Category Archives: children

Review: A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr

A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr

An exquisite, heartbreakingly beautiful gem of a novel for anyone who loved Wonder, Lenny’s Book of EverythingA Monster Calls or When You Reach Me.

‘Heart-twisting and hopeful, bursting with big feelings and gentle magic. This is a special book from a powerful, compassionate new voice in children’s literature, destined to be read and loved for generations and held close in many hearts (including mine).’ – Jessica Townsend, New York Times bestselling author of the Nevermoor series

Meixing Lim and her family have arrived at the New House in the New Land, inherited from First Uncle who died tragically and unexpectedly while picking oranges in the backyard. Everything is vast and unknown to Meixing and not in a good way, including the house she has dubbed Big Scary. She is embarrassed by the second-hand shoes given to her by the kind neighbours, has trouble understanding the language at school, and with fitting in and making new friends. Her solace is a glasshouse in the garden that inexplicably holds the sun and the moon and all the secrets of her memory and imagination.

Her fragile universe is rocked when tragedy strikes and Ma Ma refuses to face the world outside. Meixing finds herself trapped within the shrinking walls of Big Scary. Her parents said this would be a better life for them all, but it feels like the worst and most heart-breaking experience of Meixing’s entire existence. Surviving will take all the resilience and inner belief of this brave girl to turn their world around.

Published 4 May 2021 |  Publisher: Penguin Random House  |  RRP: AUD$16.99

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R  |  Abbey’s  |  QBD

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

I can’t stop staring at that gorgeous cover! Combined with a magical title and a protagonist with a familiar name (a personal reference which I’ll leave just as vague) who had to face a new strange place, I couldn’t wait to dive in.

As an immigrant myself, I sort of knew what the protagonist was feeling as she first arrived in the New Land and yet, there are enough differences in our experiences that my heart broke for this brave girl. I did think that the author was a bit mean when a particular tragedy strike but life happens and despite my tears, I was glad that the tragedy did bring something good too. I loved Meixing and her friends as they each found their way to rise above their own problems.

To start with, it took a while to adjust my headspace to reading this book. Mostly due to the second person POV but also how places are just so very non-specific/neutral (eg. ‘New House’, ‘New Land’, etc). It is just different than the norm, I think, that I really needed to think differently. Other than that, it was done very well and I do feel very much like I’m stepping in Meixing’s shoes.

My boys and I adored Little Jiang which I read aloud as their bed time read and it was just such a fun read! Unfortunately, I was unable to read this aloud to my boys. I tried for a few nights but my youngest has this aversion against the second person POV. He is only 6 years old and this may have been the first time he came across a second person POV as this isn’t one you’d come across that often in books. He just didn’t feel that it’s right and he got so upset, I had to stop and finished reading on my own. I’ll make a note to try this on him again in a few years’ time!

Magic appears to be an indication of feels in this novel. Mostly it is of hope but at times, it also reflects despair. I do love magic in my books but I am sometimes stumped by magical realism which I feel is where this book leans towards. I’m happy to take the magic as is even as I feel that there is something else going on there.

A Glasshouse of Stars is a powerfully moving novel as readers are, perforce, within protagonist’s headspace and looking out through her eyes so we are privileged in knowing all her thoughts and feelings. Readers can expect to feel the wonder of the New House & Glasshouse, the fear of the unknown, the hope for the future, oh there were just so much! Do read this with your children and persist through the difference in narrative because it’s such a wonderful novel.

My thanks to Shirley Marr for this paperback copy of book in exchange of my honest thoughts

About the author

Shirley Marr is a first-generation Chinese-Australian living in Perth and an author of young adult and children’s fiction, including YA novels Fury and Preloved, and children’s novels Little Jiang and A Glasshouse of Stars. She describes herself as having a Western mind and an Eastern heart. She likes to write in the space in the middle where they both collide, basing her stories on her own personal experiences of migration and growing up in Australia, along with the folk and fairy tales from her mother. Arriving in mainland Australia from Christmas Island as a seven-year-old in the 1980s and experiencing the good, the bad and the wonder that comes with culture shock, Shirley has been in love with reading and writing from that early age. Shirley is a universe full of stars and stories and hopes to share the many other novels that she has inside her.

