Giraffe Problems by Jory John

Published: 25th September 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Random House Books
Illustrator: Lane Smith
Pages: 42
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Can you guess what’s making this giraffe self-conscious? Could it be…HIS ENORMOUS NECK Yes, it’s exactly that–how on earth did you figure it out?

Edward the giraffe can’t understand why his neck is as long and bendy and, well, ridiculous as it is. No other animal has a neck this absurd. He’s tried disguising it, dressing it up, strategically hiding it behind bushes–honestly, anything you can think of, he’s tried.

Jory John is back with another fabulous book. Giraffe Problems is a brilliant book that much like Penguin Problems, has a giraffe who is unhappy with his absurdly long neck. This seems to be his only problem, but John explores this singular issue with humour and style.

The narrative is hilarious. The short sentences and the quick words sound just like the complaints of the key character, all beautifully presented in and around Smith’s illustrations. There are no rhymes, but you don’t need them as John writes a great story that reads like a funny list of complaints and grievances by Edward and the annoyance as he interacts with those around him.

There are more words to the story as it goes on and you see how this poor giraffe has tried to cope with his long, long, super necky neck. There are beautiful moments too and I loved the interactions with all the various animals he comes across.

Smith’s illustrations deserve attention on their own. The dark earthy colours on the page bring out the feeling of nature and the expressions and actions on the animals are realistic but have a comical tone as well. The design of each page enhances the story because it makes you move your eyes around to follow the words, or rotate the book or open a flap. It adds another level of interaction beyond only reading the words on the page.

I loved the surprises at the end, sweet but still having that humour seen throughout. It is a wonderful example of understanding the benefits to being different and what may be a problem for you, may be a solution to someone else. I love Penguin Problems and I am a huge fan of Giraffe Problems as well. I am looking forward to seeing what other ideas John comes up with because I’m sure it will just as delightful.

You can purchase Giraffe Problems via the following

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Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Crayons’ Christmas by Drew Daywalt

Published: 15th October 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Penguin Workshop
Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

‘Tis the season for all of us to write our holiday wishlists. But everyone–even the crayons–know the best presents are the ones that you give. In this unique book, readers get to see how Duncan, the crayons, and their families celebrate the holidays. With real, folded letters from the Crayons that you can pull from their envelopes and read, games, punch-out ornaments, a poster, and a pop-up tree, this book is the perfect gift for fans of The Day the Crayons Quit and The Day the Crayons Came Home.

I was incredibly excited when I saw there was a Christmas themed Crayon book. I’ve loved the other two and to return to their funny little world was fantastic.

In this new book the Crayons are preparing for Christmas and letters keep arriving from all over the place— from travellers, from online shopping, and from numerous crayon relatives. The letters are wonderful. They’re funny, clever, and I love the interactive envelope style instead of the printed letters we’ve seen in the past. It reminds me of the old Jolly Pocket Postman books. Inside there are letters that relate to the story but there are also recipes, games, and cut outs that the reader can use and enjoy too. There is also the inclusion of other holidays and traditions which adds some diversity.

The crayons still do crayon things, they’ve melted, they lose their paper wrapping, and they have their colour themed jokes that we’ve seen in past books. Running jokes about where Duncan leaves his crayons are back too with the addresses on the various envelopes.

This time we get to see beyond just the crayon adventures as other things in Duncan’s world are animated too. As Duncan and the house set up for Christmas Daywalt shows us that mugs, decorations and stationary all interact with one another, their little quips and comments part of the charm.

Jeffers’ illustrations bring all this to light with his adorable depictions of these crayons and their holiday activities. Crayons in costumes, playing in the snow and playing rock, paper, scissors with actual paper and scissors is quite wonderful.

If you’ve loved the previous Crayon books this is definitely a fun new adventure, and one that offers more than just a delightful story.

You can purchase The Crayons’ Christmas via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

His Hideous Heart edited by Dahlia Adler

Published: 10th September 2019 (print)/10th September 2019 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Flatiron Books/MacMillan Audio
Pages: 480/14 hrs and 13 mins
Narrator: Various
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Horror/Anthology/Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Edgar Allan Poe may be a hundred and fifty years beyond this world, but the themes of his beloved works have much in common with modern young adult fiction. Whether the stories are familiar to readers or discovered for the first time, readers will revel in Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tales, and how they’ve been brought to life in 13 unique and unforgettable ways.

My main exposure to Poe has been the Simpsons and the amazing Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Dinner Party series on YouTube. But Poe is such a huge name in literature the references are often found in the most unlikely places. This retelling of Poe’s short stories are an amazing contribution to Poe’s legacy because they bring modernity to his tales while keeping the themes and the unnerving nature of his imagination to new audiences.

I loved the way these authors have retold the original stories. You can see the evidence of the original Poe stories coming through but the unique modern and not so modern settings these interpretations are divine. Some of the stories have a close similarity to the original Poe tales, others have a similarity that is easily recognisable, while others change completely but the theme and intention remains. The horror side is mild otherwise I wouldn’t be touching this, nothing overly grotesque but it is eerie and unsettling which is perfect for any Poe story. There’re sinister intentions and things from out of this world, but each of these authors tells stories that are modern, timeless, and in other realms altogether.

