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Reviews Written by
V. Carlin (London, England)

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The Apple-Pip Princess
The Apple-Pip Princess
by Jane Ray
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A sensational book, 7 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: The Apple-Pip Princess (Paperback)
Both my daughters love this book and ask for it over and over again. It is beautifully told and illustrated, like all Jane Ray books. I had to look hard for an affordable second hand copy and wish it was in print again. I tweeted the publishers but they just referred me to other Jane Ray books.

I like this more than Doll's House Fairy and Can You Catch a Mermaid, though all of them are lovely and popular in my house. The story is the king is a widower with three daughters. As he's getting old he asks each of them to find a way to impress him, to help him decide who to leave his kingdom to. The death of his wife has led to the death of the kingdom - nothing grows, the air is arid and the people are starving and poor. The elder two daughters exploit the poor and threaten them (mildly) and come up with worthless showy towers. The youngest daughter, Serenity, uses her mother's personal treasure box to bring the people in the land together in a programme of mass planting and farming touched with a little magic (a nightingale's song, a strip of rainbow, a dewy spider web, and one apple pip). A week later the land is verdant and full of potential and the people have found a new purpose. The king gives the kingdom to Serenity. No one is a baddy and everyone gathers together under a tree to picnic and listen to nightingale song and love everyone else.

It doesn't hurt that the princesses are brown skinned and dark haired.


Sofia the First
Sofia the First
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Ghastly treacly kids singing hideous songs: very competent, 7 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: Sofia the First (MP3 Download)
Your kids like Sofia the first or they don't. If they like her, they'll like this. The songs are pitched perfectly for small voices and they are so so sweet that your teeth will hurt when you listen. If you're in your car, you're in for half an hour of hell, if they're playing this in their room, you're in for maybe a full episode of The Chase and peace and quiet.


Henry VIII (Hole Story)
Henry VIII (Hole Story)
by Polly Dunbar
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Snappy, amusing entry-level history, 7 Feb. 2014
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There isn't a lot of fact here, but a little of it might stick, and they are super fun to read. The book talks about Henry's wives only, and there's a little cartoon bloodshed and interestingly placed holes. My kids (5 and 7) love this series and wish there were lots more. We have Cleopatra, too, which is better.


Sleeping Beauty (Flip-Up Fairy Tales)
Sleeping Beauty (Flip-Up Fairy Tales)
by Laura Barella
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good and bad, 7 Feb. 2014
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First of all, I absolutely LOVE this series of books, the Flip-up Fairy Tales, because my daughter loves them so much. I think the illustrations are nice, inclusive, diverse - the princesses have all different hair lengths and colours (though we could do with a couple of non-white ones: there aren't any, but there are non-white princes). Wait, wait, people who hate politically correct loony lefties, this review isn't all about that! I also like traditional, grim, dark retellings of these fairy tales, and the Flip-up series manages to stay true to the original stories, in my opinion, but without hideously old-fashioned sexual politics. They are classily, intelligently interpreted. They are a bit catch-phrase light - when I tell the 3 Little Pigs one I have to add my own 'not by the hair of my chinny chin chin' and in the Jack and the Beanstalk one I have to do the full Fee Fi Fo Fum, I think it misses 'Englishman'. But I can do that, it isn't a problem.

I would give most of their books FIVE STARS (Stone Soup is a particular favourite, also Red Riding Hood is excellent), but there's one small aspect of this retelling I don't like. It isn't exclusive to this book, I've read it in a couple of other versions, but it sticks in my craw, so I'm mentioning it. When the king and queen agree to the fairy's plan to send everyone to sleep, they except themselves. They just wander off closing the kingdom. So the princess - and your kid may not notice this, and the book just arrived so I haven't tried it on mine - will wake up to find everything she knows and loves in the right place and a bloke (there's no hint of him falling in love with her or her with him, she safely just finds him interesting) - but no parents. Dead parents. Parents who died maybe 60 years ago. I can't really get past this!

Elsewhere, the book is attractive, the flaps are fun, imaginative, plentiful, and I think as a fairy tale series, the Flip Ups really can't be beaten. We have all sorts of fairy tales, long wordy ones, traditional Grim, Anthony Minghella and Alan Garner retellings, Jan Pienkowski silhouettes, beautiful prose, etc. but this series really gets my 5 year old into fairy tales, and a good background of fairy tale knowledge is pretty essential.


