Sunday, April 26, 2009

Emmy and the incredible shrinking rat by Lynne Jonell

I went shopping with a friend the other day and she exclaimed in great shock when she saw the sequel to Emmy and the Incredible shrinking rat and realised I had not read this inventive and engaging story. This meant of course that I grabbed our copy of Emmy and the incredible shrinking rat and read it all in one sitting.

Emmy has a truly awful Nanny who we at once suspect of evil intent. Her mum and dad are constantly absent on overseas holidays and Emmy has no friends because at school she seems to be invisible. By about page 130 I worked out what was going on but then I panicked in case Emmy herself did not work out just what Miss Barmy was up to and how she was using special chemicals supplied by an amazing range of rodents, to control Emmy, her parents, her teacher and her classmates.

I especially liked the names Lynne Jonell gave her characters Miss Barmy the nanny, Mr Herbifore the teacher, Professor Vole - he is evil and in love with Miss Barmy and Professor Capybara who is a special friend and hero to Emmy. My favourite character is The Endear Mouse “What a tiny little thing, and so pretty! Its fawn coloured fur looked as soft and light as dandelion fuzz…. The little mouse curled its tail up tight. It looked at Emmy, its enormous brown eyes thoughtful. And then it reached out a paw and patted Emmy’s finger exactly three times in quick succession.” The word ‘exactly’ tells the reader this mouse has very special qualities that just might restore the love of her parents.

This book is funny, adventurous and filled with bravery and friendship. I would recommend it to any Primary aged child. Now I just need to get my hands on the sequel!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lee Raven Boy Thief by Zizou Corder

Starting a new book is just like meeting someone new. You can know all sorts of things about the person but until you meet face to face you cannot know if you can truly be friends. This is just how I felt when I picked up Lee Raven Boy Thief. I simply loved Lion Boy by the mother daughter writing team called Zizou Corder. The part I did not love with Lion Boy was when I realised, 20 pages from the end, that Lion Boy would not be solved and that I would need to wait for the second and later still for the third book.

So it was with slightly mixed feelings I picked up Lee Raven Boy Thief. I was excited to start a new book by this marvelous writing team but also nervous that this book might also be only the beginning, that sequels might await me. Luckily this was not the case. Lee Raven is a fabulous book based on a great premise of the book that contains all stories.
The book, the Book of Nebo or “Booko!” as Lee names him, has survived in many forms from clay tablets, papyrus, and vellum. The evil Nigella alias Romana Asteriosy almost succeeds in turning the book into digital form … "Could I now become bytes or Bits? A disc or a pod…. I shivered a little at the thought.”

As with all great stories I simply ‘gobbled’ this book up in one sitting. Here is a terrific example of very fine writing for children where each chapter tells the story from a different point of view. This is such a terrific device. I think the first time I encountered was over 25 years ago in a Betsy Byars book about the Blossom family – A blossom Promise.

My favourite idea in this book is that when a new reader picks up 'The Book' the story will be perfect, it will be just the right story for you personally. When Edward Maggs of Maggs Brothers Antiquarian Booksellers of Berkeley Square opens this book it contains the diary of William Shakespeare, When Julie Mordy opens the book the first two stories are by Oscar Wilde and for our hero Lee, who is illiterate, The Book becomes the Beano comic.

This is a story of greed, courage, dreams, truth, mice, sewer tunnels and friendship. There is also a layer of the future in this book just as there was in Lion Boy and as you would know from my previous postings to this blog I really do enjoy books with a futuristic (but not pessimistic) theme such as Airborn, and The Giver by Lois Lowry.

One of my first blogged books was The Book without Words and readers of Lee Raven Boy Thief would certainly enjoy this one too along with Cornelia Funk’s great adventure The Thief Lord which has a similar feel too it of adventure and chase scenes, mishaps, and evil characters.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The dog that dumped on my doona by Barry Jonsberg

The Dog that dumped on my Doona if this book is published in America or UK what will they call it?

Here is a winner for boys (and girls) who love to laugh. This is such a clever and funny book I just want to rush out and read it to all Year 5 classes. The cover and illustrations are totally perfect too.

The opening sentence hooks you in straight away “I was woken up by a dog taking a dump on my doona.” Marcus does not know what to do. The doona is not the problem, the poo is not the problem, the dog is the problem. Should he try to escape from his room “I could edge my way to the door, slip out and scream blue murder. Dad could come in and deal with the dog. That’s what parents are paid for, after all”.

This is another book with all those ingredients a mean bully sister, special best friend, toilets, dog farts, cola, an interesting pygmy bearded dragon called God and a Dog called ‘Blacky’ obviously this is not his real name. Your mission, should you agree to participate, involves releasing God from his pet shop prison so he can return to the desert and warn his family of the poisons being spread by humans.

Why is this lizard called God? I don’t know “But what if, hey? What if? What if the dog can talk to you and it really is from God who does live in a pet shop because, after all, they say God is everywhere they why can’t He be in a pet shop as well as a church or in a meat pie or something and the big guy must be pretty busy all the time what with having, like the whole universe to deal with so it might be right that He needs a bit of help from time to time…”

This book could have laboured the environmental message, but it doesn’t, instead we are rewarded with a very funny story about families, friendship and loyality oh and the Environment. Get your hands on this one fast – it is terrific.

