Review – Yesterday Crumb and the Storm in a Teacup (Andy Sagar)

Keywords: fiction, Year 5+, fantasy, magic, tea, witchcraft, funny, mysterious.

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘tea‘?

The front cover

For me, I think of boiling kettles, spoonfuls of sugar, and steam wafting from a mug. I have at least two cups of tea every day – sometimes with a cookie, sometimes just on its own. Not everyone likes tea, of course. But regardless of your opinion, you will end up loving tea by the time you finish reading Yesterday Crumb and the Storm in a Teacup by Andy Sagar.

Yesterday Crumb is a fantasy with witches and magic, but it is also a love letter to tea and its power to heal. A girl named Yesterday (or ‘Essie’) learns how to become a tea witch from Miss Dumpling – a tea witch with her own travelling teashop. Throughout the story, tea has a huge role. It’s like tea in the real world, but with one tiny insignificant difference: the tea Yesterday and Miss Dumpling make…is magical. As in, literally, it’s made with magic and can give you magical powers.

If you drink tea like Miss Dumpling’s ‘Chamomile of Confidence’, you suddenly become more confident in yourself. Another wonderful tea is ‘Jumbling Jasmine’, which gives you the temporary ability to change into any animal you’d like! My favourite part of the tea in this book is that sometimes, you get to see the recipe. It’s fun to read them and see which ingredients seem normal, and which ingredients seem…a bit strange. For example, here’s the recipe for Jumbling Jasmine:

  • One tsp ground cinderspice
  • One tsp finely chopped toothweed
  • A pinch of jasmine petals
  • One teapot’s worth of unicorn milk (boiled, preferably by tea spirit, salamander, or dragon)
  • Optional: pickled starlight, to extend the magic’s longevity.

Interesting ingredients, right? It’s hard to choose a favourite part, but I absolutely love how the unicorn milk needs to be boiled by a tea spirit. You see, tea spirits are really, really cute. Don’t believe me? Look at this little fella!

Isn’t he adorable!? His name is Pascal and I love him with all of my heart! Best character in the whole book, 10/10. He boils water and other liquids for Yesterday’s teas. He’s a little guy who just wants to make tea! Who wouldn’t love him?

The book has also been translated into German!

There are other wonderful characters, of course. Like Yesterday, Jack is a strangeling (a magical child who was left in the human world for too long). He lives and works in the teashop with Miss Dumpling. An inventor, he loves to create new kinds of candies. One candy he’s working on is the ‘Marshmellow of Memory’. When you eat it, you can see a very vivid memory! Oh, and did I mention that Jack has a wolf’s snout? This is because strangelings grow animal parts when they’re left in the human world. Jack has a wolf’s snout, while Yesterday has fox ears. Yesterday actually doesn’t like her fox ears very much (because of them, she was trapped in a circus as a freakshow performer for most of her life). It’s a shame she doesn’t like them, though. I’d love to have fox ears! If you could have an animal part, what would you have? (I’d like some cat whiskers!)

My version of Yesterday Crumb in Animal Crossing: New Horizons!

One thing I would love to see in this book is more illustrations. I’d love to see drawings of not only Yesterday, but Miss Dumpling, Jack, Madrigal – everyone! I suppose a benefit of having little to no illustrations is that you’re free to picture the characters however you want. You’re told in the story what they look like, sure, but we all have very different imaginations; so even if readers are given the same information, they can come up with wildly different ideas of what characters look like!

Here’s a little activity: since there aren’t any illustrations of Miss Dumpling – Yesterday’s mentor tea witch – try to draw what you think she looks like based on what the narration tells us.

A lady stepped out, wreathed in the aromas of cinnamon and gingerbread. She wore a dress like woven candyfloss. Her butterscotch-blonde hair tumbled from beneath a pointed hat around her rosy pink cheeks. Her eyes were the colour of lavender.

Yesterday Crumb and the Storm in a Teacup, page 1.

Here’s what I drew based on that information:

How I pictured Miss Dumpling!

Is my illustration similar to what you pictured? Or did you think she looked completely different? The best part of this activity is that there’s no ‘correct’ answer. One of our rights as readers is to be able to picture the characters anyway we want! Do share any drawings you create of Miss Dumpling, as I would love to see everyone’s different ideas!

Jack, by the German translation’s illustrator, Kristina Kister

So, because this book is truly magical and creative, I sincerely enjoyed it! I actually borrowed from a library to read this, but I love it so much that I’m going to buy my own personal copy. Hopefully, there will be more Yesterday Crumb books soon. I just have to see what happens next and – of course – what other kinds of tea there are!

