Monday, 10 June 2019

Five New Favourites

I have read so many amazing books recently!  My TBR pile is growing daily and I am loving this Golden Age of Children's Fiction.
Please continue to read for five of my newest favourites!

The Steam Whistle Theatre Company
Vivian French
Walker Books

Uncaster is the scene for this magnificent book.  A fantastic cast of characters bring this Victorian theatre adventure to life.  The Steam Whistle Theatre company is heading North from London to find their fortune. At the same time, Magician Baby Bubbles and his thieving mother are on the run and also planning to set up in Uncaster.
Competing for business and money brings out the worst in this community and before long trouble finds them all.  From ruined costumes, fights, thieving, and orphans, there is plenty to keep a reader amused.
I loved the characters and truly felt their personalities shine through, and I was rooting for the theatre company from the very beginning.  Even when it looked as though they were doomed!

Is there a happy ending for the Steam Whistle Theatre Company?
Read this book to discover more- it is an excellent way to spend an afternoon, or morning or evening.

An Unlikely Spy
Terry Deary

Brigit, the main character, is a young girl, full of fierce determination, like her mother Aimee.  She stands up for herself and sometimes has to face the consequences and ultimately the bullying that comes from being German at the start of WWII.
After being evacuated to Wales, Brigit makes a bold choice to escape and follow her mother who is a secret spy being sent behind enemy lines.  Tough training, strict rules and an unhappy sergeant make life hard for the pair.  Then comes the news that they are being sent on a mission.
France, danger and the resistance become her life and we see how brave, bold and determined Brigit truly is.  She helps to set bombs, destroy factories and take down phone lines all for her country.
A fast paced, exciting read and one I devoured in one morning- I just couldn't put it down.
This story follows on from The Silver Hand, also by Terry Deary, in which we meet Aimee and Marius and learn about their roles during WWI.  Aimee and Marius are Brigit's parents.
You can read An Unlikely Spy as a stand alone but I have ordered The Silver Hand to complete the story of Aimee.
An enthralling read and one I recommend highly.

Media of The Good Thieves
The Good Thieves
Katherine Rundell

I had been anxiously awaiting a copy of this book and it arrived just before half term.  Another book to be devoured in one sitting- I see a pattern here!
I loved Vita, setting up against her opponent, New York and could tell she was going to be as fierce and full of fight as I had hoped.
This is a New York style mafia heist as its best.
Vita's grandfather has been swindled out of his family home by a mafia man.  Vita and her mother come to try to convince the grandfather to move home with them.  Vita, decides to take matters into her own hands and so begins a dangerous chase to try and get back what is rightly theirs. Enter in some new friends with extraordinary talents and you have an incredible adventure, fast paced, full of fight and determination.
This is Katherine Rundell doing what she does best.  Letting the reader loose in a world brought to life through wondrous descriptions with characters who almost leap off the page.
One to be read, shared and cherished.

Starlight Watchmaker RGB.jpgThe Starlight Watchmaker
Lauren James
Barrington Stoke

This was an unexpected story and I admit I was surprised at the cast of characters.  It is an ingenious plot in a shorter book, perfect for those students still building their reading stamina.
 It has all the elements of a larger book and is completely engrossing.  This will capture your attention and imagination quickly and you will find yourself reading to the end.
From the first meeting of Hugo, the android watchmaker, to the budding friendship with Dorian, a green diplomat from another world, I was transported to the mystery of the missing quantum energy.
Who is stealing the energy? Is it for sinister reasons?
There are twists and turns and surprises underground.
A brilliant read and one I can't wait to share with schools.

The Secret DragonThe Secret Dragon                                               
Ed Clarke

Mari is a scientist, just like her Dad.  She loves discovering fossils and recording everything just as a scientist would.
A chance discovery takes Mari by storm and together with new friend Dylan, they must work together in the name of science.
The tiny dragon, nicknamed Gweeb, causes endless amounts of trouble for Mari and Dylan.
Mari is headstrong, scientific and has few friends.  Dylan is new in town and both are in need of friendship.  They learn a lot from each other and from Gweeb.
This is an excellent book full of hope, dreams and friendships.  It is also a book about working together and understanding the world around you.  I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in the hills of Wales with Mari, Dylan and Gweeb.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Moon Landing Anniversary- 2 books to celebrate

When we walked on the Moon
David Long and Sam Kilda
Quarto Publishing Group
Publishing 4 June 2019

I, like many others, am curious about the space race, the moon landings and the history of space travel.  This gem of a book is brilliant.  It answered more questions than I realised I had.
With the 50th anniversary of the moon landings fast approaching, books about space travel are becoming more and more popular.
This book will take you from the first moon landing with the famous lines "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind", all the way to the last Apollo mission several years later.  Sadly, I was unaware of just how many men had travelled, landed on and explored the surface of the moon.  This book will continue the journey of these brave men into the history books.  I found it fascinating to read about what scientific experiments they were doing, the amount of rocks they brought back and the danger of moon dust to their suits.
The illustrations are superb, with a real historical feel to them.  I found myself studying the control centre one looking at the fine details and imagining the scientists spending days there trying to save Apollo 13's mission and astronauts.
This book belongs on every Non fiction shelf under the topic of space.  It is an excellent book full of facts about the landings and the men who landed.  I haven't come across a book that explains the landings and gives a brief bio of each astronaut before and I thoroughly enjoyed every page.

