Review – Sugar and Spice Collection

Sugar and SpiceFairies and ponies, ballerinas and bows; all things nice, may not be what all little girls are made of but this omnibus picture book collection, Sugar and Spice, fresh out of the uber productive creative forge  of EK Books is sure to delight even the fussiest of feminie tastes. Designed with little girls in mind, this three-volume picture book gift set features stories by three different authors, each illustrated by Gwynneth Jones. Enjoy them individually or as a boxed collectors’ set.

The firstPatch and Ruby we devoured was Patch and Ruby by Anouska Jones. My Miss 10 reviewed this one but I’m inclined to agree with her response. Sweet and impossibly alluring, Patch and Ruby is a story full of ponies and chooks and cuter than cute meeces. Jones’s narrative is warm and restrained enough to sustain short attention spans whilst the illustrations excite the tactile senses and illicit quite a bit of cheeky humour. Keep an eye out for the chook in rollers. So clever.

Patch and Ruby is a gentle tale about finding your perfect fit and making friends along the way. The notion of seeing things from another person’s point of view is secreted away in Patch’s longing to find that missing something in his life yet pre-schoolers will be satisfied enough, soaking up the gorgeous equine inspired atmosphere of this tale.

Dance with MeDance with Me is the second slice of sweetness in this set. Penny Harrison has penned another story ostensibly aimed at sweet young ladies under eight but adorable enough to be enjoyed by pre-schoolers, everywhere. Dance with Me is a timely tale of affections and life changes. I can’t help but hear Frank Mill’s, Music Box Dancer in my head when I read about the beautiful pink clad ballerina who ‘lived in a small, wooden box.’ She and her little girl enjoy many joyful dances together until one day the little girl grows up and the ballerina is free to enjoy her own dances far from her box. However, her adventures are cut short when she is relegated to the shelf for many years until one day, someone new calls her to ‘come, dance…’ once more.

Gwynneth Jones’s spectacular use of altering perspectives, subtle colours, and Decalage (the metaphoric visual interpretation of the text to show a different meaning) is spot on and once again cleverly pins readers to their seats.

The Great Sock SecretSusan Whelan is the author of the third spicy instalment, The Great Sock Secret. I love how the fairies rule supreme in this toe-levelled view about one of the first world’s most cryptic mysteries: where do all the odd socks go? Jones’s eye-popping illustrations are phenomenal, revealing to the reader what Sarah already knows about the missing socks in her home. Whelan takes the reader on a whimsical treasure hunt of subterfuge as Sarah tries to preserve the fairies’ secret from her mother.

Fast paced and fun, The Great Sock Secret will make you stop and think next time you are faced with mismatched laundry and reticent children.

All three Sugar and Spice picture books will bring a smile to your face and comfortable warmth to your heart. They are easy to read, diverse in flavour and delivery and beautifully presented; the rich paisley patterned spines are just glorious.

These beautiful tales also stirred up many fond childhood memories; of my own music box dancer, backyard ponies, and the inevitable transitions we all make from childhood to adulthood. Thankfully, stories like these ensure an infinite sense of innocent pleasure and pure magic for generations to come.

Highly recommended for ages 4 and above.

For those lucky enough to reside in NSW, head to the Wallsend District Library this Saturday, 8 October for the official Sugar and Spice Collection Launch.

EK Books October 2016






Review – Alice and the Airy Fairy

Alice and the Airy FairyThe rapidly expanding Little Rocket Series more than satisfies the insatiable reading appetites of confident readers, dishing up enticing junior fiction that most notably snags the fickle attention spans of boys. Alice and the Airy Fairy, the latest in the series, has a decidedly more girly flavour.

Packed with pretty pink girl appeal, the Airy Fairy is more than a whimsical tale about fairies. It’s a story steeped in sensitivity, family relationships and the power of believing.

Alice’s second cousin, Mary, is coming to stay with them. Mary is a little eccentric and a touch mystical. She plays the flute in the middle of the night and prefers to sleep out in her ‘old blue campervan’. All of which Alice’s Dad sums up as being an ‘airy fairy’.

Alice is entranced by Mary’s presence and being a great believer in fairies herself, tries very hard to get Mary to divulge more of her ‘fairy-ness’. But the deeper she and her best friend Zoe, delve, the more inconsistencies they discover, including the revelation that all is not well in Mary’s world. She is sadder than a fairy ought to be for one; evident in her wrenching paintings, her droopy wings and her pensive music. And she can’t even remember where she left her magic wand.

