Book Review: The House with Chicken Legs (Sophie Anderson)

Publisher: Usborne Publishing

Release Date: May 3rd 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

All 12-year-old Marinka wants is a friend. A real friend. Not like her house with chicken legs. Sure, the house can play games like tag and hide-and-seek, but Marinka longs for a human companion. Someone she can talk to and share secrets with.

But that’s tough when your grandmother is a Yaga, a guardian who guides the dead into the afterlife. It’s even harder when you live in a house that wanders all over the world . . . carrying you with it. Even worse, Marinka is being trained to be a Yaga. That means no school, no parties–and no playmates that stick around for more than a day.

So when Marinka stumbles across the chance to make a real friend, she breaks all the rules . . . with devastating consequences. Her beloved grandmother mysteriously disappears, and it’s up to Marinka to find her–even if it means making a dangerous journey to the afterlife.

Review:

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this book from the author, so big thanks to you, Sophie 🙂 I’ve been excited about this coming out since she told me about it and I am so delighted with the finished book.

Marinka has spent her whole life living with her grandmother, Baba Yaga, in their house with chicken legs, moving from place to place, guiding the dead and never making friends with the living. Marinka doesn’t want to learn to guide the dead, so when she has the chance to make a real, living friend she risks everything for a life she can’t have.

This book is just brimming with magic and wonder on every page and I couldn’t read it fast enough. I’ve heard a few stories about Baba Yaga and I loved how this story wove originality with the traditional stories to create something really special.

Marinka is a great protagonist: she’s headstrong and a little selfish at times, but also thoughtful and brave and her loneliness will resonate with every young person (and old like me too!) You can really feel her yearning for true companionship and a ‘normal’ life and I understood it, even if sometimes I wanted to tell her how lucky she was to have Baba and the house!

The other characters in the book are just as wonderful. I loved Baba Yaga: her warmth and welcoming of the dead and her relationship with the house was just adorable. And the house! It’s a character in its own right, not just a house that can walk but one with a playful and caring personality. Sometimes it was hard to imagine not loving that house, and it was great to see Marinka’s relationship with it grow and change over the book.

The story is beautifully told through poetic prose and Marinka’s first-person narration lets you feel all her emotions as her world is turned upside down. I truly felt for her as the only life she knew began to unravel. The story took some twists I didn’t expect and it all came together in the most perfect ending.

The book itself is gorgeous too: the cover is stunning and sure to catch anyone’s eye on the shelf, but in addition to this there are lovely little black and white illustrations throughout the book. It’s just another little thing that lets you know how truly special this book is.

This is a remarkable book with a magical, vivid cast of characters and a heartwarming message about family, destiny and acceptance. This is one that I can’t wait to share with Little Moore when he’s older and I know I’ll enjoy re-reading it again and again. A must read for 2018 – do yourself and the young person in your life a favour and buy this book!

Book Review: Mango and Bambang – Tiny Tapir Trouble (Polly Faber & Clare Vulliamy)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Walker Books

Pages: 144

Release Date: September 1st 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Mango and Bambang’s adventures continue in the third book of this charming illustrated series about a little girl and a tapir, described by The Sunday Times as having real charm reminiscent of Paddington. When a small but mischievous tapir guest comes to stay with Mango Allsorts and Bambang in the busy city, things soon get into a rather troublesome tangle.

Review:

This is the third book in the Mango and Bambang series and it’s just as fun and charming as its predecessors. In this book, Mango and Bambang go to the seaside, meet a relative of Bambang, play in a chess tournament and deal with illness.

I loved the story featuring Guntur, Bambang’s tiny and very annoying cousin. He does his best to get between Mango and Bambang and make poor Bambang look bad, but their friendship wins through in the end.

There’s a family theme to this story, as Bambang wonders whether he really fits in with Mango, especially after an upsetting experience at the beach. They realise in the end that family is what you make it and their friendship keeps them together through all the trials life throws at them.

This is another beautiful edition in a fantastic series which I hope will be one of Little Moore’s favourites in the future!

4

Book Review: Mango and Bambang – The Not-a-Pig (Polly Faber & Clare Vulliamy)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Walker Books

Pages: 144

Release Date: October 1st 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

A charming collection of four beautifully illustrated stories about the unlikely friendship between Mango, a little girl, and Bambang, a Malaysian tapir. Mango Allsorts is good at all sorts of things, not just karate and chess. Bambang is most definitely not-a-pig and is now lost in a very busy city. When the two unexpectedly meet, a friendship begins, filled with adventures, and of course, plenty of banana pancakes.

Review:

This is a charming collection of stories about Mango Allsorts, a girl who lives in a busy city with a busy father and likes to keep herself busy so she doesn’t get lonely. One day she meets Bambang, a tapir who is definitely not a pig. She helps him overcome some of his fears and he helps her with her music and stops her being lonely.

Mango is a great protagonist, smart and brave and resourceful, all the things you want a girl to be! Bambang made me laugh a lot, especially when he explored Mango’s apartment and experimented different ways of going up and down the stairs.

I loved the illustrations and colours in the book: this one is all purple themed and was just beautiful. Although this book is too old for Little Moore, I read it to him anyway and he seemed to enjoy – I think the colours and cute pictures helped to keep his attention.

This is the first collection of stories featuring Mango and Bambang and I’m really looking forward to reading more from them! The stories teach great lessons about kindness and acceptance and are definite keepers for Little Moore’s bookshelf for when he’s older.

