#BookReview: Julius Zebra Entangled with the Egyptians by Gary Northfield #MPBooks

A hilarious and very silly story with some great illustrations!


Julius Zebra Entangled with the Egyptians book coverTitle: Julius Zebra: Entangled with the Egyptians!

Author/Illustrator: Gary Northfield

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Middle grade/Older children’s fiction, humour

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Description: So, you think you know about Julius Zebra do you?
He’s a gladiatorial champion!  Liberator of enslaved beasts!  A rebel of the Roman Empire!
But when Julius is shipwrecked on the shores of Ancient Egypt and mistaken for a horse god his luck takes a new turn and soon he’s bathing in donkey’s milk and being crowned Pharaoh of Egypt.  Just how long will his golden fortunes last?

My Review:   This is such a funny book and perfect to bring a smile to anyone’s face. ‘Julius Zebra: Entangled with the Egyptians’ is the second book in the Julius Zebra series, the previous books being ‘Rumble with the Romans’ and ‘Bundle with the Britons’. You don’t need to have read any Julius Zebra books before reading this one as it’s a complete story in itself, (and I never read the first book before trying out the second one a few months ago) but it is extra fun to know where all the characters come from and what they’ve been through.

The hardcover book has shiny gold on the cover and inside the whole story is written in easy to read text along with funny illustrations on every page. After his last adventure in Britannia Julius and his friends find themselves shipwrecked on a beach. Before they know it the Egyptian army finds them and somehow Julius gets mistaken for a horse god! I don’t want to explain more of the plot as it’s just too funny and it would spoil it for me to go into detail, but will say that this book is hilarious and has a very daft and silly plot. When I read the previous book I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at all the silly things that happen to the characters and the way they react and I wasn’t disappointed with ‘Entangled with the Egyptians’ as there’s more of that brilliant humour!

Funny pictures among the text.

The story is just really silly with every moment being a chance for something funny to happen, and what makes it even more funny is the pictures. Rather than the odd illustration in the book which you’d look at after reading the text, there are pictures on every page and they are part of the story. You have to see what’s happening in the pictures and read the characters speech bubbles before reading the next part of the text. I love this style of illustrations and the images themselves are just really funny. Every small picture or large one spread on a double page is funny. It’s hard to describe but somehow the way the characters are drawn (and those eyes!) makes the plot all the more funny and just looking at the cover makes me laugh.

The story throughout is hilarious, there’s never a dull moment and although it’s predictably going to be very silly, I still didn’t know what was going to happen, especially at the end. I like the ending it’s fun and made the book feel like the last in the series but there’s an epilogue that shows that the story is far from over for Julius and his animal friends, which I’m so happy about as I really can’t get enough of Julius and his friends.

After the main story is finished there are a few pages of extras. There’s a quick explanation of how to read roman numerals, as all the page numbers are written in roman numerals. There is also information on how to write in hieroglyphics, a funny explanation of mummification along with some great pictures, and a glossary, explaining some of the real life things that exist in the book. A glossary was also in the previous book which I found fascinating and I especially liked this book’s addition as I’ve always loved learning about Ancient Egypt and I didn’t realise where ‘Heter’ comes from.

More funny illustrations! 😀

This whole book is so funny and silly and it really put a smile on my face. Although aimed at kids this book will make any adult laugh too. I think the sense of humour in this book is just perfect for me, and how funny someone finds the book might depend on their own type of humour, but I’d really recommend this book to anyone to try, especially if you enjoy really daft/silly stories. I can’t wait for a future instalment of the series and I could see this series going on for a long time, as long as there are ancient places for Julius to visit. A really great book and the fact that the line ‘We’re going on our holibobs!’ is used again just cracked me up (no idea why but it does!)
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

I loved this funny and silly book!  Would you like it too?  What do you think of the illustrations?  Let me know in the comments below.  Come check me out in these places too 🙂 : 

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#BookReview: The Dollmaker of Kraków by R. M. Romero #MPBooks

UPDATE: Now with Pictures!! A beautiful, emotional and powerful novel for all ages and one everyone should read! Also given ‘Favourites!’ award.

The Dollmaker of Krakow book coverTitle: The Dollmaker of Kraków

Author: R. M. Romero

Illustrations: Lisa Perrin & Tomislav Tomić

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Middle Grade (Older Children) & Older, Historical Fiction, Fantasy

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Description: Kraków, Poland, 1939.  Magic brings a little doll called Karolina to life in a toyshop.  She becomes friends with the gentle, broken-hearted Dollmaker who owns the shop.
When the darkness of the Nazi occupation sweeps over the city, Karolina and the Dollmaker must use their magic to save their Jewish friends from a terrible danger, no matter what the risks.
Weaving together magic, folklore and history this timeless story is about finding hope and friendship in the darkest places.

