New reviews: picture books for brightening up the bookshelf!

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Today I’m sharing my reviews of some really delightful quirky picture books, perfect to brighten up any young readers bookshelf and brilliant for sharing.  Step into a world of dinosaurs, cheeky rabbits and magical umbrellas to name a few – you won’t be disappointed!

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The Truth about Dinosaurs by award-winning author and illustrator, Guido Van Genechten, is a wonderful picture book all about dinosaurs – but with a twist! Learn all about what chickens and dinosaurs have in common told from the chicken’s perspective as he takes us on a tour of his family tree. Travel back millions of years and see how dinosaurs evolved and actually really are related to one of our favourite farm yard birds. This is a great fun read, full of fascinating facts and lively colourful illustrations bringing the world of dinosaurs (and chickens!) to life!

Find out more www.fivequills.co.uk

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The Happy Lion by Louise Fatio and Roger Duvoisin is a gorgeous story about a very friendly lion, who lives in a zoo in France. Every day he greets the inhabitants of the town as they walk past his enclosure and they always smile and say hello.  But one day when his gate is left open and he decides to take a stroll, all the town folk no longer smile and wave – they run the other way! Except for young Francois who knows just what to do.  The Happy Lion is a lovely tale with wonderful artwork about understanding who you are and finding friends, and is sure to be a firm favourite with a new generation of readers of all ages! A re-issue of a popular classic, The Happy Lion won the inaugural German’s Children’s Book Prize in 1956.

Find out more at www.scallywagpress.co.uk

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Grandma Z by Daniel Gray-Barnett is a delightful story celebrating the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.  Albert’s birthday is rather dull until the moment Grandma Z sweeps in and takes him on an extraordinary adventure. Showing Albert how to find excitement even in the most ordinary of things, Grandma Z creates a birthday never to forget. Illustrations leap off the page bringing their adventures to life and drawing you in to the excitement. A perfect story for reminding us of the wonder of the world and just how special our grandparents can be, Grandma Z is full of joy!

Find out more from www.scribblekidsbooks.com

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Nits by Stephanie Blake is a vibrant and cheeky story featuring Simon the rabbit – and some rather pesky nits! Simon is totally in love with the new girl Lou, but she doesn’t notice him – that is until she comes into school with nits! Suddenly she needs a friend and Simon is ready to help with a hug and a kiss. Full of fun, Nits is guaranteed to entertain young children – and tackles the rather itchy subject of nits in a light-hearted way.

Find out more at www.geckopress.com

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Umbrella by Elena Arevalo Melville is a lovely tale about a magical umbrella. Clara is feeling rather sad as she has no one to play with at the park. She picks up an old umbrella and to her surprise it comes to life! Beautiful muted illustrations capture the magic as, from that moment on, Clara is introduced to a world where anything is possible  – from helping old Mr Roberts climb trees again to stopping the Moodies from crying. The umbrella has the answer for everything where kindness is concerned and we see that friends come in all shapes and sizes. Young readers will want to experience the magic of the umbrella again and again – and see the ordinary become extraordinary! Umbrella is endorsed by Amnesty International because it celebrates our rights to express ourselves and to choose our own friends.

Find out more at www.scallywagpress.co.uk

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Iced Out by C K Smouha and Isabelle Bunnell is lively picture book featuring the antics of Wilfred the Walrus and Neville the Narwhal as they try and fit in amongst a class of not very friendly seals.  In a story even young children will identify with, Wilfred and Neville are not popular because they’re different – that is until Betty Beluga arrives! Betty changes everything and even though she impresses everyone with all her talents – especially Wilfred and Neville- she isn’t bothered about being popular. She helps Wilfred and Neville see that being different doesn’t matter and they become firm friends.  Bright and expressive illustrations capture the narrative in this engaging tale about friendship and being happy with who you are.  Great fun!

Find out more at www.cicadabooks.co.uk

With thanks to Cicada Books, Five Quills, Gecko Press, Scallywag and Scribble for sending me these books to review.

New reviews: Brilliant books from Barrington Stoke

Barrington Stoke publish really great books. That about sums it up! If you want stories that are engaging, entertaining, thought-provoking and totally accessible, then these are for you. And written by award-winning children’s writers and illustrators to boot!  Read on for my pick of their recent releases, great to engage those children and young people who aren’t avid readers – as well as brilliant quick reads for those who are.

