New review: Charlie Star by Terry Milne

A delightful dachshund called Charlie is the star of a lovely new picture book published in hardback earlier last week by Old Barn Books, written and illustrated by Terry Milne, who was born and raised in South Africa.  She has illustrated books with authors including Martin Waddell and Vivian French. Her daughter’s struggles with anxiety and repetitive behaviour led Terry to write and illustrate this story as a reassurance to children everywhere who might experience the same struggles.

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“Charlie did everything the same, every day. He was afraid something terrible would happen if he didn’t.” When an emergency disrupts his routine, anxious Charlie discovers that change can be a good thing and open the way to something wonderful!

Charlie Star is a lovely story about a dachshund with a difference – he is a very anxious dog! On reading his story, you immediately want to pick him up and comfort him and reassure him everything is okay- even whilst he’s busy lining up his toys and doing tricks as part of his daily rituals.

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Charlie is frightened that if he doesn’t do these things, everything will go wrong and like many people, uses these routines to keep his anxiety at bay.  A simple narrative, accompanied by lively illustrations brings to life all of Charlie’s habits.  As you would expect, life has a way of reminding us we are not in control and when Charlie’s friend gets stuck, even he has to be brave, forget his routines and join the rescue.

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This is a really gentle story highlighting the way anxiety can take over, but also cleverly shows that change is not as scary as we think and in fact, can lead to wonderful things.

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With a lovely ending highlighting the value of friendship, Charlie Star is a sweet story which is sure to be a hit with young readers.  It would also work really well as a story to encourage discussion of anxiety and the issues around it.

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Find out more at Old Barn Books.

With thanks to Old Barn for sending me a copy of this book to review.

 

 

 

 

New reviews: three great additions to your bookshelf!

IMG-3344This week I have enjoyed reading these three great middle grade reads featuring time travel, magic and funny moments galore!  A Chase in Time by Sally Nichols is a time slip novel with great characters and a fast paced plot.  A Tangle of Magic by Valija Zinck is a wonderful adventure with a brave heroine and Just Jack by Kate Scott features a lovely young chap trying to fit in.  All three books would make great additions to your bookshelf, whether at home or in school.

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A Chase in Time by Sally Nicholls

Alex Pilgrim is always up for adventure, so he’s super- pleased when he and his sister Ruby, fall through their aunt’s mirror into 1912.  Racing around in a scarily dangerous car, being permanently grubby and even catching a criminal or two is great fun! Now they just need to find a way home….

A thoroughly enjoyable time-slip adventure, A Chase in Time is a great read with a good mix of humour, excitement and danger. Spending a school holiday at their aunt’s family home, which is full of wonderful heirlooms from around the world, Alex and Ruby discover the mirror that has stood in the hall for years is a time portal. A dramatic start to the story means that Alex and Ruby must get to grips with time travel and solve the mystery of the missing Newberry Cup –  which will not only help their family in 1912 but will also save their aunt’s magnificent home in their own time! Full of historical detail and some wonderful, humourous observations about how different life was in 1912, there are moments of poignant reflection as Alex and Ruby realise that in a few short years the first world war will begin.  The lovely cast of characters have very English eccentricities, enlivening the engaging plot. I particularly enjoyed the romance between Alex and Ruby’s distant relatives Atherton and Miss Flynn.  Add to this some fantastic illustrations you have all the ingredients for a great read!

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

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A Tangle of Magic by Valija Zinck

Penelope has always been…well….different. For one thing, she has grey hair, even though she’s only ten.  But when she wakes up to find her hair has turned the brightest, wildest, most BRILLIANT shade of red, she realises magic has entered her life. Strange and amazing things start to happen. Could it all have something to do with her father, who disappeared years ago? Penelope won’t stop until she finds the tangled, magical truth about who she really is….

