My top 10 book reviews in my first year of blogging

The top 10 book reviews from the first year of bookboy.com.auIn just a few weeks I will celebrate my blog’s first birthday! (I hope there will be cake…)

I thought I might turn it into a mini festival by mixing up my regular posts with a few lists from my first year of blogging.

Today, I’m sharing the top 10 most popular reviews on bookboy.com.au from the past 12 months – from number 10 down to my most popular review of all! Some are by me and some are by my minion brother Book Boy Junior.

Click on each link to read the full review for each book.

10. Bro by Helen Chebatte*

9. The Turners by Mick Elliott*

8. The Yearbook Committee by Sarah Ayoub*

7. Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

6. Artie And The Grime Wave by Richard Roxburgh*

5. Harry Potter And The Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

4. Pax by Sara Pennypacker

3. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey*

2. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

And the winner of most popular review goes to…

1. The 78-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton*

*Australian author

Review: Pixel Raiders #1 (Dig World)

Pixel Raiders #1 Dig World reviewed by a kidBook Boy Junior is back this week with a review of a new book series that gamers will love!

Title: Pixel Raiders #1: Dig World

Author: Bajo & Hex (ill, Chris Kennett)

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

About the book: Pixel Raiders #1 is about a young boy named Rip and a young girl named Mei. They are sent to a gaming contest for school, and the winners get to play a new game that hasn’t yet been released. Rip and Mei are so eager to beat each other that they don’t realise that others are beating them, and they lose the competition.

When a mysterious parcel arrives, containing the new game and a VR headset, they put it on and don’t realise that they are trapped in the game, called Dig World.

What I thought: I enjoyed this book a lot! It might be scary for younger readers, with the realisation that Rip and Mei are trapped in the game, but it’s also very exciting. I liked how the story reminded me of Minecraft and those sorts of games, and I never wanted to stop reading because I wanted to find out what would happen. Because I read at night, it left me lying in bed wondering what would happen next.

My favourite character was Rip because he was always so brave, no matter what was happening.

I would recommend this book for ages 9+ as it can be a bit scary at times. If you like playing games, or the show Good Game (the authors are the presenters of that show), you would like this book.

I already have the second book in the Pixel Raiders series (Dragon Land) and can’t wait to read it!

Buy Pixel Raiders #1: Dig World at Booktopia

Two great writing books I read this week

Two great books about writing, reviewed by a kid book bloggerRecently I’ve been writing a bit more of my own stuff, mostly short stories. When I found these books on my mum’s shelf, I decided to have a look at them to see if they could help me, and, unsurprisingly, they did!

• On Writing by Stephen King

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

This is the first book about writing I’ve ever read (except for Once Upon A Slime by Andy Griffiths, which I loved when I was about 10). I really liked Stephen King’s voice and how the book was part-memoir, part-book about writing. I found the memoir bit very inspiring, particularly when he talked about his childhood – I would love to make a magazine like Stephen King did!

As for the actual writing section, I learnt a lot about writing and, particularly, editing my short stories and how unnecessary information can just distract from the story itself.

My favourite tip from On Writing is that the second draft of a story is your first draft minus 10 per cent.

I would recommend this book for ages 14+ because some of the wording and language may be difficult for younger children and it involves drug use and coarse language.

Buy On Writing at Booktopia

• Letters To A Young Writer by Colum McCann

Publisher: Bloomsbury (Allen & Unwin)

This was the second writing book that I read and I found it less in-depth but still very good and practical. Much less dense, the book presents the information in short chapters or snippets, so you can dip in and out of it easily.

I liked how each chapter began with a quote from a famous author or figure in literature. I also really liked the aesthetic of the hardback book – it’s nice to look at and feels good to hold. It is the kind of book that would make a nice gift.

My favourite tip from this book was to use your writing like a camera – to describe the surroundings with the colour and clarity of a picture.

I would recommend this book for ages 12+ because, again, some kids may not get their heads around the writing and it does contain some mild coarse language.

Buy Letters To A Young Writer from Booktopia.

Find a new book: what to try next

I thought I might try something a bit different this week. Sometimes it’s hard to find your next read, so I’ve made a list of related books – if you like the first one, you might like the second one.