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Special Delivery by Jonathan Meres with illustrations by Hannah Coulson is a touching tale of helping others and forging friendships across the generations.  Frank wants a new bike, so in order to save some money towards buying one he helps his sister with her paper round. And that’s how he meets an old lady who loves cowboys. Frank thinks she’s really cool and when he finds her in the park, a bit lost and confused, he decides to help her find home.  Little does he know his kindness will be repaid and the promise of a new bike won’t seem so far away! Sensitively handling the difficult subject of dementia for younger readers, this is a heart-warming story that will bring a smile to your face.

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The Unlucky Eleven by Phil Earle illustrated by Steve May introduces the hilarious antics of the Saints football team.  Due to their excruciatingly poor form, the team think they are cursed and do everything they can to beat it. Unfortunately their attempts lead to more embarrassment and even injury! It’s up to Stanley to save the day and help his team-mates believe in themselves. Perfectly capturing the world of football, friendship and superstition around sports this is a great fun read for football fans young and old.

These two titles are from the Little Gems range which brings together the best children’s authors and illustrators and clever design to create super readable stories, for children aged 5-8.

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The Spectacular Revenge of Suzi Sims by Vivian French illustrated by Julia Patton features a sports day drama as Suzi’s excitement about sports day is cut short.   Suzi gets off on the wrong foot with Mrs Grit, a supply teacher. Mrs Grit and Suzi’s rival, Barbie, turn Suzi’s life upside down where everything goes wrong and it seems sports day dreams of success are fading fast. Brilliantly bringing to life the perils of school from dealing with class rivals, unfair punishments and worst of all, a horrible supply teacher, young readers will relate to and thoroughly enjoy this story!

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Gamer by Chris Bradford is a thrilling adventure and the first in the Virtual Kombat series.  Set in a dystopian future, where people escape their despair into the world of Virtual Kombat, Scott is a street kid with big dreams. Like everyone else around him, he wants to join Virtual Kombat and get off the streets for good. When it seems his dream to comes true, he can’t believe his luck.  A gripping narrative captures the peril of this story as Scott realises Virtual Kombat is not what he thought – the pain is real and so is the danger – perhaps it’s not just a game after all. A great choice for all those young gamers out there, rereleased with a new cover, the story doesn’t hold back and readers will be hooked from the first page.

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Eagle Warrior by Gill Lewis is a beautifully written tale focusing on endangered wildlife and conservation.  When a golden eagle is found settled near her family farm, Bobbie is determined to protect it – especially when it becomes clear the eagle is in danger.  The challenge before her is made even more difficult when it seems Bobbie will be sent to boarding school, she does not want to leave her beautiful moorland home. A family row ensues with Bobbie stuck in the middle. Utterly thought-provoking and believable, the story highlights man’s disregard for wildlife even in the face of the most magnificent of species and how standing up to this can make all the difference to conservation. It’s a lesson Bobbie’s whole family learn from and the result is a new found respect for the place they call home – and each other.  The author has pledged her PLR royalties derived from this book to Wild Justice, a new organisation challenging the legalities of wildlife law.

These titles are from the middle grade category.  These books are also written by the best children’s authors and are designed to be engaging quick reads – perfect for emerging, reluctant and dyslexic readers. Clever editing and design tricks ensure stories are totally accessible.

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Because of You by Eve Ainsworth is a timely and relevant story dealing with issues around cyber-bullying and merging families.  Teens will undoubtedly identify with Poppy and the challenges she faces as her mum’s new boyfriend moves in, along with his daughter Kayla.  The reality of family break-ups and new beginnings is palpable as Poppy’s voice shares the heartbreak and frustration she feels. Coupled with spiralling problems at school, let down by friends and family, it’s a huge relief (for the reader too!) when Poppy realises she has people on her side – people who care about her and believe in her.  Both heart-rending and heart-warming this story shines a light on the pain of divorce and cyber bullying.  Hope is never far away once you recognise the importance of being honest as a family.

