BLOG TOUR: Spylark by Danny Rurlander

Spylark Jacket lowresI’m kicking off the autumn term on the blog with the first stop on the blog tour for Spylark by Danny Rurlander. What a great way to bring in the new term!  Spylark is a fantastic middle-grade thriller full of adventure, lots of action and some great characters – not to mention a really cool and clever idea at the heart of the story!  Spylark is set in the author’s native Lake District and uses the islands that inspired Swallows and Amazons as the backdrop. Danny Rurlander’s debut novel is a perfect adventure of the absolutely classic kind. With themes about the importance of friendship, bravery, terrorism and technology, readers will be swept up into the daring mission to save a Very Important Person from assassination. A thoroughly riveting read, Spylark is a must for middle grade bookshelves!

Danny Rurlander Photo.pngDanny Rurlander studied English Literature at the University of East Anglia, and worked in the finance sector for several years. He now serves on the staff team of a multi-cultural, city-centre church. While at University Danny spent two years learning to fly with RAF, as an officer cadet in the Cambridge University Air Squadron.  He has lived in Austria, Kenya, Devon and Australia, but always longed to return to his native Lake District where he grew up exploring the fells and camping on islands, so it’s no wonder his descriptions of the landscape where Spylark is set are so real! I’m delighted to welcome Danny to the blog today to share some insight into what inspiration means to him.

Inspiration

“There’s a moment, roughly half way through the book, when Jim Rothwell, an older man whose wisdom and life experience help the child protagonists navigate some of the trickier moments of their adventure, offers a challenging view of love.

 ‘Joel, my lad, love is not always a feeling. Sometimes it’s a decision.’

This down to earth and counter-intuitive idea of love is also true, in my experience, of ‘inspiration’.  Inspiration, for the fiction writer, is not so much a feeling, but a decision, an act of the will.  If you sit around waiting for it to turn up, you’ll never write anything. But where does inspiration come from?  The answer is so obvious it seems almost unnecessary to say it.  Inspiration comes from two spheres: what you already know and what you don’t know, but know you need to know.

In writing Spylark a number of key influences and experiences (the first sphere of inspiration) found their way into the book: my own childhood adventures in the part of the world where the book is set; a first-hand knowledge of flying aeroplanes gained through my time with the RAF; and perhaps most of all, memories of books I read as a child.  In particular I grew up not only reading Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons adventures but trying to live them out!

Spylark is a classic action-adventure thriller, involving spies, criminals, and a group of child heroes who save the day.  But the book plays with this genre by means of a key technological concept. Tom, the main character, who has suffered a life-changing accident several years before the story begins, ‘escapes’ the harsh realities of his life by means of his home made drone.  This enables him to be in two places at once, and enables the narrative to switch between locations in the blink of an eye.

This brings me to the second source of inspiration – what you don’t know, but know you need to know. Before I started I knew nothing at all about drones.  So I had to find out enough to make the story convincing.  Writers traditionally call this ‘research’ but that has always sounded rather outfacing and dull when you are itching to get going with the story.  I prefer to think of it as fueling the tanks for the creative energy of writing.

The internet makes this easy of course. I subscribed to a few drone blogs to understand the technical stuff.  I then tried to get my head around what could actually be possible, and how a terrorist might use this technology for destructive purposes.  (At one stage if – for some reason – my hard drive had been examined by the police, it could have looked rather suspicious!)  But it’s a good idea not to rely too heavily on Google.  I also bought a book on drones, went out to the local beach to watch people flying them, and met up with a local enthusiast to watch him at work and ask him questions.

The key to this is not to think of what you don’t know as a barrier but an opportunity.  I often say that writers are nosey-parkers!  They learn to listen in on other people’s conversations on the bus; they observe the world around them in fine detail, tune into the stories of other people’s lives and actively imagine the world from someone else’s point of view.  After all, one of the reasons children read is to learn about what they don’t know.  If as a writer you can learn something new, the chances are the story will be even more vivid and fresh than those that come from your experience.”