Find Shirley on:  

goodreads  |  website  |  instagram

Review: Lizard’s Tale by Weng Wai Chan

Lizard’s Tale by Weng Wai Chan

A thief. A spy. A mysterious codebook. And a whole lot of trouble.

It’s 1940 and World War II is being fought in faraway Europe. Lizard doesn’t know much about that. He lives in Singapore’s Chinatown, surviving on odd jobs and petty theft.

When Boss Man Beng asks him to steal a teak box from a suite in the glamorous Raffles Hotel, Lizard knows the job is important. But can he know just how dangerous it is?

A sinister man appears in the shadows, and Lizard’s best friend, Lili, shows up with unexpected fighting skills and her eyeon what’s in the box.

And Lizard finds himself on an exciting, action-packed adventure in a world of coded secrets, Japanese invasion plans and undercover spies.

Published 2 July 2019 |  Publisher: Text Publishing |  RRP: USD$16.99

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R  |  Abbey’s

My Blurb (5 / 5 stars)

Gosh, I loved this now as I read it in my late 30s and I can just imagine how much I would’ve adored this book were I to read it 30 years ago! It has everything I love from the cute cover, a very capable Chinese girl, to a beautiful bittersweet ending.

Lizard is the name of this 12 year-old boy who has no one is known by. While he himself if a clever young fellow, he does not know his way around big cities. Luckily, he found help in a Chinese girl called Lili and the two formed a friendship, of sort. Lizard, these days, will do all sorts of things to stay above water. Meantime, he kept an eye out for his missing uncle. Until the day that he inadvertently got involved in something well beyond his ken. Lucky for him, there are friends who cared for him who are willing to help.

Let me provide a complete list of things I loved of this novel:
🦎 Cute eye-catching cover
🦎 own voice (POC) author
🦎 Great characters: resilient & courageous MC with brave & resourceful sidekicks
🦎 Friendship Friendship Friendship
🦎 Set in Asia (Singapore)
🦎 Diverse characters (and let me stress the DIVERSE here)
🦎 Set in WW2 (or just before)

A terrific mystery, fast paced plot, and marvellous characters, Lizard’s Tale is highly recommended for readers of ALL ages!

Thanks to Text Publishing via Netgalley for ecopy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

Weng Wai Chan was born and grew up in Singapore. She now lives in Auckland with her husband and three children. Lizard’s Tale is her first book.

Find author on:  goodreads  |  twitter

Review: Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #1) by Jessica Townsend

Morrigan Crow is cursed. Born on an unlucky day, she is blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks – and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on Eventide.

But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.

It’s there that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organisation: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart. Except for Morrigan, who doesn’t seem to have any special talent at all.

To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests – or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.

My Blurb (5 stars)

I bought this book as a gift for my 8yo. I don’t particularly know what an advance reader is for his age but he’s in the top reading group in his class so I thought this might be readable for him. Nevertheless, he was intimidated by all the words and NO illustrations which makes it a monster of a book for him. I wanted to read it too so we read it together aloud. Honestly, I would probably inhale this book in a single sitting (or two) because it was really so much fun! A light-hearted read filled with incredible characters and magical world, Nevermoor is an absolute gem of a book.

I love that nothing is as it seems in Nevermoor just like there is always 2 sides to every story. And there is all sorts of creatures too; a talking giant cat, a vampire, a dwarf, zombies, dragons, unicorns… you name it! The funny bits and the magic especially excite us. Nevermoor is the bright star at the end of our day.

We took the whole of February to read this aloud. He has to read 4-5 pages per night and I read 20ish… My voicebox is feeling a little overused atm. It has been a pretty good month though because the promise of reading this book helps him get ready for bed without too much nagging/shouting from me! That’s a smasher of a praise for this book, I tell you. It’s been amazing and now I’ve got to find another with, hopefully, the same impact on him.

