The Invention Of Hugo Cabret

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo’s undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo’s dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.

Thoughts:

Oh my goodness. I didn’t know what to expect from this book, but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. I was absolutely captured by this stunning book. It’s such a beautiful reading experience. Brian Selznick has created such amazing illustrations and a captivating story line. I’m sure any child would get something from this book. It’s one I’m going to be recommending to my school ASAP.

The Invention Of Hugo Cabret is about a little boy who looks after clocks in a station. He is left alone and carries on working on the clocks and also something that was a mystery to him… It’s also about a man who had a dream and his dream disappeared before him. I absolutely loved how much emotion was captured in this story. Even though it is essentially a story for children, it can be enjoyed by so many more people. It captures France at the time beautifully.

I loved that each character had something different to give. They weren’t your conventional story characters. I appreciate diversity in literature, particularly children’s literature. It’s so important to represent a range of people.

This is one of the most unique books that I’ve read and that’s down to Brian Selznick’s approach to storytelling. The story is half told through beautiful illustrations. I spent so much time pouring over the illustrations and looking at what they were telling me. The story itself is very simple but it’s engaging. I loved the balance between illustrations and written word. The illustrations really helped me imagine where the story was set. It was like a movie.

I do think there’s something for everyone in this book. It’ll work for you if you’re into graphic novels, films, and a touch of magic.

Would I recommend it?:
Without a doubt!

A unique reading experience. I highly recommend this book!

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The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club (The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club #1)

The Polar Bear Explorers' Club

How did I get it?:
I received a copy from Faber and I’ve purchased a copy!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

It sounded like a respectable and worthy enough death for an explorer – tumbling from an ice bridge to be impaled upon a mammoth tusk – but Stella really, really didn’t want that to happen, just the same.

Join Stella Starflake Pearl and her three fellow explorers as they trek across the snowy Icelands and come face-to-face with frost fairies, snow queens, outlaw hideouts, unicorns, pygmy dinosaurs and carnivorous cabbages . . .

When Stella and three other junior explorers get separated from their expedition can they cross the frozen wilderness and live to tell the tale?

Thoughts:

I have loved Alex Bell’s adult and YA books. Seriously, if you haven’t checked out The Ninth Circle and Jasmyn please give them a go. They’re amazing and so underrated, in my opinion. I was super excited to pick up The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club. It’s such an exciting story that I believe will pull children in and keep them engaged throughout the story.

Its plot is fast paced and so easy to read. The reader follows a group of young explorers on a quest to find the coldest part of the Icelands as they are separated from their parents. It’s such a fun read. I couldn’t help turning the pages. I practically binge read this book, completely captivated by the story.

The main characters Stella, Shay, Beanie and Ethan were so well written. I immediately liked them, especially Stella. What a wonderful protagonist! I loved how she was such a strong female character. We need more of those in middle grade literature. I also appreciated how she was allowed to go on the adventure after it being notoriously males only. Her relationship with Felix (who she saw as a father) was heart-warming. I absolutely adored the character of Beanie. Such a sweet character that took everything literally. It reminded me of a few children that I teach!

Talking about teaching, I think this book would be perfect for Key Stage 2 children. There’s so much to get stuck into. I loved how descriptive the story was. This book really is jam packed with content. It’s both fairy tale-esque and adventurous. There are penguins, pygmy dinosaurs, cabbages…and more. I think Alex Bell has created such a wonderful world that I can see developing well as a the series continues (I assume it’s a series!)

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A gorgeous middle grade adventure!

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- Black Hearts in Battersea (The Wolves Chronicles #2)

Black Hearts in Battersea (The Wolves Chronicles, #2)

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

Synopsis:

‘Wait, wait! Save us! What’ll we do?’

Simon is determined to become a painter when he grows up so he sets off to London to make his fortune. But the city is plagued by wolves and mysterious disappearances. The Twite household, where Simon is lodging, seems particularly shifty. Before he even gets a chance to open his glistening new paints Simon stumbles right into the centre of a plot to kill the King. And worse than that Simon is kidnapped and sent to sea! Luckily there are two friendly stowaways aboard – the feisty Dido Twite and the spoiled young Justin. But when the ship catches fire things look pretty dire. Can they escape? Will they save the king in time?

Thoughts:

I really enjoyed the first instalment in this series intended for children but totally readable for adults. It has an old-fashioned feel to it which I absolutely love. We learn about a minor character (Simon) from the first book. We are also introduced to new characters such as Dido Twite. I love that this book can be read as a standalone book. You don’t need to read the first one to enjoy this one!