Find out more at dannyrurlander.com and chickenhousebooks.com. SPYLARK by Danny Rurlander is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

With thanks to Chicken House for sending me this book to review. Be sure to follow the rest of the blog tour:

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Book of the Month: The Land of Roar by Jenny McLachlan

book of the monthThe Land of Roar by Jenny McLachlan, published by Egmont, is a joyous celebration of the wonder of imagination. I absolutely loved it – not just because it took me back to being a young girl playing imaginary games in the garden, but because it is storytelling at its best. So I’m really pleased to make it my Book of the Month!  It’s Jenny McLachlan’s middle grade debut and demonstrates her skill at weaving wonderful stories full of heart and imagination.  Illustrations by Ben Mantle throughout will no doubt bring this to life if the cover art is anything to go by (I saw a proof copy).

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The Land of Roar by Jenny McLachlan

When Arthur and Rose were little they were heroes in the Land of Roar, an imaginary world that they found by climbing through the folding bed in their Grandad’s attic. Roar was filled with things they loved – dragons, mermaids, ninja wizards and adventure – as well as things that scared them (including a very creepy scarecrow…). Now the twins are eleven, Roar is just a memory. But when they help Grandad clean out the attic, Arthur is horrified as Grandad is pulled into the folding bed and vanishes. Is he playing a joke? Or is Roar…..real?

Arthur and Rose might be twins but as now they’re eleven, and secondary school beckons, they couldn’t be more different. Rose is only interested in her friends and her mobile phone; whereas Arthur longs for things as they used to be when he and his sister played together.  Sibling frustrations simmer off the page, so when Grandad suggests sorting out the attic so they can create a more grown-up den, the twins are given a welcome distraction. But as they sort through the junk in the attic, reminders of their imaginary games are rife– an old rocking horse, a wizard hat and even a map of Roar. Is someone trying to get their attention?  It seems that way especially when Arthur is convinced he can hear the ominous rustle of feathers from the Z-bed – the gateway to Roar. Rose refuses to be drawn back into her childhood world but Arthur is convinced in her heart, she remembers Roar – and does care about it.  And he’s right. For when their Grandad vanishes and Arthur follows to rescue him, Rose isn’t far behind. It’s clear the twins’ connection to Roar is more important that they could ever have realised! Together with their best imaginary friends – Wininja the Wizard, Prosecco the Moonlight Stallion and dragons Pickle and Vlad they must defeat their arch nemesis and surely the most creepy of villains, Crowky the winged scarecrow, in order to save Grandad.

The Land of Roar is just as fantastic as you could imagine and you are quickly immersed in the magic, as Arthur and Rose rediscover their role as Heroes of Roar.  With engaging characters, just the right amount of humour and a whole lot of heart, this story will bring out your inner child and you’ll want to go through the z-bed too!  Jenny McLachlan’s skill is creating stories with characters you care about, with narratives that are as exciting as they are heart-warming and The Land of Roar is no exception. Grandad is delightful with his eccentricity and care for his grandchildren. Rose and Arthur’s changing relationship is perfectly captured as they prepare for their new school.  Their trip to Roar reminds them (and us) that you never have to stop believing in the power of imagination. It’s no wonder my son and niece were so inspired by it they played for hours in the garden their very own imaginary quest, using a map to guide them! I hope there will be more adventures to come – Hear me Roar!

Find out more at www.jennymclachlan.com

With thanks to Egmont for sending me this book to review.

 

 

 

New reviews: picture books for brightening up the bookshelf!

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Today I’m sharing my reviews of some really delightful quirky picture books, perfect to brighten up any young readers bookshelf and brilliant for sharing.  Step into a world of dinosaurs, cheeky rabbits and magical umbrellas to name a few – you won’t be disappointed!

