NSS: Alpacas with Maracas by Matt Cosgrove

Today is the National Simultaneous Storytime. This event is held annually across Australia and New Zealand in a bid to promote the value of reading and literacy, the joy of books, and it gives a great chance for parents, carers, grandparents, the media and others to participate and enjoy the occasion. Each year a picture book is chosen which was written and illustrated by an Australian author and illustrator, and is read simultaneously (hence the name) in libraries, schools, bookshops, households, and many other places around the country and across the ditch.

This year at 11:00am participants across Australia and New Zealand will be reading Matt Cosgrove’s Alpacas with Maracas, an excellent addition to the Macca family. If you were unaware of this event or are unable to participate, never fear, Cosgrove’s books are a delight to read at any time of day alone or with a few million people alongside you. If you like, there is still time to check out your local bookshop or library as there is a strong chance they will have a storytime session running that you can attend.

There are many fun things involved with NSS, there are bookmarks, colouring, masks and a host of other activities that each location may be running. You can find more fun activities via the NSS website. To find out more about Matt Cosgrove visit his website.

Because it is NSS today, of course I am going to have to break my Picture Book Corner rules and post on a Wednesday, but for Macca it is totally worth it. I adore Cosgrove’s book so to be able to celebrate his work for such a momentous day is pretty fantastic.

Published: July 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Koala Books
Illustrator: Matt Cosgrove
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Macca and pal Al are the best of friends and LOVE spending time together.

When there is an opportunity to enter a talent contest, they just can’t resist. 

But what will their act be? Will they shimmy and shake? Dance and prance? Whatever they choose it will surely be a performance to remember!

Once again Cosgrove has delivered with a funny story featuring our favourite alpaca, Macca. This time Macca is joined by his best mate Al as they try and put their talent to the test and win a contest. I love the boundless enthusiasm of Macca and Al, they are fearless and determined and they want to do something in the show they just don’t know what.

The highlight of all Cosgrove books are his brilliant, adorable illustrations. I love the illustrations because they are bright and colourful, and Macca’s eyes are so delightful and cute that you can’t help but fall in love. I also love how much emotion is portrayed through these alpacas. You see their joy and playfulness as Cosgrove shows off their friendship with humour and love.

Bookmarks we’re giving out at work as well as one of the many cute badges.

One thing I adore about Cosgrove’s books is his rhythmic storytelling. Not only are the rhymes wonderful, but they suit the story and characters. The story is brilliantly lyrical as well; the flow as you read aloud or to yourself has a fantastic pace that makes the narrative seamless.

Cosgrove puts so much personality into his characters that even in a relatively short story, with not many words and not much room to explore, he still can create unique and exciting characters. This is another fantastic addition to Macca’s adventures and it one everyone will love.

You can purchase Alpacas with Maracas via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Tomorrow’s World by Guy Portman

Published: 22nd November 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Self-Published
Pages: 220
Format: Ebook
Genre: Science Fiction
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

The future’s here and it’s great. You can live for a very long time, you can experience the dream in virtual reality, and you can even worship David Hasselhoff. But not everyone is feeling fulfilled …

With the relentlessly increasing mandatory retirement age, Terrence can see no end to his life of drudgery. And then there are the compensation claim drones …

On the other side of the pond, Walter is faring far better. With the assistance of age-defying medication, the kung fu hyper-capitalist plans to prosper indefinitely. However, there are plenty of people who want to see him fail.

Will these two contrasting characters thrive in a future that’s changing forever? Or even survive? And what about the rest of us?

If you like dark humour and scathing satire, then you will relish experiencing tomorrow’s outlandish world through the eyes of its colourful cast of characters.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author for review.

I read the forward before starting because I thought it would be a good preparation for this story and I was right. The unique format and the short story/chapter style certainly needed some context beyond the blurb.

It didn’t take long to get into the flow of this futuristic world. Initially you can see a semblance to our own society, albeit in the near future, but before long it descends into a strange future where the issues of today are heightened and reflected back on us with strange new technologies and obsessions at the forefront.