The Race to Space
Clive Gifford and Paul Daviz
Quarto Publishing Group
Published May 2019

This is a stunning book documenting the Space Race between Russia and the United States- beginning after WWII and continuing through to the construction of the International Space Station.  Russia and the US, competed against each other in the race to explore space and the moon.  Rivals for a long time but now relying on each other to further this exploration of space.

The illustrations are stunning, bold and colourful.  They bring an interesting subject to a new generation of space explorers.  Children can access the short snappy facts alongside the brilliant pictures.

As we near the anniversary of the lunar landing, space is becoming hugely popular and children are keen to learn more about this new frontier.  New books are needed to continue this interest, especially one like this with its excellent layout and use of illustrations.

I loved the use of quotations from key people in the space race- some are etched in our minds and it is important new generations understand this part of history.

Fascinating and thorough- it is one to enjoy for all ages.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Max's Box by Brian Wray

Max's Box
Written by Brian Wray
Illustrated by Shiloh Penfield
Publishing September 2019 by Schiffer Publishing

Max's Box is a powerful, evocative book about children, especially boys and how they are inclined to deal with their emotions, or "supposed" to deal with them.  Box them up, and carry them around.  Carrying strong emotions around, like a box tied to your wrist, can cause damage.  This is what is happening to Max.

In the beginning he was adding toys to his Box but then emotions were added and the box got bigger, harder to manage and Max lived in the shadows of it.

One simple question, asked by another child, gives Max the chance to answer honestly and the Box starts to change.  Max can now see the Box differently and can change his attitude and behaviour.

This book should be read to every child in every home.  Emotions come and go, they change us, they make us stronger, they need to be felt and then let go.  Holding on is not healthy or helpful.
Max is taught this valuable lesson by drawing balloons all over the Box, which like emotions, can be let go into the sky to float and disappear.

What an amazing book- simple colours in the first pages make the last pages pop off the page.  It really emphasises the message of letting emotions go once they are felt.

There is a valuable guide to emotions and encouraging children to feel, understand and accept them in the back of the book.  It could be used in schools during assemblies, classrooms or just at home with the special children in your life.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

The Butterfly Circus by Francesca Armour-Chelu

The Butterfly Circus
Written by Francesca Armour- Chelu
Cover Illustration by Studio Helen
Published by Walker Books

Meet Tansy and Belle, the stars of The Butterfly Circus.  They fly high on the trapeze above the audience, following each other and listening to each other, as only sisters can.
Orphans, taken in and taught by the Fratellini’s, they grow up and become the main attraction.

A series of events changes the path of both girls and life becomes harder.  Belle disappears and Tansy is lost without her.  Tansy, and her shadow Rosa, discover and help each other in new ways.  Rosa teaches Tansy to be strong and to trust herself.  Tansy teaches Rosa to be brave.

The search for Belle is not an easy one, and Tansy must lose Rosa, meet new circus marvels and learn to fly again before the girls can be happily reunited. Elephants, arrogant and cruel men, and a mechanical cat make this story completely enjoyable and highly readable.  It has fast paced adventure, loving sister moments and sad goodbyes.  It also has friendship, courage and soaring moments of joy!

This is a glorious new book from an already well established author of the Fenn Halflin series.
The Golden Age of Children’s Fiction is happening in Suffolk!

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Picture Book Perfect- NetGalley titles

I loved this book from my very first glimpse of the cover.  It is another beautifully illustrated book by Lizzy Stewart.  There is a certain joy to be found in just looking at her books.

Matilda and Dad are opposites in most ways, including the fact that Matilda is almost parent like to her Dad's fun loving behaviour.  She is serious and focused, he is easily distracted.
A map to a treasure leads them off on an adventure which they soon realise is more fun together.  Their different paths are missing one thing- each other.  Matilda is missing out on the world around her and her Dad is missing Matilda who keeps him from getting lost.
A gorgeous book for Dad's and Daughters and a celebration of their wonderful relationships!
Stunning illustrations accompany the pair on their journey and there is much to discover on each page.