It’s a fantasy book, so Felipe obviously loved Yesterday Crumb and the Storm in a Teacup. Millie actually loved it too! She enjoyed trying to figure out the various mysteries in the plot and trying to figure out what the characters will do next.

The Bookitties came up with some fun activities you could do

  • Draw a picture of Miss Dumpling based on the paragraph in this review. What does she look like? How is she similar or different to the drawing in the review?
  • Create your own type of magical tea. What power would it give you? What mystical ingredients would it need?
  • If you could replace one of your body parts with an animal’s, what would you choose and why?

Review – A Stage Full of Shakespeare Stories (Angela McAllister)

Keywords: Shakespeare, fiction, narrative, collection, age 9+, illustrations, classic.

Alice Lindstrom’s portrait of William Shakespeare

At last, an excuse to talk about Shakespeare! We all knew I had to review this guy eventually. I mean, he’s literally one of the most famous writers of all time. I cannot stress enough how famous this guy is. So, let’s look into why he’s so well-known and why we’re even talking about him over 400 years after he passed away.

William Shakespeare was a playwright (a person who writes plays) and poet. He lived from 1564-1616, in England. He was considered a brilliant actor and playwright, even becoming a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I! We’ll be talking about the plays that he would’ve performed for royalty and for countless people who watched them at the Globe Theatre.

The front cover (gorgeous, isn’t it?)

Shakespeare’s plays can be divided into three categories: comedies, histories, and tragedies. You might have heard of some of his most popular plays before: Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. If you’ve never heard of those plays before, don’t worry! We’re going to explore them a bit in today’s reviewed book: A Stage Full of Shakespeare Stories, written by Angela McAllister and illustrated by Alice Lindstrom.

A Stage Full of Shakespeare Stories is a collection of 12 Shakespearean plays, rewritten as narratives. You can read it on your own or have someone else read it for you (it’s a wonderful bedtime story!). The 12 stories you’ll read in this book are:

Othello and Desdemona from ‘Othello’
  • Romeo and Juliet (a romance between a boy and a girl whose families are sworn enemies)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (a comedy where fairies make four people fall in love randomly, leading to hilarious trouble)
  • The Tempest (a story about a shipwreck, a magical island, and a wizard guy)
  • Othello (a tragedy about a man lying so much that a husband thinks his wife is cheating on him)
  • Hamlet (a tragedy about a dramatic prince who sees his murdered father’s ghost and promises to avenge his death)
  • Twelfth Night (a comedy where a girl dresses up as a boy, but when her twin brother comes to town, there’s a lot of confusion!)
  • Macbeth (a man with a powerful wife is driven mad by ambition as he kills people so that he can become king)
  • King Lear (an aging king tells his three daughters that he’ll give his kingdom to the daughter who loves him most, and chooses the wrong daughters)
  • As You Like It (a comedy where the characters fall in love at first sight and have fun in a forest)
  • Much Ado About Nothing (an island where a man is tricked into thinking his fiance is cheating on him, and a man and woman who hate each-other are tricked into falling in love with each-other)
  • The Merchant of Venice (a scheming money-lender tries to trick a man into an evil money loan. The man must be saved in court by a woman dressed up as a man.)
  • Julius Caesar (the historical story of a Roman senator and how his fellow senators assassinated him)
Each story begins by showing the cast of characters

Every single story is well-written and engaging. Having said that, you might prefer some stories over others, depending on the type of stories you like. For example, my personal favourite Shakespearean play is A Midsummer Night’s Dream (it was the first of Shakespeare’s plays I’d ever read, and it made me laugh so hard that at one point I spat out my tea!).

“But,” you might ask me, “If the original plays are so good, why would you rewrite them as narratives?” An excellent question! You see, the original plays are written in Elizabethan English. This is the kind of English that was written and spoken while Queen Elizabeth I was ruling England. It’s very different from modern English, since 400 years have changed the language a lot.

King Lear in a storm

I’ll give you an example of what I mean. Here’s one part of A Midsummer Night’s Dream where Hermia is telling her friend Helena that she and her lover Lysander will escape the city to get married. Keep in mind, Hermia is basically just saying, “Helena, I’ll leave Athens with Lysander. Athens used to be such a great place to me, but since I met Lysander, my opinion of Athens has become sour. I just love Lysander so much!”

“Take comfort: he no more shall see my face;

Lysander and myself will fly this place.

Before the time I did Lysander see,

Seemed Athens as a paradise to me.

O then, what graces in my love do dwell,

That he hath turned a heaven unto a hell?”

(Hermia talking to Helena, Act 1, Scene 1, lines 202-207.)

So…yeah. The way the characters speak in the original plays is challenging to understand, especially if you’re not used to Elizabethan English. It takes some practice and reading to understand the original plays.