The format and writing style is a clever choice and one that works especially well for this kind of story. The short snippets and chapters focus on key characters but also random, often unnamed characters and scenes offering up a rounded view of the wider world and society. Portman also cleverly circles back as we see a few reoccurring lesser characters throughout the timeline.

At times I felt that it was perhaps too long, but I understand that in following Terrance’s life it needed to be long. I enjoyed the satire and the reflection of the society, the only issue is around the halfway mark I felt it had run its course and I was growing tired of a few characters but thankfully it picked up again. One thing that kept me going was the things happening away from the main characters; I enjoyed the subtle reflections of the changing society and the snippets of life from these brief chapters and scenes.

The short chapters are certainly a benefit and the jumps in time allow a lot more narrative to be covered, especially with a plot like this. Terrence’s story is woven throughout alongside these reoccurring and one off characters and an overview of how society is progressing further into the late 21st century and 22nd century.

The story has three main parts, starting with the everyday before coming to the revolution then the inevitable rise of the machines. While not a complete overhaul, there is a demonstration of what the world would look like if everything was automated and the impact that has one humanity and society.

The language is an odd balance of satire and mockery, definitely dark humour. I liked the sardonic tone and the frustration of Terrance in his life, each key character had a definitive voice and there is a lot of humour and reflection that is recognisable in today’s society. One thing I noted was that while the narrative is meant to be inclusive of all genders, sexualities, and religions, there are multiple cases of trans people being referred to as “he/she” which satire or not, sat weirdly with me.

I enjoyed the far future world we see at the end, especially seeing teenagers trying to understand the old world in comparison to their current one was humorous. The impact of virtual reality and other advancements means they’ve ended up in a slightly Wall-E-esque world minus the spaceship.

If science fiction and dark humour are your thing then this will certainly be enjoyable. It is bizarre but there is a charm to it as well. There is a lot to take from it and a lot of little gems to enjoy.

You can purchase Tomorrow’s World via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Wordery | Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev

Published: 27th October 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Simon and Schuster
Illustrator: Taeeun Yoo
Pages: 32
Format: Paperback
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Today is Pet Club day. There will be cats and dogs and fish, but strictly no elephants are allowed. The Pet Club doesn’t understand that pets come in all shapes and sizes, just like friends. Now it is time for a boy and his tiny pet elephant to show them what it means to be a true friend.

This book is a combination of adorable and heart-warming and will totally break your heart before putting it back together with sticky tape. It is an incredibly sweet book about being excluded and finding a place to belong.

The story is filled with morals and lessons about being a good friend and a good person told through an engaging narrative. It is a wonderful comparison to the beginning of the book where the young boy and his pet elephant are discriminated against. As you read you see how not to behave and then Mantchev reinforces the correct behaviour all in a wonderful story about a boy and his love and friendship for his pet tiny elephant.

Yoo’s illustrations are so adorable. The colours are bright and realistic and they fill most of the page, leaving just enough room for the text. Seeing the tiny elephant go for walks is the cutest thing and I loved the illustrations how they matched the text adding that extra bit of storytelling. Yoo’s use of colours is also fantastic because different tones are used to highlight things and single things out on the page, drawing your eye to their significance.

The ending of the book promotes kindness and acceptance and makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. It’s also humorous because the pets the other children have are not your typical pets but they are all welcome nonetheless. This is also where Yoo shines because seeing his illustrations of these unique animals is a fantastic ending to the book.

You can purchase Strictly No Elephants via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Frankenstein Adventures by Bil Richardson

Published: 3rd October 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Creator Studios
Pages: 136
Format: ebook
Genre: Fantasy/Adventure
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

This is the story of Frankenstein told from the vantage point of Igor, the bumbling, brave boy who will risk everything to save his master’s flawed creation. Hilarious and heart-warming – this is a book that will make you stand up and cheer one minute and fall down laughing the next. Igor’s heart is in the right place even though parts of his body aren’t. He is a loveable, lopsided fellow who has more courage and strength than any of the adults who look down on him. When things go wrong with his boss’s “experiment,” Igor sees it as his duty to save the day – even though most days he is the one who needs saving. Our hilarious hero has to overcome enormous odds on his mission to rescue the most important achievement in human history – the creation of life. Follow Igor on his amazing adventure to prove that he is more than just a not-so-pretty face.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author for review.

