Flash Review: The Happiest Tree by Hyeon-Ju Lee

By Maureen Tai, 8 August 2022

In The Happiest Tree, a tender, quietly philosophical picture book (ages 3+) by Korean writer and illustrator, Hyeon-Ju Lee, a young gingko tree is planted next to a row of apartment buildings. As the tree grows taller, what it sees through the windows of the building changes. The ground floor apartment bustles with little children at piano class. Several years later, the tree discovers that its ramrod straight trunk and fan-like leaves are inspiration for the artist who lives on the second floor. By the time the tree reaches the third floor of the building, and is able to look into the Kong’s canine-filled apartment, it is seventeen years old and living its happiest days. But seasons change, as seasons must, and the tree now spends lonely hours as it continues to age. As the tree grows closer and closer to the top of the building, it wonders, what lies ahead? Through joy and sorrow, the gingko tree remains patiently resolute and quietly optimistic, arguably the best way to be, not only for a tree but for all sentient beings on this miraculous earth. The sparse, yet effective text and thoughtful, charming illustrations make this unusual picture book a keeper for any bookshelf.

Flash Review: Win Lose Kill Die by Cynthia Murphy

By Anna, 1 August 2022

Upper middle-grade/young adult mystery/crime thriller, Win Lose Kill Die by Cynthia Murphy (ages 13+) opens at the beginning of a new school year at Morton Academy, a school where students are selected based on academic excellence. It’s the first day back at school, and protagonist/teen student Liz and her best friend, Taylor, are at a memorial assembly for Morgan, the head girl of the Academy. The past summer, Morgan and Liz were in a boat that flipped, resulting in Morgan’s death from drowning and Liz sustaining a bad head injury that leaves her hospitalised for most of the summer break. Morgan’s death is declared an accident, until the replacement head girl Jameela receives a chilling note threatening her life. Liz and Taylor, along with their friends, Kat, Marcus, and Cole, set out to find who is behind the terrible fates that have befallen their classmates, and how to protect other students from succumbing to the same deadly end.

The dark, creepy story is told mainly from the perspective of Liz, one of Morton’s top students. In between these chapters, the narrative switches to the perspective of the person behind the mystery; chilling disclosures from the murderer, telling readers how the killing actions were planned and committed. The descriptive writing, believable characters and unpredictable plot line make Win Lose Kill Die an absorbing page-turner that will appeal to fans of the series, Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson.

Summer Giveaway!

By Maureen Tai, 5 June 2022

We’re celebrating our 200th book review by giving away two signed copies of YA verse memoir, Blue² by Luna Orchid. Find out more about this beautifully written and moving, authentic Hong Kong story by checking out the Scholastic Asia interview with the author during the book’s official launch at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2022.

Two winners from anywhere in the world will be sent a signed copy.

Here’s how you can enter:

👉 LIKE this post
👉 Recommend a YA book to review in the comment section
👉 SHARE the giveaway on your IG story or Twitter feed for 1 bonus entry (be sure to tag me so I see that you’ve shared it)

Winners will be randomly drawn on 30 June 2022. GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!

Flash Review: Elsa and the Night by Jöns Mellgren & translated by Anita Shenoi

By Maureen Tai, 31 May 2022

In Elsa and the Night, an art-gallery worthy picture book (4 – 8 years old) that doubles as a bedtime story, the titular Elsa is a homely looking badger who doesn’t like raisins. One early morning, as she is picking the sweet morsels out of her granola, she hears something moving underneath her sofa. Cleverly, Elsa entices the intruder with a saucer of sugar and success! She captures a cup-sized, fish-wriggly, shadowy-grey creature that turns out to be Night, somehow having carelessly wandered into Elsa’s house. Rather impulsively, the badger pops the creature into a tin and shuts it away in the basement without a second thought. Except, as the day drags on interminably without any respite or end in sight, Elsa begins to doubt the wisdom of her actions. Elsa eventually releases Night from captivity, and tells the newly-resuscitated creature the melancholic story of how she lost her ability to sleep after suffering a tragic loss …

Elsa’s tale of loss and redemption is told in simple, poetic language and with a wry humour that will resonate with fans of other similar darkish, contemplative picture books such as Duck, Death and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch. What makes Elsa and the Night stand out are the simply breathtaking illustrations: gorgeous scenes drawn from interesting angles and perspectives, splashed with warm, muted tones of plum, chocolate, cornmeal and sage. A delightful Swedish treat from start to finish, and a story that will most certainly stay with me.