A Tangle of Magic is a quirky, magical and inventive tale with gorgeous cover art. Stories about magic are great fun, especially when they centre on the discovery of hidden magical powers and this story is no exception! It features a determined and feisty heroine Penelope, who knows she’s different. Living with her Mum and Grandma and Coco the cat, she couldn’t possibly have realised just how different until her hair turns red, marking the beginning of an extraordinary adventure.  Hearing others thoughts before they say them, having conversations with the road (yes, the road!) and even learning to fly, Penelope discovers she’s got magical blood. Her mother had always hidden this from her, hoping to keep her safe, but she finally tells Penelope her father had magical powers. Helped by her Grandma giving her a secret book of spells and one of her best friends unwittingly giving her clues to her father’s whereabouts, Penelope sets out to discover not just the truth about her father, but the truth about herself too.  With some exciting plots twists and gentle humour, Penelope makes a charming heroine who you are rooting for throughout.  Themes of friendship and family bring together an engaging narrative that middle grade readers will enjoy.

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

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Just Jack by Kate Scott

Jack knows all about trying to fit in. Since Dad left, Jack and his Mum have moved house five times.  But it’s hard work pretending to be someone he isn’t and Jack misses having a friend.  Until Tyler comes along, Tyler is clever, funny and inventive. And he might help Jack figure out how to be…Just Jack.

Jack is about to start School Six and with his Sherlock Code at the ready, he is determined to fit in but not stand out.  Surrounded by unpacking and mess at home with his Mum, Jack sets his sights on making sure he doesn’t get too close to anyone just in case they have to move again.  However, Jack hasn’t banked on the appearance of full-of-life Tyler bounding into the classroom, who he realises could be his ideal friend.  Told with sensitivity and humour, the story explores how Jack deals with making new friends, confronting the pain of his parents divorce and finally being true to himself.  He is an instantly lovable chap and you can’t help but be moved by his observations and the situation he finds himself in.  Many young readers will identify with the difficulties of friendship and family described and the cast of characters who bring the story to life. A perfect balance of humour and heart, Just Jack is a truly enjoyable and moving read, with great illustrations by Alex Gunn.

With thanks to Kate Scott for sending me this book to review. Just Jack is published by Piccadilly Press.

 

New review: Peace and Me by Ali Winter and Mickael El Fathi

On the blog today, I’m delighted to share my review of a beautiful new book Peace and Me which celebrates the work of  Nobel Peace Prize winners and will be published later this month. The book from Lantana Publishing is written by Ali Winter, an experienced anthologist who is passionate about seeking out lessertold stories from around the world and illustrated by Mickaël El Fathi, an acclaimed French-Moroccan children’s book illustrator who helps children travel the world through his illustrations.

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This illustrated collection of inspirational ideas about peace is based on the lives of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates of the 20th and 21st centuries, among them Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa and Malala Yousafzai. A must for anyone interested in exploring this essential issue of our times, this child-friendly exploration of what peace means to you and me is a book for every bookshelf. Amnesty International endorses this book because it shows how standing up for other people makes the world a better, more peaceful place.

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From the first page this book is fascinating, beautiful and moving in equal measure.  It begins with a spread focused on Alfred Nobel and how the Nobel Prize came to be.  What follows are double-page spreads on some of the winners of the Peace Prize, charting their contribution to world peace and reflecting on what they did to be of “greatest benefit to mankind”.

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Some of the names are very familiar, some are not, but what they all have in common is their selfless and determined efforts to help their fellow man.  As a children’s book, there is just the right amount of information on each person and enough detail to bring them to life.  The narrative is accompanied by visually stunning artwork – I would be fascinated to hear how these beautiful illustrations were created.

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The book is endorsed by Amnesty International because “it shows how standing up for other people makes the world a better, more peaceful place.” Each story reminds us that one person can make a difference. What a wonderful lesson to pass on to children and what a wonderful reminder to everyone that passion and perseverance and indeed, peace, can exist even in today’s turbulent times.  Peace and Me is a book to treasure, to share with young and old and to encourage us to consider what peace means to each of us.

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Peace and Me publishes on 21st September.

With thanks to Lantana Publishing for sending me this book to review!

New reviews: Tom Fletcher’s Book Club 2018: a bundle of brilliant summer reads!

tom fletcher logoTom Fletcher’s Book Club is a wonderful initiative aimed at encouraging a love of reading for pleasure and to help families discover exciting children’s books. Launched in early summer, the Book Club brings together ten titles selected by Tom, a member of the hugely successful band McFly, a parent himself and a best-selling children’s author.  Helping parents encourage their children to get into reading is a cause close to my heart, so I was delighted to be invited to read and review this fantastic collection of books. There is something wonderful about receiving a large box of books through the post – especially when they arrive in a set of gorgeous WHSmith stationery boxes!

