Author Archives: thebookactivist

About thebookactivist

Celebrating children & young people’s reading through all sorts of book-ish activities.

Picture Book Review: Pip and Egg by Alex Latimer illustrated by David Litchfield

Pip and Egg by Alex Latimer illustrated by David Litchfield

Pip and Egg are like two peas in a pod. But as their friendship grows, so do they. For Pip, this means growing roots. For Egg it means growing wings – and she can’t wait to use them. And though their lives take them away from each other, true friends always find their way back to one another, and there are no truer friends than Pip and Egg.

What a beautiful story. At a time when many of us haven’t seen our friends for such a long time, this really does remind us that true friendship never ends. From the first page, Pip and Egg are utterly enchanting as they meet and begin their friendship of a lifetime. As they each change, they adapt and find new ways to play together. When Pip grows into a sapling, Egg still visits him every day.

And when Egg becomes a beautiful blue bird, discovering her wings and the world to explore, Pip tells her she’ll always know where to find him. Young readers will be captivated by their friendship and identify with the care they have for each other. The narrative is brought beautifully together through the warmth of the stunning, detailed illustrations. I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice it to say, it couldn’t be more a more perfect illustration of friendship – in both words and pictures.

With thanks to Scholastic for sending me this book to review. Pip and Egg publishes on 6th May 2021.

Picture Book Review: The Busy World of Richard Scarry published by Faber

I was utterly thrilled when Faber sent through not one but FOUR Richard Scarry picture books to review. The renowned children’s publisher has launched a new list of books by the internationally adored Richard Scarry. Packed with zany humour and warmth, these four classic titles, promise to restore Scarry’s place as a national treasure and bring his best loved characters to a new generation of young readers.

Richard Scarry is one of the most-loved children’s illustrators of all time. He wrote and illustrated more than 250 books, which have gone on to sell more than 150 million copies globally. He once wrote: ‘It’s a precious thing to be communicating to children, helping them discover the gift of language and thought.’

I have incredibly fond memories of these books and can remember pouring over them drinking in the detailed illustrations and wonderful world of fantastic animal characters. Not only this, but they are full of fascinating facts and information providing entertainment AND education! The four titles published by Faber include Richard Scarry’s Best Busy Year Ever, Peasant Pig and the Terrible Dragon, The Adventures of Lowly Worm and the ABC World Book. And they are just as brilliant as I remember – so much to see and lots of interaction. Children will LOVE getting know the characters who are so full of fun. And they’ll love looking at all the amazing illustrations and getting drawn into Richard Scarry’s wonderful world of imagination.

If you’ve never been to the Busy World of Richard Scarry – or perhaps your children haven’t – now is the time to visit! These books offer a shared reading experience you’ll enjoy again and again and they are the ideal entertainment for any day of the week.

With thanks to Faber for sending me these books to review. Find out more at https://www.richardscarry.com/

Picture Book Review: A Way with Wild Things by Larissa Theule illustrated by Sara Palacios

A Way with Wild Things by Larissa Theule illustrated by Sara Palacios

Poppy loves bugs, butterflies and bumble bees, but she’s less confident around people. When a very special dragonfly lands on her grandma’s birthday cake, Poppy finds herself in the limelight. Could this be her moment to shine?

An uplifting story about a nature-loving girl Poppy, who finds her confidence just when she needs it most. Colourful, lively illustrations bring Poppy and her insect friends to life, celebrating the wonder of nature. And they cleverly capture Poppy’s shyness as she has to navigate family events, showing her blending into the background.

Young readers (and probably some grown ups too) will identify with that feeling of having no confidence and maybe hold their breath as Poppy inadvertently takes centre-stage. Thankfully, it’s her love of nature that enables her to shine and the warmth of her grandma’s embrace reminds her how special she is. Simply told, and wonderfully drawn, A Way With Wild Things is a poetic tale to warm the heart.