He says: (4.5/5 stars)

The book is actually pretty good. I rate 4 and a half at the because at the end its sort of scary. But the rest of the book is awesome my favourite character is Fenestra and my least favourite character is Ezra squall. My favourite place in Nevermore is the Gossamer Line because you can travel to a different place and you are sort of like a ghost.

About the author

JESSICA TOWNSEND lives on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. She was a copywriter for eight years, and was once the editor of a children’s wildlife magazine for Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow is her first novel.

Find her on: goodreads  |  twitter  | instagram

 

Bookopoly Junior – a Summer Reading Challenge for children

The summer’s holiday has sneaked up on me! I just wasn’t ready for my son to finish this school year… Last year, I created a reading challenge using tasks & points to be earned by completing tasks (2016 challenge). It didn’t seem to work quite as well as I’d like (ie. he lost his booklet halfway through). At least I got him reading more than he would’ve! So this time, I thought to adapt a board game he knows & loves using ‘reading books’ as currency. It’s all set up on our wall and he appears to be excited to start! I’m excited to start! Here’s what it looks like:

I have made up this board myself and I’ve used images that are familiar to my son… If you’re making your own board, pick ones your children are familiar with.

Before you start playing, each player should have a stack of their own TBR pile. We plan to go to the library and max out our cards with books. This should give us enough variety & choice throughout the summer as we play.

Bookopoly Jr – How to play:

Following Monopoly Jr rules: roll 1 dice and move along the board. If you land on un-owned property, you have to buy it and if you land on owned property, you have to pay rent.

1. Roll 1 dice and move along the board
2. If you land on:
a. Property square:
*with no owners: Read a book from your pile as picked by someone else (‘buying property’)
*with an owner: Read a book from your pile as picked by the owner (‘paying rent’)
*owned by you: Read a book from your pile of your choosing
b. Chance square: Pick a chance card and follow instruction
c.- Just Visiting (Jail): Read the thinnest book from your pile
JAIL: Read the thickest book from your pile
d. Free Parking: Roll a dice and read the nth book from your pile (n being the number of your dice roll)
e. Go!: Roll dice again and move along the board
3. You can only roll the dice again after you’ve finished reading your book and/or completed following instructions per chance card
Here are the Chance cards:

Reading Challenges for the family

My 7 year old has had very good teachers for his 2 schooling years and especially this year, he has been pushed quite hard by his teacher. I don’t want him to lose whatever he’s achieved this school year in the summer holidays so I thought I’ll have to bribe him somehow but also having fun at the same time.

I am totally obsessed over reading challenges. I think this dated back to 2008 where I was introduced to Shelfari (merged with Goodreads earlier this year), specifically a group called Play Book Tag where they ran an amazing challenge. This group has moved to Goodreads so you can find them, here. When I first joined Goodreads (also in 2008), I wanted something similar to this group but more challenges than anything else, so I started a group called Pick-a-Shelf. This way I can create my own reading challenges any way I want! It’s been a blast and it’s been fairly good for my tbr 😉

These bookish social platforms, of course, limit the ages of their members and certainly, most reading challenges will NOT suit a 7yo. I’ve also searched online for “Kids Reading Challenges” and did not like what I found. This only spurred me on to create my own. And here it is…

reading-challenge-childSorry it’s a bit blurry, it’s too wide to show clear prints of text but if you click on the image, it should open it up bigger and clearer.

The challenge is to read a book as per required by task (shown above) to earn points as per noted under each task. If he completes a section, he’s awarded bonus points as per noted in the grey shaded boxes. At the end of the challenge (either completed all tasks or end of school holidays), he may redeem points he’s achieved for prizes.

BUT… how do you know if he actually reads the book? This is always the hard part as this will need you to sit down and go through some comprehensive questions. I decided a booklet with 4 generic questions will be a good start. He’ll need to write down (Writing exercises! 2 birds with 1 stone) his answers and then we can discuss the book along with his answers. So I’ve printed a booklet and am very excited that I also want to do it along with him (sans prizes). Of course, I’d have to adjust the number of page for the pages tasks but other than that I’ve left them as is.

