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!
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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!

THE KING WHO BANNED THE DARK – Emily Haworth-Booth

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RELEASED: 04/10/2018
PUBLISHER: Pavilion
GENRE: Picture Book, Children’s

An illuminating tale of power, rebellion, darkness and light

There was once a little boy who was afraid of the dark. There’s nothing unusual about that. Most children are afraid of the dark at one time of another. But this little boy was a Prince, and he decided that when he became King, he would do something about the dark.

He would ban it.

When the King bans the dark completely, installing an artificial sun, and enforcing “anti-dark” laws, it seems like a good idea. The citizens don’t need to worry about any of the scary things that might live in the dark.

But what happens when nobody can sleep, and the citizens revolt? Will the King face his fears and turn the lights off?

The King Who Banned the Dark is a beautiful and thought-provoking story about how we need the dark in order to enjoy the light.

I love beautiful picture books that use a limited colour palette, like The King Who Banned The Dark. Immediately, I was drawn to read it, and I’m very glad that I did because I’ve found a new favourite! The illustrations, whilst simplistic, are lovely and make for a very enjoyable read.

The King Who Banned The Dark is a story that can have different interpretations; on a simpler note it can be about how we need the dark as well as the light, making it a wonderful book about the fear of the dark and appreciating the beauty of the light. On a deeper level, as I’ve read in a few places, this book can be interpreted as being a bit more political – people have got power and can revolt against decisions taken by the leaders which may not be for the benefit of the people, and how decisions can be manipulated.

I personally like to think of it as being the lighter option, making it a perfect bedtime story to be enjoyed time and time again!

THE STAR-SPUN WEB – Sinéad O’Hart

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RELEASED: 07/02/2019
PUBLISHER: Stripes
GENRE: Middle Grade, Magical Realism

With her passion for scientific experimentation and her pet tarantula Violet, Tess de Sousa is no ordinary orphan. When a stranger shows up at Ackerbee’s Home for Lost and Foundlings, claiming to be a distant relative come to adopt her, Tess hopes to find some answers to her mysterious origins. But as she adjusts to her new life at Roedeer Lodge, it becomes clear that Norton F. Cleat knows more about Tess – and the strange device left with her when she was abandoned as a baby – than he’s letting on. And when Tess discovers that the Starspinner is the gateway between her world and a parallel world in which war rages, she realizes she may be the key to a terrible plan. A plan she must stop at all costs…

Sinéad O’Hart stormed into the Middle Grade scene last year with her fantastic debut The Eye of the North, so there were high expectations riding on her second book, The Star-Spun Web. Aside from the fact that Sara Mulvanny and Sophie Bransby have done a stellar job on the cover again (it’s BEAUTIFUL!), this book was just as engaging and enjoyable to read as book one!

50210701_324361354859487_5763330421077364150_nThe Star-Spun Web is a mysterious story full of magic, science and wonder…and, despite my intense dislike of spiders, I actually began to warm to Violet, Tess’ pet spider! It’s a book that I was always excited to get back to reading; I genuinely cared about the characters and was rooting for Tess! As a character, she is one of my favourites I’ve come across in middle grade books; she’s just the right amount of feisty, vulnerable and intelligent. It’s refreshing to have a female character who is so independent and inquisitive. That said, she also relies on other people at the right times, showing how we can think we can do something alone but actually we need other people sometimes to help, whether that’s from our family or friends.

I’m not sure whether this book is going to be a stand-alone; there is a lot of potential for a sequel in this world! I’d love to revisit Tess and all her friends, and discover what happens to the villains of the story too!


Thank you to Leilah at Stripes for sending me a copy of this book!

 

 

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.

YOUR MIND IS LIKE THE SKY – Bronwen Ballard, Laura Carlin

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RELEASED: 07/02/2019
PUBLISHER: Frances Lincoln
GENRE: Picture Book, Mental Health

Your mind is like the sky. Sometimes it’s clear and blue – but sometimes a raincloud thought comes along and makes everything seem dark. So what can we do about rainclouds? This beautiful picture book, written by child psychologist Bronwen Ballard and illustrated by award-winning artist Laura Carlin, shows children that worries and negative thoughts are normal and helps them develop healthy thinking habits. Tips on mindfulness and extra resources for parents are included at the back of the book.

As someone who struggles with controlling my thoughts, I was very intrigued when I heard about this book. Mindfulness is something that I haven’t found useful in the past, much as I’d love it to be! So, I was really hoping that a picture book aimed at children may help me a little bit more…

Luckily, I was not disappointed.

Your Mind Is Like The Sky is a beautiful book with a powerful message; whilst you can’t control your thoughts, you can accept them and learn to deal with the different types. I love how thoughts are personified into clouds; this makes them seem less scary, and shows that, despite how dark they can be sometimes, they are only thoughts and they will pass. Unlike many books that focus on mindfulness, there isn’t too much text which made this book stand out even more. It reads just like a normal story and is just the right length to make it useful but not overwhelming.

At the back, something that’ll make this book more useful for parents and teachers is the breakdown of how mindfulness works and what you can do to help children. That said, I think that this book is useful for people of all ages who struggle with raincloud thoughts making this an essential addition to your collection of books about mental health.


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