BOOK REVIEW: The Jungle Book – by Rudyard Kipling

Title: The Jungle Book
Author: Rudyard Kipling

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Fantasy
First published: 1894
Publisher: Random House UK
Finished reading: August 14th 2017
Pages: 248

“The reason the beasts give among themselves is that Man is the weakest and most defenseless of all living things, and it is unsportsmanlike to touch him.”

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I’ve been seriously neglecting my classics this year, but didn’t want to force myself to read something complicated to avoid worsening my slump either. That is when I remembered I had a copy of The Jungle Book on my kindle, and decided to read it on the spot. I must have seen the Disney movie a hundred times when I was little and still remember some of the songs to this date… So I was really looking forward to finally read the original story the movie was based on. And let me tell you, the people of Disney have interpreted Mowgli’s story VERY loosely. I personally didn’t mind that much since it has been ages (read: 15-20 years; damn I feel old!) since I last saw the movie in the first place, but I can imagine true fans of the movie will be surprised when they start reading the classic. I really liked Rudyard Kipling‘s story of Mowgli though and was surprised by how easy it was to understand the prose. It shows in the dialogue this story was written in the 19th century, but the rest of The Jungle Book didn’t feel dated at all. I really enjoyed reading the original version of Mowgli and probably would have rated this book even higher if it wouldn’t have been for the other stories included afterwards. I’ve seen others like those four stories about seals, the mongoose, an elephant and animals used in the army better, but I personally prefered Mowgli. All in all this was definitely still a very positive experience reading a classic and I’m glad I made time to read The Jungle Book.

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A young man-cub barely escapes the claws of the greedy tiger Shere Khan as he is found by Father Wolf and Mother Wolf in the jungle. Shere Khan demands the wolfs to hand the man-cub over, but Father and Mother Wolf are determined to protect the little one and decide to raise the child as their own. Little Mowgli grows up among the wolves, but there will come a time the pack can no longer defend him… And Mowgli will have to learn the secrets of the Jungle in order to survive.

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I was pleasantly surprised by just how easy it was to read this classic. Sure, the dialogues felt a bit dated, but the rest of the writing read naturally and made it really easy to enjoy Mowgli’s story. The other four stories included afterwards weren’t as enjoyable for me and lowered the rating a bit, but all in all I can definitely recommend The Jungle Book to those who are looking for an easy and entertaining classic. The songs at the beginning of the chapters were a nice touch!


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ARC REVIEW: Tow-Truck Pluck – by Annie M.G. Schmidt

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Title: Tow-Truck Pluck
Author: Annie M.G. Schmidt

Genre: Children, Fiction, Picture Books
First published: July 7th 2016
Publisher: Pushkin Children’s Books
Finished reading: October 18th 2016
Pages: 200
Rating 5qqq

“And he skipped off… That was strange because he hadn’t eaten any berries. But it does happen… Some people don’t need hassle berries to skip and play, it just comes naturally.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Pushkin Children’s Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I came across this copy of the English translation of what has to be one of my absolute childhood favorites. I grew up with the Annie M.G. Schmidt books and her stories were probably among the first I read all by myself. Tow-Truck Pluck with its lovely illustrations by Fiep Westendorp (the same as the original Dutch version) is without doubt a book to treasure with your children and a title I cannot praise high enough. The English translation is well done and doesn’t feel awkward or loses its original charm. Pluck is a delightful character and his adventures will appeal to most young readers. Simple, but full of charismatic characters, animals that can talk and illustrations to enjoy; Tow-Truck Pluck is the perfect choice if you are looking for a new title to read with or to the little ones. They will want to reread it many times!

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Pluck has a little red tow truck, and is now driving all over town looking for a place to live. He doesn’t seem to have any luck, but then Dolly the pigeon tells him that the tower of the Pill Building is empty. Happy with his new home, he soon starts meeting his neighbors, making new friends and solving all kind of problems along the way.

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If you are looking for a book to read to or with young children, I cannot recommend Tow-Truck Pluck high enough. The prose is easy to read and entertaining for children, and they will love the illustrations as well. Pluck is a very likeable character as well as his many (animal) friends. Each chapter has a new adventure, so they work perfectly as bedtime stories. More than recommended!

ARC REVIEW: Razzle Dazzle Unicorn – by Dana Simpson

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Title: Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe And Her Unicorn Adventure
(Heavenly Nostrils #4)
Author: Dana Simpson

Genre: Graphic Novel, Children, Humor
First published: September 20th 2016
Publisher: Andrew McMeel Publishing
Finished reading: August 10th 2016
Pages: 184
Rating 4qqq

“”My dad speaks ‘nerd’.”

