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review 2016-08-04 18:02
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - J.K. Rowling,John Kerr Tiffany,Jack Thorne

So much love! OK, first of all, it’s in script format. No doubt that disappointed some--it's not a new novel. But for me it was a plus. For one, none of the stylistic tics that have bugged me in Rowling were present: No jarring book-saids or adjective abuse. It’s not bloated in plot; there aren’t any plot holes that I can see. One of my friends said she did roll her eyes at one aspect, but even with her that was a minor complaint.

There's another way I find this a past due recognition. The way Gryffindor dominated the other books and all the Slytherins were depicted negatively really bugged me. One quarter of the kids are cool and another quarter evil little tyrants or their followers in the making? Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff still don't get their due but at least there are heroic Slytherins in this one and some Gryffindors who... well, let's say make some mistakes. There's one line of McGongall's I've been waiting for *someone* to say to Harry Potter for years: "The lesson even your father sometimes failed to heed is that bravery doesn’t forgive stupidity."

A lot of the lines are witty, out and out funny and/or wise. There are some old favorite characters that unexpectedly show up--a highlight of the book for me. And I love, love Scorpius beyond measure. In fact, in the immediate aftermath of reading this I'd name this my favorite Harry Potter story. No doubt partly because it's been a long time--I hadn't realized how much I'd missed them all.


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text 2016-04-07 18:49
Exciting But Ramshackle Fantasy
The Wolf in the Attic - Paul Kearney

Set in the nineteen twenties, this is a dark fantasy about twelve year old Anna, a refugee from the Greco-Turkish war who ends up living in Oxford with her bankrupt father where she is briefly befriended by C S Lewis and J R Tolkien.


When her father is murdered without warning, she finds herself drawn into a battle between ancient forces who compete to win her allegiance. It seems that Anna is heir to a legacy stretching back to the world of Homer and beyond, and capable of powers she is only dimly aware of.


Often beautifully written and always wonderfully evocative, The Wolf In The Attic, nevertheless fails to live up to its promise. Nothing is explained properly, the overarching mythos is a jumble and the plot feels as though the writer has made it up as he went along. What are Lewis and Tolkien doing in the book, for example? They appear and are carefully drawn but then they just seem to get forgotten.


Kearney is a talented writer and the possessor of a vivid and poetic imagination. The Wolf In The Attic  is an attractive and exciting read but lack of attention to structure makes it ultimately slightly unsatisfying.


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text 2016-02-16 12:06
A New Voice In Children's Fiction
Time Travelling with a Hamster - Ross Welford

This book has a really cracking opening paragraph:


My dad died twice. Once when he was thirty nine and again four years later when he was twelve. The first time had nothing to do with me. The second time definitely did, but I would never even have been there if it hadn't been for his 'time machine'..."


And it pretty much carries on in the same vein.


It's the story of Al Chaudhury, a twelve year old mixed-race boy from North East England, who discovers his dead father's time machine (a laptop and a zinc bathtub) and sets off on a mission to prevent his dad having the accident that led to his death. Only, altering time is not a simple matter. You make a small mistake and everything goes haywire. Al makes more than one mistake.


Very funny and hugely readable with a likeable central character and a plot full of  twists and turns Time Travelling With A Hamster is a terrific piece of storytelling and a very impressive debut. And it's great to see a mixed-race Indian heritage boy at the centre of the action. I loved this.

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review 2015-08-25 13:36
Ghostly Thief of Time by Ruben Bolling
Ghostly Thief of Time: An EMU Club Adventure - Ruben Bolling

I'm sure you, like me, have seen a lot of stories (in books, movies, shows, etc.) where a rational explanation is found to a scary or suspicious situation. It comes to my mind the old episodes of Scooby Doo, always ending with the monster or ghost being unmasked, turning to be only an unscrupulous person with a selfish interest in scaring the rest in order to get some particular benefit. It always worked with Scooby and Shaggy, but smart Velma, with Daphne and Fred will find an absolutely "from-this-world" answer.

In GHOSTLY THIEF OF TIME the characters will do all the contrary! Stuart, Brian and Violet (with the help of Ferdinand, an "alien robot" dog) will find a supernatural explanation to an absolutely normal, ordinary, daily situation.


Something is obviously happening with the time in Stuart's sixth grade room. It's evident time goes slower the near of the end of the day it is, and the closer to the back of the room you sit. Why does the last half an hour of the school day seems to last two hours? (Who hasn't wondered about this at least a thousand times?) The EMU Club has a new mystery to solve. Is the school janitor really what he claims to be? Could be the janitor's closet a time portal? You'll need to read this engaging story to find out!


This book was a great shared read with my son. It's very funny. We laughed or grinned at almost every page. It's visually attractive, written in an "EMU Club Report" format, with colorful pictures. The characters are likable, and they have a beautiful relationship between them. The time travel elements are easy to follow by the kids, not confusing at all.


I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.



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review 2015-08-19 17:20
Who Was That Masked Man Anyway? by Avi
Who Was That Masked Man Anyway? - Avi

Wow! I wasn't expecting such a good book when I picked this one at the library to read with my 10 years-old son. It was a VERY pleasant surprise!

Set in the US during WWII, this is the story of Frankie (short for Franklin Delano Wattleson), a sixth grader crazy about radio shows and avid to save the world with his friend/sidekick Mario Calvino.
The book is all written in dialog form, plus the transcription of radio shows (including those funny commercials!). The style is really innovative. Although the story is funny, other more "real" situations are present, like Frankie's brother being wounded at the war (and coming back home suffering from depression), Mario's father dying while fighting the war, etc. These events are not display in an upsetting way, though.
I think this book is a great way of introduce historical fiction. I'll try more Avi's books for sure.

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