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Children of the Red King #3: Charlie Bone and the Invisible Boy
Children of the Red King #3: Charlie Bone and the Invisible Boy
by Jenny Nimmo
Edition: Hardcover

72 of 72 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Also Known as Charlie Bone & the Blue Boa!!!, 22 July 2004
If you've already got a copy of 'Charlie Bone and the Blue Boa,' then you needn't buy a copy of 'Charlie Bone and the Invisible Boy,' as they are the same book with alternate titles.
The question you may be asking is: why has this book been called something else?
Well, when overseas publishers buy publication/distribution rights, they occasionally change a book's title if they feel this will work better for their target audience. Remember how J K Rowling's 'Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone' became 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone' when released in America? Another example is Philip Pullman's 'Northern Lights' published in Canada as 'The Golden Compass.'
Alternate titles can be very confusing - but hopefully, by reading the Amazon reviews carefully, you should be able to avoid buying the same book twice!


The Field Guide (Spiderwick Chronicles, book 1)
The Field Guide (Spiderwick Chronicles, book 1)
by Holly Black
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.99

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful - Like a book from a Bygone Era, 19 July 2004
The Spiderwick Chronicles are the most charming little books imaginable. There is something almost Victorian about the quality of their presentation. Beautifully designed covers, outstanding illustrations and a watercolour frontispiece piece all help conjure an aura of days gone by, when faeries were the standard reading matter for the young.
The writing has a clarity that will suit young readers whilst not being overly simple for slightly older readers. The vocabulary is good, but not off-putting for those still feeling their way through books alone. Pages are small - less than half the amount of words per page found in a standard children's book, enabling younger readers to really feel that they're progressing.
Each book is divided into 7 chapters - making it ideal for a week of bedtime stories. Furthermore, what really makes these little books special is the stunning quality of the line illustrations. The artist dedicates his work to Arthur Rackham - and it is clear that Rackham has been his inspiration. There is hardly a double-page-spread without some little picture and there are plenty of highly detailed full page illustrations too - yet again making it perfect for bedtime reading.
Although the style of the books is intentionally retro, the story is anything but. The plot of the first book: 'The Field Guide' revolves around the three Grace children; nine-year-old twins Jared and Simon, and their older sister Mallory. They move into their Great Aunt Lucinda's derelict house - and soon discover that it is not quite as empty as they thought. While trying to trace the source of the mysterious noises within the walls, Jared discovers a strange hidden room in which he finds an old hand-written book belonging to his long-lost Uncle, Arthur Spiderwick, which contains the terrible truth about the faerie world. Once he opens it, his life will never be the same again.
This book is the first in a series of five. Although the stories revolve around the magical inhabitants of the faerie world - don't assume that these books are just for girls. Jared, the main character, is very much a boy - into fighting, getting expelled from school and generally being difficult! Even the faeries are not the twee Enid Blyton variety - neither are they the like the feisty gun-toting elves of the Artemis Fowl books. No, they seem much more realistic: Strange, magical, slightly dangerous and determined to stop at nothing to protect their world and reclaim Arthur Spiderwick's powerful book. Subsequent stories include a whole menagerie of mystical beasts, including: goblins, griffins, unicorns, boggarts, ogres, dwarves and elves. The Spiderwick story continues with: Book 2 - 'The Seeing Stone'


