Monday 31 August 2020

Fly, Tiger, Fly! by Rikin Paresh


Link to publisher

Published: Hachette, August 2020


We have loved our book post over the last few weeks with lots of exciting new picture book releases and Fly, Tiger, Fly! written and illustrated by Rikin Parekh, was another one which my son got hugely excited about. After all, the idea of a flying tiger is pretty exciting and HOW he was going to manage that was my five year old's key question.

Riku is desperate to be the world's first flying tiger. Everyone in his family has achieved something special and now it is his turn. But Riku soon discovers that it's not easy for a tiger to fly. His best friend Jim knows exactly what the problem is but Riku is determined to persevere. Seeing how much it means to his friend, Jim sets about making his dream a reality. Will Riku finally get off the ground?

There are several stars of this story. Firstly Riku, for his endless determination, perseverance and brilliantly creative ideas, which will have little ones shrieking with delight. Secondly, Jim for having doubts but standing by his friend regardless and endeavouring to make his dream come true. And finally, the entire feathered community for teaming together to make Riku's dream become a reality. Help comes to those who help themselves and although Riku doesn't quite manage to solve his dilemma on his own, he remains focussed and pro-active through out, showing readers that determination really is the key. 

Not only is the plot funny and ingenious, Rikin Parekh's illustrations are eye-poppingly good, bursting with so much character and personality that the characters feel vividly alive! Just look at the expression on Riku's face as he drifts across the front cover! Priceless! Although we have read similar themed animal books in recent years, it is the vividness and vibrancy of this story which makes it stand out. 

The presence of the tree, for me adds an extra layer to the tale. Riku feeling pressured to live up to the achievements of his relations makes the story more dynamic and adds to the tiger's motivation to succeed. Comparing themselves to a sibling, friend or feeling like they need to live up to a parent's expectations is something readers will be able to relate to, whether young or old. However, the strength of friendship between Riku and Jim makes it feel safe, should he fail. Jim loves Riku as he is and doesn't need him to fly and yet he endeavours to help him because he can see it means so much to him.

So, if you are after a humorous, uplifting picture book about reaching for the stars, the power of friendship, teamwork and not giving up, then this is one for your bookshelf. It is a feast for the eyes and will tug on your heartstrings. Your little ones will have bags of fun predicting ways that a tiger can fly and will be rooting for Riku to get lift-off! 

Fly, Tiger, Fly was released in August and is now available to buy. 

UPCOMING RELEASE: I Really Really Need a Wee by Karl Newson and Duncan Beedie


                                                                         Link to publisher

                                               Published by: Little Tiger Press, 3rd September 2020


If Wanda's Words Got Stuck was perfect for my daughter, then this book is spot-on for my son! (Although he really liked Wanda too.) I Really Really Need a Wee is a funny story about not waiting until you're bursting to go to the loo, something my five year old does on a very regular basis. 

Bush Baby does NOT need a wee. That is, until he leaves home and suddenly realises he is bursting. But where can he go? Everywhere is just so busy! Ah, at last he finds a loo but oops...there is a queue! Will Bush Baby be able to hold on?

This book is a perfect, laugh-out-loud mix of two of our previous favourites; I Need a Wee by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet and Queue for the Loo by Jeanne Willis. Thankfully, unlike the bear in Sue Hendra's book, Bush Baby does find a toilet but why is there always a queue?

My seven year old middle child, a notorious reluctant reader, was instantly enticed by the title and cover of this story. She knows that toilet humour stories are outrageously funny and there was a lovely moment where she excitedly gave me the night off and read the book to her younger brother, with lots of giggling in the process. Result!

Bush Baby is cute and funny with huge and hilarious eye expressions drawn brilliantly by Duncan Beedie. He is the perfect character to enact this amusing but infuriating situation, which most parents will have found themselves in, probably a thousand times over. And of course, just when you think it's all fine, Karl Newson ramps it up a notch with an hilarious twist at the end. 

