Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Review: Lleydrin


Review of Lleydrin

 
       Lleydrin by J.B. Moran is a fun sci-fi fantasy novel. On a dinosaur-infested planet, a city keeps the forest dangers at bay with a shield. Danger looms as the intergalactic company Devcorp begins a blockade to force Lleydrin’s ruling family to sell the planet. A ranger core banished to the jungle long ago now finds mercenaries hunting them. Luckily, the city has been quietly building its own space program, and now needs teen recruits to learn piloting from a space pirate marooned on Lleydrin. The rangers send a martial-arts-expert teen girl to infiltrate the program, and find out who controls the mercenaries.

        Pretty much all the most popular tropes in 21st century science fiction, but Lleydrin is well put together. Moran keeps a fast, entertaining pace throughout. It made me laugh. Lots of action, and multiple characters working at cross purposes.  Every chapter is strewn with action and adventure. Tactical research was used for space battles, so there are some nice dogfights.

        The characters are fairly standard action heroes and villains, cliched but consistent. Good stock character archetypes, and they interact well. They are not deep, but they are fun. Most of them are kind. Moran tends to dwell on the good in people, and a few characters are able to make positive changes in their lives. Lleydrin is a nice light engaging read. I didn’t want to put it down. 

        Clean language, minimal fantasy violence, focuses on friendships instead of romances. There is a set-up for a second book, but the Moran ends this one nicely and it feels complete. (I am looking forward to reading the next one, of course!)

Four stars!

*Disclosure: I was given a review copy of the e-book by the author.


Saturday, September 19, 2020

Review: Melody Finch


Melody Finch cover

Review of Melody Finch


       In Melody Finch, by Ian Boyd and Gary Luck, an Australian girl named Melody Klomp turns into a finch. In bird form, she travels upriver, meeting a diverse range of Australian animals. Melody learns about a lot of different animals, and sees how they are struggling with drought. While the different creatures are the main focus of the book, there is also an interesting plot to keep it moving. Melody must reach her grandmother to tell her of the coming rains so she will not sell her tourist boat. There are villains: A fisherman with abysmally bad gun safety standards, and his carnivorous pet Osprey.

      Melody Finch is politically pro-environment, pro-animal rights, and anti-gun. Mild language.

      I enjoyed Melody Finch because there is such a variety of Australian wildlife shown in detail. Boyd and Luck include a lot of information on each animal, including what they eat, and details like the Rainbow Bee-Eaters build their nests in the riverbanks instead of in trees. It’s informative, and the story moves at a nice pace. Melody turns into a Diamond Firetail Finch, which is a very beautiful bird, and meets a Rainbow Bee-Eater, who is just gorgeous.

Four stars!

*Disclosure: I was given a review copy of the e-book by the author.

Diamond Firetail
Diamond Firetail. Image Credit:
Francesco Veronesi from Italy / CC BY-SA 


Rainbow Bee Eaters
Rainbow Bee-Eaters.
Aviceda / CC BY-SA 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Review: Celdric Kane: The Unwished



Review of Celdric Kane: The Unwished


        I really enjoyed reading this Celdric Kane: The Unwished, by Nina Mofme. In a magical world, the leaves of the magical Sphiere tree can grant magical wishes to deserving children. Celdric Kane and his brother, Dyl, witness the theft of the tree’s only seed. In their haste to escape the burglars, they cause a magical accident, and Dyl is flung into the realm of non-humans clutching the seed. It’s up to Celdric, his sister Sera, and their grandmother to bring Dyl back safely and solve the theft.

        The Unwished is really well-written. The magical system is very clearly defined, and presents a variety of different magical wishes and objects consistently. Celdric Kane’s family are supportive of each other, and go to great lengths to keep each other safe. Some of the magic is a bit convenient to the situation, but it’s always set up earlier in the book, so the magical gifts are not just flying out of nowhere.

        What is most impressive about this book is how there is almost always someone watching or protecting the children. There is danger and suspense, and Celdric gets in a mess of trouble, but it is a nice worry-free story, and the plot focuses on how they will evade the villains and save the Sphiere Tree seed. Excellent for the middle grade audience it is intended for. Plenty of action, monsters and fairies.

        This is book one, but is fairly self-contained, as Mofme wraps up most of the important plot points by the end of the book. However, it is very clear that the story continues. Only book one is out right now, and I am very eager to read book two.

        Needs proofreading, mostly use of plurals that should be singular and vice versa. It’s well worth rereading, and I really enjoyed this one, which puts it at five stars, minus half a point because it needs proofreading throughout, so four and a half stars. First time author, and proofreading is fixable.

4.5 stars!

*Disclosure: I was given a review copy of the ebook by the author.


