I Don’t Like Koala by Sean Ferrell

Published: 14th April 2015 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Illustrator: Charles Santoso
Pages: 40
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

What’s not to love about a cute, cuddly…creepy toy koala? This is the story of a boy and the stuffed animal he just can’t seem to shake.

Adam does not like Koala. Koala is a little creepy.

Adam tries explaining this to his parents. He tries putting Koala away – far away. He tries taking Koala on a long, long walk. Nothing works. Will Adam ever be rid of Koala?

I had to really think about this review. My first reaction was confusion about this book and why anyone would write it. It wasn’t until I was writing down my thoughts and I got to think about it more that I altered my view.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think this is a creepy book about a demonic stuffed koala, but I can see in a very small way that it might be funny to some seeing this kid try to get rid of his koala to no avail.

I thought this was going to be a cute story about a kid not liking a toy and then learning to love it but this reads like something from a horror novel. Adam describes to us all the reasons why he doesn’t like his toy koala and from a little kid point of view the reasons are justified. Adam hides Koala around his house and then we assume his parents return him to Adam’s room. But it gets weird when Adam leaves Koala at the top of a hill and it still manages to return to Adam’s house.

Maybe it’s the way I interpreted it but it isn’t that cute. This kid doesn’t like his toy, Koala, and his parents keep bringing it back to him ignoring his protests. Then something happens and he suddenly loves it? Even if I can see the reasons I don’t know, it just seems odd.

Looking at it another way, if we embrace the possessed stuffed toy angle, Adam has secured himself a demonic toy that is actually a guardian of sorts against the other evil of the world while giving off the creepy vibe. Why not, I can work with that, even if it’s exceptionally peculiar.

From an illustration angle, Santoso does an amazing job. The illustrations of Koala are effectively creepy and Adam is adorable and Santos captures all the moods and tantrums and gives Adam excellent facial expressions. Even while we’re creeped out by the story itself, you can’t help but admire the fantastic illustrations that accompany it. I am upping the stars on this purely based on Santosa’s fabulous illustrations.

You can purchase I Don’t Like Koala via the following

Book Depository | Booktopia

ABC Online | Fishpond | BookWorld

Wordery | Dymocks

Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson

Published: 14th June 2011 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Harper Collins
Pages: 359
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Thriller
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child, thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me… 

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love–all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. 

Welcome to Christine’s life. 

I have wanted to read this for years and I’m so glad I finally picked it up. THIS BOOK IS AMAZING! Again, I have seen it compared to 50 First Dates (like all memory books are these days it seems), but it is much better than that and totally not even the same thing.

Christine’s memory resets every morning and she reverts back to thinking she is in her twenties. It’s a phenomenal read seeing how she adjusts and copes with this realisation every morning. Her husband’s patience, their coping mechanisms are all wonderful.

The routine Christine and her husband had is changed when she starts to see a doctor without her husband knowing. Christine starts keeping a diary which she reads each day, but she still only knows what she is told every morning and what she’s learnt from herself the day before. The emotions you experience are similar to Christine’s – can you trust the doctor? Is the husband keeping secrets? Who is telling the truth? It’s an intense and incredible reading experience.

There were so many little things I loved about this book. I loved that Christine was middle aged and not younger. I loved that she is able to do what she does even when she has no idea about what she has done in the past. I love that Watson lulls me into a false security and then shatters my expectations. I love that when you think you know what is happening you could not be more wrong. I also love the structure of the novel. The before, the after, the fact we get to see her daily diary and it becomes part of the story.

Having a character who needs to be reintroduced to herself each morning has to possibility of being repetitive, but Watson never makes the repetition annoying or ironically, too repetitive. The exploration of Christine’s day to day life, her discoveries, and her conversations with her husband are approached slightly differently each day. And as Christine knows more, is shapes her conversations. And her mind focuses on different things each day.
The underlying mystery of Christine’s memory loss is always there and as it grows and takes hold your own suspense and tension and excitement builds. But without ruining anything, Watson plays with you remarkably well with this. There are twists upon surprises with secrets and things unsaid. It’s a roller coaster ride and when you think you know what is about the happen, something even better happens instead.

I implore that if you love thrillers, and love to be surprised and enthralled, that you should read this book.  And, I will say, that there is a film adaptation of this and it is actually very close to the book so if you were uncertain about checking it out, you totally should. But of course, the book is a more fulfilling experience on all fronts and you should read it first.

You can purchase Before I Go to Sleep via the following

Booktopia | Dymocks | Angus & Robertson Bookworld

Book Depository | Fishpond | QBD | Wordery

 

The Gentle Lion and the Little Owlet by Alice Shirley

Published: 1st March 2012Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Pavilion Children’s
Illustrator: Alice Shirley
Pages: 32
Format: Paperback Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

A plucky young owlet decides to try and find his own dinner one day and so flies from the safety of his nest into the unknown world surrounding him. Little does he know that his nest is in a tree in the middle of a zoo – and he quickly finds himself face-to-face with a lion. Yet, instead of being eaten, the owlet and lion become friends.

The art in this book is stunning! I chose this book because of the lion on the cover and I fell in love with it because of the artwork (and the story, but mainly the art).

This fictionalisation is based on an actual event that happened in Paignton Zoo Environmental Park in 2010. While the actual incident was much briefer than those depicted in the book, it is still a wonderful story.

In Shirley’s version, a young owlet, impatient to see the world falls from his nest into the paws on a lion below. Instead of being in danger, the lion and the young owl start an unlikely friendship which is the basis of this story.

I loved the relationship between these two. I loved the owlet’s ambition to fly the world and his friendship to the lion that he would take him to Africa, back where he remembers growing up. The illustrations make this story to much more meaningful I think because you can see the beauty in the detail and it enhances the story.

