Archive for the ‘Week-end Book Reviews’ Category

Week-end Book Review: I Like to Play by Marla Stewart Konrad

Saturday, August 24th, 2013



Marla Stewart Konrad,
I Like to Play
Tundra Books, 2010.

Ages 3-6

“I like to play, don’t you?” is the opening and closing sentence in this beautiful collaboration between Tundra Books and World Vision Canada, a development and advocacy organization dedicated to helping children, families and communities across the globe overcome poverty and injustice. With text by Marla Stewart Konrad, I like to Play is the latest book in the World Vision series of photo essays, whose aim is to communicate visually the ways in which children the world over are different and the same. The other titles in the series are Getting ThereMom and Me and Grand.

The book cover of I Like to Play shows a young child playing doctor, using a toy stethoscope. Inside, simple sentences about different forms of play are accompanied by striking images of smiley children dancing, skipping, jumping, flying kites, building with blocks, playing ball; children learning and growing and making the most of their environment and circumstances; children having fun and making sense of their world through play.

The photo credits listed at the beginning indicate the countries where the photos were taken and give an idea of the book’s scope: Armenia, Bangladesh, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Honduras, Indonesia, Malawi, Myanmar, Mongolia, Nepal, Peru, Sri Lanka and Sudan.

After reading and looking at all the photos, children will figure out for themselves that rich or poor, solo or in group, with store-bought or homemade toys, or with no toys at all, playing is something children do, no matter where, no matter what.

Royalties for the sale of the book go to support World Vision’s work with children.

Aline Pereira
June 2010

paw_sm_MC To read more book reviews from the PaperTigers team, click here.

Week-end Book Review: Grandpa’s Indian Summer by Jamila Gavin, illustrated by Peter Bailey

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

BookCoverJamila Gavin, illustrated by Peter Bailey,
Grandpa Chatterji
Grandpa’s Indian Summer
Grandpa Chatterji’s Third Eye
Egmont, 2006.

Ages 7-11

Neetu and Sanjay, sister and brother, have two grandfathers – one nearby in England, Grandpa Leicester, who is very particular about how his grandchildren should behave; and Grandpa Chatterji whom they have never met until he comes from India to visit them. He couldn’t be more different to Grandpa Leicester, and much to the children’s surprise, even he is drawn under Grandpa Chatterji’s spell, despite himself. Grandpa Chatterji, in fact, possesses many qualities which make him an admirable role model for the children. His gentleness and simplicity belie his inner strength and he always has a twinkle in his eye. Life is never dull around Grandpa Chatterji, though some might call his behavior eccentric at times, which leads to some funny and unexpected adventures. He eschews anything which makes life unnecessarily complicated and is never in a hurry: but at the same time pursues a goal with charming if stubborn determination – whether it be a field of poppies on a chilly April day in England; floral garlands to welcome his family to India; or bringing back Sanjay’s lost kite using the power of his third eye.

Grandpa Chatterji (shortlisted for the Smarties Prize) and Grandpa’s Indian Summer were first published in the early ’90s. Now they have been reprinted with new illustrations by Peter Bailey, which are an added attraction – they compliment the text beautifully and will often raise a chuckle. And the real bonus for today’s generation of young readers is Grandpa Chatterji’s Third Eye: a whole new book in which Grandpa Chatterji comes back to England to bring more gentle magic and fun into his grandchildren’s lives. Gavin conveys so well the sometimes infuriating but always enchanting mixture of calm, single-mindedness and energy Grandpa Chatterji brings to everything he does. He is not concerned with the stereotypes of age and so is quite prepared to accompany Sanjay on the giant Rocket Ride at the funfair, although once is probably enough. He can’t resist joining in the children’s cricket game, with unforeseen results. He introduces the children to meditation and the notion of the third, inner eye – and each time they see him, they pick up where they have left off: within minutes of Neetu and Sanjay arriving home from school to greet a jet-lagged Grandpa Chatterjee, they are all three standing on their heads on his special rug.

