Thursday, 10 June 2021

UPCOMING RELEASE! GOOD NEWS; Why The World Is Not As Bad As You Think by Rashmi Sirdeshpande, illustrated by Adam Hayes


                                                                          Link to publisher

                                                 Published by: Wren and Rook, 24th June 2021

                                                          (a non-fiction imprint of Hachette) 


    After spending the last fifteen months in the grip of a global pandemic, good news is something I'm sure we'd all welcome with open arms. But with the news still full of doom and gloom, it can be hard to find things to be hopeful about. 

    Books are always a great source of hope but this new non-fiction release by Rashmi Sirdeshpande, which follows last year's release of Dosh, offers us good news and hope in abundance. Tackling the minefield that is sensationalism and fake news in the media, this book takes us through ways we can unearth the truth and find things to be positive about.

From climate change to inequality to politics and the arts, good things are happening all over the globe. Covid-19 might have put a spanner in the works but the creativity and ingenuity of the human race is not easily beaten. By working together, progress and improvements are gradually pushing back against troubling times and overwhelming challenges. And there are things we can all do to help...

You can't celebrate good news without acknowledging the bad and each of the six chapters in Good News does just that by taking the two hand in hand. It doesn't ignore the fact that things are bleak or paper over the cracks by pretending everything's going to be fine but what it does do is shine a spotlight on hugely positive projects that are happening to counteract all the bad stuff. It gives readers the tools to begin to decipher the actual facts behind the headlines and offers a step by step practical guide to how we can contribute to making a difference. 

The joy of this book is the celebration of the goodness, selflessness, empathy, collaboration and unity that exists in the world. Without these things, we're in trouble! But this book, with it's brilliant 'Good News Flashes' reminds us that all these things exist and by championing them, we have the power the save our future. 

With fun, doodly-type illustrations by Adam Hayes and an accessible layout, this book is perfect for middle-grade readers. It's teaming with facts from reliable sources and is a must-have for every primary and secondary classroom. It inspires us to be active, not passive (without piling on the pressure) and to use all our skills for good. It's a fabulous breath of fresh air and maybe, just maybe, the world isn't as bad as we think!

A big thankyou to Hachette for offering me the chance to review. Good News is available to pre-order and is released on 24th June.

Chapter Book Round-Up- Awesome books to brighten up summer

Chapter books always brighten up our house. They're fun, engaging and offer a very different experience to picture books: longer, more complex stories and characters that can quickly feel like friends. 

This is exactly the case with the three new releases below. During a wet and dreary May, all of these reads have offered us rays of sunshine, epic adventures and cosy, comforting reassurance. There are new series, returning series and those that have a VERY bright future ahead of them. 

These are all books I definitely wish I'd had on my bookshelf as a child.  My kids love them and the characters leap off the page. Despite the weather, I think we've had the best May ever and we just had to share our thoughts with you.

Rainbow Grey by Laura Ellen Anderson 

Published by: Farshore Publishing, May 2021

How apt that in a month full of unpredictable weather comes the release of a BRILLIANT new series, Rainbow Grey, by the author of Amelia Fang. Laura Ellen Anderson has excelled herself with a series as colourful and loveable as a rainbow itself. With fabulous characters, a whirlwind plot and gorgeous illustrations, it really took our breath away. 

High above Earth, Ray Grey lives in Celestia with all the other weatherlings. But while they have weather power, she has none. 
All that changes, however, when Ray sets out on a forbidden journey to Earth to discover the truth behind the extinct rainbow weatherlings. Suddenly gifted with magical powers, Ray needs to learn how to use them and fast...for a storm is on its way...

This book is world-building at its absolute best. The plot fizzes, the characters sing and there is adventure and humour in abundance. Nim, Ray's cloud cat, is simply hilarious and the bond between Ray and her two friends, Droplett and Snowden, is as enchanting as the actual weather magic. Every character is quirky and memorable and every nook and cranny of the weatherlings' world is fully imagined - even the cakes are bursting with personality!

