Tuesday, 10 January 2017

There's an Owl in my Towel

There's a song to be sung. 

There's fun to be had.

And, is there really an Owl in my Towel? 

There sure is, at least in Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb's 
new book, called what else...There's an Owl in my Towel. 

This Lift-the-flap interactive book is small in size, but big on fun. There's hidden surprises for baby to uncover, kinda like playing peek-a-boo. Plus, there's a song to go along with it. Don't worry, the lyrics for it are cited in There's an Owl in my Towel. And, you can sing along by scanning the QR code or visit the website link available on the back cover.  

The simple story in There's an Owl in My Towel revolves about an interaction between a baby and mom. 

Baby has lots of excuses when mom asks him to do things. 

Hello baby! Let's sit down.  

But there's a hare in my chair! 

Time for breakfast, baby. 

But there's a mole in my bowl. 

And so it goes on and on. The five flaps reveal five animals. A great learning and fun experience for baby. The song is an additional bonus that adds to the fun of story time and instilling the love of reading and singing to impressionable young minds. 

It's a perfect playtime treat for your and your baby.

Watch the song performed by Julia and Malcolm Donaldson. 

There's an Owl in my Towel is published by MacMillan Children's Books, an imprint of Pan Macmillan. It is distributed in Canada by Publishers Group Canada

Sunday, 8 January 2017

One Noisy Night something mysterious is at play

One noisy night, hedgehog and his friends have a mystery to solve. 
One Noisy Night is a touch and feel book, with the central focus being the red hat, and it delights with its assortment of animal friends and their engaging interactions. 

One morning over breakfast, Rabbit asked his friends, "Did you hear the creaking and crashing in the woods last night?" 

While Little Hedgehog didn't hear anything, his friends Badger and Fox did. Determined to find out what all the noise was about, Fox starts on an investigative journey the following night when he hears the sounds again. In the distance, he sees a red hat, similar to the one Little Hedgehog wears. All clues point to Little Hedgehog, who insists that it wasn't him. 

The puzzling mystery leads Little Hedgehog to take matters into his own hands. So, that night he decides to stay awake and find out for himself. But alas, he falls asleep and is soon jolted awake by a loud crash outside the house. 

Badger, Fox and Rabbit are already by the river and when they see Little Hedgehog, they realize that the culprit in a red hat by the river is not Little Hedgehog at all. 

Suddenly, they also discover that the river is flooding, and it could be a dangerous threat to their homes. Collectively working together as a team, they try to get the water under control, and subsequently also end up solving the real mystery of the red hats. 

One Noisy Night is a cute book with visually captivating imagery that complements and heightens the mystery. While the mystery is engaging, it was longer read than anticipated and may perhaps be a better bedtime read for slightly older kids. 

One Noisy Night is written by M. Christina Butler and illustrated by Tina Macnaughton. Published by Tiger Tales Books and distributed in Canada by Publishers Book Canada

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Rani Patel In Full Effect by Sonia Patel

Sixteen-year-old Rani Patel is shattering all norms. For someone who comes from a cultural background that traditionally expects girls to conform and be demure, Rani is anything but. Indulging in poetry slams and hip-hop jams, she’s proving that she’s her own person. 

Drawing from my own personal experience, I admire Rani's character. And since one of my new year’s goals is to follow the words of Shakespeare “To thine own self be true”, this book is one of my top picks to start off the year. With writing that is electric, and a voice that is on point, author Sonia Patel brings Rani Patel to life in Rani Patel In Full Effect

A family situation that pushes Rani over the edge at the start of the book, sets the reader on a thrilling rollercoaster ride, complete with emotional turmoil and a lesson to be learnt. The book starts off by Rani shaving her head, a visible act of rebellion. As Newton's Third Law stated, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and in Rani's case it's no different. Her father’s cheating scandal thrusts Rani into a path where she becomes hip hop MC Sutra and finds a boyfriend who just may lead her into the depths of destruction. But teenagers must experience, in order to learn that the path they are going down, may not be the ideal one. Just as she’s about to lose it all, Rani gains it all, and Sonia Patel is able to spin a story of strength and feminism and positivity.

