New reviews: Tom Fletcher’s Book Club 2018: a bundle of brilliant summer reads!

tom fletcher logoTom Fletcher’s Book Club is a wonderful initiative aimed at encouraging a love of reading for pleasure and to help families discover exciting children’s books. Launched in early summer, the Book Club brings together ten titles selected by Tom, a member of the hugely successful band McFly, a parent himself and a best-selling children’s author.  Helping parents encourage their children to get into reading is a cause close to my heart, so I was delighted to be invited to read and review this fantastic collection of books. There is something wonderful about receiving a large box of books through the post – especially when they arrive in a set of gorgeous WHSmith stationery boxes!

I have a soft spot for WHSmith; my local branch being the first place I ever bought a book and where I used to spend many an afternoon browsing the bookshelves planning which book I was going to spend my pocket money on next!  Here I discovered Mrs Pepperpot, Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High, Judy Blume and then Flowers in the Attic, Maeve Binchy and many others.  Today, there are so many fantastic titles on offer with so many brilliant authors writing for children, it can be really hard to know what to choose – for both children and their parents.  Tom’s Book Club provides a great antidote to not knowing where to start and sets children on the path to discovering brilliant books, all the while giving much needed support to parents and teachers including online resources, reviews and author interviews.

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Instantly attractive, with colourful jackets and a range of genres, the books are a brilliant selection of some of the most talented authors and illustrators in children’s books today. Some already familiar to me and some I hadn’t yet read, today I’m sharing a brief review  of each title – all available from WHSmith and as a bundle with a helpful discount.

The Chocolate Factory Ghost by David O’Connell illustrated by Clare Powell I loved this story – full of adventure, magic, sweets and much more. A brilliant combination of fun and fantasy with some great characters, the mystery of Honeystone Hall is great entertainment. Review available here.

Dave Pigeon by Swapna Haddow illustrated by Sheena Dempsey I literally laughed out loud at this delightful and daft tale of two pigeons.  They are quite simply hilarious, doing their best to escape the clutches of a very mean cat. Expect lots of comedy, some feather-brained ideas (pardon the pun!) and some delicious baking!

The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones by Will Mabbitt illustrated by Ross Collins One of my earliest reviews, this tale tells of bloodthirsty pirate, strange creatures, dear little nose-picking Mabel and of course, treasure.  It’s a rip-roaring adventure and will have readers gasping and giggling at the same time!

The Nothing to See Here Hotel by Steve Butler illustrated by Steven Lenton A marvellous, madcap adventure with a very likeable hero and a weird and wonderful cast of characters you want to see to believe!  If creepy critters, ghoulish goblins and hungry garden lawns are your thing, this is the perfect book for you – I shall definitely be looking for this hotel next time I’m in Brighton!

I Swapped my Brother on the Internet by Jo Simmons illustrated by Nathan Reed Ah we’ve all been there – that terrible moment where you wish away your irritating sibling! But you should be careful what you wish for as Jonny discovers on receiving an unusual array of ‘swaps’ for his brother, creating mayhem, chaos and lots and lots of laughs in this very funny tale of sibling rivalry gone awry! Review available here.

The Travels of Ermine Trouble in New York by Jennifer Gray illustrated by Elisa Paganelli  You have to love the gorgeous Ermine the very determined and full-of-character travelling stoat!  And you’ll love her fabulous New York adventure complete with sight-seeing, diamond thieves and a near-miss with hungry alligators.  Young readers will be eagerly awaiting her next adventure and will delight in making their own travel scrapbook as featured at the end of the book.

Iguana Boy by James Bishop and illustrated by Rikin Parekh Superheroes lookout – you’re about to be upstaged by Iguana Boy!  It may not be the coolest superpower but talking to iguanas can be surprisingly useful – especially when you have to save the world.  This story is full of madcap ideas and very funny moments with comic strip humour readers will love.

Timmy Failure Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis A detective agency with an over-confident detective who never quite gets it right? A polar bear sidekick? Brilliantly drawn quirky illustrations?  It’s a recipe for success and this story features hilarious observations throughout making Timmy Failure a very funny and at some points quite touching read.

