Review: Chris Colfer – A Tale of Magic

A Tale of Magic
Chris Colfer

Brystal Evergreen dreams of a world where she gets to do something other than clean houses and marry a man. She desperately wants to be specific – and she desperately tries to read every book that passes her by. Unfortunately she’s not going to fly under the radar for much longer.

This is a kiddie book! Everything is explicitly spelt (haha) out, there is no independent thought involved. The reader is told how to react to each ‘revelation’ and everything is foreshadowed so much that you can see the ending coming from a mile away! Everything every character does contains why they did it, how everyone reacts, and how the reader should react. The big secret isn’t really a secret.

The main character is of course lovely and kind and compassionate, and magic is something you pick between being a fairy and a witch (which doesn’t work, everyone knows that fairies are another species and witches are just evil humans). Also, anyone else feel a bit odd about the fact that all of the magic-users were females… except one boy who liked to play with dolls? I’ve revisited how I feel about that, and I still don’t know. I read the preview into the next book in the series, which continues to go along with the toxic masculinity vibe. Oh well, the typical, intended audience isn’t going to care.

This book was very happily gobbled up by a 11 year old girl who pronounced it ‘very good’. That’s probably the upper limit of the age for this book, as I found it too easy to read. So many words! 3 stars.

Review: Elisabetta Dami – Thea & Geronimo Stilton Mouse novels (A)

The Magic in the Mirror | Superstore Surprise
Thea & Geronimo Stilton

While I previously reviewed these children’s novels, I asked our resident avid 11-year old reader to give them a twirl and give me a review! Here’s her opinions on both of these novels.

The Magic in the Mirror

It was a spellbinding story with lots of action and fun. The ending was happy, and very satisfying. All the things that I wanted to happen did happen. It would have been a bit better if there had been more pictures, because I really wanted to see the mirror. I didn’t like that it’s always a prince and princess getting married – I’d prefer if they didn’t get married, because then how will they rule each kingdom equally? Each should go back to their own country and rule it. This was the favourite one out of all the others I have read (approximately 4 books). I would definitely read it again, maybe in a month or so.

Superstore Surprise

This book was not as good as the Magic in the Mirror or any other book in the series. It was the most disappointing book because I really thought it could have been longer than that, and I didn’t think that they would solve the mystery so quickly – this mystery wasn’t mysterious enough for me. It was a bit boring and the end was not satisfying.

The ending wasn’t satisfying, because it ended up that they just bought curtains and the evil person was now acting like a good person. This could be improved by making the answer to the mystery saboteur more complicated. I was able to guess it as soon as the first car drew up.

Review: Elisabetta Dami – Thea & Geronimo Stilton Mouse novels

Superstore Surprise
Geronimo Stilton

“It’s the grand opening of Traps new superstore, but nothing is working. The lights won’t turn on, the doors won’t open, and the loudspeaker is broken. Geronimo must figure out who is trying to sabotage the grand opening!”

Scholastic | 1st December 2020 | AU$12.99 | paperback

The Magic of the Mirror
Thea Stilton

“The Thea Sisters are summoned to the Seven Roses Unit by Will Mystery, but when they get there Will is missing! The sisters must follow a trail of clues to the Fantasy Kingdoms on their quest to find Will.”

Scholastic | 1st December 2020 | AU$19.99 | hardback (special edition)

Both these books are children’s fiction which I normally wouldn’t request. In fact, they are weird because they are by the same author, but are written under the pen names of their mice protagonists – Thea and Geronimo Stilton. Thus although these are written in the same universe, a child requesting this book wouldn’t know that they are by the same author! And I personally wouldn’t know how to categorize them in an alphabetical-by-author bookshelf.

These two beginning reader book are quick and quirky to read as an adult, and perfect for their intended age bracket of children in grades 2-4 (reading level 4). The font is large, and interesting/important words are emphasized to give some lightness to the reading.

Obviously I’m not the target audience for this. Upon watching my 11 year old daughter read other books by these mice, she laughed and giggled at multiple points – so I’m taking that as a good sign! I’m not 100% on whether these would suit young male readers as well, but they are short and engaging enough that having them read out loud by a beginning reader wouldn’t be too painful.

Both of these novels have been brought by Scholastic into English reading (they were originally written in Italian), but I imagine that the original novels would be just as good. I wonder whether a case could be made for immersion reading in a foreign language? There are some made-up words though, such as ‘fa-mouse-ly’ and I wonder how that worked in the original Italian. But I digress.