This is a teen title, taken from a range which offers fantastic stories to engage teen readers, often about gritty and relevant topics. Even the most reluctant of teen readers will be drawn to these well-written and accessible books.

Find out more about the brilliant books available from Barrington Stoke here. With thanks to Barrington Stoke for sending me these books to review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New review: The Worldquake series by Scarlett Thomas

On the blog today, a review of a series of books that have been on my radar for months, but it wasn’t until Book #3 arrived in the post that I took the opportunity to read them all! TheWorldquake series is set in a dystopian future where modern technology has been destroyed.  The non-magical world exists alongside the magical world, with opposing sides working to defeat the other. The story centres on Effie Truelove and her friends navigating their way through magic school and trying to save the universe! 

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There are three titles in this brilliant fantasy middle grade series – Dragons Green, The Chosen Ones and Galloglass. Bursting with magic, the story follows Effie and her friends as they discover their magical powers, explore the Otherworld and battle against the Diberi who are intent on destroying the universe. Effie learns all about magic from her grandfather Griffin Truelove but even he couldn’t prepare her for what lies ahead.  When he disappears, he leaves her his library of very special books – which are more than just books; they hold the answers to everything (which of course made me love the story even more!).

It’s hard to sum up this fantastic series in just a short paragraph – there is so much in it and whilst Effie is the central character the supporting cast add plenty of dynamic to the twisting and turning plot. There’s human interest throughout such as dealing with step-parents, boring lessons, difficult teachers and finding friendships alongside the many fantasy elements of the narrative. As Effie and her friends discover their ‘kharacter’ – their unique magical personality and abilities – the plot thickens and nothing is as it seems. The magical realm beckons and Effie delves deeper into the Otherworld to find where she truly belongs. The Diberi threaten at every turn and at times, even Effie’s own father seems to be against her.

Each book builds the mystery creating a magical world you can’t wait to dive into again. With thrilling action and lots of humour, heart and heroism the Worldquake series will have you hooked until the final page.

Find out more at www.worldquake.co.uk .With thanks to Canongate for sending me these books to review. 

New reviews: great books for June!

I can’t actually believe we’re almost half way through the year.  June sees another raft of fabulous new books publishing for children. Here are four great new titles which published just this week. 

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The Big Stink by Lucy Freegard

Charlie, a notorious cheese thief, is a mouse on a mission. Ever since he was little, he had got in spots of bother with the law. He had pinched Parmesan, crept off with Camembert and robbed Roquefort! Charlie is planning his biggest mission yet – to steal a cheesy sculpture from The Museum of Art! After a hair-raising break-in – creeping past cameras, dodging guards and avoiding gates – he reaches his stinky prize. But Officer Rita is soon on the case. Will Charlie get away with it this time?

The Big Stink is a gorgeous picture book about a rather naughty but very loveable mouse who takes his love of cheese a bit too far! He’s stolen every kind of cheese but it’s going to take major planning to ensure his heist of The Stinker is successful. You can’t help but feel sorry for Charlie mouse as his obsession gets the better of him and he’s caught out by a brilliant detective cat.  Delightful illustrations bring this witty story to life and cement Lucy Freegard’s reputation as a fantastic storyteller in both words and pictures.

With thanks to Pavilion for sending me this book to review. Find out more at www.lucyfreegard.com

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The Dragon in the Library by Louie Stowell illustrated by Davide Ortu

Kit can’t STAND reading. She’d MUCH rather be outside, playing games and getting muddy, than stuck inside with a book. But when she’s dragged along to the library one day by her two best friends, she makes an incredible discovery – and soon it’s up to Kit and her friends to save the library … and the world.

The Dragon in the Library is a fabulous story perfect for young middle grade readers who love magic and aren’t afraid of dragons! The adventures of Kit and her two friends leap off the page, as Kit discovers she’s actually a young wizard and that books are magic portals that can transport you literally into a story.  The library and all its books suddenly aren’t as dull as Kit had always thought- adventure beckons! And then there’s the evil villain who oozes bad-ness and is determined to steal the magic; it’s up to Kit and her friends to save the day. Brilliant black and white illustrations throughout bring the story to life. With relatable characters, a very cool librarian and a wonderful underlying theme of the magic of books, The Dragon in the Library has all the ingredients for a fantastic adventure-  what more could you want?!