“It’s good to be bilingual.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Andrew McMeel Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I have been wanting to explore the graphic novel/comic genre for a while now, but with so many options out there it’s really hard to decide where to start. Netgalley and Andrew McMeel Publishing offered the great opportunity to try my hand at my very first graphic novel this year with Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe And Her Unicorn Adventure. I admit that I was sold as soon as I saw the cover. It’s just so colorful, fun and I simple love the artwork! This graphic novel is perfect for young girls from the age of 8 to 12 years, both because of the graphics and the simple, but funny and relatable stories. Dana Simpson has found the perfect formula in the friendship between little Phoebe and her best friend Marigold the unicorn. The interaction between both characters is great even at those pages where there isn’t happening much plotwise, and I love that it shows young readers that it isn’t necessarily bad to be different. Razzle Dazzle Unicorn shows a range of typical childhood events like the holidays, school assignments, summer camp, frenemies and chores. Phoebe’s childhood is quite typical except for the fact that her best friend happens to be an extravagant unicorn and she frequently runs into other magical creatures. Contemporary with a dash of fantasy,  and so much fun to read! I can definitely recommend this graphic novel for younger (female) readers.

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Phoebe and her unicorn are back with more adventures and more sparkly than ever! In this fourth volume, Phoebe and Marigold talk about the holidays and NY resolutions, confront trouble at school, frenemies and messy rooms. Marigold also has a nasty case of ‘sparkle fever’, and they both go to music summer camp to meet up with Phoebe’s friend Sue and her friend Ringo the lake monster… And they are reminded that being weird is WAY more fun than being normal.

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I fell in love with this graphic novel as soon as I saw the cover art. The graphics in Razzle Dazzle Unicorn are just too cute, colorful and adorable in general! They will lure in even those children that might need a little push to start reading, and Phoebe and Marigold the unicorn will put them under their spell from the first page. The stories themselves are simple, but quite entertaining and funny. It will be easy for the younger readers to relate to Phoebe and it has an interesting underlying message that will encourage kids to use their imagination and not be afraid of being different. The glossary in the back and the final section are a nice touch as well!

BOOK REVIEW: Out Of My Mind – by Sharon M. Draper

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Title: Out Of My Mind
Author: Sharon M. Draper
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, Middle Grade
First published: March 4th 2010
Finished reading: April 13th 2016
Pages: 320
Rating 4,5qqq

“Everybody uses words to express themselves. Except me. And I bet most people don’t realize the real power of words. But I do. Thoughts need words. Words need a voice.”

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I was not sure what to expect when I first picked up my copy of Out Of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper, but I was more than pleasantly surprised with what I found. The main character Melody has spastic bilateral quadriplegia, also known as cerebral palsy, and her story has without doubt an inspiring message and should probably be made into an obligatory middle grade read. Out Of My Mind, not unlike another well known middle grade read with about the same theme Wonder, gives us the valuable lesson that being different or having a disability doesn’t mean that person should be discriminated or treated as a ‘lesser’ being; what really matters is what is on the inside and what that person CAN do. I agree that part of Melody’s story seems a bit farfetched; it’s hard to believe her parents or doctors didn’t think of a better way for her to communicate before with all the technology out there and famous cases like Stephen Hawking (he is even mentioned in the book itself). Still, since this book was ment as a middle grade read, I believe the focus should be on the story itself and the message it is trying to give… And I think Sharon M. Draper did a more than excellent job telling Melody’s story in a way that is both understandable for the age group, easy to read and even emotional at points. Melody’s character development is very well done, although the other characters do lack some dept (especially the ‘bad’ guys). Would I recommend reading this one? A definite yes, although I suggest keeping in mind the age group when you are reading it.

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Eleven-year-old Melody is probably one of the smartest kids in her whole school, absorbing every single fact she has ever heard or seen in her photographic memory. The thing is nobody actually knows it… Melody has spastic bilateral quadriplegia, also known as cerebral palsy, meaning she can’t talk, walk or write down what she wants to say. She is basically stuck inside her head and most people don’t realize what she is actually capable of, including her teachers and doctors… But Melody’s wish to finally speak up for herself may finally come true as she discovers something that will help her to speak for the very first time. Melody finally has a voice, but not everyone will be ready to hear it… Or accept the fact that Melody is a lot smarter than they thought she was.

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If you forget about the sometimes not so credible circumstances around Melody’s situation and lack of development of the characters around her, Out Of My Mind is without doubt an incredible read. The story is easy to read, has an inspiring message and the character development of Melody is very well done. I loved how she reacted in one of the final scenes at school! This story will probably stay with me for a long time and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in the genre, especially if you’ve read and enjoyed Wonder  by R.J. Palacio as well.

BOOK REVIEW: Fantastic Mr. Fox – by Roald Dahl

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Title: Fantastic Mr. Fox
Author: Roald Dahl
Genre: Children, Fantasy, Fiction
First published: 1970
Finished reading: January 8th 2016
Pages: 81
Rating 3,5qqq

“I understand what you’re saying, and your comments are valuable, but I’m gonna ignore your advice.”

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Roald Dahl is easily one of my favorite childhood authors and every once in a while I like rereading one of his books. Browsing his books for another reread the other day I realized I couldn’t remember if I had ever read Fantastic Mr. Fox… And I decided to change that immediately. I enjoyed reading this children story, although I have to admit it’s not as good as some of his other work. Still, he writes in a way that will win over any child’s heart whether they read it themselves or you read it to them. Quentin Blake‘s illustrations maybe are not the prettiest, but they fit well and bring back memories of my own childhood reading Roald Dahl‘s books. Mr. Fox and the other animals all have different personalities as do the three farmers… I definitely would have enjoyed this read as a kid and I would definitely recommend it to someone with young children. And for us adults: it’s not his best work and it might get a bit boring… If you haven’t read anything Roald Dahl yet, I wouldn’t recommend reading this one first.

