Monday, 31 January 2022

Diary of an Accidental Witch: Flying High by Perdita and Honor Cargill, illustrated by Katie Saunders

Link to publisher

Published by: Little Tiger, 3rd Feb 2022

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It's arrived! The second book in the series of Diary of An Accidental Witch and we even got so impatient, we had to make a headstart on NetGalley. This young fiction series got off to a flying start in the autumn and, as the title of this second release indicates, it's going to continue to soar...

It's the start of a new half term and Bea is super excited to be back at Witch School...er...I mean the School of Extraordinary Arts. Since her dad enrolled her in the wrong school, life in Little Spellshire has been full of surprises. But now Bea has settled in, she simply cannot wait for The Grand Tournament (The witchy equivalent to Sports Day.)

But keeping her new life secret from her dad and neighbour, Ash, is proving increasingly tricky. Can Bea be true to herself and keep everyone happy?

This book is a delight. Written in diary format, interspersed with lists and newsletters, it is endlessly hilarious and highly entertaining. The characters are brilliant;from Stan the frog to Egg to the all-knowing Ms. Sparks, and the plot is truly bewitching. We particularly love Bea's crossings out and the 'Dear Agony Witch' column. The world-building is simple but clear (we LOVE Little Spellshire's eccentric weather) and we are already eagerly awaiting books three and four. 

Amid all the magic and mayhem, though, Perdita and Honor Cargill manage to wonderfully capture the trials and troubles of a young girl pushed out of her comfort zone. Starting a new school is daunting enough, but starting a new school when you're different to everyone else is excruciating. Coupled with friendship issues and a tricky timetable of school subjects, Bea's awkwardness will be highly relatable for many a reader. But her warmth and determination shines through, empowering pupils to be true to themselves and to embrace both the ordinary and extraordinary. 

A big thanks to NetGalley and Little Tiger for allowing us a review copy. Diary of An Accidental Witch: Flying High is available to pre-order and is released on Thursday 3rd February. 

Thursday, 27 January 2022

The Tower at the End of Time by Amy Sparkes, illustrated by Ben Mantle

 

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                                                     Published by: Walker Books, 6th Jan, 2022

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January 2021 kicked off with a book that I would have LOVED to have read as a child. The House At The Edge of Magic by Amy Sparkes, illustrated by Ben Mantle and published by Walker Books intertwined a magical house with hilarious and quirky characters and a deliciously elusive villain - I was hooked!
Now, a year later comes the second book in the series, with an equally stunning front cover. I couldn't wait to see what the house and the characters had in store this time but...I never imagined it would be the hiccups.

Now the curse on the house is broken, Nine and her companions are free to roam between worlds and have set their sights on the Wizarding Hopscotch Championships. But when the house gets the hiccups there doesn't seem to be a cure. Arriving at the championships, their mission takes on a new meaning. They must hopscotch their way to the intimidating Tower At The End Of Time to find the cure. But can Nine also find out who she really is and the secret behind precious her music box?

For me, the house remains the star of the show in this series. With its secret, changeable doors, skeletons in the closet and missing toilets, it is as endearing as it is comical. Nine remains a loveable but determined heroine, who still has a lot of questions about her past and Flabberghast, Eric and Spoon are the most memorable trio I have encountered in a long time, each showcasing bags of personality, unique dialogue and laugh-out-loud humour. The strength of their bond, beneath the bickering and bantering, gives the series heart and reflects the dyfunctional elements of many a loving family. 

The tower itself is another fantastic example of Amy Sparkes' imagination. The puzzles and riddles were gripping and the rising tension, due to the ever present ticking clock, was intense. There were a few new characters to meet, who have set the scene for a dramatic finale in book three, as well as some more hilarious visits to the tea cupboard - what a treat!

This book is truly a celebration of imagination, friendship and believing in (and overcoming) the impossible. It is light and fun yet compelling and dark at the same time. Whatever the recipe is for creating such an incredible story, Amy Sparkes has nailed it. It really is incredibly special. 

A big thanks to NetGalley and Walker Books for allowing me to read a review copy. The Tower At The End of Time is now available to buy. 

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

NEW FEATURE: BOOK OF THE WEEK (from our middle reader and youngest reader in the house!)

Children's fiction has a huge adult following but, really, we're all about getting the books into the hands of younger readers. Here, in our new weekly feature, 'BOOK OF THE WEEK', the middle reader and youngest reader in our house are ready to have their say. 

Please click on this link to see our middle reader's first video recommendation: Rabbit and Bear by Julian Gough and Jim Field, published by Hachette.  Happy reading everyone! 



Monster Doughnuts: Cyclops on a Mission by Gianna Pollero, illustrated by Sarah Horne


Link to Waterstones

Link to author website

Published by: Piccadilly Press, 20th Jan 2022

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Monster hunting and baking merge together (again) in the second book of The Monster Doughnut series: Cyclops on a Mission. With a fabulous cast and hilarious plots, these books are well worth gobbling up. 

There is a devilish Bottom Biter in town and Grace and her family must team up with the 360-year-old  cyclops, Mr. Harris, to track him down. While they're at it, what on earth has happened to the head judge of a popular TV showCan Grace keep Mr. Harris focussed on the task and stop him eating all the buns?


Monster hunting books seem to be popular recently, but this series has really stood out to us. The narratives are as attention-grabbing as the colourful front covers and the plots are fast-paced, entertaining and brilliantly wacky. The world-building concept is simple: there is our world and Monster World and the monsters keep escaping through gateways into our world, causing mayhem. 