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

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The Unexpected Find by Toby Ibbotson

When a storm hits a small and sleepy town, it ravages every living thing. But storms don’t just destroy, they uncover. And when a young boy discovers a mysterious object that has lay hidden beneath a centuries-old tree, he instantly knows that it’s special. What he doesn’t know is that his unexpected find will unite him with a girl searching for her missing father and trigger a series of events that will see them travelling across Europe under the most unusual circumstances.

The Unexpected Find is a beautifully written story about a unique journey of discovery for older middle grade readers.  Introducing very different characters in William, a wonderful young boy with Asperger’s who has found a mysterious object under an upturned tree; Judy, a determined girl who is searching for her missing father and Mr Balderson, a totally endearing, one-eyed, cross dresser who becomes their guide and takes everything in his stride. Their unexpected journey takes them all the way to Norway, ending up on a quiet farm where they meet the somewhat brooding Stefan and his grandmother.  Themes of family, friendship and seeking asylum – in all manner of ways – are central to the tale which simmers with unanswered questions right till the end.  Totally original, and utterly absorbing as each character makes new discoveries and is able to find their answers in the most beautiful but unlikely setting. The Unexpected Find is a story for anyone who wants to read something a bit different and indeed, discover the unexpected.

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

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The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell

Fresh off the boat from England, Vita Marlowe has a job to do. Her beloved grandfather Jack has been cheated out of his home and possessions by a notorious conman with Mafia connections. Seeing Jack’s spirit is broken, Vita is desperate to make him happy again, so she devises a plan to outwit his enemies and recover his home. She finds a young pickpocket, working the streets of the city. And, nearby, two boys with highly unusual skills and secrets of their own are about to be pulled into her lawless, death-defying plan.

The Good Thieves is a thrilling middle grade heist full of heart and heroism.  The story transports you to 1920s New York in all its glory with the excitement of future possibilities alongside corruption and danger – it’s truly palpable. Young heroine Vita is on a mission for justice for her grandfather who has been cheated out of his home and fortune by a dangerous conman.  Armed only with incredible throwing skills, borne out of a childhood blighted by polio which left her with a damaged foot, and a natural affinity for making plans, Vita seeks the help of three fellow misfits to carry out the heist.  Her love for her grandfather gives her fierce determination and ensures a real depth to the narrative. The incredible plot has so much to admire, full of twists and with just the right amount of threat to keep you on the edge of your seat, The Good Thieves is storytelling at it’s best.

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

All of these books are now available to buy from any good bookshop.

 

 

 

 

BLOG TOUR: Starfell by Dominique Valente

Starfell Jacket lowresToday I’m hosting the final stop on the blog tour for Starfell by Dominique Valente. I’m delighted to welcome Dominique to the blog with a guest post on writing – even when you are feeling least inspired. Many will identify with the dreaded writers block, but Dominique has some great tips for getting past it.

Starfell is Dominique’s debut middle grade fantasy series published by HarperCollins and I can safely say it’s absolutely gorgeous! I spent a large amount of time smiling at the wonderful storytelling and thinking about how my younger self would have been totally enthralled.  The first book entitled Willow Moss and the Lost Day introduces a likeable young witch called Willow, who feels less than special even with her special powers. Whilst she might be able to find all sorts of lost things, compared to her beautiful sisters and mother, it’s all rather boring. If it weren’t for Willow’s eccentric grandmother, also a witch and whom Willow adores, life would be very dull.  As we soon discover, all that is about to change when the most powerful witch in Starfell arrives on her doorstep, asking for help.  So begins the most marvellous – and dangerous – magical quest where Willow finds that even the most unlikely of powers can save the world.

Starfell is the most enchanting story with a perfect balance of magic, heart and imagination.  Willow and the friends she makes are a delightful cast of characters and Starfell feels like it could be just over the hill, so good is the world-building – although watch out for the trolls, wizards and Brothers of Wol! There’s also plenty of humour largely from Oswin, Willow’s somewhat begrudging sidekick; a sort of cat in a carpet-bag! Full of positive messages around believing in yourself and being selfless in the face of great difficulty, Starfell will have you hooked from the first page. Brought to life by Sarah Warburton’s brilliant illustrations, this book sings inside and out!