A few weeks ago, I recently found myself up on the top of nearby beauty spot with my five year old and he re-enacted this story for me almost to the letter. Sadly, there was no toilet in sight and I'd stupidly come unprepared. I'll save you the details but the point is, what I needed this book so I could whip it out in the car, right before we left for our trek.

"Do you need a wee, son?"

You can guess what the answer would be! But gentle reminding children that they can be self-aware and have the confidence to speak up is no bad thing. After all, it happens to the best of us!

I Really Really Need a Wee is released this Thursday 3rd September 2020 and is available to pre-order. 

Sunday 30 August 2020

UPCOMING RELEASE:Wanda's Words Got Stuck by Lucy Rowland and Paula Bowles

                                              Publisher: Nosy Crow, September 3rd 2020

The joy of pre-ordering a book is that sometimes your much anticipated copy comes early. Thankfully, this was the case with Wanda's Words Got Stuck, a picture book we have been excited about for the following reasons:

1) We love witchy stories! Although there out there, witches in picture books is not something we have recently seen a lot of and we've missed them. 

2) This is a story about a child who has difficulties with speech and communication, something which is close to our hearts as my autistic daughter developed speech late, struggles to speak clearly enough to be understood and who some days doesn't want to speak at all, choosing instead to communicate her feelings in a rainbow of different ways.

3) As a primary teacher, I have encountered many children with speech and language difficulties, or who suffer with shyness, who desperately need to see themselves represented on the printed page.

Wanda can't get her words out! Despite her determination, they just won't come. But when a shy new witch starts at her school, Wanda finds alternative ways to communicate. Soon, the pair are inseparable and preparing for the school's spell magic contest but Wanda is terrified. When her friend, Flo, ends up in danger, can Wanda find the words to save her?

Written by Lucy Rowland, a speech and language therapist, this story is as enchanting as the cover, superbly illustrated by Paula Bowles. Wanda is adorable but her anxiety is clear from her expressions and children will be able to relate to her desire to avoid noisy, social situations. Only when Wanda meets a kindred spirit and forges a firm new friendship which doesn't need words does she begin to grow in confidence.

The magic contest inspires the same dread in Wanda that a school performance or social gathering can inspire in a child who has worries about communicating. However, it is the magical element that lifts this story into delightful and nail-biting fantasy, allowing readers to forget their own reality by being swept up in potions and dragons, but empowering them to tackle those tricky situations when they return to it. The power of friendship allows Wanda to find the strength to speak out but I love that even following her big moment, there is still an acknowledgement that it is an ongoing struggle and that sometimes words just aren't needed.

Looking at the world through Wanda's eyes won't just help children like Wanda. Sharing these kinds of stories will hopefully help little ones to develop empathy and awareness of others and also to forge strong and positive friendships. Wanda's words certainly haven't got stuck on the page! Her story is written, so dive into the words and enjoy sharing her empowering adventure.

Wanda's Words Got Stuck is released this Thursday, 3rd September 2020 and is available for pre-order. 

Tuesday 25 August 2020

UPCOMING RELEASE: Bauble, Me and the Family Tree by Jenny Moore, cover by Kiersten Eagan

