Book of the Month: The Truth about Martians by Melissa Savage

book of the monthHere is the first Book of the Month for 2019! Set against the backdrop of the famous UFO Roswell site, The Truth about Martians, is a heart-warming tale of discovery exploring loss, friendship, family and – what else – aliens! I absolutely loved this quirky and original tale by Melissa Savage, author of the critically acclaimed Bigfoot Tobin & Me. 

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The Truth about Martians by Melissa Savage

Mylo knows there’s no such thing as Martians – at least until a flying saucer crash-lands near his home. And then he starts to hear a voice, asking for help. Desperate to be as brave as his older bother Obie – who passed away over a year ago – Mylo investigates the crash.  What he ends up discovering is more about friendship and the universe than he ever could have imagined.

Mylo’s life was turned upside down when his brother Obie died.  His Mum and Dad just aren’t the same and he is plagued by nightmares, with grief constantly threatening to overwhelm him.  Mylo’s best friend Dibs is thankfully a great distraction,  often staying over to escape his own difficult home life. Together, they are obsessed with comics and science-fiction, in particular Superman and discussing potential impending Martian invasion.  So when a real life UFO crash lands in the farm down the road, they know its up to them to investigate.  Mylo cannot ignore the voice calling for help, little realising that the decisions he now makes will change all their lives.

The Truth about Martians is not so much a story about discovering aliens; it’s a story about discovering your courage and the power of friendship.  Mylo is a great character with a truly believable voice.  His friendship with Dibs is so full of warmth it’s palpable, brought to life with humourous dialogue and pure heart.  Despite their various difficult family issues, they are typical boys complete with smelly feet jokes; bravado (Dibs); admiration for summer visitor Gracie Delgado (Mylo) and shared irritation with older boys, Diego and Spuds.  This convincing cast of characters and the fast-paced plot create a thoroughly engaging story.  Mylo doesn’t just find out the truth about Martians; he finds the truth about himself as he comes to terms with the loss of his older brother. He also realises that his best friend Dibs really needs his help and that people are not always what they seem.  Mylo discovers he has the power to help heal not just himself but those he loves – and help a Martian in distress. Courage isn’t always obvious and being brave doesn’t always look like Superman; The Truth about Martians highlights this sentiment brilliantly and leaves you feeling totally uplifted.

I will be hosting a stop on the blog tour for The Truth about Martians this week. See below for details about the tour starting tomorrow!

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Follow Melissa Savage on Twitter @melissadsavage 

The Truth about Martians by Melissa Savage is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House) recommended for children aged 9+.

With thanks to Chicken House for sending me this book to review.

 

 

New review: Our Castle by the Sea by Lucy Strange

Happy New Year! Here is my first review for 2019 of the highly-anticipated second novel by Lucy Strange. Our Castle by the Sea is set during the second world war, evoking all the danger experienced by those who lived through it. The story is also a celebration of the bonds of family showing despite what we might face, family matters most.

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Our Castle by the Sea by Lucy Strange 

England is at war. Growing up in a lighthouse, twelve-year-old Pet’s world has been one of storms, secret tunnels and stories about sea monsters.  But now the clifftops are a terrifying battleground, and her family is torn apart.  This is the story of a girl who is small, afraid and unnoticed.  A girl who freezes with fear at the enemy planes ripping through the skies overhead. A girl who is somehow destined to become part of the strange, ancient legend of the Daughters of Stone…..

Our Castle by the Sea is a brilliantly told and thrilling wartime adventure told through the eyes of twelve-year-old Pet, a young girl who lives in a lighthouse with her father, her German-born mother and her older sister, Mags.  Their idyllic life is changed forever when war breaks out and sets off a chain of events none could have foreseen. With Mutti, Pet’s mother, sent to an internment camp, Pa in a permanent state of stress, the police investigating mysterious packages and Mags disappearing at strange hours of the day, Pet is forced to face her fears alone.