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This book earns Phoenix the Peacock’s favourite stamp!

My Review:  This is such a wonderful and moving story that it can, and should, be read by everyone of every age regardless of the fact this book is originally aimed at middle grade(older children). ‘The Dollmaker of Kraków’ is a beautiful tale that shows some of the true effects of the second world war while retaining a magical and hopeful feel.

The story follows Karolina and begins with a prologue showing her in the Land of the Dolls before moving onto the first chapter where her life starts in the human world in 1939. Karolina is a doll but she is alive and forms a friendship with the dollmaker who created her. It was very easy to get into this book right away and I found myself eagerly reading on and enjoying the magical story. Karolina and the Dollmaker soon become friends and as the story unfolds we are introduced to the Trzmiels, a lovely Jewish family, who the Dollmaker and Karolina, get to know well.

Of course being an historical fiction novel it isn’t long before Germany invades Poland and the occupation of the country and in this case Kraków begins. Although aimed at children the book doesn’t hold back in showing the gradual demise of the Jewish people’s liberties, however being aimed at children the book isn’t overly graphic in any details and although you know what is happening and you get a sense of the loss and pain people feel, you don’t have descriptions that children wouldn’t be able to handle reading.

The majority of the novel is set in the human world during the war, but there are flashback chapters of Karolina’s life in the Land of the Dolls before she came to the human world. There is never any confusion when the story changes to these flashbacks and in fact the whole look of each page with it’s illustrations show you which story you are reading. In these chapters you learn that the Land of the Dolls had also faced an invasion similar to the one by Germany. I won’t reveal any details but this flashback story is a clever way of weaving in some of the more horrific things that really happened during the second world war without making it sound too scary for children or too graphic. Somehow having things happen to dolls was still sad and a bit shocking but it didn’t have the same impact that reading about real people have had.  (I felt it necessary to mention this last part as I’ve already read some reviews where the reviewer seemed not to ‘get’ the point of these flashback chapters.)

Beautiful borders around some of the ‘flashback’ chapters.

The story has a lot of folklore in it and it was wonderful to read these extra magical parts of the tale. I know that Poland itself has a lot of beautiful folklore and history and having some of this in the book just added to the wonderful magical feel and made the setting more solid in my mind. I also think it helped take away from some of the darkness that a novel set in 1940s Poland would normally have.

The novel is set over the years of Germany’s occupation in Poland and gets obviously darker the further it progresses. The ending isn’t one I predicted though it is a good one. I thought there would be a different, more magical, ending, being a story with magic in it, but when I was reading this book I realised that the actual overall ending is both a wonderful one and a very powerful one too. I will warn you that the ending will leave you feeling emotional, it certainly made me cry both happy and sad tears but it is a very satisfying and moving one.

The story was easy to read and very engrossing all the way through but did make me emotional reading it. What happens towards the end of the book did make me sad, especially a powerful chapter called ‘Tears’, however this book also has a hopeful feel which was so important. I may have been more affected, emotionally, by this book than some other people as I do have a personal connection with Poland. Although my family didn’t die in the war they do come from Poland and did experience a lot of what happens in this book, to the people in Poland and it makes me feel this book is all the more important to read.

The book has some beautiful illustrations. Not only is the cover lovely but inside each page contains some kind of illustration. The chapters set in the human world have a border on the top and bottom along with a relevant image at the start of the chapter. The chapters set in the Land of the Dolls have thick border all around the text with pictures inside the borders which show some relevant pictures of what is happening in the story. At the very end of the book there is a chronological order of the events. These start all the way back in 1914 and show all the relevant events up to the end of the world war II. There’s a brief description of all the events making it easy for kids to understand it. As well as this there are author’s notes which I wouldn’t usually recommend in reading but I think it’s very necessary as you find out where the inspiration for the book comes from and there’s a wonderful last message to everyone which should be remembered.

