Tag Archives: Book reviews

BLOG TOUR: The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley by Amber Lee Dodd

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Welcome to DAY THREE of the blog tour celebrating publication of The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley written by Amber Lee Dodd, published by Scholastic!  I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop and sharing a spooky post from the author herself, featuring the story of an infamous historical curse.

Why, I hear you ask? Well a curse is at the heart of The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley, a fantastic family adventure story with a magical twist.

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The Bradley family are constantly escaping from a centuries old curse which means that every home they have ever lived in is destroyed – floods, fire, earthquakes – all manner of destruction. They have just moved to their thirteenth house and although the threat of the curse looms ever closer, Noah is desperate not to have to leave this new home – where he finally feels like a ‘normal’ boy and that he could have a happy life. However, at the sign of a black cat, Noah knows the curse is once again about to strike– can he find a way to break it with the help of his brother and new neighbour, Neena?

I’ve been a fan of Amber Lee Dodd since her brilliant first book, We Are Giants, so I was very excited to read this, her latest title.  It doesn’t disappoint – I was hooked from the first page! Totally engaging, The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley is an original story with a clever plot, that has so much for readers to relate too. There are so many great characters and I adored Noah and his brother Billy and the bond they share. Noah’s care and concern for Billy, who is deaf, is heart-warming. The narrative captures just how important it is to have a place called home and how difficult it can be to constantly move house, change schools and have to make new friends.  Noah struggles with his own desires to fit in, even at the expense of true friendship, but as the story progress we see him realise that fitting in shouldn’t be that hard if people will accept you for who you are.  References throughout to Noah’s love of nature and the situations he finds himself in reflecting animal behaviour bring an added dimension to the story. Add to this the magical elements of a frightening family curse and you have a wonderful tale of family, friendship, bravery and adventure!  Definitely one for the bookshelf!

Today, author Amber Lee Dodd is sharing the story of her favourite historical curse. Welcome to the blog Amber!

King Tutankhamun’s Curse

“One of my favourite historical curses is the curse of the Pharaohs. It’s said that the well-known curse brings down illness, bad luck and death upon any who disturb the tombs. The curse was so well feared that inscriptions were carved into some Royal Egyptian tombs reading,

“Cursed be those that disturb the rest of Pharaoh. They that shall break the seal of this tomb shall meet death by a disease which no doctor can diagnose.”

Even stranger is the real-life story of the six archaeologists who died shortly after opening King Tutankhamun’s tomb. Followed by five more deaths in ten years of people who first visited the tomb, or where involved in disturbing the King. All the mysterious deaths were of course due to natural causes, misadventures and even murder! But that hasn’t stopped people wondering if the curse was real. Spooky!”

Amber Lee Dodd grew up in Portsmouth, where she rode the waltzers, swam in the winter sea and lost her wellies in the marshes. She has worked as a Learning Support Worker in schools with disabled students, and is passionate about incorporating disability representation in her books for children. Amber struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia and dyspraxia at school and on discovering stories, found her very own magic power – telling stories!

Find out more at www.amberleedodd.com. With thanks to Scholastic 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 blog tour:

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MAMMOTH World Book Day book review blog!

I will admit to having been rather caught up reading through the fabulous Branford Boase Longlist 2020 (no complaints – I’m over the moon to be on the judging panel this year!), hence a lack of reviews of the other brilliant books I’ve read over the last few months. What better day to catch up than on World Book Day, when we’re all sharing stories? ! Read on for a wonderful array of children’s books – Happy World Book Day!   

Picture Books

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Hop on board and take a trip through the train tunnels of ten cities around the world! Discover what makes each subway system unique and then see if you can spot the things hiding in the pictures.  From a pillar box in London to a bento box in Tokyo, you’ll learn about cities and trains from all corners of the planet.

Underground by Uijung Kim is a gorgeous celebration of subway systems from around the world.  Aimed at young readers and a great non-fiction book to share, Underground is a brilliantly combined lift-the-flap and search-and-find book. Full of bright, contemporary and colourful illustrations, it gives fantastic insight into what you might find on subways from New York City to Seoul to Paris and London.  I absolutely loved the artwork and can imagine young readers (and their parents and carers!) would spend hours pouring over each spread again and again.

