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1. Thursday Review: MORTAL HEART by Robin LaFevers

Summary: Mortal Heart is the final book (SAD FACE) in Robin LaFevers' His Fair Assassin trilogy (Book 1 reviewed here; Book 2 reviewed here). The books take place in medieval Brittany and France, a setting which the author has obviously researched... Read the rest of this post

0 Comments on Thursday Review: MORTAL HEART by Robin LaFevers as of 11/20/2014 4:16:00 PM
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2. Demons and Thieves

Demons and Thieves
Author: Lynda Berger
Publisher: Fuluji’s Publishing Ltd
Genre: Adventure / Fantasy
ISBN: 9780957374300
Pages: 268
Price: £6.99

Author’s website
Buy it at Bookstore.co.uk

Tad Bailey can’t take much more. After another fight between his parents, he runs from his home, wondering if things can get any worse. When he discovers a mysterious gate leading to another world, he’s offered a chance at happiness. He doesn’t know it, but he’s been living in the Shadows, and now he has the opportunity to get out.

All he has to do is find three Keys in Shiladu before time expires. If he doesn’t succeed, he’ll be stuck there forever. While he’s there, demons prey on his vulnerabilities, another visitor tries to steal his Keys, and a permanent resident of Shiladu upsets the time continuum, making Tad the scapegoat. Seeking the Keys is his ultimate goal, but he’s even more concerned with making it out of Shiladu alive.

Demons and Thieves is an exciting fantasy and adventure novel that grabbed my interest from the very beginning. Tad faces dangerous situations that he needs to escape from, and he never knows what lurks behind the next corner. Evil comes at him from every direction, keeping the reader hooked to find out what happens next. I enjoyed this story very much, and I look forward to reading the next two books in this Seven Keys Trilogy.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


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3. TURNING PAGES: EUPHEMIA FAN: SPY GIRL by Cassandra Neyenesch

I received this book courtesy of Full Fathom Five Digital and while normally I prefer digital books which have paper counterparts, I made an exception this time, for Reasons. FFF Digital is an imprint of Full Fathom Five, the content creation... Read the rest of this post

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4. The Katie Morag Treasury / Books with a strong sense of location

Over the last couple of year’s I’ve read quite a lot about how children’s books with a very specific cultural setting are not favoured by publishers because it is hard to sell rights widely; publishers are keen for “universal” stories which translate (literally and figuratively) well across borders and languages.

Whilst I understand publishers’ drive to maximise sales, I think a great deal is lost if we ignore stories boldly and vividly set in specific and identifiable locations and cultures. Indeed, considering the current drive for increasing diversity in children’s books, I would argue that books which are culture specific have a vital role to play.

And of course, a great book will be “universal” whether or not it is set in a specific time, location or country; enduring stories speak to that which we share whatever our differences.

I have been a fan of Mairi Hedderwick’s books for as long as I can remember. She writes and illustrates rural Scottish island life in a magical way. She captures truths like poetry can in her watercolours of Hebridean life, whilst her stories are full of acute observations about family life that’s more or less the same wherever you are in the world, exploring issues such as sibling rivalry and intergenerational relationships.

katiemoragetreasuryThe Katie Morag Treasury by Mairi Hedderwick is a glorious book, bringing together a mix of the most popular previously published Katie Morag books and new stories and illustrations first heard and seen on episodes of the highly acclaimed BBC Katie Morag TV show. It really is a treasury, with a range of witty and poignant stories, illustrated in ink and watercolour in a way that invisibly and movingly marries romance and realism.

For kids listening to these stories Katie Morag’s tales act as mirrors; yes she may live in a community vastly unlike the one the young reader or listener lives in, but that only makes it more interesting and reassuring to read that Katie Morag has the same sort of worries, plays the same sorts of games and quarrels with her parents just like they do. Thoughtfulness is a consistent thread in all these stories, and Katie Morag herself is a terrific role model; full of strength and imagination she is not afraid to explore, to try new things, or to be kind.

katiemorag

This is a keeper of a book, one which works well both as a read-aloud, or for children who can read themselves. Indeed the lovely hardback binding makes this ideal for older readers who might not want to be seen reading picture books any more.