I’ve also decided that the 2yo will also benefit from being included and he loves being read to so I’ve left most tasks the same except reduce the number of pages for the pages tasks. I’m still trying to talk hubby into this (he’s most definitely NOT a reader). I told him, the least he could do is encourage his sons by example… It’s not looking likely…

I wanted to share this Reading Challenge in case anyone would like to use it too. If you do, I’d love to hear from you: what did you change to suit you and/or your child, success or fail, etc. I’d also like to hear if you have any feedback, even if you’re not using this Reading Challenge, especially if you’re a teacher who works with young children.

Here are the links for you to download excel/word documents of the challenge.

Summer Reading Challenge – Worksheets

Summer Reading Challenge – Child Booklet

Summer Reading Challenge – Adult Booklet

The worksheet is for you to adjust tasks as per your liking. Then you’ll have to screen print and paste onto the Word doc for the booklet. When printing booklet, set to print double sided but to flip on the SHORT side. Booklet is designed so that the tasks are show in the middle of the booklet and the outside of booklet is plain so you can decorate cover as you please. I’ll try to take a Instagram video over the weekend so you can see what it looks like 🙂

Review: Paper Planes

paper planesPaper Planes by Steve Worland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher

Most readers would be keen to read a book before seeing the movie and usually, I’m quite particular about it too. However, seeing that this is rather movie to book, I’d opted to watch it first before reading. I really enjoyed the movie (especially, at the end, when I caught hubby trying to hide a tear or two he is not going to live this one down, lol). It was a fun movie with excellent casting.

As the book is adapted from the movie, it’s no surprise that it’s faithful to the movie. All through the reading, I have a vivid memory of the scenes from the movie. I really can’t complain having David Wenham & Sam Worthington in my head 😉 Reading it as adult though, you really need to suspend your scepticism and just allow yourself to dream the impossible. Let yourself to be beguiled by Dylan’s hopes and follow his journey to get his father back.

The language is quite simple and definitely aimed at children. I would recommend readers from year 3 onwards though only if your child is an advanced reader in year 3. There were a lot of Aussie slang noting that this was mostly set in a small Aussie town. If you could read together with your child then I’d suggest you do so as there can be quite a number of good discussions ranging from bereavement, grief, bullying, etc. Unfortunately, the issues aren’t dealt in depth or at least, not as in-depth as I’d like it to be. Therefore, it is mostly a fun read but your discussions could be as deep as you like by your guidance as parents / teachers.

Thanks to Penguin Books Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Review: The Dagger in the Desk

the dagger in the deskThe Dagger in the Desk by Jonathan Stroud
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

I’m not usually one who reads short stories that are in between series. I got overexcited when I saw this title on NetGalley and automatically, requested it as I thought it to be the 3rd book. In any case, I still read it and it was still a very fun read.

This li’l book basically is about a case taken on by Lockwood & Co. It is basically an adventure/horror tale with a moral lesson. If you’re after something fun to read to squeeze in whilst waiting for the doctor or during lunchtime, this is a good one to pick up as it really doesn’t require too much brain power but will amuse greatly. If you’ve not read the series yet, you could read this as a sample that’s still a full story with an ending. If you’ve read the series, you don’t really have to pick this up as it doesn’t have any bearing on the continuity of the series.

I just wish, though, that if Stroud is writing a short story that there’d be an #0.5 –a story about Anthony Lockwood or about Lockwood & Cubbins Before Lucy.

Thank you, RHCP Digital for copy of eARC via NetGalley

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Review: The Whispering Skull

the whispering skullThe Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

I read the first book of Lockwood & Co. at the beginning of this year and was completely enamoured with the whole setup. Whilst I first started with the thought of finding out what’s available in the children’s sections these days (my son is starting school next year, eep!); I truly completely loved The Screaming Staircase that I didn’t hesitate to request The Whispering Skull when I saw it on NetGalley. I enjoyed the company of Lockwood & Co. even more this time around.