I have a soft spot for WHSmith; my local branch being the first place I ever bought a book and where I used to spend many an afternoon browsing the bookshelves planning which book I was going to spend my pocket money on next!  Here I discovered Mrs Pepperpot, Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High, Judy Blume and then Flowers in the Attic, Maeve Binchy and many others.  Today, there are so many fantastic titles on offer with so many brilliant authors writing for children, it can be really hard to know what to choose – for both children and their parents.  Tom’s Book Club provides a great antidote to not knowing where to start and sets children on the path to discovering brilliant books, all the while giving much needed support to parents and teachers including online resources, reviews and author interviews.

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Instantly attractive, with colourful jackets and a range of genres, the books are a brilliant selection of some of the most talented authors and illustrators in children’s books today. Some already familiar to me and some I hadn’t yet read, today I’m sharing a brief review  of each title – all available from WHSmith and as a bundle with a helpful discount.

The Chocolate Factory Ghost by David O’Connell illustrated by Clare Powell I loved this story – full of adventure, magic, sweets and much more. A brilliant combination of fun and fantasy with some great characters, the mystery of Honeystone Hall is great entertainment. Review available here.

Dave Pigeon by Swapna Haddow illustrated by Sheena Dempsey I literally laughed out loud at this delightful and daft tale of two pigeons.  They are quite simply hilarious, doing their best to escape the clutches of a very mean cat. Expect lots of comedy, some feather-brained ideas (pardon the pun!) and some delicious baking!

The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones by Will Mabbitt illustrated by Ross Collins One of my earliest reviews, this tale tells of bloodthirsty pirate, strange creatures, dear little nose-picking Mabel and of course, treasure.  It’s a rip-roaring adventure and will have readers gasping and giggling at the same time!

The Nothing to See Here Hotel by Steve Butler illustrated by Steven Lenton A marvellous, madcap adventure with a very likeable hero and a weird and wonderful cast of characters you want to see to believe!  If creepy critters, ghoulish goblins and hungry garden lawns are your thing, this is the perfect book for you – I shall definitely be looking for this hotel next time I’m in Brighton!

I Swapped my Brother on the Internet by Jo Simmons illustrated by Nathan Reed Ah we’ve all been there – that terrible moment where you wish away your irritating sibling! But you should be careful what you wish for as Jonny discovers on receiving an unusual array of ‘swaps’ for his brother, creating mayhem, chaos and lots and lots of laughs in this very funny tale of sibling rivalry gone awry! Review available here.

The Travels of Ermine Trouble in New York by Jennifer Gray illustrated by Elisa Paganelli  You have to love the gorgeous Ermine the very determined and full-of-character travelling stoat!  And you’ll love her fabulous New York adventure complete with sight-seeing, diamond thieves and a near-miss with hungry alligators.  Young readers will be eagerly awaiting her next adventure and will delight in making their own travel scrapbook as featured at the end of the book.

Iguana Boy by James Bishop and illustrated by Rikin Parekh Superheroes lookout – you’re about to be upstaged by Iguana Boy!  It may not be the coolest superpower but talking to iguanas can be surprisingly useful – especially when you have to save the world.  This story is full of madcap ideas and very funny moments with comic strip humour readers will love.

Timmy Failure Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis A detective agency with an over-confident detective who never quite gets it right? A polar bear sidekick? Brilliantly drawn quirky illustrations?  It’s a recipe for success and this story features hilarious observations throughout making Timmy Failure a very funny and at some points quite touching read.

My Magical Life by Zach King illustrated by Beverly Arce My Magical Life features Zach, a boy with yet to be discovered magical powers facing all the perils of secondary school. Hugely colourful with zany cartoon illustrations the story keeps you thoroughly entertained. I didn’t read it with the app, but am sure this will be a hit with young readers, especially those who are more reluctant to put down their screens and pick up a book.

The 39-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton The most incredible (and slightly bonkers) treehouse ever to exist is brilliantly brought to life in this story. Inventive with everything you could possibly imagine happening at once, the story is bursting with adventure, larger than life characters and lively illustrations leaping off the page.