My Magical Life by Zach King illustrated by Beverly Arce My Magical Life features Zach, a boy with yet to be discovered magical powers facing all the perils of secondary school. Hugely colourful with zany cartoon illustrations the story keeps you thoroughly entertained. I didn’t read it with the app, but am sure this will be a hit with young readers, especially those who are more reluctant to put down their screens and pick up a book.

The 39-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton The most incredible (and slightly bonkers) treehouse ever to exist is brilliantly brought to life in this story. Inventive with everything you could possibly imagine happening at once, the story is bursting with adventure, larger than life characters and lively illustrations leaping off the page.

Find out more about Tom Fletcher’s Book Club 2018 #TomsBookClub

With thanks to the organisers for sending me these fantastic books to review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New review: Tomorrow written and illustrated by Nadine Kaadan

Tomorrow written and illustrated by Nadine Kaadan, was published this week by Lantana Publishing.  Lantana publish stunning books by authors and illustrators from around the world and this is their first picture book in translation, marking a milestone for the company.  Nadine Kaadan is an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator from Syria now living in London. She has published books in many countries and her mission is to encourage a reading culture in the Arab world.

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Tomorrow by Nadine Kaadan

Yazan no longer goes to the park to play, and he no longer sees his friend who lives next door. Everything around him is changing. His parents sit in front of the television with the news turned up LOUD and Yazan’s little red bike leans forgotten against the wall. Will he ever be able to go outside and play?

A strikingly illustrated story, Tomorrow tells of a boy who can no longer play outside due to the war torn streets outside his home. Yazan’s mother and father are understandably so absorbed in watching for news of the war, they forget that their son needs to play.  His mother in particular is so fraught with worry she no longer paints her beautiful pictures.  But when Yazan takes matters into his own hands, desperate to play on his bike, he faces imminent danger and the discovery that there is no one left to play with and everything is different.  His father comes to find him, but doesn’t even shout – which surely makes Yazan even more confused.  Finally his mother explains what is happening and to make his days brighter, paints a beautiful picture across his bedroom wall so that even if only in his imagination, he can play outside.

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Tomorrow is a moving story, both beautiful and bittersweet demonstrating how a war can affect every day life even down to ruining playtime. Captured through cleverly eye catching illustrations and a simple narrative, you are drawn in to this scary world where nothing is as it was before.  Glimpses of colour reflect the hope of tomorrow being the day when everything returns to normal. The story demonstrates a unique expression of love between mother and son and that war and fighting cannot take away the imagination and creativity that lives in us all.

Tomorrow would be a good way to introduce issues around conflict with children.  The war in Syria that still rages on; not all those affected leave their homes as refugees and there are families still living with day to day fighting – even when it’s not making news headlines.  Accompanied at the end by a note to readers from the author that describes the reason for this story, it won’t fail to leave you with a sadness for all those caught up in conflict and hope for tomorrow being a better day.

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 With thanks to Lantana Publishing for sending me this book to review.

Find out more at www.nadinekaadan.com

 

 

New review: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X has been on my TBR shelf for some time – I should have read it straightaway.  In a word it is brilliant. The author Elizabeth Acevedo was born and raised in New York City and her poetry is infused with Dominican bolero and her beloved city’s tough grit. With over twelve years of performance experience, she has delivered talks, won multiple poetry slam awards and featured in many international publications.  This is her debut novel and it will have you holding your breath, crying and cheering all at the same time. A really moving and uplifting read.

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The Poet X By Elizabeth Acevedo

Xiomara has always kept her words to herself. When it comes to standing her ground in her Harlem neighbourhood, she lets her fists and her fierceness do the talking. But Xiomara has secrets – her feelings for a boy in her bio class, and the notebook full of poems that she keeps under her bed. And a slam poetry club that will pull those secrets into the spotlight. Because in spite of a world that might not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to stay silent.

