Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Book Review: Cuddle Kitten and Puddle Pup

Cuddle Kitten and Puddle Pup by J.R. Poulter tackles the subject of toilet training in pets, always a vital part of a young animal’s education. Cuddle Kitten is the perfect cat. She uses her litter tray properly, with no splattery bits and no smells. She is constantly praised by her family and, since Cuddle Kitten is so good when it comes to bathroom hygiene, she even keeps a watchful eye on young Tottie when she goes to the potty. Things are just perfect and orderly, as it should be in a well run household. But disaster strikes when Uncle Gus comes to visit and brings ... a puppy! A noisy, badly behaved, rambunctious puppy that even chewed Cuddle Kitten’s tail, among other things! Even worse, the puppy, Puddle Pup, had absolutely no potty training and just went any and everywhere he chose. Tottie tried to help, but things simply got messier and smellier. Will Puddle Pup ever get potty trained and fit in with the rest of the family?

This is a hilarious tale that will have many adults nodding their heads as they remember the drama and chaos of a new pet. Young readers will learn about being patient and tolerant, and giving a helping hand in teaching others, as well as the family members working together as a team to solve a problem and restore harmony in the house. Children will adore the characters of Puddle Pup and Cuddle Kitten, which are beautifully captured by Trish Flannery’s illustrations. The images are just gorgeous and so realistic with lovely fine detail that young readers will enjoy exploring. The images help the story along magnificently and portray the different scenarios perfectly. At the end of the book is a delightful section on how to train your own puddle pup and easily overcome the hassles of the new pet and the potty. This is a lovely bedtime story for youngsters, and one they will ask for again and again.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Book Review: Oliver and the Little Ghost

Oliver and the Little Ghost by Andy Klein is the second book in The Fantastic Adventures of Oliver Phenomena series. Right away young readers are told that Oliver is a very different little boy, one with the ability to attract "unusual encounters with curious things." Since Oliver and his dad are off to stay at Aunt Katrina’s spooky mansion, and look after the place while she is away in London, there’s no doubt that weird things are going to happen. After all, a spooky mansion could hold any number of amazing secrets! Aunt Katrina also believes the mansion is haunted and she asks Oliver’s dad to take photos, and maybe capture evidence of any unusual happenings. He does so, but none of the pictures shows anything out of the ordinary. But Oliver sees something, or rather, he sees someone. He spies a little boy in olden day clothing on the staircase. Oliver’s dad can’t see anyone though. The ghostly little boy, named Austin, is very safety conscious and that’s a good thing. Young readers will learn how Austin’s safety measures prevent accidents. Oliver had marvellous fun with Austin, although his dad wasn’t quite sure about things...
This is a really sweet and entertaining story about a number of themes. Oliver is different and it’s a refreshing idea that a young child can see things that adults can’t, and also reminds us of how, as we get older, we lose some of the ‘magic’ in life. Oliver is brave and curious, and he isn’t afraid of things that he might not initially understand. He takes the step to make friends with Austin, and so they both have a wonderful time together, despite the fact that Oliver is a real boy and Austin is a ghostly one. The theme of safety measures is actually very interesting as Austin’s actions point out just how easily mishaps can occur in the home.

Images are a very important part of a child’s reading experience and here this book shines. The illustrations by Ronaldo Florendo are simply done, are very brightly coloured, and depict the events in detail. The expressions are just superb, and young readers will enjoy the pictorial experience of Oliver’s ghostly adventure as much as reading or listening to the story. I also liked the fact that there is a "This book belongs to ____" in the beginning, to encourage the young reader to make the story their own. The reading level is simple and easy to understand. It would have been nice to discover a bit more about Austin, why he was still living in the old mansion, and what had happened in his life. But perhaps that’s food for another adventure for young Oliver, a very unusual boy!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Book Review: Clarence: The Story of a Boy with Big Ears and a Big Italian Family