The Speed of the Dark
The Speed of the Dark
by Alex Shearer
Edition: Paperback

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Haunting and Atmospheric Masterpiece, 5 July 2004
This review is from: The Speed of the Dark (Paperback)
'The Speed of the Dark' is a strangely haunting little book. Atmospheric ... sinister even. The style of writing is not unlike Roald Dhal's short stories; imagine one of his 'Tales of the Unexpected' expanded to a full novel, and you'll get the picture.
For the most part, the narrative takes the form of a letter/manuscript found after Christopher, a mysterious young scientist, goes missing - leaving nothing behind but a snowglobe screwed down to his desk. A snowglobe without snow.
His manuscript tells the story of his childhood, and the three adults his life revolves around: Robert, his father, a surly bohemian street artist; Poppea, a street performer who pretends to be a mechanical ballerina; and Mr Eckmann, the deformed owner of The Gallery of the Art of the Impossible - and sculptor extraordinaire. His sculptures are truly beyond belief: a polar bear carved from a single grain of salt, a camel tiny enough to be displayed in the eye of a needle, the Empire State Building carved on the tip of a pencil lead, and many more.
But Eckmann has a strange ambition: he wants to include in his Gallery microscopic figures that actually move. One day he invites Christopher to view his latest masterpiece: a fully articulated mechanical ballerina small enough to dance on the point of a needle. His new attraction coincides with the mysterious disappearance of Christopher's friend Poppea. Is this a coincidence ... or something far, far more sinister?
This book is charmingly written, and grips to the very end. It has been short-listed for the Guardian Children's Fiction Award - however, the style of story-telling may well suit early teens to young adults best. A true gem!


Singin' In The Rain [DVD]
Singin' In The Rain [DVD]
Dvd ~ Gene Kelly
Offered by A1-Media
Price: £6.99

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Classic Musical Chronicling Hollywood History!, 3 July 2004
This review is from: Singin' In The Rain [DVD] (DVD)
Not only is this a truly classic musical and a wonderful comedy, it is also a piece of Hollywood history, cataloguing (albeit tongue-in-cheek) the mayhem that ensued when silent pictures gave way to the new-fangled 'talkies,' suddenly putting stars whose voice and face didn't match permanently out of work!
The story opens at a film premiere in Los Angeles' famous Chinese Theatre. Silent film stars Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) arrive for the opening of their latest film - and Don tells the waiting audience how he and Lina first met. Throughout, Lina remains enigmatically silent. Later, the studio boss announces that their next film will be a talkie - and finally the beautiful Lina speaks, revealing the horrible truth: she has a voice that could strip paint and crack teapots!
On his way to the post premiere party, Don meets Kathie Seldon (Debbie Renolds). She is a wannabe actress - and refreshingly unimpressed by his big screen star persona. Don inevitably falls in love with her - but things don't go quite according to plan. Lina is convinced that her on-screen romances with Don are, in fact, the genuine article.
Filming of Don and Lina's new romance, 'The Duelling Cavalier' is soon halted when it become obvious to all that Lina's voice will ruin it. Don's best friend, Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor) suggests transforming the film into a musical and dubbing out Lina, using Kathy's beautiful singing voice instead. It seems the perfect solution - but is it a recipe for disaster?
This fabulous musical has possibly one of the best scores of all time. Every song is truly memorable, including: 'All I do is Dream of You,' 'Fit as a Fiddle,' 'You Are My Lucky Star,' 'Broadway Melody,' 'Good Morning,' Make 'em Laugh,' and of course the wonderful title piece 'Singing in the Rain.'
The comedy scenes are a delight; in particular those showing the teething problems with sound-recording and the risible on-screen results are hilarious - especially when the sound goes out of sinc with the film.
Anyone with an interest of Hollywood history knows that these scenes are uncomfortably close to the truth. Even the featured characters: a gossip columnist, exotic femme fatale star, ineffectual studio boss, etc., are based (albeit loosely on real characters). The character of Kathy, (forced by studio bosses to sacrifice her own career to dub the voice of others) might possibly remind many of Marni Nixon, who several years later spent her career dubbing the singing voices of non-singing stars for such famous musicals as 'The King & I' and 'My Fair Lady' - and all without screen credit.
Sound and picture quality on the DVD are greatly superior to the old VHS.
Grab this now - and the next time it rains, you won't be able to resist bursting into song too!


