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 In addition to the original series of six titles, there are further unpublished stories, with Graffeg also planning to bring some of these into print in the future.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: 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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Picture Book Bonanza!

I absolutely love picture books. What better way to introduce children to the wonder of storytelling than through incredible illustrations pictured alongside brilliant narratives? The best picture books can be fun and light-hearted celebrating the world around us, but can also leave you with something to think about.  Picture books can very often open the door to conversations around empathy and understanding and help children see themselves and how they can relate to others. So here’s my round up of some newly published and soon to be published picture books for Spring!

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When a Dragon Comes to Stay by Caryl Hart and Rosalind Beardshaw

 

When dragon comes to stay, will she behave herself? Why of course she will. Obviously she knows she must share her toys, eat daintily and skip happily upstairs at bathtime.  Well….not quite. Like all toddlers this little dragon finds good manners a tiny bit tricky. Luckily she has some friends to help her.

What a lovely rhyming story this is! Bright, colourful illustrations bring dragon and her friends to life, perfectly capturing the perils of life as a toddler and show just what good behaviour looks like. Great to read aloud and have young readers joining in this is sure to be a hit at bedtime. And grown ups who want to encourage good manners will love it too!

Available now, find out more at www.nosycrow.com,  www.carylhart.com and www.rosalindbeardshaw.com

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Wish by Chris Saunders

Rabbit has never caught a wish before, then one magical day he catches three! But what amazing things should he wish for? With the help of his best friends Mouse, Fox and Bear, Rabbit discovers that thinking of others can sometimes bring the greatest reward of all.

This is an absolutely gorgeous book with an emotive story about the wonder of friendship and kindness. Muted, atmospheric illustrations with touches of colour, create a beautiful landscape where Rabbit discovers the true power of a wish. It also celebrates the possibilities of adventure and the hopes and dreams we all have. A lovely story to share, Wish would be a great way to start conversations around empathy and being kind, but also a really lovely story to leave in children’s imaginations as they drift off to sleep at bedtime!

Available now, find out more at www.quartoknows.com

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The Astro Naughty Naughty Baddies by Mark Sperring and David Tazzyman

54321 Blast off! The Naughty Naughty Baddies are zooming off the the moon. Kerzoom! Will our fiendish fraudsters come undone with their mischievous plans to capture some aliens? Mwa-ha-ha!

Another adventure featuring the Naughty Baddies that will have children and adults giggling along with glee!  And these baddies are very naughty indeed, doing anything they can think of to come up with mischief and mayhem – even if it means trying to fool the President.  Larger than life, brilliant illustrations bring the deliciously devious baddies to life and children will love the intergalactic theme. And grown-ups will be relieved that the naughtiness gets its comeuppance! A great fun read for families to share.

Available now, find out more at www.bloomsbury.com and www.davidtazzyman.com

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Mira’s Curly Hair by Maryam al Serkal and Rebeca Luciani

Mira doesn’t like her hair, it curls at the front. it curls at the back. It curls everywhere! She wants it to be straight and smooth, just like her Mama’s. But then something unpredictable happens…and Mira will never look at her Mama’s hair the same way again!

A fabulous story which many will identify with – there’s nothing worse than a bad hair day -especially if it’s every day! Humourous depictions of Mira trying to straighten her curly hair, which seems to have a life of its own, will bring a smile to your face. A simple narrative and vibrant illustrations with a stunning Arabic backdrop bring the story to life as Mira discovers that her Mama’s hair is just like hers so she doesn’t feel so bad anymore. Delightful to share, this story will encourage young readers to celebrate their uniqueness!

Publishing in April, find out more at www.lantanapublishing.com and www.rebecaluciani.es

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Crime Squirrel Investigators The Naughty Nut Thief

Rosie can’t believe it! Who’s eaten all of her delicious hazelnuts? She’s determined to find the naughty nut thief and ask Charlie to help her.  Can the two Crime Squirrel Investigators solve the case?

