Superbat by Matt Carr

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“Is it a BIRD?

Is it a PLANE?

Er… I think it’s a BAT in a funny little costume!”

Superbat

Pat the bat is having trouble sleeping. Bored of being a normal bat, he wants to be more like the superheroes in his comics. Pat is the kind of bat who has an idea and acts upon it. He gets things done, has a cup of tea and then he does a bit more.

The other bats question that his super powers aren’t actually all that super, being as all bats have them. Although his ears flop a little with sadness, Pat picks himself up, takes his skills and uses them for good! Check out his antics for yourself, enjoy his story and learn more about bats along the way.

A Book with Style

Hands down the most super bat I have encountered in children’s literature with the most super art work; this is a book with style. Some proper colour genius is going on here: we have teal and red and mustard and together they are magnificent. A book that provides not only excellent design but also offers new colourway combinations for the wardrobe as we sashay into spring. What could possibly be better?

Just this: the best aspect of Superbat for me is the message it sends out to young readers that we can all do extraordinary things. What seems ordinary to a bat is extraordinary to us and what we take as normal can provide us with the means to do achieve wonderful outcomes. We can all be amazing with or without the cape. Preferably with though.

We could learn a lot from Pat the Bat. We too can be heroes.

Superbat is full-on, important, technicolour joy.

 

Thanks Scholastic for sending me this lovely book!

 

 


Countless by Karen Gregory

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Hedda and Nia

When seventeen year old Hedda finds out she is pregnant, her already fragile world is turned upside down. Largely estranged from her family and struggling to attend her college course, the only solid thing in her life seems to be Nia.

Nia who sees things from her point of view, and who is always there to tell her what to do. The problem is, Nia is an eating disorder: anorexia personified by Hedda. Nia has been in Hedda’s life for a long time. Will she move over and make room for a baby?

Hedda knows that for the next 17 weeks she must call a truce with Nia and give the baby the food she needs to grow. But will it be that straight forward and how will Hedda react once the baby comes?

Authentic and Engaging

Countless is a really brave debut written about a difficult subject but Karen Gregory has got the tone absolutely spot on. Hedda as protagonist is authentic and engaging: she inspires thought and brings questions to my mind. It feels like she could be out there, and not just on the page. 

Throughout her story, I was with Hedda, willing her to keep going and to believe in herself. The support network she has in the book is a little unorthodox (as things in life often are) and as a reader I felt that I slotted myself in as an extra unseen part of it. For that reason I’d recommend Countless as both a YA read and something I’m sure older readers will enjoy too-I know I did.

Be warned though, this is one of those books though that is incredibly hard to put down. It’s intense and all-consuming, so put aside some time! I picked it up yesterday and was still awake at one this morning reading away avidly. Some books are best read that way, and this is certainly one of them.

Bold and Brilliant

Countless is a bold and brilliant piece of debut fiction and I’m already looking forward to more from Karen Gregory. Available 4th May 2017

Big thanks to Emily’s Bookshop in Chipping Campden for generously sharing this copy with me.


Let’s Find Fred by Steven Lenton

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“Can anyone help me find Fred? He’s a panda and it’s past his bedtime!”

Let’s Find Fred!

Fred is a panda with big plans. Instead of going to bed, he decides he would rather have an adventure. As Stanley the zookeeper scoots through the town on Fred’s trail, we visit a range of colourful and exciting locations in search of him. And you know what, it’s surprisingly easy to lose a panda in a busy city, so keep your eyes peeled!

You will adore this brand new Scholastic picture book by Steven Lenton, from the front cover (complete with moving Fred eyes) to the very last lovely page. Let’s Find Fred is ideal for new readers as well as those who are just learning. The narrative nature of the pictures means children will be able to read most of the story without actually reading it, so it’s an excellent way of encouraging book talk.

