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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! info@lovemybooks.co.uk


How War Changed Rondo, by Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv
Reviewed by Samantha, Poppy (10) and Harriet 8)
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“I already knew war was a bad thing, and this book helps explain why.” Harriet aged 8

Reading How War changed Rondo by Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv is a very useful way to begin to introduce the complexities and horrors of warfare to a younger audience. Having a conversation about the events in Ukraine with younger children can seem a daunting task, but this book allows that conversation to take place in a controlled and manageable way, while still not sugar-coating its events and implications.

Samantha writes
The book skilfully uses metaphor (of light and dark, music and silence) and personification (War as a being) to make a point and aid understanding of complex ideas to children. Using cute characters Danko, Zirka, and Fabian (who are each both important and vulnerable in their own individual way) to represent the population, allowed my children to identify with them and feel empathy about their plight. They live peacefully in the small town of Rondo, a magical and joyful place where flowers sing and everything is perfect until the day that War arrives.

My two children (aged 8 and 10) having first been reluctant to read the book, finished it with an appreciation of its message. They understood that war is a bad thing, and that there are no happy endings. Even though War had retreated at the end of the book, the three friends were still scarred, physically and mentally, by their ordeal. The contrasting illustrations (of before and after the War changed Rondo) were useful in easily assessing what impact the War had had on the characters’ world.

I would recommend this book to other parents/primary schools as a way to talk about war without being too specific or creating anxiety and worry in the minds of very young people. Speaking about how war affects fictional characters allows children to take on board important messages, without scaring them by connecting them to real world events.

 Poppy (aged 10) said: “I recommend it for children because it is good to understand how people feel during war.”

Harriet (aged 8) said: “It’s sad because it’s about war. I already knew war was a bad thing, and this book helps explain why.”


Peanut Jones and the Illustrated City by Rob Biddulph   
Reviewed by Naomi, aged 8
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Naomi tells us about a book she has really enjoyed reading>
Peanut’s dad has disappeared. She finds a pencil hidden in a box and discovers whatever she draws with it comes to life. Peanut draws a door, she opens it and ends up in Chroma, a world of colour and creativity…

Tell us a little bit about the story

Peanut’s dad has disappeared. She finds a pencil hidden in a box and discovers whatever she draws with it comes to life. Peanut draws a door, she opens it and ends up in Chroma, a world of colour and creativity.

Mr White in Chroma, has captured her dad and is trying to destroy all the creativity in Chroma, so Peanut has to go on a mission with her little sister Little Bit and a boy called Rockwell and they try to stop Mr White and find her dad. She meets Doodle the Dog in Chroma, he was on one of her dad’s Post It notes.

Post It notes are an important part of the story. The post it notes relate to her dad. Every lunch time when she started Melody High she was really worried so her dad would do a little drawing on a Post It note and the words ‘Love you forever x’ and he hid the post it notes in her lunchbox, she had over 2000 of them. When her dad went, she didn’t have anymore, and lunchtime went from the best part of the day to the worst. Then she finds another Post It note that says ‘Love you forever,’ a yellow one with a big thick L on it, it is some sort of clue.

Who is your favourite character?

Little Bit and Peanut. Little Bit if you listen to her, she is a lot beyond her age. She is five, she’s in reception. She is very funny Rockwell is meant to be really smart, but it is Little Bit who says ‘fathom is the key word Rockwell I‘m going to show you how to do this’ and she cracks the code!

What does It remind you of?

it’s like a portal story, it reminds me of the Narnia books. Chroma’s time runs three hours ahead -when you enter you are there for three hours it’s really only three minutes. It reminds me of Narnia you enter and stay for two weeks, and you are still on time for school.

Who would enjoy this story?

You need to like adventure and mystery stories – It’s adventurous but it has also got a mystery – Where’s her dad gone? Who is Mr White?

It also teaches me something really interesting, it teaches you a coding trick. A way to code. It’s called Fathom.

How do you feel about reading a trilogy?

Personally, I would prefer it to be one big, big book, it would be several hundred pages, but I wouldn’t really mind because I wouldn’t have to wait for a really long time, a whole year to get another book. I would find that pretty annoying. Harry Potter is ok because they have all been written so I could just get the whole series or also like Horrible Histories they are all written so I could get a box full of them but with Peanut Jones I can’t do that with or the Dragon Realms books.

 


‘Under the Love Umbrella’ by Davina Bell, illus Alison Colpoys
Scribble UK

Reviewed by Amy
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This is a brightly coloured picturebook with a gentle, reassuring rhyming text about being loved

‘.. Over your head and just above
There’s an umbrella of my love.
To show it’s you I’m thinking of
Wherever you might be.’

Amy says:

‘I wanted to share a book we are really enjoying at the moment: Under the Love Umbrella by Davina Bell and Alison Colpoys. The illustrations are really beautiful, florescent and pastel colours.  The illustrations show different kinds of families, Joshua keeps asking to see the page of the family with two mummies again and we talked about different family types. He was also interested in the page outside the school and wanted to know which one is the teacher. He wondered if he has a love umbrella and if so where is it and why can’t he see it.

 

This would be a good book for toddlers who don't love separation or for just starting back at nursery or school after a break. 

 

The book inspired Amy and Joshua to do lots of activities together, she suggests:

 

 

- Reading the book and counting how many umbrellas you can find 

- Stick cocktail umbrellas on playdoh islands 

- Draw and colour umbrellas 

- Sing and dance to "Umbrella" by Rihanna 

- Go for a walk with an umbrella on a rainy day


The Colour Monster by Anna Llenas
Reviewed by Amy and Joshua, age 2
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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
Reviewed by Ruth and her children Louis aged 11 and Ellen aged 8 who had a lively conversation about this graphic novel
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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 serie

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."