Day: December 11, 2013

2013 Roald Dahl Funny Prize Winners

Roald Dahl Funny Prize 2013

The Roald Dahl Funny Prize is a British children’s book prize that “aims to promote laughter and humour as a feel-good factor when reading, to draw attention to funny books as readable and enjoyable books and to reward authors and illustrators who write and illustrate books using humour.”  There are two age categories to the award.  Here are the winners:

AGES SIX AND UNDER

Monkey Nut

Monkey Nut by Simon Rickerty

AGES SEVEN TO FOURTEEN

I Am Still Not a Loser. Barry Loser, Spellchecked [I.E. Written] by Jim Smith

I Am Still Not a Loser by Jim Smith

Review: Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel

palace of spies

Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel

Peggy is an orphan who lives with her uncle, aunt and beloved cousin, until she is thrown out of the household for refusing to marry the man her uncle has chosen for her.  Peggy has few options, so she turns to a gentleman who seemed to know her mother when she was alive but whom she only met the day before.  With no other choices, Peggy is drawn into the sparkling grandeur of being a lady in waiting at the palace of King George I.  But she does not go as herself, instead she assumes the identity of Lady Francesca Wallingham.  As Fran, she joins the circle of girls serving the queen but she also must be watchful for anyone discovering her.  As the intrigue increases, Peggy realizes that anyone around her could be a spy and starts to question what happened to the real Fran.

Zettel manages the near impossible in this novel.  She has a historical novel that stays true to the time period and yet manages to read as swiftly as a more modern teen novel.  Without ever breaking out of the setting or inserting modern sensibilities, Peggy still manages not to turn off readers with her opinions.  Readers are quickly shown what life was like for an orphaned and penniless girl in this time with a sexual assault on Peggy soon after we meet her.  This helps underline her lack of power and explain why she takes on the danger that she does for the rest of the book.

Zettle plots this book with great skill, revealing the true motivations of the characters slowly.  There are several mysteries at play here and more that emerge as others are figured out.  The pacing of the book is don’t very well too, with enough historical detail to make sure the setting is strongly presented but never too much to slow down the speed of the storytelling.

A dark and mysterious historical novel, this is much less froth and much more intrigue and betrayal with some romance too.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Review: The Tiny King by Taro Miura

tiny king

The Tiny King by Taro Miura

There once was a very tiny king who lived all alone in a big castle, guarded by an army of big soldiers.  He ate at a huge table with an enormous feast that he could never finish.  He rode a big horse that threw him off every time.  He had a big bathtub with a fountain.  But all of these things did not make him happy.  He slept alone in a big bed and could not sleep very well.  Then the tiny king married a big princess and they were very happy.  They had ten children and everyone was happy.  The soldiers were given a vacation, the castle was bright and busy, they finished the entire large feast, they all rode together on the big horse, everyone bathed together in the big fountain, and best of all, the king could now sleep soundly with all of them fitting perfectly in the big bed.

Miura is a graphic designer from Japan and he has created a book that is gorgeously designed.  His illustrations are big and bold, strong shapes popping with color against the solid backgrounds.  The backgrounds change as the tone of the book changes.  When the king is lonely, the backgrounds are solid black.  The page where he meets the big princess is white.  Then the pages where he has a family are bright colored.  Throughout, Miura incorporates pieces of paper with letters, writing, or stylized vintage objects making it even richer.

The story is a simple one, but also one that speaks volumes about how riches and power do not mean that you are living a fulfilling life.  It was not until love and people entered this tiny king’s life that he was happy.  Don’t expect a subtle storyline here.  It is too basic a book for that, one appropriate for very small children to enjoy.

The story of a tiny king with a big heart and huge amount of love to share is one that toddlers and young preschoolers will enjoy.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.