Whistler’s Panda

Children will have fun spotting Fred on his adventures, including at:

  • The beautiful brightly coloured market- look out for a fine array of dogs.
  • The park. Shh, don’t wake up the old feller asleep on the deckchair…
  • The rather marvellous pand-a-maze with pandas a go-go!

And my Let’s Find Fred favourite, the art gallery with cleverly ‘pandafied’ works of art. Watch out for The Panda with the Pearl Earring and Whistler’s Panda. In fact, you’ll find nice little cultural references throughout the book as you read.

Well Worth Tracking Down

The story itself is wonderfully creative with text interspersed amongst the illustrations. It’s a book that children can be interactive with and because of the huge amount of detail included, they will find new aspects to Let’s Find Fred with every open.

For a really fun and supportive read that children will rediscover again and again, Let’s Find Fred is well worth tracking down!

 

Thank you to Scholastic for sending me this lovely book and inviting me to be art of the blog tour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Princess Primrose by Alex T Smith

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“‘Something must be done about Primrose,’ sighed the Queen one day. ‘She simply can’t carry on like this. She is a princess after all and she must learn to behave like one.'”

Fellow ex-Bablake alum and kids’ lit genius Alex T Smith has cheered up my day no end. The reason: a new edition of picture book Princess Primrose for 2017. Hurrah from me on behalf of all young readers everywhere!

Princess Primrose

Poor Princess Primrose finds life in the royal household rather boring. That’s no surprise: she’s always being told how a princess should behave and funnily enough its always the opposite of how she is behaving…

Being a princess means

  • No climbing trees
  • No dressing up as a monkey
  • No digging up muddy vegetables

amongst other things.

I can sense your outrage. It’s not right is it?

The adults of the royal household and young Princess Primrose reach a sort of impasse. This is a shame as I can see from their marvellous pink castle that they weren’t always strangers to fun.

There’s only one thing for it: HRH Grandmamma is called. She’s one heck of a woman, with the wisdom of her years and an understanding of the important things in life. You will love her. If you are a grandparent, I strongly suggest immediately gifting this book to the little tearaways in your life; you are well represented here.

The illustrations sing from the page and will bring a big smile to your face. On first glance, it’s the colour and the changing composition that draws the readers’ attention, but it’s the detail within that makes Princess Primrose all the more special. Each member of the cast of characters has their own perceivable personality. I particularly like the butler who has a striped tail coat and a withering look.

A fantastic book that’s full of fun, life and occasional interesting background topiary. More than brilliant.

 

Thank you to Scholastic for sending me this edition.

 

 

 

 


The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange

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” I stared into the dark mass of trees ahead, and my imagination ambushed me with nightmarish creatures- slavering wolves, whispering tree-demons, long-fingered witches… Every part of me was alive with fear now- my fingers, my skin, my lungs…

And then a sudden, desperate shriek pierced the night like a needle.

I froze. An owl? But it sounded almost human…

I turned back to look at the house- and stifled a scream.”

Hope House

It’s 1919 and twelve year old Henrietta Abbott (Henry) and her family have just moved to Hope House. Her brother Robert’s recent death has caused deep grief for all that knew him and through Henry we see the repercussions. Mama becomes ill, Father leaves indefinitely to work abroad but Henry remains with baby sister ‘Piglet’ in the care of Nanny Jane and Mrs Berry the cook. Mama’s getting no better and Henry has a bad feeling about Doctor Hardy, who seems to have a plan all of his own in regards to her remaining family…

Nightingale Wood

As she watches and listens, Henry begins to unveil the secrets of Nightingale Wood and Hope House- but sometimes your mind can play tricks on you. Is she seeing shadows of the past or things as they really are? Prepare for a storytelling masterpiece. The quote I’ve included above illustrates this perfectly: for writing to take you into the woods at night then reveal that the home you’ve come from is the source of the fear you’ve been expecting is a brilliant way of playing with narration. As for Henry, she’s a delight. A strong spirit with the ability to learn from her own  misconceptions. A heroic soul.