I’d confidently put these on the list for buying as a gift for a beginning reader, and suggest them as staples in a school library. The hardback of The Magic in the Mirror is beautiful with top-notch full-colour images inside. I can’t say anything about their rereadability.

NB: This review will be updated with an 11 year old’s perspective some time in January! I very sneakily asked my daughter which of the Scholastic Trade Parade she was interested in, and then hid them until Christmas!

Review: Gwyneth Rees – Libby in the Middle

Libby in the Middle
Gwyneth Rees

Libby is the middle. She’s the average sister out of three, doomed to always sit in the middle of the car back seat. When she moves to a new town, Libby just wants to fit in – but will that be possible around her family’s secrets?

From the intermittent parts of this novel that I have read, Libby is a nice enough 8th grader who is just really pliable when it comes to helping her big sister out. After I read the first chapter out loud, I then missed a bunch of chapters up to chapter 8. However, it seemed like nothing had even happened in the novel! This is not a fast-paced enough novel for me.

The 8 year old reader in my household decided that this was a good novel for her to read independently. It does contain some content that I would consider inappropriate for her age group (eg. stealing, lying, getting together with a boyfriend your parents don’t approve of). However, I believe it is the first novel she has ever read that contains NO PICTURES so I’m not going to be picking on her choice too much.

This novel was deemed “My review so far – AWESOME!” by my younger reader, so I’ll be giving it 4 stars. She did say it wouldn’t be a reread, so that takes it out 5 stars. I guess I might have to come up with baby Dragon eggs or something!

Bloomsbury | 1st January 2018 | AU$12.99 | paperback

Review: Leonie Thorpe – Archie’s Adventures

Archie’s Adventures
Leonie Thorpe

Young Archie Roach is new in town and has nothing remarkable about him. At least he was famous for a hideous bone fracture at his last school… Doomed to obscurity, Archie’s life is filled with being a pathetic Roach – until he makes friends with a local smuggler.

Archie is a fine character, I’m not really sure what else to say. My partner’s mother got me to read this book – in fact she handed me two different copies at two different times! Honestly, I wasn’t that excited by it, because I’ve sworn off reading children’s fiction now. It’s fine as a novel, I’ve just moved past it, and my (female) young reader wouldn’t be interested in it.

It’s a typical ‘reluctant reader’ boy novel – fishing and football! But then there is a bit of sailing as well. Typical team building activities with an old man and a useless hanger-on. Anyway, I shouldn’t be so disparaging. This is why I can’t read children’s fiction any more! Unless it is Isobelle Carmody, and it’s The Red Wind series. Standby for a review of the newest novel, The Ice Maze.

Three stars from me. Fine for kids, not worth it for adults. Not enough ‘meat’ here to make it a chapter book to read at bedtime to your kids.

Review: Simon Holland – A Miscellany of Magical Beasts

A Miscellany of Magical Beasts
Simon Holland

Discover the spellbinding stories of sixteen favorite mythical creatures from around the world. Dragons and griffins through to mermaids and giants, this lovingly illustrated novel will be for you.

With gorgeous illustrations and catchy little bits of story about mythical creatures, this large format children’s book is going to suit a range of fantasy enthusiasts. Perhaps you aren’t ready to read a big book of mythology? Perhaps you just want to have a taster of it? This is the book for you.

Of course, my favourite part was bound to be about dragons, and there wasn’t enough detail here for me. But for a beginner, it’s a nice introduction.

This has got to be the perfect gift for the younger someone who wants to know more about mythology past JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I’ll be giving it to a 7 year old beginning reader who is simply going to love it.

Bloomsbury | 20th November 2016 | AU $29.99 | Paperback

Review: Diane Mae Robinson – Sir Princess Petra’s Mission

Sir Princess Petra’s Mission
Diane Mae Robinson

Princess Petra’s life is complicated. She’s totally up for doing any adventure that comes along. The only problem is that her royal father really hates the idea of her staying knighted… And will come up with any mission he can to stop her.

28329659There’s not much I can really say here, it is such a tiny little volume. I snaffled it up in around a half-hour. The action is fast-moving, and tries to keep your attention that way. I did drift off at points, but I think that’s just me.

I haven’t read the first novel, or the second, but this read perfectly well as a standalone.

Now this, this is good fiction for kids. Easy to get into, has some nice jokes (that aren’t too adult in nature) and to me, I think it’s readable for younglings. I’m giving it 3 stars, just because it wasn’t THAT amazing, but it was pretty darn good. How could I not give at least 3 stars to a book with a dragon in it?