Lovely images in all chapters 🙂

This is such a beautiful and powerful novel to read I wish is would be made into a film and I’d recommend it to everyone regardless of age! Although the book is aimed at older children, to show them the truth about the second world war, and is written in an easy style for children to understand, it’s also very much a novel for all ages and doesn’t feel like a specifically kids novel, especially as the main characters are not all children. Some kids might be more emotional than others at the end of reading this but it’s not a book that isn’t too dark for them. I think it’s good and necessary reading to show the brutal truth of the war and more specifically what happened to the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis. Our world has a dark history and everything I learned while at school didn’t do as good a job as this one book does in explaining what happened. Somehow the connection with the characters makes it easier to understand and although the darkest truths of what the Nazis did is kept out of this tale, it still shows the sadness of loss but finishes with a beautiful message of hope in that darkness (I especially love the last line of the novel). I’m giving this book my highest award and hope everyone in the world will read it and learn! And to quote the author at the end of the author’s notes: ‘Please, don’t let it happen again.’

-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

Have you read any books about the second world war or the Nazi occupation?  What do you think of such books?  Would you read this novel?  Please let me know your thoughts, I’d love to hear from you.  You can also find me in these places: 

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#BookReview: Alex Rider: Never Say Die by Anthony Horowitz #MPBooks

A great and exciting action thriller!

Alex Rider Never Say Die book coverTitle: Alex Rider Never Say Die

Author: Anthony Horowitz

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Middle Grade/Pre-teen, Action, Thriller

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Description: The explosive new mission in the no. 1 bestselling series. After being forcibly recruited by MI6, teenage super-spy Alex Rider vowed he would never go back.  But even Alex can’t fight the past, especially when it holds a deadly secret.  Alex is Back.

My Review: I’m surprised how much I enjoyed this book despite a shaky start. ‘Alex Rider: Never Say Die’ is the eleventh instalment of the series and given the fact I had never read a previous book in the series before, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it, but I did. The story begins with an interesting, almost movie-like, opening at the Suffolk Air Show before moving onto Alex, now living in America.

The Alex Rider series is like James bond for kids, at least that’s the feeling I got from reading this novel. I did find it hard to get into the story at first. It wasn’t the actual plot that I found difficult, this in fact sucked me in and I loved all the action that was happening throughout the story, but I found it hard to connect with Alex. It could have been the fact that I didn’t know the Alex Rider series before reading this book, but something about Alex always able to get out of a difficult situation, and not being overly emotional (despite having some bad dreams) made the book feel a bit unbelievable. However I stuck with reading it and I’m glad I did as the story just got better the further I read on.

Although at the start of the story Alex is in America, he wants to find out what happened to his friend Jack, whether she really did die, so he sets off around the world, first to Egypt and later to Europe. Despite the fact that there are references to what happened in previous books, and the people Alex has met, I never found the story confusing, as these parts are explained well, and it really can be read as a stand alone novel.
The action is what really made me enjoy this book, there’s never a dull moment with things happening all the time and the whole story told in a way that really made me feel as if I was watching a movie! Although the action primarily follows Alex, there are scenes with other characters (just like in a film) and I’m amazed at the effect the whole book has had on me after reading it.

I never really did connect with Alex as a character, but as I read this book I did start to like him after a while and the action is what drove the story more than anything else. I would have liked a deeper story with more emotion but once I realised that this was more about the action, and the amazing way the plot unfolds, I found it easy to enjoy this and couldn’t put the book down! There’s something about the way Horowitz writes that is amazing and the way everything was described, I just really felt like I was watching a movie in my mind, and I felt the same suspense and drama you feel when watching an action movie.

The ending of the story is a satisfying one with the plot set up for a potential next book in the series. The whole plot was actually really satisfying to read and I never guessed what was going to happen, even at the end, which made this a really great read.
Being for the pre-teen age group (and perhaps early teens might enjoy this too) there is nothing offensive, although there is a lot of action involving some characters that die, nothing really gruesome but sometimes a bit shocking to read.
After finishing this book I feel like reading it again, and I think I’d enjoy it all the more if I took the book mainly for action rather than trying to see more emotion in the characters. This book has also made me want to read others in the series and I’d definitely recommend this to anyone, especially pre-teens who enjoy a lot of action thriller stories, a little like Bond.
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

Have you read the Alex Rider series, or if not how do you feel about action thrillers?  Please let me know I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂  You can also find me in these places: 

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#BookReview: They Didn’t Teach This in Worm School! by Simone Lia #MPBooks

A very funny middle grade book with a silly story but a great message of friendship.

They Didn't Teach This in Worm School book coverTitle: They Didn’t Teach This in Worm School!