This is a wonderful book and I can forsee it being hugely successful!

A heart warming musical tale of families, love and the joys of working together.
Aston's musical Grandad's are teaching Aston all about their music, their instruments and the joy they get from playing in a band.  Aston wants to learn from each Grandad and is finally old enough to learn to play!  He spends time with both and learns so much from each of them.
When faced with a dilemma, Aston comes up with a brilliant plan and he creates something incredible.
Only one band can play at the school fair but both Grandads want their bands to play.  Aston feels torn and can't decide, nor can the Grandads.
A combination of both bands, a new style and loads of love bring a school fair together.

The power of love and music come together and give us this amazing story worth sharing again and again.

Gorgeous illustrations bring this story to life and I delighted in Aston and his lovely family.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Picture Book Perfect- Bedtime Stories

I have saved these two as they are perfect bedtime reads. My two enjoyed them and they both make fabulous read alouds!

One is about a special pet star and the other about a nightmare eating bear. 

My Pet Star
Written by Corrinne Averiss
Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
Published by Hachette Childrens

A little girl finds a fallen star.  He needs some love and care and she has plenty to give him.  The star is given a clean, a fix and a snack.  The little girl shares stories and toys but the star doesn’t know how to play or read and sleeps until night, missing the fun day time activities the little girl enjoys. She is just happy when they are together.  

One night, the star feels strong and ready to go back to the night sky and smiles down on the little girl from his lofty height. 

This is a simple but wonderful book about friendship.  The love, care and attention needed to grow a friendship but also the understanding that it is ok to be apart.   My Pet Star is a perfect story for all children and the illustrations are gorgeous - full of heart, stars and wonder! The little girl is beautiful and her love for the star is played out on each page. A new favourite to be read again and again. 

The Night Bear
Written by Ana de Moraes 
Illustrated by Thiago de Moraes
Published by Andersen Press

Before you even begin reading this book, the end papers give you a set of instructions to create your own take away box for the night bear. Children could make it and put it out for the Night Bear.  The end papers at the back tell us what some nightmares taste like, such as a howling ghost tastes like cheese on toast! 
This is a new way to help children to deal with scary dreams.  Night Bear is hungry at night and is hunting for some scary dreams, luckily for him they taste like sausage and mash, burgers and fries and chocolate cake! 
One dream has been left out but eww, it is rainbows and unicorns....disgusting! 
Night Bear doesn’t want to waste a dream so sets off to find someone who will enjoy it! 
Most children are asleep but one boy is awake and they happily swap a dream for a nightmare.  
For children who suffer from scary dreams, this will bring a new approach to dealing with them. 
The illustrations are excellent, full of Night Bear’s character and scary monsters turned into yummy dinners! 
I love this and will certainly be reading it to children in schools! 

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Picture Book Perfect- Imaginative Girls

Two sparkly covers appealed to me tonight! Two girls with brilliant imaginations, June and Sophie!

Once Upon a Unicorn Horn
Written and Illustrated by Beatrice Blue
Published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

June has a wonderful home, loving parents and a huge imagination.  She is a treasure seeker and on one quest she finds the best treasure of all- flying horses.  Horses taking their first flights with soft fur and sparkly tails.  All but one, sad little horse in need of encouragement and magic from June.  
They try lots of ideas but nothing works.  June goes home and explains the problem to her family who then come up with more ideas.    
A solution is found and June rushes back to help her horse, but just as disaster strikes, so to does magic! 
From that day forward, Unicorns were born! 
Horns worn in remembrance of friendship.
What greater message is there in the world? Friends make life better, more magical and more fun! 
The message is lovely and the illustrations are a joy.  I have a few favourite pages that would look great in a frame! 
This one is top of my list though.  It is hopes, dreams and wishes in one big swoosh! 

Sophie Johnson: Detective Genius
Written by Morag Hood
Illustrated by Ella Okstad
Published by Simon and Schuster

Sophie has a big imagination and is extremely good at being a detective genius! Bella, her assistant, is not very good according to Sophie! 
Sophie looks the part, with her hat, cape and magnifying glass but Bella has a more simplistic approach to finding and catching baddies!
Sophie is busy interviewing, fingerprinting her toys and having well deserved snack breaks while Bella barks at nothing.  I must admit, I love books where the audience is given the clues and evidence of what is truly happening in the story, over the main character. Bella’s good deeds capture the attention of the police and the reader but Sophie is too busy to notice! Perhaps it’s best they work together next time.
Funny storyline, great imaginative characters and colourful illustrations.  What’s not to love? 

Five New Favourites

I have read so many amazing books recently!  My TBR pile is growing daily and I am loving this Golden Age of Children's Fiction. ...