The book opens with a creepy scene with action quickly following on its heel; an investigation of Lockwood & Co. that didn’t quite turn out as they wished. This was such a terrific and most engaging start. It also promises a more sinister tone to this book than the first instalment. A promised well-fulfilled, if I may say so. The Whispering Skull gives us scary situations, frightening creatures, & spine-chilling items that threatened the well-being of the whole world.

What I mostly loved about this book, however, is the development of characters, not only of Lockwood, George, and Lucy but also of Kipps & co. I loved how Kipps is (whilst being the most annoying nemesis) ‘humanised’ and all are called to sympathise with him. I also loved the development of friendship between Lockwood, George, & Lucy – that there’s ups and downs in friendships & that trust is a requisite in a well-oiled relationships.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough to all children and parents out there looking for an adventure. You will love the characters and be thrilled by the plot. Girls & Boys, get into it!

Thank you, Disney-Hyperion, for copy of eARC via NetGalley

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Review: The Screaming Staircase

staircaseThe Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher via NetGalley

Until the last few years, I rarely read children’s books as I find that I’m usually a bit impatient with them. However, I’m trying to change this habit because I’d like to know what my son will be reading when he’s ready to read on his own. Not only that, I’d like to be able to recommend books to him with the gusto of a contemporary (I’ll probably be one of those really embarrassing mums!). Hence, my picking up one or two children’s books these past few years. The particular reason that this book attracted my attention was the title and the similarity of it to a favourite series I read when I was growing up.

The series was called Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators with the particular title I had in mind being The Mystery of the Screaming Clock. This was a series loved by my family, the screamingbooks were passed from brother to sister, sister to sister, aunt to nephew, etc (I’m not quite sure where they are at this point in time, overseas, but they are a family treasure). The three teen detectives are made up of the quirky chubby genius boy, the not-so-intelligent-but-athletic boy, and a smaller boy who’s very good at research. These characterisation I found to be similar to Lockwood & Co., not necessarily the same but more of a mix-match sort of similarity.

The basis of this story is not something new or totally unique. There are a lot of ghost stories out there and who doesn’t know Ghostbusters? But Jonathan Stroud has successfully created an exciting world full of old wonders and new adventures. It is a world where only the talented young are able to detect these spectres and therefore have the capabilities of banishing them.

The characters were mysterious, appealing, and (some are) quite repulsive. There were quite a few suspenseful moments thought I can’t comment on the level of scariness as I am an adult and I didn’t find it scary at all. However, know that I rarely read horror novels because I am a scaredy cat. There were a few back and forth jumps in time at the beginning of the novel which may make for a shaky start but I completely enjoyed the smooth (though spine tingling) ride later on. This is definitely not a world I would like to live in, for real, but definitely one I love to read.

Needless to say, I absolutely adored The Screaming Staircase. With a great plot, fun characters, and marvellous world building, you will not fail to love this book. I, for one, am impatient to, one day, introduce this to my son and at the same time, will watch for the next instalment of this series so I can read it for my own enjoyment. I highly recommend this book to all adventurous sorts out there (real or vicariously) 😉

Thanks to Doubleday Childrens & The Reading Room for the eARC via NetGalley

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Review: Green Eggs and Ham

eggsGreen Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: Own Copy

I just adore this book. It’s a great book to read aloud to your child with a terrific theme to end it all.

If you’ve read Dr. Seuss then you know how wacky his stories are. If you haven’t, then you’d either love it or hate it. There were some strange bits in this book but then again, you need the words to rhyme and to appeal to children at the same time. It’s great to read this aloud with all the repetitions as your child/ren can chime in as they got into it. They would absolutely love this.

The theme is to try foods you don’t think you’d like at all because hey, you might just love it after all. I’m sure all parents out there will know just how tough it is sometimes to get your children to try something new. This is one fun way to drill it into their little heads 😉

I have an issue with the colour choice though; why green? Why not blue or purple or yellow…? I keep thinking it’s a mouldy eggs & ham and it’s just wrong… In any case, my son doesn’t know anything about mouldy food yet so he’s loving it.

Challenges read for:

ScatterShelves -January

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