‘My Name is Mina’ is the journal of a girl called Mina. It cannot be defined as a simple day to day recording of her life but is instead, a vibrant mash of thoughts, dreams, stories, poems, scribblings and nonsense! The book is wild and unpredictable, just like Mina herself. She likes to write down strange words that she loves, poems of being an owl in the night, stories of her journey to the “underworld”, extraordinary facts about the earth we live on and her thoughts on the people she watches from high up in her tree.
Although joyful and enthusiastic, Mina is a loner who is considered to be strange and while this can be confusing to her at times, she also takes great pride in it. Her journal is about seeing things from a different perspective and Mina encourages the reader to break out of their thinking with her suggestions for ‘extraordinary activities.’ Touch the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb to make a ring, look through it to the night sky and consider all the unimaginable space within it! Fly in your sleep! Stare at the dust that dances in the light! Write a page of nonsense!
Mina encourages her mind to be free and rich and messy for she knows that is what the world is. She sees in all things, a wild and chaotic beauty. While she likes to get wonderfully lost in her imagination, I found her to be more grounded in reality than those characters who think they are. She is a young rebel and a free spirit and so is baffled by the rigidity and order that is enforced in her schooling and in the adult world.
Although just an imaginary character, Mina felt real to me. This speaks volumes of the talent of David Almond who manages to capture not only the spirit of a child but of a young girl. I recognised so much of myself in her, parts of myself that I’ve misplaced and am now frantically searching for in the dusty corners of my mind, for in my adulthood, I see just how precious they are. I was overjoyed to find her again for Mina is the inner child, the irrepressible spirit that we were all suppose to hold on to tightly from our childhood and that somehow, we often lose sight of through the years.
‘My Name is Mina’ is a creative, uplifting and moving read that celebrates the wild and glorious experience of life through the wide open eyes of a child. I could not recommend it more highly, not only for children but for adults too.
Hodder Children's Books (2010)
For more information, please check out: http://www.davidalmond.com
This story tells
of the adventurous Coraline (not Caroline, as others mistakenly call her) as she moves
into a strange house with her mother and father. Coraline loves exploring. But after a couple of weeks of playing in the house and the surrounding grounds,
she becomes rather restless and tired of feeling ignored. She has played with
all her toys and read all her books. She has counted all the windows and she
has counted all the doors. Her parents are boringly busy and there seems like
nothing else to do! Not even her eccentric neighbours can satisfy her curiosity.
But...there is a peculiar door. Situated in the
drawing room, it oddly opens on to a brick wall. When bizarre dreams and strange signs occur, Coraline finds that the unusual door leads to the world of her ‘Other
Mother’. A magical alternate reality, the ‘Other Mother’ supplies Coraline with
all the wonderful food and fun she could ever want. Enchanted, Coraline keeps
returning but Coraline should quickly take heed. For the ‘Other Mother’, a
taller, thinner version of her real mother with paper white skin and black
buttons for eyes, has sinister plans in mind…
is a fantastically thrilling and spooky read, perfectly exhibiting Neil Gaiman’s
marvellously strange imagination and is accompanied by illustrations by Chris
Riddell (which I must admit, made me jump on several occasions!) ‘Coraline’ is
a horror book for children and while parts are quite scary and adrenaline-
filled, it is not needlessly frightening.
loved most about ‘Coraline’ was its wonderful message about being brave. There
is a common misconception that those who are brave are fearless. Coraline finds
herself in a situation where she must defeat evil or else face losing
everything and although she does not feel very brave inside, she does what she
has to, regardless of her fears. She is terrified yet she still takes action. THIS
is what makes her brave.
finished the last page, I realised that I often tell myself that I will
conquer all my fears when I 'become brave.' Unfortunately, although I can try to convince
myself, I, like Coraline, have no time to wait. It is very easy in life to become
your own ‘Other Mother,’ insisting and persuading yourself you are better off in your own little
bubble, when in fact, there is often more to lose if you stay. It is said that in life you should 'feel the fear and do it anyway' and Coraline is a inspiring example of this.
wonderfully exhilarating and inventively scary story, ‘Coraline’ encourages its
young readers to be brave in life and that, like our heroine, shows that anyone
is capable of showing remarkable strength and courage, even when they are afraid.