Published by: Maverick, 28th Sep 2020

When Maverick Publishing offered me the chance to review the latest novel by Jenny Moore I jumped at the chance. Following the success of Agent Starling:Operation Baked Beans and Audrey Orr and the Robot Rage, which was selected to be part of the Summer Reading Challenge 2020, I knew I would be in for an exciting and quirky read.
I wasn't disappointed! Yet there is no whiff of historical time travel or robot clones in this novel. Instead, Jenny Moore shows off the extent of her wide-ranging ideas by plunging us into the heart of an everyday family home. 
Noel and his super-smart sister, Bauble have an unusual family set-up. After losing their father at a young age, they only have their mum and their gay uncles next door to depend on. But when Bauble insists that she has seen Mummy kissing Santa Claus in August, Noel is baffled. Convinced that their dad may be alive after all and assuming a special secret identity, excited Noel and Bauble turn detective. But the secrets they uncover prove to be far more shocking and unexpected than they imagined.
Bauble, Me and the Family Punch packs an emotional, heartfelt punch right from the get-go. Although it is not unusual for main characters in children's fiction to have lost one or both parents, this whole novel explores the grief and impact that such a loss can cause. Noel's early memory of his mum holding his baby sister under the wishing bow is both raw and heart-wrenching, as is his blind hope that his father is still alive. Jenny Moore shows through a child's eyes how the sadness of losing a loved one never fades and woven through the chapters are some truly touching and beautifully written moments (and letters).
Aside from grief, the novel also takes a deep dive into 'unconventional' family set-ups, portraying the very important message that a family filled with love is all that matters. Noel and Bauble are faced with a backlash of secrets - kept by flawed but well-meaning adults- and embark on a painful, emotional rollercoaster to uncover the truth. Yet out of the darkness comes light and new beginnings with the promise of a hopeful, if not 'normal' future - and one that thousands of young readers will be able to relate to. 
And if that all sounds a bit heavy, then think again because Jenny Moore does quirkiness by the bucket load. Okay, so there may not be the odd combination of nappy pins and baked beans in this one (see Agent Starling) but there is a healthy dose of food bikinis, Santa hats...oh and eight-legged races (I lost count!) to finish. 
This novel stirs emotion and empathy. It makes you laugh and then cry with the turn of a page. I love the child-centred perspective too. It feels like a child is writing for other children with a deep authenticity and the relationship between Noel and Bauble is great. It is a big-issue book told with heart, soul, humour and complete originality. 

Bauble, Me and the Family Tree is released on the 28th September 2020 and is available for pre-order.

A big thankyou to Maverick for allowing me the chance to review.

Friday 21 August 2020

The Ship of Shadows by Mia Kuzniar

Link to Goodreads

Published: July 2020, Penguin


This debut novel by Mia Kuzniar, aka @thecosyreader, makes an instant impact with it's stunning front cover. Exotic, intriguing, legendary...this amazing artwork is just a taste of the things that await you inside. Prepared to be swept away for an adventure of a lifetime. 

Book lover Aleja scours the libraries and horizons around Seville, dreaming of adventure and freedom. Her wish is answered when a legendary ship sails into port; The Ship of Shadows, captained by a fierce female crew of pirates. 

When Aleja boards the ship, she is whisked across the high seas on a quest filled with puzzles, codes, krakens and lost cities. But the crew are keeping secrets and Aleja must employ all her talents to find out what these pirates are seeking. The answer is beyond anything Aleja could have ever imagined. 

This novel is intoxicating. Mia Kuzniar's exquisite writing makes Aleja's world leap off the page. From the salty scent of the seas to the slimy sludge of the kraken to the spiced desert air of Marrakesh, you can see, smell and taste everything that Aleja experiences. By the time you finish reading, the ship will feel like home and the crew will feel like family. 

The tale offers all the excitement of a pirate novel; battles, sea monsters and storms, with a highly original twist. All the pirates on board the eighteenth century vessel are women and they have one united purpose - to outwit the ruthless pirate hunter and find the pieces of an ancient artefact which have long been lost. The swashbuckling pirates themselves fit together like a perfect jigsaw, each with their own personality and talents. Malika is mysterious and haunted, the Captain is fair but focussed and then there is the loveable Frances and the awkward but comfort-loving Griete. However, it is Aleja who truly shines in this novel with her impressionable, heart-warming nature, her hunger for adventure and thirst for knowledge. 

On top of that there is the ship...and cake! The ship is a character in itself, enchanting and secretive with a magic that is not often associated with pirates. As the shadows shift, the ship changes and exploring all the secret nooks and crannies is a delight. It is apt that the author is known as @thecosyreader as I've never known a pirate ship to be conveyed as cosy before...and yet this is! It's warm and homely with cupboards full of cake and a library full of books and quickly becomes the 'safe haven' or 'the heart' of the story, despite the many dangers that lurk around it.