Indian food and spices fill the senses: Grandpa Chatterji turns his daughter’s kitchen upside down more than once to produce the most delicious pakora (recipe supplied); Grandma Chatterji’s cakes are not only too temptingly good but provide a lesson in life when Sanjay is stranded on a tin box surrounded by ants, which have homed in surprisingly quickly on the crumbs he’s dropped; Grandpa Chatterji follows his third eye (and his umbrella!?!) in a satisfying tale in which, much to everyone’s astonishment, he discovers what could be the last remaining jar of Mrs Fernandez’ Green Chilli Pickle in the whole of England. Again, we don’t have to worry about that as the recipe is thoughtfully provided at the end of the book. However, the children are well ensconced in their Anglo-Indian culture and would opt for pizza and chips over ‘vegetable curry, runny spinach with eggs, and horrible stuff like that’ any day!

Gavin writes with great affection for her characters (even scary Grandpa Leicester is not so bad) and even characters who only appear in a brief cameo role are deftly brought to life. Neetu is definitely the older sister, reminding Sanjay of how he should behave, but she is not a goody-goody (she is not beyond disappearing under a table at a party with a plate full of Indian sweets); Sanjay, meanwhile, is the one we see growing through the three books. He is not entirely convinced at first about being in India and far away from home in Indian Summerand I love the way he plays with words in Third Eye: his excitement about Grandpa Chatterji coming to stay could not be better expressed than by his nonsensical chanting of ‘Grandpa Chatterji/ Matterji /Batterji/ Hatterji / Fatterji’. Grandpa Chatterji’s crooning to the inevitable crying baby on the flight home is not the Bengali lullaby it was on the way to England but a continuation on the theme of Sanjay’s rhymes. Flying away with Grandpa Chatterji not only brings the book full-circle but eases the wrench of having to say good-bye to characters who have worked their way under your skin at the end of a good read.

Marjorie Coughlan
July 2006

paw_sm3To read more book reviews from the PaperTigers team, click here

Week-end Book Review: Bye, Bye, Motabhai! by Kala Sambasivan and Ambika Sambasivan

Sunday, August 4th, 2013

Bye, Bye, Motabhai! by Kala Sambasivan and Ambika Sambasivan (Yali Books, 2013)
Kala Sambasavin, illustrated by Ambika Sambasivan,
Bye, Bye, Motabhai!
Yali Books, 2013.

Ages: 6-10

The “large, lumpy, yellow-brown camel” Pavan is a camel with a dream – he longs to escape from his owner Motabhai, a sabzi-wala (vegetable-seller) in the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat, India, and head for the glamour of the life of the racing camels in faraway Dubai.

One day Motabhai is fully occupied dealing with the repercussions of Pavan’s mischief and Pavan seizes his opportunity to escape – with four children on his back. They are supposed to be on their way to school but there is no doubt that they embark on the adventure as gleefully as Pavan himself. The ensuing chase not only draws in a donkey, Bijilee, who wants to make friends, but also various irate officials, as well as the animals’ owners. With a little ingenious help from the children, Pavan and Bijilee manage to escape detection, paving the way for the next story in what is set to be a four-book series. By the time young readers get to the end of this naughty camel’s hilarious adventure, they too will be joining in the chorus that forms part of the book’s title: “Bye, Bye, Motabhai! / Off I go to Dubai.”…

Read the full review…

Week-end Book Review: Watermelon Wishes by Lisa Moser

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

Lisa Moser, illustrated by Stacy Schutt,
Watermelon Wishes
Clarion Books 2006

Ages 4-8

The stuff of happy childhood memories often includes seemingly endless summer days and in this story, the boy Charlie is living through just such a summer with his Grandpap. However living the idyll does not mean being idle and, although there is plenty of time to play together, it is always within the context of their labours—for central to the book is the progression from seed sown to watermelon harvested.

While picnicing, they seek out new shoots; they go fishing to celebrate the flowers appearing on the vine; and they go to the swimming hole when they count ten small watermelons.  All the while, Grandpap is trying to guess what Charlie’s wish will be when he finds the one, perfect wishing melon.  First time round, young readers/ listeners will be guessing too; subsequently, they will revel in their superior knowledge! Their attention will also be caught by the colorful and deceptively simple illustrations, which reflect the brightness of happy summer days—and remind us of the active waiting with their watermelon-themed borders.  Schuett is also great at conveying facial expressions and the smiles are infectious.

Exploring as it does that special bond between grandparents and their grandchildren, this is a book that will stand up to being read again and again.

Marjorie Coughlan
March 2007

paw_sm_MC To read more book reviews from the PaperTigers team, click here.

