Furthermore

Furthermore

How did I get it?:
It was a gift from Beth!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

Alice Alexis Queensmeadow 12 rates three things most important: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. Father disappeared from Ferenwood with only a ruler, almost three years ago. But she will have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. Her only companion is Oliver whose own magic is based in lies and deceit. Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss

Thoughts:

I was bought this book at Christmas, by my sister and fellow book blogger, Beth. I was really excited to read it, but somehow took over 6 months to get to it. Pesky TBRs… I was super excited to read Furthermore. It looked different to the Shatter Me series and it really was. Furthermore is such a captivating, unique story and I’m thrilled that I read it.

Furthermore centres around Alice who lives in Ferenwood. In Ferenwood it is incredibly colourful and magical. Alice is different to the rest though. She lacks pigmentation so she stands out in her community. However, this isn’t the only thing wrong with Alice’s life. She’s lonely, her father has disappeared and the Surrender ceremony that happens in Ferenwood is looming. Alice’s life is about to get a whole lot more daring…

I absolutely love Tahereh Mafi’s writing. I know that some readers find her writing quite ‘flowery’ and descriptive, but I think it’s beautiful. I’m always captivated by her words and the worlds that she creates. Ferenwood is an enchanting but unusual world. I could picture it as I was reading. I’m a big fan of fairy tales, so this magical middle grade read really did tick a lot of boxes for me. I adored the magic. I thought there was a good pace to the story and a great deal of action amongst the weirdness. I can see that it would captivate many readers both younger, into YA and beyond.

As for the characters… I bloomin’ love them. Alice is so unique but lovable. I loved her sassiness. Goodness knows, I love a sassy character. Oliver took a while for me to warm to, but I enjoyed his character in the end.

I think this book will appeal to a wider age range than middle grade. There’s adventure, fantasy and sass. Surely many people would enjoy that?

Would I recommend it?:
Of course! 4.5 stars

I was worried that I’d hyped this book, but I didn’t… I was captivated right from the start!

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Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events #2)

The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #2)

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
The Bad Beginning

Synopsis:

Dear Reader,

If you have picked up this book with the hope of finding a simple and cheery tale, I’m afraid you have picked up the wrong book altogether. The story may seem cheery at first, when the Baudelaire children spend time in the company of some interesting reptiles and a giddy uncle, but don’t be fooled. If you know anything at all about the unlucky Baudelaire children, you already know that even pleasant events lead down the same road to misery.

In fact, within the pages you now hold in your hands, the three siblings endure a car accident, a terrible odor, a deadly serpent, a long knife, a large brass reading lamp, and the appearance of a person they’d hoped never to see again.

I am bound to record these tragic events, but you are free to put this book back on the shelf and seek something lighter.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket

Thoughts:

I enjoyed the first book in the series, which was much darker than I had anticipated. I was looking forward to reading the next book. So many people rave about this series! I can see why. It’s a short read and it’s engaging at the same time. Reading it as an adult, some things about it frustrate me, however, I know I’d have loved it when I was younger.

In The Reptile Room we catch up with the Baudelaire children. They have been moved away from Count Olaf who we know is completely crazy. They’re now staying with a very distant relative who is obsessed with reptiles. He even has a reptile room. Just as the narrator reminds you, something awful will happen to the children… and it does!

I’m really enjoying this series. I’m hooked by the story and want to know what’s going to happen to the children. I’ve certainly been trapped by the story even if a lot of it frustrates me.

As an adult, I get frustrated with the lack of communication and support the children are receiving. I realise that’s me thinking from an adult perspective, but I can’t help being annoyed by it! As with the first book, I’m not completely sold on the constant defining of words. I understand why the narration is like this, but it still grates on me.

Despite my reservations, I’d still highly recommend this series as there’s so much to enjoy! It’s engaging, fast-paced and so easy to read.

For Beth’s wonderful review, please check out her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit Challenge (August):
Fortunately, The Milk- Neil Gaiman

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- The Prime Minister’s Brain (The Demon Headmaster #2)

The Prime Minister's Brain (Demon Headmaster, #2)

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
The Demon Headmaster

Synopsis:

Everyone at school is playing the new computer game, Octopus Dare – but only Dinah is good enough to beat it. As it begins to take hold, Dinah realizes that the game is trying to control her. But why is it happening, and how is the Demon Headmaster involved?

Thoughts:

I absolutely loved The Demon Headmaster when I was younger and reread it many times. I enjoyed re-reading it last year. I remember not being as fond of The Prime Minister’s Brain, but couldn’t quite remember why. Having read it this week, I totally remember why I wasn’t as keen on it.

