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Tag Archives: Children’s Literature

It’s Fun to Stay at the YEAG!

This blog post should have gone out yesterday but the internet was inexplicably down for a while so belatedly this is coming out today:

Not content with just one avenue of helping children, I am now helping promote an annual book – familiar to some of you – that encourages children to read, get into Sci-Fi, use their imaginations, and to be more literate which makes for a better society in general.

it has been good to get back in touch with Dreaming Robot Press who have been kind enough to send me an advanced copy of the upcoming anthology, The Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide 2018.  For those of you that don’t know, the YEAG is a book that aims to be inclusive of all, sometimes drop in subtle morals and most of all give children the passion for books and exploring their minds.

With such an unlimited scope for stories, each adventure promises to be a joy and my review of last year’s 2017 YEAG will give you a taster of the sort of thing you can expect, as I delve into the new one.  For now though the Kickstarter campaign, although having reached its target and soon to close is still worth checking out if you feeling like sharing the love and helping to support this project, head on over to their Kickstarter page.  Your contribution is appreciated.

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Posted by on 12/07/2017 in Children's Literature, Sci-Fi

 

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The Lyons Orphanage – Charlie King

Sam Watkins, an orphaned young teenager, possesses the ability to read the minds of almost everyone he meets.

Howard Lyons, the owner of the orphanage where Sam has lived since he was a baby, has been reluctant to let Sam leave the orphanage.

Unable to read the mind of Mr Lyons, he takes it upon himself to investigate the reasons behind the owner’s decisions and learn more about the origin of his ability, his parents and the potential of his power.

However, Sam’s investigation and mind-reading abilities reveal a power struggle at the top of a faltering orphanage between Mr. Lyons and his assistant Natalie.

Sam’s involvement in this conflict leads him to look for ways to save the orphanage and uncover the true motivations of both the owner and his assistant while trying to learn about his past.

Orphanages don’t seem to pop up in the books I read very often – unless a it’s a grim Dickensian version, that is – so it was a refreshing backdrop for a story.  I had no idea what to expect from it really and by the end I knew I would never expect what I did get from it.  That’s all the hints you will get plot wise as it is fun to discover where it branches off from your expectations.

From the outset there was plenty of character building and this foundation really allows the reader to get invested in the plot.  All this does well to build up a fast paced story where what the characters do and think matters, leading to an ending where all the threads all come together in a pleasingly dramatic fashion.

Main protagonist Sam is a very mature thirteen year old, perhaps too mature for his age but owing to his circumstances, this is perhaps a case of me not understanding the emotional complexities of an orphan.  Not that this was a negative point, it was refreshing to see kids with strong personalities having serious conversations without then resorting to lying about a hurting scar as one book series that-shall-not-be-named did so tiresomely. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 29/06/2017 in Children's Literature, Fiction

 

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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 »

 
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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 »

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

 

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501

There seems to be an element of timing that fails me but then balances out through the kindness of other people for which I am very grateful.  Being taken up with getting into the nitty-gritty of The Wire, I missed the opportunity to do the Big Thing I had always planned for post 500, which is disappointing as I failed to really achieve anything from the 400th post.

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It crept up quickly – as these things do –  this time and I will be making sure I book a bit of time off work in the near future to enact my plans which will be something different from my norm but that is all you are getting out of me for the moment…

Today’s post instead of being a celebration of a milestone will be, firstly a big thank you to Jess Harpley for sending me a mass of books and merchandise as well as unknowingly managing the timing for this, my 501st post.  Secondly I extend my appreciation to all of you, be you authors gifting me your hard work or a regular reader, that’s what the blog is all about and yes I am aware of how quiet I have been of late.  It could be blog related and will be if I can find an angle to make me feel less guilty about disappearing so completely. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 08/09/2016 in Blogging, Life

 

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On Buying Books

As I stood – as one is inclined to do – in a bookshop, one of my fellow browsers was accosted by her other half or friend who says “so, you’re buying a book then?” which is a strange statement to make in a shop that exclusively sells books but there you go.  I wanted to storm over and tell him that actually she was making an investment which is much better than doing the same on the stock market.  I didn’t of course because I am polite and I was watching the pennies so had to leave before I bought half the shop’s stock.

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As far as our education system goes, it rightly has its critics in plenty of areas but for all its flaws, it does give the gift of learning to read for pleasure and enlightenment. Broadening knowledge and exploring stores from brilliant writers who challenge concepts, introduce unfamiliar words and work in metaphor and hidden messages makes for a really rich and rewarding written landscape.  I find that I grow more through the medium of books than from anything else.

I don’t often bother reviewing my own reading habits as they are mine and are always at the forefront of my mind, yet taking a step back I noticed that the more widely I read, the more scope I have for new purchases, that in turn pushes other things out, recently it has been children’s books and graphic novels which I shall be making more of an effort to get back into.

The only area of books that is less than thrilling to me these days and I don’t mind curtailing are bestsellers.  Apart from the apathy I fee for the publishers buying space in shops to promote these books, it is rare I find one that is worthy of not only a reread but bothering to finish the first time.  There has been a few like The Book Thief, The Snow Child and The Night Circus (of which the circusy bits are great) that come to mind but other than that, many can’t hold my interest any longer. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 02/04/2016 in Blogging, Life

 

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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 »

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

 

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