Tag Archives: Book review

BLOG TOUR: Ten Little Dogs written and illustrated by Ruth Brown

I’m very pleased to welcome author and illustrator Ruth Brown to the blog today, in celebration of DAY THREE of the blog tour for her latest picture book published by Scallywag Press, Ten Little Dogs.

Ruth is sharing the ‘inside story’ of this delightful picture book featuring a count-down of man’s best friend. You can’t help but fall in love with the four-legged friends that appear on each page, and try and spot the difference as they slowly ‘disappear’ as you count-down. Gorgeous illustrations and a rhyming narrative bring the bouncing dogs to life. It’s a celebration of all the antics dogs can get up to from chasing butterflies to paddling in the sea and romping in the park! I’m pleased to share a guest post from Ruth sharing insight into the creative writing process behind the book.

Welcome to the blog Ruth!

“Ten Little Dogs is a counting book like millions of others, some use addition and some subtraction. I used the same plot device in my book “Ten Seeds” – start with 10 seeds – decrease to 1 flower which produces 10 seeds. Satisfyingly circular. I wasn’t originally going to use dogs in this latest book, I’d planned to use a variety of animals – birds, butterflies, caterpillars, mice, slugs, frogs etc and it started –

“10 plump pigeons pecking grapes from a vine.

Along came a fox – and then there were …….

9 blue butterflies resting on a gate.

Up jumped a cat – and then there were ……..”

and so on through my list of animals. But having written it, I realised that I had created a catalogue of unremitting predatory deaths. Now, I have no qualms about revealing the truth about dear old Mother Nature’s darker side to 5 year olds. At that age, I remember the fascination of finding small dead animals, the ritual of burial and the happy hours spent arranging daisies round the grave. (Normal childhood curiosity……….hopefully?) But when creating a picture book it is important to have an uplift at the end – not necessarily a happy ending, but resolution on a positive note, an element of hope.

In my story as it stood, yes, the pigeon could possibly escape the jaws of the fox but could a slug outrun a leaping frog? I don’t think so. In the make-believe world of picture books, no matter how bizarre and unrealistic, the stories have to adhere to their own mad logic and if, as I’d planned, my animals had all ended up miraculously alive in the meadow it would have been wrong. The ending would have to have been – The End …they are all dead. A bit harsh and not much fun.

So back to the drawing board. I decided to use just one species of animal. I often write about cats but using them in this instance would mean the opportunity for adventurous scenarios would have been limited – you don’t often see cats paddling in the sea – so I decided to use dogs. Puppies actually, but the title of “Ten Little Puppies” set the wrong tone. These were ten independent, adventurous little dogs. I know it’s unusual to see ten small dogs alone in a field minus owners and you’d probably called the RSPCA if you did, but remember this is picture book world. Finally I had the plot, the text and the characters and the story flowed, it came naturally to a satisfying circular conclusion, with all the dogs happily playing in the park……. and none dead. Then I had the pleasure of doing the pictures – always my favourite part of the process. Who said creating children’s books was easy?”

With thanks to Scallywag Press for sending me this picture book to review and inviting me to participate in the blog tour. Don’t miss the rest of the tour:

  • 26 April: My Shelves are Full @erinlynhamilton
  • 27 April: This Mummy Style @Thismummystyle
  • 28 April: The Book Activist  @bookactivist1
  • 29 April: Margaret’s Reading Shelf @booklib61 & Get Kids into Books @GetKidsin2Books
  • 30 April: Jane Sandell  @SeasideReader & Miss Cleveland is Reading @MissNCleveland

New reviews: Illustrated non-fiction roundup!

Today on the blog I’m sharing some fantastic non-fiction titles to educate and entertain. From rainforest to engineering to the magic of sleep and Ancient Egypt, there’s something for everyone!!

Zoom Rainforest Adventure by Susan Hayes and Susanna Rumiz is a gorgeous new non-fiction board book adventure series that will inspire budding young adventurers! Bright colours and lively illustration bring to life the fact-filled text and make this an ideal way to engage youngsters in early reading. They’ll find out about the animals and birds that inhabit the rainforest and discover creep-crawlies galore. With die-cuts and pop-ups throughout, Zoom will inspire even the youngest of explorers! Published by What on Earth Books, with titles including Ocean Adventure, Space Adventure also available and Building Site Adventure and Farm Adventure coming this November.

