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All reviews tagged with Finian O’Shea

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All Things Weird and Wonderful

This collection of poems by Stewart Herderson is presented in four sections of varying length under the general theme of wildlife, though there is only one poem in the ‘Always Making Things’ section. The overall effect is a collection of varying quality – some read really well and are imaginative and effective, while others are…

Angel Pavement

I am a huge fan of Quentin Blake’s artistry, and Angel Pavement is brilliant. On the surface, Corky and Loopy’s story is a sheer delight to read and to see. But there are many layers and sub-themes in this book that are both political and personal. They are so subtle and ingenious that they find…

Born Confused

This writer knows just how to tell a good story. This is plainly and simply a wonderful book – no qualifications on this. The story centres on the life of Dimple Rohitbhai Lala, the American-born daughter of Indian parents living in New Jersey. Her best friend is Gwyn Sexton, white, blonde and Dimple’s role model…

Chocolate Moon

I am a big fan of Barrington Stoke Publishers. They are unique among publishers for children, specialising in books for reluctant and underconfident readers. They have a panel of young readers who comment on the manuscripts prior to being carefully edited to suit the required reading age level (in this case 8+). This is a…

Dear Mr Morpingo

I will admit right off that I am not an avid ‘Morpurgian’ as Michael Morpurgo fans are referred to in this fascinating book. But I am only keenly aware of how many of the children in my classes, and in my school, thought him the best author they had ever read. This book is a…

Death and the Arrow

I will begin by nailing my colours to the mast: I am not a fan of the murder mystery, and never even got into the whole Hardy Boys thing when I was a young reader; but I have to confess that I really enjoyed this book. Chris Priestley has managed to create a thoroughly engaging…

Excuse Me!

Quirky book all about a frog who loved to eat and to burp. And that is about it! The story is very much the expected formula – frog burps, offends townfolk, is banished, realises the error of his ways, comes home in disguise, is discovered, is forgiven, lives happily ever after. And I suppose that…

Fat Boy Swim

On the surface of it this looked like a good book. Jimmy, the central figure, is a very overweight young man who has to deal with his size and all the attendant problems that this brings to his life. The book is cleverly conceived – chapters are grouped into what looks like a menu: starters,…

George and the Dragon and Other Saintly Stories

I wanted to like this book, because I believe the blend of cartoon and narrative that it uses can make history accessible to young readers, especially those who might not be prepared to wade through a full text. But, though taking episodes out of the lives of 17 saints may have been well-intentioned, the end-product…

Introducing Vivaldi

This is part of what might be called ‘a handsome set’ of information books detailing the lives of famous composers of music. Other titles in the series include books on Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Gershwin, Mozart, Stravinsky and Verdi. This book provides a comprehensive history of the life and times of the man known as ‘Il…

Loon Lake

A beautifully presented book telling the story of the loon – or is it trying to explore the relationship between a father and his daughter? – or it is an implicit, perhaps even explicit, tale of conservation? And this is my problem with this book – I am not sure what it is trying to…

Loser

I loved both Maniac Magee and Stargirl, and was delighted when I saw this new book by Jerry Spinelli in the bundle of books for review. I have a particular interest in books which look at marginalised children. Experience has taught me that authors tend to handle this topic really well or really badly. Spinelli’s…

Mad Iris

In some ways it is not fair to review these three books together, since each is good in its own right. I applaud Barrington Stoke’s policy of publishing books that are accessible to the less able reader, and I really like how this policy translates into the finished product. The books look, feel and behave…

Mighty Fizz Chilla

I really hate it when I don’t know whether I like a book or not! Even worse is not knowing whether the book is actually good or not. The trouble began with the cover – I just did not get it. But my confusion did not stop there: there was the chapter layout with the…

Mummy Never Told Me

I have been a big fan of Babette Cole for some time now but I am sorry to say that this book defeats me – I really cannot think who it is aimed at or indeed of any reason why it was published other than to cash in on the popularity of this highly talented…

One Child One Seed

This beautifully presented book works on several levels. It is, as it says, a counting book, using the daily life of Nothando in South Africa as a means of illustrating the numbers 1–10 on the left-hand pages of the book. The numbers are illustrated using pumpkin seeds and the accompanying images are rich and clear…

Oscar and Hoo

It took a couple of readings of this book for me to realise what a wonderful work it is. On the surface it is a simple tale. Oscar, a little boy who likes to dream, goes on holiday with his parents. They fly to a desert land where the preoccupied parents leave Oscar behind. Once…

Pip and the Edge of Heaven

When I first read this book I thought it ‘twee’ and an adult’s perception of the kinds of ‘big question’ that they wish children would ask. I was quite ready to dismiss it as not being worth reviewing. But the book came back to haunt me a little! I read and re-read it several times.…

Practical Ways to Teach Writing

This is an excellent reference book for any teacher looking at ways of supporting children’s writing of fiction. It would make an excellent companion book to those already familiar with David Wray’s ‘Writing Frames’, books he co-wrote with Maureen Lewis on scaffolding different genres of writing with children. This book is immediately accessible to the…

