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!

GARGANTIS – Thomas Taylor

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RELEASED: 07/05/2020
PUBLISHER: Walker
GENRE: Children’s Fiction, Magical Realism, Middle Grade

There’s a storm raging in Eerie-on-Sea. Has the mighty Gargantis come back from the deep…?

When an ancient bottle is found washed up on the beach after a ferocious electrical storm, all the residents of Eerie-on-Sea seem to want it … but should they in fact fear it? Legend has it that the bottle contains an extraordinary secret that spells doom for the whole of Eerie-on-Sea. Could it be true that the vast sea creature Gargantis has awoken from her slumbers, and is causing the large cracks that are appearing all across the town? Finding themselves entrusted with the bottle, Herbie and Violet discover they will need to ride the terrible storm and pacify the creature if they want to save Eerie-on-Sea from sliding into the ocean and being lost for ever.

Malamander was one of my favourite books of last year, and arguably one of my favourite middle grade books of all time! So, Walker announcing that they’ve joined NetGalley and seeing this was one of their first titles on there had me pressing that request button so very quickly!

Gargantis sees us return to Eerie-on-Sea with Herbert Lemon and Violet Parma and you’d think that there are only so many mysteries and adventures to be had in such a small seaside town, but nope! There is another legendary monster to be discovered and with a whole host of characters and twists and turns, Gargantis will have you on the edge of your seat!

Thomas Taylor’s writing is just wonderful and it really draws you in; Herbie as a narrator is loveable and there’s so much character to him. I love how it just flows along and you get totally swept up in the story, just like with Malamander! I am so excited to hear that there is a book three coming…the only downside is having to wait!

I’d highly recommend Gargantis (if you haven’t read Malamander yet, go and read that too!). It’s just one of those books that’s guaranteed to make you want to read; it’s a definite page-turner! Last of all, I apologise for this review being short and sweet; no words can do justice to this series! It’s just one of those that I implore you to read if you love a good children’s adventure/mystery, and I have no doubt that you’ll love it too!


Thank you to Walker via NetGalley for the proof 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!

WORK IT GIRL: J.K. ROWLING – Caroline Moss, Sinem Urkas

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RELEASED: 07/03/2019
PUBLISHER: Frances Lincoln
GENRE: Children’s Non-Fiction, Biography

In this new series for aspiring future girl #bosses, discover the life of JK Rowling, the famous author. Be inspired by her remarkable story, and learn 10 key lessons from her life and work. Featuring inspiring quotes and mantras, this is a book for all girls wanting to forge their own career path.

I’m absolutely a Potter nerd, and I find the whole history of the world and of the books fascinating, and so I was very keen to get my hands on this book all about the lady behind the magic!

Boss The Bestseller List Like J.K. Rowling makes for a really interesting read. Although I knew that she had a difficult time before Harry Potter got published and on the road to publication, I didn’t realise a lot of the things that this book mentioned. That said, it was all put across in such a positive way, and it wasn’t hard to finish this book feeling very inspired and empowered.

This book makes a wonderful gift; it’s bold and engaging, and I flew through it! This series is a fabulous idea that shows young girls that they too can achieve regardless of the difficulties life may throw their way.


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

RETURN TO WONDERLAND – Various

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RELEASED: 27/06/2019
PUBLISHER: Pan Macmillan
GENRE: Children’s Fiction, Middle Grade

Return to Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland with this stunning collection of original stories from today’s biggest children’s authors – Peter Bunzl, Pamela Butchart, Maz Evans, Swapna Haddow, Patrice Lawrence, Chris Smith, Robin Stevens, Lauren St John, Lisa Thompson, Piers Torday and Amy Wilson.

Tumble down the rabbit hole again to find out what happens in Wonderland without Alice there. Is the Queen of Hearts still ruling with an iron fist? Does the Mad Hatter still have to go to tea? And will Tweedledum and Tweedledee ever resolve their argument?

