The Crane Girl by Curtis Manley

crane girl(Illustrations by Lin Wang)

This is the kind of book I buy for my children, but secretly it will be for myself, because I adore beautiful books. The illustrations are alluring, so much so that they often overshadow the actual written story.

This is a lyrical version of a well-known Japanese folk-tale. The moral of the story is one found in fairy and folk-tales all around the world. Greed destroys all and makes even the kindest person forget the things they once held dear. They say money can corrupt even the most upright citizen, and that everyone has a price.

One day Yasuhiro comes upon a crane caught in a trap. He comforts and frees the bird. Not long after a young girl called Hiroko appears on his doorstep and Yasuhiro gives her shelter. In return for the help Hiroko helps Yasuhiro’s father by weaving silk behind closed doors every night. Soon he wants more than she is willing to give.

This is about friendship and random acts of kindness. A smile, a helping hand or perhaps just a moment of your time to help another living being. It’s important that we don’t lose our sense of humanity in the midst of all the indifference, violence and conflict.

The Crane Girl is nice way to teach our children and remind ourselves that we can and should help others without expecting anything in return.

Buy The Crane Girl at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Clover Moon by Jacqueline Wilson

clover-moonI don’t really have the time to read many children’s books anymore, however I will always gladly make an exception for Wilson.

I think any author who can inspire children to pick up a book and read is worth their weight in gold. Jacqueline Wilson was a favourite of one of my daughters when she was younger. She is a voracious reader and she would literally consume the Wilson books.

Clover looks for consolation with the local odd guy. The doll-maker understands they way Clover often needs a place to hide away from the real world. He also sees her natural talent for the finer artistic detail when she helps to paint the dolls.

Clover doesn’t get on with her stepmother and is often the recipient of brutal beatings courtesy of the woman who is supposed to be a mother to her. She often takes the brunt and the blame of things her siblings have done, because as the eldest she feels she has to protect them. Her life is difficult at the best of times, but a personal tragedy rocks her world and changes everything for Clover. She makes a decision which will have repercussions for both herself and the rest of her family.

Wilson is popular because she writes characters and situations her young readers can relate to. Fans of Wilson will be happy to hear that Hetty puts in an appearance, albeit a short one. Clover Moon gives us a glimpse of the harsh reality the little girl lives in and her attempt to change her destiny.

Buy Clover Moon at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Not if I see You First by Eric Lindstrom

not if i seeNow and again I felt like giving this book a hug. In the midst of all the teen drama there were some deeply emotional, eye-opening and heartfelt moments.

Lindstrom really is inside Parker’s head. The anger, the sarcasm, the huge defensive wall all around her, and the internal dialogue.

Parker is completely oblivious to her own selfishness. Her demanding nature threatens to swallow everyone around her whole. It takes quite a while for her to realise just how supportive everyone has been.

One of the things that does become abundantly clear is how many of us take the freedom of sight for granted. The way Lindstrom describes her running towards the end of the book gives an extraordinary insight into just how much of a barrier the darkness is.

Trust plays an enormous role in this book. Trust, observation and relying on someone other than yourself to scope out your environment and the actions of others. The betrayal of that trust can seem like an epic intrusion and unforgivable act, especially if you’re young and more vulnerable than others. A simple mistake can seem like so much more.

This story has the usual portion of overly dramatic teeny YA moments, which is why younger readers will probably enjoy this, however I do believe the more poignant moments outweigh the flightier ones.

I really enjoyed it, perhaps because Parker is such a realistic character. or maybe because Lindstrom just happened to hit the right notes. It is definitely a read I would recommend.

Buy Not if I see You First at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

paxThis book is for readers aged 10 years and upwards.

The story is complimented by the lovely illustrations by Jon Klassen. Although it is written for younger readers it has themes that everyone can identify with. Those topics range from the bond between a child and their pet, abandonment, PTSD, war and moving on in life.