Find a new book: what to read next | bookboy.com.au - a 13yo book blogger - has some suggested reads for you

I’ve linked to reviews where I have them, or the link on each title will take you to Booktopia for more information and to buy if you’re interested.

If you likeThe Outsiders by S.E.Hinton The Outsiders by S.E.Hinton, reviewed by a kid book blogger

Review of The Outsiders

 

 

TryBro by Helen Chebattebook review Bro by Helen Chebatte, reviewed by a kid book blogger

Review of Bro

 

 

If you like… The Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan The Rangers Apprentice prequel Tournament at Gorlan reviewed by a kid book blogger.

Review of The Ranger’s Apprentice (prequel)

 

 

TryBrotherband by John Flanagan Brotherband series by John Flanagan, great read for kids

 

 

 

If you like… The Treehouse Series by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton The 78-storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths, reviewed by a kid book blogger

Review of The 78-Storey Treehouse

 

 

Try… Danny Best by Jen Storer and Mitch Vane Review of Danny Best: Never Wrong by Jen Storer, by a kid book blogger

Review of Danny Best Never Wrong

 

 

Or… Artie and The Grime Wave by Richard Roxburgh 

Book Boy, a kid book blogger, reviews Artie and The Grime Wave by Richard Roxburgh

Review of Artie and The Grime Wave

 

 

 

Or… the My Life series by Tristan Bancks and Gus Gordon My Life And Other Massive Mistakes by Tristan Bancks reviewed by a kid book blogger

Review of My Life And Other Massive Mistakes

 

 

Or… the Weirdo series by Anh Do and Jules Faber Review of Weirdo 3: Extra Weird by Anh Do and Jules Faber, by a kid book blogger

Review of Weirdo 3: Extra Weird

 

 

If you like… Friday Barnes by R.A. Spratt Friday Barnes Girl Detective reviewed by a kid book blogger

Review of Friday Barnes Girl Detective

 

 

Try… Encyclopaedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol Encyclopedia Brown Boy Detective is still loved by kids today, according to this kid book blogger

 

 

 

If you likeThe Maze Runner by  James Dashner The Maze Runner by James Dashner reviewed by a kid book blogger

Review of The Maze Runner

 

 

Try… Gone by Michael Grant The Gone series by Michael Grant, reviewed by a kid book blogger

Review of Gone

 

 

What are you reading at the moment? What do you plan to read next?

Review: Bear Grylls Adventures (The Desert Challenge)

Bear Grylls adventure books for kids reviewed by a kid book bloggerThis week’s review is brought to you by my brother Book Boy Junior (aged 10).

Title: Bear Grylls Adventures (The Desert Challenge)

Author: Bear Grylls

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

About the book: This book is about a girl named Sophie who finds a mysterious compass that transports her to a desert where Bear Grylls is waiting to guide her back to safety. It’s good because it teaches you some survival skills that might not know.

What I thought: I thought this book was a page-turner. I read it in a couple of nights – it felt as though it went really quickly, and left me with a taste for more. I really liked the things that I learnt about the desert and the things I learnt about surviving.

Did you know, for instance, that if you’re in a desert and you find a dry lake or river, it can flash flood? So if you dig down, you’ll probably find a good supply of water buried under the surface!

I would recommend the book for kids aged 6+, and I think girls would enjoy it as much as boys because the main character is a girl. If you like a short, fast-paced book, this one is for you, and I look forward to reading others in the series. BBJ

Buy Bear Grylls Adventures (The Desert Challenge) here.

Review: The School Of Music

The School Of Music, reviewed by a kid book bloggerTitle: The School Of Music

Author: Meurig and Rachel Bowen (illustrated by Daniel Frost)

Publisher: Wide Eyed Editions

About the book: Have you ever wanted to learn how music works, what the different styles of music are or how to make your own music? Than you should read this book!

Set out like an introductory course in music, with samples available to listen to online, this non-fiction book will tell you all about how music works and how to understand the basic concepts and structures in music.

What I thought: This is a great introduction to music. If you are already know quite a lot about music, this book may not be for you, but if you just want to know how you can make your own music and learn about the fundamental concepts of music, you should definitely give this book a go.

