Monday 7 February 2022

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

We missed 'Book of the Week' last week due to Covid hitting the household, but we're back with a picture book recommendation from our middle reader. Here she is talking about Jeremy Worries About The Wind by Pamela Butchart, illustrated by Kate Hindley and published by Nosy Crow

Book of the Week: Jeremy Worries About the Wind - YouTube

Sunday 6 February 2022

Yes You Can, Cow by Rashmi Sirdeshpande and Rikin Parekh

Published by: Faber, 1st Feb 2022

When it comes to picture books, twists on popular fairy tales always create excitement in our house. But a twist on an infamous nursery rhyme? WOW! That really got our attention. And we're so glad it did because Yes You Can, Cow by Rashmi Sirdeshpande and Rikin Parekh is full of fun surprises, great characters and fantastic illustrations. In fact, it's as bright and dazzling as a full moon.

Are you ready to jump over the moon, Cow? You're going to be the next big thing? Cow...Cow...where are you?

In case you hadn't guessed, Yes You Can, Cow is a new take on the well-known nursery rhyme, Hey Diddle Diddle. And yet, this is so much more than just a retelling. Firstly, Rashmi Sirdeshpande has planted the characters in a clever, new setting...on the stage. Secondly, the narrator invites the reader to participate in the performance by breaking the fourth wall and thirdly, Rikin Parekh's illustrations add a whole new level of entertainment. Cow's expressions are awesome! The result is a humorous, interactive story that little ones will want to read again and again. 

The takeaway of the story, however, also makes this picture book extra special. Plenty of picture books focus on the important theme of courage, where the threat of failure is a lingering possibility. But this story not only embraces ACTUAL failure, it celebrates it with such a fantastically positive attitude that hopefully every reader will be inspired and reassured by it. For very often failure and success go hand in hand...or hoof in hoof...

So if you're looking for a book with familiar but fantastic characters, an entertaining and interactive voice, wonderful artwork and a ground-breaking message, then look no further than Yes You Can, Cow. It's simply mooooovellous!

Wednesday 2 February 2022

Escape Room by Christopher Edge

Published by: Nosy Crow, 3rd Feb 2022

Wow! Well I LOVE escape rooms and I love fast-paced, edgy middle-grade and this novel combines the two with bucket-loads of tension and intrigue from the get-go. I was pretty much hooked from the front cover, and this gripping read does NOT disappoint. 

When Ami turns up at The Escape, she thinks she's there to play a game. But as she meets her teammates and the Host sets their challenge, they soon descend into a world of terror that feels NOTHING like gameplay. As they battle their way through a dust-filled library, a Mayan tomb and a deserted shopping mall that is prowling with extinct animals, Ami must hold her nerve. But what or who is behind The Escape and can she beat it?

This is writing and imagination at its best, but perhaps not for the faint-hearted reader. With high stakes and extreme peril, Christopher Edge moves his characters through a compelling range of dark and vivid challenges that will have readers on the edge of their seats. The novel may be on the short side, but it's jam-packed with dangerous adventure and mind-bending mind benders. 

I loved the eclectic mix of rooms. The Mayan temple evoked real fear, the library was intriguing and eerily sinister and the shopping mall just terrifying. And yet, lying beneath the surface of every level is an important message that culminates in a powerful twist and punchy ending which hit me like a sledgehammer and yet left me with hope. 

This is the first novel by Christopher Edge that I've read and it has definitely left me wanting more. Meticulously plotted and full of fantastic imagination, it also provides a dose of tough talking, which considering that the clock is ticking, may be what we all need. 

A big thanks to Netgalley and Nosy Crow for allowing me to read a review copy. Escape Room is released tomorrow, 3rd February 2022.  

Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Smuggler's Secret by Annabelle Sami, illustrated by Daniela Sosa

                                                                        Link to publisher

                                                      Published by: Little Tiger, 3rd Feb 2022


The fourth book in the Agent Zaiba Investigates series is released tomorrow but, as a family, we are new to these detective books. How delighted we were to finally meet these characters. With an intriguing plot, a seaside setting and a unique historical angle to the mystery, it has all the ingredients for a classic case-cracking story. 

When Zaiba and the school history club visit an ancient shipwreck, things take a sinister turn when a precious artefact goes missing. Zaiba and the rest of her Snow Leopard Detective Agency immediately start investigating but the clock is ticking. The artefact is due to be returned to its country of origin. Can Zaiba and her agency find it in time?

The set-up of this series feels very similar to the mystery stories I read as a child, namely The Secret Seven and The Famous Five by Enid Blyton. The detectives have a strong family bond, they take themselves very seriously and the mysteries have that classic feel of smugglers, hauntings and stolen jewels. We loved the attention to detail that instantly made the characters feel vivid and well-rounded- for example, Poppy's love of historical fashion and Ali's love of puzzles-and the mystery is very well plotted but simple enough for younger readers to follow. 

The story, however, has some key differences that sets it apart from previous young mystery series we've read. Firstly, there is a lovely historical angle to the mystery, allowing the author to, not only include some incredibly interesting and authentic facts, but also to open up readers' thinking by raising important questions about the mistakes of the past. The second is Zaiba's rich family history in the art of detecting. We loved that Zaiba's Aunt Fouzia is the best detective in Pakistan and that her missing mother was a detective also. 

Using her precious Eden Lockett novels as a guide to solving her own cases, Zaiba makes for a strong, detemined and thorough detective. The novel is well-paced but also provides regular recaps so readers don't get lost in the plot. There are some great red herrings and fishy suspects and as this mystery takes place by the seaside, so much the better. Although, I've already used these words already, 'classic' and 'authentic' really do sum up this detective story. 

A big thanks to NetGalley and Little Tiger for allowing me to read a review copy. Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Smuggler's Secret is released tomorrow, 3rd Feb 2022. 

What's New, Harper Drew? by Kathy Weeks, illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff

Link to publisher

Published by: Hachette, 3rd Feb 2022


A new illustrated MG series by Kathy Weeks is launched this Thursday. Funny, chaotic and all about family drama, What's New, Harper Drew? is the journal of Harper,  a young girl who rates her daily family dramas on 'The Drew Dial of Bizarre Behaviour'. 

Harper Drew feels like her life is completely beyond normal. Is it just her, or do you usually end up staying with a pair of incontinent llamas on holiday? Is it just her, or does your uncle's wig usually get stuck in the car engine?Disasters like this happen every day in Harper's world, but can she find the funny side and become confident in who she is?

This is, quite simply, an hilarious account of daily family life, where family members are embarrassed of each other and things never quite run smoothly. Kathy Weeks beautifully captures the trials and tribulations of a nearly teenage girl and her everyday worries, while her family dramas will make readers laugh out loud. 

As always, there's an annoying older sibling, a clicky, spiteful girl she wants to impress and a dependable best friend and the scenarios will be relatable to young readers: family holidays, birthday parties and school. Harper has a strong voice, the characters (including the llamas) are great fun and we are looking forward to seeing what the next book in the series has in store for her. 

A big thanks to Hachette for the proof copy. What's new, Harper Drew? is released into the world on Thursday 3rd February 2022.