Monday 15 November 2021

UPCOMING RELEASE: When the War Came Home by Lesley Parr


                                                                       Link to publisher

                                                    Published by: Bloomsbury, Jan 6th 2022


Last year, reviewing the Valley of Lost Secrets via Netgalley was one of my reading highlights. Now, ahead of its release in January, I have been lucky enough to read an exclusive extract of Lesley Parr's second middle grade novel, When the War Came Home, also thanks to Netgalley.

When Natty has to move with her mum to a new village, she meets two soldiers who are struggling in the aftermath of the First World War. Huw can't escape the terrible things he has seen and Johnny has no memory of who he is. As Natty tries to unravel a mystery, she learns how to fight for what she believes in and the importance of never forgetting. 

My disappointment at only being able to read an extract of this much awaited novel quickly turned to excitement when I realised within the first few pages that something really special is waiting for readers in January. The pacy opening is exquisitely written and, without doubt, as authentically real as The Valley of Lost Secrets. This is an author who has the ability to fully immerse us in a past time and make it look effortless. 

For me, this novel moves faster than Lesley Parr's debut novel. The characters jump off the page to the point where you can hear their voices and the dialogue moves the plot along in a way that reminded me of the Billy Elliott script. Not often as a reader have I encounted the gritty, reality of working class life portrayed in such an enthralling way and, coupled with the backdrop of the war, this is already a deeply poignant and emotional read. Not only can I not wait for Natty to unravel the mystery but I also loved the character of Natty's mum and am keen to see how her journey pans out. 

So, if you're looking for something to look forward to in the first month of 2022, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this novel to children and adults alike. It's another wonderful history lesson in a book with all the power and emotion we need to really unlock the past. 

When The War Came Home is available to pre-order and will be released on 6th Jan 2022. A huge thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury for allowing me a sneak peek. 

Sunday 7 November 2021

Sunday Funday by Katherine Halligan and JesΓΊs Verona

                                                                          Link to publisher

                                                  Published by: Nosy Crow, October 2021


Nosy Crow do a corking range of non-fiction books for children and families. Only a couple of weeks ago, we reviewed A History of the World in 25 Cities, which has now been shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year 2021 and now we have spent the weekend excitedly looking at nature activities we can do across the coming year. 

'Make every Sunday a fun day with an amazing nature activity for every weekend of the year!' From gardening to crafts to baking and sporting activities, Sunday Funday is packed with 52 fantastic suggestions of how to make the most of your family time. 

Just like A History of the World in 25 Cities, this hardback book is beautifully presented with a colourful, engaging cover and stunning endpapers. It's a coffee table book for kids and a resource they will enjoy diving into again and again. We loved how the 52 activities are divided into seasons, with something for every type of weather day, and how, in a world full of screens and gadgets, every suggestion encourages us to engage with the natural world via all of our senses. There's a 'Noisy Nature Concert' for sound, 'Spectacular Sandcastles' for touch, 'Splendid Soup' and 'Toasty Cinnamon Stars' for taste and smell and 'Inspect an Insect' for sight. That's just to name just a few!

The pages for each individual activity are a joy to look at. The colourful backgrounds and exquisite illustrations are completely absorbing and we really enjoyed that the artwork is given equal or more page space than the actual words. It is likely that the instructions will need to be read to younger children, which places the emphasis firmly on that family feel, but they are easy to follow and supported by the 'You Will Need' boxes. The baking recipes have a clear cooking time and state the number of portions it will make. There's also 'Safety Tip' boxes and a short introductory paragraph for each activity. We also wanted to draw attention to the season title pages because it is here that the illustrations really take your breath away. Even if you never actually do any of the suggested activities in this book (which I'm sure you will as they are truly lovely) this book is just a feast for the eyes. 

This is a book that will never date. If the kids get too old to engage with the activities (I don't feel too old!), there's no doubt that they'll still get pleasure out of helping a younger family member. What's more, the activities will bring the whole family together: parents, grandparents, cousins... you name it! There really is something for everyone. 

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