Find out more about Tom Fletcher’s Book Club 2018 #TomsBookClub

With thanks to the organisers for sending me these fantastic books to review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New review: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X has been on my TBR shelf for some time – I should have read it straightaway.  In a word it is brilliant. The author Elizabeth Acevedo was born and raised in New York City and her poetry is infused with Dominican bolero and her beloved city’s tough grit. With over twelve years of performance experience, she has delivered talks, won multiple poetry slam awards and featured in many international publications.  This is her debut novel and it will have you holding your breath, crying and cheering all at the same time. A really moving and uplifting read.

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The Poet X By Elizabeth Acevedo

Xiomara has always kept her words to herself. When it comes to standing her ground in her Harlem neighbourhood, she lets her fists and her fierceness do the talking. But Xiomara has secrets – her feelings for a boy in her bio class, and the notebook full of poems that she keeps under her bed. And a slam poetry club that will pull those secrets into the spotlight. Because in spite of a world that might not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to stay silent.

Xiomara Batista has not had the easiest childhood. Born late to Catholic parents who thought they couldn’t have children, she and her twin brother are seen as gifts from God and as such her mother remains fervently thankful to this day.  Attending daily mass, regular confession and preparing for confirmation are all part of the norm for Xiomara. As an attractive young woman, Xiomara receives a lot of unwanted attention and her mother, Mami, persistently reminds her of the sin this can lead to.  Xiomara’s father is not around and when he is, he doesn’t have much to say. Whilst her very intelligent brother attends a private school, Xiomara goes to the local Harlem high school, where drug abuse and gang culture are standard. She takes refuge in words – she may fight with her fists but the real battles with herself, her uncertainties about her faith, her parents and her feelings about a forbidden romance take place on the pages of her precious notebook.  With her twin struggling with his own secrets and her best friend too devoutly religious to help, Xiomara finally sees her words for the way out they truly are – especially when a new English teacher invites her to a Spoken Word Poetry Club.

The 357 pages of this book flew by and short of life’s necessities interrupting I read it in one go. Written entirely in verse, I found myself clutching it and rushing for my train so I could hurry up and get back into Xiomara’s world.  She is one of the most absorbing characters I’ve ever read – her voice is loud and clear and her words thought-provoking, powerful, tender, true.  A coming-of-age story like no other, you are completely drawn into Xiomara’s thoughts; you can feel her pain, her fears, her hopes, her joy at discovering and recognising the pangs of first love. With each passing day, Xiomara’s relationships with those around her become more complicated. Poetry enables her to truly express herself and find the determination to explore who she really is whilst dealing with the oppression of those who are supposed to love her the most, but show it the least. I would have quite happily screamed at her mother for being so ridiculously lacking in love, so blinded is she by her faith.  This story is not without complexity but it touches on so many things a teenager trying to find their identity might feel (in fact so many things we all sometimes feel) and each verse generates real emotion. Acceptance, kindness, home, laughter, friendship, faith, teaching, discipline, passion, self-belief; love has many faces and this story powerfully explores them all. The Poet X is absolutely one of the best YA books I’ve read – an empowering story, it’s no surprise it was a New York Times bestseller.  Everyone should read it.

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Find out more at www.acevedowrites.com.

With thanks to Egmont for sending me this book to review.

New reviews: Brilliant Barrington Stoke books!

I have long been a fan of Barrington Stoke who publish super-readable books for children and young people. Each book has brilliant features which make them more accessible particularly to children with dyslexia or visual stress. In both my working and home life I’m well aware of the challenges being a reluctant or struggling reader presents, so it’s great to have something to offer those might who need a more accessible read. Bringing together award winning authors and illustrators, Barrington Stoke publish a whole range of brilliant stories and the three I’ve read recently are no exception.

