The 65-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

Published: 12 August 2015 (print)/12 August 2015 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Pan Macmillan Australia /Bolinda Audio
Pages: 384/2 Hours 13 mins
Narrator: Stig Wemyss
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Andy and Terry’s amazing 65-Storey Treehouse now has a pet-grooming salon, a birthday room where it’s always your birthday (even when it’s not), a room full of exploding eyeballs, a lollipop shop, a quicksand pit, an ant farm, a time machine and Tree-NN: a 24-hour-a-day TV news centre keeping you up to date with all the latest treehouse news, current events and gossip. Well, what are you waiting for? Come on up!

With a touch of Jack and the Beanstalk, time travel and the film Them! it’s a curious adventure Andy and Terry go on. Jill comes in with her logic and reason to bring the boys into line and solve their problems all of which combine to be a pretty normal day in the treehouse.

In this new adventure you learn new words, get to travel through history in a wheelie bin, albeit a smidge inaccurately, but it is fun. TreeNN is a fun addition as well, ending chapters with something different. I liked the break in formula in this one, no book talk, instead we need a building inspection from Inspector Bubblewrap. This prompts the time travel and all sorts of mishaps as they try to travel back 6.5 years and end up at all different points through history.

Admittedly, I couldn’t get into this story as easily as the others. I liked the diversion from the normal structure because that can be boring after a while. It was fun but not as engaging as the previous stories. I also got a visual copy in the end because while Wemyss has done a brilliant job in the past to compensate, I needed Denton’s illustrations this time to appreciate some of the jokes and references.

The Treehouse series continues to grow and change with each book and the creativity and inventiveness of Griffiths and Denton is amazing. The jokes are clever and the illustrations are so detailed that there is always something to discover in them. The two make a perfect team and while I didn’t love this storey as much as previous storeys, I look forward to seeing what the next storey in the treehouse has to offer.

You can purchase The 65-Storey Treehouse via the following

QBD | Dymocks | Book Depository

Booktopia | Angus and Robertson | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Wordery | Publisher

I Just Ate My Friend by Heidi McKinnon

Published: August 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Illustrator: Heidi McKinnon
Pages: 40
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

The search for a true friend is something everyone can relate to – from the very young to the very old.

“I just ate my friend. He was a good friend. But now he is gone. Would you be my friend?”

A hilarious story about the search for friendship and belonging… and maybe a little bit about the importance of impulse control… 

I was intrigued by the title and by the end of the book I was intrigued by the story as well. With no explanation for why or how the friend was eaten, the story follows the creature as he tries to find a new friend, not sure he will ever find another. What if he truly had eaten his only friend?

I liked the illustrations. The dark pages against the single large, colourful characters, it worked to its advantage and gave a sense of being in space or at least somewhere on another planet. This is unconfirmed, but it is logical based on the illustrations to think of the creature as an alien or space creature of some kind. McKinnon has done a great job with her illustrations. I found this book because it was on the 2018 CBCA Shortlist and shortlisted for the Crichton Award for New Illustrators. McKinnon didn’t win but for a new illustrator she has done a great job.

There is not a lot to unpack here. The creature goes around to everyone he can find and asks them if he will be his friend. Some of the responses are quite funny and the straightforwardness works to the story’s advantage. For a story that is not that complicated it managed to surprise me and delight me. It’s a little absurd and nothing makes sense and there is no reason but that is what makes it great. I don’t need an answer I just like a clever story and this is a clever story.

You can purchase I Just Ate My Friend via the following

QBD | Book Depository

Booktopia | Angus and Robertson | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Wordery

Image result for cbca shortlist logo

The 39-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

Published: 1st September 2013 (print)/28th Sep 2013 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Pan Macmillan Australia /Bolinda Audio
Pages: 352/2 hours 5 minutes
Narrator: Stig Wemyss
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Andy and Terry’s amazing treehouse has 13 new levels including a chocolate waterfall, a non-erupting active volcano, an opera house, a baby-dinosaur petting zoo, Andy and Terry’s Believe it or Else! museum, a not-very-merry merry-go-round, a boxing elephant called the Trunkinator, an X-Ray room, a disco with light-up dance floor, the world’s scariest roller-coaster and a top secret 39th level that hasn’t even been finished yet!

So what are you waiting for? Come on up!

One thing that can be said about the audiobook experience of the Treehouse series is that Stig Wemyss really enjoys his role as narrator, and with the freedom and challenge of engaging children in an audio book his enthusiasm is a great draw.

Despite this, I do think this would have been a good one to read rather than listen to, there sounds like there would be a great assortment of pictures based on what happens. That is to say it wasn’t still enjoyable. As before, audio prompts, music, and sound effects make this just as enjoyable, maybe even more so; though I do feel like Terry’s drawings are being neglected, considering how much he talks about drawing in the books.

With another 13 storeys added to the treehouse another adventure awaits. Andy tells us what new things they have added to the treehouse, each as exciting and improbably and delightful as the previous things. Andy and Terry once again have a book due but Terry has a solution he’s been working on which naturally causes mayhem.

Terry also got a spotlight moment and a reprieve from being the daft friend, his drawing skills become essential and his illustration skills are commended. There’re also songs in this story, some more poems than songs, but one definite song, which Wemyss has to sing which was…an experience. I’m also learning that there will always be a recap of the book within the book, but thankfully it’s a fast recap.

Griffiths certainly had worked out a rhythm with this series. It’s repetitive, cheeky, silly, and all the fun and gross (but not too gross) things that make kids laugh. Once you get used to the structure of these books they become quite enjoyable, no matter your age.