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

BLOG TOUR Day Two: Monstrous Devices by Damien Love – A Hotel Rooftop, Paris.

If you’re looking for an action-packed, fantasy thriller then Monstrous Devices by Damien Love , published by One World imprint, Rock the Boat, is for you – publishing in paperback on 1st April. Today is my stop on the blog tour and I’m delighted to be hosting a quick Q & A and sharing an exclusive extract from the story!

When Alex receives an old tin robot in the post, the note from his grandfather reads: “This one is special”. But it doesn’t take Alex long to suspect that the toy is more than special – it might also be deadly. Just as things are getting out of hand, Alex’s grandfather arrives, whisking him away into a world of strange, macabre magic. From Paris to Prague, they flee across snowy Europe in a quest to unravel the riddle of the little robot. Will Alex work out the robot’s secrets before it falls into the wrong, wicked hands?

An assured debut, Monstrous Devices has all the ingredients of a sure-fire hit with the next in the series available next month. Darkly entertaining, this middle-grade novel will keep you on your toes, with creepy robot villains, an eccentric grandfather and a likeable protagonist in Alex. Author Damien Love shares some more of the inspiration behind the book today.

Welcome to the blog Damien!

Portrait of Sunday Herald TV critic Damien Love Photograph by Colin Mearns 20 January 2017

As a child, did you have a relative who inspired you, like Alex’s grandad? A few people have asked that, but, no, not really, not in that way. Alex’s grandfather wasn’t inspired by anyone in my family; there are elements in there of some other people I know…but they don’t know that, so I won’t say who they are. Really, though, I think that when you get down to it, most writers would probably end up confessing that all their characters actually become more like reflections of aspects of themselves – even the villains.

What was your favourite scene to write, and why? Oh, that’s a tough question. I’m not sure there is one that I could single out. But there’s a sequence I was quite happy with ¬– without giving away any spoilers, there’s a scene in Monstrous Devices where the boy at the centre of the story, Alex, gets attacked in a lonely field in the middle of the countryside. The scene started out as a kind of tribute to a very famous scene in one my favourite films, North by Northwest (i.e. I stole it from there), but I think I did an okay job of bending it all around until it fit into the scheme of Monstrous Devices and begin to work as its own thing, too. Plus, I was once advised to drop that scene from the book because there was “too much action”. So I kind of feel protective of it.

Post lockdown, where would you most like to travel? Like a lot of people, the relatively short trips to meet family and friends again are the ones I’m looking forward to most. Beyond that, I’m not sure – I wouldn’t mind going to Prague again someday, though. It’s been a long time since I was there.

An extract from Monstrous Devices: Hotel Rooftop, Paris

Turning onto the landing below came the tall, broad figure of a man wearing a long black coat and large black hat. When he lifted his face to them, Alex, struck numb with horror, saw it was made of dull metal. Painted eyes. A wire grid for a mouth.

It began climbing the stairs.

“Life-sizer,” his grandfather grunted, turning back up.

There was only one more flight of stairs. It led up to a small, bare half-landing, containing a cupboard door and an iron ladder bolted to the wall, beneath a ceiling hatch. His grandfather was up and through it in a flash of grey, hauling Alex after him. A huge attic, old and dark, musty and empty. They crouched under high slanting roof beams while his grandfather worked with another spool of wire, tying the hatch shut as best he could. He twisted on his heels, searching the dim space around them.

“Nothing to block it with,” the old man muttered, running a hand over his brow. He took Beckman’s little gun from his pocket, weighed it for a second, then threw it far off into the shadows.

“What are you doing?” Alex gasped. “We need that!”

“Never liked guns. C’mon: onward and upward. This way.”

Alex already knew where they were headed. Halfway along the attic, a single skylight glowed dimly, just low enough to reach. Just big enough to fit through. Snow was falling steadily as they climbed out onto the enormous roof.

