Thursday 26 November 2020

BLOG TOUR: PanDeMoNium by Gail Aldwin and Fiona Zechmeister


                                                                  Link to Publisher

                                               Published by: Victorina Press, 1st December 2020


Hello and welcome to our stop on the blog tour for this delightful and endearing picture book, PanDeMoNium, written by Gail Aldwin, illustrated by Fiona Zechmeister and published by Victorina Press.

Mischievous Peta lives in a department store and is determined to make the most of it. As she wanders from department to department, creating pandemonium, her antics go largely unnoticed. But when a store assistant spots what she's up to, will it spoil Peta's fun?

PanDeMoNium is a perfect book for the younger end of the picture book market. The simple but delightful text creates a wonderful, structured framework for a story that comes alive through Fiona Zechmeister's exquisite illustrations. 

Peta is a mischievous, fun-loving panda toy who spends her time excitedly exploring her environment. Parents and toddlers alike will be able to relate to and enjoy Peta's youthful exuberance. Will a store assistant be able to contain her antics? Absolutely not!

The setting of the story is a joy. On a personal level, this took me back to my times as I child when I ran amok with my cousins in a department store that seemed so exciting and vast. One moment we were in the 'land of lights' and the next we were in 'toy city'. It was pure magic which always ended up, as Peta does at one point, in the cafe.

There is some delightful repetition in the story, which little ones will love joining in with. The illustrations are full of action and energy and Peta is simply adorable. 

Overall, Peta's story is about the joy of being small, about being yourself and about living life to the full. It's a book full of charm, chaos and love! 

So, after your little ones have created some toddler-fuelled pandemonium, snuggle down with them for this gorgeous bedtime story that they will want to read again and again. 

PanDeMoNium is available to pre-order and is released on December 1st. 

Friday 20 November 2020

UPCOMING RELEASE: Dream Big, Little Mole by Tom Percival and Christine Pym


Link to publisher

Published by: Bloomsbury, 4th February 2021

Reviewed via Netgalley


It's been a year of bad luck and it seems Mole is experiencing the same in her story about dreaming big. But, pay attention to Mole's message and hold on to those dreams because bad luck can turn good...

Mole is downhearted when she sees lots of animals doing what she can't. But when Owl tells Mole to focus on her own gifts, she starts to dream big. Nothing goes to plan, however, when her efforts bring nothing but bad luck and trouble. Soon, no one is happy with Mole. Can she ever put things right?

Tom Percival's new release is a wonderfully gentle rhyming story with BEAUTIFUL illustrations by Christine Pym. The story is uplifting and Mole is completely endearing as she embarks on her big dream to impress. The rhyme bounces along at a fantastic pace and the subtle humour makes for lots of smiley moments. 

Mole's journey is chock full of glorious animal characters, all of which you might expect to find on a British nature walk. The characters and setting have a traditional but charming feel and although it is not the most original of picture books in terms of message and plot, the vibrancy of the rhyme and the illustrations, coupled with the humorous twist at the end makes it feel fresh and inviting. 

The message of Mole's story is an important one for us all, including little readers. Be yourself, dream big and don't give up. And, when things go wrong, take a deep breath and carry on, for who knows where your journey could lead. Perhaps it may not be what you are expecting, but...hang about, it could be BETTER!

This book has all the ingredients for a great bedtime read; a hopeful message, charming characters and delightful rhyme and rhythm. It's funny, it's cute and it's inspiring. Bring on 2021!

A big thank you to Bloomsbury and Netgalley for allowing us a chance to review.

Monday 2 November 2020

Tinsel: The Girls who Invented Christmas by SibΓ©al Pounder


Link to publisher

Published by: Bloomsbury, 29th October 2020

We love seasonal reading! And, having thoroughly enjoyed the fabulous array of 'spooky' stories on offer this year, we are preparing to move on to-dare I say it-Christmas. There are some utterly magical Christmas corkers around but when we saw this release from Bloomsbury on Netgalley, we knew, just from the front cover, that we instantly wanted to read it. I'm so glad that we did, because this has to be one of the best Christmas books we've ever read...

When destitute Blanche Claus meets Rinki on a street corner on Christmas Day, a magical and unbreakable bond forms between the two girls. With a love of Christmas and mince pie picnics in the snow, they dream up a plan big enough to change the whole future of Christmas. But when an unexpected and magical turn of events cause the girls to be separated, can they find a way to make their dream come true? And can they find a way back to each other?