While I have been learning about music and playing instruments for a while myself, I still really enjoyed the section on how architecture affects sound, and the lesson on how to memorise a song or piece of music. I also liked the beautiful illustrations, which really add another level to the book.

I would recommend this book for ages 10+.

Buy The School Of Music here.

Review: Assassin’s Creed: A Walk Through History (1189-1868)

Assassin's Creed book reviewed by a kid book bloggerTitle: Assassin’s Creed: A Walk Through History (1189-1868)

Author: Rick Barba

Publisher: Scholastic

About the book: Have you ever wanted to know what life was like in the time of the Crusades or the Italian Renaissance?

Filled with fun facts, historical artefacts, snapshots of important dates and people, then this book is for you. Based around the hit video games ‘Assassin’s Creed’, the book aims to bring the worlds to life.

What I thought: I really loved the way that this book was presented. It’s got lots of little pieces of different information, which add up to build a big picture. The time periods it looks at are interesting because they’re very big events in the world’s history, and it takes an in-depth look at them and the people who made them happen.

Making it based around the video game helps to get kids, particularly teenagers, interested in history, which I think is a very good thing.

I’d recommend this book for ages 10+, as you don’t need to have played the video games (which are rated at least M) to enjoy the book. If you have played the game, you’ll probably get even more out of it because you’ll understand the world’s in which your characters are moving.

Buy Assassin’s Creed: A Walk Through History (1189-1868) here.

Review: 50 Shades Of Grey Matter

50 Shades Of Grey Matter by Dr Karl, reviewed by a kid.Title: 50 Shades Of Grey Matter

Author: Dr Karl Kruszelnicki

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia

About the book: Have you ever wondered why it is dark at night? Have you ever walked into a room and immediately forgotten why you are there?

Well this book holds the answers. Learn about the wonderful ways of science and impress your friends with knowledge such as why the sky is blue, all thanks to Dr Karl.

What I thought: I really loved this book because Dr Karl makes science fun and funny. As well as the science facts in the book, some of the general knowledge in it can be useful and clever to show off! For instance, I was able to tell my mum why she’d forgotten why she’d entered a room…

Having read one Dr Karl book, I immediately searched out others.

I would recommend this book for ages 12+ as some of the science in there, although being presented in a fun way, can get a bit confusing. If you like Adam Spencer, then you will love Dr Karl.

Buy 50 Shades Of Grey Matter here.

Q&A: Zanni Louise, picture book author

Picture book author Zanni Louise interviewed by a kid book bloggerMy first interview (with illustrator Jules Faber) went so well that I thought I’d give it another go. This week, I’ve got picture book author Zanni Louise in the hot seat. Her new book Archie And The Bear, illustrated by David Mackintosh, is out now.

I thought it would be quite a helpful interview for lots of kids, as many of us have to write a picture book for a school assignment at some point or another. I’m sure Zanni’s answers and tips will help!

Have you always loved writing?

“Yes. I am sending you one of the first stories I ever wrote (see below).

“I think I was about six [when I wrote this]. Before computers were cool, I sat at my dad’s clunky typewriter bashing out ‘literature’. I wrote stories and plays all through school, and university. I even studied some writing subjects. But I never entertained the thought of being a professional author. I just sort of rolled into it.

“I began writing training and education material when I moved to the North Coast NSW about eight years ago, then I began blogging, and one thing led to the other, and now I write thousands of words a day, in some capacity.

“I do love writing, yes. I love the rush of it, and the ease of it. I am quite expressive, and writing is my preferred tool. When I got into fights with mum or dad as a kid, I used to write lengthy letters to them to make up for the fighting. They’ve kept them all.”

What made you decide to write picture books?

“I was blogging about parenting, when someone contacted me to see if I’d be interested in interviewing [famous Australian children’s author] Mem Fox. I did the interview, and it got me thinking that maybe I could start reviewing books and interviewing authors on my blog. I was being sent box loads of picture books a month, and the more I read to my children, the more I wanted to write them myself.