Illustrated by Chris Riddell. Bloomsbury (2012)
For more information, please check out:
Neil Gaiman: http://www.mousecircus.com
Chris Riddell: http://www.panmacmillan.com/author/chrisriddell
‘My Yellow Umbrella’ is like a little ray of sunshine. A
vibrant picture book, set in sunny San Francisco, each page is filled with pure
joy, wonderful freedom and the elation of feeling truly alive. It tells the
story of a young girl and her dog exploring the city as she declares her love
of her bright yellow umbrella, a symbol of happiness, hope and contentment. Perfectly
matching the optimistic mood of the book, the story’s illustrations are bold, colourful and expressive. My favourite is that of the little girl, in a meadow filled
with daffodils and canaries, swinging on the side of a tram with her yellow umbrella
in hand, just like Gene Kelly. (The book definitely captures that joyful ‘Singing
in the Rain’ feeling!) Sharing the same spirit of its inspirations, Albert Lamorisse’s
enchanting short film ‘The Red Balloon’ and the wonderful Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s
project ‘Beckoning of Lovely,’ ‘My Yellow Umbrella’ expresses the delight of
simple pleasures and the act of rejoicing in the beauty of life.
A blissful and inspiring read for young children, it
contains a message of joy and love of life that we often forget and one that should
be treasured always.
Illustrated by Chris Robertson. Xist Publishing (2013)
This is the story of Elf Girl and Raven Boy. They are not
their real names of course. In fact, they do not even know each other’s real
name. For some strange reason, they adamantly won’t tell each other. There is
no time to get the truth out though, as they are thrown together and must navigate
their way through the spooky 'Fright Forest', full of trolls, witches and ogres in
order to find both family and home.
If you are looking for quirky characters with endearing
awkwardness and humour, this is a wonderfully whimsical children’s series to
delve into. Elf Girl and Raven Boy have been created with brilliant chemistry and
it is enthralling to watch them bumble their way through their perilous adventure.
As with all thrilling quests, ‘Fright Forest’ is littered with adrenaline filled
reveals and tempting answers in the shadows. Author Marcus Sedgwick has formed
leads with plenty of personality but also with a touch of mystery. Enticing
reading therefore can be found, not only from its exhilarating plot but by a
driving fascination, as you follow them through the strange and creepy forest,
of discovering who Elf Girl and Raven Boy really are.
I was drawn to this great find by spotting the work of
illustrator Pete Williamson. Found in the previously recommended ‘To be a Cat’
by Matt Haig, his gangly wide eyed character style fits perfectly with the
offbeat and charming story telling found in both books. Illustrations adorn
almost every page, whether it is a spooky portrait, a moment of slapstick action
or thorny branches curling its way around the page, creating visual appeal and
enticement for a growing reader.
Elf Girl and Raven Boy’s adventure continues so keep an eye
out for a future posts as they make their way to 'Monster Mountains'. I can’t
Illustrated by Pete Williamson. Orion Children's Books (2012)
I was intrigued by a vague recollection of ‘The Spiderwick
Chronicles’ name as I reached for its dark spine on the rather colourful children’s
bookshelf. The front cover is rich in detailing, from its
variation of glossed and grooved surface to the spindly, curl trimmed typeface
of its title. Holding the petite hardback I felt drawn into the illusion and excitement of possessing a
secret journal, a theme continued inside with a map and two letters,
one written on a typewriter and one by hand. Both mysterious and cautionary.
The story follows the spooky discoveries of Jared
Grace who moves into the creepy dilapidated Spiderwick Estate along with his
mother, his twin Simon and his sister Mallory. His siblings are high achieving
(Mallory being skilled at fencing) and seemingly at peace with themselves
(Simon busily caught up in thoughts of his growing animal collection.) His recent achievement being a bruised
eye from a fight, Jared is left as the black sheep of the family. He is not best pleased to be moving into the decrepit
building but soon strange goings on ignite his curiosity. A secret room, some
frightening pranks and a mysterious journal lead the Graces together to uncover an alarming
discovery. And this is only the
I was entranced by this little book and thoroughly look
forward to reading the subsequent sequels. The characters are intriguing and
eccentric, the plot has a growing sense of suspense and mystery and it conjures
an imaginary environment that is both fascinating and spooky. I loved the pen and ink illustrations. Scratchy
yet meticulous sketches, which in my imagination feels as if they were created
in the moment with the greatest of precision and study, in order to document
what would turn out to be a strange unraveling of events. The story is one of a
series with its bite size format leaving you with more than enough pleasure to make
it addictively collectable. Keep an eye out for future posts on The Spiderwick
Illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black. Simon & Schuster (2003)
For more information, please check out: http://pages.simonandschuster.com/spiderwick/
This is the story of
Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, a 12 year old Viking and our unlikely hero. Despite
being the laughing stock of the village, Hiccup is set to one day take over the
very silly Hairy Hooligan tribe from his father, Stoick the Vast. To stay in
the tribe, Hiccup must prove himself and survive the ‘Dragon Initiation
Programme’ or face expulsion, or more likely, death. Against some terrifying
dragons and some rather scary odds, our clumsy but clever Hiccup goes against
time-honoured traditions in order to become the legendary ‘Dragon Whisperer’
and the last of the great Viking heroes. This book is part of a fantasy
adventure series, recommended for ages 8 and up.