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McTavish Goes Wild by Meg Rosoff, illustrated by Grace Easton tells the story of the Peachey family and their delightful rescue dog McTavish. A wonderful spin on who is rescuing who, McTavish knows what’s best for the family and exactly where they should take their summer holiday. Like any family, each member has his or her preference but McTavish with brilliant doggy intelligence leads them on a fantastic journey of discovery through the countryside. This really is a delightful tale; I had a smile on my face the whole way through. Wonderfully observed and with lovely quirky illustrations, we see the Peachey family face the annual dilemma of how to keep everyone happy on holiday.  Thankfully McTavish is on hand to help. I would love a dog like him to solve family disputes and remind everyone what’s important!  This is the second book to feature McTavish and is aimed at children aged 8-12 years.

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Hari and his Electric Feet by Alexander McCall Smith, illustrated by Sam Usher is a magical story aimed at 8-12 year olds, featuring Hari and his unique dancing talent. Discovering he can dance is one thing but when Hari and his good friend Mr Ram realise just how infectious it is, a wonderful adventure ensues. From the local street sellers to the farm animals to fighting politicians, everyone comes under Hari’s spell with lively illustrations capturing the movement. I love the idea of dance bringing such joy to people so much so that it even helps bring about world peace! Hari is a gorgeous character and you almost want to join in with his electric feet. If only world politics were that simple….

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Mariella Queen of the Skies by Eoin Colfer, illustrated by Katy Halford tells the brilliant adventures of nine year old Mariella and her quest to escape bedtime. Full of inspired ideas and inventions she won’t rest till she has conquered sleep. Mariella discovers how to fly away from night time and spends her time visiting far off places and thinking of fabulous inventions. But it’s only when her ideas run out she realises that sleep is more important than she thought! Taking the familiar battle of avoiding bedtime, this story captures the imagination and wins hearts with a magnificent heroine in Mariella. And also reminds us sleep is essential no matter how smart you are and how many ideas you have! Featuring lovely colourful illustrations, this is one of the Little Gems series aimed at children aged 5-8 years.

Whether you’re looking for an accessible read or just a great story these books are a must-have addition to every bookshelf and library.

With thanks to Barrington Stoke for sending me these wonderful books to review. 

 

New reviews: a big blog catch-up

Books julyIt’s been a quiet time on the blog recently due to an enforced period of rest after unexpected illness.  At times I didn’t even have the energy to read a book let alone write a review;  I must have been ill!  Thankfully I’m on the mend and have since been reading lots of books – the perfect distraction, entertainment and comforting pastime when you’re in recovery! I’ve made a small dent in my TBR pile, caught up with Tom Fletcher’s Book Club, and discovered some great new books.

So in no particular order here’s a snapshot of what I’ve read over the last few weeks (more to come in future posts). Middle grade to YA, these six books would be great to add to your summer reading list!

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Walls by Emma Fischel

Meet Ned Harrison Arkle-Smith – he’s grumpy, bossy, and exasperating, but you can’t help liking him. Oh, and he’s just discovered he can walk through walls . . . Ned’s world is collapsing. His parents have split up, his best friend is behaving strangely, he has an awful new neighbour, and Snapper is making his life a misery. In fact NOBODY is behaving the way Ned wants.  And then there’s the wall. Right down the middle of Ivy Lodge and cutting up Ned’s life. A big brick reminder of all that’s going wrong in his life. Until, that is, the night when Ned discovers he has an astonishing new skill . .

Walls is a funny and original story with a theme that will be familiar to many, and an unforgettable hero who quite often gets it wrong.   Ned can’t cope with his parents divorce and his behaviour starts to impact on everything he does – but he can’t see that he’s in the wrong. And when he’s presented with the ‘gift’ of being able to walk through walls try as he might to use his new power for good, Ned just can’t help himself.  Exasperating everyone around him, it takes a dangerous situation for Ned to accept the things he can’t change and find the real hero inside himself.  Full of humour and heart, Walls is a great middle-grade read, generating huge empathy with an enjoyable cast of supporting characters. A well-paced narrative with lots of humour will keep you hooked and despite his troubles, you can’t help but root for Ned to find his way. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

With thanks to Oxford University Press for a proof copy of this book. Find out more at www.emmafischel.com.

 

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Hope by Rhian Ivory

It’s the summer between school and sixth-from. When Hope doesn’t get into drama college and her friends do, her plans fall apart.  She’s struggling with anger, grief for her father and a sense that her own body is against her. A chance meeting on a ferry gives her someone to talk to. But is she brave enough to ask for help? Can she find her plan B?

