Princess Primrose by Alex T Smith

Posted on

“‘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

Posted on

” 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.


Potion Commotion by Peter Bently & Sernur Isik

Posted on

potion-commotion

” The brew had gone barmy!

What hullaballoo!

Soon the whole cottage 

was filled up with goo.”

Halloween Hullaballoo

It is a truth universally acknowledged that any book containing the word ‘hullaballoo’ must be held in great esteem, so I am delighted to be sharing one with you today. Potion Commotion, written by Peter Bently and illustrated by Sernur Isik, is an explosion of joy and delight for younger readers delivered in time for Halloween.

Free Spirit

Betty’s mum is off to the shops. Before she goes she warns Betty to stay indoors as there’s a dragon about and also tells her that once she returns she’ll cook a nice stew for dinner. However, as an independently minded young thing (with lots of marvellous free-spirited curly hair), Betty decides cooking looks easy and has a go at making the stew herself. As Betty and her mum are witches, anything could happen…

Potion Commotion!

Children will adore Betty and her adventuring as she creates the stew (pleasingly free-form), then loses control of it as it grows and grows and gushes through the town, and finally as she comes face to face with the dragon her mum warned her about. The story is told as a poem so it’s a pleasure to read either alone or out loud, as you wish. Reading aloud does allow opportunity for doing a dragon impression though- something I’d strongly recommend you don’t pass up on.

The artwork packs a punch and every page brings another burst of colour- just the thing to light up these dark nights. The pictures add to the narrative, as all the best picture books do, and you’ll be spotting new details with every read.

Potion Commotion: more fun than fireworks and definitely a favourite for Halloween!

 

Big thanks to Scholastic for sending me this lovely book.

 

 

 


Through the Mirror Door by Sarah Baker

Posted on

door-done

“Suddenly, there was a groan from over by the bedroom door and my eyes shot wide. I stared at the door handle, waiting for it to turn like in all the ghost stories I used to read. But another groan made me realise it wasn’t coming from the door; it was coming from the wardrobe. I gulped. The wardrobe creaked open a little wider, as if by invitation, and  I scrambled back on the cot till I felt the wall. I clutched the blankets tight around me. 

‘Help!’ I screamed.

But again no one came.”

Through the Mirror Door

I do love a scary book, but don’t find pleasure in reading anything so terrifying that I couldn’t give to a child in my class. There’s far more subtly and fascination for me in a story we can share with the whole family than there is in one that’s for ‘grown ups’ only.

My Halloween recommendation this year is a real beauty. A book to fire the imagination, connect you to characters and introduce worlds that will widen your eyes. Come on in…

Angela’s Worlds

Life has been cruel to Angela. When we first meet her she is on the verge of  further upheaval: leaving her current children’s home will either result in her starting again in another one, or there’s a chance she might be taken in by her mum’s sister and her family. This is all part of an ongoing nightmare that started for Angela on the night her own family was torn apart by tragedy, leaving her alone in the world.

Now this: an extended holiday in a dilapidated house in rural France with her aunt, uncle and cousins. And if she behaves herself, she may even get to live with them at the end of it. Not the greatest outcome for our Angela. Vile, spoilt cousins, an ineffectual uncle and an aunt who in another existence would certainly be sorted into Slytherin.

Secrets

However, there’s more than enough going on in the crumbling French manor house to keep Angela occupied, as secrets are revealed and a story from the past begins to unwind.

Besides the story itself, which is deliciously enticing and great fun to read, my favourite aspect of Through the Mirror Door is the brilliant way Sarah Baker has twisted two worlds together: Angela’s desperate real-life situation and those she has to deal with, combined with the otherworldly existence she discovers in France. I love the fragility of the portal that takes her there, and that it creates a situation for the reader where we are wonderfully uncertain as to what the next chapter will reveal. For me, it’s feels like Jacqueline Wilson meets Edgar Allen Poe, and that is a truly wonderful thing!