BlobsAs the lines between fairy-dom and reality become as increasingly blurred and misshapen as one of Mary’s blue blob paintings, Alice and Zoe attempt to get to the bottom of Mary’s malaise and missing wand. The wand is eventually found but no amount of magical incantations issued by them is able to release its magic.

Frustrated but not defeated, Alice convinces her father to transport a selection of Mary’s abstract paintings to the Art Gallery where she was due to exhibit them. Mary is unable to do so herself because of an unplanned visit to the hospital.

In a comical turn of events, Mary’s paintings prove so popular the gallery curator asks for more to sell, which Dad dubiously concedes to. Only the first set of paintings weren’t actually Mary’s. They were the mistakenly delivered, genius brushstrokes of Bonnie, Alice’s baby sister.

But it’s not art that saves the day or even stubborn magic. It’s Alice’s unshakeable belief in Mary that finally enables her to refocus on where her true worth and value lies.

I love how Alice’s naively bejewelled determination is able to cut through diversity and adult opinion to help someone she genuinely believes in.

Margaret ClarkVeteran children’s writer Margaret Clark has created an enchanting story that encourages young readers to question everyday norms. She sprinkles just enough speculation throughout each short, easy to read chapter to ensure Alice and the Airy Fairy is as easy to love as fairy dust but is still one hundred per cent plausible, while sending a gentle reminder for us to be kind to and aware of each other.

Emma Stuart Emma Stuart’s touching illustrations add even more colour and joy to an already joyful read. And in case you are ever in the need of one; there are even instructions on how to make a magic wand. Fantabulous!

Whether you’re into fairies and Kombis (and who isn’t?) or not, Alice and the Airy Fairy is sure to charm the wings off you, especially if you are 7 – 10 years old.

Little Rockets by New Frontier Publishing July 2013


The Boy Might Be A Genius, But The Author Is Too

Artemis FowlIt’s taken me almost 10 years and something like 20 attempts to read Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl, but I finally managed it this week. It hasn’t taken so long and so many tries because it’s a tricky book to read—more because I until this week didn’t own a copy and was attempting to read it in surreptitious snatches.

Those reading snatches took place when I worked casually as a bookseller (I was reminded of my Artemis Fowl reading attempts while writing my previous blog about a certain dodgy customer who used to frequent said bookshop, but that’s an M-rated blog, while this one’s G).

Working more than five consecutive hours meant I was entitled to a 15-minute break, and said breaks took place in the back room, which also housed bulk stock, vacuum cleaners, and all other manner of retail menagerie. Colfer’s Artemis Fowl, with its shiny, glittery, come-read-me cover was stacked just near the step I perched on to munch my muesli bar.

Any avid reader will tell you that there’s no such thing as too much reading, and that nothing is as frustrating as being forced to tear yourself away from a good book. Especially when it entails going back to working in retail, which in turn involves contending with the likes of shoplifting customers like Mr Itchy or erotic-fiction-exchanging ‘customers’ like He Who Freaked Us Out Too Much To Be Named.

PluggedAnd a good book Artemis Fowl is. It grabbed me from the outset and in every subsequent passage I read (or even re-read, as I didn’t own the copy I was reading and subsequently couldn’t dog-ear the page to mark my place). In fact, even though I hadn’t read it in its entirety, I used to proffer Artemis Fowl to furrow-browed parents who implored me to help them find a book to get their sons reading.

I mean, what boy (or girl) could resist a book about a 12-year-old genius criminal mastermind intent on taking over the world? Especially given that Fowl is constantly battling against fairies and goblins and trolls who have all manner of technological and magical wizardry at hand? What adult, male or female, for that matter, could resist such a book?

The latter is a question I’ve been asking myself as I devoured this book this week. It’s pitched at kids, but the adult me was astounded at Colfer’s ideas and execution. The sheer, mind-boggling cleverness of his ideas, the firmness with which he captures and holds your attention, the pace at which he propels you through the story, and the wit with which he does it are, well, things I wish I were capable of.

Colfer’s protagonist might be a genius mastermind, but I think the author is too. It’s not going to take me another 10 years and 20 attempts to read the rest in the series—I’m off to buy them and the unrelated, but adult book he’s just released now.