Author/Illustrator: Simone Lia

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Children’s/Middle Grade, Humour

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Description: Marcus is a worm.  He likes the colour brown.  He likes mud (because it’s brown).  And he likes digging holes in the mud-brown earth.  But when Marcus meets Laurence (a scruffy, fat bird who looks a lot like a chicken…and thinks he’s a flamingo!), he comes face to face with his worst fear.  Marcus has two choices: Survive.  Or be slurped up like piece of spaghetti…

My Review: I really love this book.  It’s so funny and silly and has some great messages about friendship too.  Marcus is a worm and likes to do worm things, but one day he ends up on a plate in front of a bird.  About to become the bird’s breakfast he does the only thing he can…he says hello.

The story in this book is silly with Marcus the worm getting to know Laurence the bird and agreeing to help him go on a journey.  I don’t want to give away the plot but this book is just really funny and daft.  The book is told from Marcus’s point of view and is written in the first person.  Every page of the book is filled with funny moments.  The whole way the book is narrated and Marcus tells it is funny, there’s never a moment that isn’t and the illustrations just add to the humour.

Some funny illustrations.

There are pictures throughout the story and there isn’t a page in the book that doesn’t have an image around the text.  The illustrations are all black and white and grey with the exception of the pink used to colour Marcus and a few other things.  I really like the style of the pictures and especially the way that Marcus looks with no outline and that cute little face.

Funny images around the text.

The story has a great message of friendship wrapped around the humour and I especially liked the ending which is of course funny but also quite heartwarming too.   I enjoy a lot of funny children’s books but this is one of my favourites, there were moments I actually laughed aloud, especially when the ‘Eiffel Tower’ made an appearance.  I think plenty of adults would really enjoy reading this every bit as much as kids would and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a book to cheer up their day.  It’s definitely a story I’ll be reading again in the future!
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

Do you enjoy funny books?  Would this book be one that you’d want to read?  Let me know I’d love to hear from you.  You can also find me in these places 🙂 : 

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#BookReview: Hansel and Gretel by Michael Morpurgo & Emma Chichester Clark #MPBooks

A wonderful retelling or a classic fairytale with illustrations to add to the magic.

Hansel and Gretel book coverTitle: Hansel and Gretel

Author: Michael Morpugo

Illustrator: Emma Chichester Clark

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Children’s/Middle grade, Classic

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Description: No child ever forgets the story of the witch, the breadcrumb trail and the gingerbread house in the woods.  Retold by master storyteller Michael Morpurgo and illustrated by celebrated artist Emma Chichester Clark, this powerful and beautiful retelling of the Brothers Grimm classic will grip the imagination of a while new generation of children.

My Review: This is such a magical book. I couldn’t remember the story of Hansel and Gretel properly. Most of the story I remember, the gingerbread house and what happens next, is actually the ending of the story, so it was wonderful to sit down and read through this book and be reminded of how this tale started.

Beautiful illustrations.

I won’t go into the plot in any detail but it is an exciting read: Gabriel and Lisette are a wonderful and happy couple who love their kids Hansel and Gretel very much, but one day an old witch spies on the family and wants to have Gabriel and the kids to herself. This version of the classic fairytale really has an enchanting and haunting feel. I felt drawn to reading this from the first page and couldn’t put it down until I had finished the whole story.

The illustrations really lend to the tale and its atmosphere. There are images throughout the pages, sometimes a double page image, sometimes a picture among the text. All of these illustrations though are so amazing that I felt they really pulled me into the atmosphere of the story. I especially liked the way Belladonna’s eyes are so different from the others.

Lovely images among the text.

I’d really recommend this book to everyone. Although it is aimed at kids it is certainly a book adults can enjoy reading too. With a great ending but enough of a haunting atmosphere to really grip kids, this is a wonderful version of the classic fairytale and one which I’ll be reading again.
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

Do you remember reading Hansel and Gretel when you were younger?  What do you think of this new retelling?  Let me know I’d love to hear from you 🙂  Come check me out in these places too 🙂 : 

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#BookReview: The Tale of Angelino Brown by David Almond & Alex T. Smith #MPBooks

A funny and heartwarming children’s story about an angel.

The Tale of Angelino Brown book coverTitle: The Tale of Angelino Brown

Author: David Almond

Illustrator: Alex T. Smith

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Children’s/Middle Grade, Humour

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Description: Bert and Betty Brown have got themselves a little angel. Bert found him in his top pocket when he was driving his bus.

Bert and Betty’s friends think he’s lovely. So do Nancy and Jack and Alice from Class 5K. What a wonder!

But Acting Head Teacher Mrs Mole is not so sure. Nor is Professor Smellie. Or the mysterious bloke in black who claims to be a School Inspector.

