Miss Fanshaw – by Sue Scullard

Miss Fanshaw and the Great Dragon Adventure – written and illustrated by Sue Scullard –  is the opposite of a pop-up book – it’s a “pop through” book.

It satisfies on several levels.   An unusual heroine, sumptuously detailed drawings and clever “reveals” created by holes cut in the pages. These holes are part of the plot, as you shall see in the examples below.


The Hunting of the Last Dragon by Sherryl Jordan

The plot in Short: It’s Britain in the 14th century. The last of the dragons was killed almost a generation ago.  So how could an entire village be burnt to the ground, all its occupants killed in a night?  Young Jude survives, homeless, friendless and terrified.
He meets  tiny, fierce Jing-wei, crippled by her bound feet and trapped in the life of the freak in a travelling show.  Jude is torn by guilt and fear, but Jing-Wei is more than willing to  force him to turn and face his past,  to hunt the last dragon.


(image from tripreportwww2008)

What I thought: This is a wonderful book.  I’m a sucker for dragon books as it is, and this one is lovely.

Its a real story teller’s book.  More

Stargazer (Roepman) by Jan van Tonder

I’m not used to reading a book that is set in my own country.   So reading Stargazer was like listening to the voice of an old friend.

Stargazer is a semi autobiographical novel.  It’s set in the sixties; Verwoerd’s South Africa. It is told through the eyes of Timus, a thirteen years old boy.  He is the youngest of seven children in a poor white family, living in a Railways house on the Bluff in Durban.


Now this is familiar territory.  I grew up in the seventies, well after the assassination of Verwoerd. But South Africa under PW Botha was not that different.  I recognise the smell of those times.   More

Hugo Pepper by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

I’ve been meaning to write about Hugo Pepper for a while.  It fits into the same world as Corby Flood, and if possible, I enjoyed it even more.


In Short: Some years ago in the remote Frozen North, baby Hugo was found in the wreckage of a strange contraption; half sled, half balloon.   Ten years later Hugo Pepper decides to return to the home he never knew – the town of Harbour Heights.   He befriends the inhabitants of Firefly Square who remember his parents with love.  They accept Hugo into their hearts as though he was family.  But all is not well in Harbour Heights.  Hugo’s new friends are at the mercy of an unscrupulous villain.  Hugo hoped to learn more about his parents, but instead he uncovers a tangled web of tragic love, thwarted ambition, blackmail and lost treasure that ties all their stories together.

What I thought: This is a very special little book.  It is a warm, absurd and funny story with just enough sadness to keep you hooked.  It is a story about stories.  The villain of the piece, Elliot de Mille, has taken the once wonderful publication The Firefly Quarterly – that used to be a collection of marvellous and rare folk tales – and turned it into a spiteful tabloid filled with lies and innuendo. More

Talon by Janet Lee Carey

Title: Talon
Author: Janet Lee Carey
Series : no, its a stand alone

In Short: Princess Rosalind is the  heir to Wilde Island. It is 12th century. In nearby England, Empress Maud and King Stephen are fighting the long civil war.  The war that Princess Rosie will end, or so everyone believes.  Six hundred years ago Merlin made prophecy that the twenty first Queen of Wilde Island would “end the war with a wave of her hand.”  But pretty Princess Rosie has a secret.   Under her golden gloves she hides a “beast mark” – a fingers shaped like a lizards talon, tipped with a curving claw.


What I thought: It took me a little while to get get into the rhythm of this book.  I was prejudiced by the cover, for some reason.  Its a very pretty cover, but it made me expect a humourless and overly florid romance.  I was wrong. This is probably one of the most down to earth descriptions of Medieval life I’ve read, even to the fleas in Rosie’s hair.

But the best thing about this book is hinted at by its cover.  More

BBAW – Interview with Sassy Brit from AlternativeRead.com

As part of Book Bloggers Appreciation Week, I’ve been partnered with Sassy Brit of alternativeread.com.  We drew up a list of questions for one another.  It was fun!  Here is Sassy, answering some of my questions:

The header of your blog says “joining authors and readers together”.  Can you share something about your blog’s purpose?

Well, I like to think that I helping both authors and readers. For authors I offer extra promotion, by publishing their reviews, book excerpts and other writing news, and at the same time I’m giving my readers new ideas for reading material – joining them together, on the blog and in my chat group.

Since I’ve started reviewing books on my blog, I find that it affects my reading.  I catch myself formulating an opinion for my review, where previously I might just have submerged myself in the narrative.  Has reviewing books affected your reading experience?

I can’t read without making notes! Well, I can, but I have to force myself to do it. I don’t think it really spoils the experience, but it does change it, in that I analyse them much more than I did before. I have to say that is part of the fun for me; taking it all in, not just the story, but how it was written, what I feel I liked, disliked and how it affected me emotionally when I read it.