Last year when we were holiday in Scotland we collected a stash of shells and sea glass and re-reading these fabulous Katie Morag stories inspired us to get our jars of them out of our natural history museum, and play with them using a home-made light box.

lightbox2

I borrowed one of our large plastic boxes which we normally store lego in, lined it with white tissue paper, and then put a load of fairy lights inside it. With the fairy lights turned on, and all the other lights turned off and curtains drawn we entered something of a soothing world where the girls could then make patterns with the shells and sea glass, with soft light shining through.

seaglass

If you don’t have any sea glass, you could do this activity with florists’ glass (vase) pebbles instead, making light imbued mosaics.

seaglass2

Music which goes really well with Katie Morag stories (though maybe not with the light box activity as much of it will get you up and dancing) includes:

  • My favourite radio programme – available worldwide online – Travelling Folk. This is BBC Radio Scotland’s flagship folk programme and it’s full of treats each week.
  • Arrangements of songs like you’ve never heard before from Billy McIntyre and his All Star Ceilidh Band, who I’d love to hear live because they are just WAY out there…. Pop! goes the Ceilidh is a hysterical album with covers of lots of pop classics (eg Living on a Prayer, Robbie William’s Angels, Billy Idol’s White Wedding) redone with fiddle, accordion and more. It will put a crazy smile on your face.
  • Anything by Skippinish but especially Land below the Waves that always gives me goosebumps:

  • Other activities which you could try out alongside reading The Katie Morag Treasury include:

  • Creating a sand imprint roller (!) like we did when I reviewed audiobook versions of the Katie Morag stories.
  • Making stone soup, as per one of the six folk tales told at Grannie Island’s Ceilidh, and reproduced in The Katie Morag Treasury. If you’ve never made stone soup here’s a recipe to get you started.
  • Adapting a pair of shoes to make your own tap shoes; Katie Morag learns to tap dance but uses her wellies and a little bit of ingenuity. Here are some ways you can turn your regular shoes into tap shoes.
  • What are your favourite children’s books which have a very strong sense of location?

    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of The Katie Morag Treasury by the publisher

    4 Comments on The Katie Morag Treasury / Books with a strong sense of location, last added: 11/13/2014
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    5. TURNING PAGES: THE BODY ELECTRIC, by BETH REVIS

    When I first saw that Beth Revis had self-published a new novel, I wondered why. After all, her ACROSS THE UNIVERSE series was three successful books long, published in twenty languages; she had contacts and contracts and didn't really need to do... Read the rest of this post

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    6. MONDAY REVIEW: REBELLION (Tankborn Book 3) by Karen Sandler

    Summary: In the interests of full disclosure (and a little bit of self-satisfied squee-ing), I met Karen Sandler in person at this year's KidLitCon in October, and was able to get my copy signed and chat with the author. How awesome is that? Anyway,... Read the rest of this post

    0 Comments on MONDAY REVIEW: REBELLION (Tankborn Book 3) by Karen Sandler as of 11/10/2014 6:53:00 PM
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    7. Planet Kindergarten by Sue Ganz-Schmitt

    Planet KindergartenWhen children are about to embark on their first big mission – KINDERGARTEN – they must be prepared for their new experiences, and this book is up to the task! This imaginative story helps kids to think of Kindergarten from the countdown (the days leading up to school) to the splashdown (the bath at the end of the first day) in a way that is full of humor but also full of strength.

    The book is written as if the boy is accepting a mission to travel into outer space all the way to PLANET KINDERGARTEN! His first day on Planet Kindergarten includes aliens from many galaxies, and crewmates that sometimes disagree over the equipment (recess). They run some experiments, and write in their logs, and capture images for their families (draw pictures). And even though he gets a little sad during his rest time and wants to abort his mission, he remembers what they say at NASA: FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION. He gets back to work, and before you know it, his mission is accomplished, and it is time to go home. Hooray!

    This book is just plain clever, and I think kids and parents will enjoy reading it very much.

