Friday, July 24, 2009

Review: Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really BIG Adventure

I've gotten a whole lot of books from Egmont publishers recently. Some I will post here and some I will post over at

One of the books I received from the publishers was a children's picture book. I am a primary school teacher and just love picture books. They bring together many elements of writing and enjoyment that novels just cannot reproduce. They are very eye catching because they usually have great art, the story draws you in and the rhyming enraptures you. This one even has a fantasy feel to it!

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks goes on an adventure with his faithful cat and good grey mare where he meets creepy monsters, fire breathing dragons and a not so wicked witch. Each encounter he faces he is left abandoned by his companions but brave and clever Sir Charlie will know what to do.

Just when I started to wonder where the story was leading, a clever ploy was there to distract me. This book has fold out pages that flow with the story line! "As Charlie pushed open the big wooden door. Up the windy windy staircase marched Sir Charlie Stinky Socks."

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks by Kristina Stephenson does not disappoint at all, in fact, it probably goes a step beyond. It had great narrative, the art was fantastic and the pop out pages were very well thought out. Young kids should be drawn to this book like moths to a flame.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Review: Artemis Fowl

His intelligence is well beyond any mortal let alone for his age. For months Artemis has been on the trail to find a fairy (yes, fairies exists) because fairies have a magic book. Why would he want this book? Because he wants to exploit the fairies and get their gold. With a fairy’s magical book he will know all their secrets, how they operate, how they do things and most importantly,  how to make himself rich and doesn't care whether if there is war between Fairy and Man. 

Eoin (pronounced Owen) Colfer is the bestselling author of a series called Artemis Fowl which the first book is also named after. Eoin has created a world where Fairies, Trolls and Dwarves exist but humans know nothing of (well except the ones that do) and if they happen to mistakenly glimpse them, the fairies have magically imbued technology that allows them to make them forget.


Artemis Fowl is a story which details about a boy called Artemis Fowl whose mother is sick and his father has gone missing. He is taken care of by a family called the Butler’s who have looked after (both as nanny and bodyguard) the Fowl family for centuries. The Butlers’ loyalty to the Fowl’s is second to none and they are raised knowing they will be protecting the Fowl family, so when Artemis has an idea about capturing a fairy (which can lead to cross-species war) Butler follows along loyally no questions asked.


I found this book to be a very fast paced book. It had lots of planning and scandals and it won’t take you long to finish (because you don’t really want to put it down). Artemis is a very intelligent boy and is portrayed as a villain (because he tries to exploit another race to get gold) yet there is still a 12 year old boy yearning for his mother and father. This is probably where the skills of Eoin Colfer shine, as children can really relate with Artemis on this level. I have been brought up with certain images and understandings of Fairies and Dwarves and if you want to change them, those changes better be good. However, Colfer really changes the way they are in his book, they are definitely unique but the changes aren’t to my liking and I have a suspicion that he changed it for a greater ‘young male’ readership. Although with that said, this book can be enjoyable for ‘young female’ readers as well. One of the main characters in the book is a female fairy called Holly Short who is strong and vibrant which I am sure all girls want to be as well.


I will surely pick up the next book Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident as this book was such a lively read.  

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Review: The Tombs of Atuan

‘The Tombs of Atuan’ is the follow up to A Wizard of Earthsea and the second book from the Earthsea series. In this story, we mainly follow a young girl who is taken away from her family at a very age and is made to be the High Priestess of the Nameless ones called Arha. She is taught many things and made to do many horrors in order to keep the order alive. Yet because this is all she knows, she fears escaping but when an intruder is found in the Tombs of Atuan, Arha is intrigued by the intruder and unknowingly changes her fate.

For those not in the know, the Earthsea Trilogy (now a quartet) is a series written by Ursula Le Guin often found in the children’s sections of the library and bookstores. It has a huge fan base in Japan perhaps even more so than in America. Anime, movies and toys have been made of Earthsea and it is this series that Ursula Le Guin is most famous for.

While Tombs of Atuan’s pace and setting is a lot different than A Wizard of Earthsea, I found that I enjoyed the book a lot more. Much like a good horror novel, it is suspense that drives this book forward. The Tombs of Atuan is a place where no light can be emitted because that would anger the Nameless Gods. So we follow Arha, blinded and feeling around with our hands and knees; one false turn, one misremembered turn and Arha is trapped with the Tombs forever, along with the corpses of slaves and the treasures hidden in a room below the Tombs of Atuan.

If you have read A Wizard of Earthsea before, be warned Ged is not the main character and really takes a backseat. I think this is very clever by Le Guin. Not only does it add an extra dimension to the overall story, stopping the book from being about powerful magics but is also self contained and can be read without reading A Wizard of Earthsea.

The most pleasing aspect of this book besides the suspense was the start and the ending. Right at the beginning you are thrust into action where a little girl is about to have her head chopped off. The end is a juicy cliffhanger. However, if there is something bad to say about this book, it is that it is too short. There could have been more depth in the character Arha and more about the order of The Nameless Ones. But that is probably my adult fantasy background talking.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Review: Un Lun Dun

Zanna and Deeba are two ordinary school girls who live next to each other. One day they see something weird outside Deeba’s house during a sleepover and they follow it into a building (much to the dismay of Deeba). When they exited the building, they were no longer in London…

Nothing was what it seemed. Rubbish would chase them, they could see people (if you can call them that) with cushions for heads with pins sticking out of it, water and fish inside a diving suit that could walk around on land and everything weird imaginable (and not) were all around them.

As the girls try to find a way back to London, Zanna shows her 'travel card' and is greeted with awe and joy.

'UnLondon is at war. We’re under attack. And it’s been written, for centuries, that you – you – will come and save us.'

Un Lun Dun is the first book China MiƩville has written for children. His previous books The Rat King, The Scar have all had great reviews and praise for his work but it is his book Perdido Street Station that has put him up on a pedestal and changed many minds on how the fantasy genre can be written. So I was excited to read this book of his.

Un Lun Dun is about two girls who get magically transported to the world of UnLondon where they are very confused and only want to go home. The world is full of strange creatures and nothing is what it seems. They soon find out that UnLondon has been under attack by the ‘Smog’ and that once the Smog has had its way with UnLondon, London will be next. Zanna and Deeba also find out that Zanna is the Chosen one, the one that will save them from the Smog and so is greeted by smiling friendly faces…well except for the Smog and his minions who try and dispatch of her before she fulfills her destiny!

MiĆ©ville does an excellent job of making up the world of UnLondon. Things are so creative, so strange that you have no idea how he came up with it. Rubbish Bin bodyguards, flying buses and talking prophetic books are just a few things from his strange world. The story starts off a little slowly, which can be a bit of a detractor especially with the younger generation, but really picks up a fifth of the way in and it’s all on. One of Mieville’s strong points is his ability to word play. Making up words to fool you yet has a deeper meaning as part of the story. Character names are something sneakily amazing.

However, the thing about Mieville and I’ve also noticed this in his book Perdido Street Station is the lack of interest you feel for the main character. The Storyline is great and the action is great but you just don’t care for the character. More often than not, it is the supporting characters you want to know about more because they simply feel more interesting.

All in all, this was a good book to read. I think children will enjoy it because they can relate to the children in the book; the chapters are short so attention spans won't go flying out the window and therefore they also make good chapter books to read to your children as bed time stories.

I'll definitely be reading this book to my classroom of 10 year olds!

"The Matrix meets Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." - Sleeping with Books

p.s. This Month is YA month for me. I've read quite a few YA books recently and look forward to posting them.