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The Truth about Dinosaurs by award-winning author and illustrator, Guido Van Genechten, is a wonderful picture book all about dinosaurs – but with a twist! Learn all about what chickens and dinosaurs have in common told from the chicken’s perspective as he takes us on a tour of his family tree. Travel back millions of years and see how dinosaurs evolved and actually really are related to one of our favourite farm yard birds. This is a great fun read, full of fascinating facts and lively colourful illustrations bringing the world of dinosaurs (and chickens!) to life!

Find out more www.fivequills.co.uk

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The Happy Lion by Louise Fatio and Roger Duvoisin is a gorgeous story about a very friendly lion, who lives in a zoo in France. Every day he greets the inhabitants of the town as they walk past his enclosure and they always smile and say hello.  But one day when his gate is left open and he decides to take a stroll, all the town folk no longer smile and wave – they run the other way! Except for young Francois who knows just what to do.  The Happy Lion is a lovely tale with wonderful artwork about understanding who you are and finding friends, and is sure to be a firm favourite with a new generation of readers of all ages! A re-issue of a popular classic, The Happy Lion won the inaugural German’s Children’s Book Prize in 1956.

Find out more at www.scallywagpress.co.uk

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Grandma Z by Daniel Gray-Barnett is a delightful story celebrating the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.  Albert’s birthday is rather dull until the moment Grandma Z sweeps in and takes him on an extraordinary adventure. Showing Albert how to find excitement even in the most ordinary of things, Grandma Z creates a birthday never to forget. Illustrations leap off the page bringing their adventures to life and drawing you in to the excitement. A perfect story for reminding us of the wonder of the world and just how special our grandparents can be, Grandma Z is full of joy!

Find out more from www.scribblekidsbooks.com

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Nits by Stephanie Blake is a vibrant and cheeky story featuring Simon the rabbit – and some rather pesky nits! Simon is totally in love with the new girl Lou, but she doesn’t notice him – that is until she comes into school with nits! Suddenly she needs a friend and Simon is ready to help with a hug and a kiss. Full of fun, Nits is guaranteed to entertain young children – and tackles the rather itchy subject of nits in a light-hearted way.

Find out more at www.geckopress.com

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Umbrella by Elena Arevalo Melville is a lovely tale about a magical umbrella. Clara is feeling rather sad as she has no one to play with at the park. She picks up an old umbrella and to her surprise it comes to life! Beautiful muted illustrations capture the magic as, from that moment on, Clara is introduced to a world where anything is possible  – from helping old Mr Roberts climb trees again to stopping the Moodies from crying. The umbrella has the answer for everything where kindness is concerned and we see that friends come in all shapes and sizes. Young readers will want to experience the magic of the umbrella again and again – and see the ordinary become extraordinary! Umbrella is endorsed by Amnesty International because it celebrates our rights to express ourselves and to choose our own friends.

Find out more at www.scallywagpress.co.uk

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Iced Out by C K Smouha and Isabelle Bunnell is lively picture book featuring the antics of Wilfred the Walrus and Neville the Narwhal as they try and fit in amongst a class of not very friendly seals.  In a story even young children will identify with, Wilfred and Neville are not popular because they’re different – that is until Betty Beluga arrives! Betty changes everything and even though she impresses everyone with all her talents – especially Wilfred and Neville- she isn’t bothered about being popular. She helps Wilfred and Neville see that being different doesn’t matter and they become firm friends.  Bright and expressive illustrations capture the narrative in this engaging tale about friendship and being happy with who you are.  Great fun!

Find out more at www.cicadabooks.co.uk

With thanks to Cicada Books, Five Quills, Gecko Press, Scallywag and Scribble for sending me these books to review.

Guest post and review: The Switching Hour by Damaris Young

Today is publication day for a brilliant debut middle-grade novel from author Damaris Young, The Switching Hour – congratulations! Damaris studied on the Writing for Young People MA at Bath University, where she wrote this novel taking inspiration from her childhood in Southern and Central Africa.  Damaris now lives in the UK and I’m very excited to be hosting a guest post by her on the blog today!