This is a great YA story with so much for readers to relate to. How many times have you made plans for your life only to find life itself has other ideas? It’s a really hard lesson to learn and Hope is in the throes of this dealing with the death of her father and an unsuccessful drama school audition.  She’s also coping with undiagnosed PMDD, a horrible condition girls suffer from causing extreme mood swings, irritability, depression and other symptoms the week before menstruation. The fallout of all these events impacts on her relationships, particularly with her best friend, Callie.

Ironically given her name, Hope feels anything but, and you can feel the emotional turmoil throughout the narrative. A new friend gives her an outlet for her frustration, but even this causes problems. Hope is forced to face her troubles whilst working with her mother at the hospital as part of the Singing Medicine team and the arrival of her Italian grandfather gives her renewed optimism. I loved the portrayal of their relationship showing how we all need someone to believe in us. Hope finds her voice in more ways than one– to seek help with her condition and to secure a new path for herself. This is an important novel, shining a light on a horrible health issue and showing that life doesn’t always go the way you want, but there is indeed always hope.

With thanks to Firefly Press for sending me this book to review. Follow Rhian on twitter: @Rhian_Ivory

 

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The Weight of A Thousand Feathers by Brian Conaghan

Bobby Seed has questions. What’s another word for ‘thesaurus’? How can I tell Bel I want her as my girl friend, not my girlfriend? How much pain is Mum in today? Has she taken her pills? And sometimes, secretly, why us? Bobby’s little brother Danny has questions too. Will Bobby let him have Rice Krispies for dinner? And can he stay up late on the computer? And why won’t Mum’s stupid illness just GO AWAY? But it’s Mum’s question for Bobby that could turn everything on its head. It’s the Big One. The Unthinkable One.  If Bobby agrees, he won’t just be soothing her pain. He’ll be helping to end it. Would he? Could he?

Described as a “bold questioning exploration of the lengths we’ll go to for the people we love” this is a brilliantly titled and equally brilliantly written novel.  Bobby is not your average teen; he doesn’t life the live he wants to live, he lives the life he has to live. But he does so with grit and determination, fiercely protective of the ones he loves.  His brother has learning needs and his mother spends most of her days in bed suffering from chronic multiple sclerosis.  Bobby’s relationship with both is beautifully portrayed showing the constant struggle between wanting to do the right thing and wanting not to have to be responsible all the time.  Bobby’s only outlet is his poetry; a hidden pleasure or perhaps a necessity through which he can express his feelings. His only help is his best friend Bel, a welcome carer-come-takeaway-night-buddy.  That is until he starts attending a support group, where he meets an array of young people in a similar situation to himself including the handsome and mysterious Lou.  The story unfolds with a narrative full of heart-rending emotion, touches of humour throughout, teen angst, romance and inevitably grief.  The reality described is harsh but truthful and the empathy you feel for Bobby in this impossible situation is overwhelming. Impossible questions don’t have possible answers and this gripping novel explores this theme in a way that stays with you long after the final page.

With thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me this book to review. Follow Brian on twitter: @BrianConaghan

Heart-of-Resistance

The Heart of Resistance by Sarah Tate

When a bomb destroys her London home, Agnes is left without parents or a guardian. But she can’t bear to live in a children’s home in the country. She needs to find her grandparents in France – a France occupied by the Nazis. Smuggled across the Channel, by chance she meets a Resistance group whose leader promises to help her in her quest. In turn, Agnes’s quick thinking saves both their skins. Left in the care of shepherds in the mountains, Agnes’s adventure is only just beginning – can she make it through to the end?

A wartime novel told with heart and full of adventure The Heart of Resistance weaves a tale of struggling against the odds to find the ones you love. Agnes has already suffered the loss of her parents and has grown up in the care of her maternal grandmother, who is killed during a bombing raid on London. Determined not to end up in an orphanage Agnes does the unthinkable and heads into the heart of occupied France to find her paternal grandparents.  Using skills she learnt playing on the blitzed streets of London, Agnes’ survival instincts kick in. Facing all manner of threats from hunger and starvation to German soldiers, she finds herself helping the resistance who in return promise to see her safely to the South of France. There is something mysterious in the face of the resistance leader, but Agnes can only think of getting to her family.  Just when she thinks she is safe, Agnes is captured and has to use all her wits to escape.  An exciting suspense-filled plot, The Heart of Resistance brings to life the danger of wartime, life in occupied France and the constant threat faced by all. It would make a great middle-grade historical classroom read.