    Posted by: Mary


    0 Comments on Planet Kindergarten by Sue Ganz-Schmitt as of 11/10/2014 2:35:00 PM
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    8. TURNING PAGES: THE IRON TRIAL by Cassandra Clare & Holly Black

    I take book recommendations from friends seriously, and when Charlotte said that THE IRON TRIAL was a fun book, I went ahead and snagged it when I saw it at the library. Charlotte - diffident reviewer that she tends to be - tends toward... Read the rest of this post

    0 Comments on TURNING PAGES: THE IRON TRIAL by Cassandra Clare & Holly Black as of 11/5/2014 10:49:00 AM
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    9. TURNING PAGES: WAISTCOATS & WEAPONRY, by Gail Carriger

    Somehow, though I've been reading along faithfully, I never got around to reviewing the second in the Gail Carriger Finishing School series. Curtsies & Conspiracies was just as much hare-brained fun as my well-loved Etiquette & Espionage. May I have... Read the rest of this post

    0 Comments on TURNING PAGES: WAISTCOATS & WEAPONRY, by Gail Carriger as of 10/29/2014 9:31:00 AM
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    10. TURNING PAGES: THE PAPER MAGICIAN and THE GLASS MAGICIAN by Charlie N. Holmberg

    Wow, a book review!What with all the ranting going around here lately, I'd almost forgotten that I do that. But, partially to blame have been the number of books I've read recently that just haven't provoked a response. I checked out a pair from the... Read the rest of this post

    0 Comments on TURNING PAGES: THE PAPER MAGICIAN and THE GLASS MAGICIAN by Charlie N. Holmberg as of 10/28/2014 8:37:00 AM
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    11. TURNING PAGES: NIGHT SKY by SUZANNE & MELANIE BROCKMANN

    It's not every day you read a book that reads like... a movie. Though the book took a little more than ninety minutes to get through, from start to finish I kept muttering "movie." Even the cover has cinematic aspects (though I don't love it, and... Read the rest of this post

    0 Comments on TURNING PAGES: NIGHT SKY by SUZANNE & MELANIE BROCKMANN as of 1/1/1900
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    12. TURNING PAGES: THIRD DAUGHTER by SUSAN KAYE QUINN

    If you do a search on "South Asian Steampunk," you get pictures of some fab cosplay, but buptkus on books. (I actually found a good article on the inherent problems of "Asian steampunk," though, so score, but no cigar on the books...) Seeing a cover... Read the rest of this post

    0 Comments on TURNING PAGES: THIRD DAUGHTER by SUSAN KAYE QUINN as of 10/8/2014 5:51:00 AM
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    13. Book Trailer for Zac’s Destiny

    Please check out my book trailer for Zac’s Destiny on YouTube!

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    14. Blog Tour: BATTLING BOY: THE RISE OF AURORA WEST

    Attention, residents of Blogosphere-opolis: This is no ordinary review. This is a very special blog tour review, organized by First Second, who kindly supplied me with review copies of the new superhero graphic novels created by Paul Pope: Battling... Read the rest of this post

    0 Comments on Blog Tour: BATTLING BOY: THE RISE OF AURORA WEST as of 9/30/2014 1:29:00 PM
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    15. TURNING PAGES: INVISIBLE, by DAWN METCALF

    I haven't been this stressed out by reading a fantasy novel since Holly Black's TITHE. Tension simply sings in this second book in the Twixt series. While not exactly a standalone - it does help to know a little about the world and its denizens -... Read the rest of this post

    0 Comments on TURNING PAGES: INVISIBLE, by DAWN METCALF as of 9/26/2014 5:12:00 PM
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    16. Talk Like A Pirate Day!

    It's International Talk Like A Pirate Day!

     
    AARRRGHH! The day snuck up on me! Captain Buzzard Jack LaBuse, herrre, mateys!

    And, just in case you're not sure how to Talk Like a Pirate, here are some key words ye be 'wantin' ta r'memberrr.

    Ahoy! - "Yo!"
    Avast! - "Check it out!"
    Aye! - "Yes."
    Arrr! - "That's right!" (often confused with arrrgh...)
    Arrrgh! - "I'm VERY miffed."


    So, weigh anchor. Hoist the mizzen. It's a terrrrrific day!

    And, in case yer hankerin' ta read about me mis-adventures, ye be a'clickin on this link to Cynthia's Attic: Curse of the Bayou
    (Don't make me come after ya!)


    Heeeerrr's one of me treacherous scenes from Curse of the Bayou!
     