Pennypacker lets the reader see the topics through two sets of eyes, those of Peter the boy and Pax the fox. It gives an overall view of the world through the eyes of the humans and through the eyes of the animals.

The story starts with Peter being forced to dump his hand-reared fox in the woods. Pax is his best friend and his pet. Peter realises that being hand-reared means possible death to the animal, and sets off to find him. He feels guilty for abandoning his friend and for not standing up to his father.

Meanwhile Pax is re-introduced to his natural environment and to other foxes. They perceive him as the enemy because he smells like, and I quote, ‘Stinky-Human.’

The animals communicate and talk about the humans and their wars. Pennypacker gives the animals more than just a voice, she gives them conversation, opinions and insights.

The story is very subtle, you feel a sense of peace and feel a part of the forest. I think the story of Pax the fox is a lot stronger than that of his human. At the same time Peter’s story is also poignant. His encounter with the veteran, the discussion about PTSD, the debate on war (even the animals get in on that). There was also an interesting parallel made between the aggression in his father and behaviour passed on from generation to generation.

Overall it is definitely literary fiction I would recommend for both younger and older readers.

Buy Pax at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer,

Head over Heels by Holly Smale

head over heelsThis is book 5 of the Geek Girl series.

First and foremost I have to say I am with India, the whole way. I might be by myself when it comes to that, but I totally get her attitude towards Harriet and her controlling behaviour.

The random facts, figures and tidbits of information were amusing. I now know many more random things I might need one day.

I think young readers will like the energy and especially enjoy following her life through various awkward stages in life.

In this book she and her friends are in college. Harriet still lives in a world of excessive micro management, unfortunately she also expects her friends to live up to her own personal expectations. She sets the bar really high for herself and everyone around her.

Harriet and her Dad are just too cute, like two peas in a pod. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I wonder what Tabitha will be like when she is older. Based on the little tikes adventures in this book, she seems to fit comfortably on the Manners tree.

Eventually Harriet has to acknowledge that part of growing up is being able to conform, accept change and to be a little more flexible with her friends and family.

Head over Heels is fun, fast-paced and delightfully eccentric.

Buy Head over Heels at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford

hamsterThis is the kind of book I know I would have enjoyed as a child. It speaks to the imagination and the creative imagery that lives inside the heads of little humans.

I can’t think of anything more exciting to explore and experiment with than a time-travelling machine. Oh the things I would have done with this as a kid, let alone now as an adult.

It is often complex, but Welford still manages to keep it simple enough so young readers can understand it.

The theory of relativity, of gravity, the butterfly effect and the complexity of time-hopping and time-travelling.

Who can fault Al for wanting to change past events and in doing so his future. It all starts out so innocently and ends up turning into a major catastrophe.

Luckily Al has a partner in crime to travel the seven seas of time. Named after a major football player (as in soccer), his furry pal Alan becomes his travel sidekick. Poor Alan is also used as space monkey guinea-pig, such an exciting life for a hamster.

If you’re a looking for the kind of book that will encourage a non-reader to read or keep an avid reader entertained then this is definitely a book I recommend.

Buy Time Travelling with a Hamster at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

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Seraphina is half human and half dragon, not exactly accepted by society or by either side of the coin.

To win the war Seraphina is following up on an idea and seeking the rest of the half-dragons, especially the ones in her mind-garden.There is a possibility of connecting them all to create a powerful trap that can be used to take down the enemy.
Unfortunately her nemesis Jannoula has similar plans or rather intends to use the same half-dragons for her own nefarious plot.

It is a tale of power, mind control and kinship. Intermingled with the complex relationships between mixed races and differences between humans and dragons.

My youngest daughter is an avid reader of fantasy, so I can see this series appealing to able readers age 10+. It is easy enough to follow, but has the complexity fantasy readers enjoy.

Not exactly sure where Hartman is going to take the ménage à trois of Seraphina,Glisselda and Lucian. How is Seraphina going to deal with the forthcoming events? Isn’t it time for a new man in her life? No matter where I am sure it will be interesting.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.