Sahara Special

I completely misjudged by the cover – the short blurb indicated that it was about Sahara, a girl in fifth grade who has special education needs. There are many such books out there but Sahara Special is different. It is sharply observed, really cleverly written and a treat to read. Sahara is a highly believable…

Shock Forest and Other Stories

It was a delight to revisit these five stories from the wonderful Margaret Mahy. All have previously been published between 1976 and 1996 in various collections by the author so that fans looking for new stories from Ms Mahy will be a little disappointed. These stories have been selected with the newly independent reader in…

Sir Gadabout and the Little Horror

I started out expecting to dislike this book – seeing that it is one in a long series of Sir Gadabout books, and many books in series can end up being somewhat tired. But the truth is that I laughed out loud at several of the misadventures to befall poor Sir Gadabout and his luckless…

Star Dragon

In some ways it is not fair to review these three books together, since each is good in its own right. I applaud Barrington Stoke’s policy of publishing books that are accessible to the less able reader, and I really like how this policy translates into the finished product. The books look, feel and behave…

The King’s Pyjamas

It is always good to see an anthology of poetry making it into print. And this is a very good collection. The 40 poets (actually 39 plus the always present ‘anon’) represented here showcase their work in a delightfully produced volume which should find its way into every teacher’s class library. The poems are varied…

The Reader in the Writer

I was delighted when I was asked to read this book for the magazine, as I am an admirer of the publications of CLPE. Over the years their books have contributed much to literacy teaching and to children’s literature. The book is the result of a smallscale research project carried out in five primary schools…

The Salt Pirates of Skegness

I have to say that my heart sank when I was handed this book – another pirate book to review! A big fan of the many pirates of the wonderful Margaret Mahy, I have found few writers to meet the exacting standards of pirate-ness set by that remarkable writer. But I have to confess that…

The Tale of Hilda Louise

It was quite simple really. Just choose a book. Just one book! I immediately decided to choose I Feel like a Morning Star by my favourite author and person, Gregory Maguire, but then there was Interstellar Pig by my slightly zany pal, William Sleator, and So Far from the Bamboo Grove by my lovely friend…

The Tree House

This book was first published in 1993 and is, according to the publicity attaching to it, one of this prize-winning author’s personal favourites. The story is geared to 7–9-year-olds and tells how William and Sprog move house and find a huge tree in their new back yard. Their father agrees to build a tree-house with…

Time Bomb

This is the long-awaited new book from Nigel Hinton, author of the excellent young adult book Buddy. This is a work of some considerable length aimed at the older reader. Set in post-war London the book is somewhere between a coming of age book and a loss of innocence book. The narrative centres around the…

Time Spinner

This is a good read. It is a book that starts off very slowly, but as it turns out, this slow pace is intentional. The initial forced ‘I continued to daydream’ as a means of creating two ‘realities’ for the main character jars a little, but it allows the reader slowly to enter a sometimes…

Toby’s Funfair Fish

I really like this book. It does all that a picturebook should do. It tells a simple tale: Toby wins a goldfish at the funfair, names him Moby, takes him home and, seeing him unhappy, makes him a miniature funfair that makes them both happy. It is what the blurb says it is – charming…

True Beautiful Game

I started out expecting to dislike this book, as I know nothing about billiards, pool or snooker, and assumed that the subtleties of the plot would require some research on my behalf. But not so – the book sets out to examine the complexities of a young man’s relationship with his parents and does so…

Wake Up, Sleepy Head!: Early Morning Poems

This is quite a strange collection of verses … set in the animal kingdom these are ‘songs that parents sing to help their young wake up and greet a new day’, or so the blurb on the back cover proclaims. Both familiar and unfamiliar animals are represented in the collection which is quite nicely illustrated…

Yi-Min and the Elephants

The ‘factually accurate’ part of my brain spent a while trying to figure out whether this book was a retelling of an ancient tale or a newly composed ancient tale, but in the heel of the hunt (no pun intended!) it did not really matter, as this is a really lovely story, written in the…

Young Dracula

In some ways it is not fair to review these three books together, since each is good in its own right. I applaud Barrington Stoke’s policy of publishing books that are accessible to the less able reader, and I really like how this policy translates into the finished product. The books look, feel and behave…

‘Key Readers’ Series

In fairness, these books really do set out their stall from the start: books for the 6–11 age range written to set specifications of ‘high interest, low vocabulary’ in order to produce ‘a varied range of meaningful reading experiences within a phonetically controlled setting’. And this, I fear is their limitation – such a specific…

‘The Emperor’s Gruckle Hand,’ ‘Henry Hobbs and the Lost Planet.’ and ‘William and the Wolves’

This is an interesting collection of books under the banner ‘short accessible novels for more confident readers’ – a definite niche in a crowded children’s book market. The books are all written and illustrated by the ‘award winning team’ of Kathryn Cave and Chris Riddell. William and the Wolves is the most interesting of the…

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