More than 150 years since Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was first published by Macmillan, revisit Carroll’s amazing cast of characters – including the Queen of Hearts, the Mock Turtle, the Dormouse, the Cheshire Cat and Alice’s Sister in these brand-new stories, that will bring a new generation of readers to Wonderland.

I’ll start off this review with a confession; I’ve never read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (I’ve had a copy since I was about 9…it’s still on the TBR, although I’ve read bits!). Alice in Wonderland isn’t even in my top 20 Disney films. That said, I’ve been very excited about reading Return to Wonderland; some of my favourite children’s authors have contributed short stories to this collection and I couldn’t resist finally immersing myself in Wonderland!

I really enjoyed this book; I love how each author’s unique style of writing and voice came through in their stories, and how even for authors I’ve not read before I could pick out what makes people love their writing. The introductory paragraph at the beginning of each story was a really nice touch to introduce you to the author and their story.

Onto the stories themselves; they were magical and wonderful and completely bizarre! The thing that I loved about having modern day authors contributing was that their writing really brought Wonderland to life and in a way that didn’t, for me, come across as stuffy or dated, but at the same time they stayed fairly true to Lewis Carroll’s original.

I’d definitely recommend this book as a brilliant introduction to Wonderland and to classic children’s literature; I think that if I’d read this when I was a child I would’ve been keen to go on to read the original story that it follows on from! It’s amazing that 150 years on from the original, people are still reading about Wonderland and this book is a brilliant addition to that world.


Thank you to Macmillan via NetGalley for the eBook of this title.

NEW CLASS AT MALORY TOWERS – Enid Blyton

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RELEASED: 27/06/2019
PUBLISHER: Hachette
GENRE:

It’s time to welcome new girls to Malory Towers, the famous boarding school by the sea, in four brand-new stories by outstanding authors, set in Enid Blyton’s much-loved school.

YA and Waterstones Book Prize-winner Patrice Lawrence introduces us to proud Marietta with her magnificent head of braided hair. A dormitory argument reveals something unusual about Marietta, and something equally unexpected about Alicia.

In Guardian and Stylist columnist Lucy Mangan’s story, student librarian Evelyn is wary of her lively, lacrosse-playing classmates. When one of them becomes a regular visitor to the hushed domain of the library, can Evelyn really trust her?

Sunita Sharma joins Malory Towers surrounded by a sense of mystery, in Narinder Dhami’s fabulous story. But is Sunita really as glamorous as Gwendoline imagines?

In Rebecca Westcott’s heartwarming story, Darrell and friends fear the worst when spoilt Gwendoline’s cousin joins the school. But Maggie is very different from her stuck-up relative . . .

I’ve just devoured this book in one sitting and it’s taking a lot of restraint to not write this whole review in capitals and a jumble of excitable letters! I credit Enid Blyton with being the author who made me into the reader that I am today, and one of the series that I love in particular is Malory Towers. So, when I saw this latest addition I immediately picked it up and couldn’t wait to start reading.

I’ve not read anything by any of these authors before, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Authors such as Pamela Cox and Anne Digby in particular have done an amazing job of taking hold of the reins with some of Blyton’s most loved series and so, with New Class at Malory Towers, Patrice Lawrence, Lucy Mangan, Narinder Dhami and Rebecca Westcott had some big shoes to fill! All four have crafted new stories for the 21st century that are set in the world of Darrell Rivers and her friend’s Malory Towers and it felt like being back home. Familiar faces and stories from the original series are referenced throughout although we have the pleasure of meeting a whole host of new girls. I read this book with a warm fuzzy feeling.

I think that my favourite story was Narinder Dhami’s The Secret Princess; it had me laughing along with the girls and I was so entertained. It wasn’t the story that I expected and I raced through it! That said, I did enjoy all of the stories and they all rated either 4 or 5 stars for me.

I do also have to point out the excellent cover illustration from Pippa Curnick. Many of my friends will recall my frustrations growing up as new covers were released of Blyton’s books and illustrations were either just awful or not true to the books. Pippa’s have breathed a breath of fresh air into the series and have made it one that will appeal to readers today as well as to fans of Blyton like me!

