THE BEAR, THE PIANO AND LITTLE BEAR’S CONCERT – David Litchfield

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RELEASED: 01/09/2020
PUBLISHER: Frances Lincoln
GENRE: Picture Book, Children’s Book

You probably remember the story of the bear who found the piano in the woods and grew up to become a huge star. He played his music in front of millions of adoring fans and all of his wildest dreams came true. But now, the audiences are smaller, the pianos less grand, and the applause is dying away. So Bear decides to retire. Back in the woods, he is sad that his dream is over but he soon has something to distract him: Little Bear! When Little Bear stumbles upon his piano in the woods, she can’t believe it when her father says that no one wants to hear his music anymore. So she comes up with a plan to prove him wrong.

The final book in the award-winning, best-selling trilogy shows that while fame and fortune might be temporary, the best songs stay in your heart forever.

I was so so excited to get my hands on a finished copy of this book; I had a sneak peek via NetGalley but digital just didn’t do justice to how beautiful David Litchfield’s illustrations are! 

I genuinely squealed when I received a parcel the other day containing this book and immediately tore open the packaging to reveal this stunning picture book! I’ve been a massive fan of David’s for a long time; his illustrations just make a book that extra bit special. The Bear and the Piano is a very popular series, and rightly so. I loved the first book, loved the second, and, not surprisingly, loved the third!

The Bear, the Piano and Little Bear’s Concert is just so lovingly crafted, pulls at your heartstrings and leaves you feeling all warm and fuzzy. I was not disappointed by this book at all. In fact, the sole thing I didn’t like is the fact that it is the final book in the series!


Thank you to Chris at Quarto for sending me a copy of this book!

MEESHA MAKES FRIENDS – Tom Percival

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RELEASED: 9/7/2020
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury
GENRE: Children’s, Picture Book

Meesha loves making things … but there’s one thing she finds difficult to make – friends. She doesn’t know quite what to do, what to say or when to say it, and she struggles reading and responding to social cues. But one day she discovers that she has a special talent that will help her to navigate challenging social situations and help her to make friends. A warm and affectionate look at the joys and difficulties of making and keeping friends, relating to others, and finding your place in the world. Wonderfully empowering and emotionally resonant, Tom Percival’s Big Bright Feelings series is the perfect springboard for conversations about mental and emotional health, positive self-image, building self-confidence and managing feelings. Every child’s bookshelf should contain his books.

One of my auto buy author/illustrators is Tom Percival; I’ve loved every single one of his books, both for the stories and the gorgeous illustrations. During lockdown, I was very excited to see that Bloomsbury had put his new book Meesha Makes Friends up on NetGalley and it really didn’t disappoint! I can’t wait to get a physical copy to really be able to appreciate the illustrations and how the book flows.

Meesha Makes Friends is another important story showing how it can be a little bit tricky to make friends sometimes and feel like we fit in, but it also shows how we can learn to overcome these challenges. I think that this is another important book from Tom Percival for children to read, especially those who are maybe a little quieter and find fitting in difficult. It’s engaging with a strong story and illustrations that really capture it perfectly.


Thank you to Bloomsbury via NetGalley for the ebook of this title

 

 

 

CLEVER CAKES – Michael Rosen, Ashley King

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RELEASED: 15/03/2020
PUBLISHER: Barrington Stoke
GENRE: Young Reader, Fairy Tale, Dyslexia Friendly

It pays to be able to think on your feet, especially if you’re about to be eaten alive or cheated out of a valuable prize! And in these hilarious comical adventures by storytelling legend Michael Rosen, two clever kids are more than a match for a hungry grizzly bear and a bored and arrogant king! Read along as two super-smart kids triumph in these perfectly packaged fairy tales with a twist …

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Ashley King’s illustrations, so of course when I was offered a copy of this book I immediately said yes please! His style of illustrating goes hand in hand with fairy tales and adventures, and coupled with Michael Rosen’s storytelling it makes for a very enjoyable little book!

