Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Strega Nona by Tomi De Paola

 I usually buy books in paperback, only getting the hardcover when I am absolutely sure it is worth it.
Every now and again (quite often), I get it wrong and buy a hardcover beauty that is just not worth it, or a paperback that I know will be with us forever but it seem daft to have double copies so cannot buy it again. Strega Nona is one of those.

Strega Nona is a witch. A lovely witch who helps the people of the town in Calabria, where she lives.

 She made special potions for the girls who wanted husbands.
And she was very good at getting rid of warts.
But she isn't getting any younger and decides she needs a little help around the house. Enter the unobservant Big Anthony.

He notices that Strega Nona has a pasta pot that produces pasta when she says a certain spell and sees his chance to become the popular guy in town. She heads off to see Strega Amelia, and he announces all over town that he will be providing dinner that day. And they come in their droves with their spoons and bowls.
So he says the magic spell and the pot starts producing the pasta.

That peacock and rabbit appear all the time. They are really beautiful. Anyways back to the story. Because Big Anthony didn't watch Strega Nona carefully enough, he didn't see that to stop the pot producing pasta, she blew three kisses. And so, the pasta keeps on coming, and coming.
Aaagggghh! Its taking over the town!. But here she comes, and sorts it all out. Oh dear, the townspeople have had a fright, and are not feeling forgiving. "String him up!" they say. But Strega Nona knows what to do and hands Big Anthony a fork saying firmly, "Start eating."
Which is why he feels a little bloated in the end.
Its a funny original story but I think what makes it great are the illustrations. Definitely worth the hardcover price.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Starter For Ten by David Nicholls

Every time I ask someone if they have read Starter For Ten they say "No, but I've seen the movie." Or "No, but I've read One Day."
The movie of this was fine, and One Day was okay, but this book is one of the funniest I have ever read. I got it out of the library for the second last week to  help me recover from a night of Wallander. It just seemed sensible to read something that would not leave me sitting on the edge of the bed despairing about the futility of life. God, Wallander is a bit much sometimes.
I'm on my second day into it and my husband and kids have become accustomed to hearing me constantly chuckling as I read. Actually, I think they're getting a bit sick of it. Excellent and wonderful and the perfect Bank Holiday read.

And...what to do when a grumpy Spiderman fan refuses to put on his boots,

or eat his banana.
It won't always work of course, but the first time it will!

Saturday, 15 March 2014

It's So Amazing! by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Michael Emberley and What's Happening To Me? by Peter Mayle, illustrated by Arthur Robins.

My twelve year old got the "sex talk" in school the other day. I had forgotten it was coming up and it was only when he said that his class were outside for a lot of the day, that I was reminded. Apparently its common for boys to find the whole thing makes them queasy (hence all the fresh air) and the majority of his class were no exception. But he said he was okay, there was nothing he didn't know already. Was any of it worrying though? Well, one bit. The boys were told that childhood is now coming to an end and it was time to learn to shoulder some responsibility. That was bit worrying. Well, I could understand him perfectly. I still feel like that sometimes! We agreed that the end of childhood can be postponed for a while. There's no rush, after all.
Anyways, I think one of the reasons the day went well for him was that we have had this book lying around the house for a while.
It's So Amazing! is a book about the facts of life. There are two main characters, a bird and a bee.The bird is curious and open and the bee is embarrassed and self conscious.
But they do talk about it, and throughout the book, in cartoon strip style, explain how babies are made,
how we all change as we get older,

 the differences and similarities between boys and girls, 
the many shapes of families can take,

and much, much more.

I discovered this book on Mrs Little, one of  my favourite book blogs. I've bought many books she mentions, and never been disappointed. She also reviewed What's Happening To Me? (its important to say that with a break in your voice, we all do.) which is about puberty. It's not as comprehensive as It's So Amazing! but the illustrations are very funny and will definitely bring a smile to any worried face.
This is why my youngest calls it "the boob book."

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Melissa and Doug reusable sticker pad and Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

I mentioned this pretty nice, over sized sticker pad before as a handy idea for a birthday present, and ended up getting one myself. The Habitats version is at least half the price of the others (House and Dress Up) probably because the whole sticker thing sells better to girls. Anyway, this is €3.65 and while I cannot say we got hours of entertainment from it, I can say we got half an hour and three silent children. Half an hour isn't bad. That's long enough to make a cup of coffee, drink it and read a few brilliant but chilling chapters of Unravelling Oliver, or stick some sort of dinner in the oven, whichever you prefer.

It's perfect as something to bring to someones house if you get invited to those kids-included lunch do's, that I'm always reading about in Sunday supplement magazines (Melissa and Doug is more or less the toy version of Boden, and cannot remotely be seen as a shabby petrol station gift) or maybe to shove in the roof box if you are heading to a rented house this Summer and good weather is not guaranteed.
Like it says on the cover, the stickers are reusable, and actually are. If I were a bit more organised I'd get a few ziplock bags for them, as quite a few have migrated around the house. All in all, a good deal and as always, any alternative to a screen-pastime is a good one.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Sidekicks by Dan Santat and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

I ordered this for my ten year old's birthday, but had to give it to him early. Compensation for no screens during the week and no more sugar on Weetabix was required. It cost about eight euros and was finished in a sitting, so at first glance not great value for money, but graphic novels have to be looked at differently, I think. This is a great, clever book and a fantastic addition to any library. I know there isn't a massive about of "reading" but I love the idea of introducing the ingenuity and the art in a comic strip to my kids heads and this is a fantastic example. I'm by no means an expert in the area, but I'm pretty sure I'm right.

Anyhoo, a little interview.
So, what is Sidekicks about? Pets wanting to spend more time with their owner, a superhero.
Pets? A cat who ran away, a dog who stayed, a hamster who stayed and a chameleon who was ordered off the internet.
What happens? The owner holds auditions for a sidekick and the pets go to them, but in disguise.
Do they have powers? All except the hamster.
And do they become sidekicks? Well, you don't find out until the end.
So you don't want to give away the ending? Yes.
Is it an exciting story? Yes.
Is it funny? Yes.
Would you read it again? Yes.
How many times have you read it so far? Twice.
Do you want your interview fee of one triangle of Toblerone now? Yes.

Also, what I've been reading.
There's quite a bit about superheroes in this one too. Its been a while since I've enjoyed a book so much and will just say there might be nicer ways to spend an hour than drink some coffee and finish this amazing book, but I can't think of any at the moment. The only downside to it was that it had to end.