I’d highly, highly recommend this book for fans of Enid Blyton both old and new, and I also think that this would make an excellent introduction to Blyton’s books for younger readers who may find the language and setting of the original series a little old fashioned. I adored every second!

READ TO YOUR BABY EVERY DAY – Chloe Giordano, Rachel Williams

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RELEASED: 14/03/2019
PUBLISHER: Frances Lincoln
GENRE: Children’s Poetry, Nursery Rhymes, Picture Book

Science tells us that babies develop best when they are spoken to, sung to and read to. Introduce your baby to a world of words and pictures with these 30 classic nursery rhymes from the Mother Goose collection and beyond paired with images of Chloe Giordano’s delightful hand-embroidered illustrations on cloth.

Even when they’re tiny, the sound of their parents’ voices helps babies make sense of the world and feel comfortable with new people and places. This treasury gives you the opportunity to rediscover just how useful (and calming) these best-loved nursery rhymes are in one, handsome volume.

I adore a good nursery rhyme, and have many fond memories of watching my favourite VHS of nursery rhymes over and over again (I finally found it on YouTube!) and so when I was offered a copy of a new book of nursery rhymes from Frances Lincoln Children’s Books for review I jumped at the chance!

Read To Your Baby Everyday is a beautiful addition to anyone’s collection; it’s really unique in the fact that the illustrations are all taken from hand-embroidered cloth! It’s so clever and I really enjoyed taking the time to appreciate every detail in the book. I think that the one thing that held me back on giving it 5 stars is that it’s not always the most engaging book for a child as it’s not as bright as I would’ve liked. Other than that, I can’t fault it and it really would make a perfect gift for a little one.

I would highly recommend Read To Your Baby Everyday as a way to showcase some of the best nursery rhymes that we’ve all grown up knowing and loving, in a new and fresh take on a gift book.


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

 

MALAMANDER – Thomas Taylor

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RELEASED: 02/05/2019
PUBLISHER: Walker
GENRE: Children’s, Middle Grade, Mystery, Fantasy

Nobody visits Eerie-on-Sea in the winter. Especially not when darkness falls and the wind howls around Maw Rocks and the wreck of the battleship Leviathan, where even now some swear they have seen the unctuous Malamander creep…

Herbert Lemon, Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, knows that returning lost things to their rightful owners is not easy – especially when the lost thing is not a thing at all, but a girl.

No one knows what happened to Violet Parma’s parents twelve years ago, and when she engages Herbie to help her find them, the pair discover that their disappearance might have something to do with the legendary sea-monster, the Malamander. Eerie-on-Sea has always been a mysteriously chilling place, where strange stories seem to wash up.

And it just got stranger…

This book was a total cover buy; sure it sounded pretty good, but I saw it and I needed it on my bookshelf. That said…

Oh.

My.

Goodness.

I have found a new favourite middle grade book! Malamander is the first book in a long time that I have literally devoured; I couldn’t put it down and read it in one sitting! I think that I just loved the whole setting of Eerie-on-Sea, the characters, the attention to detail and yet so easy to get lost in style of writing.

Fun fact – Thomas Taylor is the artist behind the original Harry Potter illustrations.

With Malamander, he shows that not only is he a dab hand at art, but also at crafting an incredible world full of mystery and intrigue. Herbert Lemon makes for a brilliant narrator; it’s fun and gripping, and the atmosphere created throughout the book really makes you feel as though you’re there in the story!

I’m quite happy with this review just being a gushy length of text saying how much I loved the book! There are so many twists and turns, and this book really is an experience that I’d hate to even spoil one part of; it’s truly special! My advice is to get yourself a copy as soon as possible, admire the cover, check out the map of Eerie-on-Sea and then settle down for one of the best reads of this year.

On a side note, I’ve now decided that I’d like to work in the Eerie Book Dispensary; I mean, I have a qualification as a dispenser…and I love books…the job’s pretty much mine.

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!