Ariel the sprite flying over Ferdinand and Miranda in ‘The Tempest’

That’s why 12 of the plays have been rewritten as narratives: to make them easier to read and to be a nice introduction into Shakespeare’s stories. It’d be so easy to be scared by the original plays’ language and think, “Um, I don’t understand this. I don’t want to read anymore.” But then you’d miss out on some of the greatest stories ever written!

So, did I like A Stage Full of Shakespeare Stories? Of course! I found it very fun to read and to see how the Elizabethan English can be translated into modern English. The only thing I can criticize is that a lot of cool details and jokes are left out of the narratives. But I think leaving some things out is necessary, since if you wrote absolutely every detail, the book would be way too long. Each story cuts down the plays to its most important details, which means that the stories aren’t usually longer than 4-5 pages.

Puck the fairy putting a love potion on Demetrius’s eyes in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The illustrations are really interesting too. They’re paper cutouts painted over in gorgeous colours. I haven’t seen this art style very often in books, so it was lots of fun to look carefully at the illustrations and guess how they were made! Sometimes you can see how the artist used their paintbrush to make different patterns on the characters’ clothes. It’s beautiful work! It makes me want to try out this art style for myself, actually.

This was a long review, I know, but it needed to be long! There’s just so much to talk about when it comes to Shakespeare. If you’re interested in learning more about him and his stories, A Stage Full of Shakespeare Stories is a brilliant introduction. You see, there’s information about Shakespeare and the 12 plays at the end of the book!

It’s not only me who enjoyed this book, by the way. Dmitri adored it, since he’s such a fan of Shakespeare (he can even recite passages from Hamlet by heart!). Surprisingly, Gus liked this book too, even though he’s told me before that he doesn’t like Shakespeare’s stuff. When I asked him why he liked this particular book, he said that the way it was written made it easier for him to understand the actual stories. “I don’t understand the original plays,” he said, “So I’m happy that I can enjoy the stories in a way that I do understand!”

Reading Passage 13 – How Fabric is Made ANSWERS

Keywords: Year 5+, informative text, 10 questions [6 MCQs, 4 short-answer questions], ‘Curious Kids’ articles, The Conversation.

Recommended time: 20 minutes.

The following passage has been sourced from a Curious Kids article from The Conversation. The article was written by Ken Aldren S. Usman and Dylan Hegh. The comprehension questions were written by me.

Read more to view the passage and the reading comprehension answers.

Continue reading “Reading Passage 13 – How Fabric is Made ANSWERS”

Reading Passage 13 – How Fabric is Made

Keywords: Year 5+, informative text, 10 questions [6 MCQs, 4 short-answer questions], ‘Curious Kids’ articles, The Conversation.

Recommended time: 20 minutes.

The following passage has been sourced from a Curious Kids article from The Conversation. The article was written by Ken Aldren S. Usman and Dylan Hegh. The comprehension questions were written by me.

Read more to view the passage and the reading comprehension questions.

Continue reading “Reading Passage 13 – How Fabric is Made”

Review – Why Do Tigers Have Whiskers? (The Conversation)

Keywords: picture book, non-fiction, research, ages 8+, science, biology, animals, fun facts, quirky, The Conversation.

The front cover

You are witnessing a historic moment: the very first time I have ever reviewed a picture book! I’ve thought of reviewing picture books before, of course, but none of them really interested me enough to write about them. So, you may ask, “Why are you suddenly reviewing a picture book, then? What’s so good about this one that you just had to write about it?”

Well, the first thing that caught my attention was that the picture book – Do Tigers Have Whiskers? – has an eye-catching title. Have you ever wondered about tigers’ whiskers before? Never have I! Looking into the book further, I realized that it’s actually a collection of one of my favourite series of articles – “Curious Kids” from a news outlet called The Conversation.

“Curious Kids” articles answer quirky questions that kids ask about nature, science, and just about anything they can think of! What’s so great about this series is that experts actually take the questions seriously and write their answers in a fun and interesting way. People of all ages can enjoy these articles. (I certainly do!)

A ferocious little kitty!

Do Tigers Have Whiskers is a collection of some of the best “Curious Kids” articles that have to do with animals. Every question is answered by a different expert. For example, Alexander Braczkowski – the person who answers the tiger whisker question – is a big-cat biologist from the University of Queensland (fun fact: he also works as a photographer for National Geographic!) I found out about him from the book, because there’s a section where it describes the experts and what they’ve studied! All the experts’ answers have been edited and made into this book by editor Sunanda Creagh, who is also the editor for the ‘Curious Kids’ articles on The Conversation.