It all begins with
poor Hiccup caught up in a hazardous lesson in dragon catching. Led by the
formidable Gobber the Belch, the group of boys (who are all too eager) must
creep into the dragons’ cave and claim a dragon for their own or else face
exile. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Hiccup must trust his instincts
and his acquired dragon knowledge in order to survive, not only this challenge
but the many challenges to come.
I loved all the characters of the book, with
the foolishly fearless Vikings, the cunning cat-like dragons and Hiccup (one of
the few with any common sense) complementing each other to create great comedy.
The story definitely keys in to the fact that humour can be found in everything
going ridiculously wrong.
The illustrations by
the author are great scrawling scribbly ones, a style that almost creates a
sense of animation and one that fits perfectly with portraying the loud gruff
Hairy Hooligans, the blustering storms and the sly sneaky dragons.
While the story is written
in the third person, the prologue and epilogue are written by the ‘author’
Hiccup and add a wonderful illusion of reality to this fantastical tale. Despite
the perilousness of his past and the warnings for the future, it’s of great
comfort to hear an older Hiccup reflecting on the adventures of his youth. It
is encouraging to know that this unlucky boy will one day be recognised as a
legend among his people and that perhaps, with a little luck and bravery, it
might be possible for anyone to be a hero too.
This is a book I
would highly recommend. Cowell’s comedic characters and descriptive slapstick
action coalesce into an enormously humorous and exhilarating read that will
appeal to children and parents alike. (This book is only Hiccup’s first memoir.
To discover his full story of his journey to becoming a Viking hero, check out
the full series!*)
Illustrated by Cressida Cowell. Hodder Children’s
For more information, please check out: http://www.cressidacowell.co.uk/ http://www.howtotrainyourdragonbooks.com/
*The eleventh book,
published this year, is ‘How to Betray a Dragon’s Hero.’ The twelfth, which is
yet to be published, will be the last in the ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ series.
This is the story of Danny and Dinosaur and their adventure
to space, where Dinosaur manages to poop a planet. Yes, that’s right. A dinosaur
that poops a planet! It’s a lucky thing that you can’t smell in space. This is a funny picture book for young
The story begins with
Danny and Dinosaur who are desperate for some fun, when Danny comes up with a wonderful
plan. Why not go to space today? So, after their mummy packs them a delicious
lunch, they are off to the Science Museum. The museum is full of huge shiny
rockets and Danny and Dinosaur can’t resist going inside a big orange spaceship,
conveniently ready for launch. With buttons everywhere inside, what child could
resist pressing them all? Before Danny and Dinosaur know it, they are shot into
space on an exciting intergalactic space mission. But what will happen when
Dinosaur’s belly starts rumbling and Danny realises that they've left their
packed lunches back on earth? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
With inventive and
charming rhymes in the style of Dr. Seuss, this is an irresistibly funny book,
perfect to read out loud to children at bedtime. It was a lovely surprise to find my edition came with a page of stickers of the characters (I discovered I still get excited by stickers) as well as a QR code to view a video clip of the authors Tom Fletcher & Dougie Poynter (who I also discovered are two of the guys from the band, McFly).
The illustrations by Garry Parsons are wonderfully vibrant and humorous and the depictions of Dinosaur are particularly endearing. I’m certain that children will find this story a joy and I am sure that little boys in particular will find the poo references particularly hilarious.
illustrations, a silly story and lots of funny poop, it’s hard to find fault
with this very entertaining picture book.