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Reviews Written by
K. J. Noyes "Katy Noyes" (Derbyshire, UK)
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The Accidental Prime Minister
The Accidental Prime Minister
by Tom McLaughlin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.24

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious look at politics - for kids! Timely zaniness to remind us all what really matters - parks and bouncy castles..., 27 April 2015
A wonderful story about a boy becoming prime minister, both for reading together and reading alone.

I've read a few of McLaughlin's picture books with my son, and liked them. Here, the illustrations are still present, but McLaughlin proves he also knows what older children also want - lots of rollercoasters, dressing up, bouncy castles and children getting the better of adults.

This has been done before for adults, but it's a first for children, and a brilliant way of introducing primary school children to the idea of politics, elections and how big decisions are made.

In a wish-fulfilment story, quiet Joe speaks out unintentionally when the Prime Minister closes his local park, where his single mum works. He's a YouTube sensation within hours, and guess what? He somehow manages to wangle the top job himself, with best friend Ajay along for the ride as his 'manager'. It's great fun - redesigning Downing Street to include a Jelly Room, passing laws that include mandatory Dressing Up days. Maybe stopping a war or two along the way. And of course - battling against the despicable Deputy PM - Violetta Crump.

Joe and Ajay are well-drawn, the adults mostly caricatures (the PM disappears too quickly, the Deputy is nice and evil but pretty standard - she's no Trunchbull), though Jenkins the Personal Private Secretary is allowed some character development and a little plot to himself. The book is more about the idea of becoming Prime Minister, and develops nicely - readers will love the silliness of Joe's leadership and his fight against the Anti-Silliness League of fun-destroying grown-ups.

This is deceptive as a novel - it would make great 'chapter book' reading at bedtime or perfect 'newly confident reader' material. I'd say ages 7-10 will appreciate it the most.


Only Ever Yours
Only Ever Yours
by Louise O'Neill
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I'm just doing what we have been trained to do. This is who we are freida. This is who we were designed to be.", 26 April 2015
This review is from: Only Ever Yours (Paperback)
Handmaid's Tale meets Uglies meets 1984? It's not either, but both sprung to mind as I sped through this. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!

In O'Neill's world, girls cannot be born - they are made. And of course, if you can make something, you're going to make it the best version possible, aren't you? freida and her group of primped and pumped beauties have all been cloistered in secluded schooling their entire lives, taught to rate themselves against each other, to strive for bodily perfection, to be ready to submit to the wishes of their chosen mate later in life. Now freida is 16 and their husbands (or other fates) are going to be selected for them. The life of a submissive wife and mother, or that of a concubine? Are these her choices?

It's a world I desperately wanted to pull freida out of - the four year old girls dieting to reach optimum weight, the teenagers listing each others' physical flaws, the constant rivalry to be the thinnest, the highest ranked. And it's a world that O'Neill has written very well indeed - I could picture the looks the girls gave each other, the jealousy and simmering hormonal tension as these normal girls are trained to live this way.

The little details really make it - the TV programmes of the bored but privileged housewives, the social media the girls are addicted to, the conversations that throw details of their restrictive and revolting lives out to us.

Frieda is sympathetic, her best friend isabel. the top-ranked girl, distant from the beginning as she gains weight and loses popularity and ranking, forcing freida out into the cold world of the other girls without the care of her friend. She is our window out onto this stark world, where boys are prized, girls are barely prizes, life more about birthing boys than companionship or connections. She makes a fascinating protagonist as her conscience pricks her as she follows the lead of the wonderfully evil megan.

I loved seeing the future husbands play a role, the 'auditions' and tests they attend with the girls laughable and horrific at the same time, their lives just as restricted in some ways but unable to see past the system.

With minor sexual content, and a lot of teenage emotion, this would be best read by ages 13+. It has a lot to say, and personally I'd recommend it to adults (and book groups) as well, for the discussions it will provoke.

Oh, the girls' names above - you may have noticed are not given capital letters. That's not poor typing. I loved this aspect of the book - this is how unimportant they are - they are commodities, worth little but as wombs. And not worthy of capital letters, that's how I read O'Neill's decision to write every female name this way. Different, and very effective. It made me look up from the pages and sigh with relief at the world I inhabit.

Excellent, original and frightening debut. I look forward to the author's next. And will someone please recommend this to Hollywood?