With thanks to Ragged Bears for sending me this book to review.

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Alex Sparrow and the Furry Fury By Jennifer Killick

Catching the school’s runaway guinea pigs is not giving Alex job satisfaction, but how can he find a bigger test for his and Jess’s awkward superpowers? Jess is more worried about the bullied new boy, whose Mum runs the animal sanctuary. She volunteers at the sanctuary, but soon realises that something is very wrong; the animals are terrified. People report strange events: things missing, property destroyed, and the local squirrels have turned mean. The police have no suspects. It looks more and more like a job for Agent Alex…

Alex Sparrow is back and from the first page you’ll have a smile on your face!  Alex’s superhero antics haven’t abated and Jess still finds them totally exasperating.  However, bickering aside, they make a great duo and very quickly they find themselves in the midst of another bizarre adventure. This time they’re doing battle with a very mysterious villain, ninja squirrels and really quite frightening foxes to name a few.  Alex is convinced it’s something to do with the new boy from the animal sanctuary, Jess has fallen for the animal sanctuary assistant much to Alex’s disgust, but they both agree that there is definitely an unnatural force playing havoc with local wildlife.  It’s up to them to get to the bottom of things using their slightly unusual superpowers and of course the talents of Bob the goldfish to help. Alex’s determination increases when he realises his precious hedgehog Mr Prickles, a sanctuary resident, is in danger. Using all their ingenuity, from ear farts to animal conversations, Alex and Jess prove their superhero worth by the bucket load. Quirky characters, bags of humour and some excellent plot twists make this fantastic middle-grade adventure spring off the page.  You won’t fail to enjoy it!

With thanks to Firefly Press for sending me this book to review. Find out more at www.jenniferkillick.com.

 

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It’s a Wrap (Waiting for Callback #3) by Perdita & Honor Cargill

It’s a BIG year for Elektra. She’s wrapped her first feature film Raw (even if her character was unexpectedly killed off half-way through filming) and hosted – against the odds – the party of the year (well, until her mum turned up and kicked everyone out) so, things are definitely moving in the right direction. BUT she’s still not sure what’s going on with Archie, her bff Moss’s love life is in shreds and GCSEs are looming. And the COUNTDOWN to Raw’s release is TERRIFYING, not least because it turns out there’s more to promoting a movie than messing around on Insta… #ComingSoon, #ElektraExposed #RawTerror.  Elektra’s road to acting stardom is as rocky as ever…

It’s the night of Elektra’s 16th birthday party, immediately bringing to life the perils of being sweet sixteen – from romance complications to parents about to arrive home early!  So begins the story, which is brimming with all those teen dilemmas but of course the added issue of being a little bit famous. Elektra is possibly on the brink of super stardom but there could be a major problem with her first feature film, Raw.  Enter the PR gurus to ensure the film’s success, who do their best to train Elektra in how to create a social media profile, with hilarious and cringe-worthy results.

To be honest, trying to sum up this book in a short paragraph is tricky – there’s so much in it!  Great characters, believable relationships, slightly-mad-but-always-there family, love triangles and a cute and clever dog. It’s a great commentary on today’s improbable and fickle world of fame and fortune, very brilliantly demonstrating that it’s family and friends that matter along with lots of laughs.  Elektra makes a truly likeable heroine and shows real grit and determination in the face of social media backlash.  Add to this the glamour of the movies, some fabulously funny lines and a message of being true to yourself, It’s a Wrap will leave a smile on your face.

There are also some fantastic school resources to go with this book prompting discussion of the three titles in this series.  With book club questions, multiple choice quizzes, creative writing ideas and whole host of writing tips, the Waiting for Callback series is a fantastic package for encouraging teens readers to get creative.

 

With thanks to Perdita and Honor Cargill for sending me this book to review Find out more at www.waitingforcallback.com.

 

Books july