A rarity for an anthology I enjoyed all of these stories. Of course some were more engaging and intriguing than others, but I found that each story had its own curiosities that kept your mind working, especially as you think about what the original story is that they are retelling. Absolute stand outs for me include Happy Days, Sweetheart (The Tell-Tale Heart)The Oval Filter (The Oval Portrait), and She Rode a Horse of Fire (Metzengerstein); and I loved the creativity of The Glittering Death (The Pit and the Pendulum)Changeling (Hop-Frog), and It’s Carnival! (The Cask of Amontillado). But there were so many other wonderful ones like Lygia (Lygia)Night-Tide (Annabel Lee), and The Fall of the Bank of Usher (The Fall of the House of Usher) where each author brought their own styles and imagination into a story that I was amazed the same story could be told but in a completely new way. These authors have given voices to those who didn’t have a voice before. The first person nature of many of these stories allows insight into intent, thoughts, and justification which is fabulous considering some of the deeds depicted in these stories.

The audio version is narrated by each of the authors, telling their own tale to the listener. They also narrated the original Poe story that their reimagining is based on. I enjoyed listening to these authors read their own stories. They had good pace and range of voices which helps you enjoy the stories even more.

I do prefer the new versions, they bring modernity not necessarily in their settings or content, but in their language. Compared with Poe there is a lot less waffling and wordiness (looking at you The Purloined Letter) that is removed while still maintaining the theme and tone of the stories. That is to say some were quite enjoyable, they are dark and sinister, creative and poetic. It is easy to see why Poe’s stories have lived on. These retelling do that wonderfully, even if you don’t read the originals you can still enjoy these retellings, they keep Poe’s intentions alive and the haunting nature of some of these stories is still ever present.

You can purchase His Hideous Heart via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

 

The Naughty List by Holly Lansley

Published: 1st October 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Make Believe Ideas
Illustrator: Lara Ede
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Bookpict
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

A brand-new picture book told in the form of a letter to Santa. The letter is written by a boy named Tom, who is trying to convince Santato put him on the Nice List, even though his behaviour has been bad all year! Hear all about the things Tom has done and the ways he tries to spin them to Santa.

This is a fabulous book written in the style of a letter to Santa which is hilarious, clever, and even at times very sweet.

There is so much to love about this book. From page one I was in love and seeing the colourful and decorative formatting makes it even more enjoyable and brilliant. The formatting is big and bold, filled with colour and decoration with emphasis placed by the letter writer which in turns helps when reading and shows how passionate Tom is in his belief and his reasonable explanations.

The rhyme is fantastic, it’s a great poem about all of Tom’s well intentions but essentially naughty adventures through the year which may have got him on the Naughty List. I loved how Tom explains his actions and how insistent he is that he wasn’t actually being naughty at the time he was having an adventure or quite often just trying to help.

The illustrations are woven into the story with the text appearing on lined paper reminiscent of a child’s Christmas list and reflects the story of this complaint letter to Santa. There are drawings on the letter which are from Tom’s hand but there are also drawings on the adjacent page in a more defined style depicting the action he’s defending himself against. I liked Ede’s style of bright and cartoonish drawings. Tom’s cheeky nature comes through as well as those suffering around him.

This is a brilliant book not just for the story and the rhyme but the creativity of the formatting and the presentation was a huge bonus. This is a funny and clever book that is a wonderful spin on why one may find themselves on the naughty list this year.

You can purchase The Naughty List via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Changeless (#2) by Gail Carriger

Published: 1st April 2010Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Orbit
Pages: 374
Format: Paperback
Genre: Steampunk/Paranormal
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Alexia Maccon, the Lady Woolsey, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears; leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria.

But Alexia is armed with her trusty parasol, the latest fashions, and an arsenal of biting civility. So even when her investigations take her to Scotland, the backwater of ugly waistcoats, she is prepared: upending werewolf pack dynamics as only the soulless can. She might even find time to track down her wayward husband, if she feels like it.

  The delightful Alexia is back, now married and now in charge of an entire wolf pack. I was glad to see Carriger hasn’t lost any of her charm and wit in her writing as this story is just as fabulous as the first.

The relationship between Alexia and Connall moves past the frustrated acquaintances and into frustrated newlyweds which feels natural and fitting. I love how both Alexia and Connall can love each other but be infuriated by one another, more so Connall than Alexia, though now that she is living with the pack there are a few more things to frustrate her. This story also brings to light some more of Carriger’s werewolf mythology and we see more intricately how the pack operates. We are introduced to new names and faces but the familiar faces remain and the pack becomes an extension of the main characters.

I loved the mystery Carriger has presented because it’s a fascinating exploration of how this society operates and how much the supernatural citizens contribute and rely on the existing structures. The mystery is only one of many things revealed and unravelled in this book. We gain a better understanding of Alexia’s preternatural abilities and a better look at Lord Maccon’s own supernatural and family history. I liked the pace Carriger has taken for this story because it is a decent time frame and also one that is chaotic, dangerous and filled with the wit and humour, not to mention the incredible inventions and contraptions, I’ve come to love and expect from her. One thing she does well is have multiple plots running that raise their head at various times as the need occurs. It also plays into the natural feeling of the story and the realism, if one can call it that, of this world. It is believable and the pacing and events reflect that.

There is an excellent hook at the end which raises all the questions and sparks a lot of intrigue, Carriger knows how to get you leaping into the next book. Even though I fell deeply in love with this series from the start, the more I learn and is uncovered as I read the more I adore it. I am fascinated by Carriger’s creativity, but more so I love how complicated yet simple and well-functioning this society is. This alternate reality, steam punk world sounds marvellous and it is a joy to read about a new interpretation of the werewolves/vampire myth as well as a new history of our own time.

You can purchase Changless via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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