    Gasp! I was soaked and struggling for air, but there wasn't any! Coughing…that's a good sign. At least my lungs were trying to work. Had a huge wave come over the side during the night? I nudged Cynthia with my elbow.
    "Ahhhh! Where did that water come from?" she cried.
    "So, you're finally awake, eh?" Buzzard Jack's voice chilled the air even more. "Nice job, Snags." The shadow of the captain fell over us, blocking out the morning sun. His helper, Snags was grinning idiotically, holding a wooden bucket. An empty wooden bucket, I might add.
    I spit out the remaining drops of water I'd ingested, and glared.
    "Don't blame me," Snags laughed. If yer mouth hadn't been hanging open like a newborn guppy, you wouldn't a choked."
    I felt a confirming nudge in my back, but Cynthia didn't laugh. Nothing was funny.
    Captain Jack didn't think so, either. He leaned down until the brim of his black hat was inches from making contact with Cynthia's forehead. "You will tell me where to find the watch. It may be now. It may be later. But, I can assure you, the longer it takes, the more uncomfortable you will become." He stood up. "So, what's it going to be? I promise to untie you and your little friend, give you a good meal, some water, and send you back to land, unharmed."
    Oh, sure. That'll happen. I may only be twelve, but I wasn't born yesterday.
    Neither his threats nor his "promises" had any effect on Cynthia. "I told you last night. I don't have it."
    I knew when Cynthia was telling the truth and…she was telling the truth. Thinking back to finding the watch in the Conners' barn, I remembered watching Cynthia put it in her pocket. What happened to it after that was a mystery. But, we'd better find out, and soon, because the captain was now standing over me.

    And, in case this doesn't interest you, I hear there's a free doughnut to be had at Krispy Kreme Facebook! Free Doughnut!



    0 Comments on Talk Like A Pirate Day! as of 9/19/2014 9:52:00 AM
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    17. Three Bears in a Boat – Perfect Picture Book Friday

    Title: Three Bears in a Boat Written and illustrated By: David Soman Published By: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014, Fiction Themes/Topics: boating, bears, adventure Suitable for ages: 3-7   Opening: Once there were three bears, Dash, Charlie and Theo, who lived by the … Continue reading

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    18. TURNING PAGES: THE SCANDALOUS SISTERHOOD OF PRICKWILLOW PLACE, by Julie Berrey

    My poppets, gather round, do! There's a simply scandalous novel you must sit down and read, right away! It's a school story - boarding school. It's set in the Victorian era. There are stern spinsters, callow boys, naughty dogs, and ...dead bodies... Read the rest of this post

    0 Comments on TURNING PAGES: THE SCANDALOUS SISTERHOOD OF PRICKWILLOW PLACE, by Julie Berrey as of 9/19/2014 7:18:00 AM
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    19. Tea Party or Fist Fights? Why Action Scenes are Hard to Write!


    COMING: March, 2015


    ActionViolenceIn my current WIP, I want to up the action and make this a physically exciting story. So, I bought a great ebook, Action! Writing Better Action Using Cinematic Techniques by Ian Thomas Healy. It’s great, as I said, and breaks down the actions into easy components that can be easily mastered. Even for me, it’s easy.

    Healy says that great action scenes put characters into motion and the “effective description of that motion is what makes the difference. . .
    I get that part. But here’s what stumps me: “At its most basic level, an action scene is an expression of plot or character development through violence.”

    Violence. As in people hitting each other, shooting at each other, killing each other. Yep. That kind of physical violence.

    It’s been a long, long time since I was in a knock-down drag-out fight. That was with my younger brother when I was about 15, and we were fighting about whether the overhead light was on or off while we watched TV. I never had the chance to play football, which is a pure Show-Don’t-Tell version of testosterone. When my daughters played soccer, I cringed when they played tea party on the field: Oh, you have the ball? Well, take your turn and when you are finished, I’ll take my turn. Teaching aggression (much less violence) to young ladies is hard.

    Our society trains women to avoid violence. We teach our daughters aggression now on a soccer field, but step off the field and it’s tea party time again. Women writers are at a disadvantage in writing action scenes.

    Because Healy says that a great action scene needs violence.
    Heck, I can’t even work up a good case of Road Rage.

    Motivation. The hardest thing for me is to motivate the characters. I can block out the action and get the characters fighting. I’ve seen enough action movies to be able to do it. (Go watch The Transformers latest movie if you want non-stop violence. Wow. It must take up 75% of that movie.)