A gutsy novel that’s powerful in its storytelling. Rani Patel In Full Effect doesn’t sugarcoat  the truth. Family relationships are complicated. Teenage life can be as shitty as it is exhilarating. The book is honest and raw and Rani feels like someone we could know. The REAL girl next door, not the Disney version of her.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The Steadfast Tin Soldier

Still want to hang on a little longer to the holiday spirit with this contemporary retelling of a beloved classic. #thesteadfasttinsoldier enchants a new generation.

Friday, 9 December 2016

A Boy Called Christmas

An Impossibility is just a Possibility that you don't understand

'Tis the season when one of our most beloved heroes comes down the chimney and drops off something special for those of us who've been nice. So what a great time to read a book that perfectly ties to that feeling of joy, love and hope? A Boy Called Christmas is the story of that hero, and Matt Haig aims to delight the kid in all of us. 

The book centres around an 11-year-old boy named Nikolas, who heads off to the Far North in search of his father, Joel, the woodcutter. Joel, has been commissioned to venture up to the Far North with six other men to find Elfhelm, a mythical place where elves are believed to dwell. But does this place really exist? 

Joel really needs the money, and the huge reward of twelve thousand rubels from the king, is an even bigger motivation for him to make that dangerous expedition hundreds of miles in search of Elfhelm village. The journey takes him to Seipäjärvi, Finland, and beyond the iced plains, lakes and frozen forest land, in search of Elfhelm village. 

Nikolas is left in the care of his evil aunt, Carlotta. "Care" is an overstatement. His aunt doesn't come close to displaying any caring characteristics. If you think most aunts are nasty and horrible, Aunt Carlotta was particularly bad. Everything about her feels like it is covered in frost. 

She puts forth a whole set of rules for Nikolas to follow, including "no rats"; so Miika (Nikolas' pet mouse) is thrown out of the house. But Miika is not alone, as Aunt Carlotta also thinks it's best for Nikolas to sleep outside in the fresh air, while she takes his cozy room. And so, that summer, Nikolas spent his time from the first light till nightfall, looking for food, and the rest of the night sleeping outdoors.

Eventually, fed up of Aunt Carlotta's evil ways, Nikolas decides to set out on a quest to find his father. When he reaches Elfhelm village, Nikolas is surprised by what he finds in this fabled kingdom. The hundreds of elves are all miserable. How could this be? They also have some sort of a class system in place based on the colour of their tunic. This is definitely not what Nikolas had imagined Elfhelm village would be like. He always imagined it to be a place filled with joy and laughter and lots of singing and sweet treats.

But alas, this is not the case. There are lots of rules for the elves. And one of those rules forbids any humans in the village. The dreadful rules have been drafted by Father Vodol, the leader of the Elf Council. And when he finds out about Nikolas' existence, he is furious, wasting no time in throwing him into a dungeon with a Truth Pixie and a hungry troll. 

Of course, it's not a surprise that Nikolas is young Saint Nick, and it's only a matter of time that he discovers magic and hope.

"Of course elves' reindeer can fly," pointed out the Truth Pixie. 
"They've been drimwicked." 
"Drimwicked?" Nikolas remembered. Drimwick. That was the word that Father Topo and Little Noose had used to bring him and Blitzen back to life. It was a magical word. 
"A drimwick is a hope spell. If you have been drimwicked it gives you powers, even if you are only a reindeer." said the Truth Pixie. 
What kind of powers?
"It takes all that is good in you, and makes it stronger. It makes it magical. If you wish for something good, the magic will help. It is a very boring kind of magic. Because being good is very boring."

A Boy Called Christmasby Matt Haig is a story of believing in the impossible. It will make you feel like a kid again. It inspires and uplifts, as it charms your socks off. But keep those socks on because this book is a delightful read and perfect for the holidays. Ilustrations by Chris Mould just liven up the book and make A Boy Called Christmas even more endearing. 

Monday, 5 December 2016

Just one coin may save the day

This is a story about Collin -- a boy who loves collecting coins. Collin is very disciplined and spends hours arranging all his beloved coins by size, or shape, country or state, and sometimes even by smell or taste. (A word of caution from the writer: DO NOT try the latter.) 

