Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Creating Room to Read by John Wood

This is my first rave for the year.  It's a book that I would not normally have picked up, but I had a chance to read an advance copy and I was blown away.  I have been talking about this book everywhere I go, encouraging anyone with even a tiny interest in children, education or reading to put it on their reading lists. The book (shown to the left) is called Creating a Room To Read by John Wood, and it's due for release on February 28th.

Nelson Mandela said,
'Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.'

These words and variations of these words have been heard over and over again, some might say to the point that nobody really hears it anymore. Let me tell you, after reading this book, I just wanted to shout it from rooftops and tell everyone I knew about the amazing work of the Room to Read organization.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Anzac Biscuits

Anzac Biscuits by Phil Cummings illustrated by Owen Swan
I must begin this review by admitting I have a slight bias with regard to this book, more specifically with the author.   I have known Phil Cummings for about 17 years, and I can say hands down that he is one of the nicest and most genuine people I have ever met.  Luckily for me (and our friendship) I actually liked his new book, in fact when I was handed a copy I actually squealed!
From my book selling point of view, we get asked every year for new books on ANZAC Day that can be used with readers from age 4+.  Teachers and librarians want something that they can use as a starting point to talk about the Anzac's, but they don’t necessarily want anything too graphic for the younger readers, and would like there to be enough substance for older readers...well I am happy to say that this is your book!
This is a story of a family separated by war.  Mother and daughter are shown at home, while the Father is fighting in the trenches.  Each double page spread alternates between home and away, and there are parallels in each illustration linking the two.  An example of this can be seen on the images below.

It's a beautiful and gentle story and while the ending is a positive one I know for a fact that more that one person has needed to reach for the tissues when they read this book, so be warned.

We were lucky enough to have a visit from Phil at the shop, and he kindly had a chat with James about the new book.  Here's the clip of that interview:

Friday, February 15, 2013

A new kind of 'Choose Your Own' series

Worst Case Scenario: Deadly Seas by Dave Borgenicht

This is actually the fourth book in the Worst Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure series, but I haven't seen any of the others. The catch phrase at the bottom of the book (You Decide How to Survive!) gives a good indication about what kind of book this might be, it is a new spin on the old Choose Your Own Adventure.

There are a few ways that this book is quite different form the Choose Your Own books that I remember:

1. This book is a hardback and it's style is very similar to the Dangerous Book For Boys/Girls.

2. There is a section at the back of the book (which you are encouraged to read first) that outlines real life survival tips that you might need to know in order to survive your journey, which in this case is a journey to sail around the world.

3. There are comic book style illustrations throughout the book as well as traditional text.

I really liked this book, but I have to admit that the first time I read it, I only made it to the Great Barrier Reef (not very far into the book at all!), but the beauty is, that I could go back and have another go, and eventually I made it around the world in one piece!  The secret really is in reading the survival tips, one wrong choice and you could end up on your way home...or worse!  There are 24 endings in this book, but only one gets you to the end.  

This book will be a great choice for any reluctant or struggling reader, when they realise that despite its size (it's 208 pages), they don't actually have to read every page to have read the story. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Shades of London Book One: The Name of the Star

Shades of London Book 1: Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Published October 2011

I have only just posted about my habit of judging books by their covers, well here we go again.  The original cover (see left) really didn't appeal to me (even though I love Maureen Johnson), but when I saw the cover for the second book in this series that's due out in March, and I realised I should probably read the first one, and truth be told I didn’t actually READ it , I listened to the audio version instead!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Where I admit to judging a book by it's cover...

It is no secret that I do judge books by their cover.  I should be ashamed of myself as a professional in the field of children's literature, but I am not.  In fact when I speak to groups of children about books and ways to select books, I openly admit that I am guilty of this.  My argument is that a books' cover only has ONE job, and that is to make you want to pick up the book.  I also say that the cover alone is not enough to make me read/buy/borrow the book, I read the blurb, see who the author is, read a bit, but it's often the cover that has made me pick it up.

What made me think of this is that I recently saw a book called Below by Meg McKinlay (see above), and the cover got my attention, I thought it was weird that I didn't know the book because Meg McKinlay is an Australian author.  When I read a bit about it I thought 'I recognise that story?' and I realised that it was just the US edition of an Australian book called Surface Tension, a book I haven't read!

There are other examples, like the cover for Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (see right).  I went for years not wanting to read this book, simply because the cover didn't even make me want to pick it up, but when the shiny pink cover came out, I jumped on it, and it is still one of my all time favourite books.

I also use the Twilight book (see left) as an example when I visit schools.  Covering the title, I show them the original edition (the image on the left) and ask who would pick this book up.  Very few hands go up, but when I show then the new cover it's a different story.  It's not something that people like to admit, but the cover does matter.

As I mentioned above, there are other ways I make decisions on what to read besides the cover, I am not THAT bad. When it's an author I love, or the new book in a series that I am hooked on, it wouldn't matter if the cover was made from brown paper, I would still read it, but I am already a reader.   For those just starting out on their reading journeys, with no real idea of where they want to go, I think the cover plays a huge part in the decision about what gets picked up and what gets left on the shelf.