Children's Books: WHO TOOK MY BANANA? (Deliciously Silly Rhyming Bedtime Story/Picture Book, About Mothers' Love, for Beginner Readers, with over 35 Whimsical Illustrations, Ages 2-8)
Children's Books: WHO TOOK MY BANANA? (Deliciously Silly Rhyming Bedtime Story/Picture Book, About Mothers' Love, for Beginner Readers, with over 35 Whimsical Illustrations, Ages 2-8)
Price: £3.06

4.0 out of 5 stars Henry's Cat-like illustrations and good repetition, 24 April 2015
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Orang-utan can't find her breakfast banana... She goes around asking all the other jungle animals if they've eaten it. None have... but she eventually finds the culprit.

To an adult, it all seems a bit silly (she didn't think to check with her baby FIRST?!), but my son was delighted at the conclusion.

We liked seeing all the animals and calling out their names, and I liked the refrain which reminded me of "The Story of the Little Mole who knew it was none of his Business".

I didn't like the songs after every animal though, they seemed to detract from the plot and I wasn't keen on reading them. It would have, in my mind, been better without them.

A nice message at the end, and I really liked the style of drawing which reminded me of 80s cartoons.

One for 2-5 year olds.


Monster Ruzz has to go to the dentist
Monster Ruzz has to go to the dentist
Price: £2.18

3.0 out of 5 stars Cute pictures but didn't like the rhymes, 24 April 2015
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Monster refuses to brush his teeth.. and soon learns his lesson at the dentist.

A topic all parents want to have a handy book on. A lesson in brushing, fillings, good oral hygiene.

But unfortunately, and against the opinion of other reviewers, I really hate the rhymes. A few were fine, but most felt really forced and unrealistic (a child saying his teeth "don't feel fine" for example).

I like the idea of this, though the concept of HOW to brush teeth would have been a good inclusion, so we'll see if my son wants to read it again. Nice to see it done with a monster, makes a nice change and makes it enjoyable as well.

One for ages 3-6.


Things You Might See Swimming Under the Sea: A colourful underwater adventure
Things You Might See Swimming Under the Sea: A colourful underwater adventure
Price: £1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of educational content in this attractive underwater picture book, 24 April 2015
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A rhyming colour book, full of undersea creatures. And some very pretty illustrations.

Really like the range of animals and the idea of this, with the colours of each emphasised as a teaching point. The rhymes are good, and it's a lovely world that's brought to life.

There are also facts about the creatures at the end, though my son wasn't interested at the end in reading them.

This would work best with those learning colours but also slightly older interested in sea creatures. Probably for ages 2-5.


Sharee
Sharee
Price: £2.23

3.0 out of 5 stars Good basic idea but illustrations courtesy of Paint, 24 April 2015
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This review is from: Sharee (Kindle Edition)
A lonely aiien plans a party - but nobody comes. SOmeone forgot the invitations! In the end, the party is a success.

I liked this idea, as did my son. It's a simple story, and the writing is pretty basic. To be honest, it could have been written by a child in school as easily as an adult.

It might be the illustrations that influence this thought though - it's very Paint programme in colour and style. I didn't like the style at all. Saying that, my son quite liked the book (it has party games and food so my 4-year-old was perfectly happy) and he loved it when he realised why nobody was at the party.

As I said, a good basic idea. Could have done with a better ending, it just fizzles out, and some professional illustrations (not always easy for self-published or new authors). It's one I'll keep for my son to request again. This would appeal most to children age 3-6.


Eachine Mushroom Kids Night Light LED Touch Dimmable Lamp Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Eachine Mushroom Kids Night Light LED Touch Dimmable Lamp Portable Bluetooth Speaker

4.0 out of 5 stars Very cute night light with a very nice audio feature, 23 April 2015
My son fell in love with the look of this as we got it out of the box. It's a nicely shaped mushroom shape that sits comfortably in its base.

The light function works, but because the light is on the underside of the mushroom cap, it's more for general dim illumination than specific visibility. It doesn't offer much light.

The function I wanted this for was the audio function. The bluetooth syncs easily and allows for audio through the mushroom. I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the sound, both music and vocal. This would work well for audio books at bedtime or children's music to send them off to sleep.

The controls are simple to work, instructions easy to follow, even if the translation means you need to guess a little. Comes with USB and everything you need for charging and setting up.