A fun mystery adventure for young readers, this story creates a wonderful woodland world with delightful characters. Rosie and Charlie use all their wits to solve the mystery but Charlie has a secret which he finds very hard to share. A story to entertain and get children thinking in more ways than one; they can discover more about woodland creatures, use the clues to help find the culprit and learn about being truthful and saying sorry. An all round great read!

Available in May find out more about this story and Little Door books at www.bouncemarketing.co.uk

I Don’t Want to be Small by Laura Ellen Andersen

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This little boy is fed up with being so little. He wants to be as tall as his friends and his big brother. But when he loses his teddy bear up a tree, not even his new tall friend can get it back for him. Maybe with a little bit of help they can reach the bear together …

With all the ingredients for a perfect picture book, I Don’t Want to be Small is a fantastic story sure to delight young readers! With brilliant illustrations featuring Laura Ellen Andersen’s trademark style, you instantly empathise with the little boy’s plight as he shares his frustration at being small.  There’s just the right amount of humour and heart, and a very satisfying ending as he makes a new friend and finds out being small isn’t so bad after all.  I loved it!

Publishing in May, find out more at www.bloomsbury.com and www.lauraellenanderson.co.uk

With thanks to Nosy Crow, words and pictures, Bloomsbury, Lantana and Little Door Books for sending me these lovely titles to review.

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BLOG TOUR: The Dinosaur Department Store by Lily Murray and Richard Merritt

If you could imagine the most wondrous shop to visit, especially if you happen to have a passion for the prehistoric, it’s got to be The Dinosaur Department Store! This lovely picture book is written by Lily Murray, who has been writing and editing children’s books for fifteen years and illustrated by Richard Merritt, who has been an illustrator for over ten years. Published yesterday by Buster Books, youngsters are going to fall in love with this fabulously flamboyant story and it is with great pleasure I’m hosting this stop on the blog tour.

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The Dinosaur Department Store by Lily Murray and Richard Merritt

Meet Eliza Jane. She wants a pet for her birthday. Not a rabbit or a hamster or a puppy…..a prehistoric pet.  Join Eliza Jane and her parents at the Dinosaur Department Store. What could possibly go wrong?

Eliza Jane is a bit of a madam, driving her parents to distraction with her wilful ways! When she demands a dinosaur for her birthday, they oblige and take her on a tour of the Dinosaur Department Store, courtesy of the rather wonderful Mr Magisaurus. Every kind of dinosaur is on display from rip-roaring raptors to stomping sauropods (I particularly liked the ankylosaurs named Maud and Frank!). As with everything involving Eliza Jane, there’s an unexpected turn of events, causing more than a little upset at the Dinosaur Department Store…..

A fantastic book to read aloud, I can imagine The Dinosaur Department Store fast becoming a bedtime favourite! I thoroughly enjoyed the rhyming narrative, the characterisation of the very cheeky Eliza Jane and her exasperated parents, for whom you feel quite a bit of empathy.

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With so much to see in the vibrant illustrations – whether it be dinosaur spotting or looking at the incredible detail in the pictures – it’s no wonder the story comes leaping off the page.

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For the many children who are fascinated by dinosaurs this story is a must – and for those less knowledgeable about prehistoric creatures, there’s a helpful selfie-style dinosaur glossary at the back of the book so children can read along using the right dino-pronunciation.  The Dinosaur Department Store is a fun and adventurous tale which is sure to be a hit – make sure you visit soon!

Don’t forget to follow along with the rest of the blog tour:

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With thanks to Buster Books for sending me this book to review and inviting me to participate in the blog tour.

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Book of the Month: Maisie’s Scrapbook by Samuel Narh and Jo Loring-Fisher

book of the monthIt’s Book of the Month time and I’m really excited to share the choice this month, not least because this lovely book publishes in the UK today AND it’s World Book Day!  Maisie’s Scrapbook written by Samuel Narh and illustrated by Jo Loring-Fisher is a beautiful picture book from Lantana Publishing

Samuel Narh was born and raised in Ghana and was inspired to write Maisie’s Scrapbook by his own young family with whom he lives in Ohio. Jo Loring-Fisher is a UK-based artist who holds an MA in Children’s Book Illustration from Cambridge.

