The Best Books for Budding Readers: Kinderling Kids Radio Interview

My interview with Shevonne Hunt on Kinderling Kids Radio discussed some tips for parents with young school-aged children learning to read and some great titles to get children passionate about reading?

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Book review: Samurai vs Ninja

Samurai vs Ninja The Battle for the Golden Egg by Nick Falk, illustrated by Tony Flowers (Random House)
PB RRP $9.00
ISBN 9780857986054
Reviewed by Jaquelyn Muller 

Reproduced with the permission of Buzz Words

If only the Samurai vs Ninja book series was around 30 years ago, then my brother may have spent more time reading about clumsy, fighting, farting ancient Japanese warriors and less time pretending to be one, and practicing the aforementioned unsavory behaviour on me. 

Nick Falk and Tony Flowers have created a striking, fast-paced, snort-inducing book series for early readers, six and up. Beginning with The Battle for the Golden Egg, readers are introduced to samurai leader, Kingyo-Sama and the head of the ninja, Buta-Sama, who are constantly battling each other in the most ridiculous and smelliest of ways. They also happen to be brothers, which will have an instant appeal to young readers who have spent many a day dueling with siblings over the last piece of pizza or the front seat of the car. 

With a highly visual tone, Nick Falk has cleverly downplayed the battle sequences using unusual and hilarious ways to convey the frustration and competition between the two main characters. Paths of wasabi planted in underpants, stinky seafood careering over walls in moments of attack and tickling feet as a form of torture go hand in hand with nonsense name calling. 

What this over-exaggerated phrasing creates is a wonderful procession of alliteration and tongue-twisters which is such a valuable reading tool for younger audiences. The use of Japanese terms and glossary at the back of the book also enrich the variety of the text and opportunities for learning. 

Descriptions of the era, costumes, architecture and armour are cleverly enhanced by Tony Flowers’ comic styled illustrations that maintain the interest of the reader, in the way I remember The Adventures of Asterix.  

Nick Falk is the author of the Saurus Street and Billy is a Dragon book series’ and the picture book, Troggle the Troll. As a specialist in Japanese influenced illustration, Tony Flowers was awarded a prize from the Oshima Picture Book Museum in Toyama, Japan, for his hand made pop-up book Gaijin Holiday. He has also illustrated six books in the Nick Falk Saurus Street series. 

The series continues with The Race for the Shogun’s Treasure and two more installments are due for release in July 2015. 

Book review: My Life and other Massive Mistakes by Tristan Bancks

Reproduced with the permission of Buzz Words
My Life and other Massive Mistakes by Tristan Bancks, illustrated by Gus Gordon (Random House)
HB RRP $15.99
ISBN 978-0-85798-529-3
Reviewed by Jaquelyn Muller

Warning: Do not attempt to read this book in church, during a board meeting or if you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome; and you’re kidding yourself if you expect to be able to sneak in a few pages while waiting in a doctor’s surgery; you are likely to be politely redirected to the psychologist down the hall!

Because it is not just the laughing, giggles and chortles that are likely to draw odd glances from onlookers, but your contorted facial expressions that may also breed concern for your mental state. Yes, thanks to Tristan Bancks’ latest book in the My Life series, you are likely to find yourself alone on bus seats and in elevators (oh hang on; I see what he did there)!
My Life and other Massive Mistakes is a chapter book, however when teamed with illustrations from the brilliant Gus Gordon it transforms into a vivid out of control billy cart ride (and we all know how those end).  The short story nature of the chapters will appeal to 8 – 12 year olds and those who find longer form stories more painful than picking a broken nose.

Each chapter is its own hilarious tale recounted by Tom Weekly, a primary school revolutionary hell bent on mischief and taking down any administration within a 15 minute recess, but in a disarming lovable, larrikin kind of way.

Similar to the appeal of the Wimpy Kid or Treehouse books, the My Life series contains many fun ponderings along the way, including Nine Reasons Why Sloppy Food Should Be Banned and 15 Things You Won’t Hear Your Mum Say Anytime Soon.

Essentially the book conveys a sense of living life to the fullest and embracing creativity, which is what childhood should be. I remember a time when my younger brother embraced his creativity when he decided to make money by selling statues of dead cane toads, but not before storing them in the freezer and giving my mother a nasty surprise when she took out the frozen chook for a Sunday roast! I think we all know someone like Tom Weekly.

In addition to the My Life Series, Tristan Bancks has also released the Mac Slater, Coolhunterbooks. His YA novel Two Wolves was recently shortlisted for the 2015 CBCA Book of the Year Awards for Younger Readers.