Clever Cakes has two stories that are engaging and full of fun whilst having that style of a fairy tale that keeps you reading. I think it’s one of the best Little Gems books that I’ve read; it’s bold and makes you want to read. I’d highly recommend it for fans of Michael and Ashley, and it’s a brilliant choice for a Barrington Stoke book to keep younger readers entertained at storytime!


Thank you to Kirstin at Barrington Stoke for my copy of this book!

 

THE VANISHING TRICK – Jenni Spangler

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RELEASED: 30/04/2020
PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster
GENRE: Middle Grade, Magical Realism, Mystery

Step into a world of secrets, folklore and illusions, where nothing is as it seems and magic is at play…

Madame Augustina Pinchbeck, travels the country conjuring the spirits of dearly departed loved ones… for a price. Whilst her ability to contact ghosts is a game of smoke and mirrors, there is real magic behind her tricks too – if you know where to look.

Through a magical trade, she persuades children to part with precious objects, promising to use her powers to help them. But Pinchbeck is a deceiver, instead turning their items into enchanted Cabinets that bind the children to her and into which she can vanish and summon them at will.

When Pinchbeck captures orphan Leander, events are set into motion that see him and his new friends Charlotte and Felix, in a race against time to break Pinchbeck’s spell, before one of them vanishes forever…

Without a doubt, this is one of the most spine-tingling, gripping middle-grade books that I have ever read, and it’s one that I’d urge all fans of a good mysterious and eerie tale to read!

I knew that I’d enjoy The Vanishing Trick; it sounded right up my street. However, what I didn’t expect was for it to be a no-hesitation 5* read that would stay with me for weeks afterwards. I really struggled to want to read anything else straight after reading this because it was THAT GOOD. It very much reminded me of the books I’d read when I was younger, set in Victorian-esque eras, full of magic and intrigue, and for this it really felt like home to be reading it!

The writing is exquisite; it’s atmospheric and realistic. The characters jump off the page and were really fun to get to know. A special mention has to be made to Madame Pinchbeck, who is such a dark character and wonderfully crafted. As a fellow book blogger suggested on Twitter, she’s very much like Tangled’s Mother Gothel and I couldn’t agree more!

I can’t wait to get a finished copy so I can see the illustrations too; from what I’m seeing being released in the run up to publication, Chris Mould has done a stellar job bringing this cast of characters to life!


Thank you to Simon & Schuster via NetGalley for the eBook of this title!

LIGHTS ON COTTON ROCK – David Litchfield

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RELEASED: 03/09/2019
PUBLISHER: Frances Lincoln
GENRE: Children’s, Picture Book

Heather is a little girl who wants to go to Outer Space, where the stars sparkle with magic and wonder. When a spaceship lands at Cotton Rock, it seems that all of her dreams have come true. But soon the alien has to leave. Will the spaceship ever come back? And if it does, is Heather ready to leave everything on Earth behind? This beautiful story for ages 4-7 about family and dreams travels through space and time to show us that what we are looking for might be closer than we think.

I’m a huge fan of David Litchfield’s work, and so, naturally, I was very excited to see that he had a new beautiful book coming out! And wow, this one certainly doesn’t disappoint!

Lights on Cotton Rock is full of David’s usual wonderful illustrations where your imagination can run wild as the artwork and the words complement each other perfectly. Rather than have writing to explain every illustration, there are pages where the pictures are the sole thing telling the story and that makes you appreciate the talent that David has even more! I adore the message of family with this book and can’t recommend it highly enough.

A must for fans of David Litchfield, and a must for anyone who has yet to discover this incredible storyteller and artist!


Thank you to Chris at Quarto for sending me a copy of this book!

Books I’ve Unhauled

I own a lot of books.