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Maisie’s Scrapbook by Samuel Narh and Jo Loring-Fisher

As the seasons turn, Maisie rides her bull in and out of Dada’s tall tales.  Her Mama wears linen and plays the viola. Her Dada wears kente cloth and plays the marimba.  They come from different places, but they hug her the same way.  And most of all, they love her just the same.

Maisie’s Scrapbook is a story that celebrates so many things – family, love and the imagination of a spirited and lively little girl.  A charming narrative brings Maisie’s exploits throughout the seasons to life; from listening to her Dada’s wonderful tall tales to taking refuge in her kind Mama’s arms.

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Maisie’s mixed-race parents may have different habits from the clothes they wear to the food they cook, but their love for her is just the same. Gorgeous artwork and mixed-media illustrations capture the child-like essence of the story – there are some really beautiful spreads to admire.

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Maisie’s Scrapbook celebrates the richness of family life and the unconditional love that encourages children to be themselves. You will enjoy this story for its warm heart, beautiful illustrations and the celebration of life it creates.

Find out more at www.samuelnarh.com and www.joloringfisher.com. With thanks to Lantana Publishing for sending me this book to review.

Check out www.thebookactivist.com for more brilliant books on the Bookshelf!

New reviews: beautiful picture books to share on cold rainy days!

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On a cold damp day in winter, what better way to warm your heart than two beautiful picture books from Lantana Publishing.  I can’t help but love the books championed by this publisher, sharing stories from far and wide and always showing the joy of imagination.

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 Sing to the Moon by Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl, illustrated by Sandra van Doorn

For one little Ugandan boy, no wish is too big. First he dreams of reaching the stars and then of riding a supernova straight to Mars. But on a rainy day at his grandfather’s house, he is brought down to earth with a bump. Do adventures only happen in galaxies far away or can he find magic a little closer to home?

A beautiful tale for a rainy day or a dark night when you’re tucked up in bed, with your imagination ready to transport you into a world of dreams! With a lyrical narrative, Sing to the Moon takes you on a journey through the Ugandan landscape bringing the culture to life and sharing all the wonderful ways you can ‘escape’ a rainy day.

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The tender relationship between a young boy and his Jjajja (grandfather) is beautifully depicted and shows just how stories – those real and imagined – can connect us all. The illustrations are a joyful imagining of the story, full of love and bringing each moment perfectly to life.

Sing to the Moon published on 11th October. Author Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl was born to Ugandan parents in the USA. Creative writing has always been her way to re-connect with her cultural heritage and Sleep Well, Siba and Saba was her first children’s book. Illustrator Sandra van Doorn was born in France. She decided to pursue a career in illustration so that she could spend as much of her time as possible in imaginary worlds.

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You’re Snug with Me by Chitra Soundar and illustrated by Poonam Mistry

At the start of winter, two bear cubs are born, deep in their den in the frozen north. “Mama, what lies beyond here?” they ask. “‘Above us is a land of ice and snow.” “What lies beyond the ice and snow?” they ask. “The ocean, full of ice from long ago.” And as they learn the secrets of the earth and their place in it, Mama Bear whispers, “You’re snug with me.”

A stunning story celebrating the wonder of polar lands and the safety and love to be found in family!  A simply told narrative shares a mother’s love for her two polar bear cubs as she explains the world around them whilst they wait for the winter to end.Each page depicts a unique aspect of the polar lands and the creatures that inhabit them, with utterly unique illustrations bringing to life the wonder of the world.

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A follow up to the brilliant You’re Safe with Me, this story is another opportunity to share with young children how amazing our world is and how we must look after it – and each other.

You’re Snug with Me published on 1st November. Chitra Soundar is an Indian-born British author and storyteller. She has published over 30 books and is inspired by the rich heritage of epics and folktales from India. Poonam Mistry is a British illustrator of Indian heritage with a degree in Graphic Design and Illustration. Her work is heavily influenced by nature, folklore and traditional Indian art.

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Find out more about both these titles at www.lantanapublishing.com

With thanks to Lantana for sending me these books to review.