    But WHY are these characters resorting to violence? (See, even our language makes it hard to use violence: “resort” implies that violence is a last option and the choice to use it is not easy.) Why would the characters use fists, swords, guns or other weapons against someone else? Healy helps with blocking out the sequences of actions and building them into longer sequences. But he says little about the character motivations.

    In one sense, this is an escalating of tensions. Almost any motivation would work: revenge, for example, could easily escalate into violence. Two rivals for a fortune in gold could escalate an argument into violence and death. For violence to take place, there’s a line that needs to be crossed. Polite society demands that people restrain themselves, and that self-control must break for your characters, shoving them into a no-holds-barred action. Violence. It’s an escalation and it’s a letting go of social restraints. It’s a willingness to take action and a determination to get something done—no matter what.

    Sounds like a good way to increase the tension and stakes in a story. Yes, often action stories are physical stories, without much in the way of characterization. You’ve heard it said that you either write an action story or you write a character story. A cross-pollination though, could create an intriguing mix. This time, I’m shooting for a story with better balance between action and character.

    Cinematic. In some ways, this mix will be more cinematic. The sights and sounds of the action are crucial to the success of the scene. And yes, as I am writing, I am trying to visualize the actions in my head; I’m trying to see it as if it is on the big screen. Healy’s title is right on, violence—action scenes—are cinematic.

    Thanks to Healy’s advice, I am making lists of what he calls “stunts,” or isolated pieces of actions, that will build into “engagements,” or movement across a setting, which will ultimately build toward some climactic “resolution.” I am taking baby steps in building a chapter with interesting action, um, violence.

    Look out. I’m strapping on my boxing gloves, er, getting ready to type the next chapter of this new action-adventure story.

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    20. The Flying Bath and developing a bathroom library

    With pretty much all clock-watching abandoned for the summer holidays we’ve been sneaking reading into unusual places. First we boosted breakfast feasting on books with our toast rack displays, and since then we’ve been squeezing in extra reading at the other end of the day – at bathtime. When the kids were little we were big fans of the plastic books you could immerse in water but now we tend to have a stack of comics and magazines (for all ages) on hand in a magazine rack.

    bathroomreading

    It doesn’t matter so much if comics and magazines get wet – a short spell on the washing line or a radiator fixes that, and if they end up really too wrinkled and dog-eared for reading, they’re ripe for recycling as collage material.

    readinginthebath

    Of course, another way to enjoy reading at bath time is simply to sit on the floor and read a favourite book to your kids whilst they can’t escape from the tub, and what better than a bath-time themed book for such an occasion (Scottish Book Trust has some great recommendations here)?

    When news of a flying bathtub which saves animals in distress reached our ears we had to check it out…

    flyingbathIn The Flying Bath by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by David Roberts there’s a hotline to a team of firefighting, thirst-quenching, mud-washing pals who use their bath to fly the world over, saving animals who have come unstuck thanks to a lack of water.

    As you’d expect from Donaldson, the superhero antics are told in rhyme, with a refrain which kids will quickly sing-song along with. Roberts’ illustrations are detailed and have an older feel to them especially when compared to some of the other illustrators Donaldson is often paired with. I personally love his eye for pattern and texture. His architectural drawings are beautiful in their clarity and precision, and Roberts has had enormous fun with the choice of telephones used to dial 999.

    Despite all this, I have to admit that this isn’t a book I’ve fallen madly in love with. I found Donaldson’s text requires a little practise to read out loud (a surprise, given that normally her poems-in-picture-book form trip off the tongue). This makes me too aware of the technicalities of the rhyme to simple enjoy the ride with the rescuing animals. And the text is more a series of flights of fancy rather than an extended narrative with a traditional story arc.

    HOWEVER.

    However, however, both my kids thought this book rather delightful and funny, and had a lot of fun spotting nods to other books Roberts has illustrated. Indeed my kids enjoyed this book so much they immediately came up with an idea for ‘playing by the book’ by creating a bathtime mosaic set, mirroring the tiled wings of the flying bath.

