Book Review: Maya & Cat, by Caroline Magrel

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_maya_and_cat.jpgCat does not want feather boas, nor pink shoelaces or a pompom on a stick and although she ate every oily silver morsel of fish, Cat is searching for something much more precious. So Maya sets out with Cat in tow to knock on doors to see if one holds what Cat is seeking.

Maya & Cat is a heart-warming story that follows a little girl and a cat as they seek out the thing that Cat is missing most and the thing that Maya discovers she is missing too; companionship. A perfect story to read together; young children will enjoy the gentle, poetic language. Caroline Magrel’s adorably quirky watercolour illustrations take us through the wet and gloomy, lamp-lit streets of a seaside town. They leave you with that sense of peace and tranquility you feel when you’re warm and cosy indoors while a storm rages outside your windows.

This unique feel-good picture book written and illustrated by Caroline Magrel would make a wonderful addition to any young child’s bookshelf. Maya & Cat makes for a pleasant and comforting read – the perfect bed time story!

Reviewed by Alana Bird

Maya & Cat
by Caroline Magrel
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781921977282

Book Review: The Promise Horse, by Jackie Merchant

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_promise_horseThis is a great book for young adults and horse lovers.

Harry is redheaded, tall, with what she sees as very large feet. Her family have moved to the country after her older sister tragically dies of cancer, going back to where her parents had both grown up. Harry’s way of coping is to have conversations with her dead sister Sissy. She has had counselling and to keep the peace she tells everyone the voices have gone, but they haven’t. Harry still regularly has conversations with Sissy. They move to be near grandparents, along with the carrot that Harry she can at long last have her promised horse.  She’d been having riding lessons for years at a riding school.

Harry’s mum Jenny is inconsolable with the loss of her daughter, burying herself in her work and her father Mick is often away with work. They forge friendships in the local community and Lizzie a local who works with horses suggests perhaps her borrowed horse Marksman might be suitable for Harry, as she was looking for a new one. The owner Jack is happy for Harry to take over Marksman from Lizzie, but Jenny takes one look at the large horse (over 15 hands high) and gets concerned – having lost one daughter, she is not ready to lose another. Between grandparents and her father, Harry is allowed to keep the horse for the time being, but with strict rules in place.

Friendships are forged through Harry’s involvement with Marksman along with encouragement to join the local pony club. Local girl Josie is about Harry’s age, and have a lot of fun together which makes for a happier life for Harry.

This is a great story which I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s a great human-interest story about loss, grieving, and new friendships between people and horses.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

The Promise Horse
by Jackie Merchant
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781760650568

Book Review: The penguins are coming!, by Meg McKinlay & Mark Jackson

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_penguins_are_coming.jpgThe zoo is expecting some penguins to arrive and a squirrel is confused – what exactly is a penguin?  This begins a crazy story where all the animals contribute their preposterous ideas which become more absurd with each turn of the page.

The illustrations perfectly capture the cheerful nature of the story.  They are full of life and colour.  The animation of the animals creates a playful scene for the silliness.  There is even a kiwi to spot for the eagle eyed!  Little dream bubbles accompany the animals as they imagine what a penguin is.

Children will love becoming the expert to correct the zoo animals and share their knowledge.  And they don’t need to know much about penguins to be the expert – according to the otters they travel south to get away from the snow but stop for pizza on the way.  Later on the pelicans tell us the penguins don’t like water!

Each animal has an opinion but nobody knows what to expect.  Eventually the zoo keeper steps in and contributes knowledge by correcting the animals.  This is a great way to introduce facts into the fictional book.  But wait for the twist at the end when the penguins arrive!

This is a great book to share out loud and a hilarious addition to any young child’s bookshelf.

Reviewed by Sara Croft

The penguins are coming!
by Meg McKinlay & Mark Jackson
Published by Walker Books
9781760650391

Book Review: The Mulberry Tree, By Allison Rushby

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_mulberry _tree.jpg‘Do naught wrong by the mulberry tree, or she’ll take your daughters . . . one, two, three.

In the dead of night, spirited away, never to see an eleventh birthday . . .’

Ten-year-old Immy has been forced to move halfway across the world – from her friend-filled, vibrant life in Sydney, Australia to the pin-drop quiet of a tiny village in Cambridgeshire, England. With only three girls in her class – none of whom will talk to her – Immy is alone and feeling lonely in this strange new place. The one upside is the beautiful medieval ‘doll’s house’ cottage her parents find to rent, but it too has a secret – a gigantic, black mulberry tree in the back garden which drenches the house in darkness.

According to village legend, the mulberry tree is murderous: two girls, Bridget in the 1700s and Elizabeth in 1945, disappeared from the same house on the eve of their eleventh birthday, with a bulging knot appearing in the mulberry tree the day after their disappearance. Every person in the village believes the mulberry tree took the girls – so much so that they cross the road to avoid walking past the tree, they refuse to talk to Immy or her parents when they decide to rent the house, and children who sing the rhyme do naught wrong by the mulberry tree are roundly told off out of superstitious fear.

