights?

The beautiful, detailed illustrations by Vivien Mildenberger look as though they have been hand drawn with water-colour pencils to give each portrait a vintage, historical touch. The detail is incredible. Readers from 8+ to adult will love to pour over and trace through the intricate webs of all of the historical and literary figures’ ancestry.

This book would be a useful resource in the classroom to support learning about a significant historical person. It would also make the ideal present for a gifted and talented child.

Book review – Who are you calling weird?

Title: Who are you calling weird?

Written by: Marilyn Singer

Illustrated by: Paul Daviz

Published by: Word and Pictures (an imprint of the Quarto Group)

Who are you calling weird

This quirky and unusual non-fiction picture book for older readers (mid-grade+) contains an array of bizarre creatures that at first glance you would not be blamed for believing are the creation of science fiction. But all of the animals in this book are real and alive today. Marilyn Singer takes the reader on a fascinating journey to explore the strange and exotic wildlife that live in unique habitats all over the world. She describes their features and examines the purpose of their specific behaviours and adaptations.

Each double page spread has a bold, eye-catching illustration of each incredible creature. The kind of beautiful full-colour illustrations that make a book precious. Find out about the Aye-aye lemur from Madagascar, ponder over the incredible armoured Pangolin, be amazed by the hairy frog with claws like Wolverine and intrigued by the legends that evolved around the Narwhal, a real life unicorn.

This book could be used in the classroom to support work on biospheres, food chains and adaptations. One to treasure.

Who are you calling weird? is indeed a cornucopia of diversity every child will love to devour.

Book review – Around the World in 80 Ways

Title: Around the World in 80 Ways

Illustrated by: Katy Halford

Published by: Dorling Kindersley

Around the World in 80 Ways

From a dugout boat to a moon buggy, find out all the ways you can travel the world in this stunning illustrated book by Katy Halford. Around the World in 80 Ways explores exactly 80 different modes of transport that could take you part way around the world. This eclectic mix of vehicles takes the reader on a fun and exciting journey through time. It is full of amazing facts about when the different types of transport was invented and who invented them. This picture book features some highly eccentric ways of travelling that will have you laughing as you imagine yourself travelling the world on a self-balancing scooter, or on an elephant, or zooming off with a jetpack, or even on a husky dog sled.

Katy Halford’s bold illustrations bring the transport to life, with simplistic and entertaining details and pages full of happy smiley faces, which will keep a child entranced for hours. They will be fascinated to find out what a Gondola, Vaporetto, Maglev and a Tuk-tuk are and how cars and aeroplanes changed people’s lives. This book would make an ideal addition to the class book corner, or to support a class topic on vehicles.

Although, 80 different ways of travelling sound a lot when I’d finished the book I could not help thinking about the ones that were not included and wondered at Katy Halford’s reasoning for picking the ones she did and leaving others like the International Space Station out. Maybe she plans to illustrate a sequel?

I believe this book also highlights the new trend in acknowledging the illustrator and not the writer. I was left wondering if this book was written in-house, or if they had a ghost writer.

Book Review – The Hamburger of Doom

Title: Jonny Jakes Investigates… The Hamburger of Doom

Written by:  Malcolm Judge

Illustrated by: Alan Brown – Advocate Art

Published by: Curious Fox Books

Jonny Jakes Investigates… The Hamburger of Doom

Jonny Jakes is an undercover reporter for the banned school newspaper, The Woodford Word. Nothing will stop his pursuit of the truth. Not teachers. Not parents. Not double detention. He is always looking for that next big story so when a new Headteacher arrives halfway through term and introduces some weird and wonderful new routines, Jonny smells a rat. Hamburgers for lunch? Sweets in class? He’s determined to get to the bottom of it, because Jonny Jakes investigates the same way he eats his hamburgers: with relish.

This is a fantastic concept, well written in the style of the Wimpy Kid diaries and the Tom Gates books. The fact the school newspaper has been banned has you hooked from the start. It is the first book in a new series which will is sure to capture even the most reluctant reader’s attention.

In Jonny Jakes Investigates… The Hamburger of Doom you follow Jonny on his quest to save the school from aliens, whilst not only avoiding being licked to death but also preventing both the children and parents from becoming morbidly obese. Jonny Jakes talks you through the mounting evidence and how he comes to his amazing deductions which provide his hilarious, hard-hitting headlines. Find out if Jonny manages to meet his deadline to get the next copy of The Woodford Word out on time.

This book highlights why you should never take sweets from strangers and how healthy food, herbs and spices can save your life.

Book Review – Simon Thorn and the Wolf’s Den

Title: Simon Thorn and the Wolf’s Den

Written by:  Aimée Carter

Cover Illustration by: Sam Hadley

Published by: Bloomsbury

This is the first book of the trilogy about searching for identity.

Twelve -year-old Simon Thorn’s life has never been easy, but being bullied at school and living in a cramped Manhattan apartment with his Uncle Darrell is nothing compared to his biggest secret: he can talk to animals.

When his Mum arrives on a very rare visit, she is kidnapped by ferocious rats and Simon is plunged into a terrifying mission to rescue her. He discovers he can do more than just talk to animals. He belongs to secret race of animal shape-shifters, known as Animalgams.

In the first book, while searching for his mother, he finds the Animalgam Academy located deep beneath Central Park Zoo. There he learns about the fractured five kingdoms – Mammals, Birds, Insects, Reptiles and Underwater and discovers his father was the Beast King who had the ability to shift into any creature he desired. Simon does not know if he will shift into an eagle like his mother or whether he, or his twin brother, will inherit his father’s abilities.

What he does realise is – the Animalgam world is in danger of ripping itself apart and he is the only one who can stop them.

Simon’s character as a loner who finds it difficult to make friends is established from the start alongside the strong themes of loyalty and bravery. No longer is Simon’s only threat the school bully, Bryan Barker, there is a whole underworld of talking beasts after him and it is not clear whose side is the right side to be on. Simon and the reader have no idea who to trust and where their loyalties should lie. The adults in the book are no help as they insist on keeping secrets from him and he is left to discover his true identity alone. Even the few friends he manages to make along the way are innocent by-standers, as he solves the mystery of his destiny.

Aimée Carter takes us on a fast-paced adventure full of twists and turns reminiscent of Percy Jackson. At the end of each book you are left wanting more.