Monday, August 3, 2020

Review: The Jolly Bupbup


Review of The Jolly Bupbup


        In a fantasy land inhabited by tea-drinking Twinkles, a small Bupbup lives in a cozy cottage with two cats. A Bupbup appears to be a small, cat-size humanoid. It is raining, and the rain washed away the Jolly Bupbup’s boat. She has to wait for the rain to stop so she can go find it, because she doesn’t have an umbrella, and the cats do not want to get their feet wet. While she is looking for her boat she meets a duck who likes to splash in puddles. It is an engaging story, with lots of charming descriptions.

        What makes The Jolly Bupbup by Ann P. Borrmann stand out is a unique incorporation of fantasy characters and poetry. Borrmann starts with an excellent poem about the Twinkles. I would reread this just for that poem. It is a delightful rhyme advising how to meet the reclusive, tea-drinking creatures. The Twinkles are never shown, but are described as shy but friendly beings. They are larger than Bupbups, but still small enough to hide behind trees. I like the choice not to show the Twinkles. I’m curious to know what they look like, but having an unknown fantasy creature pushes the reader’s imagination.

        Cute illustrations by Bonnie LeMarie. Good color choices. LeMarie used digital art, with soft color and texture choices that resemble watercolor. There are only nine illustrations, but they are full-page, and the story is printed opposite each picture. The duck in particular is very well-done, and looks delighted.

5 stars!

*Disclosure: I was given a review copy of the ebook by the author.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Review: Arthur's Good Manners


Review of Arthur's Good Manners


        Arthur's Good Manners (also published as Spaghetti Manners) is a Little Golden Book by Stephanie Calmenson. This very entertaining story follows a young alligator who is trying to remember all his manners, because his grandpa is coming for dinner.

        I loved it when I was a kid because the illustrations were either relatable or absurd. It’s relatable because it’s normal kid stuff. Arthur’s playing, helping his mom, and having dinner. Only he’s an alligator, and takes alligator size bites. The little alligator is blowing bubbles in his milk. There is a discussion of the problems with having spaghetti in a rocket ship. There is a picture of an alligator inside the cabinet with the pots and pans, which my siblings and I thought was hilarious. 

        Lisa McCue Karsten did a marvelous job illustrating Arthur’s Good Manners. She used soft colors, and created lots of little details (including alligator shoes). The alligators use bipedal locomotion and interact with objects like they are human, but have retained an unmistakable alligatorness in their proportions and tail movement. Excellent attention to detail.

        The adults are positive role models, which I like rereading it now. They are patient with Arthur, spend one-on-one time with him, and listen to him. When Arthur messes up, he gets a hug and age-appropriate instructions. 

        Grandpa teaches the fork and spoon method of spaghetti twirling.

        Note for buyers: This Little Golden Book seems to have become a collectible since I was little. The used copies are currently (July 2020) more reasonably priced. The "new" copies are not.

5 stars!


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Review: The Color Kittens


Review of The Color Kittens

        The Color Kittens by Margaret Wise Brown is a bright and cheerful Little Golden Book about two kittens in overalls, Brush and Hush. (Brush has purple overalls, and Hush has blue). The kittens have buckets of paint, which they are mixing on their quest to find green, and make “all the colors in the world.” I bought this for a little one because I remembered it very fondly from my own childhood. It’s a very endearing story, with lots of details and little poems.

        The illustrations by Alice and Martin Proversen are very cute. The kittens and their dreams are mostly brightly colored cartoons, and the landscapes are stylish. There are lots of different animals and objects sorted by color, which are very appealing to small children. There are fish, goats, a little bear, and all sorts of animals and things to identify. The story covers paints and color mixing, which is good for learning both color names and color theory. When the kittens eventually discover green, after much exploration, they have silly dreams in riotous color.

Looking the edition of childhood memories?


        In some modern reprintings the illustrated end pages are excluded. Not a big deal plot-wise, but if you want the complete version, try the original 1949 edition, or the 1958 reprint,. The original will have a color wheel made of paint buckets on the front and back inside covers, and a cute closing song: 

"Sing Ho for the color of Brush
Sing Ho for the color of Hush
Sing Ho for the color of Brush and Hush
 Sing Ho for the color of color 
Now hush!"


        The 1994 version was illustrated by Kathi Ember. Same story (no closing song), but a different art style. Ember draws rounder shapes, and adds more dimension to her cartoons than the original. Her version is also very cute. Ember's edition features the dancing green cat, which is the one I loved growing up.




5 stars!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Review: Harold and the Purple Crayon


Review of Harold and the Purple Crayon

        Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson is an imaginative classic. I love how the story flows so neatly from one thing to another. For instance, Harold’s sailboat never actually moves relative to the scene, Harold simply adds land. The art itself is uncluttered crayon-style outlines, except for Harold himself, who toddles about in a plain blue sleeping bag.