Immy doesn’t believe in the rumours: she was raised by two doctors who believe in scientific truth above all. One day, however, she hears a strange song in her head . . .
With mounting pressure to unravel the mystery of the mulberry tree before her eleventh birthday, The Mulberry Tree is a spooky tale which will appeal to those aged eight upwards. A modern fable by prolific Australian author Allison Rushby, The Mulberry Tree interlaces broad topics such as the difficulties of starting somewhere new, the dangers of black-and-white thinking, and how to help someone you love who is suffering from a mental illness.

With beautifully drawn characters, The Mulberry Tree is infused with heightened tension. A strong, stubborn and compassionate protagonist, Immy takes charge of solving the mulberry mystery – as well as saving injured hedgehogs. As she rides the anxiety and angst that come with change and growing up, her innate empathy for others allows her to not only befriend kids in her class, but the lonely tree in her garden.

A tale about forgiveness, the moral of The Mulberry Tree is bluntly spelled out rather than gently entwined. If the ending is slightly too convenient, Rushby has still successfully managed to balance the telling of a compelling but not-too-creepy tale, which will ensure both upper primary and lower secondary school readers will love this page-turning mystery.

Reviewed by Rosalie Elliffe

The Mulberry Tree
by Allison Rushby
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781760650292

Book Review: DUCK!, by Meg McKinlay & Nathaniel Eckstrom

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_duckIt was a quiet afternoon on the farm, when suddenly… DUCK! The farm animals are disturbed by a loud and obnoxious duck shouting his own name at them. When the other animals try to explain to the duck that they are not ducks the duck only grows louder and more insistent. Is the duck not listening to his fellow farm animals or are they not listening to his warning.

Meg McKinlay’s DUCK! Is a funny story that explores the unfortunate consequences of a bunch of animals who misunderstand their fellow farm friend’s warning. The repetition and exclamations of DUCK! invites young children to participate and the humorous descriptive language is very appealing to this audience. Nathaniel Eckstrom’s charming illustrations which set the farm in the middle of autumn include subtle foreshadowing of the disaster that is about to strike and a clever reference to a well known movie.

If you’re looking for a great read aloud book then DUCK! is the book you’re looking for. Children will find themselves joining in shouting “DUCK!” and having a gasp and a giggle at the slightly shocking ending!

Reviewed by Alana Bird

DUCK!
by Meg McKinlay
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781925381535

Book Review: Small Spaces, by Sarah Epstein

Available in bookshops nationwide

cv_small_spaces.jpgSmall Spaces is a gripping psychological thriller that will take you in a whirlwind of a ride, through an unexpected twists and turns. I found myself almost immediately hooked, and once this book had drawn me in, it refused to let me go – I finished it within a day. Aimed at the Young Adult market, it should also appeal to adults in search of a fast-paced read that will keep them guessing.

Tash Carmody has been traumatised since childhood, and it all began with a trip to the family homestead, where she stayed with her Aunt Ally. In this crumbling house, with its dark corners and mysterious noises, she met a sinister being that she named “Sparrow”. No-one else could see Sparrow, and no-one else would believe he existed, not even when Tash witnessed him kidnap a 6-year old girl, Mallory Fisher, from a local carnival. The girl was eventually found, alive, but has not spoken a word since, and her family moved away soon after.

Now, eleven years later, the Fishers have returned to Tash’s hometown, and, Sparrow too has returned. Mallory may hold the key to the torment buried in Tash’s past, and the dark secret that hangs between them. But, does Sparrow exist after all? Or is Tash more dangerous than she thinks?

Aside from the psychological aspect, there is a lot of typical teen drama happening: strong friendships (I particularly liked Tash’s Kiwi-friend, Sadie), catty High School girl rivalry, a fledgling romance, and some fairly serious family issues. This is a tightly written, gripping novel, and an impressive first offering from Australian author, Sarah Epstein. I can highly recommend it.

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

Small Spaces
by Sarah Epstein
Published by Walker Books
9781921977381

Book Review: Dig, Dump, Roll, by Sally Sutton, with illustrations by Brian Lovelock

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_dig_dump_roll.jpgFrom the bestselling creators of Roadworks, the series of books that feature all sorts of trucks and earthmoving equipment, Dig, Dump, Roll is sure to please.

With its bold illustrations and made-to-be-read-out-loud text, Dig, Dump, Roll is a joy. For example – ‘bang-a-shudder, clang-a-judder, what’s at work? Here’s a clue: it will dig big holes for you.’ Turn the page to find ‘Digger! Digger! Coming through!’

There are bulldozers, diggers, dump trucks, rollers, concrete mixers and builders – and what are they building? Somewhere you can learn and play – a school!

This will delight younger children if whoever is reading the book puts a bit of effort into making the noises that go with each piece of machinery, and for those a little older, a page at the back of the book shows different parts of the items featured.

Dig, Dump, Roll is filled with bright, colourful illustrations that bring the machinery to life for all ages. A nice touch is the fact the illustrations show both men and women driving the machinery.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

Dig, Dump, Roll
by Sally Sutton, with illustrations by Brian Lovelock
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781760650803