It is unique details like this that sets this book apart from others of its genre. However, not only does the author manage to expertly execute a mix of pirates and magic and yummy food but she also weaves a plot that is fantastical and fabulous. The settings are breath-taking and the quest to the lost city of Zerzura towards the end of the novel is nail-bitingly thrilling. There is something in the writing that feels very authentic. It is rich with detail of the time but adds a thick layer of magic over the top like a crust of baked sand. A lot of time is spent exploring the ship in the first part of the novel but remember that this is the first in a series...and hooray for that!

So if you are a cake-lover, pirate fan or just love adventure, I highly recommend diving into this novel. It's highly likely that you won't be able to wait for the next instalment. 

Thursday 20 August 2020

King of the Swamp by Catherine Emmett and Ben Mantle

                                                    Link to   Link to Waterstones

Published by: Simon and Schuster

Stop Press! The arrival of this picture book from debut author, Catherine Emmett, actually made my five year old son pause his thirty minutes of TV time with the words;
"Can you read it to me now?"
I nearly fainted with joy and surprise. As much as we love sharing books, this is a very rare occurrence. But who can blame him for saying it? The stunning front cover, from one our favourite illustrators, Ben Mantle is hard to resist with its mute purples and greens and the quirky main character in all his glory.
McDarkly lives in a swamp and has big plans for making it a truly beautiful home. But when the King appears with plans to turn it into a roller skate park, horrified McDarkly is given only ten days to change his mind. McDarkly gets to work but all his hard work is thwarted by hungry munchers. What on earth will McDarkly do now?
This is a fun rhyming picture book with a great main character and a strong ecological message. The moody swamp offers a unique setting for a picture book and is the perfect dwelling for McDarkly - so much so that we are immediately on his side when the swamp is threatened. The pictures of the plants and bugs who thrive in the muddy waters are a delight all the way through and the rhyme and rhythm allows the plot to 'skate' along nicely.
The theme of urban development is very relevant to today's world and I can see this text being used in schools to spark discussion and debate. As an ex-primary teacher who has taught this subject, it is a story that I would have jumped on for this and many more reasons; art, biology... the list goes on. We loved the message of seeing beauty in the dingiest of places and also that McDarkly works hard to solve his problems. It's a clever plot twist when one of his biggest problems becomes his solution and to round it all off it ends by championing teamwork!
We highly recommend reading this and we bet you'll love McDarkly so much you'll want to see him again. Any chance of a sequel, an early reader, a chapter book...? We'll watch this space!

King of the Swamp published TODAY - 20th August 2020!

Tuesday 18 August 2020

Return to Roar by Jenny McLachlan and Ben Mantle

 Link to Goodreads

Published: Aug 2020, Egmont


After twelve months of excitedly waiting, this is an extra special review for me. Not only because I loved the first instalment of The Land of Roar so much that I could barely wait for the sequel, but also it was the first book I properly reviewed on this blog.  The Land of Roar still remains one of my favourite books I read last year and it's definitely back with a bang!

When Arthur and Rose return to Roar for half term, they plan on celebrating life without villainous scarecrow Crowky on the prowl. But when a sinister message is left outside Winija's cave, it appears that Crowky is very much around and hunting for a terrifying, long-hidden secret that could make all Arthur and Rose's nightmares come true. 

To stop Crowky uncovering their deepest fears, Arthur and Rose must journey beyond Roar to 'The End', an unexplored and unknown place. With allies in tow, they battle through ice and snow only to unearth some deadly enemies. But what exactly is their main threat? Crowky? Hattie Skoll and her wolves? Or the fears inside themselves?

Jenny McLachlan brings all the familiarity of Roar back to us in this novel (hooray) but quickly takes us beyond the boundaries of the last story and into the fresh, iced territory of 'The End'. The beautiful but rather bleak landscape is brightened with brilliantly bright characters (old and new), pacey adventure and bags of humorous dialogue. 

Once again, the novel encapsulates the very essence of children's imaginary worlds; furry whales, blue unicorns, on-off waterfalls and pic-n-mix by the bagful which gives it a frothier, lighter feel to other books in its genre. However, if you think that means that the plot isn't going to be gripping then think again. The threats are hair-raising, the emotions run deep and the second half of the book has a much darker feel than the first. 