The story centres around Dinah, her brothers and some school friends. Everyone at school is obsessed with playing the new game Octopus Dare at school. Only Dinah is good enough to beat the game. The game seems to be pulling Dinah in and attempting to control her. Before long, Dinah finds out that the Demon Headmaster is involved in the game. They need to find out why, what his motive is and how on Earth they’ll stop him again…

I do find Gillian Cross easy to read, but the story didn’t excite me as much as its predecessor did. It may be because I’m not that interested by computers. I just wasn’t as gripped by it as I wanted to be. I remember that I never read the following books in the series and I think that’s down to my impressions of this book. I didn’t feel compelled to read on. Being controlled by computers would seem incredibly modern when this book was first released (1987). However, reading it currently makes it not seem as fresh as it was back then. I do think this means this book can date really easily and not seem as relevant.

For Beth’s wonderful review, please check out her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit Challenge (July):
The Reptile Room (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #2) by Lemony Snicket

Banned Books #35- Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story From Afghanistan by Jeanette Winter

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Welcome to May’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read Nasreen’s Secret School by Jeanette Winter.

Nasreen's Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan

Synopsis:

Young Nasreen has not spoken a word to anyone since her parents disappeared.

In despair, her grandmother risks everything to enroll Nasreen in a secret school for girls. Will a devoted teacher, a new friend, and the worlds she discovers in books be enough to draw Nasreen out of her shell of sadness?

First published: 2009
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2015 (source)
Reasons: religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: This book was published about eight years ago now and I don’t think attitudes have changed that much in the past eight years so my thoughts on the book being challenged “then and now” are going to be the same. Unfortunately due to a number of terrorist attacks in the past fifteen years, religion has become one of those really tricky areas that some individuals tend to blame and rail against when these atrocities occur. Of course nowadays, it’s the terrors of ISIS but I remember so clearly when we used to be talking about the Taliban and their ideals. I did a little bit of background research on why this book was challenged/banned, especially in the USA and one opinion I came across (not entirely sure of its validity) is that Nasreen’s Secret School is a book which promotes Islam and that should be a reason for banning it. Never mind the truth behind this, these sorts of things just make my blood boil. Why should any book be banned for educating us all a bit about a particular religion? Personally, I find it interesting to learn about a different culture and belief system but hey…maybe that’s just me?

CHRISSI: It actually makes me cross that this book is challenged. It’s a children’s book! I’m pretty sure my face was of utter confusion when I finished this book. I always try and keep in my mind that I’m reading it for this challenge, so I can look out for things that might make it a challenged book. I couldn’t find any. It’s not explicitly violent. It does include a girl going to school in secret, but I thought it had such a sweet message. It was a message about the power of education and I really didn’t agree with the reasons for it being challenged. It was pretty inoffensive to me. It really was.

How about now?

BETH: Let’s go into a couple of the other reasons for challenging/banning this book. Unsuited to age group. *silently seethes.* This is a PICTURE book recommended for children of six years and older and the illustrations and words are such that it can easily be understood and enjoyed by children of this age group in my opinion. As with the last reason – “violence,” I believe some people may be concerned that the Taliban taking Nasreen’s father away and then her mother also disappearing might be too brutal for some kids to take. Don’t get me wrong, that’s absolutely horrific, of course. BUT. The story is written and drawn in such a way, as I said, that it is never made explicit what exactly happens to Nasreen’s mother and father, the young reader is almost shielded from the reality of what has happened so I cannot see how this can be offensive. It is upsetting, Nasreen stops talking for quite a while and she is very distressed. Yet with the help of her courageous grandmother and by making a friend at the secret school she finally learns to be happy again and yes, to speak as well. 

CHRISSI: I get that Nasreen lost her mother and to not very nice circumstances, but surely that’s what we infer as adults? Would children get that from reading a picture book? I’m not sure. It certainly doesn’t explicitly tell the reader why. It just shows Nasreen’s obvious distress. Many children would be distressed if they lost their family under any circumstances, so I don’t see why this book was any different.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: As this is a picture book, I read it so quickly. The illustrations are simple but effective but it was the words that affected me more than anything. I fell in love with Nasreen, her grandmother and the bravery of the people that were risking their lives to educate girls once it had been forbidden by the Taliban regime. In just a few pages I felt like I learned so much and I think it’s a really important read for children so that they can be educated about how lucky they are to have free schooling, sadly a privilege not everyone is entitled to and something people should definitely be made more aware of.

CHRISSI: I thought it was incredibly adorable. I thought the characters were brilliant and the story was well told. The illustrations were simple and sweet. It’s an important and educative story, in my opinion!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- Awful Auntie

Awful Auntie

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
Gangsta Granny
The Boy In The Dress

Synopsis:

From larger than life, tiddlywinks obsessed Awful Aunt Alberta to her pet owl, Wagner – this is an adventure with a difference. Aunt Alberta is on a mission to cheat the young Lady Stella Saxby out of her inheritance – Saxby Hall. But with mischievous and irrepressible Soot, the cockney ghost of a chimney sweep, alongside her Stella is determined to fight back… And sometimes a special friend, however different, is all you need to win through.