The story weaves a startlingly believable tale of the misfortune faced due to their family’s German heritage and the dangerous but important role of a lighthouse keeper in wartime.  The narrative highlights the fate of foreign citizens and wartime internment, childhood evacuation, as well as the trouble caused by traitorous wartime spies. The family bond portrayed is very moving and Pet becomes a force to be reckoned with, overcoming her fears and facing terrible danger, to find the truth about her parents and discover what secrets her sister Mags is keeping. Set against the backdrop of the mysterious legend of the Daughters of Stone, the ancient standing stones that guard the coastline, Our Castle by the Sea is a really gripping read told with great heart.  A perfect book to start your New Year reading with!

I am delighted to be participating in the blog tour this week and hosting a guest post by the author Lucy Strange.  See below for details of the tour starting today!

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Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com. 

Our Castle by the Sea is recommended for children aged 9+.

With thanks to Chicken House Books for sending me this book to review.

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Book of the Month: The Afterwards by A.F.Harrold illustrated by Emily Gravett

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The Afterwards by A.F.Harrold illustrated by Emily Gravett

Fact: Ember and Ness are best friends. There’s nothing more to say about it. It is what it is.  It is what it will always be.  Ember and Ness.  Then Ness dies.  It is sudden and unexpected and leaves Ember completely empty. How can this be?  When Ember finds a way into the Afterworld, she determines to bring Ness back.  Because that’s what friends do isn’t it? They help. They rescue each other. They never give up. Ember and Ness. That don’t change.. 

Sometimes you read a book and it is really hard to put into words what it has made you think, how it has made you feel and the way it has touched your heart.  This is absolutely the case with The Afterwards for me.  Moving, compelling, original, scary, humourous, dark and utterly poignant. A.F.Harrold has a way of writing that is totally thought-provoking whether it be a poem, a recalled memory, a funny story or this – a beautiful portrayal of death and grief.

If you have ever lost someone you love you will know the pain this causes, the hurt and disbelief and the thought that somehow you must be able to find them or get to them in some way.  Just to have one more conversation, one more final hug, one more moment with this person who was yours.  The Afterwards brings this and more to life, through a wonderful alignment of words, the power of story and incredible illustrations by Emily Gravett.  This isn’t just a book for children; this is a book for anyone who has ever lost someone that they love. It is a must read and the most memorable book I have read in a very long time.

With huge thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me this book to read and review.  Find out more at www.bloomsbury.com

 

 

 

New reviews: Fantastic Non-Fiction!

It’s National Non-Fiction November and a great time to share the amazing non-fiction books that bring the world we live in to life! Perfect for readers young and old to share, learn about all manner of brilliant subjects and just enjoy fantastic books.

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The National Trust Children’s Almanac 2019  by Anna Wilson illustrated by Elly Jahnz  is a beautifully written and illustrated month-by-month journey through the seasons.  Featuring everything from animal behaviour guides to seasonal recipes to activity ideas, this is a really delightful book to inspire even the most reluctant of young explorers to step outside. The author has taken great trouble to bring lots of interesting information together and show ways of being creative.  Accompanied by bright and colourful artwork, this is also a wonderful debut book for illustrator Elly Jahnz.

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I absolutely loved the activities, helpful top tips and that readers can make notes if they want to at the end of the book.  Each month includes special days to note at the start and highlights anniversaries of historical events such as the first moon landing or the Great Fire of London. The Children’s Alamanac would make a perfect gift and wonderful book to share, encouraging family outings and ways to discover new things about the world around us. Published as part of Nosy Crow’s ongoing partnership with The National Trust,  this is definitely one to add to the Christmas list!

Find out more at www.nosycrow.com and www.nationaltrust.org.uk

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Sleep by Kate Prendergastpublished by Old Barn Books, is a beautiful picture book looking at the sleeping habits of animals through stunning illustrations and simple facts.  I can’t imagine anyone seeing the book’s front cover and not wanting to pick it up! With a gentle narrative, each page describes how the animals sleep, some with extra footnotes to add different facts. The illustrations are quite amazing bringing to life the sleeping inhabitants of the book and showing their various habitats.

