Sunday, 30 September 2012

My Name is Mina by David Almond

I was looking forward to reading this, since I am a big fan of Skellig by the same author, of which this is a prequel.  However, I am finding it extremely hard going, and have only managed to read about half of the book, despite it not being particularly long.

I should have known it was not necessarily going to be to my taste when one of the comments on the back described Almond as "the Gabriel Garcia Marquez of children's literature".  I really want to like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but I just don't really get it.  It all seems a little bit try-hard.

Which, brings me neatly to My Name is Mina. Mina is an extremely interesting character, and brings a lightness and different perspective to the narrative in Skellig. However, it is the narrative that makes Skellig so wonderful, and this is what Mina lacks.  It's more of a stream of consciousness affair than a story.  I cannot think that it would hugely appeal to children, indeed A described it as "really boring" after a few pages.

There are some lovely moments in it, particularly the part where Mina has a conversation about sitting in the tree with an elderly lady, but it lacks "grip".  It is far, far too easy to put down.

Monday, 24 September 2012

"There was a boy whose name was Jim"

"His friends were very fond of him..."

I had a lovely experience today with a girl in my Year 8 class.  She had done all her work and had chosen a book to read from the shelf.  I was on the other side of the room when I heard "There was a boy whose name was Jim".  I supplied the rest of the line.  We then took it in turns to read the whole poem, with her supplying dramatic emphasis, and me reading the bits where the archaic language got a bit confuddling.  She then said "Miss, listen to me read some more!"  What a wonderful thing to hear.

The version of Jim by Mini Grey is an absolutely fantastic book to read, whatever age you are.  If I was the Queen of the World and had a magic wand, one of the many, many things I would do would be to stop people from seeing books as being for specific ages.  I enjoy reading Jim; an 8 year old might enjoy it, and I certainly saw a 12 year old enjoy it today.  The irony is, it's not even easy to read!  Hilaire Belloc did write for children, but the writing is not simple.  It's simply more fun to read if you're used to seeing books as inaccessible, and suddenly you are confronted with something that, although it might be hard, has pictures of delicious ham, pop ups and a fold-out section of a boy being eaten by a lion... 

It's SO much easier to enjoy reading when you have an enjoyable book in your hands. 

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Daisy and the Trouble with Giants by Kes Grey

I remember A loving this series a few years ago, and I have managed to persuade C to read one too.  He prefers it when I read it, but is willing to give it a go.

The series takes the character of Daisy from one of our all time faves Eat Your Peas and extends her story into several chapter books, mainly relating to the trouble that she gets into with her best friend Gabby.

It is pretty funny, and I am enjoying reading it (something I missed out with with A, as she was a bit keener to read longer books to herself).  The pictures are fab and the writing is big and clear which makes it nice and easy to read for those just beginning to tackle longer books.

The only downside is that C has decided that "Fee, fi, fo, fum: [insert name here] has a stinky bum" is the best insult ever, and has been sharing this nugget of comedy gold with all those who will listen at regular intervals all day. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Mister Magnolia by Quentin Blake

Since the night Beast Quest has no longer been on the cards, I have been scouring the shelves for some of my old faves to read to C.  He has, apparently, never heard of Mister Magnolia. A knew it by heart as a toddler, but C was more interested in taking CDs off a shelf, putting Thomas the Tank Engine magnetic engines in a row along the carpet, and putting filthy fingerprints on all of the glass in the house at that age.

We got our copy of Mister Magnolia from the very, very wonderful Booktrust.  Back in the days before the credit cruch, all babies, toddlers, 3 year olds and Reception age children were given books appropriate to their age.  The chosen books were, without exception, wonderful. Mister Magnolia was in A's toddler bag, and she loved it from the off.

He has only one boot.  That's pretty much the key thing about the eponymous hero.  He also has a magnificent dinosaur, two lovely flute-playing sisters, a chute, and lots of other things that rhyme with boot.  He is also completely bonkers.  By the end of the book he has two boots.  "That's great." said C. "They don't even match.  He doesn't care!"  C giggled lots.  And the sound of him properly giggling is like a sudden sunbeam breaking through.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad? by Julie Middleton

I bought this because of the title, without a shadow of a doubt.  I thought it sounded really funny, as did C, who declared "we'll have this book second, because it's going to be better than Superworm".  We both decided at the end that it, erm, wasn't. 

It's not bad.  The drawings are fab, and I love the fiendish look on the dinosaurs' faces.  However, the storyline is potentially a bit scary for v small kids with too-big imaginations.  Also, my major, although admittedly ridiculous, objection is that the very small boy is called Dave.  That is simply not a very small boy's name.  It's an at least 27 year old man's name, and probably Daves were on the decline even then.    David, yes.  Dave, no.  And that just made it feel like it was trying too hard.

Superworm by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

"A, come and listen to this book!  It's really boring for about the first twelve pages, but then gets really exciting and funny!"  Try reading Howard's End if you want a book that remains resolutely boring until something actually happens.  Anyway, this was C's assessment of the latest offering by the extremely successful pairing.

Personally, I loved it.  It's the best thing they've done in years.  The story is easy to follow, but interesting, and there is a fabulous villainous lizard, who is a stock panto baddie in the classic mould.

The best thing about it is the expression on Superworm's face when he is being hypnotised.  Even thinking about it now makes me giggle.  Superworm is wonderfully drawn, and a great example of how a few lines of drawing can make magic.  Highly recommended, and currently available in The Red House and The Book People for half the RRP.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Rabbit Problem by Emily Gravett

C has, apparently "gone off" Beast Quest.  I am more upset about this than I thought I would be.  It's not only because I have series 7 and 8 squirreled away that I bought when they were cheap in The Book People a while ago.  I've got quite fond of Tom and Elenna, and kind of want to know how they manage.  So much so that I might have to redirect from here to Wikipedia and look it up.  I've invested a lot of reading hours in them, and I'm not sure whether I want to give them up that easily.

Anyway, we were required to find a different story for C this evening. I snuck The Rabbit Problem by Emily Gravett in the library bag at the weekend, knowing that it would have been deemed babyish if either child had caught sight of it.   However, predictably, they both loved it this evening.  There are lots of flaps, little bits to read on the side, and clever touches.  It looks like a calendar, even to the point of having a hole on the bottom of each double page.  The illustrations are charming, and there are some bits of humour designed to appeal to the adult reading it (a bit like when they started putting adult jokes in kid's films sometime in the late 1990s (or did I just start noticing them then?  Hmmm).

Anyway, it's basically a book about sex and maths, for the pre-school market.  It's all about the Finobacci sequence.  I am not sure either child got the mathematical reference in any way, shape, or form.  They also, thankfully, didn't notice the reference to a brother and a sister rabbit having babies together.  I'm not sure I'm up for that discussion on a Sunday night!