Thoughts:

As many regular readers of my blog know, I’m a primary school teacher, so I really enjoy this kid-lit challenge, because it helps me find new material for my class. With my class (which reminds me, I must sort some reviews!) we’ve read The World’s Worst Children and Billionaire Boy, we’re currently reading Gangsta Granny, so you might say in one way or another I’m making my way through David’s books.

David Walliams does come into some criticism in the teaching world, because his books aren’t technically brilliant and can be a little samey. However, those complaints don’t come from me. I absolutely adore his books. They make my class smile, laugh out loud and read more of his books. If any author can encourage children to read (no matter who they are) I’m a very happy teacher.

This book is actually quite dark! It involves an awful auntie determined to get the deeds to Saxby Hall. To get this, she has carried out something terrible and she’s determined to get her niece Lady Stella Saxby to sign over the deeds. Alongside a cockney ghost named Soot, Stella refuses to back down and fights back against her auntie.

I absolutely loved the characters in this book. Stella was a great heroine! She was clever, brave and determined to keep what was hers. Aunt Alberta was Trunchbull-esque in her manner. She really was an awful auntie. She was pure evil and I love characters like that. I also enjoyed the characters of Gibbon and Soot.

I don’t know whether this would be too dark for some younger children. There’s death, car crashes, murder, poison, torture… I know we can’t protect children from everything but I don’t know if some of it was too much. I feel some of David’s other books were more heart-warming than this one. However, I don’t think that should put you off. Awful Auntie’s themes might go over the heads of many young children. I’d just approach it with caution if you have sensitive children.

For Beth’s wonderful review, check out her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Reading next in the Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit Challenge (April):
A Snicker of Magic- Natalie Lloyd

Blog Tour- Pilot Jane and The Runaway Plane

How did I get it?:
I received it from the publisher for the book tour!

Synopsis:

Join Pilot Jane, a fun and fearless airline captain, as she travels the world with her best friend Rose, a high-speed passenger jet. Together Jane and Rose have exciting adventures and form a perfect team, delivering their passengers safely to destinations as far afield as Alaska and Australia. But when disaster strikes and Rose falls ill, Jane is paired with ‘lean, mean flying machine’ Mighty Mitch. Can she still get the Queen to her party on time? Featuring a clever and courageous heroine, this action-packed rhyming story celebrates ‘Girl Power’ and shows what you can achieve if you work together. Fasten your seatbelt and get ready for take-off!

Thoughts:

I am a primary school teacher, so when I had the opportunity to read this book, I decided to test it on some guinea pigs. Well, some classes at school. I read it with two groups of children. Year 1s (5-6 year olds) and Year 3/4 (7-9 year olds). The book went down well with both classes. Here are some words from their mouths… (real names have been changed)

  • I liked it because it was adventurous. (Mandy, Age 7)

  • I like it because it’s got teamwork. (Natasha, Age 8)

  • I liked it because it had everything a story needs. I think it would be great for younger children. (Tim, Age 9)

  • I think the moral of the story is teamwork. (Hannah, Age 6)

  • I liked it because when the plane broke down, Jane had to  learn to work with a different plane that she didn’t really know.  (Harry, Age 7)

  • I like it because it was for boys and girls. I thought at the start it was just for girls but it changed into boys as well. (Tobias, Age 8)

  • I liked the book because Mitch and Jane had to work together. (Jason, Age 8)

  • I liked the girl and boy power! (Lauren, Age 5)

As for me, I think it’s such a cute book for young children. Both the infant and junior school children took the message from the book, which makes it highly successful in my eyes!

George

George

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

BE WHO YOU ARE. When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not….

Thoughts:

I had heard SO much about this book from fellow bloggers that I just knew I had to check it out. I was immediately pulled into George’s story. It’s such an engaging, touching read that I do highly recommend. I can totally see why so many people love it!

The story centres around George who identifies as a girl. At school, they’ve been studying Charlotte’s Web, they’re going to perform the story and George is desperate to be Charlotte. George’s love of the book helps her to show everyone that she identifies as a girl. In George’s eyes, she is a girl, she just has to make everyone else aware of that.

I loved George’s friendship with Kelly. Kelly just accepted George for who she was which was absolutely heart-warming. This book felt realistic to me, because it did have hard moments within it. Everything wasn’t easily accepted and I imagine that’s true to George’s situation. George’s mother wasn’t accepting to begin with and I feel like this is how it could possibly be for many that identify as transgender.

Another thing that I really loved about this book, was that George did feel 10 years old. The writing was incredibly lovely and simplistic. It really felt like I was living George’s life as he struggled with his identity. She was so brave! I think it’s such an inspiring story.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

An inspiring story which I think is truly wonderful!