Sticking with the theme of forests, enter a world of wonder on a woodland walk with Look What I Found in the Woods by Moira Butterfield and Jesus Verona. Young readers are invited to join in the fun with this lovely picture book, and see what they can spot in the woods too. Full of detailed illustrations showing just how much there is to see, with an engaging, rhyming narrative. There’s also nature notes that add extra guidance and I’m sure Look What I Found in the Woods will encourage families to put their wellies on and get hunting in the woods! Published by Nosy Crow in collaboration with the National Trust.

Enter a world of plants and learn all about nature from master forager and gardener, Alys Fowler in Grow, Forage and Make illustrated by Heidi Griffiths. A detailed guide with 30 activities to inspire family time in the garden and teach children how to forage and what to do with their wonderful finds. They’ll learn how to make wildflower seed paper and create art from leaf pounding, or make a parsnip pea-shooter and see the Wood Wide Web! There is so much to discover in nature and this lovely book with equally lovely illustrations will children and their families discover it in spades (!). Published by Bloomsbury in collaboration with Kew Gardens for children aged 9+.

For something more historical in flavour, there’s The Mystery of the Golden Pyramid by Adela Norean and Aaron Cushley. A beautifully produced lift-the-flap adventure, readers join Sophie as she sets out to save a King and solve the mystery, with the help of a talking dog. With action, excitement and humour throughout, this fantastical adventure will engage young readers AND fill their minds with knowledge of Ancient Egypt! Published by Little Tiger.

The Magic of Sleep – A Fascinating Guide to the World of Slumber by Vicky Woodgate is exactly that – a totally fascinating insight in to sleep, uncovering all the things you’ve ever wondered about – and much more you haven’t! From the scientific to the sensational, from myths to the beds we sleep on, animals to plants and of course, humans, it covers everything. With helpful chapters headings, informative illustrations and a delightful cat who accompanies each section, you will fall into the world of sleep with ease with this book! My niece picked this book up and proceeded to read it cover to cover – she particularly liked the dream journal and practical tips for sleep at the back of the book. Published by Dorling Kindersley

Cool Engineering by Jenny Jacoby and Jem Venn is a new title in the ‘Cool’ series that has eleven other titles covering every subject from architecture to maths to mythology. Cool Engineering follows the same appealing, simple and attractive graphic style with just the right amount of interest to engage readers aged 8 and above. It’s full of incredible information about the world of engineering, including biographies of key figures in engineering history such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and more recent, Elon Musk. From tools to transport, computers to biomedical inventions, there’s a whole world of fascinating facts to discover! Educational and engaging this is great book for reluctant readers and those who like to dip in and out of reading. Published by Pavilion.

Standing on Her Shoulders A Celebration of Women by Monica Clark-Robinson illustrated by Laura Freeman is a celebration of the strong women who influence us – from our mothers, sisters, aunts and grandmothers to the women who fought for equality and acceptance. Beautifully drawn, it reminds us of all the inspirational women who have gone before us – those we know and love personally, and those figures from history who deserve our recognition. It reminds us not to take our freedoms for granted and strive to protect them – and invites us to think about who might stand on our shoulders one day. Standing on Her Shoulders would make a lovely gift for the young girls in your life, one to be shared with all the family. Published by Scholastic.

With thanks to all the publishers for sending me these books to review.

BLOG TOUR: Jane Austen Investigates: The Abbey Mystery by Julia Golding

I’m delighted to be kicking off DAY ONE of the blog tour for an exciting new historical detective series for middle-grade readers. Jane Austen Investigates: The Abbey Mystery by award-winning author Julia Golding, published by Lion Hudson, imagines a young Jane as a budding detective, showing all the signs of the literature genius she will become!

‘The life of a clergyman’s daughter in rural Hampshire was disappointingly full of duties, and there were few things for an adventurous girl to do. This was why Jane always considered it fortunate to have been involved in a carriage accident. Without that disaster she would never have met the Abbey ghost.