Clarence should be the happiest boy ever. He has a big, wonderful Italian family that loves him, his Nonna, his grandmother, is the best cook ever, and Stella, the family dog, always makes sure Clarence gets a big, wet, slobbery greeting when he comes home from school. School. That’s the problem. Clarence has unique ears; they are big and he gets teased and bullied by the other kids about them. Somehow, when his sister, Daria, teases him a little bit, and his older brother, Joey, makes jokes, it’s not hurtful but just part of playful family comments. One night when all the family members are gathered around the dinner table, talking loudly and having lots of conversations across the table, Clarence noticed that everyone else’s ears look normal; his are very different and so the kids at school must be right. He quietly slipped away to his bedroom, but not without his Nonna seeing him leave the table. Clarence listened as Nonna told him some family history, especially about his grandfather who came to America in 1912, with nothing but the clothes on his back and a very special gift; a little silver bell given to him by his father. Clarence’s grandfather was hard working, handsome, and he too had large ears. Nonna gave Clarence the silver bell. Will this small and dainty object be able to help Clarence deal with the mean bullies?
Clarence: The Story of a Boy with Big Ears and a Big Italian Family by Stephanie Baruffi is a charming story about a young boy with quite an unusual difference; his ears are large. Do we ever really notice things like ears, which sit on the side of a person’s head, not really being obtrusive? However, kids who want to be mean pick on the seemingly most unimportant things to tease and bully someone who lacks self-confidence. I enjoyed the way the author portrayed Clarence finding the courage to stand up for himself and to retaliate, but not wildly and just saying anything to his tormentors. Clarence wisely points out that the things he just said were things he didn’t have to say – he was making a point about how the kids carelessly say things that are hurtful. This story is a lovely lesson in respecting your peers, being tolerant, being tactful and compassionate towards others. I also enjoyed the role of family in the story, how Clarence drew strength from his grandfather’s story, and from realising that he was part of, and loved by, a big, boisterous family, and how they all accepted each other. Delightful illustrations bring the characters and events to life for young readers and a little glossary at the back explains the meaning of Italian words used in the text. A great book for storytelling time at school or at bedtime.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Book Review: Red-Tail Recovery

Red-Tail Recovery is the third story in Australian author Emma J Homes’ wildlife series about Ruthie, a young wildlife ambassador and her commitment to helping save wildlife in Australia. Ruthie, her younger sister, Bel, and younger brother, Liam, travel around Australia with their parents (Kate and Tom) who are scientists, involved in wildlife research and animal projects. The family travels in a green and yellow bus, while the kids study via ‘lessons of the air,’ as well as learning from life experience about the wildlife in their home country. This time a new adventure beckons since Kate and Tom will be looking after a friend’s wildlife centre, The Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo Recovery Program, for a year while he is away. This will mean living in a house instead of a bus, and going to a real school. Will Ruthie and her siblings adapt? Even more importantly, given that the Red-Tails’ habitat is increasingly threatened by farming and encroachment upon their feeding and nesting environment, their numbers are dwindling fast. Does the Red-Tail have a chance of survival and will Ruthie and her family make any difference?

Beautiful, clear descriptions will transport young readers into Ruthie’s new life in the small town of Bailey’s Lake (pop. 1,400). They will also learn a lot about wildlife and the precautions taken to protect their habitats. Facts are cleverly inserted into the dialogue so eager wildlife enthusiasts will learn while they are enjoying the story, and appreciating Ruthie’s adaptation to her new environment. After all, haven’t we all been the new kid at school? Ruthie makes a new friend, Linsey, and gets involved in school sports and other fun stuff. Readers also read about wildlife smuggling, which seems like an odd thing for people to target, but it exists and that’s another danger young enthusiasts will learn about. Fans of Ruthie’s previous adventures will be happy to catch up on news about Womble, Ruthie’s pet wombat now living as a wild wombat, who was instrumental in solving a mystery causing frogs to die, and in solving the problem of mange in wild wombats (clever Womble!). Ruthie has a new pet in this story, a skink called Lulu!

Wildlife research is not armchair work and Ruthie and her family and Linsey get stuck in, another revelation for readers who think that being a wildlife scientist is easy. One does not study an animal or bird without going outdoors for fieldwork, the best way to study their habitat, their food, and the activities that the creatures engage in. The vocabulary and reading levels are good for all types of readers and the events of the story soon draw young readers into Ruthie’s world, her new experiences, and her reactions to the changes in their lifestyle.

Ruthie is such a lovely young role model for readers to emulate, and I really like how author Emma Homes manages to teach while creating a great and new adventure for many kids, who may never have had any close encounters with the animals and birds of their own country. The story shows very clearly how all of life is entwined, from destruction of trees to changes in environment, and how all this affects the cycle of wildlife; how each creature has its role to play in the ecological chain. I also liked the forward thinking that the story demonstrates, and how Bel’s idea of planting trees will help create a safe environment for the birds to flourish. As Ruthie realises, “Even a small step in the right direction was a difference they could all be proud of.” A small endnote gives readers more details about the Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo. The perfect gift for readers who love adventure and the outdoors, and young wildlife and bird enthusiasts.