New review: The Week at World’s End by Emma Carroll

A new novel by Emma Carroll is always hotly anticipated and The Week at World’s End has been no exception! Set in Britain in 1962, this middle-grade thriller tells the story of Stevie and her best friend Ray as they discover a girl on the run hiding in Stevie’s shed. Published by Faber, the story transports you to a time when the world was on the precipice of nuclear war…

The Week at World’s End by Emma Carroll

Nothing ever happens in World’s End Close, So when Stevie discovers a runaway girl in her coal shed, the first things she does is fetch her best friend, Ray. Both are dying for a bit of adventure, and when the girl begs for help, they readily agree. Yet soon they realise they’ve taken on more than they bargained for. The girl, Anna, reveals she’s on the run from people who are trying to poison her. Meanwhile on the news, the Americans and the Russians are arguing over missiles in Cuba. As the threat of war grows, Anna’s behaviour becomes more mysterious. And when Stevie unearths a dark family secret, she wonders if Anna has come to World’s End Close on purpose, with a special message for her.

The Cuban Missile Crisis during the Cold War provides the unnerving backdrop for The Week at World’s End and Emma Carroll weaves an enthralling tale, capturing the feel of the time, alongside the mystery that unfolds over the seven-day Crisis period. Stevie and Ray definitely find their adventure – and definitely more than they bargained for – when they decide to help Anna! With engaging characters from very different family backgrounds and dealing with a variety of issues such as parental bereavement to racial prejudice, the themes are interwoven with an engaging plot centred on helping Anna, all whilst facing the threat of war. The fallout from the Second World War is still very real and the impact of this being felt, as we discover the truth about Stevie’s father and how he died.

The Week at World’s End is a really clever story, with so much to think about, and shines a light on the importance of the truth in every situation and knowing when to speak out. A great book to encourage children to think about how they can use their voice to help in our own tumultuous political times.

Find out more at www.faber.co.uk. With thanks to Faber for sending me this book to review.

New Review: The Hideaway by Pam Smy

Expect the unexpected with this beautifully illustrated and moving tale by award-winning author-illustrator, Pam Smy. The Hideaway, published by Pavilion, highlights the torment felt by a child watching his mother suffer at the hands of an abusive step-father, but also celebrates the power of love, remembrance and family bonds.

The Hideaway by Pam Smy

One rain-lashed autumn night, Billy can’t stand the fighting any longer. He packs a bag and slips ghost-like into the dark. His hiding place is a cold and gloomy graveyard and soon something mysterious and magical starts to happen….

Atmospheric and compelling, The Hideaway is a middle-grade story that will make you feel to you core. Domestic violence in family situations is all too real, and this dual narrative story is told from Billy’s perspective, as he finally reaches the end of his rope and runs away; and Billy’s mother, as she realises the cause of Billy’s disappearance and the police are called. I can’t even begin to imagine the emotional turmoil for both Billy and his mother, which is expertly handled in the gentle but unwavering narrative.

Thankfully, even in the darkest of moments, life has a way of showing you something new. Billy is not alone in the graveyard and he meets an elderly man who is cleaning and tidying the graves for a very special, supernatural event. His kindness to Billy is just what is needed to restore some of Billy’s faith in people, as Billy joins in with clearing the graveyard. And Billy’s mother finds that there are people who can help in her hour of greatest need; she just has to ask.

As the story progresses, both Billy and his mother must confront their fears and make choices that will decide their future happiness. When the night arrives that the old man and Billy have been preparing the graves for, the narrative and illustrations transport you to a place of hope and wonder; of family and memory and most importantly, love, reminding Billy how loved he is by his mum and just how much he loves her.

The Hideaway is an important story beautifully told and illustrated, with challenging themes but full of hope. Highly recommended, I would not be surprised to see this on awards shortlists in the coming months.

Find out more at www.pavilionbooks.com. With thanks to Pavilion for sending me this book to review.

New review: Fledgling by Lucy Hope

Like most books, at the back of this one there’s acknowledgements to various people who have supported Lucy Hope in bringing her debut Fledgling to life. The one that caught my eye was the thank you to her friend for telling her for 30 years to write a novel and that Lucy was glad she finally listened. So am I! Fledgling is a page-turning adventure, totally different in feel to anything I’ve read for ages. Publishing on 4th November by Nosy Crow, this story transports you to a gothic world full of magic and wonder – and some very strange happenings…

Fledgling by Lucy Hope

When a cherub is blown into Cassie Engel’s bedroom during a thunderstorm, triggering a series of terrifying events, Cassie must discover if its arrival was an accident or part of something more sinister. With a self-obsessed opera singer for a mother, a strange taxidermist father, and a best friend who isn’t quite what he seems, Cassie is forced to unearth the secrets of her family’s past. As the dark forces gather around them, can Cassie protect a;; that she holds dear?