Read on for fantastic writing tips from the author herself, perhaps showing just how she created Starfell magic!

Writing with the handbrake up by Dominique Valente

dom“When I first discovered my love for writing I’d sit down for hours happily creating a magical world, never once wondering what an end reader would think. And then I started writing for a living. Having to expose my thoughts and ideas for someone to judge or correct, was tough. I’m not going to lie. But it was good for me. I learn the hard way, which isn’t good – and so often, the only way I improve is with tough love.

And while that has helped with making my writing more polished – and I now pay a lot more attention to things like grammar and structure. (There’s nothing quite like a newsroom and an editor who will call out your mistake in front of all of your colleagues to make you pull up your socks, fast!) It can take a bite out of your confidence, particularly if you allow it more room than it deserves.

It’s a bit like writing with the handbrake up. You’re able to write but it’s hard going because you’re having to try ignore that annoying voice – the one that tells you that you aren’t good enough, smart enough … and still haven’t grasped the comma at the age of thirty (just me?) . That voice is not always there. Some days the words come easy and I delight in every one. But others the FEAR arrives and it’s like wading against a current.

When that happens, this is what I do to get myself through it:

Write first thing in the morning, just after I wake. There’s something about an early morning start, before my brain has fully woken up that really helps. You’re still in that sleepy state and the self-doubt hasn’t had a chance to truly kick in, so by the time you’re fully wake you’ve already knocked out a few hundred words and you’re already half-way there…

Writing sprints. I set a timer and write for as long as I set it – usually ten minutes. There’s something about the ticking timer that focuses the brain not on the fear of a writing a bad story but on the fear of not putting down all the words, which really works. I learnt this great tip from the author Sarah Painter, and her excellent book on the subject of fear and self-doubt – Stop Worrying, Start Writing: How to Overcome Fear, Self-Doubt and Procrastination.

Just keep going. If the scene doesn’t work, I just work around it – I can always come back and fix it later. Or with a little distance I might find that actually that scene is great. It happens. The trick is to keep moving forward. The Jodi Picoult quote: ‘You can’t edit a blank page’ is so true. I’ve put that up on my chalkboard more than once, because I sometimes need a daily reminder of this.

Write the story for yourself first. I used to follow Stephen King’s advice which is to write for an ideal reader in mind – now I just write the story I want to read. For me it’s about creating something that I enjoy, I figure if I’m bored or moved or excited – maybe someone else will be too, and if not, at least I had fun doing it. For a while, when I was journalist and was trying so hard to write for someone else, I forgot about the joy – and that’s where the magic really lies.”

STARFELL: Willow Moss and the Lost Day by Dominique Valente out now in hardback (£12.99, HarperCollins Children’s Books)

Follow Dominique on twitter @domrosevalente, #Starfell

 With thanks to Laura and HarperCollins 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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New reviews: a picture book celebration!

Picture books offer brilliant opportunities to explore the world around us, how we see ourselves and how we interact with others.  Today I’m sharing a round up of some of the picture books that have made their way onto my TBR pile recently.  These books are a marvellous example of the variety of amazing illustrations that tell us stories and help us share the wonder of the world with children!

suitcaseThe Suitcase by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros is a thought-provoking story of overcoming fears of the unknown and showing kindness to those in need. When a strange arrives, the animals are not sure how to greet him and are even mistrustful of him.  However, they realise just in time that the stranger needs their help not hostility and so they show him true kindness and help him make a new home.  Using colour contrasts to show the impact being kind can have and bringing the animals to life with quirky illustrations, this story will teach even the youngest of readers about the value of kindness and not being afraid of what is ‘different’.  Find out more at Nosy Crow.

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Oink by David Elliot is the softly drawn story of Pig who wants to have a nice relaxing bath. But his animal friends have other ideas and soon the bath is full.  Pig resorts to an unusual way to get rid of them so he can get his rest and relaxation. This amusing tale is told through expressive illustrations, almost wordless, and is on which many will identify with (although perhaps not the method of making his friends leave the bath!).   One for all the family to enjoy. Find out more at Gecko Press.

