New review: Mouse and Mole by Joyce Dunbar illustrated by James Mayhew

When this gorgeous picture book, Mouse and Mole by Joyce Dunbar illustrated by James Mayhew, arrived through the post, I was instantly reminded of such classics as Wind in the Willows, Brambly Hedge and Peter Rabbit Originally published in 1993, I am very pleased to say the series is being republished by Graffeg. In addition to the original series of six titles, there are further unpublished stories, with Graffeg also planning to bring some of these into print in the future.

Author Joyce Dunbar is best known for her lively and quirky picture books stories. Many of her stories have been dramatised for the stage and as puppet shows. James Mayhew is an acclaimed illustrator, author, concert presenter and storyteller. James is the illustrator of the highly praised picture book Gaspard the Fox by BBC Radio 4 news presenter Zeb Soanes and the creator of the much-loved Katie and Ella Bella Ballerina series. They make a fantastic team bringing to life the wonderful world of Mouse and Mole.

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Mouse and Mole by Joyce Dunbar and James Mayhew

Mouse and Mole decide to take a picnic into the woods and set out their plan: cheese and cucumber sandwiches if it is a fine day. Or roasted chestnuts and toasted muffins in front of an apple wood fire if it is wild and wintry. But what will they do if it is an in-between sort of day?

This absolutely delightful picture book series will no doubt enchant a new generation of young readers. And who couldn’t be enchanted by the wonderful adventures of Mouse and Mole so beautifully told and illustrated? The narrative captures the exploits and humour to be found in their daily life perfectly – from deciding what to eat to tidying up to even just having a chat. Each spread features wonderful illustrations bringing to life these simple adventures just as you imagine them to be.

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Warm and comforting as the softest blanket, Mouse and Mole should be on every child’s bookshelf ready to be enjoyed independently or shared with a grown up!

The first four titles, Mouse and Mole, Mouse and Mole Have a Party, Happy Days for Mouse and Mole and A Very Special Mouse and Mole published in May 2019.

Find out more at  www.jamesmayhew.co.uk and www.joycedunbar.com .With thanks to Graffeg for sending me a proof copy to review.

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BLOG TOUR: Lily and the Rockets by Rebecca Stevens

 

I’m hosting the final stop on the blog tour for Lily and the Rockets by Rebecca Stevens. I was delighted to be invited to do so, having been a huge fan of Rebecca Stevens previous novel, Valantine Joe. This latest middle grade novel Lily and the Rockets, published by Chicken House, is a fantastic story that celebrates girls and women in football and serves as a poignant reminder of how the first World War impacted the lives of so many. Not just those serving in conflict but those left at home, who had to totally transform their way of living whilst the men were away.

Lily and the Rockets Jacket lowresIt’s 1918. Lily spends her days working in a munitions factory, her nights picking metal out of her hair, and her lunchtimes kicking a ball with her workmates. Together they form a football team, the Rockets, and a league soon follows. But when the war ends, the girls lose both their jobs and their football. Not Lily. If her only chance of being a goalie is to play with the men, then that’s what she’ll do.

Lily is a wonderful heroine, determined to live her dream of playing football. Such is the narrative and quality of the writing, the characters leap off the page and you feel that their story could be true. It was in fact is inspired by the Woolwich Arsenal Rocket Ladies FC, who were one of several female-only teams that thrived while the Great War raged on. Despite their success, once the war was over, a ban was put in place by the FA that was to last fifty years.  Thankfully women’s football is now in a much better place and perhaps without girls and women like Lily and her friends, who were brave enough to stand up to convention, we wouldn’t be about to celebrate the FIFA Women’s World Cup which begins next month (7 June- 7 July 2019).

I’m delighted to welcome Rebecca Stevens to the blog share more about her inspiration for the book!

