reviewed Tiffany Markman, mom to a two-year-old, tries to balance her workaholism with cuddling her daughter, reading books, consuming caffeine & reining in her intrinsic kugelry. Follow her on twitter.
I’ve said this before: book reviewers get jaded. We’re lucky enough to receive new books often; to regularly get to open cardboard boxes filled with the smell of freshly published paper. So there’s usually very little to make us squeal with delight – until we get into the book itself, that is.
Hoo-boy. The universe was just waiting to see what I would do when it sent me all four of Anita Pouroulis’s debut titles, packaged in a gorgeous re-usable purple satchel. I squealed. No jokes.
But, let’s get to the details, shall we?
What’s it about?
I selected Oh, What a Tangle! that very night, for my littlie’s bedtime story. Moms, if your kid has curly hair or hates having his/her hair brushed, buy this book. Because little Kiki’s ‘crowning glory’, horribly neglected in favour of activities that are more fun, soon turns into an actual birds’ nest.
How does it look?
The illustrations are spectacular; the work, I’m told, of student illustrator Monika Filipina Trzpil, who is completing the Master of Arts (MA, Children’s Book Illustration) programme at Anglia Ruskin University in the UK.
How does it read?
The words are equally lovely. It all rhymes and the general flow is melodic. I may be alone in this, but a bedtime story that rhymes (even when it’s a long-ish one) is easier and more pleasant to read.
Aside: For me, as a writer, the cadence of the writing and rhyme does feel a little erratic in parts (my husband, also a writer, has moaned that it doesn’t scan perfectly) – but my kidlet and I still love the book, and its unusual vocab, so who cares?
And then, there are the apps! Oh, What a Tangle! is available in the iBookstore, the App Store and for Google Play. I’ve not downloaded it yet, but other moms’ reviews are effusive. Having apps to complement the bedtime experience is great, especially since my toddler (who is 2) likes to see her favourite characters everywhere.
Just one more thing
Anita Pouroulis is an ex-South African living in Spain. The pluses for us, as SA readers, are that her stories use the more UK/SA ‘mum’ and other lingo and that her apps (apparently) feature British-accented narration. What a lovely change!
Reviewer: Tiffany Markman, mom to a one-year-old, tries to balance her workaholism with cuddling her daughter, reading books, consuming caffeine & reining in her intrinsic kugelry. Follow her on twitter.
Elephant and Piggie is a book series by Mo Willems. It has a fantastic comic book style, and features two friends: an elephant, Gerald, and a pig, Piggie.
My Friend Is Sad begins with Gerald, the ellie, who has a very sad face. Piggie tries all sorts of things to cheer him up: dressing up as a cowboy, a clown and a robot. But Gerald remains sad. Eventually we discover that Gerald is sad because Piggie isn’t there, and because he can’t share the cool cowboy, clown and robot with Piggie – whom he is unable to recognise beyond the disguise. Happily, it all works out in theend, with a clever twist (that I subsequently spotted in all of the Elephant and Piggie books).
Mo Willems’s books are not only gorgeous to look at and easy to read, with very clean, well-designed pages and simple text – they’re also widely recognised: Two books in the series have been listed on Time magazine’s ‘Top 10 Children’s Books of the Year’: Today I Will Fly in 2007 and Elephants Cannot Dance! in 2009.
In terms of target reader, I’d say parents could read these books to toddlers from age 1, but – as the pages are paper rather than board – solo reading would probably be best from ages 2 to 4. And the range of books would be good to keep, to come back to in primary school, when it comes to navigating friendships and conflicts.
Reviewer: Fiona Ingram, a South African writer who loves books, travel, animals, antiques, and adventures of all kinds! Read Fiona’s author site and find out about her recently published children’s adventure novel
Genre: Young Adult
Reading level: Ages 14 and up
Paperback: 360 pages
Publisher: Otherworld Publications LLC (December 7, 2011)
Rating: 4 stars
Available from Kalahari
Golden girl Heven Montgomery had it all: the looks, the body, the talent, the popularity, the good grades, and she is (of course) a cheerleader. Life is perfect…until one day something dreadful happens. Heven is attacked by some horrific creature while walking home from the library and she ends up terribly disfigured. Her life goes from hero to zero in one foul swoop. She can’t even remember what really happened. She hides away from the world, dresses in unattractive clothing, and is left with only one true friend, Kimber. Then gorgeous hunk Sam Kavanagh arrives at her school and things change. Although Heven is sure Sam must be put off by her appearance, he is not. Only Sam sees Heven’s inner beauty, which is still part of her. However, Sam also has terrible secrets; he is not who Heven thinks he is. And he is consumed by guilt about it.
This is a different kind of YA love story, involving the paranormal. It also reverses the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ theme in an interesting way. Just as Beauty discovered the Beast’s inner worth, so does Sam see Heven for who she really is. Heven also rediscovers her sense of self worth. Told from multiple points of view, the story unfolds to reveal an astonishing array of twists and turns, keeping the reader guessing until the very last page.