Northanger Abbey [DVD] [2007]
Northanger Abbey [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Felicity Jones
Price: £4.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, funny adaptation, 3 Feb. 2014
This captures all the comedy of the book beautifully - it is perhaps the broadest of Austen's comedies but also shows a fondness for the gothic romances and for the teenagers who are (still!) besotted by them (see Twilight, etc.). In this version we cut to the scenes of Catherine's imagination: camp, swooning romantic adventures - that she snaps out of, before finding herself in a real-life version of one that is just as dark. Both leads are delightful. Carey Mulligan is a hoot.


Barbapapa
Barbapapa
by Annette Tison
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So happy these are back in print, 15 Nov. 2013
This review is from: Barbapapa (Hardcover)
The Barbapapa books are delightful - eco friendly, politically correct, aesthetically beautiful... but for your kids, just really simply and lovely and fun. Barbapapa is a fun weird monster, the shapes he makes are fun, there's a lot of elements of imagination and wish-fulfilment in his shape-shifting, animals are always involved. This first book, which I discovered today in a little bookshop after having searched for it for years online with no luck, is not *quite* as fun as the later ones, and I hope the Barbapapa books get fully released. The reason is Barbapapa's kids are lovely. They all have different personalities, there are several girls. This is important because it means your little girl doesn't have to like the one who's a girl whose personality is a girl just because she's a girl. She will identify with the (male) Barbazoo who likes animals or the (female) Barbalala who likes music or the (female) Barbalib who likes reading or the sporty Barbabravo. (There's a 'girly' one, too. It's her choice.) And sorry to talk about the book this ISN'T!

In this story, Barbapapa is discovered in a garden. There isn't too much exposition. It's an excellent story your kids will love it.


No Title Available

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I'm one of the people who got a rubbish one, 11 Nov. 2013
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When it came some of the stickers were peeled off and stuck to each other, and tore messily when I tried to detach them. It's light, flimsy, terrible quality. I know it's cheap but the reviews on this page are very misleading.


Wiro Journal With Pen Pets (Cat/Kitten or Dog/Puppy) 240 pages of 100gsm Cream Paper
Wiro Journal With Pen Pets (Cat/Kitten or Dog/Puppy) 240 pages of 100gsm Cream Paper

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Massive, A4, 22 Oct. 2013
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I thought this was going to be a titchy thing - perhaps I should check product specifications more - and thought it was a tad overpriced. When it came, my daughter was really really delighted. She uses it as a journal, and it doesn't matter how many weeks and months she forgets to write in it, she can always just turn the page and start again without the big gap you get with dated diaries.


The Glass Heart
The Glass Heart
by Sally Gardner
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A very sweet fairy tale, but with refreshing moments of tartness, 22 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: The Glass Heart (Paperback)
My kids like this and I like to read it to them. I get slightly weepy at the last page, as I do with all my favourite children's books when I'm reading them aloud.

Briefly, the story is of three sisters with glass hearts. The first breaks hers easily (and dies. It says so in the text. She just dies. It's okay, it's briskly done, no trauma). The second cracks hers but assures us that if she takes it easily she could live to a fine old age. The third is in no hurry to marry and falls for a young courtier, who falls for her too. When he has proved his commitment, she reveals her love and he is considered by the king to be good enough for her. The story is bookended by a young girl breaking a precious object of her granny's and the granny telling the tale to make her feel better.

There's no baddy. There's no danger. No conflict. I rather like that about it. Even the father is eminently reasonable and non-snobbish. It's a good length. Yep, I recommend this book.


The Empty Stocking
The Empty Stocking
by Richard Curtis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I think this will become a classic, 13 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: The Empty Stocking (Paperback)
My kids love Christmas stories but I try to save them for just before Christmas, December at the earliest - though this rule does get broken.

A couple of weeks ago we got this from the library, because I wanted to see if it was a good fit with my pre-Christmas reading list. (others include: Lucy & Tom's Christmas, Harvey Slumfenberger's Christmas Present, The Little Owl and the Star) It was an instant hit and I've already ordered a hardback copy.

The story is two twins, a good twin and a 'naughty' twin. We're approaching Christmas and it looks like the naughty twin isn't going to get anything from Father Christmas (who appears in the book). But maybe the naughty twin can pull off a last minute act so good that she'll change his mind. Really, it's about sibling love and unselfishness.

I've tried a lot of books about siblings to try to get my kids to get on. They're two years apart and they argue daily. Those books never work, but this one struck a chord with both of them. I have to say that the last couple of pages always make me cry when I'm reading it. A couple of the contemporary references/in-Curtis-jokes are possibly a bit arch and annoying for some readers (eg the DVD shelf groans with Curtis movies) but it has been written with love and shimmers with love.


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