Tag Archives: Picture books

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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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!

 

 

Review & Giveaway! Moon and Me: The Little Seed by Andrew Davenport illustrated by Mariko Umeda

For this of you with little ones who like to watch CBeebies, you’ll probably know Moon and Me and have met Moon Baby, Pepi Nana and friends. Well now their charming adventures have been brought to life in a traditional storybook, Moon and Me: The Little Seed by Andrew Davenport and illustrated by Mariko Umeda, perfect for reading at bedtime. I’m very pleased to share this new book on the blog today and be running a giveaway for one lucky reader to win set of Moon and Me books!

Moon and Me was created by Andrew Davenport, the man behind Teletubbies and In the Night Garden, and inspired by tales of toys coming to life when no-one is looking (possibly one of the things I wished would happen most when I was little!) My eldest son, now 22, absolutely loved the Teletubbies and I can imagine were he still young he’d be a huge fan of Moon and Me too. TV character-led fiction can be a great way to engage children with books, and Moon and Me: The Little Seed is a sweet story that tells how Pepi Nana and Moon Baby first became friends.

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As the moon comes out at night, little toy Pepi Nana comes to life and sends an invitation to the Moon to come and share a story with her in her doll’s house, little realisng her invitation will be read by Moon Baby who lives there. Moon Baby arrives and wakes up all the other toys, and together they have some lovely adventures. The gentle storytelling, with a magical feel will capture the imagination of little ones as they join these charming characters and hear they became friends. Delightfully illustrated, this is a great story to read at bedtime, especially as the tale ends with all the toys saying goodnight and drifting off to sleep. The moon has never seemed so magical!

Find out more at www.scholastic.co.uk and enter the giveaway on TwitterWith thanks to Scholastic for sending me this book to review and offering a giveaway to win these three titles:

 

Bookchat: Q & A with Jennie Poh illustrator of The Pirate Tree

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The Pirate Tree written by Brigita Orel and illustrated by Jennie Poh is a tale of imagination and friendship, published by Lantana Publishing. It’s a beautiful picture book about Sam, who plays in a gnarled old tree which sometimes turns into a pirate ship! Sam is its fearless captain who one day sees another sailor, Agu from Nigeria, approach and must decide whether to let this stranger join the game.

A simple narrative combines with distinctive illustrations depicting the bond of friendship that forms, as Sam discovers Agu knows some very interesting things about treasure and boats. Suddenly their differences fade, and their joy in playing pirates takes over.  A great story to share, The Pirate Tree is a celebration of freindship and the joy of imaginative play.

I’m very pleased to welcome illustrator Jennie Poh to the blog today with a quick bookchat about her work. Jennie was born in England and grew up in Malaysia. She studied Fine Art at The Surrey Institute of Art & Design as well as Fashion Illustration at Central St. Martins.

How do you start illustrating once you have the narrative of the story in front of you? After a couple of reads through the manuscript I’m given a brief description of the characters by the publisher and author. I then play around with a lot of sketches, with this it was the ‘pirate tree’ different shapes and textures as this was going to heavily feature in the story. Once I was happy with this I did some development work with Agu and Sam.

What media have you used to create the pictures for The Pirate TreeI mainly work digitally, ‘Photoshop’ but scan in textures myslef and I make my own digital brushes to create a less digital feel to my colour work. Welcome to the blog Jennie!

The illustrations are gorgeous – I particularly love the expressions on the characters faces – including the fish. How do you go about capturing expression?  Thank you! I really loved illustrating these little fish. I think I try and pull these faces/expressions myself and do my best to put that down on paper. 

What stories do you recall from childhood that perhaps influence your work today? I read a lot of Beatrix Potter, Enid Blyton and always adored The Chronicles of Narnia. I think any illustrations that were enchanting, or heavily featured nature influened me as a child which has spilled through to my work.

Can you tell us about any new picture book projects you are working on? I’m currently working on a story about a biracial girl who is dealing with many questions about her heritage. I think this is a wonderful concept to work with.

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With thanks to Jennie Poh for participating in this Q & A and Lantana Publishing 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.