Book Review: Wolfy, by Gregoire Solotareff

cv_wolfyAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

After the sudden death of his old uncle, Wolfy has found himself in somewhat dire circumstances and he has too figure out what to do. Seeking help, he comes upon the very chilled Tom, a rabbit who had never seen a wolf before. United in a sense of adventure, the most gorgeous friendship between the pair develops, each having something to offer the other. Until things hit a speed bump when Tom and Wolfy play ‘Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.’ Fear takes over and Tom decides that the friendship is over. But is it?

This book hooks you in from the cover onwards, and uses vibrant, colourful illustrations to great effect, complementing the text and engaging the reader in the story. The story is well paced with a great dollop of humour that will make both adult and child reader alike laugh. It is poignant in it’s emotions but never heavy.

This is a great book for the 4 year old upward reader. I suspect older children will enjoy it and as a shared reader it leaves a lot of scope for interaction. A focal point is the need for understanding in friendships and this book could easily lend itself to teachable moments.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

Wolfy
by Gregoire Solotareff
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571567

Book Review: The One-in-a-million Boy, by Monica Wood

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_one-in-a-milllion_boyThere are many books that deal with themes of love, guilt, friendship, prejudice and redemption. They don’t usually break your heart a little bit by page 13.

The One-in-a-million Boy tells the stories of Ona Vitkus, an aged divorcee, and the characters who come into her life. A Lithuanian migrant, she is long settled in Portland, Maine, USA, and strikes up an unexpected friendship with an 11-year old boy. She starts to tell him her life story, and her past is interwoven with her present as she navigates the ghosts that her stories have raised and the increasingly-complicated here-and-now

Monica Wood slowly, slowly reveals the key elements of the plot; but the pace is never slow, which might seem like a contradiction. Little things start to make sense, the more you know about the various characters, and you develop sympathy and understanding for the characters as the plot builds.

It’s hard to talk further about the plot or the characters without revealing too much. The story is at once deeply sad and uplifting, gentle and yet compelling. I’m really glad I read it, and sorry that it’s finished. And I will be remembering to appreciate birdsong, particularly the dawn chorus. You’ll have to read the book to find out why.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

The One-in-a-million Boy
by Monica Wood
Published by Headline Review (Hachette)
ISBN 9781472228369

Book Review: The Lion Inside, by Rachel Bright and Jim Field

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_lion_insideThe cover alone made me want to take this book home for my children. The illustrations are wonderful, coloured in a kind of throwback 70s muted tone that is coming back in for sophisticated picture books in particular.

Poor little mouse can’t make himself heard in the jungle – he’s constantly being stepped on and ignored, and he is getting fed up. Lion is the tough guy of the jungle, posturing and posing, picking up hippos and generally being alpha male, with a crowd of admirers jostling to see him. Mouse sees him doing his poses and roars and thinks, well here’s how I’m going to be seen. I’m going to go and see what lion can teach me.

So he made himself brave
and he thought like a WINNER.
He set off for the top…
hoping not to be dinner.
It felt like the scariest thing
he could do…
But if you want things to change,
you first have to change You.

The book is written in a patter rhythm, reminiscent of Roadworks by Sally Sutton, but without the whooshes and beeps; with language that is similar to Dr Seuss, with plenty of coinage and a lot of quirky fun. I would love to see a short film made of this book; the characters are both excellent and the jungle setting is brilliantly spooky as night falls.

The only qualm I have with this book is that it slightly overdoes its moral message. As it happens, we need this message in our house at the moment, but it does feel a little spoon-fed. The moralising line is a fine line that children’s book must take care to stay on the right side of, because forcing a message is the easiest way to turn a kid off a book.

This book would make a great addition to any child’s library – the jungle animals, silly sense of fun, and incredible illustrations make sure of it. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

The Lion Inside
by Rachel Bright, illustrated by Jim Field
Published by Orchard Books
ISBN 9781408331606

Book Review: This is Where the World Ends, by Amy Zhang

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_this_is_where_the_world_endsThis is Where the World Ends is not by any means a light read. It is written in two time streams: before and after, and is split between two narrators: Janie (before) and Micah (after). Micah and Janie have been friends since primary school, but it is an unsteady friendship, a covert friendship. Although they are neighbours and hang out in the evenings, they never associate during the school day. Janie is outgoing and idealistic, Micah shy and more reserved. We meet Micah ‘after’, after an event that left him concussed and confused, unable to hold onto any memory for long. We are introduced to Janie through her diary, her fractured fairy tales, which tell a darker tale than they suggest.

This is not a story about hope. From the first pages, there is a sense of bleak pervading the pages. While we do not know precisely what has happened to Janie, nor how Micah received his concussion, we do know that things are not going to end well. And as the story continues, more, darker truths are unveiled. There is something almost voyeuristic about this unfurling doom, a dark curiosity that drew me on, and on. And things spiral further down as we learn about what actually happened to Janie, and how her will was shattered. Not only by one thoughtless, heartless, drunken act, but also by the reaction of her peers.

This may be quite a depressing read but it is, I think, an important one for teenagers. Not only does it show the importance of friendship (although one must wonder how good a friend Janie really was to Micah, given the covert nature of said friendship), it also shows how damaging words can be, especially to someone who has already suffered through what is one of the worst things that can happen to a teenage girl. Words can, in fact, kill, as surely as actions.

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

This is Where the World Ends
by Amy Zhang
Published by Greenwillow Books
ISBN 9780062417879

Remix: Friends; Music; Lies, by Non Pratt

cv_remix_friends_music_lies

Available in bookstores nationwide.

Non Pratt’s second novel, Remix, tells the story of best friends Ruby and Kaz. The book covers the events that unfold after they decide to attend the popular music festival Remix with some friends. The festival takes place over three days, but it seems to last a lifetime; especially when things don’t turn out according to plan.

Kaz is dealing with a broken heart after being dumped by her boyfriend; when it is revealed that he will be attending the festival, Ruby is determined to keep him from hurting Kaz again. What seems to Ruby like a simple plan soon proves itself not to be; the next three days are a chaotic sequence of lies, concerts, confusion and henna tattoos. Soon enough, Kaz and Ruby’s friendship is in danger of being destroyed. Surrounded by old friends, new enemies and world-famous rock-stars, both girls must be careful to remember who are the people who really matter.

While Ruby and Kaz do spend most of the book trying to make sense of their complicated love lives, the theme of the story is their friendship and the unconditional support they provide for each other. Sadly, many YA novels these days seem to be centred around the main character’s romantic relationships, and friends often only play secondary, supporting roles. It’s refreshing to read a story in which friendship is valued above all else.

The way the story is laid out is also refreshing. Ruby and Kaz take turns to narrate the story, alternating between both of their hilarious, unique perspectives. All of the characters are well-developed and very believable – not a single cliché or stereotype will be found – and you will find yourself rooting for every last one of them. Remix is a story about the importance of trust, good music and not changing for anyone. It’s a story about knowing when to give someone another chance and knowing when not to. I recommend it to all young adults looking for a funny, easy-to-read story with characters you’ll wish you knew in real life.

Reviewed by Tierney Reardon

Remix: Friends; Music; Lies
by Non Pratt
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406347708