Xiomara Batista has not had the easiest childhood. Born late to Catholic parents who thought they couldn’t have children, she and her twin brother are seen as gifts from God and as such her mother remains fervently thankful to this day.  Attending daily mass, regular confession and preparing for confirmation are all part of the norm for Xiomara. As an attractive young woman, Xiomara receives a lot of unwanted attention and her mother, Mami, persistently reminds her of the sin this can lead to.  Xiomara’s father is not around and when he is, he doesn’t have much to say. Whilst her very intelligent brother attends a private school, Xiomara goes to the local Harlem high school, where drug abuse and gang culture are standard. She takes refuge in words – she may fight with her fists but the real battles with herself, her uncertainties about her faith, her parents and her feelings about a forbidden romance take place on the pages of her precious notebook.  With her twin struggling with his own secrets and her best friend too devoutly religious to help, Xiomara finally sees her words for the way out they truly are – especially when a new English teacher invites her to a Spoken Word Poetry Club.

The 357 pages of this book flew by and short of life’s necessities interrupting I read it in one go. Written entirely in verse, I found myself clutching it and rushing for my train so I could hurry up and get back into Xiomara’s world.  She is one of the most absorbing characters I’ve ever read – her voice is loud and clear and her words thought-provoking, powerful, tender, true.  A coming-of-age story like no other, you are completely drawn into Xiomara’s thoughts; you can feel her pain, her fears, her hopes, her joy at discovering and recognising the pangs of first love. With each passing day, Xiomara’s relationships with those around her become more complicated. Poetry enables her to truly express herself and find the determination to explore who she really is whilst dealing with the oppression of those who are supposed to love her the most, but show it the least. I would have quite happily screamed at her mother for being so ridiculously lacking in love, so blinded is she by her faith.  This story is not without complexity but it touches on so many things a teenager trying to find their identity might feel (in fact so many things we all sometimes feel) and each verse generates real emotion. Acceptance, kindness, home, laughter, friendship, faith, teaching, discipline, passion, self-belief; love has many faces and this story powerfully explores them all. The Poet X is absolutely one of the best YA books I’ve read – an empowering story, it’s no surprise it was a New York Times bestseller.  Everyone should read it.

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Find out more at www.acevedowrites.com.

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

Book of the Month: A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood

book of the monthWhen this book arrived through the letterbox on a cold, damp, dreary morning some months ago it was like the promise of summer lit up the room! A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood, published by Scholastic is the perfect summer read for Book of the Month. Laura Wood is the winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing and is the author of four novels in the middles grade Poppy Pym series.  This is her debut YA novel and what a fabulous way to start writing for teens!

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Gorgeous inside and out, A Sky Painted Gold brings to life a decadent, glorious time of innocence, coming of age and finding love. Centred on seventeen-year-old Lou, the story begins with a discarded apple, a beautiful empty old house, new arrivals and innocent hopes for adventure! Lou is an aspiring writer with a large family. Her eldest soon-to-be-married sister is her confidante and best friend, but change is on its way. With the arrival of the owners of the empty house, the famous Cardew family, Louisa takes her first invited steps, not just across to the old house, but into the discovery of romance and the glittering world of the wealthy. Celebrations and cocktails galore and glamorous new acquaintances all conspire to turn Lou’s head – and her heart. Who wouldn’t fall in love with stunning surroundings, fabulous parties and beautiful people? But this story wouldn’t be as thrilling without the dark secrets it holds and family ties that threaten to overwhelm. The more Lou becomes involved in this world of glamour that so entices her, the harder these secrets are to ignore.

I absolutely loved this story. Beautifully described, I was drawn to the world created with its heady summer celebrations, the hint of love and the potential heartbreak. With a wonderful cast of characters and a story line that spans an array of relationships, you felt every moment and every dance! I loved Lou’s relationship with her family; her desire to be a writer and the love at the heart of this novel. Echoes of Gatsby run throughout and the picture created of summertime in the 1920s is gorgeous. The perfect summer read, A Sky Painted Gold will light up your bookshelf!

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Find out more at www.lauraclarewood.com . 

Thank you to Scholastic for sending me a proof copy of this book to review.

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