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The Green Giant by Katie Cottle highlights the importance of nature and how we can all make the world a bit more green. When Bea visits her grandfather for a summer holiday, she discovers a green giant in the greenhouse who tells her all about how he survived the grey city.  Bea realises the wonder of nature and when she returns home with a gift from the giant, Bea makes her grey city world become more green too. A timely tale, the vibrant illustrations and simple narrative create a magical feel to the power of nature to transform and shares how we can all make our world a better place. Find out more at Pavilion Books.

william beeWilliam Bee’s Wonderful World of Trains and Boats and Planes by William Bee is the delightful second in the series celebrating the wonders of transport.  Wonderful, full-colour illustrations bring to life all manner of trains, boats and aeroplanes taking the reader on a voyage of discovery that is sure to be enjoyed again and again by young readers.  William is accompanied again by his dog Sparky and the rather brilliant team of traffic cones, who add humour throughout.  Children will be fascinated and entertained – and so will their parents! Find out more at Pavilion Books.

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Big Cat by Emma Lazell is a hilarious story about Isobel and her Grandma and their discovery of a very Big Cat in the garden. Grandma is happy to have Big Cat to stay – afterall she has many cats already! But she and Isobel soon realise this cat is not all it seems. Told through brilliant, larger-than-life illustrations and text, the chaos Big Cat causes comes leaping off the page as do the very funny reactions of Grandma’s other cats.  Sure to delight readers and be a favourite at bedtime, this is definitely one to have on the bookshelf. Find out more at Pavilion Books.

flyFly Flies by Ziggy Hanaor illustrated by Alice Bowsher is a sweet story about being happy as you are. Fly is enjoying a day of wibbly wobbly flying all over the place.  Blackbird, Seagull, Starling and Hawk insist she’s doing it wrong – but she know she’s now even though she tries to be like them.  With bold black and white illustrations, our unexpected hero’s journey of trial and error is brilliantly depicted and her final outburst is spot-on! Leaving you with a warm feeling, this story celebrates the importance of being yourself, no matter what. Find out more at Cicada Books.

its your worldIt’s Your World Now by Barry Falls is a gorgeous celebration of the world we live in!  Encouraging youngsters to be bold and fearless despite setbacks, the narrative shows them what they might do in life, what they might experience – good and bad – and how they can overcome.  Through enchanting illustrations and a lyrical rhyming narrative, it really is an ode on how to live a wonderful life and make the most of our world. In this day and age of what can seem like endless gloom and doom, this story provides a celebration of the world of possibility. A great encouragement for young and old alike! Find out more at Pavilion Books.

With thanks to Cicada Books, Gecko Press, Nosy Crow and Pavilion Books for sending me these titles for review.

 

New reviews: Man’s best friend in books!

Man’s best friend makes a brilliant addition to the cast of many children’s books!  I realised that a whole host of stories I’ve read recently feature a dog either as a companion or as a central part of the plot. Dogs are a big part of many children’s lives and can have a unique connection with their owners.  These books may be very different in style but they all share in celebrating man’s best friend!

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Don’t Hug the Pug by Robin Jacobs illustrated by Matthew Hodson

Baby Likes to cuddle.  He is allowed to hug the rug, the jug, the bug and the slug….but NOT the pug! Why not? What could be wrong with the pug?

A simple, rhyming narrative combines with larger-than-life, quirky illustrations to celebrate the natural curiosity of babies and their desire to play with things they shouldn’t! A great book to read aloud, children will love joining in with ‘Don’t hug the pug!’ and be highly amused by the rather smelly outcome!  Grown-ups will recognise the persistence of the little chap as he tries to hug the pug and is told no over and over – without success.  Pugs do have a reputation for being a bit smelly but perhaps on this occasion it’s a little undeserved! Great fun.

With thanks to Cicada Books for sending me this book to review. 

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My Dog Mouse by Eva Lindstrӧm

“Can I take Mouse for a walk?” I ask, and I’m always allowed.  We set off, very slowly. Mouse walks at a snails pace. He stops at a lampposts and fences and sniffs for a long time.  He’s old and fat with ears as thin as pancakes.  His walk is a kind of waddle and he’s always pleased to see me. 

