Category Archives: Childrens

Emma Maree Reviews: Wonder

Book: Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Genre: Fiction/Middle Grade/Children’s/Contemporary

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?

When you pick up a book about a primary school kid with an illnesses that’s destroying his face, you’d expect it to be a depressing story. Not quite. Wonder manages to be both heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time, mixing humour and honesty in a way that puts your emotions through a spin cycle.

I didn’t think I’d be tearing up at a novel for primary school-aged readers, but this book managed that. August is a warm, lovable character, and a huge Star Wars fan – he starts school with a Jedi braid in his hair, removing it only after this painful exchange with a school bully:

“Who’s your favorite character?” Julian asked. I started thinking maybe he wasn’t so bad.

“Jango Fett.”

“What about Darth Sidious?” he said. “Do you like him?”

Maybe no one got the Darth Sidious thing, and maybe Julian didn’t mean anything at all. But in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Darth Sidious’s face gets burned up by Sith lightning and becomes totally deformed. His skin gets all shrivelled up and his whole face just kind of melts.

I peeked at Julian and he was looking at me. Yeah, he knew what he was saying.

This story isn’t just about August, either. Auggie’s friends and family all have roles to play in the story, and each viewpoint has a different voice to match it. Wonder could be used as a textbook for great characterisation – it crafts a fantastic villain in school bully Julian while August’s friends and family are all flawed but loveable.

If you’re into children’s or young adult fiction, do yourself a favour and pick up “Wonder”. It’s a fresh, brave concept in the children’s writing world — and a great story to boot.

A copy of this book was provided for review by Random House.

Emma Maree Reviews: The Graveyard Book

Book: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Childrens/Paranormal/Horror

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own. Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family . . .

If you’ve ever read Gaiman’s “American Gods” (and you should) you’ll have an idea of what to expect here. Neil Gaiman is a goldmine of mythology and history, and his knowledge leaks into the pages. Everything is infused with accuracy and research, everything is referencing old gods and famous moments in history. They call it a kids book, but as an adult reader you can get so much more out of all his subtle little nods to history.

The story starts out with each chapter being a self-contained ‘snippet’ from the main character Nobody’s life in the graveyard, following him as he grows up and makes friends with witches, steps through portals into other worlds, and deals with a teacher who might not be all that she seems.  Towards the end of the story, all the individual sections start to come together as the man named Jack picks up Nobody’s trail once again…

Neil has a real gift with characters. The Graveyard residents are made memorable with only a few lines of text, and they’re all so likeable. I didn’t even realise how attached I was to these characters, until 2am on Christmas Day rolled around and I was still reading, still desperate to know what happened next and what these poor characters were going to have to go through.

This is a great fantasy novel – an easy, fast-paced read with a lot of depth and appeal to all ages.

What Books Were You Obsessed With When You Were Young?

YA Highway asked, for their regular Road Trip Wednesday feature, what books you were obsessed with when you were a kid.

For me, three series stand out. Two of them, notably, were the books that helped me take that step from  children’s fiction to adult fiction – up until then I’d been sticking dutifully to the appropriate section of the library.

Goosebumps! I sped through every one of these horror novels when I was young, and watched the TV Show every chance I could. My favourite involved a colourless world and a girl’sl lipstick tube, I think it was The Haunted School.

Harry Potter! I caught onto this series on my best friend’s recommendation, just before it became a huge thing in school. After doing a parade for the Girls Brigade, I think it was, I got to pick up ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban‘ from the supermarket. I remember reading the jacket copy and thinking ‘it’s about serial killers is this really a children’s book SERIAL KILLERS should I buy it IT LOOKS SO DARK’. After I convinced myself to buy and read it it, and thought it was the most amazing thing ever, especially the hippogriff and the time travel.

It’s still my favourite book out of the seven, and I was gutted when the Harry/Hermione relationship didn’t work out. Romantic hippogriff flights! It was meant to be.

Discworld! Again thanks to my best friend’s savvy recommendations, I picked up my first Discworld book, The Truth, out of the local W.H.Smith and felt a little guilty every time Sir Terry mentioned unusually shaped vegetables, because this was A Book For Adults and they were making Jokes For Adults.

Other books I loved: Malorie Blackman novels (especially Hackers, and Pig-Heart Boy), The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, anything by Eoin Colfer (especially The Wish List and the Artemis Fowl series), The Saga of Darren Shan, and Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy.

What books did you love when you were young? Drop me a comment, or join in the blog road trip yourself. =)

Emma Maree Reviews “I Shall Wear Midnight”

I recently read Terry Pratchett’s latest Tiffany Aching/The Wee Free Men series book, “I Shall Wear Midnight”.

I love Sir Terry Pratchett’s writing, and I wasn’t disappointed at all here – the same wonderful mix of humor and wordplay was abundant, alongside the detailed worldbuilding that surrounds the Discworld novels.

It was a lot darker than previous books, though – the story opens with a village riot, and Tiffany helping out a village girl who’s been beaten up by her father and lost a child because of it. Tiffany is trying to take care of the locals in her home, The Chalk, but with rumors spreading and fear rising against witches, her job is becoming not just unglamorous, but dangerous.  She’s determined to find out the cause, knowing that her home and her life both hang in the balance.

Some of the descriptions were more graphic than usual for this series, and while the previous books were suitable for young readers this one definitely leans more towards the female YA reader crowd.