THE STAR-SPUN WEB – Sinéad O’Hart

the star-spun web5/5

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!

 

 

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OH NO, GEORGE! – Chris Haughton

oh no, george!5/5

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

img_43174.5/5

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.

THE BOOKSHOP GIRL – Sylvia Bishop, Ashley King

the bookshop girl5/5

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

shh we have a plan5/5

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!

A CHILD OF BOOKS – Oliver Jeffers, Sam Winston

a child of books5/5

RELEASED: 1/9/2016
PUBLISHER: Walker
GENRE: Picture Book

The book: nothing is more important or more precious. In his first collaboration with the award-winning Walker Books, illustration hyperstar Oliver Jeffers – the genius behind the instant-classics Lost and Found and How to Catch a Star – has joined forces with ground-breaking typographer Sam Winston to present the extraordinary A Child of Books.
Soaring passages from masterworks such as Little Women, The Wind in the Willows, Great Expectations and Treasure Island form a very literal and brilliantly-released landscape of adventure. Two children – one a girl who lives for reading, the other a boy yet to understand – embark on a stunning voyage of discovery, gloriously captured by Oliver Jeffers’ unique imagination.
A Child of Books will be one of those very rare volumes that will bridge both those new to the pleasures of a book and for those already deeply in love with its promise.

Ironically, words can not do justice to this book. It is simply stunning, utilises the wonderful storytelling and illustration of Oliver Jeffers and an exciting new talent in Sam Winston who uses typography to incredible effect in this book.

A Child of Books makes the perfect gift for children to treasure and enjoy, and for adults; every time you read it you take something new away from it and everyone can interpret it in such a different way. The use of typography is such an innovative idea for a picture book and I loved how the texts chosen had clearly been selected carefully as they related to what was going on in the story at that point; if you want to spend some time fully appreciating each page you can find extracts from many of your favourite books growing up accompanied by Oliver’s lovely illustrations.

The campaign that surrounded this release has really stuck with me and is something that I closely relate to the book; we are all children of books, and it’s interesting to think how there is usually a specific book or author that sparked that love of reading and literature within us all, thus creating “a child of books”. For example, Enid Blyton made me A Child of Books! I’ve loved seeing the different titles that have inspired so many authors, booksellers and readers.

A Child of Books is an essential upon every child’s bookshelves; it’s a wonderful story for bedtime, to read with family or to read independently. There is so much to discover on every page if you want to spend time on it, so it’s a book that brings joy time and time again.


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

snailycanflyy Book Award 2018

Last year, I hosted my first snailycanflyy Book Award, where I narrowed down my top books of the year, and after a fab reading year the award is back for 2018! Last year saw some tough competition from some amazing books featuring amazing authors and illustrators with the overall winner being the very worthy The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson which still stands out as one of the best books I’ve ever read!

The award is split into three categories – Best Picture Book, Best Middle Grade and Best Young Adult, with a winner in each category and an overall winner. The criteria is simply that it has to be a five-star rated book published in 2018 and one that I want to talk about, one that has stuck with me since reading and one that I would recommend wholeheartedly. So, without futher ado, here are the category nominees:

img_4075

BEST PICTURE BOOK:

Oscar the Hungry Unicorn – Lou Carter, Nikki Dyson
The Bear, The Piano, The Dog and the FiddleDavid Litchfield
Ruby’s Worry – Tom Percival
Space Tortoise – Ross Montgomery, David Litchfield
The Story Orchestra: The Sleeping Beauty Jessica Courtney-Tickle

BEST MIDDLE GRADE BOOK:

The Truth PixieMatt Haig
Death in the Spotlight – Robin Stevens
The Eye of the North – Sinead O’Hart
The Light Jar Lisa Thompson
The Secret Seven: Mystery of the Skull – Pamela Butchart

BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK:

I Was Born For ThisAlice Oseman
To Kill a KingdomAlexandra Christo
LegendaryStephanie Garber
Sunflowers in FebruaryPhyllida Shrimpton
The Exact Opposite of OkayLaura Steven

AND THE WINNERS ARE…drumroll please!

oscar the hungry unicornBEST PICTURE BOOK
Oscar the Hungry Unicorn

death in the spotlightBEST MIDDLE GRADE BOOK
Death in the Spotlight

to kill a kingdomBEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK
To Kill a Kingdom

OVERALL WINNER
The Truth Pixie

A massive congratulations and thank you to all of the authors who’s books made it to the shortlist! All of these books are so incredible and I’ve loved reading them in 2018!

kayleigh

 

THE NIGHT BEFORE THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS – Kes Gray

img_35835/5

As soon as I saw Kes Gray’s name on the cover of this Christmas book, I just bought it, and I’m so glad that I did! Along with his typical fun rhymes in a story that’s both fun to read and listen to, Claire Powell’s illustrations are beautiful and really bring the story of Christmas Eve Eve to life!

The Night Before The Night Before Christmas is an enchanting book that’ll bring fun and laughter to everyone’s Christmas preparations, telling the story of how Father Christmas gets ready for a busy night! I can’t recommend this book highly enough and it has immediately become one of my festive favourites!

My Year of Audible: 2018

It’s scary to think that I’m already over halfway through Blogmas 2018! Today I am going to share with you some of the audiobooks that I have loved this year; although I’ve not listened as frequently lately, I have got some brilliant audiobooks this year!

The Goldfish Boy – Lisa Thompson narrated by Leon Williams

The Truth Pixie – Matt Haig narrated by Matt Haig

Notes on a Nervous Planet – Matt Haig narrated by Matt Haig

The Kissing Booth – Beth Reekles narrated by Cynthia Holloway

I Was Born For This – Alice Oseman narrated by Aysha Kala, Huw Parmenter

The Exact Opposite of Okay – Laura Steven narrated by Laura Aikman

Legendary – Stephanie Garner narrated by Rebecca Soler

To Kill a Kingdom – Alexandra Christo narrated by Jacob York, Stephanie Willis

Daughter of the Pirate King – Tricia Levenseller narrated by Marisa Calin

Although I haven’t got around to finishing listening to all of these, I have loved the freedom of having an Audible membership and having some wonderful titles added to my audiobook library!

Have you listened to any of these, or are there any you’d recommend?

THE TRUTH PIXIE – Matt Haig

the truth pixie

5/5

RELEASED: 18/10/2018
PUBLISHER: Canongate
GENRE: Young Reader, Mental Health

From number one bestselling author Matt Haig comes a hilarious and heartwarming story, brilliantly illustrated throughout by Chris Mould.

Wherever she is, whatever the day, She only has one kind of thing to say. Just as cats go miaow and cows go moo, The Truth Pixie can only say things that are true.

I’ve wanted to write this review ever since I read The Truth Pixie, but I just haven’t quite known where to start!

The Truth Pixie is such a magical little book that I strongly believe everyone should read (I’ve bought eight copies as gifts this Christmas!) and it’s one that can be enjoyed again and again.

To begin with, it’s not a daunting read at all. It’s tiny. But, for such a small book, it carries so many important messages and provides so much comfort for people going through all sorts of difficulties from anxiety to grief. The description of it being “Reasons To Stay Alive for seven year olds” is not wrong! Then you have the fact that it’s beautifully illustrated by Chris Mould. Whilst his illustrations are not my usual type that I would go for, they fit the story and book perfectly.

I can’t recommend The Truth Pixie enough; whether it’s for yourself or as a gift, it’s the perfect little book to have.

kayleigh