Title: How To Train Your Dragon
Author: Cressida Cowell Audio Narrator: David Tennant
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
First published: 2003
Edition: Audio book
Hiccup Haddock Horrendous III was a truly extraordinary Viking hero. The warrior chieftain and awesome sword fighter was known as ‘the Dragon Whisperer’, on account of his power over these terrifying beasts. But it wasn’t always like that, and this is the story of his rise to fame, in his own words.
This was a quick fun time. My daughter adores the movie and series and when I saw the audio book was narrated by David Tennant, I decided to give it a listen. It was a fun story and I enjoyed it, even though it really is very different from the movie. Once I let go of preconceived notions, this story made me smile.
The tone of the book is light and there is a whimsy to it I definitely enjoyed. David Tennant’s narrating style suits the story very well and I think he really helped bring it to life. He especially managed to give the dragon Toothless a lot of amusing sass!
The one thing that I did think was rather odd is the fact that there are hardly any women in this, apart from a rare appearance of main character’s Hiccup’s mother! No women, no girls, nada – just a bunch of boys and men. Oh, there may be a few female dragons, but apart from that, there is mostly a gaping hole! It did not bother me exactly, but I did notice it.
I am not continuing this series, as it is clearly meant for children, but I did have fun with it. It’s a delightful story. My daughter will love it, so I will listen to it again with her.
5 out of 7 stars
Title: The Truth Pixie
Author: Matt Haig Illustrator: Chris Mould
Genre: Children’s Fiction / Poetry Pages: 119
First published: 2018
Edition: Hardcover, published by Canongate Books Ltd in 2018
Wherever she is, whatever the day, She only has one kind of thing to say.
Just as cats go miaow and cows go moo, The Truth Pixie can only say things that are true.
Having read my first adult book by Matt Haig in 2018, I was keen to try some of his children’s fiction on my six-year-old daughter, so I bought her The Truth Pixie.
I read it with her and we both really enjoyed it. She liked the illustrations by Chris Mould and the story of the Truth Pixie. True to a six-year-old’s nature, her favourite bit was the mouse poo in her hair!
As an adult, I appreciated the rhyming and the powerful message that is at its core. For me, like Julia Donaldson’s books, this one was a joy to read, because of the rhythm of the words. It is the kind of story that I would be happy to read to my child again and again, but that I can also see her reading herself (she was reading along with me).
A big thumbs up from me!
6 out of 7 stars
Title: The Worst Princess
Author: Anna Kemp Illustrator: Sara Ogilvie
Genre: Children’s Book / Picture Book
First published: 2012
Edition: Paperback, published by Simon and Schuster Childrens Books
I was reading this feminist twist on classic fairytales to my daughter today and realised how much I love this book. It gives exactly the message that I want to impart on my five-year-old.
At the start we meet Princess Sue, who is waiting in a tower for her prince. She knows how fairytales work! When he finally shows up Sue is glad to finally get out of the tower, but her joy is short lived when he puts her in another tower. When she sees a dragon approach, she takes destiny in her own hands.
As an adult I love the obvious satire in this tale and my daughter just loves seeing this balsy princess flying away on a dragon. She has never been the fairytale princess kind of girl anyway. The only Disney princess movie she likes is Vaiana (Moana), so I guess she likes a strong independent girl! Fine by me!
I love the illustrations by Sara Ogilvie as well. Nothing is too polished, exactly like Princess Sue and I love that. A great match.
This definitely is one of my favourite picture books on my daughter’s shelf and I would recommend it to any parent of young children. Teach them that they are in charge of their own story!
6 out of 7 stars
Title: The Racehorse Who Wouldn’t Gallop
Author: Clare Balding
Genre: Children’s Fiction Pages: 300
First published: 2016
Edition: Hardback, published by Puffin in 2016
Clare Balding is one of my favourite television personalities. I listened to the audio book of her book My Animals and Other Family in 2017, which was delightful, as is this, her first children’s book. Clare has a real knack for telling a story and telling it well. I recognised quite a few elements from her own experiences growing up.