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Cover art: Kelsy Buzzell

The Switching Hour is set in a land suffering from a terrible drought, which has unleashed a dark and dangerous creature, Badoko, who snatches children away to eat their dreams. One night, Amaya’s little brother Kalen is taken and Amaya embarks on a nerve-wracking, spine-tingling chase to rescue him.  She only has three days before The Sorrow Sickness sets in and all memory of her brother is lost.  Accompanied by her faithful companion, her goat Tau, Amaya meets Mally, and finds the true value of friendship as together they search for Kalen in the heart of the Blackened Forest. Full of bravery and heart, The Switching Hour, weaves a wonderful tale, drawing you in, bewitching the senses and showing the true power of family bonds, in the face of absolute peril. A fantastic read and one that highlights the havoc that climate change can cause – watch out for the Badoko!

I’m delighted to welcome author Damaris Young to the blog today to share her thoughts on writing about the weather in The Swtiching Hour and how it represents a force to be reckoned with.

Writing About Weather In The Switching Hour by Damaris Young

“Writing about weather can very easily get overlooked when you’re speeding ahead to get the exciting bits of the plot, but it is such a vital part of writing a story. Weather is a key player and often drives the action by affecting the characters behaviour or mood, or adds tension and conflict, like a storm on the horizon.

I find that it’s all too easy to resort to clichés when it comes to writing about weather, so I allocate time to really think about new and fresh ways to describe it. I find it helpful to go outside into the garden or the park and close my eyes; can I smell the rain? Can I hear the wind? Can I feel the cold or the heat?

In The Switching Hour, it was very important to get the weather right, as it is set during a terrible drought. In my story the drought unleashes a creature that is my interpretation of climate change, a monster that eats the dreams of the young in much the same way that climate change affects the generations to come.

To immerse the reader in the story, I had to focus on some of the main elements of weather: wind, temperature, pressure, humidity, clouds, and precipitation. In every scene, I had to be thinking how the temperature would affect the characters, how the lack of clouds would mean the sun was brighter and harsher, the lack of wind would mean there was no reprieve from the heat. My protagonist, Amaya, seeks out shade on her journey but the ground beneath her feet becomes increasingly too hot to walk on. The lack of rain means that the leaves fall off the trees, the ground cracks and the food resources become scarce.

I lived in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana for many years growing up, where there is low rainfall for large parts of the year and where the natural plants and animals are adapted to the climate. I drew on that experience to write about the heat and the lack of rain, but what I wanted for The Switching Hour was to write a story about an extreme weather event and its devastating effects, much like climate change has an impact on global weather patterns.

For me, the most important thing to remember when writing about weather was not to underestimate its value to the story. I wanted the drought to be a character in itself and so I treated it like a character, giving it motives and thoughts and desires through Badeko, the Dream Eater. This in turn, changed the weather from an afterthought to becoming something real and powerful, a force to be reckoned with.”

Find out more www.damarisyoungauthor.com 

With thanks to Scholastic for sending me this book to review and inviting me to host a guest post.

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New review: The Story of Little Mole who knew it was None of his Business by Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch

 

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Celebrating 30 years of publication, The Story of Little Mole who knew it was None of his Business has delighted readers young and old. It is written by Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch, a German author/illustrator team, who are highly regarded for their humourous and playful characters. This quirky detective story enjoys a cult following and has been published in ‘plop-up’ format – and would you believe, has even been performed as musical theatre?!

When it arrived on my doorstep, I will admit to being totally surprised by the theme having not come across it before. But it is very funny and given how much toilet humour can be found in many funny books for children, this book was clearly way ahead of its time when it was originally published in 1989.

 

The Story of Little Mole who knew it was None of his Business tells the tale of a little mole who wakes up one morning only to find another animal has ‘done it’s business’ on his head! Furious, he sets off to find out who and what follows is a very funny investigation of animals and their varying types of poo! Mole manages to solve the mystery and exact a rather fitting (if slightly smaller) revenge.  I can imagine young children laughing out loud and sharing lots of ‘ewwww’s’ as they hear and see Mole’s journey of discovery!  This would be a great story to read aloud, with the large text and illustrations making it easy to share in a group setting.