Uijung Kim is a Korean illustrator living and working in New York. Her gorgeous cartoon-style is deeply rooted in Korean culture. For more information about Uijung Kim, please visit her website.

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

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Sneakers for cheetahs, scarves for giraffes and perfumed pants for skunks – Moose and Mr Brown can design anything for anyone.  But can they track down Monty, Moose’s missing brother? He got on the wrong plane leaving Alaska and hasn’t been seen since…

The Adventures of Moose and Mr Brown by Paul Smith illustrations by Sam Usher is a lovely tale telling the story of Moose, Mr Brown and the search for Moose’s brother Monty who seems to have disappeared.  Adventure ensues as Mr Brown and Moose travel the globe looking for Monty, all the while solving lots of design problems – like scarves for giraffes, dungerees for kangeroos and even a bib for a spitting cobra.  It’s a full of fun and heart warming story, brought to life with lively, detailed illustrations capturing all the ideas and inspiration throughout. A great story to read aloud and share.

Paul Smith is one of Britain’s foremost designers. He is renowned for his creative spirit, which combines tradition and modernity. Sam Usher is well known for his multi-award shortlisted book Can You See Sassoon?  and popular seasonal picture book series – SnowRainStorm and Sun. Find out more at www.paulsmith.com and www.samusher.com.

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

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A wolf who makes chocolates? When a new chocolate shop opens in town, Mrs Chicken and the animals are very suspicious. It must be a trap – that Ferocious Wolf is surely scheming to eat them all up! Or is he….?

The Ferocious Chocolate Wolf by Lizzie Finlay is a delightful story about a wolf who just wants to share his love of chocolate – and is not interested in eating any animals at all! An engaging narrative and lovely illustrations tell how Ferocious the Wolf opens his own chocolate shop full of treats and only one brave piggy will be his customer.  Piggy is so excited by the yummy chocolates that he offers to help Ferocious get some more customers.  With a wonderful sentiment about friendship and acceptance, The Chocolate Wolf will delight young readers as one by one the animals discover Ferocious really doesn’t live up to his name and really does make wonderful chocolates!

Lizzie Finlay is a best-selling author-illustrator. Her debut book ‘Dandylion’, won the Dundee Picture Book Award and was shortlisted for the NASEN Children’s Book Award. Find out more at www.tallbean.co.uk

With thanks to Five Quills for sending me this book to review.

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When Handa has a sleepover with her friend Akeyo, the girls are allowed to spend the night in a little hut near the house. They’re excited to be on their own, but as they get ready for bed, Handa feels more and more nervous. She keeps hearing things – strange snorts, chitter chattering, a big thud……

Handa’s Noisy Night by Eileen Browne follows more of Handa’s adventures, over 25 years after her first story Handa’s Surprise was published . Rich and vibrant artwork brings to life the simple and very humorous story, as Handa has a sleepover in a hut with her friend Akeyo and they hear lots of strange noises in the night.  Every time there is a squeak, snort or rustle, Akeyo explains it’s one of her family members, putting Handa’s mind at rest– but it’s not! It’s a wonderful array of incredible wildlife going about their nightly business, as each spread shows exactly what it going on, despite Akeyo’s explanation. You will smile throughout as you join Handa and friends again and introduce young readers to the wonder of Kenyan wildlife and the excitement and nerves of sleeping in a different place!

Eileen Browne is the author and illustrator of Handa’s Surprise and Handa’s Hen, the two previous best-selling books featuring Handa. Eileen worked as a teacher and youth worker before becoming and author/illustrator. Find out more at www.walker.co.uk.

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

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This is the story of a bird that fits in your hand flying halfway round the world looking for a place to nest. This is the story of a young girl from northern Africa fleeing halfway round the world looking for a place of peace.  This is the story of Bird. This is the story of Leila. This is the story of a chance encounter and a long journey home.