This is the story of a 10-year-old girl called Charlie Bass, who ends up buying a tricky racehorse, fully believing he will win the Derby at Epsom, the biggest race in the British racing calendar. However, Noble Warrior, the racehorse, does not go anywhere without his pony buddy Percy. Will she be able to make her dreams come true and save the family farm in the process?
I seem to remember from Clare’s autobiography she mentioned one of the horses her father trained that would not go anywhere without another horse. Was it Lochsong?
The characters in this book are wonderfully written, from Charlie to her brothers and her parents and Joe the jockey. I loved how all the cows had celebrity names (Jane Austen, Madonna, Princess Anne, Nancy Drew, Taylor Swift, etc).
This book is perfect for any girl or boy that loves horses. It is such a charming feel-good story. Had I been Charlie’s age I would have absolutely adored it and I am sure my daughter will too in a few years’ time. I also really enjoyed the illustrations by Tony Ross, which really add something.
I will be reading the follow-up The Racehorse Who Disappeared pretty soon I think.
6 out of 7 stars
Title: The Fox and the Star
Author: Coralie Bickford-Smith
Genre: Children’s Fiction / Picture Books
First published: 2015
Edition: Hardcover, published by Penguin Books
I readily admit I was completely seduced by the sumptious cover and the even more lush illustrations. I just HAD to get this book.
It is a stunning piece of work for sure. Coralie Bickford-Smith did those gorgeous designs for the clothbound Penguin Classics, of which I bought two last month. I love her design work – it’s incredibly precise and beautiful. And this book is no different – it is a gorgeous thing to behold and I love looking at it.
As for the story… It’s about a fox, who has a friend, a star, that lights his way. One day the star has disappeared and after sulking for a bit, he goes in search of the star. I read this book with my five-year-old daughter. The first half of the story I love and she did as well. When the book comes to a rather abrupt end, though I get it, in my little girl’s mind it had not resolved the issues that had loomed large in her mind… and she got really upset. She was crying, asking questions that I did not have the right answers to and she was completely not satisfied with how the story ended. Now, my daughter is a sensitive soul and a thinker, but this must be an issue for more children.
In short, whilst this book is a thing of beauty, the story leaves a little to be desired and I think the ending definitely could have been improved.
5 out of 7 stars
Title: The Lantern Fox
Author: Garry Kilworth
Genre: Children’s Fiction
First published: 1998
Edition: Paperback, published by Mammoth
It is a simple story of a shy young girl, who meets a talking fox who has a light shining from within. She takes it home to keep it safe from hunters and starvation and she takes care of the fox. She has to put herself forward in order to keep the fox’s existence a secret, and gains confidence along the way.
I have read a few adult books by Garry Kilworth, which I really enjoyed, and I had hoped I would enjoy this children’s book as well. I guess I kind of did, but the story was really aimed at children from ages 7-11 or thereabouts. However, I have read other stories aimed at that age group and thoroughly enjoyed it, whereas I found this lacking somehow, though it is hard to put my finger on exactly why I felt that.
I will keep the book for my daughter to read when she is a bit older and I am sure I will read it with her in a year or so. I will see what she makes of it.
4 out of 7 stars
Title: Phoebe and her Unicorn in The Magic Storm
Author: Dana Simpson
Genre: Graphic Novel / Children’s
First published: to be published on 17 October 2017 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Edition: ARC e-book via NetGalley
What a delight this is! It is a wonderfully illustrated graphic novel aimed at middle grade children. It was the cover that pulled me in when I was browsing NetGalley. Simple and effective.
Phoebe and her unicorn are investigating why the electricity and magic are not working anymore. It is a lovely story of friendship and I loved it from beginning to end. Kudos to the author/artist as well for showing same-sex parenting as a very normal thing, which is as it so should be!
Even though I am clearly not the intended audience, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and raced through it. I know several children who would love this book and I would definitely recommend it as an awesome gift!
6 out of 7 stars