Author Cambria Hebert has done well with this first novel, getting into the YA thought patterns and expressions, really conveying the emotional highs and lows of the YA experience. Love, the first fluttering feelings, the angst, and ecstasy, and the intensity of each moment are all well described. Emotion, drama, action, horror, and character development make this a YA novel that stands apart from the rest. There is some violence but it is in keeping with the paranormal angle and is acceptable. I found some coincidences a little too convenient and editing issues were distracting, but the story is compelling. YA and paranormal fans will love this book, especially since the ending leads the reader into the next story.
by Corinne Lamoral, freelance writer and media consultant, practicing part time corporate communications. She lives with her husband and three children on a koppie in Johannesburg where she pretends the distant hum of traffic is the ocean.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of plastic pushed at children over Christmas, head to the refuge of a bookshop and stock up on some of these favourites.
FANTASTICAL FLYING MACHINES
By Simon Wild and Timothy Knapman (Macmillan Children’s Books)
Wildly original and entertaining, this pop up book tells a rhyming tale of Sally and Jack’s great race and little fight against Baron Von Bang Bang’s dirty tricks.
Age: 2 – 6
By Jonathan Emmett (Walker Books)
When pig finds a pair of knickers he puts them on and feels special, making him sing and dance for all his friends. What happens when he loses them teaches about how the person, not the clothes make you special. The sight of a pig wearing polka dot panties had my 4 year old in fits of giggles and the punch line even more so.
THE TROLL - book and CD
By Julia Donaldson and David Roberts (Macmillan Children’s books)
The latest book from the bestselling author of The Gruffalo was an instant hit in our house. Loosely based on the story of the troll who calls out “Who’s that trip trapping across my bridge?” this story features hungry pirates and clever creatures that manage to outwit the troll. The CD inspires you to read with great gusto and pirate pizzazz.
Age: 2 -10
By Charmaine Uys (Struik)
A new release from Struik’s excellent range of children’s nature books, this is a well-illustrated introduction to some of the 58 spiders, scorpions, snails, millipedes and other creepy crawlies (not insects) that your children are likely to encounter in their environment. All text is in English, Afrikaans, Xhosa and Zulu.
Age: 2 – 10
BINK AND GOLLIE
By Kate Di Camillo and Alison McGhee (Walker Books)
Welcome to the adventures of Bink – who is tiny, impulsive and filled with enthusiasm and Gollie – who is tall, cool and uses big words. A charming friendship story with a really humorous storyline, the illustrations by Tony Fucile, who designed The Incredibles, add to the book’s originality.
Age: 6 -8
Macmillan Children’s Books
With words and music for 25 classic carols including Once in Royal David’s City,Little Drummer Boy and We Three Kings, this is a great buy for the whole family.
Age: 6 and up.
A FAMILY CHRISTMAS – music CD
Putumayo World Music CD
Give your festive season a bluesy folk and jazz inspired feel with Putumayo’s roundup of Christmas classics like Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Jolly Old St Nick. My kids were initially unsure of these less recognisable versions of Christmas songs but once we put it on in the background while making dinner, it gave a fun holiday vibe. Good for grown up parties too.
Corinne Lamoral is a freelance writer and media consultant and mother of three children 3-9yrs. She reviews books and movies for a living which has sharpened her eye to spot out the must see’s and must reads out there.
This is a gem of a book – beautifully written and illustrated and sharing a message that will make your soul sing. It’s OK to be different! Dandylion is the new kid in class and right from the start he stands out. With his fun attitude to life and zany way of doing things, he spills paint in his eagerness, brings sweet sandwiches to school and finally gets the whole class in trouble by going wild with a Koki pen… Dandylion learns a big lesson but so do his classmates when they ask him to stop being so wild and he decides to stay at home. This is great for provoking discussion about how everyone does things differently and how we can all learn from each other.
Age: Good for children aged 3 up to around 8. Older children will find it too simplistic.
With a burst of sound and colour Frankie finds his true calling in this gorgeous book by the award-winning author of books like Our Big Blue Sofa and A Dog Called Rod. The cover illustration of a little boy playing the trumpet grabbed my attention as I fished it out from behind the other books on the Exclusives shelf. What a find. My nearly four-year old son Joseph loves trumpets and the delight on his face as he watched Frankie making colours with his sounds was wonderful. The story follows Frankie and his very quiet librarian parents who read books and do the crossword everyday until Frankie announces LOUDLY that he wants to learn to play the trumpet. The story introduces the concept of Synaesthesia –the mixing of the senses that allows some people, like jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, to perceive colours, shapes and smells in music.
Age: 3 to 10yrs. Older children will get the concept more, but Hopgood’s illustrations will talk to everyone.2