However, that number has decreased a fair amount over the past month or so as I’ve had several book unhauls! I started off small, just removing titles that were duplicates or proofs I’d never read, then I started to go through books with a bit more thought – would I ever actually read it? Did I dislike it when I read it? I’m so proud of how many I’ve got rid of so far; if you’ve read my previous post on unhauling, you’ll know how difficult and at one point inconcevable this was for me! Whilst I can’t remember every book that I’ve unhauled (which probably says something…), there are some that stand out. Linking in to some thoughts I’ve enjoyed reading about on other blogs (Jenn‘s springs to mind!) on negative reviews, the two seem to go hand in hand for me.

First up, one of my least favourite books in the world:

Image result for paper butterflies lisaPaper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield. I received this book back in 2016 when I was a longlist reader for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Whilst Lisa’s writing style is lovely, and probably is the only reason I made it through this book, the story is horrendous. It’s the first and only book where my mum has even noticed how much I was hating reading it and told me to stop. It was traumatic. I know the topic is supposed to be hard hitting, but it was uncomfortable and I just didn’t get it. When it was shortlisted, I was gutted; there was no way I could recommend this book to anyone! So yeah, unhauled.

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Next, Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen. This book, I did give three stars; it made me laugh and it was entertaining. However, the anxiety representation in it let it down so so badly; it was awful! Who knew that anxiety could be totally cured by romance?

Image result for the journey picture book

I also got rid of a fair few picture books which I either disliked the illustrations or the story of. These included The Journey by Francesca Sanna (just wasn’t for me; whilst it’s beautiful, I found the story tedious and not really the kind of thing I’d read at storytime), Little Red by Bethan Woollvin (simple but bright illustrations with a weird retelling of Little Red Riding Hood going alongside it…not good) and Nara and the Island by Dan Ungureanu (dull illustrations, dull story).

Have you read any of these? Would you agree with me unhauling them?

kayleigh

 

FIREFLY HOME – Jane Clarke, Britta Teckentrup

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RELEASED: 11/01/2018
PUBLISHER: Nosy Crow
GENRE: Picture Book, Children’s

There’s no place like home, but poor Florence Firefly is lost, and there are so many bright lights shining in the night sky she doesn’t know which way to go. She’ll need some help to find her way back home. In this brilliant interactive picture book, children can help Florence on her journey by encouraging her to fly faster, suggesting which direction to take and making a wish.

There are some picture books that you read that you just know will be perfect for storytime and reading aloud, and Firefly Home is definitely one of them! I was immediately drawn to this book by Britta’s beautiful illustrations, and by how adorable Florence Firefly looks. Coupled with the fun story that’s highly interactive and enjoyable to read, this makes for a really engaging reading experience.

My gut feeling is that I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I’d hoped. I found it a little bit too childlike at times (which is very rare for me to say!) and didn’t enjoy the interactivity when reading it on my own. However, I can imagine that this is a wonderful story to share with your children.

All that said, I did overall like the book and think that it makes a lovely addition to my picture book collection!

OH NO, GEORGE! – Chris Haughton

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RELEASED: 01/03/2012
PUBLISHER: Walker
GENRE: Picture Book

It’s hard work being good all the time. And it’s especially hard for a dog like George! Harris is off to do some shopping. “Will you be good, George?” he asks. George hopes he can. He really wants to … but chocolate cake is just so very delicious and he does love to chase cat… What will George do now? Chris Haughton’s distinctive artwork perfectly accompanies the innocent charm of affable George, a dog trying to be good – with hilarious results!

Oh No, George, like all of Chris Haughton’s books, is full of humour and bold illustrations, with an adorable dog as the our main character. It’s impossible not to love George with his good intentions. But sometimes eating that cake or chasing that cat can prove just too much, and no matter how hard George tries he just can’t help himself!

This book is such a brilliant story to help children learn the difference between right and wrong and about making good choices. Although George doesn’t always get it right, we see how he learns about how doing the wrong thing makes Harris sad or cross so he tries very hard to make amends for his behaviour when he meets all those temptations again! The book ends on a decision for George which leaves it open to either scenario and it’s quite fun to wonder which choice George makes.