Combining hunting monsters with cake-baking (cakes are the best weapon for dealing with monsters due to that sneaky ingredient, baking powder), is the USP that makes this series a winner. But the recipe for success doesn't stop there. Mr. Harris is an hilarious character, who balances out the more serious Grace, and the range of monsters - both good and evil- show off Gianna Pollero's fantastic imagination. We loved that Mr. Harris has now changed from being the villain to an unpredictable and outrageous hero and the new addition of Kenny is a stroke of genius, as he brings some adorable 'cute creature' action. It feels as though Mr. Harris has muscled in on Grace as the main character, but it completely and utterly works. The dialogue is hilarious and what's even more exciting, is that there is still plenty storyline to explore. 

So...bring on book 3! A big thanks to NetGalley for allowing us to read a review copy. Monster Doughnuts: Cyclops on a Mission is now available to buy. 

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

The Adventure Club: Tiger in Trouble by Jess Butterworth and Kirsti Beautyman

 

Link to publisher

Published by: Hachette, 20th Jan 2022

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Tilly's back and this time she's off to India. In the second of Jess Butterworth's young fiction series, The Adventure Club, there's a new wild animal in danger and some dangerous territory to explore...

When Tilly learns that her adopted tiger cub has gone missing, alongside her mother, Tilly is determined to do something to help. Soon she is on her way to India with the rest of  The Adventure Club. Have the tigers gone in search of water because the monsoon is late? It's time for Tilly and her team to investigate. 

This is a brilliant adventure series for animal-lovers and our review of the first book, Red Panda Rescue, sums up how much we love it. The diary format is fun and accessible for readers who are just finding their feet and, although the story is fictional, it is packed with interesting, factual information about how animals live in the wild. 

Although the stories are gentle in tone, the plots are fraught with danger and suspense. In this book, Tilly encounters rapidly rising flood waters, crocodiles and nearly disturbs a nest of King Cobras. Not wanting to give too much away, it remains to be seen whether she finds the tigers. But knowing Tilly, she isn't going to give up easily...

Our favourite aspect of this series, is that Tilly always applies what she learns in the wild to her local area. She is a budding eco-warrior and animal protector and she teaches readers to make a difference to their environment, even if it's only in the confines of their back garden or school playground. It's a joy to read and we really want this series to run and run!

A big thanks to NetGalley for allowing me a review copy. Tiger in Trouble is now available to buy. 

Monday, 24 January 2022

Doctorsaurus by Emi-Lou May and Liere MartΓ­n


Link to publisher

Published by: Little Tiger, 6th Jan 2022 (Paperback)

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Out in paperback this month, comes the charming story, Doctorsaurus, by Emi-Lou May and Liere MartΓ­n. Perfect for dinosaur fans or little ones who are feeling poorly, this is a gentle but funny tale about visiting the doctor - or rather a doctor visiting you. 

Triceratops has a broken horn, Stegosaurus has a splinter and T-Rex has a cold. Who do they need but Doctorsaurus. She knows exactly what to do...even when Brontosaurus needs a poo...

This story is not only told in fantastic rhyme, it is both funny and reassuring at the same time. The dinosaurs' ailments will resonate perfectly with younger readers and help to alleviate their fears of visiting a doctor. In fact, we found this was the perfect book to share with our eleven-year-old autistic daughter, who is terrified of any medical appointment. The dinosaurs make the situations fun and non-threatening and the whole tale is a lovely nod of appreciation to the medics who care for us. 

This picture book is a perfect example of a simple concept being executed well and I'm amazed no one has thought of it before. Beautifully illustrated, with an eye-catching front cover, it is vibrant, colourful and a warm hug to all those feeling ill or those who just fancy a huge dose of dinosaur fun!


Monday, 17 January 2022

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Here comes our first picture book recommendation for 2022...

Happy New Year everyone! It seems a bit late to be saying that now but, even though it feels like we’ve taken an extended break, we have spent the Christmas holidays reading the most fabulous books and are excited for yet another year of reading and reviewing. We’ve also been brainstorming a few new features, including Classic Corner and a weekly video recommendation from the youngest readers in the house.

One thing’s definitely for sure though, after the last couple of years we really wanted to kickstart 2022 with something joyous and fun. And Lu Fraser’s upcoming One Camel Called Doug is the perfect picture book to kick off a wintry January. Drenched with sun on every page, this text reminded me of the song Alice the Camel that I sang as a child at Brownies. It always made me smile and this riotous, rhyming camel-fuelled tale, brilliantly illustrated by Sarah Warburton, has had exactly the same effect.

One Camel Called Doug by Lu Fraser and Sarah Warburton

Link to publisher

Published by: Simon and Schuster, 17th Feb 2022

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As fun as this book is, there are some clever layers that make it a top text for 2022. Firstly, it’s a counting book from one to five and secondly, there’s a clever double message about balancing friendship with time alone or, to put it another way, balancing party time with downtime. We really liked that the story comes full-circle and the ending really does make it the perfect bedtime story.

We are big fans of Lu Fraser’s picture books and Lu seems to be setting a trend for unusual, fun and larger than life animal characters. The Viking That Loved Icing and The Witchling’s Witch were both big hits but One Camel Called Doug is very much in the same ilk as Lu’s debut, The Littlest Yak. With yaks and now camels, we simply can’t wait to see what is coming next!

One Camel Called Doug is available to pre-order and released on 17th February 2022. A big thanks to @NetGalley for the digital review copy. 

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