Posts Tagged ‘books made in to movies’

The Gruffalo’s Child

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (illustrator)
The Gruffalo said that no gruffalo should Ever set foot in the deep dark wood. But one wild and windy night the Gruffalo’s child ignores her father’s warning and tiptoes out into the snow. After all, the Big Bad Mouse doesn’t really exist… does he?

Although I realise these books have been around for a good few years, I didn’t have kids of ‘that age’ at the time and so they kind of passed me by. We were first introduced to the Gruffalo a few months ago when at a friend’s house for Sunday lunch. At one of those ‘let’s calm the kids down’ moments our hosts put the mini film of the Gruffalo on the tv. Well, we were hooked. This led to us buying the book and reading it every night for a looong time. Then, more recently, we stumbled upon The Gruffalo’s child whilst rootling through the preschool library box. Another trip to the local book shop ensued and now this is our current bedtime, and anytime really, favourite.

This story starts with the Gruffalo’s child questioning her father about The Big Bad Mouse that lives in the deep dark wood and once her father goes to sleep the Gruffalo’s child sneaks out in to the woods to discover him for herself. Along the way she meets the snake, the owl and the fox and initially wonders if they might not be the Big Bad Mouse she’s heard all about.

The tale is told in the same kind of rhyme as ‘The Gruffalo’ with the same wonderful illustrations by Axel Scheffler. My son loves joining in with the rhyming and because he’s now learnt the bits that repeat he can sit and ‘read’ it to himself with a degree of accuracy which makes him feel very grown up.

Eventually the Gruffalo’s child does meet a little mouse – but this couldn’t be the Big Bad Mouse she’d heard all about, could it? I won’t tell you how it ends but the little mouse gets to show us how brave and clever he is again.

Verdict: A fab read

Review by Lesley

Publisher: MacMillan Children’s Books
Publication Date: September 2005
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Children’s
Age: Picture Book
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British Book
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Anthony Horowitz

They told him his uncle died in a car accident. Fourteen-year-old Alex knows that’s a lie, and the bullet holes in his uncle’s windshield confirm his suspicions. But nothing prepares him for the news that the uncle he always thought he knew was really a spy for MI6–Britain’s top secret intelligence agency. Recruited to find his uncle’s killers and complete his final mission, Alex suddenly finds himself caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse.

Having heard lots of good things about Anthony Horowitz I thought I’d check out his work. Stormbreaker seemed a good place to start; and it was!

The story gets going quickly and maintains a fast pace throughout. It is easy to read and well written. The chapters are about the right length, especially for the target audience (pre-teens and early teenagers). I also think that although this is probably more aimed at boys, a lot of girls would enjoy the adventurers of Alex Rider.

So to the story! This is a gripping yarn, a spy story after the heart of James Bond. As Alex is recruited into MI6 and trained in an army style for his mission he has to learn to survive in a tough adult environment where he is certainly not liked by everyone. He is then presented with his very own set of teenage boy spy gadgets, including metal melting zit cream (I love it) and sent off to spy on Herod Sayle who has made the country an offer that seems too good to be true. Alex has a few days to find out what is going on, and he does get to use his gadgets too!

Alex is a great character, he manages to seem like a normal teenage boy in the way he looks at many things, girls for example! And yet he is so obviously extraordinary as he begins to question what has happened to his Uncle and grow into a whole new role that he is more or less forced into. He proves to be quick thinking, quick on his feet and courageous. His escape from the Breakers Yard is truly remarkable, and this is only the first of many excitements and tight situations. It also seems that his Uncle has been preparing him for his future as Alex has learned many languages, can drive a car and do Karate, among many other things.

In addition to all this there is a fantastic tongue in cheek humour running through the book, Horowitz does send up the spy genre and plays on the villains in particular. Mr Grin is a brilliant example of this with his scar for a smile and inability to speak properly.

In case you are wondering if this is suitable for your child I will add that there is some violence, none of it graphic, but guns are used and Alex does shoot someone (even though he is specifically not trained to do this). If you, or your child haven’t read this kind of book before you might want to read it first, but unless your child is particularly sensitive or younger than the target audience then I think you are likely to find they love it and want the next one.

Verdict: It does seem to be the perfect book for any kid that dreams of being a spy and having amazing adventures!