Week-end Book Review: Dill the Little Elephant by Ming & Volker, illustrated by Yusof Gajah

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

Dill the Little Elephant, retold by Ming & Volker, illustrated by Yusof Gajah (Oyez!  Books for Children, 2013)Retold by Ming and Volker, illustrated by Yusof Gajah
Dill the Little Elephant
Oyez! Books for Children, 2013.

Ages 4-8

“One day in the forest, a baby elephant was born” – an elephant called Dill who will capture young readers’ hearts from the start, as a newborn looking out at them through one intelligent eye. Dill’s adventures begin only a few days later, when he becomes separated from his herd. His search to be reunited with his family is a catalogue of misadventure, but at every stage of the journey (bar one, when Dill is teased by a crocodile) he encounters animals who offer help and friendship, even a home – though circumstances always intervene and the journey continues…

Read the full review…

Week-end Book Review: What Happened This Summer by Paul Yee

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Paul Yee,
What Happened This Summer
Tradewind Books, 2006.

Ages 12-18

Reviewed July 2007 by PaperTigers Editor Marjorie Coughlan, For more reviews by the PaperTigers team, click here.

Paul Yee, recipient of numerous awards, including the Governor General’s Literary Award for his novel Ghost Train, focuses on the modern-day lives and concerns of Chinese-Canadians in this, his latest novel for young adults.  So what did happen this summer? A general response would be that each teen-age protagonist came of age, grew up – and we, the reader, are privy to that process, because each experience is related in the first person and so we read what is going on in their heads as well as the unfolding events.

Yee keeps the reader on their toes: there is no warning that the narrator is going to change from chapter to chapter and since we are not introduced formally, we even have to work out whether the “I” is male or female.  I was half-expecting the narrators to return in cycles – instead, we catch odd glimpses of them as they happen to pass through someone else’s story. Indeed, each story could stand alone as a short story, a vignette of the challenges and concerns faced by each character: parental expectations and pressure, school, homosexuality, racial stereotypes, sex, death – in other words the full gamut of the issues considered relevant by the majority of teenagers today.  Yee’s focus on the Chinese-Canadian experience adds an extra facet to these subjects.

So, again, what happened this summer?  While each person’s story could stand alone, Yee is actually setting up the strings of his narrative to be pulled together in the final chapter.   This watershed time in all their lives reaches its peak at that point and it is as powerful as it is unexpected.  However, life does go on and, as is so often the case, it will only be with hindsight that each narrator will come to realise the significance of that period in their lives: something beyond the book’s telling that is up to readers to interpret for themselves.

A thought-provoking book that will appeal to young adults who are themselves on the brink of making life-affecting decisions about their own futures.

paw_sm_MC Do read our 2003 interview with Paul Yee here and our most recent interview with him in 2011 here.

Week-end book review: Seaglass Summer by Anjali Banerjee

Saturday, July 13th, 2013



Anjali Banerjee, line drawing illustration by Ann Boyajian,
Seaglass Summer
Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 2010.

Ages: 9-12

In Anjali Banerjee’s chapter book, Seaglass Summer, an Indian-American eleven-year-old from Los Angeles, Poppy Ray, spends the summer with her uncle, a veterinarian on an island near Seattle, while her parents return to India on vacation. Poppy’s general exuberance and love of animals soon run afoul of her squeamishness at the all-too-real (and sometimes bloody) details of animal care as she tries to help out in her uncle’s Furry Friends Animal Clinic. She also faces the challenges of an unfamiliar rural environment and her first lengthy separation from her parents.

Uncle Sanjay alludes to early discrimination against him (for one thing, he had to complete veterinary school in the U.S. despite having already earned a veterinary degree in India), but Poppy’s summer reveals more cultural differences between L.A. and Puget Sound than between India and America. Poppy develops a close relationship with the endearing Sanjay, who always refers to her as “my dear niece,” and his irrepressible dog Stu. An eccentric cast of animal and human characters parade through the chapters, offering Poppy experiences ranging from a psychic reading to off-site emergency care for an injured dog. She suffers the disdain of one of Sanjay’s employees and the teasing of Hank, a 13-year-old also helping at the clinic, who boyishly grosses her out, then earns her friendship. Animals are born, recover from amputations, survive car accidents, and die in their owner’s arms.

Read the full review….

