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Family review panel

Family Review panel

This section of the website will be devoted to your reviews. We are inviting families to share a book together – reading it aloud and talking about it, thinking about what they enjoyed about the story, illustrations or themes and the kinds of conversations the book prompted. We hope this will be a useful resource for other parents and also suggest the kinds of conversations that books might prompt.
If you and your children would like to take part in our family review panel  please get in touch!

The Colour Monster by Anna Llenas
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Reviewed by Amy and Joshua, age 2
A little girl introduces her friend the colour monster, who is very confused, because his colours are mixed up together. She tells him this is because his feelings are mixed up too and offers to help him sort them out into bottles. Each double page is devoted to a colour themed feeling with for example yellow for happiness and blue for sadness.

The monster’s feelings are happily sorted out by the end of the book, with the colour monster turning pink and feeling full of love.

The Colour Monster is available as a board book, a paperback and as a very cleverly constructed paper engineered book with spectacular pop-ups.

Amy and Joshua aged 2 shared The Colour Monster and told us:

‘We absolutely love The Colour Monster! It's great for talking about emotions.  It's been a favourite for over a year now, so we made some colour monsters using food colouring, water, pipe cleaners and googly eyes. We froze them then Joshua watched them melting. We also mixed colours together like the colour monster when he was feeling confused.’

Looshkin the Big Number Two by Jamie Smart
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Reviewed by Ruth and her children Louis aged 11 and Ellen aged 8 who had a lively conversation about this graphic novel
Looshkin is a collection of stories from the popular weekly comic The Phoenix.  Written and illustrated by Jamie Smart (of Bunny vs Monkey fame), Looshkin is a blue cat who was brought home by Mrs Johnson in the hope of making her home more normal.  This doesn’t quite work out for her as Looshkin is the maddest cat in the world and unleashes chaos around him wherever he goes! Looshkin The Big Number 2 is the second book in this series.

Ellen:  I liked that the book was very funny and MAD! It doesn’t really make sense but it does!

Louis: I like how crazy it is – you can’t guess what’s going to happen next.

Ruth: I agree – I just picked up the book now to look at a random page and it goes from Looshkin stuffing cheese in a robots ears to a gigantic Lion running around the front garden.  Totally bonkers.

Ellen: My favourite part was when Looshkin ate an ice cream that was actually the core of a nuclear bomb.  He started doing nuclear burps and farts and both he and the ice cream man ended up in space – it was really funny!

Louis: My favourite part was the story with the puppet – Looshkin has a puppet on his hand and is telling everyone it’s not him that causing all these things to go wrong, but the puppet…no one believes him of course but then the dad somehow gets the puppet on his hand and starts spraying water everywhere…

Ellen: My favourite page is the page that mum took a picture of me with – it’s got LOADS of pigs on it!  The pigs are all squashed and I love the illustrations

Ellen: My favourite character is Looshkin of course, and Mr Buns.  Mr Buns is a cat that lives next door to Looshkin and always gets caught up in Looshkins’ adventures. I like Mr Buns because he is obsessed with annoying Looshkin! 

Louis:  My favourite character is the bear – he is the one that suffers the most from all of Looshkins’ crazy japes, and is sometimes his friend, sometimes not…

Ruth:  I have to empathise with Mrs Johnson.  She didn’t ask for all this to happen to her, she just wanted a cat as a calm, peaceful addition to her life!

Looshkin is special because it is like no other book.  The stories are funny and they just suck you in so you want to be in the crazy world of Looshkin.  People should read it because if they don’t think they like funny books it will change their mind.  Cat lovers should definitely read this book because Looshkin does stunts and sometimes puts himself on fire!  Sometimes you just need a daft book that is going to make you belly laugh and put a big grin on your face – we love Jamie Smart for this reason.  Keep them coming!

Fantastically Great Women who changed History, Kate Pankhurst
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Reviewed by Emma and Naomi
This book is the follow up to Fantastically Great Women who changed the World and includes stories of a wide range of women from astronauts, inventors to warrior queens and spies.