As well as a dynamic plot, McLachlan allows us to get to know Arthur and Rose on a much deeper level in this second instalment. Having made the move from primary to secondary school, the twins now have much bigger issues to face. Interestingly, Arthur, who narrates the story, is a much stronger, more together character as he makes his return to Roar, although he remains haunted by one dominant fear. Yet Rose's character, which I previously found rather dominant and unyielding, is peeled back and explored in a sensitive and empathetic way and highlights the impact of bullying on a seemingly confident person.

Crowky remains a loveable and brilliantly sinister baddy and yet remains relatable through his childlike qualities. The friendships are strong and endearing and the magic just crackles around you as you read. Ben Mantle, one of our family's favourites, brings the characters and landscape to life with his unique touch and extraordinary cover, adding a deeper sense of enchantment and awe to an already fantastical read. Roar is truly a delight - a Peter Pan type world that represents all those magical, secret places that exist in the hearts and minds of us all. 

Roar returns in 2021!

Monday 17 August 2020

If You See a Lion by Karl Newson and Andrea Stegmaier


Published by: Quarto, August 18th 2020

If there is one thing I have learnt from Karl Newson's 'I am a Tiger' series it's that his picture book characters are packed with personality, punch and an awful lot of ROOAAAR! But this cunning fellow, so big and bold that he fills the whole front cover and many of the pages inside, has a BITE to match.
"Once upon a time there was a story in this book...But a lion ate it all." That's not the only thing he's keen on eating until he has a meeting...
with a brave little rabbit who knows EXACTLY what he's up to...
Being eaten won't stop this rabbit from teaching lion a very important lesson...
This book is as unpredictable as the lion itself. It's complex and brilliantly written rhyme creates an unsettling effect which makes you instantly wary of this shady, fearsome character...
which is exactly what lion wants. There's not even any speech marks so this lion is breaking all the rules...or is he just acting as a lion is expected to act?
Rabbit acts as the perfect antithesis to lion. Lion appears to rule the roost but it's small, bold, no nonsense rabbit who has all the answers. He certainly gives Lion plenty to think about, mainly that he can choose who he wants to be, rather than playing to stereotypes. And life is
so much better when you're not gobbling everything up.
The pictures by Andrea Stegmeier are splendiferous. Lion practically jumps off the page and is instantly distinguishable from all other lions I have seen in picture books. The limitless list of what the lion eats adds bags of imagination and humour and encompasses all the familiar things we love to see in a story; wizards, rainbows...sprouts?
The tone and feel of this picture book is so unique, it may take a few reads for little ones to work out all that is happening- but that's the joy of reading isn't it? It was a more challenging text for my five year old to get his teeth into and it evoked a lot of fun observations and questions.
"Once upon a time there was a story in this book..."
and we happily devoured it!

If you see a lion is available to buy from tomorrow, August 18th 2020.

Friday 14 August 2020

LAST: The Story of a White Rhino by Nicola Davies


Published: August 2020, Tiny Owl 

We love Tiny Owl books in our house and this new release was one I was very keen to share with all three of my children as wildlife conservation is an issue that has always been close to my heart. It didn't disappoint. Last: The Story of a White Rhino, which is based on the true story of Sudan, the last male Northern White Rhino, is poignant and beautifully understated. 
When a young rhino witnesses the death of his mama and is taken to a city zoo, the bleak loneliness of his situation makes him wonder what has happened to the world. Fearing he is the last of his kind, he sinks into a grey despair. But hope may be hidden just round the corner. Will this rhino get to see home again?
Nicola Davies tells the story through the eyes of the rhino himself, creating an instant impact. His simple words say it all, expressing first the despair and then the hope for his species and many others. Humans are the cause of his plight and yet also the possible answer. Readers will have to decide which future is the one they will fight for...
Nicola Davies is an established author but this is her debut as an author/illustrator and the pictures are stunning. With the words providing the framework, the illustrations provide a stark contrast between the old world and the new. The page depicting the death of the rhino's mama made a deep impression on all of my little ones - their wide eyes and open mouths showing their shock and disbelief at the cruel reality. Through this story, Nicola Davies evoked in them a passion for this magnificent animal and they had a barrage of questions about the real story.
Attention to detail in the illustrations adds extra layers to the story. For example, before the actual tale begins, Nicola Davies talks about how and why she added words to the animals and buildings - words which are presented in a range of different languages. This sums up the point that although this is a book, beautifully paired back in it's simplicity, the issues within it are deep, complex and emotive and  crucial to raising awareness of conservation. 
I can't recommend this book highly enough for schools, families and anyone with a deep love of animals, the planet and the future which awaits the upcoming generation. 