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Young readers will love identifying the different animals and habitats. The last spread introduces the idea of dreaming and in the final pages there are additional fascinating facts with web links to connect to online information should you wish to find out more.

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This is a really lovely book to introduce the animal kingdom to young readers and perhaps great to read at bedtime, encouraging even the most restless of little ones that everyone goes to sleep!

Find out more at www.kateprendergast.co.uk

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Secret Science The Amazing World Beyond Your Eyes by Dara O’Briain illustrated by Dan Bramall explores the incredible science behind everyday life with Dara O’Briain’s trademark humour, bringing to life even the most complicated scientific facts from molecules to neurotransmitters.

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If you’ve ever enjoyed Dara O’Briain’s stand up shows, then you’ll know the hilarious observations he makes and his brilliant use of emphasis. This translates brilliantly for kids into a very funny and totally inspired book.  Secret Science will have you laughing out loud as you discover all manner of weird and wonderful facts about things such as KILLER RAYS FROM SPACE (the Sun) to the ‘sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia’ (BRAIN FREEZE).

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Lively illustrations and larger than life graphics capture both the science and the humour perfectly showing us that it really is everywhere and ensuring readers will be utterly fascinated – as well as hugely entertained.  Published by Scholastic, Secret Science is great for all the family and a wonderful initiation in all things science!

Find out more at www.scholastic.co.uk

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Absolutely Everything A History of East, Dinosaurs, Rulers, Robots and things too numerous to mention by Christopher Lloyd is a beautifully presented book taking readers aged 9 and up on a journey through everything from the beginning of time to the present day.  Each chapter covers a specific time period  but connects the various eras within that time frame rather than separating them.  I enjoyed the inviting narrative style which enables you to see how history, science and nature connect. This is definitely a book for confident readers but one that could be shared and enjoyed by the whole family.  It has an index and a glossary so you can navigate more easily. Colourful and bold illustrations, alongside images of historical artefacts and locations bring many of the fascinating facts to life. It is a really informative book, that will challenge young historians to think differently.

The publication of Absolutely Everything is part of a wider campaign to connect knowledge and raise awareness of the value of a more cross-curricular approach to teaching and learning.  Having invited Christopher Lloyd to perform his What on Earth workshops in schools I have worked in, his passion for this is evident and I loved how he brought history, science, technology, literature and sport to life in just one hour!  As did the children!  Christopher’s belief is that “only by connecting knowledge back together again can children learn to think out of the box, develop critical thinking skills and become their own self-learning systems.”

Find out more at www.whatonearthbooks.com

With thanks to Old Barn Books, Nosy Crow, Scholastic and What on Earth Books for sending me this titles to review!

New review: Gaspard the Fox by Zeb Soanes and James Mayhew

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You may well have heard the story of Gaspard the fox. Author and broadcaster Zeb Soanes first encountered the real-life Gaspard at his home in London.  The fox was injured and Zeb fed her till she recovered – forming such a bond that Gaspard became a regular visitor appearing at the sound of Zeb’s bicycle and even bringing her cubs to visit. Since then the fox now has her own Twitter page with over 5,500 followers.  Which is probably one of the more random facts I’ve shared on my blog!

If you haven’t heard of Gaspard then I’m sorry I haven’t shared this book sooner, having been given a copy by the publishers Graffegg a while ago.  We usually only glimpse foxes at night; they can seem ethereal and perhaps a little bit scary.  But they really are beautiful animals and this story brings that to life in a joyful urban adventure, featuring illustrations by award-winning illustrator James Mayhew.

Gaspard the Fox by Zeb Soanes and James Mayhew

Come with Gaspard the Fox as he sets out one summer evening in search of super.  One his travels he meets Peter the cat and Finty the dog who help him navigate the local canal with its colourful boats and people – some friendlier than others!