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication Date: August 2006
Format: Paperback
Pages: 264
Genre: Action, Adventure
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British Book, Oldest Book
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Lost Christmas

David Logan

When Goose’s parents are killed in a car crash on Christmas Eve, his life changes utterly. Living with his increasingly senile Nan, his dog Mutt is the only thing keeping him sane. His only other friend is Frank, a former friend of his father. Frank’s own life is falling apart and he has recruited Goose to help him carry out petty theft around the city.
A year to the day since the accident that changed his life, Goose meets Anthony, a strange man who has forgotten who he is, but seems to know more about others than they know about themselves. When Mutt goes missing, Goose has no choice but to rely on Anthony to help find him.
In an adventure that draws in Frank, who’s lost his family, an old lady who’s lost a precious bangle, an elderly doctor who’s lost his wife and mother who’s lost her daughter, Goose follows Anthony across Manchester. But at the centre of the mystery is Anthony himself: who is he, how does he know so much and can he help Goose and the others find what they’re searching for?
A delight to read from start to finish, David Logan takes the reader on a terrific journey through love, loss and the quest for home.

I’m going to be honest. I picked up this book in the shop as I had been asked to review a children’s ‘Christmas themed’ book. I had never heard of this book or of the author but I’m a sucker for ‘topical’ reads just to see what all the fuss is about. This book drew me in, as had the headline, ‘Now a major film starring Eddie Izzard’ and thanks to the rather obvious title, was a quick win to meet the task at hand.

So, it was fair to say that I started reading this book feeling a bit ‘meh’ as it isn’t something that I would have chosen with no agenda. But thank goodness I did! By the end of the first chapter I had to bite back tears and actually stopped reading to think how I would have reacted as a mother in the same situation. Towards the end of the book I was a goner, my heartstrings well and truly yanked. To balance the sadness there’s more than a little magic, intrigue over ‘Anthony’s’ true identity and humour for his quirky personality and his tourettes like ability to share random facts. Did you know that Walt Disney was scared of mice for instance?

So what’s it all about? Well the story focuses around a young boy nicknamed Goose whom, on Christmas Eve, inadvertently sets off a chain of events that creates misery and loss for a number of people, whilst making him an orphan in the process. His grandmother, already experiencing the early stages of Alzheimer’s dementia is left to look after him.

One year on and he is withdrawn, isolated and is under probation for thieving whilst his grandmother’s health continues to deteriorate. If his life couldn’t get more bleak already, he then loses his beloved dog Mutt. Desperate to find his dog, he relies on a rather odd stranger (Anthony – well at least he thinks his name is Anthony as that’s what the badge says on his jacket!) who has an uncanny knack for finding lost things.

Whilst poring through the TV listings for the next fortnight I see that the film will be on BBC 1 on the 18th December 5:30pm and is given a 5* rating. As the book was based on the screenplay, I can understand why the film has a perfect rating and I will definitely be watching, albeit with a box of tissues and comfort eating chocs to hand!

Verdict: a perfect read for gearing up to Christmas. If you want to laugh, cry and root for characters to get their happy ending then this book is for you. Young and old independent readers alike.

Reviewed by Karen

Publisher: Quercus
Publication Date: October 2011
Format: Hardback
Pages: 300
Genre: Christmas
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Karen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: N/A
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The Help

Kathryn Stockett

Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver. Some lines will never be crossed. Aibileen is a black maid: smart, regal, and raising her seventeenth white child. Yet something shifted inside Aibileen the day her own son died while his bosses looked the other way. Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is by some way the sassiest woman in Mississippi. But even her extraordinary cooking won’t protect Minny from the consequences of her tongue. Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter returns home with a degree and a head full of hope, but her mother will not be happy until there’s a ring on her finger. Seeking solace with Constantine, the beloved maid who raised her, Skeeter finds she has gone. But why will no one tell her where? Seemingly as different as can be, Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny’s lives converge over a clandestine project that will not only put them all at risk but also change the town of Jackson for ever. But why? And for what? The Help is a deeply moving, timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we won’t. It is about how women, whether mothers or daughters, the help or the boss, relate to each other- and that terrible feeling that those who look after your children may understand them, even love them, better than you…

Before I read this book everyone told me it was ‘amazing’, so I began reading with interest. I usually find that it is better not to believe the hype, but in this case I finished the book and would have to say yes, I found it amazing!