‘Complaints having been made as to football being played by women, the Council feel impelled to express their strong opinion that the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged’  Football Association spokesman, 1921

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“Lots of people know about the munitionettes of WW1. They’ve seen the propaganda posters of the time, urging women and girls to ‘do their bit’, to fill the jobs in the factories left empty by the men and make the bombs and bullets needed for the war. What fewer people know is that the women and girls started to play football;  they formed their own teams and leagues and then, when in 1915 the Football Association suspended the men’s professional game for the duration  of the war, they started to play on their grounds, attracting crowds as big – and sometimes bigger – than the men’s game.

 

The most successful team of all, the Dick, Kerr Ladies from Preston (the comma isn’t a typo – it was originally a team of workers from a factory owned by a Mr Dick and a Mr Kerr), drew huge crowds. The biggest was a crowd of 53,000 inside the ground with over 14,000 locked out – a record for a women’s match that wasn’t beaten until the 2012 Olympics when England played Brazil. Ladies’ football was a success.

So what happened?  

Well, the war ended. The men and boys needed their jobs back. The women and girls got kicked out of the factories. And the gentlemen of the Football Association decided they didn’t like the idea of females playing football after all and announced that they would expel any club who allowed ladies’ teams to play on their grounds.

And that was that.

But what, I wondered, if it wasn’t. What if there was one girl who refused to give up, who found a way to carry on playing?

Ever since I was little, I’ve loved stories about disguise, people pretending to be someone else and actually becoming more like themselves in the process. Mulan, Sweet Polly Oliver, so many of Shakespeare’s heroines.  Even Cinderella is able to become somebody else just by putting on a different outfit (perhaps that’s why we all love makeovers!).   So, in Lily and the Rockets, I decided to do the same and write a girls’ own story about football, friendship and feminism in the hope that it would encourage readers to follow their own star, whatever that star might be.”

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com and follow Rebecca Stevens on twitter @rstevenswriter. With thanks to Chicken House for inviting me to participate in this blog tour. Check out the rest of the tour here:

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Book of the Month: Mo, Lottie and the Junkers by Jennifer Killick

book of the monthMo Lottie and the Junkers is the first in a new middle grade series written by Jennifer Killick, author of the Alex Sparrow series. Published by Firefly Press, this series introduces us to an unlikely detective duo who readers will love! I absolutely love Jennifer Killick’s books – fun, accessible, original, just the right amount of thoughtfulness and really great characters – this new title is no exception and that’s why it’s Book of the Month!

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Mo, Lottie and the Junkers by Jennifer Killick

Mo Appleby’s ordered life is turned upside down when he and his mum move in with his new stepdad and stepsisters, Lottie and Sadie. The home he left behind is just across the street, and there’s something not quite right about the new occupant. Other strange new people keep popping into his life, too: a bonkers lollipop man and a boy called Jax, who seems to understand Mo better than anyone else, especially Lottie. Who are the weird new people in their town? Do they have any involvement in the disappearance of Mo’s dad many years ago? And why does the ice cream taste so good? Lottie is determined to find out exactly what’s going on, even if it makes Mo mad, and even if it leads them both into serious danger…

Mo, Lottie and the Junkers is a totally engaging and highly amusing sci-fi-come-detective story featuring a brilliant duo in Mo and Lottie, who provide hilarious narration. With tons of original and eccentric ideas throughout the narrative you can’t help but be drawn in to the mystery.  Who on earth are the junkers? Why is the lollipop man behaving so strangely? Why can’t they stop thinking about the ice-cream van? There is definitely something odd going on – and odd is something Mo knows all about. He’s a wonderfully eccentric character who likes to collects lost property and try to return it to its owners, amongst other things. Mo enjoys peace and quiet and having his own space.  His new stepsisters on the other hand are loud, nosy and drive him mad which makes for some very amusing sibling scenarios.