4

Book Review: Indigo’s Dragon (Sofi Croft)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Accent Press

Pages: 90

Release Date: June 23rd 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Some families keep monstrous secrets…

Indigo lives in the Lake District, and spends his time exploring the mountains he loves. An unexpected parcel arrives containing a first aid kit inside his grandfather’s satchel. Indigo’s curiosity is raised as he looks through his grandfather’s notebook to discover drawings of mythical creatures.

Strange things begin to happen and Indigo finds himself treating an injured magpie-cat, curing a cockatrice of its death-darting gaze, and defending a dragon. Indigo realises he must uncover the secrets his family have kept hidden, and travels alone to the Polish mountains to search for his grandfather and the truth.

Danger looms as events spiral out of control, and Indigo needs to make choices that change him, his world, and his future forever…

Review:

I’ve started reading a little more MG books lately – it’s always good to try something new, and I’m definitely glad I did with this one.

Indigo’s Dragon is a quick and exciting fantasy novel set in the rolling hills of the Lake District and the beautiful Polish mountains. I felt the settings played a huge part within the story and the descriptions really brought it to life: it’s not too description heavy, which is better for younger readers, but there’s enough there so that you can really visualise it and get a good sense of the wonderful surroundings.

There’s plenty of mystery within the book and it gets stuck into it straight away: it certainly grabbed my attention and I think younger readers will have no problem with staying engaged. The plot moves quickly without feeling rushed, and you never quite know where it’s going – I definitely didn’t see the ending coming, and it’s really made me look forward to the sequel, which I think will be a different book from what I was expecting.

I loved the creatures in the book the most – they could easily have been standard monsters, but Croft adds in little details that makes you see them as animals instead, with their own habitats and habits and quirks.

Indigo is a great protagonist and someone I feel readers will relate to. He’s smart, but not overly clever, and he has his flaws too, which make him feel human and real. I love the debate that goes on between him and Orava on the effect of the creatures living near to humans – dragons and cockatrices can be disruptive and deadly to humans, so it’s hard to get the balance between preserving the creatures and looking after your own needs.

This is a book I can really imagine reading aloud to my children one day, or having them read it aloud to me as they grow more confident with reading. For fans of Harry Potter and How to Train Your Dragon, this book is sure to be a hit with younger readers, and I look forward to the sequel!

4

Book Review: Mystery & Mayhem – Twelve Deliciously Intriguing Mysteries (The Crime Club)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Egmont Publishing

Pages: 304

Release Date: May 5th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Twelve mysteries.

Twelve authors.

One challenge: can YOU solve the crimes before the heroes of the stories?

These are twelve brand-new short stories from twelve of the best children’s crime writers writing today.

These creepy, hilarious, brain-boggling, heart-pounding mysteries feature daring, brilliant young detectives, and this anthology is a must for fans of crime fiction and detection, especially the Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries, The Roman Mysteries and The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow.

Review:

I don’t read a lot of mystery stories so this was something new for me. I’ve heard of a lot of the authors but not read their stories, so this was a little taster into their worlds.

Some seemed to be stand alone stories while others were clearly characters from their novels. Don’t let this put you off if you’ve not read them: it’s easy to follow and you won’t feel like you’re missing anything if you haven’t read them. Be warned though: it’ll probably make you want to go and read all the novels!

As is always the case in short story collections, there were some I enjoyed more than others. The ones I enjoyed least were ones where I solved the mystery too quickly: I much prefer the ones that kept me guessing right until the end.

The highlight for me was probably the final story, The Mystery of Room 12 by Robin Stevens. This one was really intriguing and probably the most complex of the mysteries. I also really enjoyed the Wild West themes in The Mystery of Diablo Canyon Circle, by Caroline Lawrence, and anything by Frances Hardinge is just beautifully written.

While these stories spanned many places and times – Mel Foster and the Hound of the Baskerville even ventures into fantasy – they all have a very traditional, old fashioned mystery feel to them, and there’s sure to be something for everyone here.

 4

Book Review: The Double Axe (Philip Womack)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Alma

Pages: 242

Release Date: February 26th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Dark forces are at work in the House of the Double Axe. Stephan, the thirteen-year-old son of King Minos of Crete, stumbles across a terrifying conspiracy. Is the Minotaur, a half man half bull who eats human flesh, real? Or is something even more dangerous threatening to engulf both the palace and the world?

Stephan must race to save his family from a terrible fate and find out what really lurks inside the labyrinth…

You think you know the story? Think again.

Review:

This is the first book in a new series which aims to retell classic myths from the point of view of teenage protagonists. I love the idea and think it could be a real hit with readers: it’s the kind of thing I would have loved when I was younger. I know one of my favourite books told part of Cleopatra’s story when she was a teenager and I felt more connected to her at that age than in books where she was older.

I love the myth of Theseus and the minotaur, and this was a really interesting take on it. It’s not quite what you expect if you know the story, but enjoyable all the same. The historical setting feels well researched and realistic, while the myth and magical elements are played around with a bit more as Womack puts his own spin on the events.

The sibling relationship between Stephan and Ariadne was really wonderful, and I particularly like Ari as a character – too often in re-tellings like this female characters still take a back seat, but Ari was brilliant: resourceful, brave and smart, just what I wanted her to be. Stephan, our protagonist, was really strong too, and I can imagine him being really relatable for young/teenage readers. He is young but has to deal with the responsibilities of a man, the pressures of being heir to the throne and also saving the palace from a dark conspiracy. It’s not easy being him!

This is a dark and action packed story based on a familiar myth but with its own unique twist. I’m really looking forward to the next installment!

4