Perfect for Darker Nights!

I’m really looking forward to introducing this book to the Year Six children at school who will be thrilled by both the intriguing plot and the more spine-tingling touches. I don’t know about you, but this is exactly the kind of thing I want to read as the darker nights set in!

 


Finding Black Beauty by Lou Kuenzler

Posted on

black-beauty-done

“Ignorance is as harmful as cruelty, despite whatever intentions the person has.”

Finding Black Beauty

Finding Black Beauty by Lou Kuenzler is a sensitive and moving retelling of Anna Sewell’s Victorian novel Black Beauty. Suitable for readers aged ten years plus, this is a wonderful take on a classic family favourite.

Josie

Some of you may remember Joe from the original story: an inexperienced but well-meaning stable lad who bonds with Black Beauty. This time Joe is our central character and by changing the perspective of the story, Lou Kuenzler opens up a whole new spectrum of meaning for readers. Joe, we learn, is inexperienced for good reason: he is actually a young girl called Josie disguised out of necessity in order to escape a miserable future.

Having lost her father in a hunting accident, Josie’s world is turned upside down by terrible and sudden grief. As her mother left years ago preferring city life, Josie is effectively an orphan. Then when vile cousin Eustace inherits her home, everything she has ever known is removed piece by piece, the last straw being her beloved pony Merrylegs.

Driven by her love of horses, Josie decides to take charge of her destiny. By cutting off her hair and borrowing suitable clothes, she begins to carry out a plan. She stows away in the cart taking Merrylegs to his new home, hoping to find work there as a stable boy. Here she first meets Beauty and a bond is formed. Josie’s love for the horse reimagines Sewell’s emotional roller coaster through new eyes. The results are humbling. This is such a beautiful book. I was totally captivated by it and I think barely breathed for the last hundred pages. Did I cry? Of course I did! Prepare for this; you will need tissues.

Already a Classic

Impeccably researched and written as a perfect complement to the original, it’s as if Kuenzler has walked amongst the original players. She draws astute parallels between Beauty and Josie that bring them closer together. Both have lost close family in hunting accidents early in life and both were separated from their mothers before they should’ve been, although for different reasons. There’s no doubt they belong together, but will that be possible?

In the original text, Anna Sewell told the story from Beauty’s perspective: an emotive and effective way to tell a beautiful story with priority given in telling to animal welfare. In Finding Black Beauty none of this power is lost, rather it’s given extra strength by the parallels it draws in how Josie’s destiny too is shaped by those around her. To fully appreciate the dual perspective and how both books compliment each other, I’d highly recommend that this is read alongside the original. Scholastic are currently offering the original free when buying this sequel here.

Finding Black Beauty: already a classic in my eyes.

Thanks so much to Scholastic for sending me this book and giving me the opportunity to be part of this book tour.

 


Alone by D. J. Brazier

Posted on

alone done

” I’m being boiled alive.

Waves of searing heat roll over me. I turn my head and heave, spewing up hot water thick with aviation fuel. It burns my already scorched throat. 

Something explodes on the other side of the plane and I try to duck but the life jacket keeps me vertical and I can’t dip my head below the surface. Another explosion, the biggest yet, ignites the fuel slick and a ring of flame encircles me, so close it blinds me. I dig my fingers into the life jacket and scream ‘Dad!’ again and again. There’s no reply, just the roar of the flames.”

Survival

Alone, which is suitable for readers aged 13 years and over, is a heart-stopping, heart-wrenching adventure story that will catapult readers from one incredible experience to the next. It’s an absolute classic tale of friendship between animals and humans too. Survival and the strength of human (and animal) spirit make Alone a very special book.

One moment Sam is travelling home from the holiday of a lifetime with his dad, and the next he’s alone in the jungle, plane crashed, with no sign of any other survivors. Understandably terrified and lacking confidence in his survival abilities, his thoughts initially focus on rescue, but before long it becomes clear that he will need to help himself if he is to survive. Full on and graphic in description, Alone feels a paper’s breadth away from real at times. I found myself reading through my fingers almost, caught between the dangers presented and the vulnerability of Sam and then later Galaxy, the otter cub he comes to know and protect as the jungle becomes his home.

Igniting a Love of Fiction

For young readers who only usually touch non-fiction books but are interested in survival, adventure and wildlife, this is the book to open their eyes to the possibilities of fiction. Parents, teachers, librarians: check it out. You all know how rare it is to find the right story for non-fiction fans, so you’ll also recognise the value of this. Animal enthusiasts, wannabe vets and future zoologists are going to love reading about Sam and Galaxy’s relationship, as well as the piranhas, monkeys and other amazing creatures they’ll get to meet. I can think of a couple of boys I know would fall in love with this book for just that reason. One is a little shy of the recommended age of thirteen, but here’s the thing. Although Alone is pretty intense at times and there’s some swearing included in the text, I’d have been quite happy giving it to my nephew to read when he was eleven or twelve because I know

  1. He could have handle it and
  2. I absolutely know he would have loved the book.

however, as a teacher I’d be really very wary about using it with classes under the age of thirteen as not everyone will have the stomach for it. After that though, I’d be waving it from the rooftops and encouraging readers to go for it, be scared, be exhilarated, start to explore what else is out there!

From Piranhas to Kippers

Finally, Alone offers me another wonderful opportunity: the perfect counter-move. For anyone who says to you that reading is boring, smile sweetly and pop a copy of this is their poor bookless hand, saying

” Oh really? I am sorry. Just go and have a look at this for me will you, then let me know if you still think the same.”

Although slapping them softly round the face with a wet kipper would be fun for a short time, this tactic will be 100% more effective, as no one could read Alone and retain this gloomy opinion. This action, by the way, will also score very highly on your Smug-o-meter, should you have had one installed.

 

With great big thanks to Andersen Press for sending me this copy of Alone.


Alphonse, That is Not OK to Do! by Daisy Hirst

Posted on

alphonse done

“ONCE there was Natalie

and then, there was

Alphonse too.”

Marvellous

Alphonse, That is Not OK to Do! by Daisy Hirst is another wonderfully silly story of glory from Walker Books. Suitable for readers of three years plus, and especially marvellous for those with siblings, this a great book for sharing and enjoying with others.

Big Love for Little Alphonse

Alphonse is Natalie’s little brother. Most of the time they play together nicely, but then Alphonse, being that bit younger, doesn’t always do the right thing and makes Natalie cross. Well, you might be a bit fed up too if someone ate your new drawing, even if they were really cute and little and blue. Will it all be okay in the end? ‘Course it will!

alphonse inner done

Alphonse, That is Not OK to Do! is a gorgeous picture book and a little slice of joy: it’s full of warmth, plus it’s jolly funny and charmingly illustrated. I like it very, very much, from Natalie’s exasperated expressions to Alphonse’s tiny, pointed teeth and predilection for yumming up works of art. One thing is clear: Daisy Hirst not only knows how to name a pigeon, but also how to write and illustrate a stonkingly good book. Kids will love it; adults will love it too. I possibly love it most.

Alphonse is my new favourite thing in the world. He rocks.

And if you enjoy this, you should definitely check out some of Walker’s other picture books. There are some real crackers, such as Alan’s Big Scary Teeth, Don’t Call Me Choochie Pooh! and Hoot Owl Master of Disguise.


Auggie and Me by RJ Palacio: Choose Kind

Posted on

Auggie and Me by RJ Palacio (Three Wonder Stories)

auggie

STOP!

To understand this review of Auggie and Me, you really need to have read Wonder first. Wonder is one of the best books ever written and you should go and read it now, or at least at the weekend. You won’t regret it, I promise. Then wipe away your copious tears, come back and read this review afterwards. But if you haven’t read Wonder yet, don’t read this review as there may be spoilers.

Carry On

For those who have read Wonder- RJ Palacio’s 2014 book about August Pullman, a ten year old boy with cranial deformities trying to live a normal life- the distinctive front cover will have already jumped out at you. Auggie and Me, however, is not a sequel. RJ Palacio is swift to point that out in the book’s introduction. The truth is Wonder is not the type of book that needs a sequel. Having shared a year of Auggie’s life, we are rightly left to imagine what might happen next, much as we might love RJ to keep on telling us. What she’s done instead, is take three characters from the original book and write their stories, expanding the world of Wonder and pulling, what I would term as, a Binchy*.

Although this isn’t a sequel, it is a proper book. Rest assured, this isn’t the publishers cashing in on the success of Wonder and drip feeding a few extra details to anxious readers. What you’re buying here with Auggie and Me is three mini books- each story is over one hundred pages long- and they are all beautifully and thoughtfully written, as you would expect. Three stories about three children, each connected to Auggie, if not each other.

Julian

The first is The Julian Chapter. This is the big one for Wonder fans, as Julian bullied our beloved Auggie in the original story. It was always a shame that we didn’t learn more about Julian, and as the popularity of Wonder really took off and RJ noticed animosity growing towards Julian in images like this…

 

…she decided it was time to tell his story. And it’s a truly wonderful one to read, one that reminds us not to judge a book by its cover. Later editions of Wonder have been released with The Julian Chapter as an extra at the end, but I prefer it being presented it a different book as it provides a distance needed by its protagonist. By the end of this story, you will have all the information you need about Julian and will at last be able to make an informed judgement on his actions in the first book.

Christopher

The second story belongs to Christopher. Chris is Auggie’s oldest friend; their mums would even spend time together when they were pregnant. The families became very close and although Chris acknowledges the past difficulties of being friends with Auggie, their friendship always won out. They got on like a house on fire. As younger children they were into all the same things and made each other laugh all the time. It was a normal friendship, in other words.

Now Chris and his family have moved some distance away, he’s finding it hard to see Auggie as he used to. Everything has changed for him: a new house in a new town, his parents has divorced, he has new friends and interests. He is struggling to visualise Auggie fitting into his new life and unfortunately he is beginning to regard him as more of a duty than a friend. Chris is at something of a crossroads, then one day things change and Chris is forced to think about his life choices. Again, it’s a bit of a tear jerker but another wonderful tale. Fair play to RJ Palacio: we barely knew Chris in the original book, but within sentences I was immersed in his life. Also, loving his description here of his hamster:

‘A hamster is basically just a warm potato with fur.’ 

I love this, but then again I am extremely fond of potatoes.

Charlotte

When Auggie first starts Beecher Prep, Charlotte is one of the children who is charged with being his ‘buddy’. She seems like an obvious choice, being an all-round ‘All American’ good egg. We don’t really get to know her in Wonder, but here she is marvellous. Charlotte’s story deals with the complications of staying neutral when those around her are in conflict. She watches the inevitable changes in social groups start to take place and although she remains steady and positive, she knows things will never be as simple as they used to be when they were younger.

Charlotte’s story is the most subtle of the three and probably my favourite. She is Wonder personified and her chapter works because through her kindness and altruism she represents the whole school community. Charlotte is the soul of all that is good at Beecher Prep and provides the perfect full stop to the world of Wonder.

And Extra Credit Goes To…

…the anomaly in Charlotte’s story: Maya, who seems not to change one bit despite all this emotional roller-coasting around her. Everyone needs a Maya I think, to keep them from keeling over.

GGGGG Of course. Auggie and Me is a pleasure.

* To ‘pull a Binchy’ refers to the narrative style of the late great Maeve Binchy, who wrote a billion or so books. Her stories were usually linked by connecting characters and often ran parallel to each other too.

 


Amazing Grace: A Room Full of Chocolate by Jane Elson

Posted on

A Room Full of Chocolate by Jane Elson

choc

 

Books and Covers and All That…

When my last batch of books arrived, this was the one I thought would be the most light-hearted, fun and whimsical of the lot; something possibly for younger readers. From the size of the text and the front cover description  “a story of friendship, family and pot-bellied pigs”, you might have thought so too. It took me precisely one line into the book to re-evaluate:

“Mum found a lump under her arm on my tenth birthday.”

That’s the first line and it changes everything, not just for Grace and her mum, but also for the perception of the reader. The description is right though- this is a story of friendship, family and there are also pot-bellied pigs (one is a fine fellow called Claude- an outstanding name I’m sure you’ll agree) but it’s also about cancer, so let’s just return to this for a minute. This is a tough subject to tackle in a children’s book. Cancer freaks most of us out. But children’s books are often full of scary things and terrible events, sick family members and children being sent away aren’t they?  Off the top of my head, illness is a factor in Tom’s Midnight Garden, The Magician’s Nephew, The Secret Garden, Marianne Dreams and the brilliant Stravaganza series, as well as in that quite well-known John Green book. As with all these authors, Jane Elson writes responsibly and Grace’s mum Chloe’s illness is of course a big part of the book, but not all it has to say. This is a wonderful story for children aged eight up, although you might want to read it together or check it out yourself first for your own peace of mind.

On Loving Grace

When Grace’s mum discovers her lump, several things happen. Firstly, she begins to undergo treatment (the word cancer isn’t mentioned until much later in the book as we are reading from Grace’s point of view here, which is exactly right for the story) with the support of her neighbour but not her husband. Secondly Grace’s father decides he can’t cope and leaves them. (By all accounts he’s a useless article and not much missed by Grace nor her mum. ) And thirdly, the decision is made that Grace will go and live with her Granddad for the time being. This means leaving London for rural Yorkshire to spend time with a man she’s never met  as her mum and granddad fell out eleven years ago. Grace feels like her mum is abandoning her, does what all normal children would do: gets upset and angry and takes it out on her. See, not at all whimsical. I love Grace.

There are three parts to this book: London and the discovery of mum’s illness, Yorkshire where Grace is stranded, and the end which I shall say nothing about. I use the word stranded as you feel Grace is always half a thought away from her mobile phone, whether her mum has sent a text or when she can next make contact. Elson really gets emotion and we join Grace on quite a journey through anger, denial, guilt, the joy of meeting Megan who becomes her best friend almost immediately, wariness with her Granddad and dealing with a new school.

I enjoyed reading, but was very aware a child might read it totally differently to how I was doing it. I was concerned from the first line about Chloe and joined all the other characters in the book apart from Grace in understanding the enormity of what was happening. We all watch over her really. At the point Grace obviously gets it, it drops on her like a ton of bricks. From then, the story really absorbed me. The action that follows is dramatic, exciting, devastating and uplifting and all things good books give. And I haven’t even told you about half of my favourite characters!

And Leaving Grace

So yes, a book about friends, family, cancer, small naughty piglets, two types of journey and some chocolate from time to time too. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how important chocolate is. Just let me share with you my favourite lines though:

“…Sometimes family isn’t the one you’re born into, but the people and pigs you collect along the way.”

*sobs*

GGGG Missing Grace already. A slow burner for me but left me very emotionally attached! Fans of Jacqueline Wilson, Karen McCombie and Lara Williamson should definitely check it out.

 

 

 

 


A Pony Tale: Team Spirit by Pippa Funnell

Posted on

Team Spirit by Pippa Funnell

funnell

 

The Search Continues…

I’m continuing on my quest for great pony books for kids with Pippa Funnell’s Team Spirit today. For those who have never heard of Pippa Funnell, she’s a champion rider who has successfully competed on the scary eventing circuit for years. Eventing is the one where they have to do dressage, cross-country and show jumping over three days. It’s very demanding and exciting if you like that sort of thing, which I do. So, I felt confident that this would be a book about horses, riding and stable management as opposed to one about proms, fancy riding academies and perfect ponies. As written in the annoyingly bold cover snip above, it is apparent from the outset that Funnell does indeed know her onions.

