Collection 1: #TopTens – Children’s Fiction Part 1

Welcome to my new collection of blog posts! This collection will be all about my favourite books in specific genres. My goal is to collect awesome books together to provide some new to-read novels for readers! There will be multiple parts to each collection since I have read so many good books by so many fantastic authors.

So to start us off, I’ve decided to introduce you to some epic children’s fiction novels. I’ve mixed in both chapter books and picture books for your children and middle grade enjoyment!

And here… we… go…

 

1. Unlimited by Kevin Miller

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Unlimited is a tale following a group of boys on a school field trip. These super smart boys embark on a journey to transmit a radio signal with their new radio station and creative show! But things go weary, since everyone is not totally impressed by this comedy/horror radio show over the airwaves…

This book is one of my top books of 2018 (and ever, to be honest). It blew me out of the water and really impressed me that it transcended the middle grade novel stigma! It was highly enjoyable and one of my top must reads. If you love adventure mixed with a pinch of comedy, then this book is for you!

Amazon.com – Unlimited

Amazon.ca – Unlimited

Briar’s Reviews #BookReview Unlimited by Kevin Miller

 

2. We All Fall Down by Eric Walters

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This tantalizing tale follows a ninth grade student named Will during the September 11th attacks. I read this book as a child and again recently as an adult. This book really impressed me with how it brought up the topic of such a tough time in history to children. I found it super respectful and a wonderful talking point. I’d highly recommend this book if you’re looking to explain one of history’s most tragic moments.

Amazon.com – We All Fall Down

Amazon.ca – We All Fall Down

Briar’s Reviews #BookReview We All Fall Down by Eric Walters

 

3. Hercufleas by Sam Gayton

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If you’re looking for an epic superhero tale, check out this super silly, teeny, tiny story! Hercufleas is a flea, and boy is he fantastic! This hero wants to help save the day from the big baddies, and they are much bigger than him! This middle grade novel is quite long, but is a truly remarkable read. It’ll keep you hooked, giggling and having a good time all throughout! I’d highly recommend this super fun book to introduce some very important themes, such as – it doesn’t matter how small you are, you can still do great things!

Amazon.com – Hercufleas

Amazon.ca – Hercufleas

#BooKReview Hercufleas by Sam Gayton

 

4. Ugly by Robert Hoge

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This motivational and inspirational tale is one of my most visited reviews on my blog! And for good reason! This truly unbelievable story is all about the author, Robert Hoge! He had a tumour on his face, which drastically changed his life – in both good and bad ways! His beautiful story is told perfectly for the eye’s and mind of a child, and it moved me! It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read and I will always recommend this incredible must read! Stories like this don’t come along too often!

Amazon.com – Ugly

Amazon.ca – Ugly

Briar’s Reviews Book Review: Ugly by Robert Hoge

 

5. Pandora’s Lunch Box: Don’t Open! by Richard Clark

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Richard Clark is the king of middle grade fiction (and picture books, but that’s in another list!). Pandora’s Lunch Box is a satire/parody of myth Pandora’s Box. This time around, Pandora’s Box is actually a lunch box! Pandora’s lunch box is suspenseful, magical and hilarious! If you’re looking for something you’ll be able to laugh at (due to unexpected adult humor through the satire of the myth) then I’d highly suggest this short yet sweet novel!

Amazon.com – Pandora’s Lunch Box

Amazon.ca – Pandora’s Lunch Box

Briar’s Reviews – Goodreads Review

 

6. Olive, the Other Reindeer by J. Otto Seibold

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Yes, I know, a Christmas book this early?! It’s never too early to prepare for the holidays! Olive, the Other Reindeer is my childhood favourite that I became instantly obsessed with! Remember that famous like.. “all of the other reindeer”? Well, what if that line was misunderstood?! Olive, the super, cute dog is ready to join in reindeer games with her unique skills! This short picture book will make your day and bring lots of goofy giggles!

Amazon.com – Olive, the Other Reindeer

Amazon.ca – Olive, the Other Reindeer

 

7. Bunnicula by Deborah & James Howe

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Another childhood favourite of mine (that we read almost every year in elementary school) is Bunnicula! This series is a fantastical novel that introduced me to horror (despite it not being that scary). This bunny with fangs has it’s own super, insane book that will blows your socks off! It’s unique and crazy – what bunny has fangs?! I’d highly recommend this series if you’re running out of good reads or want something a little different!

Amazon.com – Bunnicula

Amazon.ca – Bunnicula

 

8. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

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One of my favourite childhood authors was Robert Munsch, and perhaps his greatest book (in my opinion) is The Paper Bag Princess. I read this book over and over to my reading buddy and I kept my copy until it literally fell to bits because I read it so much! Princess Elizabeth is supposed to marry a prince when a dragon attacks! She must outsmart the dragon, all the while wearing a paper bag! This creative story is a picture book and it’s a definite must read that I highly recommend!

Amazon.com – The Paper Bag Princess

Amazon.ca – The Paper Bag Princess

 

9. The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

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This is one of the earliest books I can remember from my childhood, and I still have it to this day! A little bunny is the main character of this picture book and all he wants to do is run away from his Mom! This story was published decades ago, but is still a classic! If you’re looking for a sweet read with lots of re-read value, and an instant classic – check this super cute book out!

Amazon.com – The Runaway Bunny

Amazon.ca – The Runaway Bunny

 

10. Grandma and the Pirates by Phoebe Gilman

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Grandma and the Pirates was my go to bedtime read as a kid. It’s hilarious and inspiring! Grandma makes some incredible noodle pudding, and it attracts some crazy pirates! They steal Grandma, and Melissa must save her! I always found this book to be so strong and made me feel like the hero at the end! Melissa was a smart girl who had to beat pirates! It’s a short picture book with lots of potential! I’m honestly surprised it has so few reviews on Goodreads to begin with! Everyone in my school had read this book a million times over back in my elementary school days! Check out what I declare the best book EVER and my instant classic from my childhood!

Amazon.com – Grandma and the Pirates

Amazon.ca – Grandma and the Pirates

 

 

That’s all for my first edition of #TopTens. I have more children’s books for another round, and many more genres to come – romance, horror, fantasy, etc. Let me know if you want to see a specific genre, or if you have book recommendations for me to read! If you have books I haven’t included, comment below and tell me what else to include!
I hope you enjoyed this and found some new books to read. Let me know how your reading adventures go!
For another day,

Briar

xoxo

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#BookReview Half Done Fun by Katja Vartiainen

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Half Done Fun by Katja Vartiainen is a unique book for all of your doodling fun!

This book is seriously fun! I always liked drawing, colouring and painting when I was younger but slowly lost it as I got older (and had less time to do all the fun things I did in my youth).

There’s helpful tips and suggestions, which helps a lot! You aren’t expected to go in blind, and like the title suggests half the picture is done already! The drawing skill is said to be eleven years old or higher, but I know a few members of a younger audience who probably could have completed the pages with 1000 times more skill than I did. I think you’d just need a “mature” audience who could hold their attention on the book.

Some of these pictures were fun examples I did well on – the candle and the couch/love seat. And then there were more difficult ones – snowflakes, headphones, and a bell. There were also varying themes, so those select pictures were just from the beginning of the book. Not gonna lie, I liked the top hat and the tea pot even if mine looked a little silly. There were also some faces (which I have never been good at drawing, and my skills has clearly not improved magically) for those of you brave enough to tackle some realism. There is a large variety of different faces, genders, race, and identifying features which added some depth to this book.

On top of that, there’s also some animals (which I have yet to tackle, but believe me… I’m going to try… eventually… and hide the pictures because my talent isn’t drawing…). The eagle and the seal are by far the coolest ones!

So, there’s some variety. Some pictures are definitely “easier” than others (depending on your drawing skills, of course). I would love to see books like this used more in art classes and for children’s fun (instead of just playing on smartphones all day). In my childhood art classes the picture was always on a board and we had to draw the second half on our paper. Having options like this book would have made those art classes a little bit more successful!

Overall, this book is serious fun! I enjoyed playing along (even if I haven’t finished the whole book yet – I will slowly work my drawing skills and get better). This book could be a great activity over time with your kids, or as an adult who wants to build on their drawing skills. I think you could somehow manage to get the entire book done in one sitting, but I’d recommend using this for some long term fun!

Five out of five stars!

I received a free copy of this book from the author Katja Vartiainen in exchange for an honest review.

 

About the book:

Half Done Fun is an entertaining drawing/doodle book that makes it easier for those who want to practice their drawing and observation skills. It offers symmetrical (or closely symmetrical) things, humans, and animals that are half drawn so you can focus on finishing the other half and not worrying about ‘what to draw’. For children over 11 years and adults, as well.

Check out this book on:

Goodreads – Goodreads – Half Done Fun

Amazon.com – Amazon.com – Half Done Fun

Amazon.ca – Amazon.ca – Half Done Fun

 

Find out more about Katja on her website: http://www.artist-katja-vartiainen.de/

Or give us both a shout out on Twitter! @KatArtPics & @ReviewAlholic

 

Comment below – do you like art and drawing?

Book Review: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events) by Lemony Snicket

In honor of the Netflix release of A Series of Unfortunate Events, here is a throwback review of The Bad Beginning!!

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Photo via Goodreads.

Book Review:
Title: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events)
Author: Lemony Snicket
Date Read: October 4th – October 12th, 2016
Date Reviewed: October 12th, 2016

Introduction: I went to a local bookstore and saw that quite a few books in this series was on sale. Since I read these books a long time ago when I was younger, I figured rereading them now as an adult would be fun. I also figured since a new Netflix series is going to be coming around soon that I should go over this book series so I can watch the show!!!

Spoilers Ahead?: Yes.

Quick Summary: Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire face a horrible tragedy – their parents have passed away in a tragic fire and they must go live with the horrible, no good Count Olaf (who is not only a Count but an actor as well). When Count Olaf finds out that Violet has money from their parents in an account, he tries to marry her to acquire this money.

Evaluations: This book is an incredible children’s read that adults can also find humorous. For children, this book is full of action and adventure, and the situations seem “realistic”. They might have a horrible four times removed third cousin that could take them in!! Reading this book was quite nostalgic, but I find that it still stands. While it’s quite foolish and silly, it makes for a great adventure. Overall, I really enjoyed re-reading this book. It’s hard to imagine anyone but Jim Carrey as Count Olaf since the movie that was made was actually quite funny (and great in my opinion), but this book will make a great television series!

Plot: As an adult, the children seem boring. They have faced horrible circumstances and it seems like the children are to young to deal with it. For a child, this seems like a great adventure story. These kids have been put through terrible times, but they still fight back in child-like ways. If the reader goes into this book expecting it to be like Harry Potter (where it translates well for both adults and children) then the reader will not be impressed. This book was aimed at children, not adults, so most of the plot seems unrealistic and unimpressive. The kids are whiny, they’re constantly wallowing in distress, and they complain how they want their parents back – but aren’t mots kids like that? I work with kids, and when they have a bad day they act that way. Overall, the plot is not written to be a fantastic, adult novel. This is a children’s novel, so adults beware.

Characters: Violet, Klaus and Sunny are interesting characters within the story. I do not relate to them as much as I did when I was a kid (I used to think I was just like Violet, and now looking at these characters I can’t relate at all to any of them). Violet seems to be older and “wiser” in mature situations, Klaus seems to be more intelligent but whinier, and Sunny bites and can’t speak well. To a kid, this is essentially an Avengers roster of your average every day kids. To adults, it’s three archetype children. As an adult, I also noticed that after their parents die the children are almost perfectly fine. How I understood this concept, is that a child cannot grasp that death is forever, but an adult can. An adult understands these intense feelings, but a child cannot grasp it until it happens. So while many of the situations that occur may seem out of place for an adult, you still need to realize it’s aimed towards children. This is simply an adventurous novel for kids to read.

Count Olaf is strange, but I love him. He’s a wacky character and keeps the novel interesting. He brings a lot of the twists and turns about that keeps the reader interested. Yes, he’s inappropriate when you look at it from an adult point of view (why would he want to marry a pre-teen?..) but in a child’s point of view he’s a great, wacky villain. I like to compare him as the child’s Joker (from Batman). Wacky and strange, but they keep it interesting (of course the Joker is more intense and R-rated, but hopefully you get the point).

Themes/Creativity: This book is definitely creative! It brings a crazy and wacky plot together with some relatable child characters and then finishes it off with some silly villains. The only theme I might find in this book is family sticking together, but I’m sure there’s more hanging around for those theme heavy readers.

Uniqueness: Is this book unique? Absolutely! A book with thirteen novels in the series that kept changing it up is definitely unique. It fits in it’s own little category alongside novels like Harry Potter, Eragon and The Wizard of Oz for must reads! I would definitely recommend parents try to get their kids into reading with this series!

Strengths: This novel is definitely aimed at children! It does a great job mixing in child problems, silly villains and adventures for your child reader.

Weaknesses: This book might be considered unrealistic for adults. It definitely doesn’t transcend into the older age groups for a good, relatable read.

Score: Three out of Five.

I find that the relatable-ness factor brings this book down in score, and that the children are sometimes incredibly annoying for an adult audience.