Following the accident, Jane is sent to be companion to Lady Cromwell for a week as the household prepares to celebrate the eldest son’s coming-of-age party, in place of her older sister who can no longer attend due to a broken arm. Little does Jane know that the week will be far more interesting than it initially promises, with not just ghosts to discover, but a house full of secrets too. Thoroughbred race horses, midnight thefts, mechanical inventions, family feuds, arson: English aristocracy is not all it seems and the Cromwell family are definitely a force to be reckoned with! Young Jane, notebook in hand and her trusty dog Grandison by her side, sets out to find the truth – and save some new found friends in the process……

Immerse yourself in imagining the world of a young Jane Austen with this delightful mystery story! Bringing the historical period and all the English etiquette and age-old prejudice surrounding class to life, The Abbey Mystery weaves an engaging tale. A wonderful cast of characters ably support the intrepid young Jane, who proves herself a staunch ally when her new found friend, Fitzwilliam, is blamed for a crime he did not commit! Helped by the stable boy, Luke, and the cook’s daughter, Deepti, Jane sets about proving his innocence, regardless of the potential danger. The plot thickens with every page, with multiple strands of the story keeping you guessing. Throughout, there are little nods to grown-up Austen, perhaps showing what her writing might have been inspired by. As historical novels go, it’s a fast read helped by short chapters, engaging and entertaining dialogue and plenty of action. Author Julia Golding always creates believable historical settings and this is no exception; with a doctorate in literature of the period from Oxford she is well-placed to do so! Highly enjoyable, The Abbey Mystery is a great addition to the middle-grade detective series genre and I am already looking forward to Jane’s next adventure in book two!

With thanks to Lion Hudson for sending me this book to review and inviting me to participate in the blog tour! Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour:

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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:

BLOG TOUR: All I Want for Christmas by Beth Garrod

It’s the final stop on the blog tour for All I Want for Christmas by Beth Garrod, a gorgeous novel for teens full of friendship, a touch of romance and lots of festive fun! There’s also a positive message about social media – which whilst it can bring people together, also presents a ‘reality’ that is far from the truth. The heroines of the story, Holly and Elle, are both truly engaging, ending up in all manner of hilarious and ever-so-slightly awkward scenarios, and you’ll find yourself rooting for them all the way to the mistletoe- fuelled finale!

US-based Elle is a social-media influencer. But sometimes online attention isn’t all it seems from the outside; with a family who are constantly on the move, and so-called friends putting pressure on her to increase her following, she decides to swap places with one of her followers for the holidays.

Holly lives in a small village in England, and LOVES Christmas more than anything else. Nothing is going to get in the way of this year being the BEST Christmas ever . . . Nothing! But when her mum announces she’s selling their house, and Woody decides they should go on a ‘break’, her plans for the perfect Christmas start to crumble like over-baked gingerbread people.

Will swapping with Elle be Holly’s perfect opportunity to escape? And far from home, will they both find all they want for Christmas?

I’m delighted to share a post from author Beth Garrod, with a fantastic finale to this very festive blog tour – welcome to the blog Beth!

“Today is the final stop on the All I Want For Christmas blog tour – so to do Holly proud it’s finishing with a big tinsely bang. A big tinsely 70s bang. Because when it comes to Christmas, you can be cool like Elle orrrr, you can cover yourself in glitter, pull on your turkey slippers, and dance like no one is watching. Which is exactly what Holly would recommend.

So here it is, the final tune to get you shaking your baubles and twirling those Christmas puddings. After all… IT’S CHRISTMAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSS.

Wizzard: I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day

This is a song about loving Christmas, a lot – which is something Holly is ALL about (although, when it comes to wanting it to be Christmas every day, 2020 might have clinched that vibe). This song is stuffed with sleigh bells, Christmassy choirs, and lyrics about getting your beard frozen. What more could a Christmas song want?! Sure, the video might be weird, but that is exactly what Spotify is for. Cranking this up and wishing every day could be a day you get to hang out with the best people, wear pyjamas for longer than is necessary, and eat whatever is within reaching distance. Chocolate Orange counts as fruit, right?

So however you like to bring Christmas magic, whether you do it with a million traditions like Holly, or keep it low-key like Elle, get this tune on, and let the bellsssss ring ouuuuut fo-o-orrr Chriiiiistmaaaaaas.”

Find out more here: Beth Garrod (bethhgarrod.com)

With thanks to Scholastic for sending me this book to review and inviting me to participate in the blog tour. Merry Christmas! Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour: