The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop

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Illustrated by Ashley King

The Bookshop Girl, with…

…and without whippet

Property Jones

Property Jones loves books. The smell, the feel of the pages, the little differences between them. She understands almost everything about them. Everything that it, except the words. Property Jones has a secret: she can’t read.

Property has managed to keep this secret despite living in a bookshop, the one she was abandoned in at the age of five. You see, Property’s parents left her there and disappeared. She was found by Michael Jones, a logical thinker, who seeing that Property was lost promptly put her in the lost property cupboard. Hence the name.

Six years later, Property, Michael and his mum, bookshop owner Netty, live there as a family. Times are hard but a competition to own the prestigious Montgomery’s Emporium of Reading Delights might just solve all their problems. They enter and await the outcome…

(But why is such a famous and esteemed bookshop simply being given away as a prize? Surely there must be a catch?)

Join Property and the Jones as they enter the most marvellous bookshop ever invented, tangle with some very bad baddies (BOOOO!) and spend time  with a really grumpy cat.

High Adventure

This is high adventure in gorgeously imaginative settings. The narrative is lovely: the book begins and ends with a chapter communicated directly to the reader which makes it a bit different. Sylvia Bishop has great warmth in her style and I enjoyed it very much. I’m sure that children will love it too.

The Bookshop Girl is a really fun mystery. It creates amazing images in the reader’s head that will be remembered long after the last page has been turned. This is a book to be read again and again, each time enjoying favourite parts and taking something new.

The text is nicely spaced out which will help give young readers a bit of room to take the story in. It’s illustrated (as all really good books are) throughout and Ashley King has done a brilliant job visually all the characters and exciting scenes. The Bookshop Girl has it all. It’s a wonderful choice for children aged seven years plus.

 

Thank you to Scholastic for sending me this copy.


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

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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

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

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.

 

 


Stone Underpants by Rebecca Lisle

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Illustrations by Richard Watson

stone-undies-done

“It was cold in the Stone Age

When the icy wind blew it was freezing.

‘Brrrr! My bottom!’

‘I really do need something to keep my bottom warm,’ Pod told his Dad.

‘You could make something,’ Dad said.

‘Stone is very handy.'”

Stone Underpants

Spare a thought for poor Pod at this time of year. As the weather gets colder, we can avoid a chilly bottom by cranking up the heating, pulling on an extra layer, or hunkering down with a hot chocolate for company. Pod has no such luxuries. He lives in the Stone Age. Instead, he has to experiment with different materials in order to find a suitably bottom-warming pair of pants. We join him as he tries different pairs, all with comical consequences.

Cheeky!

This cheeky book (pun fully intended) will be enjoyed by children aged three years plus who will adore both Pod and the many references to his bottom. Young readers are transported to a different world and given a good giggle whilst they’re there.

I found Stone Underpants funny and charming. This is a story that’s obviously written and drawn with love and children will get that. Richard Watson’s illustrations are superb. As with all good picture books, the art adds opportunities for discussion and gives readers the power to add their own thoughts to the story.

Rocking it for New Readers

Picture books are so important: they are our first and most crucial opportunity to encourage reading for pleasure. They need to be fun, surprising and ideally a bit bonkers too. Stone Underpants has all of these covered.

You’ll love the way it lends itself to reading aloud and how Rebecca Lisle has used a structure that will encourage children to remember elements of the story and even join in. Needless to say, this is perfect for reading time and time again. There’s a lot of fun to be had here in the sharing of Stone Underpants for grown-ups and children, whether it be at home or at school.

Stone Underpants, to put it in simple terms, rocks.

 

Thanks so much to Maverick for sending me this lovely book!


The Last Beginning by Lauren James

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The Last Beginning

The Last Beginning is Lauren James’ YA sequel to last year’s time travelling treat The Next Together. To read one without the other would be foolish and to be quite honest if you haven’t read The Next Together yet, then why not? Get a flavour for it by checking out my review here.

Previously…

The Last Beginning properly introduces teenager Clove, daughter of Matt and Kate from the first book. Clove was previously promised to be of great significance to events as they continue to unfurl forwards and backwards in time. Readers looking forward to finding out the full impact of this will not be disappointed.

Epic

I can’t reveal too much in this review as the pleasure in reading here is to be carried along for the ride. Know this though: there is further time travel in The Last Beginning, and some familiar settings and characters will be revisited. This time however, Clove brings a different dimension to events as she works to understand her parents’ destiny.

James narrates us through an absolutely epic plot line (I can’t begin to imagine how all-consuming it must have been to plan) but makes it feel somehow plausible. And that’s the thing, the feeling that creates an irresistible world to be carried into.

Get Prepared

If to read a book is to participate in an event- which I think it is- then prepare for a hell of a journey. This is an active read with anticipation and retrospection on a grand scale. Fans of The Next Together will enjoy the thrill of new characters and old, different perspectives and establishing fresh connections along the way.

To read in itself is to time travel so The Last Beginning is easily more than the sum of its parts. A fabulous book to read, discuss and just have a darned good think about! Personally, I can’t wait to see what Lauren James* does in the future.

 

Huge thanks to Walker Books for sending me this fabulous book.

* Rather chuffed to find out Lauren is also a former Bablake pupil like me, although at different points in the past!

 


The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol

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Missing!

Apologies first. I would usually start a post with a quote from the book. Also, I wish this were a better picture. Unfortunately, I can’t include a quote or take a less blurry photo because my copy of The Apprentice Witch was last seen doing the rounds of my Year Six class about two weeks ago. I don’t expect to see it any time soon, or possibly ever. But the approval of ten year old children is a wonderful thing and better than any review I can write!

Arianwyn

When Arianwyn fails her witch’s evaluation- the only one of her cohort to do so- all she wants to do is run away as fast as possible. However, as this isn’t really an option, Arianwyn waits while her fate is decided by her grandmother (a respected elder) and Director Coot, head of the Civil Witchcraft Authority. Arianwyn will, it seems, become an apprentice witch with the chance to be re-evaluated in six months time. In the meantime, she will be posted to Lull: a remote village on the outskirts of the great wood crying out for a village witch, qualified or otherwise. And so her new chapter begins and a new world is introduced to lucky readers aged 9 years plus.

Book Induced Insomnia

The Apprentice Witch is a riveting read and hopefully just the beginning of our visits to Arianwyn’s world. This is a great story with so much for the reader to discover, and with the tantalising promise of adventure still to come. It simply bursts with magic, excitement, and the best and most varied cast of characters I’ve read for a very long time. I was totally absorbed and read into the early hours with that wonderful feeling of inability to put the book down and go to sleep.

Children will find this an easy book to connect with. There’s a compelling warmth and a lot of love coming through here that make it all the more special for the reader.

In thinking this I was reminded of the words of Ursula Le Guin, another splendid fantasy writer:

“The book is what is real, You read it, you and it form a relationship, perhaps a trivial one, perhaps a deep and lasting one. As you read it word by word and page by page, you participate in its creation.”

The Apprentice Witch invites children to experience a wonderful world as it unfolds and develops and that feels very real to me. A book bound to inspire a life long love of fantasy fiction.

 

 


The Great Chocoplot by Chris Callaghan

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Extra credit goes to those who can see the whippet's nose in this picture. Chocolate & dogs shouldn't really mix...

Extra credit goes to those who can see the whippet’s nose in this picture. Well spotted!

” ‘In six days there will be no more chocolate in the world…ever!’

That’s what it said on The Seven Show.

Jelly had nearly reached the next level of Zombie Puppy Dash, but hearing this made her plunge the pink puppy into a huge tank of zombie dog food.”

The Great Chocoplot

The Great Chocoplot by Chris Callaghan is a real winner for children seven years plus who like their stories on the lively side.

Both truly funny and imaginatively written, it’s going to tick the boxes for so many readers out there, and maybe even create a few new ones. This is another example of the kind of cracking (sorry) books coming from Chicken House at the minute and if you haven’t already, you should check out their range. Immediately. Well, in a minute.

Chocopocalypse!

After the announcement on The Seven Show that the chocopocalypse is quickly approaching, Jelly (yes I know, it is an awesome name isn’t it?) and her Gran put their heads together to try and get to the bottom of it. Obviously, plot-wise, there aren’t many things as potentially devastating as no more chocolate ever, but with Gran and Jelly on our side we unravel a wonderful mystery of global impact played out with local heart.

We take Jelly to our hearts straight away. On the surface she’s a regular girl from an ordinary family living in a normal town just like yours, but we all know really that there’s no such thing as ‘average’ or ‘ordinary’ and everyone is unique and special. Jelly is sparky, clever and a joy to read about.

Shout Out to all the Grandparents

A big shout out has to go to Gran: a caravan-dwelling, headphone-wearing, scientific icon for our times in my opinion, and Jelly loves her. I also loved Grandad, who we don’t meet as he is no longer with us, but who is described in such a beautiful way. I like this. It’s a little detail that will mean a lot to a lot of children.

Kids who’ve previously enjoyed the stories of Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Roald Dahl and David Walliams are going to click with The Great Chocoplot straight away; others will be drawn in by Sandra Navarro’s fabulous cover and will stay for the ride. A true Books-a-Go-Go book of glory and a feast of fun for young ‘uns everywhere!