And Why The Search Continues

But firstly, why are pony books so important to kids? Well, books are always be considered the easy option for instant fun by many kids unfortunately and I’m trying to do my bit to find kids their perfect books. Pony books can be another great way in for a particular kind of reluctant reader: usually girls and the kind to whom ponies are beyond reach, but books happily are not. The pony mad but pony-less, as we used to be called in my youth. The thing is, some children will always love horses and be fascinated with them.

It’s like that passage in The Philosopher’s Stone when Harry is trying out wands, looking for that special spark. For many children, pony books are the match that kindles that spark and brings that magic: the magic of reading for pleasure. Here’s their opportunity to escape into a world of pony ownership that’s isn’t otherwise available. That’s why these books work best when the protagonist is not privileged and doesn’t enter the world of ponies in a conventional way. It almost seems possible, doesn’t it? It feels like anything could happen.

The Dream

In Team Spirit, we have Tilly and we have magnificent grey, Magic Spirit. Tilly is the girl who lucked out when a desperate and abandoned Magic was rescued from the roadside near her home. Tilly already loved horses, but wasn’t exactly wealthy and was certainly never likely to own a horse. Then everything changed. On the day poor Magic turned up, she was the only one who could calm him down and it was clear that they had a special connection. When Angela, a local horsey person, stable owner and all round good egg, agreed to take on Magic, she agreed to take on Tilly too. This story is covered in earlier books and three years has passed since Tilly and Magic found each other. Team Spirit is the first book of their new chapter together, where they begin competing.

The event they are working towards here is a Pony Club eventing championship, a team event and a real challenge skills-wise and in an exercise of working with others too. Readers should be nine plus, and should also know a little bit about riding. Enough to be interested by the best way to tackle combination jumps and the importance of riding to markers in dressage. Not to worry, this won’t put off the most devoted pony nut, who like Tilly will be prepared to put in the time researching on the internet.

Why This Book ( And Therefore Series) Works

In short, this book is a winner because:

  • It’s a very sweet love story like all the best horse books are. Funnell also uses the possibility that Magic could be taken away to heighten emotion. No one knows where Magic came from originally, so will their successful partnership bring attention from her old owners? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
  • It’s informative. The reader learns along with Tilly and Magic.
  • It’s part of a series. This is proven to be a successful format for pony books: see The Swallow Tales by KM Peyton, Ruby Ferguson’s Jill books or Judith M Berrisford’s Jackie series. The best pony adventures occur between eleven and seventeen I’d say. That’s gives opportunity for different age classes and long summers of camps, clubs and competitions… and plenty of books! Readers get emotionally involved and want to know more and more.
  • It’s not too long, an easy read with short chapters. What you see is what you get, which we like.
  • Pippa Funnell knows the process and as Tilly and Magic become more successful and more into competing, the books will continue to feel real and the reader will learn more about what it’s like in the world of eventing.

But I Have Notes…

My only slight issue with Team Spirit was that it felt a bit thin. Maybe it lacked a depth of personality, and I can’t help thinking a touch of humour or a bit more vivacity from Tilly would have sorted this out. Some of the character roles are a bit tired, such as the reliable and wise best friend, the wise older horsewoman, the highly competitive wealthy alpha female and the shambolic but brilliant male friend that needs a girl to plait his horse’s mane for him. Maybe it’s because Funnell is a horsewoman first and an author second. It doesn’t stop these books being good, but maybe it’s why they lack greatness at the minute. What we have right now though is a series of books with an author that understands The Noble Horse, and shares the love.

GGG Greatness takes time… watch this space.