Boundless Sky by Amanda Addison and Manuela Adreani is a simply stunning story representing the journey of a refugee. The story uses the migration of a beautiful swallow to depict just how far refugees travel to get to safety, how long and dangerous the journey can be, and how the help and welcome of others is so needed. Two young children thousands of miles apart are brought together, with the bird showing how this happens. Beautifully illustrated and truly tugging at your heart strings, Boundless Sky evokes empathy and understanding and is one of the best stories I’ve read showing the plight of refugees in a totally original way.

Amanda Addison holds an MA in Writing the Visual and lectures in Art and Creative Writing and has previously been long-listed for the Commonword and Virginia Prize. Manuela Adreani is a children’s book illustrator from Italy whose books have been published worldwide. She has previously been nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal. Find out more at www.amandaaddison.com and www.manuelaadreani.blogspot.com

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

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My mum works really hard and knows lots of fun things to do that don’t cost money. But when there’s nothing left in the cupboards we have to go to the foodbank. Maybe one day things will be different….

It’s a No Money Day by Kate Milner is an utterly moving story focusing on a mother and daughter who live in poverty and have to rely on the kindness of others.  It’s a simple narrative with muted illustrations bringing to life what it means to live without enough money to buy food.  You can see the mother’s sacrifice on her face; the ‘maybe one day’ hope that she shares with her daughter to keep them going is heart-wrenching – and heart-warming. But there is hope and this story shines a light on the brilliant work those who run food banks do and, sadly, how important and much needed they are.

Kate Milner is an award-winning author-illustrator whose previous title My Name is Not Refugee won the Klaus Flugge Prize. Find out more about at www.katemilner.com

With thanks to Barrington Stoke for sending me this book to review.

 

Illustrated Fiction

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One summer’s day we started a business called Funerals Ltd, to help all the poor dead animals in the world. Esther did the digging, I wrote the poems, and Esther’s little brother, Puttie, cried.

All the Dear Little Animals by Ulk Nilsson illustrated by Eva Eriksson is the sweetest story about three children who decide someone must bury all the world’s poor dead animals. Originally published as a picture book, this illustrated chapter book version shows a child’s perspective of death through play. Light-hearted but not without depth, the gorgeous illustrations complement the simple narrative and dry humour, giving a glimpse into how children view death and mourning.  A beautifully presented book for every bookshelf.

Ulf Nilsson is a celebrated award-winning children’s writer from Sweden and wrote the internationally acclaimed series Detective Gordon for children. Eva Eriksson is one of the world’s great illustrators having one the Astrid Lindgren Prize and been nominated regularly for the Hans Christian Andersen Award.

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

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When Mum goes away for the week, Jams, Dad and Thimble the monkey are left with just thirty quid for the groceries. Dad makes a shopping list, but when Thimble gets hold of the supermarket trolley, everything goes bananas. Soon the intrepid trio are so desperate they will do anything for money … anything! Will Dad end up selling his soul to make ends meet, or can Jams and his monkey pal save the day?

Thimble Wonga Bonkers by Jon Blake and illustrated Martin Chatterton reunites readers with Jams and his friend Thimble the monkey in another hilarious instalment of this addictive, award-winning series.  The now-trademark humour and one liners skip along with the story, and readers will laugh out loud as Jams’ hapless Dad and Thimble need rescuing after many unfortunate incidents. A story guaranteed to make you smile and with great illustrations bringing the adventures – or should I say ‘misadventures’ – to life!

Jon Blake lives in Cardiff and two children, one of whom he based Jams’ character on, and has been writing since 1984 – books, TV and radio scripts.  Martin Chatterton has illustrated many books in the UK and Australia, including some of the Middle School books with James Patterson. Find out more at www.jonblake.co.uk and www.worldofchatterton.com.

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

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It’s Ella’s first day at her new school and she wants to find a friend. But it’s really hard. The girls aren’t interested in her and she doesn’t have the courage to just join in … When she finds a book about making friends Ella decides to try out the tips it recommends. With five excellent ideas up her sleeve, Ella will be friends with the girls in no time … Right?