The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark: Complete & Unabridged (Cover to Cover)
The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark: Complete & Unabridged (Cover to Cover)
by Jill Tomlinson
Edition: Audio CD

31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly wonderful Audio CD of a children's classic!, 29 Jun. 2004
This audiobook CD is performed by Maureen Lipman ... her warm and witty character voices add a hilarious dimension to the tale. Your children will enjoy listening to it over and over ... until they know it by heart.
The story is about a young barn owl called Plop, who is afraid of the dark. The plot is divided into seven little stories. Each one is a satisfying tale in which Plop learns something new about the dark each night: dark is exciting, dark is kind, dark is fun, dark is necessary, dark is fascinating, dark is wonderful ... and dark is beautiful. Plop isn't convinced immediately, but by the seventh night he's looking at the dark through new eyes!
If you know a little someone who is afraid of the dark, then this CD will cure them in one week ... guaranteed! But this wonderful story does so much more: it shows a simple paradox of life: how different people can see the same thing in many different ways - none of them wrong; all of the right!


The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark (Jill Tomlinson's Favourite Animal Tales)
The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark (Jill Tomlinson's Favourite Animal Tales)
by Jill Tomlinson
Edition: Paperback

57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best bedtime storybook ever written, 29 Jun. 2004
If you know a little someone who is afraid of the dark, then this book will cure them in one week ... guaranteed!
The story is about a young barn owl called Plop, who has the same problem. The plot is divided into seven little chapters (read one per night until cured). Each one is a satisfying tale in which Plop learns something new about the dark each night: dark is exciting, dark is kind, dark is fun, dark is necessary, dark is fascinating, dark is wonderful ... and dark is beautiful. Plop isn't convinced immediately, but by the seventh night he's looking at the dark through new eyes!
This is without doubt the most perfect bedtime story book ever written. It has been loved by children for generations - and will doubtless continue to be a firm favourite!


Grim Tuesday (The Keys to the Kingdom, Book 2)
Grim Tuesday (The Keys to the Kingdom, Book 2)
by Garth Nix
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Second Episode in a Stunning Fantasy Series, 29 Jun. 2004
After being bowled over by the incredible imagination and relentless pacing of Mr Monday, I awaited the 2nd in this series with eager anticipation.
Once again, the writing is a joy and the pacing brisk. Garth Nix has an amazing imagination (the story contains a gigantic creature mutated from someone's lost eyebrow), and he has created an impossible yet believable world peopled with vibrant three-dimensional characters. Arthur, the central character, continues to charm - ably assisted by the delightful Suzy, and not so ably assisted by the 'Will.'
So why, when I gobbled my way through 'Mr Monday' in less than a day, did I find myself plodding through 'Grim Tuesday' over an entire week? The answer: I found it rather formulaic and episodic. Oh yes, there's a great cliff-hanger at the end of every chapter - but the protagonist usually overcomes the obstacle within the first couple of pages of the next chapter, then marks time until the next chapter-ending cliff hanger. Lots of little story arcs - but not really any decent or challenging big ones.
The resolutions were just too darn convenient and required little thinking or effort on the part of the characters - and as such they did little to grow or develop throughout the narrative. For example: at one point they're stuck on a sort of glass pyramid whilst under a hail of fiery missiles. However, the creature they just happen to have with them just happens to have a glass-cutting diamond hidden in its mouth. Aarghhh!!! This kind of convenient resolution occurred with such regularity, that I no longer cared about the plight of the protagonist - certain that whatever tight corner he found himself in, he'd overcome it a page or two later with the minimal of mental effort.
That being said, it's still a jolly good book. If, like me, you've read the first part and intend to keep on reading until Sunday's book - then it's a must read. Really sorry I couldn't give it 5 stars! I liked it - but it just didn't have the class of 'Mr Monday'. Here's hoping 'Drowned Wednesday' will be a return to top form!
P.S. Why do people bother writing a 3 or 4 line review after reading only 6 chapters of the book? For future ref: please finish the book first and then give me your INFORMED opinion.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 21, 2008 6:59 PM BST


The Butterfly Lion
The Butterfly Lion
by Michael Morpurgo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £2.99

