Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Joseph, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Ungifted

REVIEWED BY JOSEPH, 12, WA

Ungifted by Gordon Korman

Ungifted by Gordon Korman, HarperCollins, ISBN 9780061742668

Joseph borrowed this book from his public library.

Gordon Korman wrote one of my favourite books (I Want to Go Home), and when I found this at the library I knew I wanted to read it. I thought it wasn’t as funny as some of Korman’s other books, but it had a great plot and kept me engaged.

Because of a mistake, Donovan is sent to an academy of selective distinction. He know’s he’s not gifted enough to be there but he decides to try to stay because he’s hiding out from the principal at his old school. (He skipped detention and managed to destroy the gym.)

All the kids at the academy suspect there was a mistake, so he has to do his best to blend in. Unfortunately he has a history of getting into trouble. I like how Korman links so many events in the story and keeps you guessing. Most readers aged 11+ would enjoy this humorous book. It involves lots of modern technology and the vocabulary suits advanced readers.


Joseph is one of our regular book reviewers. His most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of The Island of Dr Libris. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

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Book review: The Island of Dr Libris

REVIEWED BY JOSEPH, 12, WA

The Island of Dr Libris

The Island of Dr Libris by Chris Grabenstein, Random House Children’s Books, ISBN 9780553538434

Joseph borrowed this book from his public library.

I really enjoyed Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library (another book by the same author) so I was excited to find this book at the library. Although I enjoyed it, it wasn’t as good as Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library, which was my favourite book this year.

In this book: In the holidays Billy has to go to a boring cabin with his mum instead of staying at the apartment with his dad. Billy’s mum rented the cabin from Dr Libris, her university professor, for a very good price and she’s going to sit and work on her dissertation all holidays. Billy has to entertain himself, so when he smashes his iPhone and there is no other technology he has to amuse himself by reading books from Dr Libris’ giant collection. But as he starts reading he can hear strange sounds coming from the island in the middle of the lake. It’s almost as if the stories he’s reading are coming to life. Together with Walter — a boy he met around the cabins — he goes to investigate what’s happening on the island.

This is a fantasy adventure I would recommended for ages 10+ because it has quite a lot going on in the book and you need to be able to follow it. You’ll appreciate it best if you already know about well-known characters from classic literature like Robin Hood, Tom Sawyer and others.


Joseph is one of our regular book reviewers. His most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

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Book review: Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library

REVIEWED BY JOSEPH, 12, WA

ESCAPE FROM MR LEMONCELLO'S LIBRARY by Chris Grabenstein

Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein, Random House Australia, ISBN 9780857988232

Joseph borrowed this book from his school library.

Mr Lemoncello is the greatest game-maker that has ever been. When Kyle learns that his public library has been bought and redesigned by Mr Lemoncello he is desperate to win a place on the Library Lock-in this Friday. Then the children who win a place at the Lock-in discover the rules have changed. They will be racing against the clock to escape from Mr Lemoncello’s library and there will only be one winner with a cool prize.

The redesigned library is now full of awesome stuff like holograms, a domed roof covered in electronic screens, and interactive electronic ‘games’. (It makes me jealous — that library is so much better than any libraries I know.)

The story is well-written and you have to think of two or more paths for a puzzle to make all those parts slide together. I’ve reread this book lots of times since I first read it a month ago. This book hooks you from the start and keeps you wondering. It reminded me of the Encyclopedia Brown stories in parts because it gave you the opportunity to solve the clues yourself as you read along. There are also references to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and a range of other classic and modern books and authors.

This wacky, intriguing read is my favourite book this year. I can recommend it for readers 10+ (and advanced readers of 9+) because it makes the book more enjoyable if you understand the references and literary in-jokes.


Joseph is one of our regular book reviewers. His most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of Wonder. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

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Book review: Wonder

REVIEWED BY JOSEPH, 12, WA

WONDER by RJ Palacio.