In this story, Simon goes to London to learn how to paint. He’s in search of Dr Field, but no one seems to know where he is or much about him at all. There’s some conspiracy against the King and the Duke and Simon combines studying and working to try and figure everything out.

It’s a book where you have to go with the plot. It’s crazy and silly, but that, in my opinion, is totally its charm. Some things are very unbelievable, but it’s worth going with it for the sheer fun that is this series. I have really enjoyed Joan Aiken’s writing style in the two books I’ve read so far. It’s easy to read and has humour within the story, something I think is very important in keeping young readers engaged.

I have to admit to being a little frustrated with the slang in the book. I know it fit with the character, but I felt it made my reading experience a little stilted which is what affected my enjoyment of the story as a whole. That said, it’s so worth reading, especially if you’ve read the first book in the series.

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

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Next up in Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit Challenge (November):
Witch Child – Celia Rees

Hortense And The Shadow

Hortense and the Shadow

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Penguin Random House Children’s

Synopsis:

Hortense is a kind and brave girl, but she is sad–even angry–that her shadow follows her everywhere she goes. She hates her shadow, and thinks her shadow must hate her too. But one cold, dark night, when bandits surprise her in the woods, Hortense discovers that her shadow is the very thing she needs most.

Thoughts:

I am always on the look out for picture books, especially as I have gone back to Key Stage 1 (5-7 years old). I’m currently with the older range of children and I knew from the synopsis that this book would be perfect for my class! I was happy to read it first and know now that I’ll be purchasing a copy for my class!

The story centres around Hortense who is a lovely girl, but she’s very frustrated with her shadow. She can’t seem to work out why it keeps following her around! She hates her shadow and is convinced that the feeling is mutual. Hortense soon finds out that she needs her shadow after an experience with bandits on a cold night.

I really liked Hortense as a character and think many children will be able to identify with her!

I thought this was an adorable story, very fairy tale-esque in its nature. The illustrations are stunning and I think it carries a wonderful theme of self-identity. I can imagine that I’d use it for a discussion about self-esteem because it does explore that throughout the story in an incredibly subtle way.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

I’m going to get my hands on a copy of this book to read to my class this year! A wonderful fairy tale!

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- Saffy’s Angel

Saffy's Angel (Casson Family, #1)

How did I get it?
I bought it!

Synopsis:

The four Casson children, whose mother, Eve, is a fine-arts painter, have all been given the names of paint colors. Cadmium (Caddy), is the eldest; then Saffron (Saffy); Indigo, the only boy; and Rose, the youngest. When Saffy discovers quite by accident that she has been adopted, she is deeply upset, though the others assure her that it makes no difference at all. Saffy is the daughter of Eve’s twin sister, who lived in Siena, Italy, and died in a car crash. Grandad brought Saffy, as a very small child, back from Siena. 

At Grandad’s death he leaves something to each of the children. To Saffy, it is “her angel,” although no one knows its identity. How Saffy discovers what her angel is, with the help of an energetic new friend, lies at the heart of this enchanting story. Unforgettable characters come alive in often deeply humorous and always absorbing events to be treasured for a long, long time.

Thoughts:

I hadn’t heard of Saffy’s Angel before it was picked for our kid-lit challenge. I don’t know what I was expecting really, as I didn’t read anything about the book prior to reading it. I just jumped into it. I found a quintessentially British children’s book.

Saffy’s Angel is about an eccentric family. It’s about a family of four children whose mother named her children after paint colours. The mother in the story is a painter. The father is absent for most of the story! The four children are close to one another and get up to much mischief! Saffron finds out about her younger years which leads to her stowing away to Italy in search for Saffron’s inheritance, a missing stone angel.

I thought this was such a charming little story. I found it incredibly easy to read. It felt like a very British book! It really warmed my heart. I could imagine myself loving this book if I had read it when I was younger. My favourite part of the book was the adorable sibling relationships. Even when Saffy found out about her past, the family still stuck together. I felt sorry for the mother, who had the difficult task of looking after four children practically on her own. The father frustrated me a little bit. I found him to be quite selfish!

The only reason why I haven’t rated this book any higher is because I don’t feel compelled to read the next one. I mean, I would read it… but I’m not running to get a copy.

For Beth’s wonderful review, check her blog here!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit challenge (October):
Black Hearts in Battersea- Joan Aiken

Banned Books #39 In A Dark, Dark Room And Other Scary Stories

banned books

Welcome to this month’s Banned Books post. This week we read In A Dark, Dark Wood and Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz.

Image result for in a dark dark wood and other scary photos

Synopsis:

Creak…
Crash…
BOO!

Shivering skeletons, ghostly pirates, chattering corpses, and haunted graveyards…all to chill your bones! Share these seven spine-tingling stories in a dark, dark room.