Everything you’ve heard about The Secret of Nightingale Wood is true: it’s completely as wonderful as they say it is. Suitable for readers aged nine years plus but I’d recommend it equally to adults as children, I have to say. I enjoyed the intertextuality throughout the story, and the relationship Lucy Strange creates between The Secret of Nightingale Wood and children’s books that Henry would have enjoyed at the time. Young independent readers will have the extra pleasure of being able to explore Henry’s favourite writers as she mentions them in the text. I think this is just wonderful- what a way to continue getting to know a character!

Utterly Gorgeous!

This is historical fiction with a pinch of psychological thriller, enticing and captivating. I was torn between greedily rushing to discover the outcome and taking my time over some of the most gorgeous prose I’ve read in ever such a long time. It was a good problem to have! The Secret of Nightingale Wood is an utterly gorgeous book.


Me and Mister P

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Written by Maria Farrer and Illustrated by Daniel Rieley

“The bear stood like a statue. Inside Arthur’s very still body, his heart was thumping and inside his very still head his mind was racing. He thought it best to seem friendly so he nodded and smiled at the polar bear. The bear nodded at Arthur and bared its long, sharp teeth.”

Mister P

Arthur cannot see past his brother Liam. Whether he’s blocking Arthur’s view of the football on the television by sitting far too close to the screen or embarrassing him in front of his friends, Liam seems to be blocking Arthur from enjoying a normal life. Liam’s challenging behaviour is becoming too much for his brother to deal with and he decides he’s had enough. He leaves the house. On the doorstep as he goes to leave, is a polar bear. This is Mister P and he’s come to stay.

There’s a fine tradition of marvellous bears in children’s literature and Mister P is a more than welcome addition. He is gorgeous and funny and you will love him. A giant white bear, a little on the quiet side, very skilled at blinking and dancing, with an alarmingly toothy grin. No one knows why he’s come to stay or how long he’s planning to stay for, but Arthur wholeheartedly takes on care of him.

The Good Stuff…

In turn, Mister P helps Arthur to understand that although life may not always be fair, it’s not always unfair either. Arthur begins to notice more of the good stuff whilst it’s happening and finds out what really matters to him. As well as entertaining us with lots of fun, there are also the most wonderfully touching moments in Me and Mister P.

And Chocolate Ice Cream Too.

This would be a lovely class reader for any Junior classroom. I’d be equally happy to share it in Year Six as I would in Year Three; a good book is a good book after all and this is a story that provides real depth of content and thought-provoking discussion points. Autism is never directly mentioned in Me and Mister P, but it’s fair to presume that Liam is autistic from his behaviour patterns. I like that he isn’t labelled in the book and I think you’ll enjoy how he changes throughout the story.

The most interesting children’s books (I think) are the ones that can be accessed equally on different levels and the most interesting polar bears are the ones who like eating chocolate ice cream. Luckily, Me and Mister P provides both of these key features. Beautifully illustrated, beautifully written.

Me and Mister P: what a heart warming read for this cold January day.

 

 

Big thanks to Oxford University Press for sending me this lovely book.


The Territory, Escape by Sarah Govett

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The Territory,  Escape (Book Two)

It’s 2059. 15 year old Noa Blake has earned the right to live in The Territory but her friend Jack hasn’t been so lucky. In this dystopian future, you have to pass an exam to stay safe and Jack’s time in the regulated environment of The Territory has run out. He’s been transported to the highly dangerous Wetlands, an area Territory occupants see as tantamount to a death sentence.

Noa isn’t going to stand by and let her friend disappear forever. In a bold move, along with love interest Raf, she vows to go into The Wetlands to find Jack and bring him home. From this point the action really gets going.

Suitable for young adults rather than children, The Territory, Escape is the second book in this series. I hear the first book is excellent but haven’t read it yet. Coming in part way through didn’t affect my enjoyment at all. The main characters were easily likeable and I therefore clicked with the story from the outset.