Monday 10 August 2020

UPCOMING RELEASE: Kidnap on the Californian Comet by M.G.Leonard and Sam Sedgman, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli

Link to pre-order; Waterstones signed edition

Link to pre-order; Foyles

Published by Pan Macmillan, 3rd September 2020


TOOT TOOT! It's been about six months since I read and reviewed The Highland Falcon Thief, the first release in the new Adventures on Train series by M.G Leonard and Sam Sedgman and brought to life by Elisa Paganelli. This has honestly been one of my favourite books of 2020 and so I jumped at the chance to view the second instalment via Netgalley

All aboard the Californian Comet - ready and waiting to take you on an exciting trip across the USA. Hal can't wait to join his Uncle on a second rail adventure but his uneasy feeling that something isn't right proves true when his new friend and daughter of business billionaire, August Reza, is kidnapped. Armed with his sketchbook and some magical assistants, Hal tries to piece together some increasingly confusing clues but time is running out. Can he stop the kidnappers in their tracks or will his detective work be derailed?

This sequel is every bit as exhilarating and as charming as the first but on a grander scale and with higher stakes. M.G Leonard and Sam Sedgman's detailed knowledge of trains and specific research of the American coast to coast rail journey brings the story to vividly life - from the dramatic scenery to the sights, sounds and smells of life aboard a moving locomotive. The characters are wide-ranging, fun and larger than life and the mystery has enough twists and turns to make the unravelling journey satisfying, even if you manage to solve some clues along the way. 

Hal, once again, makes a likeable, determined but frustrated protagonist. This time we know the answer to the kidnap lies somewhere in his sketchbook, but this element of the storyline makes it both fascinating and unique in its USP. 'Sherlock da Vinci' is on a mission and he is going to use his skills to the best of his ability.

I loved the character of Lenny in the Highland Falcon Thief but I think I liked Hadley and Mason more, with their American exuberance, impersonations and magic tricks. The theme of magic subtlety runs through the novel and becomes pivotal to the plot. The plot in itself is pacey and perfectly executed and, just as in the last book, there is a lovely mix of adult and child characters. Uncle Hal is his casual and supportive self but brings gentle back-up to the table when needed whilst Zola, Vanessa, Adie, Hadley and Marianne are super sharp and sassy female characters - although maybe not all good!

The writing style feels effortless and, for me, is as enjoyable as the story itself. It's tone and language flows as easily as the Missouri river, making the story accessible and easy to read. Before you know it, you've rattled from chapter to chapter as quickly as Hal races from carriage to carriage and are faced with another dramatic, nerve-shredding end alongside surprising revelations. The illustrations bring warmth and familiarity and Elisa Paganelli captures the characters brilliantly.

You don't have to like trains to enjoy this series but be prepared to have your mind changed. I may not be an expert on railways but I instantly wanted to go on this train journey. In fact, it's now on my bucket list, even I won't be doing it aboard the Silver Scout. What I'm trying to say is that this book has something for everyone; trains, scenery, sketches, mystery, magic and adventure. I'm thrilled that there's more on the way...

Murder on the Safari Star publishes in February 2021.

A big thankyou to Netgalley and Pan MacMillan for allowing me to review this book. 