You can purchase The 39-Storey Treehouse via the following

QBD | Dymocks | Book Depository

Booktopia | Angus and Robertson | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Wordery | Publisher

Peas and Quiet by Gabrielle Tozer

Published: 19th June 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 HarperCollins Australia
Illustrator: Sue deGennaro
Pages: 34
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Best friends Pip and Pop live in a peapod, but sometimes it can get a little too cosy – especially because they are so different!

Pip loves to sing, while Pop won’t stop snoring. How are they ever going to work out how to live together?

Pip and Pop are very adorable. In an Odd Couple situation Pip likes to sing and Pop likes to snore and while most of the time they get along, sometimes they do not. The rhyming narrative is fun and Tozer explores the relationship Pip and Pop have and how they can have fun but it’s not always the way.

This book explores how everyone is different and sometimes the things that other people do can annoy you. But it also shows you that while these differences can be frustrating, there are ways to remain friends and get along. I was totally caught up in the cuteness of this book and I liked how Tozer takes some drastic action and have not only disagreements, but actual separation. I was surprised but I liked that she also showed that having some time apart is good, but can also make you realise what you’ve been missing.

deGennaro’s illustrations are adorable as well. The little peas in overalls remind me of the beetroots in gumboots and zucchinis in bikinis from the bananas in pyjamas books in the 90s. This is a great book about accepting differences but aside from that it is just a sweet little book that is a fun read.

You can purchase Peas and Quiet via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Publisher | Angus & Robertson | Dymocks

Fishpond | QBD | ABC Shop

 

The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green

Published: 8th August 2017 (print) / 2nd January 2018 (audio)Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Hachette Australia / W F Howes
Pages: 418 / 12 hrs and 44 mins
Narrator: Fiona Macleod
Format:
 Audio
Genre: Realistic Fiction/ Historical
★   ★   ★  – 3.5 Stars

Books bring them together – but friendship will transform all of their lives. Five very different women come together in the Northern Territory of the 1970s by an exceptional new Australian author

In 1978 the Northern Territory has begun to self-govern. Cyclone Tracy is a recent memory and telephones not yet a fixture on the cattle stations dominating the rugged outback. Life is hard and people are isolated. But they find ways to connect.

Sybil is the matriarch of Fairvale Station, run by her husband, Joe. Their eldest son, Lachlan, was Joe’s designated successor but he has left the Territory – for good. It is up to their second son, Ben, to take his brother’s place. But that doesn’t stop Sybil grieving the absence of her child.

With her oldest friend, Rita, now living in Alice Springs and working for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and Ben’s English wife, Kate, finding it difficult to adjust to life at Fairvale, Sybil comes up with a way to give them all companionship and purpose: they all love to read, and she forms a book club.

Mother-of-three Sallyanne is invited to join them. Sallyanne dreams of a life far removed from the dusty town of Katherine where she lives with her difficult husband, Mick.

Completing the group is Della, who left Texas for Australia looking for adventure and work on the land.

Five different women united by one need: to overcome the vast distances of Australia’s Top End with friendship, tears, laughter, books and love.

I’m not sure what I was expecting from this book, but I know it wasn’t what I got. The title leads you to believe there is a bigger focus on the bookclub, but it is a small part really. It does kick start the events in the novel essentially. It brings together these five women and starts to interlock their lives over the next few years. So it does make sense if you think of it like that.

As a whole I enjoyed it. I liked the old fashioned rural aspect to it and in a way you forgot it was set in the 1970s. So much of it just spoke of country life and female friendships that the era was no barrier. When I remembered that it was set in the past it made me think a bit more about it. Green shows us what it was like on a farm back then, how isolating it was when there were no internet to connect properties to the outside world, when flying or driving for an hour got you to the nearest town and other human contact. Of course the same is true for rural properties now, but there is a lot of focus on how when the weather turned, you really could be cut off from the outside world for months with no news or contact.

The characters are what really drive this story. Each of their lives and the conflicts within them are the focus of the story and are what keep you reading; finding out if they’ll be ok, whether their anxieties will be relieved and how their lives will change through the course of their actions and the actions of others. Their friendship is inspiring and Green uses their bookclub catch ups to connect their stories and enhance these friendship connections further.

Green balances the story nicely between making it an easy read, and making it realistic. There are dramas and heartbreak, social issues and personal triumph and tragedy. It was warm and showed the importance and value of female friendships but had complexities and anguish as well. Crossing over multiple years helps explore these issues as well. Green jumps ahead in time, using the wet and dry seasons as a timeframe as a lot of the story takes place of Fairvale and often skipping over months. I liked that the story covers so much ground because it allows the story to be told properly, never really feeling drawn out or slow, and adding that realism factor and preventing Green from rushing any of the emotional journey to fit into a shorter timeframe.

One thing that stood out was that I did think it ended very abruptly. There was a sense of wrapping up and Green does impart a concluding style to her writing, but when it did end, I was a bit surprised. There are a few quick fixes and easy solutions which felt jarring and strange, often coming from nowhere and feeling out of place, even for the 1980s. It was also strange having gone through a whole book of well laid out storyline only to have a fast resolution it was a noticeable difference.

The historical connections are there with a list of key events for each passing year listed breaking up the novel, another thing that helps demonstrate the passing of time. But they play such a little part in the grand scheme of things that it was easy to forget that this was set in the past.

I’m glad I picked up this book even if I’m still in two minds about the level of my enjoyment. I think Green has done a wonderful thing with her writing because I could easily see this being a very literary novel but she has managed to keep it a normal story but weaving in dramas and that raise it above being a light hearted and fluffy read as well.

You can purchase The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository | Audible

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Wordery

Angus & Robertson | Dymocks

 Fishpond | QBD

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