A Fresh Take on Dystopian Fiction

Sarah Govett gives just enough background information to satisfy new readers without going over too much old ground. It’s obvious to say that The Territory, Escape will appeal to fans of YA dystopian fiction, but I’d also like to add that it’s the most relatable book in this genre that I’ve read so far. Our female protagonist Noa is natural and three-dimensional. Even when she’s in The Wetlands encountering dangerous or life threatening situations, she’s brave and risky but remains young in voice and feel. I also really liked the way both luck and friendship play their parts in the book, as does the importance of being valued by others and finding your place.

The Territory, Escape was for me a fresh take on dystopian fiction and one I look forward to exploring further.

 

Thanks to Firefly Press who were kind enough to send me my copy.

 

 

 


The Unicorns of Blossom Wood by Catherine Coe

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Best Friends & Storms and Rainbows

unicorns-3-4-done

Previously in The Unicorns of Blossom Wood…

Having reviewed The first two Unicorns of Blossom Wood books last year and been delighted with the response they received from my class, I’m really pleased to see two new titles have been added to the collection. I’ve found children to adore these illustrated stories, and I’m happy to say both boys and girls and of all primary ages. I teach in Year Six and the first two books were a big success with my class- more on this later.

As with Books One and Two, Catherine Coe continues to tell the story of three cousins holidaying together. It’s rare for Cora, Lei and Isabelle to spend time as a family as they are from different parts of the world.

To recap the story so far: the adventures really start when one day the cousins find some hoof prints in a cove near their campsite. When they step into them, they are instantly transported to a magical land called Blossom Wood where they transform into unicorns.

You can read my reviews of the first two books here to find out more about these adventures.

Storms and Rainbows

In Book Three, the girls are all feeling a bit frustrated. It’s been a whole week since their last Blossom Wood visit and also Lei’s upset because unlike her cousins she doesn’t know what her unicorn magic is yet. She decides to take matters into her own hands and visit Blossom Wood alone to try to find out, but it seems her magic is even more powerful than she ever imagined…

It’s soon up to Lei and the other girls to save the Blossom Wood animals from imminent disaster!

Best Friends

All good things must come to an end and sadly it’s the last night of the holiday. Just as the girls think they may never visit Blossom Wood again, an opportunity arises and they get their final chance to return! Once there, they’re excited to find that Loulou the squirrel (fabulous name for a squirrel isn’t it?) is organising a talent show. Lei, Cora and Isabelle are the first to help her sort out everything and even plan a sleepover in the magical wood. But not all is well and the cousins discover something is making Loulou really sad. Can their unicorn magic save the day one more time?

As with the rest of the series there are always a variety of quizzes and activities at the back of the book, plus introductions to other books.

Special Powers

Best Friends and Storms & Rainbows are full of fun and adventure, magic and warmth. They bring a smile to my face, as all of the books have. I can’t begin to tell you how much of a success the series has been in my classroom. Most of the children have read them and many have had them back to re-read. I’ve had pupils spending free time reading them in preference to playing games with their friends. They’ve been inspired to draw pictures of the characters both at home and at school. This unicorn magic is clearly rubbing off!

I’ve been so chuffed with how much the children have loved the books and in particular two girls who were previously thought of as reluctant readers. The Unicorns of Blossom Wood helped them to discover the kind of books they enjoy; before they read them they were very unsure and struggled to settle with a text at all. Today I worked with those girls and was pleased to see that they were both reading stories of a similar genre and very happily involved in them. I know they’ll be delighted when I take these two new titles in tomorrow.

The Unicorns of Blossom Wood magically turn children into readers- now that’s what I call a special power!

 

Thanks to Scholastic for sending me these copies.

 


Dear Dinosaur by Chae Strathie & Nicola O’Byrne

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dear-dinosaur-done

Dear Dinosaur

Dear Dinosaur, written by Chae Strathie and illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne, is an adorable new picture book for 2017 from Scholastic.