There will be Little Mole events at the Edinburgh and Bath Children’s Literature Festivals this year and there are some great downloadable activity packs available from Pavilion here.

I’m delighted to be offering x3 copies of The Story of the Little Mole courtesy of Pavilion to giveaway.  Find out more on my Twitter account.

With thanks to Pavilion for sending me this book to review.

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New reviews: Brilliant books from Barrington Stoke

Barrington Stoke publish really great books. That about sums it up! If you want stories that are engaging, entertaining, thought-provoking and totally accessible, then these are for you. And written by award-winning children’s writers and illustrators to boot!  Read on for my pick of their recent releases, great to engage those children and young people who aren’t avid readers – as well as brilliant quick reads for those who are.

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Special Delivery by Jonathan Meres with illustrations by Hannah Coulson is a touching tale of helping others and forging friendships across the generations.  Frank wants a new bike, so in order to save some money towards buying one he helps his sister with her paper round. And that’s how he meets an old lady who loves cowboys. Frank thinks she’s really cool and when he finds her in the park, a bit lost and confused, he decides to help her find home.  Little does he know his kindness will be repaid and the promise of a new bike won’t seem so far away! Sensitively handling the difficult subject of dementia for younger readers, this is a heart-warming story that will bring a smile to your face.

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The Unlucky Eleven by Phil Earle illustrated by Steve May introduces the hilarious antics of the Saints football team.  Due to their excruciatingly poor form, the team think they are cursed and do everything they can to beat it. Unfortunately their attempts lead to more embarrassment and even injury! It’s up to Stanley to save the day and help his team-mates believe in themselves. Perfectly capturing the world of football, friendship and superstition around sports this is a great fun read for football fans young and old.

These two titles are from the Little Gems range which brings together the best children’s authors and illustrators and clever design to create super readable stories, for children aged 5-8.

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The Spectacular Revenge of Suzi Sims by Vivian French illustrated by Julia Patton features a sports day drama as Suzi’s excitement about sports day is cut short.   Suzi gets off on the wrong foot with Mrs Grit, a supply teacher. Mrs Grit and Suzi’s rival, Barbie, turn Suzi’s life upside down where everything goes wrong and it seems sports day dreams of success are fading fast. Brilliantly bringing to life the perils of school from dealing with class rivals, unfair punishments and worst of all, a horrible supply teacher, young readers will relate to and thoroughly enjoy this story!

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Gamer by Chris Bradford is a thrilling adventure and the first in the Virtual Kombat series.  Set in a dystopian future, where people escape their despair into the world of Virtual Kombat, Scott is a street kid with big dreams. Like everyone else around him, he wants to join Virtual Kombat and get off the streets for good. When it seems his dream to comes true, he can’t believe his luck.  A gripping narrative captures the peril of this story as Scott realises Virtual Kombat is not what he thought – the pain is real and so is the danger – perhaps it’s not just a game after all. A great choice for all those young gamers out there, rereleased with a new cover, the story doesn’t hold back and readers will be hooked from the first page.

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Eagle Warrior by Gill Lewis is a beautifully written tale focusing on endangered wildlife and conservation.  When a golden eagle is found settled near her family farm, Bobbie is determined to protect it – especially when it becomes clear the eagle is in danger.  The challenge before her is made even more difficult when it seems Bobbie will be sent to boarding school, she does not want to leave her beautiful moorland home. A family row ensues with Bobbie stuck in the middle. Utterly thought-provoking and believable, the story highlights man’s disregard for wildlife even in the face of the most magnificent of species and how standing up to this can make all the difference to conservation. It’s a lesson Bobbie’s whole family learn from and the result is a new found respect for the place they call home – and each other.  The author has pledged her PLR royalties derived from this book to Wild Justice, a new organisation challenging the legalities of wildlife law.

These titles are from the middle grade category.  These books are also written by the best children’s authors and are designed to be engaging quick reads – perfect for emerging, reluctant and dyslexic readers. Clever editing and design tricks ensure stories are totally accessible.