Some people only review books they enjoy.  Others use the opportunity to expose what they dislike.  What motivates you to write reviews? More

Patchwork Cat – Nichola Bayley

First the mouse, and now the cat! Here is a companion piece to my previous post about Markus MouseLiep Lap die Lappies Kat (translates as Patch the Patchwork Cat) is  a similar, sleepy time story, and the illustrations by Nicola Bayley have the same loving attention to small and seemingly insignificant details.  Both books have the same delight in the creature being depicted.  1

Only a cat lover can draw like this:


The Legacy of Gloria Russell by Sheri Gilbert

Title: The Legacy of Gloria Russell
Author: Sheri Gilbert
Series : no, its a stand alone


In Short:
Gloria was Billy James’s best friend.  She was different.  She was stubborn, pushy, and curious, and loved to stir up their small town community.  She even spoke to Satan, the immigrant hermit who lived  in the woods.  In Kelseyville nobody had anything to do with Satan – but Gloria spoke to him.  And then she died.  As Billy James tries to come to terms with Gloria’s death he has to confront fear and prejudice in himself and those around him and learn a lesson that Gloria is still teaching him.


What I thought: Well, of course the first thing that comes to mind is To Kill a Mockingbird.   This little book is heavily influenced by that story, and references it directly at one point.  More

New Home for my Books

I’m so pleased.  I have a new bookshelf for my children’s book collection.  The old one was bursting at the seams:


I got to reorganise all my books according to new categories 🙂 I spent hours deciding:  Should I  sort them according to how strange they are?


Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Title: Mortal Engines
Author: Philip Reeve
Series : First is a series of “The Hungry Cities Quartet”.  Next is Predator’s Gold


In Short:
In a post apocalyptic world, humans have turned their cities into “traction cities” – huge mobile city sized machines.  These monstrous city-machines move around the deserts that used to be oceans, scavenging one another. Cities eat towns, towns eat villages.  This all seems right and proper to Tom, the apprentice Historian who lives in Traction London.  But one day Tom saves his hero the chief archaeologist Valentine from an assassination attempt – and sets of a series of events that forces him to question everything he believes in.


What I thought: Mortal Engines is a rattling good adventure book.  It contains all the elements of the standard “boys own” story, but just when you are lulled into a seemingly familiar pattern, the story punches the air out of your lungs. More

Ernest in the Wild West by Ermanno Libenzi, illustrated by Adelchi Galloni

When I was a child, we had a book called Robin and the Pirates. You could spend hours pouring over it, and each time you would find something even more exciting and alarming.  I think my sister has got that book, but luckily I found another by the same author and illustrator:  Ernest in the Wild West written by Ermanno Libenzi and illustrated by Adelchi Galloni. He is capable of working in a remarkable variety of styles, as you can see from this page.


It has all the qualities I loved in Robin and the Pirates:  pages crammed full of deliciously scary pictures, funny and edgy and really quite surreal.  Not your average children’s book at all. More

December’s Travels – Dusan Kallay & Mischa Damjan

I wonder what I would have thought of December’s Travels if I’d read it as a child.  Many of the children’s books I love now I found too intense when I was little. December’s Travels is illustrated by the Slovakian illustrator Dussan Kallay:


The story, by Yugoslavian Mischa Damjan tells what happens when the month of December decides to visit the other months in the year.  Here is December preparing toys for Christmas: More

Drogman by Stepan Zavrel

Every time I write about a book that I read when I was a child I want to say “my favourite”.  But Drogman has a special place in my heart. The story is magical.  Its romantic, with scary bits and a clever heroine.  It takes place mostly underwater which is something that has always fascinated me.    I particularly love the range of underwater colours, and the way the bleeding blobby ink style lends itself to watery scenes:bit2

The illustrations are simply stunning.  I cannot really give even a glimpse of them here, as every single page is a huge sumptuous double page spread.  Ive had to crop out little details just to give an idea.  More

Alchemy by Margaret Mahy

Title: Alchemy
Author: Margaret Mahy
Series : No, this is a stand alone book


In Short:
Roland is on top of his world. Roland is barely hanging on. He hangs out with the in-crowd. His sleep is haunted by dreams, and by day he hears voices. He is in control.  He is being blackmailed. His girlfriend is Chris – the most popular, sexiest girl in the school. But he cannot get loner girl Jess Ferret out of his thoughts.


What I thought. Margaret Mahy can do no wrong.   Most of her books that I have read are about teenagers, and the psychic energies let loose as they change from self-absorbed children to self-aware adults.  It is never clear what is reality and what is fantasy – and in fact, there is no difference.  Magic is not strange, just a natural extension of the general weirdness of life.  She has her own take on Magic Realism. More

Riding Tycho by Jan Mark

Title: Riding Tycho
Author: Jan Mark
Series : First in a series.  Sequel is “Voyager”


In Short:
Eleven year old Demetria lives on the High Island with her mother and her older brother.  Her life is dominated by unspoken rules.  People do not speak about the prison island on the horizon – Low Island.  Sometimes there is an escape attempt, and the sirens keep her awake all night – but nobody mentions it the next day.  There are prisoners on the High Island too.  They are called “Politicals” and  live with the village families.  One day, the soldiers bring a Political to live with Demetria’s family. But Political 37250 does not obey the unspoken rules. And as she gets to know him, Demetria’s view of her world changes forever.


What I thought: This is a powerful book.  It is very short – only 215 pages – but it succeeds in creating a thoroughly chilling vision of Demetria’s world. More

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