Category Archives: Children’s Literature

2017 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide

itsfuntostayattheyeagNature gets to eat its mistakes, but we have to live with ours

Having forgotten about this review after the upheaval of last year’s end, I belatedly bring you this review, after a badly needed editing session.

This latest anthology (and my first foray into the YEAG series) is packed with 24 multifarious stories.  In a universe where anything can happen, the scope will really appeal to children who no doubt already love their science fiction with so much good stuff about in plenty of mediums.

Getting children reading is always rewarding both for themselves and in the wider view a more literate society.  Having heroes their own age, who they can relate to and imagine themselves in such situations will definitely fuel their passion for books and adventure.

The Dreaming Robot Press page states that, Our characters are white, black, asian, latino. Human and robot. Everyone belongs here. Add in people with handicaps as well and this is a truly inclusive mix. I did find the book heavily weighted to female protagonists which makes sense as there is an under representation of both female authors and female protagonists in the genre.  The boy in me would have perhaps wished for a bit more balance but there is enough choice for me out there already and it was refreshing to read about female characters and their escapades for a change.

The variation is pleasing and has plenty of depth with the different styles of writing and setting, there is something to suit all tastes and also a lot of scope here to feed a child’s imagination and to encourage them to write and read more.  The stories also have a social aspect, exploring what it is like to be seen as different, coping with illness as well as displaying determination, loyalty, and all that good stuff too. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 20/01/2017 in Children's Literature, Sci-Fi


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The Tale of Rickety Hall – Penny Dolan

ricketyOrphaned Jonas Jones is cold and tired, and oh so hungry. And without his little dog Scraps he’d be desperately lonely, too. So when dastardly Megrim the dog catcher and his sidekick Filch decide they’re going to get rid of Scraps, Jonas knows he must do everything he can to stop them.Even if that means going for help at Rickety Hall, the spooky old house on the hill-inside which no one’s ever dared to venture.

Having just finished A Dance to the Music of Time:  Summer – a review of which will be coming soon – I decided a break from anything too heavy was needed and as I want to review more children’s books this year, it made sense to pick something light up.

This short tale, with a good number of illustrations crammed in for good measure is full of good messages for the young ‘uns, whilst also dealing with the cruel side of some people.

Protagonists Jonas and Scraps are likeable enough, not particularly fleshed out, as one isn’t when homeless but Scraps being an animal is always going to be a delight for the reader.  Being aimed at youngsters, Megrim and Filch whilst thoroughly odious are given a touch of the comedic to take the edge off so they aren’t too sinister; which is good as children may have found the animal cruelty a little too much to stomach otherwise,

The story centres on the mystery of Rickety Hall which is a great name even before you can make the connection with why it may so be named.  The mysteries don’t stop there as another mystery is presented soon after to keep the attention of the reader assured until the end. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 17/01/2017 in Children's Literature


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East of the East Wind – Nils-Johan Jørgensen

EasterThis is the second collection of illustrated tales by the author of North of the North Wind. It has four stories and will delight imaginative children everywhere. The tender and touching ‘A Snow Ballerina in a Red Cap’ is set in the haunting marshy landscape that is home to the Japanese crane. The young Izumi learns about the cranes from her grandmother and befriends a baby crane. They grow up together, dance together. When she is older, Izumi goes to the city to become a maiko. Years later she returns to the marsh, is reunited with her old friend and dances with her – but all too briefly. ‘Monty and Mozart’ shows us a dog’s life – from a dog’s viewpoint. It has a little sting in the tail. In ‘Barbed Wire’ a young boy comes to understand what ‘the enemy’ means. The island where he lives is occupied, his school closed down and fenced around with barbed wire. Later it becomes a camp with prisoners. The boy tries to make contact with one – the outcome is ambiguous. ‘My Cinema’ – the magic of the silver screen in an incongruous setting, but real nonetheless to a small boy. These are four beautifully crafted but very different stories, which share their author’s qualities of knowledge, insight and compassion.