The plot moves at a much faster pace than I expected and covers a lot of exciting ground. There are twists and turns and tornados and storms that will whisk your feet off the ground and whizz you along faster than a cloud whale. Mark my words, Rainbow Grey is not going anywhere. She is gorgeous character brought to life by enthralling storytelling and amazing artwork. Combine that with a delicious villain and spell-binding weather magic and you have yourself a chapter book that feels as joyous as eating an ice-cream on the sunniest day and as cosy as drinking a hot chocolate with cloud marshmallows (yep, these are a real thing!) on the coldest. 

Bring on books 2 and 3!

The Fiend of the Seven Sewers
The Nothing to See Here Hotel - Book Four

Link to publisher
Published by Simon and Schuster- May 2021

It's blunkin' bonkers but it's back and as brilliant as ever. The fourth instalment of The Nothing to See Here Hotel is as madcap and even more hilarious than the others. It's also considerably longer, treating us to even more Frankie Banister shenanigans.

When Frankie is kidnapped and taken down to the dooky deep, he has no idea who's behind it or what he's done to upset them. But when he finds out the identity of 'the boss', he realises he's underestimated old enemies and needs to enlist some help to battle his new ones. Will Frankie ever see his beloved family and home again?

This is a hoot of a read executed by a seriously talented storyteller. There's howlers on every page and the adrenaline-fuelled adventure rips along at the speed of a gurgly drain. As the author moves us into the wider worlds that exist outside the hotel, we are introduced to a host of new, mysterious and brilliantly envisioned characters. Queen Latrina and Doris steal the show and Mrs. Morkie offers a big dollop of home comforts. 

As always, the book is wonderfully illustrated by Steven Lenton, who never fails to capture the fabulous eccentricity and energy of this series. With trolls and cuddlumps and poodly-pipes and ghosts, this is anything but a dull read. The dooky depths have never been so inviting...

UPCOMING RELEASE: The Adventure Club
RED PANDA RESCUE by Jess Butterworth

Published by: Hachette, 8th July 2021
Perfect for the younger end of the chapter book market, this is a brand new illustrated series by Jess Butterworth and Kirsti Beautyman. Told in first person diary format, it follows the adventures of animal-loving Tilly...

Tilly is over the moon when she is chosen to join The Adventure Club on a journey to Nepal. There, with the help of Anita, Leo and the adventure club team, she sets out to  monitor and protect the red panda population. But things soon get very adventurous indeed. With mountains and snow and yaks to ride, Tilly faces many challenges and when a red panda goes missing, the race is on to find her...

This is a simple, beautifully told story with great illustrations and an accessible format. The story is told through diary extracts, postcards and I particularly like Tilly's 'objective' and 'obstacle' boxes which keeps the story very focussed. Jess Butterworth conjures up beautiful visuals of Nepal and it's great to see an animal series for younger readers that reaches out to far away places and more unusual animals. As a result there's great scope for this series to run and run, focussing on animal adventures across the globe. 

A slight stretch of the imagination has to be allowed to believe that Tilly is able to go adventuring so far without her parents. However, I found the diary format very effective in exploring Tilly's thoughts and feelings about going on such a big adventure. There's nerves and wobbles and tears mixed with lovely euphoric moments and the reader is able to get completely invested in the challenges Tilly faces. It was great how Tilly applied her experience of moving house back home to her new experience in the jungle. 

The plot, although relatively simple, is entertaining and engaging. There's lots of twists and turns and we really felt we were there in the camp tents with Tilly. There's a gentle but important eco-message running through the story and what's particularly lovely is that the story doesn't end when Tilly returns from Nepal but shows us how Tilly uses her adventure to improve her school environment. The description of the red pandas are gorgeous and is sure to evoke interest in both these animals and wildlife in general.

A big thanks to NETGALLEY for allowing me to review a digital copy. Red Panda Rescue is available to pre-order and is released in July. 

