Saturday, February 25, 2017

Review - Do Fairies Bring the Spring?

Do Fairies Bring the Spring?
by Eliza Gardner Walsh
illustrated by Hazel Mitchell
Date: 2017
Publisher: Down East Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 34
Format: e-book
Source: library

After a long winter's rest with little to do,
are the fairies ready to start something new,

Do they use tiny brushes and oil pastels
to paint crocuses, lilacs, and daffodils?

Everyone knows fairies love spring flowers and summer sun, but is it the fairies who wake up the earth as the snow melts? Do they entice the trees to turn green and the flowers to grow? In this charming follow up to Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows, Liza Gardner Walsh, acclaimed author of the Fairy House Handbook and Fairy Garden Handbook, explores the matter in a children's picture book of rhyming questions. Combined with delightful illustrations by Hazel Mitchell this whimsical book will help children discover the world of fairies and learn to enjoy and appreciate the outdoors.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This little book has cute pictures, but for me the illustrations were a little too cute. The bright pastel colours are a bit much, and as an adult I really wasn't a fan of the look (little kids would probably love it, though).

The premise is interesting, though it's taken a bit too far for my taste. I would've preferred not to have the bit in the back about how to support butterflies and birds--the fairies' friends--in the garden, as the implication is that fairies are completely real. I'm all for magic in childhood, so I'm not quite sure why this rubbed me the wrong way. But it did.

The verse left me cold. The meter isn't terrible, but it doesn't exactly flow off the tongue. For a book that's likely meant to be read over and over again, out loud, I was hoping for the rhyme and rhythm to be a little cleaner.

All in all, it's not a terrible book, but it has limited appeal. My favourite picture books are ones that can be enjoyed by adults as well. This one seems more like it was intended for preschoolers who are going through a fairy-princess phase.

Quotable moment:

Does this pitter-patter wake
the natural world up
so we'll soon have
lovely flowers to pluck?

Recommended to: very young children

Premise: 2/5
Meter: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 2.33 out of 5

Monday, February 20, 2017

Review - The New Hunger

The New Hunger (Warm Bodies #1.5)
by Isaac Marion
Date: 2013
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Reading level: NA
Book type: prose novella
Pages: 192
Format: e-book
Source: library

The end of the world didn’t happen overnight.

After years of societal breakdowns, wars and quakes and rising tides, humanity was already near the edge. Then came a final blow no one could have expected: all the world’s corpses rising up to make more.

Born into this bleak and bloody landscape, twelve-year-old Julie struggles to hold on to hope as she and her parents drive across the wastelands of America, a nightmarish road trip in search of a new home.

Hungry, lost, and scared, sixteen-year-old Nora finds herself her brother’s sole guardian after her parents abandon them in the not-quite-empty ruins of Seattle.

And in the darkness of a forest, a dead man opens his eyes. Who is he? What is he? With no clues beyond a red tie and the letter “R,” he must unravel the grim mystery of his existence—right after he learns how to think, how to walk, and how to satisfy the monster howling in his belly. The New Hunger is a glimpse of the past and a path to an astonishing future...

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I've been wanting to read this prequel novella for years, ever since I read (and absolutely loved) Warm Bodies. At that time, though, I couldn't get access, being Canadian and all... and I eventually forgot about it. Fast forward a few years, and our library has it in its collection. I'm all about short books these days, so a novella sounded like a good idea.

At first, I wondered why this prequel was listed on Goodreads as #1.5. But after reading it, I get it. While most of the events (save for the first and last chapters) take place before the events in Warm Bodies, readers who aren't familiar with that book probably wouldn't get much out of this one.

Those first and last chapters were actually my favourite parts of the whole book, where Marion goes all poetic and we get a glimpse of the voice that made Warm Bodies so special. This book, unlike Warm Bodies, is told in multiple third-person points of view. We get to see the backstories of three of the characters in the novel (R, Julie, and Nora). I expected this book to be mostly about R, or even Julie... but I felt like it was more Nora's story. It's heartbreaking, and I hope she gets some more page time and resolution in the sequel, The Burning World.