There is so much to enjoy in this novel. From the first page you are drawn into Cassie’s world, her eccentric family, her home filled with stuffed owls and her friendship with the enigmatic Raphael. I was fascinated by the cherub too and the strange connection it forms with Cassie as she tries to uncover the truth of it’s arrival. As the plot thickens (and it really does), we see the true genius of her family home which has it’s own engine room and the reality of the sinister Sturmfalken (enough to make anyone get the jitters).

Family secrets abound, and as Cassie discovers more about the past, her future seems more in danger. A truly unexpected plot twist made me gasp out loud and Cassie must summon all her courage to overcome the inevitable and save her family as best she can. I read this story in one sitting; it really is utterly engaging and whilst the dark forces threaten to overwhelm, thankfully there is enough light to give hope. A really brilliant debut.

Find out more at www.nosycrow.com. With thanks to Nosy Crow for sending a proof copy of this book to review.

When Poems Fall From the Sky by Zaro Weil, illustrated by Junli Song

When Poems Fall From the Sky is a stunning new collection of poems and the first title to publish since Zaro Weil and Junli Song won the coveted CLiPPA prize with their stunning poetry anthology, Cherry Moon.

In exquisitely illustrated full colour pages, trees, birds, animals, rivers, flowers, mountains and insects each share their own magical stories. And the stories they tell, the ‘poems’ that fall from the sky, subtly and powerfully illuminate our hope and collective role as guardians of our earth. Directly inspired by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Zaro spent time in the Gardens while writing the collection, spotting gum-drop flowers, listening to bird song, following tiny sun glints and smelling the deep-down earth pulsing its wild mysteries under her feet.

Gina Fullerlove, Head of Publishing at Kew said: “We are delighted to be associated with this beautiful little book inspired by our Gardens. Connecting with and understanding nature is ever more important in these times and this collection provides an enchanting way for children and adults to do just this.”

Zaro Weil commented: “It has been an incomparable thrill to write this collection in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Not only because, like the rest of the world, I stand in awe of Kew’s scientific exploration and guardianship of the natural world, but because I believe that science and poetry are simply meant for each other and that our particularly human appreciation of the natural world is, at heart, poetic. ”

This collection of poems, raps, rhymes, haiku and little plays couldn’t be more timely as readers are encouraged to marvel and wonder at the natural world, and in thought-provoking verse and prose, consider how nature is our friend and should be cherished. Oh Happy Day – A Fig and Wasp Play (A Mother Nature Production), celebrates the incredible pollinating partnership of figs and wasps. Tree’s Story captures the wonder of trees and their power to hold memory – simply stunning. Bug Parade is an absolute delight and I defy anyone who reads this not to look at insects and creepy crawlies differently once they’ve read it! I could list them all but there’s isn’t room – and far better you read the book and discover these brilliant poems yourself!

Each and every poem is clearly crafted with love for nature, showing the joy to be found simply in watching and listening to the world around us. A book to cherish and share, Where Poems Fall From the Sky is an enchanting collection and will inspire all those who read it.

Find out more here. With thanks to Troika Books for sending me this book to review. You can see an interview with Zaro Weil live online on National Poetry Day with Mr Dilly – free to register.

Top of the Poems Children’s Poetry Book List with Mr Dilly on National Poetry Day 2021

Today I’m delighted to share a wonderful children’s book list in celebration of poetry! A collaboration with Mr Dilly, who is premiering a brand new free film resource for schools, ‘Top of the Poems’ this morning. Thousands of children across the UK will be watching the film, followed by Mr Dilly interviewing wonderful award-winning poet, Zaro Weil.

You can register for free to join this event -find out more here.

The Top of the Poems book list not only includes all the poems Mr Dilly features in his film, but also a whole host of fantastic children’s poetry books as chosen by me! Some old and some new, there’s something for everyone with classics by Spike Milligan and Michael Rosen alongside Joseph Coelho, Amanda Gorman and Laura Mucha.

Poetry has the most amazing ability to transport you to other worlds, capture the imagination and get to the heart of exactly how you feel. Use this book list to inspire readers to discover the wonderful world of poetry and try their writing their own poems too! Download the full list of 22 titles with descriptions below!

You can download the full list here

National Poetry Day is the annual mass celebration on the first Thursday of October that encourages all to enjoy, discover and share poetry. This year, National Poetry Day takes place on 7 October 2021, and the theme is Choice. Find out more about National Poetry Day here.