Readers who enjoy this book might also enjoy 35 Kilos of Hope and Dog 37 we have both in our school library.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The outlaw Varjak Paw by SF Said

Sequels often disappoint me and this was certainly the case with The Outlaw Varjak Paw. Earlier in this blog you can read my glowing comments for Varjak Paw. I guess I hoped for more of the futuristic plot where evil powers are using real cats to make robot toys. In Varjak Paw street cats had begun to vanish and while Varjak and his friends did seem to defeat the evil gentleman at the end of the first book, I really thought there would be more of this powerful empire in the second book.

Once again this is not a book for the faint-hearted and perhaps not even a book for cat lovers. The early scenes where Varjak and his friends are attacked by Sally Bones’ henchmen Razor and Luger are full of slashing and violence. Cat claws can inflict terrible injuries and pain.

Essentially in this second book Varjak must defeat the evil Sally Bones, a cat whose powers match or perhaps exceed his own. Of course he is successful but where to next. Will the cats be able to live freely without fear of gang control and what of the humans, the city and the dogs? The illustrations are again very powerful but I cannot rave about this second book even though the New York Times called it dazzling. The web site for these books is well worth visiting.

The Wish pony by Catherine Bateson

Last week the short listed titles were announced for the annual Children’s Book of the Year awards by the CBC. We already had nearly all of them in our school library but several of the Novels for Younger readers had slipped past me.

The Wish Pony is another title from Catherine Bateson. She has been awarded by the CBC previously with her books such as Being Bee, Rain May and Captain Daniel and Millie and the night Heron. I did enjoy these books but I did find them very personal reading experiences, not suitable as read-a-louds which is fine, but also not necessarily appealing to very many children either.

While I did read The Wish Pony very quickly I did not find it particularly remarkable. Ruby is awaiting the birth of her brother but after 11 years as an only child she has natural anxieties and jealousies to overcome. Her life journey is aided at this difficult time by the arrival of a stranger in the neighbourhood. An eccentric old lady called Magda. Perhaps Magda is Mary Poppins, she blows in with the wind, works her magic for Ruby and her friend Bailey and then she packs her bags and heads off to the West careful to pack a special trinket (like the wish pony) for her next child in need.

I did like the idea that reading books (the right books as supplied by Magda) could help with the healing and growing up processes for our young protagonists but overall this book did leave me underwhelmed. I am usually wrong with my predictions about the CBC awards so we will need to wait until August to see this one is a winner for 2009 but if it is I will be very surprised.

While there is a cute horse on the cover and of course the title includes the word pony I don't really think this is a book for those girls who are mad about horse stories. Good readers in Years 4-6 would enjoy this warm story.

Bella Baxter and the Itchy Disaster

Some months ago I wrote about a terrific junior novel called Daisy Dawson thinking I was picking up a book from the same series I bought home Bella Baxter and the itchy Disaster. This is obviously not from the same series but it is another excellent junior novel with a rewarding story that is easy to read.

Bella lives in a large old seaside house which is run by her parents as a small Bed and Breakfast hotel. Bella wants the guests to ‘feel right at home’ so when she hears Frederick Fauna will come to visit she decides to surprise him by filling his room with plants one of which might even be a rare specimen. Bella is a resourceful girl who understands the local library is a fabulous source of information. The librarian, Trudy, is an eccentric, interesting and helpful woman who shares Bella’s passions and who understands the power of libraries to provide information!

Both embark on a reading of a number of plant reference books, Bella collects heaps of plants and flowers, she finds their scientific names and makes a lovely display all ready for Dr Fauna. Our delight comes as Bella begins to itch! Could one of these plants be causing this itch. What will happen to the hapless professor? Will Bella ruin every thing or can she save the day.

Astute readers will wonder why he is called Dr Fauna and not Dr Flora but this is small technical point and it does not detract from this really delightful 70 page book.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Over the last term the teachers at school have been sharing lovely poems with their classes. Here is one I especially like for Easter :

Patience by Bobbi Katz

Chocolate Easter bunny
In a jelly bean nest,
I'm saving you for very last
Because I love you best.
I'll only take a nibble
From the tip of your ear
And one bite from the other side
So that you won't look queer.
Yum, your'e so delicious!
I didn't mean to eat
Your chocolate tail till Tuesday.
Ooops! There go your feet!
I wonder how your back tastes
With all that chocolate hair.
I never thought your tummy
Was only filled with air!
Chocolate Easter bunny
In a jelly bean nest,
I'm saving you for very last
Because I love you best.

Here are some more Easter poems

At the top of this page is a lovely flickr picture I found on the topic of poetry. We have so many wonderful poetry books in our school library. Go to 821 and check one out today.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

David Weisner

I love all the books by David Weisner and I use some videos I have found on the internet so the children can meet him. This is a little bit like a virtual excursion. After several attempts now I know how to put a video on my blog! Look for David Weisner in our school library we have Tuesday, June 29 1999, The three pigs and The Night of the Gargoyles.

Read more about David Weisner at his web site.