When Max visits a big museum a long way from home, he is really taken by the dinosaurs- especially the Tyrannosaurus Rex. He has so many question but the museum’s about to shut so Dinosaur Dora who works there suggests he writes to the T.Rex instead. So begins a sweet and funny story, full of fun facts and accompanied with attached real letters, cards and postcards for children to open along the way! It’s a beautiful book with artwork and story complimenting each other really well. Dear Dinosaur is a genuine all round crowd pleaser, therefore I’d strongly recommend it as a shared text in schools for younger children as well as a great addition to your child’s home library.

What’s Not to Like?

The interactive element of opening the various attachments is a brilliant way of engaging young children in books: it’s varied, it’s lots of fun and exactly the sort of introduction to the world of reading you’d want for the kids in your life. For extra classroom value, follow this link to a very useful teaching resource. Scholastic Story Stars have created pages and pages of brilliant resources to go with the book. I’m a teacher and know how much this will be appreciated by colleagues everywhere. A fab new book with classroom ready activities spanning the whole curriculum- what’s not to like?

Fiercely Fantastic

Why do I like it so much? When I was very young, my favourite picture books were just like Dear Dinosaur: full of surprising extra details that made me happy and want to re-read them again and again. When you’re a child, books like this feel like they were written especially for you. It was lovely to have this feeling again and I really didn’t want the story to end.

Dear Dinosaur is a fantastic introduction to the joy of reading for kids and a big dollop of gorgeousness for the adults that share it. Bound to be a roaring success!


Strange Star by Emma Carroll

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strange-star

Strange Star

It’s a gloomy old Saturday here in the West Mids and I’m wishing I was still reading Strange Star by Emma Carroll. If you haven’t already, I’d get yourselves a copy forthwith and settle in for some deliciously extraordinary happenings.

Lake Geneva, June 1816

At The Vila Diodati, Lord Byron is planning an evening of ghost stories with friends. His servant Felix has been sent to deliver the invitations to Mr and Mrs Shelley and Miss Clairmont who are staying nearby. The weather is unseasonable for June to say the least and the servants are discussing it:

” ‘It’s the comet causing all this queer weather,’ Frau Moritz said over her shoulder. ‘Comets are a bad omen. Always have been, always will be.’

Yet that didn’t explain why it was still cold, still stormy, even when the comet had nearly disappeared. “

A strange star indeed.

Lizzie Appleby

As preparations are made for the evening, a storm rolls over Lake Geneva, bringing early darkness. The stories begin but are interrupted by an apparent sighting of someone at the window and then by a loud knock at the door. The anticipation of ‘something’ is brilliant; the best I’ve read since my first encounter with The Turn of the Screw. Then it gets even more intriguing.

Felix opens the door to find a young girl, covered in scars and apparently dead. After trying to resuscitate her, the party abandons hope and drifts away- that is except for Felix and Mary Shelley who refuse to give up thankfully. The girl is Lizzie Appleby and she has an urgent story to tell: one that will both captivate you and chill you to the bone…

Honestly, I could just go on and on about Strange Star; I’ve already hit my ‘recommended word count’ for a blog post and don’t feel like I’ve even begun to do it justice.

So, What Do You Need to Know?

I can’t put you through several thousand words though, so what do you need to know?

Well, that it’s entirely suitable for children aged 10 years plus but still managed to spook me very satisfactorily. It’s also a masterclass in how to bring a scene to life: there’s this bit on a hillside in a snowstorm and another in a tunnel later on and I’m telling you, you will be so present you’ll feel the sting of the snow and taste the mustiness of the damp earth around you. You also need to know that it’s heavily bound up with Mary Shelley, Frankenstein and enough real-life elements to make you question what really happened and who really existed. And it’s oh so very good at it. Strange Star will also encourage further reading and further exploration of literature, of that I’m sure.

Great for fans of historical fiction and absolutely one of my favourite reads this year. More of this please.