The blurb covers the stories in enough detail for me to not need to, which always makes for an interesting spoiler avoiding challenge for the book reviewer.  Luckily for you this intrepid reader has managed to do just that whilst sat in a coffee shop surrounded by all those novelists, readers of bestsellers and that token annoying child who causes havoc.

Throughout the book we are treated to all aspects of life, the good, bad and indifferent but above all a message there is the constant message to appreciate what we have when we have it.

A Snow Ballerina in a Red Cap is a story of growing up, loss and nature.  It’s sure to illicit many questions from children and despite its melancholy air, it is a strong start to the book.  The joys and sadness of time moving on, of nothing staying the same and growing up are all great life lessons and Izumi is a wonderful character who has that incisive logic that children seem to innately possess.  A beautiful and touching story.

Monty and Mozart is something different, a life viewed through the eyes of a dog.  Like a child, Monty is innocent and has no understanding of the decisions made around him but places his trust and love in his family.  This short chronicle about their lives together is perhaps my least favourite of the four but at the same time it has, for me the most emotionally satisfying ending. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 29/03/2016 in Children's Literature


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Dark Fey: Standing In Shadows – Cynthia Morgan

FeymanjiIf you haven’t read Dark Fey: The Reviled then this synopsis for book two is going to contain a shedload of spoilers that you may want to avoid, however the review itself won’t divulge any plot information that will ruin your reading pleasure.

Gairynzvl escaped captivity among the DemonFey who had abducted him as a child through a daring act of treason and was rescued by Light Loving Fey. Now, he wants to return into the dark realm of The Reviled to attempt a rescue of the innocent childfey trapped there.
It will take more than one Fey to breach the borders of The Uunglarda and to slip past the legions of Dark Fey who abide there. It will take magic and strength, courage and military strategy and it will shake the foundations of everything The Fey of The Light have accepted as truth for thousands of years, but Gairynzvl knows the secret ways in and out of the dark realm; he is able to open portals and through his gifts of telepathic empathy and he can find the childfey standing, waiting, in the shadows.
Slipping into the darkness through darkness is easy. Escaping out again with terrified childfey is another matter. If they are captured his band of liberators will pray for death long before it comes and their success could spark full scale war, unleashing the barbaric hatred and viciousness of The Reviled upon the peace-loving Fey of The Light.
Can Gairynzvl convince the Fey of the Light to allow him to return to the Uunglarda, the realm of The Reviled? Who will join him to aid the Innocent childfey trapped in the realm of shadows and fear? And Will the Fey of the Light risk a savage war in order to rescue them?

The cover photo is great, there is no denying that and were I to see it in a bookshop my interest would be piqued.  More of this type of cover I say, rather than those dreary copy cat covers that seem to be so prevalent on the shelves these days.  As well as looking nice, it also sets the scene for a darker and more foreboding sequel.

Like the first book, this is a fantasy steeped in the natural, of the polar opposites of light and dark and the overlapping of the two and whilst the plot took, for me a little while to get going – the characters even get time for a ball game – once it gets going though, it moves along at a pleasing pace. It is an interesting mix, the plot feeling both urgent yet also fairly relaxed at times, giving the book a more ethereal feel. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 12/02/2016 in Children's Literature, Fantasy


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Calling all Book Lovers and Authors to Make a Difference to a Child in Need…

Calling all Book Lovers and Authors to Make a Difference to a Child in Need…

Thanks to Michelle for reblogging another Michelle’s post for a good cause, which I have re-reblogged here. I won’t be changing my name to Michelle though unless supplied with several thousand books, then I may consider it…

Michelle Eastman Books

It’s a little early, but I wanted to reach out to all of the book lovers and authors who’d like to join me during the month of March to get quality books into the hands of deserving kids.