Against this back drop of getting to grips with a new family home and a blended family set-up, Mo and Lottie join together and do their best to find the truth and solve the mystery. They face danger with bravery and determination and each helps the other deal with their various frailties and fears.  It’s great to see the warmth and friendship they develop as the story progresses, balanced perfectly with sibling irritation! With some brilliant plot twists, you couldn’t predict what’s coming and the very gruesome discoveries they make.  Be prepared for some mad moments, nasty villains and edge of your seat action.  A great read for middle grade, Mo, Lottie and the Junkers should be on all your bookshelves!

Find out more www.jenniferkillick.com and follow Jennifer on Twitter 

With thanks to Firefly Press for sending me a proof copy of this book to review. 

 

 

New review: Pog by Padraig Kenny

Pog is the highly anticipated new middle-grade novel from the author of Tin, Pádriag Kenny. Published by Chicken House, Pog was chosen as Independent Bookseller’s Book of the Month for April. Featuring a unique magical creature and a heartfelt adventure, Pog brings to life a fantastical world and vibrant characters and is sure to achieve the same critical acclaim of the author’s first novel.

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Pog by Pádriag Kenny

David and Penny’s strange new home is surrounded by forest. It’s the childhood home of their mother, who’s recently died. But other creatures live here … magical creatures, like tiny, hairy Pog. He’s one of the First Folk, protecting the boundary between the worlds. As the children explore, they discover monsters slipping through from the place on the other side of the cellar door. Meanwhile, David is drawn into the woods by something darker, which insists there’s a way he can bring his mother back …

Totally quirky from the first page, Pog brings to life a brave new hero and a heartfelt story of loss, love and family.  Moving in to their ancestral home surrounded by an old and dark forest, Penny and David are reeling from the death of their mother, with their father on the brink of breakdown.  The atmosphere of grief is palpable and little do they realise there are dark creatures just waiting to feed on their sadness.  Thankfully Pog, a Lumpkin and member of the First Folk and protector, lives in the attic. He’s a funny little creature whose task it is to protect The Necessary, the portal to another world through which dark creatures threaten to invade. With the ever-increasing danger lurking and David being tricked into thinking he can get his mother back, Pog has his work cut out in protecting the family, capturing the creatures that have already escaped through the portal and making sure The Necessary is forever closed.  This adventure’s finale will have readers holding their breath!

Pog’s antics are often very humorous and provide a good balance to the sadness of the tale, reminding us that there is always hope. The tension builds throughout and there are some truly moving moments between the family as they all try and come to terms with their grief, which are handled very sensitively and feel very real. The forest and its creepy inhabitants are also thoroughly believable – I don’t ever want to meet a bloodworm or a greebeldy! Pog’s bravery unites both Penny and David – his story is that of a true hero and will delight all readers.

Find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com  and follow the author on Twitter

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

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New review: Wildspark by Vashti Hardy

After the success of the brilliant Brightstorm, it is no surprise that Vashti Hardy’s latest novel Wildspark published by Scholastic, has been much anticipated. And with good reason – it’s brilliant!  Featuring all the best elements of a great children’s sci-fi fantasy novel – awe inspiring imagination, incredible characters, unexpected plot twists and a truly believable world – middle grade readers will dive into Medlock and not want to come back! Vashti Hardy is a copywriter with an MA in Creative Writing and an alumna of and mentor at the Golden Egg Academy

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Wildspark by Vashti Hardy

Prue is a young farm girl whose older brother, Francis, had a natural talent for engineering. But after his untimely death, the family have been shattered by grief. Everything changes when a stranger arrives at the farm. A new, incredible technology has been discovered in the city of Medlock, where a secretive guild of inventors have found a way to bring spirits of the dead back into the world, capturing their energy and powering animal-like machines (the Personifates). Unaware that Francis has died, the Ghost Guild wants him to join them as an apprentice. Prue poses as “Frances” and goes to Medlock to learn the craft – but she’s on a mission of her own, to bring her brother back home. And to find Francis, she needs to find a way to help the ghost machines remember the people they used to be. But if she succeeds, the whole society could fall apart.

