This is a new feature for me. I’ve seen it on other people’s blogs, where they do short reviews of several books. Maybe their ARCs, or on a topic. I like it: it’s straight to the point, you see a few different books, and I invariably find something I want to read.
It just so happens that I have two ARCs, both of them children’s books (although for different ages), and have been wanting to post a review of a book written for children by a friend. It seemed like the perfect time to launch The Quick Review.
A Good Night for Shooting Zombies
Author: Jaco Jacobs | Publisher: Rock the Boat
I like children’s books. In fact, some of the best books I’ve ever read were written for children. And I read prolifically as a child, because those stories helped me make sense of the world. I trace my love of reading today to those books. In fact, I would go so far as to say, the most important books ever published were, and always will be, children’s books. A Good Night for Shooting Zombies is one of those books which will no doubt be studied in schools, and which will be the reason a child loves reading.
First things first, this book is really cute. The illustrations are simple but effective, very colourful and fun. And apparently the cover is glow in the dark. I’m sorry but, adult books should have glow in the dark covers. That’s just cool…
It’s written from the perspective of “Clucky”, who is a bit of an outsider and struggling with some big, adult themes in his life. I loved the way the language was used to convey a sense of the child’s mind and perspective, as well as the character themselves.
I liked the way the language portrayed the Afrikaans culture, and gave the reader a strong sense of place, through using Afrikaans words and phrases that sound a little unusual to English ears. Words like “smoek” were left in, and I had no idea what they meant – but I got a general idea through the way they were used, which would be excellent for children improving their reading level.
And, most importantly, I think, if I had read this as a child, I would have been fascinated by this glimpse into a completely different world. It felt very tactile, very real. And very different than the world I grew up in, the books I read as a child. While, at the same time, Clucky, his family, his school, were still familiar and relatable. This is definitely a book that children will fall in love with.
A Good Night for Shooting Zombies doesn’t dumb things down. It uses the big, proper, language of an adult book, in a way that children will understand and relate to. And this a book that’s dealing with big, scary, adult themes: death, illness, dysfunctional families, bullying, societal class structure, poverty, grief, and mental illness. I like that in a children’s book. I love when they take on these themes which are usually deemed “too adult” for this genre. These are things that children everywhere have to deal with, and books help them make sense of the world in those times. I liked the way the book managed to discuss all these things, without becoming bogged down by the heavy-ness of it. Make no mistake, it was sad, it tugs at the heart strings – but it’s uplifting too.
I absolutely adored this book, and I’m pretty sure children everywhere will too.
Author: Ellie Daines | Publisher: Andersen Press
This book is, of the three, the only non-ARC. I actually know the author, as Ellie is a friend and former colleague – and a nicer person you could not meet. We got chatting about her writing, and I offered to review one of her books – she suggested Lolly Luck. Obviously, since the author is a friend, you should feel free to doubt my integrity. But if you can’t criticise your friends, who can you? I’ll just say, thankfully, I don’t feel the need to with Lolly Luck. I genuinely liked it.
Lolly Luck was one of those rare children’s books which are enjoyable as much for an adult, as they would be for a child. It reminded me a little of Anne Fine; who was a particular favourite of mine as a child.
The characters were clearly defined and had strong and distinct voices. And they were funny, in the way real people are – sometimes deliberately, but just as often unintentionally and unconsciously. They were flawed, but likeable, sometimes shocking, and felt familiar.
Lolly Luck has an immediate hook and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat throughout with subtle pacing changes, an emotive plot, and total immersion in Ellie Daines’ cleverly built world and deeply felt characters.
The story itself deals with some difficult life lessons, which I think will be familiar to many young readers; they certainly would have been to me. Tough subjects are handled sensitively, without shying away from key issues or complex emotional responses. And it is above all, enjoyable, readable, and has that certain magical quality which makes children’s books so special.
The bottom line is, I would have adored Lolly Luck as a child. And, even as an adult, it was a pleasure to read.
I Think I Can
Author: Karen S. Robbins | Illustrator: Rachael Brunson | Publisher: Schiffer Publishing Ltd
What do I say about I Think I Can? Well. Firstly, bear in mind the audience for this book is probably ages 3 – 5. Lolly Luck and A Good Night for Shooting Zombies are both for middle-school aged readers.
I Think I Can is written for first readers, and everything about it has been carefully designed to appeal to that age group.
The illustrations are super cute. Very sweet, with beautiful detail. Think some sort of kangaroo (maybe), with big eyes, and his adorable mouse-friend… The kangaroo should have his own TV series, he’s that cute. I want one…
Reading this book as an adult, you are immediately struck by its simplicity. It’s written entirely with words of two syllables, and the story is as deliberately straightforward. It wasn’t the most exciting read for an adult, though it was quite sweet, but it would be perfect for very young children. It was very similar to the I Think I Can you’re probably familiar with, you know, the one about a train…
If you have a small human at home, who is just learning to read, I’m sure this would be a good edition to their library. However, be warned, it is not suitable for adults…