    We grabbed a bunch of foam sheets (such as these) and cut them up into squares before letting them loose in the bath.

    bath1

    The kids loved having the tiles floating all around them – it was like “bathing in a rainbow” said J! Both kids enjoyed making different tiled patterns around the bath, exploring repetition – a visual rhythm, if you like!

    bathaftermath

    Whilst it turns out this book was great for maths play, it’s also a book that could be used in science classes for kids in nursery and the first years of school, gently exploring drought, forest fires, and the need for water for life (both for animals and plants). You could team it up with some research about water charities, for example Waterbridge Outreach.

    waterbridgelogo

    waterbridge2

    I’m a supporter of this particular charity because it aims “to give children in developing communities hope for the future through nourishing their minds and bodies with books and water.”

    Yep, water and books. A good combo, no?

    Waterbridge Outreach donates books in English and local languages and funds clean water and sanitation projects in communities and villages in the developing world. You can read about some of their projects here.

    So it turns out that even if a book isn’t the best thing I’ve read all year, there’s still a lot to be said for it. It can inspire play, it can make children laugh, it can start conversations, it can even lead to a good deed or two!

    If you want music to go along with reading The Flying Bath you could try these songs:

  • Bartleby Finkleton Will Not Take a Bath by Steve Weeks
  • Bath Time by The Sing Sings
  • Bathtime Blues by Uncle Moondog (listen for free on Myspace)
  • For more extension activities which work well with this book why not try:

  • 15 Fun Bath Time Activities That Don’t Include a Rubber Duck! (from Babble.com)
  • Water Math & Science Activities for Kids Ages 3-6 from The Measured Mom
  • Taking books and bath times one step further with this bath tub made out of books!
  • Are you a bath or a shower person? Do you have a bathroom library?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of The Flying Bath from the publishers.

    4 Comments on The Flying Bath and developing a bathroom library, last added: 8/11/2014
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    21. Monday Review: THE FALCONER by Elizabeth May

    I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I might, given that it has faeries, and I'm sort of burnt out at the moment on the whole faeries thing. But The Falconer by Elizabeth May does something new with the concept. I'd describe it... Read the rest of this post

    0 Comments on Monday Review: THE FALCONER by Elizabeth May as of 8/11/2014 12:41:00 PM
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    22. Cakes in space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

    Imagine packing up your home, leaving Earth and setting out to travel across space to colonise a new planet.

    The journey will take so long you’ll be put into a cryptobiotic state. But there is absolutely nothing to fear: You’re on sleek new spaceship, looked after by a team of well-programmed robots, and everything has been carefully thought through. When you finally arrive at Nova Mundi (it only takes 199 years to get there), you’ll be woken up to a delicious breakfast and the start of a whole new and wonderful life.

    It sounds great, doesn’t it?

    cakesinspacecoverAnd so it is in Cakes in Space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre. Astra and her family are on their way to their new home but – you’ve guessed it – something goes wrong. Astra wakes from her suspended sleep, and feeling peckish goes off in search of a chocolate biscuit.

    The Nom-O-Tron (a highly developed version of Star Trek’s Replicator) satisfies Astra’s request, but when she’s tempted to ask for something a little more outlandish (how many times have you seen the word “Ultimate” used to describe a dish?) something goes awry. Soon Astra is hurtling through space surrounded by cakes which have learned to evolve. Cakes which are fed up of being eaten themselves. Cakes which have developed a killer instinct.

    Will Astra be able to save her family from the Ravenous Crispy Slices and Ferocious Fruit Cakes stalking the spaceship’s corridors? How much more complicated will things get when a second front opens up and her spaceship is raided by alien life forms known as Poglites, desperately searching for their holy grail, that technology which they haven’t been able to master: SPOONS.

    Yes, this is a totally surreal and deliciously outrageous story of friendship, ingenuity and hundreds and thousands.

    It’s fast-moving, exciting, just ever so slightly scary in that enjoyably adrenalin pumping way and above all it’s FUNNY! Add into the mix some genuinely beautiful writing (sometimes young fiction is all about the plot and the language – especially for an adult reading it aloud – can be somewhat unremarkable, but Reeve at times writes sentences which I found myself wanting to copy out), a plot which will enthral both boys and girls of a wide age range, and the subtle inclusion of some philosophically meatier issues (the consequences of greedy desire, the demonisation of that which we don’t know and can’t name) and you’ve got yourself a remarkable book.

    Image: Sarah McIntyre. Please click on the image to be taken to the original blog post - well worth reading!

