I’m a huge fan of Leanne Hall’s first two YA novels, This is Shyness and Queen of the Night. They are weird and wonderful stories that have haunted me since I first read them. When I heard that Leanne had a new novel coming out, aimed at younger readers I was very excited. I knew she would bring the same magic to a story for younger readers as she did for teens. Reading the blurb I got a tingle of excitement and when I started reading I knew it was going to be a very special story. I got completely wrapped up in Iris and the Tiger and I know you will too.
Twelve-year-old Iris has been sent to Spain on a mission: to make sure her elderly and unusual aunt, Ursula, leaves her fortune–and her sprawling estate–to Iris’s scheming parents.
But from the moment Iris arrives at Bosque de Nubes, she realises something isn’t quite right. There is an odd feeling around the house, where time moves slowly and Iris’s eyes play tricks on her. While outside, in the wild and untamed forest, a mysterious animal moves through the shadows.
Just what is Aunt Ursula hiding?
But when Iris discovers a painting named Iris and the Tiger, she sets out to uncover the animal’s real identity–putting her life in terrible danger.
I absolutely loved Iris and the Tiger! Leanne Hall enchanted me with her tale of magic and mystery. It is a really unique and refreshing story with plenty of excitement to keep you reading. There is something in this book for everyone – art, magic, mystery and wonderful characters.
Iris’s mission from her parents, to get in her aunt’s will, becomes her search to discover the mysteries of her aunt and her sprawling estate. From the moment that Iris arrives Aunt Ursula’s estate in Spain, she knows that there are strange things going on. According to her parents her aunt is near death but she looks young and full of energy. Iris sees things in her aunt’s mansion and out in the grounds that she can’t explain. The mansion, Bosque de Nubes, is full of surreal paintings by Iris’s Uncle James, who died many years ago. One of these paintings is called Iris and the Tiger but Iris can’t find it anywhere in the mansion. She sets out to uncover the mystery of the painting and find the real tiger that she is sure is lurking somewhere on the estate.
Aunt Ursula’s estate is brimming with a mysterious magic. There are all sorts of weird and wonderful things that Iris and her friend Jordi discover while exploring her aunt’s estate. There is a monster car, tennis-playing sunflowers, shoes with a mind of their own and a ghostly dog.
I love Leanne’s characters and there are plenty of interesting ones in this story. Iris is my favourite because she knows there is magic out there and she goes in search of it. She stands up for what she believes is right, especially when she knows that her parents are wrong. Aunt Ursula is shrouded in mystery and you just know that there is something weird about the other people who live and work at Bosque de Nubes.
If I hadn’t read one of Leanne’s books before and knew that I loved them, the stunning cover would be enough to make me want to pick it up and read it. Sandra Eterovic’s cover illustration is the perfect match for the book and really draws the reader in. I love how each of the paintings on the cover relate to the story.
The ending of the book is so perfect and made me want to go right back to the start and read it again. Grab a copy of Iris and the Tiger and get lost in Leanne’s magical story.
Kristina Webb is one of the most popular artists on Instagram ( @colour_me_creative, @kristinawebb), with a following in the millions. Kristina has just published her first book, Colour Me Creative, with HarperCollins. It is part biography, following Kristina’s story so far, and part creative journal. The book features 50 art-inspired creative challenges for you to complete, including a face-paint challenge, a dream wardrobe challenge and a doodle challenge. These challenges are heaps of fun and give you the chance to be creative and go crazy.
Here is a video of Kristina Webb talking about Colour Me Creative:
Win a copy of Colour Me Creative!
You can enter to win a copy of Colour Me Creative by completing one of Kristina’s challenges, the Masked Ball Challenge. Here are the details:
Imagine you were just invited to a masquerade ball! Using paint, pencils, feathers, glitter, or anything else you
wish, create your dream mask on this template. Afterward, feel free to cut it out and take a selfie in your fabulous mask.
You can download the template here – Masked Ball Challenge.
When you have finished your mask simply take a photo of your mask and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org, along with your name and address. Competition closes Friday 30 October (NZ only).
With the weather getting colder and wetter it’s great to have something crafty up your sleeves to entertain your children. I was pretty useless at art as a kid (and still am) but my dad helped me make some pretty wicked crafty creations. There are some great art and craft books around and our library shelves are always bursting with them. Candlewick Press have just released a really cool new craft book by Marthe Jocelyn, called Sneaky Art: Crafty Surprises to Hide in Plain Sight.
Sneaky Art is chock full of quirky yet simple craft ideas that kids will love to make. Marthe says that sneaky art ‘is quick to install and effortless to remove’ and that each project in the book is ‘meant to be displayed in a public place, for people you may know or may not know, in a made-you-look-twice spirit of fun.’ There are Fractured Faces that you can stick anywhere, tiny bunting for a teeny party, a teensy-weensy washing line, and miniature houses to place in unexpected places. My favourite idea is something I might just try in the library – Library Shouts. These are large speech bubbles, with sayings like ‘Best Book Ever!’ and ‘Read Me!’ that you can stick in books to make them jump out at you.
The thing I love about all the ideas in Sneaky Art is that you can make them from stuff you already have at home, including junk mail, magazines, and Post-it notes. Part of the fun of making the things in this book is finding somewhere funny to leave them. Together you can plan your sneak art attack.
Next time you’re looking for something to entertain your kids grab a copy of Sneaky Art from your library or bookshop.
The wonderful Gecko Press introduced us to the remarkable Belgian picture book creator, Leo Timmers, when they started to publish his books in English. He is incredibly talented, not only as a storyteller, but also as an artist. His illustrations are vibrant and almost seem to jump off the page, so I can’t think of a better illustrator to create a picture book about an artist whose paintings become real.
Mr. Renny is a very good artist. Whatever he paints looks just like the real thing, but no one wants to buy his paintings. He has no money, and he’s hungry. One day a mysterious stranger offers to make Mr. Renny’s dreams become real. Now whatever he paints becomes real, including a hotdog, a car, and a ship. But what happens when his friend wants to buy one of his paintings?
The Magical Life of Mr. Renny is a colourful masterpiece that children and adults alike will love. Like Leo’s other books, including Who’s Driving? and I am the King, the illustrations are bright and vibrant, and he makes them look 3D so they jump off the page. This is one of those picture books that you want to pick up again and again just to stare at the illustrations and find what you might have missed last time you looked. Leo adds in lots of little details for you to find, like the goat who has dropped her eggs or finding all of Mr. Renny’s treasures in his mansion. The story itself is funny and thoughtful and would make a great read aloud. It promotes lots of discussion about art, greed and friendship, and you could have children talking for hours about what they would paint if their paintings became real. Local author, Bill Nagelkerke has done a fantastic job of translating the book into English and making it flow so well as a read aloud. Gecko Press’ books are always beautifully designed and this is no exception, from the front cover and the inside flaps to the back cover with its frame design.
Get your hands on the work of art that is The Magical Life of Mr. Renny by Leo Timmers.
5 out of 5 stars