Wonder by RJ Palacio, Random House Children’s Books, ISBN 9780552565974 

Joseph borrowed this book from his school library.

August is born with a facial deformity and people think he’s ugly. He has always been home-schooled but now he has to go to school and face first impressions and bullies. There are 8 parts of the book (or 9 if you count the Julian chapter). In parts 2–5 you can read everyone else’s point of view before continuing with the rest of the plot. This meant you had background to the other people in the book and I liked that. It doesn’t have a standard plot and it was different from other books I’ve read.

Wonder reminded me a lot of the book Ugly by Robert Hoge (one of my Top Reads choices in 2015), and it makes me wonder if Wonder was based on a true story too.

This was a good read, well-written and engaging — and I wanted to keep reading it all in one run.

I would recommend Wonder for advanced 10-year-old readers and above.


Joseph is one of our regular book reviewers. His most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of The Secret Island. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

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Book review: The Secret Island

REVIEWED BY JOSEPH, 12, WA

The Secret Island by Enid Blyton

Joseph reviewed his own copy of this book.

The Secret Island by Enid Blyton, Hachette Children’s Books, ISBN 9781444921106

This is an intriguing adventure story about four children from two farms who are all treated very badly. Together Mike, Peggy, Nora and Jack plan to escape to a secret island in the middle of a lake. They have to survive alone and be prepared if someone comes looking for them!

Some of the best aspects of the book are the description of the island, and when Jack goes to market. Enid Blyton really made me feel as if I was on the secret island drinking cool spring water. And when Jack went to market, I was always on my toes and thinking Jack might be caught.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book as I love adventure books where basic survival is needed. I would recommend this book to readers who love an adventure book where you want to turn every page! It would be suitable for children aged 8 and over.

Joseph is one of our regular book reviewers. His most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of Letters and Numbers. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Joseph, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Letters and Numbers

REVIEWED BY JOSEPH, 12, WA

Letters and Numbers book cover

Joseph reviewed his own copy of this book.

Letters and Numbers by Armand Jammot, Hardie Grant Books, ISBN 9781742700687

This book includes actual rounds of puzzles from the tv show Letters and Numbers (in the UK the same show is called Countdown). It consists of letter games (you are allocated letters and you have to make the longest word you can), number games (you are given a list of numbers to use and you can use any mathematical operation to arrive at a target number), and ‘word mixes’ (like a single crossword clue, plus a list of letters and you must solve the crossword clue by rearranging the letters to reveal the right word).

Each player is on their own when attempting the puzzles and it’s a competition to see who’s the best at each puzzle.

You have to complete each puzzle in 30 seconds, but in my family we always play for one minute. That way the youngest family members have more of a chance. I always like to play a round at dinner time with all my family having a go. The puzzles are challenging for all ages.

In the book there are 50 rounds of puzzles and the answers from the tv contestants and tv ‘masters’ are included at the back of the book.

I would recommend this book for families with children 9 and above, because younger kids probably won’t keep up with the style of puzzles.

I would rate this book 9 out of 10 because I thoroughly enjoy playing it.

Joseph is one of our regular book reviewers. His most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of Mister Cassowary. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

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Book review: Mister Cassowary

REVIEWED BY JOSEPH, 11, WA

Mister Cassowary

Mister Cassowary by Samantha Wheeler, UQP, ISBN 9780702253881

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Mister Cassowary is a fantastic children’s novel about a boy named Flynn and his dad visiting the farm where Flynn’s grandfather had a terrible accident and died. They’re trying to fix up the farm so it can be sold in two weeks. Flynn doesn’t know much about cassowaries (lots live around the farm) or why his dad is so scared of them.

With the help of local girl Abby, Flynn tries to discover the mystery around his grandfather’s death, about his grandfather’s own cassowary — Big Blue — and why two baby cassowaries don’t seem to have a dad.