First published: 1984
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2006 (source)
Reasons: insensitivity, occult/Satanism, unsuited to age group, violence.

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

BETH: We haven’t had an older release on our Banned Books challenge for a little while and I was intrigued to see how a children’s book published in the 1980’s could have had so much against it. Even though it was published over thirty years ago, I don’t believe attitudes have changed that much in the last three decades or so and I don’t really agree for the book being challenged. I hadn’t actually realised that I read this book as a younger reader (possibly when I was about seven or even younger?) and I was surprised by how vividly I remembered the stories. I did find it a little frightening, I have to admit but never in a way that gave me nightmares or seriously troubled me afterwards. I was one of those readers that went out looking for scary stories to read and found them thrilling so perhaps caution should be advised with more sensitive youngsters? However, I think if children want to read a scary story they are going to seek them out, like myself.

CHRISSI: This book is older than me! I was totally intrigued by this book. I remember Beth text me a while ago insistent that we had read it when we were younger. I wasn’t totally convinced, but then when I read it I totally recalled it! So, did it damage me? Clearly not, if I don’t remember the story! They are pretty creepy, but so readable. Not all children will enjoy this because it is scary, but others will absolutely lap it up!

How about now?

BETH: I think nowadays you probably see a lot scarier stuff on television before the watershed (for example, some episodes of Doctor Who I find much scarier than this!). I don’t think it is insensitive or promotes the occult or Satanism in the slightest, it’s just some good old fashioned scary stories that are exciting to read and I just loved the illustrations which bring something extra to Alvin Schwartz’s words. There’s a lot of death mentioned – that’s a given really, death is scary right? However, some of the stories could be looked on as humorous, if told in the right way by a responsible adult, letting children know it’s just a story and there’s nothing to be frightened of.

CHRISSI: I had to laugh at the occult and Satanism reasons behind the banning of this book. Yes, I can get how some people might think that, but really there’s much more out there that promotes occult and Satanism. This simply is a children’s scary story. Much like Goosebumps and Point Horror for slightly older readers. All books should be thought about especially for young children. I’d recommend that you don’t give a sensitive child this book. Surely you’d know if your child could handle it? It should be down to personal preference and adult discretion!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: This book was super nostalgic for me and so quick and easy to read I finished it in about ten minutes. There are a couple of stories that when I read them I was instantly transported back to how I felt as a child reading them, particularly the first one about the men with the very long teeth and the girl who wears a green ribbon around her neck (the reason why I remember being horrified but kind of delighted with as a child!). This book was probably my first introduction into scary stories and led to me reading Point Horror as a teenager and then of course, Stephen King as an adult. It’s perfect for young horror fans and the illustrations compliment the stories perfectly without being “too” scary.

CHRISSI: The one that brought back memories was the story about a girl with a green ribbon around her neck. That one still give me chills. Ha! Such a wimp…I loved the illustrations too. Creepy but not overly terrifying and I’ve always had an overactive imagination!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- Fortunately, The Milk

Fortunately, the Milk...

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

You know what it’s like when your mum goes away on a business trip and Dad’s in charge. She leaves a really, really long list of what he’s got to do. And the most important thing is DON’T FORGET TO GET THE MILK. Unfortunately, Dad forgets. So the next morning, before breakfast, he has to go to the corner shop, and this is the story of why it takes him a very, very long time to get back.

Featuring: Professor Steg (a time-travelling dinosaur), some green globby things, the Queen of the Pirates, the famed jewel that is the Eye of Splod, some wumpires, and a perfectly normal but very important carton of milk.

Thoughts:

I have read some Neil Gaiman before, so I was expecting something a little unique. I certainly got that with Fortunately, The Milk. First off… what an amazing title, hey? I love the title. So odd. It totally sets the tone for the rest of the story. Fortunately, The Milk is a quirky little story, perfect for a pick me up for an adult or a crazy read for a child!

The story centres around a dad who goes to get milk for his kids to put on their cereal. Whilst out for the milk, he ends up on an adventure. The children are wondering where on Earth their father has gone. In fact…their dad was not on Earth at all. He was kidnapped by aliens, encountered a time-travelling dinosaur and experienced so much more that I don’t want to spoil. It was an incredibly unbelievable reading experience but so bloomin’ wonderful at the same time.

I love the illustrations from Chris Riddell. They perfectly complemented the story. They fit well with Neil Gaiman’s wonderfully quirky writing style. I loved the characters and enjoyed following their journey. Neil Gaiman really is a terrific writer and I’m looking forward to reading more from him.

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 (September):
Saffy’s Angel – Hilary McKay