I think if Shirley has chosen to do a more comical, or casual style illustration, then the sentiment and beauty of this story wouldn’t have the same impact that it does. It is a short story, but I’m so surprised at just how beautiful Shirley has managed to make it.

You can purchase The Gentle Lion via the following

Booktopia | Bookworld

Book Depository | QBD

Dymocks | Wordery

Fishpond | Amazon

Publisher

The Lampo Circus by Alexandra Adornetto

Published: 1st March 2008 (print)/March 28 2011 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperCollins Australia/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 400 pages/6 dics
Narrator: Alexandra Adornetto
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

The arrival of Federico Lampo and his travelling circus brings a new threat to Drabville when the children are kidnapped and transported to the grim world of the Conjuors’ Realm. Lord Aldor, assisted by Ringmaster Lampo and the vicious Contessa Bombasta, is plotting to conquer the fairy province of Mirth. . 

The children embark on a quest to warn the Queen of Mirth, encountering some fearsome obstacles, not least the ferocious Grin Bandits and their tooth–extracting apparatus.

As the day of battle draws near, Milli and Ernest realise that if Lord Aldor defeats them, theirs won’t be the only lives at stake…

Having had Milly and Ernest grow on me after book one, it was only natural I dove into book two. Also I listened to it on audio book again and it was great to hear Adornetto’s narration again, excellent continuity which is often not the case with audio book series I’ve realised.

After the events of The Shadow Thief, Milly and Ernest’s town of Drabville is settling into their new lives, being lively, and trying to think of a new town name. Their relief at being joyful and carefree means their guards are lowered when villainy threatens the town once more. The arrival of the Lampo Circus seems innocent enough, but there is a sinister nature about it that no one seems to notice.

Initially I didn’t love this story as much as the first one. It was an odd premise; it didn’t grab me as quickly as the other one did. Adornetto retains her wonderful language, her style, her narration and absurdness, so that was a comfort when they story itself was a bit odd and hard to engage with.

When the story eventually gets going, which was quite a bit of a way in I thought, but it gets to settle into the adventurous style Milly and Ernest do best. There were a few great surprises this time which made the adventure more fun. While there was adventure and suspense in the first book, I feel this had more the journey/adventure style where there a greater chance of the unknown.

There is a great moral tone which Adornetto doesn’t wave in your face, but works incredibly well in the context (no spoilers). I loved the surprises and I loved the magical element that is the crux and climax of the story. It balanced out the strangeness from the beginning and worked really well.

I would have loved a better ending. Not the conclusion per se, but the actually ending of the story. I feel like it was a tad unresolved, I still had questions that needed answering, but judging by what Adornetto has done with this second book regarding events in book one, I feel more answers will be provided in book three. As the continuing adventures of Milly and Ernest go, this was a great addition.

The Shadow Thief (#1) by Alexandra Adornetto

Published: July 1st 2007 (print)/28 January 2011  (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 HarperCollins Australia/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 288 pages/5 dics
Narrator: Alexandra Adornetto
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Millipop Klompet and Ernest Perriclof live in the uneventful town of Drabville, where the cautious Ernest spends his time enlarging his rock collection and Milli dreams of adventure. When the pair are kidnapped from their homes and brought to live in the gothic mansion known as Hog House, they are adopted by the madcap Mr and Mrs Mayor and a series of bizarre encounters follows. Things do not add up and the children find that sinister plans are beginning to emerge. Why has the notorious Lord Aldor stolen the shadows of all of the town’s residents and where are they being held? Assisted by a band of prisoners, the children must venture into the Taboo Territories, and battle the perils dished out by the Lurid Lagoon, in order to outwit Lord Aldor and prevent him from executing his secret master plan.

From very early on I compared this book to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. It’s actually a lot better than that in my opinion. Though, not being a huge fan of Snicket’s famed series I’m not sure what that means.

But if you are a fan of Snicket’s work then I suggest you read this series. Adornetto uses the same whimsical tone and storytelling style that addresses the reader, gives us facts about the characters, bemoans when things unfortunate happen to them, and states matter of factly when things aren’t going their way. I listened to this as an audio book and Adornetto was the narrator which worked really well. Adornetto’s storytelling ability is entertaining and while she doesn’t vary voices that noticably, you really don’t need it and her narration is wonderful.

One thing I absolutely ADORED in this book was Adornetto’s language. She uses big, wonderful, words that are so eloquent, and ones that give the story such a wonderful tone. It suits the strange surreal, British nature of this book (despite Adornetto being Australian) that is absurd and outlandish, that of course there will be beautiful and clever words in it as well.

The story is delightful and innocent, but with the cheekiness that kids love. As I said, very much like Lemony Snicket but with a bit less intense unfortunatenesses and more daring adventures with Milly at the helm and Ernest trailing reluctantly behind her.

Milly is a wonderfully brave and rebellious girl who doesn’t let the rules of Drabville hold back her adventures. When she gets caught breaking these town rules she and her best friend Ernest are imprisoned and discover a whole other world they knew nothing about. She is clever, resourceful, filled with gusto and enthusiasm for adventure and doing the right thing. Ernest is less enthusiastic but he does follow Milly into adventure and while he is wary he does embrace what he finds and loves to work with Milly in thinking up solutions to their problems.

The supernatural element of the story is quite creative, the evil Lord Aldor has stolen shadows off the residents of Drabville and is using them for nefarious purposes. The premise is clever and quite interesting, Adornetto keeps it filled with action and suspense, along with daring characters and wily plans of escape and rescue.

This book (as subsequent series) is classed as young adult at times, but I’d put it in the primary school range, maybe the lower teens. With Milly and Ernest being twelve years old it may not appeal that well to older readers. Having said that, I did love it, so there’s that.

 

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