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Someone has been stealing animals from the three mean farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean. Chickens, Ducks, Geese, Turkeys… Boggis, Bunce and Bean have had enough and join forces to catch the thief. They already know who did it: Mr. Fox! The farmers decide to get rid of him forever and have Mr. Fox and his family surrounded. But Mr. Fox isn’t just any fox and very clever. He comes up with a plan to fool the farmers and save his family from starvation…

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Fantastic Mr. Fox isn’t my favorite, but it still very much shows it was written by Roald Dahl. I really like his writing style and it’s perfect for children with just the right dose of humor and adventure. The illustrations combine well with the text and I would definitely read this story to small children. I’m sure they would love it…

BOOK REVIEW: Serafina And The Black Cloak – by Robert Beatty

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Title: Serafina And The Black Cloak
(Serafina #1)
Author: Robert Beatty
Genre: Children, Fantasy, Horror
First published: July 14th 2015
Finished reading: January 6th 2016
Pages: 304
Rating 4qqq

“Our character isn’t defined by the battles we win or lose, but by the battles we dare to fight.”

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The first thing that convinced me to pick up a copy of Serafina And The Black Cloak was the gorgeous cover. In fact, I didn’t realize until later that this was actually a middle grade story… Although I personally like reading a middle grade book every once in a while. This story written by Robert Beatty has both an interesting setting and the perfect mix of fantasy and scary elements. It’s what you call a ‘light’ horror read that will entertain both a ten-year-old and an adult alike. The prose is really accessible and I loved the descriptions of both the mansion, forest and magical elements in the story. The main character Serafina wins over your heart in a blink of the eye and I loved the mystery around her character. The mysterious man in the black cloak is scary enough, but not too much to give the younger ones nightmares… And I really liked the ending. In short, Serafina And The Black Cloak was a more than satisfying read that I can recommend if you are looking for a middle grade fantasy book.

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Serafina never knew her mother and has been growing up living in the basement of the Biltmore estate with her father. He works as a maintenance man during the day and hides away at night; nobody knows he sleeps in the basement and they don’t know that Serafina even exists. Her pa asks her only two things: she must take care to never been seen and she never has to venture too far into the forest. Serafina is not a normal child and has quite a few special skills. As silent as the night, her dad gave her the job of Chief Rat Catcher; she is able to catch rats with her bare hands… One day, children start disappearing at the estate. Nobody knows who is behind it except Serafina. Roaming around unseen that night, she saw a man in a black cloak stalking the corridors at night and taking away a young girl. She is determined to stop the man, but will she be able to even when nobody seems to believe her or can really see her in the first place?

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Serafina And The Black Cloak is a very entertaining middle grade read that has the perfect mix of fantasy and creepy elements. The story is both accessible and well written, and just scary enough to not completely creep out the younger readers. The characters are very likeable and I loved the prose and descriptions. Definitely recommended!

BOOK REVIEW: George – by Alex Gino

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Title: George
Author: Alex Gino
Genre: Childrens, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
First published: August 25th 2015
Finished reading: November 12th 2015
Pages: 240
Rating 4qqq

“George opened her mouth, but as with Mom, she couldn’t say the only words that blared through her brain: I’m a girl.”

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When I saw that George was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards, I decided to read it earlier than planned to find out if it’s really that good. I cannot agree more with those that say that this little novel is a very important read and should be read by young reader at some point. George has a very powerful message: nobody is the same and it should be ok to be different and just be who you are. Unfortunately being different often means that others won’t accept you or even bully you… Which is the case with George. She was born a boy, but she knows she is actually a girl. Alex Gino describes perfectly what George goes through in trying to keep her true feelings a secret… It does show this read was ment for a younger public, but that doesn’t take away I quite enjoyed this read. Recommended if you want to read a glbt story with a powerful message and don’t mind simple and repetitive language at points.

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George was born a boy, but she knows that she is actually a girl. She has a hard time living with her feelings and is afraid she will have to keep them a secret forever… Nobody knows, not even her mother. And because she doesn’t exactly behaves like a ‘normal’ boy her age, the bullies have found her as well. When her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web, all George really wants is to play Charlotte. The problem: since Charlotte is a girl, George isn’t supposed to even try out for the part. George doesn’t want to give up that easily though, and with the help of her best friend Kelly she comes up with a plan. Will George be able to play Charlotte and tell everyone who she really is?

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With its easy prose and fast pace, George is quite a quick read and has a powerful message. I’m not sure how I felt about the many references to Charlotte’s Web, but I enjoyed the story in general and this novel by Alex Gino is the perfect example of a solid realistic fiction/contempory story. More and more glbt stories have been published over the last few years and this one is definitely recommended for the younger readers under us.