Book of the Month: The Night Before Christmas by Clement C Moore and Roger Duvoisin

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Celebrating the final Book of the Month for 2019, I’m delighted to share Roger Duvoisin’s eye-catching interpretation of Clement C Moore’s classic poem from 1954, The Night Before Christmas, republished for 2019 by Scallywag Press . It’s been a tradition in my house since my children were little to read aloud The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve so I have a huge soft spot for this gorgeous poem.

The poem, also known by the name A Visit from St Nicholas, was first published in 1823, with the author wishing to remain anonymous. It wasn’t until some years later that Clement C Moore claimed ownership. The Night Before Christmas was the first time St Nicholas  – Santa Claus – had been depicted in this way and led to the first visualisation of Santa with his reindeer and sleigh. A few hundred years later, it doesn’t fail to capture the imagination and is still a wonderful festive treat to enjoy with whole family. This version is beautifully presented in a long thin format to depict Santa coming down the chimney. Brightly coloured and eye-catching artwork bring the magic and wonder of Christmas Eve to life; I particularly love the spread of Santa and his reindeer flying over the rooftops. You couldn’t really ask for anything more magical at Christmas time!

Find out more at www.scallywagpress.com.

With thanks to Scallywag Press for sending me this book 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!

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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 review: The Story of Little Mole who knew it was None of his Business by Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch

 

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Celebrating 30 years of publication, The Story of Little Mole who knew it was None of his Business has delighted readers young and old. It is written by Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch, a German author/illustrator team, who are highly regarded for their humourous and playful characters. This quirky detective story enjoys a cult following and has been published in ‘plop-up’ format – and would you believe, has even been performed as musical theatre?!

When it arrived on my doorstep, I will admit to being totally surprised by the theme having not come across it before. But it is very funny and given how much toilet humour can be found in many funny books for children, this book was clearly way ahead of its time when it was originally published in 1989.

 

The Story of Little Mole who knew it was None of his Business tells the tale of a little mole who wakes up one morning only to find another animal has ‘done it’s business’ on his head! Furious, he sets off to find out who and what follows is a very funny investigation of animals and their varying types of poo! Mole manages to solve the mystery and exact a rather fitting (if slightly smaller) revenge.  I can imagine young children laughing out loud and sharing lots of ‘ewwww’s’ as they hear and see Mole’s journey of discovery!  This would be a great story to read aloud, with the large text and illustrations making it easy to share in a group setting.

There will be Little Mole events at the Edinburgh and Bath Children’s Literature Festivals this year and there are some great downloadable activity packs available from Pavilion here.

I’m delighted to be offering x3 copies of The Story of the Little Mole courtesy of Pavilion to giveaway.  Find out more on my Twitter account.

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

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Book of the Month: Where Once We Stood by Christopher Riley and Martin Impey

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Fifty years ago today man landed on the Moon. I can only imagine just how unbelievable it must have seemed to the world at the time that we could actually walk on the Moon. It is therefore totally fitting that my latest Book of the Month celebrates that momentous occasion and is one that shares rare insight into the  historic event and the Apollo project as a whole.

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Where Once We Stood by Christopher Riley illustrated by Martin Impey captures first-hand accounts of what it really felt like to land on the Moon. Between July 1969 and December 1972 twelve men landed their spaceships on the Moon, known as the Apollo project. The author has spent a lifetime studying the Apollo project and interviewing the astronauts who walked on the Moon.  In this wonderful collaboration, each Apollo mission is explored with incredible details from the conversations Christopher Riley had with the astronauts and their families.  Martin Impey’s artwork, which has been celebrated by the astronauts themselves, is a fitting accompaniment to the insight these conversations bring.  Beautiful and otherworldly, you can almost feel the lunar experience.

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On an informative note, there’s a map of the landing sites and at various points throughout, helpful facts share some of the science behind the Moon.  Each chapter explores one of the Apollo missions, from the first footprints left by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the final ambitious expedition as astronauts drove electric cars deep into the mountains of the moon.

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It is a completely fascinating read and I found myself discovering a whole world of unknown science and exploration.  This book would be wonderful to share, a fabulous addition to your family bookshelf or school library. You could study it for hours again and again and not fail to be inspired – which I think is so important in a world where the wonder of science can be lost and exploration like something that belongs in the past.  Combining a unique series of illustrations with words spoken by the astronauts themselves, Where Once We Stood is a beautiful book that will capture the imagination of readers young and old.

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Excitingly, this book is published by a new publishing house founded by Emilie James and Martin Impey, who aim to publish high quality books about challenging subjects for readers of all ages.  This is their first publication, bringing the human face of the Moon landings to both younger readers and those who remember them from their own childhoods.  Visit www.harbourmoonpublishing.com for more information.

With thanks to the publishers for sending me this book to review.

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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Mouse and Mole by Joyce Dunbar and James Mayhew

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

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

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

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

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

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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.