If you lost someone you loved and thought there might be a way to get them back, would you do anything you could to try? Even if it meant going against your parents’ wishes and deceiving all those around you? That is the idea at the heart of this fantastic story – and the challenges that trying to reverse the inevitability of death causes. Bursting at the seams with thrilling adventure and a truly thought-provoking narrative, Wildspark will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout.  As the story unfolds, we discover Prue is a feisty and determined heroine, applying her engineering knowledge – and a whole lot of new skills she learns as an apprentice – to find her brother.

Against a backdrop of uncertainty about the future of Personifates and growing debate about their rights as ‘humans’, Prue must use all her ingenuity and quite a bit of deception to enable her to succeed.  Thankfully she finds support from her new found friends and fellow apprentices – Agapantha and Edwin – who is the first ever Personifate apprentice. Together they navigate the challenges of being apprentices, boarding school and meeting their training mentors. But it is clear that Prue’s desire for discovery will come at a very high price and she and her friends face all manner of dangers in order to overcome the terror that is constantly lurking.

Featuring a truly imaginative world full of breath-taking scenery, wondrous inventions and the most marvellous array of characters you could hope to meet, Wildspark is one of the best books I’ve read this year. I hope there will be a sequel!

Find out more at www.vashtihardy.com and follow Vashti on Twitter.

With thanks to Scholastic for sending me a proof copy of this book to review.

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Children’s Book Award BLOG TOUR! Armistice Runner by Tom Palmer

CBA-no-date-3-300x219I am hugely excited to be participating in the Children’s Book Award official blog tour in the books for older readers category again this year.  It’s the only national book award to be voted for entirely by children from start to finish and as such makes the award even more noteworthy.

Today I’m championing Armistice Runner by Tom Palmer, published by Barrington Stoke.  Tom has written some fantastic historical fiction titles and this is no exception.

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Armistice Runner by Tom Palmer

Lily has lots of worries. Sheʼs struggling to compete in her fell-running races and, worse, sheʼs losing her gran to Alzheimerʼs. But then she discovers her great-great-grandfatherʼs diaries from the First World War. Could his incredible story of bravery help her reconnect with her gran and even give her the inspiration she needs to push through and win?

Lily is really fed-up with always finishing her beloved fell-races as a runner-up.  At the end of every race, she just can’t seem to breakthrough the final barrier and push forward for the win. Endlessly frustrated, Lily’s worries are compounded by a visit to her grandparents and being faced with the reality that her wonderful grandmother is suffering with dementia.  The impact her grandmother’s illness is having on her family becomes all too real – even Lily’s irritating little brother can see how different everything is and looks to her for comfort.  A surprise discovery about her great-great-grandfather, Ernest, provides an unexpected escape and incredible connection with the past, offering Lily the inspiration she needs.  For he too was a fell-runner and faced huge pain and suffering during the course of World War One.  As his experiences come to life in the pages of his diaries, Lily starts to see that maybe she can get through her struggles and be like Ernest.

First and foremost this is a fantastic story – moving, engaging, thrilling, insightful – brilliant storytelling at its best. Bringing together two narratives, Armistice Runner provides an amazing insight into the fallen heroes of World War One alongside the experiences of Lily, whose family situation is causing great suffering.  With themes of conflict, family, rivalry and perseverance you can’t fail to be moved.  I knew nothing about fell-running prior to reading this story and found this aspect completely fascinating.  I have read many stories set in World War One, but Armistice Runner brings a new perspective on the horrors of trench warfare and the suffering endured by those on the Front and those at home. Tom Palmer captures this brilliantly and the empathy that Lily feels for Ernest, perfectly mirroring her own sadness as her grandmother slowly fades through dementia. It was particularly moving to see how this horrible illness affected the whole family and the moments where Lily sees her father’s response to his mother’s decline will have your heart aching. As Lily reaches the end of Ernest’s diaries, she finally discovers what happened to him and is given the best example of perseverance, kindness and friendship.