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Because of You by Eve Ainsworth is a timely and relevant story dealing with issues around cyber-bullying and merging families.  Teens will undoubtedly identify with Poppy and the challenges she faces as her mum’s new boyfriend moves in, along with his daughter Kayla.  The reality of family break-ups and new beginnings is palpable as Poppy’s voice shares the heartbreak and frustration she feels. Coupled with spiralling problems at school, let down by friends and family, it’s a huge relief (for the reader too!) when Poppy realises she has people on her side – people who care about her and believe in her.  Both heart-rending and heart-warming this story shines a light on the pain of divorce and cyber bullying.  Hope is never far away once you recognise the importance of being honest as a family.

This is a teen title, taken from a range which offers fantastic stories to engage teen readers, often about gritty and relevant topics. Even the most reluctant of teen readers will be drawn to these well-written and accessible books.

Find out more about the brilliant books available from Barrington Stoke here. With thanks to Barrington Stoke for sending me these books to review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer 2019 reading ideas!

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Now that the holidays are upon us, a few suggestions for summer reads might be handy for those moments when the kids are a little bored and with possible long-distance travel on the horizon! So today on the blog I’m sharing some ideas for summer reading, based on the books I’ve read over the last few months all of which are available now from your local bookshop or library.  Happy holidays – and happy reading!

Illustrated fiction

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Fabio The World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective: Mystery on the Ostrich Express by Laura James illustrated by Emily Fox published by Bloomsbury, is the second story centred on one of my favourite character’s in children’s fiction! Set in the world of Lake Laloozee, Fabio the Flamingo sets out to solve another mystery, helped by his hapless sidekick, Gilbert the Giraffe. This time it’s the height of summer and a jewel thief is on the loose – Fabio must use all his trademark deductive powers to find the culprit. The clever plot has you turning the page right till the end and gentle humour abounds throughout making this a thoroughly enjoyable story.  Coupled with gorgeous illustrations and fabulous print production, this really is a fantastic read – especially if you happen to be travelling by train this summer! Check out my review of Fabio’s first adventure here.

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Molly Rogers to the Rescue by Cornelia Funke illustrated by Kasia Matyjaszek published by Barrington Stoke, is a fun pirate adventure set on Monkey Skull Island. Brave Molly Rogers returns for more swashbuckling and seafaring escapades. She must defeat Captain Firebeard and his brilliantly named gang of pirates – Billy the Bald, William Wooden Hand to name a few. Young readers will delight in Molly’s adventure and enjoy cheering her and her friends on as she shows you don’t have to be big to be brave! Great fun girl-power and an accessible read with lovely illustrations highlighting all the action.

Middle grade

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The Great Animal Escapade by Jane Kerr published by Chicken House, is a delightful tale featuring the heroes first discovered in The Elephant Thief. Danny and his best friend, Maharajah the elephant return for a new adventure set in the Victorian zoo, Belle Vue.  Danny is settling into his new found home and family life with zoo-owner Mr Jameson and his wife, but has no time to get comfortable as a plot to frame him and ruin his reputation becomes clear. Mystery abounds as animals escape and Danny is the main suspect.  You’ll be whisked away by the well-written plot, with larger-than-life characters brilliantly bringing to life Belle Vue and it’s inhabitants.  The narrative keeps you guessing as Danny faces increasing danger.  Danny’s charming friendship with Hetty, the zoo veterinarian’s daughter, adds another layer to the story – he needs all the friends he can get!  The Great Animal Escapade is indeed a great escape – animal lovers and fans of mystery stories will not be disappointed.