The blurb is slightly misleading, and while there is truth that Igor does set out the save his master’s creation, the story is not entirely his as the third person perspective offers insight into many different characters, new and old. While it is a retelling of the traditional Frankenstein story, Richardson takes it further and it becomes a story about family, friendship, and discovering the monsters of the world are not the most obvious.

The writing is straightforward but weave a detailed and in-depth story. The tone is one kids will love; Igor and the other characters are funny, there’s snark and drama and puns, and seeing the domestic side of Frankenstein brings in all the scary, gross, fun kids will love. Where Richardson shines is that while it is light-hearted and silly, there is also heart and warmth.

The first part of the narrative retells the original story with a few extra twists and characters to get to know. We follow Frankenstein’s monster as he flees the castle, we see locals as they hunt after him, and we follow the angst of Igor and his master as they work out what to do. From there we see the story continues through the eyes of various characters as the story moves into one of friendship, jealously, and drama.

The tone is suitable for the intended age group but there is no hiding from the scientific methods or descriptions either. We know Frank is burned, with scars and the traditional story is but a lot of the elements are there about violence too. The characters are sweet and endearing once the story gets going and you see the emotion and their misguided goodness. The violent side is restrained but regular but you see the good versus evil in each altercation and know who the bad guys are.

Richardson demonstrates that Frank (as he’s named himself) is not the real monster, nor is Frankenstein either. There are messages in there about kindness and being a friend and how monsters are made by people and what blind judgement can do. There is also a fantastic message about what makes a family. A great story for kids to enjoy where they can experience the Frankenstein story without delving right into Shelley’s horror masterpiece.

You can purchase The Frankenstein Adventures via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Dark Lands: Requiem (#1) by Lyn I. Kelly

Published: 26th August 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Lulu Publishing Services
Pages: 216
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Life. Death. Time. They have now been circumvented. Welcome to the Dark Lands. In this cataclysmic realm where the most benevolent and most caustic of souls wage war for the rights to eternity, siblings Webb and Sundown Thompson find themselves reborn. If they are to survive they will have to overcome their fears and prejudices, understand the powers inherent within them, and navigate the trials and temptations that surround them. The tide of battle is turning and the influence of evil under the reign of the Dark Man is growing. It is their world. It will effect everyone’s future. 

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author for review.

I was intrigued by the premise of this story, a limbo-type world where you’re dead but haven’t moved on. The battle for good and evil rages on and these two siblings have been pulled into the fight upon their untimely deaths. Our introduction to the world is filled with immediate danger and suspense and with no baseline anything could quite possibly happen.

There isn’t a lot of depth in the characters but you almost don’t notice as there is a lot to take in. Sundown accepts her place in this new land fairly easily but Webb has a lot of questions, as does the reader, about the workings of this place. Webb is used to fill in these gaps as Kelly uses his queries to explain things to readers. There are of course comparisons to Harry Potter’s world in the magical schooling aspect, but there is a uniqueness as well.

With his inquisitiveness a lot of Webb’s personality is brought forward. He is hot-headed, impatient as he wants a result and he wants answers. This is where you can understand a lot of Webb’s feelings, removed from his life into this war with no real say is bound to cause anger and I think if Kelly had both characters accept their fate then this would be unsatisfying. Sundown’s age and nature plays a role in her decisions but it also makes for conflict especially when Webb’s anger has consequences in itself.

The concept is interesting and Kelly has a lot of mysteries which she leaves clues for throughout but I wasn’t entirely captured by it. There is a touch of predictability and while some aspects were engaging, other parts were not. The writing is ok and the premise is interesting but I couldn’t get right into the story. I didn’t really care about the characters and whether that had something to do with their lack of depth I’m not sure. Being the first in a series no doubt things will develop further but aside from a few moments, I’m not really engaged enough to keep going.

You can purchase Dark Lands via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

 

 

 

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