Friday, 28 May 2021

The Nightsilver Promise by Annaliese Avery


Link to publisher

Published by Scholastic, May 2021


The best thing about May has definitely been the brilliant books that have been released into the world (because let's face it, it hasn't been the weather) and no one was more excited than me when the postman dropped this much awaited middle-grade debut on my doormat at the beginning of the month. 

Written by Golden Egg Academy member, Annaliese Avery, this is a much-anticipated read that's perfect for fans of His Dark Materials, Nevermoor and even Harry Potter. It's a fantasy, science-based adventure set in a brilliantly devised parallel world. 

Paisley Fitzwilliam is rocked to the core when it is revealed that, before her fourteenth birthday, her track will end and she will die. But when her mother goes missing and is presumed dead, Paisley swears she will be the one to protect her dragon -touched brother Dax at all costs. Navigating the Empire of Albion, with its scientific rule, floating boroughs and underground sewers, Paisley and Dax set out on a journey to find their mother and unlock the secret behind her disappearance. But Paisley's fate is ringing in her ears. Can she change the course of her stars and survive the outcome?

This is classic storytelling at its best. The Empire of Albion is a richly imagined parallel world that has been constructed with meticulous attention to detail. In this story, dragons merge with science to tell us a story of creation with a difference. And now the world is in trouble, it's up to Paisley to take charge and defeat the Dark Dragon - a chilling and unique villain.

The story is told from two perspectives - Paisley and Roach. In Paisley we get a strong, brave, female lead whose odds are against her and her family from the start. Paisley feels all the fear that comes with the knowledge she's going to die but, after being brought up by a mother with strong convictions, chooses to defy her stars and do everything she can to save the world and those she loves. In contrast, Roach, who works for the Dark Dragon, has made all the wrong choices. However, I love how Avery reveals the reasons behind his actions which are both poignant and relatable. As a result, Roach is very much a character to watch. 

The plot is dynamic and action-packed. From floating boroughs to dragon walkers, museums to sewers, readers are privy from the outset to a strong internal and external struggle. The strong villainous force that is amassing reminded me very much of The Death Eaters and many things still lie unanswered. What role will the dragon-touched play? Is the comet really a comet and has The Veil been penetrated? This is a world that isn't going anywhere and may the cogs of time turn quickly until the next instalment.

The Nightsilver Promise is now available to buy.

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

UPCOMING RELEASE: The Very Silly Dinosaur, SillySaurus! by Hannah Barker and Johanna Zverzina


Published by: Cherish Editions

(an imprint of Trigger Publishing)

Published on: 27th May 2021


Perfect for the younger end of the picture book market, Cherish Editions brings us a stompingly good dinosaur tale this month with engaging pictures, loveable characters and a wish that all little ones can relate to. 

When Gio realises he can't have his very own T-rex, he settles on the next best thing- his beloved toy, The SillySaurus. But when the SillySaurus disappears and strange things start happening in his bedroom, Gio has a mystery to solve. Could his wish have possibly come true?

This book is not only the perfect buy for dinosaur fans young and old, it is also a perfect snuggle-up story for a (grand)parent and child to enjoy together at bedtime. The SillySaurus is lovable and endearing and the story is set in a world that is completely familiar to a child reader - their bedroom and the wider home. The illustrations by Johanna Zverzina are big, bold and vibrant and reflect the fun nature of the story.

This is a non-rhyming text told with beautiful simplicity. Hannah Barker brilliant captures and encourages the imagination of a young child by setting up a laughable, excitable but rather messy mystery that Gio has to solve before his mum gets really cross. There is also lots of food involved, making the story deliciously sensory and watch out for the splishy, splashy paint. Eeek! Who could possibly be responsible for that?

As well as indulging in one of a child's favourite fantasies- having their own, real-life dinosaur- Hannah Barker also wanted to make a serious point with this picture book. With a strong need for wider diversity in children's fiction, Hannah wanted to her main character to be of mixed heritage so that her own children and others can find books that they can relate to and which hold reflections of themselves within the pages. You can read more about Hannah here. Link to publisher.