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Clifftoppers The Arrowhead Moor Adventure by Fleur Hitchcock published by Nosy Crow, is a great summer read reminiscent of Enid Blyton adventures, but brought bang up to date with determined young heroes.  Cousins Aiden, Chloe, Ava and Josh are staying with their grandparents and stumble on a mystery they can’t help but try to solve. Adventure ensues with plenty of action scenes as the gang discover a jewel heist in progress and villainous baddies at the heart of the crime.  Great interaction between the cousins, each with a distinct personality, creates believable characters – and of course Bella the dog proves a valuable helper! Edge-of-your-seat moments mean danger is never far away, but with a bit of teamwork and being just a bit clever, the bad guys get their comeuppance.  For fans of adventure stories Clifftoppers makes a great summer read!

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Little Badman and the Invasion of the Killer Aunties by Humza Arshad and Henry White with illustrations by Aleksei Bitskoff published by Puffin is a hilarious debut featuring the wonderful voice of Humza Khan (aka Little Badman) and his misadventures with some very scary aunties. Humza is the greatest rapper Eggington has ever known – at least that’s what he thinks. But he could never have imagined just how important his rapping skills would be, as strange occurrences and disappearing teachers reveal a threat to take over the world! Prepare to laugh-out-loud as Humza’s personality and brilliant observations of childhood experiences leap off the page, captured in lively illustrations. Ably supported by a delightful cast including his Grandpa (well actually his Uncle – Humza will explain!), his good friend Umer and class swot Wendy Wang, Humza sets out to find out just why the aunties are taking over the school. It’s a crazy, madcap and mischievous adventure perfect for entertaining readers young and old.

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Peril En Pointe by Helen Lipscombe published by Chicken House is an exciting debut with an original take on the idea of a spy school! When Milly’s mum goes missing and a mysterious scholarship arrives for Milly to attend the prestigious Swan House School of Ballet, so begins a quest to find out just where her mother has gone.  Beset with problems, Milly must prove herself in more ways than one.  She makes an admirable heroine and is supported by a cast of fairly unlikely – but very likeable – sidekicks. Peril En Pointe draws you in to the world of intrigue – with ballet and spies at it’s heart! I love the pairing of these two worlds and the school setting – and who doesn’t love a spy gadget?! A great debut novel with the promise of more, introduce your children to Milly this summer and they’ll be totally entertained.

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My Parents Cancelled My Birthday by Jo Simmons illustrated by Nathan Reed published by Bloomsbury is a story about Tom, whose birthday party is cancelled after a series of inexplicable disasters. Think falling pigs, dogs succumbing to accident and health issues.  Tom enlists the help of his best friends and younger sister to organise his party (rather than worrying his parents) and their organisational antics are brought to life in fun illustrations throughout. Brilliantly capturing the everyday chaos of family life, the disappointment of birthday plans gone awry and trying to keep your parents happy, there is humour-galore! If you want something to make you laugh this summer, read this book!

Young Adult

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Summer of No Regrets by Kate Mallinder published by Firefly Press captures that wonderful time in life when you’ve just finished school, exams are behind you and a long summer stretches out in front of you.  Featuring four friends, each with very different backgrounds, who pledge to live a regret-free summer, taking risks and doing things that scare them to make sure they don’t waste a moment of freedom!  A strong, well-balanced narrative creates a feel-good story, as each of the friends discovers ‘no regrets’ is a hard motto to live by – especially if you are dealing with family issues. Summer of No Regrets weaves a tale of friendship which many will relate to.  It also creates some very believable scenarios handling sensitive themes with great care.  Carefree enough to provide an escape yet not without heart, this is a great holiday read.

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The Starlight Watchmaker by Lauren James published by Barrington Stoke is a fantastic and fast-paced sci-fi story. With an unlikely friendship at the centre of the story, this is a hugely imaginative and accessible read.  Hugo is the android watchmaker working in the dusty attic of an elite academy; Dorian is the privileged student being educated there. Wonderfully described, together they uncover a dastardly plot placing the whole academy in danger. Creating a world of unique beings, clockwork inventions and the power of science at its best and worst, The Starlight Watchmaker is a fantastic story.  Read it and escape to a place far away from our own – you won’t want to return!

With thanks to the publishers for sending me these books to review. They will find a great home with my Bookbuddy school!

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