Collin has a favourite coin. One that he always keeps in his pocket, and turns from silver quarter into a golden dollar, with a tricky flick. 

Because of his obsession, Collin always is trying to get more coins. One fine day, in search of coins, Collin puts his hand deep down into the forgotten spaces of the couch. These are spaces that can be very, very dangerous, and soon Collin learns why. 

"Down, in the deep, dark cave that lies below the cushions and springs of your couch, dwells MARGARASH." 

This monster, is just waiting to pull boys like Collin down into his world and trap them in his cage. Margarash believes that all the coins that fall through the couch are for him, and he's got a mound of coins collected in the dark hidden corners. 

Bad luck for Collin, as Margarash's scaly hand seizes him and pulls the unsuspecting boy ferociously through the gap of the couch, into his dark cave. 

He traps Collin in a cage, and refuses to let him go home. Collin finds himself trapped in Margarash's cage for what seems like an eternity, and sadness and loneliness overcome him. Each day, he pleads with the monster to take him home, but Margarash just turns a blind eye (and ear) to his cries. 

Eventually, with a little wit, Collin manages to trick Margarash into letting him free. How? Let's just say he gets a little help from his prized possession -- his favourite two-faced coin.

The story could have easily ended there, but Mark Riddle inserts a twist in his intriguing book. You won't believe it, but there's a most unlikely of friendship that develops between monster and boy. 

There is a twist, when an unlikely bond develops between monster and boy. 

The illustrations and colours used in the book are interesting and unusual, but add an engaging story element to the book. Illustrator, Tim Miller has done a spot on job highlighting the darkness in the dark corners of the couch. 

This is a bit of a scary story, and would caution parents of children who are overly sensitive. But told in a voice that's reassuring and the friendly message at the end, makes Margarash an emotional read that will have kids talking and asking questions, which makes for an engaging storytime. 

Sunday, 4 December 2016

The Perfect Escape For The Holidays

Most often than not, life doesn't usually turn out the way you want it to. Plans unravel, and the path of life can meander into the darkest of dark corners. This was the case for Zoe Maisey. Three years ago, this seventeen-year-old musical prodigy with an IQ worthy of Mensa, was involved in a tragic incident -- one that left three of Zoe's classmates dead. After serving her time, she's back, and ready to pursue her musical career once again. 

Life has changed for her: her parents separated in the tragedy's aftermath, and her mom, Maria, now has a new man and a new step son in her life. They don't know anything about Zoe's past; Maria has made sure of keeping it a secret. 

At the start of the novel, Zoe's is about to deliver her debut recital, hoping to once again ingratiate herself under the musical spotlight. Her mother has been planning this night for months. Zoe's prodigious talent presented itself when she was only three years old, and Maria made it her mission to nurture her precocious ability. But as foreshadowed things don't go as planned, and Zoe's mother is found dead. The search for the suspect lays the roadmap for the rest of the novel. 

Told from varying perspectives, the rest of the novel attempts to piece together the events following Maria's death. Chapters in the book are laid out in short digestible chunks, which alternate between Zoe, Sam (Zoe's previous solicitor), and Tessa (Zoe's aunt). Looking at the situation and the family dynamics from various lenses provides the reader a 360 degree view. What is real, what is true, it builds in a suspenseful and addictive manner. 

At its core, the book is about relationships. Between a mother and a daughter, between teenagers and friends, between siblings, and between spouses. It's a snap shot of behavioural interactions. 
From secrets, to affairs, to backstabbing, every twist lurks around every corner. While The Perfect Girl: A Novelhas been touted as a favourite amongst readers who loved 2015's big hit Girl On The Train, the similarities are at best superficial. Does the story reach the same level of crescendo? Perhaps through the lens of some readers? Yours truly remained ambivalent despite being hooked at the beginning of the novel.

Blog post by @ShilpaRaikar (Creative and Social Media strategist, decor enthusiast and book lover, who also writes for a branding blog: thinkblink.ca/blog, as well as a lifestyle blog: sukasastyle.com T: @SukasaStyle)