Books – Tales of pre-teen wonder

2011-11-25 11:54

The children’s section of a bookshop does not get a lot of your attention if you’re an adult. However, if you have a 10-year-old with a vivid imagination, you spend an awful lot of time in this section.

I am continually amazed at the quality of books being published for pre-teens these days.

I am thankful that the vampire drek (Twilight) is not something my son is interested in and, frankly, the writing is so appalling that I would ban those books outright in my house.

But take a look at this selection we have been given to review. There are some real gems among them.

David Walliams is a British comedian and the author of Billionnaire Boy (HarperCollins, 279 pages, R188.95).

It’s the story of Joe Spud, the richest boy on Earth. He has everything a child could want or need, even an orang-utan for a butler, but Joe does not have a friend. Not only an extremely entertaining and funny read, but one with a great life lesson.

Then we move on to Rachel Renée Russell’s Dork Diaries , Pop Star (Simon & Schuster, 310 pages, R85.95).

Written in the form of a diary, it is the fourth instalment in the Dork Diaries series, and is an absolute must for any girl who has ever wanted to be popular.

There are some very funny moments in this book, and the author knows exactly how young girls talk.

No Passengers Beyond This Point by Gennifer Choldenko (Bloomsbury, 241 pages, R167.95) tells the story of Finn, India and Mouse, three kids who have a very weird adventure in another dimension.

It’s pacey and requires close attention, which just makes it even more compelling. Perfect for teenage girls fed up with little and big sisters.

How to Blow Up Tollins by Conn Iggulden (HarperCollins, 168 pages, R67.95) is a great read for children, but I would advise parents to read it to them.

It’s a magical story of Tollins (not like fairies, but in a similar vein) and firecrackers. Weird? Totally! Fun? Absolutely!

Another good one for pre-teens is Stink Solar System Superhero by Megan McDonald (Walker Books, 127 pages, R140.95).

This is an excellent book for younger readers to attempt by themselves. Stink Moody (and believe me, you will have the kids interested the minute you tell them the hero is called Stink) is upset that Planet Pluto has flunked its Planet Test and is too shrimpy to be considered a planet. Stink becomes the champion for small planets and small people.

If you love the Calvin and Hobbes cartoons, then Big Nate: From the Top by Lincoln Peirce (Andrews McMeel, 223 pages, R101.95) is just the thing for you.

This one should be strictly for adults because Big Nate can so easily be any one of our children. A really good book to dip into when your kids are driving you mad.

Lastly, and perhaps my favourite of all the books, there’s The Great Space Race by Joshua Mowll (Walker Books, 223 pages, R116.95).

Part cartoon, part diary, part novel, it tells the story of Eric Crankshaw, who wants to solve his family’s money problems by entering the space race with a R35 rocket he bought on eBay.

Eric narrates the story with a mixture of wide-eyed awe and the sarcasm only a teenager can muster. A good addition to anyone’s library. – Yvonne Grimbeek

This will give little ones inner peace
The author is a yoga teacher for kids by profession who lists her interests as children’s wellness, writing, publishing, yoga, transformation, environmental awareness, travel.

In this book, Tamar Dakes successfully combines all her interests to produce a wonderful product that is entertaining, educational, ­self-affirming and fun.

The book acts as a debut to Dakes’ animal characters who live in the Wonderful Woods. Like a TV series pilot, it acts as an introduction to the inhabitants of this special home.

There’s an index that lists them in alphabetical order from Adam Ant to Zebra Zack.

Each page is dedicated to an animal and includes an illustration of said creature by Joanne Marsden, about four sentences of description that rhyme and a self-affirming saying for each.

The tail-end of the book is dedicated to children’s exercises which are fun.

There’s the “energising breath Rabbit” where parents are encouraged to help their children with rapid breathing exercises before switching to the calming Tortoise technique.

The yoga positions will make kids giggle as they emulate different animal postures, positions and movements such as the caterpillar crawl, the dragonfly flap, the tortoise pose and the rabbit hop. Positive affirmations include “I am powerful”, “I have good manners and show respect”, “I am in the right place at the right time” and “I am warm and generous”. Very sweet. – Babalwa Shota

A lesson that instills patience in kiddies
Do you ever want to capture a child’s moment and hold on to it for dear life? Or put your arms tightly around them and beg them not to grow up too fast?

This is what Creepy Crawly’s friends try to do with the little caterpillar who cannot wait to grow up. All she wants is to be a different creature.

“All my friends in the Woods all have beautiful names. I want one too, I want the same,” she laments.

We meet some of Creepy Crawley’s friends as she journeys through the woods trying to find reassurance.

There’s Freddy Fox, who tells Creepy Crawly she’ll find her true fate. Phillipa Frog also shares the same sentiments to the unhappy caterpillar; and so do the snake, the monkey and the owl.

It’s when Creepy Crawly wakes up a few weeks later as a beautiful butterfly that she realises all the waiting was worth it.

This book teaches the virtues of patience in a world of instant gratification – a lesson most of our children can do with.

As with the other Dakes book, the last few pages bring something new in the form of exercises for kids, affirmations, some meditation pointers and yoga positions.

It feels a bit random – and the affirmations and meditation exercises might not be to every parent’s taste.

Still, these are good tools that can help a child with low self-esteem issues. Joanne Marsden’s illustration also help tone down what could have been a preachy last few pages. Good stuff. – Babalwa Shota


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