“Why do tigers have whiskers” is just one of the questions experts like Alexander answer. I don’t want to spoil the book too much, but I just have to tell you a couple of the other questions:

  • Do sharks sneeze?
  • Do butterflies remember being caterpillars?
  • And my personal favourite: Why don’t cats wear shoes?
My drawing of a sneezing shark!

Honestly, I have no idea how people come up with questions as creative as these. Just reading the questions makes me want to read the answers immediately! Having said that, you could have a lot of fun trying to figure out the answer for yourself. Here’s a challenge for you: what would you search (on Google or in encyclopedias) to figure out the answer for, say, “do sharks sneeze”? And here’s the challenging part: you’re not allowed to just repeat the question. I reckon you’d first need to figure out the body parts needed for humans to sneeze, then see if sharks have them. The rest is up to you! Can you figure it out?

Once you’ve done your research and figured out your answer, go ahead and read the answer in the book! How close were you? It doesn’t matter too much if your answer was wrong. The important thing is practicing your research skills so that one day, you could answer other people’s creative questions, or perhaps write a book just like Do Tigers Have Whiskers? (If you do, please let me know, because I’d love to read it!!)

Do butterflies remember being caterpillars?

Another great thing about this book is its glossary. To remind you, a glossary is the part of a book (a text feature of non-fiction texts) where it tells you what some words mean (their definitions). Why do you think you’d need a glossary? Well, it’s so readers completely understand the book and the words its using. You wouldn’t learn very much if you didn’t understand the words, after all!

Some of my favourite words in this book’s glossary are:

  • Burrow
  • Chrysalis
  • Metamorphosis
  • Proprioceptor

No, I won’t tell you what those words mean! You’ll need to look them up for yourself! What I can tell you is that each of those words (and every other word in the glossary) talks about something really interesting. (Especially ‘metamorphosis’!) Plus, if you can say those words, define them, and spell them correctly, imagine how impressed your teachers and friends would be!

Learn more about animals like this little fella!

To summarise my thoughts on Do Tigers Have Whiskers?, it’s the perfect introduction to becoming an expert on animals. It gives its readers the opportunity to read some great, reliable research and to practice their own researching skills. I tried to figure out if there was anything I’d change about this book. The only thing I could think of was that it’s not long enough! I need more information, more questions and answers! I want to know absolutely everything there is to know about sneezing sharks, shoeless cats, and tigers’ whiskers!

If you’ve read this far into the review, congratulations! You have unlocked a sneak peek into the book. This will give you a taste of what to expect, and to see if the language is a bit too challenging (which is absolutely fine!). So, tell us, why do tigers have whiskers? Here’s the first sentence:

“Just as the hairs on your arm help you feel a soft breeze, or a spider crawling on you, a tiger’s whiskers give it information about its environment.”

(Page 4, Alexander Braczkowski)

It goes without saying that Sakura, our research-loving cat, enthusiastically recommends this book to pretty much everyone. Those who find the language in the book a bit challenging could try having someone else read it to them and explain what it means. Also, the book is very scientific, because it talks about biology and shows what proper scientific research looks like. So, Louise the scientist cat has a hard copy that she reads very often!

Listening Exercise 2 – New South Wales Teacher Shortage ANSWERS

Keywords: Year 8+, preparation for VCE English, journalism, audio, 13 questions overall [8 MCQs, 4 short-answer, 1 extended response].

Listen to all of the audio before answering questions. Feel free to listen to it again while you answer.

Click here to go to the audio’s webpage: abclisten.page.link/L9rFzBRYuBkwXNRt5

Glossary:

ATAR = “Australian Tertiary Admission Rank”. A score that Year 12 students get that shows how they rank against all other Year 12 students. Generally, you need an ATAR to get into university. The highest possible score is 99.95.

HSC = “Higher School Certificate”. An academic award (certificate) Year 12 students in New South Wales can get at the end of the school year.

Read more to view the answers.

Continue reading “Listening Exercise 2 – New South Wales Teacher Shortage ANSWERS”

Listening Exercise 2 – New South Wales Teacher Shortage

Keywords: Year 8+, preparation for VCE English, journalism, audio, 13 questions overall [8 MCQs, 4 short-answer, 1 extended response].

Listen to all of the audio before answering questions. Feel free to listen to it again while you answer.

Click here to go to the audio’s webpage: abclisten.page.link/L9rFzBRYuBkwXNRt5

Glossary:

ATAR = “Australian Tertiary Admission Rank”. A score that Year 12 students get that shows how they rank against all other Year 12 students. Generally, you need an ATAR to get into university. The highest possible score is 99.95.

HSC = “Higher School Certificate”. An academic award (certificate) Year 12 students in New South Wales can get at the end of the school year.

Read more to view the questions.

Continue reading “Listening Exercise 2 – New South Wales Teacher Shortage”