Wednesday 5 August 2020

Moonchild by Aisha Bushby and Rachael Dean

Publisher: Egmont, August 6th 2020

A hypnotic sea-faring adventure!

I've read a lot of middle grade books over the last couple of years and can only aspire to phenomenal talent that they showcase. When it comes to choosing a book to read, 8 to 12 year olds are spoilt for choice. 

My only gripe, as an avid reader, is having to plough through a couple of tedious, initial chapters to get into the story. Not so with Moonchild by Aisha Bushby. This story intoxicated me from the first page to the very last.

Amira and her cat jinn, Namur, have been raised at sea by Amira's sea-witch mothers. But an unsettling storm threatens the Sahar Penisula and Namur is acting strangely. When Amira unexpectedly meets Leo and his fish jinn, Samek, the two put their heads together to work out how the storm is connected to not only the hushed tales of mermaids, stormbirds and islands of brass but also to their own stories. 
Then Namur disappears and Amira and Leo embark on a breath-taking journey towards the horizon where they may have to sacrifice all they hold dear. 

This story is drenched in magic and contains all the elements that make a story great: fantastical places, sensory descriptions and stories within stories. Inspired by 1001 Arabian nights, it whisks you right to the edge of your imagination where sea-witches and mermaids dwell amongst sailing souks and moving islands. But no image is more powerful than the terrible beast which sits on the horizon.

The language is as hypnotising and encapsulating as the lull of a boat, which is where most of the story takes place. The imagery is stunning and the sounds and smells come alive on the page. Aisha Bushby brilliantly conjures a brooding mood and tone which manifests itself in Amira, the main character. 
Amira is angry and knows it! Yet she is written in a relatable way, with the anger simmering at the edges of her being. I loved that her awareness of emotions meant she had self-awareness of her own and rather than denying them, she learnt to manage them in the same way Leo learns to manage his anxiety. 

In fact, the suppression of emotion is a huge theme in Moonchild and unpins the plot in a way which will encourage readers to examine how their own feelings should be treated...after all, emotions are what makes us human, right? Then there are the themes of belonging, friendship and sacrifice...

If that wasn't enough, Aisha also delves into the fascinating legends of jinn. After recently reading Michelle Lovric's The Water's Daughter, which contains a prominent jinn (or djinn) character, I was interested in reading more portrayals of them and this doesn't disappoint. Namur, Semek and Layla are as beautifully mysterious as they are loyal and adorable in their animal form and their power creates a potent current which crackles through the plot.

The novel is beautifully presented with gorgeous illustrations by Rachael Dean. It's an all round exquisite treat and I am so happy it's only the first in the series. 

Moonchild is released tomorrow - August 6th 2020. 
Many thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review. 

Tuesday 4 August 2020

NEW RELEASE: Never Show a T-Rex a Book by Rashmi Sirdeshpande and Diane Ewen

                                                                   Link to publisher
                                                  Published by: Penguin, August 6th 2020         

Our summer pre-orders are rolling in and this is one we have particularly excited about: Don't Show a T-Rex a book by Rashmi Sirdeshpande and Diane Ewen.

I love pre-ordering books because it gives us lots of time to wonder what delights await us behind the cover and the title. In this case, my five year old's prediction was...
"Why should you never show a T-Rex a book...?
Because he or she will EAT it!!!"

Well, yes, that is definitely one possibility but we soon found out that this talented author had dreamt up far bigger reasons in her debut picture book. Ones that far surpassed our imaginations and which took the adventure in a completely different direction to the one we'd anticipated. And boy, did we love it!

So what will happen if you show a T-Rex a book? Imagining what could happen conjures up endless possibilities but as it turns out, in this story, the T-rex has far more about her than sharp teeth, a scary roar and a desire to chomp on the pages. Lets just say that the precious page-turner educates her to be the best she can be...taking her on an ambitious journey which involves libraries, classrooms and BIG changes to the law! 