    Image: Sarah McIntyre. Please click on the image to be taken to the original blog post – well worth reading!

    McIntyre’s illustrations are a crazy but perfect mix of 1950s brave new world sleekness and outrageous sponge-and-icing based fantasy. I’m delighted that Astra’s family are mixed race (this isn’t mentioned in the text at all, but how great to see some diversity just as-is, without it being an issue in the book).

    The top-notch content of Cakes in Space is matched by a stunningly produced physical book. Like last year’s Reeve and McIntyre production, Oliver and the Seawigs, this is first being published as a small hardback in pleasingly chunky, strokingly hand-holdable format. Everything about the book is appealing.

    After indulging in a solo read, I read this book aloud to both girls over a couple of days last week. Before we’d even finished the books my girls were off to raid the cutlery draw in the kitchen for highly prized spoons to create a collection of which any Poglite would be proud.

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    Carefully curated, they labelled every spoon with where it had been found in the galaxy, its rarity and its monetary value (I can see how this could develop into a Top Trumps game…)
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    Spoons are one thing, but cake is another, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to host our own mini Cakes in Space party. We baked a host of fairy cakes and then turned them into KILLER CAKES…

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    Lollies made great eyes on stalks…

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    … as did Maltesers and Aero balls.

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    We had fun making teeth out of snapped white chocolate buttons, tictacs and rice paper snipped to look like rows of sharp teeth.

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    We also had some Ferocious Florentines and Sinister Swiss Rolls (helped along with edible eyes).

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    Other characters from the book were also present: The Nameless Horror was a big bowl of wobbly jelly dyed black with food colouring and with licorice shoelaces reaching out across the table, and jars of purple gloop (thinned down Angel Delight, again dyed to give a good purple colour) with gummy snakes in them made perfect Poglite snacks. Alas these were guzzled before I got to take a photo!

    Preparing for the party was at least as much fun as the party itself…

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    Great music for a Cakes in Space party includes:

  • Cake by Mindy Hester & The Time Outs – heavily influenced by George Michael’s Faith
  • Peggy Seeger with Ewan MacColl, “The Space Girl’s Song”
  • I like Pie, I like Cake by the Four Clefs
  • To the Moon by the Mighty Buzzniks
  • Man in the Moon by The Full English. This comes from the album Sarah McIntyre listened to a lot whilst illustrating Cakes in Space.
  • Crunch munchy honey cakes by The Wiggles… not everyone’s cup of tea but it is sort of earwormy…
  • Other activities which would make for a great Cakes in Space party include:

  • COSTUMES! Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve have the most amazing Cakes in Space costumes (you can see them here), but if you want some inspiration for your own costumes you could try these: Using a bucket and plastic tray to create an astronaut costume as per Spoonful, how to create a papier-mâché helmet on StitchCraftCreations, a Pinterest board dedicated to cake costumes.
  • ROBOTS! I’d pile a load of “junk” from the recycling bin on the table and let the kids loose on designing and building their own robots or spaceships. NurtureStore has some ideas to get you going.
  • SLEEPING PODS! For the grown ups at the party if no-one else… You could use large cardboard boxes painted silver lined with duvets, and with the lids cut out and replaced with something see-through, with bottle tops/lids stuck on for the various buttons… you get the idea!
  • We’ve all heard of Death by Chocolate, but what’s the nearest you’ve come to being killed by a cake?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of Cakes in Space from the publishers.

    4 Comments on Cakes in space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre, last added: 8/18/2014
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    23. Thursday Review: THE WRENCHIES by Farel Dalrymple

    Click to embiggen. Totally worth it.Two things to get out there right away: 1. I received a review copy of this book from First Second, and 2. I'd definitely recommend this one for an older YA/crossover audience, due to some fright/violence/swearing... Read the rest of this post

    0 Comments on Thursday Review: THE WRENCHIES by Farel Dalrymple as of 9/4/2014 12:02:00 PM
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    24. Skink - No Surrender - a review

    Hiaasen, Carl. 2014. Skink - No Surrender. New York: Knopf.
    (Advance Reader Copy)

    Skink - No Surrender is Carl Hiaasen's first foray into YALit, and he's making his entrance in a big way, employing Skink —the outrageous and outlandish character from his adult novels.