“A picture book is a very clean format. You can express a big story, and beautiful story through very few words. The pictures  say so much, and add something that words can’t. Most of my favourite books are picture books.”

How many picture books have you written?

“Many. Two published, one coming out with Scholastic in the next year or two, and hundreds more in manuscript form on my computer. Too Busy Sleeping was my first picture book.”

How do you go about writing a picture book – where do you start?

“I like to free-write. I start with an idea, and start writing. I see where the story takes me. Sometimes, it has a natural story arc, and the story comes to life on the page. That happened with Archie.

“Sometimes, though, the story takes years to tease out. I’ll have an idea, and will try it in one way, but nothing comes of that. Then I try a new direction. And another. And then at some point, it may be a story I’m proud of. Many of those works in progress are idle on my computer.”

When you wrote Archie and the Bear, did you have an idea in your head of what Archie would look like? Does he look like that?

“Not really. I kind of imagined him in a full body suit I think, but it’s hard to remember. David has illustrated the real Archie now. It’s a bit like when you see a movie of your favourite book, and then you can’t remember how you used to imagine the characters.”

Are you working on any new books at the moment?

“Always. I am sketching out new picture book stories most days, and am waiting on feedback for some longer stories for independent readers. I am also in the very early stages of nutting out a middle grade fiction.”

You can find out more about Zanni Louise on her website here.

You can buy Archie and The Bear here.

Q&A: Jules Faber, Illustrator

A Q&A with Jules Faber, illustrator of the Weirdo series This week, I’m doing something a little bit different, and I’m excited to present my first interview! Jules Faber, the illustrator for the bestselling Weirdo series (among other things), was kind enough to agree to be my first victim er, interviewee.

What made you get into illustration?

“When I was 4 years old, I lived in a family with five older brothers and two younger sisters. It was noisy and I didn’t always like it noisy. I discovered a television program called Mr Squiggle and watching him draw (with his nose!) on a board before a picture magically appeared out of a few lines was very exciting. I wanted to make that magic happen so I started drawing too. I haven’t stopped since!”

How long have you been professionally illustrating for?

“I started fulltime professional illustration in 2004 so this is my 13th year. I did it for many years before but it was more part-time but I did work fulltime in animation for a year in 2002.”

How did you go from it being a hobby to being a profession?

“I used to draw for fun and after seeing other people making comics and having fun doing it, the idea started to grow on me. I joined some web forums and the Australian Cartoonists Association and got excited about the possibility of doing it for a job, just as I had imagined I could way back when I was 10 years old!

“I went to college and studied Animation for three years before graduating and getting a job working on a Disney program (it was called The Proud Family). I did that for a year before realising that I wanted something with more variety. So I left and started working fulltime for myself. It also took a lot of practice over the years to get from hobby level to professional level.”

Do you have a favourite thing you like to draw?

“Of all things, I think I like to draw animals best. I used to draw them more realistically and find that really fun. But I also love illustrating kids’ books because I can have so much fun doing it. I usually have at least one book on the go at a time but sometimes as many as four!”

Has drawing for Weirdo been different to drawing for other projects?

“Most every project I work on is different from the others and Weirdo is no exception. Weirdo was my first foray into big league publishing, so I wanted to be extra careful while drawing it. That meant I did several drafts and it took me a while to visually represent some of the characters.

“Now things are different as I’ve done a lot of different sort of books since then. With my second series, the Kaboom Kid, I drew the characters in a totally different style so it didn’t just look like the Weirdo universe. Now I try to make each book look different but I think my own style still comes through anyway.”

Are you working on any new projects at the moment?

“As a general rule, I’m always working on new projects. in 2016 I drew eight books and a cover for another, which means I’m often working on books concurrently. At present though, since you asked, I am working on Weirdo 9 and The Stinky Street Stories 2.

“Coming up later this month I’ll be drawing my first book for grown-ups with Dr Karl Kruszelnicki (which is exciting, because I saw one of his books over 20 years ago and have wanted to draw one ever since. I actually credit Karl with inspiring me to consider illustrating books! So it’s one of those lovely life achievement moments where something comes full circle).”

Weirdo 8: Really Weird is out now! Buy it here.

You can find out more about Jules Faber on his website, here