The quality of this book is amazing and Diane Ewen's stunning illustrations make the story completely roarsome, proving that when your imagination runs wild only good things can happen. The book lays tribute to the wonderful power of books and to the librarians who champion that power everyday by making them accessible to the public. 

There's chaos and warmth and big, BIG dreams awaiting in this story, alongside a powerful message to young readers: there are no limits to imagination just as there are no limits to possibilities. 

So if you LOVE dinosaurs but maybe aren't so keen on books, get this one! It may just change your mind. In fact:

Never EVER show a five year old this book...
because he'll never put it down!

Never Show a T-Rex a Book is out this Thursday! Hoorah!      

Monday 3 August 2020

UPCOMING RELEASE: Turns Out I'm An Evil Alien Emperor by Lou Treleaven

                                                                  Link to publisher website
                                                      Publisher: Maverick Publishing, August 2020

Sci-fi stories have a huge fan base and when my five year old son saw the cover of both this novel and the prequel, Turns Out I'm An Alien, his eyes popped out of his head in excitement. Okay, so he's not quite old enough for these middle grade novels, written by Lou Treleaven and published by Maverick Publishing, but he's told me in no uncertain terms that he's keeping the books until he is!
For me, however, science fiction is not my go to genre. Complex plots, which often involve travelling light years across time and space, tend to leave my brain in a spin. However, I can honestly say that this Turns Out I'm An Alien series has made me fall back in love with space and all things extra-terrestrial. I loved them!
Book 1
Jasper thinks he is just a normal foster kid until his foster parents, Mary and Bill, finally reveal he is an alien - and an alien prince at that. Kidnapped from the Planet Gloop as a baby, he was rescued and brought to Earth. But the evil Andromedan emperor has control of Gloop and is now closing in on Earth. It's time for Jasper to find out who...and what...he really is so he can save both his home and his family...times two!

Book 2
Being back to normal doesn't last long for Jasper. From the moment his sister, Holly, drags him to a Harry Handsome pop concert, he knows something is amiss. Harry may be an alien secret agent for the evil Andromedan emperor but why is he brainwashing all his fans? Jasper and Holly have no choice but to journey to the galaxy of Andromeda to find out just the emperor's plans are for the popstar but they are not prepared for what they find. Will Harry Handsome be responsible for Earth falling into the hands of evil and will they ever stop the emperor's greedy plans?

Both stories, artfully written, draw you in from the off. The plots are pacy, fun and full of satirical humour. Jasper is a likeable main character (or rather main alien) with a unique and slimy heritage that allows him to shape-shift into the most unlikely of creatures. Like me, Jasper doesn't have a clue about alien life, but is whizzed off on a slimetastic, deliciously gross journey through a universe that should feel complex but doesn't. Lou Treleaven's world-building is visual, 3D but beautifully simple. The evil emperor of the Andromedan galaxy wants to take over all other galaxies and Jasper needs to stop him. The End. But the comical and imaginative detail that is put into these worlds makes the novel; slime, mines, a Big Green Space Busting-Machine and a spiky purple ball of an emperor- what's not to love?
I adored the humour in the books. The sharp dialogue between Jasper and his sister was spot on and the parallels to the real world were hilarious. I loved Asbi's supermarket and Harry Handsome, the vain and sickly sweet popstar who turns out to be crucial to the plot in the most ingenius way. The shape-shifting is both gross and strangely satisfying and the villain is full of dark comedy. Fluffy provides the essential 'cute space pet' status and all is set for a riotous and epic adventure.
I also loved the family dynamics which ran throughout the novels. The families are anything but conventional but are nonetheless filled with love. Jasper may have to come to terms with having two different families in two different galaxies (and from two different species) but varying family set-ups will not be alien to many young readers and the relationships between Jasper and Holly, Bill and Mary and his birth parents are touching. Even the biological changes that Jasper goes through with his shape-shifting may seem rather extreme but will be relatable to the pre-teen age. 
I highly recommend this series, which is left open-ended and set to continue. It completely won me over with its outer-space comedy, its pace (across space), and the outer-this-world, squelchy plot. 
A shooting star of a novel!

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