His grandfather made him go first, crawling away from the window up the steep slope. The cold black tiles were slippery under Alex’s feet. There was little to get a grip on. But, clawing

and scraping, sliding back then scrabbling on, they made it to the pitch of the roof, where they stopped, sitting facing each other on the peak, breath misting the sharp air. A frail full moon pushed through the wisping clouds, staining the rooftop silver.

Freed from concentrating on the climb, drawing breath, Alex’s mind flooded with panic, then a stunning sense of disbelief. He became aware of the raw ache in his throat, his shaking limbs.

The sky was enormous above him.

“What did I tell you?” his grandfather said. He was pointing off behind Alex’s shoulder.

Turning his head, across the stretching roofscape Alex saw the Eiffel Tower, not far away, strangely clear, lit up gold and black, its blue searchlight strafing the swollen cloudbanks.

He turned back. The scream he felt building came out as a sigh. He sagged.

“Yes. That’s very pretty. Tell you what, shall I get my phone out and you can take a picture with it behind me? We could send it to Mum. That would be a nice surprise for her.”

“That’s the spirit. Have to keep your sense of humour about you. Now.” The old man dug in his coat pocket. “Sweet?” He held out the open tin.

“Well, why not. We’re on holiday. Thanks.”

“Sugar’ll do you good. Much-maligned stuff, sugar.” His grandfather squinted, tilting the tin in the weak blue light. “Bit of a Russian Roulette, taking a boiled sweet in the dark. Can’t see what you’re going to get. Ah well, nothing ventured.” He popped one in his mouth and rattled it around his teeth.

“Blackcurrant again! Must be my lucky night. What did you get?”

“Lime,” Alex said. It tasted surprisingly good.

They sat there in silence, sucking sweets on the high snowy roof in the Paris night, smiling stupidly at each other.

“So, now,” his grandfather said. “I should probably tell you the plan, give you something to look forward to.”

“Oh, do we have a plan?”

With thanks to Rock the Boat for inviting me to participate in this blog tour. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour and follow more of Alex’s adventures in second in the series, The Shadow Arts coming soon.

BLOG TOUR: City of Rust by Gemma Fowler

It’s time to enter the City of Rust! I’m sharing my review of this exciting adventure on the final stop of the blog tour today. Published by Chicken House, City of Rust is the debut middle-grade novel by Gemma Fowler and introduces a sci-fi world of robots, space junk and a daring heroine with her side-kick gecko.

Railey dreams of winning the biggest drone race on Earth with her bio-robotic gecko, Atti. But when her chance is crushed, she flees skywards, hiding out among the Junkers who mine the rubbish orbiting the planet. Here though, Railey discovers something far worse – a huge trash bomb will destroy the world…unless she and Atti do something about it. This is the race of a lifetime….

City of Rust builds a world and characters you believe in right from the opening scenes; there is so much to enjoy in this story. Set in a dystopian future where the world has been turned into a giant junkyard caused by decades of trash, and different ‘spheres’ make up the rust-filled planet. Most people live in Boxville, a city made of giant containers. Scraping a living amongst them, is brave Railey, her aging and delightful half-Junker Gran and staunch friend Atti, and we soon discover there is more going on than day to day junking. After the failure of the drone race, Gran reveals a glimpse of her past and with a bounty hunter robot chasing them, the adventure really begins. Told with a fast-paced plot and engaging narrative, we follow Railey and Atti as they manage to escape, seeking shelter with the Junkers – the clans who mine the rubbish orbiting the Earth known as the Soup. Sinister villains lurk, somehow connected to her Gran’s past life and Railey must use all her engineering ingenuity, with the help of Atti and new Junker friends, to save the world from a dastardly plot.

Full of action, imagination and a whole world of sci-fi wonder to discover, City of Rust is definitely one to add to your bookshelf!

With thanks to Chicken House for sending me this book to review and inviting me to participate in the blog tour which you can follow here: