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Where My Wellies Take Me(Book Review)

“I speak of a valley.
I call at morning
the roll of its farms
till cocks reply.
From the cobbled yards
they cry and eastwards
the first leaf stirs
in a hush of doves.

I speak of a river.
I herd the fleece bright
flock of its springs
till driven streams
are loud in the fold
I lead its waters
to praise among pastures
their hartstongue home.

I speak of a childhood.
I lay a nightlong
Fable of sleep
till morning sang
In the green of the light
between leaf and language
a birth of ballad
a bird alone.

Ballad and childhood
and psalm and river
in the cup of my hands
I priest its praise;
I speak of a valley
and shall for ever
out of my numbered days.”

Sean Rafferty

“Where my Wellies Take Me….” by Clare and Michael Morpurgo is an enchanting collage of wonderful poetry combined with stunning watercolour illustrations….

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The most lovely book and one you will absolutely want to have as part of your children’s Library. A MUST read for Anglophiles, poetry lovers (Ted Hughes, Christina Rossetti, William Blake to name a few) and for budding naturalists. Beg, Borrow or Steal to get your hands on a copy of this. Reminiscent of The Year at Maple Hill Farm by Alice Provensen- an ideal companion for homeschoolers or un schooler’s or those who would like to add a bit of structure to their kid’s summer learning.

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May B (Book Review)

“So many things

I know about myself

I’ve learned from others.

Without someone else to listen,

to judge,

to tell me what to do,

and choose

who I am,

do I get to decide for myself?”

Caroline Starr Rose, May B.

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Intriguing MG (Middle Grade) verse novel – written about a young girl’s quest for survival in the American wilderness.  I gobbled this book up in one sitting.  It was completely absorbing.

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Growing up- I loved reading Laura Ingalls Wilder and adored the whole Little House series.  This novel took me back to my memories of frontier life.  Caroline Starr Rose- has a beautiful writing style which will appeal to many readers.  As a teacher- Ms. Rose- imparts a deep knowledge of the challenging struggles of learning how to read whilst coping with Dyslexia.  The heroine and title namesake Mavis(also known as May) must overcome her circumstances and find a way to cope with the small amount of resources she has. This is a story of triumph and overcoming.  

 

Parents-  a word of warning that there are some scenes which portray an accidental death which may be upsetting to sensitive younger readers.  Overall- I would highly recommend this book- especially because of the rich historical details which absorb the reader into the bleak landscape of life in a sod house on the prairie of the midwest during a cold and snowy winter.  Excellent book notes by the author provide original source material and extra readings to further an in-depthIMG_2890 knowledge of the period.

 

Get swept up into this book and enjoy a respite from the summer heat with this gripping, rich wintery tale.

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Under the Egg (book review)

“ And as I allowed myself to rest my head on Bodhi’s shoulder– imagine that, on a friend’s shoulder– I laughed and cried to think that I actually had someone to lean on.”  

Under the Egg  by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

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This was an utter delight. Highly recommend this face paced art history/mystery/adventure. Readers will be whisked through an exciting tour of New York Cities famous auction houses and museums to find the hidden identity of the artist of an intriguing painting.  Charming Mighty Girl lead characters take center stage in this coming of age triumph.  Theodora Tenpenny,  and her intriguing celebrity sprog neighbour, Bodhi traipse around Manhattan collecting clues and solving the curious mystery of a curious piece of artwork kept in a dusty attic.

 

 Just the kind of middle-grade fiction I like to recommend for the perfect summer read- good clean fun!  If you liked From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler- you will love this.  Super for Art History buff parents too,  for a fun, and fast summer read aloud.  

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Crenshaw(Book Review)

“What bothered me most, though, was that i couldn’t fix anything. I couldn’t control anything. It was like driving a bumper car without a steering wheel. I kept getting slammed, and I just had to sit there and hold on tight.”

Katherine Applegate, Crenshaw

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I came to this book with very high expectations after hearing so many positive reviews….yet sadly was massively underwhelmed.  I was a huge fan of “The One and Only Ivan” so was expecting something of a similar calibre…… however this book actually left me feeling pretty down.  I was disturbed by the irresponsible parenting exhibited and completely frustrated by the lame excuses and  shapeless, structureless, boundary-lacking home life this fragile family existed in.  I wanted to shake these parents up and scream at them(well kind of…I’m not really like that- however, it did anger me).

 

 Jackson must endure days of hunger and the insecurity of not knowing where he will sleep at night- having to live out of his parent’s minivan for extended periods.  Due to all of the stress he experiences- Jackson invents an imaginary friend- an enormous cat- whom he calls Crenshaw.  Through the outlet of venting his frustrations and worries to this  unusual creature- Jackson is able to persevere and manages to get by in school, miraculously.   The book has an unsatisfying ending as well… it is ill-defined; the problems faced due to his father’s unfortunate chronic medical condition of Multiple Sclerosis are not fully resolved- but perhaps,  this is the reality of the messy public healthcare system which exists in the United States today.  Sorry, I can’t recommend this book.

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The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B(Review)

“A day in heaven,’ Adam whispered. What would that be like? To wake up one morning and be normal? To not bite down and parcel out each second of each day. To not wrestle and negotiate with your obsessions. To not have thoughts that ran you into the ground.

To have a quiet mind.

A quiet mind.

Quiet.

Teresa Toten, The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B

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I finished this book a few days ago- I’ve needed to take a time out to digest my thoughts on this moving Young Adult novel.  Ms. Toten writes an incredibly detailed and engrossing account of life with OCD(Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)  from the perspective of  a teenager living in contemporary urban USA.  I was intrigued by the insights into the complex workings of the mind of Adam…my overwhelming feeling was of sadness whilst reading.  I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to cope with so many overwhelming thoughts-  which crowd out any type of rationality.   Adam must struggle to come to terms with the restlessness in his brain. There was a moment by moment fight to gain peace and to come to a place of relative calm.

 

The action of this novel revolves around the relationships between Adam and members of his mental health support group and his convoluted and impaired blended family.  This was the most interesting part of the book for me-  the brilliant explorations of teenage love and infatuation between Adam and the extremely likeable Robyn.  More difficult and less easy to comprehend was the complex interactions between Adam and his brother  and his new step mom and half brother- and between Adam and his biological mother(who has major emotional problems- there are some scary scenes which highlight her out of control hoarding problems).  The dialogue was good, pacey and felt very natural.

 

Ok- here’s the part of the review that I wanted to shy away from…Would I recommend this book? No, not really.  I’m happy I read it…but It is not a feel good book- certainly not a light summer read.  However, if you are looking to have insight into the intricate subject of mental health issues…then this book offers valuable and pertinent material.  I also commend this book on its excellent portrayals of the benefits of support groups-  I’m a huge believer in the power of groups- I love the supportive atmosphere which is exhibited in this teenage group and it was very encouraging to see the positive change which was enabled by the constructive feedback which this group provided.

 

One last thing-  I have had incredible results from practicing mindfulness meditation-  I use the extremely helpful app called Headspace.  I highly recommend it and would be happy to send you a link to a code for a free trial membership-  it’s given me a lot of peace and something I would recommend to anyone wanting to find a helpful tool to provide focus and a great way of coping with stress.

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(Photos my own apart from OCD infographics and author photo taken from Google Images)
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The Last Leaves Falling(Book Review)

“If I wanted to do something, a big life something- true love, ambitions,career choice- would you try to stop me?” She considers, and I do not think she’s going to answer me, but then: “I’d want the best for you, Sora. Every Mother does. And if your choices are not good ones, it is my job to see that you are steered right.” But how can she know what’s right? How can anybody know?”

The Last Leaves Falling- by Sarah Benwell

This exquisite novel is set in contemporary Japan and is focused on the heart-wrenching topic of coping with a terminal illness whilst being a teenager.

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Young Sora must come to terms with the devastating revelation that he has ALS(Lou Gehrig’s Disease).   The Author deftly depicts the highs and lows of facing a terminal disease – and the extremely emotive topic of death and the afterlife. I felt that Ms. Benwell did justice to portraying this subject in a very comprehensive manner without being too sentimental.

I adored this thoughtful book- and highly recommend it for your summer reading list.  “The last leaves falling” explores the big topics of life- not shying away from the tricky subject of mortality- and even questioning the ethics of the hospice movement and palliative care.

 

As a Mother I appreciated the deft handling of Mother/Son relationships. Ms. Benwell  delicately portrays the complicated roller coaster of emotions faced by parents of teenagers – coping with online dating and issues regarding friendship and education.

This book will also be enjoyed by fans of Japanese culture. I loved the insights into life in modern day Japan-  the foods which are enjoyed, the daily life of students, and a gorgeous vignette- where Sora goes to visit with his grandparents in the countryside(a picturesque view of rural Japan which I loved). It was also fascinating to hear Benwell’s opinion on the enduring footprint of the samurai culture on young Japanese.

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Superbly written – but do make sure you have plenty of tissues to hand – this is a tear jerker.IMG_1233

(Photos of the book are my own- Photos of Japan are taken from Google Images)

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The Boundless (Book Review)

“Unlike his father, the only adventures he’s ever had have been in his head, or drawn in his sketchbook. This girl seems from another world. Looking at her is like catching a glimpse of an unknown track: and immediately he wants to travel it to the horizon, to know what’s at the end. “ – The Boundless – Kenneth Oppel

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Excitement and thrilling adventure abound in this tumultuous middle-grade novel.  The Boundless was filled with exhilarating action- as the main character Will races to solve a mystery of a strange murder.

Along the way, there are many strange and wonderful creatures- some scary and some intriguing. The reader is introduced to Maren (a circus escape artist), Mr. Dorian (the ringmaster) and even a horrible hag and the mystical Sasquatch.  Ideal as a read aloud – and certain to appeal to boys who are keen on high octane drama.  My only criticism was that I actually found this book too stimulating- too many characters…I got a bit confused and longed for a more in-depth observations into the character’s particular motivations.  I finished the book without really feeling satisfied.  So not a 5-star review for me- however I do understand the appeal of this book and think it will be a great choice for many(not to mention this book is absolutely begging to be made into an action/adventure children’s movie).  I loved the elements of historical fiction- tracing the evolution of rail travel and westward expansion in Canada.  I also enjoyed the insights into life on the rails on this intriguing and magical railway.  This book will appeal to readers who enjoy stories about the Circus and circus performers- however, my top recommendation for Circus themed books this year must go to the fabulous- Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley.  

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(Please note some of these photos have been taken from the excellent blog written by Kenneth Oppel  here)

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Boy- Roald Dahl (Review)

“When writing about oneself, one must strive to be truthful. Truth is more important than modesty.” Roald Dahl – Boy- tales of childhood

This wonderful collection of sketches from Dahl’s early years growing up in Wales and whilst he was in boarding school in England will have you roaring with laughter.IMG_2292

It is achingly funny and heartwarmingly endearing. Be prepared to encounter the inspiration for many characters you will remember from other Dahl classics – such as the beastly Mrs. Pratchett who dominates a sweet shop with evil intent- she bears an uncanny resemblance to sinister Dahl villains from Matilda and from the Twits.

 

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photo from Alex Foster Illustrations

 

Master storyteller Roald Dahl keeps young readers full attention as he speeds from one family holiday disaster to a story featuring a gruesome tonsillectomy. Some chapters are not for the faint hearted….some minor swear words used but overall perfectly acceptable for middle-grade readers from the age of 9 and above. This book would be a fantastic summer read aloud the whole family could enjoy and Super choice for a genre challenge fulfilling an autobiography/memoir selection.

 

 

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My own Photo taken in Hong Kong

 

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The Willoughbys- Lois Lowry (Review)

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“I have learned over the course of my many years that it is a bad idea, usually, to investigate piteous weeping but always a fine thing to look into a giggle.”

Lois Lowry, The Willoughbys

Lois Lowry at her finest- an engaging adventure story with elements of humour and mystery to keep readers engrossed until the finish. This slim volume is an ideal read-aloud to share as part of your family’s summer reading tradition. Bibliophiles will delight in the multiple references to classic books who feature orphans – think Anne of green gables, Jane Eyre and James and the Giant Peach to name a few. The story follows a mysteriously abandoned child – and the lovable character Mr. Willoughby – this book is a good family choice which will entertain readers of many ages. Enjoy

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