Armistice Runner offers opportunities for readers to truly relate to the themes of conflict through the parallels drawn with fell-running and the determination, bravery, and grit required to complete a race.  Endurance takes on new meaning as we see Ernest running through the trenches to save his fellow soldiers and escape the horrors of war. However, at no point is the story inaccessible to readers, on the contrary, it will help them gain a new understanding of World War One through the understanding it generates.  With a great female protagonist in Lily and an inspirational hero in Ernest, Armistice Runner is the best combination of story, hope and empathy. I would highly recommend it and its place on the Children’s Book Award shortlist is thoroughly deserved.

You can reading the first chapter of Armistice Runner here and find out more about Tom Palmer here. As a Barrington Stoke title, Armistice Runner offers a truly accessible read, with a super-readable layout and typeface so that even more readers can enjoy it.

CBA-no-date-3-300x219The Children’s Book Award is the only national award voted for solely by children from start to finish. Any child up to the age of 18 can visit to vote for their favourite books from the top 10. It is highly regarded by parents, teachers, librarians, publishers and children’s authors and illustrators as it truly represents the children’s choice. Thanks to the support of the publishers, over 1,000 new books are donated to be read and reviewed by Testing Groups across the country every year, with over 150,000 total votes being cast in the process. At the end of each testing year, nearly 12,000 books are donated to hospitals, women’s refuges, nurseries and disadvantaged schools by the Testing Groups. Previous winners of the award include, Michael Morpurgo and Michael Foreman, Quentin Blake, JK Rowling, Jacqueline Wilson and Rick Riordan.

Follow the award on Twitter @cbacoordinator and use #fcbgcba19 to stay up to date!  And don’t forget to check out the rest of the CBA Blog Tour and the other books in the Older Reader’s category:

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With thanks to  the Children’s Book Award for inviting me to participate in this wonderful award blog tour. Thank you to Barrington Stoke for sending me a copy of Armistice Runner to review.

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BLOG TOUR: She Wolf by Dan Smith

Published by Chicken House earlier this month, She Wolf by Dan Smith is an enthralling historical adventure set in the Dark Ages.  This is Dan’s sixth novel for children and I’m delighted to be participating in the blog tour today and sharing my review.  Historical reads were always really popular when I was in school libraries and I’m certain this will make a fantastic addition to any bookshelf, particularly with a such brilliant heroine at it’s heart!

 

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She Wolf by Dan Smith (cover illustration by Jill Calder)  

Northumbria 866. Washed ashore on a frozen English beach, Ylva’s survived. She will not cry. She’s meant to be strong. She’s a Viking.  But when her mother dies at the hand of a three-fingered man, and the wolves of the forest circle closer, Ylva will need more than the memory of her mother’s stories to stay alive. Can she shape her own legend? Will it end in revenge – or is there another way?

Step into the Dark Ages and experience the harsh landscape and even harsher reality of life as a Viking; but also discover courage, bravery and true heroism! Full of nail-biting action sequences, She Wolf will keep you enthralled as Ylva seeks revenge on the three-fingered man who murdered her mother. With her most trusted companion Geri by her side – with whom she shares a unique connection – Ylva’s search leads her on a quest of discovery – not just for a murderer but perhaps for her true self. As she navigates the icy terrain, Ylva must decide whether to continue alone or accept help from a kind-hearted stranger – even though she is not sure who she can trust.

The story brilliantly brings to life the sheer grit and determination of Ylva and her companions as they do their utmost to survive and stay alive, in amongst the treachery and violence of Viking traders.  Great character building and a well-paced plot are added to the historical detail, making She Wolf a compelling as well as interesting read. Even though not based on a true story, you certainly feel Ylva’s story echoes what Viking life could have been like.  For readers who love a real adventure, She Wolf will have you hooked from the first page and I expect create a whole new fan base for Dan Smith!

With thanks to Chicken House for sending me this book to review and inviting me to participate in the blog tour! Find out more at www.dansmithsbooks.com and www.chickenhousebooks.com.

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the tour with guest posts by the author and more reviews!

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