Sunday, August 28, 2016

Clever Trevor's stupendous inventions by Andrew Weldon

I have loved this little comic-style book, Clever Trevor's stupendous inventions, for a long time (first published 1999) so you can imagine my delight when I discovered recently that it had been reprinted.  You can see the old cover here and the new cover below.

My favourite part of this book is not the story (which is very funny and so easy to read) it is the imprint information and other pages found at the beginning and end of the book .  Sadly it seems these riotous details have been left out of the new copy. I wonder why?

The first page for example says :
Also by Andrew Weldon
Treasure Island
The cat in the hat
Alice in Wonderland
Great Expectations
Where the wild things are
The Magic Pudding
Catcher in the Rye
 and more....

At the end of the book :
What the critics say about Andrew Weldon's The Kid with the Amazing Head:
Sydney Morning Herald (not reviewed)
The Age (not reviewed)
Australian (not reviewed)
Guardian (UK) (not reviewed)
New York Review of books (not reviewed)

Here are some parts of the imprint information
Puffin Books
Penguin Books, a division of Pearson Canada
10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2
(Over the bridge on your right, next to the fish paste factory)
Penguin Books (NZ) Ltd
Crn Rosedale and Airborne Roads, Albany, Auckland, New Zealand
(Through paddock. Close the gate behind you)

All right reserved .... Keep refrigerated.

... All pigments used in this book are derived from the author's own body wastes.

Trevor is an inventor.  His teacher Mr Shmedric does not appreciate this talent.  Things finally come to head for Trevor and his friends when this despicable teacher appropriates one of Trevor's inventions, organizes a marketing campaign and rakes in tons of money.

Trevor and his friends devise a terrific plan to bankrupt their corrupt teacher and ensure Trevor can move on to a different grade (and hopefully a better teacher) next year.

Keep your eye out for the companion volume The Kid with the Amazing head.  This pair of books are perfect for reluctant readers and for anyone who likes to laugh.

You might also enjoy Problem Child by James Roy and Writing in wet cement by Andrew Daddo. Here is an interview with the author.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Close to the Wind by Jon Walter

One reviewer quoted, on the first pages of this book, says "I read it in one sitting".  I am sure you will too. My local bookshop staff have mentioned Close to the Wind to me several times.  I think it was the focus for their family book discussion group.

When people say to me "oh you only read 'kids' books" I usually smile and say yes!  But later I think does this make me less of a reader somehow?  Close to the wind is a book I now need to carry in my head or bag.  When someone claims 'kids books' are somehow lesser or lower than those written for 'grownups' this is the book I know will totally debunk this myth. I would love to be able to place a copy straight into their hands.

I loved Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett. Close to the Wind has a similar, if less confronting, feel. It is a totally absorbing story and I know my walk in the shoes of this little boy will linger with me for a long time.

Malik and his family are living through the horror of a war. Papa rescues Malik from a wardrobe where his mother has hidden him. He has hastily gathered things into a rucksack.

"Papa had made a game of packing.  ... He had got Malik to go around the house and find things for him. The string. The tools. The gaffer tape. They might all come in useful ... "

On their third night on the run the pair take shelter in an abandoned and looted house.  While they are there they are visited by two men.  Malik's grandfather Salvatore Bartholomew knows these men. Malik watches the adults talk.  At one point they each take out the money they are carrying.  Jon Walter is such a skilled writer you can almost feel the atmosphere change.  One of the men suggests this will not be any where near enough money to pay for a passage on the ship which will carry them to safety but Salvatore is not worried because he has something even more precious.  You will gasp as he reveals this to the two men.

We never find out the time or place for this story of war, terror and violence but the way Jon Walter takes us inside the mind of little Malik - sharing his rapid thoughts of worry and optimism - mean that you very quickly stop trying to link these events with any real time in world history. Here is an example of the way Malik thinks through the events that threaten to overwhelm him :

"The ship was getting ready to leave and he was on his own.  What if Mama was already on board like Papa had said? What if he had missed Papa as well? Perhaps Papa was looking for him now, searching the queues at the front of the quay? He should have done what Papa told him and stayed exactly where he was. He stared at the red door of the Port Authority building, deciding whether to go in."

Here is a video of the author talking about his book and here he reads the first few pages.  Here is an extract you can read and an interview with the author.  If I have not convinced you to read this book then take a look at this review.

In Close to the Wind, Jon Walter reveals the rare ability to create totally believable characters and settings in few words and with great simplicity. His prose is almost invisible: nothing comes between the reader and the book's action and emotion.

The roller-coaster ride of experiences and emotions, taking Malik and readers from fear, despair, loss, and grief to love and hope, is accurately drawn.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex T Smith

This is Little Red
Today she is going to be gobbled up by a lion.

This Lion.
Well that's what he thinks is going to happen ...

Every element of this picture book is perfect. Children will love the gold details on the cover, the end papers do literally book end the story beginning early in the morning and ending in the evening and of course there is the familiar story of Little Red Riding Hood with a brilliant twist.

Auntie Rose has spots!  Little Red packs a basket and sets off past the crocodiles, giraffes, monkeys, termites, gazelles, elephants, hippos and meerkats. She sits under a tree for a brief rest before continuing her journey and this is where she meets the lion.  "In the time it took for his tummy to rumble, the Very Hungry Lion cooked up a very naughty plan."

You might think you know the rest but you will be in for a surprise involving hairstyles, teeth, nighties and doughnuts.

Take a look at my review of the first Claude book by the talented Alex T Smith.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Herman's holiday by Tom Percival

Herman's Holiday is the second book about this special pair of friends.  Take a look at Herman's letter which is a book I discovered exactly one year ago.

Herman's holiday has such important messages:

  • We are all different
  • Not everyone likes the same thing
  • Sometimes you need to consider another point of view
  • Kindness is important
Herman and Henry decide to take a holiday but their funds are low.  They settle on a camping trip. Herman is a born camper. He takes all the right gear and he even knows how to keep his donkey moving in the right direction.  Henry has the opposite experience.  When they arrive at their camping spot they each compose a postcard to send home.

Herman writes
"Dear Uncle Harold
We're having an AMAZING time camping!
Henry's really getting into the swing of it.
He even went for a swim last night.
What fun!"

Henry writes
"Dear Aunt Winifred,
Have you ever been camping?  Well,
if you haven't, DON'T, it's AWFUL.
I'm cold, soaking wet and bored.

PS Can you please post me some hot chocolate, I forgot to bring any."

Herman finally notices that Henry is not having a great time.  His solution is kind, ingenious and utterly perfect.

One special feature of this book is the 'real' postcards that you can lift and read. Take a look at the author web site.  The publisher site has a set of activities to use with this book.  This video shows you how to draw Herman.  Here is a detailed review.