18 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Like a true story!, 28 Jun. 2004
This review is from: The Butterfly Lion (Paperback)
This unusual little book is quite difficult to review. Why? Possibly because I find it hard to categorise. The length and amount of illustrations lead me to think it is aimed at a young readership, but if so, it departs from the safest ways of story telling to the young reader ie., single viewpoint/single tense etc.
The book starts in the first person told by an unhappy young schoolboy - yet not in the present. The story is then told in a series of flashbacks even further in the past, switching to a different narrator, and told in third person. This part of the story (told by an old woman) is about a boy called Bertie who rescues an orphaned white lion cub. This is perhaps the best part of the book, yet is remarkably short - soon jumping years ahead to when Bertie is an adult.
In many respects, it reads like a true story - in other words, at times it's rather dull, especially if you're aged7, 8 or 9. The twist doesn't work at all, as it presents the reader with a whole host of ludicrous inconsistencies. If you read it, ask yourself how, for instance, the boy manages to eat the old woman's scones ... and many other equally impossible questions.
I imagine that when printed on top quality paper in the hardback version, the illustrations looked excellent. However, on the more porous paper of the softback they are badly reproduced, looking dark, smudgy and at times impossible to decipher.
In short: it's a pleasant enough little book, (as one previous reviewer said: sweet), but if you're wanting a great book for a young reader, something that will hook them in with a powerful, gripping story, you could probably do a lot better with something else.


Island of the Aunts
Island of the Aunts
by Eva Ibbotson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.54

42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Caution: Also entitled - Monster Mission!, 28 Jun. 2004
This review is from: Island of the Aunts (Paperback)
"Kidnapping children is not a good idea. All the same, sometimes it has to be done."
These are the opening words of "The Island of Aunts" and they set the tone for the wry, gentle humour of this charming book. If you'd love to be whisked away to a hidden island and help look after amazing creatures like: Krakens, boobrie birds, selkies, stoorworms and mermaids - then this is the book for you.
The writing is both magical and poetical - and manages to carriy a wonderfully uplifting conservationist message with such subtlety, that the reader is hardly aware of it. The child characters are a delight - and the aunts ... well, the aunts are as all good aunts should be: utterly dotty!
A wonderful book by Eva Ibbotson. However, if you are an Ibbotson fan, make certain you haven't got a copy already; it's also sold on amazon with an alternate title : "Monster Mission!"


The Supernaturalist
The Supernaturalist
by Eoin Colfer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lets get right to the point- is it as good as Artemis Fowl?, 28 Jun. 2004
This review is from: The Supernaturalist (Hardcover)
As you are no doubt aware, "The Supernaturalist" is the latest book by Eoin Colfer. I won't bother with a synopsis, (you can read Amazon's own above - no point in reiterating it here). Let's get right to the point. If you're an Artemis Fowl fan and haven't read it yet, then the question you'll want answering is: is it as good as the fantastic Fowl series?
The answer is not a simple yes or no. The most honest reply would be to say that it is entirely different. For a start there's absolutely no magic - it's more science fiction, (though science fantasy would probably be a more accurate description). However, like AF it's full of futuristic high-tech gadgets and is incredibly imaginative and witty. There are plenty of laughs, thrill, spills and impossible adventures to keep you turning the pages, long after midnight!
Speaking personally, I didn't find Cosmo - the main character - as compelling/unique/vibrant as Artemis - but clearly Colfer is going for an entirely different protagonist here. He's far more the hapless under-dog than the wise-cracking evil genius. Supporting characters are fun, but I failed to bond with them - though the Bartolli baby (a 28 year-old man in a 6 year-old body is an imaginitive creation and great fun). The style is very action/comic book - and as ever the dialogue is superb.
So, dear Artemis Fowl fan, should you splash out on a copy or not? The answer is an unqualified YES. A great book, well worth reading - just be sure to approach it with an open mind, knowing it's taking a different (and at times slightly more mature) tack. Don't expect another Artemis ... just enjoy it for what it is!


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