Featured Image -- 1290

Last year, I started the initiative, “MARCHing Books to Kids” to raise awareness and collect books for children of incarcerated parents. I was delighted to have authors and lit lovers from all over the world support this cause. In fact, we collected 348 books from generous people in 11 different states and 4 countries! I hope this year will be just as great! The feedback from the participating families was incredible. They were especially touched that authors signed books for their children. That was a new experience for most of the families.

According to Reading is Fundamental (RIF), Nearly two-thirds of low-income families in the U.S. DO NOT own books. …

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Posted by on 17/01/2016 in Blogging, Children's Literature, Life


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North of the North Wind – Nils-Johan Jørgensen

Cold WindIn a village somewhere far in the far north live Lily, Bear and Pani. Their lives are full of curiosity and wonder, as they go out to explore the undiscovered world revealed in a dream, try to unravel the mystery behind the enigmatic prophecies in a story told to them by their mother, go off sailing alone at night in an orange boat to show their independence, or investigate the disappearance of a beloved friend.

North of the North Wind is an illustrated collection of four children’s stories which draw on myths and family history and are written with a folk-tale feel, so that the surprising and the unforeseen are the norm. The stories have different settings and contain dreams and prophecies, family history, mystery, puzzles and riddles, animals, danger and adventure at sea, all woven together with imagination and a sense of wonder.

Nils-Johan Jorgensen creates a sort of dream landscape, full of colourful pictures and quirky corners, with all the originality and unexpectedness of the best folk tales. North of the North Wind is a delightful treat for imaginative children everywhere, especially those aged seven to ten.

A jaunt into Scandinavia is always a welcome thing and sadly this one was over all too quickly, despite slowing my reading so as to thoroughly enjoy the stories therein, alas it had to come to an end.  Balancing the short duration of the book though is that I now get to introduce the book to you, which is handy for a site about books.

The first line is my favourite and coincidentally is the perfect introduction to Jørgensen’s world:

In a small village school north of the north wind a new magic world was opening.  The children were learning to write.

It’s such a great opening and exudes the feeling of so many different adventures just waiting to be created and read.  It’s that lightness,  the feeling one gets at the start of a journey to explore the unknown that keeps us enchanted and is the perfect way to kick-start these gentle adventures. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 10/10/2015 in Children's Literature


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Tales From Outer Suburbia – Shaun Tan

Talesfromoutersuburbia...BOOMYou thought you knew suburbia.

An exchange student who’s really an alien, a secret room that becomes the perfect place for a quick escape, a typical tale of grandfatherly exaggeration that is actually even more bizarre than he says…

These are the odd, magical details of everyday suburban life that might forever goo unnoticed were they not finally brought to light by Shaun Tan, author and illustrator of award-winning bestseller The Arrival

Outer Suburbia.  it’s closer than you think.

After reading the magnificent The Arrival, I hungered for more of Tan’s work, this was the only one available in the comic book shop Page 45, at the time and I couldn’t be happier about that now.

My initial disappointment at the mere 96 pages – for I liked quantity with quality in my youthful years – soon changed to outright curiosity as I flicked through to the pencil drawings on the inside cover, a skeleton playing the banjo and singing the blues, an astronaut interviewing a French dog and other sorts of other outlandish things which I later noted are not repeated on the back pages which features more refreshingly strange images.

Little touches like that reassured me that this wouldn’t be just another brief anthology but something special, a group of short stories tinged with whimsy and mystery and I wasn’t wrong.  Inside I discovered clever and lighthearted stories, that have at their core messages, some obvious a few hidden a little deeper but always as thought-provoking as you allow them to be.

Some of my favourite stories include a look at what happens to the lost poems we write on scraps of paper, an expedition to see what lies beyond the edge of a street map, an ‘invasion’ of enigmatic stick figures in the suburbs and a typical and logical reaction of the populace to the threat of war. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 08/06/2015 in Children's Literature, Fantasy, Fiction


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