Overall, this is a gorgeous early years text, beautifully illustrated and which will put a big, silly smile of readers faces. I wonder if a SillySaurus will be causing mischief in your house anytime soon...

A big thanks to Cherish Editions for offering me the opportunity to review. The Very Silly Dionsaur, Sillysaurus is out on the 27th May.

Monday, 3 May 2021

GUEST POST BY FIONA BARKER: Author of Setsuko and the Song of the Sea


                                                                       Link to Publisher

                                                     Published by Tiny Tree Books: Spring 2021


This spring has seen the release of some incredible books, one of which is Setsuko and the Song of the Sea, written by Fiona Barker, illustrated by Howard Gray and published by Tiny Tree Books. Telling the tale of Setsuko, a girl who has an incredible bond with the ocean, it sets out to remind us of the beauty of the world around us.

Setsuko loves the ocean but feels like her people have abandoned it. So when she meets a whale who also fears he is the last of his kind, their hearts and minds bond. When Setsuko reassures the whale that there are more whales out there, he thanks her for restoring his hope by giving her a song. Now Setsuko must use that song to call her people back to the ocean...

This is a story about the beauty of the natural world. It champions the hope that, in the face of disaster and uncertainty, humans can and will reconnect with the oceans and address the problems that are threatening its future. Setsuko is one girl whose actions inspire change. This sends the important message that we can all make a difference on an individual level.

Setsuko's story is beautifully told by Fiona Barker. It is soothing and lyrical and conveys the wonder of what lies in the depths. In an interview with My Book Corner, both Fiona, Howard and Tiny Tree talk about the inspiration behind this picture book. But below, Fiona also has written a guest post about how she came across the idea and how she will be sharing her new release with children around the country. 

Guest Post by Fiona Barker: Setsuko and the Song of the Sea

Setsuko was written partly in my head while out litter picking, partly at my desk at home (recently reclaimed from my daughter!) and partly in an audiology booth at work (shhhhh! Don’t tell my boss!) I work with people who have hearing loss and dizziness two and a half days a week. It’s lovely and quiet working in a sound proof booth but I don’t have a window so at home I like to be able to see outside. At the moment, I’m channelling inspiration from some wild characters on my windowsill too. In my writing room I also have lots of illustration on the wall (and books on the shelf!) I’m fascinated by the art of illustration and how these magical people are able to make a story without words.

Currently I’m getting ready for school visits and book events for Setsuko so I’ve been collecting together everything I need. I’ll be accompanied by Humphrey the humpbacked whale who has been practicing his drawing for a game called Splash or Trash. I’ll also be sharing some whale facts with a Which Whale? quiz. And I dare say there’ll be some singing and a cardboard tube craft or two! For my Danny and the Dream Dog events I carted around 35 little stuffed dogs but I’m travelling a bit lighter this time! I do love events though and I have thoroughly enjoyed throwing myself into getting ready for this new title, including spending the last year learning Japanese. I’m still very much a beginner but hugely enjoying it and I hope to be able to pass on a little bit of what I’ve learned during my events especially when telling children about the amazing lives of the ama divers on whom Setsuko is based.

Setsuko has had a long journey and I’ve so looking forward to everyone getting to know her world and learning what they can do to look after the wonder that is the ocean.

Setsuko and The Song of the Sea is available to order now. A big thanks to Fiona and to Tiny Tree for giving us the chance to be part of Setsuko's journey.

Sunday, 11 April 2021

Upcoming Release: The Strangeworld's Travel Agency -Edge of the Ocean

Link to publisher

Published by: Orion Children's Books, 15th April, 2021


It's been a year since The Strangeworlds Travel Agency was released into the world and now, HOORAY!,  the second instalment is upon us. Bringing with it more magical worlds, pirates and a problem of epic proportions, this fantasy read is, without a doubt, as enthralling as the first.

When Jonathan and Flick receive an urgent message from The Break, they and Jonathan's cousin, Avery, travel through a suitcase to help the pirates that live there. But with the suitcase stolen and the pirates' world  disintegrating at an alarming rate, the pressure is on to find a solution. Is Flick the answer everyone is looking for?