        Plenty of plot. Harold has a new adventure looming with each page turn. (Johnson wrote six sequels if you need more). There are also several cute word-puns in the story, which make me feel engaged as an adult. The story raises a lot of questions. Do dragons eat apples? How many kinds of pie actually exist? Why does the moon follow people wherever they wander?

        Harold is safe in his room the whole time, while also running around experiencing dangerous adventures. It’s the perfect juxtaposition of adventure and safety for a toddler hero. Harold’s adventure draws a wonderful suspension of disbelief, but no matter what happens, Harold is in control. He holds the magical purple crayon that defines his world.

        I need a magical purple crayon.

        In short, the story is absolutely fantastic. The art is simple, but suits the story perfectly. 

5 stars!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Review: Kaia and the Sea


Review of Kaia and the Sea

        Kaia and the Sea is a wordless picture book by Jestenia Southerland. Kaia wakes up with a pod of seals. She dons a witch hat and a cape, and spends the day exploring under the sea. Her cape is an extremely well-designed imitation of a fish. When Kaia swims slowly, it billows behind her, but when she needs speed, it wraps close, giving the impression of a mermaid.

        It’s cute. The entire book sticks to the colors of a beach. Each fish is unique, even when a school is swimming across the page. The fish and other sea life are drawn accurately, in a realistic, gentle cartooning style that favors pastel colors and soft lines. Ms. Sutherland has used beautiful digital painting to create this delightful array of sea life. It’s adorable and engaging. The lack of words facilitates the story-telling, as there is a clear presentation of the narrative, and lots of detail to captivate the reader. There is even a bit of drama when a school of marlins race past, disrupting Kaia’s excursion.

Five stars! This means it is excellent and worth rereading.

        This book has 32 pages. The print version is a perfect-bound paperback. Probably most appealing for ages three through eight, or anyone who enjoys art and large aquariums.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Review: Rikki-Tikki-Tavi

Review of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi

        An English family, who have recently moved into a bungalow in India, adopt a waterlogged mongoose. Rikki is very pleased to become a house mongoose, and quickly adapts to his new life. When his new family is threatened by highly venomous snakes, including a family of King Cobras, Rikki heroically leaps to the rescue.

        Rikki-Tikki-Tavi is a short story in The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling. The entire Jungle Book is well worth reading, but this story in particular was a childhood favorite of mine. Rikki is the perfect pet. He is brave, loyal, kind, friendly and generally happy with life. Rikki protects his family, especially his boy, even at risk of death. He stays with his boy until he falls asleep, then is off to patrol the house. Kipling also depicts a number of anthropomorphic garden creatures, including Darzee the tailorbird, who can be rather flighty, but is a very good composer. He has a nice song at the end of the book. Five stars!
                                                                   
John Lockwood Kipling, 1895
                                                                
        The original was illustrated by Kipling’s father, John Lockwood Kipling, and W.H. Drake. These are lovely, detailed sketches, and included in many of the public domain versions. 

W.H. Drake, 1895

        Rikki-Tikki-Tavi has since been re-illustrated again and again, both with the rest of The Jungle Book, and as a standalone children’s book. For a full color version, I recommend the 1997 edition illustrated by Jerry Pinkney in watercolor. His art is gorgeous, with crisp lines and soft colors. Very realistic, too. (A nice collection of Pinkney’s art is currently displayed on digital tour via the Norman Rockwell Museum). 


Monday, May 18, 2020

Review: Darby O'Gill and the Good People

Review of Darby O'Gill and the Good People

        Darby O’Gill and the Good People is a series of Irish stories about Darby’s adventures with the fairy folk of Ireland. After Darby’s cow is stolen by the fairies, he sets out to retrieve her. In the process, he becomes stuck inside the mountain Sleive-na-mon for six months with the fairies. In this time he forms a friendship with the King of the Fairies, Brian Conners. This cements Darby’s reputation of being knowledgeable about supernatural goings on. This is really useful, as Darby encounters different supernatural beings at regular intervals. With all the fairies, the leprechaun, the banshee, and the headless coachman, Darby O’Gill is a very good introduction to Irish lore.

        Herminie Templeton Kavanagh wrote a lot of words phonetically, and includes Irish words here and there. The advantage of this method is a very real Irish accent and speaking style. It’s a very charming, down-to-earth style of story telling that stays true to its cultural roots. While some of the stories are a bit scary, Darby isn’t in mortal danger, and Bridget and the children are always kept safe and provided for, no matter how long it takes Darby to complete his escapade.

        This is the sort of book that will set a room laughing. It’s a down to earth telling of the unearthly. My favorite story is The Banshee’s Comb, in which poor Darby is sent, on “All Sowls' night” (“whin the spirits of the dayparted dead visit once again their homes”), in the rain, to deliver tea to a banshee-visited house. My mom read this to me and my siblings when I was young, and I went back and reread it multiple times. It’s a good book. There are six fairy tales, and they build on each other, but each would make sense if read alone.

Five stars!