We asked Naomi aged six and her mum Emma to review the book for us. Before seeing this book Naomi, knew about a couple of the women featured, Boudicca from the Horrible Histories series and Pocahontas from the Disney cartoon.

See our Top 10 lists about fantastic girls and women

Emma says: ‘Naomi and I had a wonderful time reading this together. I loved the range of stories the book explores touching on black history, colonisation, China, Egypt, Celtic Britain, drawing from both ancient and modern history. We discussed standing up against injustice and resilience in the face of adversity. Since sharing this book Naomi has become very interested in Harriet Tubman in particular and wanted to find out more about her.’

Naomi says: ‘My favourite page is about Boudicca. She is super awesome and brave. I like their minds and their inspiration they try to do things and do it again. I like the trails you can follow in the book so you know where to read. I think that you should read it.’

Corey’s Rock
Sita Brahmachari, illus. Jane Ray Otter Barry books  Age 8+   
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Reviewed by: Karen, Coco and Leia
Overall verdict:
‘Corey’s Rock is an enjoyable, thought provoking read for children as well as being a visual treat.’

Karen gives an overview of the story:
‘The story is about a girl called Isla, who moves from Edinburgh to the Orkney Islands with her parents after the death of her little brother. Told from Isla’s point of view, the reader is taken on her personal journey, from adapting to her new school and home environment to coming to terms with the loss of her brother.’

Although the book deals with quite heavy themes, there is a lightness to it thanks to the beautiful illustrations throughout and Isla’s discovery of Orcadian legend about the Selkies - half human, half seal people.’

‘The girls were drawn to Corey’s Rock initially because of the colourful cover illustration and the diversity of the family pictured. They were intrigued by the cover and immediately began to discuss what they thought the story would be about:  a family breaking up through divorce and the daughter helping her parents get back together again.’

The girls read the book aloud to each other, which was more enjoyable for them as it prompted discussion and enabled them to share their different ideas and understanding with each other. 

About the story

Both girls really enjoyed the book. Coco said:

"I would say it’s an inspiring book. It’s a story about a girl named Isla who is struggling in her life right now because her brother Corey has just passed away as he was ill, then her parents got different jobs and moved to a different place near a beach. To help her feel better, Isla starts to have dreams about Corey. I think it’s a moving story because it shows Isla getting through a difficult time in her life while at the same time showing that she will never forget or stop loving her brother. Isla’s dreams and imagination really helped her to overcome how sad she was."

Leia offered: "It’s quite an interesting story because Isla thinks her brother has become a Selkie and she can see him from Corey’s Rock whenever she likes.”

It was really good to hear the girls sharing their ideas about the book: 

Coco: "I don’t understand why Corey’s mum wouldn’t go to see the rock."

Leia: "I think it’s because she was too sad"

Coco felt that the story could "Give a comforting message to people who are in the same situation as Isla.” For this reason, although the overarching theme of bereavement is sad, she found it inspiring and enjoyable. 

Both girls felt (Isla’s friend) Magnus was an interesting character because "He seems to know a lot about Isla before she arrived on the island” Coco observed.

Leia added "And he drew a picture of Corey’s Rock which Isla found when she went to the library to borrow Selkie books” Leia also noticed that Magnus was wearing a hearing aid and wanted to know more about why he had it. 

Some words and phrases in the book were repeated, giving elements of the story a hypnotic, dream-like quality. Leia was really quick to spot this repetition and made a connection as to why this was done: "Mummy, I think the reason why she says ‘One by one' five times is because Corey had five birthdays and five years on planet Earth.” 

Favourite things about the book

Each one commented that the illustrations were their favourite thing about the book - they really studied them and enjoyed counting the starfish on the sand and the seals in the sea.

Leia said: " I really liked seeing the five petals for Corey because they look like little hearts."  Coco: I liked the picture of Isla finding the seal skin because she said it felt like holding Corey again when he was alive. It’s special because she’s remembering good times. It reminds me of ‘Wonder (by RJ Palacio) and Auggie’s story because that’s also a happy-sad story."