The Last of Us by Rob Ewing | An engrossing read

Set on a remote island off the coast of Scotland, The Last of Us is the story of six children who have survived some kind of plague that took the lives of their parents and the other islanders.

All communication with the outside world has been lost. With no adults to rely on, the children must use their individual skills and imaginations to survive. Each new day involves searching for supplies — the food, water and medicines that they need to keep going. All of the children have lost their parents — either through death or through a parent being absent for one reason or another. Each is troubled by this loss and their grief influences their behaviour in different ways. Memory is important to all of them and they collaborate to preserve what they can remember of the past. They also keep to routines that help them maintain social order and respect the dead.

Mixed reviews

I really liked this book and am curious what other readers think. Reviews seem to be mixed with some readers thinking that the narrator’s voice is occasionally too adult for an eight-year old child. To be honest, I didn’t particularly notice this — perhaps because I was so caught up in the storytelling that it didn’t bother me.

Overall, The Last of Us held my attention from the first page to the end. So, for what it’s worth, I found Rob Ewing’s book an engrossing read and am  happy to give it the thumbs up. I think young adult readers in particular might like it. In terms of comparison with other novels, it reminded me of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies.

[Disclosure: I received an advance review copy]

The Odd Squad Bully Bait by Michael Fry

Like the title suggests, The Odd Squad Bully Bait is about bullying.

Michael Fry’s humorous account of the struggles of Nick, “the shortest seventh-grader in the history of the world” is clever. It is a study of physical and verbal bullying in a school setting told in a way that makes it easy for children to relate to.

Nick is a loner and a misfit.  He teams up with two other odd balls — Molly and Karl — to take on the class bully, Roy.

But the story is a little more complicated than it seems. This is because Roy, who is a physical bully, is himself also a victim. He is the recipient of bullying — albeit funny — text messages.

Lessons for life

When Nick, Molly and Karl get together to form the Safety Patrol they find an adult ally.  The school’s Shakespeare-quoting janitor, Mr Dupree has the gift of telling amazing tall stories that provide lessons for life.

Nicely illustrated with funny cartoons that add to the story, The Odd Squad should appeal to children and parents and teachers.  This is an entertaining and enjoyable read and highly recommended for readers aged 8+.

 The Odd Squad : Bully Bait by Michael Fry is published by Disney-Hyperion. ISBN-10: 1423169247 ISBN-13: 978-1423169246  (Disclosure: a free review copy was provided via

Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann illustrated by Maurice Sendak

“The most wonderful things can be seen if you have the right sort of eyes for it.”

Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann with illustrations by Maurice SendakNew from Crown Publishing and in good time for Christmas comes just such a book in a sumptuous edition of  the 200-year-old story of the Nutcracker, a magical tale that opens on Christmas Eve in the Stahlbaum household where Marie and Fritz are excitedly awaiting their Christmas gifts.

Originally published in 1816, Hoffmann’s story demonstrates that children have changed very little in the last 200 years.  This edition of Ralph Manheim’s translation of the text with illustrations by Maurice Sendak was first published in 1984 and has been reissued to mark Sendak’s death which occurred earlier this year.

Nutcracker is a perfect book for bedtime stories. It is an exciting story for children and like the best children’s books has plenty to amuse the adult who is reading it aloud. There are natural breaks at the end of some of the chapters marking logical points at which to say goodnight before resuming the story next time.

Every so often a book comes along that you simply fall in love with and want to hold on to for ever. This one is a keeper.

An advance review copy was provided free of charge by the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Nutcracker by E.T.A.Hoffman, translated by Ralph Manheim with illustrations by Maurice Sendak is published by Crown Publishing. ISBN: 978-0-385-34864-5.