I have had the pleasure of meeting George, and I must say that he was behaving very well in the Waterstones tent considering how many wonderful books and snacks hanging about. He did very well to resist the temptation!


Thank you to Jo at Walker for sending me a copy of this book.

THE BOOKSHOP GIRL – Sylvia Bishop, Ashley King

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RELEASED: 06/04/2017
PUBLISHER: Scholastic
GENRE: Young Reader, Middle Grade, Mystery

This story is about a little girl named Property Jones, so-called because she was left in the lost property cupboard of a bookshop when she was five years old. Property loves living in the bookshop, but she has a whopper of a secret … she can’t actually read! So Property doesn’t see the newspaper article announcing the chance to win the Montgomery Book Emporium, the biggest and most magnificent bookshop in the world! When her family win the competition, Property finds herself moving to the Emporium, a magical place filled with floor upon floor of books and a very bad-tempered cat. But all is not at it seems at the Emporium and soon Property Jones finds herself in a whole heap of trouble.

I would happily be abandoned in a cupboard if it meant that I could live in a bookshop, just like Property Jones.

From the fantastic duo Sylvia Bishop and Ashley King (Erica’s Elephant…one of the best books of 2016) comes a brilliant new story full of mystery, fun and, most importantly, books! We meet Property and her family as they leave their little bookshop after winning Montgomery’s Book Emporium, an incredible bookshop full of wonder, but all is not as it seems and soon they encounter a dastardly villain with a cunning plan! It’s up to Property and Gunther the Cat to save the day…but will they be in time?!

Again, Sylvia has created a heroine who you immediately love with a story that captures the imagination from the word go. Her writing style really is engaging and helps the plot to move along at the perfect pace. Coupled with Ashley’s illustrations which capture the characters, story and magic of the Montgomery Book Emporium perfectly (check out page 73…BEST. ANGRY. FISH. EVER.), this really is a story for all ages to love!

 

SHH! WE HAVE A PLAN – Chris Haughton

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RELEASED: 06/03/2014
PUBLISHER: Walker
GENRE: Picture Book

The winner of the 2014 Association of Illustrators’ Award for Children’s Books, Shh! is the covetable new picture book from Chris Haughton, one of the most exciting new voices in children’s literature. From Chris Haughton, the multi award-winning author-illustrator of A Bit Lost and Oh No, George!, comes a picture book about a beautiful bird, four friends and plans gone wrong… The friends are out for a walk. Suddenly, they spot it – a beautiful bird perched high in a tree! They simply must have it and – shh!- they have a plan. So they tip-toe very slowly, nets poised – “Ready one … ready two … ready three … GO!” But, at the turn of the page, we find a ridiculous bunch of very tangled characters and a blissfully oblivious bird, flying away. One hilarious foiled plan after another and it’s clear that this goofy gang cannot catch that elusive birdie! But the littlest of this group, a quiet spectator up until now, knows that a bit of kindness can go a long way… Will his friends follow his gentle lead or will they get themselves into even more trouble?

Such a simple concept, and yet it is absolutely perfect! This book makes me so happy and is so much fun to read aloud; it’s very repetitive, full of expression and is beautifully illustrated (like all of Chris Haughton’s books let’s be honest!).

Shh! We Have A Plan is one of my number one picks for storytime and is one of those stories that you can really make your own with actions and the different volumes, and is also a great choice for beginner readers due to the repetition. Whilst recently re-reading this, my little sister (although capable of reading much trickier books) had so much fun reading it confidently out loud and did all the actions and different SHH!s. It was brilliant!

I can’t recommend this book highly enough if you are looking for a quiet bedtime or fun read that will keep little ones engaged!


Thank you to Jo at Walker for sending me a copy of this book!