Wednesday 20 November 2019

Boot: Small Robot, Big Adventure by Shane Hegarty and Ben Mantle

Published: 2019, Hodder and Stoughton

Come! Open the page and step into a future where robots are part of everyday life and where one imperfection or malfunction can send them straight to the scrapheap.
That's where, on page one, you'll find Boot - an adorable, plucky and heart-warming toy robot- who awakes inches away from a metal grinder with only two and a half memories.
Convinced that he has been sent to the scrapyard by mistake, Boot escapes his grim fate and sets out to reunite himself with the only owner he can remember - a girl called Beth. But being a lost robot is a dangerous thing to be in a big, scary city and finding Beth is going to prove tricky.
Chased by robot destructor, Flint, Boot sets off on a thrilling adventure where he meets friends, Noke, Red and Tag who help him navigate an abandoned amusement arcade, city shops and a funfair in a bid to find where he belongs. But when he eventually does find Beth, will it be the happy ever after he dreamed of?
Boot instantly reminded me of 'The Wizard of Oz' set in a futuristic world. The characters are as loveable, the journey as memorable and the plot as delightful. The book weaves a subtle message of warning about the effects that a technological future may have on the human race and yet makes us fall in love with the robots themselves- albeit the robots that are broken and unwanted. In our throwaway culture could it be possible that these characters, made of mechanical machinery, could still have value...and maybe even a soul?
Boot is a fun, moving and fast-paced adventure. And, with two more books being published in 2020, Boot's future doesn't look set for the scrapheap just yet!

Tuesday 12 November 2019

'Fortunately, the Milk' by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell


This edition published by Bloomsbury 2014

Previously published by HarperCollins 2013 and illustrated by Skottie Young.

Awards: Red Dot Award Nominee for Young Readers (2014)
              Bluestem Book Award Nominee (2016)
              Goodreads Choice Award Nominee (2013)

Throw the rule book out the window. This book tells a story like no other. If you are into dream-like fantasy then this is the tale for you.
When Mum goes away, Dad is left to look after the kids and it doesn't take long for disaster to strike. There is no milk for breakfast - or worse- Dad's cup of tea. So off he trudges to the corner shop...and doesn't come home...for hours and hours.
When he does finally appear, he tells his children all about his time-travelling adventures, which began after he bought the milk and was promptly kidnapped by aliens. Aliens, pirates, vampires and a dinosaur professor with a time-hopping airship... you name it, this story has got it. Oh and don't forget the milk of course. Who'd have thought a carton of milk could save the future of Earth?
Gaiman dismisses all the conventions of writing in this story told by an adult main character to his listening children. It's a dad's fantastical anecdote blown to epic proportions - and it works! The dedication at the front of the book sets a great tone before the story even begins. I wish my dad had told stories like this one...

Follow the link to Goodreads for more information and reviews on this book as well as links to online retailers. 

Thursday 7 November 2019

Chapter Books- Some award-winners

In my epic search to find chapter books that will engage my little ones and encourage them to make the (gentle) leap from picture books to chapter books, I have explored classic reads (mainly Dahl), nostalgic reads, cross-over series and celebrity authors. The results have been hugely varied, as expected. But overall, other distractions are still winning out over the chance to be read to.
So I thought I'd turn my attention to books in this age-group that have been long-listed, short-listed or have won book awards in the hope that the accolade will guarantee an engaging and entertaining read. And I hit gold on my first attempt!
Cue, Charlie Changes Into a Chicken by Sam Copeland and illustrated by Sarah Horne.

Published by: Puffin
Awards: Charlie Changes Into a Chicken has been long-listed in the Blue Peter Book Awards 2020.

This book is Sam Copeland's debut. I'm at the stage now where I try and read the book myself before I share it with the kids (what a hardship!!) so I can try and hit on a winner. 
This book is a winner. 
Charlie has plenty to worry about. His older brother, Smoothmove, is ill in hospital and awaiting a 'big scan'. When Charlie starts randomly changing into animals (think broader than a chicken) he doesn't understand what's happening - but it's highly inconvenient. Being unable to control this new power leads to all sorts of embarrassing -and hilarious- situations both in and out of school. Desperate to understand why this is happening to him, Charlie calls on his three best friends for help. Together they come up with rather unusual experiments to pinpoint the reason why Charlie changes and what he can do about it when he does. 
This book is tongue-in-cheek and hilarious from the start. Who wouldn't be intrigued by a character who changes into a spider by the end of page three? But if at first it all seems a bit random to you then stick with it because, once the story arc kicks in, you'll discover that there is a very real and heart-warming reason for why Charlie changes. This is a book that sensitively and effectively explores the issue of anxiety and stress within children and highlights how deeply they can be affected by life's worries. However, if that means you're expecting tears, forget it! In this book humour rules from start to finish!
For a start, there are two chapter 1's, an interlude and an 'interesting' question and answer session at the end. Oh, and look out for that chicken!
Copeland's voice is both distinctive and brilliant. Expect a lot of toilet humour wrapped up in the plot, in particular a pooing rhino and a snake slithering in the toilet pipes, but there's equally as many non-toilet laugh-out-loud moments too! 
I wasn't quite sure where this book was headed when I first started it, but it got stronger and stronger as it progressed. I knew instantly my kids would love it and they do. But it's the underlying heart-strings message that gives this story it's power. 
Kids not interested? Are they too old for it? Do you have no kids? - read it anyway!

Next in the series: Charlie Turns into a T-Rex.

Charlie Morphs into a Mammoth is available to pre-order and will be released on 6/2/2020

At the time of writing this blog, Charlie Changes into a Chicken is available on Amazon Kindle for 99p.

This blog takes no credit for images or information provided. Follow the link to Goodreads for further reviews and links to retailers. All opinions are my own.

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