    In keeping with his customary practice of setting books in Florida's great outdoors (Hoot, Flush, Scat, Chomp), Skink No Surrender begins on a Florida beach where Richard finds Skink buried in the sandon the hunt for turtle egg poachers. Though at first taken aback by the one-eyed, cammo-wearing giant of a man with buzzard beaks braided into his beard, Richard soon finds out that he is the ex -Florida governor and a force to be reckoned with - even if he is presumed to be dead.

         All kinds of wild rumors got started, and some of them turned out to be true.  According to one Wikipedia entry, the ex-governor became a wandering hermit of the wilderness, and over the years he'd been a prime suspect in several "acts of eco-terrorism."  Interestingly, he'd never been arrested or charged with any serious crimes, and it seemed to me that the targets of his anger were total scumbags, anyway.
         The web article included interviews with a few witnesses who'd supposedly encountered Clinton Tyree by chance.  They said he'd lost an eye, and was going by the name of "Skink."  They had differing opinions about whether or not he was nuts.  The most recent entry quoted the governor's closest friend, a retired highway patrol trooper named Jim Tile, who said:
         "Clint passed away last year int he Big Cypress Swamp after a coral snake bit him on the nose.  I dug the grave myself.  Now, please let him rest in peace."
         Except the man was still alive.
    An unlikely pair, Skink and Richard team up to find Richard's cousin, Malley, who has run off with (or been kidnapped by) a young man she met online.

    An intense hunt takes the two across the swamps in search of Malley and a dangerous impostor.  Suspenseful and very funny at the same time, Skink No Surrender presents a case for Internet safety, bird habitat conservation, and the value of family, but you'll be havimg so much fun that you won't even notice!

    Getting my autographed copy of Skink
    See the first 56 pages of Skink No Surrender here.

    On sale and in libraries beginning September 23, 2014.

    0 Comments on Skink - No Surrender - a review as of 9/11/2014 8:54:00 AM
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    25. THE COPERNICUS LEGACY: RELIC HUNT IN NEW YORK CITY!

    Looking for a fantasy read that’s great for the classroom this fall? One stellar recommendation is The Copernicus Legacy: The Forbidden Stone by bestselling author Tony Abbott – now in paperback!

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    A perfect pick for kids who love Percy Jackson, Kingdom Keepers, or Seven Wonders series, The Copernicus Legacy is a Da Vinci Code-style story for young readers. The book follows four kids who stumble upon a powerful ancient secret of the famous astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus. Protected by notables throughout history, it now falls to our young heroes to become guardians of Copernicus’s secret, racing across the globe, cracking codes, and unraveling centuries-old mysteries in order to prevent it from falling into the hands of a vast and evil shadow network called the New Teutonic Order.

    It’s the worldwide adventure and historical scope that makes the series both page turning and educational, earning it many great reviews including a starred review from Kirkus: “With engaging characters, a globe-trotting plot and dangerous villains, it is hard to find something not to like. Equal parts edge-of-your-seat suspense and heartfelt coming-of-age.”

    There’s even a downloadable Common Core-aligned activities guide and star map poster so you can bring the adventure into the classroom.

    Veteran children’s book author Tony Abbott is no stranger to epic adventure series having written over a hundred books including The Secrets of Droon. The Copernicus Legacy will include six full-length novels and six shorter novellas, each told from the perspective of one of the kids. The first novella, The Copernicus Archives #1: Wade and the Scorpion’s Claw, is available now and the next full-length novel, The Copernicus Legacy #2: The Serpent’s Curse, will be out on October 7.9780062194466_p0_v1_s260x420

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    To celebrate the launch of the next books in this exciting series, on Saturday, September 13th, Tony Abbott will be leading a scavenger hunt at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where four lucky winners of a national sweepstakes will work together to find hidden clues amongst the exhibits, crack codes, and earn prizes. You and all readers across the country will have another chance to win a trip to New York for the second Relic Hunt starting October 7 at www.thecopernicuslegacy.com!

    After the Relic Hunt, Tony Abbott will be signing copies of The Forbidden Stone at 2:30pm at the Barnes & Noble on 82nd and Broadway in Manhattan.  The Barnes & Noble event is open to the public, and we invite you to join us there for a pizza party! It’s no mystery—the whole family will be in for good food and fun!

     

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