It could be a problem for young children's bedrooms, if they knock it from the square base - heavy enough to cause a minor injury, so would need keeping out of reach.

Overall though, we love this. We wouldn't use it for light but for the sound. It's attractive and a good quality audio nightlight.

With thanks to the manufacturer for the sample product, sent for review purposes.


GRDE® Smart Sound Control Lamp, Lucky Bedside Table Lamp with Sound Activated Function, Energy Saving LED Night Light, Great Gift for Children (Upgrade Version, UK Plug)
GRDE® Smart Sound Control Lamp, Lucky Bedside Table Lamp with Sound Activated Function, Energy Saving LED Night Light, Great Gift for Children (Upgrade Version, UK Plug)
Offered by UK tree
Price: £19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars It works - my son thinks it's magic!, 23 April 2015
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I thought this could make a great nightlight for my 4-year-old's room. The idea of a light that is reactive to sound and turns off after a minute was very appealing.

Right now (April) it's not dark at 'bedtime' so we've tested it in the daytime but it DOES work - the light doen't go on in the daylight, and can be set to 'on' in dim light. The feature we like most is the sound activtation, which works when a loud(ish) noise is made. The light then remains on for over a minute before going off again.

Veyr useful feature - and one my son can't get enough of.

It's quite a bright light. The light requires a plug, and I would personally have liked a slightly longer cable, but it's fine.

I must say though, I'm not keen at all on the design or look of the lamp, but that's my own personal taste. It's fairly sturdy but I'm not keen on thte aesthetic. I know many are, so don't let that put you off.

A great feature on this lamp and it's working well for my son as a nightlight.

With thanks to the manufacturer for the sample product, sent for review purposes.


A Robot In The Garden
A Robot In The Garden
by Deborah Install
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.09

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warm, winning and surely impossible to dislike, 23 April 2015
This review is from: A Robot In The Garden (Paperback)
Ben and Amy's marriage is already under strain, but finding a robot in the garden one day, and taking it in, Ben finds it the final straw for his wife. Tang is soon an integral part of the house, while Amy can't take it and leaves. Confused and angry, Ben puts his efforts into Tang as he notices that the old-fashioned and beat-up little model is in need of urgent repair. Using clues that take him from one location to another, the two end up going on a quest of epic proportions, meeting experts and eccentrics alike in the search for Tang's origins. And maybe Ben will learn something along the way...

I adored this. Tang must be the sweetest little robot ever to grace a book. He reminded me so much of my four-year-old - his little tempers and strops, his innocence and questions, his loyalty and forgiving nature, his energy. Ben does develop into a father figure to his small charge and grows as a result of their escapades. It's a wonderful transformation to watch, and you fall for both of them.

The quest itself proves very funny, with some very humorous incidents and characters. The start and finish bookends, as we see Ben's growth in full is very satisfying and heart-warming.

Another one that will make a fantastic transition to film, and it's very worthwhile meeting Tang now, before Hollywood fixes his image as a Disney-esque mechanoid in your mind.

Review of a Netgalley advance copy.


Eliza Bluebell
Eliza Bluebell
by A J York
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.50

3.0 out of 5 stars Chocolat-like plot for children, 22 April 2015
This review is from: Eliza Bluebell (Paperback)
I quite liked Delilah Dusticle, and the nice little message it gave. Eliza Bluebell, for me, wasn't quite as good.

Eliza breezes into a small town like the heroine of Chocolat - mysterious, opening a shop selling sweet things (here a teashop) and proceeds to help make changes to the lives of the town's inhabitants. Sweet enough.

But there's a 'shadow' plot - Eliza's shadow can go off on its own and do things without Eliza being there. This seemed a bit pointless to me, it doesn't do anything very big or important, nothing that couldn't be got around by the plot. Some of the writing is awkward, there are missing contractions that don't read well coming from the mouths of children ("We had a fight and she is not talking to me anymore"). The setting, like Delilah Dusticle feels as though it should be 'period' (here I was thinking of Chocolat's 50s setting), but seems to actually be contemporary, from references made, which didn't feel right.

I liked the general idea - mysterious person changing lives with cakes, but I thought the shadow unnecessary and overall, prefer Delilah. The book is written in short chapters, good for bedtimes, with catchy black-and-white illustrations at the start of each.

This is a 60-page children's story, suitable for ages 6-9.

With thanks to the author for the copy, provided for review purposes.


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