So what makes it great? Well, the controversial subject matter is fascinating to read about. The previously untold stories of black women working for white women in 1960’s America with all the issues that brings with it; the love, the hate, the hypocrisy, double standards, the need for each other and yet mutual dislike or disdain. This story shows the passion of the women on both sides of the fence and is, to me at least, a revelation about what life was really like. I know lots about Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, I know about the not being allowed on buses and to the same Universities and so on, but this book makes it real, and makes the lives of ordinary people real. This is about the day to day lives of those who had to endure hardship and intolerance and yet just got on with living. It is about civil rights and about a group of women who are brave enough to choose to fight in their own way. And it is about the white woman that gave them this opportunity.

The three main characters, Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny, make a fascinating group. They are all so different and come to be so dependent on each other. Each has their own individual problems in their lives, as well as the problems that draw them together. They are characters you are drawn to, and want to know better. The journey they undertake together (and also in so many ways, apart) will change all of them forever. This is not only in fighting for their right to be heard and respected, but also having great effect on their personal concerns and circumstances.

The more minor characters also have a depth and fullness to them. Miss Hilly is an awful, bigoted, woman. She is blind to her own hypocrisy and has a mean streak that touches anyone who stands in her way, or doesn’t fit in with her narrow minded views. Celia Foote appears to be a bimbo, but is trying to survive in a society that is as alien to her as it is to the black women, as she used to be ‘white trash’ herself. Elizabeth Leefolt is just a best friend, but gets caught in the fallout between Miss Hilly and Skeeter as they take opposing sides in this fight for civil rights. She shows how hard it can be to be brave and stand up for yourself, or sometimes even to understand the cause when everyone around you thinks that this is the way life is supposed to be. These characters all embody the values, ideals and principles (or what we might consider the lack thereof) of their time, but they also resonate today bringing to mind people you know, or stories we hear. They tell us that if we look we can see many of these things happening today.

The other thing that I loved about this book was that it had the capacity to make me laugh, to well up, and to be angry, and sometimes all over the same incident. Stories that can engage that kind of reaction I always find compelling. The novel is written with such deftness and assurance, you would never realise it is Stockett’s debut novel.

Verdict: I don’t know how this book could be any better. A brilliant, perceptive, innovative handling of a very sensitive subject. Having borrowed this book I am sure I am going to have to go out and buy it, and then lend it to as many people as possible!

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: May 2010 (reprint ed.)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 515/559KB
Genre: Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: N/A
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Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Paul Torday

British businessman and dedicated angler Paul Torday has found a way to combine a novel about fishing and all that it means with a satire involving politics, bureaucrats, the Middle East, the war in Iraq, and a sheikh who is really a mystic. Torday makes it all work in a most convincing way using memos, interviews, e-mails, and letters in clever juxtaposition.

Don’t be put off by the title of this book; it is about so much more than fishing (although it is worth saying that I know so much more about fishing than I ever thought was possible and the genius is that I still loved the book!). In fact the story touches on many areas; politics, spin, ethics, society’s values, terrorism, consumerism, and so the list could go on. It also manages to do this whilst being funny, it made me laugh out loud in places, and not many stories achieve that.

It is a clever, witty and intriguing satire about our society and its political leaders, of whom there are thinly veiled references to figures we would all recognise. At the heart of the tale there are interesting and diverse characters who are all coming together to make this bizarre project work. We follow Dr Jones on his personal journey, but for me the Sheikh was the most interesting character. He is a Yemeni version of an English eccentric and his influence on all the characters changes their lives. This is not just because of his wacky project , or even his wealth, but his gentle, insightful and spiritual nature. He challenges and supports them, and therefore us too, to think about how the world works and whether different societies having different values and ways of doing things is really such a bad thing.

The story is told through emails, diary entries, letters and interviews. As this is developed it is fascinating and amusing to find out about the characters’ perception of each other. I liked the result of the story always being told in the first person, and looking at the same events through the eyes of different people. However, it does make the contents page look a little daunting. Using this style of writing also means that it was easy to just read a little bit, or just a little bit more too!

Verdict: An original premise and funny story that can also make you think. I never thought I would enjoy a book about fishing so much!

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Phoenix
Publication Date: June 2007
Format: Paperback
Pages: 352
Genre: Satire, Humour
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: N/A
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