There's not too much plot here; it's more of a fleshing-out of the characters that we met in Warm Bodies. R, Julie, Nora, Julie's dad, and M all make an appearance, along with Julie's mom and Nora's little brother, Addis. The problem with unfamiliar characters in a prequel who don't appear in the main book is that you know going in that things don't end well for them. Still, it was nice to see a little more development of the main characters with these secondary characters as foils.

So why didn't I give this book a higher rating? A couple of reasons. First, like I mentioned, there's not much plot. It could sort of be considered an origin story, I guess, although we don't really get enough answers for that, either (some of the characters are still a bit of a mystery). Second, it's a bit rough, editing-wise. A few spots could've used a bit more polish to get rid of contradictions and continuity issues. (Also, why doesn't Julie have asthma? Didn't she carry around an inhaler for most of Warm Bodies?) Mainly, though, this book just didn't suck me in, and I attribute that to the fact that it's not told by R, like Warm Bodies is. His voice is what I loved the most about that book. The Burning World appears to go back to his first-person point of view, so it will be interesting to see whether or not Marion can recapture the lovely, poetic voice of his unusual zombie character.

All in all, this novella is worth reading if you're a fan of Warm Bodies and want to know a bit more about the characters and the world they inhabit. If you haven't read Warm Bodies, definitely read that one first; you'll get way more out of The New Hunger if you read the books in the order Goodreads has indicated.

Quotable moment:

Nothing is permanent. Not even the end of the world.

Premise: 4/5
Plot: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Editing: 3/5
Originality: 4/5
Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.38 out of 5

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Review - A Wee Book o Fairy Tales in Scots

A Wee Book o Fairy Tales in Scots
by Matthew Fitt & James Robertson
illustrated by Deborah Campbell
Date: 2016
Publisher: Itchy Coo
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 96
Format: e-book

"Wee pig, wee pig," said the wolf. "Can I come ben?"
"Whit? And let in a wolf that I dinna ken?
I'm in my hoose and I'm no feared.
By the hair on my broostlie beard
Away ye go, ye big hairy cloon."
"Then I will hech and I'll pech and I will blaw your hoose doon."

Her are six of the world's best-loved folk and fairy tales, retold in lively modern Scots by Matthew Fitt and James Robertson. Familiar stories like Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin are given a fresh look and sound in these new versions, which are ideal for bedtime, nursery and classroom reading. Great entertainment for children and grown-ups alike.

Includes: Cinderella, Wee Reid Ridin Hood, The Three Wee Pigs, Snaw White, The Billy Goats Gruff and Rumpelstiltskin.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I heard about this book from my mom, who came across it online. I thought it looked like fun, and since Amazon had the Kindle edition for a good price, I thought I'd give it a try.

The book is written in modern Scots. I'd heard a few words over the years, being of Scottish background myself, but I'd never read a book in the language. Much of it is like English, but with many unique words. Familiar fairy tales are a great choice for a book like this, since most readers will be able to follow along and figure out what many of the unfamiliar words mean from the context.

The stories themselves are charming and funny, and a few offer some different little twists. In "The Three Wee Pigs", the pig who built his house out of stone goes off to the amusement park and rides the bumper cars before heading home to deal with the wolf. I don't remember that! The pictures were pretty cute, though I wish there had been a few more of them; even though this is a picture book, it's a little more text-heavy than I would've liked.

My only real complaint with this book is that it could really use a glossary. I read the e-book with the Kindle Cloud Reader so I could have another tab open in which to look words up. (Simply rearranging the stories also could've helped, since "Wee Reid Ridin Hood" offered clear meanings for a lot of words if you know the story... but it was at the end of the book, so that opportunity was lost.)

All in all, this was a fun introduction to the Scots language. If you've got a good grasp on English, you'll probably have little trouble reading this one.

Quotable moment:

"Never say never and dinnae sae cannae.
I'm here tae help ye. I'm your Fairy Grannie.
There's nothin can stap us, nothin at aa.
Cinderella, my dear, you will gang tae the Ba!"

Recommended to: parents who want to read stories aloud to their kids; anyone who enjoys fresh takes on fairy tales

Premise: 4/5
Meter: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.83 out of 5