Week-end Book Review: ‘The Dragon Slayer’ and Other Timeless Tales of Wisdom by Shiho S. Nunes, illustrated by Lak-Khee Tay-Audouard

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

Reprinted with permission from Asian Review of Books. For more reviews from this source, click here.

Chinese Fables

Shiho S. Nunes, illustrated by Lak-Khee Tay-Audouard,
Chinese Fables: ‘The Dragon Slayer’ and Other Timeless Tales of Wisdom
Tuttle Publishing, 2013.
Reviewed by Karmel Schreyer

1 June 2013 — When there is so little on the television, in film and in popular music to assist parents with the task of teaching their children values education these days, it is good to know that we can still turn to books. Fables, fairy stories, and other “cautionary tales” have of course served that purpose well over the generations: Tortoise and the Hare, The Greedy Dog, The Gingerbread Man… we remember them well, and as parents we can tell many of these stories, as well as their underlying second (moral) meanings, to our children without the help of a picture book.

Still, a pretty picture book is a nice thing to have when you are snuggled in bed, shoulder to shoulder. Because, as any multi-tasking mum will know, why stop with just entertainment and values education at bedtime when you can also use the opportunity to get a bit of reading / learning in—or art appreciation! And here’s where Shiho S. Nunes’ book comes in.

If you are more than familiar with the offerings of Aesop and Grimm, then you will enjoy the chance to add to your repertoire with this assortment of stories of Oriental wisdom. The 19 stories in this lovely hardbound, four-color illustrated book are a fresh take on some age-old ideas. The level of writing is quite sophisticated, and the wording concise, a good choice if you are wishing to advance your child’s word power. Also, these stories are not drawn out—all the stories are only from one to three pages in length—which makes it a perfect collection for sleepy kids, or for young children with short attention spans.

You will notice a lot of overlap with some of your own favorite fables—and even some new, and very famous, modern stories. My own favorite in this collection might be “The King of Beasts”—about a fox caught by a hungry lion. The sly fox convinces the lion to let him go, so he can prove to the dubious lion that he is the most feared animal in the forest. The lion agrees to follow the fox through the forest, and is gobsmacked when every one of the forest creatures scurries away from the fox in fear, just as the sly animal had predicted. “Astounding!…” said the…

Part of the fun of this book may also be in figuring out where we’ve heard this before.

Karmel Schreyer is the author of Empress Emi-poo: A story about learning to love your potty, and Empress Blaze Moon: A Story about never giving up.

© 2013 The Asian Review of Books.

paw_sm3 Lak-Khee Tay-Audouard is currently featured in our Illustrators Gallery. Click here to read our interview with her and see a gallery of her work.

Week-end Book review: The Matatu by Eric Walters and Eva Cambell

Saturday, May 4th, 2013

The Matatu by Eric Walters and Eva CampbellEric Walters, illustrated by Eva Campbell,
The Matatu
Orca Book Publishers, 2012.

Ages 5-8

No wonder children love trains, planes, buses and the like – they take people places; and when you’re not one of the passengers, you can let your imagination fly about where they’re going and what awaits at journey’s end. These are the kinds of exhilarating ideas that The Matatu inspires in its young readers. Little Kioko has dreamed about jumping aboard the colorful matatu, the brightly painted local buses that pause on route through his Kenyan village in a cloud of dust, carrying passengers inside and luggage and livestock piled precariously high on the roof — and now, for his fifth birthday, oh joy! His grandfather is taking him for a ride all the way to the end of the line and back again. He can hardly wait! …

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Week-end Book Review: What’s for Lunch? How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World, by Andrea Curtis and Yvonne Duivenvoorden

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

What's for Lunch? How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World, by Andrea Curtis, photography by Yvonne Duivenvoorden (Red Deer Press, 2012)Reviewed by Charlotte Richardson:

Andrea Curtis, photography by Yvonne Duivenvoorden,
What’s for Lunch? How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World
Red Deer Press, 2012.

Ages: 8+

What’s for Lunch? uses a comparison of school lunches around the world as a jumping off point for a wide-ranging discussion of food issues presented in a poster-like layout. Yvonne Duvenvoorden’s attractive photographs of the lunches will draw children in, as will Sophie Casson’s appealingly goofy illustrations. Children will learn not only about the varieties of foods served in schools globally but also about their presentation…

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