Book of the Month: The Midnight Hour by Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder

book of the monthPublished on 7th February from Chicken House, The Midnight Hour, is the much anticipated new book from Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder and our current Book of the Month!  Described as a ‘sparkling modern take on fantasy’ it’s sure to delight fans of fantasy fiction young and old alike.

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The Midnight Hour by Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder

Emily’s parents have vanished into the secret world of the Midnight Hour – a Victorian London frozen in time – home to magic and monsters. Emily must find them in the city of the Night Folk, armed only with a packed lunch, a stowaway hedgehog and her infamously big mouth. With bloodthirsty creatures on her tail, Emily has to discover the truth to rescue her parents. What family secret connects her to the Midnight Hour? And can she save both worlds before she runs out of sandwiches?

Eleven year old Emily has a rather tempestuous relationship with her mother – possibly understandable given her mother’s eccentric nature and maddening ways.  One particular day having been sent to bed after a row, Emily overhears a strange conversation between her parents referencing a mysterious letter that has arrived in the post and her mother’s estranged family. First her mother disappears and then her father, leaving Emily behind to try and save them both. So begins a fantastic adventure catapulting Emily into a world she didn’t even know existed, discovering unfathomable truths about not just her parents, but also herself and all those around her.

The Midnight Hour is children’s modern fantasy fiction at its best with a feisty heroine in Emily and a dazzling array of supporting characters. Emily is a bit of a troublemaker at times but at her heart, loves her family.  The city of the Night Folk is brilliantly described creating a strangely believable world with some of our most famous landmarks taking a central role in the narrative. Some seriously scary creatures and a particularly evil villainess make formidable foes for Emily to face, along with the help of her new found friends. The plot is well-balanced with equal amounts of humour, hair-raising scares, magical mayhem and a little bit of love.  Described as ‘Coraline’ meets ‘A Wrinkle in Time’, The Midnight Hour is a thoroughly enjoyable story for children aged 9+ and I’m already looking forward to reading the next adventure!

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com

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

New review: Little Bird Flies by Karen McCombie

Karen McCombie’s fantastic books were always a popular choice when I was in the school library, with many pupils eagerly awaiting the latest title.  I expect the same will happen with Little Bird Flies, the first in a new middle grade series published by Nosy Crow, which will no doubt delight readers – especially if they happen to be fans of stories with a determined heroine and beautiful, historical settings!

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Little Bird Flies by Karen McCombie

Bridie lives on the remote Scottish island of Tornish, the youngest of three sisters. Although she loves her island, with its wild seas and big skies, she guiltily nurses a secret dream of flight – to America and the freedom of the New World.

But her family are struggling under the spiteful oppression of the new Laird, and it seems that even some of the Laird’s own household are desperate to leave. When the Laird’s full cruelty becomes apparent, there’s no more time for daydreams as Bridie needs to help the people she loves escape to safety.

Instantly compelling, with a bold and brave heroine, Little Bird Flies is a gripping and beautifully told historical drama. Bridie, or Little Bird as she is known, is a determined soul who dreams of escaping the life that is mapped out before her. Even though she is surrounded by a loving family and good friends she cannot help but feel there is adventure to be had away from her island home.  Resigned to the fact her father will always keep the promise he made to her dying mother, that her and her sisters will stay safely on the island, Bridie lives a simple life, never complaining. This is an admirable fact particularly in the light of her disability, having limbs that were damaged at birth. But little does Bridie know that the death of their kind and generous Laird will bring about more changes than even she could have dreamt of. With a new Laird in place and new people on the island bringing a taste of the outside world with them, it seems that Bridie might have her thirst for adventure and new experiences quenched.  Sadly, this is not to be; Bridie and her family draw together to escape what is a tyrannical regime, leaving everything they know behind them.

This is such a lovely story, with so much to admire. A wonderful narrative and utterly absorbing plot weave together a rich tapestry of life with a wonderful young heroine at it’s heart. Bridie is a passionate young girl, determined to deal with everything life throws at her – there is much to learn from her spirit! The love she and her family have for each other, despite their differences and in spite of the hardships they face, is so real.  Evoking the beautiful simplicity of a crofter’s existence alongside the harsh reality of Victorian times, Little Bird Flies is the start of what will be a very special series.

Find out more at www.karenmccombie.com and www.nosycrow.com

With thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me this book to read and review.

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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!