Five Ways to Make a Friend by Gillian Cross illustrated by Sarah Horne brings to life a touching tale of friendship and the challenges of starting a new school.  Readers will identify with Ella, a sweet girl, desperate to make new friends but not seeing the real like-minded soul right in front of her.  Ella’s trial and error approach is captured in lively illustrations and you can’t help but cheer as she finally understands she has indeed made a new friend without even realising!

Gillian Cross is an award-winning author best known for the Demon Headmaster series.  Sarah Horne is a regular illustrator of children’s books, with a fun and funky illustrating style. Find out more at www.gillian-cross.co.uk and www.thescribblegirl.wordpress.com

 With thanks to Barrington Stoke for sending me this book to review.

Middle Grade

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Otto lives in the frozen city of Hodeldorf, gripped by eternal winter. When his mother goes missing one icy morning, Otto vows to find her – joining forces with the Tattercoats, a gang of brave orphans. Now they must journey into a dark forest on a heart-racing adventure that will chill you to the bone. Witches lurk. Sun dragons lie sleeping. Endless winter shivers. Will you enter the lost forest – or would you rather stay safe at home?

Otto Tattercoat and the Forest of Lost Things by Matilda Woods is set in a wintry landscape, with all sorts of magical people and creatures ready to delight the imagination. Middle-grade readers will love exploring the Forest of Lost things, as Otto goes in search of his mother, closely followed by his fellow Tattercoats, Nim and Blink. Adventure awaits, reminiscent of classic fairytales and Narnian magic, with enchanting characters – both good and bad – to keep readers hooked.   A wonderful story and magical place to escape to!

Matilda Woods is both a writer and a youth social worker, based in Australia. Her previous books, The Boy the Bird and the Coffin Maker and The Girl The Cat and the Navigator. Find out more www.matildawoods.com.

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

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Demelza loves science – she loves it so much that she stays up late to work on her inventions. But she soon discovers she’s also inherited a distinctly unscientific skill: Spectre Detecting. Like her grandmother, she can summon the ghosts of the dead. When Grandma Maeve is kidnapped, Demelza and her pasty-faced best friend, Percy, must leap into action to solve the deadly mystery …

Demelza and the Spectre Detectors by Holly Rivers is the first in a fantastically spooky and scientific series which will spark the imaginations of all who read it.  Demelza is a feisty and fun character, who adores inventions and finds out she has inherited her beloved Grandma Maeve’s talent as a Spectre Dectector.  The supernatural meets science as Demelza learns more about her new talent. An original idea and a fresh take on grief and losing those you love, alongside a bundle of mystery and mayhem make for a thoroughly engaging read!

Holly Rivers is famously known for playing Drusilla Paddock in ITV’s original Worst Witch series. She now concentrates on writing, travelling and leading creative workshops for children. Follow Holly on Twitter @HollyRivers_Lit

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

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Liberty Johansen is going to change the way we look at the night sky. Most people see the old constellations, the things they’ve been told to see. But Liberty sees new patterns, pictures, and possibilities. She’s an exception. Some other exceptions: Her dad, who gave her the stars. Who moved out months ago and hasn’t talked to her since. Her mom, who’s happier since he left, even though everyone thinks she should be sad and lonely. And her sister, who won’t go outside their house. Liberty feels like her whole world is falling from space. Can she map a new life for herself and her family before they spin too far out of reach?

The Year We Fell From Space by Amy Sarig King focuses on a family going through divorce and depression and is both funny and sad.  These issues affect many children and this story is sensitively written and hugely insightful, capturing the reality of family breakdown alongside everyday teen existence.  In Liberty, we see the fallout of divorce and its impact on all her relationships. But also we see the importance and empowerment of seeking help and speaking about how you are feeling. She is a compelling character and empathy for her grows with each page. There is no cure for divorce, and it hurts; but there is hope for healing – it just takes time.  A well-written story which will stay with you long after the final page.

Amy Sarig King has written many critically acclaimed and prize winning young adult novels. Find out more at www.as-king.com

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

Find out more about World Book Day at www.worldbookday.com

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National Non-Fiction November – a celebration of books!

nnfnIn celebration of National Non Fiction November, I’m sharing some fantastic non-fiction titles on the blog today that demonstrate brilliantly why children’s non-fiction is so popular and deserves to be celebrated! From super series to one off wonders, children and adults alike will be enthralled by them all.

 

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Be Your Best Self – Life Skills for Unstoppable Kids by Danielle Brown and Nathan Kai celebrates being confident in your own skin and provides lots of tips and techniques on how to be successful, achieve your dreams and generally be brilliant! Written by double Paralympic gold medallist Danielle Brown, and the youngest self-development published author, Nathan Kai who is also a member of MENSA, you know the advice is going to be good. There are chapters devoted to each area that impact development for example – goal setting, self-confidence and role models. It also looks at bullying, kindness and how to keep going when the going gets tough – all very real issues for children and young people today. Straightforward advice is brought to life with colourful illustrations throughout and both authors share their own experiences to enable readers to really relate to it. This well-written and beautifully presented book would make a great gift for youngsters to encourage and motivate them to be the best they can be!

“To Be Your Best Self means loving who you are, feeling confident in your own skin and achieving the things you want to do.”

Find out more at www.buttonbooks.co.uk

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A Million Dots by Sven Volker is a quirky picture book that does exactly what the title says – brings a million dots to life! A clever concept where doubling the numbers from one to one million happens over the 40 pages of the book, with a pullout at the back to accommodate all the dots! Recognisable objects illustrate numbers to begin with– such as trees, peas, raindrops and even freckles – until there are too many to fit on the page. As ther number increases the dots get smaller and smaller. A remarkable visualisation of numbers, A Millions Dots makes a great book to share and I can imagine some young readers would want to count them all too!

Find out more www.cicadabooks.co.uk

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Odd Science: Brilliant Bodies by James Olstein is the fourth instalment in this fantastic series which so far has covered inventions, the animal kingdom and space. Full of fascinating facts accompanied by the now trademark gorgeous design and illustration, readers can explore the human body and find out weird and wacky truths about the way our bodies work.  Did you know that every 7-10 years, a human skeleton renews the cells inside itself completely?! Or that the human nose can sniff out the difference between at least a trillion different odours?! With so many interesting things to discover, Brilliant Bodies is a wonderful addition to this series which presents science in a fun and easy to digest format. Not only do these books look really nice on the bookshelf (I’m a sucker for great design!) but they’re educational and entertaining too!

Find out more at www.pavilionbooks.com

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Encyclopedia of Grannies by Éric Veillé is a delightful book full of word play and humour all about grandmas. Lively illustrations shine a light on the wonderful world of grannies and the things they get up to; this is a book for the family to enjoy.  Have you ever wondered why grannies tell us to speak up? Or why they have creases on their faces? How old are they really?! I thoroughly enjoyed this encyclopedia which is full of wit and wisdom and may have some unexpected answers to these questions! Encyclopedia of Grannies would make a brilliant gift to give grandma – so she can share it with her grandchildren!

Find out more at www.geckopress.com

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Darwin’s Voyage of Discovery by Jake Williams is a beautiful book celebrating one of the most remarkable journeys in history.  Enter the world of Charles Darwin and travel on his ship, The Beagle, as you find out all about what inspired our knowledge of the natural world. Overflowing with insight, this book features the story of the voyage but also shares fascinating facts about wildlife and nature too. There’s even a detailed look at the ship itself and the equipment Charles took, as well as hearing about the Captain and the crew.  Beautifully illustrated with wonderful presentation this book is a must for children who are interested in history, science and nature and would make a perfect gift.

Find out more at www.pavilionbooks.com

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So you think you’ve got it bad? A Kid’s Life in Ancient Rome by Chae Strathie and Marisa Morea brings life in Ancient Rome leaping off the page is the third book in this series developed in consultation with experts from The British Museum. Lively illustrations accompany the informative narrative, shedding light on just how children lived in Roman times and featuring all manner of things from what they wore, to what they ate and what school was like. Gladiators even make an appearance!  Entertaining sound bites and engaging design will keep young readers enthralled as they delve into the past. This is a great addition to any bookshelf and in particular for those studying Ancient Rome, this book makes a great starting point.

Find out more at www.nosycrow.com

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Atlas of Amazing Birds by Matt Sewell is a glorious book full to the brim with the world’s most amazing birds. The author and illustrator is a well-respected wildlife artist and writer who has brought together this wonderful selection and beautifully crafted all the illustrations to depict birds in all their glory! Alongside witty and informative descriptions, you can read all about just how unique birds are and how each has its own quirky behaviour, ‘song’ and habits.  You will also discover birds you’ve never heard of (Painted Bunting, Resplendent quetzal, Corncrake were certainly new to me!). There are spreads on each continent visited explaining which birds come from which area. All in all it’s a truly wonderful atlas and if you’re not a bird lover, you will be after reading this. As the author says, ‘remember to always look up and around as you never what you are going to see’!

Find out more at www.pavilionbooks.com

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

 

Reviews, reviews and more reviews! A big blog catch-up.

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How many books can you fit on one blog? I’ve read so many great books over the summer months into autumn– newly published and yet to be published- it’s hard to know where to start, but here are just some of the titles I’ve really enjoyed reading.

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The Doughnut of Doom by Elys Dolan brings us a new kind of super villain in a picture book tale reminiscent of all the best kinds of monster movies. Think King Kong with a slightly stickier coating! Great characters in the shape of different types of talking food – from peanut butter sandwiches to fried eggs to chilli peppers – bring the action to life and create a veritable feast of a story. Hilarious from the first page, The Doughnut of Doom will liven up bedtime reading and spark the imagination of young readers with its lively a narrative and even livelier illustrations.

Available now published by Nosy Crow age 2+

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Gallery of Cats by Ruth Brown is a gorgeous collection of pictures reminiscent of famous masterpieces, with a twist. Each picture features a cat with the characteristics of the painter, described in the accompanying narrative.  The story begins with Tom, a young boy visiting an art gallery and stumbling upon this very unusual exhibition and as he visits each picture the cat featured jumps down to join him on his tour.  Clever and humorous, Gallery of Cats is a fantastic introduction to the world of art and a lovely story to share.

Available now published by Scallywag Press for age 3+

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The Girl and the Dinosaur by Hollie Hughes and Sarah Massini is a captivating picture book sharing the wonder of the imagination and dreams.  A little girl discovers old dinosaurs bones on a beach and at bedtime wishes with all her heart that the dinosaur will come to life. And it does, taking her on the most marvellous adventure to a secret place where only children play in their dreams!  It’s a lovely tale, beautifully illustrated and captures the magic of children’s imagination.

Available now published by Bloomsbury for age 3+

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Beaver’s Big Adventure A Journey Home by Magnus Weightman is a gorgeous book exploring all kinds of animal homes brought to life in delightful, detailed illustrations. The story tells of Beaver embarking on his big dream to explore the world. From the big city to the forest, Beaver meets all kinds of animals living in different nests, underground burrows and even termite mountains. With illustrations reminiscent of the Busy World of Richard Scarry, this is a fantastic book to explore over and again, each time discovering something new.

Available from 1st October published by Five Quills for age 3+

Kitty by Paula Harrison illustrated by Jenny Lovie is a brand new six-book series introducing superhero-in-training Kitty.  Gorgeous colourful illustrations capture the action, as Kitty braves the night time to solve mysteries and recover stolen treasure in the first two adventures, Kitty and the Moonlight Rescue and Kitty and the Tiger Treasure.  These books are sure to be a hit with young readers, as they meet Kitty and her Cat Crew, including her number one companion Pumpkin the ginger cat!  Themes of bravery and friendship will capture the imagination of all who read Kitty’s adventures and with a Super Cat Facts section at the back of each book, cat lovers in particular will enjoy!

Available now published by Oxford University Press, for age 5+

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The Bakery of Happiness by Ian Beck is a heart-warming (and tummy tempting) story set in a bakery in the beautiful streets of Paris. It’s a sweet story of love and friendship that will surprise and delight all who read it, evoking the feel of a classic romance and the smells of wonderful baking!  The magic of Paul du Pains’ bakery is clear as every customer who enters, leaves feeling happier than before. But the magic doesn’t come from the fabulous cakes and breads he bakes – it comes from Marie, his marvellous assistant who serves each customer and has a voice to brighten even the most miserable person’s day. How will Paul restore the magic to his shop when Marie leaves for the opera? With lovely illustrations, The Bakery of Happiness will remind all who read it to take a chance on friendship and love as soon as it appears.

Available now published by Barrington Stoke for ages 5-8 

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White Fox by Chen Jiatong illustrated by Viola Wang is the first modern middle-grade children’s fiction series to be translated into English from Chinese. The series brings to life the adventures of an orphaned white fox cub, Dilah, who longs to be human.  Myth and magic combine as Dilah embarks on a quest guided by a magical moonstone, which will show him to a treasure that is said to transform animals into humans! An incredible adventure ensues, and Dilah makes new friends and discovers dangerous enemies as he seeks the treasure. Readers will be enthralled by the twists and turns of Dilah’s quest and desperate to find out what happens next to the young fox and his friends. A great read, White Fox is a fantastic introduction to Chinese children’s fiction.

Available now published by Chicken House for age 9+

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Teen Witch by Katy Birchill is fun, teen fiction at its best. Morgan Charmley is about to start a ‘normal’ school at the age of 13. But how will she fit in? Because Morgan is a witch and although she can control her powers, she can also cast a spell with a click of her fingers. And even though she’s passed the Young Witch Exam (after the eight time of taking it) the trials and tribulations of every day school life are somewhat challenging – especially when her witch familiar, Merlin, decides to turn himself into a tarantula on her first day at school. Join in the fun as Morgan deals with this and other incidents, and tries to fit in, inadvertently befriending a warlock.  Great fun!

Available now published by Scholastic for age 11+

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Anna at War by Helen Peters is a brilliant wartime adventure about a young German Jewish girl who finds herself sent away to safety in England.  Leaving her parents is hard enough but then Anna finds herself caught up in a web of spies, betrayal and intrigue as well as dealing with being a German in England whilst the war rages on.  Anna tries not to lose hope for her family and as the plot thickens she realises there are other ways to fight the Nazi’s. Great storytelling shows Anna’s bravery and the narrative is full of heart, capturing wartime efforts and shedding light on the experiences of German Jews. There’s a really beautiful moment towards the end of the story; you’ll need your tissues. Anna at War is a compelling, well-balanced read that will tug at the heart strings and the themes of conflict, courage and wartime displacement are all relevant for today.

Available now published by Nosy Crow for age 8+

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Alex Sparrow and the Zumbie Apocalypse by Jennifer Killick is the fantastic third book in this series about Alex, Jess and their very quirky superpowers. This time the action takes place in a local Zumba class, with Alex’s mum and grandma placed firmly in the danger zone as it appears the evil Montogomery McMonaghan is up to his usual dastardly tricks. Of course it’s up to Alex and Jess and their crew of unusual helpers including Bob the goldfish and Dexter the pigeon to solve the mystery. They meet some new and surprising characters along the way and face some really hairy moments keeping you on the edge of your seat! Alex and Jess are two of my favourite characters in middle-grade fiction today; I love that despite all the bonkers antics – or perhaps because of – they always discover something new about themselves and have a better friendship at the end of each tale.   Great fun, full of humour and totally entertaining, Alex Sparrow never disappoints!

Available now published by Firefly Press age 9+

With thanks to Barrington Stoke, Bloomsbury, Firefly Press, Five Quills, Nosy Crow, Oxford University Press, Scallywag Press and Scholastic for sending me these books to review.

 

New reviews: picture books for brightening up the bookshelf!

picture books july

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! 

The Worldquake series by Scarlett Thomas

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.