This is such a lovely story! Gorgeous illustrations bring each character to life and you cannot help but fall in love with Gaspard, Peter and Finty.  A well-paced narrative shares each moment of Gaspard’s evening walk to find supper.  Despite some of the tricky scrapes Gaspard gets into –crashing into bins, falling in the river, being chased away by people – he makes two brilliant new friends.

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Peter the cat is rather wonderful persona; just as you imagine a cat to be.  Finty is a clever little dog full of excitement.  But it’s Gaspard who really wins your heart and when he finally finds his supper through the kindness of the man on the bicycle, you find a big warm smile on your face.  Children will absolutely love this gentle story of urban adventure and next time they see a fox will wish it was Gaspard himself!  I am looking forward to his next adventure!

Find out more at www.zebsoanes.com and www.jamesmayhew.co.uk

With thanks to Grafegg for my copy of this lovely book!

Book of the Month: Seaglass by Eloise Williams

book of the monthIt’s been so hot this summer that having a ghost story to read exploring the windswept Welsh coast was the perfect way to cool down and provide some eerie chills! I really enjoyed Eloise William’s last novel Gaslight so was delighted to receive a copy of her new book Seaglass to review.

With another gorgeous cover, this story is equally compelling and is our new Book of the Month!

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Seaglass by Eloise Williams

Lark struggles when her family and their friends go on holiday for the autumn half term. Her mother is ill, her little sister has stopped speaking and she has fallen out with her best friend.  Is a girl in a green dress following her in the fog? Or is her sister playing tricks on her? When a local woman tells her ‘the girl’ comes to take sisters, Lark is the only one who can save her family.  

Lark is angry. Angry that she’s cooped up in a car heading for a holiday which she is certain will be rubbish; angry that her little sister won’t speak anymore; angry that her mother is dying but no-one will talk about it.  She’s a thirteen-year-old full of attitude, torn between hiding her unhappiness to protect her family and shouting at anyone and anything in her way!  The holiday only gets marginally better when the others show-up – family and friends whom she has grown up with including her best friend Gwenni and her beloved eccentric grandma Mam-gu.  Alongside the family turbulence, it becomes frighteningly clear that there is a strange ghost girl roaming the woods near the holiday park and even more strange is that her little sister Snow, who doesn’t talk to anyone, seems to be communicating with her.  Add to this warnings from local residents, a night time boat ride, mysterious weather and an old ruin and you have all the ingredients for an eerie ghost story. What is the link between the strange girl and the collection of seaglass Lark and her sister have gathered?  Why does her sister draw so many pictures of the girl in the green dress?  And how can Lark save her family and herself from impending disaster?!

Seaglass is a great read, full of atmospheric descriptions of the Welsh coast and a collection of quirky characters you love – and some that you don’t!  Lark is a feisty girl struggling to come to terms with herself and her inability to control her temper but desperate to help her family.  Her determination to find out about the mysterious girl in the woods is admirable – she even uses the local library to help her! The references to Welsh history and family times gone by give a lovely depth to the whole story and Lark’s love of nature is a really nice addition to her character.  Lark’s friends and family come in all shapes and size, but their differences don’t come between them in the end because it’s family and friendship that matter. The truth about her mother’s illness is revealed and Lark has to face her fears, weaving a moving emotional showdown into the narrative. There are some very creepy moments; just enough to give you several chills and a seriously creepy doll I’d rather not think about now – but then I am a bit of a wimp about things like that!!

Seaglass is a wonderfully atmospheric, perfectly paced ghost story combined with a narrative about family and a really positive emphasis on the importance of being truthful with the ones you love. Publishing on 12th September from Firefly Press, Seaglass is definitely a book to add to your reading list – you won’t be disappointed!

Find out more at www.eloisewilliams.com

With thanks to Eloise and Firefly Press for sending me this book 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