Although I didn’t find the opening scenes intriguing, if you continue further in then you will find yourself staying up at night to find out more about the mystery of Grandad Barney.

Throughout the book you learn more and more about cassowaries and how they are a beautiful and endangered species. At the end of the book it tells you more facts about cassowaries so you can deepen your understanding of those birds.

This book is definitely worth reading for children aged 7+ — it does deal with some tough topics (like death, and facing your fears, and family relationships) in in easy-to-read novel.

Joseph is one of our regular book reviewers. His most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of Australian Kids Through the Years. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

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Book review: Australian Kids Through the Years

REVIEWED BY JOSEPH, 11, WA

Australian Kids Through the Years

Australian Kids Through the Years by Tania McCartney, ill. Andrew Joyner, NLA Publishing, ISBN 9780642278593

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Australian Kids Through the Years is an easy-to-read, informative, and beautifully illustrated picture book about Australia’s history. It is taken from the point of view of kids from different time periods.

The book has a different era every four pages — the first two include a brief description, and the next two are a setting from the era.

This book feels light in mood. The illustrations are much like colourful cartoons, with clear yet complex pictures. You might recognise the illustrator from Too Many Elephants in This House (a picture book written by Ursula Dubosarsky). My favourite pages in the book are the 1990s — everything seems modern but it’s still different from how things are now.

At the end of the book there is a summary of each time period, including photographs and paintings from each time.

I like that you can extract lots of information really easily. This is a great book for kids aged 7+ because of the easy language and because it’s fun to read.

Joseph is one of our regular book reviewers. His most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of Ugly. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

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Book review: Ugly by Robert Hoge

REVIEWED BY JOSEPH, 11, WA

Ugly (cover)

Ugly by Robert Hoge, Hachette Australia, ISBN 9780733634338

Joseph borrowed a copy of this book from his local library.

Ugly is Robert Hoge’s autobiography (this is the edition for children). It starts with Robert being born at the hospital and there’s a debate about whether or not his parents will even take him home because he has a tumour on his face and there’s something wrong with his legs. Eventually his brothers and sisters vote to keep him, and he does come home.

In the book you learn about his early childhood, primary school and high school years. There’s a lot about how he made friends and overcame teasing, lots of operations and walking with artificial legs. There’s a list of nicknames he was called in high school (some are good and some are bad).

This was a very interesting book and I liked the attitude that we’re all different in some way and there’s always a way to overcome differences. I would have liked the book to be longer, and I would have liked to read something about Robert after high school and into adulthood.

Mature readers aged 9 and above would enjoy this book and learning about Robert’s challenges in childhood.

Read an extract from Ugly on the publisher’s site.


Joseph is one of our regular book reviewers. His most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of Adam Spencer’s Big Book of Numbers. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by Joseph, Book reviews by kids

Book review: Adam Spencer’s Big Book of Numbers

REVIEWED BY JOSEPH, 11, WA

Adam Spencer's big book of numbers

Adam Spencer’s Big Book of Numbers: Everything you wanted to know about the numbers 1 to 100 by Adam Spencer, Xoum Publishing, ISBN 9781921134326.

Joseph reviewed his own copy of this book.

Do you know what a narcissistic number is? Or a Leyland Prime? Or a Cunningham Chain? These are three number concepts that you’ve probably never heard about before and they are explained in this book.

When I first saw this book I thought it would be way too complicated and I wouldn’t be able to understand any of it but Adam Spencer turns out to be a very chatty writer. And so this book is very easy to enjoy and it is not like a textbook.

Inside you will find detailed facts about the numbers 1 to 100 with some quiz questions/activities along the way. The 5X5 magic squares were my favourite because I found them challenging but do-able and satisfying to finish.

Anybody aged 10+ would love this book. It doesn’t matter if you are good at maths or not, it’s informative and interesting.

If you can’t sleep at night, reading this book is better than counting sheep.

Joseph is one of our regular book reviewers. His most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of Sister Heart. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!