This is such a lovely, gentle story about an old dog called Mouse and a young girl who loves to take him for a walk.  She might not own Mouse but as the story progresses you can see just how much she loves him, even if he is slow and fat and old.  And he loves her too.

Beautifully paced with charming illustrations, and leaving you with a warm heart, My Dog Mouse is perfect for anyone who has ever owned and loved a dog into old age.

With thanks to Gecko Press for sending me this book to review.

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McTavish Takes the Biscuit by Meg Rosof

When Pa Peachey decides to enter the town bake-off competition, his grand plans turn out to be far more impressive than his baking skills.  As Pa’s ambitions start to crumble, rescues dog McTavish smells disaster in the making. Can he find a way to save the Peachey family from disaster yet again?

The third outing for McTavish and the Peachey family, this is a delightful tale full of trademark humour and heart as Pa Peachey attempts to bake. I love his grand plans and even though you can feel his family’s concern – and possible embarrassment – you have to admire his ambition as he tries to bake his way to glory!  Family life is brilliantly brought to life with the Peachey children Betty, Ollie and Ava watching in dismay as their father creates chaos determined to win the bake off by creating a gingerbread sculpture of the Palace of Versailles! It is, of course, up to the wonderful McTavish to save the day and be the hero yet again.  A great fun read for all the family to enjoy!

With thanks to Barrington Stoke for sending me this book to review. See my review of the previous book in this series McTavish Goes Wild.

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D-Day Dog by Tom Palmer

Jack can’t wait for the school trip to the D-Day landing beaches. It’s his chance to learn more about the war heroes he has always admired – brave men like his Dad, who is a Reserve soldier.  But when his dad is called up to action and things at home spiral out of control, everything Jack believes about war is thrown into question.  Finding comfort only in the presence of his loyal dog, Finn, Jack is drawn to the heart-wrenching story of one particular D-Day paratrooper.  On 6 June 1944, Emile Corteil parachuted into France with his dig, Glen – and Jack is determined to discover their fate…..

Bringing together multiple themes of conflict, remembrance, family, friendship and refugees, D-Day Dog is a totally absorbing and thought-provoking story.  It brilliantly depicts the complex nature of war and conflict, and what it really means to make the ultimate sacrifice of giving your life for your country.  Questions that we all at some point ask ourselves are examined through the impressive narrative – from whether it’s right that a father go to war and leave his family behind, using animals in conflict to why we should remember those who died in wartime. It’s particularly poignant when Jack realises that conflict isn’t just something that happened a long time ago – it happens now, every single day. His connection with his dog Finn becomes all the more important as he discovers what happened to wartime dog Glen. This is a really accessible read and the historical detail brings the true nature of war to life. Ultimately this story will help all who read it understand the impact of conflict and why remembrance is so important.

With thanks to Barrington Stoke for sending me this book to review. Read my review of Tom Palmer’s Armistice Runner here.

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The Dog Runner Bren MacDibble

Ella and her brother, Emery, are alone in a city that’s starving to death. If they are going to survive, they must get away, up-country, to find Emery’s mum. But how can two kids travel such big distances across a dry, barren landscape?

Set in a future where a fungus has killed all the grass and famine has taken hold, Ella’s mother and father have gone, leaving her with her older half-brother Emery and the family’s dogs.  Their only chance of survival is get to the country and the only way they can do this quickly enough is to use a dog-sled, and two other dogs given to them by a friend. The dystopian world they live in is fraught with danger – marauding motorbike gangs steal anything of use; Ella and Emery cannot trust anyone. As the story progress, Emery is injured and they lose their strongest dog making their situation even more precarious.  Ella has to use all her bravery and strength to keep her family safe.  A fast paced plot builds the tension and a strong sense of how awfully ‘real’ this could be if we don’t look after our environment can be felt throughout.  Ella makes a brilliant heroine and the dangers she, her brother and the dogs face are palpable. I loved the relationship between the children and their dogs and the instinctive way they protect each other. The Dog Runner is a non-stop adventure which will entertain as much as it will provoke thought about the importance of looking after our planet and how we should be doing this now – not waiting until it’s too late.

With thanks to Old Barn Books for sending me this book to review. Read my review of Bren MacDibble’s debut title How to Bee here.