Returning to this series was very much like excitedly packing a familiar, battered suitcase ready for a holiday. Unlike the first time round, where everything from the character to the concept was new, this book dives straight into high-stakes action. Flick and Jonathan feel like old friends and Avery is a fun and humorous addition to the cast. 

From the start, Flick actively takes charge of the trio and it is clear she has really grown as a character. Her evolving dynamic with Avery is relatable and her tender and deep loyalty towards Jonathan is endearing. Although Jonathan takes far more of a backseat in this adventure, his fight with Captain Burnish is hilarious and sealed my love for him as a character. Add into the mix a stubborn pirate, a mer-queen and multiple creatures from the deep and you have a story with extraordinary imagination but which is rooted in family.

There are some notable differences between this book and the first. Whereas book one hops from fantastical world to fantastical world, book two largely centres around the world of The Break and the urgent problem of that world disappearing. However, this does not make the novel any less exciting than the first. Through the action, L.D Lapinski cleverly weaves a bigger picture, a sense of impending disaster that will affect every world that exists in Strangeworlds, and which will test Flick's power to the limit. There is a great twist at the end where the tension is pulled tight in preparation for, what will undoubtedly be, an explosive book three.

On a magical level, this book really pushes the boundaries. If jumping from world to world through suitcases is not enthralling and imaginative enough, the question of how to move giant mer-queens and huge pirate ships from one world to another is gripping. For me, there were some definite parallels to His Dark Materials with schisms and magical particles, which only emphasises how wonderful this series is. I loved how Flick's own family background was brought in at the end and can't wait to see what happens next in her adventure.

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency-Edge of the Ocean is available to pre-order and is released on April 15th 2021.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Charlie and the Dog Who Came to Stay by Dr. Ruth Spence and Kimiya Pahlevan


Link to publisher

Published by: Cherish Publishing (a division of Trigger Publishing), January 2021


After being a primary school teacher for sixteen years, children's health and well-being is something which remains close to my heart. With the Covid-19 pandemic adding to the rising crisis concerning children's mental health, Dr. Ruth Spence, a research psychologist, has penned this beautiful picture book in order to raise awareness of childhood depression and to provide a resource that supports discussion around this topic.

Charlie is happy and content until she moves house. Now she's made a new friend - a big, black dog- who isn't very good for her. With Charlie unable to live her life to the full, her mum tries to help her find ways to keep the dog under control. Can Charlie find happiness again? 

After being given the privilege of reviewing Superheroes Don't Get Scared and Arthur Wants a Balloon, both of which are published by mental health publisher, Trigger Publishing, I knew this book was going to offer something incredibly special to readers. I was right. Simply written and beautifully illustrated, Dr. Ruth Spence personifies depression as a big, black dog- overpowering and strong- and acknowledges that dark feelings are alive and very real. The introduction of Charlie's mum, halfway through the book, also conveys the important message to young readers that depression is something they need help with and cannot tackle alone. 

The simplicity of this book makes it accessible and relatable to young children. As with the two books I've mentioned above, it doesn't belittle the enormity of dealing with depression by offering a solution. What it does do, however, is encourage young readers to reach out, to talk about their feelings and to ask for help. At the back of the book, simple exercises have been provided to try and elicit discussion with children around the topic of mental health. 

The most important take-away for readers of this book is that the big, black dog does not go away.  With help and support, Charlie learns to control it enough to go back to doing the things she loves. She is also left with the confidence of knowing that if the dog grows big again, she has the power to do something about it. Knowing that this book can help equip our own children to follow in Charlie's footsteps, makes it a very powerful read indeed.

A big thank you for Cherish Publishing for giving me the chance to review this text, which is available to buy now. 

UPCOMING RELEASE! GOOD NEWS; Why The World Is Not As Bad As You Think by Rashmi Sirdeshpande, illustrated by Adam Hayes

                                                                             Link to publisher                                              ...