Then there’s Basher Malone – big, lumbering Basher Malone. He REALLY doesn’t like Angelino. And it looks like he’s out to get him

My Review: This is a funny and lovely children’s book. When I started reading ‘The Tale of Angelino Brown’ I didn’t think I’d like it as much as I did. The story begins with Bert Brown, a bus driver, who is married to Betty. While driving the bus Bert thinks he’s having a heart attack but finds a little angel inside his pocket instead. He takes the Angel home and together Betty and Bert decide to look after him and name him Angelino.

Images along side the text.

I don’t want to go into too much detail about the story as it will spoil it but this really is a lovely tale. Angelino is loved by everyone nice and brings out the best in everyone, but not everybody likes to see an angel and Angelino faces some trouble from some bad people. The story is a middle grade/ older children’s book although anyone older might enjoy this too. On the whole the story seems a simple and funny one. A lot of the characters are very silly and the situations are daft too (including some references to farting). But although on the surface the story just seems like any other funny story, this book has a deeper story inside it. I don’t want to explain what that part of the story is as it will give away the ending but it has a really heartwarming ending and it really put a smile on my face.

There are illustrations throughout the book, although some double pages don’t have any images a lot do. These are black and white pictures which are funny and add to the overall fun mood of the story. I do like these images as they make reading this book more fun and I particularly like the pictures of some of the teachers!

Fun pictures add to the humour of the book.

Some of the language used in the book is written with accents in mind, such as the word ‘maybe’ being spelt ‘mebbe’ when characters talk. This didn’t bother me but some kids might be confused by such words. Overall though this is a really lovely book, sweet and heartwarming and I’m glad I read it as I love the ending! I’m sure lots of kids and adults will enjoy this book.
-Thanks to Walker Books for a free copy.

What do you think of this book?  Do you love a good heartwarming tale, or something funny?  Let’s chat!   You can also find me inthese places:

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#BookReview: Timmy Failure: The Cat Stole My Pants by Stephan Pastis #MPBooks

A daft and funny kids book which I just didn’t find that funny.

Timmy Failure The Cat Stole My Pants book coverTitle: Timmy Failure: The Cat Stole My Pants

Author/Illustrator: Stephan Pastis

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: Middle Grade/Children’s, Humour

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Description: Crime doesn’t take a holiday.  Neither does greatness.

So although I, Timmy Failure, the world’s greatest detective, am in Key West, Florida, I am NOT on holiday.  And I am DEFINITELY NOT on a honeymoon with my mother and Doorman Dave, having found zero evidence that they even got married.

But I am stuck in this hotbed of criminals with only the help of an unpaid intern.

There is no privacy on the island, but I know this: There is treasure.

My Review: I must be in a big minority because unfortunately I just didn’t enjoy this book like I had hoped. ‘Timmy failure: The Cat Stole My Pants’ is the sixth book in the series of Timmy Failure books and while it’s probably funny for a lot of people and kids, it was just too daft for me.

The book comes as a lovely hardback and is filled with lots of pictures as well as text. A lot of the book is pictures or handwriting and appears a bit like a notebook which it sort of is as Timmy is the narrator of his story. The whole story of ‘The Cat Stole My Pants’ is very daft. Timmy is a detective and runs a detective agency. He has a new intern called Emilio which is really another kid who’s on holiday with him and his mum and her new husband Doorman Dave. Timmy is a bit of a brat and loves to over exaggerate like so many kids would and it’s this unique humour that’s supposed to be funny but I just didn’t ever laugh at this book.

Some of the images inside the book.

There are bits I do like in this book. I actually like Emilio’s character. He looks strange and seems weird but I really liked him, especially his fondness of a certain bird. I also liked the ending of the story. I’m not going to give the ending away but it was nice and I think a little deeper than the rest of the book.

Some more pics among the text.

The images in this book are all quick drawings in black and white and do look funny. The pictures really lend to the story and I would have liked even more of them in the book, I think I also would have liked all the text to have looked handwritten too.

More silliness and fun.

I think this book will appeal to a lot of kids and adults too. I also feel as if boys might enjoy this a lot more and I think those with a very silly (almost over the top silly) sense of humour will love this most. The book just didn’t seem funny for me though and it’s not a book I would have enjoyed when I was younger. Maybe if I had read some previous Timmy Failure books this would appeal more but I just never got into the story, I never connected with Timmy in any way and it’s a shame because I really tried hard to enjoy this story.
-Thanks to Walker books for a free copy.

Have you read any Timmy Failure books?  Did you enjoy them more than I did? 

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