This mesmerising novel is everything you hope a Christmas story will be; sparkly, glittery, magical, cosy and uplifting. But it is also SO much more. This is a story so full of heart that it will undoubtedly steal yours. It is a tale of deep friendship, feminism and magic so cleverly plotted that it twists the traditional story of 'Santa' as we know it into a new but empowering explanation of how it really came about...through the dreams and actions of two girls.

Blanche and Rinki's friendship is the heart of the story, as solid and beautiful as the ice in the North Pole. It is in the North Pole that we meet the elves- characters who provide familiarity, humour and bags of fun and energy. The frolicking Christmas tree is hilarious whereas Mr. Krampus makes for a sinister, vindictive baddy- a shadow on Blanche's glittering horizon.

We loved that the origins of the girls' story was anchored in a London from the past. This instantly conjured echoes of A Christmas Carol and Oliver and gave the tale familiar roots. We adored Rinki's story as much as Blanche's and thought it was lovely that SibΓ©al Pounder explored the generosity of the rich and how it changed the future of both Rinki and Blanche. Mr. Krampus was the antithesis of Captain Garland and Teddy with his cruel and miserly attitude - incapable of allowing the the girls to prevail in their talent and ambition - and then there is the brilliant and genius appearance of Santa himself...although not as we know him. 

And if the above isn't enough, there is a shipwreck, a sleigh and the clever purpose of tinsel thrown in for good measure. 

This novel is simply glorious - a wintry delight. It is Christmassy without Christmas taking centre stage. What does take centre stage is Blanche's determination and tenacity, her love for the people around her and her generosity of spirit; strong enough to change the entire future of the world. Oh, and of course the mince pie picnics in the snow are ABSOLUTELY central to the plot, for you're not going to be forgetting the magic of those in a hurry! In fact, I think mince pie picnics have changed my life forever...all I need is the snow! 

Tinsel is available to buy now. A big thankyou to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for allowing me the chance to review. 

Sunday 1 November 2020

UPCOMING RELEASE: The Valley of Lost Secrets by Lesley Parr


                                                       Link to Waterstones pre-order

                                                    Published: Bloomsbury, Jan 7th 2021


This debut middle grade novel is already getting fab reviews on social media and so when I was given the opportunity to review it via NetGalley, I jumped at the chance. It didn't disappoint. The Valley of Lost Secrets is a wonderfully authentic, historical novel full of larger than life characters that will make your heart both sing and weep.

When Jimmy and his younger brother, Ronnie are evacuated from London to the Welsh countryside, Jimmy struggles to adjust. But when he discovers a human skull in a tree, things take an even more worrying turn. With bullies on his tail and a younger brother to fend for, will Jimmy be able to solve the secrets of the valley and make peace with his new life?

This novel not only provides a fantastic emotional and educational insight into what it must have been like to be evacuated, but offers up a plot full of mystery and suspense alongside themes of family and friendship. Jimmy is a flawed, sometimes sullen character, but Lesley Parr writes beautifully from his perspective to show how deeply vulnerable he feels as an evacuee sent away from his family to a strange place. His protectiveness over adorable Ronnie is completely heart-warming and Ronnie's character lightens the tone with deftly written scenes of humour.

For me, the developing (and expertly-written) relationships between the characters is what makes this novel stand out. Jimmy and Florence, Ronnie and Florence, Jimmy and Mrs. Thomas are all new relationships that each evolve on the page in very different ways. Through them, Lesley Parr conveys  how fragile and complex burgeoning friendships can be but also how solid they can become. However, it was Jimmy's emerging bond with Mr. Thomas that really made me emotional and I absolutely loved Mr. Thomas' character and the power of slow, silent communication. 

The Valley of Lost Secrets also effectively highlights the negative impact that gossip and prejudice has on both an individual and on an community as a whole. This felt stark in comparison to the love and acceptance which the Thomas' chose to bestow on Jimmy and Ronnie and which Florence also received from her new family. I loved that both the children and the Thomas' were affected by the negative behaviour of some of the villagers, showing that bullying can affect people of all ages. I winced at the scenes where Ronnie disappeared and found this section of the novel a challenging but eye-opening read. 

Although set during the war, the uncovered skull provides a mystery that culminates in the most heart-wrenching and heart-warming end. Tears were shed, again because of the power and beauty of the relationships and the writing. 

Overall, this is a stunning novel about evacuation, hardship, challenging times and the strengths and weaknesses of human behaviour. The characters feel like real people and the pages literally transport you back to the Welsh countryside in the 1940's. You are there experiencing life with Jimmy in a fully immersive story. 

The Valley of Lost Secrets is released on Jan 7th 2021 and is available to pre-order. Many thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for giving me the opportunity to read and review.

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